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´╗┐Title: Cormorant Crag - A Tale of the Smuggling Days
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
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 "Cormorant Crag - A Tale of the Smuggling Days" ***

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Cormorant Crag, a Tale of the Smuggling Days, by George Manville Fenn.

_______________________________________________________________________

In this excellent book of smuggling life on the south coast of England,
dating about 1830, from some of the passing comments made by the author,
we read of the adventures of two boys living on a small off-shore
island. One is the son of the local doctor, the other the son of the
squire, or owner of the land round about.  The boys are friendly with an
old fisherman called Daygo.  It is thought that he is of Spanish
descent, from the Armada, but despite his name and appearance, he denies
it.  He likes taking the boys out fishing, but feeds then a load of
yarns about the safety of a particular part of the cliffs, saying that
vessels getting too close to it have been known to disappear.  This is
actually quite true in a way because there is a huge cave, quite big
enough to accommodate a small vessel.

The boys borrow Daygo's boat, without his leave, and explore the
forbidden cave.  Of course they discover all the recently smuggled
goods.  But a few days later they are in there, having discovered another
way in by land, and are captured by the smugglers, who are French, and
kidnapped.  After that there are all sorts of exciting and perilous
situations, and it looks likely that the boys will not come out of it
alive.

But they do, of course!  A good read.
NH
_______________________________________________________________________

CORMORANT CRAG, A TALE OF THE SMUGGLING DAYS, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

A HOME AT SEA.

"Here, you, Vince!" cried Doctor Burnet, pausing in his surgery with a
bottle in each hand--one large and the other small, the latter about to
be filled for the benefit of a patient who believed himself to be very
ill and felt aggrieved when his medical adviser told him that he would
be quite well if he did not eat so much.

"Yes, father."

The boy walked up to the surgery door at the end of the long, low
granite house.

"Upon my word!" cried the Doctor; "it's lucky we have nobody here to see
you.  No one would ever take you for a gentleman's son."

"Why not, father?"

"Why not, sir!  Look at your trousers and your boots."

Vincent Burnet looked down, and then up in his father's face.

"Trousers a bit tight across the knee," he said deprecatingly.  "The
cloth gave way."

"And were your boots too tight at the toes, sir?  Look at them."

"They always wear out there," said Vincent; and he once more looked
down, beyond the great tear across the right knee of his trousers, to
his boots, whose toes seemed each to have developed a wide mouth, within
which appeared something which looked like a great grey tongue.

"I don't think this pair were very good leather, father," he said
apologetically.

"Good leather, sir!  You'd wear them out it they were cast iron.--Ah, my
dear!"

A pleasant, soft face appeared at the door, and looked anxiously from
father to son.

"Is anything the matter, Robert?"

"Matter?  Look at this fellow's clothes and boots!"

"Oh, Vince, my dear, how you have torn your trousers again!"

"Torn them again!--the boy's a regular scarecrow!" cried the Doctor.  "I
will not pay for good things for him to go cliff-climbing and wading and
burrowing in caves.--Here: what are you going to do?"

"Take him indoors to sew up that slit."

"No!" cried the Doctor, filling up the bottle; and then, making a small
cork squeak as he screwed it in, "Take your scissors and cut the legs
off four inches above the knees."

"Robert!" cried Mrs Burnet, in a tone of protest.

"And look here, Vince: you can give up wearing shoes and stockings; they
are for civilised beings, not for young savages."

"My dear Robert, you are not in earnest?"

"Ah, but I am.  Let him chip and tear his skin: that will grow up again:
clothes will not."

"All right, father; I shan't mind," said the boy, smiling.  "Save taking
shoes and stockings off for wading."

"Vincent, my dear!" cried his mother, "how absurd!  You would look nice
the next time Michael Ladelle came for you."

"He'd do the same, mother.  He always imitates me."

"Yes; you're a nice pair," said the Doctor.  "I never saw such young
savages."

"You're too hard upon them, Robert," said Mrs Burnet, laying her arm on
her son's shoulder.  "It does not matter out in this wild place, where
there is no one to see him but the fishing people; and see what a
healthy, natural life it is for them."

"Healthy! natural!" cried the Doctor sharply.  "So you want to see him
grow up into a sort of Peter the Wild Boy, madam?"

"No," said Mrs Burnet, exchanging an affectionate glance with her
sun-tanned son.  "Peter the Wild Boy did not have a college tutor to
teach him the classics, did he, Vince?"

"No, mother; he must have been a lucky fellow," said the boy, laughing.

"For shame, Vincent!" cried Mrs Burnet, shaking her head at the boy
reprovingly.  "You do not mean that."

"I believe he does," said the Doctor angrily.  "I won't have any more of
it.  He neglects his studies shamefully."

"No, no, indeed, dear," cried Mrs Burnet.  "You don't know how hard he
works."

"Oh yes, I do: at egging, climbing, fishing, and swimming.  I'll have no
more of it; he shall go over to some big school in Germany, where
they'll bring him to his senses."

"I do everything Mr Deane sets me to do, father," said the boy; "and I
do try hard."

"Yes--to break your neck or drown yourself.  Look here, sir, when are
you going to pay me my bill?"

"Your bill, father?  I don't know what you mean."

"Surgical attendance in mending your broken leg.  That's been owing two
years."

"When my ship comes in, father," cried Vince, laughing.

"But, I say, don't send me to a big school, father.  I like being here
so much."

"Yes: to waste the golden moments of boyhood, sir."

"But I don't, father," cried Vince.  "I really do work hard at
everything Mr Deane sets me, and get it all done before I go out.  He
never finds fault."

"Bah!  You're getting too big to think of going out to play with Mike
Ladelle."

"But you said, father, that you liked to see a fellow work hard at play
as well as study, and that `all work and no play made Jack a dull boy.'"

"Jack!" cried the Doctor, with his face wrinkling up, as he tried to
look very severe.  "Yes Jack.  But you're not Jack: he was some common
fisherman's or miner's boy, not the son of a medical man--a gentleman.
There, go and dress that wound in his trousers, my dear."

"And you won't send me off to school, father?  I do like private study
at home so much better!"

"Humph!  I don't know whether you're aware of it, sir, but you've got a
very foolish, indulgent father, who is spoiling you."

"No, he did not know that," said Mrs Burnet, smiling, as she looked
from one to the other proudly.  "And it is not true, is it, Vince?"

"No, mother, not a bit of it," cried the boy.

"And I feel sure that father will not send you away if you try hard to
master all your lessons with Mr Deane."

"Well, it isn't your father who is spoiling you now, Vince," said the
Doctor.  "There: I'll give you another six months' trial; and, here--
which way are you going?"

"Round by the south cliff to look for Mike Ladelle."

"Ah, I daresay he's shut up in his father's study hard at work!"

"No, father; I've been up to the house, and they said he had gone out."

"There, go and get mended; and you may as well leave this medicine for
me at James Carnach's.  It will be ready for you by the time your mother
has done."

"Yes, father--I'll come," cried the boy; and he hurried out of the
surgery.

"Ah!" said the Doctor, "you undo all my work by your foolish
indulgence."

Mrs Burnet smiled.

"I should be very miserable," she said, "if I could feel that all you
say is true."

"But see what a reckless young rascal he grows."

"No, I cannot see that, dear," replied Mrs Burnet.  "He is a thorough,
natural boy, and I am glad to find him so fond of outdoor life."

"And not of his studies?"

"He works very hard at them, dear; and I'm sure you want to see him grow
up manly."

"Of course."

"And not a weak, effeminate lad, always reading books over the fire."

"No, but--"

"Let him go on as he is, dear," said Mrs Burnet gently; "and show him
that you take an interest in his sports."

"Spoil him more still?"

"No: encourage him in his love of natural history."

"And making the place untidy with his messing about.  I say: by the way,
have you been at that bottle of acid?"

"I?  No, dear."

"Then he has, for some of his sham experiments."

"Mother!"

"Coming, my dear," cried Mrs Burnet, in answer to the call; and she
hurried into the house, leaving the Doctor to write out the directions
upon a label, so that Jemmy Carnach--fisherman when the sea was calm,
and farmer when it was rough--might not make a mistake when he received
his bottle of medicine, and take it all at once, though it would not
have hurt him if he had.

"Nice boy!" muttered the Doctor, as he made a noose in a piece of twine
and carefully tied the label to the bottle; "but I wish the young plague
had been a girl."

At that moment Vince was standing with one foot upon a stool, so that
the knee of his trousers was within easy reach of his mother's busy
fingers, while the bright needle flashed in and out, and the long slit
was gradually being reduced in extent.

"Mind, mother! don't sew it to the skin," he said laughingly; and then,
bending down, he waited his opportunity, and softly kissed the glossy
hair close to his lips.

"I say, mother," he whispered, "don't have me sent away.  Father doesn't
mean it, does he?"

"I don't think so, my dear; but he wants to see you try hard to grow
into a manly, sensible lad."

"Well, that's what I am trying to do."

Mrs Burnet took hold of her son's none too clean hand, turned it over,
and held up the knuckles, which seemed to have been cracked across, but
were nearly healed.

"Well, I couldn't help that, mother," protested the boy.  "You wouldn't
have had me stand still and let young Carnach knock Mike Ladelle about
without helping him?"

"I don't like fighting, Vince," said Mrs Burnet, with a sigh; "it seems
to me brutal."

"Well, so it is, mother, when it's a big, strong fellow ill-using a
small one.  But it can't be brutal for a little one to stick up for
himself and thrash the big coward, can it?"

"That is a question upon which I cannot pretend to decide, Vince.  You
had better ask your father."

"Oh, no!  I shan't say anything about it," replied the boy, giving his
short shock-brown hair a rub.  "I don't like talking about it.  Nearly
done?"

"Yes, I am fastening off the thread."

There was a snip given directly after by a pair of scissors; Vince gave
his leg a shake to send the trouser down in its place, and then stooped
and kissed the sweet, placid face so close to his.

"There," he cried; "don't you tell me I didn't pay you for mending the
tear."

"Ready, Vince?" said the Doctor, entering with the bottle neatly done up
in white paper.

"Yes, father."

"Mind, sir! don't break it."

"No, father: all right."

The next minute Vince was trotting sharply down the road towards the
rough moorland, which he had to partly traverse before turning down a
narrow track to the cliff edge, where, in a gap, half a dozen
fishermen's cottages were built, sheltered from the strong south-west
wind.

"You will not send him away, Robert?" said Mrs Burnet.

"Humph!  Well, no," said the Doctor, wrinkling up his brow; "it would
seem so dull if he were gone."



CHAPTER TWO.

"TWO FOR A PAIR."

"Hullo, Cinder!"

"Hullo, Spoon!"

"Who are you calling Cinder?"

"Who are you calling Spoon?"

"You.  Well, Ladle then, if you don't like Spoon."

"And you have it Scorcher if you like, old Burnet."

"Burnet's a better name than Ladelle."

"Oh, is it!  I don't know so much about that, Vincey.  And it isn't
pronounced as if it was going into a soup tureen.  You know that well
enough.  It's a fine old French name."

"Of course I know your finicking way of calling it _Lah Delle_; but, if
you're English, it's Ladle.  Ha, ha, ha!  Ladle for frog soup, Frenchy."

"You won't be happy till I've punched your head, Vince Burnet."

"Shan't I?  All right, then: make me happy," said Vince to another
sun-browned lad whom he had just encountered among the furze and
heather--all gold and purple in the sunny islet where they dwelt--and in
the most matter-of-fact way he took off his jacket; and then began a
more difficult task, which made him appear like some peculiar animal
struggling out of its skin: for he proceeded to drag off the tight blue
worsted jersey shirt he wore, and, as it was very elastic, it clung to
his back and shoulders as he pulled it over his head, and, of course,
rendered him for the moment helpless--a fact of which his companion was
quite ready to take advantage.

"Want to fight, do you?" he cried: "you shall have it then," and,
grinning with delight, he sprang upon the other's back, nipping him with
his knees, and beginning to slap and pummel him heartily.

Vince Burnet made a desperate effort to get free, but the combination of
his assailant's knees and the jersey effectively imprisoned him, and,
though he heaved and tossed and jerked himself, he could not dislodge
the lad, who clung to him like Sinbad's old man of the sea, till he fell
half exhausted in a thick bed of heather, where he was kept down to
suffer a kind of roulade of thumps, delivered very heartily upon his
back as if it were a drum.

"Murder! murder!" cried Vince, in smothered tones, with the jersey over
his head.

"Yes, I'll give you murder!  I'll give you physic!  How do you like
that, and that, and that, Doctor?"

Each question was followed by a peculiar double knock on back or ribs.

"Don't like it at all, Mike.  Oh, I say, do leave off!"

"Shan't.  Don't get such a chance every day.  I'll roast your ribs for
you, my lad."

"No, no: I give in.  I'm done."

"Ah! that sounds as if you didn't feel sure.  As your father says to me
when I'm sick, I must give you another dose."

"No, no, don't, please," cried Vince: "you hurt."

"Of course I do.  I mean it.  How many times have you hurt me?"

"But it's cowardly to give it to a fellow smothered up like I am."

"'Tisn't cowardly: it's the true art of war.  Get your enemy up in a
corner where he can't help himself, and then pound him like that, and
that."

"Oh!--oh!"

"Yes, it is `Oh!'  I never felt any one with such hard, bony ribs
before; Jemmy Carnach is soft compared to you."

"I say, you're killing me!"

"Am I?  Like to be killed?"

"No.  Oh!  I say, Mike, don't, there's a good fellow!  Let me get up."

"Are you licked?"

"Yes, quite."

"Will you hit me if I let you get up?"

"No, you coward."

_Bang, bang_.

"Oh!  I say, don't!"

"Am I a coward, then?"

"Yes.--Oh!"

"Now am I a coward?"

"No, no.  You're the bravest, best fellow that ever lived."

"Then you own you're beaten?"

"Oh yes, thoroughly.  I say, Mike, I can hardly breathe.  Honour
bright!"

"Say, you own you're licked, then."

"Yes.  Own I'm licked, and--Ah-h-ah!"

Vince gave a final heave, and with such good effect that his assailant
was thrown, and by the time he had recovered himself Vince's red face
was reappearing from the blue jersey, which the boy had tugged down into
its normal position.

"Oh! won't I serve you out for this some day, Mikey!" he cried, as the
other stood on his guard, laughing at him.

"You said you were beaten."

"Yes, for to-day; but I can't afford to let you knock me about like
this.  I say, you did hurt."

"Nonsense!  I could have hit twice as hard as that.  Pull your jersey
over your head again, and I'll show you."

"Likely!  Never mind, old chap," said Vince, giving himself a shake;
"I'll save it up for you.  Phew! you have made me hot."

"Do you good," said Mike, imitating his companion by throwing himself
down at full length upon the elastic heath, to lie gazing at the
brilliant blue sea, stretching far away to where a patch of amethyst
here and there on the horizon told of other islands, bathed in the
glowing sunshine.

The land ended a hundred yards from where the two lads lay as suddenly
as if it had been cut sharply off, and went down perpendicularly some
two hundred and fifty feet to where the transparent waves broke softly,
with hardly a sound, amongst the weedy rocks, all golden-brown with
fucus, or running quietly over the yellow sand, but which, in a storm,
came thundering in, like huge banks of water, to smite the face of the
cliff, fall back and fret, and churn up the weed into balls of froth,
which flew up, and were carried by the wind right across the island.

"Where's old Deane?" said Vince suddenly.

"Taken a book to go and sit on the rock shelf and read Plutarch.  I say,
what a lot he does know!"

"No wonder," said Vince, who was parting the heather and peering down
beneath: "he's always reading.  I wish he was fonder of coming out in a
boat and fishing or sailing."

"So do I," said Mike.  "We'd make him do the rowing.  Makes us work hard
enough."

"I don't see why he shouldn't help us," continued Vince.  "Father says a
man ought to look after his body as well as his brains, so as always to
be healthy and strong."

"Why did he say that?" said Mike sharply.

"Because it was right," said Vince.  "My father's always right."

"No, he isn't.  He didn't know what was the matter with my dad."

Vince laughed.

"What are you grinning at?"

"What you said.  He knew well enough, only he wouldn't say because he
did not want to offend your father."

"What do you mean?"

"That he always sat indoors, and didn't take enough exercise."

"Pish!  The Doctor did not know," said Mike sharply, and colouring a
little; "and I don't believe he wants people to be well."

"Hi!  Look here!" cried Vince excitedly.  "Lizard!"

A little green reptile, looking like a miniature crocodile, disturbed by
the lad's investigating hands, darted out from beneath the heath into
the sunshine; and Mike snatched off his cap, and dabbed it over the
little fugitive with so true an aim that as he held the cap down about
three inches of the wiry tail remained outside.

"Got him!" cried Mike triumphantly.

"Well, don't hurt it."

"Who's going to hurt it!"

"You are.  Suppose a Brobdig-what-you-may-call-him banged a great cap
down over you--it would hurt, wouldn't it?"

"Not if I lay still; and there wouldn't be a bit of tail sticking out if
he did," said Mike laughing.--"I'm not going to hurt you, old chap, but
to take you home and put you in the conservatory to catch and eat the
flies and blight.  Come along."

"Where are you going to put him?"

"In my pocket till I go home.  Look here: I'll put my finger on his tail
and hold him while you lift my cap; then I can catch him with my other
hand."

"Mind he don't bite."

"Go along!  He can't bite to hurt.  Ready?"

"Yes," said Vince, stretching out his hand.  "Better let him go."

"Yes, because you don't want him.  I do.  Now, no games."

"All right."

"Up with the cap, then."

Vince lifted the cap, and burst out laughing, for it was like some
conjuring trick--the lizard was gone.

"Why, you never caught it!" he said.

"Yes, I did: you saw its tail.  I've got it under my hand now."

"You've dropped it," cried Vince.  "Lift up."

Mike raised his hand, and there, sure enough, was the lizard's tail,
writhing like a worm, and apparently as full of life as its late owner,
but, not being endowed with feet, unable to escape.

"Poor little wretch!" said Vince; "how horrid!  But he has got away."

"Without his tail!"

"Yes; but that will soon grow again."

"Think so?"

"Why, of course it will: just as a crab's or lobster's claw does."

"Hullo, young gentlemen!" said a gruff voice, and a thick-set, elderly
man stopped short to look down upon them, his grim, deeply-lined brown
face twisted up into a smile as he took off an old sealskin cap and
began to softly polish his bald head, which was surrounded by a thick
hedge of shaggy grey hair, but paused for a moment to give one spot a
rub with his great rough, gnarled knuckles.  His hands were enormous,
and looked as if they had grown into the form most suitable for grasping
a pair of oars to tug a boat against a heavy sea.

His dress was exceedingly simple, consisting of a coarsely-knitted blue
jersey shirt that might have been the great-grandfather of the one Vince
wore; and a pair of trousers, of a kind of drab drugget, so thick that
they would certainly have stood up by themselves, and so cut that they
came nearly up to the man's armpits, and covered his back and chest,
while the braces he wore were short in the extreme.  To finish the
description of an individual who played a very important part in the
lives of the two island boys, he had on a heavy pair of fisherman's
boots, which might have been drawn up over his knees, but now hung
clumsily about his ankles, like those of smugglers in a penny picture,
as he stood looking down grimly, and slowly resettled his sealskin cap
upon his head.

"What are you two a-doing of?" he asked.  "Nothing," said Mike shortly.

"And what brings you round here?"

"I've been taking Jemmy Carnach a bottle of physic; and we came round,"
cried Vince.  "Why?"

"Taking Jemmy Carnach a bottle of physic," said the old fellow, with a
low, curious laugh, which sounded as if an accident had happened to the
works of a wooden clock.  "He's mighty fond o' making himself doctor's
bills.  I'd ha' cured him if he'd come to me."

"What would you have given him, Daygo?"

"Give him?" said the man, rubbing his great brown eagle-beak nose with a
finger that would have grated nutmeg easily: "I'd ha' give him a mug o'
water out of a tar tub, and a lotion o' rope's end, and made him dance
for half an hour.  He'd ha' been `quite well thank ye' to-morrow
morning."

Vince laughed.

"Ay, that's what's the matter with him, young gentleman.  A man who
can't ketch lobsters and sell 'em like a Christian, but must take 'em
home, and byle 'em, and then sit and eat till you can see his eyes
standing out of his head like the fish he wolfs, desarves to be ill.
Well, I must be off and see what luck I've had."

"Come on, Mike," cried Vince, springing up--an order which his companion
obeyed with alacrity.

The old fellow frowned and stared.

"And where may you be going?" he asked.

"Along with you," said Vince promptly.

"Where?"

"You said you were going out to look at your lobster-pots and nets,
didn't you?"

"Nay, ne'er a word like it," growled the man.

"Yes, you did," cried Mike.  "You said you were going to see what luck
you'd had."

"Ay, so I did; but that might mean masheroons or taters growing, or
rabbit in a trap aside the cliff."

"Yes," said Vince, laughing merrily; "or a bit of timber, or a sea
chest, or a tub washed up among the rocks, mightn't it, Mike?  Only
fancy old Joe Daygo going mushrooming!"

"You're a nice sarcy one as ever I see," said the man, with another of
his wooden-wheel laughs.  "I like masheroons as well as any man."

"Yes, but you don't go hunting for them," said Vince; "and you never
grow potatoes; and as for setting a trap for a rabbit--not you."

"You're fine and cunning, youngster," said the man, with a grim look;
and his keen, clear eyes gazed searchingly at the lad from under his
shaggy brows.

"Sit on the cliff with your old glass," said Vince, "when you're not
fishing or selling your lobsters and crabs.  He don't eat them himself,
does he, Mike?"

"No.  My father says he makes more of his fish than any one, or he
wouldn't be the richest man on the island."

The old man scowled darkly.

"Oh!  Sir Francis said that, did he?"

"Yes, I heard him," cried Vince; "and my father said you couldn't help
being well off, for your place was your own, and it didn't cost you
anything to live, so you couldn't help saving."

A great hand came down clap on the lad's shoulder, and it seemed for the
moment as if he were wearing an epaulette made out of a crab, while the
gripping effect was similar, for the boy winced.

"I say, gently, please: my shoulder isn't made of wood."

"No, I won't hurt you, boy," growled the old fellow; "but your father's
a man as talks sense, and I won't forget it.  I'll be took bad some day,
and give him a job, just to be neighbourly."

"Ha, ha!" laughed Vince.

"What's the matter?" growled the old man, frowning.

"You talking of having father if you were ill.  Why, you'd be obliged
to."

"Nay.  If I were bad I dessay I should get better if I curled up and
went to sleep."

"Send for me, Joe Daygo," cried Mike merrily, "and I'll bring Vince
Burnet.  We'll give you a mug of water out of a tar-barrel, and make you
dance with the rope's end."

"Nay, nay, nay! don't you try to be funny, young Ladle."

"_Ladelle_!" shouted the boy angrily.

"Oh, very well, boy.  Only don't you try to be funny: young doctor
here's best at that."

All the same, though, the great heavy fellow broke into another fit of
wooden chuckling, nodded to both, and turned to go, but back on the
track by which he had come.

Vince gave Mike a merry look, and they sprang after him, and the man
faced round.

"What now?"

"We're coming out with you, Joe Daygo."

"Nay; I don't want no boys along o' me."

"Oh yes, you do," said Vince.  "I say--do take us, and we'll row all the
time."

"I don't want no one to row me.  I've got my sail."

"All right, then; we'll manage the sail, and you can steer."

"Nay; I don't want to be capsized."

"Who's going to capsize you?  I say, do take us."

The man scowled at them both, and filed his sharp, aquiline nose with a
rough finger as if hesitating; then, swinging himself round, he strode
off in his great boots, which crushed down heather and furze like a pair
of mine stamps.  But he uttered the words which sent a thrill through
the boys' hearts--and those words were:

"Come on!"



CHAPTER THREE.

A DAY AT SEA.

Daygo's big boots crushed something beside the heather and little tufts
of fine golden gorse; for as they went along a slope the sweet aromatic
scent of wild thyme floated to the boys' nostrils; and the bees,
startled from their quest for honey, darted to right and left, with a
low, humming noise, which was the treble, in Nature's music, to the
soft, low bass which came in a deep whisper from over the cliff to the
right.  And as the boys drew in long, deep draughts of the pure, fresh
air which bathed their island home, their eyes were full of that happy
light which spoke volumes of how they were in the full tide of true
enjoyment of life in their brightest days.

They could not have expressed what they felt--perhaps they were
unconscious of the fact: that knowledge was only to come later on, in
the lookings-back of maturity; but they knew that the moor about them
seemed beautiful, and there was a keen enjoyment of everything upon
which their eyes rested, whether it was the purple and golden-green
slope, or the wondrous lights upon the ever-changing sea.

"Hi! look!  There goes a mag," cried Mike, as one of the brilliantly
plumed birds rose suddenly from among some grey crags, and went off in
its peculiar flight, the white of its breast of the purest, and the sun
glancing from the purple, gold and green upon its wings and lengthy
tail.

"Hooray!--another--and another--and another!" cried Vince, who the next
moment passed from the enjoyment of the beautiful in nature to the
grotesque; for he covered his lips with one hand to smother a laugh, and
pointed with the other to a huge square patch of drugget laboriously
stitched upon the back of the solid-looking trousers to strengthen them
for sitting upon the thwart of a boat, a rock, or a bush of furze,
which, when so guarded against, makes a pleasantly elastic seat.

But Vince's companion did not find it so easy to control his mirth; for,
as he gazed at the gigantic trousers in motion along the slope, their
appearance seemed so comic, in conjunction with Vince's mirthful face,
that he burst into a hearty laugh.

Vince gave him a heavy punch in the ribs, which was intended to mean:
"Now you've done it: he won't let us come!"

But old Daygo did not look round; he only shook his head and shouted:

"Won't do, young Ladle--_Ladelle_: you're thinking about the tar water,
but you can't be so funny as he."

The boys exchanged glances, but did not try to explain; neither speaking
till, to their surprise, the man turned suddenly to his right, and made
for a huge buttress which ran out some fifty feet from the rugged edge
of the cliff and ended in a soft patch of sheep-nibbled, velvet grass,
upon which lay, partly buried, a couple of long iron guns, while the
remains of a breastwork of stone guarded the edge of the cliff.

"I say! where are you going?" cried Vince.

"Eh?  Here," said the man, sitting down astride of one of the old
cannon.  "Think I was going to pitch you off?"

"No," said Vince coolly, as he went close to the edge and looked down at
the deeply-coloured purple, almost black, water at the foot of the
cliff, where there was not an inch of strand.  "Wouldn't much matter if
you did: it's awfully deep there, and no rocks.  I could swim."

"Swim?  Wheer?" said the man sharply.  "No man could swim far there.
T'reble currents and deep holes, where the tide runs into and sucks you
down if it don't take you out to sea.  Nobody's safe there."

"Might go all right in a boat," said Vince, still gazing down, attracted
by the place, where he had often watched before, and noted how the
cormorants, shags, and rock-doves flew in and out, disappearing beneath
his feet--for the great buttress overhung the sea, and its face could
only be seen by those who sailed by.

"Nay, nay; no one goes in a boat along here, boy.  There, I'm going to
fill my pipe and light it, and then we'll go.  Which o' you's got a
sun-glass?"

"I have," said Vince quickly.

"Let's have it, then: save me nicking about with my flint and steel."

The rough black pipe was filled, and the convex lens held so that the
sun's rays were brought to a focus on the tobacco, which dried rapidly,
crisped up, and soon began to smoke, when a few draws ignited the whole
surface, and the man began to puff slowly and regularly as he handed
back the glass.

"It's nothing a boy could do," he said, with one of his fierce, grim
looks, "so don't you two get a-glowering at a pipe like that."

"Get out!" said Vince quickly.  "I wasn't thinking about that.  I was
wondering who first found out that you could get fire from the sun."

"Some chap as had a spy-glass," said the old fellow, "and unscrewed the
bottom same as I do when I wants a light.  Might ha' fired one o' these
here with a glass if you put a bit o' tinder in the touch-hole."

"Yes," said Vince, "if the French had come."

"Tchah!" ejaculated the man contemptuously: "all fools who put the guns
about the island!  No Frenchies couldn't ha' come and landed here.
Wants some one as knows every rock to sail a small boat, let alone a
ship o' war.  All gone to pieces on the rocks if they'd tried."

"Same as the old Spaniards did with the Armada," said Vince.

"Spannles!  Did they come?"

"To be sure they did, and got wrecked and beaten and sunk, and all
sorts."

"Sarve 'em right for being such fools as to come without a man aboard as
knowed the rocks and currents and tides.  Dessay I could ha' showed 'em;
on'y there's nowhere for 'em to harbour."

"You'd better not try, if ever they want to come again," cried Vince,
with animation.  "Father says you are a Spaniard."

"Me?" cried the man, starting.  "Not me.  I'm English, flesh and bone."

"No: father says Spanish."

"Your father knows something about salts and senny," growled the old
fellow, "but I know more about Joe Daygo o' the Crag than any man going.
English right down to my boots."

"No: Spanish descent, father says," persisted Vince.  "He says he goes
by your face and your name."

"What does he mean?" said the man fiercely.  "Good a face as his'n!"

"And principally by your nose.  He says it's a regular Spanish one."

"He don't know what he's talking about," growled the old man, rubbing
the feature in question.  "How can it be Spanish when all the rest of
me's English?"

"It's the shape," continued Vince; while Mike lay on his back, listened,
and stared up at the grey gulls which went sailing round between him and
the vividly blue sky.  "He says there isn't another nose in the island a
bit like it."

"Tell him he'd better leave my nose alone.  But he is right there: there
arn't a nose like it--they're all round or stunted, or turn t'other way
up."

"Then he says your name Daygo's only a corruption of Diego, which is
Spanish for James."

"Yah!  It's Daygo--Joe Daygo--and not James at all.  He's thinking about
Jemmy Carnach."

"And he says he feels sure your people came over with the Spanish
Armada, and you're descended from some sailor, named Diego, who was
wrecked."

"You tell your father to mix his physic," grumbled the man
sourly.--"Here, are you two going to stop here talking all day?"

"No," cried Mike, springing up, his example being followed by Vince, who
was riding on the breech of the other gun.

"Then come on," growled the man, who made off now at a tremendous rate.
Away over furze, and up and down over sunny slopes, where the
fallow-chats rose, showing their white tail coverts; in and out among
bare patches of granite, which rose above the great clumps of gorse; and
still on, till all before them was sea.  Then he began to rapidly
descend a gully, where everything that was green was left behind, and
they were between two vast walls of rock, almost shut-in by a natural
breakwater stretching across, half covered by the sea and sand.  Below
them, in a natural pool, lay a boat which might have been built and
launched to sail upon the tiny dock of stone; for there was apparently
no communication with the sea, so well was it shut off from where, as
the bare and worn masses of grey rock showed, the waves must come
thundering in when the west wind blew.

Old Daygo went clumping down in his heavy boots, and the boys followed,
soon to reach where stones as big as cheeses lay in a long slope,
whither they had been hurled by the storms, and were rolled over till
they were smooth and roughly round as the pebbles in a stream.  Next
they had to mount a great barrier, which now hid the boat, and then
descended to its side, where it lay in the pool, only about twice as big
as itself, but which proved now to be the widening out of a huge crack
in the granite rocks, and zigzagged along to the sea, full of clear
water at all times, and forming a sheltered canal to the tiny dock.

"Some on 'em 'd like to have that bit o' harbour," said the man, with a
grin which showed his great white teeth; "but it's mine, and always will
be.  Jump in."

The boys obeyed, and the man fetched a boat-hook with a very sharp, keen
point, from where it hung, in company with some well-tarred ropes, nets,
and other fishing-gear, in a sheltered nook amongst the rocks, and then
joined them, and began to push the boat along the narrow waterway.

At the first wave sent rippling outward by the movement of the boat,
there was a rush and splash a dozen yards in front, as a shoal of
good-sized fish darted seaward, some in their hurry leaping right out of
the water, to fall in again with a plunge, which scared the rest in
their flight.

The boys sprang up excitedly, and Daygo nodded.

"Ay," he said, "if we'd knowed they was there, we might ha' crep along
the rocks and dropped a net acrost, and then caught the lot."

"Mullet, weren't they?" said Vince.

"Yes: grey ones," said Mike, shading his eyes, and following the wave
made by the retiring shoal.

"Ay--grey mullet, come up to see if there was anything to eat.  Smelt
where I'd been cleaning fish and throwing it into the water."

The boat went on after the shoal of fish, in and out along the great
jagged rift leading seaward, their way seeming to be barred by a
towering pyramid of rock partly detached from the main island, while the
sides of the fault grew higher and higher till they closed in overhead,
forming a roughly-arched tunnel, nearly dark; but as soon as they were
well in, the light shining through the end and displaying a framed
picture of lustrous sea glittering in the sunlight, of which enough was
reflected to show that the sides of the tunnel-like cavern were dotted
with limpets, and the soft, knob-shaped, contracted forms of sea
anemones that, below the surface, would have displayed tentacles of
every tint, studded, as it were, with gems.

The roof a few feet above their heads echoed, and every word spoken went
whispering along, while the iron point and hook of the implement old
Daygo used gave forth a loud, hollow, sounding click as it was struck
upon side or roof from time to time.

"I say," cried Vince suddenly, "we never tried for a conger along here,
Mike."

"No good," growled Daygo.

"Why?" said Vince, argumentatively.  "Looks just the place for them:
it's dark and deep."

"Ay, so it is, boy; and I daresay there arn't so many of they mullet
gone back to sea as come up the hole."

"Then there are congers here?"

"Ay, big uns, too; but the bottom's all covered with rocks, and there's
holes all along for the eels to run in, and when you hook 'em they twist
in, and you only lose your line."

He gave the boat a vigorous shove, and it glided out into the light once
more, a hundred yards from the cliff, but with the rugged pyramid of
granite through which they had passed towering up behind them, and its
many shelves dotted with sea-birds lazily sunning themselves and
stretching out their wings to dry.

A few flew up, uttering peculiar cries, as the boat darted out of the
dark arch beneath them; but, for the most part, they merely looked down
and took no further notice--the boat and its little crew being too
familiar an object to excite their fear, especially as its occupants did
not land, and the egg-time was at an end.

"Now, then, up with the mast, lads!" said the old man; and cleverly
enough the boys stepped the little spar by thrusting its end through a
hole in the forward thwart and down into a socket fixed in the inner
part of the keel.  Then the stays were hooked on, hauled taut, and up
went the little lug-sail smartly enough, the patch of brown tanned
canvas filling at once, and sending the boat gliding gently along over
the rocks which showed clearly deep down through the crystal sea.

"Soon know how to manage a boat yourselves," said the old man grimly, as
he thrust an oar over the stern and used it to steer.

"Manage a boat ourselves!" cried Mike.  "I should think we could--eh,
Vince?"

"Should think you could!" said the old man laughing.  "Ah! you think you
could, but you can't.  Why, I hardly know how yet, after trying for
fifty year.  Wants some larning, boys, when tide's low, and the rocks
are bobbing up and down ready to make holes in the bottom.  Don't you
two be too sure, and don't you never go along here far without me."

The boys said nothing; but they felt the truth of the man's words as he
steered them in and out among the jagged masses of granite, around which
the glassy currents glided, now covering them from sight, now leaving
bare their weed-hung, broken-out fangs; while on their left, as they
steered north toward a huge projection, which ran right out on the far
side of a little bay, the perpendicular cliffs rose up grey and grand,
defended by buttresses formed by masses that had fallen, and pierced
every here and there by caverns, into which the water ran and rushed
with strange, hollow, whispering noises and slaps and gurglings, as if
there were peculiar creatures far up in the darkness resenting being
disturbed.

Every now and then the sea, as it heaved and sank, laid bare some
rounded mass covered with long, hanging sea-weed, which parted on the
top and hung down on either side, giving the stone the appearance of
some strange, long-haired sea monster, which had just thrust its head
above the surface to gaze at the boat, and once this was so near that
Mike shrank from it as it peered over the thwart, the boat almost
grating against the side.

"Wasn't that too close?" said Vince quickly.

"Nay," said the old man quietly: "if you didn't go close to that rock,
you'd go on the sharp rock to starboard.  There's only just room to
pass."

A minute later, as the two lads, were gazing in at the gloomy portals of
a water-floored cave, in and out of which birds were flying, a dexterous
turn of the oar sent the boat quickly round, head to wind, the sail
flapped over their heads, and Vince seized the boat-hook without being
told, and, reaching over the side, hooked towards him a couple of
good-sized pieces of blackened cork, through which a rope had been
passed and knotted to prevent its return.

This rope Mike seized, hauled upon it, drawing the boat along, till it
was right over something heavy, which, on being dragged to the surface,
proved to be a great beehive-shaped, cage-like basket, weighted with
stones, and provided with a funnel-like entrance at the top.

"Nothing!" cried Mike; and the lobster-pot was allowed to sink back into
the deep water among the rocks as soon as it had been examined to see if
it contained bait.

Then there was another short run, and a fresh examination of one of
these trap-like creels, with better success; for a good-sized lobster
was found to be inside, and, after two or three attempts, Vince seized
it across the back, and drew it out as it flicked its tail sharply, and
vainly sought to take hold of its aggressor with its formidable,
pincer-armed claws.

Old Daygo hooked the lobster towards him with the toe of his boot,
clapped it between his knees, and cleverly tied its claws with pieces of
spun yarn before dropping the captive into a locker in the stern, half
full of water, which was admitted through holes in the side.

A couple more lobster-pots were tried, without success, as the boat
glided along by the side of the great granite cliffs, where the many
black cormorants, which made the shelves and points their home, gave
ample reason for the solitary island, far out among the rushing waters
of the fierce currents, to be named Cormorant Crag by all who sailed
that way, and avoided as the most dangerous rock-bound place off the
coast.

Then came a change, the boat being steered to a channel which ran
between a mighty mass of piled-up granite and the cliffs.  This gap was
about forty yards wide, and the pent-up waters rushed through, eddying
and rippling, and taking the boat along at a rapid rate.  But Daygo
steered close enough in to enable him to throw the little grapnel in the
bottom of the boat on to the rocks nearest the cliffs.  The iron caught
at once, the line was checked and fastened, and the boat, swung now in
the swift race close to a little keg, from which ran a row of corks,
anchored in a calmer place across the tide.

"Down with the lug!" growled the old man.  His crew lowered the sail
quickly, and stowed it out of their way, for the chief feature of the
little trip was close at hand.  Old Daygo went forward now, shaking his
head at the boys' progress of hauling in the trawl-net line themselves.

"Ay," he said; "you can take out the fish if there be any."  And he
methodically dragged the net, which had been stretched like so many
walls of meshes overnight right across the swift waters of the tide,
having been down long enough for the ebb and flow both to pass through
it, with the consequence that, if fish had passed that way, they would
have been pocketed or become netted among the meshes from either side.
But a good deal of the net was dragged into the boat before the
glittering scales of a fish were seen.

"Red mullet!" cried Vince, as he pounced upon two small ones, looking as
if clothed in mother-o'-pearl, speckled and stained with scarlet.

These were taken out and thrown into the locker, with the result that
the lobster flipped its tail and splashed about furiously.  But by this
time there was a golden gleam in the net drawn aboard; taking his turn,
Mike dragged out a grotesque-looking, big-headed John Dory, all
golden-green upon its sides, and bearing the two dark marks, as if a
giant finger and thumb had been imprinted upon it.  This, too, with its
great eyes staring, and wide mouth gaping feebly, was thrown into the
locker.

Then old Daygo began to growl and mutter: for the meshes showed the
heads only of a fine pair of red mullet, the whole of the bodies having
been eaten away; and a minute later up came the cause, in the shape of a
long, grey, eely-looking fish, which writhed and struggled violently to
get free, but only entangled itself the more tightly.

"Nay, nay! let me come," cried the old man, as he saw the boys whip out
their knives.  "I don't want my net cut to pieces; I'll do it myself."

He threw the portion of the net containing the captive on one side in
the bottom of the boat, and hauled in the rest, which contained nothing
but a sickly green, mottled-looking wrasse of about a couple of pounds
weight.  Then the lines, cords, and anchors were got on board, and,
leaving the boat to drift with the sharp current which carried it
onward, the old man drew a long, sharp-pointed knife from its sheath,
and cautiously turned over portions of the net.

"Oh, murder!" said Mike.

"Well, how many poor fish has it murdered?" said Vince.  "Mind it don't
pike you, Joe!" he shouted.

"I'm a-goin' to, my lad; and you mind, too, when you ketches one.
They'll drive their pike at times right through a thick leather boot;
and the place don't heal kindly afterward.  Ha! now I've got you," he
muttered, as, getting one foot well down over the keen spine with which
the fish was armed, and which it was striking to right and left, he held
down the head, and, carefully avoiding the threads of the net, stabbed
it first right through, and then dexterously divided the backbone just
at its junction with the skull, before, with the fish writhing feebly,
he gradually shook it clear of the net, and stood looking viciously down
at his captive.

"Won't eat no more mullet right up to the head, will he, lads?"

"No; he has had his last meal," replied Vince, turning the fish over and
displaying its ugly mouth.  "Now, if it was six feet long instead of
four, you'd call it a shark."

"Nay, I shouldn't; and he would be a dog-fish still.  Well, he's eat a
many in his time.  Now his time's come, and something'll eat him.  Hyste
the sail."

The dog-fish--a very large one of its kind--was thrown overboard, the
sail hoisted, and the boat began to glide onward toward the semicircular
bay into which they were drifting, with the huge, massive promontory
straight ahead.  Then the oar was pressed down, and the boat began to
curve round.

"Hi! stop!  Don't go back yet!" cried Vince.

"Eh?  Why not?  No more lobster-pots down."

"I want to sail across the bay, and get round by the Scraw."

"What!" cried the old man, looking at him fiercely.  "You want to go
there?  Well!"

He turned his eyes upon Mike, who encountered the fierce gaze, and said,
coolly enough:

"Well, all right; I want to go too.  I've only seen the place at a
distance."

"Ay, and that's all you will ever see on it, 'less you get wings like
one o' they shags," said the old man, pointing solemnly at a great black
bird sunning itself upon an outlying rock.  "They've seen it, p'r'aps;
and you may go and lie off, if you're keerful, and see it with a
spy-glass."

"And climb along to the edge of the cliff, and look over?" said Vince.

"What!" cried Daygo, with a look of horror.  "Nay, don't you never try
to do that, lad; you'd be sure to fall, and down you'd go into the sea,
where it's all by ling and whizzing and whirling round.  You'd be sucked
down at once among the rocks, and never come up again.  Ah! it's a
horful place in there for 'bout quarter of a mile.  I've knowed boats--
big uns, too--sailed by people as knowed no better, gone too near, and
then it's all over with 'em.  They gets sucked in, and away they go.
You never hear of 'em again--not so much as a plank ever comes out!"

"What becomes of them, then?" said Vince, looking at the rugged old
fellow curiously.

"Chawed up," was the laconic reply, as the old fellow shaded his brow,
and gazed long and anxiously beyond the headland they were leaving on
their left.

"But I want to see what it's like," said Mike.

"Ay, and so has lots o' lads, and men, too, afore you, youngster," said
the old man solemnly; "and want's had to be their master.  It arn't to
be done."

"Well, look here," continued Mike, for Vince sat very thoughtfully
looking from one to the other as if he had something on his mind: "steer
as close in as it's safe, and let's have a look, then."

"Do what?" roared the old man fiercely.

"Steer as close in as it's safe," repeated Mike.  "We want to go, don't
we, Vince?"

The lad nodded.

"Don't I tell you it's not safe nowhere?  It's my belief, boys, as
there's some'at 'orrid about that there place.  I don't say as there is,
mind you; but I can't help thinking as there's things below as lays hold
o' the keel of a boat and runs it into the curren' as soon as you goes
anywhere near--and then it's all over with you, for you never get back.
Your boat's rooshed round and round as soon as you get clost in, and
she's washed up again the rocks all in shivers, and down they goes, just
as if you tied a little 'baccy-box at the end of a string, and turned it
round and round, and kep' hitting it again the stones."

"Oh!  I don't believe about your things under water doing that," said
Mike--"only currents and cross currents: do you, Cinder?"

Vince did not answer, but sat gazing beyond the great headland, looking
very thoughtful.

"Ah, my lad! it's all very well for you to talk," said the old man
solemnly; "but you don't know what there is in the wast deep, nor I
don't neither.  I've heerd orful noises come up from out of the Scraw
when the wind's been blowing ashore, and the roarings and moanings and
groanings as come up over the cliffs have been t'reble."

"Yes, but it isn't blowing now," said Mike: "take us in a bit, just
round the point."

"Nay," said the old man, shaking his head; "I won't say I won't, a-cause
I could never face your fathers and mothers again, for I should never
have the chance.  I'm getting an old 'un now, and it wouldn't matter so
much about me, though I have made up my mind to live to 'bout a hunderd.
I'm a-thinking about you two lads, as is only sixteen or so."

"Vince is only fifteen," said Mike quickly, as if snatching at the
chance of proving his seniority.

"On'y fifteen!" cried the old man.  "Think o' that now--on'y fifteen and
you sixteen, which means as you've both got 'bout seventy or eighty
years more to live if you behave yourselves."

"Oh, gently!" cried Mike; but Vince did not speak.

"And do you think I'm a-going to cut your young lives short all that
much?  Nay.  My name's Joe Daygo, and I'm English, and I won't do that.
If I'd been what you two young fellows said--a Spannle--it might be
different, but it arn't.  There--let's get back; and one on you can have
the lobster, and t'other the Dory and mullet."

"Then you won't take us round by the Scraw?"

"Right, my lad; I won't."

"Then I tell you what: Vince Burnet and I'll get a boat, and have a look
for ourselves.  You're not afraid of things catching hold of the keel,
are you, Cinder?"

"No," said the lad quietly, "I don't think I am."

"Well, I've warned you both; so don't you blame me if you don't come
back," growled the old man.

"Why, how can we if we don't come back?" cried Mike merrily.

The old man shook his head, and sat gazing straight before him from
under his shaggy brows, steering carefully, as the boat now had to make
zigzag tacks among the rocks which dotted the surface away from the
cliffs.  Then, in answer to a question from his companion, Vince shook
off his fit of thoughtfulness, and sat chatting about the various
objects they saw, principally about the caves they passed, some of which
were low, arched places, excavated by the sea, whose entrances now stood
out clear, now were covered by a wave which came back foaming from the
compressed air it had shut-in.  Then the conversation turned upon the
birds, familiar enough to them, but always fresh and new.  All along the
face of these vast cliffs, and upon the outlying rocks, was a grand
place for the study of sea-fowl.  They were quite unmolested, save at
nesting-time, and then interfered with but little.  This was one of
their strongholds, and, as the boat glided along back, the two lads set
themselves to see how many kinds they passed.  There were the two kinds
of cormorant, both long, blackish-green birds, the one distinctive from
the other by the clear white, egg-shaped marks on its sides close to the
tail; rows of little sea-parrots, as they are familiarly called--the
puffins, with their triangular bills; the terns, with their swallow-like
flight; and gulls innumerable--black-headed, black-backed, the common
grey, and the beautiful, delicately-plumaged kittiwakes, sailing round
and round in the most effortless way, as if all they needed to do were
to balance themselves upon widespread wing, and then go onward wherever
they willed.

There was plenty to see and hear round Cormorant Crag as the boat sailed
on over the crystal water, till the archway was reached in the pyramid
of granite, when down went the sail, and the boat was thrust onward by
means of the hitcher, the tide having risen so high that in places the
boys had to bend down.  Then once more they were in the long, canal-like
zigzag, and soon after in the dock, where they loyally helped the old
man carry up and spread the trammel net to dry, and turned to go.

"Here! stop a minute, youngsters," cried Daygo.

"What for?"

"Arn't got your bit o' fish."

"Oh, I don't want to take it, Joe," said Vince.  "You've had bad luck
to-day."

"Never you mind about that, my lad.  I get lots o' fish, and I'm dead on
some hammaneggs to-night.  I said you two was to have that fish and
lobster; so which is it to be?  Who says lobster?"

Nobody said lobster, and the boys laughed.

"Well, if you two won't speak out like men, I must do it myself.  Am I
to divide the take, or are you?"

"You give us what you like, Joe," said Vince, who made up his mind to
ask his mother for a pot of jam as a return present, knowing as he did
that the old man had a sweet tooth.

"Right, then; I will," cried Daygo, rolling up his jersey sleeve, and
thrusting a massive arm into the locker, out of which he drew the fish,
the boat's stem having been lifted so that the water had run out.
"There, look here: Doctor Burnet said as lobsters were undo-gestible
things, so you'd better take that there one home with you, Ladle.  You
take the fish, Squire Burnet; your mar likes 'em fresh, as I well know."

Mike took the lobster; and the old fellow took a little willow creel
from where it was wedged in a granite crevice, laid some sea-weed at the
bottom, and then packed in the fish.

"Thankye, Daygo," said Mike.  "Shall I pay you for it?"

"If you wants to be bad friends, lad," said the old man gruffly.

"Much obliged, Joe," said Vince.  "My mother will be so pleased!"

"Ah! and you're a lucky one to have such a mother," growled the great
fellow.  "Wish I had."

This brought a roar of laughter from the lads, and Daygo looked fiercely
from one to the other; then the bearing of his remark began to dawn upon
him, and his countenance relaxed into a grim smile.

"Ah!  I didn't see," he grumbled out.  "Yes, I do look a nice sorter
youngster to have a mother to wash my face, don't I?  But here, I say,"
he continued sternly, "you two didn't mean it about getting a boat and
trying to see the Scraw, did you?"

"Yes, to be sure," said Mike sharply.

"Then look here!" cried the old man, bringing his great doubled fist
down into his left palm, with the result that there was a loud crack as
of a mallet falling upon a board; "I've give you both fair warning, and
you'd better take it.  You don't know what may come to you if you try
it.  I tell you, once for all, that you can't get to see it from the
sea, and you can't get to see it from the shore.  Nobody never has, and
nobody never can, and come back 'llve, as that there Johnny Dor'."

"I don't believe any one's had the pluck to try," said Mike stoutly.

"Ah! you're a unbelievin' young rip," growled Daygo fiercely.  "But
lookye here: you don't want to upset my lady your mother, Ladle, and you
don't--"

"Look here, Joe Daygo, if you call me Ladle again I'll kick you!" cried
Mike hotly.

"Nay, don't, lad--not yet, till you've practysed a bit on the rocks,
'cause you might hurten your toes.  Look here, young Physic: you don't
want to go and break your poor mother's heart, do you?"

"Of course not," said Vince.

"Then don't you go, my lad--don't you go.  There--better be off, both on
you.  Weather's hot, and fish won't keep.  Tell 'em to put some salt in
the pot with that lobster, Ladle; and you'd better have your fish cooked
to-night, Doctor."

Vince turned round and nodded; but the ladle was sticking in Mike's
throat, and he stalked on without making a sign.

Daygo stood watching till the lads had climbed up out of his sight, and
then he went and sat down on a block of granite, and began to rasp his
nose on both sides with his rough, fishy finger, as if engaged in
sharpening the edge of a feature which was sharp enough as it was; and
as he rasped, he looked straight before him at the great rugged cliff.
But he was not thinking of it in the least; his thoughts were half a
mile away, at the most precipitous part of the coast--a spot avoided by
shore-goer and seaman alike, from the ill name it bore, and the dangers
said to attend those who ventured to go near, either climbing or in a
boat.

"Nay," he said at last; "they won't go now."



CHAPTER FOUR.

CINDER HAS DISCOVERY ON THE BRAIN.

"What are you thinking about, Cinder?" said Mike one day, when they were
out together, after a long, hard morning's work up at the Ladelles, over
algebra and Latin, with the tutor who was resident at the Mount, the
Doctor sharing, however, in the cost.  "You seem to have been so moony
and stupid lately."

"Have I?" said Vince starting.

"Yes, always going into brown studies.  I know: you can't recollect that
problem in Euclid."

"What, the forty-seventh?  Why, that's the one I recollect best.
Guess!"

"What you were thinking about?"

Vince nodded.

"Give it up," said Mike.

"The Scraw."

"What about it?  That it's guarded by water goblins and sea serpents and
things, as old Joe calls them?"

"No," said Vince quietly: "I've been thinking about it ever since we
were out with him that day in the boat."

"Well, and what do you think?" said Mike, who while he talked was trying
how far he could jerk the flat pieces of oyster-shell, of which there
were plenty near, off the cliff; but with all his skill--and he could
throw far--they seemed, in the immensity around, as if they dropped
close to the cliff foot.

"I think, as I thought that day, that old Joe doesn't want us to go
there."

Mike was about to throw another shell, but he faced round at this with
his curiosity roused.

"Why?"

"Ah! that's what I want to know; and I can't think of any reason why he
shouldn't want us to go there.  It seems so queer."

"Yes, it does seem queer," assented Mike.

"Of course the fishermen believe in all kinds of old women's tales about
ghosts and goblins, and ill-wishing and that sort of nonsense, just as
the women do about old Mother Remming's being a witch; but old Joe
always seemed to me to be such a hard, solid old chap, who would laugh
at a story about the fairies coming in the night and drying any one's
cow."

"Well, I always thought something of that sort; but what he says must be
right about the horrible currents among the rocks."

"Yes; there are fierce currents, I suppose, at some times of the tide."

"Well, that means it's dangerous."

"Of course it is, sometimes; but I'm not going to believe all he said."

"Nobody's ever been there."

"Indeed!"

"Oh yes, that's right," said Mike.  "I've often heard the men talk about
what an awful place it was, and say they wouldn't go on any account."

"And did that scare you?"

"Well, I don't think it did, because I always felt afterwards that I
should like to climb somewhere along there till I could look over down
to the sea.  But of course you couldn't do it."

"I don't know," said Vince; "I should like to try."

"But after what old Joe Daygo said, you couldn't go there in a boat."

"Couldn't you?"

"No."

"Then how is it that old Joe himself can go?"

Mike dropped down on the cliff turf beside his companion and stared at
him.  "He never did go!"

"Yes, he did, for I was up on the Gull Cliff one day watching the birds,
and I saw Joe go creeping round underneath in the boat, and sail across
the bay, and then about the great point right in towards the Scraw."

"You mean it, Cinder?"

"Yes."

"It wasn't fancy?"

"No; I'm sure."

"Then there is some reason why he doesn't want us there.  I say!"

"Well?"

"Let's go and see."

"You'd be afraid."

"No; I wouldn't if you wouldn't."

"I'll go if you will."

"Then we will.  But how?  Boat?"

"No; I say let's have a rope and try if we can't climb round by the
cliff.  It will be a jolly good adventure, and I keep feeling more and
more as if I wanted to know what it all means."

"Then we will, and I'm ready to begin whenever you are.  Why, we may
find a valley of gold."

"Or get a bad tumble."

"We'll risk that."

"Then let's set to and make our plans."

The boys ceased speaking, and became very thoughtful; and, as if to
sharpen their ideas, each took out his knife--a long-hafted jack knife
such as a sailor uses, fastened by a lanyard to his waist.  There was
rather a rivalry between them as to which had the biggest,
longest-bladed and sharpest knife--a point that was never decided; and
the blades had rather a hard time of it, for they were constantly being
opened and whetted so as to maintain a razor edge.

But, probably from not being expert, these razor-like edges were not
maintained, and this was partly due to the selection of the sharpener
upon which they were whetted.  The sole of a boot is no doubt suitable,
but not when it contains nails, which was the case with those worn by
the lads.  The rail of a gate is harmless, while a smooth piece of slate
makes a moderately good enough soft hone.  But when it comes to rubbing
a blade upon a piece of gneiss, quartz crystal, or granite, the result
is most unsatisfactory, the edge of the knife being prone to look like a
very bad imitation of a miniature saw.

From force of habit each lad on opening his knife looked round for
something upon which to give his knife a whet; but up there on the soft
turf of a cliff slope whetstones were scarce.  Down below on the
wave-washed strand boulders and pebbles were plentiful enough, and in
addition there was the rock; but from where they were it was a good
quarter of a mile to the nearest place where a descent could be safely
made.  But the next moment Mike found an oyster-shell, upon which he
began diligently to rub his blade; while, failing this, Vince pulled his
foot across his knee, vigorously stropped his knife on the sole of his
boot, and gave a finishing touch to the edge by passing it to and fro
upon the palm of his hand.

This done, each looked out for something to cut, where there was for
some distance round nothing but grass.  This Vince began to shave off
gently, with Mike watching him for a few moments; but the pursuit seemed
to him too trivial, and, after wrinkling up his forehead for a few
moments as if perplexed, an idea struck him, and he began to score the
soft turf in regular lines, as if it were a loin of pork, but with this
difference, that when he had made about a dozen strokes he commenced
cutting between the marks, and sloping his blade so that he carved out
the turf, leaving a series of ridges and furrows as he went on.

This was on his part an ingenious enough way of using the blade, out on
an island cliff on a glorious sunny day; but at the end of a minute it
became as monotonous as it was purposeless, and Vince shut his knife
with a snap, after carefully wiping the blade; while Mike, who had been
blunting the point of his by bringing it in contact with the granite,
which, where they were, only lay three or four inches beneath the velvet
turf, followed suit, after seeing that his knife point would need a good
grinding before he could consider it to be in a satisfactory state.

"Well," said Mike, after they had looked at each other for a few
moments, "how are we going to make our plans?"

"I dunno," replied Vince.  "Yes, I do.  You can't make plans here.
Let's go and see what the place is like."

"No; that's wrong," said Mike, wrinkling his forehead again.  "A general
always makes his plans of how he'll attack a country before he starts,
and takes what is necessary with him."

"Yes, but then he has maps of the country, and knows what he will want.
We have no maps; but we've got the country, so I say let's go and see
first--reconnoitre."

"Very well," said Mike, rising slowly.

"Don't seem very ready," said Vince.  "Not scared about it, are you?"

"No, I don't think so," replied Mike thoughtfully; "only doesn't it seem
rather--rather queer to go to a place that is strange, and where you
don't know what there may be?"

"Of course it does," said Vince frankly; "and I am just a little like
that.  I suppose it's what the men here all feel, and it keeps them
away."

"Yes, that's it," said Mike eagerly.

"But then, you know, they believe lots of things that we laugh at.
There isn't a man or boy here in Crag would go and sit in the churchyard
on a dark night."

"Well, you wouldn't either," said Mike.

"No, I suppose not," said Vince thoughtfully.  "I don't think I believe
in ghosts--I'm sure I don't; and I know that if I saw anything I should
feel it was some one trying to frighten us.  But I shouldn't like to go
and sit in a churchyard in the dark, because--because--"

"You'd be afraid," said Mike, with a laugh.

"Yes, I should be afraid, but not as you mean," said the lad.  "I should
feel that it was doing a mocking, boasting sort of thing toward the dead
people who were all lying asleep there."

"Dead," interposed Mike.

"No: father says asleep--quietly asleep, after being in pain and
sickness, or being tired out from growing very old."

Mike looked at him curiously, and they were both silent for a few
moments, till Mike said quickly:--

"I say, though, don't it seem queer to you that we've been here all our
lives, and grown as old as we are, without ever going to the top of the
cliff here and looking down into the Scraw?"

"Yes, that's just what I've been thinking ever since old Joe talked to
us as he did.  But I don't know that it is queer."

"Well, I do," said Mike: "it's very queer."

"No, it isn't.  Ever since we can remember everybody has said that you
can't get there, because nobody could climb up; and then while we were
little we always heard people talk almost in a whisper about it, as if
it were something that oughtn't to be named; and so of course we didn't
think for ourselves, and took all they said as being right.  But you
know there may be whirlpools and holes and black caverns and sharp
rocks, and I dare say there are regular monsters of congers down in the
deep places that have never been disturbed."

"And sharks."

"No, I don't think there would be sharks.  They live out in the open sea
more, where it's not so rough."

"I say, how big have we ever seen a conger?"

"Why, that one Carnach brought in and said he'd had a terrible fight
with: don't you remember?"

"Yes, I remember; he caught it on a dark thunderstormy day, and said
when he hooked it first, baiting with a pilchard, it came so easy that
he thought it was a little one, and swam up every time he slackened his
line till he got it close to the top.  But when he went to hook it in
with his gaff he fell back over the thwart, because as soon as it saw
him it opened its mouth and came over the gunwale with a rush, and
hunted him round the boat till he hit it over the head with his little
axe."

"Yes, I remember," said Vince, taking up the narrative; "and then he
said they had a terrible fight, for it twisted its tail round his leg
and struck at him, getting hold of his tarpaulin coat with its teeth and
holding on till he got the blade of the axe into the cut he had made and
sawed away till he got through the backbone.  Oh yes, we heard him tell
the story lots of times about how strong it was, and how it bruised his
leg where it hit him with its tail, and how he was beginning to feel
that, in spite of its head being nearly off, it seemed as if it would
finish him, when all at once it dropped down in the bottom of the boat
and only just heaved about.  I used to believe it all, but he always
puts more and more to it whenever he tells the tale.  I don't believe it
now."

"But it was a monster."

"Yes: two inches short of seven feet long, and as big round as a
cod-fish; and I don't see why there mayn't be some twice as big in the
Scraw.  But I'm not going to believe in there being anything else, Mike;
and we're going to see."

"Nothing horrid living in the caves?"

"Bogies and mermen and Goblin Jacks?  No: stuff!"

"But up the cliff: you don't think there's anything there that makes it
so that you can't go?  I mean--"

"Dragons like father has in that old Latin book about Switzerland?"

"Yes; you've got pictures of them,--horrid things with wings, that lived
in the mountains and passes."

"All gammon!" cried Vince.  "People used to believe in all kinds of
nonsense--magicians, and fiery serpents and dragons, and things that we
laugh about now.  There, one can't help feeling a bit shrinky, after all
we've heard and been frightened with by people ever since we were little
bits of chaps; but I mean to go.  There's nothing worse about the Scraw
than there is about other dangerous places."

"Ah! you say so now because it's broad daylight and the sun shines, but
you'd talk differently if it was dark as pitch."

"Shouldn't go if it was dark as pitch, because we shouldn't know where
we were going.  I say, you're not going to turn tail?"

"No," said Mike, "I'll go with you; but one can't help feeling a bit
shrinky.  I'm ready: come on."

"Let's seem as if we were not going, then," said Vince.

"We shan't see anybody if we go round by the Dolmen," said Mike.  "There
isn't a cottage after you pass the one on the Crusy common."

"And nobody lives in that now."

"Why?" said Mike quickly.  "Think they saw anything?  It's nearest to
the Scraw Cliff."

"See anything?  No.  But they used to feel--the wind.  Why, it's the
highest part of Crag Island!  Come along."

"One minute," said Mike.  "You said you thought old Joe didn't want us
to go there."

"Yes," said Vince.

"Well, wasn't it because in his rough, surly way he likes us, and didn't
want us to get hurt?"

"Perhaps!" said Vince laconically.

"Well, there couldn't be any other reason."

"Yes, there could.  It might be a splendid place for fishing, and for
ormers and queens and oysters, and he don't want any one else to find it
out."

"Yes, it might be that," said Mike; and he set his teeth and looked as
if he were going upon some desperate venture from which he might never
return alive.

Vince looked a little uneasy too, but there was determination plainly
written on his countenance as the two lads, after a glance round to see
if they were observed, made off together; over the stony cliff.



CHAPTER FIVE.

WHILE THE RAVEN CROAKED.

It was getting well on in the afternoon, but they had hours of daylight
before them for their task.  To reach the spot would have been a trifle
if they had possessed the wings of the grey gull which floated softly
overhead as if watching them.  A few minutes would have sufficed; for,
as the boys had often laughingly said when at home in the centre of the
island, where Sir Francis Ladelle's sheltered manor-house stood, near
the Doctor's long granite cottage among the scattered dwellings of the
fisher-farmers of the place, they could not have walked two miles in any
direction without tumbling into the sea.  But to reach the mighty cliffs
overhanging the Scraw was not an easy task.

The way they chose was along the eastern side of the island, close to
the sea, where from north point to south point the place was
inaccessible, there being only three places practicable for a landing,
and these lying on the west and south.  There the mighty storm-waves had
battered the granite crags for centuries, undermining them in soft veins
till huge masses had fallen again and again, making openings which had
been enlarged till there was one long cove; the fissure where they had
taken boat with old Daygo; and another spot farther to the south.

The lads had not gone far before they curved suddenly to their left, and
struggled through one of the patches of woodland that beautified the
island.  This was of oak trees and ilex, dwarfed by their position,
tortured into every form of gnarled elbow and crookedness by the sea
wind, and seldom visited save by the boys, who knew it as a famous spot
for rabbits.

It was hard work getting through this dwarf-oak scrub, but they
struggled on, descending now into a steep ravine quite in the
uninhabited part of the island, and feeling that they might talk and
shout as they pleased--for they were not likely to be heard.  But they
were very quiet, and when hawk or magpie was started, or an old nest
seen, they instinctively called each other's attention to it in a
whisper.

After a time they were clear of the sombre wood, and had to commence
another fight in the hollow of the slope they had to climb, for here the
brambles and furze grew in their greatest luxuriance, and had woven so
sturdy a hedge that it was next to impossible to get through.

Perseverance, and a brave indifference to thorns, carried them along;
and at the end of half an hour they were at the bottom of a gigantic
precipice of tumbled-together masses of granite, suggesting that they
were at the beginning of the huge promontory which jutted out into the
sea, and round which Daygo had refused to take them; the beautiful
little rounded bay which they had skirted being to their right; and
forward toward the north, and lying away to their left, being the
situation of the unknown region always spoken of with bated breath, and
called The Scraw.

The lads stopped now, hot, panting and scratched, to stand gazing
upward.

"Tired?" said Mike.

"Yes.  No," replied Vince.  "Come on."

But Mike did not move.  He stood looking before him at the rugged masses
of granite, grey with lichen and surrounded by brambles, reaching up and
up like a gigantic sloping wall that had fallen in ruins.

Vince had begun to climb, and had mounted a few feet, but not hearing
his companion following, he turned back to look.

"Why don't you come on?" he cried.

"I was thinking that we can never get up there."

"Not if you stand still at the bottom," said Vince, laughing; and his
cheery way acted upon Mike's spirits directly, for he began to follow.
It was strange, though, that the laugh which had raised the spirits of
one depressed those of the other; for Vince felt as if it was wrong to
laugh there in that wild solitude, and he started violently as something
rushed from beneath his feet and bounded off to their right.

"Only a rabbit," said Mike, recovering from his own start.  "But I say,
Cinder, I never thought that there could be such a wild place as this in
the island.  Oh! what's that?"

They were climbing slowly towards a tall ragged pinnacle of granite,
which rose up some ten or fifteen feet by itself, when all at once a
great black bird hopped into sight, looking gigantic against the sky,
gazed down in a one-sided way, and began to utter a series of hoarse
croaks, which sounded like the barkings of a dog.

"Only a raven," said Vince quickly.  "Why, I say, Mike, this must be
where that pair we have seen build every year!  We must find the nest,
and get a young one or two to bring up."

"Doesn't look as if he'd let us," said Mike, peering round with his eyes
for a stone that he could pick up and hurl at the bird.  But, though
stone was in plenty, it was in masses that might be calculated by
hundredweights and tons.

They climbed on slowly, one helping the other over the hardest bits; the
faults and rifts between the blocks of granite, which in places were as
regular as if they had been built up, afforded them foothold; but their
way took them to the left, by the raven, which gave another bark or two,
hopped from the stony pinnacle upon which it had remained perched,
spread its wings, and, after a few flaps to right and then to left, rose
to the broken ridge above their heads, hovered for a moment, and then,
half closing its wings, dived down out of sight.

"Pretty close to the top," cried Vince breathlessly; and he paused to
wipe his streaming face before making a fresh start, bearing more and
more to the left, and finding how solitary a spot they had reached--one
so wild that it seemed as if it had never been trodden by the foot of
man.

They both paused again when not many feet from the summit of the slope,
their climb having been made so much longer by its laborious nature; and
as they stopped, the action of both was the same: they gazed about them
nervously, startled by the utter loneliness and desolation of the spot,
which might have been far away in some Eastern desert, instead of close
to the cliffs and commons about which they had played for years.

Granite blocks and boulders everywhere, save that in places there was a
patch of white heather, ling, or golden starry ragwort; and in spite of
their determination the desire was strong upon them to turn and hurry
back.  But for either to have proposed this would have been equivalent
to showing the white feather; and for fear that Vince should for a
moment fancy that he was ready to shirk the task, Mike said roughly,
"Come on," and continued the climbing, reaching the top first, and
stretching out his hand, which was grasped by Vince, who pulled himself
up and sank down by his companion's side to gaze in wonder from the
rugged ridge they had won.

It was not like the edge of a cliff, but a thorough ridge, steep as the
roof of an old-fashioned house, down to where, some fifty feet below
them, the slope ended and the precipice began.

It was rugged enough, but as far as they could see to right or left
there was no way out: they were hemmed in by huge weathered blocks of
granite and the sea.  There was the way back, of course; but the desire
upon both now was to go forward, for the curiosity which had been
growing fast ever since they started was now culminating, and they were
eager to penetrate the mystery of the place.

"What are we going to do next?" said Mike.  "See if we can't get down to
the shore, of course;" and Vince seated himself between two rugged,
tempest-worn points of rock, and had a long, searching look beyond the
edge of the precipice below him.

First he swept the high barrier of detached rock which stretched before
him two hundred yards or so distant, and apparently shutting in a nearly
circular pool; for he and his companion were at the head of a deep
indentation, the stern granite cliffs curving out to right and left, and
seeming to touch the rocky barrier, which swarmed with birds on every
shelf and ledge, large patches looking perfectly white.

"Seems like a lake," said Mike suddenly, just as Vince was thinking the
same thing.

"Yes, but it can't be," said Vince.  "Look down there to the left, how
the tide's rushing in.  Looks as if a boat couldn't live in it a
moment."

"And if the tide rushes in boiling like that, there must be a way out.
Think there's a great hole right through under the island?"

"No; it looks deep and still there at the other end of the rocks, and--
yes, you can see from here if you stand up.  Why, Ladle, old chap, it is
running."

Vince had risen, taken hold of one of the jagged pieces of rock, stepped
on to a point, and was gazing down to his left at the pent-in sea, which
was rushing through a narrow opening between two towering rocks,
foaming, boiling, and with the waves leaping over each other, as if
forced out by some gigantic power, but evidently hidden from the side of
the sea by the great barrier stretched before them.

"I can't see anything," said Mike.

"Climb up a bit.  Here--up above me."

Mike began to climb the rugged granite, and had just reached a position
from whence he could stretch over and see the exit of the pent-in
currents which glided round the little cove or bay, one strongly
resembling the water-filled crater of some extinct volcano, when his
left foot slipped from the little projection upon which he stood, and,
in spite of the frantic snatch he made to save himself, he fell heavily
upon Vince, driving him outward, while he himself dropped within the
ridge, and for the moment it seemed as if Vince was to be sent rolling
down the steep slope and over the edge of the precipice.

But the boy instinctively threw out his hands to clutch at anything to
stop his downward progress, and his right came in contact with Mike's
leg, gripping the trouser desperately, and the next moment he was
hanging at the full extent of his arm upon the slope, his back against
the rock, staring outward over the barrier at the sea, while Mike was
also on his back, but head downward, with his knees bent over the strait
ridge upon which they had so lately been standing.

For quite a minute they lay motionless, too much unnerved by the shock
to attempt to alter their positions; while Vince felt that if the cloth
by which he held so desperately gave way, nothing could save him, and he
must go down headlong to the unseen dangers below.

There was another danger, too, for which he waited with his heart
beating painfully.  At any moment he felt that he might drag his
companion over to destruction, and the thought flashed through his
brain, ought he to leave go?

This idea stirred him to action, and he made a vain effort to find rest
for his heels; but they only glided over the rock, try how he would to
find one of the little shelf-like openings formed between the blocks,
which often lay like huge courses of quarried stone.

Then, as he hung there breathing heavily, he found his voice:

"Mike!" he shouted; and the answer came in a smothered tone from the
other slope of the steep ridge.

"Hullo!"

"Can you help me?"

"No: can't move; if I do you'll pull me over."

There was a terrible silence for what seemed to be minutes, but they
were moments of the briefest, before Vince spoke again.

"Can you hold on?"

Silence, broken by a peculiar rustling, and then Mike said: "I think so.
I've got my hand wedged in a crack; but I can't hold on long with my
head down like this.  Look sharp!  Climb up."

"Look sharp--climb up!" muttered Vince, as, raising his left hand, which
had been holding on to a projection in the rock at his side, he reached
up, and, trying desperately, he managed to get hold of the doubled-over
fold at the bottom of his companion's trouser, cramping his fingers over
it, and getting a second good hold.

It does not seem much to read, but it took a good deal of his force out
of him, and he lay still, panting.

"Pray look sharp," came from the other side.

"Yes.  Hold on," cried Vince, as a horrible sensation began creeping
through him, which he felt was preparatory to losing his nerve and
falling: "I'm going to turn over."

"No, no--don't," came faintly.  "I can't hold on."

"You must!" shouted Vince fiercely.  "Now!"

Clutching desperately at the frail cloth, he gave himself a violent
wrench and rolled himself right over upon his face, searching quickly
with his toes for some support, and feeling them glide over the surface
again and again, till a peculiar sensation of blindness began to attack
him.  Then a thrill of satisfaction ran through his nerves, for one boot
toe glided into the fault between two blocks, and the tension upon his
muscles was at once relieved.

"I can't help it," came faintly to his ears.  "You're dragging me over.
Help! help!"

_Croak_! came in a hoarse, barking note, and the great raven floated
across them not a dozen feet above their heads.

"All right!" cried Vince.  "I can manage now."  And he felt about with
his other foot, found a projection, and having now two resting-places
for his feet, one higher than the other, he cautiously drew himself up,
inch by inch, till his chin was level with his hands, when, taking a
deep, long breath, he forced his toe well against the rock, trusting to
a slight projection; and, calling to Mike to try and hold on, he made a
quick snatch with one hand at the lad's leg a foot higher, but failed to
get a good grasp, his hand gliding down the leg, and Mike uttered a wild
cry.

For a moment Vince felt that he must fall, but in his desperation his
teeth closed on the cloth beneath him, checking his downward progress;
and as his feet scraped over the rock in his efforts to find fresh hold,
he found his cliff-climbing had borne its fruits by hardening the
muscles of his arms.  How he hardly knew, he managed to get hand over
hand upon Mike's leg, till he drew himself above the ridge, and in his
last effort he fell over, dragging his companion with him, so that they
rolled together down the inner slope twenty or thirty feet, till a block
checked their progress.

Just then, as they lay scratched and panting, there was a darkening of
the air, the soft whishing of wings, and the raven dropped on the big
pinnacle close at hand, to utter its hoarse, barking croak as it gazed
wickedly at them with first one and then the other eye.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Mike, in a peculiarly hysterical tone; "wouldn't
you like it?  But not this time, old fellow.  Oh, don't I wish I had a
stone!"

The same memory had come to both, as they lay breathless and exhausted,
of seeing this bird or one of its relatives rise from below the cliff
edge one day as they approached; and, looking down, they saw upon a
ledge, where it had fallen, a dead lamb, upon which the great ill-omened
bird had been making a meal.

"Hurt?" said Vince at last, as he sat up and examined his clothes for
tears.

"Hurt! why, of course I am.  I gave my head such a whack against one of
the stones.--Are you?"

"No," said Vince, making an effort to laugh at the danger from which he
had escaped.  "I say, though, your trousers are made of better cloth
than mine."

"Trousers!" said Mike sourly: "you've nearly torn the flesh off my
bones.  You did get hold of a bit of skin with your teeth, only I
flinched and got it away.  I say, though--"

"Well?  What?" said Vince; for the other stopped.  "That's the way down
to the Scraw; but you needn't have been in such a hurry to go."

Vince shuddered in spite of his self-control.  "I wonder," he said
softly, "whether it's deep water underneath or rocks?"

"I don't know that it matters," was the reply.  "If it had been water
you couldn't have swum in such a whirlpool as it seems to be.  So you
might just as well have been killed on the rocks.  But oh!  I say
Cinder, don't talk about it."

The boy's face grew convulsed, and he looked so horrified that Vince
cried eagerly--

"Here, I say, don't take it like that.  It was not so bad as we thought.
It wouldn't have happened if you'd held tight instead of blundering on
to me."

"Let's talk about something else," said Mike, trying to master his
feelings.

"All right.  About that cove.  You see the water comes rushing in at one
side and goes out at the other, and I daresay when the tide turns it
goes the other way.  I should like to get right down to it, so as to see
the water close to."

Mike shuddered.  "You won't try again, will you?" he said.

"Try again?  Yes.  Why not?  Why, we might come a million times and
never slip again."

"Yes," said Mike, but rather shrinkingly.  "Shall we go back home now?"

"No; not till we've had another good look down at the place.  Here--hi!
you be off, or next time we come we'll bring a gun."

_Croak_! said the raven, and it took flight--not, however, at the words,
but from the cap sent skimming up at it where it perched watching them.

"Come on," cried Vince; and his companion sprang up as if ashamed of his
weakness.

Then together they climbed back to the scene of their adventure, and had
a good look down at the shut-in cove, calmly reconnoitring the danger
through which one of them had passed; and, after gazing long at the
entrance and place of exit of the tides, they climbed along the ridge
for some distance to the right, and then back and away to the left, but
they could see nothing more--nothing but the rock-bound bay shut-in from
the sea, and whose shore, if there was any, remained hidden from their
sight by the projecting edge of cliff at the bottom of the slope below
them.

"There," said Vince at last,--"I know how I feel."

"So do I," said Mike: "that we've had all our trouble for nothing."

"No, I don't; I feel as if I shan't be satisfied till I've been right
down there and seen what it's like."

"But we can't get there.  Nobody could go in a boat."

"Perhaps not.  We must climb down."

Mike suppressed a shudder.  "Can't be done," he said.

"How do we know till we've looked right down over the edge?"

"Must bring a rope, then?"

"Of course, and one hold it while the other creeps to the edge and looks
over."

Mike nodded, and they began to retrace their steps, talking thoughtfully
as they went.

"Shall you say anything about our--accident?" asked Mike at last.

"No: only frighten my mother."

"Nor yet about the Scraw, and what we're going to try and do?"

"No: what's the good?  Let's find what there is to see first.  I say,
Cinder, it will be as good as going to a foreign country seeking
adventures.  Who knows what we may find?"

"Raven's nest, for one thing."

"Yes, I expect that chap has got his wife and young ones somewhere about
here.  How about a rope?  Have you got one at home?"

"Yes; but so have you."

"I'm not very fond of ours," said Vince thoughtfully.  "It's a long time
since it was new, and we don't want to have any accidents.  You bring a
coil of new rope from your boat-shed: we'll take care of it.  And, I
tell you what, I'll bring that little crowbar of ours next time, and a
big hammer, so as to drive the bar into some crack.  It will be better
than holding the rope."

The talk of their future plans lasted till it was nearly time to part,
and they were just arranging for their hour of meeting on the next day
when they came suddenly upon old Daygo, at the corner of the lane
leading down to his comfortable cottage.

"Art'noon," he said, with a nod, and fixing his eyes upon each of them
searchingly.  "Having a walk?"

"Yes," said Vince carelessly.  "When are you going to take us fishing
again?"

"Oh! one o' these fine days, my lads; but you're getting to be quite men
now, and must think more about your books.  Been on the cliffs?"

"Yes," said Vince.  "Come on, Mike: it's tea-time."

The boys walked on in silence for some moments, and then Vince spoke.

"I say, Mike, do you think he's watching us?"

"No," said Mike shortly.  "You fancy he is, because you've got some
cock-and-bull notion that he don't want us to go to the Scraw."

"Perhaps so," said Vince thoughtfully; "but I can't help it.  I do think
so."

"Well, suppose he does; he said what was right: it is a horribly
dangerous place, and all the people keep away from it because they've
got ideas like his."

"Maybe," said Vince, with his brow all in puckers.  "But never mind;
we'll go and see."



CHAPTER SIX.

HAUNTED BY THE SCRAW.

The weather interfered with the prosecution of the boys' adventure for a
week, and during that time, what with wind and rain, they had nothing to
tempt them to the cliff but the sight of a large French three-masted
lugger or _chasse-maree_, which was driven by the gale and currents
dangerously near the Crag: so near, in fact, that old Daygo and nearly
every fisherman in the place hung about the cliffs in full expectation
of seeing the unfortunate vessel strike upon one or other of the rocks
and go to pieces, when all on board must have inevitably been drowned,
the height of the sea making it madness to attempt to launch a boat.

But, to the relief of all, the swift vessel was so cleverly managed that
she finally crept through an extremely dangerous passage, and then,
catching a cross current, was borne right out to where she could weather
the northern point of the island, and disappeared into the haze.

"There, young gentlemen," said old Daygo in a stentorian voice, "that's
seamanship!  But she'd no business to come so near the Crag in weather
like this.  Wouldn't ha' like to be aboard o' she just now, would you?"

"No," said Vince; "nor you neither?"

"Hey?  Why, that's just what I've been a-wishing these two hours past,
my lad.  I could ha' took her out o' danger long enough before; but them
Frenchies don't know our island like I do.  Why, I feel sometimes as if
I could smell where the rocks are, and I could steer a boat by touch,
like, even if it was black as the inside of a tar-barrel in the middle
of the night."

It sounded like empty boasting, but the words were seriously received by
the rough men around.

"Ay, ay," said one fat, heavy-looking fellow; "Joe Daygo knows.  I
wouldn't ha' been aboard her fer no money."

"Been thinking you'd eat no more byled lobster--eh, Jemmy Carnach?" said
Daygo, with a hoarse laugh; and the man gave him a surly look and
sauntered away.

"I say," said Mike, as soon as the lads were alone; "old Joe is really a
good sort of fellow after all.  He seemed a deal more troubled about
that French boat than any one else."

"Yes; and I suppose he is a clever pilot, and knows all about the
currents and the rocks; but I don't quite understand about his being so
well off."

Mike began to whistle, and said nothing for a few moments.

"I don't see why he shouldn't be well off," he said; "he's getting old,
and he's very mean, and never spends money upon himself."

Vince nodded, and remained silent.

Then came a lovely morning after the week's bad weather, and Vincent was
just starting for Sir Francis Ladelle's rather unwillingly, to join Mike
for the day's studies, when there was a cheery whistle outside and his
fellow-pupil appeared.

"I say!" he cried, "father said it was a shame for us to lose such a
fine day, and he told Mr Deane to give us a holiday."

"Eh?  What's that?" cried the Doctor.  "Here, I'm off up to the house to
put a stop to that.  I'm not going to pay half that tutor's expenses if
this sort of idleness is to be encouraged."

Mike looked aghast.

"It's all right," said Vince merrily; "father doesn't mean it."

"Oh, don't I!" cried the Doctor, frowning.

"No: does he, mother?"

Mrs Burnet smiled and shook her head.

"Here, you boys, don't get into any mischief."

"No, father," said Vince, and the next minute they were outside.

"Scraw?" said Vincent; and his companion nodded unwillingly, as the boy
thought, but he changed his opinion the next moment.

"I've got the hammer and bar ready, and a small rope; but we must have
yours."

"Yes, of course."

"Well, run back and get it, and meet me out by the Dolmen."

"Brought it," said Mike: "tucked it under a furze bush out on the
common."

Vince's face lit up with eagerness, and the pair were about to start
when they saw old Daygo in the distance, and they turned back, went into
the house, and waited till he had gone by.

Giving the fisherman time to get well out of sight, they sallied forth,
and went to where the coil of rope was hidden--a thin, strong line that
would have borne a couple of men hanging on its end--and as soon as this
was brought out, and a glance round taken to make sure they were not
watched, Mike cried--

"But what about the hammer and bar?"

Vince opened his jersey to show the head of the hammer on one side, the
crowbar on the other, snugly tucked in the waistband of his trousers.

"Well done! that's capital!" cried Mike.  And the two lads went off in
the direction of the Scraw, but in a zigzag fashion, as if their
intentions were entirely different; and this at Vince's wish, for he had
a strong impression that old Daygo was keeping an eye upon their
movements, though Mike laughed at the idea.

"I don't feel nervous about it now, do you?" said Vince, as soon as they
were well under cover of the rugged ground.

"No; but I don't like to think about that ugly slip you had," said Mike
thoughtfully.

"I didn't have an ugly slip: you knocked me over."

"Oh, well, I couldn't help it, could I? and I did hold on till you got
out of it."

"Never mind that now," said Vince; "let's think about what we are going
to do.  There'll be no danger so long as we are careful--and I mean to
be, very, and so I tell you.  Wonder whether we shall see our black
friend?  I say, didn't it seem as if it was on the look-out for us to
have a bad accident?"

"No: seemed as if it was on the look-out to keep us from finding its
nest."

They chatted away merrily enough till they had nearly reached the chaos
of tumbled-together rocks, when, in spite of the bright sunshine and
blue sky overhead, the wildness of the place once more impressed them
unpleasantly, and, instead of the cheery conversation and banter in
which they had indulged, they became quiet, only speaking at intervals,
and then in quite a low tone.

The bottom of the steep, rough slope was reached, and they paused to
consider their plans.  They had come out some fifty yards from where
they made their former ascent to the ridge, for it was marked by the
jagged sugar-loaf upon which the raven had perched.  But the sloping
wall of granite where they were presented just about the same aspect as
that portion where they had struggled up before, and there was no reason
for making a detour over very difficult ground, cumbered with huge
blocks that must have fallen from above, and tangled in the hollows
between with brambles; so they determined to climb from where they
stood, and began at once, each selecting his own route, with the
understanding that a pyramidal block eighty or ninety feet above their
heads should be the meeting-place.

"Come on, then," cried Mike.  "First up!"

"No, no," said Vince.  "This must be done steadily.  We shall want to be
cool and fresh for anything we may have to do.  One of us is sure to be
obliged to go down by the rope."

"Very well," said Mike; and they commenced the ascent, each feeling the
wisdom of the plan adopted, the climb being difficult enough, though
there was not the slightest danger.

They were glad enough to rest and wipe their brows as they stood by the
rough block, and upon which they found they could easily climb; but
there was nothing more to see than at their former visit, save that the
rocks looked far more rough, both at the torrent-like entrance and the
narrow opening on their right, while even from the height at which they
stood it was plain to see that the circular cove was in a violent state
of ebullition.

But here, close in, was the slope which ran down towards the sea--very
similar in character to that by which they had ascended, only that it
was, as it were, chopped off short.  In fact, they seemed to be on the
summit of a stony ridge of granite mountains, one side of which had been
nearly all gnawed away by the sea.

"Don't seem much choice of where to go down," said Vince, after a long
scrutiny to right and left.  "Shall we try here?"

"Just as well as anywhere else," said Mike.  "Only what is it we are
going to do?  If it means creeping down with a rope round one, and then
going over the edge to play chicken at the end of a roasting-jack, I
feel as if I'd rather not."

"It means going carefully down to the edge and looking over first,"
replied Vince.  "It may only be a place where we can get down easily
enough."

"Or it may be a place where we can't," said Mike.  "All right: I'll go,
if you like."

"No: I'll go first," said Vince.  And he drew out his hammer and
crowbar; but a block of granite close by stood up so much like a thick,
blunt post that there seemed to be no need for the crowbar to be driven
in; so, making one end fast round the block with a well-tried mooring
knot--one which old Daygo had taught them might be depended upon for
securing a boat--they calculated how much rope would be necessary to
well reach the bottom of the broken-off slope, and at the end of this
the line was knotted round Vince's chest and he prepared to descend.

"Ease it away gently, so that I'm not checked," said the lad, as Mike
took hold close to him and knelt down ready to pay the rope out and so
as to be able to tighten his grasp at any moment if there was a slip.

"Right!  I'll mind; and you'll be all right: you can't fall."

"I know," was the reply; and trusting to his companion, while
strengthened by the knowledge that at the very worst he must be brought
up short by the granite block, Vince gave a sharp look downward, and,
selecting a spot at the edge a little to his right for the point to make
for, he turned his face to the slope and began to descend, carefully
picking hand and foothold and helped by the steady strain upon the rope
which was kept up by Mike, who watched every movement breathlessly, his
eyes fixed upon his companion's head, and ready to respond to every
order which was uttered.

Vince went down as calmly and deliberately as if the level ground were
just below him till he was about two-thirds of the way, when he could
not help giving a start, for Mike suddenly exclaimed:

"Here's that old raven coming!"

"Where?"

"Off to my right--in a hurry.  You must be somewhere near the nest."

Vince hesitated for a few moments, for the thought occurred to him that
the bird might make a swoop at him, as he had read of eagles acting
under similar circumstances; but the next moment he had thought of what
power there would be in the blow of a fist striking a bird in full
career, and knowing full well that it must be fatal to the raven, he
continued to descend, with the bird flying by some fifty feet overhead
and uttering its hoarse croak.

"Lower away a little more," said Vince, as he drew nearer the edge of
what might either be a precipice or an easy slope for aught he could
tell.

"I'll lower," was the reply; "but I want to feel you well."

"That's right.  I must have rope enough to move quite freely."

"Yes, that's all very well; but I don't feel as if I could haul you up
if you slipped over the edge."

"Who's going to ask you to?" said Vince.  "I should try and climb,
shouldn't I?  If you keep me tight like that I can't get down."

"Are you all right?" said Mike anxiously, for he was by far the more
nervous of the two.

"Right?--yes; but I feel like a cow tethered to a picket, so that I
can't reach the bit of grass sward.  Now then, lower away."

Mike obeyed, with the palms of his hands growing very moist, as his
companion drew closer to the brink.

"Lower away!" cried Vince.

"No: that's close enough," said Mike decidedly.  "Look from where you
are, and come back.  Now then, what can you see?"

"A bit of moss and a patch of sea-pink just under my nose.  Don't be so
stupid!  How am I to look over the edge if you hold me tight up like
this?  Ah!"

"What is it?" cried Mike, holding on to the rope with all his might, and
keeping it resting on the rock, over which it had slowly glided.

"Only a loose stone gave way under my feet, and went down."

He remained silent, waiting to hear the fragment rebound and strike
somewhere, but he listened in vain.  The fall of the stone, however, had
its effect, for a wild chorus of whistling and screaming arose, and an
eddy of wings came up as a perfect cloud of white and grey birds rose
into sight, and were spread to right and left.

"Hadn't you better come back now?" said Mike anxiously.

"If I do it will be to make you come down instead.  Why, you're worse
than I am, Mike!  Now then, lower away!  I only want about a fathom
more, and then you may hold on tight."

"Very well, then," said the lad: "I'll give you just six feet, and not a
bit more.  Then you shall come up."

"Say seven," cried Vince merrily.

"No: six.  That's what you said; so make much of it."

"Lower away, then!" cried Vince; and he carefully descended, after a
glance over his left shoulder, creeping cautiously down, and edging to
his left till he was just over the block at the edge which he had marked
out for his goal.

"That's four feet, mind!" cried Mike: "only two more."

"Good little boy!" said Vince merrily.  "Four and two do make six.  I'll
tell Mr Deane to-morrow.  He was grumbling the other day about the
muddle you made over your algebra."

"You look after your climbing, and never mind my algebra," said Mike
huskily.

"Now, Mikey!" cried Vince; "hold on--tight as you can."

"Yes.  Don't you want the other two feet?"

"Of course I do; but I'm going to turn over."

"No, no, I say--don't!" cried Mike.  "Do think where you are!  Have a
good look, and then come up."

"Here, I say, you'd better come down instead of me.  I can't see out of
the back of my head if you can.  Now, no nonsense.  This is what I want
to do: I'm going to turn over, with my back to the cliff, and then
shuffle down that other two feet, with my legs on each side of that
piece of stone."

"But it's at the very edge," said Mike.  "Good boy again!  How well you
can see, Ladle!  It is just at the edge; and, once I'm there, I can see
down either way."

"But it isn't safe, Cinder.  I can't help being anxious.  Suppose the
stone's loose, and gives way?"

"Why, then it will fall down and frighten more birds.  Now then, don't
fidget.  If the stone goes, you'd still hold on by the rope, and I
should be left sitting there all the same.  I shouldn't do it if I
didn't feel that I could.  I'm not a bit nervous, so hold on."

"Very well," said Mike breathlessly: "I've got you."

"Ready?"

"Yes."

Vincent Burnet did not hesitate, but, with a quick movement, turned
himself right over, dragging heavily upon the rope, though, and making
his companion draw in his breath through his closed teeth with a hissing
sound.

"There I am," said Vince coolly.  "I could slip down into the place if I
liked, but I won't try; so just ease the rope, inch by inch, as I
shuffle myself lower.  That's the way.  Easy as kiss my hand.  A little
more, and a little more, and there we are.  Why, Mike, old chap, it's
just like sitting in a saddle--only it's so hard."

"Are your legs right over the side?"

"Yes, and the wind's blowing up the legs of my trousers like anything.
Oh! you can't think what a sharp draught there is."

"Never mind the draught."

"No use to," said Vince.

"Oh, I say, do have a good look down, and then come up again.  Now,
then: does the cliff slope from where you are?"

"Yes, right down to the water."

"Steeply?"

"Yes."

"Could we climb down?"

"Yes, if we were flies: Mike, old chap, it's just awful!"

"What!" cried Mike breathlessly.

"Yes: that's it--awful," said Vince quietly, as he rested his hands on
the block he bestrode, and looked over to his left.  "It slopes down;
but the wrong way.  It goes right in as far as I can see, and--Yes, it
does just the same on the other side.  If I were to go down now I should
plump right into black water, that's boiling up and racing along like it
does where there's a rocky bottom, I do wish you were here to see."

"I don't," whispered Mike.  "There--that'll do," he continued aloud.
"Come up."

"Wait a bit.  I must see a little more, now I am here.  I say, it's
awful!--it's grand!  The rocks, as far as I can see, are as smooth as
can be, and all sorts of colours, just as if they were often breaking
away.  Some are dark and some are browny and lavender, and there's one
great patch, all glittering grey granite, looking as new as new."

"Yes, it must be very beautiful; but come back."

"Don't you be in such a hurry," said Vince.  "You won't catch me sitting
here again.  I'll let you down if you like, but once is quite enough for
me.  I want to have a good look, though, so as to tell you all about it
before I do come, for, on second thoughts, I shan't lower you down
here--it's too horrid.  I say: wherever I can see there are thousands of
birds, but there are not many places where they can sit.  I can see one
raven, too--there are two of them sailing about just under me, with
their backs shining in the sun.  Oh, Mike: look at the cormorants!  I
never knew there were so many about the island.  Big gulls, and puffins,
and terns, and--I say, what a cloud of pigeons flying right out from
under me: Why, there must be a cavern going right in.  Hold tight!  I
want to lean out more to try and see."

"No!" shrieked out Mike.  "Don't--don't!  It's a hundred times worse
kneeling here and seeing you than doing it oneself."

"But I only want to see if there is a cave."

"If the pigeons keep flying out there must be."

"Well, there they go, and here are some more coming, and they've flown
right in somewhere, so I suppose there is.  Want to hear any more about
the place?"

"No, no.  Come up now."

"All right, old chap; then I will, after one more look round and down
below.  The water is wild, though, and the rocks are grand; but old Joe
is as right as can be: it's a terrible place, and unless any one likes
to hang at the end of a three-hundred-feet rope he cannot get to the
bottom here nor anywhere else along this cliff.  It's just three parts
of a round, and goes in all of a hollow below, where I am.  There--
that's all; and now I'm coming up."

"Hah!" ejaculated Mike, in a tone full of thankfulness; and as Vince
shuffled himself a little way--not much, for there was not room--the
rope tightened about his chest, giving him so strong a support that he
leaned back, pressed his hands down on either side of him to steady
himself, and drew up one leg till he could plant his heel on the stone
where he had been seated.  A steady draw up of the other leg, and it was
beside its fellow; then, getting well hold of the nearest projections on
either side, he shouted up to his companion to haul hard--shouted,
though in the immensity of the place his words, like those which had
preceded them, sounded weak and more like whispers.

"Right!" said Mike; and then he uttered a wild cry, for as Vince thrust
with feet and hands together, straightening himself out, the rope
tightened at the same moment, and then the lad hung motionless against
the slope.

The rain and frost had been hard at work upon the edge of that
precipice, as its sharply gnawed-off edge showed and the huge stone
which the venturous lad had stridden was only waiting for the sharp
thrust which it had received, for with a dull crack it was separated
from the side, with an enormous mass beneath it, and went rushing down,
leaving a jagged curve, as if the piece had been bitten out, just below
the lad's feet.

Vince did not stir even to feel for a place to plant his hands, but
remained motionless for some moments.  Then there was a dull splash
echoed from the barrier rock which shut-in the cove, and the rushing
sound of wings, as the startled birds rose in clouds from their
resting-places all around.

At last the full sense of his perilous position came to the boy, and
with it his coolness; and he grasped the rock as well as he could, and
called up to his companion.

"Grip hard, Ladle!" he cried.  "I'm going to try and turn face to you."

There was no reply; but a thrill seemed to come down the fibres of the
rope, and the strain upon the boy's chest to increase.

It was no easy task, for it was hard to find a resting-place on either
side of the gap for his feet; but, full of trust in Mike's hold of the
rope, and strengthened by the knowledge that it was secured to the
granite block as well, Vince gave himself a quick writhe, and turned
upon his face.  Then, after a scrambling slip or two, his toes found a
ledge, as his hands already had, and he climbed steadily up.

That task was not difficult, for the foothold was easy to select, the
rope tightening still, and giving him steady help, while the distance,
long as it had taken him to descend, was only short.

In another minute he was over the ridge, looking down on Mike, who,
instead of hauling in the rope as he came up, had let himself glide down
like a counterpoise, and as soon as he saw his companion in safety, he
drew himself in a crouching position and stared up with his lips apart.

"It's all right," said Vince huskily.  "Why, your face is white as
white, and your hair's all wet."

"Yes," gasped Mike hysterically, "and so's yours.  Oh, Cinder, old chap,
I thought you had gone!  Let's get away from this horrid place.  Old
Joe's right: there is something terrible about it after all."

"Wait a bit," said Vince, rather feebly, as he too crouched down upon a
piece of rock.  "I don't feel as if I could move much for a bit.  I am
so stiff and weak, and this rope's cut into my chest.  Yes: old Joe's
right; there's no getting down there.  But it was awfully grand, Ladle,
and I should have liked you to see it."

"And do you want to lower me down?" said Mike fiercely.

"No!" cried Vince sharply.  "I wouldn't have you feel what I felt when
that stone broke off and left me hanging there for all the riches in the
world!"



CHAPTER SEVEN.

THE PANGS OF COLD PUDDING.

"A burnt child fears the fire."  So says the old proverb; and therefore
it was quite reasonable for a couple of big lads to feel a certain
sensation of shrinking when they talked about their adventure while
trying to investigate the mysteries surrounding the portion of Crag, or
Cormorant Island, as it was called, known as the Scraw.

For they did talk about it a great deal.  Then, too, Vince had some
_very_ unpleasant dreams about hanging over a tremendous gulf.  One
night in particular he was especially bad.

It happened in this way: Mike came over to the Doctor's cottage one
evening after tea--though this was no novelty, for he was always coming
over to the cottage after tea, when Vince was not going over to Sir
Francis Ladelle's quaint, semi-fortified house, which had stood there
for hundreds of years, being repaired by its various occupants, but very
little altered.  In fact, when the little island was for sale, many
years before this story commences, and the baronet became the purchaser,
he was so pleased with the old place that he determined to keep up the
traditions of the past, in spite of low ceilings, dark windows, and what
Mike described to Vince as "the jolly old ghosts," which, being
interpreted, meant rats.

So Mike came over one evening, after Vince had eaten a tremendous meal,
and the two lads went out for a stroll to the cliff edge, where there
was always something to see, returning after dusk by the light of the
moon and glowworms, of which there were abundance.  Then Vince had to
see Mike up to the gates of the old house; and, to make things straight,
Mike said he would walk back a few yards with him, the few yards being
so elastic that they stretched out to five hundred, more or less.

At last Vince reached home and had his supper, which had been put out
for him, and when he had finished, found that the sea air and exercise
had made him ravenous.

"I must have something else to eat," he said to himself, and he was
going into the parlour to speak upon this important subject to Mrs
Burnet; but as he reached the door he could hear her pleasant voice, and
he knew what was going on, though he could not see through the panels.
For the picture rose plainly before his mind's eye of his father lying
back in his easy chair, tired out with his round of the island and
gardening, while by the light of a pair of mould candles--

_What_?  You don't know what mould candles are?  The happier you!
People did fifty years ago, and they were largely used by those who
could not afford wax or spermaceti; and they did what Vince heard the
Doctor do from time to time--took up the old-fashioned, scissor-like
snuffers from their plated tray, snuffed the candles, and laid them back
with a sharp click.  And let me tell you that there was an art in
snuffing a candle which required practice and a steady hand.  For if you
of the present generation of boys who live in the days of gas, electric
lights, spirit lamps, and candles ingeniously made after the analytical
experiments of chemists on a material very different from the
old-fashioned Russian tallow--if you, I say, were to try and snuff an
old candle, the chances are that you would either cut the cotton wick
too much or too little, if you did not snuff the light out.  After a
time these sources of light would grow lengthy of black, burnt wick, a
curious mushroomy, sooty portion would grow on the top, and the flame of
the candle would become dull yellow and smoky.  Then, if you cut too
little off, the light would not be much improved; if you cut too low
down, it was worse; if lower still, you put the light out.  But the
skilful hand every few minutes cut to the happy medium, as the Doctor
did, and the light burned up fairly white and clear; so that, according
to the custom at the cottage, Mrs Burnet could see well to continue
reading aloud to her weary husband, this being his one great enjoyment
in the calm life on the island.

Now, it seems rather hard on Vince to keep him waiting hungrily at the
door while the writer of this little history of boy life runs away from
his narrative to begin prattling in print about candles; but what has
preceded these lines on light, and the allusion to chemistry, does ask
for a little explanation, for many of you who read will say, What can
chemistry have to do with tallow candles?

A great deal.  I daresay you have read a little chemistry, or heard
lectures thereon.  Many of you may have been bitten by the desire to try
a little yourselves, as I was, and tried making hydrogen and oxygen
gases, burning phosphorus, watch-spring and sulphur in the latter; and
even tried to turn the salts of metals back into the metals themselves.
But that by the way.  Let us return to the candle--such a one as Vince
had left burning, smoking and smelling unpleasantly, in the flat brass
candlestick upon the little hall table, for it was time he was off to
bed.  Now, the chemists took the candle, and pulled it to pieces, just
as the candle-makers took the loose, fluffy cotton wick metaphorically
to pieces, and constructed another by plaiting the cotton strands
together and making a thin, light wick, which, as it burned, had a
tendency to curl over to the side of the conical flame where the point
of the wick touched the air and burned more freely--so freely, in fact,
from getting more oxygen from the air than the other part, as to burn
all away, and never need snuffing.  That is the kind of wick you use in
your candles to-day; and the snuffers have gone into curiosity cases in
museums along with the clumsy tinder-boxes of the past.

But that is to do with the wick, though I daresay some chemist or
student of combustion gave the first hint to the maker about how to
contrive the burning away of the unpleasant snuff.

Let us go back to the candle itself, or rather to the tallow of which it
was made.

Now, your analytical chemist is about the most inquisitive person under
the sun.  Bluebeard's wife was a baby to him.  Why, your A C would have
pulled the Blue Chamber all to bits, and the key too, so as to see what
they were made of.  He is always taking something to pieces.  For
instance, quite lately gas tar was gas tar, and we knew that it was
black and sticky, good for palings and horribly bad for our clothes,
when, on hot, sunny days, we climbed over the said palings.  But, all at
once, the A C took gas tar in hand to see what it was made of, and the
result is--what?  I must not keep Vince and you waiting to tell all--in
fact, I don't know, but may suggest a little.  Gas tar now means
brilliant aniline dyes, and sweet scents, and flavours that we cannot
tell from pears and almonds, and ammonia and carbolic preparations good
for the destruction of disease germs.  But when the A C attacked the
tallow of the candle he astonished us more.

For, so to speak, he took the tallow, and he said to himself, Now,
here's tallow--an unpleasant animal fat: let's see what it is made of.

Years ago I should have at once told him that it was grease, obtained by
melting down the soft parts of an animal.  But the A C would have said
to me: Exactly; but what is the grease made of?

Then he began making tests and analysing, with the result that out of
candle fat he distilled a beautifully clear white, intensely sweet
fluid, and made a name for it: glycerine, from the Greek for "sweet,"
for which, as Captain Cuttle would have said, consult your lexicon.

Then our friend the chemist tested the glycerine, and tried if it would
burn; but it would not burn in the least, and he naturally enough said,
Well, that stuff is no good for candles, so it may be extracted from the
tallow.  To make a long dissertation short, that was done at once, and
the result was that, instead of the new tallow candles being soft, they
were found to be hard, and to burn more clearly.  Then chemicals were
added, and they became harder still, and were called composites.

That was the beginning of the improvements, which subject I must carry
no further, but return to our hungry lad, who, hearing the reading going
on, would not interrupt his mother, but took up his candle and went to
the larder to investigate for himself.

There was bread and butter, and bread and cheese, and a small piece of
mutton--but this last was raw; and Vince was about to turn to the bread
and cheese when his eyes lighted upon a wedge of cold apple dumpling,
which he seized upon as the very thing, bore off to his bedroom, after
putting his head in at the parlour door to say good-night, ate with the
greatest of gusto, and then, thoroughly drowsy, tumbled into bed.

The next minute, as it seemed most vividly to Vince, the new rope that
Mike took with them to the tempest-torn ridge above the Scraw was
cutting into his chest and compressing it so that he could hardly
breathe.  But he would not complain, for fear his companion should think
it was because he was too cowardly to go on down that steep slope of
thirty or forty feet to look over the edge of the precipice.  So he went
on lower and lower, suffering horribly, but more and more determined to
go on; and as he went the rope stretched out, and the slope lengthened,
till he seemed to have descended for hours.  Flocks of ravens came down,
flapping their wings about him and making dashes with their great beaks
at his eyes; while stones were loosened, rattled down into the gulf and
startled clouds upon clouds of birds, which came circling up, their
wings beating the air, till there was a noise like thunder.

Down to the stone at last; and upon this he sat astride, gazing at the
vast gulf below, where the cove spread out farther than eye could reach,
while the waters rushed by him like many cataracts of Niagara rolled
into one.  At last Mike's voice came to him, in imploring tones,
sounding distant, strange and familiar, begging him to come up; and he
drew himself up once more, and, with the rope tightening, gave that
great thrust with his heels which sent the block upon which he had
ridden falling down and down, as if for ever, into space, while he hung
motionless, with the line compressing his chest so that he could not
breathe.  He could not struggle, he could not even stir--only hang there
suffocating, till his senses were leaving him fast, and a burning light
flashed into his eyes.  Then the rope parted, the terrible tension about
his chest was relieved, and he began falling more and more swiftly, with
a pleasant feeling of restfulness, till a voice said loudly:

"Vince, Vince!  What is it, boy?  Wake up!"

Vince not only woke up, but sat up, staring at his father and mother,
who were standing in their dressing-gowns on either side of his bed.

"He must have something coming on," said Mrs Burnet anxiously.

"Coming on!" said the Doctor, feeling the boy's temples and then his
wrist; next, transferring his hand to where he could feel the pulsation
of the heart, "Nightmare!" he cried.

"What's the matter?" said Vince confusedly.  "Fire?"

"Any one would have thought so, and that you were being scorched, making
all that groaning and outcry.  What's the matter with you?"

"Nothing," said Vince, whose dreaming was all hidden now by a mental
haze.  "Is anybody ill, then?"

"I'm afraid you are, my dear," said Mrs Burnet anxiously; and she laid
her cool hand upon her son's forehead.  "His head is very hot and wet,
dear," she added to the Doctor.

"Yes, I know," he said gruffly.  "Here, Vince!"

"Yes, father."

"What did you have for your supper?"

"Oh! only a couple of slices of bread and butter, with a little jam on,"
said Mrs Burnet hastily.  "I cut it for him myself."

"Nothing else?" said the Doctor.

"No, dear."

"Yes, I did, mother," said Vince, whose head was growing clearer now.
"I was so hungry I went into the larder and got that piece of cold
pudding."

"Wurrrh!" roared the Doctor, uttering a peculiar growling sound, and, to
the astonishment of mother and son, he caught up the pillow and gave
Vince a bang with it which knocked him back on the bolster.  "Cold
pudding!" he cried.  "Here! try a shoe-sole to-morrow night, and see if
you can digest that.  Come to bed, my dear.  Look here, Vince: tell Mr
Deane to give you some lessons in natural history, and then you'll learn
that you are not an ostrich, but a boy."

The next minute Vince was in the dark, but not before Mrs Burnet had
managed to bend down and kiss him, accompanying it with one of those
tender good-nights which he never forgot to the very last.

But Vince felt hot and angry with what had passed.

"I wish father hadn't hit me," he muttered.  "He never did before.  I
don't like it; and he seemed so cross.  I wonder whether he did feel
angry."

Vince lay for some minutes puzzling his not quite clear brain as to
whether his father was angry or pretending.  There was the dull murmur
of voices from the next room, as if a conversation were going on, but he
could not tell whether his mother was taking his part or no.  Then, all
at once, there came an unmistakable "Ha, ha, ha!" in the Doctor's gruff
voice, and that settled it.

"He couldn't have been cross," thought Vince, "or he wouldn't laugh like
that.  And it was only the pillow after all."

Two minutes later the boy was asleep, and breathing gently without
dreams, and so soundly that he did not hear the handle of the door creak
softly, nor a light step on the floor.  Neither did he hear a voice say:
"Asleep, Vince?" nor feel a hand upon his forehead, nor two soft, warm
lips take their place as a gentle voice whispered: "God bless my darling
boy!"



CHAPTER EIGHT.

A RANDOM SHOT.

"How about the cold pudding?"

"Look here, Ladle, if you say any more about that it means a fight."

"Ha, ha!  Poor old Cinder riding the nightmare, and dreaming about the
Scraw!  Wish I'd been sleeping at the cottage that night.  I'd have woke
you up: I'd have given you cold pig!"

"Lucky for you that you weren't," said Vince.  "I'd have given you
something, my lad.  But, I say, Ladle, drop it.  I wouldn't have told
you about that if I'd known you were always going to fire it off at me."

"Well it does seem so comic for a fellow to go stuffing himself with
cold pudding, and then begin dreaming he was hanging at the end of our
rope."

"Look here," said Vince sharply, "if you'd felt what I did that day,
though I didn't say much, I'll be bound to say you'd have dreamed of it
after."

"I felt bad enough," said Mike, suddenly growing serious, as they walked
together over the heathery land, unwittingly taking the direction of the
scene of their adventure; "and I don't mind telling you, Cinder, that
I've woke up four nights since with a start, fancying I was trying to
hold the rope, and it kept slipping through my fingers.  Ugh! it was
very horrid."

He laid his hand on Vince's shoulder, and his companion followed his
example, both walking along very silently for a few minutes before Vince
said quietly:

"I say, you won't grin if I tell you something?"

"No: honour bright."

"Well, let's see: it was last Thursday week we went, wasn't it?"

"Yes."

"I've been thinking about it ever since."

"So have I: not about the rope business, you know, but about that place.
It's just as if something was always making me want to go."

Vince let his hand drop, shook himself free, and faced his companion.

"But that's just how I feel," he said.  "I keep on thinking about it and
wanting to go."

"Not to try and get down with a rope?" said Mike excitedly.

"Brrrr!  No!" exclaimed Vince, with a shudder.  "I don't say I wouldn't
go down with a rope from the cliffs if it was to help some poor chaps
who were wrecked and drowning, because that would seem to be right, I
suppose, and what one would expect any fellow to do for one if being
drowned.  Why, you'd go down then, Ladle."

"I d'know.  I shouldn't like to; but when one got excited with seeing a
wreck, perhaps I should try."

"There wouldn't be any perhaps about it, Ladle," said Vince gravely.
"Something comes over people then.  It's the sort of thing that makes
men go out in lifeboats, or swim off through the waves with ropes, or,
as I've read, go into burning houses to get people out."

Mike nodded, and they went on very thoughtful and dreamy over the purple
heather and amongst the golden furze till they reached the edge of the
scrub oak wood, where they stopped short and looked in each other's eyes
again.

"What do you say? shall we go and have another look at the place?"

"I feel as if I should like to," replied Mike; "and at the same time I'm
a bit shrinky.  You won't do anything risky, will you?"

"That I just won't," said Vince decisively.

"Then come on."

They plunged into the wood eagerly, and being more accustomed to the way
they got along more easily; and decided as they walked that they would
go to the southern end of the slope and then try and get up to have a
look over the ridge from there, while afterwards they would make their
way along the landward side of the jagged serrations of weather-worn
granite points right to the northern end if they could get so far, and
return at the bottom of the slope.

"That'll be more than any one in the Crag has ever done," said Vince,
"and some day we'll bring Mr Deane, and see what he'll say to it."

Little more was said, but, being of one mind, they steadily went on
fighting their way through the difficulties which beset them on all
sides, till, hot, weary and breathless, they neared the slope some
considerable distance from the spot where they had approached it first.
Then, after a short rest, they climbed up, over and among the fallen
rocks, with nothing more to startle them than the rush of a rabbit or
two, which went scuttling away.

Half-way up they saw a couple of those fast disappearing birds, the
red-legged choughs, and startled a few jackdaws, which went off shouting
at them, Mike said; and then the top was won, and they had a long survey
of the cove from another point of view.

But there was nothing fresh to see; all beneath them was entirely hid
from view, and though they looked again and again as they continued
their course along the ridge their patience and toil were not rewarded,
for, save that they were from different standpoints, the views they
obtained of the rocks and rushing waters were the same.

They continued along the ridge by slow climbing for a considerable
distance, and then as if moved by the same spirit they stopped and
looked at each other.

"I say," said Mike, "it don't seem any good to go any farther."

"No," was the reply, given in a very decisive tone.  "The only way to
see that place down below is to get there in a boat."

"And old Joe Daygo says it's not right to go, and we should never get
back; so we shall never see it."

"I don't believe that," said Vince shortly.

"Well, I don't want to, but it seems as if he's right, and the more one
looks the more one believes in him."

"I don't," said Vince.  "The more I look the more I seem to want to go
and have a thorough good search, and I can't help thinking he knows
why."

"Shall we try him again?"

Vince thoughtfully shook his head, as he gazed down once more from
between two pieces of granite that the storms of centuries had carved
till they seemed to have been set upon edge.

"Might offer him some money."

"I don't believe he'd like it, and you know Jemmy Carnach once said
that, though he always dressed so shabbily and never spent anything, he
always was well off."

"Well, then, what are we to do?  I want to see the place worse than
ever.  It looks so tempting, and as if there's no knowing what we might
find."

"I don't think we should find anything about it but that it would be a
good place for fishing.  It must be if no one ever goes there.  Why,
Ladle, all the holes among the rocks must swarm with lobsters, and the
congers must be as big as serpents."

Mike nodded.

"But how are we to get there to fish for them?"

"Don't know, unless we try it ourselves with a boat."

"Would you risk it?"

Vince did not answer for a few moments, but stood clinging to the rock,
gazing down and searchingly examining the opening through which the tide
poured.

"I'm not sure yet," he said; "but I begin to think I would.  That narrow
passage would look wider when you were right in it, and the way to do it
would be to come in when the tide was high,--there wouldn't be so much
rushing and tumbling about of the water then; and the way to get out
again would be at high water too."

"But that would mean staying till the tide had gone down and come up
again--hours and hours."

"Yes," said Vince, "that would be the way; but it would want ever so
much thinking about first."

"Yes," replied Mike; "it would want ever so much thinking about first.
Ready to go back?"

"May as well," said Vince; and he stepped down, after a farewell look
down at the sheltered cove, fully realising the fact that any one
passing it a short distance from the shore would take the barrier of
rocks which shut it in for the continuation of the cliffs on either
side; and as the place had a terrible reputation for dangerous reefs and
currents, in addition to the superstitious inventions of the people of
the Crag, it seemed highly probable that it had never been approached
unless by the unfortunate crew of some doomed vessel which had been
battered to pieces and sunk unseen and unheard.

"Shall I go first?" said Vince.

"Yes: you lead."

"Mean to go along among the bushes at the bottom, or would you like to
slope down at once?"

"Oh, we'll go back the way we said, only we shan't have done as much as
we promised ourselves."

Vince started off down the slope, and upon reaching the trough-like
depression at the bottom he began to work his way in and out among the
fallen blocks, leaping the hollows wherever there was safe landing on
the other side.  At times he had to stop to extricate himself from the
brambles, but on the whole he got along pretty well till their way was
barred by a deeper rift than they had yet encountered, out of which the
brambles and ferns grew luxuriantly.

The easier plan seemed to be to go round one end or the other; but it
only appeared to be the simpler plan, for on trying to put it to the
test it soon proved itself to be the harder, promising as it did a long,
toilsome climb, whichever end they took.

"Jump it," said Mike: "there's a good landing-place on the other side."

"Yes, but if I don't reach it I shall get a nice scratching.  Look at
that blackthorn covered with brambles."

"Oh, never mind a few thorns," said Mike, grinning.  "I'll pick them all
out for you with a packing needle."

"Thankye," said Vince, eyeing the rift he had to clear: "you'll have
enough to do to pick out your own thorns, for if I go down I'm sure you
will.  Stand aside and let's have a good start."

There was no running, for it was a standing jump from one rugged block
to another a little lower; and after taking a good swing with both arms,
the lad launched himself forward, drawing his feet well up, clearing the
mass of tangled bushes below, and just reaching the other side with his
toes.

An inch or two more would have been sufficient; as it was, he had not
leaped quite far enough, for his boots grated and scratched down the
side facing him, the bushes below checked him slightly, and he tried to
save himself with his hands and clung to the rough block for a few
moments.  Then, to Mike's great amusement, he slipped suddenly lower,
right in among the brambles which grew from out of a rift, and looked
matted enough together to support him as he hung now by his hands.

"Scramble up, Cinder!" cried Mike.  "You are a jumper!"

"Wait till you try it, my lad," was the reply; and then, "Must drop and
climb out at the end."

As Vince spoke his hands glided from their hold, and he dropped out of
sight among the bushes, and at the same moment, to Mike's horror, there
was the rushing noise of falling stones, increasing to quite an
avalanche, and sounding hollow, echoing, and strange, as if descending
to a terrific depth.

Mike's heart seemed to stand still as he craned forward, gazing at the
slight opening in the brambles which his companion had made; and as he
listened intently he tried hard to speak, but his mouth felt dry, and
not a word would come.

It was horrible.  They had both imagined that they were about to leap
over a hollow between some masses of stone, probably two, perhaps three
feet deep; but the bushes and brambles which had rooted in the sides had
effectually masked what was evidently a deep chasm, penetrating to some
unknown distance in the bowels of the earth.

What to do?  Run for help, or try to get down?

Before Mike could decide, in his fear and excitement, which, he drew his
breath heavily, with a gasp of relief, for a voice sounding hollow and
strange came up through the bushes and ferns.

"Mike!"

"Yes.  Hullo, are you hurt?"

"Bit scratched," came up.

"How far are you down?  Tell me what to do.  Shall I go for a rope?"

"Steady!" came up: "don't ask so much at once.  Not down very far.  I
can see the light, and it's all of a slope here, but awful lower down.
Did you hear the stones go with a rush?"

"Yes, yes; but Vince, old chap, tell me how I am to help you."

"I can't: I don't know.  I think I can climb out, only I hardly like to
stir for fear of a slip.  Here goes, though.  I can't stay like this."

Mike stood gazing down at the bushes, trembling with anxiety as he heard
a rustling and scraping sound beneath, which made him long to speak and
ask questions about how his companion got on, but he feared to do so
lest he should take his attention from the work he had on hand.  Then
came the rattle of a falling stone going slowly down, as if there were a
good, steady slope; and the boy listened for its plunge into water far
beneath, but the falling of the stone ceased to be heard, while the
rustling and scraping sound made by the climber increased.  Then all at
once the bushes began to move and a hand appeared at the far end.

"Take care! pray take care!" cried Mike.  "Don't--pray don't slip back!"

"Oh, it's all right now," said Vince, to the watcher's great relief.
"It's all of a slope here, as if it had once been a place where water
ran down.  Wait a moment till I get out my knife."

There was a pause, during which Mike climbed round to the end where
Vince was trying to get out; and he was there by the time his companion
began hacking at the brambles with his big knife, first his arm
appearing and soon after his head, as he chopped away, getting himself
free, and seizing the hand extended to him from where Mike knelt and
reached down.

"Hah!" cried Vince, as he climbed on to one of the rugged blocks, "that
wasn't nice.  It slopes down from here, so that where I fell through I
must have dropped a dozen feet; but I came down standing, and then fell
this way on my hands and stopped myself from sliding, when a lot of
stones that had been waiting for a touch went down."

"But are you hurt?" cried Mike anxiously.

"Not much: bit bruised, I suppose.  But I say, isn't it rum?  There must
have been water running to make a place like that.  It must have come
all along the bottom, where we've been creeping, and run down here,
eating its way, like your father and mine were talking about one
evening."

"I'd forgotten," said Mike.  "But if it ran down there, where did it go
to?"

"Down to the sea, of course, and--I say, Mike, don't you see?" cried
Vince excitedly.

"See?  See what?" said the lad, staring.

"What I said."

"How could any one see what you said!" cried Mike, ready enough to laugh
now that his companion was out of danger.

"Oh, don't be stupid at a time like this!" grumbled Vince excitedly.
"Once water begins to eat away, it goes on eating a channel for itself,
like it does at the waterfall over the other side of the island.  Well,
this must have cut itself a way along.  It's quite a big, sloping
passage, and it must go down to the shore.  Can't you see now?"

"I don't know.  Do you mean that hole leads down to the shore?"

"Yes, or into some cavern like the great holes where the stream runs out
into the sea."

"Then it would be a way down into the Black Scraw?" cried Mike
excitedly.

"Of course it would.  Why, Mikey, we've found out what we were looking
for!"

"You mean you tumbled upon it," said Mike, laughing.

"Tumbled into it," cried Vince, whose face was flushed with eagerness.
"Come on down, and let's have a look if I'm not right."

"What, down there?"

"Yes, of course."

"But isn't it dark?"

"Black enough lower down; but you can see the top part, because the
light shines through all these brambles and thorns."

"But hadn't we better wait till I've got a lanthorn and the rope?"

"Why, of course, before we try to explore it; but we might go and look a
little way.  You're not afraid?"

"No, I don't think I'm afraid," said Mike.

"Then come on."

Without a moment's hesitation Vince began to lower himself down where he
had so lately emerged, and Mike followed; but in a few minutes they had
decided that they could do nothing without a light.  All they could make
out was that there was a rugged slope, very steep and winding, going
right away in the direction of the sea.  They picked up the loose stones
beneath their feet, and threw them into the darkness, and listened to
hear them go bounding down, striking the sides and floor; but there
seemed to be no precipitous fall, and at last, thoroughly satisfied with
their discovery, they climbed back into daylight, and sat down on the
stones to rest and think.

"I've got it!" said Mike suddenly.  "It isn't what you think."

"What is it, then?"

"An old mine, where they bored for lead in the old, old days."

"No," said Vince stubbornly, "it's what I say--the channel of an old
stream; and you'll see."

"So will you, my lad, when we bring a lanthorn.  I say you'll find the
walls sparkling with what-you-may-call-it--you know--that glittering
lead ore, same as we've got specimens of in the cabinet at home."

"No," said Vince; "you'll find that it'll be all smooth, worn granite at
the sides, where the water has been running for hundreds of years."

"Till it all ran away.  Very well, then: let's go back at once and get a
lanthorn and the rope."

Vince laughed.  "We've got to get home first, and by the time we've done
that we shan't want to make another journey to-day; but I say to-morrow
afternoon, directly after dinner.  Are you willing?"

"Of course."

"And you'll bring the rope?"

"To be sure; and you the crowbar and hammer?"

Vince promised, and sat there very thoughtful, as he gazed down at the
hacked-away brambles.

"Let's put these away or throw them down," he said.

"Why?"

"Because if Old Daygo came along here, he'd see that some one had found
a way down into the Scraw."

"Daygo!  What nonsense!  I don't believe he ever was along here in his
life."

"Perhaps not; but he may come now, if he sees us spying about.  I'm sure
he watches us."

"And I'm sure you've got a lot of nonsense in your nut about the old
chap.  Now then, shall we go?"

"Yes; I'm willing.  Think we can find it again?"

"Easily," said Mike.  "Look up yonder: we can take those two pieces of
rock up on the ridge for our bearings.  They stand as two ends of the
base A B, as Mr Deane would say, and if you draw lines from them they
will meet here at this point, C.  This hole's C, and we can't mistake
it."

"No.  But look here: this is better still.  Look at that bit of a crag
split like a bishop's mitre."

"Yes: I see."

"We've got to get this laid-down rock in a line with it, and there are
our bearings; we can't be wrong then."

"No," cried Mike.  "Who wouldn't know how to take his bearings when he's
out, and wants to mark a spot!  Now then, is it lay our heads for home?"

It was a long while before either of them slept that night for thinking
of their discovery, and when they did drop off, the dark, tunnel-like
place was reproduced in their dreams.



CHAPTER NINE.

STUDY VERSUS DISCOVERY.

"Dear, dear, dear, dear!" in a tone full of reproach, and then a series
of those peculiar sounds made by the tongue, and generally written
"tut-tut-tut-tut!" for want of a better way--for it is like trying to
express on paper the sound of a Bosjesman's _click cluck_ or the crowing
of a cock.

The speaker was Mr Humphrey Deane--a tall, pale, gentlemanly-looking
young university man, who, for reasons connected with his health, had
arranged with Sir Francis Ladelle and the Doctor to come and stay at the
Mount, where he was to have a comfortable home and the Doctor's
attendance, a moderate stipend, and, in exchange, to help on the two
lads in their studies every morning, the rest of the day being his own.

The plan had worked admirably; for Mr Deane was an earnest, able man,
with a great love of learning, and always ready to display a warm
friendship for boy or man who possessed similar tastes.  The lads liked
him: he was always firm, but kindly; and he possessed that wonderful
power of imparting the knowledge he possessed, never seeming at a loss
for means to explain some puzzling expression in classic lore, or
mathematical problem, so as to impress it strongly upon his pupil's
mind.

The morning he uttered the words at the beginning of this chapter he was
seated with the two boys in the long, low library at the Mount, whose
heavy windows looked out upon a great, thick, closely-cropped yew hedge,
which made the room dark and gloomy, for it completely shut off all view
of the western sea, though at the same time it sheltered the house from
the tremendous gales which swept over the island from time to time.

It was the morning after the discovery in so unpleasant a manner of the
hole at the foot of the slope, and their projected visit of
investigation in the afternoon so filled the lads' heads that there did
not seem to be any room for study; and, in consequence, after patiently
bearing the absence of mind and inattention of his pupils for a long
time, the tutor began to be fidgety and, in spite of his placid nature,
annoyed.

The Latin reading and rendering went on horribly, and the mathematics
worse.  Vince tried hard; but as soon as he began to write down _a_ +
_b_--_c_ = the square root of _x_, his mind wandered away to the rocks
over the Black Scraw.  For that root of _x_ was so suggestive: _x_
represented the unknown quantity, and the Black Scraw was the unknown
quantity of which he wanted to get to the root; and, over and over
again, when the tutor turned to him, it was to find the boy, pen in
hand, but with the ink in it dried up, while he sat gazing straight
before him at imaginary grottoes and caverns, lit up by lanthorns which
cast the black shadows of two explorers behind them on the
water-smoothed granite floor.

But this did not apply only to Vince, for Mike was acting in a similar
way; and at the end of an hour Mr Deane could bear it no longer, for it
had happened at a time when he was not so well as usual, and it required
a strong effort of will to be patient with the inattentive lads when
suffering pain.

And so it was that at last he uttered the "dear dears" and "tut tuts,"
and roused the two boys from their dreams about what they would see in
the afternoon.

"Are you unwell, Vincent Burnet?" he said.

"Unwell, sir?--oh no!" said the lad, colouring a little.

"You seem so strange in your manner this morning; and Michael Ladelle
here is the same.  I hope you are not both sickening for something."

"Oh, I'm quite well, sir," said Mike hurriedly.  "Perhaps it's the
weather."

"Perhaps it is," said Mr Deane drily.  "Now, pray get on with those
problems."

"Yes, of course," cried Vince; and he began to work away most
industriously, till, as the tutor was resting his head upon his hand and
looking down at the paper upon which he was himself working out the
problem he had set the boys, so as to be able to show them, step by
step, how it was best done, Mike scribbled something on a scrap, shut it
in a book, and passed it to Vince, after glancing across the table and
then giving him a nudge.

Vince glanced across too; but Mr Deane was apparently intent upon the
problem, his delicate right-hand guiding the new quill pen, and forming
a long series of beautifully formed characters which were always looked
upon by the boys with envy and surprise.

Vince opened the book at the scrap of paper and read:

"I say: let's tell old Deane, and make him go with us."

Vince turned the paper over and wrote:

"What for?  He'd spoil it all.  Want to knock all the fun out of our
discovery?"

The scrap was shut up in the book and pushed back to the sender; the
work continued, and then came another nudge and the book once more, with
a fresh scrap of paper stuck in.

"I say, I can't get on a bit for thinking about the Black Scraw."

Vince wrote on the back:

"More can I.  Get on with your work, and don't bother."

This was forwarded by library table post, and then there was nothing
heard but the scratching of the tutor's pen.  But Mike's restlessness
increased: he fidgeted and shuffled about in his chair, shook the table,
and tried all kinds of positions to help him in solving his algebraic
problem, but without avail.  Scrub oaks, ravens and red-legged choughs
danced before his eyes; great dark holes opened in the rocks, and the
desire to finish work, get out in the bright sunshine, and run and
shout, seemed more than he could bear.

At last, to relieve his feelings a little, he took a fresh piece of
paper, laid it over his pluses and minuses and squares and cubes, and
then wrote enigmatically:

"Lanthorn and rope."

This he blotted, glanced at the hard-working student across the table,
and then thrust it sidewise to Vince, who took it, read it, and, turning
it over, wrote:

"You be hanged!"

He was in the act of blotting it when the pen dropped from Mr Deane's
fingers; he sat up, and extended his hand as he looked sternly across
the table.

"Give me that piece of paper, Vincent," he said.

Vince hesitated; but the tutor's eyes gazed firmly into his, and wrong
yielded to right.

He passed the paper across to Mr Deane, and then nearly jumped out of
his chair, for Mike gave him a violent kick under the table.

"To be paid with interest," thought Vince.

"Oh! you jolly sneak, to give it up!" thought Mike, as the tutor read
the paper on both sides.

"I am very sorry," he said, after coughing to clear his voice--"very
sorry to have to exercise my authority towards you two, who have been
acting this morning like a pair of inattentive, idle schoolboys; but
when I undertook to act as your tutor, it was with the full
understanding that I was to have complete authority over you, and that
you were both to treat me with proper respect."

The boys sat silent and feeling horribly guilty.  If Humphrey Deane had
been an overbearing, blustering personage, they might have felt ready to
resent his words; but the injured tone, the grave, gentle manner of the
invalid went right home to both, and they listened, with their eyes upon
their scanty display of work, as the tutor went on.

"You both know," he said, "that my health will not permit of much
strain, but so long as you both work with me and try your best, it is a
pleasure to me, and no one could feel more gratification than I do when
you get on."

"Mr Deane," began Vince.

"One moment, and I have done," continued the tutor.  "You well know that
I try to make your studies pleasant."

"Yes, sir," said Mike.

"And that when the morning's work is over I am only too glad to join you
in any amusement or excursion.  I ask you, then, is it fair, when you
see I am unwell, to make my endeavours to help you a painful toil, from
your carelessness and inattention?"

"No, Mr Deane," said Vince quickly; "it's too bad, and I'm very sorry.
There!"

"Thank you, Burnet," said the tutor, smiling.  "It's what I expected
from your frank, manly nature."

"Oh, and I'm sorry too," said Mike quickly; but he frowned slightly, for
the speaker had not called him frank and manly.

"I have no more to say," said the tutor, smiling at both in turn; "and I
suppose I ought to apologise for insisting upon seeing that paper.  I am
glad to find that it was not of so trifling a nature as I thought for on
Michael Ladelle's part, though I am sorry that you, Burnet, treated the
note he passed you in so ribald a way.  `You be hanged!' is hardly a
gentlemanly way of replying to a historical memorandum or query such as
this: `Lanthorn and rope.'  Of course, I see the turn your thoughts had
taken, Michael."

The boys stared at him wonderingly.  While they had been suspecting old
Joe Daygo of watching them, had Mr Deane been quietly observing them
unnoticed, and had he divined that they were going to take lanthorn and
rope that afternoon?

"Of course, history is a grand study," continued the tutor, "and I am
glad to see that you have a leaning in that direction; but I like to be
thorough.  When we are having lessons on history let us give our minds
to it, but when we are treating of algebra let us try to master that.
There--we will say no more.  I am glad, though, that you recall our
reading; but try, Michael, to remember some of the other important parts
of French history, and don't let your mind dwell too much upon the
horrors of the Revolution.  It is very terrible, all that about the
excesses of the mob and their mad hatred of the nobility and gentry--_A
bas les aristocrates_! and their cry, _A la lanterne_!  Yes: very
terrible those ruthless executions with the lanthorn and the rope.  But
now, please, I have finished that compound equation.  Pray go on with
yours."

The two lads bent down now earnestly to their work, and with a little
help mastered the puzzle which had seemed hopeless a short time before.
Then the rest of the morning glided away rapidly, and Vince hurried off
home to his midday dinner, after a word or two about meeting, which was
to be at the side of the dwarf-oak wood, to which each was to make his
way so as not to excite attention, and in case, as Vince still believed,
Daygo really was keeping an eye upon their movements.

"I thought as much," said Vince aloud, as he reached the appointed
place, with a good-sized creel in his hand, the hammer and crowbar being
in a belt under his jersey, like a pair of hidden weapons.  "I'd go by
myself if I had the rope."

"And lanthorn," said Mike, raising his head from where he had been lying
hidden in a clump of heather.

"Hullo, then!" cried Vince joyously.  "I didn't see you there.  But, I
say: lanthorn and rope!  I felt as if I must burst out laughing."

"Yes: wasn't it comic?"

"I felt that I must tell him--poor old chap!--and as if I was trying to
cheat him."

"Oh no, it wasn't that!  We couldn't help him taking the wrong idea.
I'd have told him at once, only it seems to spoil the fun of the thing
if everybody knows.  But come on."

"Wait a minute," said Vince, sitting on a stone.  "I want to look all
round first without seeming to.  Perhaps old Joe's watching us."

"If he is," said Mike sagely, "you won't see him, for he'll be squatted
down by some block of stone, or in a furze bush.  He's a regular old
fox.  Let's go on at once.  But where's the lanthorn?"

"Never you mind about the lanthorn: where's the rope?"

"Lying on it.  Now, where's the light?"

"In the creel here," was the reply.  Then without further parley they
plunged into the wood, and, profiting by former experiences, made their
way more easily through it into the rocky chaos beyond; threaded their
way in and out among the blocks, till at last with very little
difficulty they found their bearings, and, after one or two misses in a
place where the similarity of the stones and tufts of furze and brambles
were most confusing, they reached the end of the opening, noted how the
old watercourse was completely covered in with bramble and fern, and
then stepped down at once, after a glance upward along the slope and
ridge, to stand the next minute sheltered from the wind and in the
semi-darkness.



CHAPTER TEN.

A VENTURESOME JOURNEY.

"Mind how you go," said Mike in a subdued voice, for the darkness and
reverberation following the kicking of a loose pebble impressed him.

"All right: it's only a stone.  It was just down there that I slipped
to.  Ahoy!"

He shouted softly, with one hand to his mouth, and his cry seemed to run
whispering away from them to echo far beneath their feet.

"I say, don't do that," said Mike excitedly.

"Why not?  Nobody could hear."

"No; but it sounds so creepy and queer.  Let's have a light."

It did sound "creepy and queer," for the sounds came from out of the
unknown, which is the most startling thing in nature, from the fact that
our busy brains are always ready to dress it up in the most weird way,
especially if the unknown lies in the dark.

But no more was said, for Vince was busy opening his basket, out of
which he drew an old-fashioned horn lanthorn and gave it to Mike to
hold, while he took something else out of the creel, which rattled as it
was moved.

"Why, you've only brought half a candle," said Mike, who had opened the
lanthorn, and held it so that the rays which streamed down through the
brambles overhead fell in its interior.  "What shall we do when that
burns out?"

"Light one of the pieces I've got in my pockets," said Vince coolly, as
he sat down on the water-worn granite, and placed a round, flattish tin
box between his knees.  "Didn't bring a cushion with you, did you?"

"Cushion?  No; what for?"

"One to sit on: this is precious hard."

And then _scratch, scratch_: a rub of a tiny wax match upon the sanded
side of a box, and a flash of red, dim light followed by a clear white
flame?

Nothing of the kind: matches of that sort had not been invented fifty or
sixty years ago.  Whoever wanted a light had to go to work as Vince
prepared to do, after placing a thin slip of wood sharpened at each end
and dipped in brimstone ready to hand.  Taking a piece of steel or iron
bent round so as to form a rough handle to be grasped, while the
knuckles were guarded by the edge of the steel, this was held over the
tin box, which was, on the inner lid or press being removed, half full
of burned cotton ash now forming the tinder that was to catch the
sparks.

Vince was pretty handy at the task from old experience, and gripping the
box tightly between his knees he made the hollow, cavernous place echo
again as he struck the steel in his left hand with a piece of
sharp-edged flint held in his right.

_Nick, nick, nick, nick_--the nearly forgotten sound that used to rise
in early morning from the kitchen before a fire could be lit--and _nick,
nick, nick, nick_ again, here in the narrow opening, where the rays of
sunshine shot down and made the sparks which flew from flint and steel
look pale as they shot downward at every stroke the lad gave.

Mike felt nervous at the idea of penetrating the depths below them, and
to hide this nervousness he chattered, and said the first thing that
came to his lips in a bantering tone:

"Here! you are a fellow to get a light.  Let me have a try."

But as he spoke one spark fell upon the tinder and seemed to stay, while
as soon as Vince saw this he bent down and blew, with the result that it
began to glow and increase in size so much that when the brimstoned
point of the match was applied to the glowing spot still fanned by the
breath the curious yellow mineral began to melt, sputter, and then burst
into a soft blue flame, which was gradually communicated to the wood.
This burned freely, the candle in the lanthorn was lit, the door shut,
and the tinder-box with flint and steel closed and smothered out and
returned to the creel.

"You'd have done it in half the time, of course," said Vince, rising and
slinging the creel on his back.  "Now then, are you going to carry the
lanthorn?"

"I may as well, as I've got it," said Mike.

"All right: then you'll have to go first."

Mike felt disposed to alter the arrangement, but he could not for very
shame.

"You take the rope, then.  But, I say, you needn't carry that creel as
well," he said.

"I don't want to; but suppose the candle goes out?"

"Oh, you'd better take it," said Mike eagerly.  "Ready?"

"Yes, if you are."

Mike did not feel at all ready, but he held the lanthorn up high and
took a step or two forward and downward, which left the sunlit part of
the place behind, and then began cautiously to descend a long rugged
slope, which was cumbered with stones of all sizes, these having
evidently fallen from the roof and sides, the true floor of the
tunnel-like grotto being worn smooth by the rushing water which must at
one time have swept along, reaching in places nearly to the roof just
above the boys' heads.

The way was very steep, and winding or rather shooting off here and
there, after forming a deep, wonderfully rounded hollow, in which in
several cases huge rounded stones lay as they had been left by the
torrent, after grinding round and round as if in a mill, smoothing the
walls of the hollow, and at the same time making themselves spherical
through being kept in constant motion by the water.  These pot-holes, as
a geologist would call them, are common enough in torrents, where a
heavy stone is borne into a whirlpool-like eddy, and goes on grinding
itself a deeper and deeper bed, the configuration of the rock-walls
where it lies having prevented its being swept down at the first, while
every year after it deepens its bed until escape becomes impossible.

Again and again, as they went on, places of this kind were met with;
while twice over they had to pause at spots where the water must have
sprung from a shelf ten or a dozen feet down into a basin which it had
hollowed for itself in the course of time.

Upon the first of these sudden drops presenting itself Mike stopped with
the lanthorn.

"Here's the end of it," he said.  "Goes down into a sort of bottomless
pit, black as ink.  Let's go back."

Vince stepped close to his side and gazed down into the black depths
with a feeling of awe, the place looking the more terrible from the fact
that the tunnel had narrowed until there was only just room for them to
stand between the smooth granite walls.

"Looks rather horrid," said Vince.  "Worse than a big well.  Let's see
how deep it is."

He stepped back and picked up a stone that had fallen from the roof,
returning to where Mike held up the lanthorn for him to see.

Down went the block of stone, and they prepared themselves to hear it go
bounding and echoing far away in the bowels of the earth; but it stopped
instantly with a loud clang, and Vince cried,--

"Why, it isn't deep at all!  I can see it."

A ring or two of the rope was cast loose, passed through the handle of
the lanthorn, and upon lowering it down block after block presented
itself sufficient to enable them to descend into what proved to be quite
a hollow, from which the stream must have leapt into another and again
into another, each being a fall of only a few feet.  After which there
was another great pot-hole, like a vast mortar with a handleless pestle
of rock remaining therein.

Beyond this the water had carved out a rugged trough, steep enough to
form a slide if they had felt disposed to trust themselves to it, and
Vince laughingly suggested that they should glide down.

"Only it wouldn't do," he added.  "We can't tell what's at the bottom.
Might mean a bad fall.  Had enough of it?"

"Yes, ever since we started," replied Mike.

"Then you want to go back?"

"Oh no, I don't," retorted Mike.  "One can't help feeling that one must
keep on and see where it goes to, even if it does make you turn creepy.
Doesn't it you?"

"Well, yes, I suppose so," replied Vince thoughtfully; "and I wouldn't
go on, only it's so easy to climb back, and the air feels fresh and
sweet, so that except that it's dark there's nothing to mind."

"But suppose the candle went out.  How much is there left?"

As Mike spoke, he opened the door of the lanthorn and looked at the
light anxiously, but they had not burned an inch.

"We could easily get another light," said Vince; "and we must go on now.
Here, shall I go down first?"

"No; I'll keep to it," cried Mike.  "I'm not going to have you jeering
at me afterwards and telling me I was afraid.  But look here, Cinder:
you can't walk down--it really is too steep."

"Let's try the rope: I'll fasten it, and then you can hold on."

"Nothing to fasten it to."

"Soon get over that," said Vince; and, taking out the iron bar and the
hammer, he found a crack in the rock directly, into which he drove the
narrow edge till it was perfectly firm, the roof just overhead echoing
the blows of the hammer so rapidly that in a short time it sounded as if
a dozen smiths were at work.

"Stop a moment," cried Mike, as he held the light, and Vince began to
tie the end of the rope to the strong iron peg he had formed.

"What for?"

"Suppose when we get down we want the rope for another place, what
should we do if we leave it here?"

Vince took the lanthorn and held it out before him, so that he could
examine the trough-like slope.

"I shouldn't like to trust myself to slide down here," he said; "but
there's nothing to prevent our climbing up.  Let's double the rope and
hook the middle over the bar; then, when we're down, we can pull one end
and get it free."

This was done, and, tying the lanthorn to his neck by means of his
kerchief, Mike secured the doubled rope and let himself down, his
companion soon after seeing him standing some thirty feet lower.

A minute later Vince was by his side, and they looked about them, but
there was nothing fresh to see.  The roof was only a foot above their
heads.  The width of the place averaged six or seven feet, and there was
this to encourage them--no branches occurred to form puzzling
labyrinths.  If they had been overtaken by darkness there was nothing to
prevent their feeling their way back into the sunshine.  So, growing
accustomed to the place, familiarity, if it did not breed contempt, made
them cooler and more ready to go on descending over similar obstacles to
those they had previously encountered, till all at once Mike stopped
short, and held up the lanthorn beneath which he peered.

"What is it?" said Vince anxiously.

"Hark!  What's that?" said Mike, in a whisper full of awe.

A dull rushing sound smote upon their ears, but in a muffled, strange
way, that puzzled them to make out what it might be.

"I know," said Vince at last: "it's water."

"Think so?" said Mike dubiously.

"Yes.  I've been puzzling ever so long to make out how it was that water
could have run along here, and for there to be none now, but I see now
it is.  This was once the channel of the stream, till it ate its way
down through the rock to a lower one, and that's it we can hear running
somewhere below."

"Perhaps," said Mike; but his words implied doubt, and, after once more
examining the candle in the lanthorn, he led on, but very cautiously and
slowly now, though the passage was easier, and the slope less broken by
step-like faults in the granite, over which the water must once have
flowed.

At the end of a dozen yards Mike stopped again, and Vince quite as
willingly, for the dull rushing sound continued, and they looked at each
other by the light of the lanthorn.

"How far down are we, do you think?" said Mike.

"I dunno.  Must be a long way below the sea."

Mike nodded, and Vince continued:

"I thought it led down into the Scraw cove, but we must be lower than
that."

"Yes, ever so much; and it strikes me that we might go on down and down
for hours.  Haven't we done enough for this time?"

"Well, yes," said Vince, in a hesitating tone; "only I should have liked
to find out something better than going on and on, just like in one of
the caverns on the shore stretched out a tremendous way."

"Yes, I should have liked to see something more; but this is a curious
place.  Old Deane would like to come down here and see those round
stones in the holes."

"We'll bring him some day," said Vince.  "Well, suppose we'd better go
back, for it seems to be all like this."

"Can't be all like this, because there's water rushing somewhere down
below."

"Well, let's go on till we come to the water, and then turn back."

"But if it's very dangerous?"

"We won't go into danger.  You keep the lanthorn well up, so that you
can see where you go, and then you can stop."

"Suppose you lead now," said Mike: "my arm aches awfully with holding up
the light."

"All right: I'll go first, then."

"But I'm not afraid to!" cried Mike hastily.

"Well, I am, Ladle," said Vince frankly; "and I shall go very slowly and
carefully, I can tell you.  Here, you carry the rope and hammer.  Stop a
minute, though: how's the light?"

He opened the lanthorn door now, and was surprised to see how little the
candle was burned down, but there was a tremendously long snuff with a
fungous top.

"I thought it was very dull," he said; and, moistening his fingers, he
snuffed the candle.--"Now we shall have a better light."

But unfortunately he had moistened his fingers too much, and the result
was that the shortened wick hissed, sputtered, burned blue, and then
without further warning went out.

"Oh!" cried Mike, in tones of horror, as they stood there in profound
darkness.

"Oh!" was echoed along the passage, and prolonged as if in a groan.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE SEA PALACE.

For a few moments neither of the boys spoke, but stood listening to the
dull roaring sound.  Then Vince started, for he felt himself touched;
and he nearly uttered a cry of horror, but checked it by setting his
teeth hard as he grasped the fact that the touch came from Mike's hand,
which he seized and found to be cold and damp.

"Let's get back--quick, somehow," gasped the lad.

"Yes: come on.  We can feel our way," replied Vince.  "Keep hold of
hands.  No, that would make it harder.  Here, give me a piece of the
rope, and I'll put it round my waist, then you can hold on by that and
follow me.  I think I can recollect exactly how it goes."

"Be quick!" said Mike, in an awe-stricken whisper, as he passed several
yards of the rope to his companion in misfortune; and this Vince
fastened round his waist, and then uttered an ejaculation.

"What is it?" cried Mike: "don't say something else is wrong."

"Wrong?  No," cried Vince, whose hands had come in contact with the
creel: "I forgot the tinder-box."

"Ah!" cried Mike joyfully; and he pressed close to Vince, as the latter
sat down, took out the box, and began nicking away with the flint and
steel, making the scintillating sparks flash and send their feeble light
in all directions.

"Oh, do make haste!" panted Mike; "that dreadful roaring's coming
nearer."

"I can hear it," muttered Vince, as he kept on nicking; but not a spark
took hold of the tinder.

"Here, let me try," cried Mike.

"No, not yet: I'll do it.  The tinder must have got damp."

"Turn it over, then," cried Mike piteously.  "Oh, do make haste."

Vince thrust his fingers into the tinder-box to follow out his
companion's instructions, and uttered an impatient sound.

"What is it now?"

"Such an idiot!" cried Vince.  "I never took the tin off the top of the
tinder."

And so it was that after the disk, which damped out the sparks after a
light had been obtained, was removed, the first blow of the flint on the
steel sent down a shower, a couple of which caught at once, and were
blown into an incandescent state, the match was applied, began to melt,
and after a little trouble the sputtering candle once more burned
brightly behind the semi-transparent horn, while the roaring sound did
not now seem to be so loud.

"I say," said Vince, with a forced laugh, "isn't it easy to feel scared
when you're in the dark?"

"Scared?  It was awful!"

"But we're not going to give up till we've seen where the water runs?"

Mike remained silent.

"We must do what we meant to do?"

"Very well," said Mike, drawing a deep breath, which was followed by a
gasp.

"Come on, then, and let's get it over."

Setting his teeth firmly, Vince once more attacked the unknown, and came
upon another sharp turn, where the water must have eddied round, and was
reflected almost back upon itself, and then turned away, after another
rounded hollow, almost at right angles.

Here the slope became a little more inclined, still not enough to make
progress difficult; but as soon as the two windings had been passed,
they knew that the goal they had marked out for themselves was at hand,
for the noise suddenly became louder, and was unmistakably caused by
water rushing over stones.

"Take care!" cried Mike warningly.  "You're close to it."

"Yes," cried Vince excitedly; "we are close to it;" and he stopped and
held up the lanthorn, so that his hand struck against the roof.  "Look
there!"

Mike pressed close, and looked at the object which had taken his
companion's attention; but for a few moments he realised nothing save
that the passage had grown more contracted, and that the roof seemed to
be formed by two huge pieces of glistening granite leaning together.
Then he looked down and saw that the floor, which was smoother than
ever, ran down suddenly, while a faint, damp, salt odour of sea-weed
struck upon his nostrils as a puff of air was suddenly wafted up.

"Mind, mind!" he shouted.  "Ah!"

For the lanthorn was once more darkened, but not by the candle being
extinct.  On the contrary, it was burning brightly still, but hidden by
Vince drawing his jersey suddenly over the sides.

"It's all right," cried Vince, for there before him was the shape of the
end of the passage marked out by a pale, dawn-like light.  "Can't you
see?  We've been fancying we've come down such a tremendous depth, and
all the time we were right: the hole has led us to the shore."

But Vince was not quite right, for, upon his drawing the lanthorn out--
and none too soon, an odour of singed worsted becoming perceptible--they
found that the sudden sharp slope of the granite flooring went down some
twenty feet, and upon lowering the light by means of the rope the
lanthorn came to rest in soft sand.

"It isn't very light down there," said Vince, whose feelings of
nervousness were being rapidly displaced by an intense desire to see
more; "but light does come in, and there's the waves running in and out
round here.  You don't want to go back now, do you?"

"No," said Mike quickly.  "Who's to go down first?"

"I will, for I found out what it was."

"All right," said Mike; "but we shall want the rope.  How are we to
fasten it?"

"There's plenty," said Vince, "and we'll go back and tie it round that
last great stone in the hole."

This was done, Mike lighting him; and then, upon their returning, the
rope coil was thrown down.

"Here goes!" cried Vince.  "Hold the light high up."

Mike raised it on high, and leaned forward as far as he could; while,
sitting down and grasping the rope, Vince let himself glide, and the
next moment his feet sank deep in soft sand.

"Come on!" he shouted back to where Mike was anxiously watching from
twenty feet or so above him.  "It's easy as easy.  Never mind the
lanthorn."

He looked round as he spoke, to see that he was in a large cavern,
floored with beautifully smooth, soft sand, and lit up by the same soft
grey dawn that had greeted him at the end of the passage, but how it
entered the place he could not make out, for no opening was visible, and
the rushing, roaring sound of the water came from the lofty roof.

Vince's was only a momentary glance, for Mike was coming slowly down the
smooth shoot, sliding on his back, but lowering himself foot by foot, as
he held on to the rope.

"There!" cried Vince, as his companion stood beside him, gazing at the
rugged walls and lofty roof of the great dry channel; "wasn't this worth
coming to see?"

"Why, it's grand," replied Mike, in a subdued voice.  "I say, what a
place!"

"What a place?  I should think it is.  I say, Ladle, we've discovered
this, and it's all our own.  You and I ought to come and stay here when
we like.  I say, isn't it a size?  Why, it must be thirty feet long."

He paced across the rugged hollow, tramping through the soft sand.

"Twelve paces," he cried from the other side.  "It's splendid; but I
wish it was a bit lighter.  There must be somewhere for the light to
come in.  Yes, I see!"

Vince pointed up at the side farthest from him where he stood, and a
little closer investigation showed that the pale soft light appeared to
be reflected upward against the roof, coming from behind a screen of
rock.

Crossing to this spot, they found that they could pass round the rocky
screen, which reached half-way to the ceiling, and they now stood in a
narrow passage lit by a soft green light, which came through a low arch,
and on reaching and passing through this the boys uttered a shout of
delight, for before them was another cavern of ample dimensions, whose
low flattened roof was glorious with a lovely, ever-changing pattern,
formed by the reflection of the sunlight from the waves outside.  They
were fascinated for the time by the appearance of the roof, which seemed
to be all in motion--lights and shadows, soft as silken weavings,
chasing each other, opening, closing, and interlacing in the most
wonderful way, till they grew dazzled.

"It's too much to see at one time," whispered Mike at last.  "I say!
look at the arch with ferns hanging all round like lace."

"Yes, and what a colour the sea is!"

"And the anemones and limpets and coral!  Look at those pools, too,
among the rocks."

"Yes, and outside at the sea-birds.  I say, Ladle! did you ever see
anything like it?"

"Never thought there was such a beautiful place in the world," replied
Mike softly.  "Shall we go any farther?"

"Go any farther?  I should think we will!  Why, Mikey, this is all our
own!  Two beautiful caverns, one opening into the other, and all a
secret, only known to ourselves.  Talk about luck!  But come on."

They passed under the arch, and stood in a cavern opening by another
arch upon the sea, which rippled and played amongst the sand below, the
mouth of the place being protected by ridge after ridge of rock just
level with the surface, and sufficient to break the force of the wild
currents, which boiled as they rushed by a short distance out.  This
cavern appeared as if, at some distant period, it had been eaten out of
soft or half-decayed strata by the waves; and its peculiarity was the
great extent of low, fairly level roof, which in places the lads could
touch by tiptoeing and extending their fingers.  It ran in at least a
hundred feet; and apparently, from the state of the sand, was never
invaded by the highest tides, which were pretty exactly marked by the
living shells and sea-weed at the mouth.

Everywhere the place was carpeted with soft sand, through which stood up
smooth blocks with flattened tops, readily suggesting tables, chairs and
couches of the hardest and most durable nature.

They were not long in examining every cranny and crevice inward, fully
expecting to find some low arch leading into another or a series of
caverns; but they found nothing more, and did not spend much time in
examining the place, for the great attraction was the mouth, through
which, as if it were a frame, they gazed out at the glittering cove and
the barrier of rock, dotted with sea-birds, which hid the open sea
beyond.

Making their way, then, to the mouth, and hastily taking off shoe and
stocking, they tucked up and began to wade, so as to get outside; but
the huge buttresses which supported the rugged arch completely shut them
in, running out as they did to where the sea swirled along with
tremendous force, and looked so deep and formidable, that the two lads
grasped in a moment what the consequences of a slip would be,--no
swimmer could have stemmed such a rush.

"It's jolly--it's grand--it's splendid!" cried Vince at last, after they
had been paddling about for some time in the shallow water, and stepping
on to the low ridges of rock which barred the entrance; "but it's
precious disappointing."

"Yes," said Mike; "for we can't see much now, shut-in like this."

It was quite true; for when they had stepped from rock to rock as far as
they dared go, they were still in the mouth of the cave, which projected
far out over them like a porch, and completely hid the cove on either
side and the precipice extending upward to the ridge.

"I want to get round there to the left," said Vince, after gazing
thoughtfully along the foot of one large buttress.  "It looks shallow
there, for the water's pale green.  I can't see from here, but I don't
believe it's up to one's knees."

"We'll try," said Mike, springing on to the rock, flush with the water,
upon which Vince stood, with none too much room.

"Mind what you're doing!"

"Oh my! how sharp the rock is!" shouted Mike, who stood on one leg to
pet and comfort an injured toe.

"I shall go along there," said Vince, "and then keep close to the wall."

"But you'll mind and not get in the current.  It would take you away
directly."

"Just as if it was likely I should risk it, with my clothes on!" said
Vince scornfully.  "Do you suppose I want a soaking?  I think, you know,
that if I get along there I shall be able to hold on and look up at this
part of the cliffs.  'Tis a pity there isn't a narrow shore, so that you
could walk right round."

"Well, take care," said Mike.  "Mind, I'm not coming in after you, to
get wet."

Vince laughed, and, picking his way, he stepped from stone to stone,
till he was only a short distance from the massive wall of the buttress,
and not far from where the sun shone upon the water.

"Why, it's as shallow as shallow!" he cried.  "I thought it was, it
looked so pale and green.  I don't believe it's a foot deep, and it's
all sand, just like a garden walk; you can wade right out here, Mike,
and round by the corner, and I dare say all round the cove like this."

"Oh, do mind!" cried Mike.

"Of course I'll mind.  Don't suppose I want to drown myself, do you?
What are you afraid of?"

"I'm not afraid."

"Yes, you are.  You keep thinking of old Joe's nonsense about the place
being full of water bogies and things, when all the time there's nothing
but some dangerous rocks, and the sharp eddies and currents.  Why, I
haven't even seen a fish!"

"Well, I have," said Mike.  "I can see the mullet lying down here in the
still black water, so thick that they almost touch one another."

"You can?  Well, I'll come and have a look presently.  Here goes for a
wade."

Vince gave the bottoms of his trousers an extra roll, so as to get them
as high as possible above his knees, and leaning forward from where he
stood upon a detached block of stone, he rested his hands upon the side
of the great buttress, and lowered one foot into the water over ankle,
calf, and knee; and then he uttered a cry, and nearly went headlong, but
making a violent effort, he wrenched himself back, thrusting the rock
with all his might, and came down in a sitting position upon the great
stone.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

LOST IN THE DARKNESS.

"What was it?" cried Mike excitedly: "something get hold of your leg?"

"No," replied the boy, with a shiver, as his face turned clayey-looking.
"Yes."

"What was it--crab or a conger?"

"Something ever so much worse," said Vince, with a shiver.  "It looks
quite hard down there, and all as tempting as can be; but it's loose
quicksand, and my foot went down into it just as if it was so much
sticky oil.  There's no getting along there."

"Lucky you hadn't let go," said Mike sympathetically.  "Good job we
found out as we have.  It might have been much worse."

"Worse?  Why, I nearly went right in.  And then I should have been
sucked down.  Ugh!"

Vince shuddered; but the colour began to come naturally again into his
cheeks, and after a bit he laughed as they waded back into the cavern--
being particularly careful, though, in spite of the roughness, to plant
their feet on the pieces of shell-dotted stone beneath the surface.

"Yes, it's all very well to laugh," said Mike, in an ill-used tone; "but
you're always running risks and getting into some hobble."

"Not such a good little boy as you, Ladle.  You never do wrong, and--
There, see what you've done now!" cried Vince, as he stood now in the
soft, dry sand, and nestled his feet in it to take the place of a towel.

"What have I done now?"

"Come down and left the candle burning.  I know you did; and it will
have burned into the socket and melted it.  How will you like going back
in the dark?"

Mike stared at him aghast.

"You did forget, now, didn't you?"

"You never told me to put it out."

"I didn't tell you to eat your dinner to-day, did I?"

"No; but--"

"Where's your common sense?  Now we shall have to go all through that
dark hole like a couple of worms."

"No, we shan't," cried Mike.  "I've got common sense enough to know you
said you had some bits of candle in your pocket."

"Humph!" grunted Vince, whose eyes were wandering in all directions
about the beautiful cave.  "What's the good of candles without something
to stick them in?  That socket's melted off, I know."

"Soon manage that," said Mike, picking up a large whorled shell.
"There's a natural candlestick; and if we hadn't found that, our fists
would have done, or we could have stuck the candle on to the lanthorn
with some of the grease."

"My word, he is a clever old Ladle!" cried Vince jeeringly.  "I say,
isn't this dry sand jolly for your legs?  Mine are as right as can be."

"Capital," said Mike, who was pulling on his grey knitted socks.  "I
say, though, we have found out a place.  I vote we come often."

"Yes," said Vince.  "After a bit we shall be able to step through that
dark hole as easily as can be."

"Yes, and in half the time.  It's all very well to bounce, but it was
queer work coming down."

"I don't bounce, Ladle; I felt squirmy enough.  Of course you couldn't
help feeling creepy when you didn't know where you were going next."

"Well, I daresay you felt so too."

"Of course I did," continued Vince.  "I expected to put my foot in a
great crack every minute, and fall right through to Botany Bay."

"Yes," said Mike seriously.  "There's something about being in the dark
that is queer."

"Till you get used to it," said Vince, jumping up, with his boots laced.
"Now, then, look sharp.  I want to have another good look round."

"Ready," said Mike.  "I say, let's make a fireplace here, and bring
wood, and get a frying-pan and a kettle, and cook fish and make tea and
enjoy ourselves."

Vince nodded assent.

"Yes," he said; "might sleep here if you came to that.  Sand would make
a jolly bed and bed-clothes too.  I say, we've found a place that some
boys would give their heads to have.  Why, there's no end to the fun we
can have here.  We can fish from the mouth."

"Yes, and I found some oysters--put my foot on them."

"And we can bring things by degrees: potatoes and apples and flour.
Why, Ladle, old chap, we can beat old Robinson Crusoe all to nothing,
and smugglers and robbers and those sort of people.  But we must keep it
a secret.  If any one else knew of this place being here it would be
spoiled at once.  I say, what's that?"

"What?" said Mike.

"That dark bit there?" and Vince nodded to a spot in the gloomiest part
of the cavern, right up in one corner, where the roof rose highest.

"Crack in the rock.  There's another just beyond."

"Yes, a regular split.  Hope it don't mean that the roofs going to
tumble in."

"Not just yet," said Mike, gazing up curiously at the fault in the
granite stratum.  "We might try where it goes to."

"Want a ladder," said Vince; "and you may carry it, for I'm not going to
try and bring that sort of thing down here.  I say, there's the place to
make a fire, just by the mouth, and then the smoke will all go up
outside; and we can wash our fish and keep the place clean.  Those pools
will be splendid.  There's one deep enough to bathe in."

"There, I tell you what," said Mike; "we've got about as splendid a
place close to home as any fellows could find if they went all over the
world.  I say, though, how we could laugh at old Joe if we brought him
down and showed him the Scraw has about as beautiful a cave as there is
anywhere!"

"I say, don't talk about it.  I wouldn't have any one know for the
world; and do be careful about smuggling things down here."

"Don't you be afraid of that," said Mike.  "Hi, look!  There's a shoal
of fish out there.  Mackerel, I think."

"Oh, the place teems with fish, I'm sure," said Vince, as he watched the
shimmering of the surface just in a smooth patch beyond where the sea
was troubled.  "Now, then, shall we go and look at the other place
before we go back?"

"Yes," said Mike, but his tone suggesting no.  "I feel as if I could sit
down in the sand and look out at the sea and the birds on the rocks
there opposite for ever."

"Without getting hungry, I suppose," said Vince.  "Come on.  It won't be
long before we come down again.  I say, Ladle, what a place to come to
on wet days!"

"Splendid; and I shan't be satisfied till you and I have sailed round
here to see if there isn't a way of getting into the bay with a boat."

"We might; but I daresay there isn't.  Very likely it's such a race and
so full of rocks that we should be upset directly.  Come on."

They went down and peered through the low arch into the narrow way
between the rocks, and onward into the other chamber, which looked black
and dark to them as they entered from the well-lit outer cavern.  But in
a few minutes their eyes were accustomed to the gloom, and the place
seemed filled with a soft, pearly light which impressed Mike, who was
the poetical lad of the pair.

"I say," he said softly, "isn't this one beautiful?"

"Not half so beautiful as the other," said Vince bluntly.

"Oh yes, it is so soft and grey.  It's just as if it was the inside of a
great oyster-shell."

"And you were a pearl," cried Vince, laughing.  "Never mind; it is very
jolly, though, and if ever we slept here this place would do for
bedroom, but I don't think that's very likely.  Well, I suppose we'd
better go.  We've been here a precious long time, and I shall be late
for tea."

"Never mind: come home and have tea with me.  I don't feel in much of a
hurry to go up through that black hole."

"We shan't mind it if it hasn't tumbled in since we came, and shut us
up."

"I say, don't!" cried Mike, with a look of horror.  "That might be true,
you know."

"Yes; but pigs might fly," cried Vince, laughing.  "I say, what a chap
you are to take fright!  Puzzle a stone place like that to tumble in.  A
few bits might come off the roof, but even then we could crawl over
them, for they must leave a hole where they come from.  Ready?"

"Yes," said Mike unwillingly, and they walked to the foot of the slide.

"I'll go first," cried Vince; and, seizing the rope, he held on by it,
and, shortening his hold as he went, contrived to walk right up to the
top, in spite of the great angle at which it stood.

"Try that way, Mike: it's as easy as easy."

The boy tried, and after a slip or two managed to reach the top pretty
well.  Here it was found that the candle had burned right out, but
without injuring the socket; and a fresh piece having been set up, a
light was soon obtained, and they started back, after deciding to leave
the rope where it was, ready for their next visit, as they did not
anticipate any difficulty about climbing back up the various step-like
falls.

There was plenty to have detained them during their return journey, for
the passage of the little underground river presented a wonderfully
different aspect from the new point of view, and often seemed dimly
mysterious by the feeble yellow light of the horn lanthorn; but there
were no difficulties that a couple of active lads ready to help each
other did not readily surmount; and they went on turning curves and
loops and corners, mounting places that were once waterfalls, and
steadily progressing, till Mike was horrified by one of his companion's
remarks.

It was just as they had paused breathless before beginning to climb one
of the great step-like impediments.

"I say, Ladle," he cried, "suppose the water was to come back all of a
sudden, and begin rushing down here!  What should we do?"

But Mike recovered his balance directly.

"Pooh!" he cried; "how could it?  I don't believe there has been water
along here for hundreds of years."

He began to climb, and they went on again, till it struck Vince
seriously that they were a very long time getting out, and he cried, in
alarm,--

"I say, we haven't taken a wrong turning, have we?"

His words struck a chill through both, and they stood there speechless
for some moments, gazing in each other's dimly seen faces.

"Couldn't," cried Mike at last.  "We did not pass a single turning."

"Didn't see a single turning?" said Vince.  "No, we did not; but we
might easily have passed one going sharply off to right or left, and
come along it without noticing."

"I say, don't say that," whispered Mike hoarsely; "it sounds so
horrible.  Why, we may be going right away from the daylight into some
horrible maze of a place underground."

"Seems as if that's what we are doing," said Vince sadly, "or we should
have got out by now.  We must have borne off to right or left, and--here
we are."

"Yes; here we are," chorused Mike, rather piteously; "but it's no use to
be dumpy, is it?  Let's go back to the cave and start again, unless we
can find out where we turned off as we go."

Vince did not reply, but opened the lanthorn, and raised his finger and
thumb to his lips to moisten them before snuffing the candle, which was
long-wicked, and threatened to gutter down.

"Mind!" cried Mike warningly, as he thought of their former fright.

"Well, I am minding.  Didn't you see that I wouldn't wet my fingers?
There! that's right."

He cleverly snuffed the candle, which flashed up brightly directly, and
seemed to illumine the boy's brain more clearly, as well as the
glittering roof and sides of the water-worn passage, for he spoke out
sharply directly after.

"Look here, Ladle," he cried, "I don't believe we can have come wrong."

"Don't be obstinate," replied Mike; "we must have come wrong, or we
shouldn't be here now."

"I don't know that."

"But I do.  See what a while we have been climbing back."

"Yes; because it has all been uphill, and we had so much to think of
going that we did not notice how far we went."

"But we've been hours coming back."

"Not we.  You were tired, and that's made it seem so long.  Come on: the
way must be right."

"No; let's turn back.  I'm tired, and don't want to do it, but it's the
best way."

"But it will take so long," cried Vince.

"It'll take longer if we're going on walking we don't know where," said
Mike ominously.

"Oh, come, I say, don't go on like that," cried Vince.  "Fellows who are
mates ought to try and cheer one another up, and you're doing nothing
but cheer one down."

"I must speak the truth," said Mike gloomily.

"Here! do leave off!  Why, you're as bad as that old raven out over the
Scraw--all croak, croak, croak!"

"I don't want to croak; I only want for us to find the way out.  Let's
go back and make a fresh start."

"I shan't," said Vince: "we're right now, I'm sure, only we went wrong
just now."

"There!  I knew it!  How far was it back?"

"Just where we took fright and began to fancy we were wrong.  Now then,
forward."

"No," said Mike firmly; "we'll go back.  You are always so rash, and
will not think."

"Yes, I will; I'm thinking now!" cried Vince warmly, "and I think that
you're about the most pig-headed fellow that there ever was.  Now, look
here, Ladle, don't be stupid.  I'm as sure as sure that we are going
right after all, and all we've got to do is to go straight on."

"And I'm sure that we ought to go back."

"I shan't go back!"

"And I shan't go forward!" cried Mike angrily.

"All right, then: I shan't go back.  Only mind how you go, old chap:
those places where we had to creep down are rather awkward, and you may
take the skin off your nose."

"What do you mean by that?" cried Mike.

"Only that I've got the candle," said Vince, laughing.  "I'll come and
see you to-morrow, and bring you something to eat, for you'll never find
your way out again in the dark."

"But I'm not going in the dark, old clever!" cried Mike, snatching the
lanthorn suddenly from his companion.  "How now?"

"So how!" cried Vince, springing at him, and seizing the light structure
of tin and horn.

Then there was a sharp struggle, the two lads swaying here and there in
the narrow place, till Vince flung his companion heavily against the
wall, giving him so violent a jar as he clung to the lanthorn that the
candle was jumped out of its socket, fell over against the side, and
before the boys could even think of getting the door open, the light
flashed upon their startled faces and went out.

"You've done it now," cried Mike, in a dolorous tone.

"Oh, come, I like that," said Vince.  "Who snatched the lanthorn away?
Wait till we get out, and you'll see what I'll give you."

"Get out the tinder-box quickly," said Mike.

"What for?  Suppose I want you to snatch it away?  I'm going on in the
dark, same as you're going back."

"Don't be an idiot," cried Mike, who was growing desperate.  "Get out
the tinder-box and strike a light."

"Good-night," replied Vince tauntingly; "I'm off.  Shall I tell them
you'll be home to-morrow?"

For answer Mike sprang at him and grasped him tightly.

"No, you don't play me that trick," he cried.  "Get out that tinder-box
at once."

"Not I," cried Vince.

"Get out that tinder-box at once!"

"Do you want to make me savage?" growled Vince.  "I don't care what I
make you now," cried Mike.  "You're going to strike a light, so that we
can find our way out."

"I'm not going to strike a light and go back to please you, Ladle, and
so I tell you," said Vince, holding his companion at arm's length, with
his teeth set, and a strong desire rising in him to double his fists and
strike.  "Give me the flint and steel," cried Mike fiercely.  For answer
Vince wrenched himself free, thrust out his hands, and, guiding himself
by the wall, backed softly away and stood motionless, listening to
Mike's movements.  Then, stooping, he picked up a stone and pitched it
over where he supposed Mike to be standing, with the result that it
clattered down on the floor.

His anger had evaporated, and his face relaxed into a grin, for his ruse
took effect directly.  Judging that the noise was made by Vince backing
from him, and in his horror and confusion mistaking his way, Mike thrust
out his hands and went in the direction of the sound, while, under cover
of the noise made, Vince backed still farther, moving as silently as he
could.

"Now then," cried Mike, from fully thirty yards away, "it's of no use,--
I have you.  No more nonsense: take out that box and strike a light."

Vince turned aside to smother his laughter, then turned back to listen.

"Do you hear me?" cried Mike, in a hoarse, excited tone.  "You'll be
sorry for this.  See if I come out with you again!"

Vince remained perfectly still, listening while he heard Mike make a
short dash or two in the darkness as if to seize him, kicking up the
stones on the floor and once more threatening what he would do when he
got hold of his companion again.

Then he shouted louder, his voice echoing along the passage; and at last
from far back in the darkness he groaned out:

"Vince!  Vince, old chap, don't leave me here all alone!"

That appeal went home to Vince's heart at once.

"Who's going to?" he cried rather huskily.  "Come on.  This way, old
obstinate.  Mr Deane's quite right: he always said you would have your
own way, even if you knew you were wrong."

"But I am so sure, Cinder--I am indeed," cried the lad, piteously.  "It
is this way--it is indeed!  Oh, do strike a light!"

"There now!  I'm going to show you how wrong you are," said Vince
triumphantly.

"Not now: let's get out of this dreadful place."

"'Tisn't a dreadful place; it's only you scaring yourself about nothing,
same as I did.  It's this way.  Come along."

"Yes, I'll come," said Mike meekly; "only don't go far, and then let's
get back.  But do strike a light."

"What for?  There's no need.  Come along, close up to me."

Mike came, blindly feeling his way, till he touched his companion, and
his hands closed tightly upon Vince's shoulder and arm.

"There!" cried Vince, "look straight before you.  What can you see?"

Mike uttered a cry of joy, for right upward, and apparently at a great
distance, there was a feeble light, and a minute or two later the two
lads were beneath the matted roofing of brambles, through which the
bright evening glow was streaming.  Directly after, they were out upon
the surrounding stones, carefully scanning the ridge, to see if they had
been observed.  But the place was absolutely solitary, and, after hiding
the lanthorn down in the rift, the lads started for home in silence,
Mike feeling annoyed and aggrieved, while Vince's breast was full of
triumphant satisfaction.

"I say," he said, as they reached at last a little opening in among the
scrub oak trees, "are we two going to have it out before we go home?"

"No," said Mike shortly.

"Oh! all right, then; only you didn't speak or make any apology when you
knew you were wrong."

"Yes," said Mike, after an interval, "I know I was wrong.  I'm very
sorry, Vince."

"So am I," said the latter, "and something worse."

Mike looked at him wonderingly.

"Yes, ever so much: I'm about half-starved."

Mike made no reply, but walked on in silence for some time, and it was
not until they were near home that he turned again and held out his
hand.

"I'm very sorry, Vince," he said.

"What about?" cried Vince.

"That we had such a row."

"Oh, bother!  I'd forgotten all about it.  Don't make any more fuss
about that.  I say, what a bit of luck!  We must keep it quiet, though,
eh?"

"Quiet?  I wouldn't have any one know for the world!"



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

A STARTLING DISCOVERY.

The two lads were such close companions, and so much accustomed to
wander off together of an afternoon, fishing, cliff-climbing, and
collecting eggs, insects, minerals, or shells, that their long absences
were not considered at all extraordinary, though they were noticed by
both Mrs Burnet and Lady Ladelle, and one evening formed the subject of
a few remarks at dinner.

The Doctor and his wife often dined at the old manor-house, and upon
this occasion Mike's mother asked her visitors if they did not think
they wandered too much.

"No," said Sir Francis, taking the answer out of his guests' mouths
laughingly.  "Mrs Burnet doesn't think anything of the kind, so don't
you put such ideas in her head."

"But they are often so late, my dear."

"Well, it's summer-time, and cooler of an evening.  Pleasantest part of
the day.  If they work well, let them play well.  Eh, Burnet?"

"Certainly," said the Doctor, "so long as they don't get into mischief.
But do they work well?"

"What do you say, Mr Deane?" said the baronet.

"Admirably," replied the tutor; "but I must say that I should like them
to have a couple of hours' more study a day--say a couple of hours in
the afternoon."

"No," said the Doctor emphatically.  "You work them well with their
English and classics and calculations every morning: let them have some
of Nature's teaching of an afternoon, and strengthen their bodies after
you've done strengthening their heads."

"I side with you, Burnet," said the baronet.  "Let them go on as they
are for a year or two, and then we'll see."

The tutor bowed.  "I only thought I was not doing enough for them," he
said apologetically.

"Plenty, my dear sir--plenty.  I like to see them bringing home plenty
of litter, as the servants call it."

"Yes," said the Doctor, "all's education.  I see Lady Ladelle fidgets
about her boy, just as my wife does.  They'll be all right.  They can't
go very far from home."

"But I always dread some accident," said Mrs Burnet.

"Yes, my dear, you are always inventing something, and have been ever
since Vince broke his leg."

"Through going into dangerous places," said Mrs Burnet.

"Well, yes, that was from a cliff fall; but he might have done it from
tumbling off a wall or over a chair."

Just when this conversation was taking place the boys were slowly
trudging home from their "retreat," as they called it--coming by a
circuitous way, for the fact was very evident that old Daygo did spend a
good deal of time in watching the boys' proceedings, and Vince was
strongly of opinion that he suspected their discovery.

But Mike was as fully convinced to the contrary.

"He has no idea of it, I'm sure; but he is curious to know where we go.
The old chap always talks as if the island belonged to him.  He'd better
not interfere with it if he does find out; but, I say, fancy old Daygo
scrambling down through that passage.  I should like to see him."

"I shouldn't," said Vince, "especially after all we've done."

For a month had glided away, and they had been pretty busy, during their
many visits to the place, carrying all kinds of little things which they
considered they wanted, with the result that the lanthorn and a supply
of candles always stood in a niche a short distance down the passage;
short ropes were fastened wherever there was one of the sharp or sloping
descents, so that they could run down quickly; and in several places a
hammer and cold chisel had been utilised so as to chip out a foothold.

In the caverns themselves there was a fireplace, a keg which they kept
supplied with water, a small saucepan, a little frying-pan, and a common
gridiron, all of which had been bought and brought for them by the
skipper of the little smack which touched at the island like a marine
carrier's cart once a week.

Then they had an axe and saw, and stored up driftwood for their fire;
fishing lines and a good supply of hooks; a gaff and many other objects,
including towels--for the pools in the outer cavern's mouth were now
their regular places for bathing.

As the time went on the novelty of possessing such a curious secret
place did not wear off.  On the contrary, the satisfaction it afforded
them grew, the more especially that the journey to and fro had become
much more simple, for they had picked out the easiest way through the
oak wood, knew the smoothest path among the granite blocks, and were
always finding better ways of threading the rugged chaos at the bottom
of the ridge slope.

As far as they could see ahead it seemed to them that there was nothing
more to discover, and they might go on keeping the place entirely to
themselves till they were grown up.

But at sixteen or so we do not know everything.  It was the day after
the conversation at the old manor-house that, after a long morning with
Mr Deane, the two boys met as usual, and started in the opposite
direction to that which they intended to take, for they had not taken
many steps before Vince kicked out sidewise and struck Mike on the boot.

"What did you do that for?" said the other angrily.

"'Cause I liked;" and a tussle ensued, half serious on one side, jocular
on the other.

"Now," whispered Vince, "break away and run towards that bay, and I'll
chase you."

"What for?  What's come to you this afternoon?"

"Don't look round.  Old Daygo's sitting under a stone yonder smoking his
pipe."

Mike obeyed, running off as hard as he could go, chased by Vince, till
they were well out of sight, and then, by making a _detour_ of a good
half-mile, they reached the oak wood a long way north of their customary
way of entrance, and began to plod onward towards their goal.

"That's what they call throwing dust in any one's eyes, isn't it?" said
Mike, laughing.

"Yes," said Vince, "and we shall have to make it sand with old Joe.
He's getting more and more suspicious, though I don't see why it matters
to him.  You see, we never go near him now to ask him to take us out
fishing, or into one of the west bays to shell, and he thinks we have
something else on the way."

"Well, so we have, and--Hullo, Joe! you there?"

"Yes, young gentleman, I'm here," said Daygo gruffly, as he suddenly
came upon them in a little opening in the wood.  "I thought you'd gone
down to the west bays."

"Well, we did think of going; but it's cooler and more shady here.  The
sun does come down so strongly there under the cliffs.  Seen any
rabbits?"

"Two on 'em," said the man; "but you won't ketch them.  Dog couldn't do
it, let alone you.  Ounce o' shot's only thing I know that runs fast
enough to ketch them."

It was an awkward predicament, and both lads had the same feeling that
they would like to go off at once in another direction, only that they
shrank from leaving the old fisherman, for fear he should find the way
down into the caves.

They wandered on in his company for a few minutes, and then Vince took
the initiative and cried,--

"I say, I'm sick of this; it's dreadful.  Come out on the common
somewhere, so that we can get down to the sea."

"I don't think you can get down anywhere near here.  Can you, Joe?"
asked Mike.

"Oh yes," said the old man; "easy enough.  I'll show you a place if you
like."

"Come on, then!" cried Vince eagerly.

"Off here, then," said Daygo; "on'y I ought to tell you that you won't
enjy yourselves, for it'll take Doctor Burnet all his time to pull you
both together again."

The old fellow burst into a fit of chuckling at this, and looked from
one to the other, thoroughly enjoying their disgusted looks.

"There, I knew he was making fun of us.  Of course there's no way down,"
grumbled Mike.  "Come on out of this scrimble-scramble place.  What's
the good of tiring ourselves for the sake of seeing a rabbit's white
cotton tail."

Vince was about to follow his companion, but turned to shout after
Daygo.

"I say, when are you going to take us fishing again?"

"When you two young gents likes to come; on'y you've both been so mortal
proud lately.  Never come anigh to me, and as to wanting a ride in a
boat, not you.  Got one of your own somewheres, I suppose.  Hev yer?"

Mike shook his head, and they went on in silence for a few minutes
before Mike whispered,--

"What shall we do: creep back and watch him?"

"No.  If we did we should come upon him directly.  He's watching us, I'm
sure.  Let's go to the cliff edge somewhere for a bit, and then go to
the other side of the island.  We shan't get down to the cave to-day."

As far as they could tell they were unobserved the next afternoon, and
after exercising plenty of caution they reached the mouth of the little
river tunnel and dropped down out of sight one after the other in an
instant.  In fact, so quick was their disappearance that it would have
puzzled the keenest searcher as to where they had gone.  For one moment
they were standing upon a piece of lichen-covered granite, the next they
had leaped in among the brambles, which parted for them to pass through
and sprang up again, the lads dropping on to the old stream bed, which
they had carefully cleared of stones.  They left no footmarks there, and
they were careful to preserve the thin screen of ferns and bramble, so
that a watcher would have credited them with having ducked down and
crept away.

This ruse, trifling as it may seem, added to their enjoyment of their
hiding-place, and as soon as they were in darkness they struck a light
and went on down to the caves, had a look round, and Mike immediately
began to get down the fishing lines which hung from a wooden peg driven
into a granite crack.

"Never mind the fish to-day," said Vince, who was busily fixing a fresh
piece of candle in the lanthorn.

"Why?  We're not hungry now, but we shall be before we go back.  Hullo!
what are you going to do?"

"Wait a bit, and you'll see," replied Vince, who now took a little coil
of rope from where it hung, and then asked his companion's assistance to
extricate something which he had placed in the belt he wore under his
jersey.

"Why, whatever have you got here?"

"Grapnel," was the reply; and Vince began to rub the small of his back
softly.  "I say, how a thing like that hurts!  It's worse than carrying
a hammer.  I'm quite sore."

Mike laughed, and again more heartily upon seeing Vince begin to secure
the grapnel with a sea-going knot to the length of rope.

"Let those laugh that lose," cried Vince sententiously; "they are sure
to who win."

"Enough to make any one laugh," cried Mike.  "What are you going to bait
with?"

"You, if you like," said Vince sharply, "Wonder what I should catch?"

"Here! no nonsense," cried Mike: "what are you really going to do?"

"What we've been talking about so long.  Try and get up through that
crack up there."

Mike whistled.

"Why, of course," he said.  "What a good idea!  But I don't believe it
goes in above a foot or two."

"Oh yes, it does," said Vince decisively.  "I thought so a little while
ago, but last time we came I found out that it goes ever so far, and so
I brought this hook."

"And never told me."

"Telling you now, aren't I?"

"But how did you know?"

"Saw a pigeon fly out."

"Well, that proves nothing.  It only flew in to settle for a bit, and
then came out again."

"That's what I fancied," said Vince, trying his knot by standing upon
the grapnel and tugging hard with both hands at the rope; "but I watched
while you were lying on your back asleep and saw others go in and come
out."

"Well, that only shows that there are several nests there instead of
one.  I say, let's bring some paste next time we come and make a pigeon
pudding of young ones.  I'll get our cook to make us some.  I'll tell
her what we want it for, and she'll think we are going to make a sort of
picnic dinner under a rock somewhere."

"Wait a bit, and let's try first," said Vince.  "There, I'm ready now.
We did talk about examining that great crack when we came, but I thought
it wasn't worth the trouble till yesterday.  I fancy it leads into
another cave."

"Hope it does," said Mike.  "Make this place all the more interesting."

"Couldn't," said Vince shortly.  "Come along and let's see if I can
catch a big fish without a bait."

They went to the darkest corner of the outer cave, where the roof was
highest, and after laying the rope ready, Vince took hold of it about
two feet from the large triple hook, swung it to and fro several times,
and then sent it flying upward towards the roof, where it struck the
edge of the jagged crack ten feet or so above their heads and came down
with a loud clang.

"One," said Mike.  "Three offers out."

"All right: you shall have your innings then," said Vince, picking up
the hook, aiming more truly, and again sending it flying up.

This time it passed right up out of sight and fell back, striking the
bottom of the crack and glancing off again to the floor, falling
silently into the sand.

"Two," cried Mike.  "He won't do it."

"Wait a bit," said Vince, and he swung the hook upward.  There was a
click, and it stayed just within the crack; while the lad laughed.
"Now," he cried, "can't I do it?"

"No!" said Mike triumphantly, for at the first jerk of the rope the iron
fell back into the sand.

"You don't know how to throw a grapnel," said Mike, picking up the rope.
"There, stand aside and I'll show you."

Vince drew back, and after a good deal of swinging, Mike launched the
grapnel upward, so that it passed right into the hole some distance from
the length of rope which followed; then came a click, and the rope hung
swinging from the sloping roof.

"There!" cried Mike.

"It'll come away as soon as you pull it."

Mike gave the rope a tug, then a sharp jerk, and another, before,
raising his hands and grasping it as high as he could, he took a run,
and then, raising his legs, let himself swing to and fro.

"Bear anything," he cried.  "There, you'd better go first."

"You fastened it," said Vince, "so you've got first go."

"No, it was your idea.  Up with you! but you've scared the pigeons
away."

Vince seized the rope as high as he could reach, twisted it about his
leg, pressing the strong strands against his calf with the edge of his
shoe-sole, and then began to climb slowly, drawing himself up by the
muscular strength of his arms, while the rope began to revolve with him
slowly.

"Meat's burning," cried Mike, grinning.  "Wants basting;" and he picked
up handsful of sand to scatter over the climber's back.

But Vince was too busy to heed his interruption, and by trying hard he
soon drew himself right into the narrow crack, and the next minute only
his boots were visible, and they were drawn out of sight directly after.

"Well?" cried Mike; "what have you found?"

"Grapnel," panted Vince; for climbing a single thin rope is hard work.

"Yes, but what else?"

"Big crack, which goes right in.  Light the lanthorn and fasten, it to
the end of the rope."

This was soon done and the light drawn up.

"I say, play fair!" cried Mike, as the lanthorn disappeared; "don't go
and do all the fun yourself."

For answer Vince threw him down the rope, which he had freed from the
lanthorn.

"Come up," he said shortly; and Mike, who began to be deeply interested,
his curiosity now being excited, seized the rope and began in turn to
climb.

He was as active as his companion, and as much accustomed to rope work,
the pair having often let themselves down portions of the cliff and
climbed again in their search for eggs; so that in another minute he too
was in the crack, dimly lit by the lanthorn, which Vince had set low
down, where the fracture in the rock began to close in towards where it
was again solid.

"Don't seem much of a place," said Mike, rising upright, but having to
keep himself in that position by resting a foot on either side of the
rift.  "Goes in, though."

"Yes," said Vince, "and I was right, for the pigeons must have flown
through."

"No," said Mike, looking about: "nests somewhere on one of the ledges."

"Are no ledges here," said Vince: "the top goes up to a point.  Shall we
go on?"

"Of course," said Mike; and, taking up the lanthorn, Vince began to
shuffle himself along the narrow, awkward place, till, at the end of a
dozen yards, in darkness which grew thicker as he went, the great crack
turned suddenly right off to the right, and again directly after to the
left.

"Why, it looks just the same shape as a flash of lightning," cried Mike.
"Does it get any bigger?"

"Doesn't seem to," was the reply; "but there's plenty of room to walk
along."

"Walk?  I don't call this walking?  I'm going along like a lame duck
striddling a gutter.  I say, think there's ever been water along here?"

"Sure there hasn't," said Vince, holding the light low down.  "Why, you
can see.  The rock isn't worn a bit, but looks as sharp as if it had
only lately been split."

"But what could split it?  The lightning?"

"No: father says these rocks crack from the water washing the stuff away
from beneath them, and then the tremendous weight does the rest.  But I
don't know.  I say, though, I shouldn't wonder if this goes on into
another cave.  Look here."

Mike pressed forward, and found, as his companion held up the light,
that the fault in the rock shot off sharply now to the left, and sloped
up at an angle of some forty-five degrees.

"Looks awkward," said Mike.  "Are we going up there?"

"Of course.  Why not?  We can climb it."

"Oh yes, I can get up there; but it isn't very good for the boots."

Good or bad, Vince did not hesitate, but, lanthorn in hand, commenced
the ascent by climbing right in the narrow part of the rift, where each
foot became wedged between the sides of the opening, and had to be
dragged out again as the next foot was brought over and placed in front.

"Awkward travelling," said Vince; "but you can't slip."

"Begin to feel as if I can," replied Mike--"right out of my shoes.  I
say, it is awkward."

The distance they had to traverse here, however, was but short, and the
next angle showed that the fault was at a much easier slope, while the
opening was wider, so that they got along more pleasantly.  But at the
end of another twenty yards the walls began to close in, and the place
looked so uninviting that Mike stopped.  "Hadn't we better go back?" he
said.  "What for?" replied Vince.  "Let's see the end of it.  We can't
make any mistake in going back.  There's no roof to fall, and no pits or
holes to drop into."

"But it may go on for ever so long; and, I say, I don't believe a pigeon
ever flew through here."

"Well, I don't know," said Vince.  "It seemed to me as if they did,
and--Hurrah, Ladle!  I can see light."

"Light?  So there is.  Look! it must come from round the next corner.
That's reflection we can see."

And so it proved: for upon passing the next sharp angle Vince found
himself facing the sea, which was visible through a great arch, far
larger and more rugged than that in their own cavern mouth.  Going on a
little farther, he found himself at the end of the singular zigzag
passage, which was an opening in the roof of another and larger cavern,
and into which they looked down as from a window.

It was lighter and loftier than their own, and, like it, beautifully
carpeted with sand; but, to the amazement of the lads, instead of this
being smooth and wind-swept, as that of their own place when they first
discovered it, the floor was covered with footmarks leading from the
mouth inward to where the great cave grew dim and obscure.  There were
sails, too, and ropes.  Several small yards and spars lay together by
the side of the wall, and farther in were sails and three or four oars.

But what most took their attention was the fact that, dimly outlined in
the higher part of the cave there were little stacks, which looked as if
they were built up of packages or bales, side by side with which,
carefully stacked in the sand, were dozens upon dozens of small kegs.

As their eyes grew more familiar with the gloom at the upper end, they
realised that there were a great number of these bales and kegs, the
former being of three kinds, varying a good deal in shape and size.

They neither of them spoke, not daring even to whisper, for the feeling
was strong upon them that the next thing they would see must be the
figure of some fierce-looking smuggler in big boots, belted, carrying
cutlass and pistols, and crowned with a scarlet cap.

Then they started back in alarm, for there was the sharp whirring of
wings, and half a dozen pigeons darted out of the cavern, seeming to
come from far back beyond the stacks of kegs and bales, and rushing out
into the bright light beneath the arch.

It was nothing to mind; but their nerves were on the strain, and they
breathed more freely as soon as the birds were gone.  It seemed to
signify that no human beings were in the higher part of the cavern, and
the solemn silence of the place encouraged them at last to speak, but
only in whispers.

"Wish we'd brought the rope," said Vince; "we might have got down."

"Ugh!  It wouldn't be safe.  They might come and catch us."

"Who might?"

"The smugglers."

"Smugglers?  There are no smugglers on the Crag."

"Well, those must be smuggled goods, anyhow," said Mike.

"Can't be."

"What are they, then?  I'll be bound to say that those little kegs have
all got `Hollands' or French spirits in them, and the packages are silk
and velvet, and the other parcels laces and things--perhaps tobacco."

"But we never heard of smuggling here.  Who can it be?"

"Well, that's what they are, for certain," said Mike.  "It's just like
what one's read about.  They must be ever so old--a hundred years,
perhaps--and been put here and forgotten."

"Perhaps so," said Vince.

"Then we'll claim them for ours," said Mike decisively.  "They can't
belong to anybody else now.  Nobody can be alive who brought them a
hundred years ago."

"No," said Vince; "but I don't see how we can claim them.  I say,
though, it shows that boats can get into the cove."

"Or could at one time."

"Place wouldn't alter much in a hundred years.  I do wish, though, we
had brought the rope.  Perhaps as soon as we touch those bales they'll
all tumble into dust."

"And all the kegs have gone dry," said Mike.

"And all we can see before us only so much dust and touchwood.  I say,
Mike, we shan't be very rich from our find.  I do wish we had brought
the rope.  Let's go back and get it."

"Let's go back soon," replied Mike; "but I don't think we'll come again
to-day.  My head feels all of a whizz."

"Yes, it is exciting," said Vince thoughtfully.  "Perhaps you're right:
we won't come back to-day."  And, contenting themselves with a long,
searching inspection from the window-like place they occupied, they soon
after returned, and, after placing the grapnel so that it could be
jerked out, went down the rope, got the iron hooks loose, and seated
themselves to think.

That evening they got home early, each so full of the great discovery
that, when they went to bed, it was long before they slept, and then
their brains were busy with strange dreams, in which one was fighting
for his life against a host of well-armed men, the victor taking a
vessel with the treasure of valuable silks and spices, and making his
parents rich people to the last.

But an idea was dominant with both when they woke, soon after sunrise.
They must go back to the cavern soon, and probe the mystery to the very
end.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

DAYGO DESCRIBES HORRORS.

"Er-her!  Going to school!  Yer!"

Vince, who had some books under his arm, felt a peculiar twitching in
the nerves, as he turned sharply upon the heavy-looking lad who had
spoken the above words, with the prologue and epilogue formed of jeering
laughs, which sounded something like the combinations placed there to
represent them.

The speaker was the son of the Jemmy Carnach who was, as the Doctor
said, a martyr to indigestion--a refined way of expressing his intense
devotion to lobsters, the red armour of which molluscs could be seen
scattered in every direction about his cottage door, and at the foot of
the cliff beyond.

As Jemmy Carnach had thought proper to keep up family names in
old-fashioned style, he had had his son christened James, like his
father, grandfather and great-grandfather--which was as far as Carnach
could trace.  The result was a little confusing, the Crag island not
being big enough for two Jemmy Carnachs.  The fishermen, however, got
over the difficulty by always calling the father Jemmy and his son Young
'un; but this did not suit Vince and Mike, with whom there had always
been a feud, the fisherman's lad having constantly displayed an intense
hatred, in his plebeian way, for the young representatives of the
patricians on the isle.  The manners in which he had shown this, from
very early times, were many; and had taken the forms of watching till
the companions were below cliffs, and then stealing to the top and
dislodging stones, that they might roll down upon their heads; filling
his pockets with the thin, sharply ground, flat oyster-shells to be
found among the beach pebbles--a peculiarly cutting kind of weapon--and
at every opportunity sending them skimming at one or other of the lads;
making holes in their boat, when they had one--being strongly suspected
of cutting two adrift, so that they were swept away, and never heard of
again; and in divers other ways showing his dislike or hatred--
displaying an animus which had become intensified since Mike had called
in Vince's help to put a stop to raids and forays upon the old manor
orchard when the apples, pears and plums were getting ripe, the result
being a good beating with tough oak saplings.

Not that this stopped the plundering incursions, for Carnach junior told
the two lads, and probably believed, as an inhabitant of the island,
that he had as good a right to the fruit as they.

Of course the many assaults and insults dealt out by Carnach junior--for
he was prolific in unpleasant words and jeers, whenever the companions
came within hearing--had results in the shape of reprisals.  Vince was
not going to see Mike Ladelle's ear bleeding from a cut produced by a
forcibly propelled oyster-shell, without making an attack upon the young
human catapult; and Mike's wrath naturally boiled over upon seeing a
piece of rock pushed off the edge of the cliff, and fall within a foot
of where Vince was lying on the sand at the foot.  But the engagements
which followed seemed to do no good, for Carnach junior was so extremely
English that he never seemed to realise that he had been thrashed till
he had lain down with his eyes so swollen up that there was hardly room
for the tears to squeeze themselves out, and his lips so disfigured that
his howls generally escaped through his nose.

"I never saw such a fellow," Vince used to say: "if you only slap his
face, it swells up horribly."

"And it's of no use to lick him, it doesn't do any good," added Mike.
"Why, I must have thrashed him a hundred times, and you too."

This was a remark which showed that either Mr Deane's instructions in
the art of calculation were faulty, or Mike's mental capacity inadequate
for acquiring correctness of application.

Still there must have been some truth in Mike's words, for Vince, who
was a great stickler for truthfulness, merely said:

"Ah! we have given it to him pretty often."

Vince and Mike did not take to Young 'un or Youngster, as a sobriquet
for Carnach junior, and consequently they invented quite a variety of
names, which were chosen, not for the purpose of distinguishing the fat,
flat-faced, rather pig-eyed youth from other people, but it must be
owned for annoyance, and by way of retaliation for endless insults.

"You see, we must do something," said Mike.

"Of course," agreed Vince; "and I'm tired of making myself hot and
knocking my knuckles about against his stupid head; and besides, it
seems so blackguardly, as a doctor's son, to be fighting a chap like
that."

"Oh, I don't know," said Mike thoughtfully: "I shall be a Sir some day,
I suppose."

"What a game!" chuckled Vince--"Sir Michael Ladelle!"

"I don't see anything to laugh at," said Mike; "but, as I was saying, if
we don't lick him every now and then there'll be no bearing it.  He'll
get worse and worse."

So it was to show their contempt for the young lout that they invented
names for him--weakly, perhaps, but very boylike--and for a time he was
James the Second, but the lad seemed rather to approve of that; and it
was soon changed for Barnacle, which had the opposite effect, and two
fights down in a sandy cave resulted, at intervals of a week, one with
each of his enemies, after which the Barnacle lay down as usual, and
cried into the sand, which acted, Vince said, like blotting paper.

Tar-pot, suggested by a begrimed appearance, lasted for months, and was
succeeded by Doughy, and this again by Puffy, consequent upon the lad's
head having so peculiar a tendency to what home-made bread makers call
"rise," and as there was no baker on Cormorant Crag the term was
familiar enough.

A whole string of forgotten names followed, but none of them stuck, for
they did not irritate Carnach junior; but the right one in the boys'
eyes was found at last, upon a very hot day, following one upon which
Vince and Mike had been prawning with stick and net among the rock pools
under the cliffs,--and prawning under difficulties.  For as they climbed
along over, or waded amongst the fallen rocks detached from the towering
heights above, Carnach junior, who had watched them descend, furnished
himself with a creel full of heavy pebbles, and, making his way to the
top of the cliffs, kept abreast and carefully out of sight, so as to
annoy his natural enemies from time to time by dropping a stone into, or
as near as he could manage to the little pool they were about to fish.

Words, addressed apparently to space, though really to the invisible
foe, were vain, and the boys fished on; but they did not take home many
prawns for Mrs Burnet to have cooked for their tea.

The very next day, though, they had their revenge, for they came upon
the lad toiling homeward, shouldering a couple of heavy oars, a boat
mast and yard, and the lug-sail rolled round them, and lashed so as to
form a big bundle, as much as he could carry; and, consequent upon his
scarlet face, Vince saluted him with:

"Hullo, Lobster!"

That name went like an arrow to the mark, and pierced right through the
armour of dense stupidity in which the boy was clad.  Lobster!  That
fitted with his father's weakness and the jeering remarks he had often
heard made by neighbours; and ever after the name stuck, and irritated
him whenever it was used.

It was used on the morning when Vince was thinking deeply of the
discovery of the previous day, and going over to Sir Francis Ladelle's
for his lessons with Mike.  As we have said, he was saluted with coarse,
jeering laughter, and the contemptuous utterance of the words "Going to
school?"

Being excited, Vince turned sharply upon the great hulking lad, and his
eyes began to blaze war, but with a laugh he only fell back on the
nickname.

"Hullo, Lobster!" he cried: "that you?" and went on.

Carnach junior doubled his fists, and looked as if he were going to
attack; but Vince, strong in the consciousness that he could at any time
thrash the great lad, walked on with his books, heedless of the fact
that he was followed at a distance, for his head was full of kegs and
bales neatly done up in canvas, standing in good-sized stacks.

"I wonder how many years it has been there," he kept on saying to
himself; and he was still wondering when he reached the old manor gates,
went into the study, and there found Mike and their tutor waiting.

Both lads tried very hard to keep their discovery out of their minds
that morning, but tried in vain.  There it was constantly, and
translated itself into Latin, conjugated and declined itself, and then
became compound algebraic equations, with both.

Mr Deane bore all very patiently, though, and a reproachful word or two
about inattention and condensation of thought upon study was all that
escaped him.

At last, to Vince's horror, things came to a kind of climax, for Mike
suddenly looked across the table at the tutor, and said quickly:--

"I say, Mr Deane!"

The tutor looked up at once.

"I want to ask you a question in--in--something--"

"Mathematics?" suggested the tutor.

"N-no," said Mike: "I think it must be in law or social economy.  I
don't know, though, what you would call it."

"Well: let me hear."

"Suppose anybody discovered a great store of smuggled goods, hidden in
a--some place.  Whom would it belong to?"

"To the people who put it there, of course."  Vince's eyes almost blazed
as he turned them upon the questioner.

"Yes," continued Mike; "but suppose there were no people left who put it
there, and they had all died, perhaps a hundred years ago?"

"Oh, then," said the tutor thoughtfully, "I should think it would belong
to the people upon whose ground it was discovered,--or no: I fancy it
would be what is called `treasure trove,' and go to the crown."

"Crown--crown?  What, to a public-house?"

"No, no, my dear boy: to the king."

"Oh, I see," said Mike thoughtfully.  "Is that all?"

"Yes, sir; that's all."

"Well, then, wasn't it rather a foolish question to ask, just in the
middle of our morning's work?  There, pray go on: we are losing a great
deal of time."

The boys tried to get on; but they did not, for Mike was conscious of
being kicked twice, and Vince was making up a tremendous verbal attack
upon his fellow-student for letting out the discovery they had made.

It came to words as soon as the lessons were over, and Mike took his cap
to accompany Vince part of the way home, and make their plans for the
afternoon.

"I couldn't help it--'pon my word I couldn't," cried Mike.  "I felt like
that classic chap, who was obliged to whisper secrets to the water, and
that I must speak about that stuff there to somebody."

"And now he'll go and talk to your father about it, and our secret place
will be at an end.  Why, we might have kept it all quiet for years!"

"So we can now.  I put it so that old Deane shouldn't understand.  I
say, if he's right we can't claim all that stuff: it'll belong to the
king."

"I suppose so," said Vince.

"Never mind: we'll keep it till he wants it.  Hullo! what's old Lobster
doing there?"

Vince turned in the direction pointed out; and, sure enough, there was
Carnach junior sunning himself on a block of granite, which just peeped
up through the grass.

"Got nothing to do, I suppose," said Vince.  "I saw him when I was
coming.  But never mind him.  And I say, don't, pray don't be so stupid
again."

"All right.  I'll try not to be, if it was stupid," said Mike.  "Well,
how about this afternoon?"

"I'll come and meet you at the old place, about half-past two."

This was agreed to; and, full of anticipations about the examination of
the farther cave, they parted, leaving Carnach junior apparently fast
asleep upon the grey stone.

Just as Vince reached home he came upon Daygo, who gave him a nod; and
the lad flushed as he thought triumphantly of the discoveries they had
made, in the face of the old fisherman's superstitious warnings of
terrible dangers.

"Morn'--or art'noon, young gen'leman," said Daygo, by way of salutation.
"Lookye here: I'm going out 'sart'noon to take up my pots and nets, and
if you and young squire likes to come, I'll take you for a sail."

"Where will you take us?" said Vince eagerly.

"Oh, round and about, and in and out among the rocks."

"Will you sail right away round by the Black Scraw?"

"No, I just won't," growled the old man fiercely.  "What do you want to
go round about the Scraw for?"

"To see what it's like, and find some of the terrible currents and
things you talked about, Joe."

"Lookye here, my lad," growled the old fellow, "as I told you boys
afore, I want to live as long as I can, and not come to no end, with the
boat bottom uppards and me sucked down by things in the horrid
whirlypools out there.  Why, what would your mars and pars say to me if
I took you into dangers 'orrible and full o' woe?  Nay, nay, I arn't a
young harem-scarem-brained chap, and I shan't do it: my boat's too good.
So look here, if you two likes to come for a bit o' fishing, I'll take
the big scrarping spoon with me, and go to a bank I know after we've
done, and try and fish you up a basket o' oysters.  If you comes you
comes, but if you arn't wi' me soon arter dinner, why, I hystes my sail
and goes by myself.  So what do you say?"

"I can't say anything without seeing Mike Ladelle first.  Look here: I'm
going to him this afternoon, and if he'll come, we'll run over to the
little dock where your boat is."

"Very good, young gen'leman; on'y mind this: if you arn't there
punctooal, as folks call it, I'm off without you, and you'll be sorry,
for there's a powerful lot o' fish about these last few days."

"Don't wait if we're not there directly after dinner," said Vince.

Old Daygo chuckled.

"You needn't be afraid of that, my lad," he said; "and mind this,--if
you're late and I've started, I'm not coming back, so mind that.
D'reckly you've had your bit o' dinner, or I'm gone."

"All right, Joe," cried Vince; and he hurried in, feeling pulled both
ways, for he could not help nursing the idea that, once out a short
distance at sea, he might be able to coax the old fisherman into taking
them as close as he could safely get to the ridge of rocks which hid the
little rounded cove from passers-by.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

A SPY ON THE WAY.

Punctual to the time the lads met; and Vince, who was full of old
Daygo's proposal, laid it before his companion.

"What!" cried Mike; "go with him, when we've got such an adventure
before us!  You wouldn't do that!"

"Why not?  We can go to the caverns any day, and this will be a chance
to sail round and see what the outside of the Scraw is like."

"Did he say he would take us there?" cried Mike eagerly.

"No; but we'd persuade him."

"Persuade him!" cried Mike, bursting into a mocking laugh.  "Persuade
old Joe!  Why, you do know better than that."

Vince frowned and said nothing, for he did know better, and felt that he
had let his desires get the better of his judgment.

"Very well," he said.  "You'd rather not go?"

"Well, wouldn't you rather go and have a look at those old things than
see a few fish in a net?"

"Yes, if Joe wouldn't sail round where I want to go."

"Well, he wouldn't, and you know it.  Why, this is a chance.  You felt
sure he was watching us; and he'll be off to sea, where he can't."

"Off, then!" said Vince; and, full of anticipations, they made for the
oak wood, and were soon at the opening, into which, without pausing to
look round, they leaped down quickly; and, after lighting the lanthorn,
descended as rapidly as they could to the rope.

The place looked as beautiful as ever, as they slid down to the sandy
floor of the inner cavern, and more than ever like the interior of some
large shell; while the outer cave, with its roof alive, as it were, with
the interlacing wavings and quiverings reflected from the sunny surface
of the sea, would have made any one pause.

But the boys had no eyes for anything that day but the wonders of their
new discovery; and, quickly getting to work with the rope and grapnel,
Mike threw it up.

"Got a bite!" he cried.  "No: he's off."

For, after catching, the grapnel gave way again.

The second time he missed; but the third he got another hold, and told
Vince to climb first.

This he did, and in a very few seconds he was two-thirds of the way up,
when with a scrape the grapnel gave way, and Vince came down flat on his
back in the sand, with the iron upon him.

"Hurt?" cried Mike.

"Not much," said Vince, rubbing one leg, which the iron had struck.
"Try again."

Mike threw once more, got a hold, and, to prove it, began to climb, and
reached the opening safely.  Then the lanthorn was drawn up, Vince
followed, and this time taking the rope with them, they went along
through the peculiar zigzag free from doubts and dread of dangers
unknown, so that they could think only of the various difficulties of
the climb.

Upon nearing the open end of the fissure they kept back the lanthorn and
advanced to peer down cautiously; but, save a few pigeons flying in and
out, there was no sign of life.  Everything was just as they had seen it
before; the footprints all over the trampled sand, which had probably
been made ages before, so they thought; the boat mast, sails, and ropes,
were at the side, and in the shadowy upper part there were the stacks of
bales and the carefully piled-up kegs.

"Well?" said Mike; "shall we go down?"

"Of course."

"But suppose there is any one there?"

"We'll soon see," said Vince; and, placing his hands to his mouth, he
gave vent to a hullo! whose effect was startling; for it echoed and
vibrated about the great cave, startling a flock of pigeons, which
darted out with a loud whistling of wings.

Then the sound came back in a peculiar way from the barrier of rocks
across the bay, for there was evidently a fluttering there among the
sea-birds, some of which darted down into sight just outside the mouth
of the cave.

"Nobody at home," said Vince merrily, "and hasn't been lately.  Now
then: may I go first?"

"If you like," said Mike; and, after securely hooking the grapnel in a
crevice, Vince threw the rope outward from him into the cavern, where it
touched the sand some twenty feet below.

"There we are!" he said; "that's easier than throwing it up."

"Yes, but look sharp down.  I want to have a good look."

"After me," said Vince mockingly; and, taking the rope, he lowered
himself out of the crack, twisted his leg round the hemp, and quickly
dropped hand over hand to the flooring of the cave.

"Ever so much bigger than ours, Mike," he shouted, and then turned
sharply round, for a voice said plainly:

"Ours, Mike."

"I say, what an echo!"

"Echo!" came back.

"Well, I said so."

"Said so."

"Hurrah!" cried Mike, as he too reached the floor, and a soft "Rah" came
from the other side.

Their hearts beat fast with excitement as they stood in the middle of
the cave, looking round, and pretty well taking in at a glance that it
was far larger and more commodious than the one they had just quitted,
especially for the purpose of a store, having the hinder part raised, as
it were, into a dais or platform, upon which the little barrels and
packages were stored; while behind these they were able now to see
through the transparent gloom that the place ran back for some distance
till flooring and roof met.  Instead, too, of the entrance being barred
by ridge after ridge of rocks, there was only one some little distance
beyond the mouth to act as a breakwater, leaving ample room for a boat
to come round at either end and be beached upon the soft sand, which lay
perfectly smooth where the water slightly rose and fell.

There was a fine view of the rounded cove from here; and the boys felt
that if they were to wade out they would be able to get beyond the
archway sufficiently to look up the overhanging face of the cliff; but,
with the recollection of the quicksands at the mouth of their own cave,
neither of them felt disposed to venture, and they were about to turn
back and examine the goods stored behind them, when on their right there
was a loud rush and a heavy splash, and Mike seized his companion's arm
just as a head rose out of the water, and for a moment it seemed as if a
boy was watching them, the face being only faintly seen, from the head
being turned away from the light.

"Seal," said Vince quietly.  "Shows how long it is since any one was
here, for things like that to be about!"

He caught up a couple of handfuls of sand and flung it toward the
creature, which dived directly, but rose again to watch them, its
curiosity being greatly excited.

"Won't come ashore and attack us, will it?" said Mike.

"No fear.  I daresay it would bite, though, if we had it in a corner,
and it couldn't pass.  Look! one must have come ashore there."

He pointed to a smooth channel in the sand, where one of the curious
animals had dragged itself a few feet from the water, going back by
another way, and so forming a kind of half-moon.

"Let it watch us: it don't matter," said Mike.  "Come and have a look at
the packages."

They walked up to the pile of kegs, and Vince took one down, to find
that it was peculiar in shape and hooped with wood.

"Empty," he said; "it's light as can be."

"Try another," said Mike; and Vince put the one he held down, and tried
one after another--at least a dozen.

"The stuff has all run out or evaporated," he said.  "Hark here!"

He tapped the end of one with his knuckles, but, instead of giving forth
a hollow sound, the top sounded dead and dull.

"They're not empty," he said, giving one a shake: "they must be packed
full of something light.  And I say, Mike, they look as if they couldn't
be many years old."

"That's because the cavern's so clean and dry.  Let's look at the
packages.  I say, smell this one.  There's no mistake about it--cloves!"

Vince nodded, and they tried others, which gave out, some the same
unmistakable odour, others those of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Further examination of some small, heavy, solid packets left little
doubt in the lads' minds that they were dealing with closely folded or
rolled pieces of silk, and they ended their examination by trying to
interpret the brands with which some of the packages were marked.

"One can't be sure without opening them," said Vince eagerly; "but I
feel certain that these are silk, the other packages spice, and the kegs
have got gloves and lace in them.  There are two kinds."

"Yes; some are larger than the others.  Shall we open a few of them, to
see if they've been destroyed by time?"

"No, not yet," replied Vince thoughtfully.  "Let's go and have a look at
that boat sail and the oars.  Those oars ought to be old and
worm-eaten--ready to tumble to pieces--and the sail-cloth like so much
tinder!"

Mike nodded, and followed him rather unwillingly; for the keg nearest to
his hand fascinated him, and he longed intensely to force out the head.

It was not many steps to where the boat gear stood and lay, and Vince
began to haul it about after the first glance.

"Look here, Ladle!" he cried; "these things are not so very old.  The
canvas is as strong as can be, and it can't be so many years since these
oars were marked with a hot iron."

"Oh, nonsense!" said Mike, who did not like to give up his cherished
ideas; "it's because they're so dry and safe here."

"It isn't," said Vince impetuously; "and look here, at all these
footmarks!"

"Well, what's to prevent them from being just the same after a hundred
years?"

"The wind," cried Vince.  "If those marks were old the sand would have
drifted in and covered them over quite smooth, same as the floor was in
our cave before we walked about it.  Mike, all these things are quite
new, and haven't been put here long."

"Nonsense! who could have put them?"

"I don't know; but here they are, and if we don't look out some one will
come and catch us.  This is a smugglers' cave."

"But there are no smugglers here.  Who ever heard of smugglers at the
Crag!"

"I never did; but I'm sure these are smuggled goods."

"Well, I don't know," said Mike.  "It seems very queer.  The cave can't
be so dangerous to come to, if boats can land cargoes.  Old Daygo's all
wrong, then?"

"Of course he is; so are all the people.  Every one has told us that the
Black Scraw was a terrible place, and looked as if they thought it was
haunted by all kinds of sea goblins.  Let's get away."

"Think we'd better?"

"Yes; I keep expecting to see a boat come round the corner into sight.
I shouldn't like to be here when they did come."

"But it's so disappointing!" cried Mike.  "I thought we were going to
have all this to ourselves."

"I don't think I did," said Vince thoughtfully.

"But I don't believe you're right, Cinder.  These things can't have been
put here in our time, or we must have known of it.  See what a little
place the Crag is."

"Yes, it's small enough, but the Scraw has always been as if it were far
away, and people could come here and do what they liked."

"But they wouldn't be so stupid as to come here and leave things for
nobody," said Mike.  "Is there anybody here who would want them?"

"No," replied Vince; "but smugglers might make this a sort of
storehouse, and some bring the things here from France and Holland and
others come and fetch them away.  There, come on, and let's get up into
the crack.  I don't feel safe.  It has regularly spoiled our place,
though, for whoever comes here must know of the other cave."

"Well," said Mike, as they stood by the rope, and he gazed longingly
back at the rich store he was about to leave behind, "I'll come; but I
don't believe you're right."

"You'll soon see that I am, Ladle; for before long all these things will
be taken away--perhaps by the time we come again."

"If it's as you say we shan't be able to come again," replied Mike
rather dolefully; and then, in obedience to an impatient sign from his
companion, he took hold of the rope and climbed slowly up, passing in at
the opening, and being followed by Vince directly after.

Then the rope was drawn up and coiled, and both took a long and envious
look at the cargo that had been landed there at some time or other,
before making their way along the fissure to their own place.

"I don't believe any one would do as we've done, and come along there,"
said Mike, as soon as they were safely back.  "Perhaps, if you're right
about that stuff being new, these smuggling people don't, after all,
know of this cave."

"They must have seen it when they were going and coming in their boat,
and would have been sure to land and come in."

"Land where?" said Mike scornfully.  "No boat could land here, and
nobody could wade in, on account of the quicksands.  But I'm right,
Cinder.  These things are awfully old, and they'll be ours after all."

"Very well: we shall see," said Vince.  "But I don't feel disposed to
stop here now.  Let's get back home."

"Yes," said Mike, with a sigh, "let's get back home;" and, after setting
up a fresh bit of candle, they started for the inner cave, ascended the
slope, and made their way along the black passage to the spot where they
put out and hid their lanthorn.

This done, with the caution taught by the desire to keep their
hiding-place secret, Vince stepped softly on to the opening, and was
about to pass along to the end, but he paused to peer out through the
briars to see if all was right, and the next moment he stood there as if
turned to stone.  Mike crept up to him and touched his shoulder, feeling
sure from his companion's fixed attitude that something must be wrong.

The answer to his touch was the extension of Vince's hand, and he
pointed upward and toward the side of the deep rift.

Mike turned his head softly, and gazed in the indicated direction.  For
some moments he could see nothing for the briars and ferns; but at last
he bent a trifle more forward, and his fists clenched, for there, upon
one of the stones beside the entrance to their cave, with his hand
shading his eyes, and staring upward apparently at the ridge, was
Carnach junior.

"Spying after us," said Mike to himself; "and he does not know that we
are close to his feet."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

SOME DOUBTS ABOUT THE DISCOVERY.

Certainly Lobster did not know how near the two boys were, and he soon
proved it by coming closer, looking down, and then turning to
reconnoitre in another direction.

Vince stared at Mike, and their eyes simultaneously said the same thing:
"He must have been watching us, and seen us come in this direction."

It was evident that he had soon lost the clue in following them,
although, judging from circumstances, he must have tracked them close to
where they were.

They recollected now that they had not exercised their regular caution--
though, even if they had, it is very doubtful whether they would have
detected a spy who crawled after them, for the cover was too thick--and
a feeling of anger troubled both for allowing themselves to be outwitted
by a lout they both held in utter contempt.

They stood watching their spy for nearly a quarter of an hour, and were
able to judge from his actions that he had seen them disappear somewhere
in this direction; and in profound ignorance in this game of hide and
seek that he was having, Carnach scanned the high slope and the ridge,
and the bottom where the stones lay so thickly again and again, ending
by ensconcing himself behind one of them, after plucking some fern
fronds, and putting them on the top of his cap to act as a kind of
screen in case those he sought should come into sight somewhere
overhead.

The two boys hardly dared stir, but at last, with his eyes fixed upon
Carnach to see if he heard their movement, Vince pointed softly back
into the dark passage, and Mike crept away without making the slightest
sound.  Then, as soon as he was satisfied of the coast being clear
behind him, Vince began to back away till he felt it safe to turn, and
followed his companion some fifty yards into the darkness, which now
seemed to be quite a refuge to them.

"Where are you?" whispered Vince.

A low cough told him that he was not yet far enough; and, keeping one
hand upon the wall, he followed until he felt himself touched.

"I say," he whispered, "this is nice: smugglers at one end and that
miserable Lobster at the other!  What are we to do?"

"I don't know," said Mike dolefully.  "He must have seen us go out of
sight, and feels sure that we shall come back again, and he'll wait till
we do."

"No, no; he'll soon get tired."

"Not he," said Mike; "he's just one of those stupid, heavy chaps who
will sit or lie down and wait for us for a week."

"But I want to get home.  I'm growing hungry."

"Let's go back and fish, and light a fire and cook it."

"What, for him to smell the frying?  He would, as sure as could be.  No;
we must wait."

"I say, Cinder," whispered Mike, "what an unlucky day we are having!
Everything seems to go wrong."

"It'll go worse still if you whisper so loud," said Vince; "the sound
runs along the walls here, and gets stronger, I believe, as it goes."

"Well, I can't help it; I feel so wild.  I say, couldn't we creep out
without being seen, and get home?"

"Yes, when it's dark; not before."

"But that means waiting here for hours, and I feel as if I can't settle
to anything now.  Let's go back down to the cave.  The smugglers can't
come to-day.  It would be too bad."

"Better wait here and watch till Lobster goes," said Vince; but,
yielding at last to his companion's importunity, he was about to follow
him back, when there was a loud rustling, a heavy thud, and then a
dismal howl.

The Lobster had slipped and fallen into the rift while backing so as to
get a better view of the ridge.

"Oh my!  Oh my!  Oh, mother!  Oh, crikey!  Oh my head--my head!  Oh, my
arm!  Oh, it's broke!  And I'm bleeding!  Won't nobody come and help
me?"

The above, uttered in a piteous, dismal wail, was too much for Vince's
feelings; and, pushing his companion aside, he was about to hurry to the
lad's help, but Mike seized him by the arm, and at the same moment they
heard Carnach junior jump up and begin stamping about.

"Here, who did this?" he roared.  "What fool's been digging stone here
and left this hole o' purpose for any one to fall in?  Wish he'd tumbled
in himself, and broke his stoopid old head.  Yah!  Oh my, how it hurts!"

He stamped about in the hollow, and they heard him kick one of the
stones with his heavy boots in his rage.

"Wish them two had tumbled in 'stead o' me.  Oh dear, oh!  Here's a mess
I'm in!  Making a great hole like this, and never leaving no stuff
outside.  Might ha' been deep, and killed a chap.  It aren't broke
through," he grumbled, after a pause.  "Wonder where they've got to.  Oh
dear! oh dear! what a crack on the head!  That comes o' going backwards.
Yah!"

This last ejaculation was accompanied by the rattle of stones, as the
great lad evidently kicked another piece that was in his way; and,
feeling now that there was nothing serious in the fall, Vince gave
Mike's hand a squeeze as they stood listening and expecting every moment
to hear the young fisherman say something in the way of surprise as he
saw the dark hole going downward.  But they listened in vain,--full of
anxiety, though, for it was like a second blow to find that their secret
place was becoming very plain, known as it evidently was to people at
the sea entrance, and now from the landward side discovered by the
greatest enemy they had.

Vince felt this so strongly that, in spite of the risk of being heard,
he put his lips to Mike's ear and whispered: "This spoils all."

Mike responded in the same way: "I say, what's he doing?  Shall I go and
see?"

"No, I will," whispered back Vince.

"Take care."

Vince's answer was a squeeze of the hand.  Then, going down upon all
fours, he crept silently and slowly up the slope till he could see the
lad, expecting to find him peering about the mouth of the passage, and
trying to see whether they were there.

But nothing of the kind.  There was the young fisherman seated upon a
piece of stone, with the light shining down upon him through the
brambles, busily tying his neckerchief round his head, making it into a
bandage to cover a cut somewhere on the back, and tying it in front over
his forehead.  Then, picking up his cap, which lay beside him, he drew
it on over the handkerchief, having most trouble to cover the knot, but
succeeding at last.

Then he stood up and began to examine his hands, which appeared to be
scratched and bleeding; and making Vince start and feel that he was
seen, for the boy turned in the direction of the dark passage and cried
viciously:

"All right, Doctor: I'll let yer have it next time I ketches yer--and
you too, old Squire.  Oh my! how it smarts, though!  Wonder wherever
they got."

Those last words came like a fillip to Vince's spirits, for he felt now
that there was nothing to mind, as he could not give the Lobster credit
for knowing that they were close at hand and acting his part so as to
make believe he was in ignorance.

Just then a light touch told Vince that Mike had crawled silently up
behind him; and they both crouched there now, in the darkness, watching
the lad, till he suddenly seemed to become impressed by the fact that
the hole went right in underground, and he stood staring in till the two
boys felt that he was looking at them and seeing them plainly.

"Goes right in," he said aloud--"ever so far, p'r'aps.  Well, let it.  I
aren't going to get myself all wet and muddy.  Oh! how it do hurt!"

He raised his hand to the back of his head; but he remained staring in,
the boys hardly daring to breathe, as each doubled his fists, and
prepared for an encounter.

"He must see us," thought Vince; and when he felt most certain, his
heart gave a throb of satisfaction, for a slight movement on the lad's
part brought his face more into the light, and Vince could see that
there was a vague look in the lad's eyes, as if he were thinking; and
then he turned slowly round and began to look about for the best way out
of the trap into which he had fallen, proceeding to drag at the brambles
in one spot where an exit seemed easiest; but a sharp prick or two made
him snatch away his hands with an angry ejaculation, and, looking about
again, he noticed that there was a simpler way out at the end--that used
by the two boys for returning, their entries always now being by a
sudden jump down through the pendent green shoots.

"I'll let 'em have it for this when I do find 'em," grumbled the lad.
"Must ha' gone home'ards some other way."  And they could hear him
muttering and grumbling as the twigs and strands rustled where he
passed, till they knew that he was well outside, for they heard him give
a stamp on one of the blocks of granite.

Vince rose silently.

"Come on," he said,--"the brambles will screen us;" and he crept forward
carefully, till he was close to the hole, and then cautiously advanced
his head, to peer upward, raising his hand warningly to Mike, who was
just behind.  For the lad had not gone away, but was standing at the
edge with his back to them, and his eyes sheltered, gazing upward at the
ridge.

He remained there watching intently for quite ten minutes without
moving, and then went off out of sight, the only guide to the direction
he took being the rustling of displaced bushes and the musical clink of
a loose block of stone moved by his passing feet.

They did not trust themselves to speak for some time after the last
faint sound had died out, and then they began to discuss the question
whether they could escape unseen.

"Must chance it," said Vince at last.  "I'm tired of staying here.  Come
on."

Mike was evidently quite as weary, for he showed his agreement by
following at once.  They were both cautious in the extreme, going out on
all fours, and then crawling in and out between the blocks of granite--a
pleasant enough task so long as the growth between was whortleberry,
heath or ferns, but as for the most part it was the long thorny strands
of the blackberry, the travelling became more and more painful.  At
last, after progressing in this way some three hundred yards, a horribly
thorny strand hooked Vince in the leg of his trousers and skin as well,
with the result that he started to his feet angrily.

"Here, I've had enough of this," he cried.  "Hang the old cavern! it
isn't worth the trouble."

"Hist!" exclaimed Mike, seizing him by the leg and pointing straight
away to their right.

Vince dropped forward, with his arms stretched over the nearest block of
grey stone, staring at the object pointed out, and seeing Carnach junior
right up close to the highest part of the ridge.

For a few moments he could not be sure whether the young fisherman was
looking in their direction, or away; from them; but a movement on the
part of the lad set this at rest directly after, and they saw him go
slowly on, helping himself by clutching at the saw-like row of jagged
stones which divided one slope from the other; and, satisfied that they
had not been seen, they recommenced their crawl, till they reached the
cover of a pile of the loose rocks, which were pretty well covered with
growth.

Placing this between them and the lad, now far away upon the ridge, they
made for the cover of the stunted oaks, and there breathed freely.

Mike was the first to speak, and he began just as if his companion had
the moment before made his impatient remarks about the adventure not
being worth the trouble.

"I don't know," he said.  "This is the first time we have had any
bother, and I don't see why we should give such a jolly place up just
because that thick-headed old Lobster came watching us."

"Ah! but that isn't all," said Vince.  "We can't go down there any more,
on account of the smugglers."

"But I don't believe you are right.  Those things looked new, I know;
but they must be as old as old, for if any smuggling had been going on
here we must have seen or heard of it."

"But the sand--the sand!  Those footprints must be new."

"I don't see it," said Mike, rather stubbornly.  "Because the wind blows
into one cave and drifts the light sand all over, that's no reason why
it should do so in another cave, which may be regularly sheltered."

"It's no good to argue with you," said Vince sourly, for he was weary
and put out.  "You can have it your own way, only I tell you this,--
smugglers don't stand any nonsense; they'll shoot at any one who tries
to stop them or find out where they land cargoes, and we should look
nice if they suddenly came upon us."

"People don't come suddenly on you when they've been dead a hundred
years," replied Mike.  "Now, just look here: we must do it as if we took
no interest in it, but you ask your father to-night, and I'll ask mine,
whether they ever heard of there being smugglers in the Crag."

"Well, I will," said Vince; "but you must do the same."

"Of course I shall; and we shall find that it must have been an enormous
time ago, and that we've as good a right to those things as anybody, for
they were brought there and then forgotten."

"Well, we shall see," said Vince; and that night, at their late tea, he
started the subject with--

"Have you ever known any smugglers to be here, father?"

"Smugglers?  No, Vince," said the Doctor, smiling.  "There's nothing
ever made here that would carry duty, for people to want to get it into
England free; and on the other hand, it would not be of any use for
smugglers to bring anything here, for there is no one to buy smuggled
goods, such as they might bring from Holland or France."

Somewhere about the same time Mike approached the question at the old
manor house.

"Smugglers, Mike?" said Sir Francis.  "Oh no, my boy, we've never had
smugglers here.  The place is too dangerous, and perfectly useless to
such people, for they land contraband goods only where they can find a
good market for them.  Now, if you had said pirates, I could tell you
something different."

"Were there ever pirates, then?" cried Mike excitedly.  Sir Francis
laughed.

"It's strange," he said, "what interest boys always have taken in
smugglers, pirates, and brigand stories.  Why, you're as bad as the
rest, boy!  But there, I'm running away from your question.  Yes, I
believe there were pirates here at one time; but it is over a hundred
years ago, and they were a crew of low, ruffianly scoundrels, who got
possession of a vessel and lived for years by plundering the outward and
inward bound merchantmen; and being on a fast sailing vessel they always
escaped by running for shore, and from their knowledge of the rocks and
currents they could sail where strangers dared not follow.  But the
whole history has been dressed up tremendously, and made romantic.  It
was said that they brought supernatural aid to bear in navigating their
craft, and that they would sail right up to the Crag and then become
invisible: people would see them one minute and they'd be gone the
next."

"Hah!" ejaculated Mike, and his father smiled.  "All superstitious
nonsense, of course, my boy; but the ignorant people get hold of these
traditions and believe in them.  Mr Deane here will soon tell you how
in history molehills got stretched up into mountains."

"Or snowballs grew into historical avalanches," said the tutor.

"Exactly," said Sir Francis.  "I fancy, Mike, that those people may have
had a nest here.  One of the men--Carnach I think it was--told me that
they had a cave, and only sailed from it at night."

"Did he know where it was, father?"

"I remember now he said it was `sumwers about,' which is rather vague;
but still there are several holes on the west coast which might have
been made habitable; though I have never seen such a cave on the island,
nor even one that could have been serviceable as a store."

Mike winced a little, for he fully expected to hear his father say "Have
you?"  But then Sir Francis went off to another subject, and the boy
nursed up his ideas ready for his next meeting with Vince, which was on
the following day.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

PIRATES OR SMUGGLERS?  HOW TO PROVE IT.

"Pirates, Cinder!"

Mike was down at the gate waiting for Vince to come with his roll of
exercises, ready for the morning's work; and as soon as Vince came
within earshot he fired off the word that he had been dreaming about all
night--

"Pirates!"

"Where?" cried Vince, looking sharply round and out to sea.

"Get out!  You know what I mean.  It's pirates, not smugglers."

Vince stared at him for a few moments, and then burst out laughing.

"Well, you've got it this time," he said, "if you mean the cave."

"And I do," said Mike quietly.  "Pirates; and that's some of the plunder
and booty they took from a ship over a hundred years ago.  So now whose
will it be?"

"Stop a moment," said Vince, looking preternaturally serious; "let's be
certain who it was.  Let me see: there was Paul Jones, and Blackbeard,
and the Buccaneers.  What do you say to its having belonged to the
Buccaneers?"

"Ah! you may laugh, but my father said last night that he never knew of
smugglers being on the island, but that there was a story about pirates
having a cave here, and going out in their vessel to plunder the outward
and homeward bound merchantmen."

"Humph!" grunted Vince, with a sceptical look.

"And look here: he said the people had a superstitious belief that the
pirates used to sail towards the Crag, and then disappear."

"What!" cried Vince eagerly.

"Disappear quite suddenly."

"Behind that line of rocks when they sailed into the little cove, Mike?"

"To be sure.  Now, then, why don't you laugh and sneer?" cried Mike.
"Does it sound so stupid now?"

"I don't know," said Vince, beginning to be dubious again.

"Then I do," said Mike warmly.  "I never knew of such an unbelieving
sort of chap as you are.  There's the cave, and there's all the plunder
in it--just such stuff as the pirates would get out of a ship homeward
bound."

"Yes; but why did they leave it there and not sell it?"

"I know," cried Mike excitedly: "because one day they went out and
attacked a ship so as to plunder her, and found out all at once that it
was a man-o'-war; and as soon as the man-o'-war's captain found out that
they were pirates he had all the guns double-shotted, and gave the order
to fire a broadside, and sank the pirate."

"That's the way," said Vince, laughing; "and the pirate captain ran up
the rigging with a hammer and some tin-tacks, and nailed the colours to
the mast."

"Ah! you may laugh," said Mike.  "You're disappointed because you didn't
find it out first.  There it all is, as plain as plain.  The people used
to think the pirate vessel disappeared, because she sailed out of sight
and used to lie in hiding till they wanted to attack another ship.
Well, I shan't say any more about it if you are going to laugh, but
there's the treasure in the cave: we found it; and half's yours and
half's mine.  Now then, what did the Doctor say?"

"That he never heard of any smugglers ever being here."

"There!" cried Mike triumphantly.

"He said there was no one here to buy smuggled goods, and nothing here
to smuggle."

"Of course not: the other's the idea, and I vote we go down and properly
examine our treasure after dinner."

"That is curious," said Vince, "about the tradition of the pirate ship
disappearing, because it proves that there is a channel big enough for a
small ship."

"Oh you're beginning to believe, then, now?"

"No, I'm not; for I feel sure those are smuggled goods.  But, Mike, we
must get old Joe to lend us his boat, and sail along there ourselves."

"He wouldn't lend it to us."

"Then I know what we'll do--"

"Now, gentlemen, I'm waiting," said a familiar voice.

"All right, Mr Deane; we're coming," cried Mike.  "Now, Cinder, what
shall we do?"

"Go and ask the old chap to lend us his boat, and if he won't we'll come
back disappointed."

"And what's the good of that?"

"Slip round another way and borrow her.  You and I could manage her,
couldn't we?"

"Why, I could manage her myself."

"Of course you could.  We shouldn't hurt the boat; and we could feel our
way in, and see from outside whether it has been a smugglers' place or
no."

"That's it," said Mike; and five minutes after they were working hard
with the tutor, as if they had nothing on their minds.

That afternoon, with the sun brighter and the sea and sky looking bluer
than ever, the two boys were off for their afternoon expedition, making
their way along a rough lane that was very beautiful and very bad.  It
was bad from the point of view that the fisher-farmers of the island
looked upon it as a sort of "no man's land," and never favoured it by
spreading donkey-cart loads of pebbles or broken granite to fill up the
holes trodden in by cows in wet weather, or the tracks made by carts
laden with vraick, the sea-weed they collected for manuring their potato
and parsnep fields.  Consequently, in bad seasons Vince said it was
"squishy," and Mike that it was "squashy."  But in fine summer weather
it was beautiful indeed, for Nature seemed to have made up her mind that
it was nonsense for a roadway to be made there to act like a scar on the
landscape, just to accommodate a few people who wanted to bring up
sea-weed, sand and fish from the shore, and harness donkeys to rough
carts to do the work when they might more easily have done it themselves
by making a rough windlass, such as they had over their wells, and
dragging all they wanted directly up the cliff face to the top--a plan
which would have done in fifty yards what the donkeys had to go round
nearly half a mile to achieve.  As to the road being kept up solely
because old Joe Daygo had a cottage down in a notch in the granite walls
overlooking the sea, that seemed to be absurd.

Consequently, Nature went to work regularly every year to do away with
that road, and she set all her children to help.  The gorse bushes hung
from the sides, thrusting out their prickly sprays covered with orange
and yellow blossom and encroached all they could; the heather sprouted
and slowly crept here and there, in company with a lovely fine grass
that would have made a lover of smooth lawns frantic with envy.  Over
the heath, ling, and furze the dodder wreathed and wove its delicate
tangle, and the thrift raised its lavender heads to nod with
satisfaction at the way in which all the plants and wild shrubs were
doing their work.

But there were two things which left all the rest behind, and did by far
the most to bring the crooked lane back to beauty.  They laughed at the
two brionies, black and white; for though they made a glorious show,
with their convolvulus and deeply cut leaves, and sent forth strands of
wonderfully rapid growth to run over the sturdy blackthorn, which
produced such splendid sloes, and then hung down festoons of glossy
leaves into the lane that quite put the more slow-growing ivy to the
blush, still these lovely trailing festoons died back in the winter,
while their rival growths kept on.  These rivals were the brambles and
the wild clematis, which grew and grew in friendly emulation, and ended,
in spite of many rebuffs from trampling feet, by shaking hands across
the road; the clematis, not content with that, going farther and
embracing and tangling themselves up till rudely broken apart by the
passers-by--notably by old Joe Daygo, when he went that way home to his
solitary cot, instead of walking, out of sheer awkwardness, across
somebody's field or patch.

"I wish father would buy old Joe's cottage," said Vince, as the two lads
trudged down the lane that afternoon.  "We could make it such a lovely
place."

"Yours is right enough," said Mike, pausing in whistling an old French
air a good deal affected by the people.

"Oh yes, and I shouldn't like to leave it; but I always like this bit
down here; the lane is so jolly.  Look."

"What at?"

"Two swallow-tail butterflies.  Let's have them."

"Shan't.  I'm not going to make myself red-hot running after them if
we're going out in the boat.  Besides, we haven't got any of your
father's pill boxes to put 'em in.  I say, how the things do grow down
here!  Look at that fern and the bracken."

"Yes, and the old foxgloves.  They are a height!"

"It's so warm and sheltered.  What's that?"

They stopped, for there was a quick, rushing sound amongst the herbage.

"Snake," said Vince, after a pause; "and we've no sticks to hunt him
out."

"Down his hole by this time.  Come along.  What a fellow you are!  You
always want to be off after something.  Why can't you keep to one
purpose at a time, as Mr Deane says, so as to master it?"

"Hark at old Ladle beginning to lay down the law," cried Vince merrily.
"You're just as bad.  I say, shall we stop about here this afternoon?
Look at that gull--how it seems to watch us."

Vince threw back his head to gaze up at the beautiful, white-breasted
bird, which was keeping them company, and sailing about here and there
some twenty feet overhead, watching them all the time.

"Bother the gull!" said Mike.  "Let's go on and speak to old Joe about
the boat."

"Oh, very well," said Vince; "but what's the hurry?  I hate racing along
when there's so much to see.  Here, Ladle: look--look!  My! what a
chance for a seine!"

They had just reached a turn in the lane where they could look down at
an embayed portion of the deep blue sea, in which a wide patch was
sparkling and flashing in the most dazzling way, and literally seeming
to boil as if some large volcanic fire were at work below.

"Mackerel," said Vince.

"Pilchards," said Mike.

"'Taint: it's too soon.  It's mackerel.  What a chance!"

"Have it your own way," said Mike; "but a nice chance!  Ha! ha!  Why, if
they surrounded them they'd get their nets all torn to pieces.  There's
sand all round, but the middle there is full of the worst rocks off the
coast."

"Yes I s'pose it would be rocky," said Vince thoughtfully.  "Well, do
come on."

Mike turned upon him to resent the order, feeling that it was nice to be
accused of delaying their progress; but the mirthful look on Vince's
face disarmed him, and after a skirmish and spar to get rid of a little
of their effervescing vitality, consequent upon the stimulating effects
of the glorious air, they broke into a trot and went past a large patch
where a man was busy hoeing away at a grand crop of carrots, destined
for winter food for his soft-eyed cow, tethered close at hand; and soon
after came in sight of a massive, rough chimney-stack of granite,
apparently level with the road.  But this latter made a sudden dip down
into a steep hollow, and there stood the comfortable-looking cottage
inhabited by the old fisherman, with its goodly garden, cow-shed, and
many little additions which betokened prosperity.

The door was open, and, quite at home, the boys walked into the half
parlour, half kitchen-like place, with its walls decorated with
fishing-gear and dried fish, with various shells, spars, and minerals,
which the old man called his "koorosseties," some native, but many
obtained from men who had made long voyages in ocean-going ships.

"Hi, Joe! where are you?" cried Vince, hammering on the open door.  But
there was not a sound to be heard; and they came out, climbed up the
rocks at the back till they were above the chimneys, and looked round,
expecting to find that he had gone off to the granite-hedged field where
he tethered his cows.

But the two sleek creatures were browsing away, and no one was in sight
but the man, some hundred yards or so distant, hoeing the weeds from his
carrots.

"How tiresome!" said Mike.

"All right: he'll know," cried Vince; and they trotted to where the man
was very slowly freeing his vegetables from intruders.

"Hi, Jemmy Carnach!" shouted the lad, "seen Joe Daygo?"

"Ay,--hour ago," said the man, straightening himself slowly, and passing
one hand behind him to begin softly rubbing his back: "he've gone yonder
to do somethin' to his boat."

"Come on, Mike; we'll cut straight across here and catch him.  It's much
nearer."

"Going fishing, young sirs?" said the man.

"Yes, and for a sail."

"If you see that boy o' mine--"

"What, Lobster?" said Vince.

"Eh? lobster?" said the man eagerly.  "Ay, if you ketch any, you might
leave us one as you come back.  I arn't seen one for a week."

"All right," said Mike, after a merry glance at Vince; "if we get any
we'll leave you one."

"Ay, do, lad," said the man.  "Good for them as has to tyle all day.  If
you see my boy, tell him I want him.  I'm not going to do all the work
and him nothing."

"We'll tell him," said Vince.

"And if he says he won't come, you lick him, mind.  Don't you be
feared."

The boys were pretty well out of hearing when the last words were
spoken; and after a sharp trot, along by the side of the cliff where it
was possible, they came to the rugged descent leading to old Daygo's
tiny port.

This time they were not disappointed, for they caught sight of the old
man's cap as he stood below with his back to them, driving a wooden peg
into a crack in the rock with a rounded boulder, ready for hanging up
some article of fishing-gear.

"You ask him," said Mike: "he likes you best."

"All right," said Vince; and, putting his hands to his lips, he shouted
out, "Daygo, ahoy!"

"Ahoy!" cried the old man, without turning his head; and he kept on
thumping away till the boys had reached him, when he slowly turned to
face them, and threw down the great pebble.

Vince was too thorough to hesitate, and he opened the business at once,
in his outspoken way:

"Here, Joe!" he cried; "we want you to lend us your boat to go for a
sail."

"To lend you my boat to go for a sail?" said the old man, nodding his
head softly.

"Yes; and we shan't be very long, because we must be back to tea."

"And you won't be very long, because you must be back to tea?"

"Yes; and we won't trouble you.  We can get it out ourselves."

"And you won't trouble me, because you can get it out yourselves?"

"That's right."

"Oh, that's right, is it, Master Vince?  That's what you thinks," said
the old fisherman.

"But you'll lend it to us, won't you?"

"Nay, my lad--I won't."

"Why?"

"Why?" said Daygo, beginning to rasp his nose, according to custom, with
his rough forefinger.  "He says why?  Mebbe you'd lose her."

"No, we wouldn't, Joe."

"Mebbe you'd run her on the rocks."

"Nonsense!--just as if we don't know where the rocks are.  Know 'em
nearly as well as you do."

Daygo chuckled.

"Oh, come, Joe, don't be disagreeable.  We'll take plenty of care of it,
and pay you what you like."

"Your fathers tell you to come to me?"

"No."

"Thought not.  Nay, my lads, I won't lend you my boat, and there's an
end on it.  I'm not going to have your two fathers coming to ask me why
I sent you both to the bottom."

"Such stuff!" cried Vince angrily.  "Just as if we could come to harm on
a day like this."

"Ah! you don't know, lad; I do.  Never can tell when a squall's coming
off the land."

"Well, I do call it disagreeable," said Vince.  "Will you take us out?"

"Nay, not to-day."

"Oh, very well.  Never mind, but I shan't forget it.  Did think you'd
have done that, Joe.  Come on, Mike; let's go and get some lines and
fish off the rocks."

"Ay, that's the best game for boys like you," said the old man; and,
stooping down, he picked up the boulder and began to knock again at the
wooden peg without taking any notice of his visitors.

"Come on, Vince," said Mike; and they walked back up the cliff, climbing
slowly, but as soon as they were out of the old man's sight starting off
quickly to gain a clump of rocks, which they placed between them and the
way down.  Here they began to climb carefully till they had reached a
spot from whence they could look down upon the little winding channel
leading from the tunnel to Daygo's natural dock.

They could see the old man, too, moving about far below, evidently
fetching something to hang upon the great peg he had finished driving
in; and, after disappearing for a few minutes, he came into sight again,
and they saw him hang the something up--but what, at that distance, they
could not make out.

At the end of a few minutes the old man went down to his boat, stayed
with it another five minutes or so, and then stood looking about him.

"It's no go, Cinder," said Mike, in a disappointed tone; "we shan't get
off to-day, and perhaps it's best.  We oughtn't to take his boat."

"Why not?  It's only like borrowing anything of a neighbour.  He was
sour to-day, or else he'd have lent it."

"But suppose he finds out?"

"Well, then he'll only laugh.  You'll see: he'll be off directly."

Mike shook his head as they lay there upon their breasts, with their
heads hidden behind tufts of heather; but Vince was right as to the old
man soon going, for directly after they saw him begin to climb
deliberately up to the level, look cautiously round, and then, bent of
back, trudge slowly off in the direction of his home; while, as soon as
he was well on his way, the boys crept downward till they were at the
foot of the rocks, when Vince cried:

"Now then: lizards!" and began to crawl at a pretty good rate towards
the way down to the natural dock, quite out of sight of the old man if
he had looked back.

The rugged way down was reached, and here they were able to rise erect
and begin to descend in the normal way, Vince starting off rapidly.

"Come on!" he cried; "old Joe will never know.  I say, we have
`sarcumwented' him, as he'd call it."

"Yes, it's all very well," said Mike, whose conscience was pricking him,
"but it always seems so precious easy to do what you oughtn't to."

"Pooh!" cried Vince; "this is nothing."

"Some one is sure to say he has seen the boat out."

"Well, I don't care if he does.  Joe ought to have lent us the boat; I'm
sure we've done things enough for him.  There, don't talk; let's get
her.  He might come back for something, and stop us."



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

A RISKY TRIP.

But the old fisherman did not return, and they took down mast, sail,
oars, and boat-hook, cast the little craft loose, jumped in, and
skilfully sent her along the channel, without startling any mullet this
time.  Then the tunnel was reached, passed through, a good thrust or two
given, and the boat glided out over the transparent waves, Mike
thrusting an oar from the stern and sculling her along till they were
well out from the shelter of the rocks, when he drew in his oar and
helped to step the little mast and hoist the sail.  In a few minutes
more they were gliding swiftly along, with Vince cautiously holding the
sheet and Mike steering.

"As if we couldn't manage a boat!" cried Vince, laughing.  "Starboard a
little, Ladle.  Rocks."

Mike knew the sunken rocks, though, as well as he, and carefully gave
them a wide berth; while, as they reached out farther from the land and
caught the full power of the soft south-westerly breeze, the boat
careened over, the water rattled beneath her bows, and away they went,
steering so as to clear the point and get well abreast of the Scraw
before going in to investigate, and try if there was an easy way of
reaching the sheltered rounded cove.

For some time every rock and point was perfectly familiar; they knew
every cavern and rift, and talked and chatted about the days when they
had fished here, gone egging there, and climbed up or descended yonder;
but after a time the rocks began to look strange.

"Good job for us that Joe's place is on the other side of the island,"
said Vince cheerily.  "I say, what a game if he saw the boat going
along, and took out his old glass to try and make out what craft it
was?"

"But he isn't this side," said Mike.  "I say, think there are any rocks
out here?--because I don't know them."

"I don't think there can be," said Vince.  "Remember coming out here
with your father a year ago?"

"Yes," said Mike; "but we were half a mile farther out, because he said
something about the current."

"Well, of course I don't know," said Vince; "but the water looks smooth
and deep.  We should soon see it working and boiling up if there were
any rough rocks at the bottom."

"Or near the top," said Mike thoughtfully.  "Now, look: oughtn't we to
be seeing the ridge over the Scraw by this time?"

"Not yet," replied Vince, who was carefully scanning the coast now.
"We've only just passed the point; and it must be yonder, farther
along."

They both scanned the cliffs very carefully, but they all looked much
the same--grey, forbidding, and grand, as they towered up from the
water, nowhere showing a place where any one could land.

"I say," cried Vince suddenly, "we're going along at a pretty good rate,
aren't we?"

"Yes, I was thinking so.  Too fast: take in a bit of canvas."

Vince did not speak for a few moments, but gazed from the sail to the
surface of the smooth sea and back again two or three times.

"'Tisn't the sail that carries us along so," he said at last; "she only
just fills, and hardly pulls at the sheet at all.  Ladle, old chap,
we're in a current that's carding us along at a tremendous rate."

Mike looked at him in alarm, but Vince went on coolly.

"There's nothing to mind, so long as we keep a sharp look-out for rocks.
The old boat would crush up like an egg if she went on one now.  Here,
Ladle, quick!  Look there!"

"What at?"

"The rocks.  I mean the cliffs.  Ah! port! port!--quick."

Mike obeyed, and none too soon, for as Vince was calling his attention
to the shape of the cliffs ashore, a rough, sharp pinnacle of rock rose
some ten feet out of the water just in front, with others to right and
left, and the boat just cleared the principal danger by gliding through
a narrow opening and then racing on upon the other side.

Here they found rock after rock standing out, some as much as twenty
feet, whitened by the sea-birds, while others were just level with the
surface and washed by foam.

The way was literally strewn with dangers, and prudence suggested
lowering the sail; but prudence was wrong--quick sailing was the only
way to safety, so that they might have speed enough to insure good
steering in the rapid current.

"We must keep on going," said Vince, "or we shall be on the rocks, as
sure as we live.  I say, can you keep an eye on the shore?"

"No: I'm obliged to mind the rocks ahead.  You look."

"I can't," said Vince; "it's impossible, with all these shoals about.
Look out! here's quite a whirlpool.  Port a little more--port!"

The eddy they had to pass was caused by a couple of rocks close to the
surface; and in avoiding these they went stern over another, which
appeared to rise suddenly out of the clear sea, and was so close that
the wonder to them was that they did not touch it.  But the little boat
drew very little water, and probably they were a few inches above it as
they glided on into deep water again.

"That was a close shave," cried Vince.  "I say, it's impossible to try
and find the way in there while we have to dodge in and out here."

"Think there would be less current closer in?" said Mike.

"No, I don't.  Look for yourself: it's rushing along, and there are
twice as many rocks.  I say, Ladle, we had better get out of this as
soon as we can."

Mike said nothing, but he evidently agreed, and sat there steering with
his oar over the stern, his teeth set and his brow knit, gazing straight
ahead for the many dangers by which they had to pass, before, to their
great relief, the last seemed to be past, and they had time to turn
their attention toward the shore.

"It's easy enough now," said Vince.  "Why, that's North Point, and the
Scraw must be half a mile behind!"

The current was now setting right in, as if to cross the most northern
point of the island; and knowing from old experience that it was
possible to get into a return current close beneath the north cliffs,
they steered in, and, the breeze freshening a little, they gradually
glided out of the swift race which had been bearing them along, and in a
few minutes were about a hundred yards from the cliffs, in deep water,
and were being carried slowly in the opposite direction--that is, back
towards the place they sought to examine.

"Well, that's right enough," said Vince; "it's a regular backwater, and
just what we wanted.  We shall do it this time."

"Think there's any danger?" said Mike.

"Not if it keeps like this," replied Vince.  "We'll go on, won't we?"

Mike nodded; and making short tacks, helped by the gentle current which
was running well inside the rocks, about which they could see the tide
surging, they by degrees approached the range of cliffs which they felt
must be the outer boundary of the little cove.

"This is grand," said Vince, as they drew nearer.  "Why, it's as easy as
can be, and any one might have done it if they'd thought of coming here.
I say, isn't it deep?  This is a regular channel, and I shouldn't be
surprised if it takes us straight to the way in, for it's perfectly
plain that it can't be out there.  No boat could get in--big or little."

"Yes, this seems to be right," said Mike.  "See any rocks?"

"Only outside, and they keep off the tide.  I say, Mike, there ought to
be some good fishing here.  I wonder nobody comes."

"Look!" cried Mike; "that is the ridge of rocks we can see across the
cove."

"How do you know?"

"Because it's so covered with cormorants and gulls.  Then there ought to
be an opening somewhere a bit farther--"

"Look out, Mike!  Starboard!--hard, or we shall be on that great snag."

As he spoke Vince seized the sail and swung it across, so as to send the
boat upon another tack, and as he did so there was a jerk which nearly
threw them overboard, a strange scraping, jarring sensation, and the
boat's head was swung round, and she was borne rapidly along once more
by the current which they had experienced before.

For the fierce race suddenly swept about the rock they had grazed,
catching the boat and treating it as if it had been a cork, leaving the
boys to devote all their energies to steering, to avoid the rocks which
studded their course.

"Just the same game over again," said Vince, "only we're about a hundred
yards nearer in, and the rocks are closer together."

Their experience of half an hour before was being repeated, but with
added perils in the shape of larger rocks, while, to make matters worse,
water was rapidly rising in the boat, one of whose planks had been
started when they struck.

Vince was seaman enough to know what to do, and, warning his companion
to keep a sharp look-out ahead, he took off his jacket, and then dragged
the jersey shirt he wore over his head.  Kneeling in the bottom of the
boat, he proceeded to stuff the worsted garment into a jagged hole,
through which the clear water came bubbling up like some spring.

Mike had glanced at the bubbling water once, and shuddered slightly; but
he did not speak then, for there was a great rock right in front,
towards which the boat was rushing, with the sail well-filled, and
having the leeward gunwale low down by the surface.

But Mike did not even wince.  The current was racing them along, while
the wind was fresher now, and as the boy pressed down the blade of the
oar he could feel that the boat was fully under his control--that it was
like some great fish of which he was the tail, and that he had only to
give one good stroke with the oar blade to send the prow to right or
left as he willed.

And, as Vince patted and stuffed the woollen jersey as tightly as he
could into the place where the water rushed up, Mike sat fast, till with
a rush they glided by the dangerous rock, and the boy strained his eyes
to catch the next danger.

Nothing was very near, and he spoke.

"Will she sink, Cinder?" he said; and it seemed a long time, in his
terrible anxiety, before his companion spoke.

"No.  There's a lot of water in, but if you can look out and steer, I
can hold the sheet and bale."

He handed the sheet to Mike, crept forward, opened the locker in the
bows, and took out an old tin pot kept for the purpose, crept back and
took the sheet again, as he knelt down in the water and began to bale,
scooping it up, and sending it flying over the side, but without seeming
to make much impression.

"Another rock," said Mike.

"All right; you know how to pass it," said Vince, without ceasing his
work, but sending the water flying to leeward; and for the next quarter
of an hour he did not cease--not even turning his head when they went
dangerously near rock after rock.

It was only when, with a deep, catching sigh, Mike said that the current
did not seem so strong, that he looked up and saw that the rocky point
of the island was nearly a couple of miles away.

"Which way shall I steer?" said Mike; and Vince stood up to take in
their position.

"If we go round the point with the tide we shall have to fight against
the wind and the current that sets along the west shore," he said.
"That won't do.  We must go back the way we came."

"What, against that mill race?" cried Mike in dismay.

"No: couldn't do it.  We must stand out more to sea."

"Out to sea!" cried Mike, aghast: "with the boat filling with water?"

"Well, we can't go the other way.  Besides, if we did old Joe would see
us pass by, and there'd be a row."

"Well, he must know.  He'll see the hole in the bottom,--if we get
back," Mike muttered to himself.  "But, Vince," he cried, "hadn't we
better run ashore somewhere?"

"Yes: where's it to be?" said the boy, with a curious laugh.  "Nonsense!
We should only sink her at once.  There, I must go on baling.  It's the
only thing we can do, Mikey.  Turn her head to it, and run right across
the tide.  It's getting slacker here.  Keep her head well to it.  I
won't let her sink."

Mike groaned.

"Hullo!" cried Vince cheerily, "is it hard work?"

There was no reply, but the boat careened over as from the fresh
pressure of the oar the sail caught the full force of the wind, and they
began to run swiftly towards the south-east, right out to sea, but with
the intent of running back after reaching well out to south of the
island.

It seemed like madness, with the boat leaking as she did, but Vince was
right.  It was their only chance; and after a few minutes he said, as if
to himself:

"I'm going to do a stupid thing.  I ought to hold that sheet in my hand,
but I want both for baling.  Be on the look-out, Ladle.  Mind you throw
her up in the wind if she goes over too much."

As he spoke he made the sheet fast, rolled up his sleeves, and, taking
the pot in both hands, began to make the water fly over the side.

"I say, Ladle," he cried, "when I'm tired you'll have to take a turn;
but don't she go along splendidly with all this water ballast in her?"

"Yes," said Mike huskily.  "Are you getting it down?"

"Yes, a little.  Not much; but if you sail her well we shall run in all
right."

"Aren't we going out too far to sea?"

"No; just right.  Now, then, don't talk.  I want all my breath for
working."

Setting his teeth, the boy baled away, and by slow degrees lowered the
water a good deal; but he could not cease for a moment, for it surged in
through the leak, nor did he dare to push the jersey farther, for fear
of loosening the plank more and making a bigger hole.

This went on for fully half an hour, with the island getting more and
more distant, and Mike twice over asked if it was not time to make for
the shore.

But Vince shook his head, after a glance back at the south point, and
worked away at the baling.

"Now," he said suddenly, "I want to go on, but I'm getting slow.  Be
ready to jump into my place and scoop it out.  I'll catch hold of the
oar.  Ready?"

"Yes."

"Now then."

The exchange was quickly effected, the water sent flying with more
energy, and Vince pressed upon the oar as he rested himself, and sent
the brave little boat faster through the sea.

"You're giving it to her too hard," remonstrated Mike, as the gunwale
went down dangerously near the surface.

"No, I'm not.  You hold your tongue and bale," said Vince fiercely.
"Keep it down."

Mike worked as he had never worked before, but he could not get the
water an inch lower than Vince had left it.  Still he never slackened
his pace, though he felt sure that it was gaining upon him, and that
before long the boat would begin to sink.

At last he could contain himself no longer, and with a hoarse gasp he
cried:

"It's of no use, Vince; she's going down."

"No, she isn't," said the boy quietly; "and she can't go down if we
pitch out those two big pieces of iron ballast.  She'll go over on her
side, and we shall have to hold on if it comes to the worst; but I think
I can send her in, Ladle, if you can keep on baling."

"Yes, I can keep on," said Mike faintly.

"Tell me when you're beat out, and I'll begin again."

Mike nodded.

"But keep on till you're ready to drop, so as to give me all the rest
you can, for my arms feel like bits of wood."

Mike jerked his head again, and the water went on flying out, looking
like a shower of gold in the late afternoon sunshine, till Vince shouted
to his companion, in regular nautical parlance, to stand by with the
sail.

Mike sprang up and loosened the sheet, standing ready to swing the yard
over to the other side.  Vince threw the boat up in the wind, the sail
swung over, filled for the other tack, and they both began to breathe
freely as they glided now toward the south point of the island, where a
jutting-up mass of rock, looking dim in the distance, showed where the
archway and tunnel lay which led into old Joe's little natural dock.

"Shall we do it, Cinder?" said Mike faintly, as he made fast the sheet
on the other side.

"Do it?--yes, of course," cried Vince stoutly.  "There, my arms are not
so numb and full of pins and needles now.  Come here and steer."

"No, I can do a little more," said Mike.

"No, you can't.  Obey orders always at sea," cried Vince fiercely; and
the exchange of position was made; but there was a full two inches more
water in the boat, and as Vince began to bale he did so from where he
could at any time seize the pieces of pig iron and tilt them over.  In
fact, several times he felt disposed to do so, but shrank from it as
being a last resource, and from dread lest the act should in any way
interfere with the boat's speed.

Over went the water in the sunshine; and as the boy baled, from looking
golden, it by slow degrees grew of an orange tint, and sparkled
gloriously, but a deadly feeling of weakness fixed more and more upon
Vince's arms, and as he toiled he knew that before long he must give up
to his companion once again.  But still he kept on, though it was more
and more slowly; and the despair that he had kept to himself was not
quite so terrible, for the south point gradually grew nearer, and he had
the satisfaction of feeling that he could manage a boat at sea, and well
too, for the course they were steering was dead for the tunnel rock,
and, could he keep the boat afloat for another twenty minutes or half an
hour, they would be safe.

"Come and steer now?" said Mike.

"No," was grunted out; and Vince baled away till the pot dropped from
his hands, and he rose and took the oar, pressing it to his chest, and
steering by the weight of his body.

Once more the water flew out faster; but Mike was only making a spurt,
and his arm moved more and more slowly, till, with a groan, he said
feebly:

"I can't do it any longer."

Vince made no reply, but gazed straight before him, seeing the
jutting-up rock as if through a mist, while the water bubbled in through
the leak, and rose, and rose, without an effort being made to lower it
now.

Would she float till they were close in?--would she float till they were
close in?--would she float till they were close in?  It was as if some
one kept on saying this in Vince's ears, as they rushed on, with the
rock nearer and nearer, as if coming out of the mist, till it stood out
bright in the setting sunlight, and the mental vapour was dispersed by
the feeling of exultation which surged through the steersman's breast.
For all at once it seemed that safety was within touch; and, turning the
boat head to wind, she glided slowly up to the opening in the rock,
while the sail flapped and the two boys quickly lowered and furled it,
unstepped the mast, and then thrust her in with the boat-hook, reaching
the little dock as if in a dream.

Vince staggered as he stepped out on to the granite stones to make the
boat fast, and Mike was in little better condition; but by degrees the
suffocating sensation which oppressed them grew less painful, and they
slowly and laboriously carried oars, spars and sail up to their place of
stowage.  Then Vince returned to the boat, thrust down his hand and drew
out his jersey, Mike taking hold of one end to help him wring it out.

They had neither of them spoken for some time; but at last Vince said:
"We shall have to pay old Joe for the mending of the boat."

"I say, Vince," said Mike, in a low, husky tone, "oughtn't we to be
thinking about something else?  It was very near, wasn't it?"

"Yes," said Vince, with a passionate outburst, "I was thinking of
something else;" and he threw himself down upon a huge piece of
wave-worn granite and hid his face on his arm.

Half an hour later, the two lads walked slowly home, feeling as grave
and sober as a couple of old men, knowing as they did that, though the
evening sunshine had been full in their eyes, the shadow of death had
hovered very near.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

HAVING IT OUT WITH THE ENEMY.

The two boys were very quiet the next morning, on meeting, and their
tutor rubbed his hands with satisfaction twice in the course of their
lesson.

"Now, that is what I like," he said; "and how much happier you must feel
when you have given your minds thoroughly to the work we have in hand!"

That was the only time during the study hours that anything approaching
a smile appeared on Vince's face; but he did cock his eye in a peculiar
way at Mike, only to receive a frown in return.

At last the lessons were over, and the boys went out into the garden,
strolled into the small shrubbery and patch of woodland which helped to
shelter the house from the western gales, and then, marvellous to
relate, instead of running off to get rid of some of their pent-up
vitality, they sat down upon a prostrate tree-trunk, which had been left
for the purpose, and Vince began to rub his shins, bending up and down
in a peculiar seesaw fashion.

"I am stiff and tired this morning as can be," he said.

"Oh!  I'm worse," said Mike.  "I feel just as if I were going to be ill.
Haven't caught horrible colds through kneeling in the water so long,
have we?"

"Oh no; it's only being tired out from what we did.  I say, feel
disposed to have another try to find the way in?"

"No," said Mike shortly: "I wouldn't go through what we did yesterday
for all the smugglers' caves in the world."

"Well, I don't think I would!" said Vince thoughtfully.  "I'm sure I
wouldn't.  I don't want all the smugglers' caves in the world.  But it
was risky!  Every time I went to sleep last night I began dreaming that
the boat was sinking from under me, and then I started up, fancying I
must have cried out."

"I got dreaming about it all, too," said Mike, with a shudder.  "It was
very horrible!"

They sat thinking for some time, and then Vince tried to rouse himself.

"Come on," he said.

"No; I want to sit still."

"But you might walk half-way home with me."

"No," said Mike; "I feel too tired and dull to stir.  Besides, if I come
half-way with you, I shall have as far to walk back as you have to go.
That's doing as much as you do.  I'll come with you as far as the
corner."

"Come on, then," said Vince; and they started, after groaning as they
rose.  "I feel stiff all over," sighed Vince, "and as if my head
wouldn't go."

They parted at the corner, with the understanding that they were to meet
as usual after dinner, and at the appointed time Vince came along the
roadside to where Mike lay stretched upon the soft turf.

But there was not the slightest disposition shown for any fresh
adventure, and the only idea which found favour with both was that they
should stroll as far as the cliff known to them as Brown Corner, and sit
down to go over the seascape with their eyes, and try and make out their
course on the previous afternoon.

Half an hour later they had reached the edge of the cliff, sat down with
their legs dangling over the side, and searched the sea for the rocks
they had threaded and for signs of the swift current.

But at the end of some minutes Vince only uttered a grunt and threw
himself backward, to lie with his hands under his head.

"I can't make anything of it, Ladle," he said impatiently; "and I'm not
going to bother.  It looked horribly dangerous when we were in it
yesterday, but it only seems beautiful to-day."

"Yes," said Mike; "it's because we're so far off, and things are so much
bigger than they look.  But it was dangerous enough without having the
boat leak."

"Horribly," said Vince.  "I wonder we ever got back.  Won't try it
again, then?" he added, after awhile.

"No, I won't," cried Mike, more emphatically than he had spoken that
day.

"Well, I don't think I will, Ladle; only I feel as if I had been
beaten."

"So do I: as sore all over as sore."

"Tchah!  I don't mean that kind of beating: beaten when I meant to win
and sail right into the cove in front of the caves.  I say, it wasn't
worth taking old Joe's boat for and making a hole in the bottom."

"No; and we haven't said a single word about it yet."

"Felt too tired.  I don't care.  He'll kick up a row, and say there's
ten times as much damage done to it as there really is, and it's next to
nothing.  Five shillings would more than pay for it.  I'll pay part:
I've got two-and-fourpence-halfpenny at home; but it's a bother, for I
wanted to send and buy some more fishing tackle.  Mine's getting very
old."

"Well, I'll pay all," said Mike.  "I've got six shillings saved up."

"No, that won't be fair," said Vince; "I want to pay as near half as I
can."

"Well, but you want to buy some hooks and lines, and I shall use those
as much as I like."

"Of course," said Vince, as Mike followed his example and let himself
sink back on the soft turf, to lie gazing up at the blue sky overhead;
"but it won't be the same.  I helped poke the hole in the boat, and I
mean to pay half.  I tell you what: we'll pay for the damage together,
and then you'll have enough left to pay for the fishing lines, and I can
use them."

"Well, won't that be just the same?"

"No; of course not," said Vince.  "The lines will be yours, and you
won't be able to bounce about, some day when you're in an ill-temper,
and say you were obliged to pay for mending the boat."

"Very well; have it that way," said Mike.

"And we ought to go over and see the old man, and tell him what we did."

"He doesn't want any telling.  He has found it out long enough ago.
There was the sail rolled up anyhow, too.  I was too much fagged to put
it straight.  When shall we go and see him?"

"I dunno.  I don't want to move, and I don't want to have to tell him.
He'll be as savage as can be."

The boys lay perfectly still now, without speaking or moving; and the
gulls came up from below, to see what was the meaning of four legs
hanging over the cliff in a row, and then became more puzzled apparently
on finding two bodies lying there at the edge; consequently they sailed
about to and fro, with their grey backs shining as they wheeled round
and gazed inquiringly down, till one, bolder than the rest, alighted
about a dozen yards away.

"Keep your eyes shut, Ladle," said Vince.  "Birds are coming to peck 'em
out."

"They'd better not," said Mike.

"I say, couldn't we train some gulls, and harness them to a sort of
chair, and make them fly with us off the cliff?  They could do it if
they'd only fly together.  I wonder how many it would take."

"Bother the old gulls!  Don't talk nonsense.  When shall we go and see
the old man?"

"Must do it, I suppose," said Vince.  "Yes, we ought to: it's so mean to
sneak out of it, else we might send him the five shillings.  I hate
having to go and own to it, but we must, Ladle.  Let's take the dose
now."

"Do what?" said Mike lazily.

"Go and take it, just as if it was salts and senna."

"Ugh!"

"Best way, and get it over.  We've got to do it, and we may as well have
it done."

"Yes."

"But I say, when are you going to the cave again?  Not to-day?"

"No."

"To-morrow?"

"No."

"Next day?"

"Well, p'r'aps.  See how I feel."

"Ready?"

"What for?"

"To go and see old Joe Daygo."

"Haven't got the money with me now."

"We'll go and fetch it, and then go to him."

Mike grunted.

"There, it's of no use to hang back, Ladle; we've got it to do, so let's
get it done."

"Yes; you keep on saying we've got it to do, but you don't jump up to go
and do it."

"I'm quite ready," said Vince; "and I'll jump up if you will.  Now then,
ready?"

"Don't bother."

"But we must go, Ladle."

"Well, I know that; but I haven't got the money, and it's so far to
fetch it, and I ache all over, and I don't want to see old Joe to-day,
and--"

"There, you're shirking the job," interrupted Vince.

"No, I'm not, for I want to get it over."

"Then don't stop smelling the stuff; hold your nose, tip it up, and you
shall have a bit of sugar to eat after it if you're a good boy."

"Oh, Cinder, how I should like to punch your head!"

"No, you wouldn't.  Come on and take your physic."

"I won't till I like.  So there."

"`Cowardy, cowardy, custard, Ate his father's mustard,'" said Vince.  "I
say, I don't see that there was anything cowardly in eating his father's
mustard.  It was plucky.  See how hot it must have been; but I suppose
he had plenty of beef and vegetables with it.  He must have had,
because, if he hadn't, it would have made him sick."

"What, mustard would?" said Mike, who was quite ready to discuss
anything not relating to the visit to old Daygo.

"Yes; mustard would."

"Nonsense.  How do you know?"

"Father says so, and he knows all about those sort of things, including
salts and senna.  So now, then, old Ladle, you've got to get up and come
and take your dose."

"Then I shan't take it to-day."

"And have old Joe come to us!  Why, it would be disgraceful.  You've got
to come."

"Have I?" grumbled Mike; "then I shan't."

"'Day, young gen'lemen!"

Mike leaped to his feet in horror, and Vince pulled himself up in a
sitting position, to stare wonderingly at the old fellow, who had come
silently up over the yielding turf.

"You?" said Mike: "you've come?"

"Nay, I arn't, so don't you two get thinking anything o' the sort.  I
won't let you have it to go out alone."

"You--you won't let us have it to go out alone?" faltered Vince.

"That's it, my lad," said the old man.

"Then he hasn't found out yet," thought Vince; and he exchanged glances
with Mike, who looked ready to dash off.

"Why, yer jumped up as if yer thought I was going to pitch yer off the
cliff, Master Ladelle.  Been asleep?"

"No, of course not," said Mike; and he looked at Vince, whose lips moved
as if he were saying--"I'm going to tell him now."

"Might just as well have said `yes' to you, though," grumbled Daygo.

"Just as well," assented Vince.

"Nice sort o' condition she's in now.  One streak o' board nearly out.
Cost me a good four or five shilling to get it mended, for I can't do it
quite as I should like."

Four or five shillings!  Just the amount Vince had thought would be
enough.

"If I'd let you have it," continued the old man, "that wouldn't ha'
happened.  But I know: they can't cheat me.  I'm a-goin' over to Jemmy
Carnach to have it out with him, and first time I meets the young 'un
I'm going to make him sore.  See this here?"

Daygo showed his teeth in a very unpleasant grin, and drew a piece of
tarry rope, about two feet long, from out of his great trousers, the
said piece having had a lodging somewhere about his breast.

"Do you think Lobster--" began Vince.

"Ay, that's it: lobster," said Daygo.  "Lobster it is: Jemmy Carnach
would sell himself for lobster, but he arn't a-going to set his pots in
my ground and go out to 'zamine 'em with my boat.  I don't wish him no
harm, but it would ha' been a good job if she'd sunk with him and his
young cub.  They're no good to the Crag--not a bit.  Ay, I wish she'd
sunk wi' 'em, only the boat's useful, and I should ha' had to get
another."

Old Daygo ceased speaking, and after giving the rope a fierce swish
through the air, as if he were hitting at Lobster's back, he put the end
inside the top of his trousers, just beneath his chin, and gradually
worked it down out of sight.

Vince coughed, and he was about to begin, after looking inquiringly at
Mike, who shook his head, and turned it away.  But Vince somehow felt as
if it would be better to wait till the whole of the rope had
disappeared, and Daygo had given himself a shake to make it lie
comfortably.  Then his lips parted; but the old man checked him by
saying,--

"On'y wait till I meet young Jemmy.  I've on'y got to slip my hand in
here, and it's waiting for him.  Yes, young gen'lemen, I'm a-going to
make that chap sore as sore as sore."

"No, you're not, Joe," said Vince firmly.

"What?  But I just am, my lad.  If I don't lay that there piece on to
his back, and make him lie down and holloa, my name arn't Daygo."

"But you are not going to thrash him, Joe," said Vince.

"Who'll stop it?"

"I will," said Vince.  "It wasn't Jemmy Carnach and his boy."

"Eh?  Oh yes, it was.  Lobstering they were arter.  I know."

"No, you do not, Joe.  They didn't take it."

"What!" cried the old man.  "Then who did?"

"Mike Ladelle and I."

"You did!" cried the old man, staring.  "Why, I told you I wouldn't let
you have it, and saw you both go home."

"But we didn't go home," said Vince.  "We went and hid in the rocks, and
watched till you'd gone away, and then we crept down to the boat and got
her out."

"You did--you two did?" cried the old man; and his hand went into the
top of his trousers.

"Yes," said Vince desperately, "and we had a long sail."

"Well!" growled the old man,--"well!  And I thought it was him!"

"We're very sorry we scraped a rock, and made her leak."

"Made her leak!" roared the old man: "why, she's spyled, and I shall
have to get a new boat."

"No, she isn't, Joe: you said it would cost four or five shillings to
mend the hole."

"Eh?  Did I?"

"Yes, you did; and Mike and I will give you five shillings to get it
done."

The old man thrust out his great gnarled hand at once for the money.

"We haven't got it here, Joe," said Vince; "but we'll bring it to you
to-night.  Eh, Mike?"

"Yes; after tea."

"Honour?"

"Yes: honour."

"Honour bright--gen'leman's honour?"

"Yes," said Vince emphatically.

"Let him say it too," growled Daygo.

"Honour bright, Joe," said Mike.

"Oh, very well, then; I s'pose I must say no more about it," grumbled
the old man; "but I'm disappynted--that I am.  I thought it were they
Carnachs, and I'd made up my mind to give it the young 'un and make him
sore.  It's such a pity, too.  I cut them two feet o' rope off a ring
a-purpose to lay it on to him.  I owe him ever so much, and it seemed to
be such a chance."

"Save it for next time, Joe," said Vince, as Mike looked on rather
uneasily, for the old man kept on playing with the end of the rope.

"Eh?  Save it for next time?" he said thoughtfully.  "Well, I might do
that, for the young 'un's sure to give me a chance, and then it won't be
wasted.  Yes, I'll hang it up over the fireplace at home, ready agen
it's wanted.  But you two'll bring me that five shilling to-night?"

"Yes, of course."

"Ay, course you will," said the old man slowly.

"There's one thing I likes in a gen'leman.  Some chaps says they'll do
something, or as they'll pay yer, and they swear it, and then most times
they don't; but if a gen'leman says he'll do anything, there yer are,
yer knows he'll do it--without a bit of swearing too.  But, haw--haw--
haw--haw!"

The boys stared, for the old man burst out into a tremendous roar of
laughter, and kept on lifting one leg and stamping it down.

"Why, what are you laughing at?" said Mike, gaining courage now that the
trouble was so amicably settled.

"What am I laughin' at?" roared the old fellow, stamping again: "why, at
you two!  Comes to me and wants to borrow my boat, and boasts and brags
and holloas about as to how you knows everything.  We can sail her, says
you; we knows how to manage a boat as well as you do, and, haw, haw,
haw! you helps yourselves and goes out, and brings her back with a hole
in her bottom.  Here! where did you go?"

"Oh, along where you took us," said Vince quickly.

"And which rock did you run on?"

"Oh, I don't know what rock it was, only that it was just under water."

"'Course not.  Says to me, says you, that you knows all the rocks as
well 's me, and goes and runs her on one on 'em fust time."

"Well, it was an accident, Joe."

"Ay, my lads, it were an accident; but you've got to think yourselves
very lucky as she didn't founder.  Did you have to bale?"

"Yes, all the way home, as hard as ever we could go."

"Ay, you would, with a hole in her like that.  Well, I arn't got no time
to stand a-talking to you two here; but I just tells you both this: that
there boat, as soon as she's mended and fresh pitched, 'll be a-wearing
a great big padlock at her stem and another at her starn.--I shall be at
home all evening waitin' fer that five shilling."

He gave them both a peculiar wink, stood for a few moments shading his
eyes and looking out to sea, and then, giving his head a solemn shake,
he went off without another word.

"Feel better, Mike?" said Vince, as soon as the old man was out of
hearing.

"Better?  Ever so much.  I'm glad we've got it over.  I say, Cinder,
nothing like tipping off your dose of physic at once."

"But I had to take it," cried Vince.  "You wouldn't do your share."

That evening after tea they kept their word.  Vince handed Mike his
two-and-fourpence-halfpenny, and Mike gave him the five shillings which
he was to pay.

They found the old man standing outside his cottage, with his old
spy-glass under his arm, waiting for them, and apparently he had been
filling up the time by watching three or four vessels out in the offing.

"Let's have a look, Joe," said Vince, as soon as the business was over
and the money lodged in a pocket, access to which was obtained by the
old man throwing himself to the left nearly off his balance, and
crooking his arm high up till he could get his fingers into the opening.

The telescope was handed rather reluctantly, and Vince focussed it to
suit his sight as he brought it to bear on one of the vessels.

"Brig, isn't she, Joe?" said Vince.

"Ay, my lad; looks like a collier."

"Schooner," said Vince; and then, running the glass along the horizon,
he took a long look at a small, smart-looking vessel in full sail, her
canvas being bright in the evening glow.

"Why, she's a cutter!" said Vince, rather excitedly: "Revenue cutter."

"Nay, nay, my lad, only a yawrt."

"I don't think she is, Joe; I believe it's a king's ship."

"Tchah! what would she be doing yonder?"

"I don't know," said Vince.

"Done with my glass?" growled the old man.

"Directly," replied Vince; and he swept the sea again.

"Hullo!" he said suddenly: "Frenchman."

"Eh?  Where?" said Daygo quickly.

"Right away, miles off the North Point."

The old man took the glass, altered the focus again, and took a long,
searching look.

"Bah!" he exclaimed; "that's not a Frenchman, my lads," and he closed
the glass with a smart crack.  "I say, lookye here."

He led the way to the door, grinning tremendously, and pointed in to
where, hanging over the fireplace, was the piece of well-tarred rope,
hanging by a loop made of fishing line.

"Ready when wanted--eh?"

The boys laughed and went off soon after towards home.

"Five shillings worse off," said Mike, when they parted for the night;
"but I'm glad we got out of all that so easily.--I say, Cinder!"

"Well?"

"It would have been rather awkward if he'd taken it the other way and
been in a rage."

"Very," said Vince, before whose eyes the two feet of rope seemed to
loom out of the evening gloom.

"And it would have been all your fault."

"Yes," said Vince shortly.  "Good-night: I want to get home."

They parted, and as he walked back Vince could not help thinking a good
deal about the previous afternoon's experience, and he shook his head
more than once before beginning to think of the cavern.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

FRESH PULLS FROM THE MAGNET.

A week elapsed; the weather had been stormy, and a western gale had
brought the sea into a furious state, making the waves deluge the huge
western cliffs, and sending the churned-up foam flying over the edge and
inland like dingy balls of snow.

And the boys were kept in by the gale?

Is it likely?  The more fiercely the wind blew, the more heavily the
huge Atlantic waves thundered against the cliffs and sent the spray
flying up in showers, the more they were out on the cliffs searching the
dimly seen horizon, watching to see if any ship was in danger.

But it was rare for a ship to be seen anywhere near Cormorant Crag when
a sou'-wester blew.  Its rocks and fierce currents were too well known
to the hardy mariner, who shook his head and fought his way outward into
deep water if he could not reach a port, sooner than be anywhere near
that dangerous rock-strewn shore.

Vince and Mike had long known that when the wind was at its highest, and
it was hard work to stand against it, there was little danger in being
near the edge of some perpendicular precipice, and that there, with the
rock-face fully exposed to the gale, and the huge waves rushing in to
leap against the towering masses with a noise like thunder, they could
sit down in comparative shelter, and gaze with feelings akin to awe at
the tumult below.

Why?  For the simple reason that, after striking against a high, flat
surface, the swift current of air must go somewhere.  It cannot turn
back and meet the winds following it, neither can it dive into the sea.
It can only go upward, and sweeps several feet beyond the edge of the
cliff before it curves over and continues its furious journey over the
land, leaving at the brink a spot that is undisturbed.

These places were favoured always by the boys, who would generally be
the only living creatures visible, the birds having at the first
breaking out of the storm hastened to shelter themselves on the other
side of the island.

"Sea's pretty busy cave-making to-day," said Vince, on one of these
stormy mornings.  "I wonder what it's like in the cave in front of our
place."

"All smooth, of course," said Mike.  "It's on the other side, and it's
shut-in, so I daresay it doesn't make a bit of difference there.  I say,
oughtn't we to go there again?"

"You want to open some of those packages," said Vince, as he reached his
head a little way over the side of the cliff to gaze down at an enormous
roller that came plunging through the outlying rocks a couple of hundred
feet below.  "Well, what of that?"

"Phew!  My!" cried Vince, drawing back breathlessly and wiping the
blinding spray from his face.  "You can't do that, Ladle.  I believe you
might try to jump down there and find you couldn't.  The wind would
pitch you up again and throw you over into the fields."

"Shouldn't like to try it," said Mike drily.  "But I say, why shouldn't
I want to open the bales and kegs and see what's in them?"

"Because they belong to somebody else, as I told you before."

"If they belong to anybody at all they belong to my father, and he
wouldn't mind my opening them."

"Don't know so much about that," said Vince stolidly.  "I'll ask him."

"No, no; don't do that," cried Mike, in alarm; "you'll spoil all the
fun."

"Very well, then: you ask him what he thinks, then we should know."

"There's plenty of time for that.  I never did see such a fellow as you
are, Cinder.  What's the matter with you?"

"Wet," said Vince.  "It was just as if some one with an enormous bucket
had dashed water into my face."

"Then you shouldn't have looked over.  You might have known how it would
be.  But look here: never mind the sea."

"But I do mind it.  Hear that?  Oh, what a tremendous thud that wave
came with!"

"Well, of course it did."

"Wonder how many years it will be before the sea washes the Crag all
away."

"What nonsense!"

"It isn't.  I was talking to Mr Deane about it the other day, and he
says it is only a question of time."

"What, before the Crag's washed away?  I should think it would be.  I'll
tell you the proper answer to that--Never."

"Oh, indeed," said Vince: "then how about the caves in under here?
Haven't they all been hollowed out, and aren't they always getting
bigger?  That's how those on the other side must have been made.  I
shouldn't wonder if they are full of water now."

"What, with all those things in!" said Mike, in alarm.  "Oh, I don't
believe that.  When shall we go and see?"

"It would be horrible to go across the common on a day like this, and we
should be soaked getting through the ferns and brambles."

"Yes; it wouldn't be nice now.  But will you come first fine afternoon?"

"Well, I don't know."

"Oh, I say," cried Mike reproachfully--"you are getting to be a fellow!
You thought the caves grand at first."

"So I did, when we could go there and fish, and cook our tea, and eat
it, and enjoy ourselves like Robinson Crusoe; but when it comes to
finding the other cave and all that stuff there, it makes one
uncomfortable like, and I don't care so much about going."

"Why?"

"I don't know.  I can't explain it, but it seems queer, and as if we
ought to tell my father or yours.  I felt like you do at first, and it
seemed as if we'd found a treasure and were going to be very rich."

"So we have, and so we are," said Mike.  "I don't see why you should
turn cowardly about it."

"I didn't know that it was cowardly to want to be honest," said Vince
quietly.

"Only hark at him!" cried Mike, as the waves came thundering in, and the
wind roared over them.  "You are the most obstinate chap that ever was.
Why won't you see things in the right light?  Don't those things belong
to my father?"

"I don't know."

"Yes, you do.  If they were brought and hidden there a hundred years
ago, and everybody who brought 'em is dead, as they're on father's land,
mustn't they be his?"

"Or the king's."

"The king don't want them, I know.  By rights they're my father's, but
he won't mind our doing what we like with them, as we were the finders.
Now then, don't be snobby; will you come first fine afternoon?"

Vince was silent.

"I won't ask you to meddle with anything--only to keep it all quiet."

Vince picked up a stone and threw it from him, so that it should fall
down into the raging billows below, but he made no reply.

"I say, why don't you speak?" cried Mike.

"Who's to talk here in this noise, with the wind blowing your words
away?"

"You could just as easily have said you would come as have said that,"
shouted Mike.

"All right, then, I'll come," said Vince; and Mike gave him a hearty
slap on the back.  "But look here, Mikey," he continued, "don't you ever
think about it?"

"About what?"

"The caves, and all that."

"Of course I do: I hardly think of anything else."

"Yes; but I mean about that young Carnach watching us and old Joe
hanging about after us."

"Thought it rather queer once or twice, but of course it was only
because we were so suspicious.  If we hadn't had the cave and been
afraid of any one knowing our secret, we might have met them a hundred
times and never thought they were watching us."

"Yes, we might," said Vince thoughtfully.  "I don't know, though: they
certainly did watch us."

"Then, if they did, it was because we looked as if we wanted to hide
something."

"Yes, that sounds right," said Vince.  "I never looked at it in that
way, and it has bothered me a good deal.  Why, of course that is it!
I'm all right now, and I'll go with you whenever you like; only we ought
to tell them soon.  We have known it all to ourselves for some time
now."

"Very well, then, we'll tell them soon; and I know my father will say
that all the treasure there is to be divided between us two."

"Will he?" said Vince, laughing, for he was far from taking so sanguine
a view of the case as his companion; and the matter dropped.  They
stopped watching the roll and impact of the waves till they were tired,
and then went home to wait for the fair weather, which was to usher in
their next visit to the caves.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

THE MYSTERY UNROLLS.

Four more days passed before the weather broke, and then two more when
they were not at liberty.  But at last came one when their tutor
announced that they could have the whole day to themselves, and it was
not long before each announced at home that he was off out for a good
long cliff ramble.

This meant taking a supply of provisions, with which each was soon
furnished, so as not to break into the holiday by having to come back to
dinner.

No questions were asked, for it was taken for granted, both at the Mount
and at the Doctor's cottage, that they would be going fishing or
collecting; and the boys set off in high glee, meaning to supplement
their dinner with freshly cooked fish, and plenty of excitement by
climbing about the rocks at the entrance of the caves.

Everything seemed gloriously fresh and bright after the late rains: the
birds were circling overhead, and the sea was of a wonderfully vivid
blue.  In fact, so bright was the day that Vince said,--

"I say, isn't it a shame to go and bury ourselves underground?"

"Not a bit of it," cried Mike; "it's glorious!  Why, it's a regular
treat, after being away so long.  Have you enough wood for cooking?"

"Plenty."

"And what about water?"

"We took a big bottle full last time."

"That's right.  I say, keep your eyes open.  See anything of old Joe
Daygo?  Don't seem to be looking on purpose."

They both kept their eyes well open, but there was no sign of the old
fisherman; and before long the reason why was plain, for on their coming
a little nearer to the cliff edge, on their way to where they struck off
for the oak wood, Vince suddenly pointed outward:--

"There he goes."

"Who?" said Mike.

"Old Joe.  He has got his boat mended, then."

"That can't be his boat."

"It is.  Why, look at that patch on the sail.  It's a long way off, but
I'm sure it's the boat.  He's gone out a long way, seemingly."

"Yes: going out to the sands, I suppose, to try if he can't get some
soles."

"Well, we shan't have him playing the spy to-day," said Vince, who was
in capital spirits.  "Now, if we could see old Lobster going too, we
should be all right."

"I dare say his father's got him hoeing carrots or something.  We shan't
see him."

They did not see Jemmy Carnach's hopeful son, nor any other living being
but a cow, which raised its soft eyes to gaze at them sadly, and
remained looking after them till they plunged into the scrub-wood, and,
once there, felt safe.  Then, after their usual laborious work beneath
the trees, they reached the granite wilderness, clambered in and out and
over the great blocks, keeping an eye as much as they could on the ridge
up to their right, in case of the Lobster being there, and finally
reached the opening, jumped down through the brambles, and at once made
for the spot where the lanthorn and tinder-box were stowed.

"I say, isn't it jolly?" cried Mike eagerly.  "Just like old times,
getting back here again.  What a while it seems!"

"Yes, it does seem a good while," said Vince, beginning to strike a
light.  "I hope nothing has happened since we were here."

"Eh?" cried Mike excitedly.  "What can have happened?"

"Sea washed the place out, and taken all our kitchen and parlour things
away."

"Nonsense!" said Mike contemptuously.  "Oh, it might, you know; there
would have been no waves, but there might have been a high tide.  There
must have been tremendously high tides down there at one time, so as to
have washed out those caves."

"Ah! it's a precious long time since they've been washed out, I know,"
said Mike, laughing.  "They don't ever get swept out now."

"No, but they're kept neat, with sand on the floor," said Vince,
snapping to the door of the lanthorn and holding it up for the soft
yellow light to shine upon the granite walls.  "I say, Mike, don't you
think we're a pair of old stupids to make all this fuss over a hole in
the ground?"

"No: why should we be?"

"Because it doesn't seem any good.  Here we take all this trouble hiding
away and going down the hole like worms, so as to crawl about there in
the sand."

"And what about the beautiful caves, and the rocks where we sit and
watch the sea-birds?"

"We could see them just as well off the cliffs."

"But the cove with the great walls of rock all round, and the current
racing round like a whirlpool?"

"Plenty of currents and eddies anywhere off the coast."

"But the fishing?"

"We could fish in easier places," said Vince, talking loudly now they
were well down in the passage.  "Why, we've had better luck everywhere
than here."

"Oh, you are a discontented chap!" said Mike.  "You ought to think
yourself wonderfully well off, to be able to come down to such a place.
See what jolly feasts we've had down here all alone."

"Yes, but it seems to me sometimes like nonsense to be cooking potatoes
and frying fish down in a cave, when we could sit comfortably at a table
at your house or ours, and have no trouble at all."

"Well, you are a fellow!" cried Mike.  "You said one day that the fish
we cooked down there tasted twice as good as it did at home."

"Yes, I did one day when we hadn't got it smoky."

"We don't often get it smoky," protested Mike.  "But I say, don't talk
like that.  You were as eager to make our little secret place there as I
was.  You don't mean to say you're getting tired of it?"

"I don't know," said Vince.  "Yes, I do.  No, I'm not getting tired of
it yet, for it does seem very jolly, as you say, when we do get down
here all alone, and feel as if we were thousands of miles from
everywhere.  But I shall get tired of it some day.  I don't think it's
half so good since we found the way into the other cave."

"I do," said Mike.  "It's splendid to have made such a discovery, and to
find that once upon a time there were pirates or smugglers here."

Meanwhile they were slowly descending the bed of the ancient underground
rivulet, so familiar with every turn and hollow that they knew exactly
where to place their feet when they reached the little falls, and never
thinking of stopping to examine the pot-holes, where the great rounded
boulders, that had turned and turned by the force of the falling water,
still remained.  Vince's light danced about in the darkness like a large
glowworm, and Mike followed it, humming a tune, whistling, or making a
few remarks from time to time; but he was very thoughtful all the same,
as his mind dwelt upon the packages in the far cavern, and he felt the
desire to examine them increase, till he was quite in a state of fever.

"Pretty close, aren't we?" said Mike at last, to break the silence of
the gloomy tunnel.

"Yes, we shall be there in five minutes now.  But, I say, suppose we
find that some one has been since we were here?"

"Well, whoever it was, couldn't have taken the caves away."

"No; but if Lobster has found out the way down?--and I dare say he has,
after tumbling into the front hall."

"'Tisn't the front hall," said Mike laughingly; "it's the back door.
Front hall's down by the sea, where the seal cave is."

"Have it which way you like," said Vince, giving the lanthorn a swing,
"but it seems to me most like the back attic window.  I say, though, if
Lobster has found it out, he'll have devoured every scrap we left there,
and, I daresay, carried off the fishing tackle and pans."

"A thief!  He'd better not," cried Mike.

"Ha--ha--ha!" laughed Vince.  "I do call that good."

"What?  I don't know what you mean."

"Your calling him a thief for taking away the things he discovered
there."

"Well, so he would be.  They're not his."

"No," said Vince, laughing; "and those things in the far cavern aren't
ours, but you want to take them."

"That's different," said Mike hastily.  "We only put our things there a
few weeks ago; those bales and barrels have been there perhaps hundreds
of years."

"Say thousands while you're about it, Ladle," cried Vince cheerily.
"Hold hard.  _Puff_!"

The candle was blown out through a hole in the lanthorn, and the latter
lowered down to the usual niche close to the cavern wall, where they
were accustomed to keep it.

"Down with you!" cried Vince; and Mike required no second telling, but
glided down the slope so sharply that he rolled over in the sand at the
bottom.

"Below!" shouted Vince; and he charged down after him, sitting on his
heels, and also having his upset.  "I say, though, I hope no one has
been."

They walked across the deep, yielding sand, with the soft pearly light
playing on the ceiling; peered through into the outer cave; and then
Mike, who was first, darted back, for there was a loud splash and the
sound as of some one wallowing through the water at the cave mouth.

"Only a seal," cried Vince.  "There goes another."

He ran forward over the sand in time to see a third pass out of a low,
dark archway at the right of the place where the clear water was all in
motion from the powerful creatures swimming through.

"I say, Mike, why don't we take the light some day and wade in there to
see how far it goes?" said Vince, as he looked curiously at the doorway
of what was evidently a regular seal's lurking-place.

"Because it's wet and dark; and how do we know that we could wade in
there?"

"Because you can see the rock bottom.  It's shallow as shallow."

"And how do you know that it doesn't go down like a wall as soon as you
get in?"

"We could feel our way with a stick, step by step; or, I know, we'd get
the rope--bring a good long one--and I'd fasten it round your waist and
stand at the door and send you in.  Of course I'd soon pull you out if
you went down."

"Thank you," cried Mike, "you are kind.  My mother said you were such a
nice boy, Cinder, and she was glad I had you for a companion, as the
Crag was so lonely.  You are a very nice boy, 'pon my word."

"Yes; I wouldn't let you drown," said Vince.

"Thank ye.  I say, Cinder, when you catch me going into a place like
that, just you tell me of it, there's a good fellow."

Vince laughed.

"Why, who knows what's in there?" said Mike, with a shiver.

"Ah! who knows?" said Vince merrily.  "I tell you what it is, Ladle:
that must be the place where the things live that old Joe talked about."

"What things?"

"Those that take hold of a boat under water, and pull it along till it
can't come back and is never heard of again."

"Ah, you may grin, Cinder," said Mike seriously; "but, do you know, I
thought all that when we were out yonder in the boat.  It felt just as
if some great fish had seized it and was racing it along as hard as it
could, and more than once I fancied we should never get back."

"Did you?" said Vince quietly.

"Yes, you needn't sneer.  You're such a wooden-headed, solid chap,
nothing ever shakes you; but it was a very awful sensation."

"I wasn't sneering," said Vince, "because I felt just the same."

"You did?"

"Yes, that I did, and though I wanted to laugh at it because it was
absurd, I couldn't then.  But, I say, though, we might try and get to
the end of that cave, just to see how far it goes."

"Ugh!  It's bad enough going through a dark hole with a stone floor."

"Till you're used to it.  See how we came down this morning."

"Yes, but we weren't wading through cold, black water, with all kinds of
live things waiting to make a grab at you."

"Nonsense!  If there were any things there they'd soon scuttle out of
our way."

"Ah, you don't know," said Mike.  "In a place like this they grow big
because they're not interfered with.  Those were the biggest seals I
ever saw."

"Yes, they were tidy ones.  The biggest, I think."

"Yes, and there may be suckers there.  Ugh! fancy one of those things
getting one of his eight legs, all over suckers, round you, and trying
to pull you into his hole."

"Take out your knife and cut the arm off.  They're not legs."

"I don't know what they are: just as much legs as arms.  They walk on
'em.  Might be lobsters and crabs, too, as big as we are.  Think of one
of them giving you a nip!"

"Wish he would," said Vince, with a grin.  "We'd soon have him out and
cook him."

"Couldn't," said Mike.  "Take too big a pot."

"Then we'd roast him; and, I say, fancy asking Jemmy Carnach down to
dinner!"

"Yes," cried Mike, joining in the laugh.  "He'd eat till his eyes would
look lobstery too, and your father would have to give him such a dose."

"It don't want my father to cure Jemmy Carnach when he's ill," said
Vince scornfully.  "I could do that easy enough."

"And how would you do it, old clever?"

"Tie him up for two or three days without anything to eat.  Pst!  Hear
that?"

"Yes," said Mike, in a whisper, as a peculiar hollow plashing sound
arose some distance down the low dark passage, and the water at the
mouth became disturbed.  "Shoal of congers, perhaps--monsters."

"Pooh!  It was another seal coming out till it saw or heard us, and then
it gave a wallop and turned back.  Look here, I'll wade in this
afternoon if you will."

Mike spun round on his heels.  "No, thank you," he cried.  "Come on, and
let's look round to see if all's right."

A few minutes proved that everything was precisely as they had left it;
and as soon as they had come to this conclusion, they found themselves
opposite the fissure which led into the other cavern.

Mike glanced at the rope and grapnel, and then back inquiringly at his
companion.

"No!" said Vince, answering the unspoken question that he could plainly
read in Mike's eyes; "we can have a good afternoon without going there."

"How?  What are we going to do?"

"Fish," said Vince shortly.

"But I should like to go and see if everything is there just the same as
it was."

"If it has been there for a hundred years, as you say, it's there all
right still.  Come on."

"But I should just like to have a peep in one or two of the packages,
Cinder."

"Yes, I know you would; but you promised not to want to meddle, or I
wouldn't have come.  Now didn't you?"

"All right," said Mike sulkily; "but I did think you were a fellow who
had more stuff in you.  There, you won't do anything adventurous."

"Yes, I will," cried Vince quickly: "I'll get the lanthorn and go and
explore the seal's hole, if you'll come."

"And get bitten to death by the brutes.  No, thankye."

"Bitten to death!  Just as if we couldn't settle any number of seals
with sticks or conger clubs!"

"Ah, well, you go and settle 'em, and call me when you've done."

"No need to.  You wouldn't let me go alone.  Now then, we'll get some
fish, and have a good fry."

Vince ran to the wall, where their lines hung upon a peg; and now they
noticed, for the first time, that there had been a high tide during the
late storm, for the sand had been driven up in a ridge at one side of
the cave mouth, but had only come in some twenty or thirty feet.

Their baits, in a box pierced with holes to let the water in and out,
were quite well and lively; and putting some of these in a tray, they
went cautiously out from rock to rock in the wide archway till there was
deep water just beyond for quite another twenty feet; then rocks again,
and beyond them the gurgling rush and hurry of the swift currents, while
the pool before them, though in motion, looked smooth and still, save
that a close inspection showed that the surface was marked with the
lines of a gentle current, which apparently rose from below the rocks on
the right.

It was an ideal place for sea-fishing, for the great deep pool was free
from rocks save those which surrounded it, and not a thread of weed or
wrack to be seen ready to entangle their lines or catch their hooks;
while they knew from old experience that it was the sheltered home of
large shoals, which sought it as a sanctuary from the seals or large
fish which preyed upon them.

In addition, the place they stood upon was a dry, rocky platform, shut
off from the cave by a low ridge, against which they could lean their
backs, whilst another much lower ridge was just in front, as if on
purpose to hide them from the fish in the crystal water of the great
pool.

Partly behind them and away to their right was the entrance to the
seals' hole, from which came a hollow splashing from time to time, as
something moved; every sound making Mike turn his head quickly in that
direction, and bringing a smile to Vince's lips.

"Ah! it's all very well," said Mike sourly, "but everybody isn't so
brave as you are."

"Might as well have lit our fire before we came here," said Vince,
ignoring the remark.

"What's the good of lighting the fire till we know whether we shall get
any fish?" said Mike.  "We didn't catch one last time, though you could
see hundreds."

"To boil the kettle and make some tea," replied Vince; and he rose to
get hold of the bait, pausing to look back over the ridge which shut him
off from the cave, and hesitating.

"I think I'll go back and light the fire," he said, as he fixed his eyes
on the dark spot which they made their fireplace, it looking almost
black from the bright spot they occupied, which was as far as they could
get out towards the open cove.

"No, no; sit down," said Mike impatiently.  "We didn't catch any last
time because you would keep dancing about on the rocks here, and showing
the fish that you were come on purpose to hook them.  We can get a good
fire in a few minutes.  There's plenty of wood, and we're in no hurry."

"You mean you kept dancing about," retorted Vince.  "Very well," he
added, seating himself, "it shan't be me, Ladle: I won't stir.  But it's
the wrong time for them.  If we were to come here just before daylight,
or to stop till it was dark, we should be hauling them out as fast as we
could throw in our--our"--_splash_--"lines."

For as Vince spoke he had resumed his seat, deftly placed a lug-worm on
his hook and thrown the lead into the water, where it sank rapidly,
drawing after it the line over the low ridge of rock.

"There," said Vince, as his companion followed his example, "I won't
move, and I won't make a sound."

"Don't," said Mike: "I do want to catch something this time."

"All right: I won't speak if you don't."

"First who speaks pays sixpence," said Mike.

"Agreed.  Silence!"

The fishing began, but fishing did not mean catching, and the time went
on with nothing to take their attention but an unusual clamouring on the
part of the sea-birds, which, instead of sitting about preening and
drying their plumage, or with their feathers almost on end, till they
looked like balls as they sat asleep in the sun, kept on rising in
flights, making a loud fluttering whistling as they swept round and
round the cove, constantly passing out of sight before swooping down
again upon the great rocks which shut out the view of the open sea.

Lines were drawn up, rebaited, and thrown in again, with the faint
splashes made by the leads, and they tried close in to the side, to the
other side, to right and left; but all in vain,--the baits were eaten
off, and they felt that something was at their hooks, but whether they
struck directly, or gave plenty of time, it was always the same, nothing
was taken and the hours passed away.

They were performing, though, what was for them quite a feat, for each
boy had fully made up his mind that he would not have to pay that
sixpence.  They looked at each other, and laughingly grimaced, and moved
their lips rapidly, as if forming words, and abused the fish silently
for not caring to be caught, but not a word was spoken; till all at
once, after a tremendous display of patience, Vince suddenly struck and
cried:

"Got him at last!"

"Sixpence!" said Mike.

"All right!" said Vince quietly: "I was ready to pay ninepence so as to
say something.  I've got him, though, and he's a big one too."

"Be steady, then.  Don't lose him, for I'm sick of trying, and I did
want for us to have something for tea."

"Oh, I've hooked him right enough; but he don't stir."

"Bah!  Caught in the bottom."

"Oh no, I'm not.  He was walking right away with the bait, and when I
struck I felt him give a regular good wallop."

"Then it's a conger, and it's got its tail round a rock."

"May be," said Vince.  "Well, congers aren't bad eating."

"B-r-r-ur!" shuddered Mike.  "I hate hooking them.  Line gets twisted
into such a knot.  You may cut it up: I shan't."

"Yes, I'll cut him in chunks and fry him when I get him," said Vince.
"He's coming, but it isn't a conger.  Comes up like a flat fish, only
there can't be any here."

"Oh, I don't know," said Mike.  "I daresay there's plenty of sand down
below."

"Well, it is a flat fish, and a heavy one too," said Vince, as he hauled
in cautiously, full of excitement, drawing in foot after foot of his
line; and then he cried, with a laugh, "Why, it's a big crab!"

"Then you'll lose it, for certain.  'Tisn't hooked."

"Shall I lose him!" said Vince, with another laugh, as he lifted out his
prize for it to come on to the rock with a bang.  "Why, he has got the
line twisted all round his claw, and--Ah! would you bite!  I've got him
safe this time, Mike."

Safe enough; for, after the huge claws of the monstrous crab had been
carefully tied with a couple of bits of fishing line, it was quite a
task to disentangle the creature, which, in its eagerness to seize the
bait, had passed the line round and under its curious armoured joints,
and in its struggles to escape, made matters worse.

"This is about the finest we've seen, Mike," said Vince.  "Well, I'm
sorry for him, and we'll try and kill him first; but his fate is to be
cooked in his own shell, and delicious he'll be."

"I should like to take him home," said Mike, as he wound up his line.

"So should I; but if either of us did we should be bothered with
questions as to where we got it, and we couldn't say.  We shall have to
cook it and eat it ourselves, Ladle.  Come on; we don't want any more
fish to-day."

They stepped back over the rocks, and while Mike hung up the lines Vince
thrust his prize into the big creel they had close to the place they
used for their fire, and then hurried towards the inner cave to fetch
the tinder-box and a portion of the wood they had stored up there for
firing, as well as the extra provisions they had brought with them that
day.

"It strikes me, Mikey, that we're going to have a regular feast," said
Vince.  "Lucky I caught that fellow!--if I hadn't we should have come
short off."

"Hark at him bragging!  I say, why didn't you catch a lobster instead?"

_Phew_! came a soft whistle from the opening into the passage--a whistle
softened by its journey through the subterranean place; but sounding
pretty loudly in their ears, and as if it had been given by some one
half-way through.

"Lobster!" ejaculated Vince excitedly.  "Why, there he is coming down."

"Oh, Vince!" cried Mike, "that spoils all.  I felt sure he would, after
falling in as he did.  He saw the hole, and he is searching it."

"Yes, and he'll come right on, feeling sure we're here."

"What shall we do?  I know: frighten him."

"Frighten him?  How?"

"Go up and stand at the bottom of one of the steep bits, and when he
comes up, throw stones at him and groan."

"Bah!" ejaculated Vince contemptuously; "that wouldn't frighten him.
He'd know it was us.  I say, it's all over with the place now."

"Yes, for he'll tell everybody, and they'll come and find the outer cave
with all the treasure in it."

"Yes, that won't do, Ladle.  There's no help for it now; there'll be no
secret caves.  You must tell your father to-night, and he'll take proper
possession of the place.  If he don't, every one in the island will come
and plunder."

"Yes, that's right," said Mike; "but it's a horrible pity.  I am sorry.
But what shall we do now?"

"There's only one thing I can think of now--yes, two things," whispered
Vince: "either go up and stop him, fight for it and not let him come; or
hide."

"Hide?" said Mike dubiously.

"Yes, down here in the sand.  It's dark enough.  We could cover
ourselves."

"Or go and hide in the other cave," said Mike.  "Yes, we'll get the rope
and grapnel, and get up into the great crack, pull the rope up, and we
can watch from there."

"That's it," said Vince.  "We only want to gain time till Sir Francis
knows."

"And your father," said Mike.  "Fair play's a jewel, Cinder.  Look
sharp!  Come on!"

They listened in the gloom of the inner cave for a few moments, and then
Mike led the way to the opening between the two caves, passing behind
the rock, and as he did so he turned to whisper to his companion--

"Perhaps he won't find this way through."

Then he stepped on over the deep, soft sand, and was about to pass
through into the outer cavern, when he saw something which made him dart
back, to come heavily in collision with Vince; but not until the latter
had seen that which startled Mike.

For there, standing in the sand, gazing up at the fissure, was a heavy,
thick-set, foreign-looking man, with short black hair, a very brown
skin, and wearing glistening gold earrings, each as far across as a
half-crown piece.  The glance taken by the boys was short enough, but
they saw more than that, for they caught sight of a rope hanging down
and a man's legs just appearing.

"_Vite! vite_!" cried the foreign-looking fellow.  "_Depechez_; make you
haste, you slow swab you."

There was a growl from above, and something was said, but the boys did
not hear what.  They heard the beating of their hearts, though, and a
choking sensation rose to their throats as they stood in the narrow way
between the two caverns, asking themselves the same question--What to
do?

For they were between two fires.  The caves were in foreign occupation,
that was plain enough; and the whistle had not come from young Carnach,
but from some one else.

There could be no doubt about it: these were not strangers, but the
smuggling crew come to life again after being dead a hundred years, if
Mike was right; a crew of the present day, come to see about their
stores, if Vince's was the right version.

Whichever it was, they seemed to be quite at home, for a second whistle
came chirruping out of the long passage, as the boys hurried into the
gloomy inner cave for safety, and this was answered by the Frenchman,
who roared:

"Ah, tousan tonderres!  Make you cease if I come;" but all the same an
answering whistle came from the outer cave.

What to do?  Where to hide?  They were hemmed in; and it was evident
that either the party in the long passage was coming down, and might
even now be close to the slope, or the Frenchman and the others were
going to him.

It took little time to grasp all this, and almost as little to decide
what to do.  The boys had but the two courses open to them--to face it
out with the foreign-looking man, who seemed to be leader, and his
followers; or to hide.

They felt that they dared not do the former then, and on the impulse of
the moment, and as if one spirit moved them both, they decided to hide--
if they could!

The inner cavern was gloomy enough, and they could only dimly make out
the top of the opening above the slope; all below was deep in shadow,
for the faint pearly light only bathed the roof.  But still they felt
sure that if they entered from the upper entrance or from below they
must be seen, unless they did one thing--and that was, carried out the
idea suggested for hiding from young Carnach.

They had no time for hesitation; and any hope of its being still
possible to escape by the upper passage was extinguished by a clinking
noise, as of a big hammer upon stone, coming echoing out of the opening,
suggestive of some novel kind of work going on up there; so, dashing to
the darkest part of the cave--that close down by where the slope came
from above--the boys thrust the lanthorn and tinder-box on one side and
began to scoop away at the deep, loose sand near the wall.  Then,
shuffling themselves down something after the fashion of a crab upon the
shore, they cast the sand back over their legs and then over their
breasts and faces, closing their eyes tightly, and finally shuffling
down their arms and hands.

Anywhere else the manoeuvre would have been absurd to a degree; but
there, in the gloom of that cavern, there was just a faint chance of any
one passing up or down the slope without noticing that they were hiding,
while all they could hope for now was that the heavy, dull throb, throb,
of their hearts might not be heard.

Vince had covered his face with sand, but a few laboured breathings
cleared his nostrils, and one of his ears was fully exposed; and as he
lay he longed to do something more to conceal both himself and his
companion; but he dared not stir, for the people in the outer cave were
moving about, and their leader could be heard in broken English cursing
angrily whoever it was that had dared to come down into his cave.

They heard enough to make them lie breathlessly, almost, waiting, while
the moments seemed to be terribly prolonged; and at last Vince found
himself longing for the time to come when they would be discovered, for
he felt that if this terrible suspense were drawn out much longer he
must spring up and shout aloud.

Possibly the two lads did not lie there much more than two minutes, but
they were to Vince like an hour, before he heard the rough, domineering
voice in the outer cavern cry out--

"Now, _mes enfans_, forvard march!"  And there was a dull sound
following, as of men's heavily booted feet shuffling and ploughing up
the sand.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

TWO BOYS IN A HOBBLE.

Five men, headed by the heavy fellow who spoke in broken English, passed
silently before the boys through the soft sand, their figures looking
black against the beautiful light which seemed to play on the ceiling of
the place.  Then the leader stopped, and he gazed sharply round for a
few minutes, his eyes seeming to rest for some time upon the sand which
the boys had strewed over themselves and burrowed into as far as they
could get.

Vince shivered a little, for he felt that it was all over and that they
must be seen; but just as he had come to the conclusion that the best
thing he could do would be for them to jump up and throw themselves upon
the man's mercy, the great broad-shouldered fellow spoke.

"Dere sall not be any mans here.  Let us go up and see vat they do--how
they get on."

Apparently quite at home in the place, he walked to the foot of the
slope, and for the first time saw the rope, and was told that it was not
theirs.

"Aha!" he cried, "it vas time to come here and look.  _En avant_!"

He seized the rope, and in spite of his size and weight he went up
skilfully enough, the others following as actively as the boys would
have mounted; and while Vince and Mike lay perspiring beneath the sand,
they heard the next order come from the opening on high.

"Light ze lanthorn," said the Frenchman sharply; and, trembling now lest
the light should betray their hiding-place, the boys lay and listened to
the nicking of the flint and steel, heard the blowing on the tinder, saw
the faint blue gleam of the match, and then the gradually increasing
light, as the wood ignited and the candle began to burn; but throwing
the rays through into the cavern, they passed over the corner where the
boys lay, making it intensely dark by contrast, and they breathed more
freely as the dull sound of the closing lanthorn was heard and the
Frenchman growled out--

"_Vite! vite_!  I have to lose no time."

People seemed to be doing something more, far in the passage, which
evoked the sharply spoken words of their leader; but what it was the
boys could not make out, though they heard a strange clinking, as of
pieces of iron being struck together, and then there was a loud clang,
as if a crowbar or marlinspike had fallen upon the stony floor.

"_Ah, bete_ with the head of an _Anglais cochon_--pig!  You always have
ze finger butter.  Now, _en avant_, go on--_depechez_, make haste."

There was the sound of footsteps, the shuffling over stones, as if the
men were not accustomed to the way; and then the light rapidly grew more
feeble, and finally died out.

"Phew!" sighed Vince, expiring loudly and blowing away the sand which
had trickled about his lips, but not without first more firmly closing
his eyes.

"Hist!" whispered Mike; and then he sputtered a little and whispered the
one word "Sand."

There was no need to say more; the one word expressed his position, and
Vince knew all he suffered, for the sand was trickling inside his jersey
round the neck, and if he had not raised his head a little it would have
been in his eyes, of which he naturally had a horror.

The two boys lay perfectly still in their corner, listening with every
sense upon the strain; and for some little time the movements of the men
could be heard very plainly, every step, every stone that was dislodged
sending its echo whispering along the narrow passage as a voice runs
through a speaking tube.

At last all seemed so still that they took heart to whisper to each
other.

"What shall we do, Cinder?" said Mike.

"I don't know, unless we go through into the other cave."

"What's the good of that?--they'll come back soon and find us."

"Unless we can hide somewhere among the bales, or right up in the back,
where it's dark."

"That might do," said Mike.  "But, I say, what have they gone after?"

"To try and find us."

"But they don't know us."

"Well, the people who are using this cave, and they must know of the way
up to the top.  Ah! that's it."

"Yes; what?" cried Mike excitedly.

"Hist! don't speak so loudly.  They've gone up there to loosen some of
the stones and block the way, so as to put an end to any one coming
down; or else to lay wait and trap us."

Mike drew a long, deep breath; and it sounded like a groan.

"Oh dear!" he said; "whatever shall we do?  Perhaps we had better get
through into the other cavern.  They'll search this thoroughly, perhaps,
when they come back; but they mayn't search that."

"That's what I thought," said Vince.  "Yes, it's the only thing for us
to do, unless we go into the seals' cave and try and hide there."

"Ugh!" said Mike, with a shudder.  "Why, it may be horribly deep, and we
should have to swim in ever so far in the darkness before we touched
bottom; and who knows what a seal would do if it was driven to bay?"

"Better have to fight seals than be caught by these men, Ladle," said
Vince.  "But we ought to have something to fight the seals with.
There's the big stick in the other cavern, and your knife."

"And yours."

"Yes; there's mine," said Vince thoughtfully.  "Ah! of course there's
the conger club with the gaff hook at the end."

"To be sure.  But, oh no, we couldn't do that.  It would be horrible to
wade or swim into that hole without a light."

"We'd take a light," said Vince.

"Yes, but we'd better try the other cave," said Mike hurriedly.  "I feel
sure we could hide in the upper part.  Draw a sail over us, perhaps:
they'd never think we should hide in an open place like that, where they
landed."

"Very well, then: come on.  Here's the lanthorn and the tinder-box."

Vince secured these from where they lay half buried in the sand; and
then, rising quickly out of their irritating beds, and scattering the
loose fine dry grit back, they hurried into the outer cave, seized the
rope and grapnel, and Mike was swinging it to throw up into the opening,
when his arm dropped to his side, and he stood as if paralysed, looking
wildly at his companion.

For that had occurred upon which they had not for a moment counted.
They had seen the party of men pass them, and it never struck either
that this was not all, till they stood beneath the opening in the act of
throwing the grapnel.  Then, plainly heard, came a boisterous laugh,
followed by the murmur of voices.

They looked at each other aghast, as they saw that their escape in that
direction was cut off.  There was no seeking refuge among the bales, and
in despair the grapnel was thrown down in its place; while, in full
expectation of seeing more of the smuggler crew come through the
fissure, they were hurrying back to the inner cave, when Vince turned
and caught up the conger club and the heavy oaken cudgel, holding both
out to Mike to take one, and the latter seized the club.

Enemies behind them and enemies in front, they felt almost paralysed by
their despair and dread, half expecting to find the party that had
ascended already back.  But on reaching the dark cave all was perfectly
still for a few moments, during which they stood listening.

"Think we could find a better place to hide in here?" said Mike, in a
husky whisper.

"No; they had that lanthorn with them."

"But if we shuffle down in the sand again?"

"It's of no use to try it," said Vince sharply.  "Once was enough.  We
must try the seal cave."

"Then why did you come in here?" whispered Mike petulantly.

"Because you were afraid to go into that black hole in the dark."

"And so were you," said Mike angrily.

"That's right, Ladle--so I am," whispered Vince coolly; "and that's why
I came in here for the moment, to think whether we could possibly hide."

"Hist!  I can hear them coming."

Vince stood listening to the murmur of voices coming out of the opening
above them.

"Ever so far back yet," he whispered; and he dropped upon his knees and
opened the tinder-box and the lanthorn, which he had placed before him
on the sand.

"No, no; don't do that," protested Mike, who was half wild with alarm.

"Can't help it: we must have a light," said Vince; and the cavern began
to echo strangely with the nicking of the flint and steel.

"Then come in the other cavern," said Mike, as he stood holding the club
and cudgel.

"Don't bother me.  Other fellows would hear me there, and the wind blows
in."

And all the time he was nicking away, and in his hurry failing to get a
spark to drop in the tinder.

"Oh! it's all over," said Mike.  "They're close here."

"No, they're not.  Ah! that's it at last."

For a spark had settled on the charred linen, and was soon blown into a
glow which ignited the brimstone match; but, quick as Vince was in
getting it to burn and light the candle, it seemed to both an
interminable length of time before he could close the door of the
lanthorn and shut the half-burned match in the tinder-box.

This last he was about to hide in a hole he began to scratch in the
sand; but on second thoughts he thrust the flat box, with its rattling
contents, under his jersey, and caught up the lanthorn, which now feebly
lit the cavern.

"Yes," said Vince; "they're pretty close now, for the voices sound very
distinct.  Come on."

He turned into the narrow passage to enter the outer cave, and they
stopped short in horror as they stood in the full light there, for a
loud chirruping whistle came suddenly from the fissure before them and
up to the left; and it had hardly ceased echoing when it was answered
from the inner cave behind them, and was followed by a shout, which
sounded as if the men were sliding down the rope and close at hand.

"Not much time to spare," said Vince, in a hurried whisper.  "Come on,
Ladle."  And, lanthorn in hand, the light invisible as he hurried to the
mouth of the cave, he stepped into the water, and, wading to the low
arch on their right, stooped low and went in, closely followed by Mike;
and, as they passed on, with the lanthorn light showing them the
dripping walls and root of the place, covered with strange-looking
zoophytes, there was a loud flopping, rushing, and splashing, which sent
a wave above their knees, and made Mike stop short and seize his
companion.

"Only a seal.  Come on," said Vince; and he pressed forward, with the
water getting deeper instead of more shallow, and a doubt rising in his
mind as to whether they would be able to get in far enough to be safe.

"Hist!  Quiet!" he whispered, for the sound of voices came to where they
stood, and Vince felt that if sound was conveyed in one direction it
certainly would be in the other.

"Mustn't say a word, or they'll hear us and be in and fetch us out in no
time.  Come on, or they'll see the reflection of the light."

"Can't," whispered back Mike faintly.  "I've got my boot down a crack,
wedged in."

Vince seized him sharply by the shoulder, and Mike nearly fell back into
the water; but this acted like a lever, and the boot was wrenched free,
just as another whistle was heard and its answer, both sounding
strangely near.

Quite certain that if they did not get in farther the reflection from
the lanthorn must be seen, Vince waded on, with the water rising from
his knees to his thighs, and then, feeling terribly cold, nearly to his
waist.

"We mustn't go any farther," said Mike in an excited whisper, "or we
shall have to swim."

"Very well, then, we must swim," said Vince, holding the light well up
above the water, and looking anxiously along the dark channel ahead, the
roof not being two feet above their caps.

Deeper still--the water above their waists--but the cavern went nearly
straight on, and Vince was about to open the door and blow out the
light, when Mike caught his arm.

"Don't do that," he whispered: "it would be horrible here, with those
beasts about.  There, you can hear one swimming, and we don't know what
else there may be."

"But they'll see the light."

"Well, let them," said Mike desperately.  "I'd rather wade out."

"I'll risk it, then," said Vince; and then he drew a breath of relief,
for at the end of a couple of yards the depression along which they had
passed was changing to a gradual rise of the cavern floor, and the water
fell lower and lower, till it was considerably below their waists, and
soon after shallow in the extreme.

They went on with mingled feelings, satisfied that they were getting
where they would not be discovered, and also into shallow water, that
promised soon to rise to dry land; but, on the other hand, they kept
having hints that they were driving back living creatures, which made
known their presence by wallowing splashes, that echoed strangely along
the roof, and made the boys grasp club and cudgel with desperate energy.

To their great joy, now, on looking back they found that they could not
see the daylight shining in from the mouth upon the water, and as, in
consequence, any one gazing into the cave was not likely to see the dim
rays of their lanthorn, the boys paused knee-deep, glad to find that
they need go no farther along the narrow channel--one formed, no doubt,
by the gradual washing away of some vein of soft felspar or steatite.

"Pretty safe now," whispered Vince.

_Plash_!

"Ugh!" ejaculated Mike.  "What's that?"

"Seal or some big fish," said Vince: "something we've driven in before
us."

"I don't want to be a coward, Cinder," whispered Mike; "but if it's a
great conger, I don't know what I should do."

"Hit at it," replied Vince.  "I should, even if I felt in a regular
squirm.  But we needn't mind.  The things we've driven up before us are
sure to be in a horrible flurry, and all they'll think about will be of
trying to get away."

"Think so?"

"Why, of course.  You don't suppose there are any of the things that old
Joe talked about, do you?"

"No, of course that's nonsense; but the congers may be very big and
fierce, and isn't this the sort of place they would run up?"

"I dunno.  S'pose so," said Vince.  "They get in holes of the rocks, of
course; but I don't know whether they'd get up such a big, long cave as
this.  Wonder how far it goes in?  Pst!"

Vince grasped his companion's arm tightly, for they were having a proof
of the wonderful way in which sound was carried along the surface of the
water, especially in a narrow passage such as that in which they had
taken refuge.

For all at once the murmur of voices sounded as if it were approaching
them, and their hearts seemed to stand still, as they believed that they
were being pursued.

But the next minute they knew that the speakers were only standing at
the mouth of the cave and looking in, one of the men apparently
whispering close to them, and with perfect distinctness:--

"Seals," he said.  "I came and listened last time I was here, and you
could hear 'em splashing and walloping about in the water.  Like to go
on in?"

"No," said another voice.  "Get 'em up in a corner and they'll show
fight as savage as can be; and they can bite too."

"Good polt on the head with a club settles them, though, soon enough."

"Ay, but who's to get to hit at 'em, shut up in a hole where you haven't
room to swing your arm? 'sides, they're as quick as lightning, and
they'll come right at you."

"What, attack?"

"Nay, I don't say that: p'r'aps it's on'y trying to get away; but if one
of they slippery things comes between your legs down you must go."

"Think there's any in now?"

"Bound to say there are.  They comes and goes, though.  Listen: p'r'aps
you'll hear one."

As it happened, just then there was a peculiar splashing and wallowing
sound from some distance farther in, and it ended with an echoing
report, as if one of the animals had given the surface of the water a
heavy blow with its tail.

"No mistake--eh?" said one of the voices.

"Let's get the lanthorn and go in," said one eagerly.

"Nay, you stop wheer you are.  Old Jarks is wild enough as it is about
some one being here.  If he finds any of us larking about, he'll get
hitting out or shootin', p'r'aps."

"I say," said another voice--all sounding curiously near, and as if
whispering for the two fugitives to hear--"think anybody's been
splitting about the place?"

"I d'know.  Mebbe.  Wonder it arn't been found out before.  My hye!  I
never did see old Jarks in such a wax before.  Makes him sputter finely
what he does blaze up.  I don't b'lieve as he knows then whether he's
speaking French or English."

"Well, don't seem as if we're going to ketch whoever it is."

"What!  Don't you be in a hurry about that.  If old Jarks makes up his
mind to do a thing, he'll do it."

"Think he'll stop?"

"Stop?  Ay, for a month, but what he'll ketch whoever it is.  Bound to
say they've been walking off with the silk and lace at a pretty tidy
rate."

"They'll be too artful to come again, p'r'aps."

"Ah! that's what some one said about the mice, but they walked into the
trap at last."

"What'll he do if he does ketch 'em?"

"Well, there, you know what old Jarks is.  He never do stand any
nonsense.  I should say he'd have a haxiden' with 'em, same as he did
with that French _douane_ chap.  Pistol might go off, or he might take
'em aboard and drop 'em--"

_Murmur, murmur, murmur_--and then silence.

The speakers had evidently turned away from the mouth of the seal hole,
and the boys did not hear the end of the sentence.

"Oh!" groaned Mike faintly.

"I say, Ladle, if you make a noise like that they'll hear you, and come
and fetch us out."

"I couldn't help it.  How horrid it sounds!"

"Yes," said Vince very softly, "but he has got to catch us yet.  Who's
old Jarks?  Here, I know: they mean the Frenchman: Jacks--Jacques, don't
you see?"

"Yes, I see," said Mike dismally.

"He's the skipper, of course.  French skipper with an English crew.
They must be a nice set.  I say, do you feel cold?"

"Cold?  I don't feel as if I had any feet at all."

"We must have some exercise," said Vince grimly; and he uttered a faint
chuckling sound.  "I say, though, Mike don't be down about it.  He's
only a Frenchman, and we're English.  We're not going to let him catch
us, are we?"

"It's horrible," said Mike.  "Why, he'll kill us!"

"He hasn't caught us yet, I tell you, lad.  Look here: we know
everything about the caves now, and we can go anywhere in the dark,
can't we?"

"Yes, I suppose so," said Mike dismally.

"Very well, then; we must wait till it's dark, and then creep out and
make for the way out."

"Is no way out now: it's either stopped up or watched."

"Well, then, we'll get out by the mouth of the smugglers' cave, and
creep up on to the cliffs somewhere."

"Current would wash us away; and if we could get to the cliffs you know
we shouldn't be able to climb up.  We're not flies."

"Who said we were?  Well, you are a cheerful sort of fellow to be with!"

"I don't want to be miserable, Cinder, old chap, but it does seem as if
we're in a hole now."

"Seem?  Why we are in a hole, and a good long one too," said Vince,
laughing softly.

"Ah, I can't see anything to joke about.  It's awful--awful!  Cinder, we
shall never see home again."

"Bah!  A deal you know about it, Ladle.  That French chap daren't shoot
us or drown us.  He knows he'd be hung if he did."

"And what good would it do us after he had killed us, if he was hung?  I
shouldn't mind."

"Well, you are a cheerful old Ladle!" said Vince.  "Why don't you cheer
up and make it pleasanter for me?"

"Pleasanter?" said Mike.  "Oh!"

"Be quiet, and don't be stupid," said Vince.  "Look here: don't forget
all you've read about chaps playing the hero when they are in great
difficulties."

"Who's going to play the hero when he's up to his knees in cold water?"
cried Mike bitterly.

"Well, he has a better chance than if he was up to his neck; same as
that fellow would have a better chance than one who was out of his
depth."

"I say," cried Mike excitedly, "does the tide run up here and fill the
cave?"

"No.  It was high water when we came in, wasn't it?  We never saw it
more than half-way up the arch.  Now look here, Ladle: we're in a mess."

"As if I didn't know!"

"And we've got to get ourselves out of it, because nobody knows anything
about this place or our having come here.  Think Lobster will say he has
seen us come this way once?  He's sure to hear we're missing and that
they're looking for us."

"I don't suppose he will," said Mike dismally.  "If they came this way
they wouldn't find the hole.  They'll think we've gone off the cliff and
been drowned.  What will they say! what will they say!"

These words touched Vince home, and for a few minutes a peculiar feeling
overcame him; but the boy had too much good British stuff in him to give
way to despair, and he turned angrily upon his companion:

"Look here, Ladle," he said: "if you go on like this I'll punch your
head.  No nonsense--I will.  I don't believe that French skipper dare
hurt us, but we won't give him the chance to.  We can't see a way out of
the hobble yet, but that's nothing.  It's a problem, as Mr Deane would
say, and we've got to solve it."

"Who can solve problems standing in cold water?  My legs are swelling
already, same as Jemmy Carnach's did when he was swept out in his boat
and nearly swamped, and didn't get back for three days."

"You're right," said Vince.  "I can't think with my feet so cold.  Let's
get into a dry place."

"What, go out?"

"No," said Vince; "we'll go in."



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

A STRANGE NIGHT'S LODGING.

Mike shrank from attempting to penetrate farther into the narrow hole;
but Vince's determination was contagious, and, in obedience to a jog of
the elbow, he followed his companion, as, with the lanthorn held high
enough for him to look under, the cudgel in his right-hand, he began to
wade on, finding that the passage twisted about a little, very much as
the tunnel formed by the stream did--of course following the vein of
mineral which had once existed, and had gradually decayed away.

To their great delight, the water, at the end of fifty yards or so, was
decidedly shallower; the walls, which had been almost covered with sea
anemones, dotted like lumps of reddish green and drab jelly, only showed
here, in company with live shells, a few inches above the water, which
now, as they waded on, kept for a little distance of the same depth, and
then suddenly widened out.

Vince stopped there, and held up the lanthorn, to see the darkness
spread all around and the light gleaming from the water, which had
spread into a good-sized pool.

"Mind!" cried Mike excitedly: "there's something coming."

He turned to hurry back, but Vince stood firm, with his cudgel raised;
and the force of example acted upon Mike, who turned towards him,
grasping the conger bat firmly, as the light showed some large creature
swimming, attracted by the light.

But the boys did not read it in that way.  Their interpretation was that
the creature was coming to attack them; and, waiting till it was within
reach, Vince suddenly leaned forward and struck at it with all his
might.

The blow only fell upon the water, making a sharp splash; for the lad's
movement threw the lanthorn forward, and the sudden dart towards the
animal of a glaring object was enough.  The creature made the water
surge and eddy as it struck it with its powerful tail, and went off with
a tremendous rush, raising a wave as it went, and sending a great ring
around to the sides of the expanded cavern, the noise of the water
lapping against the walls being plainly heard.

This incident startled, but at the same time encouraged the lads, for it
gave them a feeling of confidence in their own power; but as soon as
they recommenced their advance, there was another shock,--something
struck against Vince's leg, and in spite of his effort at self-command
he uttered a cry.

There was no real cause for alarm, though; and they grasped the fact
that the blow was struck by one of a shoal of large fish, or congers,
making a rush to escape the enemies who had invaded their solitude, and
in the flurry one of them had struck against the first object in its
way.  "I'm sure they were congers," whispered Mike.  "I felt one of them
seem to twist round me."

"Never mind: they're gone," replied Vince.  "Come on.  I fancy there
must be a rocky shore farther on, as it's so shallow here, and it's all
sand under foot."

"Not all: I've put my feet on rock several times," whispered Mike.

"Well, that doesn't matter.  There's plenty of sand.  Look out!"

There was a tremendous splashing in front, and the water came surging by
them, while they noticed now that the sides of the place were once more
closing in as they advanced.

"Shall we go back?" said Vince; for the sudden disturbance in front,
evidently the action of large animals, or fish, had acted as a check to
him as well as his companion.

Mike was silent for a few moments.  Then he said hoarsely: "I'll stick
to you, Cinder, and do what you do."

"Then come on," said the boy, who felt a little ashamed of his feeling
of dread.

"Can't be sharks, can it?" whispered Mike, as, in addition to the
lapping and sucking noises made by the water, there was a peculiar
rustling and panting.

"Sharks, in a cave like this?  No.  They're seals, I'm sure, four or
five of them, and they've backed away from us till they've got to the
end.  Hark!  Don't you hear?  There is a sort of shore there, and they
are crawling about."

He waded forward two or three steps, holding up the light as high as he
could; but the feeble rays, half quenched by the thin, dull horn, did
not penetrate the gloom, and at last, as the strange noises went on, the
boy lowered the lanthorn, opened the door, and turned the light in the
direction just before them.

They saw something then, for pairs of eyes gleamed at them out of the
darkness, seen vividly for a moment or two, and disappearing, to gleam
again, like fiery spots, somewhere else.

Mike wanted to ask if they really were seals; but in spite of a brave
effort to be firm, his voice failed him, the surroundings were so
strange, and, standing there in the water, he felt so helpless.  Every
word about the horrors of the Black Scraw told to them by old Daygo came
to him with vivid force, and his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth,
and there was a sensation as of something moving the roots of his hair.

Then he started, for Vince closed the lanthorn with a snap and said
hoarsely:--

"Hit hard, Mike.  They must go or we must, and I'm growing desperate."

"Go on?" faltered Mike.

"Yes, and hit at the first one you can reach.  They're lying about
there, on the dry sand."

His companion's order nerved Mike once more; and, drawing a deep breath,
he whispered "All right," though he felt all wrong.

"Don't swing the club, or you may hit me," said Vince.  "Strike down,
and I'll do the same.  Now then, both together, and I'll keep the
lanthorn between us.  Begin."

They made a rush together through the water, which, after a few steps,
grew rapidly shallow; and then they were out upon soft sand, striking at
the dim-looking objects just revealed to them by the light; and twice
over Vince felt that he had struck something soft, but whether it was
seal or sand he could not tell.  Violent strokes had resounded from the
roof of the echoing cavern, as Mike exerted himself to the utmost,
hitting about him wildly in despair, while every few moments there was a
loud splashing.  Then Mike fell violently forward on to his face, for
one of the frightened creatures made a dash for the water.  The panting,
scuffling, splashing, and wallowing ceased, and Vince held up the light.

"Where are you?" he cried, forgetting the necessity for being silent.

"Here," said Mike, rising into a sitting position on a little bank of
coarse sand, which was composed entirely of broken shells.

"Hurt?"

"Yes;--no.  I came down very heavily, though."

"Fall over one of the seals?"

"No, it went between my legs, and I couldn't save myself.  Well, we've
won, and I'm glad we know now they were only seals.  It was very stupid,
but I got fancying they were goodness knows what horrible creatures."

"So did I," said Vince, with a faint laugh.  "Old Joe's water bogies
seemed to be all there, with fiery eyes, and I hit at them in a
desperate way like.  I say, you can't help feeling frightened at a time
like this, specially when one of them fastens on you like a dog."

"What!"

"Yes," said Vince quietly, and without a tinge of boasting in his
utterances.  "I was whacking about at random, when one came at me, and
made a sort of snip-snap and got hold, and for a bit it wouldn't leave
go; but I whacked away at it as hard as I could, and then it fell
gliding down my leg, and the next moment made another grab at me, but
its head was too far forward, and it only knocked me sidewise.  Such a
bang on the thigh: I nearly went down."

"But where are you bitten?" cried Mike excitedly.

"Here," said Vince, laughing, and holding the lanthorn to his side.
"Only my jacket, luckily.  Look, it tore a piece right out.  What
strength they've got!  I felt it worrying at it, wagging its head like a
dog.  I say, Mike!"

"Yes."

"I was in a stew.  I wasn't sorry when the brute dropped down."

"It's horrible," said Mike.

"Oh, I don't know.  I don't feel a bit scared now.  I tell you what,
though: it has warmed me up.  I'm not cold now.  How are you?"

"Hot."

"Then let's have a look round."

Raising the lanthorn, the two prisoners cautiously advanced for about
twenty feet, and then were stopped by solid rock, forming a sharp angle,
where the two walls of the cave met.  Their way had been up a slope of
deep, shelly sand, which crushed and crunched beneath their feet, these
sinking deeply at every step.  Then the light was held higher, with the
door open; and by degrees they made out that the pool was about fifty or
sixty feet broad, and touched the rock-walls everywhere but out by this
triangular patch of sand, which was wet enough where the seals crawled
out, the hollows here and there showing where one had lain; but up
towards the angle it was quite dry, and the walls were perfectly free
from zoophyte or weed--ample proof that the water never rose to where
they stood.

"Well," said Vince, setting down the lanthorn close to the wall, "we've
won the day, the enemy is turned out of its castle, and the next thing,
I say, is to get off our wet, cold things."

"I can't take matters so coolly as you do," said Mike bitterly.  "I was
only thinking of getting away out of this awful place."

"Oh, it isn't so awful now you know the worst of it," said Vince coolly,
though a listener might have thought that there was a little peculiarity
in his tone.  "One couldn't help fancying all sorts of horrors, but when
you find there is nothing worse than seals--"

"And horrible congers: I felt them."

"So did I," said Vince; "but I've been thinking since.  The congers
wouldn't live in a place where seals were.  There'd be fights, and
perhaps the seals would get the best of them."

"But don't I tell you I felt one swim up against me and lash its great
body half round my leg?"

"I believe those were young seals, swimming for their lives to get out
to sea.  There, take off your wet things and wring them out.  I'm going
to fill my boots with fine sand.  It's not cold in here, and I dare say
the things will dry a bit."

"But suppose the seals come back."

"They won't come back while we're here, Ladle--I know that.  They're
full of curiosity, but as shy as can be.  They can see in the dark,
and--"

"Dark!" cried Mike.

"To be sure.  We mustn't go on burning that candle."

"But--"

"Look here, old chap," said Vince quietly: "there are only about two
inches of it left.  That wouldn't last long, and I'm sure it's better to
put it out and save it for some particular occasion than to burn it
now."

"But there's just enough to light us to the mouth of this terrible
hole."

"And give ourselves up to old Jarks, as that fellow called him, whose
pistol might go off by accident, or who might take us on board his
vessel and let us fall overboard."

"That was only what the man said," argued Mike petulantly.  "If we go
boldly up to this smuggler captain and tell him that we only found out
the caves by accident, and that we haven't touched any of the smuggled
goods--"

"Pirates!"

"Smuggled."

"You stuck out it was pirates."

"But I didn't believe it then.  Well, if we go to him and say that we
have always kept the place a secret, and that we'll go on doing so, and
swear to it if he likes, he will let us go."

"Go out boldly to him, eh?" said Vince.

"Yes, of course."

"Ah, well, I can't.  I don't feel at all bold now.  It all went out of
me over the fight with the seals.  That one which fastened on my jacket
finished my courage."

"Now you're talking nonsense," said Mike angrily.

"Very well, then, I'll talk sense.  If that captain was an Englishman
perhaps we would do as you say; but as he's a Frenchman of bad
character, as he must be, I feel as if we can't trust him.  No, Ladle,
old chap, I mean for us to escape, and the only thing we can do now is
to wait till it's dark and then try.  We mustn't run any risks of what
Mr Jarks might do.  Now then, you do as I've done before I put out the
light."

"You're not going to put out the light."

"Yes, I am."

"I won't have it.  It shall burn as long as I like.  Besides, you
couldn't light it again."

"Oh yes, I could.  I've got the tinder-box, and it has always been too
high up to get wet."

"I don't care," said Mike desperately; "it's too horrible to be here in
the dark."

"Not half so horrible as to be in the dark not knowing that you could
get a light if you wanted to.  We could if I put it out.  We couldn't if
it was all burned."

"I don't care, I say once more--I say it must not be put out."

"And I say," replied Vince, speaking quite good-humouredly, while his
companion's voice sounded husky, and as if he were in a rage--"and I say
that if you make any more fuss about it I'll put it out now."

As Vince spoke he made a sudden movement, snatched the lanthorn from
where it stood by the wall, and tore open the door.

"Now," he cried, catching up a handful of sand, "you come a step nearer,
and I'll smother the light with this."

Mike had made a dart to seize the lanthorn, but he paused now.

"You coward!" he cried.

"All right: so I am.  I've been in a terrible stew to-day several times,
but I'm not such a coward that I'm afraid to put out the light."

Mike turned his back and began to imitate his companion in stripping off
his wet lower garments, wringing them thoroughly, and spreading them on
the dry sand, with which he, too, filled his saturated boots.

Meanwhile Vince was setting him another example--that of raking out a
hole in the softest sand, snuggling down into it and drawing it over him
all round till he was covered.

"Not half such nice sand as it is in our cave, Ladle," he said.

There was no answer.

"I say, Ladle, don't I look like a cock bird sitting on the nest while
the hen goes out for a walk?"

Still there was no reply, and Mike finished his task with his wet
garments.

"Sand's best and softest up here," said Vince, taking out the tinder-box
from the breast of his jersey and placing it by the lanthorn.

Mike said nothing, but went to the spot Vince had pointed out, scraped
himself a hollow, sat down in it quietly, and dragged the sand round.

"Feels drying, like a cool towel, doesn't it?" said Vince, as if there
had been no words between them.

"You can put out the light," said Mike, for answer.

"Hah, yes," replied Vince, taking the lanthorn; "seems a pity, too.  But
we shan't hurt here.  Old Jarks won't think we're in so snug a spot."

Out went the light, Vince closed and fastened the door, and then,
settling himself in his sandy nest, he said quietly,--

"Now we shall have to wait for hours before we can start.  What shall we
do--tell stories?"

Mike made no reply.

"Well, he needn't be so jolly sulky," thought Vince.  "I'm sure it's the
best thing to do.--Yes, what's that?"

It was a hand stretched out of the darkness, and feeling for his till it
could close over it in a tight, firm grip.

"I'm so sorry, Cinder, old chap," came in a low, husky voice.  "All this
has made me feel half mad."

There was silence then for a few minutes, as the boys sat there in total
darkness, hand clasped in hand.  Then Vince spoke.

"I know," he said, in a voice which Mike hardly recognised: "I've been
feeling something like it, only I managed to stamp it down.  But you
cheer up, Ladle.  You and I ought to be a match for _one_ Frenchman.
We're not beaten.  We must wait."

"And starve," said Mike bitterly.

"That we won't.  We'll try to get right away, but if we can't we must
get something to eat and drink."

"But how?"

"Find where those fellows keep theirs, and go after it when it's dark.
They won't starve themselves, you may be sure."

Mike tried to withdraw his hand, for fear that Vince should think he was
afraid to be in the dark; but his companion's grasp tightened upon it,
and he said softly,--

"Don't take your fist away, Ladle; it feels like company, and it's
almost as good as a light.  I say, don't go to sleep."

"No."

Mike meant to sit and watch and listen for the fancied splash that
indicated the return of the seals.  But he was tired by exertion and
excitement, the cavern was warm and dry, the sand was become pleasantly
soft, and all at once he was back in the great garden of the fine old
manor-house amongst the flowers and fruit, unconscious of everything
else till he suddenly opened his eyes to gaze wonderingly at the thick
darkness which closed him in.

Vince had fared the same.  Had any one told him that he could sleep
under such circumstances, in the darkness of that water den, the
dwelling-place of animals which had proved to him that they could upon
occasion be desperate and fierce, he would have laughed in his face; but
about the same time as his companion he had lurched over sidewise and
fallen fast asleep.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

GETTING DEEPER IN THE HOLE.

For some moments Mike sat up, gazing straight before him, dazed,
confused, not knowing where he was.  Time, space, his life, all seemed
to be gone; and all he could grasp was the fact that he was there.

At last, as his brain would not work to help him, he began to try with
his ringers, feeling for the information he somehow seemed to crave.

He touched the sand, then a hand, and started from it in horror, for he
could not understand why it was there.

By degrees the impression began to dawn upon him that he had been
awakened by some noise, but by what sound he could not tell.  He could
only feel that it was a noise of which he ought to be afraid, till
suddenly there was something or somebody splashing or wallowing in the
water.

That was enough.  The whole tide of thought rushed through him in an
instant, and, snatching at the hand, he tugged at it and whispered
excitedly,--

"Cinder--Vince!--wake up.  They've come back."

"Eh?  What's the matter?  Come back?  What, the smugglers?  Don't speak
so loud."

"No, no--the seals.  Light the lanthorn.  Where did you put the club and
stick?"

"Stop a moment.  What's the matter with you?  I've only just dropped
asleep.  Did you say the seals had come back?"

"Yes: there, don't you hear them?"

"No," said Vince, after a few moments' pause, "I can't hear anything.
Can you?"

"I can't now," said Mike, in a hoarse whisper; "but they woke me by
splashing, and then I roused you."

"Been dreaming, perhaps," said Vince.  "I suppose we must have both
dropped asleep for a few minutes.  Never mind, we can keep awake better
now, and--Hullo!"

"What is it?"

"Here: look out, Mike--look out!"

There was no time to look out, no means of doing so in the darkness, and
after all no need.  Vince had placed his hand upon something hairy and
moist, and let it stay there, as he wondered what it was, till that
which he had felt grasped the fact that the touch was an unaccustomed
one, and a monstrous seal started up, threw out its head and began to
shuffle rapidly away from where it had been asleep.  The alarm was taken
by half a dozen more, and by the time the two boys were afoot and had
seized their weapons--_splash, splash, splash_!--the heavy creatures had
plunged back into the pool from which they had crawled to sleep, and by
the whispering and lapping of the water on the walled sides of the cave
the boys knew that the curious beasts were swimming rapidly away towards
the mouth.

"Nice damp sort of bedfellows," said Vince, laughing merrily.  "I say,
Mike, I'm all right.  I don't know, though--I can't feel my legs very
well.  Yes, they're all right."

"What do you mean?" said Mike.  "I meant they haven't eaten any part of
you, have they?"

"Don't talk stuff," said Mike, rather pettishly.  "How could we be so
foolish as to go to sleep?"

"No foolishness about it," said Vince quietly.  "We were tired, and it
was dark, and we dropped off.  I say, I'm hungry.  Think we've been to
sleep long?"

"I don't know.  Perhaps.  There's only one way to find out: go to the
mouth of the hole."

"Yes--that's the only way," said Vince; "and now the use of the candle
comes in.  I don't know, though: it seems a pity to light the last bit.
Shall we go and see?"

Mike suppressed a shiver of dread, and said firmly,--"Yes."

Another point arose, and that was as to whether they should put on their
clothes again.

It seemed a pity to do so and again get them wet; but both felt
repugnant to attempting to wade back without them, and they began to
feel about, half in dread lest the seals which had visited them in the
night should have chosen their clothes for a sleeping place.

They were, however, just as they had been left, and, to the astonishment
of both, they were nearly dry.

"Why, Mike," cried Vince, "we must have slept for hours and hours."

"We can't.  The cave's warm, I suppose, and that accounts for it.  How
are your trousers getting on?"

"Oh, right enough, only they're very gritty.  Glad to get into them,
though."

In a very short time they were dressed, and it being decided that they
would not return here if it were possible to avoid it, the lanthorn and
tinder-box were taken, and they made up their minds to make the venture
of wading back in the dark.

Mike was rather disposed to fight against it, but he yielded to his
companion's reasoning when he pointed out that before long they would be
able to see the light, and their lanthorn would be superfluous.

Vince rose, and starting with the cudgel outstretched before him, he
stepped down into the water and began to wade.

His first shot for the opening in front proved a failure, for he touched
the wall across the pool, but finding which way it trended he was not
long in reaching the place where it gradually narrowed like a funnel--
their voices helping, for as they spoke in whispers the echoes came back
from closer and closer, the water deepened a little, and then Vince was
able to extend the cudgel and touch the wall on either side.

Once only did he feel that they must have entered some side passage, and
he stopped short with the old feeling of horror coming over him as the
thought suggested the possibility of their wandering away utterly and
hopelessly lost in some fearful labyrinth, where they would struggle
vainly until they dropped down, worn out by their exertions, to perish
in the water through which they waded.

"What's the matter?" said Mike, in a quick, sharp whisper; and Vince
remained silent, not daring to speak, for fear that his companion should
detect his thoughts by the tremor he felt sure that there would be in
his voice.

"Do you hear?  Why don't you speak?" said Mike.  "Don't play tricks here
in the dark."

"I'm not playing tricks," replied Vince roughly, after making an effort
to overcome his emotion.  "I'm leading, and I must think.  Are we going
right?"

"You ought to know.  I trusted to you," said Mike anxiously, "and you
wouldn't light the candle."

"Yes, it is all right," said Vince; and, mastering the feeling of scare
that had come over him, he passed his hand along the wall, feeling the
slimy cold sea anemones and the peculiar clinging touch of their
tentacles.  Then he pressed steadily on, till all at once there was a
faint dawning of light.  They turned one of the bends, and the dawn,
became bright rays, which rapidly increased as they softly waded along,
being careful now to speak to each other in whispers, and to disturb the
water as little as possible; till at last there in the front was the low
arch of the cave, framing a patch of sunny rock dotted with grey gulls,
and an exultant sensation filled Vince's breast, making him ready to
shout aloud.

The sensation of delight was checked by feeling Mike's hand suddenly
upon his shoulder tugging him back, and at the same moment he saw the
reason.  For there, in the opening, evidently standing up to his
shoulders in water, was some one gazing straight into the narrow cavern,
and Vince felt that they must have been heard and a sentry placed there
to watch for their coming out.

"But it is impossible for him to see us," thought Vince; and he stood
there pondering on what it would be best to do, while a feeling of hope
cheered him with the idea that perhaps after all they had not been
heard, and that it was by mere accident that the man was gazing in.

The next moment he felt again ready to utter an exultant cry, for there
was a sudden movement of the watching head, a dive down, and the water
rose and fell, distinctly seen against the light.

"Bother those old seals!" he said: "they're always doing something to
scare us.  I really thought it was a man."

"Looked just like it," said Mike, making a panting sound, as if he had
been holding his breath till he had been nearly suffocated.

"That chap must have been able to see us though we are in the dark.
What wonderful eyes they have!"

"Perhaps the light shines on us a little," replied Mike.

"Very likely; but it's curious what animals can do.  I wonder at their
coming and lying down so near us."

"That was because we lay so still, I suppose.  But we oughtn't to talk."

"No; come along: but what are we going to do?  We shan't be able to
stand in the water very long."

They waded very slowly on, hardly disturbing the surface, and straining
their ears to catch the slightest sound; but the faint roar of the
currents playing among the rocks, and the screams and querulous cries of
the sea-birds which flew to and fro across the mouth of the cavern were
all they could hear.

They were pretty close to the entrance now, but they hesitated to go
farther, and remained very silent and watchful, till a thought suddenly
struck Vince, who placed his lips close to Mike's ear.

"I say," he said, "oughtn't it to be this evening?"

"Of course."

"Then it isn't.  It's to-morrow morning."

"Nonsense!"

"Well, I mean it's morning, and we've slept all night."

"Vince!"

"It is, lad.  Look--the sun can't have been up very long; and oh, Mike,
what a state they must have been in at home about us!"

Mike uttered a faint groan.

"It's horrid!" continued Vince passionately.  "What shall we do?"

Mike was silent for a few minutes, and then said sadly,--"They won't
have slept all night."

"No," said Vince wildly; "and they've been wandering about the place
with people searching for us.  Mike, it's of no use, we mustn't try to
hide any longer.  That Jarks daren't hurt us, and we had better go out
boldly."

"Think so?"

"Yes.  You see, we can't stay here standing in the water, and if we go
back to the sand in there--"

Mike shuddered.  "I can't go back there," he said.

"That's just how I feel," said Vince, speaking in a low, excited tone.
"I didn't say much, but I couldn't help being horribly frightened."

"It was enough to scare anybody there in the dark, not knowing what
might happen to us next," sighed Mike.  "We can't go back.  If we do we
should soon starve.  Think we could go to the mouth here and wade out,
and then swim to that opening we saw?"

"No," said Vince decidedly, as he recalled the aspect of the turbulent
cove from where he sat astride the stone; "no man could swim there, and
I don't believe that a small boat could live in those boiling waters."

"Then we must go boldly out," said Mike.  "Who's this fellow?  He has no
right to come here.  Why, my father would punish him severely for daring
to do it!"

"If he could catch him, Ladle, old fellow.  But the man knows it, and
that's what frightens me--I mean, makes me fidgety about it.  But we
must go."

"There is one chance, though," said Mike eagerly: "he may have taken
fright and gone with all his smuggled stuff."

"Of course he may," said Vince eagerly.  "Why, here are we fidgeting
ourselves about nothing.  While we've been sleeping in this seal cavern,
he has had his men working away to carry off all that stuff to his ship.
Poor old Ladle!  He won't even get enough silk to make his mother a
dress.  Well, are you ready?" he continued, with forced gaiety.  "I'm
hungry and thirsty, and my poor feet feel like ice."

Mike hesitated.

"We must go," said Vince, changing his tone again.  "Mike, old chap,
it's too horrid to think of them at home.  Come on."

Mike did not speak, but gave a sharp nod; and, summoning all their
resolution, and trying hard to force themselves to believe that the
smugglers had gone, they waded carefully on, now breathing more freely
as they reached the mouth, with the bright light of morning shining full
in to where they were, and sending a thrill of hope through every fibre
and vein.

They paused, but only for a few minutes; and then, after a sign to Mike,
Vince took another step or two, and leaned forward till he could peer
round the side of the low arch and scan the interior of the outer cave.

Then, slowly drawing back, after a couple of minutes' searching
examination, he spoke to Mike in a whisper.

"There isn't a sign of anybody," he said; "and I can't hear a sound.
Come on, and let's risk it."

Their pulses beat high as, bracing themselves together, they stepped
right from the low archway, moving very cautiously, so as to gaze out as
far as they could command at the cove.

They fully expected to see some good-sized vessel lying there, or at
least a large boat; but there were the sea-birds and the hurrying
waters--nothing more.  "They must have gone," whispered Vince.  "Unless
they are where we can't see--round by their cave."

"I believe they've gone," said Vince; and they stepped in on to the
soft, loose sand, to find everything belonging to them untouched.  Then,
gaining confidence, Mike stepped boldly inward, right up to the
right-hand corner beneath the fissure, and stood listening, but there
was not a sound.

"Right," he whispered, as he stepped back: "they have gone."

But the boy's heart beat faster as he led the way now to the entrance of
the inner cave; for there was the possibility of the passage being
blocked, and, another thing, it was early morning, and the smugglers
might be sleeping still in the soft sand.

Vince whispered his fears, and then, going first, he passed into the
narrow passage without a sound, and stole cautiously along it till he
could crane his head round and look.

For some moments he could see nothing, but by degrees his eyes grew
accustomed to the soft gloom, and the walls and roof and sandy floor
gradually stood out before his eyes, and the next minute, to his great
joy, he could see the rope running up into the dark archway and
disappearing there.

Nothing more: no sound of heavy breathing but his own--no trace of
danger whatever.

He drew back again and placed his lips to his companion's ear.

"It's all right," he whispered; "they must have gone.  Shall we step
back and go to the far cave and see?"

"No," said Mike decisively.  "Home."

"Yes: home!" said Vince.  "Come on."

Leading once more, he stepped into the cavern, whose interior now grew
plainer and plainer to their accustomed eyes, and, crossing at once to
the bottom of the slope, he seized the rope and gave it a sharp tug.

"Will you go first?" he whispered.

"I don't mind," replied Mike.  "No,--you;" and Vince tightened the rope
again, feeling that in a very short time they would be able to set the
anxieties of all at rest.

"Father won't be so angry when he knows," thought the boy; and, hanging
there to the rope, he was about half-way up when he let go and dropped
to the sand, for a figure suddenly appeared in the dark opening over his
head, and before he could recover from his astonishment a piercingly
shrill whistle rang through the inner cave.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

TRAPPED BIRDS.

"Quick back to the seal hole!" whispered Vince; and the boys darted to
the dark passage leading to the outer cave, and then stopped short, for
the way was blocked by a man with a drawn cutlass, and two others were
running up, while another was in the act of sliding down a rope from the
fissure.

Directly after, _thud, thud, thud_ came the sound of men dropping down
into the inner cave, and in another moment there was a rude thrust from
behind which drove Mike against Vince, and the two boys were forced
onward through the opening to the outer cave, the man with the cutlass
giving way sufficiently to let them enter, but presenting the point at
Vince's chest, while one of his comrades performed the same menacing act
for Mike, the other two taking up a position to right and left, and
effectually cutting off escape.

The next instant the figure of the big, broad-chested leader came out
into the light, and upon the boys facing round to him his features were
pretty well fixed upon their brains as they noted his smooth,
deeply-lined brown face, black curly hair streaked with grey, dark,
piercing eyes and the pair of large gold earrings in his well-formed
ears.  "Aha!" he cried, showing his white teeth, "_bonjour_, _mes amis_.
Good-a-morning, my young friends.  I hope you sal have sleep vairy vell
in my hotel.  Come along vis me: ze brearkfas is all vaiting."

This address, in a merry, bantering tone, so different from the fierce
burst of abuse which he anticipated, rather took Vince aback; and he was
the more staggered when the man held out his hand naturally enough,
which Vince gripped, Mike doing precisely the same.

"Dat is good, vairy good," said the man, while his followers looked on.
"You vill boze introduce yourself.  You are--?"

He looked hard at Mike.

"Michael Ladelle," said the owner of the name.

"And you sall be--?"

"Vincent Burnet."

"Aha, yaas.  I introduce myself--Capitaine Jacques Lebrun, at your
sairvice, and ze brearkfas vait.  You are vairy moshe ready?"

"Yes," said Vince boldly; "I want my breakfast very badly."

"Aha, yaas; and _votre ami_, he vill vant his.  You do not runs avay?"

"Not till after breakfast," said Vince, smiling.

"No?  Dat is good.  You are von brave.  Zen ve vill put avay ze carving
knife and not have out ze pistol.  _En avant_!  You know ze vay to ze
_salle-a-manger_.  You talk ze Francais, bose of you.  Aha?"

"I can understand that," said Vince.  "So can he.  _N'est-ce pas_,
Mike?"

A short nod was given in response, and the French captain clapped them
both on the shoulders, gripping them firmly and urging them along.

"It is good," he said.  "I am so _bien aise_ to see my younger friend.
Up vis you!"

"Come along, Mike," said Vince, in a low voice; "it's all right."

Mike did not seem to think so, but he followed Vince up the rope into
the fissure, after one of the armed men; the captain came next, and he
kept on talking in his bantering tone as they crept along the awkward
rift.

"Vairy clever; vairy good!" he cried.  "I see you know ze vay.  It is
_magnifique_.  You see, I find I have visitor, and zey do not know ven
ze _dejeuner_ is _pret_, so I am oblige to make one leetle--vat you call
it--trap-springe, and catch ze leetle bird."

A rope was ready at the other end of the fissure, and as Vince dropped
down it was into the presence of half a dozen more men, while in the
rapid glance that he cast round, the boy saw that a boat was drawn up on
the sand and a fire of wood was burning close down to the water's edge.
Vince noticed, too, that one of the men who followed stopped back by the
rope, with his drawn cutlass carried military fashion; and his action
gave a pretty good proof that everything had been carefully planned
beforehand in connection with the "trap-springe," as the Frenchman
called it.

Preparations had already been made for breakfast, one of the men acting
as cook; and in a short time kegs were stood on end round a beautifully
clean white tablecloth spread upon the soft sand; excellent coffee, good
bread-and-butter, and fried mackerel were placed before them, and the
French captain presided.

The boys felt exceedingly nervous and uncomfortable, for they could see
plainly enough that their captor was playing with them, and acting a
part.  They knew, too, that they were prisoners, and shivers of remorse
ran through them as the thought of the anxious ones at home kept
troubling them; but there was a masterfulness about their fierce young
appetites, sharpened to a maddening desire by long fasting, which, after
the first choking mouthful or two, would not be gainsaid; and they soon
set to work voraciously, while the captain ate as heartily, and his men,
all but the sentry, gathered together by themselves to make their
breakfast alone.

"Brava!" cried the captain, helping them liberally to the capital
breakfast before them: "I can you not tell how vairy glad I am to see my
young _amis_.  My table has not been so honour before."

At last the meal was at end, and the captain clapped his hands for the
things to be cleared away, a couple of the men leaping up and performing
this task with quite military alacrity.

The boys exchanged glances, and, without communicating one with the
other, rose together; while the captain raised his eyebrows.

"Aha!" he said: "you vant somesings else?"

"Only to say thank you for our good breakfast, and to tell you that we
are now going home."

"Going home?" said the captain grimly.  "Aha, you sink so.  Yaas,
perhaps you are right.  You _Anglais_ call it going home--_a la mort_--
to die."

"No, we don't," said Vince sharply.  "We mean going home.  We have been
out all night."

"Aha, yaas; and the _bon_ papa and mamma know vere you have come?"

"No," replied Vince quickly; "no one knows of this but us."

"_Vraiment_?" said the captain, and he looked searchingly at Mike.  "No
one knows but my young friend?"

"No," said Mike.  "We found the cave by accident; we fell into the way
that leads down, and kept it a secret."

"Good boy; but you can keep secret?"

"Yes," said Mike; "of course."

"Aha! so can I," said the captain, laughing boisterously.  "Suppose I
send you home my vay, eh?  No one know ze vay to ze cavern."

"I don't understand you," said Mike sturdily.

"_Ma foi_! vy should you understand?  I send you home, and nobody know
nosings.  _Les gens_--ze peoples--look for you; they do not find you,
and zey say--Aha, _pauvres garcons_, zey go and make a falls off ze
cliff, and ve nevaire see them any more!"

Mike turned pale; Vince laughed.

"He does not mean it, Mike," said the boy.  "We know better than that,
Captain Jacques."

"Aha, you are so clever a boy.  You vill explain how you know all ze
better zan me, le Capitaine Lebrun."

"There's nothing to explain," said Vince sturdily.  "You don't suppose
we believe you would kill us because we came down here,--here, where we
have business to come, but you have not?"

"_Aha! c'est comme ca_--it is like zat, my friend?  You may come here,
and I must not?"

"Of course," said Vince.  "This land belongs to his father, and you have
no right to put smuggled things here."

"Aha! you sink it ees like zat, eh, _mon ami_?  Ve sall see.  You vill
put yourselves down to sit."

"No, thank you," said Vince.  "We must go now."

"To fetch ze peoples to come and fight and be killed?"

"No," said Vince; "we will not say a word about where we have been."

"But we must, Vince," said Mike.  "They will ask us; and what are we to
say?"

"To be certain, my friend--of course," said the captain, showing his
teeth.  "You see it is so.  Zey vill ask vere you go all night, and you
vill say to see le Capitaine Lebrun and his cargo of silk and lace and
glove and scent bottaile and ze spice; and vat zen?"

Vince had no answer ready.

"You do not speak, my friend.  Zen I vill.  I cannot spare you to go and
speak like zat.  Nobodies must know that I have my leetle place to hide
here.  No, I cannot spare you.  You will not go back _chez vous_--to
your place vere you live.  You understand?"

Vince looked at the man very hard, and he nodded, and went on:

"I am glad to see you bose.  I make myself very glad of vat you call you
compagnie.  But I do not ask you to come; and so I say you go back
nevaire more."

"You don't mean that!" said Vince, with a laugh that was very
artificial.

"Aha!  I do not mean?  You vill see I mean.  I sall see you vill sit
down."

"No," said Vince firmly.  "I am not frightened, and I insist upon going
now."

"It is so?  How you go?"

"Out by the passage yonder."

"Faith of a good man, no.  I say to myselfs, `People have come down
zere, and it muss not be,' so ze place is stop up vis big stone--so big
you nevaire move zem.  But zere's ze ozaire vay."

"Well, we will go the other way," said Vince firmly.  "Ready, Mike?"

"Yes, I'm ready," said Mike, pressing to his side.

"You know ze ozaire vay, my young friend?" said the captain.

"No: how do you go?"

"You take a boat, and a good pilot.  You have ze good boat and pilot?"

"No," said Vince, who had hard work to be calm, with a great fear coming
over him like a cloud; "but you will set us ashore, please."

The captain laughed in a peculiar way, and he was about to speak, when
one of his men came up and said something.

"Aha!" he cried, "but it is good.  You go, my young friends, and stay
behind my cargo zere.  You vill not come till I say you sall."

He pointed to the upper part of the cavern, but Vince said firmly:

"We cannot stay any longer, sir.  We must go now."

The captain turned upon him savagely, and the next moment a couple of
the men had seized the boys and run them up behind the pile of bales,
and then stood on either side, with drawn cutlasses, to act as guards.

"What are we to do, Vince?" said Mike.

"I don't know.  It seems like nonsense, and playing with us; but we are
prisoners, and--Who's that?"

They both listened in wonder, for they heard their names mentioned
angrily by the captain, who was speaking threateningly to some one who
replied in a tone that they recognised directly.

"Aha! you lie to me.  Ve sall see.  Here, you two boy, come here,
_vite_--_vite_!"

The guards made way for them, and followed just behind, as they marched
back to where the captain was seated, with old Daygo standing before
him.

The old man gave each of them a peculiar look, and then turned to the
captain again.

"Now zen," cried that individual, "you 'ave seen zis man.  Him you
know?"

"Yes," said Vince; "of course we do."

"Aha! ze old friend.  And he tell you of ze cavern and ze smuggling, and
how you find ze vay here?"

"No, not a word," said Vince stoutly.  "But I can see now why you
wouldn't bring us round by the Black Scraw, Joe."

"Aha! ze vairy old friend.  It is Joe!" said the captain fiercely.

"Well, why not?" said Vince quickly.  "Old Joe has taken us in his boat
scores of times fishing and sailing."

"And told you of ze goods here in my cavern?"

"Not a word," said Vince.

"I do not believe," said the captain.

"'Course I never told 'em," growled Daygo.  "I dunno how they come here.
I watched 'em times enough, and when I couldn't watch I set a boy to
see wheer they went.  I couldn't do no more, Capen."

The Frenchman looked at them all in turn fiercely, and then he fixed his
eyes on old Daygo again.

"And ze peoples up above, zey are look for zem--ze boy?"

"I dunno," said Daygo.  "I didn't know they were here, and I dunno how
they come.  Dropt down with a rope, young gen'lemen?"

"No, zay come anozaire vay, my friend.  It is good luck for you I do not
find zey know how of you.  But sink no one on ze island know?"

"I dunno," said Daygo.  "They don't know from me."

"You can go," said the captain sharply, and the old fisherman thrust his
hands very deeply down in the pockets of his huge trousers and was
turning slowly away when Mike cried:

"Stop!"

Daygo turned slowly back, and the captain watched the boy with his dark
eyes glittering as he sat facing the light.

"Are you going back home?" cried Mike.

"Ay, m'lad, when the skipper's done with me."

"Then never mind what he says: you go straight to the Mount and tell my
father everything, and that we are kept here like prisoners."

"Nay, young gen'leman," said Daygo, rolling his head slowly from side to
side, "I warnt you both agen it over and over agen, when you 'most
downed on your knees, a-beggin' and a-prayin' of me to bring you round
by the Scraw; but I never would, now would I, Master Vince?"

"No, you old scoundrel!" cried Vince hotly.  "I can see now: because
you're a smuggler too."

Old Daygo chuckled.

"Didn't I tell you both never to think about it, because there was awful
currents and things as dragged boats under, and that it was as dangerous
as it could be?  Now speak up like a man, Master Vince, and let Capen
Jarks hear the truth."

"Truth!" said Vince scornfully; "do you call that truth, telling us both
a pack of lies, when you must have been coming here often yourself?"

"Eh?  Well, s'pose I did, young gen'leman: it was on my lorful business,
and you fun out fer yourselves as it's no place for boys like you."

"Look here," said Vince fiercely: "you've got to do what Michael Ladelle
says, and to tell my father too."

"Nay, my lad; that arn't no lorful business of mine."

"Do you mean to say that you will not tell?"

"Ay, my lad: I'm sorry for you both, proper lads as you are; but you
would come, and it's no fault o' mine."

"You Joe," cried Vince angrily: "if you do not warn them above where we
are, you'll never be able to live on the island again, and you'll be
severely punished."

"Who's to tell agen me?" said the old man sharply.

"Why, I shall, and Mike here, of course."

"When?" said Daygo, in a peculiar tone of voice.

"As soon as ever we get back; and you'll be punished.  I suppose Captain
Jacques here will have sailed away."

"Soon as you get back, eh, young gen'lemen?  Did Capen Jarks say as he
was going to send you home?"

"No," said Vince; "but he will have to soon."

"I'm sorry for you, my lads--sorry for you," growled Daygo; and a chill
ran through both the boys, as they saw the Frenchman looking at them in
a very peculiar way.  "Sorry--yes, lads, but I did my best fer you, and
so good-bye."

"No, no," cried Mike excitedly; "don't go and leave us, Joe.  Tell the
captain here that if we say we'll promise not to speak to any one about
the place we'll keep our words."

Daygo shook his head.

"It's o' no use for me to say nothin', Master Mike: he's master here,
and does what he likes.  You hadn't no business to come a-shovin'
yourself into his place."

"It is not his place," cried Mike indignantly; "it is my father's
property."

"I arn't got no time to argufy about that, my lad.  He says it's his,
and all this here stuff as you sees is his too.  Here, I must be off, or
I shall lose this high tide and be shut-in."

"No, no, Joe--stop!" cried Mike.  "I'll--"

"Hold your tongue, Ladle," whispered Vince.  "Don't do that; they'll
think we're regular cowards.  Here you, Joe Daygo, if you go away and
don't give notice to Sir Francis or my father about our being kept here
by this man--"

"Say the Capen or the skipper, my lad," growled Daygo.  "Makes him
orkard if he hears people speak dis-speckful of him."

"Pooh!" exclaimed Vince hotly.  "I say, you know what the consequences
will be."

"Yes, my lad; they won't never know what become of you."

Vince winced, in spite of his determination to be firm, on hearing the
cold-blooded way in which the old fisherman talked, but he spoke out
boldly.

"Do you mean to say he will dare to keep us here?"

"Yes, my lad, or take you away with him, or get rid of you somehow.  You
see he's capen and got his crew, and can do just what he likes."

"No, he can't," said Vince; "the law will not let him."

"Bless your 'art, Master Vince, he don't take no notice o' no law.  But
I hope he won't drownd you both, 'cause you see we've been friendly
like.  P'r'aps he'll on'y ship you off to Bottonny Bay, or one o' they
tother-end-o'-the-world places, where you can't never come back to tell
no tales."

"I don't believe it: he dare not.  Don't take any notice, Mike; he's
only saying this to scare us, and we're not going to be scared."

"Now, _mon ami_," cried the captain, "you vill not get out if you do not
depart zis minute.  I cannot spare to have you drowned.  I sall sail
to-night, and you vill be here ready?"

"Ay, ay, I'll be here," growled Daygo.

"Then you are coming back?" said Vince quickly.

"That's so, Master Vince.  How's he going to get the _Belle-Marie_ out
without me to pilot him?  Yes, I'm comin' back to-night, my lad; and I
hope I shall see you agen."

He said these last words in a whisper, which sent a chill through the
lads, for that he was serious there could be no doubt.

By this time two men were down by the boat, that was now half in the
water, which had risen till she was rocking sidewise to and fro; and
smartly enough the old fisherman turned and trotted over the sand to
join in thrusting the boat out, and then sprang in.

This was too much for Mike, who made a sudden dash after him.

"Come on, Vince," he cried; and the boy followed, but only to catch hold
of his companion as he clung to the bows of the boat.

"Don't I don't do that, Mike," cried Vince; "you couldn't get away."

Three men who had rushed after them, and were about to seize the
prisoners, refrained as soon as they saw Vince's action; and the boat
with old Daygo on board glided out among the rocks, and then passed off
out of sight, round the left buttress of the cavern mouth.

This was enough: Mike turned furiously upon Vince and struck him,
sending him staggering backward over the thick sand; and, unable to keep
his balance, the lad came down in a sitting position.

"You coward!" cried Mike: "if it hadn't been for you we might have got
away."

"Coward, am I?" cried Vince, as he sprang up and dashed at his
assailant, with fists clenched and everything forgotten now but the
blow.  He did not strike out, though, in return, for an arm was thrown
across his chest and a gruff voice growled out,--

"Are we to let 'em have it out, Capen Jarks?"

"No; _mais_ I sink zey might have von leetle rights.  _Non, non, non_!
You do not vant to fight now, _mes enfans_; you have somesings else to
sink.  You feel like a big coward?"

"No, I don't," said Vince, to whom the words were addressed: "I'll let
him see if you'll make this man let go."

"_Non, non, non_!" said the captain, raising his hand to tug at one of
the rings in his ears.  "You do not vant to fight.  Let me see."

He began to feel the muscles of Vince's arms, and nodded as if with
satisfaction.

"It seem a pity to finish off a boy like you.  I sink you vould make a
good sailor and a fine smugglaire on my sheep.  Perhaps I sall not kill
you."

"Bah!" cried Vince, looking him full in the face.  "Do you think I'm
such a little child as to be frightened by what you say?"

"Leetle schile?  _Non, non.  Vous etes un brave garcon_--a big, brave
boy.  Zere, you sall not fight like you _Anglais_ bouledogues, and vat
you call ze game coq.  You _comprends, mon enfant_."

"Then you'd better take him away," cried Vince, who was effervescing
with wrath against his companion.

"Aha, yaas," said the Frenchman, grinning.  "You sink I better tie you
up like ze dogue.  But, faith of a man, you fly at von and anozaire I
sall--"

He drew a small pistol out of his breast, and, giving both lads a
significant look,--

"Zere," he continued, "I sall not chain you bose up.  You can run about
and help vis ze crew.  I only say to you ze passage is block up vis big
stone, ze hole vere ze seal live is no good--ze rock hang over ze wrong
vay.  You try to climb, and you are not ze leetler _mouche_--fly.  You
fall and die; and if you essay to svim, ze sharp tide take you avay to
drown.  Go and svim if you like: I sall not have ze pain to drown you.
But, my faith! vy do I tell you all zis?  You bose know zat you cannot
get avay now ze passage is stop up vis stone, and I stop him vis a man
who has sword and pistol as vell.  Go and help ze men."

He walked away, leaving the boys together, carefully avoiding each
other's eyes, as they felt that they were prisoners indeed, and wondered
what was to be their fate.

Vince took a few turns up and down upon the sand with his hands deep in
his pockets.  Mike seated himself upon the keg he had occupied over his
breakfast, for in their frame of mind they both resented being ordered
to go and help the men; but at that time the worst pang of all seemed to
be caused by the fact that, just at the moment when they wanted each
other's help and counsel, with the strength of mind given by the feeling
that they were together, they were separated by the unfortunate conduct
of one.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

THE PIRATE CAPTAIN OF THEIR DREAMS.

The walk did Vince good, for the action given to his muscles carried off
the sensation which made his fists clench from time to time in his
pockets and itch to be delivering blows wherever he could make them
light on his companion's person.

He did not notice that he was ploughing a rut in the sand by going
regularly to and fro, for he was thinking deeply about their position;
and as he thought, the dread that the captain's words had inspired,
endorsed as they were by Daygo's, began to fade away, till he found
himself half contemptuously saying to himself that he should like to
catch the skipper at it--it meaning something indefinite that might mean
something worse, but in all probability keeping them prisoners till he
had got away all his stores of smuggled goods.

Then, as the rut in the sand grew deeper from the regular tramp up and
down, Vince's thoughts flitted from the trouble felt by his mother, who
must be terribly anxious, to his companion, whose back was towards him,
and who with elbows on knees had bent down to rest his chin upon his
hands.

Vince was a little surprised at himself, and rather disposed to think
that he was weak; for somehow all the hot blood had gone out of his arms
and fists, which were now perfectly cool, and felt no longer any desire
to fly about as if charged with pugno-electricity, which required
discharging by being brought into contact with Mike's chest or head.

"Poor old Ladle!" he found himself thinking: "what a temper he was in!
But it was too bad to hit out like that, when what I did was to help
him.  But there, he didn't know."

Vince was pretty close to his fellow-prisoner now; but he had to turn
sharply round and walk away.

"Glad I didn't hit him again, because if I had we should have had a big
fight and I should have knocked him about horribly and beaten him well,
and I don't want to.  I'm such a stupid when I get fighting: I never
feel hurt--only as if I must keep on hitting; and then all those sailor
fellows would have been looking on and grinning at us.  Glad we didn't
fight."

Then Vince began to think again of their position, which he told himself
was very horrible, but not half so bad as that of the people at both
their homes, where, only a mile or two away from where they were, the
greatest trouble and agony must reign.

"And us all the time with nothing the matter with us, and sitting down
as we did and eating such a breakfast!  Seems so unfeeling; only I felt
half-starved, and when I began I could think of nothing else.--Such
nonsense! he's not going to kill us, or he wouldn't have given us
anything to eat.  Here, I can't go on like this."

Vince stopped his walk to and fro at the end of the beaten-out track in
the sand, and turned off to stand behind Mike, who must have heard him
come, but did not make the slightest movement.

Then there was silence, broken by the voice of the French captain giving
his orders to his men, who were evidently rearranging the stores ready
for removal.

"I say, Mike," said Vince at last.

No answer.

"Michael."

Still no movement.  "Mr Michael Ladelle."

Vince might have been speaking to the tub upon which his fellow-prisoner
was seated, for all the movement made.

"Michael Ladelle, Esquire, of the Mount," said Vince; and there was a
good-humoured look in his eyes, which twinkled merrily; but the other
did not stir.

"Ladle, then," cried Vince; but without effect,--Mike was still gazing
at the sand before him.

"I say, don't be such a sulky old Punch.  Why don't you speak?  I want
to talk to you about getting away.  Mike--Ladle--I say, you did hurt
when you hit out at me.  I shall have to pay you that back!"

No answer.

"Look here: aren't you going to say you're sorry for it and shake
hands?"

Vince waited for a while and then burst out impatiently,--

"Look here, if you don't speak I'll kick the tub over and let you down."

All in vain: Mike did not move, and Vince began to grow impatient.

"Here, I say," he cried, "I know I'm a bit of a beast sometimes, but you
can't say I'm sulky.  I did nothing; and if it was I, you know I'd have
owned I was in the wrong and held out my fist--open; not like you did,
to knock a fellow down."

Another pause, and Vince exclaimed,--

"Well, I _am_--"

He did not say what, but stood with extended arm.

"I say, Mikey," he said softly, "I know you haven't got any eyes in the
back of your head, so I may as well tell you.  I'm holding out my hand
for a shake, and my arm's beginning to ache."

"Don't--don't!" said Mike now, in a low voice, full of the misery the
lad felt.  "I feel as if you were jumping on me for what I did."

"Do you?  Well, I'm not going to jump on you.  Come, I have got you to
speak at last, and there's an end of it.  I say, Ladle, it's too stupid
for us two to be out now, when we want to talk about how we're stuck
here."

"I feel as if I can't speak to you," said Mike huskily.

"More stupid you.  Didn't I tell you it's all over now?  You were in a
passion, and so was I.  Now you're not in a passion, no more am I; so
that's all over.  You heard what the pirate captain said about us?"

"Yes," said Mike dolefully.

"Well, he and old Joe--Here, Ladle: I'm going to kick old Joe.  I don't
care about his being old and grey.  A wicked old sneak!--I'll kick him,
first chance I get, for leaving us in the lurch; but that isn't what I
was going to say.  Here, why don't you turn round and sit up?  Don't let
those beggars think we're afraid of them.  I won't be,--see if I am."

Mike slowly changed his position, turning round and sitting up.

"Now, then, that's better," said Vince.  "What was I going to say?  Oh!
I know.  The pirate captain and old Joe wanted to make us believe that
we were to be taken out to sea, to walk the plank or be hung or shot or
something."

"Joe said something about Botany Bay and sending us there."

"No, he didn't; he said Bottonny, and there is no such place.  He
couldn't do it, and he couldn't keep us prisoners here."

"He might kill us."

"No, he mightn't.  Bah! what a silly old Ladle you are!  He couldn't.
People don't do such things now, only in stories.  I tell you what I
believe."

"What?" said Mike, for Vince paused as if to think.

"Well, I believe he feels that his old smuggler's cave is done for now
we've found out the way down to it, so he's going to clear it out and
start another somewhere else.  He means to keep us prisoners till the
last keg's on board, and as soon as this is done he'll go to his boat
and take his hat off to us and tell us we may have the caverns all to
ourselves."

"Think so?" said Mike, looking up at his companion for the first time.

"Yes, I believe that's it, Ladle; and if it wasn't for knowing how
miserable they must be over yonder I should rather like all this--that
is, if you're going to play fair and not get hitting out when we ought
to be the best of friends."

"Don't--don't, Cinder: I can't bear it," groaned Mike, letting his head
drop in his hands.  "I hurt myself a hundred times more than I hurt
you."

"Oh, did you!  Ha! ha!" cried Vince.  "Come, I like that: why, I shall
have a bruise as big as the top of my hat!  Oh, I say, Ladle, old chap,
don't--don't talk like that!  It's all right.  You thought I was
fighting against you.  Sit up.  Some of the beggars will see."

Mike sat up with his face twitching, and kept his back to the upper part
of the cavern.

"That's better.  Well, I say I should really like it if it wasn't for
them at home.  I call it a really good, jolly adventure, such as you
read of in books.  Now, what we've got to do is to wait till they're
asleep, cut off all their heads with their own cutlasses, seize the
boat, row off to the lugger, wait till old Joe comes back, and then
spike him with the points of cutlasses till he pilots us out safely.
Then we've got to sail home as prize crew of the lugger, which would be
ours.  Stop! there's something we haven't done."

Mike stared.

"Old Joe.  As soon as we're out of the dangerous passages we've got to
batten him down in the hold, and that's the end of the adventure."

"How can you go on like that?" said Mike piteously.  "Making fun of it
all, when we're so miserable."

"That's why: just to cheer us up a bit, and set us thinking about what's
next to do."

"I can't think," said Mike.  "It's a pity we didn't stop in the seal
hole."

"Stop there?  We should have felt nice by now.  Why, our legs would be
all swollen, and we should be so hungry that--Here, I say, Ladle, you
wouldn't have been safe.  I wonder how you'd taste?"

"I say, do be serious, Cinder.  It's too horrible to laugh at it."

"Well, so it is, old chap, but I am thinking hard all the time, yet I
can't see any way out of it.  I know we could swim almost like seals;
but look at the water out there,--we couldn't do anything in it."

"No, we should be sucked down in five minutes."

"Yes.  The old pirate knows it, too, and that's why he leaves us alone.
I say, he does look like a pirate, though, doesn't he? with that pistol,
and the rings in his ears."

"Oh!  I never saw a pirate, only on those pictures we tried to paint.
But what about the cliffs?"

"No good.  They're either straight up and down or overhanging.  We
couldn't do it."

"We might get over the other side and make signals."

"Yes; there is something in that.  But don't you think we might get away
by the passage?  The sentry may go to sleep."

"No good," said Mike bitterly.  "Those fellows daren't."

"S'pose not," said Vince thoughtfully.  "Old Jarks is the sort of chap
to wake 'em up with his pistol.  It's of no use yet, Ladle; the idea
hasn't come.  Yes, it has!  Why can't we wait our chance and seize the
boat and get it off?  We could manage."

"Hush!" whispered Mike.

The warning was needed, for the captain came from the back of the stack
of packages, and marched down towards where they were.



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

WHAT WILL HE DO WITH US?

"Aha!" he cried.  "So you sall not try to escape any more?"

"No," said Vince coolly, looking the speaker full in the face.  "I say,
what time do you have dinner?"

The Frenchman stared at him for a few moments fiercely, and then burst
into a boisterous fit of laughter.

"You are a _drole de garcon_" he said.  "You are again hungry?"

"I shall be by the time it's ready.  But, I say, captain, how much
longer are you going to keep us here?"

"Aha!" he said, with a shrug of the shoulders and a peculiar
gesticulation with his hand, as if he were throwing something away,
while he looked at them both sidewise through his half-closed eyes: "You
are fatigue so soon?  You vant to go somevere else?"

"We want to go home."

"Good leetler boy: he vant to go home.  But not yet, _mes amis_.  You
give the good capitain all zis pains to move his cargo, and you vill not
help."

"Oh, I'm ready enough to help," said Vince.  "So's he; but they will be
very anxious about us at home."

"Ta ta ta ta ta!" cried the captain.  "Vy, you sink so mosh of your
selfs.  Ze _bon papa_ vill say to _la maman_, `Ah! _ma chere_, dose boy
go and tomble zem selfs off ze cliff;' and ze _maman_ sall wipe her eye
and say, `_pauvre garcon_--poor boy, it is vat I expect.'"

"And instead of that," said Vince, "you are going to send us home, and
then they will not be fidgeting any more."

"Aha! you sink so.  Vell, ve sall see.  So I go to be vairy busy, and it
is better zat you two do not fight any more.  So come vis me."

"Where?" said Vince suspiciously.

"Vere?  Oh! you sall see, _mon brave_, vairy soon."

The boys exchanged glances, but feeling that it was hopeless to resist,
they followed the captain down to where the boat was lying, just as she
had returned a few minutes before, without Daygo.

The men in her were just keeping her afloat, but they ran her stern on
to the sand as they saw the captain coming, and one of them leaped out
to hold her steady.

"In vis you!" said the captain sharply.

"All right, Mike," whispered Vince.  "Come on, and don't seem to mind."

He set the example by putting one foot on the gunwale and springing in
lightly.  Mike followed, and then the captain; while the man standing
ankle-deep in the water waited till they were seated, and then, giving
the boat a good thrust out, sprang on the stern, and climbed in as they
glided over the transparent water, stepping forward quickly to seize an
oar, and pulling sharply with his companion.

The boys gazed eagerly upward as soon as they were clear of the great
overhanging archway, and saw the impossibility of escape by any
cliff-climbing; for the mighty rocks were at least twenty feet out of
the perpendicular, leaning over towards the little bay, whose waters
were running, eddying and boiling like a whirlpool as they raced along,
seizing the boat's head and seeming about to drag her right along
towards a jagged cluster of rocks, standing just above the surface, and
amidst which the current raged and foamed furiously.

But the men knew their work.  One pulled hard, the other backed water,
and by their united efforts the boat was forced into an eddy close under
the cliff; and to their amazement the boys found that they were being
carried in the opposite direction to that in which the main body of the
water was racing along.

"You vill escape and climb ze cliff?  No, _mes enfans_," said the
captain: "you cannot climb.  You vill take my boat to go avay?  Aha! you
sink so?  No, it is not for you to manage ze boat.  She vill capsize
herself if you try."

Vince said nothing, but eagerly looked around; but it was everywhere the
same--the roaring waters tearing wildly along in the crater-like cove,
and from their seat in the boat no entrance, no exit, was visible.

"Now I take you bose and drop you ovaire-board: you sink, you go home?"
said the captain, showing his teeth.  "Yaas, you go home, but not to see
ze _bon papa_, ze _belle maman_.  It is not possible.  Von of my men say
von day he have sick of me, and he vill go.  He shump ovaire-board to
svim, and he svim vis his arm and leg von, two, twenty stroke, and zen
he trow _les mains_ out of ze vater, and he cry for ze boat; but zere
vas no boat, and he turn round upon himself two time, and go down a hole
in ze vater.  I stand and look at him, but he came up again nevaire.  He
vas a good man--_bon matelot_--but he go.  You like to shump in and
svim?  _Eh bien_, you shake ze hand, shump in.  _Au revoir_, but ve
shall meet again nevaire.  You go?  _Non?  Eh bien_!  I make you ze
offaire."

The boys felt that it was all true, and marvelled where they were going,
for the eddy was taking them along by the mighty rocks, which were
overhanging them again; and, as far as they could make out, the cliffs
under which they passed and the ridge away facing the cavern mouth,
which they had imagined to be an island, were all one.

The captain seemed to be paying little heed to them, sitting with his
eyes half-closed; but he was watching them all the time closely, and
noted their astonishment as the men suddenly began to tug at their oars
with all their might, apparently to avoid a rock, round one side of
which the water was rushing with tremendous force, just as if the eddy
stream along which they had been riding suddenly curved round it.  The
men were making for the other end, and as they drew nearer the water
roared and splashed up, and it appeared to both that they must be
carried right upon it by some undertow.

But every foot of the place, and all its difficulties, were perfectly
familiar to the captain's crew, and by making use of the many cross
streams and eddies, they were able to guide the boat into safety, as in
this case; for just as Mike seized the gunwale with one hand, to be
prepared for the shock, and Vince clenched his fists and gave a glance
to the left, the boat's prow passed the end of the detached rock, they
glided into an opening like a gash cut down through the massive
rock-wall, and the next minute were swept into a comparatively calm
pool, surrounded by towering cliffs, which seemed to overlap on their
right; and there, right before them, rode by a couple of hawsers
attached to great rings fixed in the rock-face behind, a long, low
three-masted lugger of the kind known as a _chasse-maree_.

Vince looked sharply round for the channel by which this vessel must
come and go--for it seemed certain that such a way must exist, since so
large a boat could not by any means have entered the circular cove
facing the cavern; and he was not long in seeing that, some twenty or
thirty feet beyond her bow, the water was coming swiftly in round the
cliff, which lapped over another to its right, but so calmly did the
tide run that at the first its motion was unperceived.

Vince had hardly grasped this fact, when the boat was run up alongside,
one of the men sprang into the lugger with the boat's painter and made
it fast, while the boat seemed to tug to get away, and the captain
turned to his prisoners.

"Aboard!" he said sharply; and as there was nothing for it but to obey,
Vince made a virtue of necessity, and going forward, climbed up and over
the bulwark, to stand upon a beautifully white deck, and see that
rigging, sails and spars were all in the highest state of order.

Six or eight men were waiting, and they came aft at once, to stand as if
waiting for orders, while Mike and the captain stepped on board.

"Back at once!" said the Frenchman to a stern-looking, red-faced man,
who appeared to be the mate.  "All ze boats; and work hard to get all on
board."

This order was given in a low tone, but Vince's ears were sharpened by
his position, and he divined its full meaning.

The men hurried to the side, and rapidly began to lower one of the boats
hanging to the davits; while in his close scrutiny Vince grasped the
fact that they were upon no peaceful vessel: there being a couple of
longish guns forward, and another pair aft, all evidently in the best of
trim, and ready for use at a very short notice.

While the men were busy the captain came to where the boys were standing
together aft, and laying his hands upon their shoulders, he led them
forward to where one of the stout hawsers ran over the side to the great
ring secured in the rock.

"You see zat hawser, _mon ami_?" he said.

"Yes," said Vince wonderingly.

"Look you zen at ze ozaire."

"Yes, I see it," said Vince.

"Vat you make of zem?"

"They look strained too much, and as if they would part."

"Good boy!  You vould make a good sailor.  Zey vill not part, for zey
are new, and _tres fort_--strong.  Now you look here, _mon ami_."

As he spoke he picked up a heavy dwarf bucket, with its rope attached,
raised it above his head, and hurled it some twenty feet into the smooth
water between the lugger and the high cliff face.

The water was like glass, and streaked with fine threads apparently; and
the next minute the lads grasped the reason why, for the bucket had
hardly touched the water when it began to be borne towards the lugger's
side, striking it directly after sharply, and then diving down out of
sight.

Vince ran across the deck instantly to see it rise; and Mike followed,
the captain joining them to lay his hands upon their shoulders once
more.

"Aha! you see him come up again?  No?  Look _encore_ and _encore_, and
you nevaire sall see him.  Vat you say to zat?"

"There must be a tremendous current," said Vince.  "Yais,--now," said
the captain.  "_Apres_, some time he run all ze ozaire vay and grind ze
sheep close up right to ze rock.  Vat you sink now?  You shump ovaire,
and svim avay?  You creep along ze hawser and try to climb up ze cliff?
No, I sink not now.  You stay here on ze deck and vait till I vant you--
ven ze boat come back.  Dat is vy I show you how go avay ze bucket.
Look now again."

One of the boats was ready, and two men in her.  The rope that held her
to the side was cast off, and in an instant she glided away across the
pool, towards an opening that had been unnoticed before, was deftly
steered, and passed out of sight.

"Why, she must come out where we saw the water rushing at the other end
of the rock!" thought Vince; and he stood watching while the other boats
left the side of the lugger, to be cleverly guided to the same spot, and
glide out of sight directly.

A feeling of helplessness came over the boys as they saw all this, and
realised that now they were, beside the captain and a man who kept going
in and out of a low, hutch-like place forward, the only occupants of the
vessel; and that if their captor had any particular designs upon them,
this would be the likely time for their happening.  But they now had
proof that this was not going to be the case, for the Frenchman took no
further heed to them.  He went to the cabin-hatch and descended, leaving
them with the deck to themselves.

"What do you think of it now?" asked Mike dolefully.

"I don't know," said Vince, gazing up at the towering rocks, dotted with
yellow ragwort and sea-pink, by which they were surrounded; "but it's a
change.  I wouldn't care if they only knew at home about our being safe.
I say, isn't it likely that some one may come along the cliffs and be
searching for us, and then we can signal to him?"

"Who ever came along the cliffs and looked down here?" said Mike.
"We've been about as much as any one, but we never looked down into this
pool."

"No," said Vince thoughtfully: "it puzzles me.  I hardly make out
whereabouts we are.  I say, though, look forward: that's the galley, and
the chap we saw is the cook."

"Of course," said Mike; "there's the chimney, and the smoke coming out."

"Let's go and see what there is for dinner."

Mike's forehead wrinkled up, and he felt disposed to say something
reproachful; but he was silent, and followed his companion to the galley
door, where the man they had seen looked up at them grimly, and as if
resenting their presence.

"What's for dinner, old chap?" said Vince coolly.

The sour look on the man's face passed away.  Vince's countenance, and
his free-and-easy way, seemed to find favour, and he said gruffly,--

"Lobscouse."

"What, for the skipper?" said Vince, who had a lively memory of the
captain's breakfast.

"Men," said the man laconically.

"And for the skipper?"

The man smiled grimly, and took the lid off a pot, which arose an
agreeable steam, that was appetising and suggested good soup.  Then,
without a word, he pointed to a dish upon which lay a pair of thick
soles, and to another, on which, ready egged and crumbed, were about a
dozen neatly prepared veal cutlets.

"Got any potatoes," said Vince.

The man raised a lid and showed the familiar vegetable, bubbling away on
the little stove, which was roaring loudly, and put the saucepan down
again.

"Well, we shan't starve," said Vince, as they each gave the cook a nod
and walked as far forward as they could.  "Captain hasn't a bad notion
about eating and drinking."

"And smuggling and kidnapping," said Mike bitterly.

"Kidnapping!" said Vince cheerily.  "Ah, to be sure, that's the very
word: I thought something had been done to us that there's a proper word
for.  That's it, Ladle--kidnapped.  Yes, we've been kidnapped.--I say!"

"Well?"

"Look here: are we two chaps worth anything?"

"I don't feel to be now," said Mike; "I'm too miserable."

"Well, so am I miserable enough, but I suppose we must be worth
something, and that's why the skipper's going to feed us well."

"What nonsense have you got in your head now?"

"Nonsense?  I call it some sense.  For that's it, Ladle, as sure as you
stand there; he has kidnapped us, and he's going to take us right away
somewhere.  Ladle, old chap, I feel as sure of it as if he'd told us.
It is all nonsense about making an end of us.  I was sure it only meant
trying to frighten us; but we're two big, strong, healthy lads, and he's
going to take us right away."

"Do you mean it?  What for?"

Vince looked sadly at his companion in misfortune for a few moments, and
then he said huskily,--

"To sell!"



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

PRISONERS, BUT NOT OF WAR.

Michael Ladelle was a good-looking lad, as people judge good looks; but
at that moment, as he stood with his hand resting on the bulwarks of _La
Belle-Marie_, he was decidedly plain, so blank and semi-idiotic did he
seem, with his eyes dilated, his jaw dropped and his brains evidently
gone wool-gathering, as people say, so utterly unable was he to
comprehend his companion's announcement.

Still it was only a matter of moments before he shut his mouth, and then
nearly closed his eyes, wrinkled up his face, and burst into a fit of
laughter, which, however, was of so hysterical a nature that for a time
he could not check it.  At last, though, he mastered it sufficiently to
say,--

"To do what with us?"

"To sell," said Vince again, as he gazed sadly in his companion's face.

"To sell!" cried Mike, growing more calm now; and his voice had a ring
of contempt in it as he said,--

"Why, any one would think this was Africa, and we were blacks.  What
nonsense!"

"It isn't nonsense," said Vince.  "That man will do anything sooner than
have it known where his hiding-place is; and he won't kill us--he dares
not on account of his men; but he'll get us out of the way so that we
shan't be able to tell."

"Oh, I won't believe it!" cried Mike angrily.  "Such a thing couldn't be
done."

"But it has been done over and over again," said Vince: "I've read of
it.  They used to sell men and boys to sea-captains to take out to the
plantations; and once they were there, they had no chance given them of
getting back for years and years."

"I don't believe it," said Mike sharply.  "It might have been in the
past, but it couldn't be done now."

"That's what I've been trying to think," said Vince sadly; "but this
wouldn't be done in England.  This is a Frenchman, and the French have
colonies abroad, the same as we have.  How do we know where he'll take
us?"  Mike started at this, and looked more disturbed.  "I say," he said
at last, "you don't really think that, do you, Vince?"

"I wish I didn't," replied the boy sadly; "but it's what has seemed to
come to me, since we've been on board here.  I don't know where this man
comes from, but he's a regular smuggler, and there's no knowing where
he'll take us."

"But my father--your father--you don't suppose they'll stand still and
let us be taken off without trying to stop it.  Father's just like a
magistrate in the island."

"Of course they wouldn't stand still and allow it to be done; but how
will they know?"

Mike was silent, and his face now began to look haggard as he stared at
his companion.

"Whoever knew that this Captain Jacques had a place in the island where
he stored rich cargoes of foreign things?  Why, he may have been doing
it for years, and your father, though he is like a magistrate, hasn't
known anything about it."

"No, nor your father either," said Mike sadly.  "I don't think anything
of that," continued Vince; "what I do think a great deal of is that
neither you nor I, who've always been climbing about the cliffs and
boating shouldn't have found it out before."

"But surely now we're missing they'll find it out," cried Mike, who was
ready to snatch at any straw of hope.

"I don't see how," said Vince.  "They're sure to think that one of us
met with an accident, and that the other was drowned in trying to save
him."

Mike was silent for some moments, during which he stood gazing wistfully
at his fellow-prisoner.

"That would be very nice of them to think that of us," he said at last,
slowly.  "But do you think they would believe us likely to be so brave?"

"Oh yes, they'd think so," said Vince quickly--"I'm sure they would; but
I don't know about it's being brave.  It's only what two fellows would
do one for the other.  It's what English chaps always do, of course, but
it's like making a lot of fuss about it to call it brave.  I should say
it's what a fellow should do, that's all."

"And no one knows--no one saw us go to the hole," said Mike bitterly.
"Oh, I say, Vince, we have made a mess of it to keep it a secret."

"Yes, we have, and no mistake."

"And no one knows," repeated Mike thoughtfully.  "Don't you think
Lobster might know, and tell them?"

"No, I'm sure he can't.  Of course old Joe knows; but he won't speak,
because if he did, and told the truth, the captain here would be ready
to shoot him."

"And my father would have him locked up, and tried for what he has
done."

"Yes," said Vince, nodding his head; "Joe won't speak--you may depend
upon that.  Why, Mike, while we were fishing for that crab, and were so
still, some one must have come across the cave behind us and never known
we were there."

"Yes, and then we were caught as fast as the crab was and--"

"_Eh bien, mes enfans_, my good boy, are you hungry for your dinner?"

"Not very," said Vince, turning sharply as the skipper came silently up
behind them.  "We feel as if we should like to dine at home."

"Aha!  You not mean zat, my _bon garcon_.  Not ven I ask you to have
dine vis me.  Let us go and demand vat ze cook man--ze _chef_--have to
give us, for it is long time since ze _dejeuner_ and ve have much to do
after.  Come, sheer up, as ze sailor _Anglais_ say.  You like ze sea?"

"Yes," said Vince; "both of us do."

"And you can reef and furl ze sail?"

"Yes, we've often been in a boat."

"Brava! it is good; and, aha! ze brave cook go to prepare ze cabin for
ze dinnaire.  You sall bose be my compagnie _cet_--to-day."

Just then Vince caught sight of one of the lugger's boats, and noticed
that it was particularly broad and punt-like in make, evidently so that
it should carry a big load and at the same time draw little water--a
shape that would save it from many dangers in passing over rocks, and
also be very convenient for running in and landing upon the sands.

This boat was very heavily laden with bales, carefully ranged and
stacked, while the boat's gunwale was so close to the surface that a
lurch would have caused the water to flow in.

But the men who managed her seemed to be quite accustomed to their task;
and after a sharp look directed at them by the skipper, he paid no more
attention, but walked away.

It was different, though, with the boys; who, having ideas of their own
connected with escaping from their position, watched the approach of the
boat with intense curiosity, wondering how it could be rowed so easily
against a current which ran with such tremendous force.

"I can't make it out," said Vince, as the boat came closer, and
apparently with very little effort on the part of the men after they had
passed out by the opening by which the prisoners had been brought on
board.

"How is it, then?" said Mike.

"I suppose it's because they know all the currents so well.  It's very
hard to see; but I think that, as the water rushes round this cove and
goes right across, most of it passes through the openings into our bay
and makes all that swirling there."

"Of course it does," replied Mike.  "I can see that."

"Well, you might let me finish," said Vince.  "All this water flows
right across."

"You said that before."

"And then," continued Vince, without noticing the interruption, "part of
it which there isn't room for at the openings strikes against the rocks,
and can't get any farther."

"Of course it can't."

"Well, it must go somewhere: water can't be piled-up in a heap and stay
like that; so it's reflected--no, you can't call it reflected--it's
turned back, and forms another stream, which flows back this way."

"It couldn't be," said Mike shortly.

"Well, that's the only way I can see, and that boat has come as easily
as can be.  Yes, I'm sure that's it, Ladle; and you may depend upon it
that three or four feet down the water's rushing one way, while on the
surface it's flowing in the other direction."

"Ah, well, it doesn't matter to us," said Mike bitterly, as the boat was
brought up alongside cleverly, made fast, and her crew began to rapidly
pass the bales over on to the deck, all being of one size, and, as Vince
noticed, of a convenient size and weight for one man to handle.

"But it does matter to us, Mike," whispered Vince eagerly.

"Why?"

"Because you and I couldn't manage one of those big boats unless the
currents helped us; but if we knew how these men managed them--"

"We could slip into one of them in the dark and get away."

Vince nodded, and Mike drew a deep breath.

"Don't look like that," whispered Vince; "here's Jacques coming to ask
us why we don't help."

But they were wrong, for the captain took them each by the shoulder, his
hands tightening with a heavy grip, which seemed to suggest that he
could hold them much harder if he liked; and in this way he marched them
before him to the cabin-hatch.

"Down vis you!" he said.  "To-day you sall be vis me; to-morrow vis ze
crew."

"Aren't you going to let us go back to-morrow?" said Vince quickly.

"_Non_!  Go down."

That first word was French, but any one would have understood what it
meant--the tone was sufficient.

The boys gave a sharp look round the little cabin, which was plain
enough, with its lockers for seats, and narrow table, which just
afforded room for the three who entered the place.

"Sit," said the captain shortly; and, directly after, "_Mangez_--eat.
You do not understand--_comprends_--ze _Francais_?"

"We do--a little," said Mike.

"Aha! zat is good," said the captain, with a peculiar laugh.  "Zen ve
sall be _bons amis_--good friend, eh?  Now eat.  You like soup, fish,
eh?"

"We don't like to be taken off like this, sir," said Vince, who turned
away from the food, good as it was, with disgust, wondering the while
how he could have eaten so hearty a meal with the captain before.  "We
want to know what you are going to do with us."

"Ah, truly you vant to know," said the captain, partaking of his soup
the while.  "But ze ship boys do not ask question of ze _capitaine_."

"But we're not ship's boys," said Mike haughtily.  "We are gentlemen's
sons, and we want to know by what right you drag us away from home."

"Aha! yes; you eat your soup, _mon_ brave boy, vile he is hot.  Perhaps
ze storms come to-morrow, and you are vere you get no soups no more,
eh?"

"Look here, sir," said Mike, flushing in his excitement, "will you set
us ashore somewhere if we promise not to tell?"

"_Non_," said the captain shortly.  "Ve talk about all zat before!  Eat
your soup."

For answer Mike dropped his spoon upon the table, and the captain glared
at him viciously, but passed his anger off with an unpleasant laugh.

"Aha," he said, "you vill not eat.  I know.  Ze _souris_--ze mouse, you
know, valk himselfs into ze trap and spoil ze appetite.  Ze toast cheese
is not taste good, eh?"

Vince had his own ideas, and he ate a few spoonfuls of the soup and took
some bread; but it seemed to choke him, and he soon put down his spoon,
and the man, who seemed to act as cook and steward, took away the tureen
and brought in the fish--the soles they had seen--well cooked and
appetising; but the boys could not eat, in spite of the easy banter with
which the captain kept on addressing them, and the fish gave way to
cutlets and vegetables.

"Ah, I see," said their captor at last: "you vill not eat, and I know ze
reason.  _Ma foi_, and it is too late to make ze _amende_ you call him.
You bose mean to eat ze grand krebs you 'ave catch and 'ave give him to
ze men.  _Helas_! it is, as you say, a pity.  Now you forget him, and
eat ze cotelette.  To-morrow you not like ze dinner vis ze crew, and,"
he added, with a grin, "you may bose be vairy sick--_malade-de-mer_,
eh?"

He helped them both liberally, but they could not eat; and soon after
they followed their host on deck, to find that the hatches were off, and
the bales all carefully stacked below, while the emptied boat had
disappeared and another was on the way, Vince paying great heed to the
manner in which she glided up to the lugger just about amidships.

By the time it was dusk five heavy loads had been brought on board, and
the hatches were then replaced, the boats all but one being hoisted to
the davits, the other left swinging by its painter from a ring-bolt
astern; and from the number of men aboard the boys judged that no one
was left at the caves.  They noticed too that, contrary to custom, no
light was hoisted anywhere about the vessel, and that, though there were
lanthorns in the men's cabin forward, and in the captain's aft, no gleam
shone forth to play upon the water.

No one seemed to pay any heed to the prisoners, who went from place to
place to gaze now up at the darkening rocks, with the stars above them
beginning to twinkle faintly here and there, now down at the black
waters, which, as the night deepened, began to reflect the bright points
of light from the heavens.  But soon after, to take their attention a
little from their cares, they began to notice that the dark depths below
them were alive with light--little specks, that looked like myriads of
stars in motion, rising from below the vessel's keel, coming rapidly
towards the surface and then gliding rapidly away.  Every now and then
there was a flash of light, just as if a pale greenish-golden flame had
darted through the water from below; and, after noticing this several
times, Vince said quietly--

"Fish feeding."

"Don't," said Mike petulantly.  "Who's to think about fish feeding, when
we're like this?  You don't seem to mind it a bit."

"Don't I?" said Vince quietly; "but I do.  Every time I see one of those
little jelly-fish sailing along there, it makes me think of the light in
our window at home--the one mother always puts there when I'm up at your
place, so that I may see it from ever so far along the road.  Father
always jokes about it, and says it's nonsense, but she puts it there all
the same; and it's there now, Mike, for she's sure to say I may have
been carried out to sea in some boat and be coming back to-night."

"Oh, don't--don't!" groaned Mike: "it seems too horrid to hear."

"Hush! what's that?" said Vince.  "Only a seabird calling somewhere off
the water."

"No, it isn't," whispered Vince.  "One of the men wouldn't have answered
a seabird like that.  It's a boat coming from somewhere out yonder."

"No boat would come through such a dark night, with all these dangerous
currents among the rocks."

But a minute later a boat did glide out of the darkness, a rope was
thrown over the bulwarks, made fast, and as a man climbed over on to the
deck the captain came out of his cabin and went forward to where the
fresh comer was standing.

It was so dark that they could not make out what he was like, but in the
stillness every word spoken could be heard; and they recognised the
voice directly, as, in answer to a growl from the captain about being
late, the man said,--"Been here long enough ago, Skipper Jarks, if it
had been any good, but she don't rise to it to-night.  I've been hanging
about ever so long, but she don't touch what she should.  There won't be
enough water for you on the rocks to-night by a foot."

"_Peste_!" ejaculated the captain; "and I vant to go.  But after an
hour, vat den?"

"Be just as she is now, skipper.  Wind's been agen it since sundown, and
kep' the water back: you won't get off to-night."

"Bah!" ejaculated the captain angrily; but he changed his manner
directly: "Ah, vell, my friend Daygo, ve must vait, eh?  You vill stay
vis me here?"

"Nay," said the man.  "I'll have to go back.  I'm cruising about round
the island a-looking for them two young shavers."

The captain turned his head sharply round and looked aft; but, keen as
his sea-going eyes were, the presence of the boys passed unnoticed, and,
probably concluding that they were farther aft, the captain said in a
lower tone, but still perfectly audible.

"Dey look for zem?"

"Look for 'em?  The whole island's been at it 'bout the rocks and
cliffs, and with every boat out; but do you know, Skipper Jarks, they
arn't fund 'em."

The old scoundrel chuckled, and Mike heard Vince's teeth grate together;
and then directly after, he drew a deep breath, like a sigh, for the
captain said softly,--

"And zey vill not find zem, eh?"

"They've been all day a-looking for their corpusses--for they're dead
now."

"Aha! so soon?"

"Ay, skipper; they say they've gone off the rocks and been drownded, and
when they told me I says I wondered they hadn't been years ago, for they
was the owdaciousest pair as ever I see.  They'd do anything they took
in their heads."

"Aha! is it so?" said the captain.

"Ay, Skipper Jarks, it's so; but I'm 'fraid I shan't find their
corpusses to-night.  What do you say?"

"Nosing, _mon ami_: I on'y sink zat ze brave pilot.  Josef Daygo, who
know evairy rock and courant about ze island, vill find zem if any ones
do.  But, my friend, vat you sink?  Zey find ze vay down to ze cave?"

"Nay, not they.  Nobody can climb down they rocks."

"And you sink zere is no one who find ze leetler passage?"

"Sure of it, skipper.  If any one had found that there way down do you
think he'd ha' kep' it to hisself?  Nay, I should ha' been sure to ha'
heered it, and if I had I'd ha' done some'at as 'd startled him as tried
to go down.  On'y one man in the Crag know'd of that till they two
dropped upon it somehow.  I dunno how.  It's been a wonder to me,
though, as nobody never did.  Well, I must be going back: I've got a
rough bit to do 'fore I gets home, and then I've got to go up to the
Doctor's."

"Vell, you vill eat and drink somesing," said the captain.  "Come to ze
cabin, and ve sall see."

As it happened, he led the way across the deck, and then along the port
side aft to the cabin-hatch, from whence came soon after the call for
the cook, who went to and fro carrying plates and glasses, while the two
boys still stood in their former places, leaning over the bulwarks and
apparently watching the phosphorescent creatures in the sea, but seeing
none.

It was some time before either of them spoke, and then it was Vince who
broke the silence.

"So we're both dead and swept out to sea, are we?" he said.

He waited for a few moments, and then, as Mike did not speak, he said,
in a low whisper:

"I say, Mike, shouldn't you like to take a piece of rock and drop it
through old Joe's boat?"

"No."

"Well, I should.  Of all the old rascals that I ever heard of he seems
to be about the worst.  Why, he's regularly mixed up with this gang.
Did you hear?  It seems that you can only get in and out at certain
times of the tide, and nobody knows how to pilot any one in but old Joe
Daygo."

"Did you understand it to be like that?" said Mike eagerly.

"Yes, he seems to be the regular pilot, and comes to take this French
lugger in and to steer it out among the rocks.  Oh, it's terrible; and
we've got old Joe to blame for all our troubles.  I wish we'd sunk his
boat."

"Shouldn't we have sunk ourselves too?"

"Well, perhaps.  I should like to drop something through its bottom."

"I shouldn't," said Mike quietly.  "Why not?  It would serve him well
right."

"Because I should like to use it ourselves."

"Eh?  What do you mean?" said Vince excitedly.  "Now, younkers," said a
voice behind them, "skipper says I'm to show you two to your bunks."

It was a rough, hairy-faced fellow who spoke to them, though in the
darkness they did not get a very good view of his features.

"To our bunks?" said Vince.

"Yes; come along.  You're lucky: you've got a place all to yourselves."

He led them aft, to where a small hatchway stood, close to that of the
captain's cabin, from whence the sound of voices came so loudly that,
regardless of his companions' presence, the man stood and listened.

"But I tell you I must go back, skipper," said Daygo, "and it's getting
late."

"_Oui_--yais, I know zat, _mon ami_," said the captain; "but I have ze
good pilot on board, and it is late and ver' bad for him to go sail
among ze rock and courant.  I say it is better he sall stay all ze
night, and not go run ze risk to drown himselfs.  I cannot spare you.  I
have you, Daygo.  You are a so much valuable mans.  So I sall keep you
till I sail."

"Keep me?" growled Daygo.

"Yais.  You sall eat all as mosh as you vish, and drink more as you
vish, but you cannot go avay.  It is not safe."

There was the sound of a heavy fist brought down upon the table, and
then the man, who had picked up a lanthorn, turned to them and said,--

"Down with you, youngsters!"

The boys obeyed, and the man followed.

"Old Daygo don't like having to stay," he said laughingly.  "There you
are, lads!--just room for you both without touching.  Shall I leave you
the lanthorn?"

"Please," said Vince.  "Thank you.--I say--"

"Nay, you don't, lad," said the man, with gruff good humour; "you've
nothing to say to me, and I've nothing to say to you.  I don't want the
skipper to come down on my head with a capstan bar.  Here, both on you:
just a word as I will say--Don't you be sarcy to the skipper.  He's
Frenchy, and he's got a temper of his own, so just you mind how you trim
your boats.  There, good-night."

"One moment," said Vince, in a quick whisper.

_Bang_! went the door, and they heard a hasp put over a staple and a
padlock rattled in.

"Here, youngsters!" came through the door.

"What is it?"

"Mind you put out that light when you're in your bunks.  Good-night!"

"Good-night," said Mike.

"Bad night," said Vince.  And then: "Oh, Ladle, old chap, what shall we
do?"



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

LONGINGS FOR LIBERTY.

It was easier to ask that question than to answer it, and they cast a
brief glance round the bare, cupboard-like place, with its two shelves,
which represented the prisoners' beds, each bearing a small horsehair
mattress and a French cotton blanket.

"Put out the light," was all the answer Vince received; and, after
holding it to the side of the place for a moment or two, he opened the
lanthorn door and blew the candle out.

"No good to keep that in.  Only makes the place hot and stuffy.  I'm
going to open that light."

The "light" was a sort of wooden shutter, which took the place of an
ordinary cabin window, and as soon as he had drawn it wide open the soft
night air entered in a delicious puff.

"Hah! that's better," sighed Vince.  "Come here and breathe, Ladle, old
chap.  It's of no use to smother ourselves if we are miserable.  I say,
isn't it a beautiful night?"

"Who's going to think anything beautiful when one's like this?  It's
horrible!"

"Pst!" whispered Vince, for the voice of the captain was plainly heard
overhead, and the deep growl of old Daygo in answer, the way in which
the tones grew more subdued suggesting that the speakers had gone right
forward.

"I should like to pitch that old villain overboard," said Mike, in a
fierce whisper.

"Well, if you'd let me tie a rope round him first I'd help you, Ladle;
but I shouldn't like him to drown till he'd had time to get a little
better."

"Better?" said Mike: "he'll never grow any better."

"Well, never mind him," said Vince.  "Now then, let's look the state of
affairs in the face.  You won't tell us what to do, so I must see what I
can think of."

"Have you thought of anything?" cried Mike eagerly.

"If you shout like that, it won't be much good if I have," said Vince,
in an angry whisper.

"I'm very sorry, Vince," said Mike humbly.  "I'll be more careful."

"We shan't get away if you're not."

"Get away?  Then you see a chance?" cried Mike eagerly.

"Just the tiniest spark of one if you're ready to try."

"I'll try anything," whispered Mike.

"Wouldn't mind going into the seal hole again?"

"Vince, old chap, I'd do anything," said Mike, seizing his
fellow-prisoner's arm and holding him tightly.  "What shall we do?"

"I'm afraid it's going to be very risky, for we don't know anything
about the rocks and currents, and we may be upset.  Now do you see?"

"I see: you mean escaping in a boat," said Mike eagerly; "but how?--what
boat?"

"Don't take much thinking to know that," replied Vince; "the only thing
that puzzles me is how they could be so stupid as to leave a boat there
swinging to a painter."

"Old Joe's boat!" cried Mike joyously; and Vince clapped a hand over his
mouth in anger, for just then they heard the voices of the captain and
old Daygo as they walked forward again; and as far as the prisoners
could make out, the two men were walking up one side of the deck and
down the other, talking earnestly, but what was said the boys could not
catch.

"Yes, old Joe's boat," said Vince in a subdued voice; "but if you're
going to shout we may as well go to bed and have a night's rest."

"I really will mind, Cinder--I will indeed," whispered Mike.  "I
couldn't help that, old chap.  But tell me, how are you going to manage
it?"

"There's only one way," replied Vince, with his lips close to his
fellow-prisoner's ear; "climb out of the window, and then over the
bulwark to get down inside it where it's dark; then creep along till we
can feel the painter."

"Then creep over the bulwark and drop down one after the other."

"Cut the painter," said Vince.

"And then we're free."

There was a pause, during which Mike got tight hold of Vince's hand, and
the latter felt that it was cold and wet from the boy's excitement.

"I don't know so much about being free," whispered Vince.  "We should be
away from this wretched old lugger; but where should we be going then?
Didn't I warn you about the rocks and currents?"

"Yes; but we should have old Joe's boat, and we can manage that easily
enough."

"Yes, if we're in the open sea, even if she's sinking, Ladle; but
shut-in here among the rocks I don't know how we should get along.  But
anything's better than sitting down and not having a try."

"Yes, anything," said Mike, in a low, excited whisper.

"Yes, anything.  We must try for the sake of those at home.  I know my
father is sure to say to me, `Didn't you try to escape?'"

"So will mine," said Mike.  "Oh yes, we must have a good try.  Think we
can climb up?"

"I'm just going to try," said Vince, kneeling down to take off his
boots.  "If you like to try you can.  If not, you've got to go down on
all fours under the window, so that I can step on your back and climb
out."

Mike was silent for a few moments, and then he said softly,--

"I'll do which you like, Cinder."

"Then I think I'll try first.  If I can't manage it you can."

"But stop a moment: suppose there's any one on deck?"

"It will be very dark."

"But there'll be lanthorns burning and a watch kept."

"I feel sure there'll be no lights, because they might be seen from the
cliffs; and as they know they're so safe here, I don't believe there'll
be any watch kept."

"I wish I'd got a head like yours, Cinder."

"Do you?  Well, we can't change.  That's it.  My! how tight my boots
were!  It's getting them wet and letting them dry on one's feet.--Pst!
Slip into your berth."

Their needs and experience were beginning to make them obey a sharp
order without question; and as Vince lowered down the shutter Mike
crawled into the lower bunk silently enough, while, almost without a
sound, Vince crept into the one above, stretched himself upon his back,
and placed his hands together under his head.

The reason for this sudden action was that he had seen a gleam of light
play for a moment beneath the rough door; and they were hardly in their
places when there was the sound of descending steps on the ladder, the
shape of the door marked out plainly by the light all round.  Then came
the rattling of a key in the padlock, which was drawn out of the staple,
the door was flung open, and the hutch of a place was filled with the
dull, soft light of a lanthorn, as a man stepped in.

It was hard work to lie there with the lanthorn held close up to them,
but the boys both stood the ordeal.  Mike was lying with his face close
to the bulkhead, and of course with his back to their visitor and his
features in the shade; but Vince's was the harder task, for he had
assumed his attitude as being the most sleep-like, and to give better
effect to his piece of acting, he had opened his mouth, and went on
breathing rather heavily, while the fact of his having his boots off,
and one foot sticking out over the bunk side, helped materially over the
bit of deception.

"I wonder who it is," thought Vince; and, as if in answer, a familiar
voice said, in a low tone,--

"Aha!  _Vous etes_ not too much frighten to go fast asleep?"

Vince did not need to open his eyes, for he could see mentally vividly
enough the swarthy, brown, deeply-lined face, with the keen dark eyes,
and the crafty look about the mouth, drawn into an unpleasant smile,
while the big earrings seemed to glisten in the soft light.

"You are fast asleep--_hein_?" said the man, rather sharply; but no one
stirred, though Vince could feel the perspiration standing in a fine dew
upon his forehead and by the sides of his nose.

"I came to see if you are good boys, and sall put out your light quite
safe; for all ze powder is down underneas you, and you muss not blow
yourselfs up and spoil my sheep.  You hear, big, stupede boy?"

Vince gave vent to a low, gurgling sound, and made up his mind to babble
a few words about the caverns; but his throat was dry, and his tongue
refused to act.

Perhaps it was as well, for in doing so he might have overdone his part,
which was perfect.

Then the light was withdrawn, the captain went out, and the door was
carefully fastened, the light fading from round the door while something
shook loudly as he ascended the ladder and dropped the trap down with a
snap, which was followed by the crash of iron, as if another loop were
passed on a staple.

"Hasn't dropped any sparks, has he, Vince?" whispered Mike, turning
softly in his bunk.

"Can't see any," was the reply.  "Oh, I say, Ladle, and I blew out our
candle and saw them fly!"

"But do you think it's true?  Is the powder here, or did he only say it
to frighten us?"

"I don't know," whispered Vince.  "There must be a powder magazine, for
he has cannon on deck.  But I didn't see any trap door: did you?"

"Yes--just as you put out the light.  You knelt on it when you took off
your boots."

"Oh dear!" sighed Vince.  "I'm all dripping wet.  Isn't this place
horribly hot?"

"Hot?  I feel as if my things were all soaked."

"Don't talk.  We must lie still now, and wait.  I don't think he'll come
again."

"I do," said Mike.  "He'll never be such a noodle as to believe we two
will stop here without trying to escape."

"I don't know," sighed Vince.  "I'm afraid we're quite safe?"

"What, to escape?"

"No--to stop in prison; for I expect we shan't be able to get on deck."

"But we're going to try?"

"Yes," said Vince through his closely set teeth; "we're going to try."



CHAPTER THIRTY.

A BOLD DASH FOR FREEDOM.

As the boys lay perfectly still in their bunks, gradually growing
cooler, and feeling that even if they were over the part of the hold
used as a powder magazine there was nothing to fear so long as there was
no light near, they heard a step twice overhead, then all was perfectly
still but the faint rippling of the swift current as it passed under the
vessel and glided on across to the rocks.

They whispered to each other from time to time; Mike being impatient to
begin their attempt, but Vince always refusing till he felt satisfied
that all was still.

At last this feeling of satisfaction came, and, passing his legs out of
his bunk, he dropped lightly on to the floor to begin feeling about,
till his hand touched a rough hinge, and on the other side a ring which
lay down in the woodwork of a trap door.

But he did not say anything, only rose and pulled open the light again,
keeping it in that position by passing the leather strap which formed
its handle over a hook in the ceiling, a slit having been cut in the
piece of leather.

"Now, Ladle," whispered Vince, "come and kneel here, then I can stand on
your back."

Mike obeyed at once, and then whispered quickly,--

"Vince, there is a trap door here: I'm right on it."

"I know,--I touched it; but there's no candle.  Ready?"

"Yes."

Vince took hold of the opening frame, which was only just big enough for
him to pass through, stepped lightly on to his companion as he stiffened
himself on all fours, and then began to creep out.

For a few moments he hesitated, for there was the black water beneath
him, full of sparks, gliding rapidly along, so brightly that he felt
that if any one were on deck looking over the bulwark he must be seen;
but the thought of freedom and those at home nerved him, and as soon as
he was in a sitting position, with his legs inside, he bent down and
whispered to his companion, who had risen,--

"Take tight hold of my legs till I give a jerk, which means let me
loose."

Mike seized the legs firmly; and, thus secured, Vince stretched out his
arms and began to feel about overhead, to find that the top of the light
was just below the projecting streak, which runs, iron-bound, round the
most prominent part of a vessel, from stem to stern, to protect the side
from injury when it glides up to wharf, pier, or pile.  This stood out
about a foot, and Vince felt that if he could only climb on this, the
rest would be easy.

He passed his hands cautiously over it, and, reaching in, found to his
great delight a ring-bolt, through which it was possible to pass two or
three fingers.  Jerking his leg, he felt himself free, and rose up,
getting first one foot and then the other on the sill of the opening.

There was no difficulty in standing like this, and as he did so he felt
Mike's arms tightly embracing his legs, an act which hindered further
progress if he had meant to climb higher.

But he was satisfied with what he had done; after peering about a
little, and listening for some minutes, he jerked one leg again, felt
them freed, and began to descend.

To an active boy, whose nerves were firm, this was easy enough; and
directly after he stood in the little cabin, breathing hard, but able to
find words, and whisper to his anxious fellow-prisoner.

"It's as easy as easy," he said: "nothing to getting up a bit of stiff
cliff;" and he then described what he had found, and how all seemed as
still as could be.  "Couldn't you hear any watch on deck?"

"Not a sound of them.  I believe every one's below; and I say, Mike, we
needn't get over on deck at all.  There's plenty of room to take hold of
the top of the bulwarks and walk along.  All we've got to do is to mind
the stays when we come to them, and step round carefully."

"Yes, I understand perfectly," said Mike.  "Come on, and let's get it
over."

"Wait till I've put on my boots.  I shall want them."  The boy knelt
down and hurriedly drew them on, and laced them as well as he could in
the dark; then raising himself on to the window-sill without assistance,
he drew himself into his old position, and reaching up and over the
streak, found the ring-bolt, which rattled faintly, and, passing his
fingers through, stood up on the sill, and then drew himself on to the
projecting woodwork.

Here he crouched for a few moments listening, before rising erect, with
one hand upon the top of the bulwark, over which he looked; but all was
dark, and there was not a sound to be heard save the faint rustling
below him made by Mike.

This was the most nervous part of the business.  A certain amount of
tremor had troubled the lad as he climbed out, and the thought of having
a slip did once bring the perspiration out upon his forehead; but the
effort needed dulled the fear, and he soon stood where he was in safety.
But to listen to a companion undergoing the same trial in the darkness
was another thing; and Vince felt ten times the dread as he listened and
shivered to hear the ring-bolt seized and his companion slowly drawing
himself upward so that he could stand.

Suppose he lost his nerve--suppose he slipped and tell with a splash
into that black, spangled water--what could he do?  Poor Mike would be
swept away directly, and his only chance of life would be for him to
swim steadily till he reached the rocks, and then try to find one to
which he could cling, and draw himself up.

But Vince did better than think: he tightened his grasp of the bulwark
rail by crooking his hand, and softly extended one leg over the streak.

This had the effect he desired.  The next moment it was struck by a hand
feeling about.  Then the trouser was tugged at, and directly after the
bottom was turned over and over, so as to form a good roll to grip.
Then, with this for a second hand-hold, Mike was helped, and his climb
on to the shelf-like projection became easier for the aid afforded, and
he too rose to stand panting beside Vince.

They felt that everything depended upon their coolness, and hence they
stood there, facing inward, holding on to the bulwark and listening.

But all was still; and at last, satisfied that it was time to move,
Vince whispered "Now," and began to edge himself along to the right--
that is, towards the forward part of the boat.

Mike started at the same moment, taking step for step, their hands
touching at every movement.  It was an easy enough task this, for there
was plenty of hold and standing room--the only danger being that they
might be heard by some one on the watch, while there was the chance that
they had been heard and this was a new trap to re-catch them.

But their hearts rose as they crept slowly and silently along in the
silence, and then went down deeply into a sense of despair, for a
thought suddenly struck Vince which made him stop and place his lips
close to his companion's ear, and whisper,--

"Suppose, as Joe is going to stop, they have hoisted the boat on deck?"

Mike replied promptly, and with a decision that was admirable under the
circumstances,--

"Don't make bugbears.  Go on and try."

It was rude enough to have brought forth a sharp retort at any other
time; but then Vince felt its justice, and he went on again, and his
hand touched the shrouds which held the mainmast in place, and a little
care had to be exercised to pass round.  But this was silently achieved
by both; and Vince was gliding his right-hand along the top of the
bulwarks once more, when it was as if an electric shock had passed
through him, for he had suddenly touched something unmistakably like a
man's elbow.

For a few moments he was ready to doubt this; but the doubt passed away
directly, for from close to him a heavy, snoring breath was drawn, and
as he gazed with starting eyes he made out dimly the head and shoulders
of a man who was evidently the watch, but who conducted his watching by
folding his arms upon the bulwarks, laying his head thereon, and going
off fast asleep.

Vince felt that all was over unless they went back some little distance,
climbed over and crossed the deck to the other side; and once more
placing his lips to Mike's ear, he told him of the obstacle in the way,
and suggested this plan.

Then Mike's lips were at his ear,--

"Take too much time--may tumble over another--go on."

The proposal almost took the boy's breath away, but he was strung up by
his companion's firmness to do anything now, and, drawing a deep breath,
he prepared to advance; but paused again, with his blood running cold,
for there was an uneasy movement on the part of the watch and a low,
growling muttering.

Silence once more; and then, nerving himself, Vince advanced his left
hand till it was close to the sleeping man's elbow, then, edging along a
little, he reached out his right-hand till he could grasp the bulwark
beyond the other elbow; but the position brought his face down close to
the back of the sleeper's head, and he could feel the warmth emanating
from it and the man's rising breath, while he trembled as he dreaded
lest the man should feel his.

Then Vince felt that he ought to step back and tell Mike how to manage--
as he was acting; but, knowing that all this meant delay and that speed
was everything, and might mean success instead of failure, he knew that
he must trust to his comrade's own common sense.  And now, with the
feeling upon him that if the man awoke suddenly he would start and fall
back into the sea, he tightened his hold of his right-hand, relaxed that
of his left, edged along, and was safely past.

Naturally all these thoughts darted almost instantaneously through his
mind, and a few moments only elapsed between Mike's words and his being
safe upon the other side; while now, as he stood thus, after leaving
ample room for his companion, the strain upon his nerves seemed to be
greater, for he had to try and see Mike's movements, and listen in agony
to the faint rustling sound he made.

Poor Mike had a harder test of his courage than that which had fallen to
Vince's lot; for as by instinct he took the same means of getting by the
obstacle as the former, and was standing with arms outstretched, the man
made a sudden movement and growled out some tongue-blundered word, at
the same time raising his head and striking Mike's chin slightly, to
make the boy's teeth go together with a sharp click.

"It's all over," thought Vince.  But he was wrong: the man settled his
head down again in a more satisfactory position, and uttered a low,
grumbling sigh of resting weariness.

Then Mike was alongside of his partner in the flight, and they edged
themselves rapidly along to the foremast shrouds--so short a distance,
but to them, with their nerves on the strain, so far.

Now came another heart-compressing question to Vince.  The boat, when
Joe Daygo arrived, had been made fast a short distance in front of the
foremast: was it there now?

A strange hesitation came over the lad; he did not like to pass beyond
the fore-chains to test this, for he felt that if it had been removed
and hoisted on board the disappointment would be so keen as to be almost
unbearable, for to let it down unheard would be impossible; but once
more mastering himself he passed on, holding by the light shrouds which
gave at his touch, and then began to run his hand once more along the
bulwark to feel the line, which had been passed over and twisted to and
fro over one of the belaying pins.

No--no--no.

_Yes_!

There it was, and as he grasped it the boat answered to his touch as it
swung alongside and grazed softly against the copper sheathing.

"Got it?" was whispered.

"Yes;" and Vince's hand went to his pocket for his knife, as his busy,
overstrung brain asked why it was that they had not been searched and
their knives taken away.

But he did not withdraw the knife, for he found that it would be easy
enough to cast the rope loose, and he turned to Mike.

"Down with you!" he said.

"No: you first."

A noise as of a heavy blow.

A savage yell, followed by a scuffling sound from where the sleeping man
had been standing, and the boys stood holding on there, paralysed for
the moment.

"Curse you if you hit me!" began a rough voice from out of the darkness;
but the speech was cut short by a sharp clicking, and the familiar voice
of the French captain arose, sharpened by rage and sounding fierce and
tigerish in spite of the peculiarity of his broken English, mingled with
words in his native tongue.

"Dog!  _Canaille!  Vite_ sleep-head fool!  Anozaire vord I blow out you
brain and you are ovaire-board."

The sleeper growled something, which was again cut short by the French
skipper.

"Vat?  How you know zat ze boy do not get on deck to take a boat and go
tell of my store _cachette_?  To-morrow you are flog by all ze crew, and
zey sall sare all ze monnaies zat vould come to you."

Vince drew on the painter, and then pressed Mike's shoulder for him to
descend, while he began softly to cast off the rope.

Mike did his best to go down in silence, and Vince his to cast off
without making a sound; but the boat ground against the side, the
belaying pin rattled, and there was a rush from where the captain stood.

Mike was in the boat as the last turn was cast off from the belaying
pin; and then, without a moment's hesitation, Vince leaped down,
fortunately alighting beyond his companion upon one of the thwarts, and
then falling forward upon his hands just as there was a flash of light
and a loud report.

The thrust given by Mike and the impetus of Vince's leap sent the boat
out to where it was caught by the current; but, instead of its bearing
them away from the lugger, it seemed to keep them back for a few
moments, but only for the bows to be seized by an eddy just as there was
another flash, report, and simultaneously a dull thud, as of something
being hit.  Then the shouting of orders, the appearance of a light, and
the hurrying of feet was more distant, as if the lugger had suddenly
been snatched away; but the two lads knew that they were in one of the
terrible rushing currents, and were being borne along at a tremendous
rate.  Where?  In what direction?

They could not tell, for the tide had turned.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

THE PERILS OF THE SCRAW.

In the hurry and confusion the boys crouched in the bottom of the boat
for some minutes, gazing at the lugger, and seeing lanthorn after
lanthorn dancing about.  Then one descended like a glowworm apparently
on to the surface of the water, and they knew that a boat had been
lowered and that there would be pursuit.  And all the time they felt
that without effort on their part they were being borne rapidly along as
fast as any one could chase them; but they were in a boat familiar to
them, and furnished with oars and sails if they could only reach the
open water.  Then a despondent feeling came over them as they realised
that they were surrounded by towering rocks, and as they crouched lower
they fully expected from moment to moment to hear a grinding sound, and
feel a sharp check as a plank was ripped out by some sharp granite fang,
and then hear once more the rippling of the water as it rushed into the
boat.

And this in the darkness; for the bright stars above and the
phosphorescent atoms with which the black waters were dotted did not
relieve the deep gloom produced by the overhanging cliffs.

"Hurt, Vince?" whispered Mike at last.

"Yes, ever so."

"Oh!  Want a handkerchief to bind it up?" cried Mike, in horror.

"Well, it does bleed--feels wet--but it don't matter much."

"But it does," said Mike excitedly.  "Where did it hit you?"

"On the shin; but it didn't hit me--I hit it."

"What!  The bullet?"

"Go along! don't joke now.  I came down against an oar.  Oh, I see: you
thought he hit me when he fired."

"Of course."

"Pooh! he couldn't aim straight in the dark.  I'm all right.  But I say:
there's water in the boat.  Not much, but I can hear it gurgling in.
Why, Mike," he cried excitedly, after a few moments' search, "here's a
little round hole close down by the keel.  There, I've stopped it up
with a finger; it's where his bullet must have gone through.  Got your
handkerchief?"

"Yes."

"Tear off a piece, to make a plug about twice as big as a physic-bottle
cork."

There was the sound of tearing, and then Mike handed the piece of
cotton, which was carefully thrust into the clean, round hole,
effectually plugging it; after which Vince proposed that they should
each take an oar.

"Can't row," said Mike shortly.

"No, but we may want to fend her off from a rock.  Hullo! where are the
lanthorns now?  I can't see either the lugger or the boat."

Mike looked back, but nothing was visible.

"We've come round some rock," said Vince.  "We shall see them again
directly."

But the minutes glided on, and they saw no light--all was black around
as ever, but the loud, hissing gurgle of the water told that they were
being borne along by some furious current; and at last came that which
they had been expecting--a heavy bump, as the prow struck against a
rock-face so heavily that they were both jerked forward on to their
hands, while the boat was jarred from stem to stern.

They listened with a feeling of expectant awe for the noise of water
rushing in; but none came, and a little feeling about was sufficient
test to prove that there was no more than had come in through the bullet
hole.  But while they were waiting there came another heavy blow, and
their state of helplessness added to their misery.

"Oh, if it was only light!" groaned Mike.

"Yes, we could use the oars or hook to fend her off."

Bump went the boat again, and they caught at the side to save
themselves, conscious now, in the thick darkness, that they were being
whirled round and round in some great whirlpool-like eddy, which dealt
with the boat as if it were a cork.

"Don't seem as if we can do anything," said Vince at last, as the boat
swept along, with the water lapping and gurgling about them just as if
it were full of hungry tongues anticipating the feast to come as soon as
they were sucked down.

"No," said Mike, "it doesn't seem as if we can do anything."

"'Cept one thing, Mike," said Vince in a low deep tone, which did not
sound like his own voice.

"What?"

"Say our prayers--for the last time."

And in the midst of that intense darkness, black as ebony on either
side, while above and below there were still the bright glittering and
softened streaks of light, there was an interval of solemn silence.

Vince was the first to break that silence, and there was something quite
cheerful in his tones now as he said,--

"Shake hands, Mikey: I'm sorry you and I haven't always been good
friends.  I have often been a regular beast to you."

Mike grasped the extended hands in a firm grip with both of his, as he
said, in a choking voice,--

"Not half so bad as I've been to you, Cinder.  I've got such a hasty
temper sometimes."

"Get out!" cried Vince sharply.  "There, I'm better now.  I'm afraid
we're going to be drowned, Ladle, but I feel as if we ought to be doing
something to try and save ourselves.  It's being so cowardly to sit
still here.  They wouldn't like it at home."

"But what can we do?  I'm ready."

"So am I; but it's so dark.  I say, though, we must be going round and
round in a sort of hole."

"Then we shall be drawn right down somewhere into the earth."

"Not that!  I tell you what, it's like one of those great pot-holes in
the big passage, only a hundred times as big; and the water's sweeping
the boulders round, and grinding it out and carrying us along with it.
Look here, we shall be kept on going round and round here, if we don't
get smashed, till daylight; and then old Jarks'll come and find us, and
we shall be worse off than ever.  I say, though, don't you think we
could do something with the boat-hook?"

"What?"

"Wait till we bump against the rocks again, and then try and hold on."

"If you did the water would come over the stern."

"I don't know.  Well, look here: I'll try.  If it does I'll let go
directly."

Taking hold of the boat-hook Vince knelt down right forward, thrust the
iron-armed pole over the bows, and holding it like a lance in rest he
waited, but not for long.  Very soon after the iron point touched
against stone, and he was thrown backward, nearly losing the pole, while
the boat was sent surging along on one side for a few moments, bumped on
the other side, then back again as if she were being sent from side to
side, and directly after the keel came upon a rock which seemed to slope
up like a great boulder standing in their way.  There for a brief moment
or two it was balanced, and made a plunge forward like a dive, the water
came with a rush over the bows, and surged back to where Mike was
kneeling, and then they were rushing onward again more swiftly than
ever.

For a few moments the pair were too breathless to speak, but Vince
recovered from the confusion caused by the shock and the rapidly
following exciting incidents, and he shouted aloud,--

"Bale, Mike, bale!  It's all right: we're out of that whirlpool, and
we're going along again."

"You've got the baler forward," said Mike huskily.

"Eh?  So I have in the locker here.  I say, how deep do you make the
water?  There's hardly any here."

"Only a few inches."

"Then we're all right yet; but we may as well have that out."

He felt for the locker, and drew out the old tin pot, crept aft to where
his companion knelt, and, after lifting the board which covered in the
keel depression, he began to toss out the water rapidly, and soon
lowered it so that the pot began to scrape on the bottom, while Mike
listened with a feeling of envy attacking him, for he felt that it must
be a relief to be doing something instead of kneeling there listening
and wondering whether the pursuing boat was anywhere near.

"There!" said Vince at last, in a triumphant tone; "that's different to
baling when you feel that the water is coming in as fast as you throw it
out.  I haven't got it all, but as much as I can without making a
noise."

He replaced the bottom board and then returned the pot to the locker,
and Mike moved a little forward now to meet him half-way.

"Think we're going as fast now as ever?" whispered Mike.

"Eh?  I don't know.  I was too busy to think about it.  No, not quite,
and--I say, are we going right?"

"Right?"

"Well, I mean as we were.  We seemed to be going south, as far as I
could make out by the stars; and now we're going north."

"Nonsense! impossible!"

"Look, then!  I'm sure we had our backs to the pole star, and that meant
going south, and out to sea; but now we've got our faces due north."

"Yes," said Mike, after a few moments' pause; "that's right: we're going
north."

"Well, that isn't out to sea."

"No," replied Mike thoughtfully.

"And running along at such a rate as we are, we ought to have been ever
so far away by this time, instead of rushing along here deep down among
the rocks, as if we were in a narrow channel.  I can't make it out: can
you?"

Mike remained thoughtful and silent again for a time, and then said
wearily,--

"No; I can't understand it.  It gives me the headache to think; and
being whirled along like this is so confusing.  My thoughts go rushing
along like the water."

"Don't talk so loud, Mike," said Vince, after a pause, "or we shall be
heard.  But we must have left them a long way behind, or else they've
covered over their lanthorn so as to come upon us by surprise."

"Think they are near us, then?"

"Must be, because the tide would carry them along as fast as it does us;
and they have the advantage of knowing the way.  Oh!  I do wish we could
get out in the open sea; and then, once we were clear of the rocks, we'd
show them what the boat could do.  It would puzzle them to--"

He was going to say "catch us then," but he stopped short, gazing
upward, out of the black chasm in which they were, at the stars.

"What is it?  See the light?" whispered Mike.

"No: I was trying to make out our course.  The passage has wound off to
the right, and we're going east."

"Of course it would zigzag and turn about," said Mike wearily; "but
we're in deeper water here, for we don't seem to go near any small
rocks."

"No; but we're going by plenty of big ones on the left.  The current
runs close to them, I'm sure, though it's ever so much wider now.  I
believe I could almost have touched either side with the boat-hook a bit
ago; now I can only touch one side."

"It's more ripply, too, now, isn't it?"

"Ever so much: seems to boil up all about us, and you can't see the
bright specks sailing about so fast.  The top of the water was as smooth
as glass when we were in the great lugger."

"That's a sign we are near the sea, then," said Mike, with more
confidence in his tones.

"Yes, and I don't like it," said Vince thoughtfully.

"Why?"

"Because I've been thinking that there must be another way out; and
knowing all about it, as they do, they'll be waiting at the mouth of
this horrible zigzag place along which we're dodging all this time, and
catch us after all."

"Oh, Cinder!" cried Mike passionately, "don't say that: it would be too
hard.  It may be too dark for them to see us if we lie close and don't
make a sound.  And look," he said joyfully: "we really are close to the
sea now, for we're going due south."

"Due south it is," assented Vince, as if he were standing at a wheel
steering.  "Yes, I suppose you're right, for I can hear the sound of
surf.  Listen."

"Yes, I can hear," replied Mike; "but it sounds smothered-like."

"Rocks between us, perhaps.  Now then: only whispers, mind!--close to
the ear.  Don't let's lose our chance of getting away by telling them
where we are.  I say!"

"Yes."

"If there was a boat anywhere near us, could you see it?"

Mike turned his eyes to right and left before answering:

"Sure I couldn't on that side, and I don't think I could on this."

"That's what I felt, and if we're lucky we'll escape them after all.
Now then, silence, and let's get the oars across and each take his place
on the thwarts, ready to row hard if we are seen."

Each from long practice felt for the thole-pins and placed them in their
proper holes; then, softly taking up their oars, they laid them right
across the boat, with handle standing out on one side, blade on the
other, and waited in silence, with the boat gliding on.

At the end of about a quarter of an hour, during which minute by minute
they had expected to be swept out into open water where the great
Atlantic tide was rolling along by the solitary island, Mike
whispered,--

"I say, the boat has turned quite round more than once.  Doesn't that
account for the stars seeming different?"

"No, because we can tell we are sometimes going forward and sometimes
back."

"But look! we're going north now."

"Yes, I know we are," said Vince; "and I'm beginning to know how it is."

"Well, tell me.  It's so horrible to be puzzled like this."

Vince was silent.

"Why don't you speak?"

"Because I was thinking.  Ladle, old chap, we've gone through too much,
what with the seals' cave, and being caught and then put down in that
stifling hole over the gunpowder.  We're both off our heads--in a sort
of fever."

"I'm not," said Mike shortly.  "You are, or else you wouldn't talk such
stuff."

"I talk such stuff, as you call it, because my father's a doctor, and
I've heard him tell my mother about what queer fancies people have when
their heads are wrong."

"Two people couldn't be queer in the same way and with the same things.
What's the good of talking like that?"

"Very well: you tell me how it is.  I can't understand it, and the more
I try the more puzzled I am.  It's horrible, that's what it is, and I
feel sometimes as if we had been carried away by the tide to nowhere, or
the place where the tides come and go in the hollows of the earth."

"We shall be out at sea directly, and then we shall be all right."

"No, we shan't be out at sea directly, and we shan't be all right; for
we've got into some horrible great whirlpool."

"What!" cried Mike excitedly.  "A whirlpool?"

"Yes, that's it; and we're going round and round, and that's why it is
that we are sometimes looking south and sometimes north."

"But you don't think--if it is as you say--that at last we shall be
sucked down some awful pit in the middle?"

"I don't know," said Vince.  "I can't think properly now.  I feel just
as if my head was all shut up, and that nothing would come out of it.  I
say, Mike!"

There was no reply, for Mike was gazing wildly up at the stars, trying
to convince himself of the truth or falsity of his companion's words;
but he only crouched lower at last, with a feeling of despair creeping
over him, and then he turned angrily, as Vince began to speak again, in
a low, dreamy voice.

"That's it," he said: "we are going round and round.  I wish we'd had
some more of old Jarks' dinner, and then gone to sleep quietly in our
bunks.  We couldn't have been so badly off as we are now."

"Then why did you propose for us to escape?"

"Because I thought we ought to try," said Vince sharply, as he suddenly
changed his tone.  "There, it's of no use to talk, Mike.  We're in for
it, and I'm not going to give up like a coward.  I don't know where we
are, and you don't; but we're in one of those whirls that go round and
round when the tide's running up or down, and we can't be any worse off
than we are now, for there are no rocks, seemingly."

"But the middle--the hole."

"They don't have any hole.  Why, you know, old Joe sailed us right
across one out yonder by the Grosse Chaine, and we went into the little
one off Shag Rock.  It's one like that we're in, and I daresay if it was
daylight we could see how to get out of it by a few tugs at the oars,
same as we got out of that one when we went round and round before.  Oh,
we shall be all right."

Mike did not speak, for the words seemed to give him no comfort.

"Do you hear, Ladle?" continued Vince.  "If we had been likely to upset,
it would have been all over with us long ago; but we go on sailing round
as steadily as can be, and I feel sure that we shall get out all right.
What do you say to lying down and having a nap?"

"Lie down?  Here?  Go to sleep?" cried Mike in horror.  "I couldn't."

"I could," said Vince.  "I'm so tired that I don't think I could keep
awake, even if I knew old Jarks was likely to come and threaten me with
a pistol.  But, I say, Ladle, that wretch shot at us twice.  Why, he
might have hit one of us.  Won't he have to be punished when we get away
and tell all about him?"

"Yes, I suppose so--if ever we do get away," said Mike sadly.

Then they relapsed into silence, both watching the stars to convince
themselves that they were going round and round, making the circuit of
some wide place surrounded by the towering rocks, which made the sea
look so intensely black.

At last, thoroughly convinced, the strain of thinking became too great,
the motion of the boat and the constant gliding along in that horrible
monotonous whirl began to affect Mike as it had affected Vince, and, in
spite of his energetic struggles to rouse himself from it, was now
attacking him more strongly than ever.  They were surrounded by dangers,
the least of which was that of the pursuing boat with the exasperated
captain; for so surely as the boat grazed upon a rock just below the
surface she would capsize.  But all this was as nothing to the mentally
and bodily exhausted lads.  Nature was all-powerful, and by degrees the
head of first one then of the other drooped, and sleep, deep and sudden,
fell upon them.

But the sleep was not then profound.  The mind still acted like the
flickering of a candle in its socket, and urged them to start up wakeful
and determined once more.  And this happened again and again, the
sufferers telling themselves that it would be madness to go to sleep.
But, madness or no, Nature said they must; and almost simultaneously,
after seating themselves in the bottom of the boat, so as to prop
themselves in the corners between the thwart and side, they glided lower
and lower, and at last lay prone in the most profound of slumber,
totally unconscious of everything but the great need which would renew
with fresh vigour their exhausted frames.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

A STRANGE AWAKENING.

The grey gulls were wheeling round and round, dipping down from time to
time to pick up some scrap of floating food or tiny fish from out of a
shoal; the cormorants and shags were swimming here and there, and diving
down swift as the fish themselves, in chase of victim after victim for
their ravenous maws, and the fish, crowded together, were playing about
the surface, and leaping out at times like bars of silver, to fall back
again with a splash, while the sun made the water sparkle as it rippled
and played and foamed among the rocks.

It was a glorious morning; and the heather, gorse and purple-hued
lavender blossomed, sea-pinks glistened and flashed, as the sun played
and sent off rays of dazzling iridescent hues from the evanescent gems
with which the night mists had bedewed them.

Everywhere all was life and light, save where a boat went gliding along
upon a swift current stem first, stern first, or broadside on, as the
various curves and jutting rocks at the foot of the huge cliffs affected
the hurrying waters and made them react upon the boat.

All at once there was a desperate quarrel and screaming for as a diver
rose from its plunge, and was flying towards one of the cliff shelves to
enjoy its morning meal in the shape of a large, newly caught fish, it
was attacked by a huge pirate of a black-backed gull, which pounced down
upon it with open beak, secured the fish, and as it flew off was
followed and mobbed by a score of other birds, when such a wild clamour
of sharp metallic screams arose, that it startled one of the occupants
of the boat, making him spring up, rub his eyes, stare, and then bend
down to rouse his companion.

"Here!  Hi!  Mike!  Ladle!  Wake up!"

The other obeyed, sprang to his feet, and stared wildly at his
companion, with that dull, heavy, dreamy look in the eyes, which tells
that though the muscular energy of the body may be awake, the mind is
still fast plunged in sleep.

Then both rubbed their eyes, and Vince did more: he knelt down, leaned
over the side of the boat, and plunging both hands in, scooped up the
cool sparkling water, and bathed face and temples till his brain grew
clearer, and he stood up again, dabbing his face with his handkerchief.

"Do as I do.  Do you hear, Mike?  I say, you're asleep!"

"Sleep?" said Mike, looking at him vacantly.

"Yes, asleep.  Rouse up and look!  It's wonderful!  Here, if you won't,
I must.  Kneel down."

He pressed upon the boy's shoulders; and Mike, without making the
slightest resistance, knelt in the bottom of the boat.  He yielded too
as Vince pressed a hand upon the back of his head, and then splashed
some water in his face.

The effect was electrical.  The next minute Mike was bathing his brows,
throwing up the water with both hands; and as he felt the refreshing
coolness send an invigorating and calming thrill through every nerve, he
rose up and stood drying himself and gazing round, wondering whether he
was yet awake, or this was part of some strange, wild dream.

Vince did not speak, but stood there watching him, while the boat glided
on, as it had all through the night, with unerring regularity; and there
before them was the great watery oval they had gone on traversing,
dotted with sea-birds, while now, instead of the mighty cliffs around,
looking black, overhanging and forbidding, they were beautiful in the
extreme, both in the morning light and their deep empurpled shades.

Mike looked and looked up at the highest cliffs on his left, over the
rapidly gliding water to his right, where the great ridge was dotted
with sea-birds, and away to fore and aft, where the lofty overhanging
rocks were repeated.

"I say," cried Mike at last, "am I awake?"

"If you're not, I'm fast asleep," said Vince.

"But how did we get here?"

"I don't know.  Through some narrow passage, I suppose; and then, as
soon as we got in, we must have been going on round and round, and round
and round, thinking that we were getting out to sea.  I say, no wonder
it seemed so far!"

"Then it is true," said Mike excitedly.  "I don't know that cave,
though."

"No, we never saw that before," said Vince, as they were swept by a low
archway, and then onward by a broad opening, which, seen from their
fresh point of view, looked beautiful but strange.

"Is that--" began Mike, in a dubious, hesitating way.

"Yes, of course.  Look: we don't know it from out here, but there's the
seal hole and our fishing place, where we caught the crab.  It's all
shadowy inside, or we could see our kitchen and fishing tackle."

"No, no; it can't be," said Mike despairingly: "if it was, we should
come directly upon the smugglers' place."

"Yes, you'll see: we shall be carried by directly."

"But there'll be some one there.  Here, quick: let's row away,"--and
Mike seized an oar.

"You can't row against a current like this," said Vince quietly; "and if
anybody had been in there they would have been awake and seen us long
before this."

"Then I don't believe this is the cove, and that can't be our cavern,"
cried Mike sharply.

"Very well; but you soon will.  Now look: here we go.  I say, how smooth
the walls of rock are worn by the water!--that accounts for our never
having been upset in the night.  We shall see the big cave directly.
Shall we try and land?"

"Yes; no; I don't know what will be best to do.  Yes; but let's make
sure first."

"And land when we come round again?" said Vince.

"Yes, if you like.  I don't know what to say."

"Seems best way," said Vince thoughtfully.  "And yet I don't know.  We
might hide, for they've blocked up the passage; but they'd hunt us out,
as we couldn't keep hidden very long.  And they'd know we were there,
because they'd find the boat."

"Perhaps they'd think we were drowned," said Mike; and then, excitedly,
"Why, it is the big cavern, Cinder!"

"Yes, it's the big cavern, sure enough; and if it wasn't so dark inside
we could see the stack of kegs."

There was no room for further doubt, as they glided by the mouth of the
great opening, with its wonderful beach of soft sand, and directly after
began to recognise the piled-up masses of rock.  As they went on, they
saw the outlying masses round which the waters foamed and bubbled, but
became quite bewildered as they tried to make out which was the outlet
by which the smuggler crew had taken them and the captain through on the
previous day.  They passed narrow rifts, but the water always seemed to
be flowing swiftly into the great basin in which they were and joining
the seething waters in their continuous round.

Vince pointed to this and then to that gap between the rocks, as the one
through which they must have come overnight, but he could never be in
the least sure; and as they went on, he had to content himself with
looking up at the ridge which faced the caverns, and beyond which they
believed the sea to be.

Everywhere at the foot of the cliffs the water was deep, and so clear
that they could see the rocks at the bottom, smooth, and
treacherous-looking, apparently rising up to capsize the boat; but they
glided over all in safety, the great basin being worn smooth by the
constant friction of the currents, and at last began to approach the end
opposite to where they had been deftly taken out by the men.

Here they looked eagerly for another way of getting out--the rift
through which the waters must pass back into the sea--but, if it
existed, it was shut from their sight by the heaped-up rocks, and the
current carried them on and on with unchecked speed.

"No wonder I thought we were a long while getting out to sea!" said
Vince at last: "we can't have gone near the big channel through which
the lugger must come and go."

"Never mind that," said Mike impatiently; "there must be another way out
from this basin.  We saw signs of it from up above, when you sat up
there and I held the rope."

"Yes," said Vince gloomily; "but sitting up there's one thing, and
sitting down here's another.  Think we shall find another way out this
end?  Must, mustn't we?"

Mike nodded as he stood up and searched the rocks for the opening that
was hidden from their eyes, from the fact that it was behind one of the
barriers of rock and far below the surface current which swept them
along.

As far as they could judge, they were going on for half an hour, making
the complete circuit of the great watery amphitheatre; and then, as they
passed the caverns again, they determined to examine the other end more
carefully, for the exit used by the smugglers, which must, they knew, be
ample and easy if they could master the knack of getting the boat in.
For they had some hazy notion of learning how it was done and then
hiding till night, when they might manage perhaps to pass out unseen.

"But if we did," said Mike despondently, "we should perhaps be swept in
here again, or be upset and drowned.  I say, Cinder, did you ever see
such an unlucky pair as we are?"

"Never looked," said Vince; "but I tell you what: we shall have to land
in the big cave, and get through to ours."

"What for?"

"Breakfast.  There's all our food, if they haven't found it."

"Could you eat now?" said Mike, with a look of horror.

"Eat?  I could almost eat you," replied Vince.

"Ugh!" said Mike, with a shudder.  "I feel so faint and sick and sinking
inside, I couldn't touch anything."

"Shouldn't like to trust you," said Vince, whom the bright sunshine and
the beauty of the place were influencing in his spirits.  "But now,
then, let's have a good look this time."

They were going round swiftly enough, and noted the entrance to the
first low, arched cavern, which was some forty or fifty yards to the
westward of the seal hole; then they glided by the others in turn, and
tried hard to make out how the men had managed to thrust the big boat
through the running waters beyond that great beach and into the eddy
which bore them in the other direction.

"Do you see?" asked Mike.

"No, not yet; but perhaps I shall when we come round again.  But, I say,
we can't keep on sailing round like this.  We must land."

"But Jacques and his men, they won't be gone till to-night.  You heard
what was said by old Joe?"

"Don't mention his name," cried Vince passionately.  "I should like to
see the old wretch flogged."

"I should like to do it," said Mike grimly.  "They'll come back and find
us here, for certain, if we don't hide," said Vince; "but I don't know
that I shall much mind now, for I'm afraid we shan't get away."

They glided round again, and in passing the spot where they believed the
exit to be, Vince fancied he detected an eddy among some rocks, but he
could not be sure; and at last they were once more approaching the
cavern, with its low arch, when Vince, who was watching the far end and
trying to fit together the means for getting away, suddenly snatched up
the boat-hook, thrust it out, and, leaning over the stern, caught hold
of a projecting rock, some two feet above the water.  Then hauling hard,
hand over hand along the ash pole, he checked the progress of the boat
and drew it close in.  Next, quick as lightning, he made another dash
with the hook and caught at another projection, missed, and, as the boat
was gliding back again, made another--a frantic--dash, and caught the
hook in a rift, while Mike thrust out an oar against a rock to help.

This time he drew the boat right up to the mouth of the new cavern, and
whispered sharply to his companion:

"Now--quick! help me run her in.  Mind! duck down!"

Mike obeyed, and the boat glided in under the low arch, which just
cleared their heads as they sat in the bottom of the boat, and passed on
out of the bright sunshine into the chill darkness of the cave.

"Think they saw us?" whispered Vince.

"They?  Saw us?"

"Didn't you see them coming through among the rocks quite quickly?"

"No: did you?"

"Just the tops of their caps: they were behind one of those low rocks
where the water rushes round."

"Are you sure, Vince?"

"Sure?--yes.  Ah, mind! that oar!" cried the boy.

He crept past Mike, after seizing the boat-hook, and, reaching over the
stern, made a dash at the oar his companion had been using to thrust
with against the rocks, and which had been laid-down when they passed
right in, so that Mike could use his hands.

How it had slipped over the gunwale neither could have said; but when
Vince caught sight of it, the oar was floating just in the entrance, and
the sharp dash he made at it resulted in the hook striking the blade so
awkwardly that he drove it farther out, where it was caught by the
current and drawn swiftly away.

"Gone!" said Mike despairingly.

"Gone!  Yes, of course it's gone; and now they'll find out where we
are."

"No, they're not obliged to," said Mike; "that oar may have been washed
from anywhere, and they haven't found it yet."

"Oh no," said Vince bitterly--"not yet; but you'll see."

Mike made no reply, but helped, without a word of objection, to thrust
the boat farther in along the passage, which greatly resembled the seal
hole, as they called it, but was nearly double the width, and afforded
plenty of room for the boat.

As soon as they felt that they were far enough in to be hidden by the
darkness, they sat watching the entrance, through which the bright
morning light poured, and listened intently for some sound to indicate
that the smugglers' boat was near.

But an hour must have passed, and Vince was fidgeting at something which
took his attention, when Mike suddenly whispered,--

"I say, do you notice anything strange about the way in yonder?"

Vince was silent.

"Why don't you speak?" said Mike sharply.  "You have seen it.  Why
didn't you speak before?"

"Felt as if I couldn't," said Vince hoarsely.

"Then it is so," said Mike.  "The tide is rising, and the hole's getting
smaller.  Come on: we must get out at once."

"Too late," replied Vince gloomily.  "The water's too high now.  If we
tried we should be wedged in."

"But--oh! we must try, Vince, or we shall be drowned!  Why didn't you
speak before?"

"I wasn't sure till it began to run up so quickly; and what could we do?
If we had gone out we should have been seen directly.  Perhaps it won't
rise any higher now.  It never covered the seal cave."

"That was twice as high," groaned Mike.  "Look at the limpets and
mussels on the roof: this must be shut right in at every tide."



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

RE-TRAPPED.

Misfortunes, they say, never come singly, and these words had hardly
been uttered when voices were heard, and directly after a familiar voice
said loudly, the words coming in through the low passage and quite
plainly to the boys' ears,--

"Made the oar myself, Skipper Jarks, and I ought to know it again.  What
I say is as they must ha' managed somehow to ha' got in here."

The boat darkened the entrance for a few moments, and then glided by;
while the cavern kept closing like some monstrous eye whose lid was
pressed up from below, opening again fairly widely, enough almost to
suggest the possibility of their passing under; but closing again as the
tide rose and sank in slow, regular pulsations.

But as they watched they could make out that the soft wave rose higher
and higher and sank perceptibly less, while the prisoners' eyesight
became so preternaturally sharp that they could detect the gradual
opening of the sea anemones, as they spread out their starry crowns of
tentacles after the first kiss of the water had moistened them.  The
many limpets, too, which had been tight up against the smooth rock, like
bosses or excrescences, were visibly raising their shells and standing
up, partly detached.

Then a new horror attracted the boys, and made them almost frantic for
the moment; for, as they crouched there in the bottom of the boat,
watching the slowly diminishing amount of light which came in through
the archway, the water softly and quickly, welled up, nearly shut the
entry, and a wave ran up the passage and passed under the boat, which
was heaved up so high that the gunwale grated against the roof, and they
had to bend themselves down to avoid being pressed against the rock.

Then, as they lay there, they heard the wave run on and on, whispering
and waking up the echoes far inside, till the whole of the interior
seemed to be alive with lapping, hissing sounds, which slowly died away
as the boat sank to nearly its old level, and the light flashed in once
more.

"That's a hint to do something," said Vince, as he rose up, finding that
his head nearly touched the shell-encrusted roof.

"Yes; to force our way out," said Mike excitedly.  "We must before it's
too late."

"It is too late, as I told you before," said Vince sharply.  "Look for
yourself.  Can't you see that the arch is too small for the sides of the
boat to get through? and at any moment another of those waves may come
in.  It's all right, Ladle, if you'll only be firm."

"I'll be as firm as you are," said the boy angrily.

"Then help me push her along."

Mike pressed his hands against the roof, Vince did the same; and they
both thrust hard, but in spite of all the boat did not stir.

"Why, you're pushing to send it in," said Mike.

"And you to drive it out!  What nonsense!  This place is sure to get
bigger inside, where the water has washed it out.  We must get right in,
beyond where the water rises."

Mike shuddered; for the silence and darkness of the place would, he
felt, be horrible, and all the time he knew that the water would be
gradually chasing them, like some terribly fierce creature, bent on
suffocating them in its awful embrace.

Vince's was the stronger will; and his companion yielded, changing his
tactics, and forcing the boat along for some distance before there was
any change in the roof, which crushed down upon them as low as ever, and
Mike began once more to protest.

"It's of no use," he said: "we may as well be smothered where we can see
as here, where it is so dark.  Let's go back as far as we can."

"No; I'm sure this place will open out more if we go farther in."

At that moment there was a loud, plashing noise far inward, and this
raised such loud reverberations that Mike was fain to confess that the
roof must be far higher.

Vince took advantage of this to urge his companion on; and a minute
later they could not touch the rock above them with their hands, while a
little farther on it could not be reached with an oar.

"Yes, it's bigger," granted Mike; "but we shall be suffocated all the
same.  There can't be enough air to last us till the tide goes down."

"We shall see," said Vince; and then, quite cheerily: "I say, this is
better than wading, the same as we did in the seal hole."

"Yes, but there are seals here.  I heard them."

"Yes, so did I, but what of that?  We mustn't interfere with them, and
they won't with us.  Besides, we're in a boat now, recollect."

Mike recollected it well enough, but it did not comfort him much;
however, he kept his thoughts to himself, and proposed that they should
keep as near the light as they could.

"Better keep where the roof's highest," suggested Vince.  "We shall be
able to breathe more freely then."

After that they were both very silent, for they suffered horribly from
the dread that as soon as the entrance was entirely closed up by the
tide, they would be rapidly exhausting all the pure breathable air
shut-in; and so deeply did this impress them, that before long a
peculiar sensation of compression at the chest assailed them both, with
the result that they began to breathe more hurriedly, and to feel as if
they had been running uphill, till, as it is called, they were out of
breath.

Neither spoke, but suffered in silence, their brains busy with
calculations of how long it would be before it was high water, and then
how long it would take before the tide sank low enough for the mouth of
the cave to be open once more.

Vince probably suffered the more keenly after the light was shut out
entirely; but his sufferings were the briefer, for just when his breath
was shortest, and he was feeling that he must breathe more rapidly if he
wished to keep alive, he heard a loud plashing and wallowing some
distance farther in.

That it was a party of seals playing about he was certain, and in
imagination he saw them crawling up on to some piece of rock by means of
their flappers and plunging down again.  Once he heard a pair of them
swimming in chase one of the other, blowing and uttering loud, sighing
noises as they came near, and then appeared to turn and swim back, to
climb up on the rock again, with the effect of dislodging others, which
sprang heavily into the water, sending little waves along big enough to
make the boat rock perceptibly.

This was just when Vince felt at his worst, and Mike was lying back in
the boat breathing hard and in the most hurried way.

It was singular that just then the recollection of a story he had once
read in a work belonging to his father came to Vince's mind.  True or
false, it had been recorded that some French surgeons had been
discussing the effect of the imagination upon the human mind, and to
test for themselves whether its effects could be so strong as some
writers and experimentalists had declared, they obtained permission to
apply a test to a condemned convict.

Their test was as follows: It had been announced to the man that he was
to die, and that his execution was to be the merciful one of being bled
to death.  So at the appointed time the culprit was bound and
blindfolded in the presence of the surgeons, who then proceeded to lance
his arm and allowed a tiny jet of warm water to trickle over the place
and down to the wrist.

It is said that, though the man had not lost a drop of blood, he began,
as soon as he had felt the lancet prick and the trickling of the warm
water, to grow faint, and after a time sank and sank, till he actually
died from imagination.

"And that's what we're doing," thought Vince, as he drew slowly a long,
deep breath, and then another and another.

The first was very catchy and strange, the second caused him acute
suffering, and the third was deep, strong, and life-inspiring.

"That's it," said Vince to himself--"it is imagination; for if the
seals, which are things that have to come up to the surface to breathe,
can live in here, why can't I?"

Vince again took a deep breath, and another, and another, and so great a
feeling of vigour ran through him that he laughed aloud, and Mike
started up.

"What is it?" he said.

"Listen," cried Vince; and he loudly drew breath, and expressed it as
loudly, then, "Do that," he cried.

"I--I can hardly get mine.  This place is stifling."

"Try," said Vince.  "That's right.  Again!  Better.  Now take a long
pull.  How are you now?"

"Oh, better--better," said Mike eagerly.

"Breathe again."

"Yes, yes; I am breathing better and better.  Then the air is coming
now?"

"Yes," said Vince drily; "the air is coming fast, and the light can't be
very long.  There--it's all right, Ladle; we shan't hurt now.  But I
don't know how we're going to manage when the tide falls, for we shan't
dare to go out."

"No," said Mike, whose spirits sank again at these words, "we shan't
dare to go out.  Do you know, I wish, as you did, that we had stopped on
board."

"And not taken all this trouble for nothing.  How long should you say it
would be before the light comes again?"

"Hours," said Mike; "but I don't mind it so much now that we can breathe
better."

"No; it is better," said Vince drily.  "I say, I wonder what they are
doing at home?"

Vince wished the next moment that he had not said those words, for they
had the effect of sinking his companion into a terrible state of
depression, while, in spite of his efforts, he was himself nearly as
bad.

But then it was before breakfast, and they had hardly touched a mouthful
since the morning before.

At last, after what seemed to be a full day in length of time, there was
afar off a faint soft gleam of light on the surface of the water--a ray
which sent a flood into the hearts of the watchers--and from that moment
the light began to grow broader and higher, while they suddenly woke to
the fact that the boat was moving gently towards the entrance of the
cavern, drawn by the falling tide.

After a while there was a tiny archway; then this began to increase as
the water sank and rose, but always rose less and less, leaving the sea
anemones and the various shell-fish dotted with drops which gathered
together, glittering and trembling in the light, and then fell with a
musical drip upon the smooth surface.

The little arch increased rapidly after a time, and still the boat drew
nearer to the entrance, neither of the boys having the heart to check
its progress after their long imprisonment, for the outer world never
looked so bright and glorious before.

But they had to pay for their pleasure.  As the level sank till there
was ample room to thrust the boat out, and they were thinking that to be
safe they ought to withdraw a little and wait until they could feel sure
that the lugger and her crew were gone--a departure they felt must be
some time that evening, when the tide was at a certain stage well known
to old Joe--the entrance was suddenly darkened once more by a boat,
whose bows came with the stream from the right, and were cleverly
directed in, while her occupants began to thrust her along by pressing
against the sides, and a couple of lanthorns were held up.

"Aha!" cried the voice the boys had grown to hate, "so ve have found a
pair of ze seal sitting in a boat vich zey steal avay.  You are right,
Joseph, _mon bon ami_.  Your boat sall not have gone out of ze pool, and
you sall have him back.  Aha!  Stop you bose, or I fire, and zis time I
vill not miss."

"In, in farther, Vince," whispered Mike wildly.

"No: they've seen us, and they could follow us in their boat.  It's of
no use, Mike; we must give up this time."

"You hear me?" roared the captain fiercely.  "I see quite plain vere you
sall be.  _Venez_.  Come out."

"Come and fetch us," said Vince shortly.  "You have your men."

The captain gave his orders, the boat was thrust on, and as its bow
approached the boys saw the black silhouette of their old companion in
many a fishing trip seated on the forward thwart.

This was too much for Vince, who began upon him at once, with bitter
irony in his words and tone.

"You there, Joe!" he cried.  "Good morning.  Don't you feel very proud
of this?"

"Dunno 'bout proud, young gen'leman; but I'm precious glad to get my
boat back."

"Your boat back!" cried Vince, as one of the smuggler crew made fast a
rope to the ring-bolt in their stern.

"Aye.  Didn't know as young gen'lemen took to stealing boats
altogether."

"You dare to say we stole the boat, and I'll--"

"Well, you took it right away, anyhow.  That comes o' beginning with
borrying and not asking leave."

"Better than taking to kidnapping people."

Old Joe growled out something, and shuffled himself about in his seat
while the boat was drawn out into the sunshine once more, and drifted
behind the other rapidly along till she reached the smugglers' cavern.

"Give zem some biscuit and some vater," said the captain.  "You, Joseph,
take your boat and go on.  _Allez_!"

The old fisherman looked at him rather uneasily, then at the boys, and
back at the captain.

"You hear vat I sall say?" cried the latter fiercely.

He made a menacing gesture; and the boys took each a deep draught of
water, and began to nibble the hard sea biscuit that was their fare.



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

THE TIGHTENING OF THE CHAINS.

There was something very grim and suggestive about the captain's
behaviour to the two boys later on towards evening, when he came and
stood glaring down at them, where they sat in the sand.  He had said a
few words to one of the men, who went up into the back of the cavern
while the other waited; and Vince noted that there was a splashing sound
round the corner of the buttress which supported one side of the great
arch, so that he was not surprised directly after to see the prow of a
boat appear, to be run in and beached upon the sand.

Vince looked up inquiringly when the smuggling captain came and stood
before him; but the man did not speak--he only glared down, apparently
with the idea that he was frightening the lads horribly.  Vince did not
shrink, for he did not feel frightened, only troubled about home and the
despondency there, as the time went by without news of their fate.  For
it was evident to him that the time had come for them to be taken on
board ready for the lugger to sail.

The second man came back with some fine line in his hand.

"_Vite_--tight!" said the captain laconically.

"You're not going to tie us?" said Vince, flushing.

"Yais, bose togezaire," said the Frenchman, with a grin of satisfaction
at seeing the boy moved to indignant protest.

"But if we say we will not try to escape?" cried Vince.

"I vill not believes you.  _Non, mon ami_, ve have enough of ze _peine_
to _attraper_ you again.  Two slippery _garcons_.  I tie you bose like
ze mutton sheep, and zen if von shump to run avays he pull ze ozaire
down.  _Vous comprenez_?"

"Oh yes, I comprong," cried Vince contemptuously.  "Just like a
Frenchman.  An Englishman would not be afraid of a boy."

"Vat!" cried the captain, showing his teeth, as he raised his hand to
strike--when, quick as lightning, the boy threw himself into an attitude
of defence; but the men seized him and dragged his arms behind his back.

"That's right, coward!" cried Vince, half mad now with excitement.

At the word coward the captain's face looked black as night, his
right-hand was thrust into his breast pocket, and he drew out and cocked
a small pistol, while Mike darted to his companion's side, laid his
hands across Vince's breast, and faced the captain; but he was seized by
one of the men, who passed the line about his wrists after it had been
dexterously fastened round those of his fellow-prisoner.

"Never mind, Mike; but I like that, old chap!" cried Vince.  "Well done!
Let's show him what English boys are like: he daren't shoot us.  Do you
hear, Jacques? _vous n'oses pas_."

"Aha!  You begin by stumble blunder bad French, you _canaille_ boy.  I
not dare shoot you?"

"No," said Vince defiantly, as the pistol was presented full at his
face.  "You dare not, you great coward!"

"Aha, _encore_?  You call me coward, _une insulte!  Mais bah_!  It is
only a silly boy.  Tie zem bose togezaire, my lad, an trow zem in ze
boat.  Silly boy!  Like two shicken _volatile_ go to be roace for
dinnaire.  _Non, arretez_; stop, my lad.  Coward!  It was _une insulte_.
Now you apologise me."

"I won't," said Vince sturdily: "you are a coward to tie up two boys
like this."

The black wrath in the Frenchman's face at these words made Mike shiver,
and he pressed closer to Vince as the pistol was raised once more.

"Don't--don't," he whispered.  "Say something: we are so helpless."

"Aha!  I hear vat he say.  Yais, you apologise me, sare."

"I won't," said Vince, who, with nerves strung by the agony he felt at
his wrists, which were being cut into by the cord, was ready to dare and
say anything.

"You vill not?" cried the captain, slowly uncocking the pistol, as his
face resumed its ordinary aspect.

"No, I--will--not!" cried Vince.  "Put it away.  You dare not fire."

"_Non_; it would be a pity.  I nevaire like to shoot good stuff.  You
are a brave boy, and I vill make you a fine man.  And you too, _mon
garcon_."

He laid his hands on the boys' shoulders, and pressed them hard, smiling
as he said,--

"_Non_, I sink I am not a coward, _mon enfant_, but I tie you bose up
vis ze hant behint, so you sall not run avay.  Aha!  Eh?  You not run
avay vis ze hant, _mais_ vis ze foot?  _Eh bien: n'importe_: it does not
mattaire.  You ugly boy," he continued, striking Vince a sharp rap in
the chest with the back of the hand, "I like you.  _Yais_.  You have
saucy tongue.  You are a bouledogue boy.  I vill see you two 'ave a
fight some days.  Now, my lad, take zem bose into ze boat.  Ah, _yah,
bete cochon_--big peegue!" he roared, as he examined the way in which
the boys' wrists were tied behind their backs.  "I tell you to lash zem
fast.  I did not say, `Cut off ze hant.'  Cast zem off."

The man who had secured Vince sulkily obeyed, and the captain looked on
till the line was untied, leaving the boys' wrists with white marks
round and blackened swellings on either side.

"Ah, he is a fool," said the captain, taking up first one and then the
other hand.  "Vy you do not squeak and pipe ze eye?"

Vince frowned, but made no reply.

"Zere, valk down to ze boat vis me.  Say you vill not run avay."

"No: I mean to escape," said Vince.

"Bah!  It is sillee.  You cannot, _mon garcon_.  Come, ze _parole
d'honneur_.  Be a man."

Vince glanced at Mike, who gave him an imploring look, which seemed to
say: "Pray give it."

"Yais," said the captain, smiling: "_Parole d'honneur_.  If you try to
run _il faut_ shooter zis time."

"_Parole d'honneur_ for to-day," said Vince.  "After to-day I shall try
to escape."

"It is _bon_--good," said the captain, laughing.  "After to-day--yais.
Zere, valk you down to ze boat.  I like you bose.  If you had been cry
boy, and go down on your knees, and zay, `Oh, pray don't,' I kick you.
_En avant_!"

He clapped his hand upon Vince's shoulder, and walked with both to the
boat, signing to them to enter and go right forward, where they seated
themselves in the bows while he took his place in the stern.

"Oh, Cinder!" whispered Mike, with a look of admiration at his friend,
"I wish I'd had the heart to speak to him like that."

"What?" whispered back Vince, "why, I never felt so frightened in my
life.  I thought he was going to shoot."

"I don't believe it," said Mike quietly.  "I say, now let's see how they
manage to get out of this great whirling pool."

They were not kept waiting long, for the boat was thrust off, sent into
the stream, and away they went, skirting the long, low rock which rose
in their way; and then, just as it seemed that they were going to be
sunk by the tremendous rush of water passing in between two huge masses,
the boat was thrust into another sharply marked current, hung in
suspense for a few moments, and then glided along the backwater and out
at last into the pool.  Here the glassy surface streaked with numerous
lines told of the rapid currents following their well-marked courses,
and the eddies and reflections of the water known to the men and taken
advantage of, so that the vessel's side was reached with ease.

As they neared the side the captain, who had been keenly watching the
boys and reading their thoughts, came slowly past his men, so quietly
that Vince and Mike started on hearing him speak.

"You could manage ze boat now and take him vere you vill?  _Non, mes
enfans_.  It take long time to find ze vay.  I sink you bose drown last
night, but you have _bonne fortune_ and escape.  But you get avay till I
say go?  Nevaire!  Shump."

He pointed upward, and the lads climbed aboard, looking wistfully to
right and left as they recalled their adventures along the side in the
dark, and saw old Daygo's boat hanging by her painter close under the
stern.

"Took a lot of trouble for nothing, Cinder," said Mike sadly.

"Yes: can't always win," replied Vince.  "Never mind: I'm glad we
tried."

Mike had not the heart to say "So am I," though he felt that he ought to
have done so; but, catching sight of the old fisherman leaning over the
bulwark forward, he said instead,--

"There's that old wretch again!  Oh, how I should like to--"

He did not say what, but turned his back upon him in disgust.

"Yes--a beauty!" said Vince, scowling.  "I say, Mike, no wonder old Joe
was always so well off that he never had to work.  Pst! here's the
skipper."

"_Non, mon ami_--ze capitaine.  _Eh bien_--ah, vell! you are on board
again.  I sall lock you down upon ze powdaire again and keep you
prisonaire?  My faith, no!  It is vord of honnaire to-day, and to-day
last _vingt-quatre heures_--till zis time to-morrow: you understand?"

"Yes," said Vince; and then, frankly, "I beg your pardon, skip--"

"Eh?"

"Captain," said Vince quickly: "I beg your pardon, captain, for calling
you a coward."

The Frenchman looked at him searchingly, and then clapped down both
hands on the boy's shoulders and held him firmly.

"_Bon_!" he said; "_bon_!  Zat is all gone now.  I sall not call you out
and say vill you have ze pistol or ze arm _blanc_--ze sword.  You bose
come dine vis me _ce soir_--zis evening, and you not make fool of ze
comestible, as ve call him, eh?  Now go valk about ze deck.  You like to
see ze vay out?  No; ve leave all zat to my good _ami_, Joseph Daygo.
He take ze _Belle-Marie_ out to sea vile ve dine.  It is ze secret know
only to Joseph.  I could not do him myselfs."

This only increased Vince's desire to discover by what means the lugger
was piloted out from its moorings beneath the towering rocks, where it
was completely shut-in, though it seemed that there was a channel behind
the rock which spread out in front.

Sunset was drawing near, and it became evident that the time was
approaching for a start to be made, for the boat in which they came from
the cave had been hoisted up to the davits, and the men were busy
preparing for hoisting sails.  The hatches were in their places, and the
vessel looked wonderfully orderly, being very different in aspect from
those of its class.  In fact, from stem to stern she was nearly as neat
as a king's ship.

Meanwhile Joe Daygo kept close to the bulwark, turning from time to time
to note how the men were progressing, and then leaning over the bulwark
again to gaze at the perpendicular wall of rock before him, which
towered up to a great height and went apparently straight down into the
sea.  "I know," said Vince at last, in a whisper.  "Know what?"

"Joe Daygo is watching that streak of white paint on the rock over
yonder."

"I see no streak of white paint," said Mike.  "Yes, I do.  But what of
that?"

"It's his mark," said Vince.  "He's going to wait till the tide touches
that, and then going to cast off."

"Think so?"

"Sure of it."

But Vince had no opportunity for waiting to see.  The glassy current was
still a couple of inches below the dimly seen white mark, when there was
a peculiar odour which came from a tureen that the cook carried along
the deck towards the cabin; and almost at the same moment a hand was
laid upon the boy's shoulder.

"Come," said the captain; "it is time for ze dinnaire.  You are bose
hungry?--yais, I know."

Vince would have liked to decline, so strong was his desire to study the
key to the entrance of the secret little port; but to refuse to go down
was impossible, and he preceded his host through the cabin-hatch, where
a swinging lamp was burning and the deadlights were closed so that not a
gleam could escape.  The tureen steamed on the table, they were in no
danger, and healthy young appetite prevailed, for the soup was good even
if the biscuits were flinty and hard.

As for the captain, it seemed absurd to associate him with smuggling or
pistols, for he played the host in the most amiable manner when fish
succeeded the soup; but as it was being discussed there were hurried
sounds on deck.  Men were running to and fro; then came the peculiar
dull, rasping sound of cables being hauled in through hawser holes, and
a slight motion told that they were starting.

Vince ceased eating, and his eyes were involuntarily turned to the side,
when the captain said laughingly,--

"It is nozing, my younger _ami_, and ze bulkhead side is not glass: you
cannot see nozing.  You vant to know?  Vell, my sheep is in ze sharge of
ze pilot, and ze men cast off.  If he take her out quite vell, sank you,
ve sall soon be at sea.  If he make ze grand error he put my sheep on ze
rock, vich make ze hole and you sall hear ze vater run in.  You bose can
svim?  Yais?  Good, but you need not try: you stay down here vis me and
not take trouble, but go to ze bottom like ze brave _homme_, for ze big
tide on'y take you avay and knock you against ze rock.  Now eat you
feesh."

It was not a pleasant addition to the boys' dinner, but they went on
listening in the intervals of the captain's many speeches, and picturing
to themselves how the great lugger was being carefully piloted along a
sharp current and steered here and there, apparently doubling upon her
course more than once.  But by the time the boiled fowl was nearly eaten
there was a steady heeling over, following the sound of the hoisting of
a sail.  Then the vessel heeled over a little more, and seemed to dance
for a minute in rough water, as if she were passing over some awkward
place.  The captain smiled.

"My sheep she is lively," he said.  "She sink it vas time not to be tied
by ze head and tail, so she commence to dance.  Zat is a vairy bad
place, but Joseph is a grand pilot; he know vat to do, and I am nevaire
in his way."

Just then there was a dull thud, as if a mass of water had struck the
side, and the vessel heeled over more than ever, righted herself, and
then rose and rode over a wave, plunging down and again gliding along
upon a level keel.  "Eat, eat, _mes amis_," said the captain.  "You do
not mean that you have _le mal-de-mer_?"

"Oh no," said Vince quickly, as if ashamed to be suspected of such a
weakness.  "We don't mind the sea; besides, it isn't rough.  We're not
going over a bar of sand?"

"_Non_: a bar of rocks, vere Joseph can take us safely.  Anozaire man?
_Non, non_."

They could not grasp much, as the dinner drew now to an end, and no
doubt their imaginations played them false to a great extent; but they
thoroughly realised that for a few minutes the great lugger was being
slowly navigated through a most intricate channel, where the current ran
furiously; after that more sail was made, and the regular motion of the
vessel told them that they were getting out into the open sea.

All at once the door was opened, and old Daygo appeared.

"Aha! you are finish, _mon ami_?"

Daygo nodded his head and uttered a low grunt.

"Good.  I come on deck."

Old Joe turned and went up the ladder, followed by the captain; and then
Mike dashed after them.

"What are you going to do?" cried Vince.  But Mike made no reply; and
the other followed on deck, anxious to see what was going to take place,
for that Mike had some project was very evident.

As Vince reached the deck he saw that Mike was at the leeward side,
where a couple of men stood by the rope which held the pilot's boat,
while the captain and the old fisherman were walking right forward,
talking earnestly.  The lugger was sailing gently along half a mile from
the shore in the direction of the south point; and Vince's heart leaped
and then sank as he faintly made out one of the familiar landmarks on
the highest part of the island, but he had no time for indulging in
emotion just then, for the captain turned suddenly and old Joe made for
his boat.

"Mike isn't going to jump in and try to go with him, is he?" thought
Vince; and a pang shot through him at the very thought of such a
cowardly desertion.  "No," he added to himself; "he wouldn't do that."

Vince was right, for all he did was to rush at Daygo, catch him by the
shoulder and whisper something.

The old fisherman turned, stared, and Mike repeated as far as Vince
could make out his former question, while the captain stood a little way
back and looked on.

Just then Daygo growled out "No!" angrily, and thrust Mike away so
roughly that the boy staggered back and nearly fell; but before the old
man could reach the bulwark, Mike had recovered himself, leaped at him,
and delivered such a kick, that the pilot plunged forward half over the
bulwark, and then turned savagely to take revenge upon his assailant.
But the captain had advanced, and he said something sharply, which made
Daygo hurry over the bulwark and drop down into his boat.  One of the
men cast off the rope and threw it after him, and the next moment she
was astern, with the old man standing upright, his hands to each side of
his mouth; and he bellowed out,--

"Yah!  Good luck to you both!  You'll never see this Crag agen."

Then the darkness began to swallow up his small boat, and the great
three-masted lugger glided onward--where?

Mike turned sharply, expecting to be seized by the captain; but the
latter had his back to him, and went forward to give orders for another
sail to be hoisted, while the boys went involuntarily to the side to
gaze at the Crag.

"What was it you asked Joe?" said Vince.

"Not what you thought," replied Mike rather bitterly.

"Why, what did I think?"

"That I was begging him to take me in the boat."

"No, I didn't," said Vince sharply.  "I thought at first that you'd run
up to jump in, but directly after I said to myself that you wouldn't be
such a sneak.  What did you say to him?"

"I told him my father would give him a hundred pounds, and that he
should never say anything to Joe, if he'd go and tell them directly
where we are."

"And he wouldn't.  Well, I'm glad you kicked him, for shoving you away
like that."

"I should be," replied Mike, "if he wasn't such an old man."

"He isn't an old man," said Vince hotly: "he's an old wretch, without a
bit of manliness in him."

"All right, then; I'm glad I kicked him.  But never mind Joe Daygo,
Vince.  It's getting darker, and the old Crag is seeming to die away.
Oh, Cinder, old chap, is it all true?  Are we being taken away like
this?"

Vince could not trust himself to speak, but leaned over the bulwark,
resting his chin upon his thumbs, and shading the sides of his face--
partly to conceal its workings, which was not necessary in the darkness,
partly to shut off the side-light and see the island more easily.

And neither was this necessary, for there were no sidelights, and the
Crag was now so dim that had he not known it was there it would have
been invisible; but he preserved it all mentally, and thought of the
pleasant home, with the saddened faces there, of the happy days he had
spent, and now for the first time fully realised what a joyous boyhood
he had passed in the rocky wildly picturesque old place, with no greater
trouble to disturb his peaceful life than some puzzling problem or a
trivial fit of illness.  All so bright, so joyous, so happy,--and now
gone, perhaps, for ever; and some strange, wild life to come, but what
kind of existence he could not grasp.

Naturally enough, Mike's thoughts ran in the same channel, but he gave
them utterance; and Vince, as he stood there, heard him saying
piteously,--

"Good-bye, dear old home!  I never knew before what you really were.
Good-bye--good-bye!"  And then, passionately--"Oh, Vince, Vince! what
have we done to deserve all this?  Where are we going now?"

"To bed, _mes amis_," said the captain, slapping them both on the
shoulders and rudely interrupting their thoughts.  "Come: I take you
myself.  Not over ze powdaire now.  I vill not tempt you to _faire
sauter_--make jump ze _chasse-maree_--blow up ze sheep, eh?  My faith,
no!  But you take ze good counsel, _mes_ boys.  You go to your bunk like
ze good shile, and have long sleep.  You get out of the deadlight vis ze
sheep in full sail.  You go ovaire-board bose of you, and I am vair
sorry for ze _bonnes_ mammas."

"Doesn't seem like it," said Vince stoutly, "taking us off prisoners
like this."

"Prisonaires!  Faith of a good man!  You sink I treat you like
prisonaires, and have you to dinnaire and talk to you vis _bonnes
conseilles_ like ze papa?"

"You are taking us away, and making every one who cares for us think we
are dead."

"_C'est dommage_--it is a great pitee, my young friend; but, you see, I
have a large propertee at ze caverne.  It is vort tousand of pounds, and
ze place is vair useful to me and ze _confrere_ who come to take it
somevere else."

"What, are there more of you?" blurted out Vince.

"Eh?  You nevaire mind.  But I cannot part vis my store, and I vant ze
place to go to ven I bring a cargo."

"But we'll promise you on our words that we will not betray it to any
one, if you set us ashore."

"Aha!  Not to have anozaire kick at _notre bon_ Joseph, eh?"

"No, not even to serve Joe Daygo out," said Vince.  "An old wretch!  But
he deserves it."

"And faith of a gentlemans, on your word of _honneur_, you vould not
tell vere ze contraband is kept?"

"On our honour, as gentlemen, we would not: would we, Mike?"

"No," was the eager reply.

"I believe you bose," said the captain.  "But you could not keep your
vort.  It is impossible."

"But we would," said Vince.

"You vould try, _mon garcon_, but you vould be _oblige_ to tell.
Listen--von vort for all.  I have faith in you bose, but no, it cannot
be.  You cannot go back, so you must act like ze man now."

"Then you are going to take us away?" cried Vince.

"I 'ave take you avay, my boy, and I sall not let you go back till I no
longer vant ze cavern store, and ze safe place to hide.  Zen you may go
back--if you like."

"What do you mean by that?" said Vince quickly.

"Vat I say: if you like.  I sink by zat time you bose say to me, `_Non_,
Monsieur Jacques, ve do not vant to go.'  Now I talk no more.  Down vis
you!"

"Only tell us one thing," said Vince: "where are you going to take us?"

"I tell you ven I can," said the captain.

"What do you mean by that?" cried Mike excitedly.

"Vat I say.  I do not know."

He pressed them towards the hatchway, and they descended, feeling that
they could do nothing else, while the captain followed and opened a door
opposite to that of the cabin.

"Zere," he said.  "You can sleep in zose bunk.  I keep zat for my
friend, and I give zem to mine _ennemi_, you see.  I vill not lock ze
door, but you listen, bose of you.  I am ze capitaine, and I am _le
roi_--ze king here.  If a man say he vill not, I knock him down.  If he
get up and pull out ze knife, I take ze pistol and shoot: I am
_dangereux_.  If I hear ze strange noise, I shoot.  Don't you make ze
strange noise in ze night, _mes amis_, but go sleep, as you _Anglais_
say, like ze sound of two top hummin.  You understand.  _Bon soir_!  You
come to ze _dejeuner_--breakfast in ze morning."

He shut them in, and the two boys were left in the darkness to their
thoughts.  But they were too weary to think much, and soon felt their
way into their bunks, one above the other.

An hour later the door was softly opened, and a lanthorn was thrust in,
the captain following to look at each face in turn.

There was no sham this time.  Utterly worn out by the excitement of the
past hours, Vince and Mike were both off--fast in the heavy, dreamless,
restful slumber of sixteen--the sleep in which Nature winds up a boy's
mainspring terse and tight, and makes him ready to go on, rested and
fresh, for the work of another day.



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

HOW SOME FOLK TURN SMUGGLERS.

The sea was up before the boys next morning, and in its own special way
was making the _chasse-maree_ pitch and toss, now rising up one side of
a wave, now gliding down the other; for the wind had risen towards
morning, and was now blowing so hard that quite half the sail hoisted
overnight had had to be taken down, leaving the swift vessel staggering
along beneath the rest.

Vince turned out feeling a bit puzzled and confused, for he did not
quite grasp his position; but the full swing of thought came, with all
its depressing accompaniments, and he roused up Mike to bear his part
and help to condole as well.

Mike, on the contrary, turned out of his bunk fully awake to their
position, and began to murmur at once bitterly as he went on dressing,
till at last Vince turned upon him.

"I say," he said, "it's of no use to make worse of it."

"No one can," cried Mike.

"Oh, can't they?  Why, you're doing your part."

"I'm only saying that it's abominable and outrageous, and that I wish
the old lugger may be wrecked.  Here, I say, what have you been doing
with my clothes?"

"Haven't touched 'em."

"But you must have touched them.  I folded them up, and put them
together, and they're pitched all over the place.  Where are my boots?"

"Servant girl's fetched 'em out to clean, perhaps," said Vince quietly.

"Eh?  Think so?  Well, they did want it.--Get out!  I don't see any need
for jeering at our position here.  Just as if I didn't know better!
Here, you must have got them on."

"Not I!  Even if I wanted to, one of your great ugly boots would be big
enough for both of my feet."

"Do you want to quarrel, Cinder?" said Mike roughly.

"Not here.  Isn't room enough.  There are your boots, one on each side
of the door in the corners of the cabin."

"Then you must have kicked them there, and--"

Mike did not finish, for the lugger gave such a lurch that the boy went
in a rush against the opposite bulkhead with a heavy bang.

"Didn't kick you there, at all events," said Vince, who was fastening
his last buttons.

"Why, the sea's getting up," said Mike.  "Has it been blowing up above?"

"Haven't been on deck, but it has been alarming down here.  I had a
horrible job to find my things.  They were all over the place."

"How horrid!  And what a miserable place to dress in!"

"Better than a sandbank in a seal's hole."

"Oh! don't talk about it."

"Why not?  It's over.  Deal better off than we have been lately, for we
have got an invitation to breakfast."

"I wish you wouldn't do that, Cinder," said Mike querulously.

"Do what?  I didn't do anything."

"Now you're at it again, trying to cut jokes and making the best of
things at a time like this."

"All right: I'm silent, then," said Vince.  "Shall I go on deck?"

"Go? what for?"

"Leave you more room to dress."

"It will be very shabby if you do go before I'm dressed.  If ever two
fellows were bound to stick together it's us now.  Oh dear, how awkward
everything is!  I say, there's no danger, is there?" cried Mike, as the
lugger gave a tremendous plunge and then seemed to wallow down among the
waves.

"No, I don't see what danger there can be.  Seems a beautifully built
boat, and I daresay Jacques is a capital sailor."

"A scoundrel!" said Mike bitterly.

"Now, _mes enfans_, get up," cried the skipper's voice; and this was
followed by a smart banging at the door, which was opened and a head
thrust in.

"If you sall bose be ill you can stay in bed to-day; but you vill be
better up.  Vell, do you feel vairy seek?"

"No, we're all right," said Vince; and soon after the two boys climbed
on deck and had to shelter themselves from the spray, which was flying
across the deck in a sharp shower.

It was a black-looking morning, and the gloom of the clouds tinged the
surface of the sea, whose foaming waves looked sooty and dingy to a
degree, while the boys found now how much more severe the storm was than
they had supposed when below.  The men were all in their oilskins, very
little canvas was spread, and they were right out in a heavy, chopping
sea, with no sign of land on any hand.

They had to stagger to the lee bulwarks and hold on, for the lugger
every now and then indulged in a kick and plunge, while from time to
time a wave came over the bows, deluging the deck from end to end.

But before long the slight feeling of scare which had attacked the boys
passed off, as they saw the matter-of-fact, composed manner in which the
men stood at their various stations, while the captain was standing now
beside the helmsman, and appeared to be giving him fresh directions as
to the course he was to steer, with the result that, as the lugger's
head paid off a trifle, the motion became less violent, while her speed
increased.

"Aha!" shouted the captain, as he found them--"not seek yet?  Vait till
ve have ze _dejeuner_, and zen ve sall see."

"Oh, we've been to sea before," said Vince rather contemptuously.

"And you like ze sea, _n'est-ce pas_--is it not so?"

"Oh yes; we like the sea," said Vince.  "It is good," said the captain,
clapping him on the shoulder.  "Zen you sall help me.  You say no at ze
beginning, but bah! a boy--two boy like you brave _garcons_--vill not
cry to go home to ze muzzer.  It is a fine sing to have a luggar of tree
mast like zis, and you sall bose make you fortune ven I have done."

He nodded and turned away, leaving the boys to stand looking at each
other aghast, and forgetting all about the state of the sea, till a big
wave came over the bows and made them seek for shelter.

They saw but little of the captain that day, except at meal-times, when
he was good-humoured and jocose with them in spite of the fact that the
weather did not mend in the least.  Then the next day passed, and the
next, with the wind not so violent, but the sea continued rough, and the
constant misty rain kept them for the most part below.  The crew were
civil enough, and chatted with them when they did not ask questions; but
failing to obtain any information from them as to their destination,
Vince agreed with Mike that one of them should ask the captain where
they were going to first.  So that evening, when they were sailing
slowly in a north-easterly direction, after being driven here and there
by contrary winds, they waited their opportunity, and upon the captain
coming up to them Vince began at once with,--

"Where are we going to first, captain?"

"Eh? you vant to know?" he said.  "Vell, you sall.  In zere."  The boys
looked sharply in the direction pointed out but could see nothing for
the misty rain which drifted slowly across the sea.

"Where's in there?" said Mike.

"You are not good sailore yet, _mon ami_, or you vould have study our
course.  I vill tell you.  You look over ze most left, and you vill see
ze land of ze fat, heavy Dutchmans."

"What, Holland?" cried Vince eagerly.

"Yais: you know ze name of ze river and ports?"

"Yes; Amsterdam, Rotterdam," began Vince.  "Are we going to one of those
places?"

"Aha! ve sall see.  You no ask questions.  Some day, if you are good boy
and can be trust, you vill know everysings.  Perhaps ve go into ze
Scheldt, perhaps ve make for ze Texel and ze Zuyder Zee, perhaps ve go
noveres.  Now you know."

He gave them a peculiar look and left them, and as the rain came on in a
drifting drizzle the boys made this an excuse for going below.

"Mike," said Vince, as soon as they were alone, "got a pencil?"

"No."

"And there is neither pen nor ink."

"Nor yet paper."

"Then we're floored there," said Vince impatiently.

"What did you want to do?"

"Want to do?  Why, write home of course, telling them where we were.  We
surely could post a letter at the port."

"No: he'll never give us a chance."

"Perhaps not; but we might bribe some one to take the letter."

"What with?  I haven't a penny, and I don't believe you have."

Vince doubled his fists and rested his head upon them.

"I tell you what, then: we only gave our word for one day.  We must wait
till we are in port, and then swim ashore.  Some one would help us."

"If we could speak Dutch."

"Oh dear," said Vince, "how hard it is!  But never mind, let's get away.
We might find an English ship there."

Mike shook his head, and Vince set to work inventing other ways of
escaping; but they finally decided that the best way would be to wait
till they were in the river or port, and then to try and get off each
with an oar to help support them in what might prove to be a longer swim
than they could manage.

That evening the weather lifted, and after a couple of hours' sail they
found themselves off a dreary, low-lying shore, upon which a cluster or
two of houses was visible, and several windmills--one showing up very
large and prominent at the mouth of what seemed to be a good-sized
river, whose farther shore they could faintly discern in the failing
evening light.

"We're going up there," said Vince--"that's certain."  But just as it
began to grow dark there was a loud rattling, and down went an anchor,
the lugger swung round, and the boys were just able to make out that
they were about a couple of miles from the big windmill.

"Too many sandbanks to venture in," said Vince.

"No; we're waiting for a pilot."

"I believe," said Vince, "he'll wait for daylight and then sail up the
river; and if we don't escape somehow before we're twenty-four hours
older my name isn't Burnet."

Mike said nothing, but he did not seem hopeful; and soon after they were
summoned to the cabin to dinner, where the captain was very friendly.

"Aha! now you see Holland.  It is beautiful, is it not?  Flat as ze
Dutchman face.  Not like your Cormorant Crag, eh?  But nevaire mind.  It
vas time, and soon ve get butter, bread and milk, ze sheecan, ze potate,
for you hungry boy have eat so much ve get to ze bottom of ze store."

They asked no questions, for they felt that it did not matter.  Any land
would do, and if they could escape it would go hard if they did not
avoid recapture.

They were too much excited to sleep for some time that night, lying
listening for the coming of the pilot or for the hoisting of the anchor;
for there was, after all, the possibility of their having anchored till
the tide rose sufficiently for them to cross some bar at the mouth of
the river.  But sleep overcame them at last, and they lay insensible to
the fact that about midnight a light was hoisted at the mast-head, which
was answered about an hour after by the appearance of another light in
the mouth of the river--a light which gradually crept nearer and nearer
till about an hour before dawn, when the boys were awakened by a soft
bumping against the lugger's side, followed by a dull creaking, and then
came the hurrying to and fro of feet on the deck overhead.

"Quick, Mike!" cried Vince--"into your clothes.  She's sinking!"

As they hurried on a few things, the passing to and fro of men grew
louder; they heard the captain's voice giving orders, evidently for the
lowering of a boat, and the boys tried to fling open the door and rush
on deck.

Tried--but that was all.

"Mike, we're locked in!" cried Vince frantically; and he began to kick
at the door, shouting with Mike for help.

Their appeal was so vigorous that they did not have to wait for long.
There was the sound of the captain's heavy boots as he blundered down
the ladder, and he gave a tremendous kick at the door.

"Yah!" he roared: "vat for you make zat row?"

"The lugger!  She's sinking," cried the boys together.

"I com in and sink you," roared the captain.  "Go to sleep, bose of
you."

"But the door's locked."

"Yais, I lock him myself.  _Silence_!"

Then the lugger was not sinking; but the faint creaking and grinding
went on after the captain had gone back on deck, and the boys stood
listening to the orders given and the hurrying to and fro of men.

"She must be on a rock, Cinder," said Mike, in a half-stifled voice.

"No rocks here.  On a sandbank, and they're trying to get her off."

Then there was a rattling and banging noise, which came through the
bulkhead.

"Why, they're taking up the hatches over the hold."

"Yes," said Vince bitterly; "they're thinking more of saving the bales
than of us."

"Down vis you, and pass 'em up," cried the captain; and, for what seemed
to be quite a couple of hours, they could hear the crew through the
bulkhead busy in the hold fetching out and passing up the bales on to
the deck in the most orderly way, and without a bit of excitement.

"Can't be much danger," said Vince at last, "or they wouldn't go on so
quietly as this."

"I don't know," said Mike bitterly; "it must be bad, and they will
forget us at last, and we shall be drowned, shut up here."

"Don't make much difference," said Vince, with a laugh.  "Better off
here.  Fishes won't be able to get at us and eat us afterwards."

"Ugh! how can you talk in that horrid way at a time like this!"

"To keep up our spirits," said Vince.  "Perhaps it isn't so bad.  She's
on a bank, I'm sure, and perhaps--yes, that's it--they're trying to
lighten her and make her float."

"They're not," said Mike excitedly.  "Why, they're bringing other things
down.  You listen here."

Vince clapped his ear to the bulkhead and listened, and made out plainly
enough that for every bale passed up a box seemed to be handed down, and
these were being stacked up against the partition which separated them
from the hold.

"I say, what does it mean?" whispered Mike at last.

"I don't know," replied Vince; "but for certain they're bringing in
things as well as taking them away.  Then we must be in port, and
they're landing and loading up again."

"Oh, Cinder! and we can't get ashore and run for it."

"No; he's too artful for us this time.  That's why he has locked us up.
Never mind; our turn will come.  He can't always have his eyes open."

"Is there any way of getting out?"

"Not now," said Vince thoughtfully; "but we might get one of those
boards out ready for another time.  They're wide enough to let us
through."

The soft creaking and grinding sounds went on, but were attributed to
the lugger being close up to some pier or wharf, and the boys stood with
their ears close to the bulkhead, trying to pick up a word now and then,
as the men who were below, stowing the fresh cargo, went on talking
together.

But it was weary work, and led to nothing definite.  They knew that the
loading was going on--nothing more.

"Well, we are clever ones," said Vince at last; and he laid hold of the
wooden shutter which let in light and air to the narrow place, but only
let his arm fall to his side again, for it was firmly secured.

"Never mind," he added; "we'll make it all straight yet."

Hours had gone by, and from the bright streaks of light which stole in
beneath and over the door they knew that it was a fine morning; and, as
the dread had all passed away, they finished dressing, and sat in an
awkward position against the edge of the bottom bunk, listening to the
bustle on deck, till all at once it ceased and the men began to clap on
the hatches once again.

Then, as they listened, there came the sound of ropes being cast off,
the creaking and grinding ceased, the captain shouted something, and was
answered from a distance, and again from a greater distance, just as the
lugger heeled over a little, and there came the rattle and clanging of
the capstan, with the heave-ho singing of the men.

"We're under way again, Mike," said Vince; "and there's no chance of a
run for the shore this time."

He had hardly spoken when the heavy tread of the captain was heard once
more, and he stopped at the door to shoot a couple of bolts.

"_Bon jour, mes amis_.  You feel youselfs ready for ze brearkfas?"

Vince did not reply, and the captain did not seem to expect it, for he
walked into the cabin, while the boys went on deck, to find that the men
were hoisting sail, while a three-masted lugger, of about the same build
as the one they were on, was a short distance off, making for the mouth
of the muddy river astern.  They were about in the same place as they
were in when anchor was cast overnight, and it became evident to the
boys that the noise and grinding they had heard must have been caused by
the two vessels having been made fast one to the other while an exchange
of cargo took place.

"Where next?" thought Vince, as their sails filled in the light,
pleasant breeze of the sunny morning.

He was not long in doubt, for upon walking round by the steersman the
compass answered the question--their course was due south.

"Aha! you take a lesson in box ze compais," said a voice behind them.
"Good: now come and take one, and eat and drink.  It is brearkfas time."



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

"TO VISTLE FOR ZE VIND."

Four days passed in the quiet, uneventful way familiar on board a small
vessel, with the prisoners sinking into that state of apathy known as
accepting the inevitable.  They were weary of condoling with one
another, and telling themselves that sooner or later their chance for
escape would come.  They bore their position good-temperedly enough,
chatted with the sailors, took a turn or two at steering under the
guidance of the man at the helm, and received a nod of approbation from
the captain when he saw what they were doing.

"Aha, yais," he said, showing his teeth.  "You vill be my first and
second officer before long, and zen ve sall all be ze grand
contrabandiste."

"Oh, shall we?" said Vince, as soon as they were alone.  "We shall see
about that."

The captain had been amiable enough to them, and had the boys only felt
that those they loved were well and possessing the knowledge that they
were safe, the life would have been pleasant enough; but the trouble at
home hung like a black cloud over them, and whenever they met each
other's eyes they could read the care they expressed, and the feeling of
misery deepened for awhile.

They went to bed as usual that fourth night, but towards morning Vince
somehow felt uneasy; and at last, being troubled by thirst, he
determined to go up on deck and get a pannikin of water from the cask
lashed by the mainmast.

He half expected to find the door fastened, but it yielded to a touch;
and, after listening at the cabin for a few moments to try and find
whether the captain was asleep, he crept up on deck in the cool grey of
the coming morning, and, looking back, saw the man at the helm, and
forward two more at the look-out.

He had not many steps to go, and there was the pannikin standing ready,
and the cover of the cask had only to be moved for him to dip out a
tinful of the cool, fresh water, which tasted delicious; and, being
refreshed by the draught, he was about to descend, when the beauty of
the sea took his attention.  The moon was sinking in the west and the
dawn was brightening in the east, so that the waves were lit up in a
peculiar way.  On the side of the moon they glistened as though formed
of liquid copper, while on the side facing the east they were of a
lovely, pearly, silvery, ever-changing grey.  So beautiful were the
tints and lights and shades that Vince remained watching the surface of
the sea for some minutes, and then the chill wind suggested that he
should go down; when, making a sweep round, he felt as if his breath had
been taken away, for there, away to the south, and looming up of huge
height and size in the morning mist, was unmistakably the Crag, and they
were once more close to home.

Here, then, was the answer to the question they had asked one another--
Where are we sailing to now?

Yes: there was the Crag, with its familiar outline; and his heart beat
fast as he felt that if Mike's father were on the look-out with his
glass he would be able to see the lugger's sails.

"No, he must be in bed and asleep," thought Vince.  "But I'll fetch Mike
up to see.  Why, old Jacques must be taking us home.  No; he is going to
fetch another load!"

"Yais, zat is ze Crag," said a voice behind him, and there stood the
captain with a glass under his arm.  "Now you vill go down and stop vis
ze ozaire boy till I tell you to come up.  But zis time you can stay in
ze cabin.  Mind," he said impressively, "you vill stay.  You
_comprenez_?"

"Oh yes," said Vince; "but you will let us go as soon as you've got the
cargo all on board."

"Aha, you sink so?"

"Yes."

"But you are not so stupede as to sink I can take all avay at von trip.
_Non, mon ami_, it vill take four or five time more.  Now go down, and
tell ze ozaire to obey, and not make feel zat I can shoot."

"May I bring him up to see the Crag?" said Vince.

"No," replied the captain abruptly.  "He sleep.  Let him rest.  Better
you sleep too."

Vince glanced in at the cabin, to find that the deadlights were up and
the place very dimly lit by the tiny skylight.  Then, closing the door
as he entered the cupboard-like place in which they passed their nights,
he found Mike still sleeping; and fearing that he would get into trouble
if he tried to watch their approach, he lay down too, and was awakened
apparently in a few minutes by Mike shaking him.

"I say, it's awfully late, and we've anchored again."

"Dressed?" said Vince in wonder.

"Yes, and I was going on deck, but the skipper pushed me back and banged
down the hatch.  I say, I haven't the least idea where we are."

"I have," said Vince.

"Well, where?"

"Back at the cavern."

"Nonsense."

"You'll see."

Mike did see, and before long, for half an hour later the captain came
down in the cabin, breakfast was eaten, and then the boys were allowed
to go on deck, to find themselves in their old berth, with the rocks
towering up and shutting them in, while the lugger was safely moored
head and stern to the wall-like rock.

Vince involuntarily looked round for the rugged face of old Joe Daygo,
and one of the men noticed it.

"Looking for the pilot, youngster?"

"Yes."

"Oh, he came and run us in while you two were asleep, and you don't look
as if your eyes were unbuttoned yet."

"It's of no use, Cinder," said Mike, as they turned away: "Jacques don't
want us to see how it's all done; but only wait till we get away, and
we'll find out somehow."

That was a busy day for every one but the boys; who, quite feeling their
helplessness about escaping, quietly settled down to think of their
strange position: as the crow flew not above a mile from home, but
powerless to make their presence known.

The captain never left the deck, and the boats were going to and fro
constantly; but they took nothing ashore, and it was evident that the
smuggler meant to clear out the cavern, whose stores were far greater
than the boys could have believed.  The boats came back loaded down
almost to the gunwale; but they were managed with wonderful dexterity,
and as soon as they were made fast alongside, the men sprang aboard and
their cargoes were rapidly transferred to the hold, which seemed to
swallow up an enormous quantity of the contraband goods.  So well shaped
were the packages and so deftly packed below that they fitted into their
places like great bricks in a building, so that by night the lugger was
well laden, and it seemed evident that they would sail again when the
tide suited.

It was just after dark; all the boats were hanging from the davits, and
the tired men busy over a meal the cook had prepared, while the captain
was walking thoughtfully up and down the deck, his dark eyes watchful
over everything, and the boys, as they leaned over the bulwarks, talking
softly together about how well the various little currents were made to
work for the smugglers, knew that every motion they made was watched.

"It's of no use, Ladle," Vince said cheerily.  "This isn't the place to
try and get away.  We've tried it, and we know.  If it was, I'd say,
jump in and swim for it!"

"Pst! a boat," whispered Mike.

Vince turned sharply round, to see that a small boat had suddenly glided
out of the darkness, to be borne by the current up against the lugger's
side; and the next minute Daygo climbed in, painter in hand, the captain
going up to him at once, and then returning to where the boys were
standing together.

Dark as it was, they could see a mocking smile upon the man's face, but
before he could speak Vince forestalled him.

"All right," he said: "you want us to go below and stay till the lugger
is worked out."

"Yais, zat is it," said the captain.  "Some day you sall help me, visout
ze pilot, eh?  Go below, and stop youselfs.  Shut ze cabin door.  You
vill find somesings to eat."

The boys went down without a word, and they had proof that the captain
followed them, for a sharp click told that a bolt outside had been shot.

"Eat!" said Vince scornfully; "he thinks that boys are always wanting to
eat!"

"Never mind, Cinder," said Mike, sitting down before the table, upon
which some fresh provisions stood.  "Let him think what he likes; let
you and me eat while we have a chance; we may be escaping, and not get
an opportunity for hours and hours."

Vince saw the force of the argument, and followed his companion's
example, both listening the while and hearing the men hurry on deck.

Soon after they felt the lugger begin to move, and they sat eating and
comparing notes as they recalled what they had heard the last time.  But
they could only build up imaginary ideas about the currents, channels
and rocks which the vessel had to thread.

"I give it up," said Vince; "we can't understand it all without eyes."

Just then the captain came down and seated himself to make a hearty
supper, and by the time he had done it was evident that they were out to
sea once more, for the vessel swayed softly from side to side, but there
was little motion otherwise.

"You vill not be sea-seek to-night, _mes amis_," said the captain; "zere
is hardly no vind at all.  You must go on deck soon and vistle for it to
come."

But he did not let them go up till he had himself been there for some
time, and when they ascended eagerly, it was to see that the sky was
brilliantly studded with stars, a very faint wind blowing from the west,
and the Crag looming out of the darkness about a mile away, but Joe
Daygo's boat had disappeared.

The lugger was gliding along very gently, on a north-easterly course,
with all sail set; and the boys came to the conclusion that the last
manoeuvre was to be repeated, but unless the wind sprang up the trip
promised to be long and tedious.

But one never knows what is going to happen at sea.

They had been sailing for about a couple of hours, with the captain
walking up and down with a long spy-glass under his arm; and from time
to time he stopped to rest it on the rail and carefully sweep the
offing, as if in search of something, but apparently always in vain,
till all at once he closed the glass with a snap, and walking forward,
gave a sharp order, whereupon two of the men hurried below, to return
directly with a couple of lanthorns, which were rigged on to a chopstick
kind of arrangement, which held them level and apart as they were
attached to the halliards and sent gliding up to the mast-head.

"Signal," whispered Vince; "but we can't be near the shore."

They searched the soft, transparent darkness for some time, gazing in
the direction in which they had seen the captain use his glass, but it
was all in vain; till Vince suddenly started, and pressed his
companion's arm.  Then pointed to where, about a mile away, two dull
stars close together seemed to be rising slowly out of the sea to a
little distance above the horizon, to stand nearly stationary for a
while, and then slowly sink down and disappear.

"Another smuggler," whispered Vince; and then turned to look up at the
mast-head of their own vessel, but their signal had been lowered.

"Depend upon it," whispered Mike, "that boat will come up close, like
the other did, and they'll make fast together and begin to shift cargo."

"Think so?" said Vince thoughtfully, as it began to dawn upon his mind
that possibly Captain Jacques with his fast lugger ran across Channel to
various smuggling ports, and brought cargoes over to deposit in the
cavern ready for the contraband goods to be fetched by other vessels and
landed here and there upon the English coast.  He did not know then that
he had made a very shrewd guess, and hit the truth of how the captain
had for years gone on enriching himself and others by his ingenious way
of avoiding the revenue cutters, whose commanders had always looked upon
the Crag as a dangerous place, that every one would avoid, but who would
have given chase directly had they seen Jacques' long low swift vessel
approaching any part of the English coast to land a cargo.

Vince did not ripen his thoughts then--that happened afterwards, for he
was interrupted by a hand laid upon his shoulder, Mike feeling another
upon his.

"You sink you vill keep ze middle vatch?" said the captain: "_ma foi_,
no!  Go down and sleep, and grow to big man."

He gave them a gentle push in the direction of the hatch.

"_Bon soir_," he said mockingly, and the boys went down.

"You'll hear the bolts shot directly," said Vince grimly, as he seated
himself on the edge of the bunk.

_Click_--_clack_! came instantaneously, and then they heard an ascending
step.

"Don't mean us to see much of what is going on," said Mike.

"Oh, it isn't that," replied Vince.  "He fancies we should do something
while they're busy--get a boat down, slip on board the other lugger or
whatever it is."

"He needn't fancy that," said Mike.  "Frying-pan's bad enough; I'm not
going to jump into the fire and try that!"

"Nor I either.  Well, shall we turn in?"

"May as well: I don't want to stop up and listen to a gang of smugglers
loading and unloading their stupid cargo."

"Nor I, Ladle.  I say, what a shame it is of old Jacques to be living
now, instead of a hundred years ago!  Poor old chap, you won't get any
plunder after all!"

"I don't see that it's right to be trying to make fun of our trouble,"
said Mike bitterly; "there's the poor old Crag only a few miles away,
and we're shut up here!"

"Don't take any notice," said Vince: "I say all sorts of things I don't
mean.  No chance of getting away to-night, is there?"

"No--not even to drown ourselves by trying to swim away," said Mike,
with a sigh; and they hardly spoke again.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

THE KING'S CUTTER SPEAKS OUT.

"Ladle!"

"Hullo!"

"Wake up!"

"What's the good?  We can't go on deck.  May as well lie here and rest."

"Nonsense!  Get up, or I'll pull you out by one leg!"

"You touch me, and I'll send you flying against the bulkhead."

"Go it!" cried Vince, who was standing on the rough floor, in his
trousers; and, quick as thought, he seized Mike's leg and pulled him
half out.  "Now kick, and I'll let you down bang."

"Oh!  I say, Cinder, let go!  Don't, there's a good fellow."

"Then will you get up?"

"Yes: all right.  Does it rain?"

"No--lovely morning; you can see it is through that bit of skylight."

Mike slipped out and began to dress.

"Wonder what they've been doing in the night?"

"Don't know--don't care," said Vince, yawning.  "Oh, how horrid it is to
be boxed up here like a rabbit!  Can hardly breathe, and perhaps he
won't let us out for hours.  Here, Jacques, come and unfasten this
door," he said in a low, angry growl; and, seizing the handle, he was
about to give the door a rough shake, when to the surprise of both it
flew open.

"Hurrah!" cried Vince; and they were not long finishing dressing and
hurrying on deck, to find that, whatever might have been done, the
hatches were in their places, while a good-sized schooner was lying
close by with her sails flapping, as were those of the lugger; for the
sea was very smooth, save where the currents showed, and during the
night they had been carried by one of these well back towards the
island, whose north-east point lay about a couple of miles on their port
bow.

"That's an English schooner, for certain," said Vince.  "What is she?"

"_The Shark_" read Mike from her stern.  "Looks as if she could sail
better than the _Belle-Marie_."

"Not she," said Vince, with the tone of authority; "these long
three-masted luggers can race through the water."

"Aha! _mes enfans_--my good shildren," said the captain, in his
irritating way of giving bad interpretations of his French which annoyed
the boys, "I vant you vairy bad.  You go and vistle for ze vind, eh?  We
shall go soon upon ze rock."

"Wind's coming soon," said Vince; "it's on the other side of the island
now.  Look: you can see the ripple off the point.  Looks dark.  We don't
get it because the Crag shelters us."

"Good boy!  I see you sall make a grand sailor some day, and be my first
lieutenant; I give you command of a schooner like ze _Shark_."

He waved his hand towards the vessel, and then looked eagerly in the
direction of the rippled water, which indicated the coming wind.

"Is that boat yours?" said Vince.

"Yais! vy you ask?  Ah-h-h-ah--ze wind--vill he nevaire com?"

At that moment the schooner hoisted a small flag very rapidly, and,
simple as the action was, it completely changed the aspect of affairs.
Orders were given sharply; and, to the boys' wonder, they were startled
by seeing the men begin rapidly to cast loose the four small long guns,
while others were busy fetching up powder and shot from below, passing
down the little hatchway which had led to the boys' first place of
confinement.

The captain walked sharply here and there, giving his instructions, and
in an incredibly short space of time every stitch of sail possible was
crowded upon the lugger, while a similar course was pursued by the
captain of the schooner.

A thrill of excitement ran through the boys as they saw an arm chest
hoisted up from the cabin, placed amidships, and the lid thrown open;
but nothing was taken out, and after watching their opportunity, so that
the captain should not observe their action, the boys walked by where
the chest had been placed, and saw that it was divided longitudinally,
and on one side, neatly arranged, were brass-bound pistols, on the
other, cutlasses.

They had hardly seen this, when a glance forward showed them the captain
superintending the loading of the two bow guns, and as soon as this was
done he began to walk aft, while the boys discreetly walked forward
along the other side, so as to be out of the fierce-looking fellow's
way.

"I say, Ladle," whispered Vince, "this is like what we have often read
of.  How do you feel?  There's going to be a fight.  Look! they're
loading the guns aft."

"Oh, I feel all right yet,--just a little shivery like.  But what makes
you say there's going to be a fight?"

"Didn't you see the schooner hoist a flag?"

"Of course I did, but I thought she was a friend.  Why are they going to
fight?  Oh, I know: it's only a sham fight, for practice."

"I don't believe it is sham; the skipper looked too serious.  I saw him
showing his teeth, and the men all look in earnest.  They've been doing
something old Jacques don't like, and he's going to bring them to their
senses.  Here, I say, you're not getting those ready for breakfast?"

They were opposite the galley as Vince spoke, and he had suddenly caught
sight of the cook, who was hurrying on his fire, and heating about half
a dozen rods of iron between the bars of the stove.

"Oh yes, I am," said the man, with a grin--"for somebody's breakfast.  I
say, youngsters, I'd go down below if I was you; it may mean warm work
if the wind don't come soon."

"What has the wind to do with it?" said Vince.

"To do with it!  Everything, my lad.  If the wind comes, we shall run,
of course.  We don't want to fight."

"But why are we going to fight the schooner?"

"The schooner!" said the man, staring.  "Nonsense!  She belongs to
Jarks, and trades to the south coast.  Didn't you see her signal?"

"Yes."

"Well, that means one of King Billy's cutters is in sight from there,
and she'll be nearing before long."

"But what are those rods for?" said Mike eagerly.

"Don't be such a blockhead, Ladle!" cried Vince excitedly.  "Why did we
make the poker red-hot when we wanted to fire the old ship gun on your
lawn?"

"Look--look!" cried Mike.

There was no need, for Vince had seen the white flying jib of a cutter
coming into sight round the end of the Crag, with plenty of wind urging
her on, while, by the time she was clear, a faint puff of light air made
the schooner's sails shiver, but only for a few moments, then it was
calm again, while the cutter, now quite clear of the point, was
careening over and gliding rapidly along, with a pleasant breeze astern.

Just then the captain came forward, looking black as thunder, taking no
notice of the boys, but giving a few sharp orders to the men to stand by
ready to take advantage of the first puff of wind.

"We're not going below, are we?" whispered Mike.

"No; I want to see what's done," said Vince.

"Then you like fighting before breakfast better than I do," said the
cook.  "Look, there goes her colours, and she'll send a shot across the
_Shark's_ bows directly.  We shall get it next."

He had hardly spoken before there was a white puff of smoke from the
cutter, and before the report came echoing from the towering rocks of
the Crag the boys saw the water splash up twice from somewhere near the
schooner's bows, while within half a minute another shot was fired
across the lugger's course, as she glided slowly along with the swift
current, which was drawing them nearer the Crag.

"Bad job for us as old Daygo arn't here," said the cook.

"Why?" asked Vince.

The man laughed.

"Why, if he were aboard and the wind came up, he'd run the _Marie_ in
among the rocks."

"And into the pool?" said Vince eagerly.

"Not likely, my lad.  No, he'd manoeuvre her right in, and lead the
revenoos after us, till the cutter was stuck on one of the fang rocks,
and leave her there, perhaps for good.  Bound to say the skipper wishes
Master Daygo was here."

Vince looked round, and thought of the fierce currents and sunken rocks,
which a sailing boat might pass over in safety, but which would be fatal
to a vessel of the cutter's size.

Just then the cook laughed, and the boys looked at him inquiringly.

"They think we are lying to on account o' their guns," said the man;
"but only wait till we ketch the wind."

"Do you think they know these vessels are--"

"Smugglers?" said the cook, for Vince had not finished the sentence.
"Ay, they know fast enough, and they think they're in luck, and have
dropped upon a strong dose of prize money; but they don't know old
Jarks."

"Will he fight?" said Mike excitedly.  "Is these pokers getting
red-hot?" said the man, grinning.  "Ay, he'll fight.  He's a Frenchy,
but he's got the fighting stuff in him.  'Course he'll run.  He don't
want to fight, but if that cutter makes him, he will.  My!  I wish the
wind would come."

But though the cutter came merrily along, hardly a puff reached the
smugglers, and the cutter was now not more than a mile away.

"Look! look!" cried Mike suddenly.  "There's old Joe Daygo coming."

"So it is," said Vince.  "No mistaking the cut of that sail;" and he
gazed excitedly at the little boat, which was coming rapidly on from the
other end of the island.

"Ay, that's he sure enough," said the cook.  "He's seen the cutter and
come to give us warning, but we can see her ourselves now."

Still no wind, and the captain stamped up and down the deck, enraged
beyond measure to see two vessels in totally opposite directions sailing
merrily on, while the towering crag diverted the breeze and left him and
his companion in a complete calm.

Nearer and nearer came the cutter, and the boys' hearts beat hard with
excitement as they saw the flash of arms beneath the white sails, and
began to feel that before long they would be on board, and that meant
freedom.

Mike said something of the kind, but Vince made an allusion to the old
proverb about not counting chickens until they were hatched.

"Get out!" cried Mike: "you always make the worst of things.  I say,
look how beautifully she comes along."

"Yes, and she'll be on one of they rocks if she don't mind," said the
cook.  "I say, my lads, there'll be no breakfast till all this business
is over, but if you step in here I'll give you both some coffee and
biscuit."

"Oh, who could eat and drink now?" said Vince.  "I can't."

"I can," said the man; "and as my pokers are all hot, I mean to have a
snack."

The boys' great dread was that they would be sent below, and
consequently they kept out of the captain's way, and saw all that was
going on, till the cutter was within a few hundred yards; and then, all
at once, the wind failed her, and she lay as motionless as the two
smugglers.  The same fate had befallen Daygo in his boat, he being a
mile away; but they saw that he had put out his oars, and was rowing.

"Going to board us," said the cook, with a sigh.  "Now the fun's going
to begin."

For two boats dropped from the cutter's sides, and the boys saw an
officer in uniform in each, with a couple of red-coated marines, whose
pieces glistened in the morning sunshine, as did the arms of the
sailors.

But they saw something else as well.  At a word from the captain, a
dozen of the men went on hands and knees to the arm chest, each sailor
in turn taking a cutlass, pistols, and cartridge pouch, and crawling
back under the shelter of the bulwarks to load.

Vince drew a deep sigh, and his face was flushed, while Mike looked of a
sallow white.

"Then there'll be a fight?" said the latter.

"Ay, there'll be a fight," said the cook.  "We're in for it now; but
unless it's done with the big guns they won't take the _Marie_."

"Why?" said Vince.  "Jacques daren't resist the King's men."

The cook chuckled.  "You wait and see," he said.  "Look at him."

The boys did look, and saw Jacques standing by the steersman, with a
drawn sword in one hand and pistols in his belt, hardly seeming to
notice the boats, which had separated, one making for the schooner and
the other for the _Belle-Marie_.

"Pilot sees mischief," said the cook.  "He's going back.  So would I if
I could.  I say, young 'uns, you'd better go below, hadn't you?"

"No," said Vince sharply.  "You won't, will you, Ladle?"

"No: I want to see," replied Mike; and they stood and watched the
rapidly approaching boat, with the smartly uniformed officer in the
stern sheets, and the sailors making the water sparkle as they sent the
trim craft rapidly nearer.

"Ha, ha!" laughed the cook softly; and the boys were about to turn and
ask him what he meant, when a movement on the part of the captain caught
their attention, while a wave of his hand made his men spring to their
feet.

The cutter's boat was still fifty yards away, when a sudden puff of wind
struck the lugger, her heavy canvas filled out, and she began instantly
to yield to the pressure, gliding softly through the water, and putting
fifty yards more between her and the boat.

Then the wind dropped again, and the officer in the boat stood up and
shouted to Jacques to lower sail, while his men pulled with all their
might, getting nearer and nearer.

"Do you hear?" yelled the officer: "let go everything, you scoundrel!"
But Jacques gave no order, and when the boat was within twenty yards he
was about to make a sign to his men to seize their arms, when the breeze
struck the lugger, and away she went, showing her magnificent sailing
qualities, for in a few minutes the boat was far behind, when there was
a put from the cutter's side, but not to send a ball across their bows,
for before the report reached the boys' ears a peculiar sound came
overhead, and there was a hole through the mainsail.

"Now we're in for it," said the cook; and another report rang out, but
this shot was at the schooner, which was gliding rapidly away, taking a
different course from that of the lugger, but paying no heed to the gun.

Both boats gave up now, for the wind had caught the cutter once more,
and she was gliding up to them.  There was a short delay as she got both
her boats on board, but she was paying attentions to lugger and schooner
all the time, sending steadily shot after shot at each, till the
schooner tacked out to get round the southern point of the island; and
then, as the cutter crowded on all sail, her bow guns were both trimmed
to bear upon the lugger, and shot after shot came whistling overhead.

It was nervous work at first, but after the first few shots the
excitement took away all sense of fear, and the two boys watched the
effect of the balls, as now and then one tore through the rigging.

The schooner was going at a tremendous rate, and her escape seemed
certain; so the lieutenant in command of the cutter devoted all his
attention to the lugger, which sailed rapidly on, first overtaking Joe
Daygo's boat, which lay half a mile away, and rapidly leaving the cutter
behind.

Twice over the Frenchman had the after guns turned ready for a shot at
his pursuer; but the lugger was going so swiftly that there was no need
to use them to try and cripple the cutter's sails, and so make the
offence deadly by firing upon His Majesty's ship.  Hence the hot irons
remained in the fire ready for an emergency, one which was not long in
coming, but which proved too great, even for so reckless a man as
Jacques.

For, as they sailed steadily along, gliding rapidly by the island, and
edging off so that they would soon be leaving it behind, the commander
of the cutter, enraged at the apparently certain escape of the expected
prize, and disappointed by the trifling damage done by the firing upon
the lugger's rigging, suddenly changed his tactics, and a shot struck
the starboard bulwark, splintering it for a dozen feet along, and
sending the pieces flying.

This roused the captain's wrath, and, giving a sharp order, he went to
one of the guns, pointing it himself, while one of the men ran up to the
galley where the boys were standing.

"Now, cookie," he cried--"reg'lar hot 'un!" and he whisked a white-hot
bar from the stove.  "Here, youngsters, skipper says you're to go
below."

He ran aft with the bar, scintillating faintly in the sunlight, and
handed it to the captain, who bent down once more to take aim,
when--_crash_!--a shot struck the stern between wind and water, after
ricocheting along the surface.  The next instant they saw a brilliant
flash, heard a roar as of thunder; and as a dense cloud of smoke arose
there was a great gap in the deck on the starboard side close to the
cabin-hatch, and the boys grasped the fact instantly that the lugger's
little powder magazine had been blown up, while, as they stared aghast
at the mischief, and the men making for the boats, the mizen-mast with
its heavy sail slowly dropped over the side and lay upon the water, with
the effect that it acted like a rudder, and drew the unfortunate vessel
round, head to wind.

The disorder among the crew only lasted a few minutes; their discipline
was to the front again, Jacques giving his orders and the men obeying
promptly.

"She is not going down, my lads," he cried; "ze fire all come upvard.
You need not take to ze boats, for ze cutter vould follow and take you.
Zere: ze game is up.  Ve could fight, but vat good?  You see _La
Belle-Marie_ can do no more.  Vat you say?  Shall ve fight?"

"If you like, skipper," said the mate quietly; "but if we do the cutter
will only stand off a bit and sink us.  We couldn't get away."

"_Non_" said Jacques: "luck is against us zis time.  I sank you, my
brave lads, and I like you too vell to go lose your life for nossing.
Ve must strike."

The men gave him a faint cheer, and crowded round to hold out their
hands.

"But we will fight if you like, skipper," cried one who made himself
spokesman.

"I know, my lad," said Jacques.  "Good boys all.  Ve nevaire had a
coward on board ze _Belle-Marie_."

Meanwhile the cutter was coming up fast, and a few minutes after two
boats boarded them full of sailors and marines, when the first thing
done was to send a boat-load of prisoners, which included the captain,
Vince and Mike, on board the cutter.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

WHAT THE BOYS THOUGHT.

As the boat glided alongside, the master's mate in command ordered the
prisoners to go up; but Vince was already half-way over the side,
followed by Mike, the lieutenant in command ordering them sternly
forward.

"Quick, Mr Johnson!" he cried to the mate, "then back for the rest as
smartly as you can.  Tell Mr Hudson to make any leakage sound.
Carpenter, there: go back with this boat."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"There's no fear of her sinking, sir," said Vince.

"What?  How dare--!"

"It's all right, sir," cried Vince.  "I know.  We were prisoners on
board the smuggler."

"You were what?"

"It is right, sare," said Jacques quietly.  "I took ze boys avay and
kept them as prisonaire."

"Absurd!" said the lieutenant haughtily.  "Now then: away with that
boat.  Smart there, my lads!"

The boat was rowed rapidly back to fetch the rest of the prisoners, and
the lieutenant came forward to where his first batch was ranged, to
inspect them previous to sending them below.

"You're not going to send us down with them, are you?" said Mike
indignantly.

"What?" roared the lieutenant in a rage: "why, you insolent, ruffianly
young thief of a smuggler!"

"No, he isn't," cried Vince fiercely; "he's as much a gentleman as you
are."

"Indeed!" said the lieutenant sarcastically: "perhaps he's a nobleman,
sir?"

"I don't mean that," said Vince sharply; "but he's Sir Francis Ladelle's
son."

"What, of the Crag?"

"Yes.  We found out the smugglers' cave by accident, and they came and
caught us, and have kept us ever since."

"Phew!" whistled the officer, quite changing his manner.  "Then pray who
are you?"

"I'm Doctor Burnet's son."

"Oh, then of course that alters the case, my lad; but you see you were
caught amongst the jackdaws, so you must not wonder that I wanted to
wring your neck too."

"Oh, it's all right if you believe me," said Vince; "only, after being
prisoners so long, it seemed precious hard to be treated as prisoners
when we expected to be free to get home."

"Then this scoundrel took you both, and has brutally ill-used you ever
since?"

Vince looked round sharply, found the captain's piercing eyes fixed on
his, and hesitated.

"Oh no," he said; "he caught us, and wouldn't let us go for fear we
should tell where his stores of smuggled goods are, but he has behaved
very well to us ever since."

"Like a gentleman," put in Mike.

"Indeed!  Well, then we mustn't be so hard on him.  So then, young
gentlemen, you two know where the smugglers' depot is?"

Vince nodded.

"And you could show us the way?"

Vince nodded again.

"Well, then, you'll have the pleasure of being our guide there as soon
as we've taken that confounded schooner."

"No, I shall not," said Vince, looking hard at Jacques.  "I don't feel
as if it would be fair."

"But you'll have to, my lad, in the King's name."

"Yais, you can promise to show zem every sing, _mon ami_" said Jacques,
smiling.  "My smuggling days are ovaire, and I have been expecting zis
every day zese ten years."

"Very well, then," said Vince: "I'll promise to show you by land.  I
can't by sea, for it's a regular puzzle."

"By land, then.  Where is it?"

"Over yonder, on our island."

"What, at the Crag?" cried the lieutenant.

"Yes."

The officer gave vent to a long, low whistle.

"Thank you, my lad," he said; "this is good news indeed!  We have been
baffled for years, stopped by this hiding-place which no one knew of.
Then, when I have taken the schooner I'll land you with a party, and you
shall show us the place."

"No," said Vince; "I want to be paid for doing it."

"Indeed!" said the officer, curling his lip: "how much?"

"Oh, I don't mean money.  Our fathers and mothers think we're dead, and
you must land us to go home at once."

"Impossible, my boy," said the lieutenant, clapping him on the shoulder
in a friendly way.  "Quite right; but English men--and boys--have to
think first of their duty to the King.  I must chase that schooner
first, and--Ahoy, there! look sharp with that boat.--Look: directly I
have taken her I'll land you."

"No, sir; land us now," cried Mike.  "You have only to make that little
sailing boat come alongside and order him to take us."

"Yes, yes," cried Vince.  "He comes from our island."

"What, that fishing boat yonder?" said the lieutenant.

"Well, that is in my way.  Yes, I'll do that.  Now then, alongside
there!  Tumble up, you fellows!  Marines, take charge, and see them into
the hold."

"_Au revoir, mes enfans_," said Jacques--"_au revoir_, if zey do not
hang me.  Good boys, bose of you, but von vord.  Old Daygo he is a
rascaille, an old scamp; but he serve me vairy true, and it vas I tempt
him vis _monnaie_ to keep my secrete after he show me ze cavern.  You
vill not tell of him.  He is so old, if you send him to ze prisone he
soon die."

"Oh, very well; we won't tell tales of him--eh, Mike?"

"I should like to knock his old head off; but you've been so civil to
us, Captain Jacques, we will not."

The captain smiled and nodded, and then followed his crew into the hold,
where they were shut up with a couple of marines on guard.

By this time the cutter was in full sail, in chase of the schooner,
which had reached out for a long distance, to get clear of the long
reefs of dangerous rocks, running far away from the northern shore of
the island.  She was evidently, in fact, obliged, as she had taken that
course, to tack at last, and then run straight almost back again; but it
would lead her along by the north coast and probably mean escape.

"Schooner captain doesn't know his way through the Narrows, then," said
Vince thoughtfully, as they stood watching the now distant schooner.

"I suppose not.  Why, he could easily have got round and saved all
that."

"I say," cried Vince, "never mind about old Jacques: smugglers are
blackguards, and ought to be caught."

"Yes, of course."

"Well, then, let's tell the cutter captain how to get through the
narrows and cut the schooner off."

"I couldn't.  I should send him on the rocks.  Could you?"

"Oh, I could," said Vince.  "Here he comes.  You'll hail the boat as
soon as you're near enough, sir?"

"Eh?--the boat to set you ashore?  I'd almost forgotten.  Well, I
suppose I must.  Mr Johnson!  Bah, I forgot: he's prize-master aboard
the lugger.  By the way, you think there's no fear of that craft
sinking, my lad?"

"I feel sure, sir.  The powder all exploded upward."

"Good.  Here, Mr Roberts, hoist a flag for a pilot: that may bring yon
fellow."

The little flag was hoisted; old Joe took no heed, however, but went on
in his boat, and the lieutenant grew impatient.

"Do you think that man understands the signal?"

"I'm sure of it, sir, for he's the best pilot we have, and knows every
rock."

"Then it's obstinacy.  By George, I'll sink the scoundrel if he doesn't
heave to;" and, giving the order, a shot was sent skipping along just in
front of old Daygo's boat, when the sail was lowered directly, hoisted
again, and the boat's head turned to run towards the cutter.

"Understands that, my lads," said the lieutenant; "but you must jump
down quickly--I am losing a deal of time."

"Never mind, sir," said Vince; "I've been sailing all about here ever
since I was quite a little fellow, and I know the rocks too.  The
schooner must tack round in half an hour's time, and then run east."

"Yes, I know that."

"Well, sir, you can run from here right across, and save miles."

The officer looked at him keenly.

"The passage is called the Narrows, and it's all deep water.  You see
the big gull rock away yonder--the one with the white top?"

"Well!"

"Make straight for that, and go within half a cable's length.  Then
tack, keep the south point right over the windmill for your bearings,
and sail due east too.  Then you can cut the smuggler off."

"Hah! yes; it's down on the chart, but I did not dare to try it.  Thank
you, my lad; that is grand.  Ah! here's the boat."

The boys shrank back, so that old Daygo should not see them, while the
lieutenant stepped up to the side and bullied the old man, who protested
humbly that he did not understand the signal.

"Well, quick!  Here are two passengers to take ashore.  Now, my lads--
sharp!"

Vince and Mike shook hands with the officer, while a sailor at the
gangway held on to the painter of Daygo's boat, which was gliding pretty
fast through the water, the course of the cutter not having been quite
stopped; then the lads jumped lightly in, the painter was thrown after
them, there was a slight touch of the helm, and the cutter heeled over
and dashed away, leaving Vince and Mike looking the old man full in the
face, while he stared back with his jaw dropped down almost to his
chest.

"Then you arn't dead, young gen'lemen?"

"No, we're not dead," said Vince sharply.  "Now then, hoist that sail
and run us home."

The boys sat there watching the cutter, the lugger and the schooner all
sailing rapidly away.  Then suddenly it occurred to both the lads that
the old man was very slow over the business of hoisting that sail; that
he was then the greatest enemy they had, and that it would be very
awkward for them if he were to suddenly take it into his head to do them
some mischief.

"He's a big, strong man," thought Vince; "he knows that we can ruin him
if we like to speak, and--I wonder what Ladle is thinking about?"

"Ladle" was thinking the same.



CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.

DAYGO MEETS HIS MATCH.

It seemed to take a long time to hoist that sail, but at last it was
well up, the yard creaking against the mast; and standing on their
dignity now, and keeping the old man at a distance, the boys made no
offer to take the sheet or steer, but let Daygo pass them as they sat
amidships, one on each side, and he seated himself, hauled in the sheet,
and thrust an oar over the stern to steer.

There was a nice breeze now, they were only about a mile from the shore,
and as the boat danced merrily through the little waves a feeling of joy
and exultation, to which the boys had long been strangers, filled their
breasts.  They took long, hungry looks at the shore, and then at the
cutter racing along towards the great gull rock, at the schooner
careening over as she ran on under all the canvas she could bear; and
then back at the lugger, which by comparison seemed to limp along, with
a scrub of a spar hoisted as a jury mast, far astern, in place of the
fallen mizen, so as to steady her steering.

Then they looked at each other again, those two, as they sat face to
face, neither speaking, and carefully avoiding even a glance at Daygo,
feeling as they did the awkwardness of their position, and averse to
meeting the old scoundrel's eye.

Not that they would have met it, for Daygo was as full of discomfort as
they, and with his eyes screwed up face one maze of wrinkles, he stared
through between them as if looking at the prow, but really at the big
patch of canvas in his sail.

For, as Daygo put it to himself, he was on the awkwardest bit of lee
shore that he had ever sailed by in his life.

He had, as was surmised by the cook, caught sight of the Revenue cutter
sailing by the north side of the Crag, and hurried down to his boat to
warn Jacques or his companion; but, upon finding himself too late, he
was making for home again, thinking that, as Jacques was taken and his
lugger a prize to the cutter--which looked determined to follow up the
schooner, probably to take her too--there would be no owner for the
contraband goods still left in the cavern, unless that owner proved to
be himself.  There were two others, he mused--two who knew of the place
and its treasure; but Captain Jacques was, according to the old
fisherman's theory, not the kind of man to stick at trifles when such
great interests were at stake; and he felt quite satisfied that the two
boys would never be seen at Cormorant Crag again.  Some accident would
happen to them--what accident was no business of his, he argued.  They
had got themselves into a terrible mess through their poking and prying
about, and they must put up with the consequences.  They might have
fallen off the cliff when getting sea-birds' eggs, or they might have
been carried away by one of the currents when bathing, or they might
have been capsized and drowned while they stole his boat--he called it
"stole"--in any one of which cases, he said to himself, they'd never
have come back to the Crag again, and it wouldn't have been any business
of his, so he wasn't going to worry his brains.  Old Jarks had grabbed
'em, and when he grabbed anything he didn't let it go again.

Joe Daygo was a slow thinker, and all this took him a long time to
hammer out; and he had just settled it comfortably, on his way home,
when he caught sight of the pilot flag flying, and paid no heed.

"Don't ketch me showing 'em the way through the Narrers to ketch the
_Shark_!" he growled; and he kept on his way till the imperative mood
present tense was tried, and then he made for the side of the cutter, to
receive what was to him a regular knock-down blow, or, as he put it, a
wind taking him on a very dangerous lee shore.

So the old fisherman did not look at his passengers, but began thinking
hard again.  He couldn't take those two home, he said to himself, for,
if he did, at their first words he'd be seized by some one or every one,
for they all hated him for being so well off, and monopolising so much
of the lobster catching, especially Jemmy Carnach.  Then Sir Francis
Ladelle and the Doctor would come; he'd be locked up, sent by the smack
over to England, and be tried, and all his savings perhaps be seized.
Just, too, when he had a chance of doubling them by taking the contents
of the cave.

He had arrived at this point with great difficulty when the strange
silence on board the boat, which had so far only been broken by the
lapping of the water and the creaking of the yard, was broken by Vince,
who cried excitedly, as he stood up in the boat:

"Look, look, Mike!  Nearly everybody's yonder on the cliff.  They've
heard the firing and the explosion, and they're watching the cutter
chase the schooner."

Mike rose too, and with beating hearts the two boys stood trying to make
out who was on the look-out; but the distance was too great to
distinguish faces.  Still they stood, steadying each other by clapping
hands on shoulders, quite unconscious of the fact that the old man was
now gazing at them with a very peculiar expression of countenance, that
foreboded anything but good.

All at once, they both lurched and nearly fell, for Daygo's mind was
made up, and he thrust his oar deep down, changing the boat's course
suddenly, and making the sail flap.

"Here, what are you doing?" cried Vince, forced by this to speak to the
old man at last.

"Think I want to run my boat into that curran' an' get on the rocks?
Sit down, will you, and keep outer the way of the sheet."

For answer the boys went forward, quite out of his way, and the boat
rushed on again for some ten minutes before they spoke again, though
they had been looking about with gathering uneasiness, for they were
growing suspicious, but ashamed to speak because the idea seemed to be
absurd.

At last Vince said--

"He's making a precious long tack, Mike, and I don't know of any big
current here."

Mike was silent, and they saw now that without doubt they were sailing
right away from the island, and were in the full race of the tide.
Still they felt that the old man must know best how to make for his tiny
port, and they sat in silence for fully twenty minutes, waiting for him
to make another tack and run back.

But soon the suspicions both felt had grown into a certainty, and Mike
said in a whisper, as calmly as he could,--

"Cinder, he has got the conger bat out of the locker.  What does he
mean?"

"He means that he won't take us ashore," said Vince huskily: "he's going
to sail right away with us for fear we should tell about him, and the
conger bat's to frighten us and keep us quiet."

There was a strange look of agony in Mike Ladelle's eyes, as he gazed in
his companion's, to read there a horror quite as deep.  Then neither of
them spoke, but sat there listening to the lapping of the water, which
spread to right and left in two lines of foam as the little boat sped
on.

It was Vince who broke the silence at last, after drawing a deep breath.

"Ladle, old chap," he said, in a low voice, "they're at home yonder, and
it means perhaps never seeing them again.  What shall we do?"

Mike tried to speak, but his voice was too husky to be heard for a few
moments.

"I'll do what you do," he said at last.

"You'll stand by me, whatever comes?"

"Yes."

Vince glanced sidewise, to find that they were pretty well hidden by the
sail; so he thrust out his hand, which was gripped fast, and the two
boys sat there with throbbing hearts, trying to nerve themselves for
anything that might happen now.

Then, without a word, Vince rose, and, steadying himself by the mast, he
stepped over the thwart in which it was stepped, and then on to the
next, close to where the old man sat steering right astern, and holding
the sheet of the well-filled sail as well.

"This is not the way to the Crag," said Vince, with his voice trembling
slightly; and the old man grunted.

"Where are you making for?" said Vince, firmly now.

"Didn't I tell yer I didn't want to get run on the rocks?" roared the
old man, unnecessarily loudly, after a glance back at the shore, where
all was growing distant and dim.

"Yes, you told me so; but it isn't true," said Vince, in a voice he did
not know for his own.

"What?" roared Daygo fiercely.

"You heard what I said.  Run her up in the wind at once, and go back."

"You go and sit down," growled the old man savagely.

"You change her course," said Vince firmly.

"You go and sit down while you're safe," growled the old man, with his
face twitching.

"You had orders from the commander of the cutter to take us ashore.
Change the boat's course directly."

"Will you go and sit down, both of you?" cried the old man again, more
fiercely, but his voice was lower and deeper.

"No," said Mike; "and if you won't steer for the Crag, I will."

"This here's my boat, and I'll steer how I like, and nobody else shan't
touch her."

"Your orders from the King's officer were to take us home.  Will you do
it?"

"No!" roared the old man.  "Go and sit down, 'fore I do you a mischief."

Vince did not even look behind to see if he was going to be supported,
for he felt full of that desperate courage which comes to an
Anglo-Saxon-descended lad in an emergency like that.  He saw the
savagely murderous look in the old man's eyes, and that he had quickly
seized the conger bat with one hand, after passing the sheet into that
which held the oar.

With one spring Vince was upon him, seizing the heavy wooden club, which
he strove to tear from his grasp, just as the old man too sprang up, and
Mike snatched the sheet from his hand with a jerk which sent the oar,
loose now in the old man's grasp, gliding overboard.

Mike made a dash to save it, but was flung down into the bottom of the
boat as the old man thrust a foot forward and seized Vince in his
tremendous grip.

The boy struggled bravely, but his fresh young muscles were as nothing
to the gnarled, time-hardened flesh and sinew of the old savage, who
lifted him by main force, after a short struggle which made the boat
rock as if it would go over, and Vince realised what was to follow.

"Mike! do something," he cried in his agony to the boy, who was
struggling up, half stunned, from where he lay between the thwarts; and
in his desperation Mike did do something, for, as Daygo put out all his
strength, tore Vince's clinging hands from his jersey, and hurled him
right out from the boat, Mike seized the old man fiercely by one leg.

It was not much to do, but it did much, for it threw Daygo off his
balance in the rocking boat; and Vince had hardly plunged down into the
clear water before his enemy followed, with a tremendous splash,
thrusting the boat away, and going head first deeply down.

Vince was the first to rise, shake his head, and begin to swim for the
boat.  But Daygo rose too directly and looked round, and then he, too,
swam for the boat, whose uncurbed sail flapped wildly about; while Mike
picked up the other oar to try and steer back to help his companion.

He changed the position of the boat, and that was all.  It did this,
though,--it gave Vince the chance of making for the side opposite to
that for which Daygo aimed, and he swam with all his might to be there
first.

But Vince had the greater distance to go, and Mike saw that, unless he
helped, Daygo would be too much for them yet.

Quick as thought, he drew in the oar which he had thrust over the stern,
turned it in his grasp as he stood up in the rocking boat, and, as the
old man came up and stretched out his hands to grasp the gunwale, Mike
drove the hand-hold of the oar, lance-fashion, down into his chest.

"I've killed him," groaned the boy, as his enemy fell back and went
under again.  Then he nearly followed him, for the boat was jerked from
the other side, and he turned to find Vince had seized the gunwale and
was climbing in.

A sharp drag helped him, and Vince's first act was to seize the conger
bat, which lay beneath the after-thwart.

He was only just in time, for, as he turned, Daygo had risen, and swam
up again to seize the gunwale with one great gnarled hand.

Crash came down the heavy club, the hand relaxed, and Daygo went down
again.

"Vince!  Vince! you've killed him," cried Mike, in horror.  "No, no--
don't: don't do that!" he shrieked, as Vince thrust his right-hand into
his dripping pocket and tore out his big sharp long-bladed knife.

"You take the bat," cried Vince; and, as the boy obeyed trembling, he
shouted, so that the old man could hear as he swam after them, "hit him
over the hands again if he touches the boat."

It did not seem likely that he would overtake them by swimming, for the
wind acted upon the flapping sail and drove them slowly along.

Taking advantage of this, Vince went forward and cut off the long rope
from the ring-bolt in the stem, and returned with it to where, wild-eyed
and scared, Mike knelt with the conger bat upraised, ready to strike if
the old man came near.

"Now," said Vince firmly, "you hold that conger club with both hands,
Mike, and if he does anything, or tries to do anything, bring it down on
his head with all your might.  Do you hear?"

"Yes," said Mike faintly.

"Now, then, you come and take hold of the gunwale with both hands, and
let me tie your wrists," cried Vince.  "Look out, Mike!"

The old man swam up and put his hands together.

"You arn't going to murder me?" he groaned.

"You wait and see--Ah!" yelled Vince, for the treacherous old ruffian
had seized him by the chest and was dragging him out of the boat.

But Mike was ready: the bat came down with tremendous force, and the old
man loosened his grasp and sank, remaining beneath the surface so long
that the boys gazed at each other aghast.

"Quick! there he is," cried Mike; and Vince seized the oar and sculled
to where the old man had come slowly up, feebly moving his hands, and
apparently insensible.

"We must haul him in, Mike," said Vince.  "He's not likely to hurt us
now."

"If he is," said Mike, "we must do it all the same;" and, leaning over,
they each got a good grip, and, heaving together, somehow rolled Daygo
into the bottom of the boat, where they dragged his head beneath the
centre thwart, and then firmly bound him hand and foot, using some
strong fishing line as well as the painter and the rope belonging to the
little grapnel.



CHAPTER FORTY.

"HUZZA!  WE'RE HOMEWARD BOUND."

By the time they had done the old man began to revive, but the boat was
skimming along over the waves toward Cormorant Crag before he was able
to speak coherently.

"Where are you going?" he groaned at last.

"What's that to you?  Home!" said Vince sharply.

"Nay, nay; don't take me there, Master Vince--don't!  I give in.  You
two have 'most killed me, but I forgive you; only don't take me there."

"You hold your tongue, you old ruffian," cried Vince, who was steering
and holding the sheet too, while Mike kept guard with the conger bat.
"Mind, Mike.  Don't take your eyes off him for a moment, and if he tries
to untie a knot, hit him again."

"Nay, I'm beat," said the old man, with a groan.  "My head! my head!"

"Serve you right," cried Mike.  "I believe you meant mischief to us."

"Oh!" groaned Daygo; and he turned up his eyes till only the whites, or
rather the yellows, could be seen, and then lay perfectly still; while
the boat bounded onward now towards the island, as if eager to bear the
boys to their home.

Vince looked hard at the big, heavy figure in the bottom of the boat, as
he attended to the sailing and steering; and now that the heat of battle
was over, and he sat there in his saturated clothes, he began to wonder
at their success in winning the day.  Then, as Daygo lay quite still, he
began to think that they had gone too far, and his opinion was endorsed
by his companion, who suddenly leaned back to look at him, with a face
full of horror.

"Cinder," he said, "I didn't mean to, but I hit him too hard."

"Put the bat down, and come and take the oar and sheet," whispered back
Vince, whose nervous feeling increased as the change was made.

Vince was no doctor, but he had not been about with his father for
years, and dipped into his books, without picking up some few scraps of
medical and surgical lore.  So, bringing these to bear, he leaned over
their prisoner and listened to his breathing, studied his countenance a
little, and then placed a couple of fingers upon the man's massive wrist
and then at his throat and temples.

After this he drew back to where, trembling and ghastly-looking, Mike
was watching him, and now whispered, with catching breath,--

"Is he--"

Mike wanted to say "dead," but the word would not come.

"Yes," said Vince, in the same low tone; "he's shamming.  Go back and
keep guard."

"No, no--you," said Mike; "I'll steer."

Vince nodded, and seated himself on the thwart over the prisoner, with
the heavy piece of wood close at hand.

The boat bounded on, and he glanced at the distant vessels, wondering
whether the cutter would capture the schooner and the lugger get safely
to port.  He thought, too, a good deal about the man in the bottom of
the boat, and felt more and more sure that he was right in his ideas;
for every now and then there was a twitching of the muscles about the
corners of his eyes, which at last opened in a natural way, and looked
piteously in the boy's face.

"How far are we from the shore?" he said.

"'Bout a mile," said Vince coolly.  "Why, Mike Ladelle thought you were
dead?"

"So I am nearly," groaned Daygo.  "Oh, my head, my head!"

"Yes, you did get a pretty good crack," said Vince; "and you'll get
another if you don't lie still."

"But you've tied me so tight, Master Vince: line's a-cutting into my
wristies."

"Of course it is," said Vince coolly.  "I tied it as tightly as I could.
You ought to be pretty well satisfied that we didn't leave you to
drown."

"Ah!" groaned Daygo, "don't say that, Master Vince.  I've been a good
friend to you and him."

"Yes, and we're going to be good friends to you, Joe.  You're such a
wicked old rascal that it will do you good to be sent to prison."

"No, no; don't do that, my lad.  Mebbe they'd hang me."

"What, for a pirate and smuggler?  Well, perhaps they will," said Vince
coolly.

"But you wouldn't like that, my lad.  Untie me, and let me set you
ashore, and then I'll sail away and never come near the Crag again."

"Well, but you won't come near the Crag again if I take you ashore.  Sir
Francis will have you put in prison, of course.  Won't he, Mike?"

"There's no doubt about that," replied Mike.

Daygo groaned.

"Oh, Master Vince--don't, don't!" he cried.  "I'm an old man now, and it
would be so horrible."

"So it was for our poor people at home; and I know you've been
pretending you hadn't seen us."

"Ay, I've been a bad 'un--'orrid bad 'un, sir, but I'm a-repenting now,
and going to lead a new life."

"In prison, Joe."

"No, no, no, sir," yelled the miserable wretch.  "It 'd kill me.  Do be
a good gen'leman, and forgive me as you ought to, bad as I've been.  You
untie me and let me run you ashore, and then I raally will sail away."

"What do you say, Mike?"

"Well, I think we might trust him now.  He has been pretty well
punished."

"Then you'd trust him?" said Vince.

Mike nodded.

"Then I wouldn't.  He'd jump up, strong as ever, and pitch us overboard,
or take us over to France, or do something.  I'm not going to untie a
knot."

"Oh, Master Vince," groaned the old fellow; "and after all the fish I've
give you, and the things I've done!"

"Including trying to drown me," said Vince.

"Oh, Master Mike, you have got a 'art in yer," groaned Daygo.  "You try
an' persuade him, sir.  Don't take me ashore and give me up."

"Look, Mike," said Vince excitedly, as a white puff of smoke suddenly
appeared from the bows of the cutter, followed shortly by another,
showing that they had got within range of the schooner, and the firing
was kept up steadily as the boat sailed on, fast nearing the shore now,
where the cliff was dotted with the people attracted by the engagement.

But the firing did not interest Daygo, who kept on pleading and
protesting and begging to be forgiven to one who seemed to have
thoroughly hardened his heart.

Then the old man made an effort to wriggle himself into a sitting
position, but a light tap with the conger bat sent him down.

"Don't you move again," said Vince sternly; "and don't you say another
word, or you'll make your case worse than ever."

Daygo groaned, and Vince watched the shore, which they were fast
nearing.  Then, springing up, he began to wave his hands frantically.

"Look, Mike! that's my father.  Yes; and yours.  Ah! they see us, and
they're waving their hats.  Ahoy!  Ashore there!  Hurrah! we're all
right, father."

Mike sprang up too, forgetting his steering; and the boat would have
begun to alter her course, but Vince seized the oar and set her right.

"Now then, jump up," he cried, "and show yourself.  They see us.
Father's coming nearer down.  Mike, we shall be ashore in five minutes."

"Oh--oh--oh!" groaned Daygo.  "Marcy, young gents, marcy!  I know
they'll hang me."

Vince turned upon him fiercely, and took out his long Spanish knife,
which he opened and whetted upon the gunwale, while the old man's eyes
opened so that he showed a ring around the iris.

"What are you going to do, Cinder?" cried Mike, catching him by the arm.

"I'll show you directly," said Vince firmly.

Just then the Doctor and Sir Francis began shouting to the boys; and the
people near, among whom were Jemmy Carnach and the Lobster, took off and
waved their caps, and cheered.

"Look here, Ladle," whispered Vince: "will you do as I tell you--I mean,
do as I do?"

"Yes; anything."

"I'm soaked.  Do you mind being the same?"

"Not a bit," cried Mike excitedly.

"Right, then: follow me.  It's only fifty or sixty yards now to the
tunnel, and we can wade through.  Starboard a little more.  That's it."

He pressed the oar his companion held, and the boat glided behind the
towering rock, hiding the group on shore from their sight; and now Vince
bent forward over their prisoner.

"In with the oar, Mike," he said loudly, "and do as I do."

He bent over the old fisherman, whose eyes, were nearly starting out of
his head with horror, and with one clean thrust beneath the cord,
divided it and set Daygo's wrists free, and then did the same by his
ankles.

Then Vince started up.

"There," he cried; "there's our revenge on you, you old ruffian!  You've
got your boat: sail away, and never let us see you at the Crag again.
Now, Mike, over!"

He set the example; and, as the old man sat up, the two boys dived into
the deep clear water together, rose and swam for the tunnel, into which
they passed, and were soon able to wade on towards the little dock.  A
minute later each was clasped in his father's arms.

Wet as he was?

Well, it was only sea water.

Need I write about what took place at the Doctor's cottage and at the
old manor?  I think not.  There is surely no boy who reads this and
thinks of his mother's tears who cannot imagine the scene far more
vividly than I can describe it.  For the long mourned ones had returned,
as if by a miracle, and all was happiness once more.

That night it was announced that the cutter had gone east, with the
schooner close astern; and three days later she was off the Crag, Vince
and Mike being ready to meet the lieutenant when he landed and to act as
guides.

The officer of the cutter was for making them show the way into the
caverns by sea; but on hearing more he had his men furnished with all
the picks and bars that could be provided, and then, with an ample
supply of lanthorns, the entrance to the dark passage was sought, Sir
Francis and the Doctor being quite as eager to see the place as the
sailors.

Half-way through it was found to be blocked; but a pound of powder well
placed and provided with a slow match was left to explode, and as soon
as the foul air had cleared away the place was found practicable, and
the party descended to find enough cargo left to well lade the cutter.

But the men did not hurry themselves, nor the officers neither; for they
found the hospitality at the Mount or at the Doctor's very agreeable.

At last, though, the cutter sailed, but not before an attempt had been
made to enter the smugglers' dock; only it was given up as being too
risky for His Majesty's Revenue cutter.

Previous to going, the lieutenant, who had become a great friend of the
boys, said a few words which afterwards bore fruit.  They were these:--

"I say, my lads, why don't you two chaps go to sea?  You'd make splendid
middies."

They did; but it was not till a year after the announcement which came
to the Crag that the two boys' names were down as sharers in the prize
money distributed to the officers and men of the cutter.

"And it does seem rum, Ladle," said Vince, as they lay on the
thyme-scented grass, looking out to sea, and occasionally letting their
eyes wander towards the great bluff which hid away the Scraw.

"What seems rum?" said Mike wonderingly.

"That we should get a share in poor old Jacques' treasures after all.  I
wonder what has become of him."

They heard at last that, by the help of one of his men, who had acted as
cook on board the lugger, he had escaped to France; and two years later,
when they were growing men, they caught sight of old Daygo in Plymouth
town, but the old man managed to avoid them, and, for reasons which the
reader can easily understand, neither of the young men felt disposed to
hunt him out and ask how he came there.  Had they done so, they would
have found that Joe Daygo had been saving money for many years, and he
was living outside the port, where he could see the sea, as "a retired
gentleman."

These are his own words.

And the caverns down by the Scraw?

Sixty years' workings of time and tide have made strange alterations
there.  Huge masses have fallen in, rocks have been washed away, and
pleasant slopes have taken the place of precipice and dangerous rift;
but the sea gulls wheel round the rugged cliffs and rear their young in
safety, and upon sunny days, when the fierce currents are running
strong, the dark olive-green birds may be seen swimming and diving to
bring up their silvery prey to gorge, and afterwards fly off to dry
their plumage on shelves and slopes of their home--dangerous surf-girt
Cormorant Crag.

The End.





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