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´╗┐Title: Sail Ho! - A Boy at Sea
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 "Sail Ho! - A Boy at Sea" ***

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Sail Ho! or, A Boy at Sea, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________

This appears to be one of Fenn's later novels, and is just as exciting
and full of tension as are his earlier ones.  The hero is a
seventeen-year-old boy called Alison Dale.  We have never heard of a boy
called Alison before, but this one is pretty tough, and already knew a
lot about seamanship even before he went to sea, on account of having
often sailed in his father's large yachts.

Hopefully most boys on their first cruise to sea won't have anything
like the adventures that befell Master Alison.  The skipper was not a
pleasant man, and there was a mutiny, led by a nasty piece of work
called Jarette, who was half-French.

The story progresses through various degrees of terror, beginning when
the ship is taken over by the mutineers, leaving the passengers and
officers isolated.  Finally most of the latter are cast adrift to die,
but leaving two of their number on board.  Attempts are made to rescue
these.

Eventually the drunken mutineers manage accidentally to set fire to the
vessel, and flee it.  But the heroic party of officers and passengers
come back to recover the missing two, get on board, and manage to put
the fire out.  This is noticed by the mutineers, who are just over the
horizon, and who row back.  There is then a good old battle in which
eventually Jarette is killed, and life begins to be restored to normal.

The edition used was very difficult to work with. It is a longish book
which was squished into less than 160 pages.  The pages were large, the
typeface was very small, and there were two columns of text per page.
There were actually 130 lines of text per page, with the lines being
about two-thirds the normal length.  However, the Athelstane system of
e-book editing was not fazed, and we hope there won't be too many errors
found in what we present.

________________________________________________________________________

SAIL HO! OR, A BOY AT SEA, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

A BOY AT SEA.

Many many years ago seem like yesterday, and I hope it will always be
the same.  For, just to be serious for a moment, what is the full
stretch of the oldest man's life to time?  Just one star-wink, if the
astronomers are right about the passage of light, and that the glitter
of stars that we see now are only the rays which started from them away
there in space long before we were born.

Don't be frightened, I'm not going to talk astronomy, but about my old
ship, the first I ever sailed in, after having a kind of training in my
father's little yachts, beginning with the shoulder-of-mutton sail; and
next with the Cornish lugger, which he bought at Newlyn, on beyond
Penzance, when Penwalloc went wrong, and his two boats with all their
gear, and about two miles of drift mackerel and pilchard nets, were sold
by auction.

Father bought the _Brine_, and had her decked and newly rigged, and
many's the cruise I had with him and old Tom Sanders, we three managing
the two big sails well enough.  After that came the cutter, when we had
to have two men and a boy, for the mainsail was pretty big to manage,
and took some hauling and setting in a breeze, and some strength to
tackle in one of the squalls that come rushing out of the gullies and
combes down along our Cornish coast, where the great peninsula or
promontory, or whatever you call it, is scored across and across almost
from sea to sea with deep valleys; just as you see a loin of pork cut
with a sharp knife before it is put down to roast.

There, I'm not going to talk about Cornwall this time, but my adventures
on the high seas in the Burgh Castle.

So to begin:--

"Be-low!"

"Hi! you sirs!"

"Look out!  Run!"

Quite a little chorus of warnings, and then--

_Spang_.

And directly after--

_Crash_.

One of the yards being hoisted up to its place across the
main-topgallant mast of the Burgh Castle lying in the East India Docks,
and still in the hands of the riggers, had slipped from the slings,
through carelessness, and come down from high, up aloft to strike the
deck wich one end, and then fall flat within a foot of where two lads
dressed as midshipmen in the merchant service had been standing, but who
at the first shout had rushed in different directions, one to stumble
over a coil of rope, perform an evolution like the leap of a frog, and
come down flat on his front; the other to butt his head right into the
chest of a big, burly, sunburnt man, who gave vent to a sound between a
bellow and a roar.

"Where are--Hi! aloft there!--oh, my wind!  Ahoy there, you--!"

Then followed, as the big burly man recovered his breath, a startling
volley of words--expletives and sea terms, in which he denounced the
gang of men aloft as sea-cooks and lubbers, and threatened divers
punishments and penalties for their carelessness.

Then he turned to another man who was bigger, burlier, redder, and
browner, especially about the nose, and made certain exceedingly
impolite inquiries as to what he was about, to allow the owner's tackle
to be smashed about in that fashion.  To which the bigger and browner
man growled out a retort that he'd nothing to do with the gang, as
things hadn't been handed over to him yet.  And then he grew frantic
too, and kicked the fallen yard, and yelled up to the riggers that the
said piece of wood was sprung, that they'd have to get another yard, for
he wasn't going to sea with a main-top-galn'sl-yard fished and spliced.

Meantime the first brown man had turned to the two lads, and cooling
down, nodded to them.

"Come on board then, eh?"

"Yes, sir--yes, sir."

"Lucky for you that you both hopped out of the way, youngsters, or I
should have had to send one of you back home with a hole through him,
and t'other broke in half."

I was the boy who would have been sent home with a hole through him--I
the boy who write this--and the other boy who would have been broken in
half, was one whom I had encountered at the dock-gates, where we had
both arrived together, that miserable, mizzly morning, in four-wheeled
cabs with our sea-chests on the top, and both in mortal dread--and yet
somehow hopeful--that we should be too late, and that the good ship
Burgh Castle had sailed.

I had been very anxious to go to sea.  I loved it, and all through the
preparations I was eagerness itself; but somehow, when it came to the
morning that I started from the hotel where I had slept for the one
night in London, a curious feeling of despondency came over me, a
feeling which grew worse as I passed through the city, and then along
the water-side streets, where there were shops displaying tarpaulins,
canvas, and ropes; others dealing in ships' stores; and again others
whose windows glittered with compass, sextant, and patent logs, not
wooden, but brass.

Perhaps it was seeing all this through the steamy, misty rain.

"What a while he is!"  I said to myself, "and what a dismal place!"

Just then, as we were going down the muddiest street I ever saw, I
became aware of a dirty, ragged-looking fellow of eighteen or nineteen
trotting along beside the cab, and directly after of one on the other
side, who kept up persistently till at last we reached the docks and the
cabman drew up.

"Drive on," I shouted.

"Don't go no further," was the reply, and I stepped out into the drizzle
to see about my chest and pay the man, just as a sharp quarrel was going
on close by, and I saw a lad a little bigger than myself scuffling with
two more rough-looking fellows who had seized upon his chest, and
insisted upon carrying it.

The next moment I was engaged with the pair who had trotted by my cab,
and who had fastened most officiously upon mine.

"You touch it again," came sharply, "and I'll let you know."

"Leave the box alone," I said, "I don't want your help."

"Carry it in, sir.  I was fust, sir.  Yah! you get out."

"Don't let 'em take it," shouted the lad who was squabbling with the
first pair, and I was just beginning to think that I should have to
fight for my belongings, when a dock policeman came to our help, the
cabmen were paid, and our chests were placed upon a truck, while the cab
touts pressed upon us and insisted on being paid for doing nothing.

"You must have got plenty of tin," said my companion in difficulties,
after I had compromised matters by giving each of the ragged touts a
shilling; "you won't do that next voyage.  I did first time I came."

"Have you been to sea before, then?"  I said, looking at the speaker
with interest.

"Rather.  Are you going in the Burgh Castle?  Yes, I can see you are."

"How?"  I asked, as I saw him glance at my new cap, which I knew was
beginning to be soaked by the rain.

"By that," he said, nodding at the embroidered flag and star upon the
front.  "We're going to be shipmates, then."

"I am glad," I said; but as I uttered the words it did not seem as if I
were uttering the truth, for I felt anything but joyful, and my
companion did not impress me favourably.  For he looked sour, yellow,
and discontented as we tramped over the wet stones along by towering
warehouses, stacks of chests, and huge buttresses of barrels on one
side, and with the great basins of water choked with shipping, all
apparently in the most inextricable confusion, till we reached a great
loftily masted ship and passed up the sloping gangway on to her deck.

Here every one was busy--officers, sailors, dockmen; hatches were off
and bales of lading and stores were being lowered down, and we were just
standing together looking out for some one to show us our quarters and
to carry down our chests, when the warning shouts came from aloft, and
we had so narrow an escape of being laid low.



CHAPTER TWO.

No one paid any more attention to us, and we still stood looking about,
with my companion more helpless than myself, in spite of his having been
to sea before, still wanting to get out of the rain and save my new
clothes, I began to exert myself, with the result that at last I found a
sailor who told me where I could find the steward.

That functionary was too busy, he said, but at the sight of a shilling
he thought he could spare a minute, and at the end of five we two damp,
miserable, low-spirited lads were seated on our sea-chests in a little
dark cabin, after doubling up our mackintoshes to make dry cushions for
the wet seats.

There was not much room, our chests doing a good deal towards filling up
the narrow space, and hence our knees were pretty close together as we
sat and tried to look at each other, not at all an easy job, for the
round window was pretty close to the great stone wall of the basin, and
a gangway ran across from the wharf up to the deck, shutting out the
little light which would have come in if the way had been clear.

"Cheerful, ain't it?" said my companion.

"It's such a horrid day," I said.

"Beastly.  It always is in London.  Ain't you glad you're going to sea?"

"Not very," I said, after a pause.  "It'll be better when it's fine."

"Will it?" said my companion, mockingly.  "You'll see.  I don't know how
a chap can be such a jolly fool as to go to sea."

"Why, you went!"  I said.

"Yes, I went," grumbled my companion; "but of course I didn't know."

"Did you go out in this ship?"

"Course I didn't, else I should have known where our bunks were.  My
last voyage was in the Hull."

"Oh!"  I said, looking at him as one of great experience; "and did you
go your other voyages in the Hull?"

"What other voyages?"

"That you went."

"Who said I went any other voyages?  I don't brag.  I only went that
once, and it was enough for me.  She's being new rigged--and time, too.
That's why I'm to go out in this boat."

"Then you don't know the captain and officers?"

"I know you," he replied, with a grin.

There was a period of silence, which my companion utilised by biting the
sides of his nails, till I said--

"Shall we have to do anything to-day?"

"I d'know.  I shan't.  Not likely.  Don't think much of this ship."

"Don't you think it's a good one?"  I ventured to ask, with the
deference due to so much experience.

"No.  See how that rotten old yard came down.  She looks to me like a
regular tub.  Sort of old craft as would melt away like butter if she
touched the sands.  I say, how should you like to be shipwrecked?"

"Not at all.  Were you ever wrecked?"

"Not yet.  Dessay I shall be some day.  I say, you're in for it.  Sure
to be pretty rough going down Channel.  You'll have the mully-grubs
pretty stiff."

"Oh!  I don't know," I said quietly.

"Don't you?  Then I do.  Oh, Stooard! won't you be bad!  Ever seen the
sea?"

"Lots of times."

"But you've never been on it?"

"Oh yes, I have."

"And been sick?"

"I was once when we went across to Havre, but that's years ago, when my
father had the Swallow."

"Had the what?"

"His first little yacht.  The one he has now--the Swift--is four times
as big."

"Oh, then you have been to sea?" said my companion, in a disappointed
way.

"Dozens of times," I said; "and all about our coast--it's often rough
enough there."

My companion stared hard at me.  "What's your name?"

"Alison Dale."

"How old are you?"

"Seventeen, nearly."

"I'm seventeen," he cried.

"And what's your name?"

"Nicholas Walters; and as I'm senior, you'll have to bustle about a bit.
I won't be too hard on you, but you'll have to look sharp and pick up
things.  I dare say I can put you up to a good deal of seamanship."

"Thank you," I said quietly.

"Of course, I don't know what sort of officers we've got here; but you
and I can swing together, and I'll help to make it as easy for you as I
can.  It's rather hard for a boy making his first voyage."

"I suppose so," I said; "but I shall try not to mind."

"Look here; is your father a gentleman?"

"Oh yes; he was in the army till he was invalided."

"Then he's an invalid?"

"No, no, not now.  He was badly wounded in the Crimea, and had to retire
from the service."

"Then why didn't you go in the army?  'Fraid of getting wounded in the
Crimea?"

"No; I wanted to go to sea?"

"Then why didn't you go in the Royal Navy?"

"Because my father had a better opportunity for getting me in the
merchant service."

"Oh!"

I felt as if I should never like Mr Nicholas Walters, for he was rather
consequential in his way, and seemed disposed to lord it over me on the
strength of having made one voyage.  But I consoled myself with the
thought that it was hard for any one to make himself agreeable on a day
like that; and then as we sat listening to the banging and thumping
about overhead, I began to think of my promise to my father, for I had
promised to make the best of things all through the voyage, and not be
easily damped.

My musings were cut short by my companion.

"I say," he cried, "you seem a lively sort of officer."

"One can't feel very lively just coming away from home amongst
strangers," I replied.

"Bosh!  You're talking like a boarding-school girl.  What do you think
of the skipper?"

"The captain?  I haven't seen him yet."

"Yes, you have.  That was he who let go at the men up aloft.  He's a
rough 'un, and no mistake.  Berriman--I don't think much of him nor of
the ship; I shall shift into another line after this trip.  It isn't
good enough for me."

"I wonder whether I shall talk like that," I thought to myself, "when
I've been on a voyage."  Then aloud: "Shall we go on deck for a bit, and
see if we can do anything?"

"Not likely," was the shortly uttered reply.  "What's the good?  Get wet
through in this mizzling rain.  Let's wait for lunch.  There'll be a
good one, because of the passengers' friends being on board.  Some say
they'll go down to Gravesend with us.  Here, you're all green yet; you
leave everything to me, and I'll tell you what to do."

I said "Thankye," and he went on cross-examining me.

"Smoke?" he said.

I shook my head.

"Never mind, I'll teach you; and, look here, if it's fine this
afternoon, I'll take you round and introduce you to all the officers and
people."

"But I thought you were as strange as I am," I said.

"Well, I don't know the people themselves, but I know which will be the
mates and doctor and boatswain, and I can show you all about the ship,
and take you aloft, can't I?"

"Oh yes, of course," I said.

"You'll find I can be a deal of use to you if you stick to me, and I can
take your part if any of the other middies try to bounce you."

"Will there be any other midshipmen?"  I asked.

"P'raps.  But it's all gammon calling us middies.  We are only a kind of
apprentices, you know.  It isn't like being in a man-o'-war."

As it happened, a gleam of sunshine tried about half-an-hour after--just
as I was growing terribly sick of my companion's patronising ways--to
get in at the little cabin-window, and failed; but it gave notice that
the weather was lifting, and I was glad to go on deck, where the planks
soon began to show white patches as the sailors began to use their
swabs; but the bustle and confusion was worse than ever.  For the deck
was littered with packages of cargo, which had arrived late, with
Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand, painted upon them in black
letters, and some of these appeared to be boxes of seeds, and others
crates of agricultural implements.

Then we were warped out of the dock into the river, a steam-tug made
fast to the tow-rope ahead, and another hooked herself on to the port
side of the great ship to steady her, as she began to glide slowly with
the tide, now just beginning to ebb, along through the hundreds of craft
on either side.

I looked sharply round for that monarch of our little floating world--
the captain; but he had gone ashore to see the owners again, so my new
friend told me, and would come aboard again at Gravesend.  But I had a
good view of the crew, and was not favourably impressed, for they
appeared to be a very rough lot.  A great many of them had been
drinking, and showed it; others looked sour and low-spirited; and there
was a shabby, untidy aspect about them, which was not at all what I had
expected to see in the smart crew of a clipper ship, while my surprise
was greater still when I saw that four of the men evidently hailed from
China, and as many more were the yellow, duck-eyed, peculiar-looking
people commonly spoken of on board ship as Lascars.

The mates were so busy and hot, trying to get the decks cleared, and
succeeding very slowly with the unpromising material at their command,
that we saw very little of them, and I looked eagerly round to see what
our passengers were like; but there were so many people on board that it
was hard to pick out who was for the other side of the world and who was
to stay on this.

The time passed, and I ate as good a dinner as my companion that
evening, the first mate taking the head of the table; and that night,
when all the visitors had said good-bye, and were gone ashore, and I had
retired to my bunk, it seemed as if I had been on board for days.  I lay
there longing to throw shoes or brushes at Walters, who was lying on his
back just under me, and breathing so exceedingly hard, that it was as if
he kept on saying _Snork_ in a nasty spiteful manner on purpose to keep
me awake.  And it did keep me awake for some time.  At last I dropped
asleep for about a minute, as it seemed to me, and then started up and
knocked my head against the woodwork.

"Only cold water, lad," said a voice.  "I say, you, been to sea, and not
know how to tumble out of your berth without knocking your pumpkin."

I was confused for the moment by my intense sleepiness, and the blow I
had given my head, so that I could hardly make out where I was.  Then as
I awoke to the fact that my brother middy was half-dressed, and that he
had been holding his dripping sponge to my face, I crawled out, or
rather lowered my legs down, and began to dress.

"Look sharp," said my companion; "don't stop to shave."



CHAPTER THREE.

"Well, youngsters!" saluted us as soon as we stepped on deck, and the
bluff, brown-faced captain gave me a searching look.  "Ready for work?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's right.  Well, I don't want you yet.  Run about the ship, and
keep out of my way.  That'll do for the present.  Be off!"

He was rather rough, but it was in a good-tempered fashion, and I felt
as if I should like the captain in spite of a whisper from Walters which
sounded like "boor."

Then feeling free for the day, I upset my new friend and patron by going
amongst the men and passengers as they came on deck.

"Here, don't you be so fast," said Walters, as I was hurrying from place
to place asking questions of the sailors, and finding interest in
everything on board, where, though bearing a certain similarity, all was
so different to the arrangements upon a yacht.

"Fast!"  I said, wonderingly.

"Yes," said Walters, shortly.  "You'll be getting into trouble.  You'd
better, now you're so new, let me lead, and I'll tell you all that you
want to know."

"Mind your eyes, youngsters," sang out a good-looking, youngish man,
"Now, my lads, right under, and lash it fast."

"Second mate," whispered Walters to me, as about a dozen men dragged a
great spar, evidently an extra top-mast, close under the bulwarks, to
secure it tight out of the way.

"Quite right, youngster," said the officer, who seemed to have
exceedingly sharp ears, and then he gave me a nod.

"Hang him and his youngsters," grumbled Walters as we went forward.  "He
has no business to speak like that before the men."

"Oh, what does it matter?"  I said.  "Look there, at that thin gentleman
and the young lady who came on board yesterday evening.  He must be ill.
Oh! mind," I cried, and I sprang forward just in time to catch the
gentleman's arm, for as he came out of the cabin entrance, looking very
pale, and leaning upon the arm of the lady, he caught his foot in a rope
being drawn along the deck, and in spite of the lady clinging to him he
would have fallen if I had not run up.

"Don't!" he cried angrily, turning upon me.  "Why do you leave your
ropes about like that?"

"John, dear!"

Only those two words, spoken in a gentle reproachful tone, and the young
lady turned to me and smiled.

"Thank you," she said; "my brother has been very ill, and is weak yet."

"Lena," he cried, "don't parade it before everybody;" but as he turned
his eyes with an irritable look to the lady and encountered hers, a
change came over him, and he clung to my arm, which he had thrust away.

"Thank you," he said.  "Give me a hand to the side there.  My legs are
shaky yet."  Then with a smile which made his thin yellow face light up,
and gave him something the look of his sister, as he glanced at my
uniform--"You're not the captain, are you?  Ah, that's better," he
sighed, as he leaned his arms on the bulwark, and drew a deep breath.
"Thank you.  Just wait till we've been a month at sea, and I'll race you
all through the rigging."

"All right," I said, "you shall.  My father says there's nothing like a
sea trip when you've been ill.  He took me in his yacht after I had had
fever."

"And you got well in no time, didn't you?"

I nodded, as I looked at his wasted figure, and noted his eager, anxious
way.

"There, Lena, hear that," he said quickly.  "I told you so."  Then
turning to me again--"Come and sit near us in the cabin; I shan't be so
nasty and snappish when I've had my breakfast."

He laughed in a forced way, and promising that I would if I could, I
drew back to leave the brother and sister together, for Walters gave my
jacket a twitch.

"I say, I shall never get you round the ship," he said, in an ill-used
tone.  "Now look here," he began, "this is the saloon-deck, that's the
mizzen-mast, and come along here and I'll show you the binnacle."

"Why, I know all these," I said, laughing merrily.  "Come, I'll box the
compass with you."

"Tuppens as you can't do it right, young gent," said a rough-looking
elderly sailor, who was coiling down the rope which had nearly overset
the sick passenger.

"You keep your place, sir, and speak when you're spoken to," said
Walters, sharply.

"Certeny, sir.  Beg pardon, sir, of course.  Here, you Neb Dumlow, and
you Barney Blane," cried the man to a couple of his fellows, who were
busy tightening the tarpaulin over a boat which swung from the davits.

The two men, whose lower jaws were working ox-fashion as they ruminated
over their tobacco, left off and faced round; the first addressed, a
big, ugly fellow, with a terrific squint which made his eyes look as if
they were trying to join each other under the Roman nose, held a tarry
hand up to his ear and growled--

"What say, mate?"

"These here's our two noo orficers, and you've got to be wery 'spectful
when you speaks."

"Look here, young man," said Walters, haughtily, "I've been to sea
before, and know a thing or two.  If you give me any of your cheek I'll
report you to the first mate.  Come on, Dale."

He turned away, and the bluff-looking sailor winked at me solemnly as I
followed, and muttered the words, "Oh my!"

"Nothing like keeping the sailors in their places," continued Walters,
"and--"

"Morning," said a handsome, keen-looking man of about thirty.

"Morning, sir."

"Our two new middies, eh?  Well, shall you want me to-morrow?"

He looked at me as he spoke.

"Want you, sir!"  I replied.  "Are you one of the mates?"

"Every man's mate when he's on his back," was the laughing reply.  "I'm
the doctor."

"Oh!"  I cried, catching his meaning, "I hope not, sir, unless it's very
rough, but I think I can stand it."

"So do a good many folks," he continued.  "Morning."

This was to a big, heavy-looking gentleman of about eight-and-twenty,
who came up just then and shook hands with the doctor, holding on to him
it seemed to me in a weak, helpless, amiable fashion, as if he was so
glad he had found a friend that he didn't like to let go.

"Good--good-morning, doctor," he said, and as he spoke, I felt as if I
must laugh, for his voice was a regular high-pitched squeak, and it
sounded so queer coming from a big, stoutish, smooth-faced man of six
feet high.

Walters looked at me with a grin.

"Oh, here's a Tommy soft," he whispered.

"Don't," I said with my eyes, as I screwed up my face quite firmly.

"I'm so glad I met you, as every one is so strange, and I don't like to
question the servants--I mean the stewards--because they are all so
busy.  How long will it be to breakfast?"

"Quite half-an-hour," said the doctor, smiling, as he looked at his
watch.  "Hungry?"

"Oh no; I wanted to know if there would be time to see to my little
charges first."

"Your little--Oh yes, I remember the captain told me.  You have quite a
collection."

"Yes, very large, and I am anxious to get them all across safely."

"I wish you success, I'm sure," said the doctor quietly.  "You
naturalists take a great deal of pains over your studies."

"Oh, we do our best," said the big man mildly, and it was just as if a
girl was speaking.  "Perhaps your two young gentlemen would like to see
them."

"To be sure they would," said the doctor.  "Let me introduce them.  Let
me see, your name is--"

"Preddle--Arthur Preddle."

"To be sure, you told me last night in the cabin.  Then here are two of
our embryo captains, Mr--"

"Nicholas Walters," said my companion, trying to speak gruffly.

"And--"

"Alison Dale."

"That's right; I like to know the name of my patients present or to be.
Let me make you known to Mr Arthur Preddle, FZS."

"And FLS," said the big passenger, mildly.

"To be sure, forgive my ignorance," said the doctor.  "Now let's go and
see the fish."

Mr Preddle led the way--that is, his words and looks were eager, but
his body was very slow and lumbering as he walked with us to the steps,
and then down to the main-deck, and forward; and all the time, as he
moved his feet, I could not for the life of me help thinking about the
way in which an elephant walked onward in his slow, soft way.  It put
one in mind of india-rubber, and all the time our new acquaintance gave
a peculiar roll from side to side.

There was still a great deal of lumber about the deck, but the officers
were rapidly getting everything cleared, and we soon reached a
well-protected and sheltered spot forwards, where several large frames
had been fitted up on purpose, and the boards which had been screwed on
when they were brought on board having been removed, there they were,
several shallow trays of little fish swimming hurriedly about in shoals
in the clear water, but ready enough to dash at the tiny scraps of food
Mr Preddle threw in.

"For fresh food, sir?" said Walters.  "Won't they be very small?"

The doctor laughed, while the naturalist's eyes opened very wide and
round, so did his mouth.

"For food, my dear young friend?" he said in his quiet way.  "They are
being sent out by an acclimatisation society, in the hope that they will
assist to furnish Australia and New Zealand with a good supply of salmon
and trout.  Look at the little beauties, how strong and healthy, and
bright and well they seem!"

I was afraid to look at Walters for fear he should make me laugh, so I
stood staring first in one tray then in the other, till it was time for
breakfast, and Walters whispered as we hung back to the last--

"I say, how I should like to kick that fish chap."

"Why?"  I asked.

"Because he is so soft and fat."

By this time we were up by the cabin-door, and as we entered rather
awkwardly, the captain shouted to us from the other end--

"Here, youngsters, you can find a seat at this table," and just then I
saw my sick acquaintance standing up, and he beckoned to me.

"Come and sit by me," he said; "you will not mind, Captain Berriman?"

"Not I, sir," said that gentleman bluffly, and as I moved towards where
my new friend was seated, Walters said sharply in my ear, "Oh, that's
it, is it?  Well, you are a sneak!"



CHAPTER FOUR.

These were the people I saw most of, on that first day.  The next I did
not see any of them, for when I awoke next morning, it was to feel that
there was a heavy sea on, which somehow, from experience, I took quite
as a matter of course; but a deep groan below me, and sounding very
startling, taught me that some one else was not taking it in the same
fashion.

"That you, Dale?" came piteously.

"Yes; what's the matter?"

"Oh, pray go and fetch the doctor.  Some of that meat we had has upset
me."

I looked at him, and certainly he seemed very ill, as I hurriedly began
to dress.

"Oh dear, oh dear," he groaned, "I never felt so bad as this before."

"I shan't be long," I said; "when did you begins to feel bad?"

"Don't, don't ask any questions," he cried, half-angrily; "do you want
to see me die?"

"Poor fellow!"  I muttered, as I fought hard to get buttons through
their proper holes, after a desperate struggle with my trousers, into
which I got one leg, and had to try again and again to get in the other
as I stood; but so sure as I raised the second limb the ship gave a
lurch, and I either went against the bulk-head or banged up against our
bunks.

"You're doing that on purpose," groaned Walters.  "Oh, do, do call for
help."

"No, I'd better run and fetch Mr--Mr--what's the doctor's name?"

"We never heard his name," moaned my messmate; "fetch him.  I knew how
it would be.  It's a shame to poison officers with bad preserved meat."

"But I ate a lot of it," I said, as I triumphantly finished fastening my
second brace.

"Ah, you'll have it directly.  Oh dear, oh dear!  I am so bad--why did I
ever come to sea?"

Slosh--whish--bang!

A wave had struck the ship, and we could hear the water flying over us,
as, after a tremendous effort to keep on my legs, I came down, sitting
on my sea-chest; and then, instead of springing up again, I sat rolling
from side to side, laughing silently and trying hard to master the
intense desire to break forth into a tremendous roar.

Walters did not see it for a few moments, but kept on bemoaning his
condition.

"I'll complain to the owners myself, if the captain doesn't take it up.
It's too bad.  Oh, do make haste--the doctor--the doctor--I'm dying."
Then with a good deal of energy he cried, "Why, you're laughing."

"Of course I am," I said, giving way now to my mirth.  "Why, you're only
a bit sea-sick."

"I'm not," he snapped out; "I'm poisoned by that bad meat we had.  Oh,
the doctor, the doctor!"

"You're not," I said.  "It's only sea-sickness.  Why, I should have
thought you could stand it."

"Oh, help--help!"

"Hush, don't make that noise!"  I cried.

"Then fetch the doctor, oh, pray, pray!"

I hesitated no longer, but hurried out, and one of the first I
encountered on deck was the bluff-looking sailor, whom my companion had
snubbed.

"Look here," I cried quickly, "Mr Walters is very ill.  Where's the
doctor's cabin?"

Just then the ship made a lurch, and so did I, but by giving a kind of
hop and jump and getting my legs apart, I preserved my balance.

"Well done, youngster," cried the man.  "You've been at sea before."

"Yes, often," I replied, "but where's the doctor?"

"I'll show you, sir.  Number three's his cabin.  Next but two to the
skipper's.  But your messmate's only got the Channel chump, has he?"

"I think he's only sea-sick, but he says it was the meat last night."

"Clck!"

It was a curious sound that one cannot spell any nearer, partly laugh,
partly cry of derision.

"That's what they all says, sir," he continued.  "Sea-sick, sure as my
name's Bob Hampton."  As he spoke he had descended with me, and ended by
pointing out number three.

"There you are, sir; two rollers at night, and a shake the bottle in the
morning.  That's Mr Frewen's cabin; I must get back on deck."

The next minute I was knocking at the doctor's door.

"Hullo!" came instantly.

"Would you get up, please, sir?  Walters is very bad."

"So will some more be," I heard him say, "with this sea on."  Then,
louder, "Wait a minute."

I waited a minute and then a bolt was drawn.

"Come in."

I entered, to find the young doctor hurriedly dressing.

"I thought it was your voice," he said, "What is it?"

"He thinks the meat we had last night has poisoned him, sir!"

"Rubbish!  The rough sea.  But I'll come and have a look at him
directly."

I ran back to our cabin, which I reached this time without going first
on deck.

"How are you now?"  I said.

"Is he coming soon?" moaned Walters.  "Oh dear!  He'll be too late.  I
know I'm dying; and if I do, don't--don't let 'em throw me overboard."

"You're not so bad as that," I said, trying to cheer him up.

"Oh, you don't know.  Go and tell him to make haste before he is too
late."

To my surprise and delight the door was opened, and the doctor with a
very rough head came in.

"Now, squire," he cried, "what's the matter?"

"Ah, doctor, oh!"

"Ah, doctor, oh!  Don't make that noise like an old woman of sixty.
Pretty sort of a fellow you are to come to sea."

"Oh dear, oh dear!  I know I'm dying."

"Then you are precious clever, my lad.  Bah!  There's nothing the matter
with you but the sea tossing you up and down.  Lie still, you'll soon
come round."

"It--isn't--sea--sick--ick--ickness," moaned Walters.

"Then it's uncommonly like it, that's all I can say," cried the doctor,
laughing.  Then, turning to me--"There, you needn't be alarmed about
him, my lad."

"I wasn't sir," I replied.  "I told him that was what ailed him."

"And quite right.  I suppose you'll have a turn next if this rough
weather keeps on."

"But do, do give me something, doctor," groaned Walters.

"Your messmate will get you some tea presently," said the doctor,
quietly.  "There, I must go and finish dressing."  And he left the
cabin, while a good deal of my first work at sea was attending on poor
Walters, who was about as bad as he could be for the next few days,
during which the only passenger I saw was Mr Preddle, who came out of
his cabin twice a day, looking miserably ill, and having hard work to
stand; but Hampton the sailor and I used to help him go right forward to
attend to his fish and then help him back again.

"It's so good of you," he used to say; "I'm not used to the sea, and if
I get worse, do please go and see to my poor fish."

"Yes, they shan't be neglected," I said.  "But I think the sea's going
down, and you'll be all right, sir, then."

He shook his head sorrowfully, and when I helped him to lie down again--
no easy task, for he was so big--he shut his eyes and whispered, "How is
our sick friend?" he said.

"What, Walters, my messmate?"

"No, no, the passenger, Mr Denning."

"I haven't seen him, but the steward said he seemed pretty well, sir."

"Impossible.  In such a delicate state of health.  Have you seen the
lady?"

"No, she has not been on deck."

"No.  It would be too rough," sighed the poor fellow.  "What's that?" he
cried, excitedly, "something wrong?"

"I'll go and see," I said; for there had reached us the sound of an
angry voice, and then a noise as of something falling overhead, and as I
hurried out and on deck, I could hear the captain storming furiously,
evidently at one of the men.



CHAPTER FIVE.

"And sarve him jolly well right," growled Hampton, looking at me as I
hurried forward to where Captain Berriman was following up one of the
sailors, who, with his hand to his bleeding cheek, was gazing fiercely
at his officer and backing away toward the forecastle.

"Yes," shouted the captain, "get down below and don't show yourself to
me again to-day, you scoundrel.  Call yourself a sailor, and haven't
learned the first line of a sailor's catechism--obedience to his
officer."

The captain's face was flushed and the veins in his brow were knotted,
but the aspect of his countenance changed directly, as in backing away
from him the man did not allow for the heaving of the ship, and the
consequence was that he stumbled, tried to save himself, and then fell
heavily and rolled over into the lee-scuppers, but picked himself up and
then hurried forward and out of sight.

As I looked back at the captain, it was to see his rugged face twinkling
now with mirth, and he turned to Mr Frewen the doctor, who had hurried
on deck at the noise.

"There, doctor," he said, "you see the old Burgh Castle wouldn't rest
easy, and see her skipper insulted.  Pitched the scoundrel off his legs.
That comes of having these mongrel sort of fellows aboard.  He's half a
Frenchman.  Shipped in a hurry.  An insolent dog.  Got my blood up; for
as long as I walk this deck, right or wrong, I'll be obeyed.  Perhaps I
ought to have put him in irons though, instead of being so handy with my
fists.  You'll have to go and stick half-a-yard of plaster on his cheek:
it's cut."

"What was the matter?" said the doctor, as soon as the captain gave him
an opportunity.

"Brymer told him and another of the men to go up aloft, and he refused.
I heard him, and ordered him to go at once, and he said, loud enough for
Miss Denning to hear--never mind what.  Here she comes;--and I knocked
him down."

"Ah, my dear young lady," he continued, taking off his cap, "I apologise
to you for that scene.  But a captain must be master of his ship."

"I am very sorry too," she replied sadly.  "It seemed so shocking for
you to strike the man."

"Now, now, now, my dear, don't you scold me, an old fellow who has to
play the part of father to you and your brother on this voyage.  It was
a pity perhaps, but I was obliged.  But there, there, it's all over
now."

"Hope it be," grumbled a voice behind me, and I turned sharply to see
that Hampton was close alongside.  "Yes, sir," he said again, "I hope it
be, but chaps who wears earrings has got tempers like spiteful women,
and that chap Jarette arn't the sort to forget a blow."

"Did the captain hit him very hard?"  I said, after a glance over my
shoulder, to see that the officers were walking aft talking to Miss
Denning.

"Hard?  Did the skipper hit him hard, sir?  What says you, Barney, and
you, Neb Dumlow?"

This was to the two sailors who were generally pretty close to his
heels, all three men being thorough messmates, and having, as I
afterwards learned, sailed together for years.

"Did he hit him hard?" said Barney, slowly, and giving his mouth a rub
with the back of his hand.

"That's what I said, messmate; don't get chewin' o' my words over five
hundred times to show off afore our young orficer.  Did he hit him
hard?"

"Orfle!" said Barney.

"Then why didn't you say so afore, 'stead o' getting into bad habits,
a-saying things for the sake o' talking.  Now, Neb Dumlow, just look the
young gent straight in the face and say what you thinks."

"Couldn't ha' hit him no harder," growled the great fellow in his deep
bass voice.

"Not with one hand," acquiesced Hampton; "but you needn't ha' screwed
both your eyes out o' sight to say it, matey.  Bad habit o' hisn, sir,"
he continued, turning to me, "but I'm a-trying to break him on it.
Neb's a good sort o' chap if you could straighten his eyes; arn't you
Neb?"

"Dunno," growled the man.

"Then it's a good job for you as I do, mate.  Ay, the skipper did give
Master Jarette a floorer, and I'm sorry for it."

"Why," I said, "if he deserved it?"

"Well, you see, sir, it's like this; if me or Neb or Barney there had
scared one of the officers, and the skipper had knocked us down, why, we
shouldn't ha' liked it--eh, mates?"

"No," came in a growl.

"Course not; but then we're Englishmen, and knowing as we was in the
wrong, why, next day we should have forgot all about it."

"Ay, ay," growled Dumlow, and Barney nodded his acquiescence.

"But strikes me, sir--you needn't tell the skipper I says so, because
p'r'aps I'm wrong--strikes me as that chap won't forget it, and I should
be sorry for there to be any more rows with ladies on board, 'cause they
don't like it.  But I say, sir!"

"Yes, Hampton," I replied.

"I thought as Mr Walters as had been to sea afore was going to put you
through it all.  When's he going to show on deck?"

"Oh, he'll come up as soon as he's well enough," I said.

"If I was skipper, he'd be well enough now," said the sailor, roughly.
"More you gives way to being sea-sick, more you may.  I don't say as
it's nice, far from it; but if a man shows fight, he soon gets too many
for it.  Here's him been a voyage, and you arn't.  He lies below, below,
below in his bunk, and you goes about just as if you was at home."

"Because I haven't been ill," I said, laughing.

"No, sir, you arn't; but if I was you, I'd soon go down and cure him."

"How?"  I said, expecting to hear of some good old remedy.

"Physic, sir."

"Yes, what physic?"  I said.

"Bucket o' water, sir,--take a hair o' the dog as bit you, as the Scotch
chaps say,--fresh dipped."

"Rubbish, Bob Hampton; how could he drink a bucket of salt water?"

"Who said anything about drinking it, sir?  I meant as lotion, `Outward
application only,' as Mr Frewen puts on his bottles o' stuff
sometimes."

"What! bathe him with salt water?"

"Yes, sir, on'y we calls it dowsin'.  Sharp and sudden like.  Furst
dollop fails, give him another, and keep it up till he walks on deck to
get dry; then call me to swab up the cabin, and he's all right."

"I'll tell Mr Walters what you say, Hampton."

"No, sir, I wouldn't do that; 'cause if you do, he'll have his knife
into me.  I on'y meant it as good advice.  He on'y wants rousin' up.
Why, if you was to set some of us to rattle a chain over his head, and
then make a rash, and you went down and telled him the ship was sinking,
he'd be quite well, thank ye, and come on deck and look out for a place
in the first boat."

"You're too hard upon him," I said, and not liking to hear the man talk
in this way, which sounded like an attempt to, what my father used to
call, curry favour, I went aft to find that the invalid passenger, Mr
John Denning, had been helped out on to the poop-deck by his sister and
the steward, and was now having a cane-chair lashed for him close up by
the mizzen-mast.

He beckoned as he caught sight of me, just as he was being lowered into
his place, and I went up slowly, for the captain and Mr Frewen were by
his side, and as I approached I heard him say rather irritably--

"Thank you, doctor.  If I feel unwell I will ask you to help me.  I'm
quite right, only half-suffocated by being down so long."

"Very good, Mr Denning.  I only thought you might wish to avail
yourself of my services."

"Thank you; yes--of course."

I saw Miss Denning look pained, and press her brother's arm.

He turned upon her impatiently.

"Yes, yes, Lena, I know," he said; "and I have thanked Mr Frewen for
his attention.  Now I want to be alone."

Mr Frewen raised his cap, and walked forward, descending to the
main-deck, and the invalid said something angrily to his sister which
made her eyes fill with tears.

I was passing on, but Mr Denning made a sharp gesture.

"No, no, I want you," he cried sharply.

"Then I'll say good-morning," said the captain, smiling at Miss Denning.
"I only wanted to say I was glad to see you on deck, sir."

"Thank you, captain; but don't go.  I can't help being a bit irritable;
I've had so much to do with doctors that I hate them."

"John, dear!"

"Well, so I do, Lena.  I was dying for want of some fresh air, and as
soon as I get on deck, captain, down swoops the doctor as if he were a
vulture and I was so much carrion."

"Oh, come, come, my lad, you won't talk like that when you've been on
deck a bit.  Nothing like fresh air, sir.  Keep yourself warm, though,
and we mustn't have you wet."

"Now, captain, don't, pray," cried the invalid.

"All right, then, I won't.  Look here, then.  If it gets too rough, come
into my cabin and have a cigar and a chat.  You won't mind a little
smoke, my dear?"

"Oh no, Captain Berriman; not at all."

"That's right.  You know where my cabin is, and don't you mind me
calling you my dear.  I've got three girls at home as old or older than
you, and a son as big as Mr Denning."

Miss Denning smiled in his face, while I felt as if I wished he would be
as fatherly with me.

"Look here," he continued, with a twinkle of the eye.  "I've just had a
telegram from old Neptune.  He says the gale's pretty well over, and
he's going to give us some fine weather now.  He was obliged to blow up
a bit because the waves were getting sulky and idle, and the winds were
all gone to sleep."

It did not seem like the same man who was so fierce with the sailor a
short time before.

"And look here, Mr Denning," he continued, turning back after taking a
few steps toward the man at the wheel; "you're quite right, sir; pitch
the doctor overboard, and I'll prescribe for you.  I've got a bottle or
two of prime port wine and burgundy on board,--you understand?  And as
soon as the weather mends you must try some fishing; I dare say I can
fit you up, and young Dale here will lend a hand."

"Oh yes," I said eagerly.

"And don't know anything about it, eh?"

I stared at him in surprise.

"Why, I've fished at sea hundreds of times, sir," I said.  "Whiffing,
long line, trot, and bulter; and we used to go out to the rocks off
Falmouth to set small trammels."

"Why, you're quite a sailor, Dale," said the captain.  "All right, my
lad, you'll do."

"I like Captain Berriman, Lena," said Mr Denning, thoughtfully; "but I
will not have that doctor always hanging about my chair."

I saw Miss Denning look sadly at me and colour a little as she glanced
back at her brother, who nodded sharply and turned to me, and changed
the conversation.  "Were you on deck when there was that disturbance?"

"Yes."

"The captain knocked the man down, didn't he?"

"Yes; sent him sprawling upon the deck."

I saw the young man's eyes flash, and there was a slight flush upon his
sallow cheek as he laid a thin hand on my arm, and went on eagerly--

"I wish I had been on deck."

"Oh, there wasn't much to see," I said.  "His cheek was cut, and bled."

"So much the better.  Let Mr Frewen go and attend him.  But the man was
insolent, wasn't he?"

"Very, I believe; and Captain Berriman said he would have proper
discipline in his ship."

"Yes, of course.  I should have liked to see the captain knock him down.
Perhaps it will make him spiteful."

I looked at him wonderingly, and he smiled.

"Well, why shouldn't I?" he said.  "One likes to see a few exciting
scenes now and then.  Life is so dull."

He was holding on by the arms of the chair, for the ship rose and fell,
and rolled a good deal in the short, choppy sea; but he seemed to like
it, and as his sister stood with her hands resting on the back of the
chair, balancing herself and yielding to the motion of the ship, her
eyes brightened, and she gazed away over the foaming sea, where the sun
had come through the clouds, and made the spray sparkle like diamonds as
the waves curled over and broke.

They neither of them spoke to me, and I walked slowly away to see that
the captain had raised his hand.

"You can spend a little time with the sick passenger, Dale," he said; "I
mean when he wants you.  Poor fellow, I'm afraid he's in a bad way."

He walked back toward the group by the mizzen as he spoke, and then as
we drew near he changed the conversation.

"Look here, Dale," he said; "you'd better go down and pull your messmate
out of his bunk by the hind leg.  Time he was on deck now.  And look
here, go and see how that Mr Preddle is.  He's keeping below, too, when
a touch of this brisk breeze would set him up.  Go down, and tell him
the fish are fighting--ah, fighting--that will be more like the truth.
They're sure to fight.  That will bring him on deck."

"Shall I, sir?"

"Yes; off with you."

As I started I saw that Mr Denning was frowning, and that his sister
looked troubled.  But it was only a momentary glance, and a minute or
two later I approached the door of Mr Preddle's cabin and knocked.

There was a groan, and in spite of its pitiful nature I could not help
smiling, and I knocked again.

"Come in," I heard in quite a squeak; and then as I opened the door--"Is
that Doctor Frewen?"

"No, sir," I replied.  "I've come to ask you to get up and come on
deck."

"On deck!  Is there any danger?"

The speaker raised himself upon his elbow, and looked at me eagerly.

"Oh no," I replied; "the sea's going down, and the captain thinks an
hour or two on deck would do you good."

"Too ill, too much prostrated," sighed the great fellow, who lay, as I
thought, like a sick elephant, when he had dropped back on to the
pillow.

"Captain Berriman said something about seeing to your fish, sir."

"My fish!  Ah, yes; you shall look at them for me."

"But it really is nice and fresh on deck, sir."

"Yes, for you."

"And it seems to be doing Mr Denning and his sister ever so much good."

Mr Preddle rose suddenly to his elbow.

"Miss--They are not on deck?" he said eagerly.  "What, Mr and Miss
Denning?"

"Yes," I said, looking at him wonderingly, for he appeared to be so
excited.  "Oh yes; he's sitting up there, looking at the sea, and his
sister's standing by his chair."

"Would--would you mind helping me on with a few of my things, Mr Dale?"
he said hurriedly, as he began to creep out of his berth.  "It's so
awkward dressing when the ship sways about so.  It makes me feel giddy."

"Oh yes; I'll help you," I said.

"Thank you; it's very kind of you.  The captain is quite right, and I'm
not doing what I ought about those fish.  I will go and see to them.  So
much time and expense was devoted to--oh, my gracious!"

I tried to save him, but he was too heavy, and we went down together
with him half over me; but I didn't feel it much, for he was very soft.
You see he had got one leg half-way into his trousers, when the Burgh
Castle gave a lurch, and bang he went up against the bulk-head, and then
on to the floor.

"Hurt yourself much, sir?"  I said, as we both struggled up.

"Oh, horri--no, no, not much, thank you," he muttered.  "I--I--haven't
quite got my sea-legs yet, as you sailors call it.  That's better.  Now
if you wouldn't mind, Mr Dale."

I didn't mind, of course, and I helped him all I could, thinking all the
while he was like a big fat boy we used to have at school, only Mr
Preddle was nearly three times the size.  And all the time, though he
must have felt very faint and poorly, he kept a good face upon his
troubles, trying to laugh and make light of them, till I said, merrily--

"That's the way, Mr Preddle.  Now, if you get up on deck and don't
think about the ship rolling, you will soon be better."

"Yes," he said; "I believe I should if I only could keep from thinking
about the ship rolling.  But it won't let me."  This was while he was
rubbing his big, round, smooth face, which looked as good-natured as
possible, though the smile upon it was only forced.

"Oh, but you'll soon get over it," I cried.  "I'll stop and help you
up."

"Yes, do please stop," he said hurriedly; "but don't try and help me up.
I'm going to walk up and balance myself.  I shall keep close to the
bulwarks, don't you call them, and hold on.  Which is the best side?"

"I should go along on the weather side," I replied.  "You may get
splashed a bit; but you'll soon learn not to mind that.  I've often been
drenched when out in the yacht with father, but one soon got dry again."

"Didn't you catch a bad cold?" he said, out of the towel.

"Oh no."

Then he looked in his little glass as he steadied himself with one hand,
and then in his highly-pitched voice he said, as he looked round at me
with a faint laugh, and passed his hand over his chin--

"It's a very good job, isn't it, that I don't have to shave?  I'm sure I
couldn't use a razor with the ship rising and falling like this."

Thud!  Whish!

The little round window was darkened for a few moments, and Mr Preddle
held on with both hands.

"What's that?" he cried, excitedly.  "Is there any danger?"

"Danger?  No," I said with a laugh.  "It was only a wave.  Good job you
hadn't opened your window.  Don't you ever shave, then, sir?"

"No," he said with a sigh; "my beard never came."

"Then it never will," I remember thinking to myself as I looked at his
smooth cheeks and chin, while he carefully combed and brushed his hair
as he stood in his trousers and shirt, and then opened a little box and
took out three neckerchiefs, all different in colour.

"Which one would you wear, Mr Dale?" he said, as he looked up at me.

"Oh, I don't know," I cried merrily; "which you like best--the blue one.
There's plenty of blue sky and blue sea now."

"Yes, you're right," he said, eagerly.  "And--you wouldn't mind, would
you?"

"Mind what, sir?"

"Showing me how to tie a sailor's knot.  I never could manage it
properly."

I showed him, and then he put on a white waistcoat and a blue serge
jacket, like that worn by a yachting-man, buttoned up tightly, and
looked at me again.

"It's very kind of you to help me," he said; "but do you think it's fine
enough for a straw hat?"

I shook my head as I pictured his round, plump, white face under the
straight brim, and thought how comic it would look.

"I should wear that," I said, pointing to a yachtsman's blue woollen
peaked cap.  "There's so much wind, and it will keep on better."

"Of course; you are quite right," he said.  "It's because you have had
so much experience of the sea.  But it isn't quite so becoming as the
straw, is it?"

I stared at him wonderingly as I thought how vain he must be; but I said
it looked right enough.

"I should keep the straw hat for when we get down into the hot parts,
sir," I said.

"To be sure; so I will.  Do you know, that wash seems to have done me a
lot of good, Mr Dale.  I really think I feel better."

"Then you'll be all right now, sir.  I should get the steward to give me
a basin of soup."

He shuddered, and gave me a look of horror.

"I couldn't touch it," he whispered.  "Don't ask me.  Not now."

"Wait till you've been on deck a bit, sir."

"Yes, yes," he said, excitedly; and after another look in the glass he
told me he was ready, and we went out to go on deck: but he declined to
go up the steps to where the captain would be with the other passengers,
and said he would go forward to have a look at the fish; but before he
had gone many steps, he altered his mind.

"I do feel better, Mr Dale," he said, with a half-laugh, "and I think I
will go up and pay my respects to the captain and--and the other
passengers," and then, talking eagerly to me about his fish, and
carefully preserving his balance, we went up on the poop-deck, with the
ship gliding along swiftly and more easily.

The captain saw us, and came to meet him along with Mr Brymer, the
first mate, and both shook hands warmly.

"Glad, to see you on deck, sir.  There, you've got over your bit of
trouble.  It was rather a rough beginning."

"Yes, and of course I'm not much used to the sea, Captain Berriman,"
said Mr Preddle, as he walked on by his side with legs rather widely
apart, I following behind with Mr Brymer.

It seemed to me then that Mr Preddle was managing so as to get up to
where Mr Denning sat with his sister, and the next minute they were
abreast of them, and the captain said in his bluff way--

"There, Mr Denning, another of your fellow-passengers has found out the
advantage of coming on deck."

"Yes," said Mr Preddle, hastily, as he took off his cap to Miss
Denning, and then bowed to her brother.  "So fresh and bright after the
clo--clo--clo--Oh dear me!"

I was obliged to laugh, and though Mr Denning looked angry, I saw Miss
Denning turn away to hide a smile, for the captain and Mr Brymer
laughed as merrily as I did.  And no wonder, for just as Mr Preddle was
bowing and smiling and talking hurriedly, the ship gave another sudden
lurch; he made a wild grasp at the captain, missed him; another at Mr
Denning's chair; and then sat down involuntarily on the deck, to look up
ruefully at me, his eyes seeming to say, "Oh, how can you laugh!"

"All right, sir, not hurt, I hope?" said the captain, and he and the
first mate helped our stout passenger to rise.

"No, not at all, thanks; sadly awkward though at first," he said, rather
piteously.  "Mr Dale--would you mind?"

I hurriedly offered him my arm, and he gave a quick look round.

"A little weak and giddy," he continued, with his eyes resting on Miss
Denning, who held out her hand, and in a quiet sweet way, said--

"Yes, we have been rather unwell too.  I turned quite giddy once."

Mr Denning looked at her angrily, and Mr Preddle shook hands very
awkwardly before walking away with me, and as I helped him down the
ladder, he said in a whisper--

"Are they all laughing at me?  Look."

"Oh no," I said, after a hasty glance.  "I'm afraid we were all very
rude, but every one meets with these accidents at sea."

I fancied he muttered something about "disgraced," but he was very
silent, and hardly noticed the men who touched their caps to him as we
went forward, where he stayed with the fish for a few minutes, and
lifted out a couple which lay floating wrong side up, with a tiny
landing-net; and then walked back without me towards his cabin.  I let
him get nearly to the companion-way, and then ran after him with my face
burning.

"I beg your pardon for laughing at you, Mr Preddle," I said.

He turned his piteous face toward me, and smiled in a simple,
good-natured way, as he held out his hand.

"You couldn't help it," he said; "I suppose I did look very ridiculous.
It's because I'm so stout; p'r'aps being at sea will take it down."

He nodded and went on, leaving me thinking.

It was awkward, just too as he wanted to show how well he was.  Then I
started and looked round, for some one clapped me on the shoulder.

"You and Mr Preddle seem to be getting capital friends, Dale; how smart
he had made himself look!"

"Yes, sir," I said; "but he had quite an accident on deck," and I looked
half-smilingly in the young doctor's face, for it was he.

"Accident?  Hurt?" he said, eagerly.

"Oh no, sir.  He was going up to speak to Miss Denning and her brother,
and the ship lurched, and he came down sitting."

"Oh!" said the doctor, and it struck me at the time that he looked
rather pleased.



CHAPTER SIX.

The next morning broke bright and glorious.  We were right away in the
open sea now, going south before a brisk north-west breeze, which was
just enough to make the water dance and glitter in the sunshine, as the
Burgh Castle with a full press of sail careened gently over.  While
feeling fresh and eager, I thought how delightful the ocean looked, and
was eager to see what the tropic waters would have to show.

"Here, Dale," said the captain, "this sort of thing won't do.  Where's
your messmate--Walters?"

"He's a little better this morning, sir, but not out of his bunk."

"You go down and tell him that if he is not up on deck in a quarter of
an hour, I'll send two of the men down to fetch him."

"Yes, sir," and I went and delivered my message to the poor,
miserable-looking, yellow-faced fellow, as he lay with his face screwed
up, only half seen in his bunk.

"I don't care.  Let him send if he dares.  I can't get up.  I'll
complain to the owners.  It's a cruel shame, and it's a wonder I haven't
died, left neglected down here."

"That you haven't been," I cried; "why, I've regularly nursed you, and
the steward couldn't have been kinder."

"Who said he could?" cried Walters, with plenty of animation now.  "But
where's the doctor?  What's a doctor carried on a ship for if he isn't
to attend to the sick people?"

"Oh, but you're not sick," I said.

"What?" he cried fiercely.

"Well, not now," I replied, laughing.  "Of course you were, but you're
only qualmy now.  Here, this place does smell stuffy.  I'll open the
window."

"That you won't; I don't want to catch a bad cold.  Wish I hadn't come
to sea in such a miserable ship."

"Nonsense.  Get up and dress."

"Shan't!"

"But you'd feel ever so much better."

"How do you know?  You go and tell the captain he's a brute, and I'm not
going to get up till I'm better."

"Not I.  It would only be a lie," I said.

"What?"

"You are ever so much better.  Shall I ask the steward to make you some
tea?"

"No, I couldn't touch it, and he wouldn't make it if you did.  This
ain't a London hotel."

"Of course it isn't; but he'd make a cup if I asked him."

"No, he wouldn't.  They're all brutes here."

"Look here," I cried, as I saw how argumentative he could be, and that
if he roused himself up he'd be better, "if you don't jump into your
trousers I'll be a brute too."

"What do you mean?" he said, sharply.

"I'll lay hold of one leg, and pull you out on to the floor."

"You dare to touch me, and I'll give you the biggest hiding you ever had
in your life."

"Not you.  Come, get up, or the skipper will send down two fellows to
fetch you out."

"Let him at his peril," snarled my messmate, pulling the clothes higher.

"Shall I go and tell him that?"

"If you dare."

"Oh, I dare," I said, "but I wouldn't be such a sneak.  But he really
will send after you, if you don't get up."

"Let him."

"Come, you are better."

"I'm not; I'm half dead."

"You're not."

"I am, you unfeeling brute; I am so weak, I can't stir."

"You said you were strong enough to give me a good hiding."

"Yes, when I'm better."

"You're better now, so get out."

"Shan't."

"Am I to pull you out?"

"You dare to touch me, and I'll half-kill you."

"Here goes, then!"  I cried, and diving my hand under the blanket, I
caught hold of him by his leg, and with one good tug had him out on the
floor of the narrow cabin, kicking and struggling to get from beneath
the clothes.  As soon as he was free he flew at me, hitting out
fiercely, while I only closed with him to keep him from hurting.

Then for about a minute we had a combined wrestle and fight about the
cabin, with the result that I, being dressed and in better condition,
got him down and sat upon his chest, panting heavily, to get my breath,
while I could feel the saddle upon which I sat move sharply up and down.

"There," I said good-temperedly, "I knew you weren't bad.  Will you
dress yourself, and come on deck if I get off?"

"I'll half-kill you!" he snarled through his set teeth.

"Then I'll sit here till you change your mind."

He drew up his knees, so as to get his heels as near me as he could,
then placed his hands close to his ribs, waited a few moments to get his
breath, and at a moment when he thought I was quite off my guard, he
raised his chest so as to make a bow of his spine, and giving a sudden
quick heave, tried to throw me off sidewise.

But I had too good a seat for my restive steed, and nipping him tightly,
held on while he frantically tried the same movement again and again,
till he was compelled to stop from lack of breath.  And all the time his
face grew blacker with fury, while mine was puckered up by mirth, for I
was thoroughly enjoying the fun of the thing, and not in the least
alarmed by his threats.

"You beast!" he snarled.  "Only wait till my turn comes, and you shall
have it for this."

"Not I, my lad," I cried merrily.  "You'll be as pleased as can be
to-morrow, and thank me for doing you so much good.  Why, Walters, old
chap, you're growing stronger every minute.  I thought you were so faint
you couldn't move."

"So I am, and you're suffocating me by sitting on my chest, you cowardly
wretch."

"Not I.  It makes the bellows work better," I cried, as I bumped gently
up and down.  "Good for you after lying there so long.  Ready for
another try?"

I gave so heavy a bump that he yelled out, but I only laughed, for every
doubt of his condition had passed away, as he proved to me in our
struggle that he was as strong and well able to be about as I.

"Now then, if I get off, will you wash and dress?"

"I'll thrash you till you can't stand," he snarled.

"Not you.  Be too grateful; and if you speak like that again I'll nip
your ribs twice as hard."

"You wait till I get up."

"You're not going to get up," I said, "till you promise to behave
yourself."

"I'll make you sorry for this, my fine fellow, as soon as I'm well."

"Then you had better do it at once," I said, "if you can."

He gave another heave, but I was too firmly settled, and he subsided
again, and lay panting and glaring at me fiercely.

"There, let's have no more nonsense," I said at last; "don't be so
silly.  I only did it all in fun to get you to make an effort.  Will you
get up quietly and shake hands?"

"No!" he roared, and he gave such a jerk that I had hard work to keep my
seat, while he struck at me savagely with his doubled fists.

"Wo ho!"  I cried, as I managed to secure his wrists, and now as I saw
his malignant look, I began to feel uncomfortable, and to wish that I
had gone some other way to work to bring him round.

"You shall repent all this, you wretch!" he cried.

"Pooh!"  I said contemptuously, for my own temper was rising; "I am not
afraid.  There, get up and dress at once, and don't make an idiot of
yourself."

As I spoke I gathered myself together, and with one effort I sprang to
my feet, being quite on my guard, but expecting the greater part of what
he had said was talk, and that he would not dress himself.  But to my
astonishment he leaped up, dashed at me, striking out right and left,
and the next minute there would have been an angry fight on the way, if
the door had not suddenly darkened and a voice which I recognised as Mr
Brymer's exclaimed--

"Hullo! what's all this?"

My rising anger was checked on the instant as Walters started back, and
the chief mate and Mr Frewen came in.

"Walters has got a fit, sir," I said, laughing.

"I haven't," he cried furiously; "this cowardly beast has been dragging
me out of my bunk when I was so ill I could hardly move myself."

"The captain said he was to get up, sir," I pleaded; "and I tried to
coax him first, but he wouldn't stir.  Then I did pull him out, but he's
been going on like mad ever since."

"Let me see," said Mr Frewen, seriously, and he felt Walters' pulse.
"Let me look at your tongue, sir," he continued; "no, no, not the tip.
Out with it.  Hah!  And so you had the heart to drag this poor fellow
out of his bed, Dale, when he was as weak as a baby?"

"Why, I could hardly hold him, sir," I protested.  "He's stronger than I
am, only I got him down and sat upon him."

"Sat upon him--got him down!  Why, you might have killed him."

"I didn't think he was bad, sir," I said.  "You should have seen him a
little while ago."

"Oh!" groaned Walters, piteously, and he lowered the lids of his eyes,
and then let them wander feebly about the cabin.

"He's looking for his breeches," said the doctor, changing his tone.
"There, dress yourself, you cowardly sham!" he cried.  "A great strong
healthy lad like you, who has been to sea for eighteen months, to lay up
like a sickly weak girl.  You ought to be ashamed of yourself."

Walters opened his eyes widely and stared.

"Dale ought to have tugged you out a couple of days ago, and given you a
bucket of water.  There, nothing whatever's the matter with him, Brymer.
Come along, and I'll report the case to the captain."

"Well, to see the way he was showing fight," said the mate, "didn't seem
to me like being weak."

"Weak?  Pish!  You did quite right, Dale.  I'm sympathetic enough with
any poor fellow who is really bad, but if there is anything that raises
my dander it's a cowardly pitiful fellow who gives up for nothing.  Look
here, sir, if you're not on deck in a quarter of an hour, I shall
suggest strong measures to the captain in answer to his order to come
down and see how you were."

He stepped out of the little cabin, but put his head in again.

"Open that window, Dale, my lad, this place is stifling."

"Yes," said the first mate.  "On deck in a quarter of an hour, sir, or
you'll wish yourself on shore."

They both left the cabin, and I only made poor Walters more bitter
against me by bursting out laughing as he began to dress quickly.

"A set of brutes!" he grumbled; "a set of unfeeling brutes!"

"There, drop it now," I cried; "I shall stop and help you."

"You'll stop till I help you," he said through his clenched teeth.  "I
shan't forget this."

"All right," I replied, and I left him to himself to cool down; but
feeling sorry for him, and thinking that I had been unfeeling, I hurried
off to the cook, who was pretending to be very busy in the galley, and
who gave me a suspicious look as soon as I showed myself at the door.

"I say, have you got any beef-tea?"  I asked.

"Beef-tea, sir!" he said, giving the lad with him a sharp look.
"Anything else, sir?--Turtle, sir; gravy, spring, or asparagus soup,--
like it now?"

I stared for a moment, then seeing that the man was poking fun at me, I
changed my tone and slipped a shilling in his hand.

"Look here," I cried; "Mr Walters has been very queer and he's now
getting up, can't you give me a basin of soup for him?"

"Soup, sir!  Ah, now you're talking wisdom.  I'll see what I can do; but
to talk about beef-tea just when the butcher's shop round the corner's
shut up--butcher's shop is shut up, arn't it, Tom?" he continued,
turning to his assistant.

"Yes; all gone wrong.  Trade was so bad."

"Now, no chaff," I said; "you will get me a basin of something?"

"I should think so, sir.  Here, Tom, strain off some of the liquor from
that Irish stoo."

A lid was lifted off, and a pleasant savoury steam arose as a basinful
of good soup was ladled out, strained into another, and then the man
turned to me--

"Like to try one yourself, sir?"

"Yes," I cried eagerly, for the odour was tempting.  "No," I said,
resisting the temptation.  "Give us hold," and the next minute I was on
my way back with the basin and a spoon toward the cabin aft.

I don't know how it is, but so sure as you don't want to be seen doing
anything, everyone is on the way to meet you.  It was so then.  I was
carefully balancing the steaming basin so as not to spill any of its
contents on the white deck, as the ship rose and fell, when I came upon
the doctor, who laughed.  The next minute Mr Brymer popped upon me.

"Hullo!" he said, "who's that for?"

"Mr Walters, sir."

"Humph!"

I went on watching the surface of the soup, which kept on threatening to
slop over, when a rough voice said--

"Thankye, sir.  I'll have it here.  Did you put in the salt?"

I gave the speaker, Bob Hampton, a sharp look, and saw that the two men
who were generally near him, Barney Blane and Dumlow, were showing all
their teeth as they indulged in hard grins; and then I was close upon
the cabin-door, but started and stopped short as I heard a cough, and
looking up, there was the captain leaning over the rail and watching me.

"That's not your duty, is it, my lad?" he said.

"No, sir.  For Walters, sir, before he comes on deck."

"Oh!" he ejaculated with a grim look, and he turned away, while I dived
in through the door and made my way to the cabin, where I could hear
that Walters was having a good wash.

"Here, I've brought you something to take," I cried.

He glanced round sharply, saw what I had, and took no more notice, but
went on with his washing.

"Better have it while it's hot," I said.

He took up the towel and began to rub.

"Look sharp, you must take it," I cried.  "If I stand it down, it will
slop over the side."

"Oh, well, if you won't," I cried at last, "I shall eat it myself."

He threw down the towel, turned, half-snatched the basin away, and held
it as if he were going to throw the contents in my face.

His action was so sudden that I flinched.

"Ah, you know you deserve it," he cried, sourly.

"Yes, shall I eat it?"  I replied, recovering myself.

"Bah!" he snarled out, and feeling that I had done all that was
necessary, I backed away and went up on deck, from whence I saw my
messmate come out of the cabin about ten minutes after, and as the
captain signed to him to come near, I slipped down out of curiosity,
hurried to the cabin, and found that the basin was emptied to the last
drop.

I ran forward and popped my head in at the galley.

"Send a boy to fetch the empty basin from our cabin," I said quickly.

"All right, sir," was the reply, and I went aft, just as Walters was
leaving the cabin, but he took care not to come near me, and I went on
with my work.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

Down south we sailed as swiftly as favouring gales and plenty of sail
could take us, and in course of time we had passed below the Azores, and
every one on board was waking up to the fact that we were getting into
latitudes where the weather grew hotter and more sunshiny day by day.

All the foul winds and rough seas had been left far behind in the north,
and anything more delightful than the life on board it would have been
impossible to conceive.

There were troubles, of course, and I used to think that the captain was
unnecessarily severe on Jarette and several of the other men; but I set
it down to a desire to preserve good discipline, and of course I felt
that he must know best how to manage his crew.

The passengers passed the greater part of their time on deck, coming up
early to bathe in the bright sunshine which made the metal look too hot
to touch, and the tar to glisten in little beads all along beneath the
ropes and about the seams of the deck, and they stayed late at night in
the brilliant moonlight, till I used to think that our voyage was going
to be one long time of pleasure; for every one--no, not every one--
seemed to be happy and cheerful, and I made no end of friends.  I had
plenty to do, but even in their strictest moments the officers were
pleasant to me, and I thought, thanks to the breaking in I had had with
my father on his yacht, going to sea in a big clipper ship one of the
most delightful of lives.

But there was some bitter in it.  Walters and I never grew to be warm
friends, though I did my best.  He did not get on with the officers
either, but used to seize every opportunity to get away and talk to some
of the sailors, particularly with the Frenchman Jarette, who was in
trouble with the captain just after our starting, but who, thanks to the
severe treatment he had received, now proved to be one of the smartest
of the crew.

He spoke English as well as I did, but if ever I drew near when Walters
had gone to lean over the bulwarks and talk to him, I could hear that it
was in French--bad French, spoken very slowly on Walters' part, and he
used to have to make Jarette say what he had to say two or three times
over before he could quite make it out.

"No business of mine," I thought.  "I might do the same and practise up
my French," which needed it badly enough, for I had pretty well
forgotten all I had learned.

Things were not quite happy either on deck.  I did not thoroughly
understand why, and attributed it to Mr Denning's ill-temper,
consequent upon his being unwell, for he was haughty and distant with
Mr Frewen whenever he tried to be friendly, and I used to set it down
to his having had so much to do with doctors that he quite hated them;
but there seemed to be no reason why he should snub Mr Preddle so
whenever the big stout fellow approached him and his sister and tried to
enter into conversation.

Mr Preddle used to complain to me about it when I went with him to see
to the aerating and giving fresh water to the fish, which needed a great
deal of attention, and in spite of all our care would insist in turning
wrong side up, to paddle about slowly and helplessly for a while, and
then make a vigorous effort and swim naturally.

But the next minute they were back down and white up, and so they would
go on till they were too weak to move, and a few minutes after they
would die.

"Yes, it's sad business, Alison Dale," Mr Preddle would say with a
sigh, as he lifted a little trout out of one tray, or a tiny salmon from
another.  "I'm afraid that I shall not have many left by the time I
arrive over in New Zealand."

"Perhaps they will get on better when we are in warmer parts."

"I'm afraid they'll die faster then," he said, taking something out of a
locked-up box under one of the water-troughs, and to my surprise I saw
that it was an ordinary pair of kitchen bellows.

"What! are you going to light a fire to warm them, sir?"  I said.

He smiled.

"No, no; don't you know that fish require plenty of air?"

"Yes, I've heard something of the kind, and that if a pond is frozen
over, and the ice is not broken, the fish die."

"Exactly, for want of air.  Look at those fish in that trough."

"Yes, they're hungry," I said, for in one corner a number of them were
putting their mouths nearly out of the water, and opening and shutting
them.

"No, they want air; there is not enough in the water.  Now you'll see."

He thrust the nozzle of the bellows beneath the surface, and began
puffing away till the water boiled and bubbled and was covered with
foam, while after the first few puffs the fish swam about more
vigorously and left the surface.

"There, you see," he said, "there is plenty of air now," and he served
the other troughs the same.  "Now, look here, Alison Dale," he said, as
he replaced the bellows, and locked the box, "I'll leave the key behind
this trough, and if you would not mind, I should be greatly obliged if
you would give the fish a little air now and then just to help me, for I
should dearly like to keep the poor things alive."

"Oh yes," I said, "I'll do it whenever I have a chance, but I don't
quite understand; I thought fish breathed water."

"With air in it.  If there is no air to mingle with the water, the fish
soon die."

"But air over the water, you mean," I said.

"No; in the water; it will hold an enormous deal of air or gas.  Look at
soda-water, for instance, how full of gas that is, and how the tiny
beads come bubbling out as soon as the pressure is removed.  Now, if I
only had a few fish in these troughs, there would be plenty of air for
them naturally in the water, but with so many in my charge," he sighed,
"it must be supplied artificially."

"All right, then, we'll supply it artificially; but it looks very comic
to be blowing the water with bellows instead of the fire, and if Walters
catches me at it, he'll tell everybody that I've gone mad."

"Then you will help me?" he said, appealingly.

"Oh yes, I'll help you," I replied, and he looked so big and boyish that
I felt as if I ought to slap him over the back and call him "old chap."

"Thank you, thank you," he said in his mild way; "and--er--er--"

Then he stopped, with his mouth opening and shutting; and as I stared at
him, I could not help thinking how like he was to one of his fish.

"Yes," I said; "you were going to say something."

"Eh?  Was I?" he said, looking quite red in the face, and uneasy.  "Oh,
it was nothing--nothing--I--er--I hardly know what I was about to say.
Yes, I do," he cried, desperately; "I remember now.  You were close to
us this morning when Mr Denning spoke to me.  Did you hear what he
said?"

"No, I was too far off," I replied; "but he seemed to be speaking
snappishly."

"Yes, he does sometimes; I'm afraid that he does not like me."

"You worry him," I thought to myself, "by hanging about him so, and
talking to Miss Denning when he wants her to read to him."

"Yes?" said Mr Preddle; "what were you thinking?"

"Oh, about what you said.  He is irritable, you know, from bad health."

"Yes," he said, quite in a whisper, "irritable from bad health, poor
fellow."

He stood with the little landing-net in his hand, gazing down into the
trough nearest to us as if watching the little trout; but his thoughts
were, I dare say, of something else, and I did not like to disturb him,
but stood giving a side look now and then at him, but for the most part
watching his charge, and thinking how thoroughly man had imitated the
shape of a fish in making a ship, even to the tail to steer it with.
Then all at once I looked up, for there were voices outside, and I knew
it was Jarette the Frenchman saying something very earnestly to Walters.

I did not hear what either of them said, for they spoke in a very low
tone, and in French.  But I caught just the last words which were
uttered by Jarette, and they were these--

"Mais prenez-garde, mon ami.  Prenez-garde."

Then they had passed on, and all was silent again, with Mr Preddle
still watching the fish.

"`But take care, my friend, take care.'  That's what he said," I thought
to myself; "I know French enough for that.  Take care of what?  And why
does he call Walters `my friend'?  He's only a common sailor, and a
midshipman even in a merchantman oughtn't to be friends in that way with
the men."

Then I laughed silently to myself as I thought of how fond I was of
leaning over the bulwarks and talking to old Bob Hampton when he had the
watch, and listening to his sea-tales about storms and pirates.

"How ready one is to find fault with people one doesn't like," I said to
myself.

"I beg your pardon," said Mr Preddle.

"I didn't speak, sir."

"No; but I had gone into a brown study.  There, the fish will do now."

We both went on deck, and somehow when I was alone I too went into a
brown study, and began wondering at Mr Preddle's curious ways, and
thinking what a pity it was that a gentleman like Mr Denning, who was
on a voyage for the sake of his health, should take such a dislike to
Mr Frewen and Mr Preddle too.  It hardly seemed to be like
irritability, for after all he was as merry and friendly with the
officers as he was with me.  I never went near him without his beckoning
to me to come to his side, and both he and his sister were quite
affectionate to me, making my first long voyage wonderfully pleasant,
and the captain encouraged it.

"He must have heard something about them," I thought, and then I began
to think about Walters and the French sailor and the other sailors, of
those who seemed to form one party all to themselves, and of the others
who kept more along with Bob Hampton and his two friends, who had sailed
together for so many years.

"There, what does it matter?"  I said to myself, as I roused myself from
my musings.  "Walters doesn't like Bob Hampton because Bob laughed at
him, and that's why he hangs toward Jarette; pities him, perhaps,
because they both got into trouble with the officers, and birds of a
feather flock together."

These were all dreamy thoughts, like clouds in my mind.  I could not
understand them.  I grew wiser later on when the troubles came.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

I had so many things to take up my attention that I forgot all about
hearing Jarette and Walters talking together.  Perhaps it came to mind
once or twice afterwards, but it made no impression then, however much I
may have thought about it afterwards.  For then I was trying to learn my
duties, studying up a little navigation, helping Mr Preddle with his
fish that were to stock the New Zealand rivers with trout, and attending
to Mr Denning.  I suppose it was attending upon him, but to me it was
all one jolly time of amusement, during which the poor fellow seemed to
forget all about his bad health, and became as interested as a boy with
our various bits of sport.

Now in a fast steamer there is not much done, for I suppose that quick
rush of the vessel, as it ploughs its way through the sea, startles the
fish away to right and left, and then when they might be swimming
quietly after the first rush, the tremendous beating up of the water by
the whirling screw sends them off again, and makes the water so foamy
that they cannot see a bait.

But with a sailing vessel it is different.  When there is not much wind,
of course she glides along gently, leaving a wake of foam, but the water
is not so disturbed; and soon after the weather had settled down, and
was day by day growing warmer, so that the awning was rigged up over the
poop, and our fishing began.

"Oh yes," Captain Berriman said, "fish away, sir, and the more fresh
fish you catch for us, the better the passengers and crew will like it."

I was standing by one morning when this was said, and Miss Denning
glanced at me and smiled as if she knew what was coming.

"You will let young Dale help me?" said Mr Denning.  "Want him?"

"Oh yes."

"Take him, then.  He isn't much use," said the captain, laughingly.  "I
often wonder why the owners have boys on board.  Better have young
Walters, he's more of a sailor than this fellow."

"Oh no," said Mr Denning, "I should like Dale."

"All right," said the captain.  "Don't tumble overboard, Dale."

"I'll try not, sir," I said, "but I can swim."

"So much the better, my lad, but it takes a long time to lower a boat
down, and a man overboard gets left a long way behind when a ship is in
full sail."

He walked away, and looking as eager as I did, Mr Denning began about a
fishing-line, while his sister looked bright and happy to see her
brother so much interested in the plans he had in view.

"I suppose there are plenty of fishing-lines on board," he said.  "Let's
get right back beyond the man at the wheel, and fish from there."

"I'll go and see about the lines," I said; and I went forward to where
the boatswain was looking after some men who were bending on a new sail.

"Lines?  Fishin'-lines, my lad?--no, I don't know of any."

Directly after I came upon Walters.  "I say, do you know anything about
any fishing-lines?"  I said.

"Of course I do," he replied in a contemptuous tone; "who doesn't?"

"But where do they keep them--with the stores?"

"Who's going fishing?" said Walters.  "Mr Denning."

"Oh!  I'll come and help him; I like fishing," he said.

I looked at him curiously, as I thought of what had been said, and then
asked him again.

"I don't know," he cried, "I don't carry fishing-lines in my pockets.
Ask old fat Preddle, he's a regular fisherman.  But you won't catch
any."

I did not think Mr Preddle was likely to have lines, so I did not ask
him, but thought I would go and ask every man I met, when I caught sight
of Bob Hampton, and went to him.

"Fishin'-lines, my lad?  No, I don't think there's any aboard."

"Yes, there are," growled Barney; "I see Frenchy Jarette rigging some up
t'other day, as if he meant to have a try."

I felt as if I did not like to ask a favour of the Frenchman, for
somehow I did not like him; but feeling that Mr Denning would be
disappointed if none were found, I asked where the man was, and found
that he was down in the forecastle asleep, for he had been in one of the
night watches.

It was so dark there, that for a few moments I could not make out which
of the sleeping men lying there was the one I sought.  They were all
breathing heavily, and at first going down out of the bright sunshine
the faces all looked alike; but after getting a little more accustomed
to the gloom, I saw a hand just where the faint rays came down through a
little sky-light, and on one of the fingers there was a silver ring.
Thinking that the wearer might possibly be the Frenchman, I went farther
and looked a little more closely, and saw that I was right, for though I
could not have been sure that the ring on the hand proved this to be the
man I sought, one that I could just make out in the ear satisfied me,
and stooping lower still I laid my hand upon his shoulder.

The touch had no effect, and I took hold and shook him.

"Jarette--Jarette!"  I said.

He sprang partly up with a faint cry, and to my horror, gripped me by
the throat.

"Curse you, I'll--Ah, it's you, cher ami," he said, beginning fiercely,
and changing his tone to a whisper.  "No, no, not yet," he continued,
"it isn't ripe.  Wait, cher ami, wait a little."

"Jarette," I said wonderingly, for the man puzzled me--I had no key to
his meaning then--"wake up.  I'm sorry I roused you, but we want a
fishing-line, and Bob Hampton says you have some."

"What--to fish!  No, you wish to speak.  Hist!  I--ah, I see now," he
cried quickly.  "It is dark below.  I see it is you, Mr Dale.
Fishing-lines?  Yes, I get you some."

"Why, you thought I was Mr Walters," I said, laughing.

"I?--my faith, no, sir.  I was asleep and dreaming.  Yes," he continued,
scrambling out and going to a canvas bag, out of which he drew a large
square wooden winder.

"There; it is a very long line and nearly new.  I have not used it once,
sir.  Mister the captain objects to the men having these delassements,
these untirings, when you are weary."

"Oh, thank you, Jarette," I cried eagerly.

"And here are these hooks, if the one at the end breaks."

"Yes."

"And the good fortune to you.  Good luck you say it."

I went back on deck with my prize, and called at the galley, thinking no
more of the Frenchman's mistake.

There the cook readily furnished me with a sharp knife and some tough
rind pieces of pork and bacon liberally furnished on one side with fat.

"Cut 'em in long baits, sir," he said, "and the fish are sure to come at
them."

"But they will taste too salt," I said.

He laughed.

"How can a fish know whether the bait is salt when it takes it in salt
water?"

I had not thought of that, and I returned aft, passing Mr Frewen and
Mr Preddle, both of whom looked disturbed, and then I reached the spot
where I had left Mr Denning and his sister.  He was looking angry, and
Miss Denning had tears in her eyes as she quickly turned away.

"I've got a line and baits," I said, speaking as if I had not noticed
that anything was wrong, though I felt sure that the doctor and Mr
Preddle had been there in my absence.

"You can take them back," said Mr Denning, shortly, "I shall not fish
to-day."

Miss Denning turned round quickly.

"John dear!" she whispered, and she gave him a piteous look.

He frowned and turned to me, when seeing, I suppose, my disappointment,
he smoothed his face and then smiled.

"Oh, very well," he said, "I was going to my cabin, but we will have a
try."

I saw Miss Denning lay her hand upon his arm, but took no notice, for I
knelt down on the deck directly, cut a bait ready--a long strip of the
bacon rind--stuck the point of the large sharp hook through one end as
if I were going to fish for mackerel at home, and then after unwinding
some of the line, to which a heavy leaden sinker was attached, I was
about to throw the bait over the stern.

"But that piece of lead will be too heavy," cried Mr Denning, now full
of interest in the fishing.  "It will make the line hang straight down,
and I keep seeing the fish play near the top."

I shook my head.

"It will not sink six feet," I said, "because we shall drag it along so
fast.  If we were going faster I should require a heavier lead."

"Ah, well, I suppose you know best," he said, smiling.  "Go on."

He gave an uneasy glance back along the deck to see if any one else were
near but the man at the wheel, who had his back to us, and I let about
fifty yards of the stout line run out before I checked it and placed it
in Mr Denning's hands as he stood leaning against the bulwarks.

"Shall I give a twist round one of the belaying-pins?"  I said.

"What for?" he cried sharply.  "Do you think I am too weak to hold it?"

"Oh no," I said quickly, "but we may hook a big fish, and the line would
cut your hand."

He smiled as if he doubted me, and to guard against his letting go, I
unwound the whole of the remaining line and laid it out in rings before
fastening the winder tightly beneath the bulwark, so that even if the
line were all run out the fish would be checked and caught.

Just then Walters came sauntering up, and I could not help thinking that
from his size and our uniform being the same, how easily we might be
taken one for the other in the gloom of the forecastle.

Mr Denning turned and looked at him for a moment, and then back to
watch his line without a word, while Miss Denning bowed slightly.

"They don't like Walters," I said to myself.

"Had any bites?" he said with a sniggering laugh.

"No," replied Mr Denning, coldly; "I have only just begun."

There was silence for a few minutes, Walters' coming having seemed to
damp our proceedings.

"Here, I know what's the matter," he said suddenly, taking a couple of
steps close up to Mr Denning.  "Your bait isn't right."

"Mind!"  I cried.  "You're treading on the line."

"Well, it won't hurt it," said Walters, roughly, and he kicked some of
the rings up with one of his feet.  Then to Mr Denning--"It isn't as if
I'd got on nailed boots.  Here, let me pull in your bait and pat a
proper one on.  I've caught lots of fish.  He doesn't know anything
about it."

"Thank you," said Mr Denning, coldly, "when I require your help, I will
ask for it.  Ah!"

He uttered a sharp ejaculation, as there came a sudden fierce tug at the
line which dragged his hands right out to the full length of his arms
and brought his chest heavily against his side.

"Hooray! you've got him," cried Walters, "and a big one too.  Hold
fast!"

It was as if Mr Denning was playing at the old forfeit game of the
Rules of Contrary, for he let go.  The line rushed out, and the next
moment the rings in which Walters had stepped tightened round his legs
just as he was changing his position, and with so heavy a drag that the
lad lost his balance and came down heavily upon the deck, which his head
struck with a sharp rap.

"That was your doing!" he shouted, as I rushed at him where he was
struggling to free himself, for the line kept on tightening round him
from the furious jerks given by the fish which had seized the bait.

But I was not thinking of freeing him, only of getting hold of the line,
and as he struck at me quickly, I thrust him back so sharply that his
head struck the deck again.

By that time I had hold of the line, and, thinking no more of Walters, I
tried to hold the prize, but was fain to call excitedly upon Mr Denning
to help me.

He seized the line too, and for the next five minutes the fish was
tearing about here and there in the water far below where we stood, and
jerking our arms and shoulders till they ached.  Now it would go off at
right angles, now directly in the opposite direction.

Then slacking the line for a few moments it shot right away aft, jerking
the line so heavily that it was dragged through our hands.  The next
moment we saw what looked like a huge bar of blue and silver shoot right
out of the water and come down with a heavy splash.

"Gone!"  I said with a groan, for there were no more fierce tugs, and as
I hauled, the line came in yard by yard for me to cast down on the deck.

"The line's broken," said Mr Denning in a husky voice, as he drew out
his handkerchief to wipe his face.

"Yes; it was a monster," I said dolefully.  "Oh, what a pity!"

"Missed one?" said the captain.

"Yes, sir; a great fellow, five feet long at least."

"One of the big albicores, I dare say," he said.  "They are very strong
in the water.  But he has not broken your line, has he?"

"I'm afraid so," I replied, as I hauled away till the lead rattled
against the ship's side.  Then another haul or two brought the hook over
the rail, for the line was not broken, but the stout wire hook had
straightened with the weight of the fish, and had been drawn back out of
the creature's jaws.

By this time Walters had pretty well cleared himself from the line
tangled about his leg, and he stood looking on and scowling at me in
turn as I removed the straightened hook, and put on another from the
spare ones with which Jarette had furnished me.  This I baited as before
and threw over, the line running out rapidly till about the same length
was out; and Mr Denning took hold again, the red spots in his cheeks
showing how thoroughly he was interested in the sport.

"Better luck to you this time," said the captain, and he nodded and
walked away; but Walters stayed, saying nothing, but leaning against the
rail, and looking on in a sulky, ill-used way at me and my every action
as I attended on Mr Denning.

"We shall never get to be friends," I thought.  "He always looks as if
he was so jealous that he would like to throw me overboard."

"Shall I fasten the line this time, sir?"

"No, no; not on any account," said Mr Denning.  "It would take away
half the excitement, and I get so little in my life.  Eh, Lena?"

Miss Denning smiled at him half-pityingly, and his face looked very
gentle now as he smiled back at her.  Then all his attention was
directed to the line where it hit the water.

"You will be ready to help if I hook a big one," he said to me; "I'm not
so strong as I used to be."

"I'll catch hold directly you tell me," I replied; "but perhaps it will
be a small one this time."

I turned to arrange the spare line once more so that it would run out
easily, and Miss Denning went closer to her brother, while I became
aware now of the fact that Walters was watching me in a sour, sneering
way.

"What's the matter?"  I said.

"Oh, go on," he whispered; "make much of it.  You did that on purpose
just now."

"What, when you went down?"  I said eagerly.  "I didn't, really."

"All right; I'm not blind, and I'm not a fool.  Of course we're the
favourite, and everything is to give way to us; but never mind, my lad,
every dog has his day."

I looked at him with a feeling of wonder that any one could be so
thoroughly disagreeable, so determined to look at everything from a
wrong point of view, and then I laughed, for it seemed to be utterly
absurd that he should misconstrue even that look, for he exclaimed
viciously--

"That's right, grin away, my lad; but the day may come when you'll laugh
the wrong side of your mouth."

"Why, what a chap you are, Nic!"  I whispered.  "I never saw such a
fellow.  Come, let's be friends; I'm sure I want to."

"And I don't, with a miserable sneak who is always trying to undermine
me with people."

"Under-grandmother you," I said in a low voice, so that Miss Denning
should not hear.  "Don't talk such stuff."

"Go on.  Insult me as much as you like," he whispered back: "I shan't
say anything.  You're setting everybody against me, so that instead of
being friends, as a young officer should with his equals, I'm obliged to
go and talk to the men."

I could not help laughing again at his mock-tragic and absurd way of
taking things, and as I honestly felt that if matters were unpleasant it
was all his own fault, he leaned toward me now with his eyes half shut
and his teeth pressed together as he whispered close to my ear--

"All right.  You'll be sorry for it some day, and then--"

"Here's another, Dale!  Quick!" cried Mr Denning.

"Yes, yes, quick, quick," cried his sister, and I offended poor Walters
again quite unintentionally by swinging one arm across his chest in my
hurry and excitement to get to Mr Denning's help; and as I reached over
the rail to get hold of the line, I felt sure that my messmate would
think that I struck him.  For the moment I felt vexed and sorry, then I
could not help smiling to think how comic it was that I should keep on
upsetting him.  Then I forgot all about it in the excitement of righting
the fish.

"It's a big one, Mr Denning," I said, as we both held on to the line--
holding on now with it across the rail.  "Let's give him a chance to
run, and then haul in.  Then he can run over again to tire himself."

Mr Denning was too much excited to speak, but he nodded his head, and
we let the line run, after I had placed one foot upon it to hold it down
on the deck and check its race.

Away went the fish, with ring after ring working off beneath my foot
till only about three yards were left.

"Stop it now," cried Mr Denning, and I pressed my foot down hard,
feeling a curious quivering sensation run up my leg before I quite
stopped the running.

And now the fish began to rush in another direction, giving us an
opportunity to haul in some of the line; but we soon had to let it go
again; and every time I glanced at Walters, all hot, excited, and eager
as I was, I could see that he was looking on with a half-mocking scowl.

But the next minute he gave quite a start and seized the line, for the
captain, Mr Brymer, and Mr Frewen had all come up on seeing that a
fish had been hooked, and the former said sharply--

"Come, Walters, don't stand there with your hands in your pockets and
let Dale do all the work."

And again I upset my messmate as if it were a fatality, for I cried
out--

"All right, sir, we can manage.  Don't touch the line, Walters."

"No; don't touch the line!" cried Mr Denning, and the lad shrank back
as if the thin hemp were red-hot.

Then amidst plenty of excitement and some of the crew coming aft, I
helped Mr Denning haul and haul till the fish was gradually drawn so
close in that we could see its failing efforts to regain its freedom.
Apparently it was nearly five feet long, and its sides flashed in the
clear water where it was not foaming with the lashing of the captive's
vigorous widely-forked tail.

"Bonito," cried the captain.

"No, no, albicore," said Mr Brymer.

"Suppose we wait till it's fully caught," said Mr Frewen, smiling at
Miss Denning, when I saw her brother give him an angry look.

But the next moment I was thinking only of the fish, which was now so
exhausted that it had ceased struggling, and allowed itself to be
dragged along in the wake of the ship, merely giving a flap with its
tail from time to time which turned it from side to side.

"Now," said Mr Denning to me, "let us both haul it on board."

But I protested, saying that the weight of the fish would certainly
break it away, and that we should lose it.

To save us from such a catastrophe, I unfastened the other end of the
line, made a running noose round the tight line beneath Mr Denning's
hands, and let it run down till the noose struck the fish on the nose,
and made it give a furious plunge to escape.

But the hook held firm in spite of my dread, and after a little
twitching and shaking, with the lookers-on making remarks which only
fidgeted me instead of helping, I managed to make the noose glide over
the slippery body.

"Now!" cried Mr Frewen, who was as interested as the rest; but before
the word was well uttered, I had given the line a sharp snatch just as
the running noose was in the narrow part before where the tail fin
curved out above and below like a new moon.

This meant a double hold, for the noose tightened, and now in spite of a
fresh set of furious struggles the fish was steadily hauled out of the
water, and we nearly had it up to the poop-rail, when the hook was torn
out of its holding, and the fish hung down quivering and flapping from
the noose about its tail.

The weight seemed to be tremendous, but I gave two or three sharp tugs,
had the fish over the rail, and over on to the deck, whose planks it
began to belabour heavily, while we gazed excitedly at the beautiful
creature glistening in its splendid coat of many colours, which flashed
gold, silver, orange, scarlet, and metallic blue and green at every
quivering blow.

"What is it?" said Mr Denning eagerly, and I remember thinking how
animated and well he looked that day.

"Well," said the captain, "many years as I've sailed these seas, I
hardly know what to say.  It's something like a dolphin, but it's more
like a bonito, and it isn't unlike an albicore.  What should you say,
Brymer?"

"Quite fresh to me," said the mate.  "Certainly one of the mackerel
family, by its head and the great crescent moon tail."

"Yes, and the short fins on front, top, and bottom.  Never mind, it
looks a good one for the table, and I congratulate you, Mr Denning,
upon your luck.  Going to try again?"

"No," said the invalid, peevishly, as he glanced quickly from his sister
to the doctor and back.  "Thank you for helping me, Alison Dale.  Lena,
your arm; I'll go below."

No one spoke till he had disappeared, and then the captain shook his
head.

"Poor chap," he said, with a sigh.  "Here, Dale, Walters, carry the fish
to the cook; Hampton--Dumlow, swabs and a bucket."

"Keep tight hold," I cried to my companion, who was holding the head of
the fish by a loop of yarn passed through its gills, while I carried it
by getting a good grip of the thin tail.

"Do you want to carry it yourself?"

"Not at all.  Too heavy."

Just then the fish began to quiver as if it were all steel spring, and
waggled its tail so sharply that it flung off my grasp, and once more I
offended Walters, for the fish fell across his feet.

"There!" he cried, "you can't deny that.  You did it on purpose.  A
filthy, slimy thing!"

As he stood there with both his hands clenched I thought he was going to
strike me; but even if he had it would have made no difference, I should
have been obliged to laugh, and laugh I did, till as I was wiping my
eyes I found that Jarette the French sailor was close up and looking at
me keenly.

"Here, Barney Blane," I said, "take hold."

The man grinned and came and helped me bear it away to the cook, after
which I put away the tackle, hanging it to dry before giving it back to
its owner.



CHAPTER NINE.

All at once, just as our life at sea was as calm and peaceful as could
be, Captain Berriman grew quite queer in his manner.  He was pleasant
enough to the passengers, and I never had an unkind word from him, but
he was most tyrannical to a number of the men, ordering them about,
making them set fresh sail, take it down, and altering his orders
half-a-dozen times over, till the men used to go about muttering, and
more than once I heard words spoken about him that were startling, to
say the least.

One evening when it was very dark, the moon not having risen, I was
looking over the side and down into the calm, black water which was as
full of tiny specks of light as the sky above me, and every now and then
these little glittering points beneath the surface would be driven here
and there as if a fish had swum sharply by.  It was all so beautiful, to
watch point after point gliding about lower and lower till all was jet
black, that I had forgotten everything, heard nothing, till all at once
just behind me I heard Mr Brymer say--

"Of course it is very unpleasant for me.  I'm afraid the men will not
stand much more of it.  Do you think he is going mad?"

There was a pause for a few moments, and then Mr Frewen said--

"No; I feel sure that it is only a temporary trouble due to the heat and
over-anxiety about the ship."

"But he is getting worse; and twice over to-day I felt as if I ought to
shut him up in his cabin and take charge altogether."

"No, I should not do that," said Mr Frewen, "so long as nothing serious
goes wrong.  If he really gets too bad, I suppose I must help you by
justifying your proceedings in superseding him."

"For the owners' sake, of course."

"Of course.  It is a very serious position for us both.  But there, he
may be better to-morrow.  If not, we must hope for the improvement when
we get further south."

"Then you would not take command?"

"Certainly not, under the present circumstances."

"Halloa!" cried Mr Brymer--"a spy!  Who's that--Walters?"

"No, sir; it is I."

"And what are you doing there, listening?"

"I was watching the phosphorescence of the sea, sir, and you came and
stood close to me and began talking."

"And you heard?" said Mr Frewen.

"Every word, sir."

"And do you know that we were talking about Mr Denning?" said the mate.

"No; you were talking about the captain."

They were silent for a few moments, and then Mr Frewen spoke.

"Look here, Dale," he said, "this is a delicate matter.  You have seen
that Captain Berriman is ill?"

"I thought he was very strange, and a bit cross sometimes."

"Far worse than that.  Look here, Dale, if you go chattering about what
you have heard," said Mr Brymer, "you may make a great deal of
mischief."

"I am not likely to talk about it to anybody unless it be to Mr
Denning," I said, feeling a little hurt.

"Then pray don't mention it to him.  It would only make him and his
sister uneasy," cried Mr Frewen, quickly.

"I'm afraid they've seen enough for themselves," said Mr Brymer.  "Look
here, youngster, I shall speak plainly to you, because you are a
sensible lad.  If you spoke about what we have said, and it reached
Captain Berriman's ear now he is in that excitable state, he would
immediately think I was conspiring against him, go frantic, and there
might be terrible mischief.  So don't say a word, even to your messmate,
or he'll go chattering to that French scoundrel and the rest of the men.
By the way, Dale, let me give you a word of advice.  I don't like the
way in which young Walters is going on.  It is not becoming for a
midshipman or apprentice to make friends too readily with the sailors.
Don't you follow his example."

"I don't sir," I said indignantly.

"Softly, my lad; I've seen you talking a good deal with that old fellow
Hampton, and the two men with him."

"Oh yes; I have talked to them a good deal," I said: "but it was only
when we were on the watch, and I wanted them to tell me something about
the sea."

"Ah, well, be careful, my lad.  Here, shake hands.  I'm not cross with
you, for you have behaved uncommonly well since you've been on board.
There, that will do."

"Good-night, Dale," said Mr Frewen, kindly; "a still tongue maketh a
wise head, my lad."

They walked on, and disappeared in the darkness directly, while I stood
with my back to the bulwarks and my hands in my pockets, thinking about
what they had said, and recalling the little things I had thought
nothing of at the time, but which came back now looking to be big
things.  Yes, I remembered the captain had certainly been rather strange
in his manner sometimes.  Why, of course, Mr Denning had said to his
sister that the captain need not be so disagreeable to the men.

I was just wondering what would happen, and then thinking that it would
not make much difference if Mr Brymer were captain, and that it would
be better perhaps for Captain Berriman to lie by and be attended by Mr
Frewen, when I heard a sound over my head--something like a low hiss.

"Some kind of night-bird," I thought.  But the next moment I felt quite
startled, for the sound was repeated, and I knew now that it was some
one whispering.  Then, as I stood quite still in the darkness, with the
glow coming from the cabin-windows and from the binnacle-light, there
was a faint rushing up above, and a little off to my left, and directly
after I knew what it was,--somebody's feet on the ratlines coming down
from the main-top.

There was no sail being made or reduced, and it seemed strange for any
one to be up there, and it had just struck me that perhaps it was
Captain Berriman, who had seen Mr Brymer and Mr Frewen talking
together and had gone up to listen, when, so close to me that I wondered
I was not seen, somebody stepped down on to the top of the bulwarks, and
then swung himself softly on to the deck; then crouching down close
under the side, he crept forward swiftly and was gone.

"That couldn't have been the captain," I thought; "the step was too
light.  It was some one quite active."

I was thinking of going forward to try and make out, when there was
another rustling noise above, which recalled the whispering that had
passed out of my mind for the moment; then the rustling continued, and
some one else came down, stepped lightly on the deck, and stood
perfectly still as if looking about to see if any one was near.

It was so dark that I could not make out who it was till he walked aft
not very far from where I stood, and a few moments later I saw who it
was, for his figure came between my eyes and the glow from the
cabin-windows.

"Why, it was Walters," I said to myself, and then I began to wonder more
and more what it all meant.  I ran it over in my mind, but I could not
think of any one at all likely to be Walters' companion at night in the
main-top; in fact, I could not think of any one at all likely to climb
up so high, or even half-way up the shrouds.

"It couldn't have been a cabin passenger," I thought, "for he went
forward; nor yet one of the steerage people."

Then I knew, and wondered that I had not thought of him at first.

"Why, it was Jarette," I said to myself.  "He's as light and active as a
cat."

I waited a bit; and then went slowly right forward and stood for a time
with the men at the look-out, to gaze right away into the soft, hot,
black darkness, thinking how easily we might run into another vessel, or
another vessel run into us.  Then setting my face aft, I went back along
the starboard side, and made my way, blinking like an owl after being so
long in the darkness, into the saloon-cabin, where the passengers were
sitting about, some reading, others working, and where on one side I
found Mr Denning playing chess with his sister.

Everything looked calm, and as if the people were happy enough, and
never thinking it likely there could be any trouble about Captain
Berriman or anything else.

But the saloon-cabin was so warm down there in the south that I soon
went back on deck to hang over the bulwarks for a time, and then go
right aft to look down at the sparkling water, all ablaze now as it
seemed to rush from both sides of the rudder, where in the daytime all
would be white foam.

I had no duty to perform that night to keep me on deck; but still I
lingered, thinking that perhaps the cabin would be terribly hot, as it
had been on the previous night, only I dropped off to sleep so soon that
the heat did not trouble me.

"And I shall have it all to myself to-night," I thought, "for Walters
will have to take his turn in the watch."

At last, half envying him the task of passing a good deal of the night
on deck, I took a look round.  The saloon-lights were out, and there was
no one there; the sailing-lights were up in their places, and the faint
glow rose from about the binnacle, just faintly showing the steersman's
face.  Away forward I could hear the low murmur of conversation where
the watch were on duty, and now, for the first time, I yawned, and some
one spoke from close behind me and made me start.

"Well," he said, "if you are so drowsy as that, why don't you go to your
bunk?"

"Just going, sir," I said, for it was the first mate, Mr Brymer; and
now I hurried down, threw off my clothes, and in a very few minutes I
was sound asleep.

I suppose it was the heat, for I don't believe that it had anything to
do with the coming danger, but at any rate I slept badly that night--an
uneasy, troubled kind of sleep, such as I should have expected to have
if some one was to come and call me about two bells.

It must have been about that time that I was lying more asleep than
awake, but sufficiently conscious to spring up in my berth and say quite
aloud--

"Yes; what is it?"

There was no reply, though I could have declared that some one called
me.  But though there was no reply, I could hear voices.  Some one was
giving orders in a sharp, angry voice; and directly after, I could hear
a scuffling sound, followed by a savage curse uttered in a low voice,
and then there was the sound of a fall.

Something was evidently wrong, and for a few moments I was sure that the
captain had found out about the conversation which had taken place, and
had now taken matters into his hands in no mild fashion.  Mr Brymer was
the last man I saw on deck, and without doubt that must be he.

I lay there, with the perspiration oozing out of every pore, and
listened for the next sounds; but all was still for a few moments.  Then
there were evidently people running about on deck, and a chill of horror
ran through me as I now noticed that something was wrong with the ship.
For instead of rising and falling steadily as she glided onward, she was
right down in the trough of the sea, and swaying and rolling in a way
that was startling.  Fully convinced now that we had gone on a rock or a
sandbank--being ready to imagine anything in my excitement--I rolled out
of my berth and began to hurry on some clothes.

I never dressed more quickly in my life, for as I hastily slipped on my
things, there was the sharp report of a gun or pistol, and a loud crash
as of a door being burst in.  Then the hush and quiet was at an end;
there was a piercing shriek, another shot, followed by the sounds of
struggling, loud and angry voices, then cries for help; and I made for
the deck as quickly as I could, to find all in darkness.  But men were
running here and there, a sharp voice was giving orders, and then I saw
the flash of a pistol or gun.  The report came, there was a low groan,
and then all at once some one rose as it were out of the darkness and
made a blow at me, for I heard the whish of a weapon.

But the blow was made in the dark, and had no effect; but whoever struck
now made a dash at me, and I ducked down, leaped sidewise, and with my
heart in my mouth ran right forward, with whoever it was in pursuit.

I felt that I knew who it was now as I ran.  The captain really had gone
mad, and as I ran and heard the steps behind me, fear lent me great
speed.  Other people had been shot or cut down, and something terrible
was going on.  So I ran for my life to take refuge with the crew in the
forecastle; but as I reached it, there was struggling and fighting going
on there, and I crossed the deck to run back aft on the other side,
meaning to reach Mr Brymer's cabin or Mr Frewen's if I could.

For a moment I fancied that I had evaded my pursuer, but there was
another dash made for me again out of the darkness, and I ran on.

"Look out there, you, sir," cried a voice from behind me; "here comes
one."

This told me that there were enemies in front, and I was ready to dart
anywhere to avoid whoever tried to stop me.

That there was danger I soon found, for struggling, and oaths, and
curses saluted my ears again as I reached the ladder and ran up on to
the poop-deck, just as a shout from near the wheel drove me back.

"Got him?" shouted some one.

"No; where is he?"

I was crouching now under the starboard bulwark, and feeling certain
that in another minute I should be found, I passed my hand upward,
searched about, and found that which I sought, the mizzen-shrouds.  The
next minute I had caught well hold with both hands, swung up my feet,
and went on inboard hand over hand till I was twenty feet above the
deck, clinging there in the darkness, and listening to the efforts
made--evidently by three or four men--beneath to find out where I could
be gone.



CHAPTER TEN.

As I clung there in the mizzen-shroud, afraid to stir, hardly daring to
breathe lest I should be heard, and puzzled beyond measure as to what it
could all mean, but feeling all the same certain that something terrible
had happened, and that it was no shipwreck, there was a tremendous
kicking and banging at one of the cabin-doors, and up through the
sky-light came in smothered tones--

"Here, open this, or I'll kick it off the hinges."

"Lie down!" yelled a sharp angry voice from somewhere beneath me, and
there was a flash of a pistol, the loud report, and a few moments after
the smell of the powder rose to my nostrils.

"Jarette," I said to myself, as I recognised the half-French sailor's
voice, and then I felt sure that it was Mr Frewen who had shouted from
one of the cabins where he must be locked in.

"Then it must be a mutiny," I thought, and such a cold paralysing chill
ran through me that I felt as if I should drop down on deck.  For the
recollection of all I had read of such affairs taking place in bygone
times flashed through my brain--of officers murdered in cold blood,
ships carried off by the crew to unknown islands, and--yes--I was an
officer, young as I might be, and if the mutineers caught me they would
murder me, as perhaps they had already murdered Captain Berriman and Mr
Brymer.

I felt giddy then, and the wonder has always been to me that I did not
let go and fall.  But my fingers were well hooked on to the ropes, and
there I hung listening, as after pretty well scouring the deck the men
below me stopped, and the voice that I had set down as Jarette's said--

"Well, have you got him?"

"No."

"Did you feel under the seats?"

"Yes; there's no one on this deck."

"Did he go overboard?"

"No; he must have dodged us and dropped back from the rail."

"Who was it?  The doctor?"

"No; that whipper-snapper of a boy."

"Oh, him.  Well, then he'd better come out of his hole, wherever he is,"
said Jarette loudly, speaking in very good English, though with a
peculiar accent which sounded to me almost ferocious, as I hung there
feeling as if I could not hold on much longer.

"Do you hear, boy?  Come here, or I'll send a bullet to fetch you."

That man was not twenty feet below me, and as I strained my eyes to try
and see whether he was watching me and taking aim, a curious creeping
sensation ran over my body as if tiny fingers were touching me.

"Do you hear?" came in a fierce snarl,--"am I to fire?"

The voice sounded so close now that the words seemed to be shouted in my
ear, and for the minute, feeling certain that he knew where I was, I
drew myself up ready to drop down.  But still I hesitated, though I felt
perfectly certain he was looking up and pointing his pistol at me.

There was an interval of perfect silence then, save that a murmur came
from below, and this encouraged me, for I felt that I must be invisible
in the darkness, or else Jarette would have had me down.

Then my heart sank, for the man shouted suddenly--

"There, boy, I can see you; come out or I'll fire."

"Come out!  Then he cannot see me," I thought, and I clung there
spasmodically, hoping still that I was unobserved.

"He's not here," said Jarette, sharply; "now then, one of you, I want a
man at the wheel, the ship's yawing about anyhow.  Who have you there--
Morris?"

"Down on guard at the cabin-door," said a voice.

"Brook?"

"'Long with him."

"Jackson?"

"Sitting on the forksle-hatch."

"Sacre!  Where's Bob Hampton?"

"Hee-ar!" came from the direction of the way down to the lower deck.

"Come up here and take the wheel."

"Ay, ay," growled the familiar voice, and I felt heart-sick to hear it,
for Bob Hampton would have been the first man I should have picked out
as one to be trusted, while the sound of his voice made it appear that
every one would be against us.

But though these thoughts flashed through my mind, I was listening all
the time intently to what went on below, striving as I was to grasp the
real state of affairs.

"Here you are then, Bob Hampton.  Behold you, my friend, though it's so
dark I can't see you," said Jarette, and I heard a low chuckling noise
which I recognised as Bob Hampton's laugh.

"And that's a bull as arn't an Irish one," he said.

"Ah, yes, faith of a man, but don't you try to be funny, my man," said
Jarette, "for this is not a funny time, when men are working with their
necks in the hang-dog noose.  Now, look here, my friend, I did not ask
you to join us, because I did not trust you; but you have joined us to
save your skin; so you had better work for us well, or--there, I will
not say ugly things.  You are a good sailor, Bob Hampton, and know your
work, and it would be a pity if you were to be knocked overboard and
drowned."

"Horrid pity, messmet."

"Captain, if you please, Bob Hampton, and your friend if you are
faithful.  That will do.  Now go to the wheel, and send the ship on her
voyage south.  She is rolling in the trough of the sea."

"Right!" said Bob.  "'Spose, captain, you won't be so particklar; man
may light his pipe while he is at the wheel."

"Oh yes.  Smoke and be comfortable; but you will mind how you steer, for
I shall be a hard severe man.  You understand, extremement severe."

"Course you will," said Bob, coolly; "skippers must be.  Don't matter to
me, messmate--cap'n, I mean--one skipper's good as another.  But I say,
cap'n, there's Barney Blane and Neb Dumlow knocked on the head in the
forksle.  They on'y showed fight a-cause they see as I did at first.
They're good mates and true, and 'll jyne me as they allus have.  `Wheer
you sails,' say they, `we sails.'  So I thought I'd put in a word, as
you wants trusty men."

"I can choose my crew, Bob Hampton," said the Frenchman, in a peculiar
tone of voice.  "Too much talk is only good for parrot birds.  Go you
and steer."

"Right you are, cap'n," said Bob, and I heard him go aft, but could not
see him till I wrenched my head round, and could then dimly see
something in the halo of soft light shed by the lamp on the compass.

And all this time the ship was rolling slowly, with the yards making a
strange creaking sound and the sails filling and flapping about with
strange flutterings and whimperings; but in a few minutes there was a
perceptible change, the ship's head swinging round, and I knew that we
were once more gliding swiftly through the water.

That there was a group of men below me I felt absolutely certain, though
I could see nobody; and at last, when I had come to the conclusion that
I had reached the extreme limit of my strength, and that I must drop,
Jarette spoke suddenly, but in quite a low voice--

"You two stay here by the sky-light, and if any attempt is made to get
on deck, shoot at once.  If they are killed, their blood be on their own
heads.  Where's young Mr Walters?"

"Why, you left him on guard with the others at the cabin-door," said a
man surlily.

"Fetch him here: I did," said Jarette, and I felt then that I was going
down on the heads of the men below.  But I made one more desperate
effort, as I heard the soft footsteps moving off in different
directions; and then almost without a sound I got my arm round the
outside shroud, then one leg round,--how I can hardly tell you now, I
was so exhausted,--and the next minute I had relieved my muscles of the
strain, and was standing there with my feet on the ratlines, my arms
thrust right through and folded round one of the inner ropes, and my
head thrust through as well; safe, I felt, even if I lost my senses and
fainted away.

Fortunately for me, the ship was heeling over now in the opposite
direction, so that my position was easier, and as I half lay, half clung
there, the painful stress on mind and body grew lighter--at least the
bodily stress did, and I began to think more clearly.

It was horrible.  The ship then had been seized by the crew, headed by
Jarette.  Some of the men had resisted, and were prisoners in the
forecastle; but Bob Hampton had gone over to the side of the mutineers,
and the others were sure to follow.  But the worst thing of all was the
knowledge that my brother midshipman was in the mutiny, and keeping
guard over the officers and passengers.  And he was a gentleman's son.
Here then was the explanation of his being so friendly with Jarette, and
that was why he and Jarette had been up aloft in the dark.

I shivered at the thought.  But the next moment I was seeing something
else clearly, and I guessed at two things which afterwards I found to be
correct.  Jarette had traded upon Walters' discontent, and won him over
with, no doubt, great promises, because he would be useful; and of
course I saw it plainly now it had been necessary to fasten the
cabin-doors, and shut the officers in.  Mr Frewen was, as I had heard,
locked in his cabin.  Who was there to go quietly at night and fasten
their doors?  No one more likely than the lad who had the run of the
cabins and saloon.

"No, I won't believe it," I thought the next moment.  "Nic Walters
couldn't be such a miserable scoundrel as that."



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

What was I to do?

The answer came readily enough.  Join your friends.

But how?  They were prisoners below in the cabins, and with guards set
at the companion and over the sky-lights.

There appeared to be no way but to go up aloft higher, crawl along some
stay, and then lower myself down, and to creep through the sky-light.

"And be dragged back long before I could get down, even if I could get
down at all," I said to myself bitterly.

That would not do; there must be some other way.

"Join the mutineers," something seemed to suggest, and wait till there
was a chance of leaving them and giving information to the authorities,
or another ship.

I couldn't do that, and even if I had felt disposed, Walters would have
taken care that I was not trusted.  He would have been too jealous.
Feeling rested, I now began to creep up step by step so as to reach the
mizzen-top, where I hoped I could remain unseen.  It was ticklish work,
for the men on guard by the sky-light were a very little distance away;
but moving by slow degrees I climbed up at last, and lay down in
comparative safety, not having been heard.

I had hardly reached my hiding-place, when I heard one of the men below
me say--

"Here they come," and directly after I could see ascend to the
poop-deck, by the light of three lanterns the men carried, a party of
about fourteen, one of whom was Jarette, another Nic Walters, and the
rest were sailors, with the two rough fellows, Dumlow and Blane, firmly
bound with stout line, in their midst.

They were pushed and dragged up to the foot of the mizzen-mast, where
Jarette seated himself in one of the deck chairs, and Walters, with a
pistol in his hand and another in his belt, stood by the Frenchman's
side, resting one foot upon the seat of the chair, as if on terms of the
greatest intimacy with its occupant.

"Bring 'em forward," said Jarette, and the two men were thrust to the
front, Dumlow growling like some strange animal, and Blane trying to
strike at his guards with his elbows.

"Steady there," shouted Jarette.

"Steady it is," growled Dumlow.  "Look here, you Jarette, if you'll just
have these ropes undone on the starboard side to let one o' my fins at
liberty I'll fight yer one hand."

"Hold you your tongue, fool."

"Shan't, so now then.  Jest you have this rope undone and I'll take a
pair on you."

"Will you hold that tongue, or shall I cut it out?"

"I should just like to ketch you at it, yer sham make-believe English
sailor."

My head, at the risk of my white face being seen, was thrust over the
side of the top.

"Look here, you two, you are brought before me, the captain of this
ship, for me to see whether I am willing to let you off easy."

"Oh, you're the skipper, are yer?" said Barney, spitting on the deck.
"Well, yer don't look like it, messmet."

"Silence," shouted Jarette.  "Now, look here, my lads, if I have you cut
loose and forgive you for giving us so much trouble and knocking your
mates about, will you join us and help us work the ship?"

"No!" roared Dumlow, "I'm blessed if I do."

"And you, Barney?"

"Same I says as my mate."

"Vairy good, then, my friends, we were going to offer you a happy life
and a share in our prize, but you will not take them, so we shall have
to pitch you both overboard."

"As Neb says, I should just like to ketch yer at it," roared Blane.

"Lookye here, Frenchy," cried Dumlow in his strange growl, "you make
these beggars loosen this here line, and I'll fight yer one hand."

"Will you join us, big idiot?" said Jarette, and I drew in my breath as
I wondered whether the two brave fellows would prove staunch, and if
they did, whether Jarette would dare to carry out his threat.

"No; course I won't, you ugly piratical frog-soup-eating Frenchy."

"Hit him in the mouth," said Jarette.

"You'd better!" roared Dumlow, raising a leg to kick the first man who
approached him, and now I started, for Walters spoke.

"Don't be fools, you two," he said; "Bob Hampton has joined us."

"Yer lie, yer young warmint," cried Dumlow; "Bob Hampton wouldn't be
such a sneak."

Walters winced at the man's words, but he pointed aft.

"Look," he said; "there he is at the wheel steering."

"Ahoy yonder!" roared Dumlow.  "That theer arn't you, is it, Bob?"

"Me it is, messmet," said Hampton, coolly.

"Sure, messmet?"

"Ay.  All right."

"Why, you arn't jyned 'em, have you, lad?" said Blane.

"Ay, I've jyned, lad," replied Hampton, and then--"Say, skipper, hadn't
I better keep her off a pynte or two?"

"Yes," shouted Jarette.

"Well, I'm blessed," growled Dumlow.  Then aloud--"Hi!  Bob, lad, what's
to be done?"

"'Bout what?" came back from the wheel.

"Air we to let 'em pitch us overboard, or air we to jyne?"

"Jyne," growled Bob Hampton.

"Jyne it is, messmet," said Dumlow, in his low growling tone.  "Here,
unlash these blessed ropes, they're a-cuttin' into my arms like
hooroar."

"And you'll join us too, Barney?" said Jarette.

"I does same as my two mates," said Blane.  "I arn't going to be pitched
overboard if they arn't.  Share and share alike, says I.  Fair play's my
motto, and no favour.  Here, cast off all these here lashins.  What
d'yer want to tie a fellow up so tight for?"

"Take off the ropes," said Jarette, in a voice full of triumph, and I
could hear the rustling and rattling noise made as the lines were
untied, and directly after Dumlow's voice, saying--

"Here, give 's a drop o' summat; I'm as dry inside as a biscuit-bag."

And my lips and throat felt dry too with excitement, while a strange
feeling of despair came over me.  Walters, Bob Hampton, Dumlow, and
Blane all turned traitors.  What was to become of the poor passengers,
the officers, and myself?

There was only one way out of the difficulty, and that was to join the
prisoners in the cabin.

But how?

I lay listening.  The men were talking loudly, and I soon made out that
drink was going round; but all was still as death now in the saloon and
cabins.  Their occupants were evidently waiting to see what would be
done, and listening to the proceedings on deck.

"How can I get to them?--How can I get to them?"  I kept on saying to
myself.

The darkness would favour me if I crept down, but the places were so
guarded that there was not the most remote chance of my getting past the
sentries.

I felt more despondent than ever, as I lay listening to the faint
creaking of the yards when they yielded gently to the wind.  There was
no chance whatever of my joining my friends, and I was about to resign
myself to my fate, when I had a bright flash of hope.  I could see my
way through the darkness.  There was light ahead--mental light--and I
determined to dare the peril and act at once, if I could; if not, as
soon as the men below had dispersed.

Unfortunately I had to wait some time and listen, hardly daring to stir
for fear of being heard or seen, for there were three lanterns stood
about the deck, shedding their feeble light around, and now and then
looking brighter, and showing me the faces of the mutineers as they
opened the lantern-doors to light their pipes.

Jarette was talking quickly to a group of the men about him, but I
hardly heard what he said, my attention being fixed upon my plan of
escape, till I heard Jarette say--

"Wait till daylight then, my lads, and we'll soon have them all out of
there."

"All out of there," could only mean the people out of the cabin.  Never
mind, they should have me out to, for my mind was made up, and I was
only waiting my chance.

Then it came, for the lanterns were picked up, and two of them were
carried down to the main-deck, while I could see that Walters picked up
the other and walked aft with Jarette, the light showing me two men, one
on each side of the saloon sky-lights, as Jarette stopped to give them
some orders in a low tone, standing back from the light as if expecting
a shot from below.

Then, as I watched them, feeling all the while as if I should like to be
exactly over Walters' head and let myself fall right upon him, they went
on to where Bob Hampton stood at the wheel, while I scanned eagerly the
long boom of the mizzen-spanker, the great fore and aft canvas running
off astern and towering up till it was all in darkness, for the
lantern-light was only a poor gleam.  Then Jarette began talking to Bob
Hampton, but I could not and did not want to hear what the traitorous
wretch said, feeling mad against him, and vexed with myself for ever
having been at all friendly with the scoundrel.  My attention was
directed to the great boom of the mizzen-spanker and the stern-rail,
which I could just faintly see as Walters turned the lantern here and
there.

"Oh, if I only ever have the chance!"  I muttered, as for a moment I
thought of my companion, and though he was triumphant and I in so
perilous a position, I would not have changed places, I told myself, for
worlds.

I saw all I could, and then waited impatiently for what was to come
next.

I soon knew, for Jarette and Walters came back, and passing the men on
guard, descended to the main-deck and went forward, leaving all in
darkness.

"Now for it," I muttered, and with my heart beating heavily, I thrust my
hand into my pocket.

All right, my clasp-knife was there, and rising cautiously I stopped to
think.  Then satisfying myself that my recollections were correct, I
began to feel about cautiously, as I now stood up, close to where the
top-mast joined the mizzen, and was at first disappointed, but directly
after my heart gave a throb of satisfaction, for my hand came in contact
with that which I sought, the thin strong line that ran up from the deck
right to the mizzen-truck, passed through it over a wheel, and came down
again to the deck.

Opening my knife, I began to cut through the ascending line, and found
it so hard and tough that the knife had hard work to get through.  This
was satisfactory, for it was evidently new and strong.

Then leaving one end hanging, I fastened the lower one to the first rope
I could feel, so that it should not fall to the deck.  Then I began to
haul in the uncut portion, and found it came easily enough, but making
every now and then a faint creaking noise as the wheel in the truck spun
round.

I turned cold at this, for though it was very high up, I was afraid the
sound would take the attention of the men on deck.

But they paid no heed, and I hauled away till I felt sure that I must
have at least forty or fifty yards of the line--quite as much as I
wanted; and then I used the knife again, and after replacing it, wound
the line into a skein from elbow to hand, ending by hanging it round my
neck with the ends twisted in so that they could not get loose.

So far, so good, but I had not fastened the other end of the line to
save it from falling, and this I now did.

The next proceeding was, I knew, perilous, but I was desperate, and I
did not hesitate.  It was my only chance, I knew, and I must do it.
There was the danger of being heard, and that of making a slip and going
overboard.  But I was young, strong, and active, and giving myself no
time to think, I felt in the darkness for the crutch at the thick end of
the gaff or yard which embraced the mizzen-mast below the top--the yard,
that is, which spread the top of the mizzen-spanker--lowered myself down
till I stood upon it, and then taking well hold with hands and knees, I
began to creep softly up and along that diagonally stretched yard higher
and higher till I felt that I must be over the sea.

But in my desperation I did not hesitate.  I climbed on, and I know it
was not easy; still I climbed on up that round perilous slope, feeling
that if the sea had been rough I should have certainly been jerked off.
And try hard as I would, I could not help making a little noise, which I
felt sure Bob Hampton must hear, for there he was below me leaning over
the wheel, and his head visible in the binnacle-light.

But he did not hear, and I crept on and upward on my chest, nipping the
yard well with my knees, and clinging with my hands.  It was hard and
awkward work, for I had to pass the blocks and ropes which hoisted it
up, and it swung inboard and out as the wind pressed upon the great
bellying canvas, curving down below me to the great boom which ran out
and over the steersman's head some feet above the stern-rail.

Still I climbed on and over the cords which laced the rail to the yard,
and at last clung there, holding on for dear life, having reached the
end with my hands, and grasping the top corner of the great sail edged
with stout rope.

"Now Bob Hampton will hear me," I thought, and I stopped to think what I
should do next.  But not for long.  Nipping the yard well with my knees,
I passed the hank of line over my head, unfastened one end, and tied it
securely round the top of the yard before letting the coils slide down
inside the hollow curve of the sail, knowing that they would come apart
as they glided down the stiff strong canvas.  This done, I hesitated for
a few moments before trusting myself to descend; but drawing a long
breath at last, I took a good grip of the line with my left hand, of the
rope-edge of the sail with the other, and began to slide down, keeping
my chest as near as I could to the canvas.

This was terrible at first, for the upper part of the sail was a long
way on toward being perpendicular, and I had to cling tightly to save
myself from coming down with a run; but every foot after the first ten
grew easier, so that I lay at last well on the great curve, and glided
down almost in silence, only having to grip rope and line hard enough to
keep a little check upon my descent.  I followed the edge of the sail
right away out over the sea, to where it was secured to the large
horizontal projecting boom, and here my feet rested as I held on and
looked inboard from where I insecurely stood, faintly making out the
figure of Bob Hampton, who was in perfect ignorance of my descent,
though how it was he did not hear the rustling I cannot make out, unless
he was asleep--though he never would own to it in after days.

A doubly dangerous position I seemed to be in, though nothing to a
sailor; still, in spite of my desperation, I felt nervous and strange as
I now seated myself astride of the great boom riding up and down, and
hauling up the line to find how much there was free.

Plenty to use double; and reaching up as high as I could, I once more
cut it off, doubled it, and then hitched in along the boom till I was
pretty close to the stern-rail, and now once more I made my end fast.

My plan must now be pretty clear to whoever reads, for I had determined
to get down to this boom and then slide down the line to the stern
cabin-windows, through one of which I hoped to be able to creep and join
my friends.

Still the task was not easy, and I hesitated as I held on and looked
down, for all was perfectly dark--so dark that I could not see whether
the lights were open or closed; and if I slid down and found them
closed, and could not make any one understand my position, I was
doubtful as to whether I should be able to climb back.  In that case, I
should be swinging and swaying about there, growing weaker and weaker,
till I had to let go and the great waters swallowed me, or I was finally
saved by shouting for help till I was drawn up a prisoner, having run
all these risks for nothing.

For a full ten minutes I was in despair.  Then my courage returned, and
I prepared to descend.

But there was another unfortunate matter.  The pressure on the sail
curved the boom well to starboard, so that at times it ran out in a way
that would bring me, as I hung there, out of reach of the cabin-windows,
so that I had to judge my time till there was not so much pressure, the
boom had swung back a little, and then I at last prepared to descend.

But I did not begin even then, for I shuddered at the idea of not being
able to climb back to the boom if I failed to get in, and to make a way
back to safety I now hauled up my double line, and proceeded to tie
knots all down it at intervals of about a foot, so as to have something
better to grip than the bare rope.

Down I dropped it once more, waited for the boom to swing nearly level,
and then gripping the line well with one hand, keeping my right arm over
the boom, I leaned forward, drew my leg off from where I had been
sitting, and the next minute I was hanging from the great rounded yard,
and turning slowly round and round over the swirling water which rushed
under on either side of the deeply-hidden rudder.

The distance I had to lower myself was not great, and finding now the
value of the knots, and trying to give myself courage by saying that it
was an easy job after all, I checked myself abreast of a window, but
soon made out that it was closed, for I was not two feet away, and
brought myself closer, and touched it by giving a kick against the
stern.  I got my feet close together, and rested on the knot, which,
small though it was, gave me a great deal of support.  I contrived, too,
that my hands should also rest above a knot, and in this position I had
to wait again and again, for the turning round motion kept on slowly, so
that for the greater part of the time I was looking right away from the
windows.  In addition, there was the swaying movement of the great boom
from which I was suspended, carrying me to and fro across the stern.

I dare not call out, and unless I swayed myself towards the stern I
could not reach the windows, so I was rapidly beginning to find that
what had promised to be the easiest part of my task was proving itself
to be the hardest, when, probably from a turn of the wheel, the ship
made quite a plunge.  The big sail with its boom swung heavily, and of
course communicated its motion to me, so that as the cord turned in its
horribly giddy way, I first rode from side to side, and then by degrees
to and fro, with the result that when nearest, I made a dash with one
hand to tap on the window opposite to me; but being unable to govern the
force exercised, my hand went right through the pane, and the glass fell
tinkling to the floor within.

The perspiration stood out upon my face as I heard above me Bob
Hampton's voice cry--

"Hullo!  What's that?"

Almost at the same moment the cabin-window was opened, I had a faint
glimpse of a face looking as if out of black mist, and Mr Frewen's
voice said softly--

"Quick, some one; a knife."

"He's going to cut the rope," I thought, and I tried to shout, but it
was like being in a nightmare: my tongue felt paralysed, and as I hung
there clinging wildly to the rope I heard voices on deck.

"What is it?  Trying to get out?" some one cried, and Bob Hampton said
in answer--

"Dunno!  Breaking glass."

"Where?  The cabin-windows?"

"Yes."

But while this was going on, some one leaned out of the window, and the
rope was seized.  Then I felt it jar as if a knife-blade was being used
upon it, and this as I had turned round, and my back was toward the
window.

Then my voice came back with the power to speak, and in a quick whisper
I said, as I felt that in another instant I should fall into the sea--

"Mr Frewen!--help!"

There was a quick ejaculation, and the sound of something dropped into
the water; but at the same moment I felt my jacket seized by two strong
hands, and I was drawn close in to the stern of the ship, and held there
fast.

Then from overhead came in Jarette's voice--

"A lantern here, quick!"

Directly after, as I still held on to the line, and felt some one's hot
breath against my cheek, there was a glow of light overhead, and Jarette
cried--

"Here, cut this line."

Then the rope jarred heavily and was jerked.  The next instant it gave
way, and the strain I had maintained upon it was gone.  I felt myself
drop, but it was only an inch or two, for I was held tightly and drawn
right into the cabin, where I crouched, listening to the altercation
above my head, every word coming plainly to my ears and those of Mr
Frewen, for of course it was he who had seized me.

Jarette was raging furiously at some one, whom he was accusing of
helping the prisoners to escape.

Bob Hampton was the some one, for we heard him defending himself loudly.

"How could I help 'em to get out when I haven't left the wheel?"

"But there was a rope hanging down from the spanker-boom."

"I don't care if all the ropes in the ship hung down.  I arn't moved.
Ask them."

"No, he hasn't left the wheel," said a voice.

"How do you know?  How could you see?" cried Jarette.

"Hadn't he got the binnacle-light on his phiz all the time, captain?"

"Then who did help them?  Some one fastened that line.  Look, there it
is."

A lantern was held out over the stern, and there was a murmur of voices.

"That line doesn't belong there, and wasn't there yesterday," cried
Jarette.  "There's a traitor somewhere."

"All right, cap'n, find him then," said Bob Hampton, surlily.

"If it was you!" snarled Jarette.

"Look here, don't you shove that pistol in my face," cried Bob Hampton,
angrily, "or I shall out with my knife and have a fight for it.  What
yer talking about?  If I'd left the wheel, wouldn't the ship have yawed,
and you come to see what was the matter?"

That sounded so convincing that Jarette was silent, while Bob Hampton
continued--

"And if I'd wanted to help 'em to get on deck, do you think I should ha'
been such a fool as to tie a bit o' signal halyard to the spanker-boom,
when I could ha' made a bit o' strong rope fast to the belaying-pins,
and hung it over the stern?"

Jarette growled out something we could not hear.

"Then it must have been one of them two," said Bob Hampton; "or they
chucked it up from the cabin-window."

"It was not one of them," said Jarette, with a peculiar intonation in
his voice.  "I'm not afraid of that."

"Strikes me," growled Bob, "if yer wants to know my 'pinion, as it must
have been some one who was up aloft."

I gave a jump.

"Hah!" cried Jarette, "whoever it was you lads chased.  I know: it was
that monkey of a boy."

Bob Hampton uttered a low chuckle.

"Like enough," he said.

"And you helped him."

"Oh, very well, then, have it your own way if you like; I helped him,--
but how I could ha' done it, I don't know, cap'n, nor them two neither.
I don't care.  But look here, I'm down tired, and it's time some one
else took his trick at the wheel.  I want a sleep."

"If you play false to me, Bob Hampton," came in tones which made me
shiver, "you'll have a sleep that will last you for always.  Do you
hear?--toujours!"

"Two jours, that's two days, arn't it, skipper?"

"No," hissed the man fiercely; "for ever.  Here, Brown, bring an axe and
a lantern.  Stand it there."

We heard steps overhead, and a light gleamed down from the lantern
placed upon the stern-rails.

"Now," said Jarette, "be always ready to bring that axe down upon the
head of any man who tries to climb up from the cabin."

"Ay, ay," came in a low growl; and just then I became conscious of the
face just over me, and it was lit from the outside; while farther back I
could dimly make out other faces which were shadowy, and did not appear
to be connected with bodies.

I knew directly after that it was not from the lantern placed on the
stern-rail, but from the pale grey glare in the east, for I had reached
my shelter none too soon.  It was the beginning of another day.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

The light was coming fast now, as the sound of talking died out on the
deck, and as I rose, Mr Frewen caught my hand.

"My dear lad," he whispered, "I thought you were gone.  Thank God! thank
God!"

"Isn't it horrible?"  I whispered, though there was no necessity for
restraining my voice.

"Horrible?" he said; "it seems to be impossible."

"Where's Captain Berriman?"

"In his cabin wounded."

"And Mr Brymer?"

"Yonder.  Don't ask."

"Is any one else hurt?"  I said, lowering my voice still more.

"I hardly know how many," he said.  "It was a surprise.  We were all
mastered by treachery.  Some traitor came amongst us, and when the
attack began and the ship was seized, we were all fastened in our
cabins."

"Some traitor!"  I said, turning cold.  "Yes, and they thought it must
have been you.  I heard some one accuse you in the dark, just after I
had broken out of my cabin."

I was silent for a few moments, as I thought of whom the traitor must
have been, though even to defend myself I could not speak out and accuse
Walters.

"Who was it said I did it?"  I whispered at last.

"I am not sure.  Everything has been so dark and confused; I fancied for
the moment that it was Mr Denning."

"I don't believe it was," I said stoutly.  "He would not think I could
be such a miserable, contemptible wretch."

"But you were not with us, Dale, and people are ready enough to accuse
at a time like that."

"Mr Denning did not accuse him," said a weak voice, and there close by
us stood Mr Denning himself, looking almost ghastly in the pale morning
light which stole into the cabin.  "Alison Dale could not be such a
scoundrel."

"Thank you, Mr Denning," I said, grasping the hand he held out to me,
as with the other he supported himself by resting, as I saw, upon a
double-barrelled gun.  "I shan't defend myself.  If I had been the
traitor, I should not be here now.  I didn't think I could manage it."

I was eagerly questioned, and had to explain how I escaped, and to tell
all that I knew of the attack, and as I spoke I could not help noticing
how distant Mr Frewen and Mr Denning seemed, and I thought that now we
were in such trouble they would perhaps become friends.

I had another surprise before I had told all about my escape, for from
out of one of the cabins, looking horrible with his head tied up by a
stained handkerchief, Mr Brymer appeared, and I saw that he was
evidently weak and faint from his wound.

"Can you tell us anything about who is at the head of the mutiny?" he
asked.  "I was cut down, and could hardly understand anything in the
darkness, till I seemed to wake and find myself on the saloon-floor,
below the table where I must have crawled."

I told him that Jarette was at the head of it all.

"Ah, I always mistrusted that man, and the gang he gathered about him.
Where is the rest of the crew then; I mean those they did not kill--down
in the forecastle?"

I was silent for a few moments, and he repeated his question.

"I'm afraid they have all joined him."

"No, no; not men like Hampton and Dumlow.  They were of a different
stamp."

I told him what I knew, and I heard him grind his teeth.

"The scoundrels!" he muttered.

"There is no telling what a man may do for dear life," said Mr Frewen,
sadly.

"But Walters.  Did you see anything of him?" said Mr Brymer.

I was silent.  Something seemed to choke me, and I could not speak for
the hot indignation I felt.

"Poor boy!" groaned Mr Brymer.  "I never liked him, but it is horrible
for him to have come to such an end as this."

"Yes!"  I said bitterly, as I found my tongue; "horrible for him to have
come to such an end as this."

They did not grasp the truth, and I would not tell them.

"They'll know soon enough," I thought.

"Well, gentlemen," said Mr Denning, speaking now, "there is no doubt
about the catastrophe.  What is to be done?"

"Barricade the companion-way," said Mr Frewen, "and shoot down every
ruffian who tries to enter.  There is a lady on board, and we must
defend her with our lives."

I saw Mr Denning dart an angry look at the young doctor, whose pale
face had lighted up so that he looked eager and animated.

"What do you say, Mr Brymer?" said Mr Denning, turning from the
doctor.

"The same as Mr Frewen," was the reply.  "Doctor, you'll have to patch
me up so that I can fight a bit."

"Your spirit will do more for you than I can, sir," was the reply.  "I
am sorry to say, though, that Captain Berriman is completely prostrated.
He must have received a crushing blow from behind."

"Then you will fight?" said Mr Denning, eagerly.

"Of course," said the mate quickly.  "Now, gentlemen, please, the first
thing is to pile up all the chests and boxes we have at command in the
companion-way, so as to keep out the ruffians.  They will get at the
drink, and then stop at nothing.  I'm afraid I cannot lift, but I can
fire a pistol or a gun."

"And I cannot lift," said Mr Denning, with his eyes flashing, "but I
can fire with this and take good aim.  I brought it to shoot birds on
the voyage.  It will be gaol-birds now!"

Just then there was a stir and movement on deck, and the men gathered in
that saloon made a rush for the door with such fierce determination that
my heart gave a leap, and I felt that I was about to see blood shed, as
I had often read of it in books.  But this was no romance.

There were quick whispers, and as it rapidly grew lighter I saw Mr
Denning stand right in the centre with the mate and Mr Frewen, all
armed with guns ready to fire upon any one who appeared; but the alarm
passed off, and Mr Denning being left on guard, the others all set to
work carrying chests and portmanteaus from the different cabins, so many
being available that they were used as so many bricks, and carefully
built up from floor to ceiling, but with openings left in through which
the defenders of the saloon could fire when the attack was made.

I worked eagerly with all the rest till the big entry was completely
filled up, Mr Frewen taking the lead, and lifting and packing in the
chests, till the solid wall was formed--one so well bonded together, as
a bricklayer would call it, that it seemed to me that it would require a
battering-ram to force a way through.

As I walked away, hurrying eagerly first into one cabin and then
another, in search of trunks and portmanteaus that would fit into the
various openings, I suddenly found myself face to face with Miss
Denning, whose pallid countenance lit-up on seeing me, and she held out
her hand to cling to mine.

"Oh, Mr Dale," she whispered half hysterically, "is there much danger?"

"Oh no, I hope not," I said, speaking in an encouraging way; but she
shook her head.

"Don't--don't speak to me like that," she cried.  "I'm not a child.  Be
frank with me, and tell me as if I were your sister.  There is danger,
is there not?"

"Well, I'm afraid there'll be a fight," I said; "but we have plenty of
firearms, and we've got right on our side, and I hope we shall give the
scoundrels such a lesson that they will come down on their knees."

"I'm afraid not," she said.  "But tell me, why is it?  Is it what they
call a mutiny?  I thought all such things were over now."

"So did I, Miss Denning," I said; "but that's what it is.  I never
thought of it before, but I suppose we must have a very valuable cargo
on board."

"Yes, my brother said there was a large sum in specie."

"Money, that is, isn't it?"  I said.  "Well then, that's what has
tempted the scoundrels.  But don't you be frightened.  Mr Frewen and
the rest will take care that the blackguards don't get into the cabin,
and I'm going to try if I cannot fight too."

She pressed my hand and smiled sadly.

"Yes, I know you and your brother midshipman will be very brave and
fight for us," she said, with a quiet satisfied nod of the head, and I
winced as I thought about Walters; but she did not notice it, and went
on, "You had a very narrow escape, did you not?"

"Oh, I had to run and dodge about in the dark, and then came down a
rope," I replied; "but that was nothing much."  And as I spoke I could
see that she was hardly paying any attention to my words, but watching
the cabin-door and listening.

"Tell me how my brother is," she whispered.  "Is he quite safe?"

"Oh yes, and on guard."

"He is so ill and weak, it frightens me," she said; "but he will not
listen to me and stay here."

"No," I replied, "how could he as an English gentleman at a time like
this!"

She gave me a quick, half-resentful look; but her face lit-up directly
and she smiled.

"I suppose you are right," she said with a sigh.  "It is so hard to be a
woman, and not be able to help.  I should not mind so much if I could be
busy."

"But there is nothing to do now, Miss Denning," I said,--"that is, for
you.  There, I must go now."

"Tell me though--my brother ordered me to stay here in the cabin--tell
me--couldn't I be of some help?  The captain and mate are both wounded,
are they not?"

"Yes, a little," I said encouragingly; "but Mr Frewen has seen to them.
Shall I ask him if you can come and attend on the captain?"

"Yes; do!" she cried.  Then quickly--"No, no!  I must go by what my
brother says."

"And I must go out in the saloon and help.  When all is safe I shall see
you again."

"When all is safe," she whispered despondently.

"Yes, and it is going to be.  Oh, it will be all right.  May I take
this?"

I pointed to a chest, and she tried to say yes, but only gave a nod; and
shouldering the little box, I hurried with it to find that it was not
wanted, for Mr Frewen was just forcing one in between the top of the
pile and the ceiling, by standing upon a box which Mr Preddle was
holding steady.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

"Oh dear me--dear me, Alison Dale," said Mr Preddle, rising up from his
stooping position very slowly and wiping his broad fat face, which was
covered with drops of perspiration, "this is a very sad business, isn't
it?"

"Horrible!"  I said, "but it will all come right."  He laid his hand
upon my shoulder.

"Come into my cabin," he whispered; and I followed him.

"You think it will come right?" he said, looking at me in a terribly
perplexed way.

"Oh yes, I think so," I said; "Mr Denning and Mr Frewen will give the
rascals a good peppering and bring them to their senses."

"And so will I!" he cried excitedly.  "I never tried to fight seriously
since I left school, but I don't see why I shouldn't be able to if I
tried,--do you?"

"Of course not sir," I replied, smiling.  I wanted to laugh outright,
for he did not at all come up to my ideas of a fighting man.

"I can see," he went on mildly, "you don't think I could, but I shall
try."

"I won't laugh at you, Mr Preddle," I said; "indeed you have more cause
to laugh at me when I say that, boy as I am, I mean to fight and try to
defend Miss Denning."

He caught hold of my hand, held it in his left, and brought his big soft
right down into it with a sounding slap, and then squeezed my fingers as
hard as he could.

"That you will, Alison.  You're a brave lad, I know.  We'll all try and
fight like men against the ruffians.  Like lions, eh, Dale?  Like
lions."

"To be sure, sir," I said; "but hadn't we better go back into the
saloon?"

"Yes, yes, directly," he said hastily, and I saw him turn very red in
the face.  "I suppose the mutineers know that we have a very valuable
cargo?"

"Yes, sir; I expect that's it," I replied.  "But they're not going to
have it.  We'll sink the ship first, and escape in one of the boats."

"To be sure we will, but it's a sad business, Dale.  There is my
consignment of salmon and trout.  Do you think the scoundrels would let
me go and see to them?"

"No, sir," I said, "I don't believe they would.  Come along."

"I'm afraid you are right.  Yes; I'll come directly; but there was
something else that I wanted to say to you.  Dear me, what a memory I
have!  Oh, I know!"

He stopped short and turned redder than ever, while I stared and waited.

"Yes; it was about--oh yes--that was it.  It's a terrible business,
and--how does Miss Denning seem?  Does she bear up about it all?"

"Well, pretty fairly, sir.  Of course she is very much alarmed, and she
is anxious about her brother."

"Is she, though?" he said.  "Poor girl.  Of course, yes, she would be.
Did she seem very anxious about any one else--Mr Frewen, for instance?"

"No, sir; I don't remember that she mentioned him."

"Poor girl.  No, of course not, nor me neither, I suppose?"

"Oh no, I'm sure of that, sir," I said decisively.  "She certainly did
not mention your name.  But we must go back now, sir, and see if we are
wanted."

"Of course.  Come along," said Mr Preddle, hurriedly; and we went into
the saloon, where I found the captain standing by the table in the
middle, looking very white, and I saw now that his arm was in a sling,
and the lower part of his head bandaged.

He was arranging some pistols and rifles on the table as we entered, and
he looked up, nodded at us, and said--

"Two more.  There, boy, you'll have to try and fight with the rest of
us."

"I'll try, sir," I said, and I looked at him wonderingly, for I had been
under the impression that he was unwell in the cabin; I had forgotten
the fact that he too had been on deck and received several severe
injuries when the mutineers made their attack.

"Oh, look here, Dale," he said suddenly, "while I think of it, my lad.
I went on deck last night to have a look round at the weather, and when
I came back I found that my cabin-door was fastened up.  Was that your
doing?"

"No, sir," I replied.  "Certainly not."

"That's right," he said, looking at me searchingly.  "I went back on
deck to make some inquiries, and when I reached the men's quarters, I
was attacked.  But I should like to clear that matter up.  The steward
swears it was not his doing; it would not have been one of the crew.
Where is your messmate, Walters?"

I shook my head.

"Not hurt?" he cried, anxiously.

"No, sir.  Not that I know of.  Last time I saw him he was quite well."

"Where is he?"

There was a dead silence for a few moments, and then Mr Brymer spoke--

"Poor Walters is not with us, sir."

"What?" cried Captain Berriman.  "Poor lad!  Poor lad!"  Then after a
pause, "He is a prisoner then?"

"Yes, sir, we suppose so," replied Mr Brymer, and I heard the captain
groan, while a hot feeling of indignation rose in my breast.

"Poor Walters!" and all that pity and sympathy for the ill-conditioned
cowardly young wretch.  I felt that I must speak out and tell all that I
knew, but somehow I could not; and to this day I have never been able to
settle in my own mind whether I was right or wrong.

"Well," said the captain at last, "we have no time to waste upon
sympathy.  I am sorry to say, gentlemen, that I fear I can do little in
this terrible emergency.  You have decided to defend yourselves, and,
God helping us we may get back our positions in the ship, but it can
only be by making a stout defence, and waiting for an opportunity to
surprise the scoundrels at some weak moment, say when they have been for
a long time at the spirits on board."

"To be sure," said Mr Frewen.  "There is no cause for despair with such
a formidable arrangement.  The scoundrels dare not attack us."

"Well," said Captain Berriman, slowly, "I have brought out all the arms,
but I have a painful announcement to make.  The traitor who came round
to secure us in our cabins had carried off all the cartridges he could,
and those left in the cases had been deluged with water."

"Great heaven!" cried Mr Frewen, excitedly; "then the weapons are
useless."  Captain Berriman was silent.

"Stop a moment!" cried Mr Frewen; and he ran into his cabin, to return
with a revolver which he threw on the table.  "Useless," he said.  "The
case of cartridges gone.  Here, Mr Denning, see to your gun,--see what
cartridges you have."

Mr Denning threw open the breech of his double-barrelled gun, examined
the two cartridges, and closed the breech again.

"All right!" he said, and then he reeled and would have fallen if Mr
Preddle had not caught him.

"Don't!" he cried, pettishly.  "I mean, thank you.  It was a horrible
thought.  I saw some one come out of my cabin last evening, I'm sure
now.  I thought then it was fancy.  Some one has been--to steal--the
case of cartridges I brought."

He walked feebly but quickly to his cabin, shut the door after him, and
then Mr Preddle went to his cabin, to come back directly, shaking his
head.

"Some one has taken all mine but one," he said.  "The lid is off the
box, and this is the only one left."

"But your gun is loaded?"

"Yes, there are two in that," replied Mr Preddle, "and I hope Mr
Denning will be more fortunate in his search."

At that moment Mr Denning made his appearance, and from his aspect we
all thought that his supply had been taken too, but his face lit-up as
he exclaimed--

"They could not find them.  The cartridge-box was at the bottom of the
locker."

"Ha!" cried Mr Frewen, triumphantly.  "How many have you?"

"A hundred, for I have not fired off one."

"And what bore is your gun?"

"Twelve-bore."

"And yours?"

"Sixteen."

"That's the same size as mine," said Mr Preddle, quietly.  "I'm afraid
those of yours would not fit."

"Fit?  No!" cried Mr Frewen, impatiently.  "They would be absolutely
useless."

"And of course we could not load in the old-fashioned way if we took out
the powder," said Mr Preddle.

The doctor turned away, and I saw him look anxiously toward the
barricade he had so carefully built up.  Then gravely--

"We have the charges in our guns, gentlemen; when they are expended we
must trust to Mr Denning."

The captain spoke again--

"Have you examined as to what provisions and water we have, Brymer?"

"Yes, sir, enough for about three days, without counting anything our
passenger friends have in the way of private stores--preserved meat,
delicacies, or the like."

"Yes, but the water?" said the captain, naming the grave necessity of
life in that hot climate.

"I must frankly say a very short supply, sir."

There was another ominous silence, as all thought of our numbers.

Then Mr Frewen spoke--

"This all sounds very bad, Captain Berriman, but we are not going to
give in.  The ammunition and provisions are on board the ship, and when
a besieged garrison runs short, it makes sallies to obtain fresh
supplies.  But we have not arrived at that starvation point yet.  Before
then the ship may be under the rule of Captain Berriman once again."

"Hist!"  I cried, in an excited whisper, and I pointed up at the
sky-light, across which a shadow lay, cast by the newly-risen sun which
had flooded the cabin with gold.

"Listening, eh?" said Mr Brymer, and stepping softly on one side, he
took one of the guns, and, with a sudden motion, thrust it through.

There was a bound and the rush of feet as the shadow disappeared.

"A guilty conscience needs no accuser," said the mate, laughing, "a
criminal running away from an empty gun!"

"A lesson for us in being cautious in making our plans," observed Mr
Frewen.  "Now, Captain Berriman, will you give us our orders?"

"My first idea is, gentlemen, that one of you stand on guard there by
the door, and, if the opportunity offers, he is to shoot down that
scoundrel Jarette.  They're coming.  Now, on guard."

For as he spoke there were voices heard approaching and the trampling of
feet.  Directly after guns were seized, and the occupants of the cabin
stood ready, for the door was unfastened, and an effort made to thrust
it open.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

The result of that thrust was that the door was opened some little
distance, and then stopped by part of the pile of chests and other
luggage formed into a barricade.

There was a dead silence in the saloon as the deep voice of a man was
heard speaking in a subdued tone to those with him; and pointing to the
sky-light, Mr Frewen stepped back from the defenders of the barricade
so as to be ready in case an effort should be made to assail them there.

Then the door was rattled loudly, and Jarette's voice was heard speaking
angrily to some one without.

Again there was silence for a few moments, and then Jarette cried, "Now
then; do you hear?"

This was followed by a sharp rap on the door, and a voice cried--

"You in the cabin--Captain Jarette says you are to understand that he is
now master of this ship, and that no harm will be done to any one if you
all give up quietly."

"And if we do not," said Captain Berriman, sharply, "what then?"

"That is for Captain Jarette to decide," replied the voice, one which
made me writhe as I looked from one to the other, wondering whether they
recognised who was speaking.

"Captain Jarette!" cried our sturdy old officer, furiously.  "Look here,
sir, don't you insult me by calling that French scoundrel by such a
title.  And look here, are you making this announcement of your own free
will, or are you forced by that contemptible mongrel knave to deliver
his insolent message?"

"There is no compulsion, captain, and no need for you to call names,
without you wish to be punished for your insolence.  I am Captain
Jarette, sir, and this is my good ship, these are my good brave men.
Brave enfans--do you hear, bons enfans.  This lad is my young
lieutenant, who, like the rest, was sick of the vagaries of such a
tyrannical old wretch as you."

"You dog!" growled the captain, furiously.

"Yes, dog, sir, so don't tease me into biting, or I may use my teeth
sharply."

"You, Walters," cried the captain, "listen, boy--why are you with these
men?  Are you a prisoner?"

There was silence for a space before Walters said sharply, as if some
one had made a threatening gesture close to his head--

"No, I am not a prisoner."

"But you have not joined these mutinous scoundrels, sir?" cried the
captain, and his voice sounded quite plaintive.

Walters made no reply.

"Do you hear me, boy?  Answer me, you--Oh no, it is impossible."

There was a low derisive laugh plainly heard, and then in a mocking tone
Jarette said--

"Why don't you answer the good kind captain, Lieutenant Walters?"

I started at this, and my lips parted to give utterance to the
ejaculation, "Oh!" as I felt I was grasping the reason of my messmate's
conduct.  Could it be ambition?

"What! you're too modest?  All right, dear boy, I'll answer for you.
Yes, he has joined me, skipper, as my right hand, to help navigate our
ship.  Do you hear--our ship?  He was sick of your bullying and
domineering, just as we all were.  I had only to ask the lads if they
were not tired of being slaves, to have them join me at once.  And now
you've often talked to me; let me talk to you for your good.  No more
bad language, please, unless you want to go overboard to join those
fools who showed fight last night.  Be civil, and you shall be decently
treated, till I set you afloat or ashore, as seems best to me.  There,
we only want to say--don't play the fool, and let the doctor and those
passengers think they can do any good by resisting.  We don't want to
make any of you bleed.  What have you been doing to the door to keep it
from opening?  Have it pulled down, and come out like sensible people."

"Don't answer him, sir," said the mate, in a whisper.

"Do you hear?" cried Jarette, savagely.  "Open the door, or I'll put a
few pounds of powder up against it and blow it in."

"Come and touch the door," cried the captain, sternly, "and we'll blow
your brains out."

"What?" cried Jarette, mockingly.  "You blow my brains out, fool!--what
with?"

"This!" said Mr Denning, sharply, and he thrust the barrel of the
double gun so quickly through one of the openings left, and also through
the narrow slit formed by the partly opened door, that there was the
sound of men scuffling back, and a heavy fall, followed by a roar of
laughter.

We knew the next moment who had fallen, for Jarette's voice came to us
in an angry snarl.

"You grinning idiots," he cried, "take that!"

As he spoke there was the sharp report of a pistol, and a fearful
shriek, followed by a fall, and a low moaning as of some one in agony.

"Serve him right!" cried Jarette.  "Take him below.  I'll have the
doctor out and send him down."

A minute later, after we had listened to the meaning noise growing
fainter, Jarette spoke again.

"There, Berriman," he said, "that's the stuff I'm made of, so no more
nonsense; open the door and come out."

"Come and open it yourself, you half-French poodle hound," cried the
captain, "and I'll show you what stuff I'm made of, and save you the
trouble of going through a trial before reaching the hangman."

"You bragging idiot," cried Jarette, fiercely, "open the door, or I'll
serve you as we served your miserable Brymer.  Do you want to go
overboard to join him?"

"No; Captain Berriman prefers to stay on board to see me pay you back in
your own coin," said the mate.  "Now, sir, who's the braggart now?"

Jarette was silenced for the moment, but he recovered himself directly.

"Oh, you're there then?" he cried.  "I must punish some of my lads for
only half doing their work.  There, you are not so mad as Berriman is.
Never mind the fool; open the door, and don't make me savage, so that I
am tempted to go to extremities.  Do you hear?" he cried, after a pause.

"I'll answer for Mr Brymer," cried the captain, "as you answered for
that miserable, treacherous boy.  No, he will not open the door for you
and your pack to come in and wreck and rob.  This is our stronghold till
some ship heaves in sight, and you and your gang are put in irons to
await your fate.  I give you all fair warning," he cried, raising his
voice so that every one present might hear.  "If you wish to escape
being shot down, keep away from that door-way; for by all that is holy
we will shoot the first ruffian who tries to open it."

"Powder!" said Jarette, laconically, "half a keg.  It's their own fault,
my lads.  They shall soon see who is master here."

There was a quick movement in the cabin then, and Captain Berriman
turned to Mr Frewen.

"Try and make more of an opening," he said.  "We must have full play for
the guns."

The doctor nodded and drew back three of the chests a little.

"That ought to do," he said.  "If one of us stands aside and watches, he
can tell the others when to fire."

"Ah! but that will require care," said the captain, quickly; "the shot
must not be at the powder, or we shall be blown up.  Look here, Mr
Denning, if you will lend me your gun I think I can pick off the first
scoundrel who comes to lay the powder.  Perhaps another will come, but
if he is dropped they will not try again."

"I can shoot them," said Mr Denning, quietly.  "I do not like to take
life, but I feel that I must fire now."

"Then keep your gun, sir," said Captain Berriman; "you need not
hesitate, for it is a good deed to rid the earth of such wretches as
these, and remember you are fighting for your sister's sake."

"Yes," said Mr Denning, in a low voice, almost a whisper to himself,
"for my sister's sake,"--and he moved a little to one side, where he
could get a better aim and command the outer portion of the door, though
it was only through quite a slit.

"Hah!" cried Jarette, then in a triumphant tone--"but too much, my lads.
We don't want to blow out the side of the ship.  She's too much value
to us now.  Never mind, we'll use half of it to make a good long train.
Come, lieutenant, here's a chance for you to distinguish yourself before
the men.  You shall lay the train."

"I?  Lay the powder?" cried Walters, so excitedly that the men burst
into a roar of laughter.

"Bah!  Don't show the white feather, boy.  It must be done.  What?  You
won't?"

"No," said Walters, quickly.  "They've got a spite against me, and will
shoot me.  Let some one else."

Jarette uttered a fierce ejaculation.

"Stand aside then," he growled, "and let some one who is a man do it.
Here, any one of you come and plant this powder, and show young Walters
here how brave lads fight."

We listened full of excitement for the next moment, as every one watched
Mr Denning standing there close to the opening in the barricade, his
arms and the gun invisible as he reached through toward the saloon-door.
But there was perfect silence, not a movement to be heard, as Jarette
burst into a nasty harsh laugh.

"Don't all want to do the job?" he cried.  "Not one to volunteer?  Why,
you laugh at me, and call me Frenchy, and brag about your English pluck,
and not one man will come forward.  Here you, Bob Hampton, your trick's
over at the wheel; come and lay this powder."

"What, to blow in the cabin-door?" came in familiar tones.  "All right,
skipper; only I don't know much about powder to make trains.  You wet
in, don't wild-fire on it?"

"Bah! stand aside.  Here you, Blane, lay that powder close up door."

"What me, skipper?  Anything in going aloft and settin' sail; but I know
no more about gunpowder than a babby."

"Get out of the way, idiot.  Where's Dumlow?"

"Which here I be," growled that individual.

"Here, lay hold of this powder, and plant it, my lad, and then lay a
train."

"Take that there powder and lay a train?" said the big sailor.

"Yes."

"Not me."

"What!  You dare--" cried Jarette.

"Lookye here, skipper," growled Dumlow, "don't you get poking that there
pestle in my face, 'cause it might go off."

"Yes, and it will go off," cried Jarette.  "I mean to be obeyed by this
crew, as I've just shown you."

"Nay, but don't poke pestles in my face; 'cause it make me hit out, and
when I hits out I hurts.  You ask some one else."

"Bah!" ejaculated Jarette; and the word sounded like the short, sharp
bark of some cur, as it reached us through the barricade.

"Goin' to plant it yourself?" said Bob Hampton.

"Yes, you brave Englishman," sneered Jarette.  "I'm going to show you
what your captain can do."

"Shoot the scoundrel!" said Captain Berriman, excitedly.

"Impossible, without he comes into sight," whispered Mr Denning.

"Can't you see him?"

"No; he is pushing a bag of powder right in up against the door, and now
sprinkling handfuls of powder up to it."

"You come away," said the captain.  "Quick, man!  Here, every one lie
down at the far end of the saloon."

I was one of the first to run; but I came back with a can of water, and
held it to Mr Frewen.

"Can you do anything with that, sir?"  I said.

"No, my lad.  Quite impossible to reach it effectually."

I stood staring at the barricade and its openings for a few moments, and
then an idea struck me.  I had often seen my father's gun cleaned, and
when the barrels were detached from the stack, taken them up to look
through them, binocular fashion, to see whether they were clean inside.

"Take off the barrels from that gun!"  I said excitedly.

"What for?" cried Mr Frewen; but he did that which was asked all the
same, and handed the barrels to me.

"What are you going to do?" whispered the captain.

"One minute, sir, and I'll show you," I said.  "Let me come there, Mr
Denning."

That gentleman altered his position a little, so that I could reach
through the opening and let the ends of the barrels rest upon the deck,
close to the powder, which I could just see scattered about the
flooring.

Directly after, I had raised my can and was carefully trickling the
water down through one of the barrels with such good effect that the
explosive grains were either saturated or borne away.

I had been sending the little stream through for some moments before it
was seen, and the first intimation we had of the mutineers noticing our
defence was the explosion of a pistol, and simultaneously a dull,
cracking sound as a bullet passed through the door and was buried in the
trunk behind it.

"That don't matter, Berriman," cried Jarette; "we have plenty of powder,
and you can't say the same about water."

I started at this, for it struck me that I had been pouring precious
drops away which might mean life.  But I laughed directly after, as I
recalled the fact that we had only to drop a bucket out of the
stern-windows and haul up as much salt water as we liked.

Mr Frewen must have been thinking the same thing, for directly after he
and Mr Brymer attached pieces of new halyard to a couple of tin pails,
and threw them out of the window, and drew them up full, ready for the
next attempt to lay powder.

"No need to pour away the precious drops now," said Mr Frewen.  "But we
must have down some of those chests so as to get at the powder easily."

The words had hardly left his lips when there was the sharp report of
Mr Denning's piece, followed directly after by a second shot, and the
rush of feet upon the deck.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

"Well!" said the captain grimly.  "Did you bring down your gaol-bird,
sir?"

"No," replied Mr Denning, as he drew back and began to reload.  "I
could not see any one, only that a bag of powder was being thrust along
the deck with a hand-spike, and I fired at where I thought a man might
be."

"And hit him, seemingly," said Mr Frewen.  "Now then, we must down with
some of these trunks."

They were seized directly, and pulled away, so that had we liked we
could have opened the door widely; and Mr Denning now took up his
position here, while Mr Frewen and Mr Preddle stood ready each with
their guns, which had not yet been discharged, while I and Mr Brymer
were in charge of the two buckets of water.

There was now plenty of room for any one to look round the edge of the
door and make an observation; and though our position was a good deal
weakened, this was to some extent counterbalanced by the chests and
trunks being built across as a breastwork, behind which the guns were
stationed, Mr Brymer and I being between the breastwork and the door.

"Now, Dale, look out and see how matters stand," said the captain.

I peered cautiously round, and saw that the deck was blackened with
moist powder, and that two powder-bags lay in patches of wet, while all
round was rapidly drying up.  There were the mutineers, standing in a
group, every man armed, though some only bad knives and hatchets.  By
their side, as if in command, stood Walters, with two pistols in his
belt, looking like a pirate in a penny picture; and they were all
staring at the cabin-door; but I looked in vain for the leader of the
mutiny.

I drew back and reported what I could see, and Mr Frewen whispered--

"Could you reach the powder-bags with a walking-stick?  I mean one with
a hook."

"No; but I could easily run out and pick them up."

"No; never mind," said the captain; "the water would run up through them
like in salt or sugar.  There's no danger from them.  Look out again."

I peered out, and felt quite ready to laugh in spite of our perilous
condition, for I could not help thinking what a conceited fool Walters
looked.  He seemed to me like a big school-boy playing at being a
buccaneer; and the feeling was strong upon me that I should like to go
out and punch his head till it was soft enough for some common-sense to
get in.

Then the reality, the stern, horrible reality, of all that was before me
came with terrible force; for as I scanned the rapidly drying deck, all
strewed and splotched with trampled wet powder, I saw one great patch
that did not seem to dry up at all, and the next moment I grasped what
it was, and shuddered, for it was blood.

And then I felt that in spite of the absurdity of the appearance of
Walters and some of the men, we poor creatures, shut up there in that
saloon-cabin, with ladies depending upon us for protection, were face to
face with death; for when weak, thoughtless men were once committed to
an enterprise and led away, there would be no bounds to the excesses
they might commit.

Strong thoughts, terrible thoughts these, but the weapons, the powder,
and the blood showed me that there was no exaggeration.

A cold shudder passed through me as I stood there watching, and ready to
report the next movement on the part of our enemies.  My eyes felt a
little dim, too, as I looked round vainly in search of Jarette, who must
be, I was sure, planning some means of getting us all into his power.

The door was only opened widely enough for me to look along the deck
where the men were watching the door; and I was just thinking that if we
all made a bold dash at them, armed as we were with right upon our side,
there was no reason why we should not scatter them; and once scattered
and Jarette mastered, the rest would, I knew, be easy enough.

"And we shall have to do it," I thought.  "I can't do much, but I could
and I would lick Walters."

My fingers itched to get at him as I thought all this, and the blood
flushed up into my temples.

"A mean, contemptible coward!"  I muttered, as I gazed at him.  "Yes,
you may stand there as cocky as you like with your pistols, but they
don't frighten me.  You daren't fire them, and you showed what a coward
you were when you were told to lay the powder here and--Hallo!"

The current of my thoughts was changed on the instant as something came
down very softly from above--something soft and grey-looking hanging
from a string.  There was not a sound, but I grasped directly what it
meant.

Some one had gone softly up on to the poop-deck, and was standing just
over my head, letting down this something by a string, so that it should
lie gently close up to the door.

I could not look right up and see, but I knew as well as could be that
it was Jarette there leaning over the rail; and as I watched, the bag--
for bag it certainly was--came lower and lower till it nearly touched
the deck-planks, when it was swung gently to and fro till it would just
touch the door.  Then the string was dropped; and it had all been so
well managed that the bag, with perhaps ten pounds of powder within,
leaned close up.

"The cunning wretch," I thought to myself, and I was so interested in
the plan that I could not withdraw my eyes from the slit, but stood
watching to see what would come next.

I was not kept waiting many moments before there was a thick black
shower of dust scattered down from above, and I knew that Jarette must
be throwing down powder, so as to form a train.  And this he did
cleverly enough, so that the deck was thick with powder, close up to the
bag, and then the train grew thinner, and I felt that he would have to
come down on the lower deck to finish his task.

Almost as I thought this, I saw a shadow, just the head and shoulders of
a man, cast by the sun upon the deck, and I knew that our enemy was
going to descend by the starboard ladder, and pass round to where he
could scatter his powder.

And now for a moment I drew back, and whispered to Mr Frewen.

"Let me have the walking-stick now."

"Right, my lad.  Get yours, Mr Preddle, with the big hook."

I heard a rustling behind me, and hurried back to watch, getting my eye
on the deck in time to see a cloud of dust thrown toward the cabin-door,
just as a farmer's man might be sowing some kind of seed broadcast.  And
all the while, though the firing of that bag of powder would mean
destruction, possibly death to some of us, I did not--mind, I who write
you this am not boasting, but setting down the simple facts--I did not,
I repeat, feel in the slightest decree alarmed, but so full of
confidence, that it was like participating in some capital trick which
was to result in confusion to a scoundrel.

The dust was thrown still, and I could see something very curious now,
for as Jarette suddenly came into sight, I saw the mutineers, led by
Walters, all draw back to some distance farther, while Jarette said
something to him, I don't know what, but I think it was insulting, and
laughed.

Just as he had turned his head, Mr Preddle's soft, smooth voice said--

"Here is the stick," and without turning my head, I reached back my
hand, took it, and passed out the great hook.  It was ash, I remember,
and of a light brown.

It was none too soon, for all at once right along the deck I saw a
flash, then a white puff of smoke as Jarette knelt down, lit a match,
and held it to the dust upon the deck.

Above the smoke in one glance I saw Walters slinking back behind the
main-mast, and then the white vapour shut off everything, so that I
reached out unseen, hooked the powder-bag, and after two or three tries
drew it in, and shut the door close.

"What is it?" cried Mr Frewen, excitedly; "are they coming?"  There was
no time to answer.  I leaped over the breastwork with the powder-bag in
my hand, meaning to run to the stern-window and throw it out, but I
thought it might be useful, and I rushed into Mr Preddle's room to
stand holding it behind me as there came a loud hiss and rush, and the
saloon began to fill with smoke.

As soon as the danger was over I went out, leaving the powder upon Mr
Preddle's cot, and told them why I had rushed by.

"Oh, come, that's better," said the captain; "we thought you were
showing the white feather, boy.  So you hooked the powder-bag?"

"Yes, there it is," I said.  "Ah, well, this is no time for praise,"
said the captain.  "You did your duty well, my lad.  Yes, it would have
been a pity to have thrown the stuff overboard, we might have wanted it
to send back with our compliments, eh?  Leaden ones.  What is it,
Brymer?"

"Hist!  Jarette is outside, looking astonished that the powder has not
done any damage."

"And he'll be trying it again," said Mr Frewen, who, after a few words
with the captain, took his gun, placed a chair on the saloon-table, and
then mounted upon it, thus bringing his head well up in the sky-light
and above the level of the deck, so that he could watch Jarette's
motions if he attempted the same plan.

In addition, after glancing astern to see whether he was out of the
steersman's sight, he wrenched open the window a little more, pushed out
the barrel of his gun, and stood there waiting.

He was not kept long before he saw the man come on deck bearing a
heavier bag of powder, and he was in the act of sitting down in one of
the cane seats near the rail to tie on a piece of string, when, with all
the caution of some wild bird, he looked sharply round for danger.

In an instant he had caught sight of the barrel of the gun thrust
through the window, and making a bound he reached the ladder, and swung
himself down upon the main-deck, where he stood with the powder-bag in
his hand, as if hesitating as to what he should do.

The men were watching him, and he knew it.  They must have noticed his
ignoble retreat, and here was the way to redeem his character.

This he did by coming straight to the cabin-door, and depositing the bag
there, opening it, and throwing out several handfuls of powder to help
form the train; but just at that moment the door was snatched open, and
a gun thrust out so suddenly that it struck the mutinous leader on the
side, and he leaped back, lost his balance, and fell heavily upon his
back, while a roar of laughter arose from his followers.

Jarette leaped up with a cry of rage, snatched a pistol from his belt,
and bravely enough dashed at the door; but as he nearly reached it,
there was the sharp report of a gun, and almost simultaneously there was
a burst of flame from the deck, a heavy rushing sound,--and the mutineer
disappeared in a dense white cloud of smoke, out of which he staggered
back to his followers, panting, startled, but, with the exception of a
little singeing, unhurt.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

"Why didn't you aim straight, man?--why didn't you aim straight?" cried
Captain Berriman.  "You did not touch him."

"I did not try to hit him," replied Mr Frewen, quietly.

"Then why did you fire, sir?  A loud noise is not likely to frighten
such a man as that."

"No; but the idea of being shot at, and the explosion of that loose
powder about his ears has startled him, and he'll be careful about
coming up to the door to lay powder-bags again."

"Then you fired to light the loose powder?"

"Yes, and it has had its effect, though I hesitated for a moment for
fear the bag should not be far enough off.  Where did you put it, Dale?"

"Along with the other in Mr Preddle's cabin," I said triumphantly, for
when the door was open I was down on my knees ready by Mr Frewen's
legs, and as he thrust the barrels of his gun against Jarette's side, I
snatched at the bag and drew it in.

"Take my place, Mr Preddle," said Mr Denning to him, "I must go back
to our cabin and speak to my sister.  She will be terribly alarmed by
the firing."

"Shall I go and speak to her?" said Mr Preddle, eagerly.

"If you are afraid to take my place," said Mr Denning, sternly.

"I--I thought--I wanted--I wished to save you trouble," stammered the
stout passenger.  "Thank you; my piece is loaded."

He was very red in the face as he stepped into Mr Denning's place by
the door, which was now carefully watched in expectation of another
attempt to blow it open.

But the minutes glided on, and all grew quiet forward to our great
surprise; but we soon knew why, for a man came along bearing some
biscuit and cold pork in one hand, a bowl of steaming coffee in the
other, and it was evident that he was taking the man at the wheel some
breakfast from the meal of which the crew were partaking.

"A good example, captain," said Mr Frewen.  "I can keep on guard here
while you people all have some refreshment.  They must need it, for I'm
sure I do."

I offered to take Mr Frewen's place, but he would not hear of it, and
matters were compromised by my taking him his breakfast, when some
provisions had hastily been placed on the saloon-table; and carrying
mine with me, together with a box for our table, dragged down close to
the barricade, and between it and the door, we made a hearty meal.

The ladies had come out of their cabins, and I saw how eager Miss
Denning was to attend upon her brother and Mr Brymer, for whom, in his
wounded state, she seemed to be full of sympathy.  Then after attending
upon him, she flitted to the captain's side, while from time to time Mr
Frewen looked on, and appeared to be wishing that he too was wounded so
as to be waited upon like that.  At last the captain spoke.

"There, my dear," he cried, "not another mouthful for me if you don't go
to your place by your brother, and have something to eat yourself."

"Oh, but I can have something at any time, Captain Berriman, when you
are all busy protecting us."

"No," cried Captain Berriman, "not another mouthful."  And he spoke so
emphatically, that Miss Denning glanced at her brother, and then at a
nod went and sat down.

I noticed that in spite of our position, everybody was making an effort
to treat the trouble coolly; even Mr Frewen smiled at me, after
glancing through the narrow opening.

"Come, Dale, lad, eat away.  Don't say you've got no appetite."

"Oh, I'm pretty hungry, sir," I replied; "but all this in the night
isn't the sort of thing to make one want his breakfast."

"Don't despair, my lad, it will come all right.  Why, they must have
given us nearly all the powder in those two bags you brought in, and if
they don't mind, you and I will make a contrivance to hoist them with
their own petard.  But I don't want to shed blood if I can help it."

"No," I said, with a shudder, "it is too horrid."

Mr Frewen looked at me searchingly.

"Only," he continued slowly, "if blood is to be shed, and by none of our
seeking, it is our duty to see that it is the blood of the villains who
have turned upon us and set the law at defiance.  Do you see that,
Dale?"

"Yes," I said, "I see that, and of course we cannot be expected to be
merciful to them who would blow us up with gunpowder.  Why, they
wouldn't have cared if the ladies had been injured as well as the men."

"You are quite right."

"But you did not shoot Jarette this morning, sir," I said, and I believe
that my eyes twinkled mischievously at being able to confute him.

"No, Dale," he said, "I couldn't.  Doctors have spent all their time
learning how to save life, and it would have been such a cold-blooded
act."

"But if you had shot him, sir, the mutiny would have been at an end."

"Unless your messmate, Walters, had constituted himself captain, and
carried on the war."

"He!"  I cried contemptuously.  "Why, I'd go and fetch him out by one
ear the same as a dog or a pig out of a drove.  I believe, sir, that he
is a regular coward and sneak."

"Ah, well, we shall see," replied Mr Frewen, "but I suppose that I
really ought to have shot down that ruffian, broken one of his legs say,
and then spent six months in curing him ready for a judge and jury to
punish."

"But look here, Mr Frewen," I said, "isn't it all a mad and stupid
thing for that man to do?"

"Worse than mad, my boy, for what can they do if they keep us down, and
carry this vessel into port, which I doubt their ability to do?"

"Oh, they can do that," I said quickly.  "Bob Hampton is such a capital
sailor."

"A capital scoundrel," he cried hotly, "and if I have a chance I'll
pitch him overboard."

"No, you won't, Mr Frewen," I said, laughing; "I don't believe that."

"Well, Dale, I'm afraid that if I did, I should want a boat lowered down
to pick him up, and go in it myself.  There, as you say, it is a mad
thing for the men to have done.  It shows how a whole party can be
carried away by the specious arguments of one scoundrel.  However, we
know our duty, my lad; and that is to re-take the ship, place the worst
of the men in irons, and make the others navigate the vessel, unless you
advocate our hanging the worst of them instead of putting them in
irons."

"There are no irons on board a ship like this," I said quietly.

"Ah, and there is plenty of rope, my lad; so you advocate hanging?"

"Don't make a joke of it all, Mr Frewen," I said, for I felt annoyed at
his talking to me in that way, as if I were a mere boy of eight or nine.

"Right," he said sharply.  "We will be wise over it all.  Hallo, Mr
Brymer is making signs for us to be quiet.  The captain is going to
speak."

I looked quickly at the table, and saw that Captain Berriman was
standing just below the sky-light, when all at once there was a violent
crashing of glass, and I saw pistols held down through the light, while
almost at the same moment I heard a rustling noise outside, and leaped
up.

"Look out, Mr Frewen," I whispered; "powder again!"

For the rustling noise had been made by Jarette, who had crept along
unnoticed till he could plant a powder-bag, and as I glanced out I saw
that he was rapidly laying a train by drawing a second bag of powder
after him as he stepped rapidly back towards another man who was
carrying a lighted lanthorn--lighted, I felt sure, though in the
brilliant sunshine the flicker of the candle inside was hardly visible.

"Quick," I said; "draw open the door a little more."

As I spoke I tried to pull the chest away upon which we had been having
our meal, but I could not move it, as it was against Mr Frewen's legs,
and kept the door from being opened sufficiently wide in that narrow
space for me to pass out.

"Oh, quick--quick!"  I whispered.

"Anything the matter there?" cried Mr Brymer.

"No, sir, no, sir," said Mr Frewen.  "Keep back there, everybody.  Now,
Dale, up on end with it."

I stooped down, and we quickly lifted the chest on its end, dragged the
door a little way, but not far, for the chest still impeded it.

But there was room for me to force my way through the door, and I was in
the act of passing through a little way, so as to lean out and once more
snatch the powder-bag in out of danger when I saw that Jarette had
snatched the candle out of the lantern held ready for him, and applied
the light to the train.

Mr Frewen saw it too, and dragged me back, and in one and the same
effort threw me and himself over the barricade.  I should more correctly
have said, let himself, as he held me, fall backward over the wall of
chests into the cabin.

It all took place almost as quick as thought, for as we fell heavily
upon the saloon-floor, there was a terrific flash, a roar, and I was
conscious of being driven right into the great cabin, buried beneath a
weight which caused me intense pain, and then all was blank.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

I could not have been insensible many moments, for I was conscious of
shouting and trampling, of a thick black smoke which made it seem like
night, of voices giving orders, and Jarette yelling to his men now in
French, now in English, and all the time there was a crushing weight
across my legs and chest.

Then there were a couple of shots fired, and the shutting and banging of
doors; some one shrieked, and a man was thrown back over the mass which
held me down.

After that I must have been insensible again, for the next thing I
remember is hearing a groan, and directly after the voices of men
talking in a familiar way.

"That's it, lads; altogether, and out she comes."

I could see light now, for something was lifted off me, and I looked out
through a framework of shattered woodwork at the bright sunshine.

"Now then," said the same voice; "lift him out on to the deck."

It was Bob Hampton speaking, and it was Dumlow who spoke next in a low
growl.

"Poor lad; he's got it bad, arn't he?"

I thought in my half-stunned fashion that they were talking about me;
but they were lifting some one else, and just then Jarette came up.  I
couldn't see him, but I could hear him blundering over the wreck around,
and his words plain enough as he said sharply--

"Dead?  Overboard with him if he is."

"No, he arn't dead," said Bob Hampton.  "Doctors don't die in a hurry.
He'll come to and cure hisself, I dessay.  Come on, mate."

In a muddled, dreamy way I knew now that it was a doctor they were
carrying, and if it was a doctor I felt that it must be Mr Frewen; but
what it all meant, or why I was lying there, I could not tell in the
least.

There was half-darkness then for a little while, then light--then
darkness again, and some one was leaning over me.

"Steady, lad," was growled, and I knew it was Bob Hampton again, and I
tried to think and ask him what was the matter, but no words would come,
though everything was growing very clear now, and the men's words
bounded painfully sharp upon my ears.

"Got him?"

"Ay, ay."

"Heave then, together.  No, hold hard; the corner of that portmanter's
over his hind leg.  That's it; hyste it away."

I felt myself laid down while something was done close to me, and then I
was lifted once more and carried out into the warm sunshine, and laid
upon the hot boards of the deck.

"Poor laddie," growled Bob Hampton, "he's got it badly.  Rum world this
here, Neb!"

"Orful," said Dumlow.

"Reg'lar wusser," said another voice, which I knew to be Blane's.

"Look sharp there, my lads," cried Jarette, from somewhere overhead,
which must have been the poop-deck.  "That one dead?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"You're a liar, Barney Blane."

"If he's dead, pitch him overboard."

"But he arn't dead, captain," growled Bob Hampton.  "There's stuff
enough in him to make a full-sized sailor yet, and he's far too good to
be chucked over to the sharkses."

"But Barney Blane said he was dead."

"Don't you take no notice o' what Barney Blane says, skipper," cried
Dumlow.  "He dunno chalk from cheese best o' times, and I know he can't
tell a dead man from mutton."

"Hear, hear, mate!" cried Bob Hampton.  "Haw, haw, haw; we'll chuck the
boy overboard if you like, capt'n; but there's a kick in one of his hind
legs, an' I see him wink and waggle one ear."

"Let him lie there a bit till I come round," cried Jarette.  "You go on
and clear that cabin."

"Ay, ay," cried the three men who were near.  "Come on, lads.  Here,
Barney, go and get that there pannikin o' water from the breaker, and
pour some in the boy's mouth.  What yer go and say he were dead for?"

"Well, mate, I thought as he were.  He had enough to ha' killed a man,
let alone a boy."

"You look sharp, and we'll pull him and the doctor through, see if we
don't.  I don't think no bones is broke.  Them chesties sheltered 'em."

Then I felt water being trickled into my mouth and some poured over my
forehead, while, though I could neither move nor speak, I heard
Jarette's voice giving orders apparently ever so far away.

"Look sharp, lads," said Bob Hampton, "or Frog-soup 'll be back and
bully us."

"Must give the jollop purser a drop more," said Dumlow.  "Here, he arn't
dead neither; takes the water down as free as if it were grog.  They'll
come right agen, won't they?"

"Ay, to be sure," said Bob Hampton.  "Now then, heave ahead afore he
comes.  Rum games these here, messmets."

"Rum arn't the right word," said Dumlow, and then all was perfectly
still again, and I lay there wondering what was the matter, and why I
couldn't think as I should, and make out why I was lying there on my
back in the hot sun listening to a low moaning sound, and some one close
to my ear talking in a muttering tone.

Then there was silence again for I don't know how long: before there was
another low moan, and the voice close by me muttered--

"Oh, for more strength--could have saved--"

The words died out, and I lay there wondering still.  Then I felt that
people were coming near me, and stopped talking together.

I must have grown a little more sensible then, for I recognised the
voices as some one gave me a rude thrust with the foot.

"This boy's dead enough," and the words sounded so sharp and cruel that
they quite stung me.

"I think he is," said another voice, which I knew to be that of Walters.

"Oh yes; try him," said the first speaker, Jarette, I was certain.

And now as I felt some one take hold of my hand and raise my arm, my
full senses seemed to come, and with them an intense feeling of pain.
It was just as if the lifting of that arm was connected with something
within me which had been stopped up, for as the arm was allowed to drop
heavily back, and Walters said callously--"Yes; he's dead enough," I
shouted as loudly as I could--"No, I'm not!" and opened my eyes to stare
up at the group on deck.

There was a hearty burst of laughter at this, and I suppose it was
partly directed at Walters, who sprang up as sharply as if I had bitten
him, and then joined weakly in the laugh.

"Just like him," he said, with a contemptuous shrug of his shoulders.
"Shamming again."

"Come, I like that," I said faintly.  "Why, your life's all sham."

He took a step toward me as I lay there, and I thought he was about to
kick me, but Jarette laid a hand upon his shoulder.

"Let him be," he said shortly.  "Look here, young Dale, where are you
hurt?"

"I suppose I'm not hurt at all," I said, speaking with a good deal of
pain; "if I say I am, he'll tell you I'm shamming."

"Never mind him, boy," said Jarette, "listen to me.  Look here, the
game's up with the officers, and they're either my prisoners or as good
as dead, so there's nothing more for you to do.  Now, I suppose you
don't want me to have you thrown overboard, do you?"

"Of course not."

"Very well, then; it's only a change in your captain, and I dare say you
can be useful.  What do you say to joining me?"

"What, turning mutineer and pirate?"  I said boldly.

"Don't you use ugly words, boy," he said, with a scowl.  "Come, I offer
you good terms; will you join us?"

"You don't want midshipmen," I said, as I tried to think hard as to what
I ought to do under the circumstances.

"How do you know, boy?  Join us, and serve under me.  It will only be
like going on again with your old messmate here, and I dare say I can
promote you faster than you would have been under Captain Berriman."

"But where are we going?  What do you mean to do with the ship?"

"What's that to you?  There, I offer you your chance; will you join us?"

"I would if I was you, Mr Dale, sir," said a familiar voice, and
turning my head with difficulty, there was Bob Hampton looking quite
frank and honest, and as if there was not such a thing as a mutineer on
the face of the earth.

"Why?  What for?"  I cried, with a catching of the breath which made me
raise my hand to my breast.

"'Cause we're all so jolly together now, sir.  You'll like it same as me
and my mates do.  Jyne us, sir."

"All right," I said, "if--"

"If what?" said Jarette, sharply.

"If you rouse up the doctor and make him tend to me, for I'm afraid I've
got some broken ribs."

"Good!  We will," cried Jarette, but to my astonishment Walters suddenly
roared out--

"No; don't trust him.  He is a traitor, and he would only play the spy."

With a good deal of effort I raised myself upon one arm and looked him
full in the face, for the pain I suffered and his words roused up in me
a furious burst of temper.

"Traitor! sham!"  I cried.  "You ought to be hung for turning against
your captain as you did."

"Don't trust him, Jarette; he'd only betray us."

"If ever I get a chance, I will, if it's only for the sake of seeing you
get your deserts, you miserable hound!"  I cried.  "No, I'm not fit to
be trusted, Jarette," I cried, now quite beside myself with rage and
pain; "and don't let that miserable cur come near me, or I shall try to
do him some mischief."

"Do you hear, lieutenant?" said Jarette, with a sneering laugh.  "Why
don't you go and serve him out for threatening you?  He's about helpless
if his ribs are broken, and couldn't hurt you back."

"I'm not going to meddle with the miserable, sneaking cur," he said
contemptuously.  "And you needn't banter me; I've saved you from being
cheated by him."

"Oh, I don't know," said Jarette, gazing at Walters through his
half-closed lids; "I dare say it was all talk, for he wouldn't have
dared to play tricks.  But I say, lieutenant, he has got a stouter heart
than you have.  He'd be too much for you."

Walters gave him a malicious look, full of angry spite, and as Jarette
saw it, there was a complete change in the man.  His eyes flashed, his
form seemed to dilate, and he looked taller, while I now realised how it
was that he had gained so much ascendancy over the men, making them
follow and trust him with powers which would possibly land them all in
gaol, if no worse fate were in store.

He and Walters were close to me, and I heard what could not have reached
the ears of the men.

"Take care, youngster," he half whispered.  "You've got a hasty tongue,
and it stings sometimes.  Mind I don't turn and sting again.  Recollect
you've committed yourself so deeply that you are mine now; and
recollect, too, that I'm captain."

"Yes, I know," said Walters, sharply, "but he isn't to be trusted,
and--"

"You hate him," said Jarette.  "Well, I know you do.  There, that's
enough.  Here, some of you, which cabin is empty?"

"Second one on the left," cried several.

"Is the door broken by the powder?"

"No; it's all right," said Bob Hampton.

"Carry 'em both in," said Jarette.  "Fasten 'em up, and bring me the
key.  There, youngster," he continued to me, "I'm sending the doctor
with you to set you right."

I nodded, and then had hard work to keep from shrieking out as two men
lifted me and carried me through the companion into the shattered
saloon, and then into the cabin on the left, laying me down pretty
gently in the cot.

It seemed quite natural to me that I should be brought there, though it
was unintentional on Jarette's part, for the cabin I was in was that
apportioned to Mr Frewen, who was now carried in and laid upon a rug
which covered a portion of the floor.

"Cheer up, Mr Dale, sir," said Dumlow, bluffly, for he was one of the
men who had helped to carry in Mr Frewen.  "They won't starve yer.  If
they do I'll bring you some o' my wittles and drink."

"Look here, Dumlow," I said, "where are the officers and the
passengers?"

"Shut up, sir, in their cabins, like precious crocks in a cupboard,
that's where they are; and now you're just the same, only you've got a
crack in you somewheres."

The men all laughed and went out, and shut from my sight the shattered
side, and confusion of chests and boxes lying in the saloon.  Then I
heard the door fastened, and I made an effort and looked over the side
of the cot, groaning the while with the pain it gave me, down at poor
Mr Frewen, who lay there quite insensible, and I said to myself
bitterly--

"Very kind of them to send me a doctor; why, I shall have to doctor
him."

Then for the first time I saw that he was bleeding a little from one
side of his head, and this roused me so that I forgot a good deal of my
pain; and after feeling my chest and side a little to try and make out
where my ribs were broken, and without success, I managed to crawl out
of the cot, and got down on my knees by my companion.

"Mr Frewen," I said; "Mr Frewen," and I laid my hand on his forehead.
"Oh, I say, do, do pray try and speak.  Tell me what to do for you."

There was no reply, and I grew more excited, and as I did, so did my
suffering seem to be less, and all my anxiety began to be about him.

"Mr Frewen," I said.  "Can't you say a word?"

But he made no sign, and, forced by the circumstances to act, I leaned
over, turned his head a little more on one side, and found that the hair
was all matted together with the blood, which was already drying up.

Then I began to think that the hair ought all to be cut away, the wound
bathed and strapped up, and I was about to proceed to do it, when
another thought occurred to me.

It was this:--

The bleeding had pretty well stopped, and would, I felt sure, quite stop
in a few minutes, so perhaps I should not be acting wisely if I
disturbed the injury then, for it might be better if I tried to bring
him to his senses, and then he would advise me what to do, and how to do
it.

I believe I was in great pain then, but I forgot it for the moment as I
looked round and I saw that there was water there, and sponges and
towels were close at hand, so without farther hesitation I poured out
some of the water into a little basin, and taking a sponge, well bathed
his face, after opening the window, for the cabin was suffocating.

I bathed and bathed, and changed the water so as to get it a little
cooler, though the rapid evaporation helped me most, and at last, to my
great delight, his eyelids began to quiver, and finally he lay there
staring at me wildly, and with his face terribly white.

"Mr Frewen, do you know me?"  I said.

"Know you?--know you?  Yes, of course," he said hoarsely.  "What is the
matter?--what has happened?" and his hand went to the back of his head.

"You were hurt when the powder went off," I said, watching his face
eagerly.  "Don't you remember?"

"Yes," he cried eagerly.  "I threw myself back over the barricade with
you."

"And the door and all the boxes and chests were blown in and buried us,
I think."

"Was--was any one killed?" he said huskily.

"I don't know; I think not," I replied.

"But don't you know, boy?" he cried angrily.

"No; I was hurt by the chests the same as you were, and don't know what
happened.  It was all like being in a dream till a little while ago."

"Then you know nothing?" he said excitedly.

"I only have a sort of misty recollection of lying there after the
explosion, till I was carried out on deck and laid in the sun."

Then I told him all about being like in a nightmare, and hearing them
talk of throwing us both overboard, only Bob Hampton said we were alive.

"The scoundrel!" he said bitterly.

"Well, I thought it very jolly of him then," I said, "for if it had not
been for him we should have--"

I pointed downward.

"Right to the bottom of the sea," I added.

"Yes; and you seem to have been hurt."

"Hurt?  I should think I was, horribly," I cried; "but it don't seem so
bad now, since I've been helping you."

"But the passengers, Dale?" he said excitedly, as he tried to sit up,
but sank back with a groan; "have you not heard anything whatever about
them?"

I shook my head.

"Didn't you see anything to suggest that any one was killed and--and
thrown overboard?"

"No, Mr Frewen."

"Go out then and make inquiries, my good lad," he said piteously; "this
suspense is worse than the injury."

"You forget," I said quietly.

"Forget?  What?"

"That we are prisoners.  I couldn't get out."

"Yes, yes," he moaned.  "I forgot.  My head is all confused and strange.
What's that?"

"Some one knocking gently at the bulk-head," I whispered, for there were
three gentle taps on the wooden partition just opposite to where I was
kneeling.

"Then there is some one else a prisoner," he cried.  "Quick, speak to
him."

"Better not speak," I said; "we may bring in some of Jarette's gang;"
and rising softly, I took out my pocket-knife, and gave three gentle
taps with the haft just about the spot where we had heard the sounds.

The moment I had done, two knocks came in answer, and when I had
responded in the same way, there was one single one given which I also
answered.

"That only stands for some one being there," said Mr Frewen, with a
sigh; "we have no code arranged by which we could communicate."

"Oh yes, we have," I said, with a laugh, and, after breaking my
thumb-nail, I managed to open out a gimlet fitted in the back of my
knife, in company with a button-hook, a lancet, another to bleed horses,
a tooth-pick, pair of tweezers, and a corkscrew, all of which had been
very satisfactory to look at when I received the knife as a present; but
I often had come to the conclusion that the knife would have been better
with two more blades instead.  But now its time had come, and with a
feeling of being able to triumph over a difficulty, I stepped to the
bulk-head, feeling rather giddy and strange in the head, but this passed
off in the excitement, as I rapidly stuck in the point of the gimlet and
began to bore.

The bulk-head was composed of three-quarter inch board, but I kept on
boring and boring without apparently getting through, and I drew out the
gimlet at last, after boring in as far as I could, and stood looking at
the position in dismay.

Just then came a fresh tapping, to which I responded, and then as I
listened to the hollow sound I knew what had been wrong.  I had been
boring through the board just where it was backed by one of the uprights
which gave strength to the bulk-head.

The next minute I had bored a hole right through, and on withdrawing the
gimlet I could see daylight.

"Who's that?"  I whispered, with my lips to the tiny hole, and placing
my ear to the orifice I heard for answer--

"Me, Mr Preddle.  Who are you?"

"Dale and Mr Frewen," I answered.

"What does he say?" asked Mr Frewen.

"Says he is so glad, sir."

"Thank him, and ask him about the passengers, whether any one is hurt."

I whispered the question through the hole, and listened for the answer.

"Captain Berriman and Mr Brymer both wounded again in the struggle,
when the men rushed into the saloon after the explosion.  Now shut up in
their cabins."

"But the passengers; ask him about the passengers," whispered Mr
Frewen.

I asked, and the answer came back--

"No one hurt."

I saw Mr Frewen close his eyes at this, and his lips moved as I felt
sure in prayer.

"Yes?"  I whispered back, as Mr Preddle said something which sounded
all buzz, buzz, buzz.

"I say, what will those wretches do with us?"

"I don't know."

"Will they kill us and throw us overboard?"

"No," I whispered through.  "If they had meant that, they would have
done it at once.  But don't talk any more now."

"Buzz, buzz, buzz."

"What say?"

"Buzz, talk, buzz, buzz."

I opened my penknife, for I knew that the reason why Mr Preddle's words
sounded so buzzy, was that a lot of little bits of wood were sticking up
through the hole left by the gimlet.  And so it proved, for after a
little cutting all the words sounded clearly enough, and he promised to
wait till I had attended to Mr Frewen's injuries before asking any more
questions.

"Yes," he said, "I'll wait; but when one is in prison, and can talk to
the prisoners next door, it does seem to do one good."

I had just knelt down to see to Mr Frewen's head, when I heard my name
pronounced again.

"Yes," I cried impatiently, "what is it?"

"Only a word," said Mr Preddle.

"Quick, then."

"You were out on the deck some time, weren't you?"

"Yes; a long time," I replied impatiently.  "Why?"

"Could you see how my poor fishes were getting on?"

"No, I couldn't," I said gruffly, for my temper was as sore as my body
just then, and Mr Preddle irritated me; he did seem so girlish and
weak.

"Now, Mr Frewen," I said, "tell me what to do to your head."

"Leave it alone," he said, smiling, "or no, perhaps you had better do
something to it; I shall be better and stronger, and I want all my
strength now."

"To help get back the ship?"  I said.

"Yes, of course.  Now then, my lad," he continued, "you must think that
you are a surgeon's mate or dresser."  I nodded.

"You will not mind?"

"Of course not, sir."

"Then go to that drawer, and you will find scissors, lint, bandages, and
strapping."

I went to the drawer, and there, neatly arranged, were the articles he
had described, in company with many more.

"Now get water, sponge, and towel," he said, and this I did.

"Now go to work and cut away the hair, so that you can see what damage
is done."

"But I'm afraid--"

"What?"

"Of hurting you."

"Then set that aside, boy," he said, smiling.  "A surgeon must take all
the care he can, but he must not be afraid of hurting his patient.  Go
on."

It was not quite my first surgical experiment, for I had bound up cut
fingers before then, and once roughly tended to the broken arm of a
school-fellow, who had fallen in climbing a tree, though my attention
merely consisted in laying the arm straight and bandaging it with a
woollen comforter, while the doctor was fetched; but all the same I felt
very hot, nervous, and uncomfortable, as, in following out Mr Frewen's
instructions, I cut away the hair, bathed the place, and told him
exactly what I saw, horrible as it was.

"Pooh!" he said, with a little laugh.  "A mere scratch.  Why, if it were
a patient I was attending--you, for instance--I should say you were
making a miserable fuss about nothing."

"But it is very bad, sir," I said.  "Why, you were quite insensible."

"Yes, Dale, that was the contusion.  One of the chests must have been
driven against my head like a square shot.  Well, there's one comfort,
the skull isn't cracked.  Now cut some strips of that plaister, and
place them across and across."

I followed out his instructions, and ended by laying some lint over the
wound and securing all with a neatly sewn on bandage.

He turned very pale twice over as I was busy, and, in obedience to a
whisper, I took down a bottle and measured out some of its contents,
afterwards administering the dose in water.

"Not pleasant stuff, Dale," he said, smiling feebly, "and it's rather
hard lines, as you lads would call it, for a doctor to have to take his
own stuff; but you see I have a nasty crack, and if I had not been a
particularly thick-headed sort of fellow, I'm afraid I should not have
wanted another."

"What is that you have taken?"  I asked.  "Only ammonia--sal volatile--a
capital stimulus when faintness comes on.  There, I'm better now, and I
dare say I shall do.  I can examine you now.  Ribs broken, eh?"

"I thought so, sir."

"And I'm sure you are wrong, my lad.  If your ribs, or even one rib, had
been fractured, you could not have gone on working for me like that.
You would have been in agony."

"Well, it does hurt pretty tidily, sir."

"Perhaps so, Dale, but not to the extent it would under those
circumstances.  There, I'm better now.  Help me to sit up."  I helped
him, and he turned ghastly.

"Feel faint, sir?"  I said.

"Horrible, Dale, but I will master it.  This is no time for giving way
like a young lady in a hot room.  There, that's better.  Nothing like
making a fight for it.  Come."

"Oh no; I'm not very much hurt, sir," I cried.  "Wait till you are
easier."

"Come closer," he said firmly.  "Off with your jacket, and open the neck
of your shirt."

I obeyed him unwillingly, and making another determined effort to master
the faintness from which he suffered, he carefully examined my chest and
side, giving me such intense pain the while that I too felt sick, and
would gladly have prescribed for myself a draught of the medicine he had
taken.

"There," he cried at last, "that's perfectly satisfactory.  No ribs
broken, Dale, but you had a tremendous blow there from the nearest box.
It's a wonder that we were not killed."

"Then I shan't want strapping or bandaging, sir?"

"No; I'll give you some arnica to bathe the place with.  You'll have
some terrible bruises all up your side, but that will be all.  Now then,
my lad, that we have repaired damages, the next thing is to see what we
can do for other people."

"Yes, and about re-taking the ship," I said excitedly, though I could
not then see the slightest chance of success.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

Mr Frewen and I were both too weak and faint from the terrible shock we
had had, to do anything that day but lie back and rest, my place being
chosen close to the hole I had bored, so that I could be ready to answer
Mr Preddle's questions, which were constantly coming, and to listen to
his lamentations about his fish--about the trouble he had taken, the
water which must be drying--till, as I lay back there with my ear close
to a second hole which I had bored lower down, every now and then from
pain, heat, and the consequent faintness, I kept on dropping into a
curious half-dreamy state, in which I seemed to be watching Mr
Preddle's fish swimming about with their fat little mouths gasping at
the surface of the water, and all looking as if they were so many
hundreds of tiny Preddles asking me to get them out of prison.

Oh, what a wretched time that was, and how I wished that I could go
right off to sleep--a sleep without any dreams--and keep asleep till my
side had left off aching.  But it was no use to wish, for though Mr
Frewen was sleeping, so sure as I nearly dropped off, Mr Preddle would
put his lips to the hole I had made for my own torture, and whisper
something.

"Dale, I've been thinking that if Mr Frewen could seize the man who
opens your door and attends upon you, and hold him while you ran out and
opened mine, you and I could then go and open two more cabins, and so
on, and then we could seize the ship."

"Yes," I said heavily, and there was a pause.  Then just as I was
dropping off to sleep again--"Dale!"

"Yes, sir."

"We ought to do it when it is dark.  I'm quite strong, and not hurt a
bit.  Do you think Mr Frewen is well enough?"

"Oh yes!"  I said drowsily, though all the time I knew he was not, but I
couldn't help it.

"Then I think we ought to try to-night.  But what is your opinion of Mr
John Denning?"

"Haven't any opinion of him," I said, almost talking in my sleep.

"Oh, but that's not fair.  He certainly is very irritable, but he might
be useful, and I think he is brave.  A man who is in bad health is
frequently irritable, and if we have to fight, as I suppose we very
likely shall have to, his irritability would be of great advantage to
us, because it would be vented upon our enemies."

That's as far as I can remember what he said, for nature would bear no
more, and I was fast asleep with a murmuring sound close to my ear
shaping my dreams, which lasted till there was a rattling sound at the
door, which as I started up was flung open, and two men brought in what
was intended for our supper and dinner together.

The supply was very coarse, and only consisted of cold salt beef, bread,
and water, but if it had been a repast of the most delicious nature, it
would not have tempted Mr Frewen or me.  The fresh water was all we
cared for, and a sip of this from time to time was most refreshing.

But as soon as the men had left our cabin and closed the door, we heard
them go into the next, and as we sat listening, we could hear almost
every word that was said, for Mr Preddle questioned the men sharply,
but obtained no answer, the door being roughly closed just in the middle
of one of his speeches.  Then as we sat listening we could hear the men
go from cabin to cabin down one side of the saloon and back along the
other.

After this we began to talk in a whisper about our future prospects, and
our plans were soon made--to wit, that as soon as Mr Frewen felt
himself strong enough to act, an attempt should be made to evade the
vigilance of the men on guard, and communicate with the captain or Mr
Brymer, and then try to make some plan.

"There don't seem to be much chance," I said, rather dolefully, for I
was in a good deal of pain.

"You never know what is going to happen, my lad," said Mr Frewen.  "As
for me, I feel quite cheerful about our prospects.  These men never can
get on without quarrelling, and if they are divided, then is our
chance."

"But suppose they do not quarrel, and are not divided?"  I said.

"Don't suppose impossibilities, Dale.  I've been at sea long enough to
understand a little about sailors.  This man Jarette has won their ear
for the time, but he will soon begin to behave tyrannically to them, and
then they will be as ready to rebel against him as they were against
Captain Berriman.  We have to wait for that moment, and take advantage
of it if we can."

But three days glided on without our having a chance of knowing what was
going on in the other cabins.  We knew that we were sailing away south,
and that the men seemed to be enjoying themselves, for there was a good
deal of singing and shouting--strong indications of drinking going on.
Mr Frewen was far better, and my pains had passed into an unpleasant
stiffness; otherwise, I was all right.

As for Mr Preddle, he would sit against the bulk-head and bemoan his
fate as long as he could get a listener, and half his discourse would be
about his fish, the other about the unfortunate passengers.

I had cut a way through into his cabin by boring a great many holes, and
then joining them with my knife, so that I could pass it through for him
to try if he could communicate with the cabin further on.  But that
proved to be empty, and we could do nothing that way.

So we sat through the hot day talking about the mad act on the part of
the men, and watched the horizon in the hope of seeing a ship to which
we could signal, but nothing came in sight.

The fourth night had arrived, and now Mr Frewen had made up his mind
that our plan ought to be to work at a board in the bulk-head till we
could get enough loose to draw a piece out; and then, after getting into
Mr Preddle's cabin, work a way through into the next, the empty one,
which was pretty sure to be open.

Mr Preddle was almost speechless with excitement when the plan was
broached to him, and he declared it to be too good for there to be any
failure.

"Why, we have only to loosen a board or two on my side, go through,
watch our opportunity, and then go from cabin to cabin and let out our
friends; then wait till the mutineers are all quiet below, and fasten
the hatches tight down upon them.  Alison Dale, my dear boy, we shall
re-take the ship, save the ladies, and I shall, after all, get across
with the greater part of my consignment of salmon and trout."

He had his plump round face to the opening looking in at us as he said
all this, and I could see that his eyes were sparkling with pleasure at
the thought of the great success that was coming.

"It is very easy in theory, Preddle," said Mr Frewen, "but I don't know
that it is going to turn out so satisfactory in practice."

"Oh, my dear Frewen, don't throw cold water on the plan, pray," he
cried.

"Not a drop," said Mr Frewen.

"And you will try?"

"Oh yes; anything that promises success in any shape.  We cannot sit
still.  We must master them."

"But are you strong enough to try?"

"I'll make myself strong enough," said Mr Frewen, quietly.

"Then which board shall we try to loosen first?"

"Hist! some one coming," I said quickly, and I moved a couple of bottles
belonging to Mr Frewen's store across the little opening, and took down
another bottle to remove the stopper and begin sniffing at it as there
was a sudden rattling at the door, which was thrown open, and Jarette
entered.  He left a bodyguard of five or six well-armed men outside,
among whom I saw Bob Hampton, and I felt so enraged against him that I
fixed him with my eye, but he seemed in no wise abashed, looking boldly
back at me, and giving me quite a friendly nod.

"Treacherous brute!"  I muttered, and turned away to find Jarette
looking at me searchingly.

"Not dead yet then?" he said, with a half-laugh.  Then to Mr Frewen--

"Well, doctor, you've patched yourself up, I see.  What do you say to
come under my flag?"

"Prison flag!" said Mr Frewen, contemptuously.

"Oh no, my good friend; in my little kingdom I am going to found.  What
do you say to a lovely spice island, all sunshine and flowers, where I
can start a new civilisation?  I offer you a fine position there as the
only doctor.  What do you say?"

"No, of course," replied Mr Frewen, contemptuously.

"Ah, you'll think better of it.  I've started the idea too suddenly for
you now you're sore; but you'll come round, and the sooner you do the
more comfortable you'll be.  It must come to that.  You'll have no other
chance."

"We shall see," said Mr Frewen, coldly.

Jarette looked at him sharply, and then all about the narrow cabin
before fixing his eyes again upon my fellow-prisoner.

"Look here," he said, in a sharp, fierce way.  "You're thinking of
escaping--listen to this, boy," he added, turning sharply to me, "it
will do for you too.  Now don't think any more about such a _betise_,
doctor," he continued, "for it is of no use.  There is no escape for
you.  If you tried to break out I have men on the watch whose orders are
to shoot down any one who tries to get away, and that shooting down
means pitching overboard afterwards.  It would save me a great deal of
trouble, but I don't want any more fighting and killing: I want peace.
There, you can think it over.  You had better be friends, for it would
hurt my feelings to have to set you afloat in an open boat with those
brute bullies, Berriman and Brymer.  Think it over, man.  Your friend,
Mr Preddle, is sure to join me, for I can find him a pond or a river in
which to keep his fish."

He backed out of the cabin, and the door was closed, while as we
listened we heard the party move on to Mr Preddle's cabin.

I could not resist the temptation of listening, and as I was standing
close by the partition, I took a step nearer to the opening I had made,
and softly drew aside the bottle I had placed before it.

Mr Frewen's lips moved, and I took it that he said "Be careful," so I
nodded to him as much as to say "I will," and listened.

I could not see through, for Mr Preddle had done as I had--drawn
something before his side of the opening, which was so small and in such
a dark part of the cabin, that unless searched for it was not likely to
be seen.

"Well, sir," cried Jarette, "when are you coming on deck again?"

"Coming on deck?" said Mr Preddle, wonderingly.

"Yes; those fish of yours want seeing to; I had to lift out half-a-dozen
this morning with that string ladle of yours."

"The little net?" cried Mr Preddle, eagerly.  "That was very good of
you.  How do they all seem?"

"As if they wanted their master to come and feed them.  They all swam up
to the top and put their mouths out of the water; didn't they, Hampton?"

"Ay, ay, that's so," growled Bob, "and they all called out, `Wittles,
wittles,' in fish, on'y they've got such little voices through being so
much in the damp that you couldn't hear 'em."

The men laughed, and Mr Preddle joined in, but in a feeble forced way
as he said weakly--

"No, no, that was for fresh air.  They'll all be dead soon, I'm afraid."

"Then why don't you come and attend to 'em?" said Jarette.

"May I, Mr Jarette?" cried Mr Preddle, excitedly.

"To be sure you may, sir.  You've only got to satisfy me that you've
thrown over these people here, whom I have been obliged to shut up for
violence.  Cast in your lot with us, and there you are, quite free; and
I'll--come, I'll make you naturalist to my expedition, and one of the
chief men of my island."

"Naturalist to your expedition?" faltered Mr Preddle, wondering at the
language used by a man whom he had heretofore looked upon as a common
sailor, perfectly uneducated, and ready for any amount of violence and
rapine,--"chief man in your island!"

"To be sure."

"But have you got an island?"

"Waiting for me to go and take it, sir; and there you can study nature
at home,--just the place for gentlemen like you."

"Ah, yes, that it is," said Mr Preddle.

"You'll join us then?"

"The weak limp wretch," I heard Mr Frewen whisper.

"No, sir, you said that I was a gentleman.  I am, and gentlemen cannot
do such things as that."

"Not take up a delightful life yonder?"

"No; the cost is too great.  I should have to be false to my class, and
to my companions in misfortune here."

"Bah!--they are not so squeamish.  They come, all of them, and are glad.
You will join us?"

"No, sir, no."

"But your fish--dying!"

"Poor things!  It is a disappointment, sir; but I cannot do as you wish
me to, even to save them."

"You will not?"

"No, sir, no."

"Idiot!" cried Jarette, sharply, and directly after the door was banged
and fastened.

"My fish--my fish--my poor little fish!" muttered Mr Preddle; "but I
couldn't, even to save them."

Then there was silence, and I softly recovered the little hole and
looked round at Mr Frewen, who nodded and smiled.

"Yes," he whispered, "it is quite true: he is a gentleman, poor fellow,
in spite of all."

Then we listened again, and heard door after door opened, as Jarette
went round to see his prisoners; and principally, I fancy, to make sure,
as he used his eyes sharply, that no one was likely to escape.

Door after door was opened, and then we heard fierce angry voices, one
of which I was sure was Captain Berriman's.  We could not hear what was
said, but his voice sounded threatening, and Mr Frewen whispered--

"Thank heaven!  I was afraid the poor captain had been murdered."

Hardly had the words passed his lips before we heard a sharp report, a
piercing shriek, and a heavy fall.

Then for a few moments there was silence, but a quick muttering of
voices followed, and then a door was banged.

A few moments later as I stood there panting, and with the perspiration
standing out upon my forehead, another door seemed to have been opened,
and I heard a quick angry voice speaking loudly and upbraidingly.

"Mr Denning!"  I said excitedly, as I turned to my companion, whose
face looked terrible in its rage and despair.

"Whose voice was that, Dale?" he cried wildly.

"Mr Denning's, I'm sure."

"No, no, the lady's cry."

"I--I--don't know," I stammered.

"You do--you do!" he cried wildly, as he caught me by the breast; "speak
out."

"I--I half fancied it was Miss Denning shrieked out," I faltered.

"Yes," he groaned.  "Yes, and I am shut up like this.  Is there no way
of escape?"

And all this while the angry muttering and talking went on, Mr Denning
evidently bitterly upbraiding Jarette, and the latter mockingly defiant,
and uttering what sounded like contemptuous retorts.  Then a door was
banged again loudly, and we stood listening, Mr Frewen with his
forehead resting against the panel and his hands clenched, while his
face was all drawn into puckers and wrinkles as if he was suffering the
most intense agony.

And as we listened, I, horror-stricken, and in the full belief that poor
Miss Denning had been shot, perhaps in trying to save her brother, a
couple more of the cabin-doors were opened and closed; then there was a
good deal of talking and the giving of orders.  At last, when we felt
that Jarette and his men were going forward once again to their quarters
in the forecastle, leaving us in horrible suspense, a heavy step
approached our door, which was opened, and Hampton appeared.

"Who was that shot?" cried Mr Frewen, rushing at the man and seizing
him by the breast.

"Easy, sir; easy it is.  You'd best ask the skipper."

"I say, who was that shot just now?"

"And I says, ask the skipper, sir.  It ain't my business.  My business
is to bring you out.  You're wanted, and you're to bring your tools."

"Wanted?  To attend the injured person?"

"I suppose so," replied Hampton, with brutal callousness; and just as
Jarette approached, "Here's the captain, ask him."

Mr Frewen did not ask, but darted to one of the little drawers with
which his cabin was fitted, took out a case and a packet of surgical
necessaries packed all ready for emergencies, and turned back to the
door.

"Here, where are you going, youngster?" cried Hampton, who was looking
in with a peculiar expression upon his countenance.

"With Mr Frewen," I said stoutly.

"No, you're not.  Go back."

"But he'll want me to help him!"  I cried excitedly.  "I must go."

"Yes; come with me, my lad!" cried Mr Frewen, and as I pressed forward,
Hampton made no further objections to my presence, though before at a
look from his leader he had barred the way with his sturdy arms.

The next moment we were standing in the torn and blackened saloon, with
Mr Frewen looking round wildly from door to door, seeking the one
through which he was to go.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

"Here, this way," said Jarette, fiercely, "and now you'll see that I'm
not a man to be played with.  I'm captain here now, and it's obey me
or--"

He snatched a pistol from his breast and held it menacingly toward
Frewen, who flashed out at him--

"Put that thing away, madman, and show me my patient.  Which cabin is
it?"

"That one," said Jarette, surlily.  Then showing his teeth, he said in a
peculiar tone of voice--"They say it's kill or cure with your set; let
it be cure this time, or perhaps it may be kill afterwards.  Come on.
Go in there."

He signed to a man acting as sentry by one of the doors well aft, and
the man drew back while Frewen brushed by the scoundrel who held it
open, and entered quickly, I following ready to do everything I could to
help.

I entered that cabin fully expecting to see Miss Denning lying bleeding
on the floor, and I am sure that this was Mr Frewen's impression; but
to the surprise of both it was a totally different person, for there lay
the captain in one corner, his head slightly raised, staring at us
wildly as he held one hand pressed to his shoulder, and his eyes were so
fixed that for the moment I was ready to think that he was passing away.
But a faint smile came upon his face as he looked up at the doctor, and
then he smiled at me.

I darted a look full of horror and sympathy at him, and then closed the
door, while as I turned I saw that the woodwork side of the cabin was
marked by a bullet, for so I took it to be, which had splintered the
board all round a good-sized hole.

Mr Frewen went down on one knee by the captain, and took the hand which
rested on his shoulder, pressed it, and then began to examine the
injury.

"Come and help me, Dale," he said; "we must get him in a different
position."

"Perhaps--I can help," said the captain faintly.  "The scoundrel shot
me."

"Don't try to talk," said Mr Frewen, quickly.  "Wait till I have
bandaged the wound."

But as he spoke I noticed how he watched Captain Berriman, and seemed to
take special heed of him as he whispered the above words evidently with
pain.

"Is it very bad, doctor?" he whispered now after Mr Frewen had been
busy about his breast, and shoulder for a few minutes.  "You can tell
me, I can bear it."

"Bad enough, but not so bad as it might have been if it had gone an inch
lower.  But keep quiet, talking will only distress you, and tend to make
you feverish.  There," he said at last, "there will be no more bleeding,
and that was the only danger to apprehend."

By this time the captain was lying in an easy position, carefully
bandaged and apparently suffering less.

"He came in--"

"Hush! don't tell me; I know--as he did to us with inviting
propositions.  We heard your angry words, and the coward shot at you.
But that shriek, surely it was Miss Denning's?"

"Yes," whispered the captain.  "The bullet crashed through there
afterwards and struck Mr Denning.  Not hurt, but his sister shrieked on
hearing the shot and seeing him fall."

"Then they are in there?"

The captain nodded.

"And can hear our words?"

There was another movement of the head.

"Then let them hear that we are trying hard to put an end to this
miserable state of affairs.  Mr Denning should be ready to help us if
called upon."

There was a gentle tapping on the partition at this, and I was on my way
to the bulk-head to reply, when the cabin-door was opened and Jarette
came inside.

"Come, doctor, you must be done if you can find all that time for
talking.  Can you save him?"

"I am trying, sir, if only to be prepared to have a witness against you
when the time comes for your punishment."

"Oh yes, of course, doctor, we know all about that.  This way, sir.
Now, boy.  Come!"

"Good-bye, Captain Berriman," I said, as I leaned over my poor officer
and pressed his hand.  Then in a whisper--"Cheer up!  Perhaps we shall
re-take the ship after all."

Then I followed the doctor, and a minute later we were once more under
lock and key, while as I crossed the saloon I saw that a couple of men
were pacing up and down, pistol in hand.

I made a remark about this, and then I spoke about the way in which the
powder had driven in all the end of the saloon.

"I suppose Jarette must have used about all there is now."

Mr Frewen shook his head.

"Didn't you know?" he said.  "There is a large quantity on board.  It is
being taken--across for blasting purposes in New Zealand.  Jarette, I
suppose, helped with the lading, and knew where it was stowed.  That
accounts for its being brought out so soon."

"Pity we can't give them a dose of it," I said, "so as to frighten them
into better order.  Just fancy, Mr Frewen, dropping a bagful into the
forecastle with a fuse attached and lit; how they would run for the
hatch, and before they could reach it--bang!"

"Yes, with that part of the deck blown up and a dozen or so of wretched
mutilated creatures lying about shrieking for help.  Well, Dale, I dare
say there is one of the bags somewhere about the cabins, but I don't
think you could use it."

"Well, now you talk like that, I don't think I should like to," I said.

"I am sure you would not, boy.  You and I could not fight that way.  We
must have a better way than that."

We lay there trying to think out some plan for the rest of that day,
sometimes talking to ourselves, sometimes with Mr Preddle joining in;
but for the most part he could talk about nothing else but his own
troubles, and about his fish, which he was sure were dying off rapidly,
for no one, he said, could attend to them like he would himself.

"Unless it was you, Dale," he whispered apologetically.  "You certainly
did seem to understand them almost as well as I did myself.  Ah, I'd
give almost anything to be out there attending to the poor little
things, but I could not go at the cost that was proposed."

He sighed very deeply, drew back, and the little hole was darkened
directly after, for Mr Preddle had lain down to meditate upon the
sufferings of his fish, and when I peeped through at him a few minutes
later he was still meditating with his eyes shut and his mouth open,
while a peculiar sound came at regular intervals from between his lips.

Mr Frewen looked at me inquiringly as I turned round.

"Sound asleep," I whispered.

"Poor Mr Preddle," said Mr Frewen, "he is a very good amiable fellow,
but I think that you and I must make our plans, Dale, and call upon him
to help when all is ready."

I nodded, for I thought so too, and after listening for a few moments at
the door, we came to the conclusion that there was nothing to mind about
the sentries, so we proceeded to make our examination of our prison in a
more determined way.

Several times my fingers had played about the knife I had in my pocket,
and I had longed to bore holes in the cabin-door so as to watch the
sentries; but of course I was checked by the knowledge that by making a
hole through which I could watch them I was providing one by which they
could watch us.

The cabins on either side of the saloon were only so many portions of
the ship boarded off, and provided with doors, so that a couple of
carpenters would have had little difficulty in clearing away the
partition and making one long opening, but we had no tools, and the
slightest noise would have drawn attention to our acts; and these ideas
would, we knew, govern our actions in all we did.

Our idea was of course to get a board out between the doctor's cabin and
Mr Preddle's, and if possible one at the darkest portion of the place
close up to the ship's side; but examine as we would, there did not
appear to be one that it would be possible to move, try how we would.

"It seems to be a very hopeless case, Dale," said my companion at last
with a sigh, "unless we patiently cut a way through with your knife; one
cutting, while the other keeps on throwing the chips out of the window
so that they cannot be seen."

"But we shall make a big hole," I objected, "and the first time that
Jarette comes in he will see it, and put us somewhere else."

"Of course.  It looks very hopeless, my lad."

"You see we want holes, sir, so that we could take out one board from
top to bottom quite whole, and put it back just as it was."

"Yes; but how are we to do that without tools?"

"I thought doctors always had a lot of tools," I said; "knives and saws
and choppers for operations."

"Ah!" he ejaculated.  "My head has not come right yet after that injury.
Why, look here, lad!"

He went to a drawer fitted into a chest, and drew it open to take out a
mahogany case in which, lying on blue velvet, were some of the things I
had named--knives, and a couple of saws, beside other instruments whose
purpose I did not grasp.

"We draw the line at choppers, Dale," he said, smiling; "and I suppose I
ought not to devote my choice instruments to such a duty, but I think
these will do."

"Splendidly!"  I cried in delight, as I quite gloated over the bright
steel saw.  "Why, with one of those I can get a whole board out in an
hour or two."

"Without being heard?"

"I didn't think of that," I said.  "Let's see what noise it would make."

"No," said Mr Frewen, quietly.  "We must wait till night; and it will
be a very much longer task than you think, because we shall have to work
so slowly."

"Wait till night!"  I cried impatiently.

He nodded, and the dreary, slow way in which the rest of that day passed
was terrible.  It was as if the sun would never set; but Mr Frewen was
right.  There were two interruptions to expect--the coming of the man
who would bring us our evening meal, a sort of tea-dinner-supper, and
possibly a visit from Jarette to fetch Mr Frewen to see the captain.

The man came with our comfortless, unsatisfactory meal, at which I
grumbled, but which Mr Frewen said was far better than ordinary prison
fare; and just at dark, as he had suggested, we were startled by the
sudden rattling at the fastening of our door.

Then Jarette appeared, and signed imperiously to Mr Frewen to follow
him.

My companion frowned, but he rose and followed; not to obey Jarette, as
he afterwards said, but to go and attend upon the captain.

I rose to go too; but as I reached the door, Jarette rudely thrust me
back, so that I staggered to the cabin-window.

"Non!" he ejaculated sharply; and the door was banged to and fastened
before I had recovered from my surprise.

"Never mind," I said to myself; "wait a bit," as I bit my lips and stood
with clenched fists, thinking in my annoyance how much I should like to
use them.

But I consoled myself by going to Mr Frewen's drawer and opening the
case and looking at the bright steel saws, and then talking in a whisper
to Mr Preddle, who came to the little opening to know whether anything
was the matter.

I did not tell him about the saws after I had said that Mr Frewen had
been fetched, but thought I would leave that for my companion to do, and
then waited till he came; but he was so long that I began to be afraid
he had been placed in another cabin, the mutineer chief having suddenly
become suspicious of our hatching a conspiracy to escape.

He came at last, though, to my very great relief, and told me that he
thought Jarette, in spite of his display of bravado and carelessness,
was alarmed about Captain Berriman's state, and afraid that he would
die.

"And is he in a dangerous state?"  I asked anxiously.

"No; only a little feverish, as the natural result of his wound."

"That was what made you stay so long then?"  I said.

"Well, no," he replied, with a smile.  "I'm afraid I tried to impose
upon our new captain by assuming to be very much concerned about poor
Berriman's state; but I had another reason as well.  I wanted to try and
have a few words with the Dennings, whom I could hear in the next
cabin."

"Yes; and did you?"  I asked eagerly.

"No, I was too closely watched.  I could have whispered to them through
the hole made by the bullet; but Jarette was at the door all the time
that he was not in the cabin watching me, and I could not say anything
aloud for them to hear without his knowing what I said."

"I know what I should have done," I cried.

"What?"

"Told them what our plans were in French."

"That would have been clever," he said dryly, "for a Frenchman to hear."

"How absurd!"  I said.  "Well then, in German."

"Equally absurd, Dale.  I hardly know a word."

"Well then, in Latin."

"My studies in Caesar and Horace never gave me the power to be
conversational, Dale," he replied; and soon after, as it was now getting
late, and from the sounds we heard forward it was evident that the crew
were enjoying themselves, Mr Frewen proposed that we should make our
first start at cutting the board.

Word was passed through the opening to Mr Preddle, who was all
eagerness to begin, and asked for one of the little saws, so that he
might work at the top of the board while we cut at the bottom; but Mr
Frewen promptly decided that one of the instruments would make quite
enough noise, and told him that he must understand that our task was one
probably of days, for everything must be done slowly and carefully, and
in a way that would leave no traces behind.

"Very well," said Mr Preddle, almost petulantly, "you know best; but I
am very, very anxious to get out of this wretched cabin."

"So are we," said Mr Frewen.  "Help us, then, by keeping guard by your
door, and at the slightest sound outside giving us the alarm."

"Yes, yes; of course," he said eagerly; and directly after, in the
darkness, I heard Mr Frewen open the drawer and the instrument-case, to
take out the little saw which might open our prison, and cut a way into
another for the scoundrelly mutineers.

"How are you going to begin?"  I whispered, after listening at the door.
"Shall I bore some holes first to make a way in for the saw?"

"They will not be necessary," he replied.  "I can manage to cut a way
across the last board but one."

"Why not the last?"  I asked.

"Not enough room to work.  I shall try to cut in a sloping way to splay
the board if I can, so that it will fit better when we put it back--if
we get one out.  Hush!--don't talk."

I stood close by him, ready to help in any way he required, and expected
that when he grew tired he would ask me to take his place, so that no
time might be lost.

We had one advantage that I have not mentioned, and it was this.  We
were of course locked in, but there was a bolt on the door, so that we
could secure ourselves on the inside from any sudden interruption; and
by keeping the door fastened, there would be time to hide the saw and
brush away the dust before any one who came was admitted.

My position was facing the little round window of the cabin as Mr
Frewen made the first start toward obtaining our freedom; and as the saw
began to bite at the wood with a sound like that which would be made by
a gnawing mouse, I stood gazing out at the beauty of the grand tropic
night.  It was very dark, but it was a transparent darkness, with the
sky within reach of my vision thickly spangled with stars, which were so
brightly reflected in the calm sea through which we were gliding gently,
that there were moments when I could hardly tell where the sky ended and
the sea began.

Then faintly and steadily rasp, rasp, rasp went the saw, with so little
noise that it did not seem likely that any one out in the saloon would
hear it; and though at the first cut or two my heart began to beat with
dread, a few minutes later it was throbbing with exultation.

For every gnaw of that little keen-toothed instrument sent a thrill of
hope through me; and I did not stop to consider what we were to do, or
what were our probabilities of success when we reached the saloon, for
it seemed to me then that the rest would come.  And on it went, gnaw,
gnaw, gnaw at the soft grain of the pine-wood board, very slowly, but
very surely, I knew; and I was just going to whisper to Mr Frewen, and
ask him whether he would like me to take a turn, when the sawing
stopped.

"Only for a few minutes' breath," he whispered.

"Shall I take a turn?"

"When we cut the bottom one.  I am taller and stronger, and can get at
this better than you."

Then he began again, and I gazed through the cabin-window, and listened
both to his working on the thick board, and for any sound which might
indicate that a sentry had taken alarm.

But all was silent; and comforting myself with the belief that if the
noise was heard it might be taken for the gnawing of a rat, I listened
and watched the stars.

At last I was in such a state of nervous excitement that I was on the
point of begging my companion, to let me take a turn, when from being so
intensely hot I suddenly turned speechless and cold.  For it suddenly
occurred to me that the stars were blotted out, and that the night was
blacker.

"A cloud," I said to myself at first, but even as I thought that, I felt
that it could not be; and at last I was lifting my hand to touch Mr
Frewen, and draw his attention to the strange phenomenon, when the
sawing suddenly ceased.  My companion drew a long breath; and at the
same moment, as I felt drawn toward the window by some strange
attraction, to try and make out why it was so dark, there was the sound
of another deep breath, and I felt it hot and strange right in my face,
as in a hoarse whisper some one said--

"How are you getting on?"



CHAPTER TWENTY.

For a few moments I could not utter a word in that black darkness.  I
heard Mr Frewen give a sudden start and his elbow jar against the
partition, but he too was silent, save that I could hear his hurried
breathing.

Then some one spoke again--

"Can't you hear me there?  I says, how are you getting on?"

"Bob Hampton!"  I cried excitedly.

"Pst!  Steady, my lad.  Bob Hampton it is.  But don't shout, or some 'un
'll hear you, and 'll come along the deck overhead and cut me adrift."

"But what are you doing there?"

"Hanging on to a bit o' line made fast to a belaying-pin."

"But why?  What do you want, sir?"

"Will yer keep quiet, my lad?" whispered the man, excitedly.  "I don't
want to hear old Jarette sawing through this rope.  What do I want?
Come, I like that, arter risking all this here to get a word with you."

"Go back to your friends, you scoundrel," whispered Mr Frewen; "you
have come to spy upon us!"

"Wheer's my lantern, then?  Man can't spy a night like this, when it's
as black as inside a water-cask in a ship's hold."

"Mr Frewen is right," I said.  "Go back to your friends."

"Arn't got none forrard, leastwise only two; I've come to say `how de
do.'"

"Don't trust him, Mr Frewen, he's a traitor," I whispered; only Hampton
evidently heard.

"Come, I like that, Mr Dale, sir.  But I say, how could you be so
easily took in?  Theer was nothing else for a man to do but to go with
the bad beggars, and when I seemed to jyne 'em, why of course Neb Dumlow
and old Barney joined at once."

"Bob!"  I ejaculated, as a feeling of delight sent a flush of blood to
my cheeks, and I felt hot and excited once more, "you don't mean to say
that--"

"But I just do, sir.  'Tarn't likely I should run all this risk if I
didn't mean it."

"You hear, Mr Frewen," I whispered.

"Yes, but--"

"Look here," said Bob Hampton, angrily, "am I to creep in and stuff
something into your mouth, Mr Dale, sir?  You don't know how sounds run
on a still night like this.  It's grim death for me if I'm found out."

"Then you are true to us all the same, Bob?"  I cried, reaching out to
lay my hand upon the man's shoulder.

"True as gorspel, sir; and ready along with Neb Dumlow and Barney Blane
to pitch old Frenchy overboard, or drown him in a water-cask, if you say
the word, or Mr Frewen either, though I'd rayther take it from you, my
lad, as you're one of the officers of the Burgh Castle and it'd come
better like than from our doctor, and no disrespectment either."

"How are we to know that we are to trust you, Hampton?" said Mr Frewen.

"Tell you dreckly, sir, soon as I can get foot-hold.  I'm pretty strong
in the arms, but you can't hang by them as long as you can stand on your
legs, 'less you're born a monkey, which I warn't.  You see there's no
board nor nothing to get a foot on, and I knows without trying that I
couldn't get through that window."

"How can we help him, Dale?" whispered Mr Frewen.  "I suppose we must
trust him?"

"Trust him?  Yes, of course.  Stop a moment.  Yes, I know."  Then
thrusting my arms out--"Hold hard a minute, Bob," I whispered.  "Let me
get hold of the rope and haul up the end."

"What for, lad?"

"For us to draw in here and make fast, then you can stand in the bight
like a stirrup."

"Well, you are a wunner, Mr Dale, sir," he replied.  "Haul away,
there's plenty down below; I should never have thought of that."

In a very few seconds I had pulled in the lower part of the rope by
which he was swinging, got hold of the dripping end and passed it to Mr
Frewen, letting the rest fall back like a big loop, but not so quietly
as I could have wished.  Then we hauled in slowly, till after a little
management we had the bight so exactly adjusted that Bob Hampton's feet
rested upon it while we held the rope tight.

"Hah!" he whispered, with his face close to the cabin-window, "that
rests my flippers.  Mind, I'm going to ease off a bit now, but if you
two slacken down I shall go, and there won't be time to say good-bye."

"You may trust us, Bob," I said.

"Ay, ay, my lad, I will, and the least thing as you can do is to trust
me and my mates."

"I will, Bob, and I'm sure Mr Frewen will, but we couldn't help
thinking you were a traitor."

"Course you couldn't, lad.  On'y nat'ral.  But you see now as it was
on'y make-believe."

"There's my hand, Hampton," said Mr Frewen.

"Thankye kindly, sir.  That sounds English, on'y I can't give it a grip,
'cause I'm holding on.  But if you'd just stuff one finger in my mouth
I'll bite it if you like, to show I mean square and honest by you all."

"Never mind that, Hampton," said Mr Frewen; "we'll take it as being all
right."

"Right it is then," said Bob Hampton, with a satisfied grunt, "on'y
let's speak gently."

"Can you help us to escape, Bob?"  I whispered.  "Can't we re-take the
ship?"

"Steady, my lad, don't get out o' breath.  That's what we come about,
and Neb Dumlow's bylin' over to do it."

"Tell us first what is the state of affairs," said Mr Frewen.

"State of affairs is, that all the orficers and you the doctor, along
with the passengers, is prisoners, and Frenchy Jarette's skipper of the
Burgh Castle, with that there rat of a 'prentice or middy, or whatever
he calls hisself, first mate."

"But where are we going?" said Mr Frewen.

"Nobody knows but Frenchy, and there is times when I think he don't
know.  For he's as mad as a whole cargo o' hatters or he'd never ha'
done what he has.  But look sharp, sir, I can't stop long.  If he found
out, he'd cut the rope and send me adrift as soon as look at me, and
that would be a pity, 'cause if there's one man as I do respeck and like
it's Bob Hampton, mariner, spite of his looks."

"Yes, we'll be quick," said Mr Frewen.

"Is anything the matter?" came in a loud whisper.

"Oh lor'!  Here I goes," groaned Bob Hampton.

"No, no; it's all right," I whispered.  "That was only Mr Preddle."

"I thought it was Frenchy, sir."

"Hush!  No, nothing wrong.  Help come," whispered Mr Frewen.  "Wait!"

Then coming back to the window--

"Now, Hampton, what can you suggest?"

"Well, sir, I've been thinking that if you gents--Pst!"

He ceased whispering in at the cabin-window, for just then we heard
steps overhead as if two people were walking along the deck, and
directly after I could make out voices in eager conversation fairly loud
for a few moments, and then they died away, and I knew by the sounds
that the speakers had gone right aft.  Then Jarette's voice was heard
making inquiries of the man at the wheel, to whom he stopped talking for
a few minutes, which seemed to extend into an age of anxiety to me who
listened so anxiously and in such dread lest the scoundrel should return
and lean over the bulwark, or run his hand along, feel the rope, and so
discover poor Hampton.  Then I felt sure that he would have no
hesitation in cutting him adrift, and that meant death to a brave and
true man.

I felt a horrible pang of dread at these thoughts, and softly thrusting
out my hand, I felt for and gripped Bob Hampton's great paw as it held
on to the rope, and then whispering to Mr Frewen to do the same, I took
tightly hold of the man's wrist with some idea of saving him if the
scoundrel on deck should hear, and cut the rope.

The next minute, to my horror, as with one hand grasping the rope and
the other Bob Hampton's arm, Mr Frewen and I stood face to face close
to the cabin-window, we heard the voices on deck come nearer, then stop
just overhead, and as far as I could judge, the speaker stood leaning
against the bulwarks, so that we could distinctly hear Walters say--

"Why don't you send them all adrift in one of the boats?"

"Because we are not near enough to land, my son," replied Jarette; "and
I am so anxious about my young lieutenant.  It would grieve me to death
to see him hung for a pirate."

"I wish you would talk common-sense, Jarette, and not be so fond of
chaffing me.  You'll make me wish some day that I had not joined you."

The Frenchman laughed derisively.  "Why, my little brave," he cried,
"what a dust-filled-eyed one you think me.  Do I not know that you have
been in a tremble ever since?"

"No, you don't," said Walters, sharply.  "I'm sure I've done everything
I can."

"My faith, yes; we will say it is so," said Jarette, with another
sneering laugh.  "It is wonderful how nervous men are who have their
necks in the noose--boys too."

At that moment we felt Hampton softly loosen his hold of the rope with
one hand, and pass it and his arm in at the window so as to get a grip
inside, for evidently he expected that the rope would be discovered and
cut.  Though even then, unless Jarette were willing to save him, it
would only be prolonging his existence for a few minutes, since it would
have been impossible for us to draw so bulky a man through the circular
hole which lit and ventilated Mr Frewen's cabin.

But he was safe for the time, come what might, and we remained there
listening to the conversation overhead, gathering that there was very
little friendship existing between Walters and his new captain, who let
us know that he was in great perplexity about his prisoners, and
certainly not in the mind then to end their lives.  What might happen
afterwards we could not say.

At last, after some minutes that felt like hours, they went on and down
the ladder to the lower deck.

"Phew!" panted Bob Hampton.  "Oh, my lad, my lad, why didn't you whistle
a jig out of the window?"

"Why didn't I what?"  I cried.

"Whistle a toon, my lad.  That would ha' let 'em know you could hear 'em
talking, and they'd ha' gone.  Hold me tight, please, for I'm 'bout
spent."

The man spoke so faintly that we took alarm.

"No, no, Bob," I whispered.  "Don't say that.  Rest for a few moments,
and then climb back on deck."

"Rest?" he said, in so pitiful a tone that I tightened my grasp all I
possibly could, and felt how absurd my advice was to a man in such a
position.

"You couldn't haul me in?" he whispered faintly.

"No," I said despairingly.  "It is impossible."

"Impossible it is," he groaned.  "Well, I shall have to face it."

"What do you mean, man?" whispered Mr Frewen.

"What we've all got to face, doctor.  I couldn't swarm up that rope
again."

"Dale, could we get the rope round his waist, and hold him?" whispered
Mr Frewen.

"Here! hist! quick!" came through the opening where Mr Preddle was
listening all the time.

"Silence!" cried Mr Frewen, sternly.  "What do you say, Hampton?"

"I says as if you takes the line from under my feet for half a moment
down I goes, for all the feeling's gone out of my arms.  I'm done."

"No, no," I whispered in desperation.  "Hold on, Bob; we must--we will
save you."

"Ay, lad," he said dolefully, "I'll hold on as long as I can; but if you
two are going to save me, you'll have to be very smart about it, I'm
afraid."

"Mr Frewen!  Dale!" came from the opening.

"Silence, I say!" cried the doctor, fiercely.

"I won't be silent," cried Mr Preddle.  "Here, Dale, take this; I've
pushed it through as far as I can reach.  Give it him.  Brandy."

"Ah!" ejaculated Mr Frewen.  "Quick."

I had already reached out with the hand which I had taken from Hampton's
wrist, and was fishing about with it in the dark, but without a bite.

"Where is it?"  I cried; but as I spoke my knuckles came in contact with
the leather-covered flask so sharply, that I knocked it out of Mr
Preddle's hand, and it fell with a bang on the floor, upon which the
spirit began to gurgle out.

Bob Hampton groaned, and I felt that all was over; but hanging on to the
rope I bent down, and guided by the sound seized the flask, gave it a
shake, which told me that there was yet a good deal inside, and the next
moment I was holding it to the poor fellow's lips, and listening to the
gurgling the spirit made as he gulped quite a couple of mouthfuls down.

I knew he had taken it all, for I had at last raised the flask quite
upright, and he drew his lips away.

"Now, Hampton," whispered Mr Frewen, "hold on for a little till the
spirit begins to stimulate you."

"It's begun a'ready, doctor," was the answer.  "It's put new life into
me, sir, and I'm going to make a try for it directly."

"Not for a minute, man, not for a minute."

"In half a minute, sir, or it's of no good, for I'm a heavy man."

I tried to speak, but no words would come, for I felt as if my mouth and
throat were quite dry, and there I stood hanging on to the rope, till in
a curious hoarse whisper the man said--

"I'd say make fast the end o' the rope about me; but--"

"Can you hold on the while?"  I said; for my voice came back at this.

"Try, lad."

I don't know how I did it in so short a time; but it was Bob Hampton's
teaching that made me so quick, as, leaving Mr Frewen to hold up the
bight, I seized the end, passed it round the man's chest, and made it
fast, and as I finished he said softly--

"Here goes!"

Then he began to climb, and as he went up I soon found that the rope was
being drawn through our hands.  But we kept our touch of it, so that if
he fell we could still let it glide till he reached the water, and then
hold on till a boat was lowered to save him.  Up he went, breathing very
hard, higher and higher, with a loud, rustling noise.  Then he stopped a
little, and we tightened our hold, for we thought he was gone; but he
struggled on again, up and up, and at last hung quite still, and now we
felt that it was all over, for he was exhausted.  I listened for the
horrible splash, but it did not come, for he began again, and we heard
one of his hands give a sharp smack.

"What's that?" whispered Mr Preddle through the opening, but neither of
us replied.

We could not, though we knew that Bob Hampton must have loosened his
grip of the rope with one hand to make a dash at the top of the
bulwarks.  Then there came a faint scraping sound, and I turned giddy
from the cessation of the intense drag upon my brain.  For I knew that
the poor fellow had reached the deck.  In proof thereof the rope was
shaken sharply, and then jerked out of our hands.  A faint scraping
sound followed, and I knew it was being drawn up.

I heard no more till Mr Frewen spoke to me; his voice sounding strange
through a peculiar, loud, humming noise in my ears.

"Feel better, my lad?"

"Better!"  I said wonderingly.  "I'm not ill."

"Oh no," he said, "not ill; only a little faint."

"Here," I said sharply, "why did you lay me on the floor?"

"You fell," he said; "or rather you slipped down.  There, drink a little
of this water."

"Is he all right again?" came out of the darkness in a sharp whisper.

"Yes, coming round now," I heard Mr Frewen say.

"Yes, I remember now," I cried quickly.  "But Bob Hampton, did he get up
safely?"

"Yes, quite safely."

Just then there was a sharp rattling of the door, and it was thrown
open, while I closed my lids, so dazzling did the light of the lanterns
which were held up above the heads of Jarette and Walters seem to my
aching eyes.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

"Here, what's all this noise about?" cried Jarette, roughly; and his
words gave me intense relief, for I knew that he must be in ignorance of
all that had taken place.

"I was not aware, sir, that we were making any noise," said Mr Frewen,
coldly.

"Then what's the matter, doctor?"

"You can see, sir.  The lad has been taken ill.  No wonder, shut up in
this stifling cabin."

"Humph!  My faith, yes.  One is enough.  Make him well, and he shall
have another to himself to-morrow."

"Not if I know it," I said to myself, as I lay with my eyes closed,
thinking how I would sham being too ill to leave the doctor's cabin; but
directly after feeling quite in dismay, for it struck me that if I were
not taken away, Mr Frewen might be, and then all our proposed plans
would be upset.

I opened my eyes with quite a start just then, for to my great delight a
gruff voice exclaimed--

"He arn't ill.  Wants a bucket of cold water drawn and soused over him.
That'd put him right."

"You speak when you're spoken to, Bob Hampton," said Jarette, with a
snarl.

"All right, skipper--cap'n, I mean; all right."

"Yes, it's all right," I said to myself, with a sigh of relief, as I
closed my eyes again and lay quite still, listening to what passed.

"Well," said Jarette, "what are you going to do?  Oh, that is some stuff
you are going to give him."

"Yes, you need not wait," said Mr Frewen, quietly.  "But you had better
leave me a light."

"What for?  Set the ship on fire?"

"If I wanted to set the ship on fire, I have plenty of matches," said
Mr Frewen.

His imitation of the renegade Frenchman's pronunciation of the word
"ship" was almost involuntary, and he told me afterwards how he
regretted making such a slip, for Jarette winced and darted a malignant
look at him which was not pleasant to see.

He did not speak again, but stood looking on while Mr Frewen held some
water to my lips, and bathed my temples, both of which proceedings were
quite needless, for I was quite recovered now from my faintness, and he
ended by helping me to lie down in the cot.

Upon seeing this, Jarette said something shortly to his followers and
they drew back, the door was closed, and we were in total darkness once
again.

"And all that trouble, care, and suffering for nothing, Dale," said Mr
Frewen, dolefully.

"For nothing?"  I said, sitting up.  "Do you call it nothing to have
found out that we have three strong men on the other side ready to fight
for us?  I don't."

"I had forgotten that for the moment," said my companion.  "Yes, that is
worth all our trouble; but I'm afraid poor Hampton will not venture to
communicate with us again, so what do you say to beginning our sawing
business once more?"

"Oh no: not to-night!"  I said.  "Perhaps Bob Hampton will be able to
propose a better way next time he comes."

"If he does come, my lad."

"Ah, you don't know him so well as I do, Mr Frewen.  He is sure to come
again."

"I hope he will, my lad."

"Oh, he will; and you see if he does not tell us to wait until he and
Neb Dumlow are on guard.  They'll get us out and then help us to open
the cabins one by one."

"Nothing like being sanguine, my lad," he said; "but there, it's getting
very late.  Let's sleep now."

I did not feel at all disposed to obey, and lay still, watching the
stars through the open cabin-window, thinking over the events of the
earlier part of the night, till the stars were blotted out, and I was as
fast asleep as Mr Frewen, or our fellow-prisoner in the next cabin, who
breathed so heavily that when I was awake it sounded like a snore.

I seemed to be watching the stars one minute, and the dazzling water the
next, for the sun was high when I opened my eyes again, and the sea
looked of such a delicious blue, that it was hard to feel low-spirited,
and trouble oneself about our failure.

Mr Frewen lay on the floor fast asleep, and I was thinking whether I
had not better follow his example, when I started up and gave my head a
thump against the top of the cot, for something suddenly appeared at the
round opening of the cabin-window, and for a moment I thought it was a
bird.  The next I was out of my cot and close to the window, waiting for
an opportunity to make a snatch at the object swinging to and fro.

I could have made a dart at it instantly, but I wanted to make sure,
knowing as I did that Bob Hampton or one of his men must be leaning over
the bulwarks listening, and that the bait at the end of the thin line
hanging down over our window was intended for me.

At last I made a snatch at the object, but it only swung out of reach;
then another snatch, but all in vain.  But the last time I was
successful, for one of my hands flew out, and I caught hold of and
dragged the bait in, cut the line with my pocket-knife, and saw it
snatched up out of sight directly.

I made some slight noise in starting back, and Mr Frewen rose quickly
to his elbow to stare in my excited face.

"What is it?" he said in a hurried whisper.

For answer I held before him a packet of something made up in a piece of
canvas, and tied round with spun-yarn.

"Let down to the cabin-window," I whispered, full of excitement, for the
packet was heavy, and I had my suspicions as to what it contained.

I had my knife still in my hand, and my fingers itched to cut the yarn
and open the parcel; but I thrust it beneath the blanket on the cot, and
went to the cabin-door to listen.

All was silent there, and though I listened for a few minutes, there did
not seem to be any one stirring on deck, so I turned back to Mr Frewen,
who was now standing by the cot, with his hands under the blanket, and
offered him the knife.

"I believe there are pistols inside, Dale," he whispered.

"I'm sure of it," I said.  "Open it quick.  I'll stand on this side."

He now stood between the parcel and the cabin-door so as to shelter our
treasure, which was turned out of the canvas the next minute, and proved
to be the weapons named, a pair that I remembered to have seen in
Captain Berriman's cabin, and with them plenty of ammunition.

"Loaded!" whispered Mr Frewen.  "Be careful with yours."

"Mine?"  I said.

"Yes; one is for you, and I hope you will not have to use it; but these
are stern times, Dale, and we must not be squeamish now."

After a few moments' consideration, it was decided to hide one pistol at
the foot of the cot, and the other beneath a quantity of drugs in the
big medicine-chest which stood in one corner of the cabin.

"Hah!" said my companion, smiling for the first time for days.  "I begin
to feel a little more hopeful now, Dale.  You and I are going to take
the ship yet.  That was Hampton's work, of course?"

"Sure to be," I said, and we now began to turn over every plan we could
think of for getting our freedom.

"I want to do it if I can, my lad, without shedding blood, unless one
could not do that without risking life."

I could not help shuddering slightly at this.

That day passed by slowly and monotonously.  We were visited from time
to time by Jarette or one of his men, but always with a strong guard
outside, in which I noted Blane and Dumlow, but they were not allowed to
enter the cabin or hold any communication with us, for they had not
originally been of the mutineer party, and Jarette evidently mistrusted
them still.

I was anxious and excited for fear that orders should come for me to
occupy another cabin, but none came, and no more orders for Mr Frewen
to see the captain.  Toward evening a strong wind arose, which kept
Jarette's men pretty well occupied in reducing sail.

"The scoundrel must be a good seaman," Mr Frewen said to me that night.
"The ship is well handled, you see, and it strikes me that we are going
to have a rough night."

His words proved true, for now as the ship rose and fell creaking and
groaning, and the wind swished through the rigging, I could begin to
realise how horrible it was to be shut below there in the darkness, for
if those now in command of the vessel proved wanting at some particular
crisis of the storm, our fate was sealed.  They might try to save
themselves in the boats, but they would not stop for us.

"What are you thinking about?" said Mr Frewen, suddenly, some time
after dark.

I started, for we had been silent for some time, listening to the hiss
and roar of the waves, and the rough blows given from time to time as
some heavy sea struck us and then rushed by.  And now that Mr Frewen
did speak it was quite aloud, for there was no need for whispering.

"I was thinking about what Captain Berriman and Mr Brymer must feel," I
said.

"About the management of the ship?  Yes, poor fellows, and both
suffering too.  You see that scoundrel has let the whole day pass by
without letting me go and attend the captain.  You are right, Dale, they
must both be feeling horribly about the ship.  Think you can sleep?"

"Sleep?  No; nor you.  It is far too rough for that.  Think this is a
good seaworthy ship, Mr Frewen?"

"I think so.  I hope so," he replied.  "The owners stand high for their
character.  I wish the crew were as good as the ship.  Dale, do you
think we might break out to-night?  We could do it without being heard;
I am sure that I could saw round the lock of the door."

"But Bob Hampton and the others would not be ready for us, and we should
not have their help," I protested.

"But this seems such a chance, my lad, with all that noise, and I want
to be clear in case of accidents."

"Hist!"

"What is it?"

"Something tapped at the cabin-window."

I ran to it, and began to unscrew the fastening, for it was closed
tightly to keep out the spray, since more than once a great wave had
struck against it with a heavy thud that evening, and we did not want a
wet cabin to add to our other miseries.

I swung open the round iron frame, and gazed at the furious sea, all
covered with its white foam, but there was nothing visible for a time.
Then all at once something swung by as the ship rose after careening
over and literally rolling in the hollow between two great waves.

It was momentary, and like a faint shadow, but directly after, with the
swing as of some great pendulum, it passed by again.

The next time I was ready for it, feeling as I did that it was some of
Bob Hampton's work, and reaching out as far as I could get my arm, I
gazed straight before me, trying vainly to make out what it was in the
darkness.

"See anything?"

"No," I said; but the next instant something struck my hand, swept by,
came back, and I had hold of it to draw into the cabin, cut the string
again, and then hastily closed the window--just in time too, for a wave
broke against it directly after with a heavy thud.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

As soon as the roar and rush of water had passed, Mr Frewen whispered--

"Another pistol?"

"Yes," I said, for I had been hurriedly tearing off the drenched canvas
in which it had been wrapped so securely that though the woollen bag in
which pistol and cartridges lay was quite damp, as far as I could tell
they were none the worse for being dipped again and again into the sea.

For there is a capital quality in canvas as a protector; as the material
gets thoroughly soaked it swells and tightens, till it is a long way on
toward being waterproof; and after carefully feeling the weapon, and
examining it in every way we could in the darkness, Mr Frewen expressed
his opinion that it was uninjured, and placed it in his breast to dry.

"This will do for Mr Preddle," he said, and after listening at the
door, where nothing was to be heard but the creaking of the ship's
timbers as she laboured on, sounding to me as if at any moment she might
come to pieces, my fellow-prisoner tapped softly at the partition, and
placing his lips to the opening, called softly upon Mr Preddle.

This had to be repeated several times without effect, and it was not
until I had taken Mr Frewen's place and jerked a little empty phial
bottle through, so that it fell upon him where he was sleeping, that Mr
Preddle started up and cried loudly--

"Who's there?"

"Hist!"  I whispered, and he came quickly to the opening.

"Oh, it's you," he said.  "I had just lain down, and the noise of the
waves prevented my hearing you."

"I thought you were asleep," I said dryly.

"Asleep?  Well, perhaps I was nearly.  You've come to tell me that all
the water will be tossed out of those trays.  Oh, my poor fish!"

"I hadn't," I said, "Mr Frewen wants to speak to you.  He has a pistol
for you ready for when we try to escape."

"Oh dear! oh dear!" he sighed.  "We shall never try to escape.  We're
shut in here, and shall be drowned.  Is the ship going down?"

"No, no; she'll ride it out."

"But those men don't know how to manage her, do they?"

"I think so," I replied.  "I don't half understand big ships, but they
seem to be doing what my father would do with a yacht."

"Let me come, Dale," whispered Mr Frewen.

I drew back, but I was still near enough to hear every word that was
said as the pistol was passed through by Mr Frewen.

"Take it, and be careful.  When it is light, you had better make sure
that there is no moisture in the chambers."

"But when are we going to try and do something?" said Mr Preddle, in
quite an ill-used tone.  "I thought you were going to saw out one of
these boards."

"We are going to act as soon as the word comes from our friends outside.
We can do nothing better than be ready."

I clapped my hand over Mr Frewen's lips, and forcing myself by him,
whispered sharply to Mr Preddle--

"Quick,--lie down!"

I had no occasion to warn my companion, for he had seen my reason for
checking him, and lay down at the side of the cabin, while I glided into
the cot.  For I had caught sight of a gleam of light beneath the door,
and I had hardly settled myself in my sleeping-place, the noise of the
waves and wind covering any sounds we made, when the door was thrown
open, and Jarette and two men stood in the entrance, holding up lanterns
which made their dripping oilskins glisten.

I jumped up directly.

"Is she going down?"  I asked.

Jarette made no reply, but glanced quickly round to satisfy himself that
we were not taking advantage of the storm to try and escape, while Mr
Frewen rose as if he had expected to be called.

"You want me to come and see the captain?" he said quietly.

"No," was the abrupt reply, and the men drew back, the door was shut and
fastened, and we were once more in darkness, listening to the labouring
of the ship as she rose and fell, plunging every now and then head-first
into some great wave which broke over her and deluged the decks.

The faint streak of light disappeared from under the door-way, and we
breathed freely again as there were heavy steps overhead, and I could
tell that in all probability Jarette and the others had gone to join the
man--or men--at the wheel.

"I don't envy that madman his position, Dale," said Mr Frewen.  "His
mind must be in a pleasant state of anxiety, what with the management of
the ship in a storm, his doubts about his prisoners, and the pleasant
little fancies he must have about the laws of our country."

"I think we're best off after all, aren't we?"  I said.  "Hush!--he's
back again.  No--it's Mr Preddle."

"Are you people asleep?" came from the partition.

"Hush!  Go away," I heard Mr Frewen whisper loudly, as after all I
found that I had been deceived, for Jarette had evidently come back to
spy upon and trap us; for, with my breath held in my excitement, I could
hear the rustle of a hand upon the outside of the door, and then a faint
clicking and rustling sound, as if the fastenings were being softly
withdrawn.

"Oh, how I should like to give him a topper!"  I thought, as I rose upon
my elbow and listened, making out, in spite of the roar of the storm,
every movement of our enemy.

"Why, if Mr Frewen liked, he could strike him down senseless, and then
we should be masters of the ship, for the men would give in if they had
no leader."

People's minds have a way of running in the same groove when there is
anything very particular to be done, and it was so here, for Mr Frewen
was thinking, as he told me afterwards, exactly as I did.

But now I could hear nothing but the creaking of the ship and the roar
of the storm, and I was not sure whether the door had been opened or
not.  Suppose it had been, I thought, and Jarette was going to do some
mischief in the darkness!

It was a horrible thought, one which made the perspiration stand upon my
forehead, and begin to tickle the sides of my nose, as I listened
intently for the next movement, or for the sound of his breathing.

But still I could hear nothing, and I longed for a few moments'
cessation of the thud of the waves and hiss and splash which followed,
just as a billow came over the bows and swept the deck with a tremendous
rush and noise.

That was what our visitors had been waiting for.  The door had only been
unfastened.  It was now opened with a quick dash, so that the noise it
would make might be covered by the storm.

Yes; I could mentally see it all now, though everything was black as
ink.  Jarette was standing in the door-way in his oilskins, for I could
hear the crackling sound they made as the noise from the deck and the
hiss of the wind came plainer, and then too, drip, drip,--in those
moments I could hear the water falling from the coat on to the
cabin-floor.

It was all in so many moments.  He seemed to be listening either for any
sound we might make, or for what was passing on deck; and then as he
took a step forward into the cabin, there was a sudden rush, a struggle,
and for the moment, as my blood ran cold, I thought that Jarette had
seized and was about to murder poor Mr Frewen.

My hand went to the foot of the cot, and I was dragging out the revolver
hidden there, when a hoarse voice exclaimed in a husky whisper--

"Avast! what are yer doing on, Mr Frewen?--you'll choke me."

"You, Hampton?"

"Ay, at present."

"I thought it was Jarette," said Mr Frewen, panting.

"Wish it had been, my lad," said the sailor, in the same husky whisper.
"My word, you have got a grip!  But there, I must get back; on'y look
here.  There'll never be a better chance.  Here's an old bosun's
whistle; stuff it in yer pocket, and don't blow it till the right
moment.  When you do, blow hard, and me, Barney, and Neb Dumlow's with
you."

"But--"

"Butter be hanged, doctor.  You've got three pistols, and the door's
open.  You let out the mate, Mr Denning, and Mr Fishmonger; wait till
you think the moment's right, and then down on old Frenchy; whistle
hard, and then we'll all make a rush for the others, and drive 'em chock
into the forksle, or overboard if they don't mind.  Off!"

"One moment, Hampton;" but there was a sharp rustling of oilskins, and
the man had hurried through the saloon and out on deck, where Jarette's
voice could be heard shouting above the din of the wind and sea.

In the cabin then for a few moments there was silence, and I stood in
that black darkness with my heart beating painfully, waiting for Mr
Frewen to speak, and face to face with the thought that in a few minutes
I might be engaged in a desperate struggle with a man and his followers,
and that they would stop at nothing when attacked.

"Why don't you speak--why don't you speak?"  I kept saying to myself,
with a feeling of anger against the man who was absolutely torturing me
by his silence.

But it could not have been a minute, though in my excitement it seemed
to be so long, and he had to make his plans.  Then he spoke in a quiet,
firm way.

"Now, Dale," he said, "it is our duty, and we must fight.  Forget that
you are a boy, and act like a man.  Got your revolver?"

"Yes."

"Charged?"

"Yes."

I'm afraid my voice sounded very husky in my excitement, and my heart
went in leaps and bounds.  Frightened?  Yes, I was: horribly; and if
under similar circumstances any boy or man tells you he was not, don't
believe him.  I wouldn't.  I know I was all of a tremble, but I never
felt for a moment that I was going to shrink as I listened to Mr Frewen
giving Mr Preddle instructions about the revolver.

"No, no," I heard him say, "don't stop to re-charge.  If it will not go
off, use it as a club."  Then he gripped me by the hand.

"Ready?" he whispered.

"Yes."

"Then keep close to me, and come on."

We stepped out into the saloon, shut our door after us, and stood
listening, wondering whether there was a sentry, but all was still, and
concluding that all hands were on deck, Mr Frewen unfastened Mr
Preddle's door in the black darkness.  He came out, and his door was
also closed again.

"Follow!"

We went after Mr Frewen, and he stopped at a cabin-door on the opposite
side, opened it, and I heard him say--

"Brymer."

"Yes, who is it?  Doctor?"

"Yes, dress sharply.  Trousers only."

"I am dressed.  What's up?  Striking?"

"A blow for liberty."

"Hah!  A good time while they're fumbling with the old Castle.  How many
are you?"

"Three, and three stout men on deck."

"Who are they?"

"Hampton, Blane, Dumlow."

"All traitors and scoundrels."

"All true men waiting for my signal."

"Good.  And the captain?"

"Too badly wounded to stir."

"Mr Denning?"

"Too weak."

"Yes.  Lead then; I'll do all you say."

"Are you stronger?"

"Strong enough for that; but give me something to hit with.  All right,
I have my pocket-knife."

"Ready then?  Come on, and let's see what had better be done."

"Get Jarette down at any cost," said the mate.  "The rest will come
easy."

All this was in a whisper, and then we followed Mr Frewen to the
shattered entrance of the saloon, and stood there looking forward, but
seeing very little, though a white peculiar gleam came off the sea, and
a couple of lanterns swung forward, by the side of one of which we made
out the gleam of an oilskin upon whose wet surface the dim light played.

"He'll be up by the wheel," Mr Brymer whispered.  "We must tackle him
there; and once get him down, we can beat back the others.  I'll make
sure for you."

Just as he spoke all doubt was at an end, for we heard Jarette shout an
order to the men at the wheel; and then, before any plan could be made,
he trotted forward, swung himself down the steps on to the deck, as we
shrank back into the companion-way, and went forward.

"Bah!  We've let our chance go," whispered Mr Frewen, and then we stood
fast, for Jarette stopped and turned to come back into the saloon.

"Delivered into our hands," I said to myself, as I drew a long breath,
for the great struggle was about to begin.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

The companion-way was so black that we were completely hidden, and I
heard Mr Frewen draw his breath with a soft hissing sound, as if he now
grasped the fact that a better chance was to be afforded to us of
mastering the leader of the mutineers, who came right to the shattered
entrance, and appeared to be about to enter, but stopped short listening
for a sound, but for a few seconds there was none.  Then all at once in
a muffled way we heard Mr John Denning say a few words in an angry
impatient tone, for the wind had lulled for a few moments.  Then there
came the low murmur of Miss Denning's voice, and directly after the
whistling of the wind again.

Jarette was not two yards from us, and if he had taken another step, I
had made up my mind to fling myself upon him and cling with all my might
to his legs, while the others seized him by the throat and arms.  I say
this, for we compared notes afterwards.

It was not to be, for he came no farther; but apparently satisfied that
all was right, he turned sharply and went forward, and we could from
time to time make out his voice among the others as he gave orders to
the men.

"Another opportunity gone," said Mr Frewen.  "We ought to have leaped
upon him."

"Better luck next time," said the mate.  "He cannot stay forward long.
He is seaman enough to know that his place is at the wheel."

"Then at all costs we must have him when he returns."

"And what then?" said the mate.  "You do not mean to kill him, I
suppose?"

"Oh no; of course not."

"Then I should place the door of one of the cabins wide open, and prop
it.  Then as soon as we have mastered and disarmed him, bundle him
inside and keep him a prisoner."

"Yes; excellent," said Mr Frewen.  "I'll open mine at once."

He crept cautiously across and opened the door to its full extent, and,
as he told me afterwards, he placed a heavy case of instruments against
it, so that it should not swing to again from the motion of the ship.

The next minute he was back, and we were watching and waiting as the
ship laboured terribly, the sea being now terrific; but, as Mr Brymer
whispered, everything possible had been done, and she was under
close-reefed storm canvas.

"I couldn't have done better myself there, but the men at the wheel are
steering very wildly."

There was silence again, and as I listened for a voice, the lanterns
forward swung to and fro, and so much water came aboard that I fully
expected to see them extinguished, when all forward would have been in
darkness.

"Is he never coming again?" whispered Mr Frewen at last.

"Oh yes, he'll come," said Mr Brymer.  "They've got the grog forward
there, and perhaps he has gone below."

"Then why not crawl forward and clap on the forecastle-hatch?"

"Because it will be far safer for us to secure their leader; and,
besides, by closing up the forksle you might shut in our friends as
well."

"Yes, quite right," replied Mr Frewen, and we waited still, with the
wind shrieking amongst the cordage, and the night appearing blacker than
ever.

Thud!  Plash!

A heavy wave had struck the bows, and the spray came hissing and rushing
along the deck after deluging the ship forward.

"I'm certain that my poor fish will all be killed by the salt water,
Dale," whispered Mr Preddle, but I only made an impatient movement, for
I was trying to hear what Mr Brymer whispered to the doctor, who did
not hear the remark, and said--

"What?"

"I say that was bad steering, and if I were in command, there would be a
row."

Thud!  Splash!

This time the water must have curled over in a perfect deluge, for we
could hear it hiss and roar amongst the cordage on the leeward side, and
stream out of the scuppers.

"That must fetch him up if he is below," whispered Mr Brymer, and sure
enough the next moment we heard his voice shouting furiously at the men
at the wheel, though we could hardly make out a word he said.

"Look out!  Here he comes!"

"To the wheel, not here," said Mr Frewen.  "Shall we--"

There was not time to say more, for we caught an indistinct glimpse of
the figure in oilskins, as, balancing itself as well as it could, it
made for the ladder on the starboard side; but just then the ship gave a
tremendous lurch, and our enemy missed the ladder, nearly fell, but
saved himself, and consequent upon the impetus with which he was moving,
darted right in through the companion-way.

The next moment he was down on the deck, making a half-stifled sound,
and held fast while a revolver and knife were taken from a belt beneath
his oilskin.  Then his hands were bandaged behind his back, his legs
treated to bonds, and he was dragged into the cabin, while we stood
panting over him.

"Look here," said Mr Frewen then, in a hoarse voice; "we are going to
lock you in this cabin, but mind, we're all armed--feel that!--it is the
point of a revolver--and I swear to you by all that is holy, if you make
a sound I'll shoot you as I would a dog."

He made a curious, half-choking sound, and we drew back out of the cabin
and the door was shut and fastened.

"Have you got his knife and pistol, Brymer?"

"Yes.  All safe.  Now then, forward silently till we are close upon
them, and then give your signal--a whistle, isn't it?"

"Yes."

"Give it sharply; it will do for your friends as well as for us.  Then
fire if there is the least resistance, close with them, and let's get
them under hatches.  But I beg pardon, sir; you are in command."

"Nonsense!  You could not have given better advice."

"But they will not show much fight.  Without their leader they will be
like sheep."

I could not help hoping that they would turn out to be like sheep, and
leave it to us to play the sheep-dog with them.

"Now then, one more word," said the mate.  "It would have been better to
divide, and part go to starboard, the rest to port, but we are so few."

"Yes, let's keep together," said Mr Frewen, "and make our rush.  Creep
forward half-way, then I'll whistle, and we must do our best.  Ready,
Mr Preddle?"

"Yes, sir, I'm ready; but I'm afraid you must not expect much from me.
I'll hit as hard as I can though."

"That will do.  Now, gentlemen, forward!"

The wind shrieked more loudly than ever as Mr Frewen gave the word, and
with our pistols ready we crept forward with no little difficulty toward
where the lanterns swung, keeping together, and moving slowly so as to
keep our feet.  Before we were half-way toward the bows we could see a
dull light glowing from the forecastle-hatch, and a couple of dark
figures standing in front of it, so that their oilskin-covered bodies
stood out big and grotesque.

That was our goal, I felt, and I knew that if we made a bold rush those
two could easily be driven down, while I hoped that the others would be
too much cowed to fight.

Mr Frewen and the mate were first, Mr Preddle and I behind, and I was
just thinking that it was nearly time for the whistle to be blown and
the rush made, while I thought, too, how easy it would be to make a
mistake and injure a friend with our pistols, when the ship gave such a
lurch that we all went heavily against the bulwarks, to which we clung
to save ourselves from a heavy fall, then bang, _splash_, rose a wave
over the bows, and a voice which came from one of the figures by the
light from the hatch yelled forth a torrent of oaths as he asked what
the men were doing at the wheel.

I turned cold all down my back without the help of the spray, for it was
Jarette's voice we heard, and we had bagged the wrong fox!

For a moment we clung together there in the darkness as the ship hung
over to port; then, as she righted herself, Mr Frewen, feeling
desperate, and that we could not now go back to our place, clapped the
boatswain's whistle to his lips; it sounded shrilly above that which we
could hear in the rigging, and we made our rush.

Describe what followed!  How?  I remember the rush; feeling mad and
desperate, and hearing, as we closed with half-a-dozen men, a couple of
shots fired quickly one after the other.  Then I was in the middle of a
savage wrestling match, in which men were striking blows with all their
might, and a voice was yelling order after order in French, while we
were getting, I felt, the worst of it.

I had seized a man, who whisked me off my legs and whirled me round, but
I stuck to him till he flung me heavily on the deck, and then I wound my
arms round his legs so firmly that as the ship lurched again he fell and
rolled over with me into the scuppers, where he roared at me to let go
before he used his knife.

I need not add that he did not say use his knife, for his language was
far stronger, and he made a horrible reference to my throat.  But I was
wound up then; the fighting instinct had been roused, and holding on
more tightly, I made use of my teeth as well, but not in his flesh.

Meanwhile I had a misty notion of the fight going against Mr Frewen and
my two friends, and just then Jarette yelled in French, and directly
after in English--

"Heave them overboard if they don't give in!"--when rush! crack! two men
who had been forward sprung at the Frenchman, who went down heavily, but
rose on one arm, and as I clung to the man in the scuppers I could see
the chief mutineer clearly.  For he was between me and the light, and I
started as there were two loud pistol reports, a shriek, and a man fell
with a thud; but the next instant I saw some one spring at Jarette as he
was going to fire, and strike with all his force, with the result that
he fell backward down the hatch.

Then another man was beaten below, and again another, and then the hatch
was clapped down and held by Mr Preddle, while another man was dragged
along struggling hard till Bob Hampton struck him over the head.

"Open the hatch!" he yelled.

Mr Preddle obeyed, and a flash of light came out with a loud report as
the man was thrown down and the hatch clapped on again.

"Here, quick, help!"  I shouted, for I was about exhausted.

"Where are you, boy?" cried Bob Hampton, and he ran to where the man I
clung to was just jerking himself clear.  Then he came down upon me with
a groan as Bob Hampton struck at him, and, half-insensible, he too was
dragged to the hatch and thrown down as another shot was fired.

"I'm all right!" yelled Mr Preddle, securing the hatch again.

"Where's Mr Brymer?"

"Here, help!" came from somewhere forward, and as I struggled up I had a
faint view of Mr Frewen and Hampton rushing forward and bringing back a
couple more men with pistols held to their heads.  I saw that, for the
light from the swinging lanterns gleamed upon the barrels.

These two men were thrown down, and one more shot came crashing up, but
without hurting any one, and then a familiar voice said--

"Here's another!" and Dumlow staggered up, pushing a sailor before him.

"You'll pay for this night's work when the noo--"

He said no more, for he received a heavy blow in the mouth, and then
kicking and struggling with rage, he too was thrown down.

"How many more?" panted Mr Frewen.

"There's three on 'em forward," growled Bob Hampton.  "The look-out man
and two more."

"Pistols!" cried Mr Frewen, loudly, and then as there was a sharp
clicking from mine as well as three others, he shouted--"Now, you men,
surrender, or we fire!"

"Not us!" came back hoarsely.  "Now, lads, rush 'em; they've got no
pistols!"

Two shots hardly heard in the roar of the storm were fired over the
heads of the men who were about to rush forward; but if the reports were
faint in the din, the flashes were bright and clear, and in place of
charging at us they hung back, and we were upon them in an instant.  I
say we, for somehow or other I did as the others did, and the men gave
in directly and were marched to the hatch, below which jarette could be
heard raving at his fellow-prisoners.

"Now," cried Mr Brymer, "you know me, my lads; I never say things I
don't mean.  The moment that hatch is opened, you jump down.  If you
hesitate I fire."

"But old Frenchy will fire up as soon as it's opened."

"He will not fire at you."

"But he may hit us, sir."

"Open that hatch, Mr Preddle," cried Brymer, and he cocked his pistol,
Mr Frewen following suit.

"That's right, sir; fire too, in case I miss."

"But," cried the man, imploringly, "let me stay on deck, and I'll return
to my duty."

"We don't want you, dog!" cried Mr Frewen.

"Down with you!" roared Mr Brymer, as the hatch flew up, and there was
a flash and report, which the man waited for, and then leaped.

"Down with you!" cried Mr Brymer again, but the other two men
hesitated, and were hanging back.  The next moment they went down
headlong, impelled as they were by Bob Hampton and Dumlow.

"There," cried Bob Hampton, as we all stood there breathless with
excitement, and quite forgetful of the storm raging round us, "if
anybody had told me, Neb, as Barney would have been such a cur, I'd ha'
hit him in the mouth for a liar."

"Yah!" growled Dumlow, "and I've shook hands with him and called him
`mate' scores o' times.  Yah!"

"Never mind, gents, we've done it, eh?" cried Bob Hampton.

"God bless you both for true men!" cried Mr Brymer, holding out his
hands to them, and for a few minutes there was a general hand-shaking
all round.

"But we're forgetting the men at the wheel," said Mr Frewen.  "How many
are there?  Two?"

"Oh, they're a couple o' soft Tommy sort of chaps," said Bob Hampton.
"I can settle them two with one hand.  That arn't the worst on it, sir;
we've got to tackle Barney Blane.  No, I won't do it for fear I should
finish him, and you'd best steer out o' that job, Neb."

"If I don't, I shall sarve him like a wornut, mate."

"Dessay you would, my lad.  We'll sponge over the two lads at the wheel
while the gents does Barney.  Hit him, gents, or shoot him somewhere low
down, for he desarves it; all I wonder now is as he did not split all
about it to old Frenchy."

"We could all deal with him," said Mr Frewen.  "You two men come with
us, and you, Dale, keep guard here with Mr Preddle.  A shout will bring
us back directly."

"Right, sir," I said, in a disappointed tone, and then I brightened up,
for he told Dumlow to stop instead.

"Don't be long," said Mr Preddle.  "I want to see to my fish."

"On'y to think, gents," growled Bob Hampton, holding a lantern while Mr
Brymer and the doctor thrust fresh cartridges into their pistols, "the
skipper--I mean Frenchy--sends Barney aft to speak to the men at the
wheel, for they were steering anyhow, and he knowed as this game was
going to be played, and--Eh?  Well, what are you laughing at, Mr Dale?
What have I said wrong?"

For I had burst into a roar of laughter, in which Mr Frewen joined.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

"That's one enemy the less to deal with," cried the mate, as we went
aft, followed by the sailor.  "Only a couple of them to tackle."

"I makes three of 'em, sir," said Hampton, "so don't you make no
mistake.  Barney will be as nasty as nasty at seeing hisself the wrong
side, and find as he can fight when he likes."

"Our friend Barney is already accounted for, Hampton," cried Mr Frewen.

"What?--you have tackled him?" said Bob Hampton excitedly, slapping his
knee.

"Yes, that we have, Bob," I cried, "and he is quite safe."

"Then I scuses you all for laughing, gentlemen; though it did seem
rather a rum thing to me for you to be a-busting out in a loud grin at a
serus time like this.  I see now.  You met him then?"

"Yes, we met him," replied Mr Frewen, leading the way up the ladder to
the poop-deck, "but he must wait."

He cocked his pistol as he reached the top, and we did the same.

"Shall I speak 'em first, gentlemen?" said Bob Hampton, in a low voice.

"Yes, tell them to surrender," said the mate.  "We don't want any more
fighting; and look here, Hampton, we want their help to navigate the
ship."

"I know, sir," growled the old sailor, and stepping to the front he
walked straight to where the two men still kept to their posts at the
wheel, knowing as they did that to leave it meant throwing the ship into
the trough of the sea to be deluged by every wave.

"Game's up, my lads!" shouted Hampton.  "Orficers has got the upper hand
on us with loaded pistols, and you've got to knuckle down same as we
have, and return to your dooty."

"All right, messmate," said one of the men, shouting back so as to make
his voice heard, "I don't mind; on'y what about Frenchy?"

"Ay, what about Frenchy?" cried the other.  "We don't want him to come
cussin' us and saying it's all t'other way on."

"Frenchy's down in the fork'sle, with the hatch over him, and two men
with loaded pistols keeping guard, lads."

"But s'pose he gets out again?"

"They arn't going to let him," said Bob Hampton, "so what's it to be?
I've knuckled down, and so's Neb Dumlow and Barney Blane.  Are you going
to return to dooty or make a fight on it?  Just say sharp, 'cause we're
in a hurry."

"Oh, we don't want to fight," said the first speaker, "and we didn't
want to mutiny, on'y Frenchy said we was to, and we did."

"Pretty pair o' sheep you was, too, my lads, to run through a gap that
way.  And now look here, you, jest recklect all this; you've both got
your necks in nooses, and Mr Brymer here's got hold o' the other ends
of the ropes, so as he can pull 'em any time he likes, and he will too
if you don't stick pretty close to your dooty.  That's right, arn't it,
sir?"

"Yes, that's right, Hampton," cried Mr Brymer.  "You understand, then,
if you do your duty now and help to navigate the ship into port, your
conduct may--I say may, mind--be looked over."

"Oh, my mate and I'll stick to it, sir," said the spokesman of the two
men.  "Frenchy was all talk about our being orficers and gentlemen if we
rose again Captain Berriman, but as soon as we did rose he pumps hisself
up, and it's all Captain Jarette, and every one else is nobody at all
'cept for him to cuss at."

"That was so," growled Hampton.

"Yes," said the other sailor; "but I wants to know this: if we two's got
our necks in the nooses, why arn't Bob Hampton and Neb Dumlow?"

"'Cause we never shoved 'em in, my lad," said Bob Hampton, with a
chuckle.  "It was all a paddy till we could get the genle-men out to
make a fight on it.  That's so, arn't it, gents?"

"Yes, my lads, Hampton, Dumlow, and Blane have been fighting for us all
through."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" said the man.  "Very well.  Anything for a quiet
life, I says; on'y how much longer are we to be at the wheel?"

"I'll have you relieved soon, my men, so do your best, and keep easing
her off another point or two now and then."

"Ay; don't keep running her nose into all the big waves, mateys," cried
Hampton; and then to Mr Frewen--"You won't have to shoot 'em this time,
sir.  They arn't a bad sort.  It was all that Frenchy."

"Come to the saloon now," said Mr Frewen, and we all hurried down into
the black place, and to the door of the cabin, through which we could
hear a growling sound.

By this time Bob Hampton had been made fully aware of the strange state
of affairs, and was indulging in several hearty chuckles at his
messmate's expense.  And now as I began to unfasten the door, he said
quickly--

"I'd be a bit on my guard, gentlemen, for Barney 'll be a bit nasty at
all this here, and p'r'aps show fight, and when he do he hits hard.  Did
you tie him werry fast?"

"As fast as we could," said Mr Brymer, and I threw open the door.

"Below there, matey!" cried Bob Hampton.  "How are you?"

There was a curious growling noise and a loud rap on the cabin-floor.

"Easy, my lad, and I'll cast you off.  Wait till I get hold of the
knots.  Frenchy's under hatches, and things is all right again."

"Goroo, goroo!" gurgled poor Blane, and knowing exactly what was the
matter, I got hold of the piece of linen that had been used as a gag,
and dragging at one end, soon freed the poor fellow's mouth from its
great stopper.

"Ah!" he roared out, after taking a long free breath.  "That was your
game, Bob, but on'y just wait till I gets my lists."

"No, no, my lad," cried Mr Brymer; "it was all our doing, and we made a
mistake in the darkness.  We were lying in wait for Jarette, and took
you for him."

"No, you didn't," cried Barney, fiercely, "or you'd have pitched me
overboard--you on'y wait till I get my hands loose."

"Don't be a fool, messmate!" growled Bob Hampton; "you hears what the
gentleman says."

"Yes, but it was a lark, and you sent me here to be ketched."

"Now, hark at him, gents; did you ever hear such a wooden image of a man
as that?  Why, it were Frenchy sent you to bully the lads at the wheel,
warn't it?"

"Well, I won't tell a lie," panted the man, "it were, but I arn't been
able hardly to breathe."

"It was all a mistake, my lad," said Mr Frewen; "but we've re-taken the
ship."

"All right, sir," cried Barney; "but it isn't all right.  It arn't fair.
I was to help re-take the Burgh Castle, and I was going to, on'y you
all set upon me as you did, and I'm knocked about orfle."

"Well, messmate, it is disappynting, I'll allow," growled Bob Hampton;
"but there arn't much the matter with you, Barney, and out forrard there
was games, I can tell you.  Old Frenchy was chucking bullets about
anyhow, and 'stead o' being here in this here cabin with me untying
these here knots, you might ha' been yonder with a hole or two through
your carcadge."

"Ay, that's right enough, matey," growled Blane; "but I wanted to help,
and have it out with Frenchy.  He kicked me below when the mootny fust
began, and I can't forget it.  I'm English, I am, and I arn't going to
sit down and be kicked by a Frenchman, 'tarn't likely."

"No, matey, it arn't.  But lookye here.  He's forrard and down in the
forksle, and as soon as you get the feeling back in your legs--"

"Ay, you may say that, mate.  They're like a mask o' cold lead."

"Then I'll rub them for you, and then you can go and strike him back."

"What! now he's down.  Nice sort of cold meat work that'd be; I wanted
to go at him when he was up."

"There, Blane," said Mr Frewen, "you must forgive us and shake hands.
It was all a mistake, and part of the re-taking of the ship."

"Oh, if you put it that way, sir, I'm ready," growled the man; "but I
don't seem to have got no hands.  It was orfle lying here, and one
corner o' that rug as you stuffed into my mouth got a bit o' the way
down my throat, and kep' on tickling me till I wanted to cough, and
couldn't.  Say, Bob Hampton, mate, air you going to untie them knots and
cast off these here lashings, or arn't you?"

"Why, they are off your arms, man."

"When what's gone o' my arms?  Have they been took off?"

"Nay, they're all right."

"Well, my legs arn't.  Nice way to sarve a fellow."

"Shake hands, Barney," I said.  "I'm so sorry."

"Can't, sir.  You must do it yourself.  I don't b'lieve yet as I've got
no hands, no arms, nor anything else, but a head."

"There you are, matey," cried Bob Hampton.  "Did you tie them ropes, Mr
Brymer, sir?  They was tight 'uns."

"No; it was Mr Dale here."

"Oh, him!" growled Bob Hampton.  "Well, they was done in a second-hand
sort o' way."

"Why, they were fastened the way you taught me, Bob!"  I cried.

"Well, sir, that's my modesty," said Bob, with a chuckle.  "I can't say
they were done now.  Now, matey, stand up, we've got lots to do."

"Can't," said Barney.

"Then lie down till we've got a lantern, and seen to the captain and Mr
Denning."

"Yes, get a lantern," said Mr Brymer; "stop, I'll come with you and
stay with Mr Preddle and Dumlow; we mustn't have the scoundrels break
loose.  Ha!  What's that?"

The mate asked the question, but we all knew what it was, and started
forward at once, for it was the report of a pistol, plainly heard in a
lulling of the wind.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

It was alarming, but on reaching the hatch over the forecastle there was
not much wrong.  A desperate attempt had been made to break out, and in
the midst of the effort Mr Preddle had fired his pistol, sending the
ball splintering through the woodwork, and this had the effect of
damping the ardour of the men below for the time.  But we did not leave
the hatch till it had been made more secure, and then leaving Mr Brymer
to strengthen the guard as arranged, we hurried back to relieve the
anxiety of Mr Denning and his sister, and of Captain Berriman, who must
all of them be in agony.

I felt that we ought to have gone to them sooner, but I did not see how
we could have acted differently; and eager now to bear the news of the
change in the state of affairs, I trotted back with the lantern as fast
as I could over the streaming deck, and found Barney sitting down and
rubbing his legs.

"Circ'lation's a-coming back, youngster," he said.  "I say, did you kill
that young Walters?"

"Walters!"  I cried.  "I'd forgotten all about him.  I didn't see or
hear anything of him."

"Dessay not, sir.  He'd get out of the way while the row was on.  Maybe
he'd got into a bunk to have a snooze and didn't hear it.  But, I say,
what a game!"

"What, our re-taking the ship, Barney?"

"No; you thinking I was Frenchy.  Well, it's lucky you didn't heave me
overboard."

"Coming round, mate?" said Bob Hampton.

"Ay, my lad, I've got one arm and a bit o' one leg back, and toothers is
coming back slowly like, but it's rum work feeling nothing but head and
body, and your arms and legs all gone dead at first, and then you begins
to know as they arn't been cut off and chucked away, and they're still
there.  They was just like sleeves and stockings stuffed with sorduss,
and people making cushions of 'em and sticking the pins in as hard as
ever they can."

"I'm so sorry, Barney," I said.

"Ay, lad, I s'pose you are, and seeing as you thinked it was old
Frenchy, I don't wonder as you tied them there knots as hard as ever you
could.  But what I do wonder at is, that the line didn't cut my legs
right off.  Shows as my muscles must be made of real good stuff, and
when I've done rubbing 'em back into shape, I s'pose they'll come all
right once more; but I should have liked to be in the fun."

"Get your pincushions all right, messmate," said Bob Hampton, slapping
Barney on the back, "and don't growl; the game's on'y just begun, and
you shall have first innings next time."

"Think there'll be any more fighting, matey?" said Barney eagerly.

"Think there'll be any more fighting?  Just hark at him, gentlemen.
Why, you grumbling old swab, do you think as, once having hold of the
Burgh Castle and calling hisself skipper, old Frenchy's the sort o' man
to let a few planks and a hatchway keep him from making another try?
You wait a bit, old man, if you're so precious anxious to get yourself
made sore.  Frenchy won't forget us for gammoning him, and pretending to
be on his side."

"I ain't hankshus to be made sore, Bob, old matey," growled Barney;
"it's a kind o' nat'ral feeling in me to make him sore, and I'm going to
do it if I gets half a chance."

"All right then, Mr Brymer 'll see as you has one, I dessay."

The next minute we were at the cabin in which the captain was lying, but
he rose up on one arm as the door was thrown open and the light of the
lantern flashed in.

Mr Frewen went to him directly.

"How are you?" he cried.  "I could not come to you before."

"Tell me," cried Captain Berriman excitedly, "what has been going on?"

"Nothing much," said Mr Frewen, smiling.

"But I heard firing and a struggle in the saloon," cried the captain,
clinging to Mr Frewen's arm.

"Well, yes, we have been re-taking the ship."

"What?"

"Humph!  Poor fellow, he could not bear it," said Mr Frewen, as Captain
Berriman sank back half-fainting, but he re-opened his eyes and clung to
the doctor again.

"Too good--to be true," he muttered.  "Thank God--thank God!"

There was perfect silence for a few moments, as our poor wounded captain
lay back with his eyes closed.  Then with his face losing its feeble,
despairing look, he said anxiously--

"I don't see Brymer; is he hurt?"

"No; quite safe."

"Mr Preddle?"

"We are all pretty sound, and the mutineers are shut down in the
forecastle, sir."

"Oh, if I only had strength!" said the captain.  "Doctor, you have half
cured me with this news; can't you give anything to set me up for an
hour or two?"

"Nothing," said Mr Frewen, sadly.  "I can only tell you that you must
be patient.  You must lie here and give your orders.  We will execute
them as far as we can."

"And we are in a bad storm.  There must be danger on that side too, but
I can do nothing."

"Mr Brymer will do his best, and there are three of the best seamen to
help."

"What?" he cried excitedly.

"Hampton, and two more?"

"No, no, traitors, don't trust them--the scoundrels."

"No, we arn't, cap'n," growled Bob Hampton.  "We was obliged to sham
Abram a bit.  Now I do call that 'ere hard, arter me and Dumlow and
Barney helped get the ship back again."

"You did?" cried the captain.

"Course we did."

"Yes, they have been true as steel," said Mr Frewen.  "You need not
fear these men."

"And that boy, Walters?"

"Oh, him, sir!  He's down below somewheres, and he'd better stay too,"
growled Bob Hampton, "for if he shows his nose, young Mr Dale here's
going to tackle him pretty warmly."

"But have you got the men prisoners?" said the captain, anxiously.

"Yes, quite safe."

"Then the ship must be seen to.  She's labouring heavily.  Tell
Brymer--"

"I shall tell Mr Brymer nothing," said Mr Frewen firmly.  "You shall
give him your orders instead.  You can be at peace now, sir, so lie
still patiently, and believe that everything possible will be done to
preserve order and save the ship."

"Yes; thank you," said the captain, whose lip was quivering.  "I know I
must be patient.  There, I'll try and do what I have not done these many
hours,--go to sleep.  But bring me some news sometimes, Dale, my lad, I
shall be so anxious to know."

I promised him, and then we hurried out, for from time to time there was
an anxious whispering going on in the next cabin, which appealed
strongly to Mr Frewen and to me.

He pointed to the door as soon as we were outside, and his voice sounded
very husky as he said--

"Unfasten it, and go in and tell them that all is safe once more."

"Won't you go?"  I asked, as I offered him the lantern.

"No," he replied, after making an effort to master his anxiety to take
the lead.  "You and Mr Denning were on friendly terms.  He would rather
receive the good news from you.  In with you quick, and tell him that if
he feels strong enough, I--that is, Mr Brymer would be glad if he would
come and help to keep watch over the prisoners."

"With a rewolver," growled Bob Hampton.

"Yes, say with a pistol," said Mr Frewen.  "He would be as effective
there as a strong man."

"Better," growled Bob, "for he understands fire-arm tools, and knows how
to shoot."

I gave a sharp knock at the door, and then unfastened it and entered,
lantern in hand, to see Mr Denning looking ghastly as the light fell
upon his face, where he stood before his sister with a tiny revolver in
his hand, while the other was behind him holding the poor girl whom he
was ready, poor weak creature that he was, to defend as long as he had
life.

They had been so long in darkness that the light of the lantern, feeble
as it was, dazzled them, and they could not see who it was.

Before I had time to speak Mr Denning cried fiercely--

"Keep back, scoundrel, or I'll fire!"

"No, no!  Mr Denning," I cried; "it's all right now, and we've mastered
the mutineers."

"Ah!"

I started forward at that cry--a long, low, pitiful cry--uttered by Miss
Denning; and I heard Mr Frewen's step behind me as I dropped the
lantern and tried to catch the poor girl.  For the good news, after the
long and terrible strain, was more than she could bear.  I knew
afterwards that she had acted like a heroine all through the fearful
excitement, and had worked hard to comfort and sustain her brother;
while now that the tension was removed, she reeled and would have fallen
in spite of my effort.  But as the lantern fell, and we were in
darkness, I felt some one brush by me, and I knew by the sound that she
had not struck the cabin-floor.

"Quick, a light, Bob!--matches!"  I cried.

"Right you are, sir," he said; and as he came into the cabin, I heard
him fumbling about and trying to strike a match, but for several minutes
there was nothing but a phosphorescent streak made on the boards of the
partition.

"Yah! everything's so plaguy wet," growled the sailor.

"Here, let me come, matey," I heard Dumlow say.  "Mine's brass box."
And the next minute there was a sharp crick, crick, crack, a burst of
flame, and I saw Mr Frewen holding poor Miss Denning in his arms, ready
to lay her carefully and reverently down as the lantern was re-lit.

"Yes, Mr Denning," he said quietly, "I think there is no more cause for
anxiety now, except from the storm.  Will you see to your sister, and
bathe her face?  It is only a fainting fit from the sudden shock."

"Yes, thank you," said Mr Denning, coldly and ungraciously, I thought.
"Be good enough to take away your men."

"Of course.  Come, my lads," said Mr Frewen; and he stepped out of the
cabin, followed by Bob Hampton and Dumlow.

"It's all right, Mr Denning," I said.  "Nothing to mind now."

But somehow I did not speak very warmly, for I was hurt by his cold
reception of a man who had been risking his life to save him and his
sister.

My feelings changed though the next moment, for to my astonishment Mr
Denning laid hands on my shoulders, and he quite broke down and sobbed,
while his words were choking and strange.

"Thank God!--thank God!" he said.  "Oh, Dale, if you only knew what we
have suffered, my poor sister and I!"

"Yes, yes, it has been horrible," I said, trying to comfort him, for his
illness had made him weak as a girl; "but that's nothing to mind now.
We've thrashed the scoundrels and locked them up, and Mr Frewen has
behaved like a hero."

"Yes; and--and I'm afraid I spoke very sharply to him, but I could not
help it, Dale."

"Well, you weren't very warm to him," I said; "and he does deserve
something."

"Yes, yes," he cried hastily; "and I'll try and thank him another time.
Hush! she's coming to."

"Yes, and I mustn't stay," I cried quickly; for I was miserably
uncomfortable, and wanted to get away before Miss Denning quite came to,
and burst out sobbing and crying, as I was sure she would.

"Can't you stop--a few minutes?" he said.

"No; I must go on deck.  There's everything to do, and we're
short-handed.  I'll leave you the light."

"Thank you, yes," he cried, wringing my hand.

"Tell Miss Denning I'm so glad," I said hastily; and then I hurried out.
But I was no sooner outside than I remembered my message, and ran back,
to find, as I expected, that Miss Denning was sobbing on her brother's
shoulder; when to my horror she left him, and with a cry flung her arms
about my neck and kissed me.

"Oh, Alison Dale," she cried warmly, "bless you, and thank you!  You
have always been like a dear good brother to us both, ever since we have
been on board."

"He has--he has," cried Mr Denning warmly, and he looked as pleased as
could be at his sister's behaviour; while as for me, I would have given
anything to be outside the cabin.  For to a lad of my age, being thanked
for what I had done was painful in the extreme; and in a hurried way I
hastened to tell them my message, and briefly about how we had found
friends in the mutineers' ranks, and then of our attack and success.

But my stay was brief.  We had so far mastered one enemy, but were
suffering from the attack of another, which we had ignored for a time;
while now it was impressing itself upon us all, as I soon found, in a
very serious way.

On reaching the deck, along which I had to guide myself by holding on by
the side, and catching at rope and belaying-pin, I found that the sea
had risen higher, and the wind was rushing through the rigging with
almost hurricane force.  But I made my way to the forecastle-hatch,
where Mr Preddle was still on guard, as I could see by the light of the
swaying lantern, and Mr Brymer was with him.

"Ah, Dale," he cried, "I'm glad you've come.  I want you to stay on
guard with Mr Preddle.  You have a pistol?"

"Yes," I said, pointing to my belt.

"That's right.  I want to go to the wheel.  Hampton is there now.  I
should like to do more, but it is terrible work now, short-handed as we
are; and we must run on in this blind fashion, for I have no idea where
we are."

Just at that moment there was a tremendous crack overhead, followed by a
snapping as of pistol-shots; for one of the sails had got loose, and was
now being torn into ribbons, which snapped and cracked like so many
cart-whips on a gigantic scale.

"Is that dangerous?"  I shouted, for the wind carried away my voice.

"No; a blessing, my lad.  It will save her.  I only want steering power.
Look here, don't fire unless you are obliged.  If you do, mind, I take
it as a signal that you want help, both of you; and then of course we
shall come to your help.  But what about Mr Denning?"

As he spoke, the invalid came struggling along by the bulwarks, and I
ran to help him to where he could stand in shelter.

"Glad to see you, Mr Denning.  Ah, that's right.  Rather a small
pistol, but I dare say it can do its duty.  You will help them?"

"As far as my strength will let me," he said.

"That's right.  Now, Mr Preddle, I must go.  Sorry about your fish, but
we can do nothing till the weather mends."

"No, I'm afraid not," Mr Preddle yelled.

"I don't hear that crying out now."

"No; I haven't heard it since Mr Dale came," panted Mr Preddle, with
the wind driving his words back so that he could hardly get his breath.

"That must wait too.  The safety of the ship is all we can look to now."

He made a dash for the weather-bulwark, and disappeared at once into the
darkness and mist of spray which flew before the gale, hissing by us,
and drenching us to the skin.

"You ought to have brought a waterproof, Mr Denning," I said.

"Who could think of waterproofs at a time like this?" he said, with his
lips to my ear.  Then with a start, as he turned his head and looked
forward--"What's that?"

I had heard a cry as he spoke.

"I don't know," I said.  "Why, it must be some one wounded crying for
help."

"It is what Mr Brymer and I heard several times before," said Mr
Preddle excitedly.  "He thought it must be one of the mutineers who had
escaped aloft at first, afraid to stir to come down."

"I don't think it could be that," I said.  "It didn't sound like being
up aloft."

"So he said.  Then he thought--"

"There it is again," cried Mr Denning and I heard, above the shrieking
of the wind and the hissing spray, a despairing kind of wail, as if some
one called for help.

"Why, it's forward somewhere," I said, with a curious shudder running
through me which was not caused by the wind and spray.

"Yes, that's what Mr Brymer said; but he went and searched all about
forward."

"Then it must be one of the men below--one who is wounded," I said.  "Do
you think we could send Mr Frewen down to his help?"

"Not without letting your prisoners loose," said Mr Denning,
decisively.  "I'm sorry for the man, but he must suffer for the
present."

"It's very horrible," I said; "for he may be very bad--dying perhaps."

"Yes," said Mr Denning coldly; "but it was not our work, I suppose."

"There it is again," said Mr Preddle.  "When the mate was here, he felt
sure that some one had crept overboard, and down to what he called the
stays under the bowsprit."

"When the attack was made?"  I cried.  "Yes, that must be it.  There it
goes again.  That was certainly `Help!'"

"Yes."

"He must be afraid of falling.  Why, the vessel keeps on driving into
these great waves, and at every dip down he must be nearly drowned."

"What are you going to do, Dale?" cried Mr Denning.

"Find out where he is, and then lower a rope to him; and when he has
fastened it round him, we must haul him on board, even if he is another
enemy.  There'll be no need to be afraid of him."

I was trying to make out where I could most handily find a rope, when,
plainly heard above the heavy beating of the waves against our bows, as
the ship rose and fell in her wild race onward through the dense
blackness ahead, there was the murmur of a voice and a loud movement
below the hatch we were guarding.

Then distinctly heard came the words--

"Give me room then," and this was followed by a crashing sound, and a
jar against my hand as I held on to the side of the hatchway.

"They've got a chopper, and are going to cut their way out!"  I said
excitedly.  And almost as I spoke there was another dull blow, and this
was followed by a cheer.

"What are you going to do?"  I cried, as Mr Preddle held on with one
hand, and presented his revolver at the door of the hatchway.

A flash and a dull report served for my answer then; and as the bullet
crashed through the woodwork, there was a yell, a dull sound as of a
fall, and then in the momentary silence Mr Preddle said--

"Those were my orders; I was obliged."

A ragged volley was fired then from below, and we heard the bullets
striking the wood, and saw two or three splitting the thick wood at the
top of the hatchway.  But we stood back too much for either of them to
touch us, as we listened, trying to distinguish the words said, as we
pictured, no doubt pretty accurately, what was going on in the
forecastle; for a dull groaning told only too plainly that Mr Preddle's
shot had taken effect.

What I pictured was the men lifting their bleeding companion forward to
one of the bunks, while others were talking and raging furiously about
the shot.

I shuddered, and yet I felt excited, and that it was a necessity.  And
just then I made out Jarette's voice shouting at the men, and giving
some order which only evoked a deep growl.

"I don't like having to fire like that," said Mr Preddle just then;
"and I feel now as if I ought to fetch the doctor.--Ah, Frewen," he
cried, "I've just shot one of the men."

For there were Mr Frewen, the mate, and Barney Blane, all panting and
eager to help us.

I told him what had happened, and Mr Brymer said quietly--

"On their own heads be it.  This may act as a warning to them.  But
there must be no hesitation; our lives and that of Miss Denning depend
upon swift action.  At the first stroke of an axe, fire again."

"I will," said Mr Preddle firmly; and by the light of the lantern I saw
that the chambers of his revolver were exposed, and that he was
thrusting in a fresh cartridge.

"Ought we to send down Mr Frewen?" said Mr Denning just then.

"Don't ask absurd questions, sir," replied Mr Brymer angrily.  "Come,
Frewen.  Now, my lad."

He turned away, and before following, Barney Blane got beside me, to say
in my ear--

"Disappynted again, sir.  I did think I was to have a go at Frenchy
now."

He hurried off; and the shrieking of the wind ceased for a few moments,
during which we strained our ears to try and make out what went on
below, when very faintly, but the word distinctly heard, came the cry--

"Help!"

"There is some one forward there by the bowsprit!"  I cried excitedly;
and leaving my companions, I crept to the bows, and, holding on tightly,
climbed up and looked over, seeing nothing but the foaming water churned
up by the ship as she plunged on and on, looking as if she were moment
by moment going to split upon what might have been one huge black rock
right ahead.

I changed my position, and got to the other side of the bowsprit to hold
on and look over there, but still I could see nothing, and though I
shouted again and again there was no reply.

"Nobody could possibly be hanging on there," I thought, as I tried to
pierce the mist of spray; and I felt that if low down on the stays, he
would be dipped at every plunge, and drowned in a few minutes, and if
higher, to a certainty, unless lashed to the ropes, be washed off.

I stayed some minutes, hailing again and again, with my voice carried
forward by the wind, and then made my way back to my two companions,
whose faces were turned inquiringly toward me as I shook my head.

"There can't be any one there," I said.  "It's impossible."

"So Mr Brymer thought," said Mr Preddle.  "He said he would be either
washed off or drowned, and that it must be one of the men below."

"There it is again," said Mr Denning; "and it is below."

"Yes; there!"  I cried, for there was a heavy banging at a bulk-head,
and some one shouted savagely to whoever cried for help to be quiet, and
then a shot was fired, but not at us.

"The wretches!"  I said.

"The wretch!" said Mr Denning.  "That was Jarette's voice, I'm sure;
and he must have fired."

"At some prisoner they have there below," I said.

"Or at the wounded man," cried Mr Preddle.

"It must be another wounded man then, for you heard the sound before you
fired that shot."

"Yes; and it makes me feel better satisfied, for the mutineers are such
brutes--such savage brutes."

"There!"  I cried; "do you hear?" for once more the cry for help came so
piteous, faint, and despairing that it seemed to go through me from head
to heel in one long, continuous shudder.

"If it hadn't been for what we heard just now," said Mr Preddle just
then, "I should have been ready to think it was something uncanny--
something ghostly; but," he added hastily, as Mr Denning turned a
mocking face to him, "I don't think so now."

"It's very horrid," I said; "and the worst of it is that one can't do
anything.  I wish we could send Mr Frewen to help the poor fellow,
whoever it is."

"Yes, it is horrible," said Mr Denning; "but they made us suffer so
that I feel hardened against them.  It must be a wounded man."

"Why," I cried, as a flash of mental light just then illumined my thick
brain, "I know!"

I was so excited by my discovery, which was one of those simple finds
that the wonder was it had not been thought of at once, I could hardly
contain myself, and I made for a swinging lantern and took it down.

"What is it?  What have you found out?" cried Mr Denning at the top of
his voice, though it only sounded feeble then in the din of the storm.

"It's some one in the cable-tier," I cried.

"Cable-tier?  Where's that?"

"Just forward.  Front of the forksle," I shouted.  "We must get the
hatch off."

"No, no; not till Mr Brymer comes," said Mr Denning.

The words sounded so wise that I hesitated with the lantern in my hand,
and for a moment or two I thought of running off to report my discovery;
but I recalled the fact that I was on a perilous duty, and that I had no
right to leave my post without orders; so I re-hung the lantern, and
then, after listening and convincing myself that there was no
threatening sound coming from below, I shouted to my companions what I
was going to do, and then staggered forward to the carefully battened
down hatch, beneath which the great rusty chain cable was lying in a
heap.

I listened, and my heart sank with disappointment, for the wind was
shrieking as fiercely as ever, and I could not hear a sound.

"Am I mistaken after all?"  I thought, and listened still.

Just then, with a heavy thud, as the ship plunged downward, a wave
struck the port-bow, rose in a perfect cataract, and curling over,
deluged me and rushed along the deck.

I should have been swept away, but the combings of the hatch sheltered
me a little, and as the hissing splash of the water ceased, I fancied I
heard a faint clink of one of the links of the great chain below, while
the moment after came more plainly than I had heard it before a
smothered, piteous cry--

"Help!"

And again directly after, as if he who uttered the cry were in agony--

"Help!"

I took out my pistol and thumped with the butt on the hatch, when there
was silence again.

"Below there!"  I shouted with my lips close to the boards.

"Help! pray help!" came in answer.

"All right," I cried; "I'll see."

I crept back on hands and knees to my companions, who were waiting for
me impatiently.

"It's all right," I said; "there's some one in the cable-tier a
prisoner, and as it must be some one of our lads he is of course afraid.
Oughtn't I to run to Mr Brymer?"

The need ceased the next moment, for before we could decide whether the
signal ought to be given by firing a pistol, Neb Dumlow appeared in the
feeble glow shed by the lantern, coming out of the black darkness in a
peculiarly weird fashion.

"Ahoy!" he growled.  "Mate says, is all right?"

"No," I said eagerly, for boy as I was, I seemed to be the captain of
that watch, the two gentlemen giving place to me, even if they did
oppose some of my ideas.  "Go and tell Mr Brymer to come here."

"Ay, ay!" growled the great ugly fellow--uglier now in the darkness than
he had ever looked before--and he turned and trotted aft, to return in a
few minutes bearing a lantern, and in company with the mate and Mr
Frewen.

I told them what I had discovered, and Mr Brymer gave an angry stamp.

"Of course!" he cried.  "I might have known.  Why, it must be one of our
lads, and a friend.  Quick, Dumlow, and have off that hatch."

In another moment or two the sailor was on his knees dragging off the
piece of tarpaulin which had been fastened down over the top, probably
when the storm began, and directly after the hatch was lifted off, and
the lantern held down to throw its light upon a ghastly face, which was
raised to us as a couple of hands grasped the combings around the
opening.  I was so astounded that I could not speak, only listen, as
Dumlow shouted--

"I say, what cheer you, my lad?"

And Mr Brymer--

"Walters!  Why, my lad, what are you doing there?"

"Help!" groaned my old messmate with a piteous look up at us;
"half-smothered--water--help!"

"Well, mutineer or middy," said Mr Brymer, "there's nothing to fear
from you.  Take one arm, Dumlow," and seizing the other himself, they
hoisted Walters quickly out of the little compartment and set him on his
feet; but his legs gave way, and he dropped on the deck and lay upon his
back.

At that moment sounds came up from the hatch, which suggested the
possibility of the mutineers breaking through the heavy bulk-head and
making their way on deck that way, so before aught else was done, the
hatch was securely fastened down again.

While that was in progress, but feeling wroth all the time, I bent down
over the poor, miserable-looking wretch, whose eyes were following every
movement I made, and recalling the shot I had heard fired, I at once
came to the conclusion that he was hurt.

"Here," I said roughly, "where are you wounded, so that I can tell Mr
Frewen?"

"I'm--I'm--"

"Well, where?"  I said, still very roughly, for the sight of the
treacherous young wretch made a hot feeling of rage against him rise in
my throat.

"Not--not wounded," he said feebly.

"Then what's the matter with you?"  I cried contemptuously; "sea-sick?"

"No--no, that--that wretch, Jarette."

"What?" cried Mr Brymer, with a mocking laugh.  "What?  `Wretch
Jarette!'  Do you mean your captain, my worthy young lieutenant?"

Walters' eyes gave a roll and then closed as he lay there; but they
opened again directly, for Mr Brymer gave him an angry thrust--a
thrust, not a kick--with his foot.

"Here, get up, cur!  You're our prisoner now.  What do you say?"

Walters' lips were moving as Dumlow held the light over him and bent
down.

"Says as you're to stow him in prison, sir, and not let the skipper see
him."

"Bah!  Has it come to this?  Speak to him, Dale.  What does he say now?"

"Water; he is asking for water," I said, as I saw how piteously weak the
lad was.

"Suffering from exhaustion and want of air."

"Then he must have a rest," cried Mr Brymer.  "Now, sir, can you get up
and walk?"

"No," said Mr Frewen, decisively.

"Lift him up, Dumlow," said Mr Brymer, "and bring him aft to one of the
cabins.  Will you see to him, Mr Frewen?"

The doctor nodded, and I felt as if I wanted to go; but my duty was
there, and I had to stay.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

That storm showed no signs though of abating, and we watched on through
the night, constantly on the strain, attacked as we were by alarms from
below, and the furious assault of the winds and waves.  Several times
over during the night, when I was suffering from the cold, and faint
with hunger and exhaustion, a horrible chilly feeling of despair came
creeping over me.  I began thinking of home and those there who would be
heart-broken if I was lost; but always at these worst times something
seemed to happen that took me out of myself, giving me work so
particular to do that all my energies were directed to that duty, and in
consequence I forgot my own troubles.

Twice over, when Mr Brymer came with one or other of the men, Mr
Denning expressed a wish to be relieved, and I had to take his arm and
help him along under the shelter of the bulwarks to the saloon and the
cabin where his sister was waiting anxiously for news, and as we
struggled aft, he talked to me as freely as if I had been his brother.

"Is there any hope for us, Dale?" he said on one occasion as we rested
for a few moments underneath the bulwarks.

"Oh yes," I replied.  "Why not?"

"I don't know, I'm not a sailor, but I should not have thought the ship
could have kept on long like this without sinking."

I laughed.

"Why, she's a splendid boat," I said, "and quite strong, and so long as
we've got plenty of sea-room, we shan't hurt."

"You're talking like this to comfort me," he said.

"No; I'm telling you the truth as far as I understand it.  Of course
I've never been out in a storm on the ocean before, but I've been in
some big ones off the coast round Ireland, where we were always in
danger of going on the rocks, which are awful there."

"But the sea comes thundering down on the ship so."

"What of that?"  I replied.  "The ship's hollow, and it sounds all the
more, but the water is soft, and we go through it or ride over it
somehow."

"Ah, you're too young to know what fear is," he said sadly.

"Oh no, I'm not," I cried, laughing.  "I've been awfully frightened
several times to-night, but I'm more afraid of Jarette and his gang than
I am of the sea."

"You have no sister on board," he said.  "No bitter regrets for letting
her come into such danger."

"No," I said, rather chokingly; "but I've got people at home, and it
would be very horrid to think I should never see them again."

"Let's go on," he said laconically, and I helped him along, choosing the
easiest moments till we were in shelter, and then without leaving hold
of me he whispered--

"Make the best of things to her."

There was a lamp burning in the cabin as we entered, and Miss Denning
sprang to our side.

"Oh, John," she cried piteously, "this will be death to you, drenched
with the cold sea!  Pray, pray, stay in shelter now."

"Nonsense!" he cried; "it does me good, and it's grandly exciting to
fight the storm like this.  How are you, little one?  Ah, don't touch
me, I'm wet."

"Suffering terribly, John dear.  You must stay with me now."

"Tied to your apron, you foolish girl," he said merrily.  "Nonsense!
I'm wanted to help.  There, I bring you good news.  We've got all the
pirates safely in prison, and as soon as the storm's over all will be
right again."

Miss Denning gave me a piteous, inquiring look.

"Yes, that's quite right, Miss Denning," I said cheerfully.

"But this terrible storm; shall we be wrecked?"

"Ships don't get wrecked out in the open sea," I replied coolly, "only
have their sails blown away, and sometimes lose a spar, or get a boat
torn off the davits."

"Then you think we are safe?"

"Oh yes, I hope so," I replied.

"Safe?  Of course, darling little cowardly sis," said Mr Denning,
kissing her pale cheek very lovingly, and I felt that I had never liked
him so well before, never having seen his true nature and affection for
his sister.

"Now then, Mr Dale and I have to go back on duty to shoot mutineers and
pirates, and you are to lie down and trust in our all taking care of
you.  Try and sleep for a few hours."

"Sleep!" she said reproachfully, "with you exposed to all that danger."

"Yes!  Why not?  To grow strong, and ready to help me if I want it."

"But, must you go, John?"

"Yes, dear," he said gravely, "I must; but, please God, the worst danger
is over, and you will not hinder me from doing my duty like a man, even
if I am a weak one."

She held his hand to her cheek, and smiling at me, spoke quite
cheerfully.

"Come back in about an hour," she said, "and I will have coffee made
with the spirit-lamp, and try and find some biscuits."

"That we will," cried Mr Denning.  "Make plenty, Lena, Mr Brymer and--
and the sailors will be glad of some."

She nodded, trying to look cheerful, and we left her, but had not
reached the broken companion-way before a door on our right opened, a
light was thrown across us, and I felt Mr Denning's arm twitch.  For it
was Mr Frewen coming out of the cabin in which Walters had been placed,
the one in which Mr Preddle had been kept a prisoner, and as soon as he
was outside he carefully locked it.

"Not much need for it," he said to us quietly, "for the little wretch is
very weak still.  Nice sort of characters you choose for your
companions, Dale," he continued.  "How do we know that you have not been
contaminated, and are going to rise against us?"

"There's no fear till the storm's over, Mr Frewen," I said, laughing,
and then, with the two gentlemen keeping perfectly silent, we went
forward again, and had nearly reached the forecastle-hatch, when,
sounding very feeble and strange, there was the report of a pistol, and
we hurried forward to hear shouts of rage coming from below the hatch,
and the blows of an axe being used with such effect, that before long
whoever wielded it must make a way through.

Mr Brymer glanced round at us as we came up, and I saw the barrel of
his revolver glistening in the pale light.

Then with his face close to the hatch he shouted--

"Once more, stop that or I fire!"

A shout of derision came from within.

"I warn you again!" roared Mr Brymer.  "I fired before without trying
to hit you, now I shall aim straight.  Stop that this moment!"

"Fire away!  Ready below, lads, I'll have it off--"

The report of the revolver, a hoarse, half-stifled cry from within, and
then a yell of rage arose, to mingle with the shrieking of the wind.

"I was obliged to fire, Mr Frewen," said the mate, sharply, "for at any
cost we will keep the upper hand now."

No one spoke, and I could not help shivering as I saw the stern looks of
the men by me, even Mr Preddle's round smooth face looking fierce and
determined.

Mr Frewen was the first to open his lips.

"It is a bitter necessity," he said; "those men must be kept down, but I
am obliged to speak now.  Brymer, I am a surgeon, and there are at least
two wounded men there below, perhaps more.  It is necessary for me to go
down."

"It is impossible, Mr Frewen.  If I give orders for that hatch to be
opened, there will be a rush, and even if we remain masters and beat
them down, it can only be at the cost of wounding more, perhaps causing
death."

"Why not make a truce with them?"

"With the men it would be easy enough, but not with their leader, a
scoundrel who feels that he is fighting with penal servitude before him,
perhaps the halter!  But, Mr Frewen, these are no times for being
humane.  No; that hatch shall not be opened."

"But I will stand ready, after telling the men what I am going to do,
and if they will keep away while the hatch is open there can be no
rush."

"I think differently, sir," said Mr Brymer, coldly.

"I agree with Mr Brymer, sir," said Mr Denning, "that it would be
madness."

"But you agree with me, Mr Preddle?" cried the doctor, excitedly.

"No, I don't, Mr Frewen," came in Mr Preddle's high-pitched voice.  "I
don't like men to suffer, but I won't give my vote for you to go down
into that wild beasts' cage."

Mr Frewen laughed bitterly, and turned to me.

"What do you say, fellow-prisoner?" he cried.

"I shall vote against Mr Frewen being allowed to go down," I said
sturdily.  "We want your help more than they do."

"Bravo! my lad," cried Mr Brymer.

"Well, yes; bravo! then," said the doctor, sadly.  "I am beaten; I give
in."

"Thank you, Frewen," cried Mr Brymer, holding out his hand, which the
doctor took frankly.  "I am sorry to go against you, but you are too
valuable to us here.  I am sure that if I let you go down, they would
not let you come up gain.  Jarette is fox enough to know how your
absence would weaken us, and then there is the captain; I place his life
as of more value than that of a mutinous crew."

"I'm convinced," said Mr Frewen.  "My desire was to stay, but as a
surgeon I couldn't stand still, knowing that my help was wanted down
there."

"You doctors are so greedy," cried Mr Preddle.  "You have two patients
as it is, and if we're going, on like this I'm afraid you'll soon have
some more."

"Yes," said the doctor, turning to Mr Denning, "I shall have another
one.  Forgive me for speaking, Mr Denning, but I think you ought to go
back to your cabin now and remove your wet things."

"You mean well, sir," said Mr Denning, courteously, "but I am wanted
here."

"Not now, sir," said the mate.  "I think we can manage, and if you would
hold yourself in readiness to turn out if we raise an alarm that would
be enough."

"I am here, and I have faced so much of the storm and trouble that I
will see it through now."

No one attempted to argue with him, and the watch was resumed, with the
ship tearing through the water before the storm, for short-handed as we
were, Mr Brymer shrank from attempting to alter her course, or riding
head to wind.

From time to time there was a stir below, and voices rose angrily, but
we could always hear Jarette's shrill utterances, and he generally
seemed to calm the men down, or to master them, with the result that the
angry sounds ceased and gave place to a low murmuring as if some plan
were being discussed.  After this had been going on some time, on one
occasion Mr Brymer, who had been aft at the wheel with Bob Hampton and
had returned in time to hear the talking, shook his head and said to Mr
Frewen--

"That sounds bad.  They're hatching a new plot against us.  It is like
having your ship on fire somewhere amongst the cargo in a place where
you cannot reach.  It goes on smouldering day after day, and you are in
the full expectation of its breaking out.  You don't know when, but you
are sure that it must come before long."

"I was thinking something of the kind," replied the doctor.

And so was I, though I did not speak.  And in addition, I had an idea in
my head that I could not work out, and while I was trying I had another
idea.  The first one was, that if by any means we could catch Jarette,
the mutiny would all fall to pieces; but then the job was to catch the
rascal, and that puzzled me.

It was very close to daylight; and cold, low-spirited, and miserable, I
was beginning to think that between the storm and the men below, the
poor old Burgh Castle must come to grief, when Bob Hampton came up
glistening in his oilskins.

"I were to come and say as the lady's got jorums o' hot coffee ready,
sir, in the captain's cabin.  Mr Denning and Mr Dale's to go first,
and I'm to take the watch till they comes back."

I saw Mr Denning wince and dart a sharp look at the doctor, but the
latter did not turn his head, and once more we began fighting our way
back, with the ship seeming at times quite to dance on the tops of the
waves.

But we reached the shelter in safety, and as soon as we were under cover
I felt sure that the wind was not so fierce, and said so.

"I could not tell any difference," said Mr Denning, sadly, as we went
right aft, to find the captain's cabin, right in the stern--the one
through whose window I had climbed after my hazardous descent from the
rigging--looking bright and cheerful, and hot coffee waiting for us, in
company with sweet smiles and cheering words.

It was wonderful.  One minute I had been ready to give up and think that
all was over; the next, as the hot drink sent a glow through me, I was
ready to smile back at Miss Denning, and join her in persuading her
brother to go to his cabin and change; while the very next minute Mr
Brymer came down with a large bottle, and after hastily swallowing a cup
of the coffee, he begged for a bottleful to carry up to the men at the
wheel.

"Is the storm still so bad, Mr Brymer?" asked Miss Denning, as the mate
was about to hurry back on deck.

"No," he said emphatically.  "It's one of those gales which blow in a
circle, and we're passing through it.  The glass is rising, and in less
than an hour I think it will begin to lull."  This was joyful news, and
I rose to hurry back so as to take the place of Mr Preddle.

"You'll stay now, John," I heard Miss Denning say, and he answered her
quite passionately.

"Don't tempt me, Lena!" he cried.  "I want to stay, but I want also to--
there, I will act like a man."

I did not then understand him as I did afterwards, what a strange
jealous hatred and dislike there was burning within him as he caught my
arm, and held it tightly.

"Help me quickly!" he whispered.  "Take me back before my weakness
masters me, and I break down."

"But if you are so weak?"  I said anxiously.  "Take me forward!" he
whispered angrily.  "You cannot understand."

I saw Miss Denning looking wonderingly at her brother as we went out,
and again fought our way back to the forecastle-hatch, no easy task with
the ship heeling over, and the spray flying as it did; but I felt
hardened to it now, and the darkness did not appear so terrible, nor the
danger so great, with the warm glow I felt spreading through me.  Then I
looked at my companion quite wonderingly, as I could just see his pale
thin face, for he said quickly in a lull of the wind--

"I think I've conquered, Dale."

"Conquered?  It's wonderful how brave you have been."

I saw him smile, and then wondered afresh that I could have seen the
change in his face.  "Why, it's getting light!"  I said joyfully.

I was quite right, and as we were in the tropics the change was coming
rapidly.  But just then we reached the watch, and to my surprise Mr
Denning said as well as the rushing wind would let him--

"Mr Frewen, Mr Preddle, my sister has hot coffee ready, and will be
glad if you can go at once."

I saw Mr Frewen give quite a start, and Mr Preddle regularly jumped,
but they were both so surprised that they could neither of them speak,
while Mr Denning turned to Bob Hampton.

"Your turn must be when they come back," he said.

"Oh, all right, sir, I can wait," growled Bob--I mean roared--for though
there was a momentary cessation in the shrieking of the wind, he spoke
as if Mr Denning were by the wheel; and there was no doubt now--we
could not see it, nor were we likely to, through the mist and spray, but
the sun was rising, and ten minutes after I was gazing at the sea, which
was churned up into one chaos of foam.

"It's all over!" yelled Bob, a minute or two later.

"What's all over?"  I asked.

"The hurry-cane, sir.  We're most through it, and the wind's beginning
to drop."

"But it's blowing terribly," I cried.

"Ay, sir, it is; but 'nour ago it was blowing ten times as terrible.
Why, there was a time when it most shaved my head, and another time when
I put my hands up to feel if my ears was cut off.  Strikes me as they
would ha' gone if they hadn't been tied down with the flaps of this here
sou'-wester."

"Yes, it's getting lighter fast," cried Mr Denning.  "But how rough the
sea is!"

"Ay, sir, she be a bit tossy like," said Bob; "but this here's nothing
to what it is on a rocky coast.  Ah, that's bad if you like."

"But we've had an awful night, Bob."

"Tidy, sir, tidy.  Not so bad as it might ha' been."

"Oh, it couldn't have been worse!"  I cried.

"What?  Not been worse, sir?  Why, where's your mainmas' gone by the
board, and your fore-mast cut off at the top-mast-head, and your mizzen
splintered into matchwood?  Why, my lad, this arn't been nothing.  And
look yonder, there's the sun a-coming out, leastwise it's making the
clouds look red-like.  We're coming out of it well.  Why, you ought to
be proud, Mr Dale, o' belonging to such a ship as the Burgh Castle.
She's a clipper, if ever there was one built."

"I am proud of her, Bob," I said, "but I'm not proud of her crew."

"Well, no, sir," said Bob, rubbing his red nose, which looked wet and
shiny now; "they arn't turned out a werry good lot, but then arter all
they might ha' been worse.  You see it's just like having so much soup
as the cook's made for you, and all as good as can be, till the cook's
mate tilts the lamp aside by a-hitting it with his head, and a drop o'
hyle goes into the soup.  That one drop o' train-hyle spyles all the
pot.  See what I mean?"

"That Jarette is the drop of oil?"

"That's it, sir, and a werry, werry rancid drop he be."

Mr Denning laughed, and I saw him turn his back to the direction in
which Mr Frewen had gone.

"_Tlat_!" went Bob Hampton's lips in a loud smack.  "Glad when they
gents come back, for I want some o' your young lady's hot coffee, bless
her! to take the taste o' the hyle out o' my mouth."

"You shall have it soon, Hampton, my good brave fellow," cried Mr
Denning, and I saw the weak tears in his eyes, "and you tell my sister
that she is to find my little silver flask, and give you some brandy in
your coffee."

"Thankye, sir, thankye, that's very good of you.  Why, Mr Dale, sir,
you talk of our having a bad night.  Tchah!--nothing, lad, nothing.  How
could it be a werry bad 'un when you have the luck to be shipped aboard
a craft with a angel aboard?  A angel, that's what I says, and Neb
Dumlow and Barney says the same.  We all said it arter the mutiny had
begun, and that if we didn't get the best of old Frenchy somehow we'd
eat our heads.--Lie down, will yer?" he roared, as he gave the side of
the hatch so fierce a kick that I thought his heavy boot would have gone
through.

There was a heavy rustling sound, and the grumbling of voices plainly
heard now, for the wind was rapidly falling.

"That was French Jarette a-listening, sir, for a penny-piece," whispered
Bob, for it was growing possible to whisper now.  "Strikes me we arn't
done with him yet, and if I might adwise, I should say as Mr Frewen
ought to be sent down below with some of his doctor's stuff to pyson
that chap like you would a rat, for there'll never be no peace while
he's aboard.  Hah!" he continued, smacking his lips.  "There's your
sort; here's Mr Preddle coming back with his face shining and smelling
o' hot coffee like a flower-garding."

Mr Denning turned round sharply, but checked himself as he saw that Mr
Frewen was coming too.

"Looks like my turn now."

"Miss Denning is waiting to give you some coffee, Mr Hampton," said the
naturalist.

"Thankye for the mister, sir, and thank her for the coffee," said Bob,
smiling, and he straddled off, the sloping of the deck as the ship rose
and fell and heeled over being apparently of no consequence to him.



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

A few minutes later Mr Brymer joined us, rubbing his hands.

"We shall almost have a calm in an hour, gentlemen," he said, "and
smooth water, with nothing but a long heavy swell before night.  I think
we may all congratulate ourselves upon what we have done, for we've
saved the ship."

"Not yet," said Mr Frewen, pointing at the fore-castle-hatch.

"No, not yet, doctor; but we've only one enemy to deal with now, and can
devote all our attention to him.  I think I can relieve two of you
gentlemen now.  Mr Frewen, will you fight out another hour or two,
while these gentlemen go and change, and have an hour or two's sleep?"

"I'll go and change," said Mr Denning; "but no sleep to-day."

"Please yourselves, gentlemen; but you must have rest, and be in
readiness for a call.  Hah! that's grand; what should we do without the
sun?"

For as he was speaking, a bright gleam suddenly shot almost level across
the spray, which still flew over the waves, and made it flash like a
rainbow.  It did more, for it sent light and joy into our breasts as Mr
Preddle and Mr Denning went aft, meeting Bob Hampton with some boards,
a saw, hammer, and nails with which he was soon busily at work
strengthening the sides and top of the hatch, nailing down board after
board, and only leaving one small opening in case communication should
be needed with the prisoners below, who, saving for the light filtering
through a small sky-light, and also through the ventilator, were in the
dark.

An hour later a sort of council of war was held in the captain's cabin,
and it was decided to well nail up the hatch of the cable-tier as well,
there being no dread of the men breaking out in other directions on
account of the closely-packed-in heavy cargo, much of which consisted,
as I said, of machinery--agricultural implements and the like--for the
Antipodes.  Then arrangements were made as to the men being fed with
biscuit and water, just sufficient for keeping them alive, and this
starvation policy it was considered would be the means of setting the
mutineers thoroughly against their leader, with the probable result that
they would open up negotiations, and end by binding Jarette hand and
foot and delivering him up.  After that, as many as the captain thought
could be trusted might be released to assist in navigating the ship, and
the rest could be kept in prison.

Mr Brymer was quite right about the weather; we sailed right through
the circular storm, and long before sunset of what proved to be a very
hot day, the ship was gently gliding up one side of a long wave, and
after pausing for a moment on the top, gliding down the other, so that
it was hard to imagine that we had just passed through so terrible a
storm.

That evening I asked Mr Frewen to take me with him when he went into
Mr Preddle's cabin to see Walters, and this resulted in his leaving me
behind to sit down by where my brother midshipman lay, looking white, or
rather grey as ashes.

I found him very stubbornly silent with the doctor, who did not seem to
think him very bad; and to all the sharp appeals to him to try and sit
up, or explain his symptoms, he only gave vent to a piteous kind of
groan which worried me a good deal, for I could not help thinking that
Mr Frewen was hard, and to put it plainly, rather brutal, to one who
had evidently gone through a great deal of suffering, and was now
completely prostrate.

But certainly it had been rather tantalising, for to everything there
was this piteous groan.

"Put out your tongue," said Mr Frewen.

"Oh!"

"Well, open your eyes."

"Oh!"--long drawn out, and strange.

"Surely that does not hurt you, my lad.  I want to do you good if I
can."

"Oh!"

"Are you in pain?"

"Oh!"

"Does that hurt you?"

"Oh!"

"Can you feel it if I press your chest?"

"Oh!"

"Stand a little on one side, Dale; I want to look at his eyes."

I stepped back, feeling very uncomfortable, and Mr Frewen parted the
lad's eyelids gently enough.

"Oh!" came more loudly than ever, as Mr Frewen looked closely into
first one and then the other eye.

Another moan and groan came fast one after the other, sometimes loud and
sometimes piteous in the extreme, making me shiver again as I imagined
all kinds of horrors.

At first Mr Frewen was very gentle in his examination; but as Walters
kept on groaning, the doctor seemed to lose patience, and in feeling the
patient's ribs, testing his arms and joints, he was, I thought,
unnecessarily rough and harsh.

Mr Frewen did not speak out, but kept on uttering little ejaculations;
and at last he began to pass his hands over and around Walters' skull,
while I shuddered, and fully expected to hear the broken bone-edges
grate together from a fracture.

But the doctor let my messmate's head sink down again, quickly too, for
Walters uttered a thrilling moan and let his face hang down away from
the doctor, looking so ghastly and strange that I was more horrified
than ever in the dim cabin-light.

I looked anxiously at the doctor, silently asking him what was the
matter; but he only gave me a short nod of the head, and once more
directed his attention to Walters, who lay breathing slowly in a catchy,
spasmodic fashion, and I was almost about to question Mr Frewen, but he
once more bent over the prisoner patient, listening to his breathing.

I saw him frown and then lay his hand upon Walters' side, and then I
started, for there came so piteous a groan that I was sure the ribs must
have been crushed, and I felt angry with him for not being more
sympathetic.

"He went against us and played the blackguard," I thought to myself;
"but he has been severely punished, and is down, so it isn't right to
jump upon him."

I felt then that I disliked Mr Frewen, who must be a cold-hearted,
brutal kind of man, and I was not surprised at Mr Denning the invalid
showing so much dislike to him now.

"Yes, he's very bad," said Mr Frewen at last, "I shall have to get
ready a mixture for him--something pretty strong too."

I was looking anxiously in his eyes as he said this, and then we both
looked at Walters, for the poor fellow winced and moaned again.

"Yes," said Mr Frewen to me, but watching his patient the while;
"medicine is as a rule very nasty, and the strong mixtures worst of all;
but there are cases where you cannot hesitate to administer them, even
if they are distasteful; and where you disguise their taste with syrups
and essential oils you often do harm instead of good."

"Do you think he is very bad, Mr Frewen?"  I said.

"Oh yes--very," was the reply.  "Not dangerous!"  I whispered.

"Yes, decidedly dangerous," he said, in the same low tone.

"Then he ought not to be left?"

"Oh yes, better left.  He'll come round.  There, I'm going to see how
the other prisoners are getting on.  I'm afraid that I am badly wanted
there."

He stood looking down at the patient with his brow knit, and I noticed a
fidgety movement about one of his feet.

"Oughtn't I to stop and nurse him?"  I asked.

"No; certainly not.  He is better alone.  This kind of case does not
require attention--only time.  Come along," and he went to the door.

"All right, Mr Frewen; I'll come directly," I said softly.

"But I want to fasten the door," he whispered.

"I'll fasten it when I come out."

"No, that will not do; Mr Brymer said that the door was to be kept
fast, and I can't go away and leave it."

"But I want to talk to him," I whispered.  "Lock me in for a bit."

"And suppose he turns savage with you, and tries to get your weapons?"
whispered Mr Frewen, with a smile.

"I shan't let him have them," I replied.  "Besides, he's weak and ill."

"Humph!--not so very, my lad.  There, I'll lock you in, and come and let
you out in a quarter of an hour."

He closed and locked the cabin door sharply, and I stood there thinking
what I should say to my old messmate, and feeling how awkward it was now
he was in trouble.  For he lay there half turned away with his eyes
closed, and I heard him moan piteously again while I waited to hear Mr
Frewen's departing step.

But it did not come for a few moments.  Then I heard him go into the
adjoining cabin, and the opening of his medicine-chest quite plainly.

"I don't believe he wants medicine," I thought.  "He must be suffering
from some internal injury."  Though as to what part of his body the
injury might be in, I had not the slightest idea.

There was a loud clink of bottle or glass, and then quite plainly came
the setting down of something hard upon a shelf, the sound coming
plainly through the opening we had so laboriously made when Mr Preddle
was a prisoner in this cabin, and Mr Frewen and I in the next.

Then I heard a loud cough.  There was a squeaking sound of a cork being
thrust into a bottle, and the doctor went out of his cabin, shut the
door sharply, and went off, while it was like an electric shock through
me, and I stared wildly, for Walters started up, and in a vicious angry
voice exclaimed--

"Brute!  Beast!  I only wish--"

He stopped short as he vigorously wrenched himself round.

"I thought you were gone," he said blankly.  "He told you to come away."

"I stopped to help you," I said.  "I did not like to have you left when
you were so bad."

"No, you didn't," he cried, with a vicious snarl.  "You stopped to play
the miserable, contemptible, cowardly spy.  It's just like you, Dale.
You always were a beast!"

"If you call me a beast, I'll knock your head off!"  I cried, for my
temper was rising against him and against myself, for I felt that I had
been imposed upon, and horribly weak and stupid in my sympathy for one
who was shamming from beginning to end.

"It would take a better man than you," he snarled.

"Not it, though you are bigger and stronger," I cried.  "Get up, and
I'll show you."

"Get up," he groaned, "while I'm so weak and bad that I can't stir?"

"Can't stir," I said, as I realised how thoroughly the doctor had read
him, and I understood now why Mr Frewen was so indifferent instead of
being sympathetic.  "Why, there's nothing the matter with you at all.
You can move as well as I can.  Get up, sneak!"

"Oh!" he groaned, "you're as great a brute as the doctor," and he turned
up his eyes till only the whites showed, making him look so ghastly in
the dim light, that I was ready to fancy I was misjudging him after all.

But I recalled his manner and his utterance as soon as he had made sure
that the doctor had gone, and thought himself quite alone.

"Get up," I said again, "and leave off this miserable shamming.  There's
nothing the matter with you at all."

He groaned again, and it made me feel so angry at the thought of his
believing that he could impose upon me again, that I raised my right
foot, whose toes seemed to itch with a desire to kick him.

"Get up!"  I cried angrily again.

"I can't, I can't!" he groaned.

"Get up," I said, "or I'll lie down by you and punch your head that
way!"

"Oh, you coward, you coward!" he moaned.

"No, it's you who are the coward, shamming being injured.  Will you get
up?"

"What," he snarled, changing his manner again, "to fight with a
miserable coward who is armed?"

"I'm not armed now," I cried, snatching the revolver I carried from my
belt, and laying it on Mr Preddle's chest.  "Get up, you miserable,
cowardly, treacherous, shamming impostor!  I'll give you some physic
which will do you more good than the doctor's."

As I spoke, I gave him a heavy push with my foot.

He sprang from the bunk as if he had been suddenly galvanised, made a
rush at me, and struck out with all his force, but I darted on one side,
and he struck the bulk-head with his fist.

"Poor fellow, how weak he is!"  I said, as I stood on my guard, and
writhing now with bodily as well as mental pain, he came at me looking
almost diabolical.

I forgot everything the next moment--the nearness of the dangerously
wounded captain, and the alarm that would be felt by Miss Denning, and
with fists feeling like solid bone I sprang at him in turn.  For I was
in a strange state of exaltation.  My nerves had been stirred by the
excitement of the past days.  I had been horribly imposed upon, and in
place of my pity I now felt something very near akin to hate for my
treacherous messmate, whom I had been ready, to forgive everything.  I
felt as if the most delightful thing in life would be to thrash him till
he was in such a condition that he would be obliged to have the doctor
to see to him and put him right--if he did not half-kill me instead, for
he looked capable of doing it then.  But this last did not occur to me,
as I made my fists fly at his head, no round-about windmill blows, but
straight-out shots right at his face, chest, anywhere I could see a
chance to hit, though in the majority of cases I missed him, and
received his blows instead.

But these did not seem to hurt, only excite me, and give me strength.
They were like spurring to a horse; and as I hit out, my tongue was not
idle, for I kept on taunting and gibing at him, asking if that one did
not make him groan and this one did not need the doctor, while all the
time he was perfectly silent, save that as he glared at me and fought
savagely I could hear his teeth grinding together.  He fought savagely,
and so did I, for to use an old school-boy term, my monkey was up, and I
was ready to keep on till I dropped.

Blows fell fast enough on both, and then we closed and wrestled and went
down.

Then we were up, and crashing against the bulk-head on one side, then on
the other.  Then I sent him staggering against the door; and _en
revanche_, as he recovered himself and came on again, he sent me heavily
against the ship's side, where the back of my head gave a sounding rap
close to the little circular window.

Of course it was a matter of a very few minutes.  Boy human nature could
not stand a prolongation of such a fierce struggle, even if our muscles
were tense as so much elastic wood.  And how that time passed I can
hardly tell.  I was conscious of seeing sparks, and then of Walters'
eyes and gleaming teeth which were very hard to my knuckles.  So was his
head, and the boards, and cabin-floor; but I fought on, and wrestled and
went down, and got up again, and the fighting was soon in perfect
silence as far as our lips were concerned, till after one desperate
round--the last--I struck out so fiercely with my left, adding to it the
whole weight of my body, that Walters fell back over the chest in one
corner, his head struck the bulk-head with a sounding bang, and he went
down in a sitting position, but in an instant sprang up again, grinding
his teeth.

The cabin was nearly dark now and my fists were up for the renewal of
the contest, for Walters seemed to be about to spring at me; but he drew
back, and as quickly as I could grasp what it meant, I heard almost
simultaneously the clicking of my pistol-lock, the report, and the crash
caused by the sudden wrenching open of the cabin-door.

"Hurt?" cried Mr Brymer, as I staggered back, conscious of a sharp
stinging pain at the side of my head; and as he spoke he sprang at
Walters, wrested the pistol from him, and threw him down.

"I--I don't know," I stammered as I put my hand to my ear.  "Yes, I
think so," for my fingers were wet with blood.

"You cowardly, treacherous hound!" cried the mate, with his foot upon
Walters' breast.

"I--oh don't!--help!--I was only defending myself from Dale.  I'm weak
and hurt, and--"

"A cowardly, malingering liar!" cried Mr Frewen, hotly.  "He tried to
make me believe he was very bad, groaning and wincing, and thinking he
had deceived me, but I saw through him all the time."

"No, no, I am bad!" groaned Walters, piteously.

"He isn't," I said, with my anger against him mastering a sensation of
sickness.  "He was shamming; I found him out, and we quarrelled and
fought, and as soon as he was beaten he caught up the pistol and fired
at me."

"It's all a lie!" shouted Walters, fiercely.  "I was so weak and ill
that I--"

"Jumped up well as I was, and called Mr Frewen a brute and a beast as
soon as he was out of hearing."

"And the pistol cocked itself, jumped up into his hand, and then went
off and wounded Dale.  Is it much, doctor?" said Mr Brymer.

"No, only his ear cut, fortunately," said Mr Frewen, holding a
handkerchief to my head.  "An inch more and our amiable, treacherous
young friend would have had to be tried for murder.  Who's that?"

"Me," growled Neb Dumlow.  "Want help, sir?"

"No.  Go and tell the captain there's nothing the matter, and Miss
Denning that there's no cause for alarm.  Lock up the wild beast,
Brymer!  I thought he was a little weak and wanted feeding up.  Leave
him to me, and I'll feed him down."

Mr Brymer gave a sharp look round, and then closed the door and locked
it, while following Mr Frewen into the next cabin, he put a few
stitches in my injured ear and then strapped it up.

"Feel sick?" he said.

"Pretty well," I said, and I looked dismally at my knuckles.

"Like a light, and a glass to see your face?"

"Eh?  No," I cried, as I recalled all that had taken place.  "Does it
look very bad?"

"Not half so bad as it will to-morrow," said Mr Frewen, coolly.  "You
had a tidy fight then, you two?"

"Oh yes; don't talk about it, please, sir.  He made me feel so wild
after I found out that he was only shamming."

"Humph!  Well, don't let Miss Denning see you.  If you had been knocked
about like this in a struggle with those scoundrels under the hatch you
would have won her sympathy; but a lad who goes and indulges in
fisticuffs till his face looks like a muffin which has tumbled into the
slop-basin, can't show himself in ladies' society till he has grown
well."

"Oh, I say, Mr Frewen!"  I cried.

"It's a fact," he said, laughing at my dismal face.

"But can't you put some stuff on it to make it look better?"

"No, nothing," he said coolly.  "I only know of one thing that will help
you out of your difficulty," he continued quietly.

"Yes," I said.  "What?"

"You must wait till we have another fight with the men forward, and then
if you get knocked about, all those bruises will go to the same
account."

I was busily bathing my face and hands as he spoke, and then, as I began
dabbing myself gently with a towel, there was an alarm from forward
which suggested that, though I was getting stiffer and more sore every
moment, the time had already come for the doctor's remedy to be put in
force, for there was a pistol-shot followed by several more, and a loud
shouting which sounded like cries for help.

It was a wonderful change from the previous night as we hurried along
the deck to join our friends.  The ship rode on an even keel, the night
was glorious with stars, and the lanterns shone bright and clear where
they were swung.  There was no creeping along a few feet at a time,
holding on by rope and belaying-pin, with the spray dashing over the
side.

We could see the group about the hatch standing a little back, for in
spite of our defences, the mutineers were making a desperate effort to
escape, and were keeping up a steady fire through the top and sides to
cover the work of one of their number, who was chopping away at the door
to hack out the fastening.

As we reached them, Mr Brymer was ready revolver in hand, hesitating as
to whether he should fire, for he was husbanding his ammunition, the
supply being far from abundant.

"It's getting warm, doctor," he said as we came up.  "What is to be
done?  I grudge wasting cartridges."

Just then Bob Hampton, who had been right aft, came trotting up.

"Who is at the wheel?" said Mr Brymer, sharply.

"Blane, sir."

"That will do.  Look here, Hampton, the captain saw to the receiving of
the powder and cartridges while I was busy over the other portions of
the cargo, and he is too weak to be questioned.  You joined the mutiny
for a time."

"Never, sir, for no time," growled Bob.

"Well, you were with the men, and in their confidence."

"Not a bit on it, sir, arksing your pardon.  Frenchy never trusted me a
mite; only got all the work out of me that he could."

"Well, well, we will not argue little points," said Mr Brymer,
impatiently, as the chopping and firing went on.  "You saw a great deal
of what was going on."

"Yes, sir, heaps; I kep' my eyes open."

"Well, tell me this--what about the powder and weapons?  What do you
know about them?"

"I'll tell you, sir," said Bob; "but, begging your pardon, hadn't you
better clap a stopper on this here game?"

"How, man?"

"Answering them shots, sir."

"I would, but my cartridges are nearly all gone.  How did you get
these?"

"Outer the hold, sir, where they stowed 'em close alongside o' the
blasting-powder.  There's plenty more."

"Can you get them?"

"Oh yes, sir.  You see, before the mutiny began, Jarette set some one,
as I heard afterward, to smuggle all the cartridges and weapons he could
out of the cabins and from the captain's locker."

"Yes, we found out that had been done.  Who did they send?"

Bob Hampton chuckled.

"Why, you know, sir."

"Not Mr Walters?"

"If you was to spend all the rest o' your life, sir, making shots at it,
you wouldn't never get nigher than that."

"The young scoundrel!  Then you know where the cartridges are?"

"Course I do, sir: under the battened down hatches yonder.  Frenchy put
'em there himself, and wouldn't let no one go nigh 'em, 'cause the
fellows were always smoking.  I got down to 'em at night when the storm
was coming, as you know, and when you want more, there they are,--yer
pistols and guns too."

"Oh, that puts quite a different complexion upon our position, Mr
Denning.  We can fire as much as we like," cried the mate.  "But one
word more, Hampton.  What about the mutineers?  Have they a very large
supply of ammunition?"

"Well, sir, that I can't say.  I know Jarette always kep' his pockets
jam-full, but I don't know nothing about the others."

The chopping was still going on while this discussion took place, and
shot after shot was fired, evidently in a blind fashion, as if the man
who used the revolver was unable to take an aim at any one, and merely
fired to keep us away from the hatch; but now all at once we were
startled by a sharp jingling of glass, and the violent swinging of one
of the lanterns, which had been struck by a bullet.

"That was the result of some one aiming," cried Mr Denning, sharply.

"If they don't do any more damage than that it won't matter," said Mr
Preddle.

"Look here, Brymer," whispered Mr Frewen, speaking now after carefully
watching the dimly-seen hatch for some minutes, "it strikes me that if
you let them go on firing for a little longer they will be forced to
surrender."

"For want of ammunition?" said the mate.

"No; for want of air.  That ventilator will not carry off the foul gas
from the firing."

"But the holes they are making will," said the mate.  "If it were not so
dark you would see that the smoke is curling out from several little
holes."

Mr Frewen took a step forward; there was a sharp report, and he
staggered back.  "Flit?" cried Mr Preddle, excitedly.  "Yes, but not
hurt," replied Mr Frewen.  "The bullet struck my collar, and it was
like something giving me a violent jerk."

"Change positions every one," said Mr Brymer in a low voice.  "Hampton,
the lanterns.  Let them both down, and put them in the galley."

Bob Hampton ran to one line by which they were hoisted up, I to the
other; and as I was lowering mine down, I heard a shot, and a whizz like
a bee flying over my head.

"Quite time that was done," said the mate, as the two lighted lanterns
were taken by Bob and carried to the galley.  But the door was fast, and
it was not until after a good deal of dragging and wrenching that it was
pulled open, I holding the two lights, while Bob tugged.

Bang! went a revolver again, and a shot whizzed by my companion's ear,
and stuck into the side of the galley.

"Look sharp, Hampton; they can see you, man!" cried Mr Brymer.  "Throw
something over the lights."

"Done it, sir," cried Bob, as the door yielded, and I stepped forward to
get the lanterns in, when, as Bob opened the door widely, and the light
flashed in, he uttered a yell, and nearly dropped the lanterns, for
there before us in the corner of the galley stood, or lay back, a
ghastly-looking figure which at first sight seemed to me like the body
of one of the mutineers who had been shot.  But as I stood trembling and
holding up one light, the white face moved and the eyes blinked.

"What's the matter?" cried Mr Brymer, loudly.  "Go and see, Mr
Frewen."

The doctor took a few steps and joined us, saw the figure, and said
sharply--"Another prisoner?"

"No, sir; can't he; 'cause he's fastened hisself in," replied Bob.
"Why, matey, what are you doing here?  I thought you was a ghost."

"Why, it's the cook!"  I exclaimed.

"Cooky it is, sir," said Hampton.  "Here y'are, mate; we've brought you
a light."

The lanterns were thrust in, the door shut, and we hurried back,
discussing our discovery, but this was checked by the firing from the
hatch, while the blows from an axe threatened to make short work of the
door and the boards that had been nailed across.

"What's to be done?" said Mr Preddle, mildly.  "Hadn't you better speak
to them, Mr Brymer?"

"I feel as if I can only speak by deputy," he replied, and he raised his
pistol,--"by this.  But I don't like firing until the last extremity."

"I'll speak to them," said Mr Frewen.

"Very well; but get well out of reach.  They will not be so merciful as
we are."

Mr Frewen went round to the bow-side of the hatch, and shouted loudly
to those in the forecastle, with the result that the chopping ceased,
and after a few moments' delay Jarette's voice was heard.

"You surrender then, eh?" he shouted.  "Look sharp and knock off these
boards."

Mr Brymer could not help laughing aloud, and a pistol was fired in his
direction.

"Stop that!" shouted Mr Frewen.  "Look here, my men, if you hand out
your weapons through the top of the hatch, and promise not to attempt to
escape, food and water shall be passed down, and you shall receive fair
treatment till we get into port."

"Do you hear, my lads?" cried Jarette, loudly.  "And when we get in port
they'll hand us over as prisoners.  What do you--there, I'll say it for
you," he continued hastily.  "No, no, no!  And now listen to me, all you
who can hear.  You can't sail into port without us, and you are only
proposing a truce because you are growing frightened."

"Indeed!" said Mr Frewen, coolly.

"Yes, indeed, doctor.  I know your voice.  Now you take my advice--you
and those two passengers.  Get back to your cabins, and perhaps I'll
forgive you.  We can come on deck now whenever we like, and we're
masters here.  If you don't do as I say, look out, for I warn you I can
cover all of you with my pistol, and if I couldn't I'd sink the ship
before you should hold her again."

"Then you refuse to surrender?" cried Mr Frewen.  "Harkye, my lads,
below there; don't let this madman lead you on to your ruin.  Will you
surrender?"

"Silence below there!" shouted Jarette.  "I'll give him his answer.
There!"

He fired, evidently aiming in the direction of Mr Frewen's voice, for
the bullet whizzed over the doctor's head; when, without waiting for
orders, Mr Preddle fired back, and his shot was followed by a sharp
ejaculation, suggesting that some one had been hit; but directly after
we heard a little talking, and several shots were fired at us, but
without effect.

"There," said Mr Brymer, "we have done our duty by them, we must now do
it by ourselves."

"If we could only master that one man," said Mr Frewen in the little
council of war which followed, "we could manage."

"Hadn't you better order the hose to be laid on, Mr Brymer, sir," said
Bob Hampton, "and drown 'em out like rats?"

"It would be punishing the weak with the guilty and strong, my lad,"
said Mr Brymer.  "I am loth to proceed to extremities."

"Werry well then, sir, smoke 'em out as you would rats.  I dessay the
doctor has got some brimstone."

"Yes, I have, Hampton," said Mr Frewen; "but, you see, these are men,
not rats."

"That's a true word, sir."

"You would not like to kill them all in cold blood, my man?"

"No, sir, that's a butchery sort o' way; but I'm ready to give 'em a
wopses' nest squib to bring 'em to their senses."

"Out of their senses, man!" cried Mr Frewen, impatiently.  "It means
death, I tell you--wholesale murder.  The men, I repeat, are not rats."

"Well, sir, they're behaving like 'em, and there's no gammon about it
now.  They're desprit; Jarette's worked 'em up; and they've got the
judge to face if we take 'em into port.  Strikes me it's our lives or
theirn; but you knows best.  I was thinking about the young lady."

Just then the chopping began again, and Mr Brymer raised his pistol and
fired.

The chopping ceased, and there was a burst of loud talking.  Then all
was still for hours, while a careful watch was kept until morning.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

The discovery of the cook made a great difference in the state of
affairs.  It was found that he had been forced by Jarette's threats to
work for the mutineers, and if they had gained the upper hand he would
no doubt have sided with them again; but now he seemed to return gladly
to his regular duties, and he was as energetic as possible in preparing
breakfast, waiting on Miss Denning and her brother, and when he was not
cooking, making himself generally useful, as the advertisements say,
about the cabins, especially that of the captain, to whom, unasked, he
began to act as nurse.

That morning, by Mr Brymer's orders, he filled a number of bottles with
fresh water, and got ready a quantity of biscuits, which he was told to
bear to the mutineers.

"But I dursen't, sir," he said.  "That Jarette would swear I was a
traitor as soon as he heard my voice, and shoot me same as he did poor
Phipps."

"What! the steward?" cried Mr Frewen.

"Yes, sir, dead, on the night they rose."

"You rose," said Mr Brymer.

"No, sir, I didn't; I'm only a cook, and not a fighting man.  One does
lots of things when a pistol's held to your head as you wouldn't do
other times."

"Bring the biscuit and water," said Mr Frewen, "and I'll speak to the
men.  They will not use pistols when they know food is going to be given
to them."

The cook shook his head.

"You don't know Jarette, sir," he said.

"I'll go with you and help you," I cried, for I fully believed Mr
Frewen's words, which proved quite correct, till we had passed down all
that we had taken, the men eagerly thrusting up their hands and seizing
bottle and biscuit.

Then as the last bottle of water was handed through the opening Bob
Hampton had left when he nailed the boards over, Jarette shouted--

"That isn't all, is it?"

"Yes," I said, "that's all you'll get;" and fortunately I started away
and fell back in my fright, for quick as lightning the scoundrel thrust
out a pistol and fired at me, the flash being so close that I felt sure
for the moment that I was hit.  In fact I was stunned, but it was from
the sharp rap which I gave the back of my head on the deck.

"Hurt?" cried Mr Frewen, running to my help, as I sat up rubbing the
back of my head.

"Hurt?  Yes, of course I am," I cried, angrily; but I laughed it off the
next minute, for I was afraid that they would think it cowardly of me
for shrinking away.

"I'm afraid it will be some time before they get any more refreshments,"
said Mr Preddle, laughing; and now by Mr Brymer's orders a tarpaulin
was drawn over the top of the hatch, but it had not been there a minute
before a knife-blade was passed through it, and a good-sized piece cut
out.

Then a board was thrown on, but it was only tossed away, and shot after
shot was fired, evidently, from the good aim taken, by some one who
could see the people on deck.

Nothing more was done then, for the mutineers made no further attempt to
escape; and in wonderful contrast to what we had gone through, it now
fell perfectly calm, with the sun blazing down upon us and the heat
intense.

Short-handed though we were, matters fell back into the old ship
routine, with the exception that the watches kept were against something
more serious than the weather.

The captain seemed better; and though they were not friendly, there was,
it appeared to me, a certain amount of polite intercourse kept up
between Mr Frewen and the Dennings, though Mr Denning always appeared
to be rather cold and strange during the short time they were together
at meals.  These the cook served up regularly for the officers,
passengers, and men, the two who were at the wheel having settled down
in their places with Hampton and his two companions, and had even gone
so far as to offer to fight upon our side.

They sent the message by Bob Hampton, and he bore it to Mr Brymer, but
said to me afterwards with a good deal of screwing up of his honest
wrinkled countenance--

"Mr Brymer can do as he likes, of course, Mr Dale, but I should just
trust them two chaps as far as I could see 'em."

"They'll be all right while we have the upper hand, Bob," I said, "and
go against us if Jarette beats us."

"That's it, sir.  You're as right as you can get.  I'm friendly with
'em, of course; but I've got my eyes open, and they don't go nigh that
hatch while I'm on deck."

"Do you think we can trust the cook, Bob?"  I said in a low voice, for
we were not far from the galley, which was smoking away as methodically
as if there were no such thing as a mutiny on board.

Bob gave me a very slow wink.

"Suet," he said in a whisper.

"What?"

"Suet, sir.  That's 'bout what he's made on.  Sort of soft fat man.
There's no harm in him, only softness.  Think of a fellow being so
scared that he goes and shuts hisself up and drinks hisself into a state
o' muddle so as not to know what's going on.  Why, if one's got to be
drowned, one wants to make a bit of a fight for it.  Never say die, my
lad.  Life in a mussel, you know.  Oh, there's no harm in old
bile-the-pot, only I shouldn't like to depend on him in a row, though he
could do us a lot o' good."

"How?"  I said, laughing, as I thought of Bob's low estimate of his
fighting powers.

"Lot of ways, my lad.  Cook's got a good many advantages, you see.
Red-hot pokers is one; pots and kettles o' boiling water's another,
without counting the long sharp knives; but he won't do nothing, and I
must.  Don't walk too near the wild beasts' cage, my lad, I'm going
aft."

He went steadily aft to mount the poop-deck, while being near the galley
I strolled towards it to have a few words with the man of suet, and as
he welcomed me with a simple placid smile, I felt that Bob Hampton's
estimate of his character was pretty correct, and that it would be bad
policy to trust much to him in a time of peril.

"Well," I said, "been to the captain?"

"Yes, Mr Dale, sir, and have taken him a beautiful basin of broth.  Let
me give you one."

"No, not now," I said, though I felt tempted to say yes.  "Did you take
Mr Walters his provisions?"

"I did, sir, with Mr Brymer looking on all the time."

"Does he seem very bad?"

"Well, sir, he pulled a long face, but I don't think there's much the
matter with him.  He can eat readily enough."

"I say, cook," I half whispered, "you were a good deal on deck?"

"No, sir, not much, I was busy here.  The crew ate a deal."

"But you knew about Mr Walters being shut up in the cable-tier?"

The cook glanced uneasily toward the forecastle-hatch and shook his
head.

"They can't hear you," I said, "and even if they could they can't get at
you."

"I don't know, sir," he whispered; "that Jarette's got ears such as no
man before ever had.  I've often thought it isn't hearing he has, but a
kind of knowing."

"Oh, he's knowing enough!"  I said, laughing.

"I don't mean that, Mr Dale," he whispered.  "I mean there's something
uncanny about him, as the Scotch people say, and he can tell what you
are thinking about without your saying it."

"Oh, nonsense!"

"It arn't nonsense, sir, and there's more about him than you think for.
Why, he can do anything with the men.  They're not only afraid of him,
but they're obliged to do what he wants, and if I was Mr Brymer, sir, I
shouldn't rest till he was put in a boat and sent off to shift for
himself."

"You think he's dangerous then?"

"Ah, that he is, sir; and if he isn't hatching out something row to
surprise you all, I don't know mutton from beef."

I looked sharply at the cook, for his words chimed in with a kind of
fancy I had that the people in the forecastle were not so silent for
nothing.

"Ah, well," I said, "I dare say we shall be ready for him if he does try
to play any pranks.  But you didn't tell me about Mr Walters."

The cook gave a sharp glance round.

"What's the matter?"  I asked.

"I don't seem to like to talk about him, sir," he whispered.  "He never
forgets anything, and never forgives anybody.  I wouldn't say a word
against him for worlds."

"I don't ask you to," I said; "I only asked you why Mr Walters was shut
up in the cable-tier?"

"Jarette don't like him, sir.  He found him very useful for stealing
pistols and cartridges, and fastening people in the cabins, but once he
got all he wanted, though he made a fuss with him and encouraged him to
strut about, and called him his lieutenant, he used to be always looking
at him ugly-like, and I got to think that before long there would be a
row."

"And there was?"

"Oh yes, sir, a terrible row.  You see Mr Walters couldn't forget that
he had been an officer, and Jarette couldn't forget he had been a
fore-mast man, and feel jealous of Mr Walters, who used to make-believe
amongst the men that he was the real captain of the ship, and that
everything depended upon him.  So at last there was a terrible row about
something in the navigation, and Mr Walters told Jarette that he didn't
know anything about it.  Then the Frenchman hit him, kind of boxed his
ears, and Mr Walters whips out a pistol.  That was enough.  Jarette
whistled up the men, who none of 'em liked Mr Walters, and before he
knew where he was, they had him on his back with his pistol gone and him
helpless.  He made a bit of a fuss, and threatened to have Jarette
punished if he did not give it up, and then the skipper pointed the
pistol at him, and told the men who were holding Mr Walters down to
hang back as far as they could while he shot the prisoner.  That was
enough.  The poor boy began to holloa out and beg for mercy, and Jarette
set to and teased him, sir, horribly.

"`Oh, very well,' he says, `you don't want to be shot?'

"`No, no!' cries Mr Walters, crying now like a little child.

"`Well, then, sir,' says Jarette, `I'll try and oblige you.'

"Mr Walters lay watching him with his eyes rolling, but they wouldn't
let him turn his head, while Jarette whispered something to some of the
men, who went forward, and I saw them stoop down, but I didn't know what
they were doing there even when they came back, and at a word four of
them seized him, taking hold of his ankles and wrists.

"`What are you going to do?' cried Mr Walters, who looked white, sir,
as so much dough.

"`What you wanted,' says Jarette.  `You didn't want to be shot, so I
thought I'd humour you, and have you pitched overboard.'

"Then Mr Walters begins to howl for mercy, but Jarette shakes his head.

"`Off with him!' he cried; and in spite of the poor fellow's kicks and
struggles, they trotted with him right forward and close up to the bows.
Then I shut my eyes, for I thought it was all over, and I put my head a
little farther out of the door-way here to listen for the splash.  But
there came a shriek and a loud slap down of a lid, and then I opened my
eyes and saw the men all laughing, and found what they had done.  For
they had given the poor fellow a few swings to make him believe he was
going over, and then all at once took a few steps and shot him down feet
first into the cable-tier, shutting the lid over him directly after."

"The cowardly brute, to torture any one like that!"  I said to myself,
as I went aft and into the saloon, stopping for a few moments by
Walters' prison, and feeling sorry for him till I passed my hand over my
face.

That night passed quietly enough, and a soft breeze rose to send us
gently through the water, Mr Brymer giving his instructions to the men
at the wheel as to the course they were to steer, though I had not the
least notion where we were bound for now.

A strict watch was kept, of course, and there was a slight alarm once,
but it passed off; and the sun rose again, with the wind dropping, and
leaving us once more rocking gently upon the smooth ocean.

We were all in better spirits though, thanks to the cook and the few
hours of rest every one had managed to snatch.  Mr Frewen gave us the
news, too, that the captain was decidedly better, and that Miss Denning
was nursing him constantly.

This was a bit of relief to me, for it kept Miss Denning in the cabin,
and I was determined not to let her see my face till I looked different.

About an hour later, first one and then another crawled along the deck
very silently to try and make out what was going on in the forecastle.

I did not go, neither did Mr Frewen or Mr Preddle.  Mr Denning was in
the captain's cabin resting; but all came back with the same story, one
which relieved me, for I was startled, thinking that the party were all
smothered by being shut down in the cabin place in such hot weather.

Dumlow, Blane, and Bob Hampton all said that the men were sleeping, and
that they thought they had been at the drink.

Mr Brymer crept close up in his turn, listened for some time, and
confirmed the men's statement.

"Getting ready for a fresh attack," he said.  "I'll have a talk to the
captain as to what is to be done."

He placed another trusty man on duty, ready to give the alarm if the
mutineers woke and tried to break out, and then proposed that we should
all go into the captain's cabin and have a council of war once more.

"Think he can bear it, Frewen?" he said.

"Oh yes, if we do not stay too long.  It will rouse him up and do him
good mentally, to feel that he has some interest in the management of
the ship."

"Then come along," said the mate.  "But where is Mr Preddle?"

"Gone to look after his fish," I said; for he was always snatching every
opportunity to go and see how the salmon and trout fry were getting on.

"Go and fetch him, Dale."

I had to pass Mr Frewen on my way, and I seized the opportunity to
whisper to him--

"I shall hang back till you come to the door, and signal to me that Miss
Denning has gone.  She mustn't see me like this."

He smiled, and I went forward to where Mr Preddle was making himself
very hot by using the bellows to aerate the water.

"Yes--yes, of course," he said.  "I'll come."  And hastily putting on
the light flannel jacket he had removed, he followed me toward the
saloon.

"They will not make a rush and get out while we are away, will they?" he
said, with an uneasy look over his shoulder.

"They are well watched," I replied, "and we shall not be very long."

"Ah!  It would be very dreadful if they did, Dale.  Have they been fed
this morning?"

"Why, you talk as if they were wild beasts in a cage, Mr Preddle," I
said merrily.

"So they are," he cried,--"worse.  I feel sometimes as if I could kill
them all."

"Gone to her own cabin, Dale," said Mr Frewen, meeting us at the
saloon-door-way, and Mr Preddle looked at us inquiringly.

"Dale is afraid of Miss Denning seeing his wounds," said Mr Frewen,
laughing.  "He does not think they look the proper kind to be proud of."

"I wish you wouldn't joke me about my bad face, Mr Frewen," I said, as
we entered the far cabin, where the mate was seated by Captain
Berriman's cot, and I was startled to see how changed he looked.

But his eyes were bright, and he held out his hand to each in turn, as
we stood about with the door well open, the place of course being very
small.

"Now, sir," said Mr Brymer, firmly, "you know how we stand.  I'm
horribly averse to taking life, but things cannot go on as they are."

"No," said the captain, in a voice hardly above a whisper.  "You must
act now, and firmly, before there is loss of life on our side."

"That means then," said Mr Frewen, "shooting down every man who attacks
us."

"Of course," said a low, firm voice, and I started to see that Mr
Denning was standing outside.

"My practice is always to save life if I can, Mr Denning," said the
doctor, sadly.  "Are you not too hard and revengeful?"

"Neither, sir," replied Mr Denning, sternly.  "If I were alone I would
say nothing, but I have my sister to protect, and I say that at any cost
these ruffians must not leave that place alive."

There was so absolute a silence in the captain's cabin, that we all
heard distinctly a piteous sigh from that which Mr Denning had just
left.

"Yes, Mr Denning is quite right," said Mr Preddle, in his
highly-pitched voice.  "I hate all this, and I am not a fighting man;
but I know that I shall fire on the first wretch who tries to break out
without a qualm."

"You hear, Mr Frewen," said the mate; "I am forced by circumstances to
take very strong measures."

"That may mean the death of several of those misguided men?" said Mr
Frewen, excitedly.

"I fear so, sir.  But Captain Berriman agrees with me that it is our
duty, unless we like to well provision a boat and leave the ship."

"But that would be a terrible alternative," said Mr Frewen, hastily.

"Terrible, sir; and a cowardly and unfaithful one to the owners of the
vessel."

"But can we not keep the men down until you are able to run into some
port?"

"When we have run into the region of calms.  No, sir, even if we had
favourable winds we are horribly short-handed, and I should not dare to
make much sail for fear of a change, and being unable to reduce it."

"But that is not the point, doctor," said the captain, in a feeble
voice; "those scoundrels are certain to make a desperate effort to break
out before many hours have passed, and if they do, I fear that you
gentlemen will be too humane to back up Mr Brymer and the men."

"But--" began Mr Preddle.

"Pray understand, gentlemen, that I do not doubt your courage," said the
captain.

"Nor I, gentlemen," cried Mr Brymer, warmly.  "You have to a man--and
boy," he added hastily as he glanced at me--"proved how I can trust you;
but there is not one of you who would not shrink, and naturally too,
from shooting down one of our enemies.  Am I not right?"

"I'm afraid so," replied Mr Frewen, gravely.  "Even Mr Denning would
shrink from the stern necessity."

I glanced at Mr Denning, and saw him wince.

"Then you will agree with Captain Berriman and me that some very stern
measures must be taken?"

"Yes," said Mr Preddle.

"I do, certainly," replied Mr Denning.

Mr Frewen and I were both silent; but at last the doctor spoke.

"What do you propose doing?" he said, rather huskily.

"That is what we are here to decide, and that quickly, for one or two of
us must always be on deck.  Can you suggest anything, either of you?"

No one spoke, and I felt that whoever did would feel like a judge
condemning a man to death.

"Time is flying, gentlemen," said the mate.  "We must act, and the
captain and I ask for your help to share this terrible responsibility;
for whatever we do we shall have to answer for to the laws of our
country."

"Yes," said Mr Frewen, solemnly, "and to our God."

"Amen," said Mr Denning, softly; and he walked into the cabin, and laid
his hand upon that of Captain Berriman, both men gazing into each
other's eyes as if in their feeble state they might soon be called upon
to answer the question what they had done with the talents committed to
their charge.

Perhaps I was very weak then, and I ought to have been stronger and more
manly; but my eyes grew very dim, and for some minutes I could not see
what was going on.

Mr Frewen was the first to break the solemn silence.

"Gentlemen," he said; and then he stopped while every one turned to him,
and I thought how handsome, manly, and yet how stern he looked as he
stood gazing straight before him and through the cabin-window at the
glittering sea, while I could hardly hear a breath.  Then he went
on--"Heaven knows," he said, "that I would not shrink from my duty; and
Mr Denning may rest assured, that if it comes to the worst, I will give
my life sooner than harm should come to the dear lady we all reverence--
and love.  But I shrink, as a man who has had so much to do with life
and death, from taking the life of any one, however vile he may be."

Mr Brymer fidgeted a little, and Mr Frewen saw it.

"Bear with me a few moments," he said, "and I have done.  I shrink, I
say, from shedding blood; but if the stern necessity comes, I will
strike home as a man should at such a time."

"You--" began Mr Brymer.

"Stop, sir, and hear me out," said Mr Frewen.  "It seems to me that
there can be no doubt of one thing: if we can shoot down--wounded, I
hope--this man Jarette, we might easily master his followers."

"I have no doubt of that whatever," said Mr Brymer.

"Exactly, and that shall be done if all other methods fail."

"What other methods, sir?" said Mr Denning.

"You gentlemen may have some plans, for my part I have but one."

"We have no plans," they all said eagerly.  "Then you have one?"

"Yes," said Mr Frewen.  "I have one--a wild and desperate one, whose
aim is to separate Jarette from his followers, living, and to make him
prisoner.  It may fail, for it is, as I say, a wild and desperate plan."

"In Heaven's name then, doctor, what is it?" said the captain, feebly.
"Speak out, sir; you know how bad I am, and that this business is
killing me."

"Then I will speak out, captain," said Mr Frewen, warmly.  "I did mean
to ask you all to wait, and have confidence in me sufficient to let me
have forty-eight hours for my trial without divulging what I intended to
do."

"The times are too desperate, Mr Frewen," said the mate.  "Don't ask
that of us."

"No; I say I will speak, but I ask you not to look upon the attempt as
childish or absurd until it has been tried."

He paused, and seeing how faint and hot the captain looked, bade me step
back, and push the saloon-light farther open.

I did so, and returned nervous and excited, in dread lest I should miss
a word.

But Mr Frewen had not spoken, but stood looking straight before him.
Then he said quickly--"I am going to do rather a risky thing, an act
which may imperil men's lives; but I shall be as guarded as possible."

"Yes," said Mr Denning, eagerly.

"Before long," continued Mr Frewen, in a low, firm voice, "a fresh
supply of food and water must be given to those men.  They cannot be
starved to death."

"No, of course not," said Mr Brymer, excitedly.

"Then you grasp of course what I propose doing.  I shall drug that food
with one of the powerful extracts which I have in my medicine-chest.  It
will be passed down to the men, who will be almost voracious, and then
we shall have to wait until it has taken effect, open the hatch, secure
Jarette, and separate the others into, say, three parties--one in the
cable-tier, the other in the forecastle, the last in the hold or one of
the cabins.  The rest, I think, will be easy."

There was a dead silence.

"Do you think my plan too wild?"

"No," said Mr Denning, quickly.  "God bless you, doctor!" and he held
out both his hands.

"Yes, that plan will do," said Captain Berriman, "I feel assured."

"Yes, yes," was murmured in a tone full of emotion; and at that moment
there was a sharp crack which seemed to have come from somewhere in the
saloon.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

We all ran out, but no one was there, and Walters' cabin door was fast.

I was quickest, and ran out of the saloon, but there was no one nearer
than the forecastle-hatch in one direction, and on the other as I ran up
the ladder there was the man at the wheel, one of the men we had
secured, while the other was seated on the bulwark talking to him and
smoking.

"What could it have been?"  I thought, for a shiver of dread had run
through me, a dread that some one had been listening, and overheard the
doctor's words.

But the next moment I laughed, and went back to those who were examining
the various cabins.

"All right," I said, pointing upwards, "that was it; I did not properly
fasten up that sky-light, and it fell down."

It was exactly as I said, for there was the window I had stuck open shut
closely down.

"I was afraid that some one had been listening to what I had planned,"
said Mr Frewen.

"So was I, sir," I said, "but we're all right.  The men were both at the
wheel."

The next minute we were all in consultation again.  I say we, for I was
quite made one of them, young as I was.  Then the matter was thoroughly
discussed, for Mr Frewen's plan proved to be not so easy on
consideration as we had at first supposed.

"You see, gentlemen," said Mr Brymer, "it's one thing to set a trap,
and another to get your rats to walk into it.  How were you thinking of
giving it to them?"

"I thought dissolved in water," replied Mr Frewen.

"Two objections to that," said Mr Denning; "the stuff would make it
taste, and in all probability some of the men would not take it."

"I'll answer for it that Jarette would not touch water," cried Mr
Brymer, "so that plan will not do.  You can't give it to him with
biscuits.  Yes, what's the matter?" he cried, for there was a loud
rapping at the entrance to the saloon.

"Beg pardon, sir," said Bob Hampton's voice, "here's a deppytation from
the chaps in the forksle."

"What?" cried Mr Brymer, in alarm, "are they out?"

"No, sir, not they.  One of 'em's got up into the hatchway as spokesman,
and he's been giving us a bit of his mind."

"What does he say?"

"Says as he wants to know whether you mean to starve 'em out; as they've
on'y had some water and biscuit for twenty-four hours, and that if you
don't send 'em some grub, they'll set fire to the ship, for they'd
sooner be roasted than starved."

"All right, Hampton; go back and tell them that we will see what can be
done, but that if they fire another shot they shall not have a biscuit."

"Right, sir," growled Hampton, and he turned upon his heel and went
back, while Mr Brymer exclaimed in an excited whisper--

"There, doctor, could anything be better?"

"No; they are playing into our hands; but there is the difficulty still.
How can we give it to them?  It must be something of which all will
partake.  Why not have some coffee made for them?"

"Half of them wouldn't touch it," said Captain Berriman.  "I'd suggest
grog, but they have spirits no doubt, and they want food."

There was a dead silence, and then feeling nervous, and as if I was
certain to be snubbed, I ventured to speak.

"Wouldn't a tin of the soup do?"  I said.

Mr Brymer brought his hand down on my shoulder.

"The very thing!" he cried eagerly.  "You have some tins of soup amongst
the Australian meat, captain?"

"Yes, plenty."

"That will do then, only it must be done with a certain amount of
cunning, or they may have suspicions.  Depend upon it, if I am seen in
it they will not take the stuff."

"Then what is to be done?" said Mr Frewen.

"I propose," replied Mr Brymer, "that I get a couple of tins out of the
store and open them.  Then Dale here shall take them to the cook; the
excuse for their being opened is to be that so many tins have gone bad."

"Which is true enough," said the captain, feebly.

"Exactly," continued Mr Brymer; "and these were opened to make sure
that they were all right."

"Well?"

"You can give me the stuff--laudanum, or whatever it is--to mix with the
contents of one tin, which Dale can take to the cook, and tell him to
warm up and reduce with hot water, while he reserves the other for our
table."

"But why give him two?" said the doctor.

"Because I want to avert suspicion in every way.  The cook has been
mixed up with the men, and he shut himself up as you know in dread of
our punishing him, perhaps shooting him down.  He may suspect something,
and manage to warn the men.  If two tins are sent, one for the men and
one for our own table, everything will look simple and ordinary."

"And suppose he gives us the drugged one by mistake?"

"We can guard against that by sending a large one and a small one.  No--
by sending two different kinds."

"There is only one kind," said the captain.

"I don't like the plan," said the doctor.  "It may end in a mistake, and
we don't want to be hoist with our own petard."

"Hang it, no!" cried Mr Brymer.  "All right then, we will not eat the
soup."

"But why shouldn't I take my drug--it will only be a small portion of a
white powder--and drop it into the soup when it is ready?"

"Because there would certainly be some hitch in the proceedings to
hinder you getting it in.  Besides, we don't want the cook to be in the
secret."

"Very well then," said the doctor, "I suppose that must be the plan.
I'll go and get the drug ready at once, and bring it here.  But one
minute; how many men are there in the forecastle?--because I must reckon
accordingly."

"Say sixteen.  You must give them a pretty good dose."

"Yes; but not strong enough to be risky," said Mr Frewen; and he signed
to me to go with him to his cabin, where he opened his medicine-chest,
and after a little thought, carefully weighed out, from a stoppered
bottle, an absurdly small portion of a whitish powder and placed it in a
square of white paper.

"There," he said, "take that to Mr Brymer, and tell him to give it a
good stir round, or we shall be killing some of the scoundrels, and
letting others off scot free."

"Yes," I said, looking with no little interest at the powder which he
had turned out of the tiny scales he had used.  "The cook is sure to
stir it well too.  But, Mr Frewen, will that little pinch or two of
stuff be enough?"

"Plenty," he said.  "It is as far as I dare go, for it is most potent."

"And it will send them off to sleep?"

"Into a sleep so deep that it would be impossible to awaken them for
some hours."

"Ugh!"  I ejaculated, as I took the little packet and thrust it into my
pocket.  "I hope, if ever you give me any physic, you'll be careful not
to give me any out of the wrong bottle."

"I'll take care," he said.  "Mind you warn Mr Brymer to be very careful
too."

I nodded and went out of the cabin, took a turn along the deck to see
that the men were keeping watch by the forecastle-hatch, and then turned
in at the galley to say a word or two to the cook, asking him what we
were to have for our dinner.  I went straight back to where Mr Brymer
was down in the captain's store-room with a lantern, by whose light I
could see before me two of the large well-known drum-shaped tins of
portable soup.

"Got it?" he said in a whisper.

I handed him the packet without a word.

"Look here," he said.  "There are two kinds, with blue label and yellow
label.  You see I shall put the stuff in the yellow labelled tin."

"Yes, I see," I replied; and he opened the packet, shook out the
contents, so that it lay spread on the top of the brown-looking gluey
meat essence, and then stirred it well round with a knife, till it could
not help being well mixed.

"There, we must chance that," he whispered, "but it seems a very small
dose."

"Mr Frewen said it was wonderfully strong," I said.

"Well, we must hope so.  Take the tins.  You will not make any mistake?"

"Oh no, I'll take care," I said.  "The yellow one for the men, the blue
for us; but you don't catch me touching it."

"Nor me, Dale," he said, with a nod.  "And look here, I shan't open
this, but here's a big tin of kangaroo-tail; give him that too for
warming up for our dinner."

I went away pretty well loaded, and walked to the galley.

"Here," I said, trying to speak merrily, but it was all forced, for I
felt exceedingly nervous.  "I was asking you just now what was for
dinner.  Here you are--kangaroo-tail for our dinner, and that soup in
the blue tin; and you're to put plenty of water to this other one, and
make a half-bucket-full of soup for the men in the forecastle.  How soon
will it be ready?"

"Five minutes.  I've plenty of boiling water.  Who opened them?"

"We did," I replied.  "They are all right, but some of the tins are
going bad."

"Yes; I've had some I was glad to pitch overboard, sir, and if I had my
way I'd make the folks as sells such rubbish for poor sailors eat it
themselves."

"And serve 'em right.  You understand you're to keep this one for us,
and get ready the yellow tin?"

"All right, Mr Dale."

"Hulloa, cookie, what's for dinner?" said the man who had just been
relieved from taking his trick at the wheel.  "Oh!--didn't know you were
here, sir."

"Chump end of a hurdy-gurdy and organ sauce, messmate," said the cook,
meaning to be very facetious, while I walked out of the galley, passing
the man who had been sitting aft talking to the steersman.

I reported the progress of what I had done to Mr Brymer, and then
waited for further orders.

"I think I'll stand out of this business altogether now, Dale," he said.
"Wait a few minutes and then take one of the men, say Dumlow, and serve
out the stuff to them, passing down a fresh supply of biscuits as well.
What's the matter?"

I flushed up.

"I--I don't quite like doing it, Mr Brymer," I said.

He looked at me angrily, but his face softened directly.

"No," he said, "it is not a pleasant task.  It seems treacherous and
cruel, but I cannot show myself in the matter.  They might turn
suspicious.  Some one in authority must go, and it is a work of sheer
necessity.  You will have to go, Dale."

"Yes, sir, I'll go," I said firmly.  "I don't like it, but I know it is
right."

"Go on then, my lad, and carry it through for all our sakes.  Be careful
that the man with you does not touch it."

I nodded, and the time being near, I thrust my hands into my pockets,
and began to whistle as I walked forward, passed the galley, and I was
about to speak to Dumlow, who was on the watch, when a voice came out of
the hatchway sounding smothered but unmistakable as Jarette's.

"Now then, you sirs.  Are there to be any rations served out, or are we
to set fire to the ship?"

"Can't you wait a few minutes?"  I said, trying to speak coolly as I saw
the two men who had been by the wheel smoking their pipes near the
galley and looking on.

"Minutes, you whipper-snapper!" he snarled; "we've been waiting hours."

"If you're not civil I'll tell the cook to keep the soup back for an
hour."

"Soup?  What soup?" he cried.

"Soup the cook's getting ready; Dumlow, go and get the biscuit-bag."

Jarette uttered a grunt, and there was a buzz of voices from below whose
tones plainly enough told of eager expectation, for they had been pretty
well starved since they had been shut down in the cabin.

Dumlow fetched the bag of biscuits, and with the men watching me I
prepared to go forward.

"Better let me do it, sir," growled Bob Hampton; "they may shoot."

"No, I don't think they will," I said quietly, as I looked aft to see
that my friends were, like the men hard by, watching me, and Barney
Blane right aft at the wheel.  "Look here, below there," I said, trying
to keep my voice steady, for I felt horribly nervous, and could not help
thinking that if anything went wrong the mutineers would visit what had
been done on me.

"Look here, you, I'm going to serve out biscuits and soup.  I shall hand
the tins down through the hole in the hatch.  Fair play.  No pistols
now."

"Let's have the soup, and don't chatter, boy," said Jarette, sharply,
and just then the cook came out smiling with a bucket nearly full of
steaming, fragrant-smelling soup, and the man who had been by the wheel
came behind him carrying a dozen tin mugs whose handles were strung on a
piece of rope.

"Here we are!"  I said, strung up now to get the miserable business over
as quickly as I could, and just then the cook set the bucket down on the
deck, and began to stir it with a big iron ladle.

"Lot o' preserved vegetables and herbs and all in it, sir," he
exclaimed.  "If I don't stir they'll go to the bottom."

"Oh, keep stirring!"  I said huskily, as I took a tin, made Dumlow lay
some biscuits on the wooden boarding over the hatch, and I held the tin
ready while the cook filled it from the ladle.

The next minute, with my hand trembling, I handed the first tin and a
biscuit down, for both to be snatched from me.  Then I shivered and felt
that all was over, for a familiar voice said--

"Taste that, one of you, and see if it's all right."

"Oh, that's all right!  Mister Jarette.  Plenty o' salt, pepper, and
dried herbs in it," said the cook.

Then there was a peculiar noise below, slightly suggestive of pigs, and
a voice said--

"Jolly hot, but--suss!--good--capital!"

"Here, look sharp, skipper, make haste!  Here, I'm first," and a dozen
other expressions greeted my ear, as, gaining courage, I had a second
one filled and passed it down, leaving it to Dumlow now to hand down the
biscuits, while as every portion was served there were grunts of
satisfaction, and the cook smiled and looked as proud as could be.

"Here you, cookie, _bon chef_," cried Jarette; "I'll promote you as soon
as I come to my rights.  Ladle away."

The cook did ladle away, and I handed the tins, moved by a kind of
frenzy, so eager was I to get the horrible task over, while my heart
beat furiously.  I shivered as I heard the men below laughing and
talking, as they praised the cook's performance, little imagining the
hand I had had in the preparation.  But I thought of how horrible it
would be if the drug proved too strong for some of the men, or if others
got more than their share through its settling down, and in spite of the
vigorous use the cook made of his ladle as we neared the bottom, I felt
worse and worse, feeling as I did at last, that we were sending down to
some of the men that which might prove to be their death.

"That's all!" shouted the cook at last, giving the upturned tin bucket a
loud banging with his ladle, and a loud murmur of disappointment came up
through the opening.

"Be good boys, then, and I'll make you another lot to-morrow.  Why, Mr
Dale, sir," he said, turning to me, "it has made you hot; your face is
all over great drops."

"Is it?"  I said, rather faintly; "I suppose it is very hot."

But all the same I felt cold and ready to shiver, while to escape notice
I hurried aft and entered the saloon where the gentlemen were waiting,
Mr Brymer following me in.

"Well!" he said eagerly.

"They've taken it to the last drop," I panted, and then to the
doctor--"Oh, Mr Frewen, I feel as if I had been committing a dozen
murders.  I wish I had not said a word about the soup."



CHAPTER THIRTY.

Seeing how thoroughly upset I was, the mate told Mr Frewen to speak to
me as soon as he was gone; for he was about to join the men on the watch
by the forecastle-hatch, so as to be ready to take action as soon as
possible after the drug had acted.

"How soon will it be?" he asked Mr Frewen.

"I cannot tell you.  I never administered it like this before, only in
small doses as an opiate in cases of intense suffering.  It may be soon,
it may be an hour or two.  If they have, as we suppose, an ample supply
of spirits and tobacco below, it is possible that they may retard the
action."

"Well," said Mr Brymer, "be ready to come well-armed when I give the
signal--two whistles, mind.  I shall call upon you the moment I fancy it
can be done.  Hist!--the men."

For the two sailors whom we had made prisoners through their being at
the wheel had been apportioned the duty of taking the steward's place,
that poor fellow having without doubt gone overboard on the night of the
rising; and as Mr Brymer left the cabin, these two quickly and roughly
prepared the table for our mid-day meal, went forward, and brought back
a tureen of soup, with a kind of ragout of the kangaroo's tail from the
tin.

The dinner was just ready, when there was a noise from forward; and we
hurried to the door-way, but it was only to hear a roaring chorus rise
from the forecastle-hatchway.

"They have begun at the spirits," said Mr Frewen.  And then telling the
two sailors to ask Mr Brymer to come and join us, the men went forward,
spoke to the mate, and he came to the saloon entrance.

"Better come and join us, Brymer," said Mr Frewen.  "You want food: and
we can tell by the cessation of the noise they are making when the time
for action has come."

"Oh, I can't eat, man, at a time like this!" said the mate, excitedly.

"You must, to keep up your strength.  Will Miss Denning join us?"

This to Mr Denning, who shook his head.

"No; let her stay in her cabin.  She would only be in our way.  I will
take her in some dinner."

"You had better keep up appearances, so that the men may not notice
anything.  Mr Preddle, help the soup."

I shuddered, and every one turned pale.

"Oh, there is no risk," said the mate quickly.  "But here, make the
plates and spoons look as if they had been used, and then throw all the
soup out of the stern-window."

I brightened a little at hearing this, for the possibility of the cook
having made a mistake was always before my eyes.  So after satisfying
ourselves that the men were not likely to return yet, I was one of the
busiest in dirtying the plates and spoons, and ended by emptying the
soup from the window with a feeling of the most intense relief.

"Will it send the fishes to sleep, Mr Frewen?"  I whispered, as I
placed the empty tureen back in its place.

"Bad for them if it does," he said, with an attempt at looking merry.
"For their enemies are safe to swallow them while they are napping."

"With both eyes open," said Mr Preddle.

The departure of the soup acted like a charm on all; and after Mr
Brymer had been down once more as far as the forecastle, we all began to
partake of the savoury Australian dish the cook had prepared, with an
abundance of rich gravy, and the whole surrounded by a thick wall of
beautifully cooked white rice.

Though our meals had been rough and unsatisfactory for many hours, every
one began his dinner with manifest distaste, for it was impossible to
avoid thinking of what had been done; but after a portion had been taken
into the cabin by Mr Denning for his sister, and a little of the gravy
and rice to the captain by the doctor's orders, first one made a little
pretence of eating by nibbling at his biscuit, then another tasted the
savoury-looking dish and commented upon it, and a minute later, as a
jovial chorus came rolling out of the forecastle-hatch, Mr Frewen began
to eat.

"Come, Dale," he said, "have some dinner, and forget all that.  It was
your duty, my lad."

"Yes; I will try," I said; and making an effort, I mastered my
disinclination and swallowed a mouthful.

"Capital, isn't it?" said Mr Frewen, smiling.

"Yes, it is good," I replied; and I went on, feeling surprised at my
returning appetite.

The result was that Mr Brymer and Mr Denning fell to, and we were
all--perhaps in a forced manner, to encourage each other--loud in our
praises of the dish, of which we ate heartily.

In fact, when I had nearly finished my plateful, a thought struck me,
and after a little hesitation I turned to Mr Brymer.

"Well?" he said.  "What is it, Dale?"

"I was thinking, sir," I said.

"What of--the gang singing?  They're passing the bottle round pretty
freely."

"No, sir," I said.  "I was thinking how tantalising it must be to hear
this dinner going on, and smell it, and not get some."

"Oh, we'll call the men to finish it when we've done.  Poor fellows!
they work hard for us, and we will not stand on ceremony now."

"I meant Walters, sir," I said.

"Humph!  The treacherous young hound!  Why, you don't mean you want to
take him some?"

"Yes, I do, sir," I said quickly.  "I don't like him, or defend him, but
I'd give him a plate of this."

Mr Brymer looked round the table and frowned.

"Well," he said, "take him some, but mind he don't get out."

I rose eagerly.  Mr Preddle smiled all over his round, plump face, and
well filled a plate, which I bore to the cabin in which Walters was
prisoned, and unfastening it, bore it in.

He was leaning against the ship's side, gazing out of the cabin-window,
and would not turn his head.

"I've brought you some dinner," I said, but he paid no attention, and I
repeated the words, but still he did not move.  "Oh, very well," I said.
"If you like to be sulky, be so.  I'll take it back."

He faced round in an instant.  Hunger is, after all, very taming.

"Set it down," he said shortly; and thereat our eyes met, and he saw my
bruised and disfigured features.  His face expanded in an unpleasantly
triumphant grin.

"Oh, all right," I said, setting the plate and biscuit down on the
locker, though feeling all the time as if I should like to take it back.
"Laugh away; you don't look so very beautiful, Mr Pirate Lieutenant."

He gave an angry start, and the smile changed to a savage frown, which
did not improve a pair of terribly black eyes and a cut and swollen lip.

But I was ready to give him quite as defiant a look as I opened the
door, and then going out I re-locked him in, and went back to my place,
ready for some more of the kangaroo stew.

"Well, was he very grateful?" said Mr Brymer.

I shook my head, and finished my dinner in silence, listening the while
to the men, who were singing uproariously.

"Your prescription seems to agree with them, Mr Frewen," said the mate
significantly, as we all rose.

"Yes; but wait a wee, as the Scotch folk say."

"Yes, up by the forecastle," said the mate.  "Put your pistols in your
pockets, and we'll keep watch and listen to the effects of the drug
while the men have their meal.  Dale, my lad, take Blane at the wheel a
portion, while I send the others to have theirs."

I hastily obeyed, taking a pretty good ration for Barney Blane, who must
have been having pretty good sniffs of the savoury food to slacken his
appetite, and he grinned hugely as he saw me approach.

"That's your sort, sir; I was getting hungry."

"Can you eat and steer too, Barney?"  I said.

"Can I eat and steer too?" he cried.  "You just set that theer on the
binnacle, sir, and come back in ten minutes and see."

"I will, Barney," I said, "and bring you some grog too."

"And I'll say you're a real gentleman, Mr Dale, sir, that I will, and
drink your health."

"You shall, Barney," I said, turning to go.

"But I say, sir, ain't they pretty lively down in the forksle?"

"Yes, very."

"What did you serve out?  Were it rum?"

"No, Barney, soup," I said; "but wait a bit and they won't be quite so
merry."

"No, sir, they won't.  It's unlimited grog, for they've got plenty down
below; but, as you say, wait a bit.  They will have done by-and-by."

"They will," I said to myself, with a faint shiver of nervousness coming
over me again as I descended the ladder, just as, relieved from duty,
Bob Hampton and Neb Dumlow came aft.

"In with you," I said, "and eat away.  The others coming?"

"No, Mr Dale, sir; they've been having their snack along with the cook
in the galley, and got it done."

"The more for you then," I said, trying to laugh, but feeling very
serious indeed.

They entered on tip-toe as if afraid of disturbing the captain and Miss
Denning, and directly after were eating ravenously at the remainder of
the meal.

It was a lovely day, and I could not help thinking what a pity it was
that Miss Denning should not be on deck watching the blue sea and the
silvery, fleecy clouds.  Every now and then some fish sprang out of the
clear water as if disturbed by the Burgh Castle's prow as she glided
along due south almost upon an even keel.  One moment I felt disposed to
suggest to Mr Denning that he should bring her out to where the sails
cast a shade, but the singing of the men in the forecastle and the
anxious looks of Mr Brymer and the gentlemen with him reminded me of
the serious business in hand.

The cook was busy in his galley, and the two men were lolling about
talking to him now and then, and occasionally glancing aft, waiting for
Bob Hampton and Dumlow to finish before going aft to clear away, and
fetch the things to the galley, where they would get hot water to wash
up.

How beautiful and calm and peaceful it all seemed!  The ocean looked so
lovely, and I felt so happy and so much at peace that it seemed a pity
for me to have that pistol stuck in my belt, for it was in my way as I
laid my arms on the bulwarks and my breast against them to listen to the
singing of the mutineers.  For they were not shouting now.  Their voices
sounded pleasant and sweet, though I could not make out the words, which
came softer and softer, and then there was the chorus almost as soft.  I
knew why this was.  The drug was beginning to take effect, and I felt
that before long their voices would be quite hushed.  They would be
asleep, and I did not mind it now.  It was all my exaggerated fancy, I
felt, for it would do them good, and bring them to their senses to find
themselves separated and away from the influence of Jarette.

I turned to look toward the forecastle, near which Mr Frewen was
standing with Mr Brymer, and they were evidently listening attentively,
while Mr Preddle and Mr Denning were close up to the bulwarks on the
starboard side, I being to port.

After a time Mr Frewen approached me, and I began to think that he was
a very much taller man than I had been in the habit of supposing, and
his face was bigger too.  It looked larger round than Mr Preddle's and
there was a peculiar, light, rainbow-like look around it as if I was
gazing at him through a spy-glass.

Then I started, for though he was a long way off he took hold of my
shoulder with an arm like a telescope, and shook me.

"What's the matter, Dale?" he said.  "Don't look like that, my lad.  Not
well?"

"Not well?"  I said, or rather it was as if somebody a long way off said
so.  "Of course I am.  Quite well, thank you."

"Well, don't go to sleep, boy."

He shook me just as I felt as if I was beginning to fly right off over
the blue sea, and away into the fleecy clouds, and as I made an effort
to get rid of the clutch upon my shoulder, he said, or somebody else
said--

"Great heavens! what does this mean?"

I distinctly heard Mr Frewen say that, and wondered what he meant.  For
it did seem absurd that he should come slowly up to me till his eyes
were looking close into mine, and then gradually shrink away again till
he was right off on the other side of the ship, and then over the
bulwarks and away at sea, till he was no higher than my finger before he
came back again.

But though he appeared to be so distant, I could hear him breathing hard
all the time.

I was so disgusted that I determined to take no notice of him, and
looked instead at the two sailors by the galley.  One of them was
laughing and the other staring at me very hard.  Then he began behaving
in the same manner as Mr Frewen, till the doctor said suddenly--

"Drink this."

It was cold water, and tasted, delicious.

"Thank you," I said, with my voice sounding a long way off, and I think
it was Mr Brymer who spoke then, but his voice sounded too as if he
were distant, though his words were perfectly distinct.

"Over-excitement, isn't it, and the heat of the sun?"

Then after a very long pause Mr Frewen said--

"Perhaps, but I am beginning to be afraid.  Yes, that's light, my lad,
sit down here in the shade.  Take off your cap."

That lad--I did not know who it was then--sat down on the bottom of a
tub, and leaned his head back against the bulwarks for the soft breeze
to play through his hair; and very pleasant and dreamy and restful it
all was for him, whoever he was, while I listened, too, to what was
going on.

A great deal appeared to be going on about me just then, and I quite
enjoyed it, and somehow it was as if everything was surrounded by
beautiful colours.  Mr Brymer came and went just as if I were seeing
him through a cut-glass decanter-stopper, but he was not half so
striking as Mr Preddle, who came and stood over me looking gigantic,
but his face and even his clothes were prismatic.  So was the air, which
now began to descend rapidly, as if it were some brilliant waterfall
coming down from the clouds.

"Will you fetch me a cane seat off the poop?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

It was Mr Preddle's highly-pitched voice which I heard, and it was the
sailor who had sat talking to the steersman who answered, and soon after
I heard the chair squeak very loudly, as big Mr Preddle, looking as
large as an elephant now, sat down by the boy on the tub, and leaned his
head back against the bulwarks.

He talked to him about the fish, and said that the hot weather did not
agree with them, and that he was afraid that kangaroo-tail was too rich
a dish to agree with them, for it was indigestible, and made people
drowsy.

The boy did not make any answer, but sat staring at Mr Preddle
sidewise, wondering why the big stout naturalist also should keep on
going and coming in that telescopic fashion, which was so puzzling to me
as well as to that boy, who was, however, exceedingly stupid, for he did
not say a word, but only stared with his mouth half open.

Then I was listening to Mr Brymer, who was talking anxiously to the
doctor, as they stood watching the forecastle-hatch, from which came a
deliciously sweet chorus, and I knew why it sounded so pleasant--it was
because the men were so far away in the bows, for the Burgh Castle grew
longer and longer, till the bowsprit seemed as if it were miles away,
but with every rope and block as distinctly seen as if it were still
close to me.

"Well, my lad, how are you?" said Mr Frewen just then; but the boy
leaning back against the bulwark only stared at him, and I felt ready to
kick him for being so rude, and then I wanted to punch Mr Preddle, for
he began to snore abominably.

"I don't like it, Frewen," said somebody just then.  "What do you say?
You don't think it possible that--"

He did not finish speaking, for just then I saw Mr Frewen go to the boy
on the tub, and dash some water over his face.

"Now, my lad," he said, "you must get up and walk about."

He took hold of the boy's arm, but did not pull him up, for the lad
fought against him angrily, and then I knew I was that boy staring hard
at the doctor, and then at Mr Denning, who came along the deck from the
companion-way far-distant, crying--

"Doctor--my sister--come directly--she's dying!"

The doctor went away directly, and I saw him going what seemed to be
miles away, but so gently and easily that it was like something in a
dream.  Mr Brymer went after him, and the cook and the two men stood
watching them till they disappeared through the saloon entrance, while
the men in the forecastle kept on singing a chorus, sounding now loud
and now soft, just as one hears the music of a great organ when the
performer opens and closes the swell.

I don't know how long it was afterwards, but it did not seem to matter,
for everything was so pleasant and calm, before I saw Mr Brymer come
back with the doctor, and directly after, though he seemed to be still a
long way off, Mr Brymer said--

"I must send another man.  He is hanging fast asleep over the wheel."

Then I saw Mr Frewen catch at one of the shrouds and stand gazing at
him vacantly, and then I felt quite pleased, for Bob Hampton was there
along with Neb Dumlow.

"It is all going to be right now," I thought, though I did not know that
anything was wrong, and I felt as if I was just dropping off into a
delicious sleep.

But all was quite clear and plain again, as I heard Bob Hampton say--

"Some one has been playing larks with the grub, sir.  I can't go to the
wheel, for I can't--can't--can't--can't--Here, hold up Neb, lad; don't
lurch about like that."

"I'm a-going down, matey, I'm a-going down," growled Dumlow, and I saw
him sink on the deck.

"You scoundrels, you've been at the rum!" cried Mr Brymer, and he drew
his pistol, but only gave a stagger, and caught about in the air to try
and save himself from falling.  "Help--Frewen--something--give me
something," he panted, and Mr Frewen came to him, feeling his way with
his arms stretched out just as if he were playing at blindman's buff.

He came on as if from a great distance, till he touched Mr Brymer, and
I heard him whisper the one word--"Treachery."

"I knew it!" cried the mate, fiercely, and cocking his pistol he
staggered for a moment just as I saw Bob Hampton sink down on the deck
holding his head.

Directly after, as Mr Frewen stood swaying to and fro, the mate rushed
to where the cook and the two men stood by the galley-door.

The two sailors shrank away to right and left, while Mr Brymer seized
the cook and dragged him away, forcing him down upon his knees, holding
him by the collar with one hand, and swaying to and fro as he said
thickly--

"You dog, you drugged that dish you sent in to dinner!"

"No, sir--'pon my word, sir--I swear, sir!" shrieked the poor fellow.

"You treacherous hound, you've poisoned us!" stammered out the mate.

"I swear I haven't, Mr Brymer, sir.  Don't, sir--that pistol, sir--
pray, sir--indeed, indeed, I haven't!"

Mr Brymer was shaking the pistol about threateningly, as he rocked to
and fro over the cook, who as he knelt clasped his hands in agony, and I
heard him say something very indistinctly, for he was sobbing about his
wife and child.

Then there was a loud bang as the pistol fell, and directly after I saw
Mr Brymer glide down as it were on to the deck, and roll over toward
where Mr Frewen already lay--though I had not seen him fall--with his
arms now folded, and his face upon them as if he were asleep.

And still it didn't seem to trouble me in the least.  Even when Mr
Brymer was gesticulating with his pistol, it did not alarm me, for it
was all something interesting going on before me just as if it were part
of a dream which would all dissolve away directly, and then I should
wake up and think of it no more.

I think my eyes must have been closing then, but they opened widely
again, and at one glance I saw my companions perfectly motionless from
where I sat back against the bulwark, and heard Mr Preddle snoring
heavily by my side.  For the cook exclaimed passionately--

"I swear, if it was the last word I had to titter, I've done nothing!  I
never drugged nobody's food!"

"All right, matey," said the sailor I had seen talking to the steersman;
"it warn't you--it was me."

"You?" cried the cook.  "You've poisoned them!"

"Not I, my lad," said the man, laughing; and every word he uttered rang
in my ears as if it was being shouted by some tremendous voice, for my
senses were at that moment abnormally clear.  "Not I, my lad.  I was up
yonder, when I saw Brymer and the rest of 'em get together to have what
old Frenchy calls a parley, and they hadn't been there long, leaving me
wondering what game was up, and what they were going to do about the
lads down below, when I see the sky-light opened a bit.  So of course I
crep' along the deck to hear what they'd got to say."

"And did you hear?"

"Every word, mate.  They were going to get the doctor to find the stuff
to send all the lads to sleep, and then they were going to open the
hatch and shove Jarette by himself, and the others some in the
cable-tier and some in the hold."

"Yes, yes!" cried the cook, eagerly, while I listened hard.

"Well then, that warmint yonder said it ought to be put in the soup, and
so they settled it.

"`Two can play at that game,' I says, and I listened till they spoke so
low that I opened the light a bit wider, and it slipped out of my hands
and went down bang.  So I nipped back to set alongside o' Tommy here,
and my gentleman comes up to peep, sees me right away, and goes back
again.  I thought perhaps they'd give it up then, but I kep' my eyes
open, and bimeby I sees my nipper here come to you with three tins, and
he tells you what to do with them.

"`All right,' I says, `I can see through that dodge,' so I lays low and
waits my chance, empties the tin of soup you'd put aside into a pan, and
then pours the one you were going to use into the one you'd set aside,
and that out of the pan into the tin, but I washed it out first, and put
it ready for you to use."

"You couldn't; I was here all the time," said the cook, angrily.

"Oh, was you?  Didn't go round to the back to fetch taters, did you?"

"Of course.  I forgot."

"Ah, that's right," continued the man.  "But I warn't satisfied then,
for I says to myself, `Them poor beggars down below won't get the dose
now, but I should like t'others to have a taste;' and to make sure as
they did, I takes the tin as you'd got the lumps o' meat in, pours out
all the pieces and fills it up from the tin they'd doctored, and filled
it up again with the juice I'd poured out; now I says to myself,
whichever lot they have'll give 'em what they meant for some one else--
and so it did.  My word, they mixed it pretty strong."

"Why, the tins were wet and sticky!" cried the cook.

"Course they was, mate; I had to be in such a hurry for fear of your
coming back."

"And I couldn't make out about that pan."

"Hadn't time to wash it, messmate."

"Then I gave the lads down below the soup the cabin was to have had?"

"You did."

"And them in the cabin the soup and kangaroo they'd physicked?"

"That's so, matey, and their games are over again.  You'll jyne us,
won't you?"

"I?  Join you?" faltered the cook, looking across at me; "here, what are
you going to do?"

"Let the lads out again.  It's their turn now."

And just then the men in the forecastle finished a chorus and began to
cheer.

"I shall wake up from this dream directly," I remember thinking, but I
did not, for all was black, and I was in the deepest sleep that I ever
had in my long life.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

Hot!  So hot that I could hardly breathe, and so dark that I could not
see across the cabin.  My head ached, and I was terribly sleepy, with a
heavy, unsatisfied drowsiness, which kept me from stirring, though I
longed to get out of my cot and go and open the window, and at the same
time have a good drink from the water-bottle.

I was lying on my brick, and there was the impression upon me that I had
been having bad dreams, during the passing of which I had been in great
trouble of some kind, but what that trouble was I could not tell; and as
soon as I tried to think, my brain felt as if it was hot and dry, and
rolling slowly from side to side of my skull.

I was very uncomfortable and moved a little, but it made my head throb
so that I was glad to lie still again and wait till the throbbing grew
less violent.

"It all comes of sleeping in a cabin in these hot latitudes with the
window closed.  Mr Frewen ought to know better," I thought, "being a
doctor.  I'll tell him of it as soon as he wakes."

This is how I mused, thinking all the time how foolish I was not to get
up and open the window, but still feeling no more ready to cool the
stifling air of the cabin.

"What makes men snore so?"  I thought then, and began to wonder how it
was that so gentlemanly a man as the doctor should make such a noise in
his sleep.  I had never heard him do so before.  As a rule he lay down,
closed his eyes, and went off fast, breathing as softly as a baby till
he woke in the morning.  Now his breathing was what doctors call
stertorous, heavy and oppressed.

"Oh, how I wish he would wake up and open the window!"  I thought; but
he did not wake up nor cease breathing so heavily, and I lay thinking
about coming to bed on the previous night.  That is to say, I lay trying
to think about coming to bed, for I could not recall anything.  I had
some dreamy notion of its having been my watch; but whether I had taken
it, or whether it was yet to come and some one was due to rouse me up
soon, I could not tell.

"It's all due to having such a headache," I thought, "and of course
through this horrid air.  Why doesn't he wake up and open the window?"

How long that lasted I cannot tell, but it must have been for some time,
during which my brain burned and my thoughts came in a horribly confused
manner.  I could hear the sounds on deck, and feel that the ship was
careening over with the breeze, but these facts suggested nothing to me,
and I must have been in quite a stupor, when I was roused by a voice
saying angrily--

"Well, what is it?"

I knew the voice from its rough harsh tones, and I lay waiting for some
one to answer, but there was no reply, and all was blacker and hotter
than ever, when there came the peculiar smacking noise of one passing
his tongue over his dry lips, and once more he spoke.

"D'yer hear, what is it?"

There was no reply, and it seemed to me that the speaker was settling
himself down to go to sleep again, for he moved uneasily.

"What did yer say, Neb?"

I had not heard Neb Dumlow say anything, and I wondered why I had not,
for I did not think I had been to sleep.  But I felt that I must have
been, or I should have heard.

"Mussy me, what a head I've got!" muttered the voice.  "Did the gents
give us some rum?"

There was a pause.

"Must ha' done, but I don't recklect.  Why, it must ha' been a whole
lot."

My head must have been growing less confused, for now I began to be
puzzled about how it was that Bob Hampton was sleeping in our cabin
instead of just under shelter with the others at the entrance of the
saloon.  It was very strange, but I was too stupid to arrange things.
Once I wondered whether I really was in the cabin along with Mr Frewen,
but I got no farther with that line of reasoning, and I was sinking back
into my stupor or lethargy when Bob Hampton spoke again.

"Here, Neb--Barney, open something, and let's have some fresh air.  My,
how hot!"

He had a headache too then, and could hardly breathe for the hot
closeness of the place.  This roused me, and I lay thinking how strange
it was that he should be just as much indisposed as I was to move.  But
he was a fore-mast man and I was an officer, so I had only to speak to
be obeyed, and after making two or three efforts which only resulted in
a dull muttering sound, Bob Hampton exclaimed--

"Here, whatcher talking about?  Who is it, and what do you want?"

"I say, open the window, Bob, and let's have some fresh air."

There was a quick rustling movement close by me, as if some one had
risen upon his elbow, and he exclaimed--

"What d'yer say?"

"Open the window, Bob; I'm half-stifled."

"So'm I, my lad.  Here, what's the matter?  What are you doing here?"

"No," I said; "what are you doing here in the cabin, Bob?"

"I arn't in the cabin, my lad, and you arn't in the cabin, for this
arn't in it, and--Here, I say, what's up?"

"I don't know," I said peevishly, "but it's so hot I can't bear it; do
open something."

"Blest if I--Look here, my lad--There arn't anything to open anywheres,
and my head won't go.  Would you mind telling me where the sky-light is,
for I s'pose I had too much grog last night like a fool, and I arn't
werry clear in the head."

"I don't know, I can't tell, Bob.  It's all a puzzle."

"And it's so plaguey dark, my lad.  Wait a bit and I'll feel round with
my fingers, for eyes aren't no good here."

"Well," I said, for there was a good deal of rustling, "what can you
feel?"

"Chesties and casks, my lad, and we're a-lying on 'em--leastwise I am.
What are we two a-lying on chesties and casks for?"

"I don't know, Bob.  But who's that snoring so?"

"Where?"

"Somebody was snoring just now, but it stopped when you spoke."

"Then I s'pose it must ha' been me, my lad.  I have heard say as I could
play a pretty good toon on my nose when I was very fast asleep."

"No.  There it goes again," I said in a hoarse whisper, as the noise
which I had first heard recommenced.

"Oh, there's no gammon 'bout that, my lad.  That there's Neb Dumlow.  If
ever you're anywheres and hears a sound like a vessel blowing off her
steam under water, all snort and bubble, you may take your oath it's Neb
Dumlow.  Here, I'll stop that."

"Wait a moment, Bob," I said.  "I want to know first where we are."

"So do I, my lad, but it seems to me, as my old mother used to say, that
want'll be your master.  I dunno, my lad; arn't dead and buried, are
we?"

"Don't talk nonsense," I said peevishly.  "Look here,--were you on the
middle watch last night?"

"Dunno, my lad,--were you?"

"I can't recollect, Bob.  But do try.  We must be somewhere in the dark,
and it's that which puzzles us."

"Oh yes, there's no gammon about that, my lad; we're somewheres in the
dark, and it's 'bout the solidest, thickest darkness I ever found myself
in.  Here, I'll wake up old Neb.  He's very ugly and precious stoopid,
but he'll tell us where we are in a jiffy.  Here!  Hi!  Avast there!
Neb!"

"Hullo!" came in answer to what sounded like a heavy shaking after Bob
Hampton had crept by me.

"Now, my lad, rouse up a bit."

"Our watch, old man?"

"No; not yet."

"Bless yer.  Good-night."

Snore.

"No, no; rouse up."

"Well, all right, messmate.  That there's flesh and blood you've got
hold on, not suit.  Don't skin me."

"Then wake up."

"Well, I'm woke up.  What is it?  Who's dowsed the lantern?"

"I d'know.  Here's Mr Dale wants you to tell him where we are."

"Mr Dale?"

"Yes; I said so, didn't I, stoopid?"

"Course you did, matey, but what's he doing here?"

"That's what he wants you to tell him, only he wants to know first where
here is."

There was the sound of some one feeling about, and I fancied I could
hear some one else breathing, but I was not sure, and I listened
patiently for what Neb Dumlow was going to say.  But Bob Hampton was the
first to speak, and he said in a gruff whisper--

"He's a awful thick-headed chap, sir, but I think he'll hit it off for
us directly."

"Messmate!" came from a little way off.

"Well?"

"Has some one been having a lark with us?"

"I dunno, and I don't know anything," growled Bob.  "You arn't wanted to
ask questions, but to answer what Mr Dale wants to know.  Now, then,
what d'yer make of it?"

"Nowt."

"Well, where are we?"

"Dunno."

"What!--can't yer tell?"

"Can't find bottom, my lad; only seem to arrive at one thing."

"Well, what is it?"

"Well, it's this here; if it was me and you and old Barney--where is old
Barney?"

"Here, messmate."

"Oh, come then, I might be right, on'y you see we've got Mr Dale with
us."

"Look here, what are you fogging about?  Why don't you say what yer
mean, my lad?  Now then, out with it.  Where are we?--'cause Mr Dale
wants to know."

"Well, as he's here, we can't be here," growled Dumlow.

"What d'yer mean, stoopid?"

"Why, we can't be where I thought we was."

"And wheers that?"

"Why, my lad, it looks like this here 'cording to what I feels.  But
stop a moment, let's ask Barney a question.  Barney, old lad!"

"Hullo!"

"How's yer head?"

"Just as if it was a beehive, and all the bees swarming."

"That's it.  Then we are here, and all I've got to say for myself is, as
I wonder I could ha' been such a fool, and I'm sorry as Mr Dale don't
know better."

"Then where are we, Dumlow?"  I said hastily; "for I don't know any
better."

"Then you ought to, sir; you a orficer and brought up proper.  I wonder
at you a-leading men into trouble, and there'll be an awful row when old
Brymer finds us out."

"He's got it, sir," said Bob Hampton.  "It's what I thought, and it's a
rum 'un."

"Then, where are we?"  I said pettishly; for my head kept on feeling as
if it was spinning round.

"Why, sir," said Dumlow; "we're down in the hold among them sperrit
casks as was stowed by themselves, and some one's been opening one of
'em with a gimlet and letting us all drink."

"Hist!"

Tap, tap, tap, tap.

A long, low knocking as of knuckles against a bulk-head.

"Come in!" growled Bob Hampton.  "Here's the cook brought your
shaving-water, sir."

The tapping was repeated, and sounded some little distance off.

"Answer them, whoever it is, Bob," I said; for this seemed to be
something, if not tangible, at all events certain.

There was a little rustling about, and the tapping came again.

"Why don't you answer them?"  I said tetchily.

"What do you mean, sir--shout?"

"No, no; tap again."

"But there arn't nothin' to knock on, sir.  It's no good to hit the top,
or the floor."

"But there must be a partition somewhere," I said.

"Dessay there is, sir; but I can't tell where it is."

"Are we not somewhere near the forecastle?"

"Dessay we are, sir; but my head's some'at like a lump o' solid wood.
What did you bring us down here for?"

"I!  Bring you down!  Nonsense, man.  I did not bring you."

"Then how did we come, sir?  Do you know, Neb?"

"No."

"Do you, Barney?"

"No.  I only knows here we are, and my head's a rum 'un."

"But there must be some reason for us being here," I said piteously, as
I struggled vainly to get beyond what seemed to be a black curtain
hanging between the past and present.

"Yes, sir," said Bob, coolly; "there must be some reason."

"Then what is it, Bob?"

"Oh, don't ask me, sir; I arn't no scholard.  I'm all muzzly like.
Seems to me that we've been to one o' they casks,--and all the time it
don't.  No; we arn't had no drink.  We shouldn't with all that there
trouble a-hanging over us."

"Yes, Bob," I said eagerly, for he had touched a chord which set me
thinking--I mean trying to think; "that trouble hanging over us.  There
was some trouble, wasn't there?"

"Oh yes, sir; we was in a lot o' trouble about something, but blest if I
know what it was."

"Well; try, man," I cried.  "Think about trouble.  What trouble was it?"

"No, sir, I dunno," he cried, after a pause.  "We're aboard the Burgh
Castle still, arn't we?"

"I don't know," I began.  "Yes, of course we are, and we must be down in
the hold.  It's coming now, I think.  Why did we come down here?  Surely
one of you must know."

"It arn't likely, sir, if you don't," growled Dumlow.

"But what were we in trouble about?"  I said, for--I cannot describe
it--there was the thick feeling of something having happened; but
strange as it may seem, neither I nor the men could make anything out
about what had preceded our unnatural sleep.

"It's a rum 'un," said Bob Hampton at last.  "I dunno.  It's a rum 'un."

"But cannot either of you think at all?"  I cried in agony.  "It seems
so horrible to be here like this in black darkness, and not know how or
why."

"Or what?" suggested Bob.

"I think I've got it now," said Dumlow.

"Yes; what is it?"

"All gone mad wi' being so much out in the sun."

"You may be mad, Neb, I arn't, and I don't mean to.  I'll take my trick
at the wheel and box the compass with any on yer.  Wheel--wheel," he
added, thoughtfully--"steering.  Why arn't I at the wheel now?"

"'Cause you're here, messmate," said Dumlow.

"But I was a-steering when you comes, Mr Dale, sir, and brings me a
plate o' wittles, and you says, says you--"

"Oh!"  I cried excitedly.

"No, you didn't, sir, beggin' your parding; you says something about
could I steer and eat too, and I says--no, you says--no, it was I says;
well, it was one or t'other of us, I can't quite 'member which says,
`put it on the binnacle,'--and it was put there, and I ate it, and it
was very good."

"Oh!"  I cried again, as I pressed my temples with my hands, for I could
see a faint gleam of light peeping through into my head, or so it
seemed; but it kept on dying out again, and I was blank of memory again
as ever.

"Did you say wittles?" cried Dumlow, suddenly.

"Ay, mate, I did."

"Why, I 'members something 'bout wittles.  O' course.  Me and you, Bob."

"When?  Where?"

"Ah, I dunno when it was, nor wheer it was, but--"

"She's dying--she's dying," I cried; for those words came cutting
through the black silence, and gave me quite a pang.

"Who's she?  And what's she a-dying for?" growled Bob Hampton.

"Toe be sure, mate," said Dumlow, "that's what Mr Denning says as he
come out of his cabin.  `She's dying,' he says, and you and me got up
and sat down again feeling as silly as two booby birds."

"Here, you don't know what you're talking about, messmate," said Bob
Hampton.

"Yes, he does," I cried excitedly, for a greater light seemed to have
now flashed into my brain.  "You did go into the saloon to have--Oh, Bob
Hampton, I recollect it all now."

"Do you, sir?  Then let's have it," he said gruffly.

"There was a great mistake made," I cried.

"Seems like it, sir."

"And, yes," I continued, "I know Barney went to sleep at the wheel."

"That's a lie!" he rapped out.  "Leastwise, I beg your pardon, sir; I
mean I arn't the sort o' man to go to sleep on duty."

"No, no; of course not, Barney," I said piteously; "but you did, and Bob
Hampton and Neb Dumlow came and laid down on the deck, and I saw it all,
and heard it, and, oh dear, oh dear! what a terrible mess!"

"Arn't he going off his head, matey?" whispered Dumlow; but I heard him.

"No, no, man; it's all coming back now.  You don't know, but you must
now; it was a plan to give the mutineers stuff to send them all to
sleep, and it was changed and given to us instead."

"Beg pardon, sir," said Bob Hampton; "but hadn't you better lie down and
go to sleep again?"

"Why, Bob?"

"'Cause, to speak plain English, you're talking nonsense, sir."

"No, man; it's sense.  That fellow Dean heard all, and changed the
tins."

"Now, do lie down, sir; it's o' no use for you to go on worrying
yourself about tins."

"I tell you I can see it all now, man," I cried angrily.  "We took the
stuff, and the prisoners got off.  They're out now, and we're prisoners.
Don't you see?"

"No, sir; it's too dark.  But--"

"I tell you I'm all right.  My head is come clear again, and I can
think.  We were all confused through taking Mr Frewen's stuff."

"I never took none o' the doctor's stuff," growled Dumlow.  "And I don't
never mean to."

"Are you sure o' what you're saying, sir?" said Bob Hampton.

"Certain, Bob."

"I arn't."

"You hold your tongue, and don't be sarcy, Neb," growled Bob.  "I'm
a-beginning to see now.  Mr Dale's right.  If he warn't, how could we
be shut up down here with our heads as thick as if we'd been having 'em
stuffed?  That's it, sir, though I don't half understand what you say.
Then we've all been hocussed, and Jarette's got the upper hand again?"

"Yes, Bob, I'm afraid so."

"Well, that's ugly, my lad; but there's no help for it now, and the
sooner we get to work and take the ship again, I suppose, the better."

"Yes, Bob," I said.  "Of course."

"Very well, my lad, then here goes.  I'm glad it's how you say, for I
was beginning to think I'd got crazed, and been shut up for being
violent.  That's a comfort anyhow, for I don't hold with a man going off
his head."

"Then it's all right, messmate?" growled Dumlow.

"Right as it can be in a place like this, matey.  Yer can't breathe, nor
you can't see, and--well now, that's queer.  You seem to ha' set my head
working again, Mr Dale, sir; and I recklect sittin' in the s'loon
eating our dinner arter you gents had done, and then coming over all
pleasant and comfble like, and then I don't seem to 'member no more till
I woke up down here."

"And that knocking we heard must be some of the others," I cried
excitedly.

"That's sartain, sir."

"Is there any one else here beside us four?"

"If there be," says Barney, "we're a-lying on 'em, for there arn't no
room without as I can see."

"Yer can't see," growled Dumlow.

"Well, I didn't mean with my eyes, Neb; so don't be so chuff on a
fellow.  I meant with my understanding."

"Don't.  Don't get arguing together," I cried impatiently.  "It is
suffocating down here.  I want to understand how we are placed, and I
can't quite make it out yet."

"Well, sir, p'r'aps I can help you a bit," said Bob.  "Seems to me as
they pulled up a hatch and pitched us in, and then battened it down
again."

"And where are our friends?"

"Why, they'd shove 'em where we shoved they, down in the forksle, I
should say, unless they've stuffed 'em in the cable-tier."

"Yes, perhaps so," I said thoughtfully.

"Why, o' course," growled Dumlow.

"What?  They are in the cable-tier?"

"Oh, I dunno, sir; I was a-thinking about our taking they wittles in the
s'loon, and it's come back like sort o' bells ringing in my ear, and Mr
Denning saying she's dying.  Oh yes, I recklect that, and the doctor
coming.  That's 'bout as far as I can get."

"I 'member the wittles on the binnacle quite plain now," said Barney;
"and, yes, o' course, I kep' coming over all soft like, and wantin' to
sing songs, and listen to moosic, and couldn't sing; but it was all
silver and gold and sunshine and beautiful birds in beautiful trees.
Yes, it's all right, sir.  You see now, don't you, Neb?"

"No, I can't see nowt; but I dessay it's all right.  I don't want to
know; it don't matter to me."

"Hush!"  I whispered.  "There's that knocking again."

There it was quite plainly, and then came a repetition seemingly close
at hand,--three smart taps as of knuckles on a chest.

"There's some one else, and quite near," I said in a low voice.

"No, my lad, that was me.  Here's a big case behind me, and I let go on
it."

There were three more taps at a distance.

"Knock again," I said, and this time Bob struck twice.

A few moments later there were distinctly heard two knocks.

"They heard us," I said, and answered.  "Try again with one."

He struck once as loudly as he could, and we waited excitedly to hear
one blow given apparently on a bulk-head.

"Those are our friends there," I cried excitedly.

"If it arn't old Frenchy gammoning us, sir," said Barney.

"I think it must be our friends," I said, feeling unwilling to give up
the idea; and I was going to add something, when there came to us
plainly enough the sound of feet passing somewhere overhead, and
directly after a voice shouted something, but what we could not hear.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

Our heads, on comparing notes, began to feel more bearable, and as the
throbbing gradually died away we could feel that the effort to think was
easier, while our thoughts were clearer, and before long we began to
feel about so as to learn what kind of place we were in, and made out
that it was an oblong kind of space between cases, and with barrels
underneath, and upon which we had been lying when we began to come to.
We could learn nothing further, and there were no replies now to the
tappings we gave from time to time, a fact which made my heart sink
rather low.  For I knew that there must be some reason for this, and I
was trying to puzzle it out, when Barney Blane said suddenly--

"Say, messmates, arn't it 'bout time as some 'un came round to feed the
crew?"

"Ay," said Bob, "and the sooner they do it the better.  I'm getting wild
for want o' somethin' to stow in my hold.  They've got to bring
something too, or I'll soon let 'em know."

"Know what, Bob?"  I said anxiously, for the man's voice sounded fierce
and strange.

"Why, sir, they threatened us as to what they'd do; fired it right into
my ear, Jarette did.  He says to me he says, `If yer don't soon let us
out, I'll set fire to the ship.'"

"Yes, I know he did," I said.

"That's 'robborative evidence, messmates, when yer orficer says you're
right.  Well, then, what I says to him is this, I've got a box o'
matches in my pocket, and if they don't soon let us out, or put us
somewhere so as we can breathe, I'll set the blessed old Burgh Castle
alight myself and burn our way out."

"Nonsense," I cried; "you're mad."

"And 'nuff to make me, sir.  That there stuff we took's set up a reg'lar
fierce annymile or something in my inside, as goes on gnaw, gnaw, gnaw,
till I shan't be able to stand it much longer, and shall have to break
out."

"Well, you are a rum 'un, Bob," said Barney.  "Why, you're not going to
turn canniball, are yer, at your time o' life?"

"What d'yer mean?"

"Talking about eating your messmates."

"Who did?  What yer talking about?  Nobody wouldn't want to eat you,
Barney.  If I wanted to get the flavour o' 'bacco in my mouth I'd get it
from a quid, and while a man could get at a bit o' oak or an old shoe he
wouldn't think o' trying to gnaw old Neb.  What d'yer mean?"

"Then what d'yer talk o' roasting us for in that there mad way, matey?"

"Oh, well, I don't know as I meant it, messmate, but I'm that hungry
just now as never was."

"That will do," I said, asserting my position as officer.  "Silence,
please."

"All right, sir; all right," growled Bob.  "I'm ready.  What yer going
to do?"

"Try and feel about, Bob, to find where the hatch is.  We must get some
air somehow."

"That's right, sir.  Come on, lads, and have a try.  Who's got knives?"

"I have," said Barney.  "Me too," growled Dumlow.  "That's right, then;
we may have to use 'em."

Then a rustling sound began, and I knew that the men were feeling about
overhead; while being able to think pretty clearly now, I came to the
conclusion that we had been thrown down here, the hatches put on again,
and the tarpaulin spread over them, and that was why it was so airless
and hot.

I had an endorsement of my opinion a minute later, for Bob growled out--

"Here's the hatches, sir, and they're all battened down and the 'paulins
is nailed over 'em.  I'll soon have some fresh air in."  And before I
could grasp what he was going to do, I heard a curious ripping sound,
which told me that he had passed the blade of his long Spanish
spring-knife through between two of the cross-hatches, and was cutting
through it.

"There!" he said, as a gleam of light struck through, so brilliant that
I knew it must be broad daylight; and even that ray sent a thrill of
hope through me, for it seemed to bring me nearer to the living world
after feeling as if I had been buried alive.

"Don't cut any more yet, Bob," I whispered.

"But that there hole won't give enough air for one man to sniff, sir.
You must have another to let out the steam."

"But listen first," I said.  "Can you hear any one on deck?"

There was perfect silence for some minutes, and then came a deep--

"No."

"What time should you think it is?"

"'Bout four bells, I should say, sir.  Sun's shining down so as the
tarpaulin's made the hatch hot."

"Then the lubbers are all having a caulk," growled Dumlow.  "Tell him to
have another cut, sir, and a good long 'un this time."

I hesitated for a few moments, shrinking from doing anything to let the
enemy know that we were trying to get out; but the heat was so terrible
that I was obliged to give the order at last.

"Cut, Bob," I whispered, and there was a low buzz of satisfaction as the
knife ripped through the tarred canvas, and we could see a long streak
of bright light.

"'Nother, sir?" said Bob.

"Yes," I said desperately, "we shall be suffocated if you don't."

Rip went the tarpaulin again, and another streak of light a short
distance from the others appeared, while directly after, without waiting
for orders, Bob lengthened the first cut he had made till it equalled
the two latter.

"Won't be much better," he growled, "but it's better than nothing.
Shall I get under the end of one of the hatches now, sir, and try and
push it up?"

"No, not yet.  If we do that it ought to be after dark.  But I don't
think there will be any chance, for they are sure to be well fastened
down.  Listen again.  There must be some one on deck."

"Yes, sir, for sartain, but they'll be up at the other end.  Dessay
they're a-feeding o' themselves, and got plenty to drink."

"Ay, trust 'em, messmate," growled Dumlow, "but it's no use to grumble.
Ups and downs in life we see.  We're down now, and it's their turn."

"Now," said Barney.

"Hush!"  I whispered.

We all listened, and plainly heard a step overhead, as if a man was
walking along the deck.  It passed by, sounding fainter, and died away,
but at the end of a minute we heard it again, and knew that whoever it
might be, he was returning and would pass by us again.

This happened, and I feared that he would notice the cuts in the
tarpaulin, but he went on, the footsteps grew fainter, and I fancied
that I heard them continue on the ladder as the man ascended to the
poop-deck.

"Could you tell who that was, Bob?"  I said.

"Ay, sir.  No mistaking that pair o' legs.  They don't go like an
Englishman's would.  That was old Jarette."

I set my teeth hard, and almost writhed at the feeling of impotence
which troubled me.  To have been so near success, and then for that
scoundrel, who had promised to work faithfully for us if he were
forgiven, to have played the spy, and contrived after hearing our plot
to change the contents of the tins.  For it was all clear enough now in
my memory, and I could recall every word the man had said to the cook.

"We ought to have kept some one on the watch while we made our plans," I
said to myself, but felt how absurd it was to murmur now that the
mischief was done.

The heat seemed a little less intense now, but it was so terrible that
the throbbing in my head commenced again, and I was ready to order an
attempt to be made to force up one side of the hatch, when there was a
whisper.

"What say, Bob?"  I replied.

"Didn't speak, sir," was the reply.

"You then, Dumlow?"

"No; not me, sir."

"Well then, Barney, it was you," I said tetchily.  "What do you want?"

"I never spoke, sir," said Barney, in an ill-used tone.  "What do they
want to say it was me for?"

"Cheer up!" came now quite plainly.

"Eh?  Who spoke?"

"Friend," was whispered again.

"Yes, what?  Who is it?"

"Pst!"

I waited for whoever it was to speak again, but there was not another
sound, and I turned to where I believed Bob to be lying.

"Who could that be?"  I said.

"Well, sir, when a man blows his words down through a slit in a
tarpaulin--"

"You think it came down through the hole you cut?"

"Yes, sir, sure on it; but as I was a-saying, when a man blows his words
down like that he might just as well be whistlin' a hornpipe for all you
can tell who it is.  But if I was put upon my oath afore a judge I
should swear as it were Plum Duff."

"What do you mean?"  I said.

"Well, sir, old Byled Salt Pork."

"The cook?"

"That's him, sir."

"But he whispered `Friend,'" I panted excitedly.

"Yes, and that's what bothered me.  If it had been any one else it would
ha' been all right, but one can't quite believe in a cook being your
friend at any time.  After what has taken place just lately I should say
he was the worsest enemy we ever had."

"No, no," I cried eagerly, "the man could not help it.  He was innocent
enough.  It was that scoundrel who did the mischief."

"All right, sir; have it your own way.  I'm willing."

"Then we have one friend on deck."

"Yes, sir, and s'pose he'll doctor the lot of 'em this next time and
have us all up on deck again.  Good luck to him.  I hope he'll look
sharp about it."

"Hist!  What's that?"

It was the three knocks again plainly heard from forward somewhere, and
plain proof that we had other friends who would gladly join us in a
combination against our common enemy.



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

We answered the knocks, which were repeated, and we soon found that we
could signal to or talk to our friends forward, for we had pretty well
made out now which was fore and which aft, though it was evidently a
dead calm again, and the ship was rolling slowly from side to side.

But though we could signal and converse, there was no code for the
signals, and our conversation was in an unknown tongue.

I suppose it was the heat, or the fact that I had gone through so
terrible an experience from the narcotic, which made me feel so
intensely irritable, for after our knocking and tapping had gone on for
some time, I exclaimed--

"I wish to goodness they wouldn't.  What is the good of their keeping on
doing that?  It means nothing, and does no good."

"Oh, but it do mean something, sir," said Bob.

"Well, then, what?"

"They keep on tapping to show us where they are, and means us to go to
them."

"Why don't they come to us?"  I said, in a tone full of vexation.

"'Cause they can't, sir."

"And we can't go to them," I cried pettishly.

"Well, I don't know, sir; I've been thinking as perhaps we could."

"But how, man?  We can't get through all these cases and barrels and
things."

"No, sir; but praps we might manage to creep along over 'em.  One on us
ought to volunteer to try."

"All right; volunteer it is," growled Dumlow.  "I'll go."

"There you are, Mr Dale, sir.  Never say die.  Wait a minute, Neb, old
man, and let's set my fingers and thumbs to work to try whether they can
see a hole as 'll soot you to go along by."

"There can't be any holes, Bob," I said.

"Mebbe not, sir; but I tell you what cargo does in a voyage, specially
if you get a storm or two to shake it together.  You may pack it and jam
it as much as you like when you're in dock, but it's sure to settle a
bit, and leave some room up at the top.  I'm going to try whether there
arn't some o' that room here."

We waited almost breathlessly, and listened to our fellow-prisoner as he
rustled about; and then my heart gave a bound, for he exclaimed--

"Here's plenty o' room here, sir, just at the top, but it goes aft.
This can't be toward the bows.  But it was this way as the knocking
came, warn't it?"

"No, no, no," we all cried.  "The other way."

"Look at that," growled Bob.  "My head can't be right yet, or else it's
the darkness as confooses a man.  It's like being in a thick fog and
having to steer."

"Try again," I said.

"Ay, ay, sir; I'll try again, o' course."

"I say, don't kneel on a man's chesty like that, messmate," grumbled
Dumlow.

"Then why don't you put your chesty somewheres else?" growled Bob.
"You're allers lying about all over the deck."

"Nay, I arn't, matey," remonstrated Dumlow.  "Speak the truth, my lad,
if you can."

"Why, you're spreadin' about on your back now, arn't yer?"

"Course I am, mate; I was trying how flat I could make myself 'fore I
started on the adwenter."

"Try, pray try the other way, Bob, and don't quarrel so--"

"Now hark at that, Barney, when I'm trying all I can to be as civil and
smooth as butter, on'y Neb let out at me."

There was a pause, and we could hear Bob grunting as he felt about in
the other direction, sending joy into all our hearts directly, just as
the tapping began again.

"It's just as I said, Mr Dale, sir," he whispered.  "The knocking comes
along over the cargo here, and there is just room for a man to creep
along."

"Hush! let me answer the knocking first," I whispered.

"Never mind the knocking, sir; let's get to 'em 'fore we misses the
chance.  Now, Neb, lad; ready?"

"Ready it is, messmate."

"Here you are then; on'y go face downwards."

"Would yer?  Can't breathe so well if you turns yer fizzy mahogany
down."

"And yer can't crawl so well if yer goes with it up."

"You had better crawl, Dumlow," I whispered; "but try and go straight
toward where the knocking came from."

"He'll be 'bliged to, sir.  No doubt about that, 'cause there arn't no
other way.  Now then, I'll give yer a hyste.  Can you manage it?"

There was a loud breathing and panting, and though Barney Blane and I
could see nothing with our eyes, yet we could mentally picture the great
slow-moving sailor crawling into an aperture between the beams and the
heterogeneous stowing of bales and boxes, casks and crates of all kinds
of goods en route for our destination.

Now we knew that his head and chest were in, for his voice came in a
half-smothered tone.

"Deal hotter in here, messmate.  Just take hold o' my hind legs, as if
they was part of a wheelbarrow, and give 'em a lift and a shove at the
same time."

"That right?"

"Yes; that's good.  Steady!"

"Steady it is."

"Now another.  With a will, my lad."

"Right.  How far are yer in?"

"Up to the middle, lad; and if yer give another shove I can get a bit of
a pull here.  That's yer sort."

"I can't get you up no farder, messmate," said Bob.  "Yes, I can, if you
clap your foots together.  I'll plant my hands again 'em, and ram yer
along that way.  Ready?"

"Ay, ready," came in smothered tones.

"There you goes then," growled Bob.  "Now another.  I'll shove yer feet
with my hands."

There was a loud grunting and rustling, and Bob said, panting--

"There he goes.  I've sent him in as far as I can reach.  He must do the
rest hisself."

We crouched there just under the streaks of light which came down from
the cuts, listening for a good ten minutes to the scuffling, scrambling
noise made by the big sailor, but they all sounded close to us, as if he
was not making much way; but I concluded that this was because the
opening conducted the sound so well, and in hopeful anticipation I saw
the brave fellow going on and on along the top of the cargo till he
reached the forecastle bulk-head, upon which our friends must have
tapped their signals.  Then we should be able to arrange a plan of
co-operation, and perhaps succeed in re-taking the vessel, when crash!
down went my card castle.

"Bob!" came in smothered tones.

"Hullo."

"Can't get any farder, mate."

"Why?"

"I'm too big."

"Well, then, come back and let me try."

"Can't, mate."

"Why?"

"'Cause I'm stuck fast, and can't move either way a hinch."

Bang, bang! came on the hatches overhead, in company with a loud
talking, and above it the voice of Jarette.

"Have it off, my lads.  Only one, my braves.  And below there, be quiet
all of you.  Make a movement, and I'll shoot you down like dogs."

Those were terrible moments.  The sudden glare of light by the removal
of the hatch dazzled us, a couple of pistols were thrust down, and a
bucket of water was lowered.  Then some biscuits were thrown to us, as
if we were the dogs of which Jarette had spoken; and I crouched there
motionless, thinking only of Dumlow jammed in there amongst the cases,
and expecting moment by moment to hear him call out for help.

But, poor fellow, he was as silent as we were, feeling as he did and
afterwards said to me, that it would have been like telling Jarette that
we had a chance of getting out.

But before the hatch was rattled on again, and hammered down into its
place, I managed to get a glimpse of the opening in among the cargo,
into which we had been thrown, and in that rapid glance I grasped the
fact that it had evidently been made by the removal of a number of
cases, probably hoisted out by Jarette's men.

I did not breathe freely again till the hatch was replaced, but I did
then, from the fact that the strain was taken off my mind, and the hatch
had been off long enough for the foul hot air below to rise, and be
replaced by fresh.

To my great delight the tarpaulin was not put down over the opening, and
consequently there were a few vivid pencils of light to brighten our
prison.

We waited till the men had gone forward, and then I spoke to Dumlow.

"Are you sure you can't get any farther?"  I whispered.

"Yes, sartain, sir."

"Then make another trial and get back at once."

"Can't, sir."

"Nonsense," I cried, speaking sharply to inspirit him; "if the hole was
big enough for you to go in, it's big enough for you to come out."

"No it arn't, cause it's like a rat-trap, and the corners and things
keeps you from getting back, sir."

The perspiration began to stand out on my forehead, and a strange
feeling of horror came over me as I thought of the man's position, and
of what might happen if he could not get back; while just as thoughts of
suffocation ensuing came rushing through my mind, the object of my
thoughts suddenly said in a low husky voice--

"Bob, lad?"

"Hullo, mate!"

"You and Barney get hold of a leg each, and haul me back, or I shall be
suffocated."

"Yah! not you; wiggle yourself back, matey."

"There arn't no wiggle left in me, lad, and it's so hot that I can't
breathe."

"Have another try," whispered Barney.

We heard a rustling, struggling sound as if some one was striving hard
to get forward or back, but without result, and then the voice came more
husky and smothered than ever.

"No go, lads.  Look sharp and have me out, or I'm a goner."

"Get out," growled Bob, quite excitedly.  "You don't half try."

"I did, mate, but I'm getting worse," came back faintly, "I'm a-swelling
up and fitting tighter every moment.  Can't yer get me out?"

"Here, ketch hold of one o' his legs, Barney," growled Bob, hurriedly.
"We must have him out somehow.  Got him?"

"There arn't no room, messmate."

"Lie up close to me and reach in together.  Head in too."

A low groan now came from the hold, and though I could not see, of
course I knew what was going on, and could estimate the difficulties of
the position.  Dumlow's two messmates, in their efforts to help him,
were making his position more perilous, for they were forcing their
heads and shoulders into the opening, and stopping off what little air
could get to him.

There was another groan.

"Don't make a row, lad, we're doing our best," came in a distant voice
which sounded as far away as poor Dumlow's groans.  "Got him, matey?"

"Ay, ay."

"Both together.  Yo ho, ahoy!"

This was all quite in a smothered tone, and accompanied by jerking and
dragging sounds, which as they were kept up were accompanied and
followed by feeble groans.

"Quick, quick!"  I cried.  "Have him out, or they'll hear on deck."

No one answered, and I moved forward and tried to help by clasping Bob
round the waist.

"Ahoy!  Ahoy!  Haul away--hoy!"

All in quite a smothered whisper, and then there was another moan.

"Now again.  All together."

I joined in and dragged with all my might, but our efforts were in vain,
Barney paused to get a fresh messmate's legs.

"He's worked himself on till he's regularly jammed in," growled Bob.
"Now then, once more; we must have him, or he'll be a dead 'un.  Haul.
Now then!"

We all dragged together.  There was a sudden giving way, a rush, and I
was on my back with two men--it felt like three--upon me, and I dare not
call out in my horror and pain, but had to lie there listening to
passing footsteps overhead until they had gone, and then to my greater
horror Bob Hampton growled out--

"Well, we've got his legs, anyhow."

There was a smothered groan once more.

"It's all right, messmate," said Barney.  "Here's his uppards and head
come too.  Oh, I beg your pardon, sir.  Are you hurt?"

"Hurt?--yes!"  I said angrily, "but never mind me.  How's Dumlow?"

There was a low groan in answer.

"Oh, he's all right, sir," said Barney.  "We didn't break him.  He's all
out."

"No, he arn't all right," growled Bob, who was feeling about in the
dark.  "He's in a reg'lar muddle, I dunno what's the matter with him.
Strikes me we've pulled him inside out."

"Go on with yer.  It's all right.  It's on'y his jersey pulled right
over his head and shoulders, and most off his arms.  That's the way.
There you are.  You're all right now, arn't you, Neb?"

"Oh, my heye!" muttered the great fellow, and I felt a profound sense of
satisfaction in hearing him speak again.  "I began to think I was a
goner."

"Not you," said Bob.

"Warn't the skin all off o' me, Barney?"

"Nay, not it, lad."

"Sure?  Felt as if you was a-stripping of it all off o' me when I began
to come."

"Nay, you're in your skin right enough, messmate."

"Sure, Barney?  'Cause I feel precious sore uppards."

"Sure?  Yes.  There, I'm glad we got you out without breaking."

"So'm I, mate, werry glad indeed.  I'm two sizes too big for a hole like
that, and I don't think it's any use for me to try again."

As he spoke there came the three signal knocks, and as Bob answered them
he growled out--

"Oh yes, we know you're there.  Look here, Mr Dale, sir.  I'm two sizes
smaller than Neb; I'm going to have a try."

"No, you'd better not, Bob," I whispered.  "Let's wait and try to break
through the hatch."

"Nay, sir, we ought to get along with them if we could.  I'll just try,
I'm quite two sizes smaller than Neb, and I won't be such an old silly
as to go and ram myself in fast.  Say I may go, sir."

"Yes, sir, let him go," said Dumlow.  "It'll take some o' the conceit
out on him when he gets stuck fast."

"Well then, go, Bob, but pray be careful."

"Ay, ay, sir, I'll be careful, for I've got a great respeck for Bob
Hampton, mariner.  But you'll lend a hand, Neb, if I want hauling out?"

"I just wall," growled the big fellow.  "You shall have it, messmate."

I felt very much disposed to stop him, but while I was hesitating there
was the old scuffling noise, and I could mentally see Bob Hampton
shuffling in the opening above the cases, and soon after there was a
grunting and panting, followed by a low muttering in the hole.

"What d'yer say, messmate?" whispered Barney.

_Pat_!

"Here, I say, mind what you're arter," cried Barney, angrily.  "You
kicked me right in the chin.  I don't want my teeth loosened that how."

"Why, he's a-comin' back," growled Neb.

For the shuffling and rustling was continued, and the next minute Bob
Hampton was back and lying along the casks.

"Couldn't you get any farther?"  I said, feeling greatly relieved at his
return.

"No, sir.  Neb's two sizes too large for the place, and I'm one size.  I
got as far as he did, and if I'd moved a bit farder I should ha' stuck."

"Yer didn't go as far as I did."

"Yes, I did, mate."

"How d'yer know?"

"'Cause I brought back your knife as lay just where I reached."

Neb Dumlow grunted, and Bob drew a series of very long breaths.

"Rayther hot in there, sir, and Neb had swallowed up all the fresh air
there was."

"And precious little too.  I could ha' swallowed bucketsful more if I'd
had it."

"Lor'! what a fuss you two chaps make," said Barney.  "I knowed that's
how it would be.  There, shut your eyes, both on you, and see yer father
do it."

"You're not going, Barney?"  I whispered.

"Oh yes, I am, sir.  I can do it."

"Yes, sir, let him go," said Bob.  "He's a reg'lar conger-eely sort o'
fellow, as can wiggle hisself through a gas-pipe a'most.  You let him
go, and see what he can do."

"Yes, sir, let me have a try," said Barney, and I reluctantly consented,
though I had very little hope of his getting through.

"Hadn't us better have a biscuit and a drink of water first, sir?" said
Bob Hampton.  "I'm strange and hungry yet."

In my excitement I had forgotten all about the food, and giving the
word, we squatted down round the bucket of water to nibble our biscuits
and have a good drink from time to time; and in spite of the heat and
closeness of our prison, that was one of the most enjoyable meals I ever
ate.

We had just finished when we heard Jarette and his followers talking
above us, and the subject of their discourse, as far as I could make it
out, seemed to be something about a boat.

Then I heard Jarette say something that sounded like--

"Bah, my brave!  He won't die.  Well, let him.  He'll be out of the
way."

Then there was a good deal of thumping and stamping about, and I fancied
that they were going to open the hatch again.

Under these circumstances I did not let Barney, who was thoroughly eager
to show his prowess, make the trial; but at last all was quiet on deck,
save that there was a good deal of talking and singing right aft, and as
it seemed to me in the saloon.

"They've got some good stuff forrard there, lads," said Barney,
suddenly.

"Why, o' course.  I know," growled Bob Hampton, "and they might ha' left
one or two lots for us."

"What do you mean?"  I said.

"Why, sir, here's where there was a whole lot o' cases o' champagne
stored, and they fished them out, and left this here hole as we're in.
I wouldn't mind a drop o' that now to cheer us up again.  It's werry
good stuff, ain't it?"

"What, champagne, Bob?  I don't know.  They say it is, but I never
tasted it."

"More didn't we, sir," said Bob.

"You speak for yourself, old man," said Barney.

"Well, you ain't tasted it, and you know it," growled Bob, "so tell the
truth."

"Well, I can't say as ever I did taste champagne," said Barney, "but
I've had a bottle--ay, bottles and bottles--o' what comes next to it,
and fizzles up wonderful."

"Why, what does?"

"Joeydone, or Sueydone, or something like that they calls it.  It arn't
so very bad.  Might go now, sir, mightn't I?"

"Well, yes, if you mean to try."

"Oh yes, I mean to try, sir," he said.  "Dessay I can manage it.  Shall
I start?"

"Yes," I replied, and without a moment's pause he rose, thrust his head
and shoulders into the hole, and as he drew himself in, he began to
whistle.

"He'd better save his wind," grumbled Dumlow.  "He'll want it soon."

"Ay, that's the worst o' young chaps, they're so wasteful," muttered Bob
Hampton.  "But they thinks they knows best.  How are you getting on,
messmate?"

"Tidy--tidy!" came back.  "It arn't so very tight."

The rustling went on, and I heard Dumlow whisper--

"When he holloas, let's fetch him out with a will."

"Ay, ay, but he don't holloa," said Bob.  "Why, he've got farder than we
did."

"Nay, not he.  Why, he have though!"

For the whistling went on, just a softened hissing, and it was evident
that Barney had got some distance in.  What was more was that he was
still progressing.

"He's going to do it, Bob!"  I cried excitedly.

"Getting a bit farder, sir, that's all," replied Bob.  "But what I wants
to know is, how are we going to get hold on his legs when he gets stuck?
There won't be no reaching on 'em, as I can see."

"Hadn't yer better hail him to hold hard, and come back for us to hitch
a line round one of his fins?"

"Which line would you use, messmate?" said Bob dryly.  "The old 'un or
the noo 'un?"

"Eh?  Which on 'em?"

"Ay.  Why, there arn't no line down here, is there?  What yer talking
about?"

"No," muttered Dumlow, thoughtfully; "there arn't no line down here, o'
course.  I never thought o' that.  But s'pose he gets stuck fast, as he
will farder on, what's to be done?"

"I d'know, without old Jarette comes and has the cargo out.  Why,
where's he got to!"

I was listening intently, but the whistling and rustling had ceased, and
half in alarm, half hopeful that he would find a way through to where
our companions were imprisoned, I strained my ears longingly for some
suggestion of how far Barney could be.  All at once the sound
recommenced, stopped, began again, and then much nearer than I had
expected there came a struggling and panting, which made my blood run
cold.

"He's hitched," muttered Bob Hampton, and then in quite a low voice he
cried into the opening--

"Where are you, mate?"

"Here," came back in a smothered voice.

"I knowed he would," growled Dumlow.  "He's got fast, and now what's to
be done?"

It was very horrible, shut down there in that close, hot place,
listening to the struggles of a fellow-creature who was in such a
position that wanting help he was beyond the reach of those who were
eager to render it.  The perspiration once more streamed down my face,
and my hands trembled as I called upon myself to act in a manly way.
Neither of my companions could go to Barney's help.  They were, as had
been proved, too bulky, and yet help must be given, and quickly too.
Everything pointed to the fact that the task must fall upon me to creep
forward to render aid; but when I got there in that confined place, what
would my strength be toward getting the poor fellow back?  All I could
do would be to creep along to him and say a few words of encouragement
to incite him to make a fresh effort or two to struggle free, and if
that failed, stay beside him and talk of hope while the men gave the
alarm, and help was brought to take off the hatches right along, and
drag out cargo until the man was reached and set free.

"Ahoy, messmate!" cried Bob now.  "Are you stuck fast?"

"Ay, ay."

The words sounded so stifled and strange that I knew the moment had come
for me to make an effort to save him, and mastering the horrible
sensation of shrinking cowardice that came over me, I drew a long, deep
breath, and seized Bob Hampton to draw him aside.

"What's wrong, my lad?  What is it?" he said, almost surlily.  "It arn't
my fault; I'd go in to pull him back, but I shouldn't get in fur 'fore I
was stuck."

"No, no," I said excitedly.  "Of course not."

"Then Neb had have to come, and he wouldn't get far arter me for he was
stuck too.  Then what would you do 'bout pulling us out all three?"

"Nothing," I said, desperately.  "You must not either of you go.  The
time has come for me to try and save him myself."

Bob Hampton laid a hand upon my shoulder to stop me; but I thrust him
back and was half into the opening when the rustling sound within
increased.

"I'm coming, Blane," I said, in a loud whisper.

"No, no; don't you come," he whispered back.  "I'm coming out, and there
arn't room for two."

I stopped in astonishment, for I had pictured him to be hopelessly fixed
and unable to move; and not only did the rustling continue, and he
seemed to be approaching, but he said he was coming out.

"Rather an awkward kind o' place, sir," he said, and his voice was
carried along toward me, so that it sounded as if he were whispering
close to my ear.  "One feels like a rat going down a pump to make a meal
off the sucker, and a drink o' water after.  Don't you try to come,
sir."

"But I am in, Barney, I came to help you."

"Thankye, sir; but I'll talk to you when I get out.  I'm coming fast
now."

And he did come on so fast that in less than a minute, as I waited
motionless, and with one hand extended to touch his feet when they came
into reach, his face was close to mine, and I shrank back as he said--

"Here we are, sir.  That's you, isn't it?"

"Yes, Barney.  But you didn't go in feet first?"

"No, sir, head-first; and I come out head-first too."

I was so puzzled that I said nothing, and backed out as quickly as I
could, followed by the sailor, who seated himself panting.

"Precious hot in there, sir," he said.

"But how did you manage?  You said you were stuck fast," growled Bob.

"So I was, matey, for a minute or two, right at the end as far as I
could go; for it got too small for me at last."

"How far did you go in?"

"Ah, that I don't know, sir.  Ever so far in, till it got so as I should
ha' been stuck fast if I'd gone any farther."

"Then how could you turn round?"

"It was wider and higher a little bit this side of the narrow part, and
I made shift to double myself up pretty close and get round there."

"Then was it there you were stuck?"  I asked.

"Yes, sir; but by a bit o' giving and taking I got round, and come out
face forrard, as you see."

"I am thankful," I murmured.

"Well, if you come to that, sir, I liked it better when I'd got face
outwards; for it arn't nice to feel yourself set fast in among a lot o'
cargo which may shift if the ship gives a roll, and there you are, just
like a blue-bottle shut in a big book, and come out next year flat and
dry."

"Why, you must be a thin 'un, Barney," growled Bob.  "You'd better leave
the sea, and take to being first-class messenger to go up and down
steam-pipes."

"Be quiet, Bob!"  I said angrily.  "Here, tell me, Barney," I continued;
for now that the man was safe, the horror and nervousness of a terrible
accident rapidly passed away.

"Tell you what, sir?"

"Is it hopeless?  Is there no chance of getting to the forecastle
bulk-head that way?"

"Well, sir, I can't say only that you know how far Neb Dumlow got, and
then how Bob Hampton got a little farther."

"Didn't," growled Dumlow.

"Now what's the good o' you talking, messmate? because he did, just a
bit farther," said Barney, in a tone full of protest.  "You may just as
well say I didn't go three times as far."

"Nay, I won't say that, lad."

"'Cause I did; and arter the tight nip of a bit where them two stuck, it
were pretty easy, and I got along fast, though of course it's all ups
and downs like.  Then there's the widish bit 'tween them two big cases,
where I twisted round; and after that the cargo's closer together, and
nigher the beams, till it got too stiff for me, and I give it up; for I
knowed that if I got stuck there, I should have to stay."

"Then there is a way on?"  I said excitedly.

"Kind of a sort of a way, sir.  I don't think I could ha' got along if
I'd tried ever so hard, 'cause the cargo's jammed up so close to the
roof; but a small sort o' man might do it, or p'r'aps I might if old
Frenchy keeps me here long enough to get precious thin."

"But a boy could get along?"  I said.

"Oh yes, sir, I dessay a boy could; but don't you get thinking it's a
regular pipe or a passage, 'cause it arn't.  It's all in and out, and
over chests and cases and things as don't fit together, or has got
settled down; and you have to feel all this as you go, and trust to the
tips of your fingers for leading of you right.  It arn't as if there was
any light, you see; 'cause their ain't enough to show a mouse the way to
the inside of a Dutch cheese."

"Then if any one got along there far enough, he would come to the
forecastle bulk-head?"  I said eagerly.

"Well, that I can't say, sir; 'cause, you see, he might find he had to
creep along right under the forksle floor, and the men's bunks."

"If he got to the place where our friends are, that would not matter," I
cried excitedly.  "The distance must be very small."

"O' course, sir."

"But one moment, Barney.  Could any of the cargo be pushed out of the
way, so as to make more room?"

"No, sir, for sartain, 'cause it's all wedged together, and there's
nowhere else to put it so as to make room."

"And I don't see, if one got there, that it could be a great deal of
good, because they couldn't get here, and we couldn't all get there."

"They seems to think it would be some good, sir," growled Barney,
"because they keeps on knocking.  There they goes again."

For once more the tapping commenced, and was repeated impatiently as we
did not answer.

"Give 'em the sigginals, Bob," said Dumlow, gruffly.

The tapping was answered--three taps together, two, then one, and in all
manner of variations; till the others stopped, and so did we, and there
was silence till Bob spoke.

"That's all very pretty," he said; "but, you see, it don't lead to
nothing.  They raps, and seems to say, Here we are!  And then we raps,
and says, So are we!  And so it goes on, over and over again, till you
don't know what they mean, or what you mean, or where you are.  I wish
we could do something to make 'em understand as we're stuck fast."

"The only way to do that is to tell them so," I cried passionately.
"Even if nothing more comes of it, I feel as if it would be something to
feel that you can communicate with your friends when you like.  We might
contrive something too, some means of escape.  Yes, we must get to them,
my lads."

"Then you'll have to starve down, Barney, till you're as thin as a
skelington," said Bob, "and then have another try."

"All right, messmate, I'm willin'," said Barney, with a sigh.  "I don't
like going without my wittles, but what we gets here arn't much to lose.
There you are then, Mr Dale, sir; starve me down till I'm small
enough."

"No, Barney," I said firmly; "there's no need.  I'm small enough
already; and if you'll follow me for company as far as you can, and to
help me if possible, I will go myself.  I said when you were in there
I'd try and help you; now you must try and help me.  Will you come?"

"My hand on it, sir, if you'll shake it."

I shook it.

"I shall keep as close to you as I can, sir," said the sailor.  "You
won't want any telling which way to go, for there is only one way for
you to get along, as you'll soon find out."

I started, and soon felt that I must be past where the two men had found
it so tight a fit, though I had had no difficulty in getting along
whatever, and gaining courage from the excitement, I crawled forward
over the tops of rough packing-cases and between others, finding the
passage uneven, and with a different level every minute.  Now there
would be plenty of room; but a foot or two farther I had to crawl over a
case that came so close to a beam arching over from side to side of the
ship that I began wondering how my companion had passed in, and as soon
as I was through and into the wider space beyond, I stopped with my head
turned back to speak.

"You can't get through there, can you?"  I asked.

"Well, it is pretty tight, sir, but I did it afore, and I've got to do
it again."

I listened to his efforts, and could make out that he was getting
through inch by inch, and he kept on commenting upon his progress the
while.

"Good job as one's bones give a bit, sir," he was saying, when the
knocking ahead came clearly, and seemed not so very far away.  "Give 'em
an answer, sir; not too loud.  Do it with your knuckles on something."

I was upon a case as he spoke, and I answered at once; but to my
annoyance this only drew forth fresh knockings in various ways--two
knocks together, then two more very quickly--a regular rat-rat--and then
all kinds of variations, to which I replied as well as I could, and then
left off in a pet.

"Who's going to keep on doing that?"  I cried angrily.  "They must
wait."

"Yes," growled Barney; "I'd go on, sir.  That arn't doing nobody no
good."

The consequence was that I went forward slowly, with an accompaniment of
taps, which kept irritating me in that hot, stifling passage--no, it is
not fair to call such a place a passage, seeing that it was merely an
opening formed by the settling down of the packages, or their opening
out from the rolling of the ship in the storm.

I was passing along one of these latter portions with great care when a
cold chill ran through me, for the thought came--suppose the ship heels
over now, I shall be nipped in here and crushed to death.

But the ship did not heel over; though I did not feel comfortable till I
was out of the opening, and flat once more on the top of a huge crate,
between whose openings, the sharp ends of the straw used in packing it
projected and scratched my face.  Here I paused to listen to Barney
panting and grunting as he struggled along.

"Mustn't make quite so much noise, sir," he whispered; "or some 'un
uppards 'll be hearing of us."

He was more careful, and I once more went crawling laboriously, and
finding on the whole so little room that I began to think I must have
gone much farther than Barney had been before.  And there was a strange
thing connected with that creep over and amongst the cargo.  Time seemed
to be indefinitely prolonged.  I could fancy one moment that I had been
crawling and crawling for hours, and going a tremendous distance, while
the next my idea was that I had hardly moved and not been there a
minute.  Every now and then, in spite of setting my teeth hard, and even
biting my tongue, that horrible feeling of fright came back; and I have
often asked myself since whether I was an awful coward.  But I never
could give a fair judgment, for I have thought that most people would
have felt the same, whether they were lads or grown men, and certainly
my three companions in talking it over said it upset them more than
going in for a real fight.

It was curious, too, how busy one's brain was when I could keep from
thinking of being smothered or crushed, or so fixed in that I could not
get out.  For then I began to think about moles burrowing underground,
and worms in their holes, and rabbits and mice; and on one of these
occasions I started and wondered at the peculiarity of the coincidence,
for I suddenly became aware of a peculiar, half-musky smell, and then
there was a scuffling, squealing sound which sent a shudder through me.

"Hear the rats, sir?" whispered Barney; but I was so upset that I
couldn't reply.

All at once, as I was crawling more freely, my companion whispered--

"You ought to be close to where I turned myself round, sir.  Aren't
there more room?"

"Yes," I said.

"Then that's it, sir.  Eh?"

"I didn't speak."

"But some one did, sir.  It arn't them in the forksle, is it?"

We listened, and there was whispered, close to us apparently--

"How are you getting on?"

"It's them behind, sir.  I'll lay down flat as I can, and you whisper
back as we're all right.  Sound travels easy."

I found that I could readily turn, and I did as he proposed that I
should, hearing my voice sound so smothered that it startled me again.
But the tapping was resumed; and answering it again, I turned and went
on once more in silence till all at once my way was stopped by a crate
which touched the beams overhead.

"Is this where you got to, Barney?"  I said.

"Where there's a big crate thing, sir, as goes right up?  That's it."

"Then we can't get any farther?"

"I don't think I can; but that tapping wouldn't come so plain if there
warn't a way.  It weer too tight for me; but you can try if you can't
get round the end of the stopper.  It may be big enough for you."

I would have given anything to get back now, feeling as I did that I had
done enough; but I plucked up my courage, and began feeling about to
make the discovery that while one end of the crate was closed solidly
against the next package, the other end did not touch.

"There's a way here," I said to my companion, who was sitting up behind
me, having found a place where he could let his legs go down.

"Well, sir, that's what I thought," said Barney.  "But it's too small
for me, arn't it?"

"Yes, far too small," I said.  "I don't think I could get along.  Is it
any use to try?"

Tap, tap.  Tap, tap, tap.

That knocking came so plainly and from so near now that I at once said--

"Yes; I must get through."

"Bravo you, sir.  That's your sort.  Take it coolly.  Where the head 'll
go, the rest on you'll follow if you wiggles yerself well.  Don't you
get scared, sir.  I'll pull you back if you get stuck."

"But it's horribly hot here, Barney," I whispered.

"Yes, sir; but I s'pose we mustn't mind that.  Go it, sir, and let's get
it over."

I did not need his words, for I was already trying to get round that
great crate.  It was, I felt, an impossible job, for I had to pass round
one angle, and the heat as I wedged myself in became insufferable.  But
I forced myself along inch by inch till I could get my arms round the
end, where to my great joy I found that I could get hold of the bars of
the crate, the straw with which its contents were packed yielding enough
to allow my fingers to obtain a firm grip, and with this purchase I
pulled and pulled, getting myself farther and farther till I was part of
the way past the angle; then more and more, till my hips checked the way
for a few minutes, and I stopped short, feeling that it was all over,
for I could get no farther.

Then I felt that I had done enough.  It was useless fighting against the
impossible, and I made up my mind to go back; but at the first movement
I rucked up my jacket and trousers and literally wedged myself in,
finding that I could not get back an inch, and that if I tried more I
should be stuck beyond the hope of extrication.

I felt faint with the heat and horror, then a peculiar giddiness came
over me; I saw lights dancing before my eyes, and my senses were fast
going, when, sounding quite cool and unconcerned, Barney's voice came to
me, teaching me the value of companionship at such a time as this.

"Having a rest, sir?  Say when, and I'll give your feet a shove."

Just those few simple words, but they were sufficient to give me courage
once more, and drive away the mists of horror.

I was myself again, tightened my grip on the stout bars of the crate,
gave a spasmodic jerk, and dragged myself as I lay edgewise two or three
inches along the end of the great crate.

"That wins it, sir," whispered Barney, and feeling desperate I tried
again and again, the bars giving me so much assistance that I got on and
on till I was lyings as I said, edgewise along the end, with my back
against a large wooden case.

Then I stopped, panting with my exertion, the perspiration streaming
from me, and feeling as if it would be impossible to get any farther.
But all the same I was cheered by my success, and after gaining my
breath I was just going to have another try when Barney whispered--

"What's ahead of you?  Can you touch anything?"

I stretched out my hands as far as I could reach, and this action
elongated me a trifle, so that I felt myself slipping down a little--
only a few inches, but that was enough; a curious oppression of my chest
followed, and to my horror I realised that the passage narrowed
downwards, and my weight had carried me lower, so that now at last I
felt that I was hopelessly wedged in.

For some moments the horror of my position rendered me helpless.  I
could not struggle, but lay as if paralysed till Barney roused me by
whispering in his cheery way--

"Takin' a rest again, my lad?"

"No, no," I panted in a hopeless tone of voice; "I'm fast, Barney; I
can't move."

"Oh yes, you can, sir," he replied; "take it coolly."

"But the packages on each side are holding me," I panted.

"Have another go, sir.  You don't know how ingyrubbery you are till you
try, sir.  Take it coolly, sir, then wait your time, and you'll work
yourself out just as we did.  All three on us got fast."

"Yes; but there was some one to pull Bob Hampton out," I said angrily;
and in this spirit I made a fierce effort after reaching up with one leg
and one arm, and somehow managed to drag myself higher, so that I did
not feel so much oppression at my chest.  Another inch or two made me
wonder why I had been so much alarmed, and in another minute I had
passed the great crate, and found more room between the cargo and the
beams overhead.

But I hesitated to go farther in that horrible darkness, dreading some
fresh complication, and feeling that now I had reached a part where I
could hear, it would be wise to go back and accept my fate of a
prisoner, and see what Jarette would do, when all at once the tapping,
which had been unheard for some time, recommenced, and apparently so
close, that my cowardly dread passed off, and I determined to go on.

"All right now, aren't you, sir?" whispered Barney.

"Yes."

"Told you so.  Only be careful, sir, I can't help you now."

I felt about a little, and then crawled forward in no narrow
perpendicular crevice, but flat on my chest, between the cargo and the
deck, and in less than a minute my hand touched an upright piece? of
roughly-sawn wood.  Then another and another, and passing my hand
between them I felt board, while the next instant there was a dull jar
as if some one on the other side struck the board I touched, and gave
three taps.  I answered directly with my knuckles, and a strange feeling
of emotion made my heart palpitate as a voice came through the narrow
opening between the boards.

"Is any one there?"

I placed my mouth as close to the crevice as I could in my constrained
position, and chancing being heard, I cried--

"Yes."

"Who is it?" came back.

"Dale; and the three men are with me."

"Can you force off one of these boards?"

"No.  Who is it?"  I said.

I was almost sure when I asked the question, and my ideas were
confirmed.  It was Mr Brymer speaking, and he told me that Mr Preddle,
Mr Frewen, and the captain were with him.

That was good news, but he had not told me all.

"Where is Miss Denning?"  I asked.

"With her brother in their cabin still, I think.  Now look here, Dale,
we will try and pull out one of these boards, and you and the others
must join us here."

I must have made his heart sink in despair the next minute, when I told
him that it was impossible, and said how I had had to struggle to get to
him.

"Then either you or we must get out, and the party that gets on deck
must help the other.  Wait a minute."

I waited, and heard the sound of boring, and a few minutes later, as I
kept a hand upon the board, I felt the point of a knife or gimlet
working its way through.

After it was withdrawn conversation became more easy, and I had a few
words with Mr Frewen and Mr Preddle, all of which were cheering,
though as far as escape was concerned it did no good.  But I learned how
that they had been literally thrown down there, as they supposed, for
they had come-to very much as we had, to find themselves lying helpless
on the floor.

We had reached this point when Barney's voice came, and it sounded
anxious.

"Better come now, Mr Dale, sir," he whispered.  "We can get along here
again."

"Yes, I'll come soon," I whispered back, for to a certain extent I
forgot my troubles in the satisfaction of having been able to reach my
friends.

"Better come now, sir.  They're getting scared behind yonder, and seems
to me there's on'y just wind enough left for us to breathe going back.
If you stop any longer there won't be none, for I shall swaller it all."

I explained what he said to me, and it was Mr Frewen who now spoke
through the tiny hole.

"Yes, go back directly," he said.  "Come again in a few hours' time, the
air will be better again then, and we will cut this hole big enough for
you to come through."

I could have wished it to have been made bigger then, so that I could
get to my friends, but I knew it would be like forsaking the men I had
left, so after promising to return soon--thinking nothing now of the
difficulty of the journey--I said good-bye, and began to crawl back,
remembering directly plenty of things I should have liked to ask.

But now I had to think of my perilous journey back, and I shuddered as I
thought how nearly I had been wedged fast beside the crate.  Somehow,
though, now that I knew the extent of my risk, it did not seem half so
bad, I reached the crate, changed from the horizontal to the
perpendicular opening, kept close to the top with my head and shoulders,
and let my legs go down till I could rest them on the crossbar of the
crate, made my way to the end round the corner, and reached the place
where Barney was anxiously waiting, and then paused for a few moments to
rest, ready to wonder at the ease with which I had returned.  I said
something of the kind to Barney, and he laughed.

"Oh yes, sir," he said.  "It's like going aloft when you're young.  I
remember the first time I went up to the main-topgallant mast-head, I
said to myself, `On'y let me once get down safe, and you'll never ketch
me up here again;' while now one goes up and does what one has to do
without thinking about it, and--Hear that?"

"Yes; what are they bumping about on the deck?"

"Dunno, sir.  Sounds like getting the big boats off from over the
galley.  But they won't hear us, sir; let's get back to where we can
have a pull at the fresh air.  Will you go first?"

"No; you know the way best."

Barney chuckled.

"There arn't much queshtion of knowing the way, sir.  There arn't no
first turnings to the left, and second to the right.  It's all go ahead,
and you're sure to come out right if you don't get stuck, and I s'pose I
mustn't get jammed anywhere 'cause of you."

He went on, and as I followed I could not help thinking about how
terrible it would be if he did get fast, and more than once a curious
sensation ran through me as he struggled on.  But we had no mishap, and
at last crept out to where Bob Hampton and Dumlow were waiting for us.

"You have been a long time, sir," growled the former.  "Did you make
anything out of it?"

"Yes, Bob, I reached the forecastle."

"You did, lad!  Well done you!  I allus thought you'd do something some
day."

Then I told them both of all that had passed, as I lay there in that
hot, dark, stifling hole, thinking though all the while how delightfully
fresh and light it was.  When I had finished, Bob rubbed his ear, and
growled softly--

"Why, my lad," he said, "seems to me as it's like pig-shearing."

"Pig-shearing?  What do you mean?"

"Much cry and little wool, sir.  We've all been crawling about in the
hold like rats, and got to where the t'others are--leastwise you have--
and then you've come back again."

"Yes, Bob."

"Taken all that trouble for nothing."

"Well, but I have been able to talk to them, and make plans."

"Bah, sir, I don't call them plans.  What was the good of us all getting
smothered as we was, just to find out as we couldn't do nothing?"

"I communicated with Mr Brymer and Mr Frewen," I cried.

"And said `How de do?  I'm quite well thank you, how are you?'  Didn't
pay for the trouble, sir.  We must do something better than that.  What
do you say, Neb?"

"I says as I arn't going to squeedge my carcadge into that hole again if
I knows it, messmate."

"And you, Barney?"

Barney Blane uttered a low deep snore.  Worn-out by his exertions, he
had lain down on his back and gone to sleep at once, and ten minutes
later the hot vitiated air had produced such an effect upon me that I
was just as fast, and dreaming of bright sunshine and lovely tropic
lands, till I was aroused by strange noise, and a sharp angry voice
cried--

"Now then, all!  _Vite_! _vite_!  Tumble up."



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

I was so confused by being awakened suddenly from a deep sleep, and by
the light of a lantern flashing in my eyes, that for a few minutes I
moved about quite mechanically, getting out of the way of my companions
in misfortune, as first Barney, and then Neb Dumlow, obeyed and climbed
out on deck.

"Now then, look sharp," cried the same voice, "don't keep us here all
night."

"You go next, my lad," growled Bob, "and I'll give you a hyste.  Take
hold o' the combings and give me one leg."

I obeyed, in a sleepy stupid way--in fact, if I had been told to jump
overboard I think I should have done so then--and as I grasped the
combings Bob Hampton seized the leg I lifted as if I had been going to
mount a horse, and jerked me right up to where I was seized by a couple
of men, thrown down, and then dragged along the deck to the open
gangway, where, as I awoke to the fact that there was the black sea all
gleaming with yellow scintillations, I suddenly made a desperate effort
to escape.

"No, no," I shouted.  "Help!"

"Hold still, will you?" cried one of the men.  "Now then, out with him!"

In spite of my struggles they forced me onward, holding on to my wrists
the while; and speechless now in my horror, I felt that the next moment
I should be plunged into the black water to drown.

Those were terrible moments, but they only were those brief spaces of
time, for just as I felt that all was over, the man who had just spoken
shouted--"Below there!  Now then, together, mate," and they stooped as
low as they could, lowering me down, and then snatched their hands away,
and I fell what seemed to be a terrific distance, though it was only a
few feet, before I was caught by strong arms and lowered into a boat.

"There you are, sir.  Go aft."

I staggered in the direction in which I was pushed, and dropped on to a
thwart, still half-stunned and confused, but sensible enough to
understand the words uttered about me, and to see the dull yellow light
of the lanterns held by the gangway lighting up a number of
drink-flushed faces.

"I don't want chucking down, I tell you," growled Bob Hampton.  "Give's
a hold of a rope and I'll drop down."

"Yes, you pig," snarled Jarette, for I knew it was he now who gave
orders, and now came full into sight, with the lights showing: his
evil-looking face.  "It's rope you want, is it?  Hah, for two sous I'd
have one round your neck and run you up to the yard-arm.  Treacherous
lying dog."

Bob Hampton was a big heavy man, but as quickly and actively as a boy he
swung himself clear of the men who held him, and lowered himself down.

"Stand clear," he shouted, and the next moment he had dropped down into
the boat.

"Was you talking 'bout the rope for yourself, Frenchy?--because they
keep that round the yard-arm for thieves and pirates, not for honest
men."

"Pig--cochon!" yelled Jarette, and there was a flash of light and a
sharp report as he fired a pistol to hit the sailor, or perhaps only to
frighten us, for no harm was done.

"Silence, man, don't exasperate him," whispered a voice from close by
where I sat, and I knew that if I raised my hand I could have touched
Mr Frewen.

"All right, sir," growled Bob, and Jarette spoke now.

"Below there," he cried.  "I'm behaving better to you than you all
deserve.  Some men would have pitched you all overboard to drown.  Now
then, listen you, Captain Berriman; you can row west and get into the
line the packets take, or you can row east and make the coast somewhere,
if you don't get caught in a storm and go to the bottom.  But that's
none of my doing, I can't help that.  Now then, push off before I alter
my mind and have a bag of ballast pitched through the bottom of the
boat.  Off with you.  Fasten up that gangway, my lads."

"No, no, stop," cried Mr Frewen, excitedly.  "We are not all here," and
I glanced round, but it was too dark to make anything out below where
the light of the lanterns was cast outward in quite a straight line,
well defined against the blackness below, which looked solid.

"Not all there, doctor?  Oh, I forgot," said Jarette.  "Wait a minute."

He turned away from the side, and we heard him give some order, which
was followed a minute later by a sharp shrill cry, which went through
me, and then there was a series of frantic shrieks, which seemed to
pierce the dark night air.  We could hear a scuffling too, and appeal
after appeal approaching the side from somewhere aft.

"Silence!" snapped out Jarette, and a sharp smack was followed by a low
moan.

Then in loud hysterical tones, as if a hoarse frantic woman were
appealing, I heard as I sat shuddering there--

"No, no, don't, Captain Jarette.  I'll work with you, and stick to you,
and help you always.  Don't do that."

"You--you cowardly, sneaking traitor!  Who'd trust you an inch out of
his sight?  Over with him, lads.  No, no, not there.  Over with him
here."

"Help!  Mercy, pray! help! help!" came with frantic shrieks, for the
poor fellow evidently did not know of the boat over the side.  He felt
that he was going to his death, and then he was evidently clinging to
something, for there was a pause, and in a hoarse yell we heard him
cry--

"Don't kill me, Jarette, and I'll tell you where the money-chests are
stowed."

"You?  Why, I know.  Over with him!" cried Jarette, and then, uttering
shrieks that horrified us, we saw Walters for a moment above the
bulwarks in the full light of the lanterns, and then he was pitched
outwards, shrieking as he fell, a loud splash and a gurgling noise,
which ceased suddenly, telling us where he had gone down.

The boat was pushed along in the darkness, and without an order being
given.

"See him?" said Mr Brymer, in a hurried whisper.

"No, sir, not yet," growled Bob Hampton.

Almost at that moment there was a wild shriek for help just by the
boat's side, and Dumlow growled out--

"I got him."

Then came a splashing and a repetition of the cry for help, but this
time from the bottom of the boat.

"What has he done wrong?" said Bob Hampton.  "Want us to chuck you in
again?"

"Oh, help!" cried Walters piteously.

"What, have you took him aboard?" said a sneering voice overhead.
"Better let him drown.  He isn't worth the biscuit and water he'll
want."

"Oh, only wait!" cried Walters, rising up to his knees.

"Wait," snarled Jarette.  "Yes, you cur, I will with one of the
shot-guns if you ever come near my ship again.  And you, Berriman, and
you, Brymer, take my warning; I've given you your chance, so take it.
If you hang about near here I'll have the signal-gun loaded and sink
you, so be out of sight by daylight.  Now push off before you get
something thrown over to go through the bottom of the boat."

There was a low whispering close by me, and then I could just make out
the doctor's figure as he stood up.

"Stop," he shouted.  "Mr Jarette, we are not all here."

"What?  Why, who is left behind?"

"Mr Denning."

"The sick passenger?"

"And his sister, sir."

"Oh yes, I know, board."

"No, sir, they must come with us.  I warn you that Mr Denning's health
is such that he must have medical attendance."

"Oh, I see," cried Jarette, with a sneering laugh.  "You are afraid of
missing your job.  There, cure the captain.  One patient is enough in an
open boat."

"If anything happens to him, sir, you will have to answer for his life."

"You are stupid," sneered Jarette.  "You wish to trap me.  It would kill
the patient to keep him with you, exposed in an open boat.  No, Monsieur
le docteur, I am too wise--too much of the fox, le renard--to be trapped
like that.  Push off."

"No, no, sir," cried Mr Frewen; "for mercy's sake, sir, let Mr Denning
and his sister be lowered down to us."

"But they do not wish to come, monsieur."

"I will not argue with you, sir, or contradict.  You hold the power.  I
only say, for mercy's sake let that poor suffering invalid and his
sister come.  We will then push off and leave you to your prize."

Jarette was resting his arms on the bulwark, gazing down at us, no doubt
maliciously, but the lights were behind him and at his side, so that his
features were in the dark, and as I looked up I could not help thinking
how easily any one might have shot him dead and thrown him overboard.
But I shuddered at this horrible idea as it flashed through my head, and
waited for him to speak.

Mr Frewen waited too, but he remained silent, only making a slight
movement as if to pass one arm over the bulwarks, though from where I
sat I could not quite make out his act.

"You heard me, Jarette?" said Mr Frewen, after this painful pause.
"You will let your people help Mr Denning and his sister down?"

Still the man did not answer, but appeared to be staring hard at the
doctor.

"Mr Jarette."

"Captain Jarette, doctor.  There, you see what a merciful man I am.  You
do not know that I have been taking aim at you right between the eyes
for the last five minutes, and could at any moment have sent a bullet
through your head."

"Yes, sir," said the doctor, calmly; "yes, Captain Jarette, I knew that
you were aiming at me."

"Then why did you not flinch and ask for mercy!"

"Because I am accustomed to look death in the face, sir, when I am doing
my duty, I am doing it now.  Mr Denning's life is in danger.  Come,
sir, you will let him and his sister join us?"

"In an open boat?  No."

"Mr Jarette."

"Captain Jarette, doctor," cried the man, angrily.  "Now all of you row
and take this mad fellow away, before I am tempted to shoot him."

Bob Hampton uttered a low growling sound as he sought in the darkness
for the boat-hook, stood up, and began to thrust the boat from the
ship's side.

"No; stop," cried Mr Frewen, fiercely, "we cannot desert the Dennings
like this.  Ahoy!--on board there!  Mr Denning, where are you?"

"Here," came from one of the cabin-windows aft.

"Row beneath that window," cried the doctor, and the boat was not rowed
but dragged slowly there by Bob Hampton, who kept hooking on by the main
and mizzen-chains.

"Keep off!" roared Jarette fiercely.  "Do you hear?  Keep off, or I
fire."

But Bob Hampton paid no heed to his orders till the boat was beneath one
of the round cabin-windows, and then he thrust the boat about six feet
from the ship.

He had a reason for so doing, and he had hardly steadied the boat when,
in obedience to an order from Jarette, something tremendously heavy was
thrown over the side, and fell with a loud splash between us and the
ship, deluging us with the shower it raised, and making the boat rock.

But Mr Frewen paid no heed to that which would have driven a hole
through the bottom of the boat, perhaps killed one of its occupants at
the same moment.

"Are you there, Denning?" he said, in a quick whisper.

"Yes."

"Quick, run with your sister to the stern-windows and jump out.  For
heaven's sake don't hesitate.  We can pick you up."

"Ay, ay," growled Bob Hampton.

"Impossible!  We are both fastened in," said Mr Denning.

"Can you pass through that window?"

"No.  Save yourselves; you cannot help us now."

"Over with it, my lads.  Well out."

We could not see what was heaved over the side, but something else,
probably a piece of pig-iron, was thrown over, and fell with a heavier
splash, making the phosphorescent water flash and sparkle, so that I
could see the light dancing in the darkness for far enough down.

Jarette's savage design was again frustrated, and in spite of our
terrible danger no one among us stirred or said a word about the risk.

"Do you hear?" cried Mr Denning, from the cabin-light.  "Save yourself;
the wretch will sink the boat."

"I cannot go and leave you and your sister in this man's power."

"It is madness to stay.  You have done all that is possible.  Captain
Berriman, order your men to row you out of danger."

"I am not in command," said the captain feebly.

"Mr Brymer, then," cried Mr Denning.  "Quick, they are dragging up
something else to throw over."

"I should not be a man, sir, if I ordered the men in cold blood to leave
you and your sister," said Mr Brymer huskily.

"But you are risking other lives.  Mr Frewen," cried the young man, "I
wish it; my sister wishes it.  You must--you shall go."

Mr Frewen uttered a strange kind of laugh.

"If I told the men to row away, sir, I do not believe they would go," he
replied.  "Answer for yourselves, my lads; would you go?"

"'Bout two foot farder," growled Bob, "so as they couldn't hit us;
that's 'bout all."

"But you can do no good," said Mr Denning.  "Lena, my child, they have
been very brave, and done everything they could; tell them to go now; it
is to save their lives."

"Don't--don't, Miss Denning," I shouted, for I could bear it no longer.
"There isn't anybody here but Nic Walters who would be such a cur."

I said the words passionately, feeling a kind of exaltation come over
me, and everything was in the most unstudied way, or I should not have
said it at all.

The words were not without their effect, for they stung Walters to the
quick.  The moment before he had been lying shivering in the bottom of
the boat, but as I spoke he sprang up and cried in a high-pitched,
hysterical voice that might have been Mr Preddle's--

"It isn't true, Miss Denning.  I've been a treacherous coward and a
beast, but I'd sooner die now than leave you to come to harm."

"A pity you didn't, my lad, before you betrayed us as you did," said Mr
Brymer, in a deep-toned voice.

"Ah, yes.  Words are no use now," said the captain slowly.

"No!  No use now--no use now," cried Walters wildly.  "It is too late,
too late," and before any one could grasp what he was about to do, he
leaped over the side into the black water.

But not to drown, for the scintillations of the tiny creatures disturbed
by his plunge showed exactly where he was, and Bob Hampton only had to
lower the boat-hook and thrust it right down as a wild cry came from the
cabin overhead.  The next minute he had caught the wretched,
half-distraught fellow, and dragged him to the surface, where Neb Dumlow
seized him and snatched him over the side to let him fall into the
bottom of the boat, and thrust his foot upon him to keep him down.

"Want to doctor him, sir?" then said Dumlow gruffly.

But there was no answer, for our attention was taken up by a savage
burst of rage from Jarette, who fired at us unmistakably this time, and
a sharp cry came from one of the occupants of the boat.

"I warned you," cried Jarette.  "Now row for your lives."

"Yes, in heaven's name, go," cried Mr Denning, "you are only adding to
our agony."

"No," cried Mr Frewen, "I will not give up.  Brymer--my lads, you will
fol--"

"Hush," said Mr Brymer, as there was another flash and a report from
Jarette's pistol.  "Of course we will follow, but not now.  It would be
madness.  Wait, man!  We will not go far.  Use your oars, my lads."

"No, no, I forbid it," cried Mr Frewen wildly, "and I call upon you men
to help me board this ship."

"You are not in command here, sir," said Mr Brymer sternly.  "Take your
place.  Now, my lads, oars, and give way."

There was another shot from the deck, and one of the men uttered an
exclamation as the blades were thrust over the side, dipped, and seemed
to lift golden water at every stroke.

"Good-bye, and God bless you!" came from the cabin-window, and directly
after the same words were spoken by Miss Denning, and I heard Mr Frewen
utter a groan.

Another shot came from the ship, whose lanterns showed where she lay,
while, but for the golden oil the oars stirred on the surface of the
water, our boat must have been invisible, though that bullet was
sufficiently well aimed to strike the side of the boat with a sharp
crack.

"That will do.  In oars!" cried Mr Brymer, when we were about a hundred
yards away.

"How can you be such a coward?"  I heard Mr Frewen whisper
passionately.

"No coward, sir," replied the mate.  "I am ready to risk my life in
trying, as is my duty, to save those two passengers from harm, but it
must be done with guile.  It is madness for unarmed men to try and climb
up that ship just to be thrown back into the sea."

"Then you will not row right away?" said Mr Frewen, excitedly.

"And leave the ship in the hands of that scoundrel?  Is it likely?"

"I beg your pardon, Brymer," whispered Mr Frewen, "I did not know what
I was saying.  I was half mad."

"My dear fellow, I know," was the mate's reply in the same tone.  "I'm
not going to give up, nor yet despair.  There's always a chance for us.
That scoundrel may come to his end from a quarrel with one of his men; a
ship may heave in sight; or we may board and surprise them, and if we
do, may I be forgiven, but I'll crush the life out of that wretch as I
would destroy a tiger.  Now just leave me to do my duty, and do yours."

"What can I do?" replied Mr Frewen.  "You do not want me to row away?"

"No; but I do wish you to attend to our wounded."

"Ah!  I had forgotten that," said Mr Frewen, hastily bestirring
himself.  "Here, some one cried out when one of those shots was fired,
and again I heard an exclamation just now."

"It was Walters who was hit first," I said, from where I knelt in the
bottom of the boat.

"Where is he?  Somewhere forward?"

"No; here," I said.

"Has any one matches?  It is impossible to see," muttered Mr Frewen.

"He is hit in the chest, sir," I said.

"How do you know?" cried Mr Frewen.  "Is this your hand, my lad?  What
are you doing?"

"Holding my neckerchief against his side to stop the bleeding," I said
in a low voice.

"Hah!"

It was only like a loud expiration of the breath, as Mr Frewen knelt
down beside me, and cutting away Walters' jacket he quickly examined the
wound by touch, and I then heard him tear my neckerchief and then one of
his own pocket-handkerchiefs.

"Your hand here.  Now your finger here, my lad," he whispered to me.
"Don't be squeamish.  Think that you are trying to save another's life."

"I shan't faint," I said quietly.  "It doesn't even make me feel sick."

"That's right, my boy.  Now hold that end while I pass the bandage round
his chest."

I obeyed, and there was dead silence in the boat as the doctor busied
himself over his patient.

"Is he insensible, sir?"  I whispered; "really insensible?"

"Yes, and no wonder."

"Is it a very bad wound?"

"Yes; bad enough.  The bullet has passed through or else round one of
the ribs.  It is nearly out on the other side; I could feel it, but it
must stay till daylight.  That's it.--I've plugged the wound.  He cannot
bleed now.  Thank you, Dale."

"What for, sir?"  I said innocently enough.

He did not answer, but busied himself laying Walters down, and then the
lad was so silent that a horrible feeling of dread began to trouble me.
I was brought back to other thoughts, though, by the doctor's speaking
out of the darkness.

"Who else was hurt?" he said.

"Neb Dumlow's got a hole in him somewheres, sir," said Barney.

"Wish you'd keep that tongue o' yourn quiet, Barney," growled Dumlow.
"Who said he'd got a hole in him, my lad?"

"Why, you did," cried Barney, "and I knowed it without.  Didn't I hear
you squeak?"

"Well, only just then.  It was sharp for a moment, but it's better now."

"Let me pass you, my man," said the doctor quietly.

"There you are, sir.  This way.  Neb's on the next thwart."

"You needn't come to me, sir," protested Dumlow.  "I'm all light, I tied
a bit o' line round the place.  You can give me a pill or a shedlicks
powder or something o' that kind to-morrow if you like."

"Hold your tongue, Neb, and let the doctor tie you up," growled Bob
Hampton.  "What's the use of being so jolly independent?  Don't you take
no notice o' what he says, sir.  Dessay he's got a reeg'lar hole in
him."

"Tut tut tut!" muttered Mr Frewen.  "What is this,--fishing-line?"

"That's it, sir," said Dumlow.  "It's right enough, there arn't no knobs
on it, and it stopped the bleeding fine."

"Difficult work here, Dale," Mr Frewen whispered to me.  "One need have
well-educated fingers--what surgeons call the _tactus eruditus_--to work
like this in the dark."

"Terrible," I replied, and I noticed how his voice trembled.  For he
seemed to me to be doing everything he could to keep himself from
dwelling upon those we had left in the ship.

"Hurt you, my man?" he said to Dumlow.

"Oh, it tingles a bit, sir; but here, stop, hold hard a minute.  None o'
them games."

"What games?  I don't understand you."

"No takin' advantage of a poor helpless fellow as trusts yer, doctor!"

"Explain yourself, man."

"Explain myself, sir?  How?"

"Tell me what you mean."

"I mean, I want you to tell me what you mean, sir."

"To dress your wound."

"Ay, but you're a-doing of something with that 'ere other hand."

"No, my man, no."

"Arn't got a knife in't then?"

"Certainly not.  Why?"

"Dumlow thinks you were going to cut his leg off, sir," I said, feeling
amused in spite of our terrible position.

"Course I did," growled the man.  "I've been telled as there's nothing a
doctor likes better than to have a chance o' chopping off a man's legs
or wings, and I don't mean to go hoppin' about on one leg and a timber
toe, and so I tells yer flat."

"I'm not going to cut your leg off, Dumlow."

"Honour, sir?"

"Honour, my man."

"Honour bright, sir?"

"On my word as a gentleman."

"Thankye, sir, but if it's all the same to you, I'd rather as you said
honour bright."

"Well then, honour bright.  There, I am not going to do any more to you
now; I must dress the wound by daylight."

"Won't bleed any more, sir, will it?"

"Not now."

"That'll 'bout do then, sir, thank ye kindly."

"You are welcome, my man," said the doctor, and then, "What is it?" for
I had grasped his arm.

"I want you to tell me about Walters," I whispered.  "Feel his pulse
first."

He turned from me and bent down over my messmate, who lay in the bottom
of the boat perfectly motionless.

I could not see what he did, but listened attentively, not for the sake
of hearing his movements, but so as to hear a sigh or moan from that
unhappy lad.

"Well?"  I said excitedly.

"I can tell you nothing yet," said Mr Frewen, as I thought, evasively.

"He--he is not dead?"  I gasped; and I fell a-trembling with horror at
the idea of one whom I had known vigorous and strong so short a time
before, lying there at my feet, robbed of the power of making any
reparation for the crime he had so weakly committed, and with no chance
for repentance.

"I--I say, he is not dead, is he?"

I spoke fiercely, for Mr Frewen had not replied; and now I caught and
held on by his hand.

He quite started, and turned upon me.

"I--I beg your pardon, Dale," he cried.  "I was thinking of something
else--of those on board that unfortunate ship.  It seems so cowardly to
leave them to their fate."

"How could we help it, Mr Frewen?  What could we do?  But tell me about
Walters."

"Yes," he said, drawing a long breath, as if he were making an effort to
keep his mind fixed upon the present--"yes, I'll tell you."

"Then he is dead?"  I whispered, with a shudder; and as I looked down
into the bottom of the boat, where all was perfectly black, I seemed to
see the white face of the lad quite plainly, with his fixed eyes gazing
straight at me, full of appeal, and as if asking forgiveness for the
past.

"No, not dead, Dale," said Mr Frewen in a low voice.  "Be quiet.  Don't
talk about it.  We have quite enough to depress us without that.  I can
say nothing for certain in this black darkness, and he may recover."

"Is the wound so very bad?"  I asked.

"Dangerous enough, as far as I can tell; but he has everything against
him, my lad."

"But if he dies?"  I exclaimed in horror.

"Well?" said Mr Frewen bitterly.  "If he were a man, I should say it
were the best thing that could happen.  He has as a young officer
hopelessly dishonoured himself.  He can only be looked upon as a
criminal."

I could not argue with him, and relapsed into silence, thinking the
while of the horror of my messmate's condition, and asking myself
whether it would not have been possible for him to redeem the past, and
grow up into a straightforward, honourable man.

It was a hard matter to mentally discuss, but as I sat in the darkness
that night, with hardly a word spoken by my companions, I forgot all
Walters' bitterness and dislike, and only thought of his being young and
strong like myself; and that he had those at home who would be
heart-broken if they heard of his death, and would feel his disgrace as
bitterly as he must have felt it himself, when all came to be known.

"I won't think it was his nature," I said to myself.  "It was a piece of
mad folly.  He was won over by that brute of a Frenchman, who, now that
he has obtained all he wants, throws over the tool he used, and ends by
shooting him.  Poor fellow! how could he be such a fool?"

I sat on, thinking how bitterly he would have repented his folly, and
how his last days must have been spent in the keenest of regret.  And it
was in this spirit that I bent down over him, to thrust my hand in his
breast to feel for the beating of his heart.

"Mr Frewen," I whispered as I rose, "tell me how you think he is now."

The doctor bent down, and after a little examination, rose again.

"There is no difference which I can detect," he said gravely.

"But you will--you will--"

"Will what, Dale?" he said, for I had paused.

"You will not treat him as if--as if he were a criminal?"

"How can I help it?  He is one.  We have him to thank for our position
here, for those two people being left on the ship, at the mercy of those
scoundrels."

His whole manner changed as he said this, and his voice sounded full of
fierce anger.

"Yes," I faltered, "that's all true; but you will not be revengeful?"

"A doctor revengeful, Dale?" he said quickly.

"I don't mean that," I said.  "I mean, you will do your best to save his
life?"

"For him to be punished by the law?"

"I was not thinking of that," I said hastily.  "I mean, that you will do
all you can to cure him, Mr Frewen?"

"Why, of course, my lad--of course.  Am I not a doctor?  I am neither
prosecutor nor judge.  You have curious ideas about my profession."

"I could not help it, Mr Frewen," I pleaded.  "It is only that I am so
anxious for him to recover."

"And do you another ill turn, Dale--betray us once more!"

"No, no, it isn't that."  I cried; "it is only that I should like him to
live and be sorry for all this.  I believe, after what has taken place
to-night, he would be only too glad to come over to our side, and fight
for us."

"Perhaps so, if he were well enough; but who would ever dream of
trusting him again?"

I was silent, thinking as I was how terrible was the slip my messmate
had made, and seeing now clearly how it must take years for him to climb
back to the position he held when we left the London Docks.

"There," said Mr Frewen at last, "you need not be afraid, Dale.  I
shall treat him as I would any other patient.  A medical man has but one
aim when he treats a sick person, a surgeon one who is injured--to make
the sufferer well again.  That is my duty here, and I shall do it to the
best of my ability."

I did not answer, only laid my hand upon his, and he pressed it warmly,
holding it for some moments before turning his back to me; and I made
out that he rested his arm upon the side of the boat, and sat gazing at
the dim lights which showed where the ship lay.

For some time no one spoke, and we lay there gently rising and falling
on the golden-spangled water.  There was not a breath of wind, and the
silence was so great that any one could have imagined that the occupants
of the boat were asleep.

But no one dozed for a moment, only sat or lay there, trying to bear
patiently their mental and bodily suffering.

It was the captain who broke the silence, toward morning, by saying to
the mate--

"Have you settled what to do, Brymer?"

"Yes," said the mate, starting.  "I can't quite make out how we are
situated till daylight, but unless Jarette has taken them out, we have
the boat's spars and sails.  You know how fast she is, and I propose, if
we can do so, to--"

He stopped short, for Walters moaned piteously till Mr Frewen bent down
over him and altered the position in which he lay.

"Yes, go on," said the captain feebly.

"I propose hoisting sail in the morning."

"And making for the Cape?"

"No, sir; weather permitting, and if we have a sufficiency of provisions
and water, I shall keep pretty close to the ship--our ship.  I shall
keep just out of range of a bullet, and that is all; merely hang about
or follow her when she catches the wind, until some other vessel heaves
in sight.  Captain Jarette is a clever, cunning man, but he has, I
think, given us our chance, and we shall hang on to him till a chance
comes for seizing the ship again."

"I thought our case was hopeless to-night," said the captain.

"And so did I, for a time, sir," continued the mate; "but he has
over-reached himself in trying to get rid of us--hoist himself with his
own petard--if the weather will only favour us now."

Mr Frewen drew a deep breath, which sounded to me as if full of relief,
and the mate went on--

"It is not too much to expect that if at any time we make an attack now,
some of the men will side with us."

"Don't matter if they don't, sir," growled Bob Hampton, in the deepest
of deep bass voices.  "We're strong enough, if you'll only give us a
chance."

"All depends on chance, my lads," said Mr Brymer.  "Let's get the
daylight, and see what we have on board."



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

That daylight seemed as if it would never come, and a more painful and
depressing time I never spent, in spite of the glory of the starry
heavens, and the beauty of their reflections in the calm sea beneath.
It was hard sometimes not to believe that many of the stars had fallen,
and were sinking slowly down into the dark, inky black of the ocean,
where I could see dots of light travelling here and there, now looking
mere pinheads, now flashing out into soft effulgent globes, whose
brightness reached a certain point, and then slowly died out.

Every now and then too there was a disturbance some little distance
down, as if something had suddenly passed along, and caused all the
phosphorescent creatures to flash and sparkle, and mingle their lights
into a pale lambent blaze, which soon passed away, leaving all still and
calm as before, with the tiny stars gliding softly here and there.

But the greater part of my attention was taken up by the lights dimly
visible on board the ship, where I tried to picture what was going on in
the cabin where Mr Denning and his sister were prisoned.  Jarette
would, I know, have taken possession of the guns, but without doubt Mr
Denning would have kept the little revolver which I knew he wore hidden
about his person.  And, what was more, I knew that he had the stern
courage to use it if put to the test, in spite of his weakness.

"And if he does use it," I thought, "it could only be against Jarette."

"If he does," I said half-aloud, "what a change in the state of affairs
it would produce!"

"What yer talking about, Mr Dale?" said Dumlow, who was nearest to me
of those forward; "not asleep, are you?"

"Asleep!--who could go to sleep at a time like this?"

"Ah, it's hard lines, sir," said Barney Blane, joining.  "Such a pity,
too, just as we'd found a way of getting along over the cargo!  Next
thing would have been as we should have took the ship."

"And we'll do that yet somehow, Barney," I whispered, for I felt in my
heart that Mr Frewen would not rest till some desperate effort had been
made to save Mr and Miss Denning.

Barney said he hoped we should, if it was only to give him one chance at
Jarette.

"One charnsh," growled Dumlow, whose voice sounded as if he were very
sore indeed.  "I on'y want half a charnsh, my lad; that'll be enough for
me.  I don't brag, but on'y give me half a charnsh, I don't care if he's
all pistols.  I says on'y give me half a charnsh, and the side of the
ship close by--"

"What'll you do?--chuck him overboard, mate?"

"Ay, that I will, just as if he were a mad cat, and that's about what he
is.  Just think of it, our getting that dose as the doctor meant for
him.  I can't get over it, and that's a fact."

The night passed slowly by--so slowly that I felt we must have been
roused up quite early, and directly after we had gone to sleep.  But at
last the golden clouds began to appear high up in the sky, then it was
all flecked with orange and gold, and directly after the great sun
rolled slowly up over the ruddy water, lighting the ship where she lay
not a quarter of a mile off, till the whole of her rigging looked as if
the ropes were of brass, and the sails so many sheets of ruddy gold.  To
us it seemed to give life as well as light, and instead of feeling
despairing, and as if all was over, the brightness of that morning made
me look eagerly at the ship, and ask myself whether the time had not
come for us to make our dash and secure it.  For I could not see a soul
visible at first, not even a man at the wheel.  Then my heart gave a
throb, for I could see a white face framed in the little opening of one
of the cabin-windows.

"It's Miss Denning," I said to myself, and I waved my hand, and then
felt for a handkerchief to wave that.

But I had none, though it did not matter, for my signal had been seen,
and a white handkerchief was waved in response.

I turned to Mr Frewen, who was bending down over Walters, and was about
to point out the face at the window, but it disappeared.

"How is he?"  I asked.

"Very bad," was the laconic answer, and I could not help shuddering as I
looked at the pinched, changed features of my messmate, as he lay there
in the bottom of the boat, evidently quite insensible.

"I must not move him now," said Mr Frewen gravely.  And turning to
Dumlow he was about to offer to dress the wound better now that he could
see, but the great fellow only laughed.

"It'll do, sir," he said.  "There's nothing much the matter.  I'm not
going to make a fuss over that.  It's just a pill as old Frenchy give
me.  If it gets worse I'll ask you for a fresh touch up."

There appeared to be so little the matter with the man that Mr Frewen
did not press for an examination, and he joined me in searching the ship
with our eyes, but there was no one at the round window.

"Can you see any one on board, sir?"  I said.

"Only one man.  But he is evidently watching us."

"Where?  I can't see any one."

"In the main-top."

I had not raised my eyes from the deck, but now as I looked aloft, there
was a man plainly enough, and he was, as Mr Frewen said, watching us.

Directly after, I saw him descend, and we neither of us had any doubt
about its being Jarette.

Our attention was now directed to Mr Brymer, who, being in command,
had, directly the light made such action possible, begun to see how we
poor wretches afloat in an open boat, eight hundred or a thousand miles
from land, were situated for water and food, and he soon satisfied
himself that our enemy, possibly for his own sake, had been extremely
merciful and considerate.

For there were two breakers of water, a couple of kegs of biscuit, and a
quantity of tins of provision, which had been pitched down anyhow.

There was a compass too, and the regular fit out of the boat, spars and
two sails, so that if the water kept calm, and gentle breezes sprung up,
there was no reason why we should not safely reach land.

But we did not wish to safely reach land in that way, and the exaltation
in Mr Brymer's face and tone was due to the power which Jarette had
unwittingly placed in our leader's hands.

"He never thought of it; he could not have thought of it," said Mr
Brymer.  "Of course in a gale of wind we shall be nowhere, but if the
weather is kindly, we can hang about the ship, or sail round her if we
like, and so weary him out, that sooner or later our chance must come
for surprising him."

"Without any arms," said Mr Preddle, shaking his head sadly.

"We must use brains instead, sir," replied Mr Brymer.  "Jarette
mastered us by means of cunning, we must fight him with his own weapons.
Dale, I shall have to depend on you to carry out a plan I have ready."

"Yes, sir," I said eagerly; "what is it?"

"That you shall see, my lad.  Now then, gentlemen, and my men, we must
have strict discipline, please; just as if we were on board ship.  The
first thing is to rig up a bit of an awning here astern, to shelter the
captain and--faugh! it makes my gorge rise to see that young scoundrel
here, but I suppose we must behave like Christians,--eh, Mr Frewen?"

"You have just proved that you intended to, sir, for you were thinking
of sheltering the lad as well as Captain Berriman, when you talked of
the awning."

"Well, yes, I confess I was, but I thought of our lad here too.  I
suppose you will have to lie up, Dumlow?"

The big fellow gave quite a start, and then turned frowning and spat in
the sea, in token of his disgust.

"Me, sir--me lie up!" he growled.  "What for?"

"You are wounded."

"Wounded?  Tchah!  I don't call that a wound.  Why, it arn't bled much
more than a cut finger.  Me under a hawning!  I should look pretty,
shouldn't I, mates?"

"Oh, I don't want to make an invalid of you, my lad, if you can go on."

"Then don't you talk 'bout puttin' of me under a hawning, sir; why I'd
as soon have you shove me in a glass case."

The bit of awning was soon rigged up, and the captain and Walters placed
side by side.  Then the little mast was shipped forward, and the tiny
one for the mizzen right aft; the sails hoisted ready for use, and also
so that they might add their shade; and while this was being done, and
the rudder hooked on as well, I saw that some of the men had come on
deck and were leaning over the bulwarks watching us, while at the same
time I saw something glisten, and pointed it out to Mr Brymer.

"Yes," he said, smiling, "but I'm afraid that he will be disappointed.
Do you see, gentlemen?"

Both Mr Frewen and Mr Preddle, who were eagerly scanning the ship,
turned to look at him inquiringly.

"Jarette has the captain's spy-glass at work, and he is watching us,
expecting to see us move off, rowing, I suppose, but I'm afraid he will
be disappointed.  He did not think he was arranging to have a tender to
watch him till he loses the ship.  But now all is ready, as they say on
board a man-of-war, we will pipe to breakfast."

A tin was opened, and with bread and water served round, but nobody had
any appetite.  I could hardly touch anything, but I had enjoyed bathing
my face and hands in the clear, cool water, while the rough meal had
hardly come to an end, and I had placed myself close to Walters, to see
if I could be of any use in tending him, when a faint breeze sprang up,
making the sails of the ship flap to and fro, and the yards swing and
creak, though she hardly stirred.  With us though it was different, for
giving orders to Bob Hampton to trim the sails, Mr Brymer told me to
take hold of the sheet of the mizzen, and he seized the rudder, so that
the next minute we were gliding through the water.

Jarette came to the side, and seemed to be staring in astonishment at
the boot, which he evidently expected to begin sailing right away, but
instead was aiming right for the ship, Mr Brymer steering so that we
should pass close under the stern.

"Keep farther out!" yelled Jarette, as we approached, but no notice was
taken, and just then the mate said steadily to me--

"Now, Dale, hail Mr Denning.  I want to speak to him as we pass."

"Denning, ahoy!"  I shouted through my hands.  "Mis-ter Den-ning!"

"Keep off there, do you hear?" roared Jarette, and I saw the sun gleam
on the barrel of a pistol.

"Den-ning, ahoy!"  I cried again, but I must confess that the sight of
that pistol levelled at the boat altered my voice, so that it trembled
slightly and I gazed at it rather wildly, expecting to see a puff of
smoke from the muzzle.

"Hail again, Dale," cried Mr Brymer.  "Never mind his pistol, my lad.
It would take a better shot than he is to hit us as we sail."

"Mr Denning, ahoy!"  I shouted once more.

Bang! went the pistol.

"I told you so," said Mr Brymer coolly, and at that moment I heard a
sharp gasp behind me, and saw that a white face was at the little round
cabin-window we were nearing.

"When we are passing," said Mr Brymer, "that is, when I say `now,' and
begin to run off, tell Miss Denning to be of good cheer, for she and her
brother shall not be forsaken.  We are going to keep close to the ship
till help comes."

"Keep off, you dogs," snarled Jarette; "you will have it then," and he
fired again.

I felt horribly nervous as I thought of the wounds received by Walters
and Dumlow, but I drew my breath hard, as I stood up in the boat and
tried not to look alarmed, though, as I waited for Mr Brymer's orders
to speak, I knew that I must offer the most prominent object for the
mutineer's aim.

And all the while nearer and nearer glided the boat, and I saw Jarette,
after cocking the pistol, raise his arm to fire again.

"Yah! boo! coward!" yelled Dumlow, and as he shouted, he lifted one of
the oars which he had thrust over the side, and let it fall with a heavy
splash just as the Frenchman drew trigger, and the bullet went through
the sail.

"Now," cried Mr Brymer, ramming down the tiller, and as we glided round
the stern I cried--

"We are going to stay close by, Miss Denning."

"Keep off!" roared Jarette, and he fired again.

"The boat will be kept close at hand to help you and your brother."

"Yes--yes--thank you," she cried shrilly.  "God bless you all!  I knew
you would not--"

"Go," I dare say she said, but another shot prevented us from hearing
the word, and as we sailed round the stern Jarette rushed to the other
side, held his left hand to his mouth, and shouted--

"Now off with you.  Come near this ship again and I'll sink you--I'll
run you down."

"Hi, Frenchy," roared Barney, "look out for squalls; we're coming aboard
one night to hang you."

"Silence forward!" cried Mr Brymer, and we were now leaving the ship
fast.  "Frewen, what does this mean?  Where is Mr Den--"

The doctor shook his head.



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

"We want a long calm," said the mate that evening, as we lay on the
glassy sea.

"You will have it," said Captain Berriman, and so it proved.

We saw the enemy, as he was called by all, pacing up and down the
poop-deck hastily, and scanning the offing with a spy-glass, as if in
search of approaching vessels or of clouds that promised wind, but
neither came, dark night fell once more, and Mr Brymer ordered the oars
out and we were rowed round to the other side of the ship, from which
position we could see a light faintly shining from the little round
cabin-window where we knew Miss Denning to be.

Mr Frewen had been carefully attending Walters; Dumlow had declared he
was "quite well, thank ye," and the captain was lying patiently waiting
for better days, too weak to stir, but in no danger of losing his life;
and now Mr Brymer and the two gentlemen sat together talking in a low
voice, and at the same time treating me as one of themselves, by
bringing me into the conversation.

It was a weird experience there in the darkness, with the only sounds
heard the shouts and songs of the ship's crew, for they were evidently
feasting and drinking.

"And thinking nothing of to-morrow," said Mr Preddle, sadly.

"No, sir, and that is our opportunity," said Mr Brymer.  "Let them
drink; they have plenty of opportunity, with the cases of wine and the
quantity of spirits on board.  We could soon deal with them after one of
their drinking bouts; but the mischief is that Jarette is a cool,
calculating man, and sober to a degree.  He lets the men drink to keep
them in a good humour, and to make them more manageable.  He touches
very little himself."

"What do you propose doing?" said Mr Frewen, suddenly.  "We must act at
once."

"Yes; I feel that, sir," replied Mr Brymer, "but can either of you
suggest a plan?"

They both answered "No."

Then Mr Frewen spoke out--

"There is only one plan.  We must wait till toward morning, and then
quietly row close to the ship, climb on board, and make a brave attack,
and hope to succeed."

"Yes," said Mr Preddle, "and if we fail we shall have done our duty.
Yes, we must fight."

"But you've got nothing to fight with," I said, for no one spoke now.

"Except the oars," said Mr Preddle.

"Why, you couldn't climb up the ship's side with an oar in your hand," I
cried.  "Look here, wouldn't it be best for one of us to get on board in
the dark, and try to get some guns or pistols?"

"Will you go and try, Dale?" said Mr Brymer, eagerly.  "That was what I
meant."

I was silent.

"You are right," he said sadly; "it would be too risky."

"I didn't mean that," I said hastily; "I was only thinking about how I
could get on board.  I don't mind trying, because if he heard me and
tried to catch me, I could jump over the side, and you'd be there
waiting to pick me up."

"Of course," cried Mr Brymer.  "I know it is a great deal to ask of
you, my lad, and I would say, do not expose yourself to much risk.  We
should be, as you say, ready to pick you up."

"I don't see why he shouldn't go," drawled Mr Preddle.  "One boy stole
the arms and ammunition away, so it only seems right that another boy
should go and steal--no, I don't mean steal--get them back."

"Will you go, Mr Preddle?" said the mate.

"If you like.  I'll do anything; but I'm afraid I couldn't climb on
board, I'm so fat and heavy, and, oh dear!  I'm afraid that all my poor
fish are dead."

At any other time I should have laughed, but our position was too grave
for even a smile to come upon my face.  Instead of feeling that Mr
Preddle was an object to excite my mirth, I felt a sensation of pity for
the pleasant, amiable gentleman, and thought how helpless he must feel.

"You will have to go, Dale," said Mr Brymer.

"Yes," said Mr Frewen; "Dale will go for all our sakes."

"When shall he go?" said the mate; "to-morrow night, after we have
thrown Jarette off his guard by sailing right away?"

"It would not throw him off his guard," cried Mr Frewen, excitedly.
"The man is too cunning.  He would know that it was only a ruse, and be
on the watch.  Dale must go to-night--at once.  Who knows what
twenty-four hours may produce?"

"Exactly," said Mr Preddle.

"I quite agree with you," replied the mate; "but I did not wish to urge
the lad to attempt so forlorn a hope without giving him a little time
for plan and preparation."

"I'm ready," I said, making an effort to feel brave as we sat there in
the darkness.  "I don't think I could do better if I thought till
to-morrow night."

"How would you manage?" said the mate.

"I know," I said.  "I'm not very strong, but if you made the boat drift
under the ship's bows, I could catch hold of and swarm up the bob-stay
easily enough.  Nobody would see me, and if I got hold quickly, the boat
could go on round to the stern, and if anybody was on the watch he would
think you were trying to get to the Dennings' window."

"Some one would be on the watch," said the mate; "and that some one
would be Jarette."

"And he would think as Dale says," exclaimed Mr Frewen, "that is
certain."

"Oh yes, I must go to-night," I said, with a bit of a shiver.  "It would
be so cruel to Miss Denning to keep her in suspense, and thinking we
were not trying to help her."

A hand touched my arm, glided down to my wrist, and then a warm palm
pressed mine hard.

"Then you shall go, Dale," said Mr Brymer, firmly.  "Keep a good heart,
my lad, for the darkness will protect you from Jarette's pistol, and you
can recollect this, we shall be close at hand lying across the stern
ready to row along either side of the ship if we hear a splash.  That
splash would of course be you leaping overboard, and you must remember
to swim astern to meet the boat."

"And what is he to do when he gets on board, sir?" said Mr Frewen.
"Make for the Dennings' cabin at once?"

"No," I said sharply.  "That's just where I shouldn't go.  Some one
would be sure to be watching it.  I should try and find out which was
the cabin Jarette uses, for the arms would be there, and then I should
tie some guns--"

"And cartridges," whispered Mr Preddle, excitedly.

"Oh yes, I shouldn't forget them.  I'd tie 'em together and lower them
down out of the window.  He's sure to have the captain's cabin, and the
window will be open, ready."

"Bravo!" cried Mr Preddle.  "Oh dear!  I wish I was a boy again."

"And the best of the fun will be," I continued excitedly, "old Jarette
will never think anyone would go straight to his cabin, and be watching
everywhere else."

"Then you think you can do this?" said Mr Frewen, eagerly.

"Oh yes, I think so, sir."

"I'd better come with you, my lad," he continued.

"No; that would spoil all.  A boy could do it, but I don't believe a man
could."

"He is right, Frewen," said the mate.  "Then understand this, Dale, you
will have to act according to circumstances.  Your object is to get
weapons, which you will hang out so that we can get hold of them;
perhaps you will be able to lower them into the boat and then slide down
the rope you use.  But mind this, you are not to try and communicate
with the Dennings."

"What?" said Mr Frewen, angrily.

"It would be fatal to our success," said the mate, firmly.  "Now, Dale,
you understand, guns or revolvers, whichever you can get."

"Yes, sir, I know."

"Then how soon will you be ready?"

"I'm ready now."

"Hah!" ejaculated Mr Frewen, and my heart began to go pat pat, pat pat,
so heavily that it seemed to jar against my ribs, while a curious series
of thoughts ran through my brain, all of which were leavened by the same
idea, that I had been playing the braggart, and offering to do things
which I did not dare.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

"Now," whispered Mr Brymer, "utter silence, please.  Not a word must be
spoken.  Shake hands with us all, Dale, and God bless and speed you in
your gallant attempt."

I shook hands all round, Mr Brymer whispering--

"Don't talk to him, gentlemen.  Let him make his attempt on his own
basis.  He will act according to circumstances, and will know what is
best to do.  There, Dale.  Now off!  Go right forward into the bows, and
send Hampton aft.  He shall put an oar over the stern and scull you
right in under the bowsprit.  Then we shall go on round to the stern and
wait.  If you do not hear or see us, act all the same.  It is intensely
dark, and we shall be there.  Off!"

It was like being started on a school race, and my breath came short as
if I were running.  I crept forward as silently as possible to where Bob
Hampton was seated, and it was so dark that I had to feel for him.

"Go aft and take an oar with you," I whispered.  "Don't speak, and don't
make a sound."

Then I crept right into the bows, and stood there gazing at the faint
lights on board the ship, and trying to think of nothing but the task I
had in hand.

"I've got it to do," I said to myself, "and I will do it for Miss
Denning's and her brother's sake."

Then I shivered, but I made a fresh effort to be firm, and said half
laughingly--but oh! what a sham it was!--"It's only like going in for a
game of hide-and-seek.  There'll be no one on deck but Jarette."

I stopped short there, for I thought of his pistol and Walters' wound.

"Hang his pistol!"  I exclaimed mentally, "perhaps it isn't loaded
again, and he couldn't hit me in the dark.--But he hit Walters and poor
old Neb Dumlow," something within me argued.

"Well," I replied to the imaginary arguer, "if my wound when it comes is
no worse than poor old Neb's, I shan't much mind."

And all the while I could feel that we were moving toward the ship, for
though I could not hear a splash aft nor a ripple of the sea against the
bows, the boat rolled slightly, so that I had to spread my legs apart to
keep my balance.

Oh, how dark it was that night!  And how thankful I felt!  For saving
that the lights in the cabin shone out, there was no trace of the ship;
nothing ahead but intense blackness, and not a star to be seen.

"I can't see it," I thought.  "I hope Bob won't run us bump up against
the hull, and give the alarm."

Then I hugged myself and felt encouraged, for if I could not see the
great ship with her towering masts, and rigging, and sails hanging,
waiting for the breeze which must succeed the long calm, it was not
likely that the keenest-eyed watcher would see our small boat.

"But he may hear it coming," I argued.  And then.  "Not likely, for I
can't hear a sound myself."

On we went with the round dim light in the ship's side showing a little
plainer; but I noticed, as I stood there buttoning up my jacket tightly,
that the light appeared a little more to my right, which of course meant
that Bob Hampton was steering for the left to where lay the ship's bows.

I tried to make out her outlines, but I could see nothing.  I could
hear, though, for from where I guessed the forecastle to be came a song
sung in a very tipsy voice as a man struck up.  It sounded dull and
half-smothered, but I heard "Moon on the ocean," and "standing toast,"
and "Lass that loves a sailor."  Then there was a chorus badly sung, and
I started, for away to the right where the cabin-light was, I heard a
sound like an angry ejaculation or an oath muttered in the stillness of
the dark night.

"Jarette," I said softly.  "Hurrah!  He won't hear me climb the stay,
and I can get on deck safely."

Another minute of the slowest possible movement, and I was thinking
whether I ought not after all to take off my jacket; but I felt I was
right in keeping it on, for my shirt-sleeves would have shown light
perhaps if I had been anywhere near a lantern.  Then I had something
else to think of, for looming up before me, blacker than the night, was
the hull of the ship, and directly after, as I looked up, there, just
dimly-seen like the faintest of shadows against the sky, was the big
anchor beneath which we were gliding so slowly that we hardly seemed to
stir.

"How well Bob is sculling us!"  I thought; and then I looked up,
strained over, made a snatch and touched a great wire rope reaching from
the ship's prow below the water to the bowsprit, to hold it down, flung
up my other hand, gave the boat a good thrust with my feet as I got both
hands well round the rope, and swung my legs up and round the stay, from
which I hung like a monkey on a stick, my head screwed round as I tried
to see my companions, and just dimly seeing a shadow apparently glide
by, leaving me hanging there alone, with the water beneath me, and a
shuddering feeling coming over me for a few moments as I thought of the
consequences that would ensue if I let go.

As I hung there from that taut rope, I felt that if I let go I should be
plunged in the sea, go down ever so far into the terrible black water,
and rise again half-suffocated, my nerve gone, and I should be drowned,
for the occupants of the boat would be out of hearing, and I should
never be able to swim and overtake them, since they would make a long
detour before reaching the stern-windows.

But then I had no occasion to let go.  Why should I?  And as I climbed I
was ready to laugh at my fears.  For I was strong for my age, and active
enough to climb that stay, and I did; halting at last by the
spritsail-yard to listen before mounting to the bowsprit, getting my
feet upon the ropes beneath, and then travelling slowly sideways, till I
was able to rest by the figure-head and look over on to the forepart of
the dark deck.

I was as silent as I possibly could be for fear of encountering a man on
the look-out, but there was no one, and hesitating no longer, I climbed
over and stood upon the deck, thinking how easily the rest might have
reached it too; when there would have been a chance for us to close the
forecastle-hatch once more.  For there it was open, a dim light rising
from it to form a very faint halo around; and the men seemed to be all
there, for I could hear the talking, and then an uproarious burst of
laughter, caused by one of them beginning to sing in a drunken tone, and
breaking down at the end of a couple of lines.

There was nothing to fear there, I thought, and after listening I began
to creep along, step by step, close to the starboard bulwark, keeping my
hands thereon for a few paces, till becoming bolder I stepped out more,
but stumbled directly over something big and soft, and went sprawling on
the deck.

I felt that all was over, as I went down noisily, and springing up,
hesitated as to what I should do, but not for long.  The fore-shrouds
were close at hand, and feeling for them I drew myself up, ascending
higher and higher as I heard some one coming rapidly from aft till he
was close beneath me, and catching his foot in the same obstacle as had
thrown me, he too went down heavily, and scrambled up, cursing.

My heart throbbed more heavily than before as the voice told me it was
Jarette, though for the moment I did not grasp the fact that his fall
had been my safety.  For naturally attributing the noise he had heard to
the object over which he had fallen, he began to kick and abuse and call
the obstacle, in a low tone, all the drunken idiots and dogs he could
lay his tongue to.

"And I run all these risks for such a brute as you," he snarled; "but
wait a little, my dear friend, and you shall see."

I was in hopes he was going away, but he only went to the
forecastle-hatch, where to my horror he called down to the men carousing
below to bring a lantern; and feeling that my only chance was to climb
higher, I crept up step by step, ratline by ratline, till the light
appeared and four men stumbled out on to the deck.  Then I stood still,
hugging the ropes and looking down, certain, as everything below was so
plain, that in a few moments I must be seen, perhaps to become a target
for Jarette's bullets.

There on the deck lay the tipsy sailor over whom I had fallen, and about
ten feet away there was another.

"Haul these brutes down below!" said Jarette, fiercely; and in a slow
surly way first one and then the other was dragged to the hatchway and
lowered down, with scant attention to any injuries which might accrue.

So intent was every one upon the task in hand that not an eye was cast
upwards, and it was with a devout feeling of thankfulness that I saw the
man who carried the lantern follow his comrades, the last rays of the
light falling upon Jarette's features as he stood by the hatchway.

"Now then," he said savagely, "no more drinking to-night.  There'll be
wind before morning, and you'll have to make sail."

"All right, skipper," said the man with a half-laugh, and he and his
lantern disappeared, while I clung there listening and wondering why
Jarette did not go aft.  Could he see me?

Just when I felt as if I could bear the suspense no longer, I heard him
move off, whistling softly, and as soon as I dared I descended and
followed, creeping along step by step, and listening with all my ears
for the faint whistling sound to which he gave vent from time to time.

There it was plainly enough, just abaft the main-mast, and he seemed to
have stopped there and to be looking over the bulwark--I merely guessed
as much, for the sound had stopped, and of course I stopped too.

To my intense satisfaction I found that I was right, for the faint
sibillation began again, and was continued along the deck, till, as I
followed, it paused again, grew louder, and I knew that the scoundrel
was coming back.

But he altered his mind again, turned and went aft--into the saloon, I
thought for a few moments, for the faint whistling ceased, and then
began again high up.

There was no mistaking that.  He had mounted to the poop-deck, and was
walking towards the wheel.  Young as I was then, I grasped the fact that
the man was restless and worried lest some attempt should be made to
recover the ship, and unable to trust one of his men, he was traversing
the deck uneasily, keeping strict watch himself.

This was bad for my purpose, for it was too dark to see him, and at any
moment I felt he might come upon me, and my attempt be defeated.

But here was an opportunity I had hardly dared to reckon upon, and the
minute his steps died out I hurried to the companion-way, entered, and
saw that there was a dim light in the captain's cabin at the end of the
saloon.

This seemed to prove that my ideas were right, and that Jarette had
taken possession of this cabin now for his own use, and at all hazards I
was about to hurry there, when I caught sight of another faint light on
my right--a mere line of light which came from beneath the cabin-door,
and told me plainly enough that this was the one in which Miss Denning
was kept a prisoner.  Whether her brother was there too I could not
tell, for there was not a sound.

I hesitated and stopped, for the inclination was terribly strong upon me
to tap and whisper a word or two about help being at hand.  It was not a
minute, but long enough to deprive me of the chance of finding out
whether there were arms in the cabin, for as I hesitated I heard a light
step overhead, and knew that Jarette was returning from his uneasy
round.

The probability was that he would now come into the saloon.

Where should I go!  There was not a moment to lose, and my first impulse
was to dart forward into the captain's cabin--a mad idea, for the
chances were that Jarette would come right through the saloon and enter
it.  So darting to the side, I felt along it in the dark for the first
cabin-door that would yield, found one directly, and had hardly entered
and drawn to the door when I heard Jarette's step at the companion-way;
and as it happened he came in and along my side of the table, so that at
one moment, as I listened by the drawn-to door, he passed within a few
inches of where I was hiding.

The next minute there was a creaking sound, and the saloon was dimly
lit-up, telling me that our enemy had opened the cabin-door and gone in.
But he did not stay.  I heard the clink of a glass, and then a
repetition of the creaking sound, the saloon darkened again, and as I
listened I heard his step returning.  This time, though, he did not come
back on my side, but on the other, stopping for a few moments evidently
to listen at the door where his prisoners were confined.

For a moment I thought he meant to go in, but I heard his footsteps
commence again, pass on to the companion, and there they ceased.

This was terrible; for aught I knew he might be standing there listening
as he kept his uneasy watch, and for some minutes I dared not stir.

At last though, to my great delight, I heard a step overhead, and now
without farther hesitation I stepped out, hurried to the cabin at the
end, guided by the light which came through the nearly closed door,
entered, and shut it behind me before looking round.

A lamp hung from the ceiling, there was spirit in a flask, and the
remains of some food upon the table; but what most delighted me was the
sight of three guns lying on a locker near to the cabin-window, which
was wide open, and I felt that I should only have to show myself for the
boat to be rowed beneath.

My first want was a rope or line, my next a supply of ammunition for the
guns, and there was neither.

I felt ready to stamp, with vexation, for I might easily have brought a
line wrapped round me, but neither Mr Brymer nor the others had thought
of this, and unless I could find a fishing-line in one of the lockers, I
felt that I should have to go back on deck.

At that moment I remembered that Captain Berriman had a number of small
flags in one of the lockers--that beneath the window.  Four or five of
those tied together would answer my purpose for lowering the guns, and
if tied to the window they would be strong enough for me to slide down.

I lifted the locker-lid, and there they were, quite a bed of them in the
bottom of the great convenient store of objects not in everyday use.

That got over one difficulty, but there was that of the ammunition, and
turning to the locker on my left I looked in that, to find plenty of
odds and ends of provisions, for it had become quite a store-room, but
no cartridges.

"Where can they be?"  I muttered, as I stood holding the locker-lid and
gazing round the cabin for a likely spot for Jarette to have stowed them
ready for an emergency, when I heard his step so suddenly overhead that
I started in alarm to leave for my place of concealment, when the lid of
the locker slipped from my hand and fell with a smart rap.

I felt that I was lost--that it would be impossible for me to get to the
cabin and hide before he reached the companion-way, alarmed as he would
be by the sound, and looking frantically round I was for leaping into
the cot and drawing the curtains, but another thought struck me just as
I heard his step, and lifting the lid of the locker beneath the window,
I slipped in upon the flags, and let the cover down and shut me in.

The moment I was lying there in the darkness, the place just seeming big
enough to hold me lying upon my back with my knees drawn up, I felt that
I had done a mad thing, for Jarette would immediately come to the
conclusion that it was the shutting down of a locker which made the
sound, and come straight to the one I was in, open it, and drag me out.
It was too hot, and I could feel that in a few minutes I should be
suffocated if he did not find me.  That he had entered the cabin I had
ample proof, for I heard him move something on the table quite plainly,
while directly he came to the locker where I was, and I heard a noise.
It was the thump, thump made by his knees as he got upon the lid to
kneel upon it and look out of the window.

My heart gave a bound; he did not know then that I was hiding there.
But the next moment I was in despair, for the heat was intense, my
breath was coming short and painful, and Jarette made no sign of leaving
what promised to be my tomb.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

I bore it as long as I could, and then I was on the point of shrieking
out and striking at the lid of the locker, when I heard a movement over
my head, Jarette stepped down, and I forced the lid open a little way,
and drew a long deep breath.

I don't believe that the air was any better, but there was the idea of
its being purer, and the horror of suffocation which had nearly driven
me frantic was gone.

I have often wondered since that he did not hear or see the movement of
the lid, but his attention was probably taken up by something else, and
I heard him go out into the saloon, and then on through the
companion-way to the deck.

I opened the lid a little more and peered out, breathing freely now as I
kept the locker open with my head; and to my horror I saw that he had
left the door wide open, so that with the lamp burning it was impossible
for me to get out without the risk of being seen.

But I felt relieved, for I could breathe freely now, and I lay still
with the lid raised, listening for Jarette's uneasy step as he came and
went, and thinking of how easy it was to make plans, and how difficult
to carry them out.  I knew that if we were going to try and obtain the
mastery once more we must act at once, for a fresh breeze would separate
us at once, and the chance be gone.  But how could we do it without
weapons?

How I lay puzzling my brains as to where the cartridges could be!  I
recalled how Walters had stolen them, and he must have carried them
forward, where the main portion would be stowed somewhere; but all the
same I felt that Jarette would, for certain, have some in this or one of
the other cabins, ready for use in case of emergency.  But where?

I tried very hard, but I could not think it out, and at last lay there
quite despondent and feeling in no hurry to stir, for it only meant
going back to the boat to say that I had failed.

There was Walters, of course, but he was insensible, and it was not
likely that I could get any information from him.  No; the case was
hopeless.  I had failed, and all my hopes of our gallant little party
storming the deck and carrying all before them were crushed.

By degrees, though, the mental wind changed the course of that peculiar
weathercock, one's mind, and I felt better.

Violence would not do, so why not try cunning?

How?

Well, I thought, if I could so easily steal on board, and get actually
into the cabin, it must surely be possible for Mr Brymer, Mr Frewen,
and two of the men to get up, wait their opportunity, and, in spite of
his pistols, seize and master Jarette.

"That's it," I said to myself; "the only chance.  How could I be so
stupid as not to think of it before?"

All excitement again, I was now eager to get back to the boat, so that
my friends might take advantage of the darkness, and carry out my plans
before morning came.  For another night would perhaps prove to be too
clear.

I raised the lid a little higher and looked out, but the table was too
much in the way for me to see more than the top of the other door-way,
and this encouraged me, for that worked two ways--if I could not see out
into the saloon, Jarette could not see the locker.  But all the same I
was afraid to get out.  It was so light in the cabin, and everywhere
else was so dark, that if he were on deck, and looking in my direction,
he would be sure to see what took place.

Then I concluded that I could do nothing till the door was closed, and
as soon as an opportunity offered itself, I determined to creep out, and
at all risks draw that door to, trusting to Jarette thinking that the
closing was caused by the motion of the ship as it gently rocked upon
the swell.

At last as I lay there, for minutes which seemed to be hours, I heard my
enemy talking loudly, and I knew that he must be speaking to the men in
the forecastle.

That would do.  He could see nothing now, for between us there were the
main and foremasts, and plenty besides--the galley and water-cask, and
the long cabin-like range upon the top of which our boat had lain in the
chocks.

I crept over the side after propping up the lid, went upon hands and
knees to the door, readied out and touched it.  That was sufficient: it
swung upon its hinges so that Jarette could easily imagine that the
motion of the ship had caused the change.

The next minute, still keeping the locker open ready to form a retreat
for me in case of necessity, I leaned right out as far as I could, and
bending down, strained my eyes, trying to cut the darkness as I
whispered sharply--

"Are you there?"

"Yes; got them?" came from the boat, though to me the voice came out of
the black darkness.

"No cartridges," I whispered.  "Come closer.  No--keep back."

I said that, not that I knew anything, but I had a kind of impression
that Jarette was returning, and dropping down into the locker once more,
I lowered the lid, but this time not quite close, for I thrust in a bit
of one of the flags, so that there was room for a little air to get in,
and that and possibly the idea that I could not be suffocated, made me
more at my ease.

I waited some little time, and then began to grow impatient; feeling
sure that I had fancied his coming and taken alarm at nothing, I
determined to lift the lid and get some fresh air, but I did not stir
just then, only lay still, finding my position terribly irksome.  I
could not hear well either, and at last I began to move cautiously to
peer out, when to my horror there was a sharp blow delivered on the lid
of the locker, and then another probably given with the butt of a
revolver, and Jarette exclaimed fiercely--

"Hang the rats!"

I lay back, breathless, expecting that he would hear the dull heavy
throb of my pulses, while I trembled violently, thinking that all was
over, and that he was trifling with me, and knew all the while that I
was lying there.  But by degrees I grew calmer.  There were rats enough
in the hold.  I had heard them, and why should he not have attributed
the slight rustling noise I made to one of the mischievous little
animals?

At last, to satisfy my doubts, I heard him come and kneel upon the
locker again, as if looking out of the cabin-window.

He stayed some minutes, and I began to think that he must see the boat;
but I soon set that idea aside and felt that it was absurd, for if he
had seen the boat he certainly would either have shouted to warn its
occupants away, or fired at them.

"He feels that he is not safe," I said to myself at last, and to my
great relief he got down, muttering to himself, and I could tell by the
sound that he was at the table, for I heard a clink of glass, the
gurgling of liquor out of a bottle, and then quite plainly the noise he
made in drinking before he set down the glass and uttered a loud "Hah!"

Just then I heard voices from forward, loud laughing and talking.

"Curse them, what are they doing now?" exclaimed Jarette, loudly.  "Oh,
if I had only one man I could trust!"

He hurried out of the cabin, and I did not flinch now from opening the
lid and looking out, to find that the door had swung to as soon as he
had passed through.

The noise was so boisterous forward that I crept out, pushed the door,
and stood in the dark saloon, where I could still see the line of light
at the bottom of Miss Denning's cabin as I crept to the companion, and,
excited by curiosity, slipped aside to where I could shelter under the
bulwark and see what was going on.

There were lanterns now by the big hatch in front of the main-mast, and
I could see quite a group of men at whom Jarette was storming.

It was a curious weird-looking scene there in the darkness, for the
men's faces stood out in the lantern-light, and in spite of their fear
of their leader they were laughing boisterously.

"You dogs," he roared; "not a drop more.  Go back to your kennel."

"Mus' have little drop more, skipper," cried one of the men.

"No," he roared, "not a drop, and it shall be allowances from this
night."

"But there's heaps o' good stuff spoiling, skipper."

"I'll spoil you, you dog," snarled Jarette, and I saw him snatch a
lantern from one of the men and lean down, holding the light over the
open hold.  "Hi! below there," he roared; "leave that spirit-keg alone,
and come up."

In the silence which ensued I heard a muffled muttering come from below,
and Jarette dropped upon his knees to hold the lantern right down in the
open hold, while the light struck up and made his face and his actions
plain from where I stood watching.

"Once more, do you hear?  Come up and leave that spirit, or I'll fetch
you with a bullet."

"Better come up, mate," shouted one of the men.

"You hold your tongue," snarled Jarette to the speaker.  "Now then, will
you come, or am I to fire?"

There was no reply, and Jarette spoke once more in quite a calm, gentle,
persuasive voice.

"I say, will you leave that spirit-keg alone and come up?"

Still no answer, and Jarette turned his head to the group of men.

"That's a fresh keg broached.  Who did it?" he said slowly.  "I said no
more was to be taken.  I say--who broached that keg?"

"Oh, well, it was all on us, skipper.  You see we couldn't do nothing in
this calm," said the man who had before spoken, and who seemed to be the
most sensible of the group.

"Then you all broke my orders," cried Jarette, hastily now, "and you
shall all see how I punish a man for breaking my orders."

I looked on as if spellbound, forgetting the boat and my mission as I
crouched there in the dark, feeling that a tragedy was at hand, though I
could not grasp all and divine that this was the crowning-point of the
mutiny.

For Jarette bent right down over the open hold, lowering the lantern,
whose light played upon the barrel of a pistol.

"Now," he cried, "once more, will you come up and leave that
spirit-barrel, or am I to fire?"

"Fire away," came up in muffled tones, but quite defiantly, and as the
last word reached my ear there was the sharp report of the pistol, whose
flash shone out brighter than the lantern.  Then a horrible cry came
from below, and for a few moments I could see nothing for the smoke
which hung in the air.  But from out of it came an excited burst of
talking and yelling.

"Stand back," roared Jarette.  "I have five more shots ready, and you
see I can hit.  Serve the scoundrel right."

"But look, look!" shouted the man who had spoken before; and as the
smoke dispersed, I saw him pointing down into the hold, while the other
men, sobered now, stood huddled together in alarm.

Then with a wild yell of horror one of them threw up his hands, shouting
"Fire, fire!" ran forward, while a fearful figure suddenly appeared at
the mouth of the hold, climbed on deck, and then shrieking horribly,
also ran forward with Jarette and the others in full pursuit.



CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.

It was a horrible sight, one which made me cling to the bulwarks
absolutely paralysed, for the man who had climbed on deck was one mass
of blue and yellow flames, which flickered and danced from foot to
shoulder, and in those brief moments I realised that he must have fallen
and overset the spirit-keg when Jarette fired, saturated his garments,
and no doubt the fallen lantern had set all instantaneously in a blaze.

It was impossible to stir.  My legs trembled, and every shriek uttered
by the poor wretch, as he ran wildly here and there, thrilled me through
and through.  One moment it seemed as if he were coming headlong toward
me, and I felt that discovery was inevitable; but before he reached the
open hold, he dashed across the deck to the starboard bulwark, turned
and ran forward again shrieking more loudly than ever, while the rapid
motion through the air made the flames burn more furiously, and I could
distinctly hear them flatter and roar.

His messmates, headed by Jarette, were not idle; they shouted to him to
stop; they chased him, and some tried to cut him off here and there; but
as if the idea of being stopped maddened him, the poor wretch shifted,
dodged, and avoided them in the most wonderful manner, shrieking more
wildly than ever, as a man who had been below suddenly confronted him
with a tarpaulin to fling round him and smother the flames.

At last, with the sharp tongues of fire rising above his head, he made
one maddened rush forward, and the whole of the party in pursuit; while
his cries, and the sight of the man dashing on like a living torch
through the darkness of that awful night, made me long to close my eyes
and stop my ears.  But I could not--it was impossible.  I could only
cling helplessly to that bulwark, praying for the power to help, but
unable to stir.

It takes long to describe all this, but it was only a matter of a minute
or two, before, with the flames rushing up to a point above his head and
streaming behind him, he rushed for the bows.

I grasped in an instant what he intended to do, and felt that at last I
could act.  For, seeing that he meant to leap overboard, I made a start
to run back to the cabin and shout to those in the boat to pick him up,
when he caught his foot in a rope, and fell upon the deck with a heavy
thud; and before he could rise, the man with the oilskin overcoat flung
it over him, rolled him over and over in it, and extinguished the
flames.

In the midst of the loud talking which followed, I heard Jarette's voice
above all the rest.

"It was his own fault," he cried.  "Here, carry him below.  I shall not
take the blame."

"But you shot at and hit him," growled a man angrily.

"As I will at you, you dog," roared Jarette, "if you disobey my orders.
Quick!--get him below."

I saw Jarette bend down to the moaning man, for two of the crew held
lanterns over him; and then, as they were all crowding down the
hatchway, I hurried into the cabin, closed the door after me, and going
to the window, I leaned out, and called in a whisper to Mr Brymer, but
there was no answer.

I called again and again, raising my voice till, had any one been on
deck, there must have been an alarm raised; but still there was no reply
from the boat, and feeling at last that my companions must have rowed
along by the ship to try and find out what was the matter, I was about
to go back and run along till I could hail them and implore the doctor
to come on board to try and save the poor wretch's life, when, all at
once, there was the faint splash of an oar, and Mr Brymer exclaimed--

"Ah, at last!  I was afraid you were being hunted.  What were they
doing?  What was the meaning of those cries, and the torches they were
rushing about the deck with?"

I explained in few words, and, saying I would fetch a rope, implored Mr
Frewen to come up and help the poor creature.

"Come?  Of course I will, Dale," he said; "but it seems curious work to
do--help the men who have sent us adrift on the ocean in an open boat."

"Yes," I cried excitedly; "but wait while I get a rope."

"Yes; quick, my lad," said Mr Brymer.  "It is our only opportunity."

I made no attempt now at concealment, but ran through the saloon, and
out on the deck, to secure the first coil of rope I could find.

I got hold of one directly, not neatly coiled, but tumbled down anyhow;
and then, looking forward to see if any one was on deck, I was conscious
of a dull bluish glow, which I attributed to the lights by the
forecastle-hatch, from which I could hear a low muttering of voices
dominated by Jarette's sharp angry snapping.

Then grasping the fact that there appeared to be no one on deck, I ran
back into the dark saloon, tapped smartly on the door of Miss Denning's
cabin, cried, "Help coming!" and darted through the door, closing it
after me.

"Got a rope?" came from below; and my answer was to lower it down as
quickly as I could before passing it twice round the legs of the fixed
table.

Then came a sharp whisper--

"All fast?"

"Yes; all right," I said; and the next moment Bob Hampton was climbing
in.

"Sent me to help you, my lad.  Hooroar! the ship's our own again."

In another minute Barney was up alongside, and he was followed by Mr
Frewen and Mr Brymer.  These all seized guns.

"They're not loaded," I said sadly.

"Never mind, my lad; appearances go a long way," said Mr Brymer.  "The
scoundrels will not know.  Now then, pick up something for a weapon,
Dale, if it's only the cabin poker."

"Are you going to fight?"  I said in a low tone.  "I thought you were
going to help that poor wretch."

"I can attend him as well when he is our prisoner, Dale, as if we were
Jarette's."

"Of course," I said excitedly.  "But hadn't you better have Dumlow too?"

"Can't climb up, my lad," said Bob Hampton, in a husky whisper; "and Mr
Preddle's too fat."

"Ready?" said Mr Brymer.

"Ay, ay," came from the men, and "Yes" from Mr Frewen.

"Then come on."

The mate threw open the door to lead the way, and then hesitated for a
moment or two, for the saloon was flooded by a pale bluish light.

"I hoped we should have darkness on our side," he said, "but--"

"Look, look!"  I cried wildly; "the ship's on fire."

We all ran to the companion together, three on one side of the
saloon-table, two on the other; while I could hardly believe my eyes as
I saw flooding up from beyond the main-mast great soft waves of bluish
fire.

"It is the casks of spirits in the hold," cried Mr Brymer, excitedly.
"They've done for it at last.  But come on quickly: we can pass that
without getting much harm; and as soon as we have secured the
scoundrels, we must try the pump and hose."

We tried to go along the starboard side, but the flames came out in such
strong pulsations there, that we were obliged to cross to the port side,
where there seemed to be about ten feet clear.

"Now then," cried Mr Brymer; "they're all below, and have not taken the
alarm.  A quick rush, and we have them."

He was half-way along the clear pathway formed along the deck between
the flames floating up from the hold and the port bulwark, and his
figure stood up strangely unreal against the bluish light, when there
was a heavy report below in the hold, and a rush of flame which extended
from side to side of the ship.  But after the report there was no roar
or crackling sound of burning, for the blue and orange flames came
pulsing up in great waves silent and strange, the quiet mastery they had
attained being appalling.

The explosion--that of a spirit-cask, one of the many in the hold--
brought up the men from the forecastle, wild with excitement; but we
only saw them for, a moment, and then they were screened from us by the
fire, which was singularly clear from smoke, and rose steadily upward
and away from the main-mast, whose sails hung down motionless in the
calm.

We all stood motionless, unable to grasp the extent of this new
calamity, and listened to the yelling and shouting of the frightened
men, who now broke loose entirely from the slight control Jarette had
held principally by means of his revolver.  For death in a more horrible
form threatened them than that from the pistol which had held them in
subjugation, and with one consent they all began to shout the word
"Boats!"

Just then there was the report of a pistol, and Jarette's voice rose
loud and clear.

"Silence--idiots--fools!" he shouted.  "It is your own doing, and now
you want to run away and leave a good ship and all its valuable cargo--
ours, do you hear?--all ours--to burn.  Bah!"

"The boats, quick!--the boats!" shouted one of the men.

"Throw that fool overboard, some of you," cried Jarette, contemptuously;
"he has not the spirit of a _mouche_.  Bah! what is it?  A cask or two
of spirit in the hold.  Come along, brave lads.  The pumps and buckets;
we will soon make grog of the spirits, and it will cease to burn."

"No, no!  The boats!" cried two or three.  "We are all lost!"

"Yes, if you do not obey," cried Jarette, speaking slowly through his
teeth, and with a very marked French accent, as he did when greatly
excited.  "I go not to lose our great prize, for which I have fought and
won.  Every man now a bucket, and you four to the pump and hose."

"Draw back a little," whispered Mr Brymer; "they have not seen us."

"Shall we get buckets, sir?" said Bob Hampton in a gruff whisper.

"No; it is useless.  There are nearly fifty of those casks of strong
spirits there below, and no efforts of ours could stop that fire."

"But you will not let it burn without an effort?" whispered Mr Frewen.

"I shall let it burn, sir, without an effort," said Mr Brymer, drawing
back, and leading Mr Frewen toward the companion, I being so close that
I could hear every word, which was only intended for the doctor's ears.
"I'll tell you why," he said.  "As those casks burst, the spirit will
run through the cargo in all directions, the flame will glide along the
surface, and as the spirit heats, the hold will be full of inflammable
gas, which will keep on exploding."

"Yes," said Mr Frewen, angrily; "but an abundance of water--"

"Would not stop the flashing of that spirit here and there, doctor,
till, sooner or later, it reaches the blasting-powder.  That must be
reached, and then the ship will be rent open."

"Great heaven!" cried Mr Frewen.

"And the fire will be extinguished then.  My good sir, with a
well-trained crew, working calmly, we might perhaps reach the powder and
cast it overboard; but, situated as we are now, any efforts of ours
would be worse than folly."

"Then--the boat!"

"Yes, but don't hurry or grow excited; the vessel may burn a day or two
before the final calamity comes.  We have plenty of time to do our
duty."

"Yes, I understand," said Mr Frewen, and he hurried towards the saloon.

"Aren't we going to try and put out the fire, Mr Brymer, sir?" said Bob
Hampton.

"No, my lad; we'll leave that to Jarette and his gang.  Come and help."

By this time we had reached the cabin-door, from beneath which the faint
light shone, and Mr Frewen exclaimed--

"Are you there, Miss Denning?"

"Yes, yes," she cried eagerly.  "Pray, pray help us."

"Yes.  One minute; is the door locked on the inside?"

"Yes," came from within, in company with a sharp snapping sound which
was repeated, while the doctor felt outside, and convinced himself that
it was secured there too, and that we had no means of unfastening it.

"Stand back from the door, right to the other side of the cabin," said
Mr Frewen, and, drawing back some distance, he ran at the panel, raised
his foot, struck it just above the handle, and it was driven right off,
and he saw Miss Denning standing there, pale and large-eyed, holding a
little taper in her hand, while in the bed-place lay her brother, gazing
at us wildly, but for his countenance to change and become restful and
calm as he saw that he was in the presence of friends.

"I told you they would not desert us, Lena," he said faintly; and then
his head sank back as if he were too weak to raise it from the pillow.

Mr Frewen stepped close up to the bed-place as I joined Mr Denning and
laid my hand in his, for his eyes had seemed to invite me to come to
him.  Then, as if I had not been there, he whispered quickly to the
invalid--

"Denning, you don't like me, but we are in a perilous strait.  Believe
me, I will do everything man can for you and your sister now.  Will you
trust me?"

"Yes."

Mr Frewen turned to Miss Denning, and said firmly--

"Dress quickly, as if for a long journey."  She looked at him
wonderingly.  "Yes," he said, and his voice sounded almost harsh.  "In
five minutes or less you must both be down in the boat.  Hat, cloak,
waterproof, and any necessary that you think may be useful.  Nothing
more.  You understand?"

She bowed, and began hurriedly to collect the few things she required,
while, without waiting to be told, I dragged pillow and blankets from
the cot, and ran out with them to the stern-window, beneath which I
could plainly see the boat now.

"Mr Preddle--Dumlow," I cried, "stow these aft;" and I threw down the
articles I had brought, and went to fetch others from the cabin, passing
Bob Hampton and Barney, who were collecting everything they could find
in the way of provisions, tins, bottles, bags, from the captain's
stores, and throwing them down.

By the time I was back, Miss Denning was ready, and she was about to
help her brother, but he hung back.

"No, no," he said.  "Take her first, Frewen."

She would have resisted, but I said quickly--"The ship is on fire; we
must not lose a moment.  Pray come."

She put her hand in mine, and I led her through the saloon, now full of
a lurid light, and into the captain's cabin, where the rope still hung
down.

"Be ready to help, Mr Preddle," I said, as I hauled it up, and handed
the end to Bob Hampton, who came in loaded.

"Make a loop, Bob, and help lower Miss Denning down."

"That I will, my dear lad," he said, shooting his load on one of the
lockers.  "Don't you be skeart, but just you trust to me.  That's your
sort," he cried, as he passed the rope round her, and knotted it.  "Now
then, you'll just take a tight grip of the rope there with both hands,
and trust to me, just as if I was going to give you a swing."

"I'll trust you, Hampton," she said, with a quiet smile.

"That's right, miss; you'll be like a baby in my arms.  Now, Barney,
boy, lay hold of the rope.  Nay, you needn't, she's light as a feather.
Give way to me, my dear, just as if I was your father, and I'll lower
you right enough."

I could not help thinking how pretty and gentle and brave she looked as
she left herself in Bob's hands, while he knelt on the locker, lifted
her up, passed her out of the cabin-window, held for a moment or two by
the knot, and then gently lowered her down.

"Done lovely," said Bob.  "Better let Neb Dumlow cast off the rope, Mr
Preddle, sir.  You can hand the lady into the starn arter-wards.  That's
your sort, sir," as he hauled up.  "Why, some gals would ha' kicked and
squealed and made no end o' fuss.  Want this for Mr Denning, shan't
us?"

"Yes," I said, and at that moment, supporting the poor fellow below the
arms, Mr Frewen and the mate helped Mr Denning into the cabin, panting
heavily even from that little exertion.

"I'll be--as quick--as I can," he sighed.  "There is no hurry," said Mr
Brymer, quietly; "we have a wall of fire between us and our enemies."

"Go on heaving down that there prog, Barney," whispered Bob from behind
his hand.  "I don't hold with running short out in a hopen boat."

Barney grunted, and while Bob passed the rope round Mr Denning so that
he could sit in the bight, and then made a hitch round his breast so as
to secure him in case his weak hold with his hands gave way, the sailor
kept various articles of food in tins flying down to Neb Dumlow, who
caught them deftly and stowed them rapidly forward in the bottom of the
boat.

The next minute Mr Denning was tenderly lifted by Bob Hampton and Mr
Frewen, and his legs were passed out from the window, the rope was
tightened, then he swung to and fro, and a minute later Dumlow had left
the catching and stowing to cast off the rope which was now left
hanging, so as to afford us a ready means of retreat in case it should
be necessary.

With the help of Mr Preddle and the sailor, Mr Denning was soon lying
back in the stern, and now the mate leaned out to give a few directions
to Dumlow.

"Have you got that painter fast to the ring-bolt so that you can cast
off directly?"

"Ay, ay, sir.  Hear the pumps going?"

"Yes; go on stowing the stores sent down as well as you can.  Mr
Preddle will help you."

"There, doctor," he said the next minute, "now we can cast off at a
moment's notice if there's danger."

"From the explosion?"

"It would not hurt us," said Mr Brymer, coolly, for now that Miss
Denning and her brother were safe, he did not seem to mind.  "When the
powder goes off it will be amidships, and strike up.  We shall only hear
the noise, and perhaps have a few bits of burning wood come down near.
What I fear is Jarette and his party when they take to the boats.  But I
think we can out-sail them."

"Then what are we going to do now?"

"Collect everything that I think may be of use, so work away, Dale, my
lad, and help me.  Hampton, Blane, get another breaker of water.  Take
the one on the poop-deck, and lower it down over the stern."

Bob Hampton grunted, and after seeing to a few more things being lowered
into the boat, we three went quietly toward where the fire was hissing
furiously, and a great cloud of steam rose now from the hold.  But the
blaze was as great as ever, and as we looked, and I wondered that the
main-mast and its sails had not caught fire, we heard the clanking of
the pumps cease, and Jarette's voice rise above the noise and confusion.

"Boats," he said laconically.  "But no hurry, my lads.  Water and stores
in first.  We're all right for hours yet."

It was curious to be there, behind the main-mast, listening to all that
was going on forward, and yet seeing nothing for the fiery curtain at
which we gazed, and which cast a lurid reflection on either side, and
brightened the sea till it looked like gold.  And it appeared the more
strange that the men had not the slightest idea of our being on board,
as we could tell by the orders shouted from time to time.

"There," said Mr Brymer at last, in answer to Mr Frewen's uneasy
looks, "the lads have got that breaker of fresh water down by now, so
we'll just take the captain's little compass and chronometer, and a few
more things from the store, and be off.  Ah, here they are."

For just then the two men came down coolly enough from the poop-deck,
reported the water on board, and then eagerly set to work, carrying more
stores, blankets, and all else we could by any possibility want, till
the mate cried hold, enough.

"We've got all we can stow, I'm sure," he said.

"Then pray let us get away before it is too late," whispered Mr Frewen.

"Afraid, doctor?"

"Yes--for those poor shivering people below, sir--and, well, yes, I am
alarmed too, knowing that at any time the deck may be rent up beneath
our feet and the vessel sink."

"Yes; it is unpleasant to think about, and there is the danger of those
scoundrels lowering one of the boats and coming round here for stores
that they have none of there.  Ah, there goes one of them down."

For plainly enough came the chirruping of the falls as the boat was
lowered from the davits.

"Now then, down with you, Frewen.  You next, my lads; I don't think I
can remember anything else.  You after the men, Dale, and I come last,
as I'm captain for the time."

We all obeyed with alacrity, and I breathed more freely as I sat down in
the boat.  Then Mr Brymer slid down, and threw the rope back through
the cabin-window.

The next minute the painter was withdrawn from the ring-bolt, and Bob
Hampton sent the boat away with a tremendous thrust; oars were got out,
and we rowed out into the darkness to lie-to about three hundred yards
from the ship, just as a dark object came along from forward, and we saw
that, as the mate had expected, the boat which had been lowered had come
round to the stern-windows for the men to mount, if they could, in
search of stores.

"None too soon.  Dale," said the mate, coolly, and a deep breath of
relief escaped my lips as I replied in his words--

"No, sir; none too soon."



CHAPTER FORTY.

As we lay there in our boat, only a short distance from the burning
ship, it seemed to me impossible that it could be long before Jarette
and his men discovered us, and came in pursuit.  For I felt sure that
they would give us the credit of having been beforehand with them, when
they saw how the stores had been put under contribution; and knowing how
much more easy it would be for them to remove the things from one boat
to another than to obtain them from the ship, we should, if overtaken,
be absolutely stripped.  Something to this effect I whispered to Bob
Hampton, but he shook his head.

"Not they, my lad; they're in too much of a scare.  Don't suppose
they've got any room in their heads to think about anything just now.
They know fast enough that the poor old ship will soon blow up, and what
they want to do is to get some more prog, and then row off soon as they
can."

I was going to say more, but I had a warning from the mate to be silent,
and I sat there watching the men make a good many tries before they
reached the cabin-window; but how they did it at last I couldn't quite
make out, for they were in the shadow, while all around them spread the
lurid glare cast by the flames which rose from the burning hold.

These seemed to have reached their greatest height soon after the fire
first broke out, and directly the first cask of spirits had burst.  Then
the fire went steadily on till it began to wane slightly, when another
cask would explode, and flames rush up again--those great waves of fire
which lapped and leaped, and floated up out of the hold, appearing from
where we lay to lick the sails hanging from the fore and main-masts.
But these never caught, the golden and bluish waves rising steadily and
spreading to starboard and port, and every now and then sending out
detached waves to float on the black night air for a moment or two
before they died out.

It was very terrible and yet beautiful to see the great bursts of flame
gliding up so softly and silently, almost without a sound; there was
every mast and stay glistening in the light, and the sails that were
hanging from the yards transparent, or half darkened on the main and
mizzen-masts, while those on the fore-mast beyond the fire shone like
gold.

I wondered how it was that the sides of the deck did not begin to burn,
crackling, splitting, and sending up clouds of black smoke dotted with
brilliant sparks, as I had once seen at the burning of a coal brig in
Falmouth harbour; but they did not, and the utter stillness of the
night, in that hot calm, which had on and off lasted for days, had so
far saved the masts.

But as I watched, I felt that their turn must come, and that sooner or
later I should be watching them turned into pyramids--all brilliant
glow--till they fell with a crash, hissing and steaming, into the sea.

I pictured all that clearly enough in my mind's eye, feeling in my
expectancy a sensation of awe as the conflagration went on--this gradual
burning of the spirits in the casks, which kept on exploding one by one
with a singular regularity.

And all the time, as I watched, there in the shadow at the stern were
the crew, busily throwing out such stores and necessaries as they could
find.

I said that I could not tell how they managed to reach the cabin-window,
but I suppose they spliced two oars together, and leaned them pole-like
from the boat up toward the cabin-lights, and then one of the most
active must have climbed.

There was a great deal of shouting and talking, and the light in the
cabin enabled us to see them going and coming to the window loaded, and
heaving things down.

By-and-by another boat came into sight, gliding along over the golden
water, and we could see the faces of the men shining in the light as
they gazed at the burning ship, and every now and then we could make out
all they said, Jarette's abuse and orders being quite distinct as they
worked more busily than ever.  But still they did not see us, though
whenever they stirred we could plainly make out their actions, and at
times even could distinguish the objects that were brought to the window
and thrown down.

This was more especially the case after the second boat had come from
forward, for several more men had ascended by the rope they had lowered,
and the second cabin-door was opened, so that both the stern-windows
were now illuminated; and as the bigger waves of light floated upward,
every now and then quite a glare struck through the companion-way,
lighting up the saloon, showing the men hurrying here and there, and
then making for the windows to throw something down to their companions
in the boats.

All at once I felt a hot breath on my cheek, and then Bob Hampton's lips
close to my ear.

"They're a-getting a whole jorum o' things, my lad, as won't be much use
to 'em.  I'd rather have a cask o' fresh water than one o' them
boat-loads o' odds and ends."

I nodded and watched for a time, and then turned to look aft at the
faces of my companions, all intent upon the strange scene before them,
wondering why Mr Brymer did not give orders for the men to row away
before we were discovered.

But he did not open his lips, and by degrees the reason came.  For no
doubt the slightest splash of an oar would have made the water flash,
and drawn Jarette's attention to us where we lay at the edge of the
circle of light shed by the burning ship.

I can give no account of the time occupied by the various events of that
night, for some things are strangely jumbled up in my mind consequent
upon my excited state; but, oddly enough, others stand out bright and
clear as if lit-up by the blaze, and there were moments when the silent
burning and the floating away of those waves of light beyond the busy
black and gold figures at the cabin-window seemed to be part of some
strange dream.

All at once, as the men were hurrying to and fro, one of the
spirit-casks exploded so loudly that I saw them all dash for the
windows.  Then came another and another report in such quick succession,
that it was almost like one.  There was a tremendous burst of flame,
which floated high up, and I felt that the masts must catch now, and
then the cabin-lights stood cut clear without a figure visible; a burst
of talking, and then a roar of laughter telling that all had safely
reached the boats.

The next minute the Frenchman's voice came clearly to us as he ordered
the men to mount again, and this was answered by a confused clamour.

"You miserable gang of cowards!" shouted Jarette, sharply; and his words
were so clear coming across the water that they might have been spoken a
dozen yards away.

"Why don't you go up yourself?" cried one of the men, evidently from the
next boat.

"Because I order you," he shouted.

"And because you are afraid."

I did not catch what he said, but there was a little stir in one of the
boats, and directly after I saw a figure appear at the window of Captain
Berriman's cabin and begin to climb in.

"There he is," whispered Bob Hampton.  "Sarve him right if the boys
rowed away and left him."

I was too much interested in the scene before me to pay much heed to Bob
Hampton's words, and sat watching Jarette, as he turned from the window
and disappeared.  Then, directly after, I heard him shout and shout
again, something which sounded familiar, but I could not quite make it
out even when I heard him calling again, but nobody in the boats seemed
to stir.

Bob Hampton grasped the fact though, for he laid his hand on my knee,
and whispered excitedly--

"Why, Mr Dale, sir, he's gone up to fetch Mr and Miss Denning, and he
can't find 'em."

To endorse his words Jarette appeared the next minute at the
stern-windows and cried--

"Did any of you see those passengers?"  There was of course a chorus of
Noes, and the man ran back again shouting Mr Denning's name, and we
could hear the banging of cabin-doors.  Then I saw the man's shadow as
he came back into the captain's cabin to fetch the lamp, with which he
went back, and, as I judged, ran from cabin to cabin.  The next minute
he appeared upon the poop-deck, his figure thrown up by the light and
plainly seen as he ran here and there, and then disappeared, to be seen
at the stern-window.

"They're nowhere about," he cried.

"How rum now, aren't it?" muttered Bob Hampton.  "Now I do call that
strange."

"Didn't either of you see them?" shouted Jarette.

"No."

"Did you go into their cabin?"

"No, no."

"They must be somewhere."

"All right then," shouted a voice.  "You go and find 'em.  We're off."

Jarette was back at the window in an instant.

"Stop!" he cried, in his clear sharp voice.

"Pull away, my lads, we've had enough of this," cried the same voice.
"We don't want to be blowed to bits."

We heard every word clearly, and the hurried splashing of the oars.

"I told you to stop," cried Jarette, authoritatively.

"Pull, lads!  She'll bust up directly, and suck us down.  Pull!"

"Stop!" roared Jarette again, as the oars, splashed rapidly, and the
boats' heads both appeared in the light, as they left the ship.

"Why, we shall have to save him ourselves," I thought in horror, as
something seemed to rise in my throat, so enraged was I with the
cowardly crew.

There was a sharp report, a wild cry, and a man who was standing upright
in the bows of the first boat toppled over and fell into the sea with a
splash of golden water.

The men ceased rowing.

"One," cried Jarette sharply.  "I can hit eleven more without reloading,
for I never miss.  There, go on, my lads.  I don't ask you to come
back."

A low murmuring sound arose, and we saw that instead of the boats going
on forward they were returning into the shadow once again, as Jarette
shouted aloud mockingly--

"One less to row.  Why didn't you pick him up?"

Again the low murmuring growl arose, and my mouth felt hot and dry, as
with eager eyes I vainly searched the surface of the water, just where
there was the plain demarcation between black shadow and the golden
light.

"The wretch!"  I thought.  "Why don't they rise against him?"  But a
fresh current of thought arose, and in a confused way I could not help
thinking that it was fair retaliation.  The man who had been shot and
fell into the sea was evidently the one who had incited the two boats'
crews to leave Jarette to a horrible death.  Was he not justified in
what he did?

Then as with a strange contraction at my heart I realised the fact that
Jarette's victim had not risen to struggle on the surface of the water,
I could not help feeling what power that man had over his companions,
and what a leader he might have proved had he devoted himself to some
good cause.

By this time the boats were right under the stern, and as I watched the
lighted-up window one moment, the glistening, motionless water the next,
I saw Jarette climb out, rope in hand, and glide down into the darkness.

"How horrible!"  I thought, as the cold perspiration gathered on my
face--"only a minute or two, and one of these men living, the next--
dead."

And then I leaped up in the boat and fell back, for from the ship a
terrific rush of flame sprang up skyward, mounting higher and higher,
far above the tops of the masts as it appeared to me; and then, as the
fire curved over in every direction, there was a terrible concussion,
and all instantaneously a short sharp roar as of one tremendous clap of
thunder, cut short before it had had time to roll.



CHAPTER FORTY ONE.

The boat we were in rose as a long rolling swell which lifted the bows
passed under it and swept on, while I gazed in awe at the falling pieces
of burning wood, which were for the most part quenched in the sea,
though others floated and blazed, shedding plenty of rays of light, and
showing two boats being rowed with all the power of their occupants
right away from where the ship rocked slowly, half hidden by a dense
canopy of smoke which hung overhead.

The great waves of burning spirit were there no more.  It was as if they
had suddenly been blown cut, and in their place there were volumes of
smoke, through which, dimly-seen, were sparks and patches of smouldering
wood.  And as the burning pieces which were floating here and there
gradually died out, a strangely weird kind of gloom came over the scene,
which grew more and more dim till the sea was black once more, and the
sole light came from the ship--a feeble, lurid glow nearly hidden by
steam and smoke.

And now we were half-stifled by the smell of the exploded powder and the
steam evolved when the burning fragments fell in all directions, to be
quenched over acres of water around the ship.  It was a dank,
hydrogenous odour, which made me hold my fingers to my nose till I
forgot it in the interest with which I watched the ship.  For Mr Brymer
said sadly, but in a low voice, for fear that a boat should be within
hearing--

"Poor old girl! she ought to have had a few more voyages before this.
She'll go down directly."

But the minutes passed, and the ship still floated and burned slowly,
though it was a different kind of burning now.  No soft floats of
spirit-blaze rose gently and silently, but little sluggish bits of fire
burned here and there where the tar had melted, and the flame was yellow
and the smoke black; in other places where the wood had caught there
were vicious hissings, spittings, and cracklings, as if it were hard
work to burn.  And so hard did it seem in some places that the scraps of
wood gave it up as a bad job, and went out.

But there was plenty of mischief still in the hold, from whence a dense
body of smoke rose, the rolling volumes being dimly-seen by the
reflections cast upon them, and tingeing the suffocating vapour of a
dull red.

We sat there almost in perfect silence, watching the ship for quite an
hour; but though she was expected from moment to moment to heel over a
little first to one side, then to the other, she still floated upon an
even keel, and her masts with their unfilled sails retained their
places.  But we dared go no nearer for fear of the death-agonies of the
monster coming on, and our being sucked down into the vortex she made as
she plunged beneath the sea which had borne her triumphantly so many
times in the past.

The desire was strong amongst us to begin talking, but Mr Brymer
forbade a word being spoken.

"Jarette may be waiting somewhere close at hand with his two boats, till
he has seen the last of the ship.  We have had troubles enough; we do
not want to increase them by a fresh encounter with the scoundrel."

So there we sat watching, with the dull smouldering still going on in
the hold of the ship.  Sometimes it flashed up a little, and promised to
blaze fiercely; but it was only a spasmodic attempt, and it soon settled
down again to the dull smouldering, with a few vicious sparks rising
here and there to hide themselves in the dull, rolling clouds, and we
were in momentary expectation of seeing the vapour-enshrouded masts
begin to describe arcs in the cloud, and then slowly settle down after
the sinking vessel.  And as I watched and calculated, I seemed to see
the water rising slowly around the faintly-marked black hull, till it
covered the ports, reached the deck, and then began to pour over into
the burning hold, when of course there would be a fierce hissing, steam
would rise in volumes, which would cover the clouds of smoke, and then
all would be over, and we should be left on the wide ocean to try and
fight our way to the land.

How dim the sparks and tiny, darting flames grew, and how black the
ship!  I listened for the splash of oars, and the sound of voices; but I
heard neither for a time, and then only in faint whisperings, whose
import I could not grasp.

Then our silence was broken by a slight moaning, for the doctor had gone
to attend Walters, where he still lay insensible; and after that I
faintly grasped the fact that in that darkness aft Mr Frewen had been
attending to the captain and to Mr Denning.  But I knew it all in a
very misty way, and then I knew nothing whatever, for everything was a
blank till I started up excitedly, and Mr Brymer said--

"Steady, my lad, steady; nobody is going to throw you overboard."

I had been asleep for hours, and I moved out of the way now, feeling
ashamed to look round; but when I did, it was to see that Mr Brymer, I,
and two more were the only people awake.

"Then the ship hasn't sunk," I said, as I looked at her about five
hundred yards away, with a pillar of smoke rising out of her hold, and
the masts, yards, and sails all in their places intact.

"Yes; she still floats," said Mr Brymer, quietly; "and we are going
closer to see how she stands."

"Where are Jarette and the men?"

"They rowed away to the east," replied Mr Brymer, "and are quite out of
sight."

"Then we can talk aloud," I cried.

"Ay, and shout if you like."

It was morning, and there were signs of the sun being just about to roll
up above the smooth sea, as the men gently dipped their oars so as not:
to waken the sleepers, and the boat began to move softly toward the
ship.

"It is a puzzle to me that she has not gone down, Dale," said Mr
Brymer, in a low voice.  "That explosion was enough to drive out her
sides, as well as rip up her deck; and I am beginning to think that
after all she may float."

"But she is on fire still," I said; "and though burning slowly, the fire
must be eating its way through the bottom."

"Perhaps not, my lad," he replied.  "There was an immense amount of
cargo solidly stowed below, and it may be only that which is burning."

"But you will not venture to go on board?"  I said.

"Why not, my lad?"

"She may suddenly sink."

"She does not look now as if she would; at all events not during this
calm.  Yes; I am going on board, and you may come too if you like."

I looked at him wonderingly, and felt a strange shrinking; but I fancied
that I could detect a faint smile at the corner of his lip, and this
touched me home, and made me speak at once.

"Very well," I said.  "I'll go with you, sir."

"That's right, my lad," he said, laying his hand on my shoulder.  "Why,
Dale, you will be chief mate of some ship, young as you are, almost
before I get to be captain.  But we won't waste time passing
compliments.  What should you say if we find that the old ship is strong
enough to carry us into port?"

"Oh, it is impossible," I cried.

"Not so impossible perhaps after all; but we are getting near, and we'll
see."

"But suppose she is so near sinking that the addition of our weight
proves to be enough to make her begin settling down?"

"Well, I should be greatly surprised if it did," he said with a smile.
"But we'll be on the safe side.  As soon as we mount on deck through the
cabin-window, the boat shall be backed out of the way of danger, and our
first task shall be to cut loose a couple of the life-buoys.  Then, if
the ship drags us down, we shall be sure to rise again and float."

I could not help a shudder at the idea of being dragged down in such a
horrible vortex, perhaps to be entangled in some part of the rigging,
and never rise again; and seeing what I was thinking, Mr Brymer
laughed.

"No fear, my lad.  She will not sink now, unless there is a storm;
perhaps not even then.  Row right round, my lads," he continued to Bob
Hampton and Barney; and we made a circuit of the ship, passing from
astern right forward, without the hull showing any damage; and though
Mr Brymer touched her just about opposite to where the principal body
of smoke arose, there was no perceptible heat to be felt.  Then as we
pressed on under the bowsprit, I looked up at the bob-stay and the
rigging about that spritsail where I had climbed; and we began to go
back on the other side, to find the hull intact, and no sign of damage,
but here the side was decidedly warm.  Then on to the stern and under
the first window, where a rope was still hanging out.

"Will you go first, Dale, or shall I?" said Mr Brymer.

For answer I began to climb, and in a very short time reached the window
and crept in.

Then the rope was drawn taut again, and the mate climbed in after me,
turned, and spoke gently--

"Row aft about a hundred yards, my lads.  It is only for form's sake."
And as the men began to paddle gently away, he said to me quietly--

"There is no fear of her going down, Dale, for many hours, if at all.  I
want to see what damage there is forward, and whether we can come aboard
and attack the fire with any chance of success."

"But shall we not be safer in the boat?"  I said.

"Most decidedly not.  And fancy, boy, there are three sick and wounded
people, and a lady!  It is our duty to study them, and besides, after
all, we may save the ship."

This sent a thrill of enthusiasm through me as we passed out of the
cabin, littered with all kinds of stores and fittings, out along the
damaged saloon, and thence through the companion on to the deck, which
was blackened with pieces of burnt wood, scraps of a heterogeneous kind
that had probably been sent skyward by the explosions, to fall back
half-charred.

The smell of burnt powder now was terrible, and I could not help
stopping.

"What is it?" said Mr Brymer.

"Do you think there is any more powder below?"  I said, as I thought of
the possibility of another explosion.

"Indeed I don't," said the mate, decisively.  "Not a grain.  It is all
honest fire, my lad, smouldering away in the cargo, and waiting for a
little encouragement in the shape of wind to burst out into an
unconquerable blaze."

We had been advancing again through the charred embers and fragments, to
stand at last by a large ragged cavity, torn up in the deck.  The whole
of the hatches and combings were blasted away, and a clean sweep had
been made for fully thirty feet onward, and twenty or so across; and
everywhere was of a blackish grey, showing the effects of the
blasting-powder.  Still there was room enough on both sides to walk
along by the hole; and as we looked down we could see that, in spite of
the destruction, with one exception the great cross-beams which
supported the deck were intact.

"She will not sink, Dale," said the mate, quietly; and as a feeling of
confidence on that question made me feel better, the fire suddenly
flamed up in one place, burning briskly with a good deal of crackling
and sputtering, making me feel doubtful of the ship's stability on that
side.

Mr Brymer gave me a nod, meant for encouragement, as he went on--

"All the force of the powder went upwards, as it usually does.  If it
had been dynamite, the explosion would have struck down, driving out the
bottom, and then of course the ship would have sunk."

"But the fire!"  I said; and the anxiety I felt affected my voice,
making it sound husky.

"Oh, the fire," he said coolly.  "We must fight that.  It is dangerous,
but the explosive spirit has burned out, or been destroyed; the powder
has gone, and we have nothing to fear now but the slow working of our
friend or enemy, whichever you make it."

"But it may burst out furiously at any moment."

"It may, my lad, but I hardly think it possible.  Of course a great deal
of the cargo is highly combustible, but things will not burn quickly
without room and plenty of air.  Fire shut in only smoulders, and eats
its way slowly, as you see it there.  Come, I think we may hail the
boat, and get our friends on board."

"But do you think it will be safe?"

"Safer than leaving them in an open boat."

"But the mast--the main-mast?  Suppose the fire has eaten its way
through that?"

"If it had the mast would fall; but the fire has worked forward, and, as
far as I can see, the mast is untouched.  Run up to the main-top, it is
clear now.  Have a look round, to see if you can make out the two boats
with our friends."

I looked at him sharply, and he laughed.  "Not afraid that the main-mast
will give way with your weight, are you?"

I felt the colour burn in my cheeks at this, for he had read my thoughts
exactly; and without another word, I sprang to the side, climbed above
the main-chains, and made my way upwards.  But I had not gone far
before, as I rose higher and more over the burning hold, I became aware
of a hot, stifling fume, and the irritating smoke which rose from
beneath me.

But I persevered, and though it increased for a time, a few feet higher
still the oppressive sensation of breathing these hot fumes grew less;
and by the time I had reached and climbed into the top, the smoke was so
much dissipated as to trouble me very little indeed.

The moment I was up I laid hold of a rope and began to look round, my
eyes falling, naturally enough, first upon our boat lying a short
distance away, with Mr Frewen, who had just awakened, bending over
Walters; and I watched him anxiously, to see if I could make out how my
messmate was.  But I was brought back from thoughts of him and his
position by the mate's voice, as he hailed me from the deck.

"Well," he said, "what can you see?"  I looked sharply round before
answering, and there was the wide sea in all directions, glistening in
the morning sunshine.  "Nothing," I said at last.  "Try again.  Take a
good look round, my lad.  The boats look small in the distance.  They
can hardly have passed out of sight."

I shaded my eyes, and looked long and carefully east, west, north, and
south, but could see nothing, and said so.

"Well, that's good news; but I don't want them to see that the ship is
still floating, and come back again.  Go up to the main-topgallant
mast-head, and have a look from there."

I mounted higher, and reached the head, to pause there and survey, but
as far as I could see there was nothing visible.

"That will do; come down," shouted Mr Brymer; and I descended as
quickly as I could to the deck, when we took a hurried peep at the
forecastle, to find there and in the galley plenty of traces of the
hurried departure of Jarette and the crew.

"They do not seem to have been disposed to stop for the explosion,
Dale," said Mr Brymer, smiling.  "Now let's hail the boat, and have our
friends on board."

"But do you really think it safe for them to come?"  I said again.

"I told you before, my lad, safer than in an open boat.  My good fellow,
escaping as we were last night, we were glad to do anything; but think
of the sufferings of Miss Denning and our wounded in such close
quarters!  They must come on board while we fight the fire; and if
matters get too bad, there will be the boat all ready, swinging astern,
and we can take to it."

The boat was hailed, one of the gangways amidships opened, and by means
of a sling, which Bob Hampton and Barney soon had rigged, Miss Denning
and our invalids were quickly hauled on deck.  Then after the boat had
been made fast, they were left in charge of the doctor and Mr Preddle,
who had orders to join us as soon as the sufferers were attended to in
the cabin; while Mr Brymer led us forward to see if something could not
be done to save the ship.



CHAPTER FORTY TWO.

Ours appeared to be a herculean task, for the fire had been burning many
hours now, as after a little examination Mr Brymer decided that it
would be best to attack it from the starboard side, where a bold man
could approach the worst part and pour in water from buckets if the hose
from the pump could not be brought to bear.

As I looked down into the blackened hold, surrounded by the jagged
planks of the deck, which had been splintered and torn in the most
wonderful way, the place looked to me like what I had always imagined a
volcano to be.  This was very small, of course; but there was the
glowing centre, from which arose a column of smoke towering and curling
up for some distance, and then spreading out like a tree.

The glow of the smouldering fire could be seen, but with the sun now
shining brilliantly its appearance was anything but terrible, the
greater light completely dimming the lesser; but as I stepped out on to
the beam from which the planks had been torn by the explosion, I was
made fully aware of the danger being great, for a peculiar dizziness
suddenly seized me, and I was caught by the collar and dragged back to
the strip of ragged deck on the starboard side.

"None o' them games, Mr Dale, sir," said a gruff voice in my ear, as I
clung to the bulwark, and a cold perspiration gathered on my forehead.

"Anything the matter?" cried Mr Brymer.

"Not much, sir," growled the sailor; "on'y Mr Dale, here, trying to
dive down into the hold to look for the fire."

"Why, Dale!" cried Mr Brymer, hurrying up from where he had been
forward examining the hose left by the mutineers after their feeble
attempt to extinguish the fire, "did the fumes attack you?"

"Yes," I said faintly, as I pressed my hands over my forehead; "I
suppose it was that."

"Some'at queer burning below, sir," growled Bob Hampton.

"Or the gas from the combustion," said the mate, leading me a little
more from the part where the smoke arose.

"Pretty nigh combusted him, sir, if I hadn't got hold on his arm."

"Well, it's a warning for us," said Mr Brymer.  "Now then, come and
pass this hose along."

I felt better now, and walked forward to where the pump was rigged, and
helped to drag the hose along the narrow path beneath, the bulwarks to
where Neb Dumlow was now stationed with the brass nozzle at the end of
the canvas tube, and Mr Brymer instructed him how to direct the stream
of water as soon as the pump was started.

"Better let me pump, sir," he grumbled.  "I understands that a deal
better."

"I set you to this, man, because of your wound.  You are not fit to take
your turn at the pump."

"Well, I like that, sir.  It makes me mut'nous, it do.  Why, you wants
all the strength yonder to take spells in pumping," grumbled Dumlow;
"wants men, don't yer, while this here's boy's work, or might be done by
the gal.  A baby could handle this squirt."

"If you can pump, for goodness' sake go forward, and don't talk now,"
cried Mr Brymer, impatiently.  "Here, Dale, is that sickness gone off?"

"Oh, yes," I cried eagerly.

"Take the branch, then, and direct the stream.  Right down, mind, where
the glow rises.  As he says, we want all our strength there, and you can
serve us better here."

I seized the brass nozzle and held it ready.

"Be careful," cried Mr Brymer.  "Keep back so that the fumes don't
overcome you, and call out if you want help."

I nodded, and he hurried forward, while as I stood there in the hot
sunshine waiting for the water to come, I directed the nozzle so as to
strike one particular part of the smouldering ruins just beside where
the great spiral of smoke rose up.

The next minute clink-clank came the strokes of the double-handled pump,
invisible to me, for it was on the far side of the smoke which rose from
the forward part of the deck.  But no water came, and after a minute or
two I heard them talking loudly, and the clanking ceased.  Then came the
splash of a bucket over the side, and though I could see nothing, I
could picture the throwing down of that bucket, and the handing of it up
with the sparkling of the water as it streamed back; and I knew what the
gurgling and splashing meant, as the contents freshly drawn were poured
into the top of the pump.

Then the clanking began again, and I waited listening to the steady
working up and down of the handles, and the strange, gasping, sucking
sounds which rose hollowly from the piston.

But still no water came, and I listened to the splash of the bucket as
the process of filling the big barrel of the pump was repeated.  Then
clang-clank again, with gurgling, hissing, and splashing; and I felt
that the pump must be broken or worn-out.

"They will have to take to the buckets," I said half-aloud; and in fancy
I saw what a slow, laborious task that would be, and how hopeless it was
to imagine that, short-handed as we were, we could cope with that
terrible fire steadily eating its way down through the cargo, and which
would certainly before long burst forth with uncontrollable fury.

"It's all over," I said to myself; and my heart sank once more as I
began to think that we ought before long to get back to the boat, and
trust to it alone, for although open and comparatively frail, it would
not have a terrible enemy on board, insidiously waiting to destroy us.

"Oh, how disappointing!"  I muttered, as I passed the metal nozzle from
my right to my left hand, so as to wipe the perspiration from my face,
when all at once there was a quick, throbbing sensation; something ran
through my left hand.  There was a splash, a hiss, and a cry, and Mr
Preddle rushed back into the shelter of the main-mast, from behind which
he had suddenly appeared.

"Oh, I say, Mr Dale," he shouted, "you shouldn't!"

The stream of water had come with a sudden rush, and struck him full in
his smooth, plump, round face.

I tried to say, "I beg your pardon," but I was choking with laughter and
could not speak.  But I could act, for I rapidly changed the nozzle back
to my right hand, and directed it down at the spot I had selected for my
attack, and as the clear, bright jet of water struck the smouldering
cargo the effect was startling.

That fire might almost have been some fierce, dragon-like monster,
suddenly attacked by its most deadly foe, for in an instant there was a
savage hiss, followed by a series of crackling explosions, sputtering,
popping, and shrieking even.  For the steam began to generate and rush
up from the hold, instantaneously changing from its natural invisibility
to dense white clouds of vapour, which rose and spread, and grew so
thick that I could not see where to direct the jet of water, but had to
trust to my ear for the spot to attack.

"Hurray! hurray!" came faintly from forward, where the pump clanked
steadily; and I responded to the cheer, but my voice was stilled by the
hissing and shrieking arising from the hold.  But I cheered again, and
kept on, feeling quite excited, and more and more as if I were attacking
a den of dragons, or serpents, so strangely unusual were the noises
which followed every fresh direction of the stream.

"I say, Dale, you shouldn't, you know," came from close by me, in a tone
full of protest; and I quite started to see Mr Preddle's face looming
out of the mist in which I was closely enveloped, and which grew more
and more dense each minute.

"I didn't do it on purpose," I shouted.

"Oh, don't say that, Dale," he cried back, the voice sounding very
peculiar through the hissing and shrieking of the steam.  "I am quite
ready to forgive you, my dear boy."

"But I didn't really," I yelled.

"Oh, Dale, don't--don't!  Why, I saw you take aim at me with that thing
across this dreadful gap."

"I--can't talk--now," I shouted.  Then, contradicting myself,--"Going to
help pump?"

"Yes; but what a fearful noise!--and you have made me so wet."

"How are you getting on?" shouted Mr Frewen.  "That's right."

I could not see him for the steam; but his voice came from the other
side of the deck, and I must have altered the direction of the jet a
little, for a fresh series of explosions arose to prove how much more
serious the hidden fire was than we could judge it to be from what was
visible.

Crick, crack, sputter, and then report after report, as loud as those
made by a revolver, while each steam-shot was followed by a ball of
white vapour which came rushing up as from the mouth of a gun.

"Hurrah!" came from by the pump again, and Mr Preddle came slowly along
to pass me and get forward.

"I suppose I can get by you," he said.

"No, no; don't try it," I cried excitedly.  "I must not stir, and there
is so little room.  Go back and round with Mr Frewen."

"No, no; I daren't."

"The fire isn't there," I said, as the screaming and hissing were louder
than ever.

"I'm not so much afraid of the fire as I am of the water," cried Mr
Preddle.  "You want to squirt me again."

I couldn't say "I don't," for his words tickled and yet annoyed me, so
that I felt that I really did want to deluge him with the water from
head to foot.

"Will you promise me not to squirt if I go that way?" he shouted.

"Honour--bright," I yelled.  "Couldn't see you."

That was a fact, for from cut of the hold, and spreading all over the
ship, the dense white fumes hid everything; and though Mr Preddle was
now only about a yard away, I could not see anything but a dim, blurred
patch; while facing me a dull, luminous disk all blurred and hidden from
time to time showed where the sun was dealing his slanting beams.

"Well, I'm going to trust you," said Mr Preddle, "and I beg you will
not do it again."

"All right," I shouted; and the next minute I felt that I was alone to
carry on the war against the enemy below.

"How stupid of him to think that!"  I said aloud, with a laugh.

"I don't see anything stupid.  It was stupid of you to play tricks at
such a time," said Mr Preddle.

"Why I thought you were gone," I shouted.

"No; I waited to see whether you were going to keep your word," he
replied; and then I heard no more till Mr Brymer shouted--

"Want any help, Dale?"

"No, sir."

"Steam too much for you?"

"No, sir; all right.  I'll call if I want help."

The pump clanked steadily on, and without any more than a half-stoppage
as they made a change for resting, and I kept on searching out the
hottest places by following up the loudest hissing and sputtering of the
water as it changed into steam, and rose and floated upward till I
thought that if the mutineers were able to see it, they would conclude
that the ship was burning right away to the water's edge, for the steam,
as it floated up in that huge volume, would have all the appearance of
smoke.

Then I started, for from close behind me came Mr Brymer's voice--

"How are you getting on, my lad?"

"I don't know; I can't see."

"No, but I can.  Capitally," he cried.  "There must be a tremendous body
of fire down below; far more than I thought."

"But is there any fear of our pumping too much down and sinking the ship
after all?"

Mr Brymer burst into a cheery laugh.

"I don't think we should sink her by our pumping, Dale.  We should get
tired first, I'm afraid.  Why, my good lad, I don't know whether my
calculation is right, but I should say that half the water you send down
there must float up again in steam."

"Think so, sir?"  I shouted, altering the direction of the jet a little,
and feeling startled at the consequences, for the shrieking and hissing
which followed became deafening.

"I'm sure," shouted my companion.  "Quite below in my calculation.  You
can keep on, can't you?"

"Oh yes," I said.

"That's right.  I couldn't do it better.  Go on; every drop's telling in
extinguishing the fire, or wetting other parts of the cargo so that they
will not burn.  But what a fiery furnace it is!  I had no idea it was so
bad."

"Do you think--" I began.

"Yes--what?"

"That it has burned through to the ship's bottom?"

"No; and it will not now," he shouted.  "There is so much heat there
that an immense body of steam must be rising, and that will help to
extinguish the fire."

"Then I am doing some good, sir?"

"Good?  Yes; you are winning the fight.  I must get back now, and
relieve Mr Preddle.  I left him and the doctor pumping."

I did not hear him go, but when I spoke again there was no answer, and I
devoted all my energy to my task, though it had become so monotonous
that my thoughts began to stray, and I found myself wondering how
matters were going in the cabin--whether they were very much alarmed by
the noise of the steam, or whether they felt as confident as the mate
did about our ultimate mastery of the fire, and how Walters and Mr
Denning were.

Just then a gruff, familiar voice came out of the steam behind me.

"Mr Brymer's orders, sir, as you're to hand me the nozzle, and go aft
and get a refresher.  Says you must be choked enough."

"Did he order me to go, Bob?"  I said.

"That's it, sir.  Give's hold."

I handed the nozzle.

"Talk about a fog," he cried; "this is a wunner.  I say, Mr Dale."

"Yes."

"Sounds like something good being cooked, don't it?  I s'pose there'll
be a bit o' something to eat soon.  I'm growing streaky, and could eat
anything, from biscuit up to bull-beef.  Well, what's the matter?" he
cried, as a fiercer shrieking came along with clouds of vapour.  "That
go in the wrong place?  Well, will that do?"

He shifted the direction of the nozzle, but the noise was as bad as
ever.

"Well, you are hard to please, and you'll have to take it now as I like
to give it you, so off you go, my lad."

"All right, Bob," I replied; "I'm going," and saturated with the
moisture of my strange vapour-bath, I went along the narrow passage by
the bulwarks, to find to my astonishment that I had walked out of a
dense fog into the clear sunshine; and when I looked back, it was to see
the white vapour towering up as if to reach the skies.



CHAPTER FORTY THREE.

I was faint and hungry, but I could not help standing there for a few
minutes in the hot sunshine, which sent a pleasant glow through my damp
clothes, and watching the wonderful great wreaths of steam rolling and
circling up in the bright light, which made them look as if the pearly
lining of sea-shells were there in a gaseous state in preparation before
sinking in solution down into the sea.

Here the wreaths looked soft and pearly and grey, there they were
flushed with a lovely pink which, as the steam-cloud curled over, became
scarlet and orange and gold.  In places where they opened as they
ascended, the gold-rayed blue sky showed through, to give fresh effects
of beauty, while high up, there at times were the upper parts of the
masts standing out as if they belonged to some smaller ship sailing away
through a thick sea-fog of an ocean far above the level where I stood.

I was gazing wonderingly at the beautiful effects produced by the bright
sunshine upon the vapour, forgetting all about our danger for the moment
in spite of the steady clank of the double pump, which came in regular
pulsation above the hiss and roar of the steam, when my name was
suddenly pronounced behind me, and turning sharply, I saw Miss Denning
standing there, looking very pale, and with a scared expression in her
eyes that was painful to see.

She had evidently just come to the companion-way and caught sight of me,
and now held out her hands, with a smile coming into her troubled face.

"I am so glad," she cried.  "You will tell me the truth.  My brother has
sent me to see.  Are we in great danger?"

"Oh no, I think not," I cried, as I took her hands, and felt as if I had
been neglecting a sister and a sick brother to gratify my desire to
watch some coloured clouds.

"You are not deceiving me?" she cried.  "Tell me, is not the danger very
great?  Come and tell John."

She hurried me in through the saloon to where her brother was back in
his own cabin, lying upon his mattress, looking terribly weak and ill.
His face brightened though as he saw me, and he too held out his hands.

"Ah, Dale," he said feebly, "I wanted to see you.  It is so hard to lie
here without being able to help, and I sent Lena to get news.  Tell us
the whole truth.  Don't keep anything back."

I told him all I knew, meeting his great sunken eyes frankly enough, and
he seemed relieved.

"Then there is hope?" he said at last.

"Certainly, I think so," I replied.  "They are mastering the fire, and
it cannot burst out afresh, for the cargo not burned will be drenched
with water."

"But it may have worked its way through the ship's side," he said, with
a shake of his head.  Then, suddenly--"Look here, I want you, if I break
down altogether, and my sister here is left alone, to take my place, and
be as it were her brother.  We have both liked you from the first day we
met.  Will you promise this?"

"I will when it becomes necessary," I said quietly; "but you are going
to be better."

He shook his head, and Miss Denning gazed at me wildly.

"Oh, come," I cried, "don't look at the black side of things.  It was
enough to make you much worse, having to go through all that trouble;
but we've got rid of the mutineers, gone through an explosion and a
fire, and all sorts of other trouble.  You'll soon feel better when we
are all straight again."

"That's what I tell him," said Miss Denning eagerly, "but he only shakes
his head at me."

"And he doesn't know so well as I do."

"Had your breakfast, Dale, my lad?" cried Mr Brymer cheerily.
"Good-morning, Miss Denning.  Well, Mr Denning, we're winning the
battle."

"Then you will save the ship?" cried Mr Denning.

"Oh yes, I think so now," said Mr Brymer quietly.  "Miss Denning, it is
almost an insult to ask you, but if you could find time to help us a
little!"

"Yes," she said eagerly.  "What can I do?"

"I would not ask you, but we are all forced to go on pumping to
extinguish the fire, and to a man we are getting exhausted."

"And you want food--breakfast?"

"That's it, my dear young lady; and if you could collect a few scraps
together for us--"

"It is all ready in the cabin next to the captain's."

"Hah!  I might have known," cried the mate, taking Miss Denning's hand
to raise it to his lips.  "God bless you for all you have done for us,
Miss Denning.  If my little wife at home could only know everything, she
would be down on her knees praying for your safety.  Look here, Mr
Denning, don't you be down-hearted.  I can read you like a book, better
than the doctor.  Half your complaint is worry about your sister here."

"Well," said Mr Denning with a faint smile, "suppose I grant that it
is."

"Why, then, you would be honest, that's all.  Now don't you fidget about
her, for there are on board this ship six men--I was going to say and a
boy, but I can't, for that boy counts as a man in the spirit to do all
he can, so I shall say seven good men and true--who will do everything
they can to protect as sweet a young English lady as ever stepped.
There isn't one of us, from grim-looking Neb Dumlow or brown Bob Hampton
up to the doctor, who wouldn't cheerfully give his life to save her from
harm."

"Yes, yes," cried Mr Denning, with the weak tears in his eyes, "I
know."

"And I too," said Miss Denning, in a choking voice, "though I do not
know what I have done to deserve it."

"You don't?" cried Mr Brymer; "then I'll tell you, my dear.  There, I
say it, and mean it.  You have behaved like a true, sweet English lady
should, ever since you have been on board.  Do you think, rough sailors
as we are, we haven't seen your devotion to your brother?  Do you think
we haven't all loved you for your genuine patient English pluck all
through troubles that would have made scores of fine madams faint.
Here, I'm getting into a knot, instead of getting something to eat, and
going back to my work.  Mr Denning, don't you fidget, sir.  We'll pull
you through.  And you, Miss Denning, if you'll go on seeing that the
poor fellows have a morsel now and then, we'll bless you a little more.
Come along, Dale, we must get back."

We hurried out, but I saw Miss Denning sink down on her knees sobbing by
her brother's side; and, as he put his left arm round her neck, he waved
his right hand to me.

"It's no use talking, Dale, my lad," said Mr Brymer huskily, "we must
save the ship--we will.  Now, then, let's get a handful of food a-piece
and look in on the captain before we go back."

I followed him into the right cabin, where a freshly-opened tin of beef,
some biscuits, and a can of fresh water stood ready on a white cloth,
and we both began to eat ravenously.

"There's an angel for you, Dale," mumbled the mate, with his mouth full.
"Right kind of angel too, who can open meat-tins for hungry men, and
who knows that even now it's nicer off a white cloth.  I don't wonder at
the doctor."

"What about the doctor?"  I said curiously, as I too ate as if I had not
had anything for a month.

"Never you mind.  Fill your fists and come along.  Eat as we go."

We each covered a biscuit with meat and laid another on the top, to form
the hardest sandwiches ever made by man, and then hurried into the next
cabin, where Captain Berriman was lying on a mattress.

"Ah, Brymer!  At last!" he cried.  "Well?"

"Yes, it's well, skipper," said Mr Brymer.  "I think we shall save the
ship."

Captain Berriman's lips moved, as his eyes closed for a few moments.

"Can you eat this?" said the mate, offering his sandwich.

"Oh no.  Miss Denning has been attending to me, bless her!"

"Amen, and a double blessing," said Mr Brymer.  "There, keep a good
heart, man, and pray for another day or two's calm.  We'll do everything
possible.  Good-bye."

"I know you will, Brymer.  Go on, then.  You will all do your best."

He smiled at me then, and I followed the mate, who was hurrying along to
the end of the saloon.

"Let's look at Walters first."

"No.  You go; I can't, my lad.  If I do I shall feel as if I must throw
him overboard.  He might have saved us from all this.  Go and see him,
and don't let him starve; though I suppose Mr Frewen's feeding him now
on physic."

He hurried away, as I felt that in all probability Miss Denning had been
there to see to the wretched lad; and so it proved, for on the locker
close to his head was a glass of fresh water, and the white handkerchief
bound round his head, still moist with eau-de-cologne, was evidently one
of hers.

His eyes were closed as I entered, but after a minute he opened them and
looked at me fixedly.

I could not help shuddering, and thinking how horribly bad he looked,
but the repelling feeling gave way to pity directly, as I thought of how
sharply he was being punished for all he had done--wounded, suffering
severely in body, and far worse, I was sure, in mind.

I hesitated for a few moments, hardly knowing how to approach him, for
mentally I felt farther from him than ever.  We had never been friends,
for I knew that he had never liked me, while now, as I gazed at him, and
thought of all the sufferings he had caused, I felt that we ought to be
enemies indeed.  And so I behaved to him like the worst enemy I ever
had, and as he gazed at me fixedly I went and laid my hand upon his
forehead.

"You're precious hot and feverish," I said.  "You had better have the
door open too."

I propped the cabin-door wide, so that the air might pass through, and
then added, gruffly enough--

"Shipbuilders are awful fools to make such little round windows," but,
as I said it, I felt all the time that the little iron-framed circular
window that could be screwed up, air and water-tight, had been the
saving of many a ship in rough seas.

"Hadn't you better drink some water?"  I said next, as I saw him pass
his dry tongue over his parched lips.

"Please," he said feebly; and, as I took the glass of water, passed my
arm under his head to hold him up and let him drink, I said to myself--

"You cowardly, treacherous brute!--the bullet ought to have killed you,
or we should have let you drown."

"Hah!" he sighed, as, after sipping a little of the water and swallowing
it painfully, he began taking long deep draughts with avidity, just as
if the first drops had moistened his throat and made a way for the rest.

"Have another glass?"  I said abruptly.

He bowed his head, and I let him down gently; though, as I thought of
Miss Denning, her brother, and the burning ship, I felt that I ought to
let him down with as hard a bump as I could.

I filled the glass again, and once more lifted him and let him drink,
scowling at him all the time.

"There," I thought, as I laid him back again, "that's enough.  You'll
soon die, and I don't want to have the credit of killing you with
kindness."

He looked at me piteously, and his lips moved, but I could not grasp
what he said.

"Wound hurt?"  I asked.

He bowed his head.

"Sure to," I said.  "It'll be ever so much worse yet."

He bowed his head again.

"Look here," I said gruffly, "why don't you speak, and not wag your head
like a mandarin in a tea-shop?"

He looked at me reproachfully, and his lips moved again.

"Is the ship still burning?" he said faintly, and evidently with a great
effort.

"Yes, I s'pose so," I replied.  "It wasn't out when I came away.  Arn't
you glad?"

"Glad?" he said with a groan.

"Oh, well, it was all your doing.  Feel proud, don't you?"

His eyes gazed fully in mine, and their lock said plainly, "I'm weak,
helpless, and in misery.  I'm full of repentance too, now.  Don't,
don't, pray, cast my sins in my face."

But somehow my tongue seemed to be out of my control.  I wanted to take
pity on him, and to do all I could to make his position more bearable,
but all the time I kept on attacking him with the sharpest and most
bitter reproaches.

"You ought to be proud," I said.  "You can lie there and think that
through your blackguards the ship has been blown up, and is now burning,
and would burn to the water's edge if we couldn't stop it.  The captain
looks as if he were dying; you are nearly killed; you've nearly killed
poor Mr Denning, who came this voyage for the benefit of his health;
you have had Miss Denning insulted and exposed to no end of dangers;
poor old Neb Dumlow has a shot in him; and we've been treated more like
dogs than anything else; while now your beautiful friends have turned
upon you, and left you to be burned in the ship they have set on fire,
for aught they care.  Yes; you ought to be proud of your work."

He groaned, and I felt as if I should like to bite my tongue off, as I
wondered how I could have said such bitter things.

"I say, don't faint," I cried, and leaned over him, and sprinkled his
face with water, for his eyelids had drooped, and a terribly ghastly
look came over his face.  But even as I tried to bring him to, I felt as
if I were only doing so to make him hear my reproaches once more.

He opened his eyes after a few moments, and looked up at me.

"Here," I said roughly; "I'd better fetch the doctor to you."

"What for?" he cried.  "He will only try and save my life, when it would
be better for me to die out of the way.  I want to die.  How can I face
people at home again?  No, no, don't fetch him.  It's all over.  There
is no hope for me now."

"Can I help you, Walters?" said Miss Denning, suddenly appearing at the
door-way; and as I looked at her bright gentle face, with my wretched
messmate's words still ringing in my ears, I could not help thinking
that there must be hope even for such a cowardly traitor as he had
proved, when she was here ready to help him and forgive all the past.

"Yes, Miss Denning, I think you can," I said very clumsily, I know.
"Walters knows what a brute he has been, and of course he is horribly
sorry, and bad now, and keeps on speaking about there being no hope for
him, and wanting to die.  I can't talk to him, because I don't seem to
be able to do anything but pitch into him--I mean with words--but you
can."

"Poor fellow!" she said gently; and she laid her hand upon his hot brow;
"he is very feverish, and in great pain."

"Yes, of course he is," I cried hurriedly; "but that's the way.  I
couldn't have said that.  It would do any fellow good.  And I say, Miss
Denning, you tell him that I didn't mean all I said," I continued.
"He's done wrong, and he's sorry for it, and I'm sure I'll forgive him
if you will."

She smiled at us both so gently that the stupid weak tears came in my
eyes.

"That means you will," I cried hurriedly.  "Then I say, you speak to
him, and make him feel that talking about dying's no good.  He can't
show how sorry he is if he does, can he?"

"Of course not."

"Then tell him he's to get well as soon as he can, and play the man now
and help us to save the ship, and you, and all of us; and I say, I
really must go and help now, and--oh, Miss Denning, don't sit down
there; that's my sandwich."

I caught up the partly eaten biscuit and meat, and hurried out of the
cabin to make my way forward.

"What a donkey I have made of myself!"  I cried, mentally.  "I thought I
had said stupid enough things to poor old Walters, and now I've spoken
such nonsense to her that she'll always look upon me as a regular booby.
Yes, that she will."



CHAPTER FORTY FOUR.

I was so upset and worried about the way in which I had acted in the
cabin, that for a time I forgot all about my sandwich; but, as I neared
the steam, and heard the hissing and shrieking going on, I began
nibbling the biscuit, and went on along the side of the broken deck
close to the starboard gangway, and as soon as I was in the thick mist,
I forgot all about the scene in the cabin, the clanking of the pump so
steadily going on helping to drive it out of my head.

"Well, Bob," I said, "you haven't put it all out yet, then.  Why, I
could have finished long ago, if I'd stopped."

"No doubt, clever-shakes," said Mr Brymer.  "Here, lay hold of the
nozzle and do it then."

"Oh, I beg your pardon," I cried.  "I thought it was Bob Hampton."

"I know you did," he said, as I took a step or two forward to where I
could dimly see the mate manipulating the copper tube, and directing the
water here and there.  "Catch hold: I'll go and pump, and send some one
to have some food."

I took the nozzle and went on with the task, Mr Brymer hurrying forward
to the pump, while I was astonished to find how little impression had
been made upon the fire.  Tons of water must have been poured into the
hold, but wherever I directed the stream, there was the sputtering,
hissing, and shrieking, and I began to ask myself whether it would be
possible to master the great body of fire after all.

A strange, nervous feeling came over me now, and I began to suppose--
and, oh, what nonsense one can suppose when that tap is turned on, and
allowed to run!--I imagined danger after danger.  I saw the fire
gradually eating its way to chests of horrible explosives--chemicals of
whose existence we were not aware--and as, with feverish haste, I
directed the heavy streams of water down into that thick mist of vapour,
I kept on fancying that the sharp reports of steam were the precursors
of another terrible explosion, of which, from my position, I should be
the first victim.  And as I thought these horrors, I poured the water
here, there, everywhere, so as to make sure that I did not miss the
dangerous place, though, even as I directed the jet, I felt as nervous
as ever.  For I told myself that the explosive might be so tightly
packed to make it waterproof that all I sent down was only for it to run
off again, and that I might spare my pains.

Just as I was in one of my most nervous fits, there was a momentary
cessation of the pumping, and instead of hissing and spurting violently
from the nozzle, the water ceased for a moment or two and then shot out
in a couple of feeble spurts.

"It's all over," I thought; "the pump has broken down."

But the thought had hardly crossed my mind when the jet came as strong
as ever, and I knew that they must have been changing hands, proof of
this being the correct idea coming directly after out of the dense mist.
For a well-known voice exclaimed--

"Hold on tight, Mr Dale, sir; we're coming by this side, so as to speak
you."

"Who's with you, Bob?"  I cried.

"T'other two, sir; Barney and Neb.  There's Mr Trout-and-Salmon Preddle
at one handle, and the doctor at t'other, with Mr Brymer to relieve
while we're off dooty to go and 'vestigate the wittling department.
That's so, eh, lads?"

"Ay, ay," growled Dumlow.

"That's so," said Barney; "and then I'm to take my turn at the
squirting, if so be as you can't put it out."

"No fear of that, Barney," I cried.  "It seems as if it won't be put
out."

"Oh, it'll have to, sir, 'fore we've done with it."

"How is your wound, Dumlow?"  I said, loudly.  "Hurt you much?"

"Don't shout, Mr Dale, sir.  I'm a-goin' out to braxfass with a lady,
and I don't want her to hear as I've had a hole punched in me, or she'll
be thinking about it all the time."

"But does it hurt you much?"  I asked.

"Tidy, sir.  Sometimes it's better; sometimes it's worse.  'Tarn't a
nat'ral way o' taking blue pill, and consekently it don't agree with
you.  But don't you worry about that, nor me neither: I arn't killed
yet."

As Dumlow spoke, the others got carefully by me, and passed on out of
sight.  Then it came to his turn.

"Stand fast, sir," he said.  "I don't want to shove you down into that
hole.  Looks just like my old mother's washus used to on heavy days.
She was a laundress out at Starch Green, she was, and--hff!"

"What's the matter?"  I said, for the man uttered a peculiar sound.

"Just a bit of a nip from that there bullet, that's all, sir.  That's
better now I'm by.  'Tis a bit steamy, though, eh?"

"Horrible," I said; "but I say, do let Mr Frewen see to your wound.  It
isn't right to leave it."

"Course it ain't; but I put it to you, as a young gent who's got a head
of his own, and got it screwed on right, as you've showed us more'n
once; can I go and get a bite and sup, and can the doctor see to my leg
and go on pumping, and all at the same time?"

"Of course not, but as soon as you've had some breakfast, do have it
done."

"All right, sir, all right; and thankye heartily for what you say.  Why,
dear lad, you make as much fuss over me, and my damaged post, as if it
was your uncle, or your father, or somebody else.  It's very good of
you, Mr Dale, sir."

"Are you stopping to hargy anything, Neb, old man?" cried Barney, who
had returned.

"No, mate, I arn't."

"Well, then, come on.  Yer can't 'spect the young lady to stand all day
a-holding the coffee-pot up in the air, while you're a-talking out all
the breath in your chest.  Do send him on, sir."

"All right; coming," growled Dumlow, and he went on, leaving me to fight
with the fire, listening to the hissing and sputtering of the steam,
fire, and water, and to the steady clang-clank of the pump.

It was strange how shut in I seemed, and how lonely, in the midst of
that white vapour; but it did not seem very long before the men returned
to pass by on the other side, and after I had waited for the slight
cessation of the water which followed, telling me that there was a fresh
change being made at the pumps, I soon heard voices, and Mr Frewen came
up to me to pass to the cabin.

"Going to have some breakfast?"  I shouted.  "Isn't it Mr Preddle's
turn too?"

"Yes," he squeaked, from over the other side; "I'm going too, but it's
very hard work passing along here.  Dale, my dear boy."

"Yes, Mr Preddle."

"I've had a look in at my place forward, and quite half the fish are
dead."

"I'm very sorry," I shouted; and then in a lower voice to Mr
Frewen--"Do have a look at poor Walters, sir," I said; "he's very bad."

"Yes, he's very bad, Dale, mentally as well as bodily, I hope."

"Oh yes, sir; he's horribly sorry now."

"Sorry?--Hah!"

I felt that I was not evoking much sympathy for my messmate, and I
changed my attack.

"Dumlow's in a lot of pain too, sir," I said.  "I should be so glad if
you'd see to him."

"Poor fellow!  Yes, I know his wound's worse than he'll own to.  He
shall have it dressed as soon as I get back.  I wanted to do it before,
but he was as obstinate as a mule."

"Coming, Mr Frewen?" came from aft; and the doctor went on, leaving me
once more alone, to go on searching out hot places with that jet of
water till he returned and stood by me.

"Why, Dale," he said, "you are winning."

"Oh no, sir; it's as bad as ever," I cried.

"Nonsense, my lad; not half.  The mist is not so dense overhead, and the
hissing and shrieking of the steam is nothing like so loud.  We can talk
to one another without shouting."

"I say," squeaked Mr Preddle from the other side, "it isn't so thick,
is it?"

"No," cried the doctor; and just then Mr Brymer came near, and, to my
surprise, I could see him dimly on the other side of the gap in the
deck.

"Three cheers!" he shouted; "the day's our own.  In an hour or two we
shall be able to cry hold hard!"

Those three cheers were given--cheers as full of thankfulness as they
were of joy at our prospect of final success.  Mr Brymer came round to
me, and laid his hand upon my shoulder.

"Let Blane take the branch now," he said.  "Why, Dale, my lad, you
couldn't have stood to your water-gun better if you had been a man."

And I felt a burning flash of pride in my cheeks, and that it was time
to leave off, for my arms ached so that I could hardly direct the
branch.



CHAPTER FORTY FIVE.

So much water had been pumped into the hold, that it was now doing the
work steadily by soaking in all directions, and making packing-case and
bale so saturated that the fire was languishing for want of food.

For my part I fully expected that if we poured in much more the ship
would become unsafe; and when I descended into the forecastle and
cable-tier in turn, I thought the water would be a couple of feet deep
on the floor.  But there was no sign of a drop.  Saturation had taken up
an enormous quantity, but more had gone off into the air turned into
steam; and when I went down with Mr Brymer to sound the well, I was
astonished to find how small the amount of water was in the ship.

"No fear of our sinking, Dale," said the mate; and he went on deck again
to look at the tremendous clouds of steam rising from the hold.

Before evening the pumping had been allowed to slacken; and as wherever
the jet was directed now, the hissing had ceased, it was decided to give
up and rest, though everything was laid ready for continuing the fight
should it become necessary.

Every one was fagged, but there was so much to do that we could not
afford to show it, and we set to work to try and place matters so that
we could go steadily on as far as was possible in the regular routine of
the ship--no easy matter, seeing that we were so short-handed.

But the cabin arrangements were put straight, and Miss Denning and Mr
Preddle did all they could to provide a comfortable late dinner, which,
if not hot, was plentiful.

Then Mr Frewen did all he could for his patients, and Neb Dumlow was
bandaged and ordered to rest.  He said he could not, for there was so
much to do.  It was not, he said, as if he could have been set to steer,
for the ship still lay motionless, merely drifting with the current.

"I can do nothing, sir," he growled morosely.

"Look here, my lad," said Mr Frewen, "I have no objection if you wish
to provide me with a bit of practice--go on, and I will do my best."

"Whatcher mean, sir, with yer bit o' practice?--pouring of physic into
me as if I was a cask?"

"No; I meant taking off your leg."

"Taking off my leg!" cried Dumlow, with so comical a look of disgust on
his countenance that I was obliged to laugh; "whatcher want to take off
my leg for?  Can't you stop the holes up?"

"I don't want to take off your leg, my man, and I can stop up the holes
as you call it; but you persist in using it, and if you do, the
consequences will possibly be that the wounds will mortify, and the leg
get into such a state that I shall have to amputate it to save your
life."

"Hear this, Mr Dale!" growled Dumlow.

I nodded.

"That won't do for me.  Timber-toes goes with the Ryle Navy and
pensions.  They won't do in the marchant sarvice.  All right, doctor;
I'm game to do just as you tell me, only let me get about a bit.
Couldn't you put my leg in a sling?"

"Your leg isn't your arm, Neb," I cried, laughing.

"Well, sir, who said it were?  I knows the diffrens 'tween a fore and a
hind flipper."

"There, that will do, my man," said the doctor.  "Your wound is not a
bad one, but in this hot climate it would soon be if neglected."

The doctor walked away, and the sailor chuckled.

"It's all right, Mr Dale, I won't do what the doctor don't want.  Ketch
me getting rid of a leg like a lobster does his claw.  But I say, sir; I
did think, you know, just then, as I might have a hankychy round my neck
and hang my leg in it."

I was called aft soon after, and I saw Dumlow go forward, disappearing
amongst the steam, while I went to Mr Frewen and helped him while he
dressed Walters' wound, and was with him afterwards when he went to the
captain and Mr Denning, both of whom were certainly easier now.

We had a light in the saloon too, for I had managed to trim the lamp,
and Mr Brymer had been busy hunting out ammunition for the guns.  This
he had found in the forecastle lying in one of the upper bunks, and with
it a couple of revolvers, so that once more we were fairly armed.  Then
it was decided that the boat should be hooked on to the falls, and an
attempt made to raise her, but Bob Hampton shook his head.

"Don't think we can manage her, sir, to-night.  To-morrow perhaps I
might rig up tackle, and we could get her on deck.  She's too big for
them davits.  But why not let her hang on behind, as the weather's
fine?"

"And suppose those scoundrels return, sir, what then?" cried Mr Brymer.

Bob Hampton scratched his head.

"Ah, you may well say what then, sir," he grumbled.  "I hadn't thought
o' that.  Don't think they will come, do you?"

"It is possible.  They left in a scare, but if they see the ship still
floating they may come back."

"Then we'd better get a couple o' pigs o' ballast ready to heave over,
and knock holes in the bottom in case they do come, for we can't get her
hysted to-night."

"I suppose you are right," said Mr Brymer in a dissatisfied tone; and,
giving the orders, Hampton and Barney Blane went off to get the two big
pieces of cast-iron and place them ready for the emergency, though it
was fervently hoped that that need might not occur.

Then as the night was clear, and we were so short-handed, it was settled
that one man only should take the watch, and every one volunteered,
though we were all so exhausted that we could hardly stand.  But Mr
Brymer settled that.

"I will take the first watch myself," he said.  "All of you go and get
some rest so as to relieve me."

This consultation was held just outside the saloon, and Mr Frewen had
just spoken and told Mr Brymer that he ought to have some one to share
the watch with him, when a white figure suddenly came up out of the
semi-darkness of the cabin, and I gave quite a start.

"You, Miss Denning?"  I said.

"Yes.  Mr Brymer, our cabin-door is open, and my brother and I have
heard every word."

"Well, my dear young lady," said the mate pleasantly, "I wish you had
heard better news."

"It was the best you could give us," she said quietly.  "But my brother
sends me to say that he has had a long sleep, and that if he is helped
to a chair on the upper deck with a night-glass, he could keep the watch
himself, and easily give the alarm if it were necessary."

"But he is not fit to leave alone, Miss Denning," said the doctor
quickly.

"He would not be alone, Mr Frewen," she replied gently.  "I should
share his watch."

"And do you think, my dear child," cried Mr Brymer, "that we big strong
men are going to lie down to sleep, and let you watch for us?"

"Why not?" she said quietly.  "You have all risked your lives to save
us.  It is the least we can do."

"Yes," came in Mr Denning's sharp voice; "we shall keep this watch
together, I am strong enough for that.  Nothing shall approach the ship,
Mr Brymer, without your having warning."

"He is quite right, Brymer," said a fresh debater in a faint voice, as
no less a person than the captain joined in the discussion.  "You are
all worn-out.  We sick folk have sharp ears, and will keep them well
opened."

"I--I really hardly know what to say," said Mr Brymer.

I did, for I suddenly started from the spot where I stood, after
sniffing suspiciously two or three times, shouting--"Fire!--fire!"  For
the enemy had evidently been at work insidiously, and had burst its
water-chains, and leaped up to attack us again.

We all made a rush for the pump and hose, for the smell of burning was
stronger as we reached the steaming hold, I being first.  But I felt
puzzled, for the steam was dense as ever, and I could only smell the
dank, unpleasant, hydrogenous odour of decomposed water, while the smell
which had reached the companion-way had been the fresh, sharp, pungent
scent of burning wood.  The next moment, though, I saw where the danger
was, and shouted--

"The galley--the galley!"

We all ran round to the door, for smoke was issuing from the wooden
building freely, and a dull light shone out on to the darkness.  Then I
burst out in astonishment--

"What, Dumlow!  You here?"

"Ay, ay, sir.  Practysing up.  I got it now, and go ahead to-morrow
morning.  Stove bothered me a bit at first, but I can work her, and
there'll be hot water and coffee for braxfast in the morning, and soup
and taters for dinner.  Cooking's easy enough when you knows how."

There was a roar of laughter at this.

"Ah, you may laugh, all on you, I don't keer.  This won't hurt my leg,
will it, doctor?"

"No; you can go on with that," replied Mr Frewen; "but keep seated all
you can."

"Toe be sure, sir.  I've often seen the cook sitting down to peel the
taters and stir the soup."

"Well, let that fire out now, and get some rest," said Mr Brymer.  "You
startled us all."

Then leading the way back to the saloon, he told Miss Denning that we
should all gladly accept her brother's offer; and it having been
arranged that a whistle should give the signal of danger, the poor
fellow was carried up on the poop-deck, and left there with his sister,
a final look given at the steaming hold, and then the men went forward,
and we to our cabins, I choosing for mine the one occupied by Walters,
to whom I talked for a few minutes, and then in an instant I was asleep.



CHAPTER FORTY SIX.

I said in an instant, for I was talking to Walters one moment, and the
next I was fighting the fire over again, and seeing now all kinds of
horrible glowing-eyed serpents and dragons, which kept on raising their
heads and breathing out flames.  And as they reared their heads, they
glared at me with their glowing eyeballs, and lifted themselves higher,
to try and lick with their fiery tongues the woodwork of the ship.

It was all wonderfully plain, and the worry and trouble were terrible.
I held the nozzle, of the hose, and knew that unless I drove them back
with a strong jet of water they would destroy the ship at once; but the
tube was empty, the pump did not clank, and the hissing creatures rose
higher and higher, till they were about to scorch me, when I started
into wakefulness, and found that I was lying on my back, bathed in
perspiration, and all was perfectly still.

I soon changed my position, and dropped off to sleep again--a calm,
restful sleep for a time; but the old trouble returned: there I was
standing at the edge of that great steaming gap in the deck, with the
fiery serpents darting here and there and dancing up and down.  Then
they began to make darts at the woodwork, and one greater than all the
rest reared itself up to try and reach the main-mast, but sank back
again.  Then it reared itself up and tried once more, this time reaching
higher and higher, till it disappeared in the grey smoke; and directly
after I saw that it had reached the mast, and was creeping up it, in one
long undulating streak of golden and ruddy fire, which would soon reach
the mast-head, if I did not drive it down with the jet of water.

I raised the copper branch, and directed it straight at the fiery
monster, but the pump still did not clank, and no water flowed.  Instead
thereof came a jet of steam--not the visible grey vapour which is really
the water in tiny vesicles, but a jet of invisible steam which rushed
out of the breach with a shrill whistling sound, and again I awoke with
a start to fancy that I was yet dreaming, for the sharp whistling still
rang in my ears.

Then I knew what it was--the signal of danger given by Mr Denning or
his sister, and, hurrying out of the cabin, I crossed the saloon, and
ran out and upon deck to where they were.

"A boat?--the mutineers?"  I panted.

"No," said Miss Denning, excitedly.  "The fire has broken out again!"

At the same moment I found that the alarm had been heard forward, for
the men were tumbling up from the forecastle, and Bob Hampton's voice
thundered out--

"Ahoy, there! man the pumps.  She's going it again."

For, on reaching the gap in the deck where the hissing had recommenced,
the steam which we had left steadily rising when we went to lie down,
then looking of a blackish grey, now appeared luminous, as if some great
light were playing about beyond it.

Knowing where the copper branch had been made ready, I made for it at
once; but as I picked it up, it was snatched from my hands by some one,
whom I could not distinguish till he spoke, and when he did, his voice
sounded husky and strange from excitement.

"Ready there?" shouted Bob Hampton, from forward; and none too soon, for
there was a flash of light, which turned the steam to ruddy gold, and a
dull crackling roar was rising out of the hold.

"Yes; go on there!" shouted Mr Brymer from the other side of the deck.
"Who has the branch?"

"I have," cried Mr Frewen.

Then as my heart beat wildly from excitement, the clanking of the pump
began again, and directly after a shrieking and hissing, which, in the
darkness of the night, sounded louder than ever.  Report after report
came too, and with them the steam seemed to be denser than ever.  Dark
as the night appeared, it was visible enough, and looked so awful and
yet grand, lit-up as it was by the fierce burst of fire beneath, that it
became hard to believe that it too was not glowing, curling flame,
rising up from the hold, and wreathing about the great yards and sails
of the main-mast.

I watched it as it rose, fully expecting to see the sails burst into
flame; but there it came in heavy folds, dimly-seen here, black in
shadow there, and the fiery-looking clouds proved to be only visible
vapours, water perfectly harmless, while the real flames caused by the
fire having reached something specially combustible, never rose many
feet in the hold, and by degrees began to yield to the powerful jet of
water Mr Frewen poured down.

"Tell me if I miss any of the worst places, Dale," he shouted, to make
his voice heard above the din of the elemental strife.

I answered that he was doing quite right; and the proof of my words was
shown by the gradual darkening of the steam from bright gold to pale
yellow, then to orange, bright red, and soon after to a dull glow, which
served to show where the danger lay, and this part was so deluged, that
in less than an hour the glow died out, and we were in utter darkness.

"Let me take it a bit now," said Mr Brymer, joining us; and with the
hissing and sputtering to guide him, he now continued to pour on the
water, talking loudly the while about our alarm.

"I ought not to have lain down," he said, in tones full of
self-reproach.  "I might have known that the fire would break out
again."

"Why, we couldn't have had a better watch kept, Mr Brymer."

"You are right, my lad," he replied warmly.  "I ought to have thought of
that too.  Go and tell Mr and Miss Denning that the danger is at an
end."

I hurried off, and mounted to the poop, where Mr Denning sat in his
chair, well wrapped in a plaid; and as I approached, Miss Denning's
voice asked quickly--"Who is that?"

"Dale, Miss Denning.  I've come to tell you that the fire is mastered
again."

I heard her utter a deep sigh, and I believe she began to cry, but it
was too dark to see her face.

"How long had it been burning when you whistled?"  I asked.

"Not a minute," said Miss Denning.  "We were watching the setting of one
of the stars, when all at once there was a dull report somewhere in the
hold, and in an instant there was a flash, and great volumes of fire and
smoke began to roll up."

"But it was only lit-up steam," I said, talking as one experienced in
such matters.

"Then there is no more danger?" said Mr Denning.

"No, I think not--at present."

"Why do you say at present?" cried Miss Denning, eagerly; and she caught
my arm.

"Don't say anything to frighten her, Dale," said Mr Denning; "she is
half-hysterical now."

"Indeed no, John dear; I am quite calm.  Tell us, Alison.  It is better
to know the worst."

"I only meant," I said hastily, "that there is sure to be some fire left
smouldering below, where the water will not reach it, and it may break
out again two or three times--just a little, that's all.  But we shall
watch it better now.  No, no," I cried, "I don't mean that; because no
one could have watched better than you did."

"Starboard watch, ahoy!" cried Mr Brymer, cheerily.  "How are you, Miss
Denning?" but before she could reply the mate was up with us.

"Thank you for keeping watch so well.  Any idea what time it is?--we
hadn't been asleep long, I suppose."

Mr Denning uttered a little laugh.

"It must be close upon morning," he said.

"Morning?  Impossible!  What do you say, Miss Denning?"

"I think it must be very near day," she replied.  "It is many hours
since you left us."

"And gone like that!" cried the mate in astonishment.  "Ahoy there, Mr
Frewen, Preddle," he shouted, "what time should you think it is?"

"My watch is not going," replied Mr Frewen; "but I should say it is
about midnight."

"Oh no," cried Mr Preddle, in his highly-pitched voice; "about eleven
at the outside.  Do you think we may venture to lie down again?"

"Almost a pity, isn't it," said the mate, merrily.  "Look yonder--
there--right astern."

"Yes?" said Mr Frewen.  "What is that?  The moon about to rise?"

"Say sun, and you will be right," cried Mr Brymer.  "Go and lie down if
you like, gentlemen; but look yonder too; there is a fleck of orange
high up.  For my part, I propose a good breakfast."

"No, no, you cannot be right," said Mr Frewen, from the main-deck; "but
we'll take our watch now.  Mr Denning, will you and your sister go and
take yours below?"

"No, not yet," said Mr Denning.

"Then I must speak as the medical man, and give my patient orders.  You
ought both to have some sleep now."

"Wonderful!" cried Mr Preddle, excitedly.  For, with the wondrous
rapidity of change from night to day so familiar in the tropics, the
morning broke without any of the gradations of dawn and twilight.  There
was a brilliant glow of red, which, as we gazed at it, became gold; and
then, dazzling in its brightness, the edge of the sun appeared above the
gleaming water, still and smooth as ever; then higher and higher,
sending its rays across the vast level, and turning all to gold.  It was
between us and the sun now one broad patch of light, but not quite all
golden glory, for as I looked right away from the poop-deck, with that
indescribable feeling of joy in my breast which comes when the darkness
of night and its horrors give place to the life and light of day, I felt
a strange contraction about my heart--a curious shrinking sensation of
dread.

For, far away on that gleaming path of gold, I could plainly see a
couple of black specks.  Half-stifled with emotion, I caught at Mr
Brymer's arm, and pointed as I looked in his face, and tried to speak,
but no words would come.

I must have pointed widely, for he turned quickly, looked in the
direction indicated by my finger, and then clapped me on the shoulder.

"Why, Dale, my lad, what's the matter?" he said.  "Did you see a whale?"

At that moment Barney shouted from where he stood forward, unseen for
the mist of dimly illuminated steam which lay between us, though his
voice was plainly heard, and sent a thrill through all who heard--

"Boat-ho!  Two on 'em astarn."

"Ay, ay!" roared Bob Hampton in a voice of thunder, "lying doo east.
It's Frenchy and his gang come back."

For a few seconds there was a dead silence, and no one stirred.  Then,
as if electrified, I ran half-way down the ladder, and leaped the rest
of the way, dashed through the saloon to Mr Brymer's cabin, seized his
glass, and ran back with it and up on to the poop-deck.

He gave me a quick look which seemed to say, "Good!"--snatched the
glass, brought it to bear upon the two black specks, and then stood
motionless, while all present waited breathless for the lowering of the
glass again, and the mate's first words.

For we hoped against hope.  The boats might be two sent from some
invisible ship to our aid.

All such thoughts were swept away as the mate lowered his glass and
nearly threw it to me.

"He's right," he said calmly.  "They are our boats and men.  They must
have been somewhere near, and seen the light rising up from the ship,
and come back to see what it means."

"Then all is lost!" said Mr Denning, wildly, as he seized his sister's
hand.

"Oh, no," replied Mr Brymer, coolly, "by no means.  Miss Denning,
kindly see what you can do in the way of breakfast for us.  Those men
cannot be here under an hour, and we shall all be faint.  Cheer up.
They're not on board yet."

The next minute he was on the main-deck, giving his orders.

"They can't board us," he said, "but they can cut that boat adrift, and
carry her off with all those provisions on board.  Now, Mr Frewen, you
will help us.  Mr Preddle, be ready to come and haul when you are
asked, but in the meantime I leave the arms to you.  See that they are
all loaded and laid ready on the saloon-table, and with the ammunition
to hand."

"Yes, I'll do that," he said eagerly; and he was moving off.

"Stop," cried Mr Brymer.  "There is a small keg of powder in the
cable-tier, get that in the saloon too; and in the locker in my cabin
you'll find some big cartridges and shot.  Everything is there.  Do you
think you can load and prime the cannon?"

He pointed as he spoke to the small brass gun, used for signalling when
going into port.  "I never loaded a big one," said Mr Preddle, "but I
used to have a brass one when I was a boy, and I've loaded and fired
that."

"It is precisely the same, sir.  Have it ready, and a poker in the
galley red-hot.  Bah! we have no fire."

"Wrong, sir.  Stove's going, and the kettle nearly on the bile," growled
Dumlow, who had limped up.

"Bravo!" cried the mate.  "They have not taken us yet.  Off with you,
Mr Preddle.  Now, Hampton, we must either get that boat on board, or
save all we can, and then she must be stove in."

"Which would be a pity, sir," said Bob Hampton.  "She's heavy, and we're
few, but I think if you'll help get out all you can from her,
water-breakers and sech, I can slew round the yard, and rig up tackle as
'll do the job."

"Right!  Up with you!  Now, Blane, and you, Dale, have the boat round
here to the gangway, and down into her.  Mr Frewen, you and I will
lower tackle, and have all up we can to lighten her."

The men cheered, and, as excited as they were, I added my shout, and the
next minute we were all at work as ordered by the mate.  The boat was
soon brought round, made fast, and by the time Barney and I were in, the
port-gangway was opened, and tackle lowered, to which we made fast one
of the breakers of water, and saw it hauled up.  The other followed, and
then cases, biscuit-bags, everything heavy was roped together and hauled
up on them, till nothing remained but small things that it would have
taken too long to collect.

"Now then," shouted Mr Brymer, "look out!" and there was a creaking and
clanging sound as the iron wheel of the tackle used for loading and
unloading the cargo spun round, and the falls for running up boats to
the davits descended, and were hooked on bow and stern.

"Now then, up with you!" cried the mate; and we seized the rope lowered,
and climbed on board.

"Are they close here, sir?"  I panted.

"Don't talk; no.  Ready there at the capstan?"

"Ay, ay," came back.

"Haul away then."

The rattle and clang of the tackle began, as the men turned with all
their might, the catches on either side making sure of every foot they
won, and by degrees the heavy boat rose slowly out of the water, and
higher and higher, till she was above the bulwarks, when the men
cheered, ceased turning, made all fast, and while two of us got hold of
the painter and swung the boat's head round, the crane-like spar, at
whose end the iron wheel, hung, was slewed round till the boat was well
on board.

Then Hampton and Barney ran back to the capstan and lowered away, till
the boat lay on its side on the deck, when, with a rousing cheer, the
gangway was closed, and I felt that I could breathe; for, as I looked
over the bulwarks for our enemies, there they were, steadily rowing
toward us, but still quite a mile away.

I breathed more freely then, for, in spite of their superior strength, I
felt that our position was not unfavourable.  The sides of the ship were
high and smooth, and, without help from within, the only likely places
for our enemies to be able to gain the deck were from under the
bowsprit, where I had climbed up, or through the stern-windows.  But we
had a keen and thoughtful man in command.  Mr Brymer soon rendered the
stern-windows safe by having the dead-lights over them, while I was sent
round to screw up the glazed-iron frame of every circular window.  Then
our principal vulnerable point was the stay beneath the bowsprit, where
he stationed Dumlow, armed with a capstan-bar, which the big sailor
prepared to use as a club; the other dangerous points being the chains,
where it was possible for a man to climb up by means of a boot-hook.

These places Mr Brymer guarded as well as possible by stationing one or
other of his forces ready for their defence, with the understanding that
we were to act on our discretion, and run to help in the defence of the
part most menaced.

All these arrangements were quickly made, and lastly, the saloon was
reserved for our final stand, the cannon being wheeled just inside,
pointed so as to sweep the entrance, though I failed to see how it was
to be fired if we were driven there, when the red-hot poker was in the
stove of the galley.

By this time they were all armed.  Miss Denning was back in our citadel,
the saloon, where we had all been refreshed with the provisions she had
prepared for us.  Mr Brymer had begged Mr Denning, too, to go into his
cabin, out of the way of danger; but he had flushed up and insisted upon
having a chair placed by the cannon, and being furnished with one of the
guns and some cartridges.

"I am a good shot," he said, "weak as I am, and I command a good deal of
the bulwarks on either side of the ship."

So he was placed as he wished, and sat with his gun across his knees,
just at the breach of the cannon.

"And I can fire that if it becomes necessary," he confided to me, as I
said good-bye to him before I went to my place.

"How?"  I asked,--"with a match?"

"No," he whispered; "if it comes to the worst, and Jarette and his
scoundrels are making for here, I shall put the muzzle of my gun to the
touch-hole and fire it."

"Won't it blow the priming away?"  I said.

"No; it will fire the piece instantly."

"I hope he will not have to try," I thought to myself as I ran to
Walters' cabin, and told him of the fight to come.

"And I can't help," he moaned.  "I wish I could."

"What, to take the ship?"  I said spitefully.

"You know better than that," he said.

I don't know how it was, but one minute I was saying that to him
spitefully, the next I had hold of his hand and shook it.

"I didn't mean it," I said quite hurriedly.  "Good-bye, old chap; we're
going to whop them after all."

I ran out of the cabin with the thought in my mind that I might perhaps
be killed.

"And one ought to forgive everybody," I said to myself, just as Mr
Brymer cried--

"Oh, here you are, Dale.  Take this gun, and mind, you are the reserve.
Be ready to go and help any one who is most pressed.  There must be no
nonsense now.  Shoot down without mercy the first scoundrel who reaches
the deck.  If it is Jarette, aim at his head or breast; if it is one of
the others, let him have it in the legs."

He hurried to the side then, leaving me with a double-barrelled gun and
a handful of cartridges, which, after seeing that the piece was loaded,
I thrust into the breast-pocket of my jacket.

"This is a rum way of forgiving one's enemies," I said to myself; "but I
suppose I must."

And then I began patrolling the deck as we waited on our defence, with
the boats coming on and the insidious enemy within, for the fire was
certainly making a little way in the hold.

The boats were only a couple of hundred yards away now.  I could see
Jarette seated in the stem of one of them, as they came on abreast,
making straight for the port-gangway abaft the main-mast; and my breath
came thick and fast, for the fight was about to begin, and I felt that
we could not expect much mercy at the hands of the leader of the men.



CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN.

"It's all over," I thought to myself; "they'll take the ship and send us
adrift now;" but all the same I knew that the defence would be desperate
as soon as Mr Brymer gave the word.

I could see the faces of Jarette and his men now clearly enough in the
one boat, while in the other I picked out five men, among whom was the
cook, who would have been, I should have thought, the very last to join
in so desperate a game, one which certainly meant penal servitude for
all, and possibly a worse punishment for the leaders, as death might
very probably ensue in the desperate attack upon the ship.  But I had no
more time for such thoughts.  Jarette just then rose up in the stern of
the boat he was in, and hailed us.

"Ahoy, there!  Open that gangway," he shouted, "and let down the roped
steps."

Mr Brymer stepped to the bulwarks just opposite the boat.

"Throw up your oars there," he cried, and the men obeyed, so used were
they to his orders.

"Row, you idiots, row!" roared Jarette, and the oars splashed again.

"Stop there, you in the boats," cried Mr Brymer, "or I give the order
to fire."

"Bah! don't be a fool, Brymer," he shouted.  "Pull away, my lads; they
won't fire.  Hi! there, the rest of you, don't take any notice of the
mate.  We saw you were on fire and in danger.  We saw the fire and smoke
in the night, and came to save you."

"In the same way as you deserted the ship when you thought she would
sink," said Mr Brymer, tauntingly.

"Pull, my lads, and get aboard," cried Jarette, so that the men in the
other boat could hear; "he doesn't know what he's talking about.  We'll
put the fire out, and then talk to him."

Bang! went Mr Brymer's revolver, fired over the heads of the men in
Jarette's boat, and the Frenchman fell backward into the stern-sheets.

I thought he was killed, and the men ceased rowing.

But Jarette was up again directly.

"Pull, you beasts!" he cried.  "You jerked me off my feet.  You, there,"
he roared to the men in the second boat, "round to the starboard side
and board there.  No--"

He leaned over the side and said something behind his hand to the men in
the other boat, which we could not hear, but we did hear him say--"We
must have her.  It's too far to row."

Those last words enlightened us, telling as they did that the boats had
made very little progress, but had drifted with the current just as the
ship had, and they could never have been very far away.  They must too
have supposed the vessel had sunk till they saw the fire renewed, when
feeling that they had been premature in forsaking her, they came back,
and were no doubt a good deal taken aback by finding us there ready to
defy them.

"Now!" shouted Jarette.  "Ready?  Off!"

The boats came on in spite of two or three shots fired from the deck,
and then, with Jarette rapidly returning our fire, they were soon close
up and sheltered to a great extent.

Jarette's boat came right alongside at once in the most plucky manner,
urged on as the men were by their leader, who seemed utterly devoid of
fear.  But the other boat rowed right round by the stern, and its
occupants were damped on finding that unless they could mount by the
fore or mizzen-chains, there was apparently no means of reaching the
deck.  They ceased rowing in each of these places, but there were a
couple of defenders ready at each halt, and they made no further
attempt, but lay on their oars in a half-hearted way, as if waiting for
an opportunity to occur.

But meanwhile the fight had begun by the main-chains on the port side,
where, with Jarette to cover them with his revolver, the men made a
desperate effort to gain the deck, but only to be beaten back each time
they showed their heads above the bulwarks, and after five minutes they
sat down sullenly and refused to stir.

"You cowards!" snarled Jarette, savagely.  "Do you want to stop afloat
in open boats and starve?  Now then, once more.  Up with you!"

The men rose at his words, but Mr Brymer appeared now above them.

"Sheer off," he roared, "or we'll sink the boat."

Two reports followed this speech, and, to my horror, I saw Mr Brymer
fall back heavily on the deck to lie motionless.

"That's winning, boys," shouted Jarette, triumphantly.  "Now then, all
of you follow."

He made a spring at the boat-hook they had fastened to the chains, and
scrambled up, to step on one side crouching down, revolver in hand,
sheltering himself, but watchfully ready to fire at either of us who
might show, and waiting while his men climbed to him.

While they were climbing out of the boat to his side, Mr Preddle
stepped forward gun in hand, to pass it over the bulwark, and hold the
men in check; but the barrels were seized, pressed on one side, and a
man reached up and struck the naturalist over the head, so that he too
went down heavily.

"Here, hi!  Mr Dale, you're in command now," shouted Bob Hampton.
"Barney, doctor, Neb, come and help here."

We all made a rush to the side to help Bob, and our presence was needed,
for man after man had now reached the chains, where they waited for
Jarette's orders to make a rush.

"Here, let me come," cried Dumlow, limping up with his capstan-bar.
"Give me room, and I'll clear the lot down."

He swung up his bar to reach over and deliver a sweeping blow, but he
was over Jarette, who started up below the bar, and fired right in the
big sailor's face, when he too went down, but not hit.  The shock and
the whizz of a bullet close to his ear had sufficed to stagger him, so
that he tripped over Mr Preddle's prostrate body, and gave his head a
sharp blow on the back.

To all appearances, three of our side were now hors de combat, and I
felt that all was over; and to confirm my thought, there was a shout
forward in the bows.

I uttered a despairing groan, for it was all plain enough.  The second
boat had made for the stay beneath the bows, just as Dumlow had been
called away with his capstan-bar, and as I looked forward, there, to my
horror, dimly-seen through and beneath the ascending steam, were four
men who had climbed on board.

"We're licked, Mr Dale, sir; but hit, shoot, do anything as they come
over the side.  Do, dear lad, shoot Frenchy, whatever you do.  Now then,
let 'em have it, for Old England's sake and sweet home!  Here they
come!"

Jarette and four men rose up now suddenly in the chains, climbed on to
the bulwark, and were about to leap down, and with a desperate feeling
of horror, I raised my gun to fire.  But there was a rush and a cheer as
the men from forward rushed down to us, and I was roughly jostled, my
aim diverted; but the trigger was being pulled, and the piece went off
loudly.

The next moment blows were being given and taken.  Mr Frewen was
fighting furiously, and well seconded by Bob and Barney.  Jarette and
his men were checked, two going down, and to my astonishment they fell
from blows given by the four men who had dashed forward.

It was all one horrid confusion, for now one of these men turned on me,
and wrested the gun from my grasp, though I tugged at it hard.  Then it
was pointed and fired at Jarette--not at me--missing him though, but
making him lose his foot-hold, and fall with a heavy splash into the
sea.

"Hurray!" yelled Bob.

"Give it to 'em," cried Barney; and I saw Mr Frewen strike one with a
revolver in his hand, but using his fist as if he were boxing, and
another man went backwards into the boat, while a blow or two from Neb
Dumlow's capstan-bar, which Barney had picked up, sufficed to clear the
chains.

I looked over the side for a moment, and saw a man holding out an oar to
Jarette, who was swimming; but there was a rush of feet again, and the
men who had come over the bows were running back just in time to drive
back three more, tumbling them over into the sea, to regain their boat
the best way they could.

Then these four, headed by the man who had led them, began to cheer, and
came running back toward us, the man who had snatched my gun, and whom I
saw now to be the cook, shouting louder than all the rest put together.

"What, are you on our side, then, old Plum Duff?" cried Dumlow, who was
now sitting up.

"Seems like it, Neb," cried the cook.  "Here, Mr Dale, sir, load
quickly and fire, or they'll come on again."

He handed me the gun, and I rapidly opened the breech and slipped in the
cartridges, just as firing began from aft, and I saw that Mr Frewen was
standing against the companion-way aiming at the boat containing
Jarette, which had sheered off after picking up their leader and another
man, while now the second boat hove in sight from under the bows, in
time for Mr Frewen to send a stinging charge of shot at her crew in
turn.

He kept up his practice, while in both boats the men pulled with all
their might to get out of range.

But our troubles did not seem over, for hardly had we grasped the fact
that the cook and three of the men had snatched at the opportunity to
escape from Jarette's rule, and join us in the defence of the ship, than
I saw that which made me shout--

"Fire!--fire!" for the great cloud of steam always rising was swept
suddenly towards the starboard side, and the vessel slowly careened over
in the same direction.

"Burnt through, and sinking," I groaned to myself, and then I felt
stunned, for Bob yelled out--

"Run to the wheel, Barney, lad.  Keep her before the wind."

The sailor bounded to the ladder, and up on the poop-deck, to spin round
the spokes of the wheel; and the next minute, almost before I could
grasp what had happened, the sails, which had hung for days motionless,
had filled, and we were running free, leaving the two boats and their
occupants far behind.

"Thank God!" cried a voice behind me, and I turned to see that it was
Mr Frewen, who now ran to the entrance of the saloon, where I saw him
grasping Miss Denning's and her brother's hands, and I knew he was
saying "Saved!"

Directly after he was back with us, who were carefully lifting Mr
Brymer, while Mr Preddle lay so motionless that I was afraid he was
dead.

Mr Frewen dropped on one knee, and began to examine the mate, while I
watched him with intense eagerness, waiting to hear his words.

"It must have been a bad cartridge, or the pistol improperly loaded.  It
did not pierce the cloth of his cap, and even the skin of the scalp is
not broken."

"Then it will not be fatal?"  I said.

"Fatal?--no!  There may be a little concussion of the brain.  You had
better carry him into his cabin, my lads, out of the sun."

The cook and one of the men who had returned to their allegiance lifted
the mate carefully, and bore him toward the saloon, while Mr Frewen now
directed his attention to the naturalist.

"I'm not in fit trim for acting as surgeon, Dale," he said.  "I'm
bubbling over with excitement; my nerves are all on the strain with the
struggle I have gone through.  But we've won, my lad, thanks to those
fellows who came over on our side.  Now, Preddle, my good friend, how is
it with you?  Hah!  Only been stunned.  A nasty crack on the head
though."

He parted the hair to show me how the head had puffed up into a great
lump; but I had hardly bent forward to examine it, as the poor fellow
lay sheltered from the morning sun by the shadow cast by one of the
sails, when he opened his eyes, looked vacantly about him, and then
fixed them on me, and recognising me, a look of intelligence brightened
in his gaze, and he said quietly--

"My fish all right, Dale?"

"I--I haven't been to look at them this morning," I stammered, hardly
able to keep back a laugh.

"I forgot.  I went myself," he said.  "Of course.  But I couldn't find
the bellows.  You haven't taken them, have you?"

"No," I said gently, thinking that he was wandering in his mind.

"How tiresome!  That water wants aerating badly."

"Bellers, sir?" growled Dumlow, who was looking on; "I took 'em to make
the kittle bile, and didn't have no time to put 'em back 'cause of the
boats coming."

"Ah, the boats," cried Mr Preddle, excitedly.  "Jarette knocked me
down."

"And he got knocked down hisself, sir.  Reg'lar one for his nob," said
Dumlow.

"Then we won, Dale?"

"Oh yes, we've won," I cried, "and the boats are a couple of miles
away."

"Let me examine your head again," said Mr Frewen.

"What, for that!" cried the naturalist.  "Oh, it's nothing--makes me
feel a little giddy and headachy, that's all.  But I think I'll go and
sit out of the sun for a bit.  Why, we're sailing again."

"Yes," I cried; "there's a beautiful breeze on, and we've left the
beaten enemy behind, and--"

_Flip_-_flip_-_flap_-_flap_-_flop_!

The wind had ceased as suddenly as it had come on.

"Well, sir," said Bob Hampton, a short time later, "I never 'spected to
see you get to be skipper dooring this voyage."

"Oh, don't talk nonsense, Bob," I cried.  "Look--they're coming on again
as fast as they can row."

The old sailor shaded his eyes and looked aft at the two boats, which
the men were tugging along with all their might, taking advantage of our
being becalmed to try and overtake us and renew their attempt.

"Yes, there they are, bless 'em!" cried Bob.  "Well, sir, as skipper o'
this here ship, with all the 'sponsibility depending on you, o' course
you know what to do."

"No, I don't, Bob," I cried.  "How can a boy like I am know how to
manage a full-rigged ship?"

"Tchah!  You've been to sea times enough, and a ship's on'y a yacht
growed up.  Besides, there's no navigating wanted now as there's no
wind."

"But the boats!"  I cried.  "Look at the boats."

"Oh, I see 'em, my lad; well, that means fighting, and I never knowed a
boy yet as didn't know how to fight."

"We must try to beat them off, Bob," I said, ignoring his remark.

"Nay, not try--do it, sir; and you, being skipper, of course 'll give
'em a startler to show 'em what's waiting for 'em, if they try to board
again."

"What do you mean, Bob?"  I cried.

"Well, come, I like that, sir," he said, with a laugh; "there have you
got the little signal-gun loaded and primed, and the poker all red-hot
and waiting, and i'stead o' having it run to the gangway, set open ready
to give 'em their startler, you says you don't know what to do?"

"Would you do that, Bob?"  I said anxiously.

"No; but you would, sir, being skipper, and wanting to save the ship,
what's left o' the cargo, and all aboard."

"But it might sink them."

"And jolly well serve 'em right--a set of piratical sharks.  Ahoy,
Barney!--you aren't to stop at that there wheel now; the skipper wants
you to lend a hand with the gun."

Barney ran up to us, and the gun was dragged to the open gangway, ready
for the mutineers, as they still rowed on.

"Neb, old lad," cried Bob, "give a hye to the red-hot poker, and when I
cries `Sarvice!' out you runs with it, and hands it to me."

"Ay, ay," growled Dumlow, in his deepest bass.

"It's all right, Mr Dale, sir," whispered Bob.  "You can't hit 'em with
that thing if you try ever so; but it'll splash up the water, and scare
the lot on 'em so that old Frenchy 'll have no end of a job to get 'em
to come on."

I felt better at that, and waited for the attack.  Mr Frewen was back
with us, and Mr Preddle too.  Mr Denning was also in his old place
with his gun; and as the men, including the four who had joined us, were
armed with the weapons they had brought from the boat, they made a
respectable show.

"But do you think we can trust those men?"  I whispered to Bob.

"Trust 'em, my lad?" he replied, with a chuckle.  "You jest may.  They
knows it would be all over with 'em if once Frenchy got 'em under his
thumb again.  Don't you be scared about them; they'll fight like
gamecocks."

"If we could only get the wind again," said Mr Frewen, who looked
anxious.

"Is there any chance of it, Bob?"  I asked.

"Can't say, sir.  Maybe we shall get a breeze; maybe we shan't.  But
never mind; we'll raise a storm for them in the boats, in precious few
minutes too.  She's charged all right, arn't she, sir?"

"Oh yes," said Mr Preddle.  "I rammed the cartridge well home, and
primed the touch-hole with powder."

"Then I should not wait long," said Mr Frewen, anxiously.  "It will
perhaps make the scoundrels keep off."

"'Zactly, sir.  Mr Dale here's skipper now, and he'll give the order
directly."

"No, no," I said; "Mr Frewen, you take the lead."

"I am only the doctor," he replied, with a smile, which made me feel
that he was laughing at me.  But the boats were coming on so fast that
something had to be done, and in my excitement I cried--

"Now, Bob.  Time!"

"Ay, ay, sir," he shouted, going down on one knee to point the little
gun.  "Sarvice!"

There was a growl from forward, and Neb Dumlow came limping from the
galley, along the narrow piece of deck, by where the steam still rose,
and flourishing a red-hot poker, hurried to our side.

"Cap'en o' the gun says--Stand well from behind; keep alongside, 'cause
she kicks.  One moment.  I can't get no better aim.  Now, sir, ready!"

"Fire!"  I cried; and I felt in agony, but had faith in Bob Hampton's
words.

Down went the hot poker.  There was a flash, a fizz, and a puff of smoke
from the touch-hole, and that was all.  No, not all, for a puff of wind
followed that of smoke, and the ship began to glide onward again, while
the men gave a cheer, and Barney ran to the wheel.

"Saved once more," cried Mr Frewen.

"Yes, sir, and them too.  But beg pardon, sir," growled Bob Hampton; "I
mean you, sir,--Mr Preddle, sir,--are you sure as you loaded the gun?"

"Yes, quite.  With one of these cartridges,"--and he went to a box, out
of which he took one with the ball fitted in its place by means of a
couple of tin bands.

"That's right, sir; but did you ram it home?"

"Yes, hard."

Bob Hampton thrust in the rammer and felt the cartridge.

"Yes, sir; seems right.  Perhaps the powder's old and damp."

"No; I think it was perfectly dry."

"Humph!" growled Bob; and then an idea seemed to strike him.

"Beg pardon, sir," he cried; "would you mind showing me how you shoved
the cartridge in?"

"Like this," cried Mr Preddle, eagerly, stooping down to apply the
cartridge to the mouth of the little brass gun.

"Sure you did it like that, sir?"

"Yes; certain."

"Then no wonder it didn't go off.  Why, that's the way to sarve one o'
them breeches-loaders.  You don't put a cartridge ball first into the
muzzle of a gun."

"Why, no!" cried Mr Preddle, colouring like a girl.  "How stupid!"

"And we shall have a job to unload her," growled Bob.

But his attention was directly after taken up by the management of the
ship, for the wind held on, and by night we had left the boats down
below the horizon line, invisible to us even from the mast-head.

That proved an anxious time, for the wind sank soon after sunset, and a
careful watch had to be kept, both for the boats, and against our enemy
the fire, which kept on showing that there was still some danger in the
hold.

The next morning dawned with the boats in sight again, and their crews
were evidently straining every nerve to overtake us, for it was once
more a dead calm.

We were more hopeful though, for a couple more applications of the hose
had pretty well extinguished the fire; the cannon had been unloaded and
properly charged; and, best of all, Mr Frewen's patients were all
better, and Mr Brymer sufficiently well to sit up in a chair, and be
brought on deck to take his place as captain, to my intense relief.

The cook had quietly gone to his galley, and then acted as steward as
well, so that while the boats were still miles away, we had the best
breakfast we had been provided with for many days.  And, after this,
quite ready for our enemies, and well furnished with weapons, we waited
their coming.

I obtained a glass from the captain's cabin, my principal officer
telling me to keep it as long as I liked, on condition that I kept
reporting to him the state of affairs on deck.

"Everyone is very kind," he said sadly; "but I spend a great many
anxious hours here, longing to hear how things are going on, and if it
were not for Miss Denning, my position would be ten times worse."

I hurried out with the glass, focussed it on the boats, and watched the
men for long enough.  The forces had been equalised by four men being
sent out of Jarette's boat to take the places of the men who had
returned to their allegiance, and, as I watched them, I could see that
as they slaved away at the oars, their leader kept jumping up with a
pistol in his hand, to throw himself about wildly, stamping,
gesticulating, and pointing to the ship, as if he were urging the crews
on.

I was not the only one who used a glass, for there was nothing to do now
but wait for the coming attack; and as I had been watching for some time
with the glass on the rail, one eye shut, and the other close to the
glass, I suddenly ceased, for my right eye felt dazzled by the glare of
the sun, and I found that Mr Frewen was close beside me.

"Well, Dale," he said, "who will get tired first--these scoundrels of
attacking us, or we of trying to beat them off?"

"They will," I said decisively, as I closed my glass and tucked it under
my arm.  "We've got nothing to do but wait; they've got to row miles in
this hot sun, and then they have to fight afterwards.  They can't help
having the worst of it."

"Yes; they have the worst of it," he said, smiling.

"And it strikes me they'd be very glad to--Hurray! here's the wind
again."

For the surface of the sea was dappled with dark patches, and long
before the boats could reach us, we were sailing gently away, certainly
twice as fast as their crews could row.

It is astonishing what effect those gentle breezes had upon our spirits.
I found myself whistling and going to the galley to ask the cook what
there was for dinner, and I found him singing, and polishing away at his
tins, his galley all neat and clean, and the dinner well in progress.

"Well, mutineer," I said; "anything good to-day?"

"Oh, I do call that unkind, Mr Dale, sir, and it isn't true.  Didn't I
show you as soon as I could that I wasn't one of that sort?"

"Well, yes, you sneaked back when you thought your side was going to be
beaten."

He looked at me fiercely, but smiled the next moment.

"Plain Irish stoo to-day, sir, made out of Noo Zealand mutton, for I
found the onions.  There's plenty of 'em.  You don't mean what you said,
sir.  Just you have a pistol stuck in one of your ears, and be told that
you're not to be a cook and a slave any more, but to join the
adventurers who are going to live in a beautiful island of their own,
where it's always fine weather, and if you don't you're to be shot.
Why, of course I joined 'em, same as lots more did.  Any fellow would
rather live in a beautiful island than have his brains blown out."

"I don't know about that," I said shortly.  "I wouldn't on Jarette's
terms."

"No, sir, you wouldn't," said the cook; "but Mr Walters would."

As he spoke he lifted the lid off one of his pots, and gave the contents
a stir round.

"Smell that, sir?  There's nothing on Jarette's island as'll come up to
that.  But, between ourselves, I don't believe he knows of any island at
all such as he talked about to the men, till he'd gammoned them or
bullied them over.  Hah!" he continued, tasting his cookery; "wants a
dash more pepper and a twist of salt, and then that stuff's strong
enough to do the skipper and Mr Denning more good than all the doctor's
stuff.  Young Walters, too; he's very bad, isn't he?"

"Terribly."

"Sarve him right.  Wonderful island indeed!  This galley's good enough
island for me.  You didn't mean that, Mr Dale, sir.  I got out of the
scrape as soon as I could, and so did those other three lads as come
aboard with me; and we'll all fight jolly hard to keep from getting into
it again.  I believe that some of the others would drop the game, and be
glad to get back on board, if they weren't afraid of Frenchy, as we call
him.  That man's mad as a hatter, sir."

"That's a true word, cookie," growled Bob Hampton.  "You smell good,
mate, but I wish you'd keep your door shut.  It makes me feel mut'nous,
and as if I wanted to turn pirate and 'tack the galley."

"Wind going to hold good, Bob?"  I said, moving off.

"Arn't seen the clerk o' the weather this mornin', sir, so can't say."

"Jarette's mad--Jarette's mad," I repeated to myself as I left the
galley, and found Mr Preddle, with his head very much swollen and tied
up in a handkerchief, blowing away into the water where his fish still
survived.

"I shall get some of them across after all," he said, with a nod.

"I hope so," I replied; and after a look at the far-distant boats--mere
specks now--I went on aft to have a chat with Mr Denning, who lay on a
mattress in the shade, with his sister reading to him; but there was his
loaded gun lying beside him, to prove that it was not yet all peace.  I
stopped to sit down tailor-fashion on the deck and have a chat with them
both, feeling pleased to see how their eyes lit-up, and what smiles
greeted me; and somehow it seemed to me then that they felt toward me as
if I were their younger brother, and they called me by my Christian name
quite as a matter of course.

"If the wind would only keep on!"  Miss Denning said.

"Or if Mr Preddle would only use those bellows of his on the sails,"
said her brother, smiling.

"Why, you're ever so much better," I said quickly, "or you wouldn't joke
like that."

"Yes," he said with a sigh, "I feel better.  Mr Frewen's doing me good,
or else it's this lovely soft, warm air."

"Oh, we shall have him running ashore in New Zealand like a stag, Miss
Denning," I cried, getting up.

"Don't go yet," she said.

"I must," I cried.  "I want to stop, but Mr Brymer uses me now as his
tongue and fists.  I have to give all his orders to the men."

I went to where the mate was seated, received his orders, had them
executed, and then met Mr Frewen coming out of Walters' cabin.

"Oh, there you are, Dale," he cried.  "Go in and talk to that poor
wretch for a few minutes.  You must try and cheer him up, or he'll die,
as sure as I'm here."

"Oh, I say, don't tell me that," I cried.  "I don't like him, and I
think he behaved horridly, but I don't want him to die."

I hurried into my messmate's cabin, and found him lying there so ghastly
and strange-looking that I shivered, and began to move on tip-toe.

"Come and sit down a minute, Dale," he said in a weak voice; and I at
once seated myself close to his bunk.

"Want some water?"

"No," he said sadly; "I want nothing now, only for you to promise me
something."

"What is it?"

"I can't write, but I want you to promise me when you get home to go to
my father and mother, and of course they'll know everything from the
papers; but I want you, my messmate, to tell them I was not quite such a
wretch as I seem to have been."

"Oh, never mind about that now," I said.  "Get well, and go and tell
them yourself."

"No," he said calmly; "I shall not get well.  I could see it in Mr
Frewen's eyes.  I'm very glad now.  If I got well, of course I should
have to be tried and punished, and be a convict.  I should deserve it,
but the judge and lawyers would be very hard, and I don't want them to
try me."

"Oh, come, Walters, old chap," I cried in a choking voice, "don't take
it like that."  And I caught his hand in mine, and felt him press it
feebly, as his face lit-up with a pleasant smile, which made him look
quite changed.

"Yes," he said, quite cheerfully, but almost in a whisper, "I must take
it like that now.  Old Jarette aimed too well."

He lay looking straight out of the bright cabin-window; while I tried to
speak, but found no words would come.  I knew that the wind had dropped
again, for the ship had grown steady once more; but I forgot all about
the approaching boats, and could only sit holding Walters' hand, and
watching his altered face.

"Yes," he said at last, "Jarette aimed too straight, Dale, old fellow,
it has all been a mistake.  I was a weak, conceited fool, and thought
every one was against me, when it was all my fault.  I know it now.  Any
fellow can make himself liked if he only tries--no, without trying, if
he'll only go straight and act like a man.  But somehow I couldn't.  I
got jealous of you, and wild because people made so much of you.  And I
said you hated me, and did all you could to make things worse, but it
wasn't true, Dale, old fellow.  It was all my fault."

"Yes, yes; but that's all over, old chap," I said huskily.  "You'll get
well, and do your bit of punishment, and make a fresh start."

He looked at me with a smile on his poor wan face, and I never realised
before how good-looking he was.  And then I shuddered, for he said
quietly--

"Yes, I shall make a fresh start--somewhere else."

"Walters!"  I whispered.

"Yes, somewhere else," he repeated.  "It was all wrong; and just when I
was at my worst, that wretch, who had been watching me and reading it
all, came to me, and, as if he were some evil spirit, kept on day after
day, laughing and jeering at me, till he regularly worked round me like
the snake he is, and flattered, and planned, and talked of the future,
till in my weak, vain folly I drank it all in.  For I was weak, and he
was strong; and at last, though I didn't know it then, I was his slave,
Dale, and ready to do every bit of villainy he wished.  But there, I
need not tell you any more.  I only want you, knowing all you do, to go
to my poor old father and mother and tell them everything--how it all
happened.  It will be better than for them only to know it from the
papers.  They will understand then how it was I went wrong so quickly,
right to the bitter end."

"No," I cried; "you shall go and confess it all yourself."

He laughed gently.

"Oh no.  I'm glad Jarette aimed so straight, Dale.  It was the kindest
thing he could do.  It's all over now.  Can't you see it's best?"

"No," I said more firmly.  "It would be best for you to get well, and
prove in the future as a man, that you have repented your weakness as a
boy."

"Yes, perhaps," he said, after a long pause; "but it is not to be so.
I'm not going to be tried here, Dale, where no one can tell everything,
and understand how weak I was, and how, from the first day, I bitterly
repented giving that man such power over me.  I'm going to be judged
there, Dale, where everything is known."

He closed his eyes as he spoke, and I was going to steal away, but his
grasp tightened on my hand.

"Don't leave me, Dale," he whispered.  "You'll promise all this, won't
you?"

"If it is necessary," I said; "but you--"

He opened his eyes, and looked at me, smiling gently, and I ceased
speaking, for I knew that my words were not true as I sat beside him all
through that hot day waiting.

Mr Frewen came in from time to time, but he said little, and Walters
appeared to be dozing for the most part.

"Better stay," Mr Frewen whispered; and then in answer to my
questioning look, he shook his head, and I knew that it was all over.

It was close upon sundown, and the interior of the cabin was filled with
an orange glow when Mr Frewen came in again.

Walters seemed to be fast asleep, quite free from pain, and breathing
easily.

"You must be terribly faint, my lad.  You have had nothing," the doctor
whispered.

"Yes, I have," I replied.  "Bob Hampton brought me a biscuit and some
soup, and Miss Denning brought me some tea just now."

"Heaven bless her!" he muttered.  Then in a quick whisper--"We shall
have to call you up presently, my lad."

"Why?"

"The enemy are closing in.  They'll make a desperate fight of it this
time, and every help we can muster is necessary.  Eh!  Want me?" he
said, as there was a tap on the door.

He went out, and I was thinking whether I could withdraw my hand without
waking Walters, so as to get out on deck and help, when he opened his
eyes and looked round quickly as if he wondered where he was.

Then he saw me and smiled.

"Don't forget, Dale," he whispered.  "Now I want Miss Denning."

He loosened my hand, and I went out to find her waiting close by the
door.

"Walters wants to see you, Miss Denning," I said, and she bowed her head
and crept silently into the ruddily-lit cabin, and knelt down by where
Walters lay.

"Yes," he said, holding out his hands.  "Thank you.  But you tell them--
how sorry--they will listen--to you.--Now--`Our Father'--"

Helena Denning's voice took up the words and went on in a low appealing
murmur, and as I looked wildly in Walters' face, I saw his lips moving
till she uttered the words--"and forgive us our trespasses--"

Then his lips became motionless, his gaze fixed on the golden glory in
the heavens, and I started wildly to my feet, for at that moment there
was a tremendous roar.  The heavily-charged cannon had been fired, and I
knew that the enemy were close at hand.

I gave one glance at Miss Denning, who knelt there now, crouching low,
with her face buried in her hands, and then ran on deck ready to help
repel the attack.

For there were the two boats close into the port-gangway, and the men in
them frantically gesticulating and waving their hands.

"Don't--don't fire," one of the men yelled.  "We give in."

"Yes, yes; give in," came in a wild chorus.

"The beggars surrender, sir," cried Bob Hampton, who was on his knees
re-charging the cannon.  "But get that there poker ready again, Neb.
We'll hit 'em next time if they don't."

"Ahoy!" cried Mr Brymer, through a speaking-trumpet.  "One boat come
forward; but if there is any treachery, we'll show no mercy to any one
there."

"Treachery?" shouted a man pitifully, as the first boat was slowly rowed
in.  "We're all spent, sir.  There arn't a drop o' water.  Give us all a
drink first, and then shoot us if you like."

"Where's Jarette?"

"Here, in the bottom, sir, tied neck and heels.  He went stark mad last
night, and bit and fought till we had to tie him down under the
thwarts."

"Water--water!--for heaven's sake, water!" came in a piteous chorus, as
the second boat rowed slowly in.

"Is it real or a trick?" said Mr Brymer, in a whisper.

"Real enough," said Mr Frewen.  "The men are suffering horribly, and--
oh! look!  There's no subterfuge there,--that man--Jarette.  He is
dead!"



CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT.

It was plain enough: the man had died there where his companions had
tied him fast, and that night the two boats lay astern carefully watched
after all the arms had been handed on board.

Not that there was anything to fear.  For at daybreak, after two bodies
had been committed to the deep, the spokesman of the mutinous crew told
a pitiful tale, of how they would gladly have given up but for their
leader, who by force and violence kept them to their task till, in utter
despair, they had turned upon him and bound him, as they would some
dangerous wild beast that they dared not kill.

That day, half the poor worn-out wretches were again confined in the
forecastle, while the others were, under careful surveillance, allowed
to return to their work.

For the calms were over, and a hard fight began with the weather, which
grew so bad at last that Mr Brymer, who, as the days passed on, seemed
to recover the more rapidly for having plenty to do, was glad to have
all the men back to their duty.

This, in the hope of some mitigation of their punishment, they did well,
working away, so that long before we reached Auckland we seemed to have
a model crew.

That latter part of our voyage had its good effect on every one.
Captain Berriman recovered sufficiently to have re-taken the command,
but he left it in Mr Brymer's hands till the day we sailed into
harbour, when he once more took his place, and laughingly complimented
Mr Denning upon the change which had taken place in him as well,
though, poor fellow, he was so weak that he was glad to lean upon his
sister's arm.

There was nothing to show how adventurous our voyage had been, but the
roughly boarded-over deck, beneath which lay the sadly damaged cargo.

But, as Bob Hampton said,--"It were an accident, and of course it was
well insured.  But I want to know, my lad, what they're a-goin' to do
with our crew.  My word, they are a-shivering in their shirts, eh,
Barney?"

"They just are.  It'd be a charity to wring 'em out to dry."

"Arter taking on 'em off, and givin' on 'em four dozen a-piece on the
bare back, and say no more about it," growled Neb Dumlow, "for I
forgive--far as I'm consarned."

But there could be no "say no more about it" in such a case as this.
The men were tried and punished, but got off very easily in
consideration of their sufferings and subsequent good behaviour.
Hampton, Barney, and Neb Dumlow were the only men who sailed with us
again.

I kept my word to Walters, and a painful task it was.  I have often
thought of his conduct since, and talked with Mr and Mrs Frewen when I
have been to see them at their residence in Auckland, where I have been
four times since.  But, as Mrs Frewen always says.  "He was sorely
tempted, and he fell."

"And,--_De mortuis_--you know the rest of the quotation, Dale," said Mr
Frewen, "and if you cannot say nothing but good of the dead, my lad,
don't say anything at all."

Those were delightful visits, when I was on shore in New Zealand,
divided between Mr Denning's up-country farm, where he has grown strong
as one of his own horses, and the Frewens' charming house just outside
Auckland, where he is the most famous doctor for miles.  Mr Frewen and
Mr Denning are like brothers, of course, and they are always tempting
me to leave the sea and settle in that grand new England; but no--I
resist, and keep to my profession, and I suppose I always shall, for, as
Bob Hampton says, "a man might do worse than go to sea."

"Not as I hold much with having ladies on board, my lad," the old fellow
once said.  "They're okkard an' in the way, unless they're the same kind
as Miss Denning--I mean Mrs Frewen, bless her heart!--for it was like
havin' of a hangel with us.  But I say, Mr Dale, sir," he added with a
chuckle; "her brother didn't like the doctor, bein' a bit jealous like;
but I says to Neb Dumlow and Barney when they first come aboard,--`You
see if them two don't make up a match.'"

"You did, lad," said Barney.

"That's so," said Neb.

For they did; but all through that voyage such an idea never entered my
mind.  I was a boy then, on my first long voyage.  A perilous one too.
And would I go through it again?  No, not for untold gold.  I don't know
though.  Yes!  I would--if once more I were a boy.

THE END.





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