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´╗┐Title: Syd Belton - The Boy who would not go to 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 "Syd Belton - The Boy who would not go to Sea" ***

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Syd Belton; or, The Boy who would not go to Sea, by George Manville
Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________

The book opens with a domestic scene with the boy Sydney having just
finished dinner with his father, a Captain in the navy, and his uncle,
an Admiral.  They are discussing Syd's career, which the two old
gentlemen hope will be as a naval officer.  Syd, however has other
ideas: he has been on his rounds with the local doctor, and thinks that
he might like to be a doctor, too.  The time of the story is in the
middle of the eighteenth century, but the only real evidence of this is
the fact of people wearing cocked hats.  Other than that the story might
fit a hundred years later, though there is a point late in the story
where the French are the enemy.

There is an episode in which Syd runs away from home, in company with
the son of his father's gardener, the latter having been his boatswain
in his naval days.  On his return he realises that he does really want
to be a naval officer, too.  His father tries to get him an appointment
as a midshipman with a captain he formerly served with, but was
rebuffed.  He realises that the present First Sea Lord, the title of the
Admiral in command of the whole navy, is someone he used to serve with
in former days, so they go to see this eminent officer.  The outcome is
that Syd's father is appointed to command the Sirius, and is invited to
take Syd with him as a midshipman.

From here on we have an excellent and well-told narrative, describing
Syd's early days in the Navy, and then an episode when he finds himself
in command of a naval party holding a rock in the Caribbean.

You'll enjoy this story, especially if you make an audiobook of it.

________________________________________________________________________

SYD BELTON; OR, THE BOY WHO WOULD NOT GO TO SEA, BY GEORGE MANVILLE
FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

THE BOY WHO WOULD NOT GO TO SEA.

"Here you, Syd, pass the port."

Sydney Belton took hold of the silver decanter-stand and slid it
carefully along the polished mahogany table towards where Admiral Belton
sat back in his chair.

"Avast!"

The ruddy-faced old gentleman roared out that adjuration in so
thunderous a way that the good-looking boy who was passing the decanter
started and nearly turned it over.

"What's the matter, Tom?" came from the other end of the table, where
Captain Belton, a sturdy-looking, grey-haired gentleman nearly as ruddy
as his brother, was the admiral's _vis-a-vis_.

"He's passing the decanter without filling his own glass!" cried the
admiral.  "Fill up, you young dog, and drink the King's health."

"No, thank you, uncle," said the boy, quietly, "I've had one glass."

"Well, sir, so have I.  Don't I tell you I'm going to propose the King's
health?"

"I'll drink it in water, uncle."

"What, sir?  Drink the health of his most gracious Majesty in raw water!
Not if I know it."

"But port wine makes my face burn, uncle, and Doctor Liss says--"

"Confound Doctor Liss, sir!  Hang Doctor Liss, sir!  By George, sir, if
I were in active service again, and your Doctor Liss were in my
squadron, I'd have him triced up and give him twelve dozen, sir."

"No, you wouldn't, uncle," said the boy, cracking a walnut, and glancing
at his father, who was watching him furtively.

"What, sir?  I wouldn't?  Look here, brother Harry, Liss is corrupting
this boy's mind."

"I don't know about corrupting, Tom," said the captain, smiling, "but he
certainly does seem to be putting some queer things into his head."

"So it seems.  Teaches him to drink the King's health in water."

"No, he didn't, uncle," said the boy, cracking another walnut.

"Yes, he did, sir.  How dare you contradict me!  Confound you, sir, if I
had you aboard ship I'd mast-head you."

"No, you wouldn't, uncle," said the boy, dipping a piece of
freshly-peeled walnut in the salt and crunching it between his teeth.

"What, sir?"

"I say you would not," replied the boy.

"And pray why, you young dog?"

"Because you'd know father wouldn't like it."

Captain Belton laughed and sipped his port, and the admiral blew out his
cheeks.

"Look here, brother Harry," he cried; "is this my nephew Sydney, or some
confounded young son of a sea-lawyer?"

"Oh, it's Syd, sure enough," said the captain.

"Then he's grown into an insolent, pragmatical young cock-a-hoop
upstart; and hang it, I should like to spread-eagle him till he came to
his senses."

The boy, who was peeling a scrap of walnut, gave his uncle a sidelong
look and laughed.

"Ah, I would, sir, and no mistake," cried the admiral, fiercely.
"Harry, you don't half preserve discipline in the ship.  Here, Syd, it's
time you were off to sea."

The boy took another walnut and crushed it, conscious of the fact that
his father was watching him intently.

"I don't want to go to sea, uncle," said the boy at last, as he picked
off the scraps of broken shell from his walnut.

"What?" roared the admiral.  "Here you, sir, say that again."

"I don't want to go to sea, uncle."

"You--don't--want--to go--to sea, sir?"

"No, uncle."

"Well, I am stunned," said the old gentleman, rapidly pouring out and
tossing off a glass of port.  "Brother Harry, what have you to say to
this?"

"That it is all nonsense.  The boy does not know his own mind."

"Of course not," cried the admiral, turning sharply upon Sydney, who
went on picking the skin from his walnut.  "Do you know, sir, that your
family have been sailors as far back as the days of Elizabeth."

"Yes, uncle," said the boy, coolly.  "I've often heard you say so."

"And that it is your duty, as the last representative of the family, to
maintain its honour, sir?"

"No, uncle."

"What, sir?" cried the old man, fiercely.

"I'm not fit to be a sailor," continued the boy, quietly enough.

"And pray, why not, Sydney?" said Captain Belton, frowning.

"Because I'm such a coward, father."

"A Belton!" groaned the admiral, "and says he is a coward."

"A boy to be a sailor ought to be fond of the sea."

"Of course, sir," said the captain.

"And I hate it."

"And pray why?" said the admiral, fiercely.

"Because it's so salt," said Syd, busy helping himself to some more of
the condiment he had named.

"Salt?" cried the admiral.  "Of course it is, and so it ought to be.
Nonsense!  He's laughing at us, Harry--a dog."

"No, I'm not, uncle; I'm not fit to be a sailor."

"Then, pray, what are you fit for, sir?" cried Captain Belton, angrily.

"I mean to be a doctor!"

"What!" roared the two officers together.

_Crack! crack_!

"Put that walnut and those crackers down, sir!" said the captain,
sternly.  "I am glad your uncle started this subject, for it was time we
had an explanation.  Do you know that with his interest at the Admiralty
and mine you could be entered on board a first-rate man-of-war?"

"Yes, and well looked after, sir," cried the admiral; "so that when you
had properly gone through your term, and been master's mate long enough,
your promotion would have been certain."

"Yes, uncle, father has often said so," replied Sydney, reaching for
another walnut, and taking up the crackers.

"Put that walnut down, sir," cried his father.

Sydney obeyed, and to keep his hands under control thrust them in his
pockets and leaned back in his chair.

"Well, sir," said his uncle, "does not that make you feel proud?"

"No, uncle."

"What!  Don't you know that you would have a uniform and wear a sword--I
mean a dirk?"

"Yes, uncle."

"Well, sir?  Why, at your time of life I was mad to have my uniform."

"What for?" said the boy.

"What for, sir?  What for?  Why, to wear, of course."

"I don't want to wear a uniform.  You couldn't climb trees, nor go
fishing, nor shrimping, nor riding in a uniform."

"No, sir," continued the admiral, after winking and frowning at his
brother to leave the boy to him, "of course not.  You would be an
officer and a gentleman then, and wear a cocked hat."

"Ha! ha! ha!"

The boy burst into a hearty fit of laughter, and his father frowned.

"Sydney--" he began.

"No, no, Harry, leave him to me," said the admiral; "I'll talk to him.
Now, sir," he continued, turning to the boy sternly, "pray what did I
say to make you start grinning like a confounded young monkey?  I--I--I
am not accustomed to be laughed at by impertinent boys."

"I was not laughing at you, uncle," said the boy, dragging one hand from
his pocket and making a lunge at an apple.

"Leave that fruit alone, sir," said the admiral, "and don't tell me a
confounded lie, sir.  You did laugh at me."

"I did not," said the boy; "and that's not a lie."

"What!" roared the admiral, turning purple.  "How dare you, sir!  To the
mast-head at once, and stop there till--"

A hearty burst of laughter from his brother and nephew quelled the old
man's anger.

"Ah, you may laugh at that," he said.  "Force of habit.  But you've got
to apologise, you young monkey, for what you said."

"I can't apologise for what I did not do," said the boy, stubbornly.

"What, sir?"

"Steady, steady, sir," said the captain.  "He's a confoundedly impudent
young scamp, but he could not tell a lie."

"But he laughed in my face, Harry?"

"I was laughing at myself, uncle."

"At yourself, sir?"

"Yes, I was thinking what a popinjay I should look in a cocked hat."

"Well, really," said the admiral, "I am beginning to be glad, Harry,
that I never married and had a son.  I used to be envious about this
boy, and wanted a share in him.  But a boy who can laugh at a part of
his Majesty's uniform--well!  Why, you young whipper-snapper, did I ever
look a--a--a popinjay in my cocked hat?"

"Well, you used to look very rum, uncle."

"Harry, my dear boy," said the admiral, fiercely; "we are old men, and
this young dog represents us.  May I take him into the library, and give
him a good caning?"

"No, Tom, certainly not."

"No, of course not, Harry; I beg your pardon.  Now, sir--pass that
port--and--a--don't fill your own glass.  Port like that, sir, is only
fit for gentlemen.  And you--you want to be a doctor, eh?"

"Yes, uncle," said the boy, pushing the decanter along the table.

"And pray what for, sir?"

"To do good to people."

"What?  A doctor do good!  Rubbish!  Never did me a bit of good."

"Oh, but they do, uncle."

"Never, sir.  That Liss has pretty well poisoned me over and over
again."

"Oh, uncle, what a--"

"You say that if you dare, sir," cried the old admiral, bringing his
hand down bang upon the table, and making the glasses dance.  "It's the
truth.  Always made my gout worse.  Colchicum--colchicum--colchicum--and
the pain awful.  Doctors are an absurd new invention, and of no use
whatever."

"Why, you always have a doctor on board ship."

"Surgeon, you young dog, surgeon.  Doctor!  Bah!  Hang all doctors!  A
surgeon is of some use in action, cutting, and splicing, and fishing a
poor fellow's limbs; but a doctor--"

At that moment a rubicund butler opened the dining-room door, and stood
back for some one to enter.

"Doctor Liss, sir," he said quietly; and a quick, eager-looking little
man in snuff-coloured coat and long, salt-box-pocketed waistcoat entered
the room, handing his cocked hat and stick to the butler, and nodding
pleasantly from one to the other.

"Who was that shouting for the doctor?" he said cheerily, as he rubbed
his hands; then took out a gold snuff-box, tapped it, opened it, and
handed it to the captain.

"You, wasn't it, Sir Thomas?  Touch of your old enemy?"

"No," grunted the admiral, "I'm sound as a roach.  Bah!"

"Thankye, Liss," said the captain, taking his pinch, and handing back
the box; "sit down.  Syd, pass those clean glasses."

The admiral took a pinch, and then the new-comer took his, loudly
snapped-to the box, and drew out a delicate cambric handkerchief to flap
off some snuff from his shirt-frill.

As soon as the doctor was comfortably seated the port was passed, and
then there was silence, Sydney looking from one to the other, and
wondering what was coming next.

The doctor, too, looked from one to the other and formed his own
opinion.

"Hullo!" he said.  "In disgrace, Sydney?  What have you been doing,
sir?"

"Eating walnuts," said the boy, mischievously.

"And defying his father and uncle--a dog!" cried the admiral.  "Here,
Liss; what do you think he says?"

"Bless me!  I don't know."

"Why, confound him! says he wants to be a doctor."

"Does he?" cried the new-comer, turning to look at Sydney.  "Well, I'm
not surprised."

"But I am," cried Captain Belton, angrily.

"And I'm astounded," said the admiral.  "A Belton descend to being an
apothecary."

"Ah!" said the doctor, dryly, as he held his glass up to the light,
"terrible descent, certainly.  Wants to save life instead of destroying
it."

"Now, look here, Liss," began the admiral, fiercely.

"No, no, Tom, let me speak," said Captain Belton.  "No quarrelling."

"No, you had better not quarrel," said the doctor, good-humouredly.
"Make you both ill, and then I shall have you at my mercy."

"Indeed you will not," said the admiral, "for I'll call in old Marchant
from Lowerport."

"Not you," cried the doctor, laughing; "you dare not.  I'm the only man
who understands your constitution."

"There, there, there!" cried the captain, "that's enough.  But really,
sir, it's too bad.  As an old friend I did not think you would lead my
boy astray."

"I?  Astray?  Nonsense!"

"But you have, sir.  You've taken him out with you on your rounds, and
the young dog thinks of nothing else but doctoring."

"And pill-boxes and gallipots," said the admiral, fiercely.

"Now, my dear old friends, you are not talking sense," said the doctor,
quietly.  "Sydney has been my rounds with me a good deal, and he has
certainly displayed so much interest in all my surgical cases, that if
he were my boy I should certainly make him a doctor."

"Impossible!" cried the captain.

"Not to be heard of," said Sir Thomas.  "He's going to sea."

Sydney, who had been fidgeting about in his chair, gave a sudden kick
out with his right leg, and felt something soft as his uncle uttered a
savage yell, and thrust his chair back from the table.

"I--I beg your pardon, uncle, I did not know that--"

"You did, sir," cried the old man furiously, as he shook his fist at the
boy.  "You did it maliciously; out of spite, because I want to make a
man of you.  Bless me, Harry," he continued, "if you don't take that
young scoundrel out into the hall and thrash him, I'll never darken your
doors again.  Dear--dear--dear--dear!  Bless my soul!  Ah!"

The poor old admiral had risen, and was limping about when Sydney went
after him.

"Uncle," he began.

"Bah!" ejaculated the old man, grasping him by the collar.  "Here he is,
brother Harry; I've got him.  Now then, take him out."

"I'm very sorry, uncle," said Sydney.  "I didn't know it was your gouty
leg there."

"Then, you did do it on purpose, sir?"

"No, I didn't, uncle.  I wouldn't have been such a coward."

"Of course he wouldn't," said the doctor.  "But there, sir, sit down;
the pain is gone off now."

"How do you know?" cried the admiral.  "It's as if ten thousand red-hot
irons were searing it.  Harry, you've spoiled that boy."

"No, I join issue there," said Captain Belton.  "You've indulged him ten
times more than ever I have, Tom."

"It is not true, brother Harry," said the admiral, limping to his chair.

"Oh yes, it is.  Hasn't your uncle spoiled you, Sydney, far more than I
have?"

"No, father," replied the boy, quietly, as he helped the old admiral to
sit down, and placed an ottoman under his injured leg.

"Thankye, boy, thankye.  And you're not so bad as I said; 'tis quite
true, it's your father's doing."

"I think you've both spoiled me," said Sydney, quietly; and the doctor
helped himself to another glass of port to hide his mirth.

"Won't do, Liss, you're laughing.  I can see you," said the admiral.
"That's just what you doctors enjoy, seeing other people suffer, so that
you may laugh and grow fat."

"Oh, I was not laughing at your pain," said the doctor, quietly, "but at
Sydney's judgment.  He is quite right, you do both spoil him."

"What?"

"He has three times as much money to spend as is right, and I wonder he
does not waste it more.  Well, Syd, my boy, so they will not let you be
a doctor?"

Sydney frowned, and cracked a walnut till the shell and nut were all
crushed together.

"And so you are to make up your mind to go to sea?"

"Yes," said the admiral, emphatically.

"Certainly," said Captain Belton; and, as soon after the conversation
turned into political matters, Sydney quietly left his chair, strolled
to the window, and stood gazing out at the estuary upon which the
captain's house looked down.

It was a glorious view.  The long stretch of water was dappled with
orange and gold; and here and there the great men-of-war were lying at
anchor, some waiting their commanders; others, whose sea days were past,
waiting patiently for their end, sent along dark shadows behind them.
Here and there fishing-boats with tawny sails were putting out to sea
for the night's fishing; and as Sydney's eyes wandered, a frown settled
upon his forehead, and he stepped out through the open window into the
garden.

"Bother the old sea!" he said, petulantly.  "It's always sea, sea, sea,
from morning till night.  I don't want to go, and I won't."

As he spoke he passed under an apple tree, one of whose fruit, missed in
the gathering a month before, had dropped, and picking it up, the boy
relieved his feelings by throwing it with all his might across the
garden.

The effect was as sudden as that produced by his kick; for there was a
shout and sound of feet rapidly approaching, and a red-faced boy of
about his own age came into sight, hatless and breathless, panting,
wild-eyed, and with fists clenched ready for assault.

"Who threw--Oh, it was you, was it, Master Sydney?  You coward!"

"Who's a coward?" cried Sydney, hotly.

"You are.  You throwed that apple and hit me, 'cause you knowed I
dursen't hit you again."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did, and you are a coward."

"No, I'm not a coward."

"Yes, you are.  If I hit you, I know what you'd do--go and tell your
father, and get me sent away."

"There, then!  Does that feel like a coward's blow?--or that?--or that?"

Three sharp cuffs in the chest illustrated Sydney's words, two of which
the boy bore, flinching at each; but rising beyond endurance by the
third, he retaliated with one so well planted that Sydney went down in a
sitting position, but in so elastic a fashion that he was up again on
the instant, and flew at the giver of the blow.

Then for five minutes there was a sharp encounter, with its
accompaniments of hard breathing, muttering, dull sounds of blows and
scuffling feet, till a broad-shouldered, red-faced man in a serge apron
came down upon them at a trot, and securing each by the shoulder held
them apart.

"Now then," he growled, "what's this here?"

"Pan hit me, and I'm dressing him down," panted Sydney.  "Here, let go,
Barney."

"Master Syd hit me first, father," panted the red-faced boy.

"Howld your tongue, warmint, will you," said the man in a deep growl.
"Want to have me chucked overboard, and lose my bit o' pension.  You're
allus a-going at your pastors and masters."

"Hit me first," remonstrated the boy, as the new-comer gave him a shake.

"Well, what o' that, you ungrateful young porpuss!  Hasn't the cap'n hit
me lots o' times and chucked things at me?  You never see me flyin' in
his face."

"Chucked a big apple at me first," cried the boy in an ill-used tone.

"Sarve you right too.  Has he hurt you much, Master Sydney?"

"No, Barney; not a bit.  There, I was wrong.  I didn't know he was there
when I threw the apple.  I only did it because I felt vicious."

"Hear that, you young sarpint?" cried the square-shouldered man.

"Yes, father."

"Then just you recollect.  If the young skipper feels wicious, he's a
right to chuck apples.  Why, it's rank mutiny hitting him again."

"Hit me first," grumbled the boy.

"Ay, and I'll hit you first.  Why, if I'd been board ship again, instead
of being a pensioner and keeping this here garden in order for the
skipper, I should have put my pipe to my mouth, and--What say, Master
Syd?"

"Don't say any more about it.  I'd no business to hit Pan, and I'm sorry
I did now."

"Well, sir, I don't know 'bout not having no business, 'cause you see
you're the skipper's son, and nothing does a boy so much good as a
leathering; but if you're sorry for it, there's an end on it.
Pan-a-mar, my lad, beg Master Sydney's pardon."

"He hit me first," grumbled the boy.

"Do you want me to give you a good rope's-ending, my sonny?" growled the
man; "'cause if you do, just you say that 'ere agen."

The red-faced boy uttered a smothered growl, and was silent.

"Too young to understand discipline yet, Master Sydney," said the man.
"And so you felt wicious, did you?  What about?"

"They've been at me again about going to sea, Barney."

"And you don't want to go, my lad?"

"No; and I won't go."

"Hear that, Pan, my lad?"

The boy nodded and drew down the corner of his lips, with the effect
that Sydney made a threatening gesture.

"No, I'm not afraid, Pan," he cried fiercely; "but I don't want to go,
and I won't."

The broad-shouldered man shook his head mournfully, and taking out a
steel tobacco-box he opened it and cut off a piece of black, pressed
weed, to transfer to his cheek, as he again shook his head sadly.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Master Sydney," he said.

"Why?"

"'Cause it's agen nature.  I'm sixty-two now, and from the time I was a
little shaver right up to now I never heerd a well-grown, strong,
good-looking young chap say he didn't want to go to sea."

"Ah, well, Barney, you've heard one now."

"Ay, ay! and mighty sorry too, sir.  Why, there have been times when
I've said to myself, `Maybe when the young master gets his promotion and
a ship of his own, he'll come and say to me, Now then, Barney, now's
your time to get rid o' the rust; I'll get you painted and scraped, and
you shall come to sea with me.'"

"You, Barney?  You are too old now.  What would you be then?"

"Old!  Old!  Get out!  I don't call myself old by a long way, Master
Syd; and if it hadn't been for the captain laying up I should ha' been
at sea now.  But you'll think better on it, sir; you'll go."

"What, to sea, Barney?"

"Ay, sir."

"No; I mean to be a doctor."

"Then I says it again as I said it afore, Master Syd, there's something
the matter with you."

"Matter?  Nonsense!  What do you mean?"

"Why, what you say sounds so gal-ish and soft, it makes me think as you
must have ketched something going out with the doctor."

"What rubbish, Barney!"

"But you going to be a doctor!" cried the old sailor, rubbing his nose
with a great gnarled finger.  "You, who might be an admiral and command
a squadron: no, sir, it won't do."

"It will have to do, Barney."

"Well, sir, it mought and it moughtn't; but it strikes me as you've got
something coming on, sir, as is a weakening your head--measles, or
fever, or such-like--or you wouldn't talk as you do about the Ryle
Navee."

"I talk about it as I do because I don't want to go to sea."

"But it's a flying in the face of the skipper and the admiral.  Bobstays
and chocks!  I wish I was your age and got the chance o' going instead
o' being always ashore here plarntin' the cabbages and pulling up the
weeds."

"Then you don't like being a gardener, Barney?"

"I 'ates it, sir."

"And so do I hate being a sailor.  There!"

"But it's so onnat'ral, sir.  Here's your father been a sailor, same as
I've been a sailor, and I've drilled up Pan-a-mar o' purpose to be
useful to you in the same ship.  Why, it's like wasting a season in the
garden.  I meant him to be your Jack factotum, as the skipper used to
call it, and you never heard him say he didn't want to go to sea."

"You said you'd rope's-end me if I did," grumbled the red-faced boy.

"And so I will, you young swab," roared the gardener.  "Why, you
onnat'ral young galley-dabber, are you going to turn up your ugly pig's
nose at your father's purfession?"

"Pan doesn't like the sea any more than I do," cried Sydney; "and I say
it's a shame to force boys to be what they don't like."

"Well, this beats all," cried the gardener, helping himself to a fresh
piece of tobacco.  "What the world's coming to next, I dunnow.  Why, if
the King, bless him! know'd o' this, it would break his heart."

"Syd!  Ahoy there!" came from the dining-room window.

"Aho--"

Sydney was about to reply with a hearty sea-going _Ahoy_! but he altered
his mind and cried--

"Yes, father; I'm coming."

This was followed by a savage slap on the leg given by the ex-boatswain,
who had settled down with his master the captain at The Heronry,
Southbayton.

"Just like a loblolly boy," he growled.  "You, Pan, if you was to answer
a hail like that I'd--Stop; come here."

"Yes, father, I'm coming," said the red-faced boy, with a grin; and then
he dodged while the old boatswain made a blow at his head with open
hand.

"Here, I'll speak to the skipper at once about you, youngster.  Doing
the knives and boots and helping over the weeds is spyling your morals."

"Speak--what about, father?"

"Speak?  What about?  Why, you swab, do you think I had you chrissen
Pan-a-mar, arter a glorious naval victory, o' purpose to have you grow
up into a 'long-shore lubber?  There, get indoors.  'Fore you're many
hours older I'll have you afloat."

Pan went slowly up to the house, followed by his father, who walked
along the gravel path with his legs wide apart, as if he expected the
ground to heave up; while Sydney went round to the front of the house,
and entered by the dining-room window, where his father, uncle, and the
doctor were still seated at the table.

"Why, Syd, lad, we did not see you go," said his father; "come and sit
down."

The boy obeyed, looking furtively from one to the other, as if he knew
instinctively that something particular was coming.

"Ahem!"  The admiral gave vent to a tremendous forced cough.

"No, Tom, I'll tell him," said Captain Belton.  "Look here, Syd, my boy,
at your time of life lads do not know what is best for them, so it is
the duty of their fathers to decide."

"Is it, father?"

"Of course it is, sir," growled the admiral, and Doctor Liss wrinkled up
his forehead and looked attentively on.

"Now look here, sir.  Your uncle has just heard an old friend of his,
Captain Dashleigh--"

"Known him from a boy," said the admiral.

"Has been appointed to the _Juno_, one of our finest three-deckers, and
he is going to ask him to take you as one of his midshipmen."

"Uncle Tom always said that a boy should commence life either in a sloop
of war or a smart frigate," said Syd, sharply.

"If there's one handy," growled the admiral.  "_Juno's_ a ship to be
proud of."

"So, thank your uncle for his promise to exert his interest, and let's
have no more nonsense."

"But I want to be a doctor, father," said Syd, looking hard at the
visitor.

_Crash_!

The glasses danced as the admiral brought his hand down heavily.

"No, no, Tom," cried the captain, testily; "I can manage the helm."

"But, Doctor Liss!" said the boy, appealingly.

"Don't appeal to me, my boy," said the doctor, gravely.  "You know your
father's and your uncle's wish.  It is your duty to obey."

"Oh!" ejaculated Sydney, in a tone of voice which seemed to say, "I did
think you would side with me."

The doctor took a pinch of snuff.

"You see, Syd," continued the captain, "your uncle has no son, and I
have only one to keep up the honour of our family.  You will join your
ship with the best of prospects, and I hope you will be a credit to us
both."

Sydney said nothing, but took another walnut, and cracked it viciously,
as if it was the head of a savage enemy.

That night he lay tumbling and unable to sleep, his brow knit and his
teeth set, feeling as obstinate as a boy can feel who has not been
allowed to have his own way.



CHAPTER TWO.

The next morning Sydney Belton rose in excellent time, but not from a
desire to keep good hours.  He could not sleep well, so he dressed and
went out, to find it was only on the stroke of six.

As he reached the garden, there was his self-constituted enemy
stretching out before him, far as eye could reach, and sparkling
gloriously in the morning sunshine.

"Bother the sea!" muttered the boy, scowling.  "Wish it was all dry
land."

"What cheer, lad!  Mornin', mornin'.  Don't she look lovely, eh?"

"Morning, Barney," said the boy, turning to see that the old boatswain
had come to work with a scythe over his shoulder.  "What looks lovely
this morning?"

"Eh?  Why, the sea, of course.  Wish I was afloat, 'stead of having to
shave this lawn, like a wholesale barber.  Got any noos?"

"Yes, Barney," said the boy, bitterly; "I'm to go to sea."

"Hurray!" cried the old boatswain, rubbing his scythe-blade with the
stone rubber, and bringing forth a musical sound.

"You're glad of it, then?"

"Course I am, my lad.  Be the making on you.  Wish I was coming too."

"Bah!" ejaculated Sydney, and he left the old boatswain to commence the
toilet of the dewy lawn, while in a desultory way, for the sake of doing
something to fill up the time till breakfast, he strolled round to the
back, where a loud whistling attracted his attention.

The sound came from an outhouse, toward which the boy directed his
steps.

"Cleaning the knives, I suppose," said Sydney to himself, and going to
the door he looked in.

The tray of knives was there waiting to be cleaned, and the board and
bath-brick were on a bench, but the red-faced boy was otherwise engaged.

He was kneeling down with a rough, curly-haired retriever dog sitting up
before him, with paws drooped and nose rigid, while Pan was carefully
balancing a knife across the pointed nose aforesaid.

Pan was so busily employed that he did not hear the step, and the first
notification he had of another's presence was given by the dog, who
raised his muzzle suddenly and uttered a loud and piteous whine directed
at Sydney--the dog's cry seeming to say, "Do make him leave off."

The glance the boatswain's son gave made him spring at the board, snatch
up a couple of the implements, and begin to rub them to and fro
furiously, while the dog, in high glee at being freed from an arduous
task, began to leap about, barking loudly, and making dashes at his
young master's legs.

"Poor old Don--there!" cried Sydney, patting the dog's ears.  "He don't
like discipline, then.  Well, Pan, when are you going to sea?"

"Not never," said the boy, shortly.

"Yes, you are.  Your father said he should send you."

"If he does I shall run away, so there," cried the boy.

Sydney turned away, and walked through the garden, his head bent, his
brow wrinkled, and his mind so busily occupied, that he hardly heeded
which way he went.

"If his father sends him he shall run away."

Those words kept on repeating themselves in Sydney's brain like some
jingle, and he found himself thinking of them more and more as he passed
through the gate, and went along the road that late autumn morning,
kicking up the dead leaves which lay clustering beneath the trees.

"If his father sends him to sea he shall run away," said Sydney to
himself; and then he thought of how Pan Strake would be free, and have
no more boots and shoes or knives to clean, and not have to go into the
garden to weed the paths.

Then by a natural course he found himself thinking that if he, Sydney
Belton, were to leave home, he would escape being sent to sea--at all
events back to school--and he too would be free.

With a boy's wilful obstinacy, he carefully drew a veil over all the
good, and dragged out into the mental light all that he looked upon as
bad in his every-day life, satisfied himself that he was ill-used, and
wished that he had had a mother living to, as he called it, take his
part.

"I wonder what running away would be like?" he thought.  "There would be
no Uncle Tom to come and bully and bother me, and father wouldn't be
there to take his side against me.  I wonder what one could do if one
ran away?"

"Morning!"

Sydney started, for he had been so intent upon his thoughts that he had
not heard the regular trot, trot of a plump cob, nor the grinding of
wheels, and he looked up to see that it was Doctor Liss who had suddenly
drawn rein in the road.

"Going for a walk, Syd?"

"Yes; but--I--Where are you going, doctor?"

"Into the town.  Just been called up.  Poor fellow injured in the docks
last night."

"Take me with you."

"What?" cried the doctor, smiling down in the eager face before him.
"Didn't I get scolded enough last night, you young dog, for leading you
astray?"

"Oh, but father didn't mean it.  Do take me.  Is he much hurt?"

"Broken leg, I hear.  No, no.  Go home to breakfast.  Ck!  Sally.  Good
morning."

The doctor touched the cob as he nodded to Sydney, and the wheels of the
chaise began to turn, but with a bound the boy was out in the road, and
hanging on to the back.

"No, no, Doctor Liss, don't leave me behind.  I do so want to go, and
there's plenty of time for me to get back to breakfast."

"But Sir Thomas will declare I am leading you into the evil paths of
medicine and surgery."

"Uncle won't know.  Do pull up; let me come."

"Well," said the doctor, smiling grimly, "I don't see that it can do you
any harm, Syd.  Here, jump in."

There was no need for a second consent.  Almost before the horse could
be stopped the boy had leaped lightly in, and with his face bright and
eager once more, and the dark misty notions upon which he had been
brooding gone clean away, he began chatting merrily to his old friend,
whose rounds he had often gone.

"Yes, yes, Syd, that's all very well," said the doctor, making his
whip-lash whistle through the air, "but you don't know what a doctor's
life is.  All very well driving here on a bright autumn morning to get
an appetite for breakfast, but look at the long dark dismal rides I have
at all times in the winter."

"Well, they can't be half so bad as keeping a watch in a storm right out
at sea.  Why, I've heard both father and Uncle Tom say that it's awful
sometimes."

"Only sometimes, Syd."

"Well, I can't help it.  I hate it, and I won't go."

"Must, my boy, must.  Take it like a dose of my very particular.  You
know, Syd," said the doctor, nudging the boy with his elbow; "that rich
thick morning draught I gave you after a fever."

"Oh, I say, don't," cried Sydney, with a wry face and a shudder; "it's
horrid.  I declare, when I'm a doctor, I'll never give any one such
stuff."

"No, Syd, you'll be a captain, and the physic for your patients will be
cat-o'-nine-tails."

Sydney frowned, and as they neared the busy town, with its little forest
of masts rising beyond the houses, Doctor Liss glanced sideways at the
boy's gloomy and thoughtful countenance.

"Why, Syd," he said at last merrily, "you look as gloomy as if you had
been pressed.  Come, my lad, take your medicine, and then you can have
that sweet afterwards that we call duty."

Sydney made no reply, but his face did not brighten, for duty seemed to
him then a nauseous bitter.

"Doctor Liss," he said, just as they reached the docks, down one of
whose side lanes the patient lay, "if I make up my mind to be a
doctor--"

"You can't, Syd.  You are too young to have one yet.  A man's mind is as
strong as if it had bone and muscle.  Yours is only like jelly."

Syd was silent again for a minute.  Then he began once more--

"If I determined to be a doctor, and wouldn't be anything else, would
you teach me?"

"No, certainly not."

"Then I'd teach myself," cried Syd, fiercely.

"Oh, indeed!  Humph!  I retract my words about your young mind being
jelly.  I see there is some substance in it growing already.  But no,
Syd, you are not going to be a doctor; and here we are."

He drew up at a cottage door, where a couple of rough-looking men were
waiting about, one of whom held the horse while the doctor descended,
and Syd followed into the room, where a poor fellow lay in great agony
with a badly fractured leg.

This was reduced, Syd looking on, and handing the doctor splints and
bandages as they were required.  After this the pair re-entered the gig,
and drove back toward the Heronry.

"Just a quarter to nine, Syd.  You'll be back in time for breakfast."

"I think I could set a broken leg now," said Syd, whose thoughts were
still at the cottage.

"Bless the boy!" exclaimed the doctor.  "Take one off, I suppose, if it
were wanted?"

"No," said Syd, gravely, "I shouldn't feel enough confidence to do
that."

"I should think not, indeed," muttered the doctor, as he gave a sidelong
look at his companion.  "Why, you morbid young rascal, you ought to be
thinking of games and outdoor sports instead of such things as this.
Here we are.  Ready for your breakfast?"

"Yes, I am getting hungry," said Syd.  "How long will those bones be
growing together again?"

"Confound you--young dog!  Go and pick grilled chicken bones.  I'll
never take you out with me again.  Jump out.  Good-bye, sailor."

The doctor nodded and drove off, while Syd walked slowly up to the
house, and entered the dining-room just as his father and uncle came
down, punctual to the moment.

"Ah, Syd," said his father; "you are first."

"Morning, boy, morning," cried his uncle.  "Been for a walk on deck?"

"No, uncle; I've been for a drive."

"Drive!  Drive!" said his father.  "Who with?"

"Doctor Liss, father."

_Bang_!

Sir Thomas's hand made the coffee-cups rattle this time, as he said
sharply--

"Harry, my lad, if I were you I should take this spark up to town and
see Dashleigh at once.  I'll go with you."

"Very well.  And he can be measured for his kit at the same time, eh?"

"Of course.  Mind the tailor makes his clothes big enough, for as soon
as he gets to sea he'll grow like a twig."

Syd sat stirring his coffee, and taking great bites out of his bread and
butter, as the words of Pan came back to him--"If he does I shall run
away, so there!"



CHAPTER THREE.

There was something tempting about that idea of being measured for a
uniform, though Syd declared to himself he hated it.  All the same,
though, he went down the garden to where Barney was digging that
morning, and after a little beating about the bush, asked him a question
he could have answered himself, from familiarity with his father's and
uncle's garb.

"I say, Barney, what's a captain's uniform like?"

"Uniform, my lad?" said the old boatswain, seizing the opportunity to
rest his foot on his spade, and began rubbing the small of his back, or
rather what is so called, for Barney had no small to his back, being
square-shaped like a short log.  "Well, it's bloo coat, and white
weskutt and breeches, and gold lace and cocked hat, and two gold swabs
on the shoulders."

"And what's a lieutenant's like?"

"Oh, pooty much the same, lad, only he's on'y got one swab on 'stead o'
two.  But what's the good o' your asking?--you've seen 'em often enough
in Southbayton."

"Oh, but I never took any notice.  What's a midshipman's like?"

"Bloo, my lad, and a bit o' white on the collar."

"And a cocked hat?"

"Oh yes, a cocked hat--a small one, you know."

"And a sword, Barney?"

"Well, as to a sword, lad," said the old sailor, wiping a brown corner
of his mouth; "it arn't right to call such a tooth-pick of a thing a
sword.  Sort of a young sword as you may say, on'y it never grows no
bigger, and him as wears it does.  Dirks, they calls 'em, middies'
dirks."

"A uniform and a sword," said Sydney to himself.  "A blue uniform with
white on the collar, and a cocked hat and a sword!"

It was very tempting, and the boy went on down by the side of the lake,
beyond which were the great trees, with the ragged nests of the tall
birds which gave the name to the captain's residence, where he had
settled to end his days well in view of the sea.

Here where the water was smooth as glass Sydney stood leaning over,
holding on by a bough, and gazing at his foreshortened image, as in
imagination he dressed himself in the blue uniform, buckled on his dirk,
and put on his cocked hat.

It was very tempting, but disinclination mastered vanity, and he turned
away to go back toward the house.

"I wonder whether Pan means it," he said to himself.  "Suppose we went
together to seek our fortunes; he could be my servant, and father and
Uncle Tom would forgive me if I came back rich."

But somehow in a misty way as he walked up to the back of the house,
half thinking that he would sound the boy, it hardly seemed to be the
way to seek a fortune to start off with a servant.

He had nearly reached the yard when a door was thrown open, and the
object of his search rushed out, followed by a shower of words and
shoes, which latter came pattering out into the yard as a shrill voice
cried--

"A nasty, lazy, good-for-nothing young scamp--always playing with that
dog instead of doing your work.  Not half clean--not fit to be seen."

Syd drew back, thinking to himself that Pan could not be much happier
than he was himself with the red-faced cook, who ruled over all the
servants, to play tyrant to the boy as well.

"Now what could two lads do if they went right away?" mused Syd.  "We
couldn't go abroad without going to sea.  I don't think I want to be a
soldier, and we're not big enough if I did.  I know--we'd go to London.
People seek their fortunes there."

He seated himself beneath the walnut tree to think it out, but somehow
the idea of running away did not seem bright.  It was less than a
hundred miles to London by the coach-road, and if they walked all the
way it did not seem likely that they would have any adventures.

Syd felt in despair, for life seemed as if it must be a terribly dull
place without adventures.

He thought he would not run away for two reasons.  One that it would
look cowardly; the other that it did not look tempting.

"There does not seem any chance of meeting with adventures unless you go
to sea," he said to himself.  "I wish there was no sea in the world."

A loud voice from the other end of the garden, followed by another, took
his attention.

"Poor old Pan catching it again," mused Syd.  "Everybody seems to scold
him."

The dull sound of a blow, a howl, and then a rushing noise explained by
the appearance of Panama Strake, who was dashing helter-skelter across
the garden, as regardless of flower-bed and tree as a young colt that
had broken through a hedge.

"Hi!  Pan, where are you going?" cried Syd.

The boy glanced once in his direction, but did not stop running on as
hard as he could go for the front entrance, and directly after the gate
was heard to bang.

"Some one must have hit him," thought Syd.  "Poor old Pan, he's always
in trouble.  Why, I kicked him last week," he added remorsefully.

"Seen my boy Pan, Master Syd?" said a hoarse voice.

"Yes; he came running by here like a wild bull.  Have you been hitting
him?"

"Hitting of him?" growled the ex-boatswain; "on'y just wish I'd had a
rope's-end 'stead o' this here," and he held up the handle of the rake
he had been using.  "On'y time to give him one tap and he was gone."

"Enough to make him go.  What was the matter, Barney?"

"Heverythink, Master Syd.  That there boy's gettin' worse than you."

"Oh! is he?"

"Growlin' and grumblin' at any mortal thing.  Won't do his work, and
says he won't go to sea, just the same as you do; and now he's been
sarcing the cook."

"For saying the boots and shoes were not clean."

"How do you know, Master Syd?"

"I saw her throwing them at him.  You'd no business to hit him with that
rake shaft."

"What!  No business to hit him?  Why, he's my own boy, arn't he?  All
right then, Master Syd; there's an old wagon rope in the shed, I'll lay
up a bit o' that--hard; and on'y just wait till he comes back, that's
all.  Won't be a sailor, won't he!  I'll let him see.  If he won't be
able to write AB at the end of his name 'fore he's one-and-twenty my
name arn't Barnaby Strake."

The old boatswain went off growling; and in the lowest of low spirits,
Syd went indoors, to make his way to the library, shut himself in, and
begin taking down the books from the dusty shelves, seeking for one
which dealt with adventures.

There was no lack of them, but somehow or another all seemed to have the
smack of the salt sea.  Now and then he came upon some land adventures,
but it was always preceded by a voyage to the place; and at last he
threw a book down peevishly.

"Any one would think the world was all sea," he grumbled; "that's the
worst of being born on an island."

He started from his seat, for the handle of the door rattled, and his
father and uncle entered the library.

"Oh, you're here, sir!" cried Captain Belton.  "That's right.  Your
uncle and I have been talking about you."

"Laying down your lines, Syd, so as to turn you out a smart craft."

"Yes," said Captain Belton, merrily.  "We've settled about your hull,
Syd; and to-morrow morning we're going to take you up to town, and if
all turns out right--"

"Oh, that's all right," said Sir Thomas.  "Dashleigh would do anything
for me."

"If his complement is not made up."

"And if it is.  Hang it, Harry; you can always squeeze another boy into
a seventy-gun ship."

"Well, I suppose it will be all right," said the captain; "and if it is
we'll get you rigged."

"Yes, and if you'll be a good lad, and try and learn your profession,
I'll make you a present of your outfit, Syd.  The best that can be had,"
said Sir Thomas.

"And I'd give you a gold watch," said the captain, "only you'd lose it,
or get it stolen or broken before you had been to sea a month.  There,
my boy, no objections.  It's all settled for you, and we want to see you
a post-captain before we go into the locker."

"Yes, and bring in a few good Spanish prizes, sir.  It'll be all right,
brother Harry.  He thinks he don't like the sea, but he does.  Now then,
you dog, why don't you come and shake hands?"

"Because I don't want to go, uncle."

"What, you dog!  Yah!  Get out.  I don't believe it."

"Go and shake hands with your uncle, Syd," said the captain, sternly.

The boy walked across to where the admiral was seated on the arm of one
of the great easy-chairs, and held out his hand.

"Here, what's this?" cried the bluff, choleric old sailor.  "Not a boy's
hand, is it.  Feels like the tail of a codfish.  Shake hands like a man,
you dog.  Ah, that's better.  There, cheer up; you'll soon get used to
the sea and love it.  You won't be happy ashore after your first
voyage."

"Want any money, Syd?" said the captain.

"No, thankye, father," said the boy, gloomily.

"What!" roared the admiral, laboriously thrusting his hand into his
breeches pocket and dragging it out again.  "Don't believe it.  A boy
who don't want money is a monster, not fit to be trusted with it.  Here
you are, boy.  Five guineas.  Don't fool it away, but buy anything with
it you like."--A strange contradiction, by the way, though the old
admiral did not notice it.--"Put it in your pocket, and--Pst!  Syd," he
whispered, "whenever you want any more, write to me.  Don't bother the
dad.  Our secret, eh, you dog?"

"What's that?" cried the captain.

"Mind your own business, sir," cried the admiral, with mock rage.
"Private instructions to our young officer.  There, be off, Syd, before
he begins to pump."

The boy gladly escaped from the library, to dash up into his own room,
and fling the money into a corner with a demonstration of rage, before
sitting down, resting his chin upon his doubled fists, and staring
straight before him.

"It's all over," he said at last.  "I wanted to be a gentleman, and do
what was right; but--Yes, it's all over now."

Just at the same time Captain Belton was speaking to his brother in the
library.

"I'm sorry the boy took it like that, Tom," he said.  "I don't like his
sulky manner."

"Bah! only a boy," cried the admiral.  "Chuffy because he can't have his
own way.  Wait till he gets his cocked hat and his dirk."

The old man chuckled and wiped his eyes.

"I haven't forgotten the sensation yet, Harry.  You remember too?"

"Oh yes, I remember," said the captain, thoughtfully.

"Of course you do.  I say, what a pair of young gamecocks we were.  Why,
I can remember now flourishing the tooth-pick about, with its blade half
blue steel and a lion's head on the hilt.  Never you mind about Syd; the
uniform will set him right."

"I hope so."

"Hope so.  Don't I tell you it will!  I like the boy; plenty of
downright British courage in him.  Isn't afraid of either of us.  Egad,
I like him, Harry; and he'll turn out a big man."



CHAPTER FOUR.

The rest of that day passed gloomily for Sydney, who was in the garden
just before dinner, when Barney came up to him.

"Seen him, Master Sydney?" he said gloomily.

"Seen who?  My father?"

"No, my boy, Panama.  Strikes me he's cut and run, and when the skipper
hears on it there'll be no end of a row."

"Oh, nonsense!  He's hiding in the lofts, or one of the outhouses,
Barney."

"No, my lad, I've hunted 'em all over with a hay-fork."

"And of course you didn't find him.  If he saw you coming with a
two-pronged fork what would he think?"

"But I wasn't going to job on him with it, Master Syd."

"How was he to know that, Barney?"

"'Cause I'm allus such a good father to him."

"And hit him with the rake-handle only this morning."

"Well, that would only loosen his skin a bit, and give him room to grow.
Do him good."

"Don't see it, Barney.  Wouldn't do me any good, only make me wild."

"But you don't think he's cut and run, do you, lad?"

"I dare say he has, but he'll soon come back."

"Only let me get hold of him then."

"If you touch him when he does, I'll tell my father and Sir Thomas you
ill-use him."

"What a shame!  Master Syd, you shouldn't.  But you do think he'll come
back, sir?"

"Why, of course."

"That's right.  I want him to go along o' you."

"Along with me?"

"Of course.  I heared the skipper was going to take you up to town
to-morrow to see your new captain."

"Oh!" ejaculated Syd; and he turned sharp round and ran into the house,
where he was soon after seated at table with his uncle and father,
feeling that the servants were watching him, and expecting every moment
to hear some allusion to the next day's journey.

But though no word of the kind was said, Syd cracked no walnuts that
night, but sat gloomily over the dessert till his uncle filled his
glass, called upon him to pass the port to his father, and then in a
loud voice said--

"Here's health and success to Sydney Belton--middy, master's mate,
lieutenant, commander, post--captain, admiral."

"Hear! hear!" cried Captain Belton; and Sydney sat feeling more guilty
than ever he had felt in his life.

For his brain was full of thoughts that he dared not have laid bare, and
his inclination was trying to drag down the balance in which he felt
that he hung.

As he sat there holding on tightly by the nut-crackers that he had not
used, he felt as if he should have to answer all manner of questions
directly, and be put through a terrible ordeal; but to his intense
relief, the conversation turned upon an expedition to Portobello, and
the way in which certain ships had been handled, the unfortunate
officers in command not having done their duty to the satisfaction of
the admiral.  And as this argument seemed to grow more exciting the boy
softly slipped from his chair and went out again to his place of
meditation--the garden.

"Shall I--shan't I?" he said to himself.  Should he make a bold dash,
and go off like heroes he had read of before, seeking his fortune
anywhere?

He was quite ready to do this, but in a misty way it seemed to him that
there would be no fortune to be found; and in addition, it would be
going in direct opposition to his father's and uncle's wishes, and they
would never forgive him.

"No," he said, as he walked up and down the broad walk nearest the road,
"I must give up and go to sea."

But even as he said this softly, he felt so much on the balance, that he
knew that a very little would send him away.

That very little came unexpectedly, for as he walked on down the garden
in the darkness, where the short sturdy oak-trees sent their branches
over the path on one side, and overhung the road on the other, a voice
whispered his name--

"Master Syd!"

"Yes.  What is it?"

"Hush!  Don't make such a row, or they'll hear you."

"Who is it--Pan?"

"Yes, Master Syd."

"Where are you?"

"Sittin' straddlin' on this here big bough."

"You've come back then, sir.  Your father thought you had run away,"
said Syd sternly.

"So I have; and I arn't come back, on'y to see you, Master Syd."

"Come down, then.  What are you doing up that tree?"

"On'y waiting to talk to you."

"But your father says he is going to rope's-end you for running away."

"No, he isn't going to, because I shan't come back."

"But you are back."

"Oh no, I arn't, Master Syd.  I'm not going to be knocked about with
rake-handles, and then sent off to sea.  How would you like it?"

"I'm not knocked about, Pan; but I'm going to be sent off to sea."

"Then don't go, Master Syd."

There was no answer for the moment; then the latter looked up in among
the dark branches, where the dying leaves still clung.

"You said you had come back to see me, Pan."

"Yes, Master Syd."

"What for?  Because you repented?"

"No; it was to ask you--"

"What for?  Some money, Pan?"

"No, Master Syd," replied the boy in a hesitating way.  "Hist!  Listen!
Some one coming?"

"No; I can't hear any one.  Why did you come back?"

"You don't want to go to sea, Master Syd, do you?"

"No."

"More don't I, and I won't go."

"Well?"

"I'm going right away, Master Syd, to make a fortune.  Come along o'
me."

"What!" said Syd, who felt startled at the suddenness of the
proposition, one which accorded so well with his own wishes.  "Go with
you?"

"Oh, I don't mean as mates, only go together," whispered Pan.  "You'd
always be master, and I'd always clean your knives and boots for you."

"And what should we do, Pan?  Where could we go so as to make a living?"

"Make a living?" said Pan, in a wondering tone.  "Don't want to make a
living--we want to make a fortune."

"But we must have some money."

"I've got two shillings saved up."

Syd's brow puckered.  He knew a little more about the necessities of
life, and did not feel disposed to set sail on the river of life with no
more than two shillings.

"But you've got some money, Master Syd?"

"Yes; eight or nine shillings, and a crown uncle gave me day before
yesterday."

"Come along then, that's enough."

Syd hesitated, and thought of the five guineas thrown down in his room.

"If you don't come they'll send you to sea."

That settled it.  So evenly was the lad balanced, that a feather-weight
was enough to work a change.  His dread of the sea sent the scale down
heavily.

"Wait here," he said.

"What for?"

"Till I've been and tied up some clean clothes to take with me."

"Never mind your clothes," whispered Pan.  "If your father catches you
there'll be no chance."

"Look here," said Syd sharply, "if I'm going with you, Pan Strake, I
shall do as I like.  I'm not going to be ordered about by you."

"No, Master Syd, I won't say nothing no more."

Sydney stood thinking for a moment or two, not hesitating, for his mind
seemed quite made up.  Then without another word he stepped on to the
grass, and ran up the garden, keeping out of sight of the occupants of
the dining-room, by interposing the bushes between him and them.

His heart began to beat heavily now, as the full force of that which he
was about to do impressed him on hearing his father's voice speaking
loudly; and as he crept nearer the window, so as to pass it, behind the
bushes, and reach the entrance, he heard the captain say plainly, his
words sounding loudly from the open dining-room window--

"Yes, Tom, I've quite made up my mind.  It will be the best thing for
him.  It will be a better school than the one he is at.  Time he began
to learn the profession, eh?"

"Yes, quite; and good luck to him," said his uncle, gruffly.

Syd stopped to hear no more, but hurried to the front, waited till all
was silent in the pantry, and then slipped up to his bedroom, where a
few minutes sufficed for him to make up a change of clothes in a
handkerchief.

That was all he wanted, he told himself.  No: a brush and comb.

"Comb will do," he muttered; "people going to seek their fortunes don't
want brushes."

He ran his hand in the darkness along the dressing-table, and touched
not a comb, but a tiny pile of money.

Five shillings!  And on his dressing-table!  How did they come there?

He knew the next moment they were not shillings but guineas, the five he
passionately threw down in a corner of the room, and when the maid came
up to straighten the place she must have found them and placed them on
the table.  It was tempting.

Syd was going away out into the wide world with only a few shillings in
his pocket, and these guineas, which were honestly his, would be
invaluable, and help him perhaps out of many a scrape.  Should he take
them or no?

Syd pushed them away from him.  They were given to him because his uncle
believed that he was going patiently with him to see his friend in
London.  If he took them it would seem despicable, and he could not bear
that; so hurrying out of the room, he ran down-stairs lightly and as
quickly as possible, so as to get away and beyond the power of the
house, which seemed to be all at once growing dear to him, and acting
like a magnet to draw him back.

As he cleared the door and made for the shrubs, he heard his uncle's
voice as he laughed at something the captain said.  Then Captain Belton
spoke again, and Syd clapped his hand and his bundle to his ears to stop
the sound.

"If I listen I shan't be able to go," he said with a sigh; and he was
just about to break into a trot to run down and join Pan, when there was
a footstep on the gravel, and the boy stopped short in the shadow cast
by a tree.

"Father!" he said to himself.  "Can he have found out so soon?"

The step on the gravel came nearer, and Syd knew that it must have
passed right under the tree where Pan was hiding.

"Could father have gone down there so quickly?" thought the boy.

Then all doubt was at an end, for he whose steps were heard stopped
close at hand, muttering aloud--

"Swears he ketched sight on him in the road to-night, so he must have
come home.  If I on'y do get howd on him by the scruff of his precious
neck, I'll teach him to run away."

A cold chill ran through Sydney, and he shivered.  Suppose his father
knew that he was going to do this mean, contemptible thing--run away and
degrade himself--what would he say? and how would he act?  Like Barnaby
spoke, his old boatswain and gardener?

Syd shivered again.  He was not afraid of the pain, but he shrank from
the idea of the degradation.  He fancied himself held by the collar and
a stick raised to punish him.  It was horrible.

"If I don't loosen his hide my name arn't what it is," growled the old
boatswain; and he moved on, going close by Sydney, who stood listening
with heavily beating heart till Barney had gone right up to the back of
the house.

Then only did Sydney run on till he was beneath the tree, and called
Pan.

"You there?"

"Yes, Master Syd."

"Did you hear who that was down the garden?"

"Father."

"Did you hear what he said?"

There was a low laugh up in the tree.

"Yes, I heared; but he has got to ketch me first.  Ready?"

"Yes, I'm ready, Pan."

"Get up here then."

"Why?"

"You can get out along one of these big branches, and drop out into the
road."

"No, no, come down, and let's go by the gate."

"And come upon my father waiting with a rope's-end?  Why, when he's wild
he lets out anyhow, and in the dark you'd get it as much as me.  This
way."

Syd listened, and heard the boy creep actively along the bough and drop
down on the other side of the fence.

"Catch," he whispered.  "Ready?"

"Yes."

He threw over his bundle, and then swung himself up into the tree, got
astride the big bough, and was working himself along, when a sound close
at hand made him stop short to listen.

It was intensely dark where he sat beneath the thickly-leaved tree, and
all was quite still.  But he felt sure that he had heard some one
approaching, and just as he had made up his mind to get further along,
Pan's voice reached him from the other side of the paling--

"Come on."

Hoping that he might have been mistaken, Syd changed his position, so
that he hung over the bough, and had just begun to edge along, when
there was a quick rustling behind him, and the breaking down of shrubs,
as if a man was forcing himself through, and the next minute he felt one
of his legs seized.

"My father!" thought Syd, and a cold chill of dread, shame, and misery
ran through him as he lay across the bough, silent and motionless, but
clinging to it with all his might.

"Got ye, have I, Pan-y-mar?" growled a husky voice.  "Now then, let go,
and come and take it in your room, or I'll lay on here."

The first sound of that voice sent a warm glow through Syd, and thawed
his frozen faculties.

Exulting in the idea that it was only the old boatswain, he drew himself
all together as he held on with his arms to the bough, and then he
kicked out with all his might; the attack being so unexpected, that as
Barney received both feet in his chest, he loosened his hold, grasped
wildly at the air to save himself, and then came down in a sitting
position with sufficient force to evoke a groan; while by the time he
had recovered himself sufficiently to rise and get to the fence, he
could hear the rapid beat of steps in the distance.

"Why, there must be some one with him," growled Barney.  "All right, my
boy, on'y wait a bit.  You'll come crawling round the cottage 'fore
you're many hours older, and I'll lay that there rope's-end in the tub.
It'll make it lie closer and heavier round your back.  Oh!"

He had taken a step to go back out of the shrubbery to the path, when an
acute pain ran up his spine, and made him limp along to the gardener's
cottage at the bottom of the grounds, grumbling to himself, and
realising that men of sixty can't fall so lightly as those who are forty
years younger.

"But never mind, I'll make him pay for the lot.  He shan't play tricks
with me.  Lor', I wish I was going to sea again, and had that boy under
me; I'd make him--Oh, murder! he's a'most broke my back."



CHAPTER FIVE.

As Syd kicked himself free of Barney's grasp he heard the heavy fall,
but he stopped for no more.  A couple of vigorous sidewise movements
took him clear of the fence, a couple more beyond the ditch, and before
Barney had begun to think of getting up Syd had whispered to his
companion the magic words--

"Your father!"

The next minute, hand in hand, and keeping step, the two boys were
running hard along the road leading away into the country, thinking of
only one thing, and that--how great a distance they could put between
them and the Heronry.

Fear lent them wings, for in imagination they saw the old boatswain
running off to the house, spreading the alarm, and Captain Belton
ordering the servants out in pursuit, determined to hunt them down and
bring them back to punishment.

Their swift run, in spite of their will, soon settled down into a steady
trot, and at the end of a couple of miles this had become a sharp walk.
Every hair was wet with perspiration, and as they stopped from time to
time to listen, their hearts beat heavily, and their breath came in a
laboured way.

"Hear anything?" said Sydney at last.

"No; they've given it up," replied Pan.  "Father can't run far now."

"Think they'll get out the horses, Pan?"

"Dunno.  If they do we shall hear 'em plain enough, and we can take to
the woods.  They'll never ketch us now.  Arn't you glad you've come?"

Sydney did not answer, for if he had replied he would have told the
truth, and he did not wish to tell the truth then, because it would have
been humiliating.

For there they were tramping along the dark road going west, with the
stars shining down brightly, and, save the distant barking of a dog, all
most mournfully still.

Pan made another attempt at conversation.

"Won't my father be wild because he arn't got me to hit?"

Syd was too deep in his own thoughts to reply, for he was picturing the
library at the Heronry, and his father and uncle talking together after
returning from a vain pursuit.  He could picture their florid faces and
shining silvery hair by the light of the wax candles.  He even seemed to
see how many broad wrinkles there were in his father's forehead as he
stood frowning; and then something seemed to be asking the boy what he
was doing there.

"Getting tired, Master Syd?" said Pan, after a long pause, filled by the
_beat beat_ of their footsteps.

But still there was no answer.  The latter question took too much study,
and suggested other questions in its unanswerable-ness.

Where was he going? and why was he going? and why had he chosen this
road, which led toward the great forest with its endless trees and bogs?

Sydney could not answer these questions, and by way of relieving the
buzzing worry in his own brain, he turned to Pan and became a
questioner.

"Where are we going to sleep to-night?"

"Eh?"

"Where are we going to sleep to-night?"

Pan took off his hat and scratched his head.

"I never thought of that," he said.

"We can't go on walking all night."

"Can't we?"

"Of course we can't.  We shall have to knock at some cottage, and ask
them to give us a bed."

"But they won't," said Pan, sagely enough.  "'Tarn't likely at this time
o' night; I wish we could find a haystack."

Pan's wish did not obtain fulfilment, and the two lads tramped on along
the lonely road for quite a couple of hours longer, when hunger began to
combine with weariness; and these two at last made themselves so plainly
heard, that Sydney came to a full stop.

"Yes?" said Pan.

"I did not speak, I was only thinking," said Sydney, drearily.

"What were you thinking, Master Syd?"

"That all this is very stupid, and that we should be ever so much more
comfortable in bed."

Pan sighed.

"Oh, I dunno," he said.  "I shouldn't, on'y my legs ache ever so."

"We ought to have brought a lot of cold meat and bread with us, Pan."

"Ah! wouldn't it be good now!"

"How long do you think it will be before morning, so that we can get to
a town, and buy some bread and milk?"

"I dunno, Master Syd.  It can't be late yet, and it's ever so far to a
town this way, 'cause it's all forest for miles and miles."

They were tramping on again now, but in a more irregular way.  There was
none of the vigorous pace for pace that had marked the beginning of
their flight, and as the road grew more rough their steps began to err,
and sometimes one, sometimes the other was a little in advance.

"Don't you wish you were back in your bed, Pan?" said Sydney at last.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because father would be standing there with the rope's-end."

This was so much to the point that Sydney did not try to pursue that
vein of conversation, and they again travelled on in silence till Pan
spoke--

"Wish you were back in your bed, Master Syd?"

"No," said the latter sharply.

"Course you don't; 'cause your uncle would be one side o' the bed and
the captain the other, and that would be worse than being here, wouldn't
it?"

No answer.

"You'd ketch it, wouldn't you, Master Syd?"

Still no answer; and Pan plodded on in silence, wondering whether his
young master would always be so quiet and strange.

"What's that?" said Sydney suddenly.

"Rabbud."

The two lads stood listening to the rapid run of feet through the
rustling fern, and then tramped on again through the darkness.

Sydney was having a hard fight the greater part of the time with his
thoughts, and try how he would, they seemed to be too much for him.  In
fact, so great a hold did they get at last, that somewhere about three
o'clock he stopped short; but Pan went on with his head down till his
name was sharply pronounced, when he stopped short with a start.

"Why, I believe you were asleep."

"Was I, Master Syd?" said the boy, blankly looking about him.  "I s'pose
'twas because I thought father was making me walk round and round the
garden all night for not cleaning the boots."

"Turn round--this way."

"Yes, Master Syd.  Where are we going now?"

"Back again."

"Back--again?"

"Yes, to the Heronry."

"What for, sir?"

"Because I've been an idiot."

"But if we go back we shall be punished, Master Syd."

"Of course we shall.  But if we go on we shall be punishing ourselves.
Oh," cried Sydney, in a voice full of rage against himself, "how could I
have been such a donkey!"

"It warn't my fault," said Pan, dolefully.  "Father was after me with
the rope's-end.  I was obliged to go.  Let's try another way, Master
Syd."

"There is no other way," cried the boy passionately.  "There's only one
way for us to go, and that's straight back home."

"Oh, there's lots of other ways, Master Syd."

"No, there are not.  There's only one that we can tread."

"Which way's that, sir?"

"I told you--home."

"But I dursen't go back, Master Syd; I dursen't, indeed."

"Yes, you dare; and you shall too."

"Well, not till it's light, Master Syd.  It do hurt so in the dark, and
you have no chance."

But Syd did not answer, only gave an involuntary shiver, and walked
slowly back over the ground they had covered during the night.



CHAPTER SIX.

A long tramp in silence; but they did not get over the ground very
rapidly, for Pan's pace grew slower and slower, and when urged by Sydney
to keep up he made no reply.

"Come along," said Syd at last; "do try and make haste."

"I arn't in a hurry," came in a surly growl.

"But I am.  I want to get back before it's light; we don't want to be
seen."

"Don't matter whether we're seen or whether we arn't; they'll be
awaitin' for us."

"Can't help it, Pan," said Syd with a sigh; "we've got to go through
it."

"I hope, Master Syd, you won't get no rope's-end."

"I'd take yours for you if I could, Pan."

"Ah, you say so," sneered the lad, as he dragged one foot after the
other, "but you know you can't."

"I know I would," cried Syd, hotly.  "But it's of no use to talk.  We've
got to go through it like men would."

"Men don't have no rope's-ending," grumbled Pan.

They went on back for another half-mile, with the stars shining
brightly, and seeming to wink derisively at them; and just as Sydney had
fancied this, as he gazed up at the broad band of glittering light seen
through the dense growth of trees which shut them in on either side, a
loud, ringing, mocking laugh smote their ears, that sounded so strange
and jeering, that the boys stopped short.

"What's that?" whispered Syd.

"Only a howl.  Why, you've heard 'em lots of times."

"But it never sounded like that before."

"You never heard it out in the woods before.  There she goes again."

The shout rang out again, but more distant.  "Hoi, hoi, hoi, hoi!"
sounding now more like a hail.

"Oh, yes, it is an owl," said Sydney, breathing more freely.  "Come
along."

Pan did not move, but stood with his hands in his pockets, and his
shoulders up to his ears.

"Do you hear?  Come along, and let's get it over."

No answer--no movement.

"Don't be stupid, Pan.  I know you're tired, but you are no more tired
than I am."

"Yes, I am--ever so much."

"You're not.  You're pretending, because you don't want to come back.
Now then, no nonsense."

Pan stood like a stork, with his chin down upon his chest.

"Will--you--come--on?"

It was very dark, but Sydney could just make out that the boy shook his
head.

"Then it isn't because you are so tired.  It's obstinacy."

No response.

"I declare you're as obstinate as an old donkey; and if you don't come
on I'll serve you the same."

Pan did not stir.

"Do you want me to cut a stick, and make you come, Pan?"

Still no reply; and weary, hungry, and disgusted with himself as well as
his companion, Sydney felt in that state of irritable rawness which can
best be described as having the skin off his temper.  He was just in the
humour to quarrel; and now, stirred beyond bearing by his companion's
obstinacy, Syd flew at him, grasped his arm, gave it a tug which
snatched it from the pocket, and roared out--

"Come on!"

Then he retreated a step, for, to his intense surprise, there came from
the lad, who had always been obedient and respectful, a short, snappish
"Shan't!" which was more like the bark of a dog than the utterance of a
boy.

"What!" cried Sydney, as he recovered from his surprise, and felt the
blood flush in his face.

"Says I shan't.  I arn't coming home to be larruped."

"You are not coming home?"

"No, I arn't.  He's waitin' for me with a big rope's-end all soaked
hard, and I know what that means, so I shan't come."

Sydney drew a long breath as he reviewed their position, and told
himself that it was more his fault than that of the gardener's boy that
they were there.

"I know better than he does, and ought to have stopped him instead of
going with him, and he shall come back, because it's right."

"Now then, Pan," he said aloud, "I am going back home."

"All right, Master Syd, go home then; but I didn't think you was such a
coward."

"It isn't being a coward to go back, Pan; it's being a coward to run
away."

"No, it arn't."

"Yes, it is, so come along."

"I shan't."

"Yes, you will, sir; I order you to come home with me at once."

"Shan't come to be rope's-ended, I tell you.  I'm going away by myself
if you won't come."

"You are coming home with me, and we're going to ask them to forgive us
for being so stupid.  Now then; will you come?"

"No."

"Do you want me to make you?"

"I don't want no more to do with you; you're a coward."

Sydney made a dart to seize his arm, but Pan dodged, and there was no
sign of weariness now, for he bounded aside, and then set off running
fast in the opposite direction to that in which his companion wished him
to go.

Pan placed half a dozen good yards between them before Sydney recovered
from his surprise.  Then without hesitation the pursuit began, both lads
striving their utmost to escape and capture, and at the end of a couple
of hundred yards Syd had done so well that with a final bound he flung
himself upon his quarry, and grasped at his collar.

The result was not anticipated.  Sydney missed the collar, but the
impetus he gave to the boy he pursued was sufficient to send him
sprawling in the dirty road; and unable to check himself, Sydney came
down heavily on Pan's back.

"Now then, will you come home?" panted Sydney.

"Oh!  Ah!"

Two loud yells as Pan wrested himself over, strove to get up, was
resisted, and then for five minutes there was a fierce wrestling bout,
now down, now up, in which Sydney found himself getting the worst of it;
and feeling that in another minute Pan would get free and escape, he
changed his mode of attack, striking his adversary a heavy blow in the
face, with the natural result that the wrestling bout became a fight.

Here Sydney soon showed his superiority, easily avoiding Pan's ugly
rushes, and dealing such a shower of blows upon the lad's head that
before many minutes had elapsed Pan was seated in one of the wettest
parts of the road, whimpering and howling, while Sydney stood over him
with fists clenched.

"You're a coward, that's what you are," howled Pan.

"Get up then, and I'll show you I'm not.  Do you hear?"

"How-ow!"

"Don't howl like a dog.  Get up, sir, and take your beating like a man,"
said Syd.

"I didn't think it of you, Master Syd," whimpered Pan.

"Now will you get up and walk home?"

For answer the boy got up slowly and laboriously, went on a few yards in
front, and Sydney followed, feeling, as he thought, as if he was driving
a donkey home.

For about a mile Pan walked steadily on, with Sydney feeling better than
he had since he left home, although his knuckles were bruised, and there
was a dull aching sensation in one angle of his jaw.  He had gained two
victories, and in spite of his weariness something very near akin to
satisfaction began to warm his heart, till all at once the figure of Pan
began to be visible; and as at the end of another hundred yards or so
they came out upon a patch of open forest land, the figure was much
plainer.  So was his own, as he looked down and saw in dismay that it
would soon be broad daylight, that they were some miles from the
Heronry, and that Pan was covered with mud, his face smeared with ruddy
stains, and that he, Sydney Belton, known as "the young gentleman up at
the house," was in very little better trim.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

The day grew brighter; tiny flecks of orange and gold began to appear
high up, then there was a warm glow in the east, with the birds chirping
merrily in the woodlands, and then day began.

But as the morning brightened Syd's spirits grew cloudy, and as they
reached another patch of wood through which ran a little stream, he
stopped short, looking anxiously along the road in both directions.

"We can't go home like this, Pan," he said.  "It would be horrid."

"Well, I don't want to go home, do I?" grumbled the boy, in an ill-used
tone.

"We shall have to hide here in the wood till night, and we can dry and
clean our muddy clothes and have a good wash before then."

"And what are we to get to eat?"

"Blackberries, and sloes, and nuts."

"Oh yes, and pretty stuff they are.  One apple off the big old tree's
worth all the lot here."

"Can't help it, Pan.  We must do the best we can."

"Don't let's go back, Master Syd.  You can't tell how rope's-end hurts.
Alter your mind, and let's go and seek our fortunes somewhere."

"This way," said Syd, by way of answer; and pointing off the road, the
two lads plunged farther and farther into the wood, keeping close to the
little stream, which had cut its way deep down below the level; so that
it was some time before they came to an open sandy spot, where, with the
bright morning sun shining full upon them, they had a good refreshing
wash; and soon after, as they sat in a sunny nook where the sand was
deep and dry, first one and then the other nodded off to sleep.

It was late in the afternoon before Syd awoke, to look up anxiously
about before the full force of his position dawned upon him; and feeling
faint and more low-spirited than had ever been his lot before, he sat
there thinking about what he had to go through.

As near as he could judge they were about five miles from the Heronry,
and two hours before it grew dark would be ample time for their journey.

"I may as well let him sleep," said Syd.  "He'll only want to go away,
and we can't do that."

Then, in spite of his efforts to the contrary, his mind began to dwell
upon home and the various meals.  Just about dusk the dinner would be
ready, and his father and uncle sitting down, while he--

"Oh, I do feel so hungry!" he muttered.  "I'd give anything for some
bread and cheese."

He went to the side of the little stream, lay down, and placing his lips
to the clear cool water, drank heartily a draught that was refreshing,
but did not allay his hunger; and after sitting down and thinking for a
time, he put his hands in his pockets and felt his money.  But it was of
no use out there in the woods.

He sat thinking again, wishing now that they had gone on in spite of
their condition, for then the trouble would have been over, and he would
have had food, if it had only been bread and water.

"Oh dear!  I can't bear this any longer!" he said, suddenly jumping up.
"We must get something to eat if it's only nuts.  Here, Pan, Pan!"

He touched the boy with his foot, but it had no effect; and bending
down, he took one arm and shook it.

The effect was magical.  Pan sat up, fending his face with his arm, and
apostrophising some imaginary personage, as he fenced and complained.

"Oh, don't!  I'll never do so no more.  Oh, please!  Oh, I say!  It
hurts!--You, Master Syd?"

"Yes; who did you think it was?"

"My father with the rope's-end and--oh, I say, I am so stiff and sore,
and--have you got anything to eat?"

Sydney shook his head despondingly.

"I was waking you up to come and try and find some."

"There's lots o' rabbits about here," grumbled Pan, "if we could catch
some."

"Yes, and hares too, Pan, if we had a good gun.  Come along."

They rambled along by the stream, finding before long a blackthorn laden
with sloes, of which Pan ate two, and Sydney contented himself with half
of one.  Then they were voted a failure, and the blackberries growing in
a sunny, open spot were tried with no better result.

At the end of another quarter of an hour a clump of hazel stubs came in
view--fine old nut-bearers, with thickly mossed stumps, among which grew
clusters of light golden buff fungi looking like cups; but though these
were good for food, in the eyes of the boys they were simply toadstools,
and passed over for the sake of the fringed nuts which hung in twos and
threes, even here and there in fours and fives.

It did not take long to get a capful of these, and they soon sat down to
make their _al fresco_ meal.

Another disappointment!  The nuts, as they cracked them, were, with a
few exceptions, full of a blackish dust, and the exceptions contained in
addition a poor watery embryo of a nut that was not worth the cracking
to obtain.

They gave up the food hunt in despair, for there was no cultivated land
near, where a few turnips might have been obtained; and wandering slowly
back they at last reached the road.

The search had not been, though, without result--it had taken time; and
when they reached the solitary road the sun was so near setting, that
after a final protest from Pan, Syd started at once for home and the
scenes they had to face.

The route they had chosen for their flight was the most solitary leading
from Southbayton.  It was but little used, leading as it did right out
into the forest, and in consequence they had it almost to themselves
while the light lasted, and after dark they did not pass a soul as they
made their way to the Heronry, under whose palings they stood at last to
debate in whispers on the next step.

Pan was for flight after they had been on into the town and bought some
bread and cheese; but the position in which they were brought out
Sydney's best qualities.

"No," he said, "we've done wrong, and I'll face it out."

"But I won't--I can't," whimpered Pan.  "How do I know as father isn't
waiting just inside the gate with that there bit of rope?"

"You must, and you shall come back, Pan," said Sydney, decisively.
"It's of no use to kick against it.  Am I to hit you again?"

"I d' know," whimpered Pan.  "I'm the most miserable chap as ever was.
Every one's agen me.  Even you knocks me about, and I didn't think it of
you, Master Syd--I didn't; I thought you would be my friend."

"So I am, Pan, only you don't know it.  Come now, get up.  Go in with
me, and let's walk straight in to the dining-room, and ask father to
forgive us."

"I would ha' done it at first," whimpered Pan, "but I can't now."

"Why?"

"'Cause I'm so 'orrid hungry."

"Well, so am I.  Father will give us plenty to eat as soon as he knows.
Come along; it's only a scolding."

"No, Master Syd, I dursen't.  You go and ask him to forgive you, and to
order father not to hit me.  P'r'aps I might be able to come then."

"You are the most horrid coward I ever knew," cried Sydney, impatiently.
"Do you think I don't feel how terrible it is to go and tell father
I've done wrong?  I'd give anything to be able to run right away."

"Come along, can't yer, Master Syd.  Never mind being hungry; come on."

"No, Pan, I can't.  Now then, don't try to sneak out of it.  Come and
face them, like a man."

"But I arn't a man, Master Syd, and I can't stir now.  Oh dear! oh dear!
what will father say?"

"That I've got you at last," roared a gruff voice.  "Hi!  I've got 'em--
here they are!"



CHAPTER EIGHT.

Barney, the old gardener, had been round the garden that evening, and
had paused thoughtfully close to the tree where he had had his adventure
the night before; and as he went over the various phases of his little
struggle and his fall, thinking out how he would have proceeded had he
got hold of that boy again, he fancied he heard whispering.

The fancy became certainty, and creeping inch by inch closer to the
palings, without making a rustle among the shrubs, he soon made himself
certain of who was on the other side.

Barney's face did not beam.  It never had done so, but it brightened
with a grin as he slowly and cautiously backed out of the shrubs on to
the path, stepped across on to the grassy verge, and set off at a trot
in true sailor fashion up the garden toward the house to give the alarm.

"Nay, I won't," he said, as he neared the door.  "They two may have cut
and run again before I get them two old orsifers round outside.  Sure to
have gone, for the skipper goes along like a horse, while the admiral's
more like a helephant on his pins.  Scare any two boys away, let alone
them.  Lor', if I had on'y brought that there bit o' rope!"

But Barney had left it in his cottage; and as he reached the gate he
stood to consider.

"Now if I goes down here from the gate, they'll hear me, and be scared
away.  I know--t'otherwise."

Chuckling to himself, he circumnavigated, as he would have called it,
the park-like grounds of the Heronry, a task which necessitated the
climbing of two high fences and the forcing a way through a dense
quickset hedge.

But these obstacles did not check the old sailor, who cleared the
palings, reached the road at the other side, panting, stopped to get his
breath, and then crept along through the darkness on the tips of his
toes, treating the tall palings as if they were the bulwarks of a ship,
and by degrees edged himself up nearer and nearer till he was able to
pounce upon the fugitives in triumph.

Pan uttered a howl, dropped down, and lay quite still; but as the
ex-boatswain grappled Sydney by the coat, the lad wrenched himself free
and kept his captor at bay.

"No, no," cried Barney; "you don't get away.  Hoi! help!"

"Hold your noise, you old stupid," cried Sydney.  "Who wants to get
away?  Keep your hands off."

"Nay, I won't.  I've got you, and I'll keep you."

"I tell you I was going home, only Pan wouldn't stir."

"Wouldn't stir, wouldn't he?  We'll see 'bout that.  Now it's of no use,
Master Syd.  You're my prisoner, so give in and cry quarter."

"I tell you I have given in; and once more, Barney, I warn you, I'm in
such a temper I shall hit you."

"Yah! hit away, Midget, who's afeard!  Do you s'render?"

"Yes, yes."

"Then you're my prisoner."

"Nonsense!  Make Pan come."

"Make him come?  Yes, I just will, my lad.  But, I say, to think o' you
two cutting yourselves adrift, and going off like that!"

"Don't talk so, but bring Pan along.  You needn't be afraid, I shall not
try to go."

"Par--role, lad?"

"Yes, parole," said Sydney.

"Ah, well, you are a gent, and I can trust you," said Barney.  "Now
then," he added, as he stirred up his son with the toe of his natty
evening shoe; "get up."

"No, no, no," whined Pan.

"If you don't get up I'll kick you over the palings.  Get up, you ugly
young lubber, or I'll--"

"Oh!"  Pan winced, and rose to his knees, eagerly scanning his father's
hands in the gloom to see if the rope's-end was visible.

"And, look here, Barney," said Sydney, quietly, "you are not to hit
Pan."

"Not what, my lad?"

"You are not to rope's-end him."

"Who says so?"

"I do."

"Oh, you do, do you?  Well, look here, my lad, he's hurt my feelings so
that I'm going to lock myself up with him in his bedroom, and then I'm
going to skin him."

"Oh, oh!" cried Pan.

"You are not going to touch him, but to bring him before my father."

"'Fore the skipper?" said Barney, in a puzzled voice.  "Well, yes, my
lad, he's in full command.  There is something in that."

"But you shouted, and said some one was coming.  Who is it?"

"Oh, that was only a manoofer, Master Syd, just to scare you into
s'rending."

"Then there is no one coming?"

"It's par--role, mind."

"Yes, parole, of course."

"And you won't try to cut and run again?"

"No--no!" cried Sydney, impatiently.

"No one.  Now then you, Pan, my man, hyste yerself on them two legs o'
yourn.  On'y you wait till I'm a-handlin' that there bit o' rope."

"You touch him if you dare!" cried Sydney.  "My father will punish him."

"Oh, Master Syd!" cried Pan.

"Hold your row, will you, you lubber," growled Barney, seizing his son
by the collar, setting him on his legs, and giving him a good shake at
the same time.

Pan uttered a low moan, and shuffling his feet along the gravel, allowed
himself to be led towards the gate.

Sydney shivered as he felt that he was approaching sentence.

"Is my father in the dining-room?"

"Yes, Master Sydney.--Here you, lift up them pretty hoofs o' yours, will
yer!"

"Is my uncle with him?"

"Yes, Master Syd."

"Have they been trying to find us?"

"No, Master Syd.  The skipper said as if you was such a young cur as to
go and disgrace yourself like that 'ere by running away and desarting
the King's colours, he wouldn't stir a step arter yer."

"Oh!" groaned Sydney to himself.  Then in a whisper, "What did my uncle
say?"

"Said Amen to it, and that he'd been fool enough to give you the money
to go with."

"No, no, Barney, I didn't take his money."

"Ah, well, I don't know nothing 'bout that.  But here's the gate.  On
you go first."

"No; go on first with Pan."

"And let you shoot off."

"Am I not on parole?"

"Ay, ay.  Forgetted that.  Now then, you swab; on with you."

As Barney led the way towards the front door, Sydney noticed that there
was a light in the dining-room, whose windows were open, the weather
being still warm and fine.

"Stop, Barney," he said, after a sudden thought, "we'll go in there
through the window."

"Nay, my lad, nay," said the boatswain; "it'll look as if I was spellin'
arter a glass o' wine."

"Never mind.  I'll go first, and you bring in Pan afterwards."

"Oh, Master Syd, don't."

"Yah! you swab, be quiet!" said Barney, giving his unfortunate son
another shake.  "Wait till the admiral's pronounced court-martial on
you; and then--"

He did not finish, but followed close behind Sydney, who drew a long
breath, walked boldly up to the open French window, looked in a moment
on where the two fine old veterans were sitting talking sadly together,
and then stepped in.

"What!" roared the admiral, rising from his chair, and oversetting his
glass of port.

"You here, sir!" cried Captain Belton.  "Why have you come back?"

"Because I've been thinking all night, father," said Syd, quietly, "and
I've found out I was a fool."



CHAPTER NINE.

There was a dead silence in the dining-room at the Heronry for some
time, during which Syd stood with his head erect gazing at his father,
who was erect by the table as he might have stood in old times upon his
quarter-deck with some mutineer before him; the admiral dropped back
into his arm-chair, stared from one to the other as if astounded by his
nephew's declaration, while the light shone full upon Syd, who looked
pale, shabby, and dirty, but with a frank daring in his face which kept
the two old men silent.

In the background close to the window stood Barney, with all his old
training manifest in his attitude--that of a petty officer in charge of
a prisoner; for that was the character which his son occupied just then
in his eyes.  His gardening was, for the time being, forgotten, and he
felt that he was in the presence of his commanding officer, not of the
master whom he served.

The painful silence was broken by Pan, to whom all this was
awe-inspiring.  For the moment he forgot all about ropes'-ends, and
worked himself up into the belief that he would be sentenced to some
terrible punishment.  He fidgeted about, breathed hard, looked
appealingly from the captain to the admiral and back again, and at last,
unable to contain himself longer, he burst forth into a long and piteous
howl, dropping down upon his knees, and from that attitude would have
thrown himself prone, had not Barney tightened his hold upon his collar
and shaken him up into a kneeling position again.

"Stow that!" he growled, as the admiral seized the port wine decanter as
if to throw at the boy, but altered his mind and poured himself out a
glass instead.

Then the terrible silence began again, and lasted till the captain
turned to his brother.  But he did not speak, and after a few moments
longer Sir Thomas exclaimed--

"You young dog! spent all the money you got out of me, and now you've
sneaked back."

"I haven't, uncle," cried Syd, indignantly.  "I didn't take it.  It's on
the table in my room."

This seemed to unlock Captain Belton's lips.

"Well, sir, now you have come back, what do you want?" he said.

"I've told you, father.  I've been wrong, and want you to forgive me."

"No, sir: you deserted; and now you come crawling back and want to go on
as before.  Can't trust you again.  Go and be a doctor."

"Will you hold up!" growled Barney, fiercely, as he shook his son, who
seemed to want to burrow down out of sight through the carpet.

"Oh, father!" began Syd.  But he was stopped by his uncle.

"Hold your tongue, sir!  Court hasn't called upon you for your defence.
Look here, Harry, put the prisoners back while we talk it over."

"Yes," said the captain, coldly, "you can go to your room, sir, and wait
till your uncle and I have decided what steps we shall take."

"Yes, sir, confound you! and go and wash your dirty face," said Sir
Thomas, fiercely; "you look a disgrace to your name."

"As for your boy, Strake, take him and punish him well."

"Ay, ay, sir!" growled Barney, with alacrity; but his voice was almost
drowned by a howl of misery from Pan--a cry that was checked by his
father's fierce grip.

"Like me to do down Master Syd same time, sir?" whispered the
ex-boatswain.

"No, father, don't let him be punished," said Sydney, quickly.  "I made
him come back."

"Yes, sir, he did, he did," cried Pan, eagerly.  "You did; didn't you,
Master Syd?"

"And I promised him he should not be punished."

"Yes, sir, he did, or else I wouldn't have come back."

"What!" roared the admiral, in a tone which made Pan shrink into
himself.  "And look here, sir," he continued, turning to his nephew,
"who made you first in command with your promises?"

"Don't let him be flogged, father," pleaded Syd.  "I'm to blame about
him.  I did promise him that if he would come back he should not be
punished."

"Take your boy home, Strake, and bring him here to-morrow morning," said
the captain, sternly.  "He is not to be flogged till he has made his
defence."

"Ay, ay, sir!" growled the old boatswain; and pulling an imaginary
forelock, he hauled Pan out of the room, their passage down the path
towards the gardener's cottage being accompanied by a deep growling
noise which gradually died away.

"Well, sir," said the captain, coldly, "you heard what I said."

Syd looked from one to the other appealingly, feeling that as he had
humbly confessed he was in the wrong, he ought to be treated with more
leniency, but his uncle averted his gaze, and his father merely pointed
to the door, through which, faint, weary, and despondent, the boy went
out into the hall, while the two old men seemed to be listening till he
had gone up-stairs.

"A miserable, mean-spirited young scoundrel!" said Captain Belton,
angrily, but his face grew less stern directly, as he saw his brother
throw himself back in his chair, to laugh silently till he was nearly
purple.

"Oh, dear me!" he panted at last, "nearly given me a fit.  What a dirty,
miserable object he looked!"

"Disgraceful, Tom!" said the captain.  "Now, then, what would you do
with the young dog?  Send him off to some school for a couple of years?"

"No," said the admiral, quietly.

"I don't like thrashing the boy."

"Of course not, Harry."

"But I must punish him."

"What for?"

"What for?  Disobedience.  This mad escapade--"

"Bah!"

"Tom?"

"I said _Bah_!  Punish him?  Why, look at the boy.  Hasn't he punished
himself enough?  Why, Harry, we were boys once, and precious far from
perfect, eh?  I say, I don't think either of us would have had the
courage to have faced our old dad and confessed like that."

"Humph! perhaps not, Tom."

"No perhaps about it, dear old boy."

"But I must punish him."

"No, you mustn't.  I won't have him punished.  I like the young dog's
spirit.  We said he should go to sea.  He said he didn't want to go, and
sooner than do what he didn't like he cut and run, till he found out he
was making a fool of himself, and when he did find it out he came and
said so like a man."

"Well, yes," said the captain, "he did confess, but this must not be
passed over lightly."

"Bah!  Tchah!  Pah! let it be.  You see if he don't come the humble
to-morrow morning, and want us to let him go to sea."

"Think so?"

"Sure of it, my dear boy.  I'm not angry with him a bit.  He showed that
he had some spirit in running away."

"And that he was a cur in sneaking back."

"Steady there," cried the admiral, "nothing of the kind.  I say it took
more pluck to come back and face us, and own he was in the wrong, than
to run away."

The captain sat slowly sipping his port, and the subject was discussed
no more.

Then at last bedtime came.

Syd was seated in his room alone.  He had washed and changed his
clothes, expecting moment by moment to be summoned to hear his fate, but
the hours had passed, and he was sick and faint with hunger and
exhaustion.

As he sat there he heard the various familiar noises in the house, each
of which told him what was going on.  He recognised the jingling of
glasses on a wooden tray, which he knew meant the butler clearing the
dining-room.  He heard the closing of the library door.  Then there was
a long silence, followed by the rattling of shutters, the shooting of
bolts, the noise made by bars, and after another lapse, the murmur of
deep voices in the hall, the clink of silver candlesticks on the marble
slab, and a deep cough.

"They're gone up to bed," said Sydney to himself, and wearily thinking
that he would not be spoken to, and that he had better patiently try to
forget his hunger in sleep, so as to be ready for the painful interview
of the morning, he rose to undress.

But he did not begin.  He stood thinking about the events of the past
twenty-four hours, and like many another, felt that he would have given
anything to recall the past.

For he was very miserable, and his misery found vent once more as he was
asking himself what would be his fate in the world.

"Yes, I've behaved like a wretched, thoughtless fool."

"Pst!  Syd!"

He started and looked round, to see that the door had been slightly
opened, and that his uncle's great red face was thrust into the room.

"Yes, sir," he faltered--he dared not say, "Yes, uncle."

"Had anything to eat?" whispered the old admiral.

"No, sir."

The door closed, and the boy's spirits rose a little, for with all his
fierceness it was evident that the old admiral was kindly disposed.  But
his spirits went down again.  Uncle Tom was only a visitor, and his
father was horribly stern and harsh.  His voice had thrilled the boy,
who again and again had wondered what was to be his fate.

"I'll tell uncle how sorry I am, and ask him to side with me," thought
Sydney; and he had just made up his mind to speak to him if he came
again, and surely he would after coming to ask him about the food, when
the door-handle rattled slightly, and the boy involuntarily turned to
meet his uncle just as the door was pressed open a little, and he found
himself face to face with his father, who remained perfectly silent for
a few moments as Syd shrank away.

"Hungry, my lad?" he said at last.

"Yes, father--very."

"Hah!"

The door closed, and the prisoner was left once more to his own
thoughts.



CHAPTER TEN.

"I can't bully him to-night--a young dog!" said the captain.  "He must
be half-starved.  I wonder whether Broughton has gone to bed."

He went down slowly to the library without a light, meaning to summon
the butler and make him prepare a tray.

But meanwhile Admiral Belton had provided himself with a chamber
candlestick and stolen softly down-stairs, through the baize door at one
side of the hall, and along the passage that led to the kitchen.

"Can't leave the poor lad to starve," he muttered; "and I dare say I
shall find out the larder by the smell."

He chuckled to himself as he softly unfastened a door.

"Nice game this for one of his Majesty's old officers of the fleet," he
said.  "Wonder what they'd say at the club if they saw me?"

The door passed, he had no difficulty in finding the kitchen, for there
was a pleasant chirping of crickets to greet his ear; a kitcheny smell
that was oniony and unmistakable, and a few paces farther on his feet
were on stones that were sanded, and all at once there was a loud pop
where he put down his foot.

He lowered the light and saw that black beetles were scouring away in
all directions.

"Cockroaches, by George!" he muttered.  "Now where can the larder be?"

There were three doors about, and he went to the first.

"Hah!" he ejaculated, with a sniff.  "Here we are; no doubt about it."

He slipped a bolt, lifted a latch, stepped in and stepped out again
quickly, then closed the door.

"Scullery!" he snarled.  "Bah! what an idiot I do seem, prowling about
here."

He crossed the kitchen, slaying two more black beetles with his broad
feet in transit, and opened another door.  This he found led into a cool
passage, along one side of which was a wirework kind of cage.

"Here we are at last," he said; and opening the door, he found himself
in presence of part of a cold leg of mutton, a well-carved piece of
beef, and a cold roast pheasant.

"Now then for a plate," he muttered; and this he secured by sliding some
tartlets off one on to the shelf.

"Why, I've no knife," he muttered, as he cast his eyes upon the cold
roast pheasant.  "I must have some bread too."

A huge brown pan on the stone floor suggested the home of the loaves,
and on raising the lid he found a half loaf, which he broke in two,
secured one piece, and transferred it to the plate.

"Hang it all, where is there a knife?" he muttered.  "One can't cut beef
or mutton without a knife.  'Tisn't even as if one had got one's sword.
Here--I know."

He seized the pheasant.

"Humph! too much for a boy.  Don't know, though; dare say he could
finish it.  Wouldn't do him good.  I'll--that's it."

He took hold of one leg, and holding the bird down, pulled off one of
its joints; then another; after which he placed the pair of legs
thoughtfully on the plate.

"May as well give him a wing too," he said; and seizing the one having
the liver, he was in the act of tearing it off, when an exclamation
behind made him start round and face the captain.

"My dear Tom!" exclaimed the latter.  "Why, my dear boy, didn't you
speak, and so have ordered a supper-tray?"

"But you seem to be hungry too," growled the admiral, pointing with the
wing he had now torn-off at a plate and knife and fork his brother
carried.

"Eh? yes," said the captain, starting and looking conscious.  "I--er--
that is--"

"Why, Harry!" exclaimed Sir Thomas.

"Tom!" cried the captain.  "You don't mean that you have come down to--"

"Yes, I do," cried the admiral, fiercely.  "Think I was going to bed
after a good dinner to shut my eyes whilst that poor boy was
half-starved?"

"But it is a punishment for him," said the captain, sternly.

"Punishment be hanged, sir!" cried Sir Thomas.  "Harry, you are my
brother, and I am only a guest here, but you are a humbug, sir."

"What do you mean?"

"Mean that you've been bouncing about being strict, and the rest of it,
and yet you brought that plate and knife to cut your boy some supper."

"Well, er--I'm afraid I did, Tom."

"I'm not afraid, but I'm very glad you're not such a hard-hearted
scoundrel.  Poor boy! he must be famished.  Here, give me that knife."

The captain handed the knife, but in doing so brushed his sleeve over
the flame of the candle he carried, and extinguished it.

"How provoking!"

"Never mind," said his brother; "one must do."

As he spoke, the admiral hacked a great piece off the breast of the
pheasant, and added it to the legs and wing.

"There," he said, "that ought to keep him going till breakfast.  Must
have a bit o' salt, Harry.  Hush!"

He stooped down and blew out the remaining candle, as the captain caught
his arm, and they stood listening.

For the creaking of a door had fallen upon their ears; and partly from
involuntary action consequent upon the dread of being caught in so
unusual a position, partly from the second thought to which he
afterwards gave vent, the admiral sought refuge in the dark.

"Burglars, Harry," he whispered.  "They're after your plate."

"Hist! don't speak; we may catch them," was whispered back, and the two
old officers stood listening for what seemed an interminable length of
time before they saw the dim reflection of a light; heard more
whispering, and then the door leading into the larder passage was softly
opened.

"Coming into the trap," thought the captain, as with his heart beating
fast he prepared for the encounter which he foresaw must take place.
"Be ready," he said, with his lips to his brother's ear.

"Right.  They're going to board," was whispered back.

They were not long kept in doubt, for the larder door was suddenly
thrown open, and three men dashed in armed with bludgeons and a cutlass.
There was a sharp scuffle in the darkness, in which the two brave old
officers made desperate efforts to master their assailants, but only to
find that their years were against them, and they were completely
overcome.

"You lubbers!  Do you give in?" cried a hoarse voice--that of the man
sitting on the captain's chest, while two men were holding down the
admiral, who still heaved and strove to get free.

"Strake, you scoundrel! is it you?" panted the captain.

Barney executed a curious manoeuvre, half bound, half roll, off his
master, and brought up close to one of the larder shelves, while one of
the other men left the admiral and ran out, to return with a light.

The scene was strange.  Barney was standing supporting himself against
the larder shelf, with his elbow on the cold sirloin of beef; the
footman, in his shirt and breeches, was in a corner; and Captain Belton
and his brother, with their clothes half torn-off their backs, were
seated on the bare floor, staring angrily at their assailants; while
Broughton, the butler, was in the doorway, with the candle he had
fetched held high above his head.

"My last tooth gone," roared the admiral.  "You scoundrels, you shall
pay for this."

"Strake, you rascal!" cried the captain.  "Broughton, is this some plot
to rob me?"

The men stared aghast, as the captain struggled up.

"Speak, you ruffians!  You, John!" roared the captain, as he got his
breath again, and stood trembling with passion as he glared at the
footman.

"Beg pardon, sir," stammered the frightened servitor.

"No, don't stop for that, sir," cried his master; "tell me what the
dickens this means."

"Please, sir, I heard noises down-stairs, and I thought it was after the
plate; so I told Broughton, sir, and he sent me after the gardener,
sir."

"And then you came and attacked us," roared the admiral.  "Here, I'm
half killed."

"We didn't know it was you, Sir Thomas," growled Barney.

"Then why didn't you know, you idiot?" cried the captain.

"Didn't think anybody could be down-stairs, sir," said the butler,
respectfully.

"Why didn't you show your colours, you scoundrel?" cried the admiral,
"and not come firing broadsides into your friends.  Confound--I say,
Harry, my lad, just look at me."

"I'm very sorry, sir," faltered the butler.

"Hang your sorrow, sir!  You've broke my watch-glass, and I can feel the
bits pricking me."

"Come to me at ten o'clock to-morrow morning, all of you," cried the
captain, fiercely, "and I'll pay you your wages, and you shall go."

"No, no, no," said the admiral; "I think we've given them as much as
they gave us, and--haw, haw, haw!" he roared, bursting into a tremendous
peal of laughter; "we didn't show our colours either.  It's all right,
brother Harry; they took us for burglars--but they needn't have hit
quite so hard."

"Beg your honour's pardon, sir, sure," growled Barney.

"Beg my pardon, sir!--after planting your ugly great knees on my chest,
and then sitting on me with your heavy carcase!"

"Is anything the matter?" said a voice at the door, and Sydney made his
appearance, looking startled at the scene.

"No, no, my boy," cried his uncle, cheerily; "only your father and I
came down to get you a bit of supper, and then they boarded us in the
dark."

"Yes, yes, that was it, Syd," said the captain.  "Here, put that plate
on a tray, Broughton, and take it into the library.  I'm very sorry this
has happened."

"All a mistake, sir, I'm sure," said the butler, taking the plate with
the hacked and torn-off portions of pheasant.

"Yes; don't say any more about it.  Come, brother Tom; come, Sydney."

He led the way, but the jolly old admiral could not follow for laughing.
He leaned up against the larder shelf, and stood wiping his eyes; and
every time he got over one paroxysm he began again.  But at last he
beckoned to Barney.

"Here, give me your arm, bo'sun," he said, "and help me into the
library; I feel as if everything were going by the board.  Oh, dear me!
oh, dear me!  Wait till I've buttoned this waistcoat.  Well, it's a
lesson.  Done for you, Syd, if you had been going to sea.  Never attack
without proper signals to know who are enemies and who are not."

The supper was soon spread in the library, and Sydney was ravenous for a
few mouthfuls, but after that he pushed his plate away, and could eat no
more.

"What!" cried his uncle; "done?  Nonsense!  I can peck a bit now myself;
and, Harry, my boy, I must have a glass of grog after this."

The result was that Syd did eat a decent supper, and an hour later, when
all was still, he sat thinking for a time about the coming morning.
Perhaps more than that of the fact that neither his father nor his uncle
had shaken hands when they parted for the night.

Then came sleep--sweet, restful sleep--and he was dreaming vividly for a
time of a desperate fight with the French, in which he boarded a larder,
and captured a butler, footman, and a gardener.  After that all was
dense, dreamless sleep, till he started up in bed, for there was a
knocking at his door.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

"May I come in, sir?"

"Yes; come in, Broughton," said Syd, recognising the voice, and the
butler entered with one hand bound up.

"That, sir?  Oh, nothing, sir.  Only got it in the scrimmage last night.
So glad to see you back again, Master Syd."

"Oh, don't talk about it, Broughton," groaned the boy.  "My father
down?"

"No, sir; but he's getting up, and your uncle too.  I was to come and
tell you to make haste."

"Yes, I'll make haste," said Syd; and as soon as he was alone he began
to dress hurriedly, with every thought of the blackest hue, and a
sensation of misery and depression assailing him that was horrible.

He quite started as he went to the glass to brush his hair, for his face
was white and drawn as if he had been ill.  But there was very little
more time for thought.  The breakfast-bell rang, and he hurried down
into the dining-room, glad to get off the staircase and through the
hall, where one of the housemaids was still busy, and ready to look at
him curiously as the boy who ran away from home--and came back.

Syd thought of that latter, for he knew but too well the servants might
think it was brave--almost heroic and daring--to run away; to come back
seemed very weak and small.

In those few moments Syd wished that ten years would glide away, and all
the trouble belong to the past.

His father was in a chair by the window ready to look up sharply, and
then let his eye fall upon the book he was reading without uttering a
word.

Broughton came in bearing a tray with the coffee and a covered dish or
two ready to place upon the table, then he left, and Syd was alone again
with his father.

"What will he say?" thought the culprit; but he could not decide in
which form his verbal castigation would come.

As he sat glancing at his father from time to time, Syd noted that there
was a scratch upon his forehead, and that a bit of sticking-plaster was
on one of his knuckles, proofs these of the severity of the past night's
struggle.

Then came a weary waiting interval before there was a deep-toned cough
outside the door.

"Hah!" ejaculated the captain, rising from his seat as the door opened,
and the old admiral stumped into the room.

"Morning, Harry," he said; "morning, Syd."

He closed the door behind him and came forward, and then, odd as it may
sound in connection with one who was weak, unwell, and suffering from so
much mental trouble, Sydney burst into a hearty fit of laughter.  He
tried to check it; he knew that under the circumstances it was in the
worst of taste; he felt that he would excite his father's anger, and
that then he would be furious; but he laughed all the same, and the more
he tried the more violent and lasting the fits grew.

"Sydney!" cried his father, and then there was a pause followed by a
hearty "Ha, ha, ha!" as the captain joined in, and the admiral gently
patted his own face first on one side and then on the other.

"Yes," he said, quietly; "you may well laugh.  I look a nice guy, don't
I?"

"Oh, uncle!  I beg your pardon--but--oh, oh, oh, I can't stop laughing,"
cried Sydney.

"Well, get it done, boy," said the old gentleman, "for I want my
breakfast.  Oh, here is Broughton."

The butler entered with a rack of hot dry toast, and as he advanced to
the table the admiral exclaimed--

"Now, sir, look here; you've made a nice mess of my phiz.  What have you
got to say to this?"

The butler raised his eyes as he set down the toast, gazed full in the
old gentleman's face, his own seemed frozen solid for a moment, and
then, clapping the napkin he carried to his mouth to smother his
laughter, he turned and fled.

"And that son of a sea-cook begged my pardon last night, and said he was
sorry.  Yes, I am a sight.  Look at my eyes, Harry, swollen up and
black.  There's a nose for you; and one lip cut.  Why, I never got it so
bad in action.  And all your fault, Syd.  There, I forgive you, boy."

"Well, it's impossible to give this boy a serious lecture now, Tom,"
said the captain, wiping his eyes, as he passed the coffee.

"Of course.  Who wants serious lectures?" said the admiral, testily.
"The boy did wrong, and he came back and said he was sorry for it.
You've told me scores of times that you never flogged a man who was
really sorry for getting into a scrape.  Give me some of that ham, Syd,
and go on eating yourself.  I say, rum old punch I look, don't I?"

Syd made no reply, but filled his uncle's plate, and the breakfast went
on nearly to the end before the topic dreaded was introduced.

"Well, Sydney," said his father, rather sadly, "so I suppose I must let
you be a doctor?"

"Wish he was one now," cried the admiral.  "I'd make him try to make me
fit to be seen.  Humph! doctor, eh?  No; I don't think I shall try to be
ill to give you a job, Syd; but I'm very glad, my boy, that you did not
take that money."

Sydney bent over his coffee, and his father went on--

"It's like letting you win a victory, sir, but I suppose I must give in.
I don't like it though."

"Humph! more do I," said Sir Thomas.  "I'll forgive you though if you
train up for a naval surgeon.  Do you hear, sir?"

"Yes, uncle, I hear," said Sydney.

"Then why don't you speak?"

"I was thinking of what you said, uncle."

"Humph!  Well, I hope you'll take it to heart."

"Yes," said his father; "you may as well be a surgeon."

"That's what I should have liked to be," said Sydney, "if I had been a
doctor."

"Well, you're going to be, sir.  Your uncle and I have talked it over,
and you shall study for it, and begin as soon as you're old enough."

Sydney sat still, gazing at his plate; but he raised his eyes at last,
and looked firmly at his father, who was watching him keenly.

"Thank you, father," he said.

"No, sir, don't thank me; thank your indulgent uncle."

"No, don't, boy, because I give way most unwillingly; and I'm
confoundedly sorry you should want to be such a physic-mixing swab."

"You needn't be sorry, uncle," said Sydney, quietly; "and I'm very
grateful to you, father, but I shall not be one now."

"Not be a doctor!" said the captain, sharply.  "Then pray, sir, what do
you mean to be?"

"A sailor, father."

"What?" cried the brothers in chorus.

"And I want to go to sea at once."

"You do, Syd?"

"Yes, father.  I saw it all when I'd gone away, and I came back for
that."

"Hurrah!" cried the admiral, starting from his seat, and dropping back
with a groan of pain.  "Bless my heart!" he cried, "how sore I am!  But
hurrah! all the same.  You'll be a middy, my boy."

"Yes, uncle.  I want to be at once."

"And you'll try to make yourself a good officer, my boy?" cried his
father, leaning over the table to catch his son's hand.

"Yes, father, as hard as ever I can."

"T'other hand, Syd, lad," cried the admiral; and he grasped it firmly.
"Try, Harry?--he won't need to try.  He's a Belton every inch of him,
and he'll make a ten times better officer than ever we did.  Here,
where's the port?  Who's going to drink success to the boy in coffee?
Bah, what does the liquor matter!  We'll drink it in our hearts, boy.
Here's to Admiral Belton--my dear boy--our dear boy, Harry, eh?"

"God bless you, my lad!" cried Captain Belton.  "You've made me feel
more proud of you and happy than I have felt for years."

"Here, hi!" roared the admiral; "where's that lubber Strake?  I want
some one to help me cheer.  Sydney, boy, God bless you!  I _am_ glad you
ran away."

"Then you forgive me, father?"

"Hold your tongue, sir," cried Captain Belton, laying his hand on his
son's shoulder.  "There are things that we all like to forget as soon as
we can--this is one of them.  Let's blot it out."

"But I want to ask a favour, father."

"Granted, my boy, before you ask."



CHAPTER TWELVE.

Sydney Belton, as he felt the pressure of his father's hand, could not
speak for a few minutes, and when he did find utterance, he seemed to
have caught a fresh cold, for his voice sounded husky.

"I want as a favour, father--" he began, in a faltering voice.

"Here, it's all right, Syd, my boy," said his uncle; "don't bother your
father for money.  Now then, how much do you want?"

"I don't want money, uncle."

"Eh?  Don't want money, sir?  Wait a bit then till you get among your
messmates, and you'll want plenty."

"I want to beg Panama off from being punished."

"Ah, to be sure.  I'd forgotten him," cried Captain Belton; and he went
to the fireplace and rang the bell.

The butler answered, looking very serious and apologetic now as he
glanced at Sir Thomas.  But the old gentleman only shook his fist at him
good-humouredly as his brother spoke.

"Send John down to the cottage, to tell Strake to come up directly with
his son."

"Look here," said Sir Thomas, chuckling, "don't you two look like that.
Pull serious faces, and let's scare the young dog.  Do him good."

By the time the breakfast was ended steps were heard in the hall, and
the butler came in to announce that the gardener was waiting with his
boy.

"Send them in," said Captain Belton, austerely.

The butler retired; Sir Thomas gave his brother and nephew several nods
and winks, and then sat up looking most profoundly angry as the door was
again opened and a low growling arose from the hall.  Then a few
whimpering protests, more growling, with a few words audible:
"Swab"--"lubber"--"hold up!"--and then there was a scuffle, another
growl, and Panama, looking white and scared, seemed to be suddenly
propelled into the room as if from a mortar, the mortar making its
appearance directly after in the shape of Barney, who pulled his
forelock and kicked out a leg behind to each of the old officers before
pointing to Pan and growling out--

"Young desarter--wouldn't come o' deck, your honours, and--"

Barney's remarks had been addressed to his master, but he now turned
round toward Sir Thomas, and seemed for the first time to realise the
old admiral's condition, when his jaw dropped, he stared, and then began
to scratch his head vigorously.

"My!" he ejaculated; "your honour did get it last night."

"Get it, you rascal--yes," cried Sir Thomas; "you nearly killed me
amongst you."

"And, your honour," said Barney, hoarsely, as he turned to his master,
"I hadn't no idee it was you.  I thought it was--"

"Yes, yes, never mind now," said the captain.  "I sent for you about
this lad."

"Oh, Master Syd, sir, say a word for me," cried the boy, piteously.
"Father would ha' whacked me if I hadn't run away; then you whacked me
when I did; and now I'm to be whacked again.  Wish I was dead, I do."

"Eh! eh! what's that?" cried Captain Belton.  "You thrashed him, Sydney;
what for?"

"Well, father, we did have a little misunderstanding," said Sydney,
composedly.

"It was 'cause I wouldn't come back, sir; that's it, sir," whimpered
Pan.  "I knowd father had made the rope's-end ready for me, and he had."

"What's that?" said the captain.  "I said you were not to be flogged
until you had been tried."

"Well, your honour, orders it was, and I didn't lay it on him," growled
Barney.

"No; but you laid it across me in bed, and you kep' on showing of it to
me, and you said that was my supper, and my breakfass, and--and--I wish
I hadn't come back, I do."

"Is this true, Strake?"

"Well, your honour, I s'pose it's about it," said the boatswain.  "I
'member showing of it to him once or twyste."

"He's got it in his pocket now, sir," cried Pan.

"Ay, ay.  That's a true word, lad."

"Let's see," said Sir Thomas, in magisterial tones.

Barney fumbled unwillingly in his pocket, and drew out a piece of rope
about two feet long, well whipped round at the ends with twine.

"Humph!" said Sir Thomas, taking the instrument of torture.  "So that's
what you flog him with."

"Well, your honour, meant to make a man of him."

"Arn't yer going to speak a word for me, Master Syd?" whispered Pan.

"Silence, sir!" said the captain.  "Now look here: you ran away from
your service, and from your father's house.  Then, I suppose, you tried
to persuade my son to go with you."

Pan looked up reproachfully at Sydney.

"I wouldn't ha' told o' you, Master Syd.  But I don't care now.  Yes; I
wanted him to _come_."

"Well, I'm glad you spoke the truth; but your companion did not tell
tales of you.  Now, look here, sir: I suppose you know you've behaved
like an ungrateful young scoundrel?"

"Yes, sir," whimpered Pan.

"And you know you deserve to be flogged?"

"Yes, sir, and I want it over; it's like all flogging, and wuss, for him
to keep on showing me that there rope's-end."

"Better pipe all hands to punishment, bo'sun," said Sir Thomas.

"Ay, ay, sir," said Barney, thrusting his hand in his breast; and
bringing out a silver whistle attached to his neck by a black ribbon, he
put it to his lips.

"No, no," cried the captain, "we're not aboard ship now.  I wish we
were," he added, "eh?"

Sir Thomas nodded.

"Well, sir," continued the captain, "are you ready to take your
flogging?"

"Yes, sir," said Pan, dolefully.

"And what will you say if I forgive you?"

"And make him forgive me too, sir?" cried Pan, nodding his head sideways
at his father.

"Yes, my lad."

"Anything, sir.  There, I'll never run away agen."

"Will you be a good, obedient lad, and do as your father wishes you, and
go to sea?"

"No," said Pan, stolidly, "I won't."

"Humph! what are we to say to this, Sir Thomas?"

"Say?--that he's a cowardly young swab."

"Ay, ay, sir; that's it," cried Barney.

"Silence, sir.  Look here, boy; we'll give you another chance.  Will you
go to sea?"

The boy shook his head.

"What! not with my son?"

"What!" cried Barney, excitedly.  "Master Syd going?"

"Yes, Barney," cried the boy.  "I'm going to be a sailor after all."

The ex-boatswain showed every tooth in his head in a broad grin, slapped
one hand down on the other, and cried in a gruff voice--

"Dear lad!  There, your honours!  The right stuff in him arter all.
Can't you get me shipped in the same craft with him, Sir Thomas?  I'm as
tough as ratline hemp still."

"You going to sea, Master Syd?" said Pan, looking at the companion of
his flight wonderingly.

"Yes, Pan; at once.  Will you come?"

"Course I will, sir," cried Pan.  "Going to-day?"

"There--there, your honours!  Hear that?" cried Barney, excitedly.
"Aren't that the right stuff too?  Here, your honour, begging your
pardon, that bit of rope's-end's mine."

He caught up the rope, and gave it a flourish over his head.

"Here, stop! what are you going to do?" cried Sydney, dashing at him,
and getting hold of one end of the rope.

"Going to do, Master Syd?--burn it; you may if you like.  It's done it's
dooty, and done it well.  I asks your honours, both on you--aren't that
wirtoo in a bit o' rope?  See what it's made of him.  Nothing like a bit
o' rope's-end, neatly seized with a bit o' twine."

"Ah, well, you've a right to your opinion, Strake," said the captain.
"There, you can take him back home.  I dare say we can manage to get him
entered in the same ship as my son."

"And if he's going to do the right thing now," said Sir Thomas, "I'll
pay for his outfit too."

"Thank, your honour; thank, your honour!" cried Barney.

"Oh!"

This last was from Pan, who had received a side kick from his father's
shoe.

"Then why don't yer touch yer hat to the admiral and say thankye too,
you swab?" growled Barney, in a deep, hoarse whisper.

"There," said the captain, "you can go now."

"Long life to both your honours," cried Barney.  "Come, Pan, my lad, get
home; you dunno it, but your fortune's made."

"Well, Syd, are you satisfied?" said the captain, as soon as they were
alone.

"Yes, father."

"Then we'll go up by to-night's coach and see Captain Dashleigh
to-morrow.  What do you say?"

"I'm ready, father.  Will uncle come too?"

"Uncle Tom come too, you young humbug! how can I?" cried the admiral.
"No, I'm on sick leave, till my figure-head's perfect, so I shall have
to stop here and sip the port."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

A supercilious-looking waiter--that is to say, a waiter who has had a
good season and saved a little money--was standing at the door of the
oldest hotel in Covent Garden, when a clumsy coach was driven up to the
door.

The coach was so old and shabby, and drawn by two such wretched beasts,
that the supercilious waiter could not see it; and after looking to his
right and his left he turned to go in.

"Here, hi!" came from the coach; but the waiter paid no heed.

"Here, Syd, fetch that scoundrel here."

The door was flung open, the lad leaped out and went at the waiter like
a dog, seizing him by the collar, spinning him round, and racing him
protesting the while down the steps and over the rough pavement to the
coach door.

"You insolent scoundrel, why didn't you come when I called?" said
Captain Belton, from inside the fusty coach.

"Don't I tell you we're full!" cried the waiter; "and don't you come
putting--"

"Silence, sir! how dare you!" cried the captain in his fiercest tones.
"How do you know that we want to stay in your dirty hotel?  Take my card
up to Captain Dashleigh, and say I am waiting."

The man glanced at the card, turned, and ran with alacrity into the
house.

"That's just the sort of fellow I should like to set Strake at, Syd,
with his mates and the cat.  A flogging would do him good."

The next minute the waiter was back at the coach door with Captain
Dashleigh's compliments, delivered in the most servile tones, and would
Captain Belton step up?

"Get down my valise and pay the coachman," said the captain.  "We shall
sleep here to-night, though you are full."

They were shown into a room where a little, dandified man in full
uniform was walking up and down, evidently dictating to his secretary,
who was busily writing.

Syd stared.  He had been accustomed to look upon his father and uncle,
and the friends who came to see them, as types of naval officers--big,
loud-spoken, grey-haired, bluff men, well tanned by long exposure to the
weather; and he wondered who this individual could be who walked with
one hand upon the hilt of his sword, pressing it down so that the sheath
projected nearly at right angles between the tails of his coat, and as
he walked it seemed to wag about like a monkeyish part of his person.
The other hand held a delicate white handkerchief, which he waved about,
and at each movement it scented the air.

"Ah, my dear Captain Belton, so glad to see you.  Lucky your call was
now.  So much occupied, you see.  Sit down, my dear sir.  And this is
your son?  Ah," he continued, inspecting Syd through a gold-rimmed
eyeglass, "nice little lad.  Looks healthy and well.  Seems only the
other day I joined the service in his uncle's ship.  I have your
brother's letter in my secretary's hands.  So glad to oblige him if I
can.  How is the dear old fellow?"

"Hearty, Captain Dashleigh," said Syd's father.  "Desired to be kindly
remembered to you."

"Ah, very good of him.  Splendid officer!  The service has lost a great
deal through his growing too old."

"We don't consider ourselves too old for service.  Timbers are sound.
We only want the Admiralty to give us commands."

"Ah, yes, to be sure," said the dandy captain, who seemed to be about
eight-and-thirty; and he continued his walk up and down the room as his
visitors sat.

"You have succeeded well, Dashleigh," said Captain Belton.

"Well, yes--pretty well--pretty well.  Very arduous life though."

"Oh, hang the arduous life, sir," said Captain Belton.  "It's a grand
thing to be in command of a two-decker."

"Yes," said the little man, who in physique was rather less than Sydney;
"the Government trust me, and his Majesty seems to have confidence in my
powers.  But you will, I know, excuse me, my dear old friend, if I
venture to hint that my time is not my own.  Sir Thomas said you would
call and explain how I could serve him.  What can I do?  One moment--I
need not say that I look upon him as my father in the profession, and
that I shall be delighted to serve him.  You will take a pinch?"

He handed a magnificent gold snuff-box set with diamonds, and a portrait
on china in the lid indicated that it came from one of the ministers.

"Thanks, yes.  But, my dear Dashleigh, you should not use scented
snuff."

"Eh?--no?  The fashion, my dear sir.  Now I am all attention."

"Then why don't you sit down as a gentleman would?" said Captain Belton
to himself.  Then aloud--"My business is very simple, sir.  This is my
son, whom I wish to devote to the King's service, and my brother, Sir
Thomas Belton, asks, and I endorse his petition, that you will enter him
in your ship, and try to do by him as my brother did by you."

"My dear Captain Belton!  Ah, this is sad!  What could have been more
unfortunate!  If you had only been a week sooner!"

"What's the matter, sir?" said the captain, sternly.

"Matter?--I am pained, my dear Captain Belton; absolutely pained.  I
would have done anything to serve you both, my dear friends, but my
midshipmen's berth is crammed.  I could not--dare not--take another.  If
there was anything else I could do to serve Sir Thomas and you I should
be delighted."

"Thank you, Captain Dashleigh," said Syd's father, rising; "there is
nothing else.  I will not detain you longer."

"I would say lunch with me, my dear sir, but really--as you see--my
secretary--the demands upon my time--you thoroughly understand?"

"Yes, sir, I understand.  Good morning."

"Good morning, my dear Captain Belton; _good_ morning, my young friend.
I will speak to any of the commanding officers I know on your behalf.
Good day."

The captain stalked silently down-stairs, closely followed by Syd, and
then led the way round and round the market, taking snuff savagely
without a word.

But all at once he stopped and drew himself up, and gave his cane a
thump on the pavement, while his son thought what a fine-looking, manly
fellow he was, and what a pleasure it was to gaze upon such a specimen
of humanity after the interview with the dandy they had left.

"Syd," said the captain, fiercely, "if I thought you would grow up into
such an imitation man as that, confound you, sir, I'd take and pitch you
over one of the bridges."

"Thank you, father.  Then you don't like Captain Dashleigh?"

"Like him, sir?  A confounded ungrateful dandy Jackanapes captain of a
seventy-four-gun ship!  Great heavens! the Government must be mad.  But
that's it--interest at court!  Such a fellow has been promoted over the
heads of hundreds of better men.  All your uncle's services to him
forgotten, and mine too."

"But if there wasn't room in his ship, father?"

"Room in his ship sir?" cried the captain, wrathfully.  "Do you think
there would not have been room in my ship for the son and nephew of two
old friends?  Why, hang me, if I'd been under that man's obligations,
I'd have shared my cabin with the boy but what he should have gone."

"Yes, father, I think you would.  So we've failed."

"Failed?  Yes.  No; never say die.  But I'm glad.  Hang him!  With a
captain like that, what is the ship's company likely to be!  No, Syd, if
you can't go afloat with a decent captain, you shall turn doctor or
tailor."

"Why don't you have a ship again, father?"

"Because I have no interest, my boy, and don't go petitioning and
begging at court.  But they don't want sea-captains now, they want
scented popinjays.  Why, Syd, I've begged for a ship scores of times
during the past two years, but always been passed over.  I wouldn't care
if they'd appoint better men; but when I see our best vessels given to
such things as that!  Oh, hang it, I shall be saying what I shall be
sorry for if I go on like this.  Come and have a walk.  No; I'll go to
the Admiralty, and see if I can get a hearing there.  If I can't--if
they will not help me to place my boy in the service which all the
Beltons have followed for a hundred and fifty years, I'll--There, come
along, boy, the world is not perfect."

He walked sharply down into the Strand and then on to Whitehall, where
he turned into the Admiralty Yard, and sent in his card to one of the
chief officials, who kept him waiting two hours, during which the
captain fumed to see quite a couple of score naval officers go in and
return, while he was passed over.

"Here you see an epitome of my life during the past fifteen years, Syd,"
he said, bitterly.  "Always passed over and--"

"His lordship will see you now, if you please," said an official.

"Hah! pretty well time," muttered the captain.  "Come along, Syd."

They followed the clerk along a gloomy passage, and were shown into a
dark room where a fierce-looking old gentleman in powder and queue sat
writing, but who laid down his pen and rose as Captain Belton's name was
announced; shook hands cordially, and then placed his hands upon his
visitor's shoulders and forced him into an easy-chair.

"Sit down, Harry Belton, sit down," he cried.  "Sorry to keep you
waiting, but wanted to get rid of all my petitioners and visitors, so as
to be free for a long talk.  Why, I haven't seen you or heard of you
these ten years."

"Not for want of my applying for employment, my lord," said Captain
Belton, stiffly.

"But then I've not been in office, my dear Belton; and, hang it, man,
don't `my lord' me.  And who's this?"

"My son, my lord," said the captain.

"Don't `my lord' me, man!" cried the old gentleman, fiercely.  "You
always were a proud, stubborn fellow.  And so this is your son, is it?"
he continued, peering searchingly in the boy's face.  "Ah! chip of the
old block; stubborn one too, I can see.  Shake hands, sir.  Now then,
what are you going to be?"

"A sailor, sir--my lord, I mean."

"Don't correct yourself, boy.  A sailor, eh?  Like your father and
grandfather before you, eh?  Good; can't do better.  I wish you luck, my
lad.  We want a school of lads of your class.  The navy's full of
milksops, and dandies, and fellows who have got their promotion by
favour, while men like your father, who have done good service and ought
to be doing it now, instead of idling about as country gentlemen--"

"Not my fault," cried the captain, hotly.  "I've begged for employment
till I've grown savage, and sworn I would appeal no more."

"Hah! yes," said the old gentleman, sitting back in his chair, and
holding Syd's hand still in his; "there's a deal of favour and interest
in these days, my dear Belton.  John Bull's ships ought to be commanded
by the best men in the navy, but they're not; and those of us who would
like to do away with all the corruption, can't stir.  Never mind that
now.  Let's talk of Admiral Tom.  How is the dear old boy?"

"Like I am--growing old and worn with disappointment."

"Nonsense, Belton; nonsense.  We can't shape our own lives.  Better make
the best of things as they are.  Well, my boy, what ship have you
joined?"

"None, sir--yet."

"I came up to see Dashleigh, on the strength of his having been under my
brother, and asked him to take my son."

"And he wouldn't, of course," said the old gentleman, more fiercely
still.  "Wrong man, my dear sir.  Ladder kicker.  And so, young sir, you
haven't got a ship?"

"No; and if you could help me, my lord--"

"If you call me my lord again, Harry Belton, I won't stir a peg.--Do you
know, boy, that I was once in command of a small sloop, and your father
was my first officer?  I say, Belton, remember those old days?"

"Ay, I do," said the captain, with his eyes lighting up.

"Remember cutting out the Spaniard at Porto Bello?"

"Yes; and the fight with the big vessel in the Gut."

"Ah, to be sure.  How we made the splinters fly!  Bad luck that was for
those other two to come up.  Rare games we had, my boy.  We must get you
a ship under some good captain."

"If you could do that for me," said Captain Belton, eagerly.

"Well, I can try and serve an old friend, even if he is a lazy one who
likes to be in dock instead of being at sea.  By the way, Belton, how
old are you?"

"Fifty-eight."

"Ah, and I'm seventy.  Plenty of work in me yet, though.  There, I'll
bear my young friend here in mind.  Come and dine with me one day next
week, Belton, for I must send you off now; you've had half an hour
instead of five minutes.  Say Monday--Tuesday."

"Thank you, no," said the captain, rising.  "I've done all I can, and
will get back home."

"Bah!  You're a bad courtier, Belton.  Stubborn as ever.  You ought to
hang about here, and sneak and fawn upon me, and jump at the chance of
dining with me, in the hope that I might be able to help you."

"Yes, my lord, I suppose so," said the captain, sadly; "but if the
country wants my services it will have to seek me now.  I'm growing too
old to beg for what is my right."

"And meanwhile our ships are badly handled and go to the bottom, which
would be a good thing if only their inefficient captains were drowned;
but it's their crews as well.  There, good-bye, Belton.  Don't come to
town again without calling on me.  I'll try and serve your boy.  One
moment--where are you?  Oh yes, I see; I have your card.  Good-bye,
middy.  Remember me to the admiral."

The fierce-looking old gentleman saw them to the door, and soon after
father and son were on their way back to the hotel, and the next morning
on the Southbayton coach.

"Ah, Sydney, lad," said the captain, "we shall have to bind you
'prentice to a 'pothecary, after all."

"But Lord Claudene said he would try and serve you about me, father; and
I should be disappointed if I didn't go to sea now."

"Indeed?" said the captain, laughing.  "You will have to bear the
disappointment.  There are hundreds constantly applying at the
Admiralty."

"Yes, father, but you are a friend."

"Yes, my boy, I am a friend; and yet what I want I should have to be
waiting about for years, and then perhaps not succeed."



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

"What!" cried Sir Thomas, when he heard the adventures in town, "you
mean to tell me that Dashleigh treated you as you say?"

"Exactly," replied his brother.

"My face show the marks much now?"

"No; hardly at all."

"Then we'll go up to town to-morrow."

"What for, Tom?" said the captain.  "You'll do no better than I did."

"I'm not going to try, Harry," said the old gentleman, fiercely.

"Then why go?  You are comfortable here."

"I'm going up to horsewhip that contemptible little scoundrel Dashleigh,
and fight him afterwards, though he's hardly gentleman enough."

"Nonsense, Tom!"

"Nonsense?  Why I made that fellow--and pretty waste of time too!  And
now he's in command of a seventy-four, and you may go begging for a word
to get your boy into the midshipmen's berth."

Uncle Tom did not go up to town to horsewhip or fight.

"Never mind," he said, "he's sure to run his ship on the rocks, or get
thrashed--a scoundrel!  Here, Syd, take my advice."

"What is it, uncle?"

"Never do any one a kind action as long as you live."

"You don't mean it, uncle."

"What, sir?  No, I don't: you're right."

A week passed, during which Barney suggested that the proper thing for
Captain Belton to do was to purchase some well-built merchant schooner,
and fit her out as a privateer.

"I could soon get together as smart a crew as you'd care to have, and
then there'd be a chance for your son to get to be a leefftenant 'fore
you knew where you were."

But Captain Belton only laughed, and matters at the Heronry remained as
they were, till one day with the other letters there came one that was
big and official, and its effect upon the two old officers was striking.

"From the Admiralty, Tom," said the captain, as he glanced at the great
seal, and then began to take out his knife to slit open the fold.

"I can see that," said the admiral.  "It's from Claudene.  Syd, lad,
you're in luck.  He has got you appointed to a ship, after all."

"Bless my soul!" cried the captain, dropping the great missive on the
table.

"What is it, my lad?--what is it?" cried Sir Thomas.

"Read--read," cried Captain Belton, huskily--"it's too good to believe."

Sir Thomas snatched up the official letter, cast his eyes over it, and
then, forgetting his gout, caught hold of Syd's hands and began to caper
about the room like a maniac.

"Hurrah!  Bravo, Harry, my lad.  I've often grumbled; but I avow it--I
am past service, gouty as I am; but you were never more seaworthy."

"Uncle, why don't you speak?" cried Sydney, excitedly.  "Has father got
a ship?"

"Got a ship, my lad?  He's appointed to one of the smartest in the
navy--the _Sirius_ frigate, and she's ordered abroad."

Captain Belton drew himself up, and his eyes flashed as in imagination
he saw himself treading once more the quarter-deck of a smart ship.

"It's too good to believe," he muttered--"too good to believe."

"You haven't read the letter," said his brother, looking wistfully
across to the tall, eager-looking man before him.

"No," said Captain Belton.  "Hah! from Claudene,"--and he read aloud:--

"My dear Belton, I have managed this for you, and I'm very glad, for you
will do us credit.  The appointment will clear away the difficulty about
your boy, for you can have him in your own ship, and keep the young dog
under your eye.  My good wishes to you, and kind regards to your
brother.  Tell him I wish I could serve him as well, but I can't see my
way."

"Of course he can't," said the old admiral, quickly.  "No; I'm too old
and gouty now.  But as for you, you dog, why don't you stand on your
head, or shout, or something?  Here, I am well enough to go up to town
after all.  Syd and I are going to see about his uniform.  The
_Sirius_--well, you two have luck at last.  Here, hi! you, sir!  Put
down that confounded birch-broom, and come here."

Uncle Tom had caught sight of Barney at the bottom of the lawn sweeping
leaves into a heap for his son to lift them between two boards into the
waiting barrow.

As Barney looked up and saw the admiral signalling from the window, he
came across the lawn at a trot, dragging the broom after him.

"Drop that broom and salute your officer, you confounded old barnacle!"
roared the old gentleman.  "Salute, sir, salute: your master's appointed
to the smartest frigate in the service."

Barney struck an attitude, sent his old cocked hat spinning into the
air, and then catching it, tucked it under his arm, and pulled his
imaginary forelock over and over again.

"Good luck to your honour!  I am glad.  When would you like me to be
ready, sir?  Shall I go on first and begin overhauling?"

"You, Strake?" said the captain, thoughtfully.

"You're not going to leave me behind, sir?  No, no, sir; don't say that,
sir--don't think it, sir.  I'm as strong and active as ever I was, and a
deal more tough.  Ask him to take me, Master Syd."

"Take you, Strake?" said the captain again.  "Why, what is to become of
my garden?"

"Your garden, captain!  What do you want with a garden when you're at
sea?  Salt tack and biscuit, and a few bags o' 'tatoes about all you
want aboard ship."

The captain shook his head.

"It's a long time since you were on active service, Strake."

"Active sarvice, captain!  Why, I was on active sarvice when the admiral
hailed me; and, I tell you, I never felt more fit for work in my life.
Course I'd like to be your bo'sun, captain, but don't you stand 'bout
that.  You take me, and I'll sarve you afore the mast as good and true
as if I was warrant officer once more.  You've knowed me a lot o' years,
Sir Thomas; say a good word for me."

"I'll say you're a good fellow, Strake, and a first-class sailor," said
the admiral.

"For which I thank ye kindly, sir.  But you don't say a word for a man,
Master Syd.  I know I've cut up rough with you, sir, often over plums
and chyce pears as I wanted to save for the dessart, but my 'art's been
allus right for you, my lad, and never a bit o' sorrow till I see you
flying in the master's face and not wantin' to sarve the King.  You
won't bear malice, sir, and 'atred in yer 'art.  Say a good word."

"Yes, Barney.  Do take him, father."

"It is a question of duty and of the man's ability.  Look here, Strake,
if I say no, it's because I fear that you would not be smart enough at
your age.  It is not a question of the will to serve."

"I should think not, sir.  Why, you won't have a man of your crew more
willing to sarve you right."

"I know that; but the activity and smartness?"

"Activity, sir?  Why, I'm as light as a feather, sir, and I'd run up the
ratlines and away aloft and clap my hand on the main-truck long afore
some o' your youngsters."

"Well, Strake, I'll take you."

"Why--"

"Stop a moment.  It must be with the understanding that you undertake
anything I set you to do, for there may be a good boatswain aboard."

"Right, sir; any thing's my work.  I'll see about my kit at once."

"Syd, you shall go with me, unless you would like to wait for a chance
on another ship."

"No, father, I'll go with you," cried Syd.  "And what about Pan?"

"He can come," said the captain.  "Now leave me with your uncle, I want
to talk to him at once."

A complete change seemed to have come over Barney as he made for the
open window, not walking as usual, but in a light trot upon his toes, as
if he were once more on the deck of a ship; and as soon as he was in the
garden and out of sight of the window, he folded his arms and began to
evince his delight by breaking into the first few steps of a hornpipe.

He was just in the middle of it when Pan came silently up behind with a
board in each hand, to stand gazing from Syd to his father and back
again in speechless wonderment, and evidently fully believing that the
old man had gone mad.

All at once Barney was finishing off his dance with a curve round on his
heels, but this brought him face to face with his wide-eyed, staring
son.

The effect was instantaneous.  He stopped short in a peculiar attitude,
feeling quite abashed at being found so engaged, and Syd could hardly
contain his laughter at the way in which the old boatswain got out of
his difficulty.

"What now, you ugly young swab!" he roared.  "Never see a sailor of the
ryle navy stretch his legs afore?"

"Is that how sailors stretches their legs?" said Pan, slowly.

"Yes, it be.  Now then, what have you got to say to that?"

"You arn't a sailor, father."

"What?  Hear him, Master Syd?  That's just what I am, boy, and you too.
We're all on us outward bound; and now you come along, and I'll just
show you something with a rope's-end."

"Why, I aren't been doing nothing now," cried Pan, drawing back.

"Who said you had, you swab!  Heave ahead.  Stow talking and get that
there rope.  I'm going to give you your first lesson in knotting and
splicing.  Ah, you've got something to larn now, my lad.  Go and run
that there barrow and them tools into the shed.  No more gardening.
Come on into the yard, Master Syd, and we'll rig up that there big pole,
and a yard across it, and I'll show you both how to lay out with your
feet in the sturrup.  Come on."

"But, Master Syd, father isn't going to sea again, is he?"

"Yes, Pan, we're all off to join a fine frigate."

"And make men on you both," cried Barney.  "Lor', it's a wonder to me
how I've managed to live this 'long-shore life so long.  Come on, my
lads.  No, no, don't walk like that.  Think as you've got a deck under
your feet, and run along like this."

Barney set the example, and Syd laughed again, for the gardener seemed
to have gone back ten years of big life, and trotted along as active as
a boy.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

"Have they come, Syd, lad?" said the admiral, as the boy walked into the
private room of the Red Lion, Shoreport, where the old man had taken up
his quarters for the past fortnight, and had spent his time down at the
docks, where the _Sirius_ was being overhauled in her rigging, and was
getting in her stores and ammunition ready for her start to the West
Indian station in another week's time.

The coach had not long come in, and on hearing the horn the old sailor,
with a twinkle in his eye, had sent the lad to do exactly what he
wanted, but would have shrunk from for fear of seeming particular.

"Yes, uncle," he said quietly, "a box has come."

"Well, well, where is it?"

"I told him to put it in my bedroom."

"Well, why don't you go and open it, and see if your outfit is all
right?"

"Oh, there's plenty of time, uncle," said Syd, with assumed
carelessness.

"Yah! get out, you miserable young humbug.  Think I was never a boy
myself, and don't know what it means.  You're red-hot to go and look at
your duds.  There, be off and put on your full-dress uniform, and then
come down and let's see."

"Put them on, uncle, now?"

"Yes; put them on now," cried the old man, imitating his nephew's voice
and manner.  "Yes, put them on--now.  Not ashamed of the King's livery,
are you?"

"No, sir, of course not."

"Then go and put them on, and don't come down with your cocked hat wrong
way on."

Syd hesitated, feeling a little abashed, but his uncle half jumped out
of his seat.

"Be off, you disobedient young dog," he roared.  "If you don't want to
see them, I do.  There, I'll give you a quarter of an hour."

Sydney took half an hour, and then hesitated about going down-stairs.
He peeped out of his room twice, but there was always some one on the
stairs, chambermaid, waiter, or guest staying in the place.

At last, though, all seemed perfectly quiet, and fixing his cocked hat
tightly on his head, and holding his dirk with one hand to keep it from
swinging about and striking the balusters, he ran along the passage and
dashed down the stairs.

The quick movement caused his cocked hat to come down in front over his
eyes, and before he had raised it again he had run right into the arms
of the stout landlady.  There was a shrill scream, and the lady was
seated on the mat, while by the force of the rebound Sydney was sitting
on the stairs, from which post he sprang up to offer his apologies.

"You shouldn't, my dear," said the landlady, piteously, as she stretched
out her hands like a gigantic baby who wanted to be helped up.

Sydney's instincts prompted him to rush on to his father's small
sitting-room, but politeness and the appeal of the lady compelled him to
stay; and after he had raised her to her proper perpendicular, she
smiled and cast her eyes over his uniform, making the boy colour like a
girl.

"Well, you do look nice," she said; "only don't knock me down again.
There, I'm not hurt.  They're quite new, ain't they?"

Sydney nodded.

"I thought so, because you haven't got them on quite right."

Sydney stopped to hear no more, but ran on, checked himself, and tried
to walk past three waiters in the entry with dignity.

He did not achieve this, because if he had the waiters would not have
laughed and put their napkins to their mouths, on drawing back to let
him pass.

"Oh, shouldn't I like to!" he thought, as he set his teeth and clenched
his fists.

He felt very miserable and as if he was being made a laughing-stock; in
fact his sensations were exactly those of a sensitive lad who appears in
uniform for the first time; and hence he was in anything but a peaceful
state of mind as he dashed into the room where his uncle was waiting, to
be greeted with a roar of laughter.

"What a time you have been, sir!  Why, Syd, I don't think much of your
legs, and, hang it all, your belt's too loose, and they don't fit you.
Bah! you haven't half dressed yourself.  Come here.  Takes me back fifty
years, boy, to see you like that."

"Why did you tell me to go and put them on?" cried the boy, angrily, "if
you only meant to laugh at me?"

"Bah! nonsense!  What do you mean, sir?  Are you going to be so
thin-skinned that you can't bear to be joked?  Come here."

The boy stood by his side.

"I was going to show you how to take up your belt and to button your
waistcoat.  There! that's better.  Flying out like that at me because I
laughed!  How will you get along among your messmates, who are sure to
begin roasting you as soon as you go aboard?"

"I beg your pardon, uncle.  I seemed to feel so ridiculous, and
everybody laughed."

"Let them.  There! that's better.  See how a touch or two from one who
knows turns a slovenly look into one that's smart.  Hallo! some one at
the door, my lad; go and see.  No; stop.  Come in."

The door was opened, and Barney in his uniform of petty officer entered,
looking smartened up into a man ten years younger than when he worked in
the garden at the Heronry.

As Barney took off his hat and entered, closing the door behind him, his
eyes lit first upon Syd, and his face puckered up into a broad grin.

"And now you!" cried Sydney, angrily.  "Uncle, I'm not fit to wear a
uniform; I look ridiculous."

"Who says so?" cried the old man, angrily.  "Here you, Strake, don't
stand grinning there like a corbel on an old church."

"Couldn't help it, your honour."

"There, you see, uncle."

"I don't, sir.  Going to let the grin of that confounded fellow upset
you?  If he laughs at you again because he thinks you are a fool, show
him that you're not one; knock him down."

"His honour the captain's compliments, Sir Thomas, and he'd be glad to
see you on board along o' Master Sydney here."

"Is your master on board, then?"

"Ay, sir; and I've come across in the gig, as is waiting for us with one
of the young gentlemen to keep the men in their places."

"Right; we'll come," said the old admiral.  "Now, Syd," he whispered,
"do you know why people laugh?"

"Yes, uncle, at me."

"Well, yes, my lad; so they did at me years ago.  But you don't know
why."

"I think I do, uncle."

"No, boy, you do not; you look as if you had got on your uniform for the
first time.  We're going out now, so look as if you hadn't got it on for
the first time.  Hold up your head, cock your hat, and if you look at
people, don't look as if you were wondering what they thought of you,
but as if you were taking his weight.  See?"

"Yes, uncle, I think I do.  But must I go like this?"

"Confound you, sir!" growled the old man.  "Why do you talk like that?"

"Because I look absurd."

"Oh, that's it, is it?  Then look here, Syd, I'll prove that you don't."

"If you can prove that, uncle, I shall never mind wearing a uniform
again."

"Then you need not mind, boy, for if you looked absurd I wouldn't be
seen with you.  Now then, hold up your head, and remember you are a
king's officer.  March!"

The old man gave his cane a thump, cocked his own hat, and stamped along
by the side of his nephew.  Pan, who was outside waiting for his
father's return, staring wide-eyed at Sydney's uniform, and then
following behind with Barney, wishing he was allowed to wear a little
gilded sword like that.

In this way they walked down to the boat, which lay a short distance
from the landing-place, with a handsome boy in middy's uniform leaning
back in the stern-sheets, and keeping strict watch on his men to keep
them from yielding to the attraction of one of the public-houses,
stronger than that of duty.

Barney stepped forward and hailed the boat, which was quickly rowed
alongside, the coxswain holding on as the admiral stepped in, followed
by his nephew, who found himself directly after beside the good-looking,
dark-complexioned middy, who took the helm, and gave the order to give
way.  The oars fell with a splash, and Sydney felt that he was at last
afloat and on his way to join the frigate.

The admiral took snuff, and after a word or two with the middy in charge
of the boat, sat gazing silently about him, while from time to time
Sydney turned his eyes to find that his companion was examining him
closely, and with a supercilious air which made the new addition to the
midshipmen's mess feel irritable and ready to resent any insult.

But none was offered, and the men rowed on, till after threading their
way through quite a forest of masts the frigate was sighted.

"There she lies, Syd," whispered his uncle; "as fine a craft as you need
wish to see.  What's your name, youngster?"

"Michael Terry," said the midshipman.

"Ho!" ejaculated the admiral.  "Well, this is my nephew, Sydney Belton,
your new messmate.  I hope you'll be very good friends."

"I'm sure we shan't," said the young fellow to himself.  "Too cocky for
me.  But we can soon cut his comb."

"Arn't you going to shake hands, youngsters?"

"Oh, yes, if you like," said the youth.  "There's my hand."

Sydney put out his, but somehow the hand-shake which followed did not
seem to be a friendly one, and more than once afterwards he thought
about that first grip.

"Ah, that's right," said the admiral; "always be good friends with your
messmates."

Syd looked up quickly, and a feeling of angry resentment made his cheeks
flush, for his eyes encountered those of the midshipman, and being
exceedingly sensitive that day, it seemed to him that Terry was laughing
in his sleeve at Sir Thomas.

Syd's eyes flashed, and the young officer stared at him haughtily in
return, his glance seeming to say, "Well, I shall laugh at the
comical-looking old boy if I like."

The eye encounter which had commenced was checked by Sir Thomas suddenly
turning to his nephew.

"There's your ship, boy," he said, "and I wish you luck in her."

Syd looked in the direction pointed out, to see the long, graceful
vessel lying at anchor with quite a swarm of men busy aloft bending on
new sails, renewing the running-rigging, and repairing the damages
caused her in a severe encounter with a storm.  And as he gazed with an
unpleasant feeling of shrinking troubling him, the boat rapidly neared
the side, the oars were thrown up, the coxswain deftly manoeuvred the
stern close to the ladder, held on, and Sir Thomas rose and went up the
side with an activity that seemed wonderful for his years.

Then with a sensation of singing in his ears, and confused and puzzled
by the novelty of all around, Sydney Belton somehow found himself
standing on deck facing his father, who came forward to meet the
admiral, then gave him a nod and a look which took in his uniform before
he went aft, leaving the new-comer standing alone and feeling horribly
strange, and in everybody's way.

For the boat's crew were busy making fast the gig in which they had come
aboard, and Syd had to move three times, each position he took up
seeming to be worse.

He wanted to go after Sir Thomas, but did not like to stir, and he felt
all the more uncomfortable as he noticed that people kept looking at
him, and talking to one another about him, he felt sure.

"Where can Barney be gone?" he muttered, angrily.  "How stupid to leave
me standing dressed up like this for every one to stare at!  Father
ought to have stopped."

He gave a furtive glance to the left, and the blood flushed in his
cheeks again as he caught sight of Terry, who was talking to another lad
of his own age in uniform, and Syd felt that they must be talking about
him; and if he had felt any doubt before, their action would have
endorsed his opinion, for they smiled at one another and walked away.

"It's too bad," he said to himself; "they must know how horribly strange
I feel."

"Hullo, squire!  Who are you?"

Syd turned round to face the speaker, for the words had, as it were,
been barked almost into his ear, and he had heard no one approach, for
it had seemed to be one of the peculiarities of aboard ship that people
passed to and fro and by him without making a sound.

He found himself facing a stern, middle-aged man in uniform, who looked
him over at a glance, and Syd flinched again, for the officer smiled
slightly, not a pleasant smile, for it seemed as if he were going to
bite.

"I am Sydney Belton, sir."

"Eh?  Oh, the captain's boy.  Yes, of course.  In full rig, eh?  Well,
why don't you go below?  You look so strange."

"Does he mean in uniform?" thought Syd.

"Yes, sir," he said aloud.  "My father has gone down there."

"Aft, boy, aft; don't say down there.  Well, why don't you go below?
Seen your messmates?"

"I have seen the young officer who came with us in the boat."

"Eh?  Who was that?  Yes, I remember.  Well, he ought to have taken you
down.  Here, Mr Terry, Mr Roylance--oh, there you are!--take Mr
Belton down and introduce him to his messmates; and, I say, youngster--
no, never mind now.  Look sharp and learn your duties.  Hi! you sirs,
what are you doing with that yard?" he yelled out to some men up aloft,
and he walked nimbly away just as the two midshipmen joined Syd.

"Thought, as you were the captain's son, you might be going to have your
quarters in the cabin," said Terry, with a sneering look in his face.
"Be better there, wouldn't he, Roy?"

"I should think so," said the other, looking at the new-comer
quizzically.

"My father said I should have to be with the other midshipmen," said
Syd, quickly.

"With the midshipmen, not the _other_ midshipmen," said Terry, with a
sneer.  "You are not a midshipman, are you?"

"I suppose I am going to be one when I have learned how," replied
Sydney, shortly.  "My father said that I was not to expect any favours
because I was the captain's son."

"Did he now?" said Roylance; "and what did your mother say?"

Syd winced, and looked so sharply at the speaker that the latter
pretended to be startled.

"Wo ho!" he cried.  "I say, Terry, this chap's a fire-eater; a bit
wild."

"Here, come along down, youngster.  Don't banter him, Hoy," said Terry,
who had noticed that the officer who had given the order was coming
back, and he led the way toward the companion-ladder.

"Who's that gentleman in uniform?" said Sydney.  "Eh?  That one?" said
Terry, looking in another direction.  "Oh, that's the purser.  You'll
have to be very civil to him--ask him to dinner and that sort of thing."

"No, no, I wouldn't do that at first," said Roylance, as they descended.
"Ask him to have a glass of grog with you."

"Yes," said Terry.  "Get to the dinner by and by.  Pray how old are
you?"

"Between sixteen and seventeen," replied Sydney, who writhed under his
companion's supercilious ways, but was determined to make friends if he
could.

"Are you though?" said Roylance.  "Fine boy for his age; eh, Mike?"

"Very.  Mind your head, youngster.  We're going to have all this
properly lighted now, I suppose.  Our last captain did not give much
thought to the 'tween decks.  By the way, the young gentlemen of our
mess are a bit particular.  He ought to show to the best advantage, eh,
Roy, and make a good impression."

"Yes, of course."

"Perhaps," continued Terry, turning to Syd, "you'd like to see the
ship's barber and have a shave before we go in."

"No, thank you," said Syd, laughing, "I don't shave."

"Remarkable," said Roylance.

"Don't banter, Roy," cried Terry.  "The young gentleman is strange, and
you take advantage, and begin to be funny.  Don't you take any notice of
him.  By the way though, I didn't introduce you.  This is Mr William
Roylance, Esquire.  Father's not a captain, but a bishop, priest, or
deacon, or something of that kind.  Very good young man, but don't you
lend him money!  I say, see that door?"

"Yes," said Sydney, looking at a dimly-seen opening barely lit by a
smoky lanthorn.

"Thought I'd show you.  Hot water baths in there if you ever wash."

"Ever wash?" said Syd, wonderingly.

"Yes.  We do here--a little--when there is any water.  Rather particular
on board a frigate.  Here we are."

He led the way to where in a dimly-lit hole, so it seemed to Sydney,
about half a dozen youths were seated beneath a swinging lanthorn busily
engaged in some game, which consisted in driving a penny-piece along a
dirty wooden table, scoured with lines and spotted with blackened drops
of tallow.

The coming, as it seemed, of a visitor, in all the neatness and show of
a spick and span new uniform, caused a cessation of the game and its
accompanying noise; but before a word was spoken, Sydney had taken in at
a glance the dingy aspect of the place, and had time to consider whether
this was the midshipmen's berth.

"Here you are, gentlemen," shouted Terry.  "Your new messmate: the boy
with a belt on."

"Let him take it off then," cried a voice.  "Come on, youngster, here's
room.  Got any money?"

Syd thought of his new uniform and felt disposed to shrink, but he did
not hesitate.  He had an idea that if he was to share the mess of the
lads about him, the sooner he was on friendly terms the better, so he
nodded and went forward; but his pace was increased by a sudden thrust
from behind, which sent him against the end of the table, and his hat
flying to the other side.

"Shame! shame!" cried Terry, loudly, and there was a roar of laughter.
"Look here, Roy, I won't have it; it's too bad.  Not hurt, are you,
Belton?"

"No," said Syd, turning and looking him full in the face; "only a little
to find you should think me such a fool as not to know you pushed me."

"I?  Come, young fellow, you'll have to learn manners."

He moved threateningly toward Syd, but the latter did not heed him, for
his attention was taken up by what was going on at the table, for one of
the lads cried out--

"Any one want a new hat?  Too big for me."

"Let me try."

"No; pass it here."

"Get out, I want one most."

There was a roar of laughter, and Syd bit his lip as he saw his new hat
snatched about from one to the other, and tried on in all sorts of ways,
back front, amidships, over the eyes, over the ears, and it was by no
means improved when the new hand snatched it back and turned to face
Terry.

"Look here, sir," said the latter, haughtily; "you had the insolence to
accuse me of having pushed you."

There was a dead silence as Sydney stood brushing his hat with the
sleeve of his coat, and without shrinking, for there was a curious
ebullition going on in his breast.  He did not look up, for he was
fighting--self, and thinking about his new uniform in a peculiar way.
That is to say, in connection with dirty floors, scuffles, falls, the
dragging about of rough hands, etcetera.

"Do you hear what I say, sir?" continued Terry, loudly, and every neck
was craned forward in the dim cockpit.

"Yes, I heard what you said," replied Syd, huskily; and then he bit his
lip and tried to force down the feeling of rage which was in his breast.

"And I heard what you said, sir," cried Terry, ruffling up like a
game-cock, and thinking to awe the new reefer and impress the lads
present, over whom he ruled with a mighty hand.  "You are amongst
gentlemen here, and we don't allow new greenhorns or country bumpkins to
come and insult us."

"I don't want to insult anybody," said Syd, in a low tone.  "I want to
be friends, as my father told me to be."

"But you insulted me, sir.  You said I pushed you just now."

"So you did," cried Sydney, a little more loudly.

"What?" cried Terry, threateningly.

"And then shammed that it was that other middy."

A murmur of excitement ran round the mess.

"Why, you insolent young cub," cried Terry, seizing Sydney by the collar
of his coat; but quick as thought his hand was struck aside, and the two
lads were chest to chest, glaring in each other's eyes.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" cried Terry, with a mocking laugh.  "Well, the
sooner he has his plateful of humble-pie the better; eh, lads?"

The murmur of excitement increased.

"Then I shall have to fight," thought Syd; but at that moment a gruff
voice exclaimed--

"Cap'en wants you, Master Syd.  Admiral's going ashore."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

"Why, what was up, sir?" whispered Barney, whose timely appearance put
an end to the discussion.  "Wasn't going to be a fight, weer it?"

"I suppose so, Barney," said Syd, rather dolefully.

"Then it'll have to be yet, lad; but it's a bit early."

"Yes, Barney."

"They didn't lose no time in 'tackling on yer."

"No, Barney."

"Well, lad, it's part of a reefer's eddication, so you'll have to go
through with it.  You're a toughish chickin as can whack my Pan; and he
knows how to fight, as lots o' the big lads knows at home."

"I don't want to fight," said Sydney, bitterly.

"No, my lad, but you've got to now.  Well, that there's a big un, and
he'll lick you safe; but you give him a tough job to do it, and then all
t'others 'll let you alone."

"Well, Syd, lad; seen your new messmates?" cried a cheery voice.

"Yes, uncle, I've seen them."

"That's right, boy.  I'm going ashore now.  I'm proud of your ship, Syd,
proud of the crew, and proud of you, my lad.  Keep your head up, and may
I live to see you posted.  No, that's too much, but I must see you wear
your first swab."

"Am I to go ashore with uncle, father?" said Sydney.

"Hush, my boy, once for all," said Captain Belton.  "You are a junior
officer now; I am your captain.  We must keep our home life for home.
No, Mr Belton, you will not go ashore again.  You have joined your
ship, and your chest will be brought on board by the boatswain."

"Is Barney going to be a boatswain, sir?" cried Sydney, in his
eagerness.

Captain Belton gave him a look which said plainly enough, "Remember that
I am your captain, sir!"

And feeling abashed, the boy looked in another direction, to see that
Barney was winking and screwing up his face in the most wonderful way to
convey certain information of the fact that in his inexperience Sydney
had not read in his uniform.

"There, good-bye, Syd," said the old admiral, after a few minutes' more
conversation with the captain, during which time the boat's crew had
been piped away, and Terry had hurried on deck to take charge once more.
Then there was a warm grasp of the hand as the old man leaned toward
him, his words seeming the more impressive after what had just occurred.

"God bless you, my lad!" he whispered.  "You'll get some hard knocks;
perhaps it'll come to a fight among your messmates, but if it does,
don't have your comb cut.  Recollect you're a Belton, and never strike
your colours.  Always be a gentleman, Syd, and never let any young
blackguard with a dirty mind lead you into doing anything you couldn't
own to openly.  There, that's all, my boy.  Drop the father, and never
go to him with tales; he has to treat you middies all alike.  There!
Oh, one word; don't bounce and show off among your messmates, because
your father's the captain, and you've got an old hulk at home who is an
admiral; but whenever you want a few guineas to enjoy yourself, Uncle
Tom's your banker, you dog.  There!  Be off!"

Syd tried hard, but his eyes would get a little dim as the bluff old
gentleman touched his hat to the officers, and went over the side, while
the captain put his hands behind him and walked thoughtfully aft, to
have a long consultation with the first lieutenant, after which he too
went ashore without seeing his son again, and Sydney prepared for his
first night on board.

There was so much that was novel that the new middy had no time to feel
dull, and he spent his time on deck, watching the return of the boat,
saw it swung up to its davits again, and then, after noting the marines
relieve guard, and the sentries at their posts, he was going forward,
when he encountered the officer who had before spoken to him.

"Got your traps on board yet, Mr Belton?"

"Not yet, sir.  My chest is coming to-night."

"That's right.  You'll be in a different fig then to-morrow, and I'll
have a talk to you.  Better pick up what you can from your messmates,
but don't quarrel, and don't believe everything they tell you."

He nodded not unkindly to the boy, and went off, while Barney, who had
been watching his opportunity, came up and touched his hat.

"Your chest's come aboard, sir, and I've had it put below.  Better keep
it locked, my lad, for you'll find my young gents pretty handy with
their games."

"Thank you, Barney."

"Say Strake, sir, please now, or bo'sun."

"Very well, Strake.  Where is Pan?"

"Right, sir.  Forrard along with the other boys.  Getting his roasting
over.  What yer think o' the first luff?"

"I haven't seen him yet, Bar--Strake."

"Oh, come now, sir; speak the truth whatever you do, and don't try those
games on me.  Why, I sin yer talking to him."

"That?" said Sydney, smiling, as one who knows better smiles at the
ignorant.  "Why, Strake, that was the purser."

"Poof!" ejaculated the boatswain, with a smothered laugh.  "Who told you
that, sir?"

"That midshipman who brought us off in the boat."

"A flam, sir, a flam.  He was making game of you.  That's the first
luff."

"What a shame!" thought Syd, and then he fell a thinking about the
orders he gave him--not to quarrel with his messmates.  "And I'm sure to
quarrel as soon as I go down.  No, I will not.  He may say what he
likes."

"You speak, sir?" said the bo'sun.

"No, Strake, I was thinking."

"Here, you're wanted below, I think," said one of the warrant officers,
coming up and speaking to the ex-gardener.

"Who wants me?"

"That's your boy, isn't it, that you brought aboard?"

"Ay, it is."

"Well, I think he has got into a bit of a row with some of the young
monkeys below.  Go and stop it at once."

"That's Pan-y-mar gone and showed his teeth, Master Syd," whispered the
bo'sun, and he trotted forward, while feeling now that he ought to go
and see about his chest, and at the same time wishing that he could go
forward and see what was wrong about Pan--but fearing to make some
breach of discipline--Sydney once more went below.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

It was impossible to help thinking about the handsome old dining-room at
the Heronry as Sydney sat down to his first meal at the midshipman's
mess, and however willing he might have been to consider that polished
mahogany tables and plate were not necessaries, he could not help
comparing the food with that to which he had been accustomed.

As luck had it, he found himself seated next to Roylance, who laughed
good-humouredly, and said--

"Don't take any notice of the rough joking, youngster."

He was not above a year older than Sydney, but he had been two years at
sea, and seemed to look down from a height of experience at his
companion.

"I am not going to," said Sydney, looking up frankly to the other's
handsome face.

"That's right.  Terry's cock of the walk here, and shows off a good
deal.  We all give in to him, so be civil too, and it will save a row.
The luff doesn't like us to quarrel."

"He told me not to," said Syd.

"Then I wouldn't.  If Terry gives you a punch on the head, take it, and
never mind."

Syd was silent.

"Got your chest, haven't you?"

"Yes."

"Everything's new, awkward, and fresh to you now, but you'll soon get
used to it.  You'll put on your undress uniform to-morrow, of course.
I'll tell you anything you want to know.  Nobody told me when I came on
board, and I had a hard time of it."

"Did the others tease you much?"

"They did and no mistake, and I got it worse because I kicked against
it; and the _more_ a fellow kicks, the more they worry you."

These few friendly advances from a messmate who seemed to be one of the
most likely-looking for a companion, sent a feeling of warmth through
the new-comer's breast, and in spite of the coarseness of the
provisions, which were eked out with odds and ends brought by the
middies from the shore, Sydney made a fairly satisfactory meal, the
better that Terry was on duty.

"But I've got to meet him some time," thought Sydney; and he wondered
how he would feel when he received that blow which was sure to come, and
stamp him as one of the subordinates of the lad whom his new friend had
dubbed the cock of the walk.

In spite of the novelty of everything about him, Syd had plenty of time
to feel low-spirited, and to envy the light-heartedness of his new
friend, who in the course of the evening seemed to feel that further
apology was due for their first encounter that day.

"I say, Belton," he said, "I am sorry I played you those tricks and
sided with Terry as I did.  It was all meant for a game.  We have such a
rough, uncomfortable life here that one gets into the habit of making
fun of everything and everybody, from the captain downwards."

"Don't say any more about it," replied Sydney, holding out his hand.
"I'm not such a milksop that I mind it."

"That's right," cried Roylance, grasping the extended hand.  "You'll
soon be all right with us."

"Hi! look there," cried a squeaky-voiced little fellow at the end of the
table; "there's old Roy making friends with the new fellow.  I say,
Belt, don't you believe him.  He'll want to borrow money to-morrow."

_Bang_!

"No, you didn't," cried the little middy, who had ducked cleverly and
avoided half a loaf which Roylance threw at his head and struck the
bulkhead instead.

"You'll have to be stopped, Jenkins," said Roylance.  "You've got off so
far because you are such a miserable little beggar."

"Don't you believe him, Belt," cried the little fellow, who had a
withered, old-mannish look, and an exceedingly small nose, like a peg in
the middle of his face.  "Roy's afraid of me.  Look at that."

He slipped off his coat, drew up his sleeve, and exhibited his muscle in
a pugnacious fashion, which brought forth a roar of laughter.

"Baby Jenks fights best with his tongue," said Roylance, coolly.  "We
shall have to cut it before he grows civil."

The rattle of the chattering tongues went on till bedtime, and at last,
for the first time in his life, Sydney found himself lying in a hammock,
tired out but confused, and hardly able to realise that he was down
below in a close place, with his face not many inches from the ceiling
with its beams and rings.  Talking was going on upon each side.  The
place was very dark, and there was a dim-looking lantern swinging some
distance away in the middle of what seemed to be a luminous fog.

He lay there thinking that the hammock was not so very uncomfortable,
only he did not feel quite at home with his head and heels high, and as
every time he moved he felt as if he must fall, he at last lay very
still, thinking how strange it all was, and how he seemed to be
completely separated from his father, as much so as if they were in
different ships.

Then after coming to the conclusion that he rather liked Roylance, but
that he should never care for life aboard ship, the light from the
lanthorn swung to and fro a little, and then all was perfectly black
where it had hung the minute before.

This did not trouble Syd, for it seemed quite a matter of course that
the light should be put out, and so he lay thinking over all that had
passed that day--that he was glad Barney Strake and Pan were on board;
that Roy lance seemed to be so friendly; then that he should have to
stand up and meet Terry before very long and allow himself to be
thrashed.  Then he thought about nothing at all, for that pleasant,
restful sensation that precedes sleep came over him, and all was blank
till he felt a curious shock and was wide-awake.

"Here, hi!  What's the matter?" shouted a squeaky voice.

"I--I don't know," said Sydney, feeling about him and gradually
realising that he was on the floor among his blankets.  "I think the
rope of my hammock has broken."

There was an outburst of tittering at this, and now it began to dawn
upon him that he was the victim of some trick.

"Look here, you fellows," said a voice which Sydney recognised; "the
first luff said there was to be no more of these games.  Who did it?"

"Baby Jenks," said a voice, and there was a laugh.

"I didn't," squeaked the little middy; "it was one of Roy's games."

"Say it was me again, and I'll come and half smother you."

"Well, they said it was me," protested Jenkins.  "I was asleep."

"Who was it?" cried Roylance again.

"Captain Belton, to make his boy sharp," said a voice out of the
darkness--a voice evidently disguised by being uttered through a pair of
half-closed hands.

There was a hearty laugh here, during which, feeling very miserable and
dejected, Syd was groping about, trying to find out how the hammock was
fastened, and in the darkness growing only more confused.

"Where are you?" said Roylance.

"Here.  It's come untied, I think."

"Untied!  You've been cut down."

"Cut?" said Sydney, wonderingly.

"Down.  Never mind.  It was only at your feet.  I'll soon put you right
again."

Syd stood there listening to his companions' hard breathing and the
whispering and tittering going on in the other hammocks for a few
minutes, during which a noise went on like as if a box was being corded.
At last this ceased.

"There you are!  Where are your blankets?"

"Here; but they're all in a dreadful muddle."

There was a shout of laughter at this, and directly after Sydney heard a
gruff voice say--

"Steady there, young gen'lemen.  Anything the matter?"

"No; it's all right.  Only some one tumbled out of bed."

There was a low grumbling sound, and Roylance whispered--

"Never mind; I'll put 'em right for you.  There you are; turn in, and I
don't suppose any one will upset you after to-night.  If anybody comes,
and you hear him, hit out."

"Thank you," said Syd, rather dolefully; "I will."

He climbed into his hammock again, and listened to the rustling sound
made by Roylance and the remarks of his messmates.

"Baby Jenks was right.  Old Roy means to suck every shilling out of the
new fellow," said a voice.

"Does he, Bolton?" cried Roylance.  "I know your voice."

"Why, I never spoke.  'Twasn't me," cried the accused.

"Well, it sounded like you," grumbled Roylance, and there was another
roar of laughter.

"Look here, youngsters, I want to go to sleep, and I'll come and cut
down the next fellow who makes a row."

"Yah!"

"Boo!"

"Daren't!"

These ejaculations came tauntingly from different parts, but in
smothered tones, which indicated that the voices were disguised, and
after a few more threats from Roylance, there was perfect quiet once
more in the berth.

"So I'm not to sleep," thought Sydney, "but keep guard and wait for
whoever it was that cut the cords of my hammock.  A nasty cowardly
trick."

The fall and its following had so thoroughly roused up the sufferer that
he felt not the slightest inclination to sleep, and feeling that he
could easily keep awake and hear any one approach, he lay listening to
the hard breathing on both sides till all grew more and more subdued;
and though it was pitch dark the surroundings grew misty and strange,
and Syd lay listening to a strange sound which made him turn his head in
the direction of the door, towards where he could see a sturdily-built
young fellow down on his hands and knees, crawling in as easily as a
dog.  Now he peered to one side, now to the other.  Then he ran on all
fours under the hammocks, which seemed to stand out quite clearly with
their occupants therein.  Then his head appeared, and it seemed, though
he could not make out the face, that it was Terry.  But the head
disappeared again, and as Syd watched he felt that his hammock was the
object in view, and in his dread he started to find that all was
intensely dark and that he had been dreaming all this.

It was very hot, and there was heavy breathing all around, but not
another sound, so feeling once more that it would be impossible to
sleep, and that he might as well be on guard, Syd kept his vigil for
quite five minutes, and then, as was perfectly natural, went off fast
asleep again, to lie until it seemed to him that there was a crash of
thunder, and then all was blank.

"Here, hi!  Sentry!  Bring a lantern.  It's a mean, cowardly act, and
I'll complain to the first lieutenant."

The roar of laughter which had been going on, mingled with comments,
ceased at this, and was succeeded by a low buzzing sound, which seemed
to Syd to be close to his ears as he saw a dim light, felt horribly
sleepy, and as if his head ached violently.

"It's too bad.  The other was only a game.  The poor fellow's head's cut
and bleeding, and whoever did this is a mean-spirited coward, and no
gentleman."

"Shall I go and rouse up the doctor, sir?"

"No; we'll bind it up, and keep it all quiet.  There'd be no end of
trouble if the captain knew.  I only wish I knew who did it, cutting a
fellow down by the head like this."

Syd tried to speak, but he was like one in a dream.

"If I knew who it was--" said Roylance.

"What would you do?" said a voice, which Syd seemed to recognise; "go
and tell his daddy?"

"No; I'd tell him he was a mean-spirited, cowardly hound," said
Roylance, "and not fit for the society of gentlemen."

"Hark at the bishop's boy, I dare say he did it himself."

"Just the sort of thing I should do!" replied Roylance, sharply.  "More
likely one of Mike Terry's brutal tricks."

"Oh, very well, Master Roy.  You and I can talk that over another time.
So you mean to say I did it?"

Roylance did not answer, and just then Sydney recovered his voice, the
faintness passing away like a cloud.  "Was it he?" whispered the boy.
"I'm not sure," whispered Roylance.  "Don't quarrel because of me.  Does
my head bleed now?"

"No; I've tied my handkerchief tightly round it.  Lie still, you'll be
better soon.--Here, marine, knot up that hammock again.  You shan't be
cut down again, for I'll keep watch."

"There's nothing the matter," said Terry, from the other end of the
berth; "it's only one of Miss Roylance's fads.  Currying favour with the
skipper by making a pet monkey of his boy."

Roylance ground his teeth, and Syd lay very quiet listening, and
watching the marine as he knotted together the broken lines, helping him
in afterwards, and going away with the lantern.

"Don't wait," whispered Syd; "it's very good of you, but I'm not hurt
much.  They cut the ropes up by my head, didn't they?"

"Yes; the cowards!  But I don't think they'll touch you again now.
Shall I stop?"

"No; don't, please.  I may as well take my chance."

"Very well," said Roylance, and he went back to his own hammock amongst
the remarks and laughs of those who, from liking or dread, had made
themselves the parasites of the leader of the mess.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

Syd started into wakefulness in the morning to find that he had been
sleeping heavily.  His head ached a little, and when he moved there was
a smarting sensation, but he felt disturbed mentally more than in body.
He turned out of his hammock and dressed as quickly as the new stiff
buttonholes of his uniform would allow, all the time suffering from a
sensation of misery and discomfort which made his temper anything but
amiable.

"How's your head?" said Roylance, who was one of the last to wake.

"Bad--sore--aches."

"Let me look."

Syd submitted himself unwillingly.

"Only wants a bathe, and a bit of plaister.  I'll see to that."

The dressing was finished, the hammocks rolled up, and Syd was wondering
how long breakfast would be, and what they should have.  Terry, who was
strolling about the place watching him furtively, suddenly stood aside,
the others watching him.

At that moment Roylance came down into his berth with a pair of scissors
and some sticking-plaister.

"Here you are," he said.  "I'll just cut a little of the hair away, and
put a bit of this on.  It won't show under your hat."

"All right," said Syd, sitting down in the middle of the place on the
top of his sea-chest; "but you needn't have fetched that.  I had some in
here."

"Do for next time," said Roylance, cutting off a large piece of
plaister.

"Oh, nonsense," said Syd, laughing; "a quarter of that would do.  I
could do it myself if I could see."

Just then Terry came swaggering up, and Roylance winced, the scissors
with which he was cutting the plaister trembling a little.

"Oh, look here, Master Roy," said Terry, haughtily.  "You made some
remarks to me in the night about that cutting down of the hammock.  I
want an apology from you."

"I'm busy now, Mr Terry," said Roylance; and the irritable feeling
which troubled Syd seemed to be on the increase.

"I didn't ask you if you were busy, sir, I said I wanted an apology,"
continued Terry, while the rest of the mess looked on excitedly at the
promising quarrel between the two eldest middies on board the _Sirius_.

"I'm attending to this new messmate's hurt."

"Let him go to the doctor if he is hurt," snarled Terry.  "I tell you I
want an apology.  You as good as said that I cut down this cub's hammock
last night."

"If I had quite said it, I dare say I shouldn't have been far wrong,"
replied Roylance, in a low tone.

"Oh, indeed, miss," sneered Terry, "you always were clever with your
tongue, like the long thin molly you are.  Now then, take that back
before--"

He ceased speaking and doubled his fists.

Syd felt as if he were sitting on a fire, and something within him was
beginning to boil.

"I'm not going to apologise now," said Roylance, wincing a little, but
speaking more determinedly than before.

"Arn't you?  Then I'm going to make you," said Terry.  "Bolton, go to
the bottom of the ladder and give warning."

"No, no; send Jenks," said the boy addressed, appealingly.

"You go, and do as you're told," said Terry, fiercely; and Syd felt as
if he must boil over soon, no matter how much he was hurt.

"Now then, Miss Roylance, if you please, I'm waiting," said Terry, in an
offensive way.  "You're such a talker that you can easily make a nice
apology."

Roylance went on cutting and sticking the piece of plaister.

"Do you hear me, sir?" cried Terry, "or am I to set Baby Jenks to thrash
you?"

"Stand up, Belton," said Roylance, quietly.  "Now then, turn a little
more to the light;" and Sydney rose.

"Stand aside, youngster.  I want to give Miss Roylance a bit of
sticking-plaister first."

As he spoke he gave Syd, who was between them, a push, whose result
astounded him.

"Out of the way will you," cried Syd, fiercely; "can't you see he's
busy?"

That which had been boiling in him had gone over the side at last, and
Terry stopped short staring with astonishment.

"If you want to talk to him, wait till he has done my head.  Better talk
to me, for it was you, you great coward, who cut me down."

"Why you--oh, this is too good!" cried Terry, with a forced laugh, as he
looked round at the little knot of his messmates.  "There, wait a minute
till I've done with Molly Roylance, and I'll soon settle your little
bill."

Roylance stood looking pale and excited, with the scissors and plaister
still in his hand, but on his guard ready to spring back or sidewise if
attacked.  Then he, like his would-be assailant, stared in astonishment.
For Syd had resumed his position between them as if about to lower his
head to the light; when, feeling that if he wished to maintain his
character he must act sharply against what was to him a new boy in the
midshipman's mess, Terry laid hold of Syd's collar and swung him round.

"Out of the way, will you!" he said; and as the road was clear he made a
spring at Roylance, but suddenly gave his head a twist, tripped over the
new sea-chest that was in the way, and fell heavily.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" he cried, as he sprang to his feet.  "Well, the
sooner you have your lesson the better."

He began to divest himself of his upper garment as he spoke; and Syd,
whose teeth were set, and whose knuckles were tingling from the effect
of the blow he had planted on Terry, rapidly imitated him.

"No, no," said Roylance, excitedly; "this is my quarrel.  You see fair."

"You want me to quarrel with you?" cried Syd, fiercely; "see fair
yourself.  Hold that."

He threw his garment to the tall slight lad, and rolled up his sleeves,
to stand forth no mean antagonist for the bully, though Terry was a
couple of inches taller, as many years older, and better set.

"Be ready to pick him up, Molly Roy," said Terry, sneeringly.  "Get a
sponge and a basin of water ready, Baby Jenks, and--"

He staggered back.  For as he spoke he had begun sparring at one who was
smarting with rage, and the thought that the cowardly fellow who had
injured him so in the night was before him ready for him to take his
revenge.  Syd thought of nothing else, and the moment he was facing his
adversary, clashed in at him, delivering so fierce a blow that Terry
nearly went down.

Then came and went blow after blow.  There was a close, a fierce
struggle here and there, and both went down just as a pair of broad
shoulders were seen at the door beside those of Bolton, who was keeping
watch over the fight instead of the companion-ladder, and the broad
shoulders and the rugged countenance were those of the new boatswain.

"Arn't lost much time," he growled.

"No.  Don't stop 'em," whispered Bolton.  "Let them have it out."

"Oh, I arn't agoin' to stop 'em," growled back Barney.  "He's got to be
a fighting man, so he'd better larn to fight."

"Can he fight?" whispered the middy.

"Seems like it, sir: that was right in the nose."

An excited murmur ran through the spectators, as after a sharp little
episode, during which Syd had been a good deal knocked about, Terry went
back against the bulkhead and stood with his hand to his face.

"Ready for the sponge and basin, Mike Terry?" squeaked Jenks; and there
was a laugh.

"I'll remember that, Baby," cried Terry, squaring up to his adversary
again with the full intention of putting an end to an encounter beneath
his dignity; and after a sharp struggle Syd's crown struck the bulkhead
loudly, and he went down sitting on a locker.

"That's done him," said Bolton, with a sigh, as if he were disappointed.

"Not it, my lad.  Master Syd arn't got warm yet.  Your chap's got his
work cut out to lick him."

"Then he can fight?" whispered Bolton, eagerly.

"Well, it arn't so much his fighting; it's a way he's got o' not being
able to leave off when he's wound up, and that tires 'em.  Look at
that."

The fight had been renewed by Terry rushing forward to finish off his
antagonist, who had seemed to be a little confused by the last round.

But Sydney eluded him, and with a wonderful display of activity avoided
several awkward blows, and after wearying his enemy managed to deliver
one with all his might in unpleasant proximity to Terry's eyes.

The struggle went on with varying success, Syd on the whole naturally
getting far the worst of it; but Barney stood stolidly looking on, and
when Roylance felt his heart sink as he saw how badly his brave young
defender was being beaten, the boatswain said coolly to Bolton in reply
to a--

"Now then, what do you think of that?"

"Lot's o' stuff in him yet, young gen'leman.  He's good for another
hour."

There was encounter after encounter, and close after close, during which
Syd generally went down first; but to Terry's astonishment the more he
knocked his young antagonist about the fiercer it made him, and at last
after delivering a successful blow full in Syd's chest he cried out--

"Take him away, Roy; I don't want to hurt him any--"

Terry did not finish his remark, for the second half of that last word
was knocked back by a bang right in the mouth, followed up by several
others so rapidly delivered that the champion of the midshipmen's mess
went down this time without a struggle.

"What do you think o' that, young gen'leman?" said Barney.

"Hurray!" whispered Bolton, bending down and squeezing his hands between
his knees; "he'll lick him."

"Eh?  I thought he was your man."

"A beast!  He's always knocking us about," whispered Bolton.  "Hurray!
go it, Belt."

The adversaries were face to face again, and there was a breathless
silence.

"Had enough?" panted Terry.

"No, not half," cried Syd, rushing at him.

"Look at that!  See his teeth?" said Barney.  "That's British bull-dog,
that is.  Master Syd never fights till he's made, but when he does--My
eye! that was a crack."

But it was not Barney's eye.  It was Terry's, and the blow was so sharp
that the receiver went down into a corner, and refused to get up again,
while the subjects of the fallen king crowded round the victor eager to
shake hands.

"No, no," panted Syd; "don't: my knuckles are all bleeding.  What's my
face like?" he said sharply to Roylance.

"Knocked about; but never mind that, Belton; you've won."

"I don't mind," was the reply; "and I don't want to win.  Are you much
hurt?" he continued, going to Terry's corner, where the vanquished hero
was still seated upon the floor with little Jenkins, with much sympathy,
offering to sponge his face.

"I'm sorry we fought," said Syd, quietly.  "Shake hands."

There was no reply.

"You're not hurt much, are you?"

Terry gave him one quick look, and then let his head down on his chest.

"You'll shake hands?" said Syd.  "We can be friends now."

Still no notice.

"Shake hands, Mike Terry," piped little Jenkins.  "You've licked
everybody, and it was quite your turn."

"Hold your tongue, you little wretch," hissed the other.  "I owe you
something for this."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the impish little fellow, beginning to caper about
with the sponge.  "You touch me again and I'll get Belton to give you
your gruel.  You nasty great coward, you've got it at last."

"Don't you be a coward," said Syd, sharply.  "Now, Mr Terry, I'm very
sorry: shake hands."

"Here, one of you take that basin and sponge away from Jenks," said
Terry, getting up painfully.  "He wouldn't have done this if I hadn't
hurt one of my arms."

"Well, if I was licked fair like that, I would own to it," said Bolton.
"It was fair, wasn't it, Roy?"

"As fair as a fight could be," was the reply.

"Yes," said Barney, thrusting in his head, "that was as fair as could
be, Master Syd."

"What you, Barney!"

"Bo'sun, sir.  I wouldn't interrupt you afore, 'cause I knowed you
wouldn't like it, but the captain wants to see you."

"What!" cried Sydney, as he clapped his hands to his swollen nose and
lips.  "Wants to see me?"

"Soon as ever he's done his braxfass, sir."

"Oh, what shall I do?" cried Syd.

"Dunno, sir," said the boatswain, grinning, "unless you sends word
you're sea-sick, for you do look bad."

"No, no, I can't do that."

"Oh, I dunno, sir," said the boatswain, chuckling.  "You was sea-sick
months before you joined your ship, so I don't see why you shouldn't be
now.  My Panny-mar's got it too.  Took bad last night."

"What, has he been fighting?"

"Didn't ask him, sir; but he can't see out of his eyes, and when I asked
him how he felt, he grinned like all on one side."

"I heard there was a fight with a new boy," piped out Jenkins.  "Had it
out with Monkey Bill and licked him.  Was that your boy, bo'sun?"

"That's him, sir.  We all comes of a fighting breed; him and me and the
cap'en and Master Syd here.  Skipper's awful, and I shall be sorry for
the Frenchies and Spanles as he tackles.  Well, Master Syd, what am I to
tell the captain's sarvant 'bout you?"

"Go and ask to see the captain," said Syd, firmly, "and tell him that I
have been having a fight, and am not fit to come."

"Hear that?" said the boatswain, looking proudly round--"hear that,
young gen'lemen?  That's Bri'sh bull-dog, that is.  What do you think of
your messmate now?"

The middies gave a cheer, and crowded round Syd as Terry bent over the
locker to bathe his swollen face, and he looked up once, but did not say
a word.

"Some says fighting among boys is a bad thing," muttered the boatswain,
as he went on deck, "and I don't approve of it.  But when one chap
bullies all the rest, same as when one country begins to wallop all the
others, what are you to do?"



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

As Bo'sun Strake reached the deck, he came suddenly upon the first
lieutenant, and touched his hat.

"Where have you been, my man?"

"Down below, sir."

"I said where have you been, my man?" said the lieutenant, sternly.

"Young gentlemen's quarters, sir."

"What was going on there?"

The bo'sun hesitated, but the lieutenant's eyes fixed him, and he said,
unwillingly--

"A fight, sir."

"Humph!  The new midshipman--Mr Belton?"

"Yes, sir."

"Got well thrashed, I suppose?"

"No, sir; not he," cried the bo'sun, eagerly.

"Who was it with?"

"Tall young gent, sir, as brought us off in the boat yesterday."

"That will do."

"Hope he won't mast-head the dear boy for this," muttered Barney, as he
went aft, found the captain's servant, and asked to see his master.

In a few minutes he was summoned, and found Captain Belton writing.

"Well, Strake; what is it?"

"I had a message, your honour, to take to the young gentlemen's berth."

"Yes; to Mr Belton.  Is he here?"

"No, your honour; he's there."

"Well, is he coming?"

"If you say he's to come, sir, he'll come; but he don't look fit."

"Why?  Fighting?"

"Yes, sir."

"And been beaten?"

"Beaten, your honour?  Well, beggin' your pardon, sir, I'm surprised at
you.  My boy Panny-mar give it to his man pretty tidy last night, but
he's nothing to that young gent below yonder."

"Indeed!" said the captain, frowning.

"Yes, sir, indeed.  He do look lovely."

"Who has my son been fighting with?"

"Young gent as was in charge of the boat as brought Sir Thomas and us
aboard, sir."

"That will do, Strake."

The bo'sun touched his forehead, and backed out of the cabin.

"So soon!" muttered Captain Belton; and, taking his hat, he went on deck
to encounter the first lieutenant directly.

"I find that my son has been fighting in the midshipmen's mess, Mr
Bracy," he said.  "Please bear in mind that he is Mr Belton, a
midshipman in his Majesty's service, and that I wish that no favour
should be shown to him on account of his being nearly related to me."

"Trust me for that, Captain Belton," said the lieutenant.  "If I made
any exception at all, it would be to bear a little more severely upon
him."

"And in this case?"

"Well, sir, in this case, from what I understand, he has incapacitated
our senior midshipman for duty."

"I am sorry," said the captain.

"I am glad," said the first lieutenant.

"Eh?"

"Cut his comb, sir.  Good, gentlemanly-looking fellow, who understands
his duty, but a sad bully, I fear."

"Oh!  And you will punish--er--them both?"

"Punish, sir?" said the lieutenant; "oh dear, no.  I don't mean to hear
anything about it, sir.  But I congratulate you upon the stuff of which
your son is made."

"Thank you, Mr Bracy," said the captain, as they touched their hats to
each other most ceremoniously, and the captain went back to his cabin.

For the next week all was confusion on deck, alow and aloft.  The
captain stayed at the hotel ashore so as to be handy, and the first
lieutenant ruled supreme.

The riggers were still busy, and the crew hard at work getting in
stores, water, and provisions, including fresh meat and vegetables.
Coops and pens were stowed forward, and chaos was the order of the day.

Syd became thoroughly well accustomed to the middies' berth, for he was
obliged to keep down all day, mostly in company with Terry, but they
kept apart as much as possible, and Syd was old enough to feel that it
was a very hollow truce between them.

But as soon as it was dark he was up on deck, where it was not long
before he found out that he was the object of attention of the men, who
were not slow to show their admiration for the young fellow who had so
soon displayed his mettle by thrashing the bully of the mess.

The bo'sun was to answer for a good deal of this, and so it was, that go
where he would there was a smile for him, and an eagerness on the part
of the crew to answer questions or perform any little bit of service.

This was all very pleasant, and life on board began to look less black,
although it really was life in the dark.

"But, never mind, Roy," he would say, in allusion to his nocturnal life;
"keeps people from seeing what a face I've got.  Don't look so bad
to-day, does it?"

"Bad? no.  It's all right."

"Oh, is it?  I suppose it about matches Terry's, and his is a pretty
sight."

During his week Syd was always expecting to be summoned by his father or
the first lieutenant, but he encountered neither; they seemed to have
forgotten his existence.  So he read below a great deal of light,
cheerful, edifying matter upon navigation--good yawning stuff, with
plenty of geometry in it and mathematical calculations, seeing little of
his messmates, who were on the whole pretty busy.

At night, though, he began to acquire a little practical seamanship,
calling upon the bo'sun, a most willing teacher, to impart all he could
take in, in these brief lessons, about the masts, yards, sails, stays,
and ropes.  He went aloft, and being eager and quick, picked up a vast
amount of information of a useful kind, Barney knowing nothing that was
not of utility.

"Never had no time for being polished, Master Syd," he would say, "but
lor me, what a treat it is to get back among the hemp and canvas!  I
never used to think when I was splicing a graft on a tree that I should
come to splicing 'board ship again.  When are you coming on deck again
in the day-time?"

"Not till I look decent, Barney."

"Beg pardon, sir."

"Bo'sun, then."

"Thankye, sir."

The week had passed, and the next day the ship was clear of its dockyard
artisans.  Shipwrights, riggers, and the rest of them had gone, and
leaving the painting to be done by his crew during calms, the captain
received his orders, the frigate was unmoored, and Syd watched from one
of the little windows the receding waves, becoming more and more
conscious of the fact that there was wind at work and tide in motion.

The time went on, and he knew that there was the land on one side and a
verdant island on the other, but somehow he did not admire them, and
when Roylance came to him in high glee to call him to dinner, with the
announcement that there were roast chickens and roast leg of pork as a
wind-up before coming down to biscuit and salt junk, Syd said he would
not come.

"But chickens, man--chickens roast."

"Don't care for roast chickens," said Syd.

"Roast pork then, and sage and onions."

"Oh, I say, don't!" cried Syd, with a shudder.

"Well, I must go, or I shan't get a morsel," cried Roylance, and he
hurried away.

"How horrible!" thought the boy.  "I do believe I'm going to be
sea-sick, just like any other stupid person who goes a voyage for the
first time."

Before evening the frigate had passed high chalk bluffs on the left, and
on the right a wide bay, with soft yellow sandy shore.  Then there was
chalk to right and the open channel to left; then long ranges of
limestone cliffs, dotted with sea-birds, and then evening and the land
growing distant, the waves rising and falling, and as he went to his
hammock that night Syd uttered a groan.

"What's the matter, lad?" cried Roylance, who was below.

"Bad," said Syd, laconically.

"Nonsense! make a bold fight of it."

"Fight?" cried Syd; "why Baby Jenks could thrash me now.  How long shall
I be ill?"

"Well, if it gets rough, as it promises to, I dare say you'll have a
week of it."

"A week?" groaned Syd.

Then some time after, to himself, between bad paroxysms of misery--

"Never mind," he said; "by the time I am able to go on deck again I
shall look fit to be seen."

It was about a couple of hours later, when the frigate had got beyond a
great point which jutted out into the sea, and began to stretch away for
the ocean, that Syd awakened to the fact that the vessel seemed to be
having a game with him.  She glided up and up, bearing him tenderly and
gently as it were up to the top of a hill of water, and then, after
holding him there for a moment, she dived down and left him, with a
horrible sensation of falling that grew worse as the wind increased, and
the _Sirius_ heeled over.

"I wonder whether, if I made a good brave effort, I could master this
giddy weak sensation," thought the boy.  "I'll try."

He made his effort--a good, bold, brave effort--and then he lay down and
did not try to make any more efforts for a week, when after passing
through what seemed to be endless misery, during which he lay helplessly
in his hammock, listening to the creaking of the ship's timbers and the
rumble that went on overhead, and often thinking that the ship was
diving down into the sea never to come up again, he was aroused by a
gruff voice, which sounded like Barney Strake's.  It was very dark, and
he felt too ill to open his eyes, but he spoke and said--

"Is that you, bo'sun?"

"Ay, ay, my lad; me it is.  Come, rouse and bit."

"I couldn't, Barney," said Syd, feebly.  "The very thought of a bit of
anything makes me feel worse."

"Yah! not it; and I didn't mean eat; I meant turn out, have a good wash,
and dress, and come on deck."

"I should die if I tried."

"Die, lad?  What, you?  Any one would think you was ill."

"I am, horribly."

"Yah! nonsense!  On'y squirmy.  Weather's calming down now, and you'll
be all right."

"No, Barney; never any more," sighed Syd.  "I say."

"Ay, my lad.  What is it?"

"Will they bury me at sea, Barney?"

"Haw--haw--haw!" laughed the bo'sun.  "He thinks he's going to die!
Why, Master Syd, I did think you had a better heart."

"You don't know how ill I am," said the boy, feebly.

"Yes I do, zackly.  I've seen lots bad like you, on'y it arn't bad, but
doing you good."

"No, Barney; you don't know," said Syd, a little more forcibly.

"Why, you haven't been so bad as my Pan-y-mar was till I cured him."

"Did you cure him?" said Syd, beginning to take more interest in the
bo'sun's words.

"Ay, my lad, in quarter of an hour."

"Do you think you could cure me, Barney?  I don't want to die just yet."

"On'y hark at him."

"But do you think you could cure me?"

"Course I could, my lad; but I mustn't.  You've get the doctor to see
you.  Don't he do you no good?"

"No, Barney; he only laughed at me--like you did."

"'Nough to make him, lad.  You're not bad."

"I tell you I am," cried Syd, angrily.  "What did you give Pan?"

"I didn't give him nothin', sir.  I only showed him a rope's-end, and I
says to him, `Now look ye here, Pan-y-mar,' I says, `if you aren't
dressed and up and doing in quarter hour, here's your dose.'"

"Oh!" moaned Syd.

"And he never wanted to take it, Master Syd, for he was up on deck 'fore
I said, and he haven't been bad since."

"How could you be such a brute, Barney?"

"Brute, lad?  Why, it was a kindness.  If I might serve you the same--"

"It would kill me," said Syd, angrily; and somehow his voice grew
stronger.

"Kill yer!  You'd take a deal more killing than you think for."

"No, I shouldn't.  I'm nearly dead now."

"Nay, lad; you're as lively as a heel in fresh water.  Capen sent me
down to see how you was."

"He hasn't been to see me, Barney."

"Course he arn't, lad.  Had enough to do looking arter the ship, for
we've had a reg'lar snorer these last few days.  Don't know when I've
seen a rougher sea.  Been quite a treat to a man who has been ashore so
long.  See how the frigate behaved?"

"Did she, Barney?"

"Loverly.  There, get up; and I'll go and tell the skipper you're all
right again."

"But I tell you I'm not.  I'm very, very bad."

"Not you, Master Syd."

"I am, I tell you."

"Not you, lad.  Nothing the matter with you;" and Barney winked to
himself.

"Look here," cried Syd, passionately, as he jumped up in his hammock,
"you're a stupid, obstinate old fool, so be off with you."

"And you're a midshipman, that's what you are, Master Syd, as thinks
he's got the mumble-dumbles horrid bad, when it's fancy all the time."

"Do you want me to hit you, Barney?" cried Syd, angrily.

"Hit me?  I should like you to do it, sir.  Do you know I'm bo'sun of
this here ship?"

"I don't care what you are," cried Syd.  "You're an unfeeling brute.  An
ugly old idiot, that's what you are."

"Oh! am I, sir?  Well, what do you call yerself--all yaller and huddled
up like a sick monkey in a hurricane.  Why, I'd make a better boy out of
a ship's paddy and a worn-out swab."

Syd hit out at him with all his might, striking the bo'sun in the chest,
but overbalancing himself so that he rolled out of the hammock, and
would have fallen had not Barney caught him in his arms and planted him
on the deck.

"Hoorray!  Well done, Master Syd; now then, on with these here
stockings, and jump into your breeches.  I'll help you.  On'y want a
good wash and a breath o' fresh air, and then--look here, I'll get the
cook to let you have a basin o' soup, and you'll be as right as a
marlin-spike in a ball o' tow."

Syd was too weak to make much opposition.  He had awakened to the fact
after his fit of passion that he really was not so bad as he thought.
The ship was not dancing about, and there was a bright ray of sunshine
cutting the darkness outside the place where he lay, and once or twice
he had inhaled a breath of sweet, balmy, summer-like air.  Then, too,
his head did not swim so much in an erect position, and he let Barney go
on talking in his rough, good-humoured fashion, and help him on with
some clothes; bring him a bowl of water in which he had a good wash; and
when at last he was dressed and sitting back weak and helpless on the
locker, the bo'sun said--

"Now, I was going to say have a whiff o' fresh air first, my lad; but
you are a bit pulled down for want o' wittals.  I'll speak to the cook
now, and seeing who you are, I dessay he'll rig you up a mess of slops
as 'll do you no end o' good."

"I couldn't touch anything, Barney."

"Yah, lad! you dunno.  Said you couldn't get up, and here you are.
Think I can't manage you.  Here, have another hit out at me."

"Oh, Barney, I am so sorry."

"Sorry be hanged, lad!  I'm glad.  You won't know yourself another
hour."

"But--but I'm going to be sick again, Barney," gasped the invalid.

"That's a moral impossibility, my lad, as I werry well know.  You sit
still while I fetch you something to put in your empty locker.  Didn't
know I was such a doctor, did yer?"

Barney stepped out of the door, and went straight for the galley,
leaving Syd leaning back in a corner feeling deathly sick, the
perspiration standing cold upon his brow, and with an intense longing to
lie down once more, and in profound ignorance of what will can do for a
sea-sick patient after a certain amount of succumbing.

The threat of the rope's-end had finished Pan's bout.  Something else
was going to act as a specific for Syd's.

He had been seated there a few minutes when there was a light step, and
a little figure appeared surmounted by the comically withered
countenance of Jenkins.

"Hallo, Belton!" he cried.  "Up again.  Better?"

"No; I feel very ill."

"Never mind.  You do look mouldy, though.  Can I get you anything?"

"No; I couldn't touch a bit."

"Couldn't you?  Keep your head to the wind, lad, and get well.  Old Mike
Terry's getting horrid saucy again, so look sharp and bung him up."

The little fellow popped up on deck, and took the news, with the effect
that Bolton came and said a word of congratulation, and he was followed
by Roylance.

"Oh, I am glad, old fellow," cried the latter.  "You've had a nasty
bout.  But, I say, your eyes are all right again, and the swelling's
gone from your lip."

"Has it?" said Syd, feebly, as if nothing mattered now.

"Yes; you'll very soon come round.  We've run down with a rush before
that nor'-easter, and we're getting into lovely summer weather.  Coming
on deck?"

"Too weak."

"Not you.  Do you good.  But I must go back on deck.  Regular drill on."

He hurried away, and Syd was leaning back utterly prostrated, when there
was another step, and he opened his eyes to see that the figure which
darkened the door was that of Terry, who came into the low dark place,
and stood looking down at his late antagonist with a sneering
contemptuous smile which was increased to a laugh.

"What a poor miserable beggar!" he said, as if talking to himself.
"Talk about the sailor's sick parrot.  Ha, ha, ha!"

A faint tinge of colour began to dawn in Syd's face.  "Well," said
Terry; "what are you staring at?"

Syd made no reply, only kept his eyes fixed on his enemy, and panted
slightly.

"Hadn't you better go and ask your father to put you ashore somewhere,
miss?" sneered Terry.  "You ought to be sent home in a Bath chair."

Syd made no reply, and Terry, who under his assumed nonchalant sneering
aspect was simmering with rage at the sight of his conqueror, went on
glorying in the chance to trample on a fallen enemy, and trying to work
him up to do something which would give him an excuse for delivering a
blow.

"_I_ can't think what officers are about to bring such miserable sickly
objects on board the King's ships to upset and annoy everybody with
their miserable long-shore ways.  It's a scandal to the service."

Still Syd made no answer, and emboldened by the silence Terry went on.

"If I had my way I'd just take every contemptible sick monkey who laid
up, haul him on deck, make fast a rope to his ankle, and souse him
overboard a few times.  That would cure them."

Syd closed his eyes, for he was giddy; but his breast rose and fell as
if he were suffering from some emotion.

"Filling the ship up with a pack of swabs who, because they are sons of
captains, are indulged and nursed, and the whole place is turned into a
hospital.  Why don't you go into the cabin?"

"Because I don't choose," cried Syd, suddenly starting up with his face
flushing, his eyes bright, and the passion that was in him sending the
blood coursing through his veins.

Terry started back in astonishment.

"I'm not going into the cabin, because I am going to stop here in the
midshipmen's berth to teach the bully of the mess how to behave himself
like a gentleman."

"What?"

"And not like the domineering cur and coward he is."

"Coward?"

"Yes, to come and talk to me like this; you know I'm weak and ill."

"What?  Why, you miserable contemptible cub, say another word and I'll
rub your nose on the planks till you beg my pardon."

"Another word, and a dozen other words, Bully Terry.  Touch me, coward!
I can't help myself now; but if you lay a finger on me, I'll get well
and give you such a thrashing as the last shall be like nothing to it.
You've got one of my marks still on your ugly nose.  Now, touch me if
you dare."

"Why, hullo, Master Syd; that you?" said Barney, in his loudest voice,
as he entered the place with a basin full of some steaming compound.

"Ha--ha--ha!" laughed Terry.  "Here's the nurse come with the baby's
pap.  Did you put some sugar in it, old woman?"

"Nay, sir; no sugar," said Barney, touching his hat; "but there's plenty
of good solid beef-stock in it, the cook says; stuff as 'll rouse up Mr
Belton's muscles, and make 'em 'tiff as hemp-rope.  Like to try 'em
again in a fortnight's time?"

"You insolent scoundrel! how dare you!  Do you forget that you are
speaking to your officer?"

"No, sir.  Beg pardon, sir."

"It is not granted.  Leave this place, sir, and go on deck."

"Don't do anything of the kind, Strake," cried Syd, who was calming
down.  "You are waiting on me."

"Do you hear me, sir?" roared Terry again.

"I can," said Syd, coolly, "and a wretchedly unpleasant voice it is.  Go
and bray somewhere else, donkey.  Let's see, it was the ass that tried
to kick the sick--"

"Lion," interrupted Terry, with a sneer.  "Are you a sick lion?"

"It would be precious vain to say yes," said Syd; "but I'll own to being
the sick lion if you'll own to being the beast who hoisted his heels."

"Bah!" ejaculated Terry, and he turned and stalked out of the place.

"Felt as if I should have liked to go at him again," cried Syd,
fiercely.

Barney winked to himself.

"He'll give me one for that, sir.  Now then, just you try a spoonful o'
this; 'tain't too hot.  Not a nyste sort o' young gen'leman, is he?"

"No, Barney," said Syd, taking the spoon.

"His pap was a bit sour p'raps when he was young, eh, Master Syd?"

"An overbearing bully!" cried Syd.  "Only wait till I get strong again."

"And then you'll give it to him again, sir?"

"I don't want to quarrel or fight with anybody," said Syd, speaking
quickly and excitedly, between the spoonfuls of strong soup he was
swallowing.

"Course you don't, sir; you never was a quarrelsome young gent."

"But he is beyond bearing."

"That's true, sir; so he is.  Only I mustn't say so.  Lor', how I have
seen young gents fight afore now; but when it's been all over, they've
shook hands as if they'd found out who was strongest, and there's been
an end on it."

"Yes, Barney."

"But this young gen'leman, sir, don't seem to take his beating kindly.
Hauls down his colours, and you sends your orficer aboard to take
possession--puts, as you may say, your right hand in, but he wouldn't
take it."

"No, Barney," said Syd, as the bo'sun winked again to himself, "he
wouldn't shake hands."

"No, sir; he wouldn't.  I see it all, and thought I ought to stop it,
but I knowed from the first you'd lick him; and it strikes me werry
hard, Mr Syd, sir, that you'll have to do all that there bit o' work
over again."

"But I'm weak now, and he may lick me, Barney," said Syd, who was making
a peculiar noise now with the spoon he held--a noise which sounded like
the word _soup_.

"Weak? not you, sir.  Feels a bit down, but you'll soon forget that.  I
wouldn't try to bring it on again, sir," said Barney, watching his young
master all the while.

"Bring it on?  No," cried Sydney.  "I tell you I hate fighting.  I don't
like being hurt."

"Course not, sir."

"And I don't like hurting any one."

"Well, sir, strikes me that's foolish, 'cause there's no harm in hurtin'
a thing like him.  Do him good, I say.  You see, Master Syd, there's
young gents as grows into good skippers, and there's young gents as
grows into tyrants, and worries the men till they mutinies, and there's
hangings and court-martials--leastwise, court-martials comes first.
Now, Mr Terry, sir, unless he's tamed down and taught better, 's one o'
the sort as makes bad skippers, and the more he's licked the better
he'll be."

"I shall never like him," said Syd, whose spoon was scraping the bottom
of the basin now.

"No, sir; I s'pose not," said Barney, with a dry grin beginning to
spread over his countenance.  "Nobody could; but I dare say his mother
thinks he's a werry nyste boy, and kisses and cuddles him, and calls him
dear."

"Yes, I suppose so, Barney."

"And a pretty dear too; eh, Master Syd?"

"Yes, Barney.  What are you laughing at?"

"You, sir," cried the bos'un.  "Hooray! he's took it all, and said he
couldn't touch a drop."

"Well, I thought I couldn't, Barney; but Mr Terry roused me up, and I
feel better now."

"Nay, sir; play fair."

"What do you mean?"

"Give a man his doo.  It was me roused you up."

"So it was, Barney.  I'm a deal better."

"You're quite well, says Doctor Barney Strake, and that's me.  Say,
Master Syd, what do they call that they gives a doctor wrorped up in
paper?"

"His fee."

"Then, sir, that's just what you owes me, who says to you now--just you
go on deck and breathe the fresh wind, for this here place would a'most
stuffocate a goose."

"Yes, I'll try and get on deck now," said Syd.

"And try means do.  Hooray, sir, I'm going to tell the captain as you're
quite well, thankye, now, Amen."

"Not quite well, Barney."

"Ay, but you are, sir.  But I say, Master Syd."

"What?"

"You never said your grace."



CHAPTER TWENTY.

The cure was complete, and two days later Syd had almost forgotten that
he had been ill.  The weather was glorious, and as they sailed on south
and west before a favouring breeze, life at sea began to have its
charms.

Every day the ocean seemed to grow more blue; and pretty often there was
something fresh to look at, fish, or bird wandering far from land.

But theirs was to be no pleasure trip, as Syd soon realised upon seeing
the many preparations that were being made for war.

In his old days of command, Captain Harry Belton's was considered the
smartest manned ship in the squadron in which he served, and it was his
ambition now to make up for the many deficiencies he discovered on board
the frigate.  Consequently gun and small-arm drill was almost as
frequent as the practice of making and shortening sail.  The crew
grumbled and grew weary, but all the same they felt an increasing
respect for the officer who was determined to have everything done in
the best way possible, and when the captain did say a few words of
praise for some smart bit of seamanship, the men felt that it was praise
worth having.

It seemed rather hard to Syd at times that his father should be so cold
and distant.  Roylance, who had become great friends with the new middy,
noticed it too.

"Were you bad friends at home?" he said to Syd, one day, as they were
leaning over the taffrail gazing down at the clear blue sea.

"Oh no, the best of friends; and I always dined with him and Uncle Tom
when he was there, and sat with them at dessert."

"Oh, I say, don't talk about it," said Roylance; "late dinners and
dessert.  Different to our rough berth, eh?"

"Ye-es," said Syd: "but one gets to like this more now."

"Does seem strange though about the captain."

"Takes more notice of the others than he does of me."

"I don't know about more," said Roylance.  "Treats us all the same, I
think.  Well, when you come to think of it, you are one of us, and it
wouldn't be fair if he favoured you."

"No."

"Suppose it was promotion?  No, you mustn't grumble.--I say."

"Yes."

"I wouldn't trust old Terry too much, Syd."

"Why not?  He's friendly enough now; and we don't want to fight again."

"No; but he's too civil to you now, and always looks to me as if he
would do you an ill turn if he could."

Syd laughed.

"Ah, you may grin; but you wouldn't laugh if you found he'd just given
you a push and sent you overboard some dark night."

"Nonsense!"

"I hope it is, but don't you trust him.  I've known Mike Terry three
years, and I've always found that he never forgave anybody who got the
better of him."

"I'm not going to trust him particularly, nor keep him off," said Syd,
carelessly.  "I say, though, how funny it is I find myself talking and
feeling just as if I'd been at sea ever so long, instead of two or three
weeks."

"Soon get used to it.  You've been very lucky, though."

"How?" said Syd.  "Being beaten nearly to a mummy, and then being
sea-sick for a week?"

"Having that fight, and marking Mike Terry.  It's made all the fellows
like you."

"And I don't deserve it."

"Oh, don't you!  Well, never mind about that."

"No; never mind about that," said Syd, carelessly.  "I say, where are we
going?"

"Don't know.  Nobody does.  Sealed orders to be opened somewhere.  I can
guess where."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; at Barbadoes."

"Is that a nice place?"

"Middling.  I like Jamaica better."

"And shall we go there?"

"Wait, and you'll see, like the rest of us."

"But do you think we shall have to fight?"

"If we meet any of the enemy's ships, we shall have to fight or run
away."

"We shall never run away," said Syd, hotly.  "My father would never do
that."

Almost as he spoke, the man at the mast-head shouted "Sail ho!" and
there was a commotion aboard.  Glasses were levelled, and before long a
second ship was made out; and before long two more appeared, and by the
cut of the sails it was decided that it was a little squadron of the
French.

Syd, to whom all this was wonderfully fresh, was eagerly scanning the
distant sails, which showed up clearly now in the bright sunshine, when
a voice behind him said--

"Of course.  How cowardly!"

"What would you do then?" said another familiar voice.

"Face them as a king's ship should."

"One frigate against four--one of which seems to be a two-decker, eh?
Well, I say, the skipper's right to cut and run."

"Cut and run from the presence of the enemy--his father going to flee?"
Syd felt the blood come into his face, as he listened to the rapid
orders that were given, as the ship's course was altered, and in a short
time the _Sirius_ was rushing through the sea at a tremendous rate.

Syd bit his lip, and felt cold with shame and mortification.  It seemed
to him that he would not be able to face his messmates down below that
evening; and seizing the opportunity he made his way to where the bo'sun
was standing, silver pipe in hand, ready for the next order that might
come.

"Barney," he whispered, "we're running away."

"Not us, my lad," said the old sailor, gruffly.  "Four to one means
having our top gear knocked about our deck, and then boarding.  Skipper
knows what he's about, and strikes me he'll 'stonish some o' them
Mounseers afore they know where they are."

"Then, why don't we go and fight them?"

"Good sword-play don't mean going and blunder-headed chopping at a man
like one goes at a tree, but fencing a bit till you get your chance.
We're fencing, lad.  What we've got to do is to take or sink all the
enemy we can, not get took or sunk ourselves."

"But the glory, Barney."

"More glory in keeping afloat, my lad, than in going down.  You let the
skipper be; he's a better sailor than you are, I'll be bound."

Syd, after a further conversation with the boatswain, saw the night come
on, with the enemy's little squadron evidently in full chase.  He had
clung to the hope that his father was manoeuvring so as to attack the
ships one by one; but though the frigate had been cleared for action,
and the men were full of excitement, there seemed as if there was to be
no fighting that night.

The boy was disappointed.  He was not free from the natural terror that
any one would feel, but at the same time he was eager to see a naval
encounter.  For home conversation between his father, uncle, and their
friends had frequently been of the sea and sea-fights; and he was
thoroughly imbued with the belief that a British man-of-war could do
precisely what it liked with the enemy, and victory against any odds was
a certainty.

And here were they undoubtedly running away, to Syd's great disgust, for
he had yet to learn that the better part of valour is discretion, and
that a good commander is careful of his ship and men.  He was the more
annoyed upon encountering Terry soon afterwards discussing the state of
affairs with a couple of the lads below, and finding that he ceased
speaking directly, and turned away with a laugh.

Syd sat down pretending to ignore what he had seen, but the feeling
within him drove him on deck again, where he was not long before one of
the hearers of Terry's remarks took care that he should know what had
been said.  Syd was leaning over the stern gazing away into the
transparent darkness, with the stars shining brilliantly overhead, when
Jenkins came to his side.

"See 'em now?" said the boy.

"No.  It is too dark."

"Then we shan't take any prizes this time.  What a pity!"

"Perhaps we should have been turned into a prize, Jenky," said Syd, for
he was now on the most familiar terms with all his messmates.

"Yes," said the boy, "perhaps so; but Mike Terry says if our old captain
had been in command, he'd have put his helm down when those four
frog-boxes were well within range, cut right between them, giving them
our broadsides as we sailed, then rounded under their sterns, raked
first one and then another as we passed, left two of them with their
masts gone by the board, and gone on across the bows of the other two,
and raked them from forrard.  He says they'd have struck their colours
in no time.  Then prize crews would have been put aboard, and we should
have gone back to port in triumph, with plenty of prize-money, and
promotion to come."

"Almost a pity the old captain was not in command, isn't it?" said Syd,
bitterly.

"He says it is.  He thinks it's downright cowardly to run for it like
this.  Why, he says even he, young as he is, could have done it."

A sudden snap close at hand made the two lads start and look round, to
see a tall dark figure a few yards away in the act of closing a
night-glass.

"And pray who is the brave and experienced young officer who would have
done all this?" said a cold sarcastic voice, which Syd recognised
directly.  "No: stop.  Don't tell me, but tell him that it is a great
mistake for young gentlemen in the midshipmen's berth to criticise the
actions of their superior officers, who may be entirely wrong, but
whether or no, their critics are more in error."

"It was--"

"I told you not to name him, sir.  I don't wish to know.  That will do."

The two boys felt that this was a dismissal, and they hurried away.

"Oh, I say, Belt," whispered Jenkins, "did you hear your father come
up?"

"No; I think he must have been standing there, using his glass, when you
came."

"I did think I saw something black.  Oh, I say, Belt, your dad is a
Tartar."

This little episode did not tend to make Syd more comfortable, and from
that hour whenever he saw any of the men or officers talking together,
he immediately fancied that they must be discussing and disapproving of
Captain Belton's action in running away.

It was long afterwards that Syd knew that his father's orders were to
stop for nothing, but to make all speed for the West Indies, where
another vessel of war was lying.  Though without those orders it would
have been madness to have allowed the enemy to close in and attack.

Syd was on deck at daybreak, eager to scan the horizon, but only to find
that those before him of the watch had been performing the same duty
with their glasses, and there was not a sail in sight.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

There was plenty of talk during the next fortnight's slow sailing down
into the tropics, and the captain's conduct was widely discussed, Sydney
every now and then coming upon some knot where those who considered the
captain had played a cowardly part were in the ascendant.  "Nailed the
colours to the mast, and gone down together like heroes," some one said,
and Sydney, who did not want to die like a hero if he could help it, but
had the ambition of any healthy boy to live as long as possible, went
away, feeling very low-spirited, till he came upon another excited
group, at the head of whom was the boatswain.

"What!" cried the latter, in answer to a remark made by one of the
opposition; "ought to have gone at 'em and give 'em chain-shot in their
rigging, when you've got sealed orders.  Look ye here, my lads, when
you've been afloat as long as I have, you'll know that whether you're
able seaman, or luff, cap, or admiral, you've got to obey.  Our orders
is to go right away to the West Indies, and not stop playing on the
road.  Strikes me as nothing would have pleased the skipper better than
a game of bowls with the Parley Voos.  I've sailed with him before."

"Oh, yes; you've often said that," cried one of the men.

"And I says it again, Tom Rogers.  And I says this here too--don't you
let him hear you say anything o' that kind, or you might have it
repeated till it got into the cabin."

"Why, what did I say?" protested the man.

"That our skipper was a coward."

"That I didn't.  Never said such a word."

"But you and lots more have said what meant it, and my advice is this
here--don't do it again, unless you want your back scratched by the
bo'sun's mates."

Sydney felt better after that, and as the days glided by the idle
chatter grew less.

It was all wonderfully new to the boy, and sometimes, when the men were
allowed to catch a shark, or try to harpoon dolphins, or albicore,
beautiful mackerel-like fish, with the pronged implement they called the
grains, he found himself wondering why he had objected to go to sea.

Then as his first nervousness wore off, and, with the rapidity common to
a fresh young mind, he acquired the ordinary knowledge of his duty, he
was always to the front in little bits of routine such as fell to the
lot of the middies.  So prominent was he in these matters, that one day,
after some hours of busy training, Roylance came to him.

"First luff wants to speak to you, Belton," he said.

Sydney flushed, and then the colour faded.

"What have I been doing?" he said, hastily.

"Ah, you'll see," said Roylance, with a very serious shake of the head.

"Belt going up to the first luff," cried little Jenkins.  "Oh, my!  I'm
sorry for you, old fellow."

"What's Belton in for it?" said Bolton.  "Never mind, old chap.  If it's
mast-head, there's a beautiful view."

"And I'll give you a bit of rope to tie yourself on with, so that you
won't fall when you go to sleep," whispered Jenkins.

"Ah! and mind you fall when she heels over to leeward," said Bolton,
hastily; "then you'll drop into the sea."

"Get some biscuits for the poor beggar, Bolton," cried Jenkins.
"Perhaps he'll be kept up there for a week!"

"You'd better look sharp," whispered Roylance.  "He don't like to be
kept waiting."

"They're only making fun of me," thought Sydney, as he drew himself up,
went hurriedly to where the first lieutenant was scanning the horizon
with a glass, and waited till he had done, feeling very squeamish and
uncomfortable the while.

He stood there for some minutes, glancing behind him once, to see, as he
expected, that his tormentors were keeping an eye upon him to see the
result of his interview with the great magnate, who seemed to rule the
ship--after the captain had had his say.

It was painful work to stand there studying the set of the first
lieutenant's pigtail, the cock of his hat, and the seams and buttons of
his coat, till the glass was lowered, tucked under this marine grand
vizier's arm, and he said angrily, as if speaking to a fish which sprang
out of the water--

"I told Mr Roylance to send that boy here."

"_Beg_ pardon, sir; I've been here some time," said Sydney, touching his
hat.

"And suppose you have, young gentleman; it's your duty to wait, is it
not?" said the lieutenant, sharply.

"Yes, sir."

"Don't speak.  If you want to be a good smart officer, listen, and don't
make remarks till you are asked."

Sydney wanted to say, "You asked me a question, sir," but he held his
peace.

"Now, Mr Belton," said the lieutenant, eyeing him severely, "I suppose
you know that you occupy a very awkward position on board this ship?
Don't answer."

"What's coming?" thought Sydney, who was perspiring freely.

"You are the captain's son."

"Yes, I know that," thought Sydney.

"And of course it naturally creates a little prejudice or jealousy
against you."

"Oh, do please put me out of my misery," thought Syd.

"Mr Dallas has been talking to me about you a good deal."

"What have I done to offend the second luff?" thought Syd.

"And I quite agree with him."

"What can it be?" thought Syd.

"Now I am going to give you a bit of advice."

"Yes, sir; thank--"

"I told you not to speak, sir," cried the lieutenant, angrily.  "I
advise you not to be conceited, not to jump at the conclusion that you
are very clever, and not to begin to domineer over your messmates
because they flatter and fawn upon you on the strength of your having
thrashed Mr Terry.  You see I hear all these things."

Sydney felt the colour rising.

"Take that advice and you may, if you attend well to your studies in
navigation, become a respectable officer.  Life is not all play, my lad,
so think that one of these days you will be going up for your
examination to pass for lieutenant.  Don't waste your time, and find
yourself, when a call is made upon you, perfectly helpless and be turned
back.  It will be years first, but years soon spin round.  There, I
think that is all I have to say."

"Frightened me nearly into fits, and only wanted to say that," thought
Sydney.

"No.  Just another word.  You think me a very gruff, fault-finding
fellow, don't you?"

Sydney was silent.

"I asked you, Mr Belton, if you did not find me a very severe officer.
Why don't you answer?"

"Told me not, sir."

"Humph!  Yes; I did.  But you may answer now.  You do find me very
severe?"

"Yes, sir; very."

"And you don't like me?"

"No, sir."

"Humph!  That's frank, sir.  But I like it.  Shall I tell you why you
don't like me?  I will.  Because I do my duty rigidly.  Now one word
more.  Don't say a word to your messmates about what I tell you now.
It's our secret, Mr Belton; and don't presume upon it, and go
backwards."

"I'll try not, sir."

"Good.  Then look here.  You have been a very short time on board, and I
have often found fault with you; but I like to be just.  On the whole,
Mr Belton, I am very much pleased with your conduct.  I felt prejudiced
against you, as I was afraid I was to have an addition to my young
monkeys in the shape of a spoiled, petted boy.  I was ignorant then, for
I did not know Captain Belton so well as I do now.  There: go to your
duties.  You are awkward, clumsy, ignorant, and sadly wanting; but you
have got on wonderfully, and I think you will turn out a very smart
officer before you have done.  That will do."

Sydney wanted to say a great deal, but he felt that he was dismissed,
and he left the deck and went down below, to avoid his messmates.

Not an easy task, for they were after him directly.

"This isn't the way to the mast-head," cried Jenks.

"Want the rope and the biscuit?" said Bolton.

"What have you been doing?" cried Roylance.

"Nearly everything that's wrong."

"Then he has been wigging you?"

"Yes."

"I know.  It's because you didn't touch your hat to him the other day,"
said another of the boys.

Sydney was going to speak, but he caught sight of Terry lounging towards
them, and that made him reticent.

Time glided on, and then came the cry, "Land ho!" with everybody ready
to gaze eagerly at the low-looking cloud lying far away on the water
where sea and sky met.  This cloud gradually assumed the appearance of
land, and Sydney gazed wonderingly at the island of Barbadoes, and began
to ask himself whether he would be able to get leave to go ashore.

But there was no landing allowed.  The stay was too brief, and before
long they were sailing away toward the wonderful chain of islands that
lie in the intensely blue Caribbean Sea.

Jamaica at last, after a long calm, a name associated in Sydney's mind
with sugar, molasses, and rum.  But to the great disappointment of all
on board, there was to be no landing; even there the middies having to
be content to buy cocoa-nuts, oranges, and sweetmeats off the black
women whose boats hovered about the anchored frigate.

There was a sister ship lying here, the _Orion_, just fresh in from a
cruise round the islands, and the two captains were in constant
communication, for here it proved to be, and not at Barbadoes, that
Captain Belton was to open his sealed orders and learn definitely what
were to be his next steps.

What they were to be troubled the midshipmen very little, for there they
were at anchor at what seemed to be a paradise--all waving grass, blue
mountain, rivulet, and sunshine.  An island of beauty set in an amethyst
sea.

"And we can't go ashore," cried Jenkins.  "I've a good mind to swim for
it."

"One mouthful for the first shark," said Roylance.

"Eh, what? sharks?  No sharks here, are there?"

"Harbour swarms with them."

"Gammon!"

"Ask any of the men who have been here before, then," said Roylance.

"But, really, Roy?  No gammon!"

"It's a fact, I tell you.  Try it, if you doubt me."

"N-no," said Jenkins, coolly; "you see one would have to swim in one's
uniform, and get ashore so wet."

"Naturally," said Roylance, laughing.

"No," said Jenkins, "I wouldn't swim ashore naturally.  Looks so bad.
I'll stop aboard."

"Hullo, Bolton; what's the matter?" cried another of the middies.
"Asked leave?"

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

"Said he'd mast-head the next fellow who asked leave to go ashore."

"Strikes me we're off somewhere directly," said Roylance.  "Let's send
Belton into the cabin to ask his father what he's going to do."

"I shouldn't like to be Belt then," said Jenkins.  "Fancy the captain's
face.  Hullo!  What's that?"

"Somebody coming on board."

"No! it's up anchor.  We're off again."

"What a shame!" was chorussed; but the disappointment was forgotten
directly in eagerness to know their new destination, somewhere else
evidently in the deep blue western sea, and as the _Orion_ was weighing
anchor too, it was likely that they were going to have stirring times.

"Two trim frigates," said Roylance, as they leaned over the taffrail and
watched the beautiful receding shore.  "Ah, Belt, if we were to meet
those Mounseers now, I don't think your father would run away."



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

The fort of Saint Jacques, in La Haute, looked strong enough to keep
almost any squadron at bay; and as the _Sirius_ lay pretty close in,
those on board could see the French flag flying upon the solid square
citadel, below which, and running out like arms, were outworks which
seemed to bristle with cannon beside the low, cunningly-contrived
batteries on the rocks near the entrance of the harbour.

"A strong place, Bracy," said the captain, "and one where they ought to
be able to sink any vessels we could bring against them."

"Yes, sir, if we went at it hammer-and-tongs, shot for shot."

"Exactly," said the captain, thoughtfully, as he held his glass to his
eye, "and they would have English oak to fire at, while we had to send
our shot against stone.  Ye-es, a quiet combined attack some night with
a few hundred determined men in our boats, and we ought to take the
place without firing a shot."

"That's it, sir," said the first lieutenant; "and the only way."

"But I don't like that," said the captain.

"That stone, sir," replied the first lieutenant, as he looked back at an
isolated patch of rock which rose up like the top of a mountain behind
them about four miles astern.  "That would be an ugly spot for annoying
us if they had had the gumption to stick a couple of guns there.  It
would harass the attack terribly."

"The wonder is, that they have not fortified the rock as an outwork to
their fort."

"Frenchmen don't think of everything, sir," said the lieutenant, dryly.

"We must seize that rock, Bracy," said the captain, decisively.  "I'll
communicate with the _Orion_ my intentions at once."

Signals were made, a boat lowered down, and communications passed
between the two commanding officers; and then Captain Belton gave orders
for an exploring party to go and try and land on the rock, and see what
its capabilities were for occupation.

The second lieutenant received the instructions; the first cutter's crew
was piped up, and as the lieutenant was about to assume his command, he
caught sight of an eager-looking face.

"Well, Mr Belton," he said, kindly.  "Want to go?"

"Oh yes, sir," said Syd, eagerly.

"In with you, my lad."

Syd wanted no second invitation, and the next minute he was seated in
the stern-sheets looking back at the side of the frigate, as the men's
oars dipped regularly, and the boat gently rose and fell as she glided
over the smooth water.

The rock had a wonderful attraction for Sydney, as it rose clear out of
the bright blue water; and as he lay back and half-closed his eyes, it
was easy to imagine that it was the ruins of some old castle rising up
with walls tier after tier to a height of about a hundred and fifty
feet, with only a place here and there shelving down to the level of the
water, the rock rising up for the most part perpendicularly from the
deep sea which rose against the time and water-worn sides to fall back
in sparkling foam.

"What are we coming here for, Mr Dallas?" said Syd, in a low tone.

"To survey the rock, and see if it will do for occupation."

"But nobody would want to live here, sir."

"More likely have to die here, my lad.  But we sailors are not allowed
to ask questions.  We are told to do things, and we do them."

"I only wanted to know," said Syd, apologetically.

"I was not finding fault, Belton.  Now, let me see; we've got to land.
Where's the best place?"

As he spoke he altered the direction of the boat, which he kept a short
distance from where the sea broke, and steered right round the rock,
while his companion divided his time between examining the various
ledges and gazing into the transparent depths below.

It was soon evident that landing would be rather difficult, only two
places suggesting themselves as being feasible; one being like a rough
pier, the other a spot where masses of coral rock run down into the sea,
with here and there awkward, jagged-looking, scattered pieces showing
their heads, sometimes just level with the water, and at others being
completely covered.

After the boat had been completely round the rock, which apparently
covered a space of some acres, the young officer gave the word, and the
lead was thrown over to try for soundings and the possibility of there
being good anchorage for a ship that might want to lay off the edge.
But the lead went down, down, down to the end of the line wherever it
was cast, even close in to the rock, indicating that it rose up almost
steeple-like from profound depths.

"Soon settled that point, Mr Belton," said the lieutenant.  "The next
thing is to land.  Back in, my lads, on the swell, and as soon as we
jump off pull clear again.  I think we can do it yonder where the tuft
of green weed is growing."

The men obeyed, and after one or two cautious approaches, the young
officer, who had carefully watched his time, sprang from the thwart
before him right on to the rock, made a second bound, and was clear of
the following wave before it had time to flood the natural pier.

"Now, Mr Belton, can you do that?"

For answer, as the boat was again backed in, Syd leaped out, but did not
calculate his time well, and sprang into a few inches of water, which
went flying amidst the laughter of the men.  But the next spring took
him up alongside Mr Dallas.

"A little too soon, Belton," he said.  "Now, one of you lads come too.
Keep her well off, coxswain; sometimes a good roller comes unexpectedly,
and if you are not prepared she may be thrown high and dry, stove in."

"Ay, ay, sir," shouted the coxswain.  Then the man told leaped ashore
easily enough, and the primary survey of the place began.

It was not an easy task, for from the few square yards of level stone
where they stood there seemed to be no means of getting farther, till
Syd suggested that if they could get up a bit of wall-like rock there
was a ledge from which they could work themselves sideways to a rift in
the side over the sea, and from that perhaps they could get higher.

"But we must be careful; it is only a few inches, and if we lose our
hold, down we go into deep water."

"It would only be a bathe, sir," said Syd, laughing.

"Oh, I don't mind the bath, Belton.  I am thinking there may be hungry
sharks about."

"Ugh!" ejaculated Syd, with a shudder, as he glanced at the clear blue
water.

"No fear of a fall though, if we are careful."

"Beg pardon, sir; I could get along there," said the man.

"Yes, my lad; but I'll try it first," said the lieutenant; and he was
about to start along the perilous little shelf after a short climb, when
Syd suggested that they should have a line thrown to them from the boat.

"Good idea, Belton," said the lieutenant, who hailed the boat, now lying
fifty yards away, and she came in; the rope was thrown to them, made
fast about Syd's chest, and while the lieutenant and the sailor held the
slack ready to pay out, the boy clambered on about twenty feet, and then
stepped boldly out upon the narrow shelf in the face of the almost
perpendicular rock, crept carefully along to the rift, and entered it to
come back and shout all right.

With Syd holding the rope tightly round the edge of the cleft, and the
sailor keeping it fast, the lieutenant had no difficulty in getting
along; the sailor followed, and they passed along a natural passage to
where the rock sloped away sufficiently for them to mount again to a
fairsized ledge, from the end of which there was a ridge of broken rock
giving foothold for climbers.  This they surmounted, Syd going up first
like a goat, and holding the rope for his officer, and lowering it in
turn for the sailor.

"Why, Belton," said Mr Dallas, "this place is a natural fortress.  All
we should have to do would be to make parapets, and mount some guns.
It's a little Gibraltar in its way."

They went on exploring, or rather climbing from block to block and ledge
to ledge, till after some little difficulty the summit was reached, from
which the lieutenant signalled with a handkerchief, an acknowledgment
being seen from the ship.

The top was a slope of some twenty by thirty yards, and from here as
they looked about over the edge a better idea of the capabilities of the
place could be formed, and they looked down on what only needed a little
of the work of man to make the place impregnable so long as there was no
treachery from within.

The great peculiarity of the rock was, that from where they stood they
could gaze down into a chasm beyond which rose a mass similar to that on
which they stood.  In fact, roughly speaking, the stony mount seemed to
have been cleft or split in twain, giving it somewhat the aspect of a
bishop's mitre, save that the lower part between the cleft expanded till
it reached the sea.

"Well," said the lieutenant, in a satisfied tone, as they climbed down
into the chasm, and gazed from the bottom out at either end toward the
sea, in the one case to see the _Sirius_ lying with her masts describing
arcs on the blue sky; in the other case the white houses and port of
Saint Jacques.  "Well, Belton, if I had been set to work to design a
rock upon which to plant a fort, I could never have schemed so good a
one as this."

"Why?" said Syd, in his outspoken way.  "It's very awkward to get up
unless you make some stairs."

"The more awkward the worse for an enemy.  But can't you see, my lad, we
can mount our guns on platforms at either end of this tiny valley; and
stow our men, stores, and ammunition there in the bottom of the rift.
Nothing can reach them from outside.  Gibraltar's nothing to it."

"Isn't it?" said Syd, who felt that he ought to say something.

"No, my boy, nothing.  There's one thing though--I don't see water."

"Water?" said Syd, laughing, as he looked round at the sea.

"Drinking water, sir.  An enemy would have very little difficulty in
taking a fort where the defenders have no water.  Must make a cistern
and store some up.  Come along."

He led the way, and they descended without much difficulty to a spot
from whence it seemed possible to mount the other mass of rock, up which
they toiled with more difficulty, for in some places it nearly
approached the perpendicular.  Had it not been for a series of rough
cracks or splits in the side, some of which seemed to descend to vast
depths, but whose edges gave good foothold, the ascent would have been
impossible.

They reached the top, through a little mutual help, signalled again, and
after gazing down into the chasm, which the lieutenant looked upon as a
splendid find, they slowly went down to the little natural pier, the
boat was carefully backed in, the sailor leaped lightly from the wet
rock on to the gunwale, and then stepped into his place.

"Now you, Mr Belton," said the lieutenant; "and don't get wet this
time."

"No," said Syd, "I'll time it better;" and he let the sea flood the rock
as the boat rose high, and then descend twice before he made this
attempt.

"Now then!" cried the lieutenant, as the wave glided back from the rough
surface, and the boat's stern was seen descending easily a few feet
away.

Syd trotted over the wet rock with the water flying up and glittering in
the sunshine at every step, reached the edge, and sprang lightly on to
the gunwale just as the boat was at its lowest.  Nothing in fact could
have been better timed, but he had not calculated upon one thing.

The sailor had left the edge of the boat wet, and Syd's shoes were
soaked and slippery, so that one of them glided sidewise; there was no
chance of recovery, and he went down headlong into the deep.  It was so
sudden that he was below the surface with the water thundering in his
ears almost before he was aware that he had fallen.  But he was a good
swimmer, and had practised diving often enough, and he knew that he had
only to take a few strokes to rise clear of the boat, and then a few
more in order to be taken in.

As he swam below after going down some distance he was aware of what
seemed to be a black cloud over his head, which he knew was the boat;
then he was rising again through the sunlit water, and as his head rose
into the sunshine a cold chill of horror paralysed every energy, for he
knew that he was almost within the jaws of death.

It was all so rapid that he hardly knew how it took place; but he had
been long enough at sea to know that the long, thin, curved shadow
approaching him was a huge shark, and that before he could reach the
boat the monster would have seized him.

He was conscious of a wild shouting in the boat, of the rapid beating of
oars which made the water fly up in fountains; then, as he swam with all
his might, of a violent blow on the shoulder followed by a jerk, and
then half insensible from the shock he was being dragged over the boat's
side.

Amid the babel of voices that ensued, Syd made out a few words here and
there.

One man said: "It's broke my arm a'most; the beggar made such a jerk."

"It's broke this oar," growled a well-known voice.  "I give it him just
in the jaws as he turned over."

"Ah!" said one of the men, "if that had been steel 'stead o' wood you'd
ha' gone right through him."

"Yes," growled the boatswain, "'stead o' having a broken oar.  Well, if
the skipper says I must pay for it, why I must."

"Yah! nonsense!" muttered another.  "What, arter saving his boy's life?"

All this brought back to Syd's memory matters which he had seen dimly in
the exciting moments during which he was saved from a horrible death;
and that which he had not seen, imagination and the men's words
supplied.  But he could recall something of a sturdy man standing up in
the boat and making a thrust at the shark, and while he was realising
that this man was Barney, one of the sailors said--

"And if I hadn't ketched hold o' you, Mr Bo'sun, by the waistband o'
your breeches, you'd ha' gone overboard, and Jack shark would have had
you."

"Ay, my lad, he would," growled Barney; "but I don't believe he'd a
liked me, for I must be precious tough by now."

"Say, lads," said another voice, "what's the reward for saving a
bo'sun's life?"

"Nothing," said Barney.  "'Sides, you've on'y stopped somebody's
promotion.  Steady there!"

At that moment, as Syd lay there with a misty feeling of confusion
troubling him, it seemed from the rocking of the boat that the
lieutenant had leaped on board, and the next moment he was kneeling
down, and his hands were busy about Syd.

"Belton, my dear lad," he said, excitedly, "where are you hurt?"

Syd looked at him wildly, and saw him through the mist.

"Hurt?" he said, after making an effort to speak, and feeling deathly
sick the while, "I--I don't know."

"Great heavens!" cried the lieutenant, "I would sooner it had been me.
But I see no blood, bo'sun."

"No, sir; I've been agoin' over him," growled Barney; "and he's got all
his arms, and legs, and, yes, his head's all right.  You see I shoved
that oar in Jack's mouth just as he turned over to grab him."

"But the boy is half dead."

"Ketched him a horful crack with his snout, I think it weer, sir; for,
poor dear lad, he were knocked side wise.  He'll come round."

All this time it was to Syd just as if the lieutenant and the boatswain
were moving about over him in a mist; but as some water was splashed in
his face, and his brows were bathed, the mist slowly passed away, and he
suddenly struggled up into a sitting position.

"That's better," cried the lieutenant, eagerly.  "Are you in pain?"

"Shoulder hurts a little, sir," said Syd, huskily; "but where's the
shark?"

"Yonder, sir," said the boatswain, pointing to about fifty yards away,
where a something that looked like a thick miniature lateen sail was
gliding through the water.

"A narrow escape, Belton," said the lieutenant; "but you are saved,
thank heaven.  Give way, my men."

"Arn't we going to try and serve out Master Jack, sir?" said one of the
men.

"No, my lad.  What can we do without bait or line?"

"Like to spritsail-yard him, sir?" said Strake, touching his hat.

"What's spritsail-yarding?" said Syd, who was now trying to squeeze some
of the water out of his drenched uniform.

"Ketching your shark and then running a little spar through his nose,"
whispered the bo'sun, as the men gave way and the boat surged through
the water.  "This here's lashed so as he can't get it out, and it keeps
him from sinking, as he moves it afore him."

"But it's horribly cruel," said Syd, pausing in his wringing process.

"Well, 'tarn't nice for him, sir," said the boatswain; "but then you see
it's cruel of Master Jack to be taking off arms and legs, and it stops
that, sir."

This argument was unanswerable for the moment, and just then another
shark was sighted, and its appearance fascinated Syd, who shuddered as
he gazed at the monster, and thought of the horrible fate he had
escaped.

"I wonder what father will say to me when he learns of my adventure," he
said to himself.

But he had very little more time for thought, the boat soon being
alongside; the falls were hooked on, and they were soon after swinging
from the davits.

The first person Syd's eyes rested upon was Terry, whose face expanded
into a grin as he saw the middy's drenched condition, and the boy turned
away angrily, to see if he could catch his father's eye.  But he only
saw Lieutenant Dallas making his report on the quarter-deck, and his
father standing there with a glass in his hand, which he directed at the
rock, then seemed to give some orders, and the lieutenant saluted and
came away.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

"Why, Belton, not changing your duds?" said the lieutenant, as he
returned from his colloquy with his commanding officer.

"No, sir; just going to.  Did my--did the captain know I was nearly
seized by that shark?"

"Yes; I told him."

"What did he say, sir?"

"That you were to be more careful."

Syd stared.

"Was that all, sir?"

"Yes, my lad.  I think he said something about you'd grow more clever by
and by.  But go and get on some dry things."

Syd felt crestfallen and hurt, that after such a terrific adventure his
father should be so cool.

But down below the news had already spread, and as he went to the berth
to change his things, a knot of his messmates were ready and eager to
question him for the endorsement of what they had heard from the
boatswain and the men.

He told what he had to tell rather unwillingly, and when he had done
regretted that he had said a word, for the careless young dogs only
laughed.

"That wasn't half an adventure," cried Bolton.  "You should have drawn
your dirk, dived under him, and slit him up.  That's what the niggers
do."

"Yes," said Jenkins, "or else have had hold of his tail, and made him
tow you.  I would."

"Why, Jenky," cried Roylance, "he'd have taken you like a pill."

"I believe," cried Syd, angrily, "that you'd all have liked it better if
I'd come back with one leg snapped off."

"Yes," sneered Terry, who was laughing by the door.

"No, no," cried Jenkins, maliciously.  "Mike Terry would have liked to
see him without any fistusses."

"Why?" said Roylance.

"'Cause he could lick him then."

"I'll put that down in my log, Baby," said Terry, with an ugly laugh.
"You're getting deeply in my debt, and you'll have to pay, or I shall
have to pay you."

"Oh, lor'," cried the little middy, diving under the table in mock
alarm, and then slowly raising his head up on the other side, to peer at
Terry.  "What would become of me if I hadn't a good banker."

"Who's your banker, Baby?" said Roylance, mockingly.

"Syd Belton there," and there was a laugh.

Terry ground his teeth together, as he turned away and went on deck,
followed by a roar of laughter.

"Look here, I say," cried Syd, who bore his honours very mildly, "you
shouldn't tease Terry like that, Jenkins; he'll serve you out for it
some day."

"He daren't.  I should come to you."

"And I shouldn't help you, for you'd deserve it."

"Very well," said the little fellow, "I'd fight my own battle.  Who's
afraid?  Cock-a-doodle-do!"

He gave a clever imitation of a pugnacious game-cock, after clapping his
hands against his sides.

"Terry wouldn't touch him," said Roylance, laughing.  "Little people are
licenced to be saucy.  But I say, Belton, what's the rock like?"

Syd described it as well as he could, and he was listened to with eager
attention, but it did not seem probable to Roylance that anything
further would come of it.

He was undeceived the next morning though, for after signalling and
visiting of the two commanders, it appeared that something definite was
to be done, and soon after the stir began.

"Here, Belton," said Roylance, "what do you say to this?  I believe
we're going to attack the town."

Contradiction came the next moment in the excitement on deck.

"This means business," said Roylance, as he stood with Syd, watching the
carrying out of certain orders; and in due time two long guns were
placed ready, the barge and the launch were lowered down, and
gun-carriages and tackle were hoisted down into each.

The men worked well, for this was a change from the monotony of cruising
to and fro on the look-out for ships which never came, or which when
overhauled only proved to be friends.

The sea was like glass, and in the course of the next few hours the guns
were got ashore, shears being erected on the rock, and the heavy masses
of metal and their carriages were landed, beside a good deal of other
material likely to be useful in occupying the rock.

And all this while great excitement prevailed as to who were to be the
lucky ones told off for the garrison, as it was laughingly called.  But
they were not long kept in doubt, for it was soon whispered that
Lieutenant Dallas was to be in charge, with about a dozen men and a
junior officer or two.

Who were to be the junior officers, was the question at the mess, the
prevailing decision arrived at being that Bolton and Baby Jenks were the
pair.

Early next morning the crews of the barge and second cutter were piped
away, and a busy scene followed, as barrels and cases were handed down,
till the boats were well-laden, and then there was a cessation, the
crews evidently waiting for their orders.

It was a glorious day, and after looking at the men selected, Sydney
gazed longingly at the stack of things lying on the rock, covered with a
couple of sails and some tarpaulin, which, in case of wind arising, were
kept down by casks planted on their corners.

The place looked very tempting to Sydney, though he could not help a
shudder running through him as he gazed at the little natural pier,
which the sea kept flooding and leaving bare.

"I dare say there are plenty of sharks hanging about," he said; and once
more the accident seemed to repeat itself vividly.

He had soon something else to think about, for he saw Lieutenant Dallas
come out of the captain's cabin, where he had evidently been to receive
his orders, which was the case, and they were simple enough.

"The rock would be invaluable to an enemy, Mr Dallas," the captain had
said; "and if they occupied it, as the only safe channel to the port
lies close by, they could annoy us fearfully, perhaps sink one of our
vessels, and to storm such a place would mean terrible loss of life.  So
you will occupy it and hold it at all hazards.  Either I or my consort
will communicate as often as we can, and you shall be well supplied with
stores before those you have get low."

"I understand, sir," said Dallas; "and I will hold the rock to the
last."

"Your courage may not be put to the test, Mr Dallas," said the captain.
"_Au revoir_.  Make yourself and your men as comfortable as you can.  I
have been ashore and examined the place."

"You have, sir?"

"Yes, I went in the night, and I am quite satisfied that it can be held
against any odds.  Good-bye."

He shook hands, and the young lieutenant went out, wondering how the
captain could have managed, and then hurried to the side to see if the
last arrangements had been made.

He was busy over this, having passed near to Syd without taking any
notice of him, much to the lad's annoyance, for he had tried to catch
the lieutenant's eye.

At this moment Roylance came along toward where he was standing, but he
paid no heed, for something else had taken his attention.

The boatswain had come on deck, and made his way to the side, where he
touched his hat to Lieutenant Dallas, and then proceeded to obey some
orders which he had received.  Syd was about to intercept him, his
longing to be one of the party increasing.

"I wouldn't care," he said to himself, "if they'd let me help land the
stores.  I did go out first, and here I've been left out of all the fun
because I slipped and went overboard.  It's too bad."

He was hurrying after the boatswain, when something else caught his eye.
A member of the mess came fussing up on deck, fuming with importance,
and Syd turned and was uttering some angry expression, when he found
himself face to face with Roylance.

"Oh, what a shame!" cried Sydney.

"What's the matter?"

"Terry's going in the barge to land the stores."

"And who's going in the second cutter?" said Roylance.

"I don't know; I didn't hear.  I did hope they'd order me to go in the
barge."

"Why, what a cocky chap you are, Belt!  You've had no experience at
all."

"I know that, but I want to get it, and I can't learn to take charge of
a boat unless they send me.  Who's going in the second cutter?"

"I am."

"You?  Oh, how lucky you fellows are!"

"I don't think there'll be much luck in it, for the heat will be
terrible, and I don't suppose we shall have been there very long before
we wish ourselves back on board."

"Oh, I don't know."

"But I do.  Think of the work of getting those guns and things up to the
top."

"But I thought the party who were going to stay would do that?"

"Of course: that's it.  The barge is coming back on board as soon as she
has landed her stores, and the second cutter to-night."

"Well, then you'll only have all day."

"Nonsense; I'm going to stop."

"Oh!  You're as lucky as Terry."

"Yes, but I wish he was coming back.  Not a pleasant messmate to have
ashore with me.  I'm sure you wouldn't like to be along with him."

"Perhaps not; but I did want to come, for I know so much about the
rock.--Oh!  I did want to go."

"Better stop on board, lad.  I dare say we shall have a good deal of
trouble with the men, though they do like Mr Dallas."

"Oh, but I shouldn't mind that," said Syd, thoughtfully.  "I say."

"Well."

"Couldn't you manage to smuggle me off in your boat?"

"I could; but look here, you are the captain's son.  Go and ask leave to
go, even if you have to come back in the boats."

"Oh, yes; I'm the captain's son," said Sydney, bitterly; "and that's the
very reason why I should not be allowed."

"What, for fear you should be eaten up by the shark this time?"

"Joke away; you're all right," said Syd, sulkily.

"Don't take it like that, Belton, old fellow," said Roylance, laying his
hand upon his arm.  "I'd a hundred times rather have you than Terry.  I
say, look! here's the first luff.  I know he likes us fellows to be
eager to learn our profession.  Go and ask him to let you go."

"Shall I?" said Syd, hesitatingly.

"Yes; go along.  He seems always harsh and rough with everybody, but he
isn't a bad one when you come to know him."

"But he's busy now."

"Never mind; go on."

It seemed a very simple thing to do to go up to the officer, touch your
hat, and ask leave to go with the boats, but there was that peculiar
something so hard to get over which keeps lads back from proffering a
petition, and saves their elders and those in authority very often the
pain of having to refuse.

Syd suffered severely on that occasion from this peculiar form of
timidity, till he saw one boat manned and pull off with its load.

In another quarter of an hour the other would be ready, he knew, and
then his chance would be gone.

The first lieutenant passed along the deck, and Syd thought he looked
very severe.  He came back, and he looked worse.  It was impossible to
ask him, and Syd shrank away and went to where Roylance was busy
speaking to the coxswain of his boat.

"I say," whispered Syd, taking him by the sleeve.

"Yes."

"Ask the luff to let me go with you, there's a good fellow."

Roylance gave him a merry look.

"Well, you are a queer one, Belt," he said.  "Not afraid to stand up
before Mike Terry, and yet daren't go and ask the luff to let you go
ashore."

"I'm not exactly afraid," said Syd.

"But you daren't go."

"Yes, I dare," he said; and he went up boldly now.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said, touching his hat.

"Eh?  Yes, Mr Belton; what is it?"

"May I go with the second cutter, sir?"

"You?  Mr Roylance is going."

"Yes, sir.  I wanted to go too."

"Like to take Mr Jenkins as well as Mr Bolton for a good game?"

"Yes, sir; very much," said Syd, eagerly, in astonishment that the
severe officer was so amiable.

"Humph! of course.  Look here, Mr Belton, do you know what the old
proverb says?"

"About idleness, sir?"

"No, not that one.  This:--A boy is a boy."

"Yes, sir."

"Two boys are half a boy."

"Yes, sir."

"And three boys are no boy at all.  I want some work done, so I send one
boy with each boat.  Hi! bo'sun; better take another breaker of water;
you may not find any, and we do not want to communicate for some hours."

"Ay, ay, sir," cried Strake, and he busied himself about the order.

"Got your arms all right, and plenty of ammunition?"

"Yes, sir," said Roylance.

"May I go, sir?" said Syd, tentatively.

But the lieutenant did not appear to have heard him, and stood giving
order after order to the officer and the boat's crew, asking endless
questions about the stores they had on board.

"And I should so like to have gone," thought Syd, as he gazed longingly
at the rock, standing up grey and brown and green against the deep blue
sea, whose waters washed with creamy foam the bottom of the huge mass of
stone.

He turned with a sigh to watch the first lieutenant, who was now busily
talking to Lieutenant Dallas and Roylance, and Syd knew that in another
minute or two the boat, would be pushed off, when the boatswain came up
behind him.

"Aren't you going with us, Master Syd?"

"No, Barney," he replied, sadly; "I'm not going."

"Why don't yer ask the luff to let yer go, sir?  Be a bit of a change."

"I did ask him, Barney."

"And did he say you warn't to go, sir?"

"No; he seemed as if he wouldn't answer me."

"Didn't say downright as you shouldn't go?"

"No."

"Well, sir, you're a young gent, and the capen's son, and course I
wouldn't tell yer to do nothin' wrong; but in the old days when we was
goin' to cut out ships from under the guns of a fort, or to land and
upset some town, the young gents used to smuggle theirselves into the
boat and get down among the men's legs, and the skipper and the luff
wouldn't see 'em."

"Wouldn't see them--why?"

"'Cause bein' very young gents they wouldn't send 'em or give 'em leave
to go 'cause o' the danger, but they liked 'em to go all the same,
'cause it showed they'd got sperret in 'em."

"Barney!" whispered Syd, looking at the bo'sun searchingly.

"No, sir; I won't say go," was whispered back.  "You can't 'spect it.
But--"

Syd's eyes sparkled and he gave a cautious look round to see that the
captain was on the quarter-deck, and that the first lieutenant had his
back to him and was energetically insisting upon something to Roylance.

The next moment Syd was over the side, and down amongst the crew.

"Hide me somewhere, lads," he whispered eagerly.  There was a laugh.

"Arn't you scared about meeting Jack Shark again, sir?" said one of the
men.

"Hold your row, Jim," said another.  "This way, sir."  There was a
little scuffling about, and the next minute, half fearing that he was
playing ostrich and had only concealed his head, Syd was listening.  He
had hardly ceased moving when he heard the first lieutenant saying
something to Lieutenant Dallas, who was evidently descending the side.

"I wouldn't depend too much on that tackle.  The guns are very heavy.
Now, Mr Roylance; in with you."

"Ay, ay, sir," came in peculiar tones; and Syd felt disgusted that he
should not have been able to come down into the boat in the same way,
instead of sneaking in like a rat.

"Seems to be a good deal of swell on amongst these little rocks," said
the first lieutenant.  "You'll land at the other place."

"Oh, yes," said the second lieutenant; and from where he lay Syd could
just get a glimpse of him as he stood up in the stern-sheets.

"He must have seen me," he thought; and looking upwards, there right
over the side, and quite plainly to be seen, were the head and shoulders
of the first lieutenant gazing down into the boat.

Perfectly certain now that he should be shouted at for trying to get off
in the boat, Sydney lay perfectly still, waiting for the unpleasant
order; but oddly enough thinking at the same time that ignominious as it
would be to crawl up the ladder and climb on board, he should be spared
one pain--Terry would not be there to sneer at him.

"Might have been worse," he thought, as he gathered himself together,
ready to spring out and get the trouble over.

But the order did not come, and he only heard a growling sound as the
boatswain said something to one of the men.

"They're waiting for something," thought Syd, as a low talking arose on
deck; and he heard a voice reply which he knew was his father's, and the
blood flushed to his cheeks.

"Give way, my lads!" came at last, and Syd exultantly exclaimed to
himself, as the tension was taken off--

"He didn't see me," and he heard the oars splash, and felt that the boat
was gliding through the water.

But Sydney was not quite right, for as soon as the boat had put off, the
first lieutenant went aft to where the captain was standing, examining
the rock.

"Well, Mr Bracy," he said, as he closed the glass with a snap.

"I thought I'd tell you, sir, that Mr Belton came and asked leave to go
in the last boat."

"Did you give him permission?"

"No, sir."

"That's right."

"But--"

"Eh?" said Captain Belton, raising his eyebrows; "he has taken French
leave and gone?"

"Yes; he was stowed away there amidships."

"And you forbade his going?" said the captain, frowning.

"Oh, no, I did not forbid him, sir."

"Well, well, Mr Bracy; we were boys once," said the captain, smiling.

"Yes, sir, I'm afraid I did the same."

"And I more than twice, Bracy.  One must be a little blind sometimes
with a boy of spirit.  Bit of change for him.  How is he getting on?"

"Capitally.  Full of promise."

"Then I hope he will perform.  By the way, there was one thing I did not
mention to you--a spar for a flagstaff.  I should like them to be able
to hoist the colours when anything comes in sight."

"I thought of it, sir.  They have everything I could think of, and at a
pinch ought to be able to hold out for three months."

"I don't think the pinch will come, Bracy.--Ah, they are getting close
in."

"Yes," said the lieutenant, shading his eyes.  "First boat is landing
her additional stores.  One comfort at this time of year, there is no
fear of rain, so that they need not trouble much about getting covered
in to-night."

"No," said the captain, thoughtfully, "but I hope Mr Dallas will get
everything covered in all the same."

They were following the second boat, as it rose and fell on the
mirror-like surface of the water, till she was cleverly run alongside
the rocks, when the captain opened his glass once more, and stood
watching--the first lieutenant seeing a smile come over his stern
features, and rightly interpreting that he was gazing at his son more
than the actions of the men, who were quickly landing the additional
stores that they had taken to the rock; the tackle previously rigged up
being lowered again and again, and the cases and kegs cleverly swung
ashore, the men dipping their oars at the word of command, and every
time a box was swung up the boat was drawn out of danger, ready to be
backed in when the tackle was once more lowered down.

"Yes," said the captain, thoughtfully, "I have no doubt that Mr Dallas
will prove himself most able in this business.  Weather seems settled
down, Bracy."

"Yes, sir; but you know what it is in these latitudes.  A smile one
minute and a kick the next, and when it does rain--well, it's a good job
it doesn't last, for we don't want another flood."

The captain went on pacing the quarter-deck, looking very cold and
stern, but with a glow about his heart.

"He'll make a smart officer," he said to himself,--"one of whom we shall
be proud.  I'll write and tell Tom about this.  How he will chuckle and
enjoy it!  But I suppose I must lecture the young dog when he comes on
board to-night.  Discipline must be maintained."

That evening, after the men had been busily helping, the barge came back
and was hoisted on board.  The captain walked on deck, but recollected
that it was in the second cutter that Syd had gone, and he went back to
his cabin.

Just at sundown the second boat returned with the coxswain and crew, and
she was hoisted up.

"Humph!" said the captain to himself, as he heard the squeaking sound
made by the falls, "I will not send for him to-night; I'll have a few
words with him in the morning.  Let me see, I'll send word to him by
Strake.  Bah! how absurd.  The bo'sun has gone ashore to help putting up
the tackle for hoisting the guns."

In the course of the evening, when the stars were blazing overhead, and
the rock was invisible in the soft, transparent darkness of the night,
the captain was walking up and down, when he encountered the first
lieutenant, and they compared notes about the beauty of the night, and
how advantageous it was for the unhoused men ashore.

"By the way, Bracy," said the captain, "have you reproved Mr Belton?
because, if not, leave it to me."

"Oh, certainly, sir; but of course I have not had a chance."

"What do you mean?"

"I supposed that he had only gone ashore for the day, and would come
back with the last boat."

"Well, hasn't he?"

"No, sir; he has stopped ashore."



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

That was a busy day on the rock, which was in places so hot to their
bare feet that the men laughed as they stepped gingerly about.

"I say, mate," said one of them in the intervals of hauling up a case,
and just as he had noted that Syd was close by, "d'yer know what's for
dinner to-day?"

"Ay, lad; cold junk and biscuit."

"Better than that, messmate; on'y it wants the young gen'leman to set to
work and ketch some shrimps for sarce."

"What d'yer mean, lad?"

"Fried soles, lad, fried soles," said the other.  "Mine's 'most done
brown."

Syd was not supposed to be on duty, but he was so much interested in the
whole affair that he was as busy as any one, and it was while he was
high up on the rock, looking on at the rigging up of a couple of spars,
crane-fashion, for hoisting the stores, that he came across the
lieutenant, who gave him a peculiar look and a smile, and then went on
giving a few orders before going higher to re-inspect the chasm, prior
to getting the stores and light things in there.

"Couldn't see yer, Master Syd," whispered the boatswain.  "'Stonishing
how invisible young gents is sometimes."

But there was little time for talking.  Work was the order of the day,
and so clever were the contrivances for hoisting, and so well did the
men work, that by sundown all the light things were under cover in the
chasm, and only the guns, barrels, and heavy cases down by the natural
pier.  These latter were covered in turn, and made fast with pieces of
rock piled upon the edge of the tarpaulins, after which the men of the
barge embarked and went back to the ship, the crew of the second cutter
following, and the garrison being gathered in their new quarters, high
up in the cleft of the great rock, for a hearty meal, to which Sydney
came down from the bare fork of the cleft, ravenously hungry, and at
once fell to.

He was partaking of his portion with eager zest, when Roylance, who had
been busy below seeing to the covering of the barrels, came up.

"Why, Belt," he said, in a whisper; "not gone back?"

"No," said Syd, laconically.

"But I thought you'd gone back in the second cutter."

"No," said Syd, with his mouth full; "I did mean to, but I've been
exploring, and when I came back the boat was gone."

"What are you doing here?" said a sharp voice.

"Eating," said Syd, without looking up.

"Don't be insolent, sir.  I am one of the officers of this expedition,
and on duty.  You have no business here."

"Look here, Terry," said Syd, eating away in the most nonchalant
fashion; "I'm hungry, and don't want to leave off and spoil my dinner.
I don't want to quarrel to-night."

"This is insufferable," cried Terry, who felt clothed in authority as
second officer of the expedition, and striding away, he found out the
lieutenant, and stated what he had seen.

"He had no business here, Mr Terry," said the lieutenant, quietly; "but
of course we can do nothing to-night."

"If we signalled for a boat, sir?"

"One would come and fetch him off, but would create unnecessary alarm.
And look here, Mr Terry, is it not time you forgot old sores, and
became good friends with your messmates?"

"I don't understand you, sir," said Terry, haughtily.  "Then I'll try
and be plainer," said the lieutenant, rather sharply.  "Don't you think
it is a pity that you should let your enmity to Mr Belton make you jump
at a chance to do him a bad turn?"

"I came here, sir, to do my duty, and I reported misconduct on the part
of one of the midshipmen."

"Who once gave you a good thrashing, Mr Terry, for playing the bully.
There, there, my good lad, forget and forgive, and don't try and usurp
my duties here.  I will look after Mr Belton."

"Such confounded favouritism to the captain's son!" muttered Terry; but
it was loud enough for the lieutenant to hear, and he exclaimed, hotly--

"And if you dare to say such a thing as that again, sir, I'll clap you
under arrest, and put Mr Belton in your place."  Terry slunk off and
stood about sulking till the men had finished, and were then set to work
to make a temporary shelter for the night, which was quickly done by
tying the edges of the sails they had brought to some spars, and resting
these against the perpendicular side of the rock in the cleft, thus
forming a lean-to, which was spacious enough to cover the men and the
stores and ammunition already protected by the tarpaulins thrown over
them.

Roylance and Syd were standing together in the darkness, watching the
men arranging the spars and hauling the canvas tight, when Syd laid his
hand upon his companion's arm.

"Don't speak or move," he whispered; "but look down to the right.
There's some wild beast crawling up from the west end of the gap."

Roylance gripped Syd's hand to indicate that he saw the creature, and
they remained silent, watching it creeping nearer and nearer, till it
reached the spot where the men had been making their meal, and there it
seemed to pause for a few minutes before returning the way it came.

It was so dark that its motions were more those of a shadow than of some
living creature, and at last it seemed quite to die away among some
loose rocks, just where the gap ended in a precipice.

"Gone," said Sydney, drawing a long breath; "why, it was after the
provisions."

"Evidently.  I couldn't have thought that there were any live creatures
here."

"Looked like a great monkey."

"Well, I thought so once--an ape, but it couldn't have been."

"I say," whispered Syd; "was it a man, and they're going to play some
prank on us from the ship to see if we are on the look-out?"

"What's that?" said a voice behind them, and the two lads started to
find that the lieutenant had come up to them unawares while they were
talking earnestly.

"We just saw something come up from that end of the gap, sir," said Syd;
"it was like a monkey."

"And Mr Belton here fancies it might be a spy from the _Sirius_ to see
if we were on the watch," said Roylance.

"Impossible! they would not play us such a trick.  Stop, it might be
from the enemy--a boat landing men to see what we are about.  But
where?" he said, excitedly.  "They couldn't have landed where we did,
because there are two men on the watch, and I don't think there is any
other place.  Let's see."

Orders were given, the men seized their arms, and after a few admonitory
words had been whispered, a search commenced, anything but an adequate
one, for the task was one of risk, and the men had to proceed with the
greatest caution, so as not to make a false step and go over the side,
either into the sea or down one of the cracks and rifts into which the
rock was cleft.

This went on for a couple of hours, during which the men on the watch
were certain that no one had landed, and at last the weary sailors felt
ready to endorse the remark of Terry, which somehow became spread among
them, that it was only a trick of the captain's son to set them on the
alert.

At last this came to the lieutenant's ears, and he called Syd and
Roylance aside.

"Was this some prank?" he said, sternly.

"I would not be guilty of such a trick, sir," said Syd, warmly.  "It
would have been unfair to the men, who were tired, and an insult to you,
sir."

"Of course it would, gentlemen," said the lieutenant.  "I beg your
pardon."

He went away, feeling rather uneasy, and set watches in two more places,
with orders to fire at the slightest alarm.  Then in turn with Terry he
visited the posts during the early part of the night, and in turn with
Roylance during the latter part, the anxieties of the new command
keeping him on the alert.

As for Syd, he sat talking to Roylance for a time after going up to a
point where on the one side they could see the lights of the ship as she
lay to in the offing, and on the other, very dimly, the distant lamps of
the town of Saint Jacques, or those at the head of its harbour.

It was a strange experience up there in that cleft, under the shelter of
the tent, with the distant murmur of breaking waves upon the rocks.  The
low buzz of the men lulled for a time, then ceased, and Syd lay gazing
at a great bright star which he could see peering through a slit between
two outstretched sails.  Then that star passed out of sight and another
moved in, followed by another, which grew dim, then dimmer, and finally
disappeared, for the simple reason that Syd's eyes had closed and he was
fast asleep.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

The bustle about him at daybreak woke Syd up to find that it was a
glorious morning, but a sharp breeze had arisen; the sea was alive with
breaking waves, and great rollers kept coming in to thunder upon the
rock, sending up the broken water so far that it was evidently the first
duty to get all the tackle and raise the remainder of the cases and
barrels to the level of the cleft.

Willing hands worked well at this, and at last everything was got up in
safety on the first platform ready for running into the cleft, all save
the two dismounted guns and their carriages, which were not likely to
hurt, and the raising of these was deferred till after the breakfast,
which one of the men who acted as cook had prepared.

"There'll be no communication with the ship to-day, gentlemen," said the
lieutenant, "unless the wind drops.  Why, she must be three miles
farther away, and I can't see the _Orion_.  Bad job for you, Mr
Belton."

"Yes, sir," said Syd, quietly going on with his breakfast, and glancing
at Terry, who scowled.

"Well, I shall make you work.  That's the only plan in dealing with
stowaways."

"Oh, I'll work, sir," said Syd.  "When I've done break fast," he added
to himself.

"I tell you what," said the lieutenant; "we shall all be busy getting up
and mounting those guns, so I shall set you to find your mare's-nest."

"My what, sir?"

"Mare's-nest, my lad.  You shall have two of our most active lads
well-armed.  Take pistols yourself, and be careful with them.  Go and
search every hole and cranny you can.  Find the thing you saw last
night, and bring him or it to me.  I'm satisfied it was no one from the
_Sirius_, and it may be some young black sent across and landed to find
out what he can."

As soon as the morning meal was ended Syd set about his task, meeting
with a lowering look from Terry as he passed him.  Two smart young
fellows were his companions, and the fact that he had a brace of loaded
pistols stuck in his belt making him feel more important than ever he
had felt before, till he came upon Strake, who was busy at the very part
where he had seen the dark figure pass, and strengthening and adding to
the tackle which was to be used to get up the guns.

"Mornin', Mr Belton, sir," said the boatswain; and stepping aside so as
to be out of hearing, he said in a low voice, "'Member what I says to
you when I was cleaning the cap'in's pistols?"

"Yes, I remember, Barney," said Syd, in the same low tone.

"Then I says it again, sir, that's all."

"I'll take care," said Syd; and he went on in advance of his men, but
feeling as if the old boatswain had been cutting his comb.

An isolated mass of rock some eight or ten acres in extent does not
suggest that there would be much difficulty in the way of search; but
before they had gone many yards Syd realised that he had a very awkward
task, and that a rope would be a very acceptable article for helping one
another.  This had to be fetched, and then once more they started, with
Syd beginning to feel the responsibilities of his work, and the
necessity for showing that he possessed energy and determination if he
wished the men to obey.

They had not gone much past their first halting-place when he stopped
and hesitated, for there were cracks and holes large enough to conceal
any one, in all directions.  As he stood looking round him, one of the
men whispered to the other, and they both laughed.

This seemed to stir Syd up.  He had inherited enough of his father's
habits to feel nettled at any doubt of his ability, and he rather
startled the men by saying sharply--

"You, Rogers, go yonder to the left; Wills, you take the right.  Both of
you keep as close to the sea as you can, and I'll take the centre of the
rock.  Keep both of you to about my pace, and whenever I'm out of sight
wait till you see me again, for I'll keep on the high ground as much as
I can.  Now then, off and search every hole you see.  If you feel that
you have run the enemy to earth, stop and fire as a signal."

"Ay, ay, sir," they cried together.  "But what's the enemy like, sir?"

"Find him and see," said Syd, sharply.  "Now off."

The men separated at once, and the toilsome job began, with the sun
beating down with tropical power, but the brisk wind reducing the ardour
to bearing point.

"Nice job this," thought the boy, as leaving the cleft centre of the
rock a little to his left, he began his arduous clamber.  "Why, it's as
bad as being an ant in a loaf-sugar basin.  Given myself the hardest
job."

But he persevered, searching diligently every rift, and amongst great
blocks of stone over which he afterwards clambered, seeking the highest
point so as to get a sight of one or the other of his two men, who were
as active as he; but they all reached the edge of the rock at the point
furthest from where they had landed without making any discovery.

"Well," cried Syd, wiping the great drops of perspiration from his brow,
"found anything?"

"Lots of holes, sir," said one.

"Cracks big enough to hold a ship's crew, sir," said the other.

"Back again, then," cried Syd.  "There's either a monkey or a man in
hiding somewhere about the place, and we've got to find him."

"Ought to have said _it_" thought Syd, as he started back, shouting to
the men to take lines a little nearer to him, while he too altered his
course, making straight now for the cleft rock which rose like the
citadel of the place.

As he climbed along he found rift after rift, some so close that he
could not get his hand down, others so wide and deep that he hesitated
at the task of leaping over them, wondering what would be the result if
he slipped and fell.  The fact grew upon him as he went on, that small
as the place looked from the ship's deck, there was plenty of room for
an enemy or fifty enemies to hide; but he became more certain that the
natural pier was the only place where an enemy could land; the two men
having confirmed the opinion formed when Lieutenant Dallas rowed round.

"Strikes me," said Syd to himself, as he kept on peering down into chasm
after chasm, "that if we want to catch our friend we shall have to set a
trap for him."

He climbed on and came to another eerie-looking place, more forbidding
than any he had yet seen.  It was only a jagged crack of a couple of
feet across, but it sloped outward directly, so that a vast hollow was
formed, and when he shouted down it there was a deep reverberating sound
which died away in a whisper.

Boy nature is boy nature all the world over, and Syd could not resist
the prompting which led him to drag a great piece of stone to the edge
of the crack and push it in.

He shrank back, startled at the effect of what he had done, for no
sooner had the stone disappeared than it seemed to strike on the side
and rebound, to strike again and then again and again, raising an
echoing, booming roar, which ended as suddenly as it had begun.

"I can't go down a place like that," he said, impatiently, as he shrank
away; and then he stood staring, for the noise began again.  But not
below ground, for it was as if the rock had come crashing out in front
of him a hundred and fifty feet away, to be followed by a hurried
shouting; and on climbing a block of stone to his right, he made out one
of his men looking out for him, and waving his hand and shouting--"Back!
Back!"

Something was wrong.  Perhaps it was an attack; and he clambered higher
so as to attract the attention of the other man, who also shouted and
waved his hand before pointing at the citadel in front.

"Something must be wrong," thought Syd, and he hurried panting on, to
get in sight of the end of the chasm at last, but he could see nothing,
only that the spars rigged up crane-fashion were not there.

He was now on the highest part of the ridge, which ran down from the
centre rock to the end; and as he clambered along he gazed seaward in
search of the frigate, but it seemed to be gone.  The next moment,
though, he caught sight of her top-gallant spars, and realised that she
must be sailing right away.

The heat was tremendous as Syd struggled on, finding that he had
selected a far worse piece of the rock than had fallen to his men, and
that his task would prove hopeless without the whole party turned out to
help.

All at once, after getting over a block of rugged limestone, which
seemed full of coral, he found that he must let himself right down into
a deep crack, or else clamber to right or left, where the difficulties
were far greater, even if they were surmountable.

He paused for a few moments to wipe his streaming face, and looked up
overhead longingly at where the wind was whistling among the blocks of
stone, and then lowered himself carefully down some thirty feet, stood
listening to a curious sound which came whispering up from where the
chasm he was in contracted to a mere crack, and after coming to the
conclusion that it must be caused by there being some communication with
the sea, he crossed the crack, and began to climb up the other side,
where before he was half-way up one of his two men appeared peering over
the edge, and looking down with a scared face.

"Oh, there you are, sir," he cried; "we was getting frightened, and
thought you'd tumbled."

"No: give me your hand.  Thank you.  Phew! how hot it is down there!"
cried Syd, as he climbed out and stood in the comparatively cool
sea-breeze again.  "But why did you hail me?"

"Don't know, sir.  There's some'at wrong up yonder."

"Something wrong?  Not attacked, are they?"

"Dunno, sir."

"Where's your messmate?"

"Here he comes, sir," said the man, waving his hand; and following their
young leader, the two sailors made for the end of the great chasm where
the guns were to be hoisted up, and Strake had been so busy with the
tackle.

For some minutes, as they climbed over or round the obstacles, there was
nothing to be seen; but after creeping round a bold corner of rock, Syd
suddenly found himself looking down on the whole party from the ship
gathered in a knot round what seemed from the rope and tackle to be one
of the guns.

"Got it up, and it slipped and fell," thought Syd, as he lowered himself
down and made his way to Roylance, whom he touched on the back.

"What's the mat--"

He did not finish, for as the midshipman turned Syd caught sight of the
gun and ropes, with some handspikes which had evidently been used as
levers.

All that was at a glance.  Then he pushed his way forward to sink down
on one knee beside the lieutenant, who was lying on his back, his face
haggard and ghastly, his teeth set and his eyes closed, while the great
drops of agony were gathering on his brow.

He saw no more, for a piece of sail was thrown over his legs.

"Mr Dallas," he cried, "what is it?  Are you ill?"  A low murmur ran
round the little group, and at that moment the boatswain appeared with a
pannikin of water from one of the tubs.

As the lieutenant heard the lad's voice, he opened his eyes, looked
round wildly, and then his gaze rested on Syd's anxious face.

"Ah, Belton," he said in a hoarse whisper, "bad job.  The gear gave
way--confounded gun--fell--crushed my legs.  Ah!"

He uttered a groan full of anguish and fainted away.

"It's horrible!" cried Roylance, as every one looked on helplessly.  "No
surgeon; the gale increasing, and the ship out of sight.  Here, some one
get some brandy or rum.  Ah, Belton!" he whispered, with the tears in
his eyes, "such a good fellow, and I'm afraid it's all over."

Syd heard this as if in a dream, as a deathly feeling of sickness came
over him, and there floated before his eyes a scene in a grand old
beech-wood near home, with a group of men standing round, helplessly as
these were, the sun shining down like a silver shower through the
branches, beneath which was a doctor's gig and a man in a smock frock
holding the horse's head.  There on the moss, where scattered white
chips shone out clearly, lay a fine, well-built young man close by the
trunk of a tree which he had been helping to fell, but had not got out
of the way soon enough, and the trunk had crushed his legs.

The scene died away, and he was gazing down again at the unfortunate
lieutenant instead of at the woodman, with the doctor on his knee and a
boy by his side; and as the deathly sickness passed off he was brought
more to himself by hearing the haughty domineering voice of Terry.

"Stand away, some of you--all of you!" he cried.  "Mr Belton, do you
hear me?  Go away, sir; you are keeping the air from the wounded man."

Accustomed to obey, fresh ashore from the ship where the discipline was
of the strictest, Syd drew back; but as he did so a hysterical sob burst
from his throat, and he stepped forward again.

"Confound you, sir! do you hear me?" cried Terry.  "I am in command now.
Stand back, or I'll put you under arrest."

As he advanced threateningly, Roylance touched Syd's sleeve.

"Don't make a row now, for poor Dallas's sake.  Look!  He's dying."

Syd looked at him quickly, and then turned back to face Terry, as he
said in a dreamy way--"Is there no help?"

"Will you stand back, sir?"

"No doctor?  No one who understands--"

"Here, bo'sun--Strake; seize Mr Belton, and take him away."

No one stirred, but a murmur ran round the group as with a bitter cry of
agony Syd stepped forward so quickly that Terry drew back, expecting a
blow.  But the lad did not even see him, and he was in the act of
sinking on his knees to take the lieutenant's hand, when his eyes rested
on the piece of sail-cloth thrown tightly over the injured man's legs,
where a ruddy patch of blood was slowly spreading.

"He's bleeding to death," he cried excitedly; and a change seemed to
come over the boy, as he bent down and quickly drew away the sail-cloth.

"This is too much," cried Terry.  "You meddling young fool!"

Syd flushed for a moment into anger.  "Roylance!  Strake!" he cried,
"take that idiot away."  As he turned from the astounded middy, he threw
off his jacket, gave one glance at Dallas, whose eyes were fixed upon
him in a wild despairing way; and then knife in hand he was down upon
his knees.

"Here, Barney," he said, in cool firm tones, as recollections of what he
had seen in the wood at home played once more through his brain; "down
on your knees there by his head, and bathe his face with the cold water.
Keep back on the windward side," he continued.  "Mr Roylance, let four
men hold a sail over us to keep off the sun."

His orders were so full of the force which makes men obey, that they
were acted upon at once; and all the time Syd was on his knees busy.

Without a moment's hesitation he had inserted his sharp knife at the
left knee-band, and slit up the garment right to the groin, laying bare
a ghastly wound that seemed to go right to the bone, and from which the
blood came in one spot with a regular throb, throb, which Syd knew meant
death before long if it was not stopped.

"Water, here!" he shouted.

"I must protest against this boy's meddling," cried Terry.  "Mr Belton,
let him die in peace."

"Mr Roylance--" came in faint tones from the white lips of the wounded
man, "take--Mr Terry--"

He fainted as he spoke, but it was enough.  At a word from the
midshipman two of the sailors secured Terry by the wrists, and he was
forced away, while two other men ran for a bucket of water.

"Leave his head now, Barney," cried Syd, in a quick, decided voice.
"Your neckerchief, man.  Quick, roll it up."

This was handed to the young operator, who passed it under Dallas's limb
far up, tied it round in a knot, called for a jack-knife, and then
shouted to the willing man who handed it to shut it up.  This done he
passed the knife inside the neckerchief, pressed it down on the inner
part of the thigh, and then took his sheathed dirk from his belt.

This he also passed under the neckerchief, and began to twist round a
few turns, drawing the bandage tightly down on the knife-handle, which,
as he still twisted, was forced firmly home, pressing the artery against
the bone.

This done, and the dirk secured so that it could not twist back, Syd
turned to the gaping wound, from which the blood still welled, but
sluggishly.  The water was ready, and scooping some on to the wound, it
was more plainly revealed as a great clean-cut gash, extending many
inches.

Syd's fingers were soon busily employed searching for and finding the
ruptured artery, and in spite of the horrible nature of the gash, he
uttered a sigh of satisfaction as he discovered it and pressed it
between his finger and thumb.

"Now one of you--no, you, Strake," he cried, "off with my handkerchief,
and tear it across so as to get me a couple of strips, which roll up
fine as twine."

This was done, but the pieces were rejected as too thick.

Two more were prepared and laid ready.

"Now," he said, "a little more water here, over my hands."

He was obeyed, and with deft fingers, taught by Doctor Liss, he rapidly
tied the artery, and the main flow of blood was stopped amid a low
murmur of satisfaction, the patient, who had revived, lying perfectly
motionless with his eyes fixed upon his surgeon.

And now for a few moments the lad paused, with his brow wrinkled up,
thinking.

He wanted silk and a large needle, and the latter was unattainable.

"Has any one a pin or two?" he said.

There was an eager search, and the result was that five were found, of
which the boatswain produced three; and then stared as he saw his young
officer unbutton and strip off his white linen shirt, to kneel there
half-naked beneath the rough awning the men held over them, and rapidly
slit and tear it up into bandages.

By this time Roylance was back, and taking his cue from his friend, he
did not hesitate to follow his example.

"Now quick, Strake," said Syd; "lay me up a few more strips of silk as
fine as you can."

"Ay, ay, sir!" and the boatswain's fingers were soon busy, while by
means of a couple of broad bandages Syd drew the edges of the wound
together, and gave the ends of the bands to two men to hold, while first
in one place he cleverly thrust a pin through the skin of one side of
the wound and out at the other, then holding the lips of the gash
together he quickly twisted a fine thread of silk over the pin-head on
one side, over the point on the other, and so on, to and fro, till the
wound was closed there.

Over this a temporary bandage was secured, and he proceeded to draw the
wound edges together in another place in the same way till this was also
fast and temporarily bandaged over.  The other three pins were similarly
utilised, and then broad fresh bandages of linen were wrapped firmly
round, the temporary ones being removed by degrees, and again used in a
better manner, till the horrible wound was properly secured; then as Syd
ceased his efforts, as if moved by one spirit, a hearty English cheer
burst from every one present; and the men whose hands were not occupied
threw their hats in the air.

"Hush! pray!" cried Syd, looking up angrily, as, taking his knife once
more, he cut through the knee-band of the other leg, slit it up in turn,
and then softly drew down the stocking.

Here he paused, and looked anxiously up at his patient, whose pallor was
terrible.

"Keep on moistening his lips with a little spirit-and-water, Roylance,"
he whispered, "or he will not be able to bear the pain."

He was obeyed without a word, and after waiting a few moments the lad,
clumsily enough perhaps, but with a show of some of the skill that he
had seen displayed by Doctor Liss when out with him upon his rounds,
began to make his examination.

The leg was terribly scraped and bruised, but this was not the trouble.
Syd's eyes were sufficiently educated to detect what was wrong, and a
few delicate touches satisfied him.

"Got off a bit there, hasn't he, Master Syd?" whispered the boatswain.

"Got off, Barney?  No," said the lad, sadly.  "His thigh-bone is broken,
and his leg too, just above the ankle."

"Lor' ha' mussy!" muttered the boatswain, "who'd ha' thought o' that!"

Syd was silent, for he was face to face with another surgical problem.
He wanted splints, bandages, and brown paper, and he had none of these.
What was to be done?

"Two of you take your knives," he said, "and split up the lid of one of
those cases.  I want half a dozen strong thin laths of different
widths."

"Ay, ay, sir!" came back; and there was the rending sound of wood heard.

"Now for bandages, Barney.  Ah, I see.  But I want some linen first to
go next the skin."

"Oh, you can have all the men's, sir, and welcome, I know."

"Yes, poor fellows.  But I want some long narrow ones.  You must cut
them from one of the sails."

"Ay, ay, sir!"

All worked hard at these preparations, while Syd had the longest lid of
any case they had brought to him, and this, after being covered with a
piece of sail-cloth, was carefully slipped under the broken limb.  Then
there was a certain amount of trimming and measuring required over the
splints before the young surgeon was satisfied, a sensation of shrinking
keeping him from beginning what was another crucial task.  Fortunately
the fractures were simple, and he had no very great difficulty in
bringing the broken bones into their proper positions, after which he
bandaged and applied the splints, making all fast, a low moan from time
to time being all that escaped from the sufferer.

At last.  The final bandage was secured, and a horrible weight was
removed from Syd's breast, for he knew that he had set the bones rightly
even if his surgery was rough, and so far his patient had not sunk under
the operation.

"Shall we carry him up yonder now, sir?" said the boatswain, touching
his forelock.

"Move him? no," cried Syd.  "Rig up something over his head.  He must
not be touched."  Then, turning to Dallas, he went down on one knee and
took his hand.  "Are you in much pain?" he said.

The poor fellow was conscious, and he looked full in the speaker's eyes;
his lips moved, but no sound came, and the horrible feeling of sickness
which had first troubled Syd came back, increasing so fast that the lad
rose quickly and staggered a few yards.

"Give me something--water--quick!" he muttered; and all was blank.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

When Syd opened his eyes he was lying down, with Roylance kneeling by
his side, and a curious feeling of wonderment came over him as to what
all this meant.

"What's the matter?" he said, sharply.

"You fainted.  Are you better now?"

"Some people do faint at the sight of a drop of blood," said a familiar
voice, followed by a sneering laugh.

It was medicine to Syd, and he felt better directly, and sat up.

"Give me my jacket and things," he said; and paying no heed to Terry,
who was standing close by the two men who had been placed over him,
busily helping with the rough tent they were fitting over the
lieutenant, he walked to his patient, to find him lying so passive that
he shuddered, and wondered whether the poor fellow was dead.

"Did I do wrong?"  Syd asked himself.  "Would he have got better if I
had left him alone?"

He felt his ignorance terribly as he asked himself these questions; but
the answer was ready for utterance as Roylance said, looking white as he
spoke--

"Oh, Belt, old fellow, what a horrible job to have to do!"  And then,
"Would he have got right without?"

"No.  If he had gone on bleeding from that artery he would by now have
been a dead man."

"But how did you learn all that?  The lads can do nothing else but talk
about it."

"Hush! come away," said Syd.  "Let him sleep, and"--he shuddered--"let
one of the men bring me a bucket of water."

It was well on in the middle of the day, and there was no sign of the
ship.  The men had greatly improved the shelter up in the chasm; but
though the carriages were up one at each end near the positions they
were to occupy, the two guns which should by this time have been mounted
lay on the rock, the first one having brought down the tackle, and
bounded from a sloping stone on to the unfortunate lieutenant, pinning
him to the ground before he could get out of the way.

After seeing that his patient was carefully watched by one of the men
who had been his companion that morning, Syd was trying to drive away
the miserable feeling of faintness and exhaustion from which he suffered
by partaking of a little refreshment, when, just as he was thinking of
his father's orders, and that those guns ought to be mounted, the
boatswain came up, touched his hat to him and Roylance, and was about to
speak, when Terry strode up, and ignoring his brother midshipmen, said
sharply--

"Look here, bo'sun; that was all nonsense this morning.  Mr Dallas is
wounded, and incapable.  I am senior officer, and the captain's orders
must be carried out.  Call the men together, and I'll have those guns up
at once."

"Ay, ay, sir!" cried Strake; his whistle sounded shrilly against the
sides of the rock, and the men came running up.

"All hands to hoist up the guns," cried Terry.  "Now, bo'sun, have that
tackle fixed better this time."

"Ay, ay, sir.  Now, my lads, be smart, and we'll have that gun up in a
jiffy."

The men were all gathered together in a knot, but no one stirred; and
they began muttering to themselves.

"Now, my lads; what is it?" cried the boatswain.  "You don't mind a bit
o' sunshine, do you?  Come, bear a hand."

Not a man stirred, and Syd and Roylance exchanged looks.

"What is the meaning of this?" cried Terry, in a bullying tone.  "Do you
hear, men?  I want these guns up directly."

Still no one stirred, and Terry grew pale.  His one hand played about
his sword, and his other hand sought a pistol.

"Bo'sun!" he cried, "what is the meaning of this insubordination?"

Strake shook his head.

"D'ye hear, my lads?  Mr Terry wants to know the meaning of this
ins'bordination."

Not a man spoke.

"Look here," cried Terry, drawing his dirk, "I am not going to be
trifled with.  I order you to help hoisting up those guns.  What do you
mean?  Are you afraid of another accident?"

"No," cried the men with one consent, in quite a shout.

"Then look here, my lads," cried Terry, drawing a pistol, "I'll stand no
nonsense.  Will you obey?"

"Look here, Terry," said Roylance, sharply, "there is no occasion for
violence.  The men think they have some grievance; ask them what it is."

"Mind your own business, sir," cried Terry, sharply; but as Roylance
drew back with a deprecating gesture, he spoke to the boatswain.

"Ask the mutinous scoundrels what they mean," he said.

The boatswain went up to the knot of men.

"Now then, you swabs," he growled; "what's these here games?"

"We arn't going to have him playing at skipper over us," said one of
them.  "The luff put him under arrest for interferin'."

"Ay, ay," growled the others; "we don't want he."

"S'pose you know it's hanging at the yard-arm for mutiny, my lads?" said
the boatswain, gruffly.

"Mutiny?  Who want's to mutiny?" said another.  "We're ready enough to
work, arn't we, messmates?"

"Ay, ay," came in chorus.

"Then lay hold o' the rope, and let's have them guns up yonder."

"Ay, to be sure; we'll get the guns up," said another man; "but Mr
Terry's under 'rest."

"Then you won't haul?" said the boatswain.

"Not one on us.  He arn't an officer till he's been afore the skipper."

"Well, what am I to tell him?"

"What yer like," said one of the first speakers.

Strake gave his quid a turn, rubbed his ear, and walked back.

"Won't haul, sir," he said, laconically.

"What!  Then it's mutiny.  Mr Roylance, Mr Belton, draw your swords.
Bo'sun, run and get a cutlass and pistols."

"I don't want no cutlass to them, sir; I've got my fists," growled the
boatswain.

"What, are you in a state of mutiny too?" cried Terry.

"Not as I knows on, sir?"

"Then arrest the ringleader."

"Which is him, sir?"

"That man," cried Terry, pointing with his dirk to Rogers, one of the
smart young fellows who had been Syd's companion in the morning.  "Bring
him here.  Oh, if I had a file of marines!"

"Which you arn't got," muttered Strake, as he strode back to where the
men were together.

"Here you, Ike Rogers," he said; "I arrests you for mutiny."

"No, no," growled the men together.

"All right, messmates," said Rogers, laughing.  "Can't put us in irons,
for there arn't none."

"Come on," said Strake, clapping him on the shoulder.  "Mr Terry wants
you."

"What for?" said Rogers, eyeing the middy's dirk; "to pick my teeth?"

In the midst of a burst of laughter the boatswain marched the man up to
where Terry was, strutting and fuming about.

"Now, you scoundrel," he said; "what does this mean?"

"Beg pardon, sir; that's what we want to know."

"Then I'll tell you, sir; it's rank mutiny."

"There now, bo'sun; that's just what we thought," said Rogers, turning
to him.  "I know'd it was, and that's why we wouldn't come."

"You scoundrel!  You're playing with me," cried Terry.

"Nay, sir; not me.  Wouldn't ketch me play with a orficer with a big
sword in his hand."

"Then tell me what you mean.  You said it was mutiny, and so you would
not come."

"That's it, sir.  Sworn to sarve the King; and when a young orficer,
which is you, sir, breaks out of arrest, and wants to lead a lot of poor
chaps wrong, 'tarn't me as 'll risk my neck."

Terry's jaw dropped at this unexpected reply, and Roylance burst into a
roar of laughter, in which he was joined by Syd, while Strake stood with
his face puckered up like a year-old pippin, and rubbed his starboard
ear.

"Mr Roylance!" cried Terry at last, "how is discipline to be preserved
while you encourage the men in this tomfoolery?  I shall report it to
the captain, sir."

"Look here, Mr Terry," said Roylance, firmly; "the man is, in his way,
quite right."

"Ay, ay, sir," cried the others, who had closed in, following their
messmate.

"Quite right?"

"Yes; Mr Dallas put you under arrest."

"Mr Dallas is ill--dying, and unable to give orders, sir.  I am your
senior."

"Oh, you're welcome to take command for me," cried Roylance.  "I don't
want the responsibility."

"Once more, my lads, I warn you of the consequences.  Will you go to
your work?"

There was no reply, and the men drew back, while Terry stood looking
along their faces with his pistol raised.

"Mind that there don't go off, please, sir," said Rogers, dryly.  "You
might hit me."

There was a roar of laughter at this, and Terry stamped with rage.

"Shall I go and try and bring 'em to their senses, sir?" said the
boatswain.

"No--yes," cried Terry.

"Which on 'em, sir?" said the boatswain, dryly.

"Yes.  Go and see, and tell them I'll shoot down the first man who
disobeys."

"Oh, Lor'!" groaned Rogers, with mock horror, and there was another
laugh, while Syd turned away unable to keep his countenance, and went to
where the lieutenant lay asleep.

"Look here, my lads," growled the boatswain; "it's no use kicking agen
it.  Come on; lay to at the ropes, and let's get the work done."

"We arn't going to be bully-ragged by a thing like that," said the
oldest man present.  "If he was a chap with anything in him, we would.
But he's a bully, that's what he is.  Let Mr Roylance take command."

"Says as Mr Roylance is to take command, sir," shouted Strake.

"No," said Roylance, "I will not undertake the responsibility."

"Look ye here, messmates," cried Rogers, as Syd hung back from the
little tent, "Capen Belton's our skipper."

"Ay, ay," shouted the men.

"And he arn't here, and the luff's in orspittle."

"Well, we know that, Iky," said one of the men.

"Ay, lad; but here comes the son.  I says let young Captain Belton take
command."

"Ay, ay!" thundered the men, and they gave three cheers.

"There you are, sir," said the boatswain.  "Men says you're to take
command."

"I?" cried Syd; "nonsense.  There's Mr Roylance."

"No, no," cried the men; and Terry stood grinding his teeth, and looking
threateningly at Syd.

"Look here, my lads," cried Syd; "the captain wants those guns mounted,
and this place held."

"Ay, ay, sir; we'll do it and hold it again anybody," cried Rogers.

"Very well put, Belton; very well," cried Terry.

"Your officer is helpless.  Will you obey Mr Terry, and do your duty
like men?"

"No!" came with a roar.

"Then let Mr Roy lance take command.  Come, be men."

"We arn't got nothing agen Mr Roylance," shouted a voice; "but we want
you."

"Go on, Belton; take command.  The ship will be back perhaps to-night,
and we must have those guns up," said Roylance.

"Will you back me up?"

"Of course," cried Roylance, heartily.

"All right, then, my lads," cried Syd.  "Now then, with a will."

"Ay, ay.  Hooray!" shouted the men.

"Man signalling from the tent, sir," said Roylance.

"Oh!" ejaculated Syd, as a cold chill ran through him, and he shrank
from learning what it meant.  "Go and see, Roy."

Roylance was already half-way there, and he came back directly.

"Mr Dallas says you are to take command, Mr Belton," he cried, loud
enough for the men to hear; "and he begs that at any cost you will get
the guns in position before dark."

"Ay, ay," yelled the men, and then there was dead silence.

"I am only one against you all, Mr Belton," said Terry, in a low,
snarling tone, "and the moment the _Sirius_ comes back, I go to the
captain and tell him the whole truth."

"Do," said Syd, quietly; "only tell him all."



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

"Barney, keep near me, and tell me what to do," whispered Syd; "I feel
such a fool."

"You dear lad," said the old man, softly.  "Why, I've been that proud on
you to-day as never was, and been wishing the capen was here."

"Nonsense!  Now about getting up these guns.  I can't tell the men what
to do."

"Yah! you're right enough.  All you've got to do is to look on and say,
`Now, my lads, with a will!' and, `Come, bo'sun, don't play with it!'
And, `Altogether, my lads!' and you'll see them guns mounted in no time.
Steady; here's Mr Roylance coming."

"But it seems to be only playing at captain, and I don't--"

"Ay, ay, sir," roared the boatswain.  "You're right.  Parbuckle it is.
Be smart, my lads, and get down a cask.  One o' them as the stores was
in."

There was a hearty assent, as Syd said to himself, "What does he mean by
`parbuckle'?"

"Cast off these here ropes, sir," shouted Strake again.  "Ay, ay, sir.
Now, my lads, off with them."

The men trotted here and there with the greatest of alacrity, and by the
time the ropes were unfastened from the first gun, a cask was rolled to
the end of the gap, lowered down, and placed by the end of the gun.

The boatswain came to Syd's side again.

"Get the gun inside, and then pack her round with tarpaulin and
doubled-up sails, wouldn't you, sir?" he said.

"Yes, if it's best," replied Syd; and the boatswain went off again to
the men.

"Talk about a lad!" he said.  "My! he is the right sort.  Now then, in
with that handspike, boys."

The men placed one end of the tough ash staff into the muzzle of the
gun, then laid hold and lifted it high enough for a block to be placed
under it.  Then the men depressed the muzzle, the leverage given by the
handspike enabling them to raise the breech; and the cask was run over
it right up over the trunnions, a little more hoisting and heaving
getting the gun right in, when it was easily packed round with
doubled-up sails, and wedged tight in the centre.

After this the task was comparatively easy.  Four ropes were made fast
to a mass of rock in the gap, brought down and passed under the cask,
taken back over the top, and from thence into the gap, where, with Syd
now comprehending, and wonderfully interested in the task, giving
orders, all the strength of the detachment was brought to bear, and the
cask was hauled up the slope without a mishap.

A burst of cheers greeted this, and it was then rolled on over the rough
ground with handspikes, till it was at the upper end of the gap by its
carriage, which was ready on a rough platform.

Then the unpacking began, Syd needing no instructions now the cask and
packing were rolled back, and the second gun was brought up with greater
ease than the first.

The rigging up of a kind of tripod, and hoisting each gun up into its
place on the carriage, was a mere matter of every-day detail, and before
dark Syd had the satisfaction of seeing his father's wishes carried out,
and each piece ready with its pile of shot and ammunition stowed under
the shelter of a niche in the rock which made an admirable magazine.

He had been alone part of the time, but admirably seconded by Strake,
who kept up his bit of acting at first with a show of reality that was
admirable, till he saw that his young master had grasped the requisite
knowledge, and in his excitement began to order and dictate till the
work was done; for Terry had gone off with a glass to sweep the horizon
in search of the frigate, getting under shelter of a great piece of
stone, the wind blowing almost a gale.

But he searched in vain.  For some reason the _Sirius_ had sailed right
away; and he crept down at last with the unsatisfactory feeling that he
had been superseded, and that it would be some time before the frigate
returned.

But long before he descended, Roylance--who had set the sailor free, and
was watching in his place by the lieutenant's side--had communicated
with Sydney, and asked him to come and look at his patient.

It was a sad sight.  The poor fellow lay motionless and breathing feebly
and hurriedly, for there was a suggestion of the fever that was pretty
sure to come; and a feeling of helplessness came over Syd as he bent
over his patient, and wondered what he could do more to save his life.

After the guns had been dragged up, a portion of the men were at liberty
to help in other ways, and a good deal more had been done to the shelter
up in the gap.

It was quite time, for with the coming night it was evident there would
be a storm.  And it became a matter of certainty that if the wind did
rise, the rough tent set up with a sail thrown over a spar, for the
lieutenant's use, would be exposed to the higher waves, and must
inevitably be saturated by the spray.

It was no use to sigh, the task had at all risks to be done, and the
question arose how the wounded man was to be transported to the gap.

"Can't we do something to keep him here?" suggested Syd; "build a rough
wall of rock to shelter him."

The answer came at once in the shape of a large roller, which seemed to
glide in, and after deluging the little pier broke with a heavy,
thunderous noise, and sent a tremendous shower of broken water over the
canvas of the rough tent, nearly driving it flat, and proving that the
position where Mr Dallas lay would not be tenable much longer.

"I think I can manage it, sir," said the boatswain, touching his hat,
"if I may try."

"What will you do?"

"This here, sir."

There was no time to waste; and with all the handiness of a sailor the
old man set to work, took down the sail, and folded it till it was in
the form of an oblong, some eight feet by four.

"Now two on you," he said, "draw that under the lufftenant while we
eases him up.  Not that way, you swabs: folded edge first."

The doubled sail was reversed, and as Mr Dallas was gently lifted the
canvas was drawn under him; Syd feeling a chill run through him as the
poor fellow lay perfectly inert, not so much as giving vent to a moan.

"Now, one at each corner," said the boatswain.  "Mind and not shift that
there board under his leg.  Steady--altogether."

The men lifted, and the wounded man was borne close up to the slope
below the gap, where the spars and tackle were erected at the edge some
fifteen feet above their heads.

It was none too soon; the men were in the act of lowering their burden
gently down, when, with a noise like thunder, another wave broke, and it
was only by making a rush through the foam that the spars, canvas, and
rope lying by the rough tent were saved by the men from being carried
away.

"Just in time, Roy," said Sydney; "but how are we to get him up there,
bo'sun?"

"Oh, that's easy enough, sir; I can work that."

Taking a small boat-mast, the boatswain rapidly lashed the ends of the
temporary hammock fast to the spar, and then ropes were carried and
secured to the tackle-block in a way that, when all was ready, there was
no difficulty in hauling the spar horizontally up, with the temporary
hammock and its burden swinging from the spar like a palanquin.

All this was cleverly managed, and willing hands seized one end of the
spar as soon as it was up to the end of the gap, drew it in till the
other end could be reached and shouldered, and then the hammock was
borne right up to where the shelter had been previously prepared.

As soon as the patient had been carefully laid down, Sydney knelt beside
him to place his light hand upon his heart, trembling the while in
anticipation of his worst dread being fulfilled, and a cold chill came
over him again, as it seemed to him that there was no movement.

He shifted his hand to the pulse, and still there seemed to be no sign,
till he lifted the fingers up a little and drew a catching breath, for
there was certainly a feeble throbbing sensible.

"Can't s'pect much, sir," whispered the boatswain.  "Man's awful weak
when he's like that.  Bimeby, though, he'll turn hot and fev'rish; they
generally does."

"But he is alive," said Syd, softly; and he proceeded to examine his
bandages, thankful to find that the bleeding had stopped, and the
splints, thanks to the board beneath the sufferer's leg, unshifted.

Breathing a little more freely now, and enforcing silence among the men,
Sydney left the temporary tent, and took a look round with Roylance,
previous to making dispositions for the night.

Everything was rather chaotic, but the guns were in position, the men's
arms arranged, and the tackle drawn up, so that they were all secure in
a natural fort, whose approaches could easily be defended, there being
only one place where an enemy was likely to approach.  Here a watch was
set, and orders given for a meal to be prepared, in anticipation of
which a tot of rum was served round to the tired men, and a bit of
tobacco handed to each by Sydney's orders.

The effect was miraculous.  Five minutes before the men looked worn-out
and dull in the gathering gloom; now there was a burst of subdued
laughter and talk from the group gathered round the fire which the cook
had prepared, the light shining on the face of Terry, who stood leaning
against a piece of the perpendicular rock, his arms folded, and a heavy
scowl upon his brow.

"I don't like that, Roy," said Syd, in a low tone; "it's miserable work
being bad friends."

"Yes; I hate it."

"I've a good mind to go and ask him to shake hands."

"If you do he'll think you are afraid of him."

"He wouldn't be so stupid, would he?"

"Yes: make him come to you."

"I suppose that would be best," said Syd, with a sigh.  "Let's go up
here and look out for the lights of the frigate.  What are you laughing
at?"

"You.  Come; you're a capital doctor, but not much of a sailor yet."

"Oh, I'm no doctor.  I couldn't have done that, only I used to go along
with a friend of my father on his rounds, and saw what he did."

"Well, you've saved poor Mr Dallas's life."

"Think so, Roy?  Ah, if I could only feel sure!  But why," added Syd,
after a pause, "did you say I was no sailor?"

"To talk about seeing the frigate's lights.  She couldn't have beat up
near here in such a gale as this.  Whew! it does blow."

They had been walking carefully along the gap towards the point where
the further gun was mounted, and gradually clambered up higher till they
were beyond the shelter of the side of the southern cleft, when Roylance
had just time to clap his hand to his head and save his hat, which was
starting on a voyage into the black night.

The next minute Syd was beside him, holding on to the rocky edge of the
cleft, high up above the guns, catching the full force of the wind.
Down below they were in complete shelter.  Here the gale had such power
that it was impossible to stand securely.  The wind shrieked about their
ears, and seemed to come at them in huge waves, each throwing them back
against the rock, and now and then making what felt like a snatch to
tear them from where they stood, and hurl them down the rocks, or blow
them away to sea.

"I say," cried Roylance, panting to get his breath, and holding his lips
close to his companion's ear, "they must be having it pretty rough on
board to-night."

"Think there's any danger?" shouted Syd.

"Not if they keep well out to sea.  Eh?  What?"

"I didn't speak," roared Syd; "it was the wind howling."

"Hadn't we better get down?  I feel as if I was going to be blown right
off."

"Wait a bit.  I say, I think I'll have a man posted here by this gun."

"What, now?"

"Yes, at once."

"Nonsense, man; there's no one on the rock but ourselves, and no enemy
could come near us in this gale."

"No," shouted Syd; "suppose not.  But--"

He had to cease speaking and hold on, for the wind rushed at them now
with redoubled violence, and for a minute neither thought of anything
but the danger.

"It does blow," panted Syd at last, as the wind lulled a little.  "I was
going to say--do you feel sure there is no one else on the rock?"

"Yes, of course."

"I don't," said Syd, decisively; "I know I saw something, or some bird."

"A goat left on the rock."

"No; it could not have been a goat; it must--"

Whoo!  The wind rushed at them again, and once more they held on,
longing to get down below, but fascinated by the awful din.  Below them
the darkness seemed profound; only now and then they saw a gleam, as if
one of the waves--which broke with a roar like thunder on the rock, and
sent a fine cloud of spray floating about their faces--contained some
kind of light living creatures, or it was only a reflection on the
smooth curve, before it broke, of the stars overhead.  For there all was
clear enough, save that the stars looked blurred, though bright, and
were quivering and vibrating beyond the rushing wind.

"Oh!" ejaculated Syd.  "Hear that?"

"Hear it!" was the reply; "I could feel it.  Shan't have the whole rock
swept away, shall we?"

There was a lull in the wind just then, but the two lads had clung
there, completely awe-stricken, as a huge hill of water had heaved up,
and fallen on the outer buttresses of the rock, which quivered under the
shock.  Then there was a roar of many waters, a wild rushing and booming
sound, and the wind blew harder.

They looked out into the awful blackness, which seemed transparent,
glanced up at the quivering stars, once more paused to listen again to
the tremendous impact of the waves that came regularly rolling in, and
then, taking advantage of a lull, they descended to where the gun had
been mounted.

The change was wonderful.  They had not descended fifty feet, but it was
into complete shelter.  The wind was rushing over their heads, and the
waves were thundering in far below, but the noise sounded dull and
distant, and they sat down, breathing freely, and rubbing their
spray-wet faces.

"No," said Syd, quietly; "no fear."

"What of?"

"The rock being swept away; it would have gone before now."

"Well, I'm beginning to think we're safer here than on board," said
Roylance.

"Don't say that," cried Syd, excitedly.  "You don't think there's any
danger to the frigate, do you?"

"No," said Roylance, sharply.  "Come on down now, and let's get
something to eat."

They walked steadily back towards where the fire was glowing and burning
briskly in the sheltered depth of the chasm, casting curious lights and
reflections on the rocks to right and left, and showing plainly the
figure of the man on the watch beside the farther gun, and the spars
rigged up at his side.

"Looks as if he were going to be hung," said Roylance, quietly.

"Yes, the spars have an ugly look with that rope hanging down.  I almost
wish I had put a man up by the other gun."

"What for?  I tell you we can go to sleep in peace to-night."

"With poor Mr Dallas like that?"

"Forgotten him for the moment.  No; of course one of us will take the
watch, unless Terry comes down and turns civil.  There, hi! look at
that! look at that."

_Bang_!--The report of the sentry's pistol as Syd and Roylance had
started trotting down towards the gun at the lower end.

In an instant the men about the fire had leaped up, and stood ready for
any action by their arms.

"Did you see it, my man?" panted Syd.

"Ay, ay, sir; came running along like a big tiger from up yonder by the
fire, and I fired at it, and then it was gone."

"Did you see which way it went?"

"No, sir, 'cause o' the smoke."

"It seemed to me to disappear among these rocks," said Roylance.

"No; I saw it come out from behind there, and then it leaped off into
the darkness just below the gun.  Here, spread out, my lads; it didn't
go that way.  Keep a smart look-out, and go steady down to the edge.  It
couldn't have jumped off, and must be here."

A thorough search took place, and this was easy enough, for the space
within the gap or chasm was comparatively small.  But there was no
result, and at last a few burning brands were thrown down from the edge
just below the gun to light up the rocks there, in the hope that some
animal might be lying killed by its fall.

There was nothing visible, and at last, after making their arrangements
for the night, Roylance and Sydney sat together, talking in low tones
about the mysterious appearance seen now twice.

"Here, I'll keep watch," said Roy, after they had taken another look at
the injured man.

"No, I'll take the first half," said Syd, quietly.

"Well, you're in command," said Roylance; "but I don't feel comfortable
about going to sleep with a wild beast dancing minuets all over one in
the night."

"I shall be watching," said Syd.

"Oh, very well: I'll lie down.  Poor Terry's got the best of it; he has
been fast asleep for an hour."

Roylance lay down under the sail, covering himself with his boat-cloak,
and was asleep directly; while Sydney, after another glance at Dallas,
who seemed to be sleeping quietly, placed his pistols in his belt, and
went out to visit the watch.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

As Syd stood outside the effect was very curious.  The wind was blowing
with hurricane violence, and in a dull distant way the sea was breaking
wave after wave against the rocks, but where he stood there was hardly a
breath of air.  Then with the novelty of his sensations increasing, and
feeling that all this seemed to him like a dream from which he would
awake in the morning, he walked to where the watch was posted, and
started a little on seeing two figures in the darkness instead of one.

"On'y me, Mr Belton, sir," came in the boatswain's gruff growl.
"Rogers here felt it a bit lonesome like with no company but a long gun.
And look ye here, mate," he whispered to the man, "don't you never
forget to reload arter you've fired your pistol."

"Seen or heard anything more?" said Syd, making an effort to keep up his
new dignity.

"No, sir.  Fancied I did once, but it warn't nothing."

"Blowing very hard, bo'sun."

"Well, sir, tidy, tidy; most a capful o' wind.  Thought I'd come and
stay with him, sir," he whispered, as they walked aside to gaze out to
sea; "bit scared like arter seeing that there thing again."

"There was something, Barney, I'm sure."

"Steady, Master Syd, sir, steady," growled the boatswain.  "You can't
lower yourself to call me Barney now you're commander of a fort, and a
werry strong one too."

"Oh, very well, bo'sun.  But about that thing, whatever it was.  What do
you think it could be?"

"Well, sir, I don't see how it could get here; but it's either a monkey
or some small kind o' nigger as lives nateral like on rocks."

"But what could he live on?"

"Dunno, sir; lickin' on 'em p'r'aps."

"But there's no water."

"No, sir; that's what puzzles me.  The worst on it is it scares the
lads."

"Well, it is startling.  He did not hit it, I suppose?"

"Hit it?" said the boatswain, contemptuously; "not him, sir.  Get's
thinking it's--there, I arn't going to say what he thinks.  Sailors has
all kind o' Davy Jonesy ideas in their heads till they gets promoted,
and then o' course they're obliged to be 'bove all that sort of thing."

"When do you think the frigate will be back?"

"Can't say, sir.  Not so long as the wind's blowing like this."

"Oh!" ejaculated Syd; "so unfortunate.  Just as we want the surgeon so
badly."

"What for, sir?"

"Mr Dallas, of course."

"Surgeon?  What do he want with a surgeon?  You mended him a deal better
than I've seen poor chaps patched in the cockpit during an action, when
the surgeon and his mates was busy.  Look ye here, Master Syd, I've
knowed you ever since you was a bit of a toddlin' thing as held on to my
finger--this here one--and couldn't get your little dumpy things right
round it; and you know me, sir, I wouldn't say a word to praise you as I
didn't mean."

"Oh, I don't know, Strake."

"Then you may know, sir; I wouldn't--theer!  And I says to you now as a
honest man as never took nothin' worse than one o' them yaller gummy
plums off the wall--them as crack right open like wide mouths, and seems
to be putting out their stones at you laughin' like, and sayin', eat me
if you dare.  Well, sir, I say as a honest man, if ever I'm wounded I
don't want no surgeon but you."

"Oh, nonsense, man!  There'll be a long serious time yet when he wants
the surgeon's attention."

"Not him, sir.  No: we'll do all that."

"I hope so, Strake.  But now we are alone, tell me what I am to do
to-morrow."

"Just what you like, sir.  If it was me I should mast-head Master Terry,
if he come any of his games."

"Without a mast-head?"

"No, sir; you'll have to set up one o' them spars, the one with the
little truck for the halliards right a top o' the highest pynte, to fly
the Bri'sh colours, and you can send him there."

"But about this place, and men?"

"Oh, I dunno, sir.  If it was me I should set the lads to level the
gun-platforms a bit, and some o' the others to build up two or three
walls with the loose rocks for us to roof in.  One for the men, one for
the orficers, and one for the stores."

"Yes, I thought of doing that."

"Why, of course you did, sir.  And then you could give the men some
gun-drill, and arter that wait till the enemy comes."

"Yes, and when the enemy comes?"

"Send him back with a flea in his ear.  No room for no Frenchies here."

"I hope they won't come," said Syd, half to himself.

"Now, now, now, sir; no yarns to an old sailor," said the boatswain,
chuckling.  "I can believe a deal, but I can't believe that."

"Don't talk nonsense, Strake.  Look here, is there anything else to be
done?"

"Well, sir, it seems to me, going over it all as I have been, that
you've been thinking that we've got our prog here, and some water, and
not enough of it till the frigate comes back, so that you might put the
lads on 'lowance so as to make sure."

"Ah, I had not thought of that."

"Beggin' your pardon, sir, you had, only it hadn't come up yet.  That
there was a thing to be thought on by a commanding orficer, and course
you thought on it, on'y talking to me promiskus like you forgetted it.
Then there's another thing.  The skipper never thought 'bout going far
away from here, I s'pose, and there's precious little wood, so I'll tell
the cook he's to let it off easy, if so be as you says I am."

"Yes, of course, Strake.  Tell him."

"Ay, ay, sir.  We may have the luck to get some drift timber chucked up
among the rocks; but if we do it'll want a deal o' drying 'fore it's
good to burn."

"No, we must not reckon on that."

"Arter seeing to these two or three little things 'cordin' to your
orders, sir, I should say that you've got as snug a little fort to hold
as any one could wish, and all you'll want then is a sight o' the enemy
to make you quite happy."

The boatswain ceased speaking, and Syd stood laughing to himself, but
treasuring up what had been said, as the wind swept overhead, and the
waves kept on thundering in over the natural pier; though strangely
enough the noise of the waves at this end of the gap also passed right
up and away, so that it was possible to talk in a low tone, and hear the
slightest sound anywhere near.

They had been standing like this for some time when Syd suddenly laid
his hand on the boatswain's arm.

"What's that?" he said, in a low whisper.

"Dunno, sir," whispered back the boatswain.  "Trying to make out.  I
heard it twyste afore.  What did it sound like to you?"

"One stone striking against another."

"That's it, sir, exact.  Don't say any more here.  It'll only scare yon
chap.  Sailors is easily frightened 'bout what they don't understand."

They stood listening for some few minutes, but there was no farther
sound, so they bade the man on guard keep a sharp look-out, though for
what Syd could not have said, and turned to go up to the tent and see if
Mr Dallas was awake.

As they approached the place where the fire had been, a faint waft of
the wind passed down the gap, and as it swept over the embers they
brightened up, and shed sufficient light for Syd to see something
creeping softly by the spot.

Syd caught the boatswain's arm, and a gentle tap from the rough fellow's
hand seemed to express that he knew, and had noticed.  This was so
evidently the object that had twice before been seen, that now was the
time to convince themselves whether it was human, or some quadruped
dwelling on the rock.

"If I whisper," thought Syd, "it will take alarm, I know."

He caught the boatswain's arm again and tried to draw him away back into
the darkness.  For the moment Strake resisted, then he gave way and
allowed himself to be drawn toward the man on guard.

"Now we shall lose him, sir," said the boatswain in a gruff whisper.
"I'd got my eye on him, and was just a-going to give a pounce when you
stopped it."

"Yes; but look here, Strake," whispered Syd.  "Each time it has been
seen it came up this way from somewhere close to the gun.  If we stop
here we shall trap it."

"But will it come back by here?"

"Yes, I feel sure.  It goes up there to prowl about and get food, and
then it comes back to hide somewhere here in these cracks among the
rocks."

"Werry good, sir; I dare say you knows best.  What shall I do--shoot it,
or give it a chop with the cutlash?"

"No; it may be a man--and we don't want to shed blood."

"Right, sir.  Then we watches here?"

"Yes," said Syd, taking his place behind a block of stone, though it was
so dark there was hardly need to hide.  Strake followed his example, and
they crouched down, with their ears on the strain, satisfied now that
the clicking sound of stones striking together was made by this
creature, whatever it was.

"You must be on your guard, sir," whispered Strake.  "Whatever it is,
it'll be sure to scratch or bite.  But so sure as you make a grab I
shall be there, and he won't kick much with me atop of him.  Hist!"

Syd listened, but there was no sound, and he waited so long that he was
going to speak to the boatswain and say, "We'll give up now," when a
curious crunching noise fell upon his ear, and the next moment something
dark was evidently trotting by them, looking in the darkness like a
great dog.

With one bound the young midshipman was at it, but it eluded his grasp,
and ran right at Strake, who was the next moment down on his face.

"Stand, or I fire!" came from a short distance away.

"No, no.  Avast there; it's the captain--I mean Mr Belton and me, my
lad," growled Strake, getting up.  "See that, Mr Belton, sir; I'd just
got it when it went right through my legs, and I was down.  Which way
did it go?"

"Don't know.  I did not even feel it."

"It's a big monkey, sir, or else--I know, sir, it's one o' they small
bears, and that was biscuit he was chawing.  We'd better shoot him.
They bites as well as scratches and hugs, besides being very good
eating, so they say."

"Well, it's of no use to try to catch it now.  Better hunt it from its
hole by daylight.  Isn't it time Rogers was relieved?"

"Gettin' nigh, sir; on'y it's all on the guess.--Look here, sir, I know;
we'll smoke the beggar out."

"A capital way," said Syd; "only we've first got to find the hole."



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

The sea was terrific when Sydney took his first look-out next morning,
after a good restful sleep, and he felt terribly low-spirited, for he
was experienced enough to see that Mr Dallas was in a very low and
dangerous state.  He was feverish, and lay wild-eyed and strange,
evidently recognising no one, but talking in a low, muttering way.

"It's too much to be on my shoulders," Syd said to himself,
despondently, as he took off his hat, and stood letting the cool morning
air fan his forehead.  "Mr Dallas wanting a surgeon, Terry setting me
at defiance, the men half mutinous, and the whole charge of everything
on my shoulders."

One of his remarks was hardly fair, for the men greeted him with a smile
and a cheery aspect every time he went near them, and after their
breakfast worked most energetically to make the improvements suggested
overnight, so that about sundown Strake smiled in his grim way, and
touched his hat.

"There, sir," he said; "the captain may come back and land now if he
likes.  I shouldn't be ashamed to show him round."

"No, Strake; everything is beautifully neat."

"Yes, sir; decks cleared for action.  We're ready for anybody now."

"Have you looked in on the lieutenant lately?"

"Half-hour ago, sir.  Mr Roylance was with him, watching closely."

"Well, don't you think he looks very bad?"

"Yes, sir; purty well.  Bad as one's officer could look to be alive."

"And you talk of it in that cool way."

"Well, sir, how am I to talk?  He's no worse than lots more I've seen."

"But do you think he's dying?"

"Nay: not he, sir.  Lots of life in him yet.  And look here, sir, what
do you say to that?"

"A bit of biscuit?"

"Yes, sir; that's it.  Monkey, sir, or a bear?"

"I don't understand you, Strake."

"Picked it up, sir, just where we tried to catch him last night.  I'm
going to lie wait for that gentleman, and give him a pill."

"Oh, never mind about that, Strake; there's so much else to think about.
I've been in twice to Mr Dallas, and he doesn't know me."

"Dessay not, sir.  Lost a deal of blood, you see.  He's all right, I'm
sure.  Why, I've seen lots o' men worse than he, ever so much; legs off,
both on 'em, an' an arm took off fust by a shot and then afterwards by
the doctors, and they've come round."

"But, Strake--"

"Now, look here, dear lad," whispered the boatswain, speaking earnestly.
"I wouldn't say what I do if I didn't think it.  Mr Dallas is going to
be purty bad, I dessay, for a month, but he'll come round."

"But I feel, Strake, as if I have done wrong by him."

"Nat'rally, dear lad; but I feel that you haven't."

"If I could only think that."

"Oh, well then, I'll soon make you.  Let me ask you a question, sir.
S'pose you hadn't touched Mr Dallas?"

"Well?"

"Nobody else would, of course.  We didn't know how."

"I suppose not."

"Very well then, dear lad, what would have happened?"

"I'm afraid--he would have died."

"And how soon, sir?"

"He would have bled to death.  I can't say how soon.  Before night."

"Exactly, sir.  Well, then, you came and set to work in a way as made
every Jack here feel as if he'd do anything for you, sir; and it's
to-morrow now, and the lufftenant arn't dead."

"No, Strake; not yet."

"Nor arn't going to be; what more do you want?  Come, rouse up, my lad,
and hold your head higher.  Don't be skeered.  Let go at us; call us
swabs and lubbers, anything you can lay your tongue to; the men 'll like
it from you.  And as to Mr Terry, as has gone up where I planted the
flagstaff this morning, don't you fret about him.  He daren't hardly say
his soul's his own."

"You've planted the flagstaff?"

"Yes, sir; right on the top, fastened it down between some rocks, and
got guys out to other rocks.  I didn't hyste the colours, for this wind
would tear the bunting all to rags."

Sydney took a few steps to one side.

"Can't see it from here, sir, or you'd see Mr Terry too, getting
hisself such a blowing as never was.  He's a-looking out for the
frigate, him too as studies navigation with the master.  He ought to
know better."

"What do you mean?"

"As we shan't see the _Sirius_ for a week to come, if we do then."

"Then I must go on as if we were to stay some time," thought Syd; and
that day was spent in adding to the comfort of their quarters and the
security of the magazine, in case rain should follow the gale of wind.

Another stormy day followed, and toward night, after spending some time
by the lieutenant's bedside, Sydney was relieved by Roylance, Terry
having made no offer to aid, and when asked by Roylance, having replied
that he was under arrest, and exonerated from such duties.

"What's the weather going to be, bo'sun?" said Syd, meeting that officer
on the upper platform.

"Don't see no prospect o' change, sir."

"Because as soon as we possibly can, I want the rock properly gone over
by a strong party, so that we can make sure that there is no other
landing-place.  We may run down that bear of yours."

"Yes, sir.  He was here again last night."

"Did you see it?"

"No, sir; or I should have spoke."

"No, no; unless the beast proves dangerous, I will not have it shot."

"But the beggar carried off a whole lot o' biscuit last night, sir, and
a lump o' cold junk."

"Well, that must be stopped at any rate.  What do you say to half a
dozen men being told off to lie in wait for the brute to-night?"

"No, sir; it's what do you?"

"I say yes," said Syd, and the boatswain brightened up.

"With pistols, of course, sir?"

"No, certainly not," replied Syd, decidedly.  "If we have firing in the
dark there may be some accident.  Select five men.  There will be
yourself, Mr Roylance, and I shall be there too.  Eight of us ought to
hold him if he comes."

"And come he will, sir.  You'll go over the island to-morrow?"

"Yes."

"But you didn't say you'd have another thing found."

"What?"

"Water, sir.  If the _Sirius_ is going to leave us here, water must be
had."

That was a serious matter.  With the gale blowing there was nothing to
mind as to the sun, but Syd felt that the heat would be felt terribly as
soon as the wind sank, and with no slight feeling of uneasiness he went
to his rough quarters, looked into the hospital, where the lieutenant
lay muttering in his delirium, and beckoned Roylance to come and join in
the meal.

"Takes one's appetite away to see that poor fellow lying there," said
Roylance, summoning one of the men to take his place.

"But we must eat to work," said Syd, firmly.  "Here's Terry, I'll ask
him to come and victual.  I hate seeing him keeping aloof.  Mr Terry,
coffee is served.  Will you join us?"

Terry started a little, and his face relaxed into a smile.

"Yes," he said quietly, "I am very hungry."

The ice was broken, and the three young fellows sat down to their rough
meal, one which was, however, thoroughly enjoyed--Terry seeming quite to
have forgotten the trouble that had caused the estrangement.

But Roylance had not, and that night he said to Syd--

"Don't trust him."

"Trust whom?"

"Terry.  I may be wrong, but if ever a fellow's eyes looked one thing
and meant another, his did this evening."

"Fancy.  He's beaten, and he has given in, and so, I dare say, we shall
be fairly good friends for the future."

"Perhaps so," said Roylance, dryly; "but I say, don't trust him all the
same.  Keep on your guard."

"Can't.  Impossible; and I couldn't go on suspecting every one I saw."

"No, not every one--this one."

"Never mind that.  Don't suppose I shall have any cause to distrust
him."

"I hope you will not," said Roylance, prophetically.

"Come along."

"Where?  It will be impossible to stand out of shelter."

"We are not going to.  Ah, here is Strake.  Now then, have you got your
men ready?"

"Ay, ay, sir; but won't you alter your mind about the pistols?"

"Certainly not.  Use your fists, and take the creature, whatever it is,
alive."

"Ay, ay, sir," said Strake; and leading the way down to the lower gun,
the men were posted among the rocks, and in the midst of the utter
darkness, with the dull roar of wind and sea coming in a deep murmur,
the watch was commenced.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

It was strange work keeping that watch, and Syd could not help feeling a
sensation of dread master him at times.  He knew that Roylance was close
at hand, that he had but to speak and the old boatswain would come to
him, while the men were scattered here and there; but all the same it
was terribly lonely.

For what were they watching?  It might be some wild beast with teeth and
claws that would rend him if he were the one who seized it, and the
longer he waited the more reasonable this seemed to be.  It was a
creature that lived in a cave, or some deep rift among the rocks by day,
and came prowling out by night in search of food.  Such a creature as
this must be dangerous.

But the next moment he laughed to himself as he recalled that rabbits
and many other creatures sought their food by night, and were innocent
and harmless as doves.  Yet still the feeling of dread came back, and he
longed for an end of the watch.

"I like danger that I can see," he thought, as he began involuntarily
rubbing his shoulder that had been struck by the shark, and had taken to
aching in the moist cool night.

He shivered a little as he recalled the scene that day when he first
realised the danger of the hideous fish marking him down; and try how he
would the scene kept growing more vivid.

"I never half thanked those men for saving my life," he said to himself.
"The brute would have had me if they had not stabbed at it with the
oars.  What's that?"

He strained his eyes to watch something which appeared to be crawling
along among the blocks of stone close by, but he could not be sure that
it was anything alive.

"A stone!" he said, and he went on thinking, not liking to draw
attention to what most likely was only imagination.  "It would be so
stupid," he said; "and would alarm the brute and keep it from coming, if
I was wrong."

So he sat there, crouched up together, his back against the stone, and
his arms round his knees, which formed a resting-place for his chin,
till quite a couple of hours of watching and listening to the roar of
the wind overhead and the beat of the sea beneath had passed away.

"I wonder how Mr Dallas is," he thought at last; and as the scene in
the rough canvas-covered shelter came to his mind's eye, with the tallow
candle stuck in a corner of the rock, some of its own fat sealing it
there, as they had no candlestick, he saw again the sunken cheeks and
wild, fevered eyes of the wounded man, and pictured his white, cracked
lips, and the tin pannikin of water placed ready on a box by where he
lay.

There was some biscuit too, ready to soak and give him a few bits.  He
thought--"I wonder whether that man has given him any."

Another half-hour passed, during which Syd had forgotten everything but
his patient, and at last, full of anxiety, he felt that he must go and
see him.

"No, I will not," he muttered, and he began watching again.

"How contented these sailors are," he said after a time; "how silently
they sit keeping guard.  I hope they are not asleep."

He crept softly in the direction where Strake was posted, and as he
neared it he thought to himself that it was a good job he had told the
boatswain not to bring firearms; but as the thought came he oddly enough
regretted it.

"If the brute is dangerous it is not fair to the men.  I was wrong.  But
they must be all asleep, or they would have heard me."

Click, click!

The cocking of a pistol close by.

"Strake!  Don't shoot."

"You, Master Syd!" growled the boatswain, "I thought it was that there
bear.  Why, you shouldn't come crawling up like that, sir, I might have
shot at you."

"But I told you not to bring pistols."

"So you did, sir; but as I thought as the brute might stick his teeth
into me, I felt as you wouldn't like me to be hurt, and so I brought
'em.  You see, sir, you've only got one bo'sun, and it would be awkward
if I was killed."

"Look here," whispered Syd, "I'm going up to see how Mr Dallas is.
Don't make a mistake and fire at me as I come back."

"Don't you be scared about that, sir," growled the boatswain; "I'll take
care."

"Are the men all awake?"

"Trust 'em, sir.  They've got open eyes."

"I shall not be long," said Syd.

"Right, sir."

"And be careful with that pistol, Strake.  You may use it, though, if
there is danger."

"Thankye, sir," said the boatswain, and then to himself, "I'll use both
sooner than have my eyes clawed out, and my nose chawed off."

Syd crept quietly along among the high blocks of rock which dotted the
chasm, gazing up at the quivering stars once and wishing they gave more
light, and thinking of what shelter these rocks would give if the French
ever did attack them and were in such numbers that they took the lower
gun, and came swarming along into the gap.

"We could keep them off after all, I dare say," he said.  By this time
he was close up to the rough shelter which the men had dubbed the
hospital.  Drawing aside the canvas hung down over the doorway, he was
about to step in when there was a rush, the candle was knocked down, and
by its feeble glimmer, where it lay on the rocky floor, he caught a
glimpse of something dark which rushed at him, drove him backwards, and
disappeared in the darkness.

"You stupid idiot!" cried Syd, in a loud whisper.  "Frightened him, I
suppose, going in so quickly."

He once more stepped into the rough place, to see with astonishment the
sailor who had been placed there to relieve Roylance, in the act of
picking up the candle from where it lay flickering on the floor.

"Tumbled down, sir," said the man, confusedly.

"Tumbled down!" cried Sydney, in an angry whisper; "why, you lazy
rascal, you were asleep!"

"Sleep, sir?"

"Yes.  Who was that in here just now?"

"Here, sir; and banged out o' the door there!  Wasn't it you?"

"No--no," whispered Syd, who grasped the position now; "it must have
been that beast we are trying to catch.  Yes; he has taken the biscuit
that lay there while you slept."

"Very sorry, sir; been hard at work, and--"

Sydney heard no more.  He had dashed out of the canvas-covered hut and
run swiftly down toward the lower gun.

"Look out, Roylance!  Strake!" he shouted; "it's coming your way."

_Bang_!

A pause as the shot echoed among the rocks.  Then there was another
report, and a wild cry.  Then silence, broken directly after by the
muttering of men's voices.

"Got it," cried Syd.

"Yes; Strake has brought it down.  It came with a rush between us, and
he fired, and then fired again."

"Yes, I heard.  What is it--a bear?"

"Don't know; we want a candle.  I'll fetch the one from Mr Dallas's
place and shade it with my hat."

Roylance went on toward the hospital, while Sydney cautiously felt his
way among the rocks, full of excitement and eagerness to learn what the
strange creature might be.

"Hi! where are you?" he shouted.

"This way, sir," answered a voice, which he recognised as that of
Rogers.

He hurried on, the shout coming from close by the lower gun, and as he
reached the spot he made out the group of figures, and heard the
boatswain's gruff voice groaning out--

"Oh, lor'!  Oh, lor'!  Oh, lor'!"  Then in angry tones--"It sarved you
right.  No business carrying on games like that."

"What's the matter?" cried Syd.  "Is any one hurt?  Haven't you shot the
bear?"

"It warn't no bear, sir," said Rogers, excitedly; "it was young Pan
Strake, and his father's brought him down."



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

"Ha' mussy on us!  Here, Mr Belton, sir, quick," cried the boatswain,
hoarsely.  "You said I warn't to bring pistols.  Wish him as 'vented 'em
had been drowned first.  Look ye here, sir; is no one going to bring a
light?  Mr Belton, sir; Master Syd; pray make haste.  I've made you
another job."

All this in a wild, excited manner, as, trembling now with horror,
Sydney knelt down by a dark-looking object on the rocks, lying quite
motionless, and for a few moments he could not collect himself
sufficiently to render any aid.

"Ha' mussy on us!" groaned the boatswain.  Then with an angry burst, "I
want to know how he got here."

"Stowed hisself away in the boat," said one of the men, "when we corned
away, but I thought he'd gone back again to the ship."

"Brought him down.  My own boy," groaned the boatswain.  "Ah, here's the
light."

"Quick!  Stand round so as to shelter the candle," cried Syd, who was
now recovering himself and trying to act in a calm, business-like
manner; and directly after he was kneeling there in the centre of that
ring of anxious faces, and proceeding by the light of the candle, which
the boatswain held down, to examine the boy, who lay curled up in a
heap.

To all appearances he was dead, so still did he lie; but the moment Syd
took hold of one hand to feel the injured boy's pulse, there was a
sudden spasmodic jerk and a loud yell which went echoing up the valley.

"Hah!" ejaculated Syd, for he knew it was a good sign.  "Hold still,
Pan," he continued, gently; "let me see where you are hurt."

"Let him be, sir.  I've killed um, I know I have!"

Syd tried to find where the boy was wounded, but at every touch Pan
shrieked out as if in agony, and kicked out his legs and drew himself up
again as if trying to make himself into a ball.

"It's all over with the poor lad, sir," groaned Strake.  "Better let him
die in peace, and I gives myself up, sir.  Nothin' but misfortun' here."

"Try and bear it, Pan," said Syd, gently.  "I must see where you are
hurt before I can do you any good."

But the boy shrieked out wildly every time he was touched, and after
many essays, Syd felt ready to give up in despair.

"Ha' mussy on us!" groaned the boatswain.  "Where's he got it, sir?"

"I'm afraid it is somewhere in the body, Strake," replied Syd, softly;
"but I don't like to give him pain.--Is the hurt in your chest, Pan?"

The boy shrieked again, as a hand was slid into his bosom.

"I'm afraid it is there, Barney; I ought to examine him and stop the
bleeding."

"Yes, sir; course you ought; but I don't like to see you hurt the boy."

"No, it is very terrible, but I'll be as gentle as I can.  Come, Pan,
lad, be a man, and let me see where you are hurt."

Syd touched him again, but there was another yell and kick, not before
the boy pressed his chin down in his chest, and cried out more wildly
than ever.

"Is his spine injured?" cried Roylance.

"Can't be," replied Syd, "or he could not kick out like he does."

"And for the same reason his legs must be all right," said Roylance.

"Spine of his back and his legs," said Strake; "well, that's something
to be thankful for."

"The bullet must have lodged in his chest," said Syd, "and I dare say
perhaps has injured him fatally.  No blood visible; he must be bleeding
inside."

There was a pause after a couple more attempts to inspect the injury.

Then, after a little thought, Syd said, firmly--

"Pan, I must examine your wound."

The boy curled up more tightly.

"It is of no use, Strake," continued Syd, firmly, and unconsciously
imitating Doctor Liss with a stupid patient on the south coast; "it is
my duty to examine your boy's wound.  He may bleed to death if it is not
done.  Two or three of you must hold him."

A yell burst from Pan at this announcement, and Syd and Roylance
exchanged glances.

The patient was evidently quite sensible.

"Smith, hold his legs," said Syd; "Strake, you and Rogers each take an
arm.  I will be as tender as I can."

"Hadn't we better let him die in peace, sir?" groaned the boatswain.

"No; not till everything has been done to try and save him."

"Oh!" yelled Pan.

"Now then, as softly as you can.  Once I see where he is injured, I
shall be able to know what to do."

"Very well, sir," said the boatswain, piteously.  "There, my poor boy, I
won't hurt you much," and he took Pan's arm.

A shriek made him let go and jump away to begin wiping his brow.

"Again: quick, and let's get it done, Strake," whispered Syd.  "Ready?
Now then, all together."

"Oh!" yelled Pan, but the men held on, and Syd was about to tear open
the boy's shirt, when Rogers exclaimed--

"Sleeve's all wet here, sir," and he pointed to the fleshy part of the
boy's arm.

"Oh lor'!" groaned Strake.

"Ah, let me see," cried Syd, eagerly; and he took out and opened his
knife.

Pan's eyes were wide open now, and he stared in a horrified manner at
the blade.

"No, no, no," he yelled.  "I won't have it off; I won't have it off."

"Hold the wrist tight," said Syd.

Rogers obeyed, and with the boy shrieking horribly, the point of the
knife was inserted and his sleeve ripped right up to the shoulder.

"Hah!" exclaimed Syd, closing his knife, as he caught sight of the wound
in the thick of the arm.  "It has not bled much.  Hold the light here
more closely."

"No, no," yelled Pan.  "I won't have it off."

"The bone is all right," said Syd, continuing his examination; "but the
bullet must be there.  Look: here it is!"

In fact there it was, lying in the sleeve, having passed clean through,
and of course making a second wound.

"There, that will not hurt," said Syd, coolly.  "Now let's see about his
chest."

"No," yelled Pan, bursting into a fit of blubbering; "there arn't
nothing there.  T'other one missed me."

The boatswain drew himself up and seemed to be taking a tremendously
long breath.

"I'm very glad, Pan," said Syd.  "Now, come, be a man.  I'm just going
to put a little pellet of rag over those two holes, and bind them up
tightly.  I won't hurt you much."

"No, no, no," howled Pan; "you'll take it off.  I won't have it cut
off."

"I tell you I'm going to bandage your arm up, and you'll have it in a
sling."

"No, no," yelled Pan.

"And on'y winged him arter all," cried the boatswain in his familiar
gruff tones.

"Will you be quiet, boy?" cried Sydney, almost angrily now.

"Sit up, you swab," roared the boatswain; and Pan started into a sitting
position on the instant.  "You, Rogers, go up to the stores and get me
three foot o' rope, thickest you can find.--Look ye here, Panny-mar," he
continued, rolling up his sleeve and holding out his enormous fist close
to the boy's nose, "see that?"

"Yes, father."

"You turned yerself into a stowaway and comed ashore without leave;
you've been turning yerself into a bear and a monkey, and living in the
holes o' the rocks by day, and coming out and stealing the prog by
night."

"I was so hungry, father," whispered Pan, who forgot his wound.

"Yah! hungry indeed!  And then you've been giving your father the
worsest quarter of a hour he ever had in his life, and making his heart
bust with haggerny.  You shammed dead at first, then you made believe as
you was hurt, when there was nothing the matter with yer but a little
bit of a hole through one arm."

"Oh!" moaned Pan, turning his eyes upon his white arm, where a bead of
blood was visible.

"And then you kicked out as if all your upper rigging was shattered with
chain-shot, and every kick went right through me.  So now, look here:
your young captain's going to bandage that there bit o' nothing up, and
if you give so much as one squeak, you'll have my fist fust and the
rope's-end arter till you dance such a hornpipe as never was afore."

"Oh!" moaned Pan.

"Ah!"

There was silence for a moment, and then all present burst into a roar
of laughter, so great was the relief that the boy was not very bad.

"Ah, you may laugh, my lads," said the boatswain, looking round; "but I
do declare I'd sooner have a leg off with a shot than go through all
that again.  Thought I'd shot him."

"So you did, father," cried Pan, with a vicious look.

"Yah!  Hold your tongue!  Call that shot?  No more than having a
sail-needle slip and go through yer."

"But it hurts like red-hot poker."

"Good job too.  Nothing to what you made me feel as I see yer lying
there.--Lying!  Yes, that's the word, for yer did lie, yer shamming
young swab."

Pan began to cry silently, as Syd busied himself bandaging his hurt.

"And now he's a piping his eye like a great gal on Shoreport Hard.
Panny-mar, I'm proud o' you, I am; but I feel that bad, Mr Belton, sir,
that I'd take it kindly if you'd order me a tot o' rum."

"Take him up and give him one, Mr Roylance," said Sydney, quickly; and
while he went on bandaging the arm which Rogers held for him, Roylance
and the boatswain went up to the chests and kegs which formed the
stores, and filled a little tin.

"Thankye, sir," said Strake, holding out one of his great gnarled hands
for the tin, but drawing it back, for it trembled so that he could not
take the rum; but he turned sharply round, laid his arm against the
rock, and laid his face upon it, to stand so for some minutes before he
turned back, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand.

"Bit watery, sir, that's all," he said, with a smile.  "Don't tell Mr
Belton, sir, what you see.  Most men got their soft bit somewhere.  I
dunno, though.  I've knowed Master Syd from a babby, and I wouldn't mind
if you told he; but pray don't say a word before Mr Mike Terry.
Thankye, sir.--Hah!  That's good rum, as I well knows.  Here's success
to yer, sir, and may you never know what it is to be a father."  With
which doubtful wish the boatswain drained the tin and smacked his lips.

"Well, sir, since you are so kind, I--No, put it away, my lad.  No more
to-night."

The rum was replaced, and they rejoined the group near the lower gun,
just as the finishing touches were being given to Pan's wound by means
of a handkerchief being tied loosely about his neck to act as a sling.

"Got that bit o' rope, lad?" said the boatswain, and then, "Thankye," as
it was handed to him.  "Beg pardon, sir, ought this here boy to have his
fust dose to-night or to-morrer morning?"

"Not till I prescribe it, Strake," said Syd, smiling, and the old man
coiled up the piece of rope and put it in his pocket, very much to Pan's
relief.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

"And where have you been?" said Syd next day, after examining his second
patient's injury.

"Down in a big hole yonder," said the boy.  "It's on'y a sort o' crack,
but as soon as you gets through there's plenty o' room; and when I'd got
a blanket and a bit o' sail to sleep on, it beat the straw corner up in
the tater-loft at home all to nothing, on'y I was getting very tired o'
nearly always biscuit.  I say, Master Sydney, sir, you won't let father
give me the rope's-end will you?"

"You deserve it for smuggling yourself on shore."

"Didn't you smuggle yourself ashore too, sir?" said Pan, innocently.

Sydney and Roylance exchanged glances, and went to see how Mr Dallas
was getting on.

The morning had broken bright and fine, the wind had gone down, though
the sea was still fretting and breaking on the rocky islet; but the high
spirits in which the lads were became damped directly as they stood
gazing down at the wreck of the fine handsome man lying there before
them, hovering as it were between life and death.

"I wouldn't care, Roy," said Syd, "if I could only do anything but
attend to those wretched bandages."

"You do a good deal," was the reply.

"Oh, it seems like nothing.  One gets no further, and I always go in to
see him feeling as if it was for the last time."

Partly to get rid of his painful thoughts Sydney worked hard with the
men till everything possible under the circumstances had been done.
Rocks had been shifted, breastworks built, and the place was so added
to, that if an enemy should come, the scaling of the cliff over the
landing-place and capture of the lower gun did not mean defeat.  There
was quite a little fort to attack half-way up the gap, and then there
was a stout wall built across behind the second gun, which could be
slewed round ready for an attack from the land side.

Two mornings later, just after Sydney had been again combining the
duties of surgeon and commander, Strake came up to him.

"Going to order that boy a rope's-ending now, sir?" he said.

"Not yet, Strake."

"Done with him, sir?"

"Yes."

"Then I'd like a word with you in private."

The privacy consisted in a walk to the upper gun, where, after a look
round in the calm sunlit sea in search of the frigate, the boatswain
said--

"Enemy's here, sir."

"Where?" cried Syd, excitedly, looking out to sea again.  "I was up at
the flagstaff an hour ago, and Mr Terry's there now.  He has not given
the alarm."

"Didn't look in the right place," said the boatswain, oracularly.  "I
did."

"Don't play with me, Strake; where is he?"

"In the tubs, sir."

"What!"

"On'y water enough to last four more days."

Syd looked at him aghast.

"We must have sails and casks ready to catch every drop when the rain
comes," cried Syd.

"Ay, sir, when it comes; but it don't come."

"Then what shall we do?"

"I ought to say die o' thirst, sir, on'y it sounds so unpleasant."

"But my father, surely he'll be here soon.  He knows how we are
situated, and the other ship knows too.  They will be sure to come."

"I don't want to upset you, sir, but I do say the captain's a long while
coming."

"What's to be done, Roy?  Hi, Mr Terry, will you join here?" said Syd,
who had gone in search of his companion.

Terry came up smiling pleasantly.

"I have bad news for you.  The water is nearly done.  Can you make out
why it is the frigate does not come?"

Roylance shook his head, and Syd turned to Terry.

"Of course I cannot say," replied the latter; "and I don't like to make
you uncomfortable; but the captain seemed to me to be such a particular
man, that I fear something has happened."

"Happened?"

"Yes; his frigate has either been taken by the enemy, or gone ashore in
the storm."

"Oh!" ejaculated Sydney, with an agonised look at Roylance.  "You don't
think this?"

Roylance was silent.

"Why don't you speak?" cried Syd, excitedly.  "It's absurd to pretend to
help one, and then stand and stare at him like this."

"I did not want to hurt your feelings," said Roylance, quietly.

"Never mind my feelings; speak out."

"I have thought so for the past two days," said Roylance, gravely.
"When Captain Belton put us ashore here, he meant to be in constant
communication with the rock.  He knew that we could do little without
his help, and his being close at hand."

"But the storm made him put to sea," said Syd, excitedly.  "I know
enough of navigation for that, though I've not been a sailor long.  I've
heard my father and my uncle talk about it; and he has not had time yet
to come back."

His two companions were silent.

"Do you hear what I say?  He has not had time to come back."

Still there was no reply, and Syd turned sharply away to go to the
stores and make out for himself how long their provisions would last.
But in his bewildered state, with the cares of his position increasing
at a terrible rate, the task was more than he cared to see to, and
asking himself what he should do, he took his way up the higher side of
the gap, climbing slowly, with the heat making him feel faint, higher
and higher, till he stood where the well-guyed flag-pole rose up with
its halyards flapping against the side.

"It seems too much for me," he thought, "and I may be wrong, but Terry
looked pleased at my being so worried.  No water; the provisions running
out; my father's ship lost--no, I will not believe that.  He's too
clever.  It only wants the enemy to come out now and attack us to make
it more than I can bear."

He stood with one arm round the flagstaff, gazing at the distant port of
Saint Jacques, wondering whether the people there knew of the English
occupying the rock, and if they did, whether they would make an effort
to drive them out.

But though he gazed long at the houses, which looked white in the
sunshine, there was nothing to be seen, and he swept the horizon once
more to see the dazzling blue sea everywhere, but no sail in sight.

He sighed as he let his anxious eyes rest on the deep soft blue of the
water, close in, and became interested directly, for in one spot a cloud
of silver seemed to be sweeping along--a cloud which, from his south
coast life, he was not long in determining to be a great shoal of fish
playing on the surface, and leaping out clear every now and then as they
fed on the small fry that vainly endeavoured to escape.

Syd's countenance cleared directly.

"Why didn't I think of it before?  I ought to have known that a rock is
of all places the best for fish.  We need not starve."

He hurried down to find the boatswain, and propose to utilise some of
the men, who were idling about in the shade cast by the overhanging
rocks, and met the old sailor looking more serious than before.

"I say, Strake," cried Syd, "why should not some of the men fish?"

"Got no boat, sir."

"Then let them fish from the rock."

"That's just what Rogers has gone off to do, sir, by that patch o' rocks
where we landed, and Mr Roylance and Mr Terry's gone to look on."

"Mr Terry should be on duty," said Sydney, colouring slightly.

"Ought he, sir?  I thought he was under arrest."

"We are not in a position here to study such things as that, Strake.
Mr Terry is friendly now, and we want his help."

Syd walked straight to the lower gun, descended a rope-ladder, which had
been made and slung down for their convenience, and found the little
group on the natural pier.

"Mr Terry, a word, please, with you."

"With me? yes," said the midshipman, looking at him wonderingly as he
followed his young companion aside.  "What is it?"

"You have forgotten that you are under arrest, sir," said Syd.  "I know
it may seem absurd," he added quickly, as he saw Terry smile, "but it
would be the captain's wish that good discipline should be kept up on
the rock.  Be good enough to stay with the men."

"Oh, this is too--I beg your pardon, Mr Belton," cried Terry, mastering
an outbreak of passion, and speaking in a cold, formal way.  "You are
right, sir; I'll go back."

He went off at once, with Syd watching him till he had mounted the
rope-ladder, where he paused to speak to the men by the gun, and then
went on up the gap.

"One don't feel as if he was to be trusted," said Syd to himself,
wearily.  "He is too easy and obedient, and I'm afraid he hates me.  I
wish he was in command instead.  It would be much easier for me, and I
feel such a boy."

A shout behind him made him start and look round, to see that Rogers,
who had been seated on the edge of a piece of stone waiting patiently,
had now started up, and was playing at tug with a fish he had hooked--
one which was splashing about on the top of the water as the man began
to haul in his long line.

All at once, as the silvery sides of the fish were seen flopping about,
the water parted and a long, lithe, snaky-looking creature flashed out
like lightning, seized the hooked fish, and flung itself round it in a
complete knot, making Rogers cease hauling, and watch what was going on
in dismay.

"Haul, my man, haul!  You'll get them both," cried Syd, excitedly; and
two other men who were looking on ran to help.

But as they drew hard on the line, there was abundant floundering, the
water flew up in a shower of silver, and then the line came in easily,
for the captive was gone.

"Look at that now," said Rogers, good-temperedly.  "They're beginning to
bite, though, and no mistake."

He rebaited his hook, and threw out as far as he could, beginning to
tighten the line directly after, and then hauling in rapidly, for the
bait was taken at once, and though some longish creature made a savage
dash at it, the sailor was successful in getting a good-sized
mullet-like fish safe on the rock.

"Got him that time, sir," he said, merrily, as he rebaited and threw in
again.

Syd was delighted at the man's success, and stood watching eagerly for
the next bite.

"I don't know what it is," said Roylance, who was examining the capture,
"but it must weigh four pounds, and it looks good to eat."

"Here you are again, sir," cried Rogers, hauling away, with another fish
at the end of his line.  "You've brought me good luck, sir.  Hah!  Look
at that!"

For there was another splash and a sudden check, followed by a battle
between the sailor and some great thing which had seized his captive.

"'Tarn't one o' them snaky-looking chaps this time, sir.  Hooray! he's
gone.--Well, now, I do call that mean."

For he hauled in about a third of the fish he had hooked, the other
two-thirds having been bitten off.

"Cut a piece off the silvery part and put on your hook."

"To be sure, sir; but hadn't I better cut off all but the head, and
leave that on?"

"Try it," said Syd, who forgot all his cares of government over the
sport.

The man whipped out his knife and cut through the remains of his fish
just at the gills, throwing out the bright silvery lure, and the moment
it touched the water, all fresh and bleeding, it was seized by a heavy
fish, which he dragged in successfully, for it to be flapping about with
its scales as large as florins flashing in the sun, all silver and
steely blue.

"Ten pounds, if he's an ounce," cried Roylance.  "I say, Rogers, are you
going to have all the fun?"

"No, sir.  Have a try," cried the man.  "I'll soon put you on a good
bait.  Look here, sir, this head's on tight.  Try it again."

Roylance threw in his line, but there was no answering attack; and he
waited a few minutes, with the waves carrying it here and there.

"No good," he said.  "Cut a fresh bait."

But as he spoke there was a jerk which made the line cut into his hand,
followed by a desperate struggle, and another, the largest fish yet, was
landed; one not unlike the last caught, but beautifully banded with
blue.

"Why, here's provision for as long as we like to stay," cried Syd.

"And how are we to cook it?  We have not much more wood?"

"We'll dry it in the sun, if we can't manage any other way.  Now throw
out just to the left of that rock."

Roylance was already aiming in that direction, the bait falling a couple
of yards to the left; and if it had been aimed right into a fish's
mouth, the answering tug, which betokened the getting home of the hook,
could not have been more rapid.  Then followed a minute's exciting play,
a tremendous jerk, and the hook came back baitless and fishless.

"Never mind, sir; try again.  Strikes me it's sharks is lying out there,
waiting to get hold of all we ketches, 'cause the weather's too hot for
'em to do it themselves.  There you are, sir; as shiny silver a bait as
any one could have."

There was another cast, and in less than a minute a fresh fish was
hooked, and this escaped the savage jaws waiting to seize it, and was
hauled in.

"There, that's the biggest yet," cried Syd.  "Fifteen pounder, I know."

"You try now," said Roylance, and for the next half-hour, with varying
success, they fished on, for there was to be quite a feast that evening,
the men hailing with delight so capital a change from their salt meat
diet; while there was supreme satisfaction in Sydney's heart, for he had
solved one of the difficulties he had to face--the sea would supply them
with ample food.

"If we could only find water, and get some drift-wood, we could hold on
till my father comes back."

As he said these last words, he saw a peculiar look of doubt in his
companion's eyes--a look which sent a chill of dread through him for a
few minutes.

"No," he said, "I will not think that; he'll come yet, and all will be
right."

Just then Pan came down from the hospital, where he had been placed to
keep watch by Mr Dallas's rough bed and call if there seemed any need.

"Mr Dallas says, sir, will you come to him directly."

"Mr Dallas--he said that?" cried Syd, joyfully.

"Whispered it, sir, so's you could hardly hear him, and then he said,
`Water!'"

"Water!" thought Syd, with the feeling of despair coming back, "and we
have hardly a drop left."

As he thought this, he hurried up to the little canvas-covered place.



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

As Syd entered the place he was startled by the change visible in the
young lieutenant, and his heart smote him as, forgetting the long nights
of watching and his constant attention to the injured man, he felt that
he had forgotten him and his urgent duties and responsibilities to go
amusing himself by fishing off the rocks.

"Ah, Belton!" greeted him; "I am glad you have come."

"Why?" thought Syd, with a feeling of horror chilling him--"why is he
glad I've come?" and something seemed to whisper--"is it the end?"

"I'm afraid I am impatient; my leg hurts, and I've been asleep and
dreaming since you dressed it so cleverly yesterday."

"Dressed it yesterday!" faltered Syd, as he recalled the days and nights
of anxiety passed since the injury.

"Yes; you thought I was insensible, but I heard everything," said the
lieutenant, slowly.  "I saw everything; felt everything."

"You knew when I dressed it yesterday, with the boy standing here?"

"No, no; out yonder below the place where that wretched gun was to be
mounted, and the sun came down so hot."

Syd laid his hand upon the young officer's brow, but it was quite cool.

"I am terribly weak, but I don't feel feverish, as so many men are when
they are wounded.  I suppose I bled a great deal."

"Terribly; but don't--don't talk about it now."

"But I want to talk about it a bit; and then I am hungry, but I don't
feel as if I could eat salt meat."

"A little fish?" said Syd, eagerly.

"Ah! the very thing."

"Wait a minute," cried Syd, and running out, he gave orders to one of
the men for one of the fish to be cooked for the invalid.

"Fish, eh?" said Mr Dallas, when Syd returned.

"Yes, sir; I've been--we've been fishing this morning, and caught a good
many."

"That's right, but the men must not idle; I want to give some
instructions to you about getting up that gun."

"Hadn't you better lie still and let me talk to you?" said Syd, smiling.

"No, my boy; I must not give up, in spite of being weak.  It was very
unfortunate--my accident yesterday.  It was yesterday, wasn't it--not
to-day?"

"No; not to-day."

"Of course not; I've been asleep, and had terribly feverish dreams.  But
business, my dear boy.  First of all, though, let me thank you for your
clever doctoring."

"Oh, don't talk about it, sir," said Sydney, quickly.

"But I must talk about it.  How did you learn so much?"

Syd told him.

"A most fortunate thing for me, Belton; I should have bled to death.
But now about that gun.  Call the bo'sun, and I'll have it up at once;
it is an urgent matter."

"It is up, sir."

"What!--How did you manage it?"

"The boatswain had it packed in a cask, and it was rolled up."

"Excellent!  How quick you have been!  The other must be got up too, the
same way."

"They are both up, Mr Dallas."

The lieutenant stared.

"Is this some trick?" he said, excitedly; "a plan to keep me quiet?--
because if so, Belton, it is a mistake.  It makes me anxious about the
captain's plans."

"Don't be anxious, Mr Dallas.  I did not like to tell you at first, for
fear it should trouble you.  Don't you understand that you have been
lying here for many days and nights, quite off your head?"

"No!"

"And we thought you would die; but--but--" cried Belton, in a choking
voice, "you are getting better, and know me now."

The lieutenant lay with his eyes closed and his lips moving for some
minutes before he spoke again, and then his voice was very husky.

"No, my boy," he said, "I did not understand that.  But it is quite
natural; I could not have been so weak without.  Tell me now, though,
what has been done."

"Everything, sir.  The guns are mounted; there are good platforms; we
have built rough covering walls and mounted a flagstaff.  Everything
that Strake, Mr Roylance, and I could think of has been done."

"But the captain--did he send the surgeon ashore, and some one else to
take command here?"

"No," said Sydney, and he explained their position.

"It is very strange," said the injured man, thoughtfully, and soon
afterward Strake appeared, bringing in the freshly-cooked fish, of which
the invalid partook; and then, seeming to be drowsy, he was left to
sleep.

The next morning Sydney explained more fully their position, and the
lieutenant listened eagerly.

"I can't be much use to you, Belton," he said.

"Oh, yes, you can, sir; you'll command, and we'll do what you tell us."

"No, my dear fellow, I shall not even interfere.  You are in command;
you have done wonders, and I shall let you go on.  But I hope you will
let me be counsellor, and come to me for advice."

"No, no, sir; you must take command now."

"Men do not obey a commander well if they cannot see him," said the
lieutenant, smiling.  "Ah, Roylance!" he continued, as that individual
came to the door of the tent; "I'm telling Mr Belton he must go on as
he has begun.  I'm getting better, you see, only I shall have to be
nursed for weeks.  As soon as I am a little stronger you must have me
carried down to the rocks, and I'll catch fish for you all."

"No, sir, you will not," said Roylance, laughing, "unless you want to be
pulled in; the fish are terribly strong sometimes.  Has Belton told you
everything about how we stand?"

"Yes."

"About the water?"

Sydney hesitated.

"I did not mention the water," he said at last.

"Then you have found no water?"

"No, sir."

"And the supply is giving out?"

"Almost gone, sir."

The lieutenant was silent for a few moments.

"It cannot be long before the _Sirius_ returns.  Of course Captain
Belton put out to sea.  It would have been madness to have stopped in
these reef-bound channels.  Had you not better call the men together,
and thoroughly search all the crannies among the rocks for a spring, Mr
Belton?"

"Already done, sir, twice."

"Yes, of course; you would be sure to do that.  Then there is only one
thing to do; we must wait patiently for help.  Had we been provided with
a boat, of course we could have searched for water on the nearest
island.  But keep a good heart; the _Sirius_ cannot be long."



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

But the time seemed terribly tedious upon that parched rock, where not a
single green thing grew.  The heat was terrific, and the men sat and lay
about panting, and glad of the relief afforded by the tobacco they
chewed.  It was impossible to hide the fact from them that they were
using the last drops of the water; but there were no murmurs, not a
mutinous voice was heard against the tiny portion that was served out so
as to make what was left last for another forty-eight hours.  After
that?

Yes; no one dared try to answer that question.  A man was always on the
watch by the flagstaff.  But he swept the offing with the glass in vain.
There was no ship in sight that could be signalled for help, and no
sign of movement in the direction of the town.

"It's seems horribly lowering to one's dignity," said Roylance, "coming
here to occupy a rock and set the enemy at defiance, and then be
regularly obliged to give up and say, `Take us prisoners, please,' all
for want of a drop of water."

"If it would only rain!" cried Syd, as he thought of how bitter all this
would be to his father.

"Never will when you want it."

"It is degrading," said Syd.  "But we must wait.  What does Terry say?"

"Nothing.  He has taken to chewing tobacco like the men, and I don't
want to be hard upon him, but he seems on the whole to be pleased that
we are in such a scrape."

"But you are too hard on him," said Syd.  "There, let's go and sit with
poor Mr Dallas.  We must keep him in good spirits."

"I haven't the heart to go," said Roylance, sadly.  "He is suffering
horribly from the want of a drop of cold water, and we have none to give
him."

The long day dragged by, and was succeeded by a hot and pulseless night.
The last drop of water had been voted by common consent to the sick
man, and the sailors were face to face with the difficulty of passing
the next day.  It would be maddening, they knew, without water on that
heated rock.  They had tried to quench their thirst by drawing buckets
of water down on the natural pier and drenching each other, for they
dare not bathe on account of the sharks; but that was a poor solace, and
the poor fellows gazed at each other with parched lips and wild eyes,
asking help and advice in vain, and without orders climbed up high and
perched themselves on points of vantage to watch for a sail, the only
hope of salvation from a maddening death that they could see.

The look-out man by the flagstaff was ready with the bunting for
signals; and when he hauled it, all knew now that it would be no
flaunting forth of defiance, but an appeal for aid.  But no ship came in
sight all that next long day.

"It's all over, Belt," said Roylance, as the sun rose high once more,
and his voice sounded harsh and strange.  "I shall die to-day raving
mad.  We must go, but let's write something to your father to find when
he does come."

"I have done it," said Sydney.  "I wrote it last night before I turned
so queer and half mad-like with this horrible thirst."

"Did you turn half mad?"

"Yes, when I was alone after I had done it.--I told my father that we
had all tried to do our duty, and had fought to the last; and said
good-bye."

"Where did you put it?" said Roylance, as they walked slowly to the
upper gun, while Terry lay beneath a rock seeming to watch them.

"Put what?" said Sydney, vacantly.

"The letter to your father."

"What letter to my father?  Has Uncle Tom written to him?"

"Belt, old fellow, hold up," cried Roylance, half frantically.  "Don't
you give way."

"Oh, I did feel so stupid," said Syd, with a loud harsh laugh.  "Said I
wouldn't go to sea, and ran away, and then came sneaking back with my
tail between my legs.  Oh, there's Barney."

"No, no, my dear fellow; there's no one here."

"Yes, there is," cried Syd, angrily, as he stared with bloodshot eyes
straight before him.  "Barney, what does the dad say?  Is he very
cross?"

"Oh, Belt; don't, don't," groaned Roylance.--"I must get him under
shelter."

He took his friend's arm.

"No, no, you shan't," cried Sydney.  "I won't be dragged in before them.
I'll go in straight when I do go, and say I was wrong.  Touch me again,
Barney, and I'll hit you."

"It is I, Belt.  Don't you know me?"

"Know you?--of course.  What made you say that?"

"I--I don't know."

"Roy, poor fellow, you are suffering from the heat.  There's no ship in
sight, but you and I mustn't give up; we must set an example to the
men.--No, no, Barney, I tell you I will not go."

"Terry, Mike Terry, come and help me," cried Roylance; but the
midshipman did not stir from where he lay under a shadowing rock.

"Not for a hundred of you I would not go.  Eh!  Water--where?  Ah,
beautiful water!  Can't you hear it splashing?  Plenty to-night.  Rain."

"Come into the shade, Belt," said Roylance, who felt now that their last
day had come, and that there was nothing to be done now but lie down and
die.

"No," said Syd, sharply, "I want to see the men.  How are the poor
fellows?"

He staggered down to where the men not on duty were lying in the shade
cast by the rocks, and the boatswain, who seemed to have been talking to
them, rose.

"Sad work, sir," he said, touching his hat; and several of the men rose
and saluted, others lying staring and helpless, their lips black, and a
horrible delirious look in their eyes.

"No ship, Barney," whispered Syd, huskily.

"No, sir.  We must give it up, sir, like men; but it do seem hard work.
Seen my boy Pan-y-mar?"

"On board, on board," said Syd quickly.

"What, sir?"

"I did not speak," cried the boy, shaking his head, and Roylance and the
boatswain exchanged glances.

"Yes, yes, I spoke--you spoke," said Syd, strangely.  "I know now, but
my brain feels hot and dry, and I can't breathe.  Yes.  Pan.  He's with
Mr Dallas in the hut."

The boy sank down on a stone, and placed his elbows upon his knees to
make a resting-place for his head.

"Poor lad!  Oh, Mr Roylance, sir, I'd give my last drop o' blood if I
could save him."

Syd started up and then looked round wildly, as he made a desperate
effort to ward off the delirium that was attacking him.

"Keep in the shade, my lads," he said.  "Please God we shall get rain
to-night, or help will come."

The men stared at him in stupid silence, all but Rogers, who feebly
hacked off a bit of a cake of tobacco, and struggled up to offer it.

"Take a bit, sir.  Keeps you from feeling quite so bad."

"No, my man," said Syd, smiling feebly, "keep it for yourself."

Then turning to Roylance, he looked at him wonderingly.

"Did I dream you said something about writing?"

"No.  You told me you had written a despatch."

"No.  No: I wrote nothing," said the boy, vacantly.  "It ought to be
done, to say that we held out to the last."

"My father will see that," said Syd, gravely.  "Amen!" cried the
boatswain, in his deep hoarse voice, and he drew back, and then
staggered forward to drop down for a few moments.  He rose again.

"Worst o' being an orficer, Mr Roylance, sir," he said.  "Don't matter
what happens we mustn't give way."

How that day glided on none could tell.  It was like some horrible
dream, during which the sun had never been hotter to them, and the rock
seemed to glow.  Three times now in a half delirious way Syd had been
into the hut, to find Mr Dallas sleeping, for though he suffered
terribly, his pangs did not seem so bad as those of his stronger
companions in adversity.

But at last Syd passed Terry lying with his eyes closed; and with
Roylance staggering after him almost as wild and delirious as he, they
paused by the hut where Mr Dallas lay.  Syd passed his hand over his
eyes to clear away the mist which hung before him and obscured his
sight, and then, fairly sane for the moment, he looked about him to see
that every man was prostrate, and that his faithful henchman, Barney
Strake, was leaning against a rock, helpless now.

He saw it all; it meant the end.  Had there been a cool, moist night
even to look forward to, they might have lived till another day, but
there were many hours of pitiless sunshine yet in the hottest time when
the glare was right along the gap.

"It is the end," he said, half-aloud.  "Roy, lad, I should like to shake
hands first with Terry."

He took a step or two toward where the midshipman lay, but had to snatch
at the rock to save himself, and he gave up with a groan.

"I do it in my heart," he said.  "Come and bid Mr Dallas good-bye."

"Are--are we dying, Belt?" whispered Roylance, and his voice sounded
very strange.

"Yes; it can't be long.  But I hope we shall go to sleep first and wake
no more."

He staggered in at the open doorway, for the canvas had been drawn
aside, and stood gazing down at the lieutenant, who feebly raised his
hand.

Roylance remained there, leaning against the rough entrance, and on a
case sat Pan, with his head resting against the wall and his eyes
half-closed.

That grip of the hand was all that passed, save a long, earnest look of
the eyes, and an hour must have passed over them in the almost
insupportable heat.  There was not a breath of air, and the poor fellows
felt as if they were being literally scorched up, and that before long
it would be impossible to breathe.

They had silently said good-bye, and Syd sat now on the floor with his
hand in Mr Dallas's, thinking of his father, and of how he would come
some time and find him lying there dead, and know by the work about that
he had done his duty.

"And poor Uncle Tom," he said to himself.  "How sorry he will be!  I
liked Uncle Tom."

Then there was a wave of delirium passed over, in which as in a dream he
saw sparkling waters and bright rivers dancing in the sunshine, and all
was happiness and joy, till he started into wakefulness once more at a
low groan from Roylance, who lay close beside him.

The hideous truth was there: they were all dying of thirst, and Syd's
last thought seemed to be that he had forgotten to ask help from above
till it was too late, and he could not form the words.

It was but a half delirious fancy, for he had prayed long and earnestly.
But the idea grew strong now, and he tried to repeat the Lord's prayer
aloud.

No word came but to himself, and he went on sinking fast into
unconsciousness till he came to "Give us this day--"

He started up, for something seemed to strike him, and he gazed wildly
at the boy Pan, who had fallen from where he sat upon the box, and now
struggled to his knees.

"Water!" he gasped--"so thirsty.  Master Syd--water--water--I know where
there's lots o' water--lots!"

He literally shrieked the words, and some one who had been leaning
against the entrance stumbled in, electrified with strength as it were,
as he shouted hoarsely--

"Water, my boy, water; where?"

Pan gazed about him wildly in the delirium that had attacked him in
turn, and did not seem to understand.

The straw of hope that had been held out faded away again, and a mist
came back over Syd's eyes till he heard Strake's voice, as he shook his
son, shouting--

"Water, d'yer hear, Pan? to save us all."

"Water," said the boy, hoarsely; "water.  Yes, I know," he yelled.  "I
used to get lots--down there."

"Where--where, boy?" cried the boatswain, wildly.

"Down--where--I hid--father," he whispered.  "Big hole--cave in the
rocks.  Plenty--water--give--water."

He lurched over to the left, and lay insensible upon the floor.

If it was true!  The last hope gone unless the boy could be revived
sufficiently to guide them to the spot.

"He was mad," said the boatswain, slowly; and he looked wildly round
with his bloodshot eyes.

But the boy's words had brought hope and a temporary strength to Syd,
who pressed his head with his hands and tried to think.

"Would a bucket of sea-water revive him to make him tell us, Strake?" he
croaked, more than spoke.

"No, no, no; good-bye.  It's all a dream."

"It is not," cried Syd, wildly.  "I know--the place.  Heaven, give us
strength.  I know it now."

"You're mad, sir, mad," groaned the boatswain.

"No, Barney, do.  Help, come.  Water--I know--I can find it now."



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

It seemed too late as Syd rose to his feet, tottered to the looped-back
opening of the hut, and crawled out with his eyes starting, his dry
mouth open, and every breath drawn with a wheezing, harsh sound that was
horrible to hear.

Before he had gone far down the slope toward where the men were lying
beneath the rock, and the rope-ladder hung over the rocky wall below the
lower gun, he stopped short panting, with the sinking sun scorching his
brain and everything swimming round.  He looked backward, and had some
idea that the boatswain was crawling after him, bringing a vessel that
rattled on the loose stones as he came.

But Syd could think of but one thing as he made his way toward the
rope-ladder, and that one thing was the fluid which should give them all
back their life.  He crawled on slowly and painfully, and then a black
cloud came over his brain, and everything was gone for the time.

Then the recollection came back, and he knew why he was there.  Water--
he knew where there was water if he could keep on recollecting till he
reached the place.  And could he reach it?  His hands and arms gave way,
and he lay prone, sobbing hoarsely in his misery and despair.  There was
water, plenty of water, if he could reach it--if his mind would only
hold out, and his strength last till he had taken one long deep draught
of the cool, sweet drink.  And he could reach it and bury his face in
the gushing flood, he could save everybody who lay dying there.  But he
could go no farther, only lie down moaning on that hot rock.

"Master Syd!--the water--where?"

There was a hot breath upon his face, a great hand was grasping his arm,
and he turned to look wildly at the boatswain, and tried to speak, but
there was only a harsh inarticulate sound from his parched throat.

"Master Syd.  Where--the water?"

He tried again, but no words would come.  The few minutes lying there,
though, had given him strength to crawl on again till he was abreast of
the men, only one of whom close by unclosed his wild eyes to stare at
the couple crawling toward the edge of the rock wall.

Syd stopped again panting, and once more all seemed over, for the black
cloud had settled down over his understanding; and though he could see
the men lying only partly in shadow now, for the sinking sun was
scorching them, he did not know why he had struggled so far till the hot
breath was upon his cheek again, and the harsh high-pitched voice
cried--

"Master Syd!--water--where?--the water?"

"Water!"

It was another voice uttered that word, and without knowing how or why,
Syd was aware that the young sailor who had been so much mixed up with
his adventures--Rogers--was gripping his hand.  Syd stared at him wildly
as with a fierce harsh cry the man tore at him as if he were holding the
precious fluid back.  A hoarse groan escaped from Syd's throat, and he
struggled hard to think of what it all meant, while the mental confusion
and insensibility grew upon him as he lay face downward on the burning
rock, staring at that imaginary black cloud.

"Water--water!"  Who said water?  It was not Strake, but this wild-eyed,
fierce man, whose fingers were pressed into his arm.

Yes, he knew that now, and the burning sun shone through the black cloud
again.  Water--yes, he had come to get the water, and he began once more
to crawl on toward the rope-ladder below the gun, with the boatswain and
Rogers hunting him, and nearly as feeble as he, pursuing him with their
harsh repetition of that one word--_water_!

At last close to the edge of the rocky platform with the gun above him
on his right, straight before and below him the rope-ladder fixed to a
great mass of rock, and down there the natural pier, with the beautiful
clear blue sea flooding it, and looking so calm and tempting.  If he
could reach that and lie and let the waves flow over him, how pleasant
and refreshing it would be!  No more pain or suffering, only rest and
sleep.

He felt a thrill of horror run through him like a spasm of pain, and he
shrank away, for there above the clear water was gliding the triangular
back fin of a shark--two--three, and one monster's long, black, rounded
muzzle rose up; the creature curved over and dived down under one of its
fellows, showing its soft white under-parts, and telling the miserable
being on the rock above that it was no peaceful sleep he would find
there, but an end of unutterable horror.

That spasm of dread seemed to clear Syd's mind for the moment, as he
drew himself back a little just as Strake gripped his shoulder again,
and Rogers uttered the one word in a harsh snarl--

"Water!"

For the moment Syd's head was clear, and he knew why he was there.  His
lips parted to speak, but only a harsh sound came, and the black cloud
began to loom over him.  But he had the momentary strength which enabled
him to fight it back, and raising his left arm he pointed along the
ridge of tumbled rocks full of rifts and hollows toward where on the day
of the accident he had been struggling back, when Rogers had climbed up
to his side.

"Water!" gasped the man, showing his teeth like some savage beast, and
his eyes glared wild and bloodshot at his young officer.

Again Syd tried to speak, but only that harsh sound came; and he pointed
still at the rugged backbone of the islet which ran from the natural
citadel, and descended slowly toward the far end by the sea.  The young
sailor stared back, then turned his head in the direction pointed, but
no answering look of intelligence came.  But Syd's finger still pointed,
and the man turned his head and stared again.

"Water!" he snarled; "dying--water."

The hand was still extended toward the furrowed ridge with its chaos of
tumbled rocks; and after gazing in the direction once more, the man
uttered a harsh groan, and crawled to the very edge of the rocky
platform, lowered himself over as he clung to the rope-ladder, and would
have fallen headlong had not his hands been cramped now so that the
fingers were hooked, and he descended half-way before his strength
failed, and he fell ten or a dozen feet, rolled over, and struck against
one of the two buckets that lay there close up, as the men had left them
after dipping for sea-water to bathe with, as they could not venture in.

Rogers lay there for a few minutes half-stunned, and with his brow cut,
and bleeding freely.  Then he rose to his hands and knees to begin
climbing up to the left, while Syd and Strake, with hot staring eyes,
watched him as he went up slowly and painfully foot by foot.

What for?  Syd found himself thinking.  Was it to fight back that black
cloud of confusion which would keep coming and going, as now clearly,
now as through a mist, he could see the young sailor climb and crawl
higher and higher, and further away; now he was behind some great rock,
now he was in sight again; now he descended into one of the crevices of
the slope which looked red-hot in the glow of the setting sun.  Then
there came a blank, of how long Syd could not tell, for the black cloud
was over him.  But his eyes opened wildly again, and he saw that Rogers
was somewhere close by the edge of the great rift where he had stood and
listened, and then it seemed that the man had fallen, for he disappeared
suddenly, and Strake uttered a low harsh groan.

Was it a dream, or was it really the young sailor coming back?  He could
not tell; he did not even know that the hoarse, harsh, rattling sound
came from the boatswain who lay by his side; but in an indistinct way he
saw the man coming down quickly till he was where the two buckets stood,
and he shouted something to him whose sound fell like a blow upon his
brain.

All was blank again, and he saw no more till hands were touching him,
and he felt himself lifted up till his chest was reaching over the edge
of something hard, and directly after there was cold delicious water at
his lips, water that he tried to drink, but which only entered by his
nostrils, and he gasped and choked, as it seemed suddenly to have turned
to boiling lead.

But the water was at his lips again, and this time, though it was almost
agony, he drew in one great draught of the cool, sweet fluid, and then
felt himself lifted and thrown roughly aside, to lie panting on the
rock, and watching, with his senses returning fast, the acts of the man
by him, who was bending over Strake, where the boatswain lay staring,
and with his black lips apart, apparently dead.

The man was Rogers--he recognised him now--and he saw him dip one
hollowed hand into the bucket and let the water he scooped out trickle
slowly between the boatswain's parted lips.  Then he stopped quickly,
and took a quick deep draught himself--a draught which gave him strength
to go on trickling more of the fluid between the apparently dead man's
lips before turning to Sydney.

"I'll help you, sir," he whispered, faintly.  "Drink again."

Hah!  Water, delicious cold pure water; a long deep draught that sent
life fluttering through Syd's veins once more, and he half lay there,
watching as some more water was trickled between the boatswain's lips.

"I spilt--a lot," said Rogers.  "More down there."

The power to act came back to Syd with his senses, and he loosened the
handkerchief the boatswain wore from about his neck, plunged it into the
bucket, and drew it out full of water to hold over Strake's mouth, and
let the water drip down as the poor fellow kept on making spasmodic,
choking efforts to swallow.

There was an intense desire on Syd's part to drink again, but he could
think now, and he pointed up the gap toward the hut, where he knew that
his brother officers and the boy lay dying.

"Can you carry this up--to them?" whispered Rogers.  "I'll go down and
get the rest.  There's quarter of a bucketful below here."

Syd nodded.

"I'll try and get it up.  Give him some more, and take the rest to my
mates."

Syd looked his assent and tried to get up, but fell down.  His second
effort was more successful, and he took the bucket, which contained
nearly a quart of water, and reeled and staggered up the gap, past the
men who lay apparently dead to his right, and then on with his strength
returning, and with an intense desire to kneel down and drink the
precious fluid to the last drop.

It was a hard fight, but he conquered, and staggered on to where the
opening into the hut gaped before him, ruddy in the last rays of the
setting sun.

Were the inmates dead, and was he bringing that which would have saved
them, too late?

He tottered in and he shuddered as he gazed at their wildly distorted
faces.  Dallas lay gazing up, and Roylance was on the left, perfectly
motionless, but Pan was lying on his back, rolling his head slowly from
side to side.

There was a tin pannikin, the one that had held the last drops of the
water, on the floor close to the case which had served as a table, and
as Syd stooped to reach it, a horrible dizziness seized him, and he
nearly fell and scattered the precious burden.

But he saved himself by snatching at the stone wall, and brought down
one of the little blocks of which it was composed.  Then dipping about a
tablespoonful of the water with the pannikin, he let a few drops fall in
Roylance's mouth, then in the lieutenant's, and lastly in Pan's, and as
the water was absorbed, for neither seemed to have the power to swallow,
he repeated this twice, his own powers returning more and more, and
bringing that intense desire to drink in a way that was terrible.

But he controlled it successfully, and went on giving a few drops of the
precious life, as it were, to each, and setting his heart throbbing and
a hysterical feeling rising in his throat, as he found that he was not
too late.

He wanted to drink the last drops himself, then he wanted to sit on the
floor and weep and sob like a child.  Then he felt that he must cry out
and yell and kick like a mad creature, and all these desires had to be
fought down, so that he could go on now trickling slowly the cold water
between the white and blackened lips, over which he passed his wet
finger from time to time, jealously careful lest a drop should be lost,
till the whole quart was gone, and the last drop drained from the bucket
into the tin.

"More, more!" panted Syd, as he looked wildly from one to the other of
the sufferers, whom he found making spasmodic efforts to swallow, and
taking pannikin and bucket, he went feebly out and down the gap to where
he had left Rogers and Strake.

The sun had gone down and the short twilight would soon be passed.  They
must get more water before it was too dark.

"No," he thought, "it can never be too dark for that;" and he went on to
find Rogers bending over Strake.

"That's the last drop, sir," said the young sailor.  "I've give all of
it to 'em."

"And will they all live?" faltered Syd.

"Dunno yet, sir.  It was a near toucher.  Now you stop with him, and
I'll get some more.--No," he added; "I can't go without a light."

"How did you find it?  I could not tell you where to look."

"Don't quite know, sir.  I was off my head.  But I recollect you pynted,
and I climbed up and up to where I found you t'other day, and then I
tumbled, 'most cut to pieces with they rocks.  And when I tried to get
up I could hear the water gurgling, and went mad to get to it and drink
it.  Look here, sir--no: feel, sir; wet through with slipping in.  But,
oh!"

He drew a long deep breath, and then caught up the bucket.

"Let's go and drink as long as we can, sir; but we shall want the
lanthorn now."

It was quite true, for the darkness which falls so rapidly in the
tropics was quickly coming in.

"Didn't think I was going to do this no more, sir," said Rogers, as the
pair struggled up to the quarters, and with trembling hands managed to
strike a light and set the lanthorn candle burning.

"Quick!" whispered Syd, as there came a low moaning from the hospital.
"If I go in they'll be expecting water."

"Which they shall have, sir, before long," replied the sailor, and going
back down the gap, they picked up the buckets, Syd stopping to speak to
Strake.

"Yes, sir; coming round, sir, I think," he said, hoarsely.  "Is there a
drop more water?"

"There'll be plenty soon.  Only wait."

"Now, sir, you take the lanthorn; I'll take the buckets.  Lor', how
swimmy I do feel.  Not from having so much water, is it?"

The man's words jarred on Syd.  They sounded so careless from one who
but a short time back was dying.  But with a sailor, as soon as the
danger is past, he is careless again, and the man was all eagerness now
to help his messmates.

Syd did not find it easy to descend the rope-ladder, but he got down in
safety, and then the difficult ascent of the rocks began.

It was now dark, and he trembled lest they should miss their way and be
wandering about for hours, while the poor creatures they had left were
still in agony.

But after one or two false slips they hit upon the right gap, as they
thought, and were about to descend when Syd stopped short.

"This can't be the place," he said; "I don't hear the water gurgling."

"That's what I've been thinking, sir," said Rogers.  "Let's try again."

Weak and weary as he was, Syd's heart sank, but their next attempt was
successful, the faint sound of water trickling far below acting as their
guide, and they found the place, descended carefully, not seeing their
danger, to where the water gurgled musically from the rock into a little
pool some five feet long.

Here both drank long and deeply of the delicious draught, after filling
their buckets, finding it no easy task to climb back with them to where
they stood in the bright, clear star-shine, and begin their journey back
down to the bottom of the rope-ladder, where Rogers set down his pail,
climbed up, lowered down a rope, and hauled both the buckets up without
spilling a drop.  Then while he attended to the men with one, Syd
hurried up to the little hospital with the other, to find his patients
sufficiently recovered to drink with avidity as much water as he would
let them have.

There was no sleep that night, but many a prayer of thankfulness was
sent up from the darkness of that black gap toward where, in all their
tropic splendour, the great stars twinkled brightly.

"And we shall see the light of another day," said Syd, aloud, "and--
Roylance--Roy, are you awake?"

"Yes.  I was listening to what you said."

"We've forgotten poor Terry."



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

It was a false alarm, for Terry had been tended by Rogers, and seemed
one of the strongest of the party that sat eating their morning meal a
few hours later.

But an enemy would have found an easy capture of the place that day had
he come; though, as there really was no illness, the recuperation was
rapid enough, and all congratulated themselves on the find.

"It warn't nice while it lasted, but you see it was an eggsperens like,
sir," said Strake; "only what puzzles me is, why you and Pan-y-mar
didn't think of the water afore."

"I was thinking about it all night, Strake," said Syd, "and it was as
great a puzzle to me.  I heard the gurgling of water that day when Mr
Dallas was hurt, and thought it must be the sea coming in through some
crack, and I never thought of it again till I felt that I was dying.
Then it came like a flash."

"Dying!  Lor' now, we warn't dying," said the boatswain cheerily.  "But
thirsty I will say though, as I never was so thirsty afore.  I've been
hungry, and had to live for a week on one biscuit and the wriggling
things as was at the bottom of a cask, but that's heavenly to going
without your 'lowance o' water."

"Don't talk about it," said Syd; "it was a horrible experience."

"Well, come, sir, I like that," growled Strake, who soon seemed quite
himself again; "it was you begun it, not me."

"I?" cried Syd, angrily; "why, didn't you come to me, sir, and say that
you always thought as long as a man had a biscuit and plenty of rum he
could do without water?"

"Why, so I did, Master Syd, sir.  Of course I'd forgotten it.  Got so
wishy-washy with so much water, that I can't think quite clear again
yet."

"Never mind; you know better about the rum now."

"Yes, sir; and if I gets back home again well and hearty, you know,
there's a good cellar under the cottage at home."

"Yes, of course, I know.  What of that?"

"Well, sir, I'm going to set Pan-y-mar to work--his fin 'll be strong
long afore then--to wash all the empty wine-bottles I can find up at the
house, and I'm goin' to fill 'em at the pump, cork 'em up, and lay 'em
down in the cellar same as the captain does his port wine."

"And give up rum altogether?"

"Give?  Up?  Well, no, sir; I dunno as I could quite do that."

"Never mind talking about it, then," said Syd; "but as soon as the men
are well enough, let's have all the water-casks well-filled."

"Beg pardon, sir."

"Well, what?"

"Water's lovely and sweet and cool where it is; wouldn't it be better to
have it fetched twice a day as we want it?"

"Yes, Strake," said Syd, "if you are quite sure that no enemy will come
and try to oust us.  Suppose they land, and we are shut up here; are we
to go on suffering for want of water again?"

The boatswain hit himself a tremendous blow on his chest with his
doubled fist.

"Think o' that now, sir.  Must be the water.  Head's as wishy-washy as
can be.  Sort o' water on the brain kind o' feeling, sir."

"We'll have the casks all filled and stored in that cave near the
powder, and be secure from it, but have the water for use fetched twice
a day from the spring."

"O' course, Master Syd, sir.  Never struck me till this instant.  Well,
I'm proud o' you, sir, I am indeed, and it's a comfort to me now as I
did have something to do with teaching of you."

"What's that mean?  What does Rogers want?"

"Dunno, sir.  Caught a big 'un, I s'pose, or lost his line.  You give
him leave to fish, didn't you?"

"Yes.--Well, Rogers, what is it?  Got any fish?"

"Lots, sir.  But here's a big boat, sir, close in; floating upside
down."

"Boat?" cried Strake.  "Ay, ay, my lad; that means firewood for the
hauling up; soon dry on the rocks."

The news brought Roylance from Mr Dallas's quarters, and Terry hurried
down, the little party finding that the current had brought a
water-logged boat as big as a small schooner close in to the rock, by
which it was slowly floating some forty yards away.

"If we could only get a rope made fast on board," cried Syd, excitedly,
as he gazed at the swept decks, and masts broken off quite short.

"I'll swim off with a line, sir," said Rogers.

"Ugh! sharks!" ejaculated Roylance.

"I could swim off with a line and make it fast," began Syd.

"Do, then, Belton," said Terry, eagerly; "the boat would keep us in
firewood for long enough."

"But I should be afraid of the sharks, and should not like to let a man
do what I would not do myself."

"P'r'aps there are no sharks here now," said Terry, with an aggravating
smile, which seemed to say, "you're afraid."

"I'm not going to risk it," said Syd, quietly, "badly as we want the
wood."

"But that little vessel may be valuable," said Terry, "and mean
prize-money for the men."

"I don't think the men would care for prize-money bought with the life
of their captain's son," said Syd, coldly.

"I wouldn't for one," muttered Rogers, as a murmur ran round the group
of watching men.

"Pish!" said Terry, with a merry laugh.

"Why don't you try it, Mr Terry?" said Roylance.

"Because I should order him not to go, and would not allow it, Mr
Roylance," said Syd, firmly.

"Brayvo, young game-cock!" muttered Strake, who was busy with a line.
"My, what a orficer I shall make o' him."

"It would be too dangerous a job for any man to attempt.  The sea swarms
round the rock with hungry fish, and I don't mind saying I should be
just as much afraid to go as I should be to let one of my men go."

"There, sir, I think this here 'll do it," said Strake, coming forward
with a ring of line and a marlin-spike tied across at the end.  "If
you'll give leave for me to go with half a dozen o' the men along
yonder, we may be able to hook her as she comes along."

"Come along, then," said Syd.  "But will not that marlin-spike slip
out?"

"That's just what I'm afraid on, sir.  Ought to be a little tiny grapnel
as would hold on, but this is the best I can think on."

The party climbed along the rocks, which formed a perpendicular wall
from thirty to forty feet high, till they were some twenty yards beyond
the derelict.  Place was given to the boatswain, who had the line laid
out in coils, and while he waited he carefully added to the stability of
the marlin-spike with some spun-yarn.

And all this time, rising and falling, the water-logged boat came on,
the current drawing it in till it was only some thirty yards away from
the cliff where they stood, and the men whispered together as to the
possibility of the boatswain throwing so far.  At last she was nearly
opposite.

"Stand by," growled the boatswain, gruffly.  "Hold on to the end o' that
line, Rogers, my lad, and stick to it if there comes a tug; then tighten
easily, for we've got to check her way if my grappling-iron does take
hold."

"Stand clear all," said Syd, as the old man made the marlin-spike spin
round like a Catherine wheel at the end of three feet of the line.  The
speed increased till it produced a whizzing sound; then, letting it go,
away it flew seaward right over the derelict, and the men gave a cheer.

"Well done, Strake," cried Syd, making a snatch at the line.

"Nay, nay, sir," whispered the old man; "you're skipper here; let me do
this."

"Yes; go on," said Syd, colouring at his boyish impetuosity, as he
resigned the line to the boatswain's hands.  "Haul steadily! that's the
way.  Now, then, will it hold?"

There was another cheer, for, as the rope was drawn upon, the
marlin-spike caught somewhere on the far side among the broken stays of
the foremast.

But the wreck was not secured yet.  It was gliding along slowly with the
tide, but with great force, while it required a great deal of humouring
and easing off to succeed for fear that the hold should break away.  The
consequence was that the men who held on by the rope had to follow the
little vessel for some distance before it began to yield, and then they
towed it slowly and steadily along.  No easy task, for the towing-path
was one continuous climb, and the men had to pass the line on from one
party to the other.

But they towed away till the spot was reached whence the line had been
thrown, and now that the boat was well in motion, the task grew more and
more easy.

"Steady, there, steady!" growled the boatswain.  "You arn't got hold of
a nine-inch cable, and it arn't hard and fast to the capstan.  Steady,
lads."

For the men were getting excited, and were stamping away.  They calmed
down though, and towed on and on till Syd began to give his orders,
looking hard at Strake the while, as if to ask if he was doing right.

"You, Rogers, have a line ready and jump aboard as she comes close in by
the pier.  Make it fast round the stump of the bowsprit."

"Nay, nay, sir," growled Strake; "take a turn or two round the foremas',
my lad, run the rope out through the hawse-hole, and then chuck it
ashore here."

"Ay, ay, sir," shouted Rogers, picking up one of the rings of rope they
had ready, and throwing it over his shoulder, as he stood barefooted on
the rock.

"Don't jump till you are quite sure, Rogers," cried Syd, "and 'ware
sharks."

The men laughed, the little vessel came nearer and nearer, and the
excitement increased; when all at once, just as she was within a dozen
feet of the rocks where the officers stood and the men were hauling
steadily away, there was a yell of disappointment; the marlin-spike came
away, bringing with it some tow and tarry rope, and the prize stopped,
yielded to the pressure of the current, and began to glide away again.

"Never mind, sir, I'll make another cast," cried Strake, gathering in
the line; but before he had got in many feet there was a splash, a quick
scattering of the water, and after rapidly making a few strokes,
Roylance was seen to climb over the side of the little vessel, which was
nearly flush with the water.

As he did so there was a shriek of horror, for a couple of sharks,
excited by the sight of prey standing so near the edge of the waves that
ran over the natural pier, made a swoop down upon the young officer, who
in his hurry and excitement let loose the ring of rope he had snatched
from Rogers, and it was seen to descend through the clear water.

"Why, he has no rope!  He'll be carried away with the boat.  Jump back
now; never mind the sharks."

"Stay where you are," cried Syd, as loudly as he could call out above
the hurry and excitement.  "Now, Strake, quick!"

The boatswain was being quick, but it was hard work to get the line free
from the tangle that it had dragged ashore.  There was no other line
handy, and it began to seem as if the brave young fellow, who was a
favourite with all but Terry, would be carried off to sea to a horrible
lingering death, for all knew that it was impossible for him to swim
ashore.

"Who told him to go on board?" said Terry, coolly.

"No one," replied Syd, who was now as excited as his companion was calm.
"It was his own rash idea.  Oh, bo'sun, bo'sun, be smart!"

The boat had drifted some distance, before the old man, who, though
really quick, seemed to be working with desperate deliberation, was
ready to gather his line up in rings, and climb along the rocks till he
was abreast, and could make his cast.

The climb was difficult, as we have seen, and half a score of hands were
ready to snatch the rings from his hands, and try to go and cast them.

But discipline prevailed.  It was Strake's duty, and he clambered up,
followed by the men who were to haul; while on the vessel Roylance stood
with his arms folded, waiting, the water rolling in every now and then
nearly over his knees, and--horror of horrors!--the two sharks slowly
gliding round and round the boat, their fins out of the water, and
evidently waiting for an opportunity to make a dash at the unfortunate
lad and drag him off.

"Now, now!" was uttered by every one in a low undertone that sounded
like a groan, as the old boatswain stopped short, raised the ring of
rope, holding one end tightly in his hand, and cast.

The rings glistened in the sun like a chain as the main part went on,
and there was a groan of horror, for the end of the last ring fell short
with a splash in the water.

"He's gone!" muttered Syd.  "Oh, my poor brave, true lad!"

But even as he uttered those words, with sinking heart the boatswain was
gathering the line up into rings again, with the most calm deliberation,
climbing along the edge of the cliff as he went, till he was again well
abreast of the vessel, when he paused to measure the distance he had to
throw with his eye, for it was farther than it was before.

The line, too, was heavy with its fresh drenching, and a murmur once
more arose as it seemed to them that the old man was losing confidence,
and letting the time go by; for though he would be able to follow along
right to the end of the rock, the line of coast trended in, and the
current was evidently setting out, and increasing the distance.

"Oh, Strake! throw--throw," whispered Syd, who was close behind.

"Ay, my lad," said the old man, calmly; "it's now or never.  Safety for
him, or the losing of a good lad as we all loves.  Now, then--with a
will! stand clear!  Hagh!"

He uttered a peculiar sound, as, after waving the rings of rope well
above his head, he looked across at Roylance, who stood in a bent
attitude, close to the side, forgetful of the sharks; and then, with
everybody wishing the cast God-speed, the rope was thrown.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

The excited party burst into a hearty cheer as the rings of wet rope
flew glistening through the sunshine, and a fresh burst broke forth as
they saw the outermost deftly caught by Roylance.  But the cheer changed
to a yell of horror as it was seen that in his effort to cast the line
far enough, the old boatswain had overbalanced himself and fallen
headlong down the cliff, which was, fortunately for him, sufficiently
out of the perpendicular where he fell to enable him to save himself
here and there by snatching at the rugged blocks of coral, checking his
fall cleverly enough till, as his companions breathlessly watched, he
stopped altogether, hanging, almost, on a ledge about six feet above the
waves, and only keeping himself from going farther by grasping the
stones.

The intense interest was divided now between Roylance on the slowly
drifting boat and the boatswain clinging for dear life.

"Who can climb down to him," cried Syd, "before the rope tightens and he
is dragged off?  Here, I will."

"No, sir; I'll go," said Rogers, eagerly; and without waiting further
orders he began to lower himself down as actively as a monkey, now
hanging by his hands and dropping to a ledge below, now climbing
sidewise to get to a better place before descending again.

"Give the rope a turn round one of the blocks as soon as you get hold of
it, Rogers," cried Syd.

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Can you hold on, Strake?"

"Ay, my lad, I think I can," growled the boatswain.  "Nuff to make a man
hold on with them sharks down below."

"The rope--the rope!" shouted Roylance from the derelict boat.

"Yes.  We're trying," cried Syd.  "Here, what are you doing?  Don't
tighten that; you'll have Strake off the rock."

He yelled this through his hands as he saw Roylance stooping down and
hauling away at the rope hand over hand.

"Perhaps he knows what he's doing," thought Syd; and he turned his
attention to the boatswain and the man going to his help.

"Can any other man go down to assist?" he said.  "I'm afraid that Rogers
will not be able to hold on, and the boat will go."

"You'd better go, Belton," whispered Terry.  "I'll take command here.
Mustn't lose poor Roylance."

Syd turned upon him sharply, and was about to follow the suggestion,
when a shout came from Rogers.

"The rope--the rope!"

For a moment or two Syd stood there half-paralysed as he grasped the
fresh trouble that had come upon them, and saw the explanation of
Roylance's action.  It was plain enough now: in the boatswain's headlong
fall he had either loosened his hold of the end of the rope, or retained
it so loosely, that as he clung to the rock for his life it had dropped
into the waves, and by the time Syd quite realised what was wrong,
Roylance had hauled it on board, and was standing with it in his hand,
fully awake to the peril of his position, and seeing that no help could
come now from the rock.

Syd's throat felt dry, and a horrible sensation of fear and despair ran
through him as he stood there motionless watching his friend and
companion drifting slowly away.  Another minute and his position would
be hopeless unless some vessel picked him up.  So desperate did it seem
that Syd felt as if he could do nothing.  Then he was all action once
more, as he saw what Roylance intended.  His lips parted to cry out
"Don't! don't!" but he did not utter the words, for it was Roylance's
only chance; and all on the rock stood with starting eyes watching him
as he seemed to be examining the rocky wall before him, and they then
saw him turn his back, bend down, lift a loose coop, bear it to the side
of the boat furthest from them, raise it on high, and heave it with a
tremendous splash into the smooth sea.

Before Syd could more than say to himself, "Why did he do that?"
Roylance was back to his old place, had let himself down softly into the
water, and was swimming hard for the rock.

"It was to attract the sharks," said a voice behind him, as some one
else grasped the meaning of the act, and to Syd's intense delight he
heard a panting sound, and another of the sailors came toiling up with a
fresh ring of rope which he had been to fetch.

"Can you save Strake, Rogers?" shouted down Syd.

"Ay, ay, sir.  I'll help him all right."

"Come on, then," panted the young midshipman, and setting off he led the
way, climbing along the edge of the rock so as to get level with
Roylance, who was rapidly drifting to the end of the rock.

"He is bringing the rope ashore," said Syd to himself, as he saw the end
in his companion's teeth; and they climbed on, encouraging each other
with shouts, and steadily progressed; but as they climbed it was in
momentary expectation of hearing a wild shriek, and seeing Roylance
throw up his hands, as one of the ravenous monsters dragged him under.

And as they climbed to get level with him, Roylance swam steadily on
through the clear blue water; and though every eye searched about him
for a sight of some shark, not one was visible, though the back fins of
no less than four could be seen gliding about in the neighbourhood of
the floating hutch on the far side of the boat.

By making almost superhuman efforts the party on the rock managed to get
abreast of Roylance just as he was half-way between the boat and a patch
of rugged boulders which had seemed to promise foothold till help could
reach him from above, and still the brave fellow swam on with the rope
in his teeth, ring after ring slowly gliding out over the boat's side.

"Now," cried Syd, as he grasped mentally the spot where his companion
would land.  "A man to go down."

The sailor who had been his other companion on the day when Syd had
attempted to explore the rock stepped forward, a loop was made in the
rope, the man threw it over his head, and passed it below his hips.

"Ready," he cried, and he was lowered down over the edge to be ready to
give Roylance a helping hand, and try to make fast the line the latter
was bringing ashore.

"Ah!" shrieked Syd, suddenly, for it seemed to him that the end had
come.  For as he gazed wildly at his messmate, he saw that he was
swimming with all his might, but making no way.  Worse: he was being
drawn slowly and surely out to sea, and the reason was plain; the rope
that should have continued to give over the side had caught somewhere in
the broken edge of the bulwarks, and all Roylance's risks and efforts
had been thrown away.

"Let go, and swim for it!" yelled Syd, and Roylance answered by throwing
up a hand.

"Can you see the sharks?" said Syd, half-aloud.

"No, sir, not yet," said one of the sailors.  "They're cruising about
the boat."

"Roylance--Roy!  Let go of the rope and swim," cried Syd, in an agony of
dread.

But the young middy turned on his back, loosened the rope all he could,
and gave it a shake so as to send a wave along it.  This had no effect,
for it was too tight, and to the honour of those on the rock they saw
him deliberately turn and take a stroke or two back toward the boat
before giving the rope another shake.  This time it had its due effect,
for the wave ran along the line and shifted it out of the rugged spot
where it had caught, so that it once more ran out freely as Roylance
turned to swim for the shore.

"Hist!  Don't make a sound," whispered Syd, as a murmur of horror ran
through the group on the top of the cliff.

For something had caught the eyes of all at the same moment.  To wit,
one of the triangular back fins, which had been gliding here and there
about the coop on the far side of the boat, was seen to be coming round
her bows, and the next thing seemed to be that the monster would detect
the position of the midshipman, and then all would be over.  In
imagination Syd saw the voracious creature gliding rapidly toward
Roylance, dive down, turn over showing its white under-parts, and then
there was the blood-stained water, the wild shriek, and disappearance.
But only in imagination, for as he made an effort all this cleared away
from his excited brain, and the midshipman was there still swimming
vigorously, and with a slow steady stroke, toward the rock, towing the
line.  But there was the shark between him and the boat, quite round on
his side now.

"Hadn't you better let go?" said Syd, in a voice he did not know for his
own.

"No," came back rather breathlessly, "there's plenty of line, Belt.  I
made the other end fast and--can't talk now."

A sudden thought struck Syd.

"I must not say any more," he said to himself; "a word would frighten
him and make him lose his nerve.  Here, quick!  My lads," he whispered,
"get some big lumps of rock ready to throw down."

The men scattered, and in less than a minute they were back, and a
little heap of stones from the size of a man's head downwards were ready
at the edge of the cliff, where Syd was gazing down fifty feet or so at
his friend, who still swam on toward where the sailor was waiting, and
in happy ignorance of the nearness of one of the sharks.  Syd could see
right down into the clear water whenever the disturbance made by the
lad's strokes did not ruffle the surface, and his starting eyes were
plunged down into the depths in search of fresh dangers.

"Oh!" he said to himself, "if he only knew how near that savage beast
is!  Swim, Roy, swim, lad!  Why don't you let go of the rope and save
yourself?"

He dare not shout aloud; and though he was high up in safety, he felt
once more all the agony of horror and fear which had come over him when
he was himself escaping from a shark, and he shuddered as he heard a
murmur about him, and the men stood ready each with a great stone.

"Couldn't no one go and help him with a knife?" whispered one of the
men.  "Oh! look at that."

"Hullo!  Caught again?" cried Roylance, as the rope jerked.

No one replied.  It was as if their mouths were too dry to utter a word,
for the party on the top of the cliff plainly saw the shark thrust the
rope up with its muzzle and glide under it.

Just then the horrible secret was out, for the sailor down below at the
end of the rope shrieked out--

"Swim, sir! swim for it.  One of those devils is coming at yer."

Roylance was not a dozen feet from the speaker now, and they saw him
give a violent start, and glance wildly over his shoulder.

The fright did it.  He could no longer swim calmly now, but began to
throw out his arms hand over hand to reach the rock, splashing the water
up into foam, and in an instant this brought the shark in his track.

"Ready with the stones?" cried Syd, seizing one himself, and poising it
above his head.

The others obeyed, and what followed seemed afterwards almost momentary.

The shark scented its prey, and came on steadily now toward where
Roylance was struggling desperately.  In another minute the poor fellow
would have been seized, but a shower of great stones came whirling down
in dangerous proximity to the swimmer, only one of which struck the
shark, but that one with so good effect that it was for the moment
disconcerted, and turned round as if puzzled.  But directly after it saw
its prey, went down, and rose in the act of turning over to seize its
victim.

But there's many a slip between the cup and the lip, even in the case of
sharks.  Many a one has had a knife ripping it open just as it has
anticipated enjoying some juicy black; and others have had their prey
snatched from their lancet-studded jaws, or tasted with it a hook.

It was so here.  Syd had hurled his stone, and was watching its effect
before stooping for another, when he realised what the sailor in the
loop below was about to do.

"No, no," he cried, quick as thought.  "No more stones, stand by with
the rope."

Syd threw himself down upon his chest and strained over the edge to
watch what was going on, while, with the rapidity taught by discipline,
the sailors seized the rope, and stood ready and waiting the next order.

It was not for them to think for themselves, but to act as their
officers bade, and Syd was already one whom they trusted and flew to
obey.

All this takes long to describe, but the action was quick enough.

The sailor at the end of the rope had, as Roylance drew nearer, spun
himself round rapidly till the loop was tight about him as he sat
astride in the bight, and then he began to swing himself to and fro,
describing a longer and longer arc till he found that he could reach.
Then with a sudden desperate movement he flung himself forward and
grasped Roylance round the waist, seizing the line the midshipman held
with his teeth, too; and then as, with the horror of despair, Roylance
exerted his failing strength to get a grip of the bight of the hanging
rope, Syd loudly shouted--

"Now, my lads, run them up."  It was just in time.

In spite of the rocks and dangerous nature of the top of the cliff, the
men, who had been waiting, started away from the edge, the rope hissed
in running over the limestone, and Roylance and his brave rescuer were
literally snatched up ten feet as the shark made its second attack, but
only to fall back into the sea with a mighty splash.

"Haul now!" cried Syd, excitedly, for the men could go no farther.

"No, no, avast! avast!" came up hoarsely from between the sailor's
teeth, as he and Roylance swung to and fro just above the maddened
shark, which began to swim in a circle.

"Stop!" roared Syd.  "Can you hold on, sir?" said the sailor.  "Yes,"
said Roylance.  "Then here goes.  Loose the line, sir."  His hands were
free, and he had taken the tow-rope now from his teeth.

Hardly knowing what he did Roylance obeyed, and with the rapidity taught
by much handling of hemp, the sailor passed the end of the tow-rope
through the bight of that which supported them, and then sent it through
again, and secured it with a knot.

It was just in time, for as he drew through the end and tugged at it,
the line began to tighten, and draw them out of the perpendicular, then
more and more away from the rock as the boat still glided away.

"All right, sir, I've got you now," cried the sailor, clasping Roylance
about the waist.  "Now then, get your legs 'cross mine, and put your
arms round my neck and the rope too.  That's your sort.  Glad I saved
your end from going after all that trouble."

"Ready below?" cried Syd, as he looked down.  "Well, no, sir," said the
sailor, "I wouldn't haul yet, or t'other line might part.--Did you make
it well fast aboard the boat, sir?" he continued to Roylance.

The latter nodded his head, and sat gazing down, shuddering, at the
shark.

"Then you'd best wait, sir," shouted the man, as they were drawn up
higher and higher, swinging gently like a counterpoise.  "You see our
weight eases it off like on the boat, and we may get her yet."

It seemed possible, for its rate was checked, but the slow deliberate
glide still went on a little, flattening the curve formed by the two
lines extending from the deck of the boat to the top of the rocks, fifty
feet above the sea.

"One moment, Mr Roylance, sir," said the man, as coolly as if he were
in the rigging of the ship, and not suspended by a thin rope over the
jaws of a monstrous shark.  "I want to get my legs round facing that
cliff there.  That's your sort.  Now if your line gives way, as I'm
feared it will--one minute: yes, the knot's fast; that won't draw--I
say, if the rope gives way we shall go down again the rocks with a
spang, but don't you mind; it'll only be a swing, and I'll fend us off
with my feet.  My! we're getting tight now.  Look out, sir, we're
going."

But the rope did not break, for seeing how dangerous the strain was
becoming, Syd ordered the men behind him to ease off a little, and then
a little more and a little more, till the progress of the water-logged
vessel was gradually checked, and as they felt that the worst of the
strain was over, the men on the cliff gave a cheer.

"Steady there, steady!" cried Terry, angrily, and the men murmured.

"Silence there!" cried Syd.  "Now, my lads, I think you may begin to
haul."

The men obeyed, and by the exercise of a great deal of caution the first
rope was drawn slowly hand over hand up the cliff till Roylance's head
appeared.  Syd extended his hands to his help, and the midshipman
climbed over the edge and sat down in the hot sunshine in his drenched
clothes, looking white and haggard, as one looks after a terrible escape
from death.

The next minute the sailor was on the cliff, looking none the worse for
his adventure, but pretty well drenched by contact with Roylance's
dripping clothes.

Then a little more hauling took place, till the men could get a good
hold of the line Roylance had brought ashore, in the midst of which the
latter suddenly sprang up, looked over the edge of the cliff, and
catching sight of his enemy, he picked up the biggest piece of stone he
could lift and hurled it down.  It fell with a mighty splash in the
water, and as chance had it, for little could be said for the aim, right
down upon the shark, which turned up directly after, and then recovered
itself and swam laboriously away.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

"You made me feel horribly bad, Roy," whispered Syd, hastily.  "How
could you do such a fearfully dangerous thing?"

Roylance smiled feebly and pointed down at the boat, which was yielding
slowly to the drag kept on it by the men.

"That may be the means of saving our lives," he said.

"Are you going to leave those other two poor fellows to fall off the
rock as food for the sharks, Mr Belton?" said Terry, who had been put
out of temper by the action of the men.

"I think you can answer that question yourself, Mr Terry," said
Roylance, flushing up angrily.

Syd made no reply, but quietly gave his orders.

"Mr Roylance," he said, "are you well enough to take charge of the men
here, as they haul the boat along, while I go and see to the bo'sun and
Rogers being got up the cliff?"

"Well enough? yes," cried Roylance, upon whom the short encounter with
Terry had acted like a stimulus.

Terry turned pale with rage at being passed over, and he followed Syd
and four of the men as they hurried along with the rope set at liberty
coiled up.

It was with no little anxiety that the party approached the spot where
Rogers had gone down, while Terry, who had expressed so much interest in
the fate of the two men, oddly enough hung behind.

Syd was the first to reach the place, and looked over to be greeted by
Rogers with a hail.

"Is Mr Strake all right?"

"Ay, ay, sir; all but my bark," said the boatswain.  "Don't say, sir, as
you haven't got Mr Roylance off the boat."

"Got him off, Strake, and they're towing the boat along."

"Hurrah!" shouted the two men, whose position in an indentation of the
rock line had prevented them from seeing what was going on.

The rope was lowered down with the loop all ready, and Strake was hauled
up first, his appearance over the side being greeted with a cheer, and
plenty of hands were ready to help him into a sitting position, for it
was evident that he could not lift one leg.

"Never mind me, my lads," he said, quietly.  "Get Rogers on deck first."

This was soon effected, the smart young sailor displaying an activity as
he scrambled over the edge of the rocks that contrasted strangely with
the boatswain's limp.

"Now, Strake," said Syd, as soon as he had seen Rogers safe, "are you
hurt?"

"Hurt, sir?  Did you say hurt?"

"Yes, yes, man."

"Well, I s'pose I am, sir, for I feels as if I'd got a big sore place
spread all over me.  Mussy me, sir, that's about the hardest rocks to
fall on as ever was."

"But no bones broken?"

"Bones broken?  Nay.  I've got none of your poor brittle chaney-ladle
kind o' bones; but my head's cut and the bark's all off my right leg in
the front.  Left leg arn't got no bark at all, and I'm reg'larly shaken
in all my seams, and stove in on my starboard quarter, sir.  So if
you'll have me got into dock or beached and then overhaul me a bit, I'd
take it kindly."

"Of course, of course, Strake; anything I can do."

"Ahoy!" cried the old man, raising a hand as he sat in the sunshine upon
the rock, but lowering it directly.  "Oh, dear; I wanted to give them a
hearty cheer yonder, but, phew! it's bellows to mend somewhere.  Yes,
I'm stove in.  Old ship's been on the rocks; all in the dry though."

A cheer came back, though, as Roylance and his men caught sight of the
two who had been rescued, while they towed the boat slowly along.

"How are we to get you back to the huts, Strake?" said Syd, anxiously.

"Oh, never mind me just at present, my lad," said the boatswain; "what I
want to see is that there boat got alongside o' our harbour--on'y
'tarn't a harbour--and made fast with all the rope you can find.  Maybe
she's got a cable aboard.  I should break my heart if she weer to break
adrift now."

"Mr Roylance has her in charge, Strake, and I'll see to you.  Where are
you in pain?"

"Ask me where I arn't in pain, Mr Belton, sir.  I got it this time."

"I'm sorry for you, Strake."

"Thank ye, sir; but I'm sorry for you.  There's a big job to patch me up
and caulk me, I can tell you.  It's horspittle this time, I'm feared."

"But how are we to move you without giving you pain?"

"I'll tell you, sir.  Sail again, and some un at each corner.  We shan't
beat that."

The sail was procured, and the injured man was carried as carefully as
possible back to the foot of the gap, hoisted up, and then borne into
the hospital.

"Strake!  Hurt?" cried the lieutenant.

"Oh, not much, sir; bit of a tumble, that's all, sir.  Don't you be
skeared.  I arn't going to make no row about it.  No, no, sir, please,"
continued the boatswain, "not yet.  I don't feel fit to be boarded.
Just you go and give your orders to make that there boat safe, and then
I'm ready for you.  One word though, sir."

"What is it?"

"Have that there boat well fended, or she'll grind herself to pieces
agen the rock."

Syd hesitated, but being full of anxiety to see the boat that had cost
them so much thoroughly secured, and feeling perhaps that after all a
rest after his rough journey would make the boatswain more able to bear
examination and bandaging, he hurried off to find that he need not have
troubled himself, for Roylance was doing everything possible, and the
vessel was being safely moored head and stern.

But he was in time to have the boatswain's proposition carried out, and
a couple of pieces of spar were hung over the side to keep her from
tearing and grinding on the edge of the natural pier.

As Syd was returning he came upon Terry, looking black as night, and
held out his hand.

"I'm sorry there should have been any fresh unpleasantness," he said.
"Can't we be friends, Mr Terry?"

"That's just what I want to be, Belton," cried Terry, eagerly, seizing
the proffered hand.  "I'm afraid I did interfere a bit too much to-day."

"And somehow," mused Syd, as he went on to the hospital, "I can't feel
as if it's all genuine.  It's like shaking hands with a sole and five
sprats.  Ugh! how cold and fishy his hand did feel."

The lieutenant was lying in the hospital with his eyes closed, and Pan
was bathing his father's brow with water, using his injured arm now and
then out of forgetfulness, but putting it back in the sling again as
soon as it was observed.

"Arn't much the matter with it, I know, Pan-y-mar," the injured man
whispered, as Syd halted by the door to see how his new patient seemed,
trembling terribly in his ignorance at having to put his smattering of
surgery to the test once more.

"Ah, you dunno, father," grumbled the boy.  "You've ketched it this
time.  I don't talk about getting no rope's-ends to you."

"No, my lad, you don't.  I should jest like to ketch you at it.  But you
won't see me going about in a sling."

"Ah, you dunno yet, father."

"Don't I?  You young swab; why, if I had my head took off with a shot, I
wouldn't howl as you did."

"Why, yer couldn't, father," said Pan, grinning.

"What, yer laughing at me, are yer?  Just you wait till I gets a few
yards o' dackylum stuck about me, and you'll get that rope's-end yet,
Pan-y-mar."

"Oh, no!  I shan't," said Pan in a whisper, after glancing at the
lieutenant, who was lying with his eyes closed.  "You'll be bad for two
months."

"What?  Why, you sarcy young lubber, if the luff warn't a-lying there
and I didn't want to wake him, I'd give yer such a cuff over the ear as
'd make yer think bells was ringing."

"Couldn't reach," said Pan, dabbing his face.

"Then I'd kick yer out of the door."

"Yah!" grinned Pan.  "Can't kick.  I see yer brought in, and yer
couldn't stand."

"Keep that water out o' my eye, warmint, will you," whispered the
boatswain.  "Water's too good to be wasted.  Give us a drink, boy."

Pan rose and dipped a pannikin full of the cool water from a bucket, and
held it to his father's lips.

"Wouldn't have had no water if it hadn't been for me coming ashore," he
said.

"Ah, you've a lot to boast about.  Just you pour that in properly, will
yer; I want it inside, not out."

"Who's to pour it right when yer keeps on talking?" said Pan, as he
trickled the water into his father's mouth.

"Ah, you're a nice sarcy one now I'm down, Pan-y-mar," said Stoke, after
a long refreshing draught.  "But you may be trustful, I've got a good
memory for rope's-ends, and you shall have it warmly as soon as I'm
well."

"Then I won't stop and nuss yer," said Pan, drawing back.

"You just come on, will yer, yer ungrateful swab."

"Shan't," said Pan.

"What!  Do you know this here arn't the skipper's garden, and you and me
only gardeners, but 'board ship--leastwise it's all the same--and I'm
your orficer?"

"You arn't a orficer now," said Pan, grinning.  "You're only a wounded
man."

"Come here."

"Shan't!"

"Pan-y-mar, come here."

"Say you won't rope's-end me, and I will."

"But I will rope's-end you."

"Then I won't come."

The boatswain made an effort to rise, but sank back with a groan.  Pan
took a couple of steps forward, and looked at him eagerly.

"Why, you're shamming, father," he said.

The boatswain lay back with the great drops of sweat standing on his
face.

"I say, you won't rope's-end me, father?"

There was no reply.

"Why, you are shamming, father."

Still all was silent, and the boy darted to the injured man's side and
began to bathe his face rapidly.

"Father," he whispered, hoarsely, "father.  Oh, I say!  Don't die, and
you shall give it me as much as you like.  Father--Oh, it's you, Master
Syd.  Be quick!  He's so bad.  What shall I do?"

"Be quiet," said Syd, quietly.  "Don't be frightened; he has fainted."

"Then why did he go scaring a lad like that?" whimpered Pan, looking on.

"Hush!  Be quiet.  There: he is coming round," said Syd, as the injured
man uttered a loud sigh and looked wonderingly about him.

"Just let me get hold--Oh, it's you, sir.  Glad you've comed.  I'm ready
now.--Stand aside, Pan-y-mar, and give the doctor room.--Say, Master
Syd," he whispered, "don't let that young sneak know what I said, but I
do feel a bit skeared."

"You are weak and faint."

"But it's about my legs, Master Sydney.  Don't take 'em off, lad, unless
you are obliged."

"Nonsense!  I shall not want to do that.  You are much bruised, but
there are no bones broken."

"Ay, but there are, my lad," said the boatswain, sadly.  "I didn't want
to say much about it, but I am stove in.  Ribs."

"How do you know?"

"Feels it every time I breathes, my lad.  Bad job when a ship's timbers
goes."

Sydney knew what to do under the circumstances, and sending Pan for
Rogers to help him, he proceeded to examine his fresh patient, to find
that two ribs were broken on the right side, the rest of the injuries
consisting of severe bruises and grazings of the skin.  In addition
there were a couple of cuts on the back of the head, which called for
strapping up.

Part of these injuries had been attended to by the time Pan returned
with Rogers, and then the ribs were tightly bandaged with a broad strip
of sail-cloth.

"I say, sir," growled the boatswain, "not going to do this all over me?"

"No!  Why?"

"'Cause I shan't be able to move, and my boy's been a-haskin' for
something hot 'fore you come."

"That I didn't, father."

"Oh, yes, you did, my lad.  You didn't ask with yer mouth, but have a
way of asking for what you're so fond on without making no noise."

Pan screwed up his face, and the lieutenant, who had been lying
apparently asleep, burst into a loud laugh.

"Come, Strake," he said, "you had better leave that, and think of
getting better."

"Ay, ay, sir; but I hope I see you better for your nap."

"I wish you did, my man, and I wish you the same.  But there, we've such
a skilful young doctor to look after us, we shan't hurt much."

"Not us, sir.  I am't nothing to what you was, and see what a job Mr
Belton's made o' you."

"Yes; it's wonderful.  I can never be grateful enough."

"Beg pardon, sir," said Sydney, "but I want to finish bandaging the
boatswain; and if you keep on talking like that I can't."

"I am silent, O doctor!" said the lieutenant, laughing.  "And so you've
got a boat, have you?"

"Such as it is, sir."

"Then if the captain does not come back we shall have the means of
getting away from this place.  No; that will not do, Mr Belton: we must
hold it till we are driven out.  Keep to it to the very last.  I say we:
you must, for you are in command.  I suppose it will be months before I
am well."

"I'm afraid it will," replied Syd.

"Then you must hold it, as I said."

"Hurrah!" cried Strake, and then screwing up his face--"My word! that's
bad.  You're all right, Pan-y-mar.  There won't be no rope's-end for you
this week."

"No," said Syd, merrily, "I think he's safe for quite that time."

"And when may I move, doctor?" said Mr Dallas, smiling.

"As soon as you can bear it, sir, I'll have you got out in the morning
to lie in the shade and get the fresh sea-breeze before it grows hot."

"Ah! thank you, my lad," he said, with a longing look.  "I'm beginning
to think I would as soon have been a surgeon as what I am."

Syd started and coloured up, as he wondered whether the lieutenant knew
anything about his life at home.



CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.

The same reply always from the look-out man by the flagstaff; no ship in
sight, and the town of Saint Jacques slumbering in the sun.  But there
was so much to do that Syd and Roylance could spare very little time for
thinking.

As soon as the patients had been tended there were a score of matters to
take Syd's attention; but he was well seconded by Roylance, who, to
Terry's disgust, threw himself heart and soul into the work of keeping
the fort as if it were a ship.

The lieutenant progressed wonderfully now that the feverish stage was
over, and one day he said--

"I can't work, Syd, my dear boy, for I am as weak as a baby, and I shall
not interfere in any way, so go on and behave like a man."

Pan forgot to use his sling to such an extent that there could be no
mistake about his wound being in a fair way to heal, and were other
proof needed it was shown in the way in which he tormented his helpless
father.  For though the boatswain pooh-poohed the idea of anything much
being the matter with him, it was evident that he suffered a great deal,
though he never winced when his injuries were dressed.

"Serves me right," he used to say.  "Arter all my practice, to think o'
me not being able to heave a rope on board a derrylick without chucking
myself arter it.  There, don't you worrit about me, sir.  Give me a
hextry fig o' tobacco, and a stick or a rope's-end to stir up that young
swab o' mine, and I shall grow fresh bark over all my grazings, and the
broken ribs 'll soon get set.  How are you getting on with the boat?"

"Not at all, Strake," replied Syd.  "We can't pump her out because
there's a big leak in her somewhere, and I don't like to break her up in
case we think of a way of floating her so as to get away from here."

"What?  Who wants to get away from here, sir?  Orders was to occupy this
here rock, and of course you hold it till the skipper comes back and
takes us off."

"Yes; but in case our provisions fail?"

"Tchah! ketch more fish, sir.  There's plenty, aren't there?"

"Yes; as much as we can use."

"And any 'mount o' water?"

"Yes."

"And the only thing you want is wood for cooking?"

"Yes."

"Then that boat, which seems to ha' been sent o' purpose, has to be got
ashore somehow to be broke up.  Now, if you'll take my advice you'll
just go down to the rocks there and think that job out.  I can't help
you much, sir, 'cause here I am on my beam-ends.  Go and think it out,
lad, and then come and tell me."

"Strake's right," said the lieutenant, who had been lying in the shade
outside the hut.  "Captain Belton will either be back himself or send
help before long.  You must hold the place till he comes."

Those words were comfortable to Sydney.  They were like definite orders
from his superiors, and he could obey them with more satisfaction to
himself than any he thought out for himself.  So he went down to the
pier, meeting Roylance on his way, who had just been his rounds, and had
a few words with the men on duty by the upper and lower guns, and at the
flagstaff.

"My orders are to go and see to getting the wreck ashore for firewood,
Roylance."

"Orders?" said the midshipman, laughing.  "Well, it does seem a pity
after the trouble we took."

"And risk," interpolated Syd.

"To get her moored here to be of no use."

"Come, and let's see what can be done."

The two youths descended the rope-ladder beneath the lower gun, and
spent some time in examining the vessel, but were compelled to give up
in despair.  She was securely moored so that they could easily get on to
the water-washed decks, where there were a couple of fixed pumps, but
these had been tried again and again; and, as the men said, it was like
trying to pump the Atlantic dry to go on toiling at a task where the
water flowed in as fast as it was drawn out.

"There's no getting at the leak even if we knew where it was," said
Roylance.

"I think the same," said Syd, "so we may as well get all the wood out of
her we can, and lay it on the rocks to dry."

This task was begun, and for two days the men worked well; some cutting,
others dragging off planks with crowbars, while the rest bore the wood
to the foot of the rocky wall, where it was hauled up and laid to dry in
the hottest parts of the natural fort.

It was on the third day from the beginning of this task, as the pile of
dripping wood they had taken from the wreck began to grow broad and
high, while endless numbers of riven pieces were ranged in the full
sunshine, and sent forth a quivering transparent vapour into the heated
air, that Syd, who was standing ankle-deep in water on a cross-beam
directing the men, and warning them not to make a false step on account
of the sharks, suddenly uttered a cry--

"Look out!" he shouted, and there was a rush for the rock, where as soon
as they were on safely the men began to roar with laughter.

"Beg pardon, sir," said Rogers, touching his hat, as he stood axe in
hand; "but seeing as how he tried to eat me, oughtn't we to try and eat
he?"

The "he" pointed to was a long, lean, hungry-looking shark which had
been cruising about the side of the vessel, whose bulwarks had all been
ripped off and deck torn up, so that she floated now like a huge tub
whose centre was crossed by broad beams.  So open was the vessel that it
had needed very little effort on the part of a shark to make a rush,
glide in over the ragged side, and then begin floundering about in the
water, and over and under the beams which had supported the deck.

"I don't know about eating him, Roy," said Syd; "but as I'm captain I
pass sentence of death on the brute."  Then to the men--"How can you
tackle the wretch?"

"Oh, we'll soon tackle him, sir," said Rogers; "eh, messmets?"

There was a growl of assent at this, and the men looked at their young
leader full of expectancy.

"Well," he said, "be careful.  What do you mean to do?"

"Seems to me, sir," said the man, "as the best thing to do would be to
fish for him."

"No, no," cried Roylance; "fetch a line with a running knot, and see if
you can't get it round him, and have him out."

Rogers gave his leg a slap.

"That's it, sir.  Pity you and me can't be swung over him like we was
off the rocks.  Easily run it across his nose then."

Roylance could not help a shudder, and he glanced at Syd to see if he
was observed.

"I get dreaming about that thing sometimes," he said.  "I wonder whether
this is the one."

"Hardly likely, but it's sure to be a relation," said Syd, laughing, as
they stood watching the movements of the shark, which seemed to be
puzzled by its quarters, and was now showing its tail as it dived down
under a beam, now raising its head to glide over and disappear in the
depths of the ship's hold.

The men were not long in getting the line that had been used to tow the
vessel to its moorings, and a freely running noose was prepared and
tested by Rogers, who suddenly threw it over one of his messmates'
heads, gave it a snatch, and drew it taut.  Taking it off, he lassoed
another in the same way.

"That's the tackle," he said, smiling.  "Next thing is to get it round
the shark."

"Yes," said Roylance, "but it's something like the rats putting the bell
on the cat's neck.  Who's to do it?"

"Oh, I'm a-going to do it, sir," said Rogers, shaking out the rope.
"Lay hold, messmates, and when I says `now!' have him out and over the
rocks here.--P'r'aps, sir, you'd like to have an axe to give him number
one?"

"How do you mean?"

"One on the tail, sir, to fetch it off; only look out, for he's pretty
handy with his tail."

"That's what some one said of the man who had his legs shot off,"
whispered Roylance, laughing, "that he was pretty handy with the wooden
ones."

"We're ready, sir," said Rogers, "when you likes to give the word."

"But about danger, my man?" said Syd, who half-wondered at himself, as
he hectored over the crew, and thought that he was a good deal like
Terry, who was contemptuously looking on.

"Theer's no danger, sir," said Rogers.  "I don't know so much about
that," said Syd; "suppose you slipped and went down into the hold?"

"Well, in that case, sir," said Rogers, grimly, "Master Jack there would
have the best of it, and none of his mates to help.  Wonder whether a
shark like that shovel-nosed beggar could eat a whole man at a meal?"

"Ugh!" ejaculated Syd, with a shudder.  "It's too risky.  Better give it
up."  But the men looked chapfallen.

"But the brute will put a complete stop to our work," said Roylance, who
was watching the restless movements of the self-imprisoned shark.
"Don't stop them, Belton," he continued, in a low tone, "I want to see
that monster killed."

"For revenge?"

"If you like to call it so.  It or one of its fellows made me pass such
moments of agony as I shall never forget."

"I shall never forget my horror either," said Syd, as he too looked
viciously at the savage creature, which just then rose out of the water
and glided over one of the beams.  "There, go on, Rogers, only take
great care."

"I just will that, sir," said the man, as his messmates cheered; and
taking the noose in his hand he stepped along the plank leading from the
rocks to the vessel.  "When I say `_now_, lads,' mind you let him feel
you directly; and haul him out."

"Ay, ay!" cried the men; and then every eye was fixed upon the active
young fellow, whose white feet seemed to cling to the wet planking upon
which he stood, and from which he stepped cautiously out upon one of the
beams that curved over from side to side.

Hardly was he well out, and stooping down peering into the water, than
Syd uttered a warning cry, and the man bounded back as the shark,
attracted by the sight of his white legs, came up from behind, and
glided exactly over the spot where he had been standing.

"Ah! would yer!" shouted Rogers; and the men roared with laughter.
"This here's fishing with your own legs for bait," continued the young
sailor.  "Well, it's got to be who's sharpest--him or me."

"I think you had better not venture," said Syd, hesitating again.

"Oh! don't say that, sir.  We shall all be horrid disappointed if we
don't get him."

"But see what a narrow escape you had."

"Well, yes, sir; I wasn't quite sharp enough, but there was no harm
done."

"Go on," said Syd, unwillingly, as he caught Roylance's eye; and
hurrying by for fear that the permission should be withdrawn, the man
stepped quickly back on to the beam, keeping a sharp look-out to right
and left.

"I see you, you beggar," he said; "come on."

The shark accepted the invitation, and made quite a leap, passing over
the beam again, diving down, snowing his white, and swam twenty feet
away, to turn with difficulty amongst the submerged timber forward, and
returned aiming clumsily at the white legs which tempted him, but
missing his goal, for the young sailor nimbly leaped ashore.

"I shan't get him that way," he said.  "Here, give us something white."

There was nothing white handy but blocks of coral, and Rogers solved the
difficulty by selecting a hat and taking a handspike.

He tried his plan at least a dozen times without result, and lost two
good chances; but the man was too clever for the shark at last.  Rogers
had scanned pretty accurately the course the brute would pursue, and had
noted that when once it gave a vigorous sweep with its tail to send
itself forward, there was no variation in its course.

So waiting his time, standing in the middle of the cross-beams with the
noose in his hand, he fixed his eye upon his enemy, threw the hat ashore
as a useless bait, and depending once more upon himself, he waited.

It was not for long.  The brute made at him, and as it glided out of the
water to seize its prey, Rogers, by a quick leap, spread his legs wide
apart and held the noose so cleverly that the shark glided into it as a
dog leaps through a hoop; and it was so ingeniously adjusted that the
rope tightened directly, almost before the young sailor could shout
"_Now_" while the shark went over and down between two of the
cross-beams behind his fisher, as, from a cause upon which he had not
counted, Rogers took an involuntary header into the part of the
water-logged vessel from which the shark had come.

The cause upon which the young sailor had not reckoned was the rope,
which, at the shark's plunge as soon as noosed, tightened the line which
crossed Rogers' leg, snatched it from under him, and down he went, to
the horror of all present.

In a moment the water all about where the shark had plunged began to
boil, and the next moment there was a quick splashing as Rogers' head
appeared.

"Hold on to him!" he shouted.  "Don't let him go.  Where's he ketched?"

"Don't talk," yelled Syd, running along the planks to stretch out a
hand.  "Here, quick, let me help you out."

"Oh, I'm all right, sir, so long as the rope holds," cried the young
sailor, coolly.  "He won't think of me while he's got that bit of line
about him."  But he climbed out all the same, and stood rubbing his
shin.

"Never thought of the rope hitching on to me like that," he said.
"Whereabouts is he ketched, mates?"

"The rope has slipped down pretty close to his tail," cried Roylance, as
he watched the creature's frantic plunges in the limited space.

"Something like fishing this, Roy," said Syd, excitedly, while the men
held on, and they could see amid the flying, foaming water the long,
lithe body quivering from end to end like a steel spring.

"I'd haul him out, sir, 'fore he shakes that noose right over his tail."

"Yes.  Look alive, my lads.  Now then!" cried Syd, "haul him out.
Quick!"

The men gave a cheer, and hauling together, they ran the writhing
monster right out of the water, and over the edge of the natural pier,
fifty feet or so up among the loose rocks, where it leaped and bounded
and pranced about for a few minutes in a way which forbade approach.

Then there was a loud cheer as Rogers seized his opportunity, and
brought down the axe he had snatched up with so vigorous a stroke on the
creature's back, about a couple of feet above the great lobe of the
tail, that the vertebra was divided, and from that moment the violent
efforts to get free lost their power.

It was an easy task now to give the savage monster its _coup de grace_,
and as it lay now quivering and beyond doing mischief, the men set up
another cheer and crowded round.

"There," cried Rogers, "that means shark steak for dinner, lads, and--"

"Sail ho!" came from above; and the shark was forgotten as the words
sent an electric thrill through all.

"Come on, Roylance!" cried Syd, climbing up the rope-ladder to run and
get his glass.

"Ay, ay," cried Roylance, following.

"Let's get a better hold with the rope, mates," said Rogers, "and haul
the beggar right up on deck.  They're artful beggars is sharks, and if
we leave him here he'd as like as not to come to life, shove a few
stitches in the cut in his tail, and go off to sea again."

The men laughed, and the prize was hauled right up to the perpendicular
wall below the tackle, willing hands making the quivering mass fast, and
hauling it right up into the gap, and beyond all possibility of its
again reaching the sea.



CHAPTER FORTY.

A good deal had been done to make the way easy, but still it was an
arduous and hot climb up to the flagstaff, on his way to which Syd had
found time, in case they had not heard, to announce the sail in sight to
Mr Dallas and the boatswain.

There it was, sure enough, a vessel in full sail right away in the east;
and as Syd gazed at it through the glass, his spirits sank.

"It isn't the _Sirius_," he said, as he handed the glass to Roylance.

"No, sir," said the man on the look-out; "she's a Frenchy, I think."

"How do you know it isn't the _Sirius_?" said Roylance, as he used the
glass.

"Because her masts slope more than those do," replied Syd, and then he
felt how ignorant he was, and how old Strake would have told the
nationality of a vessel "by the cut of her jib," as he would have termed
it.  His musings were interrupted by Roylance.

"Yes, I think she's a French ship," he said.  "Bound for Saint Jacques,
evidently, and I dare say she'll come by here."

"Well, we can't stop her," said Syd, shortly, for he felt annoyed that
his companion should know so much more of seafaring matters than he.

"No," replied Roylance; "but she can stop us perhaps.  I should not be
surprised if she is coming on purpose; for the people, you see, must
know we have taken possession of this rock, and that is why all shipping
has kept away."

"Perhaps so," said Syd, a little more testily, for it was painful to be
so ignorant.  "Well, I suppose we can do nothing."

"Do nothing?  Well, you are at the head of affairs; but if it was my
case I should go and have a word with the lieutenant, and take his
advice."

These were his words of wisdom, and Syd hurried down to the hospital and
reported.

"And me a-lying here like a log," muttered the boatswain.

"In all probability a French man-of-war come to see what we mean by
settling down here.  Well, Mr Belton," said the lieutenant, "I do not
suppose it means fighting; but, if I were you, I should get out my
ammunition, and have it well up to the guns."

"Why don't you tell me to do it, sir?" cried Sydney, humbly.

"Because the command has fallen upon you, my lad; and I'm only a poor
feeble creature, hardly able to lift an arm.  Come; you have no time to
spare.  Draw up your ropes, beat to quarters, and if the enemy does come
near, and send a boat to land, you can warn them off."

"And if they will not go, sir?"

"Send a shot over their heads."

"And if they don't go then?"

"Send one through their boat."

"But that will hurt somebody, sir."

"I hope so," said the lieutenant, dryly.  "Why, Strake, what are you
doing?" he continued, excitedly, as the boatswain slowly sat up,
uttering a groan as he lowered down his feet.

"On'y going to see to that there ammunition, sir.  There's no gunner
aboard, and some one ought to do it."

"But you are too weak and ill, my man."

"I shall be weaker and iller ever so much, sir, if I stop here," said
the boatswain.  "Oh, I arn't so very bad."

"But really, my man--"

"Don't stop me, your honour, sir.  How could I look his father in the
face again if I didn't lend a hand just when it's wanted most?"

"Well, I cannot stop you, Strake," said the lieutenant.  "I only wish I
could stir.  I could do nothing but take up the men's strength, and make
them carry me about.  Go on, Mr Belton; play a bold part, and recollect
you are acting in the King's name."

Syd flushed up, and went to work at once.  The preparations did not take
long.  The rope-ladder was hauled up and stowed away, the men were
called to quarters, ammunition served out under the boatswain's orders,
and the guns loaded.  Every man had his cutlass, and the British colours
had been laid ready for hoisting at a moment's notice.

When these arrangements had been made, Syd took Roylance and Terry into
consultation, and asked them if there was anything else that could be
done.

Neither could suggest anything, for the water-casks were filled, the
stores were up in safety, and the men had a supply of fresh fish, in the
shape of the shark just caught--a toothsome dainty that some sailors
consider excellent for a change.

All was ready; every man at his post; and after buckling on his dirk,
Syd thought to himself, "What an impostor I am!  What impudence it is
for me to pretend to command these men!"

But as he went out amongst them, somehow it did not seem as if they
thought so.  There was a bright eagerness in their faces, and whenever
he spoke it was to be answered with a cheery "Ay, ay, sir!" and his
orders were executed with alacrity.

It was a small party to command, if this should prove to be a French
man-of-war come to dispute the right of the English to this rocky speck
off their possessions.

But the matter was soon to be proved.  From time to time Syd climbed to
the flagstaff to watch the stranger, which was approaching fast, and
also to sweep the distant horizon in search of help in what promised to
be his dire need.

And here it may as well be stated that in planting his garrison on the
rock, it had been the intention of Captain Belton--an idea endorsed by
his consort--to let a party of his men hold the place, so as to keep any
party from Saint Jacques from taking possession, and from thence
annoying his ships.  Such a venture could only be made with boats from
the town, and these he felt that it would be easy for the little
garrison to beat off.  It never entered into his calculations that the
rock could be attacked by a man-of-war, for he and his consort would be
there watching the channel which led up to the town, and theirs would be
the duty to repel any formidable attack.

The gale, which had risen to a hurricane, changed all this, and that
upon which the captain did not count had come to pass.

For a French frigate was sailing steadily up the broad channel--a vessel
whose captain was evidently quite at home among the coral reefs and
shoals which spread far and near, and its nearing was watched with eager
eyes.

From time to time Roylance was sent to report the state of affairs to
Mr Dallas, who lay on his rough couch, apparently quite calm and
confident, but with a red patch burning in either cheek, as he bitterly
felt his helplessness and inability to do more than give a word or two
of advice.  But this advice he did give, when the frigate was about a
mile off.

"We are so weak here," he said to Roylance, "that Mr Belton had better
keep his men well out of sight, and not invite inquiry or molestation.
The vessel may not be coming here, and if they see no one will pass on."

Roylance communicated this to Syd.

"But there is one thing they will see," he said.

"What?"

"The flagstaff."

"Yes; I had forgotten that, and it is too late to take it down; the men
would be seen."

All this time the frigate was steadily approaching, for if her course
was to reach the town that slept so calmly in the sunshine, she would
come within about half a mile of the rock as she passed.

The orders were given for the men to keep out of sight at the lower gun,
the heavy piece being drawn back from the opening in the stone wall
built up in front; and Roylance, who had charge there, lay down behind a
piece of rock, where he could watch the vessel's course.

Syd went on himself to the upper gun, after bidding the man at the
flagstaff keep out of sight.

Terry was walking up and down impatiently as the lad approached, and the
latter looked at him wonderingly, for only a short time before they had
parted apparently the best of friends.

"Look here, Mr Belton," said Terry, losing not a moment in developing
his new grievance, "I want to know why Roylance has been sent down to
the lower gun, where the work is of more importance than this."

"More importance?" said Syd.

"Yes; I suppose you have been advised to do it as a slight upon me.  You
would not have done it of your own accord."

"I was not advised to do anything of the kind," said Syd, quietly; "I
did what I thought was best.  If there is any difference in the two
posts, this is the more important, because every one would have to
retreat here in case the lower gun was taken."

"Surely I ought to know which is the more important, sir," cried Terry,
loudly, "and I see now it is a question of favouritism or friendliness.
But I shall protest against it, and so I tell you."

"There is no time to discuss such a matter as this now, Mr Terry," said
Syd.  "You are to hold this gun in readiness to cover the retreat if the
lower work becomes untenable; and now you must keep yourself and men
hidden, and the gun drawn back."

"What for?" said Terry, with asinine obstinacy.

"I cannot stop to explain why."

"But I insist, sir.  Am I to play the part of coward without having the
privilege of knowing why such a distasteful course is to be adopted?  I
am sure if Mr Dallas knew--"

"Do as you're told, sir," cried Syd, warmly.  "Not a man is to be seen.
Run that gun in, my lads."

Then, as the order was obeyed, much to Terry's disgust, Syd said
quietly--

"The men are to keep out of sight, so that the French ship may pass on.
You understand?"

"Oh, yes: I understand," sneered Terry, as Syd went away, and then crept
up under the shelter of the side of one of the rifts to the flagstaff,
where he lay down beside the watch and opened his glass, so that he was
able to examine the coming vessel at his ease.

Twenty-eight guns he counted, and as he kept on watching he could even
see the movements of the men on deck.  All calm and quiet there; the men
in knots, the officers seated, or leaning over the side.  There could be
no doubt about it; the man-of-war was on a peaceable mission, as far as
the rock was concerned, and would pass on.

Once or twice Sydney saw an officer glance in his direction, but only to
turn away again.  But he made no report to any one else, and the frigate
sailed on in the hot evening sunshine.

Syd felt his spirits rise.  He had proved himself to be no coward,
though he shrank from the awful responsibility of giving orders or
committing acts which might cause the shedding of blood.  The Frenchman
was sailing steadily on, and the lad drew his breath more freely, as he
said, almost unconsciously, to the man watching by his side--

"There'll be no fighting, my lad."

"Well, sir," replied the man, who happened to be Rogers, "I dunno as I
want to fight.  If I'm told to, course I shall, but it takes a lot with
me to get my monkey up; and I'd rather look like a coward any day than
have to fire at a man or give him a chop with my cutlash."

"Quite right, Rogers.  I don't think those who bounce most are the
bravest.  How bright and clean it looks on board ship!  I wonder how
soon the _Sirius_ will come back.  Ah, there she goes," he continued, as
he used the glass, "sailing straight away for Saint Jacques; one could
almost like to be in her for a change.  Hallo!"

He looked eagerly through his glass at the passing ship, and became
suddenly aware of the fact that something had attracted the attention of
the officers of the French frigate, for one of the men went up quickly
to an officer on the quarter-deck, and through the glass Sydney could
see the gold lace of his uniform glisten as he raised one hand and
pointed at the rock.

"How vexatious!" said Syd, aloud; "that officer must have seen the
flagstaff."

"No, sir; I don't think so," said Rogers.

"Nonsense, man! they have seen it.  Look, they're throwing the ship up
in the wind, and--yes--they're going to lower a boat.  Look at the men
swarming across the deck like ants.  They must have seen the flagstaff.
What a pity it was not taken down!"

"Beg pardon, sir; I don't think it was the flagstaff."

"What, then?  They couldn't see the guns."

"No, sir; but they could have seen Mr Terry."

"How?  Why?"

"He got up on the gun-carriage, and stood down below there, staring out
to sea."

Syd lowered the glass and changed his position, so that he could look
down into the little stone-built fort, where the upper gun was placed,
and there, sure enough, was Terry in the act of getting down from the
gun-carriage.

"Why, what can he mean by that?"

"Dunno, sir," said the man, bluntly.  "He's a orficer; but if it had
been one of us we should precious soon know."

"What do you mean?" cried Sydney, uneasily.

"Only, sir, as you orficers would call it treachery, and it might mean
yard-arm."



CHAPTER FORTY ONE.

Treachery or only spite, which could it be?  Syd felt a sensation of
cold running through him as he raised the glass again and watched the
frigate, for he felt that perhaps after all he might have been mistaken,
and the sailor lying by him too.  Terry was an officer and a gentleman.
He had a horrible temper; he was as jealous and overweening as could be,
but it seemed impossible that he could so degrade himself as to be
guilty of an act that was like a betrayal of his brother officers and
the men.

But it was no mistake as far as the frigate was concerned.  She had
rounded to, her sails were beginning to flap, and amidst the scene of
bustle on deck a boat was lowered, and the next minute it was seen
gliding away from the vessel's side, filled by a smart crew whose oars
seemed to be splashing up golden water as the sun sank and got more
round.  There were two officers in the stern, and now and then something
flashed which looked like weapons, and a second glance showed that they
were the swords of the officers and the guns of the marines.

"We are seen, sure enough," said Syd.  "Be ready with the colours,
Rogers," he added aloud.  "Hoist them the moment you hear me shout."

"Ay, ay, sir.  But it may only be a bit o' _parley voo_, and no fighting
arter all."

"I hope not," thought Syd, as he hurried down the rift, avoiding Terry's
work, and making straight for the lieutenant's quarters, where he
flinched from telling of Terry's actions, and contented himself by
saying what he had seen.

"Well, Mr Belton," said the lieutenant, with a slight flush coming into
his pale face, "you are a King's officer in command, but you know the
captain's wishes; and, boy as you are, sir, you must do what we all do
under such trying circumstances--act like a man."

"And--"

Syd ceased speaking, and asked the remainder of his question with his
eyes.

"Yes, sir, fire upon them, if necessary.  If that boat is from a French
man-of-war, her men must not land."

Syd drew in a long breath, nodded shortly, and was going out without a
word.

"Stop!" cried the lieutenant.  "Take off that plaything, my dear lad,
and buckle on my sword.  That's right, take up a hole or two in the belt
as you go.  Here's a motto for your crest when you sport one,
`_Belton_--_Belt on_'!  Now God bless you, my lad!  Do your duty for
your own and your father's sake."

There was a quick grasp of the hand, and Syd ran out, fastening on the
sword-belt as he went, and feeling rather a curious sensation in the
throat as he mentally exclaimed--"I will."

The men were lying down by the breastwork of the lower gun as he trotted
over the slope, and to his surprise he found the boatswain seated on a
piece of stone with his face puckered up, watching Pan whom he had just
sent up to the magazine.

"Well: what news?" said Roylance, eagerly.  "Are they gone?"

Every eye was fixed on Syd, as he replied--

"No; a boat is coming ashore, and they must make for here.  We can hear
what they have to say, but they must not land."

A thrill seemed to run through the men, who lay ready to jump up and
work the gun, and at a glance Sydney saw that their arms were all ready,
and half the men were stripped for action.

"It is a French frigate?" said Roylance.  "Yes."

"Then who is to talk to them?  Can you?"

"I know the French I learned at school."

"Well, I know that much," said Roylance.  "I can make them understand,
but I don't know about understanding them."

"Begging your pardon, gentlemen," said Strake, with a grim smile, "you
needn't trouble 'bout that 'ere.  I've got a friend here as there isn't
a Frenchy afloat as don't understand."

"Whom do you mean, Strake?" said Syd, as he looked sharply at the
boatswain.

"This here, sir," he said, patting the breech of the cannon.  "On'y let
her open her mouth and bellow; they'll know it means keep off."  The men
laughed.  "Is the gun loaded?"

"Yes, sir, with a round shot; but I've got grape and canister ready."

This began to look like grim warfare, and Syd stood there waiting in
silence, and gazing out seaward for the coming of the boat.

From the little battery the extent visible was rather limited, for the
rock rose up high to right and left.  The French frigate was right
behind them, plain to be seen from the upper gun, the steep slope
downward shutting it out from the lower.

A full half-hour glided by, but there was no sign of the enemy, and the
men lay waiting with the sun now beating full upon them with such power
that the rock grew almost too hot to touch.

"If they don't look sharp and come," said Strake, moving the lantern he
had with him more into the shade, "my candle here will melt into hyle,
and that there gun 'ill begin to speak French without being touched."

"Surely the sun has not power enough to light the charge, Strake."

"Well, sir, I never knowed it done yet," said the boatswain, dubiously.

Another quarter of an hour passed away, and Roylance exclaimed--

"Can there be any other place where they could land?"

"No," said Syd, "I feel sure not."

"Then why are they so long?"

"Don't know the rock, and they are rowing to search all round for a
place, the same as we did."

Still the long-drawn-out space of time went slowly, and doubts began to
intrude which made Syd glance anxiously up to right and left, as he
thought how helpless they would be should they be taken in rear or
flank.

"Make a good fight for it all the same," said Roylance, who read his
looks.  "But I don't see how they could land anywhere round the rock
without men on the cliff top to help them."

"Terry would not do that," thought Syd, and he glanced sharply round to
gaze above him at the upper gun.

He blushed at the thought, as he saw the young officer there, evidently
engaged in looking out to sea.

"Think the man up yonder by the flagstaff can see them?" said Roylance,
after another weary wait.

Sydney shook his head.

"I say, oughtn't we to hoist the colours, Belton?"

"Rogers will run them up when I make him a signal.  We don't want to
challenge them to fight, only to defend the rock against all comers."

"Gettin' hungry, mate?" whispered one of the men to the lad next him.

"No: why?"

"'Cause this side o' me's 'most done."

There was a laugh.

"Silence!" cried Syd, and then in the same breath, "Here they are!"

For the bows of the frigate's boat, which had been right round the rock,
suddenly appeared from the left with one of the officers standing up in
the stern-sheets; and as they came on he suddenly pointed toward the
natural pier, and the men, who had just been dipping their oars lightly,
gave way.

As they came on the party in the little battery could see the French
officers searching the opening with their eyes, and eagerly talking
together; but they did not hesitate, apparently not realising that the
place had been put in a state of defence, for the gun was drawn back,
and the embrasure was of so rugged a construction that it did not
resemble the production of a military engineer.

They ran their boat close alongside of the little pier, and one of the
officers was about to spring out, when Syd shouted forth deeply as he
could, as he stood on the breastwork.

"Hallo!"

The officer looked up sharply, smiled, waved his hand, gave an order to
the sailors in the boat, and a dozen well-armed men sprang out.

"_Halte_!" shouted Syd again.

"_Aha_!" cried the French officer, leading his men forward.  "_Nous
sommes des amis_."

"Oh, _etes-vous_?" cried Syd.  "I dare say you are, but you can't land
here.  Back to your boat.  _Allez-vous-en_!"

"_Mais non_!" said the French officer politely, and he still came on,
smiling.

"This rock belong to his Britannic Majesty, the King of England.
_Waistcoat a nous, Monsieur.  Allez-vous-en_."

"_Mais non_," said the French officer.  "_En avant_!"

"_Nous allons donner le feu_--Fire at you--Fire!" shouted Syd, and he
leaped backward into the fort perfectly astounded.  For Strake did not
understand French, but he thoroughly comprehended English, and as he
heard his commanding officer say _fire_! and then more loudly, _fire_!
he clapped his slow match to the touch-hole of the cannon, whose mouth
was about a foot from the embrasure; there was a burst of flame and
smoke, a deafening roar which threatened to bring down the rocks to
right and left, and as Syd looked through the smoke he could see the
French officer and his men running back to the boat.

"Strake, you shouldn't have fired," he cried, excitedly.

"You give orders," growled the boatswain; "and there was no time to
haim.  Shot went skipping out to sea.--Be smart, my lads," he continued,
as the men who had sprung to their places wielded sponge and rammer, and
this time ran the gun out so that its muzzle showed over the rough
parapet.

By this time Syd had made a sign, and Rogers quickly ran the colours up
the flagstaff, where they were blown out fully by the breeze.

"Don't find fault," whispered Roylance, wiping the tears from his eyes.
"What a game!  See that little French officer fall down?"

"No."

"He caught his foot in a stone.  Look at them now."

Syd looked down at where on the pier the French officers were
gesticulating and talking loudly; the gist of their debate being, should
they try to take the battery or put off, and the majority seemed to be
in favour of the latter proceeding.  For as they eagerly scanned the
little battery they could see now the frowning muzzle of the gun, and
the heads of a number of English sailors apparently ready to fire again,
this time probably with better effect.

One officer seemed to be for coming on.  The other thought evidently
that discretion was the better part of valour, for he looked up at the
colours on the flagstaff, then down at the battery, and then finally
gave orders to the men to re-embark.  But this was too much for the
spirit of the other, who after a few sharp words took out a white
handkerchief, tied it to the blade of his sword, and held it up,
advancing with it in his hand till he was just below the gun, and at the
foot of the cliff wall.

"Messieurs," he said, politely, "I speak not ze Angleesh as you do.  I
you make me understand?"

"_Oui_--yes," said Syd, who had again mounted the rough wall.

"It is good," said the French officer.  "You make fire upon us.  Yes?"

"Yes; we fired."

"You--you teach me yourself, vat ze diable you make here?"

"We hold this place as a possession of the King of England," replied
Sydney.  "Can you understand?"

"_Parfaitement_, sare.  Zen I tell you I go back to my sheep, and me
come and blow you all avay.  _Au revoir_!"

"_Au revoir_, Monsieur," said Syd, exchanging bows with the French
officer, who went back to the boat, sprang on board, the men pushed off,
and the little garrison gave them a cheer.

"Thank goodness that's over," said Syd, taking off his hat to wipe his
brow, as he leaped back into the battery.

"Over?" said Roylance, "not till they have been back and blown us all
away."

"Beg pardon, sir," said the boatswain, "but I 'member now nuff of my old
work years ago to be able to send a round shot right through that there
boat, if you'll give the word."

"No, no, Strake.--There, you keep your men ready in case they do come
back, Roy," whispered Syd; "I'll go up and report matters to Mr
Dallas."



CHAPTER FORTY TWO.

"Could not have happened better," said the lieutenant, as he was put in
possession of all particulars.  "The accident happened well, and gave
them a lesson in our strength that may make them think twice before
attacking us."

"Then you think they will attack us?"

"Sorry to say I have no doubt about it, and since I have been lying here
I have come to the conclusion that it would be better to bring that
upper gun down, and mount it about twenty feet from the other.  The
attack must come from the lower end.  If, however, they could land, and
tried to scale the rocks at the top of the gap, you would have to defend
the upper battery the best way you could.  Even if you had a gun there
you could not get more than one shot.  Haul it down at once."

Syd went off and communicated the result of his conversation to Roylance
and Strake.

"Yes, I think he's right," said the former.  "Eh, Strake?"

"Right, sir; why of course he is.  I felt that when we got the guns up,
only it warn't for me to give my 'pinion.  Speaking in parabolas like,
what I say is, that the t'other gun's worth twopence up there, but down
here it 'll be worth a hundred pound or more.  Start at once, sir?"

"Yes, directly.--Roylance, will you see to making a platform and running
up a breastwork, while the bo'sun gets down the gun?"

All hands were soon at work, and meanwhile Syd had gone up to the
flagstaff with a glass to see that the boat was half-way back to the
French frigate.

"What will they do?" thought Syd.  "Make sail and come and batter us
with their guns, or send out three or four boats?"

He waited patiently till the Frenchmen were alongside, and he watched
the officers through the glass go on the quarter-deck and make their
report to their captain.

"Now, then," said Syd, half-aloud, "which is it to be--boats, or come up
abreast of us?"

"Make sail, sir," said Rogers.  "They're coming down on us to give us a
dusting with their guns.  There'll be some chips o' rock flying far
to-night.--And something more for you to do, my lad," he muttered to
himself, as he recalled the lieutenant's injury.

Syd made no answer, and stood watching the French vessel's sails
gradually begin to fill and make her careen over.

"Here she comes," said Rogers; then, respectfully, "They won't have half
time to get that gun into place, will they, sir?"

"No, Rogers, no," said Syd, thoughtfully; "but look, she's changing her
course."

It was so indeed, for the French frigate curved gracefully around, and
went off on her old course toward the town of Saint Jacques.

Syd rubbed his eyes and stared, while Rogers in his excitement slapped
both his legs, shouting derisively--"Yah!  Cowards!  G'ome!" and then
darted to the flagstaff and began to haul the colours down a few feet,
and just as his young officer was about to stop him, seized the second
line and jigged them up again in a sort of dance that was intended in
mockery of the captain and crew of the departing frigate.

"That will do there," cried Syd, sharply.

"Beg pardon, sir," cried the sailor, starting away from the flagstaff;
"but for them to go away like that.  The old chaps aboard were always
bragging that they could lick three Parlyvoos, but arter what I've seed
to-day, I'm ready to tackle six.  I don't say I'd lick 'em, but I'd have
a good try."

"Don't judge them too soon," said Syd, quietly; and he went down to the
hospital and reported everything to the lieutenant.

"Well," he said, "what do you think of it, Mr Belton--that you've
frightened them away with one gun?"

"No, sir; I think they've gone for help."

"Or else to report, and perhaps deliver despatches."

"Yes, sir; think we shall have them back?"

"Not a doubt about it, Mr Belton.  We laugh at and brag about our
superiority over the Frenchmen; but with all their chatter and
gesticulation and show, they know how to fight, and can fight bravely
and well.  Get your other gun ready and keep the sharpest of look-outs,
as they'll be down upon you before you know where you are.  What's the
matter yonder," he continued, raising his head and listening; "Mr Terry
in hot water again?  We don't want trouble among ourselves.  You are
wanted there, commandant."

Syd hurried out and found Terry up by the battery he had had in charge,
furiously refusing to let the men under Roylance remove the gun.

"Ah, you are there," he cried, savagely, and with his face convulsed
with passion.  "It is a trick of yours to deprive me of my chance of
distinguishing myself in this wretched hole."

"It is nothing of the kind, Mr Terry," said Syd, quietly; "but are you
mad to go on like this before the men?"

"I should be mad if I held my tongue, and let every puppy of a boy be
placed over me to insult me.  I say the gun shall not be moved."

"It is for the proper defence of the place."

"It is a piece of insolence to annoy me."

"You would have charge of the gun in its fresh place."

"I don't believe it," cried Terry, in his rage.  "This is the gun's
place.  It shall not be moved."

"Silence, sir!" cried Syd, flushing up, and something of his father's
stern way giving him an older and firmer look.  "I gave orders for the
gun to be taken down.  Mr Roylance, be smart with your men."

"It shall not be done," cried Terry.  "I say--"

"And I say, sir," said Syd in an angry whisper, "that if you are not
silent, I'll put you in arrest; yes, and tied hand and foot for your
treachery of an hour or two ago."

Terry's jaw dropped, and he turned ashy in hue as he shrank away.

"Look here, sir," continued Syd, "you will no longer have charge of that
gun, but act under Mr Roylance's orders when I am not there.  Fight
like a man, and do your duty, and I may forget to report your conduct to
the captain.  Go on as you are behaving now, and everything shall be
known."

A curiously vindictive look shot from Terry's eyes as his hand
involuntarily played with the butt of the pistol he had in his belt.

Syd saw it, and continued--

"Another such threat as that, sir, and you will be disarmed."

Terry walked away and stood aside, gazing out to sea, while Syd could
not help thinking that if his messmate had a favourable opportunity and
could do it unseen, he would not scruple to use his pistol, or to push
him over the steep cliff.

The thoughts were dismissed directly and forgotten in the busy toil, the
men rigging up the tackle, dismounting the gun, and packing it once more
in one of the water-casks, ready for rolling down to the new platform,
which was slowly progressing, but not yet ready for its reception.  So
the one party was piped to refreshments, after which, the place being
declared sufficiently advanced, the second party took the place of the
first for rest and food, while with a cheer the gun-carriage was dragged
below, then the tackle was rigged over it, and the gun rolled down,
hauled into its place, and by the time darkness had quite set in, the
fresh one-gun battery was in working order.

"Where's Terry?" said Syd, about this time.

"Sulking," said Roylance, laughing.  "What did you say to him?  You are
getting an awfully great fellow, Belton, to calm him down like that.  I
say, how old are you?"

"Nearly seventeen.  Why?"

"Are you sure it isn't a mistake?"

"Quite."

"Because you are going on over this like a fellow of twenty-seventeen.
What do you think one of the men said just now?"

"How should I know?"

"He said that when this little job was over you ought to be promoted and
have a ship of your own, and old Strake turned upon him sharply to say,
`Well, why not?'"

"I?  A ship!" laughed Syd; "and this is my first voyage.  Why, you have
been three."

"Yes, but then your people have always been sailors, and it's born with
you.  My father's a clergyman.  Well, when you do have a ship by and by,
if you don't have me for first luff, I'll call you a brute."

"Wait twenty years, then, till I get my ship," said Syd; and he went off
to see to the watch.



CHAPTER FORTY THREE.

That was an anxious night; and after a sort of council of war at the
hospital, in which the lieutenant, Roylance, and Strake took part with
Syd, it was determined to have all ready for a retreat to the upper
battery, and in case that should be taken, provisions and water were to
be carried at daybreak up to the flagstaff, where a breastwork had
already been made, plenty of broken masses of rock lying about to
strengthen it, so that it would be a fresh position for the crew of the
French frigate to attack.

Syd was not at all surprised soon after daybreak--when the men were busy
strengthening the empty battery, and others were building up the
breastwork about the flagstaff and conveying up stores--to see the
frigate coming back in full sail.

There was plenty of excitement as the enemy was seen, and the men
thoroughly realised the fact that the day's work before them would be no
light task.

"Seems to do one more good, though, Master Syd, sir," said Strake, as
they were together alone.  "Lying down, and bein' helped, and strapped
and lashed 's all very well, but the sight o' one's nat'ral enemy 'pears
to spurt you up like, and if it had only been a month longer, strikes me
as we should have had the lufftenant helping of us again."

"Have you seen Mr Terry about?"

"No, sir; 'pears to have struck work like.  Beg pardon, sir; but seeing
as some on us may be gone to Davy Jones's locker 'fore night--not
meaning you, o' course, but him--wouldn't it be handsome-like to go and
make friends, and offer him your hand?"

"I have done so more than once, Strake," said Syd, sternly, as he
recalled the midshipman's action on the previous day, "but I can't do it
again."

"All right, sir, you knows best, o' course," said the boatswain, and he
went off to his duty.

The men worked hard, and by the time the frigate was close in there were
the provisions and water in the upper battery, and a good supply in the
works about the flagstaff.

"You can do no more, Belton," said Mr Dallas.  "I don't want to
discourage you, but without help from sea we can only manage to hold out
as long as possible, and give the enemy a tough job, for Old England's
sake.  Are the colours flying well?"

"Yes, sir, splendidly."

"That's right, then.  Now, one word of advice; don't fire a shot at the
frigate.  With your two guns you can do her very little harm.  Save your
powder for the boats--round shot when they are coming to the shore, and
grape as they are landing.  Keep your men cool, and only let them fire
when there is a good chance."

_Bang_!

The first shot from seaward followed by a crash, and the sound of stones
falling as the frigate tried her range, and sent a heavy ball against
the side of the gap.

"Did not know she was so near," said the lieutenant.

"But about you, sir?  Shall I have you carried up to the flagstaff?"

"Certainly not, my lad, never mind me.  Go and do your duty.  God save
the King!"

"God save the King!" echoed Syd, as he shook hands with the lieutenant,
and hurried down to the little battery, to find that the frigate had
drawn as close in as she could, but dared not come right in front of the
gap, for her boat out sounding had discovered a reef right opposite.  So
after firing a few shots obliquely, all of which struck the north side
of the gap, she made sail and went round to the other side of the reef,
where disappointment again awaited her captain; for here again he could
only fire obliquely, and send the stones rattling down on the south side
of the gap.

But he went on firing for about an hour before shifting his position
once more, and then feeling his way in exactly opposite, but quite out
of range.

This was an unexpected change in favour of the defender, for though when
they were freshly come it had been noticed that the sea ran high a
quarter of a mile out from the lower end of the gap, the existence of a
reef was not suspected, and it was some time before the defenders could
thoroughly believe that the frigate could not get into position for
sweeping the little gully from end to end.

Again the frigate's position was changed, and fire opened.

"We ought to shake hands on this," cried Roylance.  "Fire away,
Monsieur, knock down the rocks; it's all good for the powder and ball
trade."

"And doesn't frighten us a bit," added Syd, who for the moment forgot
his important position, and its seriousness.  "Haven't you seen Terry
yet?"

"No."

"And I arn't seen my boy Pan, gen'lemen," said the boatswain--"My word,
that was a good one," he interpolated, as a heavy shot struck the rock
about twenty feet below the flagstaff, and a good ton of stones came
rattling down--"strikes me as that boy's a-showing the white feather,
gen'lemen, and it goes home to my 'art."

"The boy's wounded, Strake; don't be too hard on him."

"Not so bad but what he might ha' done powder-monkeying with one hand.
But there's a deal o' vartue in rope's-ends arter all, and if I gets
through to-day--"

"You'll forgive him.  What are they doing now?"  Syd shouted to the man
at the look-out, for the frigate was once more close in, south of the
little pier, and had for half an hour been blazing away, but doing not
the slightest harm.

"Getting her boats out, sir."

"Preparing to board, sir," cried Strake.  "Round shot first as they come
on?"

"But the boats will be close in before we can get a shot at them, and
there will not be time to reload," said Syd.  "It is not as if they were
going to row straight in, so that we could see them for some time first.
It must be grape."

"Grape it is, sir.  Right," cried Strake, and the guns were charged
accordingly.

The men's orders were that they should wait till the enemy were well in
by the little pier, then to fire, and as there would not be time to
reload, they were to seize their cutlasses and pikes and be ready for
the attacking party, who would undoubtedly swarm up to the foot of the
rock wall, provided with spars, or something in the way of tackle, to
enable them to scale the place, when the desperate fighting must begin.

They were not long kept in waiting after the guns had been depressed,
and their muzzles brought to bear well upon the only spot where the
boats could land their men--the wreck moored close in limiting the
space.  And it turned out as Syd had imagined: the boats--three--came as
close in as the submerged rocks would allow, and they were still out of
sight when the defenders heard a shout, and first one and then another
rowed into sight, making for the landing-place.  Then came the third,
as, thinking it a pity to have to give so terrible an order, Syd shouted
"Fire!" with the result that the closely-packed charge from the first
gun went right through one boat, leaving her crew struggling in the
water; and the shot from the second gun completely tore off the bows of
the third boat, but not until her crew was so near land that they were
able to pilot the boat a few yards farther before she sank, her men
literally tumbling one over the other into the deck-less hull of the
water-logged wreck.

The other boat got up to the pier in safety after her crew had held out
oars and boat-hooks to their drowning comrades, and so all got to shore;
the rush and beating of the water, and its churning up by the grape-shot
having scattered the sharks for the moment.

All this gave the occupants of the battery more time than they had
anticipated, and this was utilised in reloading, which was almost
completed, when there was a word of command, a shout; and armed with
cutlass, pistol, and boarding-pike, the Frenchmen dashed up gallantly to
the wall, some stopping back to fire at the defenders, who were,
however, too well sheltered to be hurt.

"Be ready with your arms, my lads," cried Syd, as he recalled stories of
fights he had heard his father relate.

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Throw them back as fast as they get up."

"Ay, ay, sir!" came again heartily; but the enemies' heads did not
appear above the edge, and though the loud buzzing and shouting of
orders came up, there was no adversary.

It was not the men's fault, for they were at the bottom of a vast
natural wall, which towered up from fifteen to twenty feet, and so
smooth that there was not the slightest foothold to enable them to
climb.

The officer who had come up to it before with a flag of truce had in his
excitement omitted to notice the difficulty, and consequently neither
rope nor spar had been brought; and though the men clambered and shouted
and made brave efforts to mount upon each other's shoulders, fortunately
for them they were not able to get up far enough to be sent down with a
cut on the head.

The shouting and confusion lasted for some time, during which the
defenders crouched in safety behind their breastwork, and waited.

At last, just as the officers were deciding upon withdrawing their men,
and asking themselves what their fate would be if the English began to
play upon them during their retreat to the one boat which was left,
there was another cheer, and a reinforcement from the frigate appeared.

Strake sprang up to alter the level of the gun and take aim, but Syd
stopped him.

"This one hasn't come to attack," he said, as he saw that the boat was
only half manned; the captain having seen the misfortunes that had
befallen his other boats, and sent this one on to afford his men a means
of retreat.

For the attack was hopeless, and the officers gathered their men
together, and despatched them in two parties to the little pier, the men
moving with the greatest of regularity; and while a few kept up a
running fire against the battery, the others embarked.

"Now then, sir, give the word," whispered Strake, who was hoarse with
excitement; "I can send a shot right through that there boat."

"What for?" said Syd, coldly.  "They are retreating, and we don't want
to stop them and make them prisoners."

"But they're our mortial enemies, sir," cried the boatswain, aghast.

"Let them go," said Syd; and as the boats pushed off, with the frigate
recommencing its useless fire to cover the retreat, the defenders of the
little natural fort gave a hearty cheer.

"We don't want a lot of bloodshed, Roy," said Syd, as they congratulated
one another over the refreshment they were glad to take.

"No; but I suppose we ought to have slaughtered a lot of them.  We
could."

"My father used to tell my uncle, the admiral, that he was the greatest
commander who could achieve a victory with the smallest loss of life."

"Yes, sir," said a gruff voice behind him; "but I've know'd your father
send some awful broadsides and rakings into the enemy's ships.  Why,
when we've gone aboard arter to take the furren captain's sword, I've
seed their deck all slippery with blood."

"And I'm glad those stones are not."

"Very well, sir, if you're satisfied, I am; but I want to know what's
gone o' my Pan.  Hasn't hidden hisself in that water-cave, has he?"

"I have not seen him," said Syd, and with Roylance he climbed up to the
flagstaff to see the enemy's two crowded boats return to the frigate's
side, after which the French captain made a slight change in his
position; and as they watched they saw two fresh boats lowered and row
away, and then they were recalled.

Then came a long spell of waiting in miserable inaction till toward
sunset, when the two boats put out again, spent a little time sounding
close up to the rocks where Roylance was rescued, and were again
recalled.

"What does that mean, sir?" said Syd, as he told all this to the
lieutenant, who, as he lay helpless, eagerly listened to every word.

"I don't quite see, my lad," he said.  "A trick, probably, to take off
your attention.  But be well on your guard, for, depend upon it, they
will try to surprise you to-night, and come prepared with ladders of
some kind for the escalade."



CHAPTER FORTY FOUR.

The night was brilliant starlight, and the strictest watch was kept, but
hour after hour went by, and there was not a sound; no dark shadow
creeping over the water from the frigate, which lay anchored, with her
lights showing reflections on the smooth sea.

Everything was in readiness to give the enemy a good reception if they
came, and in spite of his weakness, the boatswain rose from where he lay
on a folded-up sail beside one of the heaps of ball, to see if the light
in the lanthorn by his head was burning, and handy for the slow matches
to fire the guns.

"That there swab has gone down into his old hole by the water, sir, so
as to save his skin," said Strake, on one of the occasions when Syd was
going his rounds, "and here he might be o' no end of use saving his poor
father.  You won't say I arn't to use the rope's-end arter this, sir."

"Hadn't you better go up to the hospital and lie down, Strake?" replied
Syd; "you are tired out."

"So are you, sir: so's all on us.  But if I went and had a caulk just
when the enemy might come, what should I say arterwards when I met the
skipper?"

"But your injuries are such as sent you into hospital."

"Where I warn't going to stay, sir.  Been up to the flagstaff, sir?"

"I have just come from there, and I have been with Mr Roylance, and had
a talk with Mr Dallas.  All's well."

"Seems well, Mr Syd, sir," whispered the boatswain, so as not to be
heard by the men; "but I'm sure all aren't well.  They're trying to
dodge us, sir, and you see if they don't come and board us just afore
daylight, when they think we're asleep.  Tell them chaps at the look-out
to keep their eyes open, and be on the kwe weave, as the Frenchies call
it, for boats sneaking up in the dark.  You've got two there."

"Yes, Strake, and each man has a glass, and those very instructions."

"What a horficer he will make," muttered the boatswain; and then the
watch went on, with the men peering through the transparent darkness at
the waves heaving over the little natural pier, and the bright stars
broken up into spangles on the smooth surface of the sea.

"Rather queer about Terry," said Roylance in a whisper, as Syd joined
him where he was leaning over the rough parapet, watching the surface
for the first sign of the enemy.

"Very," said Syd.

"I can't understand it."

"I can," thought Syd, as he recalled what he had seen; and in the full
belief that his messmate was heartily ashamed of his treacherous conduct
of the previous day, he went softly up to find the lieutenant sleeping
peacefully.  He stood looking at him for a few moments, and then went up
to the empty battery, to stand looking down over the precipice, before
gazing up towards the flagstaff.

"All well, Rogers?" he said in a low, distinct voice.

"All well, sir," came back from far on high.  "Nothing left the ship.
We could ha' seen by the broken water.  It brimes to-night, and we
should have seen their oars stirring the water up."

Note: "brimes" means "is phosphorescent."

Syd went thoughtfully back, feeling so exhausted and drowsy that twice
over he stumbled, and shook his head to get rid of the sleepy feeling,
for it had been a terribly trying and anxious time.

"I'll go and talk to Strake," he said to himself; and pulling out a
biscuit, he began to nibble it to take off the sensation of faintness
from which he suffered, as he began wondering whether the French would
attack them that night, or come prepared the next day with ladders to
scale the natural wall which was their chief defence.

"All well, Strake?" he said, as he reached the place again where the
boatswain was lying down.

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Halt! who goes there?"

"On'y me," cried a hoarse, excited voice, in a whisper, accompanied by a
panting noise.  "Where's father?"

"What, Pan-y-mar?" growled the boatswain.  "Just you come here, you
ugly-looking young swab."

"Hush, father!" whispered the boy, coming out of the darkness.  "Give's
a cutlash; the French is coming."

"What?  Where?" said Syd, eagerly.  "To your guns, my lads."

"No, no," cried the boy, in a hurried whisper.  "Not that way; they're
coming over the top there."

"He's been dreaming," growled the boatswain.  "What d'yer mean, you
dog?"

"I arn't been asleep," cried Pan, angrily; "and I'm so hungry."

"Tell me: what do you mean?" cried Syd.

"I've been a-watching o' Mr Terry, sir.  He went down on the rocks over
yonder, and I lay down and see him make signs to the French ship, and
two boats come out and rowed in close to where he was a-hiding down in
one o' them big cracks like I hid in and found the water."

"Yes; go on," whispered Syd, whose heart sank with apprehension.

"And he talked to 'em, and they talked to him, and then rowed back to
the French ship."

"What did they say?"

"I dunno; I was too far off to hear."

"Well, go on."

"I thought he was up to some game, and I lay there and watched him, and
I've been watching of him ever since, till to-night he crawled into the
stores, after hiding all yes' afternoon and to-night, and I see him come
creeping out again with a rope, and he put it over his shoulder.  And
then he climbed up one o' those cracks, and I went arter him, and he got
right out there past the water-hole, and then crep' all along till he
got to the place where you hauled Mr Roylance and t'other sailor up
with a rope.  And I crep' up close as I could, and lay there watching
him hours till three boats come round from the other side, and then Mr
Terry tied the end of the rope round a big block, and let the other end
down, and I see a French sailor come up, and then another, and another,
and they let down more rope, and they're all climbed up, and they're
coming right up yonder over the top by the flag-post."

"How do you know?"

"'Cos I come that way first, and they was all coming close up arter me
all the time, and I had to come on my hands and knees."

"Why didn't you come the other way, and give the alarm in front?"

"'Cos they've got lots o' fellows there with swords and pistols.  I
heard 'em cock."

"Yah! it's all a fancy," growled Strake; "he's scared, and dreamed it."

"I didn't," cried the boy.

"Couldn't climb up there," growled Strake.

"Yes, they could, Strake," cried Syd, excitedly.  "Once they were on the
rock they could climb up, and--yes, they'd come over by the flagstaff."

"I tell yer the young swab dreamt it."

"Ahoy! help!"

_Bang! bang!  Bang! bang_!--Pistol-shots from high up by the flagstaff;
and as the men seized their cutlasses and pistols, and, with Syd and
Roylance at their head, advanced up the gap to meet this treacherous
attack from the rear, there was the clash of steel, the sounds of
struggling, then a momentary silence, followed by a few sharp orders,
and the rattling noise of stones told that a strong party of men were
coming down the rough path from the flagstaff.

"Forward, my lads!" cried Roy lance; "we may beat them back."

The men gave a cheer, and advanced quickly, the excitement of all taking
them from the battery, which was left defenceless.

As they advanced, the old feeling of terror that he had always felt when
about to engage in a school-fight was for a few moments in Sydney's
breast; then the eager excitement carried all away, and, sword in hand,
he ran on with his men.

Directly after there was the shock and confusion of the two parties
meeting, with stray shots, the clatter of sword against sword, with
sparks flying in the darkness, and the shouts and cheers of contending
men.

What he did Syd never knew, for everything was centred in the one idea
that he was leading his father's men, and that he must try and be brave.
And if being brave meant rushing on with them right at the descending
Frenchmen, he was brave enough.

So vigorous was the rush, and so desperate were the little English party
at being surprised in so sudden a fashion, that the first group of the
enemy were driven backward toward the path by which they had climbed
down.  But more and more were hurrying from above to their help, the
officers threw themselves to the front, and the flight was stayed, while
quite a series of single combats began to take place.

"Give it 'em, boys!  Old England for ever!" was yelled out in the
darkness, close by to where Syd was cutting and thrusting at an active
little Frenchman.  Then there came a groan, and the same voice said
hoarsely--

"Oh, if I had my strength!"

"Hurrah, boys! they're giving way!" shouted Roylance.  "Keep together,
and over with them."

For in spite of the bravery of their officers, the French were yielding
ground once more, and being slowly driven up the narrowing path.  But
there was a fresh burst of cheering, the hurry of feet, and about twenty
of the French frigate's crew, who had taken advantage of the little
garrison being attacked from the rear, and crept up to the cliff wall to
scale it with a spar, one man going up with a rope which he had secured
to a gun, soon turned the tables again.

With enemies before and behind triple their strength, and taking them in
each case so thoroughly by surprise, the _melee_ did not last long.  Syd
was conscious of seeing sparks after what seemed to be a loud clap of
thunder above his head, and the next thing he knew was that Roylance was
saying--

"Belt, lad, do, do try and speak."

"Speak? yes," he faltered.  "What's the matter?"

"Matter! don't ask."

"But what does it mean?  Where are we?  Has Terry won?"

"My poor old fellow, you haven't been fighting Terry--yes, you have--a
coward! he is with the French."

"And--" cried Syd, sitting up, "are we beaten?"

"Yes! no!" cried Roylance.  "They're all down or prisoners--but eight of
us here."

"Where are we?" said Syd, who felt sick and dizzy.

"Up in the little top battery, and they're coming on again.  Stand by,
lads!"

Syd rose to his feet as the men cheered, and stood with his sword
hanging by the knot to his wrist, holding on by the rough stone wall,
looking over into the starlit gloom at a body of French sailors
apparently about to attack.  Just then an officer stepped forward, and
said, cheerily--

"_Rendez-vous, mes braves.  Parlez, vous_!" he continued, turning to
some one at his side.

"Here, you there!--the French officer says it's no use to fight any
longer; he has taken the place, so give up."

"Terry!" cried Roylance; "you miserable traitor!" and the men around
burst into a loud groan, and hooted the renegade.

"Yes, traitor!" cried Syd, excitedly; and forgetting his wound,
"coward!"

"Coward yourself!" cried Terry.  "Do you think I was going to stay in a
service which compelled men to serve under a contemptible boy like you?
Here, my lads, it's no use to resist.  Give up, and you will have good
treatment as prisoners.  Come out."

"Do you hear, lads?" cried Roylance.  "Will you do as the new
English-French deserter says?"

"No!" roared the men; and Rogers' voice rose above them--"Say, lads,
it's yard-arm for a desarter, eh?"

"Yes."

Terry turned away savagely, and they saw him saying something to the
French officer--saw him dimly, as it seemed, then more plainly, for day
was breaking with the rapidity of the change in the tropics; and as a
movement took place, they all knew that a final assault was to be given,
and must go against them.

Then the spirit of Syd's family seemed to send a flush through him; he
forgot his pain, the sickness passed off, and he turned to gaze on the
torn and blood-stained men about him.

"French and English," he cried, raising his sword.

"Hurray!" shouted the brave fellows; and every cutlass flashed as they
prepared to defend their tiny stronghold, built up for the very
emergency in which they were.

"_Rendez, messieurs_!" shouted the French officer, half appealingly.

"_Non, non_!" shouted Sydney, excitedly.

"_En avant_!" rang out the order, and with a rush the men came on in the
rapidly increasing morning light.

At that moment the rocks echoed and quivered as a heavy gun thundered
forth.



CHAPTER FORTY FIVE.

The advance was checked, and a man ran up to the flagstaff, to reach it
at last, and then he shouted down something in French, which the
occupants of the upper defence could not make out.

A second gun rolled forth its summons, and, giving an order, the French
officer led his men toward the lower battery, where about twenty were
halted, and busied themselves in turning one of the guns, so that it was
pointed toward the upper battery, while the rest went down over the
wall.

"What does it mean?" said Syd.  "Are they going to blow us out of here?"

"No," said Roylance, "I think not.  It is to occupy the place and keep
us at bay.  I'd give something to see what it all means.  We're so shut
up here, and can see nothing," he said, fretfully.

And it was so.  They had a good view of the sea right out toward the
town, but looking back they could see along the gap to their guns, which
with the breastwork completely hid the landing-place.

"I'd give something to know what it all means."

"That gun meant the recall," said Roylance.

"If I could get to the flagstaff," said Syd.

"I think I could slip over at the back here," said Rogers; "climb along,
and then crawl up."

"No, no, my lad; you'd break your neck."

"Oh, no, sir.  You trust me."

"He can climb like a monkey, sir," said another of the men, who was
binding up a wound.

"Then try," said Syd, after a glance upward to see that the French were
not there.

The man slipped over the back directly, and crept along a narrow ledge
that made them all feel giddy, but he got along in safety, and then
creeping and climbing to the left of the regular path he disappeared in
a rift.

"He'll do it now," said Roylance, who stood nursing one arm.  "I say,
Belt, as soon as you can I should be glad of a little help."

"Yes, I'll come directly," said Sydney; "but where are our other
fellows?"

"All wounded or prisoners.  The French have had the best of it this
time.  We shall be prisoners of war, lad."

"I wouldn't care, only we've lost the place, Roylance.  Oh, how could an
English fellow be so treacherous!"

"Don't know," said Roylance, dismally.  "There always was something
wrong with Mike Terry."

"Ahoy!" came from above their heads; and they looked up to see that
Rogers had reached the flagstaff, and had hauled up the British colours,
which blew out in the morning air as a faint cheer came from the
hospital, and an angry chattering from about the guns.

"Sail ho!  _Sirius_ in sight," shouted Rogers through his hands; "boat's
gone back to the Frenchman.  Hurray!"

He was answered by a cheer from the little group about Syd, as three of
the French sailors ran up at a trot, and began to mount the flagstaff
path.

"Look out, Rogers.  Don't be taken."

"Not I, sir.  I'm coming back," shouted the sailor; and he disappeared,
leaving the colours flying, and climbing back into the sturdy little
work in time to join his companions in a loud groaning.  For the French
reached the top and hauled the British colours down, one of the enemy
waving them derisively at the Englishmen, and throwing the flag over his
shoulder as he laughed at them, and then carried it down to the battery,
where his comrades had been strengthening their works toward the English
position, one man standing ready with a port-fire to sweep the gap
should there be an attack.

Two hours' waiting ensued--two weary hours, with injuries growing stiff,
wounds smarting, and a terrible feeling of thirst coming on.  That was
forgotten directly the heavy boom of a gun was heard, answered by
another; and for a time, as report after report echoed among the rocks,
the imprisoned party saw in imagination the _Sirius_ coming slowly up
and attacking the French frigate, which answered with shot for shot.
But it was most tantalising; and again and again Syd was for climbing up
to the flagstaff to see what was going on, duty to the men alone keeping
him to his post.

Their patience was rewarded at last, for Roylance suddenly gave a cheer,
which was taken up by the others, as they saw the French frigate, her
sails dotted with shot-holes, forge into sight, firing hard the while.

"Why, she's beaten--retreating," cried Sydney.

"No, only manoeuvring," replied Roylance; "and, hurrah! my lads, here
comes the _Sirius_."

Syd's heart gave a leap as his father's noble frigate came slowly into
sight round the south end of the gap, bringing with her a cloud of smoke
which was rent and torn with flames of fire.  For the next hour, there,
a mile away, the frigates lay manoeuvring and exchanging their
broadsides, neither appearing to get the upper hand.

Two of the French officers were now up at the flagstaff, where they had
hoisted their own colours, and they were eagerly watching the varying
fortunes of the naval action, which, as far as the lookers-on could see,
might result in the favour of either.  The firing was terrific, and for
the time being the occupants of the fort forgot their enmity in the
excitement of the naval engagement going on.

A wild shrill cheer suddenly rose from by the flagstaff, answered by a
shout of defiance from the English battery, as all at once the
mizzen-topmast of the _Sirius_ with its well-filled sails bowed over as
if doubled-up; but the loss did not check the firing nor her way, and
the shrill cheer was silenced.  For in the midst of the French elation,
and as the course of the frigate was changed so that she might cross the
bows of the _Sirius_ and rake her, two more of the officers had gone up
from by the guns, and were mounting the path to the flagstaff to
participate in the triumph.  They were in time to see the mainmast of
the French frigate, already sorely wounded, yield to a puff of wind and
go right over to leeward, leaving the beautiful ship helpless like a
sea-bird with a broken wing.

Captain Belton quickly took advantage of the position, raked the
Frenchman from stem to stern, ran his own vessel close up under her
quarter, and as the smoke rolled away a crowd of boarders were seen
pouring over on to her decks, the shouts and cheering of the fighting
reaching to the ears of the spectators.

"We've taken her," cried Roylance, exultingly, and he was about to call
upon the men to cheer when a look from Syd silenced him.

"Quick, lads!" he whispered.  "In two parties.  I'll lead one, Mr
Roylance the other.  We'll divide and run down to the guns and take them
before they know where they are.  Hist, not a sound!  Now!"

The officers were still gazing directly away at the concluding episodes
of the fight, so that only one was down at the battery, whose occupants
were so taken by surprise, that before the junior lieutenant left had
given the order to fire the Englishmen were half-way to them.  Then as a
cannon sent its charge of grape hurtling up the narrow pass, the two
little parties cheered, dashed on, jumped over the rough wall cutlass in
hand, and in less than a minute the place was once more in English
hands.

"More prisoners than we want," said Syd; but they were soon got rid of,
being disarmed, and compelled to lower themselves down a rope to the
foot of the great natural wall, where they were huddling together, a
discontented-looking group, when Syd had taken the swords of the other
French officers and sent the British colours flying once more from the
flagstaff.

The French lieutenant shrugged his shoulders as he handed his sword to
Syd.

"_Ah, vous anglais_!" he muttered, and then to one of his companions in
French--

"It is of no use to try any longer.  The men from the English frigate
will be ashore directly.  But to be beaten by that boy!"

He was quite right.  Before an hour had elapsed two well-manned boats
from the _Sirius_ was at the landing-place to take possession and charge
of the prisoners, while in another hour Syd was standing before his
father, giving him an account of all that had been done.

Captain Belton listened almost grimly to his son's narrative, and when
he had finished--

"Well, sir," said the captain; "and what have you to say for yourself?
You went ashore without leave.  Of course you will be punished."

"Yes, sir."

"Where are Mr Roylance and Mr Terry?"

"Ashore, sir, wounded both."

"And Mr Dallas badly, I hear.  Tut--tut--tut! and I have a terrible
array of losses to confront here.  Well, you have something else to
say?"

Syd was hesitating, for he had a painful duty to perform.  Had he been
the only holder of the knowledge of his messmate's treachery, he would
have held his tongue: but it was known to all on shore, and he told
everything.

"Go now," said the father, "I am too busy to say more.  You can stay on
board; I will give orders for a fresh party to occupy the rock."

Syd thought his father might have forgotten the captain a little more at
their encounter, and given him a word of praise; but he smothered his
feelings, and joined his messmates in the gun-room, for the middies'
quarters were horribly occupied just then by the doctors.

He had stared aghast at the shattered aspect of the deck and rigging,
and seen that the French frigate was no better, and then learned that
which he was longing to hear.

It was a simple matter; the gale they had felt on the rock had grown
into a hurricane outside, and in the midst of it both the _Sirius_ and
her consort were cast ashore on one of the coral islands far out of the
regular track of ships.

There they had been ever since, till by clever scheming and
indefatigable work, Captain Belton had got his frigate off, literally
carving a little canal for her from where she lay to the open water.
For his consort was a hopeless wreck, and he had the help of a second
crew.

As soon as they were clear, Captain Belton made sail for the rock again,
to arrive only just in time.

The wreck had given him one advantage, though: he had the crews of both
frigates on board, and several extra guns which he had saved.

It was nearly dark when the boat from the shore arrived with the wounded
and the remnant of the brave defenders of the rock, and a warm welcome
was accorded them; the two little middies, Bolton and Jenkins, who had
nearly gone mad over Syd, seeming to complete the process with Roylance,
who got away from them as soon as possible to draw Sydney aside.

"Seen him?" he said, in a low tone.

"Whom--Mr Dallas?  Yes."

"No, no; Terry."

"No; nor do I want to."

"Yes; go and see him, poor wretch."

"If I do he'll accuse me of being the cause of all his trouble."

"No, no; I've shaken hands with him."

"Shaken hands?"

"Why not?  My father is a clergyman.  I want to recollect something of
what he taught me."

"But with a man like that, even if he is wounded?"

"But, poor fellow! he's dying."

"What!" cried Syd.

"Don't you know?"

Syd shook his head.  He felt half suffocated.

"In that last scuffle when we took back the battery, he was one of the
fellows we drove over the side.  I didn't know it then.  No one did till
he was picked up from where he crouched.  The doctor has gone to him
now."

Syd hurried away, and after a time was able to find his old messmate
lying where he had been left by the surgeon, side by side with one of
the many wounded who filled the lower decks.

There was a lanthorn swinging overhead, and Syd started as he saw the
ghastly change in the young man's countenance.

He could not think of enmity or treachery at such a moment as that, but
went close up.

"Terry," he said, "I'm sorry it has come to this."

The midshipman's face lit up, and he feebly raised his hand.

"Better so," he said, in a faint whisper.  "Good-bye."



CHAPTER FORTY SIX.

They knew in the midshipman's little company that night how Michael
Terry had died, and the frank-hearted lads joined in saying they were
glad he had died from his fall, and not from a wound given by an English
blade.  And somehow, though it was known to all now, not a voice uttered
a word about his treachery.  The terrible fate that had overtaken him
had come as a veil over all that.

For the next few days, as they lay there to leeward of the rock, Syd and
Roylance used to look up at the colours flying from the flagstaff, and
feel something like regret that they were no longer living in the gap;
but there was endless work to do.  The captain had transferred his less
fortunate brother officer and crew to the French frigate, and on board
both vessels the knotting, splicing, and repairing that went on was
enormous, while the carpenters and their mates had the busiest of times.

One of the first things done after hospital tents had been rigged up in
the gap, was for all the wounded to be transferred to the shore; the
garrison was strengthened, provisions and stores landed, a surgeon put
in charge, and the _Sirius_ with the prize set sail for the nearest
British possession to land their prisoners.

In a week they were back off the rock, and after communications, sailed
on for Saint Jacques; the French frigate, in spite of being minus one
mast, making fair way under the jury spar set up, and, thanks to the
vigorous efforts made in the way of repairs, in excellent fighting trim,
and with her crew eager to make up in the end for the loss of their own
ship.

Syd had been out of the naval engagement, but he was now to witness a
bold attack made upon a fortified port--a successful attack, the
batteries being pretty well demolished, and the force of sailors and
marines that was landed carrying all before them, so that in one short
day the British flag waved over the town of Saint Jacques, and the
island of La Haute became one of the possessions of the British Crown.

After refitting, the _Sirius_ did good work in the western seas for two
years before she was ordered home, where upon the captain landing at
Shoreport, it was known that he was promoted to the command of a
line-of-battle ship, while sundry honours were ready for his officers,
notably for Mr Dallas, who had long been well and strong.

"Yes, Strake," said Roylance, "promotion for every one but the poor
midshipman."

"Wait a bit, sir, wait a bit," said the bronzed old fellow.  "'Tain't
fault o' gover'ment, but fault o' natur'.  Soon as you and Mr Belton
here grows big enough you'll be lufftenants, and then captains; and if
that swab of a boy of mine minds his eye he'll be a bo'sun."

"You'll lay up now, I suppose?" said Roylance.

"Me, sir? me lay up?" cried the boatswain, indignantly.  "Not the man.
No, sir, I hope to sail yet with young Capen Belton when the old capen's
a admiral, as he's sure to be afore long."

"Seems a long time to wait for promotion," said Syd.

"Awful, sir, to a young gent who has only been two years at sea.  But--
whish, sir!  Look!"

Syd, who was leaning over the side with Roylance, gazing at the town,
started with pleasure, for in the stern-sheets of the barge, which was
coming back from shore with the captain, who was returning to take leave
of his officers before quitting the _Sirius_ for good, was the
grey-whiskered, florid face of Admiral Belton.

He came on board, bowing to the salutes given him, and then looking
round sharply, he exclaimed--

"Now then, where's that doctor?"

"Here, uncle," cried Syd, merrily.

"Why!  Well!  Hang the boy, I shouldn't have known you.  You have grown!
Shake hands, you dog!  I'm proud of you.  I know all about it.  I say,"
he said with a chuckle, "don't want to be a doctor now, eh?"

"Saving your honour's presence," growled a deep voice, "I dunno what we
should ha' done if he hadn't been one."

"Hah! bo'sun, you there.  Glad to see you.  Do you follow my brother to
his new ship?"

"Ay, ay, sir; please goodness, and Mr Belton here, too."

"No," said Captain Belton, quietly.  "My son is going for a cruise with
Commander Dallas in the sloop-of-war to which he has been appointed."

"Then, saving your honour's presence, and thinking of you as the best
captain I ever served, if it could be managed, I'd like to sail under
Mr Dallas too, and I'll take my boy."

"You shall, Strake; and I'm very glad."

So six months after Sydney Belton joined the sloop _Ariel_, and this
time saw active, service in the eastern seas.

THE END.





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