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´╗┐Title: The Castaways
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 "The Castaways" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



The Castaways, by Harry Collingwood.

________________________________________________________________________
A very nice book by this prolific writer of adventures at sea.  Not too
long, and fully recommended.

As usual with this author, this book makes a nice audiobook.

I just wonder what made him use this title, as there are so many books
with the same title, and I would not have said that there were any
castaway situations in this book, but perhaps this is because the book
didn't go in quite the direction that the author intended when he
started to write it!

________________________________________________________________________
THE CASTAWAYS, BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD.



CHAPTER ONE.

MISS ONSLOW.

It was on a wet, dreary, dismal afternoon, toward the end of October
18--, that I found myself _en route_ for Gravesend, to join the clipper
ship _City of Cawnpore_, in the capacity of cuddy passenger, bound for
Calcutta.

The wind was blowing strong from the south-east, and came sweeping
along, charged with frequent heavy rain squalls that dashed fiercely
against the carriage windows, while the atmosphere was a mere dingy,
brownish grey expanse of shapeless vapour, so all-pervading that it shut
out not only the entire firmament but also a very considerable portion
of the landscape.

There had been a time, not so very long ago--while I was hunting slavers
on the West Coast, grilling under a scorching African sun day after day
and month after month, with pitiless monotony--when the mere
recollection of such weather as this had made me long for a taste of it
as a priceless luxury; but now, after some five months' experience of
the execrable British climate, I folded my cloak more closely about me,
as I gazed through the carriage windows at the rain-blurred landscape,
and blessed the physician who was sending me southward in search of
warmth and sunshine and the strong salt breeze once more.

For it was in pursuit of renewed health and strength that I was about to
undertake the voyage; a spell of over two years of hard, uninterrupted
service upon the Coast--during which a more than average allowance of
wounds and fever had fallen to my share--had compelled me to invalid
home; and now, with my wounds healed, the fever banished from my system,
and in possession of a snug little, recently-acquired competence that
rendered it unnecessary for me to follow the sea as a profession, I--
Charles Conyers, R.N., aged twenty-seven--was, by the fiat of my medical
adviser, about to seek, on the broad ocean, that life-giving tonic which
is unobtainable elsewhere, and which was all that I now needed to
entirely reinvigorate my constitution and complete my restoration to
perfect health.

Upon my arrival at Gravesend I was glad to find that the rain had
ceased, for the moment, although the sky still looked full of it.  I
therefore lost no time in making my way down to the river, where I
forthwith engaged a waterman to convey me, and the few light articles I
had brought with me, off to the ship.

The _City of Cawnpore_ was a brand-new iron ship, of some twelve hundred
tons register, modelled like a frigate, full-rigged, and as handsome a
craft in every respect as I had ever seen.  I had seen her before, of
course, in the Docks, when I had gone down to inspect her and choose my
cabin; but she was then less than half loaded; her decks were dirty and
lumbered up with bales and cases of cargo; her jib-booms were rigged in,
and her topgallant-masts down on deck; and altogether she was looking
her worst; while now, lying well out toward the middle of the stream as
she was, she looked a perfect picture, as she lay with her bows pointing
down-stream, straining lightly at her cable upon the last of the
flood-tide, loaded down just sufficiently, as it seemed, to put her into
perfect sailing trim, her black hull with its painted ports showing up
in strong contrast to the peasoup-coloured flood upon which she rode,
her lofty masts stayed to a hair, and all accurately parallel, gleaming
like ruddy gold against the dingy murk of the wild-looking sky.  Her
yards were all squared with the nicest precision, and the new
cream-white canvas snugly furled upon them and the booms; the red ensign
streamed from the gaff-end; and the burgee, or house flag--a red star in
a white diamond upon a blue field--cut with a swallow tail in the
present instance to indicate that her skipper was the commodore of the
fleet--fluttered at the main-royal-masthead.

"She's a pretty ship, sir; a very pretty ship; as handsome a vessel as
I've ever see'd a lyin' off this here town," remarked the waterman who
was pulling me off to her, noting perhaps the admiration in my gaze.
"And she's a good staunch ship, too; well built, well found, and well
manned--the owners of them `red star' liners won't have nothin' less
than the very best of everything in their ships and aboard of 'em--and I
hopes your honour'll have a very pleasant voyage, I'm sure.  You ought
to, for there's some uncommon nice people goin' out in her; I took three
of 'em off myself in this here very same boat 'bout a hour ago.  And one
of 'em--ah, she _is_ a beauty, she is, and no mistake! handsome as a
hangel; and such eyes--why, sir, they're that bright and they sparkles
to that extent that you won't want no stars not so long as she's on
deck."

"Indeed," answered I, with languid interest, yet glad nevertheless to
learn that there was to be at least one individual of agreeable
personality on board.  Then, as we drew up toward the accommodation
ladder, I continued: "Back your starboard oar; pull port; way enough!
Lay in your oars and look out for the line that they are about to heave
to you!"

"Ay, ay, sir," answered the fellow, as he proceeded with slow
deliberation but a great show of alacrity to obey my injunctions.  "Dash
my buttons," he continued, "if I didn't think as you'd seen a ship afore
to-day, and knowed the stem from the starn of her.  Says I to myself,
when I seen the way that you took hold of them yoke-lines, and the
knowin' cock of your heye as you runned it over this here vessel's hull
and spars and her riggin'--`this here gent as I've a got hold of is a
sailor, he is, and as sich he'll know what a hard life of it we pore
watermen has; and I shouldn't wonder but what--knowin' the hardness of
the life--he'll'--thank'ee, sir; I wishes you a wery pleasant voyage,
with all my 'eart, sir.  Take hold, steward; these is all the things the
gent has brought along of 'im."

I was received at the gangway by a fine sailorly-looking man, some
thirty-five years of age, and of about middle height, sturdily built,
and with a frank, alert, pleasant expression of face, who introduced
himself to me as the chief mate--Murgatroyd by name--following up his
self-introduction with the information that Captain Dacre had not yet
come down from town, but might be expected on board in time for dinner.

It was just beginning to rain rather sharply again, or I should have
been disposed to remain on deck for a while and improve my acquaintance
with this genial-looking sailor; as it was, I merely paused beside him
long enough to note that the deck between the foremast and the mainmast
seemed to be crowded with rough, round-backed, awkward-looking men,
having the appearance of navvies or something of that kind; also that
the main hatch was partially closed by a grating through an aperture in
which, at the after port angle of the hatchway, other men of a like sort
were passing up and down by means of a ladder.  The mate caught my
inquiring glance as it wandered over the rough-looking crowd, and
replied to it by remarking:

"Miners, and such-like--a hundred and twenty of 'em--going out to
develop a new mine somewhere up among the Himalayas, so I'm told.
Rather a tough lot, by the look of 'em, Mr Conyers; but I'll take care
that they don't annoy the cuddy passengers; and they'll soon shake down
when once we're at sea."

"No doubt," I replied.  "Poor fellows! they appear to be indifferent
enough to the idea of leaving their native land; but how many of them, I
wonder, will live to return to it.  Steward," I continued, as I turned
away to follow the man who was carrying my hand baggage below for me,
"is there anyone in the same cabin with me?"

"No, sir; you've got it all to yourself, sir," was the reply.  "There
was a young gent," he continued--"one of a family of six as was goin'
out with us--who was to have been put in along with you, sir; but the
father have been took suddenly ill, so they're none of 'em going.
Consequence is that we've only got thirty cuddy passengers aboard,
instead of thirty-six, which is our full complement.  Your trunks is
under the bottom berth, sir, and I've unstrapped 'em.  Anything more I
can do for you, sir?"

I replied in the negative, thanking the man for his attention; and then,
as he closed the cabin-door behind him, I seated myself upon a sofa and
looked round at the snug and roomy apartment which, if all went well, I
was to occupy during the voyage of the ship to India and back.

The room was some ten feet long, by eight feet wide, and seven feet high
to the underside of the beams.  It was set athwartships, instead of fore
and aft as was at that period more frequently the fashion; and it was
furnished with two bunks, or beds, one over the other, built against the
bulkhead that divided the cabin from that next it.  The lower bunk was
"made up" with bed, bedding, and pillows complete, ready for occupation;
but the upper bunk, not being required, had been denuded of its bedding,
leaving only the open framework of the bottom, which was folded back and
secured against the bulkhead, out of the way, thus leaving plenty of air
space above me when I should be turned in.  At the foot of the bunks
there was a nice deep, double chest of drawers, surmounted by an
ornamental rack-work arrangement containing a brace of water-bottles,
with tumblers to match, together with vacant spaces for the reception of
such matters as brushes and combs, razor-cases, and other odds and ends.
Then there was a wash-stand, with a toilet-glass above it, and a
cupboard beneath the basin containing two large metal ewers of fresh
water; and alongside the wash-stand hung a couple of large, soft towels.
There was a fine big bull's eye in the deck overhead, and a circular
port in the ship's side, big enough for me to have crept through with
some effort, had I so wished, the copper frame of which was glazed with
plate glass a full inch thick.  Beneath this port was the short sofa,
upholstered in black horsehair, upon which I sat; and, screwed to the
ship's side in such a position as to be well out of the way, yet capable
of pretty completely illuminating the cabin, was a handsome little
silver-plated lamp, already lighted, hung in gimbals and surmounted by a
frosted glass globe very prettily chased with a pattern of flowers and
leaves and birds.  The bulkheads were painted a dainty cream colour,
with gilt mouldings; a heavy curtain of rich material screened the door;
and the deck of the cabin was covered with a thick, handsome carpet.
"What a contrast," thought I, "to my miserable, stuffy little dog-hole
of a cabin aboard the old _Hebe_!"  And I sat there so long, meditating
upon the times that were gone, and the scenes of the past, that I lost
all consciousness of my surroundings, and was only awakened from my
brown study--or was it a quiet little nap?--by the loud clanging of the
first dinner bell.  Thus admonished, I went to work with a will to get
into my dress clothes--for those were the days when such garments were
_de rigueur_ aboard all liners of any pretensions--and was quite ready
to make my way to the saloon when the second and final summons to dinner
pealed forth.

The cuddy, or main saloon of the ship, was on deck, under the full poop,
while the sleeping accommodation was below; consequently by the time
that I had reached the vestibule upon which the cuddy doors opened, I
found myself in the midst of quite a little crowd of more or less
well-dressed people who were jostling each other in a gentle, well-bred
sort of way in their eagerness to get into the saloon.  They were mostly
silent, as is the way of the English among strangers, but a few, here
and there, who seemed to have already made each other's acquaintance,
passed the usual inane remarks about the absurdly inconvenient
arrangements generally of the ship.  Some half a dozen stewards were
showing the passengers to their places at table, as they passed in
through the doorways; and upon my entrance I was at once pounced upon by
one of the aforesaid stewards, who, in semi-confidential tones,
remarked:

"This way, if you please, sir.  It's Cap'n Dacre's orders that you was
to be seated close alongside of him."

As I followed the man down the length of the roomy, handsome apartment,
I could scarcely realise that it was the same that I had seen when the
ship lay loading in the dock.  Then, the deck (or floor, as a landsman
would call it) was carpetless, the tables, chairs, sofas, lamps, and
walls of the cabin were draped in brown holland, to protect them from
the all-penetrating dust and dirt that is always flying about, more or
less, during the handling of cargo, and the room was lighted only by the
skylights; now, I found myself in a scene as brilliant, after its own
fashion, as that afforded by the dining-room of a first-class hotel.
The saloon was of the full width of the ship, and some forty feet long
by about eight feet high; the sides and the ceiling were panelled, and
painted in cream, light blue, and gold; and it was furnished with three
tables--one on either side of the cabin, running fore-and-aft, with a
good wide gangway between, and one athwartships and abaft the other two,
with seats on the after side of it only, so that no one was called upon
to turn his or her back upon those sitting at the other two tables.  The
tables were gleaming with snow-white napery, crystal, and silver; and
were further adorned with handsome flowering plants in painted china
bowls, placed at frequent intervals; the deck was covered with a carpet
in which one's feet sank ankle deep; the sofas were upholstered in
stamped purple velvet; and the whole scene was illuminated by the soft
yet brilliant light of three clusters of three lamps each suspended over
the centres of the several tables.  Abaft the aftermost table I caught a
glimpse of a piano, open, with some sheets of music upon it, as though
someone had already been trying the tone of the instrument.

Conducted by the steward, I presently found myself installed in a chair,
between two ladies, one of whom was seated alongside the skipper, on his
right.  This lady was young--apparently about twenty-one or twenty-two
years of age, above medium height--if one could form a correct judgment
of her stature as she sat at the table--a rich and brilliant brunette,
crowned with a wealth of most beautiful and luxuriant golden-chestnut
hair, and altogether the most perfectly lovely creature that I had ever
beheld.  I felt certain, the moment my eyes rested upon her, that she
must certainly be the subject of my friend the waterman's enthusiastic
eulogies.  The other lady--she who occupied the seat on my right--was
stout, elderly, grey-haired, and very richly attired in brocade and
lace, with a profusion of jewellery about her.  She was also
loud-voiced, for as I passed behind her toward my seat she shouted to
the elderly, military-looking man on her right:

"Now, Pat, don't ye attempt to argue wid me; I shall be ill to-morrow,
no matther what I ait, or don't ait; so I shall take a good dinner and
injoy mesilf while I can!"

Captain Dacre--a very fine-looking, handsome, whitehaired man, attired
in a fairly close imitation of a naval captain's uniform, and looking a
thorough sailor all over--was already seated; but upon seeing me he
rose, stretched out his hand, and remarked:

"Lieutenant Conyers, I presume?  Welcome, sir, aboard the _City of
Cawnpore_; and I hope that when next you see Gravesend you will have
fully recovered the health and strength you are going to sea to look
for.  It is not often, Mr Conyers, that I have a brother sailor upon my
passenger list, so when I am so fortunate I make the most of him by
providing him--as in your case--with a berth at the table as nearly
alongside me as possible.  Allow me to make you known to your
neighbours.  Miss Onslow, permit me to introduce Lieutenant Conyers of
our Royal Navy.  Lady O'Brien--General Sir Patrick O'Brien--Lieutenant
Conyers."

Miss Onslow--the beauty on my left--acknowledged the introduction with a
very queenly and distant bow; Lady O'Brien looked me keenly in the eyes
for an instant, and then shook hands with me very heartily; and the
general murmured something about being glad to make my acquaintance, and
forthwith addressed himself with avidity to the plate of soup which one
of the stewards placed before him.

Presently, having finished his soup, the general leaned forward and
stared hard at me for a moment.  Then he remarked:

"Excuse me, Conyers--it is no use being formal, when we are about to be
cooped up together on board ship for the next two months, is it?--are
you the man that got so shockingly hacked about at the capture of that
piratical slaver, the--the--hang it all, I've forgotten her name now?"

"If you refer to the _Preciosa_, I must plead guilty to the soft
impeachment," answered I.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "hang me if I didn't think so when I heard your
name, and saw that scar across your forehead.  Wonderfully plucky thing
to do, sir; as plucky a thing, I think, as I ever heard of!  I must get
you to tell me all about it, some time or another--here, steward, hang
it all, man, this sherry is corked!  Bring me another bottle!"

I am rather a shy man, and this sudden identification of me in
connection with an affair that I had already grown heartily tired of
hearing referred to, and that I fondly hoped would now be speedily
forgotten by my friends, was distinctly disconcerting; I therefore
seized upon the opportunity afforded me by the mishap to the general's
sherry to divert the conversation into another channel, by turning to my
lovely left-hand neighbour with the inquiry:

"Is this your first experience of shipboard, Miss Onslow?"

"This will be my third voyage to India, Mr Conyers," she answered, with
an air of surprise at my temerity in addressing her, and such proud,
stately dignity and lofty condescension that I caught myself thinking:

"Hillo, Charley, my lad, what sort of craft is this you are exchanging
salutes with?  You will have to take care what you are about with her,
my fine fellow, or you will be finding that some of her guns are
shotted!"

But I was not to be deterred from making an effort to render myself
agreeable, simply because the manner of the young lady was almost
chillingly distant, so I returned:

"Indeed! then you are quite a seasoned traveller.  And how does the sea
use you?  Does it treat you kindly?"

"If you mean Am I ill at sea?  I am glad to say that I am _not_!" she
replied.  "I _love_ the sea; but I hate voyaging upon it."

"That sounds somewhat paradoxical, does it not?"  I ventured to
insinuate.

"Possibly it does," she admitted.  "What I mean is that, while I never
enjoy such perfect health anywhere as I do when at sea, and while I
passionately admire the ever-changing beauty and poetry of the ocean and
sky in their varying moods, I find it distinctly irksome and unpleasant
to be pent up for months within the narrow confines of a ship, with no
possibility of escape from my surroundings however unpleasant they may
be.  There is no privacy, and no change on board a ship; one is
compelled to meet the same people day after day, and to be brought into
more or less intimate contact with them, whether one wishes it or not."

"That is undoubtedly true," I acknowledged, "so far, at least, as
meeting the same people day after day is concerned.  But surely one need
not necessarily be brought into intimate contact with them, unless so
minded; it is not difficult to make the average person understand that
anything approaching to intimacy is unwelcome."

"Is it not?" she retorted drily.  "Then I am afraid that my experience
has been more unfortunate than yours.  I have more than once been
obliged to be actually rude to people before.  I could succeed in
convincing them that I would prefer not to be on intimate terms with
them."

And therewith Miss Onslow ever so slightly turned herself away from me,
and addressed herself to the contents of her plate with a manner that
seemed indicative of a desire to terminate the conversation.

I thought that I already began to understand this very charming and
interesting young lady.  I had not the remotest idea who or what she
was, beyond the bare fact that her name was Onslow, but her style and
her manners--despite her singular hauteur--stamped her unmistakably as
one accustomed to move in a high plane of society; that she was
inordinately proud and intensely exclusive was clear, but I had an idea
that this fault--if such it could be considered--was due rather to
training than to any innate imperfection of character; and I could
conceive that--the barrier of her exclusiveness once passed--she might
prove to be winsome and fascinating beyond the power of words to
express.  But I had a suspicion that the man who should be bold enough
to attempt the passage of that barrier would have to face many a rebuff,
as well as the very strong probability of ultimate ignominious,
irretrievable defeat; and as I was then--and still am, for that matter--
a rather sensitive individual, I quickly determined that I at least
would not dare such a fate.  Moreover, I seemed to find in the drift of
what she had said--and more particularly in her manner of saying it--a
hint that possibly I might be one of those with whom she would prefer
not to be on terms of intimacy.

"Well," thought I, "if that is her wish, it shall certainly be
gratified; she is a surpassingly beautiful creature, but I can admire
and enjoy the contemplation of her beauty, as I would that of some rare
and exquisite picture, without obtruding myself offensively upon her
attention; and although she has all the appearance of being clever,
refined, and possessed of a brilliant intellect, those qualities will
have no irresistible attraction for me if she intends to hide them
behind a cold, haughty, repellant manner."  And therewith I dismissed
her from my mind, and addressed myself to the skipper, "This new ship of
yours is a magnificent craft, Captain," said I.  "I fell incontinently
in love with her as the waterman was pulling me off alongside.  She is
far and away the most handsome ship I have ever set eyes on."

"Ay," answered Dacre heartily, his whole face kindling with enthusiasm,
"she is a beauty, and no mistake.  You have some fine, handsome frigates
in the service, Mr Conyers, but I doubt whether the best of them will
compare with the _City of Cawnpore_ for beauty, speed, or seagoing
qualities.  My word, sir, but it would have done you good to have seen
her before she was put into the water.  Shapely? shapely is not the word
for it, she is absolutely beautiful!  She is to other craft what,"--here
his eye rested upon Miss Onslow's unconscious face for an instant--"a
perfectly lovely woman is to a fat old dowdy.  There _is_ only one fault
I have to find with her, and that is only a fault in my eyes; there are
many who regard it as a positive and important merit."

"And pray what may that be?"  I inquired.  And, as I asked the question,
several of the passengers who had overheard the skipper's remark craned
forward over the table in eager anticipation of his reply.

"Why, sir," answered Dacre, "she is built of iron instead of good,
sound, wholesome heart of oak; that's the fault I find with her.  I have
never been shipmates with iron before, and I confess I don't like it.
Of course," he continued--judging, perhaps, from some of the passengers'
looks that he had said something a trifle indiscreet--"it is only
prejudice on my part; I can't explain my objection to iron; everybody
who ought to know anything about the matter declares that iron is
immensely strong compared with wood, and I sincerely believe them;
still, there the feeling is, and I expect it will take me a month or two
to get over it.  You see, I have been brought up and have spent upwards
of forty years of my life in wooden ships, and I suppose I am growing a
trifle too old to readily take up newfangled notions."

"Ah, Captain, I have met with men of your sort before," remarked the
general; "you are by no means the first person with a prejudice.  But
you'll get over it, my dear fellow; you'll get over it.  And when you
have done so you'll acknowledge that there's nothing like iron for
shipbuilding.  _Apropos_ of seafaring matters, what sort of a voyage do
you think we shall have?"

The skipper shrugged his shoulders.

"Who can tell?" he answered.  "Everything depends upon the weather; and
what is more fickle than that?--outside the limits of the trade-winds
and the monsoons, I mean, of course.  If we are unlucky enough to meet
with a long spell of calms on the Line--well, that means a long passage.
But give me as much wind as I can show all plain sail to, and no
farther for'ard than abeam, and I'll undertake to land you all at
Calcutta within sixty days from to-day."

We were still discussing the probability of the skipper being able to
fulfil his promise, when a howling squall swept through the taut rigging
and between the masts of the ship, causing the whole fabric to vibrate
with a barely perceptible tremor, while the swish and patter of heavy
rain resounded upon the glass of the skylights.

"Whew!" ejaculated the general, "what a lively prospect for to-night!
What are we to do after dinner to amuse ourselves; and where are we men
to go for our smoke?"

"I think," said I, "we shall find a very comfortable place for a smoke
under the overhang of the poop.  The tide is ebbing strong by this time,
so the ship will be riding more or less stern-on to the wind, and we
shall find a very satisfactory lee and shelter at the spot that I have
named."

"Ay," assented the skipper.  "And when you have finished smoking, what
can you wish for better than this fine saloon, in which to play cards,
or read, or even to organise an impromptu concert?  There is a capital
piano abaft there; and I am sure that among so distinguished a company
there must be plenty of good musicians."

And so indeed it proved; for when, having finished our smoke, the
general and some half a dozen more of us returned to the cuddy, we found
that several of the younger ladies of the party had already produced
their music, and were doing their best to make the evening pass
pleasantly for themselves and others.  Miss Onslow was one of the
exceptions; she had not produced any music, nor, apparently, did she
intend to take anything more than a passive part in the entertainment;
indeed it is going almost too far to say even so much as that, for it
appeared doubtful whether she even condescended so far as to regard
herself as one of the audience; she had provided herself with a book,
and had curled herself up comfortably in the corner most distant from
the piano, and was reading with an air of absorption and interest so
pronounced as really to be almost offensive to the performers.  In
almost anyone else the manifestation of so profound an indifference to
the efforts of others to please would have been regarded as an
indication of ill-breeding; but in her case--well, she was so regally
and entrancingly lovely that somehow one felt as though her beauty
justified everything, and that it was an act of condescension and a
favour that she graced the cuddy with her presence at all.  And indeed I
was very much disposed to think that this was her own view of the
matter.  Be that as it may, we all spent an exceedingly pleasant
evening; and when I turned into my bunk that night I felt very well
satisfied with the prospects of the voyage before me.



CHAPTER TWO.

AT SEA--A WRECK IN SIGHT.

I was awakened at six o'clock the next morning by the men chorussing at
the windlass, and the quick clank of the pawls that showed how
thoroughly Jack was putting his heart into his work, and how quickly he
was walking the ship up to her anchor.  I scrambled out of my bunk, and
took a peep through the port in the ship's side, to see what the weather
was like; it was scarcely daylight yet; the glass of the port was
blurred with the quick splashing of rain, and the sky was simply a blot
of scurrying, dirty grey vapour.  I made a quick mental reference to the
condition of the tide, deducting therefrom the direction of the ship's
head, and thus arrived at the fact that the wind still hung in the same
quarter as yesterday, or about south-east; after which I turned in
again, the weather being altogether too dismal to tempt me out on deck
at so early an hour.  As I did so there was a loud cry or command, the
chorussing at the windlass abruptly ceased, and in the silence that
temporarily ensued I caught the muffled sound of the steam blowing-off
from the tug's waste-pipe, mingled with the faint sound of hailing from
somewhere ahead, answered in the stentorian tones of Mr Murgatroyd's
voice.  Then the windlass was manned once more, and the pawls clanked
slowly, sullenly, irregularly, for a time, growing slower and slower
still until there ensued a long pause, during which I heard the mate
encouraging the crew to a special effort by shouting: "Heave, boys!
heave and raise the dead! break him out! another pawl! heave!" and so
on; then there occurred a sudden wrenching jerk, followed by a shout of
triumph from the crew, the windlass pawls resumed their clanking at a
rapid rate for a few minutes longer when they finally ceased, and I knew
that our anchor was a-trip and that we had started on our long journey.

Everybody appeared at breakfast that morning, naturally; there was
nothing to prevent them, for we were still in the river, in smooth
water, and the ship glided along so steadily that some of us were
actually ignorant of the fact of our being under way until made aware of
it by certain remarks passed at the breakfast-table.  After breakfast,
the weather being as "dirty" as ever, I donned my mackintosh and a pair
of sea boots with which I had provided myself in anticipation of such
occasions as this, and went on deck to look round and smoke a pipe.  A
few other men followed my example, among others the general, who
presently joined me in my perambulation of the poop; and I soon found
that, despite a certain peremptoriness and dictatorial assertiveness of
manner, which I attributed to his profession, and his position in it, he
was a very fine fellow, and a most agreeable companion, with an
apparently inexhaustible fund of anecdote and reminiscence.
Incidentally I learned from him that Miss Onslow was the daughter of Sir
Philip Onslow, an Indian judge and a friend of Sir Patrick O'Brien, and
that she was proceeding to Calcutta under the chaperonage of Lady
Kathleen, the general's wife.  While we were still chatting together,
the young lady herself came on deck, well wrapped up in a long tweed
cloak that reached to her ankles, and the general, with an apology to me
for his desertion, stepped forward and gallantly offered his arm, which
she accepted.  And she remained on deck the whole of the morning, with
the wind blustering about her and the rain dashing in her face every
time that she faced it in her passage from the wheel grating to the
break of the poop, to the great benefit of her complexion.  She was the
only lady who ventured on deck that day--for the weather was so thick
that there was nothing to see, beyond an occasional buoy marking out the
position of a sandbank, a grimy Geordie, loaded down to her
covering-board, driving along up the river under a brace of patched and
sooty topsails, or an inward-bound south-spainer in tow of a tug; but
this fact of her being the only representative of her sex on deck
appeared to disconcert Miss Onslow not at all; she was as absolutely
self-possessed as though she and the general had been in sole possession
of the deck, as indeed they were, so far as she was concerned, for she
calmly and utterly ignored the presence of the rest of us, excepting the
skipper, with whom and with the general she conversed with much
vivacity.  By the arrival of tiffin-time we had drawn far enough down
the river to be just meeting the first of the sea knocked up by the
strong breeze, and I noticed that already a few of the seats at table
that had been occupied at breakfast-time were vacant--among them that of
Lady O'Brien--but my left-hand neighbour exhibited a thoroughly healthy
appetite--due in part, probably, to her long promenade on deck in the
wind and the rain.  She was still as stately and distant in manner as
ever, however, when I attempted to enter into conversation with her, and
I met with such scant encouragement that ere the meal was half over I
desisted, leaving to the skipper the task of further entertaining her.

By six o'clock that night we were abreast of the buoy which marks
Longnose Ledge, when the pilot shifted his helm for the Elbow, and we
began to feel in earnest the influence of the short, choppy sea, into
which the _City of Cawnpore_ was soon plunging her sharp stem to the
height of the hawse pipes, to the rapidly-increasing discomfort of many
of the passengers.  By seven o'clock--which was the dinner-hour--we were
well round the Elbow, and heading to pass inside the Goodwin and through
the Downs, with most of our fore-and-aft canvas set; and now we had not
only a pitching but also a rolling motion to contend with; and although
the latter was as yet comparatively slight, it was still sufficient to
induce a further number of our cuddy party to seek the seclusion of
their cabins, with the result that when we sat down to dinner we did not
muster quite a dozen, all told.  But among those present was my
left-hand neighbour, Miss Onslow, faultlessly attired, and to all
appearance as completely at her ease as though she were dining ashore.
The general made a gallant effort to occupy his accustomed seat, but the
soup proved too much for him, and he was compelled to retreat, muttering
something apologetic and not very intelligible about his liver.  We
remained in tow until the tug had dragged us down abreast the South
Foreland, where she left us, taking the pilot with her; and half an hour
later we were heading down Channel under all plain sail to our
topgallant-sails.

When I went on deck to get my after-dinner smoke the prospect was as
dreary and dismal as it could well be.  It was dark as a wolf's mouth;
for the moon was well advanced in her last quarter--which is as good as
saying that there was no moon at all--and the thickness overhead not
only obliterated the stars but also rendered it impossible for any of
their light to reach us; one consequence of which was that when standing
at the break of the poop it taxed one's eyesight to the utmost to see as
far as the bows of the ship; the wind was freshening, with frequent rain
squalls that, combined with the intense darkness, circumscribed the
visible horizon to a radius of about half a cable's length on either
hand; and through this all but opaque blackness the ship was thrashing
along at a speed of fully ten knots, with a continuous crying and
storming of wind aloft through the rigging and in the hollows of the
straining canvas, and a deep hissing and sobbing sound of water along
the bends, to which was added the rhythmical thunderous roaring of the
bow wave, and a frequent grape-shot pattering of spray on the fore deck
as the fabric plunged with irresistible momentum into the hollows of the
short, snappy Channel seas.  It was black and blusterous, and everything
was dripping wet; I was heartily thankful, therefore, that it was my
privilege to go below and turn in just when I pleased, instead of having
to stand a watch and strain my eyeballs to bursting point in the
endeavour to avoid running foul of some of the numerous craft that were
knocking about in the Channel on that blind and dismal night.

When my berth steward brought me my coffee next morning he informed me,
in reply to my inquiries, that the weather had improved somewhat during
the night, and that, in his opinion, the temperature on deck was mild
enough for me to take a salt-water bath in the ship's head, if I
pleased.  I accordingly jumped out of my bunk and, hastily donning my
bathing togs, made my way on deck.  I was no sooner on my feet, however,
than I became aware that the ship was particularly lively.  She was on
the port tack, and was heeling over considerably, so much so indeed
that, when she rolled to leeward, to keep my footing without holding on
to something was pretty nearly as much as I could well manage.  Then
there was a continuous vibrant thrill pervading the entire fabric,
suggestive of the idea that her blood was roused and that she was
quivering with eager excitement, which, to the initiated, is an
unfailing sign that the ship is travelling fast through the water.  Upon
reaching the deck I found the watch engaged in the task of washing decks
and polishing the brasswork, while Mr Murgatroyd, as officer of the
watch, paced to and fro athwart the fore end of the poop, pausing every
time he reached the weather side of the deck to fling a quick, keen
glance to windward, and another aloft at the bending topmasts and
straining rigging.

For Mr Murgatroyd was "carrying on" and driving the ship quite as much
as was consistent with prudence; the wind, it is true, had moderated
slightly from its boisterous character of the previous day, and was now
steady; but it was still blowing strong, and had hauled round a point or
two until it was square abeam; yet, although the lower yards were braced
well forward, the ship was under all three royals, and fore and
main-topgallant and topmast studding-sails, with a lower studding-sail
upon the foremast!  She was lying down to it like a racing yacht, with
the foam seething and hissing and brimming to her rail at every lee
roll, and the lee scuppers all afloat, while she swept along with the
eager, headlong, impetuous speed of a sentient creature flying for its
life.  The wailing and crying of the wind aloft--especially when the
ship rolled to windward--was loud enough and weird enough to fill the
heart of a novice with dismay, but to the ear of the seaman it sang a
song of wild, hilarious sea music, fittingly accompanied by the deep,
intermittent thunder of the bow wave as it leapt and roared, glassy
smooth, in a curling snow-crowned breaker from the sharp, shearing stem
at every wild plunge of it into the heart of an on-rushing wave.  I ran
up the poop ladder, and stood to windward, a fathom back from the break
of the poop, where I could obtain the best possible view of the ship;
and I thought I had never before beheld so magnificent and perfect a
picture as she presented of triumphant, domineering strength and power,
and of reckless, breathless, yet untiring speed.

"Morning, Mr Conyers," shouted Murgatroyd, halting alongside me as I
stood gazing at the pallid blue sky across which great masses of cloud
were rapidly sweeping--to be outpaced by the low-flying shreds and
tatters of steamy scud--the opaque, muddy green waste of foaming,
leaping waters, and the flying ship swaying her broad spaces of
damp-darkened canvas, her tapering and buckling spars, and her
tautly-strained rigging in long arcs athwart the scurrying clouds as she
leapt and plunged and sheared her irresistible way onward in the midst
of a wild chaos and dizzying swirl and hurry of foaming spume: "what
think you of this for a grand morning, eh, sir?  Is this breeze good
enough for you?  And what's your opinion of the _City of Cawnpore_, now,
sir?"

"It is a magnificent morning for sailing, Mr Murgatroyd," I replied; "a
magnificent morning--that would be none the worse for an occasional
glint of sunshine, which, however, may come by and by; and, as for the
ship, she is a wonder, a perfect flyer--why, she must be reeling off her
thirteen knots at the least."

"You've hit it, sir, pretty closely; she was going thirteen and a half
when we hove the log at four bells, and she hasn't eased up anything
since," was the reply.

"Ah," said I, "that is grand sailing--with the wind where it is.  But
you are driving her rather hard, aren't you? stretching the kinks out of
your new rigging, eh?"

"Well, perhaps we are," admitted the mate, with a short laugh, as he
glanced at the slender upper spars, that were whipping about like
fishing-rods.  "But you know, Mr Conyers, we're _obliged_ to do it;
there is so much opposition nowadays, and people are in such a deuce of
a hurry always to get to the place that they are bound to, that the line
owning the fastest ships gets the most patronage; and there's the whole
thing in a nutshell."

"Just so; and it is all well enough, in its way--if you don't happen to
get dismasted.  But I find the morning air rather nipping, so I will get
my bath and go below again.  Will you kindly allow one of your men to
play upon me with the head-pump, Mr Murgatroyd?"

"Certainly, Mr Conyers, with pleasure, sir," answered the mate.
"Bosun, just tell off a man to pump for Mr Conyers, will ye!"

The ship was by this time so lively that I was not at all surprised to
meet but a meagre muster at the breakfast-table.  Yet, of the few
present, Miss Onslow was one, and the soaring and plunging and the wild
lee rolls of the ship appeared to affect her no more than if she were
sitting at home in her own breakfast-room.  She was silent, as usual,
but her rich colour, and the evident relish with which she partook of
the food placed before her, bore witness to the fact that her silence
was due to inclination alone.  About an hour after breakfast the young
lady made her appearance upon the poop, well wrapped up, and began to
pace to and fro with an assured footing and an easy, graceful poise of
her body to the movements of the deck beneath her that was, to my mind
at least, the very poetry of motion.  The skipper and I happened to be
walking together, at the moment of her appearance, and of course we both
with one accord sprang forward and, cap in hand, proffered the support
of our arms.  She accepted that of the skipper with a graciousness of
manner that was to be paralleled only by the frigid dignity with which
she declined mine.

The breeze held strong all that day, and for the five days following,
gradually hauling round, however, and heading us, until, with our yards
braced hard in against the lee rigging, and the three royals and mizzen
topgallant-sail stowed, we went thrashing away to the westward against a
heavy head-sea that kept our decks streaming as far aft as the mainmast,
instead of bowling away across the Bay under studding-sails, as we had
hoped.  Then we fell in with light weather for nearly a week, that
enabled all hands in the cuddy to find their sea legs and a good hearty
appetite once more, the ship slowly traversing her way to the southward,
meanwhile; and finally we got a westerly wind that, beginning gently
enough to permit of our showing skysails to it, ended in a regular North
Atlantic gale that compelled us to heave-to for forty-two hours before
it blew itself out.

The gale was at its height, blowing with almost hurricane fury, with a
terrific sea running, about twenty hours after its development, and we
in the cuddy were, with about half a dozen exceptions, seated at
breakfast when, above the howling of the wind, I faintly caught the
notes of a hail that seemed to proceed from somewhere aloft.

"Where away?" sharply responded the voice of the chief mate from the
poop overhead.

I heard the reply given, but the noises of the ship, the shriek of the
gale through the rigging, and the resounding shock of a sea that smote
us upon the weather bow at the moment, prevented my catching the words;
I had no difficulty, however, in gathering, from Mr Murgatroyd's
inquiry, that something had drifted within our sphere of vision,
probably another vessel, hove-to like ourselves.  A minute or two later,
however, Mr Fletcher, the third mate, presented himself at the cuddy
door and said, addressing himself to the skipper:

"Mr Murgatroyd's respects, sir; and there's a partially dismasted
barque, that appears to be in a sinking condition, and with a signal of
distress flying, about eight miles away, broad on the lee bow.  And Mr
Murgatroyd would be glad to know, sir, if it's your wish that we should
edge down towards her?"

"Yes, certainly," answered Captain Dacre.  "Request Mr Murgatroyd to do
what is necessary; and say that I will be on deck myself, shortly."

The intelligence that a real, genuine wreck was in sight, with the
probability that her crew were in a situation of extreme peril, sent
quite a thrill of excitement pulsating through the cuddy; with the
result that breakfast was more or less hurriedly despatched; and within
a few minutes the skipper, Miss Onslow, and myself were all that
remained seated at the table, the rest having hurried on deck to catch
the earliest possible glimpse of so novel a sight as Mr Murgatroyd's
message promised them.

As for Dacre and myself, we were far too thoroughly seasoned hands to
hurry--the ship was hastening to the assistance of the stranger, and
nothing more could be done for the present; and it was perfectly evident
that Miss Onslow had no intention of descending to so undignified an act
as that of joining in the general rush on deck.  But that she was not
unsympathetic was evidenced by the earnestness with which she turned to
the skipper and inquired:

"Do you think, Captain, that there are any people on that wreck?"

"Any people?" reiterated the skipper.  "Why, yes, my dear young lady,
I'm very much afraid that there are."

"You are _afraid_!" returned Miss Onslow.  "Why do you use that word?
If there are any people there, you will rescue them, will you not?"

"Of course--_if we can_!" answered the skipper.  "But that is just the
point: _can_ we rescue them?  Mr Murgatroyd's message stated that the
wreck appears to be in a sinking condition.  Now, if that surmise of the
mate's turns out to be correct, the question is: Will she remain afloat
until the gale moderates and the sea goes down sufficiently to admit of
boats being lowered?  If not, it may turn out to be a very bad job for
the poor souls; eh, Mr Conyers?"

"It may indeed," I answered, "for it is certain that no boat of ours
could live for five minutes in the sea that is now running.  And if that
barometer,"--pointing to a very fine instrument that hung, facing us, in
the skylight--"is to be believed, the gale is not going to break just
_yet_."

"Oh dear, but that is dreadful!" the girl exclaimed, clasping her hands
tightly together in her agitation--and one could see, by the whitening
of her lips and the horror expressed in her widely-opened eyes, that her
emotion was not simulated; it was thoroughly real and genuine.  "I never
thought of that!  Do I understand you to mean, then, Captain, that even
when we reach the wreck it may be impossible to help those on board?"

"Yes," answered Dacre; "you may understand that, Miss Onslow.  Of course
we shall stand by them until the gale breaks; and if, when we get
alongside, we find that their condition is very critical, some special
effort to rescue them will have to be made.  But, while doing all that
may be possible, I must take care not to unduly risk my own ship, and
the lives which have been intrusted to my charge; and, keeping that
point in view, it may prove impossible to do anything to help them."

"And you think there is no hope that the gale will soon abate?" she
demanded.

"I see no prospect of it, as yet," answered the skipper.  "The barometer
is the surest guide a sailor has, in respect of the weather; and, as Mr
Conyers just now remarked, ours affords not a particle of hope."

"Oh, how cruel--how relentlessly cruel--the wind and the sea are!"
exclaimed this girl whose pride I had hitherto deemed superior to any
other emotion.  "I _hope_--oh, Captain, I _most fervently hope_ that you
will be able to save those poor creatures, who must now be suffering all
the protracted horrors of a lingering death!"

"You may trust me, my dear young lady," answered the skipper heartily.
"Whatever it may prove possible to do, I will do for them.  If they are
to be drowned it shall be through no lack of effort on my part to save
them.  And now, if you will excuse me, I will leave Mr Conyers to
entertain you, while I go on deck and see how things look."

The girl instantly froze again.  "I will not inflict myself upon Mr
Conyers--who is doubtless dying for his after-breakfast smoke," she
answered, with a complete return of all her former hauteur of manner.
"I have finished breakfast, and shall join Lady O'Brien on deck."

And therewith she rose from her seat and, despite the wild movements of
the ship, made her way with perfect steadiness and an assured footing
toward the ladder or stairs that led downward to the sleeping-rooms, on
her way to her cabin.

"A queer girl, by George!" exclaimed Dacre, as she disappeared.  "She
seems quite determined to keep everybody at a properly respectful
distance--especially _you_.  Have you offended her?"

"Certainly not--so far as I am aware," I answered.  "It is pride,
skipper; nothing but pride.  She simply deems herself of far too fine a
clay to associate with ordinary human pots and pans.  Well, she may be
as distant as she pleases, so far as I am concerned; for, thank God, I
am not in love with her, despite her surpassing beauty!"

And forthwith I seized my cap, and followed the captain up the companion
ladder to the poop.

Upon my arrival on deck I found that we were under way once more, Mr
Murgatroyd having set the fore-topmast staysail and swung the head
yards; and now, with the mate in the weather mizen rigging to con the
ship through the terrific sea that was running, we were "jilling" along
down toward the wreck, which, from the height of the poop, now showed on
the horizon line whenever we both happened to top a surge at the same
moment.  The entire cuddy party were by this time assembled on the poop,
and every eye was intently fixed upon the small, misty image that at
irregular intervals reared itself sharply upon the jagged and undulating
line of the horizon, and I believe that every telescope and opera-glass
in the ship was brought to bear upon it.  After studying her carefully
through my own powerful instrument for about ten minutes I made her out
to be a small barque, of about five hundred tons register, with her
foremast gone at a height of about twenty feet from the deck, her
main-topmast gone just above the level of the lower-mast-head, and her
mizenmast intact.  I noticed that she appeared to be floating very deep
in the water, and that most of the seas that met her seemed to be
sweeping her fore and aft; and I believed I could detect the presence of
a small group of people huddled up together abaft the skylight upon her
short poop.  An ensign of some sort was stopped half-way up the mizen
rigging, as a signal of distress; and after a while I made it out to be
the tricolour.

"Johnny Crapaud--a Frenchman!"  I exclaimed to the skipper, who was
standing near me, working away at her with the ship's telescope.

"A Frenchman, eh!" responded the skipper.  "Can you make out the colours
of that ensign from here?  If so, that must be an uncommonly good glass
of yours, Mr Conyers."

"Take it, and test it for yourself," I answered, handing him the
instrument.

He took it, and applied it to his eye, the other end of the tube swaying
wildly to the rolling and plunging of the ship.

"Ay," he said presently, handing the glass back to me, "French she is,
and no mistake!  Now that is rather a nuisance, for I am ashamed to say
that I don't know French nearly well enough to communicate with her.
How the dickens are we to understand one another when it comes to making
arrangements?"

"Well, if you can find no better way, I shall be very pleased to act as
interpreter for you," I said.  "My knowledge of the French language is
quite sufficient for that."

"Thank you, Mr Conyers; I am infinitely obliged to you.  I will
thankfully avail myself of all the assistance you can give me," answered
the skipper.

The sea being rather in our favour than otherwise, we drove down toward
the wreck at a fairly rapid pace, despite the extremely short sail that
we were under; and as we approached her the first thing we made out with
any distinctness was that the barque was lying head to wind, evidently
held in that position by the wreck of the foremast, which, with all
attached, was under the bows, still connected with the hull by the
standing and running rigging.  This was so far satisfactory, in that it
acted as a sort of floating anchor, to which the unfortunate craft rode,
and which prevented her falling off into the trough of the sea.  It
would also, probably, to some extent facilitate any efforts that we
might be able to make to get alongside her to take her people off.

To get alongside!  Ay; but how was it to be done in that wild sea?  The
aspect of the ocean had been awe-inspiring enough before this forlorn
and dying barque had drifted within our ken; but now that she was there
to serve as a scale by which to measure the height of the surges, and to
bring home to us a realising sense of their tremendous and irresistible
power by showing how fearfully and savagely they flung and battered
about the poor maimed fabric, it became absolutely terrifying, as was to
be seen by the blanched faces and quailing, cowering figures of the
crowd on the poop who, stood watching the craft in her death throes.
Hitherto the violence of the sea had been productive in them of nothing
worse than a condition of more or less discomfort; but now that they had
before their eyes an exemplification of what old ocean could do with man
and man's handiwork, if it once succeeded in getting the upper hand,
they were badly frightened; frightened for themselves, and still more
frightened for the poor wretches yonder who had been conquered in their
battle with the elements, and were now being done to death by their
triumphant foe.  And it was no reproach to them that they were so; for
the sight upon which they were gazing, and which was now momentarily
growing plainer to the view, was well calculated to excite a feeling of
awe and terror in the heart of the bravest there, having in mind the
fact that we were looking upon a drama that might at any moment become a
tragedy involving the destruction of nearly or quite a dozen fellow
beings.  Even I, seasoned hand as I was, found myself moved to a feeling
of horrible anxiety as I watched the wreck through my telescope.

For the feeling was growing upon me that we were going to be too late,
and that we were doomed to see that little crouching, huddling knot of
humanity perish miserably, without the power to help them.  We were by
this time about a mile distant from the wreck; and another seven or
eight minutes would carry us alongside.  But what might not happen in
those few minutes?  Why, the barque might founder at any moment, and
carry all hands down with her.  For we could by this time see that the
hull was submerged to the channels; and so deadly languid and sluggish
were her movements that almost every sea made a clean sweep over her,
fore and aft, rendering her main deck untenable, and her poop but a
meagre and precarious place of refuge.

And even if she continued to float until we reached her, and for some
time afterward, how were her unfortunate people to be transferred from
her deck to our own?  One had only to note the wild rush of the surges,
their height, and the fierceness with which they broke as they swept
down upon our own ship, and the headlong reeling and plunging of her as
she met their assault, to realise the absolute impossibility of lowering
a boat from her without involving the frail craft and her crew in
instant destruction; and how otherwise were those poor, half-drowned
wretches to be got at and saved.  Something might perhaps be done by
means of a hawser, if its end could by any means be put on board the
sinking craft; but here again the difficulties were such as to render
the plan to all appearance impracticable.  Yet it seemed to offer the
only imaginable solution of the problem; for presently, as we continued
to roll and stagger down toward the doomed barque, Captain Dacre turned
to me and said:

"There is only one way to do this job, Mr Conyers; and that is for the
Frenchmen to float the end of a heaving-line down to us, by which we may
be able to send them a hawser with a bosun's chair and hauling lines
attached.  If it is not troubling you too much, perhaps you will kindly
hail them and explain my intentions, presently.  I shall shave athwart
her stern, as closely as I dare, with my main-topsail aback, so that you
may have plenty of time to tell them what, our plans are, and what we
want them to do."

"Very well," said I; "I will undertake the hailing part of the business
with pleasure.  Have you a speaking-trumpet?"

"Of course," answered the skipper.  "Here, boy,"--to one of the
apprentices who happened to be standing near--"jump below and fetch the
speaking-trumpet for Mr Conyers.  You will find it slung from one of
the deck beams in my cabin."

Dacre then took charge of the ship in person, conning her from the
weather mizen rigging, and sending Murgatroyd for'ard with instructions
to clear away the towing-hawser, and to fit it with a traveller, bosun's
chair, and hauling-lines, blocks, etcetera, all ready for sending the
end aboard the barque when communication should have been established
with her.  And at the same time, the boy having brought the
speaking-trumpet on deck, and handed it to me, I stationed myself in the
mizen rigging, alongside the skipper, for convenience of communication
between him and myself.



CHAPTER THREE.

WE RESCUE THE CREW OF A FRENCH BARQUE.

We were now drawing close down upon the barque, steering a course that,
if persisted in, would have resulted in our striking her fair amidships
on her starboard broadside, but which, by attention to the helm at the
proper moment, with a due allowance for our own heavy lee drift, was
intended to take us close enough to the sinking craft to enable us to
speak her.  Presently, at a word from the skipper, the third mate--who
was acting as the captain's _aide_--sang out for some men to lay aft and
back the main-topsail; and at the same moment the helm was eased gently
up, with the result that our bows fell off just sufficiently to clear
the barque's starboard quarter.

I shall never forget the sight that the unfortunate craft presented at
that moment.  Her foremast and jib-boom were under the bows, with all
attached, and were hanging, a tangled mass of raffle, by the shrouds and
stays, leaving about twenty feet of naked, jagged, and splintered stump
of the lower-mast standing above the deck; and her main-topmast was also
gone; but the wreckage of this had been cut away and had gone adrift,
leaving only the heel in the cap, and the ragged ends of the topmast
shrouds streaming from the rim of the top.  She had been a very
smart-looking little vessel in her time, painted black with false ports,
and under her bowsprit she sported a handsomely-carved half-length
figure of a crowned woman, elaborately painted and gilded.  She carried
a short topgallant forecastle forward, and a full poop aft, reaching to
within about twenty-five feet from the mainmast; and between these two
structures the bulwarks had been completely swept away, leaving only a
jagged stump of a stanchion here and there protruding above the
covering-board.  She was sunk so low in the water that her channels were
buried; and the water that was in her, making its way slowly and with
difficulty through the interstices of her cargo, had at this time
collected forward, and was pinning her head down to such an extent that
her bows were unable to lift to the 'scend of the sea, with the result
that every sea broke, hissing white, over her topgallant forecastle, and
swept right aft to the poop, against the front of which it dashed
itself, as against the vertical face of a rock, throwing blinding and
drenching clouds of spray over the little group of cowering people who
crouched as closely as they could huddle behind the meagre and
inadequate shelter of the skylight.

I counted fourteen of these poor souls, and in the midst of them,
occupying the most sheltered spot on the whole deck, I noticed what at
first looked like a bundle of tarpaulin, but as we swept up on the
barque's starboard quarter I saw one of the men gently pull a corner of
the tarpaulin aside with one hand, while he pointed at the _City of
Cawnpore_ with the other, and, to my amazement, the head and face of a
woman--a young woman--looked out at us with an expression of mingled
hope and despair that was dreadful to see.

"Good God, there's a woman among them!" exclaimed Dacre.  "We must save
her--we must save them all, if we can; but it looks as if we shall not
be given much time to do it in.  I suppose they want to be taken off?
They'll never be mad enough to wish to stick to that wreck, eh?  Hail
them, Mr Conyers; you know what to say!"

"Barque ahoy!"  I hailed, in French, as, with main-topsail aback, we
surged and wallowed slowly athwart the stern of the stranger, "do you
wish to be taken off?"

At the first sound of my voice, the man who had pointed us out to the
woman rose stiffly to his feet and staggered aft to the taffrail, with
his hand to his ear.

"But yes," he shouted back, in the same language; "our ship is sinking,
and--"

"All right," I interrupted--for time was precious--"we will endeavour to
get the end of a hawser aboard you.  Have you any light heaving-line
that you can veer down to us by means of a float?  If so, get it ready,
and we will try to pick it up on our return.  We are now about to stand
on and take room to wear, when we will come back and endeavour to
establish a connection between the two craft.  Have the line ready and
veered well away to leeward at once."

"But, monsieur," replied the man, wringing his hands, "we have _no_
line--no anything--you see all that we have,"--indicating the bare poop
with a frantic gesture.

"You have a lot of small stuff among the gear upon your mizenmast," I
retorted; but although I pointed to the mast in question, and the man
glanced aloft as I did so, I very much doubted whether he comprehended
my meaning, for our lee drift was so rapid that we were by this time
almost beyond hailing distance.

"Fill the main-topsail," shouted the skipper.  "What have you arranged?"
he demanded, turning to me.

I told him.  He stamped on the rail with impatience.  "It is clear that
it will not do to trust overmuch to them for help; we shall have to do
everything ourselves.  Mr Murgatroyd!" he shouted.

The mate came aft.

"Is that hawser nearly ready?" demanded the skipper.

"All but, sir," answered the mate.  "Another five minutes will do it."

"Then," said the skipper, "your next job, sir, will be to muster all the
light line you can lay your hands upon, and range it along the larboard
rail--which will be our weather rail, presently, when we have got the
ship round--and station half a dozen men, or more, all along the weather
rail, each with a coil, and let them stand by to heave as we cross the
barque's stern.  My object is to get a line aboard her as quickly as
possible, by means of which we may send the hawser to them.  For they
appear to be a pretty helpless lot aboard there, and, if they are to be
saved, there is very little time to lose."

"Ay, ay, sir," responded Murgatroyd; and away he went to perform this
additional duty.

Captain Dacre now showed the stuff of which he was made, handling his
ship with the most consummate skill and judgment, wearing her round upon
the port tack the moment that he could do so with the certainty of again
fetching the barque, and ranging up under her stern as closely as he
dared approach.  Eight of the strongest and most skilful seamen in the
ship were ranged along the weather rail, and as we drew up on the
barque's starboard quarter--with our main-topsail once more thrown
aback--man after man hurled his coil of light, pliant line with all his
strength, in the endeavour to get the end of it aboard the barque.  But
such was the strength of the gale that line after line fell short--
checked as effectually in its career as though it had been dashed
against a solid wall--and although, after his first failure, each man
hauled in his line and, re-coiling it with the utmost rapidity,
attempted another cast, all were unsuccessful, and we had the
mortification of feeling that at least twenty minutes of priceless time
had been expended to no purpose.  And what made it all the worse was
that during that twenty minutes absolutely nothing had been done by the
Frenchmen toward the preparation of a line to veer down to us.  Within
three minutes of the moment when the first line had been hove we were
once more out of hailing distance, and the main yards were again being
swung.

"We will have another try," said the skipper; "but if we fail again it
will be all up with them--if, indeed, it is not already too late.  That
barque cannot possibly live another half-hour!"

There seemed to be no room to regard this otherwise than as a plain,
literal statement of an incontrovertible fact; we were all agreed that
the unfortunate craft had settled perceptibly in the water since we had
first sighted her; and at the same rate another half-hour would suffice
to annihilate the very small margin of buoyancy that appeared to be
still remaining to her, even if she escaped being earlier sunk out of
hand by some more than usually heavy sea.  But this seemed to have been
temporarily lost sight of by the little crowd of onlookers that
clustered closely round us on the poop, in the absorbing interest
attendant upon our endeavours to get a line on board the barque, and was
only recalled to them--and that, too, in a very abrupt and startling
manner--by the significance of the skipper's last remark.  The imminence
and deadly nature of the Frenchmen's peril was brought home to them
anew; and now they seemed to realise, for the first time, the
possibility that they might be called upon to witness at close quarters
the appalling spectacle not only of a foundering ship but also of the
drowning of all her people.  Instantly quite a little hubbub arose among
the excited passengers, General O'Brien and some half a dozen other men
among them pressing about poor Dacre with suggestions and proposals of
the most impossible character.  And in the midst of it all I heard Miss
Onslow's clear, rich voice exclaiming bitterly:

"Cruel! cruel!  To think that we are so near, and yet it seems
impossible to bridge the few remaining yards of space that intervene
between those poor creatures and the safety that we enjoy!  Surely it
_can_ be done, if only anyone were clever enough to think of the way!"

"Now, ladies and gentlemen," remonstrated the skipper, "please don't
consider me rude if I say that none of you know what you are talking
about.  There are only two ways of getting a line aboard that wreck; one
way is, to _carry_ it, and the other, to _heave_ it.  The former is
impossible, with the sea that is now running; and the latter we have
already tried once, unsuccessfully, and are now about to try again.  If
any of you can think of any other _practicable_ way, I shall be glad to
listen to you; but, if not, please leave me alone, and let me give my
whole mind to the job!"

Meanwhile I had been watching the run of the sea, at first idly, and
with no other feeling than that of wonder that any vessel in the
water-logged condition of the barque could continue to live in it, for
it was as high and as steep a sea as I had ever beheld, and it broke
incessantly over the barque with a fury that rendered her continued
existence above water a constantly-recurring marvel.  Heavy as it was,
however, it was not so bad as the surf that everlastingly beat upon the
sandy shores of the West Coast; and as I realised this fact I also
remembered that upon more than one occasion it had been necessary for me
to swim through that surf to save my life!  "Surely," thought I, "the
man who has fought his way through the triple line of a West African
surf ought to be able to swim twenty or thirty fathoms in this sea!"
The idea seemed to come to me as an inspiration; and, undeterred by the
thought that the individual who should essay the feat of swimming from
the one ship to the other would be seriously hampered by being compelled
to drag a lengthening trail of light rope behind him, I turned to the
skipper and said:

"Captain Dacre, there appears to be but one sure way of getting a line
aboard that wreck, and that is for someone to swim with it--Stop a
moment--I know that you are about to pronounce the feat impossible; but
I believe I can do it, and, at all events, I am perfectly willing to
make the attempt.  Give me something light--such as a pair of signal
halliards--to drag after me, and let a good hand have the paying of it
out, so that I may neither be checked by having it paid out too slowly,
nor hampered on the other hand by having to drag a heavy bight after me;
and I think I shall be able to manage it.  And if I succeed, bend the
end of a heaving-line on to the other directly you see that I have got
hold, and we will soon get the hawser aboard and the end made fast
somewhere."

The skipper looked at me fixedly for several seconds, as though mentally
measuring my ability to execute the task I had offered to undertake.
Then he answered:

"Upon my word, Mr Conyers, I scarcely know what to say to your
extraordinarily plucky proposal.  If you had been a landsman I should
not have entertained the idea for a moment; and, even as it is, I am by
no means sure that I should be justified in permitting you to make the
attempt.  But you are a sailor of considerable experience; you fully
understand all the difficulty and the danger of the service you have
offered to undertake; and I suppose you have some hope of being
successful, or you would not have volunteered.  And upon my word I am
beginning to think, with you, that the course you suggest is the only
one likely to be of any service to those poor souls yonder--so I
suppose--I must say--Yes, and God be with you!"

The little crowd round about us, who had been listening with breathless
interest, cheered and clapped their hands at this pronouncement of the
skipper's--the cheer being taken up by the crowd of miners gathered in
the waist--and General O'Brien, who was standing at my elbow, seized my
hand and shook it enthusiastically as he exclaimed:

"God bless you, Conyers; God bless you, my boy; every man and woman
among us will pray for your safety and success!"

"Thanks, General," answered I.  "The knowledge that I have the sympathy
and good wishes of you all will add strength to my arm and courage to my
heart; but the issue is in God's hands, and if it be His will, I shall
succeed."  Then, turning to the skipper, I said:

"I propose that you shall take the ship up as close as possible to the
wreck, precisely as you did at first; and I will dive from the
flying-jib-boom-end--which will approach the wreck more closely than our
hull; and it will be for you to watch and so manoeuvre the ship--either
by easing up the fore-topmast staysail sheet, or in any other way that
you may think best--that she shall be kept fair abreast of and dead to
leeward of the wreck until we can get the end of the hawser aboard and
made fast.  After that I think we may trust to the difference in the
rate of the drift of the two craft to keep the hawser taut."

"Yes, yes," answered the skipper; "you may trust to me to do my part,
Mr Conyers.  If you can only manage to get the end of the hawser aboard
and fast to the wreck, I will attend to the other part of the job.  And
now, you had better go and get ready for your swim; for I am about to
wear ship."

I hurried away to my cabin and shifted into ordinary bathing attire; and
while thus engaged I became aware that Dacre was wearing ship and
getting her round upon the starboard tack once more.  By the time that
my preparations were completed and I had made my way out on the main
deck, the ship was round, and heading up for the wreck again.  As I
appeared, threading my way forward among the great burly miners who were
clustering thick in the waist, they raised a cheer, and the cuddy party
again clapped their hands, some of them shouting an encouraging word or
two after me.

On the forecastle I encountered Murgatroyd, the chief mate, who held a
coil of small thin line in his hand.

"Here you are, Mr Conyers," he exclaimed, as I joined him.  "This coil
is the main signal halliards, which I have unrove for the purpose--they
are better than new, for they have been stretched and have had the kinks
taken out of them.  And if they are not enough, here are the fore
halliards, all ready for bending on at a second's notice.  I shall pay
out for you, so you may depend upon having the line properly tended.
Now, how will you have the end? will you have it round your waist,
or--?"

"No," said I.  "Give it me as a standing bowline, which I can pass over
my shoulder and under my arm.  So; that will do.  Is the hawser fitted,
and all ready for paying out?"

"Yes," answered the mate, "everything is quite ready.  I've left about
five fathoms of bare end for bending on; and I think you can't do much
better than take a turn with it round the mizenmast, under the
spider-band."

"That is exactly what I thought of doing," said I.  "In fact it is about
the only suitable place."

I stood talking with Murgatroyd until we were once more almost within
hail of the barque, when, with the bowline at the end of the line over
my left shoulder and under my right arm, I laid out to the
flying-jib-boom-end, upon which I took my stand, steadying myself by
grasping the royal stay in my left hand.  The motion away out there, at
the far extremity of that long spar, was tremendous; so much so, indeed,
that seasoned as I was to the wild and erratic movements of a ship in
heavy weather, the sinkings and soarings and flourishings of that
boom-end, as the vessel plunged and staggered down toward the wreck,
made me feel distinctly giddy.  The wait was not a very long one,
however, and in less than five minutes I found myself abreast the
barque's starboard quarter, and within a hundred feet of it.  I was now
as close to the wreck as Captain Dacre dared put me; so, as the ship met
a heavy sea and flung me high aloft above the white water that seethed
and swirled about the stern of the sinking craft, I let go my hold upon
the stay and, poising myself for an instant upon the up-hove extremity
of the boom, raised my hands above my head as I bent my body toward the
water, and took off for a deep dive, my conviction being that I should
do far better by swimming under water than on the surface.  As I rushed
downward I heard Dacre shout: "There he goes!  God be with him!" and
then I struck the water, head downward, almost perpendicularly, and the
only sound I heard was the hissing of the water in my ears as the
blue-green light about me grew gradually more and more dim.  With my
body slightly curved, and my back a trifle hollowed, I knew that even
while plunging downward I was also rushing toward the barque, and
presently I struck out strongly, arms and legs, as I caught sight,
through the water, of a huge dark body, at no great distance, that I
knew to be the swaying hull for which I was making.  At length, gasping
for breath, I rose to the surface, and found that I was within twenty
feet of the barque's stern, with the whole of her crew upon their feet,
anxiously watching me, while a man stood at her taffrail, holding a coil
of rope in his hand.  The instant he saw me he shouted: "Look out,
monsieur; I am about to heave!"

"All right; heave!"  I shouted in return, gasping in the midst of the
wild popple that leaped about the labouring craft; and the next instant
a flake of the uncoiling end of the line hit me sharply across the face.
I seized it tightly, and sang out:

"Haul me to the starboard mizen chains!"  The man flung up his hand in
reply and, holding on to the rope, started _at a run_ along the deck,
dragging me after him.  It was a good job that I had thought of taking a
turn round one arm, or in his eagerness he would have dragged the rope
out of my grasp; as it was, the strain he brought to bear, added to that
of the long length of line trailing behind me, almost tore my arms out
of their sockets.  Moreover, I was half suffocated by the deluge of
water that came crashing down upon me like a cataract off the deck of
the wreck every time that she rolled toward me.  Luckily, this condition
of affairs was of but brief duration; and presently I found myself in
the wake of the mizen chains, and in imminent danger of being struck and
driven under by the overhanging channel piece; I watched my opportunity,
however, and, as the barque rolled toward me I seized the lanyards of
one of the shrouds, got a footing, somehow, and dragged myself in over
the rail.  I felt terribly exhausted by the brief but fierce buffeting I
had received alongside; but time was precious--the _City of Cawnpore_
was still square athwart the stern of the wreck, but driving away to
leeward at a terrible rate, and I knew that unless we were very smart we
should still fail to get the hawser from her--so I flung up one arm as a
signal to Murgatroyd to pay out and, crying out to the Frenchmen to come
and help me, began to haul upon the line I had brought aboard with me.
By dint of exhortation so earnest that it almost amounted to bullying I
succeeded in awaking the Frenchmen to a sense of the urgency of the
case, and persuaded them to put some liveliness into their movements, by
which means we quickly hauled in the whole of the signal halliards, to
the other end of which a light heaving-line was bent.  This also we
dragged away upon for dear life, and presently I had the satisfaction of
seeing the end of the _City of Cawnpore's_ towing-hawser being lighted
out over her bows.  This was a heavy piece of cordage for us to handle,
but we dragged away at it breathlessly, and at length, when I had almost
begun to despair of getting it aboard in time, we hauled the end in over
the taffrail and, all hands of us seizing it, led it to the mizenmast,
round the foot of which I had the satisfaction of passing a couple of
turns and securing it.  So far, so good; the most difficult part of my
task was now accomplished; for I knew that Murgatroyd would attend to
the work at his end of the hawser, and do everything that was necessary;
so I turned to the Frenchman who had assisted me aboard, and said:

"Are you the master of this barque, monsieur?"

"At your service, monsieur," he answered, bowing with all the grace of a
dancing-master.

"Very good," said I.  "You have a lady on board, I think?"

"But yes, monsieur: my wife!" and he flourished his arm toward the
bundle of tarpaulin that still remained huddled up under the shelter of
the skylight.

"She will of course have to go first," I said.  "Are there any
preparations she would wish to make before being transferred to the
other vessel?"

Without replying to my question, the man hurried away to the heap and,
unwrapping the tarpaulin, extricated a young, and rather pretty but
terribly frightened woman from its folds.  As he did so, I saw that she
held a baby in her arms!

"What!" exclaimed I, as I joined the little group, "a baby also?"

"Yes, monsieur," answered the man.  "You see we wrapped them both up in
a tarpaulin, to protect them as much as possible from the cruel sea."

"A very wise precaution," I commented.  "But this increases our
difficulties somewhat: I greatly doubt whether mother and child will be
able to make the passage together.  Madame will scarcely have the
strength to hold herself and the baby safely at the same time; the
little one might be washed out of her arms and lost."

"Oh, monsieur, what shall I do?" wailed the poor, terrified creature.
"Have we to cross by that rope?"

"I fear there is no other way," I replied gently.

"I can never do it!  I can never do it!" she ejaculated despairingly.
"The sea will drag me and my little Mimi off, and we shall be drowned!"

"Under the circumstances, monsieur, there seems to be only one thing for
it," said I; "you must go first, carrying the child, and as soon as you
are safe, I will follow with madame.  Is that arrangement to your
liking?"

The man intimated that it was; and forthwith we commenced the
preparations necessary to secure for the poor little wailing mite of
humanity a chance of surviving the fearful journey.  And a fearful
journey it certainly was, even for a strong man; how much more so, then,
for a weak, terrified woman, or a helpless child, less than a year old?

The arrangement was this: The _City of Cawnpore's_ to wing-hawser was
now stretched between the two vessels, one end being made fast to the
barque's mizenmast, while the other end led in over the _City of
Cawnpore's_ bows, through a warping chock, and was secured somewhere
inboard, probably to the windlass bitts--it would have been much more
convenient had the hawser been made fast to the foremast, about fifteen
or twenty feet from the deck; but a very heavy intermittent strain was
being thrown upon it, and I imagined that Dacre did not care to run the
risk of springing so important a spar.  The effect of this was that the
_City of Cawnpore_, with both topsails thrown flat aback, was now
actually riding by her hawser to the barque, as to a sea anchor, the
deeply-submerged hull of the French craft offering sufficient resistance
to the drift of the _City of Cawnpore_ to keep the hawser taut, except
at the rather frequent intervals when the heave of the sea flung the
barque far enough to leeward to temporarily slacken it.  And it was by
means of this hawser--at one moment taut as a bar, and, at the next,
sagging slack enough to dip into the water--that the Frenchmen were to
be hauled from their ship to ours.

Meanwhile, the work of securing the hawser aboard the _City of
Cawnpore_, and the clearing away of the travelling-gear, had been going
briskly forward, and at the moment when the Frenchman and I came to an
understanding I saw the slung bosun's chair hove over the _City's_ bows
and come sliding along the hawser toward us.  The French skipper saw it,
too; and tenderly taking the child from the arms of his almost swooning
wife, he carefully wrapped it in his jacket, which he removed for the
purpose, and then, with my assistance, securely lashed the bundle to his
body.  The bosun's chair had by this time arrived at the barque's
taffrail, and was awaiting its first freight; so, as there was no time
to lose, I hustled the poor fellow away from his wife, assisted him into
the chair, saw that he had a good grip with both hands, and waved for
Murgatroyd to haul away, which he instantly did.  I next turned to the
lady, and begged her to once more shelter herself temporarily in the
tarpaulin, my object being to spare her the sight of the terrible
passage of her husband and child over and through that narrow stretch of
ravening sea.  But, as it happened, there was no need for my solicitude;
she cast one glance at the swaying, dangling figure of her husband, and
then, with a wild, wailing shriek, flung herself upon her knees, with
her hands clasped over her eyes.

And truly a terrible sight it was for a woman to contemplate, especially
with the knowledge that she would presently be obliged to herself
undertake the dreadful journey.  The sea was running so high that, close
to each other as we were, when the crest of a wave interposed between us
and the _City of Cawnpore_ the latter was hidden half-way to the height
of her tops; and the headlong fury with which each wave came sweeping
down upon us, foam-capped, and with arching crest, was alone enough to
strike terror to the stoutest heart.  That, however, was not the worst
of it; for although Murgatroyd might safely be trusted to exercise the
utmost judgment in the manipulation of the hauling-line, there were
moments when--the two craft being upon the opposite slopes of a huge
surge, with the hawser strained taut from one to the other--any luckless
individual who might be so unfortunate as to be caught half-way between
the two vessels would be momentarily buried some thirty feet deep in the
heart of the rushing hill of water, and about equally exposed to the two
dangers of suffocation or of being swept off beyond the reach of rescue,
and drowned out of hand.  This double danger overtook the unfortunate
French skipper and his baby, but they got through all right, the child
escaping suffocation mainly in consequence of the careful and secure
manner in which she had been enveloped in her father's coat.

Then came madame's turn.  It was impossible to so effectually enwrap her
as had been the case with the child, but I did the best I could with a
strip of the tarpaulin over her head and shoulders, well secured round
her body with a length of the main-topgallant brace, and then, lashing
her firmly to my own body, I took my place in the bosun's chair,
wrapping my arms tightly round my quaking companion, and then taking a
firm grip upon the lanyards of the chair.  The next instant I was
whirled off the barque's taffrail, and found myself dangling close over
the seething white water between the two vessels.  Then, while I was in
the very act of shouting a few encouraging words through the tarpaulin
to my companion, I heard the roaring crash of a heavy sea as it struck
and swept over the unfortunate barque from stem to stern, and the next
instant I felt the water envelop me and whirl and drag me hither and
thither with a strength that it seemed impossible to resist; then as
suddenly I found myself in the air again, with the great wave-crest
rushing and roaring away from me toward the ship, the topmast-heads only
of which were visible above the foaming ridge of water that had just
swept past me.  In another second or two, however, the end of her
flying-jib-boom reared itself high above the seething wave-crest, her
sharp bows, smothered in spray, quickly followed, and then the entire
hull of the ship hung balanced for an instant upon the top of the wave
ere her bows dipped, revealing the full length of her deck crowded with
people, every one of them with their faces turned in my direction.  A
few more jerks and swings, every one of which seemed imbued with a
devilish desire to unseat and hurl myself and my companion to
destruction, and we were hauled safely up on to the rail of the _City of
Cawnpore_--to an accompaniment of triumphant cheers from the
spectators--and quickly released.

Before I could recover breath to say a word, the bosun's chair was
swiftly sliding along the hawser, on its way back to the barque; and
presently, after some apparent delay and hesitation on the part of those
aboard the doomed vessel, it swung off her taffrail, on its return
journey, with a man seated in it.  Swiftly the chair traversed about a
third of the distance between the two vessels, and then it was overtaken
by and deeply buried in the heart of an oncoming sea, even as I had
been.  For a few breathless seconds the chair and its occupant were lost
to view; then, as the ship surmounted the wave, the chair again
appeared; _but it was empty_; its late occupant had vanished!  There was
a cry of dismay as this became manifest, and with one consent everybody
craned over the rail and peered down into the leaping water, in the hope
of discovering the missing man, while a few of the smarter hands on the
forecastle sprang for rope's-ends, which they quickly coiled and stood
by to heave to him, should he reappear.  But he never did; and after
watching for a full two minutes he was given up, and the chair was again
hauled aboard the barque.  A further delay now took place, no one
seeming to have the courage to undertake the short but terrible passage;
at length, however, a man stepped forward and placed himself in the
chair, and the journey began.  Half the passage was accomplished ere he
was overtaken, when, like the rest of us, he was submerged for a few
awful seconds; and when next we saw him he was just in the very act of
falling from the chair, having apparently been dragged out of it by the
fierce, sweeping rush of the sea.  Shouts of horror at this fresh
disaster, and of encouragement to the man, at once arose, in the midst
of which I seized the end of a good long coil of line which a man was
holding ready to throw, and, quickly tying a bowline therein, threw the
bight over my shoulder, poised myself for a dive, waiting, with one foot
on the topgallant rail, to see just exactly what was happening, before
taking the leap.  The unfortunate man sank, upon striking the water; but
presently the man beside me sang out "There he is!" pointing at the same
time down at the water about thirty feet from our bows; and, peering
down, I at length caught sight, indistinctly, of what looked like a
human form, twisting and writhing a few feet below the surface.  I
instantly dived, and the next moment found myself within arm's reach of
the man, whom I seized by the hair and dragged to the surface, when all
that I had to do was to fling my arms about his body, and hold on like
grim death, Murgatroyd and his people at once undertaking the rather
delicate task of getting us both safely inboard.  This was soon
accomplished; but meanwhile the bosun's chair hung stationary midway
between the two vessels, our people seeming doubtful of the utility of
proceeding further.

But there was no time to lose if the remaining Frenchmen were to be
rescued--for it was perfectly evident to everybody that the barque could
not possibly float much longer--so, shrewdly guessing at the source of
the inaction, I requested Murgatroyd to haul the chair aboard; and, this
being done, I seated myself in it and requested them to haul me across
to the barque.  Twice was I caught by the sea during this journey, and
each time it seemed that I emerged at the precise moment when, it would
have been impossible to resist the drag for even another second; but I
reached the barque safely and, at once scrambling out of the chair,
proceeded to despatch the Frenchmen in rotation: the task proving less
difficult than I had expected, my voluntary journey to them seeming to
have inspired them with fresh courage.

At length, by dint of lashing the weaker men into the chair, and
earnestly cautioning the strong ones to hold on with all their might, I
succeeded in securing the passage of the entire remainder of the
Frenchmen to the _City of Cawnpore_; and then came the task of effecting
my own retreat.  Of course this could have been accomplished by means of
the hawser and the bosun's chair; but this would have involved the loss
of the hawser and all the hauling-gear attached--which it would have
been necessary to cut away.  I thought it a pity to inflict this loss
upon the ship, merely to save myself the discomfort of being hauled
through the water from one ship to the other, so as soon as the last
Frenchman was safely aboard the _City of Cawnpore_ I proceeded to cut
and cast adrift the hawser from the barque's mizenmast, and a few
minutes later the massive rope's-end flew overboard, quickly followed by
the heaving-line, in the end of which I had knotted a bowline for my own
accommodation.  I had just thrown this bowline over my shoulder, and was
watching the coils of the line go leaping overboard, one after the
other, as the rescuing ship went drifting rapidly to leeward, when a
perfect mountain of a sea came roaring down upon the wreck, sweeping
unbroken in over her bows and right aft until it reached the front of
the poop, against which it broke with terrific violence, smashing in the
entire front of the structure, as I judged by the tremendous crashing of
timber that instantly followed.  Checked for the fraction of an instant
by its impact with the poop, the sea piled itself up in a sort of wall,
and then came surging and foaming along the deck toward me.  I saw that
it would inevitably sweep me off my feet, so, to avoid being dashed
against the poop rail, I unhesitatingly leapt overboard, and, while
still under water, felt the weight of the sea falling upon me that I had
jumped overboard to avoid.  The pressure was as that of a mountain, and
it drove me downward until the light dwindled to a sombre green
twilight, while the whirling water seemed to clasp me about as with a
thousand arms, flinging and dragging me hither and thither but ever
downward, until I could hold my breath no longer, when with a great
irresistible gasp my lungs filled with water, darkness and silence
profound and impenetrable shut me in, a thousand quaint, fantastic
fancies thronged my brain, and--I knew no more.



CHAPTER FOUR.

THE CATASTROPHE.

My next sensation was that of pain--burning, stabbing, racking pain, of
so excruciating a character that I incontinently groaned aloud.  Then,
as though in response to my groan, I heard--vaguely, and without any
immediate comprehension of the meaning of the words--a voice say:

"There, I think that will do, General; he is in pain, now, thank God!--
which means that he is coming round--and there is every reason to hope
that he will pull through.  Thanks for your valuable assistance.  I can
manage single-handed, now.  You might make it known that Mr Conyers
shows signs of returning consciousness, and that I have every hope of
saving him.  I fancy the intelligence will be not altogether unwelcome
to at least one of the cuddy party."

"By Gad! yes; I think I know who you mean.  I'll make a point of telling
the news in her hearing," was the reply.  "Are you sure there is nothing
else that I can do, doctor?"

"Nothing more, thank you--except, perhaps, that you might suggest the
value of quietness of movement on the part of anyone coming below.  No
slamming of cabin-doors, or anything of that sort, you know," answered
the first voice, which I now recognised as that of the ship's doctor on
board the _City of Cawnpore_.

"All right; I'll see to it," replied the other voice, now quite familiar
to me as that of General O'Brien.  A gentle click of the cabin-door
latch succeeded; and I opened my eyes languidly, to see Scudamore's
sharp-cut features bending close to mine, with an earnest, intent look
in his kindly eyes.

"Well," he exclaimed heartily, as our eyes met, "how do you feel now?"

"In horrible pain," I answered, with another involuntary groan.  "What
is the matter with me, doctor?  What has happened?"

"Only that you have been drowned; and that you have kept the general and
myself busy, for two mortal hours and more, practising artificial
respiration, before you would consent to come back to life.  That is
all!"

Then I remembered everything, and began to wonder by what means I had
been recovered from those profound depths wherein my last conscious
moments had been spent.  I put the question to Scudamore, and he
answered:

"Oh, as to that, we had no difficulty.  There was a light heaving-line
attached by one end to the hawser, and in the other end you had knotted
a bowline which you passed over your shoulders and under your armpits.
We simply hauled you aboard by means of that."

"And how long did the barque live after I left her?"  I asked.

"How long?" repeated the doctor, in surprise.  "Why, not ten seconds!
She was in the very act of foundering, stern first, when you jumped; and
it was undoubtedly her suction that did the mischief.  You must have
been dragged fathoms deep by her; and but for the line round you, you
would probably never have come to the surface again."

"And what of the French people?  Are they all right?"  I demanded.

"Yes; thanks to you, they are," answered Scudamore.  "The man you jumped
overboard after was the worst case; but, luckily, I had succeeded in
resuscitating him before you were hauled aboard.  You have saved fifteen
human lives to-day!  That is something to be proud of, is it not?  And
now, no more talking at present; what you require is sleep; and if you
do not mind being left alone a minute or two I will go to my cabin and
mix you a draught that will give you a good long nap, from which I have
no doubt you will awake feeling as well as ever."

So saying, the medico softly withdrew, quietly closing the cabin-door
behind him, only to return a few minutes later with a draught of
decidedly pungent taste, which, at his command, I tossed off instanter.
Whether it was due to the potency of the draught, or to exhaustion, or
to both combined, I know not, but certain it is that as I sank back upon
the pillow my eyes closed, and almost instantly I went drifting off into
the land of dreams.

When I next awoke it was well on toward evening, for the light had grown
so dim that I could only indistinctly discern the various objects about
the cabin.  But there seemed to have been no abatement of the gale, for
the ship was rolling and plunging as wildly as ever; the scuttle was
frequently being dimmed by the dash of seas against the ship's side; and
the screaming of the gale through the rigging still rose high above
every other sound.

My body seemed to be bruised and aching all over; but, with this
exception, I felt little or none the worse for my morning's adventure; I
was very comfortable, but distinctly hungry; and I was lazily
endeavouring to make up my mind whether I would go to the trouble of
dressing, and hunting up a steward to find me something to eat, or
whether I would remain where I was until somebody came to me, when the
problem was solved by the opening of my cabin-door, and the entrance of
the doctor.  He advanced on tiptoe to the side of my bunk, and bent
close over me, peering into my face to see whether I happened to be
awake.

"What is the time, doctor?"  I asked.

"Oh, so you _are_ awake, eh?" he responded.  "Well, how do you feel?"

"Sore and aching from head to foot, but otherwise all right--excepting
that I am uncommonly hungry," I answered.

"Hungry, eh?" said Scudamore.  "Let me feel your pulse."

He laid his fingers upon my wrist for a few seconds, and then said:

"Well, there doesn't seem to be very much the matter with you now; you
have had a good, long, sound sleep--I have been in and out from time to
time, just to see that you were going on all right--and a good dinner
will not hurt you.  Will you have it brought to you here, or would you
rather turn out and dress?"

"Oh, I will turn out, of course!"  I exclaimed.

"Very well, then," said the doctor, "I will send a steward to help you
to dress--you will need a little assistance, with the ship cutting these
wild capers--and if you do not dawdle too long over your toilet you will
be just in good time for dinner.  There goes the first bell," he added,
as the strident clamour suddenly pealed out from somewhere on the deck
above.

He left me, and presently my berth-room steward appeared with my
shaving-water, and I scrambled--rather more feebly than I had expected--
out of my bunk.  The operation of dressing proved to be a considerably
more lengthy one than I had anticipated, for I found that I was
decidedly shaky on my legs, and I had to sit on the sofa and take a
short rest at frequent intervals, with the result that the second dinner
bell rang before I was ready to leave my cabin.  I was not very late,
however, arriving in the cuddy last, it is true, but in time to see my
immediate predecessors just taking their seats.  As I crossed the
threshold of the brilliantly-lighted apartment, leaning upon the arm of
the steward, the entire company rose to their feet; every eye was turned
upon me; and suddenly General O'Brien shouted, in great excitement:

"Three cheers for our gallant friend Conyers!  Hip, hip, hip, hurrah!"

The three cheers thus unexpectedly called for were enthusiastically
given--even the ladies joining in--to my great confusion, and as I
passed aft between the two tables everybody within reach must needs
shake hands with me, and say something complimentary, until I felt so
uncomfortable that I began to wish I had remained below.  I noticed that
Miss Onslow was on her feet, like the rest; but she appeared to have
risen rather to avoid any appearance of singularity than with the
intention of paying me a compliment; while the rest were almost
boisterously enthusiastic she remained absolutely calm and devoid of the
slightest sign of emotion, except that her cheeks and lips were
colourless; a slight curl in her beautiful upper lip seemed to indicate
a feeling of contempt for such an outburst of enthusiasm, and she
steadfastly kept her gaze turned away from me, except for one brief
fraction of a second, as I drew near to take my place beside her.  Then,
for the space of a lightning-flash, our glances met; and, if anything so
inconceivable as a display of emotion on her part could be credited as
within the range of possibility, I would almost have sworn that I caught
in her eyes the flash of tears.  But, the little ovation over, we all
sat down; and as she at once began talking to the skipper about the gun
mounted as a trophy in front of Government House, Calcutta, I had not an
opportunity to verify my suspicion.

As we seated ourselves I gave vent to a sigh of relief, believing that--
my fellow-travellers having expressed their approval of my behaviour of
the morning--the affair was now at an end.  But scarcely were we settled
in our places when the French skipper's wife--a very charming little
woman, who, with her husband, had been received into the cuddy by Dacre
as his guests, and who had apparently failed to recognise me upon my
entrance--learning from her neighbour what all the hubbub was about,
must needs add to my confusion by rushing to me and throwing herself
upon her knees, as she poured forth her expressions of gratitude with a
mingled fervour and grace that I found particularly discomposing.  Then
her husband followed suit, thanking me with manly earnestness and
heartiness for what I had done.  This further act of homage, so publicly
performed, disconcerted me to such an extent that I hastened to dismiss
the embarrassingly grateful pair by assuring them that they were making
altogether too much of what I had done, which was no more than any other
man, confident of his swimming powers, would have unhesitatingly
undertaken, had I not happened to have seized the initiative; that I was
of course very glad it had fallen to me to be the means of saving their
lives; but that I most earnestly begged them to say no more about it.

When dinner was over, General O'Brien joined me on deck, as I was
smoking my pipe; and I seized the opportunity to thank him for the
assistance he had rendered in the operation of securing my
resuscitation.  And I added:

"As I was recovering consciousness I heard the doctor make a remark to
you to the effect that someone--I gathered that a lady was being
referred to--seemed to be more than ordinarily concerned in the question
of my recovery; and I understood from your reply that you perfectly
understood to whom Scudamore alluded.  Have you any objection to
favouring me with the name of the individual?"

"Oh, so you heard that, did you?" remarked the general.  "Well, my dear
boy, it was not intended for you to hear, I am quite certain; Scudamore
would not have made the remark had he been aware that you were
sufficiently recovered to hear and understand it.  As to my giving you
the lady's name--well, I do not think I should be justified in doing so.
The matter stands thus, you see.  When Scudamore spoke, he and I were
of opinion that we had accidentally discovered the entirely unsuspected
existence of a more than ordinary interest in you on the part of a
certain lady; but since then I have come to the conclusion that we
mistook overpowering excitement for a more tender feeling; hence I do
not consider that I ought to enlighten you at all.  If any tender
feeling exists, why, it is the girl's own secret, for her to retain or
not as she pleases; and if she has such a feeling, and is willing that
you should know it, depend upon it she will discover a method of
enlightening you; while if she has no such feeling it would be the
height of bad taste on my part to suggest that possibly she has.  So
please ask me no more about it, there's a good fellow."

Of course I at once and finally let the subject drop, but somehow I
could not help thinking about it, and wondering which of my
fellow-passengers was referred to, and for the next day or two I watched
to see whether any one of them exhibited more than ordinary cordiality
to me; but it was quite unavailing; _all_ were alike exceedingly cordial
and friendly--except Miss Onslow, who still maintained her former
attitude of frigid reserve--so, as it was, after all, a matter that only
very slightly interested me, I soon forgot all about it.

From this time forward, for a full month and more, life was absolutely
uneventful on board the _City of Cawnpore_: the gale blew itself out
that same night, and we got a breeze that carried us right into the
north-east trades; then we lost five days on the Line parallels ere we
caught the south-east trades; and when they left us we were baffled for
two days more before getting a wind that would permit us to make any
easting.

We caught this fair wind early one morning in the second week of
December; and by noon it was blowing over the larboard quarter quite as
strong as we wanted it, with studding-sails abroad on both sides, from
the royals down, and every other inch of canvas that would draw.  As the
afternoon waned the breeze freshened; but Murgatroyd had by this time
got preventer backstays rigged, fore and aft, with the avowed
determination of carrying on and making the very utmost of so splendid a
breeze.  And making the most of it, he was, with a vengeance, for the
ship was sweeping along like a mist wreath, reeling off her seventeen
knots by the log, when the latter was hove at the end of the first
dog-watch.

When I went on deck after dinner that night the sky had banked up to
windward and astern of us, and heavy masses of cloud were sweeping
rapidly athwart the firmament, permitting an occasional brief and hasty
glimpse of the young moon and a few misty stars.  It was then blowing
strong, with every promise of a windy night before us; and it seemed to
me that, with so dim and uncertain a light, it was scarcely prudent to
drive the ship at such headlong speed through the night.  Indeed I
ventured to suggest as much to Dacre, but he only laughed at me.

"It is all very well for you navy men, when you are cruising, to shorten
sail at sunset, so that your people may be reasonably sure of an
undisturbed night," he said.  "But with us of the red ensign it is
different; our owners expect us to pile up the profits for them; and the
only way in which we can do that is by making quick passages.  But of
course, while doing our best to accomplish this, we exercise every
possible precaution.  For instance, you seem to think that I am rather
reckless in driving my ship at this speed through the night; but what
have I to fear?  We have all the sea-room we want; there are no rocks or
shoals in our road for us to fetch up on; and if we should happen to
fall in with any other vessels, they will be going the same way as
ourselves, so we shall see them in ample time to avoid running over
them.  And, in addition to all this, we maintain a first-rate lookout,
one on each bow, two in the waist, and the officer of the watch up here
on the poop; so we need have no fear of collision.  Take my word for it,
Mr Conyers; you are every bit as safe aboard here, sir, as if you were
under the pennant!"

After this, of course, there was nothing more to be said, especially as
I was well aware that, in mentioning such a matter at all to the
skipper, I had committed an almost unpardonable breach of nautical
etiquette.

Notwithstanding the strong breeze the night was quite warm, for we were
not very far south of the tropic of Capricorn, and, moreover, it was
close upon the midsummer of the Southern Hemisphere; consequently when
two bells of the first watch struck, a good many of the passengers were
on deck, most of them listening to the miners, who were congregated on
the main deck, singing.  As for me, I was right aft, on the wheel
grating, smoking, and staring skyward at the racing cloud masses as they
swept scurrying athwart the face of the moon.

Suddenly a loud yell of dismay and warning arose from the topgallant
forecastle, the only words I caught being, "--_under our bows_!"

The next instant, with a shock that shot me off the grating on to the
poop, the ship was brought up all standing--not stopped dead as though
she had run into a cliff, but rather as a horse stops when pulled up and
thrown on his haunches--and then, as I lay on my back, half stunned by
the shock of my fall, and still gazing skyward, I saw the three masts
bow forward, bending like fishing-rods, when, with a dreadful rending
crash, the entire complicated mechanism of sails, spars, and rigging
went by the board, and lay fore and aft along the deck.

There was a moment's pause of utter silence, broken only by the hissing
splash and rush of water alongside, and the moaning of the wind over the
sea; and then arose the most terrific hubbub to which I had ever been
doomed to listen--shrieks, groans, and curses from those injured by the
fall of, or buried under, the wreckage from aloft; cries of "We're
sinking! we're sinking!  God help us!" people calling each other's
names; and the voices of Captain Dacre and Mr Murgatroyd shouting
orders.  Then, all in a moment there arose among the miners a cry of
"The boats! the boats!  Let's launch the boats!" instantly followed by a
rush of the whole crowd of them on to the poop, where as many as could
swarmed into the two quarter boats hanging at the davits.  These two
boats would not hold much more than a quarter of their number, and the
moment that this was discovered there arose a sanguinary fight for the
possession of the two frail craft, those who were crowded out drawing
their knives and attacking the other party.  Then Murgatroyd suddenly
appeared on the poop with a brace of revolvers in his hands, which he
levelled at the fighting, surging mob.

"Come out of those boats, you cowardly blackguards; come out, I say, and
stand by to obey orders!  D'ye hear, there, what I say?  You there with
the red head, I'm talking to you: come out of that boat, or by God I'll
shoot!  You won't?  Then take that,"--his pistol flashed as he spoke.
"I'll soon see who is master here!"

The next instant the brave fellow was down on the deck, stabbed in a
dozen places from behind, and the life kicked and trampled out of him by
the fighting, panic-stricken crowd of miners, who were now simply beside
themselves with terror, and practically as irresponsible as so many wild
beasts.

At this juncture the skipper, with some half a dozen seamen to support
him, arrived upon the scene from forward--where he had apparently
rushed, at the first alarm, to investigate the condition of the ship;
and, pressing his way into the heart of the howling, struggling mob,
endeavoured to bring them to their senses by assuring them that there
were boats enough for all, but that their only chance of being saved lay
in allowing the sailors access to the tackles so that the boats might be
properly launched.  But before the poor fellow could get any further,
he, too, went down and disappeared, amid shouts of "Our lives is as good
as yours!  We've got the boats, and we mean to keep 'em!" and so on.
And, in the height of the confusion, someone cut the bow tackle of the
larboard quarter boat, with the result that her bow suddenly dropped
into the water while her stern still hung suspended from the davit, and
every man of the crowd who had scrambled into her was instantly
precipitated into the water.

While this was going on upon the poop, the entire crowd of cuddy
passengers appeared to be huddled together about the companion, utterly
helpless and bewildered, while a party of seamen were working
desperately down on the main deck to get the four boats off the gallows.
I could not see that anyone was doing anything to clear away the long
boat; but that was probably because she had been destroyed by the fall
of the mainmast, which appeared to have crashed right down on the top of
her.

As for me, I did nothing; for the simple reason that there was nothing
to be done; the ship was sinking fast--so fast, indeed, that she would
probably plunge head first to the bottom in less than five minutes,
which--taking into consideration the state of absolute panic that
prevailed, and the inextricable raffle of wreckage that cumbered and
filled the decks--would leave no time in which to construct even the
rudest kind of raft.  No, there seemed to be nothing for it but for all
hands to go down with the ship, thanks to the terror-stricken
selfishness of the 'tween-decks passengers, who were too ignorant to do
anything useful themselves, and too obstinate and distrustful to allow
anyone else to do anything.  For myself, I had made up my mind not to
give in and die so long as I could do anything to help myself; I was a
good swimmer, and when the ship went down I should look out for a piece
of wreckage, and cling to it until I was picked up by some passing ship,
or perished of hunger and thirst.

Suddenly, as I was standing close to the binnacle, watching the frantic
mob of fighting miners, a woman emerged from the after companion, close
beside me.  She glanced round for a moment, in terror at the conflict
that was raging about the boats, and then, stepping quickly to my side,
laid her hand upon my arm--I could see the gleam and glitter of gems
upon it in the dim starlight--and said, in a voice which I at once
recognised as that of Miss Onslow:

"Oh, Mr Conyers, what does all this mean?  What has happened?  Is the
ship sinking?  For pity's sake tell me?"

"Miss Onslow," said I, "summon all your courage to your aid, I beg you,
for you will need it.  I have the worst possible news to tell you.  The
ship is sinking fast--she will probably go down in another two or three
minutes; and I think it doubtful in the extreme whether any one of us
will survive to tell the tale!"

"O God!" she gasped.  "My father--I am his only child--and this will
kill him!  Well, if it _must_ be so, God's will be done!"

Not a word about herself, no outcry of natural fear at the near approach
of the King of Terrors!  It was of her father, and the heart-breaking
sorrow that he would feel at her loss, that she thought at this dread
moment!  As this idea presented itself to me a world of admiration for
such marvellous courage and unselfishness leapt into being within me,
and, turning to her, I grasped the hand that still unconsciously rested
upon my arm, and said:

"Miss Onslow, I have no hope to offer you; but if you are willing to
trust yourself to me I will do my utmost to save you.  At the worst we
shall be no worse off than we are now."

"I _will_ trust you," she said simply.  "I will do whatever you tell
me!"

There was no time to lose, for I could tell, by the feel of the ship,
that her course was all but run; so, taking my companion by the hand, I
led her right aft to the wheel grating, which we both mounted; and then
I peered over the stern at the black water.  Merciful Heaven, how near
it was! it looked as though one could lean over the rail and dabble
one's hand in it.  But it was clear; there was no wreckage or anything
else--so far as I could see--to hurt us, should we leap.  A lifebuoy was
hanging over the taffrail, suspended by a stout lanyard; and this buoy I
hurriedly cut adrift, passing it over Miss Onslow's shoulders and up
under her armpits.  Then, having thus equipped her, I assisted her to
mount the rail, and at once sprang up beside her, taking her hand in
mine as I did so.

"Now, are you ready?"  I asked.

"Quite!" she answered, as steadily as though I had been about to assist
her to step ashore, instead of urging her to leap overboard in the
middle of the South Atlantic, on a dark and windy night, with scarcely a
hope that she would survive to see the next morning.

"Then jump!"  I said; and at the word we both leapt together.



CHAPTER FIVE.

THE CITY OF CAWNPORE'S QUARTER BOAT.

The height of the poop rail from the surface of the water had by this
time grown so insignificant, by reason of the depth to which the hull of
the ship had become immersed, that upon striking the water I only
descended about a foot below the surface, ere rising again; while my
companion was so effectually supported by the lifebuoy that she remained
quite dry above the shoulders.  The water was not at all cold, indeed it
was of quite a pleasant temperature, so I anticipated no discomfort on
that account, either for my companion or myself.  Now--that we were
actually overboard my first anxiety was to place as great a distance as
possible between ourselves and the sinking ship, so that we might
perchance escape being dragged down by her when she should founder.  I
therefore at once thrust my left arm through one of the beckets of the
lifebuoy, and struck out with all my strength away from the ship,
swimming athwart the sea, so that it might not break in our faces, and
towing my companion after me.  I contrived to place a distance of about
a hundred fathoms between us and the ship before she disappeared--which
was very considerably more than I had dared to hope for when we jumped
overboard--and although this did not carry us quite clear of the vortex
created by the sinking ship, it carried us so far away that we were only
dragged back somewhat toward the centre, without being taken under.  I
swam for another ten minutes, and then, deeming that we were so far
distant as to be free from all danger of injury by the rising of
floating wreckage under us, it seemed advisable to heave-to and husband
my strength a little, since I could not tell to what extent it might be
taxed in the immediate future.  As to my companion, she was put to no
exertion whatever, the lifebuoy supporting her perfectly; and when I
inquired as to her welfare she informed me that she felt quite as
comfortable and as much at ease as could be reasonably expected under
the circumstances.

I allowed a quarter of an hour--as nearly as I could guess it--to elapse
after the disappearance of the ship; and then, believing that whatever
wreckage was likely to float up from her to the surface would already
have done so, I thought we might safely return to the scene of the
catastrophe, since it was upon the existence of a certain amount of
floating wreckage that I built such slight hope as I entertained of our
ultimate preservation.  I knew pretty exactly the bearings of the spot
where the ship had gone down--having taken them by the moon--and, thus
guided, I struck out over the way that we had recently travelled, towing
Miss Onslow after me; and as I swam I could not help a feeling of
surprise at the height of the sea, which seemed mountainous, now that we
were down upon its surface, although from the deck of the ship it had
appeared nothing at all extraordinary.  I had been swimming some five
minutes or so when, as we floated up on the breast of a wave, I saw in
the dim moonlight what looked like a quantity of loose, floating
wreckage at no very great distance away, but slightly to windward; and
toward this we made the best of our way, ultimately arriving in the
midst of a quantity of loose, jagged, and splintered planking tangled up
with a raffle of spars, sails, and rigging.  It was rather dangerous
stuff to venture among, as some of the loose planks were lancing about
in the wash of the sea with considerable violence, and a blow from a
jagged end would have inflicted a more or less serious injury, even had
it not killed us outright; but at length I found a little clear space
among the wreckage, into which I towed my companion, and presently we
found ourselves close alongside one of the masts, with the after-rim of
the top riding dry; and on to this I at once climbed, hauling Miss
Onslow after me, and lashing her securely to the top by means of an end
of rope cut from among the raffle.  Here we were reasonably safe and
comfortable, for we were upon a raft of buoyant material that would
probably float for months, while there was so much of it that it
effectually broke the sea and prevented it from washing over us.  It was
a terrible situation for such a delicately-nurtured girl as she who had
so unexpectedly been thrown under my protecting care; but throughout the
night she never uttered a single word that could be construed into
complaint; nor did she evince the slightest fear; on the contrary, she
exhibited a calm and steadfast courage that filled me with admiration,
although the questions that she put to me from time to time rendered it
perfectly clear that she very fully realised the desperate nature of our
predicament.

Some time during the night--it would probably be about midnight--the
wind dropped to a light breeze, and the sea began to go down, until by
daylight there was only a very gentle air blowing, with very little sea,
but a long, heavy swell; the clouds all went drifting away out of sight,
leaving the sky clear; and there was, generally, a very promising
prospect that the coming day would be fine.

The moment that it was light enough to see, I scrambled up on the
wreckage and took a long look round, in the hope of descrying a sail,
but the horizon was bare.  Then, as the light grew stronger, I proceeded
to minutely inspect the mass of wreckage that had afforded us shelter
throughout the night, with the view of ascertaining its capabilities as
a refuge for a more or less lengthy period--until, in fact, we were
either taken off by a passing ship, or perished of starvation.  There
seemed to be a great deal of it--much more than I could satisfactorily
account for--but as the dawn spread and brightened, and objects grew
increasingly distinct, everything became intelligible, even to the cause
of the catastrophe that had so suddenly and terribly hurled us from a
situation of safety and comfort into one of the direst peril and
uncertainty.  For I found that while my companion and I were clinging to
the wreckage of the ill-fated _City of Cawnpore's_ mainmast--the whole
of which had somehow come adrift from the hull--we were surrounded by
and tangled up with a large quantity of planking and woodwork, some of
which we recognised as having belonged to our own ship, while the
remainder resolved itself into the shattered hull of a large,
timber-laden, wooden ship which had been cut nearly half through by the
tremendous impact of our own vessel upon it when she struck it and so
destroyed herself in the darkness of the preceding night.  A minute
inspection of this wreck enabled me to clearly understand exactly what
had happened: the stranger had been dismasted--for her spars were still
attached to her hull--and had, at the same time, or subsequently, become
water-logged to such an extent as to submerge her hull nearly to the
level of the deck; her crew had abandoned her; and she had been left
washing about, a scarcely visible yet truly formidable death-trap, for
our own good ship to blunder upon to her destruction.  The force of the
blow had turned the stranger nearly bottom up, so I could not even make
a guess at her nationality, and, worse still, it had robbed us of a
possible chance of slightly bettering our condition by taking up our
quarters aboard her.

In addition to the mass that my hapless companion and I had taken refuge
upon there were a few small quantities of detached wreckage floating
here and there within a radius of about a quarter of a mile, and among
these I by and by noticed something that looked so much like a capsized
boat that--as there seemed to be no sharks about--I determined to swim
out and examine it.  I mentioned my resolution to Miss Onslow, who made
no demur whatever to being left alone for a time, merely remarking, with
a somewhat wan smile:

"If it should by good fortune prove to be a boat, please do not, in your
elation, sail away, forgetting that you have left me behind."

I assured her that she might absolutely depend upon my never forgetting
that I had undertaken to save her, and therewith plunged into the warm
sea.

Swimming a long, steady stroke, it did not take me very long to reach
the object for which I was aiming, and which proved, as I had
conjectured, to be a ship's boat, swamped, and floating keel up.  And
not only so, but when I got alongside her I was delighted to find that
she was one of the _City of Cawnpore's_ quarter boats--no doubt the one
that the miners had cut partially adrift ere the ship went down--the
especial significance and importance of this discovery arising from the
fact that poor Dacre had made a point of having every item of each
boat's equipment stowed within her, and properly secured; so that,
unless something very untoward had happened, it was reasonable to hope
that I should find this craft thus furnished.  And, sure enough, she
appeared to be so, when I at length managed to right her, for, as she
rolled over, I caught sight of the oars, masts, and sails--the latter
neatly encased in canvas coats--all securely lashed to the thwarts.
Without waiting to further investigate, I got hold of her by the stern
and, hanging on by one hand, proceeded to scoop the water out of her
with the other.  This was a long job, considerably more than an hour
being spent in removing the comparatively small quantity of water
necessary to enable me to get into her; but, once in her, I made much
better progress, using my two hands to throw the water out, until--
having got rid of sufficient to enable me to move about without again
filling the boat--I managed to find a baler, when I made short work of
baling her dry.  This done, I took stock of my prize, and found that I
had come into possession of a twenty-eight-foot gig, in a perfectly
sound and undamaged condition, equipped with four sixteen-foot ash oars,
a mast and sails, rowlocks, bottom-boards, stretchers, rudder and yoke,
baler, boat-hook, and--priceless treasure, under the circumstances--two
breakers of fresh water securely lashed to the bottom-boards to serve as
ballast.  With such a prize as this what might not be possible?  With a
thankful heart I cast adrift the oars, shipped a pair, and--standing up
fisherman fashion, with my face toward the bow--paddled the boat to the
pile of wreckage whereon I had left Miss Onslow.

The sea had by this time gone down to such an extent that I had no
difficulty in putting the boat alongside the wreckage, taking the young
lady on board, and shoving clear again without damaging the boat in the
least.  My clothes were by this time quite dry, and those of my
companion nearly so; we were therefore, comparatively speaking,
comfortable, excepting that we were both sensible of the possession of a
most healthy and hearty appetite, which we had no means of satisfying.
A casual remark by Miss Onslow upon this unpleasant feature of our
adventure set me thinking, with the result that before leaving our mass
of wreckage for good, I secured the signal halliards--to serve as a
fishing-line--together with a fair supply of other small cordage, the
main-royal--which I cut away from the wreckage to serve as a sort of
tent, to shelter my companion from the dew at night-time--and a small
spike nail or two, which, with considerable labour, I cut out of the
planking of the derelict that had brought disaster upon us.  These last
I secured with the rather hazy idea that it might be possible for me to
file them down and convert them into fish-hooks with the aid of a small
file that formed one of the implements in my pocket-knife.  Thus
provided, I shipped the boat's rudder and yoke, stepped the mast, set
the sails, and shoved off, my intention being to shape a course--as
nearly as I could hit it off--for Cape Town, in the hope that ere long
we might be fallen in with and picked up by some craft bound thither.
The boat, however, had scarcely begun to gather way when I espied, at no
very great distance, what I took to be a floating hencoop; and realising
that, if my conjecture happened to be correct, the coop would probably
be found to contain drowned poultry that, in our desperate situation,
would serve for food, I headed the boat for it.  My surmise again proved
to be well founded; the object turned out to be a coop, and it contained
seventeen dead fowls, the whole of which I secured.  And in gaining
possession of the poultry I found it necessary to break away two or
three of the slats or bars that formed the front of the coop, thus
discovering that they were secured to the body of the coop by long,
thin, wire nails, out of which I soon satisfied myself that I could make
very promising fish-hooks by merely bending them into the requisite
shape, I secured about a dozen of these nails; and then made sail with a
fair wind upon an approximately due east course.  Although the wind was
light the boat slipped through the water at a very satisfactory pace;
and in half an hour's time we had run the wreckage completely out of
sight.

During the progress of the foregoing operations my companion had been
very quiet, looking on with an air of interest at everything I did, and
occasionally volunteering her assistance where she seemed to think she
might possibly be able to make herself useful, but otherwise saying
little.  Now, however, that we had once more settled down into a
condition of comparative inactivity she began to question me as to our
whereabouts, what were my intentions, and so on; all of which questions
I replied to as accurately as I could.  Then, after meditating for
several minutes, she said:

"And what do you think are our chances of escape, Mr Conyers?  Do you
consider that they are favourable enough to justify you in taking so
very much trouble?"

"Ah," answered I, "if you had asked me that question last night, when we
jumped overboard together from the sinking ship, I should probably have
found some difficulty in answering you at once hopefully and truthfully;
for, as a matter of fact, I may now tell you that I really had _no_
hope, and that, in acting as I did, I was merely obeying that instinct
that urges us all to fight for life so long as we have any fight left in
us.  But _now_ that we have come into possession of this fine and
well-equipped boat I can honestly say that I consider our chance of
ultimate escape is excellent.  Of course everything depends upon the
weather: if a gale were to spring up, the boat would probably be swamped
or capsized by the heavy sea that would quickly rise--although even
under such adverse conditions as those of a gale I should bring all my
sailorly training and knowledge to bear on the task of preserving the
boat as long as possible.  But if Providence will only favour us with
fine weather for, say, a week, I have scarcely a shadow of doubt that
within that time we shall be fallen in with and picked up by a craft of
some sort.  For you must understand that we are right in the track of
ships bound round the Cape; and those vessels are now so many in number
that, making a rough guess, I should be inclined to say that an average
of at least one vessel per day must pass within a few miles of this
spot.  Of course it may happen that several days will pass without a
single craft of any kind coming along, but, to maintain the average, it
is equally likely that three or four may pass in the course of a dozen
hours.  So you see our chance of being rescued is fairly good."

"Yes.  But," she objected, "suppose it were unfortunately to happen that
several days--say seven or eight--were to elapse without our seeing a
sail; and that, afterwards, such ships as we might see were to pass us
at such a long distance that although they would be perfectly visible to
us, we should be quite invisible to them: What then?"

"In that case," said I, "there would be but one course open to us: we
should simply be obliged to keep sailing on until a ship approached us
near enough to see us, taking every care of ourselves meanwhile, and
omitting no opportunity to procure such means of supporting life as the
ocean has to offer us.  And that reminds me that neither food nor drink
has passed our lips since dinner, last night: I know you are hungry,
because you said so some time ago; and, as for me, I am famishing.  The
food at our disposal is not particularly inviting--simply raw chicken
and cold water--but it is at least fresh, and I think we ought to make
the most of it while it is in that condition."

Miss Onslow's appetite was not, however, as yet quite keen enough to
admit of her partaking of raw fowl; but she drank a little water out of
the baler--the only utensil we possessed.  As she returned the baler to
me she remarked:

"You must not allow my squeamishness to be a bar to the satisfaction of
your own appetite, if you feel hungry enough to eat raw flesh.  I have
been told that sailors are so often reduced to desperate straits that
they eventually become reconciled to the idea of eating almost anything,
and are consequently, as a rule, much less fastidious than such pampered
mortals as myself.  Moreover, you must not forget that it is of the last
importance that _your_ strength should be maintained--for your own sake,
and for mine as well--if it is not too presumptuous of me to say such a
thing--therefore please make a meal, if you can.  And, although I fully
realise how absolutely dependent upon you I am, I should like you to
understand that I do not mean to be a mere helpless burden to you, if it
can be avoided.  I am perhaps not physically strong enough to be of much
assistance to you; but in all cases where skill rather than great bodily
strength is required I hope you will unhesitatingly make use of me.  For
instance, you are hungry; but you cannot make even such slight
preparation of your food as is possible, because you are steering the
boat.  Again, you will soon need rest, but you will be unable to take it
unless I am able to steer the boat in your stead.  Therefore please
teach me forthwith how to manage the boat, so that I may be able to
`relieve' you--as I think you sailors call it--from time to time, as may
prove necessary."

And this was the girl who, while on board ship, had hedged herself in
and kept us all at arm's-length by a barrier of such chill and haughty
reserve as had at times approached very nearly to insolence!

Of course I eagerly accepted her offer--for I foresaw that a time would
very soon arrive when her assistance would be indispensable--and at once
proceeded to initiate her into the art of steering.  Unfortunately, we
were running dead before the wind at the time--which is the most
difficult point of sailing for a novice to master--yet my new pupil
seemed to grasp the idea at once and without an effort; and a quarter of
an hour later she was watching the run of the sea and checking the
tendency of the boat to round-to almost as knowingly and cleverly as
though she had been sailing a boat all her lifetime.

The moment that I found she could be trusted alone I took up a position
on the midship thwart and, selecting the best-looking fowl from our
stock, proceeded to pluck and draw it, afterwards giving it a good wash
in the salt water alongside.  This done, I cut off a leg and, having
skinned it, sliced off a small piece of flesh which, with many
misgivings, I placed in my mouth and began dubiously to masticate.  The
idea of devouring raw flesh seemed to me to be exceedingly repulsive and
disgusting, but it was either that or nothing, and, realising the full
truth of Miss Onslow's remark upon the importance of maintaining my
strength, I persevered.  And presently, when I had conquered in some
measure the natural repugnance excited by the idea of such food, I found
that really, after all, it was very much a matter of sentiment, and
that, so far as the flavour was concerned, there was nothing at all
objectionable.  The taste was of course novel, and peculiar, but I
thought it possible that one might accustom oneself to it without much
difficulty.  Yet, just at first, a little sufficed, and when I had
despatched one leg I considered that I had made a particularly hearty
meal.  And I felt so much the better for it that I strove to induce Miss
Onslow to try a morsel.  She gently reiterated her refusal, however,
while expressing her satisfaction that I had been able to eat.  Then,
noticing that her eyes looked heavy, and that her movements were
languid, I arranged the royal as a sort of couch in the stern-sheets for
her, and suggested that she should lie down and endeavour to secure some
rest; to which suggestion she acceded; and in a few minutes, completely
worn out with the unaccustomed excitement, fatigue, and exposure through
which she had so recently passed, she was sleeping by my side as
placidly as an infant.

The sun was sinking into a bank of smoky-looking cloud that stretched
along the horizon on our starboard quarter when my companion awoke,
greatly refreshed by her slumbers, but--as she confessed--ravenously
hungry.  I also was beginning to feel anew the pangs of hunger; so,
surrendering the yoke-lines to Miss Onslow, I took advantage of what
remained of the fast-waning daylight to prepare a further portion of raw
fowl to serve us both, taking care to render the appearance of the flesh
as little repulsive as possible.  By the time that my preparations--
which I had purposely somewhat protracted--were complete, darkness had
so far closed down upon us that it was scarcely possible to see what we
were eating; and, thus aided, and by dint of much persuasion--
accentuated by a reminder that we habitually ate oysters raw,--I
succeeded in inducing the poor girl to so far lay aside her prejudices
as just to _taste_ the food I offered her.  That accomplished, I had no
further trouble with her, for her hunger was by this time so sharp that
food of any sort became palatable, and we both succeeded in making a
fairly good meal.

Meanwhile, the bank of cloud that at sunset had been hovering on the
verge of the western horizon, had been stealthily creeping zenith-ward,
and at the same time spreading out north and south, with a look in it
that seemed to portend more wind; so, as a measure of precaution, I went
to work, upon the conclusion of our meal, and shortened sail by taking
down a couple of reefs in the mainsail, and a single reef in the little
stay foresail which the boat carried.  And, this done, I rearranged the
royal in the stern-sheets as a bed for my companion, urging her to turn
in at once and get as much rest as she could.

It was exceedingly fortunate that I had taken the precaution to reef the
canvas of our small hooker; for about an hour or so after sunset--very
shortly, indeed, after the completion of my preparations--the wind
freshened up with quite a touch of spite in it, driving us along at a
speed of fully eight knots, and tugging at the mast as though intent on
dragging it out of the boat altogether; the sea, moreover, began to rise
and break, and by midnight I was in a bath of perspiration induced by
anxiety and the effort to keep the boat ahead of and square end-on to
the combers.  This condition of excessive and painful anxiety, by the
way, was quite a new, as well as decidedly unpleasant, experience for
me, and I was deeply mortified and annoyed at the discovery of its
influence upon me.  I first took myself severely to task about it, and
then proceeded to seek for the cause of the trouble.  I was at first
disposed to attribute it to nerve-shock, induced by the occurrences of
the preceding twenty-four hours, but a further analysis of my feelings
convinced me that my nerves were still to be depended upon as implicitly
as ever, and that the real source of my distress lay at my feet, asleep,
wrapped up in a sail.  Yes; there could be no doubt about it; it was on
my companion's account that I was nervous and anxious; I feared being
capsized or swamped simply because of the greatly-increased danger and
discomfort that would in that case accrue to _her_!

At length--probably about two o'clock in the morning--it breezed up so
fiercely, and knocked up such a sea that I dared not run the boat any
longer, so, watching my chance, I put the helm down and hove-to on the
larboard tack, with the boat's head to the northward, and anxiously
awaited the coming of daylight.  Soon after this, Miss Onslow awoke, and
seemed considerably alarmed at the change in the weather and the wild
movements of the boat; but I managed to reassure her; and then,
observing that I had lashed the port yoke-line, and was no longer doing
anything, she suggested that we should change places, and that I should
get a little sleep!  After my assurances as to the utter absence of any
danger I found it somewhat difficult to make her understand--without
alarming her--that it was still as urgently necessary as ever for me to
watch the boat.

At length the dawn came filtering slowly through a murky and rather
angry-looking sky, and as the darkness gradually melted away from off
the face of the weltering waters I made out the canvas of a large ship,
some eight miles off, to leeward.  She had passed us about an hour
earlier, probably not more than three miles away; and had there only
been daylight I should doubtless have succeeded in attracting her
attention.  As it was, there was no hope of any such thing now; she was
sailing away from instead of toward us, and sailors seldom look astern;
their attention is mostly directed to what lies ahead.  And even had it
been otherwise, it was too late now to think of making ourselves seen;
she was too far off; and chasing her was quite out of the question, for
she was bowling along under topgallant studding-sails, making the utmost
of a fair wind, while we dared show no more than double-reefed canvas.
Fortunately, Miss Onslow was sleeping again, and did not see the
stranger, which had run out of sight beyond the horizon by the time that
my companion next awoke, so I did not mention the circumstance.  The
appearance of this vessel, however, was cheering and encouraging,
inasmuch as it tended to show that I was still in the track of shipping.

As the day wore slowly on the wind steadily freshened until it was
blowing a single-reefed topsail breeze, that brought with it a
corresponding increase in the height and run of the seas, which at
length became so dangerous that I dared no longer keep the boat under
sail, but was constrained to douse the canvas and use it, with the mast
and oars, as a floating anchor for the boat.  Riding to these, at the
full scope of our rather long painter, we were much more easy and
comfortable; but this advantage was discounted to a great extent by the
fact that during the day two other vessels passed us--at too great a
distance to allow of our attracting their attention, low down in the
water as we were, and with no means of signalling to them, yet not so
far off but that we might have been seen had there been a pair of sharp
eyes aboard; while if it had been possible for us to carry sail, we
might have easily intercepted either of them.  It was a cruelly bitter
disappointment to us to see these two craft go sliding along the horizon
while I wore myself out with unavailing efforts to attract their
attention.  My companion bore her disappointment bravely; she even chid
me gently when I sank down exhausted into the bottom of the boat, with a
bitter curse upon the blindness of the crew, as the second of the two
ships vanished beyond the rim of the horizon; and she reminded me more
than once of words I had spoken to her earlier in the day, to the effect
that although we might miss half a dozen ships through their passing us
at too great a distance to allow of our being seen, the seventh would be
sure to come booming right down upon us, and our only difficulty would
be to avoid being run down by her.  But later on, when the darkness had
once more closed down upon us, shutting out everything but the towering,
swooping, phosphorescent crests of the threatening seas, I caught her
softly, silently, and secretly crying; and the sight of her distress
aroused a sudden furious anger in me that caused me to again and still
more savagely execrate the blind lookout kept aboard the vessels that
had that day passed us.  And then I began to wonder, bitterly, how many
poor souls--weak, helpless, delicate women and children, and
famine-stricken men--had perished miserably, after drifting about the
ocean for days that were veritable eternities of suffering, yet might
have been rescued had the officer of the watch aboard a passing ship but
bestowed a trifle more interest and attention upon the small, distant,
indistinctly-seen object that for an instant caught his gaze, and which
he all too hastily assumed to be the slanting pinion of some wandering
sea bird, or the leaping crest of a distant wave.

We rode thus all through the night, and well on toward noon the next
day, when the weather moderated sufficiently to permit me to make sail
once more.  But as the day wore on the wind gradually hauled round until
it was dead on end for us; and nightfall found us heading to the
southward, with the wind out at about east-south-east.

This state of things prevailed for the next four days, during which no
further vessels were sighted, although it is possible that some may have
passed us during the night at such a distance as to be invisible in the
darkness.  During this time we were put to great straits for want of
food, and suffered all the tortures of slow starvation; for the drowned
poultry soon putrefied and became so offensive that we had to heave them
overboard.  I tried to supply the deficiency by fishing, but only
succeeded in capturing one small shark, about eighteen inches long,
which was fortunately hooked in the mouth in such a way that he could
not cut through the line with his teeth.  During this time I watched and
steered the boat all through the night; Miss Onslow relieving me during
the hours of daylight, in order that I might secure a few hours of
much-needed rest.  But I was far too anxious, as well as in too much
suffering, to sleep; the utmost that I could achieve was to doze
fitfully and for a few minutes at a time, during which my imagination
conjured up the most tormenting dreams, from which I usually awoke with
a violent start and a terrified cry.  Then I would spring upon a thwart
and search the horizon eagerly and feverishly for the sight of a sail,
following this up with a renewed attempt to catch a fish or two.  I
shall never forget the courage and fortitude exhibited by Miss Onslow
during this trying period; she never uttered a single word of complaint
or impatience, although it was impossible for her to conceal the fact
that she suffered acutely; and whenever she found me unusually silent
and, as she thought, giving way to dejection, she always had ready a
word or two of encouragement.

Thus matters wearily and painfully progressed with us until six days and
seven nights had dragged their slow length away, and a full week had
elapsed since the sinking of the _City of Cawnpore_.  We were still
working our way to the southward, against an amount of wind and sea that
were quite as much as the boat could look at; and Miss Onslow was at my
feet, wrapped up in the sail, and moaning in her troubled sleep; the
hour being about one o'clock in the morning.  I was of course _always_
on the lookout for a ship, night and day, but the time had now arrived
when I began to see craft that had no existence save in my disordered
imagination; I was therefore neither surprised nor elated when I
suddenly became aware of a vague, indefinite shadow of deeper darkness,
faintly and doubtfully showing against the horizon broad on my weather
bow; I simply regarded it as another phantom, and thought no more about
it.  Yet I kept my gaze fixed upon it, nevertheless--since.  I had
nothing better to occupy my attention; and presently a peculiarity of
this vision--not shared by the others I had seen--forced itself upon my
notice, inasmuch as that, while the other phantom ships that I had seen
had exhibited a propensity to rush over the surface of the ocean at
lightning speed, and to appear in half a dozen quarters or more in as
many seconds, this one obstinately persisted in maintaining the precise
position in which I had at first discovered her.  And it presently
dawned upon me that she had another peculiarity, namely, that of an
opacity sufficiently dense to temporarily blot out any low-lying star
that the movement of the boat happened to bring into line with her.  The
full significance of these peculiarities at length became suggestive,
and it began to dawn upon me that possibly the craft out yonder might
not, after all, be a phantom; she might be the vessel destined to afford
us rescue and salvation; the vessel for which I had all along been
looking, and the eventual appearance of which I had so frequently and so
confidently predicted to Miss Onslow.



CHAPTER SIX.

THE DERELICT.

The mere possibility that rescue might actually be at hand acted as a
tonic upon me, imparting renewed life and hope, and clearing away the
more than half-delirious fancies that had clouded and bemuddled my
brain; thus enabling me once more to think and act rationally.  I pulled
myself resolutely together, collected my wandering wits, and peered long
and anxiously at the shadowy shape that had, as it were, crystallised
out of the surrounding darkness; then I looked away from it toward other
points of the horizon to see whether it repeated itself elsewhere.  No;
it was peculiar to one definite spot; and I no longer had any doubt but
that there was a certain tangible something, which could only be a ship,
and that I must quickly determine upon the steps necessary to intercept
her.

The first thing was to ascertain in what direction she was steering.
When I first discovered her she was dead to windward, and since then she
had drawn aft a trifle, being now about two points before my weather
beam.  She could not have overtaken me, because in that case she would
have passed so close as to have all but run over the boat, and I could
not have failed to see her; and the fact that she had slowly and
imperceptibly grown up out of the darkness argued that she was not
sailing away from me.  Nor could she be sailing toward me, because in
that case she would have grown in size and distinctness much more
rapidly than she had done.  Nor, strangely enough, did she seem to be
crossing my course in either direction, the slight change in her
bearings being accounted for by the progress of the boat.  Possibly she
might be hove-to; although it was difficult to imagine why she should be
so, unless she had lost a man overboard.  But if that were the case she
would be showing lights as a guide to her boat, which ought not to be
very far away.  And why so deadly silent?  I could not understand it.
But as these ideas flitted through my mind I came to the conclusion that
the correct thing to do was to close with her as quickly as possible by
making short tacks toward her.  So I put down my helm and hove the boat
round upon the starboard tack, bringing the vague, black shadow about
two points on the weather bow.  The flapping of the sails while the boat
was in stays awoke my companion, who sat up and, in a weak and husky
voice, asked me what was the matter.

"Nothing," I answered; "at least nothing of an alarming nature.  The
fact is that I fancy I can see something, away out there on the weather
bow, and I have tacked the boat for the purpose of investigating the
object more closely."

"Whereabout is this object of which you speak?" she asked.

I pointed it out to her, and she almost immediately saw it.  "Do you
imagine it to be a ship, Mr Conyers?" she inquired.

"I know not what else it can be," said I.  "But," I added, "we must not
be too sanguine of help or rescue just yet.  There are one or two points
in connection with that object that make me doubtful as to its being a
ship."

"What are they?" she quickly demanded.

I told her that one was the apparent immobility of the object; the other
being the fact that no lights were being displayed.  And I explained
that the two together seemed incompatible with the supposition that the
object ahead was a ship, repeating to her, indeed, the arguments that
had flitted through my own mind only a few minutes before.

Yet with every fathom that the boat advanced, the shadow grew more
palpable, expanded, and approximated more closely to the appearance of a
vessel hove-to under bare poles.  And at length, after several anxious
minutes of alternating hope and doubt, there arrived a moment when doubt
became no longer possible, for the shadow had finally resolved itself
into the silhouette of a brig under bare poles; even the thin lines of
the masts--which, by the way, looked stumpy, as though her
topgallant-masts were gone--were perceptible to my practised eye.

Without pausing to puzzle out a possible reason for the singular
condition of the vessel, I hastily resigned the yoke-lines to Miss
Onslow and, springing upon the mast thwart, proceeded to hail the brig
at the full power of my lungs, my delight at once more seeing a vessel
so close at hand being coupled with a deadly anxiety lest she should
suddenly make sail and get away from me.  But to all my hailing there
came no reply, nor was a light shown, or any other indication vouchsafed
that my cries had been heard, even though I continued them until the
boat was actually crossing the stern of the stranger at a distance of
barely fifty fathoms.  There was only one inference to be drawn from
this strange silence, namely, that the brig was derelict, a surmise that
was borne out by the fact that her boats appeared to be gone.  Yet I
could not detect any sign that anything was wrong with her; she was not
sitting particularly deep in the water--so far as I could judge in the
darkness--nor did her spars appear to be damaged, except that, as I have
already mentioned, her topgallant-masts seemed to have been carried
away; there appeared, therefore, to be no reason why we should not
venture alongside; and accordingly, as soon as we had stood on far
enough to fetch her on the next tack, I hove the boat round and--the
brig happening to lie broadside-on to the sea--ran her alongside to
leeward, dousing my sails as we came up abreast the stranger's lee
quarter.  As we shot up alongside I found that the vessel was certainly
deeper in the water than I had at first imagined her to be, yet not
deeper than might be accounted for by her carrying a heavy cargo; her
covering-board seemed to be about eighteen inches above the water, and I
therefore had no difficulty in clambering in over her bulwarks from the
gunwale of the boat, of course taking care to carry the end of the
boat's painter on board with me.  Making this securely fast to a cleat
in the bulwarks, I glanced fore and aft to see whether I could discover
any indication of the presence of human beings on board; but the deck
appeared to be deserted; no gleam of light showed either forward or aft;
and no sound broke the silence save the wash of the water along the
bends, the choking gurgle of the scuppers, and the monotonous jerk-jerk
of the spanker-boom at its sheet with the roll of the ship.  Under these
circumstances I considered that my companion might safely venture
aboard, and I accordingly assisted her up the side and in on deck,
afterwards dropping the boat astern and carefully securing her by her
painter.  This done, I conducted Miss Onslow aft to the cabin
companion--which was fitted with seat-lockers on each side--begged her
to be seated for a short time while I investigated further; and
forthwith plunged below.

Arrived at the foot of the companion ladder, I found myself confronted
by a bulkhead running athwart the ship, and in this I presently found
the handle of a door.  Turning this, I found myself--as I had expected--
in the cabin, which was of course pitch dark, the panes of the skylight
just dimly showing, overhead, with the merest suggestion of a certain
faintly--gleaming something hanging from the beams, and swinging with
the roll of the ship, which I presently identified as the extinguished
cabin lamp.  Groping cautiously with my hands, I presently encountered a
table, uncovered, working round which I next came to some lockers
upholstered in horsehair--as I gathered from the touch; and while I was
groping about on these lockers my hands suddenly encountered what seemed
to be a tablecloth, with a few knives and forks, some broken crockery,
and a few other matters entangled in its folds, the whole suggesting the
idea that the cabin had been the scene of a furious struggle, during
which the table, laid for a meal, had been swept of everything upon it.
Leaving all this quite undisturbed--in the belief that when I could see
just how it all lay I might obtain a clue to the mystery at present
connected with the ship--I continued my researches, with the result that
I made out the cabin to occupy the extreme after-end of the vessel, with
possibly a small sail-room, or something of that kind, abaft it, and
that it took up the whole width of that part of the hull; that is to
say, there were no staterooms between it and the ship's side, as is
sometimes the case.  Continuing to grope my way round the cabin, I
presently arrived once more at the bulkhead, wherein, on the starboard
side, I found another door, giving access to a stateroom, as I soon
discovered by finding the bunk, with the bedding still in it, and
apparently quite ready for an occupant.  It did not take me long to
arrive at the conclusion that I was in the skipper's stateroom; for I
found that underneath the bunk was a chest of drawers; while in one
corner was a wash-basin, etcetera, and in the other what seemed to be a
small bookcase.  Having progressed thus far, I had hopes of soon finding
that of which I was in search, namely, a box of matches.  Being a
sailor, and well acquainted with sailors' ways, I knew exactly where
would be the most likely place to find what I wanted, and, clambering up
on the bunk, I felt for the shelf that I knew ought to be at the head of
it.  Yes, there it was; but as I felt along it I was disappointed to
find that there was nothing on it.  But was there not?  I had not
examined the entire length of it when I too hastily jumped to the
conclusion that it was empty; as my hand travelled over into the far
corner it suddenly encountered quite a little store of things, all
heaped together--a clasp knife, a pipe, a piece of stick tobacco, and a
few other odd articles, among which was a box about half full of
matches!

They proved to be rather damp, and I had to strike a full half-dozen or
more before I succeeded in persuading one to ignite, and while thus
employed I was struck for the first time by the coincidence between the
condition of affairs on the skipper's shelf and that in the cabin--every
loose article had in each case found its way right over to starboard, as
far as it could go!  What did that point to?  Why, obviously, that at
some time or another the brig had heeled so heavily to starboard that
every movable thing had fetched away by the run and gone over to that
side, _and had never been replaced_!  I gathered from this that the brig
had been suddenly hove over upon her beam-ends, and that her crew,
seized with panic, and no doubt under the impression that she was
capsizing, had made a rush for the boats and abandoned her, being, as
likely as not, blown so far to leeward by the squall that hove the brig
over, that they lost sight of her altogether, and imagined that she had
foundered.  And by and by, when the squall had blown itself out, the
brig, with perhaps her canvas blown away, had simply righted again, and
had been drifting about ever since.  How long ago that might have
happened, I could not at the moment guess, but I thought that possibly
with the return of daylight I might be able to discover indications
enough to furnish me with a clue.

While thinking thus I had succeeded in finding and lighting a small
lamp, hung in gimbals from the fore bulkhead, and by its illumination I
saw that the stateroom was a nice, clean, cosy little apartment, such as
Miss Onslow might occupy without discomfort; and, waiting only to light
the cabin lamp--the globe of which was smashed in on its starboard side,
as though it had been dashed violently against the deck above--I hurried
up the ladder, and invited the young lady to descend.  I led her
straight to the skipper's stateroom, and urged her to lie down while I
proceeded to search for some food, but she declined to take any rest
until we had both partaken of a good meal; so I established her
comfortably on the sofa-lockers, and proceeded forthwith in search of
the pantry.

I found this, as I had expected, in a corresponding position, on the
opposite side of the ship to the cabin which I already designated in my
own mind as Miss Onslow's; and in it were several tins of preserved
meats and soups, a bottle of pickles, some vinegar, a jar of salt, a
bottle of pepper, a cask about three-quarters full of potatoes, part of
a string of onions, a barrel nearly full of fine cabin biscuit, or
"bread," as it is called at sea, a small canister of tea, another of
coffee, a jar of brown sugar, and, in fact, a very fair assortment of
such commodities as are usually to be found in an ordinary ship's
pantry.  I observed, by the way, that such articles as were labelled
bore the names of American manufacturers, and I deduced from that fact
the impression that the brig was Yankee, an impression that was
subsequently confirmed.

I took a biscuit out of the barrel, broke it in two, and handed one
piece to Miss Onslow, nibbling at the other myself while I further
prosecuted my researches.  I did this because the biscuit was hard and
dry, and, starving as we were, there was not much likelihood of our
eating so much of it as to prove injurious; moreover it would have the
effect of taking the sharp edge off our hunger, and enabling us to eat
cautiously and in moderation of the more appetising food that I intended
to place upon the table as quickly as possible.

My next task was to explore the galley, which I found to be very nicely
fitted up with what appeared to be an excellent cooking-stove and a
generous supply of implements, the whole of which had, like the articles
in the cabin, found their way right over to the starboard side; moreover
the top of the stove was rusted in such a way as to suggest that the
water from the coppers had been capsized over it--everything, in short,
tending to confirm my original impression that the brig had been on her
beam-ends.  I looked into the coppers, and found them empty.  Then I
went to the scuttle-butt, but it also was so nearly empty that I did not
care to use the small remainder of water in it.  There were no more
casks on deck, so I concluded that the ship's stock of water was kept
below, most probably in tanks.  And the thought of the latter reminded
me that I had seen a small copper pump in the steward's pantry, so I
returned there to get it.  Then, with it in one hand, and a lantern in
the other, I searched about on deck until I had found the small screw
plug that fitted into the tank pipe; and presently I had at my disposal
a bucket of sweet fresh water, which I poured into the coppers.  I then
lighted the galley fire--finding plenty of coal for my immediate wants
in the locker--and proceeded to prepare a couple of tins of the
preserved soup that I had found in the pantry.  Then, while this was
cooking, I returned to the cabin to lay the table, but found that Miss
Onslow had forestalled me, having cleared away the wreck off the
starboard locker, restored the tablecloth to its proper position, and
rearranged such portions of the table equipage as had not been smashed
in the capsizal.  The poor girl looked dreadfully white and thin and
weary, but I noticed that during my absence she had found time to take
off her hat and to roughly rearrange her hair!  Her eyes looked red, as
though she had been crying; so, with the view of toning her up a little,
I went to work rummaging in the sofa-lockers, and presently found a few
bottles of port wine, the neck of one of which I promptly knocked off,
and insisted upon her taking a glass there and then.  She obeyed me with
a sweet submissiveness that was in extraordinary contrast with her
demeanour aboard the _City of Cawnpore_; but a flash of her old spirit
returned when she had swallowed the wine, as, handing me the glass, she
said:

"There!  I have done as you bade me.  And now I _insist_ upon your
taking some also; for you look positively ghastly, and so ill that,
unless you take great care of yourself, you will break down altogether!"

I took the wine, and then hurried away back to the galley, where I
remained until the soup was ready.  Of this we made a moderate meal, and
then, without attempting to clear the table, I gently conducted my
companion to the skipper's stateroom, closed the door upon her, and
flung myself, just as I was, upon the sofa-lockers of the main cabin,
where I instantly fell into a sleep that was absolute oblivion.

I was awakened next morning by a beam of brilliant sunshine flashing
intermittently athwart my closed eyelids to the lazy roll of the ship,
and, springing to my feet and peering out through the nearest port, I
saw that the wind had died away to a flat calm, and that the water was
oil-smooth, with very little swell running.  I felt greatly refreshed by
my sleep--brief though it had been--for it was the first spell of really
sound slumber that our precarious situation, and the anxiety attendant
upon it, had permitted me to take since the loss of the _City of
Cawnpore_; and, prompted thereto by the hilarity resulting from rest and
the cessation of anxiety, I started whistling softly as I gazed out
through the port.  A moment later Miss Onslow's cabin-door opened for
the space of half an inch, and the young lady thus addressed me through
the chink:

"Good-morning, Mr Conyers; I am glad to hear you whistling; it shows
that your rest has done you good."

"Thank you, yes," I answered; "I am feeling quite my old self again this
morning.  Were you able to get any rest?"

"Yes indeed," was the reply.  "I was so tired that I scarcely remember
lying down; and I have not been awake more than five minutes.  What a
lovely morning it is!  I wonder whether I might venture to trouble you
to get me a little water to wash in; there is none in here."

"Certainly," I said.  "I will fetch you a bucketful at once, and place
it at your door, after which I intend to have a bath myself on deck."

"A bath?" she exclaimed, in a tone of unmistakable anxiety.  "You surely
do not mean that you are going to bathe in the sea?  Oh, _please_ do
not, Mr Conyers, I beg you; it is _far_ too dangerous; for I am sure
there must be sharks here."

"I think it exceedingly probable, and therefore I shall not risk going
overboard," I answered.  "No; my bath will be taken on the fore deck, in
a wash-deck tub, if I can find one."

"Thank you," she returned.  "And while you are so engaged I will lay the
table for breakfast; I still feel most atrociously hungry!"

I answered that I was glad to hear it, now that we were once more in
possession of provisions; and then hurried off up on deck to procure the
water asked for; after which I went forward, found a wash-deck tub,
filled it from over the side, and treated myself to a salt-water bath,
the refreshment of which was like a renewal of life to me.

Then, having dressed, I lighted the galley fire, filled and put on a
kettle, had a wash in fresh water, and made my way aft to the cabin,
where I found Miss Onslow, looking wonderfully fresh and bright after
her night's rest, busily engaged in arranging the cabin table for
breakfast.  Then came the question: What were we to have?  I had a
strong fancy for a rasher of bacon, which delicacy seemed also to
commend itself to my companion.  I therefore looked about for the
lazarette hatch, which I discovered underneath a mat at the foot of the
companion ladder, and was soon overhauling the contents of the
storehouse.  The craft proved to be abundantly stocked with excellent
provisions, among which I discovered an open cask nearly full of smoked
hams, one of which I at once appropriated; and half an hour later found
the Indian judge's daughter and myself seated before a most appetising
breakfast.

And, as we ate, we talked--talked of what we were now to do.  My
companion seemed to be under the impression that the discovery of this
derelict brig would in some way alter all our arrangements; but I had no
difficulty in demonstrating to her that our object--the making of our
way to some civilised port from which we could make a fresh start for
Calcutta--still remained the same, the only difference being that
whereas on the previous day we had possessed only an open boat, and were
starving, we now had a vessel under our feet that, if staunch, would
prove far safer and more comfortable than the boat, while we also
possessed food in abundance.  But, as I pointed out to her, there was a
certain price to pay for these advantages, namely, the greatly-increased
labour of handling the brig, as compared with the boat; and I thought it
advisable to make the young lady understand at once that I should from
time to time require her assistance.  But I presently discovered that
there was no need for me to dwell upon this point; she quickly informed
me that she had already planned for herself the performance of what
might be called the "domestic" part of the work, such as the preparation
of meals, and so on; while she also expressed her perfect readiness to
steer, when required, or in any other way assist me, so far as she
could.  And here I could not avoid being impressed afresh with the
extraordinary change that misfortune had wrought in this girl; for
whereas while on board the _City of Cawnpore_ she had maintained a
demeanour of haughty and repellent reserve that was almost insolent, she
now exhibited a gentle submissiveness and amiability of manner, with a
quiet, steadfast courage under circumstances, of peculiar and terrible
hardship and privation for a gently-nurtured woman, that, conjoined with
her exceptional beauty of face and form, exercised a fascination upon me
so potent that I frequently found it exceedingly difficult to maintain
that equable coolness and strict friendliness of behaviour demanded by
the exigencies of our peculiar situation.  All of which, however, is
merely parenthetical.

Breakfast over, a busy day awaited me.  I had used my eyes to good
purpose, even while taking my morning tub; and had observed, among other
things, that the brig's canvas was not furled; it had simply been blown
clear and clean out of the boltropes.  When the accident befell her she
had been under courses and single-reefed topsails, spanker, fore-topmast
staysail, and jib, for there the boltropes still were, with small
fluttering rags of canvas still adhering to them, here and there.  There
was no difficulty whatever in arriving at a correct conclusion as to
what had happened,--the aspect of the ship told the story as plainly as
her own crew could have related it.  The thing had happened after
nightfall--that part of the story was made clear by the litter that had
been shot off the cabin table, and which showed that the skipper and one
of the mates had been at supper at the time.  The single-reefed topsails
indicated that it had previously been blowing strong, and I took it that
the night had settled down so dark and cloudy that the officer of the
watch had failed to note the approach of the squall until too late.  The
topsail halliards had been let go fore and aft when the squall swooped
down upon them, but before it was possible to do anything further the
brig had been hove down upon her beam-ends, a panic had seized the crew,
they had made a mad rush for the boats, under the conviction that the
vessel was capsizing, and they had either been swamped, or had been
driven out of sight to leeward, before the brig had righted again.
There was no doubt that the squall had been of exceptional violence, for
not only were all the sails blown away, but both topgallant-masts were
gone at the caps--not only broken off but actually torn away, the
rigging that held them having parted.

It would be strange indeed if a vessel, having passed through such an
ordeal as this, should not show signs of having been more or less
strained, and I was quite prepared to find that she had a considerable
amount of water in her.  And this anticipation was so far confirmed
that, upon sounding the well, I found close upon three and a half feet
of water in the hold.  This was bad enough, still it was hardly as bad
as I had expected; and now, the next thing to find out was whether she
was still leaking, or whether what she contained had all drained into
her during the time when she lay hove down on her beam-ends.  This could
be done by patiently waiting some few hours, and then sounding the well
again.  Or it could be done equally effectively by pumping the hooker
dry, and then seeing whether any more water drained into her.  It was
vitally necessary to restore her to her normal condition of buoyancy as
speedily as might be, in view of a possible recurrence of bad weather.
But the same contingency rendered it almost, if not quite, as necessary
to bend and set a sufficient amount of canvas to put the ship under
control; and the first question to be settled was: Which should I first
undertake?  I considered the matter for a minute or two, and came to the
conclusion that the pumping out of that three and a half feet of water
would leave my hands in such a blistered and raw condition that they
would be practically useless for such work as bending sails; so I
determined to undertake the latter job first, especially as there was of
course the chance that the weather might continue fine after the
springing up of a breeze, in which event, if the brig were under canvas,
she would be making headway during the operation of pumping her out.

I was under the impression that on the preceding night I had detected
the presence of what might prove to be a sail-locker abaft the after
bulkhead of the cabin, so I now descended with the object of further
investigating.  My surmise proved well founded, for when I opened the
door in the bulkhead there lay a whole pile of sails before me, each
sail neatly stopped, and many of them apparently quite new.  I had come
to the conclusion that I would bend the fore-topmast staysail first, and
after a great deal of laborious work in turning over the various bundles
of canvas I came to what I was searching for, but not until I had
previously encountered new fore and main-topsails, which I managed, with
considerable difficulty, to drag on deck.

The bending of the staysail was no very serious matter; it simply meant
letting go the halliards, dragging upon the downhaul, cutting the
boltrope away from the hanks, passing the new seizings, hoisting the
sail foot by foot until I had got all the seizings finished, bending the
sheets afresh, and there we were.

But to bend a topsail, single-handed, was a much more difficult job.  I
decided to bend the main-topsail first; and by the time that I had
completed my task the day was done and it was growing so dark that I
could scarcely see to finish off properly.  Nevertheless I was very well
content with my day's work, for I now had canvas enough on the brig to
place her under command whenever the breeze might choose to come.

Meanwhile Miss Onslow had been no less busy than myself, in another way.
She had started by making herself complete mistress of the brig's
resources, looked at from a housekeeper's point of view; and in course
of the process had discovered--what I had already suspected, but had not
found time to verify--that outside the cabin, and alongside the
companion ladder, was another stateroom, that, judging from its
appearance and contents, had belonged to the mate.  This cabin she had
overhauled, making an inventory of its contents--which she handed to
me--and had then tidied it up and made it ready for my occupation.
Moreover, she had taken possession of the galley, and had prepared a
good, substantial, and appetising dinner in a style that, if not quite
equal to that of a professional cook, betrayed at least an aptitude that
was as creditable as it was opportune.  She had also found time to do
something--I had not the remotest idea what--to her dress that had gone
a considerable way toward renovating its appearance and obliterating the
disfigurement caused by the action of the sea water upon it; while in
other ways she had spruced-up her appearance to an extent that excited
my fervent but carefully-concealed admiration.

At sunset that night it was still stark calm, and the sky had a fine,
clear, settled aspect that, combined with a slight disposition to rise
on the part of the brig's barometer, led me to anticipate that the calm
was destined to endure for a few hours longer.  For this I was devoutly
thankful, for I had been toiling like a slave all day, fully exposed to
the scorching rays of a cloudless sun, and I was fatigued to the verge
of exhaustion; it was a great comfort, therefore, to feel that I should
not be called upon to look after the ship all night, but might safely
indulge in a few hours' sleep.  That I might do so with the greater
confidence, I routed out a tarpaulin from below, and with it rigged up a
tent on the wheel grating, as a shelter from the heavy dew; bringing up
the bed from the mate's bunk, and turning in on deck.  This arrangement
ensured that in the event of a breeze springing up during the night I
should instantly become aware of it, and be ready to promptly take such
measures as might appear necessary.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

WE PICK UP A SHIPWRECKED CREW.

The night passed without incident of any sort; and when I awoke at dawn
there was still no sign of wind, for which I was thankful; for, while I
was naturally anxious to be making some progress, it was vitally
necessary to get more sail upon the brig; and this little spell of calm
weather happened most opportunely for my purpose.

A bath, an early breakfast, and I went to work once more, the bending
and setting, of the fore-topsail being my first job.  I finished this
about noon, and considered that I had done very well when at dusk I had
added to my spread of canvas the standing jib and spanker.

It was a whim of Miss Onslow's that our midday meal should be tiffin;
dinner being reserved until the work of the day was over, when--as the
young lady sagely remarked--we could both spare time to do due justice
to the meal.  Thus it happened, upon the day in question, that it was
quite dark when at length, having washed and polished myself up after
the labours of the day, I took my place at the table in the brig's
little cabin.  It was then still flat calm; but we had scarcely finished
the meal when a little draught of air came down through the open
skylight, cool and refreshing, and at the same moment the sound of a
faint rustling of the canvas reached our ears.  I at once sprang up on
deck, and found that a light air from about east-south-east had sprung
up, taking us aback and giving the brig sternway.  The pressure of water
upon the rudder had forced the helm hard down, however, causing the brig
to box off; I had nothing to do, therefore, but to trim sail and steady
the helm at the proper moment, when the vessel gathered headway and
began to move quietly through the water on a southerly course,
close-hauled on the larboard tack.

I was now obliged to take the wheel; but it was not long before I made
the discovery that, under the sail now set, the brig was practically
steering herself, and by the time that I had been at the wheel half an
hour I had contrived to hit off so accurately the exact amount of
weather-helm required to keep the craft going "full-and-by," that I was
able to lash the wheel, and attend to other matters.

And there was still plenty awaiting my attention.  Among other immediate
demands upon my energies there was the boat to be secured; thus far she
had been hanging on astern by her painter, but she was far too valuable
a possession to be any longer neglected; and now that a breeze had
sprung up I determined to secure her forthwith and while it was still
possible to do so.  The brig carried a pair, of davits on each quarter,
so I hauled the boat up on the starboard side, made her fast, slipped
down into her and hooked on the tackles, and then, climbing inboard once
more, hauled them both hand-taut.  Then, going forward, I brought aft a
snatch-block that I had previously been using, led the falls, one after
the other, through this to the winch, and, with Miss Onslow hanging on
to the rope to prevent it slipping on the barrel of the winch, managed
to hoist the boat and secure her.

The weather continued fine, and the wind light, all through the night,
the ship's speed being barely three knots; and once more I turned in on
the wheel grating and slept soundly, the ship steering herself so
perfectly that I found it quite unnecessary to interfere with the wheel;
and when I awoke at sunrise she was still stealing along as steadily as
ever.

The sky looked so beautifully fine and clear when I went below to
breakfast, in response to Miss Onslow's summons, that it came upon me
quite as a shock to discover--as I did by a casual glance--that the
mercury was falling; not much, but just enough to indicate that the
breeze was going to freshen.  Now, I had no objection whatever to the
wind freshening--within certain limits; up to the point, say, where the
brig could just comfortably carry the canvas that was now set--I was in
a hurry to arrive somewhere, and, within the limits above named, I
should have heartily welcomed an increase of wind.  But the mischief was
that when once the strength of the wind began to increase, there was no
knowing how far it might go; it might go on increasing to the strength
of a whole gale, in which case it would become necessary for me to
shorten sail, unless I chose to accept the alternative of letting my
canvas blow away.  And even in so small a vessel as the brig, to shorten
sail was a serious matter, when there happened to be only one person to
undertake the work; yet, if it came on to blow, it would have to be
done, since it would never do to let the sails blow away, so long, that
is to say, as they could be saved by hard work.  There was, however,
time enough to think about that; there was a still more serious matter
demanding my attention, namely, the getting rid of the water in the
hold.  To this task, accordingly, I addressed myself immediately after
breakfast, first taking the precaution to most carefully sound the well.
The result of this preliminary operation was so far reassuring that I
found a depth of just three feet six inches of water, the merest trifle
more than the rod had showed forty-eight hours before, thus
demonstrating that the hull was once more practically as tight as a
bottle.  Thus encouraged, I got to work at the pump, working steadily
and systematically, exerting my strength to the best advantage, and
sparing my hands as far as possible by enwrapping the handle first in
canvas and then in a strip of a blanket taken from one of the forecastle
bunks.  It was terribly back-breaking work--this steady toil at the
pumps, and when midday arrived and I knocked off to get a meridian
altitude of the sun, wherefrom to compute our latitude, I was pretty
well exhausted; but I had my reward in the discovery that I had reduced
the depth of water in the hold by nearly eight inches--thus showing
that, after all, the quantity of water was not nearly so formidable as
it had at first seemed, existing indeed only in the more or less
inconsiderable spaces not occupied by the cargo.  After tiffin I again
went to work, and toiled steadily on until sunset, by which time I had
reduced the depth by a further six inches, at the same time fatiguing
myself to the point of exhaustion.

And all through this day of toil I had been maintaining a most anxious
watch upon the weather, without detecting any disquieting sign whatever;
it is true that the wind strengthened somewhat--sufficiently, in fact,
to bring the brig's speed up to close upon five knots, but this was the
reverse of alarming, especially as the sky remained clear.  But when at
length we sat down to dinner that evening, I found that the mercury
still manifested a disposition to sink.  Apart, however, from this
behaviour on the part of the barometer, every omen was so reassuring
that when Miss Onslow bade me goodnight, and retired to her cabin, I
unhesitatingly settled myself again upon the wheel grating for the
night, and soon fell into the deep sleep of healthy fatigue.

I was awakened some time during the night--I had no idea whatever of the
hour--by the loud rustling of canvas; and upon starting to my feet I
found that the wind had strengthened so considerably that the slight
amount of weather-helm afforded by the lashed wheel had at length proved
insufficient, with the result that the brig had shot into the wind,
throwing both topsails aback and her fore and aft canvas a-shiver.
Instinctively I sprang to the wheel and put it well over, just in time
to pay the vessel off again; but it was fully half an hour before I had
again hit off the exact position of the wheel with sufficient nicety to
allow of its being again lashed, and the brig once more left to take
care of herself.

During this operation I had been anxiously scanning the sky, but beyond
a few small: and scattered fleeces of cloud here and there, it remained
as clear as it had been at sunset; and, having at length adjusted the
wheel to my satisfaction, I came to the conclusion that I might safely
leave matters as they were until the morning, and secure a little more
rest while the opportunity remained to me.  I therefore resumed my
recumbent position upon the wheel grating, and was soon once more
asleep.

This time, however, I slept less soundly than before.  The curious
instinct of watchfulness even in slumber that is so quickly developed in
sailors and others who are constantly exposed to danger was now fully
aroused, and although I slept, my senses and faculties were so far on
the alert that when, somewhat later, the wind suddenly breezed up in a
spiteful squall, I heard the moan of it before it reached the brig, and
was broad awake and on my feet in time to put the helm up and keep broad
away before it.  The wind came away strong enough to make me anxious for
the topmasts for a few minutes; but as the yards were braced sharp up,
while the brig was running away dead before it, the wind struck the
sails very obliquely, and the spars were thus relieved of a great deal
of the strain that would otherwise have come upon them.

Of course there was no more sleep for me that night, for when at length
the squall had blown itself out it left behind it a strong northerly
breeze that very soon knocked up a sea, heavy enough to make me ardently
wish for daylight and the opportunity to shorten sail.

And when the dawn at length appeared, I grew more anxious than ever, for
the new day showed as a long, ragged gash of fierce, copper-yellow light
glaring through a gap in an otherwise unbroken expanse of dirty grey
cloud, struck here and there with dashes of dull crimson colour.  The
air was unnaturally clear, the heads of the surges showing up against
the wild yellow of the eastern horizon jet black, and as sharp and
clean-cut as those that brimmed to the brig's rail.  The aspect of the
sky meant wind in plenty, and before long; and I realised that unless I
could contrive to shorten sail in double-quick time the task would pass
beyond my power, and the canvas would have to remain set until it should
blow away.

At length Miss Onslow made her appearance on deck, bright, fresh, and
rosy from her night's sleep; and a cry of dismay broke from her lips as
she took in the state of affairs at a single comprehensive glance.

"Oh, Mr Conyers!" she exclaimed, "how long has it been like this?  Are
we in any danger?"

"Only in so far that we stand to lose some of our sails, unless I can
contrive to get them clewed up before it comes on to blow any harder,"
answered I.  "I have been waiting for you to come on deck and relieve me
at the wheel," I continued, "in order that I may get about the job at
once."

"But why did you not call me?" she demanded, as she stepped up on the
wheel grating beside me and took the spokes from my hands.

"Oh," said I, "it has not been bad enough to justify me in disturbing
you, thus far; nevertheless I am very glad to have your help now, as I
believe there is no time to lose.  Kindly keep her as she now is, dead
before the wind, and I will get about the work of shortening sail
without further delay."

So saying, I hurried away forward, letting go the trysail outhaul and
the main-topsail halliards on my way; passing next to the fore-topsail
halliards, which I also let run.  I then squared the yards, hauled in,
brailed up and furled the trysail, and next took the reef-tackles, one
after the other, to the winch, heaving them as taut as I could get them;
after which I jumped aloft, passed the reef earrings, and tied the
knittles.  We were now tolerably safe--the brig being under close-reefed
topsails--so I hove-to while we took breakfast, after which I hauled
down and stowed the jib, got the brig away before the wind again, with
Miss Onslow at the wheel, and resumed pumping operations.

I toiled all through the day, reducing the amount of water in the hold
to a depth of eighteen inches only, and then hove-to the brig on the
port tack for the night, both of us being by this time so completely
exhausted that rest was even more important to us than food, although I
took care that we should not be obliged to go without the latter.

About two hours after sunset the wind freshened up still more, and by
midnight it was blowing so heavily, and so mountainous a sea was
running, that I dared not any longer leave the brig to herself; it
became necessary to constantly tend the helm, although the craft was
hove-to; and in consequence I had no alternative but to pass the latter
half of this night also at the wheel, exposed to a pelting rain that
quickly drenched me to the skin.  It was now blowing a whole gale from
the northward; and so it continued for the next thirty hours, during
nearly the whole of which time I remained at the wheel, wet, cold, and
nearly crazy at the last for want of rest; indeed, but for the
attention--almost amounting to devotion--of my companion I believe I
should never have weathered that terrible time of fatigue and exposure.
An end to it came at last, however; the gale broke, the wind softened
down somewhat, and at length the sea went down sufficiently to permit of
the wheel being once more lashed; when, leaving the brig in Miss
Onslow's charge, with strict injunctions that I was at once to be called
in the event of a change for the worse in the weather, I went below,
rolled into the mate's bunk, and instantly lost all consciousness for
the ensuing ten hours.  It was somewhere about midnight when I awoke;
yet when I turned out I found Miss Onslow still up, and not only so but
with a hot and thoroughly appetising meal ready for me.  We sat down and
partook of it together; and when we had finished I went on deck, had a
look round, found that the weather had greatly improved during my long
sleep, and so turned in again until morning.

When I next went on deck the weather had cleared, the wind had dwindled
to a five-knot breeze--hauling out from the eastward again at the same
time--and the sea had gone down to such an extent as to be scarcely
perceptible; I therefore shook out my reefs, and once more made sail
upon the ship--a task that kept me busy right up to noon.  The weather
being fine, I was able to secure a meridian altitude of the sun, and
thus ascertain the latitude of the brig, with the resulting discovery
that we were already to the southward of the Cape parallels.  This was
disconcerting in the extreme, the more so from the fact that the
easterly wind was forcing us still farther to the southward; but there
was no help for it, we could do nothing but keep all on as we were and
hope for a shift of wind.  The fact of our being so far to the southward
accounted, too, for the circumstance that we were not falling in with
any other vessels.

Hitherto I had been so fully employed that I had found no time to search
for the ship's papers, or do more than ascertain the bare fact that she
was of American nationality, that she was named the _Governor Smeaton_,
and that she hailed from Portland, Maine; but now that the weather had
come fine once more, I determined to devote a few hours to the work of
overhauling the vessel and discovering what I could about her.  So I
went to work and instituted a thoroughly systematic search, beginning in
the skipper's cabin--having of course first obtained Miss Onslow's
permission--and there, stowed carefully away in a lock-up desk--which,
after some hesitation, I decided to break open--I found the ship's
papers intact, enclosed in a small tin case.  And from these I learned,
first, that her late master was named Josiah Hobson, and second, that
she was bound on a trading voyage to the Pacific, with a cargo of
"notions."  Then, in another drawer, also in the skipper's cabin,
carefully stowed away under some clothes, I found the log-book, and a
chart of the Atlantic Ocean, with the brig's course, up to a certain
point, pricked off upon it; and from these two documents I learned that
the brig had sailed, on such and such a date, from New York, with what,
in the way of weather, progress, and so on, had befallen her, up to a
date some five weeks later, whereon entries had been made in the
log-book up to noon.  The remarks respecting the weather at that hour
gave no indication of any warning of the catastrophe that must have
occurred only a few hours later.  This last entry in the log-book
enabled me to determine that the brig had been drifting about derelict
for nearly three weeks when we two ocean waifs fell in with and took
possession of her.  The "notions" of which her cargo consisted seemed,
according to the manifest, to comprise more or less of nearly everything
that could possibly captivate a savage's fancy; but in addition to these
multitudinous articles there were--somewhere in the ship--a few bales of
goods--mostly linen, fine muslins, silks, and ready-made clothing--
consigned to a firm in Valparaiso, which I believed would be of the
utmost value to Miss Onslow and myself, if I could but find them, and
which, under the circumstances, I felt I could unhesitatingly
appropriate to our use.  I therefore determined that my next task should
be to search for these bales; which, being composed of rather valuable
goods, and destined moreover to be discharged at the brig's first port
of call, I thought would probably be found on top of the rest of the
cargo and near to one of the hatches.

The next day proved even finer than its predecessor, the wind holding in
the same direction but of perhaps a shade less strength than on the day
before, while the sea had gone down until the water was smooth as the
surface of a pond excepting for the low swell that scarcely ever quite
disappears in mid-ocean; it was an ideal day for taking off the hatches,
and I therefore determined to commence my examination of the cargo at
once, beginning with the main hatch.  To knock out the wedges, remove
the battens, and roll back the tarpaulin was not a difficult job, and
when I had got thus far, the removal of a couple of the hatches was soon
effected.  Luck was with me that day, for no sooner had I got the
hatches off than my eyes fell upon a bale bearing marks which, according
to the testimony of the vessel's manifest, showed it to be one of those
of which I was in search.  It was too large, and was too tightly wedged
in among others to admit of my moving it unaided, but with the
assistance of a strop on the mainstay, and the watch tackle, I soon
broke it out and triumphantly landed it on deck.  The manifest gave the
contents as ready-made clothing--men's and women's; which was exactly
what Miss Onslow at least needed more than anything else; so I opened it
forthwith, and then called the young lady to overhaul the contents and
select what she would, while I gave her a spell at the wheel.  In ten
minutes she came aft, with her arms full of neatly-folded white
material, and disappeared below.  Then she came on deck again, had a
further search, and this time carried off a load of coloured fabric;
after which she remained invisible for nearly three-quarters of an hour.
Finally she reappeared clad in an entirely new rig-out from top to toe;
and very sweet and charming she looked, although I regret being unable
to inform my female readers of the details of her costume.  Then I had
my innings, and after a considerable amount of rummaging succeeded in
finding a couple of suits of light tweed that I thought would fit me,
together with a generous supply of underclothing.  This done, and our
more pressing needs in the matter of clothing met, I returned the
despoiled bale to its place in the hatchway, replaced the hatches, and
battened everything securely down once more.  The remainder of the day I
devoted to the task of pumping the ship dry.

The two succeeding days were quite devoid of incident; the weather held
fine, and the wind so light that the brig made barely three knots in the
hour, on a taut bowline; there was nothing particular to do, for the
small air of wind that continued to blow hung obstinately at east, and
we were still driving slowly south, the vessel steering herself.  Under
these circumstances, as I was daily growing increasingly anxious to fall
in with a sail of some sort that would take us off, and convey us to a
civilised port, or even lend me a few hands to help in carrying the brig
to Cape Town, I spent pretty nearly the whole of the day in the
main-topmast crosstrees, from whence I could obtain the most extended
view possible, and perhaps be thus able to intercept some craft that
would otherwise slip past us unseen.

On the third day after my raid upon the cargo I was aloft as usual--the
hour being about ten a.m.,--while Miss Onslow was busy in and out of the
galley.  The ship was creeping along at a speed of about two and a half
knots, when, slowly and carefully sweeping the horizon afresh with the
telescope, after a rather long spell of meditation upon how this
adventure was likely to end, a small, hazy-looking, ill-defined object
swam into the field of the instrument.  The object was about one point
before the weather beam, and was so far away that the rarefaction of the
air imparted to it a wavering indistinctness of aspect that rendered it
quite unrecognisable.  The fact, however, that it was visible at all in
the slightly hazy atmosphere led me to estimate its distance from the
brig as about ten miles, while, from its apparent size, it might be
either a boat, a raft, or a piece of floating wreckage.  But whatever it
might be, I determined to examine it, since it would be nothing out of
my way, and would merely involve the labour of getting the ship round
upon the other tack; so I continued to watch it until it had drifted to
a couple of points abaft the beam--which occurred just two and a half
hours after I had first sighted it, thus confirming my estimate as to
its distance--when I put the helm hard down, lashed it, and then tended
the braces as the brig sluggishly came up into the wind and as
sluggishly paid off on the starboard tack.  When the brig was fairly
round, and the helm steadied I found that the object bore a full point
on the lee bow, and that we should probably fetch it with ease.  It was
now distant about ten and a half miles, so there was plenty of time for
us to go below and get tiffin ere closing it.

It was within about two hours of sunset when we at length came up with
the object; but long ere then I had, with the assistance of the
telescope, made it out to be a large boat, apparently a ship's longboat,
unrigged, and drifting idly before the wind.  Yet her trim, sitting low,
as she was, on the water, showed that she was not empty; and at length,
when we were within some two miles of her, I suddenly observed a
movement of some sort aboard her, and a couple of oars were laid out--
with some difficulty, I thought.  I was at the wheel when this
occurred--for I had discovered, some time earlier in the afternoon, that
although, with the wheel lashed, the brig could be made to steer herself
fairly well upon a wind, she was just a trifle too erratic in her course
to hit off and fetch such a comparatively small object as we were now
aiming for, and consequently I had been steering all through the
afternoon--but I at once called Miss Onslow to relieve me while I ran
the ensign--the stars and stripes--up to the peak, as an encouragement
to the occupants of the boat, and an intimation that they had been seen.
It was tedious work, our snail-like closing with the boat, and it was
rendered all the more so by the fact that those in her, after vainly
attempting for some five minutes to use the oars, had given up the
effort, and were once more invisible in the bottom of the boat, while
the oars, left to take care of themselves, had gradually slid through
the rowlocks and gone adrift.  This simple circumstance, apparently so
trivial, was to me very significant, pointing, as I considered it did,
to a condition of such absolute exhaustion on the part of the strangers
that even the loss of their oars had become a matter of indifference to
them.  Who could tell what eternities of suffering these men had endured
ere being brought into this condition?  It was quite likely that that
lonely, drifting boat had been the scene of some ghastly tragedy!  Who
could tell what sight of horror might be passively awaiting us between
the gunwales of the craft?  I once more resigned the wheel to Miss
Onslow's hand, with strict injunctions to her not to leave it or attempt
to get a peep at the interior of the boat, on any account, and then went
forward to prepare a rope's-end to drop into her as we drew up
alongside.  I conned the brig in such a manner as to bring the boat
alongside under the lee fore chains, and then, when the proper moment
had arrived, let go the weather main braces and swung the topsail aback.

My intention was to have jumped into the boat with a rope's-end, as she
came alongside, taking a turn anywhere for the moment; but as, with
main-topsail aback, we crept slowly down upon the poor, forlorn-looking
waif, a gaunt, unkempt scarecrow suddenly upreared itself in the
stern-sheets and, uttering queer, gibbering sounds the while, scrambled
forward into the eyes of the boat, with movements that somehow were
equally suggestive of the very opposite qualities of agility and
exhaustion, and held out its lean, talon-like hands for the rope which I
was waiting to heave.  As we drifted alongside the boat I hove the
rope's-end; the man caught it, and _collapsing_, rather than stooping,
with it, he made it fast to the ring-bolt in the stem.  Then, uprearing
himself once more, stiffly, and as though fighting against a deadly
lethargy, he made a staggering spring for the brig's rail, missed it,
and would have fallen headlong backward into the boat had I not caught
him by the collar.  Heavens! what a skeleton the man was!  He was fully
as tall as myself, and had all the appearance of having once been a big,
brawny Hercules of a fellow, but so wasted was he now that, with
scarcely an effort, I with one hand lifted him in over the bulwarks and
deposited him on deck, where he again limply doubled up and sank in a
heap, groaning.  But he kept his eyes fixed upon my face and, stiffly
opening his jaws, pointed to his black and shrivelled tongue; and I, at
once recognising his condition, ran aft and, taking a tumbler from the
pantry, quickly mixed about a wineglassful of weak brandy and water,
with which I sped back to him.  I shall never forget the horrible
expression of mad, wolfish craving that leapt into the unfortunate
creature's bloodshot eyes as I approached and bent over him.  He glared
at the tumbler, and howled like a wild beast; then suddenly snatched at
my hand as I held the liquid to his lips, and clung so tightly to me
that before I could withdraw the tumbler he had drained it of every drop
of its contents.  Even then he would not release me, but continued to
pull and suck at the empty tumbler for several seconds.  At length,
however, he let go, groaning "More, more!"  This time I mixed a
considerable quantity of weak grog in a jug, and took it on deck with
me, remembering that there were others in the boat alongside who were
also probably perishing of thirst.  I administered a further small
quantity of the mixture to my patient, and it was marvellous to see the
effect of it upon him, his strength seemed to return to him as though by
magic, and as he sat up on the deck he muttered, thickly:

"More drink; more drink, for the love of God!  I'd sell my soul for a
tumbler of the stuff!"

Powerful though the fellow's adjuration was, I refused his request,
considering that, after his evidently long abstention, it would do him
more harm than good--perhaps kill him, even--to let him drink too freely
at first; so, putting the jug and tumbler out of his sight and reach, I
turned my attention to the longboat alongside.  She was a fine, big,
powerful boat, and evidently, from her appearance, had belonged to a
large ship.  Now that I had time to look at her attentively I saw that
her masts and sails were in her, laid fore and aft the thwarts, together
with six long oars, or sweeps; she bore, deeply cut in her transom, the
words "_Black Prince_ Liverpool"; there were six water breakers in her
bottom; and, huddled up in all sorts of attitudes eloquent of extremest
suffering, there lay, stretched upon and doubled over the thwarts, and
in the bottom of the boat, no less than fifteen men--whether living or
dead it was difficult for the moment to say.  At all events it was
evident that there was no time to be lost, for if the men were not
actually dead their lives were hanging by a thread; so, recovering
possession of the jug of weak grog and the tumbler, I slid down into the
boat and, taking them as they came, wetted the lips of each with a
little of the liquid.  Some of them were able to swallow it at once,
while others had their teeth so tightly clenched that it was impossible
to get their jaws apart; but eventually--not to dwell at unnecessary
length upon a scene so fraught with lingering, long-drawn-out
suffering--I contrived to restore every one of them to consciousness,
and to get them aboard the brig, where I spent several hours in
attending to them and, with Miss Onslow's assistance, administering food
and drink in small quantities until their strength had so far returned
to them that there was no longer any danger of their perishing, when I
got them below into the forecastle, and left them to rest undisturbed.
The next day they were all so far recovered as to be able to move about
and even to climb on deck out of the forecastle, unaided; and on the
second day seven of them reported themselves fit for such light duty as
taking a trick at the wheel, and so on.  Among the first to recover were
the cook and steward, who at once assumed their proper duties, much to
my satisfaction; for necessary as it had hitherto been for me to avail
myself of Miss Onslow's assistance, it went sorely against the grain for
me to see her day after day performing such mean duties as that of
cooking, and it was a great relief to me when I was able to inform her
that henceforward she would be relieved of such work.

The unexpected acquisition of these sixteen men, constituting, as they
did, a really strong crew for such a small craft as the brig, relieved
me of a very heavy load of anxiety; for now I felt that, with a tight
and seaworthy vessel under my feet, and a crew that would enable me to
handle and take care of her in any weather, there was no reason whatever
why my companion and I should not speedily reach Cape Town and the end
of our troubles.  There was but one thing remaining to occasion me any
uneasiness, and that was the fact that the chronometer had run down and
stopped during the time that the brig had been drifting about, derelict,
and consequently I had no means of ascertaining my longitude--a most
awkward predicament to be in, especially when approaching a coast.  But,
as though Fate were satisfied with what she had already inflicted upon
us, and had now relented so completely as to be eager to hasten our
deliverance, it happened that on the very day when my new crew reported
themselves--as fit for duty, we fell in with a homeward-bound China
clipper, from the skipper of whom I obtained our longitude, and was thus
enabled to start the chronometer again.  The information thus afforded
me showed that we were within two hundred and forty miles of the South
African capital, or little more than twenty-four hours' run if the wind
would but chop round and come fair for us.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE CREW TAKE POSSESSION OF THE BRIG.

The process of nursing the rescued men back to health and strength had
afforded me an opportunity to learn their story, which, briefly, was to
the effect that their ship, the _Black Prince_, of Liverpool, had sailed
from Melbourne for home on such a date, and that all had gone well with
them until such another date, when the ship was discovered to be on fire
in the fore hold.  Every effort had then been made to subdue the flames,
but ineffectually, the fire continuing to spread, until, some three
hours after the discovery of the outbreak, the flames burst through the
deck, when it became apparent that the ship was doomed, and the boats
were ordered out.  According to the narrative of the men the ship had
been abandoned in a perfectly orderly manner, the passengers going away
in the cutters and gigs, in charge of the captain and the three mates,
while the remaining portion of the crew, for whom room could not be
found in these boats, were told off to the longboat.  They had remained
by the ship until she burned to the water's edge and sank, and then made
sail in company, steering a north-west course.  Then, on the fourth day,
a westerly gale had sprung up, and the boats had become separated.  This
was supposed to have occurred about a fortnight before we had fallen in
with them; but they admitted that they were by no means sure as to this
period, for on the twelfth day after abandoning the ship their
provisions had become exhausted and they had been subjected to all the
horrors of starvation, during the latter portion of which they had lost
all account of time.

Having heard their story, it became necessary to tell them my own, which
I did in considerable detail, winding up by informing them that, the
brig having been found derelict, the salvage money upon her would amount
to something very considerable, and that, while by right the whole of it
might be claimed by Miss Onslow and myself, we would willingly divide it
equally among all hands instead of offering them ordinary wages for
their assistance in taking the vessel into port.

I was rather disappointed to observe that this generous offer--as I
considered it--evoked no show of enthusiasm or gratitude on the part of
my crew; they accepted it quite as a matter of course, and as no more
than their due, although they were fully aware that, between us, Miss
Onslow and I had already taken care of and sailed the brig for several
days, and--barring such an untoward circumstance as a heavy gale of
wind--could no doubt have eventually taken her into Table Bay.  I said
nothing, however, knowing from past experience that forecastle Jack is
not overmuch given to a feeling of gratitude--perhaps in too many cases
the poor fellow has little or nothing to be grateful for--but proceeded
with the business of the vessel by appointing Peter O'Gorman, late
boatswain, and John Price, late carpenter, of the _Black Prince_, to the
positions of chief and second mate respectively.  This done, the two men
named at once picked the watches; the port watch assumed duty, the
starboard watch went below, and everybody apparently settled forthwith
into his proper place.  While the ceremony of picking the watches was
proceeding I availed myself of the opportunity thus afforded to take
stock of our new associates as a whole, and, after making every
allowance for the effects of the hardship and suffering that they had so
recently passed through, I was compelled to confess to myself that they
were by no means a prepossessing lot; they, one and all, O'Gorman and
Price not excepted, wore that sullen, hang-dog, ruffianly expression of
countenance that marks the very lowest class of British seamen, the scum
and refuse of the vocation.  Still, we had not far to go, and I consoled
myself with the reflection that they would probably prove good enough to
serve my purpose.

On the following morning, immediately after breakfast, I secured a set
of observations of the sun for my longitude, Miss Onslow noting the
chronometer time for me; and immediately afterwards I descended to the
cabin to work them out.  While on deck, engaged with the sextant, I had
noticed that my movements were being watched with extraordinary interest
by the hands on deck, and when, upon my return to the cabin, I proceeded
to make my calculations and afterwards prick off the brig's position on
the chart, I could not help observing that the steward--who was busying
himself in and out of the pantry at the time--betrayed as keen an
interest in my doings as any of the people on deck.  Miss Onslow was
also watching me; and when I had finished and was about to roll up the
chart she asked me if I had found out the ship's position, whereupon I
pointed it out to her, at the same time casually mentioning the fact
that we were still one hundred and eighty miles from Table Bay.  As I
said this, I saw the steward leave his pantry and go on deck.  I thought
nothing of it at the time, believing that he had done so in the ordinary
course of his duty, but a little later on I had reason to believe that
his errand was to inform his shipmates as to the position of the brig.

Having put away the chart, and waited a few minutes for Miss Onslow--who
had announced her intention of going on deck--we both made our way up
the companion ladder, and took a few turns fore and aft the weather side
of the deck, together, from the wheel grating to the wake of the main
rigging.  My companion was in high spirits at the favourable turn that
seemed to have occurred in our affairs, and was chatting with me in
animated tones as to what would be best to do upon our arrival in Cape
Town, when O'Gorman, who had been forward among the crew, came slouching
aft along the deck, in true shell-back fashion, and, with the rather
abrupt salutation of "Morning misther; mornin', miss," unceremoniously
joined us.

"Well, O'Gorman, what is it?" said I, for I had met and spoken to him
several times already on that same morning, and imagined that he now had
some matter of ship's business to discuss with me.

"I see you takin' a hobseirwashin just now," he remarked.

"Yes," I answered, finding that he paused as though expecting me to
reply.

"D'ye mane to say, thin, that ye're a navigator?" he demanded.

"Certainly I am," I answered, rather testily, my temper rising slightly
at what I considered the boorish familiarity of his tone and manner,
which I determined to at once check--"what of it, pray?"

"Well, ye see, we didn't know--you didn't tell us yesterday--that you
was a navigator," he returned, leering curiously at me out of his eye
corners.

"Was there any particular reason why I should inform you that I happen
to be a sailor?"  I demanded, fast getting really angry at this
impertinent inquisition into my qualifications.

"Oh," he retorted, "av coorse we all knew you was a sailor-man; we could
see that widout anny tellin'.  But a navigator too--bedad, that makes a
mighty differ!"

"In what way, pray?" demanded I.  "Have you been drinking, this morning,
O'Gorman?"

"The divil a dhrop," he returned.  And then, before I could say another
word, he abruptly turned and walked forward again, saying something to
the men on deck as he went, who instantly dropped such work as they were
engaged upon, and followed him below into the forecastle.

I was astounded--fairly taken aback--at this extraordinary behaviour, an
explanation of which I was determined to demand at once.  With this view
I turned to Miss Onslow, whose arm was linked in mine, and requested her
to kindly excuse me for a moment.

"No," said she, "I will not.  I know perfectly well what that glitter in
your eye means: you are angry at that sailor's impertinence, and mean to
give him a well-deserved reprimand.  But I would rather that you did
nothing of the kind, please; the man knows no better; and I do not
suppose he really _meant_ to be rude at all.  But I confess I do not
like the expression of his face: there is a mixture of low cunning,
obstinacy, and cruel brutality in it that renders his appearance
dreadfully repulsive; so please oblige me by taking no notice whatever
of his behaviour."

There was a certain subtle flattery in the apparent inconsequence of my
companion's last few words that made them peculiarly acceptable to me;
but discipline is discipline, and must be maintained, at all hazards,
even when a crew has been picked up in such irregular fashion as mine
had been; and I was determined to at once impress upon this Irish
ruffian the fact that I was skipper of the brig, and that I intended to
exact from him the respect and deference of manner due to the position.
So I said to my companion:

"I have no doubt you are perfectly right in your estimate of the man's
intentions; but he was altogether too insolent of manner to please me,
and he must be taught better; moreover, I wish to ascertain precisely
what he meant by the remark that my being a navigator made `a mighty
differ.'  So please allow me to go forward and put these little matters
right.  I shall not be gone longer than five minutes, at the utmost."

"I will not consent to your going, just now, even for five _seconds_,"
answered Miss Onslow, with quiet determination.  "You are just angry
enough to use the first words that may rise to your lips, without
pausing to consider whether they happen or not to be offensive, and I am
sure that is not a safe temper in which to engage in an altercation with
that man.  He is insolent, insubordinate, and altogether a most
dangerous man to deal with--one can tell that by merely glancing at his
eyes--and I have a firm conviction that if you were perchance to offend
him, he would without compunction stab you, or do you some other
dreadful injury--perhaps kill you outright.  Therefore,"--with a most
ravishing smile, and a tightening of her grip upon my arm--"you will be
pleased to consider yourself as my prisoner for the present."

"And a most willing prisoner, too--at any other time," answered I, with
an attempt to fall in with the playful mood in which she had spoken the
last words, while yet my anger was rising, and my anxiety increasing, as
I noted the continued absence of the men from the deck.  "But at this
moment," I continued, "I have no option; that fellow O'Gorman must be
brought to book _at once_, or my authority will be gone for ever; and
that would never do; the others would only too probably take their cue
from him, and become insolent and insubordinate in their turn, and there
is no knowing what excesses they might in that case commit!"

My companion turned pale as she at length realised that it was something
more that mere anger springing from my wounded dignity that was moving
me; she gazed anxiously into my eyes for a moment, and then said:

"Have you any weapons of any kind?"

"None but these," I answered, indicating by a glance my doubled fists;
"and, in case of need, a belaying-pin snatched from the rail.  But," I
added cheerfully, "there is no need for weapons in this case; I shall
but have to firmly assert my authority, and the fellow will be brought
to his bearings forthwith."

"I wish I could think so!" exclaimed Miss Onslow earnestly.  "But,
somehow, I cannot; I utterly distrust the man; it is not only his
appearance but his behaviour also that is against him.  He is a sailor,
and, as such, must know perfectly well what respect is due to a captain;
and I cannot think he was ever allowed to behave to his former captain
as he just now behaved to you.  I have a presentiment that he means
mischief of some kind.  And see, too, what influence he appears to
possess over the rest of the men."

"Precisely," I agreed.  "You see you are coming rapidly round to my view
of his conduct; and therefore I think you will agree with me as to the
immediate necessity for me to assert myself."

"Yes," she assented--"if you can do so _effectively_.  But you must not
go among those men unarmed.  They have their knives; but you have
nothing.  Let us go downstairs and see if we cannot find a pistol, or
something, in one or the other of our cabins.  I have never yet
thoroughly searched my cabin, to see what it contains."

"I have searched mine," said I, "and have found no weapon of any kind;
but--ah, there is O'Gorman, now coming out of the forecastle--and the
rest of the men following him.  And, by Jove! they are coming aft!  You
are right, there is something in the wind.  Kindly go below for a few
minutes, until the discussion which I foresee has come to an end."

"No, indeed, I will not," whispered my companion, as she strengthened
her hold upon my arm; "I will remain here with you, whatever happens.
They will never be such despicable cowards as to use violence in the
presence of a woman."

There was no time to say more, for O'Gorman, with all hands excepting
the man at the wheel behind him, was now within hearing distance of us.
I looked him squarely in the eye, and at once braced myself for
conflict; for there was a sullen, furtive, dogged expression in his
gaze, as he vainly attempted to unflinchingly meet mine, that boded
mischief, although of what precise nature I could not, for the life of
me, guess.

He so obviously had something to say, and was, moreover, so obviously
the spokesman for all hands, that I waited for him to begin, determined
to take my cue from him rather than, by speaking first, afford him the
opportunity of taking his cue from me.  He shifted his weight, uneasily,
from leg to leg, two or three times, glanced uncomfortably from Miss
Onslow's face to mine, removed a large quid of tobacco from his cheek
and carefully deposited it in his cap, and betrayed many other symptoms
of extreme awkwardness and perturbation of mind for a full minute or
more without discovering a way of saying what he had to say; and so
uncouthly ridiculous an exhibition did he make of himself that presently
I detected a tremor of repressed laughter in the pressure of my
companion's hand upon my arm, and a second or two later the young lady's
risibility so far mastered her that she felt constrained to bury her
face in her pocket-handkerchief under pretence of being troubled with a
sudden fit of coughing.

O'Gorman, however, was not to be so easily deceived; he at once observed
the convulsion and recognised it for what it was, and the circumstance
that he had excited the mirth of a girl seemed to sting him into action,
for he suddenly straightened himself up and, with a vindictive glare at
Miss Onslow, exclaimed:

"Ah! so ye're laughin' at me, eh?  All right, my beauty; laugh away!
Yell laugh the other side ov y'r purty face afore long!"

"O'Gorman!"  I exclaimed fiercely, advancing a step or two toward him
and dragging Miss Onslow after me as she tenaciously clung to my arm.
"What do you mean, sir?  How dare you address yourself to this lady in
such an insolent fashion?  Take care what you are about, sir, or I may
find it very necessary to teach you a lesson in good manners.  What do
you want?  Why do you stand there staring at me like an idiot?  If you
have anything to say, please say it at once, and get about your duty."

"Oho, bedad, just listen to him!" exclaimed the fellow, now thoroughly
aroused.  "Get about me juty, is it?  By the powers! but there's others
as'll soon find that they'll have to get about their juty, as well as
me!"

I was by this time brought to the end of my patience; I was in a boiling
passion, and would have sprung upon the man there and then, had not Miss
Onslow so strenuously resisted my efforts to release myself from her
hold that I found it impossible to do so without the exercise of actual
violence.  At this moment one of the men behind O'Gorman interposed by
muttering:--loud enough, however, for me to hear:

"Don't be a fool, Pete, man!  Keep a civil tongue in your head, can't
you; you'll make a mess of the whole business if you don't mind your
weather eye!  What's the good of bein' oncivil to the gent, eh?  That
ain't the way to work the traverse!  Tell him what we wants, and let's
get the job over."

Thus adjured, O'Gorman pulled himself together and remarked, half--as it
seemed--in response to the seaman, and half to me:

"We wants a manny things.  And the first ov thim is: How fur are we from
Table Bay?"

"Well," answered I, "if it will afford you any satisfaction to know it,
I have no objection to inform you that we are just one hundred and
eighty miles from it."

"And how fur may we be from the Horn?" now demanded O'Gorman.

"The Horn?"  I exclaimed.  "What has the Horn to do with us, or we with
the Horn?"

"Why, a precious sight more than you seem to think, mister," retorted
the man, with a swift recurrence to his former insolent, bullying
manner.  "The fact is," he continued, without allowing me time to speak,
"we're bound round the Horn; we mean you to take us there; and we want
to know how long it'll be afore we get there."

"My good fellow," said I, "you don't know what you are talking about.
We are bound to Table Bay, and to Table Bay we go, or I will know the
reason why.  You may go round the Horn, or to the devil, afterwards, and
welcome, so far as I am concerned."

"Shtop a bit, and go aisy," retorted O'Gorman; "it's yoursilf that
doesn't know what you're talkin' about.  I said we're goin' round the
Horn, didn't I?  Very well; I repait it, we're goin' round the Horn--in
this brig--and I'd like to know where's the man that'll purvent us."

"Ah!  I think I now understand you," said I, with an involuntary shudder
of horror as the scoundrel's meaning at last burst upon me, and I
thought of the dainty, delicately-nurtured girl by my side; "we picked
you up, and saved your lives; and now you are about to repay our
kindness by turning pirates and taking the ship from us.  Is that it?"

"By the piper! ye couldn't have guessed it thruer if ye'd been guessin'
all day," answered O'Gorman coolly.

"My lads," exclaimed I, appealing to the group of seamen standing behind
the Irishman, "is this true?  Is it possible that you really contemplate
repaying this lady and myself for what we have done for you, with such
barbarous ingratitude?"

The men shuffled uneasily, looked at one another, as though each hoped
that his fellow would accept the invidious task of replying to my
question; and presently Price, the carpenter, spoke:

"Ay, sir; it is true.  We are sorry if it is not to your liking, but we
have very particular business in the Pacific, and there we must go.
This is just our chance; we shall never have a better; and we should be
fools if we did not take it, now that it has come in our way."

"Very well," said I bitterly; "you are sixteen men, while I am one only;
if you are absolutely resolved to perpetrate this act of monstrous
ingratitude I cannot prevent you.  But I positively refuse to help you
in any way whatever--you have no power or means to compel me to do
that--so the best plan will be for us to part; this lady and I will take
the boat, with sufficient provisions and water to enable us to reach
Table Bay, and you may find your way round the Horn as best you can."

O'Gorman simply laughed in my face.

"Take the boat, is it?" he exclaimed, with a loud guffaw.  "Oh no,
misther; that won't do at all at all.  We shall want the boat for
ourselves.  And we shall want your help, too, to navigate the brig for
us, and we mane to have it, begor'ra!"

"I fail to see how you are going to compel me to do anything that I may
resolve _not_ to do," retorted I, putting a bold face upon the matter,
yet momentarily realising more clearly how completely we were in their
hands, and at their mercy.

"You do?" exclaimed O'Gorman; "then wait till I tell ye.  If ye don't
consint to do as we want ye to, we'll just rig up a bit of a raft, and
send ye adrift upon her--_alone_; d'ye understand me, misther--_alone_!"

"No," interposed Miss Onslow, "you shall do nothing of the kind, you
cowardly wretches; where Mr Conyers goes, I go also, even if it should
be overboard, with _no_ raft to float us."

"Oh no, my purty," answered O'Gorman, with the leer of a satyr, "we'd
take moighty good care you didn't do that.  If Misther Conyers won't be
obligin', why, we'll _have_ to spare _him_, I s'pose; but we couldn't do
widout you, my dear; what'd we do--"

I could bear no more.  "Silence, you blackguard!"  I shouted, while
vainly striving to shake off Miss Onslow's tenacious hold upon my arm,
that I might get within striking reach of him--"silence!  How dare you
address a helpless, defenceless woman in that insulting manner?  What do
you expect to gain by it?  Address yourself exclusively to me, if you
please."

"Wid all me heart," answered O'Gorman, in nowise offended by my abuse of
him.  "I simply spoke to the lady because she spoke first.  And bedad,
it's glad I am she did, because it's give me the opporchunity to show ye
how we mane to convart ye to our views.  Navigate the brig for us, and
ye'll nayther of ye have any cause to complain of bad tratement from
anny of us: refuse, and away ye goes adhrift on a raft, while the lady
'll stay and kape us company."

To say that I was mad with indignation at this ruffian's gross behaviour
but feebly expresses my mental condition; to such a state of fury was I
stirred that but for the restraining hold of the fair girl upon my arm--
from which she by no means suffered me to breakaway--I should most
assuredly have "run amok" among the mutineers, and in all probability
have been killed by them in self-defence; as it was, my anger and the
bitterly humiliating conviction of my utter helplessness so nearly
overcame me that I was seized with an attack of giddiness that caused
everything upon which my eyes rested to become blurred and indistinct,
and to whirl hither and thither in a most distracting fashion, while I
seemed to lose the control of my tongue, so that when I essayed to speak
I found it impossible to utter a single intelligible word; moreover, I
must have been on the very verge of becoming unconscious, from the
violence of my agitation, for I had precisely the same feeling that one
experiences when dreaming--a sensation of vagueness and unreality as to
what was transpiring, so that, when Miss Onslow spoke, her voice sounded
faint and far away, and her words, although I heard them distinctly,
conveyed no special significance to my comprehension.

"Mr Conyers will acquaint you with his decision in due time, when he
has had leisure for reflection," said she, in those haughtily scornful
tones of hers that I remembered so well.  Then I felt and yielded to the
pressure of her guiding hand, and presently found myself groping my way,
with her assistance, down the companion ladder and into the cabin.  She
guided me to one of the sofa-lockers, upon which I mechanically seated
myself; and then I saw her go to the swinging rack and pour out a good
stiff modicum of brandy, which she brought and held to my lips.  I
swallowed the draught, and after a few seconds my senses returned to me,
almost as though I were recovering from a swoon, Miss Onslow assisting
my recovery by seating herself beside me and fanning me with her
pocket-handkerchief, gazing anxiously in my face the while.

"There, you are better now!" she exclaimed encouragingly, as she
continued to regard me.  "Oh, Mr Conyers," she continued, "I am so
_very_ sorry to see you thus.  But I am not surprised, after all the
hardship, and anxiety, and hard work that you have been called upon to
endure since the wreck of the unfortunate _City of Cawnpore_.  What you
have so bravely borne has been more than sufficient to undermine the
health of the strongest man; and now, when we hoped that a few hours
more would bring us to the end of our troubles, comes the cruel shock
and disappointment of these wretches' base ingratitude to complete what
hardship, anxiety, and suffering have begun.  But cheer up; all is not
yet lost, by any means; our deliverance is merely deferred until you
shall have carried out the wishes of these men; therefore, since we have
no alternative, let us accept the inevitable with a good grace--do what
they require as speedily as may be, and so bring this unfortunate
adventure to an end.  And," she continued, after a barely perceptible
pause, "have no anxiety on my account; O'Gorman and his accomplices will
not molest me if you will but conform to their wishes.  And, if they
_should_, I shall be prepared for them: `Fore-warned is fore-armed'!"

You may imagine how deeply ashamed of myself and of my late weakness I
felt as I listened to the heroic words of this delicately-nurtured girl,
who had known nothing either of danger, privation, or hardship until
this frightful experience of all three had come to her with the wreck of
the ship which was to have conveyed her to her father's arms.  Yet
terrible as her situation was, she uttered no word of repining, her
courage was immeasurably superior to mine; her sympathy was all for me;
there was no apprehension on her own behalf; and now, at the moment when
a new and dreadful trouble had come upon the top of all that we had
previously undergone, when our brightest hopes were dashed to the
ground, it was she who found it needful to encourage me, instead of I
having to comfort and encourage her!

Nor would she permit me to suffer the humiliation of having proved less
strong than herself; at the first word of apology and self-condemnation
that I uttered she silenced me by laying the whole blame upon the
anxiety and fatigue to which I had been of late exposed; and when at
length she had salved the wound inflicted upon my self-esteem by my
recent loss of self-control, she set about the task of coaxing me to
yield with at least an apparent good grace to the demands of the men--
seeing that we were completely in their power, and could do no
otherwise--in order that we might secure such full measure of good
treatment from them as they might be disposed to accord to us.  And so
convincingly did she argue that, despite my reluctance to acknowledge
myself conquered, I at length gave in; being influenced chiefly thereto,
not by Miss Onslow's arguments, but by the galling conviction that in
this way only could I hope to save her from the violence with which the
scoundrels had almost openly threatened her in the event of my
non-compliance.

This matter settled, I went on deck, where I found the entire crew
congregated about the binnacle, awaiting me.  They watched my approach
in silence--and, as I thought, with ill-concealed anxiety--until I was
within two paces of the group, when I halted, regarding them
steadfastly.  By this time I had completely recovered the command of my
temper, and my self-possession; and as I noted their anxious looks I
began to realise that, after all, these fellows were by no means so
independent of me that they would be likely to wantonly provoke me; and
I resolved to bring that point well home to them, with the view of
driving the most advantageous bargain possible.

"Well, men," said I, "I have considered your proposal;--and have come to
the conclusion that I will accede to it--upon certain conditions which I
will set forth in due course.  But, first of all, I should like to know
what you would have done supposing I had not happened to have been a
navigator?"

The rest of the men looked at O'Gorman, and he replied:

"Oh, you'd just have had to join us, or have gone overboard."

"Yes," said I.  "And what then?  How would you have managed without
anyone to have navigated the ship for you?"

"We should ha' had to ha' done the best we could," replied Price
nonchalantly.

"To what part of the Pacific are you bound?" asked I.

"To an oiland in latichood--" began O'Gorman.

"To an island?"  I interrupted.  "And do you think you would ever have
succeeded in finding that island without the assistance of a navigator?
Do you think you would ever have reached the Pacific at all?  By what
means would you ascertain your whereabouts and avoid dangers?"  I
demanded.

There was a long silence, which Price at length broke by replying:

"Oh, we'd ha' managed somehow."

"Yes," said I, "you would have managed somehow--for a few days, or
weeks, as the case might be; at the end of which time you would either
have run your ship ashore, and lost her; or you would have found
yourselves hopelessly out of your reckoning, with no knowledge of where
you were, or how to steer in order to reach your destination."

Nobody attempted to reply to this, all hands evidently realising the
truth of what I had said, and pondering upon it.  At length, however,
when the silence had grown embarrassing, O'Gorman broke it, by asking--
in a much more civil tone than he had yet chosen to adopt with me:

"Well, misther, allowin' all this to be thrue, what of it?"

"Nothing, except that before propounding the conditions upon which I am
willing to agree to your proposal, I wished to make it perfectly clear
to you all that you can do absolutely nothing without my help," said I.
"You have chosen to adopt a very domineering and offensive tone with me,
under the evident impression that the young lady and myself are
completely at your mercy.  And so we are, I willingly admit, but not to
the extent that you seem to suppose; because, if you will reflect for a
moment, you will see that you dare not murder, or even ill-treat me, or
the young lady.  Here we are, in the South Atlantic, and not a man among
you all possesses knowledge enough to take this brig from where she now
floats to a port; hence you are as much at my mercy as I am at yours.
You can do absolutely nothing without me.  Therefore, if you require my
assistance you must agree to my terms."

"Very well, sorr," answered O'Gorman; "let's hear what thim terms are."

"In the first place," said I, "you will all treat the lady with the
utmost respect, no one presuming to speak to her except in reply to any
remark which she may be pleased to make."

"I shan't agree to that," shouted Price aggressively.  "We're all goin'
to be equal, here, now; and if I feel like speakin' to the gal, I shall
speak to her, and I'd like to know who'll stop me."

"Oh, shut up, Chips, cawn't ye!" exclaimed one of the other men--a
Cockney, if his tongue did not belie him, "shut up, and stow that
`equality' yarn of yours.  We've all heard that before, and I, for one,
don't believe in it; it's all very well among a lot o' sailor-men like
ourselves, but you'll never be the equal of the lidy--no, nor of the
gent neither--not if you was to live to be as old as Mathusalem; so what
good would it do you to talk to her?  Why, she wouldn't _look_ at an old
tarry-breeches like you or me, much less talk to us!  Garn!  You go
ahead, sir; _we'll_ look awfter Chips, and keep him in order; never
fear!"

"I hope you will, for your own sakes," I retorted significantly, leaving
them to interpret my meaning as they chose.  "My next condition," I
continued, "is that the cabin and the staterooms are to be left to the
exclusive use of the lady and myself, the steward only being allowed
access to them.

"My next condition is that no man shall have more than two gills of rum
per day--half to be served out at midday, and the remainder at four
bells of the first dog-watch.  In the event of bad weather, or other
especial circumstances, the allowance may be increased at my discretion,
and by so much as I may consider necessary.

"And my last condition is that when this business is concluded, the lady
and I are to be allowed to take the boat, with a sufficient stock of
provisions and water, and to quit the ship within sight of some suitable
harbour, to be chosen by myself."

A dead silence followed this bold announcement on my part, which was at
length broken by O'Gorman, who, looking round upon his motley crowd of
followers, demanded:

"Well, bhoys, you've heard what the gintleman says.  Have anny of ye
annything to say agin it?"

"Yes; I have," answered the irrepressible Price.  "I don't care a
ropeyarn whether I'm allowed to speak to the gal or not; but I thinks
that O'Gorman and me, seein' that we're to be the mates of this here
hooker, ought to berth aft, and to take our meals in the cabin; and I'm
for havin' our rights."

"You will do neither the one nor the other, with my consent, Price, I
assure you," said I.  "And unless my conditions are absolutely complied
with I shall decline to help you in any way."

"Oh, you will, eh?" sneered Price.  "You'd better not, though, because I
dessay we could soon find a way to bring ye round to our way of
thinkin'.  We could stop your grub, for instance, and starve ye until
you was willin' to do what was wanted.  And if that didn't do, why
there's the--"

"Stop!"  I exclaimed fiercely, "I have had enough, and more than enough,
of threats, my man, and will listen to them no further.  Now, understand
me, all of you.  I have stated the conditions upon which I will meet
your wishes, and I will not abate one jot of them.  Agree to them or
not, as you please.  You have taken the ship from me, and now you may do
as you will with her; but, make no mistake, I will only help you of my
own free will; I would rather kill the young lady and myself with my own
hand than submit to compulsion from a crowd of mutineers.  Take your own
time to decide; _I_ am in no hurry."

"Why, he defies us!" exclaimed Price, turning to his companions.  "What
d'ye say, boys, shall we give him a lesson?  Shall us show him that
we're his masters?"

"No, mate, we shan't," interposed the fellow who had spoken before; "and
if you don't stop your gab about `lessons' and `masters' I'll see if I
cawn't stop it for you.  What we want, mates, is to get to that island
that O'Gorman has told us so much about; and here is a gent who can take
us to it.  What do we want more?  Do we want to grub in the cabin?
Ain't the fo'k'sle good enough for us, who've lived in fo'k'sles all our
lives?  Very well, then, let's agree to the gent's terms, and have done
with it.  What d'ye s'y?"

It soon appeared that the entire party were willing--Price, however,
consenting under protest;--so I retired to the cabin and drew up the
terms in writing, together with an acknowledgment on the part of the
crew that they had taken the ship from me by force, and that I was
acting as navigator under compulsion; and this the entire party more or
less reluctantly signed--or affixed their mark to--Miss Onslow acting as
witness to the signatures of the men.  This done, with bitter chagrin
and profound misgiving as to the issue of the adventure, I gave the
order to wear ship, and we bore up on a course that pointed the brig's
jib-boom straight for the far-distant Cape of Storms.



CHAPTER NINE.

WE SIGHT A STRANGE SAIL.

Having secured possession of the brig, and succeeded in coercing me to
become their navigator to some island in the Pacific, the locality of
which they had as yet kept secret, upon an errand the nature of which
they had not seen fit to divulge to me, the crew at once went
industriously to work, under O'Gorman, to put the vessel all ataunto
once more, by routing out and sending aloft spare topgallant-masts and
yards, bending new sails, overhauling and making good the rigging, and,
in short, repairing all damage of every description; and with such
goodwill did they work that in ten days from the date of their seizure
of the brig everything had been done that it was possible to do, and, so
far as the outward appearance of the craft was concerned, there was
nothing to show that anything had ever been wrong with her.

Meanwhile, during the progress of this renovating process, the steward
had made it his business to give the lazarette a thorough stock-taking
overhaul, of the result of which I was kept ignorant.  But I gathered
that the examination was not altogether satisfactory; for when it was
over, and the steward had made his report to O'Gorman, the latter came
to me and anxiously demanded to know what our distance then was from the
Horn.  This was on the afternoon of the third day after the seizure of
the brig, and upon carefully measuring off the distance from our
position at noon on that day, I found that it amounted to three thousand
seven hundred and some odd miles.  The distance seemed to be a staggerer
to the fellow, and when, in reply to a further question, I informed him
that he might reckon upon the brig taking nearly or quite a month to
cover it, he made no attempt to conceal his dismay.  That something was
radically wrong at once became apparent, for there were long conclaves
in the forecastle, the object of which, presumably, was to determine how
to meet the emergency.  I shrewdly suspected that this emergency arose
out of the unexpected discovery that the brig's stock of provisions, or
water, or both, was insufficient to carry us to our destination; and I
fervently hoped that my conjecture might prove correct, as in that case
we should be compelled to touch somewhere to renew our stock; and I felt
that if in such a case I failed to secure the arrest of the whole party
for piracy I should richly deserve to remain their tool, exposed to the
countless vacillating and dangerous humours of a gang of ruffians who
had deliberately thrown off every restraint of law and order.

But, in speculating thus, I was reckoning without my hosts; I was
crediting O'Gorman and his satellites with scruples that they did not
possess.  I had not yet fully gauged the villainy of which they were
capable.

Thus far, ever since we had borne up for the Horn, we had been favoured
with a fair wind, and plenty of it; but on the second day after the
occurrence of the above events the wind began to fail us, and by sunset
that night it had dwindled away until the brig had barely steerage-way,
while the surface of the ocean presented that streaky, oily appearance
that is usually the precursor of a flat calm.  Meanwhile, during the
afternoon, a sail had hove in sight in the north-western board, steering
south-east; and when the sun went down in a clear haze of ruddy gold,
the sails of the stranger, reddened by the last beams of the luminary,
glowed against the clear opal tints of the north-western sky at a
distance of some eight miles, broad on our starboard bow.

The stranger was a barque-rigged vessel of some three hundred and fifty
tons or so: quite an ordinary, everyday-looking craft, with nothing
whatever of an alarming character in her aspect; yet she had not long
been in sight when it became quite apparent that O'Gorman and his crew
were greatly exercised at her appearance; and I was at first disposed to
imagine that their emotion arose from the circumstance of their being
fully aware that, in seizing the brig, as they had done, they had
committed an act of piracy, and that they now feared detection and its
attendant unpleasant consequences.  But by sunset I had found occasion
to alter my opinion, for it had by then become evident that O'Gorman was
manoeuvring, not to avoid but to close with the stranger in such a
manner as to avoid arousing any suspicion as to his design!

No sooner did this intention of O'Gorman's become apparent than I began
to ask myself what could be his motive for such a course; and the only
satisfactory reply that I could find to such a question was that he
wished to ascertain whether her skipper had any provisions to spare,
and, if so, to endeavour to treat with him for their purchase--I had by
this time seen enough of O'Gorman to recognise that he was quite acute
enough to discern the advantage and safety which such a transaction
would afford him over the alternative of being compelled to touch at
some port, and I had little doubt that my surmise as to his intentions
would prove correct.  At all events, his determination to speak the
barque was evident, and I began to cast about for some means whereby the
encounter might be utilised to the advantage of Miss Onslow and myself.

There were two or three ways in which we might possibly be benefited by
the incident, if only I could contrive to establish private
communication with the skipper of the stranger.  In the first place, if
the barque happened to be British--of which, however, I had my doubts--I
might make her skipper acquainted with all the circumstances relating to
the brig's seizure, and appeal to him to compel the Irishman and his
gang--by force, if necessary--to surrender Miss Onslow and myself.  Or,
if that should prove impossible, I might perhaps be able to secure Miss
Onslow's transfer to the stranger, when--her safety having been
assured--it would matter comparatively little what happened to myself.
Or--in the event of both these schemes failing--I might possibly succeed
in privately arranging with the skipper to acquaint the authorities with
our predicament and request them to take the necessary steps to effect
our rescue.

One or another of these plans I might perhaps succeed in putting into
effect, provided that the Irishman should prove careless and neglectful
enough to permit of my communicating with the skipper of the barque.
But would he be so?  I very much doubted it.  Yet I could but try; and
if, as I anticipated, I should find it impossible to obtain private
speech with the skipper of the barque, I might still be able to
surreptitiously convey to him a letter which would serve my purpose
quite as well.

Meditating thus, I made my way below to the brig's snug little cabin,
with the intention of forthwith inditing my epistle, and there I found
Miss Onslow, seated upon one of the lockers, ostensibly engaged in
reading, but with her beautiful eyes fixed upon the gently-swaying lamp
that hung in the skylight, with a dreamy, absent look in them that
showed her thoughts to be far away.

"Do you happen to know whether the steward is in his pantry, Miss.
Onslow?"  I asked, with a glance in the direction of the apartment
named, as I entered the cabin.

"No; he is not there; he went on deck nearly an hour ago," she replied.
"Do you want anything, Mr Conyers?"

"Nothing more at present than a few minutes' privacy and freedom from
espionage," I answered.  "Listen, Miss Onslow," I continued, "I have
been engaged for the last two hours in quietly observing the manoeuvres
of O'Gorman, and I have come to the conclusion that he intends to close
with and speak the barque that has been in sight all the afternoon.
Now, such a proceeding may, or may not, be to our advantage.  If I can
succeed in effecting communication with her skipper, it may be possible
for us to accomplish one of three things: First, we may, with the
assistance of the barque's crew, be enabled to effect our escape from
these people altogether.  Or, if that should prove impracticable, we may
possibly be enabled to secure _your_ transfer to the barque.  Or, _if_
that attempt also should fail, we surely ought to be able, with the help
of the barque's people, to communicate with the authorities ashore, and
claim from them rescue from our present precarious and exceedingly
unpleasant situation."

"Y-e-es," my companion assented meditatively.  Then, after a slight
pause, she asked:

"Have you ever thought of what the end of this adventure is likely to
be, so far as we two are concerned, supposing that we should fail to
effect our escape from O'Gorman and his companions?"

"Certainly, the matter is never absent from my thoughts," I answered.
"We are bound--upon what I cannot help thinking a fool's errand--to some
island in the Pacific, upon which O'Gorman and his party expect to find
a certain treasure.  This treasure they either will or will _not_ find;
but in either case I anticipate that, so far as _we_ are concerned, the
adventure will end in our being landed somewhere at a sufficient
distance from a town to permit of O'Gorman getting clear away with the
brig before we should have time to give the alarm and secure his
capture."

"That, of course, is assuming that you carry out these men's wishes,
without giving them any trouble," commented Miss Onslow.  "But," she
continued, "what, do you imagine, is likely to be the result--the effect
upon us both--if you cause them trouble and anxiety by endeavouring to
escape?  They have made it perfectly evident to you that they _cannot_
dispense with your services.  Do you really think it worth our while to
irritate and provoke them by attempting to escape?  True, they are
exceedingly unpleasant people to be brought into such close and constant
contact with, but there seems to be no great harm in them, provided that
they are allowed to have their own way."

"Ah!"  I exclaimed, "you evidently do not know of what a ship's crew may
become capable when once they have committed so serious a crime as
piracy--for that is what they have done in taking this brig from me.  It
is not what these men are, now, but what they may become in the future,
of which I am thinking, especially so far as you are concerned.  I
recognise possibilities in the future that may make this brig the scene
of hourly peril to you of a nature that I shudder to think of, and it is
_your_ safety that I am concerned about; that assured, I could face the
rest with equanimity."

"Thank you.  It is exceedingly good and kind of you to think so much for
me, and so little for yourself," answered my companion.  She spoke with
her face turned away from me, so that I was unable to read its
expression, and her voice had an intonation that I would have given much
to have been able to translate.  Was it merely my imagination--I asked
myself--or was there really a recurrent shade of her former hauteur of
manner, mingled with just the faintest suggestion of irony and
impatience?  The fact is that I was at that moment as far from being
able to comprehend this lovely but inscrutable woman as when I met her
for the first time in the saloon of the _City of Cawnpore_: her moods
were as changeable as the weather: there were occasions when her manner
toward me was almost as warm and genial and sympathetic as even a lover
could require; while there were others when she appeared animated by a
set purpose to impress upon me the conviction that our remarkable
adventure together invested me with no claim whatever upon her beyond
that of the merest ordinary gratitude.  As for me, if I have not already
allowed the fact to leak out, I may as well here make a clean breast of
it and confess that I loved her with all the ardent passion of which a
man's heart is capable, and I was resolutely determined to win her love
in return; but up to the moment of which I am now speaking I seemed to
have made so little headway that I often doubted whether I had made any
at all.  I had, however, come at length to recognise that the rebuffs I
occasionally met with followed some speech or action of mine of which
the young lady did not wholly approve; and so I soon found it to be in
the present instance.  She remained silent for perhaps half a minute
after speaking the words the recounting of which has extorted from me
the above explanation, and then continued, with much greater cordiality:

"Believe me, Mr Conyers, I am sincerely grateful to you for your
perfectly evident anxiety on my account; but I am obliged to confess
that I do not regard our situation as nearly so desperate as you seem to
do; I do not think that either of us will have anything to fear from
O'Gorman and his companions if you will but reconcile yourself to the
performance of the task that they have imposed upon you.  What I _do_
really fear is what may happen if you wilfully exasperate them by making
any attempt to thwart their plans by depriving them of your assistance--
without which, I would remind you again, they can do nothing.  Help them
to carry through their undertaking--never mind whether or not it be a
fool's errand--and I have every confidence that they will treat us with
the utmost consideration, after their own rough fashion; but seriously
provoke them, and, I ask you, what are likely to be the consequences to
us both?  Of course if you can so contrive it that we can _both_ be
rescued by the ship in sight, I shall be more delighted than I can say;
but as to your attempting to get _me_ transferred to her _alone_--you
will think it strange, unaccountable, perhaps, but I feel so very much
more safe here, with you to protect me, than I should on board the
strange ship, _alone_, that if you are to remain here I would very much
rather remain with you."

Words calculated to send the blood of an ardent lover throbbing through
his veins like quicksilver, are they not?  Yet they excited not one atom
of jubilation in me, for they were uttered in a tone of such coldness
and indifference that I felt as certain as I could be of anything that
it was wholly of herself, and not at all of me, that the speaker was
thinking.

"Very well," I answered, steeling myself to the adoption of an equally
cold manner of speech; "I think I understand your wishes in this matter,
and will endeavour to carry them out; if the strangers yonder can be
induced to take us _both_ out of the hands of these ruffians, well and
good; if not, I am to take no other steps?"

She bowed acquiescence, and turned to her book once more, with a manner
indicating that the discussion was at an end; and I, accepting the hint,
retired at once to my cabin to prepare a letter addressed to the skipper
of the stranger, to be conveyed to him if opportunity should permit.

But although I had yielded a seeming acquiescence to Miss Onslow's
misguided wish to share my captivity--should it be continued--aboard the
brig, it must not be supposed that I had any intention of lending myself
to so terribly dangerous and mistaken a proceeding.  It was perfectly
clear to me that the high-spirited girl had, in some unaccountable way,
completely missed the point of my remarks, and utterly failed to
comprehend the frightfully precarious and perilous character of her
position aboard the brig; moreover, her mere presence there served
O'Gorman as a lever and a menace powerful enough to constrain me
irresistibly to the most abject submission to his will; so long as she
remained where she was, in the power of these ruffians, I could do
absolutely nothing, for fear of what they might inflict upon her by way
of revenge; but with her removed from their power, and placed in safety,
I might possibly be able to bring every one of the wretches into the
grip of the law that they had so audaciously defied.  And so, when I
began to pen my letter to the unknown skipper, I was careful--after
briefly describing our peculiar situation--to appeal to him, as
powerfully as I could, to effect the rescue of the girl by any means at
his command, regardless of what might become of me.

Having at length finished my letter, I folded it up into a suitably
small and compact form, placed it by itself in one of my pockets, in
readiness to transfer it at the first favourable opportunity to the
individual for whom it was intended, and then, filling my pipe, made my
way leisurely up on deck to take a look round and see in what direction
matters were trending.

It was a magnificently fine and brilliant moon-lit night, with only a
few small, scattered shreds of light fleecy cloud floating overhead, and
a soft, warm air breathing out from the north-east so gently that it
scarcely stirred the oil-smooth surface of the ocean, which indeed it
only touched here and there in faint, evanescent cat's-paws that barely
sufficed to give the brig steerage-way with squared yards and every
possible inch of canvas spread.  As for the barque, she was now about a
point on the starboard bow, not more than a mile distant, and was
evidently not under command, as she had swung round head to wind, and
lay there in the bright moonlight swaying with an almost imperceptible
swing over the long, low hummocks of glassy swell, with her canvas--
gleaming softly and spectrally under the showering moonbeams.  All
hands--O'Gorman included--except the man at the wheel, were on the
forecastle-head, intently watching her, and talking eagerly together, so
I had a good opportunity to take a leisurely survey of her, and draw my
conclusions as to her nationality.  I went to the companion, secured the
night-glass, and took a good look at her; with the result that I
concluded her to be of French or Italian nationality--rather an awkward
and unexpected development for me, I having foolishly taken it for
granted that she would prove to be British and written my letter in
English accordingly.  And yet, perhaps, if my surmise should prove to be
correct, I might be afforded a better opportunity to make an effective
appeal for assistance than if the craft were British, for I gravely
doubted whether O'Gorman or any of his people spoke French or Italian,
and if that were the case they would probably require me to act as
interpreter for them, and thus afford me just such an opportunity as I
desired.  On the other hand, I could not but feel that an appeal for
help, made to a French or an Italian crew, was much less likely to meet
with a favourable response than if made to a crew of Britons.

These reflections passed through my mind as I stood peering through the
tube at the becalmed barque; it did not need a very prolonged scrutiny
to enable me to learn all that was possible of her at that distance, and
presently I replaced the glass in its beckets, and proceeded to saunter
fore and aft the deck, from the wake of the main rigging to the wheel
grating, smoking meditatively the while.

By the time that I had smoked my pipe out we had neared the barque to
within less than half, a mile; and I was momentarily expecting to hear
O'Gorman give the order to round-to and lower away the boat--wondering,
meanwhile, how on earth I could possibly contrive to get my letter
conveyed to the skipper--when the Irishman came shambling aft and,
placing himself at my side, inquired:

"Well, misther, have you finished your shmoke?"

"Yes," I answered curtly.  "Why do you ask the question, pray?"

"Because," he replied, "I'll have to ask ye to just step down below _and
stay there for the rest of the night_!"

"To step down below--and stay there?"  I repeated indignantly.  "What do
you mean, man?  Surely I am not to be sent to my bunk like a child,
whether I wish to go or not?"

"Bedad, but ye are thin; so make no more bones about it!" he retorted,
with quickly-rising anger.

"But, my good fellow, this is preposterous,"--I began, thoroughly
exasperated at such treatment, and keenly anxious not to lose even the
most slender chance of communicating with the strangers.  But the fellow
would permit no argument, his quick temper caught fire instantly at the
merest suggestion of remonstrance on my part, and he cut me short by
exclaiming furiously:

"Howly Sailor!  Phwhat's the use av' talkin' about it?  Ye've got to go
below, and that's all there is about it.  Will ye go p'aceably, or will
I have to call some of the hands aft to _make_ ye go?"

Again did I feel that terrible, overpowering sensation of murderous
anger grip at my heart, as it had already done once before in an
altercation with this brutal ruffian, the blood again mounted to my head
like fire, and, reckless of all consequences, I was in the very act of
pulling myself together for a spring at his throat, when I felt a small
hand--the touch of which thrilled me, even at that moment--laid upon my
arm, and Miss Onslow's voice--pitched in its most seductive tones--said:

"Will you please come with me at once--_at once_--Mr Conyers?  I have
something of the utmost importance to say to you!"

With an effort that caused me to turn sick and giddy, I mastered the
impulse that urged me to strike my enemy dead, there and then, and, mute
with the intensity of my feelings, permitted my companion to lead me
away.  We descended the companion ladder in silence; and upon reaching
the cabin Miss Onslow--as upon a former occasion--led me to one of the
sofa-lockers, upon which she seated herself, gently drawing me down
beside her.  Then, looking anxiously into my face, she said:

"Mr Conyers, I could almost find it in my heart to be angry with you.
Why--oh, _why_ will you persist in laying yourself open to such insults
from that great, coarse brute, by condescending to argue with him?  What
is the use of doing so?  Surely you must realise, by this time, that you
are quite powerless in the hands of these men, and that you cannot
control or influence them in any way.  Then, why attempt to do it?  The
only result is that you are insulted, and at once become positively mad
with anger, under the influence of which you will some day--unless you
are very careful--do something that you will be exceedingly sorry for.
For instance, what would have happened, had I not fortunately chanced to
have gone on deck the moment that I heard you and that Irish ruffian in
conversation?"

"You are right--perfectly right," I answered; "and you make me feel very
heartily ashamed of myself for my lamentable want of self-control--of
which I will take especial care that henceforward there shall be no
repetition.  Of course I can see clearly enough, now, how positively
suicidal it would have been for me to have yielded to the impulse that
animated me at the moment when you so fortunately came upon the scene--
suicidal for myself, and ruinously disastrous for _you_--which
circumstance will, I assure you, amply suffice as an effectual check
upon me for the future.  We are but two against sixteen, and common
sense tells me that, with such odds against us, violence is out of the
question; we must depend upon craft and diplomacy to secure our ends."

"Oh!  I am _so_ glad to find you taking a reasonable view of our most
unfortunate situation," exclaimed my companion, her eyes sparkling with
pleasure.  "Of course," she continued, "I can easily understand how
terribly exasperating it must be to you--a naval officer, who has always
hitherto been accustomed to the most implicit obedience on the part of
your crew--to find yourself defied and insulted by these wretches, and I
am not at all surprised that, under such circumstances, you find the
provocation all but unendurable; but I am sure you are right in
believing, as you say, that we must fight by diplomatic means rather
than by a resort to brute force.  I feel sure that the latter would be a
terrible mistake on our part, and I will not attempt to deny that on the
two occasions when you seemed about to resort to such means, I have been
most horribly frightened."

"Yes," I exclaimed, with profound contrition, "I can quite understand
that you would be so; and I very humbly beg your pardon for having so
terrified you.  I have been contemptibly weak at the very moment when I
most needed to be strong; but have no further fear; you have effectually
cured me of my weakness.  And, now, you may as well tell me what was the
important matter upon which you so urgently desired to speak to me."

For a moment my companion gazed at me with a most bewitching expression
of perplexity in her glorious eyes; then her face lighted up with a
smile of amusement, and she broke into a musical laugh.

"What!" she exclaimed.  "Do you not yet understand?  I only wanted to
say to you what I have just said--or, rather I wanted to get you away
from that Irishman before your impetuous temper had time to precipitate
a disaster."

"I see," said I, "Well--"

I was interrupted by a sound of hailing that seemed to proceed, not from
our own forecastle but from some spot a little way ahead of us; and I at
once concluded that its source must be the strange barque, the existence
of which I had entirely forgotten in the interest of the discussion
between myself and Miss Onslow.  I listened for a reply from O'Gorman,
but there was none; and presently the hailing was repeated--this time
from a much nearer point--and immediately followed by an excited
shouting and jabbering, in which I believed I could distinguish a word
or two of French.  I sprang to my feet, and was about to rush up on
deck, when Miss Onslow checked the movement by laying her hand upon my
arm, and saying:

"_Please_ oblige me by staying here.  If you were to go on deck, that
wretch would only insult you again; so why lay yourself open to such
treatment, since you can do absolutely nothing?  You _must_ school
yourself to allow those men to have their own way, since neither
persuasion nor force are of any avail with them."

"True," answered I.  "But it is instinctive for a sailor--and especially
an _officer_--to rush on deck when he hears such an outcry as that,"--as
the shouting and jabbering became momentarily nearer and more excited.

At that instant O'Gorman's voice shouted an order to "Stand by!"
immediately followed by a command to the helmsman to "Hard a-starboard!"
and presently there occurred a gentle shock--showing that the brig had
collided with something apparently on the rounding of her starboard
bow--accompanied by a most outrageous clamour, in which "S-a-c-r-es" and
other French expletives plentifully abounded.

"Now, take a turn anywhere you can, and as often as you can," shouted
O'Gorman, "and then follow me.  And if they offer any resistance, knock
'em down, or heave 'em overboard."

"Why, good Heavens! they have run the barque aboard, and are taking
her!"  I exclaimed, astonished and shocked beyond expression, as it
dawned upon me that the wretches were committing a further act of
piracy.  And I made as though to spring to my feet.  In an instant Miss
Onslow had seized my hand in hers, gripping me so firmly that I could
not break away from her without exercising a certain measure of
violence.

"And if they _are_?" said she, "can you do anything to prevent it?"

"No," answered I.  "But I will tell you what I _can_ do.  If you will
suffer me to go on deck I can see whether all hands have boarded the
barque.  And, if they have, and there appears to be the slightest
possibility of our being able to effect our escape, I will cut the brig
adrift, and make off with her!"

"Do you really think such a feat possible?" demanded my companion, with
sparkling eyes.

"I scarcely know," answered I.  "If the breeze has freshened at all
within the last few minutes, it might be done; not otherwise; because in
the latter event they could lower the barque's boats and overhaul us in
a very few minutes."

"At all events it is quite worth while to ascertain whether there is any
chance of success.  Let us go on deck and see!" exclaimed Miss Onslow,
her features at once all aglow with excitement as she sprang to her
feet.

"Agreed!" cried I, overjoyed to find the young lady so unexpectedly
yielding approval to my rather desperate plan.  "I will go on deck
first, and ascertain the precise state of affairs; and if I find that
there is a sufficiently fair prospect of success to justify us in the
attempt I will call to you through the skylight as soon as I need your
help."

My companion regarded me somewhat doubtfully for a moment, and then
reseated herself, saying:

"Very well.  I think I can trust you _now_.  But please be very careful;
and do not attempt anything unless you feel certain of success."

Meanwhile, the uproar that had prevailed for a few minutes prior to and
following upon the contact between the two craft had suddenly ceased;
and as I emerged from the companion-way I saw that, even supposing there
had ever been a prospect of my plan proving successful--which there had
not, the wind having died away to the merest breathing--I was now too
late.  For the two vessels--their hulls prevented from grinding together
by several cork fenders hung between them--were so securely lashed
together that it would have cost me several minutes' hard work to cut
them adrift.  Moreover, O'Gorman, followed by half a dozen of his gang,
were just in the act of scrambling inboard again from the stranger.  The
Irishman saw me upon the instant of my emerging from the companion, and
immediately shouted:

"Here, Misther Conyers, ye're just the man we want!  Do you spake
Frinch?"

"Yes," answered I, believing that I saw my opportunity.  "Why?"

"Becase," he replied, "the chaps aboard the barque don't seem to be able
to undershtand a worrud we say to thim; and bedad we're in the same fix
with regar-rd to thim.  So we want an interpreter; and maybe you'll be
able to act that same for us."

"Very well," said I; "what do you want me to do?"

"Whoy, we'll take it kindly of ye if you'll just be so obligin' as to
shtep aboard the barque, and say what we want ye to say," answered the
fellow.  "But, mind," he added warningly, "don't ye attimpt to say
annything else, or by the Piper it'll be the worse for ye--and for the
young woman down below.  I can undershtand Frinch like a native--so I
shall know everything that you say--but begorra the Oirish brogue of me
makes it difficult for thim froggies to undershtand me when I shpake to
thim."

"All right," I answered, perfectly easy in my mind, "you can stand
alongside me, and hear everything that passes."

So saying, without further ado I leapt upon the brig's bulwarks, from
thence to those of the barque, and so down upon her deck, closely
followed by O'Gorman.



CHAPTER TEN.

WE PLUNDER THE FRENCH BARQUE.

As my feet touched the barque's deck, I flung a lightning glance about
me to gather as much information as possible, not knowing but that at
any moment such knowledge might be of priceless value to me.  The craft
was somewhat bigger than I had at first set her down to be, being of
fully four hundred, or maybe four hundred and fifty, tons measurement.
Looking for'ard to the swell of her bows, I saw that she must evidently
be of a motherly build, which accorded well with the fact that she had
lost steerage-way long before such had been the case with the brig.  Her
decks were in a very dirty and untidy condition, looking as though they
had not been washed down, or even swept, for at least a week, and they
were lumbered up with quite an unusual number of spars and booms.  Yet
she was evidently a passenger ship, for the cabin under her full poop
was brilliantly lighted up, and through its open door I caught a glimpse
of several men and women so attired as to at once proclaim their status
on board; moreover, the quarter-deck was also occupied by a group of men
and women, evidently passengers, with two or three sailorly-looking men
among them, over whom a party of O'Gorman's people were mounting guard,
the remainder being stationed on guard over the fore-scuttle, down which
I presumed the barque's crew had been driven.

My attention was almost instantly attracted toward the little party on
the quarter-deck, and especially toward a grey-haired man in uniform,
whom I imagined might be the skipper.  I advanced toward the party, with
a bow, and said, in French:

"I wish to speak to the captain of this vessel: may I ask if he happens
to be among you?"

The old gentleman in uniform at once advanced a pace and, acknowledging
my salute by raising his gold-laced cap, answered:

"I am he.  And I demand to know, monsieur, by what right you and your
crew of ruffians have dared to run aboard me in this outrageous fashion,
driving my crew below, stationing a guard athwart my decks, and
frightening my passengers very nearly out of their senses.  Are you
pirates, or what?"

"Monsieur," answered I, "there is nothing to be gained by attempting to
deceive you, and I will therefore at once say that I fear you will find
that you have fallen into the hands of pirates.  The big man beside me
is their captain, while I, and a young lady aboard the brig, have the
misfortune to be their prisoners.  I shall probably not be afforded an
opportunity to explain to you the unfortunate situation of the young
lady and myself; but as soon as I became aware of the intention of these
men to board you I prepared a letter which will explain everything--it
is unfortunately written in English, but that, I am sure, will prove no
obstacle to you.  This letter I will presently endeavour to pass,
unobserved, to one of you; and if you will kindly act in accordance with
the request set forth therein, you will very greatly oblige two most
unhappy people."

"Monsieur," said the Frenchman, "I will gladly do anything in my power
to help you; but as to effecting your rescue--" he glanced expressively
at O'Gorman and his companions, and shrugged his shoulders in a way that
very clearly indicated his helplessness.

Here O'Gorman cut in.  "Well, what has the ould chap got to say for
himsilf?" he demanded.

"Why," answered I, "you heard what he said.  He wants to know what we
mean by boarding his ship in this outrageous fashion and driving his
crew below."

"Ask him what is the name of his ship, where he is from, and where bound
to," ordered the Irishman.

I put the questions; and the skipper answered:

"This is the _Marie Renaud_, of and from Marseilles, for Bourbon, with a
general cargo."

I translated, turning to O'Gorman--and slightly away from the group of
Frenchmen--to do so; and while I was speaking a hand touched mine--which
I held, clenched, behind my back, with the letter, folded small, within
it--while a voice murmured in my ear:

"Your letter, monsieur?"

I opened my fingers, and felt the missive gently abstracted.

"Thank God for that opportunity!" thought I fervently, as O'Gorman said:

"Ask him if he has plenty of provisions and water aboard."

I at once saw the villain's game: he was going to replenish the brig's
stores by plundering the barque, thus rendering it unnecessary to touch
at any port.  So, while translating the question to the French skipper,
I took it upon myself to very tersely mention my suspicions, and to
recommend the adoption of any precautionary measures that might suggest
themselves.

"The bulk of my stores is stowed in the after hold," answered the French
skipper, "but there is about enough in the lazarette to carry us to Cape
Town.  If they can be persuaded to be satisfied with what is there only,
we shall come to no great harm."

"You hear?" said I, turning to O'Gorman again, quite certain, by this
time, of his inability to understand a single word of French; "they are
very short of provisions, having only sufficient in their lazarette to
carry them to Cape Town."

"Is that all?" demanded the Irishman.  "Thin, be jabers, _I'm_ sorry for
thim, for there's a good manny miles bechuxt here and Cape Town, and I'm
afraid they'll be mortial hungry before they get there.  For I'm goin'
to help mesilf to everything ateable that the barque carries, and so ye
may tell the skipper--bad cess to him for a mismanagin' shpalpeen!  Whoy
didn't he lay in stores enough to carry him to the ind of his v'yage?
And ye may tell him, too, to start all hands to get those stores on deck
in a hurry; our own lads will have enough to do in lookin' afther
everybody, and seein' that none of the Frenchies thries to play anny
tricks wid us."

I translated the gist of these remarks to the French captain, and at the
same time gave him a hint to exhibit a proper amount of righteous
indignation over the robbery; which he did to perfection, wringing his
hands, rumpling his hair, and pacing the deck with the air of a madman
while he poured out anathemas enough upon O'Gorman and his gang to sink
the entire party to the nethermost depths of perdition.  Meanwhile, the
French crew, under the supervision of the mates--with Price watching the
operation to see that a clean sweep was made of the lazarette--went to
work to pass the stores on deck; and in less than an hour everything
that the lazarette had contained was safely transferred to the brig, and
stowed away.

While this operation was in progress, O'Gorman made a tour of the
various cabins, compelling the unfortunate passengers to turn out their
trunks before him, and appropriating the whole of their cash, jewellery,
weapons, and ammunition, together with as much of their clothing as
happened to take his fancy.  As he executed his self-imposed task with
considerable deliberation, those passengers whose turn was still to come
had plenty of time to meditate upon their coming despoilment, and one of
them--the individual who had so kindly relieved me of my letter--took it
into his head to do me a good turn.  Withdrawing quietly to his cabin,
he presently reappeared with a mahogany case, to which he
unostentatiously directed my attention, immediately afterwards laying it
carelessly down in a dark corner of the cabin.

Then he came and stood close beside me, and murmured in my ear:

"A brace of duelling-pistols, with a full supply of ammunition,
monsieur.  Since apparently they _must_ go, I would rather that they
should fall into monsieur's hands, if possible.  He may perhaps find
them useful some time in the future."

"A thousand thanks, monsieur," returned I, in a whisper.  "Should we
ever meet again I will endeavour to repay your kindness with interest."

Then, watching my opportunity, I possessed myself of the case of
pistols, made my way on deck with them, and--thanks to the bustle of
trans-shipping the stores--managed to slip on board the brig with it and
convey it, undetected, to my own cabin.  Having done which, I spoke a
reassuring word or two to Miss Onslow--who had retired to her own
cabin--lighted a pipe, and sauntered up on deck again with the most
careless demeanour imaginable.

It was long past midnight by the time that O'Gorman had finished rifling
the barque, by which time he had secured all the provisions out of the
unfortunate craft's lazarette, had taken four brass nine-pounder guns,
two dozen stand of muskets, the same number of cutlasses and boarding
pikes, together with a considerable quantity of ammunition, had emptied
one of the barque's water-tanks, and had robbed them, in addition, of
their two best boats--fine twenty-seven feet gigs--with their whole
equipment.  Then, the weather still being stark calm, he compelled the
Frenchmen to hoist out their remaining two boats and to tow the brig
clear of and about a mile distant from the barque.  Before that moment
arrived, however, the French skipper contrived to get a hurried word
with me.

"Monsieur," he said, "the contents of your letter have been communicated
to me; and permit me to say that you and Mademoiselle Onslow have the
heartiest sympathy and commiseration of myself and my passengers in your
most unpleasant situation.  But, monsieur, I fear I cannot possibly help
you in the way that would doubtless be most acceptable to you--namely,
by receiving you on board my ship.  The scoundrels who hold you in their
power would never permit it; and even were it possible for you and
mademoiselle to slip aboard, unperceived, and secrete yourselves, your
absence would be quickly discovered, it would be guessed what had become
of you, and the pirates would assuredly give chase and recapture you--
for the barque, fine ship though she be, certainly _is_ a trifle slow--
and who knows what vengeance the wretches might wreck upon us for having
presumed to abet you in your attempt to escape them?  You will perceive,
I am sure, that my duty to my passengers forbids my exposing them to
such a risk.  But I shall now call at Cape Town, to replace what those
villains have taken from me; and you may rest assured that I will not
only report the act of piracy that has been perpetrated upon me, but I
will also make known the unfortunate situation of yourself and
mademoiselle, so that your countrymen may be enabled to take such steps
as they may see fit to effect your rescue."

This was as much as I could reasonably hope; and I thanked the skipper
heartily for undertaking even so much as that.

In the early hours of the morning a gentle little air from the
northward--that gradually strengthened to a nice working breeze--sprang
up; and when I went on deck at seven bells the _Marie Renaud_ was out of
sight, and we were alone once more on the tumbling waste of waters.

From that time forward nothing of importance occurred until we arrived
in the longitude of the Horn, our passage of this notorious headland
being accomplished in gloriously fine weather--for a wonder--with half a
gale of wind from the eastward, blowing over our taffrail, to which we
showed every rag that we could set upon the hooker.  The actual passage
occurred in the early morning--about six o'clock, according to our dead
reckoning--and upon working out the sights that I had secured after
breakfast for the determination of the longitude, I found that we were
thirty miles to the westward of it, and far enough south to permit of
our shifting our helm for the mysterious island to which we were
supposed to be bound.  Accordingly, having verified my figures, and
pricked off the brig's position on the chart, I made my way up on deck,
and informed O'Gorman of the state of affairs.

"So we're actually now in the moighty Pacific, eh?" he exclaimed in high
elation.  "Bedad that's good news, annyhow, and we'll cilibrate the
occasion by takin' an exthry tot o' grog all round, and dhrinkin'
shuccess to the v'yage.  But, sthop a minute; ye want to know where
ye're to shape a coorse for, now?  By the powers, misther, I'll tell ye
that same in a brace of shakes.  Let me go and get the paper out o' me
chist, and I'll soon make ye as wise as mesilf."

The fellow hurried away for'ard, and dived below into the forecastle,
from which he soon emerged again, bearing in his hand an oblong
envelope.  From this he carefully withdrew a paper, folded lengthwise,
and, opening it, read:

"`Latichood: Two, forty-eight, forty; south.  Longitood: One hundred and
forty-four, ten, ten; west.  Approach island from nor'-west, and stand
towards it with summit of hill bearin' south-east half-south, which
leads through the passage in the barrier reef.  Then haul up to south a
quarter west for the mouth of the bight'--and that's enough: there's no
call to read the rest to ye," he concluded abruptly.

"As you please," answered I; "I have no desire whatever to know anything
more of the matter than what is absolutely necessary to enable me to
navigate the brig to the spot, and afterwards to make a civilised port
in the shortest possible time.  I will, however, have a look at the
chart, and ascertain the particular island to which those figures of
yours refer."

"You might as well bring the chart up on deck, and let me see it: I'd
loike to see just where we're bound to, and how long it'll take us to
git there," remarked O'Gorman.

I accordingly went below, secured the chart, together with a pencil, a
pair of dividers, and a parallel ruler, and took the whole on deck.
Then, spreading the chart open, I pricked off the latitude and longitude
given by O'Gorman, and, to my astonishment, found that the spot was
located in open water.

"I am very much afraid that your information is faulty, O'Gorman," said
I, pointing to the spot.  "Do you see that?  There is no island shown in
your latitude and longitude.  The nearest land to it is the Marquesas
group, and Hiau--the nearest of them--is three hundred and sixty miles
distant from your spot."

O'Gorman stared blankly at the chart for a full minute or more, glared
suspiciously at me for nearly as long; looked at his paper again, to
assure himself that he had made no mistake; and finally rapped out a
string of oaths in his consternation.  Then he nipped his profanity
short off as a comforting reflection occurred to him.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, with a sigh of relief, "but this oiland as Oi'm
talkin' about is unbeknownst, so av coorse it won't be drawed on the
chart.  That's all right, misther; you navigate the brig to that place,
and you'll find an oiland there, safe enough."

"But, supposing that we do _not_," I suggested; "supposing that your
information happens to be incorrect; what then?"

"Ay, but it _won't_ be," he snarled back; "it'll be correct, and we'll
find the oiland where Oi told ye.  And if we don't, why bedad it'll be
the worse for you and the gal, for we'll cruise for it until we find it,
if we has to cruise until the Judgment Day, like the Flyin' Dutchman!"

"All right," I said.  "If the island is where you say it is, I will find
it for you, never fear.  If it is _not_--well, then it will _not_ be
found; and that is all there is about it."

"Oi tell ye it _will_ be found; it _must_ be found!" shouted O'Gorman,
goaded to fury at the suggestion that perhaps, after all, a dire
disappointment lay in store for him.  "If the oiland isn't there, it's
somewheres thereabouts, widin a few miles more or less; and we've got to
find it afore the hooker turns her nose towards home.  Now I hopes
that's plain enough for ye."

And, smiting the chart a mighty blow with his clenched fist, he turned
on his heel and walked forward.

It need scarcely be said that after such a dogmatic statement as this I
found my anxiety greatly increased; for I by this time knew the Irishman
well enough to be fully aware that no mule could be more obstinate than
he, and that, having once made up his mind that his island existed, he
would never abandon his search until he had found it--or something that
might pass for it.  And I was determined that should our search prove
unsuccessful, I would at once bear up for the Marquesas, and let him
take his choice from among the whole group.  Indeed, for a moment I felt
tempted to shape as straight a course as I could for the centre of the
group, without troubling to hunt for O'Gorman's particular island at
all, as I gravely doubted whether it really had an existence outside the
man's own imagination.  But, on the other hand, his information was
drawn from a document that, while stained and discoloured with age, had
every appearance--from my casual inspection of it--of being genuine;
and, if so, the island might possibly exist, although uncharted.
Moreover, O'Gorman had not seized the brig and become a pirate merely to
satisfy an idle curiosity as to the accuracy of the document he had
produced; he was going there for a certain definite purpose; to search
for something, probably; and, if so, nothing short of our arrival at
that particular island would satisfy him.  So, having laid off the
course upon the chart, I gave it to the helmsman, and called the hands
aft to trim sail.

Of our passage into the solitudes of the Pacific I have nothing to
relate, save that Miss Onslow's demeanour toward me became, if possible,
more perplexing and tantalising than ever.  To convey a clear and
accurate idea of her varying moods it would be necessary to relate in
tolerably minute detail the particulars of our daily intercourse
throughout the voyage--a course of procedure which would not only expand
my story far beyond its proper limits, but would also entirely alter its
character--I must therefore content myself with merely stating that I
believe I may, without exaggeration, assert that I never found her upon
any two occasions to behave in a precisely similar manner.  She appeared
to regulate her treatment of me by the behaviour of the men.  She had
long ago abandoned that almost insolent hauteur of manner that
distinguished her at the outset of our acquaintance; but if the weather
was fine, the wind fair, the men upon their best behaviour--as sometimes
happened--_in_ short, _if_ things were going well with me in other
respects, she invariably kept me at arm's-length by a certain
indefinable, but none the less unmistakable, coolness, indifference, and
distance of manner just sufficiently pronounced to suggest a desire to
be left to herself.  But in proportion as difficulties, anxieties, and
vexations arose, so did her manner warm to me until there were times
when it became almost caressingly tender; so that, as my passion for her
grew, I sometimes felt almost tempted to feign an anxiety or a distress
that did not exist, for the mere delight of finding her manner warming
to me.  But I take credit to myself that I always resisted the
temptation, fighting against it as a thing to yield to which would be
mean and unmanly on my part.

In this strange and contradictory condition of alternate peace, rendered
insipid by Miss Onslow's coolness, and anxiety converted into happiness
unspeakable by the warmth and tenderness of her sympathy, I carried the
brig toward the spot indicated in O'Gorman's document; and at noon on a
certain day my observations showed that we had arrived within sixty
miles of it.  The weather was then brilliantly fine, with a gentle
breeze out from about west-north-west, that wafted the brig along over
the low, long mounds of the Pacific swell at a rate of about five knots;
consequently, if the island happened to be in the position assigned to
it, we ought to reach it about midnight.  O'Gorman's desire to be made
acquainted with our exact position daily had been growing ever since we
had shifted our helm after rounding the Horn, beginning as a condition
of languid curiosity, which had strengthened into a state of feverish
restlessness and anxiety that, on the day in question, as soon as I had
conveyed to him the customary information, found vent in an order that a
man should go aloft and maintain a lookout from the topgallant yard
until the island should be sighted, the remainder of the crew being set
to work during the afternoon to rouse out and bend the cables, and to
attend to the various other matters incidental to the approach of a
vessel to a port.  He also had the spare spars overhauled and suitable
ones selected for the purpose of erecting tents in conjunction with the
brig's old sails, from all of which I inferred that our stay at the
island--should we happen to find it--would be a somewhat protracted one.

As to the probability of our finding the place, I was exceedingly
doubtful; for although I was well aware that hitherto unknown islands
were still occasionally being discovered in the Pacific, I was equally
well aware that these new islands were almost invariably low, and of
insignificant dimensions, being, in fact, merely coral reefs that have
been gradually lifted above the surface of the ocean; whereas O'Gorman's
document contained mention of a _hill_, and the presence of a hill
argued a probable existence of ages, and a consequently corresponding
likelihood of comparatively early discovery.

But at two bells in the second dog-watch, that night, all doubt was put
an end to by a sudden, startling cry from the lookout on the
fore-topgallant yard of:

"Land ho; right ahead!"

I was on deck at the time, and far from expecting to hear such a cry;
indeed so incredulous was I still that I quite concluded the man had
allowed his imagination to run away with him, and was mistaking the
shoulder of some low-lying cloud for distant land.  So I hailed him
with:

"Topgallant yard, there! are you quite sure that what you see is land,
and not a hummock of cloud?"

"Yes, sir," he shouted back; "I'm _quite_ sure of it.  I've been
watchin' it growin' for the last quarter of a hour or more, and it
haven't changed its shape the least bit all that time; only growed the
leastest bit bigger and clearer."

Meanwhile, O'Gorman had sprung into the rigging and was by this time
clawing his way over the rim of the top.  Another minute, and he was on
the topgallant yard, alongside the other man, peering ahead into the
fast gathering dusk, under the sharp of his hand.  He stared at it for a
good five minutes; then, shouting down "It's all right, mates; it's
land, and no mistake!" he swung himself on to the backstay, and came
down on deck by way of it.  He no sooner reached the deck than he
plunged into the forecastle, from which he presently emerged again,
bearing in his hand a packet that I presently recognised as his precious
document.  He came straight aft to me with it, and said:

"Now, misther, I want ye to get a bit of paper and write down the
directions that Oi'll read out to ye.  Oi'm all right in deep wather,
and wid plenty of say-room to come and go upon; but whin it comes to
navigatin' narrow channels, and kapin' clear of the rocks, and takin' a
vessel to her anchorage, bedad I'm nowhere.  So I'll be obliged to ask
ye to write down the instructions that Oi've got here, and then ye'll
take command of the brig until she's safe at anchor."

"Very well," I said.  "Are the instructions very long?"

"Two or three dozen words 'll cover the lot," answered the Irishman.

"All right," said I; "fire away."  And drawing a pencil and paper from
my pocket, I prepared to copy down whatever he might read to me.

"`Approach island from nor'-west,'" began O'Gorman, "`and stand towards
it wid summit of hill bearin' south-east, half-south; which leads
through the passage in the barrier reef.  Then haul up to south a
quarter west, for the mouth of the bight at the bottom of the bay.
Stand boldly in until ye come abreast of the big rock at the mouth of
the bight, when clew up and furl everything.  Follow the bight until ye
reach the lagoon, when ye may anchor annywhere not closer than a dozen
fadoms of the oiland.  The gems'--oh, bedad, but that's another matther
intoirely," he hastily concluded.

"The directions seem explicit enough," said I; "and as no mention is
made of any dangers to be avoided I suppose there are none.  All the
same, we shall need daylight for the job of taking the brig to the berth
mentioned, so I shall stand on until four bells in the first watch, and
then heave-to for the remainder of the night.  At daylight we will fill
away again and work round to the nor'-west side of the island, when, if
the water happens to be clear, we shall perhaps be able to see the
bottom from aloft, and thus safely pilot the vessel to her anchorage.  I
will con her myself from the fore-topmast crosstrees."

At four bells--ten o'clock--that night, the island showed through the
clear darkness upon the horizon as an irregularly-shaped pyramid, with a
peak nearly in the centre of it, rising to a height which I estimated at
about six or seven hundred feet.  The island itself was at that time
some ten miles distant, and, measured from end to end, as we then looked
at it, I took it to be about four miles across.  We hove the brig to,
and tried a cast first with the hand lead, and then with the deep-sea
lead, but got no bottom, at which I was by no means surprised, as I had
already heard that many of the islands in the Pacific--especially those
of coral formation--rise sheer from the very bottom of the sea.

At daybreak the next morning I was called by the steward, and, dressing,
went on deck, to find that the weather was as it had been all through
the preceding day, namely, a light breeze from the westward, with a
cloudless sky of crystalline clearness overhead, and a long, low
sluggish swell undulating athwart the gently-ruffled surface of the
ocean.  The island now bore about four points on our weather quarter,
some sixteen miles distant; so we filled the main-topsail, got way upon
the ship, and hauled up to "full-and-by," when it was found that we
should just handsomely fetch clear of the most leeward point of the
land.

Viewed by the early daylight, the island presented a most attractive
appearance, rising against the background of sky as a picture painted in
an infinite variety of delicate purple tones of shadow, through which,
with the aid of the glass, could be made out the several declivities,
gorges, precipices, and ravines that went to make up the contour of the
country.  It was thickly wooded everywhere, seemingly from the water's
edge to within some eighty feet or so of the summit, the latter rising
naked into the clear air.  But attractive as it looked under the soft,
subdued light of the early dawn, in the delicate monochrome of distance,
and the absence of direct sunlight, it looked even more beautiful when,
after sunrise, as we approached it more closely, the countless subtle
variations of tint in the foliage, from this in brightest sunlight, to
that in deepest, richest purple shadow, became manifest; and so powerful
an impression did it make upon the men that I overheard them freely
discussing the desirability of making a lengthened sojourn there.

"Yes," said I, when O'Gorman, carried away by his enthusiasm at the
beauty of the place, hinted at such a possibility, "that is all very
well, and sounds very attractive just now; but has it yet occurred to
you that yonder island may be peopled by a race of savages who, if we
give them the opportunity, will gladly make a barbecue of all hands?"

"Phew! begorra, but Oi nivver thought of that!" he ejaculated in sudden
dismay.  "Oi'm obliged to ye for the hint, misther.  We'll load the guns
and muskets, and make ready generally for the blagguards, if they have
the impidence to be there."

And forthwith he shambled away for'ard, unceremoniously cutting into the
holiday plans that the men were busily concocting, and instructing them
to load the guns and arm themselves in readiness for any emergency that
might arise.

As we stood in toward the land I kept a bright lookout for smoke, for
huts peeping from among the trees, for canoes hauled up on the beach, or
any other indications of the presence of human life on the island, but
could see nothing.  At this, however, I was not very greatly surprised,
for although we were on the lee side of the island, the surf was
breaking so heavily all along the shore as to render it impracticable
for canoes.  If the island happened to be inhabited, the inhabitants
would probably be found located on its weather side, which, according to
O'Gorman's document, was protected from the surf by a barrier reef, with
a passage through it.

As we stood on it became apparent that the island was nearer five than
four miles long--as I had estimated it to be on the previous night--that
its general trend was from north-east to south-west, and that, if
surveyed and laid down upon the chart, it would present a somewhat flat
and irregular crescent-like plan.  The barrier reef sprang from the
north-east extremity of the island, sweeping seaward on the arc of a
circle on its north-western side, and uniting again with the island at
its south-western extremity, forming a lagoon of the same length as the
island, and about three-quarters of a mile wide at its widest point.
The barrier reef, in fact, constituted a magnificent natural breakwater,
upon which the surf eternally broke in a loud, sullen roar of
everlasting thunder, while inside it the water was smooth as a mill
pond, shoaling very gradually from the reef to the shore of the island,
which consisted of a narrow beach of dazzling white sand, bordered by a
fringe of thousands of cocoa-nut palms, the long, plume-like branches of
which swayed gently in the soft, warm morning breeze.  It was on this
side of the island, I concluded, that, if anywhere, traces of
inhabitants would be found, and I scanned the shore carefully and
anxiously through the ship's glass in search of such; but nothing of the
kind was to be seen; and I at length closed the telescope with a clash,
relieved to believe that, whatever anxieties there might be awaiting me
in the immediate future, trouble with hostile natives was not to be one
of them.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE ISLAND.

Standing on as we were going, we ratched past the island until it was
left a couple of miles astern of us, when we tacked ship, and brought
the land on our lee beam.  Then, steering full and by, half an hour's
sailing sufficed to bring the summit of the hill to the required
compass-bearing of south-east, half-south, whereupon we bore dead away
for it, and, leaving O'Gorman in charge of the deck, I sprang into the
fore rigging and mounted to the crosstrees, from which commanding
elevation I intended to con the brig to her anchorage.  Miss Onslow was
on deck by this time, drinking in, with eager, flashing eyes, the beauty
and brilliant colour of the picture presented by the emerald island in
its setting of sapphire sea; but as I sprang into the rigging I noticed
that her gaze followed me; and when I swung myself out to clamber over
the rim of the top--a performance which, to the eye of the landsman,
appears distinctly hazardous--she suddenly clasped her hands upon her
breast, as though in terror for my safety.  The action was trifling
enough, perhaps, yet I was disposed to regard it as not quite
insignificant, since I had often stood by her side as she had watched--
with evidently no stronger emotion than amusement--others perform the
same feat.

Upon reaching my perch I found that we were still in deep water, no sign
whatever of the bottom being visible through the depths of the
exquisitely beautiful, clear, crystalline blue; but ahead, at the very
fringe of the breakers that were dashing themselves into diamond and
pearl-white spray upon the stubborn rampart of the barrier reef, there
was a change of colour that told of shoaling depths; and a qualm of
anxiety swept over me as I pictured to myself what would probably happen
if, sweeping in before the wind as we were, we should plunge into that
belt of seething white water, and find that there was not depth enough
to float us.  For a few minutes I was full of anxiety; but presently, as
we slid nearer and nearer still to the reef, I detected the opening--a
narrow passage barely wide enough, apparently, for a boat to traverse,
but of unbroken water, merely flecked here and there with the froth of
the boil on either hand.  We were running as straight for it as though
it had been in sight for an hour; and as we were following the
directions given in O'Gorman's paper, this fact seemed to point to an
accurate knowledge of the place on the part of the author of those
directions; which assumption I fervently hoped would be confirmed in
every particular.

As we bore rapidly down upon the reef, the passage through it gradually
assumed its true proportion of width, and I saw that there was ample
room to allow of the passage, not only of the brig, but of a couple of
line-of-battle ships abreast.  The island had the appearance of being
simply the topmost ridge of a mountain rising with a tolerably even
continuous slope from the bottom of the sea; and the barrier reef was
merely an excrescence or wall of coral built on to one side of it, and
founded at a depth of ten fathoms below the surface of the ocean, as our
lead presently told us.  The basin thus formed had, during the course of
ages, become partially filled with sand, forming a beautifully smooth,
and even white floor, gradually sloping upward toward the surface from
the reef to the shore of the island.  All this was quite plain to me as
we drove in through the break in the long, sweeping circle of foam; and,
once in still water, I was able from my perch to see the sandy bottom as
clearly as though it had been bare of water, every tiny fish and every
fragment of weed that passed within a hundred feet of us being perfectly
visible.

Once fairly through the opening in the reef and into the basin, we
hauled up to south a quarter west, which course brought our jib-boom
pointing to what then had the appearance of the mouth of an
insignificant stream.  But as we slid athwart the basin the opening
assumed an appearance of increasingly greater importance, until when
within half a mile of it I saw that it was really the comparatively
narrow entrance of a fairly spacious little bay, or loch, penetrating
for some distance into the land.  Soon afterwards the big rock mentioned
in O'Gorman's document separated itself from the background of bush and
trees with which it had hitherto been merged, and proclaimed itself as
an obelisk-like monolith of basalt rearing its apex to a height of some
ninety feet above the water level.  When fairly abreast of this the
canvas was clewed up, and the brig slid into the loch with the way that
she had on her.  This loch, or channel, wound gradually round for a
length of about a cable, and then widened into a nearly circular lagoon
about half a mile in diameter, in the very centre of which stood a small
islet, thickly overgrown with trees and dense jungle.  Keeping this
islet on our starboard beam, at a distance of some twenty fathoms, we
slowly circled round it until it was immediately between us and the
outlet to the larger lagoon, when we let go our anchor in four fathoms,
amid the exultant cheers of the men, who thus found themselves
triumphantly at their destination.  That we actually had found the
identical island referred to in O'Gorman's paper there could be no
shadow of doubt, since the landmarks mentioned agreed perfectly; and my
strongest emotion was one of surprise that an island of such dimensions
should thus far have escaped the notice of the hydrographers.

All hands now went to breakfast; and when the men again turned to, upon
the conclusion of their meal, their first act was to swarm aloft and
unbend the whole of the canvas, from the royals down--a proceeding which
seemed to confirm my previous surmise that they intended their sojourn
upon the island to be of some duration.  This task occupied them the
entire morning; but when they knocked off at eight bells for dinner, the
brig's spars and stays were entirely denuded of their canvas.  The
Irishman had some little difficulty in persuading his satellites to go
to work again after dinner, there being a very evident tendency on the
part of all hands to take matters easily now, after their long spell at
sea; but he eventually got them out from the shadow of the bulwarks and
upon their feet again, when the boats were all lowered, the entire stock
of the brig's sails, new and old, struck into them, the spare booms
launched overboard and towed ashore; and the remainder of the day was
spent in erecting tents upon a small open patch of grass, upon the
mainland--if I may so call it--that happened to be immediately abreast
the brig.  Miss Onslow and myself were thus left alone together on
board, nobody seeming to take either of us into consideration in the
making of their arrangements.  There were arguments both in favour of
and against this arrangement; for instance, our cabins aboard the brig
were unpleasantly hot and stuffy in the parallels that we had now
reached, and I had no doubt that we should have found sleeping ashore in
a nice, airy tent very much more comfortable; but on the other hand, if
we were to be allowed to occupy the brig we should at least be by
ourselves, and the risk of nocturnal intrusion would be very much less;
I was therefore disposed to consider that, on the whole, matters were
more satisfactory as they were.  Yet it went against the grain with me
that we should be so completely ignored, and our comfort and convenience
so completely neglected, by a crowd of graceless, unmannerly louts, and
I was casting about for some means whereby I could compel at least a
reasonable measure of consideration from them, when fortune unexpectedly
intervened to help me.  It happened in this wise.

After conveying ashore the sails and spars, and erecting the tents, the
men came off to the brig again, and took ashore their chests and
belongings generally, together with an abundant supply of food, and a
still more abundant supply of liquor, with the natural result that a
regular drunken orgy occurred that night, of such a character as to
compel my gratitude that Miss Onslow was not an occupant of any portion
of that camp.  As it was, I deemed it only prudent to maintain a watch
until the riot ashore had ceased, and the rioters had safely subsided
into a drunken slumber.  But my companion and I had to prepare our
evening meal for ourselves, that night, or we should have gone
supperless to our cabins.  And, in like manner, we also had to prepare
our own breakfast next morning.

That simple meal was over some considerable time before there was any
stir or sign of movement in the camp on shore; but at length the cook
appeared, still, apparently, in a semi-drunken condition, and by and by
we saw the men sitting down to breakfast.  They occupied an
unconscionably long time over their meal, and when it was over most of
the party lit their pipes and staggered away back into the sheltering
shade of their tents again.  There were two or three exceptions, one of
whom was O'Gorman, who, after lighting his pipe, strolled down to the
water's edge with a paper in his hand that looked very much like the
paper from which he had quoted the instructions for making the island,
and which he appeared to be studying most intently, with a dubious air
that, even as I watched him, rapidly changed into one of
steadily-increasing perplexity.

At length, with a gesture of savage impatience, he folded up the paper,
slipped it into his breast-pocket, and went off to the tent, from which
he presently emerged again followed by two very sick-and-sorry,
unwilling-looking members of his gang.  The trio tumbled into one of the
boats, shoved off, and headed directly for the brig.  Miss Onslow was on
deck with me, but as soon as I saw that the little party intended
boarding the brig, I directed her attention to their condition, and
requested her to retire out of sight to her cabin, which she did, very
submissively, somewhat to my surprise.

The distance from the shore to the brig was but short, and in a few
minutes the boat was alongside, and O'Gorman on deck, his two companions
electing to spare themselves the fatigue of dragging themselves up the
brig's side, and stretching themselves out upon the thwarts instead,
with their caps drawn over their faces, in which position they almost
immediately fell asleep.

It was evident from O'Gorman's embarrassed manner as he approached me
that he had something to say, or some proposition to make, without
exactly knowing how best to set about it.  It seemed to me that he had
unexpectedly found himself in some way at a serious disadvantage, but
was anxious above all things to prevent my discovering his predicament.
Then he was civil, which I had learned to accept as an unerring
indication that he wished to inveigle me into consciously or
unconsciously rendering him a service.

"The top o' the mornin' to ye, misther," he began.  "I hopes that you
and the lady slept well last night, in this quiet, snug little harbour;
havin' the brig all to yourselves, too."

"Ay," retorted I; "and having to prepare our own supper last night, and
our breakfast this morning.  As for quiet, the place is quiet enough; it
is the drunken blackguards occupying it that make all the row.  Oh yes,
we slept well enough, thank you--after the crowd ashore had guzzled
themselves into a state of drunken insensibility."

"Begorra, thin," he exclaimed, in affected surprise, "did the shpalpeens
keep ye awake?  Whoy, Oi'd have thought you'd have heard the sorra a
sound out here.  But it's not goin' to happen again; it was just a bit
of a jollification we threated ourselves to upon the strength of
foindin' the oiland all right; but there'll be no more of it--barrin',
maybe, a bit of a spree when our work's done here, and we're ready to
sail for home again.  And, as to your breakfast, bedad Oi forgot it
intoirely, but Oi'll send the shteward off, wid ordhers that he's to do
nothin' but just wait upon ye and the lady, and make things comfortable
for ye."

"What the mischief does he want me to do for him?" wondered I.  "It must
be something of especial moment, or he would never be so extraordinarily
civil and obliging!"

But I merely answered:

"Thanks!  It was part of our agreement, you will remember, that we were
to be properly looked after, and waited upon.  And, while we are upon
the subject, there is another matter I should like to mention.  It is
exceedingly close and stuffy below, in this climate, and I should
therefore like to have an awning, or something of the kind, rigged up
abaft here, so that I may be able to arrange sleeping places on deck for
Miss Onslow and myself while we are lying here."

"An awning is it?" exclaimed O'Gorman, with effusion.  "Begorra ye shall
have that same, and welcome as the flowers of spring.  Ay, and Oi'll
send ye off a topsail to throw over the spanker-boom and so make ye two
illigant staterooms, one on each side the deck."

"It certainly must be some very extraordinary service that he wishes me
to render him!" thought I.  But I answered:

"Very well.  As soon as the people are sober enough to behave
themselves, send them off with the canvas and some lashing, and I will
tell them what I want done."

"Oi'll do that same," answered O'Gorman.  "And now," he continued, "I
suppose you and the lady 'd loike a run ashore, wouldn't ye?"

"Yes, certainly," I answered, "but not to-day.  We will wait until
everybody has had time to get completely sober again.  I do not choose
that the lady should be subjected to the annoyance of encountering, and
perhaps being insulted by, some half-drunken lout.  But you will not
require all the boats, I suppose, so you had better send off the
smallest one, with a pair of oars, that we may have the means of going
to and from the ship and the shore at our own pleasure, and
independently of your people."

This was too much for the fiery temper of the Irishman; genial and
obliging as he had striven to be, it had been clearly apparent to me
that he was growing increasingly restive under the lengthening list of
my demands, and now this cool requisition of a boat was the last straw
that broke the camel's back--or, in other words, exhausted the
Irishman's slender stock of patience; he looked at me with blazing eyes
for a moment, and then rapped out:

"Boat is it, thin?  The divil a boat will I let ye have; if ye want a
boat, go ashore and build one for yoursilf.  And go to the divil and get
your awning, and your canvas, and your lashings, and your cook, too,
begorra! for sorra a one of anny of thim will ye get from me!  I was a
fool to promise ye annything, but I wanted your help, and I thought Oi'd
get it by humourin' ye.  But _now_, be jabers, Oi'll _make_ ye help me,
whither ye like it or not; and the divil a thing will I do for ye in
return!"

"What is it you want me to do for you?" asked I quietly, determined to
keep my temper whatever might happen, and curious to know what service
it could possibly be that had caused the fellow to constrain himself so
far in the endeavour to conciliate me.

"I want ye to do this--and, understand me, ye'll _have_ to do it,
whither it plaises ye or not," he answered.  "There's a spot somewhere
on that bit of an oiland,"--indicating the small islet opposite which
the brig was moored--"that I want to find.  Whin I first read the paper
that speaks of it, it seemed the simplest thing in the worruld to come
here and put me fut on it; but now that Oi'm here, and have seen the
place, by me sowl I can't see or understand how Oi'm to go about it.
And no more can anny of the rest of us.  So the long and the short of it
is, misther, that you'll have to find the place for us."

"What do your instructions direct you to do?" demanded I.

"My instructions, is it?" repeated O'Gorman.  "Oh, begorra, they're
simple enough.  They say,"--here he paused, fumbled in his
breast-pocket, and presently produced the dirty, greasy slip of paper,
with the appearance of which I was now becoming familiar, and carefully
unfolding it, read:

"`Dhraw a loine from one black rock to the other, and on this loine
project another to the summit of the peak, makin' an angle of
sixty-foive degrees to the west'ard.  Dig there, and,'--well, the rest
has got nothing to do with it."

"Um!" said I musingly; "I am not surprised to learn that none of you men
can understand such directions as those; I am not at all sure that I
understand them myself.  At the same time there is hint enough to put me
on the right track.  And now, O'Gorman," continued I, throwing all the
impressiveness I could muster into my manner, "I want you to listen to
me, and mark well what I say, for I am in downright earnest, and no
mistake.  I gather, from the whole drift of this adventure, that your
object in coming here is to hunt for a certain buried treasure, the
hiding-place of which is indicated on that paper in your hand.  Now, I
have brought you to this spot, and it is exceedingly probable that I may
be able to help you to find the treasure--if it is still where it was
originally hidden--while I am absolutely certain that you will _never_
find it without my help--and, when all is done, I can help you to convey
your booty successfully home.  Now, understand me, I want no reward
whatever, either in the shape of a share of the treasure, or otherwise,
for affording you this assistance; but I tell you plainly that I will
have respectful treatment, and perfect freedom, both for myself and for
the lady, together with every one of those little comforts and
conveniences for which I have asked.  Stop, I have not finished yet," I
continued, as I saw that he was about to bluster.  "You have been
labouring under the delusion, all along, that Miss Onslow's presence
among us affords you an effective means of coercing me to do certain
things for you.  Now, it is time that such an impression should be
removed.  I am perfectly willing to help you in any and every way, so
long as we are both treated with civility and consideration; but if you,
or any one of your men, should dare to molest Miss Onslow in any way, or
show her the slightest incivility, from that moment I will cease to help
or do anything whatever for you--which means, that even should you
succeed in obtaining the treasure that you are after, you will never be
able to take it home and enjoy it.  Now, think over what I have said,
and let me know your decision as soon as you have made up your mind.
But do not you ever again attempt to coerce me by uttering threats of
violence to the lady, for it will not do!  My chief stipulation is that
she shall be as absolutely secure from insult or injury among you as
though she were under the protection of her father's roof, and I mean
that she shall be so, or I will send the whole lot of you to the devil,
even if I have to accompany you."

To defy the whole gang in so uncompromising a manner was undoubtedly a
bold game to play, but it proved to be the right thing to do; for as I
stared the Irishman unshrinkingly in the eyes I saw his gaze wavering
under mine, and presently his scowling expression relaxed into a smile
as he exclaimed:

"Begorra, Misther Conyers, ye're a brave man intoirely to brazen the
thing out in that stoyle, one against sixteen of us.  But it's yourself
that knows right well that ye've got the pull of us, by raison of your
eddicashin, so I suppose we may as well let ye have your own way, and
make no more bones about it.  All we want is your help to find the
threasure and get it safely home; and if ye'll give us that ye may have
your own way in ivery thing else; it'll make no real differ to us."

"Very well," said I; "you are now speaking like a reasonable and
sensible man, and it is a bargain between us that I shall afford you the
fullest possible assistance to carry out your schemes--so far as they
may be lawful--upon the terms and conditions which I have stipulated.
Now, if you will let me have your paper, in order that I may study it as
a whole, I shall perhaps be able to gather the writer's full meaning,
and thus enable you to find the exact spot of which you are in search.
Meanwhile, you had better go ashore again, and give your immediate
attention to the few little matters that I mentioned just now, before
you lost your temper."

The fellow hesitated a moment, gazing doubtfully and still somewhat
distrustfully at me, and then, with a sigh, handed over the paper to my
keeping.  Then, without a word, he turned away, went down over the side
into his boat, and was forthwith pulled ashore.

As the boat shoved off from the brig's side, I opened the paper and
glanced at its contents.  The complete document read as follows:--

"Latitude 2 degrees 48 minutes 40 seconds South.  Longitude 144 degrees
10 minutes 10 seconds West.  Approach island from north-west, and stand
toward it with summit of hill bearing South-East by a half South, which
leads through the passage in the barrier reef.  Then haul up to South by
a quarter West for the mouth of the bight at the bottom of the bay.
Stand boldly in until abreast of the big rock at the mouth of the bight,
when clew up and furl everything.  Follow the bight until you reach the
lagoon, when anchor anywhere not closer than within a dozen fathoms of
the island.  The gems are buried in the earth at a spot which may thus
be identified.  Draw a line from one black rock to the other; and on
this line project another to the summit of the peak, making an angle of
sixty-five degrees to the westward.  Dig there, and the gems will be
found at a depth of three feet below the surface.  I write this that the
treasure may not be lost should I die ere I find opportunity to secure
it.

"John Withicombe."

The document was written in the calligraphy of an evidently educated
man; and now that I had it in its complete form in my hands I began to
regard the whole matter in a very different light from what I had
hitherto done; up to now I had been disposed to regard the adventure as
one that was more than likely to prove a wild-goose chase; but as I
noted the evidences of intelligence and education that the document
revealed on the part of the writer it suddenly dawned upon me that after
all there might be something in it.  But who was John Withicombe, and
how did he become acquainted with the existence of the treasure?  Did he
hide it himself, or did he discover its whereabouts by accident?  And
where did the treasure come from?

I was still puzzling over these questions when I was startled out of my
reverie by a light step beside me; and, turning, I beheld Miss Onslow
regarding me with eyes so brilliant that I could almost fancy they were
gemmed with tears.

"So," she exclaimed playfully, "you have been fighting another wordy
battle with that Irish wretch; and this time, having kept your temper
under control, you have emerged victorious from the conflict.  But oh,
Mr Conyers," she continued, her voice suddenly changing to a tone of
deep earnestness, "I cannot express to you how profoundly sorry I am
that you should thus continually be harassed and worried on my account--
oh yes, I heard everything; I was in the cabin, and the skylight was
open, so I could not help hearing what passed.  I know that these men
are taking advantage of my presence to coerce and terrorise you by means
of threats of violence toward me, and I cannot help feeling how
dreadfully you are hampered and embarrassed by having me to look after
and protect.  But you have never wavered or faltered for one instant,
you have forgotten all about yourself and have thought wholly and only
of me; and--and--I think it only right you should know how greatly I
appreciate your goodness, and--how--how--grateful I am for all that you
have done and are still doing for me."

There undoubtedly _were_ tears in her eyes as she concluded; but a
certain wild, delirious hope, that had half formed itself as I noted the
enthusiasm with which she had begun her speech, died out again as she
faltered and hesitated, and finally concluded in as sober, impassive,
conventional a tone as though she had been thanking me for procuring a
cab for her on a rainy night.  I hastened to assure her that she was
quite mistaken in supposing that her presence aboard the brig was an
embarrassment to me; that, on the contrary, it was the only pleasant
feature of the whole adventure, so far as I was concerned; and then,
fearing lest her gracious mood should tempt me to say more than she
would be willing to listen to, I hastily turned the conversation toward
O'Gorman's document, which I placed in her hands, asking her to read it
and tell me what she thought of it.

She read it carefully through once, and then handed it back to me with
the remark:

"I think it is perfectly genuine--everything appears to point in that
direction--and I have no doubt whatever that the gems will be found in
the spot indicated."

"I am now inclined to that opinion myself," said I.  "But how is the
spot indicated to be found?  The writer, you will observe, mentions two
black rocks, but he furnishes no clue whatever as to their whereabouts.
Where are we to look for these rocks? and how are we to identify them?"

"That particular passage," answered she, "is, I admit, decidedly
obscure.  Yet I think the context furnishes a clue to its elucidation.
It reads thus:--`anchor anywhere not closer than within a dozen fathoms
of the island,'--which I take to mean this small island, or islet,
opposite us.  The island was evidently the most prominent object in the
writer's mind when he penned the words immediately following those that
I have just quoted; and I therefore conclude that it is somewhere in
that small island--a most suitable hiding-place, I think you will
admit--that the treasure lies concealed.  And it is there also, I think,
that the two black rocks should be searched for.  As to how the rocks
are to be identified, the writer speaks of them in such a manner as to
suggest that there is no possibility of mistaking them; and I therefore
infer that there are two rocks--_and two only_--that can possibly be
associated with the instructions given in the paper."

"Yes," said I; "I quite see your line of reasoning; and I believe you
are right.  At all events, the suggestion is so reasonable that it is
quite worth following; and it is upon those lines that I shall advise
O'Gorman to go to work.  Ah, by Jove! look there!  I believe the fellow
actually means to stick to his bargain at last: here come the men with
the sails and so on that I have asked for; and to-night I hope you will
be able to rest in comparative coolness out here on deck, with an
awning, and all other proper shelter from the dew."

The boat, with half a dozen hands in her, was soon alongside, and by
midday we had not only an awning spread over the whole of the
after-deck, from the taffrail to the mainmast, but also a spacious
canvas sleeping-tent under it, divided into two compartments, and so
arranged that my companion might enjoy the most absolute privacy.  The
steward also came off, and resumed possession of his usual quarters, and
as he was one of the quietest and most respectable men of the party, was
as good a cook as "the doctor" himself, and seemed genuinely anxious to
do his best for us, it soon appeared as though we were about to be
favoured with a spell of peace and quietness.

Meanwhile, O'Gorman religiously refrained from obtruding himself upon us
until I had dismissed the boat's crew upon the completion of their
labours, when he came aboard, ostensibly to ascertain whether everything
had been done to my satisfaction, but actually--as I soon discovered--to
claim the assistance that I had undertaken to afford him.  And this, of
course, I was more than ready to give, now that I had obtained from him
what I wanted, being feverishly anxious to bring the entire adventure to
a conclusion as speedily as possible, in order that I might be free to
convey Miss Onslow in all safety and honour to her father's arms.  So I
threw myself heartily into the spirit of the search, accompanying
O'Gorman and a search-party to the islet, and actively participating in
a hunt for the two black rocks.  But, after persevering for more than
three hours, it became evident that the little spot was so completely
overgrown with tangled, impenetrable jungle that but one course was open
to us, that of clearing the ground by cutting down and destroying the
network of creepers that choked up the spaces between the tree-trunks.
This proved to be a lengthy and arduous undertaking, it being necessary
to cut the undergrowth away in blocks, as it were, and then drag the
detached masses to the water's edge and tumble them overboard.  But
after four days of this work, at the end of which there was very little
result to show for our labour, we found evidences of the islet having at
some previous period been cleared by means of fire, the workers having
encountered several charred and blackened tree-stumps; so we determined
to adopt a similar course, the vegetation being dry and in excellent
condition for such an experiment.  Accordingly, the undergrowth was
attacked with knives and axes on the weather side of the island, and the
detached masses, instead of being hove overboard, were allowed to remain
and thoroughly dry in the sun.  Then, when our accumulation of dry
brushwood seemed sufficient for our purpose, it was set alight, and in
half an hour the entire island was a blazing mass, there being just wind
enough to fan the flames and cause them to spread.  In two hours the
operation was complete, the once verdant and beautiful spot having been
converted into an ugly patch of flat and fire-blackened soil, some fifty
acres in extent, with two conspicuous outcrops of black rock protruding
from the ashes and debris of the conflagration.

There was very little doubt in my mind that the two outcrops of rock
rendered visible by the destruction of the vegetation upon the islet
were those referred to by John Withicombe, and I said as much to
O'Gorman, whose impatience to test the truth of my conviction was such
that he would have had me go to work with my rods and sextant that same
afternoon; but when we attempted to land upon the islet we found that
although the ashes were black on the surface they were still a dull
glowing red in the heart of them, and so hot that they were not yet to
be stood upon, leaving out of the question the veil of acrid,
suffocating, blue smoke that still wreathed and curled from out them.

Our enforced detention, however, was by no means wasted time, for now
that the surface of the island was bare, and I could see what I had to
work upon, I could also see that several long, slender ranging-poles
would be necessary, and the obtaining and preparation of these kept all
hands busy for the remainder of that day.  And immediately after
breakfast, next morning, I got out my sextant, and, all hands of us
landing upon the islet, we went to work with a will.  First of all, I
made my way to one of the masses of rock, and climbed up on it.  Both
masses had well-defined "peaks," and I came to the conclusion that the
instruction to "draw a line from one black rock to the other" would mean
that a _straight_ line must be drawn, or _ranged_, from one of these
well-defined peaks to the other.  So I temporarily removed the telescope
from my sextant, and, levelling it upon the extreme peak, or highest
point of the rock I occupied, brought it to bear upon the corresponding
peak of the other rock.  Then I sent a man along with instructions to
start from the other rock and walk toward me, halting whenever I raised
my hand and sticking a rod perpendicularly in the ground.  I met with a
great deal more difficulty than I had anticipated in securing the
satisfactory execution of this apparently simple operation, but by
keeping the telescope levelled from the one peak and bearing upon the
other, and making the man hold the rods truly vertical, I at length
succeeded in ranging out a perfectly straight line from the one rock to
the other.  Then, setting the limb of my sextant to an angle of
sixty-five degrees, and stationing myself at certain points in the
line--which I was easily able to do by means of the rods--I at length
found the exact point required, which I marked by driving a stake into
the ground.  "There," said I to O'Gorman, "is your point--if my
interpretation of the instructions given in your paper is the correct
one; and at a depth of a yard or thereabouts below the surface you ought
to find your treasure.  If you do not find it at this precise spot I
would recommend you to try a little to right and left, in line with the
poles that, as you see, I have left standing."



CHAPTER TWELVE.

FINDING THE TREASURE.

O'Gorman and his entire train of satellites being now upon the islet,
ready to dig until they had reached the buried treasure, I thought the
opportunity a good one to afford Miss Onslow a run ashore; so, taking
possession of the boat that O'Gorman had graciously intimated I might
use--the same craft that had done us such good service ere we fell in
with the _Governor Smeaton_--I paddled alongside the brig, and suggested
to the young lady that we should devote the remainder of the day to an
exploration of the island proper.  To this my companion acceded with
alacrity and evident delight; so, packing a small basket with everything
required for a substantial luncheon, I stepped the boat's mast, set her
canvas, and we got under way, working out through the loch into the big
lagoon formed by the barrier reef, and then coasting alongshore until we
reached a promising-looking landing-place.  Here we ran the boat up on
the beach, secured her, and, stepping ashore, decided to lunch before
proceeding farther, since it was by this time drawing well on toward
midday.  Then, having made a hearty meal, we plunged into the jungle,
with the idea of reaching the summit of the hill if we could hit upon a
practicable path.  Viewed from the sea, the island had the appearance of
being as completely and thickly overgrown with jungle as had been the
islet where O'Gorman and his gang were hunting for treasure, but upon
entering the forest we found that it was not so, and that, by keeping
our eyes about us, we might manage with very little difficulty to work
our way through the comparatively open spaces that occurred at frequent
intervals.  And we had not proceeded very far when we were fortunate
enough to fall athwart a tiny stream, with just the merest trickle of
water in it now, but which was evidently, in the rainy season, a
roaring, raging torrent.  The bed of this stream was full of small
boulders, that served very well as stepping-stones, and as we knew we
could not go astray if we followed the course of the stream, and as we
knew, moreover, that by so doing we should be constantly rising, and as,
further, we should thus avoid being impeded by the necessity to wind our
way through the jungle, we decided to adopt this course, with the happy
result that in about an hour's time we found ourselves close to the
summit, and above the line of vegetation.  There still remained about a
hundred feet of climbing to be done, however, ere we could attain the
summit; and this climbing had to be accomplished on a slope of some
sixty degrees, composed of fine, loose scoria, that gave way and slid
downward as soon as stepped upon.  I did not like to be beaten, however,
but soon found that, without poles to assist us, we should never make
any progress; so we contented ourselves with a walk round the peak--
which I now felt convinced was the crater of a quiescent if not extinct
volcano--and a leisurely survey of the magnificent panorama that lay
spread out beneath us.  By the simple process of walking round the peak
we obtained a view of the entire island, with its lagoon and barrier
reef; and so clear and pure was the atmosphere that we could not only
see but also identify every member of the working-party.  They were
still digging vigorously; but even as we watched them there arose a
sudden commotion and an excited rushing together among them, and a
second or two later the sound of their voices reached us; but although
it was perfectly evident that the speakers were powerfully excited, we
were too far distant from them to distinguish what was said; and
presently work was resumed for about ten minutes, at the expiration of
which several men leaped down into the excavation, and a minute or two
later we saw a not very bulky object lifted out of the hole and laid on
the surface of the ground, amid the frantic cheers of the entire party.

"The treasure!"  I exclaimed.  "They have found it, by Jove!  And they
have not been very long about it, either.  Well, I am sincerely glad and
thankful, for now we may hope soon to be homeward-bound, or at least
bound to some spot from which it will be possible for us to secure
passage to Calcutta."

I spoke with some enthusiasm; but my companion did not respond; she
remained silent, gazing dreamily into the far distance; and when I
looked at her, awaiting some answering remark, I saw that she was quite
pale, that she was biting her under-lip in a fruitless endeavour to stay
its quivering, and that there were undoubtedly tears in her eyes.  She
averted her face quickly, but I was confident that I was not mistaken as
to those indications of emotion.  Presently she spoke.

"I am glad," said she, "that you find cause for rejoicing in the
discovery that those wretches appear to have just made; and at first
sight it would almost seem as though your troubles should now be nearly
over.  But I cannot forget that those men have been guilty of two very
serious offences--first in seizing the brig from you and compelling you
to navigate her to this lonely spot, and next in their act of piracy in
connection with the _Marie Renaud_; and I fear--oh, I fear terribly--
that by and by, when we are nearing the end of our journey, they will
take some desperate step to effectually prevent your ever bearing
witness against them.  Have you ever thought of that as a possible
danger to which you may be exposed?"

"Well, yes," said I; "I must confess that such a contingency has
suggested itself to me; but they will require my help to get their booty
home and landed; and I will make it my business to discuss this matter
with O'Gorman in such a manner as to convince him that he cannot do
without me.  And meanwhile I must see if I cannot forestall any possible
action on their part by devising some plan which will enable us to
effect our escape in one of the boats when within easy distance of
land."

"Do you think such a thing possible?" she demanded, in much more
animated tones than those she had shortly before used.

"Why, yes," answered I.  "That is to say, we must _make_ it possible; we
must endeavour to devise some definite scheme, to be carried out at the
very first favourable opportunity, and we must then devote all our
energies to so arranging matters that when the moment arrives everything
will be in readiness."

We discussed this topic at some length, with no very definite result,
however; and finally, as it appeared to be exercising a distinctly
depressing effect upon Miss Onslow's spirits, I changed the subject, and
we made our way down to the boat again, and so aboard the brig.

But as we entered the inner lagoon we found that all hands had knocked
off work and had crossed to their camp; and presently O'Gorman made his
appearance at the entrance of one of the tents, beckoning us to
approach.  I waved my hand in assent, but made as though to put Miss
Onslow aboard the brig first, whereupon O'Gorman hailed that he wanted
us both to land and look at what had been found.  So I put a bold face
upon it, and ran the boat in upon the beach, from which we walked
together up to O'Gorman's tent.

As we entered, the first thing that met my gaze was a rusty and
earth-grimed iron chest, measuring about two feet square by perhaps
sixteen inches deep, on either side of which sat a man with a brace of
cocked pistols in his belt, evidently on guard.  The chest had been
fastened by two heavy padlocks of distinctly antiquated design, but
these had both been smashed, and the lid prised open, not without
inflicting some damage to the hinges.  I noticed, almost at once, that
O'Gorman and his companions wore a decidedly perplexed and slightly
chagrined air, and the reason therefor soon became apparent.

"So," said I, in a congratulatory tone, "you soon found your treasure,
then.  I hope it proves to be worth all the trouble you have taken to
secure it?"

"Begorra, thin, it's mesilf that'd be glad to be able to say `yis' to
that," answered the Irishman.  "But I'm puzzled; I can't make it out,"
he continued.  "_This_ is what we've found,"--giving the chest a kick
that betrayed a certain amount of temper--"but beyant a gallon or so of
pearls there's nothin' in it but pebbles; and I'd like ye to say whether
you think them pebbles is worth annything or not."

So saying, O'Gorman raised the heavy lid of the chest, disclosing an
interior subdivided into four compartments by thin hardwood partitions
running diagonally from corner to corner.  One compartment was packed as
full as it would hold of pearls, nearly all of which--if one might judge
by the top layer--were of very fair size, while a few, scattered here
and there, were exceptionally fine; and their exquisite satiny sheen
seemed to indicate that they were all of the first water.  Miss Onslow
could not suppress a cry of admiration and delight as she gazed upon
them--which tribute to their beauty--and consequent value--seemed to
afford considerable satisfaction to the finders.

"May I touch them?" asked I of O'Gorman.

"Oh yes," he answered, "I suppose there's no harm in y'r touchin' 'em,
if ye wants to."

I plunged my hand down into the heart of the compartment, turning over
the pearls, and bringing others to the surface; and it appeared that
they were all of pretty much the same quality and value.  "Why," said I,
"here is a respectable fortune for each of you in these pearls alone,
even if the `pebbles' turn out to be valueless, which is scarcely likely
to be the case, or they would not have been so carefully stowed away in
this chest.  Now, these, for example," I continued, turning to a
contiguous compartment more than half full of crystals that looked like
splintered fragments of rather dull glass, "are uncut diamonds.  Yes,"
as I felt two or three of them between my finger and thumb, "there is no
doubt about it: they have the true soapy feel; they are diamonds, and,
taken in bulk, of very great value.  And here, again," as I turned to
the next compartment, about as full as that containing the diamonds,
"these are rubies, unless I am very greatly mistaken; while, as to
these," turning to the last compartment, "they are emeralds--and there
are some beauties among them, too, apparently," as I fished up one or
two remarkably fine ones.  "Why, O'Gorman," I exclaimed, "you are rich
men--every mother's son of you--there are sixteen handsome fortunes in
this chest, fortunes big enough to set you all up as gentry, or to ruin
you in double-quick time, according to the use that you make of your
wealth."

"Begorra, sorr, that's the plisintest thing I iver heard ye say!"
exclaimed the Irishman, in high glee at my verdict as to the value of
the "pebbles," while the beaming countenances of the twain on guard
betrayed that their delight was fully as great as that of their leader.

There were further sounds of revelry ashore, that night, intermingled,
more than once, with other sounds suggestive of altercation and quarrel;
and just at sunrise, while I was taking a matutinal swim round the ship,
I saw all hands march out, in somewhat formal order, along the glade
upon which their camp was pitched, and disappear across the sand-spit
that formed one side of the loch entrance.  Ten minutes later, while I
was towelling myself on the fore deck, in the seclusion afforded by the
position of the galley, I was startled by what sounded like a distant
volley of pistol-shots; and about half an hour afterwards I saw the
crowd returning to camp by the way that they had gone.  As I watched
them shambling along over the somewhat uneven ground I was struck by
something rather unusual in their appearance; and presently I discovered
what it was: there seemed to be not quite so many of them.  By the time
that I had slipped into my clothes the party had arrived pretty nearly
abreast of the brig, and were close enough, to enable me not only to
count but to identify them.  _They were now only fourteen in number; and
the two absent ones were the men whom I had seen guarding the treasure
on the previous night_!  Somehow, the absence of these two men instantly
became associated in my mind with the volley of pistol-shots that I had
heard while overboard; and I began to wonder, gloomily, whether the
unearthed treasure had already brought a tragedy in its train.  I was
full of this idea as I sat down to breakfast; but as Miss Onslow did not
make any remark or inquiry concerning the pistol volley, I concluded
that she had not heard it, and was careful to say nothing whatever to
her about my suspicions.

O'Gorman and his companions remained in the seclusion of their tents all
the morning, not one of them, excepting the cook, showing themselves
until after dinner.  Then the Irishman and two hands appeared; and
presently they jumped into a boat and headed for the brig.  I went to
the gangway to receive them--so that we might be out of ear-shot of Miss
Onslow, who was sitting in the after-end of her sleeping-tent, reading--
and, even before the boat got alongside, I could see, by the sober faces
of those in her, that something serious was the matter.

O'Gorman boarded the brig alone, leaving his two companions in the boat
alongside.  I led him for'ard, and not until we had reached the fore
deck did either of us open our mouths.  Then the Irishman, turning to me
with a very serious face, said:

"Misther Conyers, we want y'r help again, son."

"Very well," said I; "I shall be pleased to help you in any way
possible.  What is it that you wish me to do?"

"We wish ye to divide up the threasure aiqually into fourteen parts, and
to give to aich man his own share, so that he may take care of it for
himself.  As things are now, wid all the gims lumped together in the
iron chist, the timptation and the opporchunity to shteal is too great,
and we've already lost two of our number through it."

"Lost two of your number?  Good Heavens, O'Gorman, what do you mean?"  I
demanded, my thoughts instantly reverting to the suspicious proceedings
of the morning.

"Why," explained O'Gorman, "it's loike this, ye see.  Whin we dug up
that chist yesterday, and got it over here, we could none of us be
satisfied until we'd broke it open and found out what it contained.
Then, as we couldn't fasten it up again, we decided to mount guard over
it, two men at a time, so that nobody should rob the others by sneakin'
away and helpin' himself unbeknownst.  But whin the first two guards was
relieved, last night, the cook took it into his head that they ought to
be searched; and whin this was done, by the Powers! we found that aich
of 'em had helped himself to a handful of the stones, and had 'em stowed
away in their pockets.  We thried 'em there and thin, found 'em guilty,
and sintenced 'em to be shot!  Which was done this morning."

"So!"  I exclaimed in horror, "this is the first result of your
so-called good fortune, is it?  A theft; and two of your number slain!
Man! do you know that the fourteen of you have committed _murder_!"

"Murder, is it?  Sorra a bit!" exclaimed the Irishman indignantly.  "We
thried the two of 'em, and found 'em guilty, all in regular, proper
ordher."

"But," said I, "you have no authority or legal right to try men,
sentence them to death, and execute them.  Whatever _you_ may consider
it, you will find that the law will regard it as wilful murder."

"The law?" ejaculated O'Gorman, with a contemptuous sniff.  "Oh,
begorra, we'll take our chance of that!  But we don't want any more
executions, Misther Conyers, so will ye help us to make a fair division
of our prize, that aich man may have his own and not be tempted to
shteal from another?"

"Are you making this request on your own account, or on behalf of the
rest as well?" demanded I.  "Perhaps the others may be unwilling to
trust to my fairness."

"Oh, but they will," answered O'Gorman.  "The proposal was mine, but
iverybody agreed to it."

"Very well, then," said I.  "I am willing to undertake the job, and will
do my best to make the division an equitable one."

So saying, I went aft and explained to Miss Onslow that I was going
ashore for an hour or two with O'Gorman, to afford him the benefit of my
advice in a certain matter, dived below to my cabin for some sheets of
writing-paper, which I rolled up and put in my pocket, and then,
returning to the deck, descended the side and entered the boat.

On reaching the shore, O'Gorman led me at once to the largest tent,
where I found the entire remainder of the party seated in a circle on
the ground, with the chest of treasure-trove in the centre; they had
evidently so little faith in each other that each had deemed it
necessary to individually watch the chest in his own interest.  The
incident would have been amusing but for the terrible element of tragedy
that had been imparted to it by the proceedings of the morning.

My first act, on entering the tent, was to provide, from my little stock
of writing-paper, fourteen pieces of exactly equal size and shape, which
I numbered from one to fourteen; afterwards folding the pieces
identically, so that the numbers written upon them were concealed, and
it became impossible to distinguish one piece from another.  These
papers I put on the ground in one of the men's caps, mixing and
shuffling them all together; and next I called for a square of canvas.
They brought me a boat's lug sail, which I caused to be spread flat and
smooth upon the ground; and then I had the chest lifted on to the middle
of the sail, seating myself beside it.  Then, starting with the pearls,
I picked out fourteen of practically equal value, and laid them, singly
and well apart, on the canvas before me, explaining my intentions as I
did so.  Then to these I similarly added fourteen more, and so on, until
each heap contained the same number of pearls, and was, as nearly as I
could judge, of the same value.  There were five pearls left over, and
these I reserved as possible make-weights, so to speak, in the further
division of the gems.  Then I proceeded with the diamonds in the same
way, following on with the rubies, and finishing off with the emeralds,
until the entire treasure was subdivided into fourteen parts of
practically equal value.  This done, I inquired whether they were all of
opinion that the _division_ had been evenly made; and upon receiving a
reply to the effect that "they supposed so," I gave the tickets in the
sailor's cap a vigorous, final shaking up, and then passed the cap round
in succession, requesting each man to take one paper.  Then, when all
had been drawn, I requested them to open their papers and look at the
numbers written thereon.  And, finally, the man who held number one was
allowed first choice from the fourteen heaps, number two the second
choice, and so on, until only one heap was left, which fell to the man
holding ticket number fourteen.  It was interesting to note the
difference in the behaviour of the men in choosing their heaps; some
hung fire and seemed quite unable to make up their minds for as much as
ten minutes or a quarter of an hour--and they would probably have been
longer but for the impatient remonstrances of their fellows--while
others simply laid their caps alongside the nearest heap and swept the
latter into the former with as little emotion as though they had been
purchasing a penn'orth of gooseberries at a street-barrow.

This process of subdivision of the treasure had run away with a
considerable amount of time, with the result that when I returned to the
brig the usual hour of "supper"--as the evening meal is generally termed
at sea--was long past; and, what was of far greater consequence, I found
that during my prolonged absence Miss Onslow had worked herself into a
perfect fever of apprehension as to my safety; which was not at all
surprising when one came to reflect upon what her situation would have
been--alone among all those ruffians--had anything perchance happened to
me.  But she quickly recovered her spirits when I informed her as to how
I had been occupied; and it was a great relief to me to discover, as I
did in the course of the evening, by means of sundry subtle questions
and remarks, that the poor girl entertained no suspicion whatever of the
morning's tragedy.  Such being the case, I resolved to keep the news
from her as long as possible; and, with a view thereto, I strenuously
impressed upon the steward that he was not, under any circumstances
whatever, to make the most distant reference to it.

During the fortnight that now ensued, the weather remaining gloriously
fine, I took Miss Onslow away in the boat daily, and together we
explored the island until we had become perfectly acquainted with every
inch of it, and knew exactly where to find its many beauty-spots.  On
the first two or three days of these excursions we frequently
encountered members of O'Gorman's gang wandering about the island in a
more or less apparently aimless fashion--most of them carrying canvas
bundles in their hands, which they invariably endeavoured unsuccessfully
to conceal from our view.  At first I was at a loss to understand what
all this meant; but on the third day it happened that, on emerging from
a jungle-path that we had made for ourselves, we came upon a kneeling
man busily engaged in digging a hole with a stick at the foot of a tree.
So intent was he upon his occupation that he did not hear us until we
were close upon him, and then he sprang to his feet and faced us with an
expression of mingled consternation and defiance, that changed to one of
confusion as he recognised us.  It was the young Cockney whom I have
already had occasion to mention once or twice; and he had gradually
impressed me as being about the most harmless and well-meaning of the
whole gang.

"Hillo, Harry!"  I exclaimed, "what are you after? seeking for more
treasure?"

"Why, no, sir," answered he, fingering the peak of his cap as he met
Miss Onslow's gaze.  He hesitated a few seconds, considering, and then
proceeded:

"The fact is, Mr Conyers, I was thinkin' of hidin' my little whack."

"Well," said I, "in that case I am exceedingly sorry that we disturbed
you, for now I fear that you will have to hunt for another
hiding-place."

"What for, sir?" demanded he.

"Why, because this lady and I have discovered your secret, don't you
see?"

"Oh, that be blowed!" exclaimed the young fellow.  "That don't make no
matter; I ain't afraid of you or the lidy stealin' the stuff; I wasn't
hidin' it from either of you."

"No?" queried I.  "From whom, then, were you hiding it?"

"Why, from the rest of 'em, of course.  We're _all_ hidin' our stuff
from one another.  We don't _tell_ each other so; but we're doin' it all
the same."

"I see," said I.  "You are unable to trust each other.  Well, that is a
pity.  One would have thought that there was not a man among you who
would not have felt abundantly satisfied with what he has secured."

"Maybe we are; but maybe we ain't," answered the fellow.  "Anyhow, when
I sees the rest all distrustin' one another, I thinks it's time for me
to distrust them.  So I spent all day yesterday huntin' for a good spot,
and comed along this way, and thought I couldn't do better than stow the
stuff at the foot of this big tree."

"Well," said I, "if I were you I should choose some other place.  How
are you to know that one of the men you distrust is not even now
watching you--and guessing your occupation--from some place of
concealment among the bushes?  Choose a spot that you can easily find
again somewhere in the heart of the bush, and bury it there, where
nobody can see what you are about."

"Thank'ee sir; I will.  I think I know a good place not far off," said
the fellow; and therewith, giving a sea-scrape with his foot, he turned
away and left us.  As for us, we resumed our walk, and were very careful
not to turn round or otherwise behave in such a manner as to lead the
man to suppose we desired to watch him.

During the period to which I am now referring, O'Gorman and his men did
no work whatever, but--after each had succeeded in satisfactorily
concealing his own share of treasure--spent their time in strolling
aimlessly--sometimes alone, and sometimes in parties of two or three
together--about the island, hunting for fruit, or climbing the cocoa-nut
trees to get at the nuts.  Then--I think it was about the sixteenth day
after the unearthing of the treasure--without any previous warning or
notice whatever to me--I saw them striking tents ashore, immediately
after breakfast; and by noon everything had been brought off to the brig
again, and the men had once more taken up their quarters in her
forecastle.  The remainder of that day was devoted to the task of
rebending the canvas; but it was not until noon of the next day that the
brig was again in a condition to go to sea.  That afternoon, and the
greater part of the following day, was devoted to the task of
replenishing the brig's stock of fresh water, collecting an abundant
supply of fruit, and--presumably--recovering possession of their hidden
treasure; and after breakfast next morning the crew went leisurely to
work to get under way.  It took us until noon to work our way out to
sea; and as soon as we were fairly clear of the barrier reef, everybody
went to dinner.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

I LEARN SOME DISTURBING NEWS.

The weather had been fine, with moderate breezes from about
west-north-west, during the entire period of our sojourn at the island,
and we left it under like conditions.  Our course for the Horn was a
south-easterly one, which brought the wind nicely over the starboard
quarter, and the breeze was of just the right strength to enable us to
show the whole of our starboard flight of studding-sails to it, and to
handsomely reel off our eleven knots per hour by the log.  Under these
circumstances we were not long in running the island out of sight; and
with its disappearance below the horizon I hoped that my troubles--
except, of course, such as might arise from bad weather--were at an end.
As for the men, their sojourn on the island had done them good, they
were in splendid health and--as might be expected of men in their
condition who had so easily become wealthy--in high spirits, they seemed
anxious to get home, and were, one and all, upon their best behaviour,
being apparently desirous of conciliating me to the utmost possible
extent, now that their own ends had been served.  But although I deemed
it sound diplomacy to allow them to believe that their endeavours in
this direction were meeting with perfect success, I could not forget
that, in the prosecution of their own selfish plans, they had shown
themselves to be callously criminal, and utterly indifferent to all the
hardship and suffering, mental and bodily, that they were inflicting
upon a young, delicately-nurtured, sensitive woman--to say nothing of
what they had caused me to endure; and I determined that, if it lay in
my power to scheme out such a result, they should, one and all, pay the
penalty of their crimes.

The apparently favourable condition of affairs to which I have just
referred continued for fully a week after our departure from the island;
and then I received a rude awakening.  It happened thus:

The weather was still gloriously fine, but the wind had drawn more out
from the southward until it was square upon our starboard beam, which,
with a decided increase in its strength, had caused us to take in all
our studding-sails except the fore-topmast, the boom of which was braced
well forward.  It was close upon sunset; and Harry, the Cockney, was at
the wheel.  The sky away to the westward about the setting sun wore a
decidedly smoky, windy look, with a corresponding wildness and hardness
and glare of colour that seemed to threaten a blusterous night; so much
so, indeed, that, pausing in my solitary perambulation of the deck, I
halted near the binnacle to study it.  As I did so, the helmsman, with
his eye on the weather leach of the main-topgallant-sail, said:

"Don't look at me, or take any notice of me, sir, because I don't want
them skowbanks for'ard to see me a-talkin' to you; but I've got
somethin' very partic'lar as I should like to s'y, if I can only find a
chaunce."

"Well, fire away then, my lad," said I.  "No time like the present.  I
am looking to see whether we are going to have a breeze to-night."

The fellow remained silent for a full minute, chewing vigorously at the
plug of tobacco in his cheek, and then said, still gazing intently
aloft:

"The long and the short of it's this, sir.  Them two swines, O'Gorman
and Price, have been s'yin' that after that business with the French
barque, and the shootin' of Karl and Fritz, it won't never do to let you
and the young lidy ever get ashore again."

So Miss Onslow's foreboding had come true, then!  We knew too much, and
were no doubt to be sacrificed in cold blood to ensure the safety of
this piratical gang.  But "fore-warned is fore-armed"; moreover, there
was this man Harry clearly disposed to be friendly to us, or why should
he take the risk of acquainting me with this terrible news?  As I
realised all the fresh anxiety and watchfulness that this information
would entail upon me, I faltered for a moment under a feeling of
overwhelming despair; but it was gone instantly; and within the next
second or two I had pulled myself together, the fighting instinct had
leapt up, alert and eager, and I was once more ready to do battle
against the whole ruffianly mob of them for the life and honour of the
girl that I now loved beyond any other earthly thing.

"And what do the men say to it?"

I asked, stepping up on the grating and, hands in pocket, balancing
myself jauntily to the heave and roll of the plunging hull as I
continued to gaze contemplatively at the windy sky away on our starboard
quarter.

"Why," answered, Harry, "it's no use denyin' that they're all of the
same mind as t'other two.  They s'ys that you knows enough to hang all
hands of us, and that you'd be certain sure to do it, too, if we was
only to give yer half a chaunce."

"And what is _your_ opinion upon the matter, my man?" demanded I.

"Well," said he, "I thinks as p'rhaps they're right, so far as that
goes.  But I don't hold with murder; and I said as I thought we might be
able to plan out a way of makin' ourselves safe without doin' no hurt to
you and the young lidy.  But they wouldn't listen to me; they're all for
makin' theirselves _safe_, as they calls it."

"And what is their scheme?" asked I.

"Why, accordin' to their present way of thinking they intends to ast you
to make the Brazilian coast, somewheres about twenty mile or so from
some big port; and they're goin' to tell you as when we've made the land
the brig is to be scuttled, and all hands--you and the lidy included--is
to take to the boats and land, givin' ourselves out to be a shipwrecked
crew.  But, at the last minute, when all is ready for leaving you and
the lidy is to be seized, lashed hand and foot, and locked up below, to
go down with the brig."

"A very pretty, diabolical, cold-blooded scheme," commented I, "and one
that would have been very likely to prove successful, had you not warned
me.  I am infinitely obliged to you, my man, and you may rest assured
that I will not forget, the good turn you have done me in making me
acquainted with the plan.  I shall endeavour to frustrate it, of course.
May I depend upon you to help me?"

"Why, as to that, sir," answered the fellow, "everything'll depend upon
what you makes up your mind to do.  I won't have nothin' to do wi'
murderin' of you, that's certain.  But, on t'other hand, I don't mean to
mix myself up with no job that means havin' my throat cut if the thing
don't happen to turn out all right."

"Just so," said I; "I see your position exactly.  I will think the
matter over, and see if I cannot devise some practicable scheme to get
to windward of those scoundrels, and will then have another talk with
you.  Meanwhile, kindly keep your ears open; appear to fall in with the
plans of the others, and let me know if any alterations are made--you
will find it greatly to your advantage to do so."

"Thank'ee, sir; I will," answered the man as I wheeled round, directed a
long, scrutinising glance at the canvas, stepped off the grating and
squinted into the binnacle, and finally resumed my perambulation of the
deck.

Now, here was a nice plot to face, and countermine!  A plot that was
only to be defeated by subtlety and strategy; for, at the most, there
were but three of us, all told, against thirteen ruthless, treacherous
men; and it was not to be forgotten that no dependence whatever was to
be placed upon the man Harry; his scruples apparently drew the line at
cold-blooded murder, but on the hither side of that, consideration for
his own safety might tempt him to any conceivable lengths; in short, it
needed but very little consideration to demonstrate that if I was to
secure his active co-operation, I must make it perfectly clear to him
that it would be distinctly to his interest to give it me.  Then there
was Miss Onslow.  She was a woman of a delicate and refined nature, of a
magnificent courage certainly, clever, and resourceful; and thus far
capable, perhaps, of affording valuable suggestions, but by no means to
be involved so tangibly in any scheme against the men as to expose her
to their vengeful fury in the event of failure.  The question whether I
should mention this latest development to her at all was one of long and
anxious mental debate with me; on the one hand I was intensely desirous
to spare this poor girl any further terror and anxiety; while, on the
other, I felt doubtful whether, in a matter that so vitally interested
her, I ought not to afford her the opportunity of bringing her keen and
clever woman's wit to bear upon the problem that had now thrust itself
upon us.  I spent an anxious, sleepless night, revolving countless
schemes in my head, and abandoning them, one after the other, either as
impracticable, or else too dependent upon chance.  The whole of the next
day and the succeeding night was similarly spent by me; and when I
sprang feverishly from my bunk, haggard and hollow-eyed with
sleeplessness and worry, on the second morning after my conversation
with the man Harry, I had come to the resolution that it was my duty to
inform Miss Onslow how matters stood with us, and to afford her the
opportunity to assist me with any suggestions that might occur to her.

An opportunity occurred shortly after breakfast.  I had taken my sights
for the brig's longitude, worked them out, laid down the result upon the
chart, and was abstractedly gazing at the latter as it lay spread out
before me upon the cabin table, anxiously seeking inspiration from a
study of the coasts, islands, and harbours delineated in miniature upon
the white paper, when the young lady stepped out of her cabin and--first
assuring herself that the steward was not within hearing--came to my
side, and, laying her hand upon my shoulder, said:

"I want you to tell me what is the matter.  There _is_ something very
seriously wrong, I know, for I was watching you all day yesterday, and
it was impossible for me to avoid noticing that while, when in presence
of the men you did your best to wear an unconcerned manner, the moment
that you deemed yourself free from their observation you sank into a
mood of gloomy abstraction and reverie, the meaning of which was not to
be mistaken.  And this morning you look absolutely _ill_ with worry,
your forehead is seamed with wrinkles of care and anxiety, and--
positively you are turning grey about the temples."

And as she spoke these last words her fingers lightly and--as it seemed
to me--caressingly touched me on the temples.  It was the first time
that she had ever done such a thing, and her touch thrilled me through
as with an electric shock, moving me to such an extent that I lost my
self-control, and forthwith behaved with the recklessness of a madman.
I seized her hand, threw my arm about her waist, and, drawing her to me,
kissed her on the lips.

"It is your own fault," I exclaimed wildly; "you should not have touched
me so tenderly and caressingly.  I love you, I tell you; I love you
beyond all power of speech to describe, and I have been upon the point
of telling you so over and over again, but have been deterred by the
knowledge that, unless you can return my love--which you have never
given me any reason to suppose is the case--such a confession on my part
must necessarily render your situation infinitely more embarrassing than
it is now.  And hitherto I have contrived to remain master of myself;
but when you touched my temples just now--"

"Poor fellow," she interrupted, astounding me by nestling in my embrace,
with flaming cheeks, but looking up at me with smiling eyes that shone
like stars, as her arm stole up and twined itself about my neck--"is it
indeed so bad as that with you?  I knew, of course, that you loved me--
the symptoms were quite unmistakable--but I scarcely dreamed of your
passion being so violent as it appears to be.  Well, never mind, Charlie
dear; your very startling, unexpected, and vehement declaration will not
produce the effect you seem to have feared, because, you see, it so
happens that _I return your love_--how could it possibly be
otherwise?"--her tone changing from tenderness to pride--"what woman
whose heart is free could possibly fail to love a man whose devotion is
what yours is, and has been, to me?  Yes, dearest, I love you with my
whole heart; and I am proud to think that, despite all my waywardness
and shortcomings, you have contrived to discover in me something worth
loving.  But _this_ is not what has been worrying you so terribly this
last few days--tell me what it is; I have a _right_ to know, now!"

"Yes," I assented, "you certainly have; but it is terrible news,
Florence, and I scarcely know in what words to communicate it to you.
Yet, be assured of this, my sweet, that, with the new courage that you
have just imparted to me, I will overcome this peril that looms ahead of
us, deadly though it be!"

And therewith I related to my sweetheart all that had passed between
Harry and myself, at the same time directing her attention to the fact
that this grisly peril was still a long way ahead of us; that it was a
far cry from where we were to the Horn; and that even after we had
rounded that wild headland, practically the whole stretch of the eastern
coast of South America would have to be traversed before the time would
be ripe for the villains to carry out their devilish scheme of murder
and destruction.  And then I strove to comfort her by directing her
attention to the chances of escape that might befall us, the ships we
should be certain to encounter--with the possibility of being able to
surreptitiously communicate with one or more of them, craving
assistance--and of my determination--as a last resource--to cast away
the ship and take our chance of being able to escape in one of the boats
during the confusion, rather than tamely navigate her to the spot that
should be selected by those fiends for the deed of destruction.

As I told her of the fate that had been planned for us, I saw her blanch
to the lips, and her eyes grow wide and glassy with horror; but
presently her colour returned and her mouth set in firm, resolute lines;
and when at length I ceased to speak, she said:

"My poor Charlie, no wonder that you look worn and worried!  But take
courage, dear; I cannot believe that God will permit those wretches to
murder us in cold blood.  He will surely inspire you with an idea that
will enable you to defeat and prevent an act of such atrocious
wickedness; and I have a sure conviction that in His own good time we
shall be accorded a happy deliverance out of all our troubles, and that
you will by and by enjoy the satisfaction of happily reuniting me to my
dear father--and receiving the usual reward accorded to the
all-conquering prince in the fairy tale."

"God grant it, my dearest!"  I exclaimed fervently, as I kissed her.
"And now," said I, "I must go on deck, I suppose, and endeavour to
appear as though I had not a care in the world; for if those fellows
notice that I am looking gloomy and preoccupied, they will at once guess
that I suspect something, and may in that case so precipitate their
plans as to render our case more desperate than ever."

"We will go together," said the brave girl, "and you shall have an
example of the deep duplicity of which I am capable.  I will defy any
one of them to detect the faintest shadow of care on my brow!"

And therewith she retired to her cabin, and presently emerged again,
attired for the deck.

It was a glorious morning of true Pacific weather, with the wind blowing
a merry breeze from about west-north-west; the sky, an exquisitely pure
and delicate turquoise blue, flecked with patches of fleecy,
prismatic-tinted cloud that here and there darkened the sapphire of the
sparkling, foam-flecked ocean with broad spaces of deep, rich, violet
shadow.  As for the brig, she was swarming along at a nine-knot pace
under all plain sail supplemented by her starboard studding-sail, with
her mast-heads sweeping in wide arcs athwart the blue as she swayed and
rose and sank in long, floating rushes over the rugged ridges of the
pursuing swell, while dazzling sunshine and purple shadow chased each
other in and out of the hollows of her canvas and athwart her grimy
decks.  There was a thin, eddying coil of bluish smoke hurrying from the
galley chimney under the high-arching foot of the fore-course and out
over the port cat-head; and the watch, having no sail-trimming to attend
to, were squatted upon their hams on the fore deck, playing cards.  The
hooker needed no looking after in such weather as this, and the only
individual, beside ourselves, abaft the mainmast was the helmsman.

Miss Onslow's appearance on deck never failed to attract the notice of
the men, although she had made a point of being up and down every day,
and all day long, and I soon discovered that we were the objects of the
stealthy regard not only of the group on the forecastle but also of the
man at the wheel.  But no child could have appeared more completely free
from care than she was; she chatted with me about Calcutta, and Simla,
described the characteristics of the several castes and classes of
natives, illustrating her description with amusing anecdotes that even
coaxed a smile upon the sullen, wooden visage of the fellow at the
wheel, and spoke of being reunited to her father with an absolute
confidence that left no room for even a shadow of suspicion that she
entertained the slightest doubt upon that subject.

A considerable period now elapsed without the occurrence of any incident
worthy of mention, except that I observed in the men a quite
extraordinary devotion to card-playing; they did no work of any kind
whatsoever beyond such necessary duties as making, shortening, or
trimming sale, as occasion demanded; and when they were not doing this
they were playing cards.  I was at first somewhat puzzled to account for
the feverish and unflagging zeal with which this particular form of
amusement was pursued by all hands; for although sailors are fond of an
occasional quiet game of cards, they are, as a rule, by no means
devotees of the pasteboards.  But at length I obtained enlightenment
from the man Harry: they were gambling with the gems for stakes!  This
intelligence disquieted me greatly, for I foresaw possibilities of
trouble in it; and by and by it came.  Meanwhile, however, I neglected
no opportunity to seek intelligence as to any change in the views of
these men with regard to the ultimate disposal of myself and Miss
Onslow, and learned from time to time--my informant, of course, being
Harry--that, so far, nothing had transpired justifying the suspicion
that any departure from the original plan was contemplated.  This was,
in a measure, gratifying, in so far at least as that it still left me a
fair amount of time to evolve some satisfactory scheme for our
salvation--a task in which I had not yet succeeded, although I had
considered I might almost say hundreds of ideas, only to discard them as
either impracticable or unreliable.

At the moment of which I am now about to speak--we were drawing close on
toward the meridian of the Horn, but well to the south of it; and the
weather was what sailors call "dirty"--a dark, scowling sky overhead,
charged with sleet and rain squalls that, when we ran into them, lashed
us and stung the skin like whips; the atmosphere was nippingly raw, and
thick enough to veil and blot out everything at a distance of more than
four miles; and the wind was blowing so fresh from the southward that
the men had at length been compelled to unwillingly turn out and snug
the brig down to double-reefed topsails, with the mainsail stowed.
There was a very steep and ugly beam sea running, and the brig was
rolling to it as though bent on rolling the masts out of her; while the
decks were mid-leg deep with the water that she dished in over the rail
at every roll with a regularity that I was very far from appreciating.
Worst of all, there was no pretence whatever on the part of the men to
watch the ship or keep a lookout--the scoundrels were well aware that I
might be depended on for that; the only man on deck was the helmsman;
and from the condition of those who came staggering aft from time to
time at the stroke of the bell to relieve the wheel, I more than
suspected that a drinking bout was under way in the forecastle.  Such a
condition of affairs was amply sufficient at any time to create within
me a sense of profound uneasiness, much more so at that especial time;
for we were then in a part of the ocean notorious for sudden, savage
gales, thick weather, and floating ice as deadly as any reef that ever
trapped a ship; and the safety of the brig, and of all hands, might at
any moment be fatally imperilled by the slightest lack of alertness, or
the briefest powerlessness on the part of the crew.  It was this
conviction alone that restrained me from an immediate endeavour to
recapture the brig; the conditions were propitious, for as I have said
all hands were below with the exception of the helmsman.  The cook, it
is true, was in his galley; but if I chose to arm myself with the
pistols that had been presented to me by the Frenchman aboard the _Marie
Renaud_, it would be no such desperate matter to slip for'ard and clap
the hatch over the fore-scuttle, secure the cook in his galley, and then
compel the half-drunken helmsman to surrender.  But to resort to such
measures as those where we then were would have been sheer madness; and
the idea no sooner occurred to me than it was dismissed as
impracticable.  But although impracticable just then, it might not be so
later on, when we should have arrived in less perilous latitudes; and I
there and then resolved to do everything that in me lay to facilitate
such a _coup_ on the first suitable occasion.

Meanwhile, it was little short of madness for the men to drink to excess
under the then prevailing conditions of weather and situation; and I
determined to remonstrate with O'Gorman for permitting such perilous
indulgence.  So I went aft and took the wheel, directing the man whom I
relieved to ask O'Gorman to come aft, as I wished to speak to him.

The fellow slouched away forward, lurching and slipping along the wet
decks, and disappeared down the fore-scuttle.  I deemed it not
improbable that he would avail himself of the opportunity to help
himself to another drink, and that it might possibly be quite five
minutes, or even ten, before he returned aft to resume his duty; but a
full half-hour elapsed, and still the fellow remained invisible.  I had
by this time very nearly come to the end of my stock of patience, and
was on the point of yelling to the cook--who kept close as a limpet to
the shelter of his galley, with the weather-door fast shut--to run to
the forecastle and summon someone to relieve me, when I became aware of
a din of excited shouts and yells arising from the fore-scuttle, that
momentarily grew in intensity until the disturbance was violent enough
to suggest that all pandemonium had broken adrift in that small
forecastle.  The cook, from his position, in the galley, heard the row
much more distinctly than I did, and, forsaking his pots and pans,
rushed forward, where he stood gaping down through the scuttle in an
attitude expressive of combined interest and consternation.  I shouted
to him to let me know what it all meant, but his attention was so
completely absorbed by what was happening below that he had no ears for
me; while, as for me, I had my hands quite full with the brig, and dared
not release my grasp of the wheel for a single instant lest she should
broach-to and get her decks swept, or possibly be dismasted.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

A DOUBLE TRAGEDY.

The rumpus continued for nearly ten minutes, and then quite suddenly
ceased; and as it did so the cook flung his legs over the coamings of
the fore-scuttle, and disappeared down the hatchway.  Some five minutes
or so later, O'Gorman appeared on deck, ghastly white, and with his
cheek laid open in a gash that extended very nearly from his left ear to
the corresponding corner of his mouth.  The blood was trickling down
upon the collar of his jacket and staining the whole of the left breast
of the garment, and his hands and cuffs were smeared with blood.  It was
at once evident to me that there had been a serious scrimmage in the
forecastle; a conjecture that was at once confirmed by the fellow
himself--who, I may mention, was completely sobered by the occurrence,
if indeed he had been the worse for drink at its outbreak.

"Hillo, Misther!" he exclaimed, as he arrived within speaking distance
of me, "are ye left all alone to look afther the hooker?  Be jabers,
that's too bad!  Where's the shpalpeen that ought to be doin' his thrick
of grindin' wather?"

"I sent him for'ard about three-quarters of an hour ago," said I, "to
tell you that I wished to speak to you; and the loafing blackguard never
returned.  But what has been the matter in the forecastle, and how came
you with that wound in your cheek?"

"Oh, begorra, but it's a bad job, intoirely!" he answered.  "We was all
havin' a little game of cards together, and to make the game lively we
was stakin' our gims.  Dirk got claned out at last--lost every stone of
his share--and then he jumped up and swore that Price had been chatin'
him.  Price knocked him down for sayin' it; but he jumped up again--wid
his mouth all bleedin' from Jack's blow--and, in a wink, before anny of
us knew what he was afther, he'd whipped out his knife and drove it
clean through poor Chips heart!  That was the beginnin' of the row.
When we saw what had been done, two or three of us attimpted to seize
Dirk and disarm him; but the murthering villain fought like all the
furies, layin' my cheek open, stabbin' poor Tom in the throat so that
he's bleedin' like a stuck pig, and pretty near cuttin' Mike's hand off.
And that's not the worst of it aither.  Some of the other chaps took
Dirk's side, swearin' that they'd seen Chips chatin', and in two two's,
sir, all hands had their knives out, and we was cuttin' and slashin' at
each other loike--loike--sodgers on a field of battle!"

"Are there any hurt beside Tom, Mike, and yourself?"  I asked, too
completely dazed with the sudden horror of the thing to look at more
than one side of it for the moment.

"Ay, begorra," answered the Irishman; "Dirk's done for, I expect; and
there's others of us that'll want plenty of watchin' if we're ever to
see the other side of the Line again."

"Is that so?" ejaculated I.  "Then for Heaven's sake send somebody to
relieve me, that I may go for'ard and see what is to be done in the way
of stitching and bandaging."

"Ay!" exclaimed O'Gorman, "bad cess to me for forgittin' it; that was
what I came aft to ye for."

And therewith he hurried away forward again, and in a few minutes a man
came aft and took over the wheel.  I hurried below, and found Miss
Onslow engaged upon some needlework.  She looked up with a bright smile
of welcome as I entered, but immediately sprang to her feet, exclaiming:

"Charlie! what has happened?  You are as white as a ghost!  Have you
received information of any fresh villainy?"

"No, dear, no," I interrupted.  "Something very serious has certainly
happened, but this time it concerns us only very indirectly.  The men
have been quarrelling and fighting among themselves in the forecastle,
and one or two of them are rather seriously hurt.  May I enter your
cabin for a moment, sweetheart?  There is a medicine-chest there, with,
probably, a supply of surgical bandages and so on.  I will take the
whole affair for'ard, as until I have seen precisely what is the matter
it will be impossible for me to know what I shall require."

"Then, Charlie, are you going to dress the injuries of those wretched
men?" she asked.

"Yes, dear," I answered; "you need not be uneasy, however; they will not
hurt me.  They will be quiet enough for some time after this, I expect;
and possibly the occurrence may have the effect of causing them to
determine on adopting some less inhuman method than murder to get rid of
us."

"God grant it--if it should come to the worst," answered the dear girl.
"But, Charlie, I was not afraid on your behalf, dear; they will scarcely
lay hands on you while you are engaged in alleviating their sufferings.
I was about to ask whether you think _I_ could be of any use; whether I
should go with you."

"Certainly not!" answered I, in accents of sternness that were, however,
levelled at the brutes forward, not at the sweet woman who was so ready
to forget all that she had endured at the hands of these ruffians, and
to undertake, she knew not what, in her willingness to forgive and help
them.  "No," I continued, "you will remain here, darling; this is your
end of the ship, and you can do no better than stick to it.  Whatever
may be necessary to be done forward, I can and will do."

I secured the medicine-chest--which luckily happened to be a fairly big
one for a vessel of the brig's size--and carried it forward to the
fore-scuttle, where one of the seamen relieved me of it and passed it
below.  Half a dozen or so of the gang were now on deck, looking very
crestfallen and subdued--to such an extent, indeed, that they actually
knuckled their foreheads to me as I appeared among them.  I did not
waste time, however, by attempting to bring home to them the evil of
their ways, but descended at once into the dark, grimy, and
evil-smelling hole where, until a few minutes ago, fourteen men had
lived in such comfort and harmony as go to make pleasant the existence
of forecastle Jack.  Heavens! what a filthy place it was! and how
woefully changed for the worse since I had last entered it--which was
before it had received its present tenants.  It was bad enough, even
then; but it was infinitely worse now.  It was a triangular-shaped
apartment, the apex of the triangle being the "eyes" of the vessel.  It
was barely six feet high from the deck to the under side of the beams,
and deck, walls, beams, and roof were all of one uniform tint of greasy
black, the result of a coating of dirt so thick that it could actually
be scraped off with a knife, or with one's fingernail.  It was fitted
all round with a double row of bunks, and in addition to them a number
of hammocks swung from the beams.  The place was unlighted, save by
means of the scuttle, and by a kettle-shaped slush-lamp that swung,
flaring and emitting a long streamer of fat, black smoke, from the
centre beam.  The deck was encumbered with the sea-chests of the
original occupants--which had been taken possession of by O'Gorman and
his gang--and was littered with tin plates, pannikins, fragments of
food, and empty and broken bottles; while its atmosphere was foul with
foetid odours, prominent among which were those of bilge-water and
cockroaches!  Three of the bunks in the lower tier were occupied--two of
the occupants lying quiet and still, while the third moved restlessly at
intervals, emitting low moans the while--and four men, evidently hurt,
reclined upon the deck, with their backs propped up against sea-chests.
As for O'Gorman, he stood close by the swaying lamp, holding a dirty,
bloodstained rag to his gashed cheek as his eyes rolled gloomily and
sullenly about the dark and stifling hole.

I gave my attention first to the figures in the bunks, beginning with
the still and silent ones.  The one I first approached happened to be
the man named Tom.  He was lying on his right side, with his white face
toward the light, his eyes partly closed and showing nothing but the
whites, and a fearful gash about four inches long in the left side of
his throat, from which the blood seemed to have been pouring as from a
pump, judging from the appearance of his clothes and the bunk; it was
merely oozing now.  I seized his hand and felt for his pulse; there was
none.  I tore open his saturated shirt and laid my hand upon his breast;
there seemed to be an occasional slight flutter of the heart, but if so,
it was so exceedingly faint as to render the matter extremely doubtful;
it was clear that the unfortunate man had bled, or was bleeding, to
death, and was far beyond such poor and inefficient help as I could
afford him.  I left him, therefore, and turned to the next bunk, which I
now saw was occupied by the body of the carpenter.  He lay, stretched
out on his back, just as he had been tossed in, and might have been
asleep but for the ghastly pallor of his face and the tell-tale purple
stain upon the breast of his waistcoat and shirt.  He was dead, beyond
all doubt; so I turned to the next man, who proved to be a gigantic
Dutchman named Dirk Van Zyl, the author of all the trouble.  This man, I
presently discovered, had received no fewer than nine wounds, four of
which, from their extent and situation, I considered desperate.  He
groaned, and cried, and screamed in the most bloodcurdling fashion when
I began to examine him, begging that he might be left alone to die in
peace; but I washed his wounds, one by one, and bound or stitched them
up as best I could--the job occupying fully three-quarters of an hour--
and when I at length left him, he seemed somewhat easier.  The next man
claiming my attention was an Irishman named Mike, whose left hand had
been struck by the Dutchman's knife such a savage blow exactly on the
joint of the wrist that the member was nearly severed.  I could do
nothing with such an injury as that but bind it up tightly, and place
the hand and forearm in splints and a sling, leaving Nature to work out
the rest of the cure, if she would.  There were three other men who had
received rather serious hurts, and for whom I did my best; and finally,
I stitched up O'Gorman's face for him, which completed a fairly stiff
morning's surgical work.  Then, having again examined the man Tom, and
found him to be quite dead, I carefully cleansed myself from all traces
of my ghastly labour and went aft, reaching the cabin just in time for
dinner.

While taking my after-dinner smoke that afternoon, I carefully
considered the situation as it had now become altered by the fatal
fracas in the forecastle; and--having no desire to be deemed a better
man than I really am--I may as well confess at once that, while I was
profoundly shocked by what had occurred, it was quite impossible for me
to regret it.  Indeed, to have done so would have been unnatural, for--
apart altogether from the hardship and anxiety that these men had
already so callously inflicted upon me, and the woman who was infinitely
dearer than life to me--I could not forget that they had all planned and
agreed together in cold blood to deliberately destroy my sweetheart and
myself, not one of them, except Harry--so far as my information went--
possessing even the small modicum of humanity that would have prompted
him to demur at the decision, and to urge the adoption of a less fatally
stringent course.  I therefore felt little or no pity for any of the
victims; while, so far as the ultimate escape of Miss Onslow and myself
was concerned, the prospect of such a result was distinctly improved by
the loss, on the part of our enemies, of two killed and six wounded, of
whom three of the latter were unfit for duty.  This reduced the number
of O'Gorman's gang to nine effectives, or, deducting the cook and
steward, a working-party of seven, all told, who would have to be
divided into two watches.  As I reflected carefully upon the matter,
looking at it in all its bearings, it seemed that the moment was
opportune for me to endeavour to secure something more than the
intermittent and shadowy authority that I had thus far been permitted to
exercise; and accordingly, when I next visited the forecastle, for the
purpose of taking a look at my patients--which was near the end of the
second dog-watch, that evening--I bluntly directed O'Gorman's attention
to the fact that we were now short-handed, and suggested that I should
take command of one of the watches.  He considered the question for some
few minutes, but was suffering altogether too acutely from the smart of
his gashed cheek to be able to reflect very deeply upon any subject, and
at length yielded a rather sulky and surly assent to my proposal, the
more readily, perhaps, since he had no one now left whom he could trust
to take Price's place.  I was careful to select for my command the watch
of which the man Harry was a member, since by so doing we should both be
on deck at the same time, and I should thus have an excellent
opportunity of conversing with him during the darkness of the night
watches, without attracting observation or arousing suspicion.

That same night, as soon as it was fairly dark, the bodies of Price and
the seaman Tom--unshrouded, and simply prepared for burial by the
attachment to their feet of an iron bar apiece, heavy enough to sink
them--were unceremoniously launched over the side, without the slightest
symptom of emotion; and in another half-hour their shares of the gems
were distributed, more or less evenly, among the survivors, the man Dirk
excepted.

On the third day after the tragedy that I have just described, a
momentary glimpse of the sun during the forenoon enabled me to confirm
my dead reckoning, and to satisfactorily establish the fact that we were
actually a few miles to the eastward of the dreaded Horn, although with
less southing than I could have wished; the southerly wind that had
prevailed for some time having gradually gone round to the eastward so
far that it at length became questionable whether we should succeed in
weathering the land, and so passing into the Atlantic.  And, to make
matters worse, the wind continued not only to work round but also to
increase in strength, to such an extent that at length the brig, instead
of heading east, had broken off to due north, while it had become
necessary to snug her down to close-reefed topsails and fore-topmast
staysail.  The thick weather, moreover, added another element of
anxiety, since I had only succeeded in gaining one solitary sight of the
sun for nearly a week--and that not when he was on the meridian, hence I
was quite unable to determine my exact latitude.  But the next morning,
shortly after daylight, when by my reckoning I had still forty odd miles
of sea-room, land was made ahead, some five miles distant; and upon
standing in a little closer, I was at length enabled to identify it as
the headland of Cape Horn itself.  Whereupon, we immediately wore round,
and stretched away to the southward on the larboard tack, I for one
being intensely thankful that we had made the notorious cape during
daylight, but for which happy chance the brig would in all probability
have gone ashore, and our adventure would have there and then come to a
premature end.

But although fortune had so far favoured us that we were enabled for the
present to avoid disaster, it was disappointing to discover that our lee
drift had been so excessive as to have caused us to lose ground, while
the slow but steady downward tendency of the mercury seemed to indicate
that, so far from our being justified in expecting any immediate
improvement in the weather, there was but too good reason to fear that a
change from bad to worse was imminent.

And it needed but a few hours' further experience to prove how well
founded were those apprehensions.  For, as the day wore on, the aspect
of the sky to windward grew increasingly menacing, the hue of the thick
canopy of vapour becoming hourly darker and more louring, while the
shredded clouds packed ever closer together in larger masses and of
wilder and more threatening form and colour, and the wind strengthened
until it was blowing a full gale, while the already heavy sea gathered
weight so fast that by eight bells in the afternoon watch it had, in my
opinion, become perilous to continue sailing the brig, and I accordingly
proposed to O'Gorman that we should stow the topsails, and heave-to
under storm staysails.

Now, the experience of the first day or two after the fight in the
forecastle had led me to hope that the tragedy of the occurrence had
frightened and sobered the men so thoroughly that there would be no more
trouble with them, so far at least as drink was concerned; but therein I
gave them credit for a higher standard of feeling than they possessed;
such sobering influence as the incident had exercised upon the fellows
had quickly evaporated, and on the particular day to which I am now
referring the demon of drink had once more brought them under his
influence with just enough effect to render them, one and all, reckless,
defiant, and utterly unmanageable.  Consequently, my proposal to shorten
sail and heave-to was met with scornful jeers and a point-blank refusal
to do any work whatsoever.  And the worst of it was that I had held on
with the canvas so long that the whole available strength in the ship
was now needed to successfully handle it, any attempt to do anything
unaided, or with the assistance of only one or two men, being worse than
useless.  There was nothing for it, therefore, but to let the two
double-reefed topsails stand as they were, and blow away or not as fate
might decide.

There was one comfort--and only one--to be found in the condition of
affairs that I have endeavoured to indicate, and that was that the brig,
heavily pressed as she was by her canvas, was ratching fast through the
water on a course that was not only carrying her off the land but also
somewhat to the eastward, so that, with the moderating of the gale, or
even a slight shift of wind, we might hope to pass clear into the
Atlantic.

But, after all, the amount of comfort to be derived from this reflection
was but small and fleeting in face of the steadily-increasing strength
of the gale and the rapidly-growing height and steepness of the sea;
even as it was, the man Harry, who happened to be at the wheel at the
moment that I now have in mind, found his strength and skill taxed to
the utmost to humour the brig along through that wild sea, the
perspiration streaming from every pore of him as he stood there, fully
exposed to the keen and nipping fury of the blast; and it was perfectly
evident that, unless something were speedily done, disaster must quickly
overtake us.

And something _was_ presently done; for although my representations and
suggestion had been met and rejected with scorn and derision, an
argument of a most convincing character was soon brought to bear upon
the contumacious ones, in the shape of a green sea that came right in
over the bows, half-filling the forecastle, and frightening the
occupants out of their wits, while it carried away some thirty feet of
bulwark on the port side.  The deluge of water that poured down through
the fore-scuttle was sufficient in volume to actually wash several of
the men out of their bunks; and the instant that the inpour ceased, all
hands with one accord sprang for the opening, fighting together like
savage beasts in their anxiety to reach the deck.  But although that
unlucky sea had inflicted upon the poor little over-driven brig a rather
serious amount of damage, it had produced at least one good result: it
had completely sobered all hands and brought them to a realising sense
of the necessity to take immediate steps for the prevention of further
mischief.

As the fellows gained the deck and saw the great gap in the bulwarks,
and observed the height, steepness, and generally dangerous character of
the sea, something very like a panic seized them, and they came rushing
aft, with loud and excited outcries, demanding to know what had
happened.  Meanwhile I had sprung to the wheel, to the assistance of the
helmsman, who, it was quite clear, was nearly exhausted by his
tremendous and continued efforts to control the movements of the brig.

"Never mind what has happened," answered I.  "What is done, is done, and
cannot be helped.  What you have now to do is to get down the last reef
in those topsails, and take in the fore-topmast staysail, when we will
heave-to.  Let go your fore and main-topsail halliards, man your
reef-tackles, and then away aloft, all hands of you, before worse
happens!"

The fellows, by this time quite sober, and fully alive to the perils of
their situation, needed no second bidding, but sprang about the deck
with all the eager, impetuous haste of men fighting for their lives; and
in less time than I could have believed possible they had bowsed out the
reef-tackles and were in the fore rigging, on their way aloft to
complete the operation of reefing the fore-topsail.  O'Gorman set a good
example by himself taking the weather yardarm and passing the earring,
and all hands were busily engaged in knotting the points when another
mountainous sea came swooping savagely down upon us with upreared,
hissing crest.  I saw that it must inevitably break aboard us, and
uttered a loud yell of warning to the hands aloft, who raised an
answering shout of dismay as they gazed in horror at the oncoming liquid
hill, the crest of which must have been very nearly as high as
themselves.  Some of them, abandoning their task, sprang for the
rigging, and, by the exercise of superhuman agility, actually contrived
to reach the top; but the rest remained upon the yard to gaze,
apparently paralysed with terror.  The poor little brig seemed to
shudder, like a sentient thing, as the great wall of water crashed down
upon her, burying her to the foremast; and then I saw the whole mast
buckle like a fishing-rod when a strong, heavy fish begins to fight for
his life, there was a crash of timber as the topmast snapped short off
at the cap, and the next instant away went the whole of the top-hamper
over the side, flinging far into the raging sea the four unfortunates
who had remained clinging to the yardarms!  As for the sea, it swept
right aft, filling the decks to the rail, smashing to splinters the boat
that was stowed on the main hatch, and carrying away the entire bulwarks
on both sides as far aft as the main rigging.  By the time that the
decks were clear of water, and we were free to think of other matters
than our own individual safety, the four men who had been flung
overboard--and one of whom was O'Gorman--had disappeared for ever, and
we had made the discovery that we had lost our bowsprit and
main-topgallant mast, as well as the fore-topmast, and that we had more
than four feet of water in the hold.  All this, mind you, with night
close upon us!

The loss of all head sail of course at once rendered the brig
unmanageable, and thus--apart from the effect of the further damage
sustained--our situation immediately became one of the extremest peril,
a circumstance which, coupled with the tragic disappearance of their
leader from their midst, completely cowed and subdued the survivors, to
the extent, indeed, of impelling them to come aft and implore me to take
full command of the brig.  Needless to say I made no difficulty about
acceding to this request; for prompt measures were imperative if the
vessel was to be saved, and, with her, Florence's and my own life; so
without pausing to read the men a moral lesson upon the evils of
intemperance, I forthwith issued orders for the goose-winged foresail to
be set, by which means we were at length enabled to get the brig before
the wind, and thus escape the immediate peril of being swamped.  This
achieved, the wreck of the fore-topmast and bowsprit was cut away, all
canvas was furled, and the brig was once more brought to the wind, and
hove-to under bare poles.  Then, although the men were inclined to
grumble, I insisted upon their going to the pumps and relieving the brig
of at least a portion of the water in her hold; for there were times
when, the water having accumulated forward, the poor little craft became
pinned down by the head to so dangerous an extent that it would have
been absolutely suicidal to have left her in that condition.  The
fellows toiled on until past two bells in the middle watch--by which
time they had reduced the depth of water in the hold to two feet--and
then knocked off, utterly exhausted, to go below and turn in; while I
undertook to keep the deck and watch the ship for the remainder of the
night.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

OUR ESCAPE AND RESCUE.

The brig, as she lay hove-to, rode comparatively easy and dry, requiring
no attention; all, therefore, that I had to do was to maintain a sharp
lookout, and be ready to show a light betimes in the event of another
craft heaving in sight and steering such a course as would be likely to
bring her foul of us.  But while my self-imposed duty was thus a light
one, demanding only alertness on my part, the situation and condition of
the brig were such as to cause me profound anxiety, which was in no
degree lessened by the loss of the four men who had gone overboard with
the wreck of the fore-topmast.  Had the ship been sound this last
circumstance would have caused me no regret whatever, for the simple
reason that their loss reduced the number of my enemies by four; but
their loss, and the casualties due to the fracas in the forecastle,
resulted in the reduction of the number of the effective crew to six, of
whom the cook and the steward were two who could be relied upon for
little or nothing more than mere pulling and hauling, while, of the
remaining four, two were still suffering from wounds sufficiently severe
to partially disable them; and this reduction, with the brig practically
a wreck, was a serious one.  Moreover, the glass remained very low, and
there was no indication whatever of the speedy abatement of the gale, or
even any ground for hope that we had seen the worst of it; on the
contrary, the sky looked wilder than ever, while the gusts of wind that
frequently swept down upon us were certainly growing more savage as the
minutes dragged their slow length away.

At length, after what seemed like an eternity of watching, the lagging
dawn came slowly oozing out of the scowling east, revealing a sky of
portentous gloom, of a deep, slatey-purple tint, blotched with shreds of
flying dirty-white vapour, and a sea that was positively appalling in
its height and steepness, and the fury with which it ran.  Yet, heavy as
was the sea, and swiftly as the great liquid hills came swooping down
upon the battered brig, the little craft rode them fairly well, if a
trifle languidly--which latter characteristic I attributed to the
quantity of water still present in her hull; and after studying her
behaviour by daylight for a full half-hour, I came to the conclusion
that the sooner that water should be pumped out of her, the better.  So,
watching my opportunity, I rushed for'ard along the unprotected deck--
over which the water washed heavily at times--and called all hands to
turn out and pump the ship dry; and after a great deal of grumbling, and
much show of disinclination, I at length succeeded in getting them on
deck, and persuading them to man the pumps.  They pumped steadily until
it was time to knock off for breakfast, when we sounded the well, and
found a depth of twenty-one inches.

Breakfast, that morning, was rather a comfortless meal, for the cook,
terrified lest he and his galley should be washed overboard together,
had not furnished a very appetising spread; while the wild movements of
the vessel, the harsh and dismal creaking of her timbers, the frequent
heavy washing of water along the decks, and the roar of the gale, all
combining together to create a concert of doleful sounds, rendered the
cabin a distinctly unpleasant place, of sojourn; I therefore made no
long tarrying at the table, merely remaining below long enough to snatch
a hasty meal, and to say a few words of comfort and encouragement to my
sweetheart, and then hurried on deck again, to see how matters were
faring there.

The scene that met my gaze as I emerged from the companion, was
depressing and discouraging in the extreme.  The sky looked darker and
more threatening than ever; the wind was freshening rapidly, and
sweeping along in savage gusts that smote the seething wave-crests and
tore them into blinding, stinging showers of salt spray, that so
thickened the atmosphere as to completely veil and hide everything
beyond a distance of half a mile.  The sea, mountainous as it had been
all through the night, had grown in steepness and height, and had
acquired a still more formidable and menacing run during the short time
that I had been below; while the fact was unquestionable that the brig
was labouring more heavily, and the sea washing in steadily-increasing
volume athwart that portion of her deck that lay unprotected through the
loss of her bulwarks.  It appeared to me that we should do better and
ride easier if we showed a small spread of canvas--just sufficient to
steady the vessel, to cause her to turn up a good bold weather side to
the seas, and to place her under command of her helm; and I accordingly
dodged my way to the fore-scuttle, and sang out for all hands to come on
deck to make sail.  They came at length, four of them, moving with that
slow and exasperating deliberation that the merchant seaman assumes when
he considers that he is being put upon; and at length, by dint of sheer
persistence, I induced them to overhaul the sail-locker, with the result
that we found a main staysail, new, and made of good stout canvas,
evidently intended for a storm sail, which, still working with the same
deliberation and show of indifference, they finally consented to bend
and set.  The result was at once apparent: the brig began to move
through the water, taking the seas very much easier as she was humoured
at them with the helm, while the increased height of weather side that
she turned up had the effect of considerably lessening the amount of
water washing over the deck, and rendering the task of getting fore and
aft comparatively safe.

But I was still not satisfied; great as was the improvement effected by
the setting of the staysail, the brig yet seemed to labour more heavily
than was to be reasonably accounted for, even by the fact that she had
water in the hold; and then it occurred to me to sound the well afresh
and ascertain whether the amount of that water was increasing.  I
accordingly fetched the rod, carefully dried it, and, watching until the
brig was for an instant on an even keel, lowered it down the pump
barrel.  Upon withdrawing it the startling discovery was made that since
the men had last been at the pumps the depth of water in the hold had
increased by three inches!  The water was draining into the hull,
somewhere, and that, too, in sufficient quantity to keep us busy.  I
directed the attention of the men to the condition of the pump rod; and
with deep, bitter curses levelled at the weather, the brig--at
everything, in short, except the indifference of themselves and their
shipmates that had brought us all to this pass--they went to work afresh
at the pumps, while I made my way to the forecastle, and, as was my
daily wont, attended to the injuries of the two wounded men, Dirk and
Mike, who were confined to their bunks.  With the brig leaping and
plunging so desperately my task was by no means an easy one, and upon
this occasion it occupied me so long, that ere I had quite finished, the
other men came below, still cursing and grumbling, to get their dinner.
I inquired whether they had succeeded in reducing the quantity of water
in the hold at all, and was informed--with further curses--that they had
only reduced it by about two inches, and that they were willing to be
eternally condemned if they ever laid a hand upon the pump brake again.
But about six bells in the afternoon watch, while I was at the wheel,
the man Harry came aft, sounded the well, and shouting to me "twenty-six
inches," went for'ard again; with the result that, a quarter of an hour
or so later, they all came aft once more, and continued pumping for
nearly two hours; with what effect, however, I could not say, for none
of them condescended to inform me.  Nor did either of them offer to
relieve me at the wheel; but that I was not at all surprised at, as they
doubtless considered that what they had done at the pumps was quite as
much as could be expected of them.  I was not forgotten, however; for
Florence, making use of the fire that I had caused to be lighted in the
cabin-stove, prepared for me a most substantial and appetising meal,
consisting of toasted rashers of ham, cabin bread--carefully cleared of
weevils--and tea, which she actually brought on deck to me, standing by
me and tending the wheel in the cleverest fashion while I hurriedly
devoured the food!  Not satisfied with doing this for me, the dear girl,
knowing that I had been on deck all the previous night, actually
proposed remaining at the wheel, in the midst of all the elemental fury,
long enough to enable me to snatch a few hours' sleep!  What think you
of that, shipmates, for devotion on the part of a sweetheart?  But that,
of course, was going altogether beyond the utmost that I could possibly
consent to, and, thanking her heartily for her generous solicitude, I
sent her below, with strict injunctions to turn in early and secure a
good night's rest.  For--although I was careful not to hint as much to
her even in the most distant fashion--I did not at all like the way that
matters were going with us; the leak and the men's aversion to the
labour of pumping, taken together, made up a bad lookout, and I foresaw
that unless a change for the better in one respect or the other soon
took place, it would speedily come to our being obliged to take to the
boats.

Throughout the whole of that wet, wild, cheerless night I stood at the
wheel, tending the ship and helping her through the seas; and it was not
until dawn was abroad that anyone came to relieve me; when Cockney Harry
made his appearance, staggering and dodging his way aft along the
flooded decks.

"Mornin', sir," he remarked as he took over the wheel from me.  "You
looks dead wore out, you do.  You surely ain't been at this here muckin'
wheel the whole blessed night, have ye, sir?"

"Certainly I have," said I, "seeing that the brig had to be looked
after, and neither of you men saw fit to relieve me!"

"Well," admitted the fellow, "that's a howlin' shime, and no mistike.
The fact is that we was all dead tired with sweatin' at them infernal
pumps.  I _meant_ to ha' come along and took a spell at water-grindin',
but in w'itin' for them swines to all go to sleep I went to sleep
myself, and never woke up agine until five minutes ago."

"Quite so," said I drily.  "But, if you really intended to have relieved
me, why have waited until the rest were asleep?"

"Well, ye see, sir, it was this way," answered the man.  "When we went
below lawst night, after knockin' off pumping all hands of us was on the
growl, 'cause of the heavy work we'd had to do; and Sam up and said that
the best thing we could do 'd be to tike to the boats, as soon as the
gale broke, and let the blessed old hooker go to the bottom, rather than
have to keep all on pumpin' of her everlastin'ly until we fetched a
port.  And the rest of 'em agreed with him.  Then Dirk ups and asts what
was to be done with you and the lidy; and, nobody else seemin' to have a
hawnser ready, I says that I supposes you'll both have to come with us.
But Dirk, he says No; it won't never do for you to land along of us; you
knows enough to hang some of us, and he for one don't mean to take no
risks; and t'others all agreed with him; and at last 'twas settled that
if the leak don't take up when the gale breaks, we're to take to the
boats, leavin' you and the lidy aboard to go down with the brig.  I
thought I'd wait and hear if anybody had anything else to say about it
afore comin' aft to relieve you; and it was while I was w'itin' that I
dropped asleep."

"Thank you, Harry, for affording me this very important item of
information," said I.  "You are a good sort of fellow, and you may
depend upon it that I will not forget the service you have done me.  And
so that scoundrel Dirk would leave the lady and me to drown, would he,
after all that I have done for him?  Very well!  Now, Harry, neither
Miss Onslow nor I will be left aboard here to drown, you may take your
oath of that.  It is clear to me, now, that it must be war to the death
between the forecastle and the cabin, and I shall take my measures
accordingly.  The question is: Which side--cabin or forecastle--do you
intend to be on?  If you choose to join me, I will do what I can for
you; and if you elect to throw in your lot with those murderers for'ard,
I will still bear you in mind, so far as I can, consistently with the
lady's and my own safety."

"Thank'ee, sir," answered the fellow.  "If I might make so bold, sir,
what do you intend to do?"

"That," said I, "I can only tell you in the event of your coming over on
my side."

"Very well, sir," returned he, "I'll think it over while you're tikin' a
rest, and let you know when you come on deck agine."

And therewith I went below and, flinging myself into my bunk, at once
fell into a profound and dreamless sleep that lasted until I was
awakened by the discordant clank of the pumps, about four bells in the
forenoon watch, when I found Miss Onslow patiently awaiting me in the
cabin, with another hot meal all ready for my delectation.

It was apparent to me, immediately upon awaking, that the gale had
broken; and when I went on deck I found that the sky had cleared to
windward, showing here and there fast--widening patches of blue sky,
while the wind had already dropped to the strength of a strong breeze;
the sea, however, showed little diminution of height, although it was no
longer so steep, nor was it now breaking dangerously; but the brig was
rolling as furiously and more sluggishly than ever; and the clear water
that gushed from the pumps told a tale that there was no mistaking.  I
noticed that five men were now working at the pumps--the cook and
steward being two of them--and all hands were growling together, and
cursing both loud and deep as they toiled at the brakes.

"Well, lads," said I, approaching them, "what is the news from the
pumps?  Is there any hope of getting them to suck?"

"Suck?" exclaimed one of them, in tones of ineffable disgust.  "No,
they'll never suck no more in this world.  There's up'ards o' three feet
o' water in the hooker, now, and she's gainin' on us at the rate o' two
inches an hour while we pumps at her.  She's bound to the bottom, she
is; and I only hopes she'll keep afloat long enough to let us get the
boats afloat without smashin' of 'em to smithereens alongside.
Whereabouts is the nearest land, mister; and how fur off is it?"

"Ask me after I have taken my sights at noon--it looks as though I shall
be able to get the sun to-day--and I will tell you," said I.  Then,
finding the men sulky, and quite tired of listening to their curses, I
went aft and relieved the wheel, remaining there until about a quarter
of an hour to midday, when, the sky having cleared, I sang out for
somebody to relieve me while I "shot the sun."  It was Harry who came at
my call; and as he took over the wheel he remarked, just loud enough for
me to hear, and staring away to windward as he spoke:

"I've made up my mind, sir; I'm with you and the lidy.  I ain't agoin'
to have no more truck with them other chaps; they're no better than
murderers; they've mide up their minds to leave you and the lidy aboard;
and there's no movin' of 'em from that."

"All right, my lad," said I.  "You will find, before many hours are over
your head, that you have made a wise choice.  Can you read?"

The fellow intimated that he could.

"Then," said I, "I will write out such instructions as it will be
necessary for me to give you, and you must find an opportunity to read
them over, unobserved by the rest.  And you must also obey them to the
letter; for upon your obedience will depend the success or failure of my
scheme."

With which I left him, and went below for my sextant.

Upon working out the result of my meridian observation, I found that we
were close upon one hundred and forty miles from Staten Island, which
bore North by East a quarter East of us--a distance which might be
traversed in less than forty-eight hours by a properly-equipped boat, in
fine weather.  But what if it should come on to blow again?  It was a
contingency that I did not care to contemplate.  There was one point in
our favour: the mercury was rising slowly and steadily; and, please God,
if we were able to leave the brig in good time we might succeed in
reaching shelter of some sort before the setting-in again of bad
weather.  And, in any case, it was a contingency that had to be faced,
since it was perfectly clear, by this time, that the brig had been so
severely battered and strained during the late gale that nothing we
could do would avail to keep her afloat much longer.

Having pricked off the brig's position on the chart, I proceeded to
write out my instructions to the man Harry.  It may perhaps be thought
that, in committing those instructions to paper, I was doing an
imprudent thing--that I was, in fact, furnishing irrefutable evidence of
my intentions, should the man choose to play me false, and show the
paper to his companions.  But I had faith in the fellow; there was an
honest look in his eyes; and the fact that he had of his own free will
warned me of the other men's intentions was another point in his favour.
And, last but not least, I believed that he had wit enough to see that
he would be better serving his own interests by attaching himself to me
than by throwing in his lot with the others, and that consequently he
would have no interest in playing me false; I therefore unhesitatingly
handed him his instructions at the first opportunity, and left him to
carry them out with as little delay as possible.

Upon returning to the deck, after working out my sights, I found that
the men had knocked off pumping, but were hanging about the deck, as
though waiting for something, instead of going below to dinner.  And
presently I found out what was in the wind, the man known as Sam
stepping forward to inquire whereabout my observation placed the ship.
I told him.

"Then," said he, "if we steers nothe-an'-by-east a quarter east, steady,
we're bound to fetch this here Staten Hiland, are we?"

"Certainly," said I.  "And I hope that we shall make it some time the
day after to-morrow."

"The day a'ter to-morrer!" ejaculated the man.  "Do ye mean with this
here brig?"

"No," said I; "I mean with the boats.  The brig could never fetch it, in
her present disabled condition, except with a fair wind, even if you
could keep her afloat so long, which I do not for a moment believe."

A grim smile of satisfaction--which the fellow strove to conceal--
flickered for a moment over his rugged, sullen features, and then he
turned away, without another word, and slouched forward, followed by his
companions.  As for me, I went aft and took the wheel from the man who
was tending it; and, as soon as he had disappeared, lashed it, and set
about certain preparations that I felt it was now high time to make.
These did not occupy me long, and upon their completion I went below,
where--the cook and Steward having been busy at the pumps all the
morning--Florence was awaiting me with a good, appetising dinner
prepared by herself.  While we were discussing the meal together--the
steward having gone forward with the others--I told my companion that
the supreme moment was at hand when it would be necessary for us to make
a bold dash for our lives, and I warned her to prepare for it by putting
all her slender stock of clothing together in a parcel, and to be ready
to act with me at a moment's notice as soon as the boats were in the
water.  She received my intelligence very quietly, and although she lost
her colour and became marble-white to the lips for perhaps a minute
while I explained my plans, her courage never faltered; and when I had
finished she put her hand in mine, with the simple remark:

"Very well, Charlie dear; you have only to tell me what you wish me to
do, and you will find me obedient in every particular."

Meanwhile, the wind, which had been blowing a strong breeze at
breakfast-time, had been dropping steadily all through the day, until
toward the close of the afternoon it had softened down to the strength
of a royal breeze, with a corresponding diminution in the height of the
sea; yet it was evident that it would not be possible to safely lower a
boat for some hours to come.  But that the men were eager to be off was
also perfectly evident, for instead of manning the pumps again after
dinner, they had spent the entire afternoon hanging about the decks,
inspecting and overhauling the boats, getting provisions, water, and
other necessaries together--the cook lighting a fire in the galley, and
boiling a considerable quantity of meat in the coppers--while, at
intervals, one or another of them would sound the well, and report the
result to his comrades; their actions being marked by a curious
commingling of stealthiness and candour, as though they were quite
unable to decide whether to keep their intentions a secret from me, or
whether it would be possible to still more completely hoodwink me by a
pretence of being perfectly frank and open.  At length, however, the
latter plan seemed to be the favoured one; for about sunset the man Sam
came to me with the information that they, had decided to leave the brig
at daybreak, and they'd be glad to know whether I thought the hooker 'd
keep above water until then without pumpin'.  Before replying, I
inquired what depth of water there was then in the hold, and at what
rate it was making, after which a brief calculation enabled me to assure
them that she would probably last until noon next day; but that
nevertheless I would recommend them to prepare for a start the first
thing after breakfast; and that the lady and I would be ready by that
time.

From this time forward the brig--hove-to, and with her helm lashed--was
left to take care of herself, the greatly-improved condition of the
weather permitting of this, while the men proceeded, in their own slow,
deliberate fashion, with their preparations for abandoning her.  As for
us aft, our preparations were of the simplest possible kind, consisting
merely of the stowing of our clothing in a bundle that could be flung
into the boat at a moment's notice--and the very careful loading of the
brace of duelling-pistols with which my unknown French friend had
presented me.  These little matters attended to, I urged Florence to lie
down and endeavour to secure a few hours' sleep, following the same good
advice myself as soon as she had retired to her cabin.

I was awakened about midnight by the man Harry, who had been anxiously
awaiting the moment for the others to get to sleep, in order that he
might slip aft, unnoticed, to inform me of the progress of his own
particular share in our enterprise.

"Well, Harry," said I, "how do matters stand?  Have you succeeded in
accomplishing all that I directed you to do?"

"Yes, sir," said he.  "I was afride at first that I shouldn't get a
chaunce to go down into the fore-peak without bein' noticed; but `the
doctor' made that right by asting for somebody to fetch him up a bit
more coal.  Which I offered to do for him.  Once I was down in the peak,
the rest was easy enough; the arms-chist hadn't never been locked, so I
collared a couple of pair of pistols, and then scraped the coal away
from under the chist until the whole bag o' tricks fetched away and slid
down into the water, where nobody won't ever find it again.  Then I had
a look at the magazine what poor Chips had knocked together.  The door
was only fastened by a staple, so I soon had it open; and when I'd found
a couple o' packets of pistol-cartridges, I just hove everything else I
could lay hands on down a'ter the arms-chist.  So, even though some of
'em has pistols, they won't have no ammunition for 'em--unless they
happened to have a few cartridges by 'em--which makes us all right."

"Capital!" exclaimed I.  "And, now, as to the final arrangements of the
men; what are they?"

"Why, 'twas arranged that I was to be on deck, so's to keep a sort of
general heye on the brig and you; and to call all hands for'ard at
daybreak--or earlier if the sea flattens down enough to launch a boat
afore then.  Then we're goin' to lower the gig that you had when you
picked us up--she bein' the most wholesomest boat of the two--and put
everything into her that we're goin' to tike with us--includin' plenty
o' grub and water.  And at the last minute, when we're ready to shove
off, you and the lidy are to be set upon and battened down below, and
then we all jumps into the boat and makes sail."

I considered a while, and then said, reflectively:

"It is just questionable whether it would not, after all, be the best
plan to let the scoundrels get right away, and then launch the French
boat."

"That's no good," interrupted Harry; "the French boat is stove.  Sam
thought of that last night; says he: `If we don't mind our weather heye,
that there feller aft may break his way out from below a'ter we're gone,
and get away in t'other boat.'  And Dirk, he says: `Tike the "doctor's"
coal hammer and smash in a bottom plank.  That'll stop any sich little
gime as you speaks of, Sam.'  And a'ter a little more talk, Sam ups and
does it while you was below, asleep."

"The scoundrels!" ejaculated I fiercely.  "So they are absolutely
determined to murder us, are they?  Very well; their blood be on their
own heads!  Now listen to me, Harry."  And therewith I unfolded my final
plans, and gave him a few last instructions; after which Harry went on
deck again, to be there in the event of any of the others taking it into
their heads to go on deck and have a look round.

Anxious to get as much rest as possible, I flung myself down upon one of
the sofa-lockers; but my nerves were just then rather too tautly strung,
and all my senses too keenly on the alert, to admit of anything like
sound sleep, and I simply dozed, hearing Harry's every movement on deck,
until the grey light of dawn began to ooze down through the skylight,
when I went to my berth, soused my head in a basin of cold water, had a
good refreshing wash, and then went on deck to look round; the people
forward appearing on deck at the precise moment when I emerged from the
companion.  They seemed to be rather disconcerted at seeing me, but I
feigned not to have noticed it, devoting my immediate attention to the
weather.  It was quite fine now, with a nice little royal breeze from
about due east; the sea had gone down wonderfully during the night, and
there was very little more than the heavy swell to contend with, while
even that looked a great deal more formidable than it really was.  As
for the brig, she was much more buoyant than I had expected to find her;
I gave her fully six hours longer to live--quite long enough to enable
the wretches who meditated my destruction to repair and launch the boat
that they had wilfully damaged, while the job would occupy them long
enough to enable me to gain a good start and get clear away from them.

The cook went to his galley, and lighted his fire, quite in the ordinary
way, and set about preparing breakfast, while the rest, going to the
_City of Cawnpore's_ gig, looked into her, talking together in low
tones.  Then they cast off the gripes and tackle falls, and lowered her
until her gunwale was just level with the rail, when they began to pass
into her and stow the kegs of water, provisions, and other matters that
they intended taking with them; and by the extreme care that each man
bestowed upon the storage of his own particular bundle of "dunnage," I
felt tolerably certain that their respective parcels of gems were
concealed therein.  Seeing them thus employed, I slipped down below,
gave Miss Onslow a call, and then returned to the deck with her and my
own bundle, together with the chronometer and sextant, all of which, in
an easy, off-hand manner, I placed in the stern-sheets.  As I did so,
the man Sam looked up, and exclaimed savagely:

"Here, what the--" but was instantly interrupted by one of his mates,
who murmured a few words in his ear.

"What is the matter?" demanded I, with a great affectation of innocence;
"surely there is room in the boat for the few things belonging to the
lady and myself?"

"Oh, ay," he growled surlily; "there's room enough--or, if there ain't,
we'll _make_ room, so's you and the lady shall have plenty o' clothes
for your trip--eh, mates?"

The others responded with a sinister laugh at the grim humour of the
joke; but without taking any notice, I looked on at the work with just
that amount of interest that I might be reasonably expected to take,
until the steward called me to say that breakfast was ready.  Then, with
a glance of intelligence at Harry--to which he responded--I turned away
and went below.

The breakfast was a very good one--just the substantial, appetising kind
that one would wish to sit down to upon such an occasion; and I did
ample justice to it.  At length, at what I judged to be the right
moment, I signed to Miss Onslow to go on deck, and then rose to my feet
as though to follow her; but instead of springing up the companion
ladder I turned to the steward, seized him by the throat, and flung him
violently to the deck.  The shock stunned him; and before he recovered
consciousness I had got him lashed arms and legs together, like a
trussed fowl, with a gag in his mouth that I had already prepared for
the purpose.  Making sure that he was quite secure, and could not
possibly release himself, or cry out, I dashed up the companion ladder,
and drew over the slide, securing it and the doors with wedges.  Harry
was sitting on the windlass barrel, taking his breakfast _al fresco_,
and acting as lookout generally while the others breakfasted below; and
directly he saw me throw up my hand as a signal to him, he slid off the
windlass, crept softly to the fore-scuttle, and swiftly closed the
hatch, securing it by thrusting a wooden pin through the staple.  There
was an immediate outcry from below, quickly followed by savage bangs
upon the underside of the hatch; but, taking no notice of these
manifestations, the fellow rushed aft and at once assisted me to place
Miss Onslow in the gig.  Then, springing to the tackle falls, we lowered
the boat smartly the short remaining distance to the water, and,
springing into her, unhooked the tackles and shoved clear of the brig.
Then, still working for our lives, we stepped the mast, set the sails,
and headed the boat to the northward.  Nor were we much too quick; for
we had scarcely placed a cable's length between us and the brig when we
heard a crash aboard her, and the next instant we saw the fellows rising
out of the forecastle and rushing aft.  Of course they at once caught
sight of us, and promptly blazed away with their pistols at us; but none
of the bullets came anywhere near.  Then they began to shout
imprecations at us, and prayers to us to return; but we remained equally
deaf to both, and in a few minutes--the boat slipping nimbly along
through the water--we were out of hearing of them, and congratulating
ourselves and each other upon our good luck in having succeeded in so
neatly effecting our escape without being obliged to fight for the
possession of the boat.

I headed north, with the intention of making Staten Island if possible;
but we had scarcely been under way two hours when Harry, who was
forward, keeping a lookout, sighted a sail dead to windward, heading our
way, and we at once so manoeuvred the boat as to intercept her.  She
came bowling down toward us, hand over hand, and when she was within
about three miles of us I made her out to be a frigate.  She was coming
so directly for us that it was impossible for us to miss each other, and
within half an hour of the moment when we first discovered her I had the
supreme satisfaction of assisting Florence up the side of Her Britannic
Majesty's ship _Ariadne_, commanded by my former shipmate and very good
friend Harry Curtis; while half an hour later the five men whom I had
left aboard the brig were taken off her, and safely lodged in irons on
the _Ariadne's_ lower deck.  Of the excitement that ensued upon our
rescue I have no space to dwell; suffice it to say that the _Marie
Renaud_ had duly arrived in Table Bay, and had there reported the act of
piracy of which she had been the victim, my letter being at the same
time placed in the hands of the authorities, who, after a proper amount
of deliberation, had despatched the _Ariadne_ in search of the piratical
brig.

Is there anything else to tell?  I think not, except it be to mention
that Miss Onslow was the heroine of the ship, and every man, fore and
aft, her devoted slave during our passage to the Cape, where the six
survivors of O'Gorman's gang were duly put upon their trial for piracy
upon the high seas.  The man Harry, acting upon my advice, offered to
turn Queen's Evidence; and the favourable report that I was able to make
of his conduct caused his offer to be accepted, with the result that he
received a free pardon, while Dirk the Dutchman was sentenced to death,
and the other four to penal servitude for life; the Dutchman, however,
cheated the gallows by _dying_ in prison of his wounds, after lingering
for so long a time that it seemed as though he would after all recover.

"And the gems that were the prime cause of so much of your trouble--what
became of them?"  I fancy I hear some fair reader exclaim.

Well, there proved to be such insuperable difficulties in the way of
establishing their rightful ownership that the Home Government very
kindly undertook the charge of them until the man who could
satisfactorily prove his right to them should put in an appearance.  It
was a marvellously curious circumstance, however, that I should have
happened to anticipate this precise difficulty and its probable
solution, almost at the moment when I first identified the distant
_Ariadne_ as a man-o'-war; with the result that--well, there is no need
to be _too_ explicit, is there? it will perhaps suffice if I say that
the seaman Harry is to-day living very comfortably indeed as an
independent gentleman of considerable means; while the four magnificent
suites of jewellery--rubies, diamonds, emeralds, and pearls--that Mrs
Charles Conyers, _nee_ Florence Onslow, sports from time to time are the
eternal envy and admiration of all who get the opportunity to see them.

THE END.





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