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´╗┐Title: Swept Out to Sea - Clint Webb Among the Whalers
Author: Foster, W. Bertram
Language: English
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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.

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SWEPT OUT TO SEA

Or
Clint Webb Among the Whalers

by

W. BERT FOSTER

Author of
The Frozen Ship; or, Clint Webb Among the Sealers.
From Sea to Sea; or, Clint Webb on the Windjammer.
The Ocean Express; or, Clint Webb and the Sea Tramp



[Illustration: I Caught Sight of a Big Ship With a Wonderful Lot of
Canvas Set (Swept Out to Sea) (Chapter 28)]



Chicago M. A. Donohue & Co.

Copyright 1913
by M. A. Donohue & Company



CONTENTS

   CHAPTER                                                          PAGE

          I--In Which My Cousin and I Have a Serious Falling Out       7
         II--In Which is Shown the Result of a Bad Beginning          15
        III--In Which I am Anxious to Learn the Particulars
             of a Matter of Fourteen Years Standing                   22
         IV--In Which Ham Mayberry Reveals His Suspicions             34
          V--In Which the Old Coachman Goes Somewhat Into Details     43
         VI--In Which is Related a Conversation With My Mother        49
        VII--In Which I Put Two and Two Together--and Sleep
             Aboard the Wavecrest                                     57
       VIII--In Which An Expected Comedy Proves to be a Tragedy       65
         IX--In Which I See the Day Dawn Upon a Deserted Ocean        72
          X--In Which I Find a Most Remarkable Haven                  82
         XI--In Which I Am a Terrified Witness of a
             Wonderful Phenomenon                                     92
        XII--In Which I Find Myself Bound for Southern Seas          107
       XIII--In Which Tom Anderly Relates a Story That
             Arouses My Interest                                     119
        XIV--In Which I Hear for the First Time the Whalers'
             Battle-Cry                                              133
         XV--In Which We "Strike On"                                 142
        XVI--In Which There is Some Information and Much Excitement  150
       XVII--In Which I Come Very Near Going Out of the Story        159
      XVIII--In Which We Realize the "Grind" of the Whaleman's Life  164
        XIX--In Which is Reported a Series of Misadventures          172
         XX--In Which Our Chapter of Bad Luck is Continued           180
        XXI--In Which the Wavecrest Sets Sail Again                  186
       XXII--In Which We Sail the Silver River and I See
             a Face I Know                                           193
      XXIII--In Which I begin to Wonder "Is It Me, or Is It Not Me?" 198
       XXIV--In Which I Get Acquainted With Captain Adoniram Tugg    208
        XXV--In Which I Follow the Beckoning Finger of a Spectre     215
       XXVI--In Which the Sea Spell Goes Ashore on a
             Most Unfriendly Coast                                   222
      XXVII--In Which We Find the Natives More Unfriendly
             Than the Coast                                          232
     XXVIII--In Which are Related Several Disappointments            239
       XXIX--In Which I Am Not the Only Person Surprised             245
        XXX--In Which I at Last Set My Face Homeward
             with Determination                                      253



SWEPT OUT TO SEA
or
CLINT WEBB AMONG THE WHALERS

CHAPTER I

IN WHICH MY COUSIN AND I HAVE A SERIOUS FALLING OUT


The wind had died to just a breath, barely filling the canvas of the
Wavecrest. We were slowly making the mouth of the inlet at Bolderhead
after a day's fishing. Occasionally as the fitful breeze swooped down
the sloop made a pretty little run, then she'd sulk, with the sail
flapping, till another puff came. I lay in the stern with my hand on the
tiller, half asleep, while Paul Downes, my cousin, was stretched forward
of the mast, wholly in dreamland. A little roll of the sloop as she
tacked, almost threw him into the water and he awoke with a snarl and
sat up.

"For goodness sake! aren't we in yet?" he demanded, crossly. "What you
been doing for the last hour Clint Webb? We're no nearer the inlet now
than we were then, I swear!"

That was a peculiarity about Paul. He was addicted to laying the faults
of even inanimate objects to the charge of other people; and as for
himself personally, he was never in the wrong! Now he felt that he must
have somebody on whom to vent his vexation--and hunger; I was used to
being that scapegoat, and it was seldom that I paid much attention to
his snarling. On this particular occasion, I said, calmly:

"Now, Paul, you know very well that I hold no position with the
Meteorological Bureau, and therefore you shouldn't lay the sins of the
weather to me."

"Huh! ain't you smart?" he grunted.

You see, Paul had awakened in rather a quarrelsome frame of mind
while--well, I was hungry, too (it was long past our dinner hour) and so
felt in a tantalizing mood. If we had not been at just these odds on
this lovely September evening, the incidents which follow might never
have occurred. Out of this foolish beginning of a quarrel came a chain
of circumstances which entirely changed the current of my life. Had I
held my tongue I would have been saved much sorrow and peril, and many,
many regrets.

"I'm smart--I admit it," said I, cooly; "but I can't govern the wind.
We'll get in by bedtime."

"And nothing to eat aboard," growled Paul.

"There's the fish _you_ caught," said I, chuckling.

Paul had had abominable luck all day, the only thing he landed being
what we Bolderhead boys called a "grunter"--a frog-mouthed fish of most
unpleasant aspect and of absolutely no use as food. All it did when he
shook it off his hook in disgust was to swell up like a toy balloon and
emit an objective grunt whenever it was poked. Funny, but these
"grunters" always reminded me of Paul.

Now, at my suggestion, my cousin broke into another tirade of abuse of
the Wavecrest, and what he termed my carelessness. I didn't care much
what he said about me, and I suppose there was some reason for his
criticism; I should not have gone outside the inlet without more than
just a bite of luncheon in the cuddy. But when he referred to my bonnie
sloop as "an old tub" and said it wasn't rigged right and that I didn't
know how to sail her, then--well, I leave it to you if it wouldn't have
made you huffy? You know how it is yourself. Wait till the next fellow
makes disparaging remarks about your bicycle, for instance or your motor
cycle, or canoe, or what-not, and see how you feel!

"What's the use of talking that way, Paul?" I demanded, interrupting
him. "You know the Wavecrest is by far the lightest-footed craft of
her class in Bolderhead Harbor."

"No such thing!" he declared. "She's a measly, good-for-nothing old
tub."

"All I've got to say is that you're a bad judge of tubs," said I.

"You're a fool!" he exclaimed, and jumped up.

"Now, you know, Paul, if your opinion was of any consequence at all I
should be angry," I replied, still with exaggerated calmness.

"I'm going to take the skiff and row ashore," said he. "You can bring
your old tub in when you like."

"Thank you; but I guess not! I'd gladly be relieved of your company; but
I shall want to get ashore myself some time tonight," I rejoined.

"I tell you I'm going ashore!" cried Paul, coming aft to where the
painter was hitched.

"Get away!" I commanded, my own temper rising. "You're not going to
leave me without means of landing after we reach our buoy."

"Oh, somebody will see you and take you off," he said, selfishly.

"Maybe somebody will; then again, maybe they won't."

"I'll come out for you after dinner," he said, with a grin that I knew
meant he had no such intention.

"Get away from that painter!" I commanded. "You forced your company on
me today--I didn't invite you to go fishing--"

"The sloop's as much mine as yours," he growled.

"I'd like to know how you figure that out?" returned I, in amazement.

"When your mother bought it she told father it was for us to use
together; but of course you always 'hog' everything."

Now I knew that my mother never would have said what he claimed; but I
was angry with her for the moment because of her good natured invitation
to Paul to use my personal property. The Wavecrest was my dearest
possession. As the saying is, there was more salt water in my veins than
blood; our folks had all been sailors--my father's people, I mean--and I
was enamored of the sea and sea-going.

When mother built our summer cottage on the Neck I knew how 'twould be.
I foresaw that her brother-in-law and his son (Aunt Alice was dead some
years then) would live with us about half the time; but that mother
should have said anything to give Paul ground for his statement, rasped
me sorely.

"Let me tell you, Paul Downes," said I, sharply, "that no person has any
right in this boat but myself, unless I invite them; and I'll inform you
right now that this is the last trip you'll ever take in her with my
permission."

"Is that so?" sneered Paul.

"That's so--and you can make the best of it."

"Well, who wants to go out in your old tub?" he burst forth. "Goodness
knows, I don't. But I'm going ashore right now and you can come in when
you like."

He started to untie the painter. Somehow his perversity made me furious.

"Drop it!" I repeated; "you're not going to leave this sloop till I
do--unless you swim ashore."

"Well, you just try stopping me," he snarled, his temper getting the
better for the moment of his usual caution. Paul was a bigger and
heavier, as well as an older fellow than I; but he had never dared try
fisticuffs with me.

I sprang up and let the tiller bang. Luckily there was so little wind
that the sloop took no harm. "Get away from there!" I cried.

"I tell you I am going ashore now."

"You're not."

"I am; and it won't be healthy for you to try to stop me, Clint Webb."

I know very well that this is a bad way to begin my story; I expect you
will be disgusted with me right at the start. But what am I to do? I
have started out to narrate the incidents which occurred and the various
changes that have come into my life since this very September evening;
and truth compels me to begin with this quarrel. For from this time
dated the purpose which inspired my future life.

So, I hope that the reader will bear with me, even though I introduce
much the worse side of my character first. Facts are stubborn things,
and I have in this introduction to set down some very stubborn and
unpleasant facts.

I sprang up, as I say, and left the tiller, and as Paul seemed to have
no intention of obeying me, I advanced upon him threateningly. We were
both enraged.

"Take your hand off that rope," said I, earnestly. "Get away! I mean
it."

His reply was a foul word. His eyes were blazing and he grew dark under
his skin like his father, as his wrath rose. I had always believed that
there was Indian blood in the veins of Mr. Chester Downes. I was so near
Paul that I had to step back to gather force for a blow, and as I
retreated he suddenly kicked me. It was a mean trick--a foul blow and
worthy of Paul Downes. Had I not stepped back as I did he might have
broken my shin bone, for he wore heavy boots. As it was, the toe of his
boot caught me just below the knee-cap and I could not stifle a cry of
pain.

However, the kick did not stop the blow I landed straight from the
shoulder and it gave me some satisfaction, even at the time, to note
that Paul's howl of agony was much louder than mine as he picked himself
up from the other end of the cockpit.



CHAPTER II

IN WHICH IS SHOWN THE RESULT OF A BAD BEGINNING


Paul's face was convulsed with passion, and when he was in a rage he
lost all control to his tongue, using language that was simply frightful
from a boy brought up in a decent home. And at this particular time he
was so enraged that he forgot to be afraid! He rushed at me the instant
he regained his feet, his arms beating the air like those of a windmill.
He was a lubberly fellow at best and the sloop, with the tiller swinging
as it listed, was kicking and jumping like a restive pony. I squared off
at him in proper form, and when he came within reach I landed a second
blow which likewise sent him to the deck.

I glanced hurriedly about. The Wavecrest was some distance from any of
the other craft beating into the harbor. The sun had set long since and
the moon, a great, round target of silver, was rising out of the sea,
its light shimmering across the heaving liquid plain. A more peaceful
scene one could scarcely imagine, and somehow it took the heat of
passion out of me.

"Hold on, Paul! we mustn't fight like this," I said, as he rose again,
the blood running from his nose and his cheek swollen as though he had a
walnut in it.

"You're goin' to _crawl_ now, are ye?" he yelled.

"It's foolish and wicked for us to act like this," said I, hastily.
"What will your father and my mother say?"

"I don't care what they say!" he shouted, wildly. "I'll make you wish
you'd never struck me, Clint Webb."

He sprang aft again. I caught the glimmer of moonlight upon something he
clutched in his hand. "What are you doing, Paul?" I cried.

But he plunged toward me, his dark features writhing in passion. At the
moment Paul Downes was a murderer at heart; although I believed I could
beat him in any fair fight, the weapon in his hand frightened me.

"Put it down, Paul! Put it down!" I begged of him. But he was on top of
me in a breath and we rolled over and over in the sloop's cockpit. Why
it was that he did not seriously injure me, I cannot tell to this day!
He struck at me viciously a dozen times; but by a miracle I escaped even
a scratch.

Suddenly I caught his wrist, twisting it so that the open claspknife
shot out of his hand. The relief I felt at this must have renewed my
strength. In another instant I had rolled him over upon his face and
knelt upon him so that he could not move. There was a piece of codline
in my pocket and I had his wrists knotted behind him in short order--nor
was I particular whether I hurt him, or not! Then I stood up and rolled
him over with my foot.

"There!" I panted; "if ever a fellow deserved jailing, you're that
fellow, Paul Downes."

"I'll fix you for this! I'll fix you for this!" he kept blubbering.

I was bruised and lame myself (especially where Paul had kicked me in
the leg) and now I discovered that my right coatsleeve was slit from the
shoulder to the wrist. I had just escaped suffering a dangerous wound.

"Aren't you a pretty fellow?" I said, showing him this rent.

"I wish I'd got you!" he snarled so viciously that I was really
startled.

"You won't feel that way when you cool down," I said.

"I won't cool down. I'll get square with you for this if I wait ten
years," he declared.

"You're for all the world like your father," I said, hotly; "and he's as
revengeful a person as I ever saw."

"Is that so?" retorted Paul. "Well, he isn't like your father was--_he_
had to commit suicide to get out of trouble----"

"What do you mean?" I cried, amazed.

But Paul bit his lip and fell silent. He nevertheless looked at me with
so threatening a scowl that, had he not been tied hard and fast, I
should have been on the lookout for another cowardly attack.

"What nonsense is that you said?" I repeated. "What do you know about my
father?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" returned my cousin, sullenly.

I recovered myself then, believing he was only trying to fret me. "You
needn't talk nonsense," I said. "If you mean to say that my father made
way with himself, why you're simply silly! Everybody knows that he was
drowned while fishing, over there off White Rock."

"So everybody knows it, hey?" he responded, with a most exasperating air
of knowing something that _I_ didn't know. "All right. I'm glad that
folks know so much. But let me tell you, Clint Webb, that you and your
ma'd be paupers now if he hadn't got drowned as he did. It was the only
thing he could do."

"You'd better drop it," I advised him, scornfully. "You'd much better be
thinking of what will happen to you because of this evening's work. You
can't bother me by any such silly talk."

"Oh, I can't hey?" he snarled in a tone that, defenceless as he was,
tempted me to kick him.

But just then the sail of the sloop began to fill. I ran to the tiller
and brought her head around. A little breeze had sprung up and the
Wavecrest was under good way again. In a few moments we passed the
light at the entrance to the harbor, and tacked for our anchorage. My
mother's property did not include shore rights, so we had no private
landing at which to tie the sloop, but moored her at a buoy in the quiet
cove near the ferry dock.

"What do you mean to do with me?" asked Paul, having been mighty quiet
for the last few minutes.

"I'm going to march you up to the house and hand you over to your
father. And if I have any influence with mother at all, both you and he
will pack your dunnage and leave in the morning."

He fell silent again until I had dropped the sail and picked up our
float. When the Wavecrest was fast he asked more meekly:

"Aren't you going to take this cord off my wrist?"

"No. You're going up to the house in just that fix."

"I won't do it!" he cried with a sudden burst of rage.

"Then you'll stay here while I go up and tell them where you are."

He didn't like that idea, either, and whined: "Don't be so mean, Clint.
I don't want to go up to the house this way. What will folks think?"

"'What will folks think?'" I repeated in amazement. "I s'pose that's the
first thing you'd worried about if you'd cut me with that knife."

He said no more, but he gave me a threatening look which, had I been of
a nervous temperament, might have kept me awake nights. When I drew the
tender alongside he stepped in without further urging and sat down in
the stern. I rowed ashore. Fortunately for the tender feelings of my
cousin there wasn't a soul in sight when we landed. I fastened the boat,
and then, with the oars on my shoulder and the slack of the codline in
my hand, start him up the shell road.

"Let me go, Clint," he begged again.

"Not for Joe!"

"Then you'll be sorry the longest day you live," he cried, his ugly face
suddenly convulsed.

And he was right; but I did not believe it at the time.



CHAPTER III

IN WHICH I AM ANXIOUS TO LEARN THE PARTICULARS OF A MATTER OF FOURTEEN
YEARS STANDING


My mother's summer home was built upon the highest point of Bolderhead
Neck and commanded a view of both the ocean and the inlet, or harbor,
around which Old Bolderhead was built.

My mother's early life had not been spent near the water; her people
dwelt inland. My maternal grandfather owned half a township and was a
very influential man. Naturally my mother had lived in affluence during
her girlhood and it was considered by her friends a great mistake on her
part when she married my father. He was a ship's surgeon when they were
married and his only income was derived from the practise of his
profession. He established himself as a physician in Bolderhead after
the wedding; they lived simply, and I was their only child.

Grandfather didn't forgive mother for marrying a poor man. The old
gentleman didn't get along well with his relatives, anyway. He hadn't
liked the man his oldest daughter married, Mr. Chester Downes. When I
grew old enough to understand the character of Mr. Downes I could not
blame grandfather for his bad opinion of the man! Aunt Alice dying
before grandfather, Mr. Downes could never hope to handle much of
grandfather's money. There was a sum set aside for Paul in grandfather's
will. And even that Mr. Downes could not touch; it was tied up until
Paul was of age. After several large charities had been remembered in
the will the residue of the property had come to my mother. As I
understood it I was but two years old when grandfather died, and my own
father was drowned three weeks after grandfather's burial.

We had gone to live at once in mother's old home; but she had a tender
feeling for Bolderhead, and as I grew older and evinced such a love for
the sea, she had built our summer home here.

Mother was one of those dependent, timid women, who seem unable to
decide any matter for themselves. Not that she wasn't the very best
mother that ever lived! But she _was_ easily influenced by other people.
As I grew older and began to understand what went on more clearly, I
knew that Chester Downes possessed a stronger influence over mother than
was good for either her or me. He was her confidant in business matters,
too.

Being brought up in the same inland town together, my cousin Paul and I
naturally saw a good deal of each other. Frankly I saw altogether too
much of him--and I told my mother so. But Mr. Downes was all the time
coming to the house--especially to the Bolderhead cottage--and bringing
Paul with him.

I felt that they were steadily and insidiously influencing mother
against me. We were drifting apart. Mother had through them acquired the
belief that I was a rude and untrustworthy fellow, and she feared my
boatmen companions were weaning me from her. Whereas I kept away from
the house because the Downeses were there. I couldn't stand so much of
them.

But on this evening I was determined that matters should come to a head.
I saw my way clear, I believed, through Paul's vicious attack upon me,
to rid the house of the Downeses for good and all.

As we came up the hill I saw that my mother, and doubtless Mr. Downes,
were in the drawing room. It was long past the dinner hour. I drove
Paul up onto the veranda and towards a French window that opened into
the illuminated room. He began to hang back again.

"S'pose there's somebody there?" he said.

"That'll be the worse for you," I responded, callously. "Come on!"

I unlatched the window, held aside the draperies, and pushed him into
the room before me. My mother and his father were the only persons
present.

"Why, boys! how late you are," said my pretty mother, looking up from
the lacework in her lap. Her fingers were always busy. "Were you
becalmed outside? You must be awfully hungry. Ring for James, Clinton,
and he will fix you up something nice in the pantry." Then she saw
Paul's bound wrists, his bruised face, and our disarranged clothing.
"What is the matter?" she cried, starting to her feet.

Mr. Downes had observed us too, and he broke in with: "What is the
meaning of this outrage, Clinton Webb? My son's wrists lashed together!
How dare you, sir?"

"I tied him up, Mr. Downes," I explained before Paul could get in a
word; "but I turn him over to your now, sir, and if you wish to release
him you may."

"Why--why--Whoever heard of such insolence?" sputtered Mr. Downes. "You
see, Mary, what this young ruffian has done to poor Paul? Stand still,
will you?" he added, jerking Paul around as he tried to untie the cod
line. Paul began to snivel; I reckon his father pulled the line so tight
that it cut into the flesh.

"See what he has done, Mary?" repeated my angry uncle, finally pulling
out his pocketknife and cutting the cord. "Look at Paul's face! What
have I told you about that boy?" and he pointed a bony and accusing
index finger at me.

"Clinton! Clinton!" cried mother. "What have you done?"

Her question cut me to the quick. It showed me how deeply she had been
impressed by Mr. Downes' calumnies. Her first thought was that I was at
fault--that I had been the aggressor.

"You can see what I have done to him," said I, a little sullenly, I
fear. "We got into a row on the boat coming in, and that is how he came
by his bruises. But I tied him up because I didn't fancy being slit up
like a codfish with this thing," and I drew the claspknife--a regular
sailor's "gully"--from my coat pocket and tossed it, open, upon the
table.

Mother screamed and shuddered, and sank back into her chair again.

"You needn't be scared," I said, more tenderly, crossing to her side and
putting my arm across her shoulders. "I'm not hurt at all. He only slit
my coat sleeve!"

Mr. Downes glanced from his son's swollen and disfigured face to my
flapping coatsleeve, and fear came into his own countenance. He knew
something about the ungovernable rages into which Paul frequently flew.
He was obliged to wet his lips with s tongue before he could speak:

"You will not believe this horrible, scandalous story, Mary!
Why--why--The boy is beside himself!"

"I think Paul was," I said, gravely. "We were both angry--I admit that.
But I used nothing but my fists on him."

"Paul! Why don't you speak up and deny this charge?"

"I--I never struck him with the knife," said my cousin, sullenly.
"He--he tied my arms and then he--he slit the coat himself. I--I never
touched him."

He lied so clumsily that even my innocent and horrified mother could
not believe him. But Mr. Dowries tried to make out that he believed
Paul.

"Listen to that, Mary!" he blustered. "Did you ever hear of such
depravity--such viciousness? A plot to ruin my boy in your eyes--a
cowardly plot!"

"It is no plot, Mr. Downes, and you know it," I said. "But I am going to
use the circumstance to a purpose which for some time I have longed to
accomplish. You and Paul will leave my mother's house--and leave it at
once!"

"Clinton!" gasped mother, seizing my hand.

"There, Madam!" cried Mr. Downes, furiously. "He has just as good as
admitted it is a conspiracy. Nefarious! He has invented this story----"

"Mr. Downes," I interrupted, my anger rising, "you have done everything
you could to prejudice mother against me. Is it any wonder that I desire
to see the last of you and your precious son?"

"Clinton! Clinton! My dear son," mother begged. "Don't be so
passionate."

"I never was more calm in my life," I responded, firmly. "But these two
shall not stay in our house another night, mother."

She burst into tears. Mr. Downes stepped nearer and his sneering look
would have enraged me at another time. But I felt that I had the
whip-hand and held myself in.

"Fortunately," he said, "your will, young man, is not law here. It is
not in your power to put us out of your mother's home."

"You are mistaken," I replied, still quietly. "I have that power."

"You are a minor, sir," said Mr. Downes, loftily. "I brand your
ridiculous story as false. It would be quite within your character to
have cut your coat sleeve as Paul says. I will not even believe that
that is his knife----"

He stretched out his hand to take it from the table but I was too quick
for him. "No, you don't!" I said. "That is too valuable a bit of
evidence for you to get hold of. Even Paul will not deny owning the
knife. I know where he bought it and I can find the man who engraved his
initials on the blade."

"Very well planned indeed," sneered Mr. Downes, but I sternly
interrupted:

"Mr. Downes, again I tell you that you _must_ leave this house. You and
Paul shall never again live under the same roof with me."

"When I hear your mother say this----"

"This is a matter which my mother will not have to decide," I assured
him, and without looking at her although I had returned to my place by
her side.

"And why should we obey your behest, young man?"

"If you don't leave I shall go out at once and swear out a warrant
against Paul for assault with this knife. And I'll have the warrant
served, too."

"Oh, Clinton!" sobbed my mother. "Don't think of such a thing."

"As sure as I live it shall be done, unless they go."

"Think of the publicity!" said my mother, clinging to my hand.

"Yes," I rejoined, bitterly. "And think what might have happened if he'd
got me with that knife."

"You--you----" gasped Mr. Downes. "You are your father right over
again!"

"Thank you; I consider that a compliment."

"You wouldn't consider it such if you knew as much about him as I do,"
he muttered.

"Now that will do!" I exclaimed, losing my self-control on the instant.
"I've heard enough insinuations regarding father from Paul tonight. I
won't stand any more of that talk, I warn you both!"

"Clinton!" murmured mother, with a very white face, while Downes turned
upon his son in a sudden rage.

"What have you been saying--you fool?" he snarled. Paul was quite cowed
before his sudden wrath.

"Paul may be diffident about saying," I observed. "But I'll tell you. He
says my father committed suicide, and that if he hadn't done so my
mother and I would be paupers today."

I never saw a man's countenance express such changes of emotion within
so short a time. From anger to fear--and back again--was such a swift
transition that it startled me. I began from that moment to wonder very
much what the mystery was which surrounded my father's death fourteen
years before!

But the next instant my attention was recalled to my mother. For a
moment she sat motionless. Now she started up from her chair with a
little cry.

"What is it, mother?" I cried, in alarm. Had I not caught her she would
have fallen to the floor.

"Now, see what you have done!" snarled Mr. Downes. "You have
over-excited her. Get out of the way, boy----"

I gave him a look that halted him. Had he touched my mother then I
would have been at his throat! Exerting all my strength I picked her up
bodily and carried her to the nearest couch. The bell push was at hand
and I rang for her maid. The woman responded immediately and James was
right behind her in the hall.

"Attend to your mistress, Marie," I said. "And James!"

"Yes, sir," said the big butler, coming to the door.

"Order the carriage at once and see that Mr. Downes' bags are brought
down. They are leaving immediately."

The butler's face was perfectly impassive. Mr. Downes broke into a nasty
laugh.

"James will do nothing of the sort," he said. "I think too much of my
sister to leave the house while she is so unwell. What do you think,
Marie? Is it serious? Shall I telephone for Dr. Eldridge?"

"I do not know, Monsieur," replied the French woman, anxiously. "She has
been frightened--ees eet not?"

"This young reprobate would frighten anybody!" cried Mr. Downes,
blusteringly.

"James," I said again, "do as I have told you. Tell Ham to bring the
carriage around inside of half an hour and to drive wherever Mr. Downes
shall direct. The ferry is not running at this hour, or I would not
trouble him."

The butler glanced from my mother's death-white face to Mr. Downes. He
did not so much as favor me with a look, but with sphynx-like composure
left the room. To tell the truth I hadn't the least idea whether he
would obey me, or Mr. Downes.



CHAPTER IV

IN WHICH HAM MAYBERRY REVEALS HIS SUSPICIONS


Mr. Downes continued to bluster and Paul hung sullenly about the drawing
room. I had got through with both of them, however. Whether the
butler--and the other servants--backed me up, or not, I believed that I
had the whip-hand.

Marie helped me bear my mother to her room. It troubled me greatly to
see her pretty face so pale and deathlike, and her eyes closed. I
hurried to the telephone and called up Dr. Eldridge, who was an old
friend of our family as well as our physician. I felt better when I
heard his voice over the wire and knew that he would soon be at the
house.

Then I turned to get my hat and coat. I looked into the drawing room to
give Mr. Downes one more chance. He had been talking to his son in a low
voice, but with emphasis; and I could see by Paul's countenance that
the "calling down" he had received from his father was a serious one.

"I warn you for the last time, Mr. Downes, that I am going to Justice of
the Peace Ringold just as soon as the doctor gets here to attend my
mother," I said.

"You don't dare do any such thing, you young scoundrel!" roared Mr.
Chester Downes, and he actually sprang across the room at me. He was a
tall and bony man and I knew very well that I should fare ill in his
hands. I dodged back, found the imperturbable James in my way and as I
sidestepped him, too, Mr. Downes came face to face with the impassive
butler in the doorway.

"Beg pardon, sir," James said, quietly. "Hamilton has the horses
harnessed and awaits your pleasure, sir."

"You--you--" stammered Mr. Downes, evidently as much surprised that the
butler had obeyed me as _I_ could possibly be!

"The carriage is waiting, sir," explained James, just as though the
occasion was an ordinary one. "Shall I bring down your bags, sir?"

"No! I don't want our bags brought down!" cried Mr. Downes. "This is an
outrage. And let me tell you, you dunderhead," he added to James, "this
will cost you your position."

The butler's voice did not change in the least. "Shall I bring down your
bags, sir?" he asked once more.

"Yes!" cried Mr. Downes, changing his mind very suddenly. "We will go up
and pack them. But this is a sorry day for this house when we leave it
in such a way," he said, his threat hissing through his clenched teeth
as his glowing eyes sought my face in the hall. "And it is a sorry day
for _you_, you young villain! Remember this."

"You threaten a good deal like your son, Mr. Downes," I said, unable to
resist a mild "gloat." "But he couldn't carry out his threat; I wonder if
you will be better able to compass your revenge?"

He said nothing further, but dashed up stairs. Paul lagged behind him
and James, without a word to me, and with the attitude and manner of the
well-trained servant, followed sedately and stood outside of their rooms
waiting for the bags.

I stepped out upon the side porch and saw Ham Mayberry, our coachman (he
had driven my father in his little chaise the two years that he had
practised in Bolderhead) sitting upon the box of the closed carriage.
Of all the people who worked for mother about the Bolderhead cottage, I
knew that Ham would take my part against the Downeses. Ham and I were
old cronies.

And I believed that I could thank Ham for the butler's espousal of my
cause on this present occasion. Ham had a deal of influence with the
other servants, having been with us before mother was willed the great
Darringford property.

Ham turned his head when I called to him in a low voice.

"Watch what they do and where they go, Ham," I told him. "I want to see
you when you come back."

"Aye, aye, sir!" he returned in his sailorlike way; for in Bolderhead if
you ask your direction of a man on the street he'll lay a course for you
as though you were at sea. Ham Mayberry, like most of the other male
inhabitants of the old town, had been a deep-sea sailor.

I heard the quick, angry step of Mr. Downes descending the stairs then,
and I slipped out of the way. I didn't want any more words with him, if
I could help. They were leaving the house--and I meant it should be for
good. That satisfied me.

I heard Paul follow him out upon the porch, and then James came with
the baggage. The carriage rolled briskly away just as Dr. Eldridge's
little electric wagon steamed up to the other door. The doctor--who was
a plump, bald, pink-faced man--trotted up the steps and I let him into
the house myself.

"Well, well, Clint Webb!" he demanded. "What have you been doing to that
little mother of yours now?"

But he said it in a friendly way. Dr. Eldridge knew well enough that I
never intended to cause mother a moment's anxiety. And I believed that I
could take him into my confidence--to an extent, at least. I did not
tell him how Paul had tried to knife me in the Wavecrest; but I
repeated what had really caused my mother's becoming so suddenly ill.

"Ha!" he jerked out, as he got himself out of his tight, light overcoat
and picked up his case again from the hall settee. "The least said about
_that_ time before her the better. Tut, tut! the least said the better."

And so saying he marched up stairs to her room, leaving me more eager
than ever to learn the particulars regarding my father's death. Now, I
had lived some sixteen years up to this very evening and had never
heard anything but the simplest and plainest story of my father's
unfortunate death. But even the doctor spurred my awakened curiosity
now.

What did it mean? I had been told by my mother, by Ham, and by other
people as I grew up, that Dr. Webb had rowed out in a dory to fish off
White Rock, a particularly good local fishing ground for blackfish. Some
hours later a passing fishing party discovered the empty dory, bobbing
up and down at the end of its kedge cable. The fishing lines were out.
My father's hat was in the boat, and his watch lay upon a seat as though
he had taken it out and put it beside him so as not to forget when to
row back to attend to his patients. It was a fine timepiece, had
belonged to his father, and I wear it myself now on "state and date"
occasions.

But the fishermen saw no other sign of the doctor. It was plain he had
fallen overboard. With the current as it is about White Rock it was no
wonder that the body was never recovered.

The story seemed plain enough. There was nothing that could be added to
it. That there was any mystery about my father's death I could not
believe. And the suggestion that Paul Downes had made I utterly scoffed
at!

Yet I wanted to see Ham Mayberry before I went to sleep that night.

Dr. Eldridge came down after a long time, and his pink, fat face was
very serious. "How is she?" I asked him, eagerly.

"She's all right--for the night," he replied. But his gravity did not
leave him--which was strange. The doctor was a most sanguine
practitioner and usually brought a spirit of cheerfulness with him into
any home where there was illness. "Clint," he said, "you want to be
careful of that little mother of yours."

"My goodness, Doctor!" I exclaimed. "You don't suppose that I had
anything to do with this business tonight? That I brought it about?"

"If you have another row with your cousin--or words with his
father--have it all outside the house. She is in a very nervous state.
She must not be worried. Friction in the household is bad for her.
And--well, I'll drop in again and see her tomorrow."

What he said frightened me. When he had gone I went up and tapped on the
door. But Marie would not let me in the room.

"She is resting now, Master Clin-tone," said the French woman, and then
shut the door in my face.

I couldn't have slept then had I gone to bed. Beside, I was determined
to talk with Ham when he came back. I wandered down stairs again and
James, the butler, beckoned me into the dining room. At one end of the
table he had laid a cloth and he made me sit down and eat a very tasty
supper that had been prepared for me in the kitchen. This was an
attention I had not expected. It served to bolster up my belief that I
had some influence in my mother's house, after all!

By and by I heard Ham drive in and I went out to the stables. We kept no
footman, Ham doing all the stablework. I helped him unharness Bob and
Betty, while he told me where he had taken the Downeses. There was a
small hotel in the old part of the town, and my uncle and Paul had gone
there for the night.

"They'll probably attack the fortifications on the morrow, Master
Clint--or, them's my prognostications," remarked Ham, in conclusion.

"Meaning they'll come over here and try to see mother?" I asked.

"I reckon."

"Then they're not to be let in, Ham. I want them kept out. Dr. Eldridge
says she should not be disturbed. I mean to see that his orders are
obeyed."

"And I'm glad to see ye take the bit in your teeth, sir," exclaimed the
coachman, with emphasis. "It's time ye did so."

"What do you mean, Ham?" I demanded, curiously.

The old man--he was past sixty, but hale and hearty still--came out of
Bob's stall and put his grizzled face close to mine while he stared into
my eyes in the dim light of the stable lantern.

"List ye, Master Clint," he said. "'Tis my suspicion that that same
scaley Chester Downes has it in his mind to get rid of you--to put ye
away from your mother altogether--to make her believe ye air a bad egg,
in fact. 'Tis time he and that precious b'y of his was put off the
place. Ye've done right this night, Clint Webb, if ye never done so
before."



CHAPTER V

IN WHICH THE OLD COACHMAN GOES SOMEWHAT INTO DETAILS


Ordinarily it might seem that a servant taking it upon himself to so
plainly state his opinion of family matters, should be admonished. But
Hamilton Mayberry was just as much my friend as he was our hired
coachman. He had been my father's friend. He had served in the same ship
as my father long before he came ashore to drive horses for Dr. Webb.
And I verily believe the old man loved me as though I were his own
blood.

Anyhow, I was too excited and worried on this night to think of any
class distinction. Beside, among Bolderhead people, the master was
considered no better than the man--if both behaved themselves, were
honest, and attended church on the Sabbath!

So I opened my heart to Ham as we sat with our backs against the
grain-chest, and told him all that had occurred on the Wavecrest as
she drifted into the harbor that evening, and what had followed when I
brought Paul Downes home with his hands tied behind his back.

"But what is puzzling me, Ham," I said, in conclusion, looking sideways
into his shrewdly puckered face, "is what those Downes meant by hinting
that there was something queer about father's death."

"Huh!" grunted Ham.

"What made that crazy Paul say he committed suicide, and that if he
hadn't we'd have been paupers?"

"Huh!" said Ham again.

"And why should such a foolish remark," I added, "have frightened
mother? For that is what brought about her fainting fit, I verily
believe."

"Huh!" said the coachman for a third time, and then I got mad.

"Stop that, Ham!" I cried. "Don't you go about trying to mystify me. I
want to know what they meant. I intend to find out what they meant. If
you have any suspicion, tell it out."

"Well, Master Clint," he said gravely, "I don't blame you for being
angry."

"Or being puzzled, either?" I put in.

"No, sir; nor for being puzzled. And I'm some puzzled myself. But I
reckon Paul Downes was jest repeatin' what he'd heard his father say."

"That my poor father had to jump overboard from his dory, to save
himself from trouble and mother and I from poverty? Why, it's
preposterous!" I cried.

"So it is, sir," Ham assured me. "So it is. And nobody believes
it--nobody that's got anything inside their heads but sawdust."

I started and grasped him by the arm. "Do you mean," I said, "that there
_was_ any such story told when my father was lost at sea?"

"Well, sir, you know that an oak-ball will smoke when you bust it atwixt
your fingers--but there ain't no fire in it," grunted Ham,
philosophically. "Folk says that there can't be smoke without some fire.
The oak-ball disproves it. And it's so with gossip. Gossip is the only
thing that don't really need a beginning. It's hatched without the sign
of an egg----"

"Oh, hang your platitudes, Ham!" I cried. "Do you mean that there ever
_was_ such a story circulated?"

"Well, sir----"

"There was!" I cried, horrified.

"It come about in this way," began Ham, calmly and quietly. And his
speaking so soon brought me to a calmer mind. "It was your grandfather's
will. I don't wish to say aught against the dead, sir," said Ham, "but
if ever there was a cantankerous old curmudgeon on the face of this
footstool, it was Simon Darringford! That was your grandfather."

"I know," said I, nodding. "He did not like my father."

"He hated him. He made his will so that your mother, his only living
child, should not enjoy the property as long as your father lived--nor
you, either. That's a fact, Master Clint. Ye see, he put the money jest
beyond your mother's reach, and beyond your reach. He done it very
skillfully. He had the best attorneys in Massachusetts draw the will.
The courts wouldn't break it. You and your mother was doomed to poverty
as long as your father lived."

"But Ham!" I cried in amazement and pain, "couldn't my father earn money
enough to support us?"

"Not properly, sir," said Ham, in a low voice. "Not as your mother had
been used to living. Don't forget that. The Doctor was as fine a man as
ever stepped; but he wasn't a money-maker. He knowed more than any ten
doctors in this county--old Doc Eldridge is a fool to him. But your
father was easy, and he served the poor for nothing. He had ten
non-paying patients to one that paid. And he was heavily in debt, and
his debts were pressing, when he--he died."

"Ham!" I cried, leaping up again. "You--you believe there is some truth
in the story Paul hinted at?"

"Naw, I don't!" returned the coachman, promptly. "But I tell you that
there was a chance for busy-bodies to put this and that together and
make out a case of suicide. His death, my poor boy, _did_ make you and
your mother wealthy--which you'd never been, in all probability, as long
as your poor father remained alive."

I heard him with pain and with a deeper understanding of the reason for
my mother's seizure that evening. My blurting out the statement that
Paul had uttered when he was angry had undoubtedly shocked my mother
terribly. She had heard these whispers years before--when my father's
death was still an awful reality to her. What occurred in our drawing
room that evening had brought that time of trial and sorrow back to her
mind, and had resulted in the attack I have recounted. I understood it
all then--or I thought I did--and I left Ham and finally sought my bed,
determined more than ever to keep Chester Downes and his son out of the
house and make it impossible in the future for them to cause any further
trouble or misunderstanding between my mother and myself.



CHAPTER VI

IN WHICH IS RELATED A CONVERSATION WITH MY MOTHER


Mother was better in the morning. I ascertained that fact from James,
the butler. Marie, the Frenchwoman, seemed desirous of telling me
nothing and--I thought--wished to keep me out of my mother's room.

But I hung about the house all the morning and, after the doctor had
come and gone (and this time, I was glad to see, with a more cheerful
face) I insisted on pushing into the room and speaking to mother myself.

Marie tossed her head and shrugged her shoulders when I insisted. "La,
la!" she exclaimed, in her French way, "boys are so troublesome. Yes!"

Had it been any other servant, I should have said something sharp to
her, in my newly acquired confidence. But she was mother's maid, and it
was no business of mine if she was impertinent.

"Well, mother," I said, sitting down beside the bed and taking the hand
she put out to me, "I hope you are better--the doctor says you are--and
I hope you will forgive me for my part in the disgraceful scene we had
down stairs last night. But I couldn't stand those Downeses any more and
that's a fact!"

"Oh, Clinton! My dear boy! you are so impulsive and tempestuous," she
murmured.

"I'll try to be as meek as Moses--a regular pussy cat around the house,
hereafter," I returned, cheerfully.

"You are just like your father," she sighed.

"I'm proud to hear you say it," I returned, promptly. "For all I have
ever heard about my father--save the hints that those two scoundrels
have dropped--makes me believe that father was a man worthy of copying
in every particular."

Mother squeezed my hand convulsively, exclaiming:

"Clinton! Clinton! You must not say such things."

"Pray tell me why not, mother?" I demanded, but I spoke quietly. "I
won't say a word about Mr. Chester Downes and Paul, if it hurts your
feelings for me to tell the truth about them. But I am bound to be
angry if anybody maligns my father's memory."

"Oh, Chester would never do such a thing," mother gasped.

"Then, where did Paul pick up that old scandal to throw at me?" I
demanded.

"What old scandal do you mean, Clinton?" she asked, faintly.

"Are you sure you wish to talk about it now, mother?" I asked, for I was
troubled by what the doctor had said the night before.

"Better now than at any other time," she said, with some decision. "I
suppose poor Paul heard some of the servants, or other people like that,
repeating the story. Oh, Clinton! it almost broke my heart at the time.
That anybody should think your father would contemplate taking his own
life--it was awful. Of course, you do not remember."

"Well--hardly!" I exclaimed. But I was troubled again by the manner in
which she spoke of Paul Downes. Hanged if she wasn't excusing my cousin!

"It was a very wretched time for me," said my mother, weakly. "I really
do not know what I would have done had it not been for Chester. He came
immediately, and he took charge of everything. I can never forget his
kindness."

A sudden thought struck me, and I could not help putting the suspicion
to the test. "Mother," I asked, "was father and Mr. Chester Downes very
good friends?"

She looked startled again for an instant. I saw her smooth cheek flush
and then turn pale again. My mother blushed as easily as any girl of
fifteen.

"Why, Clinton, that is a strange question," she said.

"Not very strange, mother, when you consider that I believe my father
was a mighty good pattern for his son to copy. If father trusted Mr.
Chester Downes, I could be almost tempted to believe that I had injured
that gentleman in my thoughts."

"You have, Clinton! you have!" she cried.

"I don't doubt you believe so mother," I said, quietly. "But how about
father? What was _his_ opinion of Aunt Alice's husband?"

"Why--you see, Clinton," she returned slowly and doubtfully, "Doctor
Webb was not very well acquainted with Chester."

"No?"

"He never came much to our house while the doctor was alive."

"And why not?" I asked.

"That--that would be hard to say," she said; but she was so confused
that I felt that my mother, who was the soul of truth, found it hard to
answer my question honestly.

"Well, I should have been glad of my father's opinion, at least," I
said. "As it is," I added, "not having that to guide me, I must stick to
my own."

"But you have mine, Clinton!" she cried.

"Indeed, I have!" I returned, smiling, "and I'd take it upon almost any
other subject you could name, Mumsie! But you are prejudiced in favor of
Mr. Downes."

"And you are prejudiced against him."

"I am, indeed," I admitted. "And am so prejudiced that I do not mean he
shall ever interfere in my affairs again."

"Oh, Clinton!" she cried, "I do not see how you can speak so to me."

"Now, mother dear," I said, "I do not mean to be unfilial to you, or
ungrateful for your kindness. But Paul Downes tried to stab me last
night----"

"Oh!" she cried, and shrank and trembled.

"I hate to annoy you by bringing up such things, but I must show you
that they cannot hang around here any more," I declared, firmly. "Paul
hates me; his father has done his best to poison your mind against me. I
have been in danger of my life, and in danger of losing your love and
trust, through the Downeses----"

"No, no!" she said, to this last.

"I am afraid I am right," I said. "I know that I have kept away from the
house a good deal this summer. I couldn't stay here and listen to that
false man and be annoyed by that great, hulking boy of his. Now, let us
be the good friends we always have been when the Downeses are at a
distance."

"Oh, Clinton! my dear boy! I only live for you!" she cried, and began to
sob so that I felt condemned to insist. But the occasion was serious. I
knew--as Ham had warned me--that Chester Downes was lingering near and
would soon attempt to see my mother again.

"Then, let us be more to each other, mother," I said, quietly.

"But I need your uncle to assist me," she said. "He can manage my
business much better than I possibly can----"

"What's the matter with Mr. Hounsditch?" I demanded. "He was our lawyer
and had been grandfather's lawyer, too."

"Mr. Hounsditch is an old man. He is behind the times. He cannot invest
our money to such good advantage----"

"_Who says so?_" I asked, and she could not answer the pointed question
without admitting what I had supposed--that Mr. Chester Downes put these
opinions of the keen old lawyer into mother's head.

"I don't care much about the money, mother," I said. "I suppose we have
plenty anyway, and the real estate cannot be sold at all till I am of
age. But what property does come to me when I'm twenty-one, I'd rather
not have Mr. Chester Downes handle. I'd rather trust to Mr. Hounsditch
and accept small interest."

"Clinton! you are really ridiculous," cried mother, reddening again.

"Well, that's all right," I returned, laughing. "But you'll hear to me,
mother, won't you? You won't bother about Chester Downes and Paul? Put
it down that I am jealous of the influence they have over you, if you
like. I don't care. Just let's you and I live together and be happy."

"That's all I live for--to make you happy, Clinton," said my mother,
still sobbing like a child who has been injured.

"Then this request I make will be the only thing I'll ask you to do for
me for a year, Mumsie!" I cried, calling her by the pet name I had used
when I was a little fellow.

"Will it really make you so happy, my boy?" she asked, wistfully.

"Indeed it will," I declared. "And now I've bothered you long enough.
I'll be around here if you want me. I shan't go out on the water today,
or until you feel quite yourself again."

I went out of her room. Marie, the Frenchwoman, was just coming up the
stairs. I saw her hide her hand with something in it under her apron. It
was a square white object. I knew it was a letter. Mr. Chester Downes
had been writing to my mother, and Marie was the go-between. She smiled,
slyly, as she passed me and whisked into the room I had just left.



CHAPTER VII

IN WHICH I PUT TWO AND TWO TOGETHER--AND SLEEP ABOARD THE WAVECREST


If for no other reason, that sly smile of my mother's French maid would
have kept me at home that day. I was still strolling about the place,
just before luncheon, when I saw Mr. Chester Downes' spare figure and
his tall hat coming up the hill. I went down the path and met him at the
steps which mounted the little terrace from the street to our lawn.

"Oh!" he ejaculated. "Are _you_ here?"

"You are just in time to catch me as I was going out, Mr. Downes," I
said. "What have you to say to me, sir?"

"Nothing, young man--nothing," he exclaimed.

"You certainly have not walked over here merely for the pleasure of
looking at the house," I said, smartly.

"I have come to see your mother, sir. And I propose to see her," he
said. "Last night I did not wish to make a disturbance while she was so
ill. But I understand from Dr. Eldridge that she is much improved----"

"You are correct there, Mr. Downes," I said. "And she will continue to
improve I hope. But whether she is well or ill, you cannot see her."

"Nonsense, boy! you are crazy. Do you know that I am a man, your uncle,
and your mother's business agent? Bold as you are, sir, you are a
minor."

"I never wanted to wish my life away before, sir," I said, gravely. "But
I do sincerely wish that I was of age, Mr. Downes. However, I believe I
shall be able to hold my own with you, sir. At least, I shall try. And
if this is to be your course I shall know what to do. Before you get
into that house to trouble my mother again, I'll place a guard around
it."

"You talk ridiculously. You cannot do such a thing."

"No, perhaps not. And fortunately, I shan't have to take such extreme
measures. I have a better way of keeping you off the premises."

"You would not dare do what you threatened last night, Clinton Webb," he
said, his voice shaking with anger.

"You pass me and go up to that door, and see whether I dare or not," I
returned, my eyes flashing. "Paul tried to stab me. I'll have him
arrested if he is in Bolderhead still, and if he has run away I'll find
means of having him brought back here to stand trial."

I was just as earnest as ever I was about anything in my life, and I
guess Mr. Chester Downes realized it. He had gone away the night before
in haste; but after thinking over the situation he believed that I could
be browbeaten and my will set aside. He stared at me, with his dark,
Indian-looking face reddening under the skin, and Paul had not looked at
me more murderously the night before when we quarreled aboard the
Wavecrest, than his father did now!

"Why, sir," said Mr. Downes at last, "this is a most ridiculous thing
for you to do. I can write to your mother--and I shall. She will demand
that I attend her----"

"Until she does so, just take notice that you're not to come here," I
interrupted. "That is, if you want Paul to stay out of jail."

I turned on my heel then and walked back to the house, and he--after
hesitating a half minute or so--turned likewise and stalked down the
hill. I was pretty sure he would not come back--not in that tall hat,
anyway--for before luncheon was over it had begun to rain and rained
hard. There was a sharp wind from the northwest--nor'--nor'--west, to be
exact--and everybody within a hundred miles of Cape Ann knows what that
means. In all probability we were in for a long offshore gale.

So I risked going over the ferry that afternoon on an errand. I did not
propose to get caught out on the Wavecrest again without provisions,
and I purchased half a boat load of canned goods and the like, and a
couple of cases of spring water. While I was hunting for a boat and a
man to take my purchases aboard the sloop I ran against my cousin Paul.

He was not alone, and the instant I spied him with two hang-dog fellows,
I knew he was--like the hen in the story--"laying for me!" Paul Downes
knew half the riff-raff of Bolderhead which, like most small seaports,
boasted more than a sufficient quantity of wharf-rats. Mr. Downes had
been wont to expatiate to my mother on my taste for low company; but he
must have had his own son in mind. Paul certainly picked sour fruit when
he made friends along the water-front of Bolderhead!

"That's the feller," snarled my cousin--I could read his lips, although
the trio was across the narrow street as I went along the docks--and I
knew very well that he was hatching something against me with his two
friends.

But they were not likely to pitch upon me here in broad daylight, so I
paid them little heed at the moment. I found old Crab Bolster and his
skiff to lighter my cargo across the inlet, and when the boy came down
from the store with the barrow, Crab and I loaded the provisions and
spring water into his boat. Paul and his companions looked on,
whispering together now and then, from a neighboring wharf.

I was not wholly a fool if I _was_ so well satisfied with my own
smartness. My success in settling Mr. Chester Downes had of course given
me an inflated opinion of myself; but I knew better than to overlook the
possibility of my cousin being able to do me some mean trick, especially
with the help of the two fellows he was with.

When Crab Bolster and I set off in the skiff for the Wavecrest, I saw
Paul and his friends make for the ferry, and while I helped pull the
skiff in the drizzle of rain that swept across the harbor, I saw the
three board the ferryboat and land at the dock on the Neck near which we
lived.

I made Crab hustle the goods aboard and stowed all away in the cuddy
before I let the boatman put me ashore. Paul and his friends were
hanging about the landing.

"Keep your eye on my Wavecrest, will you, Lampton?" I said to the man
who owned the landing, and kept boats for hire. "Remember, nobody's to
go aboard of the sloop without my special permission," and I glanced
pointedly at my cousin.

"I'll see to that, sir," said Lampton, who was my friend, I knew. "And
in this weather, and with the wind the way she is, anybody would be
crazy to want to take a boat out through the breach."

I went back to the house in ample time for dinner, and Ham, who had been
on the watch, reported that my uncle had not again tried to enter the
house. But I was worried about Paul and his henchmen. I couldn't rest in
the house after dark. If they couldn't get a boat on the Neck side of
the harbor in which to go out to the Wavecrest, they might come across
from the town side and do her some damage.

Mother had come down to dinner and we had one of our old-fashioned,
homey meals, followed by a pleasant hour in the drawing-room, where she
played and sang for me. It was her pleasure that I should dress for
dinner just as though company was to be present, and she trained me in
the niceties of life, and in bits of etiquette, for which I have often,
in later times, been very thankful. For although I found my amusement in
rough adventure and my companionship for the most part among seamen and
fishermen, it hurts no boy or man to be as well grounded in the tenets
of polite society as in writing, reading, and arithmetic!

The subject that was uppermost in my mind--that hazy mystery surrounding
my father's death--did not come up between us on this evening. Nor did
the unpleasant topic of the Downeses come to the fore. I am very, very
glad to remember that my mother looked her prettiest, that she gave me
the tenderest of kisses when she bade me goodnight early, and that we
parted very lovingly.

I went up to my room, but only to put on a warmer suit--a fishing suit
in fact. I shrugged myself into oilskin pants and jacket, too, in the
back shed, and exchanged my cap for a sou'wester. Then I sallied forth
through a pelting rain, with the gale whistling a sharp tune behind me,
and descended the hill toward the point off which the Wavecrest was
moored.

I had said nothing to anybody about my intention. I do not think that
any of the servants saw me go. I left my home without any particular
thought of the future, or any serious cogitation as to what would be the
result of my act.

Merely, I had put two and two together in my mind--and I would sleep
aboard the Wavecrest.



CHAPTER VIII

IN WHICH AN EXPECTED COMEDY PROVES TO BE A TRAGEDY


I knew well enough that my cousin, Paul Downes, was too thoroughly
scared by my threat to have him arrested for assault, to openly make an
attack upon either my boat or myself. But his money could bribe such
fellows as I had seen him with that very day, to sink the Wavecrest,
or even to assault me in the dark.

It would be a joke on Paul--so I thought--if he or his friends should
sneak out to the sloop where she was moored, intending to do her some
harm, and find me there all ready for such a visitation. I chuckled to
myself while I wended my way to the shore, carrying a single oar with
me, and unlocked the padlock of the chain which fastened my rowboat to
the landing.

There was nobody about, and I pushed out and sculled over to the
Wavecrest without being interfered with. Had I not known so well just
where the sloop lay I declare I would have had trouble in finding her.
It was the darkest kind of a night and it _did_ blow great guns! The
rain pelted as sharp as hail and before I got half way to the sloop I
decided that I wasn't showing very good sense, after all, in coming out
here on such a night. I didn't think Paul and his friends would venture
forth in such a storm.

However, having once set out to do a thing I have usually run the full
course. I am not sure that it is natural perseverance in my case, but
fear that I am more often ashamed to be considered fickle. So I sculled
on to the Wavecrest and prepared to go aboard.

But just here I bethought me that if my cousin should attempt to board
the sloop he would be warned that I was aboard by the presence of the
tender. Therefore I snubbed the nose of the rowboat up short to the
float, and then, after getting into the bows of the Wavecrest I let go
her cable and paid out several yards so that the float and the tender
were both out of sight in the darkness.

I chuckled then, as I crept aft to the cockpit and unlocked the door of
the little cabin. Once inside, out of the rain, I drew curtains before
all the lights and then lit the lamp over the cabin table. There were
four berths, two on each side, with lockers fore and aft. Altogether the
cabin of the Wavecrest was cozy and not a bad place at all in which to
spend a night.

It was still early in the evening. The tide had not long since turned
and was running out, while the wind out of its present quarter was with
the tide. Any craft could sail out of Bolderhead harbor this night with
both gale and sea in its favor; but heaven help the vessel striving to
beat into the inlet! The reefs and ledges along this coast are as
dangerous as any down on the charts.

The Wavecrest pitched a good bit at the end of her cable. I made up my
bed and arranged the lamp in its gimbals near the head of the berth, and
so took off my outer clothing and lay down to read. I did not think that
the lamplight could be seen from without, even if a boat came quite near
me. Being so far in-shore I had lit no riding light. It was unnecessary
at these moorings.

I did not read for long. Used to the swing of the sea as I had been for
years the bucking of the Wavecrest as she tugged at her cable, put me
to sleep before I had any idea that I was sleepy. And my lamp was left
burning.

I do not know how long I was unconscious--at least, I did not know at
the moment of my awakening; but suddenly something bumped against the
sloop's counter. I thought when I opened my eyes:

"Here they are! Now for some fun."

I supposed they would not have seen my light and I was going to put my
head out of the cabin and scare them before they could do the
Wavecrest any harm.

But as it proved, the bumping of the small boat against the sloop did
not announce the arrival of the enemy. Almost instantly--I had not got
into my trousers, indeed--there came a great hammering at the cabin
door.

I did not speak, although at first I supposed the rascals were knocking
to arouse me. Then it shot across my bewildered mind that somebody was
nailing up the cabin door!

"Hello there! stop that!" I bawled, getting interested in the
proceedings right away.

But there was no answer, unless certain whisperings that I could not
understand could be considered as such. Several long nails--twenty-penny,
I was sure--were driven home. Then there was a clattering of boots and
the small boat bumped the sloop's counter again.

They were getting into their own boat. They had left me in a nice
fix--nailed up tightly in the cabin of my boat. I was mad 'way through;
instead of playing any joke on Paul Downes and his friends, they had
played me a most scurvy trick.

But it was only comedy as yet--comedy for them, at least. I was pretty
sure that they had fixed me in the cabin, not only for the night, but
until somebody passing in a boat would see me signalling from the tiny
deadlights. And goodness only knew when the gale would subside enough to
tempt any other boatman out upon the bay.

The sloop was still pitching at the end of her cable. I could feel the
tug of the moorings as my enemies got into their boat. Then--in half a
minute, perhaps--there was a startling change in the sloop's action. She
leaped like a horse struck with a whip and instantly began to roll and
swing broadside to the gale.

I knew at once what had happened. The cable had parted; the Wavecrest
was adrift!

The discovery alarmed me beyond all measure. I was panic-stricken--I
admit it. And I earnestly believe that almost any other person who had a
love of life within them would have felt the same.

For to be adrift in Bolderhead Harbor on such a night, with the wind
and tide urging one's craft out toward the broad ocean, while one was
nailed up in the cabin and unable to do a thing toward guiding the boat,
was a situation to shake the courage of the bravest sailor who ever was
afloat.

I believed I had nobody but myself to thank for the accident. In letting
out the cable by which the sloop was moored, I had increased the strain
upon it. I should have thrown out a stern anchor as well when I came
aboard the Wavecrest to spend the night. The tug of wind and tide had
been too much for the single cable.

And now my bonnie Wavecrest was swinging about, broadside to the sea,
and likely to be rolled over completely in a moment. If she turned
turtle, what would become of me? The air in the cabin was already foul.
If she turned topsyturvy, and providing she was not cast upon the rocks
and smashed, I would be in difficulty for fresh air in a very few hours.

These possibilities--and many others--passed through my mind in seconds
of time. I had no idea that one's brain could work so rapidly. A hundred
possible happenings, arising from my situation, entered my mind in
those first few moments while the Wavecrest was swinging about.

Fortunately, however, although she went far over on her beam ends, and I
expected to hear the stick snap, she righted, headed with the tide, and
began to hobble over the seas at a great rate. I had dressed completely
ere this, and was trying my best to open the cabin door. If I could get
to the centerboard and drop it, I believed the sloop would ride better
and could be steered.

Those rascals had nailed the door securely, however. The slide in the
deck above was fastened on the outside too. I was a prisoner in my own
boat and she was being swept out to sea as fast as a northwest gale and
a heavy tide could carry her.



CHAPTER IX

IN WHICH I SEE THE DAY DAWN UPON A DESERTED OCEAN


I don't claim to possess an atom more courage than the next fellow. I
was heartily scared the instant I realized that the Wavecrest was
adrift and I was fastened into her cabin. But I was not made helpless by
my terror.

I tried my best to open that cabin door; but the big nails had been
driven home. The ports were too small for my body to pass through,
although I did open one and was tempted to shriek for help. But that
would have been a ridiculous thing to do--and useless, as well. Had
anybody heard and understood my need, I was beyond assistance from land,
and there was nobody out in the harbor but myself, I felt sure.

The Wavecrest had got well out into the harbor now. She rolled very
little and therefore I knew that, unguided as she was, her head was
right and wind and tide were sweeping her on. She might be piled up on
either shore at the mouth of the inlet; but from the start I believed
she would be shot through the outlet of the harbor into the open sea.

In the cuddy up forward, with my provisions, there were a saw and
hammer, and other tools. I could no more get at them than I could get
out of the cabin. And although I might be able to do nothing to help
myself or my boat if I was free from my prison, I would have felt a
whole lot safer just then to have been upon her deck!

The door being nailed so fast, and the deck-hatch bolted tight, it was
plain that I would have to smash something in order to get out of the
cabin. Had I had anything to use as a battering ram, I would have begun
on the door. But there seemed nothing to hand that would help me in that
way. I examined the crack where the top of the door and the deck-hatch
came together. Had I something to pry with I might tear the bolts
holding the hatch out of the wood.

Such a thing as a bar was out of the question. But after a few minutes'
cogitation, I remembered that my bunks on either side of the cabin could
be turned up against the bulkhead, and at each end of the bunks was a
flat piece of steel fifteen or eighteen inches long which held the
berth-bench when it was let down. Two screws at each end held these
steel straps in place.

I had no screw driver; but I had the knife that I had taken away from my
cousin when he attacked me the evening before. I thrust the point of its
heavy blade into a crack and snapped the steel square off. It made a
fairly usable screw-driver, and I quickly had one of the steel straps
out of its fastenings.

The piece of steel was stiff and made as good a bar for prying as I
could have found. With some difficulty I thrust one end up between the
top of the cabin door and the edge of the hatch, close to one side. I
slipped the closed knife up between the bar and the door for a block
against which to prize, caught the end of the bar with both hands, and
threw all my force against it. The hatch squeaked; there was a
splintering sound of wood. I was badly marring the top of the door, but
the bolt which held the hatch at that side was giving.

I repeated the process at the other side of the hatch, and gradually, by
working first at one side, and then the other, I splintered the woodwork
around the bolts, and bent the bolts themselves, so that the hatch
began to shove back. As soon as possible I shoved it back far enough for
my body to pass through the aperture.

The rain beat down upon my face as I worked my way out of the cabin in
my oilskins; I left my hat behind. The Wavecrest was pitching and
yawing pretty badly now and before I cast a single glance around I was
sure that she was already going through the inlet.

Yes! there was the beacon at the extreme point of Bolderhead Neck--it
was just abreast of me as I stood at last upon the sloop's unsteady
deck. I leaped down into the cockpit and quickly lowered the
centerboard. Almost at once the Wavecrest began to ride more evenly. I
could see little but the beacon, the night was so black; but I ran to
the tiller and found that the sloop was under good steerage way and
answered her helm nicely.

Like all sloops, the Wavecrest was very broad of beam for her depth of
keel, and the standing-room, or cockpit, was roomy. She was well rigged,
too, having a staysail and gafftopsail. Really, to sail her properly
there should have been a crew of two aboard; but under the present
circumstances I felt that one person aboard the Wavecrest was one too
many! With a rising gale behind her the craft was being driven to sea at
express speed, and it was utterly impossible to retard her course.

For an hour I sat there in the driving rain, hatless and shivering,
hanging to the tiller and letting the sloop drive. Letting her drive!
why, there wasn't a thing I could do to change her course. She was
rushing on through the foaming seas like a projectile shot from some
huge gun, and every moment the howling wind seemed to increase!

The beacon on the Neck was behind me now. There was nothing ahead of the
sloop's fixed bowsprit. We were driving into a curtain of blackness that
had been let down from the sky to the sea. It is seldom that there is
not some little light playing over the surface of the water. This night
a palpable cloud had settled upon the face of the waters and I could not
even see the foam on the crests of the waves, save where they ran past
the sloop's freeboard.

I had left the broken slide open, however, and the rain was beating down
into the cabin. This began to worry me and finally I lashed the
tiller--fastening it in the bights of two ropes prepared for that
purpose, and crept back into the cabin again. It was little use to
remain outside, save that if the sloop was flung upon a rock, I might
have a little better chance to escape.

At the speed she was traveling, however, I knew very well that we were
already beyond the reefs and little islets that mask the entrance to
Bolderhead Harbor. It was a veritable hurricane behind us. The wind was
actually blowing so hard that the waves were scarcely of medium height.
I had seen a mere afternoon squall kick up a heavier sea.

It was awkward getting in and out of the cabin by way of the hatch; but
I did not take the time then to open the door. I fixed the hatch so that
it would slide back and forth properly, however. Then I lit my spirit
lamp and made some coffee. I was pretty well chilled through, for the
rain and wind seemed to penetrate to the very marrow of my bones.

I was sure that this was the beginning of the equinoctial gale. It might
be a week before the storm would break. And where would the Wavecrest
be in a week's time?

Not that I really believed the sloop would hold together, or still be on
top of the sea, when this gale blew itself out. She was a mere speck on
the agitated surface of the sea. My only hope then was that I might be
rescued by some larger vessel--and how I should get from the Wavecrest
craft to another was beyond the power of my imaginings.

I could not be content to remain below--nor was that unnatural. Aside
from the fear I had of the sloop's yawing and possibly turning turtle,
and so imprisoning me in the cabin with no hope of escape therefrom, I
felt that I should be more on the alert to seize any opportunity for
escape were I at the tiller. So I carried a Mexican poncho which I wound
to the stern, draped it about me over the oilskins, and with the
sou'wester tied under my chin I could defy the rain, nor did the keen
wind search my vitals.

But thus bundled up I would have stood little show had the sloop
capsized. Afterward I realized that I might as well have remained in the
cabin.

However, to sleep in either place, was impossible. Sometimes the rain
beat down upon the decked over portion of the boat with the sound of a
drumstick beaten upon taut calfskin. Again the wind blew in such sharp
gusts that the rain seemed to be swept over the face of the sea and
then, if I chanced to glance over my shoulder, the drops stung like
hail.

Altogether I have never passed a more uncomfortable night--perhaps never
one during which I was in greater peril. The wind was shifting bit by
bit, too. My compass told me that the Wavecrest was now being driven
straight out to sea, instead of running parallel with the Massachusetts
coast as had been at first the fact.

How fast I was traveling I could not guess. There was a patent log
aboard; but I did not rig it. Indeed, it was much safer to remain in the
stern of the sloop than to move about at all. I knew we were traveling
much faster than I had ever traveled by water before and I had something
beside the speed of my involuntary voyage to think about.

It had not crossed my mind at the time, but when I had slipped out to
the Wavecrest that evening, giving my mother and the servants the
impression that I had gone to my room as usual, I had done a very
foolish--if not wrong--thing. The sloop might not be the only craft in
Bolderhead Harbor to break away from moorings and go on an involuntary
cruise. Other wandering craft might not escape the rocks about the
beach, as the Wavecrest had. It might be supposed that my sloop was
among the wreckage that would be cast ashore along our rocky coast, and
my absence might not be connected with the disappearance of the sloop.

My mother and friends would not suspect the reason or cause for my
absence. If I had taken a soul into my confidence, in the morning my
mother would be informed immediately of my accident. Perhaps, after all,
it was not a bad thing that some uncertainty must of necessity attach
itself to my disappearance.

For although I had every reason to believe that Paul Downes had either
nailed me into the cabin, or caused me to be nailed in, well knowing
that I had gone aboard the sloop to sleep, I was equally confident that
he would not tell of what he had done, or allow his companions to tell
of the trick, either.

These, and similar hazy thoughts regarding my condition, shuttled back
and forth through my brain during the long and anxious hours of that
never-to-be-forgotten night. Sometimes, I presume, I lost myself and
slept for a few minutes; but the hours dragged on so dismally, and I was
so uncomfortable and anxious, that I am sure I could not have slept
much of the time. And it did seem as though the east would never lighten
for dawn.

At last it came, however; and then I liked the prospect less than the no
prospect of the black night! All that it revealed to my aching eyes was
a vast, vast expanse of empty, heaving drab sea, across which the gale
hurried sheets of cold and biting rain--not a sign of land behind
me--not a sail against the equally drab horizon. My sloop, under her
bare, writhing pole, was scudding across this deserted ocean with no
haven in sight and I was without hope of rescue.



CHAPTER X

IN WHICH I FIND A MOST REMARKABLE HAVEN


With the coming of daylight I would have tried to get some canvas on the
Wavecrest--if only a rag of jib--had the gale not been so terrific. I
doubted if, under a pocket-handkerchief of sail, I could have got her
head around without swamping her.

And then, what better off would I have been? I could have made no
progress beating against such a wind and it was better and safer to ride
before it, no matter where I was blown. There was no land ahead of me
save the shores of Spain--and Spain was a long way off.

At least, it was better to run while the sea remained in its present
condition. As I have said, the waves were beaten flat by the savage
wind. But, if there should come a lull in that, I knew well enough the
sea would instantly leap into billows that would soon founder the little
sloop if she could neither be got around to ride them, or could not
keep ahead of them.

I lashed the tiller again--as I had twice during the night--and went
below for coffee. I brought back some pilot crackers and a can of
peaches that was among the stores I had bought in town the day before,
and made a fairly satisfactory breakfast of the hard bread and fruit
with a pint can of coffee. But I would not remain below any length of
time now. It looked very much to me as though the clouds might break and
the wind shift, or lull, at any moment.

Several hours passed, however, and my watch (which I had not forgotten
to wind) told me that it was fast approaching noon before any change
came. Then the shrieking gale dropped suddenly and the gusts of rain
ceased.

I leaped up at once to unfurl the jib. With a little canvas on her I
believed the sloop could be wore 'round and headed into the wind before
the waves sprang up. Perhaps it would have been wiser to have given her
a hand's breath of the mainsail. However, before the bit of canvas
bellied out and I had dashed back to the helm, the first wave broke over
the stern of the sloop.

It was a deluge! I was waist deep in the foaming flood; the cockpit was
full; the sloop had already shipped about all the water that was good
for her, and it was plain she was too water-logged to answer the helm
promptly.

Up came a second wave. The lulling of the wind gave the waves a chance
to gather force and height. This one curled fairly over my head and,
looking up and over my shoulder at the great, green, foam-streaked wall
of water, I thought my last minute above the surface had come!

It broke. I can remember nothing at all of the ensuing few moments. I
only know that I was smothered, drowned, completely overwhelmed by the
deluge of water that came inboard. The force of it burst open the slide
of the hatch and barrels of water flooded into the cabin. The
Wavecrest settled. If another wave as great had come inboard directly
in the wake of this one, I am convinced that I would not be writing this
record of my life.

As the wave passed on, the keen whistle of the gale returned. I leaped
up and staggered forward. I knew that unless I could get way upon the
sodden craft she would very quickly plunge beneath the surface. I shook
out the staysail as well as the jib, but dared not spread too much
canvas to the wind which seemed about to swoop down again. These sails
filled and the Wavecrest showed her mettle, sodden as she was with the
enormous amount of water that had come inboard.

There was a deal of water awash in the cockpit; therefore the shallow
hold must have been full. And I knew there was plenty slopping about in
the cabin, ruining everything. I rigged the little pump amidships and
the pipe threw a full stream of bilge across the deck. And it wasn't
bilge long, but came clear. Inboard came another wave--but not a large
one this time--and I pumped harder than ever.

The Wavecrest was lumbering on too slowly to escape the following
waves. In her then condition it would have been folly to seek to head
her about. She would have rolled helplessly in the trough of the sea as
sure as I tried it. But if she was going to sail before this wind and
sea she must sail faster.

The gale was steadily increasing again, but it did not blow as hard as
it had during the night and early morning. I ventured a little more
canvas and although the mast and rigging strained loudly, nothing got
away. The speed of the sloop was increased, especially so as I kept at
the pump and got the hold clear.

Although the hungry billows still followed the Wavecrest little water
came inboard for a time save the spindrift whipped from the crests of
the waves. But with a sea running so high there was danger of swamping
every moment. I dared not leave the helm for long; to go below at all
was out of the question. I went without food all that day, thankful that
I had managed to make a fairly hearty breakfast.

And all the time the wind blew steadily, the sea strove mightily, and
the sloop scudded before both like a whipped pup. I would not like to
say how fast she traveled, for I do not know; I was only certain that
even in a racing wind I had never sailed so fast before.

I had become wet through to the bone. Neither the poncho nor the
oilskins could keep me dry when the sea had broken over the sloop. And
the wind was keen and searched me through and through. My teeth were
a-chatter, the cold pricked me like needles, and I was altogether very
miserable indeed. Often had I been soaked to the skin while on a fishing
venture; but there was the prospect of a hot drink and a warm fire
ahead of me. There was nothing in the line of comfort before me now. The
sea remained untenanted and the Wavecrest drove on as though she were
enchanted.

Hour after hour dragged by. The sun did not appear; indeed, rain-gusts
swept now and then across the sea. The waves were so steep that when the
sloop plunged down the slope of one the rain swept on over my head and
only rattled upon my sail. Ragged masses of cloud swept across the sky.
In the distance it really seemed as though the waves leaped up and met
these low-hung clouds.

And how I strained my eyes for some speck to give me hope of rescue!

From the summit of almost every wave I stood up and gazed about
me--especially ahead. Behind were only the ravenous waves seeking to
overtake and swamp me. Ahead I hoped to see the vapor of some steamer,
or, at least, the bare poles of a sailing vessel that could rescue me
from my perilous situation.

I dreaded another night. Indeed, I did not see how I could sail the
Wavecrest until morning without either food or sleep. To lash the
tiller and let the sloop drive on was too reckless a course to even
contemplate.

A man lost in a forest, or on a desert, may be lonely; but a voyager
alone on the trackless and empty ocean is in far worse condition,
believe me! Not only is he lost, but the elements themselves are
continually buffeting him. In all this dreary day there was not a second
in which my life was not threatened.

Finally when I knew there could not be many hours more of daylight, upon
rising to the summit of a great billow, I beheld something riding the
seas not far ahead. For some reason I had not seen the bulk of this
strange apparition before and at first I was sure it was the
turtle-turned hulk of a wreck.

But as the Wavecrest sped on, bringing me nearer and nearer to the
object, I saw that I must be wrong. It was not shaped like a ship's hull
although it was black and clumsy enough. But immediately about it the
waves seemed to be calm. At least no waves broke and foamed about the
floating mass.

I watched the thing eagerly, although I could not hope for rescue under
such a guise. It was not, I was almost instantly sure, a vessel of any
kind; as the Wavecrest kept on her course, which brought me directly
upon the object, I was not long at a loss to identify it.

Although I had seldom been far out of sight of land myself, and had
never seen any ocean creature bigger than a blackfish (not the tautog,
but the pilot-whale) I had listened to the stories of old whalemen along
the Bolderhead docks, and I was pretty sure that I had sighted one of
those great mammals--a creature of the sea which is no more a fish than
a horse or a cow is a fish, yet is the greatest wonder of marine life.

Beside, the peculiar condition of the sea immediately about the object
revealed its identity. The whale was dead, I was sure. Otherwise it
would not have been at the surface so long in such a gale. And being
dead, and the seabirds and shark-fish having got at its carcass before
the storm, there was good reason for the waves not breaking over it.

The dead whale lay in a slick, or "sleep," as some old whalemen
pronounce the word, and hope revived in my troubled mind the instant I
realized what the object was, and its condition. The waves were
following me as hungrily as ever; at any moment the sloop might be
overwhelmed. But once let me get the Wavecrest in the lee of this dead
whale, I could bid defiance to the storm. There I could outride the
gale and, when it was fair again, set the sloop's nose toward the
distant mainland.

With rare good fortune the sloop needed little guidance to reach the
dead whale. My original course had been aimed for the huge beast. As the
Wavecrest gained upon it the monster was revealed, lying partly on its
side, all of fifty feet from tail to nose. Of course there were no
seabirds upon the carcass now, nor did I see the triangular fin of a
shark anywhere about. They had ripped and torn at the carcass
sufficiently, however, to release copiously the oil from the casing of
blubber, or fat, with which the whale is entirely covered.

My Wavecrest bore down upon the becalmed circle and suddenly I found
the waves heaving smoothly under the sloop instead of breaking all about
her. I ran to the canvas and stowed it quickly, then brought the sloop
around into the lee of the huge bulk of the whale. I had a
broken-shanked harpoon and a boathook. I plunged these both into the
carcass and then attached the Wavecrest, bows and stern, to these
strange mooring-posts.

There she was, as safe as though we were in a landlocked harbor, rising
and falling with a motion by no means unpleasant. The exuding oil made
a charmed circle about the sloop, into which the agencies of the gale
could not venture. The wind wailed as madly across the sea, and the sea
itself, at a little distance, tumbled, and burst in a most chaotic
manner; but here in the slick I lay at peace--and grateful indeed I was
for this remarkable haven.



CHAPTER XI

IN WHICH I AM A TERRIFIED WITNESS OF A WONDERFUL PHENOMENON


Evening was dropping down and I was woefully hungry. Being sure that the
Wavecrest was safely moored to the body of the dead leviathan, I set
about correcting the need which preyed upon me. I was thankful, indeed,
that I had stocked my larder so well on that last day at Bolderhead.
There was plenty of water, too. I could ride out a week's storm here
beside the whale I was very sure, and then have plenty of provisions to
serve me until I could beat back to the mainland.

I got out my lanterns, filled and trimmed them, and cutting steps in the
side of the whale with the boat-hatchet, I mounted to the top of the
great body and there stuck my oar upright in the blubber and hung a
lantern to it. I was pretty sure that no vessel would pass that signal
light without investigating, even in the gale.

I made a very comfortable supper indeed. I managed now to force the
cabin door and closed the sliding hatch. Then I warmed the cabin well
with the spirit stove, stripped off my wet clothes, and got into dry
garments. I went out on deck at nine o'clock, saw that my moorings were
fast and the lanterns burning brightly, and then turned in. After the
uncertainties of the day and the lack of sleep suffered the night
before, I slept as soundly when I now turned in on one of the bunks as
ever I did in my own bed at home!

At daybreak--another drab dawning of the new day--I was up and climbed
the whale for the lantern. In its place I left attached to the upright
oar a shirt to flutter in the wind for a signal. I hoped that any vessel
passing near enough to see my signal would stop for me. But of one thing
I was sure: If it chanced that a whaling ship came within sight of the
dead leviathan my peril would soon be over. This huge beast had not been
long dead and it would be all clear gain to any "blubber boiler" that
chanced to pass that way.

Nor was the possibility of being rescued by a whaleship so slight as it
would have been a few years before. There were for two decades, few
whaling barks put forth from the New England ports; but of late years
there is either a greater demand for whale-oil, or the cachelot (the
sperm whale) is becoming more frequently seen both in northern and
southern seas, and is being hunted both by steam vessels and by the
old-time whaling ships.

I didn't know where I was--that is, my position in the North Atlantic;
but I believed that I had sailed so far and so fast in the sloop that I
was about midway of the course of the British steam lines running 'twixt
Halifax and the Bermudas. Those two ports are between seven and eight
hundred miles apart, and I suspected I was nearer one or the other than
I was to Boston! I knew I had done some tall sailing since being swept
out of Bolderhead Harbor.

After having cooked and eaten a hearty breakfast, despite the blowing of
the gale--for dirty weather prevailed and rain swept down in torrents
every hour or two--I set about making such slight repairs as I could
with the tools and materials I had at hand. And while thus engaged I
made a discovery that--to say the least--startled me.

Dragging over the bows of the Wavecrest was the cable by which she
had been moored in Bolderhead Harbor. I had never chanced to draw it
aboard. Now I did so. It was only a bit, some three or four feet long.
And instead of finding it frayed and broken by the strain of the sloop
as she dragged at her old anchorage, I found that the hemp had been cut
sharply across. Nothing less than a knife--and a sharp one--had severed
that cable when it was taut!

The appearance of the bit of rope gave me such a jolt that I sat down
and stared at it. I had been quite sure that Paul Downes and his friends
knew I was aboard the Wavecrest when they nailed me into the cabin.
But it really never crossed my mind that they had deliberately cut the
sloop adrift. But here was evidence of the crime. There was no doubting
it. I had been imprisoned on the Wavecrest and then the sloop was sent
on a voyage which Paul and his friends must have realized could end in
nothing less than death.

It was an awful thought. In sudden and uncontrollable anger my cousin
had attempted to stab me when we had our unfortunate quarrel aboard the
sloop; but this crime was far greater than his former attempt. He had
deliberately planned my death.

And if Ham Mayberry, or any of my other friends, took the pains to look
at the Wavecrest's mooring cable, they would know that the sloop had
been cut adrift. The evidence lay in both pieces of the cable.

Perhaps, however, it would not be known--it might never be suspected,
indeed--that I had been swept out to sea in the sloop. The mere fact
that I had left my tender tied to the mooring buoy might not be
understood. Beside, the tender might have been cut adrift, too. Or the
gale might have done much havoc in Bolderhead Inlet. Other craft could
easily have been strewn along the rocky shores, or carried--like the
Wavecrest--out into the open sea.

The mystery of my disappearance might never be explained--until I
returned home. And when would I get back? I did not like to think of
this. I worried over the effect my disappearance would have upon my
mother's mind. And, while I was absent, Mr. Chester Downes would have
full swing.

Worried as I was because of my situation, here in the seemingly empty
Atlantic, my greatest anxiety was for my mother. More and more had I
come to fear the evil machinations of Mr. Chester Downes. While I had
been on hand to defend mother from her brother-in-law--and defend her
from her own innocent belief in him, as well!--I was but mildly
disturbed. If worse came to worse, I could always write to Lawyer
Hounsditch whom I believed would never see my mother cheated.

But now--and God only knew for how long a time--it was beyond my power
to do a single thing toward guarding my mother from Chester Downes. How
I wish I had taken the old attorney of the Darringford Estate into my
confidence before this time!

These were some of my sad thoughts following the discovery of the
severed cable. I remained in a very, very low state of mind indeed
during that forenoon. The gale did not abate; nothing but the boisterous
sea and the overcast sky could I see about me. Not even a seabird came
to the dead whale. I was alone--stark alone.

At mid-afternoon, however, I sighted something to the southward. I had
climbed to the top of the whale for a better observation and against the
horizon I beheld a long ribbon of smoke--just a faint streak against the
lighter colored clouds. I knew that a steamer was there; but she was
far, far away, and would never sight the whale, or my fluttering
signal.

I thought of all manner of curious plans to attract attention to my
plight from a long distance over the sea. Fire was my main thought. I
knew that no vessel--scarcely a mail-carrying steamship--would pass a
fire at sea without investigation. Had I been a modern Munchausen I
might have found some way of drawing a wick through the whale and
setting fire to its blubber!

As it was, had I been likely to run short of burning fluid I surely
would have endeavored to "try out" some of the blubber. I knew that,
before the day of mineral oil--kerosene--people used whale oil almost
altogether for lamps. But I was fortunately well supplied with oil,
water and food. I might ward off starvation for a month; but I was not
at all sure that I wished to exist so long under the then prevailing
conditions.

But life is very sweet to us, and I suppose I should have clung to the
last shred of mine had Fate intended me to remain in this abandoned
state so long. This day and another night passed. I went to bed and
slept well. The whale's carcass might roll over and crush my boat, or
some other accident happen to the Wavecrest during my retirement. But
I could do nothing to fend off Fate did I keep awake and had already
made up my mind that I had little to fear.

As for the whale sinking again, that was impossible. It may have sunk
after being killed; but putrefaction had set in within the carcass and
the gases which had thereby formed would keep the whale afloat until the
fish and seabirds had stripped its bones, in great part at least.

With the returning day the clouds broke. I had noted before arising that
the gale was subsiding. The sun showed his face and I welcomed him
enthusiastically. The sea did not subside however. I could not think of
leaving my sure haven yet. It did not look exactly like settled weather
but the sun shone warmly for part of that forenoon.

Before noon several screaming gulls had found the dead whale and were
circling around it, gaining courage to attack. The presence of the sloop
moored to it bothered them at first. But in a few hours there were other
scavengers of the sea at hand which were afraid of nothing. I sighted
the first ugly fin soon after eating my dinner. Then another, and
another and another appeared, and soon the voracious sharks were
tearing at the whale from beneath while the increasing number of
seabirds were hovering and fighting above the carcass.

Both the finned and winged denizens of the sea became so fearless that I
could have stroked the sides of the sharks with my hand or got upon the
whale and knocked the birds over with a club. Blood as well as oil ran
from the great carcass and the sea was soon streaked all around with
foulness. A dreadful stench began to be apparent, too. The fetid gasses
from the abdominal cavity of the dead creature were escaping.

But I could not afford to change my anchorage just for a bad smell!
Anxious as I was to get home again, I dared not start for land yet
awhile. I must wait for a fair wind and the promise of a spell of steady
weather. I knew that by heading into the northwest I must reach the New
England coast if I sailed far enough; but otherwise I was quite ignorant
of my position. Having a nicely drawn chart in my chest did not help me
in the least now, for I did not know my position and had no means of
learning it had I been a navigator.

This day passed likewise and an uncertain, windy night was ushered in.
I set my lantern again on the whale's back, the birds having become less
troublesome; but determined to keep watch for part of the night, at
least. To this end I rolled myself in my blanket and lay down on the
bench at the stern. The clouds still fled across the skies, harried by
the wind; and the wind itself fluctuated, wheeling around to various
points of the compass within a short hour.

I fell asleep occasionally and finally, before dawn, descended into a
heavy slumber. I don't know what awoke me. The wind was whining very
strangely through the sloop's standing rigging. My oar had tumbled down
and oar and lantern were in the sea. The birds had all disappeared, nor
were the fins of the sharks visible. Off to the south'ard was a strange,
copper colored bank of cloud. The east was streaked lividly, for it was
all but sunrise.

I rose and stretched, yawning loudly. I suddenly felt a prickling
sensation all over me. I knew that the air must be strongly impregnated
with electricity. Despite the whining of the wind here beside the dead
whale there seemed to have fallen a calm.

I scrambled up the side of the whale and turned to look northward.
Glory! Within five miles was a bark, under full sail, coming down upon
me--a vision of rescue that brought the stinging tear-drops to my eyes.
I was saved.

I did not care for the oar and the lost lantern now. I stood there and
waved the coat that I had dragged off at first sight of the vessel. I
knew her company must see me. I was as positive of rescue as of anything
in the world. The bark was flying before a stiff breeze, and it was head
on to the whale. I could not be missed.

Although the on-coming ship sailed so proudly, however, the breeze that
filled her canvas did not breathe upon my cheek. Nor was it the whining
of that favoring wind I had heard since first opening my eyes. I swung
about suddenly and looked to the south. Up from that direction rolled
the copper colored cloud--and it seemed veritably to roll along the
surface of the sea.

The sound came from this cloud. Before it the sea itself turned white.
Far above, the upper reaches of the rolling mist seemed to writhe as
though in travail of some great phenomenon. And it was so! Out of this
mass of vapor I saw born within the hour the most remarkable of all
sea-spells.

But at first my attention was divided between the tornado coming up from
the south and the bark approaching from the north. Not at once did the
favoring wind leave the craft. Where the dead whale lay seemed to be a
belt of calm between the bark and the coming tornado. And this craft in
which my hope was set was really a bark, by the way; I do not use the
word poetically. Her fore and mainmasts were square rigged while her
mizzen mast was rigged fore and aft like my little Wavecrest.

As I watched her I saw that her navigator had espied the coming tempest
from the south and the crew began to swarm among the sails. She still
came on at a spanking pace; but her canvas was reefed down rapidly until
there was nothing left but the foretopsail, flying jib and the spanker.
Soon these began to shake and then her fair wind left her entirely. She
had reached the belt of calm in which the dead whale and my sloop still
lay.

In my ears the savage voice from the cloud to the south'ard was now a
roar. The remaining canvas on the bark was reefed down. She lay waiting
for the tempest. I turned to descend from my rather slippery situation.
I preferred to be in the sloop when the tempest struck us, for possibly
I would be obliged to cast off from the dead mammal.

But before I could get off the whale the writhing cloud changed its
appearance--and changed so rapidly that I was held spellbound. It was
sweeping over the seas so close, it seemed that the topmasts of the bark
could not have cleared it. Now whirling tongues of cloud shot downward
while dozens of spiral columns of water leaped up to meet these gyrating
tongues. Thus sucked up by the whirling cloud the waterspouts were
formed, and dozens of them swept on across the sea beneath the hovering
cloud.

As the cloud advanced the wind which accompanied it beat the waves flat.
But they boiled about the waterspouts and the roaring sound increased
rapidly. The heavens above and to the north and east grew dark. The
rising sun seemed snuffed out. A vivid glare which was neither sunlight
nor starlight accompanied the tempest as it swept on.

I trembled at the sight and as the seconds passed I grew more
terrified--and for good reason. What would happen to me if any of those
whirling columns of water and mist struck the dead whale? If they burst
upon the drifting mammal where would I be? What would happen to the
Wavecrest?

And then quite suddenly there came a change in the on-rushing tornado.
Amid thunderous reports--like nothing so much as the explosions of great
guns--the dozens of small spouts ran together, or were quenched as it
might be, in one huge, whirling column of water which, swept on by the
wind, charged down upon me as though aiming at my particular
destruction.

I fell upon my knees and clung with both hands to the slot I had cut in
the whale's blubber in to which to thrust the oar. I dug my fingers into
the greasy flesh and hung on for dear life. I actually expected that the
whale--and of course my sloop--would be overwhelmed.

The waterspout, traveling with the speed of an express train, bore down
upon me. With it came the wind, roaring deafeningly. I lost all other
sound, with such enormous confusion the tornado swept upon me. The whale
rolled as though it had come to sudden life again.

Over and over it canted. I know my sloop was lifted completely out of
the sea. The waterspout whirled past--within three cable-lengths of the
dead leviathan,--and the tempest shrieked after. The whale rolled back.
I slid down the curve of the carcass and dropped into my plunging sloop.
I feared to remain longer near the dead whale, but cast off both at bow
and stern, and let the sea carry me some yards from the heaving, rolling
carcass.

And then I could once more see the waterspout. It was still careening
over the sea, its general direction being nor'west; but it whirled so
that it was quite impossible to be sure of its exact direction.

However, of one thing I was confident. The sailing vessel which I had so
joyfully discovered an hour ago, lay in the track of the waterspout. She
lay still becalmed and if the spout threatened to board her, there
would be no possible chance of the vessel's escaping destruction.



CHAPTER XII

IN WHICH I FIND MYSELF BOUND FOR SOUTHERN SEAS


My little sloop pitched so abominably that I could not stand upright,
but fell into her sternsheets and there clung to the tiller as she swept
along in the wake of the tornado. The waves did not break about the
Wavecrest, for she was still within the charmed circle of oily
calmness supplied by the dead whale. At some distance, however, the
waves were tossed about most tempestuously.

I could see the bark from bow to stern, for she lay broadside to me.
When the draught from the south first struck her she went over slowly
almost upon her beam-ends; but righted majestically and her helm being
put over she slewed around so as to take the gale bow-on.

She mounted the first wave splendidly and I saw her crew gathered
forward in her bows. They seemed to be at work on something and there
was a vast amount of running back and forth upon her deck. Meanwhile
the waterspout, whirling like a dervish, bore down upon the bark.

The great column of water passed between me and the bark, then swung
around and rushed down upon the craft in a way to threaten its complete
extinction. I expected nothing more than to see the bark borne down and
sunk under the weight of the bursting waterspout.

But when it was still several cable-lengths from the bark I saw the
group upon her forward deck separate, and a long cannon was revealed.
Its muzzle was slewed a little over the port bow and the next instant it
spoke. The explosion sharply echoed across the sea, audible to my ears
despite the huge roaring of the waterspout.

The column of water, rushing down upon the bark, was cut in twain by the
ball from the gun. The connection 'twixt the whirling cloud and the
whirling water was actually severed by it. Had the spout swept aboard
the bark the great ship would have scarcely escaped complete wreck. As
it was, the revolving water poured down into the ocean with the noise of
a cascade, beating the sea to foam for yards and yards around, but
without doing the slightest damage either to the bark, or to my little
sloop.

The tornado tore into the north, smaller spouts leaping up and twirling
in their mad dance, but none forming the threatening aspect of that
which the bark's gun had burst. In half an hour the sun was out and I
dared spread a whisp of sail and ran down to hail the bark.

I saw the crew crowding to the rail. There was a large number for even a
sailing vessel of these times, and I more than half suspected the nature
of her business before a rope ladder was let down to me and I scrambled
up the tall side of the craft with the bight of my sloop's painter over
my shoulder and saw the "nests" of boats stowed amidships.

"I say, young fellow!" was the greeting I received from a smart looking
youngster--not much older than myself--who welcomed me at the rail "is
that your whale?"

"If 'findings is keepings' it is surely mine," I said. "But I didn't
kill it, and now I've got a leg over your rail I'll give you all my
title and share in the beast."

"Good luck, boys!" rumbled a bewhiskered old barnacle who stood behind
the young officer of the bark, "We've struck ile before we're a week
out o' Bedford."

As I say, without these words I could have been sure that the bark was a
whaler. She was the Scarboro Captain Hiram Rogers, and just beginning
her voyage for the South Seas. The Greenland, or right whale, is no
longer plentiful, but the cachelot and other species have become
wonderfully common of late years. This fact has drawn capital to the
business of whaling once more, and although steam has for the most part
supplanted sails, and the gun and explosive bullet serve the office
formerly held by the harpoon and the lance, more than a few of the old
whale-fishing fleet have come into their own again.

For the Scarboro was built in the thirties of the last century; but so
well did those old Yankee boat builders construct the barks meant for
the fishing trade--for they were expected to stand many a tight
_squeeze_ in the ice as well as a possible head-on collision with a mad
whale--that their length of life, and of usefulness, is phenomenal. At
least, the Scarboro looked to be a most staunch and seaworthy craft.

The young fellow who had hailed me was Second Mate Gibson, nephew of the
captain and, I very soon discovered, possessed of little more practical
knowledge of sea-going and seamanship than myself. But he was a brisk,
cheerful, educated fellow and being merely the captain's lieutenant over
the watch got along very well. He expected to study navigation with his
uncle and be turned off a full-fledged mate, with a certificate, on his
return from this whaling voyage.

However, these facts I learned later. Just now I was only anxious to
know what was to be done with me, and if there was a likelihood of the
captain of the Scarboro touching at any port from which I might make a
quick passage home. This last was the uppermost thought in my mind when
I followed Ben Gibson below to see the captain.

Captain Rogers was a lanky man with a sandy beard and a quiet blue eye.
He did not look as though he ever had, or ever could, be hurried or
disturbed. Had I been a Triton that had just come abroad I reckon he
would have eyed me quite as calmly and listened as tranquilly to my
story. But Gibson was so impatient (as I could easily see) that I made
the story brief. He burst out with:

"Captain Rogers! aren't we going to get that whale? She's delivered into
our hand, as ye might say. The men are eager for it, sir, but you
haven't given orders to change our course."

"And I'm not likely to, Bennie," returned his uncle.

"But it's a waste of oil!" exclaimed the young fellow.

"And it would be a waste of time for us to stop for one miserable whale
when we don't expect to break out our boats until we're well below the
equator. We'd just make a mess of the old hooker and have to clean her
up again."

Gibson was disappointed, and would have urged his desire further, but
Captain Rogers turned to me:

"If we meet a homeward bound sailing vessel in good weather I'll put you
aboard. Steamships won't stop for you. If you want to join my
crew--you're a husky looking youngster--I'll fit you out and lot you a
greenhorn's share. Best I can do for you. Is your sloop any good?"

"She's not started a plank, sir," I declared.

"Pass the word for the carpenter to take his gang and get the stick out
of her, and hoist her aboard," Captain Rogers said to Gibson. "Then take
this lad to breakfast and see that he gets a good one."

He turned me off rather cavalierly I thought. Of course, my situation
appealed more strongly to me than it was likely to appeal to anybody
else. But Captain Rogers did not seem to consider my being carried away,
willy-nilly, into the Southern Seas, and on a voyage likely to last
anywhere from eighteen months to three years--for the Scarboro was just
out of New Bedford, as has been stated--the captain did not seem to
consider, I say, what my state of mind might be. Of course, I was
thankful that I had been picked up; yet if the weather settled I might
have safely made my way back home in the Wavecrest. And it was easy to
see that the skipper of the Scarboro considered the sloop his property
in return for taking me aboard.

The lanky captain of the whale ship was not a person to argue with. I
knew it would be useless to bandy words with him. Even his nephew
plainly showed that he considered it wise to drop the matter of the dead
whale right there and then--before the captain at least. He grumbled a
bit about the loss of this first chance for oil when we went to
breakfast, however. Apropos of which, and while we discussed the good
breakfast that was put before us, Ben Gibson repeated for my
delectation the famous whaling story--a classic in its way--wherein the
Yankee skipper and the Yankee mate differ as to the advisability of
chasing a cachelot. Some version of this tale is known to every whaler
and I preserve Ben's story, as he told it, imitating the Down East twang
as well as I may:

"Forty-two days aout, an' not a drop o' ile in the tanks. I went
for'ard. The lookaout he hailed. 'On deck, sir,' says he, 'thar she
blaows.'

"I went aft. 'Cap'n Symes,' says I, 'thar she blaows; shall I lower?'

"Cap'n Symes he gin a look to wind'ard. 'Mr. Symes,' says he, ('Twas
cur'ous, his name was Cap'n Symes, an' my name was Mister Symes, but we
warn't neither kith nor kin), 'Mr. Symes,' says he, 'it's a-bloawin'
right smart peart, an' I don't see fitten for to lower.'

"I went for'ard. The lookaout hailed again. 'On deck, sir,' says he,
'thar she blaows _an'_ spouts.'

"I went aft. 'Cap'n Symes,' says I, 'thar she blaows _an'_ spouts. Shall
I lower?'

"Cap'n Symes he casts an eye aloft. 'Mr. Symes,' says he, 'it's a
bloawin' right smart peart, and I don't see fitten for to lower.'

"I went for'ard. The lookaout he hailed again. 'On deck, sir,' says he,
'thar she blaows, an' spouts, an' breaches.'

"I went aft. 'Cap'n Symes,' says I, 'thar she bloaws, an' spouts, an'
breaches. Shall I lower?'

"Cap'n Symes he took a look at the clouds that was a-scuddin' acrosst.
'Mr. Symes,' says he, 'it's a-bloawin' right smart peart, an' I don't
see fitten for to lower.'

"I went for'ard. The lookaout he hailed again. 'On deck, sir,' says he,
'thar she blaows, an' spouts, an' breaches, an' it's a right smart
sperm, too.'

"I went aft. 'Cap'n Symes,' says I, 'thar she bloaws, an' spouts, an'
breaches, _an'_ its a right smart sperm-whale, too. Shall I lower?'

"Cap'n Symes, he gin a last look at the weather. 'Mr. Symes,' says he,
'it's a-bloawin' right smart peart, and _I_ don't see fitten for to
lower, still--if you're so gol-darned sot on lowerin', you can lower and
be hanged to you.'

"I went for'ard and sings aout for volunteers, an' the boys jest tumbled
over each other into the boat. We got the whale, and as I was a-swarmin'
over the side, thar stood Cap'n Symes with tears in his eyes.

"'Mr. Symes,' says he, 'forty years,' says he, 'I've sailed the seas,'
says he, 'man an' boy, man _an'_ boy, an' in all that time I never see
no mate to compare with you,' says he. 'Mr. Symes,' says he, 'you're the
Jim Dandyest mate as ever I sailed shipmates with,' says he. 'Mr.
Symes,' says he, 'daown in my cabin in the starboard locker aft,' says
he, 'you'll find some prime Havana seegars, and the best o' Lawrence's
aould Medford New England rum,' says he. 'That best o' Lawrence's aould
Medford New England rum,' says he, 'an' them prime Havana seegars,' says
he, 'is yourn for the rest of the v'y'ge.'

"'Cap'n Symes,' says I, 'you can take them prime Havana seegars an' that
best o' Lawrence's aould Medford New England rum,' says I, 'an' stick
'em overboard as fur as I'm consarned. All I asks is common sea-vility;
an' that o' the gol-darndest commonest kind!'"

Ben told me this story while he ate. He was the liveliest kind of a
companion. I liked him immensely from the start, and the longer I knew
him the better I liked him. This was his first deep sea voyage, but he
had been looking forward to it ever since he was in petticoats--unlike
myself, who had only longed for the sea but knew I probably would never
be allowed to follow my bent.

Now, it seemed, Fate had flung me right into the life I had so longed
for. Had it not been for mother and the fears I felt for her in the mesh
of Chester Downes' web, I should have welcomed this chance that had put
me aboard the whaling bark Scarboro.

"And she's a fine old craft," declared the young second mate. "Maybe
she's a bit tender in her bends, but she's sailed in every quarter of
the globe and has brought home many a cargo of oil. We all own shares in
her--in the bark herself, I mean--we Rogerses and Gibsons. I've a
twentieth part myself in pickle against the time I'm twenty-one," and he
laughed, meaning that his guardian held that investment for him--and a
very good slice of fortune his holdings in the old Scarboro proved to
be, at the end of the voyage.

But now we were at the beginning of it--all the romance and adventure
was ahead of us. Before noon I was not sorry to be aboard of the bigger
craft and looked with equanimity upon my own bonny sloop stowed
amidships. The wind had wheeled again and coming abaft, the bark shot on
into the southward, trying to outrun the gale. Had I not been picked up
as I was I might have been swamped in the Wavecrest.

For a week, or more, we ran steadily toward the tropics, and in all that
time we passed--and that distantly--but two steam vessels and only one
sailing craft. There was no chance for me to get home. I had to possess
my soul with such patience as I could, while the old Scarboro bore me
swiftly away toward the Southern Seas.



CHAPTER XIII

IN WHICH TOM ANDERLY RELATES A STORY THAT AROUSES MY INTEREST


Captain Rogers was not a harsh man, but he was a stern disciplinarian.
That he could not change the course of his ship to land me in some port,
or to put me aboard a homeward bound vessel, is not to be wondered at.
He had both his owners and his crew to think of. I was thankful, when I
saw the week's weather that followed my boarding the Scarboro, that I
had been saved from further battling with the elements in the sloop.

Ben Gibson advised me to write fully of my situation and prospects and
have the letter, or letters, ready to put aboard any mail-carrying ship
we might meet. A steamship bound for the Cape of Good Hope, even, would
get a letter to Bolderhead, via London, before I could get back myself
from any South American port that the Scarboro might be obliged to touch
at.

I knew, however, that the whaling bark was not likely to touch at any
port unless she suffered seriously from the gales. Whaling skippers are
not likely to trust their crews in port, for the possible three year
term of shipment stretches out into an unendurable vista in the mind of
the imprisoned sailor.

For that is what a sailor is--a prisoner. As the great Samuel Johnson
declared, a sailor is worse off than a man in jail, for the sailor is
not only a prisoner, but he is in danger all of the time! However, the
prospect of the danger and hardship of the seafarer's life had never
troubled me. I must admit that I was delighted to turn to with the
captain's watch (that was Ben Gibson's watch) and take up the duties of
a foremast hand upon the Scarboro. I wrote the letters as I was advised.
I wrote to my mother, of course, to Ham Mayberry, and last of all, and
more particularly, to Lawyer Hounsditch.

To the latter gentleman I explained all I feared regarding Mr. Chester
Downes and his machinations. To Ham I told the particulars of my having
been swept out to sea and instructed him to find my mooring rope and
save it, with its cut end for evidence; and if possible to learn who had
helped Paul Downes, my cousin, cut me adrift and nail me in the cabin
of the Wavecrest. To my mother I wrote cheerfully and asked her to
have money sent me at Buenos Ayres, as that might be a port the Scarboro
would touch at, or a port I could reach if I left the whaleship.

I cannot say that I was continually worried by my state aboard the
whaler. What boy would not have delighted in being thus thrust into the
midst of the very life and work he had so longed to follow? I could not
but feel that it was _meant_ for me to be a sailor, after all.

The Webbs had been seafaring folk, time out of mind. My father's father
had tried to keep his own son off the water by giving him a college
education and making a doctor of him. But the moment my father was sure
of his sheepskin, he had looked about for a chance to go as surgeon on a
deep water ship, and had gone voyage after voyage until his marriage.

Inside of a fortnight Captain Rogers had complimented me on my work and
manner, and Mr. Robbins, the mate, said I was worth my salt-horse and
hardbread. Of course while on duty Ben Gibson, the young second mate,
and I must of necessity hold to "quarterdeck etiquette;" he was "Mr.
Gibson" and I was "Webb." We were punctilious indeed about these
niceties of address. Off duty, however, we were two boys together, and
rather inclined to sky-lark.

The other close friend that I made aboard the Scarboro during the first
few days of the voyage, was old Tom Anderly. He was the bewhiskered old
barnacle who had welcomed the possibility of getting oil in the bark's
tanks from the dead whale, when I had first come aboard.

Anderly was a boat-steerer, an old sea dog who had sailed oft and again
with the skipper, and who had lanced more whales than any other half
dozen men aboard. Being in old Tom's watch I grew soon familiar with
him; and from the beginning I saw that the old seaman took more than a
common interest in me.

The old man was full of stories of whale fishing and other experiences
at sea. But it was not his fund of information, or his tales, that first
of all interested me in Tom Anderly. I had told nobody--not even Ben
Gibson--about the actual event of my being swept out to sea from
Bolderhead, nor had I said a word about my father. The fact that he had
been a sea-going physician would not help me hold my own with the crew
of the Scarboro. At sea, according to the homely old saw, "every tub
must stand on its own bottom."

"So you come from Bolderhead, do you?" quoth Tom to me, one day when we
were lounging together forward of the capstan, and he was mending his
pipe.

"That's where we live in the summer," I admitted.

"Jest summer visitors, are ye?"

"Well, my mother has a house there."

"Yes. Ye ain't a native, though, eh?" and before I could reply to this,
he continued: "I been studying about Bolderhead ever since you come
aboard. There was something curious happened at Bolderhead--or just off
the inlet--and it's all come back to me now."

"What was it?" I asked, idly.

"Well, it's quite a yarn," he said, wagging his head. "I was running in
the old hooker, Sally Smith, from Portland to New York. She carted
stone. There warn't but five of us aboard, includin' the cap'n and the
cook. But our freight warn't perishable," and he chuckled, "so speed
didn't enter into our calculations. One day there come up a smother of
fog as we was just off Bolderhead Neck. We'd run some in-shore. It fell
a dead calm--one o' them still, creepy times when you can hear sheep
bells and dinner horns for miles and miles.

"Well, sir! we lay there in this smother of fog and all of a suddent we
heard somebody hootin'. Cap he halloaed back. 'Blow yer scare!' sings
out the same faint voice. 'Keep it blowin'.'

"'There's somebody out yon tryin' to make the Sally,' says the Cap'n. I
stepped on the tread of the siren and kept her blattin' now and then
and, after some minutes, we heard a splashin' alongside and there was a
man swimming in the sea."

"He had swum out from shore?" I asked, just to keep the conversation
going. I wasn't really interested.

"No. His boat had begun leaking badly. It was too heavy to turn over,
and before it sank he slipped into the sea and made for us. He had seen
us before the fog shut down, and knew that we were becalmed. He'd just
tied his shoes about his neck by the lacings and swum out with every rag
of clothes on him--'cept his hat."

"And why did he swim for your craft instead of to shore?"

"Said he was nearer the Sally when his boat took in so much water. And
the tide _was_ running out, no doubt. But it always did seem queer to
me," continued Tom.

"What was queer?" I asked the question without the slightest
eagerness--indeed, I really was not interested much in what the old
sailor was saying.

"Queer that such a smart-appearin', intelligent gent should have got
himself in such a fix."

"As how?"

"To set sail in such a leaky old tub."

"Oh!"

"And then, when he found she was sinking under him not to make for the
shore."

"What became of him?" I asked.

"He went to New York with us. There he stepped ashore and I ain't never
seen him since--and only heard of him once, an' that was ten years or so
afterward----"

"Hullo!" I cried, suddenly waking up. "When did all this happen, Tom?"

"When did what happen?"

"This man swimming aboard your schooner?"

"Why, nigh as I can remember, it must be fourteen or fifteen years
ago--come next spring. It was in April, after the weather was right
smart warm. Otherwise he wouldn't have swum so far, I bet ye!"

My voice, I knew, had suddenly become husky. I was startled, though I
don't know why I should have felt so strangely as I reviewed this tale
he had told.

"What was his name, Tom?" I asked.

"The name of the feller I was tellin' you of?"

"Yes."

"Carver."

"How d'you know it was?"

"Why, he said so!" exclaimed Tom. "A man ought to know his own name,
oughtn't he?"

"He should--yes."

"Well!"

"But did he have any way of proving his name to be Carver?"

"Pshaw! the Cap'n never axed him to prove it. Why for should he lie
about it? He worked his way to New York and all he got was his grub for
it. I let him have an old pilot coat of mine, he having only a thin
jacket on him. He agreed to pay me two dollars for it. And he was jest
as honest as they make 'em."

"He paid you?"

"He sartinly did," said old Tom, wagging his head. "A feller who would
be as good as his word in that particular wouldn't lie about his name,
would he?"

"You said you heard from him ten years after?" I asked, without trying
to answer Tom's query.

"Well--yes--it was ten years. But I guess the letter had been lying
there in the office of Radnor & Blunt--them's the folks we dealt with on
the Sally Smith--for a long time. I had left the Sally the year after
and only just by chance went into the office when I was in New York. The
chief clerk he passed me over a letter. In it was a two-dollar bill and
a line saying it was for the coat."

"And it had been there waiting for you for some time?"

"'Twas as yellow as saffron. They didn't know where I lived when I was
to home. And I had been 'round the world in the Scarboro, too."

"And the letter was from Bolderhead?" I asked, slowly.

"No. That was the funny part of it," said Tom.

I awoke again and once more felt a thrill of excitement in my veins. I
watched the old fellow jealously.

"Didn't the man--this Carver--belong in Bolderhead?"

"So I supposed. But the letter come from foreign parts."

"Where?" I asked.

"'Twas from Santiago, Chili."

"Then he had not gone back to Bolderhead?" I stammered.

"Bless ye, lad! how do I know? I only know he sent the money from Chili.
He was something of a mystery, that feller, I allow. Ever heard tell of
him in Bolderhead? Are there any Carvers there?"

"It's a mighty small town along the New England coast in which there are
no Carvers," I replied.

"Now, ain't that a fact? They're a spraddled out family, I do allow,"
said Tom.

"What did this man look like?" I asked, and I was still eager--I could
scarcely have told why.

There was an enlarged crayon picture of my father in my bedroom at home.
When he died my mother only had a cheap little tintype of him. I don't
suppose the crayon portrait looked much like Dr. Webb. Certainly there
was little in Tom Anderly's description to connect the strange man
rescued out of the sea with the portrait of my father. Yet the
circumstances, the time of the happening, and the suspicions that had
been roused in my mind by Paul Downes and his father, all dovetailed
together and troubled me.

Even Ham Mayberry, who scoffed at the idea that my father had made way
with himself, admitted that had Dr. Webb lived my mother and I could
never have enjoyed Grandfather Darringford's money. I could never
believe that my father had been wicked enough to commit suicide. But,
suppose he had merely slipped away from us--gone out of our lives
entirely--with the intention of putting his wife and child in a
prosperous position?

It was romantic, I suppose. To the perfectly sane and hard-headed such a
suspicion would seem utterly ridiculous. But the longer I thought over
Tom Anderly's story--the more I allowed my imagination to roam--the more
possible the idea seemed. Ham had said my father was not a money-making
man. He was in financial difficulties, too. Grandfather had died and
there was a heap of money just beyond my mother's grasp. My father had
become a stumbling-block in her path--in my path. He it was who kept us
from enjoying wealth.

The cruelty of my grandfather in arranging such a situation filled me
with anger when I contemplated it. What could my father think but that,
if he were out of the way, it would be far, far better for his wife and
child?

I could not believe, for an instant, that Dr. Webb would have committed
the crime of self-destruction. But in my then romantic state of mind,
what more easily believed than that he had deliberately removed himself
out of our lives--and in a way to make it appear that he was dead?

As we did, he knew we would at once enter into the enjoyment of the
wealth left by old Mr. Darringford. There would be no material suffering
caused by his dropping out of sight. I faced the matter with more
coolness and a better understanding than most boys of my age possess,
because of my knowing my mother's nature so well. Take my own sudden
disappearance, for instance. I knew well she would be quite overwhelmed
at first; but if good Dr. Eldridge brought her out of it all right, and
she had somebody to turn to and depend upon for comfort and
encouragement, she would sustain my mysterious absence very well indeed.

And my father must have known her character much better than I did!
Undoubtedly it had been very hard for mother to endure the cramped
circumstances of those first two years of her married life. It must have
been a great deal harder for Dr. Webb to bear it, knowing that she
suffered for lack of the luxuries and ease to which she had been used.

I could imagine that the situation when my grandfather died and left his
peculiar will, would have pretty near maddened Dr. Webb. It would not be
strange if he contemplated self-destruction as a means of putting my
mother and myself positively beyond the reach of poverty. He had rowed
out to White Rock. He had left the old watch--I had the heirloom in my
pocket now--for the boy who was yet to grow up and bear his name. The
fog and the Sally Smith had appeared together and offered him means of
escape.

It would be fifteen years the coming spring that my father had
disappeared. Tom Anderly had hit the time near enough. Had there been
any man named Carver who had suffered such an accident off Bolderhead
Neck as the old seaman told of, I would have heard the particulars,
knocking about among the Bolderhead docks as I had for years.

The story seemed conclusive. I had never for a moment believed that my
father had wickedly made way with himself. But that he was alive--that
he had gone out into the world, possibly with the hope of finding a
fortune and sometime coming back to mother and me with a pocketful of
money--Yes! I could believe that, and I _did_ believe it with all my
heart!



CHAPTER XIV

IN WHICH I HEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME THE WHALER'S BATTLE-CRY


So impressed was I by the imaginings suggested by Tom Anderly's story,
that I opened my letter to old Ham Mayberry and asked him if he had ever
heard of a man named Carver who had gone through the experiences Tom had
related of the man who had swum to the Sally Smith from the direction of
Bolderhead Neck?

It was the very next day, and a fortnight after I had boarded the
whaling bark, that I got a chance to send off the letters. The wind
lulled and we crossed the course of a steamship hailing from Baltimore
and touching on the West Coast of Africa; Captain Rogers sent the
letters aboard the steamship. There was no use in my trying to get
passage on her, however; I would have gained nothing by such a move.

"Now your letters will be picked up by a London, or Lisbon-bound steamer
and it won't be two months before your folks will know all about you,"
Ben Gibson said. "If you'd had to depend upon the post-box in the Straits
of Magellan, for instance, it might be six months before Bolderhead folk
would ever know what had become of you."

I must confess that every day I was becoming more and more enamored of
this life at sea. We had had little fair weather and were kept busy
making sail and then reefing again, or repairing the small damages made
by the gale. Captain Rogers was not the man to lay hove to in any fair
breeze. We outran the bad weather before we crossed the line and then
the lookout went to the masthead and from that time on, as long as I was
with the Scarboro, the crowsnest was never empty by day.

For we had come into those regions of the South Atlantic where schools
of the big mammals for which we hunted might be at any time come upon,
especially at this season of the year. The gale having left us, the
weather was charming. While winter was threatening New England we were
in the latitude of perpetual summer, and as long as the trade wind blew
we did not suffer from the heat.

The Scarboro carried crew enough to put out six boats at a time and
still leave a boatkeeper and cook aboard. As a usual thing, however,
only four boats were expected to be out at once--the captain's, Ben
Gibson's (with whom Tom Anderly went as boat-steerer and would really be
in charge until Ben learned the ropes) the mate's boat, and Bill Rudd,
the carpenter's, boat. The gun forward in the Scarboro's bows, however,
was there for a purpose, too, as I found out on the first day we sighted
a whale.

The man in the crowsnest suddenly hailed the deck, when Mr. Gibson was
in charge:

"On deck, sir!" he sang out, with such eagerness that the watch came
instantly to attention.

"Well, sir?" cried Ben.

"Ah-h blows! Again, sir!"

"Pass the word for Cap'n Rogers, Webb," the second mate said to me, and
grabbing his glasses he started up the backstays to see the sight. Some
of the hands sprang into the rigging, too, and soon the whaler's
battle-cry rang through the ship:

"Ah-h blows! And spouts!"

Captain Rogers was on deck in a moment. He ran up after Ben Gibson and
took an earnest peek through the glasses himself. Then he dropped down
to the quarter and said, but with satisfaction:

"Only one fish in sight. May be more ahead. Perhaps it's a she with a
calf and has got behind the school. We'll see. Now, boys! tumble up and
let's get the rags on her."

We went at the sails with a will and for the first time I saw every yard
of canvas the Scarboro could set flung to the breeze. The old bark began
to hustle. She was heavy and she could do no fancy sailing; but having
the wind with her she rushed down upon the lone whale like a steamship.
Soon we could see the undulating black hump of the whale from the deck.

We saw an occasional spurt of water, or mist, from its blow-holes. By
and by it breached and was out of sight for a short time. When it came
up again it was still tail-end to the Scarboro and not half a mile away.
There was no other whale in sight; but this was a big fellow--a right
whale, or baleener. After coming up it lay quietly on the water, or
moving ahead very slowly.

The men were eager to get after it in the boats; but Captain Rogers knew
a better way than that to attack a lone whale. We reefed down again and
left little canvas exposed while the Scarboro kept on her tack under the
momentum she had already gathered. The captain went forward where the
gun had been made ready. He swung it about on its pivot and got the
range of the whale.

At this small distance the huge mammal looked like a cigar-shaped piece
of smooth, shiny slate-colored India-rubber--no longer black. Four or
five feet of its diameter and forty feet or more of its length showed
like a mound in the smooth water, and the body alternately rose and
dipped as the whale swam slowly along. It was doubtless feeding on the
tiny marine creatures which are the sole food of the right whale. It
took great "gulps" of sea water into its cavernous mouth, water which it
strained out through its curtain of baleen, swallowing only the tiny
fish down a gullet so small that it would not admit a man's fist.

The Scarboro was approaching it from behind and at an angle, so that its
course and ours made the sides of a V. Captain Rogers followed the
course of the whale alertly, swinging the muzzle of the cannon with
skill. Most of the crew were grouped behind him in anxious expectancy.

Suddenly I felt a touch upon my arm. It was Tom Anderly. He was
pointing silently over the port bow. There, a couple of miles away, I
judged, several columns of mist were spouting into the air. _There was
the school!_

But I turned to view the nearby mammoth again just as the gun spoke. I
saw a hideous, crimson zigzag gash on the broad side of the whale, I
heard the rumbling roar of the time-bomb at the point of the harpoon
exploding in the whale's vitals.

Instantly the whole crew were in a pandemonium of excitement; but the
captain's shrill orders were obeyed like clockwork. I felt the blow of
the great bark give a convulsive jerk. The whale had gone straight
downward and the cable attached to the harpoon shot over the bow so fast
that the eye could not follow its course. Where the hemp touched the
rail a column of smoke arose. Two men sprang with buckets to dip up the
sea-water and pour it upon the shrieking line. The windlass spun around
like a boy's top.

Coil after coil of the rope leaped into nothingness. Had there been a
big express locomotive hitched to that line, and going at full speed, I
do not think the line would have paid out any faster!

At last the windlass ceased to spin. The whale had either touched
bottom, or had descended as far as it could. We had already laid our
mainsail aback and as the line lay slack upon the water, Captain Rogers
motioned to the men at the windlass to wind in. It was like playing a
fish at the end of a line and reel.

Those next few moments were breathless ones for all hands. Suddenly the
sea parted right off the port bow, and not half a cable's length ahead.
Up, and up the gigantic creature rose--up, up, up till it towered
fifteen feet above the Scarboro's rail!

Then it turned a somersault, beating the sea to waves like the boiling
of a cauldron. It rose again, churning the sea with its tail, and then
raising the caudal fin for twenty feet, or more, and slapping it down
upon the water with a shock like the report of a big gun--aye, like a
thunder-clap!

Then the great beast whirled round and round--it seemed seeking for the
thing that had so hurt it. We watched the struggle of the leviathan with
pop-eyed expectation--especially the young second mate and myself, for
we were the only real greenhorns aboard the Scarboro. The whale wrapped
several lengths of the line about its body and then shot away into the
southwest, away from the distant school. It swam so fast that it
actually seemed to skip from wave to wave like a swallow.

When it reached the end of the slack there was a jerk that shook the
bark from stem to stern. Then came the tug of war. There was no small
whaleboat behind it, but a great, 195 ton bark, and this massive bulk
the creature actually towed like a steam-tug towing a steamship.

The captain let more line out. Far out at the end of two miles of line
the whale lashed about, and churned the sea, and blew blasts of vapor
into the air. Then old Tom Anderly cried that it was spouting blood and
we knew the end was near.

But the captain gave the whale half an hour in which to die before
ordering the line wound inboard. The rest of the school had gone on
steadily into the south and was still several miles away. We could not
launch our boats for them, but gave our complete attention to the first
kill.

As the whale felt the pull of the line it gave a single convulsive jump.
But after waiting a moment or two, Captain Rogers commanded the
windlass to be manned again. Slowly the line came in and, after a time,
the huge, inert, flabby body floated, belly up, just off our bows.

The mate's boat was lowered and a chain was passed around the whale's
body just forward of the tail. With this it was grappled to the
Scarboro's side. I could see a dozen quarreling porpoises eating the
tongue of the monster that had been, two hours before, alive and, to
these scavengers, invincible.

There was a broad smile on every man's face, from Captain Rogers down
the line. The first kill had been successful. Oil was in sight. But--as
I soon found out--the real work of the voyage had begun as well.



CHAPTER XV

IN WHICH WE "STRIKE ON"


Belly uppermost the huge whale (its actual length was seventy-three
feet) was fastened "stem and stern" along the starboard side of the
Scarboro. The first operation of butchering a whale--if it be a
baleener--is to secure the whalebone. This is a difficult job as I very
soon saw. The thick, hard, horny substance must be separated from the
jaw; and it sometimes turns the edge of the axe like iron would.

When we had got the baleen inboard, however, the more disagreeable work
of "flensing" began. A number of the men, with old Tom Anderly at their
head, got upon the whale in spiked shoes and with blubber spades
attacked the main carcass of the beast. The blubber was cut up into
squares, weighing a ton or more each, the hook of the falls caught in
one end, and then the blubber was "eased off" with the spades while
those aboard hauled on the tackle, thus ripping the blubber from the
layer of flesh beneath.

In handling a small whale, Tom told me, they would thus rip the blubber
off in long strips, rolling the carcass over and over in the bights of
the holding chains. For this one whale Captain Rogers did not see fit to
start the fire under the donkey-engine amid ships, by which the blubber
could have been raised inboard much easier.

The try-out caldrons were heated, however, and the blubber as it came
inboard--like "sides" from a great hog--was hacked into pieces of two or
three pounds each and thrown into the pots. Soon the deck of the bark,
from bow to stern, was slippery with spilled oil, or bits of blubber. A
thick, greasy smoke rolled away from the ship. It's flavor in the mouth
was at first sickening. We got used to it.

"Hi, lad!" cried Tom Anderly, when I looked over the rail, "now you've
got a taste of real whaler's souse--everything you put in your
potato-trap for the rest of the v'y'ge will be flavored with whale-oil."

A whale will weigh about as many tons as it is feet long--in other
words, this seventy-three foot whale weighed probably seventy ton and
from the blubber we tried out thirty tons of oil--nearly half its weight
in the tanks beside the baleen!

We had been sailing in the wake of the big school of whales we had
spied when we killed the baleener. We came up with them again at
mid-afternoon, and found that they were sperms. That was why the
_Mysticete_ we had killed the day before did not start to drag the
Scarboro toward the school. The baleeners and the _Denticete_ (toothed
whales) do not mix in company, and are, indeed, seldom found in the same
seas. The baleeners are usually found toward the Arctic or Antarctic
regions, while the sperms and their ilk hold to the warm seas.

Captain Rogers might have run down to the school of cachelots and gunned
for one of the beasts; but then the others would have been frightened
away. The bark lay to upon a perfectly calm sea, and at a distance of
about two miles from the school, and four boats were manned and shot
away from the ship. The whales seemed to be asleep, or lying sunning
themselves, upon the surface of the sea.

I was in Ben Gibson's boat, of which old Tom was steersman. He would
handle the iron too, for as I have said, Ben was just as green in the
actual practice of whalemanship as I was myself. We raced with the other
boats for the nearest prize, which proved to be a husky bull, longer
than the baleener we had killed.

I was bow oar, and I found that I could hold my own with the rest of the
crew. Our stroke set a slapping pace and we bent to the work as though
we were racing for the sport of it. Each crew desired to be first and
have the credit of fleshing the iron in this monster. The water being so
calm it proved to be a very pretty struggle. And all done so silently!
The whale is sharp-eared and on a mill-pond sea like this, sounds carry
far. We came up from behind the mammoth, and we were ahead of the other
boats.

The captain, in the nearest boat, signaled us with his hand to strike
on, while his boat rushed past for another of the sleeping monsters. Old
Tom and the young second mate changed places swiftly and the old
harpooner stood up poising the heavy iron and looking to see that the
coils of the rope were free. With a nod Mr. Gibson ordered the oars
brought inboard and he pulled in the long steering oar himself. The
whaleboat shot close up to the whale's side. The body loomed beside us
like the rolling hull of an unballasted ship.

With my face over my shoulder I watched old Tom poise the iron. When he
swung it back the muscles of his shoulder and upper arm flexed like a
pugilist's! He was a fit subject for a statue at that instant. Then he
flung body and weapon forward, the latter left his hand smoothly, and
the sabre-sharp point sunk deep in the yielding blubber.

"Back all!" gasped Ben Gibson, scarcely above his breath, so excited was
he.

But we had expected the order and were ready for it. The oars went in
with unanimity and the boat shot back, for a whaleboat is as sharp at
one end as it is at the other.

The whale made no flurry, however. It was as though he lay stunned for
half a minute--perhaps longer. Then he made up his mind what to do, and
he did it with a promptness and speed that was amazing.

Like a spurred horse the whale started ahead. I declare, it seemed as
though half his length came out of the sea at the first jump. The line
whizzed over the bow as though it were tackled to a fast express.

"Pull!" yelled Ben and we laid to the oars so that when the line ran out
the shock would not be so great. When the first line was all out and Tom
bent on another we were rushing through the water like mad. We passed
the captain's boat just after he had struck on himself and his kill had
sounded.

"Go it, young man!" yelled Captain Rogers, standing up and waving his
hat to his nephew, "you're going out of town faster than you'll come
back."

All we could do in that double-ended boat was to sit still and hold
tight. I candidly believe that we traveled at a speed of a mile minute.
I had once been aboard of a turbine launch, and the black water was
thrown up on either side of that whaleboat in a wave just as it had
flowed away from the nose of the launch!

This wave seemed to be three feet higher than the gunwale of the boat
and as black as ebony. Even Tom Anderly cast a glance at the
boat-hatchet as though he contemplated cutting the taut line. Our eyes
were blinded by the wind which seemed to be blowing a hurricane.
Actually there was scarcely a breath stirring over the surface of the
placid ocean.

Our locomotive went directly through the school. Its mates rolled
placidly and eyed us as we shot by with wicked glance. But none of them
followed the boat which continued to tear through the water with
undiminished speed.

But after a time we found that we had company, and mighty unpleasant
company, too. In the boiling wake of the whaleboat I could see a dozen
triangular fins--the fins of the real tiger shark of the tropics. Not a
nice spectacle to men in such a situation as ours. Secretly I was
frightened, and I reckon even the oldest in the boat's crew felt
serious.

The mad whale was taking us farther and farther away from the bark and
our friends. Indeed, the Scarboro was wiped out of sight, it seemed,
within a very few minutes, and the other three boats were lost behind
us, too.

The runaway, however, did not continue straight ahead. Its speed did not
seem to slacken in the least; but soon it began to circle around,
finding itself without its mates.

"If the old feller don't put on brakes pretty soon the harpoon'll git so
hot it'll melt the blubber and pull out," chuckled the stroke-oar.

It was the first word spoken that showed relief. There was a perceptible
slackening of our speed. And the whale was "going back to town," as the
captain had intimated.

"Get hold of that line, Webb, and stand ready to haul," said Mr. Gibson
to me, taking the heavy whalegun from its covered beckets, after
changing places again with old Tom.

"Now for it!" muttered the boat-steerer, gripping the eighteen-foot oar
and craning forward eagerly. He was just as excited as the rest of us. I
hauled in on the line, standing firmly braced just behind the young
second mate. The whale had actually come to a stop and did not sound. We
drew closer and closer.

"Jest a leetle be-aft the for'ard fin, sir!" whispered old Tom,
excitedly.

Gibson grunted some reply and raised the gun, taking careful aim at the
mountain of flesh about which the water swirled. A second or two of
breathless suspense followed as, oars in hand, we waited the report of
the gun.

A sharp report made me jump. Then came the dull explosion of the
bomb-lance somewhere in the vitals of the whale.

"Stern all! stern all!" shouted Mr. Gibson, this time finding his voice.

The wounded whale flung itself completely out of the water. For a moment
we could see daylight underneath the huge bulk and as we backed water
with all our strength it did seem as though that convulsed, eighty
barrel sperm must fall upon the boat and overwhelm it!



CHAPTER XVI

IN WHICH THERE IS SOME INFORMATION AND MUCH EXCITEMENT


The young second officer's command needed no repetition. There was no
temptation for us to linger under the monster. With a crash that seemed
to make sea and air tremble, the great body struck the surface of the
water.

The whaleboat dashed back just in time, and then rocked upon the waves
as the dying whale rolled to and fro in his "flurry." Then, with a great
puff, the creature rolled partially on his side, and the ocean
thereabout became tinged with the blood thrown out of its blow-hole.

"Killed with one lance! killed with one lance!" yelled Second Mate
Gibson.

But then he gripped his dignity again and sat down, giving commands in
his ordinary tone. Old Tom stood up to glance about the sea-scape: "And
now where's that thundering old hooker?" he demanded. "We'll have a fine
time pulling this baby to her."

But that is what we had to do. We had had our "fun;" now we settled
down to doggedly pulling the heavy oars, being divided into two watches,
and saw the light of the Scarboro's trying-out works at midnight! The
Captain and Mr. Rudd had both got small whales and one had been laid
aboard each side of the bark. The crew were working like gnomes in a
pantomime when we rowed sadly to the bark with our huge tow. How we
worked! I never had been so tired in my life, and at the end of the
second day when the oil from the three whales had been run into the
tanks and the decks cleared up again, I could have fallen into my
hammock and slept the clock around. But one never catches up one's sleep
on a successful whaler, and the Scarboro certainly was proving good her
name as a "lucky" craft.

Between Tom Anderly and Ben Gibson I learned a lot about whaling
statistics--famous voyages, wonderful accidents to whaling crews "lucky
strikes," and the like. And these facts, both curious and exciting, I
stowed away in my mind for future reference. Despite the fact that steam
vessels and the gun and explosive bullet have almost supplanted the
old-fashioned manner of killing whales, the luck and pluck of half a
century, or more, ago, counted for enough to offset these new methods.

The most extraordinary good-luck voyage ever made by an American whaler
was that of the bark Envoy, belonging to the Brownells of New Bedford.
She was built in 1826 and in the year 1847 she returned to her then home
port in such a condition that the underwriters refused to insure her for
another voyage. But Captain William C. Brownell and Captain W. T. Walker
agreed to take a chance in the old hulk and she put to sea from New
Bedford under Captain Walker on July 12, 1848. As fitted for sea the
Envoy, for repairs, supplies and all, stood the two owners in the sum of
$8,000, whereas a vessel that could be insured might have cost from
$40,000 to $60,000.

She got around the Horn without falling apart and took on a cargo of oil
at Wytootackie which her captain had previously purchased from a wrecked
whaler and stored there. This oil she hobbled into Manila with and
shipped it to London at a profit of $9,000. From Manila the Envoy went
cruising in the North Pacific and in fifty-five days she took 2,800
barrels of whale-oil and 40,000 pounds of baleen. With this she returned
to Manila and shipped the bone and 1,800 barrels of oil to London, the
shipment yielding $37,500 net.

Again she went cruising and secured 2,500 barrels of oil and 35,000
pounds of bone, bringing both into San Francisco in 1851, where she
disposed of the oil for $73,450 and shipped the bone to her home port
where it brought $12,500. To complete the record of her good luck, San
Francisco merchants offered $6,000 for the condemned old bark that had,
in two years, or thereabout, brought to her owners and venturesome crew
the sum of $138,450.

With the captain's share as one-seventeenth of the "lay" the skipper of
the Envoy must have made $8,000. "There were common sailors on that ship
that turned up a thousand dollars in pocket when they were paid off,"
said Ben Gibson, when we were discussing it. "The second mate, with his
one-forty-fifth, cleaned up three thousand. Hope I'll do half as well in
the same length of time with the Scarboro."

I learned that the largest catch brought into port by an American
whaler, as the result of a single cruise, included 5,300 barrels of oil
and 200 barrels of sperm, with 50,000 pounds of bone. It was taken in a
voyage lasting only 28 months by the South America, of Providence,
Captain R. N. Sowle. It sold for $89,000 in 1849, and the cost of ship
and outfit was $40,000.

The Pioneer, of New London, Captain Ebenezer Morgan, holds the medal for
the largest sum realized from a single voyage. She left her home port on
June 4, 1864, for Davis Strait and returned a year and three months
later with a cargo of 1,391 barrels of oil and 22,650 pounds of bone,
which sold at war-time prices for $150,000. The outfitting of this craft
cost $35,000.

"Those are all great tales," quoth Tom Anderly, when we had marveled
over these lucky voyages. "But how about the brig Emeline of New
Bedford? She sailed on July 11, 1841 and in twenty-six months she
returned home with how much ile d'you suppose?"

Ben and I gave it up. Some enormous sum, we supposed, was realized.

"Yah!" said Tom. "A fat lot. Twenty-six months and ten barrels of ile,
and her skipper killed by a whale."

"Oh, now that you're on the hard luck tack," quoth Ben, "there was the
Junior, of New Bedford. I've heard my uncle tell of her. Out a year and
two months and put back to port _clean_--and the crew plumb disgusted.
Could you blame 'em?"

This conversation went on between our watches while the three sperm
whales were being butchered. There was a peculiarity about these
cachelots that I failed to mention. We butchered them in a different
manner than we did the Greenland, or right, whale. The cachelot has no
baleen but it furnishes spermaceti. A large, nearly triangular cavity in
the right side of the head, called the "case" (sometimes spermaceti is
called "case oil") is lined with a beautiful, silver-like membrane, and
covered by a thick layer of muscular fibres. This cavity contains a
secretion of an oily fluid which, after the death of the animal,
congeals into a granulated yellowish-hued substance. Our whale, the
first of the school killed by the second mate's boat--had in its case a
tun, or ten barrels, of spermaceti!

While the trying-out operations were under way we lost, of course, that
school of sperms; but we drifted some miles into the south, and as soon
as Captain Rogers could get canvas on her, we made a splendid run for
two days west of south and so caught up either with that same school, or
with another herd of cachelots.

I had thus far seen some of the sport, a good deal of the hard work,
and some of the uncertainties of the whaleman's life; now I came upon a
streak of peril the remembrance of which is not likely to be sponged
from my mind as long as I possess any memory at all.

It was at daybreak the lookout hailed the deck with "Ah-h blows! And
spouts! All about us, sir!"

It was true. We had run into the midst of the school of whales. Captain
Rogers being called by Mr. Robbins, took a look around the sea-line,
cast a shrewd look at the heavens, went and squinted at the glass, and
then ordered the canvas reefed down and all hands to breakfast. The
prospect, of both weather and whales, was for a good kill.

The healthy rivalry between the boats was now manifest. Captain Rogers
ordered all six out, leaving but two men aboard the bark. They could
just manage to steer her under the riding sail. Our boat was off as soon
as any and we pulled steadily for the whale we had chosen as our prize.
We had brought in the biggest one before and we hoped to do as well on
this occasion.

But we couldn't pick the biggest this time, for as we shot through the
rippling waves, aiming for a huge bull that rolled on the surface, up
popped a young female, with a calf, right in our course.

"Look out for her!" quoth old Tom Anderly. "She'll be ugly, sir--with
that kid beside her. Better think twice of it, Mr. Gibson."

"Think we're going to have the other boats give us the yah-yah because
we pass up a fifty-foot she whale, eh?" demanded the young second
officer. "Just step forward here, old timer, and see if you can stick
your fork into her."

After all, the mate's word was law even to the old boat-steerer. They
quickly changed places and Tom took up the iron. The calf was playing on
the far side of its mother, and so we could easily come up upon the nigh
side without being observed.

In a few moments Tom had her pinned. Then there was the Old Harry to pay
and no pitch hot, as the sailors say!

The other two whales I had seen killed merely thought of running away
from the thing that had hurt them. But the one we now were fast in had
her baby to care for. She set off running, but would not swim faster
than the calf could travel. We did not put out the full length of one
line.

"Haul in! haul in!" cried Ben Gibson, excitedly. "I'll get a lance in
her."

"You be careful, sir," whispered old Tom, from the stern again, to which
he had gone after throwing the iron. "There ain't nothing wickeder than
a she whale with a sucking calf, when she's roused."

We had drawn in rather close and could see that the calf was falling
behind. The mother noticed it as well. She feared the thing that had
stung her; but, mother-like, she clung to her little one. She swerved
around and the line fell slack.

"Look out, now, sir!" cried Tom Anderly again. "She's mad, and she's
scared, and she's looking for us. If she once gits her tail under our
bottom its good-bye Jo for all hands--and the water's mighty wet
today."

Almost as he ceased speaking the wicked eye of the great creature
blinked at the boat, and she came rushing down upon it. Tom threw
himself upon the great steering oar, while Ben shouted:

"Pull! Pull, you lubbers! Do you want to be swamped by the critter?"

We bent our backs to the struggle and the whaleboat shot ahead; but the
maddened cow-whale came on, as big as a brick warehouse, and bent on
running us under!



CHAPTER XVII

IN WHICH I COME VERY NEAR GOING OUT OF THE STORY


Our boat escaped the collision with the mad whale on her first attack.
She rushed by us like a steamer, throwing up a wave from her jaws and
just "humping herself." Old Tom swerved us about swiftly in her wake and
we came right upon the calf.

"By jinks! I'll soak you one for luck, anyway!" ejaculated the angry
second mate, and he up with his lance-gun and put a shot into the little
fellow.

"Now, sir, we'll have trouble with her," grunted Tom, grimly.

"She's coming back!" stroke oar shouted.

It seemed as though the whale knew her young had been killed. She
whirled in the sea and rushed down upon the drifting calf, the blood
from which tinged the sea for yards around its carcass. It was really
pitiful to see her stop at it, and seemingly caress it, drawing it
toward her with her huge fin that it might suckle. But we were alive to
the chance of getting near enough to lance her, and under whispered
instructions rowed in.

Mr. Gibson had risen and aimed the gun and was about to fire when the
cow-whale seemed to suddenly understand her loss and her own danger.
With a mighty flirt of her tail (which same came near to swamping our
boat) she "sounded," as it is called.

Her head went down and her great tail flirted in the air. Mr. Gibson
went over backward, exploding the gun and sending the bomb-lance into
the air. The whale was out of sight in a flash and the line began to run
over the bow with a speed that made the woodwork smoke.

I bent on another line and then dipped up some water in the bailer to
throw upon the smoking gunwale. It was at this moment that I came as
close to death as ever whaleman experienced. A lurch of the boat canted
me and I threw out my left hand to prevent myself from diving overboard.

It was a most unfortunate gesture. In some way that uncoiling line,
which moved so fast one could scarcely follow it with the eye, wrapped
about my arm below the elbow and--like a flash--I was jerked out of the
boat and shot beneath the surface of the sea!

I would like to tell of this terrible incident as it seemed to my mates
in the whaleboat; I presume they were aghast at my flight over the bow
and disappearance. For a man to be carried overboard by the harpoon
line, and entangled in that line, is not an unknown incident in the
annals of whale-fishing. But only one person ever went through the
experience and lived to tell of it before my time--or so I am informed.
This was Captain Parker of the American whaler West Wind.

I don't know how the matter seemed to Captain Parker; I can only relate
my own sensations. And, believe me, they were queer enough. I shot down
after the sounding whale with a rapidity that seemed to deprive me of
the ordinary powers of thought or imagination. My only conscious idea
was that I was a dead boy if I could not cut that line!

I was rushing down into the depths head-foremost--and with the
swiftness, it seemed, of a reversed skyrocket! I thought my arm would be
torn from its socket, so great was the resistance of the water.
Fortunately I had been clothed in a thick jacket, and that jacket-sleeve
saved my arm from being mutilated.

I was traveling so fast behind the sounding whale that I could not move
my right arm from my side. It seemed glued there, so closely was it
pressed to my body by the force of the water. The pressure on my brain
became frightful, too, and thunder roared in my ears--or, so it seemed.

For an instant I opened my eyes. It appeared that a stream of blasting
flame passed before them. I was blinded.

But, providentially, I was composed. I knew what I was about--rather,
what was happening to me--each moment. I struggled to reach the knife I
wore at my belt; but every second I grew weaker. The compression around
my chest was like that of a tightening band of iron.

Of course, only seconds elapsed; but it seemed a very, very long time.
Would the whale ever reach the bottom? Would the line ever sag? Far gone
as I was, my brain remained perfectly clear and I was ready to make use
of the least fortunate incident in my favor.

Then it came--the slackening of the line. I drove forward with a mighty
kick of my feet--a last gasp of strength. My fingers closed on the
handle of the gully, I ripped it out of its sheath, and slashed the
keen blade across the line.

I cut my wrist a bit in so doing. Luckily, I cut ahead of the arm
entangled in the line; it was more by good luck than good management.

My remembrances after that are confused. I know I shot upward from the
dreadful depths, the human body being so much more buoyant than the salt
sea. I lost consciousness slowly. All I finally remember was an
enlarging spot of light toward which I mounted but which seemed to be
miles and miles away!

I was suffocating. A gurgling spasm seized upon me. Light, and sense,
and all were quenched suddenly. Life was slipping from my grasp.



CHAPTER XVIII

IN WHICH WE REALIZE THE "GRIND" OF THE WHALEMAN'S LIFE


According to Ben Gibson, they immediately gave me up for dead. The
chance that my arm had not been torn away from the shoulder was small,
and once thus crippled they expected the spouting blood to attract the
sharks, and then--good night!

But while I remained conscious I had not even thought of those monsters;
nor do I believe that a single one of the beasts came near me while I
followed the whale toward the bottom of the sea.

The men in my boat were helpless. They might not aid me in the least.
Nor did they know when I severed the line and started for the surface
again. The weight of the hemp kept it down, although it stopped running
out. Fortunately it uncoiled from my arm, or I would have been held down
there and drowned.

They stared in horror over the sides of the whaleboat, trying to
distinguish any moving object in the depths, and as moment after moment
passed they glanced at each other and shook their heads. I was lost.
They had no hope of ever even seeing me again.

And then it was that the sharp eyes of the old boat-steerer descried my
arm above the surface, not many yards away.

"There! look yon!" he yelled. "Pull, you lubbers!"

They shot the boat ahead and the old man seized me, plunging in his arm
to the shoulder as I sank again. Ben had begun to strip off his
clothing, bound to dive for me if the old man missed. But there was no
need of that, and they hauled me over the side into the boat a deal more
dead than alive.

Indeed, I fought when they brought me back to consciousness. It was
awful suffering, that recovery--that return to the world which I had
every reason to suppose I had said good-bye to. It was a good half hour
before I began to realize where I was, and what was happening to me.

We could not go back to the ship, however. Whale fishing is a grim
business. A struck whale has completely smashed a boat, leaving its crew
struggling in the water, and the other boats have gone on after the
monster and left their companions to paddle about on the wreckage as
best they can until the leviathan is killed.

The other boats from the Scarboro were all busy and our boat was behind.
We had lost our whale and the better part of two lines had gone with the
iron. Before I could do more than lie on the bottom of the boat, under
the men's feet, and gasp, we were pulling after the wounded female
again. She had come up for air and lay sullenly on the surface not half
a mile away.

She was a Tartar; but old Tom got another iron in her, and later Ben
Gibson killed her with two bomb-pointed lances. When the old bark came
down upon us about night she was dead and we hauled her alongside--the
first fish to be grappled to. But the other boats brought in three more.
We were having great luck and for two more days worked like Trojans.

But the school of cachelots we had followed had disappeared then. The
Scarboro sailed many a league farther south--and toward the Horn--before
we raised a single whale. We were 40 degrees south then--below the de la
Plata. I feared that the old bark would not put in at Buenos Ayres and
there would be no chance of my returning home by steamship.

Not that I was yet tired of my work and the life we led. No, indeed. But
I was anxious to hear from home, and I believed letters must be waiting
me there at Buenos Ayres--and money, too.

No use to think of touching port, however, when the weather was so fine
and whales were so infrequently met with. The whole crew had begun to
get anxious. Mr. Robbins grumbled that he didn't see the use of roaming
about the South Atlantic, anyway. It was the Pacific that whales
frequented.

"Why the last time I sailed in a windjammer," declared the mate, "we
were four weeks getting around the Horn from Santiago, and there wasn't
a day went over our heads that we didn't see plenty of whales. The
minute we got onto this side of Fuego we never saw a fin--and we ran to
Bahia. Wouldn't have known there ever was a whale in this darned old
ocean."

But the beginning of the cruise had been fortunate, and the whales had
not entirely forsaken the Atlantic despite the grumbling of the crew. We
killed two small humpedbacks within the week and then came upon sperms
again. At daybreak the lookout hailed and the sea seemed fairly alive
with them.

We tumbled out and, with only a pannikin of coffee in our stomachs, and
a cold bite in our fists, made off in the boats for the royal game. Ben
Gibson's boat had a good tally so far and we were not going to let the
others beat us much. We had our pick of half a dozen sperms and we took
after a bull that seemed promising.

We struck on and the wounded whale ran a little way in fright, trying
its best to shake out the harpoon. Finding this impossible, despite its
porpoise-like gambols, the whale sounded; then occurred one of the
strangest happenings that can be imagined. The bull went down, and we
paid out a goodly portion of line. Finally the line stopped running, but
the whale did not rise.

"What do you know about this, Tom?" demanded the young second mate.
"That critter's gone to sleep down there, hasn't it?"

"It'll be drowned!" exclaimed the old harpooner. "That's what'll happen
to it."

"Drowned!" cackled one of the crew. "What you givin' us, old hardshell?
Drown a whale, eh? That's like the boy that pumped water on the frog to
drown him."

"You wait and see," growled old Tom. "If that bull don't come up pretty
soon we'll have a circus with it, now I tell ye!"

The whale gave no sign. We tried hauling on the line, and of course it
wouldn't budge.

"It's sure got its feet stuck in the mud down there," admitted the
second mate, and he stood up and wigwagged frantically for the ship.

There were only four boats out and the captain himself chanced to be
aboard. He knew old Tom would not give up anything easy, and so he
brought the Scarboro into hailing distance and we told him what had
happened. We had caught a Tartar; the whale wouldn't come to the surface
and we couldn't let go without losing our line and iron. It was no use
jerking on that line. One can't play a whale like a rock bass!

We rowed to the ship and the line was carried aboard and tagged onto a
winch. We got at it right then and, before long, up came the dead body
of a whale. It was a good sized one--indeed, I thought at the start that
it was bigger looking close beside the bark than it had seemed when we
struck on.

And pretty soon we found out the reason why it seemed different. We
couldn't find the harpoon Tom Anderly had thrown into it! The line was
found jammed to the back of the whale's mouth and wound round its
body--whales will roll over and over when struck just as an old salmon
will when hooked.

That whale was drowned. A whale isn't a fish, anyway, and this one had
been under water so long that it was too late, as Ben Gibson said, to
bring forward any "first aid to the drowned" business!

What puzzled us all--from Captain Hi down to the cook's cat--was what
had become of the iron?

"And, by jingoes!" cried the second mate, "we ain't got all our line
back."

This was plainly a fact. When the whale was grappled onto the bark's
side and the line unwound, we found that it still hung down into the sea
and was quite taut.

"This blamed critter was anchored!" growled Tom Anderly. "And he dragged
his anchor at that."

"Get onto the winch, boys," said Captain Rogers. "Let's see what's hung
to it now."

We wound in the line and up came the whale that we had actually struck!
The harpoon still held in its body. Good reason why I had thought the
first whale seemed different from the one we had chased.

Of course, this whale was drowned, too. When it sounded, the other whale
must have crossed our line while feeding with open mouth. Feeling the
strange sensation of the hemp in the back of its mouth, the creature had
instinctively closed its jaws and, in the struggle, wound the line about
its body and been drowned.

Of course, this had kept the first whale down until it had drowned and,
marvelous to relate, we had got the both of them--and a tidy addition to
our cargo they proceeded to make. The luck of the second mate's boat
became proverbial after that haul.

But despite our luck, the real grind of the whaleman's life was taking
hold of us now. It was work--hard, bone labor--if we "had luck," and it
was likewise work if we missed and rowed hour after hour after an
elusive sperm or, at the end of the day, had to row empty handed back to
the bark.

Ben Gibson loved money; but he admitted to me that a fifteen hundred
dollar prize for the voyage would scarcely pay him for the work and
grind of our daily life aboard the Scarboro.



CHAPTER XIX

IN WHICH IS REPORTED A SERIES OF MISADVENTURES


It began much as other busy days had begun for us of the Scarboro, since
we got upon the whaling grounds; the fires under the trying-out kettles
were scarcely quenched when, just at daybreak, came the hail of the man
in the crowsnest:

"On deck, sir! Ah-h blows!"

"Where away?" bawled Captain Rogers, who seemed tireless himself and
expected every man and boy aboard to catch the inspiration of a sight
that had now become terribly commonplace to us--a spouting cachelot.

"Two p'ints on yer weather bow, sir."

The captain started up the rigging and in a moment the lookout repeated:

"Thar she blo-o-ows!"

"I see her!" bawled the captain. Then turning, his roar penetrated to
the fo'castle: "All hands on deck! Tumble up here! Lively now! Sperm
whale, ain't she, John?"

"Aye, sir, sir!" returned the lookout. "There she breaches!" as one of
the creatures up-ended. A dozen had suddenly come into sight--appearing
like imps in a pantomime--"from the vasty deep."

As Captain Hi came down Mr. Robbins reached the quarter.

"Seems a powerful sight of whales, Mr. Robbins," the old man said,
passing the mate the glasses.

Mr. Robbins went up and took a good squint all around the horizon.

"Three hundred if there's one, Cap'n!" he declared with reverent
enthusiasm.

"Does seem so, doesn't it?" admitted the captain.

The crew had tumbled up and were getting the boats ready. Only four were
going out, but the skipper stayed us until we had had breakfast.

"We're going into a man's job this morning," he grunted. "We want to be
prepared for it."

It might be that some of the boat crews wouldn't be back at the ship for
eighteen hours. It often happened, and pulling a heavy ash oar on an
empty stomach is not an inspiring job.

Inside of five minutes after the first hail the whales spouting from
one end of the skyline to the other. We had run into the biggest herd of
sperms that the oldest whaleman on the Scarboro had ever seen. Maybe we
didn't feel excited! At such times as this one forgets the "grind."
There was both money and excitement ahead of us. We actually sloughed
off the weariness we had felt after a steady twenty-four hours' spell at
the try-out kettles.

We lowered and spread out, fanwise, from the bark and made for the
whales. No need of racing this morning. As Tom said, it looked as though
a harpoon thrown into the air in almost any direction would hit a whale
when it came down!

I was eager to throw an iron myself. I had the physique for it, being
such a stocky fellow. And the hard life I had lived since being swept
out to sea in my Wavecrest had agreed with me. My muscles were like
wire cables, I was burned as black as a negro, and there was scarcely a
man aboard the bark whom I could not have flung in a fair wrestle.

"Give Clint his chance, Tom," said Mr. Gibson, as the boat-steerer came
forward. "If he misses, you can throw a second iron."

I was tickled enough at this. Old Tom had given me plenty of advice
before about the handling of the harpoon, and I tried to remember all
of his teaching as I released my bow oar and took up the first iron.

Perhaps it would be interesting to my readers if I told them something
about this weapon of the whaleman. The bomb-lance and gun are all very
well; but the harpoon is the real weapon on which the whaleman must
depend. This iron must be right and the line attached to it must be
right, or the best of harpooners will make a poor tally.

The whale line is a fine manila rope 1-1/2 inches thick. It is stretched
and coiled with the greatest care into tubs, some holding two hundred
fathoms, some a hundred fathoms. The harpoons are fixed to poles of
rough, heavy wood, every care being taken to make them as strong as
possible. And their weight necessitates a harpooner being chosen from
among the biggest and strongest men in the ship.

The harpoon blade is made like an arrow, but with only one barb, which
turns on a steel pivot. The point of the harpoon blade is ground as
sharp as a razor on one side and blunt on the other. The shaft is about
thirty inches long and made of the best soft iron so that it is
practically impossible to break it. Three irons were always placed in
our boat, fitted one above the other in the starboard bow. If the
harpooner missed with one iron, or if there was time to fling a second,
he could reach and get it handily.

In the old days the lances were slung in the port bow. It was with the
lance the whale was actually killed. The harpoon only serves to make the
boat fast to its prize. The lances were slender spears about four feet
long with broad points. The old-time whalemen were rowed right up to the
side of the ironed monster, after it had tired itself out fighting, and
the officer in the bow had to churn the lance up and down in the great
beast until the point reached a vital spot.

For this reason there were many more serious accidents in the old times
than now. In each boat belonging to the Scarboro there was stowed a
lance-gun in place of the lances. The bomb-lance is surer than the
old-time lance, and keeps the boat and crew farther from the seat of
peril.

I rose up as soon as we drove in near the big bull that we had been
approaching. And it _was_ a big fellow! I think it was as large a sperm
as we had seen. Its upper jaw and head was covered with lumps and scars
of old wounds. Along the flank was a half-healed, jagged gash, too.

"That old boy's collided with something," grumbled Tom Anderly in my
ear. "I believe he's a rogue."

I had heard of ancient, isolated he-elephants being called "rogue;" but
I did not know before that whalemen believe that certain old bull whales
are just as savage and revengeful as tigers. Indeed, among all wild
creatures--either on land or in the sea--there seem to be ancient bulls
that go off from their kind and sulk. They easily "run amuck"--perhaps
are really insane. To attack them is far more perilous than to attack a
herd of their normal fellows.

This old bull whale, however, had not deserted the society of his
fellows; but he proved to be as ugly a customer as we could have found
in all that school of three hundred or more sperms!

"He looks bad to me," whispered Tom Anderly. "He's a fighter. He's
probably smashed more boats in his time than the old hooker carries when
she's nested up full. Gosh! look at the warts on him."

"And that gash in his side," said Ben. "How do you suppose that
happened?"

"Looks just like he'd rubbed against a copper keel," declared the old
man.

I thought they were trying to scare me. But I learned later that it was
not an uncommon thing for an old whale to use a ship's keel to rub
himself against--it scrapes off the barnacles!

I just gave old Tom a grim look, however, and seized the harpoon. We
were creeping up on the bull and I intended to make a good cast. The
creature was weaving slowly along and not paying any attention to our
boat at all. My! he did look enormous. The nearer we came to him the
more threatening was his appearance. He was more than a hundred feet
long, I was sure. He would have weighed as much as twenty-five of the
biggest elephants that ever showed in a menagerie.

I am free to confess I felt _queer_, as that slate-colored monster
loomed up before our bow. With one flop of its tail it could smash the
craft and give us all a ducking--perhaps kill half the crew. Many of the
old whalers' yarns I remembered as I poised that heavy shaft.

But then old Tom whispered: "_Now!_" I let go with all my might. The
harpoon sunk into the huge bull until half its staff was hidden! I had
made as pretty a cast as ever Tom Anderly could himself.

"Back all!" shouted Gibson.

Our craft shot backward while the bull gave a startled plunge forward,
and the line began to run out fast. In half a minute the beast sounded
and we prepared for a long fight. But suddenly he was up again and shot
two or three geysers of water into the air. He lay still and we began to
take in the slack.

"Call this a fight?" muttered the second mate, with scorn.

I had slipped into my seat and the mate was changing with Tom again,
bent upon using the gun for the finishing touches. Suddenly the old bull
started. He did not come for the boat but headed directly for the bark,
lying not more than half a mile away. He went so fast we could scarcely
see the harpoon line. He made the sea about him boil, and the waves in
his wake (for we were close up to him) almost swamped us.

"What's he going to do?" screamed Gibson.

"Holy mackerel!" groaned the stroke oarsman. "He's going to bunt the old
hooker."

"That's what he's up to," agreed Tom Anderly; "he's after revenge. And
if he hits the Scarboro _right_, we're likely to have a nice time rowing
ashore, boys--you can take my word for that!"



CHAPTER XX

IN WHICH OUR CHAPTER OF BAD LUCK IS CONTINUED


That old bull was sure a fighting whale. The annals of whaling do not
lack records of such old rogues, as witness the sinking of the Kathleen,
of New Bedford on the "12-40 ground" east of the Barbadoes in 1901. A
bad whale can do a lot of damage besides smashing whaleboats. Thus far
we had suffered no loss from the monsters which the Scarboro was
hunting; but as this old bull shot like an arrow for the scarred side of
the bark, which was hove to less than half a mile away, it did look as
though she was due to get a bad bump.

We were on a short line, however, for the bull had not sounded deeply.
Ben Gibson sprang up with the bomb gun and tried to put a lance in the
beast at that distance. It only scratched him, I suppose, but it _did_
seem to swerve him from his course.

Instead of striking the Scarboro, he ran past her stern and circled
around her. We were snatched after the whale at racing speed and saw the
fellows aboard hanging over the rail grinning at us--like spectators at
a horse race.

"Them sculpins wouldn't grin so broad if the critter had bumped the
Scarboro," declared Tom Anderly.

The beast lay quiet for a bit and we pulled up on him. Before Gibson
could get him with the lance gun again, he sounded.

"Now, by gravy!" exclaimed old Tom, who had a wealth of expletives in
him when he was excited, "look out for squalls."

"He's been squally enough already, hasn't he?" demanded our young
officer.

"You ain't seen the end yet, sir," returned the old man.

"Well, I bet I _do_ see the end----"

He broke off with a sharp intake of breath. Then: "Stern all!" he
ejaculated.

Up through the green sea came a huge shadow. We could not shoot the boat
back in time to clear the monster. The whale had turned and shot up
under the boat!

The boat jarred as the prolonged lower jaw of the bull whale struck her
keel forward. There was a mighty rush of waters, like a cataract; the
whaleboat was flung aside, and Ben Gibson shot over the bow and fell
right into the open mouth of the whale!

I know I screamed something--I don't know what I said. The boat was
shooting back under the impetus of the oars, and we escaped overturning.

But I had seen Ben fall and saw him disappear into the cavern of the
creature's mouth. I saw, too, the jaws come together once, and I swear
our second mate was in the bull's mouth when it closed!

But the next moment the maw of the beast opened and in the swirl of foam
and blood-streaked water I caught sight of the senseless Gibson.

"Pull!" I yelled.

And although I had no business to give a command, the men obeyed me and
the boat shot forward again. I seized our second mate by his shirt
collar. In a moment I had lifted him into the boat.

At the same moment Tom Anderly got forward, seized the gun which poor
Gibson had dropped, and sent a bomb-lance into the whale at so short a
distance that it seemed as though we might have touched him by putting
out a hand.

But that fighting whale died hard. It leaped after the bomb exploded
and again we were almost overturned.

"Cut loose! Let the beast go!" cried some of the men.

But Tom Anderly would not lift the boat hatchet. To cut a whale free,
unless it becomes absolutely necessary, is "against the religion" of any
old whaler. As for myself, I was bending over the injured second mate,
trying to revive him.

Ben Gibson had been through a most awful experience. Old Cap'n Wood, of
Nantucket, had been in the mouth of a whale, and lived to tell the
story. I remembered of reading about his experience. But it was a most
awful accident and I feared indeed that the young officer was dead.

Therefore I was not really cognizant of what was going on until half the
crew of our boat began to shriek a multitude of commands and advice.
Then I looked up and saw that the bull whale for a second time was
charging the Scarboro.

It was plain the old fellow realized that the bark was his enemy. He
paid no attention to the boat that was tearing through the sea behind
him. And we was so near the bark now that nothing could be done to
swerve the the fighting whale!

Straight on dashed the big bull, at a speed that snubbed the
whaleboat's nose under water, for we were close up to the beast.
Straight on, with tremendous headway and a fearful, gathering momentum,
headed for the grimy, battle-scarred broadside of the old Scarboro.
Those aboard of the bark could do nothing. She was still hove to. The
fighting whale had missed her by a hand's breadth once before, but this
time he did not swerve.

"Cut loose, Tom!" I yelled, finally understanding--as did the other men
with us--the menacing disaster. In a few seconds we would smash into the
bark's hull, whether the whale dived or not.

But the bull didn't dive, and Tom swung the axe. His quick stroke
severed the line and every man in our boat was awake to the impending
catastrophe. Stroke sprang for the long steering oar. The rapid swing of
it barely swerved the heavy boat out of the course of sure disaster.

On went the released whale. Plumb his head smashed against the hull of
the big bark. The collision was a most awful shock. Consider a heavy
train pushing a mogul locomotive down grade ahead of it, and the whole
thing ramming another train--the result could have been no more awful.

The three-inch plank of which the vessel's side was made splintered like
the thinnest veneer. The ends of big timbers in her hull were ground to
pulp and matchwood. With a terrific splash of his tail, the fighting
whale rolled over, after rebounding from the bark, and lay, seemingly
stunned!

The bark, driven over almost on her beam ends, righted slowly. We knew
the whale must be as good as dead, but we had no thought for him then.
The smashing of the Scarboro might mean torture and death to every man
of her crew. We were out of the track of general steamship routes, and
far, far from land. If the bark sank, we were done for!



CHAPTER XXI

IN WHICH THE WAVECREST SETS SAIL AGAIN


Nobody gave any further thought to the whale. My own eyes were set upon
that yawning wound in the hull of the old Scarboro. After the shock of
the collision the bark righted slowly, and when she did so the sea
rushed into the hole in a most awful fashion.

We rowed rapidly toward the bark and made fast to the hoisting tackle.
We had a sling let down for the second mate, who was still unconscious.
Before we got him on the deck and got aboard ourselves, Captain Rogers
had all hands remaining aboard at work to stop the dreadful leak.

Had all six of the boats been out at this time I fully believe the
Scarboro would have gone to the bottom. Or, if there had been any sea to
speak of, she would have gone down inside of two hours.

But being right on the job, as you might say, Captain Hi lost few
seconds in the work of seeking to save the bark--and, incidentally, all
hands. He did not even take the time to see how badly his nephew was
hurt just then. As our crew came over the rail he set them to work, too.

"Take poor Ben below and let cookee do what he can for him," he bawled
to me. "I want you to deck here, Webb."

There was a light breeze, and he had some canvas put on her and got the
old bark hove over so that the hole the whale had smashed (it was right
at the water-line) was where it could be got at. Of course, it was
impossible at first to do anything from inside. There were two men on
the pumps and they kept steadily at work, now I tell you.

Mr. Rudd, the carpenter, was not aboard; but Captain Webb did all that
could be done at the moment. He put slings under the arms of two men and
let them down the canted side of the craft, on either side of the great
gap. Then canvas was let down--three thicknesses of heavy, new
cloth--and this was laid over the hole after the splinters were cut
away, and tacked to the hull, cleats being used to hold it in place all
the way around.

Meanwhile the tar-buckets had been heated up, and those fellows gave the
canvas and the hull all about it a good coating of tar. We ran several
miles on this tack, and until the job was completed. Then, when the men
and the tar-buckets were inboard again, the Scarboro was put over on the
other tack and we beat back toward the whaleboats.

I can't say that no water came in; but we could keep the water down by
working steadily at the pumps; and before night we had the other boats
aboard, and three whales--including the old bull that had done the
damage--strung together nearby. We could do nothing toward cutting up
and trying-out the whales until the bark was safe.

A sharp blow just then would have fixed us, and that's a fact. Mr. Rudd
and his helpers went below and broke out enough cargo to get at the hole
stove in her side. Meanwhile we had to keep the pump brakes moving and
the water that flowed from the pipes and out at the hawser-holes was as
clear as the sea itself. The old bark had settled a good bit, and we
were by no means out of danger.

Here we were, by the Captain's reckoning, all of four hundred miles
southwest of Cape St. Antonio, which is south of the huge mouth of the
de la Plata. To set sail for the principal port of Argentina--or any
other port--would not suit Captain Hiram Rogers a little bit. Nor am I
at all sure that, crippled as she was, the bark could have got to land.

Mr. Rudd would be some days repairing the damage done by the fighting
whale. And meanwhile, what was going to become of poor Ben Gibson?

For our cheerful, boyish second mate was badly hurt. Consider: the whale
had actually shut his jaws on Ben, and that one crunch should, by good
rights, have finished the young fellow.

But he was reserved for a better fate, it seemed. When the captain
overhauled his nephew, he found that he had sustained, beside the scalp
wound from which he bled so much, a broken arm, a lacerated leg above
the knee, and several broken ribs. These ribs and possible internal
injuries are what feazed Captain Hi. He was no mean "catch as catch can"
surgeon; most whaling captains have had to tackle serious medical and
surgical difficulties in their careers.

Ben, however, was the skipper's own flesh and blood--his sister's child.
He couldn't face that sister (she was a widow) if he brought Ben back to
New Bedford a cripple for life. And the whale had certainly smashed him
up badly.

"Clint Webb," he said to me, in a most serious tone, when he had made
his examination of the poor fellow, "we are in a bad hole. It'll take a
week o' fair weather for the carpenter to make us all tight again--and
we ain't even sure of the weather. Then, there's the three whales
alongside. We can't throw them away. The crew would have cause to
complain. But this boy ought to have doctor's care."

I agreed with him, but had nothing to offer.

"I couldn't sail for the Plate now," he ruminated, "if I wanted to.
Repairs of the ship must come before repairs of the boy. Webb! it's a
good season, and the winds are fair. Would you make an attempt to get
Ben to Buenos Ayres in that sloop of yours?"

"In a minute!" I declared, quickly, for the suggestion went hand in hand
with the desire I had been milling in my mind for days.

"I'll mark you a chart. You can't miss of it. Anyhow, you'll hit land if
you keep on going. There are fine hospitals at Buenos Ayres. I'd feel
more as though I'd done my duty by Ben if I got him there. I'll find you
a man to go along. Two of you can work that sloop prettily."

"Aye, aye, sir," I agreed.

He bustled away and brought back old Tom Anderly. I couldn't have
wished for anybody else. In a quarter of an hour we had agreed on
everything. Tom and Ben were to stick around Buenos Ayres until they
heard from Captain Rogers, or the Scarboro put in for them. Of course, I
would be free once I got to land, unless I wanted to stick the voyage
out and claim my lay at the end. However, I was to have one hundred
dollars in gold from the captain, and the sloop, whichever way I
decided.

Captain Rogers had set Ben's arm and dressed his other wounds. Ben was
conscious, but in great pain from the broken ribs. He knew what we were
going to attempt, and he was willing to trust himself to old Tom and me.
And the next morning, as soon as it was light, the Wavecrest was slung
over the side, her mast stepped, and the riggers got to work on her. By
noon she was provisioned and everything was ready for our cruise.

Ben Gibson was let down into the cockpit of the Wavecrest on a
mattress and was got comfortably into the cabin without any trouble.
There was a steady breeze, but the sea was calm. The crew bade us
godspeed and the skipper wrung my hand hard; but only said:

"Do the best you can for him, Webb. I'm trustin' to you and Tom to pull
the lad through."

We got the canvas up and sheered off from the Scarboro's side. We could
hear the muffled hammering of the carpenter and his mates inside her
wounded hull. They were fighting to keep the old hooker above the seas.
As we drifted away from the whaling bark I was not at all sure that we
should ever see her above the seas again.

Our canvas filled and the sloop got a bone in her teeth and walked away
with it just as prettily as ever she had sailed in Bolderhead Harbor.

"She's a beauty boat, lad," growled old Tom Anderly. "And she's taking
us out o' range o' them carcasses--Whew! they sartainly do begin to
stink. I don't begredge the boys their job of cutting them whales up
when they git at it."

We left the gulls and the sharks behind, with the bark and the rotting
whales, and soon they were all far away--mere specks upon the horizon.



CHAPTER XXII

IN WHICH WE SAIL THE SILVER RIVER AND I SEE A FACE I KNOW


I had covered, perhaps, almost as much open sea when I was blown out of
Bolderhead in the sloop, as now lay between the Scarboro and Cape St.
Antonio. But, as you might say, I had taken that first trip blindly.
This time I had my eyes open and all my wits about me--and I knew that
we had taken a big contract. The Wavecrest was a mere cockle-shell in
which to cross such a waste of open sea as that which lay between us and
the mouth of Rio de la Plata.

But the Wavecrest was a seaworthy craft, and that indeed had been
proved. She had been freshly caulked while she lay on the deck of the
Scarboro, and her seams did not let in enough water to keep her sweet.
She sailed well in either a light or heavy wind and I really had no fear
that we should not make the great seaport of the Argentine Republic all
in good time.

It was bad for poor Ben Gibson, however. The sun was hot and in the
cabin the atmosphere was sometimes stifling. However, the captain had
warned me to keep the fellow as quiet as possible and not to move him if
it could be helped before we reached our destination.

Old Tom sailed the sloop most of the time, and I gave my attention to
the wounded youth. But we tried to keep something like watch and watch.
We only slept by snatches, however, and never a cloud appeared in the
sky as big as a man's hand that we did not watch it cautiously. As for
sail, or steam, we saw neither till we raised the cloudy headland that
marked Cape St. Antonio on the skyline.

It was a pretty tame cruise to write about, for nothing really occurred.
We were only on the watch for some untoward happening; that made it
nerve wracking. But even when we sighted the spur of land which we knew
marked the southern boundary of the de la Plata--the widest mouth of any
river on the globe, for it is not masked by islands at all--we were not
out of danger. The peril of gales still menaced us. We had many miles to
sail yet before we reached Buenos Ayres.

Indeed, we got a stiff blow before sighting Point Piedras; but it
favored us after all, and the Wavecrest ran before it at a spanking
pace. We had sighted plenty of other craft now--both sail and steam. One
great, red-funneled steamship came in behind us, and at first we thought
it was making for Montevideo, which is on the northern side of the
river; but finally old Tom made out the steamer and what she was.

"It's one of the Bayne Line steamers from Boston," he declared. "I know
them red pipes. They touch at Para, Bahia, and other ports. She's bound
for Buenos Ayres now--no doubt of it."

The little squall that had kicked up something of a sea had now passed.
The great steamship overhauled us rapidly. I chanced to be at the helm
and I kept my head over my shoulder a good deal of the time, watching
the approach of the great, rusty-hulled craft. Somehow I felt as though
I had some connection with the boat. A foolish feeling, perhaps; yet I
could not shake it off.

The Wavecrest was bowling along nicely so I could give my attention to
the big ship, which I soon made out to be the Peveril. Old Tom was
right. She was one of the Bayne Line ships, coming from Boston--coming
from home, as you might say! To tell the truth, I was a good bit
home-sick.

I let my mind wander back to Bolderhead. Circumstances had made it
possible for me to leave the Scarboro, and I was now nearing Buenos
Ayres where I had written my mother to cable me money at the American
consul's bureau. I had got enough of whaling. Adventure and travel is
all right; but I had had a taste of it, and found it to be merely an
alias for hard work!

"It's me for home on the first steamship going north," I told myself,
wisely. "I've had adventure enough to last me a while."

I was sailing on the Silver River, as the exploring Spaniards had first
called this noble stream, and there might be a lot of fun and hard work
ahead of me if I remained with old Tom and Ben Gibson until they
rejoined the Scarboro. But I wasn't tied to them. I'd probably have
plenty of money with which to pay my passage home; and just then I
wanted to see my mother, and Ham Mayberry, and lots of other folk in
Bolderhead, more than I wanted to be knocking about in strange quarters
of the world.

I glanced around at the steamship again. She had almost caught up to us,
for although the sloop had a fair wind, the Peveril was sailing three
lengths to our one. On and on she came, the smoke pouring from her
stacks. Her high, rusty side loomed up not more than a cable's length
away. I could see the passengers walking on her upper decks, and the
officers on her bridge. Below, the ports were open, their steel shutters
let down on their chains like drop-shelves.

Some of the crew were looking out idly upon the Wavecrest as the
steamship slipped by. A cook in a white cap came to one port and threw
some slop into the sea. As he emptied the bucket my eyes roved to the
very next port aft. There somebody sat peeling vegetables. I could see
the flash of the knife in the sunlight, and the long paring of potato
peel curling off the knifeblade.

It was an idle glance I had turned upon the vegetable peeler. He was
only a cook's apprentice, or scullion. There was no reason why my gaze
should have fastened upon him with interest. Yet my eyes lingered, and
suddenly the fellow raised his head and his face was turned toward the
open port.

The mental shock I experienced made me inattentive to my helm and the
Wavecrest fell off. Old Tom sang out to know what I was about, and
silently I brought the sloop's nose back again. The steamship had
slipped by us and the wake of her set the little craft to jumping.

My mind was in a fog. I steered mechanically. The face I had seen at the
open port of the Peveril was still before me, as in a vision. I knew I
had not been tricked by any hallucination. I had not even been thinking
of the fellow at the time. And I was sure that the cook's assistant
aboard the Peveril had not seen and recognized me.

But I could not be mistaken in my identification of that face at the
port. It was that of my cousin, Paul Downes--Paul Downes, here on the de
la Plata, thousands of miles from home, and evidently working in the
menial position of cook's helper on the steamship, Peveril! Is it to be
wondered that I was amazed?



CHAPTER XXIII

IN WHICH I BEGIN TO WONDER "IS IT ME, OR IS IT NOT ME?"


I had told nobody aboard the Scarboro the particulars of my home-life,
or the incidents leading to my being swept out to sea in the
Wavecrest. Had Ben Gibson been my mate in the crew instead of holding
the position of second officer, undoubtedly he would have had my full
confidence. As things stood, I had no desire to take either Ben or the
old sailor into closer communion with my thoughts.

The great steamship passed us and swept up the Silver River, leaving the
Wavecrest far behind. She would reach Buenos Ayres fully twenty-four
hours before the sloop could make that port. But this delay did not
trouble me at the time. I wanted to think the situation over, anyway.

At the start I was pretty sure that Paul Downes had not come down here
on my account. He wasn't looking for me. Nor did it seem that he had
left home under very favorable circumstances. Otherwise he would not be
peeling vegetables for the cook of the Peveril.

After the first confusion passed from my mind I could pretty easily
figure out the probable incidents that had brought my cousin down here.
I knew about how long it had taken the steamship to voyage from her home
port. Had my letters been delivered in Bolderhead within reasonable
time, my mother and Ham, and the others must have been aware of the
explanation of my absence a week or two previous to the sailing of the
Peveril from Boston.

I had told Mr. Hounsditch, our lawyer, the whole truth about my sloop
being swept away; I had likewise advised Ham Mayberry to gather what
evidence he could against my cousin and those who had helped him commit
the outrage that had placed me in such peril. It was a cinch that Paul
had got wind of these discoveries, had been fearful of being arrested
for his part in the crime, and had run away from home.

In doing so, too, it was evident that his father, Mr. Chester Downes,
had not been a party to his escape. Paul had slipped away without his
father's help or knowledge of his going. Otherwise Paul would not have
been in a moneyless state, and he must have been moneyless before he
would have gone to work. Paul didn't love work, I knew; and I could
imagine that there was no fun connected with the job he seemed to have
annexed aboard the Peveril.

I reckoned I should probably hear all about it when I went to the
consul's office at Buenos Ayres. Either my mother, or Ham, would write
me the particulars of Paul's running away from home. The Bayne Liner was
no mailboat; I expected that my letters had been awaiting me for some
time at the port; and the money could have been cabled nearly a month
before this date.

Well, we got into Buenos Ayres in good season, and I noted where the
Peveril was docked. We moored outside a raft of small sailing crafts and
had the dickens of a time taking Ben Gibson ashore on his mattress. A
couple of blacks helped us, and after sending in a telephone message to
the hospital, a very modern and up-to-date motor ambulance came down and
whisked us all off to that institution. I couldn't speak Spanish, nor
could Ben; but those medicos could talk English after a fashion, and
soon Ben was fixed fine in a private room and the doctors declared he'd
be fit as a fiddle in six weeks.

Then it was up to old Tom and me to find a place to camp. The sailor was
for going back to the sloop where board and lodging wouldn't cost us
much; but I confess I was hungry for something more civilized. I wanted
bed-sheets and ham and eggs for breakfast--or whatever the Buenos Ayres
equivalent was for those viands!

We made some inquiries--of course along the water-front--and found a
decent sailors' boarding house kept by a withered old Mestizo woman (the
Mestizoes are the native population of Argentina) who had some idea of
cleanliness and could cook beans and fish in more ways than you could
shake a stick at; only, as Tom objected very soon, all her culinary
results tasted alike because of the pepper!

It was after breakfast the morning following our arrival that Tom
uttered this criticism. We were on our way to the hospital. We found Ben
feeling "bully" as he weakly told us, when we were allowed to go up to
his private room. Captain Rogers had given him drafts on a local banker
and he was fixed _right_ at that hospital. The doctors had examined him
again and pronounced him coming on fine. So, with my mind at rest about
him, I tacked away for the little dobe building down toward the
water-front which at that day flew the American flag from the staff upon
its roof.

It was a busy place and most of the clerks I saw were Mestizoes, or
Spaniards, or the several shades of color between the two races. Spanish
seemed to be spoken for the most part; but finally a man came out of a
rear office and asked me abruptly what I wanted.

"I'd like to see Mr. Hefferan," I said.

"He's busy. Can't see him. What do you want?" snapped this man.

"I'm an American, and I'd like to see him," I began, but the fellow, who
had been looking me over pretty scornfully broke in:

"That's impossible, I tell you. Tell me what you want? Had trouble with
your captain? Overstayed your leave? Or have you just got out of jail?"

Now, I hadn't thought before this just how disreputable I looked. I was
dressed in the slops I had got out of the Scarboro's chest, was
barefooted, and was burned almost as black as any negro--where the skin
showed, at least. I couldn't much blame this whippersnapper of a
consul's clerk for thinking me a tough subject.

"None of those things fit my case, Mister," I said, mildly. "I know I
don't look handsome, but I've been on a whaling bark for several months
and I haven't had time yet to tog up."

"A whaleship?" he asked. "An American whaleship?"

"Yes, sir," said I.

"There is none in port."

"No, sir. I have been with the Scarboro. I'm mighty sure she's not in
port."

"The Scarboro?" he asked me with a sudden queer look coming into his
face. "You're one of the crew of the Scarboro?"

"Not exactly one of her crew. But she picked me up adrift and I have
been with her until lately."

"You come in here," said the clerk, slowly, motioning me into the room
behind him. And when we were in there he motioned me to a seat and sat
down himself in front of me. "Let's hear your yarn," he said.

I thought it was rather strange he should be so interested, and likewise
that he should stare at me so all the time I was talking. But I gave him
a pretty good account of my adventures from the time I was blown out of
Bolderhead Harbor, finishing with how I came to be at Buenos Ayres
without the bark herself being within six or seven hundred miles of the
port.

"So that's your yarn, is it?" he asked me grimly, when I was done.

I stared at him in turn. To tell the truth, I was getting a little warm.
His face showed nothing like good-humor and friendliness. I waited to
see what it meant.

"So that's your yarn?" he repeated. "I thought when I set eyes on you
that you were a tricky fellow. But this caps all!" Why, he suddenly
raised his voice and stood up, "what do you mean by coming here with
such a yarn? I've a mind to clap you into jail!"

I stood up, too. I must confess that I felt a bit scared. It was a
pretty hot day. I didn't know but maybe the heat had overcome the fellow
and he had gone crazy.

"How dare you come here with such a tale as this, you dirty
beach-comber?" he demanded, shaking his fist in my face. "If Colonel
Hefferan was here I don't doubt he'd kick you out of the place. And
you'd better go quick, as it is. Don't you show your face here
again----"

All the time he had been walking me backward to the door. I had been
obliged to keep stepping to keep before him. But I backed up against the
door and stopped. I was getting angry, and I thought I'd gone far
enough.

"I don't know what you're driving at," I said. "But one thing I do
know. My name is Clinton Webb, I have every reason to believe that my
mother has cabled me some money in Mr. Hefferan's care, and I expect
there are letters for me, too. I want the money and the letters----"

"Too late, you scoundrel!" he snarled at me, still shaking his fist.
"Your game is played too late. Not that we would have believed a
scoundrelly beach-comber like you----"

"You don't believe what?" I shot in, raising my voice.

"I know you're not Clinton Webb."

"WHAT?"

"You're too late," he said, laughing nastily. "Mr. Webb came here
yesterday. He identified himself to the satisfaction of Colonel
Hefferan, and he got his money and letters. I don't know who put you up
to this trick, but you're too late, I tell you!"

He managed to push me aside and now pulled open the door. He put a
whistle to his lips and blew a shrill blast. Two barefooted, but very
husky negroes came running in from the portico. I had noticed them
lounging there when I entered.

He said something sharply to them in Spanish, and they grabbed me. My
blood was boiling, and I believe if they had given me a moment's warning
I would have sailed into them. But they held me on either side, and a
hundred and eighty pounds of negro on each arm was too much for me. They
dragged me toward the main door of the building in a hurry.

"You get out of here!" cried the consul's clerk behind me. "And don't
you dare come back. If you do you'll go to the calaboose as sure as
you're a foot high!"

I found myself out upon the sun-broiled street, with the two grinning
guards barring my return. It had never entered my mind before that Uncle
Sam is sometimes served by an ignorant and pompous nincompoop!

But the satisfaction of making this discovery had a bitter taste. I did
not know what to do. My mind was in a whirl. I had some few letters and
papers in my pockets by which I had expected--after a time--to assure
the consul of my identity. But it seemed that I wasn't to be given a
chance to explain who and what I was.

Somebody had been ahead of me. Some person unknown had represented me
before the consul and had, it appeared, made good. My money and my
letters had been turned over to this person----

"Paul Downes for a dollar bill!" I ejaculated. "It can't be anybody
else. Who else would know enough about me to represent himself as Clint
Webb? He probably knew all about the money and letters. He got away from
home broke, worked his passage out here got here only a few hours before
I did, and he has beaten me to the consul. Whatever shall I do?"

It was not that I was entirely helpless, although I had only a dollar
in my pocket. Captain Rogers was to pay me the hundred dollars he had
promised me at the end of the whaling voyage, if I decided not to return
to the Scarboro. Ben Gibson was sick in the hospital, and old Tom and I
were both dependent upon him for our board money. I didn't propose to be
an object of charity. But I must confess that what I _did_ mean to do
had not as yet formed itself rationally in my mind when I got back to
old Maria Debora's.

Tom was out somewhere seeing the sights. He had not gone with me to the
consul's office. Supper time came before the old man showed up and I sat
down among the first of the boarders. They were a cosmopolitan lot,
rough seamen from several quarters of the globe. They spoke half a dozen
different languages and dialects.

I sat with my back to the door, and was only aware of the entrance of
another party of men by the noise and stir behind me.

"Will you pass down a dish of those beans mate?" I had just called above
the hubbub, speaking to a man across the table.

Instantly somebody stepped quickly behind my chair. A hand came down
heavily on my shoulder.

"By all the e-tar-nal snakes!" ejaculated a nasal voice. "I knew I
couldn't be mistaken about that back. But the voice convinced me. By the
e-tar-nal snakes! Professor, how came you here?"

I turned slowly to see who had thus addressed me. It was a tall
individual at my side--long legged, very lean, and when he laughed it
sounded like a horse neighing. He was so very tall that I had not raised
my eyes far enough to see his face before he spoke again.

"Professor! ye sartainly give me a start. By the e-tar-nal snakes! I
could have taken my dying oath you wasn't north o' the cape o' the
Virgins. What you doin' yere in Maria Debora's?"

It began to be impressed on my mind with force that I was a good deal
like the little old woman of the nursery rhyme. I wondered whether this
was really me, or was it not me? My identity as Clinton Webb had been
denied at the consul's, and here a perfect stranger was calling me out
of my name--and he seemed insistent upon it, too!



CHAPTER XXIV

IN WHICH I GET ACQUAINTED WITH CAPTAIN ADONIRAM TUGG


The face I finally saw at the top of that beanpole figure was as long as
the moral law. Such a lank, cadaverous visage I don't think I had ever
seen before. The man was a human lath.

And so bronzed and toughened was his hide that he looked to be made out
of sole-leather. His mouth was a grim, post-box slit; his nose was a
high beak with such a hump on it that I thought it had been broken; but
his eyes were human--gray-blue, twinkling with innumerable humorous
wrinkles at the outer corners.

"By the e-tar-nal snakes!" he ejaculated when I had tipped back my head
so that he could really see my face. "You ain't the Professor at all!
Why, you're a boy!"

"I am not your friend, the Professor," I admitted.

"And the voice!" he muttered, staring down at me. "It's his voice. I
ain't put in my winters with him this last dozen years and more to be
mistook in his voice. Say, boy, who be you?"

"Clint Webb is my name," I replied.

"Where do you hail from?"

"Massachusetts. Late of the Scarboro whaling bark."

"How old be you?"

"Going on seventeen."

"Well," he puffed, with a windy sigh, "you look behind enough like the
Professor to be him. And your voice is jest like his--that I'll swear
to! You must be some related."

"I don't know that we've any scientists in the family," I said, with a
laugh. I rather liked the long-legged individual.

"Don't know nobody named Vose?" he asked.

"No-o. Don't think I do."

He slumped down upon the bench beside me and helped himself to beans.

"By the e-tar-nal snakes!" he muttered. "It does completely
flabergasticate me--I do assure you! I never saw two folks so near
alike, back-to! You'd oughter see the Professor."

"I would be only too happy," I said, politely.

I was interested in my new acquaintance, but not particularly in his
friend whom I appeared to favor. He told me in the course of the meal a
good deal about himself; and it was interesting, his story.

He was called Captain Adoniram Tugg, a Connecticut Yankee, and skipper
of a two-stick schooner called the Sea Spell. He followed an odd
business. He was a wild animal trapper, and gathered Natural History
specimens of many kinds for museums and menageries. He had just disposed
of his last season's catch, had shipped the last specimen northward by
steamship, and was about to sail for the Straits of Magellan again, near
which he had his headquarters.

"To tell you the truth, the Professor and me are partners. He's an odd
stick," quoth Captain Tugg, after supper, as we sat on the broad step
before Maria Debora's door, and he smoked the native cheroots while I
listened. "He ain't been in a civilized town like this since I've knowed
him. For a l'arned chap, and a New Englander, he seems to have lost all
curiosity, and, I reckon, he's got a grouch on the rest of mankind."

"How long did you say you had known him?" I asked, idly.

"All of twelve year. He come to my camp one day. Just walked up to the
door like he'd come here and knock. But I didn't suppose there was
another white man within five hundred miles--'nless he was aboard some
craft beating through the straits.

"He was civil spoken enough; but he never would open up. Most fellows
meeting that sort o' way," continued Captain Tugg, puffing reflectively,
"would git chummy. The Professor's never told me a thing about himself.
As fur as I know he was born full growed, right there on the rocks where
my shanty's built, and ain't got kith nor kin--fam'bly or enemy--just as
lonely as Adam was in Eden before the trouble began!

"Yet," said the captain, "to look at the Professor, you'd know there was
never nothing crooked about his partner. And I have--but nothing about
his past. Only I'm willing to put up real money that whatever happened
to Professor Vose was something that was caused by no fault of his. He's
always been sad. Never heard him laugh. He's the kindest man ye ever
see, son. And if one o' them Injun's sick, or the like, he treats 'em
like a sure-'nough hospital sawbones.

"Then he is a physician?" I asked suddenly.

"I reckon he's most anything that a man kin l'arn out o' books,"
declared Captain Tugg. "He sent by me to Buenos Ayres here, first trip I
made after we'd gone partners in the animal biz, for the greatest old
outfit of drugs and the like you ever see. The natives come flockin' to
him for miles an' miles. He's one big medicine man, all right, all
right!"

"And I look like him?" I queried.

"By the e-tar-nal snakes! you sartainly favor him, son," declared the
captain, enthusiastically. "Why! ye might be his son. Got the same
features. The Professor keeps clean shaven. Hair like him, too, now I
looks at ye. And your voice--Well! it does beat all how near like him
you be. Sure you ain't got no relative named Vose?"

"How do you know his name is Vose?" I asked, my voice trembling a
little, for the old mystery of my father's disappearance had swept in
upon my soul again and I was shaken to the depths.

"Wal! I swear now! I never thought of that. I s'pose he might never
have told me his real name," said Tugg.

The whole story took hold of me as it had when Tom Anderly told me of
the man that had been picked up by the coaster, Sally Smith, off
Bolderhead Neck some fourteen or fifteen years before. Tom had said
nothing about the man looking like me; but of course, Tom didn't know
the man long--only until the coaster reached New York City. And his name
had been Carver--or so the Unknown had said. This Captain Tugg had been
partners with the man he called the Professor for twelve years. Long
enough to know his peculiarities and to recognize in my build, and in
the tones of my voice, things that reminded him strongly of his partner.

And I had been told, often enough, that I had my father's stature and
his very tone of voice and manner of speaking!

But hold on! there was another way to make connection between the flying
strands of this seemingly absurd story. I turned to Captain Tugg calmly.

"By the way, sir," I said, "do you ever run around to Santiago?"

"Valparaiso, you mean, son?" he returned. "That's the seaport."

"I mean Santiago, Chili."

"Why, pshaw! I _have_ been to the capital once--three or four years
ago."

"What for, sir--if I'm not too curious? You see, I've a reason for
asking," I said.

"I reckon so," he returned, eyeing me grimly. "And I've a reason for
not telling you. Private business."

"I don't mean to be too 'nosey,'" I returned. "But I'll ask you another
question. If it hasn't anything to do with your private business, you'll
answer me?"

"Let drive," he commanded, thoughtfully smoking.

"When you were in Santiago three or four years ago----"

"Come to think of it, it was five year back," interrupted the captain.

"All right," I said. "Did you at that time mail a letter for Professor
Vose from that town?"

Captain Tugg smote his knee suddenly. "By the e-tar-nal snakes!" he
ejaculated. "Now you remind me."

"Did you?" I asked, eagerly.

"Only letter I ever knowed him to write. He gave it to me before I
started in the Sea Spell. Yes, sir. I mailed it there, for it was among
my papers, and I forgot it when we touched at Conception, and again when
we put in at Valparaiso."

"Was that letter addressed to Tom Anderly, at the office of Radnor &
Blunt, in New York--a firm of shipping merchants?"

"You win!" ejaculated Captain Tugg. "I memorized that address. Have to
admit I've always been cur'ous about the Professor. You know him?"

"No, sir," I said. "But I believe there's a man here in town who does.
Or, at least knows something about him," I added, as I remembered how
very little Tom Anderly really knew about the man who had been picked up
in the fog off Bolderhead Neck.

"I'd like to see that feller," said Tugg.

"And I'd like mightily to see your Professor," said I.

Tugg looked at me thoughtfully. "Got a job?" he asked.

"I'm not sure that I shall wait for the Scarboro," I replied. "We come
in with our second mate who was hurt by a whale. He's in hospital. I
have got about all the whaling I want, I believe."

"I'll give ye a job aboard the Sea Spell."

"I'll think of that," said I, quickly.

"You'll not think long, son," drawled Captain Tugg, grimly. "We get away
on the morning tide."

The suggestion startled me. I felt a drawing toward Captain Adoniram
Tugg and his schooner. Rather, I had a strong desire to see the man whom
he called his partner--the man who had given his name as Carver on the
Sally Smith, but was now known to Tugg as "Professor Vose." I was in a
fret of uncertainty.



CHAPTER XXV

IN WHICH I FOLLOW THE BECKONING FINGER OF A SPECTRE


I shall never forget that evening as I sat beside Captain Adoniram Tugg
on Maria Debora's portico. From the street, which was well down toward
the water-front, rose all manner of smells and noises; most of them were
unpleasant. Sailors in foreign ports have to put up with a lot of
discomfort and are thrown among the most objectionable people and endure
more hardships of a different kind than are handed to them aboard
ship--and that's saying a good deal!

It was a warm night, too, and there were crowds on the street. A
confusion of different dialects came up to me and it was only now and
then that I heard an English word spoken. But these impressions came to
me quite unconsciously at the time. I had a problem--and a hard one--to
solve.

I had really not recovered from the shock I had received at the American
consul's. My money and letters were gone. Paul Downes had represented
himself as me and had got away with the money with which I had expected
to pay my passage home. But, of course, I really was not in great
straights for means of getting back to Bolderhead.

With the experience I had had upon the whaling bark, and with my
physique, I knew very well that I could obtain a berth on either a
sailing or a steam vessel bound for the northern ports. I could work my
way home after a fashion. Besides, I could sell my sloop for almost
enough money to pay for a first-class passage to Boston on a Bayne
Liner.

To tell the truth, I was more troubled by the loss of my letters than I
was by the loss of my money. I was anxious about my mother--anxious to
know how she had endured the shock of my absence, what her present
condition was, and all about affairs at home. Besides, there might have
been private information in those letters that I wouldn't want Paul
Downes to learn.

My rascally cousin had certainly set out on a career worthy of a pirate!
He had run away from home--and probably because he was afraid of
punishment for his crimes--and here in Buenos Ayres, so far from
Bolderhead, had begun a new career of wrong-doing.

"He certainly is a bad egg!" I thought.

But it wasn't upon Paul Downes that my mind lingered long. My cousin had
played me a scurvy trick; but I was not made helpless by it. I could get
home after a fashion--if I wanted to. And that was my problem! Did I
want to go home?

Until I had talked with this Captain Tugg I thought I had had my fill of
adventure and sea-roving. But his story of the man who had been his
partner for twelve years--the man who looked and spoke like me--had
wheeled my mind square about! Instead of being headed north in my
thoughts, I was at once headed south. _I wanted to see this Professor
Vose!_

Yes. Spectre though the man was--will-o'-the-wisp as he seemed--I
desired above all else to see and speak with this man whom Tom Anderly
called "Carver" and Captain Tugg knew as "Professor Vose." If my father,
Dr. Webb, was alive _he_ would be a man with a mysterious past! I wanted
to come face to face with this man whom Tugg said was so much like me.

"Where are you going from here when your Sea Spell sails, Captain Tugg?"
I asked the Yankee animal collector.

"Goin' to make the Straits," drawled he. "Goin' right back to
headquarters for a bit. Mebbe we'll keep the old schooner in
commission--I'm taking down light cargo for headquarters now. But I
leave most of the actual snarin' and trappin' of the critters to the
Injuns--and to the Professor. I got some black fellers down there that
would take a prize in a circus sideshow themselves. One of 'em's over
seven foot tall. And strong as wolves," declared Captain Tugg.

"If I went with you, what would you give me a month?"

"Sixteen dollars--in silver," he said, promptly. "I see you've got
eddication--you'd be handy. I could trust you with the schooner after a
v'yge or two. I got a good navigator, Pedro, my mate; but he can't talk
or write English worth a cent."

"But suppose I shouldn't want to remain with you?" I suggested.

"You kin come back here, then. Plenty of steamers comin' through the
straits that touch at Buenos Ayres. My headquarters is at the head of
navigable water about a hundred miles north of the Straits. An inlet and
river makes in there. It's a wild country, but I've made out to live
thereabout for nigh onto fifteen year--and the Professor's stood it for
better than twelve. I can put you in the way of makin' better money in
time."

But I was not listening to all he said. I suddenly put in:

"Your schooner is going right to your headquarters now?"

"Yes, sir!"

"And that is where this Professor stays?"

"When he ain't up country trapping critters."

If you have read thus far in my story you will have discovered one thing
about me, if nothing else. I was impulsive--ridiculously impulsive. My
bump of imagination was big, too. Otherwise the idea that my father was
roaming about the world instead of being peacefully asleep somewhere at
the bottom of the sea off Bolderhead, would never have gained such a
strong hold upon me.

And my impulsiveness urged me to accept the story of this Professor
Vose--as related by Captain Tugg--as something of vital importance to
myself. Here I was at Buenos Ayres, not many weeks' sail from the place
where the mysterious Professor was to be found. On the other hand, it
was plainly my duty to make for home by the quickest route possible.

Duty and inclination were at daggers' drawn again. I told myself that as
long as there was a possibility that the mysterious Professor might be
my lost father, I should take up with this offer of Captain Tugg. I
might never be able to find this man of mystery if I did not sail on the
Sea Spell when she slipped away from Buenos Ayres.

"It's my chance!" I thought. "I can go home if there proves to be
nothing in the venture. Why! I might take a steamship right at the
Straits for some United States port. It's my chance! I'll do it."

And so--as I had many times before--I came to a reckless conclusion and
went into a venture the end of which was mighty misty! I suddenly turned
to the lathlike Yankee and told him that I would take up with his offer,
and we shook hands upon the compact.

But once I had entered into the agreement I found I had a hundred things
to do and little time to do it in. Old Tom Anderly had not come back to
the boarding house and I could not wait for him to appear. Captain Tugg
was already thinking of loafing along to the dock where his two-stick
schooner was moored. I bundled up my dunnage and went with him.

"You'll take second mate's berth, son," said the long-legged Yankee.
"Not that you're fit for it, and I'll have to be on deck jest as much as
ever; but I can't put a white man for'ard with that bilin' of
off-scourin's I've got for a crew. I can trust Pedro; but there isn't
another man of the crew that I'd trust as far as I could sling a
barge-load o' bricks!

"You've the makin's of a smart sailor in you--I can see that," pursued
the Captain. "And you say you've begun studying navigation?"

"I picked up some aboard the Scarboro, listening to Captain Hi and Ben
Gibson."

"We'll make a mate of you in a year or two," said Captain Tugg,
confidently.

But that speech shocked me. I had no intention of following the sea a
year or two. I meant just then to sail down to this place Tugg told
about and take a look at the Professor individual. That's all I wanted.
Then it would be "homeward bound" for me.

We reached the schooner and I found her a nice looking craft, bright and
shining, with new sails bent on and a scraped and oiled deck and pretty
sticks in her. She's been rigged new throughout and looked more like a
yacht than a coasting vessel knocking about the southern trades.

I had left a note at Maria Debora's for old Tom, and another for him to
give Ben Gibson. I had some things to buy, and several of them were by
Captain Tugg's advice. He advanced me money for my purchases, and they
included a second-hand Winchester and a revolver.

"We're going to a wild piece of airth, son," said the animal trapper.

Then I saw the man (he was an American) with whom we had left my sloop.
He agreed to look after her and keep her in repair for her use, so
_that_ matter was settled. And then I did something that my conscience
told me I should have attended to the moment I arrived in Buenos Ayres.
I took five dollars of the sum I had drawn ahead on my wages and sent a
short cable to my mother. It told her nothing but the fact that I was
alive and well.

But that night, before it came time for me to hustle on deck and help
get the Sea Spell under way, I spent writing letters to Ham Mayberry and
Mr. Hounsditch. I gave them both the particulars of my treatment at the
consul's office and my knowledge of Paul Downes' presence at Buenos
Ayres and the trick I believed he had played upon me. Of the venture I
had now started upon in the Sea Spell I spoke only in a general way. But
I promised them I would be back in Buenos Ayres, or on my way home,
within a very few months.

These letters went off to the mail on the tug that towed the schooner
out of the tangle of shipping. We made sail in half an hour and the Sea
Spell made a good leg to windward, beginning her voyage into the
south--a voyage on which I was following the beckoning finger of a
spectre.



CHAPTER XXVI

IN WHICH THE SEA SPELL GOES ASHORE ON A MOST UNFRIENDLY COAST


I learned a whole lot beside seamanship during those next few weeks as
the schooner Sea Spell coasted Buenos Ayres Province and the vast
Colonial Territory of Magellan. A stretch of nearly a thousand miles we
had to sail to reach the Cape of the Virgins, behind which is the
entrance to the Magellan Straits.

The coastwise trade between the ports below Buenos Ayres--Bahia Blanca,
El Carmen on the Rio Negro, Port St. Antonio at at the head of the Gulf
of St. Matias, San Josefpen, Por Malaspina, Santa Cruz, and clear around
to the Pacific seaports of Chili--this coastwise trade, I say, is almost
like the trade along our Atlantic seaboard. Inland, Tugg told me, there
were vast pampasses empty of all but cattle and wild beasts and some
tribes of wild men; but a strip of the seacoast south of the mouth of
the Silver River is being rapidly developed.

There are great rivers emptying into the sea here,--the Cobu Leofu, Rio
Negro, the Balchitas, the Chupat Desire and Rio Chico--all water-ways
which are opening up the country. Argentina is as large as all Eastern
and Central Europe together and is enormously rich in mineral and
natural products.

This information was brought home to me as, day after day, and with
favorable gales, the Sea Spell winged her way southward. She was a
fairly fast sailing ship and Captain Adoniram Tugg evidently took pride
in her. But her crew was all that he had given me reason to believe. A
dirtier, more ungovernable gang of penny cut-throats I doubt never
sailed on any honest ship!

I soon learned, beside all the above about Argentina's coast trade, that
Tugg kept his seamen at work through fear. He never changed his drawl in
speaking; but when he gave an order there was a grimness about his mouth
and a flash in his gray-blue eyes that gave one a cold, creepy feeling
in the region of the spine. I don't know that Captain Tugg went armed.
But if an order had been neglected by any man aboard I had the feeling
that a weapon would appear in the skipper's hand and that the mutineer
would have dropped in his tracks!

Pedro, the mate, was a snaky, dusky fellow, with huge rings of gold in
his ears and a smile that showed altogether too many teeth to be
pleasant--a regular alligator smile. As far as I could see, I would just
as lief have Pedro's ill feeling as his friendship. Yet Tugg trusted him
implicitly. But I--I locked my stateroom door whenever I lay down to
sleep; and I kept the Winchester and the Colts revolver loaded all the
time. Perhaps I was foolish; but I felt that we were in a state of war.

The routine duties of the schooner kept me at work, however, for I
tried to earn my sixteen a month. Tugg was a good navigator himself. He
handled his schooner like a professional yachtsman. Captain Rogers would
have admired the man, for he was another skipper who did not believe in
lying hove to no matter how hard the wind blew. There was a week at a
stretch when I didn't get thoroughly dry between watches. The Sea Spell
just about flew over the water instead of through it!

But a calm fell thereafter and we lay for eighteen hours in the Bay of
St. George, the sails hanging dead with not a breath of wind, and the
sea like glass. We were within two rifle shots of the shore at one
point. Behind this point of rocks was an inlet and the pool made good
anchorage without doubt, for there were several sail there, and a jumble
of huts on the shore.

We had seen whales for several days and once passed a whaleship at work
trying out; but it was not the Scarboro. Now a great whale swam calmly
past the Sea Spell, nosing in toward the land, probably following some
school of tiny fish upon which he was feeding.

"Wisht I had a crew of bully boys to go after that critter," sighed
Captain Tugg, behind his long cheroot. "He'll make more'n a bucket o'
ile, you bet!"

"You wouldn't want to litter up your tidy schooner with grease, sir,"
said I, in wonder.

"Mebbe not; mebbe not. But money's good wherever you find it, and that
critter is wuth two or three thousand dollars. By the e-tar-nal snakes!"
he added, using his favorite expletive, "I'd love to stick an iron in
that carcass."

I knew that Adoniram Tugg had been almost everything in the line of
sea-going and was not surprised to find that he had driven the iron into
many a whale. We stood swapping experiences, idly watching the big
whale. The creature sounded and remained down twenty or thirty minutes.
When he came up he spouted three times in quick succession, and then lay
basking on the surface.

"Looker there!" exclaimed Captain Tugg, suddenly. "By the e-tar-nal
snakes! looker there!"

He was pointing at the whale. Up towards its head, on the port side,
there appeared on the water a long tail, or fin, at right angles with
the whale.

"What in tarnation d'ye s'pose that critter is?" demanded Captain Tugg.

The thing was all of four and twenty feet long, about two wide at the
upper end, and tapering to eighteen inches. Almost at once the living
club was elevated in the air and then was flung down across the whale's
back--just behind where the head was attached to its body--with a noise
like a signal gun.

"Will ye looker that now!" bawled the Captain, in wonder.

Again and again the monstrous club rose and descended. The great whale
leaped like a beaten horse under the rain of blows; but whichever way
it turned, it could not shake off its assailant. The operator of that
club seemed to have it under perfect control, and likewise had means of
keeping up with the victim no matter in which direction, or how fast,
the latter swam. The blows fell only a few seconds apart, and the whale
finally sounded to escape them.

But when he came up again, there was the mysterious enemy, hanging to
the whale like a bull dog, and the beating re-commenced. The sea about
the hectored whale was tinged with blood. The creature's back was
lacerated frightfully and without any doubt whatsoever, it was being
beaten to death by its antagonist.

Tugg grew greatly excited, and ordered a boat lowered. We took four
sailors and left Pedro in command of the becalmed schooner, and rowed
off towards the scene of the battle between the whale and the mysterious
fish.

"It must be some kind of a huge ray," I suggested. "That's the tail that
is being used like a club."

"By the e-tar-nal snakes!" exploded Tugg, "it's a different kind of a
sea-bat from anything I ever seed or heard of. You take it from me,
that's a sea-sarpint, or wuss!"

The whale was evidently at its last gasp when we left the schooner. It
soon rolled over on its side. The mysterious flail stopped beating the
huge body and the water seemed churned excitedly at the nose of the
leviathan.

"The porpoises have got at it," I suggested.

"Not much they ain't," returned Captain Tugg. "There ain't no porpoises
around today. Whatever the critter is that killed the whale, it's at
dinner now."

And it was true. The mysterious denizen of the deep that had beaten the
whale to death, ate out the huge mammal's tongue and had sunk again into
the sea before we rowed near enough to distinguish its shape or size. It
had disappeared as mysteriously as it had risen and seemingly all it had
killed the mammal for was to eat its tongue.

Captain Tugg's eye glistened when he saw the proportions of that whale
closer to. He stood up, looked long towards the inlet where there seemed
to be some movement among the craft anchored there, and then ordered us
to row in close to the whale's tail.

He passed a hawser around the narrow part of the whale just forward of
the tail and then ordered the men to pull for the schooner. It was a
tug, now I tell you! but we got the whale to the Sea Spell after a
while. I expected to see the spick and span schooner all messed up with
try-out works, and grease, and smoke. It disgusted me that the Yankee
skipper should be so sharp after the Almighty Dollar. But I didn't yet
know Captain Adoniram Tugg.

I saw that a number of craft had started out of the inlet--a much
puffing steam tug ahead, drawing several smaller boats behind it. There
was no wind at all, so the fleet approached slowly, and we had the
whale tackled to the Sea Spell, fore and aft, before the tug was very
near.

We made no immediate attempt to butcher the whale and I took pains to
get some of its dimensions. It was eighty-two feet over all in length
and nearly sixty feet around the biggest part of the body. The lower jaw
was nineteen and one-half feet long and the tail, when it was expanded,
measured twenty-three feet. I suppose, through the thickest part of the
body it must have been as many feet as the expanded tail was wide; at
least, so it appeared. These measurements will give the reader some idea
of what these huge mammals look like. And Captain Tugg had not been far
out of the way when he declared the whale to be worth two thousand
dollars.

"What you got to run oil into, sir?" I asked, curiously.

"Wait a bit; wait a bit," returned the Yankee, puffing on his cheroot.
"Let's see what these Yaller-skins have to offer. If we hadn't tailed
onto the whale as we did they'd had their hooks in it by this time."

A few words in Spanish to Pedro had stirred up the mate and crew of the
Sea Spell. They seemed wonderfully busy getting a lot of gear and litter
upon deck. The uninitiated might have thought that we were getting ready
to cut up the whale and boil down the blubber in the most approved
style.

Finally a man aboard the tug hailed us. Captain Tugg answered in
Spanish, and an excited conversation ensued--at least, excited upon the
side of the man aboard the steam vessel and his compatriots. The skipper
of the Sea Spell seemed particularly calm and unshaken. I could
understand but little of the talk, although I had begun to pick up the
bastard Spanish spoken along the coast. I knew the Yankee and the dagos
were bargaining.

Finally Tugg sang out to Pedro to belay the work he and the crew were
engaged in, and to lower a boat again. The captain was rowed to the tug
and after some further conversation I saw certain moneys counted out and
paid over to the master of the Sea Spell. He was then rowed back and
when he was aboard he ordered the dead whale cast off.

"And git some of your watch down there, Pedro," added Captain Tugg, "and
swab the grease off her side. Ugh! There ain't nothing nastier than a
whale."

"Yet you were going to cut her up?" I suggested, curiously.

He favored me with a wink. "Buncome, Bluff," he murmured. "That little
play-acting turned me two hundred dollars in gold. Our lying becalmed
here wasn't such a bad thing after all--and here comes the breeze. Jest
like finding money in an old coat, Mr. Webb--that's what that was."

And so the shrewd old fellow turned everything to account. We got a
breeze and were out of sight of the place before the small craft had got
the big whale towed into the inlet--where they would beach it and cut
it up. Captain Adoniram Tugg was two hundred dollars in pocket, and just
because some mysterious sea-beast had seen fit to kill a whale for its
tongue!

We had a fine breeze after the long calm, but nothing but fair weather
until we rounded the Cape of the Virgins. There the broad entrance of
the magnificent Straits of Magellan lay before the nose of the schooner.
A little later we had furled all but the topsails and were sailing due
north into an inlet masked by many dangerous looking reefs. The mate of
the Sea Spell, Pedro, seemed to know the channel well, however, and
although Adoniram Tugg remained on deck he did not seem to be worried at
all about the schooner's safety.

"We'll drop anchor before morning," he told me. "That is, if the wind
holds in the same quarter. You'll have a chance to see what sort of a
good fellow the Professor is tomorrow."

"What! are we so near your headquarters?"

"That's the checker," returned Tugg. "Just a short sail now."

The inlet was never more than a mile wide; in places the rocks crowded
in toward the channel until a strong man could have flung a stone from
shore to shore. The waterway was really a series of quiet salt pools.

The shores were wild and rugged. I had never seen a more forbidding
coast. When the night dropped down upon us--as it did suddenly, and a
starless sky o'er-head--I wondered how Pedro could smell his way
through. I heard Tugg roaring something in Spanish about "the beacon"
and then a spark of fire flared out in the darkness far ahead. It looked
like a stationary lamp and burned brightly. The captain came over to me,
chuckling.

"That's my partner's light," he said, with satisfaction. "He rigged that
beacon, and it's lit every night that the Sea Spell is on a cruise.
Pedro can work the schooner up the inlet by that light without rubbing a
hair."

And so we sailed on, and on, without a thought of danger until, of a
sudden, I felt the schooner jar throughout her whole length. Captain
Tugg jumped and yelled to Pedro:

"What in tarnation you doin', numbskull? Hi, one o' you boys! git into
the chains with the lead."

But before the man could sound the Sea Spell grounded again, and this
time she ran her keel upon a sand bank so solidly that she stopped dead,
with the sails above cracking! There was a hullabaloo for a few minutes,
now I tell you. Shouts, commands, the grinding of the schooner's keel,
the slatting of sails. The Sea Spell had driven so hard and fast upon
the shoal that she canted neither to port, or starboard. And although
the sea was still so that she would not be beaten by the waves, it
looked much to me as though she were piled up on this unfriendly coast
for good and all!



CHAPTER XXVII

IN WHICH WE FIND THE NATIVES MORE UNFRIENDLY THAN THE COAST


The bright light ahead had disappeared. Tugg was berating Pedro for
getting off his course and running the schooner aground. In a minute,
however, another light flashed up nearby and I saw that a huge bonfire
had been kindled on the shore not more than a cable's length away.

"What in the e-tar-nal snakes is that?" bawled Captain Adoniram Tugg,
seeing this fire. "That ain't the Professor--not a bit of it."

In a minute the flames rose so high that we could see figures moving in
the light of them. And wild enough figures they were--half naked
fellows, taller than ordinary men, and waving spears and clubs.

"I believe some of your Patagonian giants you have been telling me about
have gone on the warpath, Captain," I said.

"Not a bit of it! Not a bit of it," he snarled. "They're as tame as
tiger-kittens."

"Just the same I'm going to get my gun and pistol," I declared, and I
dove below.

When I came back to the deck two more fires were burning. The
shore--which was a low bluff--was illuminated for some hundreds of
yards. There was a gang of a hundred or more dancing savages about the
fires. I was frightened; those savages were not "gentled" enough to suit
me.

The captain and Pedro had evidently come to a decision. The fires
revealing the coast as they did showed them where the mistake had been
made. Tugg said:

"Can't blame Pedro. That beacon lantern we saw had been shifted. I hope
those wretches yonder haven't got the Professor foul. But one thing is
sure: They brought that big lantern clear across the inlet and set it up
on the west shore. No wonder we ran aground. It was a pretty trick, I do
allow."

"And these are the natives you told me were perfectly harmless?"

"Not my boys," said Tugg. "There are wild tribes about, as I told you.
This bilin' of trouble-makers are from up country. I'm dreadful afraid
they've attacked the camp first and put the Professor and my boys out of
the way. They must have been on the lookout for the Sea Spell. Had
sentinels posted along shore. They want to loot her."

"And it looks to me as though they'd do it," I observed. "I never shot
at a man, Captain; but I am going to begin shooting if those dancing
dervishes start to come off to us in those big canoes I see there."

"Don't begin to shoot too quick, Mr. Webb," said the Yankee skipper. "I
reckon we'll be able to handle them all right."

"But your crew isn't armed."

"You bet they ain't. And me with more than two thousand in gold
aboard?" he snorted. "By the e-tar-nal snakes! I guess they ain't armed.
I wouldn't trust 'em with firearms."

I began to feel pretty bad. I knew they were a murderous looking lot of
fellows; but I didn't suppose that Tugg traveled in such peril all the
time. I was learning a whole lot for a boy of my age. To be adventuring
about the world "on the loose" as old Tom Anderly called it, had seemed
a mighty fine thing. But just at that moment, with the schooner shaking
on the shoal, the fires flaring on the beach, and the savages dancing
and yelling at us, I would have given a good deal to have been where I
could call a policeman!

But Adoniram Tugg showed no particular fear. I was the only person who
had a weapon on deck. The Yankee skipper did not even go down for his
own gun that hung over his stateroom door. Instead, he turned to Pedro
and gave a quick command.

The mate and two of the sailors dashed for the forward hatch and had it
off in a minute. Tugg turned to me again, drawling just the same as
usual:

"Keep a thing seven year, they say, and it's bound to come handy, no
matter what it is. I bought a miscellaneous lot o' truck out o' a
seaside store thar in Buenos Ayres because there was a right good
chronometer went with the lot. Ah! that's the box, Pedro. Rip it
open--but have a care. Don't bring fire near it--hey! you there with
the cigaroot! Throw it away. You want to blow yourself to everylastin'
bliss?"

"They're manning those canoes, Captain!" I shouted, for my attention was
pretty closely fixed upon the savages.

"Let 'em come!" he grunted. "We'll fix 'em, Mr. Webb; we'll fix 'em."

There were four large canoes. I heard Tugg whispering to himself about
them as he watched the half-naked paddlers urging them toward the
schooner:

"Ugly mugs. From up river. Come three or four hundred miles in them
canoes, mebbe. Wisht I knew what has happened the Professor. They
sartainly have cleaned our headquarters, or they wouldn't have displaced
that beacon lantern." Then he turned to urge Pedro. "Got that mess o'
stuff out o' the box? That's it. Now, Mr. Webb, never mind them guns o'
yourn. Put 'em down and bear a hand here."

He was the skipper and I obeyed; but I hated to give up the rifle. It
looked to me as though we were in for a hand-to-hand fight with the
savages--and they really were giants. I had read of these Patagonians;
but I had never more than half believed the stories they told about
them. I could realize now that any fifty of them one might see in a
crowd together would average--as the books said--six feet, four inches
in height.

As I came forward he was rapidly distributing--he and Pedro--the
articles which had been packed in the box. He gave half a dozen to each
man of the crew. He likewise broke up lengths of slow-matches--that
Chinese punk that is usually used when fireworks are set off. And it was
fireworks he was giving me--half a dozen good-sized rockets!

"What shall we do with these?" I demanded. "Why, Captain Tugg! you don't
mean to illuminate the schooner? Those savages will pin us with their
spears if we light up here."

He spoke first to the crew, and they ran at once and crouched under the
bulwarks on that side nearest the shore. The canoes were within a
hundred yards.

"Quick!" he said to me. "Start the first rocket fuse. Lay it on the rail
here, son, and aim it at them canoes. We'll pepper them skunks--now,
won't we?"

All along the line of the rail I heard the fuses sputtering. Little
sparks of blue and crimson flame shot into view. "Let 'em go!" bawled
Adroniam Tugg.

The four canoes came fairly bounding over the water. I never knew that
canoes could be paddled so rapidly. They were almost upon the schooner
when the first rocket went off with a terrible sputter. It shot like a
bird of fire right into the leading canoe, and then another, and
another, shot off until the air between the schooner and the canoes
seemed filled with shooting flames.

The savages' yells changed monstrously quick. When the rockets began to
blow up and sprinkle around balls of red and blue and green fire, the
boats were emptied in a moment or two. Wildly shrieking, the naked
savages sprang overboard and swam back toward land, while we along the
rail of the Sea Spell sent broadside after broadside of rockets after
them.

We saw them splash through the shoal water, gain the land, and disappear
beyond the illumination of the fires before all our skyrockets were used
up.

"Avast firin'!" roared Captain Tugg, and Pedro, the mate, repeated the
order in Spanish. "Now out with a boat, Pedro, and save those canoes.
They'll come in handy for our use."

No matter what the situation might be, the Yankee could not lose sight
of the main chance. We gathered in those canoes and then awaited
daylight before we made any further move. We found then that the savages
had totally disappeared.

"We can warp her off and I doubt if she's damaged at all," declared
Captain Tugg. "But I'm too worried about the Professor to begin that
now. I'm going to leave Pedro here and we'll take some of the boys and
sail up to headquarters and see what's happened there. You can bring
your hardware, Mr. Webb. We may have need of it after all, for if
they've troubled the Professor, I swanny I'll shoot some of the
long-legged rascals!"

What I had read of white men in wild countries had led me to believe
that they usually shot the savages first and inquired into their
intentions afterward. But Captain Tugg assured me that in the fifteen
years he had been in this country he had never been obliged to more than
string a few savages up by their thumbs and ropes-end them!

"They've been ugly at times--not my boys around here, but some of the
far, up-country tribes--and I've been obliged to show them things. I'm
kind of a wonder-worker, I be. Them scamps that waylaid us last night
will scatter the news of that fireworks show throughout ten townships,
and don't you forgit it. Jest because Adoniram Tugg can show 'em
something new ev'ry time is what's kept his head on his shoulders for
fifteen years."

"Goodness! they're not head-hunters?" said I.

"No. But they'd take a white man's head and sell it to tribes farther
north that _do_ prize sech trophies. Oh, this ain't no country for
tenderfoots, son. There ain't no tract in the back-end of India, or the
middle of Africa, that's as barbarous as a good wide streak of South
America yet."

And I could believe that later when, after sailing some miles up the
inlet, we came to the burned ruins of a collection of huts and sheds.
This was Tugg's headquarters, and his partner, Professor Vose, the man I
had come so far to see, was not there.



CHAPTER XXVIII

IN WHICH ARE RELATED SEVERAL DISAPPOINTMENTS


The attack on the encampment of the animal trappers had evidently been
made several days before. The fire had devastated the place. All the
animals in cages had been killed or released. And in the blackened ruins
and about the clearing, on the rocks, there lay the bodies of more than
a dozen Patagonians. Tugg showed real feeling when he saw these dead
men.

"Poor boys!" he muttered, standing leaning on his rifle and gazing upon
one fellow who was really a giant. "They was square, jest the same. Ye
see, they fought for the Professor and the traps. But them scoundrels
was too many for them."

It was a dreadful sight. I do not want to write about it. Nor do I wish
to give the particulars of our search of the neighborhood for some trace
of the single white man who had been in the vicinity--the man whom Tugg
called the Professor, but who was the Man of Mystery to me. We found a
place where a huge fire had been built beneath the trees. There was a
green liana hanging from a high limb and the end of the liana had been
tied around the ankles of a man. The feet shod in American made boots
were all of that victim of the savages' cruelty which had not been
burned to ashes.

"It's a way they have," whispered Tugg. "They start the poor feller
swinging like a pendulum, and every time he swings through the flames
he's burned a little more--and a little more----"

I turned sick with the horror of it. There was nothing more to do. Tugg
recognized his partner's boots. The savages had made their raid, burned
the camp, destroyed all they could, and done their best to wreck the Sea
Spell. There must have been one traitor among Tugg's men at the
encampment or the savages would not have known of the schooner's
approach. At least, I shall always believe so.

But when the balance of his Patagonians came in from the swamp where
they had hidden after the attack, the captain seemed to believe all
their stories, took them back into his confidence, and at once set to
work to repair the damage done by the up-river Indians.

I confess that I was desperately disappointed. And I felt depressed,
too, over the death of the mysterious Professor Vose, or Carver, or
whatever his name had been. I could not get rid of the thought that
perhaps the man had been my father. But I should never know now, I told
myself. Whether it were so, or not I need have no doubt regarding my
poor father's death. If he had not been drowned off Bolderhead Neck,
and had been hidden away in this wilderness so many years, he had gone
to his account now.

I was sorry I had come down here in the Sea Spell; but being here I had
to somewhat wait upon Captain Tugg's pleasure before I could get away.
We warped the Sea Spell off the shoal and found her uninjured. She had
scarcely started a plank. Then the animal trapper set us all to work
rebuilding his camp, animal cages, and stockade. We were three solid
months repairing the damage done by the savages; but then Tugg had a
camp that would be impregnable to the wild men from up the river.

I had expressed to him at once my wish to return to the coast where I
could get a chance to work my way north in some vessel. But it was three
months before he could spare me a canoe crew to take me as far as Punta
Arenas, on the Straits. From that point I would be able to board some
vessel bound into the Atlantic, and if I could get back to Buenos Ayres
I would be all right.

I had wasted nearly six months in following a will-o'-the-wisp. I might
have been at home long ago, had I not come down here on the schooner.
More than a year had passed since that September evening when my cousin,
Paul Downes, and I had had our fateful quarrel on my bonnie sloop, the
Wavecrest, as she beat slowly into the inlet at Bolderhead. I had
roved far afield since that time, had seen strange lands, and strange
peoples, and had endured hardship and hard work which--after all was
said and done--hadn't belonged to me.

Clint Webb need not be knocking about the world, looking for a chance to
work his way home before the mast. As the canoe Tugg had lent me sailed
south through the inlet, with Pedro and two gigantic Patagonians for
crew, I milled these thoughts over in my mind, and determined that, once
at home, I'd stick there. Not that I was tired of the sea, or afraid of
work aboard ship; but I was deeply worried regarding my mother and what
might be happening to her so far away.

Nothing but the desire to set eyes on the man that looked like me and
talked like me had brought me 'way down here in Patagonia; I had never
told Captain Tugg my real reason for shipping on the Sea Spell, not even
when I bade him good-bye. The old fellow had seemed really sorry to have
me go.

"If you git tired of civilization and want to come down this way again,
son," he told me, "you'll be as welcome as can be. Just come here, walk
in, hang up your hat, and you'll find a job right at hand. I got a big
order for ant-eaters, jaguar, tiger-cats, and the like, on hand and I'll
likely be here for a couple of years--off and on. Goin' to be mighty
lonesome, too, without the Professor," he added, shaking his head,
sorrowfully.

Tugg was a money-lover; but I know that he didn't hold the loss of his
animals and outfit as anything to be compared to the miserable end of
his partner. I liked him for _that_.

I can't say that I enjoyed that canoe trip to the Straits. We had a
queer three-cornered sail that was rigged in some native way, and as the
wind was free we traveled the hundred or so miles to the mouth of the
inlet in good time. But I did not sleep much; Pedro and the giants might
easily knock me on the head, take my few dollars and my gun and other
traps, and drop me overboard. I couldn't believe that they were to be
trusted.

But nothing really happened until we were within a mile or so of the
mouth of the long lagoon. I could see a bit of the strait and over the
rocky headland appeared a banner of smoke. It was from the stack of a
steamship bound east. I pointed it out to the mate of the Sea Spell and
told him how anxious I was to reach that very craft. I had money enough
left of my wages to pay my fare to Buenos Ayres at least--perhaps to
Bahia; and surely the steamship would stop somewhere along the east
coast.

Pedro jabbered to the Patagonians, and the wind having fallen light they
got out the paddles and set to work. I showed them each a silver dollar
and they went at it like college athletes. Such paddling I never saw
before, and it seemed to me we shot out of the inlet about as fast as
though we were ironed to a bull whale!

But we were too late. The steamship had a long sea-mile on us and she
wasn't stopping for a canoe. We should have to trim our sail again and
make for the West and Punta Arenas. As we swung the canoe's head around,
however, I caught sight of a big ship, with a wonderful lot of canvas
set, passing the steamship and heading our way. She sailed the straits
like a huge bird, her white canvas bellying from the deck to the extreme
points of her wand-like topmasts. She was a pretty sight.

I began to stare back at her more and more as she came up, hand over
hand. I saw that she was a bark; then I saw that her crowsnest was
occupied by a lookout. Only one manner of craft would have a man in the
crowsnest on a clear day like this. She was a whaler.

I had no glass; but I fixed my gaze upon her black bows as they rose and
fell as she came through the waves. My heart had begun to beat with
excitement. There were the huge white letters as she paid off a bit and
I could see part of her run and broadside. I couldn't be mistaken, and
suddenly I broke out with a loud cheer, for I could read the two painted
lines:

                                SCARBORO
                               New Bedford



CHAPTER XXIX

IN WHICH I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON SURPRISED


I yelled to Pedro and then sprang up, tied a handkerchief to an oar and
waved it frantically. As the old bark swung down toward us I saw several
figures spring into the lower rigging, and by and by their hands waved
to me. I spoke again to the mate of the Sea Spell and he said he could
bring the canoe in close to the bark if they would throw me a rope. I
knew they had identified me, and I was glad to see Ben Gibson standing
on the rail and yelling to me.

I gave each of the Patagonians a dollar and Pedro two, shook hands with
them all, slung my rifle over my shoulder, hooked one arm through my
dunnage-bag (which was fortunately waterproof) and stood ready to seize
the rope which was flung me. The Patagonians brought the canoe right up
to the looming side of the old bark, and as she dipped deep in the sea,
I sprang up and "walked up" her side, clinging to the rope with both
hands. So they got me inboard with merely a dash of saltwater to season
my venture.

The canoe wore off sharply and I turned to wave good-bye to Pedro and
the paddlers. Then a bunch of the old Scarboro's fo'castle hands were
about me. Tom Anderly pushed through the group and grabbed my hand.

"Here ye be, ye blamed young scamp!" he roared. "Leavin' Mr. Gibson an'
me in the lurch in Buenos Ayres."

"And ye missed some of the greatest whalin' ye ever see," burst in the
stroke oar of our old boat. "We got smashed up complete once and lost
boat and every bit of gear. Nobody bad hurt, however."

Within the next few moments I heard a deal of news. How many whales the
Scarboro had butchered since I had left for Buenos Ayres (and despite
Mr. Bobbin's croaking the old bark already had half a cargo in her
tanks); how long it had taken Bill Rudd and his crew to patch up the
hole the bull whale had smashed in the bark's side; about the gale they
had run into which had carried away some of the top gear and much
canvas; and what the crew had done during the week or more they had been
in port at Buenos Ayres.

Then Ben Gibson came off duty and called me aft. "Awful glad to see you,
Webb," he declared. "I'm fit as a fiddle now. Want you in my boat again.
We took on a lout at Buenos Ayres, who's had your berth; but he isn't
worth a hang in the boat. You're going to finish out the cruise, aren't
you?"

"I don't expect to, sir," I returned. "I would have been home long ago
if I had been wise. What I came down here for panned out nothing at
all."

"Well, Captain Hi will be glad to have you finish out the cruise, I
don't doubt. You better go below and see him," said the second mate.

Mr. Robbins shook hands with me before I went below and welcomed me
aboard. "We're going to make money in the old Scarboro this v'y'ge,
Webb," he said. "You'd better stick to the bark. Captain Hi is going to
discharge ile here at Punta Arenas and go into the Pacific with clean
tanks."

And so the skipper told me when I descended to the tiny chart room.
There would be a tramp freightship with a half cargo at Punta Arenas, he
said, and it had empty tanks aboard. All that was needed was to pump the
oil from the bark into the tramp's tanks.

"And we've got a good bit of bone and spermaceti, too," said Captain
Rogers. "I consider you one of the crew still, Webb. Or, if you are so
determined, you may pull out here and I will give you your hundred
dollars as I promised."

"I feel that I should go home. Captain," I assured him. "As I told Ben
in my note back there at Buenos Ayres, my money and letters were grabbed
at the consulate by another fellow----"

"Yes," interposed Captain Rogers, beginning to hunt in a drawer, "Ben
told me about that. And I went up to the consulate and had a talk with
Colonel Hefferan about it. The whole thing was a silly mistake on the
part of a clerk of his--a mighty fresh clerk. He went off half-cocked
and gave the money and letters over to that fellow without saying a word
to the consul himself. And they put you out of the consulate, too, I
understand?"

"They most certainly did," I replied.

"If you go to Buenos Ayres, just step in there and make that cheap clerk
beg your pardon. He's ready to. And here," said Captain Rogers,
suddenly, turning toward me, "is something that belongs to you, I
believe, Clint Webb."

There were several letters which he placed in my hand. The top one was
addressed in mother's handwriting, and I seized it with a cry of
delight.

"Know 'em, do you?" he said.

"This is from my mother--and this from Ham--and this one from our
lawyer----"

"I reckoned they belonged to you. The crimp gave them to me with the
rest of that fellow's belongings, and I took the liberty of sorting out
these and saving them for you."

"They've been opened!" I cried.

"Of course. And why the fellow kept them I don't see. They're
incriminating. But he was all in when the crimp brought him aboard----"

"Who is the fellow?" gasped I, in amazement.

"Says his name's Bodfish--young lout! I took pity on him when I saw him
in that crimp-shop. He had spent a pocketful of money, or had it stolen.
I suppose he is the fellow that represented himself as you at the
consulate," said Captain Rogers.

"Paul Downes!"

"Like enough. Of course, I didn't suppose Bodfish was his re'l name. But
he was an American--and a boy. I couldn't leave him to be put aboard
some coaster where he'd be beaten to death. He hasn't been much good,
though, aboard this bark. But maybe by the time we see Bedford again
he'll be licked into some sort of shape. I put him in Ben's watch,
knowing that Robbins might be too ha'sh with him."

But I was eager to read my mother's letter--and the others. I asked the
kind old captain's permission, and dropped right down there and perused
the several epistles which good fortune had at last brought to me. Oh, I
was glad indeed that I had cabled mother from Buenas Ayres. And now I
wished more than ever that I had gone home from there instead of
shipping in the Sea Spell.

Mother had cabled me two hundred dollars. Paul had made way with it all,
it seemed, and Captain Rogers had found him in the lowest kind of a
sailor's lodging house, helpless, in debt to the keeper of the place,
and unable to get away.

But I was not interested in my cousin's fate just then. I read mother's
long letter with a feeling that all was not as well at home as I could
wish. She had been greatly shocked at my disappearance. At first they
had thought I had run away. I could guess mighty easily who suggested
_that_ idea!

She did not write much of Mr. Chester Downes; but she did mention the
fact that when she had returned to Darringford House Mr. Hounsditch had
been very officious in attending upon her and in showing her that she
was a good deal tied down by the provisions of grandfather's will and
that the lawyer was to advise her at every turn. Especially did she
complain that Mr. Hounsditch had been officious since I was heard from.

The tone of her letter hurt me a little. There seemed to be some idea
still in her mind that it was my reckless disposition more than the
crime of another, that had set me adrift in the Wavecrest. She spoke
of "Mr. Downes' great trouble" and of "poor Paul" as though they were
both to be pitied. Otherwise she did not touch on the topic of my having
been cut adrift by my cousin, or his emissaries.

It was from Ham Mayberry's letter I got the facts regarding my cousin
and his father. Lampton, the man at the boathouse, and Ham himself had
had their suspicions of what had become of me, and how the Wavecrest
had been swept away in the storm, before my letters from the Scarboro
were received. They had found the cut mooring cable.

Ham, too, had sounded the ne'er-do-wells who were my cousin's
companions, and after the house on the Neck was closed for the season,
and the Downeses had departed with my mother for Darringford House, the
old coachman had obtained a confession from the young scoundrels to the
effect that they had helped Paul nail me into my cabin and had seen him
cut the Wavecrest adrift.

At the time I was heard from, Ham put all the evidence into the hands of
Mr. Hounsditch, and the old lawyer had gone to the Downeses and
threatened procedure against Paul. Chester Downes had flown into a
violent passion with his son and had actually driven him out of his
house, and Paul had disappeared. Of course, Ham at the time of writing
knew nothing of what had become of Paul. There was a paragraph at the
end of Ham's letter that was explanatory, too, and I repeat it here:

"I don't know what you mean by your questions about Jim Carver--that was
his name. He was one of the three Carver boys--Bill and Jonas were as
straight as a chalk line; but Jim always was a little crooked. He worked
for the fish firm of Pallin & Thorpe, and I remember that he disappeared
with some of the cash from their safe about the time poor Dr. Webb was
drowned. Do you mean to say you have run across Jim Carver on board that
whaling bark? Folks hereabout thought Jim Carver was dead years ago."

So _that_ settled the mystery of the man I had come clear down here to
the Straits of Magellan to find--the man whom Captain Adoniram Tugg
knew as Professor Vose and who had met so terrible an end when the
savages had destroyed Tugg's headquarters. It did not need Lawyer
Hounsditch's letter to show me how unwise I had been in not making my
way directly home from Buenos Ayres when I had had the chance.

The lawyer reminded me that my mother needed me. He did not say anything
directly--for he was a sly old fellow--but he intimated plainly enough
that he feared Mr. Chester Downes' influence in our home. I was almost a
man grown, he said, even if I was a minor. "Your place is by your
mother's side. The lust for roving was born in you, I suppose," he
wrote, "your father had it, too; but put Duty before Inclination, and
come home at once."

Had I received those three letters when I visited the consulate at
Buenos Ayres, I would have found means of taking the first steamer north
thereafter. Even the romantic idea I had of trying to find my father
would not have set aside what I plainly knew to be my duty.

I was hurt that mother should so cling to Chester Downes as her friend
after all that had happened; yet I could not blame her for what was a
weakness, not a fault. She was the best and dearest little woman on
earth! And she needed me at that very moment, perhaps. Nothing now, I
determined, should keep me from taking passage for home at the very
earliest opportunity.



CHAPTER XXX

IN WHICH I AT LAST SET MY FACE HOMEWARD WITH DETERMINATION


When I came up from the captain's room I stepped out on deck face to
face with my cousin, Paul Downes. He tried to sneak past me, but I
seized him by the shoulder and jammed him up against the side of the
house.

"You lemme go, Clint Webb!" he whined. "I don't want nothing to do with
you--now, I tell you!"

"I bet you don't want anything to do with me," I replied, eyeing him
with some curiosity.

Paul looked as though he had had a hard time of it. He was dressed in
the roughest sort of clothing, he had a bruised face (I fear Ben Gibson
had punished him for disrespect, for Paul was just the sort of a fellow
to try and take advantage of the second mate's youth) and altogether he
was a most disreputable and hang-dog looking creature.

"I'd never come aboard this old tub if I'd known what whaling was like,"
whined Paul. "And now I want you to get this captain to let me off.
You're going home, they tell me."

"I hope to get away about as soon as we arrive as Punta Arenas," I
declared.

"Then I want you to get me away from this place, too. You'll have money
enough to pay both our fares home----"

"Well, I never heard of such cheek!" I interrupted.

"Now, you do as I say. Father will pay you back. I'll make him," said
Paul, as though he thought the whole thing was cut and dried.

"Why, you shipped for the voyage, didn't you?"

"Ye-es. They said something like that. But I didn't mean it," said my
cousin.

"You'll find that sea captains expect a man to abide by the ship's
papers. I don't know as Captain Rogers loves you much, but maybe he'll
want to keep you just the same."

"He ain't trying to hold you," snarled Paul.

"I never signed on," I replied. "I haven't been a real member of the
crew at all. But you were very glad for Captain Rogers to take you out
of the clutches of that crimp at Buenos Ayres. You won't get away from
the Scarboro so easy."

"I ain't going to stay," he declared, bitterly. "I don't like it. I want
to go home."

"The voyage will maybe teach you something, Paul," I said, and I must
confess I enjoyed his discomfiture.

"You better help me out o' here," he threatened. "You can do it."

"If I could help you, I wouldn't," I declared, with some heat. "Think
I've forgotten what you did to me at the consul's office?"

He grinned a little; but he was angry, too. "You better help me to a
passage home," he growled.

"Not much!"

"You'll wish you had," he declared. "I'll write your mother and tell her
just how you've treated me. I've had a hard time----"

And he actually acted and spoke as though he considered himself
ill-used! I never in my life saw such a fellow. Always blaming somebody
else for the troubles he brought upon himself. I was soon tired of
listening to him.

"Come! stow all that!" I advised him. "You're a member of the Scarboro's
crew, and you joined of your own free will. The only reason I see for my
trying to get you away from here is to have you arrested and punished
for getting hold of my money at Buenos Ayres. I could put you in bad for
that. You be thankful you are away down here on the Scarboro, instead of
at Buenos Ayres."

"So you won't help me get away?" he snarled.

"No, sir!"

"All right. You wait. You'll be sorry."

"Now, don't threaten me any more," I returned. "I hope this voyage will
do you some good. I think you'll learn something before the Scarboro
reaches New Bedford again. We'll hope so, anyway."

He only snarled at me as I passed on. I had just as little to do with
him as possible while I remained aboard the bark. We were at Punta
Arenas in a few hours, and the very next morning the bark was warped in
beside the tramp steamer and the oil in the whaler's tanks was being
pumped aboard the steamship. The men were given short shore leave; but
Captain Rogers put Paul Downes in the care of Bill Rudd, the carpenter,
and made him responsible for him.

"I ain't got my money's worth out o' that greenhorn yet," declared the
skipper. "He ain't earned yet what I had to pay for his board bill in
Buenos Ayres. Don't you let him get away, Rudd."

I knew that my cousin would come to no harm with Captain Rogers. The
cruise might be the means of making some sort of a man of him, at least.
So I put Paul and his affairs right out of my mind.

There was a steamer touching at Buenos Ayres due through the straits in
a couple of days, and I prepared to board her. Once in the big Argentine
seaport I would take passage on a Bayne Liner for Boston. I was eager
for the homeward journey now, although I felt that I never should be
tired of the salt water. But, as Lawyer Hounsditch advised, I put Duty
ahead of Inclination.

I bade my friends aboard the Scarboro good-bye and went ashore, spending
the night before I was to sail for the north in a decent house near the
landing. I knew my mother would be glad to see me and I had no fear but
that, once beside her, I should find means of keeping Mr. Chester Downes
at a distance. I had no reason to doubt the future, or what it might
hold in store for me. That it did not prove wholly uneventful the reader
may discover for himself in the second volume of this series, entitled:
"The Frozen Ship; or, Clint Webb Among the Sealers."

I was not thinking of either romance or adventure, however, when I began
my homeward voyage. I expected it to be quite uneventful, and was only
anxious to walk into Darringford House, surprise my little mother, and
take her once again in my arms!





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