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Title: A Middy in Command - A Tale of the Slave Squadron
Author: Collingwood, Harry, 1851-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A Middy in Command
A Tale of the Slave Squadron

By Harry Collingwood
________________________________________________________________________
Another excellent book by this talented nautical author.  As the title
implies, it is the tale of a young man who is a midshipman in the Royal
Navy's anti-slave-trade squadron.

There are the usual accidents and swimming events, but the young man
secures his promotion by his distinguished performance in the capture
of a slaver.

A well-written book by an author who from his actual trade understands
how sailing ships are designed and built, and whose works are by that
reason all the more worthy of reading.

It makes a very nice audiobook, of eleven and a half hours duration.
________________________________________________________________________
A MIDDY IN COMMAND
A TALE OF THE SLAVE SQUADRON

BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD



CHAPTER ONE.

OUR FIRST PRIZE.

The first faint pallor of the coming dawn was insidiously extending
along the horizon ahead as H.M. gun-brig _Shark_--the latest addition to
the slave-squadron--slowly surged ahead over the almost oil-smooth sea,
under the influence of a languid air breathing out from the south-east.
She was heading in for the mouth of the Congo, which was about forty
miles distant, according to the master's reckoning.

The night had been somewhat squally, and the royals and topgallant-sails
were stowed; but the weather was now clearing, and as "three bells"
chimed out musically upon the clammy morning air, Mr Seaton, the first
lieutenant, who was the officer of the watch, having first scanned the
heavens attentively, gave orders to loose and set again the light upper
canvas.

By the time that the men aloft had cast off the gaskets that confined
the topgallant-sails to the yards, the dawn--which comes with startling
rapidity in those latitudes--had risen high into the sky ahead, and
spread well along the horizon to north and south, causing the stars to
fade and disappear, one after another, until only a few of the brightest
remained twinkling low down in the west.

As I wheeled at the stern-grating in my monotonous promenade of the lee
side of the quarter-deck, a hail came down from aloft--

"Sail ho! two of 'em, sir, broad on the lee beam.  Look as if they were
standin' out from the land."

"What are they like?  Can you make out their rig?" demanded the first
luff, as he halted and directed his gaze aloft at the man on the main-
royal-yard, who, half-way out to the yard-arm, was balancing himself
upon the foot-rope, and steadying himself with one hand upon the yard as
he gazed away to leeward under the shade of the other.

"I can't make out very much, sir," replied the man.  "They're too far
off; but one looks like a schooner, and t'other like a brig."

"And they are heading out from the land, you say?" demanded the
lieutenant.

"Looks like it, sir," answered the man; "but, as I was sayin', they're a
long way off; and it's a bit thick down to leeward there, so--"

"All right, never mind; cast off those gaskets and come down,"
interrupted Mr Seaton impatiently.  Then, turning to me, he said:

"Mr Grenvile, take the glass and lay aloft, if you please, and see what
you can make of those strangers.  Mr Keene"--to the other midshipman of
the watch--"slip down below and call the captain, if you please.  Tell
him that two strange sail have been sighted from aloft, apparently
coming out from the Congo."

By the time he had finished speaking I had snatched the glass from its
beckets, and was half-way up the weather main rigging, while the watch
was sheeting home and hoisting away the topgallant-sails and royals.
When Keene reappeared on deck, after calling the skipper, I was
comfortably astride the royal-yard, with my left arm round the spindle
of the vane--the yard hoisting close up under the truck.  With my right
hand I manipulated the slide of the telescope and adjusted the focus of
the instrument to suit my sight.

By this time the dawn had entirely overspread the firmament, and the sky
had lost its pallor and was all aglow with richest amber, through which
a long shaft of pale golden light, soaring straight up toward the
zenith, heralded the rising of the sun.  The thickness to leeward had by
this time cleared away, and the two strange sail down there were now
clearly visible, the one as a topsail schooner, and the other as a brig.
They were a long way off, the topsails of the brig--which was leading--
being just clear of the horizon from my elevated point of observation,
while the head of the schooner's topsail just showed clear of the sea.
The brig I took to be a craft of about our own size, say some three
hundred tons, while the schooner appeared to be about two hundred tons.

I had just ascertained these particulars when the voice of the skipper
came pealing up to me from the stern-grating, near which he stood, with
Mr Seaton alongside of him.

"Well, Mr Grenvile, what do you make of them?"

I replied, giving such information as I had been able to gather; and
added: "They appear to be sailing in company, sir."

"Thank you, that will do; you may come down," answered the skipper.
Then, as I swung myself off the yard, I heard the lieutenant give the
order to bear up in chase, to rig out the port studding-sail booms, and
to see all clear for setting the port studding-sails--or stu'n'sails, as
they are more commonly called.  I had reached the cross-trees, on my way
down, when Captain Bentinck again hailed me.

"Aloft there! just stay where you are for a little while, Mr Grenvile,
and keep your eye on those sail to leeward.  And if you observe any
alteration in the course that they are steering, report the fact to me
at once."

"Ay, ay, sir!"  I answered, and settled myself down comfortably for what
I anticipated might be a fairly long wait.

For a few minutes all was now bustle and confusion below and about me;
the helm was put up and the ship wore short round, the yards were swung,
and then several hands came aloft to reeve the gear, rig out the booms,
and set the larboard studding-sails, from the royals down.  We rather
prided ourselves upon being a smart ship, and in less than five minutes
from the moment the order was given we were sliding away upon our new
course, at a speed of some five and a half knots, with all our studding-
sails set on the port side, and all ropes neatly coiled down once more.
But ere this had happened I had returned to my former post on the main-
royal-yard, for I quickly discovered that the shift of helm had caused
the head-sails to interpose themselves between me and the objects which
it was my duty to watch, and this was to be remedied only by returning
to the royal-mast-head.

The skipper, in setting the new course, had displayed what commended
itself to me as sound judgment.  We were at such a distance from the
strangers of whom we were now in chase that even our most lofty canvas
was--and would, for some little time longer, remain--invisible from
their decks.  This was highly desirable, since the nearer we could
approach them without being discovered, the better would be our chance
of ultimately getting alongside them.  The only likelihood of a
premature discovery of our proximity lay in the possible necessity, on
the part of one or the other of them, to send a hand aloft; but this we
could not guard against.  Captain Bentinck, therefore, hoping that _no_
such necessity would arise, had shaped a course not directly for them,
but at an intercepting angle to their own course, by which means he
hoped not only to hold way with them, but also to lessen very
considerably the distance between them and ourselves before the sight of
our canvas, rising above the horizon, would reveal our unwelcome
presence to the two slavers, as we believed the strange craft to be.  It
was also of the utmost importance that we should have instant knowledge
of their discovery of our presence in their neighbourhood, and of the
action that they would thereupon take; hence the necessity for my
remaining aloft to maintain a steady and careful watch upon their
movements.

I had been anticipating--and, indeed, hoping--that my sojourn aloft
would be a lengthy one, for I knew that, so long as the strangers
continued to steer their original course, it would mean that they
remained in ignorance of our proximity to them.  But this was not to be,
for I had but regained my original position on the royal-yard some ten
minutes, when, as I kept the telescope steadily fixed upon them, I saw
the brig bear up and run off square before the wind.  The schooner
promptly followed her example, and both of them immediately proceeded to
rig out studding-sail booms on both sides.

"Deck ahoy!" hailed I.  "The two strange sail to leeward have this
instant put up their helms, and are running square off before the wind;
they are also rigging out their studding-sail booms on both sides."

"Thank you, Mr Grenvile," replied the skipper.  "How do they bear from
us now?"

"About four points before the beam, sir," answered I.

"Very good.  Stay where you are a minute or two longer, for I am about
to bear up in chase, and I want you to tell me when they are directly
ahead of us," ordered the skipper.

"Ay, ay, sir!" shouted I, giving the stereotyped answer to every order
issued on board ship; and the next instant all was bustle and activity
below me, as the helm was put up and preparations were made to set our
studding-sails on the starboard side.  As I glanced down on deck I saw
the captain step to the binnacle, apparently watching the motion of the
compass-card as the ship paid off, so I at once directed my gaze toward
the strangers, and the moment they were brought in line with the fore-
royal-mast-head I sang out:

"Steady as you go, sir; the strangers are now dead ahead of us!"

"Thank you, Mr Grenvile; you may come down now," replied the captain.
And as I swung off the yard I saw the skipper and the first lieutenant,
with their heads together over the binnacle, talking earnestly.

Meanwhile the wind, scant as it was, seemed inclined to become more
scanty still, until at length, by "six bells"--that is to say, seven
o'clock--our courses were drooping motionless from the yards, the
maintop-sail was wrinkling ominously, with an occasional flap to the
mast as the brig hove lazily over the long low undulations of the
swell--and only the light upper canvas continued to draw, the ship's
speed having declined to a bare two knots, which gave us little more
than mere steerage way.  And loud was the grumbling, fore and aft, when,
a little later, as the hands were piped to breakfast, the breeze died
away altogether, and the _Shark_, being no longer under the control of
her helm, proceeded to "box the compass"--that is to say, to swing first
this way and then that, with the send of the swell.  Our only
consolation was that the strangers to leeward were in the same awkward
fix as ourselves; for if we had no wind wherewith to pursue them, they,
in their turn, had none wherewith to run away from us.

Nobody dawdled very long over breakfast that morning; for, in the first
place, the heat below was simply unbearable, and, in the next, we were
all far too anxious to allow of our remaining in our berths while we
knew that every conceivable expedient would be adopted by the captain to
shorten the distance between us and the chase.  It was my watch below
from eight o'clock until noon, and I was consequently off duty; but
although I had been on deck for eight hours of the twelve during the
preceding night, I was much too fidgety to turn in and endeavour to get
a little sleep; I therefore routed out a small pocket sextant that had
been presented to me by a friend, and, making my way up into the fore-
topmast cross-trees--from which the strangers could be seen--I very
carefully measured with the instrument the angle subtended by the mast-
head of the brig and the horizon, so that I might be able to ascertain
from time to time whether or not that craft was increasing the distance
between her and ourselves.  I decided to measure this angle every half-
hour; and, having made my first and second observations without
discovering any appreciable difference between them, I employed the
interval in looking about me, and watching the movements of two large
sharks which were dodging off and on close alongside the ship, and which
were clearly visible from my post of observation.  At length, as "three
bells"--half-past nine-o'clock--struck, I cast a glance all round the
ship before again measuring my angle, when, away down in the south-
eastern quarter, I caught a glimpse of very pale blue stretching along
the horizon that elsewhere was indistinguishable owing to the glassy
calm of the ocean's surface.

"Deck ahoy!" shouted I; "there is a small air of wind creeping up out of
the south-eastern quarter."

"Thank you, Mr Grenvile," replied the captain, who was engaged in
conversation with Mr Fawcett, the officer of the watch.  "Is it coming
along pretty fast?" he continued.

I took another good long look.

"No, sir," I answered; "it is little more than a cat's-paw at present,
but it has the appearance of being fairly steady."

"How long do you think it will be before it reaches us?" asked the
second luff.

"Probably half an hour, at the least, sir," I answered.

I noticed Mr Fawcett say something to the skipper; and then they both
looked up at the sails.  The captain nodded, as though giving his assent
to some proposal.  The next moment the second lieutenant gave the order
to range the wash-deck tubs along the deck, and to fill them.  This was
soon done; and while some of the hands were busy drawing water from over
the side, and pouring it into the tubs, others came aloft and rigged
whips at the yard-arms, by means of which water from the tubs was
hoisted aloft in buckets and emptied over the sails until every inch of
canvas that we could spread was thoroughly saturated with water.  Thus
the small interstices between the threads of the fabric were filled, and
the sails enabled to retain every breath of air that might come along.
By the time that this was done the first cat's-paws of the approaching
breeze were playing around us, distending our lighter sails for a moment
or two, and then dying away again.  But light and evanescent as these
cat's-paws were, they were sufficient to get the brig round with her
jib-boom pointing straight for the chase once more; and a minute or two
later the first of the true breeze reached us, and we began to glide
slowly ahead before it, with squared yards.  The men were still kept
busy with the buckets, however, for, in order that the sails should be
of any real service to us, it was necessary to keep them thoroughly wet,
and this involved the continuous drawing and hoisting aloft of water,
for the sun's rays were so intensely ardent that the water evaporated
almost as rapidly as it was thrown upon the canvas.

The breeze came down very slowly, and seemed very loath to freshen; but
this, tantalising though it was to us, was all in our favour, for we
thus practically carried the breeze down with us, while the two strange
sail away in the western board remained completely becalmed.  Of this
latter fact I soon had most satisfactory evidence, for, without having
recourse at all to my sextant, I was enabled, in that atmosphere of
crystalline clearness, to see with the naked eye that we were steadily
raising them, an hour's sailing having brought the bulwark rail of both
craft flush with the horizon at my point of observation.  By this time,
however, the breeze had slid some three miles ahead of us, its margin,
where it met and overran the glassy surface of the becalmed sea ahead,
being very distinctly visible.  At last, too, the wind was manifesting
some slight tendency to freshen, for, looking aft, I saw that all our
after canvas, even to the heavy mainsail which was hanging in its
brails, was swelling out and drawing bravely, while the little streak of
froth and foam-bells that gathered under our sharp bows, and went
sliding and softly seething aft into our wake, told me that we were
slipping through the water at a good honest six-knot pace.  With this
most welcome freshening of the wind the necessity to keep the canvas
continuously wet came to an end; and the men, glad of the relief, were
called down on deck to clean up the mess made by the lavish use of the
water.

Another half-hour passed, and the strange craft were hull-up, when the
captain hailed me from the deck in the wake of the main rigging.

"What is the latest news of the strangers, Mr Grenvile?" he asked.
"Has the breeze yet reached them?"

"No, sir; not yet," I answered; "but I expect it will in the course of
the next half-hour.  They are hull-up from here, sir; and I should think
that you ought to be able to see the mast-heads of the larger craft--the
brig--from the deck, by this time."

Hearing this, the skipper and Mr Fawcett walked forward to the
forecastle, the former levelling the telescope that he carried in his
hand, and pointing it straight ahead.  Then, removing the tube from his
eye, the captain handed over the instrument to the second luff, who, in
his turn, took a good long look, and returned the telescope to the
captain.  They stood talking together for a minute or two; and then
Captain Bentinck, glancing up at me, hailed.

"Mr Grenvile," said he, "I am about to send this glass up to you by
means of the signal halyards.  I want you to keep an eye on those two
craft down there, and report anything particular that you may see going
on; and let me know when the breeze reaches them, and whether they keep
together when it does so."

"Ay, ay, sir!"  I answered.  And when the telescope came up I made
myself comfortable, feeling quite prepared to remain in the cross-trees
for the rest of the watch.

The breeze, meanwhile, continued steadily to freshen, and when at length
it reached the two strange sail ahead of us we were buzzing along, with
a long, easy, rolling motion over the low swell, at a speed of fully
nine knots, with a school of porpoises gambolling under our bows--each
of them apparently out-vying the others in the attempt to see which of
them could shoot closest athwart our cut-water without being touched by
it--and shoal after shoal of flying-fish sparking out from the bow surge
and streaming away to port and starboard like so many handfuls of bright
new silver coins flung hither and thither by Father Neptune.

As the strangers caught the first of the breeze they squared away before
it; but I presently saw that, instead of steering precisely parallel
courses, as though they intended to continue in each other's company,
they were diverging at an angle of about forty-five degrees, the brig
bringing the wind about two points on her port quarter, while the
schooner, steering a somewhat more northerly course, held it about two
points on her starboard quarter.  Thus, while they were running almost
directly away from us, they were also rapidly widening the distance
between each other, and it would therefore be very necessary for the
skipper to make up his mind quickly which of the two craft he would
pursue--for it was clear that, by this manoeuvre on their part, they had
rendered it impossible for us to chase them both.

I was in the act of reporting this matter to the skipper and the second
lieutenant, who were walking the quarter-deck together, when Mr
Fawcett--who, with the captain, had come to a halt at my hail--suddenly
reeled, staggered, and fell prone upon the deck with a crash.  The
skipper instantly sprang to his assistance, as did young Christy, a
fellow mid of mine, who was pacing fore and aft on the opposite side of
the deck, and three or four men who were at work about some job in the
wake of the main rigging; and between them they raised the poor fellow
up and carried him below.  I subsequently learned--when I eventually
descended from aloft--that the surgeon had reported him to be suffering
from sunstroke, which was complicated by an injury to the skull
sustained by his having struck his head upon a ring-bolt in the deck as
he fell.

Meanwhile, during the temporary confusion that ensued on deck in
consequence of this untoward incident, I employed myself in the careful
measurement of the angle made by the mast-heads of the two strange sail
with the now sharply defined horizon, and noting the result upon the
back of an envelope which I happened to have in my jacket pocket.  I had
scarcely done this when the skipper hailed me, asking whether we seemed
to be gaining anything upon the strangers, or whether I thought that
they were running away from us.  I replied that the breeze had reached
them too recently to enable me to judge, but that I hoped to be in a
position to let him know definitely in the course of the next half-hour.
I then explained to him what I had done, and he was pleased to express
his approval.  Meanwhile we continued to steer a course about midway
between that of the two strangers, by which means it was hoped that we
should be able to keep both in sight, in readiness to haul up for that
one upon which we seemed to be most decidedly gaining.

The breeze still continued to freshen upon us, to such an extent that
when my watch told me it was time to re-measure my angle, we were
bowling along at the rate of nearly twelve knots, and the sea was
beginning to rise, while our lighter studding-sail booms were buckling
rather ominously.  I took my angle again, and, rather to my surprise,
found that we were slightly gaining upon the schooner, while the brig
was fully holding her own with us, if indeed she was not doing something
even better than that.  I reported this to the skipper, who seemed to
have made up his mind already as to his course of action; for upon
hearing what I had to say he instantly gave orders for our helm to be
shifted in pursuit of the schooner.  Then, seeming suddenly to remember
that it was my watch below, he hailed me, telling me that I might come
down.

Having reached the deck, I at once trotted below to make my preparation
for taking the sun's meridian altitude, for it was now drawing on
towards noon.

When, a little later, I again went on deck, I found that the wind had
continued to freshen, and was now blowing a really strong breeze, while
the sea had wrinkled under the scourging of it to a most beautiful deep
dark-blue tint, liberally dashed with snow-white patches of froth as the
surges curled over and broke in their chase after our flying hull.  Our
canvas was now dragging at the spars and sheets like so many teams of
cart-horses, the delicate blue shadows coming and going upon the cream-
white surfaces as the ship rolled with the regularity of a swinging
pendulum.  Every inch of our running gear was as taut as a harp-string,
and through it the wind piped and sang as though the whole ship had been
one gigantic musical instrument; while over all arched the blue dome of
an absolutely cloudless sky, in the very zenith of which blazed the sun
with a fierceness that made all of us eager to seek out such small
patches of fugitive shadow as were cast by the straining canvas.  The
sun was so nearly vertical that our bulwarks, although they were high,
afforded us no protection whatever from his scorching rays.

The two strange sail were by this time visible from our deck, and it was
apparent that, in the strong breeze which was now blowing, we were
rapidly overhauling the schooner, while the brig was not only holding
her own with us, but had actually increased her distance, as she
gradually hauled to the wind, so as to allow us to run away to leeward
of her.

The pursuit of the schooner lasted all through the afternoon, and it was
close upon sunset when we arrived within range of her, and plumped a
couple of 24-pound shot clean through her mainsail, whereupon her
skipper saw fit to round-to all standing, back his topsail, and hoist
Spanish colours, only to haul them down again in token of surrender.
Whereupon Mr Seaton, our first lieutenant, in charge of an armed boat's
crew, went away to take possession of the prize, and since I was the
only person on board possessing even a passable acquaintance with the
Spanish language, I was ordered to accompany him.

Our prize proved to be the _Dolores_, of two hundred tons measurement,
with--as we had suspected--a cargo of slaves, numbering three hundred
and fifty, which she had shipped in one of the numerous creeks at the
mouth of the Congo on the previous day, and with which she was bound for
Rio Grande.  Her crew were transferred to the _Shark_; and then--the
second lieutenant being ill and quite unfit for service--I was put in
command of her, with a crew of fourteen men, and instructed to make the
best of my way to Sierra Leone.  My crew of fourteen included Gowland,
our master's mate, and young Sinclair, a first-class volunteer, as well
as San Domingo, the servant of the midshipmen's mess, to act as steward,
and the cook's mate.  We therefore mustered only five forecastle hands
to a watch, which I thought little enough for a schooner of the size of
the _Dolores_; but as we hoped to reach Sierra Leone in a week at the
outside, and as the schooner was unarmed, Captain Bentinck seemed to
think that we ought to be able to manage fairly well.  By the time that
we had transferred ourselves and our traps to the prize it had fallen
quite dark.  The _Shark_ therefore lost no time in hauling her wind in
pursuit of the strange brig, which by this time had run out of sight,
and of which the skipper of the _Dolores_ professed to know nothing
beyond the fact that she was French, was named the _Suzanne_, and was
running a cargo of slaves across to Martinique.



CHAPTER TWO.

CAPTURED BY A PIRATE.

When, in answer to the summons of our 24-pounders, the captain of the
_Dolores_ rounded-to and laid his topsail to the mast, he did not
trouble his crew to haul down the studding-sails, for he knew that his
ship was as good as lost to him, and the result was that the booms
snapped short off at the irons, like carrots, leaving a raffle of
slatting canvas, gear, and thrashing wreckage for the prize crew to
clear away.  Thus, although we at once hauled-up for our port upon
parting company with the _Shark_, we had nearly an hour's hard work
before us in the dark ere the studding-sails were got in, the gear
unrove and unbent, and the stumps of the booms cleared away, and I
thought it hardly worth while to get a fresh set of booms fitted and
sent aloft that night.  We accordingly jogged along under plain sail
until daylight, when we got the studding-sails once more upon the little
hooker and tried her paces.  She proved to be astonishingly fast in
light, and even moderate, weather, and I felt convinced that had the
wind not breezed up so strongly as it did on the previous day, the
_Shark_ would never have overtaken her.

During the following two days we made most excellent progress, the
weather being everything that one could desire, and the water smooth
enough to permit of the hatches being taken off and the unfortunate
slaves brought on deck in batches of fifty at a time, for an hour each,
to take air and exercise, while those remaining below were furnished
with a copious supply of salt-water wherewith to wash down the slave-
deck and clear away its accumulated filth.  It proved to be a very
fortunate circumstance that Captain Bentinck had permitted us to draw
the negro San Domingo as one of our crew, for the fellow understood the
language spoken by the slaves, and was able to assure them that in the
course of a few days they would be restored to freedom, otherwise we
should not have dared to give them access to the deck in such large
parties, for they were nearly all _men_, and fine powerful fellows, who,
unarmed as they _were_, could have easily taken the ship from us and
heaved us all overboard.

The _Dolores_ had been in our possession just forty-eight hours, and we
were off Cape Three Points, though so far to the southward that no land
was visible, when a sail was made out on our lee bow, close-hauled on
the larboard tack, heading to the southward, the course of the _Dolores_
at the time being about north-west by west.  As we closed each other we
made out the stranger to be a brig, and our first impression was that
she was the _Shark_, which, having either captured or lost sight of the
craft of which she had been in chase, was now returning, either to her
station or to look for us and convoy us into Sierra Leone; and, under
this impression, we kept away a couple of points with the object of
getting a somewhat nearer view of her.  By sunset we had raised her to
half-way down her courses, by which time I had come to the conclusion
that she was a stranger; but as Gowland, the master's mate, persisted in
his assertion that she was the _Shark_, we still held on as we were
steering, feeling persuaded that, if she were indeed that vessel, she
would be anxious to speak to us; while, if she should prove to be a
stranger, no great harm would be done beyond the loss of a few hours on
our part.

The night fell overcast and very dark, and we lost sight of the stranger
altogether.  Moreover the wind breezed up so strongly that we were
obliged to hand our royal and topgallant-sail and haul down our gaff-
topsail, main-topmast staysail, and flying-jib; the result of the
freshening breeze being that a very nasty sea soon got up and we passed
a most uncomfortable night, the schooner rolling heavily and yawing
wildly as the seas took her on her weather quarter.  We saw no more of
the stranger that night, although some of us fancied that we
occasionally caught a glimpse of something looming very faint and
indefinite in the darkness away to windward.

Toward the end of the middle watch the weather rapidly improved, the
wind dropped, and the sea went down with it, although the sky continued
very overcast and the night intensely dark.  By four bells in the
morning watch the wind had died away almost to a calm, and with the
first pallor of the coming dawn the clouds broke away, and there, about
a mile on our weather quarter--that is to say, dead to windward of us--
lay the stranger of the preceding night, black and clean-cut as a paper
silhouette against the cold whiteness of the eastern sky, rolling
heavily, and with a number of hands aloft rigging out studding-sail
booms.  The brig, which was most certainly not the _Shark_, was heading
directly for us, and I did not like the look of her at all, for she was
as big as the sloop, if not a trifle bigger, showed nine guns of a side,
and was obviously bent upon getting a nearer view of us.  We lost no
time in getting our studding-sails aloft on the starboard side, bracing
the yards a trifle forward, and shaping a course that would give us a
chance ultimately to claw out to windward of our suspicious-looking
neighbour; but she would have none of it, for while we were still busy a
ruddy flash leapt from her bow port, a cloud of smoke, blue in the early
morning light, obscured the craft for a few seconds, and a round shot
came skipping toward us across the black water, throwing up little jets
of spray as it came, and finally sinking less than twenty yards away.

"Well aimed, but not quite enough elevation," exclaimed I to Gowland,
who had charge of the deck, and who had called me a moment before.
"Now, who is the fellow, and what does he mean by firing at us?  Is he a
Frenchman, think you, and does he take us for a slaver--which, by the
way, is not a very extraordinary mistake to make?  We had better show
him our bunting, I think.  Parsons," to a man who was hovering close by,
"bend on the ensign and run it up to the gaff-end."

"There is no harm in doing that, of course," remarked Gowland; "but he
is no Frenchman--or at least he is not a French cruiser; I am sure of
that by the cut of his canvas.  Besides, we know every French craft on
the station, and Johnny Crapaud has no such beauty as that brig among
them.  No; if you care for my opinion, Grenvile, it is that yonder
fellow is a slaver that is not too tender of conscience to indulge in a
little piracy at times, when the opportunity appears favourable, as it
does at present.  I have heard that, in contradiction of the adage that
`there is honour among thieves', there are occasionally to be found
among the slavers a few that are not above attacking other slavers and
stealing their slaves from them.  It saves them the bother of a run in
on the coast, with its attendant risk of losses by fever, and the delay,
perhaps, of having to wait until a cargo comes down.  Ah, I expected as
much!" as another shot from the stranger pitched close to our taffrail
and sent a cloud of spray flying over us.  "So much for his respect for
our bunting."

"If the schooner were but armed I would make him respect it," I
exclaimed, greatly exasperated at being obliged to submit tamely to
being fired at without the power to retaliate.  "But," I continued,
"since we cannot fight we will run.  The wind is light, and that brig
must be a smart craft indeed if, in such weather as this, we cannot run
away from her."

The next quarter of an hour afforded us plenty of excitement, for while
we were doing our best to claw out to windward of the brig she kept her
jib-boom pointed straight at us, and thus, having a slight advantage of
the wind, contrived to lessen the distance between us sufficiently to
get us fairly within range, when she opened a brisk fire upon us from
the 18-pounder on her forecastle.  But, although the aim was fairly
good, no very serious damage was done.  A rope was cut here and there,
but was immediately spliced by us; and when we had so far weathered upon
our antagonist as to have brought her fairly into our wake, the
advantage which we possessed in light winds over the heavier craft began
to tell, and we soon drew away out of gunshot.

So far, so good; but I had been hoping that as soon as our superiority
in speed became manifest the brig would bear up and resume her voyage to
her destination--wherever that might be.  But no; whether it was that he
was piqued at being beaten, or whether it was a strong vein of
pertinacity in his character that dominated him, I know not, but the
skipper of the strange brig hung tenaciously in our wake,
notwithstanding the fact that we were now steadily drawing away from
him.  Perhaps he was reckoning on the possibility that the breeze might
freshen sufficiently to transfer the advantage from us to himself, and
believing that this might be the case, I gave instructions to take in
all our studding-sails, and to brace the schooner up sharp, hoping thus
to shake him off.  But even this did not discourage him; for he promptly
imitated our manoeuvre, although we now increased our distance from him
still more rapidly than before.

Meanwhile the wind was steadily growing more scant, and when I went on
deck after breakfast I found that we were practically becalmed, although
the small breathing, which was all that remained of the breeze, sufficed
to keep the little hooker under command, and give her steerage way.  The
brig, however, I was glad to see, was boxing the compass some three
miles astern of us, and about a point on our lee quarter.

It was now roasting hot, the sky was without a single shred of cloud to
break its crystalline purity, and the sun poured down his beams upon us
so ardently that the black-painted rail had become heated to a degree
almost sufficient to blister the hand when inadvertently laid upon it,
while the pitch was boiling and bubbling out of the deck seams.  The
surface of the sea was like a sheet of melted glass, save where, here
and there, a transient cat's-paw flecked it for a moment with small
patches of delicate blue, that came and went as one looked at them.
Even the flying-fish seemed to consider the weather too hot for
indulgence in their usual gambols, for none of them were visible.  I was
therefore much surprised, upon taking a look at the brig through my
glass, to see that she had lowered and was manning a couple of boats.

"Why, Pringle," said I to the gunner, whose watch it was, "what does
that mean?  Surely they are not going to endeavour to tow the brig
within gunshot of us, are they?  They could never do it; for, although
there is scarcely a breath of wind stirring, this little beauty is still
moving through the water; and so long as she has steerage way on her we
ought to be able--"

"No, sir, no; no such luck as that, I'm afraid," answered the man.  "May
I have that glass for a moment?  Thank you, sir!"

He placed the telescope to his eye, adjusted it to his focus, and looked
through it long and intently.

"Just as I thought, Mr Grenvile," he said, handing back the instrument.
"If you'll take another squint, sir, you'll see that they're getting up
tackles on their yard-arms.  That means--unless I'm greatly mistaken--
that they're about to hoist out their longboat; and that again means
that they'll stick a gun into the eyes of her, and attack us with the
boats in regular man-o'-war fashion.  But they ain't alongside of us
yet, and won't be for another hour and a half if the wind don't die away
altogether--and, somehow, I don't fancy it's going to do that.  No, what
I'm most afraid of is"--and he took a long careful look round--"that in
this flukey weather the brig may get a breeze first, and bring it down
with her, when--ay, and there it is, sure enough!  There's blue water
all round her, and I can see her canvas filling to it, even with my
naked eye.  And there she swings her yards to it.  It'll be `keep all
fast with the boats' now!  If that little air o' wind only sticks to her
for half an hour she'll have us under her guns, safe enough!"

It was as Pringle said.  A light draught of air had suddenly sprung up
exactly where the brig happened to lie; and by the time I had got my
telescope once more focused upon her, she was again heading up for us,
with her weather braces slightly checked, and quite a perceptible curl
of white foam playing about her sharp bows.  But it only helped her for
about half a mile, and then left her completely becalmed, as before,
while we were still stealing along at the rate of perhaps a knot and a
quarter per hour.  The skipper of the brig allowed some ten minutes or
so to elapse, possibly waiting for another friendly puff of wind to come
to his assistance, but, seeing no sign of any such thing, he hoisted out
his longboat, lowered a small gun--to me it looked like a 6-pounder--
into her, and dispatched her, with two other boats, in chase of us.  The
dogged determination which animated our pursuers was clearly exemplified
by their behaviour; they made no attempt to cross with a rush the
stretch of water intervening between us and them, but settled down
steadily to accomplish the long pull before them as rapidly as possible
consistent with the husbanding of their strength for the attack when
they should arrive alongside.  As they pushed off from the brig she
fired a gun and hoisted Brazilian colours.

"The affair begins to look serious, Pringle," I said, as I directed my
telescope at the boats.  "There must be close upon forty men in that
attacking-party, and we do not mount so much as a single gun.  Now, I
wonder what their plan of attack will be?  Will they dash alongside and
attempt to carry us by boarding, think you; or will they lie off and
pound us with their gun until we haul down our colours, or sink?"

"They may try both plans, sir," answered Pringle.  "That is to say, they
may begin by trying a few shots at us with their gun, and if they find
that no good I expect they'll try what boarding will do for them.  But
they won't sink us; that's not their game.  It's the slaves they believe
we've got in the hold that they're after; so, if they bring their boat-
gun into play you'll find that it'll be our top-hamper they'll aim at,
so as to cripple us.  They'll not hull us if they can help it."

"Well, they shall not set foot upon this deck if I can help it," said I.
"Pass the word for the boatswain to come aft, Pringle, if you please.
He will probably be able to tell us whether there are any boarding-
nettings in the ship.  If there are, we will reeve and bend the tricing
lines at once, and see all clear for tricing up the nets."

"Ay," assented the gunner.  "I think you'll be wise in so doing, sir;
there's nothing like being prepared.  Pass the word for the boatswain to
come aft," he added, to the little group of men constituting the watch,
who were busy on the forecastle.

The word was passed, and presently the boatswain came along.

"Boatswain," said I, "have you given the spare gear of this craft an
overhaul as yet?"

"Well, sir, I have, and I haven't, as you may say," answered that
functionary.  "I knows, in a general sort of a way, what we've got
aboard of us, but I haven't examined anything in detail, so to speak.
The fact is, seeing that the trip was likely to be only a short one, and
we've been kept pretty busy since we joined the hooker, I've found
plenty else to do."

"Well, can you tell me whether there are any boarding-nettings in the
ship?"  I asked.

"Boarding-nettings!" answered the boatswain.  "Oh yes, sir; I came
across what I took to be a pile of 'em down below in the sail room,
yesterday."

"Good!" said I.  "Then let them be brought on deck at once, and see that
all is ready for tricing them up, should those boats succeed in getting
dangerously near to us."

"Ay, ay, sir!" answered the man.  And away he hurried forward to attend
to the matter.

Then I turned to the gunner.

"Mr Pringle," said I, "have the goodness to get the arm-chest on deck,
and see that the crew are armed in readiness to repel those attacking
boats."

"I hope it may not come to that, Mr Grenvile," said the gunner; "if it
does, I'm afraid it'll be a pretty bad look-out for some of us,
considerin' our numbers.  But, of course, it's the only thing to do."
He took a look round the horizon, directed his gaze first aloft, then
over the side, and shook his head.  "The sun's eating up what little air
there is," he remarked gloomily, "and I reckon that another ten minutes
'll see us without steerage way."  And he, too, departed to carry out
his instructions.

There seemed only too much reason to fear that the gunner's
anticipations with regard to the wind would prove true; but while I
stood near the transom, watching the steady relentless approach of the
boats--which were by now almost within gunshot of us--I suddenly became
aware of a gentle breeze fanning my sun-scorched features, and the
slight but distinct responsive heel of the schooner to it; and in
another minute we were skimming merrily away at a speed of quite five
knots under the benign influence of one of those partial breezes which,
on a calm day at sea, seem to spring up from nowhere in particular, last
for half an hour or so, and then die away again.  In the present case,
however, the breeze lasted nearly two hours before it failed us, by
which time we had left the brig hull-down astern of us, and had enjoyed
the satisfaction of seeing the boats abandon the chase and return to
their parent ship.

These partial breezes are among the most exasperating phenomena which
tax a sailor's patience.  They are, of course, only met with on
exceptionally calm days, and not always then.  They consist simply of
little eddies in the otherwise motionless atmosphere, and are so
strictly local in their character that it is by no means uncommon to see
a ship sailing briskly along under one of them, while another ship,
perhaps less than a mile away, is lying helpless in the midst of a
stark, breathless calm.  Or two ships, a mile or two apart, may be seen
sailing in diametrically opposite directions, each of them with squared
yards and a fair wind.  Under ordinary circumstances the fickle and
evanescent character of these atmospheric eddies is of little moment;
they involve a considerable amount of box-hauling of the yards, and
cause a great deal of annoyance to the exasperated and perspiring
seamen, very inadequately compensated by the paltry mile or so which the
ship has been driven toward her destination; and their aggravating
character begins and ends there.

But when one ship is chasing, or being chased by, another, it is quite a
different matter; for the eccentric behaviour of these same partial
breezes may make all the difference between capturing a prize, and
helplessly watching the chase sail away and make good her escape.  Or,
as was the case with ourselves, it may make precisely the difference
between losing a prize and retaining possession of her.  Thus we felt
supremely grateful to the erratic little draught of air that swept us
beyond the reach of the pursuing boats; but we piped a very different
tune when, some two hours later, we beheld the brig come bowling along
after us under the influence of a slashing breeze, while we lay becalmed
in the midst of a sea of glass and an atmosphere so stagnant that even
the vane at our mast-head drooped motionless save for the oscillation
imparted to it by the heave of the schooner over the swell.  We had, of
course, long ere this, got the boarding-nettings up and stretched along
in stops, with the tricing lines bent on, and everything ready for
tricing up at a moment's notice; but, remembering the number of men that
I had seen in the boats, I felt that, should the brig succeed in getting
alongside, there was a tough fight before us, in which some at least of
our brave fellows would lose the number of their mess; and I could not
help reflecting, rather bitterly, that if the breeze were to favour us
instead of the brig, a considerable loss of life would be avoided.  But
that the brig would get alongside us soon became perfectly evident, for
she was already within a mile of us, coming along with a spanking
breeze, on the starboard tack, with her yards braced slightly forward,
all plain sail set, to her royals, the sheets of her jibs and stay-sails
trimmed to a hair, and every thread drawing perfectly, while around us
the atmosphere remained absolutely stagnant.

I looked for her to open fire upon us as soon as she drew up within
range; but although her guns were run out--and were doubtless loaded--
she came foaming along in grim silence; doubtless her skipper saw, as
clearly as we did, that he had us now, and did not think it necessary to
waste powder and shot to secure what was already within his power.  His
aim was, apparently, to range up alongside us on our port quarter, and
when at length he had arrived within a short half-mile of us, with no
sign of the smallest puff of wind coming to help us, I gave orders to
trice up and secure the nettings, and then for all hands to range
themselves along the port bulwarks in readiness to repel the boarders.
It was now too late for us to dream of escape, for even should the
breeze, that the brig was bringing down with her, reach us, we were by
this time so completely under her guns that she could have unrigged us
with a single well-directed broadside.

Anxious though I was as to the issue of the coming tussle, I could not
help admiring that brig.  She was a truly beautiful craft; distinctly a
bigger vessel than the _Shark_, longer, more beamy, with sides as round
as an apple, and with the most perfectly moulded bows that it was
possible to conceive.  She was coming very nearly stem-on to us, and I
could not therefore see her run, but I had no doubt that it was as
perfectly shaped as were her bows, for I estimated her speed at fully
eight knots, and for a vessel to travel at that rate in such a breeze
she must of necessity have possessed absolute perfection of form.  She
was as heavily rigged as a man-o'-war, and her canvas--which was so
white that it must have been woven of cotton--had evidently been cut by
a master hand, for the set of it was perfect and flatter than any I had
ever seen before.  She was coppered to the bends, was painted black to
her rails, with the exception of a broad red ribbon round her, and was
pierced for eighteen guns.

When she had arrived within about half a cable's-length of us she
suddenly ran out of the breeze that had helped her so well, and
instantly floated upright, with all her square canvas aback in the
draught caused by her own speed through the stagnant atmosphere; and now
we were afforded a fresh opportunity to gauge the strength of her crew,
for no sooner did this happen than all her sheets and halyards were let
go, and the whole of her canvas was clewed up and hauled down together,
man-o'-war fashion.  And thus, with her jibs and stay-sails hauled down,
and her square canvas gathered close up to her yards by the buntlines
and leech-lines, she swerved slightly from her previous course and
headed straight for us, still sliding fast through the water with the
"way" or momentum remaining to her, and just sufficient to bring her
handsomely alongside.

"Now stand by, lads!"  I cried.  "We must not only beat those fellows
off, but must follow them up when they retreat to their own ship.  She
will be a noble prize, well worth the taking!"

The men responded to my invocation with a cheer--it is one of the most
difficult things in the world to restrain a British sailor's propensity
to cheer when there is fighting in prospect--and as they did so the brig
yawed suddenly and poured her whole starboard broadside of grape slap
into us.  I saw the bright flashes of the guns, and the spouting wreaths
of smoke, snow-white in the dazzling sunshine, and the next instant felt
a crashing blow upon my right temple that sent me reeling backward into
somebody's arms, stunned into complete insensibility.

My first sensation, upon the return of consciousness, was that of a
splitting, sickening headache, accompanied by a most painful smarting on
the right side of my forehead.  I was lying prone upon the deck, and
when I attempted to raise my head I found that it was in some way glued
to the planking--with my own blood, as I soon afterwards discovered--so
effectually that it was impossible for me to move without inflicting
upon myself excruciating pain.

My feeble movements, however, had evidently attracted the notice of
somebody, for as I raised my hands toward my head, with some vague idea
of releasing myself, I heard a voice, which I identified as that of the
carpenter, murmur, in a low, cautious tone.

"Don't move, Mr Grenvile; don't move, sir, for all our sakes.  Hold on
as you are, sir, a bit longer; for if them murderin' pirates sees that
you're alive they'll either finish you off altogether or lash you up as
they've done the rest of us; and then our last chance 'll be gone."

"What has happened, then, Simpson?" murmured I, relaxing my efforts, as
I endeavoured to collect my scattered wits.

"Why," answered Chips, "that brig that chased us--you remember, Mr
Grenvile?--turns out to be a regular pirate.  As they ranged up
alongside of us they poured in a whole broadside of grape that knocked
you over, and killed five outright, woundin' six more, includin'
yourself, after which of course they had no difficulty in takin' the
schooner.  Then they clapped lashin's on those of us that I s'pose they
thought well enough to give 'em any trouble; and now they're
transferrin' the poor unfortunate slaves, with the water and provisions
for 'em, from our ship to their own.  What they'll do after that the
Lord only knows, but I expect it'll be some murderin' trick or another;
they're a cut-throat-lookin' lot enough in all conscience!"

Yes; I remembered everything now; the carpenter's statement aided my
struggling memory and enabled me to recall all that had happened up to
the moment of my being struck down by a grape-shot.  But what a terrible
disaster was this that had befallen us--five killed and six wounded out
of our little party of fifteen!  And, in addition to that, we were in
the power of a band of ruthless ruffians who were quite capable of
throwing the quick and the dead alike over the side when they could find
time to attend to us!

"Who are killed, Simpson?"  I asked.

"Hush, sir! better not talk any more just now," murmured the carpenter.
"If these chaps got the notion into their heads that you was alive, as
like as not they'd put a bullet through your skull.  They'll soon be
finished with their job now, and then we shall see what sort of fate
they're going to serve out to us."

I dared not look up nor move my head in any way, to see what was going
on, but by listening I presently became aware that the last of the
slaves had passed over the side, and that the pirates were now
transferring the casks of water and the sacks of meal from our ship to
their own, which--the water being perfectly smooth--they had lashed
alongside the schooner, with a few fenders between the two hulls to
prevent damage by the grinding of them together as they rose and fell
upon the long scarcely perceptible undulations of the swell.  About a
quarter of an hour later the rumbling of the rolling water-casks and the
loud scraping sound of the meal-sacks on the deck ceased; there was a
pause of a minute or so, and then I heard a voice say in Spanish:

"The last of the meal and the water has gone over the rail, senor
capitan.  Is there anything else?"

"No," was the answer, in the same language; "you may all go back to the
brig.  And, Dominique, see all ready for sheeting home and hoisting away
the moment that I join you.  There is a little breeze coming, and it is
high time that we were off.  Now, Juan, are you ready with the auger?"

"Quite ready, senor," answered another voice.

"Then come below with me, and let us get this job over," said the first
voice, and immediately upon this I heard the footsteps of two people
descending the schooner's companion ladder.  Some ten minutes later I
heard the footsteps returning, and presently the two Spaniards were on
deck.  Then there came a slight pause, as though the pirate captain had
halted to take a last look round.

"Are you quite sure, Juan, that the prisoners are all securely lashed?"
asked he.

"Absolutely, senor," answered Juan.  "I lashed them myself, and, as you
are aware, I am not in the habit of bungling the job.  They will all go
to the bottom together, the living as well as the dead!"

"Bueno!" commented the captain.  "Ah, here comes the breeze!  Aboard you
go, Juan, amigo.  Cast off, fore and aft, Dominique, and hoist away your
fore-topmast staysail."

Another moment and the two miscreants had gone.



CHAPTER THREE.

THE SINKING OF THE "DOLORES."

As the sound of the hanks travelling up the brig's fore-topmast stay
reached my ear I murmured cautiously to the carpenter.

"Is it safe for me to move now, Chips?"

"No, sir, no," he replied, in a low, strained whisper; "don't move a
muscle for your life, Mr Grenvile, until I tell you, sir.  The brig's
still alongside, and that unhung villain of a skipper's standin' on the
rail, holdin' on to a swifter, and lookin' down on our decks as though,
even now, he ain't quite satisfied that his work is properly finished."

At this moment I felt a faint breath of air stirring about me, and heard
the small, musical lap of the tiny wavelets alongside as the new breeze
arrived.  The brig's canvas and our own rustled softly aloft; and the
cheeping of sheaves and parrals, the rasping of hanks, the flapping of
canvas, and the sound of voices aboard the pirate craft gradually
receded, showing that she was drawing away from us.

When, as I supposed, the brig had receded from us a distance of fully a
hundred feet, the carpenter said, this time in his natural voice:

"Now, Mr Grenvile, you may safely move, sir, and the sooner you do so
the better, for them villains have scuttled us, and I don't doubt but
what the water's pourin' into us like a sluice at this very moment.  So
please crawl over to me, keepin' yourself well out of sight below the
rail, for I'll bet anything that there's eyes aboard that brig still
watchin' of us, and cast me loose, so that I can make my way down below
and plug them auger-holes without any loss of time."

I at once made a move, with the intention of getting upon my hands and
knees, but instantly experienced the most acute pain in my temple, due
to the fact, which I now discovered, that the shot which had struck me
down had torn loose a large piece of the skin of my forehead, which had
become stuck fast to the deck planking by the blood which had flowed
from the wound and had by this time dried.  To loosen this flap of skin
cost me the most exquisite pain, and when at length I had succeeded in
freeing myself, and rose to my hands and knees, so violent a sensation
of giddiness and nausea suddenly swept over me that I again collapsed,
remaining insensible for quite ten minutes according to the carpenter's
account.

But even during my unconsciousness I was vaguely aware of some urgent,
even vital, necessity for me to be up and doing, and this it was, I
doubt not, that helped me to recover consciousness much sooner than I
should have done but for the feeling to which I have alluded.  Once more
I rose to my hands and knees, half-blinded by the blood that started
afresh from my wound, and crawled over to where the carpenter lay on the
deck, in what must have been a most uncomfortable attitude, hunched up
against the port bulwarks, with his wrists lashed tightly together
behind his back and his heels triced up to them, so that it was
absolutely impossible for him to move or help himself in the slightest
degree.

As I approached him the poor fellow groaned rather than spoke.

"Thank God that you're able to move at last, Mr Grenvile!  I was mortal
afraid that 'twas all up with you when you toppled over just now.  For
pity's sake, sir, cut me loose as soon as you can, for these here
lashin's have been drawed so tight that I've lost all feelin' in my
hands and feet, while my arms and legs seems as though they was goin' to
burst.  What! haven't you got a knife about you, sir?  I don't know
what's become of mine, but some of the men'll be sure to have one, if
you enquire among 'em."

Hurried enquiry soon revealed the disconcerting fact that we could not
muster a solitary knife among us; we had all either lost them, or had
had them taken from us; there was therefore nothing for it but to heave
poor Chips over on his face, and cast him adrift with my hands, which
proved to be a longer and much more difficult job than I could have
believed, owing, of course, to the giddiness arising from my wound,
which made both my sight and my touch uncertain.  But at length the last
knot was loosed, the last turn of the rope cast off, and Chips was once
more a free man.

But when he essayed to stand, the poor fellow soon discovered that his
troubles were not yet over.  For his feet were so completely benumbed
that he had no feeling in them, and when he attempted to rise his ankles
gave way under him and let him down again upon the deck.  Then, as the
blood once more began to circulate through his benumbed extremities, the
pricking and tingling that followed soon grew so excruciatingly painful
that he fairly groaned and ground his teeth in agony.  To allay the pain
I chafed his arms and legs vigorously, and in the course of a few
minutes he was able to crawl along the deck to the companion, and then
make his way below.

Meanwhile, taking the utmost care to keep my head below the level of the
bulwarks, in order that my movements might not be detected by any chance
watcher aboard the pirate craft, I cast loose the three unwounded men--
the carpenter being the fourth of our little band who had escaped the
destructive broadside of the pirates--and bade them assist me to cast
off the lashings which confined the wounded.  We were still thus engaged
when Simpson came up through the companion, dripping wet, glowering
savagely, and muttering to himself.

"Well, Chips," said I, "what is the best news from below?"

"Bad, sir; pretty nigh as bad as can be," answered the carpenter.
"They've scuttled us most effectually, bored eight holes through her
skin, close up alongside the kelson, three of which I've managed to plug
after a fashion, but by the time I had done them the water had risen so
high that I found it impossible to get at t'others.  I reckon that
sundown will about see the last of this hooker; but by that time yonder
brig 'll be pretty nigh out of sight, and we shall have a chance to get
away in the boats, which, for a wonder, them murderin' thieves forgot to
damage."

"There is no hope, you think, of saving the schooner, if all of us who
are able were to go below and lend you a hand?" said I.

"No, sir; not the slightest," answered Simpson.  "If I could have got
below ten minutes earlier, something might have been done; but now we
can do nothing."

"Very well, then," said I; "let San Domingo take two of the uninjured
men to assist him in getting up provisions and water, while you and the
other overhaul the boats, muster their gear, and get everything ready
for putting them into the water as soon as we may venture to do so
without attracting the attention of the brig and tempting her to return
and make an end of us."

While these things were being done, the wounded men assisted each other
down into the little cabin of the schooner, where I dressed their
injuries and coopered them up to the best of my ability with such means
as were to hand; after which, young Sinclair, whose wound was but a
slight one, bathed my forehead, adjusted the strip of displaced skin
where it had been torn away, and strapped it firmly in position with
sticking-plaster.

Meanwhile, the breeze which had sprung up so opportunely to take the
brig out of our immediate neighbourhood not only lasted, but continued
to freshen steadily, with the result that by the time that we had
patched each other up, and were ready to undertake the mournful task of
burying our slain, the wicked but beautiful craft that had inflicted
such grievous injury and loss upon us had slid away over the ocean's
rim, and was hull-down.  By this time also the water had risen in the
schooner to such a height that it was knee-deep in the cabin.  We lost
no time, therefore, in committing our dead comrades to their last
resting-place in the deep, and then proceeded to get the boats into the
water, and stock them with provisions for our voyage.

Now, with regard to this same voyage, I had thus far been much too busy
to give the matter more than the most cursory consideration, but the
time had now arrived when it became necessary for me to decide for what
point we should steer when the moment arrived for us to take to the
boats.  Poor Gowland was, unfortunately, one of the five who had been
killed by the brig's murderous broadside of grape, and I was therefore
deprived of the benefit of his advice and assistance in the choice of a
port for which to steer; but I was by this time a fairly expert
navigator myself, quite capable of doing without assistance if
necessary.  I therefore spread out a chart on the top of the skylight,
and, with the help of the log-book, pricked off the position of the
schooner at noon that day, from which I discovered that Cape Coast
Castle was our nearest port.  But to reach it with the wind in the
quarter from which it was then blowing it would be necessary to put the
boats on a taut bowline, with the possibility that, even then, we might
fall to leeward of our port, whereas it was a fair wind for Sierra
Leone.  I therefore arrived at the conclusion that, taking everything
into consideration, it would be my wisest plan to make for the latter
port, and I accordingly determined there and then the proper course to
be steered upon leaving the schooner.

The _Dolores_ had by this time settled _so_ deeply in the water that it
was necessary to complete our preparations for leaving her without
further delay.  San Domingo had contrived to get together and bring on
deck a stock of provisions and fresh water that I considered would be
ample for all our needs, and Simpson had routed out and stowed in the
boats their masts, sails, oars, rowlocks, and, in short, everything
necessary for their navigation.  It now remained, therefore, only to get
the craft themselves in the water, stow the provisions and our kits in
them, and be off as quickly as possible.

The boats of the _Dolores_ were three in number, namely, a longboat in
chocks on the main hatch, a jolly-boat stowed bottom-upward in the
longboat, and a very smart gig hung from davits over the stern.  The
longboat was a very fine, roomy, and wholesome-looking boat, big enough
to accommodate all that were left of us, as well as our kits and a very
fair stock of provisions; but in order to afford a little more room and
comfort for the wounded men I decided to take the gig also, putting into
her a sufficient quantity of provisions and water to ballast her, and
placing Simpson in charge of her, with one of the unwounded and two of
the most slightly-wounded men as companions, leaving six of us to man
the longboat.

Simpson's estimate of the time at our disposal proved to be a very close
one, for the sun was within ten minutes of setting when, all our
preparations having been completed, I followed the rest of our little
party over the side, and, entering the longboat, gave the order to shove
off and steer north-west in company.  There was at this time a very
pleasant little breeze blowing, of a strength just sufficient to permit
the boats to carry whole canvas comfortably; the water was smooth, and
the western sky was all ablaze with the red and golden glories of a
glowing tropical sunset.

We pulled off to a distance of about a hundred yards from the schooner;
and then, as with one consent, the men laid in their oars and waited to
see the last of the little hooker.  Her end was manifestly very near,
for she had settled to the level of her waterways, and was rolling
occasionally on the long, level swell with a slow, languid movement that
dipped her rail amidships almost to the point of submergence ere she
righted herself with a stagger and hove her streaming wet side up toward
us, all a-glitter in the ruddy light of the sunset, as she took a
corresponding roll in the opposite direction; and we could hear the rush
and swish of water athwart her deck as she rolled.  She remained thus
for some three or four minutes, each roll being heavier than the one
that had preceded it, when, quite suddenly, she seemed to steady
herself; then, as we watched, she slowly settled down out of sight, on a
perfectly even keel, the last ray of the setting sun gleaming in fire
upon her gilded main truck a moment ere the waters closed over
it.--"_Sic transit_!" muttered I, as I turned my gaze away from the
small patch of whirling eddies that marked the spot where the little
beauty had disappeared, following up the reflection with the order:
"Hoist away the canvas, lads, and shape for Sierra Leone!"

Five minutes later we were speeding gaily away, with the wind over our
starboard quarter and the sheets eased well off, the gig, with her finer
lines and lighter freight, revealing so marked a superiority in speed
over the longboat, in the light weather and smooth water with which we
were just then favoured, that she was compelled to luff and shake the
wind out of her sails at frequent intervals to enable us to keep pace
with her.  Meanwhile, the pirate brig, which, like ourselves, had gone
off before the wind, had sunk below the horizon to the level of her
lower yards.  I had, between whiles, been keeping the craft under fairly
steady observation, for what Simpson had said relative to the behaviour
of her captain, and the attitude of doubt and suspicion which the latter
had exhibited when leaving the _Dolores_, had impressed me with the
belief that he would possibly cause a watch to be maintained upon the
schooner until she should sink, with the object of assuring himself that
none of us had escaped to tell the tale of his atrocious conduct.  As I
have already mentioned, the _Dolores_ happened to founder at the precise
moment of sunset, and in those latitudes the duration of twilight is
exceedingly brief.  Still, following upon sunset there were a few
minutes during which the light would be strong enough to enable a sharp
eye on board the distant brig, especially if aided by a good glass, to
detect the presence of the two boats under sail; and I was curious to
see whether anything would occur on board the brig to suggest that such
a discovery had been made.  For a few minutes nothing happened; the
brig's canvas, showing up clear-cut and purple almost to blackness
against the gold and crimson western sky, revealed no variation in the
direction in which she was steering; but presently, as I watched the
quick fading of the glowing sunset tints, and noted how the sharp
silhouette of the brig's canvas momentarily grew more hazy and
indistinct, I suddenly became aware of a lengthening out of the fast-
fading image, and I had just time to note, ere they merged into the
quick-growing gloom, that the two masts had separated, showing that the
brig had shifted her course and was now presenting a broadside view to
us.  That I was not alone in marking this change was evidenced a moment
later when, as we drew up alongside the gig, which had been waiting for
us, Simpson hailed me with the question:

"Did ye notice, sir, just afore we lost sight of the brig, that he'd
hauled his wind?"

"Yes," said I, "I did.  And I have a suspicion that he has done so
because he had a hand aloft to watch for and report the sinking of the
schooner; and that hand has caught sight of the boats.  If my suspicion
is correct, he has waited until he believed we could no longer see him,
and has then hauled his wind in the hope that by making a series of
short stretches to windward he will fall in with us in the course of an
hour or two and be able to make an end of us.  He probably waited until
we had been lost sight of in the gathering darkness, and then shifted
his helm, forgetful of the fact that his canvas would show up against
the western sky for some few minutes after ours had vanished."

"That's just my own notion, sir," answered Simpson, "I mean about his
wishin' to fall in with and make an end of us.  And he'll do it, too,
unless we can hit upon some plan to circumvent him."

"Quite so," said I.  "But we must see to it that we do not again fall
into his hands.  And to avoid doing so I can think of nothing better
than to shift our own helm and shape a course either to the northward or
the southward, with the wind about two points abaft the beam; by doing
which we may hope to get to leeward of the brig in about two hours from
now, when we can resume our course for Sierra Leone with a reasonable
prospect of running the brig out of sight before morning.  And, as she
was heading to the northward when we last saw her, our best plan will be
to steer a southerly course.  So, up helm, Simpson, and we will steer
west-south-west for the next two hours, keeping a sharp look-out for the
brig, meanwhile, that we may not run foul of her unawares."

We had been steering our new course about an hour when it became
apparent that a change of weather was brewing, though what the nature of
the impending change might be it was, for the moment, somewhat difficult
to guess.  The appearance of the sky seemed to portend a thunderstorm,
for it had rapidly become overcast with dense masses of heavy, lowering
cloud, which appeared to have quite suddenly gathered from nowhere in
particular, obscuring the stars, yet not wholly shutting out their
light, for the forms of the cloud-masses could be made out with a very
fair degree of distinctness, and it would probably also have been
possible to distinguish a ship at the distance of a mile.  It was the
presence of this light in the atmosphere, emanating apparently from the
clouds themselves, that caused me rather to doubt the correctness of the
opinion, pretty freely expressed by the men, that what was brewing was
nothing more serious than an ordinary thunderstorm, for I had witnessed
something of the same kind before, on the coast, but in a much more
marked degree, it is true; and in that case the appearance had been
followed by a tornado, brief in duration, but of great violence while it
lasted.  I therefore felt distinctly anxious, the more so as it was
evident that the wind was dropping, and this I regarded as a somewhat
unfavourable sign.  I hailed Simpson, and asked him what he thought of
the weather.

"Why, sir," replied he, "the wind's droppin', worse luck; and if it
should happen to die away altogether, or even to soften down much more,
we shall have to out oars and pull; for we must get out of sight of that
brig somehow, between this and to-morrow morning."

"Undoubtedly," said I.  "But that is not precisely what I mean.  What is
worrying me just now is the question whether there is anything worse
than thunder behind the rather peculiar appearance of the sky."

He directed his glance aloft, attentively studying the aspect of the
heavens for a few moments.

"It's a bit difficult to say, sir," he replied at last.  "Up to now I've
been thinkin' that it only meant thunder and, perhaps, heavy rain; but,
now that you comes to mention it, I don't feel so very sure that there
ain't wind along with it, too--perhaps one of these here tornaders.  And
if that's what's brewin' we shall have to stand by, and keep our weather
eye liftin'; for a tornader'd be an uncommon awk'ard customer to meet
with in these here open boats."

"You are right there," said I, "and for that reason it is especially
desirable that the boats should keep together for mutual support and
assistance, if need be.  You have the heels of us in such light weather
as the present, and might very easily slip away from and lose sight of
us in the darkness; therefore I think that, for the present at all
events, in order to avoid any such possibility, you had better take the
end of our painter and make it fast to your stern ring-bolt.  Then you
can go ahead as fast as you please, without any risk of the boats losing
sight of each other."

This was done, and for the next two hours the boats slid along in
company, the gig leading and towing the longboat, although of course the
towing did not amount to much, since we in the longboat kept our sails
set to help as much as possible.

It was by this time close upon three bells in the first watch, and
notwithstanding the softening of the wind I came to the conclusion that
we must have slipped past the brig, assuming our suspicion, that she had
hauled her wind in chase of us, to be correct.  I therefore ordered our
helm to be shifted once more, and our course to be resumed in a north-
westerly direction.

Half an hour later the wind had dropped to a flat calm, and Simpson
suggested that, as a measure of precaution, in view of the possibility
that the brig might still be to the westward of us, we should get out
the oars and endeavour to slip past her.  But I had for some time past
been very anxiously watching the weather, and had at length arrived at
the conclusion that, if not an actual tornado, there was at least a very
heavy and dangerous squall brewing away down there in the eastern
quarter, before which, when it burst, not only we, but also the brig,
would be obliged to run; and, since she would run faster than the boats,
it was no longer desirable, but very much the reverse, that we should
lie to the westward of her.  I therefore decided to keep all fast with
the oars for the present, and employ such time as might be left to us
upon the task of preparing the boats, as far as possible, for the ordeal
to which it seemed probable that they were about to be subjected.

I was far less anxious about the safety of the longboat than I was about
that of the gig, which, being a more lightly built and much smaller
craft, and excellent in every way for service in fine weather and smooth
water, yet was not adapted for work at sea except under favourable
conditions; and in the event of it coming on to blow hard I feared that
in the resulting heavy sea she would almost inevitably be swamped.  I
therefore turned my attention to her in the first instance, causing her
to be brought alongside the longboat and her painter to be made fast to
the ring-bolt in the stern of the latter, thus reversing the original
arrangement; my intention being that, in the event of bad weather, the
longboat should tow the gig.  This done, I caused Simpson to unstep the
gig's single mast and lay it fore and aft in the boat, with the heel
resting upon and firmly lashed to the small grating which covered the
after end of the boat between the backboard of the stern-sheets and the
stern-post, while the head was supported by a crutch formed of two
stretchers lashed together and placed upright upon the bow thwart, the
whole being firmly secured in place by the two shrouds attached to the
mast-head.  Thus arranged, the mast formed a sort of ridge pole which
sloped slightly upward from the boat's stern toward the bow.  The
lugsail was then unbent from the yard, stretched across the mast, fore
and aft--thus forming a sort of tent over the open boat for about two-
thirds of her length from the stern-post,--and the luff and after-leach
of the sail were then strained tightly down to the planking of the boat
outside, by short lengths of ratline led underneath the gig's keel.  The
result was that, when the job was finished, the gig was almost
completely covered in by the tautly stretched sail, which I hoped would
not only afford a considerable amount of protection to her crew, but
would also keep out the breaking seas that would otherwise be almost
certain to swamp her.

So pleased was I with the job, when it was finished, that I determined
to attempt something similar in the case of the longboat.  This craft
was rigged with two masts, carrying upon the foremast a large standing
lug and a jib, and a small lug upon the jigger-mast.  These latter, that
is to say the jigger-mast and the small lug, we stretched over the
stern-sheets of the longboat in the same way as we had dealt with the
gig, leading the yoke lines forward on top of the sail, so that the
steering arrangements might not be interfered with.  And finally, we
close-reefed the big lug and took in the jib, when we were as ready for
the expected outfly as it was possible for people in such circumstances
to be.

That something more than a mere thunderstorm was impending there could
now be no possible doubt.  The strange light of which I have spoken, and
which had seemed to emanate from the clouds, had now vanished, giving
place to a darkness so profound that it seemed to oppress us like some
material substance; and the silence was as profound and oppressive as
the darkness--so profound, indeed, was it that any accidental sound
which happened to break in upon it, such as the occasional lap of the
water against the boat's planking, the scuffling movement of a man, or
the intermittent flap of the sail as the longboat stirred upon a
wandering ridge of slow-moving swell, smote upon the ear with an
exaggerated distinctness that was positively startling to an almost
painful degree.  I accounted for this, at the time, by attributing it in
part to the peculiar electrical condition of the atmosphere, and partly
to the fact that we had all been wrought up to a condition of high
nervous tension by the conviction that something--we did not quite know
what--was impending, for which we were all anxiously on the watch, and
that, in the Cimmerian darkness which enveloped us, we were obliged to
depend for adequate warning, upon our hearing alone, which caused us to
resent and be impatient of all extraneous sounds.  That this was to some
extent the case was evidenced by the fact that, our preparations
finished, we had, as with one consent, subsided into silence, which was
broken only in a low whisper if anyone felt it necessary to speak.

Suddenly, as we all sat waiting for the outburst of the threatened
storm, a long-drawn, piercing cry pealed out across the water,
apparently from a spot at no very great distance from us.  It was,
although not very loud, the most appalling, soul-harrowing sound that
had ever smote upon my ears, and a violent shudder of horror thrilled me
from head to foot, while I felt the hair bristling upon my scalp as I
listened to it.  Three times in rapid succession did that dreadful,
heart-shaking cry come wailing to our ears, and then all was silence
again for perhaps half a minute, when the men about me began to ask, in
low, tense whispers, whence it came, and from what creature.  To me, I
must confess, the sounds seemed to be such as might burst from the lips
of a fellow-creature in the very uttermost extremity of mortal terror.
But that could scarcely be, for how could mortal man have approached us
within a distance of some two hundred yards in that breathless calm,
unless, indeed, in a boat--of which there had certainly been no sign in
any direction half an hour before.  And if one were disposed for a
moment to admit such a possibility, whence could a boat come?  The
pirate brig had been the only craft in sight when darkness fell, and it
was scarcely within the bounds of probability that anything then out of
sight beneath the horizon could have drawn so near to us during the
succeeding hours of darkness.  Or again, admitting such a possibility,
what dreadful happening could have wrung from human lips such blood-
curdling sounds?  We were all eagerly discussing the matter, some of the
men agreeing with me that the sounds were human, while others stoutly
maintained that they were supernatural, and boded some terrible disaster
to the boats, when our discussion was abruptly broken in upon by the
sound of rippling water near at hand, as though a craft of some kind
were bearing down upon us at a speed sufficient to raise a brisk surge
under her bows, and the next instant the voice of San Domingo pealed out
in piercing tones, eloquent of the direst terror:

"Oh, look dere eberybody!  Wha' dat?"  And with a howl like that of a
wild beast he rose to his feet and made a frantic dash aft for the
stern-sheets, fighting his way past the other men, and trampling over
the unfortunate wounded in the bottom of the boat, quite beside himself
with fright.

And indeed there was some excuse for the negro's extraordinary
behaviour; for, intense as was the darkness that enveloped us, the water
was faintly phosphorescent, and we were thus enabled to discern
indistinctly that, less than a hundred yards distant from us, a huge
creature, which, to our excited imaginations, appeared to be between two
and three hundred feet long, had risen to the surface and was now slowly
swimming in a direction that would carry it across the bows of the
longboat at a distance of some fifty feet.  I frankly confess that for a
moment I felt petrified with horror, for the creature was streaming with
faintly luminous phosphorescence, and thus, despite the darkness, it was
possible to see that it was certainly not a whale, or any other known
denizen of the deep, for it had a head shaped somewhat like that of an
alligator--but considerably larger than that of any alligator I had ever
seen--attached to a very long and somewhat slender neck, which it
carried stretched straight out before it at an angle of some thirty
degrees with the surface of the water, and which it continually twisted
this way and that, as though peering about in search of something.
Suddenly it paused, lifted its head high, and looked straight toward the
boats, and at the same moment a whiff of air came toward us heavily
charged with a most disgusting and nauseating odour, about equally
suggestive of musk and the charnel-house.  Its eyes, distinctly
luminous, and apparently about two feet apart, were directed straight
toward the longboat, and the next instant it began to move toward us,
again stretching out its neck.

Instinctively I sprang to my feet and whipped a pistol out of my belt,
cocking it as I did so.

"Out pistols, men, and give it a volley!"  I cried; and the next instant
a somewhat confused pistol discharge shattered the breathless silence of
the night.  My own fire I had withheld, waiting to see what would be the
effect of the men's fire upon the monster.  Whether any of them had hit
it or not I could not tell, but beyond causing the creature to pause for
an instant, as though startled by the flashing of fire, the volley
seemed to have had no effect, for the horrid thing continued to approach
the boat, while the disgusting odour which it emitted grew almost
overpowering.  It must have been within ten feet of the boat when I
aimed straight at its left eye, and pulled the trigger of my pistol.
For an instant the bright flash dazzled me so that I could see nothing,
but I distinctly heard the "phitt" of the bullet, felt a hot puff of the
sickening stench strike me full in the face, and became aware of a
tremendous swirl and disturbance of the water as the huge creature
plunged beneath the surface and was gone.



CHAPTER FOUR.

THE BOATS IN A TORNADO.

We had scarcely begun to settle down again, and regain the control of
our nerves after this distinctly startling adventure, when the dense
canopy of black cloud overhead was rent asunder by a flash of lightning,
steel-blue, keen, and dazzlingly vivid, that seemed to strike the water
within a dozen fathoms of us, while simultaneously we were deafened by a
crackling crash of thunder of such appalling loudness and violence that
one might have been excused for believing that the very foundations of
the earth had been riven asunder.  So tremendous was the concussion of
it that I quite distinctly felt the longboat quiver and tremble under
its influence.  And the next instant down came the rain in a regular
tropical, torrential downpour, causing the sea to hiss as though each
individual drop of rain were red-hot, and starting us to work at once in
both boats with the balers, to save our provisions from being ruined.  I
happened to be looking away in a westerly direction when the flash came,
and despite its dazzling vividness I caught a momentary glimpse of the
pirate brig in that direction, and not more than a mile distant from us.
None of the others in the boats appeared to have seen her, for no one
said a word; and I only hoped that no eye on board her had happened to
be turned toward us at the moment, or they could not have failed to see
us; and she was altogether too near for my liking.  I said nothing, for
it seemed unnecessary to disturb the men by informing them of her
whereabouts; and I comforted myself with the reflection that when the
squall should come--as come it now must in a very few minutes,--she,
like ourselves, would be compelled to scud before it; and as she would
run two feet to our one, she would soon run us out of sight.

We had not long to wait.  After the deluge of rain had lasted some three
minutes it ceased as abruptly as it had begun, and for the space of
perhaps half a minute there was no sound to be heard save the trickling
and dripping of water from the drenched sails of the boats.  Then, far
away to the eastward there gradually arose a low moaning, and a sudden
fierce puff of hot air struck us for an instant, filling the sails of
the longboat with a loud flap and leaving them hanging motionless again.

"Here it comes, lads," cried I.  "Out with your starboard oars, and get
the boat's head round.  That will do.  Lay them in again; and one hand
tend the mainsheet here aft."

The moaning sound rapidly grew in intensity until it became first a deep
roar, like the bellowing of a thousand angry bulls, and finally a
deafening shriek, while away to the eastward a long line of white,
foaming water became visible, rushing down toward us with incredible
rapidity.  The next instant the squall struck us, and the white water
boiled up high over the sterns of the boats, burying us so deeply that
for a moment I thought it was all over with us, and that, despite our
precautions, we must inevitably be swamped.  But the good canvas of
which the longboat's sails were made fortunately withstood the strain,
as also did the stout hemp rigging which supported the mast, and as the
furious blast swooped down upon us we gathered way and were the next
moment flying to the westward before the hurricane, our bows buried
deeply in the boiling surge.  And now we had good reason to congratulate
ourselves upon the fact that we in the longboat had taken the gig in
tow, for the strain of the smaller boat kept the longboat's stern down,
and in a great measure counteracted the leverage of the mast which
tended to depress and bury our bows, but for which I feel convinced that
the longboat, stout craft though she was, would have been driven under
by the tremendous force of the wind and swamped by an inrush of water
over the bows.

The outfly was accompanied by a furious storm of thunder and lightning,
the illumination of which was most welcome to us, for it enabled us to
see where we were going, and incidentally revealed to us our enemy, the
pirate brig, scudding away to leeward under a goose-winged fore-topsail,
and with her topgallant-masts struck.

We now had reason to congratulate ourselves upon the foresight which had
suggested to us the idea of partially covering in the boats with their
sails as a protection against the inroads of the sea; for within ten
minutes of the outburst not only was the air full of flying sheets of
spindrift and scud-water that, but for the precaution referred to, would
have kept us busily baling, but in addition to this a short, steep,
tumultuous sea was rapidly rising, which at frequent intervals rose
above the boats' gunwales, and would have pooped us dangerously had the
boats been left in their ordinary unprotected condition.  As it was,
beyond a pint or so of water that occasionally made its way inboard
despite all our precautions, and needed to be baled out again, we had no
trouble.

The first fury of the squall lasted about a quarter of an hour.  During
that time the thunder and lightning were incessant, but afterwards they
gradually died away, while the wind moderated to a steady gale; and it
was by the illumination of the last flash of lightning that we caught
sight of the brig hove-to on the starboard tack, under a storm-staysail,
with her head to the northward.  The sight of her thus was a great
relief to me, for it seemed to indicate that we had been fortunate
enough to escape detection, and that we need have no great fear of
interference from her, since the fact of her having hove-to so early
indicated a keen desire on the part of her captain to remain as near as
possible to the coast.

As the night wore on the sea rapidly became higher and more dangerous,
our difficulties and embarrassments increasing in proportion.  Our chief
difficulty arose from the necessity to keep the gig in tow, for with the
rising of the sea this speedily became more dangerous to both boats,
from the frequent fierce tugs of the painter that connected the two
boats together.  The rope was a new and stout one, and there was not
much fear that the boats would break away from each other, but the
strain set up by the alternate slackening and tautening of the painter,
as first one boat and then the other was urged forward by the 'scend of
the sea, was tremendous, and strained both craft to a positively
dangerous degree.  Yet it was not possible for us to cast the gig
adrift, for, had we done so, we should at once have run away from and
lost her in the darkness; that is, unless she had set her own sails, and
this, of course, could not have been done without depriving her of the
protection of them as a covering against the breaking seas, which would
have resulted in her being instantly swamped.  But at length matters
became so serious with us both that it was evident that something must
be done, and that very quickly too; for some of the drags were so
violent that they threatened to tear the stern out of the longboat,
which was by this time leaking badly.  After considering the matter,
therefore, most carefully, I decided upon a course of procedure that I
hoped might better our condition somewhat.  It happened that among the
stores which we had hurriedly stowed away in the longboat when preparing
to leave the schooner was a drum of lamp oil, which we intended to use
in our binnacle lamps at night, and which we thought might perhaps also
prove very useful for other purposes as well, and this I now ordered the
men to find for me.  Fortunately it was easy to get at it, and it was
soon produced.  It was a full can, and had never been opened; therefore
I gave instructions that, instead of drawing the bung, it should be
punctured with a sufficient number of holes to allow the oil to ooze
through pretty freely.  This done, I instructed the men to clear away
the longboat's painter and to bend it securely round the boat's oars in
such a manner as to make a sort of sea-anchor of them, leaving about a
fathom of the end of the painter clear to which to bend on the oil-can.
Then, when everything was ready, I shouted to Simpson in the gig,
telling him what I proposed to do, and giving him his instructions,
after which we in the longboat hauled down the jib, and, watching our
opportunity, rounded-to, threw overboard our sea-anchor, with the oil-
can attached, and took in our remaining canvas.  This business of
rounding-to was a very delicate and ticklish job, for had the sea caught
us broadside-on we must inevitably have been capsized or swamped; but we
were fortunate enough to do everything at precisely the right moment,
with the result that the two boats swung round, head-on to the sea,
without accident, and without shipping very much water.

The oars, lashed together in the middle, and kept squarely athwartships
by means of a span, afforded, after all, only the merest apology for a
sea-anchor, and barely gave just sufficient drag to keep the boats stem-
on to the sea without appreciably retarding their drift to leeward; but
it was none the worse for this, since, with their drift scarcely
retarded, they rode all the more easily; and presently, when the oil
began to exude from the can and diffuse itself over the surface of the
water, there was a narrow space just ahead of us where the seas ceased
to break, with the result that in the course of ten minutes we were
riding quite dry and comfortable, except for the scud-water that came
driving along.  This, however, we soon remedied by converting our
mainsail into a kind of roof, strained over the lowered mast, similar to
the arrangement in the gig, after which, save for the extravagant leaps
and plunges of the boats, which were very trying to the wounded, we had
not much to complain of.

The gale reached its height about four o'clock on the following morning,
at which hour it was blowing very hard, with an exceedingly heavy and
dangerous sea, in which the boats could not possibly have lived but for
the precautions which had been taken for their preservation; and even as
it was, we repeatedly escaped disaster only by the merest hair's-
breadth, and by what seemed to be more a combination of fortuitous
circumstances than anything else.  Taken altogether, that night was one
of the most tense and long-drawn-out anxieties that I had ever, up to
then, experienced.  About two bells in the morning watch the gale broke,
and from that moment the strength of the wind moderated so rapidly that
by eight bells all danger had passed, the boats were riding dry, and we
were able to get breakfast in peace and comfort--all the greater,
perhaps, from the fact that when day dawned the pirate brig was nowhere
to be seen.  By nine-o'clock the wind and sea had both moderated
sufficiently to enable us to resume our voyage.  I therefore, with some
difficulty, secured an observation of the sun for the determination of
our longitude, and we then proceeded to re-bend our sails, step the
masts, and get under way, steering to the northward and westward under
double-reefed canvas.  Finally, about noon, we were able to shake out
our reefs and proceed under whole canvas, the sea by that time having
almost completely gone down, leaving no trace of the previous night's
gale beyond a long and very heavy swell, in the hollows of which the two
boats continually lost sight of each other.

But although, by the mercy of Providence, we had weathered the gale, we
had not by any means escaped scathless, for when we had once more
settled down and had found opportunity to overhaul our stock of
provisions, it was found that, despite our utmost precautions, an
alarmingly large proportion of them had become damaged by rain and sea
water, to such an extent, indeed, that about half of them had been
rendered quite unfit for use, and we therefore threw that portion
overboard, since there was obviously no advantage in wasting valuable
space in the preservation of useless stores.  And I did this the more
readily, perhaps, because I calculated that, despite this heavy loss, we
should still have enough left to carry us to our destination--provided
that we were not detained by calms on the way.

We made excellent progress all that day, our reckoning showing that at
three o'clock that afternoon we had traversed a distance of just forty
miles since getting under way that morning, which distance was increased
to fifty-eight by sunset.  Moreover we had done well in another way, for
the wounded had all been carefully looked after, and their hurts
attended to as thoroughly as circumstances would allow, with the result
that at nightfall each man reported himself as feeling distinctly
better, notwithstanding the night of terrible hardship and exposure
through which all had so recently passed.

The sunset that evening was clear, promising a fine night, while the
wind held steady and fair.  We were consequently all in high spirits at
the prospect of a quick and pleasant passage to Sierra Leone.  But as
the night advanced a bank of heavy cloud gradually gathered on the
horizon to the northward, and the wind began to back round and freshen
somewhat, so that about midnight it again became necessary to double-
reef our canvas, while the sea once more rose to such an extent that the
boats were soon shipping an unpleasant quantity of water over the
weather bow.  Moreover the wind continued to back until we were broken
off a couple of points from our course; so that, altogether, it finally
began to look very much as though we were in for another unpleasant
night, though perhaps not quite so bad as the one that had preceded it.
It is true that we were not just then in any actual danger, for, after
all, the strength of the wind was no more than that to which the _Shark_
would show single-reefed topsails.  But it was more than enough for us,
under the canvas which we were carrying, and I had just given the order
to haul down a third reef when one of the men who was engaged upon the
task of shortening sail suddenly paused in his work and gazed out
intently to windward under the sharp of his hand.  The next moment he
shouted excitedly:

"Sail ho! two points on the weather bow.  D'ye see her, sir?  There she
is.  Ah, now I've lost her again; but you'll see her, sir, when we lifts
on the top of the next sea.  There--now do you see her, sir, just under
that patch of black cloud?"

"Ay, ay, I see her," I answered; for as the man spoke I caught sight of
a small dark blur, which I knew must be a ship of some sort, showing
indistinctly against the somewhat lighter background of cloud behind
her.  She was about two miles away, and was steering a course that would
carry her across our bows at a distance of about a quarter of a mile if
we all held on as we were going; and for a moment I wondered whether it
was our enemy the pirate brig again putting in an appearance.  But an
instant's reflection sufficed to dissipate this idea, for, according to
all the probabilities, the pirates ought by this time to be well on
toward a hundred miles to the eastward of us, while the stranger was
coming down, with squared yards, from the northward.

"We must contrive to attract the attention of that craft and get her to
pick us up," I cried.  "Have we anything in the boat from which we can
make a flare?"

A hurried search was rewarded by the production of a piece of old
tarpaulin that we were using as a cover and protection to our stock of
provisions; and a long strip of this was hurriedly torn off, liberally
sprinkled with the oil that still remained in the drum, twisted tightly
up, and ignited.  The flame sputtered a bit at first, probably from the
fact that sea water had penetrated to the interior of the drum and
mingled to a certain extent with the oil; but presently our improvised
flare burst into a bright ruddy flame, which lighted up the hulls and
sails of the boats and was reflected in broad red splashes of colour
from the tumbling seas that came sweeping steadily down upon us.

All eyes were now eagerly directed toward the approaching ship, of
which, however, we entirely lost sight in the dazzling glare of our
torch.  But when, after blazing fiercely for about a couple of minutes,
until it was consumed, our flare went out and left us once more in
darkness, there was no answering signal from the stranger, which was
coming down fast before the steadily strengthening breeze.

"Make another one, lads, and light it as quickly as you can," I cried.
"We must not let her slip past us.  Our lives may depend upon our
ability to attract her attention and get her to pick us up.  But what is
the matter with them aboard there that they have not seen us?  Their
look-outs must be fast asleep."

"She's a trader of some sort, sir; that's what's the matter with her,"
answered one of the men.  "If she was a man-o'-war, or a slaver, there'd
be a better look-out kept aboard of her.  If I had my way them chaps
what's supposed to be keepin' a look-out should get six dozen at the
gangway to-morrer mornin'."

"Hurry up with that flare, lads," I exhorted.  "Be as quick with it as
you like."

"Ay, ay, sir! we shall be ready now in the twinklin' of a purser's
lantern," answered the man who was preparing the torch.  "Now, Tom,
where's that there binnacle lamp again?  Shield it from the wind with
your cap, man, so's it don't get blowed out while I sets fire to this
here flare."

The man was still fumbling with the flare when the stranger, which was
now about half a mile distant, suddenly exhibited a lantern over her
bows, which her people continued to show until we had lighted our second
flare, when the lantern at once disappeared.  A couple of minutes later
she was near enough for us to be able to make her out as a full-rigged
ship of some seven hundred tons; and presently she swept grandly across
our bows, at a distance of about a cable's-length, and, putting her helm
down, came to the wind, with her main-topsail to the mast, finally
coming to rest within biscuit-toss of us to windward.

As she did so we became aware of a man standing on her poop, just abaft
the mizzen rigging, and the next moment a hail through a speaking-
trumpet came pealing across the water.

"Ho, the boats ahoy!  What boats are those?"

"We are the boats of the slaver _Dolores_, captured by the British
sloop-of-war _Shark_, and subsequently attacked and destroyed by a
pirate," replied I.  "We have been in the boats nearly thirty hours, and
several of our people are wounded.  We hoped to make our way to Sierra
Leone, but narrowly escaped being swamped in a gale last night.  I
presume you will have no objection to receive us?"

The ship being apparently British, I naturally expected to receive an
immediate and cordial invitation to go on board; but, to my intense
surprise, and growing indignation, there ensued a period of silence as
though the man who had hailed us was considering the matter.  I was just
about to hail again when the individual seemed to arrive at a decision;
for he hailed:

"All right; bring your boats alongside."

We accordingly dowsed the sails, threw out our oars, and pulled
alongside.

As we approached the lee gangway, which had been thrown open to receive
us, and about which some half a dozen men were clustered, with lighted
lanterns, the man who had hailed us before enquired:

"Will your wounded be able to come up the side; or shall I reeve a whip
with a boatswain's-chair for them?"

"Thanks," I replied, "I think we may be able to manage, if your people
will lend us a hand."

"How many do you muster?" asked the stranger, presumably the master of
the vessel.

"Ten, all told," I answered, "of whom six are more or less hurt.  We
were fifteen to start with, but five were killed by the fire of the
pirate."

"I'm afraid you've had a bad time, takin' it all round," said our
interlocutor.  "Stand by, chaps, to lend the poor fellers a hand up over
the side."

"What ship is this?"  I asked, when at length I went up the side and
found myself confronted by a very ordinary-looking individual, attired
in a suit of thin, rusty-looking blue serge, with a peaked cap of the
same material on his head, who extended his hand in cordial welcome to
me.

"The _Indian Queen_, of and from London to Bombay, twenty-three days
out, with passengers and general cargo," he answered.

"Well," said I, "I am exceedingly obliged to you for receiving us; for,
to tell you the truth, after the experiences of last night, I am very
glad to find a good, wholesome ship once more under my feet.  Open boats
are all very well in their way, but they are rather ticklish craft in
which to face such a gale as we had last night."

"By the by," he said, "are those boats of yours worth hoisting in?"

"Yes," I said, "they are both very good boats, and it would be a pity to
send them adrift if you can find room for them."

"Oh, I dare say we can do that," he answered.  "Besides, the skipper
might have a word or two to say about it if we was to turn 'em adrift.
By the way, Mr--er--"

"Grenvile," I prompted, continuing--"I must apologise for not having
sooner introduced myself.  I am senior midshipman of the _Shark_, and
was prize-master of the slaver _Dolores_, which I had instructions to
take into Sierra Leone."

"Just so; thank'e," answered the man.  "I was going to say, Mr
Grenvile, that--well, our skipper's a very queer-tempered sort of a
man--he was second mate when we left home--and as like as not he may
kick up a row about my receivin' you aboard--indeed it wouldn't very
greatly surprise me if he was to order you all over the side again; so I
thought I'd just better give ye a hint, so as you may know what to
expect, and how to act."

"Indeed, I am very much obliged to you for your timely warning, Mr ---"
said I.

"Carter's my name--Henry Carter," was the reply.  "I'm actin' as chief
mate now, but I was third when we left London."

"I understand," said I.  "But this captain of yours--he is an
Englishman, I presume, and I cannot understand the possibility of his
raising any objection to your receiving a party of distressed fellow-
countrymen aboard his ship.  And how comes he to be in command, now, if
he was only second when you left home?"

"Well, sir, it's like this," answered Carter, starting to explain.  Then
he interrupted himself suddenly, saying:

"Excuse me, sir; I see that the hands are about to sway away upon the
tackles and hoist in the boats.  I'll just give an eye to them, if you
don't mind, and see that they don't make a mess of the job."

With the assistance of the _Shark's_ people the boats were soon got
inboard and stowed, after which my boats' crews were bestowed in the
forecastle and the steerage, there happening by good luck to be just
sufficient vacant berths in the latter to accommodate the wounded.  This
matter having been attended to, the mate remarked to me:

"There's a vacant cabin in the cuddy; but the stewards are all turned
in, and it would take 'em some time to clear it out and get it ready for
you; so perhaps you might be able to make do with a shakedown on the
cabin sofa for to-night; or there's my cabin, which you're very welcome
to, if you like, and I'll take my watch below on a sofa."

"Thank you very much for your exceedingly kind offer," said I, "but I
couldn't think of dispossessing you of your own cabin, even for a single
night.  The sofa will serve my turn admirably, especially as I had no
sleep last night, and not much during the night before.  But, before I
go below, I should like to hear how it comes about that the man who was
second mate of this ship when she left England is now master of her.  To
bring about such a state of affairs as that you must have lost both your
original skipper and your chief mate."

"Yes," answered Carter, "that's exactly what's happened.  We've had what
the newspapers would call a couple of tragedies aboard here.  First of
all, the skipper--who looked as strong and healthy a man as you'd meet
with in a day's march--was found dead in his bed, on the morning of the
fifth day out; and, next, the chief mate--who of course took command,
and was supposed to be a total abstainer--was found missin', as you may
say, when the steward went to call him, one morning--he'd only been in
command four days, poor chap; and the mate--that's our present skipper,
Cap'n Williams--gave it out that he must have committed suicide, while
in liquor, by jumpin' out of the stern window--which was found to be
wide-open, on the mornin' when poor Mr Mowbray was reported missing."

"Very extraordinary," commented I, stifling a prodigious yawn.  "And
now, Mr Carter, with your kind permission I will go below and lie down,
for I feel pretty well tired out."

"Ay, that I'll be bound you do," agreed Carter.  "This way, Mr
Grenvile, and look out for the coamin'--it's a bit extra high."

And, so saying, he led the way into a very handsome saloon under the
ship's full poop.

The craft was not a regular Indiaman--that is to say, she was not one of
the Honourable East India Company's ships,--but, for all that, she was a
very handsome and comfortable vessel, and her cuddy was most luxuriously
fitted up with crimson velvet sofas, capacious revolving armchairs
screwed to the deck alongside the tables, a very fine piano, with a
quantity of loose music on the top of it, some very handsome pictures in
heavy gold frames screwed to the ship's side between the ports, a
magnificent hanging lamp suspended from the centre of the skylight, with
a number of smaller lamps, hung in gimbals, over the pictures, a
handsome fireplace, with a wide tiled hearth, now filled with pots of
plants, a capacious sideboard against the fore bulkhead, a handsome
carpet on the deck, and, in fact, everything that could be thought of,
within reason, to render a long sea voyage comfortable and pleasant.
The saloon occupied the full width of the ship, the sleeping cabins
being below.

With pardonable pride Carter turned up the flame of the swinging lamp--
which was the only lamp burning at that hour of the night--to give me a
glimpse of all this magnificence.

I quite expected that, having, as it were, done the honours of the ship,
Carter would now turn down the lamp and leave me to myself; but he still
lingered in an uncertain sort of way, as though he would like to say
something, but did not quite know how to begin; so at length, to relieve
his embarrassment, I said:

"What is it, Mr Carter?  I feel sure you want to tell me something."

"Well," said he, "it's a fact that I have got something on my mind that
I'd like to get off it; and yet I dare say you'll think there's nothing
in it when I tells you.  The fact is, our present skipper's a very
curious sort of chap, as I expect you'll find out for yourself afore
many hours has gone over your head.  Now, I want you to understand,
Mr--er--Grenvile, that I'm not sayin' this because he and I don't
happen to get on very well together--which is a fact; I'm not jealous of
him, or of his position, because I couldn't fill it if 'twas offered to
me--I'm not a good enough navigator for that,--but I think it's only
right I should tell you that, as like as not, he'll not only blow me up
sky-high for pickin' you and your men up, when he finds out that you're
aboard, but, maybe--well, I dunno whether he'll go quite so far as that,
but he may refuse to let you stay aboard, and order you to take to your
boats again.  Now, if he should--I don't say he will, mind you, but if
he should do any such thing, take my advice, and don't go.  I don't know
how he may be to-morrow.  If he kept sober after he turned in he'll be
all right, I don't doubt; but if he took a bottle to bed with him--as
he's lately got into the habit of doin'--the chances are that he'll turn
out as savage as a bear with a sore head; and then everybody, fore and
aft--passengers and all--will have to stand by and look out for
squalls!"

"Thanks, Mr Carter, very much, for mentioning this," I said.  "You gave
me a pretty broad hint as to what I might expect, out there on deck,
just now, and you may rest assured that I shall not forget it.  And you
may also rest assured that, should he so far forget what is due to
humanity as to order me to leave the ship, I will flatly decline to go."

"Of course, sir, of course you will, and quite right too," commented
Carter.  "But I'm glad to hear ye say so, all the same.  It'll be a
great comfort to me--and to the passengers too--to feel that we've got a
naval officer aboard, if things should happen to go at all crooked.  And
now, Mr Grenvile, havin' said my say, I'll wish ye good-night, and hope
you'll be able to get a good sound sleep between this and morning."

And therewith Carter at length took himself off.  But before he was
fairly out on deck I was stretched at full length on the sofa, fast
asleep.



CHAPTER FIVE.

SOME STRANGE HAPPENINGS.

I was awakened by the entrance of the stewards, who, at six bells on the
following morning, came into the saloon to brush and dust up generally,
and lay the tables for nine-o'clock breakfast.  The head steward
apologised for waking me, and informed me that there was no need for me
to disturb myself, also that Carter had informed him of my presence, and
commended me to his care.  But I had slept like a log, and felt
thoroughly refreshed; I therefore went out on deck, and betook myself
forward to the eyes of the ship, where I stripped and indulged in the
luxury of a shower-bath under the head-pump.

It was a most glorious morning, the sun was shining brilliantly, with a
keen bite in his rays already, although he was but an hour high; and
there was a strong breeze blowing from the northward, under the
influence of which the ship was reeling off her ten knots, under a main
topgallant-sail.  But I was greatly surprised to see that, instead of
steering south, we were heading in for the coast, on a south-westerly
course.  I made some remark upon this to Carter, who again had the
watch, to which he replied:

"Well, you see, sir, it's a fancy of the skipper's.  He's got some sort
of a theory that, by hugging the coast close, and takin' advantage of
the sea and land breezes, as they blows night and mornin', we shall do
rather better than we should by thrashin' to wind'ard against the south-
east trade.  I don't know whether there's anything in it myself, but
it's the first time that I've ever heard of the notion.  But there he
is--and in a blazin' bad temper, too, by the looks of him!  Shall I take
you aft and introjuce you to him?"

"Certainly," said I.  "If we are to have any unpleasantness, let us have
it at once, and get it over."

There was, however, to be no unpleasantness--just then, at all events--
except in so far as poor Carter was concerned; for when he and I went
aft to where Captain Williams--a tall, powerful-looking, and rather
handsome man in a barbaric sort of way, with a pair of piercing black
eyes, and an abundant crop of black, curly hair, with beard and
moustache to match--was standing on the quarter-deck, just outside the
entrance of the saloon, the captain stepped forward, and, extending his
hand, bade me welcome to his ship with every sign of the utmost
friendliness.  But he gave poor Carter a terrific wigging for not having
called him when the boats were first sighted, and for receiving us on
board without first consulting him.

"For how could you know, Mr Carter," he said, "that the boats were not
full of pirates?  Less unlikely things than that have happened, let me
tell you; and when you come to know this coast as well as I know it, you
will be rather more chary of receiving a couple of boats' crews
professing to be distressed seamen."

"Oh," said I, "as to that, Mr Carter took pretty good care to satisfy
himself as to our _bona fides_ before permitting us to come alongside!
At all events he made sure that we were British, and I think there are
very few Britons who take kindly to piracy."

"Perhaps not, sir, perhaps not; at least I hope that, for the credit of
our countrymen, you are right," answered the skipper.  "At the same time
there are many foreigners who speak English well enough to answer a
hail, and I want to impress upon Mr Carter the fact that it was his
duty to call me, under the peculiar circumstances, and to allow me to
decide as to the advisability of admitting two boat-loads of strangers
aboard my ship.  Please don't do it again, sir."

Whereupon poor Carter promised to be more circumspect in future, and
slunk away with very much the aspect and manner of a beaten dog.  I felt
very sorry for the man, for, even admitting that the skipper was right--
as he certainly was--I thought it would have been in very much better
taste if he had taken an opportunity to point out to his subordinate, in
private, the imprudence of which he had been guilty, instead of
administering a reprimand in the presence of a stranger.  Apart from
that it appeared to me that there was not very much wrong with the man,
and the question arose in my mind whether, despite the protest that
Carter had thought it necessary to address to me, he might not be to
some extent prejudiced against his skipper.  And this feeling was
somewhat strengthened when, as, in compliance with Captain Williams's
request, I gave him an account of our recent adventures, he informed me
that the ship carried a doctor, and at once sent a messenger to that
functionary, informing him that some wounded men had been taken on board
during the night, and requesting him to give them his best attention
forthwith.

As the skipper and I stood talking together, the passengers, who had
learned from the stewards that we had been picked up during the night,
came hurrying up on deck, one after another, full of curiosity to see
the individuals who had joined the ship under such interesting
circumstances; and I was duly introduced to them.  To take them in what
appeared to be the recognised order of their social importance, they
were, first, General Sir Thomas Baker, his wife, Lady Hetty Baker, and
his rather elderly daughter, Phoebe, returning to India from furlough;
Mrs Euphemia Jennings, the young wife of an important official, who had
just left her only boy--a lad of five years of age--with friends in
England, for his health's sake, and with her a niece of her husband--a
Miss Flora Duncan, a most lovely girl of about sixteen.  Then came Mr
and Mrs Richard Morton, people of some means, who were going to India
to try their fortune at indigo planting, under the auspices of a friend
and former schoolfellow of the husband, and who had sent home glowing
accounts of the great things that might be done in that way by a man of
energy with a reasonable amount of capital; and with them went their
three children, Frank, Mary, and Susie, aged respectively eleven, eight,
and six years.  And finally, there were Messrs. Fielder, Acutt, Boyne,
Pearson, and Taylor--five young men ranging from seventeen to twenty-one
years of age, who were going out to take up appointments in the
Company's service.  All these people were very kind and nice to me, but
I could not help being secretly amused at the fiery energy with which
the general denounced what he characterised as "the criminal
carelessness" of Captain Bentinck in turning me adrift in an unarmed
schooner with a crew of only fourteen hands.

"By Jove, sir, I call it little short of murder," he shouted.  "The idea
of asking you--ay, and expecting you--to take a fully-loaded slaver into
port with only fourteen men to back you up, and no guns!  The man ought
to be ashamed of himself!  But it is just like you navy fellows; you are
constantly asking one another to do things which seem impossible!"

"Yes, sir," I said demurely, "and not infrequently we do them."

"Do them!" he exploded.  "Yes, I will do you the credit to admit that
you never know when you are beaten; and that, I suppose, is why the
blue-jackets so often succeed in performing the apparently impossible.
But that in no way weakens my contention that your captain was guilty of
a piece of most culpable negligence in sending you away without
furnishing you with a battery of guns with which to defend yourself and
your ship!"

Fortunately, at this moment the breakfast bell rang, and, the general
and his wife leading the way, we all trooped into the saloon and seated
ourselves at the elegantly furnished and bountifully provided breakfast
tables.

During the progress of the meal I of course had a further opportunity to
observe the behaviour of the skipper, and when I rose from the table I
was obliged to confess to myself that I was puzzled, for I had been
quite unable to arrive at any distinct impression of the character of
the man.  For while, on the one hand, his manner to me was cordial, with
the somewhat rough and unpolished geniality of a man of a coarse and
violent temperament striving to conquer his natural disposition and
render himself agreeable, I could find no fault with the arrangements he
proposed to make for my own comfort and that of my men.  And his
expressions of sympathy with us in our misfortunes were everything that
could be wished for; but, somehow, they did not ring true.  Thus, when
in the course of the conversation--which, as was very natural under the
circumstances, rather persistently dwelt upon my little party and our
adventures--Captain Williams chose to express his gratification at
having fallen in with us and rescued us from a distinctly perilous
situation, while his words were as kind and sympathetic as could have
been desired, the expression of his countenance seemed to say, almost as
plainly as words could speak: "I devoutly wish that you had all gone to
the bottom, rather than come aboard my ship!"  And I continually found
myself mentally asking the question: "Which am I to believe--this man's
words, or the expression of his eyes?  Is he sincere in what he says,
and is he the unfortunate possessor of an expression that habitually
gives the lie to his words; or is he, for some sinister purpose of his
own, endeavouring to produce a false impression upon us all?"  It was
quite impossible to find a satisfactory reply to these questions, yet I
found a certain amount of guidance in the manner of the passengers
toward him; I noticed that every one of them, with the exception of the
general, seemed to quail beneath his gaze, and shrink from him.  As for
the general, despite his somewhat boisterous manner, he was a gentleman,
a soldier, and evidently a man who knew not what fear was, and it
appeared to me that he was distinctly distrustful of Captain Williams.

At length, by patiently watching, I succeeded in finding an opportunity
to divert the conversation from myself and my party; I saw the skipper
glance upward toward the tell-tale compass that hung in the skylight,
and as his gaze fell again it encountered my own.  Instantly a most
malignant and ferocious expression swept into his eyes.  Undeterred by
that, however, I composedly remarked:

"I see, Captain, you are heading in toward the coast; and Mr Carter
informs me that you propose to test practically a rather interesting
theory that you have formed as to the advantages of the alternate land
and sea breezes over those of the regular trades."

"Yes," he growled, "I do.  But Mr Carter has no business to discuss my
plans or intentions with anybody.  I have warned him more than once to
keep a silent tongue in his head; but the man is a fool, and will get
himself into very serious trouble some day if he doesn't keep his
weather eye lifting!"

"Well," I said, "you must not blame him in this case, for the fault--if
fault there has been--was mine.  I observed the alteration in the ship's
course as soon as I stepped out on deck this morning, and remarked upon
it, and it was merely in reply to my remark that Mr Carter explained
your intentions."

"Well," he answered, "it is a rather fortunate thing for you that I
happen to have such intentions, for it affords you a chance to get
transhipped into one of your own craft, instead of having to go on with
us to Capetown, as you would almost certainly have been obliged to do if
I had followed the usual plan and stretched away over toward the South
American coast."

"Quite so," I agreed; "it certainly has that advantage, as occurred to
me the moment that Mr Carter explained your theory.  And it has the
further advantage that, should you find you do not make quite such good
progress as you hope, you will be well to windward when you eventually
decide to stretch offshore into the trade wind."

"Then you think my idea has something in it?" he demanded.

"Something--yes," I agreed; "but I doubt very much whether, taking
everything into consideration, you will find that the advantages are
worth consideration."

The skipper did not agree with me, and forthwith plunged into a fiery
defence of his theory which lasted until some time after we had all
risen from the table and adjourned to the poop.  In fact, he so
completely monopolised my attention up to tiffin time that I was
scarcely able to find time to go forward and enquire into the condition
of the wounded, and had no opportunity at all to improve my acquaintance
with the passengers.

After tiffin, however, the captain retired to his cabin, instead of
going on deck again, and as I stepped out of the saloon on to the
quarter-deck I felt a hand slide into my arm, and, turning round, found
the general alongside me.

"Am I right," said he, as he linked his arm in mine, "in the impression
that you do not think very highly of Captain Williams's rather peculiar
theory concerning the advantage of `keeping the coast aboard'--as I
believe you sailors term it--rather than following the usual rule of
making the most of the south-east trade wind?  You are pretty well
acquainted with this coast, I suppose, and your ideas on the subject
should be of value."

"Well," said I, "the fact is, Sir Thomas, that I do not think very
highly of the captain's theory.  In theory, no doubt, the idea appears
somewhat attractive, but in actual practice I should be inclined to say
that the uncertainty of the weather close inshore will probably be found
to tell against it.  If the sea breeze could be absolutely depended upon
to blow every day and all day long, and the land breeze to blow every
night and all night long, there would undoubtedly be something in it.
But my experience is that these phenomena are not to be depended upon.
It often happens that when, according to all the rules, either the sea
or the land breeze should be piping up strongly, there is an absolute,
persistent calm.  Nevertheless, from a purely personal point of view, I
am glad that the skipper intends to test his theory, because it will
afford me the opportunity to shift myself and my party into one of the
ships of the slave-squadron, some one of which we are pretty certain to
fall in with before long."

"Ah!" remarked the general, with a curious indrawing of his breath.  "I
was rather afraid that such might be the case."  He paused for a few
seconds, and then, taking a fresh grip of my arm, continued: "Do you
know, my young friend, I am rather hoping that we shall not fall in with
any of the ships of the slave-squadron, and that consequently you and
your men will be obliged to go on with us at least as far as Capetown.
It is, perhaps, a bit selfish of me to entertain such a wish, but I do,
nevertheless."

"Indeed!" said I.  "May I ask why, general?"

"Of course you may, my dear boy," he answered.  "It is a very natural
question.  Well, the fact is that certain very curious happenings have
taken place on board this ship since she sailed out of the Thames."  And
he proceeded to repeat to me the story that Carter had already told me
as to the disappearance of the original captain and his successor.
"Now," he continued, "Captain Matthews's death may have been a perfectly
natural one.  I don't say that it was not, but up to the hour of his
death he looked strong and healthy enough to have lived out the full
term of his life.  Moreover, he was a most temperate man in every
respect.  I have, therefore, found it very difficult indeed to discover
a satisfactory explanation of his very sudden demise.  And, between you
and me, although Burgess, the ship's surgeon, has never said as much in
words, I firmly believe that the occurrence puzzled him as much as it
did me; indeed, his very reticence over the affair only strengthens my
suspicion that such is the case.  But, puzzling as were the
circumstances connected with Captain Matthews's death, I consider that
those associated with the death of Mr Mowbray, who took command of the
ship in place of Captain Matthews, were at least equally so.  Mr
Mowbray was a man of some thirty-five years of age, very quiet,
unassuming, and gentlemanly of manner; a married man with, as I have
understood, a small family to provide for, and consequently very anxious
to rise in his profession; ambitious, in his quiet, unassuming way, and
evidently a thoroughly steady and reliable man, for I understand that he
had served under Captain Matthews for several years.  No one of us ever
saw him touch wine, spirits, or drink of any description; yet only four
days after he had attained to what we may consider the summit of his
ambition, by securing the command of this fine ship, he was missing.
Williams, our present skipper, offers us the exceedingly improbable
explanation that the poor fellow jumped out of his cabin window, and was
drowned, while intoxicated.  I do not believe it for a moment, nor do
any of the rest of us.  For my own part I very strongly suspect foul
play somewhere, and the very extraordinary explanation which Williams
offers of the occurrence only strengthens my suspicion that--well, not
to put too fine a point upon it, that he knows more of the matter than a
perfectly honest man ought to know.  And, in addition to all this,
Williams is a secret drunkard, and a man of most violent and
ungovernable temper, as you will see for yourself ere long.  You will
therefore not be very greatly surprised to learn that since he took the
command there has been a great deal of uneasiness as well as
unpleasantness in the cuddy; and I, for one, am rejoiced to find a naval
officer and a party of man-o'-war seamen on board.  For I know that
after what I have said you will keep your eyes and ears open, and will
not hesitate to interfere if you see good and sufficient reason for so
doing.  You navy fellows have a trick of cutting in where you consider
it necessary without pausing to weigh too nicely the strict legality of
your proceedings.  And if perchance you occasionally step an inch or two
beyond the strict limits of the law, you are generally able to justify
yourselves."

"What you have just told me, general," said I, "was also told me briefly
by Carter last night, and he, too, seemed to consider it necessary to
warn me that the skipper is a somewhat peculiar man.  Naturally, after
such a warning, I have been keeping my eyes and ears open, and I confess
that I find the man something of a puzzle.  Carter quite led me to
anticipate the possibility that Williams might order us down the side
into our boats again, instead of which, so far as words, and even deeds,
are concerned, I have not the least fault to find.  But all the time
that he was saying kind things to me this morning, his eyes and the
expression of his face belied him."

"Aha! so you noticed that, did you?" observed the general.  "Yes, it is
quite true; you have very precisely expressed what we have all noticed
at one time or another.  His eyes belie the words of his lips very
often, that is to say when he chooses to be civil, which is not always.
When I saw him this morning I quite believed we were in for a
particularly unpleasant day, for he had all the appearance of a man in a
very bad temper, but for some reason he has seen fit to behave himself
to-day.  But never fear, you will soon have an opportunity to see what
he is like when he chooses to let himself go.  His behaviour is then
that of a madman, and I am sometimes inclined to believe that he really
is mad.  But suppose that he should do as Carter suggests he may, and
order you and your men to quit the ship, will you go?"

"Most certainly not," said I.  "I will only leave this ship when I can
transfer myself and my men to some other by means of which I can
speedily rejoin my own ship."

"That's right, that's quite right, my boy," approved the general.
"Well, I am glad that I have had this little talk with you, for it has
eased my mind and put you on the alert.  And now, come up on the poop,
and make yourself agreeable to the ladies; they will not thank me for
monopolising so much of your time and attention."

I took the hint, and followed him up to the poop, where the whole of the
cuddy passengers were assembled, the ladies occupied with books, or
needlework, or playing with the children, while the men lounged in
basket chairs, smoking, reading, or chatting, or danced attendance upon
the ladies.  I first paid my respects to Lady Baker and her daughter, as
in duty bound, and then drifted gradually round from one to another
until I finally came to an anchor between Mrs Jennings and her niece,
Miss Duncan.  But I observed that in every case, whatever the topic
might be upon which I started a conversation, the talk gradually drifted
round to the subject of the skipper and his peculiarities, from which I
arrived at the conclusion that, after all, Carter and the general must
have had some grounds for the apprehensions that they had expressed to
me.

Now, of our party of ten who had been received on board the _Indian
Queen_, six of us were wounded, and of those six three were so severely
hurt as to be quite unfit for duty, and the other three, of whom I was
one, were able to do such deck duty as keeping a look-out, taking a
trick at the wheel, and so on, but, excepting myself, were scarcely fit
to go aloft just yet.  But I did not think it right or desirable that
those of us who were in a fit state to work should eat the bread of
idleness.  I had therefore seized the opportunity afforded by my talk
with the skipper that morning to suggest that my four unwounded and two
slightly-wounded men should assist in the working of the ship; as for
myself, I said that I should be very pleased to take charge of one of
the watches, if such an arrangement would be of any assistance to him.
This, of course, was quite the right and proper thing for me to do, and
although the ship carried a complement of thirty hands, all told, I was
not in the least surprised that Williams should accept, quite as a
matter of course, my offer of the men, three of whom he placed in the
port watch, and three in the starboard, the latter being under the
boatswain, a big, bullying, brow-beating fellow named Tonkin.  But he
declined the offer of my personal services, saying that he could do
quite well without them.  This arrangement having been come to, I made
it my business to speak to the boatswain, into whose watch the two
slightly-wounded men had been put, informing him of what had passed
between the skipper and myself, and requesting him not to send the
wounded men aloft, as I did not consider that they could safely venture
into the rigging in their partially disabled condition.  And I also
cautioned the men not to attempt to go aloft, should the boatswain
happen to forget what I had told him, and order them to do so, taking
care to give them this caution in Tonkin's presence and hearing in order
that there might be no mistake or misunderstanding.

I was therefore very much surprised, and considerably annoyed, when, as
we were all gathered together on the poop that same evening, during the
first dogwatch, I heard the sounds of a violent altercation proceeding
on the fore-deck, and, on looking round, discovered that the disputants
were one of my own men and the boatswain, the latter of whom was
threatening the other with a rope's-end.  Without waiting to hear or see
more I instantly dashed down the poop-ladder and ran forward, pushing my
way through a little crowd who had gathered round the chief actors of
the scene; and as I did so I became suddenly conscious of the fact that
the men among whom I was forcing my way were a distinctly ruffianly,
ill-conditioned lot, who seemed more than half disposed to resent
actively my sudden appearance among them.

"Now then, Martin," I said sharply, "what is all this disturbance about,
and why is the boatswain threatening you with that rope's-end?"

"Why, sir," answered Martin, who was suffering from a grape-shot wound
in the leg, "I understood you to say this morning as none of us as is
wounded is to go aloft; yet here's this here bo's'un swears as he'll
make me go up and take the turn out o' that fore-to'gallan' clew,
instead of sendin' one of his own people up to do it.  I couldn't climb
the riggin' without bustin' this here wound of mine open again--"

"Of course not," I answered.  "I thought I had made it clear to you,
Tonkin," turning to the boatswain, "that I do not wish any of my wounded
men to be sent aloft.  That man is in no fit condition to go up on to
the topsail-yard."

"Ain't he?" retorted the boatswain in a very offensive manner.  "While
he's in my watch I'm goin' to be the judge of what he's fit to do, and
what he's not fit to do; and I say he's quite fit to do the job that
I've ordered him to do.  And he's goin' to do it too, or I'll know the
reason why.  And, what's more, I won't have no brass-bound young
whipper-snappers comin' for'ard here to interfere with me and tell me
what I'm to do and what I'm not to do; and I hope that's speakin' plain
enough for to be understood, Mr Midshipman What's-your-name.  Now
then," he continued, turning to Martin again, "will you obey my orders,
or must I make yer?"  And he took a fresh grip upon the rope's-end with
which he was threatening the man.

"Drop that rope's-end at once, you scoundrel!"  I exclaimed angrily; for
I saw by the man's manner, and by the approving sniggers of the men who
surrounded us, that he had been deliberately and intentionally insulting
to me, and that unless I took a firm stand at once the ship would
speedily become untenable to my men and myself.  "You must surely be
drunk, Tonkin, or you would never dream of--"

"Drunk am I?" he exclaimed savagely, wheeling suddenly round upon me.
"I'll soon show you whether I'm drunk or not," and he raised the rope's-
end with the manifest intention of striking me across the face with it.
But before the blow could fall there was a sudden rush of feet; the
sniggering loafers who hemmed us in were knocked right and left like so
many ninepins, and, with a cry of "Take that, you dirty blackguard, as a
lesson not to lift your filthy paws again against a king's officer,"
Simpson, our carpenter's mate, an immensely strong fellow, dashed in and
caught the boatswain a terrific blow square on the chin, felling him to
the deck, where he lay senseless, and bleeding profusely at the mouth.

"Put that man in irons!" bellowed a furious voice behind me; and,
turning round, I beheld the skipper glaring like an infuriated animal
past me at the carpenter's mate, who was standing with clenched fists
across the prostrate body of the boatswain.

"For what reason, pray, Captain Williams?" demanded I indignantly.  "I
do not know how long you have been here, for I did not hear you
approach, but unless you have but this instant come upon the scene you
must be fully aware that it was your boatswain who started this
disgraceful brawl.  His behaviour was absolutely brutal, and--"

I got no further; for while I was still speaking the villain suddenly
seized me round the waist, and, being much more powerful than myself,
pinned my arms close to my sides.  "Here," he exclaimed to one of his
own people standing by, "just lash this young bantam's arms behind him,
and seize him to the rail, while I attend to the other."  And before I
well knew where I was I found myself securely trussed up, and saw
Simpson, Martin, and another of my men, fighting like lions at bay,
finally overborne by numbers and beaten senseless to the deck.

"You will be very sorry for this outrage before you are many days older,
Captain Williams," I said as the fellow presently came and planted
himself square in front of me.

"Shall I, indeed?" he sneered, thrusting his hands deep in his trousers
pockets, and balancing himself on the heaving deck with his legs wide
apart.  "What makes you think so?"

"Because I will report your conduct to the captain of the first man-o'-
war that we fall in with on the coast, and you will be called upon to
give an account of yourself and your behaviour."

"And supposing that we don't happen to fall in with any of your precious
men-o'-war, what then?" he demanded.

"Why," said I, "it will merely mean that your punishment will be
deferred a few days longer until we arrive at Capetown; that is all."

"Ah!" he retorted, drawing in his breath sharply.  "But supposing you
should happen to go overboard quietly some dark night--"

"Like poor Mowbray, for instance," I cut in.

"Mowbray," he hissed, turning deathly white.  "Mowbray!  Who has been
talking to you about Mowbray?  Tell me, and I'll cut his lying tongue
out of his mouth!"

"Brave words," I said, "very brave words, but they would not frighten
the individual who told me the history of poor Mr Mowbray's mysterious
disappearance through the stern window."

"Tell me who it was, and what he said?" he demanded hoarsely.

"No," I answered him.  "I will reserve that story for other ears than
yours."

"Very well," he said.  "Then I promise you that you shall not live to
tell that story."  And turning to one of the men who were standing by,
he said:

"Cast this young cockerel loose, take him down to his cabin, lock him
in, and bring the key to me."

And two minutes later I found myself below in a very comfortable cabin
that had been cleared out and prepared for me, locked in, and with no
company but my own rather disagreeable thoughts.



CHAPTER SIX.

STRANDED!

What were Williams's ultimate intentions toward me I found it quite
impossible to guess, for, beyond the fact that he kept me carefully
locked up in the cabin that he had assigned to me, I suffered no further
violence at his hands, a steward bringing me an ample supply of food
when the meal hours came round.  I tried to ascertain from this fellow
how my men were faring in the forecastle; but my attempt to question him
caused him so much distress and terror that, at his earnest request, I
forebore to press my enquiries.  And as soon as the man had taken away
the empty plates and dishes that had contained my dinner, I stretched
myself out on the very inviting-looking bed that had been made up in the
bunk, and, being exceedingly tired, soon fell asleep.  I slept all
night, and did not awake until the steward entered next morning with my
breakfast.

I rather expected that, after a night's calm consideration of his
exploit, Williams would have come to the conclusion that discretion was
the better part of valour, and would have taken some steps toward the
patching up of a truce; but he did not, and I spent the whole of that
day also locked up in the cabin, and seeing no soul but the steward who
brought my meals to me.

It was somewhat late that night when I turned in, as I had slept well
all through the previous night and did not feel tired; and even when I
had bestowed myself for the night I did not get to sleep for some time,
for I felt that we must by this time be drawing close in to the coast;
and supposing we should fall in with a man-o'-war, how was I to
communicate with her if this man was going to keep me cooped up down
below?  True, I might succeed in attracting the attention of those on
board such a ship by waving my handkerchief out of my cabin port if we
happened to pass her closely enough for such a signal to be seen, and if
she happened also to be on the starboard side, which was the side on
which my berth was situated; but I was very strongly of opinion that,
after what had happened, Williams would take especial care to give an
exceedingly wide berth to any men-o'-war that he might happen to sight.

At length, however, I fell into a somewhat restless sleep, from which I
was awakened some time later by sounds of confusion on deck--the
shouting of orders, the trampling of feet, the violent casting of ropes
upon the deck, the flapping of loose canvas in the wind, the creaking of
yards, and the various other sounds that usually follow upon the
happening of anything amiss on board a ship; and at the same time I
became conscious of something unusual in the "feel" of the ship.  For a
moment I was puzzled to decide what it was; but by the time that I had
jumped out of my berth and was broad awake I knew what had happened.
The ship was ashore!  Yet she must have taken the ground very easily,
for I had been conscious of no shock; and even as I stood there I was
unable to detect the least motion of the hull.  She was as firmly fixed,
apparently, and as steady, as though she had been lying in a dry dock.

I went to the side and put my face to the open porthole.  I saw that the
night was clear, and that the sky overhead was brilliant with stars; and
by twisting myself in such a way as to get a raking view forward I
fancied I could see in the distance something having the appearance of a
low, tree-clad shore.  I also heard the heavy thunder of distant surf;
but alongside the ship the water was quite still and silent, save for a
soft, seething sound as of water gently swelling and receding upon a
sheltered beach.

I seated myself upon the sofa locker, and strove to recall mentally the
features of the several rivers that we had visited, but could fit none
of them to the dimly-seen surroundings that were visible from the port
out of which I had looked.  The one thing which was certain was that we
were in perfectly smooth water, and the entire absence of shock with
which the ship had taken the ground was an indication that she was
certainly in no immediate danger; but beyond that the situation was
puzzling in the extreme.  The snug and sheltered position of the ship
pointed strongly to the assumption that we had blundered into some river
in the darkness; yet when I again looked out through the port the little
that I was able to see was suggestive of beach rather than river, and
that we were not very far from a beach was evidenced by the loud,
unbroken roar of the surf.  Then there was the puzzling question: How
did we get where we were?  What were the look-outs doing?  What was
everybody doing that no one saw the land or heard the roar of the surf
in time to avoid running the ship ashore?

As I continued to stare abstractedly out through the port it struck me
that the various objects within sight were growing more clearly visible,
and presently I felt convinced that the dawn was approaching.  And at
the same moment I became aware that a broad dark shadow that lay some
fifty yards from the ship's starboard side, and which had been puzzling
me greatly, was a sandbank of very considerable extent, so considerable,
indeed, that, for the moment, I could not make out where it terminated.
Meanwhile the hubbub on deck gradually ceased, and I surmised that the
canvas had been taken in.

The transition from the first pallor of dawn to full daylight is very
rapid in those low latitudes, and within ten minutes of the first faint
heralding of day a level shaft of sunlight shot athwart the scene, which
became in a moment transfigured, and all that had before been vague and
illusory stood frankly revealed to the eye.  The sandbank now showed as
an isolated patch about two hundred yards wide and perhaps half a mile
long, with what looked like a by-wash channel of about one hundred yards
wide flowing between it and the mainland, the latter being a sandy beach
backed by sand dunes clothed with a rank creeper-like vegetation, and a
few stunted tree tops showing behind them.  As the ship then lay with
her head pointing toward the south-east, I was able, with some effort,
to get a glimpse of a mile or two of the shore; and now that daylight
had come I could see the surf breaking heavily all along it, and also
upon the seaward side of the sandbank upon which we appeared to have
grounded.

Feeling quite reassured as to the safety of the ship, I sat down on the
sofa locker and endeavoured, by recalling the courses steered and the
distances run since we had been picked up, to identify the particular
spot on the coast where we now were.  But it was no use; my memory of
the charts was not clear enough, and I had to give up the task.  But I
felt convinced that we were somewhere in the Gulf of Guinea.

As I sat there on the locker, thinking matters over, and wondering what
would be the outcome of this adventure, I became so absorbed in my own
thoughts that I gradually lost all consciousness of my surroundings, and
was only brought back to myself by the sounds of a sudden commotion on
deck, loud outcries--in which I thought I recognised the voice of the
skipper,--a great and violent stamping of feet, and finally an irregular
popping of pistols, followed by a sudden subsidence of the disturbance.
This, in turn, was followed by sounds of excitement in the cabins on
either side of the one which I occupied, and in the distance I could
hear the general shouting at the top of his voice.  I gathered that the
passengers were only now beginning to realise that something was wrong
with the ship, and were turning out and dressing hastily.  A few minutes
later I heard the sounds of cabin doors being flung open, and hurried
footsteps went speeding past my cabin toward the companion way which led
up to the main-deck.  Then the general's voice breezed up again, from
the saloon above, in tones of angry remonstrance, followed by a
tremendous amount of excited talk, amid which I thought I once or twice
caught the sounds of women's sobs.  It was evident that something very
much out of the common had happened, and I came to the conclusion that
it was high time for me to be at large again and taking a hand in the
proceedings; I therefore whipped out my pocketknife, and without further
ado proceeded to withdraw the screws that fastened the lock to the door.
Five minutes later I found myself in the main saloon, and the centre of
an excited and somewhat terrified group of passengers.

"Ah!" exclaimed the general, as I made my appearance.  "Now, perhaps, we
shall get at something practical.  Here is young Grenvile, who, being a
navy man, may be supposed to know how to deal with an awkward situation.
Here is a pretty kettle of fish, sir," he continued, turning to me.
"The ship is ashore!  The captain has blown his brains out--so they say!
And, last but not least, the crew, headed by the boatswain, has
mutinied against the authority of Mr Carter--whom they have thrust in
here among us--and absolutely refuse to listen to reason in any shape or
form!  Now I ask you, as an officer in his Most Gracious Majesty's navy,
what is to be done, sir; what are the proper steps to be taken to
extricate ourselves from this infernal predicament?"

"The first thing, general," said I, "is to let me hear Carter's story,
which will probably give me a fairly accurate idea of the precise
situation of affairs.  Where is he?"

"Here I am, Mr Grenvile," replied the man himself, edging his way
toward me through the crowd.

"Now," said I, "please tell us precisely what you know about this very
extraordinary affair."

"Well, sir," was the answer, "I really don't know so very much about it,
when all's told; but I'm not very greatly surprised.  The way that
things have been going aboard this ship, ever since poor Cap'n Matthews
died, has been enough to prepare a man for anything, mutiny included.  I
had the middle watch last night, and, as you know--or perhaps you don't
know--it was very overcast and dark all through the watch, so it's not
very surprisin' that I saw nothing of the land, even if it was in
sight--which I doubt, seein' that it's low--and Cap'n Williams, who
ought to have known that we was drawin' in close upon the coast, never
gave me any warning of the ship's position, or said anything about
keepin' an extra good look-out, or anything of that sort.  Consequently,
when the bo's'un relieved me at four o'clock this mornin', I didn't pass
on any particular caution to him.  As a matter of fact I hadn't a notion
that we were anywhere near the land!  Consequently, when the commotion
of haulin' down and clewin' up awoke me, and when, upon rushin' out on
deck to see what was the matter, I found that the ship was ashore, I was
regularly flabbergasted!  But I hadn't much time for surprise, or
anything else either, for the skipper was on deck and in charge; and I
must confess that the cool way in which he took everything made me think
that he wasn't nearly so surprised at what had happened as by rights he
ought to have been.

"Well, we hauled down, clewed up, and furled everything, by which time
the daylight had come, and we were able to get a view of our
whereabouts.  So far as I could make out we seemed to have blundered
slap into the mouth of some river, and to have grounded on the inner
side of a big sandbank that had formed right athwart it at a distance of
about a quarter of a mile to seaward of the general trend of the shore
line.  We couldn't have managed better if we'd picked the berth for
ourselves; for we're lyin' in perfectly smooth water, completely
sheltered from the run of the surf; and nothin' short of a stiff on-
shore gale would be at all likely to hurt us.

"The skipper said something about lightening the ship, and ordered the
bo's'un to clear away the boats and see all ready for hoistin' 'em out,
and directed me to go down into the fore-peak and rouse out all the
hawsers I could find down there, and send 'em up on deck.  I was busy
upon this job, with half a dozen hands to help me, when suddenly we
heard a terrific rumpus on deck, and the sounds of pistol firing; and
when I jumped up on deck to see what all the row was about, there was
that villain Tonkin, with a pistol still smokin' in his hand, talkin' to
the men and tellin' 'em that as the ship was ashore, and the cap'n gone,
all hands were free to please themselves as to whether they'd stick to
the hooker or not, and that, for his part, he meant to have a spell
ashore for a day or two before decidin' what next to do.

"Just at that point I interrupted him by askin' what he meant by sayin'
that the cap'n was `gone'; to which he replied that the skipper had shot
himself and then jumped overboard--which I don't believe, Mr Grenvile,
not for a moment, for if I'm not very greatly mistaken I saw the
scoundrel wink at the men as he told me the yarn.  And he added that,
that bein' the case, every man aboard was his own master, and free to do
as he pleased; and if I had anything to say against that, I'd better say
it then.

"And I did say it; I told him and all hands that, as to everybody now
bein' his own master, that was all nonsense; for if the skipper was
indeed dead--and it would be my business to find out just exactly how he
died--the command of the ship devolved upon me, and I intended to take
all the necessary steps to get her afloat again and to carry her to her
destination.  I thought that that would settle it; but it didn't, by a
long chalk, for Tonkin turned to the men and says:--

"`Look here, shipmates all, I for one have had quite enough choppin' and
changin' about of skippers in this hooker,' he says; `and,' says he, `so
far as I'm concerned I don't want no more.  I've nothin' to say again'
Carter there, but I'm not goin' to acknowledge him as skipper of this
packet, and I don't fancy as how any of you will, either.  Of course,'
he says, `if there's any of you as is anxious to have him for skipper,
and wants to go heavin' out cargo and runnin' away kedges, and what not,
under his orders, instead of goin' ashore with me into them woods,
huntin' for fruit, he's quite at liberty to do so, I won't say him nay;
but you may as well make up your minds now as any other time whether
you'll stick to him or to me; so now what d'ye say, shipmates--who's for
Carter, and who's for Tonkin?'

"And I'll be shot, Mr Grenvile, if every mother's son of 'em didn't
declare, right off, without hesitatin', for him!  Whereupon he ordered
me in here, and told me not to dare to show my nose out on deck again
until I had his permission, or he'd have me hove over the rail.  And I
was to tell the passengers that they might go up on the poop if they
liked; but that if e'er a one of 'em put his foot on the main-deck he'd
be hove overboard without any palaver.  Now, what d'ye think of that,
sir, for a mess?"

"Have any of them been drinking, think you?" asked I.

"Well, yes, sir, I think they have," answered Carter.  "That is to say,
I think that most of 'em have been pretty well primed--just enough, you
know, to make 'em reckless.  But there was none of 'em what you'd call
drunk; not by a long way."

"And were any of my men among them?"  I asked.

"Oh no!" was the answer.  "Your men--but I forgot--you don't know what's
happened to them.  The whole lot of 'em, sound and sick alike, are
locked up in the steerage--Simpson, Martin, and Beardmore bein' in
irons."

"And what about the steerage passengers?"  I asked.  "Where are they?"

"Why," answered Carter, "there are only five of them, all told.  Two of
them--Hales and Cruickshank--both of whom are thoroughly bad
characters--have chummed in with Tonkin and his lot; while Jenkins, with
his wife and daughter, are in their own cabins in the steerage.  Mrs
Jenkins and her daughter, Patsy, have been busy acting as nurses to your
wounded men, under Dr Burgess's instructions, ever since you came
aboard us, and they are doing very well."

"That is good news," said I, "and I will see that the two women are
properly rewarded for their trouble.  Now let us see how we stand.  How
many do the mutineers muster, all told?"

"Twenty-five, or twenty-seven if we count in Hales and Cruickshank,"
answered Carter.

"And how many do we muster on our side?" said I.  "Let me just reckon
up.  First of all, there are nine of my men and myself, that makes ten.
Then there is yourself, Mr Carter--eleven.  What about the stewards?"

"Oh, they are all right, and so is the cook.  They'll all do their work
as usual," answered Carter.

"Ay, no doubt," answered I; "but what about their fighting qualities, if
we should be obliged to resort to forcible measures with the mutineers?"

"Ah," said Carter, "if it comes to fighting, that's another matter!  The
stewards are youngsters, with the exception of Briggs, the head steward,
and would stand a pretty poor chance if it came to a fight with the
forecastle hands.  But Briggs--well, he's in the pantry, perhaps we'd
better call him and hear what he has to say for himself."

The head steward was a man of about thirty-five, well-built, and fairly
powerful; and upon being questioned he professed himself willing to
place himself unreservedly under my orders, and also to ascertain to
what extent we might rely upon his subordinates.  That brought our
fighting force up to an even dozen, to which were speedily added the
general and Messrs. Morton, Fielder, Acutt, Boyne, Pearson, and Taylor,
all of whom professed to be eager for a scrimmage, although, in the case
of the last-mentioned five, I had a suspicion that much of their courage
had its origin in a desire to appear to advantage before Miss Duncan.
However, that brought us up to nineteen--not counting the three under-
stewards--against twenty-seven mutineers.

The next question was as to weapons.  The mutineers were each of them
possessed of at least a knife, while it was known that Tonkin and some
six or seven others had one or more pistols, and it was also speedily
ascertained that they had secured all the pikes and tomahawks belonging
to the ship.  Moreover, there were such formidable makeshift weapons as
capstan-bars, marline-spikes, belaying-pins, and other instruments
accessible to them at a moment's notice.  If, therefore, it should come
to a hand-to-hand fight, our antagonists were likely to prove rather
formidable.

On our own side, on the other hand, I possessed a brace of pistols, with
five cartridges, and my sword.  My men also had had their cutlasses and
pistols, together with a certain quantity of ammunition; but these were
not to be reckoned upon, for I considered it almost certain that, after
putting my three men in irons, Tonkin would take the precaution to
secure the arms and ammunition belonging to all of them.  Then the
general also had his sword and pistols, while each of the other men
possessed at least a sporting gun--and, in the case of three of them,
pistols as well,--but unfortunately all these were down in the after-
hold among their baggage, and could not be got at so long as Tonkin and
his gang were in possession of the deck.  Thus the only weapons actually
available for our party were my own, and it needed but a moment's
consideration to show that ours was a case wherein strategy rather than
force must be employed.

"Well, then, gentlemen," said I, when we had all become agreed upon this
point, "it appears to me that the situation resolves itself thus: The
mutineers have expressed their determination to go ashore, and until
they have done so we can do nothing beyond holding ourselves ready for
action at a moment's notice.  And meanwhile we must all wear an air of
the utmost nonchalance and unconcern; for if we were to manifest any
symptoms of excitement or interest in their movements, there are, no
doubt, some among them who would be astute enough to observe it, and
thereupon to become suspicious.  Let them leave the ship, as many as may
please to go--and the more the better; and as soon as they are fairly
out of sight I will release my men, and we will then set to work to get
your firearms up out of the hold, and take such further steps as may be
necessary to subdue the mutineers upon their return, and bring them once
more under control.  Probably we shall only find it necessary to get
Tonkin into our hands to break the neck of the revolt and bring the rest
of the men to reason.  And now I think it would be a very good plan if a
few of you were to go up on the poop and take a quiet saunter before
breakfast, just to let the men see that you do not stand in any fear of
them, and at the same time you can take a good look round, with the
object of reporting to me what you see.  As for myself, I shall keep
below for the present.  There is nothing to be gained by reminding
Tonkin of my presence in the ship, and if he were to see that I was at
large and among you again, he might so far modify his arrangements as to
make matters even more difficult for us than they are at present."

"Quite right," approved the general.  "I agree with every word that our
young friend here has said.  He appears to have got a very good grip of
the situation, and his views accord with my own exactly.  We shall
doubtless be obliged to come to fisticuffs with those scoundrels forward
before we can hope to extricate ourselves from this very awkward
situation.  But it would be the height of folly to precipitate a fight
before we are fully prepared.  And now, gentlemen, I am going up on the
poop.  Come with me who will; but I think that, for the present at
least, the ladies had better remain below."

And thereupon he and the five young griffins made their way up on deck
at short intervals, while Mr Morton and I did our best to comfort and
encourage the weaker members of the party.  Not that they needed very
much encouragement--I will say that for them,--for, with the exception
of poor little Mrs Morton, who was very much more anxious and
frightened on behalf of her children than on her own account, the ladies
showed a very great deal more courage than I had looked for from them;
while, as for Mrs Jennings and Miss Duncan, they very promptly came
forward to say that if there was any way in which they could possibly
render assistance I was not to hesitate to make use of them.

While we were all still talking together in the saloon, Briggs, the
chief steward, entered in a state of great indignation, and, addressing
himself to Carter, informed him that the men demanded fried ham and
various other dainties from the cabin stores for breakfast, and upon his
venturing to remonstrate with them had darkly hinted that unless he
produced the required provisions at once, together with several bottles
of rum, it would be the worse for him.

"What do you say, Mr Grenvile?" demanded Carter, appealing to me.
"Shall we let them have what they ask for?"

"Certainly," I said, "seeing that at present we are not in a position to
refuse them and make good our refusal.  Let them have whatever they ask
for, but be as sparing as you possibly can with the grog; we do not want
them to have enough to make them quarrelsome, or to render them unfit to
go ashore."

"It goes mightily against the grain with me to serve out those good
cabin stores to such a pack of drunken loafers as them, sir,"
remonstrated Briggs.

"Never mind," said I.  "We are in their hands at present, and cannot
very well help ourselves.  You shall have your revenge later, when we
have got the rascals safe below in irons."

So they had what some of them inelegantly described as "a good blow-out"
that morning in the forecastle, while we were having our own breakfast
in the cabin; and, so far as drink was concerned, Tonkin was wise enough
to see to it that, in view of their projected trip ashore, no man had
more liquor than he could conveniently carry.

And while we sat at breakfast the gentlemen who had been on deck gave us
the result of such observations as they had been able to make from the
poop, which, after all, did not amount to much, the only conclusion at
which they had arrived being that we were ashore on the inner edge of a
sandbank which had formed athwart the mouth of a river, the extent of
which could not be seen from the ship in consequence of the fact that
there were two points of land, one overlapping the other, which hid
everything beyond them.  These two points, the general added, were
thickly overgrown with mangroves, and the land immediately behind was
low and densely wooded, coconut trees and palms being apparently very
plentiful, while a few miles inland the ground rose into low hills, from
the midst of which a single mountain towered into the air to a height of
some five or six thousand feet.

We were still dawdling over breakfast when we heard sounds of movement
out on deck, and presently Briggs, who had been instructed to
reconnoitre from the pantry window, which commanded a view of the main-
deck, sent word by one of the under-stewards that some of the mutineers
were getting tackles up on the fore and main yard-arms, while others
were employed in clearing out the longboat, which was stowed on the main
hatch; and a few minutes later the cook came aft with the intelligence
that he had received imperative orders to kill and roast a dozen fowls
for the men to take ashore with them, and also to make up a good-sized
parcel of cabin bread, butter, pots of jam, pickles, and a dozen bottles
of rum, in order that they might not find themselves short of creature
comforts during their absence from the ship.  This seemed to point to
the fact that they intended to undertake their projected excursion in
the longboat instead of taking the two gigs--a much greater piece of
luck than I had dared to hope for,--and also suggested an intention on
their part to make a fairly long day of it.  I did not hesitate to
instruct Briggs to see to it that their supply of grog should on this
occasion be a liberal one, for the longer they remained out of the ship,
the more time we should have in which to make our preparation.

The weather was intensely hot, and the mutineers manifested no
inclination to exert themselves unduly.  It was consequently almost
eleven o'clock in the forenoon ere the longboat was in the water
alongside, and another quarter of an hour was spent over the making of
the final preparations; but at length they tumbled down over the side,
one after another, with a good deal of rough horseplay, and a
considerable amount of wrangling, and pushed off.  The general and three
or four of the other passengers were on the poop, smoking under the
awning--which they had been obliged to spread for themselves,--and
observing the movements of the men under the cover of a pretence of
reading; and when the longboat had disappeared the general came down to
apprise me of that fact, and also of another, namely, that the steerage
passengers Hales and Cruickshank, and two seamen, armed to the teeth
with pistols and cutlasses--the latter at least, in all probability,
taken from my men--had been left behind for the obvious purpose of
taking care of the ship and keeping us in order during the absence of
the others.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

WHAT BEFELL THE MUTINEERS.

This was rather serious news, and none the less vexatious because it did
not take me altogether by surprise.  The general opinion had been that
all hands were bent upon going ashore, and that the ship would be left
at our mercy; but this had certainly not been my own view, for I could
not believe that a man of Tonkin's intelligence--realising, as he must,
the enormity of his offence in not only himself breaking into open
rebellion against lawful authority but in inciting others to do the
same--would be so rashly imprudent as to leave us free, for a period of
several hours, to release my men and to take such other steps as might
occur to us for the suppression of the mutiny.  I had felt quite certain
that somebody would be left on board to keep us under supervision and
restraint, but I had calculated upon the mutineers considering two men
sufficient--and also a little, perhaps, upon the difficulty that would
be experienced in inducing more than two, at the utmost, to forego the
anticipated enjoyment of a run ashore.  But here were four recklessly
unscrupulous men, powerful, determined fellows, fully armed, left behind
to be dealt with by us; and the only weapons that we could muster among
us were my sword and pistols.  True, we might be able to lay our hands
upon a few belaying-pins; but to attack with such weapons four men armed
with pistols meant that somebody would almost certainly get hurt, and
that I was most anxious to avoid, if possible.  Besides, if it came to a
fight, there was always the possibility that the reports of the pistols
might be heard by some of the party who had gone ashore, and cause them
to hurry back before we were ready to receive them fittingly.  Upon
enquiry I learned that the four men had arranged themselves, two in the
waist--one of them on each side of the ship--and two forward near the
fore-rigging, where they could command the entrance of the steerage
quarters.

The general, who was brimful of courage, was fuming with indignation at
what he termed "the confounded impudence" of the men in presuming to
mutiny, strongly advocated an immediate attack with such weapons as came
to hand, but I deprecated that step for the reasons already mentioned,
and suggested that quite possibly a little consideration and discussion
might enable us to hit upon some plan involving rather less risk.

Carter at once suggested that we should try the experiment of plying the
men with drink, in the hope of making them intoxicated; and as I
considered that this was a case wherein the end justified the means, the
plan was at once adopted, Briggs undertaking to carry out to the guard a
bottle of especially strong brandy for their delectation.  But although
they looked at the liquor with very longing eyes, their suspicions at
once became aroused, and they roughly ordered him to take it away.  And
when, instead of doing this, Briggs put down the bottle and left it
within their reach, one of them immediately took it up and flung it
overboard, where, it may be incidentally mentioned, it was instantly
dashed at and swallowed by a shark, to the no small astonishment of
those who witnessed the occurrence.

This scheme having failed, another was suggested, this time by the
ship's surgeon.  Briggs, the chief steward, had thus far not had his
freedom in the least degree interfered with.  It was understood that in
the discharge of his duty he must necessarily pass to and fro at
frequent intervals between the cabin and the cook's galley--the occupant
of which, it may be mentioned, though a surly sort of fellow, and as
discontented with everything as ships' cooks generally are, had declared
himself absolutely neutral,--and up to the present he had been allowed
to do so without let or hindrance.  The doctor's plan, therefore, was
that he was to go forward to the steerage, as though on a professional
visit to the wounded men, and Briggs was at the same time to go forward
to the galley to discuss with the cook the arrangements for the cuddy
dinner that evening.  Then, as soon as they were fairly forward, Carter
and I were to sally forth together and grapple with the two men in the
waist, at the same time whistling to apprise the doctor and Briggs, who,
upon hearing the signal, would rush upon and grapple with the two men on
the forecastle.  The idea was, not to provoke a fight, but to overpower
and secure these four men without giving them an opportunity to create
an alarm by firing their pistols.  We four, therefore, were
simultaneously to pinion and hold them until others, coming to our
assistance, could help us, if necessary, to secure and disarm them.
This plan, we at once decided, was quite promising enough to be worth a
trial; and accordingly we forthwith proceeded to put it into execution.

First of all, as arranged, the doctor sallied forth, with a number of
bandages and other materials in his hands, and demanded admission to the
steerage, which, after some slight demur, was accorded him.  Then
Briggs, who had been watching the progress of events from the pantry
window, sauntered casually forward and stood by the door of the galley,
where he proceeded to discuss with the cook the advisability of killing
a pig.  And finally Carter and I, having allowed a minute or two to
elapse, walked calmly out on the main-deck together, smoking a cigar
apiece, and laughing and talking as though we were acting in pure
absent-mindedness.  Our perfect coolness, and apparent want of the
slightest appearance of concern, so completely staggered the two guards
in the waist that they allowed us to get within a couple of fathoms of
the one on the port side before it dawned upon them to interfere; and
then Cruickshank, the man on the starboard side, dashed across the deck
to the support of his companion, at the same time shouting to us in very
bellicose accents:

"Here, you two, get back, d'ye hear?  What d'ye mean by settin' foot on
this part of the deck against Mr Tonkin's express orders?  Now hook it,
sharp, or--"

The moment that the fellow was fairly clear of the hatchway, and on the
port side of the deck, I raised my hand to my lips, spat out my cigar,
and sent a single shrill, but not loud, whistle along the deck, and then
sprang straight at my immensely powerful antagonist, while Carter
manfully tackled his own man.  And at the same instant the doctor and
Briggs sprang upon the pair who were keeping guard on the forecastle.
As arranged, none of us attempted to do more than just pinion each his
own particular antagonist and prevent him from drawing his weapons,
trusting to the others to help us to master and secure them.  And
gallantly those others backed us up, for at the sound of my whistle,
young Acutt--a fine, athletic young giant--dashed out of the cabin and,
without paying any attention to the writhing and struggling quartette in
his way, dodged us and rushed forward to the galley to prevent cookie
from interfering, while Fielder, Boyne, Pearson, and Taylor--the other
four young griffins--rushed with equal celerity to the support of the
doctor, Briggs, Carter, and myself.  My own particular man struggled
savagely in his endeavour to free himself from my grasp, and, being a
much heavier and more powerful man than I was, pinned me up against the
rail and threw his whole strength into a determined effort to break my
back, in which effort he would have very speedily succeeded had not
Boyne quickly felled him to the deck and stunned him by a well-directed
blow from an iron belaying-pin.  To disarm and securely bind the fellow
was the work of but a minute or two, and then, breathless with our
exertions, and, so far as I was concerned, in considerable pain, Boyne
and I stood up and looked about us to see how the others were faring.
Looking, first of all, near home, we saw Hales pinned up against the
rail, with young Pearson taking his weapons away from him, while Carter
was busily engaged in seizing him up, the general meanwhile standing by
and pointing my drawn sword at his throat to discourage him from any
ill-advised attempt at resistance; while the doctor and Briggs, with the
assistance of Fielder and Taylor, were also busily engaged in securing
their respective men.  The ship was ours! and now it only remained for
us to take promptly such steps as were necessary to retain possession of
her when the other mutineers should see fit to return.

The first thing to be done was to release my own men from confinement,
and this we instantly did, when I had the great satisfaction of
discovering that, thanks to the skill of Doctor Burgess, and the
assiduous nursing of Mrs Jenkins and her daughter Patsy, all our
wounded, except two, were so far convalescent as to be quite fit for
ordinary duty, while the other two were also doing so favourably that
they could be made useful in a variety of ways provided that they were
not called upon to undertake any very severe physical exertion.  Thus I
very soon found myself at the head of a little band of nine armed and
resolute men, each of whom was prepared to do my bidding to the death if
called upon.

We now lost no time in hustling our four prisoners down into the fore-
peak, where they could do no harm, and where, after being securely
clapped into irons, they were bade to make themselves as comfortable as
they could on top of the ship's stock of coal, while one of my men who,
from the comparatively severe character of his wounds, was least likely
to be of service to us in other directions, was stationed in the
forecastle above, fully armed, to keep an eye upon them, and see they
got into no mischief.  This little matter having been satisfactorily
arranged, we next got the hatches off the after hatchway, and roused the
passengers' baggage on deck, from which the respective owners at once
proceeded to withdraw such weapons and ammunition as they possessed;
after which we struck the various packages down into the hold again and
put on the hatches.

We now mustered seventeen armed men, all told, each of whom was provided
with a firearm of some kind, while my own nine men, myself, and the
general boasted sidearms as well.  Carter had no weapons of his own,
neither had the doctor nor Briggs, but three of the youngsters possessed
a brace of pistols each, which they were quite willing to lend; and with
these Carter, the doctor, and Briggs were promptly armed.  This brought
our number up to twenty against the twenty-three away in the longboat;
and since we possessed the advantage over the mutineers that we had the
ship's deck as a fighting platform, I thought that we might now regard
ourselves as masters of the situation.  Nevertheless I did not feel
disposed to neglect any further advantages that we might happen to
possess--for not all of our party were fighting men, and I did not know
how the civilians might behave in a hand-to-hand fight.  I therefore at
once began to look round with the object of ascertaining what further
means of defence the ship afforded.  She was pierced for twelve guns--
six of a side; but the only artillery that she actually carried was a
pair of 6-pounder brass carronades, the carriages of which were secured
one on either side of the main-deck entrance to the saloon.  I suspected
that these pieces had been put on board by the owners more for the
purpose of signalling than as a means of defence, but I now gave them a
very careful overhaul, and came to the conclusion that they were good,
reliable weapons, and capable of rendering efficient service.  But when
I came to question Carter about ammunition he could tell me nothing, as
he had not been aboard the ship when her cargo was stowed.  However, at
my suggestion he now took possession of the skipper's cabin, and
proceeded to give it a thorough overhaul, with the result that in a
short time he reappeared with a key in his hand, attached to which was a
parchment label inscribed "Magazine".  This was strong presumptive
evidence in favour of the supposition that a magazine existed somewhere
aboard the ship, and a little further search resulted in its discovery
abaft the lazarette.  With all due precautions we at once proceeded to
open this receptacle, and found, to our very great satisfaction, that it
not only contained a supply of signal rockets, but also a liberal supply
of powder cartridges for the signal guns, and a dozen stands of muskets,
together with a goodly number of kegs, some of which contained powder,
while the remainder were full of bullets.  This was a most fortunate
discovery indeed, especially in so far as the muskets were concerned,
for the possession of them at once gave us a definite and very decided
advantage over the mutineers.  The muskets were forthwith conveyed on
deck, together with a supply of powder and three kegs of bullets, and
also a dozen cartridges for the guns.  The afternoon was by this time
well advanced, and we might look for the return of the mutineers at any
moment.  We therefore loaded the carronades with five double handfuls of
musket balls apiece--about a hundred bullets to each gun--in place of
round shot, and, running them forward, mounted them on the topgallant
forecastle as being the most commanding position in the ship.  Then we
loaded the muskets and placed them in the rack on the fore side of the
deck-house, which completed our preparations.  And now all that remained
was to keep a sharp look-out, and, while doing so, determine upon the
policy to be pursued when the returning longboat should heave in sight.

Having personally seen that our preparations were all as complete and
perfect as it was possible to make them, and having also posted Simpson
and Martin, two of my own men, armed with muskets, as look-outs, on the
forecastle, I at length went aft to the poop, where all the passengers
were now gathered, and where I saw the general and Mr Morton engaged in
earnest conversation with Carter.  As I made my way leisurely up the
poop-ladder the general beckoned to me to join the little group, and
then, as I approached, Carter turned to me and said:

"Mr Grenvile, the general, Mr Morton, and I have been discussing
together the rather curious state of affairs that has been brought about
aboard this ship by this unfortunate mutiny; and we are fully agreed
that, as matters stand, you are the most fit and proper person to take
charge until things have been straightened out.  Of course I don't
forget that, in consequence of the death of Cap'n Williams, I'm now the
cap'n of this ship; but, as I've just been tellin' Sir Thomas and Mr
Morton, here, I've never had any experience of fightin' of any kind, and
as like as not if I was to attempt to take the lead, where fightin' is
concerned, I should make a bungle of it.  Now, you seem to be quite at
home in this sort of thing, if you'll excuse me for sayin' so; you knew
exactly what was the right thing to be done, and have really been in
command the whole of this blessed day, although you've pretended that
you were only helpin', as you may say.  Then you've got nine trained
fightin' men aboard here who'll do just exactly what you tell 'em, but
who wouldn't care to have me orderin' them--to say nothin' of you--
about.  So we've come to the conclusion that, so far as the fightin' and
all that is concerned, you are the right man to be in command, and I, as
cap'n of this ship, hereby ask you to take charge and deal with the
trouble accordin' as you think best."  I bowed, and then turned to the
other two, saying: "Sir Thomas and Mr Morton, it occurs to me that you
two, in virtue of the fact that you are in a sense doubly interested in
this matter--since it not only involves you in your own proper persons
but also in the persons of your wives and families--are entitled to
express an opinion upon this proposal of Captain Carter's, and that I,
as a naval officer, ought to give your opinion my most serious
consideration.  Am I to understand that you are in full and perfect
agreement with Mr Carter in this proposal which he has just made to
me?"

"Most assuredly we are, Mr Grenvile," answered the general.  "Captain
Carter is a merchant seaman, and no doubt a very excellent man in that
capacity; but he now finds himself face to face with a difficulty such
as merchant captains are, fortunately, very seldom called upon to face,
and naturally he feels somewhat at a loss.  You, on the other hand, are,
by your whole training, well qualified to deal with the situation, and,
in view of the important interests involved, Captain Carter--and we
also--would like you to assume the command."

"Very well," said I, "I will do so, and will use my utmost endeavours to
extricate ourselves from this difficulty.  I already have a plan for
dealing with the mutineers when they return, which I think ought to
prove successful, and that, too, without any need for fighting; but I
shall require the assistance of the gentlemen passengers to enable me to
make an imposing display of force."

"That is all right, my boy," answered the general cordially; "we will
willingly place ourselves under your orders without reserve; so tell us
what you would have us do, and we will do it."

"Well," said I, "we may now expect the mutineers to return at any
moment, and we must be ready for them when they appear.  I will
therefore ask you all to have your weapons at hand; and when the
longboat heaves in sight the ladies must immediately go below, out of
harm's way, while you distribute yourselves along the bulwarks, with
your firearms levelled at the boat.  You must arrange yourselves in such
a manner that the mutineers may be able to see that you are all armed,
and prepared to fight if necessary.  By this means I hope to overawe
them and bring them to reason."

I then completed all my arrangements, being careful to take Carter into
my full confidence, and treat him in every respect as master of the
ship, assuming for myself rather the character of his first lieutenant
than anything else--and then all that remained for us to do was to sit
down and patiently await the return of the mutineers.  But the time sped
on, the hour of sunset arrived, and darkness fell upon the scene without
any sign of the longboat, and I began to feel somewhat uneasy as to the
safety of the absentees, for we were in a lonely, and, so far as my
knowledge went, an unfrequented part of the coast; and I had heard some
rather gruesome stories as to the doings of the natives, and of the
treatment that they were wont to mete out to white men--shipwrecked
sailors and others--who happened to be so unfortunate as to fall into
their hands.  And as the hours drifted past without bringing any news, I
at length grew so anxious that I began to consider very seriously the
advisability of sending away a boat in search of the missing men.  After
fully discussing the matter with Carter, however, I came to the
conclusion that our first duty was to take care of the ship and her
passengers, and that the mutinous crew must be left to look after
themselves.  Finally, having set a strong anchor-watch, I went below and
turned in.

Daylight arrived, noon came, and still there was no sign of the
absentees, and in a fever of anxiety I made my way up to the fore-royal-
yard, from which lofty elevation I made a careful survey of the inland
district.  But there was very little to see beyond a two-mile stretch of
a broad, winding river dotted with tree-grown islets here and there.
The country itself was so densely overgrown with bush and trees that
nothing upon its surface was to be seen.  As to the longboat, she was
nowhere visible; but I was not much astonished at that, because, from
the glimpse that I was able to catch of the river, I had very little
doubt that its characteristics were precisely those of all the other
rivers in that region, namely, a somewhat sluggish current of water
thick with foul and fetid mud, swampy margins overgrown with mangroves,
and numerous shallow, winding creeks, mangrove-bordered, discharging
into it on either side; and it was highly probable that, failing to find
a firm bank upon which to land along the margin of the river itself, the
mutineers had proceeded in search of such a spot up one of the creeks.
There were no canoes to be seen on that part of the river's surface
which was visible from my look-out, and the only suggestion of human
life anywhere in the neighbourhood was to be found in what I took to be
a thin, almost invisible, wreath of smoke rising above the tree tops at
a spot some two miles distant.  That wreath of smoke might, of course,
indicate the position of the mutineers' bivouac; but, on the other hand,
it might--and I thought this far more likely--indicate the location of a
native village; and if the latter suspicion should prove to be correct I
could not but feel that the situation of the mutineers was one full of
peril.

Having taken a careful mental note of everything that I had seen, I
descended the ratlines, and, making my way aft, invited Carter, the
general, and Mr Morton to join me in the main saloon, which happened
just then to be vacant.  When we arrived there, I told my companions
what I had seen, and what I feared, and then laid before them a proposal
that I should take the ship's galley--a very fine six-oared boat--and,
with my nine men, and one of the carronades mounted in the bows, go in
search of the missing men.  But neither the general nor Morton would
hear of this for a moment.  They were quite willing that a boat should
be dispatched to search for the longboat and her crew if the matter
could be arranged, but they very strongly protested against the idea
that I and all my nine fighting men should leave the ship, which, they
pointed out, would be at the mercy of the mutineers if we were to miss
them and if they were to get back before us; or, possibly, which would
be still worse, open to an attack from hundreds of savages should the
natives by any chance have discovered us and observed our helpless
predicament.  I was pointing out to them that this stand which they were
taking rendered the idea of a search impossible, since I considered it
neither wise nor prudent to dispatch a weak search party, and that I
could not dream of ordering any of my own men away upon such an
expedition in the command of anyone but myself, when I heard a call on
deck, and the next moment Simpson presented himself at the entrance of
the saloon to say that the longboat was in sight, pulling hard for the
ship, but that, so far as could be made out, there were only five men in
her!  Whereupon, with one accord we all dashed out on deck and made the
best of our way to the topgallant-forecastle, which afforded a good view
of the approaching boat.  It was now a few minutes past three o'clock,
ship's time.

Arrived on the forecastle, I snatched the telescope from the hands of
the look-out as he flourished the instrument toward the boat, with the
remark:

"There she comes, sir, and the buckos in her seem to be in a tearin'
hurry, too.  See how they're makin' the spray fly and the oars buckle!
They're workin' harder just now than they've done for many a long day,
I'll warrant."

Levelling the instrument upon the approaching boat, I saw that, as
Simpson had informed me, there were only five men in her, who, as the
look-out man had observed, were pulling as though for their lives.  The
boat, although a heavy one, was positively foaming through the water,
and the long, stout ash oars, which the men were labouring at, bent and
sprang almost to breaking point at every stroke.

"There is something very seriously wrong somewhere," said I gravely,
"and those fellows are bringing the news of it.  Let them come
alongside, Simpson; but muster the _Sharks_ at the gangway to disarm
those men as they come up the side, should they happen to have any
weapons about them."

Two minutes later the longboat dashed alongside, and as the men flung in
their oars, the man who had been pulling bow sprang to his feet and
yelled:

"Heave me a line, mates, and for God's sake let us come aboard.  We want
to see Mr Carter, quick!"

"All right, my bully boy," answered Simpson.  "Here's a line for ye;
look out!  But don't you chaps be in too much of a hurry now; the orders
is that you're to come up the side one at a time.  And if you've got any
such little matter as a knife or a pistol about you, just fork it over.
Thank'e!  Next man," as the man climbed inboard and without demur drew
an empty pistol and his knife from his belt and handed them over.

"Now then, my lad," said I, as the fellow faced round and confronted me,
"where are the rest of the men who left this ship yesterday?  Out with
your story, as quick as you please."

"Where are the rest!" he repeated, with white and quivering lips, while
his eyes rolled and his voice rose almost to a scream.  "Why, some of
'em are dead--lucky beggars! and t'others are in the hands of the
savages, away there in the woods, and are bein' slowly tormented to
death, one at a time, while t'others is forced to look on and wait their
turn.  At least that's how I reads what I've seen."

"And how come you five men to be here?"  I demanded.  "Have you managed
to escape from the savages, or were you not with the rest when they were
taken?"

"Why, sir," answered the fellow, "it's like this here--"

"Stop a moment," I interrupted him.  "Tell us your whole story, as
briefly as possible, from the moment when you pushed off from the ship's
side yesterday.  Then we shall get something like a clear and coherent
account of what has happened."

"Yes, yes, that's right, Grenvile," agreed the general as he stood
beside me, very upright and stern-looking, his lips white, but the eager
light of battle already kindling in his eyes.  "It will be a saving of
time in the long run."

"I certainly think so," said I.  "Now, my man, heave ahead with your
yarn."

"Well, sir," resumed the man, "we shoved off from the ship's side--
three-and-twenty of us, as you know--but, beg pardon, sir, I forgot--you
wasn't on deck--"

"Never mind about that, my lad," interrupted I; "go ahead as quickly as
possible.  You shoved off from the ship and pulled away into the river.
What happened then?"

"Nothin' at all, sir," was the reply.  "We just pulled into the river,
and as soon as we was fairly inside we started to look round for a spot
where we could get ashore; but, try where we would, we couldn't find
nothin' but soft mud that wouldn't have bore the weight of a cat, much
less of a man.  But while we was huntin' for a place we came across a
narrer creek, just wide enough for us to pull into; and Tonkin up's
hellum and says as we'll try in there.  So we pulled along for a matter
of nigh upon a mile, when all at once the creek comes to an end, and we
find the boat's nose jammed in among a lot of mangrove roots.  Then pore
Jim Nesbitt ups and volunteers to try and scramble along the mangroves
and see if he can find a spot firm enough for us to land upon; and when
he'd been gone about a quarter of a hour he comes back again and says
he've found a place.  So, actin' upon Tonkin's orders, each one of us
grabs a fowl, or a bottle, or what not, and away we goes in pore Jim's
wake; and presently out we comes at a place where the mangroves stopped
and the bush began, and where the mud was hard and firm enough to walk
upon, and a little later we comes upon a sort of path through the bush,
follerin' which we presently comes into a little open space where there
was nothin' but grass, with big trees growin' all round it, and there we
brought ourselves to an anchor, and cried `Spell ho!'

"Then we had some grub and a drop or two of grog, and a smoke, and then
some of us stretched out on the grass to have a snooze; but the ants and
creepin' things was that wishious and perseverin' that we couldn't lie
still for two minutes on end; so we all gets up and starts huntin' for
fruit.  But the only fruit we could find was cokernuts, and they was to
be had, as many as we wanted, just for the trouble of shinnin' up the
trees.  So we ate nuts and drank the milk--with just a dash of rum in it
now and again--until we didn't want any more; and then we laid ourselves
down again, and in spite of the ants and things some of us had a good
long sleep.  I felt just as sleepy as the rest, but I couldn't get no
peace at all on the ground, so I looked round and presently made up my
mind to go aloft in a big tree that was standin' not far off.  That tree
to look at was as easy to climb as them there ratlins, but somehow it
took me a long time to shin up it and find a comfortable place where I
could get a snooze without fallin' from aloft; but by and by I came
athwart a branch with a big fork in it, reachin' out well over the open
space where the other chaps were lyin' about, and, wedgin' myself into
the fork, I was very soon fast asleep.

"When I woke up it was pitch dark, exceptin' that somebody had lighted a
big fire in the middle of the open space, and there was our lads all
lyin' round fast asleep.  I felt cold, for the night had turned foggy,
and I was tryin' to make up my mind to climb down and get a bit nearer
to the fire when a most awful yellin' arose, and the next second the
place was chock-full of leapin' and howlin' niggers flourishin' great
clubs and spears, and bowlin' over our chaps as fast as they got up on
to their feet.  A few of our people managed to get up, hows'ever, and
they got to work with their pistols and cutlasses, and I let fly with my
pistol from where I sat up aloft among the branches, and bowled over an
ugly, bald-headed old chap rigged in a monkey-skin round his 'midships,
and carryin' a live snake in his hand.

"The loss of this old cock seemed to have a most astonishin' effect upon
the other niggers, for whereas the minute afore they'd been doin' all
they knew to kill our chaps, no sooner was this old party down than all
hands of 'em what had seen him fall stops dead and yells out `pilliloo'
to t'others, when, dash my wig if the whole lot of 'em didn't just make
one jump upon our people--them that was still alive I mean--and beat
their weapons out o' their hands, after which they lashes 'em all
together, with their hands behind 'em, and marches 'em off into the
bush, some twenty or thirty of 'em stoppin' behind to make sure that all
of our lads as was down was also dead.  And d'ye know how they did that,
sir?  Why, by just choppin' off their heads with great swords made of
what looked like hard wood!

"Seven of our pore chaps lost the number of their mess in this way, and
then the savages cleared out, carryin' the heads away with 'em, and
leavin' the bodies lyin' scattered about the place.  I waited up in my
tree until the murderin' thieves had got clear away, and then I starts
to climb down, intendin' to foller 'em and find out what they meant to
do with the white men as they'd took away alive with 'em, when, as my
feet touched the solid ground once more, dash my wig if these here four
mates of mine didn't drop out of some other trees close at hand.  They'd
been worried wi' the ants and what not, same as I was, and, seein' me
shinnin' up a tree, they'd gone and done likewise, and that's the way
that we five escaped bein' massicreed.

"Then the five of us goes to work and holds a council o' war, as you may
say; and we agreed that two of us should foller up the savages to find
out what game they was up to, while t'other three should go back to the
boat and take care of her.  But, seein' that away from the scattered
embers of the fire it was so dark that you could hardly see your hand
before you, we agreed that 'twas no use attemptin' to do anything until
daylight; so we got up into our trees again, and held on where we were
in case any o' them savages should come back.  And a precious lucky
thing it was that we thought of doin' so, for--it's the solemn truth I'm
tellin' you, gen'lemen--we hadn't very much more'n got settled back on
our perches when back comes about a dozen o' them savages, creepin' out
from among the trees as quiet as cats, and starts searchin' the whole
place up and down as though they'd lost somethin'.  My mates and me
reckoned it up that them niggers had seen us and counted us some time
yesterday, and had found, after the massacree, that we wasn't all
accounted for, and so they'd come back to look for us.  It was a
fort'nit thing for us that we was pretty well hid by the leaves, also
that the niggers didn't seem to think of lookin' for us up in the trees,
and by and by, just as the day was breakin', they took theirselves off
again.

"When they'd got fairly away out o' our neighbourhood I climbed down
again, and the others follered suit; and Mike, here, and I made sail
along the path that the niggers had gone, while the other three topped
their booms for the boat, the onderstandin' bein' that they was to get
her afloat and swung round all ready, and then wait till Mike and me
j'ined 'em.

"Well, Mr Carter, sir, and gen'lemen, Mike here and me follered along
the path that the savages had took, for a matter of a couple o' mile,
when we hears a tremenjous hullabaloo of niggers shoutin', and tom-toms
beatin', and dogs barkin', and what not, so we knowed that we was pretty
close aboard a native village, as they calls 'em, so we shortened sail
and got in among the bushes, creepin' for'ard until we could see what
was happenin'.  And when at last we was able to get a pretty clear view,
the sight we saw was enough to freeze a man's blood.  They'd got all our
chaps lashed to stakes set up in a clear, open space in front of the
village, and one of the pore unfort'nit fellers was stripped stark naked
and bein' tormented by a crowd o' niggers what was puttin' burnin'
splinters between his fingers, and stickin' 'em into his flesh, and
pourin' red-hot cinders into his mouth, what they'd prised open by
thrustin' a thick stick in between his jaws; and the shrieks as that
unhappy man was lettin' fly was just awful to listen to; but the savages
seemed to enjy 'em, for they just yelled with delight at every shriek.
Mike and me we turned as sick as dogs at what we seen; and presently
Mike grabs me by the hand and says: `Let's get back to the ship, mate,
and report.  P'rhaps the skipper'll forgive us for what we've done, and
persuade the navy gent to fit out a hexpedition to rescue the others.'
So away we came as fast as we could, but when we got to the boat she was
aground, and we had to wait a long time until she floated.  But here we
are, sir; and oh, gen'lemen, for the love o' God do somethin', if ye
can, to save them pore chaps what's bein' tormented to death over
there."



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE RESCUE.

For a few seconds after the close of the man's harrowing account there
was a dead silence among us.  Then the general, wiping the perspiration
from his face, turned to me and said:

"Grenvile, my friend, this is a situation for you to grapple with, and a
very difficult situation it is, I confess.  For, on the one hand, those
unhappy men must be rescued at all hazards, while, on the other, it is
equally imperative that the ship and those in her should be protected
from a possible, not to say very probable, attack by the savages.  Now,
what is to be done?  Of course you will understand that I am ready to
play any part that you may assign to me, but I may be permitted to
suggest that I should probably be more useful in leading the shore
expedition than in any other way."

"Thank you, general.  Yes, no doubt you are right, but it is a very
difficult situation, as you say, and I must have a moment or two to
think it out."

Then, turning to the five horrified seamen who had returned in the
longboat, I ordered them to go forward and get the cook to give them
something to eat and drink, for I should be in need of the services of
all of them sooner or later, while one of them would have to come with
me in the boat as a guide.

The five men whom I addressed--all thoughts of mutiny having by this
time been most effectually frightened out of their heads--turned and
slouched away forward as meekly as lambs; and the moment that they were
gone I was surrounded by an excited crowd of passengers, all of whom had
come down from the poop to listen to the story of the five returned
seamen, and every one of them had some more or less unpractical
suggestion to make.  It was rather unfortunate that they had all heard
what had passed, for the very graphic narrative, told by an eye-witness,
of the gruesome happenings of the past night, and the powerful
suggestion of what was probably taking place at that moment away yonder
in the woods, had so acted upon the vivid imaginations of the women that
one or two of them were visibly upon the very verge of hysterics, while
all were more or less in a state of mortal terror as to what might be
their fate should the natives take it into their heads to attack the
ship.  For, that the presence of so many white men as they had
encountered would suggest to the astute native mind the idea that a ship
was somewhere near at hand was so exceedingly likely that it might
almost be accepted as a foregone conclusion.  But, terrified though the
women were, they behaved marvellously well, and quietly retired when I
requested them to do so in order that we men might be left free to
discuss details together.  But, even while the chatter was raging round
me at its most excited pitch, my mind was busy upon the details of the
only plan that was at all feasible.  Our entire available fighting
force, counting in the whole of the male passengers, the surgeon, Briggs
and his three assistants, Jenkins the steerage passenger, the cook, and
the five men who had escaped from the savages, amounted to thirty.  It
was, of course, quite impossible to form, from the account of the five
escaped seamen, anything like an accurate estimate of the numbers of the
savages, but I believed I should be quite safe in setting them down at
not less than three hundred.  There were also the four prisoners; but I
reflected that as they had not suffered the harrowing experience of the
five escaped men, they would probably be still in much too insubordinate
a frame of mind to be of any use, and I therefore determined to leave
them where they were for the present.  I reckoned, however, that not a
man would leave the village, either to attack the ship or for any other
purpose, until the gruesome sport upon which they were at that moment
engaged had been played out to an end; and I therefore came to the
conclusion that I should be quite justified in throwing the balance of
strength into the land expedition.  I accordingly divided my force into
two equal parts, placing Simpson in charge of the ship and entrusting
him with her defence, with a small crew composed of the surgeon, the
four stewards, the cook, Jenkins the steerage passenger, Messrs. Morton,
Fielder, Acutt, Boyne, Pearson, and Taylor, and one of my own men named
Sharland, whose wounds rendered him useless for arduous land service,
although he might be made very useful at a pinch aboard the ship.  This
left, for the landing expedition, the general, Carter, myself, and seven
_Sharks_, and the five men who had escaped in the longboat.  Thus each
force consisted of fifteen men.  But I considered that the landing force
was far the more formidable of the two, since we numbered among us nine
trained fighting men; while, in the improbable event of an attack upon
the ship, the party left on board her would have the advantage of the
deck as a fighting platform, and, if hard pressed, the saloon and
deckhouses to which to retreat.  I also left them all the muskets and
boarding pikes, as well, of course, as their own personal firearms, and
the two brass carronades.  As for us, the general and I each had a
sword, the _Sharks_ carried a cutlass apiece, and every man of us also
had a brace of pistols in his belt, and a pocketful of cartridges.  But
what I most trusted to for the creation of a good, wholesome panic among
the savages was a dozen signal rockets which I had found in the ship's
magazine.

Our arrangements being now complete, the general bade a hasty good-bye
to his wife and daughter, who bore themselves very bravely upon the
occasion, and we all tumbled down over the side into the longboat--into
which Briggs had already, with commendable forethought, passed a large
basket of provisions for the sustenance of ourselves and such of the
mutineers as we might be fortunate enough to rescue.  It was nearly two
o'clock in the afternoon when we shoved off.

It took us but a few minutes to reach the river entrance, passing
through which we presently found ourselves in a broad, lagoon-like
expanse of water, some two miles long by about a mile wide, dotted here
and there with small, tree-clad islands, some of which might have been
as much as ten or twelve acres in extent, while others were mere heaps
of mud just large enough to support a clump of half a dozen or so of
coconut trees and a tiny thicket of bamboo.  The greater part of this
lagoon was evidently very shallow, for dotted about here and there were
to be seen partially submerged trunks of trees and other debris that
appeared to have been swept down into their present position by some
bygone flood, and had ultimately grounded on the mud; but there was just
sufficient current and wind to reveal a deep-water channel of about two
hundred yards wide, running in a fairly straight line through the lagoon
toward its most distant extremity.  There were numerous objects dotted
about the surface of the lagoon, which, at a distance, had all the
appearance of floating logs, but which, when we drew near to them,
proved to be, in almost every instance, the heads of basking alligators.
And before we had been in the river ten minutes we were startled by a
huge black bulk breaking water close alongside the boat, which turned
out to be a hippopotamus.

"Now, Higgins," said I, "whereabout is this creek of yours?  I see no
sign of it thus far."

"Oh, it's some way on ahead yet, sir!" answered the man.  "Keep her
straight up through the deep-water, sir, please.  I'll tell you when we
comes in sight of it."

That the unfortunate mutineers had penetrated some distance into the
country soon became evident, for we traversed the entire length of the
lagoon and fully a mile of the river after it had narrowed down to about
a quarter of a mile in width ere we sighted a break of any kind in the
thick entanglement of mangrove trees that lined the margin of the
stream.  But even this, so Higgins informed us, was not the creek of
which we were in search, and which he believed lay nearly a mile farther
up the stream.  Of the one actually in sight he denied any knowledge,
and I soon became convinced that it had escaped the notice of the
mutineers.

The break in question was on the northern bank of the river--that is to
say, on the same side as the creek of which we were in quest; and when
first sighted it was about a quarter of a mile distant.  As we drew
nearer to it I saw that a deep-water channel led straight to it from the
main deep-water channel, at a point about half a cable's-length distant;
and I kept my eye upon the spot, as the creek gradually opened out, for
I could not help thinking that it presented an almost ideal spot wherein
a slaver might conceal herself.  And, as I watched, I suddenly saw a
column of thick smoke shoot up above the tree tops at a point that I
estimated to be not much more than two hundred yards from the mouth of
the creek, and in the direction toward which the latter seemed to be
trending, while at the same moment the blare of horns and the dub-a-dub-
dub of tom-toms was borne faintly to our ears by the fitful breeze.

"Oars!" cried I sharply.  "Silence, fore and aft, and listen all of
you!"

The men instantly laid upon their oars, and as the boat went surging
along with the "way" that she had on her, we all distinctly heard, above
the quiet lap and gurgle of the water against her planking, the sounds
of which I have spoken, with an occasional swelling of the sound which
conveyed the idea of many human voices raised in a monotonous kind of
chant.

"How much farther do you say this creek of yours is, Higgins?"  I
demanded.

"Why, sir," answered the man, "I should say as it's the best part of a
mile higher up.  Ain't it, Mike?"

"Ay, about that, I should think," answered Mike, swinging round on his
thwart and shading his eyes with his hand as his gaze searchingly swept
the river bank.  And the other three escaped mutineers expressed a like
opinion.

"And what was the general trend of the direction which you took when you
followed the savages?" asked I.

"Why," answered Higgins, instantly catching my meaning, "it was
westerly, sir; wasn't it, Mike?  Don't ye remember that the run of the
creek itself was some'at down-stream?  And when we went a'ter the
savages we kept on bearin' away towards the left, didn't we?  Depend
on't, sir, that there smoke is where the village lies, and that row that
we hears is made by the savages doorin' the tormentin' of one of our
pore unfort'nit shipmates!"

I was of the same opinion myself.  That creek away on our port bow
appeared to lead so nearly in a direct line toward the point from which
the smoke was rising, and seemed to offer such a temptingly short cut to
the village where the diabolical work was undoubtedly going forward,
that I determined to take the slight risk of being mistaken, and make
for it forthwith.  I therefore gave the coxswain orders to starboard his
helm a bit and feel his way cautiously in over the mud, and the oarsmen
to give way and keep strict silence.

In another minute, or less, we had passed out of the main deep-water
channel, and were gliding through the shallow water that covered the
flat mud-banks on either side of the stream, the men dipping their oars
deep at every stroke to get timely warning of our approach to water not
deep enough to float the boat.

"No bottom yet, sir," reported the stroke-oar at frequent intervals; and
at each report the coxswain starboarded an extra half-point or so, until
at length the boat's nose was pointing straight for the mouth of the
creek, and at every stroke of the oars the fiendish uproar of horns,
tom-toms, and shouting--or chanting, whichever it was--seemed to come to
our ears more distinctly, and with more ominous import.

At length the boat entered the creek, or canal, and I at once gave
orders for all hands who had cutlasses to draw them, and for every man
to look carefully to the priming of his pistols.  This having been done,
we pulled ahead once more, and now the rapidity with which the mingled
sounds that were guiding us increased in volume told us that we were
quickly approaching the scene of action.  And presently, as though to
dissipate any doubt that might still be lurking in our minds, we
distinctly heard, at frequent intervals, the piercing scream of a man in
mortal agony!

"Do you hear that, Grenvile?" whispered the general through his set
teeth.  "Why, man, those cries make one's blood run cold to listen to
them!  How much farther do you mean to go before landing?"

"I shall go on until we bring the sounds abeam of us," I whispered back.
"We are moving very much faster here than we should ashore, especially
when it comes to creeping through those mangrove tree roots; so I will
get as close to the place as I can before landing.  Oars!"

For at that moment we swept round a rather sharp bend in the stream, and
I caught a glimpse, at no great distance ahead, of what I thought looked
very much like the stern of a canoe projecting from among the trees on
our port.  I held up my hand for silence.  We were so near to the scene
of action now, that, had we raised a shout, we should instantly have
attracted attention and, maybe, have temporarily suspended whatever
operations might be proceeding.  But my party was altogether too weak to
justify me in incurring any risks; there appeared to be but one life in
immediate jeopardy ashore there, whereas any premature alarm might
result in the loss of several of the rescuing party, and possibly the
complete failure of the expedition.  No, my strongest hope lay in the
possibility of effecting a complete surprise; so I hardened my heart,
held up my hand to enjoin the most perfect silence, and whispered the
coxswain to sheer the boat a little closer to the port bank.  Then, as
the boat seemed to have plenty of "way" on her, I ordered the "stroke"
to pass the word to lay in the oars noiselessly, and for those in the
bows to stand by with the boat-hook and the painter.

These orders had just been obeyed, and we were gliding along in absolute
silence, when, a short distance ahead, I caught sight of a break in the
mangroves that looked wide enough to admit the boat, and I signed to the
coxswain to point our stem for it.  A few seconds later we slid into a
kind of cavern, formed of the overarching branches of a belt of
mangroves, and, gliding along a narrow canal of about sixty feet in
length, we finally brought up alongside a good firm bank of soil, on
which there was room enough for us all to land.  Our movements were
effectually masked by a thin belt of scrub, which appeared to be all
that intervened between us and the three or four hundred yelling and
chanting natives who were now making the air ring and vibrate within a
short hundred yards of us.  At the same time I became aware that the
agonising shrieks, as of one in mortal agony, had ceased.

The din of discordant sounds was now so tremendous that there was no
very especial need for the observance of any great amount of caution on
our part, yet we disembarked with scarcely a sound, and I drew our
little party up in two lines, the _Sharks_ being placed in the front
rank, and the others immediately behind them.

"Now, men," said I, "I have just one last word of caution to give you
before we attack.  Remember that we have not come here for the express
purpose of fighting the natives, but to rescue our fellow-countrymen;
therefore my orders are that as soon as this is accomplished a retreat
is to be at once made to the boat, no man pausing except to support a
comrade who may be in difficulties.  I propose to begin the attack by
discharging the whole of these rockets as rapidly as possible into the
thick of the crowd of natives, and then to charge upon them with sword
and cutlass, reserving our pistol fire for emergencies.  I hope by this
plan to scatter the savages and cause their retirement for at least a
few brief minutes, during which we must dash in, cut loose the
prisoners, and retire with them to the boat.  There must be no more
fighting than is actually necessary to enable us to accomplish our
purpose."

The general patted me approvingly on the back.  "Excellent, my lad,
excellent," he whispered.  "There spoke the prudent commander.  I
foresee that you will do well in your profession.  And now, let us get
on."

"One moment, general, if you please," said I.  "I want to reconnoitre
before advancing into the open."

"Right," he answered.  "And I'll go with you."

I nodded consent, and at once led the way toward the screen of bush that
interposed between ourselves and the village.  The distance to be
traversed was merely some sixty or seventy yards, and to cover this we
were obliged to make our way through some sparsely-scattered mangroves.
It took us less than a minute to accomplish the journey, and then we
found that the bush was much less dense than it had appeared to be,
since we were enabled without the least difficulty to penetrate it to a
spot where our whole party could comfortably stand, and where the
intervening screen was so tenuous that, ourselves unseen, we could see
everything that was happening in the village.  This was so obviously the
proper spot from which to make our attack that the general at once went
back to bring up the men, while I remained to make such few observations
as the brief time at my disposal would permit.

I found that we were on what might be termed the right front of the
village, which was a tolerably important place, consisting of some two
hundred roomy huts, constructed of wattles and sun-baked clay, and
thatched with palm leaves.  The huts, however, had no interest for me
now; it was the scene that was being enacted in the wide, open space in
front of the village that riveted my attention.  This space was occupied
by a crowd of fully a thousand blacks--men, women, and children--most of
whom were practically naked, and all of whom were slowly circling in a
weird kind of dance round a small area, in the midst of which were
planted eleven stout stakes at distances of about fifty feet apart.
These stakes were, of course, upright, and stood about ten feet high.
It was therefore easy enough to count the stakes, but owing to the dense
crowd which surrounded them it was exceedingly difficult to distinguish
whether or not anything, or anybody, was attached to them.  But I found
no difficulty in arriving at a tolerably accurate surmise as to the
purpose of these stakes, for four of them were charred quite black, as
though by the action of fire, while a thin wreath of pale brownish-blue
smoke still eddied and circled about one of the four.  The tone of the
chant now being sung by the savages was very different from that which
had reached our ears while in the open river; it was more subdued, and
did not convey that suggestion of savage exultation that had been the
dominant note of the other, and I also now noticed that the deafening
clamour of horns and thumping of tom-toms had ceased.  The idea conveyed
to my mind was that one act in a drama of absorbing interest had closed
and that another was about to open.  But I had no time for further
observation, as the general now came up with the men, and we at once
proceeded to make our final arrangements for an instant attack.

"Now, lads," said I, "you see those hundreds of dancing savages.  I want
you to plant your rockets in such a manner that they will rake through
the whole crowd; and if they should finish up by setting fire to the
huts, so much the better.  Fire the rockets, one after another, as
rapidly as possible, and the moment that the last rocket has been fired
we will spring out into the open and make a dash for those posts, to
which I believe we shall find the missing men secured.  Use your
cutlasses as freely as may be needful, but reserve your pistols for an
emergency.  Then, having cut our men loose, we must all retire in a body
to the boat, and get out of the creek as quickly as possible.  Now, are
you all ready?  Then begin to fire the rockets."

With a preliminary sizzle, and a strong odour of burning powder, the
twelve rockets tore, weirdly screaming, in rapid succession, out of the
clump of bush into the thick of the crowd of dancing savages,
ricochetting hither and thither as they encountered some obstacle,
scattering showers of fire in every direction, and finally exploding
with a loud report many of them having previously embedded themselves in
the dry thatch of the huts.  The effect of the discharge was tremendous
and cumulative!  As the first rocket plunged into the throng a sudden
silence ensued, and every savage stood death-still, gazing with eyes of
horror upon the hissing fiery thing as it darted hither and thither
inflicting painful burns and bruises wherever it went.  Then, long
before the first had run its course, the second was also among them,
playing similar antics, and working havoc like the first; and then out
swooped the third at them, driving the whole party crazy with terror,
and producing a state of utterly indescribable confusion.  As the fourth
rocket tore out of the midst of the belt of bush a general yell of
dismay arose, and then ensued a regular stampede, the natives knocking
down and falling over each other in their frenzied efforts to escape
from the onslaught of the fiery monsters.  Before the last rocket had
sped there was not a savage to be seen, the whole swarm of them, down to
the children even, having somehow managed to make their escape into the
adjacent bush, from which their cries of terror could still be heard
proceeding, while several of the huts were already bursting into flame.
In the midst of the deserted open space the eleven upright stakes were
now plainly visible; four of them, alas! black and half-consumed with
fire, with great heaps of still smouldering and faintly smoking ashes--
in the midst of which were discernible the calcined fragments of human
skeletons--around their bases, while to each of the other seven was
bound the naked body of a white man!

"Now, forward, lads!" cried I, dashing into the open with drawn sword in
my hand.  "Cut loose those seven men, and then form up ready for a
retreat to the boat.  If we are quick we may do all that we came to do
before the savages return."

It was but a run of a few hundred yards from the bush to the posts, and
in another minute we were around them, cutting and hacking at the
multitudinous coils of tough creeper which bound the prisoners to the
posts; and in another couple of minutes the last man had been released.
Dazed and speechless at the suddenness of their deliverance from a
lingering death of frightful torment, such as they had beheld inflicted
upon four of their unfortunate companions, the rescued mutineers were
being hurried down to the boat.  To bundle them in pell-mell, scramble
in ourselves, and shove off was the work of but a few brief minutes; and
presently we found ourselves once more in the creek, with our bows
pointed river-ward, and eight men straining at the oars as we swept
foaming past the interminable array of mangroves, with their gaunt
roots, like the legs of gigantic spiders sprawling out into the black,
foul-smelling water.

"Well," exclaimed the general, taking off his Panama hat and mopping his
perspiring head and face with a huge red-silk handkerchief, "that is a
good job well done, and without the loss of a man, too--except, of
course, the unfortunate four that we were too late to save.  You have
managed the affair exceedingly well, young sir, as I shall be happy to
bear witness at another time and place.  I have somehow--I don't quite
know why--had a sort of prejudice against the navy; but a service which
trains youngsters like yourself to do such work as I have seen done to-
day can't be wholly bad."

"Bad, sir!"  I exclaimed.  "The navy bad?  Why, on the contrary,
although perhaps it is not absolutely perfect, it is the most glorious
service that a man can possibly enter, and I am proud to belong to it.
[See note.] But we must not crow yet over our success.  Those savages
will probably be rallying by this time, since they find that they are
not being pursued, and if they should choose to follow us along the
banks of the creek they may yet make us smart for our boldness."

"Ay," agreed the general, "they may; but somehow I don't fancy that they
will.  Those rockets seemed to frighten them pretty well out of their
skins, and I don't believe that they will get over their terror in a
hurry.  By Jove, sir, that was a brilliant idea of yours--those
rockets!"

Meanwhile the rescued men were crouching in the bottom of the boat,
silent, some of them with their faces buried in their hands, some lying
back as though dazed, with their eyes closed.  And one of these last, I
noticed, had the fingers of his two hands locked together, and his lips
were moving, as though he prayed, or were returning thanks to God for
his deliverance.  Presently he opened his eyes, and his gaze met mine
full.  I noticed that he flushed slightly, as though ashamed at having
been detected, so I nodded to him and said:

"No need to be ashamed, my good fellow, if you were thanking God for His
mercy.  We have, every one of us, abundant reason to be thankful to-
day."

"Yes, sir," said he, "and I even more, perhaps, than the rest.  They was
makin' ready to begin upon me when you broke in upon 'em."  And
therewith he burst into a violently hysterical passion of tears, the
result, doubtless, of the reaction arising from his sudden and
unexpected rescue from the horrors of a death from protracted torment,
such as he had witnessed in the case of the other four.  For it now
appeared that--without harrowing the reader's feelings by entering into
unnecessary details--the sufferings of one or two of the unfortunate men
must have been prolonged to the extent of quite three hours.  The
ringleader, Tonkin, had been, singularly enough, the man who had been
subjected to certain peculiar refinements of torture which, while
inflicting what one could readily conceive would be the most
excruciating agony, were not of a nature to produce death save by the
long-drawn-out process of physical exhaustion.  We spoke such comforting
words to the poor creatures as we could think of, at the same time not
forgetting to administer a little much-needed stimulant and food.  The
production of the latter reminded us all that we felt atrociously hungry
and thirsty, and as soon as we were safely clear of the creek and once
more in the main channel of the river, we fell to upon the basket of
provisions that Briggs had so thoughtfully provided for our refreshment.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note: What would Grenvile have thought of the much more perfect service
of the present day, I wonder?--H.C.



CHAPTER NINE.

A NIGHT ATTACK.

We arrived safely alongside the ship just as the sun was dipping beneath
the western horizon, to the great relief and joy of those whom we had
left on board, and we learned with much satisfaction that nothing
whatever of an alarming character had transpired during our long
absence.  The occupants of the cuddy were very naturally anxious to be
furnished with the fullest details of our afternoon's adventure; but I
left the telling of that to the general, and retired below to indulge in
the luxury of a good wash and a complete change of clothing before
sitting down to dinner.

That the tragic occurrences of the day had put an effectual end to the
mutiny was, of course, a foregone conclusion, and I was not at all
surprised to learn that, within a quarter of an hour of our return, the
men--having doubtless consulted together in the forecastle--had come aft
in a body to express to Carter their contrition for their insubordinate
behaviour, and to request that they might be allowed to turn-to again,
at the same time giving the most elaborate assurances of good behaviour
in the future.  As a matter of fact it soon became perfectly clear that
there would never have been a mutiny at all but for Tonkin, who was its
sole instigator, as well as the murderer of the unfortunate Captain
Williams, who had provoked the turbulent boatswain to the highest pitch
of exasperation by his alternations of jovial good-fellowship with
truculent arrogance of demeanour.  Poor Carter seemed to find it a
little difficult to make up his mind how to deal with the matter, as he
confessed to me somewhat later that same evening; but I pointed out to
him that, the chief offender having been removed, there was exceedingly
small likelihood of any recurrence of insubordination, especially as the
men had really nothing to complain of, either in their treatment or in
the matter of their food.  Looked at after the event, the outbreak wore
very much the appearance of an impulsive act on the part of the men,
skilfully engineered by Tonkin for some evil purpose of his own, now
effectually frustrated.  I therefore advised Carter to let them resume
duty, with the distinct understanding that upon their own behaviour
during the remainder of the voyage would it depend whether or not they
were called to account for their disastrous act of insubordination.
These arguments of mine, coupled with the hint that we should need the
services of all hands to protect the ship--should the natives take it
into their heads to attack her--and also to get her afloat again,
convinced him; and he at once had them aft and spoke to them in the
terms which I had suggested.

But although the ugly and awkward incident of the mutiny was ended we
were by no means "out of the wood", for the ship was still hard-and-fast
aground--having apparently run upon the sandbank on the top of a
springtide--and it looked more than likely that it would be necessary to
lighten her considerably before we could hope to get her afloat again.
Meanwhile there were the savages to be kept in mind.  Had our lesson of
the afternoon brought home to them a good, wholesome realisation of the
danger of meddling with white men? or had it, on the other hand, only
inflamed them against us, and made them resolve to wreak a terrible
revenge?  The question was one which we felt it impossible to answer,
and meanwhile all that we could do, while in our present helpless
condition, was to keep a bright look-out, night and day, and to hold
ourselves ready for any emergency.

Needless to say, Carter and I both took especial care to see that there
was no slackness or negligence on the part of the anchor-watch that
night, the whole of the duty being undertaken by my own men, while I was
up and about at frequent intervals all through the night.  But the hours
of darkness passed uneventfully, and when dawn appeared there had been
neither sight nor sign of savages anywhere near the ship.

At six o'clock that morning the usual routine of duty was resumed on
board, the hands being turned up to wash-decks and generally perform the
ship's toilet before breakfast, and I noticed with satisfaction, as I
went forward to get my usual shower-bath under the head-pump, that
Carter had caused the four prisoners to be released from the fore-peak.
I believed that the rest of the hands might now be safely trusted to
keep that quartette in order.

Immediately after breakfast in the forecastle the hands were again
turned up, and a good stout hawser was bent on to the kedge anchor,
which was then lowered down into the longboat and run away out broad on
the ship's port quarter.  The other end of the hawser was then led
forward along the poop and main-deck to the windlass, which we believed
would be better able than the capstan to withstand the strain that we
intended to put upon it.  This done, the hawser was hove taut, and the
main hatch was then lifted and a quantity of cargo was hoisted out and
deposited in the longboat alongside, all the other boats also being
lowered into the water.  By the time that the longboat was as deep as
she would swim it was close upon high-water, and the men were then sent
to the windlass with orders to endeavour to get another pawl or two.
This they succeeded in doing, the ship's quarter being by this time
slewed so far off the sandbank that she now lay, with regard to the
general run of it, at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees; and then
the windlass positively refused to turn any further, even to the extent
of a single pawl.  The men therefore left it, as we felt that nothing
was to be gained by snapping the hawser, which was now strained to the
utmost limit of its endurance.  The fully-loaded longboat was now
dropped astern, and the longboat of the _Dolores_, in which we had been
picked up, and which, it will be remembered, Carter had felt impelled to
hoist inboard--was brought alongside in her place, and she, too, was
loaded as deeply as it was safe to venture.  It was noon by this time,
the tide had turned, the ship remained immovable, and the men's dinner-
hour had arrived; the second longboat was therefore dropped astern, and
the hands knocked off for their midday meal.

In addition to her longboat the _Indian Queen_ carried a jolly-boat, a
dinghy, and four very fine, roomy gigs, two of which hung in davits in
the wake of the mizzen rigging while the other two were supported on a
gallows that stood abaft the mainmast.  It will be seen, therefore,
that, even apart from the longboat and gig of the _Dolores_, this ship
was very well supplied with boats, only two of which--the two
longboats--were thus far loaded.  The gigs, although they were of course
of much smaller capacity than the longboats, and having fixed thwarts
were not so adaptable for the purpose of temporarily receiving cargo,
were nevertheless capable of being made very good use of, and in the
afternoon they were brought alongside and loaded one after another,
until all four of the ship's own gigs were as deep in the water as it
was prudent to put them, when they also were dropped astern, leaving
only the dinghy, and the gig of the _Dolores_, unutilised.  The dinghy,
of course, was too small to be of any use as a temporary receptacle of
cargo, and I felt that it would be unwise to deprive ourselves of the
services of the remaining gig for other purposes.  I therefore decided,
in conjunction with Carter, that if it should prove necessary to lighten
the ship still further, we would discharge the two longboats on to the
sandbank--a considerable area of which remained dry even at high-water--
and then strike another cargo down into the empty boats.  But as it was
by this time within half an hour of sunset, and the men had been working
very hard all day, we arranged to let them knock off and, after clearing
up the decks and replacing the hatches, to take a good rest, in view of
the possibility that we might be obliged to call upon them during the
night, should the savages elect to become troublesome.

Night fell calm and gracious upon the scene, the air breathless, and the
sky without a cloud, but with a thin strip of new moon hanging in the
western sky in the wake of the vanished sun.  The anchor-watch was set,
and by the time that I had taken a bath and changed my clothes the
dinner-hour had arrived, and we all gathered round the "hospitable
board" which Briggs and his satellites had prepared for us.  Everybody
was in the best of spirits, for the men had not only worked well but had
also displayed a very manifest desire to eradicate, by their behaviour,
the bad impression that had been produced by their recent lamentable
lapse from the path of rectitude.  Excellent progress had also been made
in the task of lightening the ship, and, finally, the savages had shown
no disposition to interfere with us.  There was consequently a good deal
of lively chatter during the progress of the meal, and when it was over
the piano was opened and we had some very excellent music.  The ladies
having retired, I rose to go out on deck and take a final look round ere
I turned in; but before I went I thought it desirable to say a word or
two of caution.

"Gentlemen," said I, "we have just come to the end of a very delightful
evening, and I hope that you will all enjoy an unbroken night's rest.
There is no reason, so far as I can see, why you should not; but we must
none of us forget that, so long as the ship remains where she now is,
she is exposed to the possibility of attack by the savages.  Therefore,
while I do not ask you to keep a watch, or even to remain awake, I
strongly urge you to keep your weapons beside you, ready loaded, so that
if, by any unfortunate chance, it should be necessary for us to call
upon you to assist in defending the ship, you may be able to respond
without delay."

"Umph!" grunted the general.  "Better tell us exactly what you mean,
Grenvile.  We are all men here, so you can speak quite plainly.  Have
you observed anything to-day indicative of a disposition on the part of
the natives to attack us?"

"No, general, I have not," said I, "and I know of no reason why we
should not have a perfectly quiet and undisturbed night's rest as we did
last night.  I merely thought it advisable to give you a word of
warning, because I know the natives all along this coast to be
treacherous in the extreme, and very much given to doing precisely what
you least expect them to do.  Beyond that I see no cause whatever for
uneasiness, believe me.  Good-night, gentlemen, sound sleep and pleasant
dreams to you."

When I stepped out on deck I found that the character of the weather had
changed during the three hours or so that I had spent in the cuddy.  The
young moon had, of course, set some time before; the sky had grown
overcast and seemed to be threatening rain; the clouds were sweeping up
from about south-south-west, and a light breeze, that seemed likely to
freshen, was blowing from that direction, driving great masses of chill,
wet fog along before it of so dense a character that it was scarcely
possible to make out the foremast from the head of the poop-ladder.
Altogether it threatened to be a distinctly unpleasant night for the
unfortunate men whose duty it would be to keep a look-out through the
hours of darkness.  Carter, in a thick pilot-cloth jacket, was walking
to and fro on the poop, with a short pipe stuck in the corner of his
mouth, when I joined him.

"Hullo, Carter," I said, "this is a change of weather with a vengeance!
When did it happen?"

"Why," answered Carter, "the fog closed in upon us just after sunset,
the same as it has done every night since we've been here; but the
breeze has only sprung up within the last half-hour.  Looks as though
'twas going to freshen too."

"So I think," said I.  "How is it coming?  Broad off the starboard bow,
isn't it?"

"Yes; about that," agreed Carter.

"And the tide is rising, is it not?"  I continued, the freshening breeze
having suggested an idea to me which I in turn wished to suggest to my
companion.

"Ay, risin' fast," answered he.  "It'll be high-water about midnight, I
reckon."

"Just so," I agreed.  The idea which I wished to suggest to him had
clearly not yet dawned upon him--although it ought to have done so
without any need of a hint from me,--so, without further beating about
the bush, I said:

"Now, don't you think, Carter, that, with this nice little breeze
blowing from precisely the right direction, it would be quite worth
while to loose and set the square canvas and--"

"Throw it all aback," he cut in as at last he caught my idea.  "Why, of
course I do, Mr Grenvile, and thank'e for the hint.  It'd be a precious
sight more helpful than the kedge, and I'll have it done at once."  And
he started to go forward to call the men.

"What about your cables?" said I.  "Have you got them bent and an anchor
ready to let go if she should happen to back off the bank?"

"No," said he, coming to a halt again.  "We've been so busy with one
thing and another, you know.  But I'll have it done as soon as we've got
the canvas on her."

"Better do that first, hadn't you?"  I suggested.  "I wouldn't trust the
kedge to hold her in a breeze with all her square canvas set."

"N-o, perhaps not," he agreed dubiously.  "Well, then, I'll get the port
cable bent and the anchor a-cockbill ready for lettin' go before
touchin' the canvas.  How would that be?"

"Much the safest, I think," said I.  "But let us both go for'ard and see
what is the exact state of affairs there.  And what is the state of the
hawser?  Ah, still quite taut!" as I tested its tension with my foot.

Arrived upon the forecastle we found both anchors stowed inboard and the
cables below; but, all hands being called, including the _Shark's_, we
made short work of the business, for while one gang went below and
cleared away the cable, another roused it up on deck and rove it through
the hawse-pipe, ready for bending, and a third got the anchor outboard.
Then, while Jones, the _Shark's_ boatswain's mate, and his party bent
the cable and got everything ready for letting go, in case of need,
Carter's men climbed into the rigging, and, beginning at the topgallant-
sails, loosed all the square canvas, overhauled the gear, and saw
everything clear for sheeting home and hoisting away.  To set the canvas
and trim the yards aback was now the work of but a few minutes, and it
was soon done, with the immediate result that the ship, from having a
slight list to starboard, came upright, with just the slightest possible
tendency to heel to port.

"Now, Mr Carter," said I, "the ship's bilge is no longer bearing upon
the sand.  I think, therefore, that if I were you I would send all hands
to the windlass, and let them endeavour to get another pawl or two.
That canvas is doing good work up there, and it may be that if we helped
it a bit with a pull on the hawser she would come off."

"Ay," agreed Carter; "so she might, and we'll try it.  Man the windlass,
lads, and see if you can move her at all.  Half an hour's work now may
get the ship afloat, and so save ye a good many hours breakin' out cargo
to-morrow."

"Ay, ay, sir!" answered the men, cheerfully enough, considering that
they had been awakened out of a sound sleep and dragged out of their
warm bunks to come up and work in the chill, pestilential fog after
having worked hard all day.  "Tail on to the handles, my bullies, tail
on and heave.  Heave, and raise the dead!" shouted the man Mike, who had
been one of the lucky five to escape capture by the savages.

They got their first pawl easily enough, then another, and another, by
which time the hawser was once more as taut as a bar.  But, as I lightly
rested my foot upon it, to test its tautness, I felt it very gradually
slackening, which meant one of two things, either that the kedge was
coming home--which I thought improbable--or that the ship was very
slowly sliding off the bank.  So I cried to the men, who had desisted
from their efforts for fear of parting the hawser:

"There she gives!  Heave away again, lads, and keep a steady strain on
the hawser.  It wants half an hour yet to high-water."

The men again threw their weight alternately upon the levers, and once
more the great pawl clanked once, twice, thrice; then a long pause and
another clank, then a further pause.  But my foot was still on the
hawser, and I felt that it was steadily, although very slowly, yielding,
and there was a moment when I could almost have sworn that I felt the
ship jerk ever so slightly sternward.  So I ventured to stimulate the
men a little further.

"Hurrah, lads," I cried, "there she moves!  Hang to her!  One complete
turn of the windlass and she's all your own!  Heave again."

"Heave!" responded the men hoarsely, flinging their whole weight upon
the elevated lever, while those opposite grasped the corresponding
depressed handle, and, gripping the deck with their naked toes, bent
their backs and bore upward until every muscle in their straining bodies
cracked again; and "clank-clank" spoke the pawl again, and yet again
"clank".  Then, after another long, heaving and straining pause, "clank"
again, a shorter pause and again "clank--clank--clank"; and then, as the
men struggled and fought desperately with the stubborn windlass, the
ship jerked perceptibly twice, the pawls spoke in quicker succession,
the ship surged again, and with a wild hurrah from the men, as the
levers suddenly yielded to them and began to leap rapidly up and down,
the _Indian Queen_ gathered way and slid off into deep-water.

"Well there with the windlass!" cried Carter delightedly.  "Let go your
to'gallant and topsail halyards and sheets; man your clewlines; fore and
main clew-garnets.  Stand by to let go the anchor!"

"Ay, ay, sir!" was the response from the topgallant forecastle.  "All
ready with the anchor.  Stand clear of the cable!"

Meanwhile the merchant crew were clewing up and hauling down to the
accompaniment of the usual cries.  What, therefore, with Carter's
commands, the seaman's calls, and the violent flinging down of ropes
upon the deck, there was a very considerable uproar going on upon deck,
and I was not at all surprised when the general, clad in a dressing-
gown, emerged from below with his sword in one hand and his pistol in
the other, to enquire what all the racket was about.

I explained the situation to him, and he was expressing his great
gratification at the fact that the ship had been got afloat again, when
Carter gave the order to let go the anchor.

"All gone, sir," answered Jones as a heavy splash sounded under the
ship's bows, instantly followed by a yell of:

"A large canoe--two of 'em--three--four--there's a whole fleet of canoes
closing in round us, sir."

"Where away?" demanded I, unceremoniously breaking away from the general
and dashing forward to the topgallant forecastle, up the ladder of which
I scrambled with considerable loss of shin-leather.

"There, sir, d'ye see 'em?" responded Jones, sweeping his arm in a wide
circle as he pointed into the fog wreaths that were whirling round us.

The fog and the darkness together rendered it extremely difficult to see
anything, but by dint of peering I at length distinguished several
shapeless dark blotches at a distance of about fifty fathoms from the
ship, arranged apparently in the form of a wide semicircle on the side
of her opposite to that on which lay the sandbank.  Jones, however, was
not quite right in his statement that they were closing in upon us, for
they appeared to be lying quite stationary, or at least were only
paddling just sufficiently to avoid being swept away by the sluggish
tide that was running.  But there was very little doubt in my mind that
we had very narrowly escaped an ugly surprise, and I was by no means
certain that we might not yet look to be attacked.  My view of the
situation was that the natives had gathered about us in the hope that,
in the fog and darkness, they might be able to steal alongside and climb
aboard in such overwhelming numbers as to secure possession of the deck
and overpower us by taking us by surprise, and that they had been
restrained from making the attempt only by the sounds of bustle and
activity that had accompanied our endeavours to get the ship afloat.

"Lay down from aloft all hands at once!" shouted I, sending my voice
pealing up through the fog to the figures that were to be dimly-seen
sprawling on the yards and dragging at the heavy festoons of canvas.
"And you, Jones, find me a musket as smartly as you can."

"Musket, sir?  Ay, ay, sir! here's one," answered the man, fishing one
out from some hiding place and thrusting it into my hand.  Lifting the
piece to my shoulder I levelled it in the direction where the canoes
seemed to be congregated most thickly, and, aiming so as to send the
bullet flying pretty close over the heads of the savages, pulled the
trigger.  I distinctly heard the "plop" of the bullet as it struck the
water, but beyond that all was as still as death.  Meanwhile, at my
call, the men aloft had come sliding down the backstays and were now
mustering on the fore-deck awaiting further instructions.  And at the
same moment the general came forward to announce that he had quietly
called the men passengers, who would be on deck in a moment, bringing
their firearms with them.

"I will place myself at their head, Grenvile," he said, "and if you will
tell me how we can most helpfully assist you I will see to the details
of any task that you may assign to us."

"A thousand thanks, general," answered I.  "You, perhaps, cannot do
better than muster your men on the poop, and if you detect any
disposition on the part of the canoes to close in upon the ship, fire
into them without hesitation.  This is no time for half-measures; we
must deal decisively and firmly with those fellows, or we shall find
ourselves in a very awkward predicament."

"Right; I agree with you there, and you will not find us wanting, I
hope," responded Sir Thomas, as he turned to walk away aft.

"Simpson, San Domingo, and Beardmore, come up here on the topgallant
forecastle," called I; and at the call up came the men, with the
inevitable answer of "Ay, ay, sir!"

"Simpson," said I, "I want you and San Domingo to take charge of this
port carronade, while you, Jones and Beardmore, attend to the starboard
one.  The ship has now swung to her anchor, and is lying fairly steady;
so when once you have trained the pieces they will not need much
alteration.  Run them both close up to the rail, and depress the muzzles
so that the discharge will strike the water at a distance of about fifty
yards, which will afford room for the charge to spread nicely.  If a
canoe approaches within that distance, fire upon her.  I will arrange
for more ammunition to be sent to you at once."

I then descended to the main-deck, and, finding Carter, arranged with
him that he should descend to the magazine with one of my men, who could
be trusted to be careful, and send up an ample supply of ammunition.
This done, my next act was to range the crew of the ship along the main-
deck, port and starboard sides, with muskets in their hands, giving them
strict injunctions to fire upon any canoe that they might see attempting
to approach the ship.

All these arrangements, which have taken a considerable time to
describe, really occupied but two or three minutes, during which not a
sound of any description had come from the canoes, which, however, could
occasionally be caught sight of, dimly showing when the mist wreaths
thinned for a moment.  Meanwhile, our own dispositions being complete, a
tense silence reigned throughout the ship, broken only by an occasional
low muttered word from one man to another.

Suddenly a shrill whistle pealed out from somewhere in the fog away on
our port hand, followed, the next instant, by a thin, whirring sound in
the air all about the ship, accompanied by sharp, crisp thuds here and
there along the bulwarks, and a thin, reedy pattering on the decks.  An
object of some sort fell close to my feet, and, upon groping for it, I
found that it was an arrow.  At the same moment a loud, fierce,
discordant yell burst out all round the ship, and the rattling splash of
innumerable paddles dashed into the water, reached our ears.

"Here they come; here they come!" cried the men, and a musket flashed
out of the darkness down in the waist of the ship.

"Steady, lads; steady!" cried I.  "Don't fire until you can see what you
are firing at, and take good aim before you pull the trigger!"

But at that moment a whole host of canoes came dashing at us out of the
fog and darkness, and a sharp, irregular volley of musketry rattled out
fore and aft, in the midst of which bang! bang! rang out the carronades,
almost simultaneously.  The discharge was immediately followed by a most
fearful outcry of shrieks and groans, and two large canoes, which had
received the contents of the carronades, paused in their rush, and went
drifting slowly past us on the tide, heaped with the motionless bodies
of their crews, and in a sinking condition.  But this in nowise checked
the rush of the other canoes, which came foaming toward us, with half
their crews plying their paddles, while the other half maintained a
fierce fire with their bows and arrows.

"Reload those carronades on the forecastle," cried I, "and then train
them to rake the main-deck, fore and aft.  Half of you in the waist
retreat to the topgallant forecastle, the other half to the poop, and
defend those two positions to the last gasp.  Let me know when those
carronades are ready, and be careful so to depress their muzzles that
none of the charge will reach the poop."

So saying I made a dash for the main-deck entrance of the saloon, which
I locked, slipping the key into my pocket.  Then I followed the rest of
the party up on to the poop, and bade them pull the two poop-ladders up
after them.  The poop and topgallant forecastle thus formed two
citadels, of a sort, capable of being pretty fairly defended, except in
the face of an overwhelming force.

"Now, lads," cried I, "load your muskets again, and pepper the savages
as they swarm in over the bulwarks; and if we cannot turn back the rush
by that means, I look to you, Simpson and Jones, to sweep the main-deck
clear with the carronades.  But do not fire them until you see that it
is absolutely necessary in order to save the ship.  Here they come; now,
lads, stand by!"

As the last words left my lips the leading canoes dashed alongside, and
the next instant some thirty or forty savages could be seen scrambling
over the bulwarks and leaping down on the main-deck.  They seemed
somewhat disconcerted at finding no one to oppose them, and paused
irresolutely as though not quite knowing what to do, and perhaps fearing
a trap of some sort.  Meanwhile others came close upon their heels;
while the general and his volunteers suddenly found their hands full in
repelling an attack upon the poop by way of the mizzen chains.  As for
that part of the crew that had retired to the poop at my order, I formed
them up along the fore end of the structure; and now, as, one after
another, they reloaded their muskets, they and their comrades on the
topgallant-forecastle opened a brisk, if somewhat irregular, fire upon
the multitude of savages who came pouring in over the bulwarks into the
waist of the ship.  By the light of the musketry flashes I saw several
of the savages throw up their arms and fall to the deck--so many of
them, indeed, in proportion to the number of shots fired, that I felt
convinced many of the bullets must be doing double or triple duty.  But
for every savage who fell at least half a dozen fresh ones came in over
the bulwarks to take his place, and I soon recognised that such musketry
fire as ours must be absolutely ineffectual to deal with the
overwhelming odds brought against us.  And how warmly I congratulated
myself that I had not been foolish enough to attempt anything like a
systematic defence of the waist of the ship.  Had I done that we should
have all been exterminated within the first minute of the attack.  As it
was we were doing very well--at our end of the ship, at all events; for
although the savages quickly recovered themselves after the first moment
of astonishment at finding nobody on the main-deck to oppose them, and
began to pour in a hot fire of arrows, not one of our party--who were
somewhat scattered, and were all lying down, most of them behind some
sort of shelter--was hit.

By the time that the attack had been raging some five minutes, however,
there must have been quite three hundred savages crowded on the main-
deck, between the poop and the topgallant forecastle, and the affair
began to wear a very serious aspect for us defenders; for by this time
the blacks were making desperate efforts to climb up on to the poop and
carry it by escalade, and a few of us had sustained more or less serious
hurts in resisting them.  The critical moment, when we must either
conquer or go under, was close upon us, and I was about to call to
Simpson to ask whether they were ready on the forecastle with the
carronades, when his voice rose above the din, hailing:

"Poop ahoy!  Look out there, aft, for we're goin' to fire.  We can't
hold out here another half a minute."

"Very well," I answered, "fire as soon as you like; the sooner the
better!"  And I then added:

"Jump to your feet, everybody on the poop, and run as far aft as you
can, or shelter yourselves behind the companion or skylight--anywhere,
until they have fired the carronades!"

We had just time to make good our rush for shelter--leaving the natives
who were endeavouring to storm the poop evidently much astonished at our
sudden and inexplicable retreat--when the two carronades barked out
simultaneously; and the terrific hubbub of shouts and yells down in the
waist ceased as though by magic, to be succeeded the next instant by
surely the most dreadful outburst of screams and groans that human ears
had ever listened to.  The carnage, I knew, must have been terrific, but
it would not do to trust to the effect of that alone, we must instantly
follow it up by action of some sort that would complete the panic
already begun; so I shouted:

"Hurrah, lads; now down on the main-deck, all of us, and drive the
remainder of the savages over the side before they have had time to
recover from their dismay!"  And, seizing hold of the first rope that
came to hand, I swung myself off the poop down on the main-deck, and
began to lay about me right and left with my sword, the remainder of our
party, fore and aft, instantly following my example.  For a few seconds
the savages who still stood on their feet--and how very few there seemed
to be of them!--appeared to be too completely dazed by what had happened
to take any steps to secure their safety; they even allowed themselves
to be shot and struck down without raising a hand to defend themselves!
Then, all in a moment, their senses seemed to return to them, and the
panic upon which I had reckoned took place; they glanced about them and
saw, that, whereas a minute before the deck upon which they stood had
been crowded with a surging throng of excited fellow savages all
striving to get within reach of those hated white men, it was now heaped
and cumbered with dead and dying, with only a stray uninjured man left
here and there; and incontinently, with shrill yells of terror, they
made for the bulwarks and tumbled over them, careless, apparently,
whether they dropped into a canoe or into the water, so long as they
could effect their escape from that awful shambles.  Many of them, of
course, dropped into the canoes, and made good their escape; but the
splashing and commotion alongside, and the frequent shrieks of agony,
told only too plainly that many of them, in their haste, had missed the
canoes and fallen into the water, where the sharks were making short
work of them.  As for us, as soon as the panic set in, and the retreat
was fairly under way, we held our hands, allowing the poor wretches to
get away without further molestation; and in two minutes from the moment
of that terrible discharge of the carronades not a native remained on
the deck of the _Indian Queen_ save those who were either dead, or too
severely injured to be able to escape.



CHAPTER TEN.

I REJOIN THE "SHARK."

As soon as all the savages who could leave the ship had gone, we roused
out as many lanterns as we could muster, lighted them, and hung them in
the fore and main rigging, or stood them here and there along the rail,
preparatory to going the rounds of the deck and beginning the gruesome
task of separating the dead from the wounded.  And, while this was
doing, the general, who claimed to possess some knowledge of surgery,
retired to the main saloon, and having roused out Mrs Jenkins and her
daughter Patsy, and impressed them into his service as assistants,
proceeded to help Burgess to attend to the wounded of our own party, of
whom I was one, an arrow having transfixed me through the left shoulder
so effectually that the barbed point projected out at my back.  I had
received the wound a moment before the discharge of the carronades, and
had been scarcely conscious of the hurt at the moment; but a man cannot
plunge into the thick of a melee with an arrow through his shoulder and
not know something about it, sooner or later; and the hurt had quickly
become very painful and inflamed.  The doctor declared that mine was the
worst case of all, and insisted that I should for that reason be the
first treated; I therefore submitted, with a good grace--for there were
many matters calling for my immediate attention; and in a few minutes
the head of the arrow was carefully cut off, the shaft withdrawn from
the wound, and the wound itself carefully washed and dressed.  Then,
with my arm in a sling, and my jacket loosely buttoned round my neck, I
went out on deck to see how matters were proceeding there.

Only seventeen living bodies were found among the prostrate heaps with
which the decks were cumbered.  These seventeen, after Burgess had done
what he could for them, we placed in one of the many empty canoes that
still remained alongside the ship, and towed the craft into the river,
where we moored her in such a position that she would be likely to
attract the attention of the natives, and thus lead to an investigation
of her, and the rescue of her cargo of wounded, which was as much as we
could do without exposing ourselves to very grave--and, to my mind,
quite unnecessary risk.  This, however, was not done until the return of
daylight enabled us to see what we were about.

The dead having been got rid of, and our own wounded attended to, all
hands turned in to secure a little very necessary rest, the deck being
left in charge of an anchor-watch consisting of Messrs. Acutt, Boyne,
Pearson, and Taylor, who very kindly volunteered to see to the safety of
the ship during the few remaining hours of darkness, pointing out that
it would be perfectly easy for them to rest during the day, while the
crew of the ship were engaged in doing what was necessary to enable us
to make an early start from the spot which had brought so much adventure
into the lives of all, and had been so disastrous to some of our little
community.

At daylight all hands were called, and the first work undertaken was the
removal, as far as possible, of all traces of the preceding night's
conflict.  By dint of hard labour we at length succeeded in so far
effacing the stains that the ordinary eye would scarcely be likely to
identify them as what they really were, which was, at all events,
something gained.  There were other marks, however, which it was
impossible to obliterate, such as the scoring of the deck planks and the
pitting of the mahogany and maple woodwork forming the fore bulkhead of
the poop by bullets which had formed part of the charges of the two
carronades when they were fired to rake the main-deck; and these we were
obliged to leave as they were.

Having succeeded in thus far straightening up matters that the lady
passengers could venture on deck without too violent a shock to their
susceptibilities, the hands knocked off to go to breakfast.  The meal
over, the kedge was weighed and stowed, and then the boats were brought
alongside, one after another, and the process of striking cargo back
into the hold was vigorously proceeded with.  This work was of course
done by the ship's crew under Carter's supervision, and I and my own
little party of men thus had an opportunity at last to treat ourselves
to a much-needed rest.  Indeed, so far as I was concerned, Burgess
insisted that I should at once turn in, and remain in my bunk until he
should give me leave to rise, or, in such a climate as this, he would
not be answerable for my life!  As a matter of fact I had already begun
to realise that, with the pain of my wounded shoulder, and exhaustion
arising from want of sleep, I could not hold out much longer; and I felt
more than thankful that, after the hot reception we had given the
natives, there was not much probability of any further fighting.  I
therefore gladly retired to my cabin and, having swallowed a composing
draught which Burgess mixed for me, slept until the following morning,
when I felt so much better that the worthy medico rather reluctantly
consented to my rising in time to sit down with the rest to tiffin.
That same evening, by dint of hard work, the crew succeeded in
completing the stowage of the last of the cargo, securing the hatches,
and hoisting in the boats before knocking off; and somewhat later, that
is to say about three bells in the second dogwatch, Carter availed
himself of the springing up of the land breeze to lift his anchor and
stand out to sea under easy canvas.

On the following morning, when I went on deck, the _Indian Queen_ was
out of sight of land and standing to the southward under all plain sail,
with nothing in sight but the heads of the topsails of a brig which,
hull-down in the south-western quarter, was stretching in toward the
coast, close-hauled on the port tack.  We took very little notice of
this craft at the time, for she was then too far distant to show much of
herself, even when viewed through the ship's telescope, while her yards
were so braced that only the edges of her sails presented themselves to
our view; but, remembering our recent experiences with a brig at a spot
not very far distant from where we then were, I strongly advised Carter
to keep a wary eye upon her movements.  The land breeze was then fast
dying away, and I thought it quite possible that we might have an
opportunity to see a little more of the stranger when the sea breeze
should set in.

That same sea breeze set in while we in the cuddy were sitting down to
breakfast; and when, after the meal was over, we all adjourned to the
poop, I found Carter regarding the stranger with some little uneasiness
through the telescope.  As I joined him he handed me the instrument,
saying:

"Just take a squint at her, Mr Grenvile, and tell me what you think of
her.  To my mind she seems to be steering in such a way as to close with
us, and I should like to have your opinion upon her."

I accordingly took the instrument, and soon had the stranger sharply
focused in the lenses.  She was then broad on our starboard bow, and was
still hull-down, but she had risen just to the foot of her fore course,
which was set, while the mainsail hung in its clewlines and buntlines,
and was running down with squared yards, but had no studding-sails set.
And, as Carter had remarked, she seemed to be steering in such a manner
as to intercept us.  She was a brig of about the same tonnage as the
_Shark_, of which craft she somehow reminded me sufficiently to invite a
closer and more detailed scrutiny, and presently I was able to make out
that she flew a pennant; she was consequently a man-o'-war.  It is true
that the _Shark_ was not the only brig on the West African station: the
British had two others, and we knew of three under the French pennant;
but the craft in sight was not French--I could swear to that--and the
longer I looked at her the more firmly convinced did I become that she
was none other than the dear old _Shark_ herself.  I could not be
absolutely certain of her identity until her hull should heave up clear
of the horizon, but that jaunty steeve of bowsprit and the hoist and
spread of those topsails were all very strongly suggestive of the
_Shark_.  As I lowered the glass from my eye I happened to glance
forward, and caught sight of Jones and Simpson seated forward on the
topgallant forecastle, smoking their pipes as they animatedly discussed
some topic of absorbing interest, and, catching their eyes, I beckoned
them to come aft to the poop.

"Take this telescope, Jones, and have a good look at that brig," said I,
as they climbed the poop-ladder, hat in hand; "then pass the instrument
to Simpson, and let him do the same.  Then tell me what you both think
of her."

The two men took the instrument, one after the other, and ogled the
stranger through it with the greatest intentness; but I could see
clearly that, even before Simpson took over the instrument from the
boatswain's mate, the latter had already arrived at a pretty definite
conclusion with regard to her.

"Well," said I, when at length Simpson had ended his scrutiny and handed
back the instrument to me, "what do you think of her?"

"Why, sir," answered Simpson, "if she ain't the _Shark_ she's own sister
to her; that's all I can say."

"And you, Jones, what is your opinion?"  I asked.

"Why, just the same as the carpenter's, sir," answered Jones.  "She's
the _Shark_, right enough.  I knows the steeve o' that bowsprit too well
to be mistook as to what that brig is.  She's the _Shark_; and we shall
have the pleasure of slingin' our hammicks aboard of her to-night!"

"I verily believe you are right," said I.  "At all events we shall know
for certain in the course of another half-hour; and meanwhile you can do
no harm by going forward and passing the word for the _Sharks_ to have
everything ready for shifting over, should our surmise prove to be
correct."

"So you really think that yonder brig is your own ship?" remarked
Carter, when the two men had gone forward again.  "Well, if it should
prove to be so, I shall be very sorry to lose you, and so will all of
us."

"Lose!  Lose whom?  I hope we are not going to lose anybody.  We have
already had losses enough, this voyage, goodness knows!" exclaimed the
general, emerging from the companion at that moment.

He had evidently caught a word or two of what Carter had been saying,
and wanted to know all about it.

"Why, Sir Thomas, Mr Grenvile believes that brig yonder to be his own
ship, the _Shark_," answered Carter.  "And if it turns out that he's
right, of course he and his men will be rejoinin' directly.  And I was
just sayin' that we shall all be very sorry to lose him."

"Sorry! by George I should say so!" cut in the general.  "It would have
been a precious bad job for everybody in this ship if we had not been
lucky enough to pick up him and his men.  Why, sir, we should, every man
jack of us, have been dead as mutton by this time.  So you think that
craft yonder is your ship, do you?" he continued, turning to me.  "Well,
if she is, you will have to join her--that goes without saying.  But
Carter here speaks no more than the truth when he says that we shall all
be very sorry to lose you--I know that I shall be.  And if it should be
that we must say good-bye to you now, that must not be the end of our
acquaintance, you know; that will never do.  You and I have fought side
by side, my boy, and I shall expect you to write to me from time to time
to let me know how you are getting on; and I will write to you also, if
you can give me an address from which my letters can be forwarded on to
you.  This will be my address for the next year or two, probably."  And,
producing a card, he scribbled something upon it and handed it to me.

"And now," he continued, "about rejoining this ship of yours.  Would it
be possible for me to accompany you on board?  I should like to make the
acquaintance of your captain, and have a little talk with him."

I very clearly understood that the kind-hearted old fellow wished to do
me a good turn by making a much more favourable report of my conduct
than it would be possible for me personally to make; and I was not so
foolish as to regard lightly or neglect any help of which I could
legitimately avail myself in my professional career.  I therefore said:

"Oh yes, Sir Thomas, I have no doubt that it can be very easily managed;
and I am quite sure that Captain Bentinck will be delighted to see you.
You can go aboard in the same boat with us, and your return to this ship
can be afterwards arranged for."

"Right!  Then that is settled.  Now I will leave you, for there is a
little matter that I wish to attend to before you and your people leave
the ship."

And with a very kindly smile and nod the old gentleman turned and left
me, and presently I noticed that he was deep in conversation with first
one and then another of the passengers who were now mustering on the
poop.

Meanwhile the breeze was freshening and the two craft were nearing each
other fast, the brig gradually edging a little farther away to the
southward at the same time, by which means she by this time presented so
nearly a perfect broadside view of herself to us that we could see the
end of her gaff, to which we presently saw the British ensign run up.
And now there was no longer any doubt as to her being the _Shark_, for
her figurehead--consisting of a gilt life-size effigy of the fish after
which she was named--could be distinctly made out, glittering under the
heel of her bowsprit.  In reply to her challenge we of course lost no
time in running up our own ensign; but beyond doing that there was no
need for further signalling, for it was by this time clearly evident
that she intended to speak us.  And presently my little party of nine
came marching aft, bag and baggage, to the lee gangway, where they stood
waiting in readiness to go down over the side, San Domingo depositing
his kit temporarily in the stern-sheets of the longboat while he hurried
down into my cabin to get my few belongings together.

The negro had just returned to the deck with these when the _Shark_,
ranging up within a biscuit-toss of us, hailed:

"Ship ahoy! what ship is that?"

"The _Indian Queen_, of and from London to Bombay, with passengers and
general cargo," replied Carter.  "We have an officer and nine men
belonging to you on board, sir.  Will you send a boat for them, or shall
we lower one of ours?"

"Is that Mr Grenvile that stands beside you, sir?" asked a voice which
I now recognised, despite the speaking-trumpet, as that of Captain
Bentinck himself.

"Yes, sir," replied I for myself; "and I have nine men with me, the
survivors of the prize crew of the _Dolores_."

I saw the skipper turn to Mr Seaton, who stood beside him, and say
something, to which the other replied.  Then the former hailed again.

"Very glad to find that you are safe, Mr Grenvile," he shouted.  "You
had better take room and heave-to, and we will do the same.  You need
not trouble about a boat; we will send one of ours."

Carter flourished an arm by way of reply, and then gave the order: "Main
tack and sheet let go!  Man the main clew-garnets and trice up!  Lay
aft, here, to the main braces, some of you, and stand by to back the
mainyard!  Down helm, my man, and let her come to the wind!"

At this moment Sir Thomas came up to me and said:

"Grenvile, my lad, come down on to the main-deck with me a moment, will
you?  I have a word or two that I should like to say to your men before
they leave the ship."

"Certainly, Sir Thomas," said I; and down we both trundled to where the
little party of _Sharks_ stood lovingly eyeing the movements of their
ship, and, as is the manner of sailors, abusing her and all in her the
while.

"My lads," said the general, as they faced round at our approach, "you
are about to leave us and return to your own ship, where I doubt not you
will receive a warm and hearty welcome from your messmates.  But before
you go I wish, on behalf of myself and the rest of the passengers of the
_Indian Queen_, to express to you all our very high appreciation of the
splendid manner in which you have conducted yourselves while on board
this ship, and, still more, of the magnificent services which, under the
leadership of your gallant young officer, Mr Grenvile, you have
rendered not only to the owners and crew of the ship, but also to us,
the passengers.  There can be no manner of doubt that, under God, and by
His gracious mercy, you have been the means, first, of rescuing the bulk
of the crew from death of a nature too horrible to contemplate, and
secondly, ourselves, the passengers, from a fate equally horrible.  By
so doing you have laid us all under an obligation which it is utterly
impossible for us adequately to requite, particularly at this present
moment; but it is my intention to go on board your ship to express
personally to your captain my very high opinion of the conduct of each
one of you.  And meanwhile the passengers as a body have deputed me to
invite your acceptance of this bag and its contents, amounting to ninety
sovereigns--that is to say, ten pounds each man--as a very small and
inadequate expression of our gratitude to you.  I wish you all long life
and prosperity."

"Thank'e, Sir Thomas, thank'e, sir; you're a gentleman of the right
sort, you are--ay, and a good fighter too, sir; we shan't forget how you
went with us into that village, away yonder, to help save them poor
`shell-backs'," and so on, and so on.  Each man felt it incumbent upon
him to say something in reply to Sir Thomas's speech, and, still more,
by way of thanks for the handsome gift that had come to them through
him.

By the time that this pleasant little ceremony of the presentation was
over, the two vessels were hove-to, and Carter, who of course saw and
heard what was going on, must needs come down and have his say also.

"Mr Grenvile, and men of the _Shark_," he began, as soon as the
general's back was turned, "I've been very pleased to see what's just
been done, and I'm only sorry that I've no power to do as much on my own
account.  But, whereas I'm now cap'n of this ship, I was only third mate
when we hauled out of dock at London, consequently I've no money of my
own for makin' presents, and such money as is in the ship belongs to the
owners, and I've no power to spend it otherwise than in certain ways, as
I dare say you all understand.  But I agree with every word that the
general said about your splendid conduct, and savin' the lives of my
crew and passengers, and all that, and when we get back home I will of
course see the owners and report everything to them, and if they're the
men I take 'em to be they'll be sure to do the handsome thing by you.
As for me, I can only thank you all very heartily for all the help
you've given me."

The _Shark's_ boat came alongside just then, and the men passed down
their "dunnage" into her amid a brisk fire of good-humoured chaff from
their shipmates, and such enquiries as: "Hello, Jim, haven't you got so
much as a monkey or a parrot to cheer us up with?" and so on.  Then they
followed their belongings down the side, and stowed themselves away in
the boat, while I was busy saying adieu to the occupants of the poop,
all of whom expressed their deep regret at parting with me.  Then I
sprang down into the boat, the general followed, and we shoved off amid
much cheering from the forecastle, and much waving of hats and pocket
handkerchiefs from the poop.

The pull from the ship to the brig was a short one, and in a few minutes
I had the satisfaction of finding myself once more standing on the deck
of the _Shark_.

"Come on board, sir," I reported, touching my hat to the captain, who,
with the first lieutenant, was standing on the quarter-deck near the
gangway as I entered.

"You have taken us rather by surprise, Mr Grenvile," remarked the
skipper, gravely acknowledging my salute.  "I quite expected that you
would be at Sierra Leone by this time.  I see that you are wounded, and
you appear also to have lost some men.  These circumstances, coupled
with the fact of your coming to us from yonder ship, lead me to fear
that matters have gone very seriously wrong with you and your prize."

"They have indeed, sir, I am sorry to say," answered I.  "But before I
tell you my story, sir, will you permit me to introduce to you General
Sir Thomas Baker, one of the passengers aboard the _Indian Queen_, who
has expressed a desire to have some conversation with you."

"Very pleased to make your acquaintance, Sir Thomas," remarked the
skipper, exchanging salutes with the general, and then offering his
hand.  "Perhaps you will do me the favour to step below to my cabin with
me, and we can then have a chat together.  Meanwhile, Mr Grenvile, if
one may judge from your appearance, the sooner you report yourself to
the surgeon the better it will be for you."  And, as I touched my hat
and retired, he led the way below, closely followed by the general.

"Well, Grenvile, here you are," exclaimed Morgan, as I entered his
cabin.  "I have been expecting you, for I saw you come up the side.
What is the extent of the damage, and what have you done with the
_Dolores_?  Which is the worse, your shoulder or your head?  Shoulder,
eh?  Well, let me help you off with your jacket and shirt.  Easy does
it!  There, now sit down in that chair and make yourself comfortable,
while I cooper you up.  Have they a surgeon aboard that ship?  This
shoulder of yours appears to have been attended to very passably.  Now,
spin your yarn while I give you an overhaul."

I gave a brief account of myself and of what had befallen us since
leaving the _Shark_, while Morgan patched me up, and his work and my
yarn came to an end about the same time.

"Well," said he, as I rose to leave the cabin, "I don't think the
skipper will have much fault to find with you when he hears your story.
You couldn't help the loss of the schooner, and, upon the other hand,
there seems to be very little doubt that you saved the _Indian Queen_
from destruction, and her passengers and crew from a very terrible fate.
I expect that jolly old buffer, General what's-his-name, has come
aboard with the express purpose of making a confidential report to the
skipper upon your conduct, and if his story at all bears out your own it
ought to do you some good.  Now, I'm going to put you on the sick list
for a day or two; you have been worked quite hard enough of late, and
wounded too.  You must take care of yourself for a little while.  You
need not stay below, you know, but you must not go on duty, for you are
not fit for it; that shoulder of yours needs looking after, or it will
give you a good deal of trouble.  Come to me again at eight bells this
afternoon."

From the surgeon's cabin I made my way to the midshipmen's berth, where
I received as boisterously hearty a welcome as mid could desire; but I
had been there scarcely five minutes when San Domingo, who had already
installed himself in his former berth, popped his head in at the door
and said, with a broad grin:

"Mistah Grenvile, sah, de first leptenant wishes to see you on deck,
sah."

Leaving my shipmates itching with curiosity to hear the yarn which I had
just begun to spin, I made my way up to the quarter-deck, where I found
Mr Seaton in charge, both ships still remaining hove-to.

"Ah, here you are, Grenvile!" exclaimed the first luff as I stepped up
to him and touched my hat.  "I am anxious to hear the story of your
adventures since you left us, but I understood that the captain had sent
you below to the surgeon.  Have you seen him?"

"Yes, sir," said I; "I have been with him for quite half an hour, while
he dressed my wounds.  He has put me on the sick list, sir."

"Which is about the best place for you, I should think, judging from
your looks," answered my companion.  "And, of course," he continued,
"the wily old Welshman availed himself of the opportunity to extract
your story from you--trust Morgan for that!  However, he has only
weathered on me to the extent of half an hour or so, and I'll get even
with him yet before all's done.  Now, heave ahead, my lad, and give me
the whole yarn, from clew to earing."

Whereupon I had to go through my story a second time, and when I had
come to the end I began to reckon up mentally how many times more I
might reasonably be expected to tell it, for the fact was that I was
already becoming a little tired of it.

"Thank you, Grenvile," said Mr Seaton, as I brought my yarn to a
conclusion.  "A most interesting yarn, and an exceedingly exciting
experience.  Of course it is not for me to mete out praise or blame in
my official capacity, that is to say, it is for the captain to do that;
but, unofficially, and merely as a friend, I may perhaps venture to say
that so far as I can see you have nothing with which to reproach
yourself and have much to be proud of.  It is unfortunate that you
should have lost five of your number, and I am particularly sorry that
Mr Gowland should have been among them, for Mr Gowland was a
particularly trustworthy and reliable navigator; but no one could
possibly have foreseen that you would have been attacked by that
piratical slaver.  Ah, here come the captain and your friend the
general!  What a fine-looking old fellow the general is!"

They came straight toward where the first luff and I were standing; and
as they approached, Captain Bentinck said:

"Well, general, since you are quite determined not to stay to lunch with
us, let me at least introduce my first lieutenant to you before you go."
Sir Thomas very courteously expressed the pleasure that it would afford
him to make Mr Seaton's acquaintance, and the introduction was duly
made.  Then the captain said:

"Sir Thomas has been giving me a very full and detailed description of
everything that has happened since you joined the _Indian Queen_, Mr
Grenvile, and the recital has afforded me a great deal of pleasure.  You
appear to have handled an extremely difficult situation with equal
courage and discretion, and I may as well say at once that, so far as
that part of your adventure is concerned, I am quite satisfied.  Sir
Thomas has also had something to say about that part of your adventure
which relates to the loss of the _Dolores_"--and here I thought I
detected a twinkle of amusement in the skipper's eye, brought there
possibly by a repetition of the General's frank criticism of my
commanding officer's conduct in turning us all adrift in an unarmed
vessel--"from which I gather that you were in no way to blame for that
unfortunate occurrence."

"I think you will be confirmed in that opinion, sir, when you have heard
Grenvile's own version of the occurrence, as I have," said Mr Seaton.
"The whole affair appears to have been just one of those that no one
could possibly have anticipated."

"Well, I must bid you all adieu," said the general, "for I have kept
poor Carter waiting a most unconscionable time, and I see him marching
to and fro upon his poop yonder in a state of terrible impatience.
Good-bye, my dear boy, and God bless you, for you are a downright good
lad in every way!  Don't forget to write to me, and keep me posted as to
how you are getting on.  Good-bye, Captain Bentinck!  I am delighted to
have had the very great pleasure of making your acquaintance, and I am
much obliged to you for listening to me so patiently.  Good-bye, Mr
Seaton; good-bye, good-bye!"  And the old gentleman bustled away,
beaming benignantly upon all and sundry, and made his way down into the
boat, which meanwhile had been hauled-up to the gangway.  Five minutes
later the boat returned to the _Shark_, and was hoisted to the davits,
and the two craft filled away upon their respective courses, with mutual
dips of their ensigns, and much waving of white pocket handkerchiefs
from the poop of the _Indian Queen_.

That I should be called upon to relate my story yet once again--this
time to the captain--was, of course, inevitable; but he was considerate
enough to defer the recital until dinner-time that evening, when the
second lieutenant, the master, and myself were guests at his table.  He
was very kind and sympathetic in the matter of the loss of the
_Dolores_, which he admitted was inevitable under the circumstances, and
warmly reiterated his expressions of satisfaction at everything that I
had done aboard the _Indian Queen_.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

A SUCCESSFUL BOAT EXPEDITION.

That same evening we made the land from the mast-head just before
sunset, and four hours later came to an anchor off the mouth of a river,
the bar of which had too little water on it to permit of the passage of
the _Shark_.  Our visit to this spot was the result of certain
information which the skipper had acquired a few days previously from
the master of a palm-oil trader hailing from Liverpool, upon the
strength of which he rather hoped to be able to take by surprise an
especially notorious slaver which had long eluded our cruisers, but
which was now stated, upon fairly reliable authority, to be somewhere on
the coast, and was believed to have entered this particular river.

The canvas having been snugly furled, the boats, under the command of
the first lieutenant, the master, the boatswain, and the gunner, were
manned, armed, and dispatched into the river, the whole expedition
being, of course, under the command of Mr Seaton, in whose boat went
Peter Christy, one of the midshipmen, while young Keene, another
midshipman, contrived to smuggle himself down into the master's boat.
Of course I applied for leave to go with the expedition, but, being on
the sick list, was peremptorily forbidden even to dream of such a thing,
for Morgan, our surgeon, declared that in my run-down condition I was
utterly unfit to face the risks of exposure to the fever-laden fog which
would certainly be encountered in the river.  The night was not
especially favourable for an expedition intended to take ships by
surprise; for although the sky was somewhat cloudy, it was by no means
sufficiently so to obscure very materially the light of the moon, which
was then in her first quarter.  But she would set shortly after
midnight, and meanwhile her light would facilitate the passage of the
boats across the bar, after the accomplishment of which the plan was to
endeavour to discover the position of the vessel that we were after--or,
failing her, any other craft that might be in the river--and then ambush
the boats until the moon had gone down.  We gave the boats a cheer as
they pulled away, and watched them until they vanished in the shadowy
obscurity inshore; after which, as we expected to see nothing more of
them until daylight, the watch was piped down, and going below I turned
in.  The night, however, was intensely hot, and the atmosphere of the
midshipmen's berth intolerably stuffy.  I therefore slept but poorly,
and was up and down, at intervals of about an hour, all through the
night, listening for the sound of firing, and hoping that perchance the
reflection of gun-flashes on the clouds might indicate that the boats
had found their quarry.  Once or twice, about three o'clock in the
morning, some of us who, like myself, were on the qui vive, thought we
caught the muffled sound of distant firing coming off to us on the damp
night breeze, but the everlasting thunder of the surf on the sand a mile
away was so loud that we might easily have been deceived.  That
something important, however, was happening ashore was evident, for
about this time we saw the reflection of a brilliant glare in the sky
which lasted nearly an hour, and then gradually died down.

At seven o'clock the next morning all our doubts were set at rest by the
appearance of two craft--a slashing brig and a very smart-looking little
schooner--coming out over the bar with the _Shark's_ boats in tow; and
ten minutes later they rounded-to and anchored close to us.  We now had
an opportunity to take a good look at our prizes, and it needed no
second glance to assure us that both were perfectly superb examples of
the shipbuilder's art.  Long, low, and extraordinarily beamy, they
carried spars big enough for craft of twice their tonnage, upon which
they spread an area of canvas that made some of us stare in amazement,
and which, combined with their exquisitely perfect lines, gave them a
speed that enabled them to defy pursuit.  The _Dona Inez_, as the brig
was named, was a craft of three hundred and eighty-six tons register,
and drew only ten feet of water aft; while the _Francesca_--the
schooner,--on a tonnage of one hundred and twenty, drew only six feet.
That they had been built for the express purpose of slave traffic was
apparent at the first glance; and they were, moreover, completely fitted
for that traffic, for they had slave-decks, and had manacles, meal, and
water on board, but no slaves.

The report of Mr Seaton, the first lieutenant, who presently came
aboard, was eminently satisfactory.  The expedition had succeeded in
locating the two ships on the previous night before the setting of the
moon, and had then lain in ambush behind a point only some two cables
lengths from their prey until about two o'clock the next morning, when,
with muffled oars, they had pulled alongside the two craft
simultaneously, boarded them without resistance, surprised and
overpowered the anchor-watch, and secured the crews under hatches.  This
having been done, and prize crews having been placed in charge of both
vessels, the remainder of the party, led by Mr Seaton, had landed and
captured an extensive slave factory, the occupants of which were
evidently preparing for the reception of a large coffle of slaves, and
set fire to it, burning the whole place to the ground.  And all this had
been accomplished at the cost of only two men slightly-wounded.  The
expedition had thus been completely successful, for the _Dona Inez_ was
the craft the capture of which had been its especial object, while we
had secured in addition a second prize and had destroyed a factory.

Immediately after breakfast the captain proceeded to make his
arrangements with regard to the prizes.  First of all, the crew of the
_Francesca_, were transferred to the _Dona Inez_, and, with the crew of
the latter vessel, safely confined in her hold; then the prize crews
were strengthened; and, finally, the brig was placed under the command
of Mr Fawcett.  Then the captain sent for me.

"Mr Grenvile," said he, "I am going to prove to you, by placing you in
command of the _Francesca_, that the loss of the _Dolores_ has in no
wise shaken my confidence in you.  I remember, of course, that you are
on the sick list; but I have consulted the surgeon relative to my
proposed arrangement, and he assures me that a few days at sea will be
far better for your health than remaining on the coast aboard the
_Shark_.  Your duties will be easy, for I intend to send with you Jones
and Simpson, the boatswain's and carpenter's mates, who were with you in
the _Dolores_, and a rather stronger crew than you had in that craft.
You may also have Mr Keene to keep you company.  You will sail in
company with the brig, which will be under the command of Mr Fawcett,
and since I learn that both craft, contrary to the ordinary usage of
slavers, are heavily armed, you are not likely to suffer molestation
this time on your voyage to Sierra Leone."

"Thank you, sir!" said I.  "I am very much obliged to you for your
continued confidence in me, which you shall find has not been misplaced;
and, as to my health, I really think I shall get well quicker at sea
than I should by remaining here on the coast.  May I have San Domingo
again as cabin steward, sir?"

"Why, yes, certainly, if you like, Mr Grenvile," answered the captain
good-naturedly.  "The fellow is rather a good man, I believe, and he
appears to have taken a particularly strong fancy to you.  By the way,
there is one thing that I omitted to mention, Mr Grenvile, and that is
that you will have to be your own navigator should you and the brig by
any chance part company, for Mr Freeman will accompany Mr Fawcett in
the brig.  But the master tells me that you are a very reliable
navigator; you therefore ought not to have any difficulty upon that
score.  And now you had better run away and turn yourself over to your
three-decker."

I dived down into the midshipmen's berth, and found my shipmate, Keene,
there also, although really he ought to have been on deck.

"Pass the word for San Domingo," said I to the sentry on duty outside.
And as the man duly passed the word, I turned to Keene and said:

"Now, then, young man, hurry up and get your kit ready as fast as you
please.  You are to come with me in the _Francesca_."

"No!" exclaimed the youth with incredulous delight.  "You don't really
mean it, do you, Grenvile?  You're only having me on."

"Indeed I am not," answered I.  "The skipper has just told me that I may
have you.  He thinks that a little real hard work in a small vessel will
do you a lot of good, and there I fully agree with him," I added grimly.

"Oh, hard work be hanged!" exclaimed the lad joyously.  "I'm not afraid
of hard work, as you very well know, Dick.  And it will be simply
glorious to get away from the taut discipline of the _Shark_ for a
little while, to say nothing of the possibility of another such
adventure as your last.  But a pirate won't have it all his own way this
time if he attempts to meddle with us, I can tell you, for the schooner
mounts eight long nines, and carries a long eighteen on her forecastle.
I say, Grenvile, can't we manage to have a little cruise on our own
account?  The skipper would forgive us, I'm sure, if we were lucky
enough to take in a prize or two."

"Not to be thought of, my friend," answered I severely.  "We are to make
the best of our way to Sierra Leone--the best of our way, do you
understand?  Besides, the brig and we are to sail in company; and
Fawcett won't stand any nonsense, even if I were disposed to listen to
your suggestion."

At this moment San Domingo came along.  "You want me, Mr Grenvile?" he
asked.

"Yes, San Domingo," said I.  "Get the kits of Mr Keene and myself
ready, and also your own, as quickly as possible.  We are all to go
aboard the schooner."

"Yes, massa, sartinly.  I hab um ready in nex' to no time," answered the
negro, with an expansive smile of joy irradiating his face.  "P'rhaps we
hab anoder adventure!  Who can say?" he muttered to himself.

It was getting well on toward noon when, both prizes having been
thoroughly overhauled, and such deficiencies as were discovered made
good from the stores of the _Shark_, Mr Fawcett and I formally took
over our own respective commands, and the three craft weighed and made
sail in company.

I confess that I felt in exceedingly buoyant spirits, and the pain of my
wounds was completely forgotten as, with young Keene beside me, I
stumped fore and aft on the short quarter-deck of the schooner and
keenly compared her behaviour with that of her bigger companions.  The
sea breeze was piping up strong, and there was enough sea running to
render the advantage all in favour of the two brigs; yet,
notwithstanding this, we were able to spare the _Shark_ our topgallant-
sail and still keep pace with her.  But, good as was the schooner, the
_Dona Inez_ was better; so much better, indeed, that, in order to avoid
running away from us, Fawcett was obliged not only to furl both
topgallant-sails, but also to take a single reef in both topsails,
while, even then, the brig persisted in creeping ahead, and had to be
constantly checked by keeping the weather leaches of her topsails a-
shiver.  She was undoubtedly a wonderful craft, and doubtless Fawcett
was extremely proud of her.  I fear that poor Captain Bentinck felt
somewhat disgusted at the indifferent figure that the _Shark_ was
cutting, compared with the other two craft, for he quite unexpectedly
made the signal to part company, fired a gun, and went in stays
preparatory to bearing away on a southerly course.  A few minutes later
San Domingo emerged from the companion with the news that luncheon was
ready.

"Very well," said I.  Then to Simpson, who had charge of the deck: "Keep
your eye on the commodore, Mr Simpson, and if he should signal, let me
know.  And, by the way, you might set the topgallant-sail; I think she
will bear it."

"Ay, ay, sir!" answered Simpson with a grin at the "Mr" which I had
given him.  "Away aloft there two hands and loose the to'ga'nt-sail.
Cast off the clewlines and buntlines, and see all ready to sheet home
and hoist away!"

Followed by Keene I dived through the companion, descended the ladder--
which was in reality a staircase,--and entered the little vessel's main
cabin.  This was the first time that either Keene or I had been below,
and as we passed through the doorway giving access to the apartment, and
looked round it, we began to understand the meaning of the negro's
ecstatic grin as he stood aside to permit us to enter.  The cabin was a
very roomy one for so small a vessel, being about fifteen feet long, and
about the same width at the fore end, tapering away aft, of course, in
accordance with the shape of the vessel.  It was not, however, the size
of the cabin so much that arrested our attention as the general effect
of extreme elegance which the apartment presented.  The man who was
responsible for its fitting up must have been an individual of
distinctly sybaritic tastes.  To begin with, the lockers that ran fore
and aft on either side were luxuriously soft and comfortable to sit
upon, and were upholstered in rich crimson velvet, with thickly-padded
backs of the same material, carried high enough to afford a soft cushion
for the back of the head of the sitters to rest upon.  They were wide
enough to form a most comfortable couch, and were evidently intended to
serve that purpose, for at each end they were furnished with a great
pile of richly embroidered silken cushions.  The lining of the cabin
above these couches, or lockers, was of bird's-eye maple, highly
polished, and divided up into panels by pilasters of polished satinwood,
the centre of each panel being occupied by a large circular port or
scuttle of very thick, clear glass, set in a stout gun-metal double
frame so arranged that the ports could be opened for the admission of
air.  Above these ports handsome rods of polished brass, with ornamented
ends, were screwed to the panelling, and from these rods depended
miniature curtains of crimson velvet, fringed with bullion, which could
be drawn when necessary to exclude the too ardent rays of the sun.  On
one side of the door in the fore bulkhead stood a very handsome
sideboard of polished satinwood, surmounted by a mirror in a massive
gilt frame worked into the semblance of a ship's cable, and on the other
stood an equally handsome bookcase, well filled with--as we afterwards
ascertained--beautifully bound books--romances, poems, and the like--in
the Spanish language.  The after bulkhead was adorned with a very fine
trophy, in the form of a many-rayed star, composed of weapons, such as
swords, pistols, daggers, and axes.  The skylight was very large,
occupying nearly half the area of that part of the deck which was over
the cabin, and in the centre of it hung a large and exceedingly handsome
lamp of solid silver, suspended by massive chains of the same metal,
while one end of the skylight was occupied by a barometer hung in
gimbals, and the other by a tell-tale compass.  Such an elegant little
apartment naturally demanded that all its appointments should
correspond, and so they did, for the table--which we afterwards found to
be made of solid walnut, polished to the brilliance of a mirror--was
covered with an immaculate tablecloth of snowy damask, upon which
glittered a table equipage of solid silver, cut glass, and dainty
porcelain, with a handsome silver centrepiece filled with recently cut
flowers, apparently gathered no later than the previous day in the
flower-clad forest on the margin of the river which we had just left.

We gasped with amazement--as well we might--at the sight of this little
interior, glowing and sparkling with its evidences of almost palatial
luxury, and seated ourselves in silence, for words completely failed us,
although it is not a very easy matter to reduce a British midshipman to
a condition of speechless astonishment.  Nor indeed did we long remain
in that abnormal state, for, after gazing about him for a moment with
open mouth and protruding eyes, Keene burst out with:

"Here, you, San Domingo, you black villain, don't stand there grinning
until the corners of your mouth reach back under your ears, but come
forward and explain yourself.  Where did you find all these things, eh?"

"Massa Keene," protested the negro, "it not right dat young gentleum
should call deir faithful servant a `black willain' after him hab work
hard to make um conf'ble and keep um bert' tidy aboard dat dirty old
_Shark_.  Mos' ungrateful to call black gentleum a willain after all dat
I has done for you.  You has hurt my feelin's, sah!"

"Have I?" said Jack.  "Well then, I'm sorry, San Domingo, and apologise
most profoundly and profusely and perpetually and peremptorily and--all
the other `pers' and `pros' that you can think of.  Now, how is that for
a salve to your wounded feelings, eh?"

"Dat all right, sah," answered the black.  "Quite proper dat one
gentleum should 'polergize to anoder.  I accep's your 'polergy, sah,
mos' gratefully, and will say no more 'bout it.  But it not pleasant,
sah, for to be called `black willain' after I hab take de trouble to do
all dat"--waving his hand toward the table--"for de pleasure and
satisfaction ob--"

I thought it time to interfere and put a stop to the negro's garrulity;
so I cut in with:

"Yes, that is all right, San Domingo; but Mr Keene has apologised most
fully and handsomely, so we may now regard the incident as closed.  At
the same time I would remind you that you have not yet replied to Mr
Keene's question as to where you found all these gorgeous table
appointments."

"Yes, sah, dat quite true, Mistah Grenvile," replied our sable
attendant.  "Well, sah, I find dem all in de steward's pantry--where
else?  Ah, gentleum, dis is wery different from de appearance ob de
table in de midshipmen's berth aboard de _Shark_, eh?  No tin cups and
plates here, sah; no rusty old bread barge; no battered old coffeepot;
no not'ing ob dat sort.  And I t'ink, gentleum, dat if you is pleased
wid de table 'pointments dat you will be equally so wid de grub dat I
shall hab de honour to place before you.  Dis luncheon is not'ing much,
just a fresh-cut ham"--lifting a dish-cover--"and a cold boiled
tongue"--lifting another.  "But dere is fine white biscuit, such as you
nebber see aboard de _Shark_, and on dat sideboard I hab a prime
cheese--"

"Yes, everything is most excellent, San Domingo," said I, again
interrupting the fellow.  "Now, Keene, what do you say?  Will you have
some ham, or some tongue, or a little of both?"

"Thanks!" answered Jack.  "I will take a great deal of both if you don't
mind, for somehow I've managed to find an enormous appetite."

Having finished our meal, we went on deck again.  We found that during
our absence below the breeze had moderated very considerably, to such an
extent, indeed, that Simpson had just sent a hand aloft to loose the
royal and main-topmast staysail, and another to cast loose the gaff-
topsail.  He was moved thereto, no doubt, by the fact that the brig,
which had fallen somewhat astern of us, was also making sail.  We had
acquired the habit of regarding the _Shark_ as a decidedly fast ship,
but the manner in which the _Dona Inez_ and our own little schooner slid
through the water was a revelation to us all, especially when the wind
fell quite light, as it did toward the close of the afternoon.  Then,
indeed, when our speed had dwindled to about four knots, and our canvas
collapsed at every roll of the vessel for lack of wind to fill it, we
were able to hold our own with the brig; while still later, when the
wind had fallen so light that the horizon had become invisible and the
oil-smooth surface of the ocean showed scarcely a wrinkle in its satin-
smooth folds to indicate that there was still a faint movement of the
atmosphere, we gradually drew ahead of our consort, at the rate of about
half a knot per hour, and even contrived to retain command of our little
barkie, and keep her head pointed the right way, when the brig had begun
to box the compass.

It continued calm until shortly after midnight that night, when a faint
breathing came creeping up to us from the eastward, to which we spread
our studding-sails, and, an hour later, we were bowling merrily along at
a speed of nine knots.  The wind not only held through the night, but
freshened with the sunrise, and throughout that day and the succeeding
night our speed never fell below eleven knots, while for an hour or so,
when it breezed up especially strong, our log showed that we were doing
close upon fourteen.

With the dawn of the third day after we had parted company with the
_Shark_ we found ourselves about two miles distant from our consort,
both vessels steering to the north-westward, with the wind well over our
starboard quarter, and our starboard studding-sails set.  The wind was
blowing a moderate breeze, there was a long but very regular sea
running, and we were doing ten knots very comfortably, the little
_Francesca_, sliding over the long liquid hills and down into the broad
valleys as easily and buoyantly as a sea gull.  We in the schooner were
showing every rag we could spread, but the brig had her royals stowed,
in order that she might not run away from us.

At seven o'clock San Domingo entered my cabin with a cup of chocolate,
informed me as to the state of the weather, the whereabouts of the brig,
and so on, and intimated that it was time for me to turn out if I wished
to indulge in my usual luxury of a salt-water bath under the head-pump.
I accordingly tumbled out, and, going on deck, made my way forward along
the heaving planks into the eyes of the little vessel.  I was just about
to place myself under the clear sparkling stream of salt-water that
gushed from the spout of the pump when the sound of a loud snap overhead
caused me to look aloft, and I saw that the royal halyard had parted,
and that the yard was sagging down with its own weight, and the sail
bellying out with the pressure of the wind in it.  Jones, the acting
boatswain, who had charge of the deck, instantly observed the trifling
mishap, and shouted an order for the sail to be temporarily clewed up,
and for a hand to go aloft and bend the halyard afresh.  Meanwhile I
proceeded to take my bath, and was giving myself a vigorous towelling
afterwards, when the man who had gone aloft hailed the deck with the cry
of:

"Sail ho! about two points before the starboard beam."

"What does she look like?" demanded the boatswain.

"She's a tidy-sized brigantine or schooner, sir, for I can see the head
of her topgallant-sail and gaff-topsail.  She's steerin' pretty much the
same way as ourselves, by the look of her."

"Very well, that'll do.  Look alive with that royal halyard there.  We
don't want the commodore to signal, askin' us how long we're goin' to
take over the job."

"I'll have all ready to sway away in less than a minute, sir; it's been
rather a awk'ard job," answered the man.

"Mr Jones," I shouted, "be good enough to signal the commodore that
there is a strange sail in the northern board, will you?"

"Ay, ay, sir!" answered Jones; and he dived below for the signal book,
which was kept in the main cabin.  A minute later we had temporarily
hauled down our main-topmast staysail, to permit a clear view of our
flags, and were busily exchanging signals with the brig.  Meanwhile,
having dried myself, I went below to dress.

Presently a heavy footstep sounded on the companion ladder and a bunch
of horny knuckles rapped at my state-room door.  "Come in," I cried, and
as the door opened Jones poked his head in.

"Commodore's signalled us to haul our wind half a p'int, sir," he
reported.

"Very good, Mr Jones; have the goodness to do so," I said, and the
boatswain vanished.

Upon returning to the deck after the completion of my toilet I found
that the brig had, like ourselves, hauled-up half a point, and set her
royals, with the result that she was slightly increasing her distance
from us.  This change, slight though it was, in the course of the two
vessels, caused the stranger and ourselves gradually to approach each
other on lines that converged at a very acute angle, and I surmised that
Fawcett had set his royals with the twofold object of increasing the
speed of his approach toward the stranger, and of avoiding the awakening
of any suspicion on the part of that stranger which the sight of a ship
with her royals stowed in such moderate weather might be likely to
arouse.

By midday we had raised the stranger sufficiently to enable us to see
the whole of her royal and just the head of her topgallant-sail from the
deck, while from our royal-yard the whole of her canvas was visible down
to the top half of her foresail; we were therefore in a position to
pronounce not only that she was a brigantine, but also that she was a
slashing big craft, probably quite as big as the _Dona Inez_.  As the
afternoon wore on, however, we seemed to be raising her no higher, and I
came at length to the conclusion that, like ourselves, she had slightly
hauled her wind, thus manifesting a distinct if not very strongly marked
desire to avoid any closer acquaintance with us, which, in its turn,
went far to confirm me in a suspicion which had already arisen within my
mind that she was a slaver, probably from the Bonny or the Gaboon, with
a cargo of "black ivory" on board.  All the afternoon I maintained a
close watch upon the commodore, with the aid of the splendid telescope
which we had found aboard the schooner, momentarily expecting him to
make some signal which would indicate that he shared my suspicions; but
none came, and at length it dawned upon me that he was purposely
abstaining from holding any communication with me, lest by doing so he
should strengthen any suspicion which the stranger might be entertaining
as to our character.  But I noticed that at eight bells in the afternoon
watch he again altered his course, hauling up another point; and without
receiving any signal from him I promptly did the same.

That we were gradually overhauling the chase was evident from the fact
that we were slowly raising her, while she was unable to head-reach upon
us; and at sunset we could see the foot of her topsail from the deck
while she had not altered her bearing from us by so much as a quarter
point since we had last hauled our wind.  And if we in the _Francesca_
were gaining upon her, the _Dona Inez_ was doing so in a still more
marked degree, that craft being, at the time last-mentioned, quite eight
miles ahead of us, and about two points on our weather bow.  The
question now arose in my mind whether she would endeavour to dodge us
during the night?  She would find it exceedingly difficult to do so, for
there was now a good moon in the sky, affording sufficient light to
enable a man with keen eyes to keep a craft at her distance from us in
sight without very much trouble; but, on the other hand, there was a
very heavy mass of cloud banking up to windward and fast overspreading
the sky.  This would obscure the moon later, and perhaps for a time cut
off enough of her light to give the stranger a chance, should he wish to
avail himself of it.  I therefore sent one of the keenest-sighted men I
had with me up on the topsail-yard as soon as it began to grow dusk,
with instructions to keep his eye on the stranger and immediately report
to me should he happen to lose sight of her.  For we knew, both from
hearsay and experience, that the slavers were as wily as foxes, and were
in the habit of adopting all sorts of queer expedients to evade pursuit.
Not content, therefore, with sending a hand aloft to watch the
stranger, I maintained an almost continuous watch upon her myself from
the deck with the aid of the _Francesca's_ excellent telescope, which
was both a day and a night glass.

Meanwhile the cloud bank continued steadily to overspread the heavens,
and at length obscured the moon, shutting off so much of her light that
it immediately became difficult in the extreme to discern the chase any
longer, even with the assistance of the telescope; and I was not in the
least surprised when, a minute or two later, the look-out aloft hailed
to say that he had lost sight of her.  But I had not; I could still see
her through the glass, although with momentarily increasing difficulty
as the pall of cloud crept onward across the sky, ever cutting off more
and still more of the moon's light; and at length the moment arrived
when I also was compelled to admit to myself that I could no longer see
her.  I removed the telescope from my eye for a minute or two to give my
strained and smarting eyeballs a rest, and closed my eyelids in order to
completely exclude from them even such dim and uncertain light as still
remained; then, knowing exactly where to look for the stranger, I once
more pointed the instrument in that direction, searching the horizon
closely and carefully for the smallest blur that might betray her.  But
the effort was useless; she had vanished.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

AN EXCITING CHASE.

Now arose the question: What has become of the chase; had we simply lost
sight of her in the growing obscurity, and was she still steering the
same course as when last seen, or had her captain availed himself of
that obscurity to put in practice some trick in order to give us the
slip?

I brought the telescope to bear upon the _Dona Inez_, in the hope of
gathering from her actions some clue as to whether or not she still held
the chase in view; she was carrying on, holding to her original course,
and the inference to be drawn from this was that those aboard could
still see the stranger.  But, even as I looked, a string of lanterns
soared up to her peak, from which position they were hidden from the
chase by the intervention of the brig's head-sails, and when the signal
was at length complete I found, as I had quite expected, that it was a
question as to whether we still held the stranger in view.  This signal
I answered in the negative, by means of a whip from the lee lower yard-
arm, keeping the lanterns quite low, in the hope that they would thus
escape the observation of the chase, and I then got a second signal from
the commodore, which read:

"Steer as at present for one hour, then, failing further orders, haul
wind to north-east."

This signal I acknowledged in like manner as the first, and, while doing
so, saw that the brig had taken in her studding-sails and hauled her
wind.  I noted the time, and found it to be close upon seven o'clock.
Half an hour later, while Keene and I were below at dinner, the faint
boom of a distant gun came floating down the open skylight to our ears,
and Simpson, who had charge of the deck, poked his head down through the
opening to make the report:

"Commodore signalling again, sir!"

Snatching the signal book from the locker upon which it had been thrown,
I dashed upon deck, and presently, by the light of the binnacle lamps,
deciphered the signal as follows:

"Tack to south-east."

"Right!" said I, "answer it.  In studding-sails, Mr Simpson, and then
heave about on the port tack.  Keep your eye on the commodore, and also
keep a bright look-out to windward for any sign of the chase."

By the time that I got below again, and was once more seated at table,
the schooner was in stays, and immediately afterwards the long, easy,
floating and gliding movement of a vessel running off the wind was
exchanged for the quick, violent, jerking plunge and heavy lee lurches
of the same craft driven under a heavy pressure of canvas into a high
and steep head-sea.  Ten minutes later I was again on deck.

"I was just thinkin', sir, of takin' in the to'garns'l," remarked
Simpson as I joined him on the weather side of our tiny quarter-deck,
where he was engaged in a futile endeavour to avoid the heavy showers of
spray that were now flying over our weather bow and as far aft as the
mainmast.  "She's got a good deal more than she can comfortably carry,
and there's nothin' to be gained by whippin' the sticks out of her.  I
believe she'd travel quite as fast, and a good deal easier, if that
to'garns'l was stowed, sir."

"Any sign of the chase yet, Mr Simpson?" said I.

"No, sir, not when I looked last, there wasn't," answered the carpenter.
"The mischief of it is that there's no knowin' where to look for her,
and it's as much as a man can do to make out the commodore in this
murk."

"Where is the commodore?" demanded I.

"Out there, dead to wind'ard of us, and about four mile away," answered
Simpson.  "Better take in the to'garns'l, hadn't we, sir?" he continued,
cocking his eye aloft to where in the dim light the spar could be
faintly seen whipping and buckling like a fishing rod at every mad
plunge and heave of the sorely-overdriven little vessel.  That she was
being overdriven was perfectly evident, not only from the tremendous
quantity of water that she was shipping forward at every furious dive
into the head-sea, but from the steep angle of her decks, which sloped
at an inclination of fully forty-five degrees with every lee roll, and
from the cataracts of green water that poured in over her lee rail upon
every such occasion; her decks, indeed, to leeward were so flooded that
no man could have passed along them to leeward without imminent risk of
being washed overboard.

"Yes," said I at last, "clew up your topgallant-sail, Mr Simpson, and
the topsail also while you are about it.  You are right, the ship is
being over pressed, and I believe that what we may lose by taking the
square canvas off her will be more than made up to us by our gain in
weatherliness.  She will look up nearly a point higher under her fore-
and-aft canvas only, and go along very nearly as fast."

Simpson needed no second bidding.  He thought as I did on the matter,
and the result proved us correct, for while there was no perceptible
diminution in the schooner's speed due to the loss of her square canvas,
she looked higher and went along much more easily and comfortably than
she had done before, "Now for a look at the commodore," said I, when we
had snugged down the little vessel, and I took the telescope from the
beckets in which it hung in the companion way.

Yes, there she was, dead to windward of us, driving along, as I could
just make out, under her main topgallant-sail; but all was perfectly
dark on board her, and there was no sign of the slaver that I could see.
But I presumed that they had her in sight from the brig, or we should
have heard something from the latter.  For it was at this time very
dark, and blowing strong, and the conditions generally were such that
the matter of as little as even two or three miles might make all the
difference between seeing and not seeing the stranger.

Eight bells came, the watch was called.  Jones, the boatswain, relieved
Simpson, and the latter, bidding me good-night, went below.  I explained
to Jones our reasons for taking the square canvas off the ship, and he
was graciously pleased to express his approval.

"Yes, sir," he said, "I believe you've done the right thing.  Even now
the little hooker have got all that she can comfortably carry, and if
you was to pile more on to her you'd do no good, but only strain her all
to pieces, and open her seams.  The fact is, Mr Grenvile, that these
here shallow, beamy craft ain't intended to sail on their sides; bury
'em below their sheer-strake and they begins to drag and to sag at once.
We're doin' quite as well as can be reasonably expected in such a sea
as this, as is proved by the way that we're keepin' pace with the
commodore.  I'll just take his bearin's, for the fun of the thing, and
see how much he head-reaches on us durin' the next hour."  Saying which
he trotted aft to the binnacle and very carefully took the bearings of
the brig, which we both made to be exactly east-south-east.

The hour sped, with no sight or sign of the chase to cheer us, and then
Jones and I went to the binnacle to take the bearings of the _Dona Inez_
once more.  The boatswain was a long time getting the bearing to his
satisfaction, for the little vessel was leaping and plunging most
furiously, and the compass-card was none too steady in the bowl; but at
length he stepped back from the binnacle with an air of triumph,
exclaiming:

"There, Mr Grenvile, what d'ye make of that, sir?"

Whereupon I, in turn, stepped up to the binnacle, and with equal care
took the bearing.

"I make it east and by south, half south," said I.

"And east and by south, half south it is!" answered Jones exultantly.
"Which means, sir, that we've head-reached on the brig to the extent of
half a p'int within this last hour, and that, too, in a breeze and a sea
so heavy that the brig ought to walk away from us hand over hand.  Well,
I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself; but seein' is
believin', I have heard say.  And more than that," he continued, taking
up the glass and levelling it at the _Dona Inez_, "I'm blest if I don't
believe as we're weatherin' on her too.  Take this glass, Mr Grenvile,
and tell me whether you don't think as we've drawed up a bit closer to
the commodore since eight bells struck."

To humour the fellow I took the telescope, as requested, and certainly
when I got the brig focused in the lens her image appeared to be more
distinct and also perceptibly larger than it had been when I last looked
at her.

The hours sped on without change of any sort, except that when at length
midnight arrived there was no longer any room to doubt that, since we
had taken in our square canvas, and thus relieved the overdriven little
hooker, we had steadily, if somewhat slowly, head-reached and weathered
upon the commodore; and then, as there seemed to be no prospect of any
further news from our consort that night, I went below and turned in,
leaving instructions that I was to be called at once, without fail,
should anything occur to render necessary my presence on deck, or should
the commodore exhibit any further signals.  In less than five minutes I
was fast asleep.

I was awakened next morning by the loud knocking of the steward at my
state-room door.

"Six bells, Mistah Grenvile, sah; and here is your coffee," announced
San Domingo, as he stood balancing the cup and saucer in his hand and
swaying to the still lively movements of the schooner, although it
struck me at once that she was not nearly so lively in her motions as
she had been when I turned in at midnight.  I raised myself in my bunk
and peered through the closed scuttle that was let into the side of the
ship.  The little craft was still lying over far enough to cause the sea
to wash up over the glass and obscure the view occasionally, but there
were nevertheless intervals of quite long enough duration to enable me
to note that the morning was overcast and lowering, with a decided
thundery look in the sky, and that the sea had gone down very
considerably while I had been lying asleep.

"Well, San Domingo," I said, "are there any signs of the chase?  And
where is the commodore?"

"De chase, sah, am about four mile to wind'ard ob us, bearin' about half
a point abaft de beam, and de commodore am 'bout a mile and a half
astern of us."

"Astern of us--the commodore astern of us, did you say?" exclaimed I
incredulously.

"Yes, sah," answered the black, quite unmoved, "dead astern ob us.  We
hab both weadered and head-reached on him durin' de night."

"Has he made any signals since I came below?" asked I.

"Not dat I am aware ob," answered the fellow.  "But, if massa wish, I
will go on deck and ask Mistah Simpson."

"No, never mind," said I.  "No doubt Mr Simpson would have called me
had such been the case.  What canvas are we under?"

"All plain sail, to de royal, sah."

"Very well, that will do," said I, taking the cup and draining it.
"Find me my bath towel, San Domingo, and then you may go."

A minute later I was on deck, still in my sleeping rig, and looking
about me.  The weather was pretty much as I had judged it to be from the
glimpse that I had caught through my state-room port.  As San Domingo
had said, the _Dona Inez_ was about a mile and a half so dead astern of
us that her two masts were in one, while, in the precise position which
the negro had indicated, there lay a fine, spanking brigantine thrashing
along under a perfect cloud of canvas to her royal, which, by the way,
appeared to have as much hoist, and nearly as much canvas on it, as our
topsail.

"Nothing to report, sir," said Simpson, coming up to me as I emerged
from the companion.  "We made out the chase about two bells this
morning; but I did not call you, sir, as she showed no signs of shiftin'
her helm.  And the commodore haven't said a word all night.  I reckon
he'll be a bit surprised when he sees where we are."

"To tell you the truth, Simpson, I am `a bit surprised' myself," said I.
"She is a wonderful little craft to have beaten the _Inez_ as she has
done, and that, too, in a strong breeze."  And, turning away, I went
forward and took my usual salt-water bath.

"Now," I meditated, as I took up a position beneath the spout of the
head-pump, and signed to the man in charge to get to work, "the rule in
chasing when one is abreast, but to the leeward of the chase, is to
tack.  I don't like to tack without instructions from my superior
officer, because I don't know what his plans may be, and he may have
some scheme of his own for the circumventing of our friend yonder; but
if I do not hear anything from him by the time that I am ready to go
below and dress I will just take the small liberty of asking for
instructions.  For of course the brigantine is quite aware by this time
that the brig and we are running in couples, therefore there need be no
further squeamishness on my part as to an interchange of signals between
the brig and myself."

My douche at an end, I walked aft again, and, pausing at the head of the
companion ladder, said to Simpson:

"Mr Simpson, be good enough to get out the flags and--"

The carpenter was balancing himself upon the dancing deck as I spoke,
with the telescope at his eye, looking at the brig, and I had got so far
in my speech when he interrupted me with the exclamation:

"Signal from the commodore, sir!"

"What is it?"  I asked.

He read out the flags to me, and I said:

"All right! acknowledge it."  And I dived below into my cabin, where I
at once turned up the signal in the code book.  It consisted of the one
word "Tack!"

Hastily closing the book again, I dashed up the companion ladder and
shouted to Simpson:

"Mr Simpson, 'bout ship at once, if you please.  And when you are round
upon the other tack, and have coiled down, let the men clear away the
long gun on the forecastle and get up a few rounds of ammunition.  We
may perhaps get a chance to have a slap at that fellow a little later."

"Ay, ay, sir!  Hands 'bout ship!" roared Simpson.  And as I descended
again to my state-room to dress, I heard him give the order to "down
helm".  The next moment the little hooker rose to an even keel, with a
terrific slatting of canvas and whipping of relaxed sheets as she came
head to wind; then, after a vicious plunge or two, head-on, into the
long seas, she paid off on the opposite tack and heeled over to port.
The shivering and slatting of the canvas, with the accompanying tremor
of the hull, ceased, and the long, easy, floating plunges and soarings
were resumed as she again settled easily into her stride.

"Long gun all ready, sir," reported Simpson when at length I stepped out
on deck fully dressed.  "Shall we try a shot?"

"Too far off," said I; "we should not get anywhere near her.  Still,
yes, you may waste a charge just by way of letting the fellow understand
that we are in earnest.  Give the muzzle a good elevation, and so aim
that he may see that we want to pitch a shot across his forefoot.  And
at the same time let him see the colour of our bunting."

The shot was accordingly fired and our ensign hoisted; but, so far as
the former was concerned, we might as well have saved our powder, for
the ball, although very well aimed, fell a long way short.  But it had
the effect of causing her to show her colours, which proved to be
French.  We fired no more, for there was nothing to be gained by wasting
ammunition, and it was quite clear that the stranger had no intention of
heaving-to until absolutely compelled to do so.  We held on, therefore,
uneventfully, until we were fairly in the brigantine's wake, and then
tacked again, without waiting for orders from the commodore.  It was by
this time eight o'clock; the watch was called, the boatswain came aft to
relieve Simpson, and San Domingo appeared, with the announcement that
breakfast was ready.  Before going below, however, I ordered young Keene
to bring up my sextant, with which I very carefully measured the angle
between the brigantine's main-topmast head and the top of her transom.
When I had secured this I clamped the instrument and laid it aside for
reference later.  Then I instructed Jones to pick out the best helmsman
he could find in his watch and send him aft to the tiller, explaining my
reason for so doing.

"After our performance of last night," said I, "I think we need have no
fear as to our ability to overhaul that brigantine.  But I want to do
more than that; I want not only to overhaul her, but also to eat out to
windward of her, so cutting off her escape in that direction.  And, to
accomplish this, and thus bring her the sooner to action, if she means
to fight, we must have a thoroughly good man at the tiller, one who will
let her go along clean full, yet at the same time coax and humour the
little barkie every inch to windward that he can."

"Yes, sir, I perfectly understands," answered the boatswain.  "I knows
exactly what you wants, Mr Grenvile, and I've got the very man for the
job.  I'll see to it, sir."  And he took the tiller rope out of the
hands of the man who was steering, giving him instructions to "send Bill
Bateman aft."

I found young Keene in high feather at the prospect of a tussle with so
formidable an opponent as the brigantine promised to be, and we
dispatched our breakfast in double-quick time, after which my
lighthearted companion got out his pistols and proceeded to clean and
load them carefully in anticipation of the moment when they might be
needed.  And when this was done he went forward to supervise personally
the sharpening of his sword by the armourer.  Meanwhile I took my
sextant on deck, and had another squint through it at the chase.  It was
satisfactory to find that we were overhauling her rapidly.  Then, having
secured an observation of the sun for the determination of our
longitude, I gave orders to clear for action, an operation which, in the
case of so small a hooker as the _Francesca_, was a very simple matter.
We had just completed all our preparations comfortably when Jones called
my attention to the fact that the commodore was in stays, and presently
she was round on the other tack and heading well up for us.  But so far
had we gained on her that, when at length we crossed her hawse, there
was quite two miles of clear water between us.  I commented upon this
singular fact to Jones, remembering that when we parted company with the
_Shark_ the _Dona Inez_ was distinctly the better sailer of the two,
while now we were beating her in her own weather.

"It's not very difficult to understand, sir," answered Jones.  "The fact
is that then we didn't know this here little beauty, and how to get the
best out of her, while now we does.  That's all that there is about it."

And, as I could not otherwise understand the phenomenon, I was obliged
to accept that explanation, and be satisfied with it.

Six bells arrived, by which time the commodore was once more in our
wake, having tacked again, while we had clawed out about half a mile to
windward of the chase, and drawn so close to her that I determined to
try the effect of another shot from the long eighteen upon her.  The gun
was accordingly reloaded, carefully trained, and the schooner luffed
sufficiently to bring the gun to bear clear of our head gear.  At the
proper moment the gunner, who was squinting along the sights, gave the
order to fire.  The linstock was applied, the gun exploded, shaking the
little vessel to her keel, and as the helm was put up to keep her away
again, all eyes were strained to note the effect of the shot.  It struck
the water fair and true close astern of the chase, but without doing any
damage, so far as we could see.  But it was soon apparent that it had
fallen too close to her to be pleasant, for the next moment her fore-
rigging was alive with men, who swarmed up on to her yards as she put
her helm up and kept away upon a south-westerly course, with the wind
well over her port quarter.  And that her skipper was a taut hand, who
kept his men well up to the mark, was immediately afterwards evidenced
by the wonderful man-o'-war-like rapidity with which they rigged out
their studding-sail booms, and set a whole cloud of studding-sails on
their port side.

"Up helm and keep her away!"  I shouted as I saw what the brigantine was
at.  "Away aloft there and out booms--get the larboard stu'n'sails upon
her as quick as you please, lads.  Steady as you go," to the man at the
helm.  "How's her head?"

"Sou'-west and by west, half west, sir," answered the man.

"Keep her at that," said I.  The course which we were then steering was
about half a point higher than that of the brigantine, and by following
this I hoped to drop into her wake again in due time without losing any
ground.

We were now once more running off the wind, and the quick, jerky motions
of the schooner had given place to a series of long, easy, buoyant,
floating movements, much more conducive to accurate shooting than those
which had preceded them.  I therefore resolved to try the effect of at
least one more shot from the long gun, especially as it became apparent
that the brig had at last found herself upon her best point of sailing,
and was gradually creeping up to us, while I was anxious to have to
myself the honour and glory of bringing the brigantine to action without
the assistance of the commodore.  I therefore gave orders to reload the
forecastle gun, and to aim high, with the object of disabling the chase
aloft, and so clipping her wings.  The gun was accordingly made ready
and, at the proper moment, fired, the gunner waiting until a surge had
swept under the little vessel and she was just settling into the trough
in the rear of it, with her stern down in the hollow and her bows
pointing skyward.  Again came the flash, the jarring concussion, the jet
of white smoke; and a moment later young Keene, who, in his excitement,
had scrambled half-way up the fore-rigging, to note the effect of the
shot better, gave a cheer of exultation.

"Hurrah!" he yelled; "bravo, Thompson! well shot--clean through his
topsail, and a near shave of clipping the topmast out of her."

We presently fired again, this time cutting the royal stunsail sheet and
setting the sail violently flapping, with the result that it had to be
taken in before the sheet could be spliced.  But we were not to be
allowed to have matters all our own way very much longer, for while we
were reloading the long gun a jet of flame, followed by a puff of white
smoke, like a little wad of white cotton wool, suddenly leaped from the
brigantine's stern port, and a 9-pound shot came whistling overhead,
neatly bringing down our fore topgallant-mast, with all attached, on its
way.  We were now in a very pretty pickle, forward, for it was our wings
that were clipped, much more effectually than we had clipped those of
the chase; and now, too, the commodore came romping up to us, hand over
hand.  We were, however, not yet beaten, by a long way, and while a good
strong gang was at once sent aloft to clear away the wreck, we on deck
kept up a brisk and persistent fire upon the chase with our long gun.
But whether it was that Thompson's hand had lost its cunning, or that
the flapping and banging of the wreckage overhead disconcerted him and
spoiled his aim, certain it is that we made no more hits just then.

By the time that our wreckage had been cleared away, and everything made
snug aloft once more, the commodore had forged ahead of us, and had
begun to open fire, the brigantine returning his fire briskly from one
stern port while she peppered us from the other.  And presently a
further misfortune, and this time a very serious one, overtook us, it
happening that we both fired at the same instant, and while our shot
clipped off the brigantine's topmast-studding-sail boom like a carrot,
close in by the boom-iron, his shot passed through our topsail, so
severely wounding the topmast on its way that, before anything could be
done to save the spar, it snapped short off about half-way up its
length; and there we were again, hampered with a further lot of wreckage
to clear away.

Meanwhile the commodore, profiting by the damage that we had inflicted
upon the brigantine, rapidly overhauled her.  The two craft maintained a
brisk fire upon each other until, the _Dona Inez_ having ranged up
alongside the chase, they both took in their studding-sails and went at
it, hammer and tongs, broadside to broadside.  This continued until, the
brig's fore-topmast having been shot away, she broached-to and ran foul
of the brigantine, to which she promptly made herself fast by means of
her grappling irons.  And the next moment the cessation of the gun fire,
the flashing of cutlass blades in the sun, and the popping of pistols
told us that the boarders were at work.

"Avast there with the long gun!"  I cried.  "Boarders, stand by!  Mr
Keene, have the goodness to take charge.  Stand by your halyards, men,
and be ready to settle away everything, fore and aft, as we range
alongside.  Stand by also with your grappling irons.  Mr Keene, we will
range up on the brigantine's port side."

"Oh, Dick, you might let me go with you, old chap; I've got my sword
sharpened and my pistols ready expressly for the purpose of boarding!"
pleaded Jack.

"Can't possibly, my dear boy," answered I.  "Somebody must look after
the schooner, and you're that somebody; so please say no more about it.
Now, lads," I continued, "we must make short work of this business; for
if these craft lie alongside each other for ten minutes, in this sea,
they will grind each other to pieces, and we shall all go to the bottom
together.  So strike, and strike hard, the moment that you find
yourselves on the enemy's decks.  Mr Jones, tell off six men to remain
in the schooner with Mr Keene."

Five minutes later and we were within half a cable's-length of the
brigantine, on the decks of which a fierce and stubborn conflict was
still raging; and it appeared to me that the commodore and his party
were finding all their work cut out to avoid being driven back on the
deck of their own ship.

"Settle away fore and aft," I cried.  "Main and fore halyards, peak and
throat; jib halyards, let go; man your downhauls; and then muster in the
waist, starboard side.  Steady, Jack, starboard you may; steady, so.
Now stand by your grapnels--heave!  Hurrah lads, follow me, and take
care that none of you drop between the two hulls!"

The next instant we were all leaping and scrambling, pell-mell, in over
the bulwarks of the brigantine and leaping down on her decks, which were
already slippery with blood and cumbered with killed and wounded.
Fortunately, by boarding on the brigantine's port side, as we did, we
took her crew in their rear, which so greatly disconcerted them--while
our appearance imparted fresh courage to the commodore's party--that
after vainly striving to stand against us for nearly a minute, some
flung down their weapons and cried for quarter, while the remainder made
a clean bolt of it forward and darted down the fore scuttle, which we
promptly closed upon them.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

SIERRA LEONE.

The brigantine was ours, and, my first thought being for the safety of
all three of the craft, I at once gave orders for the grappling irons to
be cast loose, and for the brig and schooner to haul off to a safe
distance.  Then, looking round the deck of the brigantine, I noticed
Freeman, the acting master of the _Dona Inez_, away aft, with his coat
off, and one of his own men binding up the wounded arm of the officer.
I hastened aft.

"Not seriously hurt, Freeman, I hope?" said I.

"Hullo, Grenvile, that you?" he returned.  "No, thanks; rather painful,
but not very serious, I hope.  By Jove, but those Frenchmen fought
stubbornly; if you had not come up in the very nick of time it would
have gone pretty badly with us, I can tell you.  You seem to have come
off scot free, by the look of you."

"Yes, I am all right, thanks--not a scratch," said I.  "But where is Mr
Fawcett?  I don't see him aboard here."

"No," answered Freeman, "poor chap! he is below, aboard the brig, and I
am afraid it is a bad job with him.  The last broadside that this craft
fired into us was at pretty close quarters, as you perhaps noticed, and
the skipper was very severely wounded by a large splinter--abdomen torn
open.  Hamilton, the assistant surgeon, is greatly afraid that it will
go badly with him."

"By Jove," said I, "I am awfully sorry to hear that!  Could he see me,
do you think?"

"I really don't know," answered Freeman; "Hamilton is the man of whom
you must ask that question.  Your best plan, I think, will be to go
aboard as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, I suppose you will take charge
and make all necessary arrangements."

"Certainly," I said.  "You, of course, will take command of the brig,
and Keene must take command here, with just enough men to enable him to
handle the ship, which, by the by, has a full cargo of slaves aboard, I
perceive."  There could be no possible doubt as to this last, for there
was a thin, bluish-white vapour of steam curling up through the gratings
which closed the hatchways, the effluvium emanating from which was
almost unendurable.

"You," I continued, "had better get back aboard the brig and set your
crew to work to repair your damages aloft as quickly as possible--all
other damage must remain until we arrive at Sierra Leone.  I will do the
same as soon as I have seen the prisoners properly secured.  Our own
damages are but slight, and as soon as I have put matters in train
aboard the schooner I will send Simpson and a party aboard here to see
to things, while I go aboard you to hear what Hamilton has to say.  But
we shall have to use the brigantine's boats, I expect, to get back to
our own craft.  I have not left enough hands with Keene to enable him to
send a boat."

This arrangement we duly carried out; but, owing to one delay and
another, it was nearly three o'clock that afternoon when I was able to
pay my promised visit to the brig, by which time Hamilton had coopered
up all his most serious cases and was able to spare me a moment.

"Ah, Grenvile," he exclaimed, as I descended into the brig's cabin,
which, by the way, was almost as sumptuously arranged as that of the
_Francesca_, and which the medico was then using as a surgery.  "I am
glad to see you and to learn that you don't need any of my delicate
attentions!  The skipper is very anxious to see you, poor chap, but he
would not signal for you to come aboard, as Freeman told him that you
intended coming as soon as possible, but that, in the meantime, you had
your hands pretty full looking after things in general.  This affair has
been as sharp a thing of its kind as I have ever known, I think."

"And how is he now, Hamilton?  Do you think he can see me without
detriment to himself?"  I asked.

"Certainly, if he is not asleep, as to which I will investigate," was
the reply.  "It will not harm him to see you," continued Hamilton; "on
the contrary, it may do him good.  For I fancy that he wishes to arrange
certain matters with you, and when he has done that he will perhaps be
able to compose himself and give himself a chance.  Not that I think
there is much hope for him; I tell you that candidly.  But for pity's
sake don't let your manner to him betray the fact that we are taking a
very serious view of his case.  If we can get him ashore, and into the
hospital alive, he may perhaps pull round; so pray shove ahead with your
repairs as fast as possible, and carry on like fury when you fill away
again."

"Trust me," said I.  "If `carrying on' will _get_ him ashore alive, I'll
do it.  And now perhaps you had better ascertain whether I can see him
or not, for the sooner I am free again to look after matters the sooner
shall we be able to make a start."

Without further loss of time Hamilton tiptoed to the door of the
skipper's state-room, and, having very gently turned the handle and
looked in, beckoned me to enter.

"Mr Grenvile to see you, sir," said the surgeon, ushering me in.

"Ah, Mr Grenvile, come in; I am glad to see you," said the poor fellow,
extending his hand to me.  "Make room for yourself on that sofa locker
there; never mind my clothes, pitch them down anywhere, I shall never
want them again."

"Oh, I don't know, sir!" said I, affecting to misunderstand him, as I
took the garments one by one and hung them upon hooks screwed to the
bulkhead.  "This coat, for instance," said I, holding it up, "will clean
very well, I should think, but the waistcoat and trousers--well, I'm
afraid you will need new ones, for these seem to be past repairing."

"You misunderstand me, Grenvile," he said.  "But never mind, we'll not
talk about that just now; I have other and more important matters that I
wish to speak about.  And first of all, as to our losses, I fear they
have been very heavy, have they not?"

"No, sir," said I.  "On the contrary, they are very light indeed,
compared with those of the enemy.  We have lost only five killed and
eleven wounded, your case being the most serious of the latter, and
Hamilton tells me that he hopes to have all hands of you up and as
hearty as ever within the month."

"Does he--does he really say that?  God be thanked for that good news!"
exclaimed the poor fellow with more energy than I could have expected
from a man presenting such a ghastly appearance as he did.  For his
cheeks were sunken, and white as chalk, and his lips were quite blue.
"The fact is, Grenvile," he continued, "that I don't want to die yet, if
I can help it; not that I am not prepared to die, if it be God's will to
take me, for, thanks be to Him, I am ready to go at any moment, if the
call should come, as all men should be, especially soldiers and sailors,
who are peculiarly liable to receive their summons at a moment's notice.
No, it is not that, but I should like to live a little longer, if it
might be so, for--for many reasons, the chief of which is that I have a
wife at home--whose--whose heart--"

The dear fellow was getting a little excited, I saw, and that, of
course, would be bad for him, so I cut in:

"Never fear, sir," I exclaimed cheerily.  "You will ride this squall out
all right, I've not a doubt of it.  You must not judge by your present
feelings, you know.  Just now you are exhausted with loss of blood and
the pain of your wound, but I intend to carry on and get you ashore and
in hospital within the next three days, please God, and once you are out
of this close cabin, and in a nice airy ward, with proper nurses to look
after you, you will begin to pull round in a way that will astonish you.
You are in no danger, sir; Hamilton told me so, and I should think he
ought to know."  It was useless to lie unless it were done boldly, and I
inwardly prayed that my pious fraud might be forgiven.

"Well, well, I hope so," the poor fellow gasped.  "At all events I will
try to hold on until we arrive, and then perhaps I may get my step.  If
I got that--"

"Get your step, sir?"  I cut in again.  "Of course you will get it!  I
only wish I were half as certain of getting the ten thousand a year that
my uncle has promised to leave me when he dies.  Get your step?  Why,
sir, it is as good as in your pocket already."

"You think so?" asked he doubtfully.  "I wish I could feel as sure of it
as you do, my boy--ay, I wish I could feel as sure of it as I am that
you will get your commission--for get it you shall, if anything I can
say will help you to it.  And that reminds me, Grenvile, that I wish to
say how perfectly satisfied and highly pleased I have been with your
conduct and gallantry in this affair.  You handled your schooner with
the very best of judgment, and indeed, but for you the fellow might have
slipped away from us altogether.  I will take care to make that quite
clear to the commodore in my report to him."

I thanked him very heartily for his exceedingly kind intentions toward
me, and then we passed on to the discussion of certain other matters,
with the details of which I need not weary the reader; and when I left
him, an hour later, Hamilton assured me that his patient, although
exhausted with his long talk, was none the worse, but rather the better,
for my visit.  "You have taken him out of himself, diverted his thoughts
into a more cheerful channel, and it has done him good.  We must play up
that `step' business to the very last ounce," he concluded.

When I went on deck, upon leaving poor Fawcett, I was gratified to find
that the making good of damages aboard the brig was progressing apace,
and that Freeman would be ready to make sail about sunset, while aboard
the prize they were all ataunto again, with the damaged sails unbent and
sent down, and fresh ones bent in their place.  The schooner also had
sent up and rigged a new topmast, set up the rigging, got the yards
across, and the topsail set, with topgallant-sail and royal all ready
for sheeting home.  I therefore at once proceeded on board my own little
hooker and packed Master Jack off, bag and baggage, to take charge of
the prize, to that young gentleman's ineffable pride and delight.  Then,
as soon as all was ready we made sail in company, and, carrying on day
and night, arrived at our destination without further adventure early in
the afternoon of the third day after our engagement with the slaver.

I had, of course, during the passage, made frequent enquiries each day
as to the progress of poor Fawcett, but the best news that they could
give me was that, while he seemed to be no worse, he was certainly no
better.  As soon, therefore, as the anchors were down I went alongside
the brig, and having dispatched a messenger ashore in the schooner's gig
with a message to the hospital authorities, proceeded with the difficult
and delicate job of conveying the invalid ashore.  To facilitate this
the carpenter of the brig had, under Hamilton's supervision, prepared a
light but strong framework, somewhat of the nature of a cot, with stout
rope slings attached thereto, and when all was ready for the patient's
removal this was placed on the cabin table, and six stout fellows then
entered the state-room, and, carefully lifting the wounded man, bed and
all, out of his bunk, gently carried him into the main cabin and laid
him, just as he was, on the cot or stretcher.  This we fortunately
accomplished without seriously discomposing our patient, and the surgeon
then administered a soothing draught, the effect of which was to put the
sufferer to sleep in a few minutes.  Hamilton having foreseen that it
would be practically impossible to convey the stretcher and its burden
up on deck by way of the companion ladder without injury to the patient,
had caused some planks to be removed from the fore bulkhead, thus making
a passage into the main hold, through which we now carried the
stretcher, laying it gently down on the slave-deck immediately beneath
the main hatch.  Then the slings of the concern were hooked on to a
tackle which had been lowered down the hatchway, and our patient was
next not only hoisted up through the hatchway, but also slung over the
side and lowered down into the stern-sheets of a boat waiting alongside
to receive him.  The rest was easy; we pulled ashore, lifted our
burden--still on the stretcher--out of the boat, and carried him up to
the hospital, where he was at once placed in a bed that had been made
ready to receive him.  And all this without awaking him, so that when at
length he opened his eyes it was to find himself comfortably settled in
a fine, light, airy ward, with one of the hospital surgeons re-dressing
his wound.  The change did him immediate good, and before I left the
building I had the satisfaction of learning that there was a possibility
of his recovery, although very little likelihood that he would ever be
fit for active service again.  Meanwhile the rest of the wounded, or
rather such of them as it was deemed advisable to place in the hospital,
had also been taken ashore, and I was free to attend to other matters.

It is not necessary to describe in detail the conduct of all the
business that I found it would be necessary for me to transact.  Suffice
it to say that I had a most satisfactory interview with the commodore of
the station, at the end of which he complimented me very highly upon
what he was pleased to designate as "the sound judgment and great
gallantry" with which I had played my part, not only in the capture of
the brigantine, but also in the affair of the _Indian Queen_.  And, as a
crowning mark of his approval, he presented me with an acting order as
lieutenant, with an assurance that I might trust to him to see it
confirmed.  Emboldened by this favourable reception on the part of the
great man, I ventured to hint that I believed poor Fawcett's recovery
would be greatly hastened if he could be reasonably assured of getting
his promotion, to which the old fellow very kindly replied:

"Leave that to me, my lad, leave that to me; I am not so very old yet
that I am not able to remember how you youngsters feel in the matter of
promotion, or to sympathise with you.  I shall probably be seeing Mr
Fawcett to-day, and I venture to hope that my visit will do him more
good than all the doctors in the hospital.  Come and dine with me to-
night; I want to hear the story of that _Indian Queen_ affair in a
little more detail, and there are other matters upon which I may have
something to say to you.  And bring your shipmate--what did you say his
name is?  Keene--ah, yes, bring Mr Keene with you!"

Full of elation at the good news that I felt I had to communicate to
Fawcett, I hurried to the hospital, and found, to my regret, that he was
not quite so well, having exhibited some symptoms of a relapse, and the
doctor therefore seemed at first somewhat disinclined to let me see him.
But upon explaining to him that I had a little bit of very good news to
communicate, he said:

"That, of course, makes a great difference.  Yes, you may see him, for
five minutes, which I suppose will be long enough to communicate your
good news, and then come away again.  You know your way up.  Look in
here on your return, and let me know the result of your interview."

I went up, and found the poor fellow looking very haggard and ill, but
he brightened up somewhat upon my entrance; perhaps he read good news in
my jubilant expression.

"Well, what is it, Grenvile?" he said.  "You look as though you have
something good to tell me."

"I have," said I, pretending not to notice his altered looks.  "I have,
although perhaps I am not acting quite fairly by the commodore in
forestalling him.  He is coming to see you, sir, and, although he did
not absolutely state as much in so many words, I have not the slightest
doubt that he intends to give you your step.  He has given me an acting
order, and he therefore cannot, in common fairness, withhold your
promotion from you.  But naturally he would not take me into his
confidence and categorically state his intentions toward you before
mentioning the matter to you.  But I feel as certain that you will get
your step as I do that I am at this moment sitting by your bedside."

"Well, that is good news indeed, and I thank you for so promptly
bringing it to me," exclaimed the invalid.  "And I must not forget to
congratulate you, Grenvile, upon your good luck, which, I tell you
plainly, I think you fully deserve.  But, although an acting order is an
excellent thing in its way, you will have to pass before you can get it
confirmed, you know.  Have you served your full time at sea yet?"

"Yes," said I; "completed it last month.  But it is rather awkward about
having to pass, though.  I fear there is very little likelihood of my
being able to go for my examination here."

"That is as may be," returned the lieutenant.  "Anyhow, you cannot get
away from here just yet; and it may be--I don't say it will, but it may
be--that an opportunity may occur before you leave.  How did the
commodore treat you; did he seem fairly favourably disposed to you?"

"Yes, indeed," said I.  "`Fairly favourably' hardly describes his manner
to me.  I should have spoken of it as `very favourably'."

"Well, I am right glad to hear it, and I congratulate you most heartily.
You say that the old boy is coming to see me.  Now, understand, boy, if
I can put in a good word for you without shoving it in, bows first, and
knocking the old gentleman's eye out with the flying-jib-boom, I will."

The worthy fellow was now quite a different man from what he had been
when I entered the room a few minutes earlier; I therefore thought this
a favourable opportunity to top my boom and haul off; so, thanking him
very sincerely for his kind intentions in my favour, I shook hands and
bade him good day, promising to look in again upon him on the morrow.

Keene and I duly dined with the commodore that evening; and when the
cloth had been removed, and the servants had retired, the old gentleman
said:

"Well, Mr Grenvile, I called upon your friend Fawcett this afternoon,
and had a fairly long chat with him, in spite of the doctors.  The poor
fellow will never be of any further use afloat, I am afraid; but he may
yet do good service ashore if those fellows can patch him up
sufficiently to enable him to go home.  And I think they will; yes, I
think they will.  He was very much better when I left than when I
arrived;" and the old boy's eyes twinkled good-humouredly.  "It is
wonderful," he continued, "what a little promotion will do for a man in
his condition.  Talking of promotion, I mentioned to him that I had
given you an acting order, at which he seemed greatly pleased; and he
said several things about you, young gentleman, which I shall not
repeat, but which I was very pleased to hear, since they all go to
confirm the good opinion of you that I have already formed.  But he
reminded me that before your acting order can be confirmed you must pass
your examination.  Now, do you feel yourself to be in trim to face the
examiners at any moment?"

"Yes, sir," said I, "provided, of course, that they don't try to bother
me with `catch questions' of a kind that have no real bearing upon one's
practical capabilities.  I have worked fairly hard from the moment when
I first entered the service; my character will bear investigation; I am
a pretty good seaman, I believe; and Mr Teasdale, our master aboard the
_Shark_, was good enough to report to the sk-- to Captain Bentinck, only
the other day, that I am a trustworthy navigator."

"Good enough to take a ship across the Atlantic, for instance, without
assistance?" asked the old gentleman.

"Yes, sir," said I.  "I would not hesitate to take a ship anywhere, if
required."

"Good!" exclaimed the commodore; "I like your confident way of speaking.
I like to see a young fellow who believes in himself.  Well, well, we
shall see, we shall see."

Then he asked me to relate to him the whole story of the loss of the
_Dolores_ and of the _Indian Queen_ incident, "from clew to earing", as
he put it; and I told him the complete yarn, as he sat cross-legged in
his low lounging chair, with a cheroot stuck in the corner of his mouth,
listening, nodding his head from time to time, and frequently breaking
in with a question upon some point which he wished to have more fully
explained.  He also put Master Jack pretty completely through his
facings, so that, when at length we rose to go, he had acquired a very
fair amount of information relating to us both.

The Mixed Commission sat a few days later to adjudicate upon our prizes,
with the result that all three were duly condemned; and we thus became
entitled to a very nice little sum of prize money, for there was not
only the value of the three craft, but also the head money upon the
brigantine's cargo of slaves.  Upon the declaration of judgment by the
court the three vessels were promptly advertised for sale by auction,
and brought to the hammer some three weeks later.  As it was well known
that all three were exceptionally fast craft the competition for their
possession was expected to be particularly brisk, and the event
justified the expectation, for upon the day appointed for the sale the
attendance was a record one and the bidding remarkably spirited.  To
such an extent, indeed, was this the case that many of the knowing ones
present hazarded the confident conviction that some of the bidders
present would probably be found--if the truth about them could but be
ascertained--to be secret agents of slavers, and that the vessels would,
at no very distant date, be found to be employed again in their former
trade.  The brig was the first craft offered for sale, and after a very
spirited competition she was ultimately knocked down to a Jew marine-
store dealer at a very handsome figure.  Then followed the brigantine,
which also realised an exceedingly satisfactory price.  With the
disposal of this craft the competition slackened very considerably,
which was not to be wondered at, for the schooner, although a smart
little craft, was not nearly so valuable--especially from a slave
trader's point of view--as either of the others; yet when she was at
length knocked down she went for her full value, and, on the whole, the
parties most intimately concerned had every reason to be very well
satisfied with the total result of the sale.  It was not until the next
morning that the fact was allowed to leak out that the _Francesca_, had
been purchased into the service.  Meanwhile I had practically nothing to
do, and I therefore spent most of my time in study, preparing myself for
my examination, so that I might be ready to avail myself of the first
opportunity to pass that should present itself.  I filled in the gaps by
visiting Fawcett at the hospital, and I was pleased to find that since
the cheering visit of the commodore he had been making very satisfactory
progress.

It was on the afternoon of the day succeeding the sale of the prizes
that the commodore sent for me.

"Well," said he when I presented myself, "I suppose you are beginning to
feel rather tired of kicking your heels about ashore here, are you not?"

"Yes, sir," I said, "I must confess that I am, especially now that Mr
Fawcett seems to be progressing so satisfactorily toward convalescence.
I had hoped that the _Shark_ would have been in ere this; for although I
have not been altogether wasting my time, I feel that I am not earning
my pay; moreover, I prefer a more active life than I am leading here."

"Quite right, young man, quite right," approved the commodore.  "Nothing
like active service for an ambitious young fellow like yourself.  I
understand that you have been working up for your examination lately.
Well, to be quite candid with you, I don't think your chances of passing
here are very bright--not because I consider you unfit to pass, mind
you, but because it may be some time before an opportunity offers.  But
that is a misfortune which, perhaps, may be remedied.  You have heard, I
suppose, that your schooner has been purchased into the service?"

"Yes, sir, I have," said I, all alert in a moment, for I hoped that this
abrupt reference to the transaction boded good for me.  "And I was
exceedingly glad to hear it," I went on, "for she is a very smart, handy
little vessel, and may be made exceedingly useful in many ways."

"So I thought, and therefore I bought her," remarked the old gentleman.
"It was my original intention to have made her a tender to the _Shark_--
in which capacity she would no doubt have proved, as you say,
exceedingly useful; and I may further tell you that, subject to Captain
Bentinck's approval, I intended to have put you in command of her.  But
certain news which has reached me this morning has altered all my plans
concerning her, at all events for the present, and instead of making her
a tender to the _Shark_ I now propose to send her across to the West
Indies with dispatches of the utmost importance.  You will therefore be
so good as to proceed on board forthwith and take the command, give all
her stores a thorough overhaul, and report to me what deficiencies, if
any, require to be made good in order to fit her for the voyage across
the Atlantic.  I have issued instructions for your former crew to be
turned over to her from the depot ship, and it will be as well, perhaps,
for you to take over half a dozen extra hands from the late prize crew
of the brig.  I should like to be able to give you Mr Freeman as
master, but I can't spare him; so you will have to be your own
navigator.  By the way, what sort of a navigator is Keene?"

"Oh," I said, laughingly, "he can fudge a day's work as well as most
people, sir!"

"Ah," said the old gentleman, "I wonder whether you boys will ever be
brought to understand that `fudging' is no good, except to bamboozle the
master!  How would any of you manage if by chance it fell to you to take
a ship into port, and you could only `fudge' a day's work?  Well, you
shall take him with you; but hark ye, my lad, for his own sake you must
make him stick to his work and do it properly, so that he may be ready
for any emergency that may happen to come along.  Come and dine with me
to-night, and bring the young monkey with you.  I'll talk to him like a
Dutch uncle, and see if I can't stir him up to a sense of his
responsibilities.  One word more, my lad.  An opportunity to pass may
occur while you are over yonder; and if it does, I very strongly advise
you to seize it."

"Be assured that I will, sir," exclaimed I.  "And--oh, sir, I really
don't know how to express my gratitude to you for giving me such a
splendid--"

"There, there, never mind about that, boy," interrupted the old fellow
hurriedly.  "I know all that you would say, so there is no need for you
to repeat it.  As to gratitude, you can best show that by proving
yourself worthy of the trust that I am putting in you, as I have no
doubt you will.  Now, run along and get aboard your ship, and the sooner
you can report yourself ready for sea, the better I shall be pleased
with you.  Don't forget to-night--seven sharp!"

I was probably the most elated young man on the West Coast that
afternoon as I hurried from the commodore's presence and made my way
aboard the sweet little _Francesca_, where I found the whole of my
former crew, Keene included, already installed.

"Hullo, Grenvile, what is the meaning of this?" was his enquiry as I
went up the vessel's low side and passed through the gangway.  "What's
in the wind?  Here have we all been turned over at a moment's notice,
and there are already rumours floating about that we sail to-night."

"No," said I, "it is not quite so bad as that, but it means that we are
bound to the West Indies at the earliest possible moment, and it also
means, Jack, you villain, that I have received strict orders from the
commodore to work you down until you are as fine and as sharp as a
needle.  You will hear more about it to-night, my lad, when you and I go
to dine with him, so stand by and look out for squalls!"

"The West Indies?  Hooray!" cried Jack.  "The land of beauty and
romance, of solitary cays with snug little harbours, each of them
sheltering a slashing pirate schooner patiently waiting for us to go and
cut her out; the land of fair women and hospitable men, the land of
sugar plantations, lovely flowers, and delicious fruits, the land of--
of--"

"Disastrous hurricanes, furious thunderstorms, yellow fever, poisonous
reptiles, the horrible mysteries of voodoo worship, and so on, and so
on," I cut in.

"Oh, you be hanged!" retorted Jack recklessly.  "It's a precious sight
better than this pestilential West Coast at all events, say what you
will.  And as to work, that's all right; I don't care how hard you work
me in reason, Dick.  I know that I've been an atrociously lazy beggar,
always more ready to skylark than to do anything useful, but I'm going
to turn over a new leaf now; I am, indeed--you needn't look incredulous;
I've wasted time enough, and I intend now to buckle to and make myself
useful.  And the commodore may `jacket' me as much as he pleases to-
night--I know I deserve it--and I'll say nothing, but just promise to be
a good boy in future.  He's a jolly, kind-hearted old chap, and I don't
care who hears me say so!"

"Well done, Jack!" said I; "I've not heard you talk so much in earnest
for a long time.  But, joking aside, I am very glad indeed, old fellow,
to hear that you are going to turn over a new leaf.  As you very truly
say, you have wasted time enough; the moment has arrived when, if you
wish to make headway in your profession, as I suppose you do, you must
begin to take life seriously, and realise that you were not sent into
the world merely to skylark, although skylarking, within reasonable
limits and at the proper time, is possibly a harmless enough amusement."



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

THE PIRATE BRIG AGAIN?

We duly dined with the commodore that night, and I was able to promise
him that he should have my complete requisition before noon the next
day, at which he expressed himself much pleased.  And after dinner, when
the cloth had been drawn and the servants had retired, the dear old
gentleman gave us both a very long and serious talking-to, which did us
both a great deal of good, and for which I, at least, and Jack, too, I
believe, felt profoundly grateful.  We were a pair of very sober lads
when at length we bade him good-night and made the best of our way
aboard the saucy little _Francesca_.  Jack and I got to work at daylight
next morning, and by dint of really hard labour I was not only able to
keep my promise of the previous night to the commodore, but to do rather
better, for it was barely eleven o'clock when I entered his office and
handed him my requisition.  He read it very carefully through from
beginning to end, asked me if I felt quite certain that it embodied the
whole of my requirements, and, upon my replying that I was, at once
signed it, bidding me to be off at once to get it executed and then to
report to him.  I saw that he was very anxious for me to get away as
quickly as possible, and I therefore went straight from him to the
various people concerned, and badgered them so unmercifully that the
bulk of my requirements were alongside that same evening, while by
breakfast-time on the following morning the last boatload had come off,
and I felt myself free to go ashore, leaving Jack in charge, and report
myself ready for sea.

I was at the office even before the commodore that morning, and he
expressed himself as being much gratified at the expedition with which I
had completed my preparations.  Then he unlocked his desk, and,
extracting two packets therefrom, said, as he handed them to me:

"There are your written instructions, and there are the dispatches,
which I charge you to take the utmost care of and guard with your life,
if necessary, for they are of the most vital importance.  So important,
indeed, are they that I tell you frankly I should not feel justified in
entrusting them to so youthful an officer as yourself, had I anybody
else that I could send.  But I have not, therefore I cannot help myself,
and I have every confidence that you will do your very utmost to carry
out my instructions in their entirety.  These are, that you proceed to
sea forthwith, and make the best of your way to Kingston, in Jamaica,
carrying on night and day, and pausing for nothing--nothing, mind you,
for this is a matter in which hours, ay, and even minutes, are of
importance.  If you should happen to be attacked you must of course
fight, but not otherwise, remember that!  And if there should be any
prospect of your being captured, wait until the last possible moment,
until all chance of escape is gone, and then sink the packet.  Remember,
it must on no account be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy.
And upon your arrival at Kingston you are at once to make your way to
the admiral, let the hour be what it will, day or night, and place the
packet in his own hands.  There, I need say no more now, for you will
find all these matters fully set out in your written instructions.  And
now, good-bye, my boy, and God speed you safely to your destination!  I
know not what may lie before you on the other side, or whether we shall
ever meet again in this world; but remember that in me you will always
find a friend ready to help you to the best of his ability, and who will
always be glad to hear of your welfare.  Good-bye, lad, and God bless
you!"  And, with a hearty grip of his honest old hand, he dismissed me.

Half an hour later we were under way and beating out to sea, showing
every rag that we could stagger under, toward the belt of calm that
separated the sea breeze from the trade wind that was blowing briskly in
the offing.  And so profoundly impressed was I with the urgency of the
matter that had been entrusted to me that when at length we shot into
the calm belt, rather than lose time by waiting for the trade wind to
work its way inshore to the spot where we were lying, I ordered out the
sweeps, and, turning the little hooker's nose to the westward, swept her
out until we caught the true breeze.  Then it was "out studding-sails to
windward", and away we went again at racing speed.  Luckily, nothing had
been done by the Government people to spoil the little beauty's sailing
qualities; she was precisely as she had been when engaged in her
original nefarious trade, except that her slave-deck had been taken out
of her; and long before sundown we had run the African coast clean out
of sight, to the joy of all hands, fore and aft.

We had but one adventure, if indeed it could be called such, on our
passage across the Atlantic, and that occurred on our eighth day out
from Sierra Leone.  Up to then we had sighted nothing, and had had a
very fine passage, the trade wind blowing fresh enough all the time to
enable us to maintain an average speed of nine knots throughout the
passage.  But on the day of which I am now speaking, about six bells in
the afternoon watch, we sighted a large sail ahead, and, some ten
minutes later, another, following in the wake of the first.  Both were,
of course, hull-down when we first sighted them, and broad on our port
bow, standing to the northward close-hauled on the starboard tack, but
as they were carrying on heavily, and we were travelling fast, we
rapidly rose each other, and it then became evident that the second
craft, a very fine and handsome brig, was in pursuit of the other, which
was a full-rigged ship, apparently a British West Indiaman.  This
surmise of ours as to the nationality of the leading ship was soon
confirmed, for as we rushed rapidly down toward the two we hoisted our
colours, in response to which she immediately displayed the British
ensign, following it up by hoisting a series of signals to her mizzen
royal-mast-head which, when completed, read:

"Stranger astern suspected pirate."

Here was a pretty business indeed, and a very nice question for me to
decide on the spur of the moment.  What was my duty, under the
circumstances?  On the one hand, here was a British merchantman,
doubtless carrying a very valuable cargo, in imminent danger of being
captured and plundered, and, possibly, her crew massacred, for the brig
was overhauling the Indiaman hand over hand; while on the other were the
explicit and emphatic instructions of the commodore to pause for
nothing.  It was certain that unless I interfered the Indiaman would be
captured, and every instinct within me rose up in protest against the
idea of leaving her to her fate, while the words of the commodore were:
"If you should happen to be attacked, fight, but not otherwise".  I
reflected for a moment or two, and then decided upon my course of
action.  If we went on as we were going we should pass very close to the
Indiaman, but if we shifted our helm about a point to the southward we
should pass quite close to the brig.  I therefore determined to make
that very slight deviation from my course, and see what would happen.  I
could not hope to divert the brig from her chase of so valuable a prize
as the ship, but it was just possible that I might, by opening fire on
the pursuer, be lucky enough to bring down a spar or otherwise damage
her sufficiently to afford the Indiaman a chance to escape.  I therefore
ordered the helm to be shifted, and gave instructions for the crew to go
to quarters, to double-shot the broadside batteries and to open fire on
the brig with our long eighteen the moment that we should come within
range.  That moment was not long deferred, and presently Thompson, the
gunner, shouted:

"I think we can about reach him now, sir."

"Then fire as soon as you are ready," replied I.  "And aim at his spars.
It is far more important to shoot away a topmast than to hull the
fellow."

"Ay, ay, sir!" answered Thompson, and I saw him stoop behind the gun,
directing the gun's crew with his hands as he squinted along the sights
of the weapon.  Another second or two, as the schooner rose over the
back of a swell, he fired.  The aim was a splendid one, but the
elevation was scarcely sufficient, for the shot struck the craft's
weather bulwarks fair between the masts, making the splinters fly.

"Excellent!"  I exclaimed.  "Admirable!  Don't alter your elevation,
Thompson, for we are nearing him fast.  Try again, as quick as you
like."

The gun was reloaded, and again fired; but this time, whether due to
over-eagerness or some other cause, the gunner made a bad shot, the ball
striking the water astern of, and some distance beyond, the brig.  Then,
while the men were reloading, nine jets of flame and smoke leapt
simultaneously from the brig's side, and nine round shot tore up the
water unpleasantly close under our bows.

"How would it do to train the guns of the port broadside forward, and
return his compliment?" asked Keene, who was standing close beside me.

"No, Jack, on no account," said I.  "I am saving up those two broadsides
for a possible emergency, and if we were to fire now there would be no
time to reload before we are down upon him.  But go you, my hearty, and
see that the guns of the starboard broadside are so trained as to
concentrate their fire on a point at about fifty yards' distance."

At this moment our Long Tom spoke again, and the next instant a loud
cheer broke from our lads, for the shot had taken the brig's fore-
topmast just below the sheave of the topsail-tye, and away went the
fore-topsail, topgallant-sail, and royal over to leeward, while the
flying and standing jibs and the fore-topmast staysail collapsed and
drooped into the water under her forefoot, with the result that she
instantly shot up into the wind.

"Well done, Thompson!"  I cried.  "That will do with the long gun.  Now
stand by the starboard battery, and, as we pass under her stern, slap
the whole broadside into her."

The pirates, if such indeed they were, for the brig showed no colours,
proved themselves to be a remarkably smart crew, for the wreckage had
scarcely fallen when her fore-rigging and jib-boom were alive with men
laying out and aloft to clear away the wreck.  The Indiaman was now
safe, for she would be away out of sight long before the brig could
repair damages sufficiently to resume the pursuit, and if the skipper of
the ship were as smart as he ought to be it would be his own fault if he
allowed the brig to find him again.  But I wished to make assurance
doubly sure, and therefore, as we swept close past the disabled craft,
at the imminent risk of being dismasted by her broadside, which,
however, her people were too busy to fire, we slapped our starboard
broadside right into her stern, with the extremely satisfactory result
that a moment later her mainmast tottered and, with all attached, fell
over the side, while the screams of the wounded rent the air.  We must
have punished her very severely indeed, for all that we got in reply was
one solitary gun fired out of her stern port, which did no damage; and a
quarter of an hour later we were out of her reach and not a ropeyarn the
worse for our encounter.  But I took very particular notice of the brig
while we were near her, and although she was differently painted, having
nothing now in the way of colour to relieve her jet-black sides save a
narrow scarlet ribbon, I could almost have sworn that she was the
identical brig that had destroyed the _Dolores_.

We made the island of Barbados shortly before noon on the following day,
and passed its southern extremity, soon after four bells in the
afternoon watch, at the distance of about a mile, getting a peep into
Carlisle Bay as we swept past without calling in.  There were several
men-o'-war and a whole fleet of merchantmen lying at anchor in the bay,
off Bridgetown, which led me to conjecture that a large convoy had
either just arrived from home or was mustering there for the homeward
passage.  The trade wind still favouring us, and blowing a brisk breeze,
we sighted Saint Vincent that same afternoon, and passed its northern
extremity about midway through the second dog watch; and finally, on the
fourth day after passing Barbados, we made the island of Jamaica, and
anchored off Port Royal just as eight bells of the afternoon watch was
striking.

The moment that the anchor was down I jumped into the gig and, leaving
Jack in charge, pulled ashore, in the hope of finding the admiral in his
office, although I feared that the hour was rather late.  By the
luckiest possible chance, however, it happened that, being exceptionally
busy just then, he had deferred his departure for Kingston, and I caught
him just as he was about to leave.  The old gentleman seemed a good deal
put out at finding that he was still to be further delayed and, with a
gesture of annoyance, broke the seal of the packet containing the
dispatches and began to read the first one, standing.  Before he had
read much above a dozen words, however, his look of vexation gave place
to one of astonishment, and that, in turn, to one of intense
satisfaction.  "Well, I'll be shot!  Most extraordinary!  Aha!  I begin
to see light.  Yes, yes, of course...  Capital! splendid!  I know how to
checkmate 'em.  Only just in time though, by Jove!"  I heard him mutter
as he read on, at first almost inaudibly, but louder and louder as his
excitement grew, until he had completed the perusal of the principal
document.  Then he turned it over again and looked at the date, looked
at it as though he could scarcely believe his eyes.  Finally he turned
to me and said:

"On what date were these dispatches handed to you, young gentleman?"

I told him.

"Do you mean to say, sir, that you have made the passage across in a
fortnight?" he demanded.

"Yes, sir," I said.  "But we happened to be exceptionally favoured in
the matter of weather, and I have carried on day and night; in fact the
studding-sails have never been off her from the moment when I squared
away until I took them in for good about an hour ago."

"What is your name, young man?" was the next question, for as yet he had
only read the dispatch, leaving the covering letter and other documents
for perusal at his leisure.

"Very well, Mr Grenvile--good name that, by the by--excellent name--
name to be lived up to," he remarked when I had answered him.  "Come and
dine with me at the Pen to-night.  I should like to have a little
further talk with you.  Seven o'clock sharp."

Returning on board, I found that during my absence the health officers
had been off, and had at first manifested a very decided disposition to
make things exceedingly unpleasant for me because I had gone ashore
before receiving pratique.  However, the explanation afforded by Jack,
that I was the bearer of important dispatches for the admiral, coupled
with the fact that we had a clean bill of health, had mollified them,
and as a matter of fact I heard no more about it.

Having effected a change of clothing, I hailed a shore boat to come
alongside, and in her proceeded to Kingston.  The Admiral's Pen is
situated some distance up the hill at the back of the town, and as I had
no fancy for walking so far I decided that, if possible, I would hire
some sort of conveyance to take me there.  The question was: Where was I
to obtain one? for although there were plenty of vehicles in the streets
I could see no sign of the existence of such an establishment as a
livery stable anywhere.  At length, after I had been searching for
nearly half an hour, I decided to enquire, and, looking about me for the
most likely and suitable place at which to do so, I saw a large two-
story building, the lower portion of which seemed to consist of offices,
while, from the mat curtains which sheltered the balcony above, and the
tables and chairs which stood therein, I guessed that the upper floor
was the private part of the establishment.  A glazed door giving access
to the ground-floor part of the building bore upon it in gilt letters
the words:

"Todd & McGregor, General Merchants."

I decided to enter.  I found myself in a large warehouse-like place
reeking of many odours, those of sugar and coffee predominating, while
whole tiers of bags containing these commodities were stacked against
the side walls, a huge conglomeration of miscellaneous goods and
articles lumbering the remainder of the floor.  Picking my way through
these, I reached the back part of the building, which I found
partitioned off to form an office, wherein a number of men, some in
gingham coats and some in their shirt sleeves, were busily at work
writing letters or inscribing entries in ledgers and day books.  At my
entrance one of them glanced up and then came forward, asking what he
could do for me.  I stated my difficulty, upon which he said:

"There certainly are livery stables in Kingston at which you could hire
a vehicle to convey you to the Pen; but I think it will be quite
unnecessary for you to do so upon the present occasion, for I happen to
know that our Mr Todd is engaged to dine with the admiral to-night--
indeed I believe he is at this moment dressing, upstairs.  And I am sure
he will be delighted to give you a seat in his _ketureen_.  If you will
be good enough to give me your card I will take it up to him at once."

"Oh but," said I, "it is quite impossible that I can thus trespass upon
the kindness of a total stranger!"

"Not at all," answered my interlocutor.  "Mr Todd will be only too
pleased, I assure you.  And as to `trespassing upon his kindness', this
must surely be your first visit to this part of the world, or you would
not talk like that.  Have you been long in?"

"I arrived this afternoon only, with dispatches from the West Coast,"
said I.

"And you have never been in the West Indies before?  Ah, that accounts
for it!  Now, if you will kindly take a seat and let me have your card,
we can arrange this little matter in very short order."

What could I do, under such circumstances, but hand over my card, still
protesting?  Two minutes later my new acquaintance reappeared with an
invitation for me to walk upstairs.  I was ushered into a large room,
with the light so greatly dimmed by the closed jalousies, and the bare
floor polished to such a glass-like slipperiness by the daily
application of beeswax that I first ran foul of a chair, and then very
nearly foundered in the endeavour to preserve my balance.  I thought I
caught a sound somewhat like that of a suppressed titter, but could not
be certain.  I, however, heard a very gentle and musical voice say:

"How do you do, Mr Grenvile?  I am very pleased to make your
acquaintance.  Lucy, dear, please throw open the jalousies.  We are so
dark here that Mr Grenvile cannot see where he is."

Then, as the jalousies were flung back and the evening light streamed
into the apartment, I became aware of a rather stout lady--very pale,
but still good-looking, although she had probably passed over to the
shady side of forty--standing before me with outstretched hand, waiting
patiently for me to take it, while a young woman of about twenty years
of age was advancing upon me from the window.  With easy grace the elder
lady introduced herself as Mrs Todd, and the young lady as her daughter
Lucy.  Then she invited me to be seated, explaining that her husband was
dressing and would join us in the course of a few minutes.  As a matter
of fact it was about twenty minutes before Mr Todd--a typical Scotsman
from head to heel, and speaking as broadly as though he had just arrived
from `Glesca' instead of having been a resident in Kingston for a
quarter of a century--made his appearance.  But I certainly did not
regret the delay, for those twenty minutes were among the most pleasant
that I had ever spent in my life.  Mrs Todd soon proved herself to be
one of those gentle, kindly-mannered, sweet-dispositioned women with
whom one instantly finds oneself on the most friendly and cordial terms,
while Miss Lucy with equal celerity revealed herself as a sprightly,
high-spirited maiden without a particle of artificiality about her,
bright and vivacious of manner, with plenty to say for herself, but at
the same time thoroughly sensible.  As for Mr Todd, he was, as I have
said, a typical Scotsman, but I ought to have added "of the very best
sort", for from beneath his superficial businesslike keenness and
shrewdness the natural kindliness and geniality of his disposition was
constantly peeping through.  As an instance of this I may mention that
within five minutes of my meeting him he was insisting upon my making
his house my home for as long a time as I might be on the island, which
invitation his wife and his daughter were seconding with an earnestness
that left me no room to doubt its absolute sincerity.  And I may as well
say, here and now, that when I subsequently put the hospitality of this
delightful and warm-hearted family to the proof, so far from the
performance falling short of the promise, I could not have been treated
with greater kindness and consideration--ay, and I may even add,
affection--had they been my own nearest relatives.

We--that is to say, Mr Todd and myself--arrived at the Pen a few
minutes before seven o'clock, and were forthwith ushered into the
drawing-room, where we were received in most hospitable fashion by Sir
Timothy and Lady Tompion, and where we found already assembled several
captains and other officers from the men-o'-war then in harbour, with a
sprinkling of merchants from Kingston and planters from the neighbouring
estates, all very genial, jovial characters in their several ways.
Having first introduced me to Lady Tompion, and allowed me a minute or
two to pay my respects to her, Sir Timothy very kindly made me known to
the officers and other guests present.  Dinner having been announced, we
all filed into the dining-room and took our places.  The dinner was a
distinctly sumptuous affair, and included many very delicious dishes and
viands with which I then made my first acquaintance.  But I need not
dwell upon this part of the entertainment.  Let it suffice to say that I
enjoyed myself amazingly, the more so, perhaps, from the fact that
everybody, from Lady Tompion downward, seemed to be vying with each
other to put me at my ease and make me feel comfortable.  Later,
however, I found that I was mistaken as to this.  People were not making
any special effort in my behalf, but were simply exhibiting that
remarkable geniality and friendliness of feeling that appears to be
engendered by breathing the air of this lovely island.

At length the moment arrived for us to make our adieux and go; but when
I stepped up to Lady Tompion to say good-night she exclaimed:

"Oh, but you are not going back to your ship, or to Kingston either, for
that matter, to-night.  Sir Timothy intends you to sleep here, and I
have already made all the necessary arrangements.  The fact is," she
explained in a lower tone of voice, "that he wants to have a long chat
with you, so Mr Todd will have to excuse you for this once.  I see that
he has already made up his mind to carry you off prisoner to his own
house, but he must defer that until next time."  This with a most
charming smile to Mr Todd, who was standing close by waiting to say
good-night.

The guests having departed, Sir Timothy led the way into his study, and,
having invited me to make myself comfortable in a cane lounging chair,
while he settled himself in another, said:

"Since parting from you at Port Royal this afternoon I have found an
opportunity to read the private letter from the commodore which
accompanied his dispatch, and what he said therein respecting yourself
has greatly interested me; I have therefore arranged for you to sleep up
here to-night in order that I may have the opportunity for a quiet chat
with you.  I may tell you, young gentleman, that the commodore's report
of your conduct upon certain occasions has very favourably impressed me,
so much so, indeed, that I am more than half-inclined to keep you here,
instead of sending you back--but we shall see, we shall see.  Now, just
give me a detailed account of your entire services from the time when
you first entered the navy, and tell it me as you would to any ordinary
friend, for this conversation is not official; it is not a report from a
midshipman to an admiral, but just a friendly chat between an elderly
gentleman and a young one."

Thus encouraged I got under way and spun my yarn as best I could, Sir
Timothy interrupting me from time to time to ask a question or to elicit
from me an explanation of some point which I had not made quite clear.
We sat there talking until close upon three o'clock in the morning, and
when at length we rose to retire to our respective rooms, Sir Timothy
remarked:

"Well, Mr Grenvile, I have listened to your story with a great deal of
pleasure and satisfaction, and what you have told me has fully confirmed
me in my half-formed determination to keep you here on the station for
the present.  Come to me at my office down at Port Royal, at--let me
see--yes, say three o'clock to-morrow, or, rather, this afternoon, and I
shall then have something more to say to you.  Oh, and there is another
matter upon which I intended to speak to you!  I understand, both from
the commodore and yourself, that you are anxious to pass, so that your
acting order as lieutenant may be confirmed.  Now it happens, very
luckily for you, that an examination of midshipmen has been arranged for
next week; it will take place aboard the _Achilles_, and I would
strongly recommend you to send in your papers at once, for, from what
you have told me to-night, I have no doubt that you will be able to pass
without the slightest difficulty.  And now, good-night!  Breakfast will
be on the table at eight o'clock sharp."

On the following afternoon I landed on the wharf at Port Royal, and
entered the admiral's office at the moment when "six bells" were being
struck aboard the flagship.  The old gentleman was busy at the moment
signing a number of papers, but he paused for a moment to wave me to a
seat, and then resumed his labours.

Presently, having completed the signing of the papers, Sir Timothy
delivered them to the secretary, who was waiting for them, and then,
unlocking and opening a drawer in his desk, he withdrew a somewhat
voluminous bundle of documents, which he placed on the table before him.

"These," he said, "are letters and dispatches from merchants here in
Kingston, as well as Bristol, Liverpool, and London; underwriters; and
the Admiralty at home, all drawing my attention to the fact that of
late--that is to say, during the last three or four months--certain
ships, both outward and homeward bound, have failed to arrive at their
destinations.  It is suggested that, since during that period there has
been no weather bad enough to explain and account for the loss of these
well-found ships, their failure to arrive may possibly be due to the
presence of a pirate, or pirates, operating somewhere among the islands,
or perhaps in the waters of the western Atlantic.  A very considerable
amount of exceedingly valuable property has thus mysteriously
disappeared, and strong representations have been made to Whitehall that
vigorous measures should be taken to solve the mystery, with the result
that I have been ordered to investigate.  These orders arrived about a
week ago, but up to the present I have been quite unable to obey them,
for the very good and sufficient reason that every ship at my disposal
is needed for work even more important than the hunting down of hitherto
merely supposititious pirates.  Your adventure, however, with the
Indiaman and her mysterious pursuer, goes to prove that there actually
is a pirate at work, and I must take immediate steps to put a stop to
his activity.

"And this brings me to my most serious difficulty.  I have no vessel
available for the service excepting your schooner, and no officer,
except yourself, whom I can place in command of her.  You must not feel
hurt, young gentleman, if I say that, under ordinary circumstances, I
should as soon think of attempting to fly as of confiding so difficult
and dangerous a service to a mere midshipman.  But what the commodore
has written concerning you, supplemented by what I heard last night from
your own lips, encourages me to hope and to believe that, young as you
are, you may yet prove worthy of the confidence that I have decided to
repose in you.  You appear to be one of those rare young men who carry
an old head upon young shoulders; you have proved yourself capable of
thinking for yourself, and of possessing the courage to act upon your
own responsibility; you exhibited very sound judgment and resource in
that affair of the _Indian Queen_, and also in the affair of the
Indiaman, which you certainly saved from capture.  I am therefore going
to take upon myself the responsibility of giving you a roving commission
to hunt down and destroy that pirate.

"Your greatest difficulty will of course be to find her.  Fortunately
for everybody concerned, you clipped her wings so effectually that she
will be unable to do any more mischief until she has refitted; and, to
do this, she will have to go into port somewhere.  Your first task,
therefore, will be to endeavour to discover the whereabouts of that
port, and I therefore advise you to spend a few days, while your
schooner is renewing her stores, overhauling spars and rigging, and so
on, in making diligent enquiry among the craft arriving in port, with
the object of ascertaining whether any of them happen to have sighted a
disabled brig, and, if so, where, and in what direction she was
steering.  In the event of your securing a clue by this means, you will
at once proceed to the port toward which she would appear to be
steering, and continue your investigations there.  If you should in this
way be fortunate enough to get upon her track, you will of course follow
up the clue, and act as circumstances seem to direct; but if not, you
will have to prosecute your search and enquiries until you are
successful.  The service is an exceedingly difficult one to confide to
so young a man as yourself; but, young as you are, you seem to possess
the qualities necessary to ensure success; and, should you succeed, the
achievement will tell heavily in your favour.

"Now, that is all that I have to say to you at present, except that you
had better get to work forthwith.  Report progress to me here from time
to time, and let me know when your schooner is again ready for sea.  You
had better allow yourself a full week for enquiries here, and if at the
end of that time you have failed to learn anything, we must consider
what is the next best thing to be done.  And do not forget your
examination."



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

WE SAIL IN SEARCH OF THE PIRATE.

Having received my dismissal from the admiral, I returned to the
_Francesca_, and, summoning the purser, gave him instructions to
overhaul his stores and prepare a requisition for everything necessary
to complete for a two months' cruise.  Then, sending for the boatswain,
gunner, and carpenter, I in like manner instructed them to overhaul the
hull, spars, standing and running rigging, and the contents of the
magazine, and to report to me all defects or shortage of stores in their
respective departments, and, generally, to prepare the little craft in
every way for the task that lay before her.  Then, there still remaining
a couple of hours of daylight, I jumped into the gig again and pulled
aboard four vessels that had arrived during the day, for the purpose of
enquiring whether any of them had sighted or fallen in with the disabled
brig.  As was to be expected, I met with no success, but I was not in
the least disappointed, for I had anticipated no other result; indeed I
calculated that the ordinary slow-sailing merchantman who might
perchance fall in with the pirate could scarcely be expected to reach
Kingston until at least three or four days after the _Francesca_.  Then,
availing myself of the very pressing invitation that I had received from
my new friend Mr Todd, I made my way to his house, where I spent a most
delightful evening with him and his family.  Upon learning that I
expected to remain a full week in port, these good people at once
proceeded to plan for my benefit a number of pleasure jaunts to places
of interest in the neighbourhood; but I was far too profoundly impressed
with the importance of the task assigned to me, and the responsibility
that rested upon my young shoulders, to avail myself of their very great
kindness further than to spend an evening or two with them.

I divided my time pretty evenly between the schooner--personally seeing
that no detail was overlooked in preparing her for her important task--
and the various craft that arrived in the port from day to day.  Keene,
eager to assist, undertook to penetrate, in mufti, the lower and more
disreputable parts of the town, and to haunt the wharves upon the chance
of picking up some small item of information relating to the mysterious
brig which might prove of service to us.  But all our efforts availed us
nothing, for on the eighth day after our arrival we were no better off
than we had been at the beginning.  I contrived, however, to filch the
few hours that were necessary to enable me to go up for my examination,
with the result that I passed with flying colours, so the examiners were
kind enough to say.  My good friend Sir Timothy at once confirmed my
acting order and presented me with the commission which bestowed upon me
the rank of lieutenant in his Most Gracious Majesty's navy.

On the evening of the eighth day after our arrival at Port Royal I went
ashore to report to the admiral the discouraging fact that I had failed
utterly to obtain any information whatever from any of the inward-bound
ships relative to the piratical brig, for none of them, apparently, had
sighted the craft.  Moreover, Jack Keene's enquiries were practically as
unsuccessful as my own; for although he had encountered one or two
doubtful characters frequenting the low taverns near the wharves, who
seemed to have some knowledge of such a vessel, it was all vague
hearsay, and quite valueless.  But although we had failed so entirely to
obtain any information, the ship's company had been kept busily at work,
with the result that the schooner was now as perfect in every item and
particular of hull and equipment as human hands could make her.  I
therefore wound up my report with the statement that we were ready for
sea, and could sail at literally a moment's notice.

"So much the better," remarked the admiral, "and, since there is nothing
to be gained by further delay, you had better make a start forthwith, so
that you may be able to work your way out through the channel and secure
an offing before nightfall.  Now, have you formed any plans for the
conduct of this cruise?"

"Only those of the most general character, sir," replied I.  "According
to my reckoning the brig is by this time very nearly, if not quite, at
the rendezvous, where she will refit.  I fear, therefore, that there is
not much likelihood of my falling in with her for some time to come--
until she has refitted and is once more at sea, in fact.  But, in order
that I may not throw away a possible chance, my idea is to stretch out
toward the middle of the Caribbean, and, having arrived there, to work
to windward over the track that the brig would have to follow if she
were making her way toward the head of the Gulf.  Then, if I fail to
fall in with her, it may be worth our while to overhaul the Grenadines--
there must be several small islands among them well adapted as a
rendezvous for a pirate, and there is just a possibility that we may
find her there.  Failing that, I do not see that I can do anything else
than work out clear of the islands and haunt the ground where the tracks
of the inward- and outward-bound trade meet, since it seems to me that
that is the spot where we are most likely to find the brig when she
resumes operations."

"Excellent!" exclaimed the old gentleman, approvingly.  "You have
thought out the identical scheme that suggested itself to me, and I hope
that by following it you will succeed in laying the fellow by the heels.
Speak every craft that you may fall in with, make enquiries whenever
you have the chance, and perhaps you may be lucky enough to pick up a
slaver or two, and so make the cruise a profitable one in a double
sense; for if that surmise of yours should happen to be correct, that
this pirate brig is the identical craft that stole the slaves from your
prize--the _Dolores_--and afterwards destroyed her, the fellow may have
played the trick on other slavers, in which case they will be glad
enough to give any information that may lead to his capture.  And now
the sooner that you are off the better, for you will have none too much
daylight in which to work out clear of the shoals.  So, good-bye, my
lad, and good luck to you!  Take care of your ship, your crew, and
yourself, and bring the fellow back with you as a prize."

So saying, with a hearty handshake the old gentleman dismissed me, and a
quarter of an hour later the saucy little _Francesca_, in charge of a
pilot, was turning to windward on her way out to the open sea.

The sea breeze lasted us just long enough to enable us to clear the
shoals and handsomely gain an offing of about three miles.  Then it died
away and left us wallowing helplessly in the heavy swell that was
running.  Meanwhile the sun sank beneath the horizon in one of those
blazes of indescribable glory of colour which seem to be peculiar to the
West Indies.  The darkness closed down upon us like a shutter, and the
stars leapt out of the rapidly darkening blue overhead with that soft,
lambent, clarity of light which is never beheld save in the tropics.
Then, after tumbling about uncomfortably for nearly an hour, we felt the
land breeze, and, squaring away before it, soon ran off into the true
breeze of the trade wind.

The following three weeks passed uneventfully in carrying out the first
part of the programme upon which Sir Timothy and I had agreed, including
a very careful but fruitless search of the entire group of the
Grenadines, between Grenada and Saint Vincent.  After this we proceeded
toward the spot which was to be our cruising ground, and called at the
little town of Kingstown, in the latter island, for a few hours, in
order to replenish our supplies and lay in a stock of fruit.

Thus far we had been favoured with splendid weather, but on the fifth
day out from Saint Vincent I observed that the barometer and the wind
were falling simultaneously, and by sunset the trade wind had died away
to nothing.  The western half of the sky looked as though it were on
fire, and the horizon in that quarter was piled high with great smears
of dusky, smoky-looking cloud, heavily streaked with long splashes of
vivid orange and crimson colour.  As a spectacle it was magnificent, but
the magnificence was gloomy, sombre, and threatening beyond anything
that I had ever beheld.  Nevertheless, I had seen skies not altogether
unlike it before, and my experience had taught me that such gorgeously
lurid displays of colour always portended the approach of bad weather,
very frequently of the hurricane type.  Furthermore, my "Sailing
Directions for the West Indies" warned me that we were now in a part of
the world which is subject to such terrific outbreaks of atmospheric
strife.  I therefore resolved to take time by the forelock.  Fortunately
in such small craft as schooners the amount of work involved in the
operation of "snugging-down" is not great, and in less than half an hour
we had got our yards and topmasts down on deck and the whole of our
canvas snugly stowed, with the exception of the foresail, which, having
been close-reefed, remained set, so that we might retain some sort of
command over the vessel.

Meanwhile the calm continued, but although the regular swell showed some
disposition to subside, a heavy cross-swell was rapidly rising, which
caused the schooner to plunge and roll in a jerky, irregular manner, and
with such violence that at length it became almost impossible to stand
without holding on to something, while to attempt to move about became
positively dangerous.  To add still further to the unpleasantness of the
situation, the little hooker was constantly shipping water so heavily
over her rail, bows, and taffrail that we were frequently up to our
knees in it, although all the ports had been opened to allow it to run
off.

We contrived to complete all our preparations before it became too dark
to see; and it was well for us that we did so, for when the darkness
came it was a darkness that might be felt, for it was as though we were
hemmed in by great black walls which might be touched by merely
stretching forth one's hand, while the heat of the stagnant atmosphere
was so oppressive as to cause the perspiration to pour from us in
streams.  This disagreeable state of affairs continued without break of
any kind until about five bells in the first watch, when a cry of
astonishment and alarm broke from the watch on the forecastle-head at
the sudden appearance on the bowsprit of a ball of light of a sickly
greenish hue, which I immediately recognised as a corposant, although I
had never seen one before, but had frequently heard them spoken of and
described.  It was certainly a weird and uncanny sight to behold under
such circumstances, and was well-calculated to strike awe into the minds
of superstitious seamen, both from the suddenness and the mystery of its
appearance, and from its ghostly and unnatural aspect as it poised
itself out there on the end of the spar, clinging tenaciously thereto,
and alternately flattening and elongating as it swayed in unison with
the violent movements of the schooner.  And while the men were still
gaping at it, open-mouthed, its sickly radiance faintly illuminating
their faces and causing them to wear the horrible aspect of decomposing
corpses, two others appeared, one on each of the lower mast-heads.  For
perhaps two minutes, or it might have been a little longer, these last
two ghostly lanterns swayed and lengthened and contracted with the wild
plungings of the little craft.  Then the one on the foremast-head let go
its hold and went drifting away astern until it was lost to sight, while
the one on the mainmast-head came gliding down the spar until it reached
the flooded deck, and vanished as though extinguished by the washing of
the water.  While this was happening, the corposant on the bowsprit-end
also let go its hold and came floating inboard along the spar, causing a
regular stampede of the watch, who incontinently came rushing aft as far
as the mainmast, to get out of the way of their uncanny visitor, which,
however, vanished as it reached the knightheads.

"Ah," remarked the gunner, who had charge of the watch, "that means that
we're in for a heavy `blow', sir!  I've seen them things often enough
afore, and I've always noticed that when any of 'em comes inboard, like
them two, extra bad weather is sure to foller.  I partic'larly remembers
a case in p'int when I was up the Mediterranean in the old _Melampus_.
We was--"

"Listen!"  I broke in unceremoniously, as a low, hoarse murmur became
audible above the voice of the gunner, the monotonous swish and splash
of the water across the deck and in over the bulwarks, and the creaking
and groaning of the ship's timbers.  "Surely that is the wind coming at
last!"

At the same moment a gust of hot air came screaming and scuffling over
us, square off the starboard beam, causing the foresail to fill suddenly
with a report like that of a gun, and careening the schooner to her
covering board.

"Hard up with your helm, my man; hard up, and let her pay off before
it!"  I shouted to the man at the helm, while the sound that I had heard
increased rapidly in volume, and a long line of white foam, rendered
luminous by the phosphorescent state of the water, appeared broad on our
starboard beam, sweeping down upon us with appalling velocity.
Fortunate was it for us that a preliminary puff had come to help us, for
it lasted just long enough to permit the little hooker to gather
steerage way and partially to pay off, far enough, that is to say, to
bring the onrushing hurricane well over her starboard quarter.  Indeed,
had the gale happened to strike us square abeam, and with no way on the
ship, I am convinced that she must have inevitably turned turtle with
us.  As it was, when, a few minutes later, the wind swooped down upon us
with the fury of a famished wild beast leaping upon its prey, and with a
mad babel of terrifying howls and shrieks that utterly baffles
description, the little vessel heeled down beneath its first stroke
until her lee rail was buried, and the water rose to the level of her
hatchway coamings; and but for the fact that she was at that moment not
only forging ahead, but also paying off, there would have been an end of
all hands, then and there.  For what seemed to be, in our anxious
condition, a veritable age, but which was probably no more than a brief
half-minute, the little vessel lay there, quivering in every timber, and
seemed paralysed with terror, as though she were a sentient thing.  The
wind yelled and raved through her rigging, and the spindrift and scud-
water--showing ghostly in the phosphorescent light emitted by the
tormented waters--flew over us in blinding, drenching showers.  Then,
with a sudden jerk the schooner rose almost upright and, with the water
foaming about her bows to the level of her head rails, she sped away to
leeward at a pace that seemed absolutely impossible to even so swift a
craft as she had proved herself to be.

We scudded thus before the gale for nearly an hour, when, availing
ourselves of a temporary lull in its fury, we brought the schooner to
the wind and hove her to on the starboard tack; but, even then, so
tremendous was the force of the wind that, although she showed to it
nothing but a close-reefed foresail, the little vessel was buried to the
level of her rail.

So violent was the first swoop of the hurricane that the surface of the
ocean was as it were crushed flat by it, and the slightest irregularity
that presented itself was instantly torn away and swept to leeward in
the form of spray.  Thus for the first hour or so it was impossible for
the sea to rise.  At the end of that time, however, the tormented ocean
began to assert itself, and, although their crests continued to be torn
off by the violence of the wind, the seas steadily rose and gathered
weight, until by midnight the little _Francesca_, was being hove up and
flung about as violently as a cork upon the surface of a turbulent
stream.  And now another of the schooner's many good qualities revealed
itself, for, despite the furious violence of both wind and wave, the
little craft rode the raging seas as buoyantly and as daintily as a sea
gull, and shipped not so much as a spoonful of water, excepting, of
course, such as flew on board in the form of spray.  Even of that small
quantity we had very little after the schooner had been brought to the
wind, for the tremendous pressure of the gale upon her spars and
rigging, and upon the small area of her close-reefed foresail laid her
over at so steep an angle, and caused her to turn up so bold a weather
side, that most of the spray flew clean over her and was swept away to
leeward.

The temporary lull in the gale, of which we had taken advantage to
heave-to the schooner, lasted only just long enough to enable us to
accomplish that manoeuvre.  It was well for us that we availed ourselves
so promptly of the opportunity, for no other occurred; on the contrary,
after that brief lull the gale seemed to increase steadily in fury to
such an extent, indeed, that at length I felt that I should not have
been in the least surprised had the schooner been blown bodily out of
the water and whirled away to leeward like an autumn leaf.

Needless to say, that night was one of intense anxiety to me, for the
responsibility for the safety of the schooner, and all hands aboard her,
rested entirely upon my shoulders.  I had already done all that was
possible in the way of precaution, while I felt that, despite the
magnificent behaviour of the little craft, an exceptionally heavy sea
might at any moment catch her at a disadvantage and break aboard her, in
which event she would most probably founder out of hand.  So great,
indeed, was my anxiety that I found it impossible to quit the deck for a
moment, although my subordinates were thoroughly steady, trustworthy
men, and had far more experience than myself.  With the men forward it
was totally different.  Their minds were thoroughly imbued with the
seaman's maxim: "Let those look out who have the watch," and those whose
watch it was below turned in without the slightest hesitation or qualm
of anxiety, trusting implicitly to those in charge of the deck to do
everything that might be necessary to ensure the safety of the ship.

To me it seemed as though that terrible night would never end, and even
when at length the hour of dawn arrived there was no perceptible
amelioration in the conditions.  The darkness remained as intense as it
had been at midnight, and it was not until eight bells--in this case
eight o'clock in the morning--that a feeble glimmer of daylight came
filtering through the opaque blackness of the firmament over our heads,
dimly revealing the shapeless masses of flying cloud and scud, and
permitting us to view our surroundings for a space of about a quarter of
a mile.  But, contracted as was our view, it was more than sufficient to
impress us with a deep and overwhelming sense of the impotence of man in
the presence of God's power as manifested in this appalling
demonstration of elemental fury.  Now, even more than during the hours
of darkness, did we appear to be constantly on the point of being lifted
out of the water by the terrific strength of the wind.  As often as the
schooner was hove up on the summit of a sea, and thus exposed to the
full force of the hurricane, we could feel her tremble and perceptibly
lift when the wind struck her beneath her upturned bilge.  As for the
sea, I had never seen anything like it before, nor have I since.  When
people desire to convey the idea of an exceptionally heavy sea they
speak of it as running "mountains high".  In the case of which I am now
speaking the expression appeared to be no exaggeration at all, for as
wave after wave came sweeping down upon us with uplifted, menacing
crest, looking up to that crest from the liquid valley in front of it
seemed like gazing up the side of a mountain which was threatening to
fall upon us and crush us to atoms.  Indeed, the wild upward sweep of
the schooner, heeling almost to her beam ends as she was flung aloft
upon the breast of the onrushing wave, was an experience terrifying
enough to turn a man's hair grey.  Yet, after watching the movements of
the schooner for about half an hour, and noting how, time after time,
when the little barkie seemed to be trembling on the very brink of
destruction, she unfailingly came to in time to avoid being overwhelmed,
I grew so inured to the experience that I found myself able to go below
and make an excellent breakfast with perfect equanimity.

It was about five bells in the forenoon watch, and it had by that time
grown light enough for us to discern objects at a distance of about a
mile, when, as the schooner was tossed aloft to the crest of an
exceptionally gigantic wave, Simpson--whose watch it was--and I
simultaneously caught sight for a moment of something that, indistinctly
seen as it was through the dense clouds of flying scud-water, had the
appearance of a ship of some kind, directly to windward of us.  The next
instant we lost sight of it as we sank into the trough between the wave
that had just passed beneath us and that which was sweeping down upon
us.  When we topped this wave soon afterwards, we again caught sight of
the object, and this time held her in view long enough to identify her
as a large brigantine, hove-to, like ourselves, on the starboard tack,
under a storm-staysail.  Unlike ourselves, however, she had all her top-
hamper aloft, forward, and seemed to be making desperately bad weather
of it.  The glimpses that we caught of her were of course very brief,
and at comparatively long intervals, for it was only when both craft
happened to be on the summit of a wave at the same moment that we were
able to see her.  Yet two facts concerning her gradually became clear to
us, the first of which was that she was undoubtedly a slaver--so much
her short, stumpy masts and the enormous longitudinal spread of her
yards told us,--the second was that she was steadily settling down to
leeward at a more rapid rate than ourselves, as was only to be expected
from the fact that she was exposing much more top-hamper to the gale
than we were.  It would not be long, therefore, before she would drive
away to leeward of us, probably passing us at no very great distance.

Now, although we were fully convinced that the craft in sight was a
slaver, yet we had no thought whatever of attempting to take her just
then, for the very simple reason that to do so under the circumstances
would be a manifest impossibility.  In such an awful sea as was then
running we could only work our guns at very infrequent intervals and
with the utmost difficulty, while, if we were to hit her, we would do so
only by the merest accident.  And even if we could contrive by any means
to compel her to surrender to us, we could not take possession of her.
Our interest in her was therefore no greater than that with which a
sailor, caught in a heavy gale, watches the movements of another ship in
the same predicament as his own.

Meanwhile, by imperceptible degrees she was steadily driving down toward
us, until at length she was so close, and so directly to windward of us,
that I almost succeeded in persuading myself that there were moments
when I could catch, through the strong salt smell of the gale, a whiff
of the characteristic odour of a slaver with a living cargo on board.
Nor was I alone in this respect, for both Simpson and the man who was
tending the schooner's helm asserted that they also perceived it.  But
now a question arose which, for the moment at least, was even more
important than whether she had or had not slaves aboard, and that was
whether she would pass clear of us or not.  She had settled away to
leeward until she had approached us to within a couple of hundred yards,
and as the two craft alternately came to or fell off it alternately
appeared as though the stranger would pass clear of us ahead, or fall
off and run foul of us.  The moment had arrived when it became necessary
for one or the other of us to do something to avert a catastrophe; and
as those aboard the brigantine gave no indication of a disposition to
bestir themselves I ordered Simpson to have the fore-staysail loosed and
set, intending to forge ahead and leave room for the other craft to pass
athwart our stern.  The fore-staysail sheet was accordingly hauled aft,
and four men laid out on the bowsprit to loose the sail.  This was soon
done, and then, when we next settled into the trough of the sea, and
were consequently becalmed for the moment, the halyards were manned and
the sail hoisted.  The brigantine was by this time so dangerously near
to us that, even when we were both sunk in the trough of the sea, it was
possible for us to see her mast-heads over the crest of the intervening
wave, and I now kept my eye on these with momentarily increasing
anxiety, for it appeared to me that we were in perilous proximity to a
hideous disaster.  And then, as the schooner swept upward on the breast
of the oncoming wave, I saw the spars of the brigantine forging slowly
ahead as the ship to which they belonged fell off, and my heart stood
still and my blood froze with horror, for it became apparent that the
two craft were sheering inward toward each other, and that nothing short
of a miracle could prevent the brigantine from falling foul of and
destroying us.  For as her spars rose higher into view I saw that her
people, too, had set their fore-staysail, and that the two craft,
impelled by their additional spread of sail, were rushing headlong
toward each other.

A Middy in Command--by Harry Collingwood



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

SOME VICISSITUDES OF FORTUNE.

"Hard up with your helm," I shouted, "hard over with it; we must take
our chance of being swamped.  Better that than that both craft should be
destroyed."  And, dashing aft, I lent my assistance to the man who was
tending the helm.

Then ensued a breathless, hair-raising fifteen seconds, during which it
seemed impossible for the schooner and the brigantine to avoid a
collision--in which case they must have sunk each other out of hand.
Then, when the two craft were not more than fifteen feet apart, the
schooner's head fell off, she turned broadside-on to the sea, and, our
people smartly hauling down our fore-staysail, the brigantine drew
slowly ahead and clear of us, our bowsprit-end missing her mainboom by
the merest hairbreadth, and the danger was over.  But during that minute
or so of frightful suspense, which the stranger's crew had spent in
rushing madly and aimlessly about the decks, execrating us in voluble
Spanish, an opportunity had been afforded us to ascertain that the
brigantine was named the _San Antonio_, and that she was beyond all
question a slaver, with a cargo on board.

We contrived to avoid her without shipping so much as a drop of water,
thanks mainly to the fact that the brigantine had served, at the
critical moment, as a floating breakwater for us.  Putting our helm down
again the moment that we were clear of her, we came safely to the wind
again on her weather quarter.  Had we allowed matters to remain as they
were before our narrow escape, the _San Antonio_ would soon have parted
company with us, for, as I said before, she was driving to leeward much
more rapidly than we were.  Now that would not suit me at all, for since
I had made certain that she was a slaver, I was determined to capture
her as soon as the weather should moderate sufficiently to allow us to
do so.  Therefore, when she had drifted about half a mile to leeward of
us, I gave instructions that the helm should be eased up as often as
opportunity permitted.  The result of this was that we contrived to make
our own lee drift amount to about the same as hers, thus maintaining no
more than a bare half-mile of water between us.

Shortly after noon the gale broke, the sky quite suddenly cleared, and
an hour later we were able to set the fore-staysail and shake a reef out
of the foresail in order to steady the ship.  Although the sea was still
running too high to permit of our bearing up and running down to the
brigantine, we managed to edge down a little nearer to her, so that by
eight bells in the afternoon watch we had reduced the distance to
something like the eighth part of a mile.  At this distance we were able
to maintain a pretty close watch upon the craft, and half an hour later
we detected signs indicative of a determination on the part of her crew
to make sail.  Evidently they distrusted us as a neighbour, and were
desirous of putting a little more water between us and themselves.
Seeing this, I took a long look round to ascertain what our chances
might be should we attempt to bear up and run down to her.  There was
still a very high, steep, and dangerous sea running, to attempt to run
before which would be hazardous in the extreme; for should we happen to
be pooped by even a single one of them, the least that could happen to
us would be that our decks would be swept, and very possibly we should
lose several men overboard, to save whom would be impossible in that
mountainous sea, while it was quite on the cards that the schooner might
be swamped out of hand and go to the bottom with all the crew.  But I
remembered that among our stores there was a quantity of lamp oil, and I
believed that a few gallons of this, towed astern in a porous bag, would
smooth the water sufficiently to prevent the seas from breaking aboard
during the short time that we should need to enable us to run down to
the brigantine, and I gave orders to have such a bag prepared and
dropped over the stern.

Meanwhile the crew of the brigantine had not been idle, for scarcely had
I given the order to prepare the oil bag when her people proceeded to
set their jib, close-reefed topsail, and double-reefed mainsail, with
the evident determination of escaping from our neighbourhood with as
little delay as might be.  I thereupon ordered our colours to be hoisted
and a shot to be fired across her forefoot as a gentle hint for her to
remain where she was.  To my surprise--for slavers do not often fight
when they find themselves opposed to a superior force--the brigantine
promptly replied to our single shot by letting drive at us with her
starboard broadside of four 9-pounders, none of which, however, came
near us, for the sea was altogether too high to allow of accurate
shooting.  For this reason I refrained from firing a second time, but
replied to our antagonist by making sail, for it now appeared as though
she had some hope of escaping to windward by outsailing and weathering
upon us.  Evidently her people did not know the little _Francesca_!  The
first quarter of an hour of the chase sufficed to prove that the _San
Antonio_ could not possibly escape us in the manner that her people had
evidently believed would be successful.  Not only did we outsail her,
but we also contrived to edge down upon her to within about a cable's-
length, when her skipper deliberately opened fire upon us with his
broadside guns, apparently with the hope that a lucky shot would knock
away a spar or two aboard us, and thus compel us to abandon the chase.
But this was a game that two could play at, and since the rascal seemed
determined not to yield without a fight we cleared away our Long Tom and
proceeded to return his compliments.  To shoot with any degree of
accuracy in such a sea was impossible, and I was particularly anxious to
avoid hulling the fellow, for I knew that this would mean the killing of
several of the unfortunate slaves in her hold.  I therefore gave
instructions to the men working the gun to exercise the utmost care, and
to fire only when they could be reasonably certain that their shot would
not strike the brigantine's hull.  By observing this precaution we at
length succeeded in shooting away his fore-topmast, and thus rendering
him helpless to continue his flight.  Whereupon, like a sensible fellow,
he ran the Spanish flag up to his gaff, allowed it to flutter there for
a moment, and then hauled it down again in token of his surrender.

Our chance encounter with the brigantine thus ended satisfactorily
enough, so far as we were concerned.  However, it was not until the next
morning that the weather had moderated sufficiently to enable us to take
possession of our prize, when we found that we had captured a very smart
vessel of two hundred and sixty-five tons measurement, with a cargo of
three hundred slaves on board, bound for Havana.  I lost no time in
turning her over to Jack Keene, with a prize crew of twelve men, with
instructions to take her into Port Royal for adjudication, and to await
there the arrival of the schooner.  Before parting company I seized the
opportunity to question the crew of the _San Antonio_ as to the brig of
which I was in search, but they professed to know nothing whatever of
her.

By midday all signs of the hurricane had disappeared, the sea had gone
down, and the trade wind had returned, blowing briskly out from about
east-north-east.

It was therefore a fair wind for the prize, and half an hour after I had
secured a meridian altitude of the sun for the determination of our
latitude Master Jack bore up, dipped his colours, and squared away.

Now ensued a fortnight of uneventful and wearisome cruising along the
parallel of 21° north latitude, and between the meridians of 62° and 74°
west longitude, that being the line upon which I thought it most likely
that I might encounter the pirate, or at least gather some news of him.
During that period we sighted and spoke not far short of forty sail, of
one sort and another, both outward and homeward bound, but learned not a
word that would furnish us with a clue to the whereabouts of the craft
that we were so anxiously seeking.  I was beginning to fear that our
quarry had betaken himself to some other cruising ground altogether,
when one morning, at dawn, Simpson, who had charge of the watch, sent
down word to say that there was a brig in sight that he would very much
like me to come up and look at, as he seemed to recognise her.
Accordingly, without waiting to dress I tumbled out of my bunk and made
my way up on deck.  We were on a bowline under short canvas at the time,
to the eastward of the Silver Bank, the tail of which we had cleared
about an hour before, while the stranger was apparently hove-to dead to
windward of us, and hull-down from the deck.

There was not much to be learned by looking at the stranger from the
level of the deck.  I therefore slung the glass over my shoulder and
made my way aloft as far as the main cross-trees, from which a full view
of her was to be obtained.  But before so much as taking a single look
at her through the telescope, her behaviour assured me that she must be
either a ship of war, or a craft of decidedly suspicious character.  For
no ordinary trader would be lying hove-to, just where she was; the
inference therefore was indisputable that, if not a man-o'-war, she must
be lurking just off the entrance of the Windward Passage for some
unlawful purpose.  If by any chance the craft in sight should prove to
be the one that we were after, I believed that I should be able to
recognise her upon my first glimpse of her through the telescope.  When
I got aloft and brought my instrument to bear upon her, I found,
however, that she was just in the very thick of the dazzle of the newly
risen sun, and it was not until I had been aloft quite a quarter of an
hour that I was able to see her at all distinctly.  Even then I could
discern no details of painting; I could not make out whether her hull
was painted black or green, whether she had painted ports, or merely a
narrow ribbon, or had neither.  She showed against the strong light of
the eastern horizon simply as a dainty jet-black silhouette, rising and
falling lazily upon the long swell.  But after looking long and
steadfastly at her I came to the conclusion, in the first instance, that
she was not a man-o'-war, and, in the next, that her general shape and
style of rig were sufficiently familiar to justify me in the belief, or
at least the suspicion, that I had seen her before.  At all events it
was my obvious duty to get near enough to her to enable me to ascertain
what business she had to be lying-to just where we had happened to find
her, and I accordingly gave Simpson instructions to make sail, and then
see all clear for action.

It was evident that, whatever might be the character of the stranger,
those aboard her were fully as wide awake as ourselves, for no sooner
did we start to make sail than she did the same, with a celerity, too,
that would not have disgraced a man-o'-war.  Within five minutes of my
having given the order to make sail, both craft were thrashing hard to
windward, under all plain sail to their royals.  And then we were not
long in discovering that, fast as was the _Francesca_, the stranger
appeared to be nearly if not quite as fast, although we in the schooner
seemed to be rather the more weatherly of the two.  This, however, might
simply mean that the skipper of the brig was intentionally allowing us
to close very gradually with him, in order that he might have the
opportunity to get a nearer look at us, and so be enabled to form a
better judgment regarding our character, while making his own
preparations, if indeed he happened to be the craft for which we were
looking.  And of this I became increasingly convinced as we gradually
neared the brig; for although she was now painted dead black to her
bends, without any relief whatever, of colour, there were certain little
details and peculiarities of shape and rig that I felt convinced I had
seen before.

At length, about three bells, that is to say half-past nine-o'clock, in
the forenoon watch, the skipper of the brig seemed to have made up his
mind to a definite course of action, for he suddenly put up his helm,
squared away, and came running straight down for us.  Whereupon we in
the schooner at once went to quarters, cast loose the guns, opened the
powder magazine, and got a good supply of ammunition up on deck, at the
same time hoisting our colours.  The stranger, apparently, was not quite
so willing as ourselves to display the hue of his bunting; at all events
we saw none.  But this might have been due to the fact that his gaff-end
was obscured from our view by the spread of his topsails.  When about
half a mile to windward of us the brig, which we could now see was a
most beautiful craft, suddenly rounded-to, clewed up her courses and
royals, hauled down her flying-jib, and, throwing open her ports, let
fly her whole broadside of 9-pounders at us, the shot humming close over
our heads and considerably cutting up our rigging.  And at the same
instant a great black flag went soaring aloft to her gaff-end!

"So," said I to Simpson, who was standing close beside me, "that clears
the ground and enables us to know just where we are.  With that black
rag staring us in the face there is no possibility of making a mistake.
Return his fire, lads, as your guns come to bear, and be careful not to
throw a single shot away.  Aim at his spars first; then, when we have
crippled him, we will close and finish him off."

But in talking thus I was reckoning without my host, for the brig
carried more than twice our weight of metal in her broadside batteries,
and a long thirty-two on her forecastle as against our own long
eighteen.  In a word, I soon found that I had caught a Tartar, for her
crew were quite as nimble as our own, and quite as good shots, which was
worse.  Thus, when it came to playing the dismantling game, which seemed
to be the object of both craft, we soon found that we were suffering
much more severely than our antagonist.  The skipper of the brig saw
this quite as clearly as we did, and presently, believing that he had us
completely in his power, he bore up and ran down toward us, with the
evident intention of boarding.

"Mr Simpson," said I, "that fellow looks very much as though he
intended to lay us aboard.  That ought to suit us a great deal better
than playing at long bowls, so please have both broadsides and the long
gun double-shotted, and we will give him everything we can as he ranges
up alongside, and then board him in the smoke, instead of waiting for
him to board us."

"An excellent plan, sir, I think," answered Simpson.  "Boardin' and
bein' boarded are two very different things; and although them chaps may
be ready enough to follow their skipper on to our decks, it'll take a
good deal of the fight out of them if they finds that we're beforehand
with 'em, and that they've got to defend their own ship instead of
attackin' us.  I'll go and see everything ready to give 'em a warm
reception when they comes alongside."

We were not long kept in suspense, for, to do the pirates justice, they
came on to the attack with every symptom of perfect fearlessness, and we
had only just sufficient time wherein to make our preparations when,
taking a broad sheer, the brig rounded-to and shot alongside us.  At the
moment when she was within about a fathom of us, her bulwarks lined with
swarthy, unkempt-looking desperadoes, holding themselves in readiness to
fling themselves in upon our decks, I gave the word to fire, and the
whole double-shotted broadside--with a charge of canister on top of it,
which Simpson had quietly ordered to be rammed home on top of the round
shot--went crashing into her, making a very pretty "general average"
among her crew, and among her spars and rigging.  The crew of boarders
seemed to have been swept out of existence, and so severely wounded were
her masts that the shock of her collision with the schooner, a moment
later, sent both of them over the side, fortunately into the sea instead
of across our decks; and there she lay, a sheer hulk, secured to us by
the grappling irons which our people had promptly hove, and quite unable
to escape.

"Hurrah, lads," I shouted, "we have her now; she cannot escape us!
Boarders, follow me!"  And away we all went, helter-skelter, over our
own bulwarks and those of the brig into the thick cloud of smoke that
hung over the brig's decks, completely obscuring them and everything
upon them.

I quite expected to find that our final broadside, in addition to
bringing down the brig's masts, had swept her crew practically out of
existence.  I was therefore most disagreeably surprised to discover
that, despite the havoc which we had undoubtedly wrought, and the
evidences of which became clearly visible as the breeze swept the smoke
away, the pirates still numbered at least two to our one, and were
apparently in nowise dismayed at the havoc which that last broadside of
ours had wrought; on the contrary, they received us with the utmost
intrepidity, and in an instant we of the _Francesca_ found ourselves
hemmed in and pressed so vigorously that, instead of sweeping the decks
and carrying the brig with a rush, as I had fully expected we should, it
was with the utmost difficulty that we were able to hold our ground at
all.  The pirate captain, easily distinguishable among the rest by his
good looks and the smartness of his dress, was here, there, and
everywhere apparently at the same moment, urging on and encouraging his
men in fluent Spanish, while he defended himself from the simultaneous
attack of three of our people with consummate ease.  He fought
cheerfully, joyously, like a man who enjoys fighting, with a reckless
jest on his lips, but with a ferocity that was terrible to behold.
Twice I crossed swords with him.  On the first occasion I had hardly
engaged when I was so severely jostled that I suddenly found myself
completely at his mercy, and gave myself up as lost, for his sword was
descending straight upon my defenceless head as his eyes glared tiger-
like into mine, when, apparently through sheer caprice, he diverted his
stroke, and, instead of cleaving me to the chin, as he could easily have
done, vigorously attacked the man next to me; while on the second
occasion, which occurred a minute or two later, he contented himself
with simply parrying my thrust, and then permitted himself to be
separated from me by a rush of our men.  For ten long minutes the fight
raged most furiously on the brig's deck, fortune sometimes favouring us
for a moment and then deserting us in favour of the pirates.  The battle
occasionally resolved itself for a moment into a series of desperate
single combats, during which men savagely clutched each other by the
throat and stabbed at each other with shortened weapons, and then merged
again into a general melee in which each man seemed to strike recklessly
at every enemy within reach, regardless of his own safety.  And then,
while the fight was still in full swing, I suddenly received a terrific
blow on the top of my skull and fell senseless upon the deck.  My last
conscious sensation was that of being trampled remorselessly under foot
by a furious rush of men.

When at length I recovered my senses I found that I was lying,
undressed, in a cot, suffering from a nerve-racking headache of so
violent a character that I could scarcely endure to open my eyes to the
brilliant sunlight that flooded the cabin of which I was an occupant.
For the first minute or two after my recovery my senses were so utterly
confused that I found it impossible to recall anything that had happened
save that, somehow, I had been struck down in a fight.  Gradually, as I
lay there wrestling with the state of confusion in which I found myself
plunged, my memory returned, and I recollected everything up to the
moment when I had been struck down on the deck of the pirate brig.  Then
I began to look about me, with the view of ascertaining where I was.  I
found that the exceedingly roomy and comfortable cot in which I was
lying was slung from the beams of an equally roomy and luxurious cabin
which was furnished with a degree of mingled elegance and comfort that
was seldom found afloat in those days, and indeed is very far from being
common even now.  The whole of the after end of this cabin was occupied
by a series of windows of semi-elliptical shape, beyond which the
sparkling sea could be seen, and through which a delicious, balmy,
refreshing breeze was blowing.  A broad locker arrangement, handsomely
worked in choice mahogany, stretched right athwart the cabin immediately
beneath the stern windows, and upon this stood several beautiful
flowering plants in pots of elaborately hammered brass, this locker
forming the top of a long sofa, or divan, upholstered in crimson velvet,
which also stretched across the full width of the cabin.  The interior
paintwork of the apartment was a rich, creamy white, imparting a
deliciously cool and bright appearance to it.  The furniture which it
contained, and which consisted of, among other less important matters, a
table of elaborately carved mahogany, a large bookcase full of books,
many of which were in sumptuous bindings, a rack containing about a
dozen charts, four chairs, each one of different pattern from all the
others, and a very fine, thick carpet, was all exceptionally good.  The
only fault that I could find with it was that it lacked uniformity of
design, and suggested the idea that it had been acquired in a more or
less haphazard way and at different times and places.

By the time that I had completed my survey of the cabin in which I lay I
had sufficiently regained the control of my senses to realise that I was
certainly not aboard the _Francesca_; and, that being the case, where
was I?  Undoubtedly aboard the pirate brig, on the deck of which I had
been struck down senseless.  And then arose the question, what had
become of the schooner and my shipmates?  Had they been captured, sunk,
or driven off?  That the fight was over, and had probably been over for
some time, was evident; for although there was a sound of much movement
on the deck overhead, with the jabber of many voices in Spanish,
intermingled with frequent calls and commands, the stir and bustle were
of that quiet and orderly character which conveyed to my practised ear
the suggestion that the people on deck were engaged upon the task of
repairing damages.  For a moment the idea presented itself to me that we
might possibly have proved the victors, and that the brig was in our
possession, but it was dispelled the next moment by the reflection that,
had such been the case, the speech on deck would have been English, not
Spanish, and I should probably not have been left unattended.  As my
mental balance gradually recovered itself, so did my anxiety touching
the fate of the _Francesca_ and my comrades intensify, until at length I
felt that I could endure the suspense no longer, but must turn out and
investigate for myself.  I accordingly made an effort to raise myself in
my cot, but instantly sank back with an involuntary groan, for not only
did the effort result in an immediate and severe attack of vertigo, but
I also became aware of the fact that, in addition to the injury to my
head, I had received a very painful hurt in the left breast, close above
my heart.  To get up and dress, as I had intended, was obviously
impossible, and the only thing to be done, therefore, was to remain
where I was until somebody should come to me.

I lay thus for perhaps a quarter of an hour longer, fretting and fuming
at my helplessness, and still more at my ignorance of what had happened
to the schooner, when the door of the cabin opened softly, and a rather
good-looking young Spaniard approached my cot on tiptoe.  Seeing that my
eyes were open, and probably detecting a look of rationality in them, he
smiled as his fingers closed gently upon my wrist to feel my pulse.

"So, senor," he said, "you have recovered your senses at last!  There
was a moment when I almost began to fear that you would slip through my
fingers."

"And pray, senor, who may you be, and where am I?"  I asked.

"To reply to your questions in their regular order, senor," answered the
Spaniard, "I am Miguel Fonseca, the surgeon of this brig, the name of
which is the _Barracouta_; and you are the prisoner, or the guest, I am
not quite sure which, of her commander, Captain Ricardo."

"Captain Ricardo!" repeated I.  "What is his other name?"

"Ah, senor, that I cannot tell you!  We know him only as Captain
Ricardo," answered my companion.

"Thank you very much for your information," said I.  "But there are one
or two matters of much greater importance to me than your captain's
name.  Can you tell me, for instance, what has become of my schooner and
her crew?"

"Assuredly, senor," answered the surgeon.  "We beat her off, with great
loss, and, taking advantage of the fact that you had dismasted us with
that last venomous broadside that you poured into us just as we ran
alongside you, your people made good their escape.  But I doubt very
much whether they will ever reach a port; indeed it is most probable
that they have all gone to the bottom by this time, for the schooner was
terribly cut up, and appeared to be making a great deal of water when
she hauled off and made sail."

"They will get in all right, senor," said I.  "I have very little fear
of that.  If they managed to get from under your guns without being
sunk, they will somehow contrive to keep the schooner afloat until they
reach a port.  And now perhaps you can tell me how it is that I happen
to be here.  Does your captain take care of his wounded prisoners and
nurse them back to health, as a rule?"

"By no means, senor," answered Fonseca with a grin.  "His usual
practice, after a fight, is to fling the wounded and dead alike to the
sharks, while the unwounded are afforded the option of joining us or--
walking the plank.  Why he has made an exception in your case, senor, is
more than I can tell; it is a mystery which I will not attempt to
fathom.  Nor should I care to hazard a guess as to whether his action
bodes you good or evil; all I know is that he happened to be standing by
when, after the retreat of your schooner, our people were clearing the
decks of the dead and wounded, and that when you were about to be thrown
overboard he suddenly interposed and ordered you to be taken below and
placed in his own cot, my instructions being to attend to your hurts at
once, before attending to even the most seriously injured of our own
people."

"Um! that is rather queer behaviour, isn't it?"  I commented.  And, as
Fonseca nodded, I continued: "And pray, when did this happen?"

"About five hours ago, immediately after the fight," was the answer.  "I
have been attending to our own wounded during the interval, and have
only just finished with them.  I am afraid I shall lose a good many of
them.  Your men fought like fiends, and struck some very shrewd blows;
indeed there was a moment when I began to think that Captain Ricardo had
made a serious mistake in determining to run down and lay you aboard.
For a minute or two it looked very much as though our people were about
to give way before you, and indeed I believe they would have done so but
for the fact that your men grew discouraged and gave way when you fell.
But this will not do at all; here am I talking to you when it is of the
utmost importance that you should be kept perfectly quiet.  Now, not
another word, if you please, but allow me to dress your wounds afresh."

And so saying he softly opened the cabin door and said something in a
low voice to someone who was apparently waiting outside.  Then, closing
the door again, he returned to the side of my cot and began, with very
gentle fingers and a light touch, to remove the bandages that were
wrapped about my breast and shoulder.

"This," he said, "is your most serious injury--a pike wound; when did
you get it?"

"I have really not the slightest idea when or how I got it," I answered.
Then I stopped suddenly, for, as I spoke, I suddenly remembered that
when I sprang aboard the brig, at the head of the boarders, I was
conscious for a moment of having received a violent blow on the chest,
the memory of which, however, had instantly vanished in the excitement
of the fierce struggle that promptly ensued.  "Yes," said I, "that must
have been it."  And I related the occurrence just as it had happened.

Just then a low tap came on the cabin door, and in response to Fonseca's
bidding a young mulatto lad entered, bearing a large basin of warm
water, towels, bandages, lint, and other matters.

"Good!  Now stand you there, Francois, and hold the basin while I foment
the wound," ordered Fonseca, who forthwith proceeded to bathe and patch
me up in the most careful and skilful manner.

"There!" said he, when he had at length attended to my hurts and made me
tolerably comfortable.  "I think you will do pretty well now for an hour
or two.  The wound in your breast looks very much inflamed, but that is
only to be expected from the character of the weapon with which it was
inflicted.  But I have applied a lotion which ought to allay the
inflammation somewhat, and I will prepare you a nice, soothing, cooling
drink, of which you may take as much as you please; and when you have
finished it, Francois, who will remain here to look after you, will
bring you a further supply.  But what you now need more than anything
else is sleep; so, if you should experience the slightest inclination
that way, please yield to it without hesitation.  And now, senor, I will
bid you _adios_ for the present, but will come and have another look at
you before dark."

And, so saying, he withdrew from the cabin as quietly as he had come.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

RICARDO THE PIRATE.

I must have slept for at least three hours, and probably much longer,
for when I awoke, with a start, I discovered that night had fallen, the
cabin lamps were lighted, and a man whom I at once recognised as the
pirate captain was leaning over me and gazing at my face with an
intentness that was doubtless the cause of my abrupt awakening.  As I
opened my eyes he started back as though detected in some act of which
he felt ashamed; then, recovering himself, he again bent over me, and,
to my astonishment, said, in perfect English:

"Well, young gentleman, I hope you are feeling all the better for your
long sleep?"

"Thanks, yes," I said.  "At least the intolerable headache from which I
was suffering a few hours ago has almost entirely passed away, but this
wound in my breast is still exceedingly painful, more so, I think, than
when your surgeon patched me up."

"Ah," he said, "I am sorry to hear that!  Fonseca must come and look at
you again.  He told me that it was likely to prove troublesome, but if
we can avoid gangrene until the ship gets in, I think we shall pull you
through all right."

"It is very kind of you to concern yourself as to my welfare, and also
somewhat inexplicable that you should do so," said I.  "You are the
captain of this ship, are you not?"

"Yes, for the present," he answered.  "For how long I may be permitted
to retain that position is quite another affair.  I am given to
understand that the men are extremely dissatisfied that I should have
spared your life--our motto, you must know, is: `Dead men tell no
tales', and we have acted in strict accordance with it thus far, which
doubtless accounts for the immunity that we have so long enjoyed.  Yours
is the first life that I have ever spared."

"Thank you!"  I said.  "I suppose I ought to feel very much obliged to
you, but somehow I do not.  This disaster has absolutely ruined my
prospects in the service, so you might just as well have killed me
outright.  And, by the way, why have you spared me?  Your surgeon
informed me that you spare only those who join you.  I hope you don't
anticipate the possibility that I shall join you?"

My companion laughed heartily, yet there was a slight ring of bitterness
methought in his laugh.  "No," he said, "I have not spared you in the
hope that you will join us; we have managed thus far to do fairly well
without your assistance, and I am sanguine enough to believe that, even
should you decline to throw in your lot with us, we shall continue to
rub along after a fashion without it.  No, that was not my reason for
sparing you.  By the by, what is your name, if I may presume to ask?  It
is rather awkward to be entertaining a guest whose name, even, one does
not know."

"My name," I answered, "is Grenvile--Richard Grenvile, and I am a
lieutenant in his Britannic Majesty's navy."

"Quite so!" remarked my companion caustically, "I guessed as much from
your uniform.  You bear a good name, young sir, a very good name.  Are
you one of the Devon Grenviles?"

"Yes," I answered, "I am Devon all through, on both sides.  My mother
was a Carew, which is another good old Devonshire family."

"Ah!" ejaculated Ricardo, as he called himself, with a quick indrawing
of his breath, as though what I had said had hurt him, though how it
should have done so was quite inexplicable.  "I could have sworn it!
Lucy Carew!  Boy, you are the living image of your mother!  I recognised
the likeness the moment that we came face to face, when you boarded us;
and I have three times spared your life on that account--twice while the
fight was in progress, and again when my people would have heaved your
still breathing body to the sharks!"

"Good heavens!"  I exclaimed, "is it possible that you can ever have
known my mother?"

"Ay," answered Ricardo, "extraordinary as it may appear to you, I once
knew your mother well.  However," he broke off hurriedly, "this is not
the moment in which to become reminiscent; your wound is troubling you,
I can see.  I will call Fonseca to dress it afresh; meanwhile, be under
no apprehension as to your safety.  I will protect you with my own life,
if necessary, although I do not think it will quite come to that."

And, so saying, he left the cabin, to return a few minutes later,
accompanied by the surgeon and his assistant, Francois, the mulatto boy.
With the utmost care on the part of Fonseca, and to the accompaniment
of sundry maledictions in Spanish, muttered under his breath by Ricardo
as I involuntarily winced now and then during the process, my wound was
laid bare and carefully examined.  It was by this time terribly inflamed
and horribly painful, and I seemed to gather, from the grave and anxious
look on Fonseca's face, that he regarded it as somewhat serious.  He
said nothing, however, but gave it a very thorough fomentation, dressed
it, and carefully bound it up again.  This done he administered a
sleeping draught, and left me in charge of Francois, to whom he gave
certain whispered instructions which I could not catch.  When he
presently retired, Ricardo followed him out of the cabin, and I saw him
no more that night, for the sleeping draught, though somewhat long in
operating, had its effect at last, and I sank into a feverish, troubled
sleep, in which I was vexed by all sorts of fantastic fancies, in some
of which my mother and the man Ricardo seemed to be associated together
most incongruously.  Then there were moments when I seemed to awake to
find Ricardo and Fonseca bending over me anxiously, and others in which
I appeared to be sitting up in my cot and talking the veriest nonsense
to Francois, who, on such occasions, seemed to be entreating me, with
tears in his eyes, to lie down again and remain quiet.  Then ensued
further phantasmagoria of the most extravagant description, of which I
subsequently remembered little or nothing save that I seemed to be
consumed with fever, that liquid fire was rushing through my veins
instead of blood, and that I was continually tormented by an
unquenchable thirst.

This state of discomfort endured for ages--apparently; in reality,
however, it lasted only a week, at the end of which period I emerged
from my delirium to find myself comfortably, nay, luxuriously, disposed
upon a large bed in a spacious room overlooking an extensive garden,
gorgeous with strange and brilliant-hued flowers and fragrant with their
mingled perfumes, which sloped very gently down to a sandy beach, beyond
which was visible, through the wide-open casements of the apartment, a
wide stretch of landlocked water, in the centre of which floated the
hull of a vessel that I had no difficulty in identifying as the
_Barracouta_.  The room which I occupied was elegantly furnished.  Its
walls were decorated with several oil paintings that, to my uneducated
eye at least, appeared to be exceedingly good, and dotted about the room
here and there were little tables upon each of which stood a vase of
magnificent flowers.  This was the scene upon which my eyes opened as I
awoke from the first natural sleep that had visited me since that
disastrous day when I had been struck down upon the deck of the pirate
brig, and I lay for some minutes motionless, drinking in the beauty and
the delight of it all, and revelling lazily in the sensation of relief
from pain and fever that I was now enjoying.

Then, as I unconsciously sighed with excess of pleasure, I became aware
of a slight movement beside the bed, and, glancing round, I perceived a
middle-aged negress bending over me and looking anxiously into my eyes.

"_Bueno_!  The senor is himself again at last!" she exclaimed in accents
of great satisfaction as she placed her cool hand upon my brow for a
moment, and then proceeded to smooth my rebellious locks with a
tenderness that was almost caressing.  "Yes," she continued, "the fever
has quite gone, and now the senor has nought to do save to get well and
strong again as soon as possible."  She spoke in Spanish, and her accent
and manner were those of one who had been accustomed all her life to
associate with cultured people.

"Who are you, pray?"  I demanded in the same language, "and where am I?"

"I am Mammy," she answered, "the old nurse of the senorita, and Senor
Ricardo's housekeeper.  And you are now in Senor Ricardo's own house--
ay, and in his own room, too!  What is the young English senor to Senor
Ricardo, I wonder, that he should be cared for thus?"

I scarcely knew whether this last remark was in the nature of a
soliloquy, or whether I was to take it as a question addressed to me,
but I treated it as the latter, and replied:

"I really do not know, Mammy, but--stop a moment; let me think--yes--I
seem to remember--or did I dream it?--that Captain Ricardo said he--
had--once known my mother!  But, no, that cannot be possible, I must
have dreamed it--and yet--no--that part of it scarcely seems to be a
dream!"

"No matter, no matter," answered Mammy musingly; "we shall doubtless
know the truth sooner or later.  Now, senor, it is past the time when
you ought to have taken your medicine, but you were sleeping so
peacefully that I could not bring myself to wake you.  Take it now; it
is a sovereign remedy for all kinds of fever; I never yet knew it to
fail; and then, if you are thirsty, you may have just one glass of
sangaree!"

I took the potion and swallowed it obediently; it had an intensely but
not altogether disagreeable bitter taste; and then I quaffed the
generous tumbler of sangaree that the old lady handed me.  Oh, that
sangaree!  I had never tasted it before, and though I have often since
then drunk the beverage I have never again enjoyed a draught so much as
I did that particular one; it was precisely my idea of nectar!

"Aha!" quoth the old woman as she watched the keen enjoyment with which
I emptied the tumbler, "the senor likes that?  Good! he shall have some
more a little later.  Now I must go and see to the making of some broth
for the senor; it is his strength that we must now build up."

And, so saying, the old nurse glided softly out of the room, leaving me
to enjoy the glorious scene that was framed by the wide-open window at
the foot of my bed.

I had lain thus for perhaps five minutes when the door of the room again
opened, and there entered a young girl of some sixteen years of age--
that was her actual age, I subsequently learned, but she looked quite
two years older,--who came to the side of the bed and stood looking down
upon me with large, lustrous eyes that beamed with pity and tenderness.
Then, as she laid her cool, soft hand very gently upon my forehead, she
said, in the softest, sweetest voice to which I have ever listened:

"Oh, Senor Grenvile, it is good to see you looking so very much better.
You will recover now; but there was a time--ah, how long ago it seems,
yet it was but yesterday!--when we all thought that you would never live
to see the light of another day.  It was Mammy, and her wonderful
knowledge of medicine, that saved you.  Had not the captain realised
your critical state, and driven the men to incredible exertions to get
the ship into harbour quickly, you could not have lived!"

"Senorita," said I, "how can I sufficiently thank you for the kind
interest you exhibit in an unfortunate prisoner--for that, I suppose, is
what I am--"

"No, senor, oh no; you are quite mistaken!" interjected my companion.
"At least," she corrected herself, "you are mistaken in the character of
your imprisonment.  That you certainly are a prisoner, in a sense, is
quite true; but I hope--that is, I--do--not think--you will find your
imprisonment very intolerable."

"All imprisonment, whatever its character, must be intolerable, it seems
to me," I grumbled.  Then, checking myself, I exclaimed: "But do not let
us talk about myself.  Do you mind telling me who you are?  Your face
seems familiar to me, somehow, yet I am certain that I have never before
seen you.  Are you, by any chance, Captain Ricardo's daughter?"

The girl's face clouded somewhat as she answered: "No; oh no, I am not
Captain Ricardo's daughter!  I am an orphan; I have never known what it
is to have either father or mother, and I am a prisoner--like yourself,
yet I do not find my state by any means intolerable.  Captain Ricardo
has been kindness itself to me, indeed he could not have been more kind
to me had I really been his daughter."

"Ah," said I, "I am glad to hear it, for your sake!  He seems a strange
man, a very curious commingling of good and evil traits of character--
kind and gentle to you--and, thus far, to me--yet relentlessly cruel and
bloodthirsty in the prosecution of his accursed calling.  And your name,
senorita, will you not tell me that?"

"Oh, yes, certainly!  Why should I not?" answered my companion.  "I am
called Lotta--Carlotta Josefa Candelaria Dolores de Guzman.  And your
name is Dick, is it not?"

"Why, certainly it is!"  I exclaimed.  "But how in the world did you
know that?"

"Because," she answered, "when you were brought ashore yesterday,
Captain Ricardo sent for me, and said: `This young fellow is Dick
Grenvile, the son of a once very dear friend of mine; and I want you,
Lotta, and Mammy, to do your utmost to nurse him back to health and
strength again.'"

"And you and Mammy have been doing so with marvellously satisfactory
results," said I.  "And that, I suppose, accounts for the fact of your
face seeming familiar to me; I probably saw you once or twice during my
delirium?"

"Yes," she admitted, "you certainly did see me--once or twice."

"Well, Lotta--I suppose I may call you Lotta, may I not?  Senorita
sounds so very formal, does it not?"  I suggested.

"Oh, yes, certainly!" assented my companion.  "And I may call you Dick,
may I not?  Senor sounds so very formal, does it not?"  Her quaint
mimicry of my earnestness of manner was irresistibly droll.

"Of course you may," I agreed eagerly.  "Well, Lotta--now, let me
remember--what was it I was about to say?  Oh, yes, of course--how came
you to be a prisoner in the power of this man Ricardo?"

"Very simply, yet in a manner that you would scarcely credit," was the
reply.  "You must know that my mother died just after I was born, my
father when I was just two years old.  Up to then Mammy had looked after
me, but when my father died his estates were taken in charge by some
people whom my father had appointed to look after them--what do you call
those people--?"

"Trustees, we call them in England," I suggested.

"Yes," assented Lotta, "they were my father's trustees, and my
guardians, empowered to look after my interests and manage the estates
until I should arrive at the age of eighteen.  When I was seven years of
age the trustees decided to send me over to Old Spain to be educated,
and I accordingly went, in charge of the wife of one of them, with Mammy
to look after me.  I was educated at the convent of Santa Clara, in
Seville, where I remained until my fourteenth birthday, when I was taken
out of the convent and placed on board a ship bound to Havana, my
guardians having decided that I had received as much education as was
necessary, and that the time had arrived when I ought to return to Cuba
and take my place as mistress of my household and owner of the vast
estate of which I was the heiress.  Then a terrible misfortune befell
us: the ship on board which I was a passenger caught fire, and was
utterly destroyed, and everybody was obliged to take refuge in the
boats.  Then, to add still further to our misery, a gale sprang up, and
the boats became separated.  We suffered dreadfully during that gale,
and were several times in the greatest danger of being drowned.  Then,
when the gale was over, the sailors in our boat knew not in which
direction to steer, and so we went drifting aimlessly hither and
thither, not knowing where we were going, but hoping, day after day,
that a ship would come in sight and pick us up.  And very soon our food
and water became exhausted, and our sufferings intensified to such an
extent that some of the men went mad and threw themselves into the sea.
As for me, I became so weak at last that I lost consciousness, and did
not again revive until I found myself on board the _Barracouta_, with
Mammy looking after me.  We arrived here before I was well enough to
walk, and here I have remained ever since, that is to say, nearly two
years."

"Well," I exclaimed, "that is a most extraordinary story, extraordinary
not only from the fact of your having been the heroine of such a
terrible adventure, but even more so from the circumstance that you were
rescued and have been taken care of ever since by Ricardo.  One would
have thought that it would have been the most natural thing in the world
for him to have callously left you all to perish.  How many of your
boat's crew were alive when he picked you up?"

"Only two sailors, and Mammy, and myself," answered Lotta; "and I
afterwards heard that the sailors had joined Ricardo."

"And have you never had any desire to escape and seek the protection of
your guardians?" demanded I.

"Only at very rare intervals, and even then the feeling was not very
strong," was the extraordinary answer.  "You see," Lotta explained, "I
am perfectly happy where I am.  This is a most lovely spot in which to
live, the most lovely that I have ever seen; and Ricardo is kindness
itself to me during the rare periods when he is `at home', as he calls
it.  I have never expressed a wish that he has not gratified, I have
every possible comfort, and, what with my guitar, my garden, my morning
and evening swim, and making clothes for myself, I find so much
occupation that I do not know what it is to have a wearisome moment.
And, now that you have come to be a companion to me, I cannot think of
anything else to wish for."

The charming _naivete_ of this remark fairly took my breath away; but I
was careful that the girl should not be allowed to guess, from my
manner, that she had said anything in the least remarkable.  Before I
could reply, the sound of approaching footsteps became audible, and
Lotta remarked:

"Now, here comes Fonseca, and I suppose I shall have to go.  But I will
come back again when he leaves you."

As she rose to her feet the door opened, and the Spanish surgeon
entered.

"Good morning, senorita!" he exclaimed.  "How is our patient?  Vastly
better, Mammy tells me.  I see she is busy preparing some broth for
Senor Grenvile, but he must not have it until I have thoroughly
satisfied myself that it would be good for him.  Well, senor," as he
seated himself on the side of the bed and laid his fingers upon my
pulse, "you are looking rather more like a living being than you were
twenty-four hours ago.  Mammy's medicines are simply marvellous, I will
say that for them, although the old witch will not tell me of what they
are composed.  Um! yes; eyes bright--almost too bright--pulse strong but
decidedly too quick.  You have been talking too much.  That will not do.
The senorita"--she had slipped out of the room by this time--"must
either stay away, or not talk to you.  Now, let me look at your wound."
And he proceeded very carefully to remove the dressings.

This, it appeared, was progressing very satisfactorily, so he re-dressed
it--my broken pate had healed itself, and needed no further looking
after,--administered a sleeping draught, and then retired, after
informing me that I could have Mammy's broth later, but that, in the
meantime, sleep was of more value and importance to me than food.  He
had not been gone ten minutes before I was fast asleep.

Several days elapsed, and I never saw Ricardo, although I was told by
Lotta and Mammy that he had frequently looked in upon me while I slept.
Thanks to good nursing, I was making very satisfactory progress,
although still far too weak and ill to be able to rise from my bed.
Meanwhile I was able to see, by simply looking out of my bedroom window,
that the _Barracouta_ was being rapidly refitted--so rapidly, indeed,
that I conjectured Ricardo must have made a point of always keeping an
entire spare set of masts, spars, rigging, and sails on hand, in
readiness for any such emergency as that which had arisen in connection
with his fight with the _Francesca_.

At length, when I had been ashore nearly a fortnight, I noticed that the
brig was once more all ataunto and apparently ready for sea.  That same
night Ricardo entered my room, and, having made exhaustive enquiries as
to the state of my health, took a seat by my bedside, with the air of a
man who purposed to indulge in a long chat.

"This last fortnight has done wonders for you," he said.  "Thanks to the
unremitting care of Lotta and Mammy, I think you will now be able to
pull round without any further attention from Fonseca.  And that reminds
me to tell you that we go to sea at dawn to-morrow, and of course
Fonseca goes with us.  But he assures me that you now need nothing but
good nursing and good feeding to restore you completely, and those Lotta
and Mammy will be able to give you.  You will not mind my leaving you in
their charge, I hope?"

"Oh, no," I said, "not at all!  Indeed, I have to thank you for quite an
extraordinary amount of kindness.  You could scarcely have done more for
me had you been my father."

"You think so?" he said.  "Good!  I am glad to hear you say that,
because--ah, well, it is useless to think of that now!  By the way, is
your mother still living?"

"She was when I last heard from home," said I, "and I hope she will live
for many long years to come."

"I say amen to that," answered this extraordinary man.  "When next you
see her, say that Dick Courtenay saved your life--for her sweet sake.
And tell her also that, despite everything that was said against me, I
was innocent.  She will understand what I mean and will believe me,
perhaps, after all these years.  Ah," he continued, springing to his
feet and striding up and down the room, "if she had but believed me at
the time, I should never have become what I now am!  Had she had faith
in me, I could have borne everything else--shame, disgrace, dishonour,
ruin--I could have borne them all.  But when to the loss of those was
added the loss of her esteem, her respect, her love, it was too much; I
had nothing left to live for--save revenge; and by heaven I have had my
fill of that!"

"Do you actually mean to say that you were once my mother's lover?"  I
gasped.

"Ay," he answered bitterly, "her accepted lover.  And I should have been
her husband but for the accursed villainy of one who--but why speak of
it?  The mischief is done, and is irremediable."

"Surely you do not pretend to suggest that my father--?"  I ejaculated.

"No, certainly not!" he replied quickly.  "Do not misunderstand me.  It
was not your father who was my enemy, oh no!  He was my rival for a
time, it is true, but he was also my friend, and the very soul of
honour.  Oh no! the loss of your mother's love was merely one of many
results of a piece of as consummate villainy as ever dragged the honour
of a British naval officer in the mire.  But, pshaw! let us speak of
other things.  I suppose you have wondered what are my ultimate
intentions toward you, have you not?  Well, I will tell you.  You once
reproached me with having ruined your professional career.  My dear boy,
have no fear of anything of the kind.  It was your misfortune, not your
fault, that we were too strong for you, and if Sir Timothy Tompion--oh
yes," in answer to my look of surprise, "I know Sir Timothy quite well,
and he knows me, or thinks he does!--if Sir Timothy had only known that
he was sending you out to fight the _Barracouta_, he would have given
you, if not a bigger ship, at least twice as heavy an armament, and
twice as strong a crew.  So, when he comes to hear your story, he will
not blame you for failing to take me; have no fear of that.  Therefore,
because I feel convinced that your ill-success in your fight with me
will in nowise prejudice your professional prospects, it is my
intention, all being well, to take you to sea with me next trip, and
either put you ashore somewhere whence you can easily make your way to
Port Royal, or else to put you aboard the first ship bound for Kingston
that we may chance to fall in with.

"But to provide against any possibility of your fortunes going awry, I
have decided to make you my heir; therefore--stop a moment, please; I
think I can guess what you would say--that you positively refuse to have
anything whatever to do with wealth acquired by robbery and murder.
Quite right, my dear boy, it is precisely what I should expect--ay, and
wish--you to say.  But when I was an Englishman I sometimes used to hear
people say that `circumstances alter cases'; and this is one of them.
The wealth that I propose to bequeath to you has not been acquired by me
through any objectionable practices, it came to me through the merest
accident, and nobody is aware of its existence save Lotta and myself.
If it is indeed a pirate hoard, as is not at all unlikely, there is
nothing to prove that such is the case; nor, assuming for the moment
that it is so, is there anything to tell us either the name of the
pirate who got it together, or the names of those from whom he took it.
And, in any case, if it is the spoils of a pirate gang, they must have
operated about a hundred years ago; and since they are now all
undoubtedly dead and gone, as also are those from whom it was taken, you
have as much right to it as anybody, and may as well have it.  Lotta
will show you where it lies concealed; and, since I shall never make use
of it, you are at liberty to help yourself to the whole of it as soon as
you please.

"There is one thing more that I wish to say to you.  It is about Lotta.
By the way, what do you think of Lotta?" he interrupted himself to
enquire.

"I think she is the sweetest, most charming, and most lovely girl that
has ever lived!"  I exclaimed enthusiastically, for I had fully availed
myself of my opportunities for making her acquaintance, and had fallen
over head and ears in love with her, although I have hitherto refrained
from saying so, because this is not a love story, but one of adventure.

"Ah!" exclaimed Ricardo grimly; "yes, I see the inevitable has happened!
Well, well, I have nothing to say against it, nor will your mother,
unless she has greatly altered since I knew her.  However, to revert to
Lotta, I am afraid that, without in the least intending it, I have done
that poor girl a very serious wrong.  We fell in with the boat in which
she, Mammy, and two Spanish sailors were starving, just as a light air
of wind had dropped to a dead calm; as a matter of fact we drifted right
up alongside the boat, so that it became impossible to avoid taking
those who were living out of her.  Even pirates have their gentle
moments occasionally, and the sight of those four, perishing of hunger
and of thirst, in a craft that had literally drifted alongside us, was
more than we could endure; therefore we hauled them up out of the boat,
brought them round, cared for them--and they have been inmates of my
house ever since.  Lotta seemed quite content to remain; she never
murmured, never expressed the slightest desire for a life different from
that which she was living ashore here.  And where Lotta was content,
Mammy was supremely happy; therefore--well, I got fond of the child, and
resolutely refused to allow my thoughts to turn in the direction of
sending her away from me.  But your coming has altered everything, I can
see that.  When you go, she will have to go too; she would never be
happy here again without you, that is certain.  Moreover, my eyes have
been opened of late to the great wrong that I have been doing her.  She
is a rich heiress, and ought now to be in possession of her property.
Therefore, when I return--by which time you will doubtless be quite well
again--I will give you the charge of Lotta and Mammy, and ask you to see
that the former is safely placed in the care of her guardians.  While I
am away this time I will arrange a plan by which these matters can be
brought about, and will explain everything to you upon my return.  And
now I think I have said everything that I had to say, and will therefore
bid you good-night, and good-bye, since we shall sail at daybreak, and
all hands, myself included, will sleep aboard to-night.  I hope that
when I return, which will probably be in about a month from now, I shall
find you quite well and strong again."

And as Ricardo pronounced the last words he rose, with the evident
intention of going.

"One moment, please," I said hastily; "pray do not go just yet.  You
have been doing all the talking thus far, now I wish to say a word or
two."

"By all means," he answered with a laugh, as he resumed his seat.  "Say
on.  I promise you my very best attention."

But, now that it came to the point, I suddenly found myself hesitating;
I had spoken upon the spur of the moment, with a very definite purpose
in my mind, but quite unexpectedly I found myself entirely at a loss for
words.  At length, seeing Ricardo's look of surprise at my hesitation, I
plunged desperately _in medias res_.

"Look here," I stammered, "I--that is to say--oh, hang it, I find it
very difficult to know how to begin!  I want very particularly to say
something to you, and I want to say it, if I can, without hurting your
feelings--"

Ricardo laughed grimly.  "Say on, without fear," he remarked; "don't
stop to pick and choose your words.  In my time I have been compelled to
listen to words that have seared my very soul, words that drove me
desperate, and made me what I am.  You can scarcely have anything to say
that will hurt me more keenly than I have been hurt already; moreover, I
have now grown callous, so say on without fear."

The intense and concentrated bitterness with which he uttered those last
few words gave me courage; moreover, I felt certain that my companion
would recognise the kindly feeling which actuated me, so without more
ado I proceeded:

"What I wish to say is this.  You have somehow contrived to convey to my
mind the impression that you are a very deeply injured man, that you
have been driven to the adoption of your present mode of life by some
great and terrible wrong; moreover, you have been kind to Lotta, and
especially kind to me; and, lastly, your references to your former
friendship with my mother have been such that it has been impossible for
me to avoid feeling very deeply interested in you.  Now, why should you
not abandon your present mode of life?  You say that you possess
treasure which has come into your possession by perfectly honest means,
and to which, to use your own words, you have as much right as anybody.
Why not take that treasure then, and go away to some part of the world
where you are not known, and there begin life afresh?"

"Ah!" said Ricardo, "I have asked myself that question more than once
without obtaining a satisfactory answer to it.  I should like to do so,
were it possible, for I am very heartily sick of the life that I am now
leading.  There was a time when, soured and embittered by as cruel a
wrong as man could inflict upon his fellow man, I believed that I could
find consolation, if not actual happiness, in the wreaking of my
vengeance upon every Englishman whom I could get into my power, or whose
wealth I could take from him by force; but that time has long passed,
the revenge which I believed would be so sweet has turned to dust and
ashes in my mouth, and now I am so weary of life that the bullet or
steel that should rid me of it would be more welcome than any other
earthly thing.  When it is too late, I have begun to realise the full
depth of my villainy, and to see what a contemptibly cowardly creature I
have been in permitting myself to seek such an ignoble method of revenge
as piracy.  But, as I said, it is now too late, yes, too late--"

"Surely not," I broke in.  "Have you forgotten the homely old adage that
`It's never too late to mend'?  What you have done can never be undone,
it is true, but it can be repented of, and reparation can be made, if
not directly to the persons injured, yet by doing good to others where
you have the opportunity.  Will you not think the matter over again, and
this time with the determination to arrive at a right decision?"

"I will think it over, certainly," he said.  "As to arriving at `a right
decision', that is as may be.  If I can see my way to such a decision it
may be that I shall take it.  I will consider the matter while I am at
sea, and I promise you that no wrong shall be done during the progress
of this cruise if I can possibly help it, and I think I can.  For I
always make a point of confining the navigation of the ship strictly to
myself; nobody aboard ever knows where we are until I choose to tell
them, and it will therefore be easy for me to take the brig to some spot
where there is little or no chance of our falling in with other craft.
Then, perhaps, if we can cruise for a month or six weeks without taking
a prize, the men may be content to accept their share of the booty, and
disband, especially as I should tell them that they may divide my own
share between them.  And now, good-bye, with many thanks for your
sympathy!"



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

THE TREASURE CAVE.

When I awoke, rather late, the next morning, after a somewhat troubled
and restless night, traceable, no doubt, to my long conversation with
Ricardo, the _Barracouta_ had vanished, and nothing remained to mark her
late anchorage save the buoy to which she had been moored.

And now ensued a period of almost perfect bliss to me, for I had by this
time reached that precise stage of convalescence where all danger is
past, yet in which the patient is still so very far from being well that
he must be waited upon, hand and foot, and tended with as much
solicitude as though he were an utterly helpless babe; and such
attention I was afforded in its most perfect and acceptable form by
Lotta and Mammy.  Small wonder is it, therefore, that my progress toward
recovery was rapid, and that in just a month from the day on which the
_Barracouta_ sailed I should find myself strong enough to admit of my
rising from my bed and donning my clothes for an hour or two.  I was now
practically myself again, save that I was so weak as to need support
whenever I attempted to stand; but, with Lotta on one side, and Mammy on
the other, I was soon able, not only to totter from one room to another,
but even to get into the garden for a few minutes, and sit there in a
comfortable basket chair, drinking in renewed health and strength with
every breath of the soft, warm, deliciously perfumed air.

We now began to look daily, nay hourly, for the return of the brig, and
I ventured to indulge in the hope that, when she came, I should have the
satisfaction of learning that my last conversation with Ricardo had
borne good fruit, and that he had decided to abandon piracy, and to
devote the remainder of his life to doing good, as some sort of
atonement for the countless shocking crimes of which he had been guilty.
Meanwhile my strength came back to me fast from the moment when I was
able to get into the open air, and within another fortnight I was
practically my former self again.

It is scarcely needful to say that during this long and tedious period
of my convalescence I had enjoyed many a long and confidential chat both
with Lotta and with Mammy, and sometimes with both together; thus, by
the time that even Lotta was fain to pronounce me once more quite well,
and in no further need of nursing, we had very few secrets from each
other, and I had confided to her all my earnest hopes regarding Ricardo,
in which hopes she cordially joined me.  I also told her what Ricardo
had said as to my becoming his heir, and taking possession of his
private hoard of treasure, which naturally led to an arrangement being
made for an early visit to its hiding place.  This hiding place, it
appeared, was situated in a large natural cavern in a secluded spot on
the shore of the bay, and was the spot wherein Ricardo had originally
found it hidden.  To me, this had a sound of very great insecurity; but
Lotta informed me that, so far was this from being the case that, well
as she knew the locality of the cavern, she was often greatly puzzled to
find the entrance.

At length, on a certain afternoon we two set off to find this mysterious
hiding place and inspect the treasure, which, according to Lotta's
description, promised to be of absolutely fabulous value.  We passed
down through the garden for almost its entire length, then bore away
through a side path to the left, in order, as my companion explained,
that we might avoid the "shipyard" and, more particularly, the men
working therein.  Ricardo had most rigorously enjoined Lotta, on several
occasions, never to expose herself to the view of these men, or in any
wise remind them of her presence in the settlement.  But, to speak the
truth, I am very strongly inclined to believe that, at all events on
this particular occasion, Lotta was very much more anxious for my safety
than she was for her own.  Be that as it may, we avoided the shipyard by
the simple process of passing along the back of it, through Ricardo's
private garden; and I am compelled to say that I was astonished beyond
measure at the completeness of the establishment, as I then saw it for
the first time.  It was a perfect dockyard in miniature, with
warehouses, capstan-house, mast house, rigging shed, sail loft--in fact
every possible requisite for keeping not only one but as many as three
or four craft in perfect order.  And, from what I saw in passing, I
judged that there must be at least fifty men regularly employed about
the place!  No wonder that the _Barracouta_ was a busy ship, and her
depredations of the most extensive character; they would need to be to
maintain adequately such an establishment in working order.

Upon leaving the precincts of the garden we plunged into a wood that
completely veiled our movements from the men working in the yard, and
upon emerging from it we found ourselves at the edge of a low cliff,
down the face of which a path zigzagged to the beach.  The yard now was
completely hidden from us--and we from it--by a jutting shoulder of the
cliff.  Descending to the beach, we found ourselves on a narrow expanse
of firm, white sand, the whole of which it was evident was covered at
high-water, and which was now so hard that we scarcely left any
indication of our footprints upon it.  Traversing this for about a
quarter of a mile we entered a sort of labyrinth of huge masses of
sandstone that had fallen to the beach from time to time, from the steep
and now lofty cliff that impended overhead.  Here we were most
effectually sheltered from prying gaze by the enormous masses of rock
between which we wound our devious way for perhaps a hundred yards,
until Lotta stopped with the remark:

"Now, Dick, we have reached the end of our journey.  Look about you and
see whether you can find the entrance to the cave which we have come to
visit."

I looked diligently round me, this way and that, but could see
absolutely nothing that in the least degree resembled an opening in the
rock, and at length somewhat impatiently said so.

"Neither do I," laughed my companion; "I shall have to look for it, as
usual.  It is somewhere about here," she continued, pointing to a series
of horizontal ledges that ran along the face of the cliff just opposite
where we stood.  Moving forward, I saw Lotta stoop down to examine the
ledges; then she moved slowly along the cliff face for a distance of a
few yards, when, to my amazement, she suddenly vanished before my very
eyes.  I sprang forward until I reached the spot at which she had
disappeared, but was still unable to see anything of her.

"Lotta!"  I cried anxiously, "where are you? what on earth has become of
you?"

"I am here, Dick," answered the girl, her voice seeming to issue from
the ground at my feet.  Then, for the first time, I noticed that there
was what appeared to be a slight dip in the inner edge of the ledge, but
which, upon closer inspection, proved to be a fissure, just wide enough
for a man to squeeze through, and it was into this fissure that Lotta
had dropped.  I promptly followed her, and presently, when my eyes had
become accustomed to the dim twilight of the place, I found that we were
in a small, cave-like hollow of the rocky cliff, measuring about eight
feet in each direction, and floored with very fine, dry sand.  But of
the treasure there was no sign that I could discover, in any direction--
unless it were artfully concealed in one or more of the many small holes
or recesses that I saw here and there in the rocky walls.  Lotta
observed my perplexity and laughed heartily.

"Well, Dick, where is the treasure?" she banteringly demanded.  "Surely
it is not so very difficult to find, now that you have been told of its
existence?"

"Oh, I'll find it, never fear, young woman!"  I answered; "but I confess
that it is so ingeniously concealed that I doubt whether anyone ignorant
of its existence would find it, except by the most extraordinary
accident."  And therewith I proceeded to grope and feel about in the
various fissures and cavities with which the rocky walls of the small
cavern were honeycombed, but without success.  At length, to my great
chagrin, I was obliged to abandon the search and confess myself beaten.

"Yet it is very simple--when you know!" remarked Lotta, in high glee at
my discomfiture.  "Follow me!"  And, dropping upon her hands and knees,
she proceeded to crawl into one of the cavities that I had been
searching, and which I should have declared was not nearly capacious
enough to receive a full-grown man.  Nevertheless Lotta completely
disappeared within it, and I after her.  When I had fairly entered the
cavity I found that what had appeared to be its back wall, and which
gave it the appearance of being only about two feet in depth, was really
one of two side walls, a narrow passage turning sharp off to the right,
just wide enough and high enough to travel through comfortably on one's
hands and knees.  It wound round in what seemed to me to be about a
half-circle of about fifty yards in diameter, and its inner end gave
access to an enormous cavern, very roughly circular in shape, and about
four hundred feet across in either direction.

It was a most extraordinary place.  One of the peculiarities was that,
instead of being pitchy dark, as one would naturally expect it to be in
such a place, the whole interior was suffused with a very soft greenish
twilight, quite strong enough, when one's eyes became accustomed to it,
to permit one to see from one end of the cavern to the other with quite
tolerable distinctness.  Where the light came from it was impossible to
say, for the roof of the cavern appeared to be formed, like the walls,
of solid rock; but from the fact that shafts of light were plainly
visible overhead, issuing from the walls and roof, I conjectured that
the light entered the cavern through rifts in the rock, and that its
greenish tinge was imparted to it by the foliage through which it
filtered prior to its passage through the rifts.  Greater surprise was
in store, for presently I discovered that the walls were literally
covered with sculptured figures of men and animals, done in high relief,
and about life-size.  The sculptures appeared to be records of hunting
and fighting episodes, and were executed with great vigour and skill.
In reply to my astonished enquiries, Lotta informed me that Ricardo
attributed this work to the original Caribs, and very probably he was
right.

The treasure was all neatly arranged in a recess near the narrow passage
by which we had entered the cavern, and a pretty careful inspection of
it soon convinced me that Ricardo had been only speaking the truth when
he assured me that, although it was probably the booty of some dead-and-
gone gang of pirates, he had certainly had no hand in its accumulation.
For everything bore unmistakable evidence of having lain where it was
for a great many years--probably at least a hundred, if one might judge
by the dates on a few of the coins which I examined, and which formed
part of the treasure.  The man who accumulated the store must have been
an individual of a very enterprising nature, for there were great piles
of strong, solid wooden cases packed to the brim with doubloons and
pieces-of-eight; two hundred and eighty-five gold bricks, weighing about
forty pounds each, every brick encased in the original raw-hide wrapper
in which it was brought down from the mines, now hard and dry and
shrivelled; quite a large pile of rough, shapeless ingots of gold and
silver, conveying the suggestion that at various times large quantities
of gold and silver plate and jewellery had been run through the melting
pot; and, finally, a leather bag containing not far short of a peck
measure of gems of every conceivable description, all of the stones
being cut, and evidently taken from pieces of jewellery of various kinds
that had probably been broken up and melted.  I had not the most remote
idea of the value of the whole, but I was convinced that it must be
something fabulous, and I afterwards learned that I was right.

We spent nearly two hours in the cave, partly because there was so much
of interest there to engage our attention, and partly because of its
delightfully cool temperature, which was a positive luxury after the
extreme heat of the house, both by day and by night.  Before we left the
cave to return to the house, Lotta half-jestingly proposed that we
should stock the place with provisions, and use it as a place of abode
whenever the heat became unduly oppressive.  Although the suggestion was
made more in jest than in earnest, the idea became so attractive, when
we proceeded to discuss it further, that on the following day we
actually took steps to carry out the proposal.  We spent the best part
of the day in stocking the cavern with provisions, rugs, and so on, to
such an extent that we could easily have endured a week's siege there,
had it been necessary, for a good supply of excellent water had been
found percolating through the rock in a small side passage off the main
cavern.  And thereafter we regularly spent a great part of each day in
the cavern, always making it a rule to take with us a little more of
everything than we really needed.

At length, when a period of two full months had elapsed since the
sailing of the _Barracouta_, with no sign of her return, I began to feel
somewhat anxious.  I was now practically as well in health as I had ever
been in my life, and I began to pine for a return to active service.  I
was also desirous of seeing Lotta safely removed from her present
dubious and somewhat dangerous surroundings into that position which was
hers by right.  To achieve these two results it was necessary that I
should get away from where I was, either by the fulfilment of Ricardo's
promise to me, or by some other means.  To get away from where I was!
As that expression occurred to me I suddenly remembered that I had not
the faintest idea where I was; and, since Lotta was as ignorant as I was
on the subject, I determined to ascertain by some means exactly where
this little paradise of a spot was situated.  And, as a first step
toward this, I ascertained roughly the latitude of the spot, by means of
a quadrant that I found in Ricardo's room, as a result of which I
discovered that I was undoubtedly somewhere on the island of Cuba.
Since there were only two spots on the coast line of the island that
could possibly have this precise latitude, I very soon managed, by
reference to one of Ricardo's charts, to determine that the rendezvous
was on the north side of the island; nay, I was able without difficulty
to identify the precise spot on the chart.

Another week passed, still with no sign of the return of the
_Barracouta_, and my impatience to get back to civilisation and friends
grew so acute that I was seriously entertaining the idea of stealing a
boat from the dockyard and making my escape in her.  The only
consideration which caused me to hesitate was, that as I fully intended
to take Lotta and Mammy with me, I did not care to expose them to the
perils and discomforts of a boat voyage until every other resource had
failed.

A few more days had passed, when, about two o'clock one morning, I was
rudely awakened by some individual who had entered my room and was
roughly shaking me by the shoulder.  I started up in bed and, quickly
gathering my confused wits together, recognised the voice that was
addressing me as that of Fonseca, the surgeon of the _Barracouta_!

"Hullo, Fonseca," I exclaimed, "where in the name of fortune have you
sprung from?  Is the _Barracouta_ in?"

"Yes, Senor Grenvile," he answered, "we have just arrived.  At the peril
of my life I took advantage of the bustle and confusion, attendant upon
her coming to an anchor, to slip quietly over the side and swim ashore,
in order that I may warn you to rise at once and make your escape while
you may, taking the senorita and the old woman with you, if you would
save their lives, or that which is perhaps even dearer than life to the
senorita!"

"Why," I ejaculated, as I sprang out of bed and started groping for the
materials with which to strike a light, "what has happened, then, that
it should be necessary for us to fly for our lives?  Ricardo?  Is he--?"

"Stop!" exclaimed Fonseca, laying his hand upon my arm as I was about to
light a candle; "don't do that!  You must dress and make your
preparations in darkness; for should Dominique see the house lighted, as
he could scarcely fail to do, he would leave everything and come ashore
at once rather than that you and the senorita should slip through his
fingers.  Yes, Ricardo is dead.  We have sighted nothing in the shape of
a sail from the time that we left here; as a result of which the men
rapidly grew discontented.  Dominique and Juan, who have long been
jealous of Ricardo and envious of his power, took advantage of this and
incited the crew to mutiny.  The precious pair made their way to
Ricardo's cabin and murdered him in his sleep; then, when his dead body
had been first exhibited to the men and afterwards tossed overboard,
Dominique offered himself as captain in place of Ricardo, and, as he
happened to be the only reliable navigator among us, he was chosen, with
Juan as his lieutenant.  That done, it was decided to abandon the cruise
forthwith and bear up for the rendezvous, in order to lay in a fresh
stock of necessaries before undertaking another cruise.  But I soon
discovered that, so far as Dominique was concerned, the restocking of
the ship was only a pretext to enable him to return here at once for
quite another purpose, namely, to put you effectually out of the way by
drawing a knife across your throat, and to possess himself of the
senorita.  Now, Dominique is a villain without a single redeeming trait
of character; there is no love lost between him and me; and therefore,
since I have taken something of a fancy to you, and have no desire to
see Senorita Lotta the victim of such a consummate scoundrel and
blackguard as Dominique, I determined to give you a word of warning, if
possible; and here I am.  Now I don't know where you and the senorita
can hide yourselves, but hide you must, and that forthwith, for friend
Dominique may turn up at any moment; and if he finds you and the lady
here, no earthly power can save you.  I think that perhaps if you were
to take to the woods for a time, it would be your best plan; and I would
help you, so far as lay in my power, by--"

"You are a good fellow, Fonseca," interrupted I, grasping his hand, "and
I will not forget what you have done to-night.  I know of a place where,
I think, we can hide safely for a day or two, and I will take the
senorita and Mammy there with me.  And, look here, why should you not
join us?  You must surely be quite tired of leading such a life as this,
and--"

"Tired!" he broke in; "tired is not the word to express my loathing of
it!  I never liked it; would never have had anything to do with it if I
could have helped it, but I was compelled by Ricardo to join, and I have
never since had a chance to escape."

"Well, you have one now if you care to join us," I said.  "While you
have been talking my brain has been working, and I have already thought
of a scheme for getting away from here.  Will you join us?"

"Most willingly, senor," answered Fonseca.  "I will stand by you through
thick and thin; and should you succeed in enabling me to escape, my
eternal gratitude will be yours."

"Very well then," said I, "that is settled.  Now if you have any
valuables among your personal belongings in your quarters ashore here,
that you particularly wish to take away with you, be off at once and get
them, and then rejoin me here.  As for me, I must go and call Mammy at
once, and direct her to arouse and warn the senorita.  Now be off with
you, and return as quickly as possible."

So saying I hustled him out, and forthwith hastened away to the little
room which I knew was occupied by the negress.  This I entered without
ceremony, and, arousing the old creature, acquainted her as briefly as
possible with the situation of affairs, and directed her to arouse Lotta
forthwith.  Then I returned to the room which I had been occupying--and
which was actually Ricardo's own sleeping apartment--and busied myself
in collecting together some half a dozen charts which were scattered
about the room, and which, I thought, might be useful, as well as
Ricardo's quadrant and a copy of the current _Nautical Almanac_.  By the
time that I had got these and one or two other matters together, Fonseca
had returned, and a few minutes later Lotta and Mammy appeared, the
latter loaded with a huge bundle of wraps and spare clothing belonging
to her beloved mistress.  Having enquired whether they were now ready
for instant flight, and received a prompt affirmative reply, I gave the
word to evacuate the premises, and we forthwith filed out into the
garden, shaping a course for the treasure cave, which I had determined
should be our place of refuge until we could perfect our plans for
effecting an escape.  As it happened, we were not a moment too soon, for
we had traversed little more than half the length of the garden when the
sound of voices in somewhat boisterous conversation not far ahead first
brought us to an abrupt halt, and then caused us to retire precipitately
from the path to the shelter of some coffee bushes close at hand, behind
which we silently crouched until the speakers had passed on up the path.
They were Dominique and Juan, both somewhat the worse for drink, and
consequently speaking in a considerably louder key than was in the least
degree necessary.  As they passed us and pursued their way up toward the
house it was not at all difficult to divine from their conversation the
fate which they had planned for Lotta, as well as for me.

The moment that they were far enough beyond us to permit of our doing so
with safety, we again emerged upon the path, down which we pursued our
way, silent as shadows, arriving, some ten minutes later, at the point
where it became necessary for us to turn off through the wood on our way
toward the cave.  At this point I paused for a moment to look back at
the house, and as I did so I noticed a faint light suddenly appear in
one of the rooms.  Our friends Dominique and Juan had evidently arrived
there and were lighting up the place, prior, as they doubtless fondly
anticipated, to giving us a pleasant little surprise.  As I continued to
watch, the light suddenly grew brighter; they had found a lamp and
lighted it, and were now in the room which I had been wont to occupy.  A
minute later the light vanished from that particular room, and almost
immediately showed from the window of another, which, from its position,
I conjectured must be that which Lotta had occupied.  That our flight
had by this time been discovered seemed pretty evident, for the house
was rapidly lighted up in every room, and it was not difficult to
conjecture that the two half-drunken ruffians were prosecuting a heated
and vigorous search for the missing ones.  And that this was actually
the case soon became evident from the fact that the French casement of
the room that had been mine suddenly flew open, and a man, whom I
presently identified as Juan, came staggering and stumbling down the
path at a run, alternately yelling curses at us, the missing ones, and
shouting to some person or persons unknown to come up to the house
forthwith "as the birds had flown!"  Whereupon I swung quickly upon my
heel, and, plunging into the wood, hastened after my companions, whom I
overtook just as they were about to enter the cave.  Arrived at our
destination we lighted a candle for a few minutes to enable us to make
such hasty preparations as were absolutely necessary, and then,
stretching ourselves out upon the soft, sandy floor, composed ourselves
to finish the slumbers that had been so rudely interrupted.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

AN AUDACIOUS SCHEME.

It seemed that I had scarcely closed my eyes ere I was aroused by Mammy,
who informed me that it was broad daylight, and that breakfast was quite
ready, whereupon, starting to my feet and shaking the fine sand from my
clothing, I looked at my watch and was amazed to discover that it was
nearly eight o'clock.  I accordingly hurried away to the spot at which
the spring gushed out of the rock, hastily performed my ablutions, and
returned to where the others awaited me before falling-to upon a most
appetising meal which Mammy had prepared from the various viands with
which we had so luckily stocked the place.  Everything was cold, of
course, for now that our flight was known it would never have done to
risk lighting a fire for the mere pleasure of having hot chocolate for
breakfast, lest some errant wreath of smoke should betray the locality
of our hiding place, and lead to a search that might possibly result in
our capture.  But, cold though the meal was, it was none the less
welcome; and when we had finished I rose to my feet with the
announcement that I intended to go forth upon a reconnoitring
expedition.  Against this decision Lotta at once protested most
vigorously, in which protest she was joined by Fonseca, who very
generously offered to go in my stead.  He declared that in the untoward
event of an unavoidable encounter with any of the men, the consequences
to me would certainly be fatal, while for him they would probably amount
to nothing worse than a somewhat severe cross-questioning as to how he
managed to get ashore without using a boat, and what were his reasons
for such extraordinary haste.  These questions he believed he could
answer satisfactorily without difficulty.  But I was anxious to get all
my information at first hand, to see everything with my own eyes, in
order that I might be able to frame my plans with certainty.  I
therefore put aside their objections, and, forbidding any of them to
leave the cave until my return, sallied forth, observing every possible
precaution against being seen or being taken unawares.

Upon emerging from the entrance to the cave, after having first taken a
most careful look round, I made my way, with much circumspection, to the
crown of a high knoll or ness, jutting out a little way into the bay,
from which I believed I should be able to get a good view of the "yard",
and ascertain, in the first instance, what might be happening in that
direction.  The crest of this knoll was crowned with a thick and
tolerably extensive clump of bushes, screened by which I hoped to be
able both to see and hear anything that might happen to be transpiring
among the various sheds, and at the same time to keep an eye upon the
brig where she lay at her buoy, about half a mile from the shore.  When,
however, I reached my hiding place I was disappointed to find that I was
considerably farther away from the wharf and the buildings than I had
expected; and that while I could see pretty well what was happening down
there, as well as command an excellent view of the brig, I could hear
nothing save an occasional shout; and it was even more upon what I
should hear than upon what I should see that I depended for the
necessary information upon which to base my plans.  But there was a spot
at some distance down the front of the slope which I thought would suit
my purpose admirably if I could only reach it without being seen, and I
at once determined to make the attempt.  It was a somewhat peculiarly
shaped outcrop of rock with a hollow in the middle of it, and I believed
that if I could but gain its shelter without discovery I should be able
to see from it nearly as well as from where I was, while I should
certainly be able to hear very much better.  The only question was how
to get there.  And after very carefully examining my surroundings from
the shelter of my screen of bushes I came to the conclusion that my only
plan would be to descend to the beach again by the way that I had come,
enter the wood as though I intended to return to the house, and skirt it
until I came very nearly to its far end, when, by concealing myself in a
thick and extensive bed of ferns, I might reasonably hope to gain the
desired spot without any very great difficulty or danger.  Accordingly,
having first carefully looked about me to assure myself that I need not
fear being seen, I cautiously emerged from my hiding place, and as
cautiously made my way down to the beach again, from which it was easy
to gain the shelter and concealment of the wood.  Another ten minutes
found me, heedless of the danger of snake bites, painfully wriggling my
way through the bed of ferns, lifting my head above the fronds
occasionally to make sure that I was steering a straight course; and
twenty minutes later saw me safely ensconced in my hiding place, from
which I could both see and hear distinctly without being seen.

For nearly an hour it appeared as though I had had all my trouble for
nothing, for the people on the wharf and in the sheds seemed to be going
about their regular daily business with that perfect deliberation and
entire absence of hurry which is so characteristic of the Spanish
seamen.  I was beginning to consider seriously the question whether,
after all, it might not be advisable for me to endeavour to approach the
house, and even perhaps enter it, in my quest for information, when I
saw Dominique and Juan suddenly appear upon the wharf and enter a small
dinghy, in which they pulled off to the brig.  Then, as the tiny craft
approached the _Barracouta_ a few figures appeared on deck, and by the
time that the dinghy reached the brig's side all hands seemed to have
mustered on deck.  Evidently they had been taking matters easy aboard
her to celebrate their return to harbour.  Almost immediately after the
arrival of the new captain and his lieutenant on board, the boatswain's
whistle sounded, and a minute later both gigs and the cutter were
lowered, and all hands apparently got into them and gave way for the
shore.  Ten minutes later they landed on the wharf and drew themselves
up into some semblance of rank and file.  I noticed that every man
carried a brace of pistols, as well as the usual long, murderous-looking
knife, in his belt.  Then Juan stepped forward and started to ring a
large bell that was suspended from a gallows-like arrangement, and
immediately a number of men came swarming out from the various sheds and
formed up facing their comrades, who had just come ashore from the brig.
I carefully counted these last, and found that, including Dominique and
Juan, they mustered forty-two.  The others totalled up to fifty-six.

When the last man appeared to have presented himself, Dominique gave the
order:

"Call over the roll, if you please, Senor Juan."

And therewith Juan, drawing the roll from his pocket, proceeded to call
each man by name.  Each briefly responded by declaring himself to be
"Present!"  Then, every man apparently having been accounted for,
Dominique stepped forward and said:

"My lads, I have called you off from your regular work this morning to
engage in a man hunt, or rather a hunt for two women and two men.  You
will not need to be reminded by me that one of our chief and most recent
causes of dissatisfaction with Ricardo was his extraordinary behaviour
in connection with that young sprig of a naval officer whom we captured
when we engaged the British war schooner _Francesca_.  Instead of
heaving the young cub overboard to the sharks, as he ought to have done,
our late chief, for some extraordinary reason which he never
condescended to explain to us, chose to keep the young fellow alive, and
not only so, but also to give the surgeon the strictest injunctions to
nurse him back to health.  This was so totally at variance with his
usual practice that, as I have already explained to some of you, there
could only be one reason for it, and that reason, I have never had the
slightest doubt, was that he had formed a plan to betray us all into the
hands of the British.  By saving the young officer's life he hoped not
only to use him as a channel of negotiation with the British
authorities, but also to purchase immunity from punishment for himself.
And having secured this, he would seize the earliest opportunity after
our execution to return here and quietly possess himself of the immense
hoard of treasure that we have accumulated by years of toil and peril.
It was because I was thoroughly convinced of this that I did away with
Ricardo; for it was his life or ours that hung in the balance.  But it
was not sufficient to put Ricardo out of the way of doing us a mischief;
the young English officer remained, and still remains, and until he also
is removed there can be no safety for any one of us; and it was this
knowledge that caused me to abandon our cruise and return here.

"And now, what do I find?  Why, that he, the Senorita Lotta, and the old
nurse have disappeared!  Now, I want you to note particularly the
significance of this last fact, that not only have those three
disappeared, but so has Fonseca!  What does this mean?  Why, without
doubt it means that the surgeon also was in the plot with Ricardo
against us, and that we have him also to reckon with.  How or when he
disappeared I cannot tell you, but we know that he was with us in the
brig when we executed Ricardo.  He must therefore have slipped ashore in
some mysterious manner immediately upon our arrival, and have warned the
Englishman, who thereupon must have taken to flight, carrying off the
girl, her nurse, and Fonseca with him.

"It is these four persons that I want you to hunt down and bring back to
the rendezvous.  They cannot have gone very far, and they cannot get
away, for, as some of you are aware, it is impossible to make one's way
very far inland from here; we are completely shut in on the landward
side by inaccessible cliffs.  But the Englishman does not know this, and
I am by no means certain that either the girl or the surgeon knows it.
I am therefore of opinion that they will all be found endeavouring to
make their way into the back country by way of False Gap.  I want you
all, therefore, to spread yourselves in such a way that some one or
another of you must inevitably find them, either by overtaking them, or
by intercepting them on their return when they find it impossible to
escape landward.  I will go with you, but as a measure of precaution,
Juan, with half a dozen men, will secrete themselves in the house
yonder, in order that, should we by any strange chance miss the
fugitives, they may be taken when they return to the house, as they
must, sooner or later, in search of food.  And one man will remain here
on the wharf, as a watchman and look-out; not that I think there is the
slightest likelihood of the fugitives coming this way, but it is good
generalship to take every possible precaution.  And if you, Jose, who
are to remain here, should chance to sight any of the runaways, just
ring the yard bell, and wait for those in the house to join you.

"Now, men, I hope you understand me; those four persons must be found
and brought back to me; the Englishman, alive or dead.  The other three
must be brought back to me alive, and, the girl at least, absolutely
uninjured; and remember that in the case of Fonseca, the less he is
injured the more acutely will he suffer from the punishment that I
intend to inflict upon him for his treachery!  Now, forward all; to the
house first, and from there spread yourselves over the country in the
direction of False Gap.  March!"

Thereupon the whole party, with the exception of one solitary
individual, whom I took to be Jose, who was told off to keep watch and
ward upon the wharf, filed off along the wharf and up the pathway that
led to the house from which we had fled but a few hours before.  It took
them some twenty minutes to reach the bungalow, and ten minutes later I
saw a mob of men issue from it and disappear inland.  For a few minutes
their shouts could be heard as they called to each other, and then a
dead silence fell upon the scene, broken only by the chirping and
"chirring" of the myriads of insects that haunted the bushy growth with
which the whole face of the country was covered, and the occasional call
of a bird.  As for Jose, his first act, upon being left to himself, was
to scrutinise carefully the whole face of the visible country, under the
sharp of his hand, and then seat himself in the shadow of the capstan-
house, light his pipe, and abandon himself to the soothing influence of
the "weed."

Now the happenings of the last hour had set me thinking hard.  First of
all, there was Dominique's remark about the impossibility of anyone
escaping inland.  During the period of my convalescence I had seen
enough of the country, while wandering about in Lotta's company, to
convince me that this statement might be quite true, although Lotta had
never said a word to lead me to believe that she was aware that it was
so.  And if there was no possibility of escaping landward, the only
alternative was to escape by going out to sea.  But a boat voyage was an
undertaking not to be rashly entered upon, especially where a woman was
in the case; the inconvenience and discomfort, to say nothing of the
danger, of such an attempt were such as to make me pause long and
consider the matter very seriously in all its bearings before
determining to engage in such a venture.  Yet something must be done; we
could not continue to inhabit the cavern indefinitely; a way of escape
must be found; for after what had fallen from Dominique's lips while
addressing his men, I felt that there was no such thing as safety for
any of us while we remained within arm's reach of that miscreant.  The
most serious feature of the case, so far as a boat voyage was concerned,
was that even the biggest of the available boats, which was one of the
_Barracouta's_ gigs, was much too small to justify me in the attempt to
make the passage to Jamaica in her; for should the breeze happen to pipe
strong, the boat could not possibly live in the boisterous sea that
would at once be knocked up.  If, on the other hand, the brig's longboat
had happened to be in the water, or some other craft big enough to
accomplish the voyage in safety--I pulled myself up suddenly, for a
distinctly audacious idea had at that moment occurred to me as well
worthy of consideration.  Why not take the brig herself?  True, she was
a big craft for two men to handle, but if she could but be got safely
out to sea, and beyond the reach of pursuit by boats, she could be
sailed under such short canvas that one man could take care of her for a
whole watch without very much difficulty.  The trouble would be to get
aboard her, get her under way, and take her out to sea without being
detected and pursued, unless--and here I pulled myself up again, for
another audacious idea had occurred to me.

I looked at Jose--he appeared to be in a distinctly drowsy condition, if
indeed not already asleep, overpowered by the heat, and lulled to
slumber by the unwonted quiet of his surroundings.  Then I looked
carefully around me to see whether I could detect any traces of the man-
hunters, but saw none; they were all undoubtedly well out of the way by
this time.  I pulled myself together and braced myself up for immediate
action, for it suddenly dawned upon me that I was never likely to have a
more favourable opportunity to carry my bold scheme into effect than
that which at that moment presented itself to me.  I quietly emerged
from my place of concealment and, once more crouching low among the
ferns, crept slowly and with infinite caution toward the somnolent Jose,
gradually working my way round until I could just see him clear of the
corner of the capstan-house.  Some twenty minutes of this work brought
me right up to the gable end of the building, from which position I
again reconnoitred Jose.  He was unmistakably fast asleep, and therefore
practically at my mercy.  But as I had no intention of killing the man,
if I could possibly avoid so extreme a measure, I must have the
wherewithal to bind him securely, and that could undoubtedly be obtained
in the capstan-house.  I therefore removed my shoes and, carrying them
in my hand, stole on tiptoe round the corner of the building, keeping a
wary eye on the sleeper as I did so.  Presently I slipped noiselessly in
through the open door, and found myself in a long, spacious apartment
abundantly stored with ponderous hempen cables and hawsers, anchors of
various sizes, piles of sails neatly stopped up, quantities of chain of
various kinds, coils of rope, sufficient, it appeared to me, to fit a
new gang of running rigging to a dozen ships like the _Barracouta_,
bundles of blocks, single, double, threefold, and sister, dangling from
the beams--in fact almost every conceivable article that could possibly
be needed in the fitting out of a ship.  There was part of a coil of
brand-new ratline close to my hand, which would serve my purpose
admirably, I therefore whipped out my knife and cut off as much as I
required, seized a double handful of oakum and a belaying-pin with which
to form a gag, cut off a length of marline with which to secure the gag
in place, and then, having made a running bowline in the end of my
length of ratline, I stole, still in my stocking feet, to the door, and
very cautiously peered out at Jose.  The man was sound asleep, seated on
the ground with his back propped against the wall of the capstan-house,
his legs stretched out straight in front of him, his arms hanging limply
at his sides with the backs of his hands resting on the ground and
turned palm upward, his head sunk on his breast, and his pipe, fallen
from his mouth, lying in his lap.

Silently and stealthily I crept toward him until I stood by his side;
then, without pausing a moment, I dropped the noosed ratline over his
shoulders, at the same moment grabbing him by the collar and dragging
him forward to allow the noose to drop to his middle, hauling it taut as
it did so, and thus confining his arms to his sides.  Then, as he opened
his mouth with the evident intention of letting out a yell, I popped the
belaying-pin wrapped in oakum into his mouth, at the same time hissing
into his ear: "Be silent as you value your life!"  Then, turning him
over on his face, I rapidly trussed him up in such a fashion that I felt
confident he would never get free again, unaided; and finally I dragged
him inside the capstan-house, adjusting the gag in such a manner that,
while not interfering unduly with his comfort, it would effectually
prevent him from raising an alarm.  And then, having assured myself that
I had nothing to fear from him, I hurried off and made the best of my
way to the cave, where I found its occupants suffering the greatest
uneasiness in consequence of my prolonged absence.

A few hasty words from me sufficed to put them in possession of my
plans, and then, gathering up such few personal belongings as we had
brought with us, we left the cavern and hurried away to the wharf, which
we managed to reach unobserved, and temporarily concealed ourselves in
the capstan-house, where Jose was found still safely trussed up.  Then,
leaving Lotta, Fonseca, and Mammy in the building, I sallied out to make
my final arrangements, which I hoped to do without interference, since
that part of the wharf where I was operating was not visible from the
house.  But there was, of course, the risk that those in the house might
at any moment take it into their heads to come down to the wharf to see
how Jose was faring, and it was therefore of the utmost importance that
what I had to do should be done quickly.

I walked to the edge of the wharf and looked over.  The two gigs and the
cutter of the _Barracouta_ were lying alongside each other at a flight
of steps about half a dozen fathoms away, the only other boat which I
could see afloat lying just astern of them.  But there were several
boats hauled-up high and dry on the wharf, and these would need thinking
about with reference to the scheme that I had in my mind.  Slipping down
the landing steps, I cast adrift three out of the four boats, and re-
moored them in a string, one to the stern of another, so that by manning
the leading boat, we could tow the others after us.  Then I returned to
the capstan-house and proceeded to look for a carpenter's maul, which I
quickly found.  I was now ready for what I fondly hoped would prove to
be the last act in our little drama, and was about to give the word to
march, when Fonseca, who appeared to have been speaking to Jose, stayed
me.

"Senor Grenvile," he said, "I have just been exchanging a few remarks
with our friend Jose here, who has made certain representations to me
that I think demand your consideration.  He quite understands, of
course, that we are about to attempt to escape, and he fully recognises
that he has no power to prevent us.  But he contends that if we go off
and leave him here, Dominique will certainly torture him to death as a
punishment for permitting himself to be taken by surprise; and from what
I know of Dominique, I am afraid poor Jose has only too good reason for
his apprehension.  That being the case, he implores us to take him with
us, even if we afterward deliver him up to the authorities, since he
would infinitely rather be hanged than remain here at the mercy of
Dominique.  What say you, senor; do you feel inclined to accede to his
request?"

I looked at Jose.  The poor wretch was evidently in a paroxysm of
terror, and was muttering eagerly behind his gag, while he gazed up at
me with eyes that were eloquent with pleading.

"Take the gag out of his mouth," said I, "and let me hear what he has to
say.  But upon the first attempt to raise his voice, brain him with the
belaying-pin.  We must have no trifling now."

Fonseca at once removed the gag, and Jose instantly burst forth with a
perfect torrent of prayers for mercy, intermingled with the most earnest
and graphic representations of what would happen to him if left behind.

"I would take you with us willingly, Jose," I said, "if I could be
assured that you would be faithful to us; but--"

"Oh, senor, do not doubt me, I implore you!  Take me with you, senor;
and if you feel that you cannot trust me, put me in irons when we get on
board.  But I swear to you, senor, that I will indeed be faithful to
you.  Take me, senor, and try me!"

"Very well," I said, "I will.  But you must not expect me to trust you
too much at first.  Therefore, Fonseca, put the gag back into his mouth,
for the moment, and then cast his feet adrift, so that he can walk down
to the boats instead of being carried.  And while you are doing that, I
will take a final look outside, and attend to a certain little matter
before we leave."  And, so saying, I picked up the maul and walked out
of the building.

A careful look all round satisfied me that there was nobody in sight;
and as for the party up at the house, it was about time for their midday
meal, and they were probably getting it.  I therefore made my way to the
spot where the hauled-up boats were lying, and deliberately smashed in
two or three of the bottom planks of each, thus rendering them quite
unserviceable for the moment.  Then, returning to the capstan-house, I
gave the word to march, and the whole party, now five in number,
including Jose, filed across the wharf and down the steps into the
leading gig; the painter was cast off, and Fonseca and I taking an oar
apiece, we pushed off and, with the other three boats in tow, made our
way slowly toward the brig.

And then, suddenly, a dreadful apprehension seized me.  "By Jove,
Fonseca," I exclaimed, "I have never thought of it until this moment,
but what is going to happen if there are any people left aboard the
brig?  I have been quite taking it for granted that all hands came
ashore this morning, but of course I cannot be at all sure that they
did."

"I presume you did not by any chance notice, senor, precisely how many
men landed, did you?" demanded Fonseca.

"Yes," said I, "I did.  And, including Dominique and Juan, they numbered
forty-two."

"Forty-two!" repeated Fonseca.  "Now, just let me think."  He considered
for about a minute, and then said:

"So far as I can remember, senor, forty-two should include all hands.
But, all the same, it will not be amiss to approach the ship warily, and
get aboard, if possible, noiselessly.  Then, once aboard, we can soon
ascertain whether anyone is there.  And if perchance there should be, it
cannot be more than one or two at most, whom we can probably overpower
if we once get a footing on deck."

A few minutes later we opened out the house clear of the wood, and I
kept my eye on it, wondering how long it would be ere we should attract
the attention of Juan and those with him.  They must have seen us almost
immediately, for in less than a minute we saw half a dozen men rush out
on to the gallery that ran all round the building, and stand staring
straight at us, evidently talking excitedly together the while; then, as
with one accord, they set off racing down the path at breakneck speed
toward the wharf, shouting to us and gesticulating wildly as they ran.
But we took matters very quietly, knowing that there was not a boat left
that would swim, or, as we believed, that could be made to swim without
a couple of hours' work being done upon her.  Then I turned my gaze
toward the brig; for I argued that since their cries reached us quite
distinctly, they must also reach the brig, and if anyone had been left
aboard her those cries would soon create an alarm, and we might expect
to see some movement on board her.  But we saw nothing, the craft
maintained the appearance of being absolutely deserted, and five minutes
later we stole up alongside and quietly scrambled aboard her by way of
the main chains.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

HOW THE ADVENTURE ENDED.

As I dropped in over the rail and alighted upon the deck, I flung a
quick glance along it, fore and aft, in search of some trace of
occupation, but there was nothing to indicate that anyone had been left
on board.  I stole forward and listened intently at the fore scuttle,
but there was no sound of movement down in the forecastle, nor could I
catch any suggestion of deep breathing or snoring, as would probably
have been the case had an anchor-watch been left on board, and, ignoring
its responsibilities, gone below and turned in.  But, determined to make
quite sure, I swung my legs over the coaming and quietly dropped down
into the close, pungent-smelling place.  For a moment I could see
nothing, for the only light entering the forecastle came down through
the hatch, and my eyes were dazzled with the brilliant light of the
outer world; but presently my sight came to me and I saw that all the
bunks and hammocks were empty, and that the apartment contained nothing
more dangerous than a heterogeneous assortment of clothes, boots,
oilskins, and other articles common to seamen.  I therefore made my way
on deck again and ran aft, where I encountered Fonseca just emerging
from the cabin, where he, like myself, had been on an exploring
expedition, which, like mine, had proved fruitless.  As we met and
exchanged news my eyes wandered away shoreward, and I noticed that Juan
and his companions had reached the wharf, and seemed to be busying
themselves about one of the upturned boats which I had taken the
precaution to stave.  Upon getting the ship's glass I had no difficulty
in discovering that they were busily engaged in an attempt to patch up
and make her serviceable, with the evident intention of coming in
pursuit of us.

"By Jove, Fonseca," I exclaimed, "we must bestir ourselves or those
fellows may nab us after all.  Jump down into the gig, cast Jose adrift,
and bid him come aboard instantly; we have not a moment to lose."

And as I spoke I made a dash at the trysail brails, cast them off, and
proceeded to drag upon the fall of the outhaul tackle.  Presently
Fonseca returned with Jose, and both lent a hand with a will, the latter
seeming to be quite as anxious as any of us to avoid being taken by his
former companions.  Then, rushing forward, I laid out on the jib-boom
and cast loose the inner jib, which Fonseca and Jose at once proceeded
to hoist.  Then, hauling the jib-sheet over to windward, we cast off the
slip by which the brig was, as usual, secured to her buoy, and I then
ran aft and put the helm hard down.  The brig was now adrift, and with
stern way on her; but with the helm hard down she soon paid off, when we
hauled aft the lee jib-sheet, and she at once began to forge ahead.
But, unfortunately for us, it was almost a dead beat of nearly two miles
out to sea, with not very much room to manoeuvre in.  If, therefore, the
people ashore happened to be specially handy with their tools they might
yet get their boat repaired in time to give us trouble; for, smart ship
as the _Barracouta_ undoubtedly was, the small amount of sail which we
now had set was only sufficient to put her along at about two knots in
the hour, or barely to give her steerage way.  But she carried a main-
topmast staysail which was a fine big sail, the stay reaching from the
main-topmast cross-trees down to the foremast within about ten feet of
the deck, and this sail we now got on her, with great advantage, her
speed at once increasing to nearly four knots.  But under this canvas I
soon found that she griped rather badly; that is to say, she required an
undue amount of weather helm to hold her straight to her course.  We
therefore loosed and set the fore-topmast staysail, after which she not
only practically steered herself, but further increased her speed to not
far short of five knots.  We had now as much canvas set as we three men
could very well manage, and quite enough to keep us going so soon as we
should get outside.  My only anxiety was lest we should have trouble
with the people before we could pass out clear of the heads into the
open ocean.  Once there I knew that we could easily run away from any
rowboat that they could launch.  And that reminded me that we had no
less than four boats towing behind us, and that they retarded our speed
to a quite perceptible extent.  Summoning Fonseca and Jose to my
assistance, therefore, and showing Lotta how to manipulate the helm in
such a manner as to keep the brig going through the water, we hauled-up
first one gig and then the other, and succeeded in hoisting them to the
davits.  The other two we also hauled alongside, and, dropping a couple
of cold shot through their bottoms cast them adrift.

By the time that all this was done we had drawn well over toward the
southern shore of the bay, and the moment had arrived for us to heave in
stays.  I was just a little anxious as to this manoeuvre, having my
doubts as to whether the brig would stay under such short canvas as that
which she now had set; but upon putting the helm down all my
apprehensions were at once set at rest, for she came round like a top.
But I was fully confirmed in my conviction that it would be unwise to
attempt to get any more canvas on the vessel, for although the trysail
worked itself the two stay-sails and the jib proved to be quite as much
as we three men could well manage.

Having made a long "leg" across the bay, we now had to make a short one;
and no sooner were we round than I took another look at Juan and his
party through the telescope, just to see how they were getting on.  To
my amazement they appeared to have already executed some sort of repair
of the boat that they had been working upon, for as I brought the glass
to bear upon them I saw that they had turned her over and were carrying
her down to the water's edge, with the evident intention of launching
her; and while I stood watching they actually got her afloat.  Then,
while one man got into her and immediately started baling, the remaining
five hurried off to the wharf, and, disappearing into one of the sheds,
presently reappeared, carrying oars, boat-hook, rudder, bottom boards,
stretchers, and other matters of boats' furniture.  These they carried
down to where the boat was lying, and having placed them in position,
jumped in and pushed off.

"By Jove, Fonseca, they are after us already!"  I exclaimed.  "Now if
they have managed to make a good repair of that boat they will overhaul
us before we can get clear of the bay.  And that will mean a fight, for
I certainly do not mean to give in if I can help it; and if we can
muster half a dozen muskets and a few rounds of ammunition we ought to
be able to keep those fellows from coming alongside, we having the
advantage of the deck to fight from.  See, they know well what they are
about; they are not attempting to follow us, but are pulling straight
for the entrance, keeping close under the lee of the land."

"Yes, I see," answered Fonseca as he took the telescope from me and
applied it to his eye.  "But I see also, senor, that one man is kept
busy baling with a bucket, so it is evident that the boat leaks badly;
and it may be that before they can overtake us they will be obliged to
give up and go back to save the boat from swamping under them."

"Possibly," I agreed.  "Nevertheless I think it would be only wise of us
to take every reasonable precaution.  Therefore I shall feel obliged if
you will be good enough to go below and look out a dozen muskets--you
will doubtless know where to find them--and, having found them, load
them with ball and bring them up on deck to me."

"Certainly, senor; there will be no difficulty about that," assented
Fonseca.  "I will go at once."  And he forthwith vanished down the
companion way.  A quarter of an hour later he returned with six loaded
muskets in his arms, which he deposited upon the stern-grating, and then
went below for the remaining half-dozen.

Meanwhile we had been slipping quite nimbly across the bay, and by the
time that Fonseca had returned with the second lot of muskets we had
neared the land sufficiently to render it necessary for us to heave
about again.  By the time that we had tacked and were full again the
boat had neared us to within about a mile, and it became a practical
certainty that, unless something quite unforeseen occurred, we should be
obliged to fight our passage out to sea.  But we were now making a "long
leg" again, leaving the boat almost astern of us, and going at least as
fast through the water as she was, if not somewhat faster.  Then, as I
stood at the wheel steering, with my thoughts wandering away into the
past, an idea suddenly entered my head, and I said to Fonseca:

"By the way, Fonseca, can you tell me whether this is the brig that,
some six months ago, attacked a little schooner called the _Dolores_
over on the Guinea coast, and, after taking a cargo of slaves out of
her, scuttled her in cold blood, leaving the survivors of her crew to go
down with her?"

The man looked at me in consternation.  "Why, how on earth did you come
to know of that rascally transaction, senor?" he demanded.

"Because," said I, "I happened to be in command of the _Dolores_ at the
time, and was one of those who were left to perish in her.  She was a
prize, and I had been given charge of her, with orders to take her to
Sierra Leone."

"How extraordinary!" he exclaimed.  "And, pray, how did you manage to
escape, senor?"

I told him the whole story, concluding by saying: "I have had a rod in
pickle for this brig ever since.  I vowed then that I would find and
take her; and, having succeeded thus far, I am not going to allow myself
to be baffled by half a dozen men in an open boat."

When we next went about I saw that we were heading well up for the
narrow passage which formed the entrance of the bay; but the boat had
made such good progress that it was quite an open question whether she
or the brig would first reach it.  I believed that if we could reach it
with a lead of even so little as a quarter of a mile we could get out
without coming to blows; but should the boat succeed in approaching us
any closer than that, I foresaw that she must inevitably overtake us in
"the narrows", which would be the very worst place possible for us,
since we were beating out against the trade wind, and the spot that we
were now approaching was so exceedingly narrow that there was scarcely
width enough for even so smart a vessel as the _Barracouta_ to work in
it.  We should no sooner be about and nicely gathering steerage way than
down the helm would have to go again, and we should have our hands quite
sufficiently full in looking after the ship just there without the
additional worry of being obliged to drive off a boat.  I therefore
determined that should there presently prove to be any doubt about the
matter I would edge away down upon the boat and have it out with her
while we still had room in which to manoeuvre the ship.

The brig and the boat were now approaching each other on courses that
converged at about right angles, the boat being on our lee bow, but
drawing ahead at a pace which threatened to bring her unpleasantly near
us if it did not actually carry her across our forefoot.  But as we drew
nearer I noticed that, despite the continuous baling that was going on
aboard the boat, she had settled so deeply in the water that she could
scarcely hope to keep afloat another half-hour, and the idea came to me
that if I could avoid her for that length of time I need fear no further
trouble from her, for she would simply swamp with her crew and leave
them to swim for their lives.  I carefully examined the shore through
the telescope to see whether there was a spot on which our pursuers
could beach their boat and get rid of the water by the simple process of
turning her over and pouring the water out of her, but I could see no
such spot; the whole shore, right out to the narrows, was steep-to, with
a confused fringe of great masses of rock upon which it would be quite
impossible to haul up a boat.

As the two craft drew close together it became increasingly doubtful
whether we should be able to avoid the boat unless by the adoption of
some especial measures, and at length I saw that when the time should
arrive for us to heave in stays our pursuers would have actually cut us
off.  I therefore stood on until we had arrived within about a hundred
yards of them, by which time they were dead ahead of us, and lying upon
their oars, waiting for us to endeavour to pass them, when I calmly put
the brig's helm hard up, instead of down, and we wore round on the other
tack, going back over pretty nearly the same ground that we had
traversed a few minutes before, to the intense disgust and
disappointment of Juan and his companions, who had evidently quite made
up their minds that they had us fairly caught.  The moment that our
manoeuvre had so far developed as to be understood, the occupants of the
boat sent up a yell of execration, and began to shout all manner of
dreadful threats at us, while they frantically strove to get their crazy
boat round in order to come after us in chase.  But it soon became
apparent that, the boat being in a waterlogged condition, and the
oarsmen almost worn out with fatigue, our pursuers had not a ghost of a
chance of overtaking us.  They, as well as we, recognised this when it
was all but too late.  Then it dawned upon them that we might evade them
with the utmost ease, for practically as long as we chose, by simply
repeating our last manoeuvre until their boat should sink under them--an
event, by the way, which they could not much longer defer.  After
pursuing us, therefore, for nearly a mile, they suddenly abandoned the
chase, and, turning the boat's head in the direction of the wharf,
devoted their efforts to the successful accomplishment of their return.
We did not wait to see how they fared, but, as soon as they were fairly
out of our way, tacked again, and half an hour later found ourselves
fully employed in negotiating the exceedingly difficult navigation of
the narrows, which we successfully accomplished after several
exceedingly close shaves of the rocks that border the passage on either
hand.  Half an hour of this work sufficed to take us clear, when we
emerged into another funnel-shaped channel leading into the open water
of the Bahama Channel.  It was close upon eight bells of the afternoon
watch when we finally went out clear of everything, by which time we
were all quite ready for the appetising meal that Mammy, arrogating to
herself the duties of cook, had prepared for us in the ship's galley.

Under our short canvas it took us the best part of three days to beat up
to Cape Maysi, the easternmost extremity of Cuba, which we safely
weathered about four bells in the forenoon watch on the third morning
after our escape.  Then, the weather being fine, with the wind well over
our port quarter for the run through the Windward Channel across to
Morant Point, we ventured to get a little more canvas on the craft,
setting both topsails, which quickened up our speed to close on seven
knots.  The weather continuing fine all through that day and the
succeeding night, we sighted the broken water on the Formigas Bank the
next morning at breakfast-time, and passed it a quarter of an hour
later.  At noon of that same day we sighted Morant Point, the
easternmost extremity of the island of Jamaica, and rounded it two hours
later.  A pilot boarded us about six bells, off Yallahs Point, and
finally we entered Port Royal harbour, and let go our anchor, on the
very last of the sea breeze, just as the bell of the flagship was
striking four in the first dog watch.

Now that we had actually arrived I could see that Fonseca and, still
more, Jose felt a considerable amount of anxiety as to what was likely
to befall them in consequence of their connection with so notorious and
formidable a pirate as Ricardo, but I was able pretty well to reassure
the surgeon, at least, for he had told me his story, and I believed it
would not be very difficult for him to satisfy the authorities that he
had been compelled to join the pirates, and had never been permitted the
least chance to effect his escape on those rare occasions when the
_Barracouta_ had been obliged to call at an ordinary port.  Further,
there was the fact, to which of course I could bear personal testimony,
that he had warned Lotta and myself of the fate designed for us by
Dominique and the rest, after the death of Ricardo, and had most loyally
aided us to effect our escape.  So far as Jose was concerned I did not
feel quite so sure of being able to screen him, but I told him that I
believed I could at least ensure that his punishment should not be more
severe than that involved in his compulsory entry on board a British
man-o'-war--for he, too, had loyally done his fair share of work on the
passage round to Port Royal.  The fellow, however, took care to leave
nothing to chance, for some time during that same night he contrived to
entice a boat alongside, and in her made his way to Kingston, where he
vanished.

I made no attempt to go ashore or otherwise communicate with the admiral
on the night of our arrival, for I had been on deck practically the
whole time of our passage, snatching an hour or two of sleep when and
how I could, and I felt that now I was entitled to, and should be all
the better for, a thorough good night's rest.  But the next morning I
was up betimes, and, having breakfasted, went ashore in a shore boat and
presented myself for admittance at the admiral's office, so as to catch
him as soon as the old fellow should arrive from Kingston.  Prior to
this, however, I had sighted and identified the little _Francesca_,
lying about half a mile farther up the harbour, looking as smart and
saucy as though she had never been mauled by a pirate.  There were very
few people moving so early in the morning, and I hastened to take
shelter in the office, as I was anxious to avoid meeting any of my
former friends or acquaintances until I had first had an interview with
Sir Timothy.

It was getting well on toward eleven o'clock when at length his barge
dashed up alongside the wharf, and he came bustling along toward his
office, smartening up this, that, and the other person who did not seem
to be infusing a proper amount of energy into his work as he came along.

As he entered I heard the office messenger say something to him in a low
tone, to which he responded:

"What?  Nonsense! you must be mistaken, Mooney, or else you have been
drinking this morning."

"Not a drop, your honour, has passed my lips this mornin'," I heard the
man answer.  "And furthermore, sir, the gentleman's inside this minit,
waitin' to see ye."

The next moment Sir Timothy entered, and I rose to my feet.

"Well, I'll be shot, so it is!" he gasped.  Then he grasped me by the
hand and shook it heartily, exclaiming: "Welcome back to Port Royal, my
boy, welcome back!  And now, sit down and tell me in half a dozen words,
for I'm frightfully busy this morning, where you have been, and what you
have done with yourself."

Thereupon I resumed my seat, and spun my yarn, not in half a dozen words
exactly, but as briefly as possible, confining myself to the statement
of just the leading facts and incidents, and reserving the details for a
more suitable occasion.  But I mentioned Lotta, and ventured to ask Sir
Timothy's advice as to how I should proceed in the matter of procuring
her lodgment and so on until her trustees could be communicated with and
she could be restored to their charge.

"Oh, as to that," answered Sir Timothy, "there need be no difficulty at
all!  You must dine with me at the Pen to-night, of course, so that you
can give me your yarn at full length, and you had better bring the young
lady with you.  Lady Mary is the best person to decide what to do with
her."

Accordingly, that afternoon I took Lotta ashore with me, and, having
looked in upon the Todds on our way, and, needless to say, received a
most hospitable and friendly welcome, hired a ketureen and drove her up
to the Pen, where Lady Mary, having been previously prepared by her
husband, forthwith took possession of her and carried her off to her own
private room, from which she reappeared no more until dinner-time, when
to my amazement Lotta was led forth to be presented to the assembled
company, attired in a rig which Lady Mary and her maid had devised upon
the spur of the moment, and in which the senorita looked so surpassingly
lovely that the sight of her fairly took my breath away.

Sir Timothy, with that inherent kindness of heart which was one of his
most pronounced characteristics, took care that I was the hero of the
evening, making me spin my yarn in detail to him and his guests; and at
the end thereof awarding me a great deal more praise than I was in the
least entitled to.  Lotta and I slept at the Pen that night, and after
all the guests had left, we four, that is to say Sir Timothy, Lady Mary,
Lotta, and I, resolved ourselves into a sort of council.  It was
ultimately arranged that Lotta was to remain at the Pen as the guest of
Lady Mary and Sir Timothy until her trustees could be communicated with,
and arrangements made with them for her to return and take possession of
her home and property, and that I, meanwhile, was to resume command of
the _Francesca_, and in her proceed to the pirate rendezvous and destroy
the place utterly, making prisoners of all who should be found about the
place, and, of course, taking care to bring back whatever booty the
pirates might have been found to have accumulated.  It is proper to say
here that I did not consider it necessary to mention to Sir Timothy
anything about Ricardo's private store of treasure hidden in the cave.
I felt that Ricardo had been perfectly right when he said that I had as
good a right as anybody to that, and I was quite determined that it
should be Lotta's and mine, to bring about which result I felt that my
best plan would be to keep the whole matter to myself.

It happened that the _Francesca_ was quite ready for sea, and there was
therefore nothing to wait for except a few necessary articles of
clothing for myself.  Accordingly, within forty-eight hours of my
arrival in Port Royal, aboard the _Barracouta_, I was at sea again in
the schooner, on my way to demolish the lair of the pirates.  Carrying
on heavily we arrived in the bay on the afternoon of the second day out,
and anchored in such a position that not only the wharf and the various
sheds, but also the bungalow, were within range of the schooner's guns.
Then, while one-half of the crew remained on board to take care of the
vessel, and guard against the possibility of the pirates playing off my
own trick upon me and stealing the schooner, the other half, armed to
the teeth, accompanied me ashore and proceeded to collect and convey to
the schooner all the booty of every kind that we could find, and which
seemed worth carrying off.  Not a pirate appeared to say us nay; indeed,
a little investigation soon made it apparent that my act of running away
with their brig had caused them to take the alarm and make their escape
in certain of the boats which I had damaged.  Plain evidence was
discovered of the fact that they had hurriedly repaired four of their
boats and had gone off, carrying away with them all their portable booty
in the shape of coin, bullion, jewellery, etcetera, and leaving only
that which was too bulky to be stowed in their boats.  We found
sufficient of the latter, however, in the shape of valuable merchandise,
to load the schooner very nearly down to her covering board; having
stowed which safely away, we set fire to the whole place, and never left
it until every building, including the bungalow, had been utterly
destroyed.  And thus ended my long and persistent pursuit of one of the
most pestilent and formidable gangs of pirates that had haunted the
Atlantic and West Indian waters for many years.

There is very little more left me to say.  Sir Timothy was good enough
to award me a great deal more praise for my conduct over this affair
than I felt that I at all deserved, although my conscience was not
tender enough to cause me to refuse the promotion that soon afterwards
followed.

Lotta remained with Sir Timothy and Lady Mary for nearly two months,
during which I was afforded ample opportunity to enjoy her society and
bask in her smiles; and at the end of that period her guardians came
over from Cuba and took her back with them for the purpose of placing
her in possession of her magnificent estate, which comprised several
thousand acres of the finest tobacco-growing district in the island.
But before she went an arrangement had been come to between her and
myself that we were to marry as soon as I had attained my post-
captaincy, which occurred within a couple of years, thanks to the
interest which Sir Timothy was good enough to take in me, and the
opportunities which he constantly afforded me for gaining step after
step "up the ratlines".  Needless to say I took an early opportunity to
pay yet another and a final visit to Ricardo's rendezvous for the
purpose of securing the treasure which he had bequeathed to me, and
which I cautiously, and bit by bit, as opportunity offered, converted
into money, which I safely invested in the public funds.

As for Fonseca, I was able to make such representations on his behalf as
secured him complete immunity from prosecution for his connection with
the pirates; and a firm friendship rapidly sprang up between us which
ended in his establishing himself as a medical practitioner in Cuba, in
the district in which Lotta's estates were situate; and he is now one of
the most popular and prosperous physicians in the island.





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