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´╗┐Title: Paul Gerrard - The Cabin Boy
Author: Kingston, William Henry Giles, 1814-1880
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Paul Gerrard - The Cabin Boy" ***

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Paul Gerrard, The Cabin Boy, by W.H.G. Kingston.
________________________________________________________________________
Here is another book in the true Kingston style - lots of swimming,
sharks, wrecks, battles, pirates, woundings.

Paul goes to sea in the first place because his father has lost a legal
case in which the Devereux family had been claiming his estates and
land.  To Paul's surprise, who should be in the midshipman's mess but a
young man called Devereux, whose life Paul was able to save following
his serious wounding.  So we just need to keep in mind that Paul is
always looking slightly askance at Devereux.  Eventually they become
great friends.

It makes a good audiobook.
________________________________________________________________________
PAUL GERRARD, THE CABIN BOY, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.



CHAPTER ONE.

Darkness had set in.  The wind was blowing strong from the southwest,
with a fine, wetting, penetrating rain, which even tarpaulins, or the
thickest of Flushing coats, would scarcely resist.  A heavy sea also was
running, such as is often to be met with in the chops of the British
Channel during the month of November, at which time of the year, in the
latter part of the last century, a fine frigate was struggling with the
elements, in a brave attempt to beat out into the open ocean.  She was
under close-reefed topsails; but even with this snug canvas she often
heeled over to the blast, till her lee-ports were buried in the foaming
waters.  Now she rose to the summit of a white-crested sea; now she sunk
into the yawning trough below; and ever and anon as she dashed onward in
spite of all opposition, a mass of water would strike her bows with a
clap like that of thunder, and rising over her bulwarks, would deluge
her deck fore and aft, and appear as if about to overwhelm her
altogether.  A portion of the officers and crew stood at their posts on
deck, now and then shaking the water from their hats and coats, after
they had been covered with a thicker shower than usual of rain or spray,
or looking up aloft at the straining canvas, or out over the dark
expanse of ocean; but all of them taking matters very composedly, and
wishing only that their watch were over, that they might enjoy such
comforts as were to be found below, and take part in the conviviality
which, in spite of the gale, was going forward.

It was Saturday night, and fore and aft the time-honoured toast of
"sweethearts and wives" was being enthusiastically drunk,--nowhere more
enthusiastically than in the midshipmen's berth; and not the less so
probably, that few of its light-hearted inmates had in reality either
one or the other.  What cared they for the tumult which raged above
their heads?  They had a stout ship and trusted officers, and their
heads and insides were well accustomed to every possible variety of
lurching and pitching, in which their gallant frigate the _Cerberus_ was
at that moment indulging.  The _Cerberus_, a fine 42-gun frigate,
commanded by Captain Walford, had lately been put in commission, and
many of her officers and midshipmen had only joined just before the ship
sailed, and were thus comparatively strangers to each other.  The
frigate was now bound out to a distant station, where foes well worthy
of her, it was hoped, would be encountered, and prize-money without
stint be made.

The midshipmen's berth of the _Cerberus_ was a compartment of somewhat
limited dimensions,--now filled to overflowing with mates, midshipmen,
masters'-assistants, assistant-surgeons, and captain's and purser's
clerks,--some men with grey heads, and others boys scarcely in their
teens, of all characters and dispositions, the sons of nobles of the
proudest names, and the offspring of plebeians, who had little to boast
of on that score, or on any other; but the boys might hope,
notwithstanding, as many did, to gain fame and a name for themselves.
The din of tongues and shouts of laughter which proceeded out of that
narrow berth, rose even above the creaking of bulkheads, the howling of
the wind, and the roar of the waves.

The atmosphere was somewhat dense and redolent of rum, and could
scarcely be penetrated by the light of the three purser's dips which
burned in some battered tin candlesticks, secured by lanyards to the
table.  At one end of the table over which he presided as caterer, sat
Tony Noakes, an old mate, whose grog-blossomed nose and bloodshot eyes
told of many a past debauch.

"Here's to my own true love, Sally Pounce," he shouted in a husky voice,
lifting to his lips a stiff glass of grog, which was eyed wistfully by
Tilly Blake, a young midshipman, from whose share of rum he had
abstracted its contents.

"Mrs Noakes that is to be," cried out Tilly in a sharp tone.  "But I
say, she'll not stand having her grog drunk up."

"That remark smells of mutiny, youngster," exclaimed Noakes, with a
fierce glance towards the audacious midshipman.

"By the piper, but it's true, though," put in Paddy O'Grady, who had
also been deprived of the larger portion of his grog.

Most of the youngsters, on finding others inclined to stand up for their
rights, made common cause with Blake and O'Grady.  Enraged at this,
Noakes threatened the malcontents with condign punishment.

"Yes, down with all mutiny and the rights of man or midshipmen,"
exclaimed in a somewhat sarcastic tone a good-looking youth, who himself
wore the uniform of a midshipman.

"Well said, Devereux.  We must support the rights and dignity of the
oldsters, or the service will soon go to ruin," cried the old mate,
whose voice grew thicker as he emptied glass after glass of his
favourite liquor.  "You show your sense, Devereux, and deserve your
supper, but--there's no beef on the table.  Here boy--boy Gerrard--bring
the beef; be smart now--bring the beef.  Don't stand staring there as if
you saw a ghost."

The boy thus summoned was a fine lad of about fourteen, his shirt collar
thrown back showing his neck, which supported a well-formed head, with a
countenance intelligent and pleasant, but at that moment very pale, with
an expression denoting unhappiness, and a feeling of dislike to, or
dread of, those on whom he was waiting.  A midshipmen's boy has seldom a
pleasant time of it under any circumstances.  Boy Gerrard, as he was
called, did his best, though often unsuccessfully, to please his
numerous masters.

"Why do you stand there, staring like a stuffed pig?" exclaimed
Devereux, who was near the door.  "It is the beef, not your calf's head
we want.  Away now, be smart about it."

The sally produced a hoarse laugh from all those sufficiently sober to
understand a joke.

"The beef, sir; what beef?" asked boy Gerrard in a tone of alarm.

"Our beef," shouted old Noakes, heaving a biscuit at the boy's head.  It
was fortunate that no heavy missile was in his hand.  "Take that to
sharpen your wits."

Devereux laughed with others at the old mate's roughness.  The boy gave
an angry glance at him as he hurried off to the midshipmen's larder to
execute the order.

Before long, boy Gerrard was seen staggering along the deck towards the
berth with a huge piece of salt beef in his hands, and endeavouring to
keep his legs as the frigate gave a heavy lurch or pitched forward, as
she forced her way over the tumultuous seas.  Boy Gerrard gazed at the
berth of his many masters.  He thought that he could reach it in another
run.  He made the attempt, but it was down hill, and before he could
save himself he had shot the beef, though not the dish, into the very
centre of the table, whence it bounded off and hit O'Grady, the Irish
midshipman, a blow on the eye, which knocked him backward.  Poor Gerrard
stood gazing into the berth, and prepared for the speedy punishment
which his past experience had taught him would follow.

"By the piper, but I'll teach you to keep a taughter gripe of the beef
for the future, you spalpeen," exclaimed O'Grady, recovering himself,
and about to hurl back the joint at the head of the unfortunate
boy, when his arm was grasped by Devereux, who cried out,
laughing,--"Preserve the beef and your temper, Paddy, and if boy
Gerrard, after proper trial, shall be found to have purposely hurled the
meat at your wise caput, he shall be forthwith delivered over to condign
punishment."

"Oh, hang your sea-lawyer arguments; I'll break the chap's head, and
listen to them afterwards," cried O'Grady, attempting to spring up to
put his threat into execution.

Devereux again held him back, observing, "Break the boy's head if you
like; I have no interest in preserving it, except that we may not find
another boy to take his place; but you must listen to my arguments
before you commence operations."

"Hear, hear! lawyer Devereux is about to open his mouth," cried several
voices.

"Come, pass me the beef, and let me put some of it into my mouth, which
is open already," exclaimed Peter Bruff, another of the older mates, who
having just descended from the deck, and thrown off his dripping outer
coat, had taken his seat at the table.  His hair and whiskers were still
wet with spray, his hands showed signs of service, and his fine open
countenance--full of good-nature, and yet expressive of courage and
determination, had a somewhat weather-worn appearance, though his crisp,
curling, light hair showed that he was still in the early prime of
manhood.

"Listen, gentlemen of the jury, and belay your jaw-tackles you who have
no business in the matter, and Bruff being judge, I will plead boy
Gerrard's cause against Paddy O'Grady, Esquire, midshipman of his
Majesty's frigate _Cerberus_," cried Devereux, striking the table with
his fist, a proceeding which obtained a momentary silence.  "To
commence, I must go back to first causes.  You understand, gentlemen of
the jury, that there is a strong wind blowing, which has kicked up a
heavy sea, which is tossing about our stout ship in a way to make it
difficult for a seaman, and much more for a ship's boy, to keep his
legs, and therefore I suggest--"

"Belay all that, Master Long-tongue," shouted Noakes; "if the boy is to
be cobbed, why let's cob him; if not, why let him fill the mustard-pot,
for it's empty."

Others now joined in; some were for cobbing poor Gerrard forthwith;
others, who had not had their supper, insisted on the mustard-pot being
first replenished.

Devereux had gained his point in setting his messmates by the ears, and
Peter Bruff seeing his object, sent off Gerrard for a supply of the
required condiment.  It was O'Grady's next watch on deck; and thus
before Gerrard returned, he had been compelled to leave the berth.
Devereux, however, immediately afterwards turned on Gerrard and scolded
him harshly for not keeping steady while waiting at the door of the
berth.  At length the master-at-arms came round, the midshipmen were
sent to their hammocks, and Paul Gerrard was allowed to turn into his.
He felt very sick and very miserable.  It was the commencement of his
sea life, a life for which he had long and enthusiastically yearned, and
this was what it proved to be.  How different the reality from what he
had expected!  He could have cried aloud for very bitterness of heart,
but that he was ashamed to allow his sobs to be heard.

"He treat me thus! he by birth my equal! to speak to me as if I was a
slave! he who might have been in my place, had there been justice done
us, while I should have been in his.  A hard fate is mine; but yet I
chose it, and I'll bear it."

With such thoughts passing through his mind, the young ship-boy fell
asleep, and for a time forgot his cares and suffering.  He dreamed of
happier times, when he with his parents and brothers and sisters enjoyed
all the luxuries which wealth could give, and he was a loved and petted
child.  Then came a lawsuit, the subject of which he could not
comprehend.  All he knew was, that it was with the Devereux family.  It
resulted in the loss to his father of his entire fortune, and Paul
remembered hearing him say that they were beggars.  "That is what I will
not be," he had exclaimed; "I can work--we can all work--I will work."

Paul was to be tried severely.  His father died broken-hearted.  It
seemed too probable that his mother would follow him ere long.  Paul had
always desired to go to sea.  He could no longer hope to tread the
quarter-deck as an officer, yet he still kept to his determination of
following a life on the ocean.

"I will enter as a cabin-boy; I will work my way upwards.  Many have
done so, why should not I?" he exclaimed with enthusiasm; "I will win
wealth to support you all, and honours for myself.  `Where there's a
will there's a way.'  I don't see the way very clearly just now; but
that is the opening through which I am determined to work my way
onward."

Paul's mother, though a well-educated and very excellent person, knew
nothing whatever of the world.  She would, indeed, have hesitated, had
she known the real state of the case, and what he would have to go
through, ere she allowed her son to enter before the mast on board a
man-of-war; but she had no one on whom she could rely, to consult in the
matter.  Mrs Gerrard had retired to the humble cottage of a former
servant in a retired village, where she hoped that the few pounds a year
she had left her would enable her to support herself and her children,
with the aid of such needlework as she might obtain.  Little did she
think, poor woman, to what trying difficulties she would be exposed.
Not only must she support herself, but educate her children.  She had
saved a few books for this purpose, and some humble furniture for her
little cottage; everything else had been sold to raise the small sum on
the interest of which she was to live.

"Mother! mother! do let me at once go to sea!" exclaimed Paul, who
understood tolerably well the state of affairs.  "I can do nothing at
home to help you, and only eat up what should feed others; if I go to
sea, I shall get food and clothing, and pay and prize-money, and be able
to send quantities of gold guineas home to you.  Reuben Cole has been
telling me all about it; and he showed me a purse full of great gold
pieces, just the remains of what he came ashore with a few weeks ago.
He was going to give most of it to his sister, who has a number of
children, and then go away to sea again, and, dear mother, he promised
to take me with him if you would let me go.  Mary and Fred will help all
the better, when I am away, to teach Sarah and John and Ann, and Fred is
so fond of books that he is certain to get on some day, somehow or
other."

What could the poor widow say to these appeals often repeated?  What
could she hope to do for her boy?  There was a romance attached in those
times to a sea life felt by all classes, which scarcely exists at the
present day.  She sent for Reuben Cole, who, though a rough sailor,
seemed to have a kind heart.  He promised to act the part of a father
towards the boy to the best of his power, undertaking to find a good
ship for him without delay.  The widow yielded, and with many an earnest
prayer for his safety, committed Paul to the charge of Reuben Cole.  The
honest sailor was as good as his word.  He could scarcely have selected
a better ship than the _Cerberus_.  He volunteered to join, provided
Paul was received on board; his terms were accepted, and he thought that
he was doing well for his young charge when he got him the appointment
of midshipmen's boy.  The employment was very different from what Paul
had expected, but he had determined to do his duty in whatever station
he might be placed.  The higher pay and perquisites would be of value to
him, as he might thus send more money to his mother, and he hoped soon
to become reconciled to his lot.  One day, however, the name of a
midshipman who had just joined struck his ear,--it was that of Devereux,
the name of the family with whom his father had so long carried on the
unsuccessful lawsuit.

From some remarks casually made by one of the other midshipmen while he
was waiting in the berth, Paul was convinced that Gilbert Devereux was a
son of the man who had, he conceived, been the cause of his father's
ruin and death.  Paul, had he been asked, would have acknowledged how he
ought to feel towards young Devereux, but he at times allowed himself to
regard him with bitterness and dislike, if not with downright hatred.
He well knew that this feeling was wrong, and he had more than once
tried to overcome the feeling when, perhaps, some careless expression
let drop by Gilbert Devereux, or some order given by him, would once
more arouse it.  "I could bear it from another, but not from him," Paul
over and over again had said to himself after each fresh cause of
annoyance given by young Devereux, who all the time was himself utterly
ignorant that he had offended the boy.  Of course he did not suspect who
Paul was; Paul had determined to keep his own secret, and had not
divulged it even to Reuben.  Reuben was somewhat disappointed with Paul.
"I cannot make out what ails the lad," he said to himself, "he was
merry and spirited enough on shore; I hope he's not going to be afraid
of salt-water."

Poor Paul was undergoing a severe trial.  It might prove for his benefit
in the end.  While the frigate was in harbour, he bore up tolerably
well, but he had now for the first time in his life to contend with
sea-sickness; while he was also at the beck and call of a dozen or more
somewhat unreasonable masters.  It was not, however, till that Saturday
night that Paul began really to repent that he had come to sea.  Where
was the romance?  As the serpent, into which Aaron's rod was changed,
swallowed up the serpents of the Egyptian magicians, so the stern
reality had devoured all the ideas of the romance of a sea life, which
he had till now entertained.

Yet sleep, that blessed medicine for human woes, brought calm and
comfort to his soul.  He dreamed of happier days, when his father was
alive, and as yet no cares had visited his home.  He was surrounded by
the comforts which wealth can give.  He was preparing, as he had long
hoped to do, for sea, with the expectation of being placed as a
midshipman on the quarter-deck.  His uniform with brass buttons, his
dirk and gold-laced hat, lay on a table before him, with a bright
quadrant and spy-glass; and there was his sea-chest ready to be filled
with his new wardrobe, and all sorts of little comforts which a fond
mother and sisters were likely to have prepared for him.  He heard the
congratulations of friends, and the prophecies that he would some day
emulate the deeds of England's greatest naval heroes.  He dreamed on
thus till the late events of his life again came into his thoughts, and
he recollected that it was not his own, but the outfit of another lad
about to go to sea which he had long ago inspected with such interest,
and at length the poor ship-boy was awakened to the stern reality of his
present condition by the hoarse voice of a boatswain's mate summoning
all hands on deck.  Paul felt so sea-sick and so utterly miserable that
he thought that he would rather die where he lay in his hammock than
turn out and dress.  The ship was tumbling about more violently than
ever; the noise was terrific; the loud voices of the men giving
utterance to coarse oaths as they awoke from their sleep; their shouts
and cries; the roaring of the wind as it found its way through the open
hatches down below; the rattling of the blocks; the creaking of timbers
and bulkheads, and the crash of the sea against the sides of the ship,
made Paul suppose that she was about to sink into the depths of the
ocean.  "I'll die where I am," he thought to himself.  "Oh, my dear
mother and sisters, I shall never see you more!"  But at that instant a
kick and a blow inflicted by Sam Coulson, one of the boatswain's mates,
made him spring up.

"What, skulking already, you young hedgehog," exclaimed the man; "on
deck with your or your shoulders shall feel a taste of my colt."

Although Paul was as quick in his movements as his weak state would
allow, a shower of blows descended on his back, which brought him on his
knees, when, ordering him to pick himself up and follow, on pain of a
further dose of the colt, Sam Coulson passed on.  The sharp tattoo of a
drum beaten rapidly sounded at the same time through the ship; but what
it signified Paul in his ignorance could not tell, nor was there any one
near him to ask.  Bewildered and unable to see in the darkness, he tried
in vain to gain the hatchway.  He groped his way aft as fast as he
could, for fear of encountering the boatswain's mate.  "If the ship
sinks I must go down with her; but anything is better than meeting him,"
he thought to himself.  "Besides, I cannot be worse off than those on
deck, I should think."

He worked his way aft till he found himself near the midshipmen's
chests; there was a snug place between two of them in which he had more
than once before ensconced himself when waiting to be summoned by his
masters.  "Here I'll wait till I find out what is happening," he said to
himself as he sank down into the corner.  The din continued, the frigate
tumbled about as much as before, but he was very weary, and before long
he forgot where he was, and fell fast asleep.

He was at length awoke by a crashing sound, as if the timbers were being
rent apart.  What could it be?  He started up, scarcely knowing where he
was.  Had the ship struck on a rock, or could she be going down?  There
was then a loud report; another and another followed.  The reports
became louder; they were directly over his head.  The main-deck guns
were being fired.  The ship must be engaged with an enemy, there could
be no doubt about that.  The light from a ship's lantern fell on the
spot where he lay.  The gunner and his crew were descending to the
magazine.  His duty he had been told would be in action to carry up
powder to the crew; he ought to arouse himself.  The surgeon and his
assistants now came below to prepare the cockpit for the reception of
the wounded.  More lights appeared.  The carpenter and his crew were
going their rounds through the wings.  Men were descending and
ascending, carrying up shot from the lockers below.  All were too busy
to discover Paul.  The sea had by this time gone down, and the ship was
less tumbled about than before.  Sleep, too, had somewhat restored his
strength, and with it his spirits and courage.

"What am I about, skulking here?  I ought to be ashamed of myself; have
all my once brave thoughts and aspirations come to this?  I will be up
and do my duty, and not mind Sam Coulson, or the enemy's shot, or
anything else."  Such were the thoughts which rapidly passed through his
mind; he sprang to his feet, and, as he hoped, unobserved reached the
main-deck.  He fortunately remembered that his friend Reuben Cole was
captain of one of the main-deck guns, and that Reuben had told him that
that was the gun he was to serve.  The deck was well lighted up by the
fighting-lanterns, and he had thus no difficulty in finding out his
friend.  The men, mostly stripped to their waists, stood grouped round
their guns with the tackles in their hands, the captains holding the
slow matches ready to fire.  Paul ran up to Reuben, who was captain of
his gun.

"What am I to do?" he asked; "you said you would tell me."

"So I will, lad; and I am glad to see you, for I was afraid that you had
come to harm," answered Reuben, in a kind tone.  "I said as how I was
sure you wasn't one to skulk.  Where was you, boy?"

Paul felt conscience-stricken, and he dared not answer; for utter a
falsehood to excuse himself he would not.  "Tell me what I am to do, and
I'll try to do it," he said, at length.

"Why, then, do you go down with Tom Buckle to the powder-magazine with
that tub there, and get it filled and come back and sit on it till we
wants it," replied his friend, who possibly might have suspected the
truth.

"Then I am about to take part in a real battle," thought Paul, as,
accompanying the boy Tom Buckle, he ran down to the magazine.  In a
moment, sickness, fatigue, and fear were banished.  He was the
true-hearted English Boy, and he felt as brave as he could wish, and
regardless of danger.  Paul knew he was doing his duty.  His tub was
quickly filled, and he was soon again at Reuben's gun, behind which he
was told to sit--one of a row of boys employed in the same manner.  Many
of his companions were laughing and joking, as if nothing unusual was
occurring, or as if it was impossible that a shot could find them out.

Paul was now, for the first time, able to make inquiries as to the state
of affairs.  Reuben told him that, at about midnight, the lights of two
ships had been seen.  It was possible that they might be those of the
look-out frigates of an enemy's squadron, at the same time as they might
be British, and as Captain Walford had resolved that nothing should
drive him back, the _Cerberus_ was kept on her course.  Whatever they
were, the strangers seemed determined to become better acquainted.  As
they drew nearer, signals were exchanged; but those of the stranger's
were not understood.  The drum on this beat to quarters, and the ship
was prepared for battle.  The two ships approached, and soon gave the
_Cerberus_ a taste of their quality by pouring their broadsides into
her; but, in consequence of the heavy sea which was then running, very
few of their shot had taken effect.  Two, however, which had struck her
hull, had passed through the bulwarks and killed two of her men, whose
bodies now lay stark and stiff on the main-deck, near where they had
stood as their mates were now standing, full of life and manly strength.
Paul's eyes fell on them.  It was the first time he had seen death in
its most hideous form.  He shuddered and turned sick.  Reuben observed
the direction in which his glance was turned.

"Paul, my lad, you mustn't think of them now," he cried out.  "They've
done their duty like men, and it's our business to try to do ours.
We've got some pretty sharp work before us; but it's my belief that
we'll beat off our enemies, or take one or both of them, maybe.  Hurrah!
lads.  That's what we've got to do."

The crews of the guns within hearing uttered a cheerful response.  "All
ready!"

"Let 'em come on!"

"The more the merrier!"

"We'll give 'em more than we'll take!"

These, and similar expressions, were heard from the seamen, while now
and then a broad joke or a loud laugh burst from the lips of the more
excited among them.  But there was no Dutch courage exhibited.  One and
all showed the most determined and coolest bravery.  The officers whose
duty it was to be on the main-deck kept going their rounds, to see that
the men were at their stations, and that all were supplied with powder
and shot and all things necessary.  Then the first-lieutenant, Mr
Order, came down.

"My lads," he exclaimed, "the captain sends to you to say that we have,
perhaps, tough work before us; but that he is sure you all will do your
duty like men, and will help him to thrash the enemy, as he hopes to do
by daylight, when he can see them better."

A loud cheer rang out from the throats of the seamen, fore and aft.  Mr
Order felt satisfied that they were in the right temper for work.  He
returned again on deck.  It was still very dark, and nothing could be
seen through the open ports.  Every now and then, however, the crest of
a sea washed in and deluged the decks, washing from side to side till it
could escape through the scuppers.  Any moment the order to fire might
be heard, or the shot of the enemy might come crashing through the
sides.  It was a trying time for old salts, who had fought in many a
previous battle; much more so for young hands.  Paul sat composedly on
his tub.  Not far off from him stood Gilbert Devereux, in command of a
division of guns.

"If a shot were to take his head off, there would be one of our enemies
out of the way," thought Paul; but directly afterwards his conscience
rebuked him.  "No, no; that is a wicked feeling," it said; "I would
rather be killed myself, if it were not for my poor mother and all at
home--they would be so sorry."

Still, Paul could not help eyeing the aristocratic-looking young
midshipman, who, with a firm, proud step, trod the deck, eager for the
fight, and little aware that he was watched with so much interest by the
humble ship's boy.  Peter Bruff, who had the next division of guns under
his charge, came up to Gilbert.

"Well, Devereux, how do you like this fun?" he asked.  "Have you ever
before been engaged?"

"Never; but I like the idea of the sport well enough to wish to begin,"
answered Devereux.  "Where are our enemies?"

"Not far off, and they will not disappoint us," answered Bruff.  "We
shall have pretty tough work of it, depend on that."

"The tougher the better," answered Devereux, in a somewhat affected
tone.  "I've never been in a battle, and I really want to see what it is
like."

"He's wonderfully cool," thought Paul.  "He hasn't seen the dead men
there, forward.  It would be some satisfaction if he would show himself
to be a coward, after all.  I could throw it in his teeth when he
attempts to tyrannise over me."

Paul's feelings were very far from right; but they were natural,
unfortunately.  Gilbert's firm step and light laugh showed that there
was little chance of Paul's wishes being realised.  Now a rumour spread
from gun to gun that the enemy were again drawing near.  The men took a
firmer hold of the gun-tackles, hitched up their trousers, drew their
belts tighter round their waists, or gave some similar sign of
preparation for the coming struggle.

"Silence, fore and aft!" cried the officer in command of the deck.

He was repeating the order which the captain had just given above.  The
frigate plunged on heavily through the seas.  The awful moment was
approaching.  There was neither jest nor laughter now.  The men were
eagerly looking through the ports.  The lights from two ships were seen
on the weather beam.  In smooth water the enemy having the weather-gauge
would have been to the disadvantage of the _Cerberus_; but with the
heavy sea which then ran it mattered, fortunately, less.

"Starboard guns!  Fire! fire!" was shouted by the officers.

"Hurrah, lads!  We have the first of it this time, and it's my belief we
hit the mounseer," cried Reuben Cole, as he discharged his gun.

Scarcely had the smoke cleared off from the deck when the roar of the
enemy's guns was heard, and several shot came crashing against the side.
One, coming through a port, passed close above Paul's head, and though
it sent the splinters flying about in every direction, no one was hurt.

"I've an idea there'll be work for the carpenters, to plug the
shot-holes," cried Reuben, as the guns, being rapidly run in, loaded,
and run out again, he stood ready for the command to fire.

It soon came, and the whole broadside of the _Cerberus_ was poured, with
good aim, into the bows of the leading Frenchman, which had attempted to
pay her the same compliment.  For a few moments at a time Paul could
catch sight of the lights of the enemy's ships through the ports; but
the smoke from their own guns quickly again shut out all objects, except
the men standing close to him.  Paul had plenty to do; jumping up to
deliver the powder, and running down to the magazine for more when his
tub was empty.  He discovered that, small as he was, he was taking a
very active part in the battle, and doing considerably more than the
midshipmen, who had to stand still, or only occasionally to run about
with orders.  This gave him infinite satisfaction.

"After all, I am doing as much as he is," he thought, looking towards
Devereux.

The firing became very rapid, and the enemy were close to the frigate;
for not only round-shot flew on board, but the rattle of musketry was
heard, and bullets came pattering through the ports.  Such a game could
not be played without loss.  Fore and aft the men were struck down,--
some never to rise again; cut in two, or with their heads knocked off.
Others were carried below; and others, binding up their wounds, returned
eagerly to their guns.  Now there was a cessation of firing.  The smoke
cleared off.  There stood Devereux, unharmed, and as cool as at the
commencement of the action, though smoke-begrimed as the rest of the
crew; but as Paul glanced round and saw the gleam of the lanterns on the
blood-stained decks, and the pale faces of the dead, and the bandaged
heads and limbs of the wounded, he again turned sick, and wished, as
many a person has wished before, that there was no such thing as
fighting and slaughtering one's fellow-creatures.

It was supposed that the enemy had hauled off to repair damages.  The
crew of the _Cerberus_ were accordingly called away from their guns to
repair those she had received, as far as could be done in the darkness.
Not much time was allowed them.  Again their enemies returned to the
attack.  Each ship was pronounced to be equal in size to the _Cerberus_,
if not larger than it.  She had already suffered severely; the men were
again ordered to their quarters.  The suspense before the firing should
recommence was trying,--the very silence itself was awful.  This time it
was broken by the enemy, but their fire was speedily returned by a
broadside from the _Cerberus_.  Now, as rapidly as the guns on both
sides could be loaded, they were run out and fired, for the British had
an enemy on either beam, and each man knew that he must exert himself to
the utmost to gain the victory.  When did English sailors ever fail to
do that?  There could be no doubt, however, that the _Cerberus_ was hard
pressed.

Dreadful was the scene of havoc and carnage; the thunder of the guns;
the rattle of the musketry; the crashing of the enemy's shot as they
tore the stout planks asunder; the roar of the seas as they dashed
against the sides, and the cries of the wounded, while the shouts of the
men, who, as the fight grew more bloody, were more and more excited,
became louder and louder; bright flashes, and wreaths of dark smoke, and
splinters flying about, and men falling, and blood starting from their
wounds, made up that horrid picture.  Paul had seen old Noakes carried
below; O'Grady followed, badly hurt; others of his masters were killed
or wounded.  Devereux seemed to bear a charmed life.  No! no man's life
is charmed.  One moment he was standing full of life, encouraging his
men; the next he lay wounded and bleeding on the wet and slippery deck.
As he saw the handsome youth carried writhing in agony below, Paul's
feelings of animosity instantly vanished.  He would have sprung forward
to help him, but he had his own duty to attend to, and he knew that he
must not neglect it, even though it was only to sit on a tub.

From the exclamations of the men, Paul thought that the battle was going
against them; still the crew fought on as bravely as at first.  "Fire!
fire!"  What dreadful cry is that?  "The ship is on fire!"

"All is lost!"  No; the firemen leave their guns and run forward to
where some hay is blazing.  The enemy have discovered what has occurred
and redouble their efforts.  The fire must be got under in spite of shot
and bullets.  The men rush up to the flames fearlessly.  Buckets upon
buckets of water are thrown on them; the burning fragments of timber are
hove overboard.  The fire is reported to be got under.  The British
seamen cheer, and good reason have they to do so now, for flames are
seen bursting from the ports and hatchways of their most determined
opponent.  Still all three ships tear on over the foaming ocean.  Thus
closes that fearful night, and so must we our first chapter.



CHAPTER TWO.

The _Cerberus_, stout frigate that she was, plunged onward across the
foam-covered ocean.  On one side was the burning ship, at which not a
shot had been fired since her condition was discovered; on the other was
a still active enemy.  With the latter, broadside after broadside was
rapidly exchanged, but without much damage being sustained.  From the
burning ship a few shots continued for a short time to be fired, but as
the fire increased, the crew must have deserted their guns, and as the
flames gained the mastery, they burned through the ropes and attacked
the sails, and the ship fell off and rolled helplessly in the trough of
the sea, where the two combatants soon left her far astern.

"I wish as how we could heave-to and send a boat to help them poor
fellows," cried Reuben Cole, looking at the burning ship.

"To my mind, the mounseer out there would be doing better if he was to
cry, Peccavi, and then go and look after his countrymen, instead of
getting himself knocked to pieces, as he will be if he keeps on long at
this game."

The sentiment was highly applauded by his hearers.  There was not a man
indeed on board the frigate who was not eager to save the lives of the
hapless crew of the burning ship, which they had till now striven so
hard to destroy.

The firing had ceased; the grey dawn broke over the waste of waters;
astern was seen the smoke from the burning ship, with bright flashes
below it, and away to leeward their other antagonist making all sail to
escape.  The battle was over, though the victor could boast but of a
barren conquest.  The guns were run in and secured, and the weary crew
instantly set to work to repair damages.  As the wind had fallen and the
sea had considerably gone down, the work was performed without much
difficulty.  Captain Walford had narrowly watched his flying foe, in the
hopes that she might go to the assistance of her late consort.  Her
royals had not long sunk below the horizon when once more the _Cerberus_
was in a condition to make sail.

Captain Walford considered whether he should go in pursuit of the enemy,
or attempt to save the lives of the unfortunate people from the burning
ship.  In the first case he might possibly capture an enemy's ship, but
ought he for the chance of so doing to leave his fellow-creatures to
perish miserably?

"No, I will risk all consequences," he said to his first-lieutenant
after a turn on deck.  And the _Cerberus_ stood towards the wreck.

The wind had fallen so much that her progress was very slow.  The
English now wished for more wind, for every moment might be of vital
consequence to their late enemies.  Not a man on board felt the least
enmity towards them; even the wounded and dying when told of their
condition looked on them as brothers in misfortune.

War is sad work, sad for those at home, sad for those engaged in it, and
the only way to mitigate its horrors is to treat the fallen or the
defeated foe as we should ourselves wish to be treated.

While the frigate sailed on, the crew were repairing as far as possible
the damages she had received; for at that season of the year it was
probable that another gale might spring up, which she was as yet
ill-prepared to encounter.  The men were nearly dropping with fatigue,
but they worked on bravely, as true-hearted seamen always do work when
necessity demands their exertions.

Meantime Paul was summoned below.  The midshipmen who were not required
on deck were again assembled in the berth; but the places of several
were vacant.  They were eating a hurried meal which Paul had placed on
the table, and discussing the events of the fight.  One or two of the
youngsters were rather graver than usual, but Paul thought that the rest
took matters with wonderful indifference.  He was anxious to know what
had happened to Devereux, whom he had seen carried below badly wounded.
Nobody mentioned him; perhaps he was dead; and he did not feel sorry at
the thought.  After a time, though, he had some compunctions of
conscience.  He was thinking that he would find his way towards the sick
bay, where the wounded midshipmen and other junior officers were placed,
when one of the assistant-surgeons came towards the berth.

"Here, boy Gerrard, I can trust you, I think," he exclaimed.  "I want
you to stay by Mr Devereux, and to keep continually moistening his
lips, fomenting his wound as I shall direct.  He is very feverish, and
his life may depend on your attention."

Paul felt as he had never felt before, proud and happy at being thus
spoken to, and selected by the surgeon to perform a responsible office,
even though it was for one whom he had taught himself to look upon in
the light of an enemy.  He was soon by the side of the sufferer.  The
sight which met his eyes was sufficient to disarm all hostility.  The
young midshipman, lately so joyous, with the flush of health on his
cheeks, lay pale as death, groaning piteously; his side had been torn
open, and a splinter had taken part of the scalp from his head.  The
assistant-surgeon showed him what to do, and then hurried away, for he
had many wounded to attend to, as the chief surgeon had been killed by a
shot which came through one of the lower ports.

Gerrard felt greatly touched at Devereux's sufferings.  "Poor fellow! he
cannot possibly live with those dreadful wounds, and yet I am sure when
the fight began that he had not an idea that he was to be killed, or
even hurt," he said to himself more than once.  Paul was unwearied in
following the surgeon's directions.  Devereux, however, was totally
unconscious, and unaware who was attending on him.  He spoke now and
then, but incoherently, generally about the home he had lately left.
Once Paul heard him utter the name of Gerrard.

"We beat them, though they kept us long out of our fortune, and now they
are beggars as they deserve.  Hard for the young ones, though, I think;
but it cannot be helped--must not think about them."

Such expressions dropped at intervals from the lips of Devereux.  How he
came to utter them at that time Paul could not guess.  Did he know him,
or in any way associate his name with the family of whom he was
speaking?

"He has some sympathy, at all events, poor fellow, with our
misfortunes," thought Paul.  "I wish that I had not thought so ill of
him.  I hope he won't die.  I will pray that God will spare his life;
even if he were my enemy I should do that."

The surgeon, when he came his rounds, expressed his approval of the way
Paul had managed his patient.

"Will he live, sir?" asked Paul, in a trembling voice.

"That is more than the wisest of us can say," was the answer.

Paul was at length relieved from his charge by a marine who acted as
Devereux's servant.  He was, however, very unwilling to quit his post.
He was feeling more interest in the wounded midshipman than he could
have supposed possible.

Paul, as soon as he could, made his way on deck.  He wanted to know what
had become of the burning ship.  He looked around; she was nowhere to be
seen.  He inquired what had happened to her.  She had blown up; and
probably nearly all on board had sunk beneath the waves.  There were men
aloft, however, looking out, and now they were pointing in the direction
of where the burning ship had gone down.  A speck on the ocean was
observed; it was probably part of the wreck, and perhaps some of the
crew might be clinging to it.  The captain ordered a boat to be lowered,
for the wind was so light that the frigate would take a much longer time
than it would to reach the spot.  The boat pulled away; the men in the
rigging and all on deck eagerly watched her progress.  It seemed,
however, doubtful whether any one of their late foes had escaped
destruction.  The crew in the boat made no sign that they saw any one.
At length, however, they reached the spot towards which they were
rowing.

"Anyhow, they've got something," cried a topman.

The boat made a wide circuit round the fatal spot.  After some time she
was seen returning to the ship.

"They have got a man, I do believe," exclaimed one of the men.

"No; to my mind it is only a mounseer midshipmite," observed Reuben
Cole, looking down from his work into the boat.

"They've picked up a few other things, though, but it's a poor haul, I
fear."

When the boat came alongside, a fine young boy in a French uniform was
handed up and placed on the deck.  He looked around with a bewildered
air, as if not knowing where he was.  Captain Walford then took him
kindly by the hand, and told him that he should be well cared for, and
that he would find friends instead of those he had lost.  The boy
sighed.

"What! are all, all gone?" he asked in French.

"I fear so," answered the captain.  "But you are cold and wet, and you
must go below to the surgeon, who will attend to you."

The poor young stranger was, however, very unwilling to leave the deck,
and kept looking up into the countenances of the bystanders as if in
search of some of his missing friends.  Paul watched him with interest.

"Poor boy!" he said to himself; "I thought that I was very forlorn and
miserable; but I have Reuben Cole and others who are kind to me, and he
has no one here who can care for him.  How fortunate that I learned
French, because now I can talk to him and be useful to him."

When the humane Captain Walford found that all the rest of the hapless
crew of his late antagonist were lost, he ordered all the sail to be
made which the frigate in her present crippled state could carry, in
chase of his other opponent, having noted carefully the direction in
which she was steering when last seen.

"I thought that we had done with fighting for the present," said Paul to
Reuben Cole, who told him that they were looking out for the other
frigate.

"No, boy, that we haven't, and what's more, I expect we shan't, as long
as the flag of an enemy of old England flies over the salt sea.  You'll
live, I hope, Paul, to help thrash many of them.  I liked the way in
which you behaved in the action just now.  You was cool and active,
which is just what you should be.  It won't be my fault if you don't
make a first-rate seaman some day."

Paul was again much pleased with Reuben's commendations.  He was sure
that he would keep his promise, and he resolved to profit by his
instructions, as far as his duties in the midshipmen's berth would allow
him.  Before long, the young Frenchman made his appearance on deck,
dressed in the uniform of an English midshipman who had been killed.  He
lifted his hat in the politest manner to the captain and officers, and
thanked them for the courtesy they had shown him.  He was in the middle
of his speech, which was very pathetic, when his eye fell on some of the
articles which had been picked up and had not been taken below.  Among
them was a long narrow case.  He sprang towards it with a shout of joy.

"C'est a moi! c'est a moi!" he exclaimed, as he produced a key from a
lanyard round his neck.  He opened the case and drew forth a violin and
bow.  The case had been well made and water-tight; he applied the
instrument to his chin.  At first, only slow melancholy sounds were
elicited; but by degrees, as the strings got dry, the performer's arms
moved more rapidly, and he at last struck up a right merry tune.

The effect was curious and powerful.  The captain unconsciously began to
move his feet, the officers to shuffle, and the men, catching the
infection, commenced a rapid hornpipe, which Mr Order, the
first-lieutenant, in vain attempted to stop.  The young Frenchman,
delighted at finding that his music was appreciated, played faster and
faster, till everybody on deck was moving about in a fashion seldom seen
on the deck of a man-of-war.

"Stop, stop!" shouted the first-lieutenant; "knock off that nonsense,
men; stop your fiddling, I say, youngster--stop your fiddling, I say."

The discipline of the ship was very nearly upset; the men, however,
heard and obeyed; but the young Frenchman, not comprehending a word, and
delighted moreover to get back his beloved violin, continued playing
away as eagerly as at first, till Mr Order, losing patience, seized his
arm, and by a significant gesture, ordered him to desist.  His musical
talent, and his apparent good-nature, gained for the French lad the
goodwill of the crew, and of most of the officers also.

"What is your name, my young friend?" asked Captain Walford.

"Alphonse Montauban," was the answer.

"Very well; you will be more at your ease in the midshipmen's berth, I
suspect.  Take him below, Mr Bruff, and say that I beg the young
gentlemen will accommodate him and treat him with kindness.  You'll get
a hammock slung for him."

"Ay, ay, sir," answered Bruff, taking Alphonse by the hand.  "Come
along, youngster."

Bruff was anxious to say something kind to the poor boy, but there was a
bar to this, as neither understood each other's language.  Paul
followed, guessing this, and hoping that his knowledge of French might
be put into requisition.  Alphonse, with his fiddle tucked under his
arm, entered the berth.

"Here's a young chap who is a first-rate hand with the catgut, and if
any of you can tell him that he is welcome in his own lingo, I wish you
would, mates," said Bruff.

"Mounseer, you are mucho welcomo to our bertho," exclaimed Blake.
"Here's to your healtho, Mounseer.  I hope, Bruff, this is first-rate
French."

"It doesn't sound like it, but maybe he understands you, for he's bowing
to you in return," answered Bruff.

Similar attempts at speaking French were made; but, as may be supposed,
the young foreigner was as unable as at first to understand what was
said.

"How very ignorant they are," thought Paul.  "I wish that they would let
me speak to him."

The young Frenchman, who was of an excitable disposition, at last
thinking that the English boys were laughing at him, began to lose
temper, and so did they, at what they considered his unexampled
stupidity.

Paul, who was standing near the door, mustering courage, at length
interpreted what was said into very fair French.  The young stranger,
with a pleased smile, asked--

"What! can a poor boy like you speak my dear language?"

"Yes, I learned it of my sisters at home," answered Paul.

"Then we must be friends, for you can sympathise with me more than can
these," said Alphonse.

"Do not say so to them," observed Paul; "they may not like it.  I am but
a poor ship's boy and their servant."

"Misfortune makes all people equal, and your tone of voice and the way
you speak French, convince me that you are of gentle birth," said
Alphonse.

It is possible that the midshipmen might have looked at Paul with more
respect from hearing him speak a language of which they were ignorant,
though some sneered at him for talking the Frenchman's lingo.

Paul, as soon as he could leave the berth, hurried to the side of
Devereux.  He found the surgeon there.

"Ah! come to look after your patient, boy?" said Mr Lancet.  "You have
performed your duty so well, that I have begged Mr Order to relieve you
from your attendance on the young gentlemen, and to give you to me
altogether."

Paul thanked Mr Lancet, but told him frankly, that though he was very
glad to be of service to Mr Devereux, or to any other wounded shipmate,
he wished to learn to be a sailor, and therefore that he would rather be
employed on deck; still he was gratified at what Mr Lancet had said.

He devoted himself, however, to Devereux, by whose side he spent every
moment not absolutely required for sleep or for his meals.  Mr Order
sent another boy, Tom Buckle, to attend on the young gentlemen, who came
to the conclusion that he was a perfect lout after Paul.

"There is something in that youngster after all," observed Bruff, who
resolved to try what he was really worth, and to befriend him
accordingly.

Meantime, the _Cerberus_ continued in chase of the French frigate, which
Alphonse told Captain Walford was the _Alerte_, and perhaps to induce
him to give up the chase, he remarked that she was very powerfully armed
and strongly manned, and would prove a dangerous antagonist.  Captain
Walford laughed.

"It is not a reason for abandoning the chase which would weigh much with
any one on board this ship, I hope, though it will make them the more
eager to come up with her," he answered.

Alphonse also let drop that the two frigates were bound out to the West
Indies with important despatches.  It was most probable, therefore, that
the _Alerte_, in obedience to orders, would make the best of her way
there.  Captain Walford resolved to follow in that direction.

The _Alerte_ had probably not received as much injury in her rigging as
was supposed, and as Alphonse said that she was very fast, there was
little expectation on board the _Cerberus_ that they would come up with
her before she got to her destination.  Still, Captain Walford was not a
man to abandon an object as long as there remained a possibility of
success.  He was a good specimen of a British naval officer.  Brave,
kind, and considerate, his men adored him; and there was no deed of
daring which he would not venture to undertake, because he knew that his
crew would follow wherever he would lead.  He never swore at or abused
those under him, or even had to speak roughly to them.  Every officer
who did his duty knew that he had in him a sincere friend; and his men
looked upon him in the light of a kind and wise father, who would always
do them justice, and overlook even their faults, if possible.

Mr Lancet took an opportunity of speaking to the captain of the boy
Gerrard, and remarked that he was far better educated than were lads
generally of his class.

"I will keep my eye on the lad, and if he proves worthy, will serve him
if I can," was the answer.

Devereux continued in great danger; the surgeon would not assert that he
would recover.  It was some time before he remarked Paul's attention to
him.

"You are boy Gerrard, I see," he observed faintly.  "You are very good
to me, and more than I deserve from you; but I never meant you ill, and
I got you off a cobbing once.  I have done very few good things in the
world, and now I am going to die, I am afraid.  You'll forgive me,
Gerrard, won't you?"

"Oh, yes, yes, sir!" answered Paul, with tears in his eyes; "even if you
had wronged me much more than you have done; but it wasn't you, it was
your father and those about him."

"My father!  What do you mean, boy; who are you?" exclaimed Devereux, in
a tone of astonishment, starting up for a moment, though he immediately
sank back exhausted; while he muttered to himself,--"Gerrard!  Gerrard!
can it be possible?"  He then asked quietly--

"Where do you come from, boy?"

"No matter, sir," answered Paul, afraid of agitating Devereux.  "I will
tell you another time, for I hope that you will get well soon, and then
you may be able to listen to what I have to say; but the doctor says
that at present you must be kept perfectly quiet, and talk as little as
possible."

Devereux, who was still very weak, did not persist in questioning Paul,
who had time to reflect how far it would be wise to say anything about
himself.  He was not compelled to be communicative; and he considered
that Devereux ill, and expecting to die, and Devereux well, might
possibly be two very different characters.  "If I were to tell him, he
might bestow on me a sort of hypocritical compassion, and I could not
stand that," he thought to himself.  Whatever were Paul's feelings, he
did not relax in his care of Devereux.

Day after day came, and the first question asked of the morning watch
was, "Is there anything like the _Alerte_ yet ahead?"  All day, too, a
bright look-out was kept from the mast-heads for her; but in vain, and
some began to think that she must have altered her course and returned
to the coast of France.

Paul was not sorry when he heard this, for he had seen enough of the
effects of fighting to believe that it was not a desirable occupation;
and he, moreover, felt for young Alphonse, who naturally earnestly hoped
that the _Cerberus_ would not fall in with the _Alerte_.

No one rejoiced more than did Paul when one day Mr Lancet pronounced
Devereux to be out of danger, and that all he required was care and
attention.  Paul redoubled his efforts to be of use.  Alphonse missed
him very much from the berth, as he was the only person who could
interpret for him, and whenever he wanted anything he had to find him
out and to get him to explain what he required.  Before long, therefore,
the young Frenchman found his way to the sick bay, where Devereux and
others lay.  Devereux was the only midshipman who could speak French,
though not so well as Paul.

The ship had now reached a southern latitude, and the balmy air coming
through an open port contributed to restore health and strength to the
sick and wounded.  When Devereux heard Alphonse addressing Paul, and the
latter replying in French, he lifted up his head.

"What, boy Gerrard, where did you learn French?" he asked.

"At home, sir," answered Paul, quietly.

"Yes, he speaks very good French, and is a very good boy," remarked
Alphonse.

"And you, monsieur, you speak French also?"

Devereux replied that he did a little.

"That is very nice, indeed," said the young Frenchman.  "We will talk
together, and I shall no longer fear dying of _ennui_."

After this, Alphonse was constantly with Devereux, and when the latter
was better, he brought his fiddle and played many a merry tune to him.
Indeed, the young Frenchman, by his light-hearted gaiety, his
gentleness, and desire to please, became a general favourite fore and
aft.

"Ah, mounseer, if there was many like you aboard the frigate which went
down, I for one am sorry that I had a hand in sending her there,"
exclaimed Reuben Cole one day, in a fit of affectionate enthusiasm.

Alphonse, who understood him, sighed.  "There were many, many; but it
was the fortune of war."

"But, suppose, Reuben, we come up with the other, and have to treat her
in the same way, what will you say then?" asked Paul.

"Why, you see, Paul, the truth is this: if the captain says we must
fight and sink her, it must be done, even if every one on us had a
mother's son aboard.  I stick up for discipline, come what may of it."

The ship was within one or two days' sail of the West Indies, when, as
Paul was on deck, he heard the man at the mast-head shout out, "A sail
on the lee-bow standing for the westward."

"It is the _Alerte_," thought Paul, "and we shall have more fighting."
Others were of the same opinion.  Instantly all sail was made in chase.
The crew of the _Cerberus_ had been somewhat dull of late, except when
the little Mounseer, as they called Alphonse, scraped his fiddle.  They
were animated enough at present.  Even the sick and wounded were eager
to come on deck.  Devereux especially insisted that he was able to
return to his duty.  Mr Lancet said that he might not suffer much, but
that he had better remain out of harm's way, as even a slight wound
might prove fatal.  He would listen to no such reasoning, and getting
Paul to help him on with his uniform, he crawled on deck.

"Gerrard," he said as he was dressing, "if I am killed, you are to be my
heir as regards my personal effects.  I have written it down, and given
the paper to Mr Lancet, witnessed by Mr Bruff, so it's all right.  I
have an idea who you are, though you never told me."

Captain Walford was surprised at seeing Devereux on deck, and though he
applauded his zeal, he told him that he had better have remained below.

As soon as the stranger discovered the _Cerberus_, she made all sail to
escape.  It was questioned whether or not she was the _Alerte_, but one
thing was certain, that the _Cerberus_ was overhauling her, and had soon
got near enough to see her hull from aloft.  It was now seen, that
though she was a large ship, she was certainly not a frigate; it was
doubted, indeed, whether she was French.  The opinion of Alphonse was
asked.

"She is not the _Alerte_, she is a merchantman and French; she will
become your prize.  I am sorry for my poor countrymen, but it is the
fortune of war," he answered as he turned away with a sigh.

A calm, of frequent occurrence in those latitudes, came on, and there
lay the two ships, rolling their sides into the water, and unable to
approach each other.

"If the stranger gets a breeze before us she may yet escape," observed
the captain.  "Out boats, we must attack her with them."

The sort of work proposed has always been popular among seamen.  There
was no lack of volunteers.  The boats were speedily manned; the
second-lieutenant went in one boat; old Noakes, though badly wounded,
was sufficiently recovered to take charge of another; Peter Bruff had a
third.  Paul was seized with a strong desire to go also.  In the hurry
of lowering the boats, he was able to slip into the bows of the last
mentioned, and to hide himself under a sail thrown in by chance.  Reuben
Cole went in the same boat.  Devereux watched them away, wishing that he
could have gone also.  The boats glided rapidly over the smooth, shining
ocean.  Their crews were eager to be up with their expected prize.  The
sun beat down on their heads, the water shone like polished silver, not
a breath of air came to cool the heated atmosphere; but they cared not
for the heat or fatigue, all they thought of was the prize before them.
Paul lay snugly under his shelter, wondering when they would reach the
enemy's side.  He soon began to repent of his freak; he could hear the
remarks of the men as they pulled on.  The ship was from her appearance
a letter of marque or a privateer, and such was not likely to yield
without a severe struggle, he heard.  Paul could endure the suspense no
longer, and creeping from under his covering, he looked out over the
bows.

"Hillo, youngster, what brings you here?" sung out Mr Bruff.  "If you
come off with a whole skin, as I hope you will, you must expect a taste
of the cat to remind you that you are not to play such a trick again."

The reprimand from the kind-hearted mate might have been longer, but it
was cut short by a shot from the enemy, which almost took the ends off
the blades of the oars of his boat.  The men cheered and dashed forward.
At the same moment eight ports on a side were exposed, and a hot fire
opened on the boats from as many guns, and from swivels and muskets.
Hot as was the fire, it did not for a moment stop the boats.  Paul
wished that he had remained on board.  The deck of the enemy seemed
crowded with men.

"Hurrah, lads!" cried Peter Bruff when he saw this, "they'll only hamper
each other and give us an easier victory."

The boats dashed alongside.  Langrage and grape and round-shot were
discharged at them, and boarding-pikes, muskets, and pistols were seen
protruding through the ports ready for their reception.  The boats
hooked on, and, in spite of all opposition, the British seamen began to
climb up the side.  Some were driven back and hurled into the boats,
wounded, too often mortally; the rest persevered.  Again and again the
attempt was made, the deck was gained, a desperate hand-to-hand combat
began.  It could have but one termination, the defeat of the attackers
or the attacked.  Paul climbed up with the rest of his shipmates.  It is
surprising that human beings could have faced the bristling mass of
weapons which the British seamen had to encounter.  Paul followed close
behind Reuben, who kept abreast of Mr Noakes.  Pistols were fired in
their faces, cutlasses were clashing, as the seamen were slashing and
cutting and lunging at their opponents.  In spite of all opposition the
deck was gained; the enemy, however, still fought bravely.  Mr Larcom,
the second-lieutenant of the _Cerberus_, fell shot through the head.
Several men near him were killed or badly wounded; it seemed likely that
after all the boarders would be driven back.  Old Noakes saw the danger;
there was still plenty of British pluck in him in spite of the pains he
took to wash away all feeling; the day must be retrieved.  "On, lads,
on!" he shouted, throwing himself furiously on the enemy; "follow me!
death or victory!"

Again the Frenchmen gave way; at first inch by inch they retreated, then
more rapidly, leaving many of their number wounded on the deck.  Bruff
had faced about and driven the enemy aft; Noakes and Reuben still pushed
forward.  Paul, following close at their heels with an officer's sword
which he had picked up, observed, fallen on the deck, a man, apparently
a lieutenant, whose eye was fixed on Noakes, and whose hand held a
pistol; he was taking a steady aim at Noakes's head.  Paul sprang
forward, and giving a cut at the man's arm, the muzzle of the pistol
dropping, the contents entered the deck.

"Thanks, boy, you've saved my life, I'll not forget you," cried Noakes.
"On, on, on!"

"Well done, Gerrard, well done!" exclaimed Reuben.  "You've saved your
hide, boy."

The Frenchmen, finding that all was lost, leaped down the fore-hatchway,
most of them singing out for quarter.  A few madly and treacherously
fired up from below, which so exasperated the seamen, that nearly half
of them were killed before their flag was hauled down and the rest
overpowered.  The frigate was by this time bringing up a breeze to the
prize.

"It's a pity it didn't come a little sooner; it might have saved the
lives of many fine fellows," observed Bruff, as he glanced round on the
blood-stained deck.

"It's an ill wind that blows no one good," remarked Noakes, looking at
Mr Larcom's body.  "If he had been alive, I shouldn't have gained my
promotion, which I am now pretty sure of for this morning's work,
besides the command of the prize."

"`There's many a slip between the cup and the lip.'  I've found it so,
and so have you, mate, I suspect," said Bruff; "yet, old fellow, I hope
you'll get what you deserve."

There was no jealousy in honest Bruff's composition.  He put his old
messmate's gallantry in so bright a light privately before Captain
Walford, that the captain felt himself bound to recommend Noakes for
promotion to the Admiralty, and to place him in charge of the prize to
take home.  She was the _Aigle_, privateer, mounting sixteen guns,
evidently very fast, but very low, with taut masts, square yards, and
seemingly very crank.  Most of the prisoners were removed, and Mr
Noakes got leave to pick a crew.  He chose, among others, Reuben Cole
and Paul Gerrard.  The surgeon advised that Devereux and O'Grady should
go home, and Alphonse Montauban was allowed a passage, that he might be
exchanged on the first opportunity.

"Be careful of your spars, Noakes," observed Mr Order, as he looked up
at the _Aigle's_ lofty masts, "remember that you are short-handed."

"Ay, ay, sir," answered the old mate as he went down the side, adding to
himself, "I should think that I know how to sail a craft by this time;
I'm no sucking baby to require a nurse."

Paul was very glad to find himself with Devereux and Alphonse, as also
with Reuben, on board the prize.  Mr Noakes did not forget the service
he had rendered him, and was as kind as could well be.  He called him
aft one day.

"Gerrard, my boy, you want to be a seaman, and though I can't give you
silver and gold, I can make you that, if you will keep your wits about
you, and I'll teach you navigation myself.  You are a gentleman by
birth, and that's more than some of us can boast of being; but I don't
advise you to aspire to the quarter-deck.  Without money or friends, you
may repent being placed on it, as I have often done; that's no reason,
however, that you shouldn't become fit to take command of a ship; a
privateer or a merchantman may fall in your way; at all events, learn
all you can."

Paul resolved to follow his new friend's advice.  A course was shaped
for Plymouth, and the _Aigle_ proceeded merrily on her way.

Noakes could give good advice to others, but he did not follow after
wisdom himself.  He had a great failing, from the effects of which he
had often suffered.  Drink was his bane, as it is that of thousands.
Several casks of prime claret were found on board; it would not have
done much harm by itself, but there were some casks of brandy also.  By
mixing the two with some sugar, Noakes concocted a beverage very much to
his taste.  He kept his word with Paul as long as he was able, and lost
no opportunity in giving him instruction in seamanship and navigation;
but in time the attractions of his claret-cup were so great, that he was
seldom in a condition to understand anything clearly himself, much less
to explain it to another.  Devereux and O'Grady expostulated in vain.
He grew angry and only drank harder.  The prisoners observed matters
with inward satisfaction.  They might have entertained hopes of
regaining their ship.  Alphonse warned Devereux.

"They have not spoken to me, or I could not say this to you, but they
may, so be prepared," he observed one day as they were on deck together,
no one else being near.

Noakes was compelled to keep watch.  He always carried on more than
either of his companions ventured to do.  It was night, and very dark;
the first watch was nearly over; the weather, hitherto fine, gave signs
of changing.  Devereux, who had charge of the deck, was about to shorten
sail, when Noakes came up to relieve him.

"Hold all fast," he sung out, adding, "Nonsense, Devereux, your wounds
have made you weak and timid.  We've a slashing breeze, and let's take
advantage of it to reach the shores of old England."

"Too much haste the worst speed," observed Reuben to Paul; "our sticks
are bending terribly, they'll be whipping over the sides presently, or
will capsize the craft altogether.  I don't like the look of things,
that I don't, I tell you."  Scarcely had he spoken, when a blast,
fiercer than its predecessor, struck the ship.

"Let fly of all," shouted Noakes, sobered somewhat.

The crew ran to obey the orders, but it came too late.  Over went the
tall ship; down, down, the raging tempest pressed her.

"Axes, axes, cut, cut," was heard from several mouths.

"Follow me, Paul, and then cling on for your life," cried Reuben Cole,
climbing through a weather port; "it's too late to save the ship."



CHAPTER THREE.

"What are we to do now?" asked Paul, after he had secured his hold in
the main-chains.

"Hold on, Jack, where you are, while I will go and try to help some of
our shipmates," answered Reuben.  "There's Mr Devereux, who can't do
much to help himself; and the young Mounseer, I should like to save
him."

Several men had already got to the upper side of the ship, some in the
main, and others in the mizen-chains, while others were in the rigging.
As the ship was light, she still floated high out of the water.  Many
might possibly, therefore, be alive below.  Reuben had not been gone
long, when he put his head through the port, singing out--

"Here, Paul, lend a hand and help up Mr Devereux."

Devereux had been partially stunned, but had happily clung to a
stanchion, where Reuben had found him.  Paul hauled him up, while Reuben
again dived in search of some one else.  He was gone for some time, and
Paul began to fear that some accident had happened to him.  At length
his voice was again heard.

"Hurrah, Paul, here he is; and what is more, he has his fiddle, too, all
safe and sound."

Sure enough, there was Alphonse and his beloved fiddle in its case,
which he had contrived to get up from below at no little risk of being
drowned himself.

"Ah!  I would not part from this," he exclaimed, as he made himself
secure in the chains.  "It is my own dear friend; shall I play you a
tune now?"

"No, thank ye, Mounseer, it might chance to get wet, and may be there
are more poor fellows to help up here," answered Reuben.

"Ah! truly, I forgot what had happened," said Alphonse in a dreamy tone,
showing that his mind was wandering, overcome by the sudden catastrophe.
It was no time for laughter, or Paul would have laughed at the oddness
of the young Frenchman's remark.  Still, awful as was the scene, he felt
very little sensation of fear.  The night was very dark, the wind
howled, the rain fell in torrents, the sea dashed over the wreck, nearly
washing off those who clung to it, while vivid flashes of lightning
darted from the clouds and went hissing along like fiery serpents over
the summits of the waves.  The party in the main-chains spoke but
little.  It seemed too probable that none of them would ever see another
day.  Indeed, even should the ship not go down, Paul feared that
Devereux could scarcely endure the hardships of their situation.  He
asked Reuben if nothing could be done.

"If we could get at the axes, we might cut away the masts and the ship
might right," answered Reuben.  "But, you see, we want daylight and the
officers to give the order, so that all may act together."

While he was speaking, a voice was heard apparently from the mizen
rigging, shouting, "Cut, I say, all of you; cut, I say, and cut
together."

It was that of Mr Noakes.  Directly after, a flash of lightning
revealed him standing in the mizen-top, holding on with one hand, while
he waved the other wildly around.  His nervous system had been
completely weakened by drinking, and it was evident that he had lost his
senses.  He continued to shout louder and louder, and then to abuse the
crew for not obeying his orders.  Flash after flash of lightning
revealed him still waving his arm; his hat had fallen off, and his long
grizzly hair flew wildly about his head.  He seemed unaware of the
danger of his position and indifferent to the seas which frequently
dashed over him.  He was thus seen standing, when a sea rose high above
the half-submerged hull, and rolling over the after part, struck the
mizen-top.  A loud shriek was heard, and by the glare of a flash of
forked lightning, the unhappy officer, the victim of hard drinking, was
seen borne away amid its foaming waters.  In vain he stretched out his
arms to catch at floating ropes; in vain he struck out boldly towards
the ship, and shouted to his men to help him.  His strength was as
nothing, no aid could be given, and in another instant the waves closed
for ever over his head.  O'Grady was the only other officer not
accounted for.  He had been below, and it was to be hoped had got to the
upper side and had thus escaped being drowned.  While his messmates were
inquiring for him, his voice was heard shouting for help.  He had
clambered up through a hatchway, scarcely knowing what had occurred.
Reuben Cole and Paul helped him up to the main-chains.  Devereux and
Alphonse bore up wonderfully well.  The former especially showed what
spirit and courage ran do under difficulties and hardships.

"I wish that the day were come," said Paul more than once.

"It's what many have wished before, boy, and if has come in good time,"
answered Reuben.

"There's just only one thing for it, and that's patience, as Sandy
McPherson, an old shipmate of mine, used to say whenever he was in
trouble."

The dawn did come at last, but it was very grey and very cold; but the
wind and sea had gone down and the ship was still afloat.  Whether she
could be saved was the first question asked by all.  Devereux was now
senior officer, but his experience was very limited.

"I wish that I had attended more to this sort of thing," he observed to
O'Grady.  "I never thought of the possibility of this happening to
myself."

"Faith, I can't say that I ever thought much about it either," answered
the other midshipman.  "But I think that we couldn't do better than to
follow old Noakes's last order, to cut away the masts.  If the ship
keeps on her side much longer, she'll go down, that's pretty certain."

"It's very well to give the order, but where are the axes to cut with?"
asked Devereux.

"Well, to be sure, I didn't think about that," answered O'Grady.  "But
I'll volunteer to go and search for them, and probably others will come
and help me."

"I will, sir," exclaimed Paul, who overheard the conversation.

"And so will I," said Reuben Cole; "and what is more, even if the ship
does not go down, we shall starve if we don't, for there isn't a scrap
of food among any of us."

Alphonse also expressed his readiness to go on the expedition, but
O'Grady begged that he would remain and take care of Devereux.  No time
was to be lost.  As soon as there was sufficient light for them to see,
securing themselves by ropes, they slipped through a port and
disappeared.  Devereux, who was unfit for any exertion, remained in the
chains.  Some minutes passed.  He became at last very anxious about his
companions.  He shouted to them, but no one replied.  It appeared to him
that the ship was turning over more, and settling deeper than before in
the water.

"They have only gone a short time before me," he thought.  "It matters
but little, yet how unfit I am to die.  But I must not yield without a
struggle.  People in our circumstances have formed rafts and escaped;
why should not we?  Though without food, or water, or compass, or chart,
we shall be badly off."  He proposed his plan to Alphonse and the people
near him.  All promised to obey his directions.  They were on the point
of climbing along the masts to get at the lighter spars, when Paul poked
his head through a port, flourishing above it an axe.

"We've found them, we've found them," he shouted; "but there's no time
to be lost, for the water is already making its way through the
hatches."

The rest of the party appearing, corroborated this statement.  Devereux
roused up his energies and distributed his crew, some at the masts, and
the rest at the shrouds.

"Cut off all, and cut together!" he shouted.  In a minute every shroud
and stay and mast was cut through.  The effect was instantaneous.  The
ship rolled up on an even keel so rapidly, that Devereux and those with
him could with difficulty climb over the bulwarks to regain the deck.
Their condition was but little improved, for so much water had got down
below, that it seemed improbable the ship could swim long, and there she
lay a dismasted wreck in the middle of the wide Atlantic.  The young
commander's first wish was to endeavour to clear the ship of water, but
the pumps were choked, and long before the water could be bailed out,
another gale might spring up and the ship go down, even supposing there
was no leak.  It was probable, however, that from the quantity of water
in her she had already sprung a serious leak.  Every boat on board had
been washed away or destroyed when the ship went over.  Blank dismay was
visible on the countenances of even some of the boldest of the crew.
The masts and spars were, however, still hanging by the lee rigging
alongside.

"We could make a stout raft anyhow," observed Reuben.

The idea was taken up by the rest.  There was a chance of life.
Devereux gave orders that a raft should be formed.

"But we'll be starving entirely, if we don't get up some provisions,"
observed O'Grady.

"May I go and collect them?" asked Paul.  "Stronger people than I can be
working at the raft."

"And I will go too," said Alphonse, when Paul had obtained the
permission asked.

They found, however, that most of the casks and jars in the officers'
cabins had been upset and their contents washed away, while there was
already so much water in the hold, that they could not get up anything
from it.  A cheese, some bottles of spirits, and a small cask of wet
biscuit, were all they could collect.  While groping about in the hold,
it appeared to them that the water was rising; if so, the ship must have
sprung a serious leak.  With the scanty supply of provisions they had
obtained, they hurried on deck to report what they had remarked.
Considerable progress had been made with the raft, but without food and
water it could only tend to prolong their misery.  Reuben, with three
other men, were therefore ordered below, to get up any more provisions
which they could find.  They very soon returned with the only things
they could reach,--a small cask of pork, another of biscuit, and a keg
of butter.  Water was, however, most required, and it was not to be
obtained.  It was evident, too, that the ship was settling down more and
more, and that no time must be lost in getting the raft finished.  All
hands now worked with the knowledge that their lives depended on their
exertions, rapidly passing the numerous lashings in a way of which
sailors alone are capable.  Even before it was completed, the small
amount of provisions which had been collected were placed on it, for all
knew that at any moment it might prove their only ark of safety.

Devereux had no occasion to urge his men to increased exertion.  A sail
and spars for a mast, and yards and rudder were got ready.  At length
all the preparations were concluded.

"To the raft! to the raft!" was the cry, for the ship had sunk so low
that the water was already running through the scuppers.  Gradually she
went down; the raft was slightly agitated by the vortex formed as the
waters closed over her, and then it floated calmly on the wide ocean.

The crew looked at each other for some time without speaking.  Devereux
was very young to be placed in so trying a position, still he saw that
he must maintain discipline among those under his command, and prevent
them from sinking into a state of despondency.  There was much to be
done; the mast to be rigged, the sail to be fitted, and a rudder formed.
It was necessary also to secure the articles on the raft, and all being
done, he steered a course for the west, hoping to reach one of the West
India Islands.

Paul had often when at home pictured such a scene as that in which he
was now taking a part, but how far short did the scene he had drawn come
of the reality!  Scarcely had the ship disappeared than the wind fell
and the sea became like glass, while the sun shone with intense heat on
the unprotected heads of the seamen.

"Reuben, can I ask for a mug of water, do you think?  I am dreadfully
thirsty," said Paul.

Reuben looked at him with compassion.  "Every drop of water we've got is
worth its weight in gold and many times more," he answered.  "It will be
served out to us in thimblefuls, and each officer and man will share
alike.  It will be well for us if it even thus lasts till we make the
land or get picked up."

Not a mouthful of food had been eaten since the previous evening.

"It's mighty like starving we are," observed O'Grady; "we had better
begin to eat a little, or we shall grow so ravenous, that it will be no
small allowance will satisfy us."

"You are right, Paddy," said Devereux, rousing himself up.  "Ascertain
what quantity we have, and calculate how long it will last."

O'Grady commenced the examination as directed.  He soon reported that
there was enough food to support life for eight, or perhaps, ten days.

"And water?" asked Devereux.

"Not for eight," was the answer.

"Heaven preserve us!" ejaculated Devereux.  "It will take us double that
time to reach the land!"

The provisions were served out with the greatest care and in equal
portions.  The people on the raft suffered more from heat than from any
other cause.  The sea remained perfectly calm, the sun sank down, and
darkness reigned over the ocean.  It was their first night on the raft.
Who could say how many more they might have to spend on it?  Devereux
did his best to keep up the courage of his men, but in spite of all he
could say, the spirits of many sank low.  He encouraged them to tell
stories, to narrate their adventures, to sing songs, and he himself took
every opportunity of talking of the future, and spoke confidently of
what he would do when they should reach the shore.  Paul felt very
unhappy.  He was hungry and thirsty, and that alone lowers the spirits.
The men were grouped round their officers in the centre of the raft.
Paul was sitting near Reuben.

"I don't think that I shall ever live through this," he said, taking his
friend's hand.  "You are strong, Reuben, and you may weather it out.  If
you do, you'll go and tell my poor mother and sisters how it all
happened and what became of me.  Tell them that if I had lived I might,
perhaps, have been placed on the quarter-deck and become a captain or an
admiral; but that dream is all over now."

"As to that being a dream, a dream it is, Paul," said Reuben; "but as to
your living and turning out a good seaman, I've no fear about that, my
boy," he added cheerfully.  "You see, there's One above cares for us,
and if we pray to Him He'll send us help."

The night passed on, the stars shone brightly down from the pure sky,
the waters flashed with phosphorescence, the inhabitants of the deep
came up to the surface to breathe, while not a breath of air ruffled the
face of the ocean.  Except two appointed to keep watch, all on the raft
soon sank into a deep sleep.  They were awoke by the hot sun beating
down on their heads; then they again wished for night.  As the rays of
the sun came down with fiercer force their thirst increased, but no one
asked for more than his small share of water.  Those only who have
endured thirst know the intensity of the suffering it causes.  Devereux
had no more able supporter than Alphonse, who had saved his well-beloved
violin.  The moment the young Frenchman saw that the spirits of the
people were sinking, he pulled it from its case, and putting it to his
chin, began scraping away with right good will; now a merry, now a
pathetic air.  The excitable state of the nerves of the seamen was shown
by the effect he produced.  On hearing the merry tunes they burst into
shouts of laughter; with the pathetic, even the roughest melted into
tears.  Alphonse played on till his arm ached, and scarcely was he
rested before they begged him to go on again.  Before the day closed,
however, several of the party appeared to be sinking into a state of
apathy, scarcely knowing where they were, or what they were saying.
Some clamoured loudly for food, but Devereux mildly but firmly refused
to allow any one to have more than his allotted share.  Paul looked at
him with a respect he had never before felt.  He seemed so cool and
collected, so different from the careless, thoughtless midshipman he had
appeared on board the frigate.  He had evidently risen to the
difficulties of his position.  He well knew, indeed, that the lives of
all the party would depend in a great measure on his firmness and
decision; at the same time, he knew that all he could do might avail
them nothing.  He also felt compassion for Paul, who was the youngest
person on the raft.  He had brought him away from the frigate, and it
was very probable that he would be one of the first to sink under the
hardships to which they were exposed.  Paul was not aware that Devereux,
when serving out the food, gave him a portion of his own scanty share,
in the hopes that his strength might be thus better supported and his
life prolonged.  Another night passed by, and when the sun rose, it
shone as before on a glassy sea.  There was no sign of a breeze, and
without a breeze no ship could approach the raft, nor could the raft
make progress towards the land.  Still Devereux persevered as before in
endeavouring to keep up the spirits of his men.  Alphonse and his fiddle
were in constant requisition, and in spite of his own suffering, as long
as he could keep his bow moving, he played on with right good will.
When Alphonse grew weary, Devereux called for a tale; now for a song;
now he told one of his own adventures, or some adventure he had heard.

"Come, O'Grady, you used to be one of the best singers in the berth till
the Frenchman's shot knocked you over; try what you can do now!" he
exclaimed, so that all might hear.  "Never mind the tune, only let it be
something comic, for a change," he added in a whisper; "you and I must
not let the rest know what we feel."

"I'll do my best, though, faith, it's heavy work to sing with an empty
stomach," answered O'Grady.  "However, here goes:--

  "'Twas on November, the second day,
  The Admiral he bore away,
  Intending for his native shore;
  The wind at south-south-west did roar,
  There likewise was a terrible sky,
  Which made the sea to run mountains high.

  "The tide of ebb not being done,
  But quickly to the west did run,
  Which put us all in dreadful fear,
  Because there was not room to wear;
  The wind and weather increased sore.
  Which drove ten sail of us ashore.

  "Ashore went the _Northumberland_,
  The _Harwich_ and the _Cumberland_,
  The _Cloister_ and the _Lion_, too;
  But the _Elizabeth_, she had most to rue,
  She ran stem on and her _Lion_ broke,
  And sunk the _Cambridge_ at one stroke.

  "But the worst is what I have to tell,
  The greatest ships had the greatest fall;
  The brave `_Crounation_' and all her men,
  Was lost and drownded every one,
  Except a little midshipman and eighteen more
  Who in the long-boat comed ashore.

  "And thus they lost their precious lives,
  But the greatest loss was unto their wives,
  Who, with their children, left ashore,
  Their husbands' watery death deplore;
  And weep their fate with many of tears,
  But grief endureth not for years.

  "Now you who've a mind to go to sea,
  Pray take a useful hint from me;
  Oh! stay at home and be content
  With what kind Providence has sent;
  For these were punish'd unto their deeds,
  For grumbling when they had no needs.

  "Now may Heaven bless our worthy King,
  Likewise his ministers we sing,
  And may they ever steer a course,
  To make things better 'stead of worse;
  And England's flag triumphant fly,
  The dread of every enemy."

O'Grady's song, though often heard before, was received with no less
applause in consequence.  Other songs followed, but the effort was
greater than many of the seamen could make.  Several attempted to tell
stories or their own adventures, but the former had no ending, and they
very soon lost the thread of their adventures.  Then they wandered
strangely; some stopped altogether; others laughed and cried
alternately.  Even Devereux could with difficulty keep command of his
own senses.  Food and a few drops of precious water were distributed
among the sufferers; without it, few could have survived another night.
That night came, however, and that night passed, though some on the raft
had passed away from life when another sun arose.

Paul more than once asked himself, "Why did I come to sea?"

Reuben overheard him.  "To my mind, Paul, when a person has done what he
believes is for the best and because he thinks it is right, he has no
cause to grumble or to be unhappy," he observed in his quiet way.
"Don't you fear, all will turn out right at last."

Paul felt weaker than he had ever done before, and his eye was dim and
his voice sounded hollow, and yet his thoughts flowed as freely as ever.
He was fully aware that death might be approaching, yet he had no fear
of death.  He thought of home and of his mother and sisters, and he
prayed for them, and that they might not grieve very much at his loss.
He was but a poor young ship-boy, but he knew that his mother would
mourn for him as much as would the mother of Devereux, or any other
high-born midshipman on board.

The sun rose higher and higher in the sky: its rays struck down as hotly
as on the day before.  "Water! water! water!" was the cry from all on
the raft; still discipline prevailed, though only a young midshipman was
the chief, and not a man attempted to take more than his share.  At
about noon Paul was feeling that he could not endure many more hours of
such thirst, when he saw Reuben's eyes directed to the north-east.

"Yes! yes! it is! it is!" exclaimed Reuben at length.

"What! a ship?" asked Paul, almost breathless with eagerness.

"No, but a breeze," cried his friend.  "It may carry us to land; it may
send us rain! it may bring up a ship to our rescue."

All eyes were now turned in the direction from which the breeze was
supposed to be coming.  At the edge of the hitherto unvarying expanse of
molten silver, a dark blue line was seen; broader and broader it grew.
With such strength as they possessed the seamen hoisted their sail.  It
bulged out and again flattened against the mast; now again it filled,
and the raft began to glide slowly over the ocean.  A faint cheer burst
from the throats of the hitherto despairing crew; yet how many long
leagues must be passed over before that raft could reach the land!  How
many of those now living on it would set foot on that land?  Too
probably not one--not one.  Day after day the raft glided on, but each
day death claimed a victim.  Still, Devereux and O'Grady and Alphonse
kept up their spirits in a way which appealed wonderful to Paul, till he
found that he was himself equally resolved to bear up to the last.
There was still some food; still a few drops of water.  Rain might come;
the wind was increasing; clouds were gathering in the sky; the sea was
getting up, and the raft, though still progressing, was tossed about in
a way which made those on it feel the risk they ran of being thrown or
washed off it.  They secured themselves with lashings.  Again the water
was served out.  A mouthful was given to Paul.

"Poor boy! let him have it," he heard Devereux say; "it is the last
drop."

Now more than ever was rain prayed for.  Without rain, should no succour
come, in a few days the sufferings of all the party would be over.
Faster and faster the raft drove on.  It was well constructed, or it
would not have held together.  Still they dared not lessen their sail.
Land might be reached at last if they would persevere.  Now they rose to
the summit of a foaming sea, now they sank into the deep trough.  It
seemed every instant that the next must see the destruction of the raft,
yet, like hope in a young bosom, it still floated buoyantly over the
raging billows.  Now dark clouds were gathering.  Eagerly they were
watched by the seamen with upturned eyes.  A few drops fell.  They were
welcomed with a cry of joy.  More came, and then the rain fell in
torrents.  Their parched throats were moistened, but unless they could
spread their sail to collect the precious fluid, they could save but
little for the future.  Still, life is sweet, and they might obtain
enough to preserve their lives for another day.  As they dared not lower
their sail, they stretched out their jackets and shirts, and wrung them
as they were saturated with fresh water into the only cask they had
saved.  Before it was a quarter full the rain ceased.  They watched with
jealous eyes the clouds driving away below the horizon, while the sun
shone forth as brightly as before on their unguarded heads.  Still the
raft tumbled furiously about, and with the utmost difficulty the seamen
retained their hold of it.  Night returned; it was a night of horror.
Their provisions were exhausted.  When the morning at length broke, two
who had been among the strongest were missing.  They must have let go
their hold while sleeping and been washed away.

"It may be our lot soon," observed Paul, whose strength was failing.

"The same hand which has hitherto preserved us few still alive on this
raft is strong to preserve us to the end," said James Croxton, an old
seaman, who, even on ordinary occasions said but little, and had only
spoken since the ship went down to utter a few words of encouragement to
his companions.  He was known on board the frigate as Jim the Methodist,
but was respected by the greater number of his shipmates.  "Never fear,
mates, help will come if we pray for it, though we don't see the Hand
which sends it.  Let us pray."

Jim's words and example had a great effect.  It was followed by all, and
the united prayers of the seamen, acknowledging their own utter
helplessness, ascended together on high.  One and all seemed to gain a
strength they had not before felt.  The raft continued to be tossed
about as before, and the hot wind blew, and the sun shone on their
unsheltered heads.  The sun rose higher and higher and then descended,
watched anxiously by the seamen till it dipped below the horizon.  Could
any of them expect to see another sun arise?  They seldom spoke to each
other during the night.  The voice of Jim Croxton was now most
frequently heard, exhorting his companions to repentance, and to put
their faith in the loving and merciful One.  When the morning broke they
were all alive, and the voice of Reuben, who had dragged himself upright
by the mast, was heard crying, "A sail! a sail! standing towards us!"

The information was received in various ways by the people on the raft;
some laughed, others wept, a few prayed, and others groaned, declaring
that they should not be seen, and that the ship would pass them by.  Old
Croxton, however, who had simply poured forth his heart in a few words
of thanksgiving, kept his eyes steadily on the approaching ship.

"She is nearing us! she is nearing us!" he uttered slowly every now and
then.

Paul gasped his breath, and felt as if he should faint away altogether,
as he saw that the ship was a British man-of-war, and that the raft was
evidently perceived by those on board.  She drew nearer and nearer, and,
heaving to, lowered two boats, which rapidly approached the raft.  In
that tumbling sea there was no small difficulty in getting close enough
to the raft to take off the people.  Paul, as the youngest, was the
first to be transferred by his companions to the nearest boat.  Even at
that moment he was struck by the expression of the countenances of most
of the crew.  No one smiled; no one seemed pleased at the work of mercy
they were performing.

"You think, youngster, that you'll be changing for the better, getting
off your raft aboard that frigate there?" growled out one of the men, as
Paul was passed along forward.  "You've got out of the frying-pan into
the fire, let me tell you.  It's a perfect hell afloat, and to my mind
the captain's the--"

"Silence there, forward!" shouted the officer in command of the boat.
"Back in again."

One by one the people were taken off the raft.  Devereux insisted on
remaining to the last, and he was taken off in the second boat.  No
sooner had he been placed in her than several of her crew leaped on to
the raft.

"Better run the chance of a watery grave than live aboard there,"
shouted one of the men, attempting to hoist the sail which had been
lowered.  "Hurrah, lads! for the coast of America and freedom!"

"Back into the boat: back, you mutinous scoundrels!" shouted the officer
in command.  "What foolery are you about?  If you were to go, and small
loss you would be, you would all of you be dead before a week was over.
Back, I say."

In vain the men tried to hoist the sail.  The mast gave way, throwing
one of them into the sea.  He made an attempt to save himself, but sank
in sight of his shipmates.  The boat was soon again dropped alongside
the raft, and the men with sulky indifference returned on board.  Very
little was said by anybody as the boats pulled back to the frigate.  The
officers, indeed, saw that those they had taken off the raft were in no
condition to answer questions.  Devereux and his companions were lifted
up on deck, and from thence at once transferred to the sick bay below
under the doctor's care.  Paul, after a sound sleep, recovered his
senses, and very soon perceived, that although there was strict
discipline maintained on board, each person went about his duty in a
dull, mechanical way.  Reuben was, however, on foot before Paul.  He
came to the side of the hammock in which the latter still lay unable to
move.

"I am thankful, Reuben, that we are safe off that dreadful raft," said
Paul.

"No reason to call it dreadful, boy.  It was our ark of safety, as Jim
Croxton says, rightly, and we should be grateful that we were allowed to
be saved by it.  There's many here, as you saw, would rather be on that
raft than aboard this fine frigate," answered Reuben.

"Why? what is the matter with the ship?" asked Paul.

"Why, just this," answered his friend; "the captain is a tyrant; many of
the officers imitate him, and altogether the men's lives are miserable.
The ship is a complete hell afloat."

Several days passed by; the frigate was steering for the West Indies,
which were sighted soon after Paul had managed to creep on deck.  He saw
the men casting wistful glances at the land.

"If once I set my foot ashore, it will take a dozen red coats to carry
me aboard again!" exclaimed a seaman near him.

"Ay, Bill, it's a dog's life we lead; but there's a way to free
ourselves if we were men enough to use it," said another.

"It's not the first time that has been thought of," observed a third.
"But hush, mates, that boy may hear; he looks like a sharp one."

The men were silent till Paul walked farther aft, where he saw them
still earnestly engaged in talking together.  He considered what he
ought to do.  Should he tell Devereux what he had heard?  Perhaps, after
all, it meant nothing.  He could trust Reuben; that is to say, Reuben
would not betray him; but he might take part with the men.  He would
consult Croxton.  He found old Jim after some time, but had no
opportunity of speaking to him alone.  There was an ominous scowl on the
countenances of all the men, which confirmed his suspicions that
something was wrong.  Below they gathered together more in knots than
usual, speaking in subdued voices.  Whenever an officer approached, they
were silent, and generally dispersed with an appearance of indifference.
Thus two or three more days passed, and Paul felt as well able as ever
to do his duty.  It was the forenoon watch; the men were summoned to
divisions.  It was perfectly calm; no land was in sight; the sun struck
down fiercely on their heads.

"There's work in hand for us to-day," exclaimed a topman, as he sprang
on deck.

In a little time the order to furl sails was given.  The men flew aloft.

"Reef topsails," cried the first-lieutenant.

The men appeared to do the work slowly.  Oaths and curses were hurled at
them by the officers on duty.  Paul took the opportunity of going down
to see Devereux, who, with O'Grady and Alphonse, was still too weak to
go on deck.  He told him that he was afraid something was wrong.
Devereux answered--

"I fear that the men are dissatisfied, but they dare do nothing.  I pity
them, though, poor fellows."

The words were overheard by some of the idlers, as they are called
below.  While Paul was speaking to Devereux, Croxton came in.  He also
heard what had been said.

"Man is born to suffer," he remarked.  "He must submit, and leave the
righting in the hands of Providence.  He cannot right himself."

His remarks were scarcely understood by those who heard him, even by
Devereux, who, however, remembered them.  After a time, Paul returned on
deck.  The captain was still exercising the men at furling sails.  With
watch in hand he stood on the quarter-deck, his rage increasing as he
found that they could not or would not accomplish the work in the time
he desired.  At length he shouted in a voice which made the blood run
cold in Paul's veins--

"The last men in off the yards shall get four dozen for their pains.
Remember that, ye scoundrels!  Away aloft!"

Again the men ascended the rigging.  The sails were furled.  Two active
young topmen on the mizen-yard made an attempt to spring over the backs
of the rest.  They missed their hold.  With a fearful crash they fell
together on the deck.

"Throw the lubbers overboard!" exclaimed the captain, kicking
contemptuously their mangled remains.

These words were the signal of his own destruction.  The men, regardless
of his threats, sprang below.

"Vengeance! vengeance!" was the cry.

The first-lieutenant who ventured among them was cut down, and while yet
breathing, hove overboard.  Others who appeared met with the same fate.
The mutineers then rushed to the captain's cabin.  He stood fiercely at
bay, but in vain.  Bleeding from countless wounds, he was forced through
the stern port.  His last words were, "Vengeance! vengeance! vengeance!"
Fearfully it was paid.



CHAPTER FOUR.

The deed of blood was not yet completed, although we would fain avoid
entering more minutely than is necessary into the horrible details of
the massacre which followed the death of the captain.  It is a proof of
the evil passions which dwell within the bosoms of men, and shows how
those passions may be worked up by tyranny and injustice to make men
commit deeds at which, in their calmer moments, their minds would
revolt.  Many of the victims struggled manfully for their lives.  Among
the officers was a young midshipman.  He was fighting bravely by the
side of one of the lieutenants, who was at length cut down.

"Will you swear not to utter a word of what you have seen done to-day?"
exclaimed Nol Hargraves, a quartermaster, who was one of the leaders of
the mutineers, if any could be called leaders, where all seemed suddenly
inspired by the same mad revengeful spirit.  The brave boy, as he stood
leaning on his sword, looked undaunted at Hargraves and at those
standing round him.

"Swear--no!" he exclaimed.  "If I live to see you brought to justice, as
you will be some day, I will say that you were cowardly murderers of
your officers; that you killed sleeping men; that you threw others,
still alive, overboard, and that you murdered the surgeons who had cured
the wounded, and tended the sick like brothers.  I'll say that you
butchered one of my helpless messmates--a poor boy younger than myself;
I'll--!"

"Overboard with him--overboard!" exclaimed Hargraves, who had just cut
down the lieutenant, and seemed like a tiger, which having once tasted
blood, thirsts for more.

The midshipman, already fatigued and wounded, raised his weapon to
defend himself.  Hargraves rushed at the boy, who in an instant
afterwards lay writhing at his feet.

"Heave the carcase overboard.  It is the way some of us have been
treated, you know that, mates," he exclaimed, throwing the yet
palpitating form of the boy into the sea, when it was eagerly seized on
by the ravenous sharks, waiting for their prey supplied by the savage
cruelty of man.  Many even of the mutineers cried, "Shame! shame!"
Hargraves turned fiercely round on them--

"Ye none of you cried shame when the captain did the same--cowards! why
did ye not do it then?  Were the lives of our brave fellows of less
value than the life of that young cub?"

The men were silenced, but the eyes of many were opened, and they began
from that moment bitterly to repent the cruel deed of which they had
been guilty.  Oh! if they could have recalled the dead, how gladly would
they have done so,--their officers, who, if they had sometimes acted
harshly, were brave men and countrymen; even the captain, tyrant as he
was, they wished that they could see once more on his quarter-deck, with
the dreadful scene which had been enacted wiped away; but the deed had
been done--no power could obliterate it.  They had been participators in
the bloody work.  It stood recorded against them in the imperishable
books of Heaven.  Blood had been spilt, and blood was to cry out against
them and to demand a dreadful retribution.

The mutinous crew stood gazing stupidly at each other; the helm had been
deserted, the wind had fallen, the sails were flapping lazily against
the masts, and the ship's head was going slowly round and round towards
the different points of the compass.  Hargraves and others felt that
something must be done; there was no safety for them while their frigate
floated on the broad ocean.  What if they should fall in with another
British man-of-war?  What account could they give of themselves?  Some
were for scuttling her and saying that she had foundered, while they had
escaped in the boats, but the boats would not hold them all, and could
they trust each other?  What likelihood that all would adhere to the
same tale?  Was it probable that all the crew should have escaped, and
not an officer with them?  The boats might separate, to be sure, but to
what lands could they direct their different courses?  On what shore,
inhabited by countrymen, dared they place their feet without fear of
detection?  Discussions loud and long took place.  It was agreed that
the ship should be carried to a Spanish port; sold, if the sale could be
effected, and with the proceeds and with such valuables as the murdered
officers possessed, they would separate in various directions, and by
changing their names, avoid all chance of discovery.

But while these dreadful events were occurring, what had become of those
who had been so lately rescued from a terrible fate on the raft?  Had
they suffered one still more terrible by the hands of their own
countrymen?  Paul Gerrard was asleep in his hammock when he heard a
voice calling him.  It was that of old James Croxton.

"Turn out, Paul," he said, "there is some fearful work going forward on
deck, and I know not who may be the sufferers.  We may save some of
them, though."

Paul was on his feet and dressed in an instant.

"What is to be done?" he asked.

"Mr Devereux is in danger; we might save him," said the old man.  "The
people are gone mad.  Come along."

Paul followed Croxton to the sick bay.  Devereux had heard the
disturbance, and from the expressions uttered by the men as they passed,
feared that an attack was being made on the officers of the ship.  He
was endeavouring to get up for the purpose of joining the officers, and
sharing their fate, whatever that might be.  O'Grady was still asleep.
Croxton guessed what Devereux was about to do.

"It's of no use, sir--they'll only murder you with the rest," he
whispered: "you must keep out of their way till they're cool.  Rouse up
Mr O'Grady, Paul, and come along."

Saying this, the old man, with a strength scarcely to be expected,
lifted up Devereux, and carried, rather than led him, down to the hold.
Paul, meantime, had awakened O'Grady, who, though not comprehending what
had occurred, followed him mechanically.  The two midshipmen found
themselves stowed away in total darkness among chests and casks
containing stores of various sorts.

"The crew have mutinied, there's no doubt about that," answered old Jim
to an inquiry made by Devereux; "but we will go and face them, they will
not harm either the boy or me.  Don't you speak, though, or make the
slightest sound; they'll think that you are hove overboard with the
rest."

These words confirmed the midshipmen's worst apprehensions.  They had no
time to ask questions, before the old man, taking Paul by the hand,
hurried away.  Paul and his companion reached the deck unobserved.  The
mutineers were all too eager in the desperate work in which they had
engaged to remark them.  At that moment Paul saw his friends Reuben Cole
and the young Frenchman, Alphonse, with some of the inferior and petty
officers, dragged forward by the mutineers.  Hargraves was the chief
speaker.

"What is to be done with these?" he asked, turning round to his
companions in crime.

"Serve them like the rest," shouted some.

"Dead men tell no tales," muttered others.

"We've had enough of that sort of work," cried the greater number.  "No
more bloodshed!  Let them swear to hold their tongues and do as we bid
them."

"You hear what is proposed," said Hargraves, gruffly.  "Will you fellows
take your lives on these terms?"

"Not I, for one, ye murderous villains," exclaimed Reuben Cole, doubling
his fists and confronting the mutineers.  "I'll take nothing at your
hands, but I'm very certain that there are plenty of men aboard here
who'll not stand idly by and see me butchered on that account.  As to
peaching on you, I'm not going to do that, but you'll not get another
word out of me about the matter."

Had Hargraves had his way, it would have fared ill with honest Reuben;
but the latter had not wrongly estimated the support he was likely to
receive from his new shipmates, whose goodwill he knew that he had
gained.

"Reuben Cole is not the man to peach, even if he has the chance,"
shouted several of them.

"No fear; he'll prove true to us, and so will the little Mounseer there;
won't you?" asked one, turning to Alphonse.  "We couldn't afford to lose
you and your fiddle, especially just now, when we shall want something
to keep up our spirits."

Alphonse, not comprehending what was said, made no reply.  His silence
was construed into contumacy, and some of Hargraves' adherents laid
hands on him, and appeared as if they were about to throw him overboard,
when Paul shouted out to him in French what was said.  Alphonse very
naturally had no scruples to overcome.  He could only look on the fate
of the captain as a just retribution on his tyranny.

"Oh, yes, yes!  I play the fiddle," he exclaimed; "I go get it--I play
for you all."

Not waiting for an answer, he ran towards the nearest hatchway, and
passing near Paul, inquired for Devereux and O'Grady.

"Safe," whispered Paul, and the young Frenchman dived below.

He speedily returned with his faithful violin, and without waiting to be
asked, began to play.  The hearts of all his hearers were too heavy to
allow them to be influenced as under other circumstances they would have
been by the music, but it served in a degree to calm their fierce
passions, and to turn them from their evil intentions.  Of the principal
officers of the ship the master alone had hitherto escaped destruction.
He was no coward.  He had seen with horror the murder of his messmates
and captain, but life was sweet, and when offered to him, even on terms
degrading, undoubtedly--that he would navigate the ship into an enemy's
port--he accepted them.  The few warrant and petty officers who had
escaped being killed, at once declared their intention of acting as the
master had done.

"It's fortunate for you, mates, that you don't belong to the brood who
grow into captains," exclaimed Hargraves, fiercely.  "I, for one, would
never have consented to let you live if you had."

Paul trembled for the fate of his friends when he heard these
expressions, for Hargraves looked like a man who would put any threats
he might utter into execution.  Order was somewhat restored, officers
were appointed to keep watch, and the ship was put on the course for the
port to which it was proposed she should be carried.  The crew had once
been accustomed to keep a sharp look-out for an enemy; they now kept a
still more anxious watch to avoid any British cruiser which might
approach them.  Day and night they were haunted with the dread of
meeting their countrymen.  Paul overheard some of the ringleaders
consulting together.

"There are only two things to be done; if we can't run from them, to
fight it out to the last, or to kill all those who won't swear to be
staunch, and to declare that they died of fever," said one of them in a
low, determined voice.

"Ay, that's the only thing for it," growled out another; "I'm not going
to swing for nothing, I've made up my mind."

"Swing! who talks of swinging?  None of that, Tom," exclaimed a third,
in uneasy tones.

"It's what one and all of us will do, mates, if we don't look out what
we're about," said Hargraves, who was waiting for an opportunity of
pressing his plans on his companions.  "We have let too many of them
live as it is, and it's my opinion there's no safety for any of us as
long as one of them breathes.  I've heard tell what the old pirates used
to do to make men faithful.  They didn't trust to oaths--not they--but
they made those who said they were ready to join them shoot their
shipmates who refused.  That's what we must do, mates; it's the only
secure way, you may depend on't."

Paul was convinced that the men spoke in earnest, and afraid of being
discovered should he remain, he crept stealthily away.  He searched
about till he found Croxton and Reuben, and told them at once what he
had heard and feared.

"There's little doubt but that you are right, Paul," said old Croxton,
after meditating for some time.  "We thought that we were fortunate in
getting on board this ship, and now, to my mind, we shall be fortunate
to get out of her.  I'm afraid for poor Mr Devereux and Mr O'Grady.
It will go hard with them if they're discovered."

"I have it," said Reuben, after thinking for some time--speaking in a
low voice--"We must leave this cursed ship and carry off the two young
gentlemen.  I'd sooner be on the raft out in the Atlantic, than aboard
of her."

"Ay, lads, `Better is a dry crust with contentment,'" remarked old Jim.
"But how to leave the ship, so as to escape without being followed--
there's the difficulty."

"`Where there's a will there's a way,'" said Reuben.  "If it must be
done, it can be done."

"Right, lad," said Croxton; "it must be done, for we deserve the fate of
villains if we consort with them longer than we can help; though I'll
not say that all on board this unhappy ship are equally bad.  There are
many who would be glad to escape from her if they had but the chance."

"It must be done," repeated Reuben.  "We may make off with a boat some
dark night.  The young Frenchman and our own fellows will be sure to
join, and I think that there's three or four others--maybe more--who'll
be glad to get away at any risk."

"We must run the risk, and it isn't a small one," said Croxton.  "If
they were to catch us, they'd kill us.  There's no doubt about that."

The whole plan was soon settled--who were to be got to join--the boat to
be taken--the way she was to be lowered.  Devereux and O'Grady were to
be told of it when all was ready, and were to be brought up on deck as
soon as it was dark, and stowed away in the boat herself till the moment
of escape had arrived.  Paul was usually employed to carry food to the
midshipmen.  Sometimes, however, Croxton went, sometimes Reuben, to
lessen the risk of his object being suspected.  Paul waited till night--
the time he visited his friends--and hiding a lantern under his jacket,
carefully groped his way down to them.  They highly approved of the plan
proposed for escaping from the ship, and were eager for the moment for
putting it into execution.  O'Grady, especially, was heartily weary of
his confinement.

"I doubt if my two legs will ever be able to stretch themselves out
straight again, after being cramped up so long, like herrings in a
cask," he exclaimed, in the low tone in which it was necessary to speak.
"We owe you a heavy debt, Gerrard, and if you succeed in getting us out
of this, it will be a huge deal greater."

"If it were not for old Jim and Reuben Cole, I could be but of little
use, so say nothing about that, Mr O'Grady," answered Paul.  "I am
going to try and find out on the charts, when the master is working his
day's work, exactly where we are, and if there's land near, we may,
perhaps, get away to-morrow."

Paul felt far from comfortable all the next day.  He could not help
fancying that the mutineers suspected him, and that he should suddenly
find himself seized and thrown overboard.  What he dreaded most was the
ultimate failure of the undertaking.  His two friends had in the
meantime sounded those they hoped might join them, but whether all were
favourable to the plan he could not ascertain.  His eye was constantly
on the master, who at length, seeing him near, sent him for his quadrant
and tables.  This was just what Paul wanted.  He stood by while the
observations were being taken, and then, carrying the instrument,
followed the master to the cabin.  Paul brought out the chart, and
placed it before him, watching anxiously the movements of his companion
as he measured off the distance run since the previous day.

More than once the master glanced round the cabin, and sighed deeply.
"In five or six days my disgraceful task will be done," he muttered, as
he moved the compasses towards the coast of the Spanish main.  "Then
what remains for me in life?  If I escape an ignominious death, I must
ever be suspected of having consented to the murder of my brother
officers.  I would rather that the ship had gone down, and the whole
history of the butchery been hid from mortal knowledge.  Yet God knows
it, and it may teach officers for the future the dreadful consequences
of tyranny and cruelty."

He continued on in the same strain, not aware, it seemed, that Paul was
listening.  Paul retired to a distance.  "Shall I ask the master to join
us?" he thought to himself.  "No, it will not do.  It would greatly
increase the risk of our being caught."  He waited till the master was
silent.  He went back to the table.  "Shall I put up the charts?" he
asked.  "But before I do so, will you, sir, kindly show me where we
are?"

Since the outbreak the poor master had not been treated with so much
respect.  He showed Paul the exact position of the ship, the
neighbouring lands, and remarked on the prevailing currents and winds.
Paul rolled up the chart, and put it in its place.  He fancied that the
master must have suspected his thoughts.  Paul soon after met his
friends, and told them of all he had learned.

It was agreed that they would wait till it was the master's watch, for
so few of the mutineers could take command of a watch, that he was
compelled constantly to be on deck.  It was suspected that he had at
times given way to intemperance, and Paul had observed more than once
that when he came on deck he appeared to have been drinking, and that he
frequently dropped asleep when sitting on a gun or leaning against the
side of the ship.  Many of the seamen who had free access to the
spirit-room were also constantly tipsy at night, though the chief
mutineers, from necessity, kept sober.  The once well-ordered man-of-war
soon became like a lawless buccaneer.  The men rolled about the decks
half tipsy, some were playing cards and dice between the guns, some were
fighting, and others were sleeping in any shady place they could find.

Paul passed old Croxton on deck.  "We shall have little difficulty in
accomplishing our object if this goes on," he whispered.

"Yes, Paul, what is lost by fools is gained by wise men," he answered.
"Ay, and there is one who will gain more than all by the work done on
board this ship.  He will soon leave his poor dupes to wish that they
had never been born."

Paul and his friends waited anxiously for night: they had resolved no
longer to delay their attempt.

"I'll take care that they don't follow us," said Reuben.

"What do you mean?" asked Paul.

"I'll tell you, lad," was the answer; and he whispered something into
his companion's ear.

Paul felt that there was a great deal to be done, and longed for the
moment of action.  He observed with satisfaction that frequent visits
were made to the spirit-room, and that even the master was taking more
than his usual share of grog.  The ship sailed steadily over the calm
sea--night drew on.  Paul's heart beat unusually fast.  He waited till
he was sure that he was not perceived, and then he climbed into one of
the boats.  He was there for some time, and then descending he got into
another; and so he visited all in succession.  Again he slunk down
below.

At length the master came on deck to keep his watch.  The night, for
those latitudes, was unusually dark, but the sea was smooth.  The ship
glided calmly on, the ripple made by her stem as she drove her way
through the water showing, however, that a fair breeze filled her sails.
The master leaned against a gun-carriage, and gradually sunk down on
it, resting his head on his hands.  The helmsman stood at his post, now
gazing at the broad spread of canvas above him, and then mechanically at
the compass, with its light shining in the binnacle before him, but
looking neither to the right hand nor to the left.  The rest of the
watch placed themselves at their ease between the guns, and were soon,
whatever might have been their intention, fast asleep.  One by one
others now stole on deck towards the boat Paul had last visited.  Not a
word was spoken.  At length two men appeared bearing two slight figures
on their backs.  The latter were carefully deposited in the boat, which
was quickly lowered.  The whole manoeuvre was executed with the greatest
rapidity and in the most perfect silence.  Even the helmsman, who,
though drowsy, could not have been entirely asleep, took no notice of
them.  In another instant, had anybody been looking over the side, a
dark object might have been seen dropping astern.  It was a boat, which
contained Paul Gerrard and his companions, who had thus made their
perilous escape from the blood-stained ship.  Not till they were far
astern did any one venture to speak.  Devereux at last drew a deep sigh.
"Thank Heaven, we are free of them!" he exclaimed.

"Amen!" said old Croxton, in a deep voice.  "We have reason to rejoice
and be thankful.  Sad will be the end of all those wretched men.  Their
victims are more to be envied than they."

As soon as it was deemed safe the oars were got out, a lantern was
lighted to throw its light on the compass, and the boat was steered
towards the north-west.  The wind soon dropped to a perfect calm.

"We are safe now," exclaimed Paul.  "Even if they were to miss us they
could not follow, for there is not a boat on board which can swim or an
oar to pull with.  Some I dropped overboard, and others I cut nearly
through just above the blades, and I bored holes in all the boats where
they could not be seen till the boats were in the water."

"Well done, Gerrard.  If we get clear off, we shall owe our escape to
your judgment; but you ran a great risk of losing your life.  The
mutineers would have murdered you if they had discovered what you were
about."

"I knew that, sir; but I knew also that nothing can be done without
danger and trouble."

"Ay, boy, and that no danger or trouble is too great, so that we may
escape from the company of sinners," remarked old Croxton.  "Think of
that, young gentleman.  If you consent to remain with them because you
are too lazy to flee, you will soon fall into their ways, and become one
of them."

Some of his hearers remembered those words in after years.  All night
long the oars were kept going, and when morning dawned the ship was
nowhere to be seen.

"Now let us turn to and have some breakfast," exclaimed O'Grady.  "It
will be the first for many a day that you and I have eaten in sunlight,
Devereux, and I see good reason that we should be thankful.  Then we'll
have a tune from Alphonse, for I'll warrant that he has brought his
fiddle."

"Ah, dat I have," cried the young Frenchman, exhibiting his beloved
instrument.  "But, mes amis, ve vill mange first.  De arm vil not move
vidout de oil!"

Alphonse had greatly improved in his knowledge of English.

A good supply of provisions had been collected, but as it was uncertain
when they should make the land, it was necessary to be economical in
their use.  A very good breakfast, however, was made, and the spirits of
the party rose as their hunger was appeased, and they thought of their
happy escape.  As the sun, however, arose in the blue sky, its rays
struck down on their unprotected heads, and they would gladly have got
under shelter, but there was no shelter for them out on the glassy
shining sea.  Still they rowed on.  To remain where they were was to die
by inches.  Devereux did his best, as he had done on the raft, to keep
up the spirits of his men, and, weak as he was, he would have taken his
spell at the oar if they had let him.

"No, no, sir; you just take your trick at the helm, if you think
proper," exclaimed Croxton.  "But just let us do the hard work.  It's
your head guides us, and without that we should be badly off."

Devereux saw the wisdom of this remark.  They knew that they had five,
and perhaps six days' hard rowing before they could hope to reach
Dominica, the nearest island they supposed belonged to Great Britain,
according to the information Paul had gained from the master.  They
were, however, far better off than when they had been on the raft, for
they had food, were in a well-found boat, and knew tolerably well their
position.  Still they were not in good spirits, which is not surprising,
considering the scenes they had witnessed, the dangers they had endured,
and the uncertainty of the future.

Dominica was an English possession, but it had once been taken by the
French, and might have been again; and Alphonse fancied that he had
heard that it was proposed to make a descent on the island, in which
case they would fall among enemies instead of friends.

"Ah! but your countrymen would surely treat us who come to them in
distress as friends," observed O'Grady.

"Ah, dat dey vould!" exclaimed Alphonse, warmly.

"Well, mounseer, there is good and there is bad among 'em, of that
there's no doubt," observed Reuben, taking his quid out of his mouth,
and looking the young Frenchman in the face; "but do ye see I'd rather
not try lest we should fall among the bad, and there's a precious lot on
'em."

Notwithstanding these doubts Devereux continued his course for Dominica.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, the heat became greater and greater,
till it was almost insupportable.  A sail spread over the boat afforded
some shelter from its rays, but they pierced through it as easily as a
mosquito's sting does through a kid glove, till the air under it became
even more stifling than that above.

All the time in turns they continued to row on--night and day there was
to be no cessation.  Reversing the usual order, they longed for the
night, when the air would be cooler, and their heads would escape the
frying process going on while the sun was above them.

"Och, but this is hot," cried O'Grady for the hundredth time.  "If this
goes on much longer, we'll all be turned into real black ebony niggers,
and the Christians on shore will be after putting us to work at the
sugar-canes, and be swearing we've just come straight across from
Africa.  As to our tongues, there'll be no safety for us through them,
and they'll swear we've made off with the uniforms from some ship of war
or other, and perhaps be tricing us up as thieves and murderers.  Did
you ever hear tell of the Irishman--a sweet countryman of mine,--who
once came out from the Emerald Isle to these parts--to Demerara, I
believe?  As soon as the ship which brought him entered the harbour, she
was boarded by a boat full of niggers.

"`Will yer honour have your duds carried ashore now?' asks one, stepping
up to him.  `It's myself will see ye all comfortable in a jiffy, if
ye'll trust me, at Mother Flannigan's.'

"My countryman looked at him very hard.

"`What's your name now?' he asks with some trepidation.

"`Pat O'Dwyer, yer honour,' says the nigger.

"`Pat, how long have ye been here?' asks my countryman, solemnly.

"`Faith, about two years, yer honour,' says the nigger.

"`Two years, did ye say--two years only to turn a white Irishman into a
nigger?' exclaimed my countryman with no little alarm.  `Then faith the
sooner I get away back from out of this black-burning country the
better--or my own mither down in Ballyshannon won't be after knowing her
own beautiful boy again at all, and my father would be after disowning
me, and my sisters and brothers to boot, and Father O'Roony would be
declaring that it was a white Christian he made of me, and that I
couldn't be the same anyhow.  Take my duds on shore.  No.  Take 'em
below, and I'll go there too, and remain there too till the ship sails
and I'm out of this nigger-making land.'  My countryman kept to his
intention, and from that day till the ship sailed, never set foot on
shore.  You'll understand that no small number of Irishmen go out to
that country, and that the nigger boy had learnt his English from them--
for he wasn't a real Irishman after all, but that my countryman did not
find out till he got back to auld Ireland again.

"Och, they are broths of boys the Paddies, but they do make curious
mistakes somehow or other, it must be allowed.

"I was one day dining at the mess of some soldier officers, when one of
them, a Captain O'Rourke, positively declared on his faith as a
gentleman that `he had seen anchovies growing on the walls at
Gibraltar.'

"Most of the party opened their eyes, but said nothing, for O'Rourke was
not a man whose word a quietly-disposed person would wish in his sober
moments to call in question.

"Unfortunately, there was present an Englishman, a Lieutenant Brown,
into whose head the fumes of the tawny port and ruby claret had already
mounted.

"`Anchovies growing on a wall?' he blurted out.  `That's a cram if ever
there was one.'

"O'Rourke was on his feet in a moment,--

"`What, sir--it's not you who mean to say that you don't believe me, I
hope?' he exclaimed, in a voice which meant mischief.

"`Believe you!  I should think I don't, or any man who can talk such
gammon,' answered Brown, in a tone of defiance.

"As may be supposed, there was only one way in which such a matter could
end.  Preliminaries were soon settled.  The affair would have come off
that evening, but it would have broken up the party too soon, and
besides it wouldn't have been fair, as Brown's hand was not as steady as
it might have been.  So it was put off till the next morning soon after
daylight, when there was a good gathering to see the fun.  The English
generally took Brown's side.  I of course stood by O'Rourke, not that I
was quite sure he was in the right, by-the-by.

"It was very evident that Brown had no notion of handling his pistol.

"`I'll just wing him to teach the spalpeen better manners,' whispered
O'Rourke to his second.  `He's unworthy game for my weapon.'

"The word was given to fire.  Brown's bullet flew up among some trees
away to the right, not a little frightening the young in a nest of
birds, who popped out their heads to see what was the matter.  It was
now our friend's turn.

He smiled as he sent his ball through Brown's trousers, cruelly grazing
his leg, whereon he began to skip about in the most comical way possible
with the pain.

"`By ---, you've made that fellow cut capers at all events,' observed
O'Rourke's second.

"`Cut capers, did ye say?' exclaimed O'Rourke.  `Them's the very things
I saw growing on the wall, and not anchovies at all, at all.'  And
rushing up to poor Brown, who had fallen on the ground, he took his
hand, greatly to the surprise of the wounded man, crying out,--`It's
myself made the trifle of a mistake, my dear fellow, it's capers, it's
capers, grows on walls, so get up and don't think anything more about
the matter.'

"Poor Brown went limping about for many a day afterwards, and didn't
seem to consider the matter half as good a joke as the rest of us."

O'Grady's stories amused the party, though Croxton very properly
remarked that duelling was a wicked heathen custom, and that he wondered
people who called themselves Christians could ever indulge in it.  Other
stories were told, but their interest flagged, for people are not
generally in a talkative mood with the thermometer above a hundred, and
with a small supply of water.  Alphonse, however, from time to time kept
his fiddlestick going, both to his own satisfaction, and that of his
hearers.  Still he, on account of the heat, was often compelled to put
it down, and to declare that he could play no longer.

Great and unusual, however, as was the heat, it did not appear to cause
any apprehension of danger in the mind of Devereux.  The night came on,
and though the air even then was hot, the weary crew were refreshed by
sleep.  The sun rose, and the air was hotter than ever, notwithstanding
a dense mist, which gradually filled the atmosphere, while soon a lurid
glare spread over it.  Croxton, as he watched the change, looked even
graver than before.  "You've not been in these seas before, Mr
Devereux, sir?" he observed.

"No; and if the weather is always as broiling as it is at present, I
don't wish to come to them again in a hurry," answered Devereux.  "But
one thing is fortunate--they are calm enough to please any old ladies
who might venture on them."

"Don't count too much on that, sir, if an old man who has cruised for
many a long year out here in every part may venture to give you advice,"
said Croxton, in an earnest tone.  "The weather here is often like a
passionate man--calm one moment, and raging furiously the next.  I tell
you, sir, I don't like its look at present, and I fear, before long,
that we shall have a job to keep the boat afloat."

"What do you mean, Croxton?" said Devereux.  "The boat is the strongest
and best-built belonging to the frigate."

"I mean, sir, that a hurricane is about to burst over us, and that the
strongest and best-built boat can scarcely live through it," was the
answer.

"I fear that you are right," replied Devereux.  "We'll prepare the boat
as best we can for what is coming."

No time was to be lost.  The staves of a cask knocked to pieces were
nailed round the sides of the boat, and to these a sail, cut into broad
strips, was nailed, so that the water might the better be kept out.  The
men were also ordered to rest and to take some food, and then calmly
they waited the expected event.  They were not kept long in suspense.

"Here it comes," cried Croxton.  "Our only chance is to run before it."
He pointed as he spoke astern, where a long line of snow-white foam was
seen rolling on over the leaden ocean, the sky above it being even
darker than before.

"Out oars, and pull for your lives, lads!" cried Devereux.

Scarcely had the boat gathered full away before the hurricane overtook
her, and she was surrounded by a seething mass of foam; every instant
the seas growing higher and higher, and rolling up with fierce roars, as
if to overwhelm her.  It seemed impossible that an open boat could live
in such tumultuous waters, yet still she kept afloat, flying on before
the tempest.  Devereux firmly grasped the helm.  He knew that any
careless steering would cause the destruction of the boat and all in
her.  The crew looked at each other.  No wonder that many a cheek was
pale.  Who could tell how soon they might be struggling helplessly amid
the foam, while their boat was sinking down below their feet?  It was
impossible to say also where they might drive to.

On flew the boat.  As the hurricane increased in strength and gained
greater and greater power over the water, the seas increased in height
and came rolling and tumbling on, foaming, hissing, and roaring--
threatening every instant to engulph her.  So great was the force of the
wind, that the oars were almost blown out of the men's hands, their
efforts being expended solely in keeping the boat running before the
sea.  Those not rowing were employed in baling, for, in spite of all
their efforts, the water washed in in such abundance as to require all
their exertions to heave it out again.

Paul, as he laboured away with the rest, thought a great deal of home
and the dear ones he had left there.  He believed, and had good reason
for believing, that he should never see them again, for by what possible
means could he and his companions escape destruction, unless the
hurricane was suddenly to cease, and it had as yet not gained its
height.  Even as it was, the boat could scarcely be kept afloat.  Night,
too, would soon arrive, and then the difficulty of steering before the
sea would be greatly increased.  Still the boat floated.  Now a sea
higher than its predecessors came roaring on--the foam blown from its
summit half filled the boat.  With difficulty she could be freed of
water before another came following with a still more threatening
aspect.  The voice of old Croxton was heard raised in prayer.  Each one
believed that his last hour was come.  It turned suddenly aside, and the
boat still floated.  Again and again they were threatened and escaped.
Darkness, however, was now rapidly coming on and increasing the terrific
aspect of the tempest.  Devereux, aided by Reuben Cole, sat steering the
boat.  Not a word was spoken.  The roar of the waves increased.

"Breakers ahead!" cried old Croxton, in a deep solemn voice.  "The Lord
have mercy on our souls!"

The boat was lifted higher than before amid the tumultuous hissing
cauldron of foaming waters, and then down she came with a fearful crash
on a coral reef.



CHAPTER FIVE.

The shrieks and cries and shouts of Paul's companions rang in his ears
as he found himself with them struggling in the foaming water amid the
fragments of their boat.  His great desire was to preserve his presence
of mind.  He struck out with hands and feet, not for the purpose of
making way through the water, but that he might keep himself afloat till
he could ascertain in which direction the sea was driving him.  That
some of his companions were yet alive, he could tell by hearing their
voices, though already it seemed at some distance from each other.  He
felt that, though now swimming bravely, his strength must soon fail him.
Something struck him.  He stretched out his hands and grasped an oar.
He found himself carried along, even more rapidly than before, amid the
hissing foam.  He judged by the sensation that he was lifted to the
summit of a wave; it rolled triumphantly on with him, and it seemed as
if he was thrown forward by it a considerable distance, for he dropped,
as it were, into comparatively smooth water.  He did not stop, but he
was borne on and on till he felt his feet, for the first time, touch for
an instant something hard.  It might have been the top of a rock, and he
would be again in deep water; but no--he stretched out one leg.  It met
the sand--a hard beach.  Directly after, he was wading, and rapidly
rising higher out of the water.  He found some difficulty in
withstanding the waters as they receded, but they did not seem to run
back with the force they frequently do; and struggling manfully, he at
length worked his way up till he was completely beyond their power.
Then exhausted nature gave way, and he sank down in a state of
half-stupor on the ground.  The hurricane howled over his head; the
waves roared around him; he had the feeling that they would come up and
claim him as their prey, and yet he had no power to drag himself farther
away.  He had consciousness enough left to show that he was on a wild
sea beach, and to believe that his last moments were approaching.  At
length he fell asleep, and probably slept for some hours, for when he
awoke he felt greatly refreshed.  It was still dark.  He tried to stand
up, that he might ascertain the nature of the country on which he had
been thrown; he could see no trees, and he fancied that he could
distinguish the foam-covered waves leaping up on the other side of the
land.  It might be a point of land, or it might be some small sandy
islet; it had, at all events, a very desolate appearance.  Was he its
sole occupant?  He scarcely dared to shout out an inquiry, lest the
sea-bird's shriek should be the only reply he might receive--or, what
would be worse, no responding voice should answer him.  He sat down
again, wishing that day would come.  He felt very sad--very forlorn.  He
could scarcely refrain from crying bitterly, and almost wished that he
had been swallowed up by the foaming sea.  He sat on, wishing that the
night would come to an end.  How long it seemed!  Hour after hour passed
by; he could not sleep, and yet he would gladly have lost all
recollection of his past sufferings, and thoughts of those which were to
come.  He watched the hurricane decreasing; the wind grew less and less
in strength; the waves lashed the island shores with diminished fury;
and the foam no longer flew, as heretofore, in dense showers over him.
Dawn at last broke, and before long the sun himself rose up out of his
ocean bed.  Paul started to his feet, and looked about him.  Along the
beach, at no great distance, his eye fell on two figures.  He rushed
towards them.  They did not see him, for they were sitting down, looking
the other way.  He shouted for joy on recognising Devereux and O'Grady.
On hearing his voice they turned their heads, and the latter, jumping
up, ran to meet him.  The greeting was warm, for both looked on each
other as rescued from the grave.  Poor Devereux, however, did not move;
and as Paul got nearer to him he saw that he was very pale.

"I'm so glad that you have escaped, Gerrard, both for your sake and
ours," exclaimed O'Grady, shaking hands with Paul, and forgetting all
about their supposed difference in rank: "I do believe that with your
help Devereux may recover.  He and I, you see, were thrown on shore near
here, and as his feet were hurt I managed to drag him up here; but, had
my life depended on it, I could not have dragged him up an inch further.
We can manage to get some shelter for him from the heat of the sun, and
while one stays by him, the other can go in search of food."

"Oh! my good fellow, it will be all right," said Devereux, scarcely able
to restrain a deep groan.  "I am sure Gerrard will be a great help, and
we ought to be thankful; but I can't help mourning for the poor fellows
who have gone.  There's Alphonse, and his fiddle too--I didn't know how
much I liked the poor fellow."

"Yes, he was a merry little chap; and then that honest fellow, Reuben
Cole, and old Croxton too, in spite of his sermons--they were not very
long, and he had good reason for them," chimed in O'Grady with a sigh,
which sounded strange from his lips.  "It seems a wonder that any of us
are alive.  But I am getting terribly hungry, and it doesn't seem as if
there were many fruits or vegetables to be procured on this island;
however, I will go in search of what is to be found, though I suspect we
shall have to make up our minds to live on shell-fish and sea-weed.  In
the meantime, Gerrard, do you look after Mr Devereux."

"I will do as you order, sir; but perhaps I know more about getting
shell-fish out of the crevices in the rocks than you do, and a person
may easily slip in and be drowned: so if you will let me I will go,"
observed Gerrard.

"No, no, I'll go," said O'Grady; "lend me your knife--I shall want it to
scrape the shells off the rocks.  And now I'm off."

"Look out for fresh water on your way," said Devereux, as O'Grady was
moving off; "I am already fearfully thirsty."

Devereux and Paul watched O'Grady for some time as he walked along the
beach, where, as there were no rocks, he vainly searched for shell-fish.
At length he was lost to sight in the distance.

"This is, I fear, a barren spot we are on, Gerrard; still, we must never
give in while we are alive," observed Devereux.  "I say this, because I
feel that I am not long for this world; and when you and O'Grady are
left alone, you may fall into despair.  Remember, struggle on till the
last moment, for you do not know when help may come."

"Oh! don't speak in that way, Mr Devereux," cried Paul, taking the
other's hand; "you are not acting as you advise us to act.  We may find
food and water too.  The island seems much larger than I at first
thought it was."

"I have no wish to die, but still I do not feel as if I should recover,"
answered Devereux, in a feeble voice.  "If I do not, and you should get
home, I wish you to go to my father and mother and sisters, and to tell
them that my earnest prayer was, that those who have the right to it
should have the fortune, and that I said I would rather dig or plough
all my days than enjoy what is not my own."

Paul had little doubt as to what Devereux was thinking of; still he did
not like to ask him to be more explicit, so he replied--

"I am afraid that I should not be believed if I took such a message, so
pray do not ask me to convey it."

Devereux made no reply, and for some time seemed very unwilling to
converse.  Paul earnestly wished that O'Grady would return, or that
Devereux would give him leave to go in search of fresh water, which he
thought might be found further in the interior.  Devereux, whose eyes
had been shut, at last looked up.

"Oh, for a glass of water, Gerrard!  None but those who have been placed
as we are know its true value," he whispered.

"Let me go and try to find some, sir," said Paul.  "I see a large shell
a few yards off; it will carry as much as you can drink.  And now that
the light is stronger, I observe in the distance some shrubs or low
trees, and I cannot but hope that water will be found near them."

"Then go," said Devereux; "but take care that you can find me again."

Paul looked about, and saw a small spar floating on to the beach.
Without hesitation, he ran into the water to bring it out.  He seized
the prize, and was dragging it on shore, when a large monster darted
towards him.  He struck out the spar with all his force in the direction
of the creature.  It was almost torn from his grasp, and he was nearly
dragged, with his face down, into the water; but he held on manfully,
and sprang back.  He just saw a pair of fierce eyes, two rows of sharp
teeth, and a glance of white skin, convincing him that he had narrowly
escaped from the jaws of a ravenous shark.  He felt also that he had
additional cause for thankfulness at having escaped the sharks when he
and his companions had been so long helplessly tumbled about in the
waves during the night.  "Poor Alphonse and the rest! what has been
their fate?" he thought.  He did not tell Devereux of his narrow escape;
but planting the pole in the sand, with a handkerchief tied to the top
of it, he set off towards the spot where he hoped to find water.
Devereux wished him good speed.

"You will easily find me again," he said, as Paul left him.  Paul
hurried on.  The ground was composed of sand and rock, with scarcely any
vegetation.  The spot where he had left Devereux was the summit of a
bank; the space he was traversing looked as if it had been recently
covered by the sea.  The trees were much farther off than he had
fancied.  The heat of the sun increased; he felt very weak and hungry,
and it was with difficulty that he could make his way through the deep
sand.

"If I do not go on, poor Mr Devereux will die of thirst, and water must
be found," he said to himself whenever he found his resolution flagging.
A famous word is that _must_.  We _must_ do what has to be done.  We
_must_ not do what ought not to be done.  Paul struggled on in spite of
the heat, and thirst, and hunger, and weariness, and the strange
creatures which crawled out from the crevices in the rocks, and ran
along the hot sand.  He had no time to examine them.  At length he found
that he was rising on the side of another bank, and what had seemed mere
shrubs in the distance, now assumed the appearance of a group of tall
cocoa-nut trees.  "Should there be no water below, I shall find what
will be almost as refreshing," thought Paul, as he hurried on, almost
forgetting his fatigue in his eagerness to reach the spot.  The sand,
however, seemed deeper and hotter than any he had before traversed.
Below the cocoa-nut trees there were low shrubs and some herbage.  These
indicated water without doubt.  He ran on.  He stopped and hesitated.
There was a long, low building, capable of holding a number of persons.
If it was at present occupied, what reception could he expect to meet
from its inmates?  He had read about savage Caribs, and buccaneers, and
pirates, and he thought that, possibly, the people in the hut might be
one or the other.  He advanced cautiously, expecting every moment to see
some one come out of the hut.  "I am but a boy, and however bad they may
be, they will not hurt me; and I must have the water at all events--for
water there must be, or the hut would not have been built on that spot."
Saying this, he hurried on, treading lightly, "The people may be
asleep, and I may get the water and be away without any one seeing me,"
he thought.  He passed the door of the hut.  Before him appeared a tank
cut in the coral rock, with the pure clear water bubbling up in the
middle of it.  Stooping down, he quickly washed out his shell, and then
took a long, delicious draught.  He felt as if he could never take
enough.  He did not forget his companions; and while he was considering
how little the shell could carry, his eye fell on an iron pot by the
side of the tank.  He stooped down and filled it, and was carrying it
off, when the door of the hut opened, and a woolly head with a hideous
black face popped out, and a voice which sounded like a peal of thunder,
the roll of a muffled drum, and the squeak of a bagpipe, mingled in one,
shouted out to him in a language he could not understand.  Instead of
running away, Paul turned round and asked the negro what he wanted.  The
latter only continued growling as before, and making hideous faces,
while his eye glanced at the can.  Paul made signs that he was only
borrowing it, and would bring it back.  He, however, did not venture
within grasp of the unattractive-looking negro, who showed no
inclination to follow him.  The reason was soon apparent, for, as the
black came rather more out of the doorway, Paul perceived that he had
lost both his legs, and stood upon two wooden stumps.  No one else
appeared to be moving inside the hut, and Paul concluded, therefore,
that the black was its only inmate.  To avoid that unprepossessing
individual, he had made a circuit, and as he looked about to ascertain
the direction he was to take, he discovered that he was near the head of
a long narrow lagoon, or gulf, which ran up from the sea.  He had no
time to examine it, as he was anxious to get back to Devereux.  He ran
on as fast as he could without spilling the water.  He thought that he
knew the way.  He stopped.  He feared that he had mistaken it.  He
looked back at the tall cocoa-nut trees, and wished that he had brought
some of the fruit with him; but then he remembered that alone he could
not have got it, and that the black, might possibly not have chosen to
give him any.  Again and again he stopped, fearing that he must be going
in a wrong direction.  The flagstaff could nowhere be seen.  "Poor Mr
Devereux! what will become of him should I miss him?" he said frequently
to himself, as he worked his way on through the heavy sand.  At last the
looked-for signal appeared above the top of a bank.  Devereux was lying
where he had left him, but seemed unconscious of his approach.  "Was he
asleep--or, dreadful thought! could he be dead?"  He ran on, nearly
spilling the precious water in his eagerness.  He called.  Devereux did
not answer.  He knelt down by his side.  His eyes were closed, and his
arms were helplessly stretched out like those of the dead.  Paul
moistened his lips, and by degrees got them far enough apart to pour
some water down his throat.  At length, to Paul's great joy, Devereux
opened his eyes.

"Where is O'Grady?" he asked, and then continued--"Ah!  Gerrard, is that
you?  Where did you get the water?  It is delicious! delicious!"

In a short time Devereux appeared to be sufficiently recovered to
understand what was said to him; and while Paul was giving him an
account of his adventures, O'Grady was seen running towards them.  He
arrived almost breathless, with his arms full of shell-fish, which he
threw before them on the ground.

"I have had hard work to get them, but there is no lack of more on the
lee side of the island, so we shall not starve," he exclaimed.  "But set
to and eat, for it won't do to wait for cooking, as we have no means of
kindling a fire.  When we have broken our fast, I will tell you what I
have seen."

Although raw fish and cold water was not luxurious fare, the party were
much strengthened by it, and after a time Devereux declared that he felt
able to accompany his companions either to the spring, or in the
direction O'Grady had been.  They came to the conclusion that the island
was inhabited; for O'Grady had seen some objects moving, which he took
for people, on a rock at some little distance from the shore, and he
supposed that they had gone there in a canoe for the purpose of fishing.
It was finally agreed that they would go towards the rock, and
endeavour to gain some information as to the island on which they had
been cast, which they were not likely to obtain from the black Paul had
seen at the hut.  Devereux had much difficulty in walking, though with
the help of his shipmates he got on faster than could have been
expected.  They made a shorter cut than O'Grady had taken, and were soon
opposite the rock on which he fancied that he had seen some people.

"There are two men and a boy," exclaimed Paul, whose eyesight was the
keenest of the party.  "Who can they be?"

The three lads hurried on, as fast as Devereux's weakness would allow,
to the beach.

"I thought so.  There can be no doubt about it," cried Paul.  "They see
us.  They are making signs to us.  There is Alphonse, and Reuben Cole,
and old Croxton.  How can they get to us?"

Devereux and O'Grady were soon convinced that they were their shipmates.
O'Grady proposed swimming to them, as the distance was not great; but
Paul remembered the shark from which he had so narrowly escaped in the
morning, and urged him not to make the attempt.  It was then agreed that
they must either hollow out a canoe or build a raft.

"But where is the tree from which the canoe is to be formed, and the
axes with which it is to be cut down?" asked Paul.  "There are no trees
nearer than the fountain."

The midshipmen had in their eagerness overlooked that consideration, and
there did not seem much greater probability of their finding materials
for the raft.  Still, something must be done to rescue their shipmates,
and that speedily, or they would die of thirst if not of hunger.  Paul
recollected the spar he had stuck up, and which had some rope attached
to it, and O'Grady had observed some driftwood on the beach.  They had
passed some low shrubs, with thick stems, of a bamboo character, and
they would assist to make the platform for the raft if a framework could
be formed.  The rope, by being unlaid, would serve to bind the raft
together.  No time was to be lost.  Paul set off for the spar, while the
other two, making signals to their friends that they would try to help
them, went along the shore to collect what wood they could find.  There
was plenty of driftwood fit for burning, but too small for their object.
At last they found a plank, and not far off a spar, and then another
plank.  Their spirits rose.

"What is one man's poison is another man's meat," cried O'Grady, as he
found several planks together.  "Some craft has been lost hereabouts,
and probably all hands with her, and we are likely to benefit by her
remains."

They had now, they fancied, got enough wood, with the aid of the shrubs,
to form a raft, on which they might ferry themselves across to the rock.
They accordingly began to drag them towards the spot where they had
parted from Paul.  It was a work, however, of no little labour, as they
could draw only one plank at a time over the heavy sands.  They had
made, three trips, and still Paul did not appear.  They began to fear
some accident might have happened to him, and, now that they had found
so large a supply of wood, to regret that they had sent him for the
spar.  They had brought together all they had found; and while Devereux
began to form the framework, O'Grady cut down with his knife branches
from the shrubs near at hand.  They had little doubt that their friends
on the rock knew what they were about.  While thus employed, a shout
made them turn their heads, and, looking up, they saw Paul, with the
spar on his shoulder, running towards them.  When he came up, he had an
extraordinary tale to tell.  The spar, which had been left planted in
the sand, had been removed.  He had hunted about for it in every
direction, and had almost given up the search, when he saw it lying on
the ground in the direction of the hut.  It was a sign that there must
be somebody on the island besides the black, as with his wooden stumps
he could scarcely have got as far and back again without having been
seen.  Paul reported also that he had seen a vessel a long way to
leeward, but that she appeared to be beating up towards the island.
However, all their thoughts were required for the construction of their
raft.  The rope had not been removed from the spar, and this was a great
assistance in strengthening it.  The raft, however, without the means of
guiding it, would be of little use.  They had, therefore, to construct a
couple of paddles and a rudder, and they then found that, with the help
of two small spars, they could form a makeshift mast and yard, their
shirts and pocket-handkerchiefs fastened together forming a sail.  This
would carry them to the rock, as the wind was off the shore, and they
must trust to the assistance of their friends to get back.  What was
their disappointment, on stepping on the raft, to find that it would
only well support two people, and that although a third could be carried
on it, a fourth would most certainly upset it, and bring it under water.
The two midshipmen, therefore, agreed to go, and to leave Paul on
shore, much to his disappointment.  "Shove us off," cried O'Grady to
Paul, as he let fall the sail, to which their neck-handkerchiefs and
stockings served as sheets.

Devereux steered with the long spar, which had a piece of board fastened
to the end of it, and O'Grady tended the sail with one hand, aided by
his teeth, and paddled with the other.  They made fair progress, but
Paul watched them anxiously, for the raft was difficult to steer, and it
was very possible that they might miss the rock, and, if so, have hard
work to save themselves from being carried out to sea.  The people on
the rock waved their hands to encourage them.  The wind came somewhat
more on the quarter, and they had to paddle hard to keep the raft on its
proper course.

Paul was eagerly watching their progress, when he was startled by a loud
guttural sound behind him, and looking round there, he saw the hideous
black standing on what might be literally called four wooden legs--for
besides his two timber extremities, he supported his shoulders on a pair
of crutches with flat boards at the bottom, which accounted for his
being able to move on so rapidly over the soft sand.  Paul could not
escape from him except into the sea, so he wisely stood still.  There
was something very terrific in the black's countenance, increased by the
grimaces he made in his endeavours to speak.  He pointed to the iron
pot, which Paul had slung by his side.  Paul at first thought that he
was accusing him of stealing it.  "If he catches hold of me, I do not
know what he may do; but at the same time, as he has no weapon in his
hand, I do not suppose that he intends to hurt me," he thought.  "I will
boldly go up to him and give him the cup, and if he looks as if he would
grab me, I can easily spring out of his way."

Paul forgot that the black's crutch would make a very formidable and
far-reaching weapon.  He advanced slowly, but was much reassured when
the black, pointing to the rock, made signs of drinking.  "After all, he
is come as a friend to help us.  He is not so ugly as I thought," he
said to himself, as he handed the can to the black.  No sooner did the
black receive it, than away he went at a great rate over the sand.

Meantime the raft had been making good progress.  The great fear was,
lest it might meet with some current which would sweep it out of its
course.  Paul had no selfish feelings--he dreaded any accident as much
as if he had been himself on the raft.  O'Grady seemed to be paddling
harder than ever.  Devereux was too weak, he feared, to do much.  "I
wish that I had gone," he said more than once to himself.  Now the raft
was again making direct for the rock; the sail was lowered.  One of the
men caught it as it was being driven round the rock by the surge of the
sea, and while they steadied it Alphonse was placed upon it, and
immediately it began to return to the shore.  Alphonse had taken a
paddle, and he and O'Grady worked away manfully.  They made good
progress, and in a short time reached the beach.  Alphonse was sitting
on a box.  It was the case of his beloved fiddle.  He put it under his
arm as he stepped on shore, and shook Paul warmly by the hand.

"Ah! this has been the means of saving my life," he said; "I clung to it
when I had nothing else to support me, and was washed, with the wreck of
the boat to which Croxton and Cole were hanging on, up to the rock,
though how we got on to it I do not know, nor do my companions, I
believe."

Alphonse looked very pale, and complained of hunger and thirst.  While
he was speaking, the black was seen coming over the sand at a great rate
on his four legs.  To one of his arms was slung the can of water.  It
showed that he had good instead of evil intentions towards the
shipwrecked seamen.  He made signs for Alphonse to drink, which he
thankfully did.

Paul was eager to go off for the rest, and obtained leave to take
Devereux's place.  The negro seemed to take an interest in their
proceedings, and both Devereux and Alphonse expressed their belief that
he wished to be friendly.

When O'Grady and Paul arrived at the rock, they found old Croxton and
Reuben disputing who should remain to the last.

"The old before the young," cried Reuben.

"Ay, but the old should have the choice of the post of honour," said
Croxton.

However, he was at last induced to step on to the raft.  It was not a
time to stand on ceremony, for the sky gave indications that the weather
was about to change, and it was very evident that, should the sea get
up, the rock would no longer be tenable.  The raft felt the weight of
the old man, and the two boys found it much more difficult to paddle to
the shore.

They had not got far when Paul observed a dark triangular-shaped object
above the water; then he saw a pair of fierce eyes fixed on him.  It was
a huge shark--large enough to upset the raft with a whisk of his tail.
He did not tell his companions, but paddled steadily on.  What did the
appearance of the monster portend?  He had heard of the instinct of
sharks.  Did the creature follow in the expectation of obtaining a
victim?

On this trip the shark was to be disappointed, for they reached the
shore in safety, and landing the old man, who was suffering much from
thirst, and was therefore doubly grateful for the supply of water
brought by the black, they for the last time shoved off.  Both the lads
felt greatly fatigued, and though they set their sail, they had to
paddle hard to keep the raft on a right course.  The sea had been
getting up, and every moment made Reuben's situation on the rock more
insecure.  Even if he could have swum across the channel, the monster
Paul had seen would have taken good care that he should never have
reached the shore.  The knowledge of this, as well as their own safety,
made them exert themselves to the utmost.  Already more than one sea had
dashed over the rock, and Reuben had to grasp it tightly to prevent
himself from being washed off.  A huge foaming billow was seen rolling
in.  It must sweep over the reef, and perhaps come thundering down on
the raft.

The boys had just lowered their sail, and were paddling in.  Reuben saw
the roller coming.  Making a sign to them to paddle back, he sprang into
the water and struck out towards them.  On came the billow--roaring,
foaming.  The rock was hidden from view by a mass of spray as the wave
curled over it.

"Oh, he has gone! he has gone!" cried Paul, as, looking back, he could
nowhere see his friend.

It was but for a moment.  He had been concealed by the swelling water.
Again he appeared.

"Your hand! your hand!" cried Reuben.

Paul stretched out his hand with terror at heart, for at that moment he
saw the dark fin of a shark on the surface of the water.  He seized
Reuben's hand, and dragged with all his might.  The wave rushed on,
dashing over the raft, and almost sweeping O'Grady and Paul from off it;
but they held on, and it served the purpose of lifting Reuben on to it
at the moment that a pair of ravenous jaws appeared opening in an
attempt to seize him.  The same sea, lifting the raft, drove it rapidly
towards the shore--and another following, the boys paddling at the same
time, sent it high up on the beach; but even then the receding waters
would have carried it off, had not the negro and old Croxton rushed
towards them, the former planting his crutches against it, and the
latter grasping it tightly.  Even thus they could not hold it long, but
they gave time to the boys and Reuben to spring on shore, and then it
was carried off, and soon shattered to pieces.

The black now made signs to all the party to accompany him to his hut,
which, as may be supposed, they gladly did.

"Faith, Mr Charcoal is better than he looks," observed O'Grady, as he
bade them enter.

The inside offered a strong contrast to the outside.  There was a large
table and chairs, and several bed-places, with coverlids to the beds of
rich damask, and there were numerous chests and articles of ships'
furniture in corners and ranged along the wall.  The black, too,
produced from a chest several silver and richly-embossed plates, dishes,
and other utensils, into which having emptied a rich stew from an iron
pot, he placed them before his guests, and made them a sign to fall to.
This they were not slack to obey, for all were desperately hungry.  No
one inquired of what it was composed, though a qualm came over the
feelings of Devereux, who was likely to be the most particular, as he
hooked up what certainly looked very like the body and feet of a lizard.
However, he said nothing, and minced up the remainder of his portion
before he examined it.  O'Grady made some queer faces at some of the
things which caught his eye in the pot, but he said nothing, as he was
too hungry to be particular.

When the whole party were satisfied, the good-natured black pointed to
the couches, and signified that they might rest on them--a permission of
which they did not fail immediately to avail themselves, and in a few
minutes all were fast asleep.  The black, meantime, in spite of the
warmth of the weather, sat down by the side of the fire at which he had
been cooking, and gave himself up to contemplation.  How completely at
that moment were all his guests in his power!  Who could tell what
injuries he had to avenge on the white men?  Whatever were his feelings,
he gave them no cause for suspicion.

Having waited till they were so sound asleep that a great gun fired
close to their ears would scarcely have awakened them, he took his
crutches and stumped out of the hut.  Some hours passed away.  Paul was
the first to open his eyes; no one besides his friends were in the hut.
He did not like to rouse them up, though, in a short time, hunger--the
same cause which had awoke him--made them also awake.  They had consumed
all the food the negro had given them in the morning, and they could
find nothing more to eat in the hut.  O'Grady proposed that they should
climb the trees, and get some cocoanuts.

It was, however, more easy to propose than to execute the achievement.
He himself first tried to get up a tree, and then Paul made the
experiment; but, sailors as they were, they could not manage to grasp
the stem with sufficient firmness to ascend.  Paul, being the lightest,
helped by his companions, had got up some way, when a gruff shout made
them turn round, and old Charcoal, as they called the black, was seen
shambling along on his crutches towards them.  He beckoned Paul to come
down from the tree in a way which showed that he would not be disobeyed.
They saw that he had a basket on his back, and, pointing to the
fountain to intimate that he wanted water, he set about turning its
contents, which were of a very heterogeneous character, into the large
stew-pot from which he had supplied their breakfast.  The midshipmen, as
before, saw enough to convince them that it would be wise not too
minutely to examine the contents of the pot.  The black produced some
rum at dinner, which, though they partook of it sparingly, helped down
the strange mess.

Two or three days passed by, and the black continued to treat them as at
first, though O'Grady suggested that he was possibly like the ogre in
the fairy tale--only fattening them up that he might eat them in the
end.  Still, it was agreed that he was a very good fellow, and the
majority were of opinion that he would help them to reach the nearest
British island if he had the power.  However, hitherto not a word had
been exchanged between him and them.  He made no objection to their
exploring the island, but their discoveries only convinced them that it
was very barren, and that no means existed of their getting away from
it.  They came, to be sure, on a canoe, in which they concluded that the
black occasionally went out fishing; but it was only just large enough
to hold him, and the paddles were nowhere to be found.  Soon after this,
O'Grady, who was in advance, saw a large boat hauled up under some
bushes.  "Hurrah, boys! here's a craft which will carry us to Jamaica,
if need be," he shouted, and ran on, followed by Paul and Alphonse.

The tone of his voice changed as he got nearer.  "She has a mighty
antique look about her, but she may still serve our purpose," he said.
"But I'm not quite certain," he added, as he struck his fist against a
plank, which crumbled away before the blow.  A kick sent another plank
into fragments.  The whole boat was mere touchwood.

There was a smile on the countenance of old Charcoal, who came in sight
directly afterwards and had evidently been watching them at a distance.
They were in a certain sense his prisoners, and yet he could not mean
them ill, or he would not have treated them with so much hospitality.
How he procured their food, was a question, and certainly it was his
wish that they should not be able to provide it for themselves.  Over
and over again they discussed the means by which they might get away;
but when they expressed their wish to him by signs, he shook his head,
and tried to show that it would be impossible to do so.

At last they began to suspect that he had some motive for detaining
them.  Not a vessel had been seen since the morning when they were
thrown on the island; but one day, on waking, just as it was light, Paul
got up, and going out, saw a schooner gliding along through the lagoon
or creek leading to the hut.  He called up his companions, who were
speedily on foot, and all rushed out to see the stranger.  She was a
long, low, dark schooner, with mischief in her very look--such as was
not at that time to be found in European waters.

"That craft doesn't go about on any lawful errand," observed old Croxton
to Reuben.

"I should think not, mate.  If ever there was a pirate, that 'ere craft
is one," was the answer.

The matter was pretty well set at rest by the appearance of a black
flag, which had hitherto hung against the mast, but which, now blown out
by the breeze suddenly freshening up, exhibited the skull and
cross-bones which the rovers of those days delighted to carry, either in
the presence of a weak enemy, or to exhibit in triumph to their friends.

The midshipmen felt that their uniforms would not be looked on with a
favourable eye by the pirates, and yet they could not nor would have
attempted to hide themselves.  The vessel was soon securely moored, and
several boats being lowered, and hampers, casks, and cases placed in
them, the crew, with shouts, and songs, and wild gestures, came on
shore.  They appeared to be men of all nations and of every hue, from
the jet-black African, to the fair Englishman or Dane.  They soon made
it evident that they intended to indulge in a thorough debauch, for the
greater number began without loss of time to unpack cases of wine and
provisions in a shady spot under the trees.  Several, however,
surrounded the Englishmen, and one of them, stepping forward, inquired
in a rough tone what had brought them there.

Devereux replied calmly that they had been cast on the island, and hoped
that he and his companions would be treated with courtesy.

"That depends on how you behave yourselves, my spark," answered the man,
gruffly.  "We want a few hands to supply the places of those who were
killed in our last engagement.  If you like to join us, well and good;
if not, look out for squalls."



CHAPTER SIX.

The midshipmen and their companions were in an unpleasant predicament.
The pirates, after abusing them in no measured terms, ordered them, on
the peril of their lives, to remain where they were while they
themselves joined their companions, who were just commencing their
feast.  Old Charcoal, the black, soon appeared from the hole, and
beckoning to Croxton and Reuben, he bade them carry a huge stew-pot full
of viands, and place it in the midst of the pirates.  The outlaws, when
they had done this, ordered them to be off, and to wait till they were
again wanted, and then set to in earnest, digging their long knives and
daggers into the pot, and ladling out its more liquid contents, some
with silver, and others with wooden spoons.  It seemed a matter of
indifference to them which they used.  Cases of champagne and claret
were soon broken open, and each man seized two or three bottles, from
which he drank, or poured the contents into silver flagons, which he
drained in a couple of draughts.  Seasoned as were probably their heads,
the result of these copious libations was soon apparent by the fiercer
oaths they uttered, their louder laughter, and the quarrels which began
to arise between those who apparently were strong friends a few minutes
previously.

The black had taken his seat on the ground near them; but though they
every now and then handed him a jug of wine, Paul observed that he
poured the chief part of its contents on the ground.  No long time
passed before the wine began to take effect on the greater part of the
crew.  Some rose to their feet with their eyes glaring, and their
unsheathed knives in their hands, vociferating loudly.  Blows were
exchanged, and wounds given, though on each occasion the combatants sank
down again, and applied themselves afresh to their wine-cups.  Some
sang, others shouted and fired off their pistols in the air, and others
again got up and danced wildly round their companions, till, wearied
with their exertions, they reeled back to their former places.  Old
Charcoal shouted, and applauded, and clapped his hands with the rest.
The day wore on--the orgies of the outlaws continued till the larger
number lay helpless and unconscious on the ground, surrounded by broken
bottles, though a few retained sufficient sense to reel towards the hut,
where more comfortable couches than the ground could afford were to be
found.  The black followed, making a sign to Paul and his companions to
remain where they were.

"He is our friend, sir, I am certain of it," said Paul to Devereux, who
had not observed the sign; "there is a chance for us of escaping."

"By what means?" asked Devereux.  "We could not get their vessel out of
the harbour."

"No, sir, but in one of their boats.  Before they recover their senses
we might be far away out of sight of the island."

"Very good, Gerrard; but without knowing in what direction to steer we
might too probably float about till we were starved to death, or
overtaken by another hurricane," answered Devereux, shaking his head
mournfully.

"But perhaps we may find a chart on board the pirate vessel," suggested
O'Grady.  "If Charcoal is really our friend, as I think he is, he will
help us to get a chart, a compass, and provisions also.  Hurrah!  I feel
quite in spirits at the thought that we shall get away."

"Be not over sanguine, young gentleman," observed old Croxton; "there's
many a slip between the cup and the lip, and it's well to be prepared
for reverses."

In spite of this warning, the boys remained as sanguine as ever, and
anxiously waited the appearance of old Charcoal, who, at length, was
seen cautiously creeping out of the hut.  He came along very fast on his
knees and hands.  They were surprised to see him without his legs and
crutches, till he gave them to understand that the pirates had put them
away out of his reach.  Paul's hopes were not to be disappointed; the
black had resolved to take the opportunity for which he had long been
waiting, while his hard taskmasters were overcome by drunkenness, to
escape from their power.

"They will make us all slaves, and keep us to work for them if we don't
escape," observed O'Grady.  "I vote that we set about it at once."

"But I will try to get old Charcoal's legs and crutches first," said
Paul.

"And I will not go vidout my cher violin," cried Alphonse; "it has been
my good friend very often.  It may be again."

The poor black signified his wish to have his wooden supporters, and
together the two boys set off running to the hut, while the rest of the
party, not to lose time, proceeded towards the schooner.

The door of the hut was opened.  Paul and Alphonse stepped in
cautiously, for any noise might arouse the sleepers.  They looked about
for the crutches; they were placed across the rafters in the centre of
the hut.  A tall man standing on the table had put them there.  Paul saw
that even with the help of Alphonse he could not reach up so high; but
he was not to be defeated--so going to the wall he put his feet on his
companion's shoulders, and climbing up he reached the beam, along which
he clambered, till he got hold of the crutches, and then he handed them
down to Alphonse, and fortunately without making any noise.  The latter
was now anxious to find his fiddle, for it was nowhere to be seen.  At
length, with almost a groan of despair, the young Frenchman pointed to
it.  A pirate had appropriated the case for a pillow.  Was he to leave
it?  No!--he would perish first!  Fortunately the man was among the most
drunken, and was sleeping heavily.  They agreed by signs to withdraw it,
and to substitute something else.  A bundle of flags had been overlooked
in a corner.  It might serve their purpose yet.  It was hazardous work.
Alphonse drew his dirk, which he had retained; but Paul implored him by
a look to put it up again.

"If he does awake, only say that you want your fiddle-case to play a
tune; he won't mind that," he whispered.

Paul went on one side, and gently lifted the pirate's head with one hand
while with the other he held the bundle of flags to shove under it as
Alphonse gently pulled away the case.  All depended on the movement
being regular.  A sudden jerk would have awakened the man, who was a
fierce-looking ruffian.  One of his hands lay over the hilt of his
dagger, which he seemed capable of using with effect at a moment's
notice.  The manoeuvre required great nerve and courage, scarcely to be
expected in such young lads.  It was not found wanting in them.  With
intense satisfaction Paul let the outlaw's head sink on the soft pillow.
The man uttered a few inarticulate sounds, but gave no other signs of
awaking.  The boys held their breath, and for a minute dared not move
lest they should make any noise which might even at the last arouse the
man, or disturb any of the other sleepers.  At last they crept silently
away, picking up Charcoal's crutches on the way, and made their escape
out of the hut.  Darkness was coming on.  It would have been well to
have had daylight to get clear of the island.  As soon as they had got a
little distance from the hut, they set off running to overtake their
companions.  Charcoal was as delighted to get back his wooden legs and
crutches as Alphonse was to recover his fiddle.  They had to proceed
cautiously as they passed the sleepers, and still more so when they
entered the boat, lest the sound of an oar in the rowlock, or its splash
in the water, might alarm them.  One of the boats in which the pirates
had come on shore was selected for the voyage; but they had first to
visit the vessel to obtain the various articles they required.  They
quickly scrambled on board, and even the black showed a wonderful
agility in getting up the side.  On going below, he lighted a lantern
with which to search for the articles they required.  There would have
been no difficulty in deciding on the character of the the vessel by the
gorgeous and yet rude and tasteless style in which the chief cabin was
furnished.  Pictures of saints and silver ornaments were nailed against
the bulkheads, interspersed with arms of all sorts, and rich silks and
flags, while the furniture showed that it had been taken from vessels of
various sorts--for there were damask-covered sofas, and rosewood
cabinets, with deal three-legged stools, and a rough oak table; and
hanging to the beams above, or in the racks against the sides, were
battered pewter mugs and plates, mixed with silver tankards and salvers,
and other utensils of the same precious metal.  The party, however, had
no time to pay attention to any of these things, or to wish even to
possess themselves of any of them.  They were only anxious to find the
articles which would facilitate their escape.  In a receptacle for all
sorts of stores a ship's compass was found; but that without a chart,
and oil for the lamp, would be of little use.  Nearly the whole ship had
been searched through and no chart could be found.

"We must find one though, unless the black knows the direction in which
we should steer," exclaimed Devereux.

"Let us ascertain if he does.  Does he know what we are looking for,
though?"

O'Grady got Charcoal to come to the table, and drawing with a piece of
chalk a chart on it something like the West Indies, pointed to one spot
where he supposed they were, and then to others, and demanded by signs
how they should get there.  The black clapped his hands, and began
looking about the cabins as a terrier hunts for a rat.

In a cabin evidently used by the captain from the greater number of
weapons hung up in it, and its richer furniture, Charcoal discovered a
locker hitherto overlooked.  It was locked; but without ceremony it was
broken open.

"Robbing thieves is no robbery, I hope," observed O'Grady, as he lent a
hand.

"Necessity has no law, I've heard say, at all events," said Devereux.

Everything that could be required was at length discovered, and placed
in the boat alongside, except one thing.  They had shoved off, and were
gliding noiselessly down the lagoon, when Paul, feeling his throat
somewhat parched with the excitement he had gone through, asked Reuben
for a mug of water from a cask he saw at his feet.  Reuben tapped it.
It was empty.  To go without water would be destruction.  There was none
on board the vessel.  An expedition to the fountain must be undertaken.
Reuben and Croxton volunteered to go, as did O'Grady.  They had,
however, first to return to the schooner to get more casks.  There was a
fearful risk of waking up the sleeping men near whom they had to pass.
Not a word was spoken by either party.  While one proceeded on their
expedition, the other sat still as death in the boat.  Paul wished that
he had gone also, for he was very anxious about his friends; he could
not help fearing that should the pirates be awakened they would at once
fire at strangers moving near them.  It appeared to him a very long time
since they had left the boat.  He asked Devereux if he might go in
search of them, as he feared that they might have lost their way.

"They will be here soon," was the answer; "they have no light weight to
carry between them."

The time seemed longer perhaps than it really was.  At length footsteps
were heard.

"Here they come," said Devereux, and some figures emerged from the
darkness.  They must be their friends; the pirates would have approached
with cries and threats of vengeance.  O'Grady led the way, staggering
under the weight of a cask; the men followed with still heavier burdens.

"We must be off; we heard the fellows talking in the hut," he whispered.
Not another word was spoken; it was a moment for prompt action, if they
would save their lives, for if captured by the pirates they would be
treated with scant ceremony or mercy.  The black took the helm; indeed,
he alone knew anything of the shape of the lagoon, or of the passage
which led from it to the sea.  There were oars for each of the party.
They pulled on in perfect silence, placing their handkerchiefs in the
rowlocks to lessen the noise of the oars.  There were numerous turns in
the lagoon, which prevented them at first from feeling the wind.  After
pulling some way, however, they discovered that a strong gale was
blowing directly into the mouth of the lagoon.  It must have sprung up
after they had visited the schooner, or they would have felt it before.
A loud roar of breakers was heard, and the white surf could be seen
breaking wildly over the surrounding reefs.

"We are in a trap, I fear," remarked O'Grady.

They were the first words which had been spoken since they embarked.
There was no danger now of their being heard.

"Let us ascertain what the black thinks," said Devereux.

This was no easy matter in the darkness.  He seemed disposed, at all
events, to proceed, for he continued steering towards the sea.  The
rocks on either side were tolerably high, with numerous indentations,
miniature bays, and inlets on either side.  The boat now began to feel
the seas as they rolled in.  It seemed high time to stop unless they
were to attempt passing through the rollers which came roaring in with
increasing rapidity towards them.  Suddenly the black touched Devereux's
arm, and made a sign to him to cease rowing.  He waited for a few
minutes.  They were full of suspense.  Then he shook his head, and again
signed for the starboard oars to pull round, and running back a little
way, he took the boat into a small inlet, where she lay quiet, sheltered
by the high rocks.  The disappointment was very great.  It would clearly
have been suicidal to have attempted passing through the surf.  It would
be better to face the anger of the pirates.  Poor Charcoal was most to
be pitied.  They would hang or shoot him, or beat him to death to a
certainty.

"Could we not land him, and perhaps the pirates would not find out that
he assisted in our attempt to escape?" suggested O'Grady.

"You forget, Mr O'Grady, that he could not have got his crutches
without our help," observed Paul.

"The wind may moderate, and we may yet be away before daylight,"
remarked Devereux.  "We could not leave him behind."

The question had not, however, been put to the black; indeed it was
difficult to ascertain his wishes.  He kept his seat, and made no sign.
This made them hope that he still expected to get out of the lagoon
before daylight.  It was possible that the pirates might take to
drinking again as soon as they awoke; and if so, more time would be
obtained for their escape.  These and similar speculations served to
occupy the thoughts of the party as the dark hours of night passed by.
Still the wind blew, and the seas, as they dashed over the coral reefs
and broke on the sandy beach, roared as loud as before.  The black made
no sign of moving; indeed they all knew it would be useless.  At length,
with sinking hearts, they saw the first pale streaks of dawn appear.
There is but little twilight in those southern latitudes; but the first
harbinger of day is speedily followed by the glorious luminary himself,
and the whole world is bathed with light.

"I wonder if it's pleasant," soliloquised O'Grady.  "I don't know
whether I should prefer being hung or having my throat cut."

"Hush," said Devereux, "see the black is signing to you not to speak."

"Nor will I, blessings on his honest face," answered O'Grady, whose
spirits nothing could daunt.  "But I propose that before we put our
necks into the noose we have our breakfast.  We shall have ample time
for that before those honest gentlemen we left drunk last night will be
up and looking for us."

The proposition met with universal approval, and in another instant all
hands were busily employed in discussing a substantial breakfast of
biscuit, dried meat, and fish, washed down by claret in as quiet a
manner as if they were out on a pleasant picnic party.  When it was
over, some of the party scrambled up the rocks to ascertain if any of
the pirates were yet on foot; but no one was to be seen moving on shore.
It was possible that the pirates might suppose that they had already
made their escape, and thus not take the trouble of looking for them.
It was clearly their best chance to remain quiet, and so they all
returned on board and lay down in the bottom of the boat.  The day, as
the night had done, passed slowly on.  Their hopes again rose; they
might remain concealed till night, and then make their escape, should
the gale abate.

"We have reason to be thankful that we are not outside now," observed
old Croxton, who had said little all the time; "no boat could live in
the sea there is running."

"If we are discovered we may still fight for it," observed Reuben Cole.
"We are a match for a few score of such buccaneering scoundrels as they
are, I hope."

"I will play them one tune on my cher violin; they will not hang us if
they hear that going," said Alphonse, evidently perfectly in earnest.

"We'll fight, undoubtedly, my friends," said Devereux.  "If we are
taken, we will make the best of it, and may even then save our lives
without dishonour."

It was past noon.  They judged from the continued roar that the force of
the gale had in no way decreased, and that nothing could be gained by
leaving their rocky shelter.  Not a sound from the hut had reached them,
when suddenly a loud shout reached their ears.  It startled most of the
party, who, overcome by the heat, had fallen asleep.  Again and again
the shout was repeated in tones of anger.  There could be no doubt that
the pirates had discovered their flight, and were searching for them.
They were still at some distance, and might not look into the creek
where the boats lay hid.  If, however, they were to follow in a boat,
they would scarcely pass by the mouth of the creek without exploring it.
Paul, as the most active of the party, was directed to climb up the
rock to try and ascertain in what direction the pirates were roaming.
He clambered up the rock, concealing himself as much as possible by the
projecting portions.  He saw in the far distance on the level ground
figures moving rapidly about; but only a small part of the island was
visible.  It was evident that those whose voices had been heard must
have come much nearer.  He came down and made his report.

"Hurrah! it never occurred to us before that we took the only boat they
had on shore, and that those thieves of the world can't get aboard their
vessel again," cried O'Grady, in great glee.  "There are some
ugly-looking monsters in the lagoon, sharks or alligators, and it's just
that they don't like swimming off lest they should make a breakfast for
some of those pretty creatures."

"Should your idea be correct, there is another chance for us; but they
will not be long before they build a raft and get on board," said
Devereux.

"Oh, by the pipers, but I wish that we had remained on board, and fought
the thieves from their own craft," cried O'Grady.  "We might have picked
them off as they appeared on the shore one by one, and carried her out
of the harbour in triumph.  Would it be too late to go back to try that
same just at once?"

"Too late to go back, except we wish to be picked off ourselves, yes
indeed," said Devereux.  "And hark! there is the sound of oars coming
down the lagoon; the villains have got on board, and are in search of
us.  If we are silent, we may still avoid them."

The whole party remained still as death.  The boat came nearer and
nearer.  She passed the mouth of the creek, and went down to the
entrance of the lagoon.  Those in her were apparently satisfied that
their prisoners had escaped, for the splash of their oars, and their
voices as they talked loudly, were again heard as they pulled up the
lagoon.  Paul and his companions breathed more freely under the belief
that they had escaped their enemies.  Poor Charcoal sat perfectly still,
though he moved his large eyes about with an uneasy glance upwards and
around on every side.  He ate and drank with the rest, but made no
attempt to communicate to others what was passing in his mind.  The day
was drawing on, when Paul, who, with the rest of the party, had dropped
off into a drowsy state of unconsciousness, was aroused by a shout of
derisive laughter, and a voice exclaiming:

"Ah, ah! my masters, you thought to escape us, did you? and you're like
mice in a trap, and you'll find that you've cats with precious sharp
claws to deal with."

On hearing this unpleasant announcement, Paul looked up and saw a
hideous hairy face, ten times more hideous than that of Charcoal,
because, though that of a white man, so fierce and sneering, grinning
down upon them.  The man, for man he was, though more like a huge baboon
than a human creature, levelled a blunderbuss at Devereux's head.

"If you allow your men to put out an oar, I will fire," he exclaimed.
"You cannot make your escape out to sea if you were to attempt it, and
we can give you employment enough on shore; so we don't intend to take
your lives."

Devereux guessed pretty accurately the meaning of these last words.

"Death rather than slavery, lads," he cried; "out oars, and let us make
an attempt for liberty."

Scarcely had he uttered the words, while all hands were getting out
their oars, than the pirate pulled the trigger.  The moments of the
young midshipman's life would have been numbered, but the firearm
flashed in the pan.  With a curse at his failure, the man again primed
his piece; but the delay, short as it was, enabled the Englishmen to get
away out of the creek.  The blunderbuss was fired, but its shot fell
harmless.  The report, however, served to call others of the pirates,
who were searching for the fugitives, to the spot, and as the boat
proceeded down again towards the mouth of the harbour, they were seen
clambering along the rocks, shouting and gesticulating violently.  It
bodied ill for the way they would treat their prisoners if they caught
them.  The mouth of the lagoon was reached, but the surf broke as
furiously as before.  The pirates were approaching, having climbed along
over the rocks.  Already their shot could almost reach the boat.  The
small arms of those days carried no great distance.  It would be madness
to attempt running the boat through the surf.

"What say you, friends, shall we make the attempt, or yield?" asked
Devereux.

"Push through it," cried O'Grady and Reuben.

The black shook his head, and made a sign to them to pull round.

"Then let us get on a rock and fight it out; we might keep the pirates
at bay for many a day, as long as our provisions last," cried O'Grady.

"There is one that will serve us, and the fellows may have no little
difficulty in dislodging us."

He pointed to a rock close to the mouth of the lagoon, some eighty or a
hundred yards in circumference.  The sea dashed against it on one side,
breaking into masses of foam, and the sides were high, steep, and
slippery, so that neither could a boat approach, nor could a landing be
effected; but on the other was a deep narrow inlet, scarcely wide enough
to allow a boat to enter.  They pulled towards it, and, much to their
satisfaction, discovered that they could just push in their boat.  As
soon as they had secured her, they began carrying their water and
provisions to the top.  The rock was full of deep crevices and hollows,
amply large enough to shelter them thoroughly, while they could
completely command the passage, and destroy the crew of any boat
attempting to enter.  Scarcely had they made this arrangement, than a
pirate boat was seen coming down the harbour.  The pirates on the rocks
pointed out to their companions where the Englishmen had taken refuge.
Those in the boat seemed aware of the strength of the position, for they
ceased rowing and held a consultation.  The delay was of use to Devereux
and his followers.  It gave him time to dispose of them to the best
advantage, and allowed them to distribute their ammunition and to load
all their arms.  They had fortunately brought a good supply of weapons
and ammunition from the pirate vessel, so that they were prepared to
stand a siege, although the most sanguine had very little hope of
ultimate success.  The pirates, too, had loaded their arms, and once
more they came on with loud shouts and threats of vengeance.  It
appeared that they had only to climb up the rocks to wreak it on the
heads of the small band.  The task, however, was not so easy as it
seemed, for the ocean itself favoured the brave defenders of the rock.
There was but one spot at which, under ordinary circumstances, a boat
could land, and just at the moment that the pirates were about to
approach, a succession of huge rollers came tumbling in, surging round
the rock, and threatening to dash the boat to pieces, unless she could
hit the mouth of the inlet into which the English had run.

"Be cool, my friends," said Devereux, "and do not throw a shot away; I
will tell you when to fire."

A cheerful "Ay, ay, sir," was the reply from all, except from the black.
He nodded his head, however, tapped the lock of his musket, and grinned
broadly, intimating that he clearly understood what was said.

The pirate boat lay off the rock, but her crew dared not, it was
evident, pull in; and from the way she rocked about, it was impossible
to take anything like a steady aim from her.  Devereux pointed out these
circumstances to his companions, and ordered them to reserve their fire,
and to shelter themselves as much as possible in the hollows of the
rock.  It was well they obeyed, for the pirates, losing patience, began
firing away as fast as they could load.  The shot came pattering on the
face of the rock, while some whistled by above the heads of the
defenders.

"Steady, steady, boys!" cried Devereux.  "Those pellets can do us no
harm.  We will keep our fire till it is wanted."

"They'll think that we don't fire because we are afraid, or have no
powder," said O'Grady.

"Let them think what they like; we'll show them presently that we've
powder and shot, too, if they tempt us," answered Devereux.

Volley after volley was fired by the pirates with the same want of
result.  No one was hit, though several of the bullets came near enough
to them to show the besieged that they must not depend upon escaping
with impunity.  Before, they had wished the gale to moderate, now they
prayed that it might continue till nightfall, when they hoped the
pirates would retire, and give them a chance of escaping.  They were not
disappointed.  Long before dark the enemy ceased firing, as was
supposed, because they had expended their ammunition, and away up the
lagoon they went.

"Hurrah!  Let us give three cheers for victory," cried O'Grady.  "We've
beaten them off, anyhow, without firing a shot."

To celebrate their bloodless victory, the party took a hearty meal, and
then, when night came on, each crouched down, with his musket by his
side, in his hole, to snatch a short sleep, to be prepared, should the
gale cease, to escape.  It was, of course, arranged that one at a time
should keep watch.  It appeared to Paul that the gale was abating, but
he very soon became unconscious of all sublunary affairs.  He must have
slept some hours, for he felt greatly refreshed.  The gale had ceased.
He was surprised that, whosoever was on watch, had not summoned the rest
of the party.  He was about to call out, when he found his shoulder
clutched with a strong gripe, and looking up, he saw by the dim light of
a young moon, the same hideous face which had appeared on the top of the
rocks on the previous day, and a peal of derisive laughter broke forth,
followed by the cries of his companions, as they found themselves in the
power of their enemies.  Paul could scarcely help hoping and believing
that he was in a dream, till the truth flashed on his mind that the
pirates, accustomed to practise every kind of trick, must have
approached the rock with muffled oars, and have climbed up it while he
and his companions were asleep, and surprised them.  Such, indeed, was
the case.  Whichever of the party ought to have been awake had
undoubtedly dropped into forgetfulness, or the pirates must have
approached in a wonderfully stealthy manner.  English seamen, when they
have fought bravely, as they always do, and have striven to the last,
and are overpowered, do not struggle or bluster, but yield to their
destiny with calmness and dignity.

"So you thought to escape us, did you?" exclaimed one of the pirates, as
he secured Devereux's hands.  "What do you think you deserve, now, for
running away with other people's property?  Hanging is too good for you;
that's the way you would have treated us, if we had been caught doing
the same thing to you--ha, ha!"  And the man laughed at what he
considered a very good joke.  "But come along, mister officer, we'll try
you by judge and jury all fair and shipshape to-morrow morning, and if
you're found guilty, you'll have no cause to complain," added the
pirate, as he in no ceremonious manner dragged the poor young midshipman
down the rock.

Paul found himself held tight by the savage who had at first seized him,
and the whole party were quickly transferred to the boats, which
proceeded up the lagoon.

Paul found himself in the boat in which they had attempted to escape,
seated next to Alphonse, who had managed to secure his fiddle-case.

"De music vil soften de savage breast, I have heard--I vill try," said
the young Frenchman, stooping down to open the case, for their arms were
at liberty.

The pirates were amusing themselves by taunting and deriding their
prisoners, some in one language, some in another.  Alphonse took no
notice of what was said--probably he understood but little.  Paul felt
that he should like to jump up and attack them, but he wisely kept his
seat.  Alphonse at length succeeded in getting out his bow and violin,
and without saying a word, struck up a French tune.

"Hillo, you are a merry young chap," exclaimed one of the English
pirates.  "Scrape away, we don't hear much like that."

Alphonse played on without stopping.

"Ah, c'est de ma patrie--c'est de ma belle France," cried a Frenchman
from the bow of the boat, and Alphonse felt a hope that there was one
near who would befriend him.  On landing, the prisoners, including poor
old Charcoal, were marched up to the hut, into one end of which they
were thrust, and told that their brains would be blown out if they moved
or spoke.  This made but little difference.  They could expect but one
fate, and by no plan they could devise were they likely to escape it.

When the morning came, some biscuit was given them, and the black was
ordered to go and bring them water.  This gave them hopes that they were
not, at all events, to be murdered forthwith.  The pirates all the
morning were either asleep or very sulky, but at noon, having spread a
supply of provisions in the shade and broached a cask of wine, they
became merry, and one of them, the ugly hirsute fellow before described,
proposed as an amusement, that they should try the prisoners and punish
them afterwards according to their deserts.  The proposal was received
with great applause, and Devereux and his companions were ordered to
appear before their captors.  The pirate captain was the judge, and two
of the officers undertook to be counsel for the defendants.  The case,
however, was made out very clearly against them, and except extenuating
circumstances, they had nothing to plead in their favour.  Poor Charcoal
had still less chance of escape.

"He is guilty of ingratitude, of robbery, of rebellion and high treason,
for either of which he deserves hanging, and hanged he shall be
forthwith," cried the judge, draining off a jug of wine.  "We couldn't
before have done without him, but now one of you can take his place.
You are a stout fellow," he added, addressing Reuben Cole.  "Are you
inclined to save your life and to work honestly for your bread?"

"To work for you, so as to let you hang that poor dumb fellow, Charcoal?
No, that I'm not, yer scoundrels," he exclaimed vehemently.  "If you
touch a hair of his head, you'll not get a stroke of work out of me as
long as you live unhung."

This reply excited the laughter rather than the anger of the crew.  The
same question was put to Devereux and Croxton, and answers to the same
effect were given.  Still the voice of the majority was for hanging the
black.  He, meantime, stood resting on his crutches, the most
unconcerned of all the actors in the scene.

"Well, then, the young Frenchman shall hang him," cried the hairy
savage, with a grin, seizing poor Alphonse by the arm.  "Or stay--the
other two youngsters shall perform the office, while mounseer shall
fiddle him out of the world while we dance to the tune."

"No, you villains; I vill not play, if you hurt one hair of dat poor
man's head," exclaimed Alphonse, starting up with unusual animation.  "I
vill play from morn to night, and you shall dance and sing as much as
you vill, but if you hang him, I vill casser mon cher violin into
pieces, and it vill never play more--dere!"

His address was received with much applause by many of the party, and,
encouraged by it, he seized his violin and commenced playing,
vigorously, one of his most animating tunes.  The effect was
instantaneous.  Many of the pirates leaped to their feet and began
dancing furiously one by one; even the more morose joined them, and old
Charcoal took the opportunity of hobbling off to get out of their sight,
hoping that if he could escape for a day or two, they might possibly
forget their evil intentions with regard to him.  Still, Devereux knew
that, from their treacherous nature, as soon as the dance was over, they
were very likely, for the sake of the amusement, to hang him and his
elder companions, at all events, and to make slaves of O'Grady, Paul,
and Alphonse.  While the excitement was at its height, the pirates, with
their frantic gestures and loud shrieks and cries, appearing more like a
troop of demons than human beings, a large boat was seen coming up the
harbour, pulled at a rapid rate.  Her crew leaped on shore, and the
pirates rushed to meet them.  A few words overheard by Paul served to
explain their errand.

"Our craft was sunk--we were pursued by a British man-of-war.  Hardly
escaped them.  Some of our fellows taken prisoners.  Are certain to
betray us and to bring the enemy down here.  Not a moment is to be lost.
Our only chance is to escape to sea."

From what he heard, Paul guessed that the new comers were part of the
crew of a consort of the pirate schooner, and he thought it probable
that the pirates might carry him and his companions off as hostages.  He
therefore hastened to Devereux, who was at a little distance, and told
him what he had heard.  Devereux fully agreed with him, and before the
pirates had time to recover from the excitement into which the news had
thrown them, he and his companions, separating so as not to excite
observation, walked quietly away till they were out of sight of the
pirates.  They then, once more meeting, set off running as hard as they
could go towards the extreme end of the island.  Before long, as they
halted to take breath, they had the satisfaction of seeing sail made on
the schooner, and presently she glided down with a fair wind towards the
entrance of the lagoon.  Before, however, she reached it, Paul, as he
turned his eyes towards the west, caught sight of another sail
approaching from that direction.  He pointed it out to his companions.

"She is a square-rigged ship," cried Devereux; "a man-of-war, too, if I
mistake not, come in search of the pirates.  Unless their craft is a
very fast one, their career will soon be brought to an end."



CHAPTER SEVEN.

The look-out from the mast-head of the pirate schooner must have
discovered the stranger soon after Paul had seen her, and her appearance
must have caused some uncertainty and irresolution on board.  The wind
dropping, they furled sails, as if about to remain where they were and
fight it out.

"It will give the boats of the man-of-war some work to do," exclaimed
Devereux, when he saw this.  "I wish that we could get off to them
first, though.  I would give much to have a brush with those piratical
scoundrels."

Before long, however, the pirates again altered their minds.  The breeze
returning, sail was once more made, and the schooner, with the boats
towing ahead, stood through the entrance.  The time lost was probably of
the greatest consequence to them, and by the time that the schooner was
clear of the reefs, the man-of-war had drawn so near, that her character
was no longer doubtful.  Devereux had been anxiously watching her for
some time, so had Reuben Cole.

"What do you think of her, Cole?" asked Devereux.

"What you knows her to be, sir--the _Cerberus_ herself, and no other,"
cried Reuben, in a more animated tone than he had indulged in for many a
long day.

"I made sure it was she, sir, five minutes ago, but I was just afraid to
speak; but when you axed me, sir, then I knowed it was all right."

"The _Cerberus_!" cried the rest of the party in the same breath.

"Ay, she's the fine old girl, no doubt about it," exclaimed O'Grady.
"Three cheers for the _Cerberus_!  Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"

All the party joined heartily in the shout.  It was echoed from a
distance, and old Charcoal was seen scrambling along on his crutches
towards them.  They congratulated him by signs at having escaped the
fate which his cruel taskmasters had intended for him, and he seemed no
less pleased than they were at the appearance of the English frigate.
Their attention was, however, soon fully engrossed by the chase.  The
frigate had caught sight of the schooner, and was now crowding on all
sail to overtake her.  The latter was keeping as close in with the shore
as the reefs would allow, with the intention, probably, of rounding the
island and putting it between herself and her enemy.  She, however, by
keeping so close in, lost the sea breeze, which the frigate, keeping
from necessity further out, retained.  The pirates thus lost the
advantage which the knowledge of the shore would have given them.  Their
craft was a fast one, but there was no faster frigate on the station
than the _Cerberus_.  She seemed putting forth all her speed, and it was
soon evident that she was gaining rapidly on the chase.  The wind, it
must be understood, was off the land, along the south coast of which the
vessels were standing towards the east.  It was necessary, therefore,
for the schooner, in order to get on the north side, either to stand a
long way to the east, or else to make short tacks, so as to weather the
eastern end of the island.  The temptation to watch her proceedings was
very great, and though the way round was long, and over soft sand in
places, the party set off in that direction as fast as they could run.
By the time they had reached a slight elevation, whence they could watch
the further progress of the chase, the frigate had gained so greatly on
the schooner, that the latter would, in a few minutes, be within range
of her guns.  The pirates must have seen that they had now little chance
of escaping, but they would not give in.

"Hurra!  There goes her first shot," cried O'Grady, as a puff of smoke
and a flash was seen to proceed from the frigate's side, followed by a
report, as the iron missile went leaping over the water, but falling
short of the object at which it was aimed.  For some half-hour or more
the frigate did not throw another shot away; the schooner, meantime,
made several tacks in shore, but the wind veered as she went about, and
she gained far less ground than if she had continued on one tack.  Still
she managed nearly to weather the eastern point.  The _Cerberus_,
however, was by this time standing directly towards her, a point off the
wind, so as to make her escape almost impossible.  Again the frigate
fired--the water was smooth, and her gunnery was good.  The shot struck
the schooner's hull.  Another and another followed.  Still she stood on.
She was in stays; another tack or two would carry her round the point,
and there were reefs amid which she might possibly make her escape, when
a shot, flying higher than the rest, struck the head of her main-mast.
Over the side went the topmast and topsail, down came the mainsail, and
the vessel's head paying off, in five minutes she was hard and fast on a
reef.  The frigate had, meantime, been shortening sail, and scarcely had
the schooner struck, when she dropped her anchor in a position
completely to command the wreck with her guns.

"The villains will get their due now.  Hurrah!" cried O'Grady.  "But
see, they are lowering their boats to escape on shore.  If they fall in
with us, they will knock us on the head to a certainty.  Won't
discretion with us be the best part of valour? and hadn't we just best
get out of their way?"

"They will scarcely attempt to come on shore here, I should think,"
observed Devereux.  "They will more probably pull along close in with
the shore, and, if they can, get away from the island altogether."

The attempt of the pirates to escape was immediately seen from the
frigate, which, thereon, opened her fire to prevent them, while at the
same time her boats were lowered to cut them off.  The frigate's shot
had knocked one of the schooner's boats to pieces.  Most of her crew
crowded into the other two, which shoved off, leaving some on board, who
loudly entreated them to return.  But, overloaded as they were, they
could not have done so had they wished, and it was with difficulty they
reached the shore, swearing vengeance on the heads of their victors.

"It's time for us, at all events, to be off, if we would save our
throats from being cut, or our heads from being broken," cried O'Grady,
as he saw them about to land.

The rest of the party agreed with him, and signed to Charcoal to
accompany them.  But the old black seemed bewildered, and shook his
head, to signify that he could not move as fast as they could, and that
they must hurry on without him.  In vain they urged him and showed him
that they would help him on.

"Come, old fellow, just you get up on my back, and I will carry you,"
exclaimed Reuben Cole, who was by far the strongest of the party.

Still the black refused--the whole party were in despair.  It was high
time, indeed, to move away from the spot, not only to escape the
pirates, but to avoid the shot from the _Cerberus_, some of which,
passing over the schooner, had struck the ground very close to them.
One of the shot at length settled the dispute by flying along and
striking the poor old man on the shoulder, and very nearly taking off
Reuben's head at the same time.  His moments were evidently numbered,
and to move him while seemingly in the agonies of death, would have been
cruelty.  Devereux, therefore, reluctantly ordered his followers to run
for their lives, before they were discovered and pursued by the pirates.
It was doubtful, indeed, whether they had not already been seen.  Paul,
as they came along, had observed a patch of rocky ground to the south
near the shore, with low shrubs growing about it.  He pointed it out to
Devereux.

"Right, Gerrard, the very place for us; we'll steer towards it," he
answered.

By running on at full speed, they had just time to conceal themselves
among the rocks as the pirates reached the shore.  Devereux had ordered
them all to lie down, so that they were unable to observe the direction
the outlaws took.  O'Grady and Paul were crouching down close to each
other.  Both felt a strong inclination to look out from their
hiding-place.

"I say, Gerrard, don't you think that you could manage, just with half
an eye above the rock, to see what the spalpeens of pirates are about
there?" whispered the former.

"Beg pardon, sir, but our orders were not to look out at all," answered
Paul, in a very low voice.

"Right, Gerrard, right; but by the powers, our fellows are a long time
getting on shore from the frigate," said O'Grady.

"Silence, lads!" whispered Devereux, who overheard them talking.  "I
hear footsteps."

Sure enough, the tramp of men running fast was heard, and, it seemed,
coming in the direction of the rock.  Probably the pirates were
hastening there for shelter.  Paul was sure, as most likely were the
rest of the party, that they would wreak their vengeance on their heads
if they discovered them.  He felt very uncomfortable; his satisfaction
was not increased, when he heard a voice shout out, "Here they are, the
scoundrels! don't let one of them escape."

As there was no object in remaining to be cut down, he was about to
follow the ordinary instinct of nature, and to try and escape by flight,
when another voice added, "Come on, men, here they are, a dozen or two
skulking scoundrels, too."

There was a shrill squeak in the sound, which Paul was certain he had
heard many times before.  He was not mistaken.  There, on the top of a
rock, stood honest Bruff, and by his side, Tilly Blake.

"There are two of the villains--young ones, though," cried Tilly,
pointing to O'Grady and Gerrard.

Then he stopped, with a look of astonishment which made them almost
burst into a fit of laughter, as they sprang forward to meet him, while
the rest of the party at the same time rose up from their lair.

"Why, Devereux, old fellow, I thought that you were safe in England with
our prize by this time," cried Bruff, as he shook his messmate's hand.

Devereux could with difficulty reply, his feelings had so completely
mastered him; so Bruff continued: "Ah, I see how it was; the scoundrels
surprised and captured you, and brought you prisoners here.  Well, I'm
thankful we've got you back safe, though I conclude poor old Noakes has
lost the number of his mess."

In a few words, Devereux, who soon found his tongue, explained what had
occurred, and the whole party, with the rest of the frigate's crew who
had landed, set forward in pursuit of the pirates.  It was important to
come up with them before they could have time to fortify themselves.  In
high glee, the whole party hurried on, led by Bruff, and guided by
Devereux and O'Grady.  It was likely that the pirates would make a stand
either at the hut or on the top of a rocky mound on which some thick
brushwood, with a few trees, grew.  It was a strong post naturally, and
might be made much stronger if the pirates had time to cut down the
trees and form barricades.  Bruff, therefore, with his small party,
without waiting for reinforcements from the ship, pushed on.  They had
already passed round the head of the lagoon without finding the enemy.

"They must have got into the hut, and we must be cautious how we
approach it, or they may pick us off without our being able to return a
shot," observed Devereux, as they came in sight of it.

Bruff, in consequence of this, at once divided his men, sending one
party to the right, another to the left, while he advanced directly
towards the hut, keeping, however, under such shelter as the cocoa-nut
trees and bushes afforded.  Whether the generalship was good might be
doubted, for should the pirates break out, they might overwhelm one of
the smaller parties, and make good their retreat to another part of the
island, where they might hold out till the frigate was compelled to
leave the coast.  This was Reuben's opinion, which he imparted to Paul.
Still the enemy did not appear.  The parties closed in--not a shot was
fired.  "Charge!" shouted Bruff.  The door was burst open--the hut was
empty.  There were treasures of all sorts scattered about, which the
pirates had not time to pack up when they hurriedly left the island.

The crew of the _Cerberus_ very naturally wished to take possession of
the plunder, but Bruff called them together, and ordered them to proceed
at once to the mound where Devereux and O'Grady thought that the pirates
must have gone.  It was hot work.  They stopped for a few seconds at the
fountain to wash the sand out of their throats, and pushed on.  The hill
was soon in sight.  The place looked naturally strong.

"The fellows are there, for they are cutting down the trees already,"
cried O'Grady.  "If we could but wait for an hour or so, they'd be
pretty well ready for us, and we should get heaps of honour and glory in
taking them."

"Thank you, Paddy, but we'll not give them time to get ready," answered
Bruff.  "On, lads, on!"

So busily engaged were the pirates, that the English were close up to
the mound, for hill it was not, before they perceived that their enemies
were on them.  Led on by Bruff and the other midshipmen, the seamen
clambered up the hill in spite of all obstacles.  The pirates stood to
their arms and fought desperately.  They were a fierce set of ruffians.
The hairy baboon, as O'Grady called the man who had seized Paul on the
rock, led them on.  Their captain, probably, had been killed, for he
seemed to be the principal officer among them.  Among gentry of that
class, when the day is going against them, no one is anxious to be
looked upon as a leader.  Whether he wished it or not, however, the
hairy baboon was a conspicuous object.  With three brace of pistols
stuck in his belt, his arms bare, and a huge sword in his hand, he stood
like a wild beast at bay.  The pirates, when overpowered at other
points, rallied round him.  Again and again Bruff attempted to pick him
out, in the hopes of cutting him down, but each time calling his men
around him, the pirate avoided the combat.

The pirates were, however, getting the worst of it.  Several of them had
fallen, killed, or desperately wounded.  Some of the English also had
been hurt, and two killed.  Bruff, determining to put an end to the
conflict, once more dashed up the slope, and with his brave fellows,
leaping over all obstacles, pushed up to where the savage stood behind
the trunk of a fallen tree.  Devereux was at his side, and Paul followed
close behind, armed with a pistol which had been given him by one of the
seamen.  His great wish was, should opportunity occur, of being of use
to Devereux, just as he had been, on a former occasion, to poor old
Noakes.  This was fiercer work, for quarter was neither asked nor taken.
The English among the pirates were the most desperate, for they knew
that they were fighting with halters round their throats.  The pirate
plied his weapon with right good will, and kept Bruff fully occupied,
bestowing, indeed, more than one wound on him.  Devereux was, meantime,
engaged with another fellow, evidently an officer by his gay dress and
ornaments.  He also was a good swordsman; and while the English seamen
were engaged on either side, he managed to strike down Devereux's
cutlass, and would the next moment have cut him from the head to the
neck, when Paul, seeing that the moment for action had arrived,
springing forward, fired his pistol with so good an aim, that the
pirate, shot through the heart, sprang into the air and fell forward
over the tree, while Devereux, recovering his guard, saved his head from
the blow of the falling sword, which he sent flying away among the
pirates.  At liberty for a moment, he turned on Bruff's antagonist, who,
unable to parry his rapid blows, was at length brought to the ground.
As he lay writhing in the agonies of death, he attempted to fire a
pistol, which he drew from his belt, at his victor's head; but his eye
was dim--the shot flew into the air, and his hand fell powerless by his
side.  The pirates, though they still fought on, were evidently
disheartened at the fall of their leaders; but the English were
proportionately encouraged, and dashing on once more, they cut down
every pirate opposing them.  Some attempted to fly, prompted by the
instinct of self-preservation; but they were met by a party under
O'Grady, sent round to attack them in the rear, and at last, in the
hopes of prolonging their lives, they threw down their arms and begged
for quarter.  However fierce men may be, very few will fight on with the
certainty of being killed if they do, and the possibility of escaping if
they yield.  The pirates were completely disarmed, and were then
surrounded by seamen, with pistols at their heads, marched towards the
spot where the boats of the _Cerberus_ lay waiting for them.  The hut
and its contents were not forgotten, and one party of men was ordered to
collect and bring along all the more valuable articles which could be
found.  As they marched along, Devereux called Paul up to him.
"Gerrard, I am anxious to tell you that I feel how heavy a debt of
gratitude I owe you," he said.  "You have tended me with a brother's
care since I was wounded, and I saw the way in which you saved my life
just now.  Fortunately, Mr Bruff saw it also, and as you thus certainly
contributed to the success of the undertaking, I am certain that he will
place your conduct in its most favourable light before the captain, and,
for my part, I think that there is one reward which you ought to obtain,
and which you will obtain, too."

"What can that be, sir?" asked Paul, innocently.  "All I know is, that I
wished to be of use to you, and I am very glad that you think I have
been of use."

"Indeed you have, Gerrard," answered Devereux.  "I should have been food
for the land crabs if it hadn't been for you; but we'll not say anything
more about the reward just now."

They were approaching the beach where the boats were waiting.

"Hillo, what is that?" cried O'Grady.  "Oh, you vile scoundrels--you did
that, I know you did."

He shook his fist at the prisoners as he spoke, and pointed to the body
of the poor black, which lay in their course, with the head smashed to
pieces.  The pirates had evidently found him wounded on the ground when
they landed, and had thus wreaked their vengeance on him.

The seamen stopped a few short minutes to bury him in the sand, and the
midshipmen, as they passed on, muttered, "Poor old Charcoal, good bye."

The pirates would have had very little chance just then of escaping with
their lives had the seamen been their judges, and in consequence of the
cruel murder of the black, they got many a punch in the ribs and a lift
with the knee as they were bundled into the boats.  Hitherto, of course,
those on board the _Cerberus_ were ignorant that Devereux and his
companions were on the island.  As the boats approached the ship, all
glasses were turned towards them; but it took some time after they had
climbed up the sides to explain who they were and where they had come
from, so haggard in countenance were they, and so tattered in dress, and
blood and smoke-begrimed.  Devereux lost not a moment in speaking to
Captain Walford in warm terms of Paul's conduct throughout all the
events which had occurred, adding, "To-day, sir, he saved my life by
shooting a man who was on the point of cutting me down, and I must
entreat you to give him the only reward he would value, or indeed, I
believe, accept."

"What is that?" asked Captain Walford, smiling at the idea of a ship-boy
being punctilious as to the style of reward he would receive.

"Why, sir, that you would place him on the quarter-deck," answered
Devereux, boldly.  "There is no one who will do it more credit, or is
better fitted to become an officer than Paul Gerrard, sir."

"I will keep him in mind, and perhaps he may have an opportunity of
distinguishing himself while under my eye," answered the captain; but he
made no promise to promote Paul, and Devereux left him, fearing very
much that he was displeased at his having mentioned the subject.

All the party were, however, warmly welcomed on board, and Alphonse, who
had now learned a good deal of English, became a great favourite both
with officers and men.  As there happened to be no fiddler among the
crew, his violin was in great requisition.  He had no pride, and as he
took delight in giving pleasure, he constantly went forward to play to
the men while they danced.  There was nothing they would not have done
for the "little mounseer," as they called him.

Before the _Cerberus_ left the island, one of the pirates declared that
a large amount of treasure was hidden near the hut, and volunteered to
show it, provided that his life was spared.  Captain Walford would make
no promise, but let the man understand that if the treasure was found,
and he chose to turn king's evidence, the circumstance might possibly
tell in his favour.  The pirate held out for the promise of a pardon and
refused to afford any further information unless it was given.  The
captain, however, sent a party on shore, under Mr Bruff with O'Grady,
to search for the supposed treasure.  Reuben and Paul were of the party.
There were two boats.  They pulled up the lagoon.

"I feel very different now from what I did t'other day when the pirates
were after us.  Don't you, Paul?" said Reuben Cole, in a moralising
tone.  "Many are the ups and downs in the world.  The pirates was then
thirsting after our blood, and now we're thirsting after the pirates'
gold.  It's not much good our blood would have done them, and I'm
afeared the gold won't do us much good either, if it's spent as most of
us spends it when we gets ashore.  Paul, don't you go and throw away
your hard-earned gains as seamen generally do--you'll be sorry for it
some day, if you do."

Paul promised to follow his friend's advice.  He was very eager,
however, to find the pirate treasure, as he hoped to be able to send his
share home to his mother and sisters.  He was not aware of the efforts
Devereux had been making to get him placed on the quarter-deck, in which
case the share would be considerably more than that of a cabin-boy.  The
search was commenced, but except a bag of dollars and a few gold
doubloons, nothing of value could be found.  The men dug about in every
direction.  There was no sign of the earth having been turned up.

"I say, Reuben, I wonder where all the gold we are looking for can be,"
exclaimed Paul, after they had searched in vain again and again.

"Just possible, nowhere," answered Reuben.  "Them chaps is much more
likely to spend their money ashore than to bury it in the ground."

It seemed very probable that Reuben's opinion was the right one.  The
seamen dug and dug more frantically and eagerly as the prospect of
finding the gold became less and less.  Reuben's spade at length struck
something hard.

"Hurrah!  Here it is," cried several voices, and half a dozen spades
were plunged into the hole at the same time.  A human skull was soon
brought to view.

"All right," cried O'Grady.  "The pirates always bury a man above their
treasure, that his spirit may keep guard over it."

Thus encouraged, the seamen dug on, the bones were thrown up with very
little ceremony, and all expected every instant to come upon an iron
case, or an oak chest, or something of that sort, full of gold, and
pearls, and diamonds.  While thus employed, a gun from the ship was
heard.  They dug more desperately than ever.  The gun was the signal for
their return: it must not be disobeyed.  Still, within the very grasp of
their treasure, it seemed hard to lose it.  They dug, and they dug, but
there was no sign of treasure.  Another gun was heard.

"We must be away!" cried the leader.  "Shoulder spades, and march!"

O'Grady, stopping behind, leaped into the hole and ran his sword up to
the hilt into the sand, but it met with no impediment.  Again and again
he plunged his sword in all directions.  He saw that it was of no avail.
"I must be out of this and run after the rest," he said to himself.
But to propose was easier than to execute.  In vain he tried to get up
the sandy sides of the pit--he made desperate efforts.  He ought not to
have stopped behind, and did not like to cry out.  "Oh!  I shall have to
take the place of the disinterred body, and that would not be at all
pleasant," he muttered--"One more spring!"  But no--down he came on his
back, and the sand rushed down and half covered him up.  He now thought
that it was high time to sing out, and so he did at the very top of his
voice.  He shouted over and over again--no one came.  His companions
were getting further and further off.  He scrambled to his feet and made
another spring, shrieking out at the same time, "Help! help!"

Fortunately, Paul and Reuben were bringing up the rear, and Paul
happening to speak of Mr O'Grady, observed that he was not in front.
At that moment the cry of "Help, help!" reached his ears.

"It's Mr O'Grady," he exclaimed, and he ran forward to Mr Bruff and
obtained leave to go and look.  Reuben and several other men had,
however, to go to his assistance to get poor Paddy out of the hole, and
pretty hot they all became by running towards the boats, so as not to
delay them.  Nothing was said of O'Grady's adventure, and the captain
did not seem much surprised at no treasure having been found.  A course
was steered for Jamaica, where the pirates were to be tried.  The
_Cerberus_ arrived at her destined port without falling in with an
enemy.  Numerous witnesses came forward to prove various acts of piracy
committed by the prisoners, the greater number of whom were condemned to
death, and were accordingly hung in chains, as the custom of those days
was, to be a terror and warning to like evil-doers, as dead crows and
other birds are stuck up in a field to scare away the live ones wishing
to pilfer the farmer's newly-sown seed.

The frigate having refitted in Port Royal harbour, was again to sail--
like a knight-errant--in search of adventures.  It was not likely that
she would be long in finding them.

As soon as the commander-in-chief heard of the capture of the frigate by
the mutineers, he became very anxious to re-take her.  A brig of war
before long arrived with a Spanish prize lately out of Puerto Cabello on
the Spanish Main.  Her crew gave information that the frigate was there
fitting for sea by the Spaniards, to whom the mutineers had delivered
her; that she was strongly armed, and manned with a half more than her
former complement.  It soon became known on board the _Cerberus_ that
Captain Walford had volunteered to cut out the frigate, but that the
admiral objected to the exploit as too hazardous.

"Just like our skipper," exclaimed O'Grady.  "He would try it and do it
too.  We'd back him, and so would every man on board."

"No fear of that," cried several voices.  "Let us but find her, and she
will be ours."

"I wish that we could have the chance," observed Devereux to O'Grady.
"It would be a fine opportunity for Gerrard, and the captain would, I
think, be glad of a good excuse for placing him on the quarter-deck."

As there was no longer a reason for Alphonse Montauban remaining on
board the _Cerberus_, he had to be left at Jamaica to wait till an
opportunity should occur for sending him to France.  His friends parted
from him with many regrets.

"We shall meet some day again, old fellow," said O'Grady, as he wrung
his hands.  "But I say, I hope that it won't be with swords in our
fists."

"Oh no, no!" cried Alphonse; "I will never more fight against you
English.  I was told that you were little better than barbarians--a
nation of fierce lords, money-making shopkeepers, and wretched slaves;
but I find you very different.  I love you now, and I love you for
ever."

Alphonse parted in a most affectionate manner from Paul, telling him how
glad he should be, when the war was over, if he would come and see him
at his father's chateau, where he said he should go and remain quietly,
and escape, if possible, being sent again to sea.

The _Cerberus_ sailed with sealed orders.  This was known.  It was hoped
that they would give permission to the captain to attack the Spanish
frigate.  The captain opened his orders off the east end of the island,
when he found that he was to proceed off Cape Delavela, on the Spanish
Main, a point of land about seventy leagues to leeward of Puerto
Cabello, and that he was to remain as long as his provisions, wood, and
water would allow, to endeavour to intercept the frigate supposed to be
bound to the Havana.  Thither the _Cerberus_ accordingly proceeded.  To
wait in expectation of meeting a friend is a matter of no little
interest; but when an enemy is looked-for, and there is the prospect of
a battle, and a pretty tough one to boot, the excitement is immense.  In
this instance it was tenfold: the enemy was no ordinary one; the object
was to win back a ship foully taken and disgracefully retained.

"There is no necessity to tell you to keep a sharp look-out," said the
captain to the officers of the watch, as he went below the first night
of their arrival on their cruising-ground.

"She'll be clever if she escapes us," was the answer.  However, the
captain was on deck that night several times, as he was on many
subsequent nights, and sharp eyes were looking out all night and all
day, and still no enemy's frigate hove in sight.  Paul was very
ambitious to be the first to see her.  Whenever his duty would allow, he
was at the mast-head till the hot sun drove him down, or darkness made
his stay there, useless.  He often dreamed, when in his hammock at
night, that he heard the drum beat to quarters, and jumping up, slipped
into his clothes, and hurried on deck, when finding all quiet, with no
small disappointment he had again to turn in.  "The opportunity will
come, however, in some way or other," said Paul to himself as he tried
to go to sleep, and succeeded, as ship-boys generally do.  "I must have
patience.  Even if I were to be killed the next day, I should like to
have been a midshipman."  Week after week passed away; no enemy
appeared.  Now and then a prize was taken; but it was always the same
story--the frigate was still in Puerto Cabello.  At length it became
known that the water and wood were running short, while it was a fact no
one would dispute, that the provisions were very bad.  The _Cerberus_
must return to Jamaica.  The disappointment was general.

"Och, the blackguards of Dons, to keep us waiting all this time, and not
to give us the satisfaction of thrashing them after all!" cried Paddy
O'Grady, as the matter was discussed in the midshipmen's berth.

"The fellow has probably slipped by us in the dark; but we'll catch him
some day; that's a comfort," observed Devereux.

"Our skipper is not a man to take that for granted without ascertaining
the fact," remarked Bruff.

He was right.  Before a course was shaped for Jamaica, the _Cerberus_
stood for Puerto Cabello.  All hands were eagerly on the look out as
they approached the port, to ascertain whether the frigate was still
there.  A shout of satisfaction broke from the throats of the crew as
she was discovered with her sails bent ready for sea, though moored head
and stern between two strong batteries, one on either side, at the
entrance of the harbour.  By herself, she looked no insignificant
opponent; while the batteries, it was supposed, mounted not less than
two hundred guns.  The _Cerberus_ stood in till she was within gun-shot
of the enemy, and then continued her course, as if fearing a contest.
Not a word was said by the captain as to what he intended doing.  Hope
returned when the ship was tacked.  For two or three days the _Cerberus_
continued cruising up and down before the port.  Another day was drawing
to a close, when, as it seemed, she had given a farewell to the port.
Some of the officers had been dining with the captain.  They came out of
the cabin with an expression of satisfaction on their countenances.

"Something is in the wind," said Reuben to Paul.  "They wouldn't look so
pleased otherwise."

Not long after this, all hands were sent aft to the quarter-deck, where
the captain stood, surrounded by his officers, ready to receive them.

"I told you so," whispered Reuben to Paul.  "He's got some good news,
depend on that; I see it in his eye."

"My lads, we have been waiting a long time to get hold of that
villainous frigate in there," the captain began.  "If we don't take her,
somebody else will, and we shall lose the honour and glory of the deed.
She will not come out to fight us fairly, and so we must go in and bring
her out.  It's to be done, I know, if you'll try to do it.  What do you
say to that?"

"That we'll try and do it," cried a voice from among the seamen.

"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"  Three hearty cheers broke from the crew.
Again and again was given forth from the seamen's throats that
soul-thrilling shout which none but Englishmen can utter.

"Thank you, my lads," cried the captain.  "I knew that you would be
ready to do it; and, what is more, I know that you will do it.  It will
not be your fault if that frigate is not ours before many hours are
over.  There will be six boats with their regular crews, and I have
arranged already of whom the boarding-parties are to consist.  I will
myself lead."

Saying this, he handed a list to the first-lieutenant.  All were eager
to ascertain its contents.  Bruff and Devereux had command of boats; the
second-lieutenant had charge of another--the launch; the surgeon of a
fourth.  Paul, with no small delight, heard his name called out for the
captain's boat--the pinnace.  Reuben Cole was also to go in her.  The
expedition was to consist of two divisions; the first formed by the
pinnace, launch, and jolly-boat, to board on the starboard-bow, gangway,
and quarter; and the gig, black and red cutters, to board on the
opposite side.  Some of her crew were to remain in the launch to cut the
lower cable, for which they were provided with sharp axes; the
jolly-boat was to cut the stern cable and to send two men aloft to loose
the mizen-topsail.  Four men from the gig were to loose the
fore-topsail, and in the event of the boats reaching the ship
undiscovered, as soon as the boarders had climbed up the sides, the
crews were to cut the cables and take the ship in tow.  No arrangements
could be more perfect, and all about to engage in the undertaking felt
confident of success, eagerly waiting for the moment of action.  The
ship stood towards the harbour, and in silence the crews and the
boarding-parties entered the boats and shoved off.  Paul felt as he had
never felt before.  He had gone through a good many adventures; but the
work he was now engaged in would probably be of a far more desperate
character.  Still his heart beat high with hope.  If the undertaking
should be successful--and he felt sure that it would be--he believed
that he should secure that position he had of late taught himself so
ardently to covet.  The boats made rapid progress.  The pinnace led; the
captain with his night-glass keeping his eye constantly on the enemy.
No light was seen, either on board her or in the batteries, or other
sign to show that the Spaniards were aware that a foe was approaching.
The night was dark; the water was smooth.  There was a sound of oars.
Two large gun-boats were seen at the entrance of the harbour.  At the
same instant the Spaniards, discovering the English, began firing.  The
alarm was given; lights burst forth in all directions, and round-shot
and bullets came whizzing through the air.  Some officers might have
turned back; not so Captain Walford.  Ordering the boats to follow, and
not to mind the Spaniards, he gave three hearty cheers, and, dashing on,
was quickly up to the frigate.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

The Spanish frigate lay moored head and stern, with her ports open, and
the light from her fighting-lanterns streaming through them.  The crew,
awakened by the firing, had hurried to their quarters, and were now
rapidly discharging their guns, sending their shot right and left,
though happily, it seemed, without any definite aim.  A shot passed
close over the captain's head; so close that Paul expected for a moment
to see him fall, but he did not even notice the circumstance, and only
urged his men to pull up alongside the enemy.  The pinnace was crossing
the frigate's bows.  Suddenly her way was checked.

"She's aground, sir," cried the coxswain.  "A rope has caught our
rudder--unship it, man," answered the captain, who was as cool as if
about to go on board his own ship.

In another instant the pinnace had hooked on to the Spaniard's bows; and
her crew, led by their brave captain, were climbing up to gain a footing
on their forecastle.  Paul's heart beat quick--not with fear, but with
the belief that the moment for distinguishing himself had arrived.  He
resolved to follow the captain closely.  Captain Walford had hold of the
anchor which hung at the bows, when his foot slipped, and he would have
fallen back, had he not caught at the lanyard and hauled himself up.
The delay, though brief, enabled some of the men to be up before him.
Paul was among the number; and, finding a rope, he hove it to the
captain, which enabled him to gain the deck.  Not an enemy was found;
but, looking down on the main-deck, the English discovered the Spaniards
at their quarters, not dreaming, it seemed, that the foe already stood
on the deck of their ship.  There they stood, some loading, others
firing; fierce-looking fellows enough as the light of the lanterns fell
on their countenances.  The foresail had been left laid across the deck
ready for bending, and the thick folds of the canvass served as a screen
to the first of the gallant hoarders while the rest were climbing up.
Not a moment was to be lost, and before the Spaniards had discovered
that the English were on board, a party of the latter, led by their
brave captain, were literally in the midst of them, fighting their way
towards the quarter-deck, where it had been arranged that all the
parties should rendezvous.

The Spaniards, taken by surprise, were cut down or leaped to the right
hand or to the left to escape the cutlasses of the boarders.  At length,
however, some of the Spaniards rallied; and, led by one of their
officers, made so furious an attack on the captain's party that he and
most of his men were separated from each other.  Paul had stuck by his
captain from the first.  His arm was not very strong, but he was active;
and, while he managed to avoid the blows of his enemies, he bestowed
several as he leaped nimbly on.  He, with the captain and Reuben Cole,
had nearly gained the quarter-deck when a Spaniard rushed at the latter,
and knocked him over with the butt-end of a musket.  At the same moment
the captain's foot slipped, and another Spaniard striking him a furious
blow on the head, he fell senseless on the coaming of the hatchway, very
nearly going over below.  Paul fully believed that his brave captain was
killed, and that his last moment was come.  The Spaniard was about to
repeat the blow when Paul, springing in, regardless of consequences to
himself, cut him so severely under the arm with his sword that the man
missed his aim, and he himself fell headlong down the hatchway.

Paul then, while he laid about him with his weapon, did the best thing
he could by shouting at the top of his voice, "Help! help!--the captain
is down--help! help!" at the same time laying about him in so energetic
a way that none of the Spaniards seemed disposed to come within reach of
his weapon.  His shouts quickly brought several of the crew of the
_Cerberus_ to the rescue; and, while some kept the Spaniards at bay, the
others assisted the captain, who was recovering from the effects of the
blow, to rise.  Paul, as soon as he saw the captain on his feet, hurried
with two of his companions to the assistance of Reuben Cole, just in
time to prevent some Spaniards from giving him his quietus.  Reuben's
head was a tolerably thick one; and, notwithstanding the severity of the
blow, he quickly came to himself; and, seizing his cutlass with right
good will, joined the party under the captain, who were employed in
preventing the Spaniards from regaining possession of the quarter-deck.
Meantime, several separate combats were going on in different parts of
the ship.  The Spaniards, as they recovered from their first surprise,
rallied in considerable numbers; and, attacking the boatswain's party,
which had been separated from that of the captain's, fought their way
forward and re-took the forecastle.  Paul could only discern what was
going forward by the flashes of the pistols of the combatants on deck,
and of the great guns which those below still continued to fire.  As
yet, however, the English mustered but few hands, considering the
magnitude of the enterprise.  Paul anxiously looked for the arrival of
the other boats.  Now some dark forms were seen rising above the hammock
nettings.  The Spaniards rushed to repel them, but at the same moment
the cry was raised that others were appearing on the opposite side.
Others came swarming over the bows, another party climbed up on the
quarter.  The shouts and cries of the combatants increased.  On every
side was heard the clashing of steel and the sharp crack of pistols.
The British marines now formed on deck, and, led by their officers,
charged the Spaniards.  The bravest of the latter, who had been
attacking the captain, threw down their arms and cried for mercy or
leaped below.  They were quickly followed by Bruff and Devereux, who
drove them into the after-cabin, where some sixty of them lay down their
weapons and begged for quarter.  Others, however, still held out.  The
game was not won; reinforcements might come from the shore, and the
gun-boats might pull up and prove awkward customers.  The deck was,
however, literally strewed with the bodies of the Spaniards, while as
yet not an Englishman was killed, though many were badly wounded.  Many
of the Spaniards still held out bravely under the forecastle, and others
on the main-deck; but the gunner and two men, though severely wounded,
had got possession of the wheel.  The seamen who had gone aloft loosed
the foretop sail, the carpenters cut the stern cable, the best bower was
cut at the same moment, just in time to prevent the ship from canting
the wrong way.

The boats took the frigate in tow, and though as yet those on deck were
scarcely in possession of the ship, directly she was seen to be moving,
the batteries on either side opened a hot fire on her, but, undaunted,
the brave crews rowed on in spite of the shot whizzing over their heads,
and the efforts of the yet unsubdued portion of the Spaniards to regain
the ship.  Those of the latter who attempted to defend the forecastle
suffered most, and were nearly all killed or driven overboard.  Still
the victory was not assured; a cry was raised that the Spaniards
retreating below were forcing open the magazine for the purpose of
blowing up the ship.

Devereux was the first to hear the report, and calling on Paul, who was
near him, and a few others to follow, he leaped down the hatchway, and
sword in hand dashed in among the astonished Spaniards, who with
crowbars had just succeeded in breaking open the door of the magazine.
One man grasped a pistol ready to fire into it.  Paul, who felt his
spirits raised to the highest pitch, and ready to dare and do any deed,
however desperate, sprang into the midst of the group and struck up the
Spaniard's arm, the pistol going off and the bullet lodging in the deck
above.  Several of the others were cut down by Devereux and his men, and
the rest, strange as it may seem, fell on their knees and begged for
quarter; though an instant before they were preparing to send themselves
and their foes suddenly into eternity.

"Quarter!  Pretty sort of quarter you deserve, ye blackguards, for
wishing to blow up the ship after all the trouble we've had to take
her," cried Reuben, giving one of the Spaniards, who still stood at the
door of the magazine, a kick which lifted him half-way up the ladder
leading to the deck above.

All opposition after this ceased below, but there was work enough to
secure the prisoners and prevent them from making any similar attempt to
that which had just been so happily frustrated.  The hands on deck were
meantime employed in making sail with all speed; and good reason had
they for so doing, for the shot from a hundred guns were flying above
and around them, some crashing on board and others going through the
sails and cutting the running and standing rigging; but in spite of the
iron shower not a man aloft shrank from his duty.  As soon as a brace
was cut, or a shroud severed, eager hands were ready to repair the
damage.  The gallant captain, though bleeding from more than one wound,
stood by the mizen shrouds conning the ship, and not till she was clear
of the harbour and no shot came near her did he relinquish his post.

The triumphant moment was, however, when the two frigates neared each
other, and the victors shouted out, "We have got her--we have got her,
without the loss of a man, though we have some pretty severe scratches
among us.  Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"

Loud and hearty were the cheers; but there was too little time for
making speeches.  Most of the prisoners were removed to the _Cerberus_.
A prize-crew, under the command of the second lieutenant, was put on
board the re-captured frigate, and a course was immediately shaped for
Jamaica.  When Paul at length was able to turn into his hammock he felt
very low-spirited.  Not a word had been said of anything that had been
done.  He felt that he had certainly saved the captain's life, and had
in all probability prevented the ship from being blown up.  Yet he would
not be his own trumpeter, and he thought that very likely no one had
observed what he had done, and that it would be entirely overlooked.
"Well, I should not care so much for myself," he thought, "but dear
mother--how she would rejoice to hear that I had made my own way up to
the quarter-deck.  It can't be helped, I must wait for another
opportunity."

The fate Paul dreaded has been that of many who have struggled on year
after year in the hopes of winning fame, and have after all missed the
object at which they aimed.

It was reported that the captain was suffering severely from his wounds,
and for some days he did not appear on deck.  Devereux, however, had not
forgotten Paul, and took the first occasion to tell him that he would
mention him to the captain as having preserved the ship and all their
lives from destruction.  Paul, on this, felt very much inclined to say
that he had been the means also of preserving the captain's life.  "No,
I won't, though," he thought; "the captain will make inquiries as to
what happened when he was struck down, and the men who saw me defending
him will surely tell him the truth."

He therefore simply thanked Devereux for his kind intentions.

"You know, sir, that what I did was to save my own life as well as that
of others," he added.

"Very true, but still I think that the captain will consider your
conduct worthy of reward," answered Devereux.

To Reuben, Paul was more communicative.

"But do you know which were the men who came when you called for help?"
asked the former.

Paul could not be positive as to one of them, on account of the darkness
and confusion.

"Then I must find out, my lad, and make all things square," muttered
Reuben, as he walked away.

The victors had plenty of hard work in putting the prize to rights, in
manning her and their own ship, and in looking after the prisoners.
However, not long after they had lost sight of land, a sail hove in
sight.  Chase was made, and the stranger proved to be a Spanish
schooner.  She quickly hauled down her colours, and a boat was sent to
bring her captain on board.  The Don stood, hat in hand, trembling in
every joint, at the gangway, his long sallow face drawn down to twice
its usual length, expecting to be carried off a prisoner, and to have
his vessel destroyed.  As Captain Walford was unable to come on deck,
Mr Order received him.  If it had been possible for a Don to throw up
his hat and to shout for joy, the Spanish skipper would have done it
when the first-lieutenant told him, that if he would undertake to carry
the prisoners back to Puerto Cabello in his schooner, he might go free.
He did not skip, or throw up his hat, or sing, but advancing with a deep
bow, one hand holding his hat, and the other pressed on his heart, he
gave the lieutenant an embrace and then retired to the gangway.  Mr
Order did not exhibit any sign of satisfaction at this proceeding, but
it was too ridiculous to make him angry; so he told him to get on board
and prepare for the reception of his countrymen.  The Spanish prisoners
were soon tumbled into the boats, and heartily glad were the English
seamen to be rid of them.

"Their habits are filthy, and as to manners, they have none," was the
opinion generally formed of them on board.

"Now, if we'd have had as many mounseers, they'd have been fiddling and
singing away as merry as crickets, and been good sport to us--long afore
this," observed Reuben to Paul, as the schooner made sail to the
southward.

Although the captain's hurts were severe, he was, after some days, able
to come on deck.  He looked pale and weak, but there was fire in his eye
and a smile on his lip as he glanced at the captured frigate sailing at
a few cables' length abeam.

"Let the people come aft, Mr Order," he said in a cheerful voice.

The crew were soon assembled, hat in hand, looking up to their captain
with eager countenances as he opened his lips.

"My lads," he said, "I have been unable before to thank you, as I do
from my heart, for the gallant way in which you carried out my wishes
the other night when you re-took yonder frigate, so disgracefully held
by the Spaniards.  Where all did well, it is difficult to select those
most deserving of praise, yet to the second-lieutenant and the boatswain
and gunner my thanks are especially due, as they are to the surgeon for
the able support he gave me.  They will, I trust, receive the reward
they merit in due time; but there is another person to whom I am most
grateful, and whom I have it in my power to reward, as he fully
deserves, immediately.  To his presence of mind I find the preservation
of the lives of all on board the prize is due, and I fully believe, that
had it not been for his courage, I should not have been conscious of the
glorious achievement we have accomplished.  Paul Gerrard, come up here.
Accept this dirk from me as a slight token of gratitude, and from
henceforth consider yourself a quarter-deck officer--a midshipman."

Paul, his eyes sparkling, his countenance beaming, and his heart
beating, sprang forward, helped on by the arms of the crew, all
sympathising with his feelings.  The captain shook him warmly by the
hand before giving him his dirk--an example followed by all the officers
and midshipmen, and by none more cordially than by Devereux and O'Grady.
They then took him by the arm and hurried him below, where he found a
suit of uniform, in which they speedily clothed him and returned with
him in triumph on deck.  Their appearance was the signal for the crew to
give three as hearty cheers as ever burst from the throats of a
man-of-war's crew.  Paul's heart was too full to speak, and he could
with difficulty stammer out his thanks to his captain.  He felt indeed
as if he had already reached the summit of his ambition.  The captain
reminded him, however, that he had a long way yet to climb, by observing
that he had only just got his foot on the lower ratline, but that, if he
went on as he had begun, he would certainly, if he lived, get to the
top.  The advice was indeed, from beginning to end, very good, but need
not be repeated.  Paul was so cordially received in the midshipmen's
berth, that he soon felt himself perfectly at home, though he did not
forget that he had a short time before served at the table at which he
now sat.

The frigates arrived without accident at Jamaica, where the officers and
crew received all the honours and marks of respect they so justly
merited.  The _Cerberus_ required no repairs, and the prize was quickly
got ready for sea.  Captain Walford, however, suffered so severely from
his wounds, that he was ordered home to recruit his strength.  Devereux
and O'Grady had never entirely recovered from their illness, and they
also obtained leave to go home.  Paul was very sorry to lose them, not
being aware how much he was himself knocked up by the hardships he had
gone through.  Three or four days before the ship was to sail, the
doctor came into the berth, and looking hard at him, desired to feel his
pulse.

"I thought so," he remarked.  "You feel rather queer, my boy, don't
you?"

"Yes, sir, very ill," said Paul; "I don't know what is the matter with
me."

"But I do," answered the doctor.  "A fever is coming on, and the sooner
you are out of this the better.  I'll speak to the captain about you."

The fever did come on.  Paul was sent to the hospital on shore, where he
was tenderly nursed by Devereux, aided by O'Grady; the _Cerberus_,
meantime, having sailed on a cruise under the command of Mr Order.  As
no ship of war was going home, Captain Walford took his passage in a
sugar-laden merchantman, having Devereux and O'Grady with him, and he
got Paul also invalided home.  Paul's chief source of delight was the
thought that he should present himself to his mother and sisters as a
real veritable midshipman, in the uniform he so often in his dreams had
worn, and of the happiness he should afford them.  Their ship was not a
very fast one, though she could carry a vast number of hogsheads of
sugar, and was remarkably comfortable.  The captain was more like a kind
father and a good-natured tutor than most skippers, and they all had a
very pleasant time of it.  Paul had had no time for study while he was a
ship-boy, and so the captain advised him to apply himself to navigation
and to general reading; and he did so with so much good will, that,
during the voyage, he made considerable progress.  They were nearing the
mouth of the Channel.

"In another week we shall be at home," said Paul.

"Yes, it will be jolly," answered Devereux.  "You must come and see me,
you know, at the Hall, and I'll introduce you to my family, and they'll
make you amends somehow or other, if they can; they must, I am
determined."

"Thank you heartily, Devereux," answered Paul; "but the short time I am
likely to be at home I must spend with my mother, and though I know your
kind wishes, people generally will not look with much respect on a
person who was till lately a mere ship-boy."

"No fear of that, Gerrard; but we'll see, we'll see," answered Devereux.

"A sail on the weather bow," shouted the look-out from aloft, "standing
across our course."

The West Indiaman, the _Guava_ was her name, went floundering on as
before; the master, however, who had gone aloft, kept his glass on the
stranger.  After some time he came down, his countenance rather paler
than usual.

"She has tacked and is standing towards us," he said, addressing Captain
Walford.

"Sorry to hear it, Mr Turtle.  Is she big or little?"

"Why, sir, she has very square yards, and has much the look of a foreign
man-of-war," answered the master.

"Umph!  If she is Spanish we may beat her off, but if she proves French,
she may be a somewhat tough customer; however, you will try, of course,
Mr Turtle."

"If you advise resistance, we'll make it, sir, and do our best," said
Captain Turtle, who, though fat, had no lack of spirit.

"By all means.  Turn the hands up, load the guns, and open the
arm-chest," was the answer.

The crew of the _Guava_, which was rather of a mixed character--blacks,
mulattoes, Malays, Portuguese, and other foreigners,--were not very
eager for the fight, but when they saw the spirit of the naval officers,
especially of the young midshipmen, they loaded the guns, stuck the
pistols in their belts, and girded on their cutlasses to prepare for the
fight.

The _Guava_, of course, could not hope to escape by flight, so the
safest course was to put a bold face on the matter, and to stand on.
The stranger rapidly approached.  There could no longer be any doubt as
to her nationality, though no colours flew from her peak.  She was
pronounced to be French, though whether a national ship or a privateer
was doubtful.

"If she is a privateer and we are taken, our chances of fair treatment
are very small," observed Captain Walford.

"It will be hard lines for the skipper, after performing so gallant an
action, to fall into the hands of the enemy," observed O'Grady.  "For my
part, I'd sooner blow up the ship."

"Not much to be gained by that," answered Devereux.  "Let us fight like
men and yield with dignity, if we are overmatched."

"The right sentiment," said Captain Walford.  "There is no disgrace in
being conquered by a superior force."

"As I fear that we shall be," muttered the master of the _Guava_.  "Now,
if I'd been left alone, I'd have knocked under at once.  We've not the
shadow of a chance."

"Then it's not like Captain Turtle's own shadow," whispered O'Grady, who
could even at that moment indulge in a joke.

Matters were indeed becoming serious.  The stranger was, it was soon
seen, a powerful vessel, cither a large corvette or a small frigate,
against which the heavily-rigged, ill-manned and slightly-armed merchant
ship, had scarcely a chance.  Still, such chance as there was, the
English resolved to try.  The order was given to fire high at the
enemy's rigging, and the rest of the crew stood prepared to make all
possible sail directly any of the Frenchman's spars were knocked away.
Paul had been so accustomed to believe that whatever his captain
undertook he would succeed in doing, that he had no fears on the
subject.  The _Guava_ rolled on, the stranger approached, close-hauled.
Captain Turtle, with a sigh, pronounced her to be a privateer, and a
large frigate-built ship.  She would have to pass, however, some little
way astern of the _Guava_, if she continued steering as she was then
doing.  Suddenly she kept away, and fired a broadside from long guns,
the shot flying among the _Guava's_ rigging and doing much damage.  The
merchantman's guns could not reply with any effect, her shot falling
short.  The Frenchman saw his advantage.  His shot came rattling on
board the _Guava_, her spars and blocks falling thickly from aloft.  At
length the former was seen drawing near, evidently to range up
alongside; and many of the crew, fancying that resistance was hopeless,
ran below to secure their best clothes and valuables, while the
officers, with heavy hearts, throwing their swords overboard, saw
Captain Turtle haul down the colours.  The Frenchmen were soon on board.
They proved to be, not regular combatants, but rascally privateers;
fellows who go forth to plunder their fellow-men, not for the sake of
overcoming the enemies of their country and obtaining peace, but for the
greed of gain, careless of the loss and suffering they inflict.  These
were of the worst sort.  Their delight was unbounded, when they found
that they had not only taken a rich prize, for sugar at that time
fetched a high price in France, but had taken at one haul a post-captain
and several officers, for besides the three midshipmen, there were two
lieutenants, a surgeon, and master, going home for their health.  The
privateer's-men began by plundering the vessel and stripping the crew of
every article they possessed about them, except the clothes they stood
in.  They took the property of the officers, but did not, at first, take
anything from their persons.  Captain Walford retained his coolness and
self-possession, notwithstanding the annoyances he suffered, and the
insults he received.  The other officers imitated him.  They were all
transferred to the privateer.

"To what French port are we to be carried?" he asked of his captain.

"To Brest--and it will be a long time before you see salt-water after
that," was the answer.

"Probably never--if we are not to be liberated till France conquers
England," said Captain Walford, quietly.

"Sa-a-a, you may be free, then, sooner than you expect," cried the
Frenchman.

In about five days, the privateer, with her rich prize, entered Brest
harbour.  The prisoners were treated on landing with very scant
ceremony, and were thrust into the common prison--the officers in one
small room and the men in another.  In those days the amenities of
warfare were little attended to.  It was all rough, bloody, desperate,
cruel work.  In truth, it is seldom otherwise.  The prisoners were not
kept long at Brest, but one fine morning in spring, after a not over
luxurious breakfast of black bread, salt fish, and thin coffee, were
mustered outside the prison to begin their march into the interior.  The
midshipmen kept together and amused themselves by singing, joking, and
telling stories, keeping up their spirits as well as they could.  Their
guards were rough, unfeeling fellows, who paid no attention to their
comforts, but made them trudge on in rain or sunshine, sometimes
bespattered with mud, and at others covered with dust, parched with
thirst, and ready to drop from the heat.  The country people, however,
looked on them with compassion, and many a glass of wine, a cup of
coffee, and a handful of fruits and cakes, were offered to them as they
passed through the villages on their road.

"Och, if some of those pretty little villagers who are so kind with
their cakes would just increase their compassion and help us to get out
of the claws of these ugly blackguards, I'd be grateful to them from the
bottom of my soul to the end of my days," said O'Grady to Paul, as they
approached a hamlet in a hilly, thickly-wooded part of the country.

It was in the afternoon, and, although they generally marched on much
later, to their surprise, the captain of their guard, for some reason
best known to himself, called a halt.  Instead of being placed in
prison, as there was none in the village, they were billeted about in
different houses, with one or two guards over each.  Paul and O'Grady
found themselves, together with Reuben Cole and two other men, in a neat
house on the borders of the village.  They were the first disposed of,
so that where their companions were lodged they could not tell.  The
people of the house did not appear to regard their guards with friendly
eyes, so that they concluded that they were not attached to the present
order of things.

"See that you render them up safe to us to-morrow morning," said the
captain to an old gentleman, who appeared to be the master of the house.

"I am not a gaoler, and can be answerable for no one," was the reply, at
which the captain shook his fist and rode off, exclaiming, "Take care,
take care!"

Though very unwilling to receive the prisoners, the old gentleman
treated them with a courtesy which seemed to arise rather from respect
to himself than from any regard he entertained for them.  The two
midshipmen were shown into one small room, and the seamen, with their
guards, into another.  In the room occupied by O'Grady and Paul, there
was a table and chairs and a sofa, while the view from the window
consisted of a well-kept garden and vineyard, a green meadow and wooded
hills beyond.  As far as accommodation was concerned, they had little of
which to complain; but they were very hungry, and O'Grady began to
complain that the old Frenchman intended to starve them.

"I'll go and shout and try to get something," he cried out, but he found
that the door was locked outside.

The window was too high from the ground to allow them to jump out, and
as they would probably be caught, and punished for attempting to run
away, they agreed to stay where they were.  At length the door opened,
and a bright-eyed, nicely-dressed girl came in with a tray covered with
edibles, and a bottle of wine in her hands.  They stood up as she
entered, and bowed.  She smiled, and expressed her sympathy for their
misfortunes.  Paul had, hitherto, not let the Frenchmen know that he
understood French.

"I think that I may venture to speak to her," he said to O'Grady.  "She
would not have said that if she didn't wish to assist us."

O'Grady agreed that it would be perfectly safe, and so Paul addressed
her in the choicest French he could command, and told her how they had
been coming home in a merchantman, and had been captured, and robbed of
all they possessed, instead of being, as they had hoped, in a few days
in the bosom of their families, with their mothers and brothers and
sisters.

"And you both have brothers and sisters, and they long to see you,
doubtless," said the little girl.

"Oh yes, and we long to see them," exclaimed Paul, believing that he had
moved her heart.

She sighed.  "Ah, I once had many, but they are all now in the world of
spirits; they cannot come to me, but for their sakes I will try to serve
you," answered the girl.

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" said Paul.  "If you could help us to get out
of this house, and to hide away till the pursuit is over, we should be
eternally grateful."

She smiled as she answered--

"You are too precipitate.  If you were to escape from this house, my
father would be punished.  Means may be found, however.  We have no love
for these regicides, and owe them no allegiance; but you must have
patience."

"It is a hard thing to exercise; however, we are very much obliged to
you," said Paul.

"Just ask her her name," put in O'Grady.  "Tell her we should wish to
know what to call one who for ever after this must dwell like a bright
star in our memories, especially one who is so lovely and amiable."

"That's rather a long speech to translate, and perhaps she won't like
all those compliments," remarked Paul.

"Won't she, though?" said O'Grady, who had seen rather more of the world
than his companion; "try her, at all events."

Paul translated as well as he could what Paddy had said, and as the
latter stood with his hand on his heart, and bowed at the same time, the
young lady was not left in doubt as to who was the originator of the
address.  Paddy was remarkably good-looking and tall for his age, and
the young lady was in no way displeased, and replied that her name was
Rosalie, and that she was her father's only daughter.  She had had two
brothers, both of whom had been carried away by the conscription.  One
had been killed in a battle with the Austrians, and the other was still
serving in the ranks, though he ought long ago to have been promoted.

"Ah! the cruel fighting," she added; "our rulers take away those we love
best, and care not what becomes of them, or of the hearts they break,
and bring with sorrow to the grave."

Rosalie soon recovered herself, and, wiping her eyes, told the
midshipmen that she would come back again when they had eaten their
supper, and would in the meantime try and devise some means to enable
them to make their escape while they were travelling.

"She's a sweet, pretty little girl," observed O'Grady, after Rosalie had
gone.  "She'll help us if she can, and do you know I think that she is a
Protestant, for I don't see any pictures of saints and such-like figures
stuck about the walls as we do in most other French houses?"

"It is possible; but what difference can that make to you?" asked Paul.

"Why, you see, Gerrard, I have fallen in love with her, and I'm thinking
that if she helps us to make our escape, when the war is over, I'll come
back and ask her to marry me."

Paul laughed at his friend's resolve.  It was not at all an uncommon one
for midshipmen in those days to entertain, whatever may be the case at
present.  They enjoyed their meal, and agreed that they had not eaten
anything half so good as the dishes they were discussing for many a long
day.  Rosalie came back in about an hour.  She said that she had been
thinking over the matter ever since, and talking it over with an old
aunt--a very wise woman, fertile in resources of all sorts.  She advised
that the young Englishmen should pretend to be sick, and that if the
captain consented to leave them behind, so much the better; but if not,
and, as was most probable, he insisted on their walking on as before,
they should lag behind, and limp on till they came to a certain spot
which she described.  They would rise for some time, till the road led
along the side of a wooded height, with cliffs on one side, and a steep,
sloping, brushwood--covered bank on the other, with a stream far down in
the valley below.  There was a peculiar white stone at the side of the
road, on which they were to sit to pretend to rest themselves.  If they
could manage to slip behind the stone for an instant, they might roll
and scramble down the bank to a considerable distance before they were
discovered.  They were then to make their way through the brushwood and
to cross the stream, which was fordable, when they would find another
road, invisible from the one above.  They were to run along it to the
right, till they came to an old hollow tree, in which they were to hide
themselves, unless they were overtaken by a covered cart, driven by a
man in white.  He would slacken his speed, and they were to jump in
immediately without a word, and be covered up, while the cart would
drive on.  They would be conveyed to the house of some friends to the
English, with whom they would remain till the search for them had
ceased, when they would be able to make their escape to the coast in
disguise.  After that, they must manage as best they could to get across
the Channel.

"The first part is easy enough, if Miss Rosalie would give us the loan
of a little white paint or chalk," observed O'Grady; "but, faith, the
rest of the business is rather ticklish, though there's nothing like
trying, and we shall have some fun for our money at all events."

"I wish that Reuben Cole could manage to run with us.  He'd go fast
enough if Miss Rosalie's friends would take care of him," remarked Paul.

"You can but ask her," said O'Grady.  "Tell her that he's been with you
ever since you came to sea, and that you can't be separated from him."

Rosalie heard all Paul had to say, and promised that she would try to
arrange matters as he wished.  Paul then described Reuben, and gave
Rosalie a slip of paper, on which he wrote: "Follow the bearer, and come
to us."  Though Reuben was no great scholar, he hoped that he might be
able to read this.

"Tell her she's an angel," exclaimed O'Grady, as Rosalie took the paper.
"I wish that I could speak French, to say it myself; but I'll set to
work and learn at once.  Ask her if she'll teach me."

Rosalie laughed, and replied that she thought the young Irishman would
prove an apt scholar, though she could not understand how, under the
circumstances, she could manage to do as he proposed.

"Och! but I've a mighty great mind to tell her at once all I intend to
do, and just clinch the matter," cried Paddy; but Paul wouldn't
undertake to translate for him, and advised him to restrain his feelings
for the present.

It was getting near midnight, when a gentle rap was heard at the door,
and Reuben poked in his head.  The arrangements which had been made were
soon explained to him, and he undertook to feign lameness and to drop
behind and roll down the bank as they were to do.

"You sees, young gentlemen, if they goes in chase of me, that'll give
you a better chance of getting off.  If they catches me, there'll be no
great harm done; they won't get me to fight for them, that I'll tell
them, and if I get off scot free, why there's little doubt but that I'll
be able to lend you a hand in getting to the coast, and crossing the
water afterwards."

The arrangements being made, Reuben stole down to rejoin the other
seamen, and the midshipmen then coiling themselves up in their blankets
in different corners of the room, resolved to remain there till summoned
in the morning, were soon asleep.

When their guards appeared, they made signs that they could not move,
O'Grady singing out, "Medecin, medecin," by which he wished to intimate
that he wanted physic, and they thought that he asked for a doctor.  In
spite, however, of all their remonstrances, they were compelled to get
up and dress by sundry applications of a scabbard.

They found a breakfast prepared for them in the hall, though they had
but a few minutes allowed them to consume it before they were driven on
through the town to join the rest of the prisoners, no time being
allowed them to bid farewell to Rosalie and her father.  She, indeed,
had wisely kept out of their way to prevent any suspicion.  They limped
along, looking as woe-begone as they could, though their hearts were in
no way sad.  Their only regret was, that they must part from Devereux
and their captain, but they consoled themselves by believing that they
could report where they were, and thus manage to get them exchanged.

"We are nearing the spot," said Paul.  "This is the scenery Rosalie
described, and this must be the hill.  I hope Reuben understands what he
is to do.  Ah! there is the stone.  Come, let us sit down."

They made signs to the last guard that they would follow.  Believing
that they were ill he allowed them to remain.  They saw that Reuben was
watching them.

"We mustn't stay long, though," said O'Grady.

"No; now's the time.  Over we go," cried Paul; and suiting the action to
the word, over he rolled, followed by O'Grady, and both were speedily
hid from sight in the brushwood.



CHAPTER NINE.

The two midshipmen rolled away down the hill at a very rapid rate, and
then, getting on their feet, rushed on through the brushwood, not
minding how much they tore their clothes, and running no little risk of
scratching out their eyes.  As yet no shouts had reached their ears,
which they knew would have been the case had their flight been
discovered.  They had got so far that they did not mind speaking, and
were congratulating each other on escaping so well, when they heard
several voices cry out, and some shots fired in rapid succession.

"That must be Reuben," cried Paul.  "Oh, I hope that they haven't hit
him."

"The first shot did not, or they wouldn't have fired others, and they
wouldn't have fired at all had he not got to some distance before they
shouted, on discovering that he had escaped," observed O'Grady.
"However, as we cannot help him, we must push on, or we shall be retaken
ourselves."

Paul saw that his friend was right, though he did not like the idea, as
he thought it, of deserting Reuben.

"If he does not join us, we must send or come and look for him.  He is
not likely to leave the shelter of the wood," he observed.

They spoke as they ran on, verging always to the right.  They forded the
shallow though rapid stream, found the road, and continued their flight,
till they came to the remarkable old tree which had been described to
them.  There was an entrance on one side into the interior.

"Up, up, Gerrard!" said O'Grady.  "If we are pursued, they are certain
to look in here, but I see a cavity, some way up, into which we may get,
and the soldiers might look in and still not find us."

They climbed up.  There was not room for both in one hole.  Fortunately
Paul found another, and there they sat, as O'Grady said, like owls in
their nests, waiting for the cart.  They heard voices--men shouting to
each other.  They must be the soldiers still searching for them.  They
came nearer and nearer.  There was a laugh and an oath.  Paul heard a
man say, "Ah! they must be in there--just the place for them to hide
in."

He gave up all for lost.  He drew in his legs, shut his eyes, and coiled
himself up in as small a space as possible, hoping that O'Grady would do
the same.  He heard a man stop and lean against the tree, as if looking
in.  Fortunately a cloud at that moment passed across the sun, and
prevented the man from seeing the holes.

"No, they are not here--they must have gone the other way," shouted the
soldier.

"Then the sailor must have gone with them.  It is strange--they must
have known the country.  Such a thing could not have happened at any
other spot on the road."

"Very glad that we did not miss the opportunity," thought Paul.
"Reuben, too, has not yet been taken--that's a comfort."

They waited and waited.  They were afraid to get out of their holes,
lest their enemies should still be looking for them.  At length, the
wheels of a cart were heard in the distance.  Paul, by climbing a little
higher, could look out.  It was a covered cart, driven by a man in
white.

"All right," he said; "we must be prepared to jump in."

The cart came slower.  They slid down, and a quick pair of eyes alone
could have detected them as they ran across the road, and, without a
word, leaped into the cart.  The driver did not even look behind him,
but, as soon as he heard Paul whisper _Nous sommes ici_, he lashed his
horse and drove on faster than ever.

"Miss Rosalie is a brick," whispered O'Grady, as he and Paul crept under
some sheepskins which the cart contained.  "Hasn't she done the thing
beautifully?"

They drove on rapidly for many miles.  Of course they had not the
slightest notion where they were going.  Paul was chiefly anxious about
Reuben, while O'Grady feared, as they were going so far away, that they
might not meet Rosalie.  Still, they were not very unhappy, though
rather hot under the sheepskins.  They would, however, have gone through
greater inconvenience for the sake of gaining their liberty.  At last,
passing through a forest, the trees of which had lost most of their
branches, lopped off for firewood, they reached an old grey chateau,
with high pointed slate roof, and no end of towers and turrets, and
gable ends, and excrescences of all sorts.  The cart drove into a paved
court-yard, on two sides of which were outhouses or offices.  The
entrance-gate was then shut, and the driver backed the cart against a
small door on one side.  Not a soul appeared, and he did not shout for
any one to come and help him.  Pulling out the skins, he whispered,
_Descendez, mes amis_--_vite, vite_; and Paul, pulling O'Grady by the
arm, they jumped out, still covered by the skins, and ran through the
open door.  Had any curious eyes been looking out of any of the windows
of the chateau, they could scarcely have been seen.  They were in a
passage, leading on one side to a sort of store-room, but the man told
them to turn to the left, and to go on till they came to a door, where
they were to wait till some one came to let them through.

"What fun," whispered O'Grady.  "I delight in an adventure, and this
will prove one and no mistake.  We shall have some old woman coming and
shutting us up in an apple-loft or a ghost-haunted chamber, or some
place of that sort.  It may be weeks before we get to the coast, and
something new turning up every day.  I wouldn't have missed it for
anything."

He was running on in this style when the door opened, and Miss Rosalie
herself appeared, with a countenance which showed how pleased she felt
at the success of her arrangements.  O'Grady was, at first, quite taken
aback at seeing her, and then very nearly bestowed a kiss and an embrace
on her in the exuberance of his delight.  Whether she would have found
great fault with him it is impossible to say; she merely said, "I must
not stop to listen here to what you have to tell me--but come along to
where we shall not be interrupted, and then I will gladly hear all that
has happened."

She forthwith led them up by a winding stair to the top of one of the
towers, where there was a small room with very narrow windows.

"There you will be safe enough," she remarked, "for if you were to look
out of the casement, no one could see you from below, and it will be
pleasanter than being shut up in a cellar or a lumber-room, where, if
anybody came to search the chateau, they would be sure to look for you.
See, too," she added, "there are further means of hiding yourselves--for
we cannot be too cautious in these sad times.  Here is a panel.  It
slides on one side, and within you will find a ladder, which leads to a
space between the ceiling and the roof.  You might there manage to exist
for some days--not very pleasantly, but securely at all events."

The ceiling was pointed the shape of the roof, and it was difficult to
suppose that there could be space sufficient between the two to admit a
person.  Rosalie, however, pulled aside the panel and showed the ladder,
that there might be no mistake.  She charged them also not to leave
anything about which might betray them.  "If I were to tell you all we
have gone through, you would not be surprised at my caution," she
remarked.

She then inquired about the sailor they hoped would have accompanied
them.  Paul told her that he believed Reuben had escaped from the
guards, and was probably still lurking about in the same neighbourhood.

"We will send and try to find him," she answered at once.  "Our faithful
old servant will undertake the work.  Here, write on a slip of paper
that he is to follow the bearer and do whatever he is told.  It is
important to find him before night, as he might otherwise, growing
hungry, come out of his hiding-place in search of food, and be
discovered.  I will tell our worthy Jaques to sing out his name as he
drives along, and perhaps that may draw him from his lair.  What is it?"

Paul told her.  "Oh, that is a very good name to pronounce,--Rubicole!
Rubicole!  Jaques can cry out that very well."

So away she went, leaving the midshipmen to their own reflections--
O'Grady more in love than ever.  As they had nothing to do, they looked
through the window, and saw the cart which had brought them driving
rapidly away.  Rosalie came back soon afterwards with a very nice dinner
on a tray.  She said that she alone would attend on them, for though she
could safely trust the people in the house, the fewer who knew that they
were there the better.  The chateau, she told them, belonged to her
uncle, a Royalist, a fine old gentleman, who had nearly lost his life in
the Revolution.  She had come over that day, as had previously been
arranged, to attend on her uncle, who was ill, and would, therefore, be
unable to see them, but hoped to do so before their departure.  She
concluded that they were in no great hurry to be off.

"Not in the slightest, tell her," exclaimed O'Grady, when Paul explained
what she had said: "we are as happy as bees in a sugar-bason."

Rosalie did not object to stay and talk with the midshipmen, but she had
her uncle to attend on.  She told them that she would close a door at
the bottom of the turret steps; when opened, it would cause a small bell
to ring in the room, and that the instant they should hear it, they were
to retreat by the panel and take refuge in the roof.  She again
cautioned them not to leave anything in the room which might betray
them; and having placed a jug of water, a bottle of wine, and some bread
and cheese in the recess, she carefully brushed up the crumbs, and
carried the tray with her down-stairs.

"Well, she is first-rate," cried O'Grady; "she's so sensible and pretty.
I don't care who knows it--I say she'll make a capital wife."

"I dare say she will," said Paul.  He did not think it prudent to make
any further remark on the subject.

Having exhausted the subject of Miss Rosalie, and declared fully fifty
times over that she was the most charming person alive, Paddy relapsed
into silence.  They waited hour after hour for the return of the cart,
hoping that it might bring in Reuben.  At last they rolled themselves up
in their blankets and went to sleep.  Rosalie had brought them in with
pillows, and reminded them that they must drag the whole up with them
into the roof, if they heard the bell ring.  When Rosalie appeared the
next morning, she said that Jaques had returned, but that he had seen
nothing of the English sailor.

Several days passed by, and at last Rosalie said that her uncle would be
well enough, she hoped, to visit them on the following day.  They would
have found their time pass somewhat heavily, had not she frequently
visited them.  She also brought them a French book, and, with it to
assist him, Paul set to work to teach O'Grady French.  Rosalie, when she
came in, corrected his pronunciation, which was not always correct.
O'Grady learnt very rapidly, and he declared that he thought it was a
pity that they should not remain where they were till he was perfect.

"You see, Gerrard," he observed, "we are living here free of expense.
It's very pleasant, and we are not idling our time."

Paul, however, who was not in love, though he thought Rosalie a very
amiable young lady, insisted that it was their duty to get back to
England as fast as they could.  He also wished to see his mother and
sisters, and to put them out of their anxiety about him.  At last he
told O'Grady that he wouldn't help him any longer to learn French if he
did not put such foolish notions out of his head, and that he was very
sure without him he would never get on.  Paddy had sense enough to see
that he must knock under, and that Paul was, in reality, the better man
of the two.  They were to see _Mon Oncle_, as Rosalie always called the
owner of the chateau, on the following day.  They were not allowed to
have a light in the turret, lest it should betray them; so, as soon as
it was dark, they went to sleep.  The weather outside was unpleasant,
for it was blowing and raining hard.  They had not long coiled
themselves up in their respective corners, when there was a loud
knocking at the chief door of the chateau, the noise resounding through
the passages up to their turret.

"Some benighted travellers seeking shelter from the storm," observed
O'Grady.  "I am glad that we are not out going across country in such a
night as this."

There was a pause, and again a loud knocking.

"Old Jaques is in no hurry to let in the strangers," observed Paul.  "He
suspects that these are not friends; we must keep our eyes open.
Remember what Rosalie told us."

"Ay, ay, mate, I am not likely to forget what she says," answered Paddy,
who had not quite got over his feeling of annoyance with Paul.

They listened attentively.  Those outside were at length admitted, they
fancied; but, further than that, they could make out nothing.  They
waited all ready to jump up and run into their hiding-place, for they
were persuaded that this evening visit had reference to them.  They
heard doors slamming and strange sounds produced by the blast rushing
through the passages and windows.

"Yes, I am certain that there is a search going on in the house,"
whispered O'Grady.  "I hope _Mon Oncle_ won't get into a scrape on our
account, or dear Rosalie," (he had got to call her "dear" by this time.)
"Hark! how the wind roars and whistles."

There was a door banged not far from the foot of the stairs; it made the
whole tower shake.  They were silent for a minute, when a bell tinkled.
Before it had ceased to vibrate, the midshipmen had started up, and,
seizing their bed-clothes, had rushed to the panel.  They started
through and closed it behind them, but only just in time, for the door
opened as the panel closed.  What midshipmen were ever in a more
delightful situation?  They were not frightened a bit, and only wished
that they could find some crevice through which they could get a look at
the intruders, and O'Grady regretted that they had not a brace or two of
pistols with which they could shoot them.  They sprang up the ladder
only as cats or midshipmen could do, and had placed themselves on the
roof, when they heard the clank of sabres and spurs, and the tread of
heavy men, and a gleam of light came through a crevice in the wooden
ceiling.  It was close to Paul's head, and looking down he saw three
gendarmes peering round and round the room.  They were evidently at
fault, however.  Behind them stood old Jaques with a lantern from which
he sent the light into every corner of the room.  There was a book on
the table, and a chair near it.

"Who reads here?" asked one of the men.

"My young mistress, of course," answered Jaques, promptly.

"She said just now that she was here to attend on her uncle," remarked
the gendarmes.

"So she is, and good care she takes of the old gentleman; but he sleeps
sometimes, so I relieve her," returned Jaques.  "She is fond of
solitude."

"That is a pity; I should like to keep her company," said the gendarme,
with a grin, which made O'Grady clench his fist, and Jaques look
indignant.  The man put the book under his arm, and having been unable
to discover anything apparently, ordered his companions to fallow him
down-stairs.  O'Grady was for descending into the room at once from
their uncomfortable position; but Paul held him back, observing that
they had not heard the door at the foot of the stairs shut, and that
they might easily be surprised.  He advised that they should as
noiselessly as possible take their bed-clothes up to the roof, and sleep
there, however uncomfortable it might be to do so.

"Not for our own sakes alone, but for that of Rosalie and _Mon Oncle_,
we are bound in honour to do so."

That settled the question--fortunately--for before long the door opened
softly, and one of the gendarmes crept in on tip-toe.  He crept round
and round the room with a lantern in his hand, like a terrier hunting
for a rat which he is sure has his hole thereabouts.  O'Grady had gone
to sleep, and had begun to snore.  Happily he had ceased just as the man
appeared.

Paul was afraid that he would begin again, and he dared not touch him
lest he should cry out.  He leaned over towards him till he could reach
his ear, and then whispered, "Don't stir, for your life!"

O'Grady pressed his hand to show that he heard.  He moved his head back
to the chink.  Had he made any noise, the storm would have prevented its
being heard.  The gendarme was not yet satisfied.  He ran his sword into
every hole and crevice he could find, and attacked several of the
panels.  For the first time Paul began to fear that they should be
discovered.  As yet he had passed over the moving panel.  He began to
grind his teeth in a rage, and to utter numerous "_sacres_" and other
uncouth oaths, and at last made a furious dig close to the panel.  His
weapon, however, instead of going through the wood, encountered a mass
of stone, and broke short off.  The accident increased his rage, and
produced numerous additional _sacres_, and, which was of more
consequence, made him trudge down-stairs again, convinced that there was
no hole in which even a rat could be concealed.  He slammed the door
after him; but Paul, suspecting that this might be a trick, persuaded
O'Grady to remain where they were.

The night passed on, and both midshipmen fell asleep.  When they awoke
they saw that daylight was streaming full into the room below them,
though it was dark up in the roof; still they wisely would not stir, for
they felt sure that, as soon as the gendarmes were fairly away, Rosalie
would come to them and bring them their breakfast.

"I hope she may," observed Paddy, "for I am very peckish."

Paul thought that he could not be so very desperately in love.

At last they heard the tramp of horses' hoofs, and about a quarter of an
hour afterwards, though they thought it much longer, Rosalie appeared
with a tray, with coffee, and eggs, and bread, and other substantial
fare.  They were down the ladder in a twinkling, and warmly expressing
their thanks.  They did not require much pressing to set to; indeed,
O'Grady had begun to cast ravenous glances at the viands alternately,
with affectionate ones towards her, while Paul was translating what he
desired him to say.  She looked very pale, and told them that she had
been very anxious, though the gendarmes had come, not to look for them,
but for a political criminal, a royalist of rank, who had been concealed
in the chateau, but had fortunately escaped.  About noon she came back
with a very nice old gentleman, a perfect picture of a French man of
rank of the old school--buckles, knee-breeches, flowered waistcoat, bag,
wig, and all.  She introduced him as _Mon Oncle_.  He at once began to
talk with Paul, and soon became communicative.

"I once had two brave boys," he said.  "I have lost both of them.  One
perished at sea; the other has been desperately wounded fighting in a
cause he detests; yet he was dragged away without the power of escaping.
I scarcely expect to see him again; but if he recovers, my prayer is
that he may be taken prisoner, for I am sure that he will be kindly
treated by the brave English people.  That is one of the reasons that I
desire to help you.  I have other reasons.  One is, that I hope through
the English the cause I espouse may triumph.  I am sorry to say,
however, that my chateau is no longer a safe abode for you.  It will be
subject to frequent visits from the police, and I myself may be dragged
away with all my domestics, when you must either starve or be
discovered."

The midshipmen agreed to the wisdom of this, and Paul, after thanking
the old gentleman again and again for the refuge he had afforded them,
said that they thought with him that it would be wise for them to start
immediately on their journey to the north.  They had consulted with
Rosalie how they were to proceed, and they thought with her that they
might make their way dressed as country lads from some place in the
south of France where a patois was spoken scarcely known in the north;
that he, Paul, was to act as spokesman, and that O'Grady was to pretend
to be deaf and dumb.  As a reason for their journey, Paul was to state
that their father was a sailor, and that they had heard he was lying
wounded at some place on the coast, and wanted to see them before he
died.

This story, it must be understood, was concocted by Miss Rosalie, whose
active fingers had been engaged night and day for nearly a week in
making the costumes for the two midshipmen.  They had reason to be
thankful to her.  The day was spent in preparing for the journey.  The
clothes fitted beautifully.  Rosalie said that she did not know she was
so good a tailor.  The difficulty was to make them look sufficiently
worn.  Rosalie suggested, however, that they were to be the grandsons of
a small farmer of a respectable class, by whom they had been brought up,
and that therefore they would be well clothed, with some little money in
their pockets.  She had also fastened up in two belts some gold and
silver coins, all the little money she possessed, and she told them that
they must take it and repay her when they could.  O'Grady, who fully
intended to come back, had no hesitation about accepting the money, but
Paul wished that they could manage without it; however, he yielded when
the former observed, "You don't suppose that we can get on without money
in France more than in any other country, and if we intend to starve we
had better have remained prisoners."

In the afternoon Jaques drove the cart into the court-yard, and backed
it up to the door by which they had entered.  Rosalie came up to the
midshipmen; her eyes were red with crying; still she looked very pretty.

"I have come to tell you that it is time for you to go; you will follow
out the directions you have received as nearly as possible."

It had been arranged that they should go on in the cart till dark, and
then walk as far as they could on foot during the night, concealing
themselves in some secluded spot in the day-time.  If they were
discovered, they were to plead fatigue for resting; they were not to
court observation, though they were not to dread it, if it could not be
avoided.  They were, however, on no account to enter a town, by night or
by day, if they could help it.  No one, indeed, could have arranged a
more perfect plan than Miss Rosalie had done.  There's nothing like the
wits of an honest clear-sighted woman when people are in trouble, to get
them out of it.

Rosalie had provided them with wallets well filled with food, so that
they need not for some days stop at any village to procure food--not,
indeed, till they were well to the north of the line of road the Brest
prisoners passed.

Both the midshipmen were very, very sorry at having to part from
Rosalie, and O'Grady felt more in love with her than ever; still they
must be away.  Her uncle gave them a kind embrace, and she accompanied
them down-stairs, and kissing them both as if they were young brothers
going to school, hurried them into the cart.  It was loaded with sacks
of corn going to the mill to be ground, with several span new sacks to
fill with flour.  There was a clear space formed by placing two sacks
across two others, with the empty sacks thrown over the inner end.  Into
this they crept.  They could look out from behind the loose sacks, and
as the cart drove out of the court-yard they could see Rosalie watching
them with her apron to her eyes.  They drove rapidly on, though more
than once Jaques stopped and talked to some one, and then on he went at
the same pace as before.  One man asked for a lift, but he laughed and
said, that the cart was already laden heavily enough with so many sacks
of wheat, and that it would break down if a burly fellow like the
speaker were to get into it, or the horse would refuse to go.  It was
getting dark, but the sky was clear, and as they could see the stars by
which to steer, they had little doubt that they should find their way.
Jaques drew up in a solitary spot a little off the read.

"Farewell, young gentlemen, farewell!" he said, as he helped them to get
from under the sacks: "may you reach your native land in safety.  Go
straight along that road; you will make good way before the morning.  I
wish that I could go further with you, but I dare not.  Farewell,
farewell!"  Saying this, he shook them by the hand, and giving them a
gentle shove on in the direction they were to take, as if his heart
longed to go with them, he jumped into the cart and drove rapidly away.

They now felt for the first time how helpless they were, and the
difficulty of their undertaking; but they were brave lads, and quickly
again plucked up courage.  They had been provided with sticks, and
trudged on boldly.  Mile after mile of dusty road, up and down hill, and
along dead flats, were traversed.

"It will make us sleep all the sounder," observed O'Grady, who had a
happy facility for making the best of everything.  "If we were at sea
now we should have to be pacing the deck with a cold breeze in our
teeth, and maybe an occasional salt shower-bath."

Paul agreed, though they were not sorry when daylight came and warned
them to look out for a resting-place.  They saw a forest some way from
the high road, and, going into it, before long discovered numerous piles
of wood prepared for burning.

"They are not likely to be removed for some time," observed O'Grady; "if
they do, they will begin on the outer ones, and we shall have time to
decamp.  Let's make ourselves some nests inside; see, there is plenty of
dry grass, and we shall sleep as comfortable as on beds of down."

By removing some of the logs the work was easily accomplished, and no
one outside would have observed what they had done.  They crept in, and
were very soon fast asleep.  They awoke perfectly rested, and prepared
to resume their journey; but on looking out they found that it was not
much past noon, and that they had the greater part of the day to wait.
This they did not at all like.  O'Grady was for pushing on in spite of
their first resolutions; Paul wished to remain patiently till the
evening.  No one had come to remove the wood, so that they were not
likely to be disturbed.  As they were hungry they ate some dinner,
emptying their bottle of wine, and then tried to go to sleep again--not
a difficult task for midshipmen.

Paul, after some time, was awoke by hearing some one singing.  He
touched O'Grady's arm.  They listened.  The words were English, and they
both had an idea that they knew the voice.  The singer appeared to be
near, and employed in removing the logs of wood.  Paul slowly lifted up
his head.  A shout and an expression indicative of astonishment escaped
from the singer, who stood, like one transfixed, gazing at Paul.  The
shout made O'Grady lift up his head, and they had ample time to
contemplate the strange figure before them.  His dress was of the most
extraordinary patchwork, though blue and white predominated.  On his
head, instead of a hat, he wore a wisp of straw, secured by a
handkerchief; his feet were also protected by wisps of straw, and round
his waist he wore a belt with an axe stuck in it.  Altogether, he did
not look like a man possessed with much of this world's wealth.  The
midshipmen looked at him, and he looked at the midshipmen, for a minute
or more without speaking.

"It is--no it isn't--yes it is!" exclaimed the man at length.  "Why,
young gentlemen, is it really you? you looks so transmogrified, I for
one shouldn't have known you!"

"What, Reuben Cole, is it really you?  I may ask," cried Paul, springing
out of his lair, and shaking him by the hand, followed by O'Grady.
"This is a fortunate meeting."

"Why, that's as it may turn out; but how did you come to look like
that?"

Paul told him, and then put the same question to him.

"Why, do ye see, when I got away from our Jennydams, I found a hole in
the hillside close under where I jumped off the road.  Thinks I to
myself, if I tumbles in here, they'll all go pelting away down the hill
through the wood, leaving me snug; and so they did.  I heard them
halloing, and cursing, and swearing at one another, and I all the time
felt just like an old fox in his cover till they'd gone away on their
road wondering where I'd gone.  I then started up and ran down the hill
just in time to see a cart driven by a man in white.  I shouted, but he
didn't hear me, and so I hoped it would be all right for you, at all
events.  Then I went back to my hole, and thinks I to myself, if I goes
wandering about in this guise I'll sure to be taken: so I remembers that
I'd got in my pocket the housewife my old mother gave me, and which the
rascally privateer's-men hadn't stolen; so out I takes it and sets to
work to make up my clothes in a new fashion.  I couldn't make myself
into a mounseer--little or big--by no manner of means, so I just
transmogrified my clothes as you see them, that I mightn't be like a
runaway prisoner.  It took me two days before I was fit to be seen--
pretty smart work; and that's how the servant the old gentleman sent out
missed me.  At last I set out for the sea; but I was very hungry, and I
can't say if I'd fallen in with a hen-roost what I'd have done.  I got
some nuts and fruit though, enough to keep body and soul together.
Three days I wandered on, when I found myself in this very wood.  I was
getting wickedly hungry, and I was thinking I must go out and beg, when
I sees a cart and a man coming along, so I up and axes him quite civilly
if he'd a bit of a dinner left for a poor fellow.  I was taken all aback
with astonishment when he speaks to me in English, and tells me that
he'd been some months in a prison across the Channel, and knows our
lingo, and that he was treated so kindly that he'd sworn he'd never bear
arms against us again, if he could help it.  With that he gives me some
bread and cheese and wine, and when his day's work was over he takes me
to his house, at the borders of the forest, near a village.  As I
wouldn't eat the bread of idleness, I offered to help him, and as I can
handle an axe with most men, I have been working away ever since as a
wood-cutter.  Now I know that if you'll come with me to his cottage,
he'll gladly give you lodging and food as long as you like to stay, and
then, of course, I must pack up and be off with you."

The midshipmen told Reuben how glad they were to find him, though they
agreed that by his travelling on with them their difficulties would be
somewhat increased, as they were puzzled to know what character he could
assume.  He was so thoroughly the English sailor that even his very walk
would betray him.

He acknowledged this; but after scratching his head for five minutes,
and giving sundry tugs at his rather curious-looking breeches, he
exclaimed: "I've hit it.  I'll go on crutches and follow in your wake;
when no one is looking I'll make play, and I'll keep up with you, I'll
warrant.  If I'm axed who I am, I'll pretend that I'm a 'Talian, or some
other furriner, who can't speak the French lingo, and just make all
sorts of gabblifications.  Just you leave it to me, young gentlemen, if
you'll let me come with you."

Though there was considerable risk in the plan, the midshipmen could
think of no other.  They agreed to go to the wood-cutter's hut, and if,
after talking the matter over, they could not improve on Reuben's plan,
to start the following evening.  Having assisted him to load his cart,
they set forward at once.  The path led them for most of the way through
the forest.  It was still broad daylight when they approached the
cottage.  It stood at the edge of a green, on which a number of
villagers were seen collected.  They were themselves perceived before
they had time to retreat, which it would have been wise for them, they
felt, to do.

"Let us put a bold face on the matter and go forward!" exclaimed
O'Grady.  "Reuben, go on with the cart; we had better have nothing to
say to you at present."

They at once walked on towards the villagers without exhibiting any
marks of hesitation.  Reuben looked after them with as indifferent an
air as he could assume, as he drove his cart up to the woodman's
cottage.

"I see a high road; let us turn towards it, and walk along it as if we
were not going to stop at the village," observed Paul; "we may thus
avoid questions, and we may come back to the wood-cutter's when it is
dark; Reuben will prepare him for our appearance."

O'Grady agreed to this plan, and they were walking along pretty briskly,
hoping to pass an auberge, or inn, at the side of the road, when the
aubergiste, or inn-keeper, who happened to be in very good humour after
his evening potations, caught sight of them, and shouted out, "Come in,
come in, mes garcons! there is no other auberge in the place, and you
would not pass by the house of Francois le Gros!"  And he patted his
well-stuffed-out ribs, for there are fat Frenchmen as well as fat
Englishmen.

Thus appealed to, the midshipmen thought it wiser to go up to the man,
and Paul told him that as they had very little money, they preferred
stopping out at night when the weather was fine.

"That will never do," cried honest Francois.  "Tell me all about
yourselves, and you shall have board and lodging free.  Numerous great
people stop here, and so does the diligence, and as I am patronised by
all around, I can afford at times to help young wayfarers like
yourselves."

Paul, anxious especially to avoid so public a place as an inn, made more
excuses.  While he was speaking the landlord looked very hard at him.
Several other villagers did the same.

"Why, you do not look very like what you say you are!" he exclaimed.
"Come nearer, and let me have a better look at you."

"Thank you," said Paul; "if you don't believe me, I won't ask you to do
so; but let us go on, and we will not trouble you."

This speech did not satisfy the landlord, and several disagreeable
remarks were made by the bystanders.  Altogether, matters were looking
very bad, when the attention of the villagers was called off by the
sound of the loud cracks of whips, the tramping of horses, the rumbling
of wheels, and the appearance of a cloud of dust, out of which emerged a
huge lumbering vehicle with a vast hood in front, a long big body
covered with boxes and baskets, and drawn by six horses, governed by two
postillions dressed in huge jack boots, cocked hats, and gold-laced
coats.  They dashed up to the inn with as much clatter and noise as they
could make.  More of the villagers collected; and while the horses were
being brought out, and the landlord was engaged in attending to his
customers, O'Grady whispered to Paul that he thought they might possibly
slip out of the crowd unobserved; and while some of the villagers had to
move out of the way of the released horses, they moved round on the
other side of the diligence and walked rapidly along the road.

At that moment Francois had come out with a jug of wine for an old
gentleman in the inside, and as he was returning, his eye fell on the
fugitives.  His suspicions now increased; he shouted to some of his
cronies to make chase and bring them back.  As the villagers were making
holiday and had nothing to do, a dozen or more set off in chase.

"I wish that we hadn't tried to get away," said Paul.  "Let's go back
boldly, and say that we hoped to get on to the next village; but as they
are determined to keep us, we will stay with them."

They, however, had barely time to turn before their pursuers were upon
them; and in no very happy state of mind they were dragged back to the
village.  They came in sight of the inn just as the diligence had driven
off.  One passenger had remained behind, who stood watching them with a
look of considerable interest while the landlord was describing to him
how they had made their appearance, and expressing his opinion that they
were no better than they should be.



CHAPTER TEN.

Paul and O'Grady, as they were dragged back by the villagers to the inn,
felt certain that their true character would be discovered, and that
they would be sent to prison.  Paul was especially unhappy under the
belief that his bad French had betrayed him.  He wished that he could
give Reuben warning to keep out of the way of the meddling villagers,
lest he also should be captured.  Still, he was not a lad to give in,
and he determined to play the part he had assumed as long as he could.
When the villagers saw Francois, they shouted out to him that they had
got the young rogues fast enough.  Paul at once began to expostulate
with the inn-keeper, and, with a volubility which did him credit, gave
the whole story which had been arranged by Rosalie.  The traveller, who
had retired on one side, but had remained near enough to hear what Paul
said, now stepped forward, exclaiming, "Of course--all they say is true.
I know all about them.  Their grandfather is a most estimable man--a
tenant of my maternal uncle, the Sieur Caudbec.  I saw him when last I
was in the south of France, and these lads, I think I saw them--yes,
surely I know both of them.  You know me, the son of the Baron de
Montauban--one who was always kind to the poor, and a friend of true
liberty."

Paul glanced at the speaker; he was very young.  He looked again.  There
could be no doubt about it.  Though somewhat disguised by his travelling
costume and civilian's dress, there stood before him Alphonse Montauban.
He ran forward and took Alphonse's hand, not to shake it, however, but,
remembering their supposed relative ranks, to put it to his lips.
O'Grady, though not understanding what had been said, and wondering why
he did so, followed his example.

"Come, worthy Francois," said Alphonse; "though I had intended to
proceed across the country, I will rest here to-night; and as I take an
interest in the family of these lads, they shall spend the evening with
me, and live at my cost.  Let a good supper be prepared for us all, and,
mark you, a bottle of your best wine."

Saying this, Alphonse led the way into the inn.  He stopped at the door,
however, and taking some money out of his purse, handed it to the
landlord, saying, "Let some of these honest people here, after their
quick run, have wherewithal to drink my health."

Alphonse, with considerable dignity, walked into a private room in the
inn, and taking a chair, beckoned to the seeming peasant lads to sit
near him, while the landlord received his orders for supper.  As soon as
Francois had retired, he burst into a fit of laughter, and, jumping up,
shook the midshipmen warmly by the hand, and begged them to tell him how
they came to be there.  They gave him, as rapidly as they could, an
account of their adventures.

"And do you not know the name of the old gentleman, `mon oncle,' as you
call him, and that of the chateau?  But I do.  He is my dear father, and
that pretty little Rosalie is my very sweet cousin.  The story is just
such as I could have supposed she would have invented.  And they think
me dead.  That is very natural, for when the _Alerte_ escaped from the
_Cerberus_, of course her people would have reported all on board their
consort drowned.  You will be surprised that I should not have reached
home before this, but I had a long voyage, and as I had no wish to go to
sea again, when I found on landing that it was not known I had escaped,
I made the best of my way to the house of a relative near the coast, who
provided me with clothing and funds, and I have only lately been able to
commence my journey homeward.  Now, however, I have a great inclination
to turn back and to see you safely embarked to cross the Channel."

The English midshipmen would not, however, hear of his carrying out such
a proposal.  If caught, he would be more severely dealt with than they
would, and they felt sure that, if they were cautious, they should be
able to reach the coast by themselves.  At length, Alphonse, seeing the
wisdom of their arguments, and remembering his duty to his father,
consented.  He, however, said that he must first communicate with Reuben
Cole, and let him know the road they had taken, that he might follow
them.  Alphonse had become quite an Englishman in his habits, and the
three old friends spent a very pleasant evening.  They were up before
daylight, when Alphonse, slipping out, hurried off to the woodman's hut.
The woodman and his new mate were on foot, and Reuben, having
ascertained that the young strangers were at the auberge, was very
doubtful how to proceed.  He rubbed his eyes, and hitched away
convulsively at his belt, when he saw Alphonse, for some minutes, before
he dared believe his own eyes.

"Well, sir, things do come about curious," he exclaimed at last.  "First
I falls in with the young gentlemen, and then they falls in with you,
just in time for you to save them from being packed off to prison."

As Alphonse knew that part of the country well, he was able to fix on a
spot about three miles from the village, where he suggested that they
and Reuben should lie concealed during the remainder of the day, and
travel on, as they had proposed, at night.  Having made these
arrangements with Reuben, he returned to the auberge.  Once more, after
an early breakfast, the friends parted; Alphonse starting in a
wonderfully old-fashioned _caleche_ on two wheels, which gave promise of
breaking down on its way to his father's chateau, and the midshipmen
proceeding northward on their own sturdy legs.  They fell in with Reuben
Cole at the spot arranged on, and then all three, plunging into the
forest, made themselves comfortable for the rest of the day.  Night
after night they travelled on.  Sometimes they met people during the
day, and either little notice was taken of them, or Paul easily answered
the questions put to him.  Reuben always had his crutches ready, and in
a wonderfully quick time he was on his wooden leg, and hobbling along at
a rate of a mile or so an hour, so that no one would have suspected that
he had a long journey before him.  The whole party were in very good
spirits, for as they had found friends when they least expected it, and
got out of difficulties when they thought that they were irretrievably
lost, so they hoped that they might be equally fortunate another time.
O'Grady declared that this life was that of a perpetual picnic.  They
generally took shelter during the day in a wood, or among hills, or in
some deserted hut, or, like gipsies, under a hedge in some unfrequented
district; or, if it rained, which was not very often, they got into some
barn or shed in the outskirts of a hamlet; and twice they found caves
into which they could creep, and several times some old ruins of castles
or chateaux afforded them shelter.  Their plan was to walk on till
daybreak, and then O'Grady or Paul climbed a height or a tree, and
surveyed the country ahead.  If no habitations were to be seen, they
pushed on further, and then took another survey of the country, to find
a place of shelter for the day.  When they required food, they generally
first passed through a village, and then Paul went back, towards the
evening to purchase it.  As soon as he had bought it, they proceeded
onward, so that, should the villagers have any suspicions, they were not
likely to overtake them.  They were now approaching the coast, and
greater caution than ever was, of course, necessary.  Their greatest
difficulty, however, would be finding a fit boat, and getting away
unperceived.

"I suppose that it will not be wrong to steal a boat," said Paul.  "I
don't quite like the thoughts of that."

O'Grady laughed, and remarked, "Why, you see, Gerrard, that necessity
has no law.  The owner of the boat will not be pleased to lose it, but
then he is one of a nation with whom England is at war, and we have as
much right to run away with his boat, as his countrymen have to keep us
prisoners."

At length, after a long walk, at break of day the sea appeared in sight
in the far distance, somewhere between Cherbourg and Barfleur.  With
beating hearts they went on.  They could not resist the temptation of
trying to ascertain whereabouts they were, and if there was a boat near
which might serve their purpose.  It might have been wiser had they, as
usual, lain by during daylight.  They walked on till they reached the
top of a cliff overlooking the Channel.  Across those waters was the
land they so earnestly desired to reach.  To the west a blue line of
land stretched out into the sea.  It was the promontory on which
Cherbourg is situated.  If they were able to get to the end, they would
have much less distance to go by sea, and might, in the course of little
more than a day, reach the Isle of Wight.  The great point was to find a
boat.  Not one was in sight.  It was a question whether they should go
east or west in search of some fishing village, where they might find
one.  They carefully examined the coast, and as the sun rose in the sky,
his beams lighting up the shore on the west, they fancied that they
could make out some buildings in the distance.  They at once turned in
that direction.  As they advanced, they found that they were not
mistaken.  Before concealing themselves, as they proposed doing, till
night, they carefully reconnoitred the place from the cliff above it.
There was a tower, and a small harbour with several small craft and
boats at anchor in it, and two or three better sort of houses, besides
numerous cottages and huts, and, at a little distance, a chateau of some
pretension to architecture.  They would have preferred a place where
there were no gentlemen, who would naturally be less likely to believe
their story.  In other respects, they could not have desired to reach a
more satisfactory locality.  The cliffs appeared to be full of caves, in
one of which they could lie hidden till night.  They calculated that
their food would last them for a couple of days, so that by husbanding
it, even if their voyage were prolonged, they would have enough to
support life.  After hunting about for some time, they selected a cave
half-way up the cliff, which sailors alone, and that not without some
difficulty, could reach.  The entrance was small, but there was ample
room for them to lie down, and, what was of importance, they were not at
all likely to be disturbed.  As they had walked all night, and had been
scrambling about all the morning, they were very tired, and directly
they had taken some breakfast, they fell fast asleep.  Paul was awoke
after some time by the roaring sound of the waves dashing against the
shore.  He could see through the narrow opening dark clouds scouring
across the sky, the rain descending in torrents, while ever and anon
there came vivid flashes of lightning, followed by loud, rattling peals
of thunder, which seemed to shake the very rock above their heads.  The
wind, too, blew fiercely, and the whole ocean before them was covered
with white-topped billows.  Reuben awoke and looked out.  He came back
and seated himself.

"Well, young gentlemen," he said quietly, "one thing is certain--we may
make up our minds to have to remain here for some days to come.  That
sea won't go down in a hurry, and till it does, it will be hard to come
at a French boat which will carry us safe across."

It was very evident that Reuben's observation was correct, yet it was
very provoking to be thus, delayed when their expedition was so nearly,
as they thought, brought to a happy conclusion.  Two days passed, and
the gale did not abate.  It now, therefore, became necessary for Paul to
go in search of provisions.  His companions wished to accompany him, but
he preferred going alone, and, if possible, to some inland village where
there was less risk of their object being suspected.  He set off early
in the morning, and after walking for nearly three hours, he entered a
village where he hoped to find both bread and meat.  He could not get
it, however, without being asked some rather searching questions.  He
replied promptly, that he had a brother with him, and that as they had
still some way to go, and did not wish to delay on the road, he wished
to lay in a stock of provisions at once.  Fortunately there were three
or four small shops in the place, at each of which he made some
purchases, filling up his wallet at a farm-house, where he got a supply
of eggs and a ham.  Highly satisfied with the success of his
undertaking, he took his way back to the cave.  He had got within a
couple of miles of the end of his journey, rather tired with the weight
of the provisions he carried, when, on sitting down on a bank to rest,
he saw that somebody was following him.  He was puzzled what to do.
Should he go on, his retreat would be discovered; if he stopped, he
would be overtaken, and disagreeable questions might, perhaps, be asked
of him.  So he got up and went on again as fast as his legs could carry
him.  More than once, however, he looked back.  The man he had seen was
still behind.  "He may, perhaps, only be going the same way that I am,"
thought Paul.  "I will take the first turning I can find to the right or
left, and he may then, perhaps, pass on and miss me."

The opportunity occurred sooner than he expected.  The road made several
sharp turns.  A narrow path, between high banks, led off to the right.
He turned sharp into it, and by running rapidly along, was soon out of
sight of the high road.  He sat down and waited.  No one came.  He hoped
that he had escaped his pursuer.  At last he came cautiously out and
looked about.  No one was in sight.  He walked on swiftly towards the
cliff.  He had to descend and then to mount again to reach the cave.
His companions welcomed him on their own account as well as on his, for
they were nearly starved.  There was a stream, however, of good water
close at hand, which had prevented them from suffering from thirst.
They had now provisions to last them, they hoped, till they reached
England.  Paul had bought a tin saucepan, in which they could boil their
eggs and make some soup, and as O'Grady had collected a supply of drift
wood, they were able to cook their dinner and to enjoy the warmth of a
fire.  Altogether, they had not much reason to complain of their
detention.  Three more days passed, and the wind abating, the sea went
down, and once more the calm ocean shone in the beams of the rising sun.

"Hurrah!" cried O'Grady; "we may sail to-night, and, if we're in luck
and the wind holds, we may sight the shore of old England before the
world is two days older."

The day passed very slowly away, as they had nothing with which to
employ themselves.  Fortunately, midshipmen, as O'Grady boasted, have a
powerful knack of sleeping; and so they passed most of the time, in the
intervals of their meals, lost in oblivion of all sublunary matters.  As
the shades of evening drew on, they roused up and were all animation.
They had reconnoitred the path to the village, and found that it would
be necessary to get down to the beach while there was still daylight to
enable them to see their way.  They hoped to find shelter in some
boat-shed or out-house till the inhabitants had gone to bed.  They went
on cautiously, Paul in advance, lest they should meet any one; Reuben
hobbling forward on his wooden leg and sticks.  The lights in the
village were being put out as they approached.  "They are early people--
so much the better for us," thought Paul.  "We can easily seize a boat
and get off."

The thought had scarcely passed through his mind, when a voice
exclaimed, "Hallo! who goes there?"

"A friend," answered Paul.

"How many friends?" asked the man.  "Let me see: two young lads and a
lame man--answers the description.  Come along with me, my friends, for
I have more to say to you."

The two midshipmen and Reuben followed, much crest-fallen.  They were in
the hands of the police; of that there could be no doubt.  Should they
keep up their assumed characters, or acknowledge their true ones and
brave the worst.  They could not venture to speak to consult with each
other.  Paul thought that the best plan would be to keep silent till
compelled to speak.  He therefore got as near O'Grady as he could, and,
pretending to stumble, put his finger against his friend's lips.
O'Grady passed on the signal soon afterwards to Reuben.  This matter
arranged, they quietly followed their captor--O'Grady doing his best to
hum a tune which he had heard Rosalie sing, and forgetting that he
pretended to be deaf as well as dumb.  There was still sufficient light
for them to see that their captor was a gendarme, a discovery far from
pleasant, as it led them to suppose that some person in authority was at
the place, who might dispose of them in a somewhat summary manner.  The
man turned round once or twice, and told them, in no pleasant voice, to
walk quicker, while he led the way to the chateau they had observed from
the cliff.  They found themselves standing before the chateau.  It
looked vast and gloomy in the dark.  In another minute they were in a
large hall in the presence of several persons, one of whom, a
fierce-looking bearded official, inquired who they were, where they had
come from, whither they were going.

Paul, with a fluency which surprised himself, narrated the story which
had been arranged by Rosalie, O'Grady going through his part, pointing
to his lips, and making inarticulate sounds, while Reuben imitated him
in a way which seemed to try the gravity of those before whom he stood.
Paul thought that all was going on smoothly, when he was considerably
taken aback by seeing the officer laugh, and hearing him say in fair
English:--

"You speak well, certainly, for one who has been so short a time in the
country, but I should have understood you better had you spoken in
English; and now I should like to know what your young friend here, and
your lame companion, have to say for themselves.  There's a salt-water
look about them which makes me suspect that they know more about a ship
than a vineyard."

The midshipmen saw that all further disguise was useless.

"Well, sir," exclaimed O'Grady, "if you know that we are English
officers, you will understand that we were captured in a merchantman
returning home invalided, and that as we were not on our parole, we had
a full right to endeavour to make our escape."

"Granted, young sir," said the officer, blandly; "and not only had you a
right to endeavour to escape, but you shall be allowed to proceed if you
will answer me a few simple questions."

"What are they?" asked Paul and O'Grady, in a breath.

"Oh, a mere trifle," said the officer.  "Who concealed you when you
first made your escape? who assisted you to obtain your disguise? who
invented your well-arranged story? and who forwarded you on your way?"

The midshipmen looked at each other.

"Shall I answer, Paddy?" asked Paul, eagerly.

"No, no, it's myself that will spake to the gentleman," exclaimed
O'Grady, in that rich brogue in which an Irishman indulges when he is
about to express a sentiment which comes up from the depth of his heart.
"If your honour is under the belief that British officers are made up
of such dirty ingredients that they would be capable of doing the vile,
treacherous, ungrateful act you have insulted us by proposing, you never
were more mistaken in your life.  We are prisoners, and you have the
power of doing whatever you like with us; but at least treat us with
that respect which one gentleman has a right to demand from another."

The French officer started back with astonishment, not unmixed with
anger.  "How have I insulted you?  How dare you address me in that
style?" he asked.

"When one man asks another to do a dirty action, he insults him, and
that's what you've asked us to do, Mounseer," exclaimed O'Grady,
indignantly.  "And just let me observe, that it is possible we may have
had wits enough in our own heads to concoct the story we told you
without being indebted to any man, woman, or child for it, especially
when we were stimulated with the desire of getting out of this
outlandish country, and being at you again; and as to the clothes, small
blame to the people who sold them when they got honest gold coins in
exchange."

"That story will not go down with me, young gentleman," observed the
officer with a sneer.  "However, enough of this trifling; we shall see
in a few days whether you will alter your mind.  Monsieur," he
continued, turning to an elderly gentleman standing at the side of the
hall, "we must have these persons locked up in one of your rooms.  I beg
that you will send your steward to point out a chamber from whence they
cannot escape, and give us the trouble of again catching them."

"Monsieur," said the old gentleman, drawing himself up with an indignant
air, "all the rooms are occupied; my chateau is not a prison, and I have
no intention of allowing it to become one."

"Ho! ho!" cried the officer, pulling his moustache, and stamping with
rage, "is that the line you have taken up?  I was ordered to respect
your chateau, and so I must; but take care, citoyen...  However,
sergeant, take them to the old tower; there is a room at the top of that
where they will be safe enough.  The wind and rain beat in a little, to
be sure, but for any inconvenience they may suffer, they will be
indebted to my friend here.  Off with them!"

With scant ceremony the sergeant dragged them through the hall, Reuben
stumping along after them on his wooden leg.  They soon reached the
tower, which was close to the little harbour.  It was a very old
building of three low stories, surrounded by sand, and the stones
outside were so rough and so frequently displaced, that even by the
light of the now risen moon it seemed as if there could not be much
difficulty in climbing up to the top from the outside, or descend by the
same means.

The sergeant shoved them on before him up a winding stair, which creaked
and groaned at every step.

"En avant, en avant!" cried the sergeant when O'Grady attempted to enter
one of the lower chambers; and at length they found themselves in a room
at the very top.  The sergeant, grumblingly observing that they would
not require food till the next morning, gave Reuben a push which nearly
sent him sprawling into the middle of the chamber, closed the door with
a slam, and locked and bolted it securely.

Reuben whipped off his wooden leg, and began flourishing it about and
making passes at the door whence the sergeant had disappeared,
exclaiming with a laugh, "Well, the beggars haven't found me out, and
they'll be surprised at what a man with a timber toe can do!"

He tied it on again, however, very soon, for a heavy step was heard on
the stairs, and they saw by the light of the moon that their own wallets
and a jug of water were placed on the floor just inside the door.

"We have a friend somewhere, probably the old gentleman at the chateau,
or we should not have got back those things," observed Paul; "so let's
cheer up: we might have been much worse off."

All agreed to the truth of this remark, and, as they were hungry, took
some supper, and then Paddy proposed that they should reconnoitre the
premises.

The windows were very narrow, with an iron bar down the centre, so that
it was impossible to get through them.  There was not a particle of
furniture in the room, nor anything which would serve for their beds.

"It isn't cold yet, and we must make ourselves as comfortable as we can
in the least windy corner of the place," observed Paul.

"What do you think of trying to get away instead?" asked O'Grady.

"With all my heart!" answered Paul; "but what do you say to the moon?
Should we not be seen?"

"It might help us, and it might betray us," said O'Grady.  "Let us ask
Cole."

Reuben said that he must have a look round from the windows, before he
pronounced an opinion.  The midshipmen helped him up to each of them in
succession.  He considered that in so bright a light they were nearly
certain to be seen; but as the moon rose later every day they would have
a fair chance of making good their escape.  That they could not go at
once was very evident, so they dusted a corner, and coiled themselves up
to sleep.  Daylight revealed the dirty condition of the room, and also
the rotten state of the roof.  Reuben pointed it out and remarked,
"There, if we can't get through the windows, it will be hard if we do
not make our way out by the roof.  If they keep us here many days, we'll
do it."

In the course of the morning a man appeared with a fresh jug of water,
and some bread and cheese, and dried figs.  It was better than ordinary
prison fare, and as the man did not look very savage, Paul thought that
he would try and move him to procure them something on which to sleep.
He explained, in the most pathetic language he could command, the misery
they had suffered, and begged for bedding of some sort.  The man nodded,
and returned in the evening with some bundles of straw.

"But there is nothing to cover us, and barely sufficient to keep us from
the floor," observed Paul.

The man smiled, and replied, "To-morrow, perhaps, I may find something
of more use to you."

The following day he came again, loaded with a bundle of old sails.
"Seamen have no reason to complain who can obtain such coverlids as
these," he remarked, as he threw them down, and again left the room.

Each time that he went, they heard the sound of the door being locked
and bolted.  On undoing the sails they found that ropes were attached to
them, and on examining these they were found to be sound and strong.

"That man is our friend, and depend on it these ropes were not sent in
here by chance," observed O'Grady positively.  "Very likely the old
gentleman at the chateau sent him."

They were confirmed in the opinion that the rope was intended for use,
by the appearance of the man, in the evening, to bring them a fresh
supply of provisions.

"I've heard it said that it's no easy matter to keep English seamen in a
cage when they have the will to get out," he remarked, as he turned
round towards the door.

"Are we likely to be kept here long?"  Paul asked.

"Until directions have been received from head-quarters, and as they are
some way off, and yours is not a matter of importance, it may be a month
or more," was the answer.

"He means to say that we may select our time for escaping," said Paul
when the man had gone; "unless the rope was sent as a trap to tempt us
to try and escape."

"Oh, they would not take that trouble," observed O'Grady.  "If they had
wished to treat us ill, they would have done so."

Three more days passed.  The moon did not now rise till nearly midnight.
This would give them ample time to get away out of sight of land before
daylight.  That evening their friend brought, with other provisions, a
small keg of water, and a bottle of brandy, which he placed under the
sails, and nodding, took his departure.

"No time to be lost," said O'Grady; "as soon as our guard has paid us
his last visit, we must commence operations."

Just before dark a gendarme as usual put his head in at the door, looked
round the room, and then stamped down-stairs again to a guard-room, in
which it seemed that three or four men were stationed.

"There is no time to be lost, if it is to be done, gentlemen," exclaimed
Reuben, stumping about the room as soon as the man was gone.  "If we
can't get through a window, I have marked two or three spots where we
can through the roof, and we've rope enough to help us out either way.
We have first to make up some packs to carry our stores."

It was important to do all this while daylight remained, now fast fading
away.  The packs were soon made, and the various lengths of rope
fastened together.  Reuben then, with the aid of his younger companions,
climbed up to the roof, and, without difficulty, pulled down first the
wooden lining, and then the slates, which he handed to them to avoid
making a noise, and soon had a hole large enough for them to get
through.  The slates and ropes and their packs were then hid under the
straw, in case any one should visit them before the hour of starting,
not that such an event was likely to occur.  They then threw themselves
on their beds to be ready to pretend to be asleep at a moment's notice.
The hours passed slowly.  The night was calm; that was fortunate, or any
little wind there was came from the south, which was better.  They could
hear a clock strike, that probably on the tower of the little church
attached to the chateau.  It was already nine o'clock, and they thought
that all chance of interruption was over, when they heard steps on the
stairs.  The sergeant and a guard entered.  He held a lantern in his
hand.  They lay trembling lest the light should be thrown upwards, and
the hole in the roof be discovered.

"They seem to be asleep," observed the sergeant; "it is wonderful what
power of sleeping these Englishmen possess.  However, I must awake them.
Rouse up, my boys, and understand that you are to march to-morrow for
Paris at an early hour; but the worthy citizen Montauban has directed me
to say that he will supply you with funds for your necessary
maintenance, and to enable you to make your defence should you be
accused, as he fears you may be, of being spies."

Paul started up on hearing this address, with as much terror as he could
assume, considering that he had hoped in a few hours to be out of the
reach of all French myrmidons of the law, and in a few words thanked the
citizen Montauban for his kind purpose, adding that a French midshipman
of the same name had long been his companion.

"Undoubtedly a nephew of citizen Montauban's, and his heir.  The young
man was long supposed to be lost; but he was here a short time back, and
it is owing to the kind way he was treated by the English, that the old
gentleman takes so warm an interest in you.  However, lie down; I will
tell him what you say, and he will communicate with you to-morrow,
unless something should occur to prevent him.  Good night."

"I hope that something will occur," cried Paul, jumping up as soon as
the officer was gone.  "Very kind of the old gentleman, and just like
Alphonse to interest his uncle in our favour."

"Yes, indeed," said O'Grady; "curious, though, that we should have
fallen in with so many of his relations."

Just then, however, they were too much engrossed with the work in hand
to talk on the subject.  They considered it safer to wait another hour
or more before moving, lest they should encounter any straggler on their
way to the harbour, or be seen descending the tower.

"Time to start," cried O'Grady, who, as the senior officer, was to take
the command.

Their knapsacks were soon secured to their backs.  Reuben used his
wooden leg to assist in securing the rope by driving it into the wall.
They all soon climbed up to the roof, and let down the rope, which
reached nearly to the bottom, as far as they could judge.  Should it not
prove long enough, and stones be underneath, broken limbs would be the
consequence.  Paul was certain that there was sand (as they had gone
nearly round the tower when looking for the door), and, as the youngest
and lightest, volunteered to go first.  He without hesitation flung
himself off; but at the moment he began to descend, it occurred to him
that he might possibly have to pass before one of the windows of the
guard-room, and he half expected to find himself seized and dragged in
by a gendarme.  It was too late, however, to go back.  All must be
risked.  So down he cautiously slid, doing his best to make no noise.
He kept his feet tightly pressed against the rope, that he might
ascertain when he had reached the end.  Suddenly he felt that there was
no more rope.  At all events all the windows had been avoided.  He
lowered himself more cautiously than ever, till his hand grasped the
very end in which Reuben had made a knot.  He hung down by it by one
hand, and looked down.  He could see the ground; but it seemed still
some way below him.  Should he risk a fall?  He recollected the uneven
character of the wall, and hauling himself up a little, he was able to
stretch out his feet sufficiently to reach it.  He put out one hand in
the same direction, and caught hold of an iron staple.  He could now
clutch the wall, and feeling his way, he descended about eight feet to
the ground.  It was fortunate that he had not jumped, for, instead of
sand, there was a slab of hard rock on which he would have fallen.
Scarcely had he time to get under the rope, than he saw another figure
descending.

"Try to get to the wall," he whispered, "and I will help you down."

It was Reuben.  After several efforts he reached the staple, and
scrambled down.  Paddy quickly followed at a much greater speed.  There
was no time to warn him that the rope was too short, and had not Reuben
and Paul stretched out their arms and broken his fall, he would very
likely have broken his legs.

"I thought that I heard some one coming upstairs," he whispered.  "Not
quite certain, but could not stop to learn.  Away for the harbour!"

They stepped lightly till they were on the soft sands, and then they ran
on as fast as their legs could move.  They examined the harbour; but not
a boat could they find of any size on the shore.  They had all probably
been removed by the order of the police, to prevent either prisoners of
war or refugees from escaping.  A small one, however, lay moored off a
little distance from the shore.

"I will bring her in," whispered Paul; and without another word he
stripped off his clothes, and, with knife in his mouth, slipped
noiselessly into the water, and struck boldly out towards the boat.
O'Grady and Reuben anxiously watched him, or rather the phosphorescent
wake he left in the water.  Even that after a time disappeared.  Could
the brave boy have sunk?  The hearts of both his friends trembled.
Every instant they expected to be pounced upon by gendarmes; but though
they listened earnestly as may be supposed, no sounds came from the
tower.  At length the boat began to move.  Paul must have got on board
all right, and cut the cable.  Yes, there he was standing up on a
thwart, and working her on with a single paddle.

"Jump in," he whispered, as soon as he reached the shore; "there are
lights in the old tower, and our flight will quickly be discovered.  It
may be some time, however, before they find a boat to pursue us."

O'Grady and Reuben required no second bidding.  The former, however,
very nearly forgot Paul's clothes.  He sprang back for them, and
narrowly escaped a tumble into the water.

"You dress while we pull out to look for a fit craft," said Paddy,
seizing a paddle.  But Paul kept hold of his own, in his eagerness
declaring that he did not feel the cold.

To select a craft was easy; but it was possible that there might be
people on board who might dispute their possession.  However, that must
be risked.  O'Grady pointed out a small sloop of some eight or ten tons.
She was not likely to have many people on board.  They must be
surprised and silenced immediately.  While the boat drifted alongside,
Paul put on his clothes.  It would not have been pleasant to fight as he
was; and besides, he might not have had time to dress afterwards.
Taking care that their boat should not strike against the side of the
little vessel, the three adventurers leaped on board as noiselessly as
possible.  The after hatch was closed.  No one could be in the cabin.
But as they crept forward they discovered that the fore hatch was open.
Reuben signed that he would go down first.  The midshipmen waited an
instant, when they heard a noise, and leaping down they found their
companion struggling with a powerful man, whom a boy, who had just
leaped out of his berth, was about to assist.

"You are our prisoners," cried Paul, throwing himself on the boy; while
O'Grady assisted Reuben, and so completely turned the tables, that the
Frenchman was quickly secured.  The boy who had struggled bravely with
Paul, for the purpose, it seemed, of getting his head up the hatchway to
sing out, then gave in.

"You will be well treated, my friends, if you remain quiet; but if you
make the slightest noise, I cannot answer for your lives," said Paul.

To prevent any risk of the sort the hatch was clapped on after they had
examined the vessel.

"We will get ready to make sail, while you, Gerrard, cut the cable, and
then go to the helm," said O'Grady.  "Cut!" he cried, in a few seconds.

A light breeze came off the land.  Paul cut, and then hurried to the
helm.  He started as he turned his glance towards the shore; for there,
in the direction of the old tower, a bright light was burning.  It
quickly increased in magnitude--bright flames burst forth.  "It must be
the old tower itself," he thought, for there was no time to say
anything.  The flames increased, and it now became evident that it was
the tower itself; for the whole building was soon wrapped in flames, the
glare reaching far down the harbour, and lighting up the sails of their
vessel.

"We shall be seen and pursued, I'm afraid," cried Paul.

"Seen, or not, we must stand on; and at all events we shall have the
start of them," answered O'Grady.  "It's not impossible that they may
think we have perished in the flames.  I am sorry, though, for Reuben
Cole's timber toe.  Ha! ha! ha! it would have enraged the monsieurs to
find that they had been so completely duped."

All this time the little vessel was gliding out from among a number of
others, and the curious eyes of many persons were glaring at her, who
wondered whither she was going.  The probabilities that the midshipmen
and Reuben would be retaken seemed very great.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

The bold often succeed where the timid fail.  The young midshipmen and
their companion, nothing daunted by the dangers which surrounded them,
kept on their course.  The flames quickly ascending to the top of the
old tower, sent their ruddy glare far across the ocean; and as their
light fell on the adventurers and their little craft, it occurred to
Paul that their strange, unseamanlike costume would at once betray them.

"The chances are that the Frenchmen have left some jackets in the
after-cabin," he observed; and as he spoke, jumping below, he soon
returned with several garments and hats, with which they quickly dressed
themselves.

"Now we look pretty decent mounseers," observed Reuben, as he eased off
the main-sheet a little.  "If we're hailed, you'll have to tell 'em,
Paul--I mean Mr Gerrard--beg pardon--that we're bound for Cherbourg,
and don't like to lose the breeze.  It's coming pretty strongish, and if
I could but find a squaresail, for I sees there's a squaresail boom,
we'd make the little craft walk along."

Reuben was in high spirits, and indeed so were the midshipmen, at their
hazardous enterprise having thus far succeeded.  Still they were not out
of danger.  If it was believed that they had been burnt in the tower,
they would not be pursued, unless the owners of the sloop or the
remainder of her crew on shore should catch sight of her sailing away.
There were still several vessels to pass; but they intended to give them
as wide a berth as possible.  O'Grady was at the helm.  Paul and Reuben
were removing the main-hatch in hopes of finding the squaresail, when a
cry from O'Grady made them jump up, and they saw the head of the
Frenchman, with his mouth open, as if about to shout out, rising above
the covering of the forehatch.  An Englishman generally carries a weapon
ready for immediate use, which at the end of a stout arm is of a
somewhat formidable character--his fist.  Reuben with his dealt the
Frenchman a blow which stopped his shout, knocked three of his teeth
down his throat, and sent him toppling over into the fore-peak, from
which he had emerged; he, Reuben, and Paul following so rapidly, that
the boy, who had been capsized by his companion, had not time to pick
himself up.  They this time took good care so to secure both their
prisoners, that there was very little fear of their escaping, as the man
had done before by expanding the muscles of his legs and arms while
Reuben was securing him.

"Please tell them, Mr Gerrard, that if they cry out or attempt to play
any more tricks, we must shoot them," said Reuben.  "And now we'll go
and look for the squaresail."

The sail was found and bent on, and, Paul going to the helm, O'Grady and
Reuben managed to set it.  The vessel felt the effects of the additional
canvas, as she drew out more from the land, and rapidly glided past the
different vessels in the roadstead.  There were only two more.  One of
these, however, they were compelled to pass uncomfortably near.

"When we are clear of her, we shall be all right," said O'Grady, looking
back, and seeing nothing following.  "She looks like an armed vessel--a
man-of-war perhaps; but it won't do to go out of our course; we must
chance it."

They stood on.  Although they were now some distance from the land, the
old tower continued blazing up so fiercely, that a strong light was
still thrown on their canvas.  Being between the suspicious vessel and
the light, they were abreast of her before they were seen.  Just then a
hail came from her, demanding who they were, and where they were bound.

"Answer, Gerrard, answer!" cried O'Grady.

But he did not tell him what to say; so Paul put up his hands and
shouted, "Oui, oui; toute vite!" with all his might.

"Heave-to," shouted the voice, "and we will send a boat aboard you."

"Very likely," said Paul; and so he only cried out as before, "Oui, oui,
to-morrow morning, or the day after, if you please!"

As a vessel running before the wind cannot heave-to at a moment's
notice, the sloop got on some little distance before any attempt was
made to impede her progress.  Another hail was heard, and after the
delay of nearly another minute, there was a flash from one of the
stranger's ports, and a shot came whizzing by a few feet astern.

"If any of us are killed, let the others hold on to the last," cried
O'Grady.  "We are suspected, at all events, and may have a near squeak
for it."

Reuben, the moment the first shot was fired, jumped down into the hold--
not to avoid another; no fear of that.  Directly afterwards he shouted
out, "I have found the square-topsail.  Lend a hand, Paul, and we'll get
it up."

The square-top-sail was got up, rapidly bent on to the yard, and in
another minute or two hoisted and set.  The man-of-war meantime kept
firing away; her shots falling on either side of the little vessel; but
as she was riding head to wind, it was evident that only her stern
chasers could be brought to bear.

"I wonder that she does not follow us," observed Paul, as the shots
began to fall wider and wider of their mark.

"Perhaps most of her crew are on shore, or we are thought too small game
to make it worth while to get under weigh for," answered O'Grady.
"However, don't let us be too sure; perhaps she will come, after all.
We've got a good start of her though."

"The mounseers are generally a long time getting under weigh, and to my
mind they don't know what to make of us," observed Reuben, as he eyed
the Frenchman with no loving glance.

The breeze continued freshening, and the little craft, evidently a
remarkably fast one, flew bravely over the water, increasing her
distance from the French shore, and from the light of the burning tower.
As the night was very dark, there was yet a chance of her escaping in
the obscurity.  The adventurers were already congratulating themselves
on having got free, when Reuben exclaimed, "The Frenchman thinks more of
us than we hoped.  He's making sail."

A sailor's eyes alone, and these of the sharpest, could have discovered
this disagreeable fact; and even Paul could distinguish nothing but the
dark outline of the coast.  Reuben kept his eye on the enemy.

"I doubt if she can see us," he observed.  "And if she doesn't, we may
still give her the go-by.  I'd haul up a little to the eastward, Mr
O'Grady, sir.  The tide will be making down soon, and we shall just
check it across.  She'll walk along all the faster, too, with the wind
on the starboard-quarter, and no risk of jibing.  We'll take a pull at
the main-sheet, Mr Gerrard.  Now we'll ease off the squaresail sheet.
That'll do, sir.  Now the sail stands beautifully."

O'Grady wisely followed Reuben's advice, and took no notice of his doing
things which were so clearly right without orders.

The sloop was now steering about north-east by north, and should the
Frenchman stand a little to the westward of north, the two vessels would
soon be out of sight of each other.  Reuben declared that he could still
see the enemy now making all sail in chase, but could not tell exactly
how she was standing.  It was anxious work.  O'Grady made her out, as
well as Reuben, and all hoped devoutly that she was a slow sailer.  They
kept the little vessel on a steady course, and for an hour or more
scarcely a word was uttered.  Sometimes Reuben lost sight of the enemy;
but before long she was again seen.  It proved that she did not sail
very fast, and that the course they had taken was suspected.  Thus hour
after hour they stood on, till dawn began to break.

"It's all up with us if she sees us now," cried O'Grady.  "But I vote we
die game any how, and not give in while there's one of us alive to steer
the craft."

The increasing daylight soon revealed them to the Frenchman, who at once
began blazing away in a manner which showed that the long chase they had
given him had made him not a little angry.  The shot, however, fell
short; but he on this made more sail, and soon gained on them.  He
ceased firing for half an hour or more, and then again began, the shot
flying by on either side, or over the mast-head.  They came, indeed,
much too near to be pleasant.  Reuben took the helm, and the two
midshipmen stood facing their enemy, knowing that any moment might be
their last; still, however, as resolved as at first not to yield.  In
another twenty minutes or half an hour they must be killed or prisoners;
escape seemed out of the question.

"I wish that I could let my father, and mother, and brothers, and
sisters at Ballyshannon know what has become of me," said Paddy, with a
sigh.

"And I wish that I could have again seen my dear mamma," said Paul, "and
my sweet sister Mary, and jolly old Fred, and Sarah, and John, and
pretty little Ann.  They know that I am a midshipman, and I suppose that
that will be some consolation to them if they ever hear that I've been
killed."

"Don't talk like that, young gentlemen.  Look there.  What do you say to
that?" exclaimed Reuben, pointing to the north-west, where standing
towards them, close-hauled, and evidently attracted by the firing, was a
large, ship, the beams of the rising sun shining brightly on her
wide-spread canvas.

"The enemy must see her, but fancy that she is French," observed Reuben.
"But they are greatly mistaken, let me tell them."

"Hurrah! they've found out that they're wrong, then," cried O'Grady.

As he spoke, down came the Frenchman's studden sails, and with a few
parting shots, which narrowly missed their mark, he hauled his wind, and
stood close-hauled towards the coast of France.  He sailed badly before
the wind; he sailed worse close-hauled.  The stranger, which soon proved
to be an English frigate, her ensign blowing out at her peak, came
rapidly up.  The adventurers cheered as she passed, and received a cheer
in return.  Those on board evidently understood the true state of the
case.

"Why, I do believe that is Devereux himself!" cried Paul, in a tone of
delight.

"Well, it is difficult to be certain of a person at such a distance; but
it is very like him," said O'Grady.  "But, again, how could he be there?
He could not have made his escape from prison."

The sloop hove to in order to watch the chase, which was soon
terminated, for the frigate came up hand over hand with the slow-sailing
brig, which found to her cost that instead of catching a prize she had
caught a Tartar.  The midshipmen consulted together whether it would be
wiser to continue their course for the Isle of Wight, or to get on board
the frigate.  But as the Channel swarmed with the cruisers of the enemy,
they decided to do the latter; and accordingly, when they saw the
frigate returning with her prize, they stood towards her.  They were
soon up to her, and, a boat being sent to them, as they stepped up her
side the first person they encountered was Devereux.

"Why, old fellows, where have you come from in that curious guise?" he
exclaimed, as he warmly wrung their hands.

"Oh, we ran away, and have been running ever since, barring some few
weeks we spent shut up in an old castle and a tumble-down tower,"
answered O'Grady.

"And the captain, and I, and a few others, were exchanged two weeks ago
for a lot of French midshipmen without any trouble whatever."

"As to that, now we are free, I don't care a rope-yarn for all the
trouble we have had, nor if we had had ten times as much.  But we ought
to report ourselves to the captain; and we think--that is, Gerrard
does--that we ought to let our prisoners take back the sloop which we
ran away with."

"I agree with Gerrard, and so I am sure will the captain," said
Devereux.

The frigate on board which the three adventurers so unexpectedly and
happily found themselves was the _Proserpine_, Captain Percy, of
forty-two guns.  As she was on her trial cruise, having only just been
fitted out, she was short of midshipmen, and Captain Percy offered to
give both O'Grady and Paul a rating on board if Reuben would enter.
This he willingly did, and they thus found themselves belonging to the
ship.  The occupants of the berth received them both very cordially, and
paid especial attention to Paul, of whom Devereux had spoken to them in
the warmest terms of praise.  The surprise of the Frenchman and boy on
board the sloop was very great, when Paul and Reuben, accompanied by
some prisoners from the prize, appeared and released them; and when Paul
told them that they might return home, and that some countrymen had come
to help them navigate the ship, to express his joy and gratitude, he
would have kissed them both had they allowed him; and he seemed at a
loss how otherwise to show it, except by skipping and jumping about, on
his deck.  When he shortly afterwards passed the _Proserpine_, he and
his companions waved their hats, and attempted to raise a cheer; but it
sounded very weak and empty, or, as Reuben observed to one of his new
shipmates, "It was no more like a British cheer than the squeak of a
young porker is to a boatswain's whistle."

The prize thus easily gained was sent into Portsmouth, and the
_Proserpine_ continued her cruise.  O'Grady and Paul would have liked to
have gone in her; but they thought it better to wait till the frigate
herself returned to port, when they might get leave to go home and visit
their friends, and perhaps take a little prize-money with them to make
up for what they had lost.  They easily got a temporary rig-out on
board, so that there was no absolute necessity for their going.  Paul
had hitherto, young as he was, held up manfully in spite of all the
fatigue and anxiety he had gone through; but no sooner had the prize
disappeared, than his strength and spirits seemed to give way.  He kept
in the berth for a day or two; but could scarcely crawl on deck, when
Devereux reporting his condition to the surgeon, he was placed in the
sick list.  Both his old shipmates, Devereux and O'Grady, attended him
with the fondest care, and he would have discovered, had he possessed
sufficient consciousness, how completely he had wound himself round
their hearts.  He had done so, not by being proud, or boastful, or
self-opinionated, or by paying them court, by any readiness to take
offence, or by flattery, or by any other mean device, but by his bravery
and honesty, by his gentleness and liveliness, by his readiness to
oblige, and general good-nature and uprightness, and by being true to
himself and true to others--doing to them as he would be done by.  They
became at last very sad--that is to say, as sad as midshipmen in a
dashing frigate, with a good captain, can become during war time; for
they thought that Paul was going to die, and the surgeon gave them no
hopes.  No one, however, was more sad than Reuben, who for many a watch
below, when he ought to have been in his own hammock, sat by the side of
his cot, administering the medicines left by the doctor, and tending him
with all a woman's care and tenderness.  The thoughts of his friends
were for a time, however, called off from Paul by an event which brought
all hands on deck--the appearance of a strange sail, pronounced to be a
French frigate equal in size to the _Proserpine_.  All sail was made in
chase.  The ship was cleared for action, and Paul with other sick was
carried into the cockpit to be out of the way of shot.  The gunner went
to the magazine to send up powder; the carpenter and his mates to the
wings, with plugs, to stop any shot-holes between wind and water; and
the various other officers, commissioned and warrant, repaired to their
respective posts.  Paul had sufficiently recovered to know what was
about to take place, and to wish to be on deck.

"Couldn't you let me go, doctor--only just while the action is going
on?" he murmured out.  "I'll come back, and go to bed, and do all you
tell me--indeed I will."

"I am sorry to say that you could be of no use, my brave boy, and would
certainly injure yourself very much; so you must stay where you are,"
answered the surgeon, who was busy in getting out the implements of his
calling.  "You will have many opportunities of fighting and taking other
prizes besides the one which will, I hope, soon be ours."

The remarks of the surgeon were soon cut short by the loud roar of the
guns overhead, as the frigate opened her fire on the enemy.  Then
speedily came the crashing sound of the return shot, as they tore
through the stout planks, and split asunder even the oaken timbers.  It
was evident that the two ships were very close together by the loud
sound of the enemy's guns and the effects of his shot.  Not many minutes
had passed since the firing commenced, when steps were heard descending
the ladder, and first one wounded man, and then another, and another,
was brought below and placed before the surgeon.  He had scarcely begun
to examine their wounds, when more poor fellows were brought below badly
wounded.

"Ah! sir," said one of the seamen who bore them, as he was hurrying
again on deck, in answer to a question from the surgeon, "there are many
more than these down for whom you could do nothing."

"What, is the day going against us?" asked the surgeon.

"No, sir; I hope not.  But the enemy is a big one, and will require a
mighty deal of hammering before she gives in."

Paul looked out; but he soon closed his eyes, and he would gladly have
closed his ears to the shrieks and groans of anguish which assailed
them, while the poor fellows were under the hands of the surgeons, or
waiting their turn to have their wounds dressed, or their limbs
amputated.  Paul was more particularly anxious about his old friends;
and whenever anybody was brought near him, he inquired after them.  The
report was, from those who had seen them, that they were at their posts
as yet unhurt.  Again he waited.  Now there was a cessation of firing.
Once more it was renewed, and the wounded were brought down in even
still greater numbers than at first.  Paul's spirits fell very low.  He
had never felt so miserable, and so full of dread.  What, if after all
the _Proserpine_ should be overmatched, and he and his companions again
fall into the hands of the French, or should perhaps Devereux, or
O'Grady, or his firm friend Reuben Cole, be killed!  Suddenly he
remembered what his mother often had told him, that in all troubles and
difficulties he should pray; and so he hid his face in the pillow, and
prayed that his countrymen might come off victorious, and that the lives
of his friends might be preserved.  By the time he had ceased his fears
had vanished; his spirits rose.  He had done all he could do, and the
result he knew was in the hands of Him who rules the world.  Still the
battle raged.  He heard remarks made by the wounded, by which he guessed
that the enemy was indeed vastly superior, and that many a man, if not
possessed of an indomitable spirit, would have yielded long ago; but
that their captain would fight on till the ship sunk beneath his feet,
or till not a man remained to work the guns.  Several officers were
among the badly wounded, and many were reported to be killed.  At length
there was a cry of grief, and their brave captain himself was brought
below.  Still the first-lieutenant remained to fight the ship, and his
captain's last order to him was never to yield while the remotest hope
of victory remained.

"Am I likely to survive?" asked the captain of the surgeon, after his
wound had been examined.

"It is possible, sir; but I will not disguise from you that your wound
is dangerous," was the answer.

"I should be resigned," said the captain, "could I know that the victory
would be ours."

At that instant the sound of cheering came down into the cockpit.  The
captain heard it, and lifted up his head with a look of intense
eagerness.  Directly afterwards an officer appeared.  His head was bound
up, and his coat at the shoulder was torn and bloody.  It was Devereux.

"The enemy has sheered off, sir, and is making all sail to the
southward," he exclaimed, in a hurried tone.  "We are unable to follow,
for our fore-top-mast and main-mast are gone, and the fore-mast and
mizen-mast, until they are fished, cannot carry sail."

"Thank heaven! thank heaven!" whispered the captain, falling back.  The
surgeon, whom he had sent to attend to others worse wounded than
himself, as he thought, hurried back to him with a restorative cordial;
but he shook his head as he vainly put it to his mouth: it was too late.
In the moment of victory the gallant spirit of the captain had
departed.  The enemy with which the _Proserpine_ had for so long thus
nobly sustained this fierce engagement, was a 74-gun ship, more than
half as large again as she was, and having on board nearly twice as many
men.  The sea was fortunately calm, and the masts being fished, sail was
made, and in two days the frigate reached Portsmouth.  As she had
suffered much in the action, she required extensive repairs; and the
sick and wounded were sent on shore to the hospital.  In the list of the
former was Paul; in the latter, Devereux.  Paul still continued very
weak and ill.  Devereux was not dangerously hurt; but the surgeons would
not allow him to travel to go to his friends, and they showed no
disposition to come to him.  Paul was too weak to write home himself,
but he had got Devereux to do so for him, making, however, as light as
he could of his illness.

Two days had scarcely elapsed, when they were told that a young lady was
below, waiting to see Mr Gerrard.

"It must be my dear sister Mary," whispered Paul.  "Oh, do go and see
her before she comes here, Devereux, and tell her how ill I am, and
prepare her for the sort of place she is to come to."

Hospitals in those days, especially in the war time, were very
differently arranged to what they are now, when every attention is paid
to the comfort and convenience of the patients.  At that time, even in
the best regulated, were sights, smells, and sounds, trying to the
sensibilities even of ordinary persons, but especially so to those of a
young lady brought up in the quiet and retirement of a rural village;
but Mary Gerrard, who now entered the Portsmouth hospital, escorted by
Devereux, had at that moment but one feeling, one thought--an earnest
desire to reach the bedside of her brave young brother, who she thought
was dying.  After the first greetings were over, Paul, seeing her look
very sad, entreated her not to grieve, as he was sure that he should get
well and go home and see them all.

She prayed he might, and so did Devereux, though from what the doctor
said, there could be little doubt that he was very ill.  Mary did not
tell him that his dear mother was very ill also, being sure that the
knowledge of this would agitate him, and retard, if it did not prevent,
his recovery.  She entreated that she might remain night and day with
her brother; but this was not allowed, and so she was obliged to take
lodgings near at hand, where she remained at night when turned out of
the hospital.  Devereux, however, comforted her by promising that he
would sit up as long as he was allowed with his friend, while O'Grady
and Reuben Cole came on shore and assisted in nursing him; so that Paul
was not so badly off after all.  The consequence was, that in spite of
the doctor's prognostications, Paul rapidly improved.  As soon as he was
in a fit condition to be moved, he was conveyed to some nice airy
lodgings Mary had engaged; and here Devereux, who was also recovering
from his wounds, and allowed to go out, was a constant visitor, that is
to say, he came early in the morning, and stayed all day.  He came at
first for Paul's sake; but it might have been suspected that he now came
for the sake of somebody else.  He was no longer a midshipman, for he
had received his commission as lieutenant soon after landing,
provisionally on his passing the usual examination, in consequence of
the action in which he had taken part, when he had acted as second in
command, all the other officers being killed or wounded.  Mary could not
fail to like him, and although she knew the whole history of the
disastrous lawsuit between her father and the Devereux family, she had
never supposed that he belonged to them in any way.

It did not occur to Paul that his friend and his sister were becoming
sincerely and deeply attached to each other.  He asked Devereux one day
why, now that he was strong enough, he did not go home to see his
friends.

"Do you wish me gone?" asked Devereux.

"No, indeed, I do not," answered Paul; "but it surprised me that you
should not be anxious to go and see them."

"Did they show any anxiety to come and see me, when they supposed I was
wounded and ill, and perhaps dying?" he asked, in an animated tone.
"No, Paul; but there is one who did come to see my best friend, who
saved my life, and watched over me with more than the tenderness of a
brother when I was sick, and for that person I have conceived an
affection which I believe will only end with my life."

"Who can you mean, Devereux?" asked Paul, in a tone of surprise.

"Why, who but your sister Mary!" exclaimed Devereux.  "Do you think that
I could have spent so many days with her, and seen her tending on you
like an angel of light, as she is, and not love her with all my heart?"

"Oh, my dear Devereux, I cannot tell you how I feel about it," said
Paul, warmly taking his hand; "though I am sure Mary does not know that
you belong to that family we all fancy have treated us so ill; yet, when
she does come to know it, as she ought to know, still I do not think
that it will bias her in her sentiments towards you.  When she knows
that you love her, I am sure that she must love you."

"Thank you, Paul; thank you, my dear fellow, for saying that.  Then I
will tell her at once," said Devereux.

And so he did; and Mary confessed that Paul was not far wrong in his
conjectures.

It had, curiously enough, never occurred to her to what family Devereux
belonged, and when she heard, she naturally hesitated about allying
herself to people who, if they could not despise, would assuredly
dislike her.  Devereux, however, overcame all her scruples, which is not
surprising, considering that he was scarcely twenty-one, and she was
only nineteen.

When Paddy O'Grady heard of the arrangement he was delighted.

"All right, my dear fellow," he exclaimed.  "When you marry Mary
Gerrard, I'll run over to France and pop the question to little Rosalie
Montauban, and bring her back to live in some snug box of a cottage I'll
take near you.  Won't it be charming?"

Midshipmen, when they think of marrying, always think of living in a
snug little box of a cottage, just big enough for themselves, forgetting
that they may wish for servants, and may some day expand somewhat in
various ways.

Devereux ventured to suggest that Miss Rosalie might not be as willing
to come away as O'Grady supposed, at which Paddy became very irate, the
more so, that some such idea might possibly have been lurking within his
own bosom.  However, as the war was not over, and might not be for some
time, he could not go just: then.

Paul was now sufficiently recovered to be moved, and Devereux got leave
to help Mary in taking him home.  They were also accompanied by Reuben
Cole.  Mrs Gerrard had begun to recover from the day that she heard
Paul was out of all danger.  She joyfully and proudly received them at
her neat and pretty, though small cottage; and from the day of his
arrival Devereux found himself treated as a son.  Devereux had admired
Mary watching over her sick brother.  He admired her still more when
affectionately tending on her mother, and surrounded by her younger
brothers and sisters.  Paul was made so much of that he ran a great
chance of being spoilt.  He had to put on his uniform, and exhibit
himself to all the neighbourhood as the lad who had gone away as a poor
ship-boy, and come back home as a full-blown midshipman.  At last, one
day Devereux received a letter from his home, suggesting that as he was
in England he might possibly be disposed to pay them a visit.  He went,
though very reluctantly.  He was greatly missed, not only by Paul and
Mary, but by all the younger Gerrards.  Not ten days had elapsed when he
again made his appearance.

"They have had enough of me," he said, as he entered laughing.  "But,
Mary, dear," he added, after he had gone the round of handshaking, and,
it may be, with a kiss or two from the lady part of the family, "the
best news I have to tell you is that they will not oppose our marriage,
if we will wait till I am made a commander, and then my father promises
me three hundred a year, which, with my pay, will be a great deal more
than we shall want.  To be sure, I had to undertake to give up some
thousands which might some day come to me; but it would not be for a
long time, at all events, and, in my opinion, perhaps never; and I was
determined not to risk the danger of losing you for money, or any other
cause."

"Oh, my dear Gilbert! and have you sacrificed your fortune and your
future prospects for my sake?" said Mary, her eye's filling with tears;
and yet not looking, after all, as if she was very sorry.

"No, no! not in the slightest degree.  I have laid them out, as a
merchant would say, to the very best advantage, by securing what I know
will tend to my very great and continued happiness," answered Gilbert
Devereux, adding--

But never mind what he said or did after that.  Certain it is, Mary made
no further objections, and Mary and he were regularly betrothed, which
is a very pleasant state of existence, provided people may hope to marry
before very long, and expect, when they do marry, to have something to
live on.

Soon after this Gilbert Devereux went to Portsmouth to pass his
examination, and came back a full-blown lieutenant, with an epaulette on
his left shoulder, which, when he put on his uniform, was very much
admired.

Paul awoke very early the morning after Devereux had returned, in the
same little room in which he slept before he went to sea, and which he
had so often pictured to his mind's eye as he lay in his hammock tossed
by the stormy sea.  A stout sea-chest stood open in the room, and over
it was hung a new uniform with brass buttons; a bright quadrant, and
spy-glass, and dirk, and gold-laced hat, lay on the table, and the chest
seemed filled to overflowing with the articles of a wardrobe, and a
variety of little comforts which his fond mother and sisters, he was
sure, had prepared for him.  He turned round in his bed and gazed at the
scene.

"I have dreamed this dream before," he said to himself.  "It was vivid
then--it is vivid now; but I will not be deceived as I was then!--oh,
how bitterly--No, no, it is a dream.  I fear that it is all a dream!"

But when the bright sunbeams came in and glittered on the quadrant and
buttons, and the brass of the telescope, and on the gold lace, and the
handle of the dirk, and the birds sang cheerily to greet the glorious
sun, and the lowing of cows and the bleating of sheep was heard, and the
crack of a carter's whip, and his "gee up" sounded not far away from
under the window, Paul rubbed his eyes again and again, and, with a
shout of joy and thankfulness, exclaimed--

"It is true! it is true!  I really am a midshipman!"

And when he knelt down to say his prayers, as all true honest Christian
boys do, he thanked God fervently for having preserved him from so many
dangers and granted him fully the utmost desire of his young heart.
When Paul appeared at breakfast, did not his mother and brothers and
sisters admire him, even more than they did Gilbert Devereux, except,
perhaps, Mary; and she certainly did not say that she admired Paul less.
They were a very happy party, and only wished that to-morrow would not
come.  But such happiness to the brave men who fight Old England's
battles, whether by sea or land, must, in war time at all events, be of
brief duration.  A long official-looking letter arrived for Devereux,
and another of a less imposing character, from the first-lieutenant of
the _Proserpine_, ordering Paul, if recovered, to join forthwith, as the
ship was ready for sea.  The letter for Devereux contained his
appointment to the same ship, which was a great satisfaction to all
concerned.

We will not describe what poor Mary felt or said.  She well knew that
the event was inevitable, and, like a true sensible girl, she nerved
herself to endure it, though we dare say she did not fail to let Gilbert
understand, to his satisfaction, how sorry she was to lose him.  It is,
indeed, cruel kindness to friends to let them suppose when parting from
them that you do not care about them.

Reuben Cole, who had spent his holiday in the village with his old
mother, and left her this time cash enough to make her comfortable,
according to her notions, for many a day, came to the cottage to say
that his time was up.  The three old shipmates therefore set off
together for Portsmouth.  On their arrival they found that Mr Order,
who had been made a commander in the West Indies, and had lately
received his post rank, was appointed to command the _Proserpine_.  The
_Cerberus_ had arrived some time before, and several of her officers and
men had, in consequence of their regard for Captain Order, joined the
_Proserpine_.  Among them were Peter Bruff, still a mate, Tilly Blake,
and old Croxton.  The midshipmen's berth contained a merry party, some
youngsters who had come to sea for the first time, full of life and
hope, and some oldsters who were well-nigh sick of it and of everything
else in the world, and longed to have a leg or an arm shot away that
they might obtain a berth at Greenwich, and have done with it.  At that
time, however, there were not many of the latter sort.

At first it was supposed that their destination was foreign; but whether
they were to be sent to the North American station, to the
Mediterranean, to the Pacific, or to India, they could not ascertain; so
that it rather puzzled them to know what sort of stores they should lay
in, or with what style of garments they should provide themselves.
However, on the morning they were to sail Captain Order received a
dispatch directing him to join the Channel fleet.

"Do you know what that means?" asked Peter Bruff of the assembled mess.
"Why, I will tell you, boys, that we shall be attached to the blockading
squadron off Brest, and that month after month, blow high or blow low,
we shall have to kick our heels there till we have kicked holes in
them."

Those present expressed great dissatisfaction at the prospect in view;
but Devereux, when the subject was discussed in the gun-room, was
secretly very glad, because he hoped thus to hear more frequently from
Mary, and to be able to write to her.  His brother officers took up the
idea that he was an author, from the sheets upon sheets of paper which
he covered; but, as may be supposed, nothing could induce him to exhibit
the result of his labours.  While others were weary; discontented, and
grumbling, he was always happy in the belief that Mary was always
thinking of him, as he was of her.

Blockading is always disagreeable work, as there must be an ever
watchful look-out, night and day, and ships are often kept till all
their provisions are expended, or the ships themselves can stand the
wear and tear no longer.  The _Proserpine_ had, as was expected, plenty
to do.  Paul, though not finding it pleasant more than the rest, was
satisfied that it was calculated to give him ample experience in
seamanship, and to make him the good officer he aspired to become.

However, as disagreeable as well as agreeable times must come to an end
some time, if we will but wait that time, the _Proserpine_ was relieved
at length, and returned to Portsmouth.  She was not allowed to remain
there long, for as soon as she could be refitted, and had taken in a
fresh supply of provisions, wood, and water, she again put to sea to
join a squadron in the North Seas.  Winter came on, and as she lay in
Yarmouth Roads, directions were sent to Captain Order to prepare for the
reception of an ambassador, or some other great man, who was to be
conveyed to the Elbe, and landed at Cuxhaven, or any other place where
he could be put on shore and make his way to his destination.

It was early in February, but the weather was unusually fine, and off
the compact little island of Heligoland a signal was made for a pilot,
who came on board and assured the captain that there was not the
slightest difficulty in getting up the Elbe to Cuxhaven, if he would but
proceed at between half-flood and half-ebb, when he could see the sand
on either hand.  All the buoys in the river had, however, been carried
away, he observed, to prevent the enemy from getting up.  With a
favourable breeze the frigate stood up the river, guided by the
experienced pilot.  While the weather continued fine, the task was one
of no great difficulty, though with a wintry wind blowing and the
thermometer far down below the freezing-point, it was anything but a
pleasant one.

"Faith, I'd rather be back stewing away among the niggers in the West
Indies, would not you, Gerrard?" exclaimed Paddy O'Grady, beating his
hands against his sides to keep them warm.

"I should not mind it for a change, if it was not to last long; but I
confess I don't wish it to be colder," said Paul.

"Why, lads, this is nothing to what I have had to go through in the
North Seas," remarked Bruff.  "I've known it so cold that every drop of
spray which came on board froze, and I've seen the whole deck, and every
spar and rope one mass of ice, so that there was no getting the ropes to
run through the sheaves of the blocks, and as to furling sails, which
were mere sheets of ice, that was next to an impossibility.  I warn you,
if you don't like what we have got now, you'll like still less what is
coming.  There are some heavy snow-clouds driving up, and we shall have
a shift of wind soon."

The frigate had now got up to within four miles of Cuxhaven, when, at
about four o'clock, as the winter's day was closing in, it, as Bruff had
anticipated, came on to snow so thickly that the pilot could no longer
see the marks, and it accordingly became necessary to anchor.  Later in
the evening, when darkness had already set in, the wind shifted to the
southward of east, and the snow fell with a density scarcely ever
surpassed, as if the whole cloud mass of snow were descending bodily to
the earth.  Added to this, the high wind drove the ice, which had
hitherto remained fixed to the shore, high up, directly down on the
ship, threatening every instant to cut her cables, when she must have
been driven on shore and lost.

"All hands on deck!" turned many a sleeper out of his hammock, where, if
not warm, he was not so cold as elsewhere.  All night long the crew were
on deck, fending off the ice, which in huge masses came drifting down on
them.

"What do you think of this, Paddy?" asked Bruff.

"Why, by my faith, that when a thing is bad we have good reason to be
thankful that it's no worse," answered O'Grady.  "Can anything be worse
than this?"

"Yes, indeed, a great deal worse," said Bruff.

The morning broke at length, and as it was evident that the ambassador
could not be landed at Cuxhaven, it was necessary to get out of the Elbe
without delay, that he might be put on shore on the coast of Holstein,
if possible.

The wind blew as strong as ever--a severe gale; but, the snow ceasing
partially, the pilot was enabled to see the land.  The ship stood on
under one sail only--the utmost she could carry--a fore-topmast
stay-sail.

"Hurrah! we shall soon be out of this trap, and once more in the open
sea," exclaimed O'Grady.  "So the pilot says."

"Are we well clear of the outer bank?" asked the captain.

The answer was in the affirmative; but it was scarcely given when the
ship struck heavily, and, her keel cutting the sand, she thus became, as
it seemed, firmly fixed.  Then arose the cry from many mouths--

"We are lost! we are lost!"

"Silence!" exclaimed Captain Order; "until every effort has been made to
get her off, let no one under my command say that."



CHAPTER TWELVE.

When a captain finds his ship on shore, even though he is in no way to
blame, he feels as did Captain Order, that a great misfortune has
happened to him.  No sooner was the _Proserpine's_ way stopped, than the
ice drifting down the river began to collect round her.  Still the
captain did not despair of getting her off.  The boats were hoisted out
for the purpose of carrying out an anchor to heave her off; but the ice
came down so thickly with the ebb, which had begun to make, that they
were again hoisted in, and all hands were employed in shoring up the
ship to prevent her falling over on her side.  Scarcely was this done
when huge masses of ice came drifting down with fearful force directly
on the ship, carrying away the shores as if they were so many reeds, and
tearing off large sheets of the copper from her counter.

"I told you that matters might be worse.  What do you think of the state
of things?" said Bruff to Paul.

"That they are very bad; but I heard the captain say just now that he
still hopes to get off," answered Paul.  "I suppose that he is right on
the principle Mr Devereux always advocates, `Never to give in while the
tenth part of a chance remains.'"

"Oh, Devereux is a fortunate man.  He is a lieutenant, and will be a
commander before long, and so looks on the bright side of everything,
while I am still a wretched old mate, and have a right to expect the
worst," answered Bruff, with some little bitterness in his tone.  "I
ought to have been promoted for that cutting-out affair."

So he ought.  Poor Bruff, once the most joyous and uncomplaining in the
mess, was becoming slightly acidulated by disappointment.  He had good
reason on this occasion for taking a gloomy view of the state of
affairs.

The ice drove down in increasingly larger masses every instant.  One
mass struck the rudder, and, though it was as strong as wood and iron
could make it, cut it in two, the lower part being thrown up by the
concussion on to the surface of the floe, where it lay under the stern,
the floe itself remaining fixed in that position by the other masses
which had collected round the ship.

The ambassador and members of his suite looked uncomfortable, and made
inquiries as to the best means of leaving the ship; but she was Captain
Order's first command, and he had no idea of giving her up without
making a great effort for her preservation.  At length came an order
which showed that matters were considered bad in the extreme:

"Heave overboard the guns!"

Rapidly the guns were run out, and, aided by crowbars, were forced
through the ports; but so strong was the ice that they failed to break
it, and lay on its surface round the ship.  Mr Trunnion, the gunner,
hurried about, assisting in the operation; but as each gun went
overboard he gave a groan, and made a face as if, one by one, his own
teeth were being drawn.

"Never mind, mate, the good ship holds together, and we'll get her off,
I hope," observed the carpenter.

"The ship!  What's the value of her compared to the guns?" exclaimed the
gunner, turning on his heel.

The stores (to the purser's infinite grief) and water followed.  Anchors
and cables were now carried out, and the ice astern with infinite labour
was broken away; but the efforts of the crew were in vain, and the ship
still remained firmly fixed in her icy prison when night drew on.

What a night was that!  Down came the snow thicker than ever, the fierce
wind howled and shrieked through the rigging, and when the ebb tide
made, the ice in huge masses came down, crashing with fearful force
against the sides of the frigate, mass rising above mass, till it seemed
as if it were about to entomb her in a frozen mountain.  The science and
experience of the oldest officers were set at nought, all the exertions
of the crew were unavailing; the wind increased, the snow fell thicker,
and the ice accumulated more and more.  The cold, too, was intense, and
with difficulty the men could face the freezing blast.

Paul thought of how often he had heard people complaining of the heat of
the West Indies, and now how glad would they have been to have obtained
some of that caloric they were then so anxious to be rid of.  Already
the masses of ice reached up to the cabin windows.  A loud crack was
heard.  It came from the after part of the ship.  The carpenter and his
mates descended to ascertain the mischief.  He soon returned with a long
face and a look of alarm on his countenance, and, touching his hat to
the captain, reported that the stern port was broken in two, and parts
of the stern stove in, so that there was small chance of the ship
floating, even should she be got off.

"Well, well, Auger, keep up your spirits, man," observed Mr Grummit,
the boatswain, to his brother warrant officer; "the masts are standing,
and in spite of the gale the spars are uninjured, and you may manage,
after all, to copper up the old barkie to get her out of this."

"Ah, that's just like the way of the world, Grummit," said Trunnion.
"As long as your masts are standing, you don't care how much harm
happens to the hull under Auger's charge; and while the hull was
undamaged, Auger didn't care for my guns; but just let's see your masts
going over the side, and we should have you singing out as loudly as any
one--that we should, I know; and just you look out, they'll be going
before long."

The indignant gunner turned away.  It seemed very probable that his
prognostications would prove true, for already in all directions the
gallant ship cracked and groaned as the ice pressed in from every
quarter on her stout timbers.

Paul met Devereux, and asked him what he thought was going to happen.

"One of two things, my dear Gerrard," answered the young lieutenant; "we
must either try to get on shore, or we must be ready to go down with the
ship, should the wind drift her out of her present position.  I know
that you will be prepared for whatever we are called to encounter; but
whatever occurs, keep near me.  I shall not be happy if we are
separated."

As Paul was in Devereux's watch, this he could easily promise to do.
Hour after hour wore on.  The cold increased.  The weather gave no signs
of mending.  Death, in a form, though not the most terrible, yet
calculated to produce intense suffering, stared them in the face.  The
men looked at each other, and asked what was next to happen.  The
captain and most of his officers, and the ambassador, were in
consultation in the cabin.  Many of the men believed that the ship
herself could not much longer resist the violent pressure to which she
was exposed, and expected every instant that her sides would be crushed
together.

The calmest, as usual, was old Croxton, who had been actively going
about his duty without making any demonstration.

"Lads, just listen to me," he observed.  "Some of you are proposing one
thing, and some another; but let me advise you to go on steadily doing
your duty, smartly obeying our officers, and leaving all the rest in the
hands of Providence.  It is the business of the officers to plan and
command, and, depend on it, they'll order us to do what they believe to
be best."

A few minutes afterwards the drum beat for divisions, and as soon as the
men were mustered, the captain addressed them, and told them that, at
the desire of the ambassador, it had been resolved to abandon the ship.

"At the same time, my lads, you will remember that while she holds
together, you still belong to her," he added.  "While, for your own
sakes, you will maintain that strict discipline which has done you so
much credit ever since I have had the satisfaction of commanding you."

A hearty cheer was the answer to this address.

The men were then directed to provide themselves each with a change of
clothing, and a supply of provisions for two days.  All knew that the
undertaking was perilous in the extreme.  The nearest inhabited part of
the small island of Newark was upwards of six miles distant.  No one
knew exactly the direction.  The snow continued to fall thickly, the
cold was intense, and the wind blew fiercely, while it was possible that
the ice might break away and carry them with it before they could gain
the land.

They were to march in subdivisions, each under their respective
officers.  With heavy hearts the officers and crew went down the side of
the ship, and formed on the ice under her lee.  The sick--fortunately
there were very few--were supported by their comrades.  There were some
women and children; for them it was truly fearful work.  The captain,
having ascertained that no man was left on board, was the last to quit
the ship.  He could not speak as he came down the side and took his
place in the van.  The order to advance was given.  Slowly, with heads
bent down against the freezing blast, the party worked their way.  In
some places the tide or the wind had forced the water over the ice, and
pools of half-frozen slush had been formed, through which they were
compelled to wade.  In others they had to climb over the huge slabs of
ice which had been thrown up in wild confusion.  On they toiled,
however, those who kept close together assisting each other; but some,
alas! in the thick snow separated by the inequalities of the surface
over which they travelled, sunk unseen, and not, in many cases, till
their comrades had advanced too far to render assistance, was their
absence discovered.  A poor boy--who, though somewhat weak and sickly,
was a favourite with the men--was one of the first missed.  He had been
complaining of the cold, but had been encouraged to proceed by those
near him.

"Oh, let me just lie down and rest for a few moments, I am so weary, I
will come on with the others," he murmured.

"You will get no rest to do you good," was the answer.  "Cheer up, cheer
up, lad!"

A friendly hand was stretched out to help him.  For some way he
struggled on.  Then there arose a huge pile of ice slabs, and he escaped
from the friendly hand which held him.

"Ah, now I will rest quietly," he thought, as he laid himself down on a
crevice of the ice filled with snow.

From that sleep he never awoke.

Among the women, one toiled on with a child in her arms.  Many of the
seamen offered to carry it; but she would not part with her treasure.
On and on she moved.  Her words became wandering, then scarcely
articulate.  She ceased at length to speak.  Still she advanced.  The
snow fell thicker.  The road became more uneven.  Each person had to
exert himself to the utmost to preserve his own life.  They thought not
of the poor woman and her child till they discovered that she was not
among them.  But not only did the weak sink down.  Strong men in the
same way disappeared from among their comrades.  No one at the time
exactly knew how.  No one saw them fall.  They were by the side of those
who still walked on alive one moment, and the next they were gone.

Paul kept near Devereux.  They conversed together as much as they could,
and often addressed words of encouragement to the men, who, though often
sinking, it appeared, with fatigue and cold, were revived, it seemed,
and proceeded with as much spirit as at first.

Paul himself at length began to grow very weary, and to long to lie down
and rest.

"If I could stop back for three minutes, I could easily run on and catch
them up," he thought to himself; yet he did not like to make the
proposal to Devereux, who, he still had sense enough to believe, would
not agree to it.

Poor Paul, was this to be the termination of all your aspirations for
naval glory, to sink down and die on a frozen sand-bank, within a few
miles of a spot where you may obtain food, shelter, and warmth?

"I can stand it no longer, I must rest," he said to himself.  "There is
a snug spot between two slabs of ice, quite an arm-chair.  I must sit in
it, if only for two minutes."

Devereux must have divined his thoughts, or probably observed the
irregular and faltering steps he was making, for, seizing him by the
arm, he exclaimed, with judicious roughness--

"Come, rouse up, Paul, my dear fellow!  We must have none of this folly.
I did not expect it from you."

The words had their due effect.  By a powerful effort Paul threw off his
lethargy, and once more sprang on with the rest, continuing to talk and
encourage his companions.

Still no one could tell whether or not they should ever reach their
destination.  The snow fell thicker than ever, and not a windmill, a
spire, or a willow, or any of the objects which adorn the shores of the
Elbe, could be seen to indicate that they were approaching the haunts of
men.  It was too evident that many of their number had passed from among
them since they began their march, and no one could say who might
follow.  Many were complaining bitterly of the cold, and others had
ceased to complain, as if no longer conscious of the effect it was
producing.

Suddenly there was a shout from those in advance.  The rear ranks
hurried on.  A house was seen, then another, and another.  They were in
the middle of a village.  Kind people came out of their houses to
inquire what had occurred; and at once there was no lack of hearty
invitations, and the whole party were soon enjoying warmth, hot drinks,
and dry clothing, which soon revived the greater number, though some who
had been frost-bitten required considerable attention before they were
set to rights.

The next day the storm raged as furiously as before, and so it continued
for nearly a week, and all had reason to be thankful that they had
reached a place of safety.  At length, the weather moderating, and
provisions on the island growing very scarce, the ambassador and his
suite, and half of the ship's company, proceeded on, though not without
great difficulty and hazard, to Cuxhaven, while the rest remained on the
island, in the hope of saving some of the ship's stores.

Among the latter were Devereux, Paul, and O'Grady, with Reuben Cole.
The next day they, with a party of men, volunteered to visit the wreck,
to report on her condition, and to bring back some bread, of which they
stood greatly in need.  They succeeded in getting on board, and found
the ship in even a worse condition than they had expected.  She was on
her beam ends, with upwards of seven feet of water in her, apparently
broken asunder, the quarter-deck separated six feet from the gangway,
and only kept together by the ice frozen round her.  Their task
accomplished, with a few articles of value and a supply of bread, they
returned to the shore.

Considering that the risk was very great, the captain decided that no
further visits should be paid to the ship.

However, one morning, the weather becoming very fine, it being
understood that the captain had not actually prohibited a visit to the
ship, Devereux, Paul, and O'Grady, with Cole and another man, set off to
pay, as they said, the old barkie a farewell visit.  The captain, who
was ill in bed, only heard of their departure too late to recall them.
The frost was so severe that the ice was well frozen, and thus they must
have got on board; but it was supposed that they had remained on board
till the tide changing made their return impossible.  They were
looked-for anxiously during the evening, but no tidings came of them.
At night the wind again got up, and their shipmates, as they sat by the
fires of their hospitable host, trembled for their safety.  As soon as
daylight returned the greater number were on foot.  Not a vestige of her
could be seen.  The tide and wind rising together must have carried down
the masses of ice with terrific force, and completely swept her decks.

When Captain Order heard of this, his feelings gave way.  "To have lost
my ship was bad enough," he exclaimed; "but to lose so many fine young
fellows on a useless expedition is more than I can bear.  It will be the
cause of my death."

The few officers who remained with the captain could offer no
consolation.  The pilots and other people belonging to the place were
consulted.  They declared that from the condition of the ship when last
visited, it was impossible that she could withstand the numerous masses
of ice which during the past night must have, with terrific violence,
been driven against her, that she had probably been cut down by degrees
to the water's edge, and that thus the ice must have swept over her.
They said that if even those on board had been able to launch a boat, no
boat could have lived amid the floating ice; and that even, had she
escaped from the ice, she must have foundered in the chopping sea
running at the mouth of the river.  Probably, when the weather moderated
in the spring, portions of the wreck would be found thrown up on the
shore, and that was all that would ever be known of her fate.  The
captain, after waiting some days, and nothing being heard of the frigate
or the lost officers and men, being sufficiently recovered, proceeded
with the remainder of the crew to Cuxhaven.

Devereux, Paul and O'Grady were general favourites, and their loss
caused great sorrow among their surviving shipmates; but sailors,
especially in those busy, stirring days, had little time for mourning
for those who had gone where they knew that they themselves might soon
be called on to follow.  Some honest tears were shed to their memory,
and the captain with a heavy heart wrote his despatches, giving an
account of the loss of his ship, and of the subsequent misfortune by
which the service had been deprived of so many gallant and promising
young officers.  The ambassador and his suite had for some time before
taken their departure, as the French were known to be advancing
eastward, and might have, had they delayed, intercepted them.  For the
same reason Captain Order and his officers and crew anxiously looked
forward to the arrival of a ship of war to take them away, as they did
not fancy finishing off their adventures by being made prisoners and
marched off to Verdun, or some other unpleasant place, where the French
at that time shut up their captives.  At length a sloop of war arrived,
and they reached England in safety.  Captain Order and his officers had
to undergo a court-martial for the loss of the frigate, when they were
not only honourably acquitted, but were complimented on the admirable
discipline which had been maintained, and were at once turned over to
another frigate, the _Dido_, lately launched, and fitting with all
possible dispatch for sea.

But there were sad hearts and weeping eyes in one humble home, where the
loss of two deeply loved ones was mourned; and even in the paternal hall
of O'Grady, and in the pretentious mansion of Devereux, sorrow was
expressed, and some tears were shed for those who had thus early been
cut off in their career of glory.  We will not attempt to pry into the
grief which existed in Gerrard's home.  It did not show itself by loud
cries and lamentations, but it was very evident that from one heart
there all joyousness had for ever flown.  Still Mary bore up
wonderfully.  All her attention seemed to be occupied in attending to
her mother, who, already delicate, felt Paul's loss dreadfully.  Her
young brothers and sisters, too, required her care.  As usual, she
taught them their lessons, made and mended their clothes, helped to cook
their dinners, and attended them at their meals.  None of these things
did she for a day leave undone, and even Sarah and John, whispering
together, agreed that Mary could not have cared so very much for
Gilbert, and still less for poor Paul.

Some weeks passed on, when one day, when Mary was out marketing, Mrs
Gerrard received a letter curiously marked over--not very clean, and
with a high postage.  Fortunately she had just enough to pay for it.
She read it more than once.  "Poor, dear, sweet, good Mary!" she
exclaimed; "I almost fear to tell her; the revulsion may be too great.
I know how much she has suffered, though others don't."

A writer has a great advantage in being able to shift the scene, and to
go backwards or forwards in time as he may find necessary.  We must go
back to that fine, bright, but bitterly cold morning when Lieutenant
Devereux and his companions set off to visit the frigate.  They were
strong and hardy, had thick coats, and, besides, the exercise kept them
warm.  The way was difficult, often through deep snow, into which they
sank up to their middles.  They looked in vain for trace of any of their
lost shipmates.  They were already entombed beneath the glittering snow,
not to be again seen till the warm sun of the spring should expose them
to the gaze of passers by.  They at length reached the ship, and climbed
up through a main-deck port.  How silent and melancholy seemed the
deserted ship, lately crowded with active busy human beings never more
again destined to people its decks.

They looked into the cabins and selected a few articles they had before
forgotten, taking some articles from the cabins of their messmates which
they thought might be valued.  On the main-deck the injuries which the
ship had received were not so apparent.

"Would it be possible to save her?" exclaimed Devereux.  "If she could
be buoyed up with empty casks and got off into deep water, we might
patch her up sufficiently to run her over to Yarmouth Roads.  I would
rather see her bones left there than here."

"Anything you like I am ready for," said O'Grady, and Paul repeated the
sentiment.

"I do not mean to say that we can do it by ourselves; but if we can form
a good plan to place before the captain, perhaps he will let us have the
rest of the people to carry it out," said Devereux.  "However, before we
begin, let us have some food.  I am very hungry after our walk, and I
daresay you all are."

All hands agreed to this; there was no lack of provisions.  Some time
was occupied in the meal, and then they set to work to make their
survey.  As they wished to be exact, and to ascertain the number of
casks on which they could depend for floating the ship, the business
occupied a longer time than they had expected.  They had nearly
completed their plans when Paul, looking through one of the ports, saw
the water rushing by with great rapidity, carrying with it large blocks
of ice capable of overwhelming anybody they might have struck.  The tide
had turned, it was too evident, some time, and their retreat to the
shore was cut off.  Paul reported the circumstance to Devereux.  There
was no doubt about the matter.  They stood at the gangway gazing at the
roaring torrent, full of masses of ice leaping over and grinding against
each other.  No one but a madman would have ventured to cross it.  It
seemed doubtful if even a boat could live in such a turmoil of waters.
If the flood ran up thus strong, what might be the effects of the ebb?
It would not be low water again till past midnight, and it would then be
very dangerous, if not altogether impracticable, to get on shore.  They
must, therefore, make up their minds to remain on board till the
following day.

"The old ship is not going to tumble to pieces just yet," said Devereux.
"We might have had worse quarters than she can still afford, so we
shall have to turn into our berths and wait till the sun rises again."

Whether the young lieutenant felt as confident as he expressed himself
might have been doubted; but he was one of those wise people who always
make the best of everything, carrying out practically the proverb "What
cannot be cured must be endured."  As they had plenty to do, and were
able to light a fire in the cabin stove and another in the galley to
cook their supper, they passed their time not unpleasantly.  Their
habits of naval discipline would not allow them to dispense with a
watch, so, while the rest turned in, one officer and one man at a time
walked the deck, though, as O'Grady remarked, "We are not likely to run
foul of anything, seeing that we are hard and fast aground, and nothing
will purposely run foul of us; and if anything does, it may, for we
can't get out of its way."  Devereux took the dog watch, O'Grady was to
take the first, and Paul the middle.  Paul was not sorry to turn in, for
he was very tired.  He had not slept, as he thought, when he felt
O'Grady's hand on his shoulder, telling him that it was time to turn
out.

He was on deck in a minute, where he found O'Grady, who was waiting his
coming.  Just as O'Grady was going down, a loud, grating, crushing noise
assailed their ears.  It was blowing very strong, and freezing extremely
hard.  The night also was very dark, and occasionally heavy falls of
snow came on, making the obscurity greater.  The rushing noise
increased.  The tide they knew must have turned, and was now coming down
with terrific force.

"I say, Gerrard, I doubt if Devereux's plan will succeed, if the ice
continues to come down in this fashion; more likely to cut the old
barkie to pieces," observed O'Grady.

"I am afraid so," said Paul; "I'll ask Cole what he thinks of the state
of affairs."

Reuben was found, and confessed that he did not like them.  The wind had
increased to a fearful gale, which howled and whistled through the
shrouds, and between the intervals of these gusts the roar of the
distant ocean could be heard, as the seas met together, or dashed in
heavy rollers on the coast.

While the midshipmen and Reuben were talking, they became conscious that
the ship was moving; her deck rose and fell very slowly certainly, but
they felt the sensation of which perhaps only seamen could have been
aware that they were standing on a floating body.  They instantly called
Devereux, and he was convinced of the awful fact that the frigate was
moving.  In her present condition she could not float long, and though
they might lower a boat, it was impossible that a boat could live among
the masses of ice rushing by.  Perhaps the frigate might ground again.
They sounded the well; she had not made much water since they came on
board, so she might float for some time longer.  Perhaps she was still
in shallow water, and just gliding over the bottom.  A lead was found
and hove for soundings; but instead of striking the water, it came upon
hard ice.  The mystery was explained.  The whole floe in which the ship
was embedded was floating away.  There could be little doubt about that.
But where was it driving to?  That was the question.  It might drive
out to sea, and becoming broken by the force of the waves, allow the
ship to sink between its fragments.  Still even then they might possibly
be able to escape in a boat.  One was therefore cleared and got ready
for landing, and a supply of provisions, a compass, and water, were
placed in her, with some spare cloaks and blankets to afford them a
slight shield and protection from the inclemency of the weather.  After
this they could do no more than pray that warning might be given them of
the ship's sinking, and wait patiently for day.

The cold was so intense that they would have been almost frozen to death
had they not been able to keep up a fire in the cabin stove, round which
officers and men now clustered.  It might possibly be their last meeting
on this side a watery grave, and yet they had all, young and old, been
so accustomed to face death, that they did not allow the anticipation of
it altogether to quench their spirits.  They talked of the past and even
of the future, although fully aware that that future on earth might not
be for them.

Day came at last, cold and grey.  They looked out; they were, as they
had conjectured, surrounded by a solid floe of ice--so thick that there
seemed little danger of its immediately breaking up.  Beyond it was the
leaden sea foaming and hissing--but, in spite of the gale, not breaking
heavily, owing to the floes of ice floating about and the direction of
the wind; while in the distance to the south, and on either hand, was a
low line of coast, with islands here and there scattered now and then.

The prospect was uninviting.  The ship was driving out to sea, and could
not then long hold together.  O'Grady proposed making an attempt to gain
the shore in the boat; but Devereux pointed out the difficulty there
would be in making headway against the furious gale then blowing, in
addition to the risk of having the boat stove in by the ice.

"No, no; let us stick to the ship as long as she keeps above water," he
added.

Of course all agreed that his decision was right.  They were not idle,
however.  Paul suggested that if a boat could not live, a strong raft
might; and as soon as breakfast was over, they set to work to build one.
As they had plenty of time and materials, they made it big enough and
strong enough to carry fifty men, and in the centre built a store-house
to hold provisions for several days.  Fortunately the ice did not move
very fast; and before they had drifted far off the coast, the wind
shifted, and drove them along it at the same rate as before.  Still it
continued freezing hard.  A rapid thaw they had most to fear, as it
would melt away the supporting floe, and let the ship sink.  But then
they might take to their boat.  Had it not been for the anxiety they
felt as to what might happen, they had no great cause to complain, as
they had shelter and firing, and were amply supplied with provisions,
besides, as O'Grady observed, enjoying the advantage, when the raft was
finished, of having nothing to do.  The third night they had spent on
board came to a close.  They kept a very strict watch, that should any
change occur, they might not be taken unawares.  On looking out they
found the land much nearer than before.  This was accounted for, as the
wind had shifted, and now blew almost directly on shore.

"Our voyage will come to an end sooner than we expected last night,"
observed O'Grady.  "For my part I am almost sorry; it's very good fun."

"It will be no laughing matter, if the wind increases, and a heavy surf
breaks on the shore," said Devereux, who overheard the remark.

The ship, still surrounded by its mass of ice, to which it acted as a
sail, drifted slowly, but steadily, towards the shore.  The rate of
progress was increased, however, before long by the rising wind, and the
deck of the ship, hitherto only gently undulating, began to be tossed
about with a motion more rapid than pleasant.  As they drove on, the
land opened out, and appeared on either hand; so that they found that
they were at the entrance of an estuary, or the mouth of a wide river.
But the sea rolled in very heavily, and they feared, if it increased,
that the ice round the ship would break up.  Still there would be ample
warning given, and they dreaded no immediate danger.  The raft and boat
were both got ready.  Should the ship sink, the former would in all
probability float, and afford them a refuge should the boat be unable to
live.

"And now all our preparations are made, we'll pipe to dinner," said
Devereux.

And the whole party sat down to a not unsubstantial meal round the cabin
stove.  Dinner was over.  It had been somewhat prolonged, for there was
nothing to do, and they had been talking of by-gone days, and fighting
their battles over again.  It was time, however, to look out to see what
progress they had been of late making.  It was O'Grady's watch, and when
he opened the cabin door to go out, he saw a mass of smoke eddying round
in the fore-part of the deck.  His companions soon joined him to
ascertain beyond a doubt that the ship was on fire.  It might still be
overcome.  But the fresh water had been started; there was only ice
alongside, and the pumps were choked.  The party made a rush towards the
fire, in the hopes of beating it out; but they were soon convinced that
it had gained hold of the ship, and that no efforts they could make to
extinguish it would avail.  How it had originated there was no time to
consider.  Probably some coal jerked out of the galley-fire had found
its way below, and had ignited some of the stores.  The flames now burst
forth, and spread rapidly--bursting through the hatchways and ports, and
soon enveloping the whole of the fore-part of the ship.  The party were
now exposed to even a more terrible danger than any they had
anticipated.  Their raft would no longer avail them.  Their entire
dependence must be on their frail boat.  Still till the last moment they
were unwilling to leave the once stout ship which had so long been their
home.

"We must go, my lads," exclaimed Devereux, with a sigh, as the flames,
fanned by the wind, rapidly approached the quarter-deck.  "One good
thing is, that should she drive on shore, and the French be in the
neighbourhood, they will not benefit by her."

"Hurrah! one cheer for the old barkie before we leave her!" cried Reuben
Cole, as they launched the boat on to the ice.  "Another good is, that
not another mortal man will set his foot on her deck after us."

"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" they shouted, as they ran the boat over the
ice.

They did not leave the ship a moment too soon, for scarcely had they got
their boat into the water to the leeward of the floe, than the
fore-mast, already a pyramid of fire, fell with a loud crash on the ice.

"There is something more coming, and the further off we are, the
better," cried Devereux.  "I should have thought of that before.  Give
way, lads; the fire will soon reach the magazine."

So long as the boat was under the lee of the floe she made tolerably
fine weather of it; but as she increased her distance, the seas came
rolling up after her, threatening every instant to engulph her.  A mast
had been stepped, and a sail got ready for hoisting.  This was now run
up, and assisted her greatly.  Devereux steered, and even he could
scarcely keep his eyes from the burning ship.  A cry from his companions
made him for an instant turn his head.  There was a thundering deep
report; and as he looked for an instant, the whole ship seemed, with her
remaining masts and spars one mass of flame, to be lifted bodily up out
of her icy cradle into the air.  Up, up it went, and then, splitting
into ten thousand fragments, down it came hissing and crashing, some
into the foaming sea, and others on to the ice, where they continued to
burn brilliantly.  There was no cheering this time.  Paul felt more
inclined to cry, as he witnessed the fate of the gallant frigate.

"If the wreckers on shore were expecting a prize, they'll be mistaken,"
observed Reuben, when all had been silent for some time.

They had enough to do to look after their own safety.  It was already
dusk.  Masses of ice were floating about, not very thickly, but thick
enough to make it a matter of difficulty to avoid them.  The land was
flat, and they were nearer to it than they supposed.  A point appeared
on the right.  If they could get round it without being swamped, they
would be in smooth water.  They gave the point a sufficient berth.  A
heavy sea came rolling by them; luffing up, they ran in, and in another
minute found themselves standing up a river of some size in perfectly
smooth water.  The weather was very cold, and they were anxious to get
on shore as soon as possible.  The further up they went, however, the
more likely they were, they thought, to find satisfactory shelter, for
as yet no houses of any sort could be seen.  Shelter, however, must, if
possible, be found, for although they had provisions, the weather was
too cold to allow them to remain out, if it could be helped.  They stood
on for nearly half an hour, when a light was seen glimmering on the
opposite shore.  They steered towards it, fortunately lowering the sail
when at some distance from it, for before the boat had lost way, her
stem struck against the ice which fringed the bank, and very nearly
stove in her bow.  Searching about, however, they at length found a
landing-place, and with hearts thankful for their escape sprang on
shore.  That they might not be a burden to the people whose hospitality
they intended to seek, they loaded themselves, not only with the
valuables they had rescued from the wreck, but with a good supply of
provisions.  They proceeded, therefore, boldly along a tolerable road in
the direction of the light, or rather lights, for several appeared as
they advanced.

"Oh, depend on it we shall have a cordial reception," said O'Grady.
"Very likely that is some fat old Burgomaster's country residence, and
he is giving a ball, or an entertainment of some sort, for which we
shall come in."

"As likely it is a flour-mill, and those lights we see are from its
windows," remarked Devereux.

"We shall soon settle the point, for we shall be up to the place
directly," said Paul.  "The lights are lower than I at first thought,
and appear to be in the windows of several houses.  Hark!  I hear the
tramp of horses coming along the road."

"Qui va la?" shouted a voice, in sharp, stern accents.  "Stand and
declare yourselves!"

"We are in for it," whispered O'Grady.  "What can the fellows be?"

"French dragoons, I am afraid," answered Paul, "There is no use
attempting to deceive them.  They ask who we are."

"Gerrard, you speak French better than I do; tell them," said Devereux.

"Naval officers who have lost their ship, and are seeking for shelter
this bitter cold night," shouted Paul.

"Come then with us," exclaimed the sergeant in command of the patrol,
riding up.  "Your story, friends, may or may not be true.  If you are
spies, the consequences may be unpleasant."

Escorted by the horsemen, they were conducted to the building they had
seen.  It appeared to be a large country house.  All the outhouses and
lower rooms were converted into stables, little trouble having been
taken to remove rich Brussels carpets or valuable furniture.  They were
led upstairs to a large room, where several officers were seated at
supper, and were announced as prisoners just captured on the road,
reporting themselves as naval officers.

"A likely story," observed the commanding officer--a general apparently
by his uniform.  "What have you to say for yourselves?"

"That our tale is true," answered Devereux.  "Any person on the coast
must have seen our ship burning.  If you will send, you can ascertain
the truth of that part of our account."

"It is a considerable distance from the coast, and we cannot spare men
to send," said the general, gruffly.

"The boat by which we landed will be found at the bank of the river,"
observed Paul, quietly.

"Very likely, but that will only prove that you landed from some ship
off the coast," exclaimed the general, in an angry tone.  "You were
found prowling about my head-quarters, the act of spies, and as spies
you will be treated.  If your story is not authenticated, you will be
shot at sunrise."

"Say, rather, brutally murdered!" said Devereux, indignantly.  "I call
all here to witness that I state that I am a British officer, that these
are my subordinates, that all I have said is true, and that we landed
here not knowing that the French were occupying the country."

The general, once well known for his atrocious cruelties, had made a
signal to the guard to lead away the prisoners, when a young man entered
the room dressed in the uniform of an hussar.  Paul looked at him very
hard, struck by his strong likeness to Alphonse Montauban.

"What!" exclaimed the new comer, springing forward, and taking Paul's
hand, "Is it possible?"

His voice made Devereux and O'Grady turn their heads; and in spite of
the astonished and angry looks of the general and some of his officers,
he grasped their hands; then turning to the general, he cried out--

"What have these officers done?  They appear to be treated as criminals.
I know them well.  They are old friends, who, when I was their
prisoner, treated me with kindness, sympathy, and generosity.  I will
answer for it that whatever account they have given of themselves is the
true one."

"That alters the case, my dear Count," said the general, in a blander
tone than he had as yet used.  "If they really have been wrecked,
although we must consider them as prisoners, they shall receive all
courtesy at our hands, and be exchanged as soon as possible."

Of course Devereux again gave an account of their adventures, on the
truth of which Alphonse staked his honour.

"Very well; then if they will pass their parole, they shall be committed
to your charge, Count," said the general, with a more courteous glance
at the English officers than he had hitherto bestowed.

All arrangements having been made, the prisoners accompanied Alphonse to
his quarters, where, with the aid of the provisions they had brought, an
ample repast was soon spread before them.  Of course they were all eager
to know how Alphonse had happened so opportunely to make his appearance.
He briefly told them that his father, who was no other than the old
gentleman in the chateau whom Paul and O'Grady had known as _Mon Oncle_,
was the Count de Montauban, and that his title having been restored by
the Emperor, he had, on his death, succeeded to it; that having left the
marine, of which his experiences had made him heartily sick, he had
entered the army, and had rapidly risen to the command of a troop in a
light cavalry regiment.  His corps belonged to a division of the army
which for some strategical object had been pushed forward, but was
expected quickly to retreat, when he thought it very possible that the
general would set them at liberty.

The old friends spent a very pleasant evening, much pleasanter, O'Grady
remarked, for his part, than if he had expected to be taken out to be
shot the next morning as a spy.  He asked, not without a blush,
increased when he saw Paul's laughing eye fixed on him, after Rosalie.

"Oh, my dear cousin is well, and merry as ever, if I may judge by her
letters, for she writes constantly to me; indeed, I may confess that our
parents have arranged an affair between us which we neither of us shall
be loath to carry out.  When I saw her, she laughed a great deal at the
attempts of my young Irish friend, as she called you, O'Grady, to learn
French, and said that she was afraid she would have had to give you up
as a hopeless case."

Poor Paddy made an hysterical attempt to join the laugh of his
companions against himself, and it was observed that he never again, at
least not for some years, spoke about his dear little Rosalie.

After a detention of some weeks, the whole party were, as Alphonse had
anticipated they would be, released, and having ample funds which the
young Count pressed on them, they made their way without difficulty to
Cuxhaven, which place of course the captain and officers and crew of the
lost frigate had long since left.  They succeeded, however, without much
delay in getting over to England.  Mary recovered her health, and on
Devereux becoming a commander, they were married.  O'Grady married one
of her younger sisters a few years afterwards, and when peace came, paid
a very pleasant visit to his old friends the Count and Countess
Montauban.

Paul rose to the top of his profession, and used to take great delight
in narrating to his grandchildren his adventures when he was a
cabin-boy.  To one of these grandchildren I am indebted for this
history.





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