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´╗┐Title: A Pirate of the Caribbees
Author: Collingwood, Harry, 1851-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Pirate of the Caribbees" ***

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A Pirate of the Caribbees

By Harry Collingwood
________________________________________________________________________
A very well-written book about the efforts of a young officer,
Courtenay, to bring to book a wicked pirate, Morillo.  It all seems very
likely and believable, despite the usual ration of shipwrecks, captures,
hurricanes, founderings, and so forth.

Makes a very good audiobook. NH.

________________________________________________________________________
A PIRATE OF THE CARIBBEES

BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD



CHAPTER ONE.

A FRIGATE FIGHT IN MID-ATLANTIC.

"Eight bells, there, sleepers; d'ye hear the news?--Rouse and bitt, my
hearties!  Show a leg!  Eight bells, Courtenay! and Keene says he will
be much obliged if you will relieve him as soon as possible!"

These words, delivered in a tone of voice that was a curious alternation
of a high treble with a preternaturally deep bass--due to the fact that
the speaker's voice was "breaking"--and accompanied by the reckless
banging of a tin pannikin upon the deal table that adorned the
midshipmen's berth of H.M. frigate _Althea_, instantly awoke me to the
disagreeable consciousness that my watch below had come to an end,
especially as the concluding portion of the harangue was addressed to me
personally, and accompanied by a most uncompromising thump upon the side
of my hammock.  So I surlily growled an answer--

"All right, young 'un; there's no occasion to make all that hideous row!
Just see if you can make yourself useful by finding Black Peter, will
you, and telling him to brew some coffee."

The lad was turning away to do my bidding when a pattering of naked feet
became audible as their owner approached, while a husky voice
ejaculated--

"Who's dat axin' for Brack Petah?  Was it you, Mistah Courtenay?"  And
at the same instant the shining, good-natured, grinning visage of a
gigantic negro appeared in the narrow doorway, through which the fellow
instantly passed into the berth, bearing a big pot of steaming hot
coffee.

"Ay, you black demon, I it was," answered I.  "Is that coffee you have
there?  Then find my cup and fill it, there's a good fellow, and I'll
owe you a glass of grog."

"Hi, yi!" answered the black, his eyes sparkling and his teeth gleaming
hilariously, "who you call `brack demon,' eh, sah?  Who eber hear of
brack demon turnin' out at four o'clock in de mornin' to make coffee for
young gentermen, eh?  And about de grog, Mistah Courtenay; how many
glasses do dis one make dat you now owe me, eh, sah?  Ansah me dat, sah.
You don' keep no account, I expec's, sah, but _I_ do.  Dis one makes
seben, Mistah Courtenay, and I'd be much obleege, sah, if you'd pay some
of dem off.  It am all bery well to say you'll _owe_ 'em to me, sah, but
what's de use ob dat if you don' nebber _pay_ me, eh?"

"_Pay_ you, you rascal?" shouted I, as I sprang to the deck and began
hastily to scramble into my clothes, "do you mean to say that you have
the impudence to actually expect to _be paid_?  Is it not honour and
reward enough that a gentleman condescends to become _indebted_ to you?
Pay, indeed! why, what is the world coming to, I wonder?"

"Bravo, Courtenay, well spoken!" shouted young Lindsay, the lad who had
so ruthlessly interrupted my slumbers, "how well you express yourself;
you ought to be in Parliament, man!  Give it him again; bring him to his
bearings.  The impudence of the fellow is getting to be past endurance!
Now then, you black swab, where's the sugar?  Do you suppose we can
drink that stuff without sugar?"

After a search of some duration the sugar was eventually found in a
locker, in loving contiguity to an open box of blacking, some boot
brushes, a box of candles, a few fragments of brown windsor,--one of
which had somehow found its way into the bowl,--and a few other fragrant
trifles.  In my haste to get on deck, and betrayed by the feeble light
of the purser's dip, which just sufficed to render the darkness visible,
I managed to convey this stray morsel of soap into my coffee along with
the sugar wherewith I intended to sweeten it, and only discovered what I
had done barely in time to avoid gulping down the soap along with the
scalding liquid into which I had plunged it.  A midshipman, however,
soon loses all sense of squeamishness, so I contented myself with
muttering a sea blessing upon the head of the unknown individual who had
deposited this "matter in the wrong place," and dashed up the hatchway
to relieve the impatient Keene.

I shivered and instinctively buttoned my jacket closely about me as I
stepped out on deck, for, mild and bland as the temperature actually
was, it felt raw and chill after the close, stifling atmosphere of the
midshipman's berth.  It was very dark, for it was only just past the
date of the new moon, and the thin silver sickle--which was all that the
coy orb then showed of herself--had set some hours before; moreover,
there was a thin veil of mist or sea fog hanging upon the surface of the
water, through which only a few of the brighter stars could be faintly
distinguished near the zenith.  There was no wind--it had fallen calm
the night before about sunset, and we were in the Horse latitudes--and
the frigate was rolling uneasily upon a short, steep swell that had come
creeping up out from the north-east during the middle watch, the
precursor, as we hoped, of the north-east trades--for we were in the
very heart of the North Atlantic, and bound to the West Indies.  I duly
received the anathemas of my shipmate Keene at my tardy appearance on
deck, hurled a properly spirited retort after him down the hatchway, and
then made my way up the poop ladder to tramp out my watch on the lee
side of the deck--if there can be such a thing as a lee side when there
is no wind.

It was dreary work, this tramping fore and aft, fore and aft, with
nothing whatever to engage the attention, and nothing to do.  I
therefore eagerly watched for, and hailed with delight, the first faint
pallid brightening of the eastern sky that heralded the dawn; for with
daylight there would at least be the ship's toilet to make--the decks to
holystone and scrub, brasswork and guns to clean and polish, the
paintwork to wash, sheets and braces to flemish-coil, and mayhap
something to see, as well as the possibility that with the rising of the
sun we might get a small slant of wind to push us a few miles nearer to
the region where the trade wind was merrily blowing.

The dawn came slowly--or perhaps it merely _seemed_ to my impatience to
do so--and with daylight the mist that had hung about the ship all night
thickened into a genuine, unmistakable fog, so thick that when standing
by the break of the poop it was impossible to see as far as the jib-boom
end.

The fog made Mr Hennesey, our second lieutenant and the officer of the
watch, uneasy,--as well it might, for we were in the early spring of the
year 1805, and Great Britain was at war with France, Spain, and Holland,
at that time the three most formidable naval powers in the world, next
to ourselves, and the chances were that every second ship we might meet
would be an enemy,--and at length, just as seven bells were being
struck, he turned to me and said--

"Mr Courtenay, you have good eyes; just jump up on to the main-royal
yard, will you, and take a look round.  This fog packs close, but I do
not believe it reaches as high as our mastheads, and I feel curious to
know whether anything has drifted within sight of us during the night."

I touched my hat, and forthwith made my way into the main rigging, glad
of even a journey aloft to break the dismal monotony of the blind, grey,
stirless morning, and in due time swung myself up on to the slender
yard, the sail of which had been clewed up but not furled.  But, alas!
the worthy second luff was mistaken for once in his life; it was every
whit as thick up there as it was down on deck, and not a thing could I
see but the fore and mizzenmasts, with their intricacies of standing and
running rigging, their tapering yards, and their broad spaces of wet and
drooping canvas, hanging limp and looming spectrally through the ghostly
mist-wreaths.  I was about to hail the deck and report the failure of my
experimental journey, but was checked in the very act by feeling
something like a faint stir in the damp, heavy air about me; another
moment and a dim yellow smudge became visible on the port beam, which I
presently recognised as the newly risen sun struggling to pierce with
his beams the ponderous masses of white vapour that were now slowly
working as though stirred by some subtle agency.  By imperceptible
degrees the pallid vision of the sun brightened and strengthened, and
presently I became conscious of a faint but distinct movement of the air
from off the port quarter, to which the cloths of the sail against which
my feet dangled responded with a gentle rustling movement.

"On deck, there!"  I shouted, "it is still as thick as a hedge up here,
sir, but it seems inclined to clear, and I believe we are going to have
a breeze out from the north-east presently."

"So much the better," answered the second luff, ignoring the first half
of my communication; "stay where you are a little longer, if you please,
Mr Courtenay."

"Ay, ay, sir!" answered I, settling myself more comfortably upon the
yard.  And while the words were still upon my lips the stagnant air
about me once more stirred, the great spaces of canvas beneath me
swelled sluggishly out with a small pattering of reef-points from the
three topsails, and a gentle creak of truss and parrel, as the strain of
the filling canvas came upon the yards; and I saw the brightening disc
of the sun begin to sweep round until it bore broad upon our larboard
quarter.  Then some sharp words of command from the poop, in Mr
Hennesey's well-known tones,--dulcet as those of a bullfrog with a bad
cold,--came floating up to me, followed by the shrill notes of the
boatswain's pipe and his hoarse bellow of, "Hands make sail!"  A few
minutes of orderly confusion down on deck and on the yards below me now
ensued, and when it ceased the _Althea_ was running square away before
the languid but slowly strengthening breeze, with studding-sails set on
both sides.

Meanwhile the log was gradually clearing, for it was now possible to see
to a distance of fully three lengths of the ship on either hand, before
the curling and sweeping wreaths of vapour shut out the tiny dancing
ripples that seemed to be merrily racing the ship to port and starboard.
Occasionally a break or clear space in the fog-bank swept down upon and
overtook us, when it would be possible to see for a distance of a
quarter of a mile for a few seconds; then it would thicken again and be
as blinding as ever.  But every break that came was wider than the one
that preceded it, showing that the windward edge of the bank was rapidly
drawing down after us; and as these breaks occurred indifferently on
either side of, or sometimes on both sides at once, with now and then a
clear space right astern to give a spice of variety to the proceedings,
my eyes, as may be guessed, were kept pretty busy.

At length an opening, very considerably wider than any that had thus far
reached us, came sweeping down upon our starboard quarter, and as I
peered into it, endeavouring to pierce the veil of fog that formed its
farther extremity, I suddenly became aware of a vague shape indistinctly
perceptible through the intervening wreaths of mist that were now
sweeping rapidly along before the steadily freshening breeze.  I saw it
but during the wink of an eyelid, when it was shut in again, but I knew
at once what it was; it could be but one thing--a ship, and I forthwith
hailed--

"On deck, there! there's a strange sail about a mile distant, sir, broad
on our starboard quarter!"

"Thank you, Mr Courtenay," promptly responded the "second."

"What do you make her out to be?"

"It is impossible at present to say anything definite about her, sir," I
answered.  "I saw her but for a second, and then only very indistinctly,
but she loomed up through the fog like a craft of about our own size."

"Very well, sir," answered Hennesey; "stay where you are, and keep a
sharp lookout for her next appearance."

Once more I returned the stereotyped, "Ay, ay, sir!" as I sent my
glances searching round the ship for further openings.  The next that
overtook us swept down upon our port quarter; it was fully a mile and a
half wide, and when it bore about four points abaft the beam another
shape slid into it, not vague and shadowy this time, as the other shape
had been, but clearly distinct--a frigate, unmistakably, under a similar
spread of canvas to our own, and as nearly as possible our own size.  So
close indeed was the resemblance that for a second or two I was disposed
to fancy that by some strange trick of light and reflection the fog was
treating me to a picture of the old _Althea_ herself, but a more
steadfast scrutiny soon dispelled the illusion.  There were certain
unmistakable points of difference between this second apparition and
ourselves, some of which were so strongly characteristic that I at once
set her down as a French frigate.

The plot was thickening, and it was not wholly without a certain feeling
of exhilaration that I again hailed the deck--

"A frigate broad on our port quarter, sir, with a very Frenchified look
about her!"

"Thank you again, Mr Courtenay," answered Hennesey, with an
unmistakable ring of delight in his jovial Irish accent, which, by the
way, had a trick of growing more pronounced under the influence of
excitement.  "Ah, true for you, there she is," he continued, "I have
her!  Mr Hudson, have the kindness to jump below and fetch me my glass,
will ye, and look alive, you shmall anatomy!"

A gentle ripple of subdued laughter from the forecastle at this sally of
our genial "second" floated up to me from the forecastle, a glimpse of
which I could just catch under the foot of the fore-topsail, and I could
see that the men were all alive down there with pleasurable excitement
at the prospect of a possible fight.  Young Hudson--a smart little
fellow, barely fourteen years old, and the most juvenile member of our
mess--was soon on deck again with the second lieutenant's telescope; but
by this time the fog had shut the stranger in again, so, for the moment,
friend Hennesey's curiosity had to remain unsatisfied.  Not for long,
however; the presumably French frigate had not been lost sight of more
than two or three minutes when I caught a second glimpse of the other
craft--the one first sighted--on our starboard quarter.

"There is the other fellow, sir!"  I shouted.  "You can see her
distinctly now.  And she too is a frigate, and French, unless I am
greatly mistaken."

"By the powers, Mr Courtenay, I hope you may be right," answered
Hennesey.  "Ay, there she is," he continued, "as plain as mud in a
wineglass!  And if she isn't French her looks belie her.  Mr Hudson,
you spalpeen, slip down below and tell the captain that there are a
brace of suspicious-looking craft within a mile of us.  And ye may call
upon Misther Dawson and impart the same pleasant information to him."
Then, turning his beaming phiz up to me, he continued--

"Mr Courtenay, it's on the stroke of eight bells, but all the same
you'd better stay where you are for the present, until the fog clears,
since you know exactly the bearings of those two craft.  And I'll thank
ye to keep your weather eye liftin', young gentleman; there may be a
whole fleet of Frenchmen within gun-shot of us, for all that we can
tell."

"Ay, ay, sir!"  I cheerfully answered, my curiosity having by this time
got the better of my keen appetite for breakfast; moreover, having been
the discoverer of the two sail already sighted, I was anxious to add to
the prestige thus gained by being the first to sight any other craft
that might happen to be in our neighbourhood.

My stay aloft, however, was not destined to be a long one, for the fog
was now clearing fast, and within ten minutes it had all driven away to
leeward of us, revealing the fact that there were but the two sail
already discovered in sight--unless there might happen to be others so
far ahead as to be still hidden in the fog-bank to leeward.  But before
I left the royal yard I had succeeded in satisfying myself, by means of
my glass--which had been sent up to me bent on to the signal halliards--
that the two strangers were frigates, and almost certainly French.  They
were exchanging signals at a great rate, but we could make nothing of
their flags, which at least proved that they were not British.  To make
assurance doubly sure, however, we had hoisted our private signal, to
which neither ship had been able to reply.  There was no doubt that they
were enemies; and this fact having been satisfactorily established, I
was permitted to descend and snatch a hasty breakfast.

And a hasty one it was, for I had scarcely been below five minutes when
we were piped to clear for action, and I was obliged to hurry on deck
again.  But a hungry midshipman can achieve a good deal in the eating
line in five minutes, and in that brief interval I contrived to stow
away enough food to take the keen edge off my appetite, promising myself
that I would make up my leeway at dinner-time--provided that I was still
alive when the hour for that meal came round.  This last thought sobered
me down somewhat, and to a certain extent subdued my hilarious spirits;
but they rose again as, upon gaining the deck, I looked round and saw
the cheerful yet resolute faces of the captain and officers, and noted
the gaiety with which the men went about their duty.

The strangers had by this time shown their bunting,--the tricolour,--so
there was no further question of their nationality or of the fact that
we were booked for a sharp fight, for they had the heels of us and were
overhauling us in grand style; we could not therefore have escaped, had
we been ever so anxious to do so.  And, had we made the attempt, we
should certainly have been quite justified, for it had now been
ascertained that they were both forty-gun ships, while we mounted only
thirty-six pieces on our gun deck.  Escape, however, was apparently the
very last thought likely to occur to Captain Harrison; for although he
kept the studding-sails abroad while the ship was being prepared for
action, no sooner had the first lieutenant reported everything ready
than the order was given to shorten sail; and a pretty sight it was to
see how smartly and with what beautifully perfect precision everything
was done at once, the studding-sails all collapsing and coming in
together at exactly the same moment that the three royals were clewed up
and the flight of staysails on the main and mizzen masts hauled down.

"Very prettily done, Mr Dawson," said the skipper approvingly.  "Our
friends yonder will see that they have seamen to deal with, at all
events, even though we cannot sport such a clean pair of heels as their
own."

The two Frenchmen were by this time within less than half a mile of us,
converging upon us in such a manner as to range up alongside the
_Althea_ within the toss of a biscuit on either hand, but neither of
them manifested the slightest disposition to follow our example by
shortening sail.  Perhaps they believed that, were they to do so, we
should at once make sail again and endeavour to escape, whereas by
holding on to everything until they drew up alongside us, we should fall
an easy prey to their superior strength, if indeed we did not surrender
at discretion.

And, truly, the two ships formed a noble and a graceful picture as they
came sweeping rapidly down upon us with every stitch of canvas set that
they could possibly spread, their white sails towering spire-like into
the deep, tender blue of the cloudless heavens, with the delicate purple
shadows chasing each other athwart the rounded bosoms of them as the
hulls that up-bore them swung pendulum-like, with a little curl of snow
under their bows, over the low hillocks of swell that chased them,
sparkling in the brilliant sunlight like a heaving floor of sapphire
strewed broadcast with diamonds.

They stood on, silent as the grave, until the craft on our larboard
quarter--which was leading by about a couple of lengths--had reached to
within a short quarter of a mile of us, when, as we all stood watching
them intently, a jet of flame, followed by a heavy burst of white smoke,
leapt out from her starboard bow port, and the next instant the shot
went humming close past us, to dash up the water in a fountain-like jet
a quarter of a mile ahead of us.

"That, I take it, is a polite request to us to heave-to and haul down
our colours," remarked Captain Harrison to the first lieutenant, with a
smile.  "Well, we may as well return the compliment, Mr Dawson.  Try a
shot at each of them with the stern-chasers.  If we could only manage to
knock away an important spar on board either of them it might so cripple
her as to cause her to drop astern, leaving us to deal with the other
one and settle her business out of hand.  Yes, aim at their spars, Mr
Dawson.  It would perhaps have been better had we opened fire directly
they were within range, but I was anxious not to make a mistake.  Now
that they have fired upon us, however, we need hesitate no longer."

The order was accordingly given to open fire with our stern-chasers, and
in less than a minute the two guns spoke out simultaneously, jarring the
old hooker to her keel.  We were unable for a moment to see the effect
of the shots, for the smoke blew in over our taffrail, completely hiding
our two pursuers for a few seconds; but when it cleared away a cheer
broke from the men who were manning the after guns, for it was seen that
the flying-jib stay of our antagonist on the port quarter was cut and
the sail towing from the jib-boom end, a neat hole in her port
foretopmast studding-sail showing where the shot had passed.  The other
gun had been less successful, the shot having passed through the head of
the second frigate's foresail about four feet below the yard and half-
way between the slings and the starboard yardarm, without inflicting any
further perceptible damage.

"Very well-meant!  Let them try again," exclaimed the skipper
approvingly.  And as the words issued from his lips we saw the two
pursuing frigates yaw broadly outward, as if by common consent, and the
next instant they both let drive a whole broadside at us.  I waited
breathlessly while one might have counted "one--two," and then the sound
of an ominous crashing aloft told me that we were wounded somewhere
among our spars.  A block, followed by a shower of splinters, came
hurtling down on deck, breaking the arm of a man at the aftermost
quarter-deck gun on the port side, and then a louder crash aloft caused
me to look up just in time to see our mizzen-topmast go sweeping forward
into the hollow of the maintopsail, which it split from head to foot,
the mizzen-topgallant mast snapping short off at the cap as it swooped
down upon the maintopsail yard.  Two topmen were swept out of the
maintop by the wreckage in its descent, and terribly--one of them
fatally--injured, and there were a few minor damages, which, however,
were quickly repaired.  Then, as some hands sprang aloft to clear away
the wreck, our stern-chasers spoke out again, the one close after the
other, and two new holes in the enemy's canvas testified to the
excellent aim of our gunners; but, unfortunately, that was the extent of
the damage, both shots having passed very close to, but _just missed_,
important spars.

The French displayed very creditable smartness in getting inboard the
flying-jib that we had cut away for them, and by the time that this was
accomplished they had drawn up so close to us that by bearing away a
point or two to port and starboard respectively, both craft were enabled
to bring their whole broadsides to bear upon us, which they immediately
did, taking in their studding-sails, and otherwise reducing their canvas
at the same time, until we were all three under exactly the same amount
of sail--excepting, of course, that we had lost our mizzen-topsail with
all above it, while theirs still stood intact.  As for us, our guns were
all trained as far aft as the port-holes would permit, and as our
antagonists ranged up on either quarter, within pistol-shot, each gun
was fired point-blank as it was brought to bear.  And now the fight
began in real, grim downright earnest, the crew of each gun loading and
firing as rapidly as possible, while the French poured in their
broadsides with a coolness and precision that extorted our warmest
admiration, despite the disagreeable fact that they were playing havoc
with us fore and aft, one of our guns having been dismounted within
three minutes of the arrival of the enemy alongside us, while the tale
of killed and wounded was growing heavier with every broadside that we
received.  But if we were suffering severely we were paying our
punishment back with interest, as we could see by glancing at the hulls
of our antagonists, the sides of which were torn and splintered and
pierced all along the broad white streak that marked the line of
ports,--some of which were knocked two into one,--while their yellow
sides were here and there broadly streaked with crimson as the blood
drained away through their scuppers.  It is true they were fighting us
two to one, but, after all, their advantage was more apparent than real,
for, running level with us as they were, they could only fight one of
their batteries, while we were fighting both ours, and our guns--every
one of them double-shotted--were being better and more rapidly served
than theirs.

I will not attempt to describe the fight in detail, for indeed any such
attempt could only result in failure.  And as a matter of fact there was
very little to describe.  We simply ran dead away to leeward, the three
of us, fighting almost yardarm to yardarm, and exchanging broadsides as
rapidly as the guns could be loaded and run out.  After the first ten
minutes of the fight there was little or nothing to be seen, for the
wind was fast dropping again, and the three ships were wrapped in a
dense white pall of smoke that effectually concealed everything that was
going on at a greater distance than some fifty feet from the observer.
The most impressive characteristic of the struggle was _noise_--the
incessant crash of the guns, the discharge of which set up a continuous
tremor of the ship throughout the entire fabric of her; the rending and
splintering of timber as the enemy's shot tore its way through the
frigate's sides; the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying, cut
into at frequent intervals by some sharp order from the captain or the
first lieutenant; the curt commands of the captains of the guns: "Stop
the vent! run in! sponge! load! run out!" and so on; the creak of the
tackle blocks, the rumble of the gun carriages, the clatter of
handspikes, the dull thud of the rammers driving home the shot, the
rattling volleys of musketry from the marines on the poop, the
occasional rending crash of a falling spar, and the terrific babble of
the Frenchmen on either side of us, sounding high and clear in the
occasional brief intervals when all the guns happened to be silent
together for a moment,--I can only compare it all to the horrible
confusion raging through the disordered imagination of one in the
clutches of a fiercely burning fever.  Our people fought grimly and in
silence, save for an occasional cheer at some unusually successful shot;
but the Frenchmen jabbered away incessantly, sometimes reviling us and
shaking their fists at us through their open ports, and more often
squabbling among themselves.

At length, when the fight had lasted about half an hour, the wind
dropped to a dead calm, and the Frenchman on our starboard side, who had
forged somewhat ahead of us, made an effort to lay himself athwart our
bows before he lost way altogether.  But we were too quick for him, for
his mainmast was towing alongside and stopped his way; so we did with
him what he tried to do to us, driving square athwart his bows as his
bowsprit came thrusting in between our fore and main masts, when we lost
not a moment in lashing the spar to our main rigging.  But, after all,
it resolved itself into tit for tat, for the other fellow put his helm
hard aport and just managed to drive square athwart our stern, where he
raked us most unmercifully for fully five minutes, until he drove clear,
bringing down all three of our masts before he left us.  Of course we
could only retaliate upon him with our stern-chasers, which we played
upon him with considerable effect; but what we lacked in the way of
adequate retort to him we amply made up for to his consort, raking her
time after time with such good-will that in a few minutes her bows were
battered into a mere mass of torn and splintered timber.  Somebody on
board her cried out that they had struck, but as her marines kept up
their fire upon us from the poop, while her main-deck guns continued to
blaze away whenever she swung sufficiently for any of them to bear, no
notice was taken of this intimation; and presently our skipper gave the
order to cut her adrift, so that her people might have no chance to
board--a proceeding that would have proved exceedingly awkward for us in
our then weakened condition.

But it presently became evident that they had no thought of boarding us;
on the contrary, their chief anxiety was clearly to escape from the warm
berth that they had thrust themselves into; for a few minutes later, the
fire on both sides having slackened somewhat, we observed that both
craft had their boats in the water and were doing their best to tow off
from us, and almost immediately afterwards the French ceased firing
altogether.  I believe our skipper--fire-eater though he was--felt
unfeignedly thankful at this cessation of hostilities, for he
immediately followed suit, giving the order for the men to leave the
guns and proceed to repair damages.  This was no light task, for not
only were we completely dismasted, but the hull of the ship was terribly
knocked about, the carpenter reporting five feet of water in the hold
and twenty-seven shot-holes between wind and water, apart from our other
damages, which were sufficiently serious.  Moreover, our "butcher's
bill" was appallingly heavy, the list totalling up to no less than
thirty-eight killed and one hundred and six wounded, out of a total of
two hundred and eighty!



CHAPTER TWO.

THE ALTHEA FOUNDERS.

The French having ceased firing, and manifesting an unmistakable anxiety
to withdraw from our proximity, we bestowed but little further attention
on them, for it quickly became clear to us that our own condition was
quite sufficiently serious to tax our energies to the utmost.  The first
task demanding the attention of the carpenter and his mates was of
course the stoppage of our leaks, and a very difficult task indeed it
proved to be, owing to the rapidity with which the water was rising in
the hold; by manning the pumps, however, and employing the entire
available remainder of the crew in baling, we succeeded in plugging all
the shot-holes and clearing the hold of water by noon, when the men were
knocked off to go to their well-earned dinner.  Then, indeed, we found
time to look around us and to ask ourselves and each other where the
French were and what they were doing.  There was no difficulty in
furnishing a reply to either question, for our antagonists were only a
bare four miles off, and close together.  But bad as our own plight was,
theirs was very much worse; for we now saw that the frigate which we had
raked so unmercifully was in a sinking condition, having settled so low
in the water indeed that the sills of her main-deck ports were awash and
dipping with every sluggish heave of her upon the low and almost
imperceptible swell, while her own boats and those of her consort were
busily engaged in taking off her crew.  With the aid of my telescope I
could distinctly see all that was going on, and I saw also that the end
of the gallant craft was so near as to render her disappearance a matter
of but a few minutes.  Hungry, therefore, as I was, I determined to
remain on deck and see the last of her.  Nor had I long to wait; I had
scarcely arrived at the decision that I would do so, when, as I watched
her through my glass, I saw the boats that hung around her shoving off
hurriedly one after the other, until one only remained.  Presently that
one also shoved off, and, loaded down to her gunwale, pulled, as hastily
as her overloaded condition would permit, toward the other frigate.  She
had scarcely placed half a dozen fathoms between herself and the sinking
ship before the latter rolled heavily to port, slowly recovered herself,
and then rolled still more heavily to starboard, completely burying the
whole tier of her starboard ports as she did so.  She hung thus for
perhaps half a minute, settling visibly all the time; finally she
_staggered_, as it were, once more to an even keel, but with her stern
dipping deeper and deeper every second until her taffrail was buried,
while her battered bows lifted slowly into the air, when, the
inclination of her decks rapidly growing steeper, she suddenly took a
sternward plunge and vanished from sight in the midst of a sudden swirl
of water that was distinctly visible through the lenses of the
telescope.  The occupants of the boat that had so recently left her saw
their danger and put forth herculean efforts to avoid it; they were too
near, however, to escape, and despite all their exertions the boat was
caught and dragged back into the vortex created by the sinking ship,
into which she too disappeared.  But a few seconds afterwards I saw
heads popping up above the water again, here and there, while a couple
of boats that had just discharged their cargo of passengers dashed away
to the rescue and were soon paddling hither and thither among the little
black spots that kept popping into view all round them.  I waited until
all had seemingly been picked up, and then went below to secure what
dinner might be remaining for me.

When, after a hurried meal, I again went on deck, the horizon away to
the northward and eastward was darkening to a light air from that
quarter, that came gently stealing along the glassy surface of the
ocean, first in cat's-paws, then as a gentle breathing that caused the
polished undulations to break into a tremor of laughing ripples, and
finally into a light breeze, before which the surviving French frigate
bore up with squared yards, leaving us unmolested.

Meanwhile the crew, having dined, turned to again for a busy afternoon's
work, which consisted chiefly in clearing away the wreck of our fallen
spars, and saving as many of them and as much of our canvas and running
gear as would be likely to be of use to us in fitting the ship with a
jury-rig.  And so well did the men work, that by sunset we were enabled
to cut adrift from the wreck of our lower masts, and to bear up in the
wake of the Frenchman, who by this time had run us out of sight in the
south-western quarter.

But, tired as the men were, there was no rest for them that night, for
it was felt to be imperatively necessary to get the ship under canvas
again without a moment's delay; moreover, despite the fact that the
shot-holes had all been plugged, it was found that the battered hull was
still leaking so seriously as to necessitate a quarter of an hour's
spell at the pumps every two hours.  The hands were therefore kept at
work, watch and watch, all through the night, with the result that when
day broke next morning we had a pair of sheers rigged and on end, ready
to rear into position the spars that had been prepared and fitted as
lower masts.  The end of that day found us once more under sail, after a
fashion, and heading on our course to the southward and westward.

For the following two days all went well with us, save that the ship
continued to make water so freely as to necessitate the use of the pumps
at the middle and end of every watch, a fair breeze driving us along
under our jury-canvas at the rate of five to six knots per hour.  Toward
evening, however, on the second day, signs of a change of weather began
to manifest themselves, the sky to windward losing its rich tint of blue
and becoming pallid and hard, streaked with mares' tails and flecked
with small, smoky-looking, swift-flying clouds, while the setting sun,
as he neared the horizon, lost his radiance and became a mere shapeless
blotch of angry red that finally seemed to dissolve and disappear in a
broad bank of slate-hued vapour.  The sea too changed its colour, from
the clear steel-blue that it had hitherto worn to the hue of indigo
smirched with black.  Moreover, I heard the captain remark to Mr Dawson
that the mercury was falling and that he feared we were in for a dirty
night.

And, indeed, so it seemed; for about the middle of the second dog-watch
the wind lulled perceptibly and we had a sharp rain-squall, soon after
which it breezed up again, the wind coming first of all in gusts and
then in a strong breeze that, as the night wore on, steadily increased
until it was blowing half a gale, with every indication of worse to
come.  The sea, too, rose rapidly, and came rushing down upon our
starboard quarter, high, steep, and foam-crested, causing the frigate to
roll and tumble about most unpleasantly under her jury-rig and short
canvas.  Altogether, the prospects for the night were so exceedingly
unpromising that I must plead guilty to having experienced a selfish joy
at the reflection that it was my eight hours in.

When I went on deck at midnight that night, I found that the wind had
increased to a whole gale, with a very high and confused sea running,
over which the poor maimed _Althea_ was wallowing along at a speed of
about eight and a half knots, with a dismal groaning of timbers that
harmonised lugubriously with the clank of the chain pumps and the swash
of water washing nearly knee-deep about the decks--for the hooker
laboured so heavily that she was leaking like a basket, necessitating
the unremitting use of the pumps throughout the watch.  And--worst of
all--Keene whispered to me that, even with the pumps going constantly,
the water was slowly but distinctly gaining.  And thus it continued all
through the middle watch.

It was hoped that the gale would not be of long duration, but at eight
bells next morning the news was that the mercury was still falling,
while the wind, instead of evincing a disposition to moderate, blew
harder than ever.  And oh, what a dreary outlook it was when, swathed in
oilskins, I passed through the hatchway and stepped out on deck!  The
sky was entirely veiled by an unbroken mass of dark, purplish, slate-
coloured cloud that was almost black in its deeper shadows, with long,
tattered streamers of dirty whitish vapour scurrying wildly athwart it;
a heavy, leaden-hued, white-crested, foam-flecked sea was running, and
in the midst of the picture was the poor crippled frigate, rolling and
labouring and staggering onward like a wounded sea-bird under her jury-
spars and spray-darkened canvas, with a miniature ocean washing hither
and thither athwart her heaving deck, and a crowd of panting, straining,
half-naked men clustering about her pumps, while others were as busily
employed in passing buckets up and down through the hatchways; the whole
set to the dismal harmony of howling wind, hissing spray, the wearisome
and incessant wash of water, and the groaning and complaining sounds of
the labouring hull.  The skipper and the first luff were pacing the
weather side of the poop together in earnest converse, and at each turn
in their walk they both paused for an instant, as by mutual consent, to
cast a look of anxious inquiry to windward.

Presently I saw the carpenter coming along the deck with the sounding-
rod in his hand.  I intercepted him just by the foot of the poop ladder
and remarked--

"Well, Chips, what is the best news you have to tell us?"

"The best news?" echoed Chips, with a solemn shake of the head; "there
ain't _no_ best, Mr Courtenay, it's all worst, sir; there's over four
foot of water in the hold now, and it's gainin' on us at the rate of
five inches an hour; and if this here gale don't break pretty quick I
won't answer for the consequences!"

And up he went to make his report to the skipper.

This was bad news indeed, especially for the unfortunate men who were
compelled by dire necessity to toil unceasingly at the back-breaking
labour of working the pumps; but I felt no apprehension as to our
ultimate safety.  Five inches of water per hour was a formidable gain
for a leak to make in spite of all the pumping and baling that could be
accomplished, yet it would take so many hours at that rate to reduce the
frigate to a water-logged condition that ere the arrival of that moment
the gale would certainly blow itself out, the labouring and straining of
the ship would cease, the leak would be got under control again, and all
would be well.

But when, at noon that day,--the gale showing no symptoms whatever of
abatement,--the captain gave orders for the upper-deck guns to be
launched overboard, I began to realise that our condition was such as
might easily become critical.  And when, about half an hour before
sunset, orders were given to throw the _main-deck_ guns overboard, it
became borne in upon me that matters were becoming mighty serious with
us.

With the approach of night the gale seemed rather to increase in
strength than otherwise, while the sea was certainly considerably
heavier; and the worst of it was that there was no indication of an
approaching change for the better.  As for the poor _Althea_, she
certainly did not labour quite so heavily now that she was relieved of
the weight of her guns, but the water in the hold still gained steadily
upon the pumps, and the more experienced hands among us were beginning
to hint at the possibility of our being compelled to leave her and take
to the boats.  And these hints received something of confirmation when,
shortly after the commencement of the first watch, the carpenter and his
mates were seen going the rounds of the boats and examining into their
condition with the aid of lanterns.  Nevertheless, and despite these
omens, the men stuck resolutely to the pumps and the baling all through
the night, the captain and the first lieutenant animating and
encouraging them by their presence throughout the long, dismal, dreary
hours of darkness.

About three bells in the morning watch the welcome news spread
throughout the ship that the mercury had at length begun to rise again;
and with the approach of dawn it became apparent that the gale was
breaking, the sky to windward gave signs of clearing, and hope once more
sprang up within our breasts.  But the men, although still willing and
even eager to continue the heart-breaking work of pumping and baling,
were by this time utterly worn out; the water in the hold steadily and
relentlessly gained upon them, despite their most desperate efforts, and
by the arrival of breakfast-time it had become perfectly apparent to
everybody that the poor old _Althea_ was a doomed ship!

If, however, there was any doubt as to this in the minds of any of us,
it was quickly dispelled, for after breakfast the order was passed to
knock off baling; and the men thus relieved were at once set to work
under the first and second lieutenants, the one party to prepare a sea
anchor, and the other to attend to the provisioning of the boats and get
them ready for launching.  I was attached to the first lieutenant's
party, or that which undertook the preparation of the sea anchor; and as
the idea impressed me as being rather ingenious, I will describe it for
the benefit of those who may feel interested in such matters, prefacing
my description with the explanation that, in consequence of the
springing up of the gale so soon after our action with the Frenchmen,
our jury-rig was of a very primitive and incomplete character, such as
would enable us to run fairly well before the wind, but not such as
would permit of our lying-to; hence the need for a sea anchor, now that
the necessity had arisen for us to launch our boats in heavy weather.

The sea anchor was the offspring of the first lieutenant's
inventiveness, and it consisted of an old fore-topsail bent to a couple
of booms of suitable length and stoutness.  The head of the sail was
bent to one of the booms with seizings, in much the same manner as it
would have been bent to a topsail yard, while the clews were securely
lashed to the extremities of the other boom.  Then to the boom which
represented the topsail yard was attached, a crow-foot made of two spans
of stout hawser, having an eye in the centre of them to which to bend
the cable.  The lower boom was well weighted by the attachment to it of
a number of pigs of iron ballast, as well as our stream anchor; after
which the starboard cable was paid out and passed along aft, outside the
fore rigging, the end being then brought inboard and bent on to the
crow-foot.  The whole was then made up as compactly as possible with
lashings, after which, by means of tackles aloft, it was hoisted clear
of the bulwarks and lowered down over the side; the lashings were then
cut and the sail dropped into the water, opening out as it did so, when,
the lower boom sinking with the weight attached to it, a broad surface
was exposed, acting as a very efficient sea anchor.  At the moment when
everything was ready to let go, the ship's helm was put hard over,
bringing her broad-side-on to the sea, when, as she drove away to
leeward, she brought a strain upon her cable that at once fetched her up
head to wind.  This part of the process having been successfully
accomplished, it was an easy matter to bend a spring on to the cable and
heave the ship round broadside-on to the sea once more, in which
position she afforded an excellent lee under the shelter of which to
launch our boats, which, but for this contrivance, must have inevitably
been swamped.

By the time that all this was done the boats were ready for launching,
and the captain gave orders for this to be at once proceeded with,
beginning with the launch; this being the heaviest boat in the ship, and
the most difficult to get into the water.  I felt exceedingly doubtful
as to the ability of our jury-spars to support the weight of so heavy a
craft, but, by staying them well, the delicate task was at length
successfully accomplished, when the worst cases among the wounded were
brought on deck and carefully lowered over the side into the boat
beneath, the doctor, with his instruments and medicine-chest, being
already there to receive them.  And as soon as she had received her
complement, the launch was veered away to leeward at the end of a long
line--but still under the shelter of the ship's hull--to make room for
the first cutter.  The rest of the boats followed in succession--the men
preserving to the very last moment the most admirable order and
discipline--until only the captain's gig, of which I was placed in
command, remained.  The proper complement of this boat was six men, in
addition to the coxswain; but in order that the wounded--who were placed
in the launch and the first and second cutters--might be as little
crowded as possible, the remainder of the boats received rather more
than their full complement, in consequence of which my crew numbered
ten, all told, instead of seven.  We were the last boat to leave the
ship, the skipper having gone below to his cabin for some purpose at the
last minute; and I assure you that, the bustle and excitement of getting
the men out of the ship being now all over, I found it rather nervous
and trying work to stand there in the gangway, waiting for the
reappearance of the captain on deck.  For the ship was by this time in a
sinking condition and liable to go down under our feet at any moment,
having settled so low in the water that she rolled her closed main-deck
ports completely under with every sickly lurch of her upon the still
heavy sea that was now continuously breaking over her, while the water
could be distinctly heard washing about down below.

At length the skipper came out of his cabin, bearing in his hand a large
japanned tin box.

"Jump down, Mr Courtenay, and stand by to take this box from me," he
cried; and down the side I went, needing no second bidding.  The box was
carefully passed down to me, and I stowed it away in the stern-sheets.
When I had done so, and looked up at the ship, Captain Harrison was
standing in the gangway with his hat in his hand, looking wistfully and
sorrowfully along the deserted decks and aloft at the jury-spars that,
with their rigging, so pathetically expressed the idea of a mortally
wounded creature gallantly but hopelessly struggling against the death
that was inexorably drawing near.  Some such fancy perhaps suggested
itself to him, for I distinctly saw him dash his hand across his eyes
more than once.  At length he turned, descended the side-ladder, and,
watching his opportunity, sprang lightly into the boat.

"Shove off, Mr Courtenay!" he ordered, as he wrapped himself in his
boat cloak.

"Shove off!"  I reiterated in turn, and forthwith away we went, the men
nothing loath, as I could clearly see, for the ship was now liable to
founder at any moment; indeed the wonder to me was that she remained
afloat so long, for she had by this time sunk so deep that her channels
were completely buried, only showing when she rolled heavily away from
us.  Poor old barkie! what a desolate and forlorn object she looked as
we pulled away from her, with little more than her bulwarks showing
above water, with the seas making a clean breach over her bows
continually, as she rolled and plunged with sickening sluggishness to
the great ridges of steel-grey water that incessantly swooped down upon
her and into which her bows, pinned down by the weight of water within
her hull, occasionally bored, as though, tired of the hopeless struggle
for existence, she had at length summoned resolution to take the final
plunge and so end it all.  Again and again I thought she was gone, but
again and yet again she emerged wearily and heavily out of the deluges
of water that sought to overwhelm her; but at length an unusually heavy
sea caught her with her bows pinned down after a plunge into the trough;
clear, green, and unbroken it brimmed to her figure-head and poured in a
foaming cataract over her bows, sweeping the whole length of her from
stem to stern until her hull was completely buried.  As the wave left
her it was seen that her bows were still submerged, and a moment later
it became apparent that the end had come and she was taking her final
plunge.

"There she goes!" shouted one of the men; and as the fellow uttered the
words the captain rose to his feet in the stern-sheets and doffed his
hat, as though he had been standing beside the grave of a dear friend,
watching the dear old barkie as, with her stern gradually rising high,
she slid slowly and solemnly out of sight, the occupants of the boats
giving her a parting cheer as she vanished.  The captain stood
motionless until the swirl that marked her grave had disappeared, then
he replaced his hat, resumed his seat, and remarked--

"Give way, men!  Mr Courtenay, be good enough to put me aboard the
launch, if you please."



CHAPTER THREE.

THE GIG IS CAUGHT IN A HURRICANE.

Upon reaching the launch, the captain's first care was to satisfy
himself as to the well-being and comfort of the poor wounded fellows
aboard her; but the doctor had already attended to this matter, with the
result that they were as comfortable as the utmost care and forethought
could render them.  The master, meanwhile, had been ascertaining the
exact latitude and longitude of the spot where the frigate had gone
down, and he now communicated the result of his calculations to the
captain, who thereupon gave orders for the boats to steer southwest on a
speed trial for the day, the leading boat to heave-to at sunset and wait
for the rest to close.  I had not the remotest notion as to the meaning
of this somewhat singular order, but my obvious duty was to execute it;
so I forthwith made sail upon the gig, and a very few minutes sufficed
to demonstrate that we were the fastest boat of the whole squadron.  Nor
was this at all surprising, for the gig was not an ordinary service
boat; she was the captain's own private property, having been built to
order from his own design, with a special view to the development of
exceptional sailing powers, boat-sailing being quite a hobby with him.
She was a splendid craft of her kind, measuring thirty feet in length,
with a beam of six feet, and she pulled six oars.  She was a most
beautiful model of the whale-boat type, double-ended, with quite an
unusual amount of sheer fore and aft, which gave her a fine, bold,
buoyant bow and stern; moreover, these were covered in with light
turtle-back decks, that forward measuring six feet in length, while the
after turtle-back measured five feet from the stern-post.  She was
fitted with a keel nine inches deep amidships, tapering off to four
inches deep at each end; was rigged as a schooner, with standing fore
and main lug and a small jib, and, with her ordinary crew on board and
sitting to windward, required no ballast even in a fresh breeze.  Small
wonder, therefore, was it that, having such a boat under us, we had run
the rest of the fleet out of sight by midday, the wind still blowing
strong, although it was moderating rapidly.

The first lieutenant was, like the captain, fond of inventing and
designing things, but his speciality took the form of logs for
determining the speed of craft through the water; and in the course of
his experiments he had provided each of the frigate's boats with an
ingenious spring arrangement which, attached to an ordinary fishing-line
with a lead weight secured to its outer end, which was continuously
towed astern, registered the speed of the boat with a very near approach
to perfect accuracy.

The day passed uneventfully away, the wind moderating steadily all the
time, and the sun breaking through considerably before noon, enabling me
to secure a meridian altitude wherefrom to compute my latitude.  The
sea, too, was going down, and when the sun set that night the sky wore a
very promising fine-weather aspect.  As the great golden orb vanished
below the horizon we rounded the boat to, lowered our sails, and moored
her to a sea anchor made of the oars lashed together in a bundle with
the painter bent on to them.  And later on, when it fell dark, we
lighted a lantern and hoisted it to our fore-masthead, as a beacon for
which the other boats might steer.  The gig had behaved splendidly all
through the day, never shipping so much as a single drop of water, and
now that she was riding to her oars she took the sea so easily and
buoyantly that I felt as safe as I had ever done aboard the poor old
_Althea_ herself, and unhesitatingly allowed all hands to turn in as
best they could in the bottom of the boat, undertaking to keep a lookout
myself until the other boats had joined company.

The first boat to make her appearance was the service gig in charge of
Mr Flowers, the third lieutenant; she ranged up alongside and hove-to
about two hours after sunset, soon afterwards following our example by
throwing out a sea anchor.  Then came the first and second cutters, in
command of the first and second lieutenants; the first cutter arriving
about an hour after Mr Flowers, while the second cutter appeared about
a quarter of an hour later.  The launch followed about half an hour
astern of the second cutter; but this was not to be wondered at, the
former being rather deep, owing to the very generous supply of water
that the doctor had insisted on carrying for the comfort of the wounded.
Then, some three-quarters of an hour later, came the jolly-boat in
charge of the boatswain; and finally the dinghy, carrying four hands and
in charge of my friend and fellow-mid, Jack Keene, turned up close upon
midnight.

Long ere this, however, we had each in succession spoken the launch,
reporting the distance that we had traversed up to sunset.  And, with
the data thus supplied, the master had gone to work upon a calculation
which formed the basis of a sort of table showing the ratio of the
speeds of the several boats, with the aid of which the officer in charge
of each boat could estimate with a moderate degree of accuracy the
position of each of the other boats at any given moment--so long, that
is to say, as the wind held fair enough to allow the boats to steer a
given course.  A copy of this table was then furnished to the officer in
command of each boat, after which the captain ordered Mr Flowers to
make the best of his way to Barbadoes, with instructions to report the
loss of the frigate immediately upon his arrival, with a request to the
senior naval officer that a craft of some sort might be forthwith
despatched in search of the other boats.  Similar instructions were next
given to me, except that my port of destination was Bermuda.  Of course
we each carried a written as well as a verbal message to the senior
naval officer of the port to which we were bound; and equally, of
course, it was impressed upon us both that if we happened to encounter a
friendly craft _en route_, and could induce her to undertake the search,
it would be so much the better.  Having received these instructions, and
taken young Lindsay out of the launch, which was a trifle over-crowded,
I at once made sail and parted company, the occupants of the other boats
giving us the encouragement of a farewell cheer as we did so; they also
making sail at the same time on a west-south-westerly course, which
would afford them about an even chance of being picked up by a craft
either from Bermuda or Barbadoes; while, in the event of their being
found by neither, they stood a very good chance of hitting off one or
another of the Leeward Islands.

For the remainder of that night we sped gaily onward, with the wind
about two points free, making splendid progress; although I am bound to
admit that, with the height of sea and the strength of wind that still
prevailed, there were moments when the task of sailing the boat became
exciting enough to satisfy the cravings of even the most exacting
individual.  Lindsay and I relieved each other at the tiller, watch and
watch, with one hand forward to keep a lookout ahead and to leeward, the
rest of the poor fellows being so thoroughly worn out by their long
spell at the pumps that rest and sleep was an even more imperative
necessity for them than it was for us.

By the time of sunrise the wind had dwindled away to a topgallant
breeze, with a corresponding reduction in the amount of sea; we were
therefore enabled to shake out the double reef that we had thus far been
compelled to carry in our canvas, while the aspect of the sky was more
promising than it had been for several days past.  The weather was now
as favourable as we could possibly wish, the wind being just fresh
enough to send us along at top speed, gunwale-to, under whole canvas,
while the sea was going down rapidly.  But, as the day wore on, the
improvement in the weather progressed just a little too far; it became
even finer than we wished it, the wind continuing to drop steadily,
until by noon we were sliding over the long, mountainous swell at a
speed of barely four knots, with the hot sun beating down upon us far
too ardently to be pleasant.  Needless to say, we kept a sharp lookout
for a sail all through the day, but saw nothing; the flying-fish that
sparkled out from the ridges of the swell and went skimming away to port
and starboard, gleaming as brilliantly in the strong sunlight as a
handful of new silver dollars, being the only objects to break the
solitude that environed us.  By sunset that day the wind had died
completely out, leaving the ocean a vast surface of slow-moving, glassy
undulations, and I was reluctantly compelled to order the canvas to be
taken in, the masts to be struck, and the oars to be thrown out.  Then,
indeed, as the night closed down upon us and the stars came winking, one
by one, out of the immeasurable expanse of darkening blue above us, the
silence of the vast ocean solitude that hemmed us in became a thing that
might be felt.  So oppressive was it that, as by instinct, our
conversation gradually dwindled to the desultory exchange of a few
whispered remarks, uttered at lengthening intervals, until it died out
altogether; while the profound stillness of air and ocean seemed to
become accentuated rather than broken by the measured roll of the oars
in the rowlocks, and the tinkling lap of the water under the bows and
along the bends of the boat.  We pulled four oars only instead of six,
in order that we might have two relays, or watches, who relieved each
other every four hours.  The men pulled a long, steady, easy stroke, of
a sort that enabled them to keep on throughout the watch without undue
fatigue, by taking a five minutes' spell of rest about once an hour; but
it was weary work for the poor fellows, after all, and our progress soon
became provokingly slow.

About three bells in the middle watch that night, as I half sat, half
reclined in the stern-sheets, drowsily steering by a star, and
occasionally glancing over my shoulder at the ruddy, glowing sickle of
the rising moon, then in her last quarter, we were all suddenly startled
by the sound of a loud, deep-drawn sigh that came to us from somewhere
off the larboard bow, apparently at no great distance from the boat; and
while we sat wondering and listening, with poised oars, the sound was
repeated close aboard of us, but this time on our starboard quarter,
accompanied by a soft washing of water; and turning sharply, I beheld,
right in the shimmering, golden wake of the moon, a huge, black,
shapeless, gleaming bulk noiselessly upheave itself out of the black
water and slowly glide up abreast of us until it was alongside and all
but within reach of our oars.

"A whale!" whispered one of the men, in tones that were a trifle
unsteady from the startling surprise of the creature's sudden
appearance.

"Ay," replied the man next him, "and that was another that we heard just
now; bull and cow, most likely.  I only hopes they haven't got a calf
with 'em, because if they have, the bull may take it into his head to
attack us; they're mighty short-tempered sometimes when they have young
uns cruisin' in company!  I minds one time when I was aboard the old
_Walrus_--a whaler sailin' out of Dundee--that was afore I was pressed."

Another long sigh-like expiration abruptly interrupted the yarn, and
close under our bows there rose another leviathan, so closely indeed
that, unless it was a trick of the imagination, I felt a slight tremor
thrill through the boat, as though he had touched us!  Involuntarily I
glanced over the side; and it was perhaps well that I did so, for there,
right underneath the boat, far down in the black depths, I perceived a
small, faint, glimmering patch of phosphorescence, that, as I looked,
grew larger and more distinct, until, in the course of a very few
seconds, it assumed the shape of another monster rising plumb underneath
us.

"Back water, men! back water, for your lives!  There is one of them
coming up right under our keel!"  I cried; and, at the words, the men
dashed their oars into the water and we backed out of the way, just in
time to avoid being hove out of the water and capsized, this fellow
happening to come up with something very like a rush.  Meanwhile, others
were rising here and there all around us, until we found ourselves
surrounded by a school of between twenty and thirty whales.  It was a
rather alarming situation for us; for although the creatures appeared
perfectly quiet and well-disposed, there was no knowing at what moment
one of them might gather way and run us down, either intentionally or
inadvertently; while there was also the chance that another might rise
beneath us so rapidly as to render it impossible for us to avoid him.
One of the men suggested that we should endeavour to frighten them away
by making a noise of some sort; but the former whaler strongly vetoed
this proposition, asserting--whether rightly or wrongly I know not--that
if we startled them the chances were that those nearest at hand would
turn upon us and destroy the boat.  We therefore deemed it best to
maintain a discreet silence; and in this condition of unpleasant
suspense we remained, floating motionless for a full half-hour, the
whales meanwhile lying as motionless as ourselves, when suddenly a stir
seemed to thrill through the whole herd, and all in a moment they got
under way and went leisurely off in a northerly direction, to our great
relief.  We gave them a full quarter of an hour to get well out of our
way, and then the oars dipped into the water once more, and we resumed
our voyage.

At daybreak the atmosphere was still as stagnant as it had been all
through the night, the surface of the ocean being unbroken by the
faintest ripple, save where, about a mile away, broad on our starboard
bow, the fin of a solitary shark lazily swimming athwart our course
turned up a thin, blue, wedge-shaped ripple as he swam.  There was,
however, a faint, scarcely perceptible mistiness in the atmosphere that
led me to hope we might get a small breeze from somewhere--I little
cared where--before the day grew many hours older.  At nine o'clock I
secured an excellent set of sights for my longitude,--having taken the
precaution to set my watch by the ship's chronometer before parting
company with the launch,--and it was depressing to find, after I had
worked out my calculations, how little progress we had made during the
twenty-one hours since the previous noon.  As the morning wore on the
mistiness that I had observed in the atmosphere at daybreak passed away,
but the sky lost its rich depth of blue, while the sun hung aloft, a
dazzling but rayless globe of palpitating fire.  A change of some sort
was brewing, I felt certain, and I was somewhat surprised that, with
such a sky above us, the atmosphere should remain so absolutely
stagnant.

As the day wore on, the thin, scarcely perceptible veil of vapour that
had dimmed the richness of the sky tints in the early morning gradually
thickened and seemed to be assuming somewhat of a distinctness of shape.
I just succeeded in securing the meridian altitude of the sun, for the
determination of our latitude, but that was all.  Half an hour after
noon the haze had grown so dense that the great luminary showed through
it merely as a shapeless blur of pale, watery radiance, and within
another hour he had disappeared altogether from the overcast sky.  Still
the wind failed to come to our help; the atmosphere seemed to be dead,
so absolutely motionless was it; and although the sun had vanished
behind the murky vapours that were stealthily and imperceptibly veiling
the firmament, the heat was so distressing that the perspiration
streamed from every pore, the manipulation of the oars grew more and
more languid, and at length, as though actuated by a common impulse, the
men gave in, declaring that they were utterly exhausted and could do no
more.  And I could well believe their assertion, for even I, whose
exertions were limited to the steering of the boat, felt that even such
slight labour was almost too arduous to be much longer endured.  The
oars were accordingly laid in, we went to dinner, and then the men flung
themselves down in the bottom of the boat, and, with their pipes
clenched between their teeth, fell fast asleep, an example which was
quickly followed by Lindsay and myself, despite all our efforts to the
contrary.

When I awoke it was still breathlessly calm, and I thought for a moment
that night had fallen, so dark was it; but upon consulting my watch I
found that it still wanted nearly an hour to sunset.  But, heavens! what
a change had taken place in the aspect of the weather during the four
hours or so that I had lain asleep in the stern-sheets of the boat!  It
is quite possible that, had I remained awake, I should scarcely have
been aware of more than the mere fact that the sky was steadily assuming
an increasingly sombre and threatening aspect; but, awaking as I did to
the abrupt perception of the change that had been steadily working
itself out during the previous four hours, it is not putting it too
strongly to say that I was startled.  For whereas my last conscious
memory of the weather, before succumbing to the blandishments of the
drowsy god, had been merely that of a lowering, overcast sky, that might
portend anything, but probably meant no more than a sharp thunder-
squall, I now awakened to the consciousness that the firmament above
consisted of a vast curtain of frowning, murky, black-grey cloud,
streaked or furrowed in a very remarkable manner from about east-south-
east to west-nor'-west, the lower edges of the clouds presenting a
curious frayed appearance, while the clouds themselves glowed here and
there with patches of lurid, fiery red, as though each bore within its
bosom a fiercely burning furnace, the ruddy light of which shone through
in places.  I had never before beheld a sky like it, but its aspect was
sufficiently alarming to convince the veriest tyro in weather-lore that
something quite out of the common was brewing; so I at once awoke the
slumbering crew to inquire whether any of them could read the signs and
tell me what we might expect.

The newly-awakened men yawned, stretched their arms above their heads,
and dragged themselves stiffly up on the thwarts, gazing with looks of
wonder and alarm at the portentous sky that hung above them.

"Well, if we was in the Chinese seas, I should say that a typhoon was
goin' to bust out shortly," observed one of them--a grizzled, mahogany-
visaged old salt, who had seen service all over the world.  "But," he
continued, "they don't have typhoons in the Atlantic, not as ever I've
heard say."

"No, they don't have typhoons here, but they has hurricanes, which I
take to mean pretty much the same thing," remarked another.

"You are right, Tom," said I, thus put upon the scent, as it were, "a
Chinese typhoon and a West Indian hurricane are the same thing under
different names.  A third name for them is `cyclone'; and as this
threatening sky seems to remind Dunn so powerfully of a Chinese typhoon,
depend upon it we are going to have a taste of a West Indian hurricane,
or cyclone.  I have read somewhere that they frequently originate out
here in the heart of the Atlantic."

"If we're agoin' to have a typhoon, or a hurricane, or a cyclone--
whichever you likes to call it--all I say is, `The Lord ha' mercy upon
us,'" remarked Dunn.  "Big ships has all their work cut out to weather
one o' them gales; so what are we agoin' to do in this here open boat,
I'd like to know?"

"Have you ever been through a typhoon, Dunn?"  I asked.

"Yes, sir, I have, and more than one of 'em," was the reply.  "I was
caught in one off the Paracels, in the old _Audacious_ frigate,--as fine
a sea-boat as ever was launched,--and, in less time than it takes to
tell of it, we was dismasted and hove down on our beam-ends; and it took
us all our time to keep the hooker afloat and get her into Hong-Kong
harbour.  And the very next year I was catched again--in the Bashee
Channel, this time--in the _Lively_ schooner, of six guns.  We knowed it
was comin'; it gived us good warnin' and left us plenty of time to get
ready for it; so Mr Barker--the lieutenant in command--gived orders to
send the yards and both topmasts down on deck, and rig in the jib-boom;
and then he stripped her down to a close-reefed boom foresail.  But we
capsized--reg'larly `turned turtle'--when the gale struck us, and only
five of us lived to tell the tale.  As to this here boat, if a hurricane
anything at all like them Chinee typhoons gets hold of her, why, we
shall just be blowed clean away out o' water and up among the clouds!
And that's just what's goin' to happen, if signs counts for anything."

Wherewith the speaker thrust both hands into his trouser pockets,
disgustedly spat a small ocean of tobacco-juice overboard, and subsided
into gloomy silence.

It was a sufficiently alarming retrospect, in all conscience, to which
we had just listened, and the prophetic utterance wherewith it had been
wound up, while powerfully suggestive of a highly novel and picturesque
experience in store for us, was certainly not attractive enough to cause
us to look forward to its fulfilment with undisturbed serenity;
nevertheless, I did not feel like tamely giving in without making some
effort to save the boat and the lives with which I had been entrusted,
so I set myself seriously to consider how we could best utilise such
time as might be allowed us, in making some sort of preparation to meet
the now confidently-expected outburst.  I looked over our resources, and
found that they consisted, in the main, of eight oars, two boat-hooks,
two masts, two yards, three sails, half a coil of two-inch rope that
some thoughtful individual had pitched into the boat when getting her
ready for launching, half a coil of ratline and two large balls of spun-
yarn, due to the forethought of the same or some other individual, a
painter some ten fathoms long, and the boat's anchor, together with the
gratings, stretchers, and other fittings belonging to the boat, and a
few oddments that might or might not prove useful.

Was it possible to do anything with these?  After considering the matter
carefully I thought it was.  The greatest danger to which we were likely
to be exposed seemed to me to consist in our being swamped by the flying
spindrift and scud-water or by the breaking seas, and if we could by any
means contrive to keep the water out there was perhaps a bare chance
that we might be able to weather the gale.  And, after a little further
consideration, I thought that what I desired to do might possibly be
accomplished by means of the boat's sails, which were practically new,
and made of very light, but closely woven canvas, that ought to prove
water-tight.  So, having unfolded my ideas to the men, we all went to
work with alacrity to put them to the test of actual practice.

Of course it was utterly useless to think of scudding before the gale;
our only hope of living through what was impending depended upon our
ability to keep the boat riding bows-on to the sea, and to do this it
became necessary for us to improvise a sea anchor again.  This was
easily done by lashing together six of our eight oars in a bundle, three
of the blades at one end and three at the other, with the boat anchor
lashed amidships to sink the oars somewhat in the water and give them a
grip of it.  A span, made by doubling a suitable length of our two-inch
rope, was bent on to the whole affair, and the boat's painter was then
bent on to the span, when the apparatus was launched overboard, and our
sea anchor was ready for service.

Our next task was to cut the two lug-sails adrift from their yards.  The
mainsail was then doubled in half, and one end spread over the fore
turtle-back and drawn taut.  Over this, outside the boat and under her
keel, we then passed a length of our two-inch rope, girding the boat
with it and confining the fore end of the sail to the turtle-back, when,
with the aid of one of the stretchers, we were able to heave this girth-
rope so taut as to render it impossible for the sail to blow away.  But
before heaving it taut, we passed a second girth-rope round the boat
over the after turtle-back, next connecting both girth-ropes together by
lengths of rope running fore and aft along the outside of the boat
underneath the edge of the top strake.  The doubled mainsail was then
strained taut across the boat, and its edges tucked underneath the fore-
and-aft lines outside the boat; the foresail was treated in the same
way, but with its fore edge overlapped by about a foot of the after edge
of the mainsail.  Our girth-ropes were then hove taut, with the finished
result that we had a canvas deck covering the boat from the fore turtle-
back to within about six feet of the after one.  The edges of the sails
were next turned up and secured by seizings on either side, and our deck
was complete.  But, as it then stood, I was not satisfied with it, for
at the after extremity of it there was an opening some six feet long,
and as wide as the boat, through which a very considerable quantity of
water might enter--quite enough, indeed, to swamp the boat.  And with
our canvas deck lying flat, as it then was, there was no doubt that very
large quantities of water would wash over it, and pour down through the
opening, should the sea run heavily.  Our deck needed to be sloped
upward from the forward to the after end of the boat, so that any water
which might break over it would flow off on either side before reaching
the opening to which I have referred.  We accordingly laid the boat's
mainmast along the thwarts fore and aft, amidships, and lashed the heel
firmly to the middle of the foremost thwart.  Then, by lashing our two
longest stretchers together, we made a crutch for the head or after end
of the mast to rest in; when, by placing this crutch upright in the
stern-sheets against the back-board, we were able to raise the mast
underneath the sails until it not only formed a sort of ridge-pole,
converting the sails into a sloping roof, but it also strained the
canvas as tight as a drum-head, rendering it so much the less liable to
blow away, while it at the same time afforded a smooth surface for the
water to pour off, and it also possessed the further advantage that it
gave us a little more headroom underneath the canvas deck or roof.  This
completed our preparations--none too soon, for it was now rapidly
growing dark, and the light of our lantern was needed while putting the
finishing touches to our work.

Our task accomplished, we of course at once extinguished our lantern,--
for candles were scarce with us,--and we then for the first time became
aware of the startling rapidity with which the night seemed to have
fallen; for with the extinguishment of the lantern we found ourselves
enwrapped in darkness so thick that it could almost be felt.  This,
however, proved to be only transitory, for with the lapse of a few
minutes our eyes became accustomed to the gloom, and we were then able
not only to discern the shapes of the vast pile of clouds that
threateningly overhung us, but also their reflections in the oil-smooth
water, the latter made visible by the dull, ruddy glow emanating from
the clouds themselves, which was even more noticeable now than it had
been before nightfall, and which was so unnatural and appalling a sight
that I believe there was not one of us who was not more or less affected
by it.  It was the first time that I had ever beheld such a sight, and I
am not ashamed to confess that the sensation it produced in me was, for
a short time, something very nearly akin to terror, so dreadful a
portent did it seem to be, and so profoundly impressed was I with our
utter helplessness away out there in mid-ocean, in that small, frail
boat, with no friendly shelter at hand, and nothing to protect us from
the gathering fury of the elements--nothing, that is to say, but the
hand of God; and--I say it with shame--I thought far too little of Him
in those days.

Not the least trying part of it all was the painful tension of the
nerves produced by the suspense--the enforced _waiting_ for the awful
ordeal that lay before us.  There was nothing for us to do, nothing to
distract our attention from that awful, threatening sky, that looked as
though it might momentarily be expected to burst into a devastating
flame that would destroy the world!  Some of the men, indeed, frankly
avowed that the sight was too terrible for them, and crept away under
the canvas, where they disposed themselves in the bottom of the boat,
and strove to while away the time in sleep.

At length--it would be about the close of the second dog-watch--we
became conscious that the swell, which had almost entirely subsided, was
gathering weight again, coming this time out from the north-west.  At
first the heave was only barely perceptible, but within half an hour it
had grown into a succession of long, steep undulations, running at right
angles athwart the old swell, causing the boat to heave and sway with a
singularly uneasy movement, and frequent vicious, jerky tugs at her
painter.  Then we noticed that the clouds--which had hitherto been
motionless, or so nearly so that their movement was not to be detected--
were working with a writhing motion, as though they were chained giants
enduring the agonies of some dreadful torture, while the awful ruddy
light which they emitted glowed with a still fiercer and more lurid
radiance, lighting up the restlessly heaving ocean until it burned like
the flood of Phlegethon.  Anon there appeared a few scattered shreds of
smoky scud speeding swiftly athwart the fiery canopy, and almost
immediately afterwards, with a low, weird, wailing sound, there swept
over us a scurrying blast that came and was gone again in a second.  It
came out from the north-west, and judging that this was probably the
direction from which the gale itself would come, we at once rigged out
over the stern one of the two oars remaining in the boat, and swept the
bows of the gig round until they pointed due north-west.  Scarcely had
we accomplished this when a second scuffle came whistling down upon us
from the same direction, and before it had swept out of hearing astern
there arose a low moaning to windward, that increased in strength and
volume with appalling rapidity.  The sky suddenly grew black as ink
ahead, a lengthening line of ghostly white appeared stretching along the
horizon ahead and bearing down upon us with frightful speed; the moan
grew into a deep, thunderous, howling roar, and from that to a yell
which might have issued from the throats of a million fiends in torment;
the white wall of foam and the yelling fury of wind struck us at the
same instant; and the next thing I knew was that I was lying flat in the
stern-sheets, hatless, and with my face stinging as though it had been
cut with a whip; while the boat trembled and quivered from stem to stern
with the scourging of wind and water, and the spray blew in a continuous
sheet over the opening above me and into the sea astern, not a drop
falling into the boat.  The long-expected hurricane was upon us; and now
all that remained was to see how long our frail craft could withstand
the onslaught of the terrific forces arrayed against her.



CHAPTER FOUR.

WE FALL IN WITH AND CAPTURE A SCHOONER.

The air was thick with scud-water, so thick, indeed, that it was like
fog, it being impossible to see farther than some twenty fathoms from
the boat.  This scud-water swept horizontally along in a perfect deluge,
and stung like shot when, by way of experiment, I exposed one of my
hands to it.  As for the wind, it was like an invisible wall driving
along; it was simply impossible to stand up against it; it scourged the
surface of the ocean into a level plain of white froth, which was torn
away and hurled along like a shower of bullets.  Our sea anchor
fortunately maintained a sufficient hold upon the water to keep the gig
riding head to wind, but that was as much as it could do; with the
painter strained taut for its whole length, the boat was driving away to
leeward, stern-first, at a speed of--according to my estimate--fully
seven miles an hour!  And it was, perhaps, a fortunate thing for us that
such was the case; for had we been riding to a sea anchor powerful
enough, and sunk deep enough in the water to have held us nearly
stationary, I believe we should have been swamped within five minutes of
the outburst of the hurricane.  Even as it was, and despite all the
precautions that we had taken to make our canvas covering perfectly
secure, the wind tugged at it and beat upon it with such vehement fury
that I momentarily expected to see it torn bodily off the boat and go
driving away to leeward in tatters.  Probably the thorough soaking that
it almost instantly received--and which caused the fabric to shrink up
and strain still tighter than it was before--may have had something to
do with the stubborn resistance that it offered to the gale.  Be that as
it may, it held intact; and to that circumstance I attribute the fact
that the gig was not instantly swamped.  But no woven fabric, however
stout,--scarcely wood itself,--could long withstand such a furious
pelting of scud-water as our sails were now enduring, and in about ten
minutes the water began to drip through, first in single drops, here and
there, then in a few small streams, that rapidly increased in number
until there seemed in the thick darkness to be hundreds of them; for in
endeavouring to avoid one stream we only succeeded in encountering two
or three more.  To add to the unpleasantness of the situation, it was
impossible for us to light the lantern; for although we were sheltered
from the direct violence of the gale by the canvas, the wind somehow
managed to penetrate beneath, creating quite a formidable little scuffle
there, and easily frustrating all our efforts to obtain a light.  And
very soon we had another annoyance to contend with, in the shape of a
gradual accumulation of water in the boat, whether caused by a leak in
the hull, or by the drainage of the water through the canvas we knew
not; but it obliged us to have recourse to baling, which proved to be a
singularly awkward operation in such cramped quarters and such pitchy
darkness.

The first mad fury of the outburst lasted for about three-quarters of an
hour,--it _seemed_ a perfect eternity to us, in our condition of
overpowering suspense, but I do not believe it was longer than three-
quarters of an hour at the utmost,--and then it subsided into a heavy
gale of wind, and the sea began to get up so rapidly that within another
hour we were being flung hither and thither with such terrific violence
that in a very short time our bodies were covered with bruises, while
some of the men actually became sea-sick!  And now, too, a new danger
threatened us; for as the sea rose it commenced to break, and it was not
long ere we had the seas washing, in rapidly increasing volume, over the
boat, and pouring down through the opening over the stern-sheets.  This
kept us baling in good earnest, not only with our solitary bucket but
with hats and boots as well, to save the boat from being swamped.  And
the bitterest hardship of it all was that there was no relief, not a
moment's intermission throughout the whole of that dreadful,
interminable night.  We were in continuous peril of death with every
breath that we drew; every second saw us trembling upon the verge of
eternity, and escaping destruction as by a constantly recurring
succession of miracles.  It was a frightful experience, so frightful
that language is utterly powerless to describe it; the most eloquent pen
could do no more than convey a poor, feeble, and miserably inadequate
idea of the terror and suffering of it.  No one who has not undergone
such an experience can form the remotest conception of its horrors.

All things mundane have an end, however, sooner or later; and at length
the welcome light of day once more made its appearance, piercing slowly
and with seeming reluctance through the dense canopy of black, storm-
torn cloud and flying scud that overhung us.  And then we almost wished
that it had remained night, so dreary and awe-inspiring was the scene
that met our aching gaze.  The heavens gave no sign of relenting, the
sky looked wild as ever,--although the awful ruddy glow had long since
faded out from the clouds,--while the ocean seemed to be lashed and
goaded by the furious wind into an endless succession of rushing
mountain waves, every one of which, as it swept with hissing, foam-white
crest down upon us, seemed mercilessly bent upon our destruction.  As I
stood up and gazed about me,--for I could do so now, by leaning well
forward against the wind,--it seemed a marvellous thing to me that the
gig continued to live through it; for, light and buoyant though she was,
every sea she met swept her from stem to stern; and it was plain enough
to us all now that it was nothing but the canvas covering that saved
her.  As it was, we shipped so much water that it was as much as three
of us could do--that being all who could work in the opening at one
time--to keep her from filling.  To add still further to our misery, we
were one and all by this time dead tired, worn out, in fact, with the
terror and anxiety of the past night; yet we dared not yet attempt to
seek the comfort and refreshment of sleep, for our critical situation
continued to demand our utmost watchfulness and our unremitting
exertions; and when at length we sought to renew our strength by means
of a meal, the grievous discovery was made that the whole of our small
stock of ship's bread was spoiled and rendered uneatable by the salt
water.  And, as though this misfortune was not in itself sufficiently
serious, when we sought to quench our thirst we discovered that the bung
of the water-breaker had somehow got out of the bung-hole, allowing so
much salt water to mingle with our small stock of fresh that the latter
had been rendered almost undrinkable.

Our first gleam of hope and encouragement came to us about half an hour
before noon that day, when our anxious watching was rewarded by the
appearance of a small, momentary break in the sky, low down toward the
horizon to windward; it showed but for a moment, and then was lost
again.  But presently a wider and more pronounced break appeared which
did _not_ vanish; on the contrary, it widened, until presently a fitful
gleam of wan and watery sunshine pierced through it and lighted up the
bleak, desolate expanse of raging ocean for a few seconds.  And almost
simultaneously with the welcome appearance of this transient but welcome
gleam of pallid sunshine, we became aware of a slight but unmistakable
diminution in the fury of the gale; a change productive of such profound
relief to us, worn out as we all were by long-protracted toil and
anxiety, that we actually greeted it with a feeble cheer!  Nor was the
hope thus aroused fallacious; for from this moment the sky began to
clear, until within a couple of hours the storm-clouds had all swept
away to leeward, leaving the sky a clear, pure blue, streaked here and
there, it is true, with a tattered, trailing streamer of pinky grey,
that, however, soon vanished; and once more we revelled in the glorious
warmth and radiance of the unclouded sunlight, while the wind dropped so
rapidly that, but for the sea, which still ran with dangerous weight, we
might have made sail again by sunset.  As it was, we were all so
completely worn out that I think we were really thankful for an excuse
to leave the boat riding to her sea anchor a few hours longer, while we
sought and obtained what was even more necessary to us than food and
drink--sleep.

All actual danger was by this time past, so we arranged that each of us
should keep a look out for an hour while the rest slept, there being
sufficient of us to carry us through the night at this rate; and I
undertook to keep the first look out.  That hour was, I think, the
longest sixty minutes I had ever up to then experienced; for, now that
constant watchfulness was no longer necessary to insure our safety, the
incentive to watchfulness was gone, and overtaxed nature craved so
vehemently for repose that the effort, to remain awake was absolutely
painful.  I continued, however, to perform the task that I had
undertaken, and, when my hour had expired, flung myself down in the
stern-sheets, where I instantly sank into a profound and dreamless
sleep, having first, of course, aroused young Lindsay, and cautioned him
to maintain a bright lookout for passing ships--a caution which I gave
orders should be passed on from man to man throughout the night.

When I awoke I found that I had maintained all through the night the
precise attitude in which I had flung myself down to sleep some hours
before; it appeared to me that I had not stirred by so much as a hair's-
breadth all through those hours of unconsciousness.  I awoke
spontaneously, with the light of the sun shining strongly through my
still closed eyelids.  The first thing after that of which I became
conscious was that the boat was rising and falling easily with a long,
steady, swinging motion; then I opened my eyes, and immediately noticed
that the sun was some two hours high.  A very soft, warm, gentle breeze
fanned my cheek, and the only audible sounds were the snores and snorts
of many sleepers near me, mingling with the gentle lap of water along
the boat's planking.  All hands save myself were sound asleep!  I was
not greatly surprised at this, though naturally a trifle vexed that my
orders as to the maintenance of a lookout had not been more strictly
observed.  But it was not until I had risen to my feet and flung an
inquiring glance round the horizon that I realised how miserably
unfortunate this negligence had been.  For there, away in the western
board, distant some fourteen miles, gleamed the sails of a large ship;
and a more intent scrutiny revealed the tantalising circumstance that
she was steering such a course as had undoubtedly carried her past us
about an hour before daybreak at a distance of little more than three
miles; and, had a proper watch been maintained, we could have
intercepted and boarded her without difficulty.  Whether she happened to
be a friend or an enemy was a matter of very secondary import just then,
in our miserable plight as regarded our stock of provisions and water;
our situation was such that even to have fallen into the hands of the
enemy would have been better than to be left as we were.

I at once roused all hands, and we forthwith went to work to cut adrift
the sails that had served us so well, and to bend them afresh to the
yards; while the others hauled aboard our sea anchor, cut its lashings
adrift, and took to the oars with the object of going in pursuit of the
distant sail.  For there was yet a chance for us.  If we could keep her
in sight long enough there was just a possibility that some one or
another of her crew, working aloft, might cast a glance astern and catch
sight of our tiny sail, when he would at once recognise it as that of a
boat, and report it; when, if the skipper happened to be a humane man,
he would assuredly heave-to and wait for us to close.  So we all went to
work with a will, and soon had the boat all ataunto once more, and in
pursuit of the stranger as fast as oars and sails together could put her
through the water.  But the experience of the first hour sufficed to
demonstrate beyond all question the hopelessness of our attempt to
overtake the ship; she was leaving us rapidly, and unless someone aloft
happened to sight us, our prospects of rescue, so far as she was
concerned, were not worth a moment's consideration.  The men, partially
restored by their night's sound sleep, toiled like tigers at the oars,
in their anxiety to prolong the chance of our being sighted to the
latest possible moment, frequently relieving each other.  But it was all
of no avail; strive as they would, the stranger steadily increased her
distance from us until, after we had been in pursuit of her for fully
three hours, the heads of her royals sank below the western horizon, and
we lost her for good and all.  Then the men sullenly laid in their oars,
declaring that they were worn out and could do no more.  Then they began
to savagely inquire among themselves who was the individual to whose
culpable carelessness we were all indebted for our present
disappointment.  The culprit was soon discovered in the person of a
little Welshman--the man whose watch followed Lindsay's.  This man
declared that he had remained awake throughout his watch, and had duly
called his successor before resuming his slumbers.  But there was some
reason to doubt this statement; and even if it happened to be true, he
was still culpable, according to his own showing, for he was obliged to
confess that he had not waited to assure himself that his successor was
properly awakened, but had satisfied himself with a single shake of the
sleeper's shoulder, accompanied by the curt announcement that it was
time to turn out, and had then flung himself down and gone to sleep.  As
for the man whom the Welshman was supposed to have awakened, he
disclaimed all responsibility upon the ground that, if called at all--
which he did not believe--he had been called so ineffectively as to be
quite unconscious of the circumstance.  At the conclusion of the
inquiry, his comrades were so furiously incensed with the Welshman for
his culpable--almost criminal--neglect, that they seemed strongly
disposed to take summary vengeance upon him; and it needed the exertion
of all my authority to protect the fellow from their violence, which
broke out anew when at noon we went to dinner, and were compelled to
make out the best meal we could upon raw salt beef washed down with
water so brackish that we could scarcely swallow it.  Reduced to such a
condition as this, it will scarcely be wondered at that I should be
brought to something very nearly approaching despair when my
observations that day revealed the disconcerting fact that, thanks to
our excessive drift during the gale, we were still fully six hundred
miles from our port of destination--a distance which we scarce dared to
hope might be covered, even under the most favourable circumstances, in
less than five days.

But it soon appeared as though even this protracted period of privation
and exposure was to be increased, for, as the afternoon wore on, the
wind, still continuing to drop, grew so light that our speed dwindled
down to a bare three knots by the hour of sunset; and by midnight it had
still further fallen to such an extent that our sails became useless to
us, and the oars had once more to be resorted to.

The return of daylight found us in the midst of a stark calm, under a
cloudless sky, out of which the sun soon began to dart his scorching
beams so pitilessly that the task of pulling shortly became a labour
little less than torture to people in our exhausted condition; indeed,
so severe did the men find it, that, after persevering until about four
bells in the afternoon watch, they gave it up, declaring themselves to
be quite incapable of further exertion.  And thus, for the remainder of
the day, we lay motionless upon that oil-smooth sea, under the
blistering rays of the burning sun, with our tongues cleaving to our
palates as we began to experience the first fierce torments of
unquenchable thirst.  For our supply of water--all but undrinkable as it
was--was growing so short that it became imperatively necessary to
husband it with the most jealous care, and to reduce our allowance to
the very smallest quantity upon which life could possibly be sustained.
The men sought to forget their sufferings in sleep, disposing themselves
in the bottom of the boat, under the shelter of the now useless sails;
but I was far too anxious to be able to sleep, for I began to realise
that our boat voyage threatened to develop into an adventure that might
easily terminate in a ghastly tragedy.

Half an hour before sunset I called the men, and we went to supper; and
with the going down of the sun the oars were once more thrown out, and
we resumed our weary voyage, all hands of us being equally anxious to
avail ourselves to the utmost of the comparatively cool hours of
darkness, to shorten, as much as possible, the distance that still
intervened between us and deliverance.  All through the hot and
breathless night we toiled, in an unspeakable agony of thirst, and when
morning once more dawned out of a brilliant and cloudless sky, my
companions presented so wild and haggard an appearance, with their
cheeks sunken with famine and their eyes ablaze with the fever of thirst
and starvation, that they were scarcely recognisable.  Half an hour
after sunrise we partook of our loathsome breakfast of putrid meat and
nauseous water, and then composed ourselves to sleep--if we could--
through the long hours of the blazing day, maintaining, however, a one-
man hourly watch, in order that we might be duly warned of any change in
the weather.

And, late that afternoon, a change came--a change of so welcome a
character that I believe I may, without exaggeration, say it saved our
lives.  For, about noon, when I was aroused by the man on watch to get
the meridian altitude of the sun for the determination of the latitude,
I observed a bank of purple-grey clouds gathering in the south-western
quarter, their rounded edges as sharply denned as though they had been
cut out of paper.  There was no mistaking their character; they
portended a thunderstorm.  And a thunderstorm we had about four o'clock
that afternoon, of truly tropical violence.  There was not a breath of
wind with it, but it brought us a perfect deluge of rain,--thrice-
welcome and blessed rain,--pouring from the overcharged clouds in sheets
of warm water, soft and sweet as nectar.  We let not a drop escape us
that it was possible to save; we saw that it was coming, and prepared
for it by spreading the sails across the boat, and caught the welcome
stream in the depressions that we had arranged for its reception,
drinking out of the hollowed canvas until we could drink no more.  Then,
as the rain still continued to fall, we did a desperate deed; we threw
away every drop of our drinking water, in the hope of being able to
refill our breakers with the sweet, fresh rain-water.  And we were
successful.  God in His infinite mercy allowed the floodgates of heaven
to remain open until we had filled every available receptacle at our
disposal; and then the rain ceased, the storm drifted away to the north-
eastward, and the sun disappeared below the horizon in a blaze of
cloudless splendour.

But our sufferings were not yet over; for now that the hellish torments
of thirst were assuaged, the pangs of hunger assailed us with redoubled
fury, hourly growing in intensity, until sometime during the night--
while Lindsay and I were asleep, and the boat was in charge of one of
the men--they became so utterly unendurable that, in a fit of madness,
the famished crew fell upon the slender remainder of our stock of
eatables, devouring the whole at one fell swoop, except Lindsay's and my
own portion, which, despite their famished condition, they loyally set
aside for us!

Another day of breathless calm; another twelve hours of scorching heat
under the rays of the pitiless sun; and then, with nightfall, the men
once more threw out their oars and resumed the heart-breaking task of
shortening by a few miles the still formidable stretch of ocean that lay
between us and safety.  But nothing that we could say would induce a
single one of them to accept ever so small a share of the provisions
that they had apportioned as the share belonging to Lindsay and myself;
they declared that their last meal had so far satisfied and
reinvigorated them, that they were no longer hungry, while one or two of
them spoke hopefully of the possibility that they might catch a fish or
two on the morrow.

It was somewhere about ten o'clock that night that we detected the first
symptoms of another change in the weather, the first subtle indication
that the long period of calm which had so nearly destroyed us was about
to end.  And, best of all, the indication was of such a character as
permitted us to indulge the hope that, although the calm was about to
give way to a breeze, we were likely to be favoured with weather fine
enough to permit of our pursuing our voyage under the most favourable
conditions.  This symptom of approaching change merely consisted in the
gathering in the heavens of a thin veil of mottled, fine-weather cloud,
just dense enough to obscure most of the lesser stars and render the
night rather dark, while a few of the brighter stars peeped through the
openings between the clouds at tolerably frequent intervals, permitting
us to steer our course without having recourse to the lantern or
compass.  The prospect of a coming breeze seemed to cheer the men and
endow them with renewed vigour, for they gave way with something like a
will, while they occasionally went so far as to exchange a muttered
ejaculation of encouragement one with another.

It happened to be my trick at the yoke-lines until midnight, I having
relieved young Lindsay at four bells.  I was sitting in the stern-
sheets, with my eyes intently fixed upon a particularly bright star that
gleamed out through the clouds at frequent intervals right over the
boat's nose, at an altitude of about thirty degrees above the horizon,
and which I had consequently selected as a suitable guide to steer by.

It is a curious fact, well-known to sailors, that an object can be
better seen on a dark night at sea by looking at the sky slightly
_above_ or to one side of it, rather than directly _at_ it; hence it was
that, as I kept my eye intently fixed upon the star immediately ahead, I
suddenly became aware of the presence of a small, dark object some three
points on our starboard bow.  I immediately looked straight at it, but
could then see nothing; whereupon I looked into the sky rather above the
point where I knew it to be, when I again caught sight of it.  To make
quite sure, I sheered the boat some four points off her course, when it
became quite distinct, although only as a small, black, shapeless shadow
against the dark sky immediately ahead.

I held up my hand warningly to the men, and at the same moment gave the
order, "Oars!"

The men, somewhat wonderingly, instantly obeyed, staring hard at me
inquiringly, while two or three who were lying down in the bottom of the
boat, trying unavailingly to sleep, raised themselves upon their elbows,
as though to ascertain what was the matter.

"Lads," said I, in low, cautious tones, "not a sound, for your lives!
There is a small craft of some sort out there becalmed, and it is my
intention to run her alongside.  But we cannot of course tell whether
she is a friend or an enemy, so I think it will be well for us to get
alongside without attracting the attention of her crew, if we can manage
it.  If she proves to be a friend, well and good; but if she is an
enemy, we must take her at all costs; for we are in a starving
condition, as you are all aware, while we are still five days distant
from Bermuda, and I do not believe we could possibly live to reach the
island without provisions.  So muffle your oars as well as you can; have
your cutlasses ready; and I will put you alongside.  H-u-s-h! not a
sound!  That craft is a good three miles away, but sounds travel far on
such a night as this, and we must not allow the crew of her to discover
that we are in their neighbourhood.  Now muffle your oars, and we will
soon find out who and what she is."

Without a moment's hesitation, the men forthwith proceeded to muffle
their oars with portions of their clothing; and in another five minutes
we were heading for the small, dark blot.  When we had been pulling
silently for about a quarter of an hour, a small, thin sound came
creeping across the water to us, that within another five minutes had
resolved itself into the strains of the Marseillaise played upon an
accordion and sung by a fairly good tenor voice, to which several others
were almost instantly added.  That was sufficient; the craft, whatever
else she might be, was assuredly French, and we were relieved of the
anxiety of approaching a vessel uncertain as to whether she was friend
or foe.  The song was sung through to the end with great enthusiasm, and
then, after a slight pause, another song was started, also French, so
far as could be made out.  It was cut short, however, before a dozen
bars had been reached, by a hoarse, gruff voice loudly demanding, in
clear, unmistakable French, "what, in the name of all the saints, the
singer meant by arousing all hands at that hour of the night with his
miserable braying?"  This rendered assurance doubly sure, and we
proceeded with increased caution--if that were possible--laying in all
but a single pair of oars, with the double object of resting the men as
much as possible prior to the attack, and at the same time approaching
our quarry slowly enough to allow her crew to coil away about the decks,
and go to sleep again if they would.

Paddling slowly and with the utmost circumspection, taking care that the
oars entered and left the water without the slightest splash, we were a
full hour and more traversing the distance that separated us from the
stranger; but long ere we reached her we had made her out to be a
schooner of somewhere about one hundred and forty tons, and by her taunt
spars, as well as by the fact of her being where she was,--nicely in the
track of our homeward-bound West Indiamen,--I judged her to be a
privateer.  When first discovered she must have been lying nearly
broadside-on to us, but the swing of the swell gradually slewed her, as
we stealthily approached, until she presented her stern fairly at us,
affording us an admirable opportunity to get alongside her undetected.
And this we did, gliding up under her starboard quarter and alongside,
and actually climbing in on deck over her low bulwarks before the alarm
was raised.  Then, from the neighbourhood of the wheel, there suddenly
arose a muttered execration in French, followed by a sharp inquiry in
the same language of, "Who goes there?"

"British," I answered, in the inquirer's own lingo.  "Surrender, or we
will drive every man of you overboard!"

"The British! ah, sac-r-r-re!  Yes, monsieur, oh yes, we surrender,"
gurgled the man, as I seized him by the throat and threatened him with
my cutlass, while Lindsay led the hands forward to the forecastle.
There were a few drowsily muttered ejaculations in that direction,
quickly succeeded by a volley of execrations, a scuffling of feet, the
slamming of the hatch over the fore-scuttle, and Lindsay sang out that
the schooner was ours.  Even as he did so, two figures in rather scanty
clothing, rushed up on deck through the companion; and before I could
fully realise what was happening, one of them snapped his pistol at me,
while the other aimed a blow at my head with a sword.  Fortunately the
bullet missed me, finding its billet in the body of the man whose throat
I still grasped, while I managed to catch the blow of the other fellow
on my own blade; and in a moment we were at it "hammer and tongs"--that
is to say, the swordsman and myself, the other fellow making a dash at
me now and then, aiming fierce blows at me with the butt-end of his
pistol, until, in self-defence, I seized my opportunity and cleft his
skull with my cutlass at the same instant that I launched out with my
left hand and sent his companion reeling to the deck with a blow planted
fairly between the eyes.

At this moment young Lindsay came rushing aft, with half a dozen of our
fellows at his heels, to know what was the matter; so, bidding a couple
of the men to securely bind the prisoners, I descended the companion
ladder, with Lindsay at my heels, to see whether there were any more
Frenchmen to be fought.  There were not, however; the close, stuffy
little cabin was empty; so we went on deck again, and, leaving two men
to keep watch and ward at the after end of the ship, went forward, where
I personally superintended the operation of effectually securing the
crew, who we afterwards passed down into the hold.  The cook, however,
we left free, and, being ravenously hungry, gave him orders to at once
light the galley fire and cook us the best meal the ship could afford,
all hands taking the keen edge off our appetites, meanwhile, by munching
some excellent biscuits that Lindsay discovered snugly stored away in
the pantry.  Our next care was to hoist in the gig that had served us so
well; and, this done, we settled down to wait for our dinner and the
breeze that promised to come ere long.



CHAPTER FIVE.

WE PROCEED IN SEARCH OF THE ALTHEA'S BOATS.

He wind came away about an hour and a half before sunrise, a gentle
breeze out from the north-east, coming down to us first of all in the
form of a few wandering cats'-paws, that just wrinkled the oil-smooth
surface of the ocean and were gone again, and finally settling into a
true breeze that fanned us along at a speed of some four knots, the
schooner proving to be a fairly speedy little vessel.

Long ere this, however, I had carefully thought out a line of action for
myself, in order that when the wind came I might be prepared for it.  It
will be remembered that before parting company with the launch I had
been furnished by the master with a table showing the relative speeds of
the various boats, and from that moment I had, with the assistance of
the table, carefully calculated the supposed position of each boat at
noon; so that I now knew, to within a few miles, where any particular
boat ought to be looked for, upon the assumption that all had gone well
with them.  And somehow I thought it had; I was very strongly impressed
with the belief that the gale which we had encountered had not extended
far enough to the south-east to reach the launch and the rest of the
squadron.  Flowers it _might_ have overtaken, but my observations upon
the bearings of the centre of the storm and its direction led me to
entertain a very strong hope that the rest of the boats had escaped.
This being so, I determined to act upon the assumption that they had
done so, and to proceed in search of them in the direction where they
ought, upon that assumption, to be found.  Of course, with their
different rates of sailing, they would now be strung out in a fairly
long line; and the question that exercised me most strongly was whether
I should first seek the leading boat, and, having found her, dodge about
in waiting for the others, or whether I should first seek the dinghy,
and, having found her, run down the wind in the track of the others.
The direction from which the wind might happen to spring up would
necessarily influence my decision to a great extent; but when it came
away out from the north-east, and I discovered that the schooner could
fetch, upon an easy bowline, the spot where the sternmost boat might be
expected to be found, I hesitated no longer, but at once made up my mind
to first look for the dinghy.

As the morning wore on the breeze freshened somewhat, and the schooner's
speed increased to fully seven knots.  I employed the early part of the
forenoon in satisfying myself that the prisoners were properly
secured,--taking the precaution to have them all put in irons, as, in
the exhausted condition of my own crew, I could not afford to run any
unnecessary risks,--and as soon as I had eased my mind of that anxiety,
I personally investigated the condition of the schooner's storeroom.  To
my great joy I discovered that we possessed an ample supply of
provisions and water, together with a liberal quantity of wines,
spirits, and other luxuries--enough of everything, in fact, to maintain
the whole of the survivors of the _Althea_ upon full allowance for at
least a month.  The schooner, moreover,--she proved to be the _Susanne_,
privateer, of Saint Malo,--was nearly new, a stout, substantially built
little craft of one hundred and thirty-four tons register, as tight as a
bottle, well found, and armed with six long six-pounders in her
batteries, with a long nine-pounder mounted on a pivot on her
forecastle, and her magazine nearly full.

Nothing of any importance happened, either on that day or the next,
except that the sky gradually became overspread with those peculiar
patches of fleece-like clouds called "trade-clouds"--showing that at
length we had hit off the north-east trade winds that seemed to have
been evading us for so long.  According to my reckoning, and upon the
assumption that the wind would now hold fairly steady, we ought to hit
off the track of the boats about six bells in the morning watch, on the
third morning after the capture of the schooner, which would allow us
some eleven hours of daylight in which to prosecute our search; and, to
give ourselves the best possible chance of finding the objects of our
quest, I took care, on the preceding midnight, to haul the schooner as
close to the wind as she would lie, so that there should be no
possibility of hitting upon their track to leeward instead of to
windward of them, and so running _away_ from instead of _after_ them.
And at six bells on that morning I was called, in accordance with
previous instructions, in order that I might work up the reckoning to
the very last moment, and so make certain of getting as accurately as
possible upon the track.  My calculations now showed that it would be
nearly eight bells instead of six before we should reach the imaginary
line for which we were making; and at a quarter to eight--having
previously sent a hand aloft to take a careful look round--I gave the
order to up helm and bear away upon a west-south-west course, and to
pack the studding-sails upon the little hooker.  The men--thanks to good
feeding and all the rest I could give them consistent with the
maintenance of proper discipline--had by this time completely recovered
from the effects of our boat voyage, and were one and all as keen as
needles on the lookout for the boats from the moment that we squared
away, the watch, all but the helmsman, taking to the rigging--without
any orders from me--immediately that they had finished breakfast, and
disposing themselves upon the royal and topgallant yards in their
eagerness to catch the earliest possible glimpse of their shipmates.  I
calculated that at about five bells in the forenoon watch we ought to
overtake the dinghy,--the slowest boat in the fleet,--and as that moment
drew near our anxiety reached a most painful pitch, the men on the yards
straining their eyes to the utmost as they peered intently into the
distance from right ahead to broad on either beam, carefully and slowly
scanning the horizon for the little blot of gleaming canvas that should
proclaim the success of our quest.  But the fateful moment came and
went, leaving the horizon a blank.  Noon arrived, and I secured an
excellent observation for my latitude, by means of which I was enabled
to check my previous dead reckoning, which tallied to within less than a
mile of what it ought to be; and still there was no sign of the missing
boat, although my calculations showed that we had overrun by some
fifteen miles the spot where we expected to find her.  I hailed the
yards, inquiring whether there was any possibility of our having run
past the dinghy without observing her; but the men assured me that they
had maintained so bright a lookout that had she been anywhere within the
boundaries of our horizon they would assuredly have seen her.

This was rather disconcerting, yet I felt that I had no real cause for
disappointment; the boats might have met with rather fresher winds than
I had estimated for, in which case the likelihood was that they were
still many miles ahead of us.  My calculations had been based upon the
supposition that they had been evenly maintaining the same rate of speed
from the moment when we parted with them, and I knew that this was in
the last degree improbable.  Yet it was the only basis I had upon which
to make my calculations; for it was impossible for me to judge by the
weather which we had ourselves experienced.  Of one thing I felt
tolerably well convinced, which was that, keeping so much farther to the
southward than we had done in the gig, the other boats would not have
met with the calms that had so seriously delayed us; and that
consequently--unless they too had been caught in the hurricane that had
so nearly proved our destruction--they must be somewhere directly ahead
of us as we were then steering.  There was nothing for it, therefore,
but to keep all on as we were until we found them.

In this condition of anxiety and suspense we continued to run away to
the west-south-west until sunset, without sighting anything; and then,
fearful of running past one or more of the objects of our quest during
the night-time without seeing them, I hove the schooner to under
foresail and jib, with the topsail aback, so that we might remain as
nearly as possible where we were--excepting for our lee drift--all
through the night.  I also caused three lanterns to be hoisted, one over
the other, from our maintopmast stay, as a fairly conspicuous signal,
pretty certain to attract attention in the event of either of the boats
coming within sight of us during the hours of darkness, and of course
gave the strictest injunctions for the maintenance of a bright lookout
all through the night.

The night passed uneventfully, and at daybreak, after having first gone
aloft and personally but unavailingly examined the horizon and the
entire visible expanse of the ocean through the ship's telescope,--an
excellent instrument, by the way,--we made sail again upon the schooner,
and resumed our search.

Shortly after breakfast I secured an observation for my longitude, and,
having worked out my calculations, found that, if the boats were still
afloat, and had continued to steer the course which I had been told they
would, we must certainly find them that day.  As on the preceding day,
the men spent their watch upon the yards, maintaining so keen a lookout
that even I, anxious as I was, felt satisfied they would allow nothing
to escape them.  Yet the day passed, and evening arrived without the
discovery of any sign of the missing boats; while my anxiety grew more
painfully intense with the lapse of every hour of daylight.  And when at
length the night closed down upon us, and the stars came winking mistily
out from between the driving clouds, the conviction came to me that
something had gone lamentably wrong, and that to continue the search any
further in the direction that we had been pursuing would be useless.

The question was: What had happened?  I could think of but two possible
explanations of our failure to find the boats; one of which was that
they had been fallen in with and been picked up by a passing ship, while
the other was that they had experienced bad weather, which had driven
them out of their course.  If the first explanation happened to be the
correct one, well and good--our missing comrades were safe; but if the
second explanation was to account for our non-success, in what direction
ought we to continue our search?  The question was a very difficult one
to answer with any approach to accuracy, but an approximation to the
truth might be arrived at.  I reasoned thus: The boats were undoubtedly
within the limits of the trade wind when we parted with them, and the
only disturbing influence that they would be likely to meet with in that
region would be that of the hurricane that we had encountered.
Reasoning thus, I went below and produced a chart of the North
Atlantic,--it was a French one, reckoning its longitude from the
meridian of Paris; but that difficulty was to be easily overcome,--and
upon it I forthwith proceeded to prick off, as accurately as the data in
my possession would permit, first, the spot where we had parted company
with the other boats; secondly, our own course and distance up to the
moment when the hurricane struck us; and thirdly, the supposititious
course and distance of each of the boats up to the moment when the
hurricane would probably strike them.  The observations I had personally
made as to the bearing and course of the centre of the storm had
originally led me to the conclusion that the other boats had probably
escaped it altogether; and now, as I went over the matter afresh, I
could not persuade myself that they had encountered anything worse than
a mere fringe of it, a breeze strong enough perhaps to compel them to
run before it for a few hours, but nothing more.  Assuming, then, this
to be the case, I calculated as nearly as I could the probable direction
of the wind when the gale struck them, and the number of hours during
which they would be likely to be compelled to run before it, pricking
off upon the chart their probable whereabouts at the moment when they
would be likely to find themselves once more able to head for, say,
Saint Thomas or Saint Kitts.  From this point I laid off a course for
the former island, and then calculated their probable position on that
line at the moment, compared this with the position then occupied by the
schooner, and thus arrived at the new direction in which I ought to seek
for them.  Having reached thus far, I went on deck, set the new course,
and then, with Lindsay's assistance, went over all my calculations
again, verifying every figure of them.

Luckily for our anxiety, the trade wind was now blowing so fresh that,
on an easy bowline as we were, a whole mainsail, foresail, and topsail,
with royal and topgallant sails stowed, was as much as we could stagger
under, the little witch dancing along at a good, clean eleven knots
under this canvas; the consequence being that in thirty-eight hours from
the moment of bearing up we had reached the spot where I intended that
my new search for the missing boats should begin.

This time, however, I intended to adopt a course of procedure exactly
opposite to that which I had followed while prosecuting my former
search.  Then, I had gone to windward of the spot when I expected to
find the boats, and had run down to leeward along the course which I
thought it probable they had taken; but now my uncertainty as to their
precise position necessitated a search over a belt of ocean several
miles in width.  I therefore determined to get well to leeward of the
spot where my calculations indicated that I ought to find them, and from
there work to windward on an easy bowline, making stretches of some
twenty-six miles in length.  I had already ascertained the height of our
royal yard above the sea-level, and from that had calculated that a
lookout stationed at that elevation would command a circular area having
a radius of thirteen miles.  If, therefore, I made stretches across a
circle of twenty-six miles' diameter, I should practically command a
belt of ocean of fifty-two miles in width; and this I deemed sufficient
for my purpose.

Accordingly, having reached our cruising-ground at two bells in the
forenoon watch, and having one hand on the royal yard as a lookout, with
two more on the topsail yard by way of additional precaution, we made
our first reach of thirteen miles in a south-easterly direction.  Then,
nothing being in sight, we tacked and stood to the northward for twenty-
six miles.  Still nothing in sight; so we hove about again, and this
time reached to the southward and eastward for a distance of twenty-six
miles, continuing our search thus throughout the entire day, without
success.  At sunset we hove about again, and, reaching to the northward,
until we had arrived at the track which the boats, if still afloat,
would probably pass over, we hove-to for the night, hoisting three
lanterns, as before, to attract their attention should they happen to
arrive within sight of us during the hours of darkness.  It was some
relief to us that the night was tolerably clear, with a fair sprinkling
of stars and a moon well advanced in her first quarter; so that, during
the first half of the night, we had a very fair amount of light.

I did not keep the lookout men aloft at night, deeming it useless, as
the light, although--as I have said--fairly good, was not bright enough
to reveal a small object like a boat at a greater distance than some two
or three miles, and up to that distance it was possible to see really
better from the level of the deck than from the more lofty elevation of
the yards; but I had three men continuously on the lookout at the same
time, namely, one on the jib-boom end, and one each to port and
starboard in the waist.  We were hove-to on the starboard tack.
Needless to say, that although we had these three men thus stationed for
the express purpose of keeping a lookout and doing nothing else, Lindsay
and I also kept our eyes well skinned, going even to the length of
blinding the skylight with an old sail in order that our eyes might not
be dazzled by even the dim light of the cabin lamp.

It happened to be my eight hours in that night, and I had taken
advantage of the circumstance to turn in early, for the anxiety
attending upon this dishearteningly fruitless search was beginning to
tell upon me, and I had suffered for the last night or two from an
inability to sleep.  On this particular occasion, however, I felt
somewhat drowsy, and therefore went to my bunk in the hope of getting
two or three hours' rest; and, as a matter of fact, I did sleep, but my
rest was so disturbed by frightful dreams of men enduring unheard-of
suffering in open boats, that at length, awaking in a paroxysm of
horror, I turned out and went on deck, to find that it was seven bells,
and that under any circumstances I should have been called in another
half-hour.

The moon was within a very short time of setting when I reached the
deck, and I stood watching her half-disc creeping insensibly nearer and
nearer to the horizon, lighting up the sky that way with a soft,
mysterious, brownish-green light, and casting a long, tremulous wake of
ruddy gold athwart the tops of the running surges.  Lindsay was standing
beside me, yawning the top of his head nearly off, poor lad; for
although he too was anxious as to the fate of those who we were seeking,
his anxiety had not, thus far, interfered with his rest, and his watch
was now so nearly up that he was quite ready for the four hours' sleep
that awaited him.

I was in the very act of telling him that, as I should not go below
again, he might turn in if he chose,--my eyes being all the while fixed
upon the setting moon,--when suddenly, almost immediately under the
luminary, I caught a momentary glimpse of a small black object--small as
a pin-head--as it were hove-up on the back of a sea against the luminous
sky.  Stopping short in what I was saying, I sprang to the rail, and
from thence into the main rigging, half a dozen ratlines of which I
ascended in order to gain a horizon clear of the run of the nearer seas.
From this elevation I again looked out, instinctively shading my eyes
under my hand, and in another moment I had again caught sight of the
object, and not only so, but had also detected an intermittent flashing,
as of the moonlight off the wet blades of oars.

"A boat! a boat!"  I shouted, in the fulness of my delight.  "Hurrah,
lads! we have one of them at last!  Let draw the jib-sheet!  Fill the
topsail!  Up helm there, my man, and let her go broad off!"

As I rapidly issued these orders I swung myself out of the rigging, and,
running to the binnacle, took the bearing of the moon, allowing half a
point to the northward of her as the course to steer for the boat.

"Where is the gunner?"  I shouted; "pass the word for Mr Robbins!"

"Here I am, sir," answered Robbins--for my words had thrilled through
the little craft like an electric shock, and already the watch below
were scrambling up through the hatchway, carrying their clothing in
their hands, in their eagerness to get a glimpse of the newly discovered
boat.

"Mr Robbins," said I, "have the goodness to clap a blank cartridge into
one of the guns, and fire it as an encouragement to those poor fellows
out there; they will guess, by our firing, that we have seen them."

"Ay, ay, sir," answered Robbins, shambling away with alacrity upon his
errand; and a few minutes later one of our guns rang out what I hoped
would prove a thrice-welcome message to our shipmates.  Somehow I never
for a moment doubted that it was one of the frigate's boats that I had
seen; I felt as sure of it as though we had her already alongside,
although of course I could form no sort of surmise as to which of them
it would prove to be.

It took us but a very few minutes to run down to the boat, when, judging
our distance, we rounded-to and laid the topsail aback, so close to
windward of the little craft that one of our people was able to heave a
rope's-end into her, and we hauled her alongside.  Then, to our supreme
disappointment, we discovered that it was _not_ either of the boats that
we were looking for, but the long-boat of a merchantman, with eleven
people in her, all of whom were in a very wasted and exhausted
condition, partly from famine and partly from wounds, most of them being
swathed about the head or limbs with bloodstained bandages.

Concealing our disappointment as well as we could, we helped the poor
creatures up over the side,--discovering, during the process, that the
rescued party were our fellow-countrymen,--and then, having removed
everything from the boat that promised to prove of the slightest value,
we cast her adrift, having no room on our decks for her.  Meanwhile, the
unhappy strangers, being too weak to stand, had sunk down upon the deck,
pointing to their parched throats and feebly gasping the word "water";
in response to which appeal some of our own people had gone to work,
under my supervision, to supply them cautiously with small quantities of
water slightly dashed with brandy.  This treatment had a wonderfully
stimulative and revivifying effect upon them, so much so, indeed, that
they managed to stagger to their feet and earnestly beg for food.  This,
of course, we supplied them with forthwith, in the form of ship's bread
broken small and softened by steeping in weak brandy and water.  I gave
them this pending the preparation of a more substantial and appetising
meal by the cook; and it was perhaps well that circumstances obliged me
to do so, for I afterwards learned that the administration of a solid,
substantial meal to people in their famished condition would probably
have had fatal results.  Having satisfied to some small extent their
first ravenous craving for food and drink, we got them below and
provided them with such makeshift sleeping accommodation as the
resources of the schooner would permit, that they might seek in sleep
such further recuperation as was to be obtained, pending the production
of the meal in preparation for them.  Having thus disposed of the
rescued men, nothing remained for us but to await, with such patience as
we could muster, the return of daylight, to enable us to resume the
search for the lost frigate's boats.

It was nearly noon next day ere any of the rescued party appeared on
deck, the first to do so being a fine, sailorly-looking man of some
forty or forty-five years of age, who introduced himself to me as
"Captain" Tucker of the late British barque _Wyvern_, of Bristol,
outward-bound to the West Indies with a general cargo of considerable
value.  He informed me that all had gone well with him until eight days
previously, when, about noon, a strange sail was sighted in the south-
western board, standing to the northward, close-hauled on the starboard
tack.

"You may be sure," said Tucker, "that I kept a sharp eye upon her, for I
knew that, for _every_ honest merchantman that I happened to meet down
here, I was likely to meet with a dozen rogues, in the shape of
picaroons, privateers, or other craft of the enemy, or even our own men-
o'-war--no offence meant to _you_ in saying so, Mr Courtenay; but _you_
know, sir, as well as I do, that some of our men-o'-war treat British
merchantmen pretty nearly as bad as if they were enemies, boarding them
and impressing all their best men, and leaving them with so few hands
that if they happen to meet with bad weather it's ten chances to one of
their being able to take their ship to her destination.  Well, knowing
this, I kept both eyes on the stranger, which I soon made out to be an
uncommonly smart and heavy brigantine, that, close-hauled as she was,
seemed to be travelling three feet to our one.  She had a particularly
wicked look about her that I didn't half like; and I liked it still less
when, having drawn well up on our larboard beam, at a distance of some
five miles, I suddenly discovered that she was edging away for us.  We
were already under stunsails, so I could do no more in the way of making
sail; but we mounted eight brass nine-pounders,--very pretty pieces they
were, too,--so I had them cleared away and loaded, in readiness for the
worst; for I took her to be a French or Spanish privateer, and I had no
notion of yielding my ship to any such vermin without making a fight for
it; and my own lads were quite of the same mind as myself, not liking
the idea of being locked up for years in a French or a Spanish prison.

"Well, sir, that brigantine came bowling along at such a pace that
within half an hour of the time when I noticed her to be edging down for
us she was within gun-shot; and no sooner was this the case than, yawing
broad off for a moment, she pitched a shot--an eighteen-pounder I took
it to be--across our fore-foot, as a polite hint to us to heave-to.  But
I wasn't in the humour for heaving-to just then, so I hoisted my ensign
and kept all on as I was going.

"I expected that, seeing this, the brigantine would give us a sight of
her bunting, and open fire upon us in good earnest; but she didn't do
either.  She just kept edging away, until in another five minutes she
was broad on our larboard quarter, running the same way that we were,
and creeping up with the evident intention of running us alongside.
Seeing this, I ordered Mr Thomson, my mate, to ram an extra shot down
upon the top of those we had already loaded our guns with, and to
depress the muzzles, so that we could fire down upon the brigantine's
low deck as she ranged up alongside.  But I tell you, sir, that I didn't
half like the look of things; for by this time the craft was so close to
us that we saw down upon her decks quite distinctly, and she seemed to
be full of men--swarthy, greasy, black-bearded cut-throats, _every_ one
of them, if looks went for anything.  In another minute or so she was
within biscuit-toss of us,--so close that we could hear the hissing
shear of her sharp stem through the water, and the moan of the wind in
the hollows of her canvas,--when up jumps a fellow upon her rail and
hailed us in what I took to be Spanish,--it wasn't French, I know,
because I can speak a little of that lingo,--at the same time pointing
to his gaff-end, up to which another ruffian at once began to hoist a
_black flag_.

"`So ho!' thinks I; `so it's _pirates_ we have to deal with, eh?  Well,
that means neck or nothing, so here goes!'  And with that I sings out to
the mate to throw open the ports--we'd kept them closed until now--and
let the rascals have it hot.  No sooner said than done.  Thomson gave
the word, the ports were thrown open, the nine-pounders run out, and the
next second four of our shot went smashing through the brigantine's
bulwarks, bowling over like ninepins every man that happened to be
standing in their way.  The man on the rail jumped down off his perch as
nimbly as if he was scalded, and I heard him shout `Car-r-r-r-amba!' or
something like it, as he waved his hand to the man at the wheel.  At the
same moment the brigantine delivered her broadside, and before the smoke
had time to clear away I heard and felt the crash of her as she dropped
alongside us fair in the waist.  The next second--so it seemed to me--
our rail was alive with the dirty, garlic-smelling blackguards, who came
swarming over upon our decks until it seemed that there was no room for
more.  Well, I had a pair of pistols and a sword, and each of our lads
had his cutlass, and for three or four minutes there was as pretty a
fight as you'd wish to see going on aboard the old _Wyvern_.  Then,
while I was doing my best to hold my own against four of the rascals who
came crowding round me, I got a knock on the head from behind that made
me see about a million stars before I dropped senseless to the deck."



CHAPTER SIX.

WE FIND THE LAUNCH.

How long I remained unconscious I don't know, but it must have been at
least half an hour, I should say; for when at length I came round I
found myself lying, bound hand and foot, on the deck, along with such of
my crew as had not been killed in the defence of the ship, while the
_Wyvern_ was hove-to under topsails, with her hatches off, and a regular
mob of the dirty, greasy Spaniards swarming round the main hatchway and
hoisting out the cargo that another gang was breaking out down below.
They had hoisted out all our boats, too, I soon found, and were using
them to transfer such goods as they required to the brigantine--all,
that is to say, except the long-boat, which, for some reason that I did
not then understand, was lying unused in the starboard gangway.  They
took their time over the job of picking and choosing from among the
stuff that we carried, but I noticed that all the while they had a hand
aloft on the main-royal yard keeping a lookout.  They kept at it until
it was too dark to see what they were about, and then they left us, one
boat remaining alongside for fully twenty minutes after the rest had
gone, while some of her people were busy down below.  At length,
however, they shoved off as well, leaving me and my people lying on the
deck trussed up like so many chickens.  Two or three minutes later I
heard some orders given, immediately followed by the cheeping of blocks
and the creaking of yard parralls, by which I knew that they were
filling upon the brigantine and leaving us.

"I could not understand why they had left us all there, alive, but bound
hand and foot as we were.  I suspected some villainy, however, and my
first idea was that they had set the barque on fire.  But I could not
detect any smell of burning, and then the thought came to me that
perhaps they had scuttled her, intending us to go down with the ship.
The idea of either fairly made my blood run cold, I can tell you; but it
stirred me up too, and I went to work to see if I could work my hands
free.  I might just as well have tried to fly; the scoundrels had made
sure work of me, and no mistake.  Then I sang out to the others to try
if they could work themselves adrift; and after a bit first one and then
another answered that it was no use, they were lashed altogether too
securely.

"`Well, lads,' says I, `if none of us can work ourselves free, I'm
afraid it's all up with us; for my notion is that those Spanish devils
have scuttled the ship, and if so it won't be so very long before she'll
founder, taking us with her.'

"That set the men muttering among themselves, and presently the man that
was lying nearest me said--

"`If you can manage to work your way near enough to me, sir, for me to
get a feel of your lashings with my fingers, I'll see what I can do
towards loosenin' of 'em for yer.'

"`All right, my lad,' says I, `I will!'  No sooner said than done.  I
worked and wriggled myself up alongside of him somehow, and presently I
felt his fingers fumbling about with my lashings.  This particular chap,
I ought to tell you, was uncommonly clever with his fingers, especially
in the matter of handling rope; and sure enough, in about twenty
minutes, I'm blessed if he hadn't worked those lashings so loose that I
presently managed to slip my hands clear of 'em altogether.  The moment
that I was free I set to work to chafe my fingers and get the life back
into them,--for they had lashed me so tight that I had lost all feeling
in my hands,--and as soon as I was able to tell once more that I'd got a
complete set of fingers, I whipped a knife out of my pocket and cut the
lashings off my feet, after which I went the round of the party, cutting
them adrift as quick as I could.  Then, while they were getting the
benumbed feeling out of their limbs, I swung myself down through the
open hatchway to investigate.  It was as I had feared; they had scuttled
the ship, for already there was something like three feet of water in
the hold.  You may be sure I didn't waste much time down below after
making that discovery; I just scrambled up on deck again as quick as
ever I could, and told the men what had happened.  The barque was bound
to go, of course,--we could do nothing to keep her afloat,--so I jumped
to the side to see after the boats.  They were gone, all but the long-
boat, which, as I told you just now, was lying in the starboard gangway.
I crossed the deck to take a look at her, and then saw why the pirates
had left her there unused; she was stove in on the starboard side, her
planks being crushed and her timbers broken over a space measuring some
six feet by two.  As she was then she would not float two minutes; she
would have filled the moment we dropped her into the water.  But when
Chips came to overhaul her he had a notion that he could patch her up
enough to make her carry us.  As a matter of fact, it rested between
that and the whole lot of us drowning; for the barque was filling so
fast that there was no time for us to put a raft together.  So the
carpenter fetched his tools and went to work there and then, the rest of
us lending a hand and fetching things as Chips sung out for them.  First
of all, he gently coaxed the broken timbers and planking back into their
places, as nearly as he could get them; then he got a couple of strips
of canvas big enough to cover the hole, one of which he dressed with
tallow on both sides, working the grease well into the fabric.  Then,
with small, flat-headed tacks, spaced close together, he nailed this
first piece of canvas over the hole, allowing it plenty of overlap.
Then he took the other piece of canvas,--which was cut an inch larger
each way than the first piece,--tarred it well, and strained it tightly
over the first piece.  Then he cut a third piece of canvas, which he
fixed over the hole on the _inside_ of the boat, nailing the bottom and
two ends of the canvas so that it formed a sort of pocket.  Then he got
a lot of oakum, which he first soaked in tar and then stuffed into this
pocket arrangement until it was packed as tightly as it was possible to
pack it.  This was to keep the broken planks and timbers in place.  And
finally he nailed up the top of the pocket, declaring, as he flung down
his tools, that the boat was now ready for hoisting out.  And it was
high time, too, for by the time that the job was finished the barque had
settled to her chain-plates, and was liable to go down under our feet at
any moment.  Accordingly, we hooked on the tackles, and, watching the
roll of the ship, managed to hoist out the boat and get her into the
water without accident.  Then we hurriedly pitched into her a couple of
breakers of water and such provisions as we could lay our hands upon,--
and that wasn't much, for by this time the cabin was all afloat and the
lazarette under water,--and tumbled over the side into her, I only
waiting long enough behind the others to secure the ship's papers and
the chronometer.  We shoved off in a hurry, I can tell you, for while I
was securing those few matters that I've just mentioned the poor old
hooker gave an ugly lurch or two that told me her time was up; and, sure
enough, we hadn't pulled above fifty fathoms away from her when down she
went, stern-first.

"Our first anxiety was, of course, as to the carpenter's repairing job;
but we soon found that we needn't greatly trouble ourselves about that.
There was just a draining of water that somehow worked its way through,
but a few minutes' spell with the baler about once an hour was
sufficient to keep the boat fairly dry and comfortable.  All the same, I
wasn't very keenly anxious for a long boat voyage in such a craft as
that, so we shaped a course to the west'ard, hoping to fall in with and
be picked up by an outward-bounder of some sort.  But not a blessed sail
did we see for seven mortal days, until we sighted your upper canvas
last night, and pulled so as to cut you off.  And if you hadn't picked
us up, I believe we should all have been dead by this time, for our
provisions soon ran out; and when it was too late, we discovered that
both our breakers were full of _salt_ instead of fresh water!"

Such was the tragic story related by the skipper of the ill-fated
_Wyvern_, a story that was replete with every element necessary for the
weaving of a thrilling romance; yet it was told baldly and concisely,
without the slightest attempt at embellishment; told precisely as though
to be attacked by pirates, to have one's ship rifled and scuttled, one's
boats stolen, and then to be left, bound hand and foot on deck, to
helplessly perish, were one of the most ordinary and commonplace
incidents imaginable.  Truly, they who go down to the sea in ships, and
do business on the great waters, meet with so many extraordinary
experiences, and see so many strange and unaccountable sights, that the
capacity for wonder is soon lost, and the most astonishing and--to
shore-abiding folk--incredible occurrences are accepted as a matter of
course.

During the whole of that day we continued to make short tacks to
windward as before, with half the watch aloft on the look out; but
nothing was sighted, and at nightfall we again hove-to, maintaining our
position as nearly as possible in the same spot until the next morning.

With the first sign of daylight I sent aloft the keenest-sighted man we
had on board, that he might take a good look round ere we filled upon
the schooner to resume our disheartening search.  So eager was I, that
when the man reached the royal yard, the stars were still blinking
overhead and down in the western sky, and it was too dark to see to any
great distance.  But the dawn was paling the sky to windward, and as the
cold, weird, mysterious pallor of the coming day spread upward, and
warmed into pinkish grey, and from that into orange, and from orange to
clearest primrose, dyeing the weltering undulations of the low-running
sea with all the delicate, shifting tints of the opal, I saw the fellow
aloft suddenly rise to his feet and stand upon the yard, with one arm
round the masthead to steady himself against the quick, jerky plunges of
the schooner, while he shielded his eyes with the other hand, as he
steadfastly gazed into the distance to windward.

"Royal yard, there, do you see anything?"  I hailed eagerly; and the
sudden ecstasy of renewed hope which sprang up within my breast now
fully revealed to me how nearly I had been driven to the confines of
despair by the long-protracted non-success of the search upon which I
had so confidently entered.

"I ain't quite sure, sir," was the unsatisfactory reply that came down
to me; "it's still a trifle dusky away out there, but I thought just now
that--ay, there it is again!  There's _something_ out there, sir, about
six or seven mile away, but I can't yet tell for certain whether it's a
boat or no; it's somewheres about the size of a boat, sir."

"Keep your eye on it," I answered.  "I will get the glass and have a
look for myself."

So saying, I went hastily to the companion, removed the ship's telescope
from the beckets in which it hung there, and quickly made my way aloft.

"Now," said I, as I settled myself upon the yard, "where is the object?"

"D'ye see that long streak of light shootin' up into the sky from behind
that bank of cloud, sir?" responded the man.  "Well, it's about half a
p'int, or maybe nearer a p'int, to the south'ard of that."

"Ah, I see it!" ejaculated I, as I caught sight for a moment of a small,
scarcely distinguishable speck that appeared for an instant and then
vanished again, apparently in the hollow between two waves.  A few
seconds later I caught it again, and presently I had it dancing
unsteadily athwart the field of the instrument.  But even then I was
unable to definitely settle whether it was or was not a boat; as the man
at my side had remarked, it looked like a boat, it was about the size of
a boat, as seen nearly end-on, but there was no indication of life or
movement about it; it seemed to be floating idly to the run of the seas.
Just at this moment the sun's upper limb flashed into view over the
edge of the cloud-bank, darting a long gleam of golden radiance athwart
the heaving welter to the schooner, and I looked again, half expecting
to catch the answering flash of wet oar-blades; but there was nothing of
the kind to be seen.  Undoubtedly, however, there was _something_ out
there,--something that might prove to be a boat,--and I determined to
give it an overhaul without loss of time.  So, carefully noting its
bearing and distance, and cautioning the lookout not to lose sight of it
for an instant, I descended to the deck and straightway gave the
necessary orders for making sail and beating up to it.

The object being nearly dead to windward, it was a full hour before we
reached it, but little more than half that time sufficed to satisfy us
that it really was a boat, and a further quarter of an hour established
the fact that it was none other than the _Althea's_ launch; but my heart
was full of foreboding as I observed that, although we fired gun after
gun to attract attention, there was no answering sign of life to be
discovered on board her, although from the moment when she became
visible from the deck, either Lindsay or I kept the telescope constantly
bearing upon her.  Yet the depth at which she floated in the water
showed that she was not empty.  Lindsay suggested that her crew might
have been taken out of her by some craft that had fallen in with her,
and that the reason why she floated so deep was that she was half-full
of water.  But I could not agree with this view; there was a buoyancy of
movement about her as she rose and fell upon the surges, which was
convincing proof to my mind that she was loaded down with something much
more stable than water.

At length, when we had drawn up to within a cable's length of her, the
man on the royal yard sang out that there were people in her, but that
they were all lying down in the bottom of the boat, and appeared to be
dead.

"We shall have to pick her up ourselves," said I to Lindsay.  "Let one
hand stand by to drop into her from the fore chains with a rope's-end as
we bring her alongside.  Lay your topsail aback, Mr Lindsay, and let
your jib-sheet flow, if you please."

And as I sprang up on the rail to con the schooner alongside, Lindsay
gave the necessary orders.

With the topsail aback, and the mainsheet eased well off, the schooner
went drifting slowly down toward the launch, that, as we now approached
her, looked old, battered, and weather-stained almost out of
recognition.  We steered so as to shave past her close to windward, and
as she came drifting in under our fore chains, the man who was waiting
there with a rope's-end dropped neatly into her, and, springing lightly
along the thwarts into the eyes of her, deftly made fast the rope to the
iron ring bolt in her stem.  Then he turned himself, and looked at the
ghastly cargo that the boat carried, and as he gazed he whitened to the
lips, and a look of unspeakable horror crept into his eyes as he
involuntarily thrust out his hands as though to ward off the sight of
some dreadful object.  And well he might, for as I gazed down into that
floating charnel-house I turned deadly sick and faint, as much at what
met my sight as at the horrible odour that rose up out of her and filled
my nostrils.  The boat seemed to be full of dead, lying piled upon one
another, as though they had been flung there; yet the first glance
assured me that some of those who were on board her, on the night when I
parted company in the gig, were now missing.  The captain and the doctor
were lying side by side in the stern-sheets; the rest of the ill-fated
party were lying heaped one upon the other, or doubled up over the
thwarts in the other part of the boat.  The two masts were standing, but
the sails were lowered and lay, unfurled, along the thwarts, on top of
the oars and boathook.  There was no trace of food of any kind to be
seen, and the water-breakers were without bungs, and to all appearance
empty.

So ghastly and repulsive was the sight which the boat presented, that
our people hung in the wind for a moment or two when I ordered them to
jump down into her and pass the bodies up over the side; but they
rallied at once and followed me when I led the way.  The skipper and the
doctor were both lying upon their faces, and as I raised the former and
turned him over, it is difficult to say which shocked me most, whether
the startling ease with which I lifted his wasted body, or the sight of
his withered, drawn, and shrunken features--which were so dreadfully
altered that for a moment I was doubtful whether it really was or was
not the body of Captain Harrison that I held in my arms.  I passed him
up out of the boat without difficulty, and then did the same with the
doctor.  It struck me that the latter was not quite dead, and I sang out
to Lindsay to get some _very_ weak brandy and water and moisten the lips
of each man as he was passed up on deck; for if life still lingered in
any of them, it might be possible to save them even now by judicious and
careful treatment.  Ten of our inanimate shipmates we singled out as
possibly alive, but with the rest the indications of dissolution were so
unmistakable that I deemed it best not to interfere with them, but to
cover the bodies with a sail, weight it well down with ballast pigs, and
then pull the plug out of the boat and cast her adrift, after reading
the burial service over the poor relics of humanity that she contained.

That, however, was a duty that might be deferred until _we_ had attended
to those who had been passed up out of her as possibly alive; we
therefore dropped her under the stern, and allowed her to tow at the
full scope of a complete coil of line, while we devoted ourselves to the
task of attempting to resuscitate the other ten.  As I had suspected,
the doctor proved to be alive, for after diligently painting his blue
and shrivelled lips for about a quarter of an hour with a feather dipped
in weak brandy and water, his eyelids quivered, a fluttering sigh passed
his lips, followed by a feeble groan, and his eyes opened, fixing
themselves upon Lindsay and myself in a glassy, unrecognising stare.

"Water! water, for the love of God!" he murmured in a thick, dry, husky
whisper.

I raised his head gently and rested it against my shoulder, while
Lindsay held the pannikin of weak grog to his lips.  For a few seconds
he seemed to be incapable of swallowing, then, like a corpse galvanised
into the semblance of life, he suddenly seized the edge of the pannikin
between his clenched teeth as in a vice, and held it until he had
drained it to the dregs.  Luckily, there were but two or three spoonfuls
left in it, or--as he afterwards assured me--that draught would probably
have been his last.

"Ah!" he ejaculated, with a sigh of unspeakable relief, "nectar! nectar!
Give me more."  Adding quickly, "No, no; not yet, not yet!  A single
teaspoonful every five minutes!  Oh, my God, what anguish!  Why did I
not die?  Is that Courtenay, or am I dreaming?  Where is the captain?"

I whipped off my jacket and placed it under his head, as I allowed him
to sink gently back on the deck, for at this moment Lindsay whispered to
me that the captain was coming round, and I turned to render what
assistance I could.  Captain Harrison's eyes were now open, but it was
perfectly plain to us both that his wandering glances were as yet devoid
of recognition; and it was not until some ten minutes later that he
began to evince some understanding of who we were and what had happened.
His first inquiry was after the well-being of those who had been with
him in the boat, and to this I felt constrained to give an evasive but
encouraging reply, as he was so terribly weak that I feared the effect
upon him of a straightforward answer giving the actual state of the
matter.  We got him and the doctor down below and put them to bed as
quickly as possible, and by the time that this was done the other eight
poor souls had also been successfully brought round, when they too were
conveyed below and made as comfortable as circumstances would permit.
This done, we disposed of the dead with all due reverence, and then
resumed our search to windward with renewed hope arising out of the
happy discovery of the launch.

It was drawing well on toward eight bells in the afternoon watch that
day when the man whom.  I had stationed in the cabin to keep an eye upon
the captain and the doctor came up on deck with the news that both were
now awake, and that the captain wished to see me.  I at once obeyed the
summons, and was greatly rejoiced to find that both of my patients were
much stronger, and wonderfully the better in every way for their long
sleep.  They lost no time in explaining that they were ravenously
hungry; whereupon I sent word forward to the galley, and in less than
five minutes both were busily engaged in disposing of a bowl of strong
broth, prepared from two of the small remaining stock of chickens that
we had found on board the schooner when we took her.

The moment that the soup had disappeared the captain began to ask me
questions, in reply to which I gave him a succinct account of our
adventures from the moment when we parted company from the rest of the
boats; and when I had finished he paid me a high compliment upon what he
was pleased to term the skill and judgment that I had displayed
throughout.  He then recounted what had befallen the launch, from which
I learned that the entire flotilla of boats had remained together--the
faster boats accommodating their pace to the slower craft--until caught
in the tail-end of the hurricane,--which with them only reached the
strength of a moderate gale,--when they were perforce compelled to
separate, from which time the launch had seen none of the others again.
It appeared that the launch, deeply loaded as she was, suffered very
nearly as much as we in the gig did; the few in her who were capable of
doing any work having their hands full in keeping her above water.  The
sea had broken over them heavily, all but swamping them upon several
occasions, and destroying the greater part of their provisions, so that
within three days after the cessation of the gale they found themselves
without food and face to face with starvation.  Then followed a terrible
story of protracted suffering, ending in many cases in madness and
death, of fruitless effort to work the heavy boat, and finally of utter
helplessness, despair, and--oblivion.  The captain informed me that he
had little hope that any of the other boats had outlived the gale, but
believed that if they were still afloat they would be found some forty
miles or so to the northward and eastward of where we had fallen in with
the launch.

In that direction therefore we continued our search, scouring the whole
ocean thereabout over an area of fully one hundred miles square, but we
found none of the other boats; and at length, when we had been cruising
for a full week, the captain, who by this time was rapidly regaining
strength, reluctantly gave the order for us to desist and bear up for
Jamaica.  And I may as well here mention that none of the other boats
were ever again heard of, there being little doubt that they all
foundered during the gale.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

A DARING ACT OF PIRACY.

The captain, having thus sorrowfully and reluctantly abandoned all hope
of finding the missing boats, at once became keenly anxious to reach
Port Royal with all possible expedition, in order that the painful
business of our trial by court-martial for the loss of the frigate might
be got over without delay.  We therefore carried on night and day; and
so smartly did the little schooner step out, that on the seventh day
after bearing up we found ourselves at daybreak within sight of Turk's
Island, running in for the Windward Passage before the rather languid
trade wind.  Most of the people were by this time getting about once
more, so that, with our own men and the _Wyvern_ party, our decks looked
rather crowded; and as we went below to breakfast the captain remarked
upon it, expressing his satisfaction that the time was so near at hand
when we could exchange our cramped quarters aboard the schooner for the
more roomy ones to be found in the Kingston hotels or the houses of the
hospitable Jamaica planters.

We were still dawdling over breakfast in the close, stuffy little cabin
of the schooner, when Lindsay, who was looking out for me, poked his
head through the open skylight to report that there were two sail
ahead--a ship and a brigantine--hove-to in somewhat suspicious
proximity; and that Captain Tucker--who had been aloft to get a better
view of the strangers--declared his belief that the brigantine was none
other than the piratical craft the crew of which had pillaged and
destroyed the _Wyvern_.

"How do they bear, Mr Lindsay?" demanded the captain.

"Straight ahead, sir," answered Lindsay.

"And how far distant?" was the next question.

"About ten miles, sir," replied Lindsay.

"And what are we going at the present moment?" asked the captain.

Lindsay withdrew his head from the skylight to glance over the rail, and
then replaced it again to answer, "A bare five, sir, I should say; the
wind seems to be growing more scant.  Shall I heave the log, sir?"

"No, thank you," answered the captain; "I have no doubt your judgment is
nearly enough correct for all practical purposes, Mr Lindsay.  Let a
hand be sent aloft to keep an eye on the strangers, and tell him to
report anything unusual that he may see.  I shall be on deck myself in a
few minutes."

Excusing myself, I slipped up on deck to have a look at the two craft,
the upper canvas of which was visible above the horizon directly ahead
of us.  As Lindsay had said, the one was a full-rigged ship, while the
other was a fine big brigantine; both were hove-to, and in such close
proximity that the merest tyro might shrewdly guess at what was going on
there just beyond the horizon.  But, to make assurance doubly sure, I
took the ship's glass, and went up on the topgallant yard, from whence I
was able to obtain a full view of them.  It was as I had expected; boats
were passing rapidly to and fro between the two craft, those which left
the ship being heavily laden, while those which left the brigantine were
light.

I was still aloft, working away with the telescope, when the captain
emerged from the companion-way, and at once catching sight of me,
hailed--

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

"It is undoubtedly a case of piracy, sir," I replied.  "The brigantine
is rifling the ship, and the latter has all the appearance of a British
West Indiaman."

"Whew!"  I heard the skipper whistle, as he walked to the rail and
looked thoughtfully down at the foam bubbles that were gliding past our
bends.  "If she is an Indiaman she will have passengers aboard her," he
remarked to the doctor, who at that moment joined him.

The doctor seemed to acquiesce, although he spoke in so low a tone that
I could not catch his words.  The two stood talking together for a few
minutes, and then the captain hailed me again.

"What do you judge our distance from those two craft to be, Mr
Courtenay?" he asked.

"A good eight miles, sir, I should say," answered I.

"Thank you, Mr Courtenay; you may come down, sir," returned the
skipper, which I took to be a hint that he wanted me.  I accordingly
slung the glass over my shoulder, swung myself off the yard on to the
backstay, and so descended to the deck.

"Did you notice whether they seemed to have more wind than we have?"
inquired the captain, as I joined him.

"Pretty much the same, sir, I should think," answered I.  "It looks as
though it would fall calm before long."

"I am afraid not; no such luck," remarked the skipper, cocking his
weather eye skyward and carefully studying the aspect of the heavens.
"I fervently wish it would; then we could nab that fellow beautifully
with the boats."

"Might we not try, sir, as it is?" inquired I eagerly.  "We have enough
people--that is, counting the _Wyvern's_ men, who, I have no doubt,
would all volunteer," I hastened to add, as my eye fell upon three or
four of those whom we had taken out of the launch, and who, what with
starvation and their still unhealed wounds, looked more fit for a
hospital than for boat duty.

"Thank you, Mr Courtenay," answered the skipper, with a smile,
evidently reading my unspoken thoughts.  "No, I am afraid it would not
do.  In the first place, I question whether we really _have_ sufficient
men to justify such an attempt; and, in the next place, if we had, it
would still be desirable, in my opinion, to defer the attempt until we
are much nearer.  At present nobody can tell what we are.  The schooner
is such a small affair that I am in hopes the brigantine will take no
notice of us until we are within striking distance of her; while, if I
were to send the boats away, she would probably make off at once.  No;
it is rather trying to the patience to remain idly aboard here, drifting
along at this snail's pace, but I am convinced that it is the correct
thing to do.  Perhaps, if we show only a few men about the decks, the
brigantine may be tempted to tackle us."

"Ah! if only she would, sir!"  I ejaculated, with such intensity of
feeling that the captain laughed.

"Why, I declare you are developing into a regular fire-eater!" he
exclaimed.

"Think of the passengers, sir, some of them women, most likely!"  I
said.

"I _am_ thinking of them, sir!" answered the captain through his
clenched teeth, and with a sudden glitter in his eye that foreboded evil
to the brigantine's people, should we be fortunate enough to get within
striking distance of them.

I turned away and walked forward to where I saw Black Peter, the whilom
servant of the midshipmen's mess aboard the _Althea_.  He was one of
those whom we had found still alive in the launch, and he had picked up
wonderfully since then, having become almost his old self again.  He was
lounging on the forecastle near the port cat-head, with his bare, brawny
arms crossed on the rail as he gazed ahead at the two craft, with which
we were slowly closing.

"Peter," said I, "get the grindstone ready.  And Green, get the
cutlasses up on deck and give them a thorough good sharpening.  We may
want them by and by."

"Ay, ay, sir," answered Green, with a grin, as he shambled away to get
the weapon, while Peter bestirred himself with alacrity to prepare the
grindstone for its work by drawing a bucket of water and pouring it into
the trough.  A few minutes later Peter, his eyes gleaming with
excitement and every one of his ivories bared in a broad grin of
delight, was whirling the handle round at a furious speed, as Green and
another hand stood on either side of the stone, each pressing a bare
blade to its fiercely buzzing disc.

We continued to drift along at an exasperatingly slow pace before the
languid breeze until we had arrived within about four miles of the two
craft, when the skipper gave orders to clear the decks and cast loose
the guns; but he instructed me that the galley fire was not to be
extinguished and the magazine opened until the last moment.  Apparently
he had his doubts as to the probability of the brigantine attacking us.
And, if so, his doubts were soon confirmed; for when we had reduced the
distance by another mile the lookout aloft reported that the brigantine
was filling away; and in another minute or two she turned her stern to
us, rigged out her studding-sail booms, and went off before the wind,
setting her studding-sails as she went.

"Ah!" ejaculated the captain, "it is as I feared!  She smells a rat, and
does not mean to wait for us!  Hoist out the gig at once, Mr Courtenay,
and pull for your life to that ship; too probably it is a case of the
_Wyvern_ over again, and if there are any people left aboard her they
must be saved.  Let the men go fully armed, but do not take more than
the boat's proper complement, as you are not likely to have any fighting
to do, while you may want all the room in the boat that you can spare."

We were by this time moving so slowly that it was unnecessary to heave-
to in order to hoist out the gig.  No time, therefore, was lost in
getting her into the water, and within five minutes of the issuing of
the order by the captain we were afloat and away from the schooner, with
the men--a picked crew, consisting of the strongest and smartest men in
the ship--bending their backs as they drove the beautifully modelled
boat at racing speed through the water.

We had barely got away, however, before I detected light wreaths of
smoke curling up between the masts of the distant ship; and at the same
moment I observed that although her mainyards were still braced aback
she seemed to be no longer hove-to, for, as I watched, her bows fell off
until she was nearly before the wind, and she went drifting slowly away
to leeward, sometimes heading in one direction and sometimes in another,
yawing about all over the place, with a difference of fully four points
on either side of the general direction in which she was driving.  This
was most exasperating, as although she was drifting slowly she was still
drifting, and that, too, in the same general direction that we were
steering, thus prolonging the time that must necessarily elapse ere we
could overtake her, while it would greatly increase the expenditure of
energy on the part of the oarsmen to enable us to get alongside.

"Give way with a will, men," I cried.  "The rascals have not only set
fire to the ship, but they have also cast loose her wheel, so that she
is now running away from us to leeward.  The harder you pull the sooner
shall we catch her, and the better chance will there be for us to put
out the fire.  And remember, for aught that we know, her crew may be
lying there upon her deck, bound hand and foot, utterly helpless, to
roast alive, unless we can get alongside in time to save them!"

This appeal was not without effect upon the men; hard as they had been
pulling, they now put out every available ounce of strength they
possessed, their brawny muscles standing out like ropes upon their bare
arms, while the perspiration literally poured off them, and the stout
ash blades bent like wands, as they all but lifted the gig clean out of
the water at every stroke.  We tore along over the low, oil-like ridges
of the swell at the speed of the dolphin, leaving the schooner as though
she were at anchor; yet to my eager impatience our headlong pace seemed
to be little better than a crawl, for the light wreaths of smoke that I
had seen winding lazily upward from the ship's hull and twining about
her spars increased in volume with startling rapidity, while it
momentarily grew darker in colour, until, within ten minutes of its
first appearance, it had become a dense cloud of dun-coloured smoke,
completely enveloping the ship, in the heart of which long, forking
tongues of flickering flame presently appeared.  They had apparently set
fire to the poor old barkie in at least half a dozen places, and she was
burning like match-wood.

"Pull, men, pull!"  I cried, "or we shall be too late; she is well
alight even now, and in another quarter of an hour she will be a blazing
furnace if she goes on at her present rate.  Heaven above! if there are
people aboard her what must their feelings be now?"

A groan of sympathy burst from the men in response to this ejaculation
of mine, and they tugged at the oars with a strength and energy that
filled me with amazement.  We were coming up with the ship hand over
hand; but, fast as the boat flew, the fire grew still faster, and
presently I saw the flames climbing aloft by way of the well-tarred
shrouds until they reached the sails, when there arose a sudden blaze of
flame among the spars, and in two or three minutes every shred of canvas
had been consumed, and the crawling tongues of fire were circling about
the masts and yards, feebly at first, but steadily increasing until they
were all ablaze.  Meanwhile the ship, deprived of her canvas, gradually
fell broadside-on to the wind, and from that position as gradually
drifted round until she lay bows-on to us.  By this time we were within
three-quarters of a mile of her, and now that she was no longer driven
to leeward by her sails, we neared her rapidly.  But my heart sank
within me as I watched her, for the destruction of her sails, which I
had at first thought a fortunate circumstance,--inasmuch as she no
longer blew away from us,--I now recognised as a dreadful happening;
for, stationary as she now lay on the water, the light draught of wind
had full power to fan the fire that raged aboard her, and by the time
that we drew up under her bows and hooked on to her bobstay, she was a
roaring mass of flames from stem to stern.

I shinned up the bobstay and so got on to her bowsprit, and from there
made my way into her head; but I could go no farther, for the fore part
of her deck was a sheet of fire, upon which no living thing could exist
for more than a few seconds of unspeakable torment, and even where I
stood the heat was all but unendurable.  I could not see very far aft
for the flames and smoke.  Her fore-scuttle was open, and a pillar of
flame roared out of it as from a chimney on fire; and some ten feet
abaft it was her foremast, ablaze from the deck to the truck; and
immediately abaft it again was the blazing framework of what had shortly
before been a deck-house.  Beyond that I could see nothing.  One thing
was quite certain, and that was that if there were living people still
aboard her--which I could not believe possible--they must be aft, and it
was there that we must seek them.  So I scrambled down into the gig
again, and ordered the men to back off and pull round under the ship's
stern.

They lost no time in obeying my order; and it was well for us all that
they exhibited so much alacrity, for as we swept round and gave way an
ominous cracking and rending sound was heard aboard the ship, and a
moment later her blazing foremast toppled over and fell with a crash
into the sea, missing the gig by a bare boathook's length.

"Look out for the other masts; they'll be comin' down too in a jiffy!"
sang out one of the men; and they all pulled for their lives.  But the
alarm was a false one, the main and mizzen masts standing for full ten
minutes longer.

But when we got under the ship's stern it became perfectly clear that no
living thing could be aboard her, for she was even more fiercely ablaze
aft than she was for'ard, the whole of her, from the mainmast to the
taffrail, being a veritable furnace of roaring flame, with tongues and
jets of fire leaping from her cabin windows and from every port and
scuttle.  It was impossible to board her in this direction; it would
have simply been an act of suicide to have attempted it; even her
outside planking, right down to the water's edge, was so hot that it was
unbearable to the touch; and it was beyond all doubt that if those
fiends in the brigantine had left the crew, or any portion of them, on
board, the unhappy creatures must have perished long ere we had reached
the ill-fated craft.  I therefore took a note of her name,--the
_Kingston Trader_ of Bristol,--and reluctantly gave the word to haul off
to a safe distance to wait until the schooner should run down and pick
us up.

This occurred about a quarter of an hour later, and the moment that the
gig was fairly clear of the water we crowded sail after the brigantine;
but, fast as the schooner was, the pirate craft easily ran away from us,
and by sunset had vanished below the horizon.

Nothing further of importance happened to us until our arrival at Port
Royal, which occurred on the evening of the following day, when we just
saved the last of the sea breeze into the harbour.  The captain went
ashore and reported himself that same night, dining with the admiral
afterwards; but I did not go ashore until late the next day, as there
was a great deal of business that I had to attend to.  Captain Harrison
was of course most anxious that our trial by court-martial for the loss
of the frigate should take place as speedily as possible, because he
could not hope for another command until that was over; and it happened
by a quite exceptional piece of luck that there were enough ships in the
harbour to allow of its being held at once.  It was consequently
arranged to take place on board the flag-ship, on the fourth day
following our arrival.  It was, of course, only a formal affair, the
loss of the frigate being due to causes quite beyond our control,--
unless, indeed, we had chosen to run from the two French ships instead
of fighting them,--so it was soon over, and before noon we were all
honourably acquitted, and our side-arms returned to us with much
congratulatory handshaking on the part of the officers present.  Captain
Harrison, the doctor, Lindsay, and I were invited to dine with the
admiral at his Pen that evening, and we accordingly drove out with the
last of the daylight, arriving at the house just as the sun was setting
over Hunt Bay.  The admiral was the very soul of hospitality, and we
were therefore a large party, several officers from Up Park Camp and a
sprinkling of civilians being present "to take off the salt flavour"
likely to prevail from a too exclusive gathering of the naval element,
as our host laughingly put it.

Somewhat to my surprise, I found myself the lion of the evening, Captain
Harrison having most generously made the utmost of my exploit in
capturing the French schooner and my subsequent search for the frigate's
boats; and so many compliments were paid me that, being still young and
comparatively modest, I had much difficulty in maintaining my self-
possession and making suitable replies.

After dinner, and while the rest of us were chatting and smoking over
our wine, the admiral, apologising for being obliged to temporarily
absent himself, withdrew, taking Captain Harrison with him.  They were
absent for nearly an hour, and when they returned there was noticeable
in the skipper's manner a subdued but joyous exultation that told of
good news.  I did not, however, learn what it was until we had left the
Pen and were driving back to our hotel in Kingston by the dazzling
silver radiance of a tropical full moon.  And, prior to that, the
admiral had said to me, as I bade him good-night--

"Come and see me in my office to-morrow about noon, Mr Courtenay; I
want to have a talk to you."

As soon as we were clear of the Pen grounds and fairly on our road to
Kingston, the skipper said to me--

"Mr Courtenay, do you happen to have noticed that fine frigate, the
_Minerva_, lying just inshore of the flag-ship?"

"Yes, sir, I have," said I.  "She is a beauty, and is said to be a
wonderful sailer, especially on a taut bowline.  I heard yesterday that
her captain is ashore, down with yellow fever."

"Very true," answered the skipper.  "The poor fellow died this morning,
and the admiral has been pleased to give the command of her to me."

"I congratulate you with all my heart, sir," said I.  "I thought I could
read good news in your face this evening when you returned to the
dining-room.  She is a magnificent vessel, and I sincerely hope that you
will have abundant opportunity to distinguish yourself in her.  And I
hope, sir, that you will take me with you."

"Thank you, Courtenay, thank you!" exclaimed the skipper, evidently
touched by the sincerity of my congratulations; "if we can only manage
to fall in with the enemy frequently enough, never fear but I will
distinguish myself--if I live.  As to taking you with me, I would do so
with the greatest pleasure, and as a matter of course, were I permitted
to have my own way; but I believe, from what the admiral let drop to me
to-night, that he has his own plans for you, and, if so, you may rest
assured that they will be far more to your advantage than would be your
accompanying me to the _Minerva_.  Let me see--how much longer have you
to serve before you are eligible for examination?"

"Only four days more, sir," I answered, with a laugh; "then I shall go
up as early as possible."

"Only four days more?" exclaimed the skipper in surprise; "I thought it
was more like two months!"

"Only four days, I assure you, sir," repeated I.

"Um! well, I suppose you know best," was the answer, given in a musing
tone, to which was presently added, "So much the better!  So much the
better!"

"May I ask, sir, whether that remark has any reference to me?"  I
inquired.

"Certainly, Courtenay, certainly; there cannot be any possible objection
to your asking, but I am not bound to answer, am I?" replied the
skipper, with a laugh.  "No," he continued, "I must not tell you
anything, except that I have reason to believe that the admiral is very
much pleased with your behaviour, and that he contemplates marking his
approval in a manner which, I am sure, will be very pleasing to
yourself."

And that was all I could get out of the gallant captain; but it was
sufficient to cause me to pass a sleepless night of pleasurable
speculation.

Prompt to the second I presented myself at the admiral's office next
morning, and was at once shown into the great man's presence.

"Morning, Mr Courtenay!" exclaimed he, as I entered.  "Bring yourself
to an anchor for a minute or two, will ye, until I have signed these
papers; then I shall be free to have a talk to you.  Jenkins, clear away
a chair for Mr Courtenay."

The orderly sergeant reverently removed a pile of books and papers from
a chair, dusted it, and placed it near an open window, and I amused
myself by looking out upon the busy scene in the harbour, while the
admiral proceeded to scrawl his signature upon document after document.

"There!" he exclaimed, with a sigh of relief, as he signed the last one
and pushed it away from him, "thank goodness that job is finished!  Now,
Mr Courtenay--by the way, Captain Harrison told me last night that he
believed you would soon be eligible for your examination.  Is that so?"

"Yes, sir," answered I; "I shall have served my full time in three days
more."

"Three days!" exclaimed the admiral.  "Is that all?"

I replied that it was.

"And I understand that you are a good seaman and navigator," resumed the
admiral.  "I suppose you have no fear of failing when you go up for your
examination?"  I modestly replied that I had not, provided that I was
treated fairly, and had not a lot of catch-questions put to me.

"Just so," responded the admiral musingly.  "Your navigation, I have no
doubt, is all right," he continued, "and of course you can work a ship
when she is all ataunto.  But suppose you belonged, let us say, to a
frigate, and at the end of an engagement you found yourself in command,
and your ship unrigged, what is the first thing you would do?"

I considered for a moment, and then proceeded to describe the steps I
should take under such circumstances, the admiral listening all the time
intently, but uttering no word and giving no sign of any kind to
indicate whether my reply was satisfactory or not, until I had finished,
when he said--

"Very good, Mr Courtenay, very good indeed--on the whole.  Have you
ever helped to fit out a ship?"

"Yes, sir," answered I, "I was aboard the poor old _Althea_ during the
whole time that she was in the hands of the riggers."

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "and you heartily wished yourself anywhere else than
there, I'll be bound.  But it has done you good, young gentleman; you
have profited by your experience, I can see, and will perhaps some day
be deeply thankful for the knowledge you then gained.  Now, supposing
that you found yourself on a lee shore, in a heavy gale of wind, with
all your masts gone, what steps would you take for the preservation of
the ship and the lives of your crew?"

Again I replied at length, stating that I should anchor the moment that
the ship drifted into a suitable depth of water, letting go both bowers,
backing them up with the sheet anchors, and shackling the remainder of
the bower cables on to those of the sheet anchors, which latter I should
then veer away upon to within a few fathoms of the clinch.

"And suppose that, having done this, your ship dragged, or parted her
cables, what then?" persisted the admiral.

"Then, sir," said I, "we could only trust in God's mercy, while standing
by to take care of ourselves and each other as soon as the ship should
strike."

"Good!" exclaimed the admiral; "a very excellent and proper answer, Mr
Courtenay.  Now," he continued, "I have been asking you these questions
with a purpose.  I wanted to ascertain for myself whether I should be
justified in sending you away in command of that little schooner that
you took so cleverly, and I think I shall.  I believe you will do
exactly for the work I have in my mind for you.  Sickness and casualties
together have played havoc among the officers on this station of late,
to such an extent that I have not nearly as many as I want; consequently
I am only too glad to meet with young gentlemen like yourself, who have
made good use of their opportunities.  These waters are swarming with
the enemy's privateers,--with a sprinkling of pirates thrown in, it
would appear, from what the skipper of the unfortunate _Wyvern_ says,--
and they must be put down--sunk, burned, destroyed by any means that can
best be compassed, or, better still, captured.  I therefore propose to
fit out that little schooner of yours, and to place you in command of
her, for the especial purpose of suppressing these pests, and
incidentally capturing as many of the enemy's merchantmen as you can
fall in with.  Now, how d'ye think you'll like the job?"

I replied, delightedly, that nothing could possibly suit me better; that
I was inexpressibly grateful for the confidence he was about to repose
in me, and that I would leave nothing undone to prove that such
confidence was justified.

"Very well, then, that is settled," observed the admiral genially.  "We
will have the schooner overhauled at once, and made ready for sea as
quickly as may be.  Then you can go to sea for a month; there will be an
examination next month, for which you must arrange to be in port, and
then--having passed, as I feel certain you will--you shall have your
commission, and be off to sea again to win your next step."



CHAPTER EIGHT.

WE CAPTURE A SPANISH INDIAMAN.

The schooner was turned over to the dockyard people that same afternoon,
and duly surveyed; and on the following day, when I presented myself at
the admiral's office, the old boy handed me a list, as long as the main
bowline, setting forth the several alterations deemed necessary to fit
the little craft for His Majesty's service.

"Here, Mr Courtenay, just run your eye over that list, and tell me what
you think of it," he cried, as he passed it to me across the table.

I "ran my eye over it."

"New gang of rigging fore and aft--new bulwarks, six feet high, fitted
with hammock rail, etcetera, complete--deck strengthened by doubling the
deck-beams--new coamings to hatchways,"--and so on, and so on, until my
imagination had conjured up a picture of the trim little _Susanne_
transmogrified out of recognition, and so stiffened and hampered by her
extra deck-beams and new rigging, that we should have reason to deem
ourselves fortunate should we ever succeed in screwing six knots out of
her on a bowline.

The admiral must have beheld my face growing ever longer as I worked my
way through this precious list to the end of it, for when I had finished
it, and looked up at him blankly, he laughed aloud, as he exclaimed--

"Why, boy, what is the matter with you?  Your face is as long as a
fiddle!"

"Oh, sir," I exclaimed, in accents of despair, "you surely will not
allow those--those--dockyard people to completely ruin the poor little
hooker by making all these alterations and additions to her?  She is a
new vessel, sir--I understood from the mate of her that this was her
first voyage.  She is as sound and strong as wood and iron can make her,
and any attempt to further strengthen her can only result in the
destruction of her sailing powers.  Then, as to those high bulwarks,
sir, what will be the use of them?  They will not afford us an atom of
protection, while they will make her sag away to leeward like a barge!
And this new gang of rigging--"

The admiral again burst out laughing.  "There, there," he said
soothingly, as he held up his hand to stop me, "don't distress yourself
any further, Mr Courtenay; I'll go aboard her myself this afternoon,
and see how much of this she really requires before signing the order.
Meanwhile, go aboard yourself and draw up a list of such alterations and
additions as you may think needful, and hand it to me when I come down
to have a look round."

I did so, and the upshot of it all was that I eventually wheedled the
admiral into consenting that the schooner should remain absolutely
untouched above the deck, the only alterations made in her consisting in
an extension of the cabin and forecastle accommodation, the enlargement
of the magazine, and the substitution of iron ballast for the stones
which the Frenchmen had considered good enough to keep the little hooker
on her feet.  I had some difficulty in gaining my patron's consent to
the retention of the low, light bulwarks with which the craft was
fitted, the admiral being strongly of opinion that they ought to be high
enough and stout enough to shelter us from musketry fire.  Moreover, I
think he considered that we looked altogether too rakish and piratical
as we then were; but I represented to him that under certain conditions
this might be advantageous rather than otherwise, and in the end the
kind-hearted old fellow indulgently let me have my way.  The result of
this was that within a fortnight of our arrival we were at sea again,
with the little ship--rechristened by the name of the _Tern_--smelling
outrageously of fresh paint, to the unmitigated disgust of the thirty-
six stout fellows who were quartered in her forecastle.  Young Lindsay,
with many apologies to Captain Harrison, elected to unite his fortunes
with mine, rather than turn over to the _Minerva_; and I was also given
another lad--a very quiet, lady-like young fellow named Christie--to
bear us both company and do duty as master.  Black Peter, also came to
the conclusion that there would be more scope for his talents aboard the
schooner than in the frigate, and without asking anybody's leave,
installed himself, unceremoniously and as a matter of course, in the
position of cabin servant.

We weighed about five o'clock in the evening, with the last of the sea
breeze,--a very smart, handsome privateer schooner named the _Coquette_
being in company,--and just managed to sneak through the narrow channel
between Gun and Rackum Cays, when the wind dropped dead, and left us in
the East Channel in the midst of a glassy calm, rolling our rails under
to the furious swell that came sweeping along past Plum Point.  The
_Coquette_ was within biscuit-toss of us, and she too was rolling and
tumbling about to such an extent that I every minute expected to see her
roll her sticks away.  This lasted for close upon two hours, during
which the sun went down in a blaze of splendour and lavish magnificence
of colour such as I have never beheld outside the limits of the West
Indian waters.  Then, just as the burning glories of the west were
fading into sober grey, while Hesperus beamed softly out with
momentarily increasing effulgence in the darkening blue of the eastern
sky, a gentle breeze came stealing to us off the land, to which both
schooners, with a mutual challenge to each other, gladly trimmed their
canvas, and away we both went, hugging the Palisades closely, for the
sake of the smoother water, until Plum Point was passed, when we
gradually drew away from each other, the _Coquette_ shaping a course for
Morant Point, while I edged away for the island of Martinique, having
formed the opinion that some of the more knowing of the enemy's
homeward-bound merchant skippers might endeavour to slip out of the
Caribbean between the islands of Martinique and Dominica, in the hope of
thereby eluding our cruisers and privateers, most of which chose the
neighbourhood of the Windward Passages for their cruising-ground.  By
the end of the second dog-watch the breeze had freshened so much that it
became necessary to hand our royal and topgallant sail; and soon
afterwards the wind hauled gradually round until it became the true
trade wind, piping up to the strength of half a gale, and compelling us
to haul down a single reef in our big mainsail and two reefs in our
topsail, under which the little beauty lay down and thrashed through it
with all the life and go of a thorough-bred racer.  The _Coquette_ was
still in sight, some eight miles away to windward, and, famous as she
was for her speed, I had the supreme delight of observing that we had
head-reached upon her to the extent of quite two miles.  And now we
began to discover the great advantage of having exchanged our stone
ballast for iron, the schooner being not only much stiffer under her
canvas, but also more lively than before.  It was grand sailing weather,
the breeze, although strong, being perfectly steady, while the sea was
long and regular, allowing the little hooker plenty of time to rise to
each as it came rushing down upon her with hissing crest all agleam with
sparkling sea-fire.  And it was exhilarating to stand right away aft,
close by the weather taffrail, and watch the little beauty as she tore
along with breathless speed through the dusky night.  The sky was clear
as a bell, save for a few detached fleeces of trade-cloud that came
swooping along at frequent intervals athwart the stars, so that there
was plenty of light to see by; and it was as intoxicating as wine to
merely stand abaft there, as I did, feeling the strong rush of the wind
past me, and drinking in its invigorating freshness and coolness, as the
deck heaved and plunged beneath my feet, and the bending masts swayed
and reeled to and fro, the trucks sweeping long arcs among the dancing
stars, and the wind piping high and shrill through the rigging, as the
schooner leaped and plunged irresistibly forward, with a storm of spray
flashing in over her weather cat-head and blowing aft as far as the
mainmast at every buoyant upward leap of her to meet the sea, while a
whole Niagara of hissing foam--with an under-stratum of whirling clouds
of lambent green sea-fire--went swirling past the lee rail at a speed
that made one giddy to look at.  Five bells in the first watch saw us
fairly abreast at Morant Point, and then, as the night was clear and the
breeze steady, I went below and turned in.

Nothing of any importance occurred during the next few days, and,
carrying on upon the schooner to the last stitch that she could stagger
under, we arrived off the northern extremity of the island of Martinique
exactly at midnight on the fifth night after leaving Port Royal.  I
considered that we had now reached our cruising-ground, and that there
was consequently no need for any further hurry.  We therefore shortened
sail to double-reefed mainsail, fore staysail, and jib,--furling all our
square canvas,--and leisurely passed through the channel between
Martinique and Dominica until we were some sixty miles to windward of
both islands, when we headed the little hooker to the northward and
_ratched_ as far as the latitude of Antigua, then heaving about and
returning over the same ground again.

The first two days of our cruising proved utterly barren of results, but
the time was by no means wasted, for, having sedulously exercised the
crew in the working of the guns and in cutlass drill every day during
our passage across from Port Royal, I now rigged up a floating target
and gave them a little firing practice, taking care to have a man on the
royal yard to give us timely notice of the appearance of any sail that
perchance might be frightened away by the sound of firing; and I was
soon gratified at the discovery that I numbered among my crew several
very fairly clever marksmen.

It was within a few minutes of sunset, on the evening of the third day
of our cruise, that, being again off the northern extremity of
Martinique, and heading to the southward, the lookout aloft reported the
upper canvas of what looked like a large ship standing out close-hauled
between that island and Dominica.  I immediately got the ship's
telescope and went aloft with it, being just in good time to catch a
glimpse of the royals and heads of the topgallant sails of a ship
steering a course that would carry her some six miles to the northward
of us.  Having made as sure as I could of her bearing, distance, and
course, I descended to the deck, and gave orders to wear ship, after
executing which manoeuvre we hauled down all our canvas and lay in wait
for the approaching craft, the schooner, although under bare poles,
head-reaching at the rate of about two miles per hour.  I estimated that
the distance of the stranger from us was then some twenty-five miles,
and if she was making a speed of eight knots--which was a fairly liberal
allowance--it would afford us ample time to drift fairly athwart her
hawse; and this I hoped to do undiscovered, as I believed that, from the
cut of her canvas, she was a merchantman belonging to one or another of
our enemies, and I was most anxious that she should not take fright and
bear up for either of the islands, involving us in a long stern-chase,
with possibly a cutting-out job at the end of it if she should succeed
in reaching the refuge of a harbour.

The evening was fine, with a moderate breeze from about east-north-east,
and not very much sea running.  The swell, however, was high enough to
hide us for at least half the time, and although the stars soon beamed
forth brilliantly, while a thin silver sickle of moon hung high aloft,
the conditions generally seemed fairly promising for success.  Of course
I gave the most stringent orders that no lights whatever should be
permitted to show aboard the schooner, and I was careful to remain on
deck myself to see that these orders were rigorously observed.  The
canvas of the stranger seemed to grow upon the horizon very slowly, and
the time of waiting for her approach appeared long; but at length, by
four bells in the first watch, she had drawn up to within about three
miles of us, and I gave the word to see all clear for sheeting home and
hoisting away at a moment's notice; for the time had now arrived when,
if anything like a proper lookout was being kept on board her, we might
be discovered at any instant.  But minute after minute passed, and she
still came steadily on, heeling slightly to the steady trade wind, and
bowing solemnly over the undulating swell, with a curl of white foam
under her bluff bows that made her appear to be travelling at about
three times her actual speed.  We had by this time fore-reached athwart
her fore-foot, and were edging along at a pace that promised to place us
about half a mile to windward of her by the time that she would be
crossing our stern, and now I kept the night-glass immovably bearing
upon her, watching for the sudden yaw that should indicate the discovery
of a possible enemy in her path.  I had by this time made up my mind
that she was a Spaniard, and the mere fact of her adventuring, herself
thus alone, instead of availing herself of a convoy, was to me
sufficient assurance that she went heavily armed and manned.  It also
suggested the possibility that she might be carrying an exceptionally-
rich freight, it sometimes happening that the skipper of such a ship,
especially if he chanced to be a man of daring and courage, preferred to
take his chance of making the voyage alone rather than risk being cut
off from the convoy by the swarm of privateers and picaroons that
hovered upon its skirts almost from the moment of its sailing to that of
its arrival.

Our people were by this time all at their stations, with sheets and
halliards in their hands, ready to sway away at the first word of an
order from me; and it was not so dark but that I was able to see, out of
the corner of my eye, the nudges and gestures of delight which they
interchanged as the great, stately Indiaman swept at length athwart our
stern, dark and silent as a phantom.

"Up helm and wear her round," I shouted, all necessity for further
concealment being now at an end; "sheet home and hoist away for'ard--
hold on aft with your peak and throat halliards until we are fairly
round!  Starboard braces round in! trim aft the starboard headsheets!
_Now_ hoist away your mainsail!  Ah, they see us at last!  There she
bears away.  Steady there with your lee helm, my man; do not let her
come to just yet.  Keep the chase upon your weather bow; she must not be
allowed to get to leeward of us.  Mr Lindsay, just pitch a shot athwart
her hawse as a hint that we wish her to heave-to."

The shot was fired, and another, and yet a third, but the stranger took
no notice whatever, the object of her captain being apparently to bear
away across our bows and so get before the wind, when, of course, the
cloud of studding-sails that her rig allowed would afford her a very
important advantage over the schooner.  But I was not going to permit
that if I could help it, and it soon became perfectly clear that we
could, the schooner having the heels of the ship, although we were soon
under the lee of the latter, with her sails partially becalming ours.
At length, finding that we could outsail the Indiaman, I luffed close in
under her lee and hailed, in the best Spanish that I could muster--

"Ho, the ship ahoy!  Heave-to, and strike, sir, to His Britannic
Majesty's schooner _Tern_!"

The only reply to this was a rattling volley of musketry, evidently
aimed at me as I stood on the weather rail, just abaft the main rigging,
for I heard the bullets whistling all round my head.

"If you don't heave-to, sir," I exclaimed angrily, "by heaven, I will
fire into and sink you!"

"Schooner ahoy! who are you?" now came a hail, in very indifferent
English, from the ship; and in the dim starlight I could just make out
the shape of a shadowy figure standing by the mizzen rigging.

"This schooner, sir, is His Britannic Majesty's schooner _Tern_, as I
have already had the honour to inform you.  Do you intend to heave-to,
sir, or will you compel me to fire into you?"  I retorted, in English
this time.

The figure vanished from the lee rail of the ship without making any
reply to my question; and, annoyed at being treated in this curious
fashion, I turned my face inward and shouted--

"Let her go off a little, Mr Lindsay,--just far enough to enable us to
fire at his rigging,--and then see whether a broadside will bring the
fellow to his senses."

I leapt down off the rail, and turned to walk aft, when the figure
suddenly popped into view again aboard the Indiaman, and shouted--

"No, no, senor; do not fire, for the love of God!  We have several
ladies aboard here, and I will surrender, rather than that they should
be hurt!  I surrender, sir, I surrender!"

And the next instant I heard the same voice shouting, in Spanish, an
order for the crew to lay aft and back the mainyard.

As the broad mainsail of the ship collapsed and shrivelled into massive
festoons to the hauling of the crew upon the clew-garnets, buntlines,
and leech-lines, preparatory to backing the maintopsail, we too
shortened sail in readiness to heave-to at the same moment as the prize;
and five minutes later I found myself, with my sword drawn and a dozen
stout fellows, armed to the teeth, at my heels, standing upon the
quarter-deck of the stranger, with a little crowd of well-dressed men--
evidently Spaniards--curiously regarding me and my following by the
light of a couple of lanterns that someone had placed on the capstan-
head.

"Bueno!" exclaimed a fine, sailorly-looking, elderly man, "all is well;
they are undoubtedly English, and we have therefore nothing to fear!"

And so saying, he stepped forward and handed me his sheathed sword.

As I doffed my hat and held out my hand to receive the weapon, I could
not help saying--

"Pardon, senor, but may I be permitted to ask an explanation of that
remark?"

"Assuredly, noble sir," answered the Spaniard, returning my bow, with a
dignified grace that excited my keenest envy; "the explanation is
perfectly simple.  The fact is, that when your schooner suddenly
appeared just now, as though she had risen from the bottom of the sea,
my first impression was that we had been unfortunate enough to stumble
across the path of my detested countryman, Pedro Morillo; and I was
determined to sink with my ship and all on board her rather than
surrender to him."

"And pray, senor, who is this man Pedro Morillo, of whom you speak? and
why should he require a countryman of his own to surrender to him? and
why should you be so very strongly averse to falling into his power?"
demanded I.

"Ah, senor, it is easy to see that you are a stranger to these waters,
or you would not need to ask for information respecting that fiend
Morillo," answered the Spaniard.  "He is a cruel, avaricious, and
bloodthirsty pirate, sparing neither man nor woman, friend nor foe.  But
little is really known about him, senor, for those who meet him rarely
survive to tell the tale; but there have been one or two who, by a
miracle, have escaped him, and it is from them that we have gained the
knowledge that it is better to perish by his shot than to fall alive
into his hands."

"Is the vessel by means of which he perpetrates his piracies a
brigantine, very handsome, and wonderfully fast?"  I inquired, suddenly
bethinking me of poor Captain Tucker and his story.

"Certainly, senor, that answers perfectly to the description of the
accursed _Guerrilla_.  Have you seen her of late?  But no, of course you
have not, or you would not now be here; for Morillo is said to be
especially vindictive against the English, inflicting the most atrocious
tortures upon all who fall into his hands.  In the dim light we at first
mistook your schooner for the _Guerrilla_, and that is why we fired upon
you as we did.  Permit me, senor, to express my profound regret at my so
unfortunate mistake, and my extreme gratification that it was not
followed by a disastrous result."

At this compliment we of course exchanged bows once more; after which I
took the liberty of addressing to this very polite and polished skipper
a few questions with regard to his ship, coupled with a hint that I was
anxious to complete without delay my arrangements for placing a prize
crew on board and bearing up for Jamaica.

Our prize, I then learned, was the _Dona Dolores_ of Cadiz, a Spanish
West Indiaman of eleven hundred and eighty-four tons register, homeward-
bound from Cartagena, Maracaibo, and La Guayra, with a very valuable
general cargo and twenty-eight passengers, ten of whom were ladies.
Captain Manuel Fernandez--the skipper--was most polite, and anxious to
meet my views in every way; at least, so he informed me.  He conducted
me into the ship's handsome saloon and introduced me to his
passengers,--the female portion of which seemed to be frightened nearly
out of their wits,--and was kind enough to promise me that, if it would
be agreeable to me, the whole of his people should assist my prize crew
to work the ship.  This suggestion, however, did _not_ happen to be
agreeable to me, so I was compelled to explain, as politely as I could
phrase it, that my duty compelled me not only to decline his magnanimous
offer, but to secure the whole of his crew, officers and men, below, and
also to remove all arms of every description from the ship; after which,
if he would give me his parole, it would afford me much pleasure to
receive him as a guest on board the schooner.  I could see that this was
a bitter pill for the haughty don to swallow, but I was politely
insistent, and so of course he had to yield, which he eventually did
with the best grace he could muster; and an hour later the _Dolores_,
with Christie, the master's mate, in command, and ten of our lads as a
prize crew, was bowling along before the wind with studding-sails set
aloft and alow, while the _Tern_ followed almost within hail; it being
my intention to escort so valuable a prize into port, and thus take
every possible precaution against her recapture.



CHAPTER NINE.

WE ENCOUNTER AND FIGHT THE GUERRILLA.

On the morning but one succeeding the capture of the _Dolores_,--the
schooner and her prize then being some two hundred and forty miles to
the westward of Dominica,--a sail was discovered at daybreak some twelve
miles to the southward and westward of us, beating up against the trade
wind, close-hauled upon the starboard tack; and a few minutes later she
was made out to be a brigantine.  We paid but scant attention to her at
first, craft of her rig being frequently met with in the Caribbean,
trading to and fro between the islands; but when the stranger, almost
immediately after her rig had been identified, tacked to the northward,
as though with the intention of getting a closer look at us, I at once
scented an enemy, and, possessing myself of the telescope, forthwith
made my way into the fore crosstrees for the purpose of subjecting her
to a rigorous examination, wondering, meanwhile, whether by any adverse
chance the stranger might eventually turn out to be the notorious pirate
Morillo in his equally notorious brigantine the _Guerrilla_.  I had no
sooner got the craft fairly within the field of the instrument than I
discovered my conjecture to be correct, a score of trifling details of
rig and equipment becoming instantly recognisable as identical with
similar peculiarities already noticed by me when I before saw the pirate
vessel.

Such is the perversity of blind fortune!  Under ordinary circumstances
nothing would have pleased me better than to meet this audacious outlaw
and his cut-throat crew in a clear sea, and to try conclusions with
them.  But now I was hampered with the possession of a valuable prize
which I was most anxious to take safely into port, while my little force
was seriously weakened by the withdrawal of the prize crew which I had
been obliged to put on board the _Dolores_.  It was therefore not wholly
without apprehension that, under these untoward circumstances, I
witnessed the approach of the formidable brigantine.  I would have
preferred to have met her, if possible, upon somewhat more equal terms;
but there she was, doubtless bent upon the capture of the _Dolores_, and
there was nothing for it but to prepare for her as warm a reception as
it was in our power to give.  I therefore descended to the deck and gave
orders to call all hands and clear for action, at the same time
signalling to Christie that the stranger in sight was a pirate, and that
he was to keep out of harm's way during the impending action, keeping on
upon his course, and leaving us in the schooner to deal with the
intruder.

Our preparations were soon complete, but none too soon; for, approaching
each other as we were at a good pace, the space between the brigantine
and ourselves narrowed very rapidly.  Nevertheless there was time, when
all was done, to say a few words to the men; so, as I anticipated that
the struggle upon which we were about to engage would be a tough one, I
called them aft and said--

"My lads, you have all heard of the atrocious pirate Morillo who haunts
these waters; you have heard something of his doings from those poor
fellows belonging to the _Wyvern_ who were picked up by us when we were
searching for the _Althea's_ boats, and you saw for yourselves a
specimen of his handiwork in the blazing hull of the _Kingston Trader_,
the unfortunate crew of which ship only too probably perished with her.
The scoundrel and his gang of cold-blooded murderers are aboard that
brigantine; and after what you have heard and seen, I need not tell you
what is likely to be the fate of any of us, or of those aboard the
_Dolores_, should we be so unfortunate as to fall into their hands.
They are undoubtedly about to attempt the capture of the Spaniard.  Now,
it is for _you_ to say whether they shall do so, or whether you will
send them all to the bottom of the sea instead.  Which is it to be,
men?"

"Put us alongside of her, Mr Courtenay, sir, and we'll soon show you--
and them too--which it's to be," answered one of the men, the rest
instantly corroborating the remark by such exclamations as, "Ay, ay;
we'll give 'em their gruel, never fear."

"Well spoke, Tommy; true for you, my son," and so on.

"Very well," said I, "that is the answer I expected.  Now go to your
guns, men; and see that you make every shot tell."

While clearing for action we had also made sail and shot ahead of the
_Dolores_; and within five minutes of the moment when the crew went back
to their guns, we were within half a mile of the brigantine, which craft
was then crossing our bows, tearing through the long, low swell like a
racing yacht, with a storm of diamond spray flashing up over her weather
bow at every graceful plunge of her into the trough.  She was a
beautiful vessel, long and low, with enormously taunt, raking masts and
a phenomenal spread of canvas--a craft well worth fighting for; and I
thought what a proud day it would be for me if perchance I should be
fortunate enough to capture and take her triumphantly into Port Royal
harbour.  She was now well within range, so I sang out to Lindsay, who
was looking after matters on the forecastle, to know whether the nine-
pounder pivot gun was ready.

"All ready, sir, and bearing dead on the brigantine," was the answer.

"Then heave a shot across the rascal's fore-foot at once," shouted I;
"and you, my man, hoist away the ensign at the flash of the gun," I
continued to the fellow who was standing by the peak signal halliards.

As the words left my lips there was a ringing report and a smart
concussion; and, springing upon the weather rail, I was just in time to
see the shot neatly strike the water immediately under the brigantine's
figure-head, the spray from it leaping up and leaving a dark stain upon
the foot of her foretopmast staysail.

"Well aimed!" exclaimed I exultantly; "if you will all do as well as
that throughout the fight, lads, you will soon give a good account of
her."

While I was still speaking there came an answering flash from the
brigantine, which at the same moment boldly ran up a _black_ flag at her
gaff-end; and ere the report had time to reach us, a nine-pound shot
crashed fair into our bows, raking us fore and aft, and carrying off the
top of our unfortunate helmsman's head as it flew out over our taffrail.
The poor fellow sank to the deck all in a heap, without a groan,
without a quiver of the body, and I sprang to the wheel just in time to
save the schooner from broaching-to.

"Anyone hurt there, for'ard?"  I shouted; for I saw two or three men
stooping as though to help someone.

"Yes, sir," answered one of the men; "poor Tom Parsons have had his
chest tore open, and I doubt it's all over with him!"

"You must avenge him, then," I shouted back.  "Load again, and give it
her between wind and water if you can."

They were already reloading the gun, even as I spoke, and a minute later
the piece again rang out, the shot striking the brigantine's covering-
board fair and square, close to her midship port, and making the
splinters fly in fine style.  We were now so close to her that we could
see that her decks seemed to be full of men, and I thought I heard a
shriek as our shot struck.  Her reply was almost instantaneous, her
whole starboard broadside being let fly as she shot into the wind in
stays; and once more the shot--_five_ nine-pounders--came crashing in
through our bulwarks, filling the air with a perfect storm of splinters,
but happily hurting no one but myself.  A large jagged splinter struck
me in the left shoulder, lacerating the flesh rather badly; but one of
the men sprang to my assistance and quickly bound it up.

"Up helm, my man, and let her go off until our starboard broadside
bears," said I to the man who now relieved me at the wheel, adding in a
shout to the crew--

"Stand by your starboard guns, and fire as they come to bear upon her!"

Bang! bang! bang!  Our modest broadside of _three_ six-pounders spoke
out almost simultaneously.  I did not see the shot strike anywhere, but
almost immediately afterwards down came her maintopmast and the peak of
her mainsail.  Her main-masthead had been shot away, and the _Dolores_
at least was safe; for the pirates, having lost their after-sail, would
now be compelled to make a running fight of it before the wind, which
would enable Christie to haul his wind and get out of danger.  Our men
raised a cheer at their lucky shot, and I, determined not to throw away
the least advantage, gave orders to port the helm and bring the schooner
to the wind on the starboard tack, so getting the weather-gage of the
brigantine.  As we rounded-to our antagonist fell off, the two craft
thus presenting their larboard broadsides to each other; and, both being
ready, we fired at precisely the same moment, the report of the two
discharges being so absolutely coincident that I did not know the
brigantine had fired until her shot came smashing in through our
bulwarks, wounding five men and rendering one of our six-pounders
useless by dismounting it.  So close were we to each other by this time
that before we could load again the brigantine had passed astern of us,
and none of our guns would bear upon her or hers upon us.  Her crew were
doing their utmost to keep her close to the wind, but with the peak of
her mainsail down she would not lay any higher than within about eight
points; and I determined to take the utmost advantage of her
comparatively helpless position while I might, for a lucky shot on her
part might make her case ours at any moment.  I therefore signed to the
helmsman to put down his helm, and at the same moment gave the order--

"Ready about! helm's a-lee!"

The nimble little schooner spun round upon her heel as smartly as a
dancing girl, presenting her starboard broadside to the brigantine.

"Stand by your starboard broadside, and fire as your guns bear!" shouted
I; and as we swept round almost square athwart our antagonist's stern
the six-pounders once more spoke out, one shot striking the stern of her
fair amidships and smashing her wheel to pieces, while the other two
took her in the larboard quarter at an angle that must have caused them
to traverse _very_ nearly three-quarters of the length of her deck
before they passed out through her starboard bulwarks.

The brigantine, no longer under the control of her helm, fell off until
she was running dead before the wind, when the pirates trimmed their
yards square; and a moment later I saw a number of her hands in the fore
rigging swarming aloft.  The moment that her starboard broadside could
be brought to bear upon us she fired; and the next moment our bowsprit
and foretopmast both went, the former, with the flying-jib, towing under
the bows, while the latter dangled to leeward by its rigging, with the
royal towing in the water alongside.  Our lads, having by this time
reloaded the starboard guns, again fired, hulling the pirate, and then,
by my orders, left their guns to clear away the wreck; for, encumbered
as we now were, with the jib under the bows and the square canvas
hanging over the side, the schooner was gradually coming-to, although
her helm was hard a-weather.

This ended the fight, for when I next found time to look at the
brigantine she had studding-sail booms rigged out on both sides and her
people were busy getting the studding-sails upon her, while the straight
wake that she was making showed that they had already contrived to rig
up some temporary contrivance for steering her.  Seeing this, I at once
hove the schooner to, and went to work to repair damages; for, now that
I had had the opportunity to discover the stuff of which Senor Morillo
was made, it struck me as by no means improbable that the moment he had
repaired his damages he would return and attack us afresh.

Altogether the fight had not lasted longer than some eight or ten
minutes at the utmost, but during that short time we had lost two men,
killed outright, while six--including myself--were wounded, four of them
severely.  Christie, recognising that his duty was to take care of the
prize, had hauled his wind when we passed ahead of him, and was now
about a mile to windward, with his maintopsail to the mast; but when he
saw that the fight was over he filled away and came booming down to us,
sweeping close athwart our stern and heaving-to close to leeward of us.
As he bore down upon us I saw him in the mizzen rigging, speaking-
trumpet in hand; and when he was within hailing distance he hailed to
ask if he could be of any assistance, adding that one of the passengers
professed to be a doctor and had chivalrously offered his services,
should they be required.  This was good news to me indeed, for, being a
small craft, we carried no surgeon, and but for this proffered help our
poor wounded lads would have been obliged to trust pretty much to chance
and such unskilled help as we could have afforded them among ourselves.
I hailed back, expressing my thanks for the offer, and at once sent away
a boat for the medico, not caring that Christie should run the risk of
sending away a boat's crew out of his own scanty company.

In about ten minutes the boat returned, bringing in her a little,
swarthy, burnt-up specimen of a Spaniard, and a most portentous-looking
case of surgical instruments.  But, although by no means handsome, Senor
Pacheco soon proved himself to be both warm-hearted and skilful,
ministering to the wounded with the utmost tenderness and with a touch
as light and gentle as a woman's.  When he had attended to the others I
requested him to oblige me so far as to bind up my shoulder afresh,
which he at once did, informing me at the same time that it was an
exceedingly ugly wound, and that I must be particularly careful lest
gangrene should supervene, in which case, if my life could be saved at
the expense of my arm, I should have reason to esteem myself
exceptionally fortunate.  He remained on board, chatting with me for
about an hour, after he had coopered me up, and very kindly promised to
visit me and his other patients again in the afternoon, if I would send
a boat for him: but he declined my invitation to breakfast, upon the
plea that he had already taken first breakfast, while it was still too
early for the second.  He was full of polite compliments and
congratulations upon our having beaten off such a desperado as Morillo
was known to be, and graphically described the consternation that had
prevailed in the cabins of the _Dolores_ when the brigantine was
identified as the notorious _Guerrilla_.

Contrary to my expectations, and greatly to my relief, the pirates did
not return to attack us; and as a measure of precaution,--in case the
idea should occur to Morillo later on,--as soon as our damages were
repaired I stood to the northward and westward all that day, shaping a
fresh course for Morant Point at sunset that evening.  The sun went down
in a heavy bank of clouds that had been gathering on the western horizon
all the afternoon and slowly working up against the wind,--an almost
certain precursor of a thunderstorm,--and as the dusk closed down upon
us the wind began to grow steadily lighter, until by the end of the
first dog-watch the air was so scant as to barely give us steerage-way.
The night closed down as dark as a wolf's mouth--so dark, indeed, that,
standing at the taffrail, I could only barely, and with the utmost
difficulty, trace the position of the main rigging against the intense
blackness of the sky.  As for the _Dolores_, we lost sight of her
altogether, and could only determine her position by the dim, uncertain
haze of light that faintly streamed above her high bulwarks from the
skylight of her saloon, or by the momentary gleam of a lantern passing
along her decks and blinking intermittently through her open ports.
This intense darkness lasted only about half an hour, however, when
sheet-lightning began to flicker softly low down upon the western
horizon, causing the image of the ship--now some two miles astern of
us--to stand out for an instant like a cunningly wrought model in
luminous bronze against the ebony blackness of the sky behind her.

With the setting-in of the lightning the last faint breathing of the
wind died away altogether, leaving us and the Spaniard to box the
compass in the midst of a glassy calm, the sweltering heat of which was
but partially relieved by the flapping of our big mainsail as the
schooner heaved languidly upon the low swell that came creeping down
upon us from the north-east.  The night seemed preternaturally still,
the silence which enveloped us being so profound that the noises of the
ship--the occasional heavy flap of her canvas, accompanied by a rain-
like pattering of reef-points; the creak of the jaws of the mainboom or
of the gaff overhead on the mast; the jerk of the mainsheet tautening
out suddenly to the heave of the schooner; the kicking of the rudder,
and the gurgling swirl of water about it and along the bends--only
served to emphasise while they broke in upon it with an irritating
harshness altogether disproportionate to their volume.  So intense was
the silence _outside_ the ship that one seemed constrained to listen
intently for some sound, some startling cry, to come floating across the
glassy water to break it; and the suspense and anxiety of waiting,
despite one's better judgment, for such a sound, caused the discordant
noises inboard to quickly become acutely distressing.  At least such was
my feeling at the time, a feeling that possibly may have grown out of
the increasing smart of my wound, which was now giving me _so much_ pain
that I had little hope of getting any sleep that night, especially as
the heat below was absolutely stifling.

Gradually--so gradually that its approach was scarcely perceptible--the
storm worked its way in our direction, the brighter glimmer and
increasing frequency of the sheet-lightning alone indicating that it was
nearing us, until just about eight bells in the dog-watch the first
faint mutterings of distant thunder became audible, while the vast piles
of sooty cloud that overhung us seemed momentarily to assume new and
more menacing shapes, as the now almost continuous quivering of the
lightning revealed them to us.  Anon, low down in the western sky there
flashed out a vivid, sun-bright stream of fire that, distant as it was,
lighted up the whole sea from horizon to horizon, tipping the ridges of
the swell with twisted lines of gold, and transfiguring the distant
_Dolores_ into a picture of indescribable, fairy-like beauty, as it
brought sharply into momentary distinctness every sail and spar and
delicate web of rigging tracery.  A low, deep rumble of thunder
followed, which was quickly succeeded by another flash, nearer and more
dazzlingly brilliant than the first; and now the storm seemed to gather
apace, the lightning-flashes following each other so rapidly that very
soon the booming rumble of the thunder became continuous, as did the
blaze of the sheet-lightning, which was now flickering among the clouds
in half a dozen places at once, bringing out into powerful relief their
titanic masses, weirdly changing shapes, and varied hues, and converting
the erstwhile Cimmerian darkness into a quivering, supernatural light,
that caused the ocean to glow like molten steel, and revealed every
object belonging to the ship as distinctly as though it had been
illuminated by a port-fire.  So vivid and continuous was the light that
I not only distinctly saw the fin of a shark fully half a mile distant,
but was also able to watch his leisurely progress until he had increased
his distance so greatly as to be no longer distinguishable.  The
continuous quivering flash of the sheet-lightning among the clouds
afforded, of itself, a superbly magnificent spectacle, but the beauty of
the display was soon still further increased by a wonderfully rapid
coruscating discharge of fork-lightning between cloud and cloud, as
though the fleecy giants were warring with each other and exchanging
broadsides of jagged, white-hot steel; the thunder that accompanied the
discharge giving forth a fierce crackling sound far more closely
resembling that of an irregular volley of musketry than it did the deep,
hollow, booming crash that followed the spark-like stream of fire that
lanced downward from cloud to ocean.

A few minutes more and the storm was right overhead, with the lightning
hissing and flashing all about us, and the thunder crackling and
crashing and booming aloft with a vehement intensity of sound that came
near to being terrifying.  The whole atmosphere seemed to be aflame, and
the noise was that of a universe in process of disruption.

Suddenly the schooner seemed to be enveloped in a vast sheet of flame,
at the same instant that an ear-splitting crash of thunder resounded
about us; there was a violent concussion; and when, a few seconds later,
I recovered from the stunning and stupefying effect of that terrific
thunderclap, it was to become aware that the foremast was over the side,
and the stump of it fiercely ablaze.  There was no necessity to pipe all
hands, for the watch below now came tumbling up on deck, alarmed at the
shock; and in a few minutes we had the buckets passing along.
Fortunately we were able to effectively attack the fire before it had
taken any very firm hold, and a quarter of an hour of hard work saw the
flames extinguished; but it was a narrow escape for the schooner and all
hands of us.  The most serious part of it was the loss of our foremast,
which completely disabled us for the moment.  We went to work, however,
to save the sails, yards, rigging, and so on, attached to the shivered
mast; and before morning we had got a jury-lower-mast on end and
secured, by which time the storm had cleared away, the wind had sprung
up again, and the _Dolores_ had borne down and taken us in tow.
Fortunately the wind was fair for us, and it held; and, still more
fortunately, no enemy hove in sight to take advantage of our crippled
condition.  We consequently arrived safely in Fort Royal harbour, in due
course, on the eighth day after the occurrence of the accident, and
forthwith received our full share of congratulations and condolences
from all and sundry, from the admiral downward; the congratulations, of
course, being upon our good luck in having effected the capture of so
valuable a prize as the _Dolores_, while the condolences were offered
pretty equally upon our having met with the accident, and our having
failed to capture Morillo and his wonderful brigantine.



CHAPTER TEN.

SENOR JOSE GARCIA.

Meanwhile, my wounded shoulder had been giving me a great deal of
trouble, becoming very inflamed, and refusing to heal; so that upon my
arrival in Port Royal I was compelled to at once go into the hospital,
where for a whole week it remained an open question whether it would not
be necessary to amputate the arm.  Fortunately for me, the head
surgeon--Sandy McAlister--was a wonderfully clever fellow, of infinite
patience and inflexible determination; and, having expressed the opinion
that the limb could be saved, he brought all the skill and knowledge of
which he was possessed to the task of saving it, with the result that,
in the end, he was successful.  But it meant for me three weeks in the
hospital, at the end of which time I was discharged, not as cured, but
as in a fair way to be, provided that I took the utmost care of myself
and strictly adhered to the regimen which the worthy McAlister
prescribed for me.

By the time that I was free of the hospital the saucy little _Tern_ was
beginning, under the hands of the repairers, to look something like her
old self again, and I was kept busy from morning to night attending to a
hundred and one details connected with her refit.  Nevertheless I found
time to present myself for examination, and, having passed with flying
colours, next day found myself a full-fledged lieutenant, thanks to the
very kindly interest taken in me by my genial old friend the admiral.
To that same kindly interest I was also indebted for the friendly
overtures made by, and the hospitable invitations without number
received from, the planters and other persons of importance belonging to
the island; but I had my duty to attend to and my wound to think of, and
I therefore very sparingly accepted the invitations that came pouring in
upon me.  Nevertheless I made many new friends, and enjoyed my short
spell ashore amazingly.

The admiral was, as I have already said, particularly kind to me in
every way, and in nothing more so than in the unstinting commendation
which he bestowed upon my conduct during my first brief cruise in the
_Tern_.  Yet, despite all this, it was not difficult for me to perceive
that the reflection that Morillo and his gang were still at large
greatly nettled him, and that I could not find a surer way to his
continued favour than by finding and capturing or destroying the
audacious pirate.

Accordingly I made what inquiries I could relating to the whereabouts of
the fellow's headquarters, and also instructed Black Peter to try his
luck in the same direction; but, up to within twenty-four hours of the
time when the schooner would again be ready for sea, neither of us had
met with the slightest success.  When, however, the twenty-four hours
had dwindled down to ten, I received the welcome intimation that Black
Peter had at length contrived to get upon Morillo's trail.  The
information was brought to me by Black Peter himself, who, having
secured an afternoon's liberty, which he broke by coming aboard about
ten-thirty instead of at six o'clock p.m., presented himself--
considerably the worse for liquor, I regret to say--at my cabin door,
beaming hilariously all over his sable countenance as he stuttered--

"We-e-ll, M-mistah Cour'-nay, I g-got him a' las', sah!"

"Got who, you black rascal?  And what do you mean, sir, by breaking your
leave, and then presenting yourself in this disgraceful condition?  You
are drunk, sir; too drunk to stand steadily, too drunk to speak plainly;
and I should only be giving you your deserts if I were to turn you over
to the master-at-arms.  What have you to say for yourself, eh, sir?"  I
fiercely demanded.

"Wha' have I to s-s-say for 'shelf, Mistah C-Cour'-nay?  Ha! ha!  I has
p-plenty to s-s-shay.  Why, sah, I--I--I've _g-got_ him, sah!"

"Got who, you villain?  Got who?"  I reiterated.

"Why--why--M-M- Mor--the pirate!" blurted Peter, finding himself unable
to successfully pronounce Morillo's name.

"Do you mean to say that you have succeeded in obtaining news of
Morillo, Peter?"  I demanded eagerly, my anger at the fellow's condition
at once giving way to the keenest curiosity.

"I--just dat, sah; no less," answered Peter, nodding his head as he
leered at me with a drunken look of preternatural smartness.

"Then," said I, "go and get somebody to pump cold water upon your head
until you are sober, after which you may come back here and tell me all
about it.  And if you fail to give a good account of yourself, stand
clear, my man!  I fancy a taste of the cat will do you no harm."

Peter regarded me with horror for a moment as the sinister meaning of
this threat dawned upon his muddled senses; then he drew himself up to
his full height, saluted with drunken gravity, and vanished into the
outer darkness, as he stumblingly made his way up the companion ladder
and for'ard.

About a quarter of an hour later he returned, comparatively sober, and,
saluting again, stood in the doorway, waiting for me to question him.

"So there you are again, eh?" remarked I.  "Very well.  Now, Peter, if
you are sober enough to speak plainly, I should like to know what you
meant by saying that you have `got' Morillo, the pirate.  Do you mean
that you have actually found and _captured_ the fellow?"

"Well, no, Mistah Courtenay, I don't dissactly mean that; no such luck,
sah!  But I'se got de next best t'ing, sah; I'se got a man who says he
knows where Morillo's to be foun'," answered Peter.

"Um! well that is better than nothing--if your friend is to be trusted,"
said I.  "Who is he, and where did you run athwart him?"

"He ain't no friend ob mine," answered Peter, virtuously indignant at so
insulting an insinuation; "he's jus' a yaller man--a half-breed--dat I
met at a rum shop up in Kingston.  I heard him mention Morillo's name,
so I jined him in a bottle ob rum,--_which I paid for out ob my own
pocket_, Mistah Courtenay,--and axed him some questions.  He wouldn't
say much, but he kep' on boastin' dat he knew where Morillo could be
found any time--excep' when he was at sea.  So I made him drunk wid my
rum, Mistah Courtenay, and den brought him aboard here instead ob
puttin' him aboard his own footy little felucca in Kingston harbour."

"I see.  And where is the fellow now, Peter?" inquired I.

"Where is he now, sah?" repeated Peter.  "Why, sah, he is on deck,
comfortably asleep between two ob de guns, where I put him when I come
aboard."

"Very good, Peter; I begin to think you were not so very drunk after
all," answered I, well pleased.  "But it will not do to leave him on
deck all night," I continued; "he will get sober, and give us the slip.
So, to make quite sure of him, stow him away down below, and have a set
of irons clapped on him.  When we are fairly at sea to-morrow, I will
have him up on deck, and see what can be made of him.  Meanwhile, Peter,
he is your prisoner, remember, and I shall hold you responsible for him.
Now go and turn in, and beware how you appear before me drunk again."

Early next morning I presented myself at the admiral's office, timing
myself so as to catch the old gentleman immediately upon his arrival
from Kingston, when, having reported the _Tern_ as ready for sea, I
received my orders to sail forthwith, and also written instructions in
reference to the especial object of my cruise.  These, I was by no means
surprised to find, indicated that, while doing my utmost to harass the
enemy, I was to devote myself especially to the task of hunting down and
cutting short the career of Morillo the pirate and his gang of cut-
throats.

We weighed shortly before noon, beating out against a sea breeze that
roared through our rigging with the strength of half a gale; and when we
were fairly clear of the shoals I gave orders for Black Peter's prisoner
of the previous night to be brought on deck.  A minute or two later the
fellow--a half-caste Spanish negro--stood before me; and when I beheld
what manner of man he was, I could readily believe him to be on terms of
friendly intimacy not only with Morillo but with all the human scum of
the Caribbean.  The rascal presented a not altogether unpicturesque
figure, as he stood in the brilliant sunlight, poising himself with the
careless, easy grace of the practised seaman upon the heaving, lurching
deck of the plunging schooner; for he was attired in a white shirt, with
broad falling collar loosely confined at the neck by a black silk
handkerchief, blue dungaree trousers rolled up to the knee and secured
round the waist by a knotted crimson silk sash, and his head was
enfolded in a similar sash, the fringed ends of which drooped upon his
left shoulder.  But it was the fellow's countenance that riveted my
attention despite myself; it was of itself ugly enough to have commanded
attention anywhere, but to its natural ugliness there was added the
further repulsiveness of expression that bespoke a character notable
alike for low, unscrupulous cunning and the most ferocious cruelty.  But
for the fact that he had been encountered upon ground whereon neither
Morillo nor any of his gang would have dared to show themselves, I could
readily have believed that he not only had a pretty intimate knowledge
of the movements and haunts of the pirates, but that he was probably a
distinguished member of the gang.

"Well, my fine fellow, pray what may your name be?"  I demanded in
English, as he was led up and halted before me.

"Too mosh me no speakee Anglish!" he promptly replied, shrugging his
shoulders until they touched the great gold rings that adorned the lobes
of his ears, and spreading out his hands, palms upward, toward me.

"What _do_ you speak, then?"  I demanded, still in English, for somehow
I did not for a moment believe the rascal's statement.

"Me Espanol," he answered, with another shrug and flourish of his hands.

"Good, then!" remarked I, in Spanish; "I will endeavour to converse with
you in your own tongue.  What is your name?"

"I am called Jose Garcia, senor," he answered.

"And you were born--?"  I continued interrogatively.

"In the city of Havana, thirty-two years ago, senor," was the reply.

"Then if you are a Spaniard--and consequently an enemy of Great
Britain--what were you doing in Kingston?"  I demanded.

"Ah no, senor," he exclaimed protestingly; "I am no enemy of Great
Britain, although born a Spaniard.  I have lived in Jamaica for the last
fifteen years, earning my living as a fisherman."

"Fifteen years!"  I repeated.  "Strange that you should have lived so
long among English-speaking people without acquiring some knowledge of
their language; and still more strange that you should have spoken
English last night in the grog shop in the presence and hearing of my
steward!  How do you account for so very singular a circumstance as
that?"

The fellow was so completely taken aback that for a few seconds he could
find no reply.  Then, seemingly convinced that further deception was
useless, he suddenly gave in, exclaiming, in excellent English--

"Ah, sir, forgive me; I have been lying to you!"

"With what purpose?"  I demanded.  "Instinct, perhaps," he answered,
with a short, uneasy laugh.  "The moment I was brought on deck I
recognised that I was aboard a British ship-of-war, and I smelt danger."

"Ah," I remarked, "you afford another illustration of the adage that `a
guilty conscience needs no accuser.'  What have you been doing that you
should `smell' danger upon finding yourself aboard a British man-o'-
war?"

"I have been doing nothing; but I feared that you intended to impress
me," answered the fellow.

"So I am," returned I, "but not for long, if you behave yourself.  And
when you have rendered the service which I require of you, you shall be
richly rewarded, according as you serve me faithfully or otherwise."

"And--and--what is this service, sir?" demanded he, with some slight
uneasiness of manner.

"You last night boasted that you could at anytime find Morillo--unless
he happened to be at sea," I said.  "Now, I want to find Morillo.  Tell
me where I may meet with him, and you shall receive fifty pounds within
an hour of the moment when I shall have carried his ship a prize into
Port Royal harbour."

"Morillo? who is Morillo?" he demanded, trying unsuccessfully to assume
an air of ignorance and indifference at the mention of the name.

"He is the pirate of whom you were speaking last night," I answered
sharply, for I suspected that he was about to attempt further deception
with me.

"I must have been drunk indeed to talk about a man of whom I have never
heard," he exclaimed, with a hollow pretence at a laugh.

"Do you mean to tell me that you do not know Morillo, or anything about
him?"  I demanded angrily.  "Now, take time to consider your answer.  I
want the truth, and the truth I am determined to have by one means or
another.  You have attempted to deceive me once, beware how you make
such an attempt a second time.  Now, what do you know of Morillo the
pirate?"

"Nothing!" the fellow answered sullenly.  But there was a shrinking of
himself together, and a sudden grey pallor of the lips, that told how
severe a tax upon his courage it was--under the circumstances--to utter
the lie.

"Think again!"  I said, pulling out my watch.  "I will give you five
minutes in which to overhaul your memory.  If by the end of that time
you fail I must endeavour to find means to refresh it."

"What will you do?" demanded the fellow, with a scowl that entirely
failed to conceal the trepidation which my remark had caused him.

I made no reply whatever, but rose, walked to the binnacle, took a
squint at the compass, and then a long look aloft as I turned over in my
mind the idea that had suggested itself to me, asking myself whether I
should be justified in carrying it into action.  I believed I now pretty
well understood the kind of man I had to deal with; I took him to be a
treacherous, unscrupulous, lying scoundrel, and a coward withal,--as
indeed such people generally are,--and it was his cowardice that I
proposed to play upon in order to extort from him the information I
desired to obtain.  In a word, my plan was to seize him up and threaten
to flog him if he refused to speak.  My only difficulty arose from a
doubt as to how I ought to proceed in the event of my threat failing to
effect the desired result.  Should I be justified in actually carrying
my threat into execution?  For, after all, the fellow really might _not_
know anything about Morillo; his remarks to Black Peter on the previous
night might be nothing more than boastful lies.  And if they were, all
the flogging I might give him could not make him tell that of which he
had no knowledge.  But somehow I had a conviction that he _could_ tell
me a great deal that I should be glad to know, if he only chose; so I
finally decided that if he continued contumacious I would risk giving
him a stroke or two, being guided in my after conduct by his behaviour
under the lash.

By the time that I had fully arrived at this resolution the five
minutes' grace had expired, and I returned to where the fellow still
stood, guarded by a Jack with drawn cutlass.

"Well," I demanded, "which is it to be?  Will you speak freely, or must
I compel you?"

"I have nothing to say; and I demand to know by what authority I have
been kidnapped and brought aboard this accursed schooner?" was the
reply.

"Did I not tell you a few minutes ago that you are impressed?"  I
answered.  "You have been brought aboard here in order that you may
render me a service, which I am convinced you _can_ render if you will.
When that service has been faithfully performed, I will not only set you
free again but I will also handsomely reward you.  You know what the
service is that I require of you.  Once more, will you or will you not
render it?"

"I repeat that I have nothing to say.  Put me in irons again if you
choose; you cannot make a man tell that which he does not know,"
answered Garcia; and as he spoke he turned away, seeming to consider
that the dialogue was at an end.

"Here, not so fast, my joker," interrupted the seaman who had the fellow
in charge, seizing Garcia unceremoniously by the back of the neck and
twisting him round until he faced me again, "it ain't good manners,
sonny, to turn your back upon your superiors until they tells you that
they've done with you, and that you can go."

The half-breed turned upon his custodian with a snarl, and a drawing
back of his upper lip that exposed a whole row of yellow fangs, while
his hand went, as from long habit, to his girdle, as though in quest of
a knife; but the look of contemptuous amusement with which the sailor
regarded him cowed the fellow, and he again faced me, meekly enough.

"Now," said I, "your little fit of petulance being over, let me ask you
once more, and for the last time, will you or will you not afford me the
information I require?"

"No, Senor Englishman, I will _not_!  I am a Spaniard and Morillo is a
Spaniard, and nothing you can do shall induce me to betray a fellow-
countryman!  Is that plain enough for you?"

"Quite," I answered, "and almost as satisfactory as though you had
replied to my question.  You have as good as admitted that you can, if
you choose, tell me what I want to know; now it remains for me to see
whether there are any means of compelling you to speak.  Take him away
for'ard, and keep a sharp eye upon him," I continued, to the sailor who
had him in charge.  "And as you go pass the word for the carpenter to
rig the grating.  Perhaps a taste of the cat may loosen this gentleman's
tongue."

"The cat?" exclaimed the half-breed, wheeling suddenly round as he was
being led away; "do you mean that you are going to flog me?"

"Certainly, unless you choose to speak of your own free will," answered
I.

"Very well, then, I _will_ speak; and your blood be on your own head!"
he hissed through his clenched teeth.  "I will direct you how to find
Morillo, and when you have found him he will amply avenge your insult to
me, and your audacity in seeking him; he will make your life such an
unendurable torment to you that you will pray him, with tears of blood,
to put you out of your misery.  And I shall be there to see you suffer,
and to laugh in your face as he refuses to grant you the boon of a
speedy death."

"That is all right," I answered cheerfully, "I must take the risk of the
fate you have so powerfully suggested.  And now, that matter being
disposed of, I shall be glad to hear from you how I am to find your
friend."

The fellow regarded me in stupid surprise for a moment, as though he
could not understand his failure to terrify me by his vaguely awful
threat; then, with a gesture that I interpreted as indicative of his
final abandonment of me to the destruction that I seemed determined to
court, he said--

"Do you know anything of the Grenadines, senor?"

"No," I answered, "nothing, except that they exist, and that they form a
practically unbroken chain of islets stretching between the islands of
Saint Vincent and Grenada."

"That is so," he assented.  "One of the most important of these islets
is situate about thirteen miles to the northward of Grenada, and is
called Cariacou.  It is supposed to be uninhabited, but it is nothing of
the kind; Morillo has taken possession of it, and established quite a
little settlement upon it.  There is a snug harbour at its south-western
extremity, affording perfect shelter and concealment for his brigantine,
and all round the shore of the harbour he has built storehouses and
residences for himself and his people.  I pray only that he may be at
home to give you a fitting reception."

"I am much obliged for your kind wish," I replied drily.  "And now, just
one question more--is this harbour of which you speak difficult of
access?  Are there any rocks or shoals at its entrance or inside?"

"No, none whatever; it can safely be entered on the darkest night," was
the answer.

"Good," I returned; "that will do for the present, Senor Garcia, and
many thanks for your information.  You will observe that I have accepted
as true every word that you have spoken; but I should like you to think
everything over again, and satisfy yourself that you have made no
mistake.  Because I warn you that if you _have you will be shot on the
instant_.  You may go!"

He was forthwith marched away and placed in close confinement below,--
for my interview with him had convinced me that the fellow was as
malignantly spiteful as a snake, and would willingly destroy the ship
and all hands if an opportunity were afforded him,--after which I
retired to my cabin, got out the chart, and set the course for the
island of Cariacou, a course which we could just comfortably lay with
yards braced taut against the lee rigging and all sheets well flattened
in.  The trade wind was blowing fresh enough to compel us to furl our
topgallant sail, but it was steady, and under a whole topsail and
mainsail the little hooker drove ahead over the long, regular ridges of
swell at a good, honest, nine-knot pace hour after hour, as steadily as
the chronometer itself.  We sighted the island, some sixteen miles
distant, on the evening of our fourth day out, and I at once shortened
sail and hove-to, in order that I might carry out a little plan which I
had concocted during our run across.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

CARIACOU--AND AFTERWARD.

As soon as the darkness had closed down sufficiently to conceal our
movements, I filled away again upon the schooner, and stood in until we
were within two miles of the southern extremity of the island,--which
also forms the southern headland of the harbour mentioned by Garcia,--
when, having run well in behind the head, I again hove-to and, launching
the dinghy, proceeded toward the harbour's mouth; my crew being two men
who, like myself, were armed to the teeth.

We pulled in with muffled oars, and in due time arrived within a stone's
throw of the shore.  The coast here proved to be precipitous and rocky,
the swell which set round the southern extremity of the island breaking
with great violence upon the shore and rendering landing absolutely
impossible; moreover, the night was so dark that--although in every
other respect admirably suited for my purpose--it was impossible to
clearly see where we were going, and two or three times we inadvertently
got so close to the rocks that we narrowly and with the utmost
difficulty avoided being dashed upon them.  At length, however, we
rounded the southernmost head and entered the harbour, and almost
immediately afterwards made out a narrow strip of sandy beach, upon
which I landed without difficulty, leaving the two men to look after the
dinghy and lay off a few yards from the shore, ready to pull in again
and take me aboard at a moment's notice if necessary.

Having landed, I ascended a rather steep, grassy slope, some seventy or
eighty feet high, and stood to look about me.  The harbour was quite a
spacious affair, the entrance being about half a mile wide, while the
harbour itself seemed--so far as I could make out in the darkness--to be
quite two miles long.  The general shape of this inlet immediately
suggested to me the conviction that if, as Garcia had informed me,
Morillo really had established his headquarters here, he would be almost
certain to have constructed a couple of batteries--one on each
headland--to defend the place; and I at once set about the task of
ascertaining how far my conjecture might happen to be correct.  Toward
the eastward from where I had halted the land continued to rise in a
sort of ridge, culminating in what had the appearance of a knoll, and it
struck me that, if a battery really existed on that side of the harbour,
I ought to find it not far from this spot.  I accordingly wended my way
toward it as best I could, forcing a passage for myself through the
grass and scrub, with a most unpleasant conviction that I might at any
moment place my hand or foot upon a venomous snake or reptile of some
sort; and finally, after about twenty minutes of most unpleasant
scrambling, found myself alongside the "knoll," which, as I had more
than half suspected, now proved to be nothing less than a rough
earthwork, mounting four thirty-two pounders.

My devious path had brought me to the face of the battery, so I had to
clamber up the steep face of the slope before I could get a view of the
interior.  This I did, entering the battery through one of the
embrasures, when I found myself standing upon a level platform
constituting the floor of the battery.  Keeping carefully within the
deep shadow of the gun, and crouching down upon my hands and knees, I at
once proceeded to reconnoitre the place, and presently made out a couple
of huts, the smaller of which I concluded must be the magazine, while
the larger probably accommodated the garrison.  Both were in utter
darkness, however, and my first impression was that they were
untenanted; but, to make quite certain, I crept very softly up to the
larger building, and, finding a closed door, listened intently at it.
For a few seconds I heard nothing save the sough of the night breeze
through the branches of some cotton-wood trees that grew close at hand,
but presently I detected a sound of snoring in the interior, which, as I
listened, grew momentarily more distinct and unmistakable.  The sounds
certainly emanated from more than one sleeper; I thought that there were
probably at least three or four of them at work, but my hearing was not
quite keen enough to enable me to accurately differentiate the sounds
and thus arrive at the correct number of those who emitted them.  They
were, however, sound asleep, and therefore not likely to be disturbed by
a slight noise.  Moreover, the hut was well to windward, and the sough
and swish of the wind through the cotton-woods seemed powerful enough to
drown such slight sounds as I might be likely to make; so I stole softly
across the open area to the nearest gun, which I at once proceeded to
carefully spike with the aid of some nails and a leather-covered hammer
with which I had provided myself.  Despite the deadening effect of the
leather the hammer still made a distinct "clink," which to my ears
sounded loud enough to wake the dead; but a few seconds' anxious work
sufficed to effectually spike the first gun, and as nobody appeared to
have heard me, I then proceeded to spike the next, and the next, until I
had rendered all four of them harmless.  This done, I slipped out of the
same embrasure by which I had entered, and successfully made my way back
to the beach and to the spot off which the dinghy lay awaiting me.

The presence of a battery on the south head of the harbour entrance
convinced me that there must also be a similar structure on the north
head.  As soon, therefore, as I found myself once more aboard the
dinghy, I headed her straight across the mouth, reaching the northern
side in about twenty minutes.  Half an hour's search enabled me to find
the battery which I was looking for,--which proved to be a pretty exact
counterpart of the one I had already visited,--and here again I
succeeded in spiking all four of the guns without discovery.  This I
regarded as a fairly successful night's work; so, as we should have to
be stirring pretty early in the morning, I now returned to the schooner,
and, having hove her to with her head off shore, turned in and had a
good night's rest.

At daybreak on the following morning I was called by Black Peter, and
within ten minutes I was on deck.  We were then some eight miles off the
land, with the schooner heading to the eastward; but we at once wore
round and bore straight away for the harbour's mouth, clearing for
action and making all our arrangements as we went.

An hour's run, with the wind well over our starboard quarter, brought us
off the mouth of the harbour, which we at once entered; and as soon as
we were fairly inside, the schooner was hove-to, and two boats were
lowered, each carrying eleven men armed to the teeth, in addition to the
officer in command.  One of the boats was commanded by Christie and the
other by Lindsay; and their mission was to capture the two batteries
commanding the harbour's mouth, and blow them up before the spiked
cannon could be again rendered serviceable.  I brought the telescope to
bear upon the batteries as soon as we were far enough inside the harbour
to get a sight of them, and was amused to observe that there was a
terrible commotion going on in both.  Our presence had been promptly
discovered, and the first attempt to open fire upon us had resulted in
the discovery that their guns were all spiked.  Of course it was by no
means an easy matter to estimate the strength of the garrisons of these
batteries, but I calculated that it would probably total up to about
thirty men to each battery; and as they would be nearly or quite all
Spaniards, I felt that the boats' crews which I had sent away would be
quite strong enough to satisfactorily account for them.  Nor was I
disappointed; for although the pirates opened a brisk musketry fire upon
our lads the moment that they were fairly within range, the latter
simply swarmed up the hill and carried the two batteries with a rush,
the pirates retreating by the rear as the _Terns_ clambered in through
the embrasures.  The moment that the boats shoved off from the
schooner's side I saw that the spirit of emulation had seized upon the
two crews, for they both went away at a racing pace, and their actions
throughout were evidently inspired by this same spirit; the result of
which was that the two batteries were destroyed within five minutes of
each other, while the whole affair, from the moment when the boats
shoved off to the moment when they arrived alongside again, was
accomplished within an hour and a quarter, and that, too, without any
loss whatever on our side, or even a wound severe enough to disable the
recipient.  The pirates were less fortunate, their loss in the two
batteries amounting to five killed, and at least seven wounded severely
enough to render them incapable of escaping.  These seven were brought
on board by our lads, and secured below immediately upon their arrival.

Meanwhile I had not been idle, for while the boats were away I had
employed my time in making, with the aid of the telescope, a most
careful inspection of this piratical stronghold; and I was obliged to
admit to myself that it would be difficult to imagine--and still more
difficult to find--a spot more perfectly adapted in every way for its
purpose.  The harbour itself was spacious enough to hold a fleet, and
almost completely land-locked, so that, once inside, a ship was
perfectly concealed; while the fact that the opening faced in a south-
westerly direction rendered it absolutely safe in all weathers.  And, so
far as enemies were concerned, the two batteries at the harbour's mouth
were so admirably placed that they _ought_ to have proved amply
sufficient for the defence of the place; and no doubt they _would_ have
so proved in other hands, or had a proper lookout been kept.  That they
had fallen so easily to us was the fault, not of Morillo, but of the man
whom he had left in command.

At the bottom of the bay or inlet--for it partook of the nature of the
latter rather than of the former--lay the settlement that Morillo had
established, consisting of no less than seventeen buildings.  There was
also a small wharf, with a brig lying alongside it.

The moment that the boats arrived alongside I ordered the men out of
them, and had them dropped astern, when sail was made and we stood down
toward the settlement, with our ensign flying at the gaff-end.  As we
drew near I was able to make out that here too our presence was
productive of a tremendous amount of excitement; and presently fire was
opened upon us from a battery of six nine-pounders that had been
constructed on the rising ground immediately to the rear of the wharf,
while the black flag was boldly run up on a flagstaff close at hand.  It
did not suit my purpose, however, to engage in a running fight; I
therefore bore down upon the brig--discharging our port broadside at the
battery when we were within pistol-shot of it--and, running alongside,
grapnelled her.  This done, every man Jack of us swarmed ashore, Lindsay
holding the wharf with a dozen of our lads, while Christie and I, with
the remainder of the crew, made a rush for the battery and took it.  Ten
minutes sufficed us to spike the guns and blow up the magazine, which
done, we found ourselves masters of the whole place, the inhabitants
having taken to flight the moment that this third battery fell into our
hands.

We now proceeded to make a leisurely inspection of the place, with the
result that we discovered it to be quite a miniature dockyard, with
storehouses, mast-houses, rigging and sail-lofts all complete; in fact,
there was every possible convenience for repairing and refitting a ship.
Nor was this all; there was also a large magazine full of ammunition,
quite an armoury of muskets, pistols, and cutlasses, and several
dismounted guns, ranging from six-pounders to thirty-two pound
carronades; while the storehouses were well stocked with provisions and
stores of every possible description.  One large building immediately
facing the wharf was apparently used as a receptacle for plunder, for we
found several bales of stuff that had evidently formed part of a cargo,
or cargoes, but there was surprisingly little of it, which was accounted
for, later on, by the discovery that the brig was full of plunder to the
hatches.  In addition to the buildings which were in use as stores,
there were two most comfortably fitted up as barracks, while at the back
of the settlement and well up the side of the hill stood a little group
of seven handsome timber dwelling-houses, each standing in its own
garden and nestling among the lofty trees that clothed the hillside.

Having secured complete possession of the place, my first care was to
have the small amount of plunder that lay in the storehouse, and the
guns, conveyed on board the _Tern_ and sent down her main hatchway.
This job took us about two hours, during which a few shots were
occasionally fired at us from the woods; but as the bullets all fell
short, we did not trouble ourselves to go in pursuit of the individuals
who were firing upon us.  Our next act was to blow up the magazine, thus
destroying the whole of the pirates' stock of ammunition; and when this
had been successfully accomplished, we went systematically to work, and
set fire to the whole of the storehouses and barracks, one after the
other, until the whole place was in flames.  Finally, we turned our
attention to the seven dwelling-houses on the hillside.  These proved,
to our astonishment, to be most elegantly and sumptuously furnished in
every respect, the only peculiarity noticeable being a lack of
uniformity among the articles contained in some of the houses, plainly
showing that they had been gathered together at different times and from
different places.  Evidences of female influence were abundantly present
in all these houses, from which we assumed that they formed the abode of
Morillo and his most important subordinates during their short sojourns
in port.  The six largest of these buildings we set fire to, leaving the
seventh as a refuge for the unfortunate women, who were doubtless
concealed at no great distance in the adjacent woods.

The burning of these houses completed the destruction of the settlement,
which was accomplished absolutely without casualties of any kind _on
our_ side.  We waited until the houses were well ablaze, and then
retreated in good order to the harbour, a few shots being fired at us
here and there from ambush as we went; but as we were well out of range
I took no notice of them, and in due time we arrived once more on the
wharf.

Our next business was to take possession of the brig, which we did
forthwith, Christie, with eight hands, going on board her as a prize
crew.  She was a beamy, bluff-bowed, motherly old craft named the _Three
Sisters_, hailing out of Port-of-Spain, and was evidently British built,
her whole appearance being that of a sober, honest, slow-going trader,
such as one constantly meets with, doing business among the islands.
Her hold, however, was full of booty; and I conjectured that Morillo
had, through his agents, purchased her in a perfectly straightforward
manner for use in the conveyance of booty from Cariacou to such ports as
afforded opportunity for its disposal without the asking of too many
inconvenient questions.

It was the work of but a few minutes for the prize crew to transfer
their few belongings from the schooner to the brig; and, this done, we
got both craft under way and stood out to sea--the brig under every
stitch of canvas that she could show to the breeze, while the schooner,
under topsail, foresail, and jib, had to heave-to at frequent intervals
to wait for her.

My first intention was to send the brig to Port Royal in charge of the
prize crew alone, remaining off the island in the _Tern_ until Morillo
should appear--as he would be certain to do, sooner or later--in his
brigantine.  A little reflection, however, caused me to alter my plans
and to determine upon escorting the _Three Sisters_ to her destination,
lest she should haply encounter Morillo on the way, in which case the
fate of her defenceless prize crew would probably be too dreadful to
bear thinking about.  As soon, therefore, as we were clear of the
harbour I set the course for Jamaica, and away we both went, cheek by
jowl, the brig--with a roaring breeze over her starboard quarter--
reeling off her six and a half knots per hour with as much fuss and
splutter as though she were going fifteen!

For the first two days nothing of any importance occurred.  On the third
night out from Cariacou, however,--or, to be strictly accurate, about
two o'clock in the morning,--it being my watch on deck, the night dark
and somewhat overcast, two sails were sighted on our starboard bow,
heading to the eastward on the port tack, and steering a course which
would bring them close to us.  One of them was a craft of considerable
size, the other a small vessel; and from the moment that these two facts
became apparent, I made up my mind that one was the prize of the other,
though which of the two was the captor, there was just then no means of
ascertaining.  The smaller craft was perhaps a privateer, and the big
one her prize; or--quite as likely--the big craft might be a frigate,
and the small craft her prize.  In either case, however, it behoved me
to be very careful; for one of the two was almost certain to be an
enemy, and if she happened to be also the captor of the other it was
more than probable she would tackle us.  From the moment, therefore,
when we first sighted them, I never allowed the night-glass to be off
them for more than a few seconds at a time.

When first discovered, they were hull down, and only just
distinguishable in the darkness as two vague blots of black against the
lowering gloom of the night sky; but the trade wind was piping up rather
stronger than usual that night, while we and the strangers were
approaching each other on a nearly straight line.  We consequently
closed each other rapidly, and within about twenty minutes from the
moment of their discovery we were able to make out that one of the twain
was a full-rigged ship, while the other seemed to be a large brigantine;
and a few minutes later I discovered that the ship was showing a much
broader spread of canvas than the brigantine, thus proving the latter to
be the faster craft of the two.  It was scarcely likely, therefore, that
the ship was a frigate; and if not that, she must be a merchantman, and
doubtless the prize of the brigantine.

At this point, the question suggested itself to me: Might not the
brigantine be Morillo's craft?  She appeared to be about the same size,
so far as it was possible to distinguish in the darkness; and if so, it
would fully account for the boldness with which she held on upon her
course, instead of heaving about and endeavouring to avoid a possible
enemy--for doubtless they had made us out almost if not quite at the
same time as we had discovered them.  I most fervently hoped it might be
as I surmised, for, if so, I should have the fellow at advantage,
inasmuch as he would doubtless have put a fairly strong prize crew on
board the ship, which would proportionately weaken his own crew.  Full
of the hope that this Ishmael of the sea might be about to place himself
within my power, I caused all hands to be called, and, having first made
sail, sent them to quarters, the gunner at the same time descending to
the magazine and sending up a plentiful supply of powder and shot.  By
the time that we were ready, the brigantine and her consort had neared
us to within a couple of miles, the two craft closing meanwhile,
doubtless for the purpose of communicating instructions.  That they were
quite prepared to fight aboard the brigantine was perfectly evident, for
we could see that her deck was lit up with lanterns, the light of which,
shining through her ports, enabled me to ascertain that she mounted six
guns of a side.  Both craft held their luff, but it was now quite clear
that the brigantine was much the faster and more weatherly of the two,
she walking away out to windward of the big fellow as though the latter
had been at anchor the moment that she made sail in answer to our
challenge.

And now ensued a little bit of manoeuvring on both sides, with the
twofold object of discovering whether the stranger happened to be an
enemy, and if so, to secure the weather-gage of him.  We had the
advantage, however, as we were running free and could haul our wind at
any moment; and this advantage I kept by hauling up on the starboard
tack and then heaving in stays with the topsail aback, waiting for the
brigantine to close; which she presently did, ranging up within biscuit-
toss of our lee quarter.  She was now so close to us that, despite the
darkness, it was quite possible to make out details; and it was with a
feeling of mingled disgust and disappointment that I discovered that,
whatever she might be, she certainly was not Morillo's beautiful but
notorious brigantine.

She was, however, in all probability an enemy,--it seemed to me that, so
far as I could make out in the uncertain light of the partially clouded
stars, she had a French look about her,--so, with the idea of securing
the advantage of the first hail, I sprang upon the rail as she ranged up
alongside, and hailed, in Spanish--

"Ho, the brigantine ahoy!  What vessel is that?"

"The _Belle Diane_, French privateer.  What schooner is that?" came the
reply, also in Spanish of the most execrable kind, uttered with an
unmistakable French accent.

"His Britannic Majesty's schooner _Tern_, monsieur, to which ship I must
request you to surrender, or I shall be under the painful necessity of
blowing you out of the water," answered I, firmly persuaded of the
policy of rendering oneself as formidable as possible to one's enemy.

But my well-meant endeavour proved to be a signal failure; the enemy was
not in this case to be so easily frightened.

"Les Anglais! mille tonneres!"  I heard the Frenchman in the
brigantine's main rigging exclaim, as he waved his clenched fist in the
air.  Then he retorted, in what he doubtless believed to be the purest
English--

"Vat is dat you say, Monsieur Angleeshman?  If I do not surrendaire, you
vill blow me out of de vattar?  Ha, ha!  Sacre!  It is _I_, monsieur,
who vill blow dat footy leetle schooner of yours into ze sky, if you do
not surrendaire yourshelf plus promptement, eh!"

"All right, monsieur; blaze away, then, as soon as you like!" retorted
I, in the best attempt at French I could muster.  Then, to my own
people, who were at quarters--

"Stand by, starboard guns!  Wait until she rolls toward us.  _Now,
fire_!"

Our imposing broadside of three guns rang out at the precise moment when
the brigantine rolled heavily toward us, exposing her deck to our fire;
and I heard the shot go crashing through her bulwarks to the
accompaniment of sundry yells and screams, that told me they had not
been altogether ineffective.  Almost at the same instant _three_ of her
guns replied; but their muzzles were so deeply depressed, and she was
just then rolling so heavily toward us, that the shot struck the water
between her and ourselves, and we neither saw nor felt any more of them.
Meanwhile, our square canvas being aback, our antagonist swept rapidly
ahead of us; seeing which, I filled upon the schooner and bore up under
the brigantine's stern, raking with our port broadside as we crossed her
stern, immediately hauling my wind and making a half-board across her
stern again to regain my position upon her weather quarter.  Our
starboard guns were by this time reloaded, and we gave her the three of
them, double-shotted, as we recrossed her; and the tremendous clatter,
with the howls and shrieks that followed this discharge, showed that we
had wrought a considerable amount of execution among the Frenchmen.

"There's _something_ gone aboard of him, but what it is I can't make
out," exclaimed Lindsay, who was standing close beside me.  "Ah!" he
continued, "I see what it is now; it is her mainboom that we have shot
away.  I can see the outer end of it towing overboard.  And see, she is
paying off; with the loss of their after-sail they can no longer keep
their luff!"

It was even as Lindsay had said; we had shot away the brigantine's
mainboom, and thus rendered her big, powerful mainsail useless; so that,
despite the lee helm that they were giving her, she was gradually
falling off, until within a minute or two she was nearly dead before the
wind.  This placed her almost completely at our mercy, for we were now
enabled to sail to and fro athwart her stern, raking her alternately
with our port and starboard guns, and with our nine-pounder as well,
while she could only reply with two guns which her people had run out
through her stern ports.  Still, although disabled, she was by no means
beaten, her plucky crew keeping up a brisk fire upon us from these two
guns until by a lucky broadside we dismounted them both.  But even then
they would not give in; despite the relentless fire that we continued to
pour into them, they contrived after a time to get two more guns into
position, with which they renewed their fire upon us as briskly as ever.
This sort of thing, however, could not continue for very long; our fire
was so hot and our guns were so well aimed, that we fairly drove the
plucky fellows from the only two guns that they could bring to bear upon
us, and within a couple of minutes of the cessation of their fire, a
lantern was waved aboard the brigantine, and someone hailed that they
surrendered, while at the same moment all sheets and halliards were let
go and her canvas came down by the run, as a further intimation that
they had had enough of it.

Upon this we of course at once ceased firing, and ranged up alongside
the prize, hailing her that we would send a boat aboard.  Then, for the
first time, we discovered that both our large boats were so severely
damaged that neither of them would float; whereupon Lindsay offered to
board the prize in the dinghy, with two hands, and take possession.
Accordingly, the little cockleshell of a craft was dropped over the
side, and in less than two minutes my chum hailed to say that he was
safely aboard, and that the execution wrought by our fire had been
terrible, the brigantine having lost nearly half her crew, both the
captain and the chief mate being among the killed.  He added that the
brigantine's long-boat was undamaged, and that he proposed to hoist her
out, with the assistance of the prisoners, and send her to us by the two
hands who had manned the dinghy, if we would look out to pick her up in
the event of their being unable to bring her alongside.  To this I of
course agreed; and a quarter of an hour later the boat was safely
alongside us, with a prize crew of twelve picked men tumbling themselves
and their traps into her.

Meanwhile, what had become of the _Three Sisters_ and the big ship?  I
looked round for them, and behold! there they both were, about half a
mile to windward, and bearing down upon us _in company_!

"Phew!" thought I, "here is a nice business!  While we have been playing
the game of hammer and tongs down here, the big ship--doubtless manned
by a strong prize crew--has run alongside the old brig and taken her!
And yet--can it be so?  Christie has eight hands with him, and I believe
the fellow would make a stout fight for it before giving in.  I cannot
understand it; but we shall soon see.  If they have captured him we
shall have to recapture him, that is all!"  Then, turning to the men,
who were busy securing the guns and repairing such slight damage as had
been inflicted upon our rigging, I said--

"Avast, there, with those guns!  Load them again, lads, for we may have
to fight once more in a few minutes.  Here is the big ship running down
upon us, and it looks very much as though she had taken the brig.  Fill
your topsail, and let draw the headsheets!"

Getting sufficient way upon the schooner, we tacked and stood toward the
new-comers, passing close under the stern of the ship, with the
intention of hailing her.  But before I could get the trumpet to my
lips, a figure sprang into the ship's mizzen rigging, and Christie's
well-known voice hailed--

"_Tern_ ahoy! is Mr Courtenay aboard?"

"Ay, ay," I answered; "I am here, Mr Christie.  What are you doing
aboard there?"

"Why," answered Christie, "I am in charge, you know.  Seeing you busy
with the brigantine, I thought I might as well try my luck at the same
time; so I managed somehow to put the brig alongside this ship, and--
and--well, _we just took her_!"

"Well done, Mr Christie!"  I shouted; but before I could get out
another word, my voice was drowned in the roaring cheer that the _Terns_
gave vent to as they heard the news, told in Christie's usual gentle,
drawling tones; and by the time that the cheers had died away the two
craft had drawn so far apart that further conversation was, for the
moment, impossible.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

I BECOME THE VICTIM OF A VILLAINOUS OUTRAGE.

Making room, Christie presently hauled to the wind and hove-to; and some
ten minutes later he presented himself on board the schooner--brought
alongside by the ship's gig, manned by four of the ship's crew--to
report his own share in the incidents of the night.  From this report I
gathered that, like myself, at first he had mistaken the French
privateer for Morillo's brigantine, and had also arrived at the
conclusion that the ship was a prize of the latter.  He had kept a keen
watch upon the movements of the schooner until it had become apparent
that we intended to attack the supposed pirate, when he at once turned
his attention to the ship, with the object of ascertaining whether, with
such a phenomenally slow craft as the _Three Sisters_, anything could be
done with her.  He believed that, with luck, it could, as he felt pretty
certain that the attention of the ship's prize crew would be fully
occupied in watching the manoeuvres of the brigantine and the schooner;
and, trusting to this, he hauled his wind until he had placed the brig
in position the merest trifle to windward of the course that the ship
was steering, when, taking his chance of having thus far escaped
observation, he clewed up and furled everything, afterwards patiently
awaiting the development of events.

And now ensued a very curious and amusing thing, it having transpired
that the French prize crew of the ship _had_ seen the brig, and had at
once jumped to the conclusion that she was a prize to the schooner.  The
curious behaviour of the _Three Sisters_ had puzzled them not a little
at the outset, but when we opened fire upon the brigantine they knew at
once that we must be an enemy; and, supposing that the prize crew of the
brig--whom they rashly judged to be their own countrymen--had taken
advantage of our preoccupation to rise and recapture their vessel, they
immediately bore down to their assistance.  This lucky mistake enabled
Christie to fall alongside the ship without difficulty, when, laying
aside for the nonce his gentle, lady-like demeanour, he led his eight
men up the ship's lofty sides and over her high bulwarks on to her deck,
where the nine of them laid about them with such good will that, after
about a minute's resistance, the astounded Frenchmen were fain to
retreat to the forecastle, where, in obedience to Christie's summons,
they forthwith flung down their arms and surrendered at discretion.
Then, clapping the hatch over them, and stationing two men with drawn
cutlasses by it as a guard, Christie proceeded to liberate the
imprisoned crew of the ship,--which he discovered to be the British West
Indiaman _Black Prince_, homeward-bound at the time of her capture, two
days previously, with an exceedingly valuable general cargo,--and then
sent his own men back to the _Three Sisters_, which had all this time
been lying alongside, secured to the Indiaman by grapnels.  The brig
then cast off, and the two craft forthwith bore down upon us to report,
the fight between ourselves and the brigantine being by that time over.

By the time that our own and the brigantine's damages had been repaired
it was daylight, and we were all ready for making sail once more.  But
before doing so I caused the whole of the Frenchmen to be removed to the
schooner, where they were first put in irons and then clapped safely
under hatches; after which I visited first the _Belle Diane_ and then
the Indiaman.  I must confess I was astonished when I beheld the effect
of our fire upon the former; I could scarcely credit that so much damage
had been inflicted by our six-pounders in so short time, her stern above
the level of the covering-board being absolutely battered to pieces,
while the shot had also ploughed up her decks fore and aft in long,
scoring gashes, so close together and crossing each other in such a way
as showed what a tremendous raking she had received.  She began the
action with fifty-seven men, all told, out of which eighteen had been
killed outright, and the remainder, with one solitary exception, more or
less seriously wounded.  Looking upon the paths our shot had ploughed
along her deck, I was only surprised that any of her people were left
alive to tell the tale.  In addition to this, five of her twelve guns
were dismounted, and her rigging had been a good deal cut up; but this
was now of course all knotted and spliced by Lindsay's people.  She was
a very fine vessel, of three hundred and forty-four tons measurement,
oak built, copper fastened, and copper sheathed to the bends, very
shallow--drawing only eight feet of water--and very beamy, with most
beautiful lines.  Her spars looked enormously lofty compared with our
own, as I stood on her deck and gazed aloft, and her canvas had
evidently been bent new for the voyage.  She had only arrived in West
Indian waters a week previously, from Brest, and the _Black Prince_ was
stated to be her first prize.

Having given the _Diane_ a pretty good overhaul, and satisfied myself
that her hull was sound, I gave Lindsay his instructions, and then
proceeded on board the _Black Prince_, where I arrived in good time for
breakfast, and where I made the acquaintance, not only of her skipper--a
fine, grey-headed, sailorly man named Blatchford--but also of her
thirty-two passengers, eighteen of whom were males, while the remainder
were of the gentler sex, the wives and daughters mostly of the male
passengers.  There were no young children among them, fortunately.  My
appearance seemed to create quite a little flutter of excitement among
the petticoats, and also not a little astonishment, apparently; for I
overheard one of the matrons remark to another, behind her fan, "Why, he
is scarcely more than a _boy_!"

The _Black Prince_ was a noble ship, of twelve hundred and fifty tons,
frigate-built, and only nine years old, splendidly fitted up, and full
to the hatches of coffee, tobacco, spices, and other valuables; she also
had a reputation for speed, which had induced her skipper to hazard the
homeward voyage alone, instead of waiting for convoy.  The poor old
fellow was of course dreadfully cut up at his misfortune--for, having
been in the enemy's hands more than twenty-four hours, she was a
recapture in the legal sense of the term, and, as such, we were entitled
to salvage for her.  However, unfortunate as was the existing state of
affairs, it was of course vastly better than that of a _few_ hours
before, and he interrupted himself in his bemoanings to thank me for
having rescued him out of the hands of those Philistines, the French
privateersmen.  I informed him that it would be my duty to take him into
Fort Royal, but he received the news with equanimity, explaining that
even had I not insisted on it, he should certainly, after his recent
experience, have availed himself of my escort to return to Kingston, and
there await convoy.  I breakfasted with him and his passengers, and
then, leaving Christie aboard as prize master, returned to the schooner;
and we all made sail in company, arriving at Port Royal five days later,
without further adventure.

The admiral was, as might be expected, immensely pleased at our
appearance with _three_ prizes in company, and still more so when I
reported to him the discovery and destruction of Morillo's headquarters.

"You have done well, my boy, wonderfully well; better even than I
expected of you," said he, shaking me heartily by the hand.  "Go on as
you have begun, and I venture to prophesy that it will not be long
before I shall feel justified in giving you t'other `swab,'" pointing,
as he spoke, to my single epaulet.

To say that I was delighted at my reception but very feebly expresses
the feelings that overwhelmed me as the kind old fellow spoke such
generous words of appreciation and encouragement.  Of course I knew that
I had done well, but I regarded my success as due fully as much to good
fortune as to my own efforts, and I was almost overwhelmed with joy at
so full and complete a recognition of my efforts.  So astonished indeed
was I, that I could only stammer something to the effect that our
success was due quite as much to the loyalty with which Christie and
Lindsay had seconded me, and the gallantry with which the men had stood
by me, as it was to my own individual merits.

"That's right, my boy," remarked the admiral; "I am glad to hear you
speak like that.  No doubt what you say is true, but it does not detract
in the least from the value of your own services.  I always think the
better of an officer who is willing to do full justice to the merits of
those who have helped him, and your promotion will not come to you the
less quickly for having helped your shipmates to theirs.  You have _all_
done well, and I will see to it that you are all adequately rewarded--
Christie and Lindsay by getting their step, and you by getting a
somewhat better craft than the little cockleshell in which you have
already done so well.  I am of opinion that all you require is
opportunity, and, by the Piper, you shall have it."

And the old gentleman kept his word; for when I went aboard the _Tern_
on the following day--I dined and slept at the house of some friends a
little way out from Kingston that night--Christie and Lindsay met me
with beaming faces and the information that the former had got his step
as master, while Lindsay had received an acting order as lieutenant
pending his passing of the necessary examination.  The only drawback to
this good news was the intelligence that the man Garcia had mysteriously
disappeared during the night, leaving not a trace of his whereabouts
behind him.

An hour or two later I went ashore and waited upon the admiral at his
office, in accordance with instructions received from him on the
previous day; and upon being ushered into his presence, he at once began
to question me relative to the qualities of the _Diane_.  I was able to
speak nothing but good of her; for indeed what I had seen of her, during
the passage to Port Royal, had convinced me that she was really a very
fine vessel in every respect, a splendid sea-boat, wonderfully fast,
and, I had no doubt, a thoroughly wholesome, comfortable craft in bad
weather.

"Just so," commented the admiral, when I had finished singing her
praises; "what you have said quite confirms my own opinion of her, which
is that, in capable hands, she may be made exceedingly useful.
Moreover, she is more nearly a match for Morillo's brigantine than is
the little _Tern_, eh?  Well, my lad, I have been thinking matters over,
and have made up my mind that she is good enough to purchase into the
service; so I will have it seen to at once, and of course I shall give
you the command of her.  She will want a considerable amount of
attention at the hands of the shipwrights after the mauling that you
gave her, but you shall supervise everything yourself, and they shall do
nothing without your approval; so see to it that they don't spoil her.
I notice that she mounts six sixes of a side.  Now I propose to alter
that arrangement by putting four long nines in place of those six sixes,
with an eighteen-pounder on her forecastle; and with such an armament as
that, and a crew to match, you ought to be able to render an exceedingly
good account of yourself.  What do you think of my idea?"

I replied truthfully that I considered it excellent in every way; and we
then launched into a discussion of minor details, with which I need not
weary the reader, at the end of which I went aboard the _Tern_ and paid
off her crew, preparatory to her being turned over to the shipwrights,
along with her prize.

It happened that just about this time there was an exceptionally heavy
press of work in the dockyard; for there had been several frigate
actions of late, and the resources of the staff were taxed to the utmost
to effect the repairs following upon such events and to get the ships
ready for sea again in the shortest possible time; with the result that
such small fry as the _Diane_ and the _Tern_ were obliged to wait until
the heaviest of the work was over and the frigates were again ready for
service.  It thus happened that, although I contrived to worry the
dockyard superintendent into putting a few shipwrights aboard the
_Diane_, three weeks passed, and still the brigantine was very far from
being ready for sea.  During this time I made my headquarters at "Mammy"
Wilkinson's hotel in Kingston,--that being the hotel especially affected
by navy men,--although I was seldom there, the planters and big-wigs of
the island generally proving wonderfully hospitable, and literally
overwhelming me with invitations to take up my abode with them.  But
about the time that I have mentioned it happened that certain
alterations were being effected aboard the brigantine, which I was
especially anxious to have carried out according to my own ideas; I
therefore spent the whole of the day, for several days in succession, at
the dockyard, going up to Kingston at night, and sleeping at the hotel.

It was during this interval that, one night about ten o'clock, a negro
presented himself at the hotel, inquiring for me; and upon my making my
appearance in the entrance-hall, the fellow--a full-blooded African,
dressed very neatly in a white shirt and white duck trousers, both
scrupulously clean, for a wonder--approached me, and, ducking his head
respectfully, inquired--

"You Massa Courtenay, sar, cap'n ob de man-o'-war schoonah _Tern_?"

"Well, yes," I replied, "my name is Courtenay, and I commanded the
_Tern_ up to the time of her being paid off; so I suppose I may fairly
assume that I am the individual you have been inquiring for.  What is it
you want with me?"

"You know a genterman, nam'd Lindsay, sar?" asked the negro, instead of
replying to my question.

"Certainly I do," answered I; "what of him?"

"Why, sar, he hab got into a lilly scrape down on de wharf, and de
perlice hab put him into de lock-up.  Dey don' beliebe dat he am man-o'-
war bucra, and he say, `Will you be so good as to step down dere an'
identerfy him an' bail him out?'"

"Lindsay got into a scrape?" repeated I incredulously.  "I cannot
believe it!  What has he been doing?"

"Dat I cannot say, sar," answered the black; "I only know dat a
perliceman come out ob de door ob de lock-up as I was passin' by, and
asked me if I wanted to earn fibe shillin'; and when I say `yes,' he
take me into de lock-up and interdooce me to young bucra, who say him
name am Lindsay, and dat if I will take a message to you he will gib me
fibe shillin' when I come back wid you."

"It is very extraordinary," I muttered; "I cannot understand it!  But I
will go with you, of course.  Wait a moment until I fetch my cap."

So saying, I left the fellow and hastened to my room, where, closing the
door, I opened my chest and furnished myself with a supply of money, and
then, closing and locking the chest, I hastened away to where the negro
was waiting for me.  As I passed through the hall several men of my
acquaintance were lounging there, smoking, and one of them hailed me
with--

"Hillo, Courtenay! whither away so fast, my lad?"

It was on the tip of my tongue to explain to them my errand, but I
bethought me just in time that if Lindsay had been doing anything
foolish he might not care to have the fact blazoned abroad; so I kept my
own counsel, merely replying that I was called out upon a small matter
of business, and so effected my escape from them into the dark street.

"Oh, here you are!" exclaimed I, as the negro emerged, at my appearance,
from the deep shadow of the hotel portico.  "Now, then, which way?  Is
Mr Lindsay in the town jail?"

"No, sar, no; he am in de harbour lock-up," answered my guide.  "Dis
way, sar; it am not so bery far."

"The _harbour_ lock-up?" queried I.  "Where is that?  I didn't know that
there was such a place."

"Oh yes, sar, dar am.  You follow me, sar; I show you de way, sar,"
answered the negro.

"All right, heave ahead then," said I; and away we went a little way
down the main street, and then turned to the right, plunging into one of
the dark, narrow side streets which then intersected the town of
Kingston.

"Keep close to de wall, sar," cautioned my guide; "dere am a gutter in
de middle ob de road, and if you steps into dat you go in ober your
shoes in muck."

I could well believe this, for although it was too dark in this narrow
lane to see anything, the abominable odour of the place told me pretty
well what its condition must be.  We plodded on for nearly ten minutes,
winding hither and thither, and penetrating deeper and deeper into the
labyrinth of dark, crooked lanes, but gradually edging nearer to the
harbour, while, as I thought, working our way a considerable distance to
the westward.  Presently my guide, who had been humming some negro
melody to himself, lifted up his voice in a louder key and began to
chant the praises of a certain "lubly Chloe, whose eyes were like the
stars, and whose `breaf' was like the rose!"  The fellow had a
wonderfully melodious voice, and in listening to him as he strode easily
along at a swinging pace, improvising verse after verse in honour of the
unknown Chloe, I lost my bearings as well as my count of time, and was
only brought back to a consciousness of the present by suddenly finding
my head closely enveloped in what seemed to be a blanket, while at the
same instant my feet were tripped from under me, so that I should have
fallen forward but for the restraining influence of the blanket and of a
pair of arms that gripped mine tightly behind my back, so that I was
instantly overpowered and effectually precluded from making the
slightest effort to free myself.  Then, before I had time to realise
what was happening, I was lifted off my feet, and, despite my desperate
struggles and ineffectual efforts to shout for assistance, carried in
through an open doorway and flung upon my face upon the ground, where
someone at once knelt upon me and securely lashed my hands behind my
back, some other individual at the same instant lashing my ankles firmly
together.

"Dere, dat will do, Peter; I t'ink him cannot do much harm now,"
remarked the voice of my whilom guide; and as the fellow spoke I was
relieved of the very considerable weight that had been pressing upon me
and holding me down.  Then I was rolled over on my side, and, as the
blanket that enveloped my head and very nearly suffocated me was
cautiously removed, I felt the prick of something sharp against my left
breast, and the same voice that had spoken before observed--

"Massa Courtenay, we hab no wish to hurt you, sah; but it am my painful
duty to warn you dat, if you sing out, or make de slightest attempt to
escape, I shall be obleeged to dribe dis lilly knife ob mine home to yo'
heart, sar.  So now you knows what you hab to expec'.  Does you
understan' what I say, sah?"

"Certainly I do," answered I, with suppressed fury, "your meaning is
clear enough, in all conscience.  But beware what you do, my fine
fellow.  You were seen by several of my friends at the hotel, who will
have no difficulty in identifying you; and I warn you that you will be
made to pay dearly for this outrage to a British naval officer.  What is
the meaning of it all?  Have you any idea of the enormity of your
offence?"

"Oh yes, sah," answered my guide cheerfully, "we hab a very clear idea
ob dat, haben't we, Peter?" addressing another big, powerful negro of
somewhat similar cut to himself, but attired in much less respectable
garments.

Peter grinned affirmatively, but said nothing; whereupon his companion
continued--

"Now, Peter, where am dat gag?  Just bring it along, and let us fix it
up, so as to make all safe.  It would be a most drefful misfortune if
Massa Courtenay was to sing out, and force me to split him heart wid dis
knife ob mine; so we will just make it onpossible for him to do any such
foolis' t'ing."

All this time the knife--a formidable dagger-shaped blade fully a foot
long--was kept pressed so firmly to my breast that it had drawn blood,
the stain of which was now dyeing the front of my white shirt, so the
moment was manifestly inopportune for any attempt at escape or
resistance even; I therefore submitted, with the best grace I could
muster, to the insertion of the gag between my teeth, reserving to
myself the right to make both ruffians smart for their outrage upon me
at the first available opportunity.  But before the gag was placed
between my teeth, I contrived to repeat my inquiry for an explanation.

"Nebber you mind, Massa Courtenay; you will find out all about dat in
good time, sah," answered the leading spirit of the twain; and with that
reply I was perforce obliged to be content for the moment.

Having made me perfectly secure, the two negroes squatted down upon
their haunches, and, with much deliberation, produced from their pockets
a short clay pipe each, a plug of tobacco, and a knife; and, after
carefully shredding their tobacco and charging their pipes, proceeded to
smoke, with much gravity and in perfect silence.  It struck me that
possibly they might be waiting for someone, whose appearance upon the
scene would, I hoped, throw some light upon the cause of this
extraordinary outrage, and give me an inkling as to what sort of an end
I might expect to the adventure.  Meanwhile, having nothing else to do,
I proceeded to take stock of the place, or at least as much of it as I
could command in my cramped and constrained position.

There was little or nothing, however, in what I saw about me of a
character calculated to suggest an explanation of the motive for my
seizure.  The building was simply one of those low, one-storey adobe
structures, thatched with palm leaves, such as then abounded in the
lower quarters of Kingston, and which were usually inhabited by the
negro or half-breed population of the place.  The interior appeared to
be divided into two apartments by an unpainted partition of timber
framing, decorated with cheap and gaudy coloured prints, tacked to the
wood at the four corners; and as a good many of these pictures were of a
religious character, in most of which the Blessed Virgin figured more or
less prominently, I took it that the legitimate occupant of the place
was a Roman Catholic.  The furniture was of the simplest kind,
consisting of a table in the centre,--upon which burned the cheap,
tawdry, brass lamp that illumined the apartment,--a large, upturned
packing-case, covered with a gaudy tablecloth, and serving as a table
against the rear wall of the building, and three or four old, straight-
backed chairs, that had evidently come down in the world, for they were
elaborately carved, and upholstered in frayed and faded tapestry.  A few
more cheap and gaudy coloured prints adorned the walls; a heavy curtain,
so dirty and smoke-grimed that its original colour and pattern was
utterly unrecognisable, shielded the unglazed window; two or three
hanging shelves--one of which supported a dozen or so of dark green
bottles--depended from the walls; and that was all.  The floor upon
which I lay was simply the bare earth, rammed hard, thick with dust and
swarming with fleas,--as I quickly discovered,--and the whole place
reeked of that hot, stale smell that seems to pervade the abodes of
people of uncleanly habits.

The two negroes smoked silently and gravely for a full half-hour, about
the end of which time my captor slowly and with due deliberation knocked
the ashes from his pipe, and, rising to his feet, yawned and stretched
himself.  In so doing his eye fell upon the shelf upon which stood the
bottles, and, sauntering lazily across the room, he laid his hand upon
one of the bottles and placed it on the centre table.  Then, lifting up
the cloth which covered the packing-case, he revealed a shelf within the
interior, from which he withdrew a water monkey, two earthenware mugs,
and a dish containing a most uninviting-looking mixture, which I
presently guessed, from its odour, to be composed of salt fish and
boiled yams mashed together, cold.  These he placed upon the table, and,
still without speaking, the pair drew chairs up to the table and,
seating themselves opposite each other, proceeded to make a hearty meal,
helping themselves alternately, with their fingers, from the central
dish, and washing down the mixture with a mug of rum and water each.

They were still thus agreeably engaged when the distant sound of
rumbling wheels and clattering hoofs became audible, rapidly drawing
nearer, and accompanied by the persuasive shouts and ejaculations of a
negro driver.

"Dat am de boy Moses wid de cart, I 'spects," remarked the negro whose
name I had not yet learned.  "What a drefful row de young rascal makes!
Dat nigger won't nebber learn discreshun," he continued, wiping his
fingers carefully on a flaming red handkerchief which he drew from his
breeches pocket.

Peter grunted an unintelligible reply, and the next moment the vehicle
pulled up sharply at the door; the cessation of its clatter being
immediately followed by the entrance of a negro lad, some eighteen years
of age.

"I'se brought de cart, as you tole me, Caesar," he remarked.  "Am it all
right?"

"It am, sar," remarked Caesar--the hitherto unnamed negro--loftily;
"when did you ebber know me to fail in what I undertooken, eh, sar?"

"Nebber, sah, nebber," answered Moses appreciatively.  "An' so dat am de
gebberlum, am it?" pointing at me with his chin, as I lay huddled up on
the floor.

"Yes, sar, it am," answered Caesar curtly, in a tone of voice which was
evidently intended to cut short all further conversation.  "An' now,
Peter," he continued, "if you has finished yo' supper we better be
movin'.  Nebber mind about puttin' de t'ings away; de ole 'oman will see
to dat when she comes home in de mornin'.  Now den, Peter, you take hold
ob de genterman's legs, and help me to carry him out; does you hear?"

Peter the Silent grunted an affirmative, stooping as he did so and
seizing my legs, while Caesar raised me by the shoulders in his powerful
arms, remarking, as he did so--

"Massa Courtenay, jus' listen to me, if you please, sah.  We am goin' to
take you for a nice, pleasant lilly dribe in a cart, and I am goin' to
sit on you, so dat you may not fall out.  Now I still has my knife wid
me, and if I feels you begin to struggle, I shall be under de mos'
painful necessity ob drivin' it into you to keep you quiet; so I hope
dat you will lie most particular still durin' yo' little journey.  You
sabbe?"

I nodded my head.

"Dat's all right, den," resumed Caesar.  "Now, Peter up wid him, and
away we goes."

And therewith the two black rascals raised me carefully, and carrying me
into the open, placed me in a mule cart, covered me with a thick layer
of green forage, and--Caesar coolly carrying out his threat to sit upon
me--drove away.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

IN THE POWER OF THE ENEMY.

Our drive was a most unpleasant one for me, for the cart had no springs,
and the boy Moses, like Jehu, drove furiously.  It fortunately lasted
only some five-and-twenty minutes or so, however; and at the end of that
period we pulled up on what I guessed, from the running of the vehicle
and the sound of rippling water, to be a sandy beach.  My conjecture
proved to be correct, for when presently I was hauled out from
underneath the forage, and stood upon my feet, more dead than alive, I
found that we were on the margin of a tiny creek or cove, about three-
quarters of a mile to the westward of the outskirts of Kingston.  A
small canoe lay hauled up on the sand, and in the bottom of this craft I
was carefully deposited; after which she was run down into the water,
when Caesar and Peter sprang lightly into her, giving her a final shove
to seaward as they did so, and paddled away, leaving Moses and his cart
to make the best of their way back to the town.

Lying upon my back in the bottom of the canoe, with my face turned
upward to the stars, I was able to see that we were heading eastward
toward Kingston harbour; and about half an hour later the canoe glided
up alongside a small felucca, of some thirty tons burden and was made
fast by her painter.  The canoe secured to his satisfaction, the negro
Caesar climbed over the felucca's low bulwarks, and I heard his bare
feet pattering along the deck until, as I supposed, he reached the
companion, when the sounds became muffled, and were presently lost.

Then I caught the sound of voices,--Caesar's and others'--but so
indistinctly that I was unable to distinguish what was being said.  The
conversation, however, was brief, for in three or four minutes the tread
of Caesar's bare feet again became audible, accompanied by that of
others; and I then discovered that a conversation, of which I was the
subject, was being conducted in Spanish!  This seemed to suggest that I
had fallen into the hands of the enemy, though why the Spaniards should
wish to kidnap so very unimportant a personage as myself I could not for
the life of me imagine, unless they had adopted some new system of
warfare, one element of which consisted in kidnapping as many of the
enemy's officers as possible, without much reference to their importance
or otherwise!

But of course I should soon see; for as I lay there in the bottom of the
canoe, cogitating to this effect, I became aware, from the remarks
interchanged by those on deck, that I was about to be transferred to the
felucca; and if the Spaniards had adopted the novel system of kidnapping
British officers, I should doubtless find some of my fellow-officers on
board in the same plight as myself.

Presently Caesar swung himself over the felucca's bulwarks and down into
the canoe, when he at once seized me by the shoulders, and, calling upon
his friend Peter to lend him a hand, proceeded to pass me up over the
felucca's rail to the three Spanish-speaking individuals who stood on
deck stretching out their arms to receive me.  They were very careful
not to hurt me unnecessarily during the process of transfer, from which
circumstance I derived a certain amount of comfort; the inference being
that, whatever might be their motive in thus seizing me, no bodily harm
to me was intended.  Having safely transferred me from the canoe to the
deck of the felucca, my abductors next conveyed me below to the hot,
stuffy little cabin of the craft, where, outstretched upon a locker that
was barely long enough to accommodate my length, they left me without a
word, and returned to the deck, carefully closing the doors and drawing
over the slide at the head of the companion ladder, and then as
carefully closing both flaps of the hitherto open skylight.  This done,
their conversation with Caesar and his satellite was continued in a
leisurely, desultory fashion for about half an hour,--the burden of it
being unintelligible to me through the closed skylight,--when I heard
the two negroes descend into their canoe and shove off, wishing the
others a quick and pleasant passage.  Then followed some leisurely
movements on deck, accompanied by the throwing down of a rope or two,
the creaking of blocks and parralls, a _few_ quiet ejaculations as of
men pulling and hauling, the clink of windlass pawls, the loud slatting
of loose canvas in the strong land-breeze that was blowing; and
finally--as the latter sounds ceased--I felt the felucca heel strongly
over to port, and heard the increasing gurgle and wash of water along
the bends and under the counter of the little craft, accompanied by an
occasional call from for'ard to the helmsman, by which I knew that we
were under way, and standing down the harbour toward Port Royal.

By and by I felt the felucca come upright, there was a warning cry on
deck, a sudden, violent flap of canvas overhead, and the felucca heeled
slightly over to starboard; by which I knew that she had squared away,
jibed over, and was running out of the harbour.  A few minutes later I
felt her beginning to rise and fall over the gathering seas as she
skimmed away off the land; the motion steadily grew stronger, merging
into a swift, floating, forward rush, as the seas came up astern of her,
followed by a long, dragging pause as the crest swept past; and
presently the companion slide was pushed back, the doors at the head of
the ladder were flung open, and a man--one of those who had helped to
convey me below--descended into the cabin.

"Phew! senor, you are warm down here!" he exclaimed, in perfect English,
as he stood gazing thoughtfully down upon me.  I could of course make no
reply, as I was still gagged; but he probably observed the dreadful
condition that the gag and the lashings round my wrists and ankles had
reduced me to, for he continued, as he stooped over me--

"We are now at sea; and as it is therefore impossible for you to raise
an alarm, or effect your escape, I think I may safely make you a little
more comfortable.  You look terribly distressed, amigo; and my orders
are imperative that you are to be delivered safe and sound.  There!" as
he removed the gag and cast off the lashings, "that ought to be more to
your liking."

"For pity's sake," I ejaculated, "give me something to drink!  That
horrible gag has all but suffocated me!"

"Something to drink?  With pleasure, senor.  What shall it be--plain
water or `grog,' as you English call it?  I think it had better be grog,
for I cannot recommend the water we carry in our scuttle-butt."

So saying, he went to a little cupboard alongside the companion ladder,
and produced therefrom a water monkey, two tin pannikins, and a bottle
of rum, all of which he placed on the cabin table.

"There, senor, help yourself freely; the little _Josefa_ and all that
she contains is yours!"

"Thanks, senor," I replied, as I poured out with a shaking hand and
benumbed fingers a generous modicum of rum, filling up the pannikin with
evil-smelling water, "I drink to our better acquaintance."

So saying, I emptied the pannikin at a gulp, and set it down upon the
table.  "And now, senor," I continued, as my companion, in turn,
proceeded to help himself and to pledge me, "perhaps you will kindly
inform me, first, whom I have the honour to address; secondly, why I
have been brought aboard this felucca; and, thirdly, to what place you
propose to convey me?"

"Assuredly, senor," answered the Spaniard; "it will afford me much
happiness to gratify so very natural and reasonable a request.  In the
first place, senor, I am your Excellency's most humble servant, Juan
Dominguez, captain of this felucca.  In the next place, you are here by
order of my excellent friend and patron, Don Pedro Morillo, captain of
the brigantine _Guerrilla_; and, in the third place, I am conveying
you--also by Don Pedro's orders--to Cariacou, an island which I
understand you have already visited, under certain memorable
circumstances."

So that was it, was it?  I was kidnapped, not in accordance with some
wild scheme of the Spaniards to cripple our too active navy by robbing
it of every officer that they could lay hands upon, but in order that a
cowardly, bloodthirsty pirate might at leisure, and in safety, wreak his
revenge upon me for the injury that I, in the exercise of my duty, had
done him.  Speaking in all frankness, I do not believe I am a coward;
but I confess that the information thus calmly communicated to me by
this Spaniard--who was most probably a naturalised British subject--
caused my blood to run cold; for I had heard quite enough of Morillo to
feel tolerably well assured that if his motive in causing me to be
kidnapped was revenge, he would not be satisfied with merely shooting
me, or stabbing me to the heart; he would undoubtedly exercise his
utmost ingenuity to render my passage out of this world as lingering and
painful as possible; and, from all accounts, he was quite an adept in
the art of torture!

"You seem disturbed at my intelligence, amigo," remarked my companion,
gazing upon me with a smile of amusement.  "Well," he continued,
"perhaps you have cause to be; who knows?  I have heard that it was you
who, taking advantage of my friend's absence at sea, visited Cariacou
and destroyed poor Morillo's batteries and buildings there, carrying off
his brig and everything else that you and your crew could lay hands
upon.  I hope, for _your_ sake, that Morillo was misinformed, and that
you will be able to demonstrate to his complete satisfaction your entire
freedom from all complicity in that very ill-advised and malicious
transaction; he may then be content to simply hang you at his yardarm.
But if you fail to convince him--phew!  I sincerely pity you; I do
indeed, senor."

"Thanks, very much," retorted I, with the best attempt at sarcasm that I
could muster,--for I began to perceive that this fellow was amusing
himself by endeavouring to frighten me, and I did not intend to afford
him very much gratification in that way,--"your pity is infinitely
comforting to me, especially as it is evident to me that the feeling is
genuine.  May I ask whether your share in this present transaction is
undertaken purely out of friendship for Morillo, or is it being carried
out upon a business basis?"

"Well, to be strictly truthful, there is a little of both," answered
Dominguez.  "Why do you inquire, if it is not an indiscreet question?"

"Now," thought I, "I wonder whether this question of his is intended to
indicate that he is open to a bribe--a bribe to put me ashore again,
safe and sound, provided that I make him a sufficiently liberal offer.
Perhaps the attempt may be worth making; it will, at all events, enable
me to judge what are my chances, so far as he is concerned."  So I
replied--

"To be candid with you, friend Dominguez, it occurred to me that you had
undertaken this little adventure as much with the object of turning a
more or less honest penny as for any other reason.  Now, supposing that
I should experience any difficulty in satisfying Morillo upon the point
that you just now referred to, what do you imagine will be the result?
Something exceedingly unpleasant for me, I assume, since you were good
enough to express pity for me."

"Something exceedingly unpleasant?" he repeated, with a laugh.  "Well,
yes, that is one way of putting it, certainly, but it is a very mild
way; so ridiculously mild that it suggests no idea of what was in my
mind when I said I pitied you.  Flaying alive is unpleasant, so is being
roasted alive over a slow fire, so is gradual dismemberment--a finger or
a toe at a time, then a hand or a foot, and so on until only the trunk
remains,--all these are unpleasant, _exceedingly_ so, I should imagine,
from what I have seen of the behaviour of those who have undergone those
operations at my friend's hand; but in the contingency you just now
suggested, I fancy that Morillo would do his best to devise something
considerably better--or worse, whichever you please to call it--for
_you_."

I shuddered, and a feeling of horrible sickness swept over me.  Strive
as I would, I could not help it, as this inhuman wretch spoke, with
evident gusto, of the torments to which I might--failing Morillo's
ability to devise still greater refinements of cruelty--be subjected.
But by the time that he had finished speaking, I had succeeded in
rallying my courage sufficiently to remark--

"Thanks; your reply to my question leaves nothing to be desired in the
way of lucidity.  Now, supposing I should happen to feel some repugnance
to those delicate attentions on Morillo's part that you have just
alluded to, what inducement would be sufficient to persuade you to 'bout
ship, and land me on the wharf at Kingston, instead of at Cariacou?"

"Ah," replied Dominguez, "that is a question that is not to be answered
off-hand; there are several points that occur to me as requiring careful
consideration before I could name the sum that would induce me to act as
you wish.  Of course you will understand that I have no personal animus
against you; you have never injured me, and therefore I have no feeling
of revenge to gratify by delivering you into Morillo's power.  But, on
the other hand, Morillo is my friend, and I am always glad to oblige him
when I can, particularly when, as in the present case, I am well paid
for it.  Now, if I were to act as you suggest, I should be thwarting,
instead of obliging him; I should convert him from a friend into an
enemy; and I think that you are now in a position to understand what
that means.  It means that I should be compelled to _disappear_ as
completely as though the ground had opened and swallowed me; because it
is one of Morillo's characteristics that, while he is a staunch and
generous friend, he is also a bitter and relentless enemy.  He _never_
forgives; so long as his enemy lives, he will never rest until he has
been revenged upon him.  And this reminds me that if you and I should
succeed in coming to an arrangement, you must not regard the matter
between yourself and Morillo as settled; I warn you that you will have
to maintain a ceaseless watch, for so long as you and he live he will
never relax his efforts to get you into his power.  Afloat, and with a
greatly superior force, you _may_ reckon yourself to be reasonably safe;
but _ashore_--no!  Very well.  Now, what I have told you will enable you
to understand my position in relation to this matter: at present I am
his friend, but I have his enemy in my power; and if I aid and abet that
enemy to escape I become his enemy, which will necessitate my prompt
retreat to the other side of the world, to begin life afresh, with the
haunting feeling that, go where I will and do what I may, I am _never
safe_!  That alone points to a necessary demand on my part of a
considerable sum--a _very_ considerable sum--from you as compensation
for the many serious inconveniences and dangers that must inevitably
follow upon my falling in with your proposal.  But that is not all.
There is my mate, Miguel, and the lad Luis, for'ard; both of them would
require some very substantial inducement to lead them to fall in with
our views.  Altogether, I should say that what you propose would
probably cost you--well, at least, ten thousand pounds."

"Ten thousand pounds?"  I ejaculated.  "Nonsense, man; you must be
dreaming.  Why, I could no more raise ten thousand pounds than I could
fly."

"No?" he queried coolly; "not even to save yourself from--"

"Not even to save myself from the utmost refinement of cruelty that your
friend Morillo is capable of devising," I answered decisively.

"Pardon me, senor, but I can scarcely believe you," retorted Dominguez,
with that hateful, sneering smile of his.  "You have been exceptionally
fortunate in the matter of prizes since your arrival in these waters,
and I feel convinced that in prize money alone you must now have a very
handsome sum standing to your credit.  Then, if I am correctly informed,
you have made many friends.  You are, for instance, a great favourite
with the admiral, who would doubtless be willing to advance a very
considerable sum to help you out of your present exceedingly
disagreeable predicament; and I have no doubt there are others who would
be equally willing to help you if your position were clearly laid before
them."

"But, man alive, I cannot do it," I exclaimed angrily.  "So far as prize
money is concerned, I suppose three thousand pounds is the very utmost
that I possess.  And as for the admiral, I am no more to him than any
other officer, and I am certain that he would absolutely refuse to
advance a single penny-piece for such a purpose as you suggest; to do so
would simply be offering an inducement to you--and others like you--to
kidnap officers, and then hold them to ransom.  But I tell you what it
is," I continued; "you may rest assured of this, that if any harm
befalls me,--if, in short, you deliver me into Morillo's power,--the
admiral will make you suffer as severely for it as Morillo himself could
possibly do.  So there you are, between two fires; and, if you care for
my opinion, it is that the admiral is likely to prove a worse enemy to
you than even Morillo over this business."

"That, possibly, might be the case if the admiral happened to discover
that I have been implicated in it," replied my companion, with
exasperating composure.  "But then, you see, he never will!  I have
taken every possible precaution against that."

"How about Caesar and Peter, the two negroes who brought me aboard
here?"  I inquired.

"Pshaw!" answered Dominguez impatiently, "do you suppose they would
inform against me?  Not they.  Why, they are both--well, never mind what
they are, except that I feel perfectly safe, so far as they are
concerned."

"Very well," I retorted, "time will show whether your confidence in them
is well founded or not.  Meanwhile, my position is such that three
thousand pounds is the outside figure I can offer you as my ransom, and
you may take it or leave it as you please."

"Then I fear, amigo, that your days are numbered," replied Dominguez
composedly, as he rose from his seat preparatory to returning on deck.
"I am sorry for you," he continued, "very sorry; but I _must_ think of
myself before all else, and three thousand is not nearly tempting
enough.  Possibly when you have had a little longer to think it over you
will be able to see your way to make a very considerable advance upon
that sum.  There is plenty of time; the _Josefa_ is a grand little ship,
but she has one fault, she is slow, and I do not expect that we shall
reach Cariacou in less than a full week.  You have therefore six or
seven days before you in which to consider the matter; and should you
see your way to raise the ten thousand, at any time before we sight the
island, I shall be happy to talk with you again.  Meanwhile, there is
your bunk.  Will you turn in at once, or would you prefer to take a turn
on deck first?"

"Thanks," answered I, with alacrity, delighted to discover that I was
not to be confined to the cabin.  "I think I will go on deck for half an
hour or so, to get a breath of fresh air; it is rather close down here."

"As you will," returned Dominguez, amicably enough; "I have no fear of
your attempting to escape.  You are scarcely likely, I think, to go
overboard and offer yourself as a meal to the sharks.  Do you smoke?  I
can recommend these," as he drew from a locker a box of cigars.

I helped myself to one mechanically, and lit it, Dominguez following my
example, and then politely offering me precedence up the companion
ladder.  I accepted the courtesy, and made my way somewhat stiffly up
the steep steps; for my limbs were still cramped from the compression of
the ligatures wherewith I had been bound.  After what I had passed
through it was an inexpressible relief to me to find myself once more
breathing the free, pure air of heaven, with the star-spangled sky
arching grandly overhead.

It was a brilliantly fine night,--or morning rather, for it was by this
time past two o'clock a.m.,--the sky cloudless save for a small shred of
thin, wool-like vapour skimming rapidly athwart the stars; the trade
wind was blowing a moderate breeze, and the felucca was bruising along
on an easy bowline with long, swinging plunges and soarings over the
low, jet-black, glistening surges at a pace of some five and a half
knots perhaps, with a perfect thunder of roaring, breaking seas under
her bluff bows, and a belt of winking, sparkling sea-fire, a couple of
fathoms wide, sweeping past her lee rail and swirling into the broad,
short wake that she trailed behind her.  The land was still clearly in
sight on our port quarter, the range of the Liguanea Mountains towering
high into the star-lit sky and gradually sloping away to the eastward in
the direction of Morant Point.  Beside Dominguez and myself there was
but one other figure visible on deck, that of the man at the helm--a
long, thin, weedy-looking figure, so far as I could make out in the
ghostly starlight, but one who had evidently used the sea for some time,
if one might judge by the easy, floating poise of his figure on the
plunging deck as he stood on the weather side of the tiller, with the
tiller rope lightly grasped in his right hand, swaying rhythmically to
the leaps and plunges of the little hooker.  As Dominguez followed me
out on deck he stepped aft to the small, dimly lighted binnacle, glanced
into it, made some brief remark in a low tone to the silent helmsman,
walked forward and took a long look ahead and on both bows, and then,
returning aft, excused himself to me for turning in, upon the plea that
it would soon be his watch on deck, and so dived below and left me.

Left thus to myself, I fell to mechanically pacing the short deck of the
felucca for a few minutes, smoking thoughtfully the while and turning
over in my mind the disquieting conversation that had just passed
between Dominguez and myself; then, my gaze happening to wander aft to
the solitary figure at the tiller, I sauntered aft and endeavoured to
strike up a conversation with him.  The fellow, however, proved to be so
boorish and saturnine in his manner that I quickly abandoned the attempt
and, pitching my half-smoked cigar over the rail, retired below and
tumbled, "all standing," into the bunk that Dominguez had indicated as
mine, where, despite the food for serious reflection that the
occurrences of the night afforded me, I soon fell into a sound sleep.

The week that succeeded my abduction was so utterly barren of events
that it may be passed over with the mere remark that throughout the
whole of the time we had perfect weather, with a steady, moderate trade
wind, under the impulsion of which the felucca bruised along upon her
proper course, reeling off her five to six knots per hour with the
regularity of a clock; and during the whole of that time, strange to
say, we sighted not a single sail.  I had been by no means idle during
this time, however, as may well be supposed; for every day at noon saw
the little hooker a hundred and thirty to a hundred and fifty miles
nearer the spot where, if nothing happened in the interim to prevent it,
I was to be delivered into the hands of a fiend in human form, whose
hatred of me was so intense and vindictive that he had taken a
considerable amount of trouble, and put himself to considerable expense,
merely to get me into his power and wreak a blood-curdling revenge upon
me.

But to tamely submit to be thus handed over to Morillo's tender mercies
was the very last thing that I contemplated.  I had every reason to
believe that the picture drawn by Dominguez of the form which Morillo's
revenge would probably take was a tolerably truthful one; and while I
was prepared to face death in any form at a moment's notice in the way
of duty, I had not the remotest intention of permitting myself to be
tortured to death merely to gratify the ferocity of a piratical outlaw,
if I could possibly help it.  So for the first three or four days I
devoted myself wholly to the task of endeavouring to bribe my custodians
to forego their intention of handing me over to Morillo, and to land me
upon the nearest British territory instead.  But I by and by made the
discovery that my efforts in this direction were doomed to failure;
Dominguez was clearly so profoundly impressed with Morillo's power, and
with his tenacious memory for injuries, that the conviction had borne
itself in upon him that if he yielded to my persuasions it would be
absolutely necessary to his safety, not only to buy over the whole of
those engaged upon the business of my abduction, but also to place the
whole width of the globe between himself and Morillo; and to execute
these little matters satisfactorily would, according to his own
calculations, necessitate the disbursement on my part of the modest
amount of ten thousand pounds sterling, a sum which, as I explained to
him over and over again, it was utterly beyond my power to raise.  It
was not that Dominguez was grasping or avaricious; it was simply that he
regarded a certain course of action necessary to his own safety and
well-being, in the event of his consenting to yield to my wishes; and as
he had no intention of suffering any pecuniary or other loss or damage
by so yielding, it appeared to him that the thing could not be done
under the sum he had named, and there was the whole matter in a nut-
shell.  The attempt at bribery having thus resulted in failure, there
remained to me but one other alternative, that of a resort to force--
myself against Dominguez and the two men who formed his crew.  For, come
what would, I was firmly resolved never to suffer myself to be delivered
alive into Morillo's hands; if it was my doom to die at the end of this
adventure, I would die fighting.  So, while feigning to yield to the
inexorable force of circumstances, I began to meditate upon the most
promising means whereby to escape from the exceedingly unpleasant
dilemma in which I found myself involved; and after giving the whole
matter my most careful attention, I came to the conclusion that my
simplest plan would be to take--or attempt to take--the felucca from
Dominguez and his associates, and, having done so, make for the nearest
British harbour.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

I SEIZE THE FELUCCA.

Having come to this conclusion, the next thing was to devise a plan of
some sort; but upon attempting to do this, I soon discovered that it was
wholly impossible, so much depending upon circumstances over which I had
no control whatever, that I might have formed a dozen plans with never a
chance to carry any one of them through.  The only thing, therefore, was
to await an opportunity, and be prepared to seize it the moment that it
presented itself.  Perhaps the most difficult part of my task was to
preserve all through this trying time such a demeanour as would
effectually conceal from Dominguez the fact that I was alert and on the
watch for something; but I managed it somehow, by leading him to believe
that, rather than suffer torture, I had determined to provoke Morillo
into killing me outright; a plan of which Dominguez highly approved,
while expressing his doubts as to the possibility of its achievement.

In suggesting--as I find I have in the above paragraph--that I had no
plan whatever, I have perhaps conveyed a wrong impression; what I
intended the reader to understand was that I had no _finished_ scheme,
complete in all its details, to depend upon.  A plan of a sort I
certainly had, but it was of the vaguest and most nebulous kind,
consisting in nothing more specific than the mere determination to seize
the felucca at the first favourable opportunity, and sail her, single-
handed, to the nearest British port; but of _how_ this was to be
accomplished I had not the most remote idea.  The only point upon which
I was at all clear was that it would be inadvisable, for two reasons, to
make my attempt too early: my first reason for arriving at this
conclusion being that, the longer I deferred action the nearer should we
be to Barbadoes, for which island I intended to make; while my second
reason was that, should Dominguez perchance suspect me of any sinister
design, the longer the delay on my part the less suspicious and watchful
would he be likely to become.  Fortunately for my purpose, we were
making rather a long passage of it, the little hooker not being by any
means a particularly weatherly craft; consequently our first land-fall--
on our sixth day out--was the curious shoal and accompanying group of
rocky islets called Los Roques, or The Roccas, off La Guayra, close to
which we hove about and stood to the northward on the starboard tack.

This occurred during the early morning, about an hour after sunrise.
The trade wind was then blowing steadily but moderately, and the weather
was, as usual, fine and clear.  Toward noon, however, it became
noticeable that the wind was very decidedly softening down; and when
Dominguez took his meridian observation of the sun, we were not going
more than four knots.  It was the custom aboard the felucca to dine in
the middle of the day, as soon as Dominguez had worked out his
calculations, the skipper and I dining first, and then going on deck
while Miguel, the mate, took his meal.  While Miguel was below Dominguez
usually took the tiller, but of late I had occasionally relieved him--
with a vague idea that possibly it might, at some opportune moment, be
an advantage for me to be at the helm.  And, as it happened, I chanced
to be first on deck on this particular day, and, without any
premeditation, went aft and relieved Miguel; so that, when a few minutes
later Dominguez came on deck, he found me in possession of the tiller,
and staring intently at some floating object about a quarter of a mile
away, and slightly on our weather bow, that kept rising into view and
vanishing again as the long, lazy undulations of the swell swept past
it.

"What are you staring at so hard, Senor Courtenay?  Do you see
anything?" demanded Dominguez, as he sauntered aft toward me from the
companion, cigar in mouth.

"Yes," answered I, replying to his last question first, "there is
something out there, but what it is I cannot for the life of me make
out.  There--there it is!  You can see it now lifting on the back of the
swell, about a point on the weather bow."

"Ay," he answered eagerly, "I see it, and, unless I am greatly mistaken,
I know what it is.  Keep her away a little, senor, if you please; let
her go off a point.  I do not want to pass too close to that object if
it be what I imagine."

"And pray what do you imagine it to be, senor, if one may be permitted
to ask the question?" inquired I, as I gave a pull upon the tiller rope
and kept the felucca away, as requested.

"A turtle! a sleeping turtle, and an unusually fine one, too!" answered
Dominguez, in a low voice, as he stood staring out away over the weather
bow, with one hand shading his eyes while the other held his smouldering
cigar.

As Dominguez spoke a little thrill of sudden excitement swept over me,
for I thought, "Just so; I know what he means.  He intends to make an
effort to capture that turtle,--probably by means of the boat,--and, if
he does, my chance will have come!"  But I steadied myself instantly,
and returned, in a perfectly nonchalant tone of voice--

"And supposing that it be, as you imagine, a sleeping turtle, what then,
senor?"

"Hush, senor, I pray you!" replied Dominguez, in a low, excited whisper.
"Keep silence; you will soon see!"

Presently the object lifted into view again, only some ten or a dozen
fathoms away; and as it went drifting quietly past, we got so distinct
and prolonged a view of it as to render its identity unquestionable.  It
was, as Dominguez had imagined, a sleeping turtle of enormous size.

"Holy Virgin, what a magnificent fellow!" ejaculated Dominguez, as the
creature vanished in the trough on our weather quarter, "we _must_ have
him!  Senor, if we lower the sail, so that the felucca cannot drift far,
will you have any objection to being left by yourself for a few minutes,
while Miguel and I and the boy go after that turtle with the boat?" he
demanded eagerly.

So my chance _had_ come, if I could but so demean myself for a _few_
minutes as not to arouse the suspicions of this man by any ill-timed
exhibition of eagerness or too earnest assent to his proposal.  I took a
second or two to steady my nerves, and then asked--

"Cannot we _all_ go in the boat together?  I have never yet seen a
turtle captured, and should greatly like to witness the operation."

"No, senor; I am sorry, but it is out of the question," answered
Dominguez hastily.  "The boat is but small, and I am very doubtful
whether she will be capable of carrying three of us and that great
brute--if we are so fortunate as to catch him.  I would send Miguel and
Luis only, but that I know they would not be able to secure him unaided.
We shall not be gone long, senor, and the felucca _cannot_ drift far in
this light breeze and with so little swell running."

"N-o, I suppose not," I answered, with just the slightest imaginable
show of reluctance.  "All right, senor," I continued, "away with you, by
all means; I should be sorry to spoil your sport for you.  Shall I lower
the sail?"

"Not just for a moment, senor," answered Dominguez; "we must creep far
enough away that the flapping of the canvas may not wake our friend
yonder, or we shall lose him."  Then, poking his head through the open
skylight, he called softly, in Spanish--

"Miguel!  Miguel! come on deck at once, friend; there is a large turtle
out here floating, fast asleep, and I want to catch him."

Miguel mumbled a reply of some sort,--what it was I could not tell,--and
Dominguez briskly withdrew his head from the skylight and sprang upon
the rail, looking away out on the weather quarter for the turtle.  It
was still visible, at intervals, but fully a quarter of a mile astern
now.

"There, that will do; we are far enough away now, I think," he muttered,
stepping lightly off the felucca's low rail to the deck.  "Here,
Miguel," as that worthy emerged from the companion, wiping his lips with
the back of his hand, "help me to lower the sail, quick!  And you, Senor
Courtenay, will you do me the favour to haul taut the sheet as the sail
comes down, so that it may not flap about and make more noise than we
can help?"

"Certainly," I answered cheerfully, letting go the tiller rope and
seizing the fall of the sheet.  "Lower away whenever you like."

The single lateen sail, stretched upon its long, heavy, tapering yard,
came sliding down the mast, rustling heavily, despite all that I could
do to prevent it; and presently it lay quiescent, stretched along the
deck, with the after yardarm projecting far over the taffrail.  I sprang
up on the companion slide to see whether the turtle was still visible,
and was rejoiced to find that he _was_,--floating, an unconspicuous and
unrecognisable object by this time,--nearly half a mile away, apparently
quite undisturbed by the rustling sounds of the canvas.

"Is he still there, senor?" demanded Dominguez, in an eager half-
whisper.

I nodded, pointing silently to where I could see the creature appearing
at intervals on the ridges and backs of the swell.

"Good!" ejaculated Dominguez.  "Now, where is Luis?  Oh, here you are!"
as that individual poked his head up through the fore-scuttle to see
what was going on, his still working jaws betraying that he too had been
disturbed during the process of consuming the midday meal.  "Just look
into the boat, Luis, my son, and see that the oars and baler are in her,
while Miguel and I unship the gangway.  Can you still see him, Senor
Courtenay?"

"Yes," I replied, "he is still there, but a long way off now.  I think I
had better keep my eye on him, and direct you by an occasional wave of
the hand, as you pull down, or you will have a job to find him."

"Thank you," answered Dominguez; "if it will not be troubling you too
much I shall be greatly obliged."

"Oh, no trouble at all," responded I.  "I should stand here to watch the
fun in any case."

Dominguez and Miguel soon managed, between them, to unship the gangway,
which done, they lifted the boat--a mere dinghy--out of her chocks on
top of the main hatchway, slued her bows round toward the gangway, and
ran her over the side, fisherman fashion, the three of them immediately
jumping in and shoving off from the felucca's side; Dominguez, who
steered the boat, looking round at me from time to time for directions
as to the way in which he was to head the boat.

Released now from the scrutiny of the Spaniard's eyes, it was no longer
necessary for me to maintain that painful self-restraint which had cost
me so severe an effort in order that I might not by look or gesture
arouse the ghost of a suspicion as to my intentions; so, while I
continued to mechanically wave the boat to the right or the left, as
circumstances demanded, I now gave my mind to the task of determining
the details of my proposed line of action.

To begin with, I was fully resolved that Dominguez and his companions
having left the felucca, they should never again return to her, if I
could possibly prevent it.  At the right moment I would make sail upon
the little craft and head her for Barbadoes, leaving them to get ashore
as best they could.  And here my conscience pricked me a little, for I
had already had experience of a voyage in an open boat, and knew what it
meant.  On the other hand, however, my life was at stake; for it had by
this time become perfectly apparent to me that unless I could raise the
sum of ten thousand pounds demanded by Dominguez--which was a simple
impossibility--that individual would most certainly deliver me over to
Morillo; in which case there was every reason to believe that I should
die a cruel and lingering death of torment--which I considered myself
quite justified in avoiding by every means in my power.  Moreover, we
were not very far from the land.  The Roccas were only some twenty-five
miles away, at the utmost, and could easily be reached by Dominguez
before midnight; and the weather was fine, and the water smooth.  The
voyage of the dinghy was therefore not likely to be of a very
adventurous or dangerous character; so that, by taking possession of the
felucca and turning the Spaniard and his companions adrift, I should
only be inflicting upon them a very mild punishment for their unlawful
seizure of my person, especially when the cruel object of that seizure
came to be taken into consideration.  I would not leave them, however,
wholly without provisions and water, if I could help it.  My first
thought, therefore, was how I might be able to convey to them a small
supply of each without affording them an opportunity to regain
possession of the felucca; and after a few minutes' deliberation I
thought I could see a way by which this might be accomplished.

Meanwhile the dinghy went drifting rapidly away astern, propelled by
Miguel and Luis, who stood up at their oars, looking ahead, while
Dominguez stood up in the stern-sheets, looking over their shoulders and
occasionally glancing back at me for guidance.  At length, however, he
caught sight for himself of the turtle, and thenceforward kept his
attention wholly fixed upon it.  As soon as I became fully satisfied of
this I jumped down off the companion, for the moment for action on my
part had now arrived.

The first thing was to get sail upon the felucca again; and to masthead
the long, heavy lateen yard, with its big sail, was no easy task for one
man.  There was, however, a little winch affixed to the fore part of the
mast, chiefly used for this very purpose; so, upon jumping down off the
companion, my first act was to assure myself that the mainsheet was
securely belayed, after which I rushed forward, and, setting hand-taut
the main halliard, threw two or three turns of the fall round the barrel
of the winch.  I then ran aft again and sprang once more upon the
companion to see what was happening aboard the dinghy.  She was by this
time drawing pretty close up to the sleeping turtle, and the whole
attention of the trio aboard her appeared to be absorbed in the effort
to get alongside the creature without waking him.  Now, therefore, was
my time for action.  I accordingly dashed forward to the mast, and,
shipping the crank handle of the winch, hove away upon the halliard for
dear life.  The yard and sail crept slowly--oh, how _very_ slowly--up
the mast, the canvas rustling in the wind noisily enough to wake the
dead, still more to reach the ears and give the alarm to those in the
dinghy.  But, having once begun, there was nothing now for it but to go
on with the work, and get the yard mastheaded and good way upon the
felucca before those in the dinghy could pull back and get alongside.

At length, after what seemed to be an interminable time,--although the
rapid _click, click_ of the pawls told me that in reality I was
accomplishing my task very smartly,--I managed to get the yard some two-
thirds of the way up the mast, when I took a turn with the halliards and
once more rushed aft to get a look at the boat.  As I had expected, the
slatting of the canvas had reached and given them the alarm, and the
boat was now round and heading back after the felucca, Miguel and
Dominguez straining frantically at the oars, while Luis had taken the
place of the latter at the tiller.  The little craft was being pushed
furiously along--as I could tell by the manner in which her nose dipped
and the white foam boiled round it at every stroke of the oars; but the
felucca was gathering way, and with the wind square abeam and her
imperfectly hoisted sail ramping full, seemed to be quite holding her
own.  I seized the tiller and kept her away another point, carefully
watching both her progress and that of the boat, and ten minutes later I
experienced the satisfying, conviction that she was steadily leaving her
pursuers.  Once fully assured of this, I lashed the tiller, and once
more running forward, completed the setting of the sail, when I let the
little hooker come up to "full and by."

The next matter demanding my attention was that of conveying a supply of
food and water to the luckless occupants of the dinghy without
permitting them to come alongside.  There were several small breakers of
fresh water on deck, constituting the supply of the felucca, and one of
these would be ample for the occupants of the dinghy until they could
get ashore or were picked up--indeed, the boat had not capacity for more
than one.  They were all carefully bunged with cork and canvas, so I
could safely launch one of them overboard for the dinghy to pick up.  I
therefore proceeded to unlash one and roll it toward the still open
gangway; and then came the question of provisions.  There was a large
wash-deck tub on the forecastle which I knew to be water-tight, and it
struck me that this might be utilised to float the dry provisions until
the dinghy could pick them up; so--first making sure of the position of
the boat--I dived below and routed out of Dominguez' bunk a large canvas
ditty-bag that I had often seen there, and, emptying out the clothing
which it contained, proceeded to fill it with bread and such other
provisions as I could most readily lay hands on.  This, when full, I
tied securely at the neck and took on deck, placing it in the wash-deck
tub after I had dragged the latter conveniently close to the gangway.
Then, going below again, I brought up three plates, some knives and
forks, three tin pannikins, and a few other oddments that I knew would
be useful, and placed them in the wash-deck tub with the provisions.
Then, when I thought that all was ready, the boat's mast and sail caught
my eye as it lay upon the hatchway,--having been flung there by Luis
when he cleared out the boat,--and this I determined they should also
have, as, while quite resolved to abandon them, I was most anxious that
they should be afforded every opportunity to reach the shore alive and
well.  Then, everything being ready, I once more ran aft to see
whereabout the boat now was.

She was a long way astern--quite two miles--and, as I looked, it
appeared as though Dominguez had already given up the pursuit, for the
boat did not seem to be moving.  Her occupants were, however, all on
their feet, staring hard in my direction and waving their arms
frantically.  I therefore put the helm up, and, jibing round, proceeded
to run down toward them.  This was rather a risky thing to do, but I
thought that with care I could accomplish what I wanted, and still evade
recapture.  When they saw me returning for them--as they doubtless
thought--they started pulling again for a minute or two, then once more
lay upon their oars, watching.  On my part I also was careful to keep a
keen watch upon their movements, my intention being to pass within
hailing distance of them, if possible, without giving them a chance to
dash alongside.  That this was their intention I soon became aware, for
as the felucca swept down toward them I could see that their oars were
in the water and that they were quietly manoeuvring to get the dinghy
head-on and as close as possible to the spot over which they expected me
to pass.  But I was not to be quite so easily caught napping; so,
carefully measuring the distance with my eye, I again put the helm up,
just at the right moment, and, sweeping past the dinghy within half a
dozen fathoms, hailed her discomfited occupants somewhat to this
effect:--

"Dinghy ahoy!  I am not going to allow you to come alongside again, so I
would recommend you to make the best of your way to the Roccas, which,
as you know, bear south-south-west, some twenty-five miles distant.  I
have no doubt that, if you can reach them, you are certain to be taken
off sooner or later.  Meanwhile, I do not wish you to starve, so I am
going to launch overboard some provisions and water for you to pick up;
also the boat's mast and sail.  The weather promises to hold fine, so
you ought to make a fairly good and quick passage of it."

Meanwhile, the moment that Dominguez became aware of what I was doing he
swept the boat round with a couple of powerful strokes of his oar, and
once again they gave chase with might and main, Dominguez at the same
time shouting to me that if I would allow them to return on board they
would land me wherever I pleased, and never ask so much as a penny-piece
by way of ransom.  Could I have trusted the fellow, I would willingly
have acceded to his proposal; but I could not.  He had already shown
himself to be so coldly callous, so absolutely indifferent to the
fearful fate to which he had undertaken to consign me, that I felt it
would be the sheerest, most insane folly to place myself in his power
again.  I therefore kept the felucca away until I found that she was
rather more than holding her own in the race, when I once more lashed
the tiller, and, calling to Dominguez to look out for the things that I
was about to launch overboard, ran to the gangway, and first
successfully set the wash-deck tub afloat, then rolled the breaker of
water out through the open _gangway_, and finally sent the mast and sail
adrift; after which I returned to the tiller and watched the process of
picking up the several articles, as I gradually brought the felucca to
her former course, close-hauled upon the starboard tack.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

HEAVY WEATHER.

The provisions, water, and the mast and sail were all successfully
secured by the occupants of the boat, after which Dominguez, to my great
satisfaction, made sail to the southward, and in another hour his tiny
speck of canvas had vanished beyond the horizon.  This left me free to
attend to my own necessities without further anxiety on the score of
being boarded; I therefore once more lashed the tiller in such a
position that the felucca would practically steer herself, and then,
having first taken a good look round, to see if anything was in sight,
proceeded below, found the chart which Dominguez had been using, and
ascertained the bearing and distance of the island of Barbadoes.  A
careful study of this chart revealed the rather disconcerting fact that,
taking into consideration the circumstance that Barbadoes was to
windward, while Jamaica lay well to leeward of me, it would be almost as
quick to return to the latter as it would be to beat out to the former.
On the other hand, however, there was this to be taken into
consideration, that, on a wind, the felucca might be made to practically
steer herself, as I had already ascertained by experiment, while it was
quite certain that she could not be persuaded to do any such thing while
running _off_ the wind.  Moreover, by ratching far enough to the
northward to enable the felucca to fetch Barbadoes on the next tack, I
should be stretching away in a fairly promising direction for being
picked up by one of the many British cruisers that were watching the
principal outlets from the Caribbean to the Atlantic.  After mature
deliberation, therefore, I arrived at the conclusion that I could not do
better than adhere to my original determination of trying for Barbadoes.

The next question was, how I was to dispose of my time, or rather, what
portion of my time it would be best to devote to sleep.  One fact stared
me in the face at the outset, namely, that until I was once more safe
ashore I should have to make shift with the smallest possible amount of
sleep, the care of the felucca calling for my almost constant attention;
consequently, I should have to so arrange my periods of rest that they
would coincide with the times when the felucca could best be left to
take care of herself.  These periods would obviously occur during the
hours of daylight, when it would be possible to take a good look round,
and if nothing was in sight, or likely to approach within dangerous
proximity for an hour or two, lie down on deck in the shadow of the
sail, snatch a short nap, and then take another look round; repeating
the process as often as possible throughout the day, in order that I
might be fresh and lively for an unbroken watch through the hours of
darkness.  Having arrived at this conclusion, I forthwith proceeded to
carry out my plan, and found it to act fairly well; the only drawback
being, that, for want of watching, the felucca evinced a tendency to run
a little off the wind, while, when I attempted to remedy this by lashing
the helm an inch or two less a-weather, she erred to about the same
extent in the other direction by gradually coming-to until her sail was
all shaking, and I had to jump hurriedly to my feet and jam the helm
hard up to prevent her from coming round upon the other tack.  Little by
little, however, I remedied both these defects, so that by sunset I had
her going along just "full and by," almost as steadily as though I had
been standing at the tiller and steering her.

Meanwhile, the wind, which had been very moderate all day, with a
distinctly perceptible disposition to become still lighter, had
gradually softened down until the little hooker was barely doing her
three knots per hour, while the sea had dwindled away until only the
long, regular undulations of the swell were left, these being overrun by
a wrinkling of those small, uncrested wavelets that frequently precede
the setting-in of a calm.  Yet there was no reason why a calm should be
anticipated, for I was in a region where the trade wind blows all the
year round, except when, for a few hours, it gives place to one of the
hurricanes that occasionally sweep over the Caribbean with devastating
effect.  Could it be possible that such a phenomenon was about to
happen?  There was no especial reason why it might not be so, for it was
the "hurricane season."  But there was no sign in the heavens of any
approaching atmospheric disturbance--unless, indeed, that faint,
scarcely perceptible, hazy appearance up aloft had a sinister meaning!

When the sun had declined to within a few minutes of his setting, I
shinned up the mast and took a good look round; but there was nothing in
sight.  Waiting, therefore, until the sun had sunk below the horizon,--
which he did in the midst of a thin, smoky haze, through which the
rayless luminary glowed like a ball of red-hot iron,--I descended to the
deck and forthwith set to work to prepare myself such a supper as the
meagre resources of the felucca permitted; after discussing which, as
the stars were shining brilliantly overhead, and the little craft was
steering herself, I again stretched myself out on deck to snatch another
nap.

I this time slept for several hours, for when I was at length awakened
by the rustling of the sail it was close upon midnight.  Starting to my
feet, I first glanced aloft and then around me; but there was nothing to
be seen, the darkness being so profound that it needed but a very small
stretch of the imagination to persuade me that it might absolutely be
felt!  It was the thick, opaque darkness that I remembered having once
experienced when, as a boy, I went exploring some Devonshire caverns and
clumsily allowed my candle to fall and become extinguished in a pool of
water.  It seemed to press upon me, to become palpable to the touch, to
so closely wrap me about that my very breathing became impeded.  And oh,
how frightfully hot and close it was!  The air was absolutely stagnant,
and the slight draught created by the uneasy motion of the felucca
seemed to positively scorch the skin.  Moreover, there was no dew; the
deck-planks, the rail, everything that my hand came into contact with,
was dry and warm.  I groped my way to the rail and looked abroad over
the surface of the ocean, and it will perhaps convey--at all events to
those who have used the sea--some idea of the intensity of the darkness
when I say that not the faintest glimmer of reflected light came to me
from the polished undulations of the slow-creeping swell.  The water,
however, was highly phosphorescent, for alongside the felucca, and all
round her as she rolled and pitched with a quick, jerky, uneasy motion,
there extended a narrow band or cloud of faint greenish-blue sea-fire,
in the midst of which flashed and glittered millions of tiny stars,
interspersed here and there with less luminous patches, in the forms of
rings and discs, that vanished and grew into view again at quick
intervals in the most weird and uncanny manner.

I groped my way to the companion, and from thence below into the little
cabin, where I lighted the lamp and seated myself at the table, well
under its cheerful if somewhat smoky beams; for the grave-like darkness
of the deck had oppressed me with a feeling very nearly akin to horror,
and even the dull yellow light of the lamp seemed inexpressibly cheerful
in comparison with it.  There was no barometer aboard the felucca, so I
had nothing to guide me to the meaning of the weather portents, but I
was convinced that something out of the common--something more than a
mere thunder-squall--was brewing; and, if so, I should probably have my
hands full in taking care of the felucca, with nobody to help me.
Still, so awkward a condition of affairs was preferable to that of being
delivered over to Morillo, for him to work his fiendish will upon me.

The cabin was much too hot to be comfortable, so, having quickly
conquered the feeling of depression produced by the darkness that had
preceded the lighting of the cabin lamp, I helped myself to one of
Dominguez' excellent cigars, and, lighting it, went on deck, where the
dull gleam of the lamp, issuing from the small glazed skylight, now made
quite a pleasant little patch of yellow radiance on the deck and
bulwarks immediately adjacent.  I was by this time broad awake, having
secured all the rest and sleep I just then needed; so I fell to pacing
to and fro over the small patch of illuminated deck, determined to watch
the matter out.

I might have been thus engaged for about an hour, when I became aware
that the darkness was no longer so densely and oppressively profound as
it had been; there was just the faintest imaginable gleam of light in
the sky, whereby it was possible to barely distinguish that the
firmament was packed with vast, piling masses of heavy, menacing cloud.
Very gradually the light strengthened, assuming, as it did so, a
lowering, ruddy tint, until in the course of half an hour the whole sky
had the appearance that is seen when it reflects a great but distant
conflagration.  And now I knew of a surety that a hurricane was brewing;
for that fearful ruddy light in the sky was the self-same appearance
that I had once before beheld when in the _Althea's_ gig I had been
attempting to make my way to Bermuda.  There was no mistaking the sign,
for it was one that, once seen, could never be forgotten.

And now, the storm-fiend having unfurled his fiery banner, and thus
given warning of impending war, my time of inaction was over; for there
was plenty to do before the felucca could be considered as prepared to
engage in the coming struggle.  And, at the best, the preparation could
only be a partial one; for the craft was not only small, she was old,
crazy, and miserably weak for the ordeal that lay before her; and it was
not in my power to remedy so serious a defect as tint.  All that I could
do was to take in the great lateen sail and secure it, and substitute
for it, if I could, some very much smaller piece of canvas, that, while
sufficient to save her from being overrun by the furious sea, would not
be too big for the felucca to carry.  Fortunately, there was such a sail
on board,--a small lug-sail made of stout canvas, and nearly new,--which
was intended to be substituted for the lateen on those rare occasions
when the little craft might be caught in heavy weather; and this sail I
now proceeded to drag up from below and bend to its yard; after which I
lowered away the lateen, laid it fore and aft the deck, and made it up,
securing it as well as I could by passing innumerable turns of a light
warp round it; after which I firmly lashed it to the bulwarks with as
many lashings as I could find pins or cleats for.  My next job was to
close-reef and set the lug, which I did with the aid of the winch; and
this done, I went forward, and, beginning with the fore-scuttle,
proceeded to carefully batten down every opening in the deck, bringing
the cabin lamp on deck in order that I might have a sufficiency of light
to work by.  The skylight I secured as well as I could by passing
lashings over the cover to a couple of ring-bolts conveniently placed in
the deck, and I finished up by backing the companion doors with a couple
of stout pieces of timber, which I sawed to the proper length and wedged
in between the uprights, rendering it practically impossible for the
doors to be forced open by a sea, while, by drawing over the slide, I
could at the last moment effectually close all access to the cabin.
This completed my labours, with which I was fairly well satisfied, the
only portion of my defences about which I had any serious doubt being
the skylight, the glazed panels of which might easily be smashed by a
sea; but I was obliged to take my chance of that, being unable to find
anything with which to protect them.

And now, all that remained was to watch and wait.  Nor had I to wait
very long; for when, having completed my preparations, I found time to
again glance aloft at the frowning sky, I observed that the heavy masses
of fiery cloud, that had hitherto seemed to be practically motionless,
so stealthy were their movements, were now working with a restless,
writhing motion, while ever and anon some small detached fragment of
vapour would come sweeping rapidly out from the westward athwart the
twisting masses, as though caught and torn off from the main body by
some sudden, momentary, partial, but violent movement in the atmosphere.
These small, scurrying fragments of cloud, the vanguard of the
approaching tempest, rapidly increased in size and in number, while the
twisting and writhing of the great cloud masses momentarily grew more
rapid and convulsive, until it appeared as though the entire firmament
were in the throes of mortal agony, the suggestion soon becoming
intensified by the arising in the atmosphere of low, weird, moaning
sounds, that at intervals rose and strengthened into a wail as of the
spirits of drowned sailors lamenting the coming havoc.  And as the
wailing sounds arose and grew in volume, sudden stirrings in the
stagnant air became apparent, first in the form of exaggerated cats'-
paws, that smote savagely upon the glassy surface of the water,
scourging it into a sudden flurry of foam, and then dying away again,
and then in sudden gusts that swept screaming past the felucca hither
and thither, sometimes high enough aloft to leave the water undisturbed,
at other times striking it and, as it were, rebounding from the surface,
leaving in its path streaks and patches of ruffled water that had
scarcely time to subside ere another gust went howling past, to leave
them more disturbed than before.  These sudden scurryings of wind were
the forerunners of the hurricane itself, and only sprang up a short five
minutes before the low, hoarse murmur of the gale itself became audible.
As this sound arose I looked away to the westward,--the quarter from
which it came,--and saw, by the faint, sombre, ruddy light of the
unnaturally glowing sky, a thin white line appear upon the horizon,
lengthening and thickening as I watched, until it became a rushing wall
of foam, bearing down upon the felucca at terrific speed, while behind
it the heavens grew pitchy black, and the murmur became a low, deep
roar, and the roar grew in volume to a bellow, and the bellow rose to an
unearthly howl, and the howl to a yelling shriek, as the hurricane leapt
at the felucca--which, happily, was lying stern-on to it--and seized her
in its grip, causing the stout, close-reefed lug-sail to fill with a
report like that of a cannon, and burying her bows deep in the creamy,
hissing smother ere she gathered way, while the scud-water flew over her
in blinding, drenching sheets.  For a moment, as I gripped the tiller
convulsively, I thought the little hooker was about to founder bows
first, but after a shuddering pause of a few breathless seconds of
horrible suspense, she gathered way, and in another instant was flying
before the gale like a frightened thing, at a speed which I dare venture
to say she had never before attained.

It was a wild scene in the midst of which I now found myself.  With the
outburst of the gale the supernatural, ruddy glow of the sky had
suddenly faded, to be succeeded by a frightful gloom, which yet was not
actual darkness, for the whole surface of the sea had in a few brief
seconds become a level sheet of boiling foam, so strongly phosphorescent
that it emitted light enough for me to see, with tolerable distinctness,
the hull, mast, and sail of the felucca, and to make out the position
and character of the principal objects about her deck; and this same
weird, ghostly light it probably was that, reflected from the clouds,
enabled me also to discern their forms and to distinguish that they were
no longer the rounded, swelling masses that they had hitherto been, but
were now rent and tattered and ragged with the mad fury of the wind that
had seized upon them and was dragging them at headlong speed athwart the
arch of heaven.  The air, too, was full of spindrift, to perhaps double
the height of the felucca's mast, and that too was luminous with a
faint, green, misty light that imparted a weird, unreal aspect to
everything it shone upon; an effect which was further heightened by the
unearthly screaming and howling of the gale.

There was nothing for it but to keep the felucca running dead before the
gale; and, fortunately for me, this was by no means a difficult feat, as
the craft steered as is easily as a boat,--indeed she almost steered
herself.  For the first half-hour or so nothing special occurred, the
hurricane continuing to blow as furiously as at its first mad outfly,
while the felucca sped before it as smoothly and steadily as though
mounted on wheels and running upon a perfectly smooth and level road; my
only fear just then being that the mast would go over the bows, or the
sail be blown out of its bolt-ropes.  The spar, however, was a good one,
and well stayed, while the sail was practically new, and the gear was
good; everything therefore held, although I could _feel_ that the little
craft was straining to an alarming extent.  But about half an hour, or
thereabout, after the gale first struck us, a movement of the hull--
gentle and easy at first, but rapidly increasing--told me that the sea
was beginning to rise; and soon after that my troubles commenced in
earnest, for the sea got up with astounding rapidity, and as it did so
the steering became increasingly difficult, especially when the stern of
the little hooker was thrown up on the crest of a sea, at which periods,
for a few breathless seconds, the rudder seemed to lose its grip on the
water, and the felucca was hurled irresistibly forward, with her bows
buried deep in the boiling foam, while she seemed hesitating whether to
broach-to to starboard or to port, either alternative of which would
have been equally disastrous, since in either case she must have
assuredly capsized and gone down.  But, by what seemed nothing short of
a series of interpositions on the part of a merciful Providence, in
every case, just at the moment when a broach-to seemed imminent and
inevitable, I felt the rudder take a fresh grip on the water, and we
were again safe until the next sea overtook us.  And so it continued
throughout the remaining hours of that dreadful night, with grim Death
threatening me at every upward heave of the little craft, until at
length--after what seemed to have been a very eternity of anxiety--the
day broke slowly and sullenly ahead, by which time I had grown
absolutely callous and indifferent.  My nerves had been kept in a state
of acute tension so long that they seemed to have become incapable of
any further feeling of any kind, and I had ceased to care whether I
survived or not; or rather, I had become so thoroughly convinced of the
absolute impossibility of ultimate escape, that there seemed to be
nothing left worth worrying about.  Moreover, I was by this time utterly
exhausted with the tremendous exertion of keeping the little craft
running straight for so long a time; for at the critical moments of
which I have spoken, the helm seemed to so nearly lose its power that it
became necessary to jam the tiller hard over, first to this side and
then to that, as the felucca seemed actually starting on a wild sheer
that must have flung her broadside-on to the sea, and so have abruptly
finished her career and mine at the same moment.

Thus was it with me when the dull and sullen dawn at length came oozing
through the mirky blackness ahead, gradually spreading along the
horizon, grey, dismal, and lowering, bringing the tattered shapes and
sooty hues of the wildly flying clouds into stronger relief, and
revealing a horizon serrated with the frenzied leapings of the angry
waters that hissed and roared around the straining felucca, chasing her
like angry wolves about to leap upon their prey.  At first I thought I
was alone in this scene of mad turmoil; but presently, when the light
grew stronger, as the felucca hung poised for an instant upon the crest
of a foaming comber, that boiled in over both rails amidships and
flooded the deck knee-deep, I caught a momentary glimpse of a large
craft, some nine miles away on the larboard bow, running, like myself,
before the gale.  She was hull down, of course, and very probably in the
hollow of a sea when first I caught sight of her; for I saw only the
heads of her lower masts, with the three topmasts rising above them, the
topgallant masts either struck or carried away.  She was running under a
close-reefed maintopsail and goose-winged foresail, and I took her to be
a frigate, though whether one of our own or an enemy, she was too far
off for me to be enabled to judge; but, of whatever nationality she may
have been, she was undoubtedly a fast vessel, for she soon ran out of
sight, although I estimated the speed of the felucca to be quite nine
knots.

About an hour later I became sensible of a distinct abatement in the
fury of the hurricane, which, in the course of another hour, had still
further moderated, until it had become no more than an ordinary heavy
gale.  Yet so callous had I now become that the change afforded me
scarcely any satisfaction; I had grown so utterly indifferent that I had
long ceased to care what happened.  But I was worn out with fatigue; my
limbs ached as though I had been severely beaten, my hands were
blistered and raw with the chafe of the tiller, and my eyes were
smarting for want of sleep.  Rest I felt that I _must_ have, and that
soon, come what might of it.  So, as the gale had moderated somewhat, I
determined to heave-to.  I believed the felucca would now bear the
weight of her small, close-reefed lug even when brought to the wind, and
if she did not--well, it did not matter.  _Nothing_ mattered just then,
except that I _must_ have rest.  So, the sail being set on the starboard
side of the mast, I watched my opportunity, and, availing myself of a
"smooth," brought the felucca to on the starboard tack, with no worse
mishap than the shipping of a sea over the weather bow--as she came up
with her head pointing to windward--that swept away the whole of the
port bulwarks, from abreast the windlass to the wake of the companion.
As she came to, the little craft laid over until the water was up to the
lee coamings of her main hatchway, and for a second or two I thought she
was going to turn turtle with me; but, once fairly round and head-on to
the sea, she rode wonderfully well, especially after I had lashed the
helm a-lee and got the mainsheet aft.  The latter was a heavy job, but I
managed it in about half an hour, with the assistance of the watch-
tackle, and, that done, the craft could take care of herself.  I
therefore slid back the top of the companion, swung myself heavily in
through the opening, stumbled down the ladder, staggered across the
little cabin, and flung myself, wet to the skin as I was, into my bunk,
where I instantly lost consciousness, whether in a swoon or only in a
profound sleep I never knew.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

THE LAST OF THE FELUCCA.

I was awakened, some five hours later, by the sound water washing
heavily to and fro, and upon looking over the edge of the bunk I
discovered that the cabin was all afloat, the floor being covered to a
depth of nearly a foot, so that I looked down upon a miniature sea,
violently agitated by the furious leaping and plunging and rolling of
the felucca.  I could tell, by the roar of the wind and the hissing of
the sea, with the frequent heavy fall of water on deck, that it was
still blowing heavily, and my first impression was that the water had
come down through the companion,--the slide of which I had left open,--
but a few minutes of patient observation convinced me that, although a
slight sprinkling of spray rained down occasionally, it was not nearly
sufficient to account for the quantity that surged and splashed about
the cabin.  The only other explanation I could think of was that the
felucca had sprung a leak; and, leaping out of the bunk, I made my way
on deck to ascertain the truth of this conjecture.

It was a dismal and dreary scene that presented itself when I swung
myself out on deck through the companion top.  It was still blowing with
the force of a whole gale; the sky to windward was as black and
threatening as ever; and the sea was running so high and breaking so
heavily that, as every succeeding comber came sweeping down upon the
felucca, with its foaming, hissing crest towering above her to nearly
the height of her masthead, it appeared to me--new to the scene as I
was--that the next sea must inevitably overwhelm her.  Yet, deep in the
water as I instantly noticed her to be, the little craft still retained
buoyancy enough to climb somehow up the steep slope of each advancing
wave, though not to carry her fairly over its crest, every one of which
broke aboard her--usually well forward, as luck would have it; with the
result that while I had been sleeping below the whole of the lee
bulwarks and the forward half of them on the weather side had been swept
away, leaving her deck open to the sea, which had swept away every
movable thing, leaving nothing but the mast and the splintered ends of
the stanchions standing.

This constant sweeping of the deck by green seas rendered the task of
moving about extremely dangerous, for the rush of water over the fore
part of the deck was quite heavy enough to lift a man off his feet and
carry him overboard.  But I wanted to sound the well; so, securing the
pump-rod, which, for convenience, was hung in beckets in the companion,
I watched my opportunity, and, rushing forward, succeeded in dropping
the rod down the well and getting a firm grip upon the fall of the main
halliard before the next sea broke aboard.  Then, as the water poured
off the deck, I quickly drew the rod out of the well and dashed aft with
it to the shelter of the companion in time to escape the next sea.  An
inspection of the rod then sufficed to realise my worst fears; the
little craft had upwards of three feet of water in her hold!  Evidently
she was leaking badly, and the sooner I could devise some means of
relieving her of the weight of water in her the better it would be for
me.  Had I made this discovery half a dozen hours earlier I should
probably have regarded it with perfect indifference; but those five
hours of death--like sleep had so greatly refreshed me that I now felt a
new man.  My state of indifference had passed away with the intensity of
my fatigue, and the instinct of self-preservation was once more
asserting itself.

My first idea was to rig the pump; but this was instantly discarded, for
I had but to stand in the companion-way for a couple of minutes, and
watch the heavy rush of water athwart the deck, to be convinced of the
absolute impossibility of maintaining my position at the pump; for, even
if lashed there, my utmost efforts would barely suffice to prevent
myself from being swept overboard, while to work the pump would be quite
out of the question.  Then I remembered that the lazarette hatch was
situated immediately at the foot of the companion ladder; and I thought
that, by raising the cover, I might get a sort of well from which to
bale, and in this way at least keep the leak from gaining upon me, even
if I found it impossible to reduce it.  For _time_ was what I now
wanted.  I had a conviction that the felucca's seams were opening,
through the violent straining of her in the heavy sea and through the
tremendous pressure of the wind upon her sail; and I felt tolerably
confident that, if I could succeed in keeping her afloat until the gale
had blown itself out, all would be well.

But at this point of my meditations it suddenly occurred to me that I
was hungry and thirsty; so I descended the companion ladder and made my
way to the small pantry, in search of something to eat and drink.  It
was a small place, scarcely larger than a cupboard, and very imperfectly
lighted by a single bull's-eye let into the deck; but it had one merit,
it was well provided with good wide shelves, upon which everything that
could possibly spoil was stowed; and here I was lucky enough to find an
abundance of food--such as it was--and several bottles of the thin, sour
wine which Dominguez and his crew drank instead of coffee.  I ate and
drank there in the pantry, standing up to my knees in water, and when I
had finished, went to work with a bucket and rope to bail the water out
of the lazarette, standing out on deck, on the lee side of the
companion, and drawing the water out of the lazarette as out of a well.
I stuck doggedly to this work throughout the whole afternoon and well on
into the night, until I could bail no longer for very weariness; and
then--having convinced myself that I had succeeded in checking the rise
of the water--I took a final look round to ascertain whether anything
happened to be in sight, but could see nothing, the night being again
dark as pitch, came to the conclusion that it was blowing a trifle less
hard than it had been, and that the felucca would live through the night
even though I should cease to bale; and so descended to the cabin and
again flung myself into my bunk, where I dropped sound asleep as my head
touched the pillow.

When I next returned to consciousness my awakening was brought about
through the agency of water splashing in over the side of my bunk, the
felucca having steadily filled during the period of my sleep until the
cabin was fully three feet deep in water.  It was broad day, and oh,
blessed change! the sun was shining brilliantly down through the
skylight, while the wind had evidently dropped to a pleasant breeze.  A
heavy sea, however, was still running,--as I could tell by the movements
of the felucca,--and I could hear the water well and gurgle up the side
of the little craft and go pouring across her deck from time to time,
although not so frequently as before I turned in.

I rolled reluctantly out of my bunk--for I seemed to be aching in every
joint of my body, and my head was burning and throbbing with a dull pain
like what would be occasioned by the strokes of a small hammer--and
waded, waist deep in water, to the companion ladder, up which I crawled,
and so out on deck.

The gale had blown itself out, the wind having subsided to a very gentle
breeze, that I soon discovered was fast dying away to a calm--although
what little wind there was still came breathing out from the westward.
The sky was perfectly clear, of a rich, deep, pure blue colour, without
a shred of cloud to be seen in the whole of the vast vault; and in the
midst of it, about two hours high, hung the morning sun, a dazzling
globe of brilliance and heat.  The sea, I now found, had subsided almost
entirely, but a very heavy swell was still running, over which the
felucca rode laboriously, the water in her interior occasionally pinning
her down to such an extent that the quick-running swell would brim up
over her bows and pour in a perfect cataract athwart her deck.  This,
however, I was not surprised at, for--as nearly as I could judge--the
felucca showed barely nine inches of freeboard!  Still the little hooker
seemed surprisingly buoyant, considering her water-logged condition, and
now that the seas no longer broke over her, there seemed to be no reason
why, given enough time, I should not be able to pump her dry, and resume
my voyage to Barbadoes.

So I rigged the pump and went to work, hoping that, as the gale had now
abated and the sea had gone down, the straining of the hull and the
opening of the seams had ceased, and that consequently the felucca was
no longer in a leaky condition.  I toiled on throughout the whole of
that roasting morning, with the sun beating mercilessly down upon me,
while the water swirled athwart the deck and about my legs, until noon,
and then, utterly exhausted with my labour, my skin burning with fever
and my hands raw and bleeding, I was fain to cry "spell ho!" and give up
for a time, while I sought somewhat to eat and drink.  I had worked with
a good will, sanguinely hoping that when I felt myself compelled to
knock off I should discover that I had sensibly diminished the amount of
water in the felucca's interior; but this hope was cruelly disappointed,
for when I reached the companion, on my way below, I found that there
was no perceptible difference in the height of the water in the cabin
from what it had been before I turned to; indeed the water seemed to
have _risen_ rather than diminished, a sure indication that the hull was
still leaking, and that by no effort of mine could I hope to keep the
craft much longer afloat.

And now, as I descended to the cabin, and noted the violence with which
the water surged hither and thither with the rolling and pitching of the
little vessel, a wild fear seized upon me that I might find all the
provisions in the pantry spoiled.  A moment later and my surmise was
changed to certainty, for as I opened the door of the small, cupboard-
like apartment, a recoiling wave surged out through the doorway, its
surface bestrewed with the hard, coarse biscuits that sailors speak of
as "bread."  The water had risen high enough to flood the shelf upon
which the eatables had been stowed, and everything was washed off and
utterly spoiled.  Worse still, there was no possibility of obtaining a
further supply, for the lazarette, or storehouse, was beneath the cabin
floor and had been flooded for hours.  Moreover, it was unapproachable.
Fortunately I did not feel very hungry; I was, however, consumed with a
burning thirst which--all the water-casks having been washed overboard--
I quenched by draining a whole bottle of the thin, sour wine of which I
have before spoken.  Then I went to work to collect all the biscuit I
could secure, and carried it up on deck to dry in the sun, spreading it
out on a cloth on the top of the companion; and while engaged upon this
task, and also in removing my small stock of wine to the deck--for the
cabin was by this time uninhabitable--I began to consider what I could
do to save my life when the felucca should founder, as founder she must,
now that I had demonstrated my inability to keep the leaks under.  The
question was not a very knotty one, or one demanding very profound
consideration; obviously there was but one thing to do, and that was to
build a raft with such materials as offered themselves to my hand.  And
just at this point the first difficulty presented itself in the shape of
the question: what available materials were there?  For, as I have
already mentioned, the deck had been swept of every movable thing,
including the big lateen yard, which had doubtless gone overboard when
the bulwarks were carried away.  There seemed to be absolutely
_nothing_, unless I set to work to break up the felucca herself!  Yet
stay, there was the mast, the yard that spread and supported the lug-
sail, the tiller--a good, stout, serviceable stick of timber--and--yes,
certainly, the hatches--which could now be safely taken off, as the sea
no longer swept over the deck heavily enough to pour over the coamings.
Surely with those materials I ought to be able to construct a raft
buoyant enough to support me, even although it would be obviously
necessary for me to construct it on the deck, and then patiently wait
until the felucca sank and floated it off--for it would be quite
impossible for me to launch it.

So to work I went, my first task being to descend into the flooded
forecastle and grope about for an axe that I knew was kept there
somewhere; and I was fortunate enough to find it almost at once.  Then,
returning to the deck, I lowered away the lug-sail and cut the canvas
adrift from the yard, carefully lashing the latter, that it might not
roll or be washed overboard.  Then I began to cut away the mast,
chopping a deep notch in it close to the deck, and when I heard it
beginning to complain, I cut the lanyards of the weather rigging, when
away it went over the side with a crash.  This gave me a good deal of
trouble, for I wanted the spar on deck, not overboard; so I had to go to
work to parbuckle it up the side, which I managed pretty well by
watching the lift of the seas.  Then I cut the mast in halves, laid the
two halves parallel athwart the deck, and secured the yard and the
tiller to them, as cross-pieces, with good stout lashings.  And finally,
to these last I firmly lashed four of the main hatch covers, when I had
a platform of some twelve feet long and eight feet wide to support me.
All that now remained to be done was to secure my provisions and wine,
which I did by stowing the whole in a double thickness of tarpaulin, the
edges of which I gathered together and tightly lashed with spun-yarn,
finally securing the bundle to the raft by a short end of rope, so that
it might not be washed away when the felucca should take her final
plunge; and I had then done everything that it was possible for me to
do.

By the time that my task was finished the sun had sunk to within a
hand's breadth of the western horizon, while the wind had dwindled away
until it had become the faintest zephyr, scarcely to be distinguished
save by the slight ruffling of the water here and there where it
touched, it being so nearly a flat calm that already great oily-looking
patches of gleaming smoothness had appeared and were spreading
momentarily through the faint blue ripplings that still betrayed a
movement in the air.  As for me, I was utterly exhausted with my long
day's toil under the roasting sun; every bone in my body was aching; I
was in a burning fever, and was sick with the smart of my raw and
bleeding hands.  The old feeling of callousness and indifference to my
fate was once more upon me, and as I gazed at the crazy-looking raft
which I had constructed with such a lavish expenditure of painful toil,
I smiled in grim irony of myself that I should have done so much to
preserve that life which now seemed of such little worth, and which
promised soon to become an unendurable burden to me.  A reaction from
the excitement that had sustained me during my labours had set in, and I
am persuaded that had any further exertion been necessary for the
preservation of my life I should not have undertaken it.

Meanwhile the felucca had sunk nearly to her covering-board, and might
be expected to founder at any moment.  I climbed laboriously upon the
top of the closed skylight and took a last, long look round to ascertain
whether anything had drifted into my range of view while I had been
engaged upon the raft, but there was nothing; the horizon was bare
throughout its entire circumference; so I climbed down again, and,
staggering to the raft, flung myself down upon it, with my bundle of
provision as a pillow, and patiently awaited the evanishment of the
felucca.

Poor little craft! what a forlorn, weather-beaten, sea-washed wreck she
looked, as she lay there wallowing wearily and--as it seemed to me--
painfully upon the long, creeping, glassy undulations of the swell!  How
different from the trim, sturdy little hooker that had sailed seaward so
confidently and saucily out of Kingston harbour a few years--no, not
_years_, it must be months, or--was it only _days_--a few _days_ ago?
It seemed more like years than days to me, and yet--why, of course it
_could_ only be days.  Heaven, how my head ached! how my brain seemed to
throb and boil within my skull! and surely it was not blood--it must be
fire that was coursing through my veins and causing my body to glow like
white-hot steel!  A big, glassy mound of swell came creeping along
toward the felucca, and, as she rolled toward it, curled in over her
covering-board and poured in a heavy torrent across her deck, swirling
round my raft and shifting it a foot or two nearer the side; and as it
swept past I dabbled one of my hands in it, and was dully surprised that
the contact did not cause the water to hiss and boil!  Another mountain
of water came brimming over the deck of the shuddering craft and shifted
the raft so far that it fairly overhung the covering-board, so that when
the felucca rolled in the opposite direction the end of the raft not
only dipped in the water but actually lifted and floated, the heave of
the water sucking it perhaps another foot off the deck.  The next two or
three undulations passed harmlessly by,--the swing and roll of the
felucca was such that she just happened to meet them at the right
moment, though lagging a little at the last,--and then came another
great liquid hill, towering high above the horizon, until the sinking
sun was utterly obscured.  On it swept toward the felucca, which had now
slewed so that she faced the coming swell nearly stem-on, the water in
her meanwhile rushing forward as she sank down into the trough until her
stem-head was completely buried.  Now she was meeting the breast of the
on-coming swell, her bows still pinned down by the rush of water in her
interior, and now the glistening green wave was upon her, sweeping aft
along and athwart her deck, mounting over the coamings of the main
hatchway and pouring down the opening in a smooth, hissing, four-sided
cataract, snatching up the raft in its embrace and shooting it half a
dozen fathoms clear of the doomed craft, and rushing along the deck
until even the companion and the skylight were submerged.  By that time
the hull was full, the curious rectangular hollow in the surface of the
water that marked the position of the main hatchway was filled, the hull
was completely hidden save for a splintered stanchion that projected
above water here and there.  Then, as the wave passed, the bows of the
felucca emerged, gleaming and dripping with snowy, foaming cascades,
that poured off the uncovered portion of the deck.  Higher and higher
rose the bows out of the water, until some ten feet in length of the
felucca was revealed, the deck gradually sloping until it assumed an
almost perpendicular inclination, when slowly, silently, and glidingly,
without a sob or gurgle of escaping air, the wreck slid backward and
downward until it vanished beneath the waters, now gleaming in gold and
crimson with the last rays of the setting sun.  A few seconds later the
great luminary also vanished, a sudden grey pallor overspread the ocean,
and I found myself alone indeed, swaying upon that vast, heaving
expanse, with nothing between me and death save the clumsy structure
that I had so laboriously put together, and which now looked so
insignificantly small that I caught myself wondering why my weight did
not sink it.

But it did not; on the contrary, the raft proved to be surprisingly
buoyant, riding over the great, glassy, round-backed hills of swell as
dry as a bone, with a gentle, swaying movement that somehow seemed to
soothe my fever-racked frame, so that the condition of semi-delirium
that had possessed me just before the felucca foundered passed away and
left me sufficiently self-possessed to recognise the necessity for
eating and drinking, if I was to survive and get the better of my
misfortunes.  So I carefully opened my bundle and extracted from it a
small quantity of sun-dried biscuit--which, thanks to the curiously
gentle manner in which the raft had been launched, had received no
further wetting--and proceeded to make such a meal as I could, washing
it down with a sparing draught of wine.  But although the biscuit had
dried superficially, it was still wet and pasty in the middle, and
horribly nauseous to the palate, so that I made but a poor meal; after
which I stretched myself at full length upon the raft, and endeavoured
to find relief in sleep.  But, exhausted though I was, sleep would not
come to me; on the contrary, my memory and imagination rapidly became
painfully excited.  I thought of Dominguez, and wondered whether he and
his companions had escaped the hurricane; then I thought of Morillo and
his fiendish hatred of me; and so my thoughts and fancies chased one
another until they became all mingled together in an inextricable
jumble; and through it all I heard myself singing, shouting, laughing,
arguing upon impossible subjects with wholly imaginary persons, and
performing I know not what other mad vagaries, until finally, I suppose,
I must have become so utterly exhausted as to have subsided into a
restless, feverish sleep.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

CAPTAIN LEMAITRE.

Consciousness returned to me with the sensation of soft, delicate light
impinging upon my closed eyelids, and I opened my eyes upon the picture
of a sky of deepest, richest, purest blue, studded with wool-like tufts
of fleecy cloud, opalescent with daintiest tints of primrose and pink as
they sailed overhead with a slow and gentle movement out from the north-
east.  The eastern horizon was all aglow with ruddy orange light, up
through which soared broad, fan-like rays of white radiance--the spokes
of Phoebus' chariot wheels--that, through a scale of countless subtle
changes of tincture, gradually merged into the marvellously soft
richness of the prismatic sky.  A gentle breeze, warm and sweet as a
woman's breath, lightly ruffled the surface of the sea, that heaved in
long, low hills of deep and brilliant liquid sapphire around me; and
here and there a sea-bird wheeled and swept with plaintive cries, and
slanting, motionless pinions, in long, easy, graceful curves over the
slowly undulating swell.

I sat up and looked about me vaguely and wonderingly, for the moment
forgetful of the circumstances that had placed me in so novel a
situation, and at the instant a glowing point of golden fire flashed
into view upon the eastern horizon, as the upper rim of the sun hove
above the undulating rim of the sea; and in a moment the rippling blue
of the laughing water was laced with a long, broadening wake of
gleaming, dancing, liquid gold, as the great palpitating disc of the god
of day left his ocean couch, and entered upon his journey through the
heavens.

My forgetfulness was but momentary; as the radiance and warmth of the
returning sun swept over the glittering, scintillating, golden path that
stretched from the horizon to the raft, the memory of all that had gone
before, and the apprehension of what still haply awaited me, returned,
and, as quickly as my cramped and aching limbs would allow, I staggered
to my feet, flinging anxious, eager glances all around me in search of a
sail.  The horizon, however, was bare, save where the long, narrow
pinion of a wheeling sea-bird swiftly cut it for a moment here and
there; and I sighed wearily as I resumed my recumbent position upon the
raft, wondering whether rescue would ever come, or whether it was my
doom to float there, tossing hour after hour and day after day, like the
veriest waif, until thirst and starvation had wrought their will upon
me, or until another storm should arise, and the now laughing ocean
should overwhelm me in its fury.

And indeed I cared very little just then what fate awaited me; for I was
so ill, my frame was so racked with fever and my head so distracted with
the fierce throbbing and beating of the wildly coursing blood in it,
that the only thing I craved for was relief from my sufferings.  It was
a matter of the utmost indifference to me at that moment whether the
relief came from death or from any other source, so long as it came
quickly.  My strength was leaving me with astounding rapidity, and I was
quite aware that if I wished to husband the little that still remained
to me I ought to eat; but the mere idea of eating excited so violent a
repugnance, that it was with the utmost difficulty I resisted the almost
overwhelming temptation to pitch my slender stock of sea-sodden biscuit
overboard.  On the other hand, I was consumed with a torturing thirst
that I vainly strove to assuage by so reckless a consumption of my
equally slender stock of wine, that at the end of the day only two
bottles remained.  Such recklessness was of course due to the fact that
I was unaccountable for my actions; I was possessed of a kind of
madness, and I knew it, but I had lost all control over myself, and
cared not what happened.  More than once I found myself seriously
considering the advisability of throwing myself off the raft, and so
ending everything without more ado; and I have often wondered why I did
not do so; it was certainly not the fear of death that prevented me.  As
the day wore on my sufferings steadily increased in intensity; my brain
throbbed and pulsated with pain so acute that it seemed as though a
million wedges were being driven into my skull; a host of weird,
outrageous, and horrible fancies chased each other through my
imagination; I became possessed of the idea that the raft was surrounded
and hemmed in by an ever-increasing multitude of frightful sea monsters,
who fought with each other in their furious efforts to get within reach
of me; day and night seemed to come and go with bewildering rapidity;
and finally everything became involved in a condition of hopelessly
inextricable confusion, that eventually merged into oblivion.

My next consciousness was that of a sound of gurgling, running water,
and of a buoyant, heaving, plunging motion; of flashing sunshine coming
and going upon my closed eyelids; of the vibrant hum of wind through
taut rigging and in the hollows of straining canvas; of a murmur of
voices, and of the regular tramp of footsteps to and fro on the planking
overhead; and for the moment I thought that I was aboard the _Tern_, and
just awaking from a sleep during which I had been haunted with an
unusually long series of peculiarly unpleasant dreams.  But as I opened
my eyes and looked with somewhat languid interest upon my surroundings,
I became aware that I was in a small, plain, but fairly snug cabin, of
which I seemed to possess no previous knowledge; and at the same moment
a confused but rapidly clearing memory of what had happened came to me,
together with the knowledge that I had been rescued from the raft, and
was feeling very much better.  But an attempt to move, preliminary to
turning out, revealed the disconcerting fact that I was as weak and
helpless as a new-born infant, so I was perforce obliged to remain where
I was; and in a short time I dozed off into a light sleep again, soothed
thereto by the hum of the wind, the gurgling wash of water along the
side of the ship, close to my ear, and the gentle heave and plunge of
the fabric that bore me.

From this nap I was awakened by the somewhat noisy opening of my cabin
door; and upon opening my eyes I beheld a swarthy and somewhat dirty-
looking individual bending over me.  From his appearance I at once set
him down as a Frenchman; and as I gazed up into his face with mild
curiosity, this impression became confirmed by his exclaiming in
French--

"Ah, monsieur, so you have come to your senses at last, eh?  Good!  I
knew I could save you, although Francois declared you to be as good as
dead when he brought you aboard!  And now, mon ami, what do you say; can
you eat something?"

"Thank you," replied I, in the same language; "now that you come to
mention it, I think I can."

"Good!" ejaculated the unknown: "rest tranquil for but a short time, and
I will see what that rascal cook of ours can do for you.  Stay! another
dose of quinine will do you no harm, just by way of precaution, you
know, although I think I have driven the fever out of you at last.
Permit me."

And, so saying, he laid a rather grimy hand upon my forehead for a
moment, and then transferred it to my wrist, remarking--

"Good! the skin is cool and moist, the pulse normal again.  Ha, ha, my
friend, you will do, you will do; henceforth the cook must be your
doctor.  All you need now is plenty of good nourishing food to restore
your strength.  Now, drink this, and as soon as you have swallowed it I
will away to the galley."

While speaking, this individual had been busying himself with a bottle,
from which he extracted a small quantity of white powder, which he mixed
with water and then handed me the mixture to drink.

"Thank you," said I, handing him back the glass.  "And now, monsieur, do
me the favour to tell me your name, in order that I may know to whom I
am indebted for my preservation."

"My name?" he repeated, with a laugh.  "Oh, that will keep, monsieur,
that will keep.  At present your most urgent necessity is food, which I
am now going to get for you.  When I return I will tell you all you may
wish to know, while you are eating.  For the present, adieu, monsieur.
If you feel disposed to sleep again, do so; sleep is nearly as valuable
as food to you just now.  When I have some of the latter ready for you I
will wake you, never fear."

So saying, and before I could utter another word, he vanished, slamming
the cabin door after him.

His retirement caused me a sensation of distinct relief, at which I was
very greatly annoyed with myself; for had not this man doubly saved my
life, first by rescuing me from the raft, and afterwards by nursing me
through what I believed had been a serious illness?  Yet, ingrate that I
was, even in the brief interview that I have just described I had taken
an unmistakable dislike to the man!  It was not so much that he was
unclean in person and attire,--it was possible that there might be a
good and sufficient excuse for that,--but what had excited my antipathy,
when I came to analyse the feeling, was a certain false ring in his
voice, a subtle something in his manner suggestive of the idea that his
friendliness and heartiness were not natural to him--were assumed for a
purpose.  Yet why it should be so, why he should have rescued me from
the raft and afterwards troubled himself to fight and drive out the
fever that threatened to destroy me, unless from a feeling of humanity
and compassion for my pitiable condition, I could not imagine; yet there
had been--or so I fancied--a fierce, shifty gleam in his coal-black eyes
during the few brief minutes that he had bent over me as I lay there in
my bunk, that seemed to reveal cruelty and treachery, rather than pity
and good-will.  Let me describe the man.  Standing there beside my bunk,
he had conveyed to me the impression of an individual nearly six feet in
height,--I afterwards found his stature to be five feet ten inches in
his stockings,--broad across the shoulders in proportion, and big boned,
but lean almost to the point of emaciation.  His skin was dry, of an
unwholesome yellow tint, and shrivelled, as though he had once been
stout and burly of form but had now become thin, while his skin had
failed to shrink in the same proportion as his flesh.  His eyes were, as
I have said, black, small, and deeply sunken in his head; his hair was a
dull, dead black, and was worn cropped close to his head; his black
beard was trimmed to a point; and he wore a moustache, the long ends of
which projected athwart his upper lip like a spritsail yard.  His hands
were thin, showing the tendons of the fingers working under the loose
skin at every movement of them, while the fingers themselves were long,
attenuated, ingrained with dirt, and furnished with long, talon-like
yellow nails, that looked as though they never received the slightest
attention.  Finally, his clothing consisted of a cotton shirt, that
looked as though it had been in use for at least a month since its last
visit to the laundress, a pair of grimy blue dungaree trousers, and a
pair of red morocco slippers.

As I lay there in the bunk, recalling the appearance of my rescuer, and
trying to evolve therefrom some definite impression of the man's
character, I became aware that the duty of the ship seemed to be carried
on with a very unnecessary amount of vociferation and contumelious
language.  An Englishman will sometimes, in critical or urgent moments,
garnish his orders with an expletive or two by way of stimulus to the
crew; but upon the occasion to which I am now referring there was not
the slightest excuse for anything of the kind.  The weather was fine,
the wind moderate, and we were evidently not engaged upon the
performance of some feat of complicated or difficult navigation; for the
course remained constant, and there was neither making nor shortening of
sail.  It simply appeared that the officer of the watch happened to be
one of those distressing and trouble-making individuals who regard it as
incumbent upon themselves to continually "haze" the men; for he was
constantly bawling some trifling order, and accompanying it with a
running fire of abuse that must have been furiously exasperating to the
person addressed.

After an absence of about half an hour, the man who had already visited
me returned, this time bearing a large bowl of smoking broth, and a
plate containing three large ship biscuits of the coarsest kind.  The
broth, however, exhaled a distinctly appetising odour, which had the
effect of again reminding me that I was hungry; so, with my visitor's
assistance, I contrived to raise myself into a sitting posture, and
forthwith attacked the contents of the bowl, previously breaking into it
a small quantity of biscuit.  The "broth" proved to be turtle soup,
deliciously made, and, taking my time over the task, I consumed the
whole of it, my companion meanwhile giving an account of himself, his
ship, and the circumstances attending my rescue.

"My name, monsieur," he said, in reply to a question of mine, "is
Lemaitre--Jean Lemaitre; a native of Fort Royal, in the island of
Martinique, and owner as well as Captain of _La belle Jeannette_--the
schooner which you are now honouring with your presence.  I am in the
slave-trade, monsieur,--doing business chiefly with the Spaniards,--and
exactly a month ago to-day I sailed from Havana for the Guinea coast.
We came west and south about, round Cape San Antonio, stretching well
over toward the Spanish Main, in order to avoid, if possible, those
pestilent cruisers of yours, which seem to be everywhere, and are always
ready to snap up everything that they can lay their hands upon.  By
great good fortune we managed to dodge them, and got through without
being interfered with; but it threw us into the track of the hurricane,
and necessitated our remaining hove-to for twenty-six hours.  Four days
later, as we were sailing merrily along, we saw something floating ahead
of us, and ten minutes later we all but ran down your raft, on which we
saw you lying face downwards, while the sharks were righting each other
in their efforts to get at you and drag you off.  Francois, my mate, was
for leaving you where you were,--asserting that you must surely be dead,
and that to pick up a dead man would make the voyage unlucky,--but I am
a humane man, monsieur, and I insisted upon heaving-to and sending away
a boat to bring you aboard.  The boat's crew had a hard job of it to
drive off the sharks, and to get you safely into the boat, monsieur;
and, even _so_, the creatures followed the boat alongside--to the number
of seventeen, for I counted them myself.  Francois suggested that we
should throw you to them, declaring that you were as good as dead
already, and that it was a shame to disappoint the sharks after they had
waited so patiently for you; but I am a humane man, monsieur,--as I
believe I have already mentioned,--and I would not listen to his
proposal.  So I had you brought down below and placed in this spare
cabin, where I have attended to you ever since,--that was ten days
ago,--and now, behold, the fever has left you, your appetite has
returned, and in another week, please the good God we shall have you on
deck again, as well as ever you were."

"Thank you, monsieur," said I.  "I am infinitely obliged to you for the
humanity that prompted you to pick me up--despite the dissuasions of
your mate, Francois--and also for the trouble you have taken in nursing
me through my illness.  Fortunately, I am in a position to make
substantial recognition of my gratitude; and upon my return to Jamaica--
as to which I presume there will be no difficulty--it shall be my first
business to take such steps as shall insure you against all pecuniary
loss on my account."

"Ah, monsieur," exclaimed Lemaitre, "I beg that you will say no more on
that score; it hurts me that you should think it necessary to mention so
mercenary a word as that of `reward.'  We are both sailors, and although
we have the misfortune to be enemies, that is no reason why one brave
man should not aid another in distress, without looking for a reward.
As to your return to Jamaica, no doubt that can be managed upon our
return voyage--"

"Your return voyage!"  I interrupted.  "Can you not manage it forthwith,
captain?  I can make it quite worth your while to up helm and run me
back at once.  It is of the utmost importance to me to return to Port
Royal with the least possible delay, and--"

"Alas, monsieur, it cannot be done," interrupted Lemaitre, in his turn.
"A cargo of slaves is even now awaiting me in the Cameroon River, and my
patrons in Havana are impatiently looking forward to their delivery.  If
I were to disappoint them I should be ruined, for I have many
competitors in the trade to contend with, especially since all this talk
has arisen about making slave-trading illegal.  No; I regret to be
obliged to refuse you, monsieur, but there is no help for it."

"At least," said I, "you will transfer me to a British man-o'-war,
should we chance to fall in with one?"

"And be myself captured, and lose my ship for my pains!" exclaimed
Lemaitre.  "Oh no, monsieur; we will give your ships a wide berth, if we
fall in with them, and trust to our heels."

"Nonsense, monsieur," I returned.  "Surely you cannot suppose I would be
so ungrateful as to permit any such thing.  I am a British officer, and
should, of course, make a point of seeing that, in such a case, you were
held exempt from capture.  My representations would be quite sufficient
to secure that for you."

"Well, monsieur, we will see, we will see," answered Lemaitre; and
therewith he took the empty soup bowl from my hand, and retired from the
cabin, slamming the door, as usual, behind him.

For the next three days I continued to occupy my bunk, my strength
returning slowly; but on the fourth I made shift, with Lemaitre's
assistance, to get into my clothes, and crawl on deck; and from that
moment my progress toward recovery was rapid.  Meanwhile, the "hazing"
of which I have spoken continued at regular intervals, day and night,
and I soon ascertained that the individual responsible for it was none
other than the Francois who so kindly suggested that I should be hove
overboard to the sharks.  This fellow was evidently a born bully; he
never opened his mouth to deliver an order without abusing and insulting
the men, and as often as not the abuse was accentuated with blows, the
sounds of which, and the accompanying cries of the men, I could
distinctly hear in my cabin.  That, however, was hardly the worst of it;
for I soon discovered that Lemaitre, the skipper of this precious craft
in which such doings were permitted, was a drunkard; for every night, at
about nine o'clock, I used to hear him come below, and order out the rum
and water; after which he and Francois, or the second mate,--according
to whose watch below it happened to be,--would sit for about an hour,
drinking one against the other, until the language of both became
incoherent, when the pair of them would stagger and stumble off to their
respective staterooms.

This was my first experience of a slaver, and a most unpleasant
experience it was.  The vessel herself,--a schooner of one hundred and
twenty tons register,--although superbly modelled, a magnificent sea-
boat, and sailing like a witch, was rendered uncomfortable in the
extreme as an abode by her filthy condition.  Cleanliness seemed to be
regarded by Lemaitre as a wholly unnecessary luxury, with the result
that no effort was made to keep in check the steady accumulation of dirt
from day to day, much less to remove that which already existed.  Even
the daily washing down of the decks--which, with the British sailor, has
assumed the importance and imperative character of a religious
function--was deemed superfluous.  Nor were the crew any more careful as
to their own condition or that of their clothing.  It is a fact that
during the whole period of my sojourn on board _La belle Jeannette_ I
never saw one of her people attempt to wash himself or any article of
clothing; and, as a natural result of this steadfast disregard of the
most elementary principles of cleanliness, the little hooker simply
swarmed with vermin.

But, bad as it was, this was not the worst.  The crew, from Lemaitre
downward, were a low, brutal, quarrelsome gang, always wrangling
together, and frequently fighting; while, as I have already mentioned,
the one predominating idea of Francois, the chief mate, was that they
could only be kept in order by constantly and impartially rope's-ending
them all round.  Possibly he may have been right; at all events, I found
it far easier to excuse his behaviour after I had seen the crew than I
had before.

All this time Lemaitre had been behaving toward me with a rough, clumsy,
off-hand kindness that his personal appearance would have led no one to
expect, and which, try as I would, I could not bring myself to regard as
genuine, because, through it all, there seemed now and then to rise to
the surface an underflow of repressed malignity, not pronounced enough
to be certain about, yet sufficiently distinct to provoke in me a vague
sensation of uneasiness and distrust.  To put the matter concisely,
although Lemaitre was by no means effusive in his expressions of good-
will toward me, and although there was a certain perfunctory quality in
such attentions as he showed me, there was with it all a curious subtle
something, so intangible that I found it utterly impossible to define or
describe it, which yet impressed me with the feeling that it was all
unreal, assumed, a mockery and a pretence; though _why_ it should be so,
I could not for the life of me divine.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

A DOUBLE TRAGEDY.

I had been up and about for a full week, and had during that period
observed in Lemaitre's manner toward me not only a steadily decreasing
solicitude for my welfare--which was perhaps only natural, now that my
health was rapidly improving--but also a growing disposition to sneer
and gibe at me, covert at first but more pronounced and unmistakable
with every recurring day, that strongly tended to confirm the singular
suspicion I have endeavoured to bring home to the mind of the reader in
the preceding chapter.  Then one night an incident occurred that in a
moment explained everything, and revealed to me the unpleasant fact
that, so far as my enemy Morillo was concerned, I was still in as great
danger as when on board the felucca, although in the present case the
danger was perhaps a trifle more remote.

I have already mentioned Lemaitre's habit of drinking himself into a
state of intoxication every night.  This habit, and the obscene language
that the man seemed to revel in when in such a condition, was so
disgusting to me that not the least-prized advantage afforded by my
convalescence was the ability to remain on deck until the nightly
saturnalia was at an end and Lemaitre and his companion had retired to
their cabins.  On the particular night, however, of which I am about to
speak, a slight recurrent touch of fever caused me to slip quietly below
and turn in before the orgy began; not that I expected to get to sleep,
but simply because I believed the warmth and dryness of my bunk would be
better for me than the damp night air on deck.

Punctually at nine o'clock Lemaitre and his chief mate came noisily
clattering down the companion ladder, glasses and a bottle of rum were
produced, and the carouse began.  It had not progressed very far before
it became apparent to me, as I lay there in my hot bunk, tossing
restlessly, that Lemaitre was in an unusually excited and quarrelsome
condition, and that Francois, the chief mate, was rapidly approaching a
similar condition as he gulped down tumbler after tumbler of liquor.
They were always argumentative and contradictory when drinking together,
but to-night they were unusually so.  At length Francois made some
remark as to the extraordinary good fortune they had met with on this
particular voyage, in having come so far without falling in with a
British cruiser; at which Lemaitre laughed scornfully declaring that
there was not a British cruiser afloat that could catch _La belle
Jeannette_; and that, even if it were otherwise, he should have no fear
of them this voyage.  "For," said he, "have we not a guarantee of safety
in the presence of that simple fool Courtenay on board?  Have we not
saved his life by rescuing him from the raft?  And do you suppose they
would reward our humanity, ha, ha! by making a prize of the schooner?
Not they!  If there is one thing those asses of British pride themselves
upon more than another it is their chivalrous sense of honour--a
sentiment, my child, that they would not outrage for the value of fifty
such schooners as this.  All the same," he added, with an inflection of
deep cunning in his voice, "I do not want to meet with a British cruiser
at close enough quarters to be compelled to hand the dear Courtenay over
to his countrymen; oh no!"

"Why not?" demanded Francois; "what advantage is it to you to keep him
on board?  Is it because you are so fond of his company?  Pah! if you
had eyes in your head, you would see that, despite his gratitude to you
for saving his life, he despises you.  What do you mean to do with him?
Are you going to turn him adrift among the negroes when we arrive upon
the coast?  I never could understand why you insisted upon saving him at
all."

"No?" queried Lemaitre, with a sneering laugh.  "Ah, that is because you
are a fool, Francois, _mon enfant_, a more arrant fool even than the
dear Courtenay himself.  Do you suppose I did it out of pity for his
condition, or because I love the British?  No.  I will tell you why,
idiot.  It is because he will fetch a good five hundred dollars at least
in the slave-market at Havana."

"So _that_ is what you intend to do with him, is it?" retorted Francois.
"Well, Lemaitre, I always knew you for an ass, but, unless you had told
me so with your own lips, I would never have believed you to be such an
ass as to sell a man for five hundred dollars when you can just as
easily get a thousand for him.  Yet you call me fool and idiot!  Pah,
you sicken me!"

"Oh, I sicken you, do I?" growled Lemaitre, by this time well advanced
toward intoxication.  "Take care what you are saying, my friend, or I
shall be apt to sicken you so thoroughly that you will be fit for
nothing but a toss over the lee bulwarks.  No doubt it is I who am the
fool, and you who are the clever one; but I should like to hear by what
means you would propose to get a thousand dollars for the fellow.  True,
he is young and stalwart, and will be in prime condition by the time
that we get back to Havana,--I will see to that,--but I have known
better men than he sold for less than five hundred dollars; ay, _white_
men too, not negroes."

"Did I not say you are an ass?" retorted Francois.  "Who talks of
selling him at Havana?  You, not I.  Do you not know who this Courtenay
is, then?  I will tell you, most wise and noble captain.  He is the
youth who attacked and destroyed Morillo's settlement at Cariacou,--I
remember the name perfectly well,--and I was told at Havana, by one who
ought to know, that Morillo had given it out among his friends that he
would pay one thousand dollars to anyone who should bring Courtenay to
him alive.  And that is not all, either.  You know what Morillo is; he
has declared a feud against this miserable, meddlesome Englishman, and
not only will he gladly pay a thousand dollars for the privilege of
wreaking his vengeance upon him, but the man who delivers your friend
Courtenay into his hands will be free to sail the seas without
molestation from Morillo as long as he lives.  What think you of that,
Captain Lemaitre?"

"Is this true?" demanded Lemaitre.  "Ay," answered Francois, "as true as
that you and I are sitting here in this cabin."

"Why did you not tell me of this before, Francois, my friend?" asked
Lemaitre, in a wheedling tone.

"Why did I not tell you before?" echoed Francois.  "Ask rather why I
tell you now, and I will answer that it is because I am such a fool that
I cannot keep a good thing to myself when I have it.  Sac-r-r-re! what
need was there for me to make you as wise as myself, eh?  However, I am
not going to let you have this choice little bit of information for
nothing.  I have told you how to make a clear five hundred dollars over
and above what you could have earned without the information I have been
idiot enough to give you, and you must pay me half the amount; do you
understand?"

"Ay, I understand," answered Lemaitre, with a sudden return to his
former sneering, aggressive manner; "but I should like to know--just for
the satisfaction of my curiosity--how you propose to compel me to pay
you that two hundred and fifty dollars that you talk about."

"Why, easily enough," snarled Francois, with sudden fury, as he realised
that Lemaitre intended to evade the extortion if he could.  "If you do
not pay me immediately after receiving the reward from Morillo, I will
denounce you to him.  I will say that you intended to have yielded up
your prisoner to the British, in order that you might curry favour with
them and secure immunity from capture by them; and that you would never
have given him up to Morillo at all but for my threats.  And I suppose
you know what that will mean for you, eh?"

"Oh, so that is what you would do, is it, my friend?" returned Lemaitre,
with a harsh laugh.  "Well, well, it will be time enough for you to
threaten when I refuse to pay you the two hundred and fifty dollars.
Until then, there is no need for us to quarrel; so fill up your glass,
Francois, and let us drink to the health of the dear Courtenay, who,
after all, was quite worth picking up off the raft, don't you think?"

Then followed a gurgling sound as the two topers filled their glasses.
A gulping and smacking of lips, succeeded by a banging of the empty
tumblers upon the table, came clearly to me through the latticed upper
panel of my door; and then certain staggering sounds, as the two
struggled to their feet, were followed by Lemaitre thickly bidding his
companion good-night, as the pair reeled and stumbled away to their
respective berths.

I slept badly that night, the fever, with the intelligence I had just
acquired, combining to make me restless and wakeful; but after tossing
from side to side, until about two bells in the morning watch, I
gradually sank into a troubled sleep, from which I was startled by a
sudden outbreak of loud, excited shouts, succeeded by a sound of fierce
scuffling, accompanied by a volley of oaths and exclamations, the stamp
of feet, a heavy fall, a rush of footsteps up the companion ladder, and
a sudden, heavy splash alongside.  Then followed a terrific outcry on
deck, with the hurrying rush of feet on the planking overhead, the
furious slatting of canvas as the schooner shot into the wind, more
excited shouts, ending in a sort of groaning mingled with ejaculations
of dismay, a sudden silence, and then a terrific jabbering, suggestive
of the idea that all hands had incontinently taken leave of their
senses.

I sprang out of my bunk and hurriedly proceeded to dress, rushing on
deck bare-footed to see what was the matter; and as I emerged from the
companion-way I saw all hands gathered aft, most of them staring hard
over the taffrail, while one man was busily engaged in binding up the
left arm of the second mate.

"Hillo, Monsieur Charpentier!"  I exclaimed, "what is the matter?  Has
anything happened?"

"Happened, monsieur?  I should think so!" exclaimed the second mate,
turning to me a white and ghastly face; "a most awful thing has
happened.  When I went below just now to call Francois I was unable to
make him hear, although I called several times and knocked ever so hard
at his door.  So I ventured to turn the door handle and enter his cabin,
and what do you think I saw, monsieur?  Why, poor Francois lying dead in
his bunk, his clothes soaked with blood, and a great gaping wound in his
breast, right over his heart!  I was so horrified, monsieur, that I
scarcely knew what to do; but, collecting myself with a mighty effort, I
went to call the captain; and when I reached his cabin I found the door
wide open and Monsieur Lemaitre crouched in a corner of it, with a great
bloodstained knife in his hand, his eyes glaring, and his lips mumbling
and muttering I know not what.  I saw that there was something wrong
with him, monsieur,--I believed he had gone mad,--and I was about to
turn away and call for help; but he saw me, and, before I was aware,
sprang upon me, seizing me with one hand by the throat while with the
other he aimed blow after blow at me with his terrible knife.  I
defended myself as well as I could, monsieur, fighting bravely for my
life; but what can one do against a madman?  The captain seemed to
possess the strength of twenty men; he forced me irresistibly back
against the bulkhead, and then drove his knife through my arm.
Believing that he had killed me, I relaxed my hold upon him; whereupon
he hurled me to the deck, sprang over my fallen body, and bounded up on
deck, _and from thence overboard_!  And now they tell me, monsieur, that
he had scarcely struck the water when a shark rose, seized him, and
dragged him under!  See, monsieur, look astern!  He is gone; there is
nothing to be seen of him!  What shall we do? oh, mon Dieu, what shall
we do?"

"Are you _quite sure_ that the captain was seized by a shark?"  I
demanded, looking round from one to another of the men, who had now
turned their faces inboard and stood staring alternately at Charpentier
and myself.

"Oh yes, monsieur," excitedly replied half a dozen of them all together,
"we all saw it; it was a monster.  And," continued one of them, "the
captain had scarcely risen to the surface after his plunge overboard
when the shark seized him by the middle and dragged him under.  We all
saw the blood dyeing the water,--did we not, shipmates?--but the captain
never uttered a cry; just threw up his arms and vanished.  Is not that
it, my friends?"

"Yes, yes," they all exclaimed again, "that is it.  Jules describes it
exactly as it occurred."

"Then," said I, "it seems to me, Monsieur Charpentier, that, Captain
Lemaitre and the mate being dead, nothing remains but for you to take
command and navigate the schooner to her destination."

"But, monsieur, I cannot do that, for, unhappily, I am not a navigator,"
replied Charpentier, wringing his hands.

"Do you mean to say that you know _nothing whatever_ about navigation!"
demanded I.

"Alas, no, monsieur! nothing whatever," was the reply.

"And is there no one else among you who can navigate the schooner?"
asked I.

The men looked at each other, shaking their heads and muttering, "Not
I"; and finally Charpentier exclaimed, "You see, monsieur, there is not
one of us who can navigate.  What is to be done?  _You_, monsieur, are
an officer--at least so I understood Francois to say; perhaps you
could--"

"Well," demanded I, seeing that the fellow hesitated, "perhaps I could--
what?"

"Pardon, monsieur," exclaimed he, "I was in hopes that, considering the
difficulty we are placed in by this most lamentable tragedy, you would
kindly take command and navigate the schooner."

"I see," remarked I.  "Well," I continued, "if such is the wish of you
all, I have no objection to do as you wish.  But--understand me--I will
only consent to navigate the schooner back to the West Indies; I will
not undertake the trouble and responsibility of carrying the ship to her
destination and shipping a cargo.  I disapprove, on principle, of slave-
trading, which I consider an iniquitous traffic, and I will have nothing
to do with it; but, if you are willing, I will navigate the ship back to
Port Royal,--guaranteeing you immunity from capture upon our arrival, in
consideration of the rescue and succour that you have afforded me,--and,
when there, you will have no difficulty in procuring someone who will
navigate the schooner from thence to Havana or any other port that you
may choose to go to.  Just talk it over among yourselves, and let me
know what you decide on doing."

I could see that my proposal was not at all to Charpentier's liking, or,
indeed, to the liking of any of the crew; but I cared not for that.  I
was quite determined to have nothing whatever to do with the kidnapping
of any unfortunate blacks; and in the end they were obliged to give way,
although Charpentier tried hard to dissuade me from my resolution; the
result being, that immediately after I had ascertained our position at
noon, we wore round and shaped a course for Martinique, that island
being in a direct line with Jamaica.  At first I was rather apprehensive
that the disappointment of the men at so unprofitable a result of the
voyage would cause them to be troublesome; but it did not.  The question
of turning back having once been settled, they all seemed to take the
matter very philosophically, the fact that they were now relieved of the
mate's tyranny perhaps reconciling them to such disappointment as they
might otherwise have felt.

I need not dwell upon the return voyage, which was singularly
uneventful; suffice it to say that, favoured with fine weather and a
fair wind all the way, we made an exceptionally smart run across the
Atlantic, entering Port Royal harbour on the morning of the twenty-
second day after bearing up, and eleven weeks to a day from the date of
my abduction by Dominguez.

My sudden reappearance created quite a sensation among the dockyard
people, my disappearance having been involved in so much mystery that
all sorts of surmises had been indulged in to account for it.  Some were
of opinion that I had fallen overboard into the harbour, and had found a
secure hiding-place in the maw of a shark; but there were others who,
happening to have been present when I was summoned from Mammy
Wilkinson's hotel upon my supposititious errand of help and rescue to
young Lindsay, at once mentioned the circumstance, with the result that
a very strong suspicion of foul play was aroused.  My friend and patron,
the admiral, was especially concerned upon my account, even going to the
length of offering a reward of fifty pounds for such intelligence as
should lead to my discovery; but it resulted in nothing, those worthies,
Caesar and Peter, perhaps being too much afraid to utter a word of what
they knew.  Then there occurred more frigate actions, resulting in so
heavy a pressure of work, that nobody seemed to have any time to think
about the mysterious disappearance of a somewhat obscure young
lieutenant.  But now that I had unexpectedly turned up again, safe and
sound, I was overwhelmed with congratulations, while the admiral sent a
party of police to the house to which I had been conveyed, with
instructions that the two negroes were to be at once found and arrested.
The house, however, proved to be empty when the police made their
domiciliary visit; and, as for the negroes, their whereabouts was never
discovered.  Possibly the excitement of my reappearance, and the talk to
which it gave rise, alarmed them and caused them to beat a hasty retreat
to some other island.

To my great joy, I discovered that the _Diane_ was not yet
recommissioned, the repairs and alterations to her having been greatly
delayed by the more pressing work of repairing the frigates, while the
admiral--in the hope that I might still turn up, and with that extreme
kindness that had marked all his treatment of me--had determined not to
give the command of her to anyone else until she should be absolutely
ready for sea.  I therefore at once stepped into my former position, and
lost no time in getting as many men to work upon her as could be spared.
And there was the less difficulty in accomplishing this, that Morillo
was believed to be more busy than ever, several outward-bound ships
being overdue without the occurrence of any bad weather to account for
their disappearance.  Meanwhile, during the progress of the work aboard
the brigantine, I gave myself up to the task of getting together a crew,
of which my old friend Black Peter constituted himself the nucleus,
while several former _Terns_ volunteered, these again inducing other men
of their acquaintance to come forward and join; so that by the time that
the finishing touches were being put to the _Diane_, I had fifty-two
first-rate men waiting to go aboard as soon as the ship should be ready
to receive them.  But I wanted five more to complete my complement, and
these I picked up by making a raid one night upon the low boarding-
houses in Kingston, where the crimps were in the habit of taking in
sailors and keeping them in hiding until they had extracted from them
every penny of their hard-earned wages.

At length, some five weeks from the date of my reappearance, the time
arrived when the _Diane_, being ready for sea, with her guns mounted,
provisions, water, and stores of every kind on board, and sails bent,
hauled off alongside the powder hulk to ship her ammunition; and that
delicate job having been successfully accomplished, under my personal
supervision, I went up to Kingston to dine with the admiral prior to
sailing, calling at the hotel on my way in order to change my clothes.
As I entered the building, the head waiter--a negro--stepped forward and
handed me a letter addressed in an unknown and foreign-looking
handwriting to myself.  I opened it at once, and found that it bore a
date a full fortnight old, and read as follows, the language being
English:--

"Senor Courtenay,--You have constituted yourself my especial enemy, and
have apparently declared war to the knife against me.  In return I now
declare my determination to destroy you by whatever means may present
themselves.  Thrice have you injured me, either personally or through my
agents; but rest assured that a day of reckoning will come, when you
shall curse the hour that gave you birth.  I will fight you wherever we
may happen to meet, and let the strongest conquer.  If you fear not to
meet me, hoist a red swallow-tailed burgee to your fore royal masthead,
that I may recognise your ship from others, Morillo."

"When did this letter arrive, and who brought it?" demanded I of the
waiter, who stood by as I read the document.

"A black boy brought it, about half an hour ago, sah, an' said I was to
be suah an' gib it you, sah, an' dat dar was no ansah, sah," replied the
fellow.

"Did you know the boy?" demanded I.

"No, sah; nebber saw him befoah to my knowledge, sah," was the reply.

"Did you take enough notice of him to be able to recognise him should
you happen to see him again?" asked I.

"I's afraid not, sah; those black boys are all exactly alike, you know,
sah," replied the fellow, who was himself as black as the ace of spades.

"Well," said I, "if you _should_ happen to see him again, and can manage
to detain him until you can give him into custody, it will be worth five
guineas to you.  I should very much like to see that boy and ask him a
question or two."

"All right, sah; if I see him I'll stop him, nebbah feah, sah," replied
the waiter, with a grin; and therewith I hurried away to my room to
dress.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

THE END OF THE GUERRILLA.

I arrived at the Pen just in time for dinner, and found myself one of an
unusually large party of guests, several men-o'-war being in port at the
time, while a large contingent of civilians might always be met at the
admiral's table.  The old gentleman received me with all his wonted
kindness and cordiality, introducing me to such of his guests as I had
not met before, and relating over the dinner-table, with much gusto, the
story of my abduction and escape.  Then I produced Morillo's letter of
defiance, which I took with me to show him, and which added a fillip to
the conversation that lasted us until the cloth was drawn.  We sat
rather late over our wine, and when we rose to go the admiral invited me
into his library for a moment, and said--

"Well, my lad, d'ye intend to accept that piratical rascal's challenge?"

"Most assuredly I do, sir, if I can but fall in with him," answered I.

"Very well," said the admiral, "you shall have every opportunity to give
him the thrashing that he so richly deserves.  There," handing me a
packet, "are your orders, which you will find are that, while cruising
against the enemy, and doing as much harm as you can to their commerce,
you are to keep a bright lookout for Morillo, and either capture or
destroy him at all costs.  When do you sail?"

"The moment that I can get aboard, sir," answered I.

"That's right, that's right; you will then be able to make a good offing
before the land-breeze drops," returned the admiral.  "Well," he
continued, "good-bye, my boy, and a successful cruise to you.  And if,
when you return, you bring Morillo with you, or can assure me of his
destruction, you shall have t'other swab; for I shall consider that you
have well-earned it."

And therewith I left him and drove into Kingston, where I routed out a
boatman and made the best of my way aboard the _Diane_.  An hour later
the brigantine was under way, and threading her passage through the
shoals to seaward under the influence of a roaring land-breeze.

The question that now exercised my mind was, where was I to look for
Morillo?  In what direction should I be most likely to find him?  It was
a most difficult question to answer; but, after considering the matter
in all its bearings, I came to the conclusion that his most likely haunt
would probably be near one of the great entrances from the Atlantic to
the Caribbean Sea, where he would be conveniently posted to intercept
and plunder both outward and homeward-bound ships; although he would
probably take care not to establish himself _too_ near, lest he should
run foul of any of our cruisers stationed in the same locality for the
protection of British bottoms trading to and from West Indian ports.  He
would in all likelihood select a spot some two or three hundred miles
away out in the Atlantic, from which he could command both the outward
and the homeward routes of ships bound from and to Europe.  I opened a
chart of the North Atlantic and studied it carefully, trying to imagine
myself in his place, and thinking what I should do under such
circumstances; and reasoning in this way, I at length fixed upon a belt
of ocean suitable for piratical purposes, and thither I determined to
make my way, thoroughly searching every mile of intervening water as I
did so.  Then came the question whether I should select the Windward or
the Mona Passage by which to make my way into the Atlantic; and after
much anxious consideration I decided upon the Windward Passage, that
being the channel most frequently used by our merchantmen.  I
accordingly set the course for Morant Point, and then went below and
turned in.

When I went on deck next morning, shortly after daybreak, I found that
the _Diane_ had weathered the point and was now on the starboard tack,
heading well up for Cape Mayzi, with the Blue Mountains already assuming
the hue from which they are named, as the brigantine rapidly left them
astern.  It was a brilliant morning, with the trade wind piping up to
the tune of half a gale; yet the little ship was showing her
topgallantsail to it, and sheering through the rather short, choppy sea
like a mad thing, with her yards braced hard in against the lee rigging,
and the lower half of her foresail dark with spray, while the white foam
hissed and seethed and raced past her to leeward at a pace that made one
giddy to look at.  That the _Diane_ was a perfect marvel in the matter
of speed--and a good sea-boat withal--was undeniable; and as I stood
aft, to windward of the helmsman, and watched the little hooker
thrashing along, I felt sanguine that, should we be fortunate enough to
encounter Senor Morillo, he would have but small chance of escaping us
by showing a clean pair of heels.

The following midnight found us handsomely weathering Cape Mayzi, the
most easterly extremity of the island of Cuba, after which we held on
until we had brought the southern extremity of Great Inagua broad abeam,
when we again tacked, and so worked our way out to sea between the
Handkerchief shoal and Grand Caicos, passing an inward-bound Indiaman on
the way.  I spoke this vessel, asking if they had sighted any suspicious
craft of late; to which the skipper replied that four days previously he
had been chased by a French brig, which he had contrived to elude in the
darkness; and that he had on the following day sighted and spoken the
British frigate _Euterpe_, which had forthwith proceeded in quest of the
brig.  Thenceforth we sighted nothing until our fifth day out, when we
fell in with the _Euterpe_, which had just returned to her station after
an unsuccessful search.  Two days later we sighted a British privateer,
which made sail and tried to run away from us as soon as she made out
our pennant, fearing--so the skipper said when we overhauled and
compelled him to heave-to--that we should impress some of his men.  But,
as I had as many hands as I required, I let him go without compelling
him to pay toll.  His report was that the Atlantic was absolutely empty
of shipping, he having sighted nothing but a British line-of-battle ship
and three frigates during his passage across.

Finally, we reached the cruising-ground that I had selected as being the
most likely spot in which to meet Morillo; and there we cruised for a
full fortnight, just reaching to and fro athwart the wind, under
mainsail, topsail, and jib, and still there was no sign of the
_Guerrilla_ or of any other craft.  At length I became so thoroughly
discouraged that one night, soon after sundown, I went below, got out my
chart, and proceeded to study it afresh, with a view to the selection of
some other cruising-ground; and at length, after long and anxious
consideration, I fixed upon a new spot, for which I determined to bear
up next day if by noon nothing had hove in sight.

It chanced, however, that at dawn next morning a craft was made out some
ten miles to windward of us, and the officer of the watch at once came
down below and called me.  I went on deck immediately, to find that the
day was just breaking, and the stranger even then only barely visible
against the faint light that was spreading along the eastern horizon.
As we stood looking, we made her out to be a square-rigged vessel,
apparently of no great size, running down toward us under easy canvas;
and the thought came to me that here was the _Guerrilla_ at last, and
that my patience was about to meet its reward.  But a few minutes
later--by which time, as I supposed, it had grown light enough to reveal
our canvas to the approaching stranger--the craft suddenly hauled her
wind; and I then saw that she was a brig.  That she was not a
merchantman was obvious from the fact that she was under such short
canvas, all she showed being her two topsails, spanker, and jib--just
such canvas as a privateer or gun-brig would show, in fact, on her
cruising-ground; and I at once set her down for one or the other.  Of
her nationality, however, it was impossible to correctly judge at that
distance and in the still imperfect light; but there was a certain
subtle something in her appearance that suggested France as the land of
her birth.  Meanwhile, as she had rounded-to on the same tack as
ourselves, evidently with the intention of taking a good look at us
before approaching too near, we held on as we were going, taking no
notice whatever of her.  In about a quarter of an hour, however, it
became apparent that we were head-reaching upon her; whereupon she
dropped her foresail, to keep pace with us, while we on our part took a
small pull upon the lee braces, which enabled us to head up a point
higher, and so gradually edge up toward her.

Such excessive caution as the stranger was now exhibiting convinced me
that she could not be British; she must, consequently, be an enemy.  And
having once made up my mind upon this point, I very gradually braced our
yards as flat in against the rigging as they would come, flattened in
the main and jib-sheets, and thus brought the _Diane_ on a taut bowline,
without, as I hoped, arousing the suspicion of the stranger, meanwhile
keeping the telescope constantly levelled upon her in order that, should
I see any hands in her rigging going aloft to make sail, we might follow
suit without loss of time.  But I did not wish to take the initiative,
because by so doing I might possibly alarm them; while, so long as we
both kept on as we were, we were gradually and almost imperceptibly
closing her.

This state of affairs prevailed for about an hour, when suddenly--with
the view, perhaps, of compelling us to disclose our intentions--the
stranger tacked.  Obliged thus to throw off the mask, we at once did the
same, the hands--who had been standing by, waiting for orders--at the
same time springing into the rigging to loose our additional canvas; and
by the time that the little hooker was fairly round on the starboard
tack, and the yards swung, our topgallant sail and gaff-topsail were
sheeted home and in the act of being hoisted, together with the flying-
jib, foretopmast staysail, and main and maintopmast staysails, while the
fore tack was being boarded and the sheet hauled aft.  This caused an
immediate stir aboard the stranger, who, in her turn, at once set all
plain sail to her topgallant sails, the wind being altogether too fresh
for either of us to show a royal to it.

The manoeuvres just described brought the brig about three points before
our starboard beam and some eight miles to windward of us, both craft
being now close-hauled on the starboard tack.  There was a strong breeze
blowing from the north-east, with a fair amount of sea on, and the day
was brilliantly fine, with a rich, clear, crystalline blue sky, dappled
here and there with puffs of white trade-cloud sailing solemnly athwart
our mastheads; a splendid day for sailing, and we had the whole of it
before us.

It soon became apparent that we were gaining upon the brig--weathering
and fore-reaching upon her at the same time; and as it was now broad
daylight, I sent the men to quarters, hoisted our colours, and fired a
shotted gun to windward as an invitation to her to heave-to; but of this
she took no notice whatever.  By nine o'clock--at which hour I took an
observation of the sun for my longitude--we had fore-reached upon the
brig sufficiently to bring her a couple of points abaft our weather
beam, and then, in accordance with the rule for chasing, we tacked
again; whereupon she did the same, thus bringing us right astern and
slightly to windward of her.  It was now a stern-chase, she being as
nearly as possible seven miles ahead of us.  The wind held steady, and
hour after hour the two craft went plunging along at racing speed, the
brigantine gaining steadily all the time, until by one o'clock the chase
was within range, and we opened fire upon her with our long eighteen-
pounder.  Our shot flew close to her on either side,--as we could see by
the jets of water thrown up,--but it was fully half an hour before we
hit her, which we then did fair in the centre of her stern.  She
immediately shot into the wind, all aback, and it took them fully five
minutes to box her off again, when--seeing, I suppose, that they could
not now possibly escape us--her people clewed up her courses, hauled
down topgallant sails and staysails, until they had reduced their canvas
to what it had been when we first sighted her, hoisted French colours,
and bore up for us.

It was at this time that we first made out the upper canvas of another
vessel just appearing above the horizon in the northern board, and
evidently steering in our direction; and upon sending aloft one of the
midshipmen who were acting as my lieutenants, he reported her as a craft
of apparently about our own size.  The fact that she was heading
_toward_ us led me to the conclusion that she must be either a privateer
or a small cruiser like ourselves,--evidently attracted by the sound of
our guns,--and as I did not wish for her assistance, if a friend, or the
additional anxiety of having to fight her at the same time as the brig,
if an enemy, I called the hands aft and made them a brief speech,
impressing upon them the importance of settling the brig's business as
promptly as possible, in order that we might be free to give the other
stranger our undivided attention, if necessary.  They answered with a
hearty cheer, and went back to their guns; and a quarter of an hour
later the brig rounded-to within biscuit-toss to windward of us, giving
us her larboard broadside as she did so.

This was the beginning of a regular set-to, hammer and tongs, between
us, the French fighting with the utmost courage and determination, and
playing havoc with our rigging, which they cut up so severely that half
a dozen of our people were kept busy aloft knotting and splicing.  At
length, however, when the fight had thus been raging for a full hour,
with heavy loss on both sides, tacking suddenly under cover of the smoke
of our starboard broadside, we shot across the brig's stern, raking her
with a double-shotted broadside from our larboard guns, which had the
effect of bringing both her masts down by the run, rendering her a wreck
and unmanageable; and we now felt that she was ours.

But we were reckoning without our host--or rather, without the second
stranger, whom we had been altogether too busy to give a thought to.  As
the smoke of our guns blew away to leeward, and we prepared to tack
again preparatory to passing once more athwart the brig's stern, I got a
full and clear view of the stranger, who--approaching us from to
windward--had hitherto been hidden from us by the brig and by the smoke
of our combined cannonade.  She was less than half a mile distant from
us, and was at the moment in the very act of taking in her studding-
sails.  She was a brigantine, and a single glance at her sufficed to
assure me that she was the _Guerrilla_, and that at last the feud
between Morillo and myself was to be fought out to the bitter end.  I
had long ago prepared a red swallow-tailed burgee, such as the pirate
had dared me to exhibit, and I immediately gave orders to hoist it at
our fore royal masthead.  The flag had scarcely reached the truck when I
saw a _black_ flag flutter out over the other brigantine's rail and go
soaring aloft to her gaff-end.  Morillo had evidently recognised my
challenge, and was prompt to answer it.

Sweeping under the brig's stern again, at a distance of only a few
fathoms, I hailed, asking whether they surrendered; but a pistol-shot,
which flew close past my ear, was their only reply, so we gave them our
starboard broadside, and then wore round to meet our new antagonist,
leaving the brig meanwhile to her own devices.

I am of opinion that Morillo must have had a very shrewd suspicion as to
our identity long before the exhibition of our burgee, because of the
eager haste with which he bore down upon us.  So eager, indeed, was he,
that he carried his studding-sails just a minute or two _too_ long; a
mistake on his part, which enabled us to make a couple of short
stretches to windward and secure the weather-gage before he was ready to
round-to, although as soon as his people detected our purpose they
worked with frantic haste to shorten sail.

The pirates opened the ball by giving us their whole larboard broadside
while we were in stays, tacking toward them; but the guns were fired
hurriedly, and did us no harm, the shot flying high over us and between
our masts, without touching so much as a ropeyarn.  Five minutes later
we passed close across the _Guerrilla's_ stern, making a half-board to
clear her, and delivered our larboard broadside, with the eighteen-
pounder thrown in, every shot taking effect and raking her from end to
end.  Morillo was standing aft by the taffrail, and as we passed near
enough to hear the wash of the water about the pirate vessel's rudder,
he suddenly snatched up a blunderbuss, and, singling me out, fired
point-blank at me, one bullet knocking my cap off, while another lodged
in my left shoulder, a third killing the man at our wheel, close behind
me.  The _Guerrilla_ immediately ported her helm, while I, springing to
our wheel, put it hard a-starboard, thus passing a second time athwart
our antagonist's stern; and again we raked her mercilessly, this time
with our starboard broadside.  Keeping our wheel hard over, we swept
round until we were once more in stays, the _Guerrilla_ having tacked
toward us a minute earlier, with the evident intention of raking us in
her turn.  We were just a little too quick for her, however, gathering
way so smartly that, as we neared each other, it became evident that,
unless one or the other of us tacked again, we must inevitably run foul
of each other.  I had no mind for this sort of thing, however, as we
should probably hurt ourselves quite as much as our antagonist; so,
holding on until we had only just room to clear the _Guerrilla_, and
singing out for a second shot to be rammed home in the larboard guns, I
eased our helm down just at the right moment, ranging up so close to the
other brigantine that we almost grazed her side, when we exchanged
broadsides at precisely the same instant, with terrible effect on both
sides.  At the same moment our topsail was thrown aback to deaden our
way, and as the _Guerrilla_ passed ahead our helm was put hard up and we
paid square off across her stern, firing our starboard broadside into
her as we did so.  The result this time was absolutely disastrous to the
pirates, for the guns were fired at the precise moment when the
_Guerrilla's_ stern was lifted up on the crest of a sea, while we were
in the trough beyond; in consequence of which, our shot all struck her a
trifle below her normal water-line, producing a very serious leak,
which, even under the most favourable circumstances, it would have been
exceedingly difficult to stop.  But this was not the worst of it; the
shot, by a lucky accident, so far as we were concerned, had somehow
become concentrated, all of them taking effect upon the pirate's rudder
and stern-post, with the result that the former was shot away, and the
latter, as well as two or three hood-ends, so badly started that ere ten
minutes had elapsed it became apparent that the _Guerrilla_ was rapidly
filling.

Meanwhile, however, we held on across her stern, filling our topsail
again, and tacking as soon as we had room; while the pirate brigantine,
deprived of her rudder, shot into the wind and got in irons, obstinately
refusing to pay off on either tack.  This enabled us to sweep across her
bows, pouring in our port broadside as we passed, raking her fore and
aft, and bringing down her foremast by the run.  Holding on for a few
minutes, we next wore round--getting her starboard broadside as we
passed--and then cut close across her stern again, raking her as before.
By this time, however, it had become apparent that she was sinking, so,
having once more tacked, we ranged up close athwart her stern, with our
topsail aback, when, instead of firing, I hailed to ask if they
surrendered.

"No, senor," replied Morillo himself, who was standing aft close to the
now useless wheel, "we will _never_ surrender!  I wrote you a letter--
which I hope you received--in which I said that I would fight you until
my ship sinks under me; and I mean to do so.  I also told you that my
feud with you is to the death; so, take that!" and therewith the
scoundrel quickly levelled a pistol and, for the second time that day,
fired point-blank at me!  And there is no doubt whatever that this time
he would have slain me--for the pistol was pointed so truly that I
actually looked for a moment right into the barrel of it--had it not
been for the _Diane's_ helmsman, who unceremoniously seized me by the
arm in the very nick of time and quickly pulled me aside.  As it was,
the bullet whistled close past my ear.  This dastardly act so
exasperated our people that forthwith, without waiting for orders, they
poured the whole of our port broadside into the devoted craft,
completely demolishing her stern, so that for a few seconds, as we drew
slowly athwart her wake, we got a full view of her decks, which were
cumbered with killed and wounded, and literally streaming with blood.
Still, by a miracle, Morillo himself survived this last destructive
broadside of ours; for when the smoke blew away I saw him still standing
erect and shaking his fist defiantly at us.

It was by this time evident to us all that the _Guerrilla_ was a doomed
ship; she was settling fast in the water, and to continue firing upon
her would only be a waste of ammunition.  We therefore filled our
topsail and, a few minutes later, tacked, again getting a broadside from
the sinking ship, when we stationed ourselves square athwart her bows--
where we were pretty well out of the way of her fire--and, with topsail
aback and mainsheet eased off, waited patiently for the final moment,
which we saw was rapidly approaching.  Yet, even now, Morillo persisted
in firing at us with his two bow guns, compelling us to fire upon him in
return; and so the useless fight went on, until the _Guerrilla_ had
settled so low in the water that the sea welled in over her bows at
every plunge of her, rendering it impossible to any longer maintain
their fire.  Then, with folded hands, we all stood by, watching for the
end.

And a very melancholy picture it was upon which we looked.  There was
the illimitable expanse of ocean all round us, blue as sapphire, heaving
in long, regular ridges of swell, and whipped into foam here and there
by the scourging of the strong trade wind, with a rich blue sky above,
dappled with wisps of trade-cloud, and the sun shining brilliantly down
from the midst of them, causing the heaving waters to flash and glitter
under his fiery beams, so that the sea that way was too dazzling to look
at.  And there, right in the centre of the glowing picture, lay the two
brigantines--we with our bulwarks torn and splintered to pieces, our
sails riddled with shot-holes, our rigging badly cut up, and our decks
scored with shot-marks and littered with dead and wounded men; while the
_Guerrilla_ was an even more melancholy wreck than ourselves, as she lay
heaving and rolling sluggishly, with her covering-boards awash and the
sea sweeping her decks from stem to taffrail at every plunge, and the
wreck of her foremast towing under her bows.  There was not a soul
visible on board her.  When she first engaged us her decks had appeared
to be crowded with men, but now most of them were either killed or
wounded, and the few who had escaped seemed to have flung themselves
down exhausted, for they had all disappeared.  As for the craft herself,
it was now only when she rose heavily upon the ridges of the swell that
we could see her hull at all; and every plunge that she took into a
hollow threatened to be her last.  Yet she lingered, as though reluctant
to leave the brilliant sunshine and the warm, strong breeze; lingered
until I began to wonder whether she would not after all remain afloat, a
water-logged wreck; and then, all in a moment, her stern rose high in
the air, revealing her shattered rudder and stern-post, and with a long,
slow, diving movement, she plunged forward, like a sounding whale, and
silently vanished in a little swirl of water.  We at once bore up for
the spot where she had disappeared,--finding it easily by the torn and
splintered fragments of wreckage that came floating up to the surface,--
but her crew went down with her, to a man; for although we cruised about
the spot for fully half an hour, we never saw even so much as a dead
body come to the surface.

And so ended that terror of the seas, the _Guerrilla_, with her
bloodthirsty pirate crew; and with her destruction ended the feud that
had been thrust upon me by one of the most fiendish monsters in human
form that ever sailed the ocean.  It may perhaps seem to the reader a
cold-blooded deed on our part to remain passively by and calmly watch
the passing of those wretches to their account; but in reality it was an
act of mercy, for their end was at least swift; whereas, had we saved
any of them, it would only have been that they might terminate their
career upon the gallows.

Meanwhile, the brig had dropped some six miles to leeward during the
fight, and her crew had made the best of the opportunity by endeavouring
to get some jury-spars aloft.  The time, however, was too short for
that, and when we ran down to them they were still in the thick of their
work.  But they had now had enough of fighting, for when I again hailed
to ask if they surrendered, they at once replied in the affirmative; and
in due course we took possession of the _Nereide_ of Bordeaux, armed
with twelve long nine-pounders, and with a crew originally of eighty-six
men, of whom twenty-three were killed and fifty-seven wounded in her
fight with us.  We spent the remainder of that day in completing the
rigging of the jury-masts that her people had begun, and made sail upon
both craft just after sunset that same evening, arriving safely in Port
Royal harbour some three weeks later.

And now, what remains to be said?  The tale of my association with the
fate of Morillo the Pirate is told; and all I need add is that when the
account of my exploit was told, I received a great deal more credit and
praise than I felt I really deserved; while, as for my friend the
admiral--well, he was as good as his word, for within twenty-four hours
of my arrival with my prize in Port Royal harbour, he handed me, with
hearty congratulations and many kind words, the commission that entitled
me to mount "t'other swab."

THE END.





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