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´╗┐Title: Dick Leslie's Luck - A Story of Shipwreck and Adventure
Author: Collingwood, Harry, 1851-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dick Leslie's Luck - A Story of Shipwreck and Adventure" ***

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Dick Leslie's Luck, by Harry Collingwood.



CHAPTER ONE.

A MARITIME DISASTER.

The night was as dark as the inside of a cow!  Mr Pryce, the chief mate
of the full-rigged sailing ship _Golden Fleece_--outward-bound to
Melbourne--was responsible for this picturesque assertion; and one had
only to glance for a moment into the obscurity that surrounded the ship
to acknowledge the truth of it.

For, to begin with, it was four bells in the first watch--that is to
say, ten o'clock p.m.; then it also happened to be the date of the new
moon; and, finally, the ship was just then enveloped in a fog so dense
that, standing against the bulwarks on one side of the deck, it was
impossible to see across to the opposite rail.  It was Mr Pryce's
watch; but the skipper--Captain Rainhill--was also on deck; and together
the pair assiduously promenaded the poop, to and fro, pausing for a
moment to listen and peer anxiously into the thickness to windward every
time that they reached the break of the poop at one end of their walk,
and the stern grating at the other.

Now, a dark and foggy night at sea is an anxious time for a skipper; but
the anxiety is multiplied tenfold when, as in the present case, the
skipper is responsible not only for the safety of a valuable ship and
cargo, but also for many human lives.  For the _Golden Fleece_ was a
magnificent clipper ship of two thousand eight hundred tons register,
quite new--this being her maiden voyage, while she carried a cargo,
consisting chiefly of machinery, valued at close upon one hundred
thousand pounds sterling; and there were thirty-six passengers in her
cuddy, together with one hundred and thirty emigrants--mostly men--in
the 'tween decks.  And there was also, of course, her crew.

For a reason that will shortly become apparent, it is unnecessary to
introduce any of the above-mentioned persons to the reader--with two
exceptions.  Of these two exceptions one was a girl some three and
twenty years of age, of medium height, perfect figure, lovely features
crowned by an extraordinary wealth of sunny chestnut wavy hair with a
glint of ruddy gold in it where the sun struck it, and a pair of
marvellous dark blue eyes.  Her beauty of face and form was perfect; and
she would have been wonderfully attractive but for the unfortunate fact
that her manner towards everybody was characterised by a frigid hauteur
that at once effectually discouraged the slightest attempt to establish
one's self on friendly terms with her.  It was abundantly clear that she
was a spoiled child, in the most pronounced acceptation of the term, and
would be likely to remain so all her life unless some extraordinary
circumstance should haply intervene to break down her repellent pride,
and bring to the surface those sterling qualities of character that ever
and anon seemed struggling for an opportunity to assert themselves.  Her
name was Flora Trevor; her father was an Indian judge; and, accompanied
by her maid, and chaperoned--nominally, at least--by a friend and former
schoolfellow of her mother, she was now proceeding on a visit to some
relatives in Australia prior to joining her father at Bombay.

The other exception was a man, of thirty-two years of age--but who
looked very considerably older.  He stood six feet one inch in his
socks; was of exceptionally muscular build, without an ounce of
superfluous flesh anywhere about him; rather thin and worn-looking as to
face--which was clean-shaven and tinted a ruddy bronze, as though the
owner had been long accustomed to exposure to the weather; of a gloomy
and saturnine cast of countenance; and a manner so cold and
unapproachable that, although on this particular night he had been on
board the _Golden Fleece_ just a fortnight, no one in the ship knew
anything more about him than that he went by the name of Richard Leslie;
and that he was--like the rest of the passengers--on his way to
Australia.

Now, there is no need to make a secret of this man's history; on the
contrary, a brief sketch of it will lead to a tolerably clear
understanding of much that would otherwise prove incomprehensible in his
character and actions.  Let it be said, therefore, at once, that he was
the second, and at one time favourite, son of the Earl of Swimbridge,
whom the whole world knows to be beyond all question the proudest member
of the British peerage.  Amiable, generous, high-spirited, and with
every trait of the best type of the British gentleman fully developed in
him, this son had joined the British navy at an early age, as a
midshipman, and had made rapid progress in the profession of his
choice--to his father's unbounded satisfaction and delight--up to a
certain point.  Then, when he was within a few months of his
twenty-fifth birthday, a horrible thing happened.  Without a shadow of
warning, and like a bolt from the blue, disgrace and disaster fell upon
and morally destroyed him; and almost in a moment the once favoured
child of good fortune found himself an outcast from home and society;
disowned by those nearest and dearest to him; with every hope and
aspiration blasted; branded as a felon; and his whole life ruined, as it
seemed to him, irretrievably.  In his father's house, and while enjoying
a short period of well-earned leave, he was arrested upon a charge of
forgery and embezzlement; and, after a short period of imprisonment,
tried, found guilty, and sentenced to a period of seven years' penal
servitude!  Vain were all his protestations of innocence; vain his
counsel's representation that there was no earthly motive for such a
crime on the part of his client; the evidence adduced against him was so
overwhelmingly complete and convincing--although the greater part of it
was circumstantial--that his protestations were regarded as a positive
aggravation of his offence; and the last news that reached him ere the
prison gates closed upon him were that the girl who had promised to be
his wife had already given herself to his rival; while his father,
stricken to earth by the awful blow to his family pride, as well as to
his affection, was not expected to live.

That so fearfully crushing a catastrophe should have fallen with
paralysing effect upon the moral nature of the convict himself was only
what might naturally be expected.  With the pronouncement of that
terrible sentence by the judge the victim's character underwent a
complete and instantaneous transformation, as was evidenced by the fact
that to him the worst feature of the case seemed to be that he was
innocent!  He felt that had he been guilty he could have borne his
punishment, because he would have richly merited it; but that, being
_innocent_, he should thus be permitted to suffer such abasement and
disgrace seemed incomprehensible to him; the injustice of it appeared to
him so rank, so colossal, as to destroy within him, in a moment, every
atom of his former faith in the existence of a God of justice and of
mercy!  And with his loss of faith in God went his faith in man.  Every
good instinct at once seemed to die within him; while as for life,
henceforth it could be to him only an intolerable burden to be laid down
at the first convenient opportunity.

Feeling thus, as he did, full of rebellion against fate, full of anger
and resentment against his fellow-man for the bitterly cruel injustice
that had been meted out to him, and kicking hard against the pricks
generally, it was scarcely to be expected that he would prove very
amenable to the harsh discipline of prison life; and as a matter of fact
he did not; he was very careful to avoid the committal of any offence
sufficiently serious to bring down upon him the disgrace of a flogging--
that crowning shame he could not have endured and continued to live--
but, short of that, he was so careless and intractable a prisoner, and
gave so much trouble and annoyance to the warders in charge of him, that
he earned none of those good marks whereby a prisoner can purchase the
remission of a certain proportion of his sentence; and as a result he
served the full term of his imprisonment, every moment of which seemed
crowded with the tortures of hell!  And when at length he emerged once
more into the world, he did so as a thoroughly soured, embittered,
cynical, utterly hopeless and reckless man, without a shred of faith in
anything that was good.

The first thing that he learned, upon attaining his freedom, was that
although the Earl, his father, had, after all, survived the shock of his
son's disgrace, he had made a solemn vow never to forgive him, never to
see him again, and never to have any communication with him.  He had,
however, made arrangements with his solicitors that his son should be
met at the prison gates and conveyed thence to London, where he was
lodged in a quiet hotel until arrangements could be made for his
shipment off to Australia.  This was quickly done; and within a week of
his release the young man, under the assumed name of Richard Leslie,
found himself a saloon passenger on board the _Golden Fleece_, with a
plain but sufficient outfit for the voyage, and one hundred pounds in
his pocket to enable him to make a new start in life at the antipodes;
the gift of the money, however, was accompanied by a request from the
Earl that he would never again show his face in England, or even in
Europe.

At the moment when this story opens the sound of the ship's bell--upon
which "four bells" had just been struck--was still vibrating upon the
wet, fog-laden air; the steerage passengers were all below, and most of
them in their bunks; while the cuddy people, with one solitary
exception, were in the brilliantly lighted saloon, amusing themselves
with cards, books, and music.  The exception was Leslie, who, having
changed out of his dress clothes into a comfortable suit of blue serge,
was down in the waist of the ship, smoking a gloomily retrospective
pipe.  The ship's reckoning, that day, had placed her, at noon, in
Latitude 32 degrees 10 minutes North, and Longitude 26 degrees 55
minutes West; she was therefore about midway between the parallels of
Madeira and Teneriffe, but some four hundred miles, or thereabouts, to
the westward of those islands.  The wind was blowing a moderate breeze
from about south-east by South; and the ship, close-hauled on the port
tack, and with all plain sail set, to her royals, was heading
south-west, and going through the water at the rate of a good honest
seven knots.  The helmsman was steering by compass, and not by the
sails, since it was impossible to see anything above a dozen feet up
from the deck; hence the ship was going along with everything a-rap
full.

Captain Rainhill was very far from being easy in his mind.  Seven knots,
he meditated, was a good pace at which to be sailing through a fog thick
enough to cut with a knife, and would mean something very much like
disaster if the ship happened to run up against anything, particularly
if that "anything" happened also to be travelling at about the same
speed in the opposite direction; from this point of view, therefore, the
speed of the _Golden Fleece_ just then constituted a decided element of
danger.  On the other hand, however, it enabled her to promptly answer
her helm, and thus might be the means of enabling her to swerve quickly
aside and so avoid any danger that might suddenly loom up out of the fog
around her; and in this sense it became a safeguard.  Then there was the
fact that the _Golden Fleece_ was no longer in a crowded part of the
ocean; it was three days since they had sighted a craft of any
description, and there might be at that moment nothing within a couple
of hundred miles of them, in which case there was absolutely nothing to
fear.  Furthermore, his owners made an especial point of persistently
impressing upon their captains the great importance of--nay, more, the
urgent necessity for--making quick passages; there were two keen-eyed
lookouts stationed upon the topgallant-forecastle, and between them a
third man provided with a fog-horn, upon which he at brief intervals
blew the weirdest of blasts.  Taking into consideration all these
circumstances the skipper finally decided to leave things as they were,
and put his trust in the "sweet little cherub that sits up aloft to look
after the life of poor Jack."

"Five bells" pealed out upon the dank air, and the responsive cry of
"All's well" from the look-outs came wailing aft from the forecastle.
Leslie's pipe was out.  He knocked out the dead ashes, and turned to go
below.  Then, considering the matter further, he decided that it was
full early yet to turn in, and, sauntering across the deck to the port
rail, he stood gazing abstractedly out to windward as he slowly filled
his pipe afresh.  The man with the fog-horn was still industriously
blowing long blasts to windward when, ruthlessly cutting into one of
these, there suddenly came--from apparently close at hand, on the port
bow--the loud discordant yell of a steam syren; and the next instant
three lights--red, green, and white, arranged in the form of an
isosceles triangle--broke upon Leslie's gaze with startling suddenness
through the dense fog, broad on the port bow of the _Golden Fleece_.  A
large steamer, coming along at full speed, was close aboard and heading
straight for the sailing ship!

Leslie's professional training at once asserted itself and, as a
frenzied shout of "Steamer broad on the port bow!" came pealing aft from
the throats of the two startled lookouts, he made a single bound for the
poop ladder, crying, in a voice that rang through the ship, from stem to
stern--

"Port! hard a-port, for your life!  Over with the wheel, for God's
sake!"

His cry was broken in upon by a mad jangling of engine-room bells
accompanied by a perfect babel of excited shouts--evidently in some
foreign tongue--on board the stranger, mingled with equally excited
shouts and the sudden trampling of feet forward, and loud-voiced
commands from Captain Rainhill on the poop.  As Leslie reached the head
of the poop ladder the steamer crashed with terrific force into the port
side of the ill-fated _Golden Fleece_, just forward of the fore rigging.
So tremendous was the shock that every individual who happened at the
moment to be on his, or her, feet on board the sailing ship was thrown
to the deck; while, as for the ship herself, she was heeled over by it
until the water poured like a cataract in over her starboard topgallant
rail; there was a horrid crunching sound as the ponderous iron bows of
the steamer irresistibly clove their way through the wooden side and
decks of the ship; a loud twanging aloft told of severed rigging; there
was a terrifying crash of breaking spars overhead; and then, all in a
moment, as it seemed, the main deck and poop became alive with
shrieking, shouting, distraught people rushing aimlessly hither and
thither, and excitedly demanding of each other what was the matter.

The skipper, confounded for the moment by the appalling suddenness of
the catastrophe, quickly recovered himself and, turning to the chief
mate, ordered him to go forward to investigate the extent of the damage.
Then, finding Mr Ferris, the second mate, at his elbow, he said--

"Mr Ferris, muster the watches at once--port watch to the port side,
and starboard watch to the starboard side--and set them to work to clear
away the boats for launching.  Where is the chief steward?"

"Here, sir," answered the individual in question, forcing his way
through the excited crowd that surrounded the skipper.

"Good!" ejaculated Rainhill.  "Muster your stewards, sir, and turn-to
upon the job of getting provisions and water up on deck for the boats.
And, as you go, pass the word for all passengers to dress in their
warmest clothing, and make up in packages any valuables that they may
desire to take with them in the event of our being obliged to leave the
ship.  But they must leave their luggage behind; there will be no room
for luggage in the boats.  And tell any of them who may be below to
complete their preparations and come on deck without delay."

At this moment Mr Pryce, having completed his investigations forward,
came rushing up the poop ladder and, wild with excitement, shouted to
the skipper--

"We can't live five minutes, sir!  We are cut down from rail to bilge;
there is a hole in our side big enough to drive a coach and six through,
and the water is pouring into her like a sluice!"

"And where is the steamer?" demanded the skipper.

"She has backed out, and vanished in the fog," answered the mate.

"My God! what an appalling mess," ejaculated the distracted skipper.
"And all through the lubberly carelessness of those foreign fellows, who
were too lazy to sound their syren until they were aboard of us!  Now,
Mr Ferris, what is the news of the boats?  Hurry up and get them into
the water as smartly as possible.  Back the main-yard, Mr Pryce."

This mention of the boats, added to the ill-advised candour of the
mate's loudly proclaimed statement as to the condition of the ship, took
immediate hold upon the mob of anxiously listening people who were
crowding round the two men, and galvanised them into sudden, breathless
activity; hitherto they had only vaguely realised that what had happened
_might_ possibly mean danger to them; now, in a flash, it dawned upon
them, one and all, that they were the victims of a ghastly disaster, and
that death was actually staring them in the face!  And therewith a mad,
unreasoning panic took possession of them, and with one accord they made
a rush for the boats.

"Stand back, there; stand back, I say, and leave the men room to work,"
yelled the skipper.  "Do you hear, there, you people from the steerage?
Stand back, as you value your lives!  Do you want to drown yourselves
and everybody else?  Here, Mr Pryce, lend me a hand to keep these
madmen in order.  Back, every man of you; get off this poop--"

He might as well have appealed to and attempted to reason with the ocean
that was pouring in through the gash in the ship's side!  It is doubtful
whether any one of those to whom he addressed himself heard him; if they
did they certainly took no notice.  In a moment the ship's crew were
swept away from the davits and tackle falls, and in another the maddened
mob, with a wild yell of "We're sinking, we're sinking!" were struggling
together, striking and trampling down everybody who happened to be in
the way, and fighting desperately with each other for a place in the
boats, that had been swung out and were ready for lowering.  The skipper
and the mate dashed manfully into the thick of the _melee_, no doubt
hoping that their authority, and the habit of discipline that was being
gradually cultivated among the emigrants would enable them to stem the
tide of panic that was raging, and restore order for at least the few
minutes that were needed to get the boats into the water.  In vain! the
two men were visible for a moment, fighting desperately, side by side;
then they went down before that maniacal charge--in which the cuddy
passengers had by this time joined--and were seen no more.

As for Leslie, the nearest approach to happiness that had been his for
more than seven years came to him now with the conviction that he was at
last face to face with inevitable, kindly Death.  He had endured seven
years of physical misery and mental torment because he had too much grit
to resort to the cowardly expedient of taking his own life; but now,
_now_ fate--he no longer believed in the existence of such a being as
God--fate had taken pity upon him and, through no act of his own, he was
going to be relieved of his intolerable burden.  For he knew that, with
that fighting mob of raging maniacs struggling madly round the boats,
escape was a sheer impossibility, and that in a few minutes--or hours,
at the outside--for he was a strong swimmer--he would go down inanimate
into the dark depths, and his load of disgrace and humiliation would
fall from him for ever.

So, serene and contented in mind, he stood well back beyond the outer
fringe of that frantic, swaying, cursing crowd, and cynically watched
its proceedings.  The scene upon which he gazed was precisely what he
had expected from the moment when those three ill-omened lights had
burst through the fog and told him that the _Golden Fleece_ was a doomed
ship.  Here was selfishness supremely triumphant, beating down and
eradicating in a moment every nobler instinct of humanity.  It was
"Every man for himself" with a vengeance; women and children were struck
out of men's way with horrid curses and savage, murderous blows; men
were fighting together like furious beasts; knives were out, blood was
flowing freely, and the air was clamorous with shrieks, groans, and
imprecations; the whole accentuated and made still more dreadful by the
loud clash of dangling wreckage aloft, and the awful creaking and
groaning of the riven hull as it writhed upon the low swell to the
gurgling and sobbing and splashing sound of the water alongside and
under the counter; the weird and horror-inspiring effect being still
further intensified by the hollow moaning of the night wind over the
heaving surface of the deep.  The struggling crowd was no longer human,
save in shape; it had become a mob of senseless, raging demons!

Blind, insensate selfishness!  Yes; that was the motive that dominated
every individual in that seething crowd.  Had they but kept their heads
and listened to poor Captain Rainhill, had they but helped instead of
hindered, all might have been well.  Many hands make light and quick
work; and had every man there devoted but a tithe of the energy he was
now displaying to the task of helping the crew to launch the boats it is
possible that every life on board might have been saved.  But, as it
was, the boats hung there at the davits, crowded far beyond their utmost
capacity with men who ignorantly sought to lower themselves, while
others fought and struggled with the occupants for the places that they
had secured; and nothing useful was done.

Meanwhile, although not one of that crowd of mad folk seemed to be aware
of the fact, the ship was settling down with awful rapidity.  Already
she was sunk to her channels, and was heaving heavily upon the swell
with the slow, deadly sluggishness of movement that, to the initiated,
told so plainly that her end was nigh.

Now, utterly hopeless as Leslie's future appeared to him, impossible as
seemed to be the task of ever rehabilitating himself in the eyes of the
world, crushed as he was by the burden of his disgrace, and glad as he
was at the prospect of deliverance from all his misery through the
kindly agency of death, it was characteristic of him that, even now, at
the supreme moment of his impending deliverance, his self-respect
imperiously demanded of him that at all costs must he eschew even the
faintest taint of so cowardly an act as that of suicide; if death were
really close at hand--as it certainly appeared to be--well and good; it
was what he was hoping for, and would be thrice welcome.  Nevertheless,
he felt it incumbent upon himself that he should take full advantage of
such slender aids to escape as happened to present themselves; and
accordingly, as the bows of the ship became depressed, while the stern
rose in the air, telling that the _Golden Fleece_ was about to take her
final dive, he mechanically sprang to the taffrail and, disengaging a
life-buoy that hung there, passed it over his shoulders and up under his
armpits.  Then, climbing upon the rail, he leapt unhesitatingly into the
black, heaving water below him at the precise moment when a loud wail of
indescribable anguish and despair from the frantic crowd fighting about
the boats told that to them, too, had at last come the realisation of
imminent doom.

As Leslie struck the water and floated there, supported by the
life-buoy, the rudder and stern-post of the ship hove themselves slowly
out of the water close alongside him until the keel, for a length of
some thirty feet, was exposed; then the huge hull began to slide forward
and away from him with an ever-quickening motion until, with a rush, a
weird whistling of air escaping from the ship's interior that mingled
horribly with the shrieks of those on deck, and a dull booming as the
decks were burst up, the fabric plunged headlong and was gone!

Then came the deadly suction of the sinking ship; the waters poured from
all round, like a raging torrent, into the swirling hollow where the
craft had been; and as Leslie felt himself caught and dragged
irresistibly toward the vortex he instinctively drew a deep breath,
filling his lungs to their utmost capacity with air in readiness for the
long submergence that he knew was coming.

Another moment and it had come; the tumbling waters had closed over him,
and he felt himself being dragged down, down, down, and whirled
helplessly hither and thither as he clung resolutely to his life-buoy.
As he continued to descend he was constantly reminded that he was not
alone in this frightful plunge into the depths; he several times came
into more or less violent contact with objects, some at least of which
were certainly struggling human beings like himself.  Once he felt
himself strongly clutched by the hair for a moment, but the swirl of the
water almost immediately tore him free again.  And still that awful,
implacable downward drag continued, until he began to wonder dreamily
whether he would ever return to the surface alive, or whether, after
all, deliverance from his wretchedness--which in some inexplicable way
already seemed much less poignant to him--was coming to him down there
in those black depths.  The pressure upon his body was rapidly becoming
unendurable; the air was being forced from his lungs; he was
suffocating!  Involuntarily he began to struggle, throwing out his arms
and legs instinctively in a powerful effort to return to the surface.
Then, in a moment, he lost all consciousness of his dreadful situation
and found himself once more back among the scenes of his childhood, a
multitude of trivial and long-forgotten incidents recurring to his
memory with inconceivable rapidity.  He was a dying man; the agony of
drowning was over, and he had entered upon that curious phase of
retrospection that most drowning people experience, and that so
pleasantly precedes that form of dissolution.

But after an indefinite period of oblivion consciousness returned, and
he found that he had somehow come back to the surface and was painfully
taking in great gulps of air, clinging tenaciously, meanwhile, to what,
so far as he could discover, in the intense darkness, was the body of a
woman!

Whether that woman was alive, or dead, Leslie knew not; but, still
animated by the old reckless disregard for his own safety that had
become a part of his nature, as well as by that innate feeling of
chivalry that even his great sorrow had not eradicated, his first
impulse was to give his unknown companion the benefit of whatever
slender possibility of ultimate escape might exist; and he accordingly
lost not a moment in disengaging himself from the life-buoy that still
supported him, and adjusting it beneath the unconscious body of the
woman in such a manner that she sat within it almost as though it were
an armchair; the buoy floating aslant in the water, with its lower rim
supporting the weight of the body, while its upper rim, which rose
several inches above the surface of the water, pressed against and
supported the woman's shoulders.  By this arrangement the woman's head
was raised well above the water; and if she were not already dead there
was some prospect that she would ultimately revive and recover
consciousness.  As for Leslie, he was so powerful a swimmer that he
really needed no support, now that he was once more himself; he
accordingly threw himself prone upon his back and, in that position,
floated easily, retaining his hold upon the buoy by means of the beckets
of light line that were looped around it.

The water was quite warm; there was therefore no hardship in being
immersed in it; there was not much sea running, and such as there was
seldom broke.  Leslie felt therefore that the probability of several
hours of life still lay before him; and he began, with a queer feeling
of dismay and disappointment, to ask himself whether, after all, he
might not ultimately be doomed to escape.  He knew that the catastrophe
had occurred right in the usual track of ships bound south; and it was
quite upon the cards that one of these might come along at any moment
and pass within hail of him, or, at all events, close enough to permit
of his being seen.  And if this should happen to occur between daylight
and dark he would feel bound to adopt such measures as might be possible
to attract the attention of her crew and cause himself to be picked up.
Well, he argued, if such a thing should happen it could not be helped;
perhaps there might occur some other occasion.  Besides, there was his
companion.  She might possibly be alive; and if such should be the case
she would doubtless be anxious to escape; she had, in an accidental way,
come under his protection, and he must do everything he possibly could
for her.

The question as to whether life still lingered in the occupant of the
life-buoy was speedily determined; for while Leslie still lay floating
tranquilly upon his back, weighing the _pros_ and _cons_ of the
situation, a faint groan reached his ear, quickly followed by a second,
louder and more sustained; then followed certain sounds indicative of
violent sickness; the patient was getting rid of the very considerable
quantity of sea water that she had swallowed.

Leslie waited patiently until this unpleasant episode appeared to have
come to an end, when, raising himself upright in the water, he said
cheerfully--

"That's capital; you will soon be all right now.  Are you feeling
tolerably comfortable in that buoy?"

"Oh Heaven!" moaned a voice that Leslie fancied was not altogether
unfamiliar to him, "is it possible that there is some one else in the
same horrible plight as my unfortunate self?"

"Nay," said Leslie, "do not speak or think of yourself as unfortunate,
at least as yet.  You have thus far escaped with life--which is, I fear,
more than any one else except myself has done--and while there is life
there is hope, you know."

"Surely not in such a dreadful situation as ours!" said his companion.
"What hope dare we entertain?  What possible prospect of escape have we?
Is it not a certainty that we shall perish miserably by thirst and
starvation if we succeed in avoiding death by drowning?  I must confess
that I shall bitterly regret the respite that has in some mysterious way
come to me, if I am doomed to linger on and endure the protracted
horrors of death from hunger and thirst."

"Naturally you will," assented Leslie; "I fully agree with you that, if
one or the other fate must necessarily overtake us, that of drowning is
much to be preferred.  But it is early yet to despair.  We are in a part
of the Atlantic that is much frequented by ships; and if fate will only
be kind to us, it is quite on the cards that we may be picked up in the
course of a day or two.  And surely, if this fine weather will but
last--as I believe it will--we can hold out for that length of time.
And let me reassure you upon one point: so long as we are fully immersed
in the water, as we now are, we shall not suffer very greatly from
thirst; the water penetrates through the pores of the skin, and, being
filtered as it were in the process, alleviates to a very considerable
extent the craving for liquid that must otherwise result from long
abstinence.  Hunger, of course, is another matter; but we must make up
our minds to endure that as best we may.  You will understand that I am
now looking at the bright side of things; there is a dark side also, but
we will not consider that at present.  What we have to do just now is to
be hopeful; to maintain one's hopefulness is half the battle.  And, if
the assurance will help in the least to encourage you, I should like you
clearly to understand that so long as life--or at least consciousness
and a particle of strength--remains to me, you may rely upon my doing my
level best for you.  And, being by profession a sailor, I may be able to
do much that a landsman could not.  Meanwhile, however, all that we can
do at present is to wait patiently for daylight.  One point is already
declaring itself in our favour; I notice that the fog is lifting."

"Is it?" responded the girl, wearily.  "I cannot say that I am able to
detect any improvement.  But, naturally, a sailor's trained eyes would
be more quick to see such a change than those of a lands-woman like
myself.  And you spoke of yourself as a sailor.  I seem to recognise
your voice.  Are you one of the officers of the _Golden Fleece_?"

"No," answered Leslie.  "My connection with the ship was simply that of
a passenger like yourself.  But I used to belong to the British navy;
and although I left it some seven years ago, I venture to believe that
my knowledge of seamanship has not yet grown quite rusty.  My name is
Leslie--Richard Leslie, and unless my ears deceive me you are Miss
Trevor."

"Yes," assented the girl; "you are quite right.  I am that unfortunate
individual--unfortunate, that is to say, in that I yielded to my poor
aunt's persuasions and consented to embark in a sailing ship instead of
going out to Australia in a mail steamer.  I had not been very well for
some months, and it was thought that the longer voyage by a sailing ship
would benefit my health.  And so you are Mr Leslie, the gentleman who
held himself so rigidly aloof from all that he excited everybody's most
lively curiosity as to his business, his antecedents, and, in short,
everything about him.  Well, Mr Leslie, let me say at once that I am
profoundly grateful to you for your promise to help me so far as you
can.  At the same time, I must confess that at present I quite fail to
see in what way you can possibly be of the slightest assistance to me,
excepting, of course, that your presence and companionship are a great
comfort and encouragement to me.  It would be awful beyond words to find
one's self quite alone in such a frightful situation as this.  By the
way, do you think it likely that any others besides ourselves have
survived this horrible accident--if accident it was?"

"Oh," answered Leslie, "there is no doubt as to its being an accident.
But it was one of those accidents that might have been avoided.
Rainhill was not to blame; he observed every possible precaution; the
fault lay with the other fellow, who came blundering along through that
dense fog at full speed.  I take it he approached us so rapidly that he
failed to hear our fog-horn until it was too late to avoid us.  He
ought, under the circumstances, to have been steaming dead slow.  Then,
upon hearing our fog-horn, he could at once have stopped his engines,
and, if necessary, reversed them, until the danger of collision was
past.  As it is, it is quite upon the cards that he, too, has gone to
the bottom.  No ship could strike so terrific a blow as that steamer did
without suffering serious damage herself.  As to the probability of
there being other survivors than ourselves, I doubt it.  It is
absolutely certain that nobody could possibly have escaped in either of
the boats; and, watching the mad fight for them, at a distance, as I
did, I imagine that when the ship went down, every one of those frantic
people went under in the grasp of somebody else, and so lost, in another
person's death-grip, whatever chance he might otherwise have had of
coming to the surface.  It is a marvel to me how _you_ escaped.  Where
were you when the ship plunged?"

"I?  Oh, I was down on what they called the `main deck,'" answered Miss
Trevor.  "I heard the captain give orders that every one was to don
their warmest clothing, so I slipped into my cabin and changed my
evening frock for a good stout serge that I wore when I first came on
board; and when I emerged from the saloon I found myself quite alone.  I
was just about to climb up on the poop when the ship seemed to slide
from under me, and I found myself being dragged down beneath the
surface.  Then I lost consciousness, and knew no more until I awoke to
find myself afloat in this life-buoy.  I have been wondering how I came
to be in such a singular position.  Can you by any chance enlighten me?"

"Well, to be perfectly candid, I put you there," answered Leslie.  "I
recognised from the first that, with the mad panic prevailing on board,
there would be no possibility of utilising the boats; so I took the
precaution to provide myself with a life-buoy, in which I jumped
overboard.  Like you, I was of course dragged under by the suction of
the ship, as she went down; and, like you, I lost consciousness, though
not, I think, for very long.  And when I recovered my senses I found
myself once more afloat, with a fold of your dress in my grasp.  So, as
the simplest means of relieving myself of the fatigue of supporting you,
I placed you in the buoy, not needing it myself, since I am a strong
swimmer, and can support myself for practically any length of time in
the water."

"From which it would appear that I am indebted to you for the
circumstance that I am alive at the present moment," commented Miss
Trevor.  "I suppose I ought to be profoundly grateful to you; but--"

"Excuse me for interrupting you," broke in Leslie, "but if I am not
greatly mistaken there is something floating out there that may be of
use to us.  I will tow you to it.  In our present circumstances we must
avail ourselves of everything that affords us an opportunity to better
our condition."



CHAPTER TWO.

PICKED UP.

The object that had attracted Leslie's notice proved to be one of the
hencoops belonging to the _Golden Fleece_, that had broken adrift when
the ship went down, and returned to the surface.  There was another
floating at no great distance, so, having towed Miss Trevor, in her
life-buoy, to the first, and directed her to hold on to it for a few
minutes, he swam on to the second, which, with some difficulty, he got
alongside the first.  The lashings of both were fortunately intact, the
cleats to which the coops were secured having torn away from the deck;
Leslie therefore temporarily secured the two coops to each other,
intending, as soon as daylight appeared, to lash them properly together
in such a manner as, he hoped, would form a fairly useful raft.  During
the progress of this small business, the conversation between the two
people thus strangely thrown together had necessarily been interrupted;
and as Miss Trevor did not appear to be very eager to renew it, Leslie
thought it best to maintain silence, in the hope that his companion
might be able to secure a little sleep.

Meanwhile, the fog had gradually been growing less dense, and within
about half an hour of the incident of the hencoops a few stars became
visible overhead.  An hour later the fog had completely disappeared,
revealing a star-studded sky that spread dome-like and unbroken from
zenith to horizon.

To Leslie the night seemed interminable; but at length his anxious eyes
were gladdened by the appearance of a faint paling of the sky low down
on the horizon in the eastern quarter.  Gradually and imperceptibly the
pallor spread right, left, and upward toward the zenith, until a broad
arch of it lay stretched along the horizon, within the limits of which
the stars one after another dwindled in brightness and presently
disappeared.  Against this patch of pallor the heads of the running
surges rose and fell restlessly, black as ink; and once, as Leslie and
his companion were lifted on the top of the swell, the former thought he
caught sight, for a moment, of a small toy-like object in the far
distance.  When next he was hove up he looked for it again, but for some
few minutes in vain.  Then came another unusually lofty undulation that
for a moment lifted him high enough to render the horizon almost level,
with only an isolated ridge here and there to break its continuity; and
during that brief moment he once more caught sight of the object, and
knew that it was no figment of his imagination; on the contrary, it was
a clear and sharply defined image of the upper canvas--from the royals
down to the foot of the topsails--of a barque, steering south.  She was,
of course, much too distant to be of any use to them, but her appearance
just then was encouraging, inasmuch as it confirmed his conviction that
they were fairly in the track of ships.  He pointed the craft out to his
companion, and said what he could to raise her hopes; but by this time
the poor girl was beginning to feel so exhausted from her long exposure,
and the intense emotions that had preceded it, that he found his task
difficult almost to the point of impossibility.

During the brief period occupied by Leslie in watching the distant
barque and endeavouring to deduce from her appearance substantial
grounds for encouragement on the part of his companion, the sky had
brightened to such an extent that the stars had all vanished, and
presently, with a flash of golden radiance, up rose the sun; his
cheering beams at once transforming the scene from one of chill
dreariness to a blaze of genial warmth and beauty.

Leslie felt that, with the reappearance of the sun, it would be well to
get his companion out of the water and up on the top of the hencoops as
soon as possible, since dryness and warmth were what she now most
urgently required; he accordingly at once went to work with a will to
get his proposed raft into shape.

But, first of all, he made it his business to investigate the interiors
of the coops, with an eye to the provision of a certain want in the not
far distant future.  He felt sure that in one, if not both, of the coops
would be found a number of drowned fowls; and although the hunger of
himself and his companion had not yet nearly reached the point of
demanding satisfaction on a diet of raw, drowned poultry, he foresaw the
speedy approach of a moment when even such unappetising fare as this
would be welcome.  He accordingly turned the coops over so that he could
get at their contents; and found, as he had expected, that each
contained a fair supply of food.  Indeed there was more than they would
be able to consume before it became unusable, one coop yielding fourteen
fowls, and the other eight.  These he abstracted and secured; then he
turned the two coops over in the water so that they floated right side
upward, and face to face--in order that their tops should afford
something in the nature of a smooth platform upon which the pair could
recline with the minimum of discomfort--and in that position he firmly
lashed the two together with the lashings still attached to them.  Then
he helped Miss Trevor to get out of her life-buoy and clamber up on the
top of the fragile structure; finding, to his satisfaction, when he had
done so, that the raft possessed just enough buoyancy to support her
comfortably, when reclining at full length upon it, although,
unfortunately, not enough to keep her dry, since even in such quiet
weather as then prevailed, the sea continuously washed over it.

It occurred to Leslie that, since the hencoops had broken adrift from
the sinking ship, other wreckage might have done the same; and he
accordingly proceeded to search the surface of the ocean with his gaze,
in quest of floating objects.  For a few minutes his quest was vain; but
presently, just to the southward of the sun's dazzle on the water, his
eye was caught by a momentary appearance of blinking light, as of the
sun's rays reflected from a cluster of floating wet objects.  The next
instant he lost it again behind a heaving mound of swell; then he caught
it again and, this time, for long enough to enable him to decide that it
was about half a mile distant.  For a moment he was doubtful whether,
being so far away, what he saw could possibly be wreckage from the
_Golden Fleece_; but a little reflection suggested to him that, if this
wreckage should happen to be floating deep, it would be quite possible
for him and his companion, with the hencoops--floating on the very
surface as they all were--to have been driven quite this distance to
leeward by the mere wash of the sea.  Whether or no, however, it was
certain that away there, some half a mile to windward, there was enough
wreckage, apparently, to afford them a raft upon which they could be
supported high and dry.

There was but one way of reaching this wreckage, and that was to swim to
it, propelling the raft and its fair burden before him.  This was a
decidedly formidable task to undertake; for the raft, being rectangular
in shape, and drawing about two feet of water, offered a very
considerable amount of resistance to propulsion, especially under the
unfavourable conditions which were the only ones possible; still there
was no other task upon which Leslie could employ himself--and he felt
that it was imperative to do _something_, if only to while the time away
and interest his companion, thus diverting her thoughts and preventing
her from dwelling too much upon the horrors of their present situation.
He therefore set manfully to work and, shaping a course by the run of
the sea, proceeded to propel the raft to windward, resting his hand upon
its after end and striking out with his legs, in long, steady strokes
that could be maintained for a considerable period without entailing
undue fatigue.

Their progress was painfully slow, almost imperceptible, indeed; for
when at the end of an hour's vigorous swimming Leslie paused to take
breath and a look round, the utmost that he could say was that they were
certainly not any further away from the wreckage for which he was aiming
than they had been to start with.  And, reasoning upon this, the
conclusion forced upon him was that, after all, he had merely succeeded
in retarding their own drift to leeward; while to actually force his
unwieldy raft to windward and thus reach the desired _flotsam_, was
quite beyond his unaided powers.

He had just rather ruefully arrived at this unwelcome conclusion when,
clambering up on the raft to take a good look round, as the structure
rose heavily upon the back of a swell he suddenly sighted, away in the
northern board, a tiny speck of creamy white, gleaming softly out
against the warm delicate grey tones of the sky low down in that
quarter.  It was but a momentary glimpse, for he had no sooner caught it
than the raft settled down into the trough, while a low hill of
turquoise blue water swelled up in front of him, hiding the horizon and
the object upon which his eager gaze had been so intently fixed.  Then
the raft was once more hove up, and Leslie again caught sight of the
object, which this time remained in view for a space of perhaps six
seconds; and brief though this period may seem, it was sufficient to
enable his practised seaman's eye to determine the fact that what he saw
was the head of the royal of a ship steering to the southward.

So anxiously did Leslie await the next reappearance of the tiny object,
and so tense was his attitude of expectation, that it attracted the
notice of his companion, who was fast sinking into a state of torpor
from exhaustion.  She raised herself painfully into a sitting attitude
and, in weak and somewhat fretful tones, inquired:--

"What is it, Mr Leslie; do you see anything?"

"Yes," answered Leslie, still anxiously watching; "there is a vessel of
some sort away out there; and she is steering this way.  What I am
anxious to determine, if I can, is whether she is likely to pass close
enough to us to enable us to attract her attention."

"Oh, I pray Heaven that it may be so!" ejaculated Miss Trevor,
brightening up perceptibly at the prospect of possible rescue.  "Is
there nothing that we can do to insure that she shall see us?  You say
that you are a sailor, and I have been told that sailors are amazingly
ingenious creatures, surely you can think of something, some act that
would better our position!"  She spoke querulously, with an undertone of
the old disdain that formerly marked her manner running through her
speech.

"A man can do but little with only his two hands and no tools to help
him," answered Leslie, gently; "yet you may rely upon my doing all that
is possible under such disadvantageous conditions.  From the position of
that craft, and the course that I judge her to be steering, I fear that
she will pass too far to windward of us to permit of our attracting her
attention.  The fact that we shall be to leeward of her when she passes
will be against us; for a sailor looks half a dozen times to windward
for once that he glances over the lee rail.  And my efforts during the
last hour have convinced me of the impossibility of driving this
ungainly structure to windward by merely swimming.  If I only had an
oar, or a paddle of some sort, I might be able to do something; but
then, you see, I haven't, so it is of no use to think further of that.
The wind is dropping, which is a point in our favour, inasmuch as it
will lessen the speed of yonder craft in coming down toward us, and so
give us more time in which to act.  I believe that, for instance, it
would be possible for me, alone and unencumbered, to swim out to
windward far enough to intercept her; but I certainly do not like the
idea of leaving you here, alone, even on such an important errand as the
one that I have in my mind; for if the wind should happen to shift, or I
should by any other means fail to reach her, I might meet with some
difficulty--it might perhaps even prove impossible--to find you again."

"Oh, pray do not allow consideration for me to interfere with your
freedom of action," retorted the girl, bitterly.  "If you can save
yourself by leaving me here to die alone, I beg that you will not
hesitate."

"Stop, if you please," answered Leslie, with some sharpness of tone.
"You have no right to think or to suggest that I should do any such
thing.  Perhaps, however, you may have misunderstood me," he continued,
more gently.  "What I had in my mind was this.  It occurred to me that
it might not be difficult for me to swim out and intercept that ship,
attract the attention of those on board her, and get picked up.  Then I
could explain to the skipper that you were down here to leeward, afloat
upon a raft; upon learning which he would of course at once bear up and
run down to look for you.  And, as in all probability you would only be
some two miles away at the moment when I should be picked up, there
would be absolutely no possibility of missing you.  Still," he
continued, thoughtfully, "there remains the chance of my failure--as I
said just now; and I scarcely like to risk it.  If it were not for the
fact that you are in so weak and exhausted a condition, I would suggest
that you once more get into the life-buoy; when, abandoning this raft,
and trusting to chance to find either it again, or the other wreckage
that we have been trying to reach, I would endeavour to tow you far
enough to windward to enable us to intercept that vessel and get her to
pick us up."

"Do you really think that such a proceeding would be likely to prove
successful?" demanded the girl, with a considerable access of animation
in her voice.

"It might, or it might not," answered Leslie.  "It is impossible to say
with certainty; so much depends upon chance.  Still I think the
experiment is quite worth trying; we may have to do something very like
it eventually, and it would be better to try it now, while we have a
little strength left us.  Only if we are to attempt it, we had better
start forthwith, so that we may make as sure as we can of achieving
success.  By the way, I suppose you are fairly hungry by this time.  Are
you hungry enough to tackle a raw slice off the breast of a drowned
chicken?"

The girl made a gesture of disgust.  "If the most dainty meal imaginable
were placed before me at this moment, I do not believe I could touch a
morsel of it," she said, "But I beg that you will not allow my
squeamishness to deter you from eating, if you feel the need of food."

"Thanks," replied Leslie, cheerfully.  "I must confess that I am quite
ready for breakfast.  And although the fare can scarcely be described as
appetising, I think I will attempt a morsel; it may prove useful to me,
in view of the task before us."

And therewith, extracting his knife from his pocket, and selecting a
fairly plump fowl, he hacked off a goodsized slice of the breast, from
which he stripped skin and feathers together.  Then, cramming the lump
of flesh into his mouth, he masticated it well, extracting all the juice
from it; after which he pronounced himself ready for the new adventure.

Hauling the life-buoy up on the raft, he showed Miss Trevor how to place
herself in it in such a manner as to secure the maximum amount of
support from it; and as soon as she had arranged herself according to
his instructions he bade her plunge boldly in; which she did.  He then
at once followed her and, passing his left arm through one of the
beckets, forthwith struck out, swimming with a long, steady stroke, in
the direction which he had decided would be the most advantageous for
him to take.

It was perfectly true that, as Leslie had remarked, the wind was falling
light; it had dropped quite perceptibly since sunrise, and the state of
the ocean was reflecting this change; the sea was going down; it no
longer broke anywhere, and the conditions for swimming were improving
every moment.  The pair of strange voyagers were making excellent
progress, as was evidenced by the rapidity with which they drew away
from the raft; within half an hour, indeed, they had left it so far
astern that it was with the utmost difficulty Leslie was able to locate
it again when he paused for a moment to rest.  And when a further
quarter of an hour had elapsed it had vanished altogether; thus
vindicating Leslie's previous doubts as to the wisdom of swimming out
alone to intercept the ship, leaving Miss Trevor upon the raft, to be
sought for and picked up later on.

As to the craft for which they were aiming, it was clear that she was
but a slow tub, for she came drifting down toward them at a very
deliberate pace.  The wind had softened away to about a four-knot
breeze; but Leslie was of opinion that, although she showed all plain
sail, up to her royals, she was scarcely doing three knots.  This was
all in their favour, for while the smoothening of the sea's surface
enabled Leslie to attain a much more satisfactory rate of speed with the
same moderate amount of exertion, the low rate of sailing of the
on-coming vessel rendered it certain that, apart from accident, they
would now assuredly be able to reach her.  And by the time that this had
become an undoubted fact, Leslie had made out that the stranger was a
small brig, of some two hundred and thirty tons, or thereabout.  He
would greatly have preferred that she had been a bigger craft, because
the probability would then have been greater of her proving a passenger
ship, and a passenger ship was what Leslie was now particularly anxious
to fall in with, for Miss Trevor's sake--a change of clothing being an
almost indispensable requirement on the part of the young lady, so soon
as she should once more find herself on a ship's deck.  That there were
no passengers--or, at least, no women passengers--aboard the brig,
however, was practically certain--she was much too small for that--and
unless the skipper happened to be a married man, with his wife aboard,
Miss Trevor would have to fall back upon her own resources and ingenuity
for a change of clothing.  He discussed this matter with his companion
as he swam onward; but the young woman just then regarded the question
with a considerable amount of indifference; her one consuming anxiety,
for the moment, was to again find herself on the deck of a craft of some
sort; all other considerations she was clearly quite willing to relegate
to a more or less distant future.

Meanwhile, the brig was slowly drawing down toward them, and as slowly
lifting her canvas above the horizon.  And by the time that she had
raised herself to the foot of her courses, Leslie had succeeded in
bringing her two masts into line, so that the pair were now dead ahead
of her.  Having accomplished this much, the swimmer concluded that he
might safely take a rest, for the brig, being close-hauled, would be
certain to be making more or less leeway; and it was quite possible that
she would drive to leeward at least as fast as they did, if not faster,
he therefore threw himself over on his back, requesting his companion to
keep an eye on the approaching brig, and report to him her progress from
time to time.

The breeze, having begun to drop, continued to fall still lighter, until
Leslie, raising himself for a moment to take a look at the brig, saw
with some dismay that her lower canvas was wrinkling and collapsing
occasionally for lack of wind.  She was by this time, however, hull-up,
and not more than half a mile distant; moreover the rest in which he had
been indulging had refreshed him so considerably that he felt quite
capable of further exertion.  He therefore determined to shorten the
period of suspense as much as possible by swimming directly for the
craft--a resolution that was immensely strengthened by the sudden
recollection that they were afloat in a part of the ocean where a shark
or sharks might put in an unwelcome appearance at any moment.
Accordingly, without mentioning this last unpleasant reflection of his
to his companion, he recommenced swimming, this time shaping a course
directly for the brig.

Although his own individual progress, and that of the brig, was slow,
their combined progress toward each other rapidly shortened the distance
between them, and within about a quarter of an hour of the time that
Leslie had recommenced swimming he had arrived near enough, in his
judgment, to commence hailing, with a view to attracting the attention
of the brig's crew.  Ceasing his exertions, therefore, he took a good
long breath and shouted, at the top of his voice--

"Brig ahoy!  _Brig ahoy_!  Brig Ahoy!"

The hail, thrice repeated, exhausted the capacity of his lungs, and he
paused, anxiously listening for a reply.  He thought--and Miss Trevor
thought, too--that in response to his last shout a faint "Hillo?" had
come floating down to them; but the wash of the water was in his ears,
and he could not be certain, he therefore again took breath, and
repeated his hail.

This time there could be no doubt about it; the answering hail came
distinctly enough, and immediately afterwards--so close was the brig to
them--he saw first one head, then another, and another, appear in the
eyes of the vessel, peering over the bows.  Quick as light, and treading
water meanwhile, he whipped the white pocket-handkerchief out of the
breast-pocket of his coat and waved it eagerly over his head.  The
people in the bows of the brig stared incredulously for a moment; then
with a sudden simultaneous flinging aloft of their arms they abruptly
vanished.

"All right," ejaculated Leslie, in tones of profound relief, "they have
seen us, and your deliverance, Miss Trevor, is now a matter of but a few
brief minutes!"

"Oh, thank God; thank God!" cried the girl, brokenly; and then, all in a
moment, the tension of her nerves suddenly giving way, she broke down
utterly, and burst into a perfect passion of tears.  Leslie had sense
enough to recognise that this hysterical outburst would probably relieve
his companion's sorely overwrought feelings, and do her good; he
therefore allowed her to have her cry out in peace, without making any
attempt to check her.

She was still sobbing convulsively when Leslie, who never took his eyes
off the slowly approaching brig, saw five people suddenly appear in the
vessel's bows, three of them pointing eagerly, while the other two
peered out ahead under the sharp of their hands.

"Brig ahoy!" hailed Leslie; "back your main-yard, will you, and stand by
to heave us a couple of rope's ends when we come alongside?"

"Ay, ay," promptly came the answer from the brig.  The men in the bows
again vanished; and, as they did so, the same voice that had just
answered pealed out, "Let go the port main braces; main tack and sheet;
back the main-yard!  And then some of you stand by to drop a line or
two, with a standing bowline in their ends, to those people in the
water."

The main-yard swung slowly aback, the canvas on the mainmast pressed
against the mast, still further retarding the vessel's sluggish
movement; and as she drifted almost imperceptibly up to them, a few
strokes of Leslie's arms took the pair alongside, where some half a
dozen rope's ends, with loops in them, already dangled in the water.
With a deft movement, Leslie seized and dropped one of them over his
head and under his armpits; then, taking Miss Trevor about the waist, he
gave the word "Hoist away, handsomely," and four men, standing on the
brig's rail, dragged them up the vessel's low side, and assisted them to
gain the deck.

The vessel, on board which they now found themselves, was a small craft
compared with the _Golden Fleece_, measuring, as Leslie had already
guessed, about two hundred and thirty tons register.  That she was
British the language of her crew had already told him; and he was
thankful that it was so, for he might now reasonably hope for courteous
treatment of himself and his companion--which is not always to be
reckoned upon with certainty, under such circumstances, if the craft
happens to be manned by foreigners.  The vessel, moreover, appeared to
be tolerably clean; while the crew seemed to be a fairly decent lot of
men.

As he gained the deck, a tall, dark, rather handsome man--but with an
expression of countenance that Leslie hardly liked--stepped forward.  He
was clad entirely in white, and was clearly the master of the brig.

"Good morning," he said, without offering his hand, or uttering any word
of welcome.  "Where the devil do you come from?"

"We are," answered Leslie, "survivors--the only two, I am afraid--of the
passenger ship _Golden Fleece_, bound to Melbourne, which was run into
and sunk by an unknown steamer last night about eleven o'clock, during a
dense fog.  My name is Leslie; I was one of the cuddy passengers; and
this lady--who was likewise a cuddy passenger--is Miss Trevor."

The man's rather saturnine features relaxed as he gazed with undisguised
admiration at the lovely girl, wet and bedraggled though she was; and,
stepping up to her, he held out his hand, saying--

"Your most obedient, miss.  Glad to see you aboard my ship.  My name's
Potter--James Potter; and this brig's the _Mermaid_, of London, bound
out to Valparaiso with a general cargo.  And this," he added, directing
the girl's attention toward a slight, active-looking man who stood
beside him, "is my only mate, Mr Purchas."

Miss Trevor bowed slightly, first to one and then to the other of the
two men, as these introductions were made; then, turning once more to
Potter, she thanked him earnestly and heartily for having picked up
herself and her companion, and stood waiting irresolutely for what was
next to happen.

"Oh, that's all right, miss; you're very welcome, I'm sure.  Glad to
have the chance of doing a service to such a beauty as you are."  Then,
turning abruptly about, he shouted, "Swing the main-yard, and fill upon
her.  Board the main tack, and aft with the sheet.  Lively now, you
skowbanks; and don't stand staring there like stuck pigs!"

The men hurried away to execute these elegantly embellished orders.  And
Leslie, who had stood impatiently by, with a slowly gathering frown
corrugating his brow, stepped forward and said--

"I hope, Mr Potter, that our presence on board your brig is not going
to subject you to inconvenience.  And I hope, further, that we shall not
need to tax your hospitality for very long.  Sooner or later we are
pretty certain to fall in with a homeward-bound ship, in which case I
will ask you to have the goodness to transfer Miss Trevor and myself to
her, as Valparaiso is quite out of our way, and we have no wish to visit
the place.  Meanwhile, we have been in the water for somewhere about
twelve hours, and Miss Trevor is in a dreadfully exhausted condition, as
you may see for yourself.  If you could kindly arrange for her to turn
in for a few hours, you could do her no greater service for the present.
And to be quite candid, I should not be sorry if you could spare me a
corner in which to stretch myself while my clothes are drying."

The skipper turned upon Leslie rather sharply and scowlingly.

"Look here, mister," he said, "don't you worry about the young lady,
I'll look after her myself.  She shall have the use of my cabin.  The
bunk's made up, and everything is quite ready for her at a minute's
notice.  You come with me, miss," he continued; "I'll take you below and
show you your quarters.  You can turn in at once, and when you've rested
enough I'll have a good meal cooked and ready for you.  This way,
please."

And therewith, offering his arm to the girl, he led her aft toward the
companion, without vouchsafing another word to Leslie.  As for the girl,
she was by this time so nearly in a state of collapse that she could do
nothing but passively accept the assistance offered her, and submit to
be led away below.

"Queer chap, rather, the skipper; ain't he?" remarked the mate, coming
to Leslie's side as Potter and Miss Trevor vanished down the
companion-way, "This is my first voyage with him, and, between you and
me and the lamp-post, it'll be the last, if things don't greatly improve
between now and our getting back to London.  I reckon you'll be all the
better for a snooze, too, so come below with me.  You can use my cabin
for the present, until the `old man' makes other arrangements."

"Very many thanks," answered Leslie; "I shall be more than glad to avail
myself of your kind offer.  Before I do so, however, I wish to say that
somewhere over there," pointing out over the lee bow, "about three miles
away, there is some floating wreckage from the _Golden Fleece_, and,
although I think it rather doubtful, there _may_ be a few people
clinging to it.  I hope you will represent this to Mr Potter, and
induce him to run down and examine the spot.  It will not take him much
off his course; and if the fellow has any humanity at all in him he will
surely not neglect the opportunity to save possibly a few more lives."

"All right," said Purchas, "I'll tell him when he comes on deck again.
Now you come away below and turn in."

Therewith the mate conducted Leslie down into a small, dark, and rather
frowsy stateroom at the foot of the companion ladder, and outside the
brig's main cabin; and having said a few awkward but hearty words of
hospitality in reply to the other's expressions of thanks, closed the
door upon him and left him to himself.

Five minutes later, Leslie was stretched warm and comfortable in the
bunk, wrapped in sound and dreamless sleep.



CHAPTER THREE.

CAPTAIN POTTER CAUSES TROUBLE.

When Leslie awoke the warm and mellow glow of the light that streamed in
through the small scuttle in the ship's side prepared him for the
discovery that he had slept until late in the afternoon; and as he lay
there reflecting upon the startling events of the previous twenty-four
hours the sound of eight bells being struck on deck confirmed his
surmise by conveying to him the information that it was just four
o'clock.  He raised himself in the bunk, striking his head smartly
against the low deck-planking above him as he did so.  He looked for his
clothes where he had flung them off before turning in, but they were not
there; casting his eyes about the little apartment, however, he
presently recognised them hanging, dry, upon a hook screwed to the
bulkhead.  Thereupon he dropped out of the bunk, and proceeded forthwith
to dress, noting, as he did so, by the slow, gentle oscillations of the
brig, that the sea had gone down to practically nothing while he slept,
while the occasional flutter and flap of canvas, heard quite distinctly
where he was, told him that the wind had dropped to a calm.

Dressing quickly, he hurried on deck, wondering whether he would find
Miss Trevor there.  She was not; but the skipper and mate were both in
evidence, standing, one on either side of the companion; neither of them
speaking.  The sky was cloudless; the wind had dropped to a dead calm;
the surface of the sea was oil-smooth, but a low swell still undulated
up from the south-east quarter.  The ship had swung nearly east and
west; and the sun's beams, pouring in over the starboard quarter, bit
fiercely, although the luminary was by this time declining well toward
the horizon.

"Well, mister, had a good sleep?" inquired the skipper, with some
attempt to infuse geniality into his voice.

"Excellent, thank you," answered Leslie, as with a quick glance he swept
the entire deck of the brig.  "Miss Trevor is still in her cabin, I take
it, as I do not see her on deck.  She has had a most trying and
exhausting experience, and I hope, sir, you will afford her all the
comfort at your command; otherwise she may suffer a serious breakdown.
Fortunately, I am not without funds; and I can make it quite worth your
while to treat us both well during the short time that I hope will only
elapse ere you have an opportunity to trans-ship us."

"Is Miss Trevor any relation of yours?" asked Potter, his tone once more
assuming a suggestion of aggressiveness.

"She is not, sir," answered Leslie, showing some surprise at the
question.  "She was simply a fellow-passenger of mine on board the
_Golden Fleece_; and it was by the merest accident that we became
companions, after the ship went down.  Had you any particular object in
making the inquiry, may I ask?"

"Oh no," answered Potter; "I just thought she might be related to you in
some way; you seem to be pretty anxious about her welfare; that's all."

"And very naturally, I think, taking into consideration the fact that I
have most assuredly saved her life," retorted Leslie.  "Having done so
much, I feel it incumbent upon me to take her under my care and
protection until I can find a means of putting her into the way of
returning to England, or of resuming her voyage to Australia--whichever
she may prefer."

"Very kind and disinterested of you, I'm sure," remarked Potter,
sneeringly.  "But if she's no relation of yours there's no call for you
to worry any more about her; she's aboard my ship, now; and _I'll_ look
after her in future, and do whatever may be necessary.  As for _you_,
I'll trans-ship you, the first chance I get; never fear."

The fellow's tone was so gratuitously offensive that Leslie determined
to come to an understanding with him at once.

"Captain Potter," he said, turning sharply upon the man, "your manner
leads me to fear that the presence of Miss Trevor and myself on board
your ship is disagreeable or inconvenient--or perhaps both--to you.  If
so, I can only say, on behalf of the young lady and myself, that we are
very sorry; although our sorrow is not nearly profound enough to drive
us over the side again; we shall remain aboard here until something else
comes along to relieve you of our unwelcome presence; then we will go,
let the craft be what she will, and bound where she may.  And,
meanwhile, so long as we are with you, I will pay you two pounds a day
for our board and accommodation, which I think ought to compensate you
adequately for any inconvenience or annoyance that we may cause you.
And Miss Trevor will continue to be under my care; make no mistake about
that!"

The offer of two pounds per diem for the board and lodging of two people
produced an immediate soothing and mollifying effect upon the skipper's
curious temper; he made an obvious effort to infuse his rather
truculent-looking features with an amiable expression, and replied, in
tones of somewhat forced geniality--

"Oh, all right, mister; I'm not going to quarrel with you.  You and the
lady are quite welcome aboard here; and I'll do what I can to make you
both comfortable; though, with our limited accommodation, I don't quite
see, just at this minute, how it's going to be done.  The lady can have
my cabin, and I'll take Purchas's; you, Purchas," turning to the mate,
"can have the steward's berth, and he'll have to go into the fo'c's'le.
That can be managed easy enough; the question is, Where are we going to
put you, mister?"

"Leslie," quickly interjected the individual addressed, who was already
beginning to feel very tired of being called simply "mister."

"Mr Leslie--thank you," ejaculated the skipper giving Leslie his name
for the first time, in sheer confusion and astonishment at being so
promptly pulled up.  "As I was saying, the question is, Where can we put
you?  We haven't a spare berth in the ship."

"Pray do not distress yourself about that," exclaimed Leslie; "any place
will do for me.  I am a sailor by profession, and have roughed it before
to-day.  The weather is quite warm; I can therefore turn in upon your
cabin lockers at night if you can think of no better place in which to
stow me."

"Oh, the cabin lockers be--" began Potter; then he pulled himself up
short.  "No," he resumed, "I couldn't think of you sleeping on the
lockers; they're that hard and uncomfortable you'd never be able to get
a bit of real rest on 'em; to say nothing of Purchas or me coming in,
off and on, during the night to look at the clock, or the barometer, or
what not, and disturbing you.  Besides, you'd be in our way there.  No,
that won't do; that won't do at all.  I'll be shot if I can see any way
out of it but to make you up a shakedown in the longboat.  She's got
nothing in her except her own gear--which we can clear out.  The
jolly-boat is turned over on top of her, making a capital roof to your
house, so that you'll sleep dry and comfortable.  Why, she'll make a
first-rate cabin for ye, and you'll have her all to yourself.  There's
some boards on the top of the galley that we can lay fore and aft on the
boat's thwarts, and there's plenty of sails in the sail locker to make
ye a bed.  Why," he exclaimed, in admiration of his own ingenuity, "when
all's done you'll have the most comfortable cabin in the ship!  Dashed
if I wouldn't take it myself if it wasn't for the look it would have
with the men.  But that argument don't apply to you, mister."

"Leslie," cut in the latter once more, detecting, as he believed, an
attempt on the part of the skipper to revert to his original
objectionable style of address.

"Yes, Leslie--thanks.  I think I've got the hang of your name now,"
returned Potter.  "As I was saying, that argument don't apply to you,
seein' that the men know how short of accommodation we are aft.  Now,
how d'ye think the longboat arrangement will suit ye?"

"Oh, I have no doubt it will do well enough," answered Leslie, although,
for some reason that he could not quite explain to himself, he felt that
he would rather have been berthed below.  "As you say, I shall at least
have the place to myself; I can turn in and turn out when I like; and I
shall disturb nobody, nor will anybody disturb me.  Yes; the arrangement
will do quite well.  And many thanks to you for making it."

"Well, that's settled, then," agreed the skipper, in tones of
considerable satisfaction.  "Mr Purchas," he continued, "let some of
the hands turn-to at once to get those planks off the top of the galley
and into the longboat, while others rouse a few of the oldest and
softest of the sails out of the locker to make Mr--Mr Leslie a good,
comfortable bed.  And, with regard to payment," he continued, turning
rather shamefacedly to Leslie, "business is business; and if you don't
mind we'll have the matter down on paper, in black and white.  If you
were poor folks, now, or you an ordinary sailor-man," he explained, "I
wouldn't charge either of ye a penny piece.  But it's easy to see that
you're a nob--a navy man, a regular brass-bounder, if I'm not mistaken--
and as such you can well afford it; while, as for the lady, anybody with
half an eye can see that she's a regular tip-topper, thoroughbred, and
all that, so she can afford it too; while I'm a poor man, and am likely
to be to the end of my days."

"Quite so," assented Leslie.  "There is not the least need for
explanation or apology, I assure you.  Neither Miss Trevor nor I will
willingly be indebted to you for the smallest thing; nor shall we be,
upon the terms that I have suggested.  I shall feel perfectly easy in my
mind upon that score, knowing as well as you do that we shall be paying
most handsomely for the best that you can possibly give us.  And now, at
last, I hope we very clearly understand each other."

So saying, he turned away and, walking forward to where Purchas was
superintending the removal of the planks referred to by the skipper, he
asked the mate if he could oblige him with the loan of a pipe and the
gift of a little tobacco.

"Of course I can," answered Purchas, cordially.  "At least, I can give
ye a pipe of a sort--a clay; I buys about six shillin's worth every time
I starts upon a voyage.  I get 'em at a shop in the Commercial Road, at
the rate of fifteen for a shillin'!  I find it pays a lot better than
buyin' four briars at one-and-six apiece; for, you see, when you've lost
or smashed four briars, why, they're done for; but when you've lost or
smashed four clays--and I find that they last a'most as long as briars--
why, I've still a good stock of pipes to fall back upon.  If a clay is
good enough for ye, ye're welcome to one, or a dozen if ye like."

"Oh, thanks," laughed Leslie; "one will be sufficient until I have lost
or broken it; then, maybe, I will trespass upon your generosity to the
extent of begging another."

"Right you are," said the mate, cordially.  "I'll slip down below and
fetch ye one, and a cake o' baccy.  I'll not be gone a moment."

And away the man went, eager, as most British sailors are, to do a
kindness to a fellow-sailor in distress.  He speedily returned with a
new short clay, and a cake of tobacco, which he handed to Leslie with
the remark that he knew what it was to be without pipe or tobacco, and
could therefore sympathise with him.  Leslie was soon deep in the
enjoyment of the first smoke that he had had for some eighteen hours;
and while he was still at it he saw Miss Trevor emerge from the
companion and gaze somewhat anxiously about her.

As she stepped out on deck, Potter, who had been leaning moodily over
the quarter-deck rail, puffing away at a strong cigar, sprang upright
and advanced eagerly toward her, with one hand held out, and his cap in
the other.  She returned his somewhat grotesque bow with a cold
stateliness for which Leslie felt that he could have hugged her; and
then, seeing that the man would not be denied, she allowed her hand to
rest in his for just the barest fraction of a second.  As Leslie
approached, he heard Potter anxiously inquiring after her welfare, and
doing the honours of his ship generally, with a ludicrous affectation of
manner that amused him greatly, and even brought the ghost of a smile to
the face of the girl.

Leslie made the polite inquiries demanded by the occasion, learning in
return that Miss Trevor felt very much better for her long rest; and
then he turned to the skipper, and said--

"Before going below I mentioned to your mate that some wreckage--
apparently from the _Golden Fleece_--was floating at no great distance;
and I left a message with him for you, suggesting that you should run
down and examine it, upon the off-chance that there might be some people
clinging to it.  Did you do so?"

"I did not, sir," answered Potter.  "I'd have you know, in the first
place, Mister--Leslie--if that's your name--that I'm cap'n aboard my own
ship, and take orders from nobody but my owners.  In the next place, I
took a good look at the wreckage through the glass, and saw that there
was nobody on it; so, you see, there was no use in running the brig away
off her course."

"But, my good fellow--" remonstrated Leslie.

"Now, look here," broke in Potter, "don't you try to come the officer
over me, and dictate to me what I shall do, or what I shan't do; because
I won't have it.  I satisfied myself that there was nobody upon that
wreckage; and that's enough."

"I presume you have no objection to my satisfying _myself_ also that
there is nobody upon it?" returned Leslie, keeping his temper admirably
in face of the other's offensive manner.  "If you will kindly lend me
the ship's glass, I will go up into the main-top and have a look for
myself."

"So you don't trust me, eh?" sneered Potter.  "Well, you'll just have
to, whether you like it or not.  I refuse to let you use the ship's
glass; I forbid you to touch it; it's the only glass aboard; and I'm not
going to risk the loss of it by trusting it to a man who may clumsily
drop it overboard for aught that I can tell."

"Very well," said Leslie; "if you choose to be uncivil and offensive, I
cannot help it.  At all events, I will take a look for myself."

And, so saying, he sprang into the main rigging and danced up the
ratlines at a pace that made the shellbacks on deck stare in wonderment.

"Come down out of my rigging, you; d'ye hear?" roared Potter.  "Come
down, I say.  How dare you take such liberties aboard my ship?  D'ye
hear what I say?" as Leslie grasped the futtock shrouds and lightly drew
himself over the rim of the top.  "If you don't come down at once I'll
send a couple of hands aloft to fetch ye."

Taking not the slightest notice of the man's ravings, Leslie stood,
lightly grasping the topmast rigging in one hand while he shaded his
eyes with the other, gazing intently away to the westward meanwhile.  At
first he could see nothing; but presently, being remarkably keen of
sight, he caught what he was looking for, some three miles away.  At
this distance it was of course quite impossible to discern details with
the unaided eye; but as he gazed the impression grew upon him of
something moving there; the suggestion conveyed was that of a fluttering
or waving movement, as though some one were endeavouring to attract the
attention of those on board the brig.  And the longer he gazed, the
stronger grew the conviction that there really was some living thing
upon that floating mass of wreckage.  He stared at it until his eyes
ached; and finally he hailed--

"On deck there!  I am almost certain that you are mistaken in your
supposition that there is no one on that wreckage.  I cannot of course
be absolutely sure without the glass; but _with_ it, there could be no
possibility of mistake.  Captain Potter, I appeal to you, as one sailor
to another; I appeal to your humanity; send me up the glass that I may
set this question at rest.  Surely you would not willingly or knowingly
leave a fellow-creature to perish miserably, rather than take the
trouble to investigate--"

"Will you come down out of that, or won't you?" demanded Potter,
angrily:

Then, seeing that Leslie was again gazing eagerly out across the glassy
surface of the water, the skipper shouted--

"Bill and Tom, up with you both into the main-top and fetch that man
down.  If he won't come peaceably, heave him down!  I'm cap'n of this
ship, and I don't mean to allow anybody aboard her to disobey my orders.
Now, hurry, you swabs; no skulking, or I'll freshen your way for you
with the end of this fore-brace."  And he threateningly threw a coil of
stout rope off a belaying-pin by way of hastening the movements of the
two men.

Looking down on deck, Leslie saw the seamen spring with some alacrity
into the main rigging, and then continue their ascent with exaggerated
deliberateness, mumbling to each other meanwhile.  And as they did so,
he saw Miss Trevor step quickly to Potter's side and lay her hand upon
his arm as she spoke to him--pleadingly, if he might judge by her whole
attitude, and the low-toned accents of her voice.  He saw Potter seize
her hand and tuck it under his arm, patting it caressingly for an
instant ere she snatched it away indignantly and walked from him to the
other side of the deck; and then the heads of the two men, Bill and Tom,
showed over the rim of the top.

"Better come down, sir," said one of them.  "The skipper 've got a very
queer temper, as you may see, sir; and if you don't come he'll lay the
blame on to us; and'll think nothin' of takin' it out of us with a
rope's-end."

"Come up here into the top, both of you," commanded Leslie.  "Never
trouble about your skipper and his temper.  I believe there is some one
alive, on that wreckage away yonder, and I shall be glad to have your
opinions upon the matter.  Now," as they joined him in the top, "there
is the wreckage, about two points on the starboard quarter.  Do you see
it?"

"Ay, ay sir; I sees it, plain enough," answered the man named Bill;
while his companion, Tom, replied, "Yes; I can see something afloat out
there, certingly; but I wouldn't like to take it upon me to say what it
is."

"Very well," said Leslie, turning to Bill; "you appear to have tolerably
good eyes--"

"Main-top, there," interrupted Potter, "are you coming down out of that,
or aren't you?  If you're not, say the word, and I'll come up myself and
start the lot of you."

"For the Lord's sake, sir, go down, I beg ye; or there'll be something
like murder up here in a brace of shakes, if the skipper keeps his
word," exclaimed Tom, in accents of consternation.

"Leave your skipper to me; I will undertake to keep him in order if he
is ill-advised enough to come up here.  Now," he resumed, turning again
to Bill, "you seem to have reasonably good eyes.  Look carefully at that
wreckage, and tell me whether you can see anything having the appearance
of a man waving a shirt, or something of the kind."

The man looked long and intently, gazing out under the sharp of his
hand; and presently he turned to Leslie and said--

"Upon my word, sir, I do believe you're right; there _do_ seem to be
something a wavin' over there--"

The sharp crack of a pistol and the whistle of a ballet close past them
interrupted the man's speech; and, looking down, they saw Potter
standing aft near the lashed wheel with a smoking revolver in his hand,
which he still pointed threateningly at the top.

The two men, without another word, flung themselves simultaneously over
the edge of the top and made their way precipitately down the rigging,
while Leslie, swinging himself on to the topmast-backstay, slid lightly
down it, reaching the deck some seconds ahead of them.  He alighted
close alongside Miss Trevor, who, with her hands clutched tightly
together, stood, the image of terror, gazing with horrified eyes at the
skipper.

In two bounds Leslie reached Potter's side.

"You scoundrel! you infernal scoundrel!" he exclaimed, as with one hand
he wrenched away the revolver, while with the other he seized the fellow
by the throat and shook him savagely.  "What do you mean by such
infamous conduct?  Do you realise that you might have killed one of us?
Have you gone mad; or what is the matter with you?  Answer me, quick, or
I will choke the life out of you!"

And, with a final shake that went near to dislocating Potter's neck,
Leslie flung the fellow furiously from him, dashing him against the rail
with such violence that, after staggering stupidly for a moment, he sank
to the deck, sitting there in a dazed condition.

The mate and three or four of the crew came running aft at this
juncture, with some indefinite idea of interfering; then paused, gazing
uncertainly from one to the other, evidently undecided as to what
action, if any, they ought to take.  They looked at the mate; and the
mate looked at Leslie.

"You had better take him below, and let him lie down for a while, Mr
Purchas," said Leslie, assuming quite naturally the direction of
affairs.  "And when you have done so," he continued, "I shall be obliged
if you will kindly afford me the opportunity for a few minutes'
conversation."

"All right," answered the mate, "I will.  Yes, that'll be best; let's
take him below into my cabin.  Lay hold here, Bill, and give me a hand
to get the skipper down the companion ladder."

With some difficulty they got Potter below and into the mate's cabin,
where they laid him in the bunk and, making him as comfortable as they
could, left him to recover his scattered faculties.  Meanwhile, Leslie,
catching sight of the ship's telescope hanging in beckets in the
companion-way, took possession of it and, slipping the revolver into his
jacket pocket, again ascended to the main-top; from which elevation, and
with the aid of the telescope, he quickly satisfied himself that there
certainly _was_ at least one living person clinging to the wreckage and
intermittently waving what looked like a strip of canvas, with the
evident design of attracting the brig's attention.

By the time that he had assured himself of this fact, Purchas had
returned to the deck; seeing which, Leslie beckoned him up into the top.

"Look here, Purchas," he said, as the mate scrambled over the rim and
stood beside him, "I was right in my surmise, there _is_ some living
person, or persons, on that wreckage.  Take the glass and satisfy
yourself of the truth of my statement."

The mate took the glass, and presently, removing the instrument from his
eye, turned to Leslie.

"You are right, Mr Leslie," he said, "there _is_ somebody there, I can
see him wavin' something.  Now, the question is, what's to be done?  The
sun's pretty near settin', and it'll be dark in half an hour or
thereabouts."

"The more need that you should arrive at a prompt decision," interrupted
Leslie.  "Now, if I may advise, what I would suggest is this.  Let me
have the quarter-boat and four hands.  I will go down to the wreck and
bring off anybody who may be upon it, and if it falls dark before we
return, hoist a lantern to the peak, as a guide to us, and we shall then
have no difficulty in finding the brig."

The mate considered for a moment.  Then--

"All right," he said, "I'll take upon myself the responsibility of
agreein' to that.  The skipper'll be madder than ever when he finds out
what we've done; but I don't care for that, I'm not goin' to leave a
feller-creature to die on no wreckage, if I can help it.  And if the
skipper makes a fuss about it, the authorities at home 'll bear me out."

"Of course they will," assented Leslie.  "And now that we have settled
that point, the sooner a start is made the better.  So please call for
four volunteers to go with me in the boat, and I'll be off."

Then, while Purchas went forward to muster a boat's crew, Leslie walked
over to where Miss Trevor stood.

"Oh, Mr Leslie," she exclaimed, "what a _dreadful_ man the captain of
this ship is!  Is he mad; or what is it that makes him behave in so
horribly violent a manner?"

"Simply overweening conceit of himself, and an enormously exaggerated
opinion of his own importance as master of this ridiculous little brig;
together with, perhaps, an unusually violent and ungovernable temper, I
imagine," answered Leslie, with a smile.  "I am afraid," he continued,
"that those mad antics of his with his revolver must have been rather
terrifying to you.  However, that sort of thing will not occur again--
unless he happens to have another of them--for I have the weapon now,
and intend to retain possession of it until we are able to take our
leave of him, which I hope will be ere long.  Meanwhile, I am going away
in a boat, for about half an hour, to take a man--or, it may be, a
woman--off that wreckage that we were trying to reach this morning when
we sighted this brig.  It is still quite close at hand, and I shall not
be gone very long.  And during my absence Purchas will look after you
and see that you come to no harm.  He is a good fellow, in his way, and
will not allow our mad friend to interfere with you."

"Thank you," she answered, with a shade of the old hauteur in the tones
of her voice; "I am not in the least afraid.  Mad though the man may be,
I do not think he will attempt to molest me."

"No," acknowledged Leslie, who had not failed to observe Potter's
undisguised admiration of the girl, "to be perfectly frank with you, I
do not think he will.  Ah, here come the men who are going with me in
the boat.  I must say _au revoir_!"

"Good-bye, for the present," answered Miss Trevor; "I hope you will be
successful."

"Now then, lads," said Leslie, as the men came aft and began to cast off
the gripes, "we have no time to lose.  The sun will set in another ten
minutes, and then it will very soon be dark.  We must look lively, or we
shall not reach that wreckage without having a troublesome search for
it.  Ah, that is all right," as he stood on the rail and looked into the
boat, "I see that her gear is all in her, and that you have kept her
tight by leaving some water in her.  We may as well get rid of that
water before we lower her."

And so saying, he stepped into the little craft, and, pulling out the
plug, allowed the water to run off.

"We are all ready for lowerin', sir," sang out one of the men,
presently.

"Then lower at once," answered Leslie, as he pushed back the plug into
its place, "and then jump down into her as quickly as you like."

In another moment the boat squelched gently into the water; the men
tumbled over the brig's low side into her and unhooked the tackle
blocks; the man who was going to pull the bow oar raised it in his hands
and with it bore the boat's bow off the ship's side; the other three men
threw out their oars; and Leslie crying, "Give way, men," as he grasped
the yoke lines, the little craft started on her errand of mercy, heading
straight for the wreckage, the bearings of which in relation to the fast
setting sun, Leslie had very carefully taken just before the boat was
lowered.

It was at this moment absolutely a flat calm; there was not the faintest
breath of air stirring anywhere in the great dome of cloudless sky that
overarched the brig; the swell had subsided until it was scarcely
perceptible; and the whole surface of the sea gleamed like a polished
mirror, faithfully reflecting the rich blue of the sky to the eastward--
against which the commonplace little brig, illumined by the brilliant
ruddy orange light of the setting sun, glowed like a gem of exquisite
beauty--while away to the westward it repeated with equal fidelity the
burning glories of the dying day.

The sun was just vanishing beneath the horizon when Leslie caught his
first glimpse of the raft from the stern-sheets of the boat, in which he
stood, instead of sitting, in order that he might extend his horizon as
much as possible.  For the next five minutes he was able to steer by the
glow of the sunset in the sky; but by the end of this time the glow had
faded to a tender grey, and the night descended upon them almost with
the rapidity of a falling curtain.  The western sky no longer afforded a
beacon to steer by, and Leslie found himself obliged to turn round and
steer backwards, as it were, by the brig.  But in the fast gathering
gloom she soon became too indefinite an object to be reliable, Leslie
was therefore obliged to face about once more and select a star for his
guidance.

The men had been pulling with a will for a full half-hour when suddenly
the man who was wielding the bow oar arrested his movements, holding his
dripping blade just clear of the surface of the water, as he cried--

"Hark! did ye hear that, sir?"

"What?" demanded Leslie.

The other three men suspended their efforts as the first man replied--

"Why, I thought I heard somebody singin' out, somewheres.  Ay, I was
right," he continued, as a faint "Hillo!" came pealing softly across the
darkling surface of the water.

"Hillo!" answered Leslie, sending a stentorian shout ahead through his
hollow hands.

"Boat ahoy!" came the answering shout.

"Give way briskly, men," cried Leslie; "the sound seems to be coming
from straight ahead.  We shall get a sight of something now in a few
minutes."

The men resumed their pulling with a will, encouraged by the fact that
the shouts kept up by the unseen man were rapidly becoming clearer, more
audible, and evidently nearer.  Suddenly a dark mass loomed up ahead and
another cry told them that they were close aboard the wreckage.

"Oars!" commanded Leslie.  The men ceased pulling, and the individual
upon the wreckage shouted--

"Boat ahoy! you'll have to pull right round this raffle, and come up on
t'other side afore you'll be able to take me off.  You can't get
alongside of me from where you are; there's too much yard-arm and
splintered spar stickin' out in that direction.  And I daren't jump
overboard and swim to you, for I've been blockaded all day by sharks--
see, there's one of them now, close alongside of ye!"

And looking over the side, the crew of the boat beheld, revealed as a
shape of fire in the highly phosphorescent sea, a monster of fully
twenty feet in length or more, swimming rapidly along, a few feet below
the surface; while, some half-a-dozen yards away, a second suddenly
revealed his presence.

"All right," answered Leslie, "stay where you are; we will pull round to
the other side."

So said, so done; and five minutes later they had got the man--the only
occupant of the wreckage as it proved--safe aboard the boat, and were
pulling back towards the brig, now barely discernible as a small, faint,
indistinct dark blot against the blue-black, star-spangled sky, with her
anchor light hoisted to the gaff-end as a guide to the returning rescue
party.

The rescued man proved to be--as Leslie had already guessed from the
fellow's manner of speech--one of the foremast hands of the _Golden
Fleece_.  Like Leslie, he had been dragged under when the ship went
down, but in his downward journey had encountered what proved to be a
loose cork fender, to which he had clung desperately.  The buoyancy of
the fender was sufficient to immediately check his descent into the
depths, and ultimately to take him back to the surface, where he found
himself close alongside a mass of top-hamper, consisting of the ship's
fore-topmast with all attached, that had torn itself adrift from the
wreck when she went down; and to this he had at once swam, and taken
refuge upon it.  He told a pathetic tale of the despair that had seized
him, when, at dawn, he had found himself the sole survivor, as he
supposed, of the catastrophe; and of the alternations of hope and
despair that had been his throughout the day when the brig appeared in
sight, drifted up to within three short miles of him, and there lay
becalmed.  The most distressing part of his experience, perhaps,
consisted in the fact that, although an excellent swimmer, and quite
capable of covering the distance between himself and the brig, he had
found himself beset by a school of sharks, and therefore dared not
forsake the refuge of the wreckage, and take to the water.

Upon the return of the boat to the brig, Leslie learned from the mate
that Potter was still in his bunk, and that the dazed feeling resulting
from the blow that he had sustained when thrown against the rail still
seemed to be as acute as ever.  Purchas, indeed, seemed to be growing
rather anxious about him; and eagerly inquired of Leslie whether the
latter happened to know anything about medicine; as he thought the time
had arrived when something ought to be done to help the man back to his
senses.  Medicine, however, was a branch of science about which Leslie
happened to know little or nothing; but he readily acceded to Purchas's
suggestion that he should have a look at the patient; and accordingly--
although by this time a substantial meal was set out upon the brig's
cabin table, and the ex-lieutenant felt himself quite prepared to do
ample justice to it--he forthwith descended to the cabin in which the
skipper was lying; and, having knocked at the door without getting a
reply, entered.

It was the same cabin in which he himself had enjoyed some hours of
sleep after his long spell in the water, and Potter was lying stretched
at full length upon the bunk that he had previously occupied.  A small
oil lamp, screwed to the bulkhead, afforded a fairly good light, by the
aid of which Leslie saw that the man was lying with his eyes wide-open,
and the eyeballs turned slightly upward, apparently staring at the deck
above him.  But the gaze was without intelligence; and the fellow
appeared to be quite unconscious of his surroundings, for he took no
notice whatever of Leslie's entrance; nor did the eyes waver in the
least when the latter spoke to him, Leslie laid his hand upon the
forehead of his late antagonist, and found it cool to the touch,
although clammy with perspiration.  Then he laid his fingers upon the
man's wrist, and felt for his pulse, which appeared to be normal.
Beyond the dazed condition which the man exhibited, there did not appear
to be much the matter with him; and when at length Leslie left him and
entered the main cabin--at the table of which he found Purchas and Miss
Trevor seated, discussing the viands before them--he said as much;
adding his opinion that the condition in which he found the skipper
would probably end in sleep, and that the man would no doubt be all
right in the morning.  The conversation then turned to other matters,
the mate remarking that he supposed the skipper's indisposition meant an
all-night job on deck for him (the mate); whereupon Leslie expressed his
readiness to take charge of a watch until Potter should be able to
resume duty--an offer which Purchas gladly accepted.  It was arranged
that, as the preceding night had been a very trying one for Leslie, he
should take the middle watch; and accordingly, when the meal was over,
as Miss Trevor, pleading fatigue, retired to the cabin that Potter had
given up to her, Leslie sought the seclusion of his quarters in the
longboat, which had been made ready for him, and was soon wrapped in
sound and dreamless sleep.

He was called at midnight by Purchas, who reported to him with some
uneasiness that there was no change in the skipper's condition.  The
night was still beautifully fine, and the weather a flat calm; there was
therefore nothing calling for Leslie's immediate attention, and he
readily assented to Purchas's urgent solicitation that he should take
another look at the patient, and say what he thought of his condition.
Upon descending to the stuffy little cabin he found that, as the mate
had reported, there was no marked change in Potter's condition; he still
lay, as before, without movement, his unseeing eyes upturned, and
apparently quite unconscious of the presence of the two men who bent
over him.  The only difference noticeable to Leslie was that the man's
breathing seemed to be somewhat stertorous.

"Well, what d'ye think of him?" anxiously demanded Purchas, when at
length Leslie raised himself from his examination.

"To be quite candid with you, Purchas," answered Leslie, "I scarcely
know what to think; but I am afraid the man's condition is somewhat more
serious than I thought it to be when I last visited him.  I must confess
that I do not like this long spell of wakefulness combined with
unconsciousness of his surroundings.  What is actually wrong I am sorry
that I cannot say, but the symptoms appear to me to point to an injury
of the brain.  You have a medicine-chest on board, I suppose?"

"Oh yes," answered Purchas.  "It is in the skipper's cabin."

"Um!" remarked Leslie.  "That is awkward.  We cannot very well gain
access to it just now without disturbing Miss Trevor; and I do not think
that the case is urgent enough to demand that we should do that.  But
to-morrow morning, as soon as the young lady is out of her cabin, we
will get that medicine-chest and overhaul the book of directions that I
have no doubt we shall find in it; and perhaps we shall discover a
description of symptoms somewhat similar to those exhibited by your
skipper.  And, if so, we will try the remedies recommended.  Now I would
advise you to turn in; and don't worry about the skipper, for I have no
doubt that we shall be able to pull him round all right.  And perhaps
this will be a lesson to him to keep his temper under somewhat better
control."

"Well, I'm sure I hope it will," answered Purchas.  "If it does that, I
shan't be sorry that this has happened; for I can tell you, Mr Leslie,
that when the `old man' gets his back up, as he did this afternoon,
things grow pretty excitin' aboard this hooker.  Well, good night; and
if anything happens atween this and eight bells, you might give me a
call--not but what I expect you're a far better sailor-man than what I
am."

"Oh, that's all right," laughed Leslie; "I think you may trust me to
take care of this three-decker of yours.  But if anything happens, and I
find myself at a loss, I will not fail to call you.  Good night!"

And, so saying, Leslie left the cabin and, making his way up on deck,
took a sailor-like look at the brilliantly star-lit sky that stretched
cloudless all round the brig from zenith to horizon, as he thoughtfully
filled and lit his pipe.

To tell the truth, he was less easy in his mind touching Potter's
condition than he had allowed Purchas to see.  That the man was
something more than merely stunned was now undeniable; and although the
injury might not in itself be serious, the complete ignorance of Purchas
and himself in relation to medical and surgical matters might possibly
lead to wrong treatment that, in its turn, might result in complications
ending, who could say where?  Of course the man had only himself to
thank for it; his conduct had been provocative to the last degree; yet
Leslie had been animated by no vindictive feeling when he had attacked
the man, still less had he intended to inflict any serious injury upon
him; he had, indeed, acted solely in self-defence in taking the fellow's
revolver away from him; and as to the violence that had accompanied the
act--well he himself considered it perfectly excusable under the
circumstances; and so, he believed, would any unprejudiced person.
Nevertheless, he regretted the incident; he would much rather that it
had not happened; and while dismissing the subject from his mind, for
the moment, he resolved that henceforth he would keep himself much
better in hand in his dealings with the man.

The calm continued throughout Leslie's watch; and when at eight bells he
turned over the charge of the deck to Purchas, the brig, save for an
occasional lazy and almost imperceptible heave on the now invisible
swell, was as motionless as a house.

When, however, Purchas called him at seven bells--thus allowing him time
to wash and dress in readiness for breakfast at eight o'clock, Leslie
found, upon turning out, that while the morning was as gloriously fine
as the preceding night had been, the brilliant blue of the sky overhead
was streaked here and there with light touches of cirrus cloud, the
forerunners of a breeze that was already wrinkling the surface of the
azure sea and causing it to sparkle as though strewed with diamond dust
in the wake of the sun, while it just filled the brig's sails
sufficiently to keep them asleep and give the old tub steerage-way.  The
watch were just finishing off the task of washing decks; the men going
over the streaming planks with swabs and squeegees, to remove the
superfluous water, while Purchas, sitting on the stern grating, was
drying his bare feet with a towel preparatory to drawing on his socks
and shoes.  Miss Trevor was not visible.

The mate, having bade Leslie good morning, proceeded to inform him that
the breeze, which was breathing out from the eastward, had come up with
the sun, and that he hoped it would freshen as the day grew older;
winding up with an earnest aspiration that it would last long enough to
run them into the "Trades."  Then, having donned his foot coverings, he
drew Leslie aside, out of hearing of the helmsman, to impart the
information that, having visited the "old man's" cabin an hour
previously, he had found him no better, and that he was beginning to
feel "downright anxious" about him.

Hearing this, Leslie proposed that they should both go down together, to
investigate Potter's condition; and Purchas eagerly acquiescing, they
presently found themselves once more bending over the sick man.

As the mate had said, there was no perceptible change in the skipper's
appearance, save that, as Leslie thought, his breathing was a trifle
more stertorous.  He was lying in precisely the same attitude that he
had assumed when first placed in the bunk; indeed, the two men agreed
that, so far as they could see, he had not moved a limb from that
moment.  While they stood there together, discussing the man's
disconcerting condition, faint rustling, as of garments, outside the
cabin door, accompanied by light footsteps upon the companion ladder,
apprised them of the fact that Miss Trevor was moving, and had gone on
deck; whereupon Leslie went out and followed her.  He found her standing
just to windward of the companion, gazing with visible delight at the
brilliant and sparkling scene around her.  She had evidently rested
well, for she looked as fresh and wholesome as the morning itself; and
although her costume was somewhat shrunken, and showed here and there
patches of whitish discolouration from its long immersion in the sea,
she still presented a picture of grace calculated to charm the most
fastidious eye.

Lifting his cap, Leslie stepped forward and greeted her, bidding her
good morning, and remarking that he hoped she had slept as well as her
appearance seemed to suggest; to which she replied, laughingly, that she
had, and that she hoped she could return the compliment.

"Oh yes," answered Leslie; "I have slept admirably, thanks.  I have had
eight hours in, and four hours--the four hours of the middle watch--on
deck, having undertaken to stand watch and watch with Purchas during the
skipper's indisposition, the mention of which brings me to the point of
asking you, Miss Trevor, whether you will permit me to enter your cabin
for the purpose of removing a medicine-chest that, I understand from the
mate, is there."

"Yes, certainly," assented the girl, "you may enter it at once, if you
wish, Mr Leslie.  I have tidied it up myself this morning, and intend
to do so regularly in future; it will provide me with something to do.
But you spoke of Captain Potter's indisposition.  Is he unwell, then?"

"Why, yes," said Leslie; "he appears to be.  The fact is, that he has
not yet recovered from the blow that he received yesterday evening when
he forced upon me the disagreeable necessity to disarm him.  He has lain
unconscious the whole night through, without moving so much as a muscle,
so far as one can see; and, to tell you the whole truth, Purchas and I
are beginning to feel more than a trifle uneasy about him.  Hence my
request for permission to have access to the medicine-chest."

"Oh dear, I am _so_ sorry," exclaimed the girl, a note of concern at
once entering her voice.  "Pray go at once, Mr Leslie, I beg, and do
whatever you may deem necessary.  I _hope_ it will not prove that the
captain is seriously injured; it will be so--so--very--embarrassing for
you."

"Well," answered Leslie, "of course I should be very sorry if, as you
say, anything serious were to happen; but, even so, the man will only
have himself to thank for it."

And, with this attempt to justify himself, Leslie raised his cap again,
and vanished down the companion-way.

As his footsteps sounded on the companion ladder, Purchas emerged from
the cabin occupied by Potter, and joined him.



CHAPTER FOUR.

DEATH OF THE SKIPPER.

"Well, Mr Leslie," inquired the mate, "is there any chance of our
coming at that medicine-chest?  To speak plainly, I don't half like the
look of the skipper, and that's a fact.  It ain't natural for a man to
lie like that, hour a'ter hour, without movin'; and the sooner we can
bring him back to his senses, the better I shall be pleased."

"Yes," answered Leslie, "I quite understand how you feel about the
matter, and I feel quite as anxious as you do about it; more so,
possibly, since it is I who am responsible for the man's condition.  I
shall be bitterly grieved if he proves to be seriously injured; but in
any case I hope you will understand that it was impossible for me to
allow him to retain possession of his revolver.  He had clearly
conceived an extraordinary aversion for me, and exhibited it without
restraint.  I believe that when he fired at me he fully intended to kill
me, if he could, and I was compelled to act in self-defence.  If a man
allows his temper to get the better of him to that extent, he must take
the consequences.  But here we are," as he threw open the door of Miss
Trevor's cabin, "and that, I take it, is the medicine-chest;" pointing
to a fairly large chest standing against the bulkhead.

"Yes," assented Purchas, "that's the chest.  Better have it out of this
into the main cabin, hadn't we?  Then we shan't be obliged to disturb
the lady whenever we want to get at it."

"Certainly," agreed Leslie; "I was about to suggest it."

And therewith the two men seized, each of them, a handle and carried the
box into the main cabin, placing it conveniently for pushing it under
the table, out of the way, when not required.  The chest was unlocked,
and they threw it open, disclosing an interior fitted with a tray on
top, which contained a long tin tubular case labelled "Diachylon
Plaster," surgical scissors, surgical needles, rolls of bandage, and
numerous other surgical instruments and appliances; while, underneath
the tray, the body of the chest was full of jars and bottles containing
drugs, each distinctly labelled, and each fitted into its own special
compartment.  There was also in the chest a book setting forth in detail
the symptoms of nearly every imaginable disease, with its appropriate
treatment, and also the proper course to pursue in the event of injury.
The book was furnished with a very complete index, to facilitate prompt
reference.

This book they took out and laid open upon the cabin table, now spread
with the breakfast equipage.  Anxiously they pored over its pages,
finding more than one reference that seemed fairly to fit the case; and
at length Leslie, to whose judgment the mate seemed disposed to defer,
decided upon a treatment, which they proceeded forthwith to act upon.
It consisted in the administration of a draught, and the application of
a blister; and owing to the absolute insensibility of the skipper and
his consequent powerlessness to assist in any way it was a somewhat
lengthy job; but they completed it at last, and then went to breakfast.

As it was not expected that any visible result of their treatment would
become apparent for the first hour or so, they did not visit the skipper
at the conclusion of the meal; but Purchas went to his cabin and turned
in, leaving Leslie in charge of the deck--the latter undertaking to call
the mate at seven bells, in time to take the meridian altitude of the
sun at noon, for the determination of the brig's latitude.

During the time that Leslie had been occupied below he had been
conscious of the fact that the breeze was freshening, as was evidenced
by the increasing heel of the brig and her growing liveliness of
movement; and when at length he went on deck and relieved the carpenter,
who had been temporarily in charge, he found quite a smart breeze
blowing from about due east, and the brig, with her weather-braces
slightly checked, and everything set, to her royals, staggering along,
with a great deal of fuss and much churning up of water about her bluff
bows, at a speed of some six knots.  He glanced aloft and saw that her
topgallant-masts were whipping and buckling like fishing-rods.

"Hillo, Chips," he said good-humouredly, "so you are one of the
carrying-on school, I see.  But what about those sticks aloft; aren't
you trying them rather severely?  Of course you ought to know their
condition better than I do; but it looks to me as though you are giving
them rather more than they ought to be asked to do."

"Oh, they're goodish sticks, sir, are them topgallant-masts, and the
skipper's a rare hand for carryin' on; she ain't no clipper, as I dare
say you've noticed, sir; but the cap'n makes a p'int of gettin' every
inch out of her as she's capable of doin' of.  All the same, sir, I
believe it's about time them royals was took in."

"So do I," agreed Leslie, as a somewhat fresher puff took the brig and
caused the spars to buckle still more ominously.  "Royal halliards, let
go!  Clew up and furl!" he shouted to the men who were lounging on the
forecastle over some tasks that they were performing in the leisurely
manner usual with merchant seamen.

The carpenter sprang to the main royal halliards and let them run; a man
forward dropped the serving-mallet that he was using, and did the same
with the fore royal halliards; and while two other hands started the
sheets and began to drag upon the clewlines, a third shambled aft and
helped the carpenter to clew up the main royal.

This relieved the brig a trifle; but there was a hard look about the sky
to windward that promised still more wind; so Leslie said--

"The breeze is coming still stronger before long, Chips; you had
therefore better make one job of it, and take in the topgallantsails as
well.  And when that is done, if the men are not better engaged, let
them get to work and set up the topgallant and royal rigging fore and
aft; it is shockingly slack--hanging fairly in bights, in fact--and is
affording practically no support to the spars."

"Ay, ay, sir!" answered the carpenter, who was acting also as boatswain.
"I've had my eye on that riggin' for the last day or two; it wants
settin' up badly, and I'll attend to it at once."

The men had got the canvas clewed up, and were aloft furling it when
Miss Trevor emerged through the companion-way; and Leslie, with a word
of greeting, hastened to arrange a deck-chair for her accommodation on
the lee side of the deck, within the shadow of the main trysail; for
although there was a slight veil of thin, streaky cloud overspreading
the sky, the sun shone through it with an ardour that made shelter of
some sort from it very acceptable, especially to a girl who might be
supposed to set some value upon her complexion.  She accepted Leslie's
attentions with a brief word or two of thanks, uttered in tones that
suggested an inclination to revert to her former unapproachable
attitude; and the ex-lieutenant at once left her to herself, passing
over to the weather side of the deck and devoting himself strictly to
his duties as officer of the watch.

At seven bells he called Purchas, who presently made his appearance on
deck, with an old-fashioned quadrant in his hand.  He looked aloft, and
then to windward, noted the changes that Leslie had affected, and
graciously expressed his approval of them.  Then he said--

"I s'pose, Mr Leslie, you're a first-class navigator and know all about
shootin' the sun?"

"Naturally, I do," answered Leslie; "navigation is, of course, an
essential part of the education and training of a naval officer; and I
learned all in that line that they thought it necessary to teach me a
good many years ago."

"Ay, so I supposed," returned Purchas.  "As for me, I've learned what
was required to enable me to get my certificate; but, after all, I don't
really understand it properly.  I can take the sun at noon, of course,
and work out the ship's latitood; but, even at that, I've got no very
great faith in myself; and as to the longitood--well, there; I always
feels that I may be right or I may be wrong.  I never was much of a hand
at figures.  So, if you've no objections, I'd take it very kind of you
if you'd lend me a hand at this job while the skipper's on his
beam-ends.  He's got a real dandy sextant in his cabin that I'll take it
upon me to let you have the use of; and the chronometer's in there too.
We might as well have them things out of there too, then we shan't have
to disturb the young lady every time we wants 'em."

Leslie quite agreed as to the desirability of this, and he also
cheerfully undertook to check and assist Purchas in his navigation.  The
latter therefore went below to make the necessary transfer, and
presently returned to the deck, carrying Potter's sextant--a very
handsome and valuable instrument--in his hand.  This he handed to
Leslie; and as the time was now drawing well on towards noon, the two
men betook themselves to the forecastle--the sun being over the jib-boom
end--and proceeded to take the meridian altitude of the luminary.  This
done, "eight bells" was struck, the watch called, and Leslie and the
mate returned aft to work out their calculations.  As a result, there
proved to be a difference of two miles between them; nothing very
serious, but enough to prove that Purchas's doubts of himself were fully
justified.

Upon being called by Leslie, the mate had looked in upon Potter for a
moment on his way up on deck, but had failed to discover any improvement
in his condition.  He now suggested that they should both go below and
subject their patient to a closer examination--which they did.

As Purchas had already remarked, there was no apparent improvement in
Potter's condition; on the contrary, when Leslie felt his pulse it
seemed to him that it was weaker.  This, however, might be accounted for
by the fact that the man had taken no nourishment from the moment that
he had sustained his injury, and owing to his absolute helplessness, it
seemed impossible to administer any to him.  A further study of the book
of directions accompanying the medicine-chest, however, instructed them
how to overcome this difficulty; and, summoning the steward, the mate
forthwith gave him instructions to kill a chicken and have some broth
prepared as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile the blister was snipped and
dressed, another dose of medicine administered, with considerable
difficulty, and the man was once more left to himself, the
self-constituted physicians having then done all, for the moment, that
was possible.

"I wish something big would come along--a man-o'-war, for instance,"
observed Leslie, as he and the mate left the cabin together; "we could
then signal for medical assistance.  A properly qualified doctor could
soon say precisely what is wrong, and what would be the proper treatment
to adopt.  And if the case is really serious--as, to be frank with you,
Purchas, I am beginning to fear it is--we might even trans-ship him, and
thus give him the best chance possible for his life.  You, of course, in
such an event, would fully report all the circumstances of the case, and
I should accompany the man to the other ship, to take the responsibility
for whatever might happen.  And Miss Trevor would go with me, since she,
of course, now wishes to return home--failing an opportunity to continue
her voyage to Australia or India--as soon as possible.  What do you
think of my plan?"

"Why," answered Purchas, "it seems a good enough plan, so far as it
goes.  And if that there ship that you're talkin' about could spare me a
navigator to help me take the brig to Valparaiso, why, I'd be perfectly
satisfied.  But there don't seem to be much chance of our fallin' in
with nothin'; we haven't spoke a single craft of any sort this side of
Finisterre."

"The greater the likelihood of our doing so soon," remarked Leslie.  "It
may be quite worth while to keep an especially bright look-out, with a
view to the intercepting of anything that may happen to heave in sight."

On board small craft of the _Mermaid_ type it is usual to have dinner
served in the cabin at midday; and accordingly, the steward having
already announced that the meal was on the table, and summoned Miss
Trevor, Leslie and Purchas entered the cabin and proceeded to dine.  It
was Leslie's afternoon watch below and his eight hours out that night,
so he decided to lie down on the cabin lockers and get an hour or two's
sleep after he had smoked his pipe on deck.  Before doing so, however,
he went forward to the galley to inquire how the chicken broth was
progressing, and finding that it was ready, he took it aft, and, on his
way below, requested Purchas to accompany him, and assist him to
administer it.

The two men entered the cabin together, and stepped to the side of the
bunk.  The figure of Potter still lay exactly as they had left him; but
as Leslie stood for a moment gazing, he gradually became aware that a
subtle change in the man's appearance had taken place; through the
swarthy tints of the sunburnt complexion an ashen grey hue seemed to
have spread.  He bent closer, and laid his hand upon the wrist, feeling
for the pulse.  There was no beat perceptible.  He moistened the back of
his hand and laid it close to the lips, waiting anxiously to feel the
breath playing upon the moistened skin.  He could detect nothing.  Then
he laid his hand upon the man's chest, over his heart.  The chest had
ceased to heave; and there was not the faintest throb of the heart, so
far as he could feel.  Finally, he snatched a small mirror from the nail
on which it was hanging, and laid it gently, face downward, on Potter's
mouth.  He left it there for fully two minutes; and when at length he
lifted it again its surface was still bright and undimmed as before.  He
carefully hung the mirror upon its nail again, and, turning to the mate,
said--

"Mr Purchas, I regret to inform you that Captain Potter is dead!"

"Dead!" ejaculated Purchas.  "No, no; he can't _be_! there must be some
mistake."

"I very greatly fear that there is _no_ mistake about it," returned
Leslie.  "I have seen death, in my time, too often not to recognise it.
You will observe that breathing has ceased; neither can I find any trace
of a pulse, or the slightest flutter of the heart-beat.  All these
symptoms are, I believe, quite consistent with a state of trance; and,
remembering that, we must of course be careful to do nothing
precipitately.  But I am convinced that the man is really dead--a very
short time will suffice, in this climate, to demonstrate whether or not
that is the case--and I would advise you to give immediate instructions
to have the necessary preparations made for his burial.  Should my
surmise prove correct, you are now the master of this brig; and as such
you will of course adopt such measures with regard to me, as the
immediate cause of this misfortune, as you may deem fit.  But there is
no necessity to put me in irons; I cannot very well escape."

"Put you in irons!" ejaculated Purchas; "I should think not.  No, Mr
Leslie, you had no intention of killin' the skipper; I'll swear to that.
It was an accident; neither more nor less.  How was you to know that a
great strong man, like he was, was goin' to stagger back and hit his
head again' the rail, same as he did?  And he provoked you; all hands
'll bear witness to that; he shot at ye, and you was quite justified in
takin' his revolver away from him.  Oh no, there'll be no puttin' of you
in irons so long as I'm skipper o' this brig.  But of course I shall
have to make a hentry of the whole affair in the official log-book; and
now you'll have to go on with the brig to Valparaiso, whether or no, to
hear what the British Consul there have got to say about it."

"Certainly," assented Leslie, "I shall make no difficulty about that.
And I have not very much fear as to the result.  But, as to Miss Trevor,
I hope you will seize the first suitable opportunity that occurs to
trans-ship her.  She, poor girl, will now be more anxious than ever to
get away from this vessel."

"Yes, yes; of course she will," agreed Purchas.  "And I suppose, Mr
Leslie," he continued, "you won't have any objections to continue
lending me a hand to work and navigate this brig?  Now that the
skipper's gone I shall need help more'n ever."

"You may rely upon me, Mr Purchas, to do everything in my power to help
you," answered Leslie.  "And now," he continued, "while you are making
the arrangements of which I just now spoke, I will go on deck and make
Miss Trevor acquainted with the news of our misfortune."

Miss Trevor received the news of Potter's demise with a few expressions
of well-bred regret, but she did not appear to be very greatly concerned
at the event.  It could scarcely be otherwise.  In the first place, she
had only been in the man's company a very few hours; and although he had
certainly picked her and Leslie up--thus saving them in all probability
from a lingering and painful death--he could scarcely have acted
otherwise, seeing that he had nothing to do but give orders for a few
rope's ends to be dropped over the side to them.  Then, although she had
given no sign of it, his manner toward her had been such as to fill her
with vague fear; while his behaviour toward Leslie, when that individual
had unavailingly attempted to convince him of the presence of another
survivor upon the floating wreckage, was scarcely of a kind to inspire a
woman with confidence or respect.

By eight bells in the afternoon watch there was no longer room for doubt
that Potter was really dead; and this being the case, Purchas very
wisely decided to bury the body at once, and get rid of it.  At his
summons, therefore, the carpenter and another man came aft with a square
of canvas, palm, needle, and twine to sew up the body, and a short
length of rusty chain--routed out from the fore-peak--wherewith to sink
it.  Meanwhile the brig's ensign was hoisted half-mast high, and the men
were ordered to "clean" themselves in readiness for the funeral--all
work being knocked off for the remainder of the day.  Upon being
apprised of what was about to take place, Miss Trevor retired to her
cabin.

The process of sewing up the body and preparing it for burial occupied
about half an hour, by which time the men were all ready.  Meanwhile
Leslie had been coaching Purchas--who frankly confessed his ignorance--
as to the part he was to perform; it being of course his duty, as master
of the ship, to read the burial service.

The carpenter having reported that the body was ready, two more men came
aft, bearing with them a grating which they laid down on the deck
alongside the companion.  They then descended to the berth wherein the
dead man lay and, assisted by the carpenter and the man who had helped
to sew up the body in its canvas shroud, carried the corpse, with some
difficulty--owing to its weight, and the cramped dimensions of the berth
and the companion-way--up on deck, where it was laid upon the grating,
and a spare ensign spread over it as a pall.  Then the four men raised
the grating and its burden to their shoulders, and with Purchas in front
reading the burial service, and Leslie following behind, all, of course,
uncovered, the little procession moved slowly along the deck to the lee
gangway, where the rest of the crew, also uncovered, awaited it.
Arrived at the gangway, the grating was laid upon the rail, with the
feet of the body pointing outboard; the carpenter and his assistant
supporting the inner end of the grating.

Shorn though the ceremony necessarily was of most of the solemn
formalism that characterises an interment ashore, and further marred in
its effectiveness by the droning tones in which Purchas deemed it proper
to read the beautiful and solemn words of the prescribed ritual, it was,
nevertheless, profoundly impressive, the peculiar circumstances of the
case, and the setting of the picture, so to speak--the small brig out
there alone upon the boundless world of waters, the little group of
weather-beaten bare-headed men surrounding the stark and silent figure
upon the grating, who a few brief hours before had been the head and
chief of their small community; the man to whose knowledge and skill
they had willingly committed their fortunes and themselves, who had
ruled them as with a rod of iron, whose will was their law, who had held
their very lives in his hands, at whose caprice they were either happy
or miserable, and who now lay there without the power to move so much as
a finger either to help or hurt them, and whose lifeless clay they were
about to launch to its last resting-place, there to repose "till the sea
gives up her dead,"--this, with the wailing moan of the wind aloft, the
sobbing of the water alongside, and the solemn glory of the dying day
all uniting to imbue the scene and the occasion with a profundity of
sadness and a sublimity that would have been impossible under other
circumstances.  And so deeply was Leslie moved by it that, for the first
time since the words of his cruel and unjust sentence had fallen upon
his ears, he once more felt, to conviction, that God the Creator, God
the Ordainer, God the Father was and must be an ever-living and
omnipotent entity.  And for the first time, also, since then he followed
the prayers that Purchas droned out with an earnest and heartfelt
sincerity at which he felt himself vaguely astonished.

At length the mate reached the words in the service, "we therefore
commit his body to the deep," whereupon the two men who supported the
inner end of the grating tilted it high, and the heavily weighted body,
sliding out from beneath the outspread ensign, plunged with a sullen
splash into its lonely grave.  The remainder of the service was quickly
gone through; and as the little party of mourners rose from their knees
with the pronouncement of the last "Amen," the sun's disc vanished in a
blaze of indescribable glory beneath the horizon, while at the same
moment "four bells" pealed out along the brig's deck.

"Go for'ard, men," ordered Purchas, replacing his cap upon his head;
"and see that that gratin' is stowed away again in its proper place.
Haul down that ensign, one of you.  And whose trick at the wheel is it?"

For the next three or four days nothing worthy of mention occurred on
board the brig, save that the breeze which had sprung up on the morning
of the day of Potter's death held good, and ran them fairly into the
Trades.  Our next vision of the _Mermaid_, therefore, shows her bruising
along under all plain sail, including fore and main royals, together
with port topgallant and topmast studding-sails on the main, and topmast
and lower studding-sails on the foremast; the rigging having in the
interim been properly set up, so that the brig could carry that amount
of canvas without jeopardy to her spars.

The death and burial of the late skipper had permitted of a certain
modification of arrangements aft.  Thus, while Miss Trevor was, by
Purchas's natural courtesy, allowed to retain possession of the late
Potter's cabin, as the best and most commodious berth in the brig,
Purchas had transferred the chronometer, charts and other paraphernalia
appertaining to the navigation of the brig, to his own cabin, which he
once more occupied; Leslie moving from the longboat into the steward's
cabin, now vacated by Purchas.  With the permission of the latter, also,
Leslie had appropriated to his own use Potter's somewhat extensive kit--
the two men being much of a size, although Potter had been of
considerably stouter build.  This, of course, conduced greatly to
Leslie's comfort, as it afforded him, among other advantages, a
much-needed change of linen; although the ex-lieutenant did not assume
possession of these articles without certain inward qualms that, under
the circumstances, were not to be wondered at.

Then it presently transpired that Potter--who had possessed a shrewd eye
for a money-making speculation--had, before leaving London, invested a
considerable sum in articles of various kinds that he knew, from
experience, he would be able to dispose of at a huge profit, upon his
arrival at Valparaiso; and among these there happened to be a capacious
case of ladies' clothing.  This case Leslie also commandeered, giving to
Purchas, in exchange, a signed agreement to pay to Potter's heirs,
executors, or assigns--if such could be found upon their return to
England--the full value of the goods, as well as of the clothing that
Leslie had appropriated to his own use.  This case of clothing, together
with the other goods included in the speculation, were, as Purchas
happened to know, stowed in the after hold, on top of the cargo; Leslie
therefore lost no time in having the hatches lifted and the case hoisted
on deck, and opened.  Then he summoned Miss Trevor upon the scene, and
invited her to overhaul the case and help herself freely to the whole or
such part of the contents as she might find of service to her; with the
result that the lady soon found herself in possession of an ample if
somewhat showy wardrobe, to her infinite comfort and contentment.

During the whole of this time, it may be remarked, not a single sail of
any description had been sighted; although Leslie, keenly anxious to
meet the wishes of Miss Trevor in the matter of trans-shipment, had
caused a bright look-out for ships to be maintained throughout both day
and night.

A week, or maybe rather more than that, had elapsed since Potter's death
when Leslie discovered what appeared to him a fresh cause for the
apprehension of future trouble.  It was Purchas who this time gave rise
to the apprehension.  The fellow had, from the moment when Leslie and
Miss Trevor first came aboard the brig, been exceedingly civil and
obliging to them both, cheerfully doing everything that lay in his power
to make them comfortable.  It is true that, perhaps in return for this,
he had not hesitated to invoke Leslie's assistance in the matter of
navigating the brig, and standing a watch--in fact, performing the
duties of a mate; but this, under the circumstances, was perfectly
natural, and quite in accord with Leslie's own inclination.

But later, within a few days of Potter's death, indeed, Leslie thought
he detected in Purchas an inclination to shirk some of the more
important duties of the ship, such as the navigation of her, for
instance, and relegate them entirely to him.  Even this, however, did
not greatly worry Leslie.  In any case, he always took the necessary
observations for the determination of the brig's latitude and longitude,
independently of Purchas; and whether the latter checked his
observations or not was a matter of indifference to him, since he had
the fullest confidence in the accuracy of his own work--a confidence,
indeed, that Purchas appeared to fully share, since, in the event of any
discrepancy between them, the new skipper always accepted Leslie's
results in preference to his own.  This, however, was not the chief
cause of Leslie's disquietude, which arose from the fact that on more
than one occasion, when it had been his "eight hours out," he had
noticed, when calling Purchas at midnight, that the latter's breath had
smelt strongly of rum, and that the man, upon taking the deck, had
appeared to be strongly under the influence of drink.  So markedly,
indeed, was this the case upon a recent occasion that Leslie had taxed
him with it.

"Look here, Mr Purchas," he had remarked, "you have been mixing your
`nightcap' too strong to-night, and are scarcely in a fit condition to
have charge of the brig.  Go below and sleep it off.  I will take your
watch for you, with pleasure."

"Oh, will you?"  Purchas had retorted disagreeably.  "Le' me tell you,
shir, tha' you'll do nothin' o' short; I'm qui' cap'le lookin' after
thi' ship or any other ship that ever was built; and I won' have you or
any other man tryin' take my charac'er away.  You go b'low an' leave me
'lone.  D'ye hear?"

Seeing at once that the man was in much too quarrelsome a condition to
be satisfactorily reasoned with, Leslie had at once left him and gone
below; only to return, however, within the next ten minutes to find
Purchas stretched at full length upon a hencoop, fast asleep and snoring
stertorously.

On the morning following this incident Leslie, finding the skipper once
more sober and, as usual under those circumstances, quite genial and
friendly, tackled him again upon the subject.

"I want to talk to you very seriously, Purchas," he said, as the two
walked the weather side of the deck together, smoking, after breakfast.
"You are now the skipper of this brig, you know; and, as such, are
accountable to nobody but your owners for your conduct.  But this, as I
have understood you to say, is your first command; and whether you
retain it or not after the termination of this voyage must necessarily
depend to a very great extent upon your behaviour _now_.  Insobriety is,
as I need hardly tell you, the one unpardonable sin in the eyes of a
shipowner.  No man will knowingly entrust his property to the care of
another who, even only occasionally, permits himself to take too much
liquor, because he can never know just when that overdose may be taken.
He is always ready to believe that it may be imbibed at the most
inopportune moment, and that the master of his ship may be under its
influence at the precise instant when the safety of the ship, crew, and
cargo demand his utmost vigilance and most intelligent resource.  And
although you may imagine that what you do out here in mid-ocean cannot
possibly reach the ears of your owner, you must not forget that sailors
have a keen eye for what goes on aft; a skipper cannot get drunk without
the fact reaching the sharp ears of those in the forecastle.  It is one
of the easiest things in the world for an officer to acquire, among his
crew, a reputation for insobriety; and, once they get ashore, you may
trust them to talk about it freely, very often adding embellishments of
their own.  The reputation of a ship-master is in the hands of his crew;
and if he is foolish enough to afford them the opportunity, they may be
depended upon to ruin it for him.  Besides, I want you to remember your
responsibilities as master of this brig.  I will undertake to look after
her and see that nothing goes wrong during the time that I have charge
of the deck; but I cannot _always_ be on deck, you know; and if you
should happen to be intoxicated and incapable--as you were last night--
while I am below, what would be the result of a sudden squall, for
instance?  Or how is the craft to be kept clear of possible collision on
a dark and dirty night?  There are a thousand sudden emergencies
constantly threatening the seaman, any one of which may arise at a
moment's notice."

"Yes, yes," answered Purchas, somewhat impatiently; "I know all about
that.  I've heard it all a thousand times before; heard it until I'm
sick of it.  But there's no call to make a fuss about it; I own up that
I was just a little bit `sprung' last night; but what of it?  The night
was fine and clear, the `glass' was steady, and there wasn't nothin'
anywheres within sight of us; so where was the danger?"

"There was none, as it fortunately happened," admitted Leslie.  "But who
is to know what will occur within the limits of a four-hours' watch?
Suppose, for instance, that I had not chanced to notice your condition,
and had turned in; and that while you were lying unconscious upon that
hencoop a sudden squall had struck the brig, what would have happened?
Why, the craft might have been dismasted, or even, perhaps, capsized!
And where should we all have been, in that case?"

"Well, ye see, we warn't dismasted, let alone capsized, so there's no
harm done," answered Purchas, testily.  "All the same," he added, in
more moderate tones, "I'm willin' to admit that there's a good deal of
reason in your argufication, so I'll go slow in future; I don't say that
I won't take a glass or so of grog of an evenin' if I feels to want it;
but I'll take care not to swaller enough of it to capsize me again."

"You would do far better to swear off it altogether," asserted Leslie.
"You would be glad, afterwards, that you had done so.  You are an
excellent seaman; and I shall be more than glad to help you to perfect
yourself in navigation, if you will allow me, so that there should be
nothing to stand in the way of your getting your master's certificate
upon your return to England.  And with that, and a reputation for
reliability such as you can acquire during this voyage, there should be
nothing to prevent your continuing in the command of this brig, or even
of your getting something very much better.  And now, I think, it is
about time for us to get our sights for the longitude."



CHAPTER FIVE.

A TRAGEDY; AND A NARROW ESCAPE.

For the next two or three days Purchas faithfully adhered to his promise
to refrain from taking enough liquor to "capsize" him; when, again at
midnight, on going below to call him, Leslie found the fellow so
completely intoxicated that it was impossible to arouse him; and he had
perforce to remain on deck the whole night through.  And when at length,
at the expiration of the morning watch, he again went below, hoping to
find that the man had at all events so far slept off the effects of his
over-night debauch as to be capable of coming on deck and sobering
himself by taking a douche under the head pump, he discovered, to his
intense disgust, that this glib maker of promises had somehow obtained a
further supply of rum during the night, and was at that moment in a more
helpless state than ever!  The brig was, however, by this time within a
day's sail of the equator, where Leslie felt tolerably certain that they
would fall in with one or more homeward-bound ships, and so be able to
transfer Miss Trevor to safer and more eligible quarters; so he did not
allow the incident to worry him greatly.  He remained on deck long
enough to secure sights for his longitude; and then, turning over the
care of the brig to the carpenter--a very steady and trustworthy man--he
went below and turned in, giving orders that he was to be called at
seven bells; adding, in explanation of Purchas's non-appearance, that he
was not very well.

It seemed that he had been asleep but a few minutes when the carpenter,
in pursuance of his instructions, knocked at his cabin door, with the
information that seven bells had gone.  He accordingly rose, plunged his
head into a basin of cold water, and within ten minutes was once more on
deck, with Potter's sextant in his hand, ready to take the sun's
meridian altitude, from which to deduce the latitude.

This done, his calculations completed, and the brig's position at noon
pricked off on the chart, he once more hied him to Purchas's cabin, only
to find the door locked from within.  For the moment he felt very
strongly inclined to burst his way into the cabin, and haul the man up
on deck, drunk or sober; but upon further reflection he realised that by
the adoption of such a course he would be irretrievably "giving the man
away" to his crew--which it was eminently undesirable to do--so,
muttering to himself, "Let the brute drink himself out; he will perhaps
be better afterwards!" he entered the main cabin and seated himself at
the table, upon which the noonday meal was already spread.

Miss Trevor and he were of course the only persons present, with the
exception of the steward, who was waiting upon them; and presently the
girl, noticing the absence of Purchas, inquired whether he was ill.

"He is not very well, I am sorry to say," answered Leslie, briefly; and
then he turned the conversation into another channel.

But later on, when the steward had left the cabin, he said to Miss
Trevor--

"You were just now inquiring about Purchas; and I told you that he was
not very well.  That reply, I must now explain to you, was not strictly
accurate, but I gave it because the steward was present, and I did not
wish to state the actual facts in his presence; for, had I done so, it
is certain that he would have carried the news forward to the men, which
would have been eminently undesirable.  The truth, however, is that
Purchas has lately given way to drink, and is at this moment locked in
his cabin, helplessly intoxicated.  It is a thousand pities; for the man
has now an excellent opportunity of confirming himself in the command of
this brig, and so establishing himself in the position of ship-master,
if he will but make use of it.  That, however, is his affair; not ours.
My reason for telling you this is, that if the present breeze holds we
shall reach the equator by this time to-morrow, at a point where we may
hope to fall in with homeward-bound ships; indeed we may meet with them
at any moment now; I would therefore advise you to pack up your
belongings forthwith, in order that you may be ready to be transferred
to the first suitable craft that comes along."

"Thank you very much for telling me this," answered the girl.  "I shall
be more than glad, for many reasons, to once more find myself
`homeward-bound,' as I believe you sailors term it.  And although,
thanks to your never-ceasing kindness and consideration, I have been
quite comfortable and happy on board this vessel, it will be a relief to
me to leave her, for the memory of that terrible man, Potter, oppresses
me.  I should think that you, too, will be very glad to get away from a
ship that must be fraught, for you, with such unpleasant memories."

"I shall, indeed," assented Leslie.  "But my deliverance, as I suppose
you know, must come later.  The misfortune by which I became, most
unwillingly, the primary cause of Potter's death, renders it imperative
that I should go on to Valparaiso with this brig, there to surrender
myself to the authorities and answer for my action.  I do not suppose,"
he continued, in answer to the expression of consternation that suddenly
leapt into her eyes, "that they will be very hard upon me; Purchas and
the whole of the crew can of course testify that I acted under extreme
provocation and in self-defence; so that probably, if I have to stand a
trial at all, the verdict will be one of `misadventure.'"

"Oh, but this is dreadful!" ejaculated the girl.

She pulled herself up suddenly, and appeared to consider the situation
for some moments; then she said very quietly--

"So, if I am to go home, it appears that I shall have to go alone?"

"I fear so," answered Leslie.  "But," he continued reassuringly, "you
must not run away with the idea that I intend to pack you off aboard the
first ship that happens to come along, suitable or otherwise; I reckon
upon falling in with several ships within the next thirty-six hours, we
shall therefore be able to pick and choose; and you may rest assured
that I will not put you aboard a vessel until I have thoroughly
satisfied myself that you will be quite comfortable and happy in her.
And although we have been speaking only of homeward-bound ships, thus
far, we must not forget that, if we should happen to run into a calm on
the Line, it is quite on the cards that we may encounter something
_outward-bound_, either to the Cape, India, or Australia, into which to
trans-ship you; in which case you will be able to continue your original
journey with practically no loss of time."

"Yes," answered Miss Trevor, slowly.  "That would be an advantage,
certainly.  On the whole, Mr Leslie, I think I should greatly prefer an
outward-bound to a homeward-bound ship, if you please."

"All right," laughed Leslie; "we will see what can be done.  And now I
must go on deck to keep a lookout for a suitable craft."

He paused at Purchas's cabin, on his way on deck, and tried the door,
but it was still locked from the inside; so he ascended the companion
ladder and went out on deck.  It was a most gloriously brilliant and
sparkling afternoon; the sky an intense blue, save where it was flecked
here and there with woolly-looking patches of trade cloud sailing
solemnly up out of the east; the sea, too, was as brilliantly blue as
the sky, but of a deeper tint; there was not very much swell on,
although the breeze was blowing fresh from the eastward; and the brig,
with her weather-braces well checked, was staggering along under every
rag of canvas that would draw.  Leslie glanced keenly ahead and then all
round the crystalline clear horizon in search of a sail; but there was
nothing in sight save a school of porpoises that were gambolling
alongside, racing the brig and chasing each other athwart her fore-foot,
each fish apparently rivalling all the rest in an endeavour to see which
could shave the brig's stem most closely without being touched by it.

Thinking that the sight might amuse Miss Trevor, he ran quickly down the
companion ladder and entered the main cabin, with the object of inviting
her to come on deck and witness it.  He entered the cabin just in time
to catch sight of her effecting a distinctly hasty retreat into her own
private berth; and although it was only, a momentary glimpse that he
caught of her ere she slammed the door behind her, he could almost have
sworn that she had her pocket-handkerchief to her eyes, as though she
were, or had been, crying.  Vaguely wondering what was the trouble, he
paused uncertainly for a few seconds; then, in pursuance of his original
intention, he knocked at her door, and shouted--

"Miss Trevor, there is a school of porpoises at play alongside, if you
would care to come on deck and watch them.  It is a pretty sight, and, I
think, would amuse you."

There was no reply for a moment or two.  Then, in a strangely muffled
tone of voice, the girl answered--

"Thank you, Mr Leslie.  I will be up in a few minutes."

It was fully ten minutes after this that the girl, clad entirely in
white, made her appearance on deck; and as Leslie stole a covert glance
at her face, and noted its absolute composure, he told himself that he
had been mistaken; she had certainly _not_ been crying; and he wondered
what in the world it was that could have put so ridiculous an idea into
his head.  She appeared to be frankly and unfeignedly interested in the
gambols of the porpoises, laughing heartily from time to time; and
altogether seemed so absolutely happy and free from care that Leslie,
while he could have kicked himself for being such a fool, felt quite
reassured.

At sunset, that night, the breeze still held as fresh as ever; but no
sail had yet been sighted, either meeting or overtaking the brig; a
circumstance that somewhat disconcerted Leslie, for he was aiming to
cross the equator in the longitude of 30 degrees West, at which point it
is quite usual for a number of outward and homeward-bound ships to meet;
and the _Mermaid_ was now so near that point that, with the wind holding
so fresh and steady as it did, he would not have been in the least
surprised to fall in with quite a procession of craft proceeding in
either direction.  It was disappointing, this bareness of the horizon in
every direction; for he felt that his companion and charge must be
intensely anxious to exchange into something that would be taking her
either back to her home, or out to her friends; and he was keenly
desirous to relieve her anxiety at the earliest possible moment.  And
yet, at the back of his mind, behind his earnestness of desire, he was
ashamed to discover that there existed a certain feeling of satisfaction
that the moment for parting with the girl was still deferred.  He had
found his connection with her very pleasant--the strong and virile man
always _does_ find it pleasant to have something or somebody to protect
and be dependent upon him--she was the only intellectual companion now
left to him; and with her would go the only individual with whom he
could exchange an idea worth uttering.  Yes, he admitted to himself, he
would miss her when she was gone, miss her badly; ay, and more than
badly.  Well, it couldn't be helped; she must go, of course; and this
curious feeling of depression that was worrying him at the thought was
but an additional imperative reason for her departure with the least
possible delay.  If by any chance her departure were to be delayed much
longer it might be that by then he would feel that he did not want to
part with her at all!  He stamped his foot on the deck in impatient
anger at the novel and unpleasant turn that his thoughts were taking;
and sprang into the fore-rigging on his way to the royal-yard, to take a
last look round ere darkness fell.  He soon reached his destination, and
swept the whole circle of the horizon with an eager intensity of gaze.
And so clear and transparent was the air that had there been anything in
the nature of a sail within thirty miles he could have seen it.  The
horizon, however, was as bare as it had been from the deck; and he
presently descended from his post of observation with an obstinate
feeling of relief that made him intensely angry with himself.

Three times, that evening, during the dog-watches, did Leslie try the
door of Purchas's cabin, in an endeavour to gain access to the man and
ascertain his condition.  On the first two occasions he failed, the door
remaining locked against him; but when for the third time he found the
door still fastened, he lost patience and, setting his shoulder to the
obstruction, burst it open; having arrived at the conclusion that the
fellow ought not to be left to himself any longer.

He found the cabin, as he had quite expected, reeking with the fumes of
rum, and Purchas still insensible in his bunk.  It had been a matter of
astonishment to him how the man had contrived to keep himself supplied
with drink; for although Leslie, Miss Trevor, and the steward were
constantly in and out of the main cabin--from which alone access was to
be gained to the lazarette, wherein the ship's stores and the spirits
were stowed--no one had seen him moving about.  Stifling therefore the
feeling of loathing and nausea that possessed him, he proceeded to
institute a search of the cabin with the object of ascertaining whether
the drunkard had secreted a supply therein.  The search resulted in the
speedy discovery of twelve bottles, seven of them empty, an eighth about
a quarter full, and four still unbroached.  The whole of these he at
once got rid of by opening the port in the side of the cabin, and
launching them through it into the sea.  Then, leaving the port
wide-open to sweeten the air somewhat, and assist in the revivification
of the man in the bunk, he retired from the cabin, closing the door
behind him, and went on deck.

The prolonged incapacity of the new skipper rendered it necessary for
Leslie to make some arrangement whereby he could secure a proper amount
of rest; and therefore, the carpenter being a steady and fairly reliable
man, he arranged with him that the latter should take charge of the
starboard watch during Purchas's "indisposition."  It was Leslie's eight
hours in, that night, and consequently he was free to retire to his
cabin between the end of the second dog-watch and midnight; but the
weather was now so hot that the comparative coolness of the night air on
deck proved irresistibly attractive to Miss Trevor, who, "sleeping in"
all night, was naturally indisposed to go to bed at so early an hour as
eight o'clock in the evening; and as she evinced a disposition to keep
the deck for an hour or two, Leslie also remained on deck to bear her
company.

For some time the two walked the weather side of the brig's flush deck,
between the stern grating and the mainmast, conversing more or less
intermittently upon various topics, until at length Leslie's attention
was attracted to the man at the wheel, who, he noticed, was continually
glancing over his shoulder with a perturbed air at the water astern,
instead of keeping his eyes upon the compass card.  It seemed also to
Leslie that the man was trying to attract his attention, although he was
too bashful, in Miss Trevor's presence, to speak.

So when the pair next reached the stern grating in the course of their
promenade, Leslie paused, and said--

"What is the matter, Tom?  You seem to be bestowing quite an unusual
amount of attention on the wake of the ship; is there anything
remarkable to be seen there?"

The man straightened himself up with the satisfied air of one who, after
much striving, has at length achieved success.

"Well, I don't exactly know, sir, as you would call it _remarkable_" he
answered; "but there's something visible over the starn as perhaps the
lady might like to see."

"Oh!" answered Leslie.  "Then let us have a look at it."

And offering his hand to Miss Trevor, he assisted her to mount the
grating and led her to the taffrail, over which they both leaned, gazing
down into the black profundity beneath them.

The brig was travelling at the rate of about six knots; at which speed
she was wont to create a considerable amount of disturbance in the
element through which she ploughed her passage; the water was
brilliantly phosphorescent, and as a result of this the wake of the brig
was on this occasion a mass of sea-fire, the foam that she churned up on
either side of her glowing and sparkling with luminous clouds
interspersed with thousands of tiny stars that waxed and waned with
every plunge of the vessel.  The water was almost as transparent as air
itself, and by leaning out over the taffrail it was possible to see the
rudder, the brig's "heel," and a considerable amount of her "run," all
aglow with bluish white light that streamed away far astern like a
miniature Milky Way.  It was a beautiful spectacle, and one at which an
imaginative person might have gazed for a full hour or more without
tiring.  But Tom, the helmsman, was not an imaginative man, and the
spectacle of a ship's wake glowing and scintillating with sea-stars was
one that he had beheld so often that it had long ceased to appeal to him
as anything at all uncommon.  It was something else that had attracted
his attention, and that he had thought might interest "the lady."  For
there, in the very thickest of the swirling mass of clouds and discs and
circles and stars of sea-fire, at a depth of perhaps six feet below the
surface, was to be seen, brilliantly illuminated by its own movement
through the water, the glowing shape of an enormous shark, fully twenty
feet in length, keeping pace with the brig as steadily as if he were
being towed by her.  The whole bulk of the monster was clearly,
startlingly, distinct, much more so than would have been the case at
daytime, for his body showed against the black water like a shape of
white fire, while with every sweep of his powerful tail he scattered a
trail of glowing sparks behind him that constituted of itself quite a
respectable wake.

"Oh, what a dreadful creature!" exclaimed Miss Trevor, shrinking back in
dismay at the sight.  "It is like a nightmare!  That must surely be a
shark; is it not?  It is the first shark I have ever seen, Mr Leslie;
and I am certain that I never wish to see another.  I had no idea that
sharks were such monstrous creatures; I always thought that they were
about the same size as the porpoises that we were looking at this
afternoon."

"Yes," laughed Leslie, "very possibly.  This, however, is rather an
exceptionally fine fellow, although I have seen even bigger specimens
than he.  Do not look at him too long," he continued, "or possibly you
may dream of him, in which case he would be likely to prove a nightmare
to you indeed."

"He've been followin' of us for the last hour, sir," remarked the
helmsman.  "And they _do_ say that when a shark hangs on to a ship like
that, somebody's goin' to die aboard of her."

"Yes," answered Leslie, carelessly, "I have heard that story myself; but
I don't believe it, for I have been in ships that have been followed for
days on end by sharks, without anything coming of it--except that we
have generally managed to catch the sharks themselves at last.  No; this
fellow is following us because he happens to be hungry, and hopes that
the cook will heave overboard enough scraps to take the sharp edge off
his appetite.  But the dew is falling very heavily, Miss Trevor; had not
you better fetch up a wrap?"

"No, thanks," answered the girl, as she moved away and extended her hand
for him to help her down off the grating on to the deck; "it is growing
late, so I will bid you good night and go to my cabin."

"Sorry to hear that Mr Purchas is bad, sir," observed Tom, tentatively,
when Miss Trevor had vanished down the companion ladder.  "Hope it ain't
nothin' serious?"

"Oh dear, no," answered Leslie, perceiving with annoyance that the man
was connecting the presence of the shark under the counter with
Purchas's invisibility; "merely a rather sharp bilious attack, which is
now over, I am glad to say.  He will probably be on deck again
to-morrow."

Then, as the carpenter--who had been keeping out of the way during Miss
Trevor's presence on deck--came aft, Leslie gave over the charge of the
brig to him, and turned in.

The remainder of the first watch, and the whole of the middle watch,
passed without incident save that, when Leslie went on deck at midnight,
he found that the wind had softened down somewhat--as was indeed to be
expected, with the brig drawing so near to the equator--the vessel's
speed having dropped to about four knots.  But the weather held superbly
fine, and the barometer remained absolutely steady; Leslie therefore
retired to his bunk at the end of the middle watch with a perfectly easy
mind, and the fixed determination to have Purchas on deck and under the
head pump at seven bells, when he himself would be called.

It was still quite dark when he was startled out of a profound sleep by
a sudden loud outcry on deck, followed by a rushing and scuffling of
feet overhead accompanied by the flapping of canvas, as though the brig
had been suddenly luffed into the wind.

Leslie was well acquainted with the vagaries of equatorial weather, and
therefore, under the apprehension that a squall was threatening, he
sprang from his berth and dashed up on deck without waiting to exchange
his pyjamas for other clothing.  As he emerged from the companion he
came into violent contact with some one who was evidently about to make
a hasty descent of the ladder; and when the pair had recovered from the
shock, he discovered that he had collided with the carpenter, who
betrayed every symptom of the most violent agitation; while the entire
crew, apparently, shouting to each other excitedly, were grouped upon
the stern grating.  The brig had been luffed into the wind, and
everything, including studding-sails, was flat aback.  It was well for
the craft, and all concerned, that the wind had fallen light, or there
would have been mischief up aloft, and plenty of wreckage among the
lighter spars.

"What in the world is the matter, Chips?" demanded Leslie testily, as
with a single glance he took in the full condition of affairs.

"Oh, Mr Leslie, sir, something awful has just happened!" exclaimed the
man addressed, stammering with agitation and excitement.  "I were
standin' as it might be just there," pointing to a spot on the deck
about midway between the skylight and the mainmast, "fillin' my pipe,
when out of the corner of my heye I seen somebody step out of the
companion on deck; and fust of all I thought 'twas you; but, lookin'
again, I see as it was the skipper--not Cap'n Potter, you'll understand,
sir, he bein' dead and buried; but Cap'n Purchas.  I were just goin' up
to him to say how glad I were to see 'im about again, when he steps over
to the binnacle, takes a peep into the compass-bowl, and then, afore a
man could say `Jack Robinson,' up he jumps on to the starn gratin', from
there to the taffrail--an' overboard!  Scotty, there, who was at the
wheel, owns that he more'n half guessed, from the queer look in the
skipper's heyes, that somethin' was wrong, and made a grab at 'im as 'e
passed; but Mr Purchas were miles too quick for 'im, and Scotty on'y
reached the taffrail in time to see the pore man strike the water.  And
the next second that devil of a shark that have been followin' of us had
'im!"

Leslie reeled as though he had been struck a heavy blow.  Here was
another tragedy; the second that had happened within the short space of
time that had elapsed since he had joined this unlucky brig.  And even
as he had blamed himself for being in some sort responsible for the
first, so now he reproached himself as being in a measure responsible
for this.  He felt that he had been remiss.  In his anxiety to shield
the unhappy man from the observation and unfavourable comment of the
crew, he had carefully concealed from everybody the true cause of
Purchas's retirement, leaving the man alone to recover from his drunken
bout instead of telling off somebody to watch him.  Had he done this, he
reflected in self-reproach, this dreadful thing would not have happened.
The need for concealment was now past, however; so, rallying his
faculties, he called all hands to group themselves round him, as he had
something to say to them.

"My lads," he began, "I believe that you all profoundly regret the awful
thing that has just happened; for Mr Purchas was a most kind and
considerate officer to every one of you.  But none of you can regret his
terrible end so much as I do; for I feel that I am to some extent to
blame for it.  A certain wise man has said, `Of the dead speak nothing
but good;' and it is well to carry out this precept, so far as is
possible.  There are occasions, however, when the truth--the whole
truth--must be told, even though it reflect discredit upon those who are
gone; and this is one of them.  I am sorry to be obliged to tell you
that what really ailed Mr Purchas was--drunkenness!  Very little more
than a week had elapsed after Captain Potter's death when I discovered
in Mr Purchas a tendency to take rather too much rum.  I spoke to him
about it, with the result that he promised to be more moderate in his
potations.  But he did not keep his promise, and upon one occasion, at
least, he was so thoroughly intoxicated that he slept through his entire
watch, stretched out upon a hencoop."

"Ay, ay, sir; that's gospel truth.  I remember it perfectly," murmured
two or three of the men, interrupting.

"Of course," assented Leslie, "you could not have avoided noticing it.
It was after that occurrence that I remonstrated with him; and for a few
days thereafter he was better.  Then he began again, finally giving way
altogether, with the melancholy result that you have all witnessed.  I
knew how injurious to his interests it would be, and how seriously it
would weaken discipline if you men should once come to understand that
your skipper was a drunkard; so I let it be understood among you that
Mr Purchas was confined to his cabin through a slight illness; while,
as a matter of fact, he was all the time lying there in a drunken
stupor.

"_Now_, when it is too late, I feel that I committed an error of
judgment in attempting to conceal from you all the actual facts.
Instead of being so keenly anxious to shield him that I could think of
nothing else, I ought to have anticipated the possibility that upon his
return to consciousness he might be tempted to do something foolish;
and, anticipating this, I ought to have told off a man from each watch
to sit with and keep an eye upon him."

"Ay," observed the carpenter, "it might ha' been a good thing to ha'
done that, certingly.  But you haven't got nothin' to reproach yourself
with, sir; you done what you did with a good and kind intention; and you
wasn't to know that the fust thing he'd do when he come back to his
senses 'd be to up and jump overboard.  Oh no, sir, you ain't to blame
in noways for what's happened.  What do _you_ say, bullies?"

"No, no; in course the gen'leman ain't to blame; nobody what's seen how
the land lay--like we have--and how Mr Leslie have been a-doin' all he
could to help the skipper, could ever say as he's any way to blame.  Not
he!" answered one and another of the men, each of them in one way or
another endorsing the carpenter's verdict.

"Thank you, men," returned Leslie; "it is a great relief to me to feel
that you think as you do in this matter.  Now, that being disposed of,
there is a further point to be considered; and it is this.  The shocking
fate of Mr Purchas leaves us with no navigator on board save myself.  I
have no great desire to proceed in this brig all the way to Valparaiso;
but, nevertheless, there are reasons that, to me, seem to make it
desirable that I should do so.  I may tell you that we are now very near
the Line; so near, indeed, that we may fall in with other craft, aiming
to cross it at the same point as ourselves, at any moment.  Now if we
should fall in with a ship, would you wish me to communicate with her
and ask her captain to place a navigating officer on board this brig, to
take her to Valparaiso; or would you prefer that I should take charge--
with Chips, here, as mate--and navigate you to Valparaiso myself?"

"Speakin' for myself," answered the carpenter, promptly, "I don't want
nobody better'n what you are, Mr Leslie, in command of this here
hooker.  We knows you, sir; and we've seen what you can do--we've took
your measure, sir--if you'll forgive the liberty of my plain speakin'--
and we're all agreed as you're a prime seaman--one o' the best as _I've_
ever sailed under--and I'd a precious sight sooner see you in command
than what I would a stranger.  And, if I ain't mistook, that's the
feelin' with all hands of us.  Am I right, mates, or ain't I?"

"Right you are, Chips; no stranger for me."

"Mr Leslie's the skipper for us; we don't want nobody else."  Thus, and
in similar terms, the entire crew expressed their perfect agreement with
the view enunciated by the carpenter; and there and then the matter was
settled.

It was with a very considerable amount of trepidation that, next
morning, Leslie undertook the task of communicating to Miss Trevor the
news of Purchas's death--taking care to suppress the full horror of the
tragedy by simply stating that the unfortunate fellow had committed
suicide by jumping overboard, omitting all mention of the shark.  But
although the girl was naturally much shocked at the occurrence of a
second death on board, following so quickly upon that of Potter, this
was the full extent of her emotion; Purchas was not at all the sort of
man to appeal to her or to arouse in her any sort of interest or feeling
beyond that of disgust at his weakness in surrendering himself to the
seduction of so degrading a vice as that of drink; and she received the
information quite calmly, much to her companion's relief.

Meanwhile, and quite contrary to expectation, the breeze again freshened
an hour or so before sunrise, with the result that when Leslie took his
observation at noon he found that the brig was within a mile of crossing
the equator.  And, what was a much more remarkable circumstance, the
horizon was still absolutely bare, not a single sail of any description
being in sight, even from the main royal-yard!

Upon ascertaining this last disconcerting fact, Leslie turned to Miss
Trevor, who was on deck, and said--

"Fate appears to have a grudge against you, and to be determined that
you shall not yet leave us.  I had confidently reckoned upon falling in
with something hereabout to which I could transfer you; but the
continuance of this breeze--which most sailors would regard as a stroke
of marvellous good fortune--has enabled everything bound south to slip
across the Line without suffering the exasperating experience of a more
or less prolonged period of calm; while, as your ill-luck will have it,
there happens to be nothing northward-bound on the spot just when we are
most anxious to meet it.  Furthermore, every mile that we now sail will
lessen your chance of effecting a trans-shipment, because our course
will be ever diverging from that of northward-bound shipping.  Of
course, now that I am in command, I can continue to steer for a day or
two longer in such a direction as may enable us, with luck, still to
fall in with a homeward-bounder, but--"

"Is my presence on the ship then, so _very_ embarrassing to you, Mr
Leslie?" she interrupted with the ghost of a smile.  "It would certainly
appear so; for the burden of your conversation, ever since we came on
board, has been my trans-shipment!"

"Embarrassing!" ejaculated Leslie, in extreme surprise.  "Most certainly
not; on the contrary--" he interrupted himself.  "That is not the point
at all," he continued.  "I have assumed--very naturally, I think--that
you are anxious either to return home and make a fresh start, or else to
continue your outward journey, according as circumstances may determine;
and I, on my part, have been most anxious to meet what I conceived to be
your wishes.  But, as to your presence aboard the brig being an
_embarrassment_ to me, I assure you that the longer you are compelled to
remain here, the better I shall be pleased."

"Thank you," answered the girl; "I suppose I must accept that admission
as a compliment.  Well, Mr Leslie, of course you are quite right in
assuming that, if a favourable opportunity should offer, I would gladly
avail myself of it.  But my greatest anxiety is to allay that of my
friends; which, I imagine, they will not begin to experience until some
little time has elapsed after the date at which the _Golden Fleece_
might reasonably be expected to reach Melbourne.  And about that time I
should think we ought to be at Valparaiso, ought we not?  Very well.  In
that case, it will be easy for me to despatch from there a reassuring
cable message to my Australian friends, following it up with a letter of
explanation, and all will be well.  Moreover, though you would perhaps
never suspect it, I am of a decidedly roving and adventurous
disposition, and I shall not at all object to visiting Valparaiso; you
need, therefore, worry yourself no further upon that feature of the
matter.  But, of course, if you would rather not have me--"

"Pray say no more, I beg you," interrupted Leslie.  "Your continued
presence on board this brig can only be a source of the keenest pleasure
and satisfaction to me; and if you can be content to remain, I shall be
more than content that you do so."

And thus was settled a matter that was destined to exercise a most
important influence upon the lives of these two people.

Singularly enough, within an hour of the occurrence of the
above-recorded conversation, a sail was sighted ahead, steering north;
which upon her nearer approach proved to be a South Sea whaler,
homeward-bound.  She was steering a course that promised to bring the
two craft close alongside each other; and at Leslie's suggestion Miss
Trevor at once went below and hurriedly penned three letters--one to her
people at home, one to her father in India, and one to her friends in
Australia--briefly detailing the particulars of the loss of the _Golden
Fleece_ and what had subsequently befallen the writer, together with her
intention to proceed to Valparaiso, if necessary; after which she would
act according to circumstances.  At the same time Leslie wrote to the
owners of the _Golden Fleece_ apprising them of the loss of the ship,
and the fact that, as far as his knowledge went, there were but three
survivors, namely, Miss Trevor, himself, and the seaman whom he had
taken off the wreckage.

By the time that these letters were ready, the whaler was close at hand,
upon which the brig's ensign was hoisted, and the signal made that she
wished to communicate.  Thereupon both craft were brought to the wind,
and hove-to; the brig's quarter-boat was lowered, and the carpenter,
with three hands, pulled alongside the whaler, taking the letters with
him, with the request that the skipper would kindly post them at the
first port arrived at.  This the man readily agreed to do--such little
courtesies among seamen being quite usual; and then, with mutual dips of
their ensigns, the two craft proceeded upon their respective ways.

The _Mermaid_ was singularly fortunate in the weather experienced by her
on this occasion of crossing the Line, as it often happens that ships in
these latitudes are detained--sometimes for weeks--by persistent calms,
during the prevalence of which, by constantly box-hauling the yards and
taking the utmost advantage of every little draught of air that comes
along, they may succeed in gaining a mile or two in the course of every
twenty-four hours; whereas she carried a breeze with her that ran her,
without a pause, from the north-east trades, across the calm belt, right
into the south-east trade winds, which happened just then to be blowing
fresh.  She therefore made excellent progress to the southward after
parting from the friendly whaler.

It was about a week later that the brig, thrashing along to the
southward, close-hauled, and with her fore topgallantsail and main royal
stowed, experienced a thrillingly narrow escape from destruction.

It was just two bells in the first watch, that is to say nine o'clock
p.m.  The night was fine, with bright starlight, and no moon, that
luminary happening then to rise late.  The wind was piping up strong and
sending the trade clouds scurrying across the spangled sky at a great
pace; and there was a fair amount of sea running, into which the
_Mermaid_ dug her bluff bows viciously, smothering her forecastle with
spray and darkening the weather clew of her fore-course with it halfway
up to the yard.  Miss Trevor was on deck, taking the air, and graciously
favouring Leslie with her company for an hour or two prior to turning in
for the night.  The pair were promenading the deck together, fore and
aft, between the stern grating and the mainmast, the girl availing
herself of the support of Leslie's arm to steady her upon the dancing
deck.

Suddenly, as they were in the act of wheeling round abreast the main
rigging, a flash of ruddy light illumined the tumbling surface of the
sea, the deck they trod, the sails, and every detail of the brig's
equipment; and glancing skyward, they beheld a meteor trailing a long
tail of scintillating sparks behind it, high aloft over the brig's port
quarter.  With inconceivable rapidity the glowing object increased in
size, its light meanwhile changing as rapidly from red to a dazzling
white, until the light became almost as intense as that of the noonday
sun.  It was a magnificent spectacle, but one also full of unspeakable
horror for those aboard the brig who stood gazing in speechless
fascination at it; for it was evident that it was not only falling
through the air at a speed far surpassing that of a cannon shot, _but
was also coming straight for the brig_.  A deep humming sound that, as
it seemed, in the space of a single moment increased to an almost
deafening scream, marked the speed of its flight through the air; and as
Leslie grasped the fact that in another second that enormous glowing
mass--weighing, as he conceived, some hundreds of tons--must infallibly
strike the brig and smash her to atoms, he instinctively interposed his
own body between his companion and the gigantic hurtling missile--as
though such frail protection could have been of any service to her!
Then, while it was still some two hundred yards from the brig--at which
distance the heat of it fell upon their white upturned faces like the
breath of a suddenly opened furnace--the dazzling white-hot mass burst
with a deafening explosion into a thousand pieces, some of which flew
hurtling over and about the brig, but happily without touching her; and
the danger was over.  It had come and was gone again in the brief space
of some seven seconds.

"That is the narrowest shave I have ever had in my life," ejaculated
Leslie, catching his breath.  "And you, Miss Trevor, have had an
experience such as falls to the lot of few people, I imagine--the
experience of being threatened with destruction by a falling meteor, and
surviving to tell the tale!  I wonder how many others, beside this
little ship's company, have ever beheld so appalling and magnificent a
sight as we have this night witnessed?"

"Have you any suspicion, Mr Leslie, that this brig is especially marked
out and chosen as the theatre for exceptionally thrilling experiences?"
quaintly demanded the girl.  "Because if there is a probability that
such is the case, I really think I shall be obliged to reconsider my
decision to proceed to Valparaiso in her, and ask you to land me at the
nearest port.  The tragic deaths of those two men, Potter and Purchas,
were quite thrilling enough to upset the nerves of any ordinary girl;
but when it comes to being bombarded by meteors, I would really very
much rather be excused."

"Of course you would," assented Leslie, laughingly.  "All the same," he
continued, "although I must confess that I have never heard of such a
thing happening, it might as probably have occurred in the heart of
London itself as out here at sea.  That meteors actually fall to the
earth we know, for there are numerous records of such happenings; they
have been seen to fall, and have immediately afterwards been found
partially buried in the ground and still hot from the friction of their
flight through the air.  Precisely where they will fall and strike is
necessarily a matter of the merest chance; you are, therefore, so far as
falling meteors are concerned, quite as safe here as anywhere else."

"Thank you," answered Miss Trevor, gravely, "it is reassuring to learn
that, no matter where I am, I am liable to have a huge incandescent mass
of meteoric stone hurtling at me out of space at any moment--for that is
what your statement really amounts to, you know--isn't it?  And now I
will bid you good night and retire to my cabin, with the fixed
resolution not to dream of falling meteors."

And therewith she gave him her hand for a moment, and then vanished down
the companion-way.



CHAPTER SIX.

THE MERMAID'S CREW WITNESS A CATASTROPHE.

The _Mermaid_ carried the south-east trade winds until she was well
south of the parallel of Rio de Janeiro; and then she ran into the
Doldrums; these being belts of calm, broken into at intervals by light
baffling airs from various directions, with occasional violent squalls,
or terrific thunderstorms, just to vary the monotony.  These belts of
exasperating weather are to be met with to the north of the north-east
and the south of the south-east trade winds, interposed between the
trade winds and those outer regions where a steady breeze of some sort
may usually be reckoned upon.

And here the unfortunate crew of the brig encountered their full share--
and a little over, some of them said--of the annoyances that usually
accompany a passage across these belts; their first experience being a
calm that lasted five days on end without a break, save for the
occasional cat's-paw that came stealing from time to time over the
glassy surface of the ocean, tinging it here and there with transient
patches of delicate evanescent blue.  And as these cat's-paws were all
that they could rely upon to help them across the calm belt, it was
necessary to maintain a constant watch for them, and to trim round the
yards in such a manner as to make the most of them during their brief
existence.  This constant "box-hauling" of the yards was no trifling
matter, accomplished as it had to be under the fierce rays of a blazing
sun; and as it often happened that after laboriously trimming the yards
and sheets to woo a wandering zephyr, it either expired before reaching
the brig, or capriciously turned in another direction, passing her by
without causing so much as a single flap of her canvas, it is not to be
wondered at that the grumbling among all hands was both loud and deep.

At length, however, with the dawn of their sixth day of these vexatious
experiences, there appeared to be a prospect of something more helpful
than mere cat's-paws coming their way; for although the calm still
continued, the morning broke with a dark, lowering, and threatening sky
through which the rays of the sun were unable to pierce.  This last was
in itself a relief to everybody; for although the heat was still so
oppressive that the slightest exertion threw one into a profuse
perspiration, the stinging bite of the sun was no longer to be reckoned
with.  Furthermore, the eyes of those on board the brig, weary of
continually gazing upon a bare horizon since the day upon which the
friendly whaler had vanished from their view, were now gladdened by the
sight of another craft, a small barque, that had drifted above the
southern horizon during the night, and now lay some five miles away from
them.

As the morning wore on towards noon the aspect of the sky steadily,
though by insensible degrees, assumed a more threatening character, the
huge masses of cloud that overspread the entire dome of the visible sky
darkening in tint to such an extent that the scene became enwrapped in a
murky kind of twilight.  That wind, and plenty of it, was brewing,
seemed evident from the fact that the clouds, although not drifting
across the sky, were working visibly, writhing and twisting into the
most extraordinary and fantastic shapes, as though influenced by some
powerful impulse within themselves.  One of the most frequent of these
manifestations was the sudden darting forth of long sharp quivering
tongues from the bodies of the blackest and most lowering of the clouds.
With the appearance of the first of these Leslie knew what to expect,
for he had beheld the same phenomenon more than once before, and quite
understood what it portended.  So he turned to Miss Trevor, who was on
deck interestedly watching the subtle changes in the aspect of the sky,
and said to her--

"Have you ever seen a waterspout, Miss Trevor?  No?  Then the chances
are that you will see several before you are many hours older.  Have you
noticed those long, black, quivering tongues that dart out and in from
the bodies of the darkest clouds?  Well, those are the forerunners of
waterspouts.  See, there is one now.  Do you mark how it seems to be
striving to reach down to the surface of the sea?  Ah! it has shrunk
back again.  But sooner or later, unless I am greatly mistaken, one of
those tongues will reach down, and down, until it begins to suck up a
column of water from the ocean; and there you will have a full-grown
waterspout."

He gazed round the sky intently; then went to the skylight and as
intently studied the barometer--or "glass" as sailors very commonly call
the instrument.  The mercury in it had fallen somewhat since he had last
looked at it, though not sufficiently to cause alarm.  Nevertheless,
short-handed as the brig was--such small craft are usually sent to sea
with at least two hands too few in the forecastle--he deemed it best to
err on the right side, if err he must; so as it was by this time noon he
ordered eight bells to be struck; and when the watch had come on deck he
set them to work to clew up, haul down, and stow everything save the two
topsails and the fore-topmast staysail; after which he ordered them to
go to dinner.

Dinner in the cabin was served at the same time as in the forecastle on
board the _Mermaid_; when Leslie and Miss Trevor, therefore, went below,
the deck was left in charge of one man only, namely the carpenter.
This, however, did not particularly matter, since the brig was well
snugged down, while Chips might be trusted to keep a sharp look-out and
give timely warning of the approach of anything of an alarming nature.
Nothing, however, occurred; and Leslie and his companion were allowed to
finish their meal undisturbed.

It was now Leslie's watch below, and in the ordinary course of events he
would have retired to his cabin for the purpose of securing an hour or
two of rest.  But, with such a lowering and portentous sky as that
overhead, he scarcely felt justified in entrusting the carpenter with
the sole responsibility and care of the brig for so long a time; and he
accordingly accompanied Miss Trevor on deck again.

They found the aspect of the sky more gloomy than ever; the clouds had
formed themselves into heavier masses, and donned a deeper tinge of
black than they had worn during the forenoon, and they were displaying a
still greater degree of activity.  Tongues of cloud were still darting
out and back again, but they seemed no nearer to the formation of
waterspouts than during the morning; and Leslie began to think that,
perhaps, for once in a way he was going to prove a false prophet.
Meanwhile, although during the whole of the morning and up to that
moment, there had not been the faintest breath of wind, the two craft--
the barque and the brig--had closed on each other to within a distance
of some three miles, in the mysterious manner characteristic of craft
becalmed within sight of each other.  The barque, Leslie noticed, had
followed his own example, and stripped to precisely the same canvas as
that exposed by the brig.

The conditions were not conducive to animated conversation; and judging
from Miss Trevor's brief replies to his remarks, that she would prefer
to be left to her own thoughts for awhile, he presently left her leaning
over the rail gazing at the barque--which the swing of the brig had now
brought abeam--and seating himself upon the short bench alongside the
companion, proceeded to fill a pipe.  He was lighting it with an
ordinary match, the unshielded flame of which burned as steadily as
though he had been in a hermetically scaled room, when Miss Trevor
suddenly cried out--

"Oh, look, Mr Leslie, look!  Surely there is one of your waterspouts at
last!"

Leslie sprang to her side and looked in the direction toward which she
pointed, where, at a distance of some eight miles away, he beheld a
fully formed waterspout moving very slowly and majestically in a
southerly direction.

"Yes," he agreed, "that is a real, genuine waterspout, and no mistake.
But it is too far off for you to see it to advantage.  Did you actually
behold it come into existence?"

"No," she answered; "I was watching the ship yonder, and only caught
sight of it accidentally, after it had become fully formed.  I should
really like to witness the genesis of a waterspout."

"Then keep your eye on that cloud," he recommended her, pointing to an
especially black and heavy one that hung a few degrees from the zenith
and apparently about half a mile astern of the barque.  "If I am not
greatly mistaken it is about to develop a very fine specimen in a few
minutes.  Do you note that black tongue that is slowly stretching down
from it?  Although it lengthens and shortens you will observe that it
does not shrink back altogether into the cloud; on the contrary, every
time that it lengthens it becomes perceptibly longer than it was before;
and observe how steadily its root--where it joins the cloud--is
swelling.  Now watch, see how it continually stretches down, further and
further towards the water.  Ah, and do you see that little mound forming
in the sea immediately beneath it?  See how the water heaps itself up,
as though striving to reach up and join the down-stretching tongue of
cloud.  Ah! there the two unite and you have the perfect waterspout.
And a very noble example of its kind it is.  They will be having a
splendid view of it from yonder barque, for, see, it is moving in her
direction, and is about to pass close to her, rather too close to be
altogether pleasant, unless my eyes deceive me!"

He sprang to the companion, and seizing the telescope, applied it to his
eye.

"Why," he exclaimed excitedly, after a moment or two, with his eye still
glued to the instrument, "what are they about aboard that barque?  Why
don't they fire at the thing and break it?  It will be upon them in
another moment, to a dead certainty, unless it changes its course!  No--
yes--yes, it is going to hit her!  Heavens! look at that!"

And as he stood there gazing he saw that vast column of water sweep
steadily down upon and over the barque, completely hiding her from view
for a moment.  Then it suddenly wavered in the middle and broke,
collapsing with a tremendous splash and commotion of the sea, the sound
of which came drifting down to the brig with startling distinctness some
ten or twelve seconds later.  And there, in the very midst of the
tumbling circle of foaming whiteness left by the vanished waterspout
there floated the barque, no longer trim and all ataunto as she had
shown a few seconds before, but a dismasted, mangled wreck, with
bulwarks gone, boats swept from her davits, all three masts snapped
short off at the level of the deck and lying alongside with all
attached, a mere tangled mass of wreckage still fast to the hull by the
standing and running rigging.

Leslie stamped his foot upon the deck in sympathetic vexation at the
ruin thus wrought in a moment, and again applied his eye to the
telescope.  The carpenter, whose watch on deck it now was, stood beside
him, eagerly impatient to discuss with him the details of the
catastrophe that they had just witnessed; while the watch, forward,
leaned over the bows alternately muttering to each other their opinions,
and glancing round in apprehension lest a waterspout should steal upon
the brig unawares and treat them as the crew of the barque had been
treated.

It was this same crew--or rather the entire absence of any sign of
them--that was now disturbing Leslie.

"I can see nothing of them," he muttered impatiently, searching the
wreck with the lenses of his telescope.  "Here, Chips, take a squint,
man," he continued, thrusting the instrument into the eager hands of the
carpenter.  "His decks are as bare as the back of my hand; there is not
enough bulwark left standing to make a matchbox out of--nothing but the
stumps of a few staunchions here and there.  I can see the coamings of
the hatches rising above the level of the planking; I can see the
windlass; I can just make out the short stumps of the three masts, and I
can find where the poop skylight stood; but hang me if I can see
anything _living_ aboard her!"

The carpenter in turn applied his eye to the telescope, and gazed
through it long and anxiously.

"No, sir," he agreed at length, "what you says is perfekly true; there
ain't nobody a-movin' about on that there vessel's decks.  Question is,
what's become of 'em?  Be they down below?  Or have they been swep'
overboard?  Stan's to reason that when they found theirselves onable to
steer clear o' that there spout they'd go below and shut theirselves up
as best they could, knowin' as nothin' livin' could surwive a waterspout
tramplin' over 'em, as one may say; but where be them there chaps _now_?
If they was all right they'd be out on deck by this time--wouldn't
they?--lookin' roun' to see the extent o' the damage.  Would the bustin'
o' the thing kill 'em, d'ye think, sir--they bein' shut up below?"

"It is difficult to say," answered Leslie, meditatively.  "It would
depend almost entirely upon the strength of their defences.  We can see
for ourselves what it has done to the craft herself; it has made a clean
sweep of everything on deck, and reduced her to the condition of a sheer
hulk.  Hang this weather!  I don't like the look of it; it is not to be
trusted!  If it were only a shade or two less threatening I should feel
strongly tempted to send away a boat to see just what has happened
aboard there.  There may be a number of poor fellows somewhere on that
wreck just dying for want of assistance.  But--"

He paused, and again glanced anxiously round the horizon, noting that
the aspect of the sky was still as full of menace as ever.

"No," he continued, "I dare not do it; it would be risking too much.
Ha! look there; here it comes!  Fore and main-topsail halliards let go,
and man your reef-tackles!" he shouted, as a long line of white foam
appeared on the western horizon, slowly widening as it advanced.

The men sprang to their stations in an instant, galvanised into sudden
and intense activity by the urgency that marked the tone of the
commands, and the next instant there was a rattling and squeaking of
blocks and parrells as the topsail-yards slid down the well-greased
topmasts and settled with a thud upon the caps.  Then, as the men began,
with loud cries, to drag upon the reef-tackles, Leslie shouted--

"Call all hands, carpenter, to close-reef topsails.  Look alive, lads;
if you are smart you may have time yet to get those reef-points knotted
before the squall strikes us.  Well there with the reef-tackles.  Belay!
Now away aloft with you all, and hurry about it.  You, too," he added
to the man who had been standing by the useless wheel, "I will look
after her."

And, so saying, he mounted the wheel-grating while the whilome helmsman
slouched along the deck, and, climbing the rail, began to claw his
deliberate way up the main rigging.

It took the hands about five minutes to pass the weather and lee
earings, by which time the squall was close to the brig, its approach
being heralded by a smart shower of rain that drove Miss Trevor to the
shelter of the cabin.  Then, while the men were still upon the yards,
tying the reef-points, the wind came roaring and screaming down upon the
brig--fortunately from dead astern--and, with a report like that of a
gun, her topsails filled and, with the foam all boiling and hissing
around her and her bluff bows buried deep in the brine, the _Mermaid_
gathered way and was off, heading south-south-west; which was as nearly
as possible her proper course.

The men aloft, meanwhile, although nearly jerked off the yards by the
violence and suddenness with which that first puff struck them, stuck
manfully to their work until they had tied their last reef-point, when
they leisurely descended to the deck, squared the yards, took a pull
upon and belayed the halliards, and then went below to change into dry
clothes and oilskins--an example which Leslie quickly followed as soon
as he was relieved at the wheel.

The squall lasted for a full half-hour--during which the dismasted
barque vanished in the thickness astern--and then it settled down into a
strong gale that swept them along before it to the southward for nearly
thirty hours, moderating on the following day about sunset.

The following morning dawned brilliantly fine, with a light breeze out
from the westward that was just sufficient to fan the brig along, under
everything that would draw, at a bare four knots in the hour over a
heavy westerly swell.

"Why, what is the meaning of this, Chips?" demanded Leslie, as he
emerged from the companion-way, at seven bells, clad in bathing-drawers
only, on his way forward to take his matutinal douche under the head
pump; "is this swell the forerunner of a new gale, or has it been
knocked up by something that we have just missed?"

"Well, sir," answered Chips, "I'm inclined to think as your last guess
is the proper answer.  We struck the beginnin's of this here swell about
two bells this mornin', and the furder south we goes the heavier the run
seems to be gettin'--as though we was gettin', as you may say, more into
the track of a breeze that have passed along just about here.  Besides,
the glass have gone up a goodish bit durin' the night, and is still
risin'!"

As the day progressed, appearances seemed to favour the correctness of
the carpenter's theory, for the weather remained fine, with less wind
rather than more; while, after a time, the swell appeared to be dropping
somewhat.  It happened, that after the men had taken their dinner that
day, it being the carpenter's watch on deck from noon until four o'clock
p.m., he--acting now in the capacity of boatswain--took it into his head
to go aloft, with the object of examining the brig's upper spars and
rigging, to see how they had fared in the late blow.  Taking the
foremast first, he ascended to the royal-yard, and from thence worked
his way conscientiously down to the slings and truss of the lower yard.
While on his way aloft, however, he was observed to pause suddenly in
the fore-topmast crosstrees and gaze intently ahead, or rather in the
direction of some two points on the lee bow.  He remained thus for
nearly five minutes, and then proceeded in the execution of his
self-appointed duty, taking first the foremast and then the mainmast,
and subjecting everything to a most scrupulous and thorough overhaul;
with the result that everything was found satisfactory aloft, except
that certain chafing gear looked as though it would be all the better
for renewal.

Meanwhile the watch on deck, who were engaged upon sundry odd jobs which
they were able to execute on the forecastle, had noted the action of the
carpenter, and had come to the conclusion that his keen eyes had
detected some distant object of more or less interest ahead; and they
accordingly snatched a moment from their tasks, at fairly frequent
intervals, to cast an inquiring glance over the bows.  And their
watchfulness was at length rewarded, just as seven bells was striking by
the sight of something that showed for a moment as it and the brig were
simultaneously hove up on the top of a swell.  It bore about a point on
the lee bow; was some two miles distant; and, so far as could be judged
from the momentary glimpse they had obtained of it, appeared to be a
floating mass of wreckage.  Its appearance was to them ample
justification for a general knocking-off of work to watch for its next
appearance, one of the more energetic of them even exerting himself to
the extent of ascending the fore-rigging high enough to get a view over
the fore-yard.  From this elevation an uninterrupted view of the object
was to be obtained; and after long and careful scrutiny the man made it
out to be the dismasted hull of a ship that was either water-logged, or
upon the point of foundering.

"Deck ahoy!" he hailed, in approved fashion; "d'ye see that dismasted
craft out there on the lee bow?"

"Ay, Jim," growled the carpenter, "I've seen her this hour an' more.  Ye
may come down an' get on wi' your work, my lad; you'll get a good enough
view of her from the deck afore long."

At eight bells the carpenter went below and called Leslie, who had been
lying down in his cabin, and at the same time reported the sighting of
the wreck, which was by this time clearly visible from the deck, except
when hidden from time to time by an intervening mound of swell.  Knowing
exactly where to look, Leslie caught sight of her immediately over the
lee cathead, the instant that he stepped out on deck.  She was by this
time about half a mile distant, and clearly distinguishable as a craft
of some six hundred tons register.  She was submerged almost to her
covering-board, and the whole of her bulwarks being gone between her
topgallant forecastle and long full poop, the sea was making a clean
breach right over her main deck, leaving little to be seen above water
but a short length of her bows and about three times as much of her
stern.  Seen through the powerful lenses of the brig's telescope, Leslie
made out that she had once been a full-rigged ship, and from the little
that showed above water he judged her to be American-built.  Her three
masts were gone by the board, also her jib-booms, which were snapped
close off by the bowsprit end.  There was no sign of any floating
wreckage alongside her, from which Leslie was led to surmise that her
masts must have been cut away; a circumstance that, in its turn, pointed
to the conclusion that she had been hove over on her beam-ends--probably
by a sudden squall--and had refused to right again.  But what had become
of the crew?  A glance at the craft's davits answered that question.
There were no boats to be seen, while the davit-tackles were overhauled
and the blocks in the water.  This clearly pointed to the fact that the
boats had been lowered; the presumption therefore was that the crew had
abandoned the craft, fearing that she was about to founder.
Nevertheless, the weather being fine, and the condition of the sea such
that the craft could be boarded without much danger or difficulty,
Leslie determined to give her an overhaul; and accordingly the brig,
having by this time arrived almost directly to windward of the seeming
derelict, he gave orders to back the main-yard, and instructed the
carpenter to take the lee quarter-boat, with three hands, and go on
board.

"Well, Miss Trevor," said Leslie, as the two stood together near the
binnacle, watching the boat rising and falling like a cork over the long
hummocks of swell as she swept rapidly down toward the wreck, "what
think you of that for a sight?  Is it not a very perfect picture of ruin
and desolation?  A few days ago--it can scarcely be more--that craft
floated buoyantly and all ataunto, `walking the waters like a thing of
life,' her decks presenting an animated picture of busy activity, as her
crew went hither and thither about their several tasks; while yonder
poop, perchance, was gay with its company of passengers whiling away the
time with books, games, or flirtations, according to their respective
inclinations.  And over all towered the three masts, lofty and
symmetrical, with all their orderly intricacy of standing and running
rigging, and their wide-spreading spaces of snow-white canvas; the whole
combining to make up as stately and beautiful a picture as a sailor's
eye need care to rest upon.  And now look at her!  There she lies, clean
shorn of every vestige of those spacious `white wings,' that imparted
life and grace to her every movement; her decks tenantless and
wave-swept; her hull full of water, and the relentless sea leaping at
her with merciless persistency, as though eager to drag her down and
overwhelm her!  Can you conceive a more sorrowful picture?"

"I could, perhaps; although I grant you that it must be difficult to
imagine any sight more grievous than that to a _sailor's_ eye," answered
the girl, gazing upon the scene with eyes wide and brilliant with
interest and excitement.  "How fearlessly that little boat seems to
dance over those huge waves!  She reminds me of one of those birds--
Mother Carey's chickens, I think they are called--that one reads about
as sporting fearlessly and joyously on the tops of the wave-crests
during the height of the fiercest storms.  Ah, now they have reached
her," she continued, clasping her hands on her breast unconsciously as
she watched the wild plunges of the boat compared with the deadly slow
heave of the water-logged hulk.  "Oh, Mr Leslie, how could you order
those men to undertake so desperately dangerous a task?  They will never
do it; they cannot; their boat will be dashed to pieces against that
great, ponderous wreck!"

"Never fear," responded Leslie, cheerfully; "Chips knows what he is
about.  See, there; how keenly he watched for his chance, and how neatly
he took it when it came.  He saw that rope's-end hanging over the stern
long before he came to it, you may depend; and now inboard he goes, and
there he stands on the poop without so much as a touch of the boat
against the wreck.  And there goes the boat round into the sheltered lee
of the hull, where she will lie quite comfortably.  And thither we will
go, too, in readiness to pick them up when they shove off again."

The brig bore up and, wearing round, came-to again quite close under the
lee of the wreck; so close, indeed, that it was quite easy to see with
the unassisted eye everything that was going on aboard her, as well as
to obtain a more comprehensive and detailed view of the havoc that had
been wrought on her by the combined effects of wind and sea.

Their attention, however, was for the moment attracted rather to what
was happening on board, than to the condition of the wreck herself; Miss
Trevor being an especially interested spectator.  After all, it was not
very much: simply this, that under the lee of a hencoop on the poop,
that had somehow resisted the onslaughts of the sea, Chips had
discovered a very fine Newfoundland dog crouching--or perhaps lying
exhausted; and he was now endeavouring to induce the animal to leave his
shelter with the view of coaxing him into the boat.  But for some reason
or other the brute refused to move, responding to the carpenter's
blandishments only by a feeble intermittent beating of his tail upon the
deck.

"Oh," exclaimed Miss Trevor, when she grasped the state of affairs, "I
_hope_ he will be able to rescue the poor creature!  He is a beautiful
animal; and I am so fond of dogs."

"What is the matter with him, Chips?  Won't he trust you?" hailed
Leslie, sending his powerful voice to windward through the palms of his
hands.

The carpenter stood up and faced about.  "Seems to be pretty nigh
starved, so far as I can make out, sir," he replied.  "The poor beggar's
just nothin' but skin and bone, and too weak to stand, by the looks of
'im."

"Then take him up in your arms and drop him overboard," suggested
Leslie.  "And you, there, in the boat, stand by to pick him up.  He'll
have sense enough to swim to you."

So said, so done; Miss Trevor watching the apparently somewhat heartless
operation with tightly clasped hands.  Leslie's conjecture as to the
creature's sagacity was fully justified; for upon finding himself in the
water the dog at once began to paddle feebly toward the boat, and in
less time than it takes to tell of it a couple of men had seized him and
dragged him into the boat, in the bottom of which he lay shivering and
panting, and rolling his great trustful eyes from one to the other of
his rescuers.

After this there was little more that the carpenter could do on board.
It was impossible for him to pass along the main deck from the poop to
the forecastle, for the sea was sweeping that part of the derelict so
continuously and in such volume that, had he attempted any such thing,
he must inevitably have been washed overboard.  Nor could he, for the
same reason, enter the poop cabin from the main deck; but he peered down
into it through the opening in the deck that had once formed the
skylight; and presently he swung himself down into it and disappeared
from view.  Meanwhile the brig, being buoyant, was settling rapidly to
leeward, and soon drifted out of hailing distance.  In about ten minutes
from the time of his disappearance the carpenter was seen to climb up
out of the cabin on to the deck and beckon to the men in the boat, who
at once paddled cautiously up alongside; when, watching the roll of the
hull and the heave of the boat alongside, Chips seized a favourable
opportunity and lightly sprang into the smaller craft.  The men in her
at once shoved off and, pulling her bows round, gave way for the brig,
the carpenter carefully watching the run of the sea as he sat in the
stern-sheets and steered.

"Here they come!" exclaimed Leslie, watching them.  "Lay aft here, men--
all hands of you--and stand by to sway away as soon as they have hooked
on.  See that those tackles are well overhauled--give them plenty of
scope to come and go upon!"

Coming down before wind and sea, the boat took but a few minutes to
traverse the distance between the derelict and the brig; and presently,
slipping close past under the stern of the latter, she rounded-to in the
"smooth" of the brig's lee, and shot up alongside.  As she did so, the
man who pulled "bow," and Chips, respectively made a lightning-like dash
for the bow and stern tackles, which they simultaneously got hold of and
hooked into the ring-bolts, flinging up their arms as a signal to those
on board to haul taut.  Meanwhile the remaining two hands in the boat
laid in their oars and, rising to their feet, cleverly sprang into the
main chains as the brig gave a heavy lee-roll.

"Haul taut fore and aft, my hearties," shouted Leslie, balancing himself
on the lee rail and grasping a backstay, as he anxiously watched the
dancing boat.  "Out you come, Chips, and you also, Tom.  Capital!  Now,
hoist away fore and aft; up with her smartly, lads, while this lee-roll
is on!  Good! very neatly done!  Catch a turn, now, for a moment; and
you, Chips, jump into her again, and pass out the dog.  Take care that
you don't drop him overboard!  Well done!  Now hoist away again, men.
Well, there; two blocks; Belay!  Haul taut and make fast your gripes.
Good dog, then; poor old fellow!  Why you are just skin and bone, as
Chips said.  Never mind, old chap, your troubles are over now, and we
will soon set you on your pins again.  Here, steward, bring along some
water for this dog--not too much to start with; and give him a little
food.  Now, carpenter, what were you able to make out aboard there?
Fill your main-topsail, lads, and bring her to her course."

Meanwhile, Miss Trevor was on her knees beside the dog--a magnificent
black Newfoundland--patting his head, and speaking loving words to him;
to which attentions the poor beast responded by whining pitifully as he
licked her hands and slapped the deck feebly with his tail.  When the
steward brought the food and water she took them from him and herself
gave them to the dog, allowing him first to drink a little, and then to
take a mouthful or two of food; then another drink, and then more food,
and so on, until he had taken as much as she thought good for him for a
first meal.

"Well, sir," responded the carpenter, as he turned to walk aft with
Leslie, "there wasn't much to learn aboard that there hooker beyond what
you could see for yourselves from the deck of this brig.  I 'low she was
hove down upon her beam-ends in a squall, some time durin' the night,
most likely; and then they had to cut away her masts to right her again.
Anyhow, her masts was cut away, that's sartin', because the lanyards of
the riggin' showed the clean cuts of the tomahawks clear enough.  And I
reckon that, when she was hove over, she started butt, or somethin' o'
that sort, because she was full o' water, and it was only her cargo--
whatever it may ha' been--that kept her afloat.  She'd been a fine ship
in her time, her cabin bein' fitted up most beautiful wi' lookin'
glasses and white-and-gold panels, velvet cushions to the lockers, and a
big table o' solid mahogany, to say nothin' of a most handsome sideboard
wi' silver-plated fittin' up agin' the fore bulkhead.  Then, on each
side of the main cabin, there was a row of fine sleepin' berths--six on
side--and four others abaft the after bulkhead, all of 'em fitted up
good enough for a hemperor.  But there weren't nobody in 'em, in course;
they and the main cabin bein' up to a man's waist in water, all loppin'
about wi' the roll o' the ship, and fine cushions and what not floatin'
about fore and aft and athwartships.  I couldn't find no papers nor
nothin' worth bringin' away wi' me--unless it were the aneroid,
tell-tale, and clock what was fixed to the coamin's where the skylight
had been, and I couldn't unship none o' them without tools; but the
tell-tale and the clock bore the name o' _Flying Eagle_--Philadelpy;
that I take to be the name an' port o' registry o' the craft."

"No doubt," agreed Leslie.  "And how long do you think the craft had
been as you found her?"

"Well, not so very long, sir, I should say," answered Chips.
"Everything looked fairly fresh aboard of her; the paintwork weren't
noways perished-like wi' the wash of the water, and the polish on the
mahogany was pretty nigh as good as a man could wish; but the cushions
was certingly a good bit sodden.  I should say, sir, as he'd been
desarted a matter o'--well, perhaps three or four days."

"Ah," commented Leslie, speaking to himself rather than to the
carpenter, "then it could not have been the same squall that struck us.
No, certainly not, the distance is altogether too great for that.  It
means, however, that there has been bad weather in these regions of
late; so we will keep our weather eyes lifting lest we should be caught
unawares by a recurrence of it.  Thank you, carpenter; you have done
very well.  And now, if you will keep a look-out for a few minutes, I
will go below and enter a full account of the matter in the log-book
while the particulars are fresh in my memory."

Miss Trevor had all this time been looking after the dog, petting him
and making much of him, until the animal, revived and strengthened by
the food and drink that he had taken, had struggled to his feet and was
now staggering after her along the deck, as she slowly and carefully
induced him to take a little exercise.  Then, after the lapse of about
an hour, she fed him again, somewhat more liberally than at first; until
by dint of care and assiduity on her part the poor beast was once more
able to walk without much difficulty.

The sun went down in a clear sky that night, and although the breeze
held, the swell rapidly subsided, thus clearly indicating that it was
not the forerunner of an approaching gale, but the last remaining
evidence of one already past--in all probability the same gale the
initial outfly of which had worked the destruction of the _Flying
Eagle_.

The life of a sailor is usually one of almost wearisome monotony,
despite what landsmen have to say as to its excitements.  True, the
individual who is fortunate enough to possess an eye for colour and
effect, and the leisure to note the ever-varying forms and tints of sea
and sky--especially if he also happens to be endowed with the skill to
transfer them to paper or canvas--need never pass an uninteresting
moment at sea.  Such fortunately circumstanced people are, however, few
and far between, and it is more especially to the ordinary mariner that
reference is now made.  To him there are, broadly speaking, only two
experiences, those of fine weather and of storm.  Fine weather means to
him usually little more than the comfort of dry clothes, his full watch
below, and perhaps not quite such hard work; while bad weather means
sodden garments, little and broken rest, and--unless the ship be snugged
down and hove-to--incessant strenuous work.  To him the constantly
changing aspects of the sky appeal in one way only, namely, as forecasts
of impending weather.

And the incidents of sea-life, apart from the changes of weather, and
the sighting of occasional ships, are few.  Derelicts are not fallen in
with every day; nor is the overwhelming of a ship by a waterspout a
frequent occurrence.  Yet extraordinary events--some of them marvellous
almost beyond credence--unquestionably do occur from time to time, and
nowhere more frequently than at sea.  And it is quite within the bounds
of possibility for one craft to circumnavigate the globe without
encountering a single incident worth recording, while another, upon a
voyage of less than half that length, will fall in with so many and such
extraordinary adventures that there will not be space enough in her
log-book to record the half of them.

This, it would almost appear, was to be the experience of the _Mermaid_;
for upon the afternoon of the day following that of their meeting with
the _Flying Eagle_, her crew were privileged to witness a sight that a
man may follow the sea for years without beholding.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

DISMASTED!

It was about one bell in the first dog-watch; the weather was fine, the
water smooth, the breeze light; and the brig, with little more than bare
steerage-way upon her, was laying her course, with squared yards, both
clews of her mainsail hauled up, and studding-sails set on both sides,
her topsails occasionally collapsing and flapping to the masts for lack
of wind to keep them "asleep."  Miss Trevor was, as usual, on deck,
seated in a deck-chair, with a book on her lap and the fingers of one
hand playing abstractedly with an ear of the great dog that lay
stretched contentedly upon the deck beside her.  Leslie, also with a
book in his hands, was seated right aft upon the taffrail, with his feet
upon the stern grating, in such a position that he could look past the
helmsman right forward and command the entire starboard side of the
deck, as far forward as the windlass-bitts--and, incidentally, study the
varying expressions that flitted athwart Miss Trevor's face as she read.
The carpenter, with the rest of the men, was on the forecastle, looking
after them and busying himself upon some small job that needed
attention.  The stillness of the peaceful afternoon seemed to have
fallen upon the vessel; the men conversed together intermittently in
subdued tones, that barely reached aft in the form of a low mumble; and
the only sounds heard were the occasional soft rustle and flap of the
canvas aloft, with an accompanying patter of reef-points, the jar of the
rudder upon its pintles, the jerk of the wheel chains, and the soft,
scarcely audible seething of the water alongside.

Upon this reposeful quietude there suddenly broke the sound of a gentle
"wash" of water close alongside, then a long-drawn, sigh-like
respiration, and a jet of mingled vapour and water shot above the port
bulwark to a height of some ten or twelve feet, so close to the brig
that the next instant a small shower of spray came splashing down on the
deck in the wake of the main rigging.

So totally unexpected was the occurrence that it startled everybody.
Leslie sprang to his feet and looked with mild surprise down into the
water; Miss Trevor dropped her book as she shot out of her chair; the
dog, who had manifested a readiness to respond to the name of Sailor,
leaped up and rushed to the bulwarks, where he reared himself upon his
hind legs, emitting a succession of deep, alert barks; and the crew
forward shambled over to the port bulwarks, staring curiously.

"Come up here, Miss Trevor," said Leslie, extending his hand to help the
girl up on to the grating beside him.  "Here is a sight that you may
never have an opportunity to behold again--at least, under such perfect
conditions as these."

The girl, closely attended by Sailor, sprang lightly upon the grating,
and following with her eyes Leslie's pointing finger, gazed down into
the blue, transparent depths, where she beheld the enormous black bulk
of a large sperm whale, lying right up alongside the brig--so close to
her, indeed, that his starboard fin was right under her bilge, about a
third of his length--from his blow-holes aft toward his tail--showing
shiny as polished ebony, some six inches above water, while his
ponderous tail stretched away some forty feet or more beyond the
taffrail, where it could be clearly seen gently rising and falling to
enable him to keep pace with the brig.

"What a veritable monster!" exclaimed Miss Trevor, gazing down with
wide-open eyes of mingled astonishment and dismay at the huge creature,
as she clung unconsciously to Leslie's supporting arm.  "Is it
dangerous?  I hope not, because it looks big enough and strong enough to
destroy this ship at a single blow if it chose to do so!"

"You need not be in the least alarmed," answered Leslie, reassuringly.
"He will not hurt us if we do not interfere with him.  These creatures
are only dangerous if attacked; then, indeed, they have been known to
turn upon their assailants, with dire results.  But ah! look there!--
there is another one!"

And sure enough, up came another of the monsters, breaking water with a
rush that showed nearly half his length, at a distance of only some
fifty yards from the brig.

"And there is another!" cried Miss Trevor, with unmistakable
trepidation, as a third came to the surface and blew close under the
brig's counter.

"Pity as we ain't a whaler, sir," remarked the helmsman.  "If we was,
here 'd be a chance to get fast to two of 'em at once, without so much
as havin' to lower a boat!"

"Yes," responded Leslie, good-naturedly.  "Such chances do not, however,
seem to come to whalers.  Why, there blows another!" as a fourth whale
broke water about a hundred yards on the brig's starboard beam.  "We
seem to have fallen in with a whole school of them!"

And so indeed it proved, for within ten minutes there were no less than
seventeen of the monsters in view at the same moment within a radius of
a quarter of a mile of the brig, which craft appeared to possess a
fascination for them; for they not only swam round and round her, but
approached her so closely and so persistently that Miss Trevor became
seriously alarmed; while even Leslie began to grow somewhat uneasy lest
the brutes, whose temper he knew to be rather uncertain, should develop
an inclination to attack the craft.  To the relief, however, of all
hands, the curiosity of the creatures at length appeared to be
satisfied, and they drew off from the brig a little, still remaining
upon the surface, however.  And presently the huge brutes began to
develop a playful disposition, that commenced with their chasing each
other hither and thither, first of all in a leisurely manner, then, as
their excitement grew, their rapidity of movement increased until they
were rushing through the water--and round the brig--with the speed of a
fleet of steamers.  And finally they took to "breaching," that is,
throwing themselves completely out of the water, to a height of from ten
to twenty feet, coming down again with a splash, that soon set the water
boiling and foaming all round them, and creating a commotion that caused
the brig to roll and pitch as though she were in a choppy sea.  This
exhibition of strength and activity lasted for a full three-quarters of
an hour, when the creatures disappeared as suddenly as they had come,
much, it must be confessed, to the relief of all hands aboard the brig.

From this time nothing of moment occurred until the _Mermaid_ arrived
off Staten Island, the eastern extremity of which she sighted at
daylight on a cold, bleak morning some ten weeks after the date when
Leslie and Miss Trevor had become members of her ship's company.  The
weather had, in the interim, been fine upon the whole, with occasional
calms and contrary winds; but, taking everything into consideration,
Leslie felt that they had done by no means badly.

On this especial morning, however, appearances seemed to point to the
probability that they were about to experience an unpleasant taste of
typical Cape Horn weather.  The sky was gloomy and overcast, the entire
firmament being obscured by a thick pall of cold, leaden-hued cloud
lying in horizontal layers, and presenting the appearance described by
sailors as "greasy"--an appearance that usually forebodes plenty of wind
and, not improbably, rain.  The breeze was blowing fresh from the
westward, having hauled round from the north-west during the night, and
the brig was pounding through a short, lumpy sea under single-reefed
topsails.  The air was damp and raw, with a nip in it that sent
everybody into their thick winter clothing, and called for a fire in the
cabin stove; and the deck, as far aft as the waist, was streaming with
water that had come in over the weather rail in the form of spray.
Everybody on deck, except Miss Trevor, had donned sea boots and
oilskins, and the only creature who appeared to enjoy the weather was
Sailor, the dog, who trotted about the deck and through the heavy
showers of spray with manifest delight.  There was no hope whatever of
getting a sight of the sun that day; but this was a matter of
comparatively slight importance, since Leslie had very carefully taken
the bearings of the land, and had thus been able to verify his
reckoning.

As the day wore on the wind freshened perceptibly, while with every mile
that the brig made to the southward the sea grew longer and heavier, and
the air more bleak and nipping.  At noon, when the watch was called,
Leslie seized the opportunity to take a second reef in the topsails, and
to haul up and furl the mainsail; an arrangement that was productive of
an immediate change for the better, since the brig went along almost as
fast as before, while she took the seas more easily, and was altogether
drier and more comfortable.  The barometer, however, was falling
steadily; a circumstance that, combined with the look of the sky to
windward, led Leslie to the conclusion that they were booked for a
regular Cape Horn gale.  All through the afternoon the weather steadily
became more unpleasant, and about one bell in the first dog-watch, it
came on to rain--a cold, heavy, persistent downpour--while the wind
piped up so fiercely that Leslie decided to haul down the third reef in
his topsails, brail up and stow the trysail, and take in the inner jib
without further delay, thus snugging the brig down for the night.

The next morning dawned dark, gloomy, and so thick with driving rain
that it was impossible to see anything beyond half a mile from the brig
in any direction.  But within that radius the scene was depressing
enough, a steep, high sea of an opaque greenish-grey tint sweeping down,
foam-capped and menacing, upon the brig from to windward, while the air
was thick with spindrift and scudwater.  The foresail had been taken in
during the middle watch; and the brig was now under close-reefed
topsails and fore-topmast staysail only, under which canvas she was
making a bare three knots in the hour, leaving behind her a short wake
that streamed out broad on her weather quarter.  So unpleasant were the
conditions that, except for brief intervals during the fore and
afternoon, Miss Trevor remained below, whiling away the time as best she
might with a book; disregarding Sailor's importunate invitations to
accompany him on deck.

Meanwhile the gale was steadily increasing, and between five and six
bells in the afternoon watch the main-topsail suddenly split with a loud
report, and immediately blew out of the bolt-ropes; with the result
that, despite the utmost efforts of the helmsman, the brig at once fell
off into the trough of the sea.  Hearing the report, and the subsequent
commotion on deck, Leslie, who had been snatching a little rest in his
cabin, dashed up on deck and, taking in the position of affairs at a
glance, gave orders for the fore topsail to be at once clewed up, and
the spanker to be set; which being done, brought the brig once more to
the wind, and extricated her from her dangerous situation.  Then he
ordered a new main-topsail to be at once brought on deck and bent;
having no fancy for leaving the brig all night under such low and
ineffective canvas as the spanker--a sail that, with the heavy sea then
running, was half the time becalmed.

By the time that the remains of the burst main-topsail had been unbent,
and the new sail brought on deck, it was eight bells, and all hands were
set to work to bend the sail.  This, under the existing weather
conditions--with the wind blowing at almost hurricane strength, and the
brig flung like a cork from trough to crest of the mountainous,
furious-running sea, with wild weather rolls as the seas swept away from
under her, succeeded by sickening rolls to leeward that at times laid
her almost on her beam-ends as she climbed the lee slope of the next
on-coming sea--was a long, difficult, and perilous job for the hands
aloft; and Leslie heaved a sigh of relief when at length, having bent
and close-reefed the sail, the little party laid in off the yard, and
descended to the deck to assist in sheeting it home.  This delicate job
was happily accomplished without mishap; and, the trysail being brailed
in and stowed, the brig was then hove-to under close-reefed main-topsail
and fore-topmast staysail.

All through the night and the whole of the succeeding day the gale
continued to rage furiously, and although the _Mermaid_ proved herself
to be an unexpectedly good sea-boat in such exceptionally heavy weather,
riding easily the mountainous sea that was now running, she rolled with
such terrific violence that it was impossible to move anywhere on board
her, whether on deck or below, without incurring the risk of serious
injury.  As for Miss Trevor, acting on Leslie's advice, she kept to her
own cabin, and passed the disagreeable time in the comparative safety of
her bunk, which she left only at meal times.

The morning of the fourth day brought with it a change.  The gale broke
about the time of sunrise, and soon afterwards the sky cleared, the
canopy of cloud broke up, and drifted away to the eastward in tattered
fragments, revealing a sky of hard pallid blue, in which the sun hung
low like a ball of white fire.  The sea went down somewhat, and no
longer broke so menacingly, while it changed its colour from dirty green
to steel-grey.  Far away on the southern horizon a gleam of dazzling
white betrayed the presence of a small iceberg, and the air was
piercingly cold.

Gladly welcoming the change, Leslie--who had spent the whole of the
preceding night on deck--ordered the close-reefed fore topsail to be
set, as well as the foresail and main trysail; under which considerable
increase of canvas the brig was soon once more moving with comparative
rapidity through the water, and looking well up into the wind.  Then,
watching for a "smooth," they wore the craft round, and brought her to
on the port tack, during the progress of which evolution the wind
shifted a couple of points to the southward, enabling them to lay a
course of north-west by west, which Leslie hoped would suffice him to
draw out clear of everything, and carry him into the Pacific Ocean.

This hope was strengthened as the day wore on, for the wind continued to
draw gradually still further round from the southward, while it steadily
decreased in force--though growing colder every hour--thus enabling
Leslie to shake out first one reef in his topsails, then a second, and
finally the last, also to set his jib and main-topmast staysail; so that
by sunset the brig, under whole topsails and main-topgallantsail, was
booming along famously, with an excellent prospect of finding herself
fairly in the Pacific in the course of the next twenty-four hours.

A disconcerting circumstance, however, that rather tended to damp
Leslie's hopes, was the fact that the barometer persistently refused to
rise, although the wind was subsiding so rapidly that it threatened to
dwindle to a calm, and as the evening faded into night the stars grew
dim and finally disappeared.  Still, there was nothing that could be
called actually alarming in the aspect of the weather; and as Leslie had
been almost continuously on deck during the entire duration of the
gale--snatching a brief half-hour of rest from time to time as best he
could--and it was now his eight hours in, he decided, after deliberating
the matter until four bells in the first watch had struck, to go below
and turn in until midnight; leaving instructions with the carpenter to
instantly call him in the event of anything occurring to necessitate his
presence on deck.

It seemed to him that he had scarcely laid his head upon his pillow and
closed his eyes ere he was awakened from a profound sleep by a sudden
screaming roar of wind; the brig heeled over to port until she appeared
about to capsize; and as Leslie, dazed for the moment by his sudden
awakening, sprang from his bunk, a loud crash on deck, immediately
succeeded by a lesser one, told a tale of disaster.  The brig righted as
the harassed man sprang up the companion ladder, clad only in his
pyjamas, and dashed out on deck to find everything in confusion, the
mainmast gone by the board and hammering viciously at the ship's side,
while a furious banging forward told that the fore-topmast also had
gone, and, with everything attached, was hanging to leeward by its
rigging.  Moreover, a howling gale from the _northward_ was sweeping
over the brig and deluging her with showers of cutting spray.

"Where is the carpenter?" was Leslie's first cry as he emerged from the
companion and groped blindly about him in the blackness of the starless
night.

"Here I be, sir," answered Chips, close at hand.  "Oh, Mr Leslie,
here's a dreadful business!  And I be to blame for it, sir--"

"Never mind, just now, who is to blame," exclaimed Leslie.  "Call all
hands, and let them get to work with their tomahawks upon that main
rigging.  Cut everything away, Chips, and be smart about it, my man, or
we shall have the mast punching a hole in the ship's side, and there
will be an end of us all."

And so saying, without waiting for an answer, Leslie made a spring for
the rack in which the tomahawks were kept, and, seizing the first of the
small axes that he could lay hands upon, he set an example to the rest
by hacking away at the lanyards of the main shrouds.  It was a
heart-breaking business, that blind hewing and chopping at the
complicated gear that held the wreck of the mainmast fast to the hull;
but it was accomplished at last, and then, the brig having paid off
almost dead before the wind, it drifted astern and went clear, with much
scraping and a final bump under the counter that made the old hooker
tremble, and must have infallibly destroyed the rudder had it chanced to
hit it.  Then all hands went to work and attacked the topmast rigging,
which, being less complicated, was soon cleared away.

The harassed crew now had a moment in which to collect their energies
for fresh efforts, and take stock, as it were, of the extent of the
disaster that had befallen them.  And the first matter into which Leslie
made particular inquiry--after he had gone below and got into his
clothes--was the state of the crew; it had been impressed upon him--
although he had hitherto been too busy to mention it--that some men
seemed to be missing--or rather, he had vaguely felt that there were not
so many men on deck as there ought to be.

So he now turned to the carpenter, and said--

"Muster all hands, Chips, and let the steward give them a good, generous
tot of grog; they will be all the better for it after their hard work in
the wet and cold.  Moreover, I wish to satisfy myself that they are all
right; it has struck me more than once since I came on deck that some of
them are missing."

"I pray to God that you're wrong, sir," answered the carpenter; "but,
now that you comes to speak of it, the same thing have struck me too.
Here, lay aft, bullies, all of yer, and let's have a look at ye," he
continued, sending his voice forward to the forecastle, where the men
were now grouped, awaiting further orders.

They came aft, slouching along the deck after their usual manner, and
grouped themselves about the binnacle, "Why, where's the rest of ye?"
demanded the carpenter, glaring angrily from one to the other; "where's
Bill--and Jim--and Joe?  Jump for'ard, one of ye, and tell 'em to lay
aft here for a tot o' grog."

"We're all here, Chips--all that's left of us, that is.  Bill, and Jim,
and Joe are all missin'; ain't to be found nowheres.  Anyhow, they ain't
in the fo'c's'le; I'm ready to swear to that!" answered one of the
little crowd that grouped themselves round the binnacle, their eyes
gleaming in the dim light of the binnacle lamp with that transient
horror that sailors feel at the sudden loss of a shipmate.

"Not in the fo'c's'le!" ejaculated the carpenter, staring wildly about
him, "Oh, my God! three men gone, and all of 'em in my watch!" he cried,
flinging his clenched fists above his head in his agony of
self-reproach.  "You're sure that they ain't in the fo'c's'le?  Then
they ain't nowhere else aboard this unlucky hooker; they're overboard--
that's where they are--went when the squall struck us and very nigh
throwed us on our beam-ends.  And it's my fault--all my fault; it's _I_
that have lost them three men.  Ye see, Mr Leslie, it's like this here.
I'm a man what can't do without his proper 'lowance of sleep, and this
here last gale have fair knocked me up and made me that stupid that I
haven't knowed what I've been doin' latterly.  And the fact is, that in
this here last watch of mine I was fair overcome wi' want of sleep, and
I dropped off without knowin' it, and without wantin' to; and this
here's the consekence,"--flinging his right hand wildly out to indicate
the crippled state of the brig--"this an' the loss o' three good men."

"Well, Chips, it is a pity," said Leslie, soothingly and
sympathetically; "if you had but told me how completely you were knocked
up, I would have taken your watch for you, although I am pretty well
knocked up myself.  The mischief, however, is done and cannot now be
helped, so it is useless to worry any more about it.  We must not,
however, allow the ship to run further to leeward than we can help; so
clew up the foresail, lads; we will let her scud under bare poles until
daylight.  Then we will see what can be done to mend matters.  Now take
your grog, men; and when you have clewed up and furled the foresail, go
below.  You, too, Chips.  I have had a little rest, and can doubtless
hold out until the morning.  I will look after the brig until then."

As the men shambled away forward, leaving Leslie at the wheel, the
latter dimly caught sight of something huddled up in the companion-way,
at the top of the ladder; and while he stood staring at it in an
endeavour to make out what it was, it moved; and the next moment Miss
Trevor, enveloped in a dressing-gown, stepped out on deck, and, with
teeth chattering with cold, exclaimed--

"Oh, Mr Leslie, what dreadful thing has happened?  I was awakened by
the terrible noise and confusion--the crashing and thumping, the
thrashing of the sails, the howling of the wind, and the shouting of the
sailors--and I feared that the ship was sinking--for it seemed just as
bad as on the night when the _Golden Fleece_ was run into; so I wrapped
myself in this dressing-gown, and have been to and fro between the top
of the stairs and my own cabin for quite an hour, I should think.  But I
would not come out on deck, for I saw at once that you were all
extremely busy; and I knew that, if I did, I should only interrupt you,
and be in your way."

"You would, indeed," answered Leslie, bluntly.  "And even now," he
continued, "the deck is no place for you on this wild and bitter night;
you will get wet through and `catch your death of cold,' as they say
ashore.  Therefore I beg that you will forthwith go below and turn in;
there is no further danger at present; the brig is scudding quite
comfortably, as you may see; and there is nothing that we can run up
against between this and the morning; you may therefore finish your
sleep in comfort and with an easy mind."

"But please tell me exactly what has happened," the girl persisted; "I
shall be better able to rest if you will let me know the worst."

"Well, if you insist on knowing, the brig was caught aback by a sudden
shift of wind, and we have lost our mainmast and fore-topmast," answered
Leslie, saying nothing about their further loss of three men, as he did
not wish to harrow her mind with such a distressing detail until it
became impossible any longer to conceal it, Miss Trevor was not,
however, to be so easily put off.

"But I heard the carpenter crying out that he had lost three men," she
said.  "What did he mean by that?"

"Precisely what he said," answered Leslie, reluctantly.  "The poor chap
was overcome with the fatigue of the last three days, and fell asleep in
his watch on deck.  The result is the loss of our spars, and--worse
still--of three men, who, there can be no doubt, somehow got washed or
knocked overboard when the squall struck and dismasted us."

"Oh, how dreadful!" exclaimed the girl in tones of horror.  "This is
indeed an unfortunate ship!  We have met with nothing but tragedy since
we came on board.  I wish now--oh, I wish most fervently!--that we had
met some other ship into which we could both have changed; we should
then have escaped all these horrors."

"Possibly," agreed Leslie.  "Yet `_quien sabe_?' as the Spaniards say,
who can tell?  We might have trans-shipped into some craft quite as, if
not even more, unfortunate than ourselves.  In any case, it is too late
now; and even were it not so, you appear to have forgotten that we could
not _both_ have trans-shipped; _I_ at least am bound to go on to
Valparaiso in this brig.  This, however, is not the moment to discuss
these matters; you are shivering and your teeth chattering with cold; I
must therefore _insist_ that you go below and turn in at once.  And as
you pass through the cabin, mix yourself a good stiff glass of grog; it
will do you good.  I prescribe it."

"Very, well doctor, I will obey you," answered the girl.  And forthwith
she disappeared down the companion, without saying "Good night!"
somewhat to Leslie's chagrin.

The apparent discourtesy was, however, soon explained; for a minute or
two later she reappeared, bearing in her hand a tumbler of generously
stiff grog, which she handed to Leslie, saying--

"_I_ `prescribe this.'  Please drink it at once; for I am certain that
you need it far more than I do.  Oh yes, I will take some myself, since
you so strenuously insist upon it.  There, now you will feel better," as
she received the empty tumbler from him.  "And now, good night.  I wish
I were a man, for then I could stay here and help you."

"God forbid!" ejaculated Leslie, fervently.  "Not even to secure the
benefit of your help would I have you other than as you are.  A thousand
thanks for the grog; and now good night; let me not see you again until
the morning!"

The disaster to the brig had happened shortly before midnight; and for
the rest of that wild and bitter night, until seven bells in the morning
watch, Leslie stood there alone at the wheel, keeping the brig stern-on
to the fast-rising sea.  Then the carpenter and the remainder of the
crew appeared on deck, and one of them came aft to his relief.  The cook
lighted the galley fire; the steward presently brought him aft a cup of
smoking hot cocoa; and then, when he had stripped to the skin, been
pumped on copiously under the head pump, rubbed down vigorously with a
rough towel, and invested in a complete change of dry garments, he felt
a new man, ready for another arduous day's work, if need be.  He,
however, insisted that all hands should take a thorough good breakfast
before starting the day's work; and the wisdom of this revealed itself
immediately that the work began.

Meanwhile it is necessary to say that during those long weary hours of
Leslie's lonely vigil at the wheel, the wind, that at the first outfly
had come away from about due north, had gradually veered round until, by
sunrise, it was a point south of east, in which quarter it seemed
disposed to stick.  Furthermore, with the coming of dawn it had evinced
a disposition to moderate its violence somewhat, while the sky had
cleared for a few brief minutes in the eastern quarter, revealing a
glimpse of the sun; and upon examining the barometer, Leslie had noticed
that the mercury in the tube showed a convex surface--a sign that it was
about to rise; he therefore suffered himself to indulge the hope that
with improving weather, they would ere nightfall be enabled, by good
steady hard work, to get the brig into such shape as to once more have
her under command.

Seen now, in broad daylight, the poor little brig presented a truly
pitiful sight as compared with her appearance on the previous evening.
She was then all ataunto, with every spar, rope, and sail intact; a
thing of life, obedient to her helm, responsive to the will of her
commander, and as fit as such a craft could be to cope with any and
every possible caprice of wind or weather.  _Now_, she was a poor maimed
and disfigured thing; her mainmast gone, leaving nothing of itself but a
splintered stump standing some ten feet above the deck; her fore-topmast
also gone--snapped short off at the cap; and, of her normal spread of
canvas, nothing now remained save her fore-course.  And her loss was not
confined to that of her spars only, although that of course was serious
enough.  But, in addition to this, she had lost a complete suit of
canvas, and practically all her running and standing rigging--the latter
item being one that it would be quite impossible to replace until her
arrival at a port.  Fortunately for all concerned, her owners had been
prudent enough to provide her with two complete suits of sails; and she
also carried a fairly liberal equipment of spare spars; it would
therefore be no very difficult job to extemporise a "jury rig" for her;
but the trouble would be to find the wherewithal to replace the lost
standing and running rigging, blocks, and all the other items that would
be needed to make that jury rig effective.

Needs must, however, when there is no alternative; and the British
sailor is, with all his faults, an ingenious fellow, not altogether
devoid of the inventive faculty, and possessed of a pretty turn for
adaptation; give him but the idea and he will generally find the means
to carry it out.

So while Leslie and Chips went the round of the deck immediately after
breakfast, inspecting their stock of spare spars, and the navy man
prepared a rough sketch illustrating his idea of the manner in which
those spars could be most effectively made use of, the rest of the crew
turned-to with a will to overhaul the boatswain's locker, the sail
locker, and the fore-peak, routing out therefrom and bringing up on deck
every article and thing that could conceivably be of use in the task
that lay before them.  Then, when Leslie had completed his arrangements
with the carpenter, the latter brought his tools on deck; the spare
spars were cast loose and placed conveniently at hand for working upon;
and in a very short time everybody but Leslie, Miss Trevor, the cook,
and the steward, was busily engaged on the forecastle, measuring,
cutting, splicing and fitting rigging, while the carpenter trimmed the
spars and otherwise prepared them to go into their destined positions.

As for the others, the cook and steward had their usual duties to attend
to, and could not therefore be spared to lend a hand in re-rigging the
brig, even had they possessed the necessary knowledge--which they did
not; although later on, perhaps, when it came to mere pulling and
hauling, their strength would be found useful, and would be
unhesitatingly called for.  Meanwhile the brig, although under her
fore-course only, and running before the wind, needed to be steered; and
this job Leslie undertook to personally attend to throughout the day,
thus sparing another man for the pressing work on the forecastle.

Luckily for everybody concerned, the half-hearted promise of finer
weather that the morning had given was more than fulfilled; for about
four bells the sky cleared, the sun shone brilliantly, and the air
became pleasantly mild, while although the wind still blew strongly from
the east, the sea grew more regular, so that the dismantled brig now
scudded quite comfortably, not shipping a drop of water, and forging
ahead, at the rate of about three knots per hour, on her proper course.

Miss Trevor had not made her appearance at the cabin table when Leslie
had been summoned below to breakfast by the steward, nor had she
responded when the former had gently knocked at her cabin door.  This
circumstance, however, had not aroused any very serious alarm in the
breast of the ex-Lieutenant, who, remembering the incident of the night
before, when the young lady had come on deck after the accident to the
brig, thought it quite probable that, in consequence of her rest being
so rudely broken, she was now oversleeping herself.  And in the
confidence of this belief he had ordered the steward not to attempt to
disturb her, but to prepare breakfast for her immediately upon her
appearance.  And he furthermore instructed the man to notify him if she
failed to put in an appearance before four bells.  As it happened, the
young lady appeared on deck, fresh and rosy as a summer morning, and
with Sailor in close attendance, a few minutes before that hour.

"What!" she exclaimed, lifting her hands in dismay as she saw Leslie
standing at the wheel, precisely as she had left him on the previous
night, "still at that dreadful wheel!  Do you mean to say that you have
been standing there all this time?"

"By no means, madam," answered Leslie, cheerfully.  "I have since then
had a most refreshing bath, changed my clothes, taken breakfast, and
done quite a useful amount of very necessary work.  It is scarcely
needful to inquire after _your_ health, your appearance speaks for
itself; yet for form's sake let me say that I hope you are none the
worse for your very imprudent behaviour last night."

"Oh no," she answered, with a laugh and a blush that vastly became her--
so Leslie thought; "I am perfectly well, thank you.  I took the grog
that you prescribed, and then went dutifully to my cabin, in obedience
to orders, where I at once fell asleep, and so remained until an hour
ago.  Then I rose, dressed, and had my breakfast; and here I am, ready
and anxious to do anything I can to help."

"Help!" echoed Leslie, with a laugh.  "You talked of helping last
night--and most kind it was of you to have and express the wish--but in
what possible way could a delicately nurtured girl like you help?  And
yet," he continued more soberly, "you _could_ render me a little help,
once or twice a day, if you would.  It is not much that I would ask of
you--merely to note the chronometer times for me when I take my
observations of the sun for the longitude.  I have sometimes thought
that Chips has been a little erratic in his noting of the time; and I
have more than once had it in my mind to ask you to undertake this small
service for me."

"Why, of course I will," assented the girl, eagerly.  "Why did you not
ask me before?  And there is another thing that I can do for you, now--
this moment--if you will only let me.  I can steer the ship for you
while you go downstairs and obtain a few hours' much-needed rest.  Your
eyes are heavy and red for want of sleep; you look to be half dead with
fatigue!  And if you should break down, what would become of the rest of
us?  Please let me try at once, will you?  I am quite sure that I could
manage it; it looks perfectly easy."

Leslie laughed.  "Yes," he assented; "I have no doubt it does; because,
you see, I happen to know just how to do it.  But _you_ would find it
very hard work, and would soon be terribly tired.  No; you could not
possibly steer the craft in this heavy sea, especially as we are running
before the wind--which constitutes the most difficult condition for
steering.  But, if you wish to learn to steer, I shall be delighted to
teach you as soon as we again get fine weather and smooth water."

And with this promise the girl had to be content, although she persisted
in believing it to be quite easy to turn the wheel a few spokes either
way, and so keep the brig sailing on a perfectly straight course.
Meanwhile, the crew got to work and rigged a pair of sheers over the
stump of the mainmast, firmly staying it with guys leading aft to the
taffrail and forward to the windlass-bitts.  Then they rigged at the
apex of the sheers the strongest threefold tackle that they could
extemporise; and with the assistance of this they swayed aloft a spare
main-topmast, that had been carefully prepared by the carpenter for
fishing to the stump of the mainmast.  This spar was accurately adjusted
in the precise position that it was intended it should occupy, and its
heel was then firmly secured to the stump of the mainmast by means of
strips of stout planking about eight feet long, closely arranged all
round and secured in position by a long length of chain wound tightly
round, and further tightened by driving in as many wedges as possible.
Then the spar was further secured by shrouds, stays, and backstays; thus
providing a very respectable substitute for a mainmast.  The sheers were
then struck; a spare main-yard, fitted with brace-blocks and all other
necessary gear, was next swayed aloft and firmly secured to the head of
the extemporised mainmast; a spare main-course was bent and set; and by
sunset that same evening Leslie had the satisfaction of seeing the brig
once more in condition to be brought to the wind when occasion should
arise.  What the crew had accomplished that day constituted a most
excellent day's work, especially taking into consideration the fact that
they were almost worn-out with fatigue, Leslie therefore resolved to
call upon them for nothing further in the shape of work that day; but he
foresaw that it would be a great help to the craft to have a fore
staysail that could be set when sailing on a wind; and a main trysail
might also prove useful; he determined therefore that the next day
should see these two sails in place, if possible.  He would then have
accomplished the very utmost that lay in his power, and sufficient, he
hoped and believed, to enable him to take the brig to Valparaiso.

His observations, taken at noon and at three o'clock that day, showed
him that the _Mermaid_ was far enough to the southward and westward to
justify a shift of the helm; and accordingly at four bells in the first
dog-watch he altered the course to north-west by West, which he hoped
would enable him to just clear Desolation Island and carry him fairly
into the Pacific.  It also afforded him an opportunity to test the
efficiency of his jury rig; and his satisfaction was great at finding
that with the yards braced forward the brig, under main and fore-courses
only, behaved in a thoroughly satisfactory manner; although what she
would do when hauled close on a wind still remained to be proved.

Happily for him the weather had by this time again become quite fine;
the wind had softened down to merely a fresh breeze, and the sea had
gone down considerably.  He was therefore enabled to secure a few hours'
sleep--a refreshment that he now absolutely needed, for he was by this
time so completely worn-out and exhausted that he felt he could do no
more.

The next day was nearly as busy an one as that which had preceded it,
for it saw the completion of Leslie's plans, and left the brig under
fore and main-courses and fore staysail; with main trysail bent and
ready for setting when occasion should require.  This achievement
brought the ex-lieutenant to the end of his resources; but, on the other
hand, he felt that the brig was now once more in reasonable trim for
facing any contingency except a recurrence of really bad weather; and
this last he hoped he would have done with when once the brig had fairly
entered the Pacific.  Luckily, the weather was now as fine as he could
wish; the sky clear enough to enable him to get all his observations;
not very much sea running; and a spanking fair wind driving the brig
along upon her course at a speed of nearly five knots.  Moreover, the
fine weather would enable his crew and himself to get a sufficient
amount of rest to thoroughly recuperate their exhausted energies, and
prepare themselves for future contingencies.  On the following morning,
just as he had completed his forenoon observations for the longitude,
land was sighted broad on the starboard bow, that proved to be the
south-eastern extremity of Desolation Island; and at six bells in the
afternoon watch the brig had arrived in the longitude of 75 degrees
West, and was therefore at last ploughing the waters of the vast Pacific
Ocean, to Leslie's profound satisfaction.  He now shifted his course
another point to the northward; and began to calculate the probable date
of their arrival in Valparaiso.

It was his intention to maintain a north-west course for the ensuing
twenty-four hours, in order to obtain a good offing, and then to haul up
to the northward; but, to his disgust, when he turned out on the
following morning he found that the wind had shifted and was blowing
strong from about north-east, and that, with her yards braced right
forward, and main trysail set, the brig would look no higher than
north-west.  It was, however, comforting to reflect that although the
hooker was taking a wider offing than was at all necessary, she was
edging up to the northward, in which direction lay their port of
destination.  And sooner or later they would be certain to get a
westerly slant of wind that would help them.  So, being in fact unable
to do better, Leslie kept his starboard tacks abroad, and went driving
along to the north-westward.  And with every mile of progress that they
now made there came an improvement in the weather; the air growing ever
softer and more balmy, the water more smooth, and the skies clearer and
more deeply and exquisitely blue.

Thus the brig drove steadily and pleasantly enough along, day after day,
until the wondering voyagers seemed to have arrived in the lotus-eaters'
region, "where it is always afternoon;" and still the wind hung
inexorably in the north-east quarter, and the brig's bows obstinately
refused to point higher than north-west, until Leslie's patience wore
thin, and he grew moody and morose with long waiting for a shift of
wind.  For this condition of affairs lasted not only for days, but at
last mounted to weeks; a circumstance that was practically unique in the
history of those waters.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE WRECK OF THE MERMAID.

At length, however, the inevitable change came; the wind died away to a
breathless calm; the ocean took on the semblance of a sea of gently
undulating glass; and the hitherto cloudless sky imperceptibly lost its
intensity of blue as a thin, streaky haze gradually veiled it, through
which the sun shone feebly, a rayless disc of throbbing white fire.  The
heat and closeness of the atmosphere were intense, even on deck, while
the temperature below was practically unendurable.  The brig lost
steerage-way about two o'clock in the afternoon; and when the sun sank
beneath the western horizon that night, looming through the haze red as
blood, distorted in shape, and magnified to thrice his normal
dimensions, there was little if any perceptible change in the
atmospheric conditions, although the mercury in the barometer had been
falling slowly but steadily all day.

The brig was now within the tropic of Capricorn, and not very far to the
eastward of the Paumotu Archipelago, in which region night succeeds day
with such astounding rapidity that the stars become visible within ten
minutes of the sun's disappearance.  Yet no stars appeared on this
particular night; on the contrary, a darkness that could be felt settled
down upon the brig almost with the suddenness of a drawn curtain.  The
darkness was as profound as that of the interior of a coal-mine; it was
literally impossible to see one's hand held close to one's eyes; and
movement about the deck was accomplished blindly and gropingly, with
hands outspread to avoid collision with the most familiar objects, whose
positions could now be only roughly guessed at.  And the silence was as
profound as the darkness; for the swell had subsided with almost
startling rapidity, and the brig was so nearly motionless that there was
none of the creaking of timbers or spars, none of the "cheeping" of
blocks and gear that is usually to be heard under such circumstances.
Even the men forward were silent, as though they were waiting and
listening for something, they knew not what.  So intense was the silence
that even the striking of a match to light a pipe became almost
startling; while its tiny flame burnt steadily and without a semblance
of wavering in the stagnant air.

Gradually, however, a subtle and portentous change took place.  The
darkness slowly became less intense, giving place to a lurid ruddy
twilight that appeared to emanate from the clouds, for by imperceptible
degrees they grew visible and became streaked and blotched with patches
of red that suggested the idea of their being on fire within, the
incandescence showing through here and there in the thinner parts.  This
red light grew and spread until the whole surface of the sky was aglow
with it; and it was an uncanny experience to stand on the stern grating,
close up to the taffrail, and look forward along the brig's deck to her
bows, and note every detail of the craft and her equipment showing
distinctly and black as ebony against that weird background of red-hot
sky and its ruddy reflection in the polished surface of the water.

Leslie scarcely knew what to make of this lowering and portentously
illuminated sky.  He had never seen anything quite like it before; but
he instinctively felt that it foreboded mischief; and he accordingly
kept a sharp eye on the barometer.  It was still falling, and now with
considerably greater rapidity than at first.  At eight bells in the
second dog-watch he came to the conclusion that the time for action had
arrived; and before allowing the watch to go below he ordered everything
to be clewed up and furled, leaving only the fore staysail standing.
Then he settled himself down to wait doggedly for developments,
determined not to leave the deck until a breeze had come from
_somewhere_.  For he had a suspicion that when it arrived, it would
prove to be something stronger than ordinary; and he wanted to satisfy
himself as to the manner in which his jury rig would withstand such an
outburst as appeared to be impending.

Hour after hour went by, however, and nothing happened; until at length
Miss Trevor, whose stay on deck had been unusually prolonged by
curiosity--and perhaps a dash of apprehension--bade Leslie good night
and retired to her cabin, the port of which he particularly requested
her to keep closed, despite the stifling heat.  At length the strange
and alarming glow in the heavens faded as imperceptibly as it had come,
until the darkness had become as intense as before; and Leslie was
beginning to think that after all nothing was going to happen, when the
whole scene became suddenly illuminated by a vivid flash of sheet
lightning that for an infinitesimal fraction of a second seemed to set
the entire visible firmament ablaze, and caused every detail of the
brig's hull and equipment to imprint a clear and perfectly distinct
picture of itself upon the retina.  They all listened for thunder, but
none came.  Suddenly, however, a few heavy drops of rain pattered upon
the deck, and an instant later down came a perfect deluge with the sound
of millions of small shot roaring and rattling on the deck and hissing
into the sea.  The rain ceased as suddenly as it had come, as suddenly
as the flow of water is stopped by the turning of a tap; and for about a
quarter of an hour nothing further happened.  Then the sheet lightning
began to quiver and flicker among the clouds once more; and presently
the pall immediately overhead was rent apart by a terrific flash of
sun-bright lightning that struck straight down and seemed to hit the
water only a few yards from the brig.  Simultaneously with the flash
came a crackling crash of thunder of absolutely appalling intensity; and
before its echoes had died away another flash, and another, and another,
tore athwart the heavens; until within the space of less than a minute
the entire vault of heaven was ablaze with flickering and flashing
lightnings, steel blue, baleful green, rosy red, and dazzling white,
accompanied by a continuous crash and roar of thunder that was both
deafening and terrifying.  This tremendous manifestation continued for
about ten minutes, when down came the rain again, in an even fiercer
deluge than before; and in the very midst of it, while the thunder still
crashed and boomed overhead, and the rain descended in such sheets and
masses that everybody gasped for breath, as though drowning, away came
the wind with a howling scream that in an instant drowned even the sound
of the thunder.  It struck the brig flat aback; and had she happened to
have had any of her square canvas set she must undoubtedly have
foundered stern first.  As it was, Leslie, who happened to be the only
man near the wheel, sprang to it and put the helm hard over, causing her
to pay off as she gathered stern-way, and thus saving the craft.  But
even as he stood there, in the very act of putting the helm over, a
crash reached his ears out of the midst of the terrific hubbub; he was
conscious of receiving a violent blow on the head; and then he knew no
more.

When Leslie again recovered consciousness, his first distinct sensation
was that of racking, sickening, splitting headache, accompanied by a
feeling of acute soreness and smarting.  He also felt dazed, confused,
and harassed by a vague but intense anxiety about something, he knew not
what.  Then he became aware that he was lying recumbent on his back,
with his head propped high by pillows; and presently he also became
aware that his head was heavily swathed in bandages.  He stirred
uneasily, and attempted to put his hand to his head; but was shocked to
find that his hand and arm felt heavy as lead, so heavy, indeed, that
after a feeble effort he abandoned the attempt.  As he did so, a
fluttering sigh, and a whispered "Oh, thank God; thank God!" fell upon
his ear; a handkerchief saturated with eau-de-cologne was applied to his
nostrils; and, as in a dream, he heard a voice murmur--

"Are you better, Mr Leslie?  Tell me that you are feeling better."

Feeling better!  Had he been ill, then?  He supposed he must have been;
otherwise, why was he lying there--wherever he might be--on his back,
with his head bandaged and racked with pain, and with no strength in
him?  Ill! of course he was; every nerve in his body bore testimony to
the fact.  But where was he? what was the matter with him? and whose was
this gentle, tender voice--that somehow seemed so familiar--that
questioned him?  Everything was vague, confused, and incomprehensible,
with a dominating impression that there was pressing, urgent need for
him to be up and attending to something without an instant's delay.

As he lay there, painfully cogitating in a vain endeavour to disentangle
the threads of mingled thought that seemed to be inextricably wound
together in his throbbing, struggling brain, two warm drops splashed
upon his face, and the same low voice that he had heard before, cried--

"Spare him, O God; spare him; have mercy!" and the handkerchief was
again applied to his nostrils.

The tide of life ebbed back for a moment; he again sank into oblivion;
and presently revived to the consciousness that soft arms were
supporting him--arms that quivered and shook with the violent sobbing
that fell upon his ears--while a shower of hot tears bathed his face.
And then, all in an instant, recollection, vivid, intense, complete,
came to him, and he opened his eyes.

For a moment he could see nothing.  Then he became aware that the sun
was streaming brilliantly in through the open port-hole near the head of
his bunk, while a soft, warm, yet refreshing breeze was playing about
his temples; and that Miss Trevor was bending over him with streaming
eyes that gazed down upon him wild with anxiety and grief.

"Why, what is this? what is the matter? and why am I lying here idle
when I ought to be on deck looking after the ship?" he murmured,
attempting at the same time to rise.

But the imprisoning arms held him firmly down; the streaming eyes met
his in an intensity of gaze that seemed to devour him; and the tender
voice gain cried with indescribable fervour--

"Thank God; oh, thank God for this great mercy!  You _are_ alive!  And
you will continue to live.  Yes, you _must_ live; promise me that you
will.  Here; drink this, quickly."  And she held to his lips a tumbler
containing a liquid that, pungent to the taste, at once revived him.

"Thanks; a thousand thanks!" murmured Leslie, gratefully.  "I feel
better now.  Please let me get up; I must go on deck at once."

"No; no, you must not; indeed you must not; there is no need," answered
Miss Trevor; and Leslie thought he detected a tone of sadness mingled
with relief in the accents of her voice.

"No need?" ejaculated Leslie; "but indeed there _is_ need--" and then he
paused abruptly; for it had suddenly dawned upon him that the brig had a
distinct list to port, and that she was _motionless_; not with the
buoyant motionlessness of a ship afloat in a calm, but with the absolute
absence of all movement characteristic of a ship in dry dock, or
_stranded_!

"Good heavens! what has happened?" he ejaculated.  "Tell me, please, at
once!" and he again attempted to rise.

But again his self-constituted nurse restrained him.

"Oh, please, _please_, do not move," she entreated.  "You _must_ obey
me, now; or you will _never_ get better.  I will tell you everything;
but indeed you must not attempt to rise; for, as I said just now, there
is no need.  The ship is quite safe; I am sure that nothing further can
happen to her, at least not for some time to come; and long ere that
time arrives you will, please God, be well again, and in a fit state to
do whatever seems best to you."

"Nevertheless," answered Leslie, "I should like to see the carpenter, if
you will have the goodness to call him to me.  I perceive that the brig
is ashore--though _where_, I have not the remotest notion; and he will
be able to tell me, far more clearly than you can, exactly what has
happened."

The girl leaned over Leslie, and looked down at him with eyes full of
trouble.

"Mr Leslie," she said, the tears welling up into her eyes again, "I
must ask you to prepare yourself to hear bad news--very bad and very
_sad_ news.  I cannot bring the carpenter to you; I cannot bring him, or
any other of the crew to you; for, my poor friend, you and I--and
Sailor--are the only living beings left on board this most unfortunate
ship!"

"You and I--the only people left aboard?" gasped Leslie.  "Then, in
Heaven's name, what has become of the real?"

"I cannot tell you--I do not know," answered the girl.  "But if you will
let me tell my story in my own way, I have no doubt that your knowledge
of seafaring matters will enable you to judge with sufficient accuracy
just what has happened.

"You will remember, perhaps, that on the night before last there was a
terribly violent storm of lightning and thunder--"

"The night _before last_?" interrupted Leslie.  "You mean _last_ night,
surely?"

"No," answered Miss Trevor; "I mean the night before last.  You have
lain here unconscious nearly thirty-six hours."

"Thirty-six hours!" ejaculated Leslie, with a groan.  "Well, go on,
please."

"That storm," continued Miss Trevor, "was so violent and terrifying that
I found it not only impossible to sleep through it, but even to remain
in my cabin.  I therefore rose, dressed, and stationed myself in the
place you call the companion, at the head of the cabin stairs where,
sheltered by the cover, I could at least watch what was going on.
Crouched there, I saw everything that happened.  I saw you spring to the
wheel when the gale struck the ship; I saw you felled to the deck by the
falling mast; and I was the first to spring to your assistance and drag
you out from the midst of the tangle of ropes and broken spars.  Then
the carpenter and one or two other men came running up, and they helped
me to bring you down here to your own cabin, where I have been attending
to you ever since, and striving, oh, so earnestly and so hard, to
restore you to consciousness."

"My poor, brave girl," murmured Leslie, "what courage, what devotion you
have shown!"

The young lady resumed--

"The carpenter and the others left me immediately that we had got you
laid comfortably on your bed, and the lamp lighted, explaining that it
was necessary for them to be on deck to take care of the ship--as I
could readily understand; for the frightful roar of the wind and the
violent motion of the ship bore eloquent witness to the fury of the
storm that was raging outside.  They accordingly retired; and I heard
them close the doors at the top of the stairs and draw over the cover--
to keep the water from coming down into the cabin, I suppose; for I
could hear it falling heavily on the deck with alarming frequency; while
the hoarse shouts and calling of the men up above were truly terrifying.

"You were quite insensible, and bleeding freely from a wound in your
head," resumed the young lady; "and my first thought, naturally, was the
medicine-chest that I had seen under the cabin table.  I made my way to
this as best I could; and, finding the book of directions, turned to the
part treating of wounds, where I found full instructions how to proceed.

"Acting upon these, I carefully clipped away the hair from all around
the gash; bathed the place, washing away the blood as well as I could;
and then applied a dressing, as directed, securing it in place with
plaster, and then swathing your head with a bandage to preserve the
dressing from displacement.

"I had just completed this task, and was sitting on the box under your
lamp, trying to discover some way of restoring you to consciousness,
when the ship suddenly struck with awful violence against something, and
I heard a crash as of a falling mast on deck, accompanied by a terrible
outcry among the men.  Then the ship was lifted up, to come down again
with another crash, even worse than the first; then she was thrown
violently over on her side, and I heard a fearful fall of water on the
deck, accompanied by more rending and crashing of timber.  This was
continued for, I should say, quite half an hour, the shocks, however,
becoming less and less violent until they ceased altogether, and the
ship seemed to remain stationary, save for a slight rocking movement
that eventually also ceased; and I have not since then felt the
slightest movement or tremor of any kind.  The gale, however, continued
to rage with unabated fury until midday yesterday, when it quickly died
away, and the sun came out.

"Meanwhile, I continued my efforts to restore you to consciousness, but
without success.  And finally, when at length the gale had passed away
and the weather had again become fine, I ventured to go up on deck to
see what had happened to the ship, and what had become of the men; for,
to my great surprise and alarm, none of them had come near me, or made
any attempt to inquire after you, from the moment when they had helped
to bring you down into the cabin!"

"And what did you find?" demanded Leslie, anxiously.

"I found," answered Miss Trevor, "that the ship is lying stranded on an
immense reef of rocks, and is within about two miles of _land_--a large
island, I take it to be, for I can see the sea beyond each end of it.
But that is not the worst of it.  The ship is a complete wreck, both her
masts being broken and lying in the water beside her, most of her
bulwarks broken and gone, and not one of the crew to be found!"

"I must get up; I really _must_!" insisted Leslie.  "_Please_ do not
attempt to keep me here," he continued, as his companion strove to
dissuade him from his purpose.  "I _must_ go on deck and take a look
round, if only for a few minutes, just to satisfy myself as to the
actualities of our situation.  If I cannot do that, I shall simply lie
here and worry myself into a fever, thinking and fearing every
imaginable thing."

"Well," remarked the girl, doubtfully, "if that is to be the result of
confinement to your cabin, perhaps I had better yield to your wish and
allow you to go on deck, just for a few minutes.  But you must promise
to be very good and obedient, to do exactly as I tell you, and--in
short, to leave yourself entirely in my hands.  Will you?"

"Oh, of course I will," assented Leslie, with an eagerness and alacrity
that were not altogether convincing to his companion, who saw, however,
that she would have to yield somewhat to this headstrong patient of hers
if she wished to retain any control at all over him.

She accordingly assisted him first to sit up in his berth and then to
climb out of it--he still being dressed in the clothes that he was
wearing when the accident happened to him--and eventually, with very
considerable difficulty--Leslie finding himself curiously weak, and so
giddy that he could not stand without support--she contrived to get him
up the companion ladder and out on deck, where Sailor accorded them both
a boisterous and effusive welcome.

Arrived there, Leslie sank upon the short seat that ran fore and aft
alongside the companion cover, and cast his eyes about him.  It was a
melancholy sight that met his view.  The brig, with a list of about four
strakes to port, was hard and fast upon the inner edge of a reef that
seemed to be about a mile wide, and stretched for many miles in either
direction, ahead and astern, she lying broadside-on to the run of the
reef.  The jury mainmast had snapped short off immediately above the
lashings that bound it to the stump of the original spar, and had gone
over the stern, some of its gear having evidently struck Leslie down as
the spar fell.  The foremast was also over the side, having gone close
to the deck; and all the wreckage was still floating alongside attached
to the hull by the rigging.  The bulwarks had all disappeared save some
ten or twelve feet on either side extending from the taffrail, forward,
and a few feet in the eyes of the ship.  The decks had been swept clean
of every movable thing, including the longboat and the jolly-boat that
had been stowed on the main hatch; and both quarter-boats had also
vanished from the davits, leaving only fragments of their stem and
stern-posts hanging to the tackle blocks to show what had happened to
them.

No part of the reef showed above water, but its extent and limits were
very clearly defined by the ripples and agitation--gentle though this
last was--of the surface of the water above it.  The surf was breaking
heavily on its outer margin in clouds of gleaming white that flashed and
glittered in the brilliant sunshine; and an occasional undulation of
swell came sweeping in across the reef, causing a thousand swirls and
eddies to appear as it traversed the vast barrier of submerged rock--
coral, Leslie judged it to be--but it did not affect the brig in the
least, sending not even the faintest tremor through her, by which the
sick man judged that she must have been deposited in her present
position at a moment when the level of the sea was considerably higher
than it was just then.  The craft was lying so close to the inner edge
of the reef that had she been carried another fifty yards she would have
been swept right over it; in which case she would undoubtedly have at
once sunk in the deep-water that lay between this outer barrier reef and
the island some three miles away--not two miles, as Miss Trevor had
estimated the distance.

But, oh, that island!  When Miss Trevor had spoken of it Leslie pictured
to himself some tiny, obscure, bare atoll of perhaps a mile in length,
and not more than a dozen feet high at its highest point--knowing from
his reckoning that, at the time of the fatal outbreak, the brig had not
been near enough _any known_ land to render wreck upon it possible.  But
the land upon which he gazed with wondering eyes measured fully three
miles from one extremity to the other--with a promise of considerably
more beyond the points in sight.  And instead of being only a few feet
in height above the sea-level, it rose in a gentle slope for about half
a mile from the beach of dazzlingly white sand that fringed its margin
immediately opposite where the brig lay, and then towered aloft to a
bare truncated peak that soared some six thousand feet into the
beautifully clear air.  The whole island, except some two hundred feet
of its summit, appeared to be densely clad with vegetation, among which
many noble trees were to be seen, some of them being resplendent with
brilliant scarlet blossoms.

The fresh air had exercised a distinctly revivifying effect upon Leslie
who, after some quarter of an hour's rest, felt strong enough to move
about the deck, with Miss Trevor's assistance and support; and he
accordingly proceeded forward as far as the galley which, to his
profound satisfaction, he found to be undamaged and with all its
paraphernalia intact.  Then he went on to the fore scuttle--the hatch of
which was on and secured.  Throwing back the cover, he peered down into
the dark and evil-smelling place, and called several times, without
eliciting any reply.  He would fain have investigated further, to the
extent of descending into its interior; but his companion considered
that he had by this time done quite as much as was good for him, and
flatly refused to render him the least assistance toward this further
adventure.  He was perforce compelled therefore to abandon his intention
and retreat to his own end of the ship.  Here, availing himself of the
support of the short remaining length of the bulwarks, he leaned over
and peered down into the clear, transparent water, through which he
could clearly see the white surface of the reef upon which the brig
rested; and its colour and the comparative smoothness of its surface
convinced him that he had been right in his conjecture that it must be
of coral formation.

"Well, sir," demanded his companion, as she carefully assisted him to
his former resting-place alongside the companion, "what think you of our
surroundings, as a whole?"

"To be perfectly candid with you," he replied, "I regard them as
decidedly promising; although I quite admit that we are in a very
distinctly awkward predicament.  In the first place, I fear that we
shall have to reconcile ourselves to the prospect of a somewhat
lengthened sojourn, for unless I have made some very serious error in my
calculations--which I do not believe--we are far out of the usual tracks
of ships, and our only hope, therefore, of being seen and taken off
rests in the possibility that some wandering whaler may put in here for
water.  That, however, is a prospect upon which it will be unwise for us
to reckon overmuch; and we must consequently pin our faith upon our
ability to devise a means of escape for ourselves.  That, in a few
words, means that I shall have to set to work forthwith upon the task of
constructing some craft big enough and seaworthy enough to convey us to
some spot from which we can take passage home again.  I see that such a
prospect appears sufficiently alarming to you, and I will not attempt to
conceal from you the fact that it means--as I just now said--a rather
lengthy stay here.  But, fortunately for us, the materials for the
construction of such a craft are all here to our hand; this brig will
afford us all the timber that we require for such a purpose, with plenty
to spare; and I am not altogether ignorant of the arts of naval
architecture and ship-building.  Then we shall probably find that there
is a sufficient stock of provisions still left on board here to sustain
us during the period of our detention here, to say nothing of the
resources of the island itself, which looks as though it might be
capable of affording us an ample subsistence of itself.  Then there is a
beach ashore there that looks quite good enough to serve as my shipyard;
with a nice little plateau adjoining it upon which I purpose to erect a
tent for our accommodation--for I do not think it would be wise to
remain aboard here longer than may prove absolutely necessary."

"Why," exclaimed the girl, "you appear to have planned everything out
already.  How fortunate I am in having you as my companion!  If you had
not been hurt, I suppose you would have been on deck when this disaster
occurred, and the chances are that you would then have been drowned with
the rest of the poor fellows; and I should have been left alone here to
die miserably."

"Yes," agreed Leslie, dryly, "my accident was certainly a blessing in
disguise, from that point of view.  If I can succeed in getting you
safely away from here, and putting you in the way of returning to your
friends, I shall at least have accomplished something useful before I
die."

"Oh, Mr Leslie," exclaimed the girl, "you know I did not mean that!  I
simply meant--well--I mean--oh dear, how am I to express myself so that
you will understand?  Surely you do not believe me to be such an utterly
selfish and heartless creature as to be glad that you have escaped the
fate of the others merely because, by so doing, you are left alive to be
my helper and protector?"

"No, indeed," answered Leslie, heartily, "I assure you, Miss Trevor--"
He paused abruptly, thought for a moment, and then resumed: "Look here,
we have been thrown together--you and I--and our fates intermingled in a
very extraordinary manner, and we are likely to remain together for some
time longer in fairly intimate association, each of us the sole
companion of the other.  Do you not think that, under the circumstances,
we might as well drop the formality of `Mr' and `Miss?'  My name is
Richard; but my friends call me Dick, and I should be glad if you would
do the same."

"Very well," answered his companion, "I will willingly do so, if you
really wish it; it would be only prudish to object--under the
circumstances, as you put it.  And you, in your turn, may call me Flora,
if the name commends itself to your ear.  And now, sir, please go on
again from where you left off."

"Let me see," mused Leslie, "what was it we were talking about?  Oh yes,
I remember.  You were explaining to me that you were glad I had escaped
drowning not so much because of the use I could be to--"

"Ah," interrupted his companion, "I can see that you are rapidly getting
better, because you are beginning to tease.  But, seriously, Mr Les--
well, Dick, then--I want you to tell me something more of your plans.
What do you propose to do first--when you are well enough to work again,
I mean?"

"The first thing I propose to do," answered Leslie, "is to overhaul the
carpenter's chest and satisfy myself as to what tools are at my command.
That done, I shall at once begin to break up the brig, confining
myself, in the first instance, to the removal from her of just
sufficient material to admit of the construction of a raft.  The next
thing will be to convey ashore such canvas, rope, and other matters as
may be needed for the erection of a comfortable and commodious tent for
our accommodation ashore; together with all necessary furniture, the
galley stove, pots and pans, and all the rest of it.  I am rather
anxious to carry out this much of my plans with as little delay as
possible; because, you see, the weather is one of those things upon
which one can never depend--another gale may spring up at any moment,
and when it does the brig will most probably go to pieces.  I am
therefore exceedingly anxious to get you comfortably established ashore
before this happens.  Then, if all goes well, I shall at once proceed to
pull the poor old _Mermaid_ carefully to pieces, damaging the planking
as little as may be in the process, because that is the material out of
which I purpose to build my boat.  I shall do this, transferring it, and
everything on board that may be likely to be of use to us, to, the shore
before I do anything else; because, should the brig break up of herself,
much valuable material is certain to be lost.  Then, when I have got
everything safe ashore, I shall begin upon the boat."

"I see," remarked Flora, with animation, "that we have a kind of Crusoe
existence before us--a sort of perpetual picnic.  Very well; I shall
undertake the house-keeping part of the work; keep the tent clean and
tidy; prepare nice appetising meals for you when you come home tired
from your work; keep your clothes in repair; do the washing; and
generally look after domestic affairs.  Oh, you may smile as much as you
like.  I dare say you think that I know nothing about such matters; but
I do; and I flatter myself that I shall astonish you."

"Yes," laughed Leslie, "I expect you will; I am fully prepared to be
astonished.  No," he continued, as he saw a pout rising to his
companion's lips, "I did not quite mean that.  True, I have before me a
vision of a very charming young lady, always somewhat haughty and
unapproachable, and always most elegantly costumed; who used to be the
awe and admiration of everybody aboard the _Golden Fleece_; and I have
been endeavouring--I must confess with not altogether brilliant
success--to picture her doing the cooking and washing, ashore there.
But I know--or at least I have been told--that woman's power of
adaptability surpasses belief, and I have already seen that you possess
it to a marvellous degree; therefore, despite what I said just now, I
shall be astonished at nothing you do, or prove yourself able to
achieve."

"Thank you," answered Flora, with a touch of annoyance in her tone.  "I
know I was perfectly horrid in those days--oh, how far away they seem,
now--and I am afraid that I have not done much since then toward giving
you a better opinion of me; but you shall see!  Oh, Dick, please do not
think badly of me!  You have done so _very_ much for me, and have been
so invariably kind and considerate to me, that I cannot bear the idea
that you should think ill of me.  I owe my life to you.  You must
remember that I did not know you, then--"

"I know; I know," answered Dick, laying his hand reassuringly upon hers.
"You acted quite rightly in keeping us all at arm's-length; for, as you
say, you knew none of us then, and could not be expected to discriminate
between one and another.  For my own part, I would not have had you act
otherwise than you did; so let us say no more about it.  And now, if you
will kindly help me, I think I had better go below and lie down for
awhile.  I must take care of myself for both our sakes."

So they went below again; and after Flora had dressed Leslie's wound
afresh, the latter stretched himself out on the cabin lockers and sank
into a refreshing sleep, while the girl busied herself in the
preparation of such nourishing dishes, against his awakening, as the
resources of the wreck afforded.

The following day found Leslie much stronger, and more like himself
again; so much so, indeed, that, despite his fair companion's
protestations, he set to work and got the carpenter's tool-chest on
deck, and busied himself upon the light task of sharpening chisels,
gouges, planes, adzes, axes, and so on; and generally putting everything
in good order against the time when he would want to use them.  This,
with occasional periods of vest, occupied him through the whole of that
day; at the end of which he declared himself to be none the worse but
rather the better for his exertions.

The next day Leslie devoted to the task of lifting off the fore hatches
and rigging a light pair of sheers over the hatchway by means of two
pieces of the rail that he detached from the short length of bulwarks
that still remained standing abaft.  It was his purpose to give this
part of the brig a thorough overhaul prior to attempting anything else;
hoping that he might find therein something that would enable him to
construct a raft without having recourse to the timber of the ship.  And
in this he was successful beyond his utmost hopes; for, among other
matters, he found two stout packing-cases--measuring twenty feet long by
three feet wide by two feet deep--containing long strips of gilt
moulding, such as are used in house decoration.  The moulding he
carefully stowed away again--prudent man--not knowing whether in the
future they might not, despite their gaudy appearance, come in useful
for something.  Then carefully taking the packing-cases apart, he shaped
the bottom planking of each somewhat after the semblance of the bow and
run of a ship--that is to say, he pointed the two square ends of each by
sawing them to the required shape.  Then he put the cases together
again, curving the sides to fit the curves of the bottom planks; and
when this was done he found himself in possession of two boat-like
boxes, or flat-bottomed boats, of very respectable shape and size.
These he next strengthened by nailing stout timbers, walings, and
stringers to the bottom and sides, inside; when a careful caulking and
paying of the seams completed them by rendering them watertight.  So
pleased was he with these two contrivances of his--the firstfruits of
his labours--that although he had not originally intended to use them as
boats, either of them was quite sufficiently large to convey himself and
his companion across the tranquil waters of the lagoon that stretched
between the brig and the island; and he accordingly determined that,
before applying these structures to their ultimate purpose, he would
make use of one of them in which to effect a preliminary exploration of
the island.  Accordingly he fitted the interior of one of them with a
couple of seats--one in the middle for himself, and the other near the
"stern" for Miss Trevor's accommodation; secured to each side a stout
cleat in a suitable position, and suitably bored for the reception of a
pair of rowlocks; and a length of three-inch planking sawn down the
middle and shaped with a spokeshave into a pair of paddles completed the
equipment of what turned out to be a very serviceable and handy boat.

The construction of these two "pontoons," as Leslie called them,
together with the supplementary labour of fitting up one of them to
serve as a boat, consumed nearly a week; but they were so thoroughly
satisfactory when finished that their constructor regarded his time as
well spent.  The last item of his task, the making of the pair of
paddles, or short oars, was completed as the sun was sinking below the
horizon on the ninth day after the stranding of the _Mermaid_; and it
was arranged that, if the weather held fine and the barometer continued
steady, the next day should be devoted to a visit to the island.



CHAPTER NINE.

AN ISLAND PARADISE.

The next morning dawned as fine as heart could wish, with a cloudless
sky of matchless blue, and a "glass" that showed a rising rather than a
falling tendency.  Immediately after breakfast, therefore, Leslie
emerged from the brig's cabin provided with a basket of provisions
neatly packed by the fair Flora's hand and daintily covered with a
spotlessly white cloth.  This he deposited in the stern-sheets of his
boat; and then addressed Sailor, who stood at the gangway watching the
proceedings with eager interest.

"Now, Sailor, come along down, boy; that's a good dog, then.  Come down,
you sir, I say!"

Sailor wagged his tail excitedly, and barked in response, making a great
show of being about to jump down into the boat, but baulking at the last
moment and looking round anxiously to see whether his beloved mistress
were coming, then approaching the side again and barking a response to
Leslie's blandishments, but dexterously avoiding the efforts of the
latter to capture and drag him down into the boat; and so on _ad
infinitum_ At length, however, Miss Trevor made her appearance, a
radiant vision in white, and armed against the assaults of the
too-ardent sun with a white lace parasol--one of the many spoils of the
late skipper's speculative investment--and approached the head of the
side-ladder that Leslie had rigged for her accommodation.  Then, as she
began to descend, Sailor hesitated no longer but, fearing lest he should
lose his passage, sprang down into the frail craft with an _abandon_
that nearly capsized her, and placed himself in the eyes of the boat,
obediently to a signal from Leslie's hand.  Another moment and Flora had
taken her place in the stern, and Leslie was bearing-off from the brig's
side.

With her load of three--for Sailor was nearly as heavy as his mistress--
the boat proved to be somewhat crank, and Leslie had a momentary spasm
of regret that he had not tied up the dog and left him aboard the brig,
instead of bringing him with them; but the water was quite smooth, and
they all sat still.  The passage was consequently accomplished without
mishap; and in about an hour from the moment of starting they all three
stood safely on the dazzlingly white beach of coral sand that stretched
for about a mile in either direction from the spot where they had
landed.  From here the hull of the brig looked little more than a small
inconspicuous spot against the snow-white cloud of surf that broke
eternally upon the outer edge of the barrier reef; and Leslie made a
mental note to pull off aboard again betimes in the afternoon, for it
would be practically impossible to hit off her position in the darkness.

The beach on which they stood was of no great width, some sixty or
seventy feet wide, perhaps, from the water's edge to the spot where it
abruptly met the luxuriant growth of thick guinea-grass that seemed to
form the turf of the island.  Immediately opposite the spot where they
had landed there stretched a clear space of this turf, measuring about a
quarter of a square mile in area, entirely unencumbered by bush, or
tree, or shrub of any kind.  Leslie recognised this as the spot that he
had already fixed upon, while aboard the brig, as the site for his camp;
and his nearer inspection of it now satisfied him that it was eminently
suitable for the purpose and indeed could not be improved upon.  Beyond
the confines of this open space, to right, left, and rear of it, shrubs
and small bushes grew at first sparsely and, further on, in greater
profusion, until ultimately this more or less scattered growth merged
into the dense and apparently impenetrable bush and forest with which
the entire island appeared to be clothed.

When Leslie's eyes had first fallen upon this island an uneasy suspicion
had arisen within him that so comparatively large and important an area
must almost of necessity be inhabited; and he had not been altogether
free from doubt as to what, in such a case, the disposition of its
inhabitants might be toward him and his companion.  He had an idea that
he had somewhere heard or read that the natives of certain of the
Pacific islands were addicted to cannibalism; and he felt that if by any
evil chance this particular island should happen to be inhabited by such
a race, the cup of their misfortunes would be full.  Consequently, the
work of constructing his pontoons had been frequently broken into by
long and anxious examinations of the island through the telescope, in a
search for indications of the presence of inhabitants.

These examinations had entirely failed to reveal any such indications;
and the hope had gradually arisen in his mind that, after all, the
island might prove to be uninhabited.  But he was not yet by any means
satisfied that this hope was well-grounded, and he determined that this
first visit of his to the place should be mainly devoted to a further
search and examination.  Before doing anything further, therefore, he
suggested to Flora that they should walk the entire length of the
beach--keeping to the grass as far as possible, in order to leave the
surface of the sand quite undisturbed--so that he might be able to
carefully and systematically scrutinise it in search of footprints.  For
he argued that if savages really existed on this island, they could
scarcely have failed to discover the existence of the wreck during the
week that she had lain upon the reef; in which case they would most
probably have gathered at the water's edge, at the nearest possible
point, for the purpose of examining her.  And since this particular
strip of beach happened to be nearer the wreck than any other point of
the island, he felt tolerably certain that footprints would be found
upon it, if anywhere.  A strong point in favour of the assumption that
the island was uninhabited was the fact that the wreck had not been
approached by canoes; for Leslie felt that if she had been seen by
natives, they would scarcely have left her unvisited for an entire week.

The careful and systematic inspection of the entire length of beach
consumed an hour, and was without result; no human footprints were
anywhere to be seen; and Leslie was confident that if any person had
walked upon that sand within the week, he would have left plain
indications behind him, for the wind throughout that time had been too
gentle to obliterate marks of any kind, as was evidenced by the fact
that the footprints of birds were everywhere clearly distinguishable.
Once, indeed, he thought he had found what he sought; but upon closer
inspection the signs proved to be the track of a turtle that had come up
on the sand to lay her eggs, as was evidenced by the fact that the eggs
themselves were found, and a few of them appropriated.

Although his investigation thus far was reassuring, Leslie was not yet
by any means satisfied.  He wished to obtain a much clearer idea than he
yet possessed of the actual extent and general shape of his island; and
the only way by which this was to be accomplished, and at the same time
a general survey of it effected, was to ascend to the summit of the
mountain.  This promised to be a decidedly arduous task, in that
climate, especially as they had been cooped up for so long a time within
the narrow confines of a small vessel, with very limited space for
taking exercise.  But he determined nevertheless to attempt it, feeling
that he could never be perfectly easy in his mind until he had done so,
and they accordingly set out forthwith on their way.

Path, of course, there was none; but this was of little moment, for they
knew that so long as they continued to ascend every step took them so
much nearer to the summit; and they were agreeably surprised to find
that the bush and undergrowth that, at a distance, had appeared to be
absolutely impenetrable, was not nearly so dense as it had looked.  They
were consequently enabled, by adopting a somewhat serpentine route, to
make very fair upward progress, although they occasionally encountered
spots where a passage had to be forced, and where Flora's dainty white
costume suffered somewhat.

They had not gone very far upon their way before Leslie discovered, to
his great relief and satisfaction, that they certainly need have no fear
of starvation, even in the event of their being doomed to remain where
they were for the rest of their lives.  For, as they went, fruit-bearing
trees of many kinds were found in great profusion, growing luxuriantly,
and many of them loaded with most luscious fruit.  Mangoes, bananas,
plantains, limes, custard-apples, and bread-fruit were among the
varieties that Leslie recognised; and there were many others with which
he was unfamiliar, and which he therefore regarded with more or less
suspicion.  They saw no signs of animals of any kind; but the forest
seemed to be alive with birds, the extraordinary tameness--or rather
fearlessness--of which seemed to argue an unfamiliarity with man.

Two hours of arduous climbing brought the adventurers to a most romantic
spot, where a small stream of deliciously pure and cold fresh water
gushed out from under a huge overhanging moss-grown rock, the banks of
the rivulet being clothed with ferns of the most lovely and delicate
varieties, while the surrounding sward was gay with flowers of strange
forms and most exquisitely delicate and beautiful combinations of
colouring.  A huge tree, bearing large blossoms of vivid scarlet instead
of leaves--which Leslie identified as the "bois-immortelle"--overhung
the spot; and as the pair were by this time feeling somewhat tired and
hungry, they seated themselves upon the yielding sward, and Leslie
surrendering the lunch-basket to Flora, the latter spread the cloth on
the grass and set out as dainty and enticing a luncheon as, supplemented
by the fruit with which Leslie had filled his pockets, two hungry people
need ever desire to find before them.

A narrow vista through the trees afforded the travellers a glimpse of
the sea stretching blue and foam-flecked below them and right out to the
horizon; and as Leslie judged from this glimpse that they must have
accomplished considerably more than half their climb, the pair lingered
for some time over their meal, resting their tired limbs and enjoying
the loveliness of their surroundings.  Then, after an interval of about
an hour and a half, they again proceeded on their way, making better
progress now than they did at first, as the undergrowth and trees became
from this point steadily thinner as they progressed, until at length
they were able to catch occasional glimpses of the summit for which they
were aiming.  Finally they emerged from the bush altogether, to find
themselves breasting a steep slope, the soil of which was composed of
fine scoriae and ashes.

"Just as I anticipated," ejaculated Leslie, as he stooped to examine the
ground.  "This island is volcanic; and yonder peak--the top of which,
you will notice, appears to have been broken off--is the crater.  But do
not be alarmed," he continued, seeing a startled expression leap into
his companion's eyes, "the volcano is undoubtedly extinct, and has
probably been so for ages; for if you will but look around you at all
this vegetation you will notice that it bears no remotest sign or
indication of ever having been disturbed by volcanic action.  I am not
botanist enough to be able to judge the ages of those trees that we see
below us; but thousands of them must be considerably more than half a
century old; and as it is evident that no eruption has taken place since
they started to grow, I think we may rest satisfied that no disturbance
is in the least likely to occur during our occupation of the place.  But
let us push on; it is nearly one o'clock, and I am anxious to get up
there to have a good look round and make a complete survey of our
dominions."

They accordingly resumed their climb; and after a further three-quarters
of an hour of arduous labour--the steepness of the acclivity and the
looseness of the soil rendering progress exceedingly slow and
difficult--they finally reached their goal, to find themselves standing,
as it were, upon the rim of a huge basin about a third of a mile in
diameter and some three hundred feet deep, the inner sides sloping
almost perpendicularly, and the bottom forming a small lake.  The
perfectly bare sides were much too steep and the soil altogether too
loose and treacherous to render an attempt at descent advisable, even
had they wished it--which they did not--it sufficed Leslie that the
whole appearance of the place confirmed his previous conviction that the
volcano was extinct; and without wasting a second glance upon it he at
once turned his attention to the scene beneath him.

They had happened, by a stroke of good luck, to hit upon the very
highest point in the lip of the crater, and they were thus enabled to
see, from the spot on which they stood, the entire extent of the island,
to its uttermost limits; and they found it much bigger than they had
anticipated.

In plan it bore a rough resemblance to a right-angled triangle, the body
of which had been so twisted as to cause its apex to bear to the right.
The base of this triangle, opposite to which the wreck of the brig could
be seen as a tiny toy almost immediately beneath them, faced south-east,
and appeared to measure between three and four miles across between its
two extreme points, while the side corresponding to the perpendicular of
the triangle was, according to Leslie's estimate, nearly, if not quite,
ten miles long.  The crater was situated not in the centre of the
island, but quite close to its south-eastern side, which accounted for
the steepness of the acclivity that the explorers had been obliged to
climb.  Northward of the crater, after the first five hundred feet of
steep decline that formed the summit proper, the ground, undulating
picturesquely, fell away in quite a gentle slope to the most northerly
extremity of the island, which Leslie judged to be a fairly bold
headland.  The barrier reef, upon which the brig lay stranded, was
visible with startling distinctness throughout its entire length from
this point; and Leslie observed that it formed a natural and most
efficient breakwater to the lagoon that stretched along the entire
south-east shore of the island, curving gradually round in a crescent
form until it joined the island itself at its most westerly extremity,
while away to the eastward there was a deep-water passage, between the
reef and the island, of about an eighth of a mile in width.

Turning his attention once more to the island itself, Leslie observed
that it was wooded to its uttermost extremity, and that no beach was to
be discovered in any direction save that upon which they had landed, the
ground appearing everywhere else to slope precipitously to the sea, in
the form of bold cliffs.  And, as savages would naturally build their
villages close to a beach, to secure facilities for their fishing
operations, Leslie was further confirmed in his hope that his island was
uninhabited; especially as he looked carefully in every direction for
the smoke of fires, and found none.

Then he allowed his eyes to wander farther afield, and intently scanned
the entire visible surface of the ocean, in search of a sail, but
without success.  He was not surprised at this; for he knew the island
to be situated far out of the track of all ships, save perhaps whalers,
and craft that might be driven by adverse winds out of their proper
course; and although it is the first instinct of the castaway sailor to
maintain a ceaseless watch for a sail, the ex-lieutenant knew that the
chance of rescue for himself and his companion by a passing ship was
altogether too slight to be seriously given a place in his plans for the
future.  Nevertheless, for a moment he entertained the idea of erecting
a flagstaff on the summit and hoisting a flag upon it for the purpose of
attracting the attention of any ship that might perchance pass the
place; but a very brief consideration of the project sufficed to
convince him that the benefit to be derived therefrom was much too
problematical to justify the expenditure of so much labour and time as
it would involve.  Moreover he had a conviction that any ship sighting
so conspicuous an object as the island in a spot shown upon the charts
as clear sea, would approach and give the place an overhaul.

But although Leslie's most careful scrutiny failed to reveal any sign of
the presence of ships, he was astonished to discover that there was
other land in sight from his lofty lookout.  He clearly saw two other
eminences peering above the horizon to the westward, one bearing as
nearly as possible due west, and the other about south-west, while away
in the north-western quarter he believed he detected the loom of land at
a very great distance.  The two islands in clear view were apparently
about the same distance away--a distance which, from their delicate,
filmy appearance, he estimated to be quite a hundred miles; and he knew
that they must be, like his own, mountainous, from the fact that they
showed above the horizon.

The sun was by this time settling perceptibly in the western sky, and,
lovely as was the prospect that stretched around them, Leslie felt that
the time had arrived for them to be moving once more; they accordingly
threw a final parting glance around them, and began the descent of the
mountain.  To ascend was one thing; to descend, quite another; and in a
little more than an hour from the moment of leaving the summit they
found themselves once more on the beach and beside their boat.  Then,
greatly fatigued by their unwonted exertions, but with the memory of a
thoroughly enjoyable day fresh upon them, they paddled leisurely off to
the brig, reaching her just as the sun was dipping below the horizon.

Their experiences of that day only whetted Leslie's--and, it must be
confessed, Flora's--appetite for further exploration and adventure; the
former in particular felt that he would never be satisfied until he had
circumnavigated his island and critically examined every yard of its
coast-line.  To do this, a boat was of course necessary, or at least
something of a much more seaworthy character than the "pontoon" in which
he had adventured the passage to the island.  And they had nothing of
the kind.  After Flora had retired to her cabin, however, Leslie spent
an hour or so on deck, smoking his pipe and pondering upon the problem
of how to supply the deficiency; and when at length he turned in, he
believed he saw his way.

The following morning accordingly found him astir bright and early,
eager to put his ideas into immediate execution.  He first got on deck
again the pontoon that he had used on the previous day, and proceeded to
considerably strengthen her by the addition of further wales, stringers,
and beams; and when he had got her to his liking, he proceeded to treat
the other in a precisely similar fashion.  Then he fitted them both with
rudders.  Next, having carefully disposed the two pontoons on deck, with
their longitudinal centre-lines parallel and nine feet apart, he first
decked them both completely in, leaving only a manhole eighteen inches
square in the middle of each deck; and then proceeded to frame and fit
together a thoroughly strong platform, twelve feet square, so arranged
that it could be securely bolted to the gunwales of the two pontoons in
the positions they occupied relatively to each other.  This done, he
launched the whole arrangement overboard; and found himself the proud
and happy possessor of what, for want of a better and more appropriate
name, he called a "catamaran;" the structure consisting, of course, of
the two pontoons arranged parallel to each other, with a water space of
six feet between them, and firmly and strongly connected with each other
by the platform; the whole forming a very buoyant and commodious raft,
capable of being rigged, and promising to behave exceedingly well under
sail in smooth and even in moderately rough water.  To rig this
singular-looking craft with an enormous mainsail and jib was no very
difficult matter, the wreckage alongside furnishing him with the
requisite spars, canvas, and rigging.  Each of the rudders was then
furnished with a tiller; and these two tillers being connected together
with a cross-piece, were controlled by a central tiller that actuated
both rudders simultaneously.  The construction and completion of this
catamaran cost Leslie three whole weeks of arduous labour; but when she
was finished he felt that the time had been well spent.

The next thing in order was to subject the craft to a sea-trial; and
this Leslie at once proceeded to do.  He left Flora on board the brig,
with Sailor as her companion and protector, not caring to risk the
girl's safety on the catamaran until the reliability and sea-going
qualities of the latter had been tested; but he promised her that he
would not be absent more than two hours at the utmost, when, if
everything proved satisfactory, he would return and take her for a
cruise; and he suggested that she might devote the interval to the
preparation of a luncheon-basket to serve them for the day.  Then,
hoisting his sails, he pushed off, and got the craft under way.

His first act, after getting away from the brig, was to test the
behaviour of the catamaran under sail by putting her through a series of
evolutions, such as tacking, jibing, and so on; and then, finding that
she proved to be marvellously handy, he tested her speed off and on the
wind.  The trade wind happened to be piping up quite strong that day,
and it was therefore a very favourable occasion upon which to subject
the craft to such a test as Leslie desired; and he was not only
delighted but astonished at the quite unexpected turn of speed that the
craft developed, this being doubtless due to the enormous spread of
canvas that her peculiar form of construction enabled her to carry.  She
skimmed down-wind with the speed of a swallow, and was scarcely less
swift when close-hauled and looking up within four points of the wind.

More than satisfied with the behaviour of his catamaran in smooth water,
Leslie next headed her to the north-east, steering for the passage
between the island and the reef that led to the open sea.  The distance
to be traversed was about four miles, and this the quaint-looking craft
covered in seventeen minutes by Leslie's watch, passing in an instant
from smooth water out on to a tumbling surface of sapphire-blue creaming
and foaming sea, with a long and rather formidable swell under-running
it.  This was the sort of sea to find out for Leslie the weak points in
his structure, if it had any; and for the next half-hour--while
"carrying-on," and driving his craft full tilt against the sea under the
heavy pressure of her enormous unreefed sails--he watched his craft
carefully and anxiously, ready at the first sign of weakness to up-helm
and run back to the shelter of the lagoon.  But no such sign revealed
itself; on the contrary, she not only stood up to her canvas "as stiff
as a house," but slid along over the high-running sea as buoyantly as an
empty cask, hanging to windward with a tenacity that filled her happy
owner with wonder; throwing a little spray over her weather bow
occasionally, it is true, but otherwise going along as dry as a bone.
Her speed, too, was truly astounding; had the poor old _Mermaid_ been
all ataunto and alongside her, the catamaran could have sailed round and
round her.  At length, thoroughly satisfied with his trial, and fully
convinced of the absolute seaworthiness of his craft, Leslie tacked--the
catamaran working like a top, even in the heavy sea that was running--
and, putting up his helm, bore away back for the lagoon, reaching the
brig once more after an absence of about an hour and a half.

He found Flora awaiting him, attired in a good serviceable and
comfortably warm serge gown--for he had warned her that she would find
the strong breeze a trifle chill out at sea--and with the lunch-basket
packed and ready.  It was the work of less than a minute to transfer her
and the basket from the deck of the brig to that of the catamaran, when,
leaving Sailor to take care of the former--much to his disgust--they
once more pushed off, and headed straight out for the passage skirting
the inner edge of the reef, and noting, as they slid rapidly along, that
this inner margin of the reef was simply teeming with fish.  Then,
almost before they had time to realise it, they were in the open sea
once more, and heading away to the northward and westward with the
mainsheet eased off to its utmost limit, and the main-boom square out to
starboard.  Leslie allowed himself an offing of about a mile, as this
would enable him not only to get a very good general idea of the island
as a whole, but would also enable him to carefully examine the
coast-line.

The easternmost extremity of the island--between which and the barrier
reef the deep-water passage lay--was a bold headland thickly overgrown
with tall and stately forest trees, and terminating in a rocky cliff
about one hundred and fifty feet high, that dipped sheer down into the
sea; and beyond this, to the northward, the coast-line curved inward
somewhat to the most northerly point on the island, forming what might
almost be termed a shallow bay--shallow, that is to say, in point of
depth of itself, but not of its depth of water, for the whole
north-easterly coast-line of the island consisted of precipitous cliffs
averaging about a hundred feet in height, with water enough alongside to
float the biggest ship that was ever launched, if one might judge from
its colour.  There was no sign or possibility of a beach anywhere along
here, which was comforting to Leslie, whose mind somehow still clung
rather tenaciously to the idea of possible savages.  But nothing mortal
could by any possibility land on that eastern seaboard, nor would
savages be likely to establish themselves in a spot so completely
inaccessible from the sea.  Moreover, the entire country, from the ridge
or backbone of the island, that ran from the crater down to the most
northerly point of the island, was densely covered with vegetation,
showing no faintest sign of clearing or cultivation, so that Leslie
began once more to feel reassured.

The most northerly point of the island was reached and rounded in some
forty minutes from the moment of leaving the lagoon and bearing away
round Cape Flora--as Dick insisted on naming the bold headland that
formed the eastern extremity of the island.  This most northerly point
was, like the other, a lofty vertical cliff, timber--crowned to its very
verge and descending vertically into the sea; and Flora declared that
the only possible designation for it was Point Richard.

Rounding Point Richard, then, and hauling in the mainsheet, the voyagers
found themselves suddenly under the lee of the land and in smooth water,
save for the long undulations of swell that came sweeping up to them
from the southward.  They were now coasting down the western side of the
island; and here again Leslie was gratified to discover that the
conclusions arrived at by him during his visit to the summit were
correct; there was no beach throughout the whole length of the
coast-line; nothing but sheer perpendicular cliffs everywhere, although
in places these cliffs rose no higher than some twenty feet above the
sea-level.  Finally they arrived off the south-westerly extremity of the
island--which they agreed to name Mermaid Head--and found themselves
skirting the outer edge of the reef, at a distance of about one hundred
yards from the surf-line, lost in wonderment and admiration of the great
wall of snowy foam and spray that leapt, sparkling like a cloud of
jewels, some forty feet into the clear sunlit air.  Then they re-entered
the lagoon and ran alongside the brig--to the exuberant delight of
Sailor--some three hours from the moment of starting, having had a most
enjoyable sail, and satisfied themselves definitely that, since no
savages existed on their own side of the island, the place must of
necessity be altogether free from their unwelcome presence.  And
thenceforward Leslie's mind was completely free from at least that one
anxiety.

And now, having provided himself with the means not only to pass freely
and rapidly between the brig and the shore, but also to venture out to
sea in chase of a ship, should occasion to do so arise, Leslie felt
himself free to proceed with the execution of his great plan for the
establishment of a dockyard ashore, and the construction of a craft
sufficiently substantial and seaworthy to convey him and his companion
back to the world of civilisation.

The first part of his task consisted in the erection of a spacious tent
on shore for the accommodation of his companion and himself; and this he
proposed to do with the aid of the old sails on board the brig,
reserving the new ones and such canvas as he could find for the making
of a suit of sails for the proposed new boat.  He accordingly got out
all the old sails, and deposited them on the deck of the catamaran,
together with a quantity of cordage, blocks, and other gear, a crowbar,
pickaxes, hammer, and shovel, an axe, and a number of miscellaneous odds
and ends that he thought would be useful, and conveyed the whole to the
shore.  Then entering the woods, he selected the first nine suitable
saplings that he could find, and cut them down, afterwards conveying
them, one at a time and with considerable labour, to the site that he
had chosen for his tent.  He next dug six holes in the ground--three for
each gable-end--and in four of these holes he reared four of his
stoutest saplings to form the four corners of the tent, setting them
carefully upright by means of temporary stays, and ramming the loose
soil round about their feet until they stood quite firmly.  Then, midway
between the poles that were to form the gable-ends of the tent, he
reared two others, some ten feet longer than the first four, these last
being intended to support the ridge-pole of the structure, which he next
hoisted into position and securely lashed.  Then he similarly raised the
eaves-poles into position and lashed them, thus completing the skeleton
of the tent.  The sides and ends of the structure, together with a
central partition, were formed of sails, laboriously hoisted into
position by means of tackles, laced to the ridge-pole, and securely
pinned to the ground with stakes; and a spare main-course drawn over the
ridge-pole, sloping down over the eaves, and drawn tight all round by
ropes spliced into the leeches and secured to the ground with stout tent
pegs, completed the whole.  To prevent the flooding of the tent in wet
weather, Leslie took the precaution to dig a good deep trench all round
it to receive the rain-water, and from this he dug another to carry it
off.

The next matter demanding attention was the furnishing of the tent.  The
need of bedsteads was easily met by driving four stout stakes into the
ground, connected at their tops by side and end poles, to which lengths
of stout canvas were attached by a lacing; and the structure was then
ready to receive the mattress and bedding generally.  The cabin lamp
efficiently illuminated Miss Trevor's half of the tent, while a lamp
taken from the steward's berth afforded Leslie all the light he needed
to undress by.  Then the cabin table, the locker cushions, the
deck-chair, the ship's slender stock of books, and a variety of odds and
ends conducive to comfort were transferred from the brig to the shore,
together with the galley stove and its appurtenances; and the pair then
went into residence in their new abode--which, it may be said, they
found much more roomy, airy, and comfortable than their former quarters
aboard the brig.  The galley stove, it should be mentioned, was set up
outside and to leeward of the tent, all cooking operations being
conducted in the open air.  The erection of the tent, from start to
finish, absorbed a fortnight of Leslie's time, and involved such a
lavish expenditure of labour that, could he have foreseen it, he would,
as he afterwards confessed, have started much less ambitiously.

And now the ex-lieutenant found himself confronted by a truly formidable
task, compared with which all that had gone before was a mere trifle.
This consisted in overhauling the cargo of the brig, with the view of
appropriating everything that could by any possibility prove of use to
them either during their--as they hoped--temporary sojourn upon the
island, or in the construction of the boat that was to take them away
from it.  Leslie had become aware, from remarks made by Purchas, that
the brig was taking out a very considerable quantity of machinery, but
this was all stowed in the bottom of the ship.  On top of this there was
a vast miscellaneous assortment of mixed goods of almost every
conceivable description, and this it was that Leslie wished to get hold
of and overhaul.

Accordingly, he one morning went off to the brig and proceeded to lift
off the main hatches, disclosing to view a number of bales and
packing-cases, mostly of a size and weight that it would be impossible
for him to deal with single-handed.  He saw that before it would be
possible for him to raise even a fourth part of them it would be
necessary for him to have the assistance of certain appliances, such as
sheers, tackles, etcetera; but he succeeded in dragging a few of the
lightest of them on deck and opening them.

The first case opened proved to contain china--a breakfast, dinner, tea,
and toilet service, very handsome, and apparently very expensive.  This
would be exceedingly useful to them, for, to tell the truth, the brig's
pantry had never been too liberally stocked; and the carelessness of the
steward, combined with the heavy weather experienced by the brig, had
played havoc with it.  He therefore fastened up the case again and
lowered it carefully over the side on to the deck of the catamaran.
Then he got hold of a bale of rugs.  These, he told himself, would help
to make Flora's half of the tent more comfortable; and they, too, went
down over the side.  The next case--a small one, bearing what appeared
to be a private address--contained a dainty little sewing-machine--
possibly useful also to Flora.  It followed the rugs.  The next case
that came to hand, though a large one, was unexpectedly light, so Leslie
roused it on deck and opened it.  It contained a number of bird-cages,
such as are used for canaries.  Some of them were of large size--large
enough to accommodate half a dozen of the little songsters--and all were
very handsome and, apparently, expensive.  But they were not in the
least likely to be of service, and would therefore only be in the way,
so overboard they went, ruthlessly; the case itself, however, Leslie
kept, as the wood and the screws might possibly be useful.  There were
no more packages at hand that could be manipulated without appliances,
so Leslie replaced the hatches, drew the tarpaulin over them and
battened it down, and then made sail for the shore.

As the catamaran ran in and grounded on the beach, Flora came down to
meet him.

"Well, Dick," she said--the name came glibly enough to her lips
now--"what luck have you met with?"

"Not bad," answered Leslie.  "I have not been able to do very much, for
the cases are mostly too large to handle without a tackle, and I have
not thus far found anything that will go toward building our little
ship; but I have here a set of china that will gladden your heart and
replenish your pantry; some rugs for the floor of your compartment; and
a sewing-machine that you may possibly find handy later on."

"And what have you brought that will be useful for yourself?" she asked.

"Nothing," answered Leslie.  "The only other case that I could get at
contained bird-cages--"

"Bird-cages?" she repeated, with a burst of hearty laughter.  "Why, the
brig must be quite a general emporium!"

"Yes," Leslie assented soberly.  "I quite expect she will prove so.  You
see, a place like Valparaiso imports every imaginable thing from Europe;
and it would not surprise me to find even pianos, watches and jewellery,
as well as clothing, books, and such like among the cargo."

"Pianos?" exclaimed Flora, with delighted surprise.  "Oh, Dick, if you
should find a piano, please--_please_ bring it ashore for me.  I am
passionately fond of music, and a piano would be such a solace to us
here."

"If there is a piano in the ship you shall have it," answered Leslie.
"Poor little girl! it must be horribly slow for you, cooped up here,
practically alone, as you are.  I am but a poor companion, I know, at
the best of times; and henceforth I shall be so busy that you will be
left more alone than ever.  Yes; you shall certainly have a piano, if
there is one in the brig."

"Now, Dick, you _know_ I did not mean that--about your being a poor
companion," answered Flora.  "On the contrary, you are the very best
companion that a girl in my unfortunate situation could possibly have;
for you are, before and above all else, a gentleman--a chivalrous,
courteous, tender-hearted gentleman, with whom I feel as safe as though
you were my brother.  And then you are brave, strong, resourceful, and
so utterly unselfish that you amaze me--"

"There, that will do, thank you," laughed Leslie.  "Do you wickedly wish
to make me conceited?  Because you will, if you say much more in that
strain.  As to `brothers,' I hope you don't look upon me as a brother,
do you?"

"Why, yes--almost," answered the girl, a little doubtfully.  "Do you not
wish me to regard you as a brother, Dick?"

"Um," he meditated; "of course that would be better than nothing; but--
oh no; on the whole I think I have no desire that you should regard me
as a brother.  There, now of course I have offended you.  What an ass
and a cad I am!"

"You are not; you are _not_!  And I will not have you say so," exclaimed
the girl, passionately.  "And you have not offended me," she went on.
"It is only that I am feeling a little depressed to-day; and your--I
mean--oh, I cannot explain!"

And therewith she turned away abruptly, and beat a hasty retreat to the
shelter of the tent.

Leslie looked after her as though for a moment he felt inclined to
follow her.  Then he thought better of it, and meditatively proceeded to
land the things that he had brought ashore from the brig.  This done, he
hunted up the axe and wandered off to the woods in search of a couple of
spars to serve as sheers for working the main hatchway.  The cutting
down of these, the conveyance of them to the shore, and the towing of
them off alongside the brig provided him with plenty of work for the
remainder of the day; he therefore did not again meet his companion
until the day's work was over and they sat down to dinner.  It was
apparent that by that time the young lady had completely recovered her
spirits; but she carefully avoided all reference to the little scene
that had occurred earlier in the day, so Leslie thought it best to let
the matter drop, although he continued to puzzle over it for several
days thereafter.

The following day saw Leslie once again aboard the brig, where he busied
himself in getting his spars in on deck, converting them into sheers,
fitting them, and by means of tackles and stays rearing them into
position and securing them.  It was a long and heavy job, occupying him
the entire day, and sending him back to the island at night completely
fagged out.  But on the succeeding day he went off to the brig early--in
fact, before Flora made her appearance--and strenuously devoted himself
to the task of breaking out the contents of the main hold.  He spent the
entire morning in rousing cases, bales, and packages of all kinds up on
deck; and after partaking of a hurried lunch he carefully opened these
and examined their contents.  Two of the largest he found to contain
respectively men's and women's clothing; another contained books and
music; a fourth contained stationery and drawing-paper; a fifth
contained rolls of silk, linen, drapery, ribbons, laces, and
haberdashery; and all these he lowered on to the deck of the catamaran
for conveyance to the shore.  Others contained rolls of wall-paper,
ironmongery, photographic materials, drugs--with the properties and uses
of which he was unacquainted--lawn-mowers, garden rollers, and other
matters that did not appeal to him; and these he sent over the side to
keep the bird-cages company.  Then, when the sun was within half an hour
of the western horizon, he left the brig and returned to the island with
his booty.

Flora seemed greatly amused when Leslie told her what he had brought
ashore.

"Why, Dick," she exclaimed, "there is enough clothing in those two cases
to last us for the rest of our lives; to say nothing of that third case
which you say is full of unmade silks and linen.  Surely it was scarcely
necessary to cumber yourself with the last, was it?"

"Who knows?" answered Leslie.  "It is impossible to say how long we may
be compelled to remain on this island; and I intend to save every single
article and thing that may by any possibility be useful to us.  I am not
going to take any chances.  For aught that I can tell, it may be beyond
my power to construct such a craft as I have in my mind; in which case
we may be compelled to remain here until--it may be years hence--a ship
comes along and rescues us.  I have no wish to alarm you, dear,"--it was
surprising how often that term now rose to his lips, and how difficult
he found it to avoid letting it slip out--"but I cannot conceal from
myself--and it would be unfair to conceal from you--the possibility that
we may be obliged to spend a quite appreciable portion of our lives
here; and I intend to make the very fullest provision possible for such
a contingency.  But do not be frightened," he continued, catching the
sudden look of gravity that leapt into her face; "you shall not be
detained here a moment longer than I can help."

"Oh, Dick, it is not so much _that_," she murmured; "it is the terrible
anxiety that my poor father must be suffering that worries me."

"Ah, yes," agreed Leslie; "I can quite understand the poor gentleman's
feelings.  Why didn't I think of that before?" he suddenly ejaculated.
"Look here.  I will write a message, seal it up in a bottle, and set it
adrift clear of the island to-morrow.  There is just a chance in a
thousand--or perhaps ten thousand--that it may be picked up; and in that
case, not only will your father's anxiety be relieved, but help and
rescue will be brought to us.  I will write my statement immediately
after dinner."



CHAPTER TEN.

A DISCOVERY--AND A CONFESSION.

The statement that Dick Leslie that evening wrote ran as follows:--

"The finder of this document is earnestly requested to communicate its
contents to Lloyds, the British Admiralty, the leading London
newspapers, and Sir Ernest Trevor, K.C.M.G., Judge of Her Majesty's
Supreme Court, Bombay.

"On the--day of --, in the year 18--, the ship _Golden Fleece_, Captain
Rainhill, sailed from London for Melbourne, having on board, among other
passengers, Miss Flora Trevor, daughter of the above-named Sir Ernest
Trevor, and Mr Richard Leslie.

"On the night of the--day of --, in the same year, the ship's reckoning
at noon on that day being Latitude 32 degrees 10 minutes North and
Longitude 26 degrees 55 minutes West, the _Golden Fleece_ was run into
and sunk by an unknown steamer during a dense fog.  The only known
survivors of the wreck consisted of the above-named Flora Trevor,
Richard Leslie, and a seaman named George Baker, belonging to the ship.
These three persons were picked up and rescued on the following day by
the brig _Mermaid_ of London, James Potter, master, which sailed from
the last-named port on the --th day of --, bound for Valparaiso.

"On the date of the rescue of the three above-named persons by the brig,
Captain Potter met with an accident, from which he died on the --th day
of --; and the mate, Thomas Purchas, succeeded to the command of the
vessel.  Then Purchas gave way to drink, and on the night of the --th
day of -- committed suicide by jumping overboard.  Thereupon Mr Richard
Leslie, who had at one time been an officer in the British navy, assumed
command of the brig, with the intention of navigating her to Valparaiso.
During the passage of Cape Horn, however, the _Mermaid_ encountered
contrary winds and very heavy weather, in which she was dismasted, with
the loss of three of her crew.  The brig was then put under jury rig, so
far as the resources of the vessel permitted; but it was not of a
sufficiently efficient character to permit of her being worked to
windward, and a persistent succession of contrary winds drove her deep
into the heart of the Pacific Ocean, where, during a gale that sprang up
on the night of the --th of --, she was driven ashore, and became a
total wreck on the outlying reef of an unknown island, not marked on the
charts, but situate in Latitude 16 degrees 8 minutes South, Longitude
120 degrees 56 minutes West.  During this gale the _Mermaid_ was again
dismasted, and Mr Leslie, who was at the wheel, was knocked down and
injured on the head by the falling wreckage, in consequence of which he
was conveyed below, where Miss Trevor remained in attendance upon him.
He lay insensible for nearly thirty-six hours; and it was during this
time that the brig struck on and was driven nearly the entire width of
the reef, where she now lies.  The only survivors of this disaster are
Miss Trevor and Mr Leslie, who undoubtedly owe their lives to the fact
that they were below when the brig struck.  It is urgently requested
that help be sent to them as quickly as possible, as the island upon
which they have been wrecked lies quite out of the usual track of
shipping, and their prospects of rescue by a passing vessel are
consequently small.

"(Signed) Flora Trevor.  Richard Leslie.

"Dated this--day of --, 18--."

"There," exclaimed Leslie, as he read over the completed document, "that
ought to bring us help if the bottle happens to be picked up.  But we
must not count upon it, for it may drift about for years before it is
found.  However, we will do what we can to attract attention to it.  A
mere floating bottle is a very inconspicuous object, and may be passed
within a hundred feet without being noticed; but I will pack it in a
good big packing-case before sending it adrift.  A floating case,
especially if conspicuously marked, stands a hundred times as good a
chance of being picked up as does a mere bottle."

Accordingly, on the following day, the bottle, with the document
hermetically sealed within it, was taken on board the brig and carefully
packed away in the centre of a large packing-case filled with fine
shavings from other cases; and then the entire exterior of the case was
painted black and white in a bold chequer pattern, with the words
"Please open" in bold red letters on each side, and as soon as the paint
was dry Leslie put it on board the catamaran, and, running some three
miles to leeward of the island, launched it overboard.  The case, being
light, floated high, and, with its bold chequer pattern, formed a
conspicuous object, calculated to attract attention at any distance not
exceeding a mile.  Then he returned to the brig, and, with Flora's
assistance, resumed his task of breaking out cargo.

There is no need to state in detail the contents of each case and bale
that they hoisted on deck; suffice it to say that the cargo, being what
is known as "general," comprised almost every imaginable thing, much of
it being of a character that would either conduce to their present
comfort or be possibly useful to them in the future.  Only a small
proportion of the whole, therefore, went overboard; and since the
remainder would in any case be irretrievably lost to its proper owners,
Leslie had no scruples whatever in appropriating it to their own use.

The goods thus appropriated comprised an infinite variety of articles,
among which may be enumerated enough lamps to illuminate a small
village; a few pictures, with which they adorned the interior of their
tent; household furniture of all kinds, such as bedsteads, with their
bedding, wardrobes, dressing and other tables, chests of drawers,
domestic utensils of every kind, cutlery, china and glass, carpets, a
huge pier glass, and, to Flora's infinite delight, a magnificent Kaps
grand piano.  Then there was more clothing--enough to last them both for
the remainder of their lives--a case of repeating rifles and revolvers,
another case containing ammunition for the same, and a quantity of
valuable jewellery, watches, etcetera, cases of perfumery, handsome
fans, bric-a-brac--in short, a sufficiency of everything to enable them
to convert their humble tent into a most comfortable, elegant, and
luxurious abode.

This, however, was not all, or even their most valuable find.  There
were cases containing picks, shovels, and other implements, some steel
wheelbarrows, a case containing a large assortment of carpenters' and
joiners' tools, cases of assorted nails and screws, and a very long
packing-case, which, upon being opened, was found to contain a handsome
and highly finished set of spars, evidently intended for a yacht of
about fifteen tons measurement.  Close to this was found another case,
bearing the same marks as the first, and containing two complete sets of
cotton canvas sails, clearly intended for the same craft.  These
valuable finds not only filled Leslie's heart with immeasurable delight,
but set him eagerly searching for further cases, similarly marked.  Nor
was he disappointed, for the next day's search resulted in his finding a
third case, the contents of which consisted of a complete set of
gun-metal belaying-pins and other fittings, together with a number of
patent blocks, single, double, and threefold, that he had no difficulty
in identifying as intended for the same craft.

"Little woman," he exclaimed, "this find is worth more than all the rest
of them put together.  These spars and sails will save me months of
work, and shorten our term of imprisonment here by just that much.  They
are intended for a craft of about the size that I had in my mind, and
now, of course, I shall design her of exactly such dimensions as they
will fit.  Are you not glad?"

"Of course I am, Dick," she replied; "I am glad of anything that will
ease your work for you, for indeed you have been making a perfect slave
of yourself ever since we landed here.  The discovery of these things
has, I suppose, relieved your mind of a great deal of anxiety; and I
hope that now you will be able to take matters more easily."

"I am afraid," said Dick, "there still remains a great deal to be done
before I can think of `taking matters easily.'  I must complete my
examination of this cargo, for one thing; and when that is done I must
begin to pull the poor old brig herself to pieces for the sake of her
timber, that being the only material available out of which to build our
boat."

"But surely there is no such very urgent need for hurry over all this
work, is there, Dick?" remonstrated Flora.

"Oh yes, there is," insisted Dick; "for the reason that, if another gale
were to spring up, the brig would most probably go to pieces, and then
everything in her would be lost, excepting, of course, such matters as
might be washed ashore.  And the timber of which she is built would be
more or less smashed up and generally made less fit for use than it will
be if I am afforded time to break her up carefully."

"I see," assented Flora, thoughtfully.  "In that case I suppose we had
better go to work again, hadn't we?"

So they resumed operations; Dick descending into the hold and slinging
the cases, one by one, and then coming on deck and taking the tackle
fall to the winch, and heaving the package on deck while Flora hung on
to the tail-end of the rope to prevent it slipping round the winch
barrel.  It was easy work for the girl, and such as she could do without
becoming greatly fatigued; but for the man it was hard labour indeed,
and such as sent him back to the island at night almost too weary to
eat.

But a day or two later he met with a find that more than rewarded him
for all his toil, and rendered a further continuance of it unnecessary.
Among the first cases that he came upon was a long and heavy one, marked
like those containing the spars and sails, that, upon being opened, was
found to contain copper sheathing, already cut to shape and carefully
marked.  There was also, in the same case, a small, light, flat box,
containing two drawings to scale; one being a sheer, half-deck, and body
plan of a very smart, handsome, and wholesome-looking cutter,
thirty-five feet long on the water-line, and ten feet beam; while the
other was a drawing similarly marked to the copper sheathing, showing
exactly where and how every sheet ought to be applied.  Near this case
was another, similarly marked, a very large case as to length and
breadth, but of no great depth.  Wondering what this could possibly
contain, Leslie eagerly opened it and found in it the complete set of
steel frames for the cutter, packed one inside the other, and each
marked and figured in accordance with the sheet of plans.  And finally,
not to dwell at undue length upon this discovery, important though it
was, he also found the keel, stem and stern-posts, rudder and trunk,
deck-beams, wales, stringers, skin and deck-planking--in short, every
scrap and item of material and fittings required for the little vessel;
so that nothing remained but to put the whole together.  A more
fortunate find could by no possibility be conceived for two people
circumstanced as he and his companion were.

It goes without saying that the whole of this valuable material was most
carefully and promptly transferred to the beach; and as the last item of
it was unloaded from the catamaran Leslie flung himself down upon the
sand and exclaimed, in accents of infinite relief--

"There, that is a good job well done; and I care not now though the old
hooker should go to pieces to-morrow!"

"And now," returned Flora, "you will be able to give yourself a little
holiday, and take some much-needed rest, will you not?  Promise me that
you will, Dick, please.  You have been looking very anxious and worried
of late, and have been toiling the whole day through, day after day, in
the hot sun.  I am sure such arduous work is not good for you; and
indeed I have more than once been tempted to refuse to help you, because
I knew that, if I did, you would be compelled to desist.  But when I saw
how eager you were I thought it would be cruel; and I could not bring
myself to be that, even though I felt that it would be for your good."

"You have been infinitely good to me, Flora," answered Leslie, with deep
feeling--"infinitely good, and infinitely patient; while I have been
impatient and exacting.  In my impatience--I can see it now--I have
worked you cruelly hard--"

The girl put her hand over his mouth.  "You shall not say another word
until you talk sensibly," she declared.  "The idea of saying that you
`worked me hard'!  Why, what _I_ did was child's play; a girl of fifteen
could have done it without being distressed.  Please do not let me hear
you say such things again!" she insisted, imperiously; immediately
adding, "Now, you will promise to take a day's rest to-morrow, will you
not, Dick?"

"Certainly, if you wish it," assented Leslie.  "We will both take a
day's holiday, and go fishing along the inner edge of the reef, shall
we?"

"By all means," agreed Flora.  "I have often thought that I should like
a little fish, as a change of diet; I am getting most horribly tired of
salt beef and pork and tinned meats.  But you have been so feverishly
busy that I did not like to ask you."

"Then," said Leslie, with severity, "please do not do it again.  How
many times must I tell you that you have only to express a wish, to have
it gratified, if I can do it, before you will believe me?"

"I do believe you, Dick; indeed I do," she answered softly.  "I know
that there is nothing I could ask you that you would not willingly and
gladly do for me if you could.  You are the kindest, most generous, most
chivalrous gentleman that I ever met--"

"Stop, please!" exclaimed Leslie, with a sudden fierceness of energy
that frightened the girl; "you must not say such things as that, or I
shall some day forget myself and--But you have not yet heard my story; I
must tell it you some day, Flora; yes, the time is drawing near when it
will be imperatively necessary for me to tell you my story.  Then we
shall see what your opinion of me will be."

"So you really have a history?" remarked the girl.  "The people on board
the _Golden Fleece_ suspected as much, and freely said so; and as I have
watched you from time to time, and have observed your sudden fits of
melancholy, I have often thought that they must have been right in their
surmise.  Yes; you shall tell me your story, Dick; I shall be profoundly
interested in it, I am certain; and if it is a sad one--as I more than
half suspect--you shall have my whole-hearted sympathy.  But, whatever
you may have to tell me, it will never alter my opinion of you; you may
have met with misfortune, or suffered grievous wrong, but nothing will
ever persuade me that such a man as you have shown yourself to be can
ever have done anything of which you or your friends need be ashamed.
Tell it me now, Dick, if you will."

"No," answered Leslie, resolutely, though he longed for her promised
sympathy more intensely than he had ever longed for anything else in his
life; "no; I will not tell you now; the time is not yet ripe.  But it
will be ere long; and then I will tell you."

"So be it," agreed Flora.  "Until then I can wait.  And now let us go to
dinner, for I see by the appearance of the cooking-stove that it is
ready, and I am sure you must need it."

On the following morning, in accordance with their over-night
arrangement, they got on board the catamaran after breakfast and,
sailing out to the reef, anchored on its inner edge, and started to
fish.  They appeared, however, to have chanced upon an unfavourable spot
to start with, for after about half an hour their efforts were rewarded
by the capture of only four fish, so small as to be quite worthless,
except for bait; Leslie therefore tripped his anchor and, setting his
canvas, determined to try his luck somewhat further to the
north-eastward, and nearer the entrance channel.

They had been under way some ten minutes, slipping along over the very
inner edge of the reef, with the deep-water of the lagoon on their port
hand, when Flora, who was peering abstractedly down into this deep,
pellucid water, suddenly cried out--

"Oh, look, Dick, look; what is that huge object over there?  Is it
another wreck?"

"Where away?" asked Leslie, gazing out over the reef.

"Down there in the water," answered the girl, pointing to a spot over
the port quarter.  "I cannot see it now, because of the light on the
water; but I saw it most distinctly a moment ago.  We sailed almost
directly over it."

"And you thought it looked like a sunken wreck?" asked Leslie.

"Yes," answered the girl; "I certainly did.  It was as large as a ship,
and had somewhat the appearance of one."

"Well, we will go back and have a look at it," said Leslie; and, bearing
up for a moment and then putting his helm down, he tacked, bringing the
catamaran round in such a manner as to pass back over practically the
same ground as before.  And presently they both sighted the same object
again--a huge something that certainly bore some resemblance to the hull
of a ship, lying submerged upon the sandy bottom of the lagoon, about
fifty fathoms from the inner edge of the reef.  They were too far away
from it, however, to distinguish it clearly, the light reflected from
the surface of the water rendering their view of it indistinct; Leslie
therefore this time wore the catamaran round, and, lowering her sails,
allowed her to drift gently forward with the way that she still had on
her.  And this time they passed right over the object, when, as soon as
the catamaran was fairly clear of it, he let go his anchor and allowed
his craft to drive astern again until she floated fair and square over
the mysterious thing.  Then, lying down flat upon the deck of the
catamaran, he peered straight down into the crystal-clear water, in the
shadow of the craft, and saw beneath him what was unquestionably the
weed-grown hull of a ship of antiquated model, of some four hundred tons
measurement.  She was heading straight for the reef, with her stern
pointing toward the island.  And as Leslie lay there intently studying
her every detail, he presently made out a stout rope cable leading from
her starboard hawse-pipe toward the reef, the end of it being buried in
the sand.  Her posture was such as to suggest to the experienced eye of
the sailor that she had driven over the reef, somewhat in the same way
as the _Mermaid_ had done; but, unlike the latter craft, had cleared it
altogether and had there been brought to an anchor, subsequently sinking
where she lay.  She seemed to have been a three-masted ship, for Leslie
could see the stumps of the fore and main masts, and believed he could
make out the stump of the mizzenmast broken close off at the deck.  She
had the appearance of a craft of somewhere about the Elizabethan period;
being built with an excessive amount of sheer and a very high-peaked
narrow poop, upon the after end of which the remains of what were
probably three poop-lanterns could still be distinguished.  She had a
slight list to starboard, and had, in the course of her long
submergence, either settled or become buried in the sand to the extent
of about half the depth of her hull.  What her nationality may have been
it was of course impossible to tell, clothed as she was in a rankly
luxuriant growth of weed.  Leslie carefully noted in his pocket-book the
exact bearings of the wreck; and then, lifting his anchor, they resumed
their fishing, their efforts being rewarded with an excellent day's
sport.

Leslie now set to work with earnestness and enthusiasm upon his great
task of putting together the cutter, the component parts of which had so
fortunately happened to form a part of the _Mermaid's_ cargo.  And the
first thing he did was to name the prospective craft the _Flora_, as a
compliment to his companion.

Now, the _Flora_, when completed, would be a craft of very respectable
dimensions; far too bulky, indeed, to be launched by the simple process
of pushing her off the beach into the water, as one would launch a small
boat.  The method of launching, therefore, was a matter requiring
consideration, and would have to be arranged for before a stroke of work
was done upon the boat herself.  Leslie thought the matter over
carefully, and at length arrived at the conclusion that there was
nothing for it but to build the boat upon properly constructed launching
ways.  And for these he would require a considerable quantity of good
stout timber properly squared; the provision of which involved a task of
very considerable labour and difficulty.  Trees there were in plenty on
the island, of ample dimensions for his purpose; but how was he,
single-handed, to get them down upon the beach, even after they had been
trimmed and squared?  And how was he to square them without a sawpit.
The pit-saw itself he had, having found several among the other tools
that formed part of the brig's cargo; but to work such a tool
single-handed was an impossibility.  Weighing all these difficulties in
his mind, Dick at length came to the conclusion that there was no
alternative but to draw upon the brig for the necessary material; and he
accordingly went, rather reluctantly, to work upon the task of breaking
up the poor old _Mermaid_.  He decided that the deck-beams of the brig
would be the most suitable for his purpose; and to obtain these it was
necessary to break up the deck--a long and arduous job, only to be
accomplished with hard labour and the assistance of an elaborate system
of tackles.

It was while he was thus employed that the first break occurred in the
fine weather that had prevailed ever since their arrival at the island.
It began with the gradual dying away of the trade wind, followed by a
heavy banking-up of dark thundery-looking clouds along the western
horizon.  With the cessation of the wind the temperature rose to such a
pitch that work became an impossibility, and Dick was at length
reluctantly compelled to knock-off and return to the shore, much to
Flora's satisfaction--for she was continually in dread lest the untiring
and feverish energy with which he laboured should result in his
suffering a serious breakdown.

As it was too hot even to walk about, the pair were perforce compelled
to remain inactive all the afternoon; and Flora inwardly decided that
this would be a good opportunity for Dick to relate to her his promised
story.  It needed a very considerable amount of persuasion and coaxing
to induce him to do so; but eventually he yielded and told her the whole
miserable history from beginning to end, winding up with the words--

"And thus you find me here to-day, a disgraced and ruined man, under an
assumed name, without prospects or hope of any description, with only a
hundred pounds wherewith to begin a new career in an alien land, and no
possibility whatever, so far as I can see, of ever being able to
establish my innocence and so win reconciliation with my poor, proud,
heart-broken father.  Were it not for the fact that you are here, and
must be restored to your friends with as little delay as may be, I could
be well content to end my days here on this unknown island, alone and
forgotten by all.  Indeed, I think it more than likely that as soon as I
have discharged my duty to you I shall return here."

"My poor Dick," exclaimed Flora, in tones of profound sympathy; "how you
must have suffered!  I am no longer surprised at your frequent fits of
depression and melancholy; the wonder to me is that you did not go mad,
or die of shame, in that horrible prison.  But now that you have told me
all you must put everything that is past behind you, and try to forget
it; _I_ believe your story implicitly; you could not be the man you have
proved yourself to be to me, and be guilty of so mean an act as theft;
oh no, nothing save your own admission could ever make me believe that
of you.  And you have all the sympathy of my heart, Dick; all my
sympathy; all my esteem; all--oh, the thought of what you have been
compelled to endure is terrible--terrible!"

And, to Leslie's unspeakable consternation, the girl suddenly buried her
face in her hands and sobbed as though her heart would break.  The
expression of her whole-hearted sympathy and perfect faith in him
touched him profoundly.

"Don't cry, darling, please don't; I cannot bear it--and I am not worth
it," he protested.  "I ought never to have told you.  I was a selfish
brute to extort your sympathy by the miserable recital of my own
misfortunes; I have basely worked upon your feelings."

"You shall _not_ say it," she answered, laying her hand upon his mouth;
"I will not have you abuse yourself, you who have already suffered such
unspeakable cruelty at the hands of others.  You are _not_ selfish; you
are _not_ base; you are nothing that is bad and everything that is good;
you are a very king among men!  Oh, Dick," she continued, taking his
hand in hers, "do not think me forward or unmaidenly in speaking thus to
you, dear; I am not.  But do you think I do not know what your feeling
is toward me; do you think I do not _know_ that you love me?  You poor,
simple-hearted fellow, you are far too honest and straightforward ever
to be able to deceive a woman, especially in such a matter as that; you
may have thought that you were very successfully concealing your
feelings from me, but I have known the truth--oh, ever since we have
been on this island."

"It is true; God help me, it is true!" exclaimed Dick, smiting his
forehead.  "But it is also true that I never intended you to know.  For
what right have I, a disgraced and ruined man, to seek the love of any
woman?  And if I may not seek her love in return, why should I tell her
that I love her?"

"You are looking at the matter with jaundiced eyes, Dick," answered
Flora, still retaining his hand in hers.  "I cannot wonder that you feel
your humiliation cruelly; but the humiliation is really not yours; it is
that of those who so shamefully plotted to ruin you.  You are guiltless
of this horrible charge--I am as sure of that as I am that I am a living
woman.  Besides, who is to know that Richard Leslie is one and the same
man with him who stood in the dock charged with that shameful crime, and
was pronounced guilty upon the strength of cunningly devised and
manufactured evidence?  No one, of course, except my father; he must
know; because, Dick dear, it is my fixed determination that he shall
help you in this matter; you will accompany me to Bombay, and personally
deliver me over into my father's care.  Then I shall tell him all that
you have done for me, and been to me; and you will tell him your whole
story, just as you have told it to me.  And I am sure that, if only for
the sake of his daughter, he will take up the matter and bring the truth
to light.  And, Dick, I am not going to allow your morbid feelings, or
even maidenly reserve, to stand in the way of my happiness; you have
confessed that you love me, and I know it to be true, for your eyes and
your actions have told me so daily, for months past.  It cannot be
unmaidenly, therefore, in me to confess that I return your love with all
my heart and soul."

"Oh, Flora, my love, my heart's darling, are you _sure_ of this?"
demanded Dick, laying his hands upon her shoulders and gazing into her
eyes as though he would read her very soul.  "Are you sure that you are
not mistaking mere gratitude for a warmer feeling?"

"Yes, Dick," she answered, "I am quite, _quite_ sure.  My gratitude you
won long ago; it was yours when we first stood on the deck of the
_Mermaid_ together, dripping from our long night's immersion in the
sea--for had you not, even then, saved my life?  And it grew even deeper
as I noted day by day your thoughtful care and anxiety for my welfare.
But gratitude and love are two very different feelings; and while I
should of course have always been profoundly grateful to you for your
unceasing care, I am sure that I should never have learned to love you
had I not first seen that you loved me."

"Then God be praised for His unspeakable mercy in bestowing upon me this
pricelessly precious gift of your dear love!" exclaimed Dick, fervently.
"I will accept it, ay and I will moreover prove myself worthy of it.
This blessed day marks a turning-point in my life; from this moment I
leave my wretched past behind me; there shall be no more useless
fretting and grieving for me.  My work, now, is first to restore you to
your father; next to free myself--by his help, if he will give it me,
but anyway, to free myself--from the undeserved stigma that attaches to
my true name; and, finally, to win for you such a home and position as
you deserve.  And, God helping me, I will do it!"

This was the second time within a few minutes that Dick Leslie had
spoken the name of the Deity, and nothing could more clearly have
indicated the change wrought in him by the knowledge of Flora's love.
Hitherto he had felt himself to be an outcast, cruelly and unjustly
deserted by his Creator; despised and condemned by his fellow-men; but
now everything was different; he firmly believed that God had at last
relented and had given him this girl's love to comfort and encourage him
in his great trouble and humiliation; and he once more took hope into
his heart.  If God had relented, everything, he felt convinced, would
yet be well with him.

And what is to be said of Flora; is any excuse needed for the extreme
step that she took in forcing a confession of love from Leslie?  Well,
possibly there is; it may be that there are people who would assert
that, despite her disclaimer, she was unmaidenly.  If such there be, and
if excuse for her be needed, then let it be found for her in the
following facts.  In the first place Leslie, despite his utmost caution,
had betrayed his intense love for her in a thousand different ways,
until the fact had become clear, unmistakable, and indisputable; a thing
not to be doubted or gainsaid.  And, in the next place, she saw that,
for some unknown reason, he never intended to declare his love if he
could possibly help it.  A dozen times the declaration had trembled on
his lips, yet he had resolutely withheld it.  Why?  Clearly for some
reason that he deemed all-sufficient, and which, she fancied, must be
intimately associated with those oft-recurring fits of gloom and
depression from which she could not help seeing that he suffered.
Finally, she loved him, and believed that--he also loving her--the
knowledge of this fact might go far toward restoring his lost happiness.
And when she had heard his story--told with all the bitterness and
grief and indignation that had been eating into his soul and destroying
his faith in God and man for over seven interminable years of
suffering--she knew that she was right; that there was but one remedy
for his misery; and, conscious of the nobility of her own motives, she
fearlessly administered it.  Who can or will blame her?

Meanwhile the brooding storm was slowly gathering its forces together
for an outburst; the bank of cloud had piled itself so high above the
western horizon that it had long ago obscured the sun; a weird twilight
had fallen upon the scene; the stagnant air had grown even more
oppressively hot than at first; not a bird uttered a single note; not an
insect raised a chirp; not a leaf stirred; and in the profound silence
the roar of the surf on the reef became thunderous in its resonance.
They dined somewhat earlier than usual that night, and while they sat
over their meal the darkness fell and they lighted the lamps.  Then
Leslie went out to see to the security of the catamaran, making her fast
to the shore with additional moorings; and upon his return Flora
insisted that he should lie down on the sofa while she sang and played
to him.  Then Leslie, in his turn, his heart lightened with returning
hope and happiness, lifted up his voice, and for the first time since
that terrible and memorable day, nearly eight years ago, broke into
song.  And finally they began to sing duets together, his clear, rich,
mellow tenor blending well with Flora's sweet, sympathetic soprano.

The concert was interrupted by the distant muttering of thunder and the
fitful flickering of lightning; and they went out together down to the
shore to watch the gathering storm.  It was a long time in coming, but
by-and-by, as they stood together close to the water's edge, a sudden
swishing sound, like that of wind stirring leaves, became audible, and
in another moment the blast was upon them and tearing across the glassy
surface of the lagoon, darkening its surface and lashing it into foam.
Then, a minute or two later, down came the rain in sheets, and they had
to beat a precipitate retreat to the tent, getting a thorough drenching
on the journey, though it occupied them but a minute.  The gale raged
all through the night and up to nearly noon on the following day, when
it broke, the sky cleared, and the wind gradually dropped to a moderate
breeze, veering all the time round by north to east until the south-east
trade wind was once more blowing, but very much more gently than usual.
Upon going out, the next day, Leslie was delighted to find that the gale
had done no damage whatever anywhere, all stores and materials having
been effectually protected from the rain, while the direction of the
gale had been such that it could not possibly harm the brig.

Although the gale actually broke--as has been said--shortly before noon,
it moderated so gradually throughout the afternoon that it was not until
the next day that the sea had gone down sufficiently to permit of the
catamaran being taken alongside the brig without danger.  As soon,
however, as this was the case, Leslie went off again, accompanied by
Flora, and resumed his task of breaking up the brig's deck.  It was
about the middle of the afternoon when Flora, who had been allowing her
gaze to wander out over the sea to the southward and westward, called
her companion's attention to a small object floating at a distance of
about a mile in the offing.  Leslie, ever on the alert, at once brought
the telescope to bear upon the object, which appeared to be drifting
helplessly before wind and sea toward the surf beating on the weather
side of the reef, and immediately pronounced it to be a small canoe,
apparently empty.

"We must have that craft; she will be very useful to us," he exclaimed,
dropping the telescope and preparing to cast off the catamaran.  "Will
you come with me, sweetheart?  You can be useful to me by taking the
tiller, when we come alongside her, while I jump aboard and make fast a
rope.  But we must be smart or she will be among the breakers before we
can reach her."

A minute later they were under way and slipping along toward the
entrance channel, upon clearing which Leslie at once hauled his wind,
standing to the eastward for about a mile, which took him far enough to
windward to enable him to fetch the canoe on the next tack.  He then
hove about without a moment's delay, for the little craft was by this
time perilously close to the surf, and it was questionable whether they
would reach her in time to save her from being caught and dashed to
pieces in it.  So close, indeed, was she that Leslie began to seriously
ask himself whether he was justified in taking the catamaran into a
situation of such danger for the mere sake of an insignificant canoe;
but reflecting that she was evidently light enough to enable Flora to
paddle about in her without much exertion, and that it would afford the
girl pleasure to do so; also that the little craft would be very useful
for fishing and other purposes, he decided to risk it; and accordingly
steered to shave just past her to windward.  Then, when they were
drawing close up to her, he handed over the tiller to Flora--who was by
this time quite an expert helmswoman--instructing her to tack to the
eastward the moment that he sprang into the canoe.  Then, taking the end
of a rope in his hand, he stood by to jump into the canoe as the
catamaran shaved past her.  Another moment and they were alongside the
little craft, into which Dick nimbly leaped, with the rope's-end in his
hand, crying, as he did so--

"Down helm, dear, and put her round!"  A moment later he added, under
his breath, "Hillo! here is a complication; a couple of naked savages in
her!  I wonder whether the beggars are dead!"

That, however, was not the moment in which to enter upon an
investigation of the matter, for the two craft were on the very edge of
the surf, and if by any chance the catamaran should miss stays nothing
could save them.  So Dick, with lightning-like rapidity, took a turn
with his rope and made it fast to a sort of broad thwart in the centre
of the canoe, and then, hauling quickly up alongside again, he regained
the deck of the catamaran just as she was paying-off on the right tack.

As Leslie took the helm from her, Flora exclaimed--

"Oh, Dick, what does it mean?  How came those two men--I suppose they
_are_ men?--in the canoe; and where have they come from?"

"From one of those islands, away out there to the westward, that we saw
from the summit, without a doubt," answered Dick.  "I suspect that they
were caught unawares and blown out to sea by that gale of the day before
yesterday.  Once blown fairly away out of the lee of their own island
they would have no choice but to keep their cockle-shell of a canoe dead
before the sea, and to paddle for all they were worth, to avoid being
swamped.  I take it that they paddled until they were absolutely
exhausted and could do no more, and then flung themselves down in the
bottom of the canoe and dropped into a kind of lethargy."

"You think that they are still alive, then?" asked Flora.

"I have very little doubt of it," answered Dick.  "These South Sea
savages are pretty tough, I believe; and even were they not, it would
take something more than, say, forty hours' exposure, in this climate,
to kill them.  Oh yes; they are alive, all right."

"And how will their presence on our island affect us, Dick?" asked the
girl.

That was precisely the question that was worrying Leslie at that moment.
He had no personal knowledge of the native inhabitants of the islands
of the Southern Pacific, but had a vague recollection of having either
heard or read that, while some of them were very gentle and inoffensive,
others were extremely treacherous and ferocious; some of them even being
addicted to cannibalism.  He was not, however, going to alarm his
companion unnecessarily, or say anything needlessly to raise her
apprehensions; so he answered, with a great show of cheerfulness--

"Why, I hope it will very materially shorten the period of our sojourn
here, sweetheart.  They have the appearance of being good sturdy
fellows; and I shall set them on to help me with my heavy work.  It has
gone to my heart to be compelled to ask you to do even the light work
that you have hitherto done for me; although I could not have got on at
all without your assistance.  Now, however, with their help I shall be
able to get on swimmingly, while you can amuse yourself in any way that
you please.  Now I am going to tack; look out for your head, dear; I
cannot afford to have you knocked overboard by the main-boom.  Helm's
a-lee!"

Instead of returning to the brig, Leslie proceeded direct to the island
where, having landed Flora, he proceeded, with some difficulty, to rouse
the savages, and supply them with food and drink.  They proved to be, as
Leslie had said, a pair of fine, well-made men, naked, save for a kind
of breech-clout round their loins, of sturdy physique, and apparently
but little the worse for their adventure.  Nor were they especially
unprepossessing in appearance, although there was a certain character of
ruthlessness in the expression of their eyes and about their mouths and
chins that caused Leslie to determine that he would keep a very wary eye
upon them, at all events until he had learned a little more about their
character and disposition.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

FLORA'S ADVENTURE.

Leslie's two dark-skinned guests--for they were nearly black in colour--
ate heartily of the food that was given them, their eyes wide-open with
wonder, meanwhile, at the many strange objects--especially the tent and
the catamaran--that they beheld around them; and the ex-lieutenant
especially noted, with fast-growing distrust, the glances of hungry
admiration that they bestowed on Flora when at length she emerged from
the tent and approached the canoe to note their progress toward
recovery.  Leslie had already tested their knowledge of English, French,
and German without success, from which he deduced the conclusion that
they had not been brought into very intimate contact with the crews of
vessels speaking any of those languages.  Their own language, on the
other hand was, as of course might be expected, merely unintelligible
gibberish to him.  This was unfortunate, since it would make intelligent
communication between him and them difficult, at all events for a time;
sailors, however, have a way peculiar to themselves of making their
requirements understood by foreigners, and he had little doubt of his
ability to overcome that difficulty ere long.  Indeed, on that same day,
after the men had eaten and drank to their hearts' content, Leslie
contrived to convey to their understanding the fact that he expected
them to build a hut for themselves; and he indicated the precise spot,
at a considerable distance from the camp, where he wished it to be.  As
soon as they clearly understood what his desires were, they went off
into the bush and, armed with a small tomahawk lent them by Leslie,
proceeded to cut down some forty or fifty young and pliant saplings, the
butt-ends of which they sharpened to a point, and then thrust
vertically, into the ground in a circle some twelve feet in diameter.
They then brought the tops of the saplings all together and bound them;
thus producing a skeleton structure exactly shaped like a bee-hive.
This skeleton they then strengthened by interweaving it with stout
lianas--or "monkey-rope," as the sailors call the long, tough stems of
the creepers that interlace themselves about the trees in tropical
countries.  This done, they again vanished into the bush; quickly
returning with two generous loads of the leaves of a species of palm,
wherewith they quickly and deftly thatched the entire hut, and thus
completed it.  The entire structure occupied but a couple of hours in
the making; yet it had all the appearance of being a thoroughly
comfortable and weather-proof dwelling.  As soon as the hut was finished
Leslie demanded back the tomahawk; but although he shrewdly suspected
that they understood well enough what he wanted, they affected not to do
so, keeping a tight hold upon the implement all through the discussion,
until Dick simplified matters by seizing the holder by the arm and
gently but firmly forcing it from his grasp.  He then handed them a
generous supply of fish, as an evening ration, and motioned them to
withdraw to their hut, which they did, not over willingly, as Leslie
thought.  That same night he went to work and manufactured a canvas belt
for Flora, to hold a brace of revolvers and a cartridge pouch; and the
next morning early he took a small piece of board, some nine inches
square, painted it to represent a target, and nailed it to a tree.
Then, girding the fully equipped belt round Flora's waist, he led her to
the target, having first initiated her into the mystery of loading and
discharging a revolver, and said to her--

"As soon as you see that we have boarded the brig this morning, I want
you to come up here and practise firing at that target until you have
become a good shot.  Begin your shooting at about this distance,"
marking off a distance of about five yards.  "Standing as close to the
target as this, you can scarcely fail to hit it.  And when you are able
to hit it three times in succession, I want you to retire one pace to
the rear--so," suiting the action to the word, "and start shooting again
until you have succeeded in hitting the target three consecutive times
from the new position.  Then retire another pace, and proceed as before,
until you are able to hit the target time after time without missing, at
this distance," indicating a peg driven into the ground at a distance of
about fifty yards from the target.  "When you can shoot straight at that
range I think you will have attained a degree of proficiency sufficient
for my purpose."

"Very well, Dick; I will do as you wish, of course," she answered; "and
I think I shall not be long in attaining proficiency, for I believe I
have a very `straight' eye.  Indeed, I gained several first prizes in
archery competitions at home.  But I wish, dear, you would tell me why
you have suddenly taken this idea into your head.  Has it anything to do
with the arrival of the savages on the island?"

"Of course it has," answered Leslie, cheerily, thinking it best to be
frank with his sweetheart--so far as it was possible for him to be so
without alarming her.  "You see, little woman, the matter stands thus.
We know absolutely nothing about these fellows, whether their characters
are bad or good; whether they are treacherously disposed, or otherwise.
And while I have little doubt that in a fair-and-square, open, stand-up
fight I should be able to give a reasonably good account of them, it
will not be amiss for us to be on our guard against treachery.  And
there is no better way of dealing with savages than to inspire them with
a good wholesome dread of one's powers and prowess.  I propose,
therefore, that, as soon as you have attained the necessary skill with
your revolver, we shall indulge in a little pistol practice together,
_allowing them to look on_.  If they once get the fact thoroughly
impressed upon them that we can both pot them, if necessary, at fifty
yards, it will go a long way toward simplifying matters, by convincing
them of the futility of attempting any tricks.  But you must not let
this very elementary precaution alarm you, sweetheart.  As likely as not
they will prove to be perfectly docile."

"I am sure I fervently hope and pray so," answered the girl.  "But in
any case," she continued spiritedly, "I shall not be frightened, because
I shall always have you to take care of me."

Nevertheless, as soon as Leslie, taking the natives with him, had
arrived on board the brig, she sedulously devoted herself to her
shooting lesson, infusing into it that whole-hearted seriousness that
women are wont to bring to any task set them; with the result that when
Dick returned that evening she was able to report that she had attained
to the desired degree of proficiency.

Meanwhile, Leslie found little difficulty in inducing the two blacks to
accompany him aboard the catamaran and out to the brig.  And when he
reached the latter he had not much more difficulty in making them
understand what he wanted them to do--this, by the way, consisting
chiefly in heaving away upon the winch.  He was careful to keep a
watchful eye upon them all day, and especially when they first boarded
the brig; being desirous to gather, if he could, some idea, from their
looks and actions, whether they had ever seen a ship before.  But
although, as the catamaran drew up alongside the stranded vessel, he
noticed that they regarded her with a considerable degree of curiosity
and interest, these were hardly sufficiently marked to lead him to the
conclusion that they had never seen such a craft before.  This, however,
was a comparatively unimportant matter.  What concerned him most
intimately was the fact that, after their night's rest, they seemed to
exhibit a good deal more docility and intelligence than they had
displayed on the night before.  They worked well and--apparently--quite
willingly, but did not appear to possess a very great amount of stamina,
as they manifested every indication of being pretty completely exhausted
before the day's work was over.

The next three days passed without the occurrence of anything worthy of
record, save that Flora, acting upon Dick's advice, continued her pistol
practice, with the view of further perfecting herself at the target, and
acquiring even still greater dexterity.  On the fourth day, however,
feeling that she was tolerably proficient, and perhaps wearying somewhat
of the monotony of perpetual shooting at a target, as soon as Leslie and
the natives--one of whom now readily answered to the name of Cuffy,
while the other did not disdain to be styled Sambo--had gone off to the
brig, she resolved to treat herself to the luxury of a long ramble, with
only Sailor for company.  Accordingly, packing a small basket with a
sufficient luncheon for herself and the dog, she set off.

She had not the least fear; for although they had taken many rambles
together, neither she nor Leslie had ever seen the slightest trace of
the existence of either animals or reptiles of any kind upon the island,
and Dick had quite made up his mind not only that there were none, but
that it was logically and physically impossible for any to get there.
Besides, the natives were with Dick, and she had Sailor to take care of
her; there was, therefore, nothing to be afraid of.

Now although, as has been said, Leslie and Flora had frequently indulged
in rambles together, none of them had been very lengthy, or had carried
them far afield, with the exception of the one that they had taken to
the summit; and Flora's fancy now yearned to explore "fresh fields and
pastures new;" a tantalising memory of a certain grove of especially
noble and beautiful flower-bearing trees situate on the north-eastern
slope of the peak dwelt persistently with her, she had conjured up a
fancy picture of this particular spot that made it appear to her
imagination a scene of enchanting and fairy-like beauty, and she longed
to satisfy herself as to how closely her imagination approximated to the
reality.  Moreover, the walk promised to be an agreeably easy one, the
slopes of the ground appeared to be gentle, and the face of the country
finely broken; she therefore determined to wend her way in this
direction.

Sauntering quietly along, she soon left the open savannah behind her,
and plunged into the bush, heading generally in a northerly direction,
but accommodating her route to the inequalities of the ground and the
varying density of the undergrowth; naturally selecting a path that
afforded her the easiest passage through the bush.  In this manner,
after a very pleasant and enjoyable walk for about an hour, she arrived
at the crest of the eastern spur of the mountain, and, descending a
gentle declivity, soon found herself in a region as romantically
beautiful as even her vivid fancy had painted.  Ravine succeeded ravine,
each with its own tiny streamlet meandering through it, and each more
picturesque and enchanting than the last, until at length, emerging from
this broken ground, she reached a stretch of park-like country with
practically no undergrowth, the greensward being studded with
magnificent umbrageous trees, some of which were a mass of lovely
blossom of the most exquisite tints, while others were lavishly draped
with orchids of every conceivable shape and hue.  She was by this time
feeling somewhat fatigued and very hungry; she therefore selected the
mossy roots of an enormous tree as a resting-place, and, seating
herself, leisurely proceeded to eat her luncheon and to give Sailor his.
The air of the place was exquisitely soft and balmy, the wide-spreading
foliage shielded her from the too-ardent rays of the sun, and bathed the
whole scene in a delicious golden green twilight; a profound silence
reigned around, broken only by the soothing murmur of the wind through
the topmost branches and the equally soothing rustle of the leaves--and
it is not to be wondered at that the girl sank into a pleasant reverie
that gradually merged into profound sleep.

When at length she awoke, the changed character of the light, and the
deepened sombreness of the shadows, warned her that the sun was already
low, and that she must hasten homeward if she would reach the camp ere
nightfall; she therefore seized her empty basket, and set out upon her
return journey, following her outward route as nearly as she could hit
it off.  But she had slept much longer than she suspected, and when at
length she again reached the broken and romantic ground that she had
traversed with such delight and enjoyment in the morning, the shadows
had fallen so deeply that it was with the utmost difficulty only that
she could discern her way, and she found herself obliged to proceed with
the greatest circumspection.  And now it was that, for the first time,
she fully appreciated the advantage of having Sailor as a companion, for
the dog appeared to remember the way by which they had come much better
than she did, running on before her for a few yards, then pausing for
her to come up to him, and again running forward.  Several times he had
persisted in adopting a certain route in preference to the one that she
seemed disposed to pursue, and in each case had proved himself to be
right; she therefore at length resigned herself blindly to his guidance,
following him wherever he chose to lead.

In this fashion the pair hastened forward as rapidly as the rough and
broken character of the ground would permit, Flora by this time being in
a tumult of distress at the knowledge that Dick would already have
returned from the wreck and be wild with anxiety at her unaccountable
absence--for she had said nothing to him about her intentions when he
left her that morning, the expedition being the result of an impulse
that had come to her after his departure.  The sun had by this time set,
and even in the open the brief twilight was rapidly deepening into
night, while where Flora now was, plunged in the heart of a wild ravine,
thickly overgrown with trees and bush, it was so dark that she could
with difficulty distinguish the form of the dog, even when he was close
to her.  But she had the comfort of knowing that Sailor was guiding her
aright, for she presently, found herself making her way over a
particularly difficult bit of ground that she had a vivid remembrance of
having passed during the morning; find the difficulties that she had
then experienced made her more than usually careful now, as she was
fully aware that a false step would probably result in an ugly fall.

Yet, despite all her care, she took that false step, and instantly found
herself plunging headlong over a low cliff into a dense tangle of
undergrowth.  She was not hurt in the least, but to her chagrin she
found herself so completely involved in the tangle that, struggle as she
would, it seemed impossible for her to extricate herself.  Every
movement of her body served but to involve her more completely, and to
sink her more effectually into the heart of her leafy prison.  Fortunate
indeed was it for her that there happened to be no thorns on the bushes
into which she had fallen, otherwise she must have sustained very
serious injuries in her frantic efforts to free herself from the tough,
cordlike lianas that entwined her body and limbs so completely that at
length she found it practically impossible to further move hand or foot.
As for Sailor, he seemed quite incapable of doing anything more useful
than run to and fro along the narrow ledge from which his mistress had
fallen, barking distractedly, and utterly disregarding Flora's
imperative injunctions to go home.  For she soon realised the
exceedingly disconcerting fact that she was a helpless prisoner, as
utterly unable to effect her escape, unaided, as though she were immured
within the walls of a Russian fortress; and she further realised that
unless the dog could be induced to return to camp and guide Dick to her
rescue, she might actually remain where she was and starve ere her lover
succeeded in discovering her.

Meanwhile Dick, too, had had an unfortunate day.  For late in the
afternoon, while breaking up the deck of the brig, the catamaran had in
some inexplicable manner gone adrift, and, driving athwart the stern of
the brig, snapped her mast short off at the deck, completely disabling
her, of course.  In consequence of this accident, Dick had at once
knocked off work, and taken the craft across the lagoon to the camp,
intending to procure a new spar from the woods forthwith, and
immediately proceed with the repair of the damage.  But the catamaran
under sail was one thing, the same craft with her wings clipped was
quite another thing; and in her disabled condition she proved so
unexpectedly unhandy that the sun had set and darkness was already
closing down when at length he got her to her usual berth.

It was Flora's invariable custom to stroll down to the beach to meet her
sweetheart as soon as she saw the catamaran coming in from the wreck;
and Leslie was greatly surprised that on this night of all others--when
the unusual lateness of his arrival and the dismantled condition of the
catamaran might have been expected to excite her curiosity--she should
fail to appear.  Yet her absence aroused no shadow of anxiety within
him; for what could possibly happen to her, alone there on the island,
with the dog to protect her?  Nor did the non-appearance of Sailor
awaken any suspicion within him, for he knew that the dog and the girl
were inseparable companions, and that wherever Flora might be, there
would Sailor also be found.  He concluded that Flora was somehow
detained for the moment, and that she and Sailor would presently present
themselves as usual.  Meanwhile, he secured the catamaran, served out
their supper rations to Cuffy and Sambo, and attended to one or two
other matters.

But when, having attended to these matters, he at length made his way to
the camp, and not only found the tent in darkness, but the cooking-stove
in its rear unlighted, he began for the first time to feel uneasy.  He
whistled and called for the dog, knowing that if the animal were within
hearing he would at once bark in response, even if he did not come
bounding joyously to him, as was generally the case--for Sailor was
almost as devotedly attached to Dick as he was to Flora.  But on this
occasion no Sailor appeared, nor did he afford any other manifestation
of his near presence.  Then Dick began to shout loudly for Flora, hoping
to hear her sweet voice raised in reply.

He now began to feel seriously alarmed, knowing that she must have
wandered away into the bush, and perhaps have lost herself in the
darkness.  Yet against this theory was to be set his knowledge of the
sagacity of Sailor, who, he believed, was quite intelligent enough to
find his way back to the camp from the uttermost extremity of the island
in the darkest night.  He entered the tent and, lighting the lamps,
looked round the living-room compartment, thinking it possible that
Flora might have left a note explaining her absence, or saying where she
was going.  But he knew that, had she written such a note, she would
have left it in some conspicuous situation--as on the table--where it
would at once be found.  There was no letter, either on the table or
elsewhere, so far as he could see.  Then he instituted a thoroughly
systematic search of the tent in quest of some sign or indication that
might furnish him with a clue as to what had happened to her, or what
had induced her to go off in this mysterious fashion, but without
success.  He even ventured to peep into her sleeping apartment,
wondering whether perchance she had felt unwell and become unconscious.
But a single glance sufficed to show him that nothing of that kind had
happened.  Finally, he hunted up a lantern, trimmed and lighted it,
provided himself with a small flask of brandy, to meet a possible
emergency, armed himself with a brace of revolvers and a small, keen
tomahawk, and without remembering or being conscious of the fact that he
was by this time fairly hungry--conscious of nothing, indeed, but an
ever-growing feeling of keen anxiety and alarm--set out in search of the
lost one.

The first question that now confronted him was, In which direction was
he to search?  There was no especially favourite spot, so far as he
knew, to which she would be predisposed to wend her way; there were no
roads or paths, or anything in the remotest degree approaching thereto,
on the island: she would therefore be just as likely to head in one
direction as another.  The grass in the immediate neighbourhood of the
tent was to some extent trodden down, it is true, by frequent traffic
round it, and a path had gradually been worn into visibility between the
tent and the cook-house; but beyond that everything was as fresh and
trackless as upon the day of their landing.  Then it occurred to Leslie
to seek for traces of Flora's footprints in the grass, and he started to
carefully quarter the ground beyond the worn area in the neighbourhood
of the tent, carefully examining it with the aid of the lantern.  And in
this way he presently discovered one or two imprints of the heels of her
boots, but it proved impossible to follow the track for more than half a
dozen yards; moreover, upon a further search he found so many, leading
in such a number of different directions, that he soon realised the
impossibility of determining which of them he ought to follow.  And all
the time that he was thus engaged he never ceased to whistle and call
Sailor, varying the proceedings occasionally by shouting the name of
Flora, until he was so hoarse that he could scarcely articulate.

In this laborious and painfully unsatisfactory fashion he spent the
entire night, carefully quartering the ground until he had covered the
whole area between Mermaid Head on the one hand and Cape Flora on the
other, and extending rearward toward the mountain to about a quarter of
its height.  The magnitude of such an enterprise as this, and its
exhausting nature, can only be appreciated by those who have attempted a
similar feat in a country overgrown with bush.

By the time that the sun had risen and Leslie was able to dispense with
the aid of the lantern, he was so utterly weary that he could scarcely
drag one leg after the other; his lips were so dry that he could no
longer whistle, and his throat so sore that he could no longer shout,
while he was sinking with exhaustion from hunger and thirst.  Yet he
pressed doggedly on, still prosecuting his search with grim
determination and the same concentration as before until, close upon
midday--when he was working over toward the eastern side of the island,
he paused suddenly and listened as intently as though his life depended
upon it.  Yes; there it was again--the distant but faintly heard bark of
a dog--he was sure of it!  Gathering himself together, he once more
strove to whistle, but failed; then he attempted to shout.

"Sailor!  _Sailor_!!  Sailor!!!"

He lifted up his voice in a steady crescendo until the last cry became a
hoarse, cracked yell that was as unlike his own full, rich, mellow tone
as any sound could well be.  Yet the dog heard it, ay, and recognised
it, for he immediately replied vigorously.  Leslie continued to shout,
dashing recklessly forward in the direction of the barking as he did so,
and Sailor continued to reply; nay, more; now that he actually heard
Leslie's voice calling him, he uttered a whining howl of excitement,
hesitated for a few seconds, and finally bounded off to meet him in
response to Flora's feebly uttered commands.  Five minutes later he came
dashing madly up to Leslie, looked up into his face, barked, wagged his
tail energetically, and then dashed off back in the direction from which
he had come, stopping at every few yards to assure himself that he was
being followed.  And in this way he led Dick forward, for about a
quarter of an hour, over the rough, broken ground that Flora had
traversed some twenty-four hours before, until the pair stood together
on the spot from which the girl had fallen.

By this time Flora had become quite invisible from this spot; for she
had continued her struggles at intervals all through the night until she
had worked herself down into the very heart of the clump of scrub and
creeper into which she had fallen, and which had now closed over her
head.  But there was a sort of indentation or sinkage in the surface of
the scrub, presenting an appearance suggestive of some tolerably heavy
body having fallen there, and at this indentation Sailor first
steadfastly gazed, and then looked up into Leslie's face, barking
continuously.  And, peering intently down into this, Dick presently
became aware of what appeared to be some tiny shreds of clothing
clinging here and there to the bushes.

"Are you there, Flora?" he shouted.

There was no reply; for the moment that the sound of Dick's voice fell
upon her ear, encouraging and talking to the dog, and she knew that
rescue was at hand, the long-endured tension of her nerves relaxed, and
she fainted.  But Sailor's actions were not to be misunderstood; he
continued to look alternately into Leslie's face and then down at the
bushes, barking excitedly all the while and making as though he would
leap down into the depression; so that even a very much less intelligent
individual than Leslie could not have failed to understand that it was
there that the missing girl would be found.  He called once more, and,
still failing to obtain an answer, wasted no further time in hesitation,
but, seeing that the base of the declivity was the proper point to
attack, scrambled down as best he could, closely followed by Sailor, and
attempted to force a way into the heart of the bushes from that point.
He soon found, however, that the tough tangle of creepers was not to be
conquered by his unaided hands alone, and so set to work vigorously with
his tomahawk, cutting away at the tangled and knotted mass, and dragging
the severed ends apart and aside until after about ten minutes of
arduous work he suddenly found himself at the mouth of what appeared to
be a spacious cavern under the rock from which Flora had fallen; and
there, prone upon the rocky floor, with her light clothing almost torn
from her body by her long-continued efforts to free herself, he found
his sweetheart lying insensible.

Kneeling upon the hard rocky floor, he raised the limp form in his arms
and lost not a moment in applying his flask of brandy to her lips; and
presently he had the satisfaction of feeling her stir in his arms.

"Ah, that is good!  You are feeling better, darling, are you not?" he
exclaimed encouragingly.  "Tell me, sweetheart, are you very much hurt?"

"No, I think not," she answered, with a sigh of contentment as she
realised that Dick was with her and that her troubles were now
practically over.  "I only feel very sore all over from my long struggle
to free myself; and also rather cold.  I have been here ever since
sunset last night, Dick, fighting to escape from those dreadful
entangling bushes; and I feel, oh, so utterly tired."

"My poor little girl," exclaimed Dick, tenderly, "you have had a very
trying experience, and one that might have proved very serious, too, but
for Sailor, here.  Cold! of course you are.  Here, let me wrap my jacket
round you--so; that is better.  Now, I am going to light a fire; the air
of this place is chill as that of an ice-house.  And while you are
warming yourself and getting a little life into your body I will clear
away the bush a trifle more, so that you can get out without
difficulty."

There was plenty of wood to be had, suitable for building a fire, by
simply cutting away the dry roots and tendrils of the bush in front of
the cave; and in a few minutes Dick had a good fire blazing, by the
light of which he saw that they were in the mouth of a cavern about
eight feet high that seemed to reach back into the heart of the rock for
a considerable distance.  And some way back, lying just within the
radius of the area that caught the illumination of the fire, he
presently noticed something lying on the ground that bore an uncanny
likeness to a human skeleton!  He said nothing about it, however--having
no wish that Flora's shaken nerves should be subjected to any further
shock just then, especially as the imperfect view of the object that had
been afforded him by the flickering light of the flames left him quite
uncertain as to its identity--but at once went to work again with his
tomahawk in a vigorous onslaught upon the bushes, managing, in another
ten minutes or so, to make such a clearance of them as would enable his
companion to pass out without difficulty.

By the time that he had accomplished this, Flora had so far recovered
that she declared herself quite ready to essay the journey back to the
camp; and they accordingly set out forthwith, Dick very carefully noting
the surrounding landmarks, with the fixed determination to return at an
early moment and thoroughly examine the interior of the cavern.  As they
went, Flora beguiled the way by relating to Dick, in full detail, all
the particulars of her very unpleasant adventure; listening in return to
Dick's account of his return to camp, his consternation at the discovery
of her absence, and his long, arduous, and almost despairing search for
her.

They reached camp about two o'clock in the afternoon; and after
snatching a hasty meal made up of the first odds and ends that they
could lay their hands upon, retired at once to their respective couches
to get an hour or two of that rest of which they both stood in such
urgent need.

It was within an hour of sunset when Dick awoke and turned out.  His
first care was to light up the cooking-stove and get some sort of a
dinner under way; and, this done, he strolled over to the natives' hut
to ascertain what these gentry were doing, as nothing was to be seen of
them in the vicinity of the camp.  They were not in the hut; and when he
looked for their canoe he discovered that it had also disappeared.  His
first thought was that they might have gone off to the brig and
attempted on their own account to continue the work of breaking up her
decks; and he felt a trifle vexed at the idea, fearing that in their
ignorance they might do a great deal more harm than good.  But upon
procuring his telescope and bringing it to bear upon the brig he soon
satisfied himself that the canoe was not alongside her; nor, when he
looked further, could he see anything of her anywhere along the inner
edge of the reef, whither he thought they might have gone for the
purpose of obtaining a few fish.  It was then that, for the first time,
the suspicion dawned upon him that they might have left the island
altogether, with the intention of attempting to make their way back to
their own people, and a further search at length convinced him of the
accuracy of his surmise; for a second visit to the hut showed that not
only were its usual occupants absent, but they had taken with them all
their trivial belongings; while a further investigation led to the
discovery that they had helped themselves to a few such trifles as a
pair of tomahawks, a few yards of canvas, some light line, a small keg--
presumably to hold a supply of water; a bag or two of assorted nails, a
couple of fishing lines, and possibly a few other unimportant odds and
ends.  His first feeling at this discovery was one of vexation; for
ignorant though these savages were, and difficult as he had found it to
make them understand his wishes, they represented a certain amount of
brute strength that he had already found most useful, and doubtless
would have found even more useful later on, when he had succeeded in
making them understand more clearly what he desired them to do.  But a
little further reflection enabled him to realise that in seizing the
first favourable opportunity to get away from the island and attempt to
return to their own kindred and people, they were only acting upon a
perfectly natural and commendable impulse; they were, in fact, actuated
by precisely the same feeling that had dominated himself ever since he
had been on the island, and were doing precisely what he hoped
eventually to do.  And, having arrived at this conclusion, he dismissed
the incident from his mind, and reverted to the same plan of life that
had been his prior to the arrival of Cuffy and Sambo upon the scene.

The following day was devoted by Leslie to the task of procuring a
suitable spar to serve as a new mast for the catamaran, and restoring
that craft to her former serviceable condition.  And it was while he was
thus engaged that the thought first entered his mind that the accident
by which the catamaran had become dismasted might possibly have been a
blessing in disguise, since, but for that accident, the two savages
might, by a not intricate process of reasoning, have arrived at the
conclusion that such a craft would serve their purpose infinitely better
than their own canoe, and forthwith appropriated her.  That they did not
do so was perhaps due to the fact that she was practically unmanageable
except under sail, rather than to any innate sentiment of honesty on
their part.

The catamaran having been once more rendered fit for service, Leslie
decided to devote a few hours to the examination of "Flora's Cave," as
he called it, while its situation and the landmarks in its vicinity were
fresh in his memory; he accordingly set off immediately after breakfast
on the following morning, telling Flora where he was going, but
suggesting that she should remain in camp and take a thorough rest.

Going easily, he arrived at the cave in about an hour and a half after
starting; and at once proceeded with his investigation.  He had adopted
the precaution to take a packet of candles along with him, and he
commenced operations by lighting these, one after the other, and setting
them up on the most convenient rock projections that offered.  He thus
succeeded in illuminating the entire interior of the cavern quite
sufficiently for his purpose.  Meanwhile, during the process of lighting
up the cavern, he had already discovered that his first impression
relative to the suspicious-looking object was well-grounded; it was
indeed a skeleton; and his first act after completing his lighting
arrangements was to subject this grisly object to a careful examination.
He found it to be the skeleton of a man who must have stood about six
feet high in his stockings, when alive.  Attached here and there to the
bones were fragments of clothing, while on the ground beside the ghastly
framework were other fragments of fine linen, lace, gold-embroidered
velvet, and silks, showing that the wearer must have been a man of some
consequence.  The waist was girded by a broad leather belt, so dry and
rotten that it crumbled to powder in Leslie's fingers, and attached to
this was a long, straight rapier with an elaborately ornamented hilt and
sheath, all rotted and rust-eaten.  To the same belt was also attached
the sheath of what must have been a long and formidable dagger.  And a
couple of feet away from the head there lay a handsome steel casque very
beautifully engraved and chased, but thickly coated with rust, like the
rest of the steel accoutrements.  A closer inspection of the skeleton
disclosed the fact that the skull had been battered in, while a dagger
that might have belonged to the empty sheath was found sticking up to
its hilt in one of the ribs.

Turning from the skeleton, Leslie next proceeded to carefully examine a
great pile of small cases, packages, and casks that had already come
under his casual notice while engaged in lighting up the cave.  He took
these as they came most conveniently to his hand, the casks first
claiming his attention.  With the assistance of a small axe that he had
taken the precaution to bring with him he soon forced off the head of
one of these, revealing its contents.  It consisted of a solid cake of
some hard, black substance, moulded to the shape of the cask, that upon
critical examination proved--as he had more than half expected--to be
gunpowder, caked into a solid mass and completely spoiled by damp.  Two
similar casks were also found to contain powder in a like condition; and
therefore, acting upon the justifiable assumption that the contents of
all the casks was the same, he rolled the whole of them, sixteen in
number, to the opposite side of the cave, out of the way, and turned his
attention to a number of small black packages that, when he proceeded to
handle them, proved to be unexpectedly heavy.  His first thought was
that they were pigs of lead, intended to be cast into bullets as
occasion might require; but upon removing one of them to the open air,
for greater convenience of examination, he discovered that the block--
whatever it might be--was sewn up in what had once been hide, but was
now a mere dry, stiff, rotten envelope that easily peeled off, revealing
a dark-brownish and very heavy substance within.  This substance he
feverishly proceeded to scrape with the blade of his pocket-knife--for
the presence of the hide envelope prepared him for an important
discovery--and presently, the outer coat of dirt and discolouration
being removed from that part of the surface upon which he was operating
with his knife, there gleamed up at him the dull ruddy tint of _virgin
gold_!  It was as he had anticipated; the block upon which he was
operating was one of the gold bricks that, sewn up in raw hide, were
wont to be shipped home by the Spaniards of old from the mines of South
America.  He lifted the brick in his hands, and estimated it to weigh
about forty pounds.  The gold bricks were stacked together in tiers,
twenty bricks long, four bricks wide, and four bricks high; there were
therefore three hundred and twenty of them, and if his estimate of their
weight happened to be correct, this little pile of precious metal must
be worth--what?  A short mental calculation--taking the gold to be worth
three pounds fifteen shillings the ounce--furnished him with the answer;
the handsome sum of close upon seven hundred thousand pounds sterling.
Quite a respectable fortune!

But this was not all.  There were other chests and cases still awaiting
examination; and, fully convinced by now that he had accidentally
stumbled upon one of those fabulously rich treasures that the Spanish
galleons were reported to have conveyed from time to time from the
shores of the new world to those of old Spain--how it had happened to
find its way to this particular spot he did not trouble to puzzle out--
Leslie went to work to break open and examine the remainder of the
packages, heedless of the flight of time.  Some of them he found to
contain rich clothing, that fell to pieces as he attempted to lift the
garments out of the receptacles that had held them in safe keeping for
so long; others--two of the largest--were packed full of gold
candlesticks, crosses, jewelled cups, and other vessels and articles of
a character that seemed to point to their having been the spoils of some
looted church--a circumstance that caused Leslie to suspect that his
find represented the proceeds of some more than ordinarily successful
oldtime piratical cruise.  And finally the innermost chest of all, and
consequently the last arrived at, disclosed to Dick's astounded gaze a
collection of jewels, set and unset, that fairly made him reel with
astonishment.  There were great ropes of discoloured pearls, that would
be priceless if they could by any means be restored to their pristine
state of purity; diamond, ruby, emerald, and other necklaces, bracelets,
rings, brooches, and other ornaments in more or less tarnished settings;
heavy chains of solid gold; jewelled sword-hilts; and, last but not
least, a great buckskin bag that was still in pliant and serviceable
condition, containing a heterogeneous assortment of cut and uncut gems--
principally diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires--every one of them
apparently picked specimens, the whole constituting of itself a treasure
of incalculable value.

As Dick, having pocketed a handful of these gems at random to show
Flora, replaced the heavy bag in the chest and sank back on his haunches
to rest himself while he mopped from his brow the perspiration of hard
labour and excitement, the light that streamed in through the mouth of
the cavern was momentarily obscured, and Sailor bounded in, barking
joyously as he sprang at Dick and tried to lick his face.  The dog was
closely followed by Flora, who cried as she entered--

"Dick, Dick, where are you?  Has anything--oh! there you are!  Whatever
has kept you so long, dear?  Are you ill, or have you met with an
accident?  Oh! what is this horrible thing?" as she stumbled over the
skeleton, which she had failed to notice, coming as she did straight
from the brilliant outdoor light into the dimly illuminated interior of
the cavern.

"That!" exclaimed Dick, lightly.  "Oh, that is just a heap of bones that
must have been left here by the original owners of this commodious
abode."  And with a sweep of his foot he unceremoniously transferred the
poor remains to a dark corner of the cavern that he contrived to render
still darker by dexterously extinguishing three or four of the candles
in its immediate vicinity.  "As to my being ill," he continued, "I am
happy to assure you, my dear, that I never felt better in my life.  And
I have excellent reason for feeling well.  Look at this!"  And he
pointed exultantly to the noble pile of treasure.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

ABDUCTION AND PURSUIT.

"Well, what is it, Dick?  It looks like a number of very old boxes.
Have you come upon a pirate's hoard?--as you ought to do, you know, in
such a cunningly concealed cavern as this," exclaimed Flora, laughingly,
as she peered inquisitively at the pile that even now she could only see
very imperfectly.

"Ay," answered Dick.  "You may laugh as much as you like, little girl,
but that is precisely what I have done.  Of course I am not prepared to
assert positively that it is a `_pirate's_ hoard,' although it looks
uncommonly like it, I must confess; but that it is treasure, and very
valuable treasure, too, is indisputable.  Do you see this pile of black
bricks here?  Well, those are _gold_ bricks; and I estimate their value
at something approaching three-quarters of a million sterling."

"Three-quarters of a million?" repeated Flora, incredulously.  "Oh,
Dick, you cannot mean it; you are surely joking!"

"I assure you, dear, I never spoke more seriously in my life; what I am
telling you is fact--plain, simple, indisputable, delightful _fact_!
And the gold is only part of the story."

He lifted the covers of the other cases and held a candle while she
looked at their contents, uttering exclamations of delighted amazement
as she gazed.  Then he withdrew the buckskin bag from the jewel-chest,
and placed it in her hands.

"Lift that," he said simply.

"Oh, dear, how heavy!" exclaimed the girl.  "I should not like to be
obliged to carry this very far.  What does it contain?"

Dick plunged his hand into his pocket and pulled out the handful of gems
that he had abstracted from the bag.

"It is full of pretty little stones like these," he answered, displaying
them to her astonished gaze.  "Put your hand into the lucky-bag, dear,
and see what you can find there."

She did so, and pulled out a similar handful to those which glittered in
Dick's palm.

"Why, this is a perfect cave of Aladdin, Dick," she exclaimed, in
delighted astonishment.  "Where did it all come from, do you think?"

"It is impossible to say with certainty," answered Leslie; "but I have
very little doubt that it was brought to this hiding-place from that old
wreck that you discovered sunk in the lagoon.  At all events it has lain
here for many years--a hundred, at least, I should think; and its
original owners have long been dead and gone, leaving no trace of their
identity behind them.  It is therefore now _ours_, sweetheart--our very
own; so the fact of our being cast away upon this desert island has not
been an unmitigated misfortune, after all, you see."

"No, indeed," agreed Flora, heartily.  "There was a time when I
certainly so regarded it; but I do so no longer, for it has given me
you, and it has made you a rich man.  Why, Dick, you must be a veritable
millionaire!"

"Yes," agreed Dick; "there cannot be much doubt about that.  At least,
we are _jointly_ worth quite a million, which practically means the same
thing.  And now, do you wish to adorn your pretty self with any of these
gewgaws?  Because, if so, you had better make your selection, and then
we ought to be going, for I see that the sun is getting low."

"Yes, let us get away from here; it is a horrid place, notwithstanding
the fact that it is a treasure-cave.  And, as to wearing any of those
things, I would very much rather not, Dick, please.  They suggest to me
all sorts of dreadful ideas--scenes of violence and bloodshed, the
sacking and burning of towns, the murder of their inhabitants, and--oh
no, I could not wear any of them, thank you."

"Very well," said Dick; "then I will just make everything safe here, and
we will be off."

And, allowing Flora first to withdraw into the open air, he closed the
chests again, extinguished the candles, and, rearranging the bushes in
front of the cave so as effectually to conceal its entrance, left the
spot.

For some time after this nothing of importance occurred to vary the
monotony of existence on the island, Leslie devoting himself
energetically to the important work of providing the material for and
constructing the ways upon which he intended to build his cutter.  This
heavy task absorbed rather more than two months of his time; for it was
laborious work, involving the handling of heavy masses of timber, which
could only be done with the aid of tackles and other appliances,
supplemented by the ingenuity of the highly trained sailor; moreover,
Leslie was one of those individuals who believed in the wisdom of doing
everything thoroughly well at first rather than incur the risk of being
obliged to undo much of his work and do it all over again.  But at
length the ways were completed to his satisfaction; and, that done, the
job of laying the keel and setting up the ready-made frames of the
cutter in their correct respective positions and securing them there was
comparatively simple and easy.  This occupied exactly a month, at the
end of which time the completed skeleton of the cutter stood revealed
upon the stocks, to Dick's supreme gratification and Flora's wonder and
admiration.  And, indeed, Leslie had ample cause to be both satisfied
and delighted; for this completed skeleton displayed the form of a
remarkably handsome boat, possessed of exceptionally fine flowing lines,
with a keen entrance and a perfectly clean delivery, yet with a
splendidly powerful mid-section, and a depth of hull that promised great
weatherliness with an ample sufficiency of freeboard.  It was evident
that her design had emanated from the drawing-board of a naval architect
of quite unusual ability, for her shape seemed to promise the speed of
the racer with the seaworthiness of the cruiser; indeed, as Dick was
never tired of asserting, she could not have been more perfectly
suitable for his purpose had she been specially designed for it.  "Give
me another hand to keep watch and watch with me, and I'll take her round
the world!" he was wont to declare, when summing up the good points of
the craft.  It was at this stage of affairs, namely, when the skeleton
framework of the cutter had been completely set up, and Leslie was
preparing to commence the task of planking-up, that, upon emerging from
the tent one morning after breakfast to wend his way down to the
shipyard, he was amazed to see a cloud of smoke rising from the now
partially dismembered hull of the brig, followed, even as he gazed
incredulously, by an outburst of flame.  Rushing back to the tent for
the telescope, he brought the instrument to bear upon the craft, and
then discovered that not only was she on fire, but also that there was a
boat or canoe of some sort alongside her, and a moment later he saw a
party of natives on board her!

He stamped his foot on the ground with anger and vexation.  Natives
again, and this time in the form of wanton marauders; for he had no
doubt that they had been plundering the wreck, and, having secured all
that they required or could carry away, had maliciously set fire to her.
And who were they, and where had they come from?  Were they Cuffy and
Sambo, returned to the island with a party of friends for the purpose of
securing possession of some intensely coveted object--as seemed more
than probable--or were they strangers, who had come upon the island
accidentally?  This last was scarcely probable, for there had been no
bad weather to blow them out to sea, and the nearest land was so far
distant that, assuming them to have come from it, they would scarcely
have adventured the passage across so wide a stretch of ocean on mere
speculation.  At all events, let them be whom they might, and no matter
where they came from, they must be driven off; for the presence of a
party of strange natives upon the island constituted an intolerable
menace that must at once be put an end to.

These reflections flashed through Leslie's brain even as he lowered the
telescope from his eye, and, calling to Flora, he pointed out to her the
burning brig, saying--

"Look at that, sweetheart!  The poor old _Mermaid_ is on fire, and we
are about to see the last of her.  That, however, is not a matter of
very great moment, for I believe I have got out of her practically
everything that I need; the point that is of importance is that she has
been set on fire, either wilfully or accidentally, by a party of
natives, who are at this moment on board her.  There are some ten or a
dozen of them, so far as I can make out, and it seems pretty clear that
they have come here on a looting expedition, organised, as likely as
not, by those fellows Sambo and Cuffy, who seized the opportunity of my
absence from the camp, in search of you, when you met with your accident
at the treasure-cave, to return to their own island, taking along with
them a few unconsidered trifles.  Doubtless they have now been helping
themselves again; and, although it is unlikely that they have taken
anything of real value, I will not have them paying marauding visits to
this island.  They cannot again loot the brig, it is true, for they have
set fire to her, and she must now burn until she burns herself out; but,
unless I can very effectually convince them of the folly of such a
proceeding, we shall next have a small army of savages descending upon
the island itself, for the purpose of looting the camp, which will mean
a big fight, involving heavy loss of life to them, and ending in my
death and your captivity.  Such a contingency as that will not bear
thinking of; I am therefore about to go out to them and induce them, one
way or another, to clear out.  In plain language, I am going to drive
them out to sea; and if harm comes to them, they will only have
themselves to thank for it.  They came here with a dishonest purpose,
and they must take the consequences.  You will, of course, remain here,
with Sailor to take care of you.  And do not be anxious if I do not
return for a few hours; I intend to drive them so far to sea that they
will find some difficulty in returning, especially as they must be
fairly tired already with their long paddle to windward.  And now
good-bye, dear; I want to get afloat in time to prevent them from
landing."

"Good-bye, Dick dear," answered Flora.  "Be sure that you take the
utmost care of yourself, and do not be away any longer than is
absolutely necessary.  I shall be anxious until you return."

"Ah, but that is just what you must not be," exclaimed Leslie, as he
buckled on a belt containing two fully loaded revolvers, and began to
stuff packets of ammunition into his pockets.  Then, seizing a brace of
Winchester repeating rifles from a rack in the corner of the tent, he
started on a run for the beach, loading his rifle as he ran, for he saw
that the blacks were in the act of leaving the brig.

Leaping aboard the catamaran, Dick cast off and made sail with all
speed, for it looked as though the blacks meditated attempting a
landing.  As soon, however, as they saw the strange craft beating off to
meet them, and making short tacks to keep between them and the beach,
they whisked the canoe round and paddled desperately for the channel,
with the catamaran in full chase.

The canoe--a big, wholesome-looking craft, propelled by ten paddles--
reached the channel first, with a lead of about three-quarters of a
mile, and at once, upon fairly reaching the open sea, headed away to the
south-east, or dead to windward, her occupants having already apparently
grasped the fact that the catamaran could only progress in the same
direction by following a zigzag course.  It was Leslie's intention to
turn them, if possible, and drive them round the southern extremity of
the reef, and so to leeward, reckoning upon the fact that they must
already be considerably exhausted by their long paddle of something over
one hundred miles to windward, and believing that if he could drive them
far enough beyond the lee of the island to get them fairly into the full
run of the sea and the full strength of the trade wind on that side,
they would be in no mood or condition to paddle up to windward again; he
therefore made a long board to the eastward on clearing the channel,
hoping that on the next tack he would be able to near them sufficiently
to execute the desired manoeuvre.  But, to his disgust, upon getting
into their wake, he found that he had gained upon them little or
nothing, while they continued to paddle with a vigour that spoke well
for their endurance.

Leslie now tacked again to the eastward, standing on until he could only
see the canoe when she and the catamaran topped the back of a swell
together, when he again hove about.  Twenty minutes later he once more
crossed the wake of the canoe, and now found that he had done much
better, having neared her to within about eight hundred yards.  He now
lashed the catamaran's helm for a moment, leaving her to steer herself,
and, picking up one of the rifles, took careful aim with it at the
flying canoe, hoping to send a bullet near enough to her to spur her
crew to renewed exertions, so tiring them out and compelling them to
take the direction in which he desired them to go.  He waited a
favourable opportunity, and presently, when the canoe was hove up into
plain view, brought both sights dead on her, and pulled the trigger.  A
moment later she sank into the trough and disappeared, but as she was on
the point of vanishing he distinctly saw one of her occupants leap up,
with a wild flourish of his paddle, and sink back into the bottom of the
boat.  Then he tacked once more to the eastward.

Altering his tactics now, and making short boards athwart the wake of
the canoe, Leslie found that the chase was once more holding her own,
this state of things prevailing until they had worked out an offing of
about nine miles, when the catamaran again began to gain, until she had
neared the chase to within about a quarter of a mile.  Meanwhile Leslie
had been carefully considering the whole situation.  He was by nature a
most humane man, one who would not willingly injure a fellow-being on
any account, and, indeed, would go far out of his way to do even a total
stranger a service; but there could be no two opinions upon the matter,
he told himself--these savages _must_ be made to understand that raiding
expeditions to this particular island were too dangerous and
unprofitable a pastime to be indulged in.  He therefore once more opened
fire upon them, and now in deadly earnest, his first three shots
missing, while his fourth struck the hull of the canoe and made the
splinters fly.  Then he scored two more misses, followed by a hit that
extorted a shriek from one of the crew.  This last shot had the desired
effect; the canoe bore up and headed away to the southward and westward
with the catamaran hot in chase.

With wind and sea abeam, the chased and the chaser now went along with
considerably accelerated speed, the catamaran, however, having very much
the best of it; and within ten minutes from the moment of bearing up
Leslie found himself closing fast upon the canoe, and less than a
hundred yards astern of her.  He now considered himself near enough to
administer a final lesson to her crew of impudent marauders--who, to do
them justice, were by this time looking scared out of their wits, and
extremely sorry that they had ever molested him--so he put his helm
down, hauled his fore sheet to windward, and dumped five raking shots
into the canoe as he swept athwart her stern.  Instantly the whole crew,
dropping their paddles, flung themselves down into the bottom of the
craft, and buried their heads in their arms, as though they would by
that means protect themselves from the mysterious and terrible missiles
wherewith they were being assailed; while three white spots that started
into view on the hull of the canoe told that his shots had penetrated
her close to the water-line.  Leslie now held his hand, for he had no
mind to take the lives of these savages unnecessarily; but he watched
them carefully, nevertheless.  And presently, one after another, eight
black heads cautiously lifted themselves above the gunwale.  The eyes in
those heads stared wonderingly and apprehensively at the catamaran and
her occupant, their owners evidently holding themselves ready to duck
again at the first sign of danger; but at length, seeing that Leslie was
indisposed to further interfere with them, they seized their remaining
paddles--four only in number, the remainder having been lost overboard
in their panic--and put the canoe dead before the wind.

It was clear to Leslie that, with only four paddles left, the savages
could not possibly propel their canoe to windward and return to his
island; they must perforce go to leeward and make their way back to
their own island as best they could.  He had therefore no more to fear
from them--at least for the present; and he accordingly let draw his
fore sheet and, getting way on the catamaran, tacked and bore away for
the mouth of the entrance channel, leaving his enemies to paddle before
the wind and sea, and find their way back home again if they could.

The catamaran had arrived within about six miles of the channel, and
Leslie was already debating within himself the question whether, after
all, it would not have been a wiser and more prudent thing to have put
it beyond the power of his surviving antagonists to return to their
friends, and possibly organise a very much more formidable expedition
against him, and whether, even now, it would not be advisable to go in
chase of and utterly destroy them, when his eye was attracted to a small
triangular object of brownish yellow tint that, brilliantly illuminated
by the bright sunlight, showed up strongly against the dazzling white of
the surf breaking upon the weather edge of the reef.  It was in shape
like a shark's fin, but was not the same colour; it was hull down, and
was sliding along at a rapid rate past the wall of surf.  It needed but
a single glance to enable Leslie to determine that it was a sail, ay,
and undoubtedly the sail of a native canoe.

Sick with the sudden thought of the possibilities suggested by the
presence of such an object just where he saw it, Dick took a hasty turn
of a rope's-end round the tiller-head and with one bound reached the
weather-shrouds, up which he shinned with an agility equalled only by
the dread that struck like a knife at his heart.  In a moment he was
high enough to get a footing upon the throat of the gaff, from which
elevation he was enabled to obtain a clear view of the craft.  She was
about three miles away, well to the southward of the dense column of
smoke rising from the blazing brig, and was edging away round the curved
outer margin of the reef, heading so as to pass to the southward of the
island in a westerly direction.  She was too far distant, of course, to
enable Leslie to distinguish details with his unaided eye, but he could
see that she was a big craft, capable, he thought, of carrying quite
forty men, she showed a very large sail to the freshly blowing breeze,
and was skimming along at a very rapid pace.

This was as much as Leslie could make out at that distance; but it was
enough, and, groaning with dire apprehension of some dreadful evil, he
slid down the shrouds and went aft to the tiller.  He could see through
the whole devilish scheme now.  The gang who had set fire to the brig
were evidently only a small contingent of the expedition, and it had
been their duty to attract his attention and decoy him away from the
island while the others--headed without doubt by those scoundrels Sambo
and Cuffy--raided the camp.

That, Leslie savagely meditated, was undoubtedly what had happened.
And, meanwhile, where was Flora?  What had been her fate?  Had she
received sufficient warning to effect her escape to the Treasure-Cave,
which, armed with her revolvers, she could hold for hours against any
number of savages?  Or had she been surprised?  The thought of the
latter alternative plunged Leslie into a cold sweat, and set him to
muttering the most awful threats of vengeance.  He had no room in his
mind for thought of the possible extent of irremediable damage that the
savages might have wrought in the camp; he could think of nothing but
Flora; could only hope and pray that she might have made good her
escape.  The catamaran was sailing as well as ever, for there was a
strong breeze blowing, yet Leslie ground his teeth in a fever of
impatience at what he deemed her snail-like pace; for his first business
now must be to ascertain the fate of the girl he loved.  The very worst
that could possibly have happened, apart from harm to her, was
comparatively unimportant.  Yet, all the same, his mind once set at rest
about her, he would exact a terrible penalty from those daring
marauders; he would pursue them, ay, to their very island itself, if
need were; while, if he caught them at sea, not a man should survive to
organise another expedition against him.  He felt now that he had been a
weak fool not to utterly exterminate the decoy party that he had just
left.

At length, after what to Leslie appeared an eternity of suspense, the
catamaran passed through the entrance channel and bore away for the
camp, a raking view of which was to be obtained as soon as the veiling
wall of surf was passed.  To his inexpressible relief, the framework of
the cutter still stood on the stocks, apparently uninjured; and inshore
of it he could see the tent, also apparently uninjured.  He had been
cherishing a sort of half hope that he would also see Flora standing on
the beach awaiting his arrival; but she was not there, and, upon
reflection, he was not greatly surprised.  No doubt she was still in
hiding, and would probably not reappear until he had succeeded in making
her aware of his return and of the fact that all danger was now past.
As the catamaran sped along Leslie's keen glance roved anxiously over
the various parts of the camp as they opened out, and he presently saw
that his savage visitors had been busy with the varied items of the
cargo that he had saved from the brig and stored under canvas, for the
canvas cover was folded back, and boxes and bales were strewed here and
there upon the sward.  Ah, and there was Sailor--good dog!--lying down
on the beach close to the water-line, waiting for him.  But where, then,
was Flora?  She could certainly not be far off, or Sailor would not be
there, lying so quietly and lazily stretched out in the sun.  Leslie
seized his rifle and fired a signal shot to let the girl know that he
was at hand; but the echoes of the report pealed off the face of the
mountain and still she did not appear, nor--stranger still--did Sailor
leap to his feet with a welcoming bark.  What, Dick wondered, was the
matter with the old dog?  Why did he lie there so utterly motionless?
and what was that long thin shaft that looked almost as though its point
were embedded in his body?  Leslie gave vent to a bitter groan; for as
he bore up to run the catamaran in upon the beach, he recognised only
too clearly that the poor dog was dead--slain by the cruel spear that
transfixed his body.  And he saw, too--just in time to avoid grounding
the catamaran upon the spot--that the sand of the beach was marked with
many naked footprints, leading to and fro between the camp and a mark
upon the sand that had evidently been left there by a canoe.

Leaping ashore, and taking care not to confuse the footprints by
obliterating them with his own, Leslie examined the marks with the most
anxious care; and presently his most dreadful fears were realised, for
plainly to be distinguished here and there among the imprints of bare
feet were the prints of Flora's little shoes, blurred in places, as
though she had offered strenuous resistance to the coercion of her
captors, but quite unmistakable for all that.  Dick subjected the whole
length of the track, from the water's edge to the boundary of the sward,
to a most rigid examination, and at length satisfied himself that
Flora's footprints all led in one direction, namely _toward_ the water;
and then, with a savage cry, he went to work to prepare for the pursuit.
For there could no longer be a shadow of doubt that Flora had been
carried off, and was at that moment aboard the canoe that he had seen
under sail.  Oh, if he had but known--if he had but known!

His preparations were few, and did not take very long to complete.  He
first dashed off to the tent, and, snatching the mattress and bedding
from his bed, rushed down to the catamaran with it, and, flinging it
down on deck, covered it with a tarpaulin.  He would certainly be out
one night, if not two, and Flora would need something softer than the
bare planks to lie upon when he had rescued her.  Then, returning to the
tent, he flung into a basket all the provisions that he could lay his
hands upon, together with half a dozen bottles of wine--there was no
time to go to the spring for water--and this with a small case of rifle
ammunition and a few others matters that he thought would be useful, he
also conveyed on board the catamaran.  He was now ready to start; but as
yet he knew not in what direction the canoe was steering, except that
she was undoubtedly bound to the westward.  Now, there were at least
three islands lying in that direction, and the canoe was probably bound
to one or the other of these; but it was of the utmost importance to
know _which_ one, for any mistake upon this point would be fatal, as it
must result in the canoe being missed altogether.  So Leslie took a boat
compass that had originally belonged to the brig, and the telescope,
and, thus provided, made his way as rapidly as possible to Mermaid
Head--as he had named the most southerly point of the island--hoping and
believing that from the lofty cliffs of that headland the flying canoe
would still be in sight.

To climb to this point cost him twenty minutes of precious time,
although he did the whole distance at a run; but when he got there he
felt that the time had been well spent.  For there, some ten miles away,
with the afternoon sun shining brightly upon her sail, lay the fugitive
canoe, scudding away on a due westerly course, with the wind over her
port quarter.  He cast a hurried glance over that part of the ocean
where he believed the second canoe ought to be, and at length thought he
caught sight of her, but could not be certain, as the light of the sun
lay strong upon the sea in that direction.  But when at length he got
into the field of his telescope the image of what he had seen, he found
that it was some object, about the size of the smaller canoe, certainly,
but floating awash.  If therefore it was indeed the canoe that he had
already pursued, she had either capsized or been swamped, and there was
an end of her and her crew.  He now carefully took the bearing of the
big canoe, and, this done, at once set out on his journey back to the
camp and beach.

The return journey was accomplished in about a quarter of an hour, for
it was all downhill.  Then, having reached the camp, Leslie hunted up
one or two further articles that he anticipated might be useful, and,
rushing down to the catamaran, got under way and headed her for the
channel.  The breeze had by this time freshened up somewhat, and the
craft heeled over under the pressure of her enormous mainsail until her
lee pontoon was buried to its gunwale, while the weather-shrouds were
strained as taut as harp-strings; but Dick only smiled grimly as he
heard the wind singing and piping through his rigging; he would scarcely
have shortened sail for a hurricane just then.  The queer-looking
structure tore at racing speed across the smooth surface of the lagoon,
shearing through it with a vicious hiss along her bends and a roaring
wave under her lee bow, and so out to sea.  Leslie was compelled to haul
his wind for a short distance after shooting through the channel, in
order to clear the northern extremity of the reef; but he tacked the
instant that he had room, and stood away to the southward, skirting the
outer margin of the reef as closely as he dared and gradually edging
away as the reef curved round in a westerly direction.  He found himself
close in under the cliffs of Mermaid's Head about half an hour after
clearing the entrance channel, and then at once shaped a course
corresponding to the bearing of the canoe as taken from the summit of
those same cliffs.

He calculated that the canoe had secured a fifteen miles' start of him,
and, estimating as nearly as he could her speed from the glimpse that he
had caught of her as she skimmed past the reef earlier on in the day, he
doubted very much whether the speed of the catamaran exceeded that of
the canoe by more than a couple of miles in the hour, to which might be
added or subtracted a trifle according to the relative merits of the
respective helmsmen.  Knowing that in a stern-chase every trifle tells,
Leslie steered as carefully as he knew how, and as one of the
catamaran's merits happened to be that she would steer almost as well
off the wind as she would on a taut bowline, he hoped that through this
he might be able to gain a little extra advantage.  Furthermore, he had
a compass--which it was reasonable to suppose that the savages lacked--
and that ought to prove a further help to him.

Being now, as he believed, fairly upon the track of the fleeing canoe,
and having eaten nothing since breakfast, Leslie deemed the moment a
fitting one wherein to snatch a meal; and this he did, steering with one
hand and feeding himself with the other as he alternately eyed the
compass and looked ahead on the watch for the first glimpse of the
canoe's triangular sail, although he knew full well that several hours
must elapse ere he might hope for that.  And, meanwhile, what agonies of
terror and despair would not that highly strung and gently nurtured girl
be suffering!  At the mere thought Dick set his teeth and carefully
scrutinised the set of his canvas--already trimmed to a hair--to see if
there was anything he could do to get a little extra speed out of his
flying craft.

Meanwhile the sun slowly declined in the western sky, and finally sank,
in a blaze of purple and crimson and gold, beneath the horizon; the
glowing tints quickly faded to a dull purplish grey, a star suddenly
glittered in the eastern sky, and was quickly followed by another and
another, and two or three more, until the entire dome of heaven was
spangled with them, and night was upon the solitary voyager.  Dick lit
the lantern that he had brought with him, and so arranged it that its
light should fall upon the compass card, lit his pipe, and set himself
to the task of endeavouring to work out a scheme for the recovery of his
sweetheart without injury to her or--what was of almost as much
importance, so far as her ultimate safety was concerned--himself.

It was a fortunate conjunction of circumstances that the savages had
chosen--doubtless for their own convenience--the time of full moon for
their raid, and night had scarcely fallen ere a brightening of the sky
in the eastern quarter proclaimed the advent of the "sweet regent of the
night."  Leslie's island lay full in the wake of the rising orb; and for
nearly half an hour the catamaran scudded along within the shadow of the
peak, which stretched dark and clear-cut far over the ocean ahead of
her.  Little by little the shadow shortened, however, and by-and-by the
catamaran slid over the edge of it as the gleaming disc emerged from
behind the northern edge of the peak, and flooded the whole of the sea
to the eastward with dancing streaks of glittering liquid silver.

It was about a quarter of an hour later that, as the catamaran rose upon
the back of a somewhat higher swell than usual, Leslie's quick eye
caught a momentary glimpse of a tiny white gleaming point straight
ahead; and his heart leaped with joy, for he knew that what he had seen
was the upper tip of the canoe's triangular sail.  Greedily he watched
for its next appearance, rejoicing meanwhile in the knowledge that the
shadowed sides of his own sails were turned toward the flying canoe, and
that behind them again loomed up the dark background of the peak; it
would consequently need very sharp eyes--even though they should be
those of a savage--to descry them.

For twenty minutes or so following upon the first sighting of the chase
Leslie was able to catch only brief intermittent glimpses of the sail,
as one or the other of the flying craft was swept up on the crest of a
swell, but by the end of that time he had so far gained upon the canoe
that even when they both sank into the trough together he was still able
to see the upper part of the sail, while when both lifted simultaneously
he could see the whole of it, right down to the foot, and even
occasionally a glimpse of the heads of the savages; he estimated,
therefore, that he had closed the chase to within a distance of about a
mile.

Another quarter of an hour passed, at the expiration of which the canoe
was in full view, and Leslie now took the two repeating rifles with
which he had provided himself, and carefully loaded them both.  But he
had no intention of opening fire at long range, the motion of both craft
was so lively that in the uncertain light of the moon accurate shooting
would only be possible at a range of about a hundred yards, or less, and
he was so fearful of the possibility of injury to Flora that he was
quite determined not to shoot until he could make absolutely sure of his
mark.

And now he suddenly became aware that he was no longer gaining nearly as
rapidly as before upon the chase; indeed there were moments when he
doubted whether he was gaining at all.  For a few minutes he was puzzled
how to account for this--for the breeze was still as fresh as ever,
indeed he was rather inclined to believe that, if anything, it was
slightly freshening--but presently, as he watched the canoe, he detected
a kind of rhythmical glinting appearance on each side of her; and then
the explanation occurred to him.  His presence, and the fact that he was
in pursuit, had at last been discovered by the savages, and they were
now endeavouring to increase their speed by paddling.  "Well," thought
Dick, grimly, "let them paddle, if they will; at the speed at which that
canoe is travelling they will be obliged to expend a great deal of
strength to perceptibly increase it, and they _must_ tire sooner or
later.  They may succeed in prolonging the chase somewhat, but I shall
catch them, all the same."

But now a new cause for anxiety on Dick's part arose, for presently--
whether in consequence of some subtle clearing of the atmosphere, or
because of the gradual change of the moon's position in the heavens--the
island that Dick knew lay somewhere ahead, and for which the canoe was
obviously steering, suddenly loomed up ahead with such startling
distinctness that Leslie feared that they must be very much nearer to it
than was actually the case; and as the time sped on without bringing him
very appreciably nearer to the chase, he became haunted by a dread lest
the fleeing savages should after all reach the shore and gain the
assistance of their friends before he could overtake them.

At length, however, he found that he was once more creeping up to the
canoe, despite the fact that her occupants were still paddling
apparently as vigorously as ever; it was obvious that, notwithstanding
appearances, their long spell of exceptional exertion was telling upon
them, and, consciously or unconsciously, they were gradually relaxing
their efforts.  Slowly, and foot by foot, the catamaran crept up; and at
length Dick was convinced that not more than a bare quarter of a mile
separated the two craft.  Then an idea suddenly occurred to him:
although he was still too distant to be at all willing to hazard a shot
at the occupants of the canoe, there was no particular reason why he
should not fire at the _sail_; he had with him an ample supply of
ammunition, and a few lucky shots through it might cause the sail to
split; nay, there was even the possibility that he might succeed in
bringing it down altogether.  Accordingly, planting himself firmly on
the deck to leeward of the tiller, with the latter just pressing
sufficiently against his left hip to keep the catamaran going straight
and prevent her from broaching-to, he took one of the rifles in his
hand, and, determining to devote himself entirely to the effort to bring
down the sail, sighted the weapon to four hundred yards, raised it to
his shoulder, and aiming carefully at the mast of the canoe, waited
until he had got both sights dead on it, when he instantly pressed the
trigger.  He was still too far distant to be able to see the result of
the shot, but he was inclined to believe that he had scored a hit
somewhere, for he distinctly heard a loud shout that seemed to carry in
it a note of alarm.  Again, patiently waiting his chance, he fired; and
this time he really fancied he saw some chips fly from the mast, close
to the sling of the yard, at which point he was persistently aiming.
Encouraged by this possible success, and still more by the fact that he
was now distinctly overhauling the canoe, Leslie maintained a slow,
careful, and deliberate fire upon her, always aiming for the same spot;
and at length, at about the ninth shot, down dropped the yard into the
canoe, to his mingled surprise and gratification, the fall of the sail
eliciting a tremendous hullabaloo from the excited and astonished
savages.

In the extremity of their consternation the flying raiders seemed unable
to make up their minds what to do, and for a few minutes all was
confusion aboard the canoe, during which the catamaran swept up to her
hand over hand until the two craft were abreast, Dick taking the
precaution to keep some fifty yards of water between him and the canoe,
as he fully expected to be received with a shower of spears.  Nor was he
disappointed; for, as he ranged up alongside, the natives as one man
rose to their feet, and in an instant some thirty spears were hurtling
toward him.  He had probably never been much nearer death than he was at
that moment, for the spears flew all round him, one of them actually
sweeping the cap off his head; but he remained untouched.  Leslie at
once raised his rifle to his shoulder, and selecting as a mark the
individual who wielded the steering-paddle--in whom he instantly
recognised the ci-devant Cuffy, with Sambo standing next to him--fired.
The savage flung up his arms, staggered for a moment, and then fell
backward overboard.  Then, as the catamaran swept ahead, he caught a
glimpse of something white lying in the stern of the canoe that he knew
must be Flora's white-clothed body.

Quick as thought Leslie recharged both rifles, and hauling his wind,
shot athwart the bows of the canoe; then he tacked, and, shaping a
course that would enable him to cross the canoe's stern at a distance of
about eighty yards, hauled his fore sheet to windward, checking the way
of the catamaran and allowing her to cross quite slowly.  Then he once
more raised his rifle, and pointed it at Sambo.  But the tragic fate of
Cuffy had already produced its effect upon the now thoroughly terrified
savages, who by this time realised that to remain in the canoe was but
to court death.  Yet what else could they do?  There was but one
alternative, and that was--to jump overboard, and trust to their ability
to swim to the island that loomed ghostly in the moonlight ahead.  And
this they did, one after the other--the laggards being stimulated by
another shot or two from Leslie's rifle--until the canoe, a fine big
craft of about five feet beam and forty feet long, fitted with an
outrigger, was empty of savages.  Then, without troubling himself
particularly as to what was likely to become of his beaten foes, Leslie
gibed over, and shot alongside the canoe, jumping into her with the end
of a rope that he had already made fast on board the catamaran.  This
rope's-end he deftly threw in the form of a half-hitch round the
quaintly carved figure-head of the canoe, taking the end aft and making
it fast round the heel of the mast, thus effectually securing the craft
to the catamaran in a manner convenient for the towage of the former.
This done, he strode aft, until he came to where Flora lay.  And his
blood rose to boiling-point as he bent over her; for he saw that not
only had she been gagged, but that she had also been bound hand and foot
so cruelly tight that she must have endured hours of untold agony.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE DRIFTING RAFT.

Without losing an instant Leslie whipped out his knife, and with a few
strokes of its keen blade freed the unfortunate girl from her bonds;
then, without saying a word to her, or wasting time in asking questions,
he raised her tenderly in his arms, and, hauling the canoe alongside the
catamaran, carried her aboard the latter and gently laid her upon the
mattress that he had brought along with him for her especial benefit.
The girl was practically in a state of collapse from her protracted
sufferings; but by pouring a little brandy between her lips, and gently
chafing her limbs where they had been compressed by the tightly drawn
bonds, and thus restoring the arrested circulation of the blood, he at
length brought her back to a sense of her surroundings.  And then, as
might have been expected, as soon as she fully realised that she had
been rescued, and that she had nothing further to fear from her late
captors, her tensely strained nerves suddenly gave way and she broke
into a passion of weeping so violent that it thoroughly alarmed Leslie,
who, poor ignorant creature, knew not what to do.  Therefore, in the
extremity of his ignorance, he did the very best thing possible; that is
to say, he took her into his arms and soothed her with many tender and
loving words.  And as soon as she was calm enough to eat and drink, he
placed food and wine before her, and set her a good example by eating
and drinking heartily himself, chattering trivialities all the time to
divert her mind, so far as he could, from her recent terrible adventure.
Then, when she had taken all that he could persuade her to swallow, he
insisted that she must lie down and endeavour to sleep.

The rescue of Flora having been happily effected, Leslie was naturally
anxious to get back to the island as quickly as possible; for he dreaded
lest the fearful shock that the girl had sustained, the long hours of
intense physical suffering and of even more intense mental agony that
she had endured, should seriously affect her health, and it was only on
the island itself that he could afford her the requisite care and
attention to ward off or battle with such a result.  He therefore at
once hauled his wind, and, with the captured canoe in tow, headed the
catamaran on her homeward journey.

And now it was that for the first time he fully realised how strongly
the trade wind was really blowing, for, close-hauled as the catamaran
was, she felt the full strength of the breeze.  It piped through her
scant rigging with the clamour of half a gale, and poured into her
canvas with a savageness of spite that threatened to tear the cloths
clean out of the bolt-ropes, while it careened the craft until the lee
gunwale was completely buried in the hissing turmoil of foaming yeast
that roared out from under her lee bow and swept away astern at a
headlong speed that made Leslie giddy to look at.  And so furiously did
the over-pressed catamaran charge into the formidable seas that came
rushing at her weather bow that she took green water in on deck at every
plunge, that swept aft as far as her mast ere it poured off into the
dizzy smother to leeward, while her foresail and mainsail were streaming
with spray to half the height of their weather leeches.  Leslie knew
that he was not treating his craft fairly in driving her thus recklessly
in a strong breeze against a heavy sea; but he had perfect faith in her;
he had driven every bolt and nail in her with his own hands, and was
confident that there was not a weak spot anywhere about her; and the
excitement and tension of the last few hours had wrought him into a
condition of desperate impatience that would brook nothing savouring of
delay.  And, being completely dominated by this spirit of impatience, it
was a vexation to him to find that he would be unable to weather the
island without making a board to the southward, for as he stood there at
the tiller the whole island--or at least as much of it as showed above
the horizon--loomed out as a misty grey blot against the star-lit
heavens clear of the luff of his foresail.

Leaning forward, Leslie gently raised the corner of the tarpaulin with
which he had covered Flora to protect her from the moon's rays and the
drenching spray, and found, to his intense relief, that she had fallen
asleep, the sleep, probably, of complete exhaustion.  Nor was he greatly
surprised at this, for, as a matter of fact, now that the frightful
danger was past and his excitement was subsiding, he also began to
experience a sensation of weariness and a desire for sleep.  But this it
was of course quite impossible to indulge just then, so he lighted a
pipe instead, and gave himself up to reverie, steering the craft
mechanically, with his eye steadfastly fixed upon the luff of his
mainsail, as a sailor will, although his thoughts may be thousands of
miles away from his surroundings.

As Leslie stood there, gazing abstractedly ahead and puffing
meditatively at his pipe, he was startled back to a consciousness of his
surroundings by a violent shock that thrilled through the catamaran and
caused him to look anxiously over the stern, under the impression that
the craft had struck and run over a piece of floating wreckage.  He
could see nothing, however, and was still staring and wondering when the
same thing occurred a second time; and Dick now noticed that the wind
had suddenly fallen almost calm, also that the surface of the ocean
appeared to be strangely agitated, the regular run of the sea out from
the south-east having in a moment given place to a most extraordinary
and dangerous cross-sea that seemed to be coming from all directions at
the same moment, the colliding seas meeting each other with a rush and
causing long walls of water to leap into the air to a height of from
twenty to thirty feet.  These leaping walls or sheets of water were in a
moment flying into the air all round the catamaran, and falling back in
drenching showers of spray that instantly flooded her.  They at once
awoke Flora, who started up in affright, crying to Dick to tell her what
fresh danger had arisen.

"Oh, nothing very serious this time," answered Leslie; "It is quite a
novel experience to me, I admit; but there can be only one possible
explanation of it, and that is that we have just sustained a shock of
earthquake.  If I am right in my surmise, this extraordinary disturbance
of the sea will subside almost as rapidly as it has arisen, and that
will be an end of the whole business.  But, by Jove, I am not so sure
that it will be, after all," he added in quite another tone of voice.
"Just look at that!"

And he pointed toward the island, over the peak of which there hovered a
faint glow, like the reflection upon smoke of a hidden fire.

"Why, what does that mean, Dick?" demanded Flora.  "It looks as though
our volcano had become active again; but that is hardly likely, is it,
after remaining quiescent for so many years?"

"Well, as to that," answered Dick, "its long period of quiescence
constitutes no guarantee that it will not again break out into activity.
And, as a matter of fact, it certainly has done so; that ruddy,
luminous glow, hovering like a halo over the peak, can mean nothing
else.  So long, however, as it is no more actively violent than it now
is, no very serious harm is likely to ensue; but, all the same, I would
very much rather it had not happened.  As it is, it is a hint to us to
hurry up with our preparations and get away as quickly as may be from a
region where such happenings are possible.  And now, lie down, again
dear, and get some more sleep, if you can.  You need all that you can
get.  And it appears that the disturbance is all over, for the sea is
smoothening down again, and here comes the wind, once more, back from
its proper quarter."

When dawn broke, Leslie found himself within some ten miles of his
island, but to leeward of it, Point Richard, its most northerly
extremity, then bearing a good two points on his weather bow; he
therefore tacked and made a board to the southward, with the object of
getting far enough to windward to weather the reef on the next tack.
Being now close enough to the island to get a distinct view of its
general outline, he scrutinised it most carefully in the endeavour to
discover whether the earthquake had seriously affected it; and it was
with some concern and anxiety that he thought he could detect certain
slight alterations of shape, here and there.  Not, of course, that it
mattered to him, in the abstract, how much or how little the island had
altered in shape, provided--but this was a very big proviso--that it had
not so seriously affected his dockyard as to damage the cutter, or
caused the treasure-cave to collapse to such an extent as to obliterate
its situation, or bury the treasure beyond the possibility of recovery.

Anxious now to get back to the camp at the earliest possible moment,
Leslie was alternately watching the island and the luff of his mainsail,
impatiently waiting for the moment to arrive when it would be possible
to again tack to the eastward, when his eye was attracted by the
appearance of an object some distance to the eastward and broad on his
lee bow.  Looking at it intently, it had to him the appearance of a mast
with a fragment of sail fluttering from it, and keen though he was upon
reaching camp with as little delay as might be, it was impossible for
him, as a sailor, to pass such an object without examination.  With a
little stamp of impatience, therefore, he put up his helm and bore away
for it.

It was not very far distant--a couple of miles, perhaps: certainly not
more; and to reach it therefore involved no very serious loss of time.
It was not long ere he was close enough to it to enable him to make out
that it was a raft of some sort, rigged with a boat's oar, or a small
spar, for a mast, upon which was hoisted the remains of what had once
been a boat's lug sail.  He noticed also that it was occupied by a
little group of recumbent figures, whose attitudes were grimly
suggestive of an ocean tragedy.  They were mostly lying prone upon the
raft, with the water washing round them; but one figure was seated with
his back supported against the little mast.  They were evidently all
insensible, for though the catamaran was by this time quite close to
them there was no attempt made by any one of them to signal her; there
was nothing indeed to indicate that life still lingered upon that
forlorn little ocean waif.

Taking room for the manoeuvre, Leslie tacked at the right moment, and,
with fore sheet to windward, slid gradually and with steadily decreasing
way up to the lee side of the raft, which he reached just as, with the
main sheet eased full off, the catamaran lost way altogether.  And as he
glided up alongside the helplessly drifting fabric there came to his
nostrils a whiff of poisoned air that told its own tale only too
clearly.  Still, although death was so obviously present, it was
possible that life might be there too; so taking a rope's-end with him
he sprang on to the little structure, and secured the two craft
together.  Then he rapidly examined the motionless figures, one after
the other.  There were five of them altogether, and of these five, three
were undoubtedly dead; but in the case of the other two it seemed just
possible that life was not quite extinct, and he therefore hurriedly
removed them both to the catamaran, and as hurriedly cast the raft
adrift again.  Luckily Flora was once more asleep, and so escaped the
dreadful sight presented by that little platform of broken planking and
odds and ends of splintered timber, with its ghastly load, the empty
water-breaker and entire absence of food on the raft telling at a glance
the whole history of the tragedy.

The moment that the catamaran was again clear of the raft, Leslie turned
his attention to the two pitifully emaciated and rag-clad objects that
he had rescued, and commenced operations by administering a small
quantity of brandy to each; his efforts being eventually rewarded by the
discovery of signs of returning animation in both.  Thus encouraged, he
assiduously persevered, and presently one of them opened his eyes, and,
staring vacantly about him, huskily murmured: "O God, have pity, and
give me water--_water_!"

Leslie thereupon cautiously administered a further small quantity of the
liquid, which the man eagerly swallowed, and at once asked for more; but
gently laying him down on his back, with the promise that he should have
more a little later on, Dick next turned his attention to the second
man, and soon had the satisfaction of seeing him also restored to
consciousness.  Having achieved this much of success, Leslie now aroused
Flora, and, briefly explaining to her the circumstances of the case,
turned the two castaways over to her care, with instructions to give
them, alternately and at brief intervals, small quantities of drink and
food, while he devoted his attention to the catamaran and the task of
navigating her back into the harbour.  Meanwhile the little raft, with
her ghastly cargo, went driving away to the northward and westward
before the wind and the sea, and was soon lost to sight.

As the catamaran skirted close along the weather side of the reef,
Leslie noticed that the brig had burnt herself out; for there was not
the faintest whiff of smoke rising from the spot where she had lain.  On
the other hand, a thin pennant of light yellowish brown vapour was
trailing away to leeward from the summit of the peak, showing that the
eruption up there was still in progress.  Dick was much comforted,
however, to find that, even now, when he was so close in with the land,
he could detect no evidences of disturbance by the earthquake on the
southern slope of the mountain; and he began to cherish the hope that he
would find the dockyard and camp uninjured.  And this hope became a
practical certainty when, upon passing through the entrance channel, the
camp came into view, and he beheld not only the tent still standing as
he had left it, but the framework of the cutter erect upon the stocks
and apparently uninjured.  Twenty minutes later the catamaran slid into
her usual berth and gently grounded upon the sandy beach.

First assisting Flora to step ashore, and tenderly supporting her to the
tent--to which he welcomed her back with a loving embrace--Dick next
conducted the two rescued men to the hut that had originally been built
and occupied by Sambo and Cuffy, into which he inducted them, with the
intimation that they were to regard it as their future quarters.  They
were by this time so far recovered that both could walk, with a little
assistance.  Leslie therefore thought that he might now venture to give
them a light meal, with a reasonable quantity of liquid to wash it down;
and, this done, he recommended them to lie down and sleep for a while
after they had refreshed themselves, and so left them.

As he walked from the hut down to the spot that he dignified with the
name of The Dockyard, Leslie ruefully noted that the savages had played
havoc with his belongings in their hurried search for booty; but as the
havoc appeared to consist in a general capsizal of everything rather
than in actual damage, and as the few matters that they had appropriated
still remained aboard the captured canoe, he consoled himself with the
assurance that, after all, there was not very much to worry about--
excepting, of course, the terror and suffering to which Flora had been
exposed, and the killing of poor Sailor, both of which filled him with
bitter grief and anger.

As he passed on his way he detected evidences here and there of the fact
that the island had not escaped altogether unscathed from the effects of
the earthquake, small cracks in the ground showing here and there that
had not heretofore existed; and when he reached the dockyard he found
that two or three of his shores had been shaken down, leaving the cutter
somewhat precariously supported; but to his infinite relief no actual
damage had been done, and a couple of hours of hard work sufficed to put
everything quite right once more.  Then he returned to the tent, and,
finding that Flora was lying down, he seized the opportunity to bury the
body of the faithful dog out of her sight ere lying down himself to
snatch an hour or two of much-needed sleep.

When he awoke, which he did of his own accord, the afternoon was well
advanced; and upon emerging from the tent he discovered that not only
was Flora up and stirring, but that she had routed out from their ample
store of clothing a couple of suits to replace the rags in which the two
castaways had been garbed when rescued; and that these two individuals,
having washed and dressed, were now sitting in the sun, smoking--Flora
having also supplied them with pipes and tobacco--and looking about them
with mingled curiosity and surprise.  As he approached them, with the
view of eliciting from them the particulars of their story, they rose
somewhat unsteadily to their feet, and while one lifted his cap in
salute the other took his off altogether and lifted his finger to his
forehead as he gave an awkward kick out astern with one leg, in true
shellback style.  That they were both English Dick had already
ascertained; he therefore did not go through the formality of inquiring
their nationality, but at once addressed them in his and their own
language.

"Well, lads," he exclaimed cheerfully, "I hope you are feeling better?"

"Thank you, sir," answered the one who had lifted his cap, "yes, we are
beginning to pull round again all right.  And I am glad to have this
early opportunity to thank you on behalf of myself and the bo'sun here
for the service you've done us in taking us off the raft and bringing us
ashore here.  You've saved our lives, sir; there's no mistake about
that, and we're both very much obliged to you, I'm sure."

"Ay, ay; right ye are, Mr Nicholls; very much obliged indeed we are;
and that's puttin' the matter in a nutshell," supplemented the second
man, with another sea-scrape of his foot.

Leslie was agreeably surprised at these men's appearance, now that they
had removed from their persons the most repulsive evidences of their
late misfortune, for whereas when he had taken them off the raft they
were a pair of perfect scarecrows, mere skeletons, dirty, and in
rags, they now--although still of course thin, haggard, and
cadaverous-looking--wore the semblance of thoroughly honest,
trustworthy, and respectable seamen.  One of them, indeed, the younger
of the two, who had been addressed by his companion as "Mr Nicholls,"
presented the appearance of a quite exceptionally smart young sailor,
and Leslie at once put him down for--what he presently proved to be--the
second mate of the lost ship.  As for the other, Nicholls had spoken of
him as "the bo'sun;" and he looked it--an elderly man, of burly build no
doubt when in health, straightforward and honest as the day, and a prime
seaman; "every finger a fish-hook, and every hair a ropeyarn."  Leslie
felt delighted beyond measure at the acquisition of two such invaluable
assistants as these men would certainly prove so soon as they had
recovered their lost strength.

"Oh, that is all right," said Dick, in response to their expressions of
thanks; "I am, of course, very glad that it has fallen to my lot to
render you such a service.  And it was no doubt a lucky accident for you
that I happened to be cruising outside the reef to-day.  But for that
circumstance I should certainly not have seen the raft, and in that case
I am afraid there would have been no hope for you, for the raft would
have passed some miles to the westward of the island, and your chance of
being picked up would in that case have been remote in the extreme, for
although I have now been here for some months I have not sighted a
single sail since I arrived here.  And now, if you have no objection, I
should like to hear your yarn."

"Well, sir," answered Nicholls, "I don't know that there's very much to
tell; but, such as it is, you're welcome to it.  We belonged to a very
tidy little barque--the _Wanderer_, of Liverpool--and sailed from
Otago--which, as I suppose you know, sir, is in New Zealand--for London
on--what's to-day?"

Leslie gave him the date.

"The dickens it is," ejaculated Nicholls; "then I've lost a day of my
reckoning!  Must have been a day longer on that raft than I thought.
Well, anyhow, if what you say, sir, be true--and I'm sure I don't doubt
your word--it's just a month ago, this blessed day, that we sailed from
Otago, bound, as I say, for London, with orders to call at Callao on our
way home.  We sailed with a regular westerly roarer astern of us, to
which the `old man'--I mean the capt'n, sir,--showed every rag that
would draw, up to to'gallant stunsails, and the skipper kept well to the
south'ard, hoping to make all the easting that he wanted out of that
westerly wind.  And I reckon that he did, too, for we carried that same
breeze with us to longitude 115 degrees, when we hauled up to the
nor'ard and east'ard.  Then about two days later--wasn't it, Bob?"

"Ay," answered the boatswain, who seemed to know exactly to what
Nicholls was referring, "just two days a'terwards, Mr Nicholls."

"Yes," resumed Nicholls, "two days later we got a shift of wind, the
breeze coming out at about east-north-east, and we broke off to about
due north, which was disappointing, as we hoped to pick up the
south-east trades just where we then were.  But we held all on, hoping
that the wind would gradually haul round.  It didn't, however; on the
contrary, it came on to blow hard and heavy, until we were hove-to under
close-reefed topsails, and the sea--well _I_ never saw anything like it
in all my born days; the _Wanderer_ was mostly a very comfortable little
hooker when she was hove-to, but this time she rolled so frightfully--
being in light trim, you must understand, sir--that I, for one, expected
any minute to see her roll her masts over the side.  And after we had
been hove-to for twenty-six hours she scared the skipper so badly that
he decided to up-helm and try whether she wouldn't do better at running
before it.  Well, we watched for a `smooth,' but it didn't seem to come;
and then, while we were still waiting, a sea came bearing down upon us
that looked as big as a mountain.  The skipper sang out for all hands to
hold on for their lives, and some of us managed to get a grip, but
others didn't.  Down it came upon us, looking like a wall that was
toppling over, and the next second it was aboard of us!  I had took to
the mizzen rigging, and was about ten feet above the level of the rail
when that sea came aboard, and I tell you, sir--what I'm saying is the
petrified truth--for half a minute that barque was so completely buried
that there wasn't an inch of her hull to be seen, from stem to starn;
nothing but her three masts standing up out of a boiling smother of
foam.  I made up my mind that the poor old hooker was done for, that
she'd never come up again.  But she did, at last, with every inch of
bulwarks gone, fore and aft, the cook's galley swept away, every one of
our boats smashed, and five of the hands missing--one of them being the
chief mate.

"Well, as soon as she had cleared herself, the skipper sang out for the
carpenter to sound the well; and when Chips drew up the rod he reported
four feet of water in the hold!  Of course all hands went at once to the
pumps; but by the time that we'd been working at them for an hour we
found it was no good, the water was gaining upon us hand over hand, and
the craft was settling down under our feet.  So we knocked off pumping
and, our boats being all gone, went to work to put a raft together.
But, our decks having been swept clean of everything, we hadn't much
stuff left to work up, and it took us a couple of hours to knock
together the few odds and ends that you took us off of this morning.  We
hadn't stuff to make anything bigger, and we hadn't the time, even if
we'd had the stuff, for by the time that we had finished our raft the
poor old hooker had settled so low in the water that we expected her to
sink under us any minute.

"Then we got to work to scrape together such provisions as we could lay
our hands on; but by this time the lazarette was flooded and not to be
got at, while everything in the steward's pantry was spoiled, the pantry
having been swamped by the sea that had broken aboard and done all the
mischief.  But it was the grub from the pantry, or nothing; so we took
it--and there wasn't very much of it either--and also a small breaker of
fresh water that the steward managed to fill for us, and then it was
high time for us to be off.

"It wasn't a very difficult matter to launch the raft, for by this time
every sea that came along swept over our decks, and the job for us was
to avoid being washed overboard.  Well, we got afloat; but, as luck
would have it, a heavy sea swept over us just as we were launching and
made a clean sweep of all the provisions that we'd got together, except
one small parcel, and of course, once afloat, it was impossible for us
to get back to the barque, even if there had been any use in our going
back--which there wasn't.

"We had managed to find one oar and the jolly-boat's lug sail, and this
we rigged up--as much by way of a signal as anything else, for of course
we could do nothing but drive dead before the wind.  And we hadn't left
the barque above ten minutes when down she went, stern foremost, and
there we were left adrift and as helpless as a lot of babies in that
raging sea.  There were ten of us altogether, and a pretty tight fit we
found it on that bit of a raft, all awash as she was.  It was within
half an hour of sunset when we left the barque, and as darkness settled
down upon us it came on to blow harder than ever, while the seas washed
us to that extent that we could do nothing but hold on like grim death.

"The misery and the horror of that first night on the raft won't bear
talking about; and if they would it would need a more clever man than I
am to describe 'em.  All I can remember is that I sat there the whole
night through, in the black darkness, holding on for my life with both
hands, with the sea washing over me, sometimes up to my neck, speaking
to nobody, and nobody speaking to me.

"The gale broke about an hour before dawn; and when the sun rose he
showed us a sky full of clouds that looked like tattered bunting of
every imaginable colour one could think of, all scurrying across the sky
in a westerly direction.  And then we found that the wind had veered
round and was coming out from about east-south-east.  As soon as it was
light enough to make out things, I took a look round to see how the rest
of us had weathered out the night; and I tell you, sir, it nearly broke
my heart to find that we mustered three less than we were when we left
the barque, the poor old skipper being one of the missing.  They had
been washed off and drowned during the night; at least that's how I
accounted for their loss.

"Then we opened our little stock of provisions--consisting mostly of
cabin biscuit--that we had wrapped up in a bit of tarpaulin, intending
to put a bit of food into ourselves and so get a little strength and
encouragement.  But when we came to open the bundle we found it full of
salt water--and no wonder, seeing what clean breaches the sea had been
making over us all night--so that our bread was just reduced to pulp,
and no more fit to eat than if it was so much putty.  And our water was
pretty nearly as bad; the sea had got at it, too, and made it that
brackish that it tasted more like physic than water.  However, we took a
drink all round, and tried to persuade one another that it wouldn't be
so very long before something would come along and pick us up.

"The sea took a long time to quiet down; but by sunset it had smoothened
so far that it only just kept the raft awash and the water up to our
waists as we sat; so, as we had by this time got pretty well used to
being wet through, we were feeling fairly comfortable, or should have
been if only we had had a morsel of something to stay our hunger, and a
drain of sweet water to quench our thirst--for we soon found that the
more water we drank out of our breaker, the thirstier we grew.

"That night the steward went crazy, and started singing.  First of all
he began with the sort of songs that a sailor-man sings on the
forecastle during the second dog-watch on a fine night; and from that he
branched off into hymns.  Then he fancied that he was at home once more,
talking to his wife and the chicks, and it made my heart fairly bleed to
listen to him.  Then, after he had been yarning away in that style for
more than an hour, he quieted down, and I thought he was getting better.
But when daylight broke he was gone--slipped quietly overboard during
the night, I reckoned.

"The next day was a terrible one.  Our sufferings from hunger and thirst
were awful; and about midday one of the men--an A.B. named Tom Bridges--
went raving mad, and swore that he didn't intend to starve any more;
said that one of us must die for the good of the rest; and presently set
upon me, saying that I was in better condition than any of the rest, and
that therefore I was the proper one to be sacrificed.  He was a big,
powerful man, and proved a match for the other five of us.  We must have
fought for a good twenty minutes, I should think, when he suddenly took
hold of me round the waist and, lifting me off my feet as easily as if I
was a baby, made to jump overboard with me in his arms.  But another man
tripped him up; and although we both went overboard, poor Tom struck his
head as he fell, and must have been stunned, for I felt his grip slacken
as we struck the water, and presently I managed to free myself and swim
to the raft.  But Tom went down like a stone, and we never saw him
again.

"That adventure just about finished us all, I think; I know it finished
me, for it completely took out of me what little strength I had left,
and although I remember it falling dark that night, and also have a
confused recollection of getting up once or twice during the next day to
take a look round, I know nothing of what happened after that until I
came back to my senses on the deck of that queer-looking craft of yours,
and tasted the brandy that you were trying to pour down my throat."

"Well," remarked Leslie, "it has been a terrible adventure for you both,
and one that you will doubtless remember for the remainder of your
lives.  But your time of suffering is now past, and what you have to do
is to get well and strong as soon as possible.  Yet, even here, although
you run scant risk of perishing of hunger or thirst, and are in as
little danger of drowning, there is another peril, namely, that of
savages, to which we are all equally exposed; although I rather hope
that certain action that I felt it incumbent upon me to take yesterday
and last night may have averted it for a time at least.  But perhaps,
having heard your story, I had better tell you mine, and you will then
understand our precise position--yours as well as Miss Trevor's and my
own."

To this speech Nicholls replied in effect that, having already seen a
great deal to excite his surprise and curiosity, it would afford him
much pleasure to listen to anything in the way of explanation that
Leslie might be pleased to tell them; a remark that Simpson cordially
but briefly endorsed by adding--

"Same here, sir."

Now, it has been said that no man can do two things well if he attempts
to do them both at one and the same time; but Leslie proved himself an
exception to the rule.  For he not only listened attentively to
Nicholls' story of the loss of the _Wanderer_, but he at the same time
succeeded in accomplishing the much more difficult feat of effecting a
very careful appraisement of the characters of the two men whom he had
rescued from the raft.  And the result was to him thoroughly
satisfactory; for ere Nicholls had arrived at the end of his yarn,
Leslie had come to the conclusion that his new companions were
thoroughly genuine, honest, steady, and straightforward men, upon whom
he could absolutely rely, and whom he could take into his confidence
with perfect safety.  He therefore unhesitatingly told them the whole
history of the loss of the _Golden Fleece_, and what had followed it, up
to the moment of their meeting, judiciously reserving, however, for the
present, all mention of the discovery of the treasure.

"Now," he said, by way of conclusion, "you see exactly how we are all
situated here.  I tell you frankly that I do not believe there is very
much prospect of your getting away from here until the cutter is
finished; although, should an opportunity occur, you will of course be
at full liberty to leave the island, if you so please.  But, so far as
Miss Trevor and I are concerned, we shall now, in any case, stay here
until the cutter is ready, and sail at least part of the way home in
her.  Now, it is for you to say whether you will throw in your lot with
us, and remain until we are ready to go; or whether you will avail
yourselves of any prior opportunity that may occur for you to escape.
Whichever way you may decide, there is an ample supply of provisions and
clothing--in fact, all the actual necessaries of life--for us all, to a
due share of which you will be most heartily welcome.  But, since I have
made free use of the brig and her cargo, I shall of course feel myself
bound to make good the loss to the underwriters upon my return to
England; and I presume, therefore, that so long as you may remain upon
the island, you will be willing to assist me in my work of completing
the cutter, in return for your subsistence.  Am I right in this
assumption?"

"You certainly are, so far as I'm concerned, Mr Leslie," answered
Nicholls.  "I am not the man to loaf about here in idleness, and watch a
gentleman like yourself working hard all day.  I'd a precious sight
sooner be doing a good honest day's work for my grub, than take all and
give nothing in return.  What say you, Bob?"

"Same here, Mr Nicholls--_and_ Mr Leslie," answered Simpson.

"Very well," said Leslie; "then we will consider that matter as settled.
You will not, of course, be in a fit state to turn-to for a few days;
but as soon as you feel strong enough, let me know, and I shall be more
than glad to have your assistance.  Meanwhile, if there is anything that
you require, you have only to say what it is, and if the resources of
the island are equal to it, your wants shall be supplied."

It appeared, however, that all their immediate requirements had been
met; so Leslie returned to the tent, where he found Flora awaiting him.

"Well, little woman," he remarked, greeting her genially, "have you had
a good rest?  Upon my word you are looking but little, if anything, the
worse for your adventure.  How are you feeling?"

"As well as ever, thank you, Dick," she replied, "excepting that my poor
wrists and ankles still feel rather sore from the pressure of the ropes
with which those wretches bound me.  I have had a good rest, and
although my sleep was disturbed at the outset by terrifying dreams, they
passed off at last, and now I feel, as you say, really none the worse.
But oh, Dick, it was an awful experience, and I expect I shall often see
those dreadful savages' faces in my sleep for some time to come."

"Yes," assented Dick, "I fear you will.  But you must try as hard as you
can to forget your terror, dear; remembering that we are now two good
men stronger than we were before, and that after the lesson I have given
the natives they are not _very_ likely to repeat their experiment in a
hurry.  And now, if you think you can bear to talk about it, I should
like to learn just what happened after I left you."

"Well," said Flora, "there really is not very much to tell.  I stood on
the beach and watched you until you passed out through the channel, and
disappeared behind the wall of surf; and then, accompanied by dear old
Sailor--by the way, Dick, what has become of the dear old dog?  I have
not seen him since I returned; and I am afraid the poor fellow was
hurt."

"Sweetheart," answered Dick, gently, "he did the utmost that a faithful
friend can do; he died in your defence, and I have buried him."

"Dear old Sailor!" exclaimed the girl, the tears springing to her eyes
at the intelligence of his death, "he fought bravely.  I shall never
forget him."  She sat silent for a while, with her handkerchief to her
eyes, and presently resumed--

"As I was saying, I walked back toward the tent, Sailor, as usual,
keeping close beside me.  I was within half a dozen yards of the tent
when the dog suddenly stopped dead, growling savagely.  `Why, what is
the matter, Sailor?'  I said, patting him.  He looked up at me for an
instant, still growling, and his coat bristling with anger; then, with a
quick yelp of fury he dashed off and darted behind the tent, and the
next instant there was a dreadful outcry, mingled with the fierce
barking and snarling of the dog.  I was absolutely petrified with
terror, for you were away, and already far beyond the reach of any sound
or signal that I could make, while I was left alone on the island with I
knew not who or what.  Then the thought came to me to make a dash for
the tent, and get the pistol that you gave me to practise with; but
before I could carry out my idea, a perfect swarm of blacks, headed by
Sambo and Cuffy, rushed out from behind the tent--with Sailor in the
midst of them, fighting furiously; and in an instant I turned and ran
for the beach, with them in pursuit.

"I have not the faintest idea what I intended to do; my one thought was
to keep out of their clutches as long as possible; but, of course, I was
almost instantly overtaken and seized, and my hands held behind me by
Sambo, while Cuffy stood before me threatening me with a spear.  Then,
while some of the natives went off to the stack of stores and began to
`overhaul' them, as you call it, others disappeared in the direction of
Mermaid Head.

"It was a horrible sensation, and made me deadly sick to feel myself
actually in the clutches of those dreadful natives, and to see the look
in Cuffy's eyes as he stood before me brandishing his spear in my face;
but worse was yet to come, for presently one of the wretches came up
with some pieces of rope in his hand, and then they bound my hands and
feet together, rendering me absolutely helpless, as you found me.

"I suppose it would be about a quarter of an hour after this--although
it seemed very much longer--when the second party of natives returned
with a canoe, into which they flung me most unceremoniously; and then
they all went off together, leaving me alone and so tightly bound that I
was soon enduring agonies of torment.  I bore the pain for perhaps an
hour, and then I must have swooned, for I knew no more until I recovered
my senses in your dear arms, and knew that you had saved me.  Oh,
Dick--"

Then she suddenly broke down again, and sobbed so violently and clung to
Leslie in such a frantic paroxysm of terror that poor Dick became
thoroughly alarmed, and, in his distraction, could do nothing but soothe
her as he would a frightened child.  This simple treatment, however,
sufficed, for the sobs gradually diminished in violence, and at length
ceased altogether; and presently Flora arose, declaring that she was
herself again, and denouncing herself as a poor, weak, silly little
mortal, who ought to be ashamed of herself.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

COMPLETION AND LAUNCH OF THE CUTTER.

On the day that followed the occurrence of the above exciting events,
Nicholls and Simpson being still too weak to be fit for the somewhat
laborious work of the dockyard, Leslie determined to pay a visit to his
treasure-cave, being anxious to ascertain whether the earthquake had
materially interfered with the configuration of the country in that
direction, and, if so, to what extent.  Upon learning his determination
Flora announced her decision to accompany him; and accordingly, having
packed a luncheon-basket, the pair set off together soon after
breakfast, leaving Nicholls and the boatswain in charge of the camp.

The day was magnificently fine, but the temperature was somewhat higher
than usual, the trade wind having softened down to a quite moderate
breeze; so Dick and his companion proceeded on their way in a very
leisurely manner, intending to take the whole day for their task of
exploration.  No very marked or important changes in the aspect of the
landscape were noticeable until they reached the ridge or spur of the
mountain that terminated in the headland that Dick had named Cape Flora;
but as soon as this ridge, was crossed they saw that, for some
unexplainable reason, the earthquake action had been much more violent
on the northerly than on the southward side of it; so great indeed were
the changes wrought that in many places the features of the landscape
were scarcely recognisable, and Leslie had the utmost difficulty in
finding his way.

At length, however, they arrived in the neighbourhood of the spot where
they believed the cave to be situated, and here the changes had been so
great that for some time Leslie was utterly at a loss.  The surface was
so twisted and torn, so utterly disfigured by landslides and upheavals
of rock, that they might have been in another island altogether, so far
as recognition of the original features was concerned.  This was far
worse than the worst Dick had anticipated, and for a time he was in a
state of utter despair, fearing that his treasure had been swallowed up
beyond recovery.  Still, he felt convinced that he was in the immediate
neighbourhood of the spot where the cave had been, and, bidding Flora to
sit down and rest while he further investigated, he began to grope about
here and there among the confused mass of rocks, studying them intently
as he did so.  For upwards of two hours Leslie searched and toiled in
vain; but at length he came upon a piece of rock face that seemed
familiar to him, and upon removing a number of blocks of splintered rock
he disclosed a small hole, creeping into which he found himself once
more, to his infinite joy, in the treasure-cave, with the treasure safe
within it.  He stayed but long enough to satisfy himself that everything
was as he had left it, and then, emerging once more into the open
daylight, he carefully masked the entrance again by placing the blocks
very much as he had found them.

Pretty thoroughly fatigued by this time, he made his way to the spot
where Flora was seated, and acquainted her with his success, while she
unpacked the luncheon and spread it out invitingly upon the surface of
the rock.  This rock upon which they were seated occupied a somewhat
commanding position, from the summit of which a fairly extended view of
the surrounding country was to be obtained; and it was while the pair
were leisurely eating their midday meal that Dick's eye suddenly caught
the glint of water at no great distance.  Now, he knew that when he was
last on the spot there was no water anywhere nearer than the open ocean;
yet this, as he saw it through the interlacing boughs and trunks of the
trees, flickered with the suggestion of a surface agitated by an
incoming swell.  As soon, therefore, as they had finished their lunch,
the pair made their way in the direction of this appearance of water;
and after about ten minutes of easy walking found themselves standing
upon the brink of a kind of "sink" or basin about a quarter of a mile in
diameter, having a narrow opening communicating with the open sea.  It
was a strange-looking place, presenting an appearance suggestive of a
vast hollow under the coast-line having fallen in and swallowed up a
circular piece of the island, leaving two rocky headlands standing, the
southern headland slightly overlapping the northern one and thus
completely masking the basin or cove from the sea.  The surrounding
cliffs were about a hundred feet high, composed entirely of rock, and
presenting an almost vertical face; but so rough and broken was this
face, and so numerous were the projections, that not only Dick but Flora
also found it perfectly safe and easy to descend by means of them right
down to the water's edge, into which the cliffs dropped sheer, with a
depth of water alongside so great that Dick could not discern the
bottom, although the water was crystal-clear.  And so narrow was the
opening that what small amount of swell found its way into the cove was
practically dissipated ere it reached the rocky walls, alongside which
the water rose and fell so gently that its movement was scarcely
perceptible.  It was, in fact, an ideal harbour for such a craft as the
cutter, and Dick at once determined to bring her round to this spot as
soon as she was ready, in order to ship the treasure on board her.

Upon their return to camp that evening Dick found that Nicholls and
Simpson were making such rapid strides toward recovery that they were
not only able to walk about with something like an approach to their
former strength, but that they also expressed their conviction that they
would be perfectly able to begin work on the morrow.  It appeared that
they had been amusing themselves by prowling about the camp and
investigating the condition of affairs generally.  It was only natural
that their chief interest should centre in the cutter, and the probable
amount of work that lay before them all ere she would be completed and
ready for sea.  As has already been mentioned, her condition at this
time was that of a completed skeleton, her keel, stem, and stern-posts
having been joined up, the whole of her frames erected in position and
properly connected to the keel, and all her wales and stringers
bolted-to; she was therefore so far advanced that the next thing in
order was to lay her planking.  This planking, it may be mentioned, was
of oak throughout, arranged to be laid on in two thicknesses, each plank
of the outer skin overlaying a joint between two planks in the skin
beneath it; and every plank had already been roughly cut to shape and
carefully marked.  All, therefore, that was now required was to complete
the trimming of each plank and fix it in position.  The inner layer of
planking was much the thicker of the two, the intention of the designer
evidently being that this inner skin should be attached to the steel
frames by steel screws not quite long enough to completely penetrate the
plank, the outer skin being attached to the inner by gun-metal screws
carefully spaced in such a manner that there was always a distance of at
least six inches between the steel and gun-metal screws, thus avoiding
all possibility of even the smallest approach to galvanic action being
set up between the two.  And it was, of course, to the outer skin that
the copper sheathing was to be attached.

Now the planking--even the comparatively thin outer skin--was much too
stout and tough to be got into position without steaming; and this fact
had occurred to Simpson while prowling about the dockyard that day.  He
had mentioned the matter to Nicholls, and the pair had at once looked
about them to see whether Leslie had made any provision for the steaming
of the planks; and, finding none, they had profitably amused themselves
by sorting out, from the deck and other planking brought ashore from the
brig, a sufficient quantity of stuff suitable for the construction of a
steaming-trunk, and laying it aside ready for Leslie's inspection upon
his return.  They had not quite completed their self-imposed task when
Dick got back to the camp, and, seeing them apparently busy, sauntered
down to the spot where they were at work.

"Well, lads," said he, with a smile, "so you are getting yourselves into
training, eh?  I am glad to see that you are making such rapid advances
toward recovery."

"Thank you, sir; yes, we're pulling round again all right," replied
Nicholls.  "We've been amusing ourselves to-day by taking a general look
round, and so far as we can see, your cutter--a most remarkable fine
little boat she is going to be--is just about ready to start
planking-up.  But we see no signs of a steaming-trunk anywhere about,
Mr Leslie; so Bob and I have been putting in our time on the job of
sorting out from among that raffle, there, enough stuff to make a trunk
out of; and here it is, sir, if you don't happen to want it for anything
else."

"No," said Leslie, "I do not require it for anything in particular; and
as we shall certainly require a trunk we may as well work it up into
one.  That, I think, will have to be our next job."

"Yes, sir," agreed Nicholls; "it looks like it.  But what about a
boiler, sir, in which to generate the steam?  I don't see anything
knocking about ashore, here, that'll do for one."

"No," said Leslie; "and I am rather afraid we may have a hard job to
find one.  There is only one thing that I can think of, and that is one
of the brig's water tanks.  I had intended to bring one ashore for that
especial purpose; but now that those rascally savages have burnt the
craft we may find that her tanks have been destroyed by the fire."

"I should think not, sir," dissented Nicholls.  "They will have been
stowed right down in the bottom of her, perhaps; and if that's the case
the fire won't have had a chance to get at 'em."

"I really do not know whether they were stowed in her bottom or not,"
answered Leslie; "but we will go off to-morrow, and have a look at the
wreck.  One thing is quite certain: we _must_ have a boiler of some
sort, or we shall never be able to get those planks into position--
especially those about the head of the stern-post--without splitting
them.  And I would take a good deal of trouble to avoid such a
misfortune as that."

The following day found Nicholls and Simpson so far recovered that they
both declared themselves quite strong enough to turn-to, and accordingly
Leslie--who, since the raid of the savages, was more feverishly eager
than ever to get away from the island--took the catamaran; and the three
men went off together to the wreck of the brig.

They found her burnt practically down to the water's edge, and
everything not of metal that was in her also consumed down to that
level.  Below the surface, however, everything was of course untouched.
But all the gear--sheer-legs, tackles, and the rest of it--that had been
of such immense value to Dick in getting the various matters out of the
brig, had been destroyed with her; and if any very serious amount of
turning over of the cargo under water should prove to be necessary, he
would be obliged to provide and rig up a complete fresh set of
apparatus.  Moreover, there was no longer the convenient platform of the
deck to work from, instead of which they had to wade about on a confused
mass of cargo beneath the surface of the water, affording them a most
awkward and irregular platform with, in some spots, only a few inches of
water over it, while elsewhere there was a depth of as many feet.  A
careful examination of the whole of the visible cargo failed to reveal
the whereabouts of the water tanks, or of anything else that would serve
the purpose of a boiler; and at length they were reluctantly driven to
the conclusion that before the search could be further prosecuted it
would be necessary to procure and rig up another set of sheer-legs, and
to replace the lost gear with such blocks, etcetera, as they could find
among the heterogeneous collection of stuff already salved from the
brig.

To be obliged to expend so much time and labour all over again was
decidedly disheartening; but, as Leslie said, it was quite useless to
worry over it; it _had_ to be done, and the sooner they set about it the
better.  So they returned to the shore, and while Nicholls and Simpson,
armed with axes, went off into the woods in search of a couple of spars
suitable for sheers, Dick proceeded to overhaul the mass of raffle
brought ashore from the brig, and at length secured enough blocks and
rope to furnish a fairly effective set of tackle wherewith to equip
them.  There was a tremendous amount of long-splicing to be done in
order to work up the various odds and ends of rope into suitable lengths
for the several tackles required; but four days of assiduous labour
found the vexatious task completed and everything ready for the
resumption of work.  Then ensued an arduous and wearisome turning over
of cargo--much of it consisting of heavy castings and other parts of
machinery; but at length they got down to one of the tanks, which they
hoisted out, emptied, and floated ashore.

Then came the building of the steam-trunk, which they erected close
alongside the cutter and right down at the water's edge, for convenience
in supplying the boiler with water; and this done, they were at length
able to turn-to upon the important task of planking-up the hull of their
little ship.  And now it was that Leslie was able for the first time to
appreciate the inestimable value of the carefully prepared and figured
diagram of the planking that the builders had so thoughtfully included
among the various matters appertaining to the construction of the
cutter.  For with it in his hand, all that was necessary was for Leslie
to go over the pile of planking, noting the letters and numbers on each
plank, and stack the whole in such a manner that the planks first
required should be found on top of the stack, while those last wanted
would lie at the bottom.  And now, too, he found how great an advantage
the possession of two able and intelligent workers was to him; for not
only were the three men able to do thrice the amount of work possible to
one man in a given time, but they were able to do considerably more when
it came to such matters as lifting heavy weights, twisting refractory
planks into position, and other matters of a similar kind where mere
brute strength was required.  Moreover, their steaming apparatus acted
to perfection; and after the first two days--during which they were
acquiring the knack of working together, and generally "getting the hang
of things," as Nicholls expressed it--everything went like clock-work.
They averaged six complete strakes of planking--three on either side of
the hull--sawn, trimmed, steamed, and fixed, per diem; and as there
happened to be thirty strakes up to the covering-board it cost them just
ten days of strenuous labour to get the inner skin laid; and the laying
of the outer skin consumed a similar period.  Then there was the
caulking and paying of the seams in the inner and outer skins--which was
a task that needed the most careful doing and was not to be hurried--as
well as the protection of the inner skin by a coat of good thick
white-lead laid on immediately under each plank of the outer skin and
applied the last thing before screwing each plank down; all this ran
away with time; so that it took them a full month to complete the
planking-up and advance the craft to the stage at which she would be
ready for the laying of the decks.  But before this was undertaken they
painted her three coats of zinc white, and, as soon as this was dry,
laid on her copper sheathing and hung her rudder.

The laying, caulking, and paying of the cutter's deck kept them busy for
a fortnight; and she was then in condition for the fitting up of her
interior.  This, according to the original design, was divided up into a
forecastle with accommodation for four men, abaft of which came a small
galley on the port side, and an equally small steward's pantry on the
starboard side.  Then, abaft these again, came a tiny saloon, and
finally, abaft this again, two little state rooms on one side, with a
little bathroom, lavatory, and sail-room on the other.  The saloon was
entered by way of a short companion ladder leading from a small
self-emptying cockpit, some five feet wide by six feet long, this
cockpit being the only open space in the boat, the rest of her hull
being completely decked over.  The saloon was lighted by a small
skylight and six scuttles--three of a side--fixed in the planking of the
little craft.  The staterooms, although very small, were still
sufficient in size to enable an adult to sleep in them comfortably, and
their interior arrangement was a perfect marvel of ingenuity, each being
fitted with a small chest of drawers under the bunk, and a folding
washstand and dressing-table.  This was the arrangement set out in the
plans and provided for in the materials for her construction; and as it
happened to suit Leslie's requirements exceedingly well, he very wisely
determined not to alter it.  The work of putting together the bulkheads,
lining the saloon, fitting up the staterooms, and generally completing
her interior arrangements, was not laborious, but there was a great deal
of it, and some of it came very awkwardly to their hands, due, no doubt,
to a great extent, to the unaccustomed character of the work in the
first place, and, in the second, to the confined spaces in which much of
it was necessarily to be done; but at length there came a day when,
after a most careful inspection of the craft, inside and out, Dick
pronounced her hull complete and ready for launching.  But at the last
moment he decided that it would be more convenient to step her
lower-mast ere she left the stocks; and, one thing leading naturally to
another, an additional day was devoted to the job of stepping this
important spar, getting the bowsprit into position, setting up all the
rigging connected with these two spars, and getting the main-boom and
gaff into their places.  Then, with the remainder of her spars and all
her sails aboard, they knocked off work for the night, with the
understanding that the little craft was to be consigned to "her native
element" on the morrow.

The dawn of that morrow promised as fair a day as heart could wish for
so important a ceremony; and the three men were early astir and busy
upon the final preparations.  The most important of these was the
greasing of the launching ways; and as Dick had foreseen this necessity
from the very outset, he had not only adopted the precaution of bringing
ashore from the brig every ounce of tallow and grease of every
description that he had been able to find aboard her, but had rigorously
saved every morsel that had resulted from their cooking during the whole
period of their sojourn upon the island.  Thus it happened that, when it
came to the point, he found that he had what, with judicious and strict
economy, might prove sufficient for the purpose.  But he intended that
there should be no room for doubt in so important a matter as this, and
he therefore ruthlessly sacrificed almost the whole of a big case of
toilet soap, with which he and the other two men went diligently over
the ways, rubbing the soap on dry until a film of it covered the ways
throughout their whole length.  Then, upon the top of this, they
plastered on their tallow and other grease until it was all expended; at
which stage of the proceedings Dick declared himself satisfied, and
marched off to rid himself of the traces of his somewhat dirty work.

And by this time breakfast was ready.  Then, upon the conclusion of the
meal, all hands adjourned once more to the yard, Flora being attired for
the occasion in a complete suit of dainty white, topped off with a
broad-brimmed flower-bedecked hat that, under other circumstances, would
doubtless have graced some Valparaiso belle.  Dick carried two bottles
of champagne--the last of their scanty stock--in his hand, one of them
being devoted to the christening ceremony, while the other was to be
consumed in drinking success to the little boat.

Arrived alongside, Nicholls nipped up the ladder that gave access to the
little craft's deck, and attached the bottle of champagne to the
stem-head by a line long enough to reach down to within about six inches
of her keel.  Then he went aft and lashed the tiller amidships, which
done, he announced that all was ready.  Upon hearing this Dick placed
the bottle of wine in Flora's hand, and, telling her when to act and
what to say, stationed himself, with a heavy sledge-hammer in his hand,
at one of the spur-shores, Simpson, similarly provided, going to the
other.  Then--

"Are you all ready?" shouted Dick.

"Ay, ay, sir, all ready!" answered Simpson, swaying up the heavy hammer
over his shoulder.

"Then _strike_!" yelled Dick; and crash fell the two hammers
simultaneously; down dropped the spur-shores, and a tremor appeared to
thrill the little craft throughout her entire fabric.

For a single moment she seemed to hang--to Dick's unmitigated
consternation, but the next second he saw her begin to move with an
almost imperceptible gliding motion toward the water.  Flora saw it too,
and raising the bottle of wine in her hand, dashed it against the little
craft's bows, shattering the glass to pieces and causing the wine to
cream over the brightly burnished copper as she cried--

"God bless the _Flora_ and grant her success!"

The speed of the handsome little clipper rapidly increased, and
presently she entered the water with a headlong rush, curtseying as
gracefully as though she had learned the trick from her namesake, ere
she recovered herself and floated lightly as a soap-bubble on the water.
(For although Dick had found an entire outfit of lead ballast for her,
already cast to the shape of her hull, he had only put part of it aboard
her, leaving out about six tons, in place of which he intended to stow
the gold from the treasure-cave.)  The little craft held her way for
quite an extraordinary distance--showing thereby in the most practical
of all ways the excellence and beauty of her lines--and when at length
she came to rest Nicholls let go her anchor and waved his hand by way of
a signal that all was well.  Whereupon Dick and Simpson jumped into the
canoe and paddled off to fetch him ashore.

The moment had now arrived when it became necessary for Leslie to come
to some definite conclusion as to how far he would take these two men
into his confidence.  He had watched them both with the utmost keenness
from the first moment of his connection with them, and everything that
he had seen in their speech and behaviour had led him to the conviction
that they were absolutely honest, loyal, and trustworthy.  On the other
hand, he had heard of cases wherein men even as trustworthy as he
believed these two to be had succumbed to the influence of some sudden,
over-powering temptation; and there could be no question that a treasure
of such enormous value as that lying hidden in the cave constituted a
temptation sufficient to strain to its utmost limit the honesty of any
but the most thoroughly conscientious man.  He therefore finally settled
the matter with himself by determining upon a compromise; he would take
Nicholls and Simpson into his confidence just so far as was absolutely
necessary, and no farther.

Therefore, when they all landed on the beach, after taking Nicholls off
the cutter, Leslie invited the two men to accompany him to the tent,
there to empty their last bottle of champagne in drinking to the success
of the new craft.  And when this ceremony had been duly performed,
Leslie turned to the two men, and said--

"And now, lads, the cutter having been successfully got into the water,
I find myself in the position of being able to make to you both a
certain proposal and offer that has long been in my mind.  When I took
you two men off your raft, and brought you ashore here in a dying
condition, that tiny craft that floats so jauntily out there on the
smooth waters of the lagoon was only in frame--a mere skeleton.  But you
saw of what that skeleton was composed; you saw that it was made of
tough steel firmly and substantially put together with stout bolts and
rivets.  And since then you have assisted me to bring forward the little
craft from what she then was to what she is to-day; you have seen and
handled the materials that have been worked into her, and nobody knows
better than yourselves what careful and faithful labour and workmanship
has been bestowed upon the putting of her together.  Now, I want you to
give me your honest opinion, as sailors, of that little craft.  You know
that she was built for the sole purpose of carrying us all away from
this island--which, I may tell you, lies well in the heart of the
Pacific; I want you, as sailors of experience, to say whether you will
feel any hesitation in trusting your lives to her."

Nicholls laughed heartily at the question; and Simpson grinned
corroboratively.

"Why," exclaimed the former, "men have gone more than halfway round the
world in craft that aren't to be mentioned on the same day as that dandy
little packet!  The last time that I was in Sydney--which was last
year--there was a Yankee chap there that had made the voyage from
America in a dug-out canoe that he had decked over and rigged as a
three-masted schooner--he and another chap--and they intended to go on
and complete the trip round the world.  I don't mind saying that I
shouldn't have altogether cared about making such a voyage myself in
such a craft; but yonder little beauty's quite a different story.  I'd
be as willing to ship in her as in anything else--provided that it was
made worth my while.  What say you, bo'sun?"

"Same here," answered Simpson, the man of brevities.

"You really mean it?  You are both speaking in serious earnest?"
demanded Leslie.

"_I_ am, most certainly," answered Nicholls; "in proof of which I intend
to sail with you when you leave the island--if you'll take me, Mr
Leslie; and I don't think you are the man to refuse two poor castaways a
passage, especially as you've got plenty of room aboard there for us
both, and we can make ourselves useful enough to pay for our passages."

"Very well, then," said Leslie.  "Now, this is the proposal that I have
to make to you both.  I have here, on this island, snugly stowed away in
a cave, certain valuables that I am most anxious to personally convey to
England; and for certain reasons with which I need not trouble you, I am
equally anxious to get them home without bringing them under the notice
of the authorities, and the only way in which this can be done is to
take them home _in the cutter_.  My plan is to make my way in the first
instance to Australia, where Miss Trevor will leave the _Flora_.  At
Melbourne I shall revictual, and thence proceed to Capetown, where I
shall do the like, sailing thence to England, with a call, perhaps, at
some of the Canaries, if necessary.  Now, if you have no fancy for such
a long trip as that which I have sketched out, in so small a craft as
the _Flora_, you will of course be perfectly free to leave her upon our
arrival at Melbourne.  But if, on the other hand, you are willing to
ship with me for the whole voyage, I think I can make it quite worth
your while, for I shall require at least two men whom I can absolutely
trust, and I believe you two to be those men.  Now, what amount would
you consider to be adequate remuneration for the run home from here?"

"How long do you reckon the trip is going to take, sir?" inquired
Nicholls.

"Um, let me see," considered Leslie, making a mental calculation.  "We
ought to do it comfortably in about one hundred and eighty days--six
months; call it seven months, if you like."

Nicholls considered for a few minutes, and then looked up and said--

"Would sixty pounds be too much to ask, Mr Leslie, taking everything
into consideration?"

"What do _you_ say, Simpson?" asked Leslie, with a smile.

"Sixty pounds 'd satisfy _me_," answered the boatswain.

"Very well," said Dick.  "Now, this is what I will do with you both.  It
will be worth a thousand pounds to me to get these valuables of mine
safely home, as I said, without attracting attention.  If, therefore,
you will ship for the run home with me, rendering me all the assistance
necessary to take the _Flora_ and her cargo safely to some port, to be
hereafter decided upon, in the English Channel, I will give you my
written bond to pay each of you five hundred pounds sterling within one
calendar month of the date of our arrival.  How will that suit you?"

"It will suit me better than any job I've ever yet dropped upon, and I
say `done with you, sir, and many thanks,'" answered Nicholls, with
enthusiasm.

"And you, Simpson?" demanded Dick.

"Good enough!" answered the boatswain, with his usual brevity.

"Very well, then; that is settled," said Leslie.  "I will draw up an
agreement in triplicate at once, which we can all sign, each retaining a
copy; and that will put the whole matter upon a thoroughly ship-shape
and satisfactory basis all round."

Dick prepared the agreement there and then, and having read over to the
two seamen the first draft, and obtained their unqualified approval of
it, he at once proceeded to make the two additional copies.  All three
were then duly signed, Flora also attaching her signature as a witness,
and the transaction was thereupon completed.

"Now," said Dick, "that bit of business being arranged, I should like to
take the cutter round to a little cove at no great distance from the
cave where my valuables are concealed, and get them aboard her at once,
before her decks are hampered up with gear and what not; we will
therefore get the catamaran under way, and tow her round.  We can leave
the catamaran in the cove also, and walk back by way of change.
Moreover, it will afford us the opportunity to stretch our legs a bit;
we shall not get very much more walking exercise now until we arrive in
England."

As the three men were wending their way down to the beach, Leslie's eyes
happened to fall upon the case of rifle and revolver ammunition from
which he had been drawing his supplies.  It was the only case of
ammunition that he possessed; and now, with a sudden fear that in the
hurry of departure it might be forgotten, he said to Nicholls--

"See here, Nicholls, we might just as well be carrying something with us
as go down to the catamaran empty-handed.  If you and Simpson will lay
hold of that case of ammunition, I will bring along half a dozen rifles,
and we shall then be quite as well armed as there will be any need for
us to be.  We may not want them, but, on the other hand, we _may_, and
if we should happen to want them at all, we shall probably want them
very badly."

Upon taking the cutter in tow it was found that she towed very lightly,
offering only a trifling resistance to the catamaran after both had
fairly got way upon them; and in little more than half an hour both
craft were off the entrance to the cove.  Yet so cunningly had Nature
concealed it that though Leslie knew almost to an inch where to look for
it, he had the utmost difficulty in finding it, and had he not possessed
a personal knowledge of its existence, and therefore persisted in his
search, he would never have found it.  But, after passing the opening no
less than four times without being able to find it, he managed to hit it
off at his fifth attempt, and, ten minutes later, both craft were inside
and snugly moored to the rocky side of the basin, the catamaran being
placed innermost to protect the dainty, freshly painted sides of the
cutter from chafe against the rock.

Nicholls and Simpson betrayed the profoundest astonishment and
admiration at the singularly perfect adaptation of the cove to the
purposes of a harbour for small craft, and could scarcely be persuaded
to drag themselves away from the water's edge.  But when at length they
had been induced to climb up the almost vertical face of the cliffs and
found themselves at the mouth of the treasure-cave, their wonder at what
they saw was greater than ever.  They uttered loud exclamations of
astonishment when they were invited to lift one of the hide-bound gold
bricks, and felt the unexpected weight of it; but neither of them
appeared to have the remotest suspicion of the real nature of the stuff
they were handling, Nicholls merely commenting upon its excellence as
ballast, and lauding Leslie's wisdom in having decided to so use it
instead of those portions of the lead castings that he had rejected.
Indeed, both men appeared to regard the queer little black leather--
bound blocks as merely something especially suitable for ballast, and
taken by Dick for that purpose and reason alone; it was the massive,
ancient-looking, carved chests, with their elaborate binding of rusty
metal-work that they appeared to regard as the receptacles of the
"valuables" about the safety of which Leslie was so anxious.

They managed to get sixty of the gold bricks down aboard the cutter and
stowed under her cabin floor that same afternoon, and by the time that
they had accomplished this, the level rays of the declining sun warned
them that the moment had arrived when they ought to be starting upon
their march across country toward their camp.

The broken character of the country claimed a larger share of Leslie's
attention upon this occasion than when he had last visited the cave.
Perhaps it was because his mind was now more at rest than it had then
been--for the cutter that was at the former period merely a possibility,
was now an actuality; and, more than that, already carried a very
respectable little fortune snugly stowed away in her interior; or,
possibly--who can tell?--there may have been some vague, unsuspected
mental prevision that ere long an intimate knowledge of every detail of
those curiously shapeless earthquake upheavals would be of priceless
value to him.  Be that as it may, he now looked about him with the eyes
of the warrior rather than the explorer, noting with astonishment the
wonderful way in which the earthquake had split and piled up the rocks
into the form of a natural impregnable fortress, including both the
cavern and the basin.  There was one point, and one only, at which this
natural fortress could be entered, and upon his previous visit he had
passed through it twice without noting this fact; now, however, he not
only took notice of it, but saw also that a small rampart, composed of a
dozen or so of stones, that could be arranged in five minutes, would
enable a single man to hold the place against an army, or, at all
events, so long as his ammunition held out.  So strongly did this idea
impress itself upon him that he could not resist the temptation to
actually construct this small rampart then and there.

"Stop a moment, you two," he cried; "I have a fancy for trying a little
experiment.  Just bring me along a few of the heaviest pieces of rock
that you can conveniently handle."

And, seizing a block himself, he carried it to a certain point, and
threw it on the ground.  Then on and about this he piled the others that
were brought to him until, within ten minutes, he had constructed a
breastwork of dimensions sufficient to efficiently screen one man from
the fire of an enemy, while it enabled him, through a small loophole, to
effectually enfilade the one only spot at which that enemy could
possibly enter.  He flung himself down behind the barricade and peeped
through the loophole.  The defence was now complete.

"There," he exclaimed, in tones of perfect satisfaction, "if anybody
should ever come here in the future, and require a citadel upon which to
retreat against overwhelming odds, this is the place.  And so long as he
can command the nerve to remain behind this barricade and maintain a
steady rifle-fire upon that narrow gap--through which, as you may see,
only one man can pass at a time--he will be absolutely safe.  Well,
thank God, _we_ are not likely to need its protection, for we ought to
be at sea on the third evening from now."

The following day was devoted by the three men to the task of putting
the remainder of the gold bricks on board the cutter; and this they
succeeded in accomplishing before knocking-off work for the day; but it
meant that they had to work hard and late to do it.  Meanwhile Flora was
equally busily engaged upon the work of getting together, from the
heterogeneous assortment of clothing that had formed part of the
_Mermaid's_ cargo, a sufficient stock to see her through her two months'
voyage to the other side of the Pacific.  Knowing that she was thus
engaged, and would doubtless be fatigued by the time that she had
arrived at the end of her day's work, Leslie was considerably surprised
when, having traversed about half the distance between the cove and the
camp, he encountered her; she having evidently walked out from the camp
to meet him.  Moreover he saw at once that this encounter was not merely
the result of a natural desire on the part of a girl to meet her lover,
it was something more momentous than that, for there was an excited look
in her eyes that there was no mistaking.  So, doffing his cap to her as
she joined his little party, he said, with a smile--

"Well, dear, what is it?  You have news of some kind for us, I see; but
not bad news, I hope."

"Oh no," she replied; "it is not bad news at all--at least I should
think not.  It is simply that there is a ship approaching the island,
and as I thought you would be glad to know it as soon as possible, I
decided to come on and tell you at once."

"Thanks, very much," replied Dick.  "This is indeed interesting news.
Whereabouts is she, and how far off?"

"She is over there, in that direction," replied Flora, pointing to the
north-westward.  "It was by the merest accident that I happened to see
her.  I took the fancy to go up toward Mermaid Head to gather a bouquet
of those lovely orchids that grow in that direction, thinking that
probably it would be my last opportunity to get any of them, and it was
while I was gathering them that I saw her.  She is still a good distance
away; and I might have thought that she was merely passing the island,
for when I first saw her she was sailing in that direction,"--sweeping
her hand from west to east; "but while I was still watching her she
turned round, and now is coming nearly straight for the island."

"Ah," remarked Leslie, thoughtfully, "this is certainly interesting, and
I am much obliged to you for coming out to tell us.  Let us be getting
on toward the camp; there may still be time for me to run up to the
point and have a look at her ere nightfall."  Then, following up his own
train of thought, he added, "If she be as far off as you describe, she
will hardly be near enough to hit off the entrance channel and come
inside before dark--that is to say, if she really means to pay us a
visit."

Nothing more was said upon the subject just then; but as soon as Leslie
reached the camp he procured the telescope, and, hurrying away to the
nearest point from which it would be possible to obtain a view of the
stranger, subjected her to as careful a scrutiny as the circumstances
permitted.

After all, however, there was not very much to be learned about her, for
she was about twelve miles distant, dead to leeward of the island, and
as the sun was already dipping below the horizon, the time available for
observation was but short.  He could distinguish, however, that she was
barque-rigged, and apparently a very smart little vessel of about three
hundred tons or thereabout.  That she was beating up to fetch the island
was obvious; for whereas when Leslie first sighted her she was on the
port tack, heading south, she shortly afterwards tacked to the eastward,
thus--in conjunction with what Flora had already observed--clearly
indicating that her purpose was at least to pass the island as closely
as possible, if not to actually touch at it.  And that the latter was
her intention Leslie had no manner of doubt; for if she had intended
merely to pass it closely by, there would have been no need for her to
have made that last board to the eastward; by standing on to the
southward she would have slid down under the lee of the island quite
closely enough to have made the most detailed observations that her
commander might have deemed necessary.  There was one peculiarity
connected with her that for some inexplicable reason took hold upon
Leslie's mind with a persistence that was positively worrying to him,
yet it was a peculiarity of apparently the most trivial and unimportant
character; it was simply that when she tacked he noticed--with that
keenness of observation that is so peculiarly the attribute of the
highly trained naval officer--that her yards were swung very slowly, and
one after the other, as though she were very short-handed, even for a
merchant vessel.

As Leslie closed the telescope and thoughtfully wended his way back
toward the camp, he found himself perplexed by the presence within his
mind of two strangely conflicting trains of thought.  On the one hand,
here was a ship approaching the island, and either intending to make a
call at it, or to approach it so closely that it would be the simplest
matter in the world for him to go out on the catamaran and intercept
her.  By acting thus he would be able, without any difficulty, to secure
for his companions and himself transport to some civilised port from
which it would be easy for them to obtain a passage to England, even
though the barque herself should not be homeward-bound.  And that
transport would be at least of as safe a character as that afforded by
the cutter, while it would be infinitely more comfortable, at all events
for Flora, should they happen to encounter bad weather.  Following this
train of thought, it seemed to Leslie that the obvious commonsense
course for him to pursue was to take the catamaran, go out to the
barque, and, acquainting the skipper with all the circumstances relating
to the presence of the little party upon the island, pilot her into the
lagoon, with the view of coming to some arrangement for the shipping of
himself and his companions on board her on the morrow.

But against this plan there was the thought of the treasure.  What was
to be done with it?  Would it be prudent or advisable to entrust a
property of such enormous value to a crew of absolute strangers, of
whose characters he would have no time or opportunity to judge?  Upon
this point he had no doubt whatever; the answer to this question was a
most emphatic negative.  But if--so ran his thoughts--he was not
prepared to ship the treasure aboard this unknown barque, and entrust it
to her unknown crew, what was he to do with it?  Was he to leave it
concealed in the cavern that had already been its hiding-place for so
many years, and return to fetch it away at some more convenient season?
His recent experience of the great physical changes that may be wrought
by an earthquake shock had already impressed upon him a strong
conviction of the possibility that a second shock might at any moment
bury the treasure irrecoverably; and this conviction was as strong an
argument against the adoption of the alternative course as a man need
wish for.  No; he felt that it would be equally unwise for him to ship
it aboard the stranger, and to leave it on the island until he could
return to fetch it.  If he desired to make sure of it--as he most
certainly did--his proper course was to carry it away in the cutter, as
he had always intended.  And as to Nicholls and Simpson, he felt that,
despite the appearance of this mysterious barque upon the scene, his
liberal offer to them would quite suffice to hold them to their bargain
with him.  The ground thus cleared, there remained only Flora to be
considered; and Dick very quickly arrived at the conclusion that she,
and she only, was the one who could decide whether she would leave the
island in the barque or accompany him in the cutter.  But he had not
much doubt as to what her decision would be.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

THE MYSTERIOUS BARQUE.

When Leslie returned to the camp he found the tent lighted up, and Flora
and dinner awaiting him.  He was tired, for the day had been an
unusually fatiguing one; and when a man is tired he usually prefers to
be silent.  Nevertheless, he recapitulated in detail to Flora all that
had been in his mind during his walk home; and finally put the question
to her whether she would rather leave in the barque, or in the cutter;
the former, perhaps, offering her more comfortable--because more roomy--
quarters than the latter.

"What have _you_ decided to do, Dick?" she asked.

"Oh," he replied, "so far as I am concerned, I have quite made up my
mind to adhere to my original plan of going home in the cutter, and
taking our treasure with me."

"Then, of course, that settles everything," said Flora, simply.  "Where
you go, Dick dear, I go also--that is to say, if you will have me."
This last with a most angelic smile.

There was but one reply possible to such a remark, so that matter was
settled; after which, having lighted his pipe, he strolled over to the
hut, to discuss with Nicholls and Simpson the unexpected appearance of
the barque in their neighbourhood.

"If she means to touch here, as I feel pretty certain that she does,"
remarked Leslie, after he had related to the two men the result of his
observations, "she will doubtless dodge off and on until daylight--as of
course she cannot know the whereabouts of the channel through the reef--
and then we can go out in the canoe and pilot her in.  Meanwhile, what
do you two men think of doing?  Are you going to keep to your
arrangement with me; or would you prefer to get the skipper of the
barque to take you?"

Nicholls regarded Leslie with some surprise.  "I hope, sir," he said,
"that you don't want to cry off your bargain with us!  I've already been
planning in my mind what I'll do with that five hundred--"

"Certainly not," interrupted Dick, with a laugh; "_I_ have no wish to
cry off my bargain, as you term it.  I merely wish you to understand
that I will not attempt to hold you to it if you would prefer the barque
to the cutter.  The barque would doubtless be more comfortable than the
cutter in heavy weather."

"May be she would, or may be she wouldn't," observed Nicholls.  "Anyhow,
the difference wouldn't be so very great, one way or the other.  But
there's no five hundred pound to be got out of the barque; and I'm bound
to have that money, Mr Leslie--"

"Same here," cut in Simpson.

"All right," laughed Leslie.  "Then that matter is settled for good and
all; so we need say no more about it."

"Question is: What's she comin' here for?" inquired Simpson,
volunteering a remark for the first time on record.

"Oh, who can tell?" returned Leslie.  "She may be a whaler--although I
do not believe that she is--putting in here in the hope of finding
water.  That is the only explanation that has occurred to me as
accounting for her presence in this locality--which is really a long way
out of any of the usual ship tracks.  She is the first craft that I have
sighted since my arrival upon this island.  But no doubt we shall learn
to-morrow--"

"Why, there she is," interrupted Nicholls, pointing.  "By Jingo, just
look at that; coming in through the channel as confidently as though she
had been in the habit of sailin' in and out of it every day of her life!
And with nothing better than the starlight to see her way by.  Well,
dash my wig, but that's a rum go, and no mistake!"

It was even as he said; for while the three men stood there talking
together the shadowy form of the barque, under her two topsails and
fore-topmast staysail, was seen gliding into the lagoon close past Cape
Flora--her skipper evidently perfectly acquainted with the exact
situation of the entrance channel--and presently her topsail halliards
were let run and the sails clewed up, the rattle of the gear and the
cheeping of the blocks being distinctly audible to the three on the
beach.  Then a minute or two later came the splash of the anchor and the
rumbling rattle of the cable through the hawse-pipe, and the barque was
seen to swing to her anchor.

"Well, it is perfectly clear that the man who has charge of her has been
in here at least once before," remarked Leslie.  "Evidently he knows the
place quite well.  Now, I wonder _what_ it is that has brought him here;
I would give a trifle to know.  And, of course, I could readily find out
by taking the canoe and paddling off aboard to ask the question.  But I
will not do that; and, furthermore, it may be just as well not to let
those people know--until to-morrow morning, at any rate--that there is
anybody on the island, therefore pleads take care, both of you, that no
light shows from your hut to-night.  And I will just step up to the tent
and give Miss Trevor a similar caution.  Good night, men.  We had better
be stirring by dawn to-morrow morning."  So saying, Leslie turned away,
and made his way to the tent, where he not only cautioned Flora against
showing a light, but took such simple precautions as were required to
render it impossible that the necessary lights in the tent should be
seen from the barque.  Then, this done to his satisfaction, he lighted
his pipe and, taking the telescope--which was both a day and a
night-glass--once more sauntered down to the beach to watch the
proceedings aboard the strange vessel.  For although he could find no
legitimate reason or excuse for the feeling, it was an undeniable fact
that the appearance of this barque upon the scene affected him
disagreeably, producing within him a vague sense of unrest that almost
amounted to foreboding.  _Why_ had she come to the island?  That was the
question that persistently haunted him, and to which he could find no
entirely satisfactory reply.  That her presence there was accidental he
could not believe, else how came it that the person in charge of her
knew so well where to find the channel giving access to the lagoon, and
entered it so confidently, not even waiting for the daylight to enable
him to see his way in?  And as he mused thus he employed himself in
intently watching the barque through the night-glass, again noting the
fact that the vessel was curiously short-handed, for her people furled
only one topsail at a time, and--so far as he could make out--had only
four men available for the job, instead of at least twice that number.
Furthermore, he noticed that, even for that small number of men, the
time consumed in rolling up and stowing the sails was quite
unconscionable, arguing the existence of an exceedingly lax discipline--
if any at all--aboard the craft.  He estimated that it occupied those
four men fully two hours to furl the two topsails; and when it was at
last done and the men had descended to the deck with exasperating
deliberation, he came to the conclusion that, if the night-glass was to
be trusted, the job had been done in a most disgracefully slovenly
manner.

He patiently watched that barque until all visible signs of life aboard
her had vanished, and then he walked thoughtfully back to the tent and
turned in--Flora having retired some time before.  But ere he could get
to sleep he was disturbed by the sounds of a hideous uproar that came
floating shoreward from the stranger; and, going again into the open air
to hear more clearly, he presently recognised the sounds as those of
discordant singing, finally recognising the fact that a regular drunken
orgie was in progress aboard the craft--still further evidence of a
singularly lax state of discipline.

Leslie's couch was a sleepless one that night; for the fact was that,
taking everything into consideration, he could neither account
satisfactorily for the presence of the barque at the island, nor
convince himself that her errand there was an altogether honest one.
Therefore, with the first faint flush of dawn he was again astir; and
rousing Flora and the two men, he bade them get their breakfasts
forthwith and make the best of their way out of the camp ere the
barque's people should have had an opportunity to see them and become
aware of their presence on the island.  And he further gave Nicholls and
Simpson instructions to proceed with and complete the rigging of the
cutter and the bending of her sails, in readiness for getting under way
at a moment's notice.  Unfortunately the _Flora_ had still to be
provisioned and watered for her voyage; and it was just this fact, and
the possibility that the strangers might be disposed to interfere with
these operations, that discomposed him.  But for this he would most
cheerfully have marched himself and his little party out of the camp and
left it, with everything it contained, to the mercy of the barque's
crew--whom he had already, in some unaccountable fashion, come to look
upon as outlaws.  He gave the men the strictest injunctions that Flora
was to forthwith take up her quarters aboard the cutter, while they--
Nicholls and Simpson--were to camp in the natural fortress to which he
had that same afternoon drawn their attention, holding it against all
comers, and on no account leaving it altogether unguarded, either day or
night.  As for himself, he announced that he would remain, as sole
occupant of the camp, to meet the strangers and ascertain the reason for
their visit; after which his further actions would be guided by
circumstances.

Leslie was of opinion that, after the orgie of the preceding night, the
crew of the barque would be in no particular hurry to turn out; and his
surmise proved to be quite correct, for although he kept a keen watch
upon the vessel it was not until nearly nine o'clock that he detected
the first signs of movement on board her, in the shape of a thin
streamer of smoke, issuing from the galley funnel.  He then watched for
the usual signs of washing down the decks, the drawing of water, the
streaming of the scuppers, and so on, but could detect nothing of the
kind; neither was the bell struck on board to mark the passage of time--
two additional indications of the absence of discipline that still
further increased his fast-growing uneasiness respecting the character
of his unwelcome visitors.  As soon as the light was strong enough, it
may be mentioned, he had taken a look at the barque through his
telescope, and had read the words "_Minerva_, Glasgow," painted across
her counter; he thus knew that the vessel was British, as, indeed, he
had already suspected.

Now, it was Dick's purpose to learn as much as he possibly could about
the strangers, and to let them know as little as possible about
himself--and nothing at all about his companions--in return, until he
had had an opportunity to get some notion of their true character.  He
had therefore determined to pose as a solitary castaway; and now, in
that character, proceeded down to the beach, stepped into the canoe, and
began to paddle laboriously off toward the barque.  For he knew that one
of the first things to be done by the skipper of that vessel would be to
bring his telescope to bear upon the island, and this would immediately
result in the discovery of his tent, his pile of salvage from the brig,
the hut, and all the litter upon the beach; and as it was consequently
impossible to conceal the fact of his presence upon the island, he
judged that the natural action of such a castaway as himself would be to
eagerly seize the first opportunity to communicate with a calling ship.

The canoe being a big, heavy craft for one man to handle, it took him a
full hour to paddle off to the barque; but it was not until he was
within a hundred yards of her that he was able to detect any open
indication of the fact that his presence had been discovered.  Then he
saw a big, burly-looking individual come aft along the vessel's full
poop, and deliberately bring a pair of binocular glasses to bear upon
him.  He at once ceased paddling, and, placing his hands to his mouth,
hailed--

"_Minerva_ ahoy!"

"Hillo!" came the response across the water, in a gruff voice that
accurately matched the build and general appearance of the owner.

"May I come aboard?" inquired Dick resuming his paddle.

"Ay, ay; come aboard, if ye like," was the somewhat ungracious response.

Without further parley Leslie paddled up alongside under the starboard
main channels, and, flinging his painter up to an individual who came to
the side and peered curiously down upon him over the bulwarks, scrambled
up the side as best he could in the absence of a side-ladder, and the
next moment found himself on deck.

He cast an apparently casual but really all-embracing glance round him,
and noted that the barque was evidently just an ordinary trader, with
nothing in the least remarkable about her appearance save the
extraordinary paucity of men about her decks.  Under ordinary
circumstances and conditions, at this hour all hands would have been on
deck and busy about their preparations for the carrying out of the
object of their visit to the island--whatever that might be; instead of
which the man on the poop, the man who had made fast his painter for
him, and the cook--a fat-faced, evil-looking man with a most atrocious
squint--who came to the galley door and stared with malevolent curiosity
at him--were the only individuals visible.  It was not, however, any
part of Leslie's policy to exhibit surprise at such an unusual condition
of affairs, so he simply advanced to the poop ladder, with the manner of
one a little uncertain how to act, and, looking up at the burly man who
stood at the head of the ladder, glowering down upon him, said--

"Good morning!  Are you the captain of this barque?"

"Ay," answered the individual addressed; "I'm Cap'n Turnbull.  Who may
you be, mister? and how the blazes do you come to be on that there
island?  And how many more are there of ye?"

"As you see, I am alone, unfortunately," answered Leslie; "and a pretty
hard time I have had of it.  But, thank God, that is all over now that
you have turned up--for I presume you will be quite willing to give me a
passage to the next port you may be calling at?"

"_Give_ ye a passage?" reiterated the burly man, scornfully; "give
nothin'!  I'm a poor man, I am, and can't afford to give anything away,
not even a passage to the next port.  But if you'm minded to come aboard
and _work_ your passage, you're welcome.  For I'm short-handed, as I
dare say you can see; and it's easy enough to tell that you're a
sailor-man.  It you wasn't you wouldn't be here, would ye?"  This last
with a grin that disclosed a set of strong irregular, tobacco-stained
teeth, and imparted to the speaker the expression of a satyr.

The conversation thus far had been conducted as it had started, with
Leslie down on the main deck and Turnbull on the poop.  The incongruity
of the arrangement now seemed to strike the latter, for he added--

"Come up here, mister; we can talk more comfortably when we're alongside
of one another; and you can spin me the yarn how you come to be all
alone by yourself on yon island."

In acceptance of this graciously worded invitation, Leslie ran lightly
up the poop ladder and, slightly raising his cap, said--

"Permit me to introduce myself, Captain Turnbull.  My name is
_Leslie_,"--with emphasis--"and the recital of the chain of
circumstances which ended in my being cast away upon the island yonder
will be so lengthy that, with your permission, I will smoke a pipe as I
tell it."

And therewith he calmly drew his pipe from his pocket and, filling it,
lighted up.  Meanwhile his manner, language, and appearance had been
steadily impressing the other man, who insensibly began to infuse his
own manner with a certain measure of respect as the interview lengthened
itself out.

Having lighted his pipe, Leslie proceeded to relate the whole story of
his adventure, beginning with his embarkation on board the _Golden
Fleece_, and ending up with the stranding of the _Mermaid_, but
carefully suppressing all reference whatsoever to Miss Trevor; and
representing himself not as an ex-naval officer, but as an amateur
yachtsman.  He was careful also to mention nothing about the existence
of the cutter, but, on the other hand, dwelt at some length upon the
idea he had entertained of building a craft capable of carrying him and
a sufficient stock of provisions away from the island.  "I doubt,
however, whether I should ever have managed it, single-handed.  But your
arrival renders all further trouble on that score unnecessary," he said,
in conclusion.

"Well, yes," returned Turnbull, somewhat more genially than he had yet
spoken; "there's no call for you to worry about buildin' a boat now, as
you says, 'specially as you're a good navigator.  You can come home with
us, workin' your passage by navigatin' the ship.  For a good navigator
is just exactly what I happens to want."

"Ah, indeed!  Cannot you rely upon your mate, then?" inquired Leslie,
blandly.

"My mate?" ejaculated the burly man; "well, no, I can't.  That's to
say," he continued confusedly, "he's the only navigator I've got now,
and--well, no, I _can't_ depend upon him."

"Do you find, then, that your own observations and his yield different
results?" asked Leslie, still in the same bland, quiet manner.

"My own observations?" reiterated Captain Turnbull.  "_I_ don't take no
observations.  Ye see," he added, looking hard at Leslie's impassive
face to discover whether the latter had noticed anything peculiar in
such an extraordinary admission, "my sight's a little bit peculiar; I
can see ordinary things plain enough, but when it comes to squintin'
through a sextant I can't see nothin'."

"Ah, indeed; that must be exceedingly awkward for you, Captain,"
returned Leslie.  "I am not surprised at your anxiety to secure the
services of another navigator.  By the way, how long do you propose to
remain here?  I should like to know, so that I may make my preparations
accordingly."

"Well," answered Turnbull, "there's no particular reason for you to
hurry; I s'pose half an hour 'll be about time enough for you to get
your few traps together and bring 'em off, won't it?"

"Oh yes," answered Leslie, nonchalantly, "that time will amply suffice.
I will do so at once, if you like."

"There's no occasion for hurry, as I said just now," retorted Turnbull.
"Now that we're here I think I shall give the men a spell and let 'em
have a run ashore a bit.  In fact, I think I could do with a week ashore
there myself.  Most lovely place it looks like, from here.  By-the-bye,
how long did you say you'd been on that there island?"

"A trifle over nine months," answered Leslie.

"Over nine months!" ejaculated the other in tones of intense surprise.
"Well, nobody'd think as you'd been a castaway for nine months, to look
at ye.  Why, you look strong and healthy enough, and as smartly rigged
as though you'd just stepped out of the most dandy outfitter's in the
Minories!"

"Oh, but there is nothing very wonderful in that," laughingly protested
Leslie.  "Nine months of life, practically in the open air all the time,
is just the thing to keep a man fit, you know; while as for my `rig,' I
found a big stock of clothes among the _Mermaid's_ cargo, and I have
drawn freely upon that."

"Nine months on the island," repeated Turnbull, still dwelling upon that
particular fact; "why, I s'pose you know every inch of the ground ashore
there by this time?"

There was a certain ill-suppressed eagerness in the tones of the man's
voice as he asked this question that acted very much as a danger-signal
to Leslie.  It seemed to suggest that thus far the man had merely been
fencing with him, but that he was now trying to get within his guard;
that, in short, the object of the _Minerva's_ visit to the island was
nearing the surface.  He therefore replied, with studied carelessness--

"No, indeed I do not.  On the contrary, I know very little of it--not
nearly as much as I ought to know.  I have been to the summit once, and
took a general survey of the island from that point, and I have wandered
for a short distance about the less densely bush-clad ground on this
side of the island; but that is about all.  The fact is that I was much
too keen upon saving everything I possibly could out of the brig to
think of wasting my time in wandering about an island the greater part
of which is covered with almost impassable bush."

"Ah, yes; I s'pose you would be," rejoined Turnbull, with an expression
of relief that set Leslie wondering.

What on earth did it matter to Turnbull whether he--Dick Leslie--had
explored the island or not? he asked himself.  Turnbull's next remark
let in a little light upon the obscurity, and distinctly startled
Leslie.  For, staring steadfastly at the island, the burly man presently
observed--

"Yes; it's a fine big island, that, and no mistake.  With a mountain on
it and all, too.  I should say, now, that that island would be a very
likely place for _caves_, eh?  Looks as though there might be any amount
of caves ashore there in the sides of that there hill, don't it?"

_Caves_!  Like a flash of lightning the true explanation of the
_Minerva's_ visit stood clearly revealed to Leslie's mind.  That one
word "caves," spoken as it was in tones of mingled excitement and
anxiety, ill-suppressed, had furnished him with the key to the entire
enigma.  _Caves_!  Yes, of course; that was it; that explained
everything--or very nearly everything--that had thus far been puzzling
Leslie, and gave him practically all the information that he had been so
anxious to acquire.  He had read of such incidents in books, of course,
but had so far regarded them merely as pegs whereon to hang a more or
less ingeniously conceived and exciting romance; but here was a similar
incident occurring in actual prosaic earnest; and he suddenly found
himself confronted with a situation of exceeding difficulty.  For the
mention by Turnbull of the word "caves"--careless and casual as he
fondly believed it to be, but actually exceedingly clumsy--had in an
instant driven home to Leslie's mind the conviction that somehow or
other this man had become possessed of information of the existence of
the treasure on this island, _and had come to take it away_!  By what
circuitous chain of events the information had fallen into the fellow's
hands it was of course quite impossible to guess; but that this was the
explanation of everything Dick was fully convinced.  And now that he
possessed the clue he could not only guard his own tongue against the
betrayal of information, but could also doubtless so order his remarks
as to extort from some one or another of his visitors all the details
that he himself might require.  So, in reply to Turnbull's last remark,
he said carelessly--

"Caves! oh, really I don't know; very possibly there may be--unless the
earthquake has shaken them all in and filled them up--"

"Earthquake!" roared Turnbull, in tones of mingled rage and
consternation; "you don't mean to say as you've had a hearthquake here,
do ye?"

"Certainly," answered Dick, with as much _sang-froid_ as though an
earthquake were a mere pleasant interlude in an otherwise monotonous
life; "it occurred about three months ago, and gave the place a pretty
severe shaking up, I can assure you.  It also started that volcano into
activity again after ages of quiescence."

"The mischief!" ejaculated Turnbull, with manifest discomposure.  "I
must go ashore at once!"

"I am afraid," said Leslie, gently, "that my mention of the earthquake
and its possible effect upon the caves of the island has somewhat upset
you.  Are you going ashore in the hope of finding any particular cave?
If so, I shall be most happy to assist you in your search."

"Assist!  I'll be--I mean of course not," exclaimed Turnbull, beginning
with a savage bellow and suddenly calming himself again.  "What d'ye
s'pose a man like me wants to go pokin' about ashore there, huntin'
after caves for?  I've somethin' else to do.  I've come in here because
our fresh water's turned bad, and I thought that maybe I might be able
to renew my stock, I s'pose there's fresh water to be had on the
island?"

"Certainly," answered Leslie; "there is a most excellent supply, and
quite accessible to your boats.  It lies over there," pointing toward
Mermaid Head; "and falls over a low ledge of rock into deep-water.  You
can go alongside the rock and fill up your boats or tanks direct, if you
like."

"Ah, that'll do first-rate," remarked Turnbull; "I'll give orders for
the men to start the foul water at once.  And now, as I see that the
sun's over the fore-yard, what'll you take to drink?  I s'pose you've
been pretty hard up all these months for drink, haven't ye?"

"No, indeed," answered Leslie; "on the contrary, I found an abundance of
wines and spirits aboard the brig.  The only thing that I have lacked
has been mineral waters; therefore if you happen to have any soda-water
on board it will give me great pleasure to take a whisky and soda with
you."

"I believe we have some sodas left," answered Turnbull, doubtfully.
"You won't mind takin' it up here on the poop, will ye?" he continued.
"Fact is there's a man lyin' sick in one of the cabins below, and I
don't want to disturb him with our talk."

Of course Leslie, although he had his doubts about the genuineness of
the "sick man" story, readily acquiesced in the suggestion of the other,
and seated himself in one of two deck-chairs that were standing on the
poop, while Turnbull retired ostensibly for the purpose of quietly
hunting up the steward.

A few minutes later the steward--a young Cockney of about twenty-five
years of age, who had the worn, harassed appearance of a man living in a
state of perpetual scare--came up the poop ladder, bearing a tray on
which were a couple of tumblers, an uncorked bottle of whisky, and two
bottles of soda-water, which he placed upon the skylight cover.  Then,
taking up the whisky-bottle and a tumbler, he proceeded to pour out a
portion of the spirit, glancing anxiously about him as he did so.

"Say `when,' sir, please," he requested, in a loud voice, immediately
adding under his breath, "Are you alone, ashore there, sir, or is there
others there along with you?"

His whole air of extreme trepidation, and the manner of secrecy with
which he put this singular question, was but further confirmation--if
any were needed--of certain very ugly suspicions that had been taking a
strong hold upon Leslie during the whole progress of his interview with
the man Turnbull; Dick therefore replied to the steward by putting
another question to him in the same low, cautious tones--

"Why do you ask me that, my man?" he murmured.

"Because, sir, there's--Is that about enough whisky, sir?"

The latter part of the steward's speech was uttered in a tone of voice
that could be distinctly heard as far forward as the break of the poop,
and, with the man's abrupt change of subject was evidently caused--as
Leslie could see out of the corner of his eye--by the silent, stealthy
appearance of Turnbull's head above the top of the ladder, and the
glance of keen suspicion that he shot at the two occupants of the poop.

Dick took the tumbler from the steward's shaking hand and calmly held it
up before him, critically measuring the quantity of spirit it contained.

"Yes, thanks," he replied; "that will do nicely.  Now for the soda."

And he held the tumbler while the steward opened the soda-water bottle
and emptied it's effervescing contents into the spirit.  Turnbull
glanced keenly from Leslie to the steward and back again, but said
nothing, although the unfortunate attendant's condition of terror was
patent to all observers.  Dick waited patiently while the trembling man
helped Turnbull, and then, lifting his tumbler, said--

"Your health, Captain; and to our better acquaintance."

"Thank 'ee; same to you," gruffly replied the individual addressed;
adding to the steward, "That'll do; you can go back to your pantry now,
and get on with your work."

The fellow departed in double-quick time, obviously glad to get away
from the neighbourhood of his somewhat surly superior; and as he went
Turnbull watched him until he disappeared down the poop ladder.

"Rum cove, that," he remarked to Leslie, as the man vanished.  "Good
sort of steward enough, but nervous as a cat.  Did ye notice him?"

"It was quite impossible not to do so," answered Dick, with a laugh.
"And I could not help feeling sorry for the poor beggar.  I take it that
he is the simpleton of the ship, and that all hands make a point of
badgering him."

"Ay," answered Turnbull, eagerly, clearly relieved that Dick had taken
this view of the man's condition; "that's just exactly what it is;
you've hit the case off to a haffigraphy.  Well, enough said about him.
If you're ready to go ashore now I'll go with ye."

"By all means," answered Leslie, genially; not that he was in the least
degree desirous to have the man's company, or even that he or any of his
crew should land upon the island at all.  Still, he knew that, the
barque being where she was, it was inevitable that at least some of the
ship's company would insist upon going ashore, and he could not see how
he was to prevent them; meanwhile, it was much better to have the fellow
alone with him than accompanied by half a dozen or more of his men.

As he spoke he rose from his seat and led the way toward the canoe,
Turnbull following him.  Upon reaching the gangway, however, Dick looked
over the side, and then, turning to his companion, said--

"I think you would find it more convenient if your people rigged the
side-ladder.  My canoe is rather crank, and if you should happen to
tumble overboard in getting into her I would not answer for your life;
the lagoon swarms with sharks, and as likely as not there are one or two
under the ship's bottom at this moment."

Turnbull grunted and turned away, looking forward to where two or three
men were loafing about on the forecastle, hard at work doing nothing.

"For'ard, there!" he shouted; "rouse out the side-ladder and rig it,
some of ye, and look sharp about it.  Steward," he added, turning toward
the cabin under the poop, "bring me out a handful of cigars."

The two men with the ladder, and the steward with the cigars, appeared
simultaneously; and, pocketing the weeds, the skipper proceeded to the
gangway to supervise the rigging of the ladder.  As he did so, Leslie
felt something being thrust surreptitiously into his hand.  It felt like
a folded piece of paper, and he calmly pocketed it, glancing casually
about him as he did so.  The steward was the only man near him, and he
was shuffling off nimbly on his way back to his pantry.

Leslie took his time paddling ashore, and when at length the pair landed
on the beach the sun had passed the meridian.

"Now, Captain," said Dick, "where would you like to go in the first
place?"

Turnbull stood and looked about him admiringly.  "Why," he exclaimed,
"this here hisland is a real beautiful place, and no mistake.  Dash my
wig! why, a man might do a sight worse than settle here for the rest of
his natural, eh?"

"Ay," answered Leslie, indifferently; "I have often thought so myself.
Indeed it is quite on the cards that I may return here some day, with a
few seeds and an outfit of gardeners' tools.  As you say, a man might do
worse.  By the way, perhaps it will be as well to get lunch before we
start out on our ramble.  Will you come up to my tent?  You will find it
a very comfortable little shanty.  I must apologise for the fare that I
shall be obliged to offer you, but I have lived on tinned meat and fish
ever since I have been here; and I have caught no fish to-day."

"Well, I must say as you've managed to make yourself pretty tidy
comfortable," observed Leslie's guest as he entered the tent and stared
about him in astonishment; "picters, fancy lamps, tables and chairs with
swagger cloths and jigmarees upon 'em, and a brass-mounted bedstead and
beddin' fit for a king!  They're a blame sight better quarters than
you'll find aboard the _Minerva_, and so I tell ye."

Leslie laughed lightly.  "What does that matter?" he demanded.  "True, I
am fond of comfort, and always make a point of getting it where I can;
but I can rough it with anybody when it becomes necessary."

Dick was obliged to leave his guest alone in the tent for a short time
while he looked after the preparations for luncheon; and he had little
doubt that during his absence the man would without scruple peer and pry
into the other compartments of the tent.  But to this contingency he was
quite indifferent, for he had foreseen and forestalled it, before going
off to the barque, by carefully gathering up and stowing away such few
traces of a woman's presence as Flora had left behind her.  That
Turnbull had followed the natural propensity of men of his stamp was
made clear immediately upon Dick's return, for, quite unabashed, the
fellow remarked--

"I say, mister, you're doin' the thing in style here, and no mistake.
I've been havin' a look round this here tent of yourn while you've been
away, and I see as you've acshully got a pianner in the next room.  And
where's your shipmate gone to?"

"My shipmate?" repeated Leslie, staring blankly at him.

"Ay, your shipmate," reiterated Turnbull, severely.  "You told me you
was all alone here, but I see as you've got _two_ bedrooms rigged up
here.  Who's t'other for, and where is he?"

"Really, Captain," said Dick, coldly, "I cannot see what possible
difference it can make to you whether I have a shipmate or not, if you
will pardon me for saying so.  But," he continued, somewhat more
genially, "it is perfectly evident that you have never lived alone on an
island, or you would understand what a luxury it is to be able to change
one's sleeping-room occasionally."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" returned Turnbull, with sudden relief.  "You
sleeps sometimes in one bed and sometimes in t'other, by way of a
change, eh?"

"As you see," answered Dick, briefly.  "And now, will you draw up your
chair?  It is not a very tempting meal that I can offer you; but you can
make up for it when you return to your ship this evening."

It was evident to Leslie that Turnbull was much exercised in his mind
about something, for he ate and drank silently and with a preoccupied
air; and later on the reason for this became manifest, for when at
length they rose from the table the fellow remarked with a clumsy effort
at nonchalance--

"Look here, mister, I expect you've a plenty of matters to look after
and attend to, so don't you worry about showin' me round this here
hisland of yourn; you just go on with what you've got in hand, and I'll
take a stroll somewheres by myself."

So that was it.  He wanted an opportunity to go off upon an exploring
expedition unrestrained by Dick's presence!  But this did not at all
chime in with Leslie's plans; for he felt certain that if he yielded to
his companion's suggestion the latter would at once make his way in the
direction of the treasure-cave, and endeavour to discover its locality,
with the result that he would inevitably come into collision with
Nicholls and Simpson.  This, in any case, would doubtless happen, sooner
or later; but Dick wished to acquire a little further information before
it occurred.  He therefore replied--

"Oh, thanks, very much.  I was busy enough, in all conscience, before
you arrived; but now that you have turned up, and have kindly consented
to take me off the island, I have nothing further to do.  So I may as
well accompany you, since I know the shortest way to such few points of
interest as the island possesses.  Where would you like to go?  The
crater and the watering-place are about the only spots that are likely
to tempt you, I think."

Turnbull glared at Dick as though he could have eaten him; and for a
moment the ex-lieutenant thought that his guest was about to try violent
measures with him.  But if that thought was really in his mind he
suffered more prudent counsels to prevail with him, and, after a few
moments' hesitation, intimated that he would like to have a look at the
watering-place.  Dick accordingly piloted his morose companion to the
spot, and pointed out how excellently it was adapted to the purpose of
watering ships, drawing his attention to the deep-water immediately
beneath the low cascade, and dilating upon the facility with which boats
could be brought alongside.  But it was clearly apparent to him that
Turnbull was absolutely uninterested in the subject; and he was by no
means sorry when, upon the return to the camp, the latter declined his
invitation to remain on shore to dinner, and curtly requested to be at
once put off to the barque.  During the passage off to the vessel the
man's surliness of demeanour suddenly vanished, and, as though a
brilliant idea had just struck him, he became in a moment almost
offensively civil, strongly urging Dick to remain aboard the barque and
"make a night of it."  But neither did this suit Dick's plans; the
sudden change in the man's demeanour at once roused Leslie's suspicions;
and as he had no intention whatever of placing himself in the fellow's
power, he suavely declined the invitation, remarking that, as he would
soon be having quite as much of the sea as he wanted, he would continue
to enjoy his present roomy quarters as long as he could.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

A STORY OF MUTINY.

Not until Leslie was once more back in his own tent, and absolutely safe
from all possibility of interruption or espionage, did he venture to
open and peruse the scrap of paper that the steward had that morning so
surreptitiously slipped into his hand.  It was apparently part of the
leaf of a pocket memorandum book; and, hastily scribbled in pencil, in
an ill-formed and uneducated hand, it bore the following words:--

"Sir, for God's sake take care what your about, or your life won't be
worth a brass farden.  Turnbull aint no more the proper capten of this
ship than I am.  There won't be no anchor watch aboard here to-night so
if youl come off about half after midnight I'll be on the lookout for
yer and tell yer the hole bloomin yarn.  For God's sake come.--Steward."

"Um!" meditated Leslie, as he held the document to the light of the
lamp.  "Now, what does this mean?  Is it a trap to get me aboard the
barque, or is it genuine?  The latter, I am inclined to think, for
several reasons; the first of which is that the poor man was obviously
in a state of abject terror this morning.  Secondly, he was so keenly
anxious to open up communication with me that he made an unsuccessful
attempt to do so while helping me to my whisky and soda.  Thirdly, his
statement that Turnbull is not the legitimate skipper of the barque is
so evidently true that it needs no discussion.  And fourthly, if
Turnbull had seriously desired to make me a prisoner this afternoon, he
could easily have done so by sending a boat's crew in pursuit of me--
that is to say," he corrected himself, "for all he knows to the
contrary, he could easily have done so.  For how was he to know that I
had two fully loaded revolvers in my pocket, equivalent to the lives of
twelve men?  Yes, I am strongly inclined to believe that this remarkable
little document is genuine, and that there is something very radically
wrong aboard that barque.  What is it, I wonder?  That Turnbull has
somehow got scent of the treasure, and is after it, I am almost prepared
to swear; his obvious vexation and disappointment at finding me here as
`the man in possession,' and his equally obvious efforts to shake me off
to-day that he might have an opportunity to go away by himself in search
of the cave, prove that; but there is something more than that, I am
certain.  I wonder, now, whether his story of the sick man in the cabin
has anything to do with it?  I should not be surprised if it had.  And
where were the crew this morning?  Turnbull spoke of being short-handed;
but surely there are more people aboard than himself, the steward, the
cook, and the two or three men I saw?  Oh yes, there is something very
queer about the whole business; and this document is genuine.  At all
events I will go off to-night, and hear what the steward has to say
about it."

In accordance with this resolution Leslie forthwith partook of a good
hearty meal, and then, extinguishing his lamp, left the tent--to guard
against the possibility of his being surprised there in his sleep--and,
walking over to the pile of goods that he had accumulated from the
brig's cargo, raised the tarpaulin that covered it, and, creeping
underneath, stretched himself out as comfortably as he could to snatch a
few hours' sleep, confident that the faculty which he possessed of being
able to wake at any desired moment would not play him false.  And a few
minutes later he was fast asleep; for Dick Leslie was one of those men
who, when once they have resolved upon a certain course of action,
dismiss further consideration of it from their minds and allow it to
trouble them no longer.

He had fixed upon half-past eleven as the hour at which he would rise,
this allowing him a full hour in which to paddle off to the barque; and
when by-and-by he awoke, and under the shelter of the tarpaulin
cautiously struck a match and consulted his watch, he found that it was
within five minutes of the half-hour.  He next peered out from under the
tarpaulin and carefully scanned the beach by the light of the stars, to
see whether Turnbull had sent a boat ashore in the hope of "catching a
weasel asleep;" but his own canoe was the only craft visible, and he
accordingly made his way down to the water's edge, and, pushing her off,
sprang noiselessly into her as she went afloat.  Then, heading her round
with a couple of powerful sweeps of the paddle, he pointed her nose
toward the spot where the _Minerva's_ spars made a delicate tracery of
black against the star-spangled heavens, and with long, easy, silent
strokes drove her quietly ahead.

That the crew had not yet retired to their bunks was soon evident to him
from the fact that snatches of maudlin song came floating down to him
occasionally upon the pinions of the dew-laden night breeze; but these
dwindled steadily as he drew nearer to the vessel, and about a quarter
of an hour before he arrived alongside they ceased altogether, and the
craft subsided into complete silence.

Leslie deemed it advisable to approach the barque with a considerable
amount of caution, not that he doubted the steward, but because, despite
the silence that had fallen on board, it was just possible that some of
the crew might still be awake and on deck; he therefore kept the three
masts of the vessel in one, and crept up to her very gently from right
astern.  As he drew in under the shadow of her hull the complete
darkness and silence in which the craft was wrapped seemed almost
ominous and uncanny; but presently he detected a solitary figure on the
poop, evidently on the watch, and a moment later saw that this figure
was silently signalling to him to draw up under the counter.  Obeying
these silent signals, he found a rope dangling over the stern, which he
seized, and the next instant the figure that he had observed came
silently wriggling down the rope into the canoe.  Leslie at once
recognised him as the steward.

"It's all right, sir," whispered the man, breathless, in part from his
exertions, and partly also, Leslie believed, from apprehension; "it's
all right.  But let go, sir, please, and let's get a few fathoms away
from the ship, for there's no knowin' when that skunk Turnbull may take
it into his head to come on deck and 'ave a look round; 'e's as nervous
as a cat, and that suspicious that you can't be up to 'im.  There, thank
'e, sir; I dare say that'll do; they won't be able to see or 'ear us
from where we are now, for I couldn't see you until you was close under
the counter.  Well, you've come, sir, God be thanked; and I 'ope you'll
be able to 'elp us; because if you can't it'll be a precious bad job for
some of us."  And the fellow sighed heavily with mingled apprehension
and relief.

"You had better tell me the whole of your story," said Leslie, quietly.
"I shall then be in a position to say whether I can help you or not.  If
I can, you may rest assured that I will."

"Thank 'e, sir," murmured the man.  "Well, ye see, sir, it's like this.
We sailed from London for Capetown a little more than four months ago;
and everything went smooth and comfortable enough with us until we got
across the line and into the south-east trades--for the skipper, poor
Cap'n Hopkins, was as nice and pleasant a man as anybody need wish to
sail under; and so was Mr Marshall, too--that's the mate, you'll
understand, sir--although 'e kep' the men up to their dooty, and
wouldn't 'ave no skulkin' aboard.  The only chap as was anyways
disagreeable was this feller Turnbull, who was rated as bo'sun, and give
charge of the starboard watch, actin' as a sort of second mate, ye see.
Well, as I was sayin', everything went all right until we got to the
s'uth'ard of the line.  Then, one night I was woke up some time after
midnight by a terrific row in the cabin; and up I jumps and out I goes
to see what was up.  When I got into the cabin it seemed full of men;
but I'd no sooner shown my nose than one of the chaps--it was Pete
Burton, I remember--catches sight of me, and, takin' me by the collar,
'e runs me back into my cabin and says, `You stay in there, Jim,'--my
name's Reynolds--Jim Reynolds--you'll understand, sir.  `You stay in
there, Jim,' 'e says, `and no 'arm'll come to you; but if you tries to
come out afore you're called, you'll get 'urt,' 'e says.  Then 'e turns
the key upon me, and I gets back into my bunk, and listens.  The next
thing I 'eard was a pistol-shot; then there was another tremenjous
'ullabaloo, men shoutin' and strugglin' together, followed by a suddent
silence, and the sound of all 'ands clearin' out of the cabin.  Then
there was a lot of tramplin' of feet on the poop over my 'ead, with a
good deal of talkin'; then I 'eard somebody cry out, there was a 'eavy
splash in the water alongside, and then everything went quite quiet all
of a sudden, and I 'eard no more until mornin'.  But I guessed pretty
well what 'ad 'appened; and when Turnbull come along about five bells
and unlocked my door and ordered me to turn out and get about my work, I
found I was right, for when I went for'ard to the galley, Slushy--that's
the cook, otherwise known as Neil Dolan--told me that that skowbank
Turnbull, backed up by the four A.B.s in the fo'c's'le and Slushy
'isself, 'ad rose and took the ship from the skipper, killin' 'im and
Chips--that's the carpenter--puttin' the mate in irons and lockin' 'im
up in 'is cabin, and compellin' the four ordinarys to help--whether they
would or no--in workin' the ship.  Then, by-and-by, when eight bells
struck and I rang the bell for breakfast, along comes Turnbull, and says
to me--

"`Well, Jim, I s'pose you've 'eard the news?'

"`Yes, bo'sun,' I says, `I 'ave.'

"`Very well,' he says; `that's all right.  Now,' 'e says, `all as you
'ave to do, my son, is to behave yourself and do your dooty, takin' care
not to interfere with my arrangements.  You'll give the mate 'is meals
in 'is own cabin, regular; but you're not to talk to 'im, you
understand, nor tell 'im anything that you may see or 'ear about what's
goin' on.  And don't you call me bo'sun no more, young man, or I'll
knock your bloomin' young 'ead off, for I'm cap'n of this ship now, and
don't you forget it!  So now you knows what to expect.  And, mind you,'
'e says, `if you gets up to any 'ankypanky tricks I'll chuck you over
the side, so sure as your name's Jim Reynolds, so keep your weather eye
liftin', my son!'

"Later on, that same day, Turnbull 'as the mate out into the main cabin
and spreads a chart of the Pacific Hocean out on the table; and, readin'
from a paper what 'e 'ad in 'is 'and, says, `Now, Mr Marshall, I'll
trouble you to lay down on this 'ere chart a p'int bearin' latitood
so-and-so and longitood so-and-so,'--I forgets what the figures was.
`And when you've done that,' he says, `you'll navigate this 'ere barque
to that identical spot.  I'll give yer two months from to-day to get us
there,' 'e says; `and if we're not there by that time,' 'e says, `I'll
lash your 'ands and feet together be'ind yer back and 'eave yer
overboard.  So now you knows what you've to do if you want to save yer
bloomin' life,' 'e says.

"That same a'ternoon, while I was for'ard in the galley, Slushy--who was
in 'igh spirits--tells me as 'ow Turnbull 'ave got 'old of a yarn about
a lot of buried treasure on a hisland somewhere, in the Pacific, and
that we was bound there to get it; and that when we'd got it, Turnbull
and them as 'ad stood in with 'im 'd be as rich as princes and wouldn't
need to do another stroke of work for the rest of their naturals, but
just 'ave a good time, with as much booze as they cared to swaller.  And
I reckon that this 'ere's the hisland where Turnbull thinks 'e'll find
'is treasure."

"No doubt," agreed Leslie.  "Well, what do you want me to do?"

"Well, sir, it ain't for the likes of me to say just exactly what you
ought to do," answered Reynolds.  "I thought that maybe if I spinned you
the whole yarn you'd be able to think out some way of 'elpin' of us.
There ain't no doubt in my mind but what you bein' on the hisland 'ave
upset Turnbull's calculations altogether.  As I makes it out, 'e
reckoned upon comin' 'ere and goin' ashore with 'is paper in 'is 'and,
and walkin' pretty straight to the place where this 'ere treasure is
buried, and diggin' of it up all quite comfortable, with nobody to
hinterfere with 'im.  But you bein' 'ere makes it okkard for 'im, you
see; because 'e's afraid that where 'e goes you'll go with 'im, and if
'e goes pokin' about lookin' after buried treasure you'll drop on to 'is
secret and p'rhaps get 'old of the stuff.  And that's just where the
danger to you comes in; because, d'ye see, sir, if 'e'd kill one man for
the sake of gettin' 'old of the barque to come 'ere on the off-chance of
findin' the treasure, 'e ain't the kind of man to 'esitate about killin'
another who'd be likely to hinterfere with 'im."

"Just so," assented Leslie; "that is quite possible.  But I will see
that he does nothing of the kind.  Now, tell me, how many of the ship's
company are with Turnbull, and how many are there against him?"

"Well, first of all, there's Turnbull 'isself; that's one," answered the
steward.  "Then there's Burton, Royston, Hampton, and Cunliffe, the four
A.B.s; that's five.  And, lastly, there's the cook; 'e makes six.  Then,
on our side, there's Mr Marshall, the mate; that's one.  I'm another;
that's two.  And there's Rogers, Andrews, Parker, and Martin, the four
ordinary seamen; that's six again.  So there's six against six, as you
may say; only there's this difference between us: Turnbull 'ave got two
revolvers, one what 'e found in the skipper's cabin, and one what 'e
took from the mate, while the four A.B.s 'as their knives; whereas we
'aven't nothin', they 'avin' took our knives and everything away from
us."

"Still," argued Leslie, "the belaying-pins are always available, I
suppose, and they are fairly effective weapons in a hand-to-hand fight,
to say nothing of handspikes and other matters that you can always lay
your hands on.  But of course Turnbull's brace of revolvers gives him an
immense advantage, should it come to fighting.  But I can plainly see
that if the slip is to be recaptured at all--and I believe it can be
managed--it must be done without fighting; for you are not strong-handed
enough to risk the loss, or even the disablement, of so much as a single
man.  Now, tell me this.  Turnbull informs me that your water is bad,
and that he intends to re-water the ship, here.  Is that true, or is it
only a fabrication to account to me for the presence here of the
_Minerva_?"

"Why, just that, and nothin' else, sir," answered the steward.  "Our
water's good enough.  But certingly we're runnin' rather short of it;
and I don't doubt but what 'e'll fill up, if there's water to be 'ad
'ere.  But it's the treasure as 'e's after, first and foremost, and
don't you forget it."

"Quite so," agreed Leslie.  "Now, no doubt he will go ashore again soon
after daylight; and as I shall not come off to the ship he will be
compelled to come ashore in his own boat.  How many men will he be
likely to bring with him, think you?"

"Not more'n two, sir, certingly," answered the steward; "and p'rhaps not
any at all.  Likely enough when 'e finds as you don't come off 'e'll
scull 'isself ashore in the dinghy.  Because, you see, sir, 'e don't
trust none of us 'ceptin' the four as is standin' in with 'im, and them
four 'as their orders to keep a strict heye upon us to see that we don't
rise and take back the ship from 'em.  So I don't think as 'e'll take
any o' them ashore with 'im if 'e can 'elp it.  And 'e won't take none
of the others either, 'cause 'e'd be afraid to trust 'isself alone with
'em."

"Very well," said Leslie.  "I think I can see my way pretty clearly now.
If Turnbull should go ashore by himself to-morrow, I will look after
him and see that he does not return to the barque.  But if he should
take any of his own gang with him--say two of them--that will leave only
two and the cook aboard against six of you, which will make you two to
one.  In that case you must watch your chance, and, if you can find an
opportunity, rise upon those three and retake the ship.  And if you
should succeed, hoist the ensign to the gaff-end as a signal to me that
the ship is recaptured.  But do not run any risks, mind; because, as I
have already said, you cannot afford to lose even one man.  If you
cannot see a good chance to retake the ship, we must watch our
opportunity, and think of some other plan.  That is all, I think.  Now I
will put you aboard again.  But look out for me to come off again about
the same time to-morrow night."

With the same caution as before Leslie now again approached the barque,
but this time he took the canoe up under the craft's mizzen channels,
from which it was a much easier matter for the steward to scramble
aboard again than if he had been compelled to shin up the rope dangling
over the stern, by which he had descended; and having seen the man
safely in on deck, he softly pushed the canoe off the ship's side with
his bare hand, and allowed her to be driven clear by the wind; and it
was not until he was a good hundred yards astern of the _Minerva_ that
he took to his paddle and returned to the camp.  It was nearly two
o'clock in the morning when at length he once more entered his tent and
stretched himself upon his bed to finish his night's rest.

Leslie was habitually an early riser, and, notwithstanding the fact that
the previous night's rest had been a broken one, he was once more astir
by sunrise, taking his towels and soap with him to a little rocky pool
in the stream where he was wont to indulge in his morning's "tub;" and
by eight o'clock he was seated at table in his tent, enjoying his
breakfast, and at the same time keeping an eye upon the barque.

It was not, however, until close upon half-past ten that Dick detected
any signs of a movement on board the _Minerva_; and then with the aid of
his telescope, he observed that they were getting the vessel's dinghy
into the water.  Ten minutes later he saw Turnbull climb down the ship's
side, and, throwing over a short pair of sculls, shove off and head the
little craft for the beach.  Dick waited only just long enough to make
quite sure that the man was really coming ashore, and, this presently
becoming evident, he at once started for the treasure-cave.  Knowing the
way by this time perfectly well, an hour's easy walking took him to the
spot, where he found Nicholls and Simpson on the watch.  A few terse
sentences sufficed to put the men in possession of the material facts of
the situation, and he then hurried down aboard the cutter to see Flora
and assure her of his safety, and that everything was going well.  Then,
returning to the cave, he made his final arrangements with the two men,
and set out on his way back toward the camp.  He did not go very far,
however, for he knew that, finding him absent, Turnbull would at once
seize the opportunity to institute a search for the cave; and he knew,
further, that--since the man was undoubtedly possessed of tolerably
complete information, including, probably, a map of the island--he must
sooner or later make his appearance in the neighbourhood; he therefore
selected a spot where, himself unseen, he could command a view of the
ground over which the fellow must almost inevitably pass, and sat down
to patiently await developments.

At length, after Leslie had been in ambush for nearly three hours, he
saw Turnbull approaching among the trees, carrying what appeared to be a
map or plan in his hand, which he consulted from time to time, with
frequent pauses to stare about him as though in search of certain
landmarks.  As the burly ruffian drew nearer, Dick took a revolver from
his pocket and finally scrutinised it to make absolutely certain that it
was in perfect working order.  Slowly the fellow approached, muttering
curses below his breath at the unevenness of the way and the
unsimilarity of the landscape with that described in the document which
he carried.  Presently he went, stumbling and execrating, close past the
spot where Leslie remained concealed, and the latter at once rose to his
feet and followed him noiselessly, at a distance of some fifteen paces.
In this fashion the two men covered a distance of about a quarter of a
mile, when Turnbull once more paused to consult his map.

At the same moment Leslie halted, and, levelling his revolver at the
boatswain's head, said--

"It is no good, Turnbull; you will never find the place without my help.
No, you don't!  Throw up your hands.  Over your head with them, quick,
or I'll fire!  Do you hear what I say, sir?  Well, take that, then, you
obstinate mule, as a hint to do as you are told in future!"

And as Leslie spoke he pulled the trigger of his revolver, and sent a
bullet through the man's left arm, shattering the bone above the elbow.

For, with the sound of Dick's voice, Turnbull had faced about, and, with
a bitter curse, made as though he would plunge his hands into the
side-pockets of the pilot jacket that he was wearing.  As the shot
struck him he gave vent to another curse that ended in a sharp howl of
anguish as he flung his uninjured arm above his head.

"What the blazes are ye doin' of?" he yelled in impotent fury.  "D'ye
know that you've broke my arm?"

"Sorry," remarked Dick, nonchalantly, "but you _would_ have it, you
know.  I distinctly ordered you to throw up your hands, and you
immediately attempted to plunge them into your pockets to get at your
revolvers.  If you compel me to shoot again I shall shoot to kill, so I
hope that, for your own sake, you will make no further attempt to do
anything foolish.  Now, right about face, and march.  I will tell you
how to steer.  And be very careful to keep that right hand of yours well
above your head."

"Ain't you goin' to bind up this wound of mine for me, then?" demanded
Turnbull.  "And what right have you got to shoot at me, I'd like to
know?"

"All in good time," answered Leslie, airily.  "Now march, as I told you,
and be quick about it, or I shall be compelled to freshen your way for
you with another shot.  I know all about you, my good man, and I am
therefore not at all disposed to put up with any nonsense.  Forward!"

With a further volley of curses of extraordinary virulence, Turnbull
turned on his heel and resumed his way in the direction of the
treasure-cave, with Dick at his heels directing him from time to time to
"port a little", "starboard a bit," or "steady as you go," as the case
might be.

A few minutes of this kind of thing sufficed to bring the pair close to
the treasure-cave, the entrance of which had been considerably enlarged
by Nicholls and Simpson for their own convenience.  They were, however,
absent for the moment when Dick arrived with his prisoner; and the
latter stared in wonderment at the cave and the chests in front of it,
which the two men had removed from the interior prior to transference to
the cutter.

"So," exclaimed Turnbull, savagely, "that's what you're at, is it?
Stealin' my treasure!  Very well; if I don't make you smart for this my
name ain't Robert Turnbull, that's all.  What d'ye mean, I'd like to
know, by comin' here and stealin' treasure that don't belong to ye, eh?"

"To whom does it belong, pray, if not to me?" demanded Dick, blandly,
curious to learn what kind of claim this ruffian would set up.

"Why, to _me_, of course," howled Turnbull, clenching his right fist and
shaking it savagely at Leslie.

"Keep that right hand of yours over your head," ordered Dick, sharply,
again covering him with lightning-like rapidity.  "That's right," he
continued.  "Now perhaps you will kindly tell me how it came to be
yours."

"Why, I got it off a former shipmate of mine," answered Turnbull.  "He
give it to me when--when he--died."

"What was his name?" asked Dick.

"His name?" reiterated Turnbull, "what do his name matter?  And anyhow
I've forgot it."

At this moment Nicholls and Simpson made their appearance upon the
scene, much to Turnbull's amazement, and turning to them Leslie said--

"Here is your prisoner, lads.  Have you your lashings ready?  And is the
cave empty of everything that we intend to take away with us?  Very
well, then; march this fellow in there and bind his two feet and his
right hand together securely--his left arm is broken and useless, you
need not therefore trouble about that.  And when you have done that I
will set his broken arm and dress his wound for him.  Keep him in the
cave until I give you further instructions concerning him, and meanwhile
give him a sufficiency of food and water to keep him from starving."

For a moment Turnbull, wounded as he was, seemed very much disposed to
make a final struggle for his liberty; but although he was a strong man,
Simpson would have been more than a match for him even if he had been
unwounded, and presently, recognising the futility and folly of
resistance he sulkily entered the cave and submitted to be bound,
growling and cursing horribly all the while, however.  Then Leslie,
assisted by Nicholls, dressed his wound and set the broken bone of the
arm; lashing it firmly with splints hastily cut out of small branches
from the nearest trees.  Satisfied now that the fellow was absolutely
secured, and quite incapable either of escaping or of inflicting any
very serious injury upon himself, the three men at length left him to
his; own devices, and proceeded to get the remainder of the treasure
aboard the cutter and snugly stowed away--a task that they accomplished
early enough to enable Dick to get back to the camp ere nightfall.
Arrived there, Leslie at once set to work to prepare himself a good
substantial meal, which he subsequently devoured with much gusto--having
eaten nothing since breakfast; and, this important matter being disposed
of, he immediately turned in, desiring to secure a few hours' sleep ere
setting out upon his nocturnal trip off to the barque.

When, at about half an hour after midnight, he again approached the
_Minerva_, observing the same precautions as before, he found the
steward awaiting his arrival with considerable trepidation.  The man
again descended into the canoe by way of the rope over the stern; and
again Leslie allowed the little craft to drive with the wind to a
perfectly safe distance before opening the conversation.  At length,
however, he said--

"Now I think we are far enough away to permit of our talking freely
without being either heard or seen; so go ahead, Reynolds, and give me
the news.  Has Turnbull's failure to return to the ship caused any
uneasiness to the others of his gang?"

"Well, it 'ave, and it 'aven't, if you can understand me, sir," answered
the man.  "What I mean to say is this," he continued, by way of
explanation, "the chaps--Burton and the rest of 'em--seems a bit puzzled
that 'e 'aven't come off aboard to sleep to-night; but so far as I can
make out, they thinks 'e's stayin' ashore with you, chummin' up with
you, in a manner of speakin', and tryin' to get to wind'ard of you.
They seems to think that Turnbull--who thinks 'isself a mighty clever
chap, but ain't nothin' of the sort--'aven't been able to hinvent an
excuse to get away from you, and that you've been goin' about with 'im
all day, showin' 'im round the hisland and such-like; and that 'e's
stayin' ashore to-night 'opin' to be able to give you the slip early in
the mornin' and get off by 'isself to 'ave a look for 'is treasure-cave.
That's what they thinks; but of course it ain't nothin' of the sort.
_You_ knows what 'ave 'appened to 'im, sir; no doubt?"

"Oh yes," answered Leslie, with a laugh; "I know quite well what has
happened to him.  He is alive; but he will not come off to the barque
again."

"Thank God for that!" ejaculated the steward, piously.  "Well, sir," he
resumed, "what is to be the next move?"

"That," answered Leslie, "will depend upon circumstances--or, in other
words, upon the action of Turnbull's accomplices.  It would no doubt be
easy enough to recapture the barque without further delay, if I were
willing to risk a fight.  But I am not, for two very good reasons; one
of which is that my own party is so small that I cannot afford to have
either of them hurt; and the other is that your party is also so small
that if even a single man should happen to be disabled in a fight it
would be exceedingly difficult for the remainder of you to handle the
barque.  Therefore I would very much rather spend a few more days over
this business, and recapture the vessel without any fighting, than rush
the matter and perhaps get somebody badly hurt.  By the way, what sort
of men are these accomplices of Turnbull's?  Are they of the resolute
and determined sort?"

"Ay," answered the steward, "you bet your life they are, sir.  Turnbull
took 'em in with 'im just because 'e couldn't 'elp 'isself.  'E 'ad to
'ave 'elp to take the barque, and naterally 'e chose the chaps as 'e
thought would be most useful to 'im, 'specially as 'e didn't want to
'ave more 'n 'e could 'elp to go shares with 'im.  Now these 'ere four--
Burton and the rest of 'em--are big, strong fellers, all of 'em.  Either
of 'em could tackle any two of the rest of us in a stand-up fight and
make mincemeat of us; so I reckon that's the reason why Turnbull chose
'em.  With they four and the cook on 'is side, and the mate safe in
irons and locked up in 'is cabin, 'e could laugh at the rest of us, and
do just ezactly as 'e liked."

"I see," assented Leslie.  "But what sort of a man is your mate, then?
Could he not devise some scheme whereby, with the assistance of the rest
of you, he could get the better of these fellows?"

"Mr Marshall?" responded the steward.  "Oh, 'e's all right; 'e's smart
enough, 'e is; not much of a chap to look at--bein' a small man and not
over strong--but 'is 'ead's screwed on the right way.  But 'e can't do
nothin', because, ye see, sir, they keeps 'im in irons and locked up in
'is own cabin, 'cept when 'e was let out twice a day to take the sights
and work up the ship's reckonin', and then either Turnbull or one of 'is
gang was always alongside of 'im, and nobody else was hever allowed to
go anigh 'im; whilst at other times--when I was givin' 'im 'is meals, I
mean--either Pete Burton or one of the other chaps what was in with
Turnbull was always about to see as 'e and I didn't 'ave no talk
together.  So, ye see, the poor man 'adn't no chance to do anything
'owever much 'e might 'ave been minded."

"Poor beggar!" ejaculated Leslie; "he must have had an awfully rough
time of it.  And, evidently, Turnbull and his pals do not mean to take
any chances--which makes the recapture of the barque without a fight
somewhat difficult.  However, I believe it can be done; and, anyhow, I
intend to try.  Now, as I suppose you know these fellows pretty well, I
want you to tell me what you think will happen when they find that
Turnbull does not return to the ship."

The steward carefully considered the matter for some moments.  At length
he said--

"Well, sir, if Turnbull don't come off by to-morrow night, it's very
likely as they'll begin to suspect that you knows somethin' about it.
Then, what'll they do?  They daren't all four of 'em leave the barque,
with only Slushy to take care of 'er, because they knows very well that
the rest of us 'd pretty soon tie up Mr Slushy and have the barque back
again.  And they knows, too, that if all four of 'em was to come ashore,
we could slip the cable, make sail, and take the 'ooker out to sea afore
they could pull off to 'er.  No; they won't do that.  What they _will_
do, I expect, is this.  If Turnbull don't come off by sunset to-morrow--
which I s'pose he won't, eh?  No.  Well, if he don't, I expect as
they'll wait till some time a'ter midnight, and then two of 'em 'll
quietly drift ashore in one of the quarter-boats, leavin' the other two
to take care o' the ship.  And the two as goes ashore 'll reckon upon
catchin' of you calmly asleep in your tent, there, and makin' you tell
'em where Turnbull is."

"Y-e-s," assented Leslie, thoughtfully, "it is quite likely that they
may do some such thing as that.  Yes; no doubt they will do that, sooner
or later; if not to-morrow night, then the night after, or the night
after that again.  Very well; if they do, I shall be ready for them.
And on the succeeding night, steward, you may look out for me again,
about this time, unless, meanwhile, I see any reason to alter my plans.
Now, that is all for the present, I think, so I will put you aboard
again.  I suppose, by the way, these men have no suspicion that you and
I are in communication with each other?"

"Lor' bless ye, no, sir," answered Reynolds, cheerfully.  "Why should
they?  They don't dream as you've any idee of the real state of
affairs--at least not up to now.  They may p'rhaps 'ave their suspicions
if Turnbull don't come aboard some time to-morrow; but at present they
believes as 'e 've bamboozled you completely.  Then, they drinks pretty
freely every night, and sleeps sound a'ter it, which they wouldn't do if
they 'ad a thought as I was up to any game."

"So much the better," remarked Leslie.  "What you have to do is to leave
them in the same comfortable frame of mind as long as possible.  Now,
here we are.  Good night!"

As Leslie paddled thoughtfully ashore again he pondered over the
foregoing conversation with the steward, and after carefully weighing
the several _pros_ and _cons_ of the situation, finally arrived at the
conclusion that the steward's surmise as to the mutineers' line of
action would probably prove to be a very near approach to the truth.  In
any case he thought it in the highest degree improbable that they would
attempt so exceedingly risky an operation as that of leaving the barque
in broad daylight, when all hands would be awake and about; he therefore
partook of a leisurely breakfast next morning, and then fearlessly left
the camp to take care of itself while he sauntered over to the cove to
see how Nicholls and Simpson were getting on.  And as he passed the
treasure-cave he looked in, just to satisfy himself that Turnbull was
still in safe keeping, and also to examine his wound.  He found the
fellow still bound hard and fast, and in a state of sullen fury at his
helpless condition, but otherwise he was doing fairly well, except for
the fact that his wound presented a somewhat inflamed and angry
appearance, due, no doubt, to the man's unhealthy state of body through
excessive drinking.  Leslie dressed the wound afresh, and then passed on
to the cove, where he found Nicholls and Simpson busily engaged in
getting the cutter ataunto.  They had already got her mainsail bent,
set, and flapping gently about in the small currents of wind that eddied
round the cove, the idea being to allow it to stretch uniformly before
exposing it to the regular strain of work.  And when Leslie came upon
them they were busy upon the task of bending the foresail; and Nicholls
reported that they would be easily able to complete everything, even to
getting the topmast on end and the rigging set up, before nightfall.  As
for Flora, she had gone off upon a ramble, leaving a note for Dick which
contained instructions as to how he might find her.  This he did,
without difficulty; and as the whole of the treasure was now loaded on
board the cutter and the little craft herself was in condition to leave
the cove at an hour's notice, there remained little or nothing to be
done prior to the recapture of the _Minerva_.  Dick therefore felt
himself perfectly free to devote the remainder of the day to his
sweetheart.

About an hour before sunset, however, the pair turned up at the cove,
and while Flora went on board the cutter, Leslie instructed Nicholls to
accompany him back to the camp, which they reached just as darkness
fell.  Arrived there, the two men at once made their way to the great
pile of bales and cases that Dick had, with such a tremendous
expenditure of labour, brought ashore from the wrecked _Mermaid_, and,
rummaging among these, found the big case of firearms from which Leslie
had provided himself.  The case was opened and a brace of good,
serviceable revolvers withdrawn therefrom for Nicholls' use, after which
the two men leisurely partook of their evening meal.  By the time that
this was finished and cleared away it was close upon eight o'clock, and
as Leslie rather anticipated the possibility of a visit from some of the
mutineers that night, and had no fancy for being taken unawares by them,
he directed Nicholls to lie down and sleep until midnight, when he would
relieve him, it being Dick's purpose that the two men should take watch
and watch through the night.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

THE RECAPTURE OF THE MINERVA.

The camp being in complete darkness, Dick took his station just inside
the tent-flap and, with the aid of his night-glass, maintained a close
watch upon the barque.  Hitherto there had been something very much in
the nature of a carouse carried on aboard her every night since her
arrival, the revel usually lasting up until nearly midnight.  But on
this particular night there was a difference, the singing and shouting
coming to an end before four bells, or ten o'clock, a circumstance that
further confirmed Dick in his impression that the mutineers meditated
some step of a more or less decisive character.  Yet when, by the
carefully screened lamp in the tent, he consulted his watch and found
that the hour of midnight was already past, he had entirely failed to
detect any sign of life or movement on board the _Minerva_.

He now called Nicholls, and when the latter appeared he said to him--

"If you will sit here, where I have been sitting, you will be able, by
using the night-glass, to keep a very perfect watch upon the barque
without being yourself seen, and the moment that you detect anything
like the appearance of a boat coming ashore, please wake me.  And be
especially careful not to light your pipe where you can be seen, as I am
particularly anxious not to scare those fellows from coming ashore.
And, in their present state of mind, I am afraid that anything which
might excite within them the suspicion that they are being watched would
suffice to scare them back to the ship again."

Then he, in his turn, stretched himself out and was presently sound
asleep.

It seemed as though he had been asleep scarcely five minutes, although
it was really more than an hour when Nicholls shook him by the shoulder
and said--

"Mr Leslie, wake up, sir, please.  There's a boat of some sort coming
ashore from the barque.  She's been in sight for the last quarter of an
hour, but she's coming along very slowly, and I expect it'll be quite
another quarter of an hour before she reaches the beach."

"Where is she?" demanded Leslie, seizing the night-glass.  "Oh, there
she is," he continued, as he brought the instrument to bear.  "I see
her.  She appears to be one of the barque's quarter-boats, Nicholls,
and, so far as I can make out, there are only two men in her."

"It's difficult to tell by starlight, sir," replied Nicholls, "but I
should say there's about that number.  There can't be less, for she is
pulling two oars, and one man wouldn't be likely to attempt the job of
pulling a heavy boat like a gig ashore, much less pull her back again
against the wind.  And I don't think there's likely to be more than two
of 'em, otherwise they wouldn't be pulling only two oars."

"Just so," agreed Leslie.  "Now where are those seizings?  Oh, here they
are!  That's all right; we must have them where we can put our hands
upon them at a moment's notice.  And are your pistols all ready, in case
you should need to use them?  That's well.  Now all that remains for us
to do is to quietly await the arrival of those gentlemen here, in the
darkness of the tent.  They will be pretty certain to come here first.
And when they do, I will cover them with my revolvers while you lash
their hands behind them.  And take care that you lash them so securely
that there will be no possibility of their getting adrift again."

"Ay, ay, sir; never fear.  You may trust me for that," answered
Nicholls, cheerfully.

And with that the two men seated themselves well back within the deepest
shadows of the tent, and quietly awaited the approach of their nocturnal
visitors.

The boat was by this time so close to the beach that it was apparent
that the men in her were pulling with muffled oars; and presently she
glided in upon the sand so gently that she grounded without a sound.
Then the two figures in her silently rose to their feet, and, laying in
their oars with such extreme care that the deposition of them upon the
thwarts was accomplished with perfect noiselessness, stepped gently out
of her on to the yielding sand.  They conferred earnestly together for a
minute or two and then, turning, came cautiously up the beach, each of
them carrying a short length of rope in his hand.

"By Jove," whispered Leslie to his companion, "they are determined to
leave nothing to chance; they have actually brought along with them the
lashings wherewith to bind me!"

Nicholls chuckled quietly.  "So they have, sir," he whispered.  "It'll
be a joke to see the way that they'll be taken aback presently."

Treading carefully and using every precaution to avoid the slightest
noise, the two men slowly made their way up the beach and on to the
thick grass of the little savannah upon which the tent stood.  They now
seemed to think that the necessity for such extreme caution was past,
and advanced much more rapidly, until they arrived within about twenty
yards of the tent, when they again paused for a moment to confer
together.

"Now!" whispered Leslie; and, at the word, he and his companion rose to
their feet and stepped forward into the open.  The new arrivals did not
see them at once, for their heads were close together as they whispered
to each other, and there were perhaps never two more surprised men than
they were when Leslie's voice smote upon their ears with the words--

"Don't move an inch, or you are both dead men.  And throw up your hands!
If you dare to move I will fire; and, as you may see, I am covering you
both!"

As Leslie spoke the two men started guiltily apart, and then stood
staring in stupefaction at the two figures that had so suddenly appeared
before them.

"Up with your hands, both of you," reiterated Leslie, sharply, for the
strangers had apparently been taken too completely by surprise to fully
comprehend all that was said to them.  "And," he continued, "listen
carefully to me, both of you.  You are my prisoners, and I intend to
make perfectly sure of you.  I know all about you; I know you to be two
men who are engaged in a desperate enterprise, and are likely to stick
at nothing.  Now, understand me well: I am just as resolute as you are,
and if you give me the slightest trouble I will put a bullet through
you, as surely as you stand there; so do not attempt any nonsense if you
value your lives.  Now you," indicating one of them with his levelled
revolver, "move three paces to your right--so; halt! that will do.  Now,
Nicholls, lash that fellow's hands firmly behind his back."

"Well, here's a pretty go," yelled one of them to the other in an access
of impotent fury.  "A dandy old mess you've made of this job, Mister
bloomin' Peter Burton, haven't you? and dragged me into it along with
yer!  I wish I'd never had nothin' at all to do with the cussed
business, now, I do; I _knowed_ it was boun' to go a mucker, from the
very fust!  But you and that bloomin' skowbank of a Turnbull _would_
drag me into it, temptin' me with your yarns of treasure, and bein' as
rich as a Jew, and a lot more rot o' the same sort, and now, here I am,
landed--"

"There, that will do, my man," interrupted Leslie, sharply, as Nicholls
deftly proceeded to lash the fellow's hands behind him; "your repentance
comes just a little too late to be of any use to you.  You are a
mutineer and a murderer, and you must take the consequences of your evil
deeds."

"What do _you_ know about it?" growled the man who had been addressed as
Burton.  "Who's been blowin' the gaff to _you_?  If it's Turnbull that's
been doin' a split, I'll wring his neck for 'im!"

"There, sir, number one is all right," exclaimed Nicholls as he stepped
away from his victim.  "If he gets adrift I'll give him leave to eat me,
body and bones!  Shall I go ahead with this other chap now?"

"Yes," assented Leslie; "truss him up, and let us have done with them
both as quickly as possible."

Burton, who was an immensely powerful fellow, poured forth a volley of
the most horrible curses and threats as Nicholls approached him; but
Leslie stood but half a dozen paces from him, with his revolver levelled
straight at the fellow's head, and a stern word of caution sufficed to
quell the fast-rising inclination to resistance that shone in the man's
eyes; he subsided suddenly to a state of sullen silence, and submitted
in his turn to be bound.  The whole episode had not occupied more than
five minutes, at the outside.  Then, with their hands firmly secured
behind them, the two men were marched off to the hut that had been built
by the savages, where they were compelled to lie down and submit to a
further process of binding, upon the completion of which they found
themselves absolutely helpless; for now both their hands and their feet
were lashed together so tightly and securely that it was quite
impossible for them to move otherwise than to give an occasional feeble,
impotent wriggle.

This accomplished to their complete satisfaction, Leslie and Nicholls
returned to the tent, and resumed their alternate vigils until the
morning; for they knew not what arrangements these men might have made
with their fellow-mutineers, and deemed it wisest not to relax their
vigilance now until the entire adventure had been brought to a
successful issue.

The remainder of the night passed, however, without further incident,
and at daybreak the occupants of the tent were once more astir and
preparing breakfast.  Then, having satisfied their own appetites, they
took a good liberal supply of food to the hut and, loosing their
prisoner's bonds sufficiently to allow them the use of their hands, bade
them eat and drink freely.

Then, when at length Burton and his companion--whose name, it
transpired, was Samuel Cunliffe--sullenly acknowledged that they had
eaten and drunk all that they desired, their hands were once more lashed
securely behind them, their feet released, and they were bidden to
follow Leslie, who went ahead while Nicholls, as rear-guard, walked
close behind.  And thus they all proceeded until the cave was reached,
where the two new arrivals were forced to join their fellow-prisoner,
Turnbull.  And there, in that gloomy cavern, the exigencies of the
situation demanded that, for a time at least, they should be once more
subjected to the extreme discomfort of being lashed, hands and feet
together, as they had been in the hut on the previous night, in order to
avoid all possibility of their getting together and releasing each
other.

Having satisfied himself that his prisoners were absolutely secure, and
dressed Turnbull's wound afresh, Leslie, accompanied by Nicholls, next
made his way to the cove, where he found the cutter lying at anchor in
the centre of the little basin with all her canvas set and gently
flapping in the light breeze.  And a marvellously pretty picture the
little craft presented with her snow-white hull, surmounted by a broad
expanse of scarcely less white cotton canvas, sitting daintily and
jauntily upon the water, the white of her hull and sails, and the ruddy
sheen of her copper sheathing brilliantly reflected upon the smooth,
dark surface of the element she rode in such saucy fashion.  Dick stood
for some minutes feasting his eyes upon the pretty picture she presented
against the dark-brown background of scarred and riven rock that formed
the sides of the basin, and then he and Nicholls quickly descended the
precipitous slope to where the catamaran lay moored, and, jumping on
board her, paddled off to the _Flora_, whose namesake fortunately
happened to be on board her at the moment, but was just preparing to go
ashore for another ramble.

"I am afraid, dear, you cannot go just now," said Dick, "unless indeed
you would like to walk over to the camp, for we are about to return
there at once, preparatory, I hope, to sailing for home to-morrow."

"Do you think Dick, it would be quite safe for me to take the walk
alone?  Because, if so, and we are actually going to sail to-morrow, I
should so like to do it.  It is a lovely walk; and there are
associations connected with it that endear it to me," she said shyly.

"Very well, little girl," responded Dick.  "Then take the walk, by all
means, for it is perfectly safe.  Only be very careful not to look in at
the cave on your way, for I have three prisoners stowed away there, now,
and although they are too firmly secured to be able to hurt you, they
may say things that would offend your ears."

Flora promised that she would most carefully avoid the cave, and was set
ashore by the catamaran, Dick instructing Nicholls and Simpson to
afterwards proceed round to the camp in that craft while he himself
undertook to work the cutter round to the same point single-handed.
While, therefore, the two seamen were conveying Flora to the
landing-place, Leslie busied himself in taking a pull upon the halliards
all round and getting up the cutter's anchor.  He was still thus engaged
when the catamaran pushed off, under sail, and, passing close under the
cutter's stern, hailed, inquiringly which way she was to steer.

"Keep the land close aboard on your starboard hand all the way, and you
cannot go wrong," answered Leslie, adding: "But I shall be after you in
a few minutes, and will give you a lead."

The catamaran stood out of the cove, and headed away to the eastward on
the starboard tack; and a few minutes later Dick followed in the cutter.
Within the cove, the breeze that came in over the overlapping headlands
was light and baffling, yet the _Flora_ gathered way quickly and glided
along at a pace that rejoiced Leslie's heart.  But when she passed
outside beyond the shelter of the heads, and felt the full strength of
the briskly blowing trade wind, her solitary navigator found that he
would have his hands full when it presently came to working her.  For
Simpson had hoisted the big jack-yard topsail, to give the sail a good
stretching, and Dick had been too preoccupied to notice the fact; the
little craft therefore made her first essay _in_ the open ocean under
precisely the same canvas that she would show to the most gentle of
breezes, whereas the trade wind was piping up quite fresh.  The breeze
struck her with something of the suddenness and violence of a squall,
with everything creaking and twanging to the violence of the strain, and
the little craft heeled to it until her lee rail was buried and the
water was halfway up the deck to her tiny skylight; but with a plunge,
like that of a mettlesome horse to the touch of the spur, she darted
forward, burying her sharp bows deep in the heart of the first sea that
came sweeping down upon her, and in another moment she was thrashing
along in the wake of the catamaran like a mad thing, leaping and
plunging with long floaty rushes over the sharply running sea that
overran the ponderous Pacific swell.  Within the first five minutes it
became quite clear to Leslie that the catamaran was nowhere compared
with this smart and handsome little ship, for to Dick the former craft
seemed to sag away to leeward like an empty cask, while the cutter
walked up to her as though the other had been at anchor.  By the time
that the _Flora_ had overtaken the catamaran, the two craft had gained a
sufficient offing to enable them to fetch the entrance channel on the
next tack, and they accordingly hove about, the cutter whisking round
with a celerity that gave Leslie as much as he could do to trim over the
head sheets in time to catch a turn with them as she paid off on the
other tack.  And now the _Flora_ ran away from the catamaran at such a
rate that she had reached her anchorage and was just rounding into the
wind to bring up when the other craft passed through the channel and
entered the lagoon.  This little trip round from the cove to the lagoon
had not only given the cutter's sails a nice stretching, but it had also
stretched her new rigging to such an extent that Dick saw it would be
quite necessary to set it up afresh all round before he started on his
voyage, if he did not wish to risk the loss of his spars.  This,
however, was a matter that would have to wait; he had something of an
even more pressing nature that called for his immediate attention.

By the time that the catamaran had arrived alongside the cutter, the
latter's anchor was down and the jib and foresail taken in.  The big
gaff topsail was next hauled down and carefully stowed away, and finally
the mainsail was lowered, stowed, and the coat put over it.

Then Dick jumped aboard the catamaran.  "I suppose you both have your
revolvers?" he said to Nicholls and Simpson.  "Are they fully loaded?"
The two men replied in the affirmative.  "Then up with your canvas," he
commanded; "and we will be off to the barque and settle this business
forthwith.  I will explain my plans to you as we go."

With the cutter no longer sailing alongside her, the catamaran once more
took rank as a fast-sailing and weatherly craft, and soon worked out to
the spot where the _Minerva_ rode at anchor.  Dick, of course, by this
time knew the curious craft well, and handled her with such consummate
judgment that when at length he luffed her into the wind's eye and
ordered her sails to be lowered, she just handsomely slid up alongside
the barque and came to a standstill abreast her starboard gangway.

"Look out there and catch a turn with this 'ere painter," exclaimed
Simpson, tossing a rope's-end to a couple of men who peered down from
the _Minerva's_ bulwarks upon the catamaran and her crew with mingled
astonishment and dismay; and at the same moment Leslie and Nicholls made
a spring for the barque's side-ladder, and, shinning up it, tumbled in
on deck to the further discomfiture of the two men aforesaid, leaving
Simpson to follow, which he promptly did.  The whole thing was done so
smartly that the only two visible members of the barque's crew--who
seemed to be quite slow-moving and slow-thinking men--were completely
taken by surprise, and evidently knew not what to make of it.

Meanwhile Leslie, with a single glance about the ship's deserted decks,
seemed to grasp the situation intuitively.

"Are you two men named Royston and Hampton?" he demanded.

"Ay, ay, sir; that's us, sure enough," answered one of the two, with a
visible appearance of relief for some reason best known to himself.

"Unbuckle your belts and throw them down on deck," commanded Dick,
quietly drawing a brace of revolvers somewhat ostentatiously from his
side-pockets.

"What for?" demanded one of the fellows.  "Who be you, mister, to come
aboard here and order--"

"Come, no nonsense," interrupted Leslie, sternly.  "You will do exactly
what I order you to do, at once, and without hesitation, or it will be
the worse for you.  You understand?"  And he levelled a pistol at the
head of each man.

Thus gently persuaded, the two men grumblingly did as they were told.
And when the discarded belts were flung savagely to the deck, it was
seen that attached to each was a formidable sheath-knife.

"That's right," commented Nicholls, as he stepped forward, also with a
brace of revolvers in his hands, and with a kick swept the two belts far
along the deck beyond the reach of their owners.  "Now, come here, my
joker, and let me tie you up," he continued, addressing one of the men
as he flung a coil of the fore topgallant brace off its belaying-pin.

"I'll be shot if I do!" exclaimed the man addressed, with a furious
oath.

"You will be shot if you _don't_" retorted Leslie, in a quiet,
concentrated tone of voice that made the man addressed involuntarily
shudder.  "It is no good, men," he continued, "your comrades are
prisoners ashore and utterly powerless to help you.  The game is up.  We
are here to regain possession of this ship, _and we mean to do it_.  And
if either of you is foolish enough to offer resistance, you will be
badly hurt."

Leslie's stern and uncompromising manner had its effect; and the two
men, realising their utter helplessness, sullenly and with many curses
submitted to be bound--an operation that Nicholls performed with much
gusto and an effectiveness that left nothing to be desired.  Then,
leaving Simpson to mount guard over the grumbling pair, Dick and
Nicholls went forward to the forecastle to call the remainder of the
crew on deck, noticing, as they passed the galley door, that the Irish
cook was busying himself inside with his pots and pans, and it was not
difficult to discern that he was in a state of extreme mental
perturbation.  Arriving at the forecastle hatch, they found the cover on
and secured with a bar and padlock, whereupon Dick returned to the
galley and, putting his head inside, said--

"Dolan, I see that the fore scuttle is locked.  Who has the key?"

"Sure, and it's Jack Hampton that has that same, sor," answered the cook
with alacrity, and some surprise at Leslie's unaccountable familiarity
with his name.  "And by the same token he also has the key of the main
cabin and of Misther Marshall's stateroom, your honour's honour," he
added.

"Which of those two men is Jack Hampton?" demanded Leslie.

"It's the fellah that's triced up so nately to the port rail, sor,"
answered Dolan.

"Then go you and take the keys out of his pocket," commanded Dick.  "I
have no doubt you know which they are."

"Ay, ay, sor; faith and I do that same," replied the man.

And with ready officiousness he bustled out of the galley and, walking
aft, to the spot where Hampton was lashed up, thrust his hand
unceremoniously into the man's trousers pocket, withdrew a bunch of keys
secured together upon a ropeyarn, and offered them to Leslie.

Dick looked at them as they lay in the fellow's hand.

"There are four keys there, I see," he said, "What are they?"

"This," answered Dolan, "is the key of the forecastle hatch.  This, the
key of the main cabin, which is locked.  This is the key of Misther
Marshall's cabin.  And this is the key of the irons that's on the same
gentleman's hands."

"Very good," said Leslie.  "Now come forward with me, and unlock the
forecastle."

The man obeyed, and presently, in response to Dick's call, four very
decent-looking young fellows came up on deck and stared about them in
some bewilderment at the sight of three total strangers on board, and
two of the mutineers in bonds.  From the forecastle Dick proceeded aft,
still with the cook in company, and compelled the latter to unlock first
the main cabin in which Reynolds was found confined, then the mate's
cabin, and finally the irons on the latter's wrists.

The mate of the _Minerva_, who proved to be a very smart-looking young
fellow, with a keen, resolute expression, but drawn and haggard with
anxiety, stared in amazement at the apparition of a total stranger in
his cabin, who was evidently acting with authority.  But Leslie did not
leave him much time for wonderment.

"Mr Marshall," he said, "permit me to introduce myself.  My name is
Leslie.  It has been my misfortune to be cast away on the island, a
glimpse of which you have perhaps occasionally caught through your cabin
port.  I have been on that island nearly ten months, and my preparations
for leaving it were practically complete when your vessel entered the
lagoon.  Naturally, I came off aboard to make the acquaintance of your
skipper, and found the man Turnbull in command.  Knowing the fellow so
well as you must, you will not be surprised to learn that, from what I
saw, I quickly guessed there was something very seriously wrong aboard
here; and a little judicious investigation soon enabled me to arrive at
the actual facts.  I am now glad to inform you that, aided by my two
companions, I have managed to recover possession of the ship for you,
and have much pleasure in turning her over to you.  You will find
Royston and Hampton, two of the mutineers, securely lashed to the rail,
on deck, and doubtless you will lose no time in clapping them in irons.
The other three--Turnbull, Burton, and Cunliffe--are prisoners ashore,
at present, and if you are disposed to maroon them, they can, of course,
remain there, as the island possesses ample resources in the shape of
fruit, fish, and water, for their sustenance.  But if, on the other
hand, you prefer to take them with you, I will bring them off aboard at
any time that may be most convenient to you."

"Thank you, Mr Leslie," answered Marshall, fervently, as he rose and
stretched himself with obvious delight in his recovered freedom, "I am
sure I don't know how I am to express my gratitude for the service that
you've done me and the owners of this ship.  I'm afraid I shall have to
leave it to them to do when we get home.  But I can repay you in a
measure by offering you and your companions a passage to England, which
I do now, with the greatest of pleasure.  And I'll do my level best to
make the trip comfortable and pleasant for you.  As to Turnbull and the
other two that you've boxed up ashore, of course I must take them along
with me and hand them over to the authorities upon our arrival at
Capetown, because, d'ye see, they're all guilty of the murder of poor
Cap'n Hopkins.  So you can bring them off--or I'll send ashore for 'em--
whenever you like.  And now, if you've no objection, we'll go out on
deck, for, to tell you the truth, I'm just pining for a breath of fresh
air."

The poor fellow looked about him in amazement when, a minute later, he
stood on the barque's poop and gazed thence at the lovely island, rich
in verdure of every conceivable tint of green, and glowing here and
there with patches of the vivid scarlet blossoms of the bois-immortelle,
the whole bathed in the brilliant sunshine of a tropical day.  Nor was
he less astonished at the sight of the handsome little cutter lying at
anchor close in with the shore.  For this was the first time that he had
ever been on deck since the day on which the island had been "made" from
the barque's fore-yard; and everything was therefore absolutely new to
him, save such slight glimpses as he had been able to catch through the
port-hole of his cabin.  He was most anxious that Leslie and his two
companions should remain on board and take dinner with him; but Dick was
by this time quite as anxious to get back ashore and satisfy himself as
to Flora's safe arrival.  So a compromise was made, and Marshall, having
seen the two mutineers safely clapped in irons, gladly accepted Leslie's
invitation to go ashore and take lunch with him.  They were still some
distance from the beach when Flora was seen flitting busily about the
camp; Leslie's anxiety therefore on her account was at an end.  And,
after lunch, while Nicholls and Simpson went blithely to work upon the
job of provisioning and watering the cutter, and stowing their several
personal belongings on board, Leslie and Marshall took the catamaran and
sailed round to the cove, from whence they proceeded to the cave, where
they found Turnbull and his two companions still bound hard and fast,
and by this time thoroughly subdued.  With some difficulty they
succeeded in getting the three prisoners down the face of the cliff and
aboard the catamaran; and, this done, their transference to the
_Minerva_ and their confinement in irons was an easy matter.  The owners
of the barque had made the grave mistake of sending her to sea without
so much as a single weapon of any kind to aid her officers, if need be,
to maintain order and discipline among the crew; but this was an
omission that Leslie was fortunately in a position to easily remedy by a
simple application to the case of firearms that had formed part of the
_Mermaid's_ cargo, and he willingly supplied Marshall with a brace of
revolvers and a sufficient quantity of ammunition for all practical
purposes.  The party from the island--that is to say, Flora, Leslie,
Nicholls, and Simpson--accepted a very pressing invitation from Marshall
to dine and spend the evening on board the _Minerva_ in celebration of
that vessel's recovery from the mutineers; and before they left again
for the shore Captain Marshall made a long entry in the ship's official
log, detailing the circumstances of her seizure and recapture, with full
particulars of the part played by the steward in the latter--much to
Reynolds' gratification; and Leslie attached his signature to the entry,
in attestation of its truth.  Leslie also seized the opportunity to
compare the chronometer saved from the _Mermaid_ with those belonging to
the _Minerva_, and was much gratified to find that it was absolutely to
be relied upon.  They returned to the camp about midnight, and turned in
highly elated with the joyous knowledge that on the morrow they would
actually be starting for home.

As may be supposed, the whole party were early astir next morning;
Nicholls and Simpson wending their way to the woods to collect a stock
of fruit for the first few days of the voyage, while Flora prepared
breakfast, and Leslie overhauled the entire camp to satisfy himself that
he was not leaving behind him anything that would be of material service
to him.  There were a few trifling matters that, at the last moment, he
decided to take; and these he put into the barque's dinghy and thus
carried off to the cutter.  By the time that he was back the two men had
returned, laden with quite as much fruit as could be conveniently stowed
away aboard so small a craft as the _Flora_; and this also they carried
off and put on board.  Then came breakfast--their last meal on the
island, and a happy, hilarious meal it was.

Then, leaving everything just as it was, they all went down to the beach
and stepped into the barque's gig, in which they pulled alongside the
cutter.  Arrived there, they dropped overboard a heavy "killick" of rock
which they had previously attached to the boat's painter, and thus
anchored her in readiness for the _Minerva's_ crew whenever they might
choose to fetch her.  To set the cutter's canvas was the work of a few
minutes, and, this done, the anchor was quickly hove up and the little
craft got under way.  On their way out of the lagoon they tacked close
under the _Minerva's_ stern, receiving a cheery farewell hail of "A
quick and pleasant passage to you!" from Marshall, who was walking the
poop while his scanty crew were getting some water-casks into the
longboat; and ten minutes later they dashed through the entrance
channel, and found themselves riding buoyantly over the long undulations
of the Pacific swell, as Leslie bore away to pass to the northward of
the island and thence west over the interminable miles of water that lay
between them and home.

My story is told; for with the voyage of the _Flora_, adventurous though
it was, this narrative has nothing to do; suffice it to say that having
called at Tahiti and Tongatabu the little cutter safely passed Port
Phillip Heads and arrived at Melbourne on the fifty-third day out from
the island.  Here Leslie duly cashed his draft for one hundred pounds,
and with the proceeds thereof secured for Flora a passage to Bombay,
that young lady having decided to go on at once to her father--without
waiting to visit her Australian friends--in order that the judge's
natural anxiety to see his daughter after her singular adventure might
be gratified with as little delay as possible.  And further to curtail
that anxiety to its lowest limit, she despatched a cablegram to her
father within an hour of her arrival in Melbourne.  As for Dick, he
allowed his affairs to stand during the two days that elapsed between
their arrival and Flora's departure, devoting himself entirely to her.

But as soon as he had waved his last good-bye to her, he went to his
hotel and wrote a long letter to his father's lawyers, detailing at
length the events that had transpired subsequent to the wreck of the
_Golden Fleece_, including the discovery and appropriation of the
treasure, and of his intention to take it home in the cutter; leaving to
their discretion the decision whether or no they would communicate the
information to his father.  And, thin done, he forthwith re-victualled
and re-watered the _Flora_, and cleared for Capetown, which was to be
his next port of call.

It was drawing on toward three o'clock in the afternoon of a glorious
spring day when the cutter-yacht _Flora_, from Funchal, homeward-bound,
came sliding unobtrusively into Weymouth harbour, where, having taken in
her thin and almost worn-out sails, she modestly moored among a number
of other yachts under the Nothe.  Perhaps it was her somewhat dingy and
weatherworn appearance that caused her crew to avoid attracting to her
any unnecessary attention, or possibly it may have been some other
reason; at all events, to all inquisitive inquiries the bronzed and
bearded trio who manned her merely replied that they had "been cruising
to the south'ard."  To the custom-house officers they had of course to
be a little more explicit; but even they were satisfied when, after a
careful search of the craft's tiny cabins and forecastle, they were
invited to sample a bottle of choice Madeira, on some four or five dozen
of which Leslie willingly paid duty.  The next day her sails were unbent
and she was taken up the Backwater and laid up, in charge of Simpson;
and a month or two later her ballast was taken out of her and stowed
away in a shed under which she also was hauled up.  A certain portion of
this ballast was soon afterwards packed up somewhat carefully and
conveyed to London by train; and eventually the little craft was sold.

Meanwhile, however, Leslie had despatched a wire to his father's
solicitors, announcing his arrival home; and that same evening he
received a reply requesting him to go to town and call at the office of
the senders on the following day without fail, as they had intelligence
of the utmost importance to communicate to him.

Of course he went; and upon his arrival was at once ushered into a
private room.  There was but one individual in the apartment, a tall,
handsome, grey-headed old gentleman of most aristocratic appearance, who
rose to his feet in much agitation as Dick entered.

"Father!" cried the younger man, in the utmost astonishment.  "My son!"
exclaimed the elder; and their hands locked in a grip that was far more
expressive than many words.

"Dick, my son," at length exclaimed the Earl, when he had sufficiently
overcome his agitation to speak, "let me be the first to congratulate
you.  Your innocence has been fully proved!"

A month later the man whom we have known as Dick Leslie was once more
afloat, and on his way to Bombay on board a P. and O. liner.

THE END.





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