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´╗┐Title: Commodore Junk
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Commodore Junk" ***

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Commodore Junk
By George Manville Fenn
Published by William Bryce, Toronto
This edition dated 1889

Commodore Junk, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
COMMODORE JUNK, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

DOWN IN DEVON.

"Then you're a villain!"

"Nonsense, Mary; be reasonable."

"Reasonable, Captain Armstrong!  I am reasonable, and I am telling you
the truth.  You are a villain!"

"Why, you foolish girl, what did you expect?"

"That you would be an officer and a gentleman.  Once more, is it true
that you are going to be married to that lady?"

"Well, you see--"

"Answer me, sir."

"Oh, well, then, yes, I suppose I am."

"Then I repeat it, James Armstrong, you are a villain!"

"What nonsense, you fierce-looking, handsome termagant!  We have had our
little pleasant chats and meetings, and now we'll say good-bye
pleasantly.  I can't help it.  I have to marry; so you go and do the
same, my dear, and I'll buy you a handsome wedding-dress."

"You cowardly, cold-blooded villain!"

"Come, come, my good girl; no more strong words, please don't spoil a
pleasant little intimacy by a vulgar quarrel."

"Pleasant little intimacy!"

"Why, what did you expect?"

"That you were wooing me to be your wife."

"A captain in the King's Navy marry the daughter of an old wrecker, the
sister of as utter a smuggling scoundrel as can be found about this port
of Dartmouth!"

"When a girl gives her heart to the man who comes to her all soft words
and smiles, do you think she remembers what he is?  It in enough for her
that she loves him, and she believes all he says.  Oh, James, dear
James! forgive me all I've said, and don't send me adrift like this.
Tell me it isn't true."

"There, that's enough.  You knew as well as I did that there was nothing
serious meant, so now let's bring this meeting to an end."

"To an end?"

"Yes; you had no business to come here.  But, as you have come, there
are five guineas, Mary, to buy finery; and let's shake hands and say
good-bye."

Captain Armstrong, a handsome man with a rather cruel-looking,
thin-lipped mouth, took five golden pieces from his great, flapped,
salt-box-pocketed waistcoat, gave the flowing curls of his wig a shake,
and held out the money to the dark, black-eyed woman standing before him
with her sun-browned cheeks lightly flushed, her full, red lips
quivering, and a look of fierce passion distorting her handsome gipsy
countenance, as she held out a well-shaped hand for the money.

"Come, that's right, Mary," said the captain.  "You are going to be
reasonable then.  One, two, three, four, five--well, yes, I'll give you
another guinea for being so good--six."

As he spoke he dropped the golden coins one by one into the woman's
hand, smiled, glanced quickly at a door behind him, and caught her in
his arms.

"There, one more kiss from those ripe red lips, and then--"

_Spank_!

As sharp a backhanded blow across the face as ever man received from an
angry woman, and then, as the recipient involuntarily started back, Mary
Dell flung the golden pieces at him, so that one struck him in the chest
and the others flew tinkling across the room.

"Curse you!" cried the captain, in a low, savage voice, "this is too
much.  Leave this house, you low-bred shrew, and if you ever dare to
come here again--"

"Dare!" cried the woman as fiercely.  "I dare anything.  I've not been a
sailor's child for nothing.  And so you think that a woman's love is to
be bought and sold for a few paltry guineas, and that you can play with
and throw me off as you please.  Look here, James Armstrong, I wouldn't
marry you now if you prayed me to be your wife--wife to such a cruel,
mean coward!  Faugh!  I would sooner leap overboard some night and die
in the deepest part of the harbour."

"Leave this house, you vixen."

"Not at your bidding, captain," cried the girl, scornfully.  "Captain!
Why, the commonest sailor in the king's ships would shame to behave to a
woman as you have behaved to me.  But I warn you," she continued, as in
her excitement her luxuriant glossy black hair escaped from its comb and
fell rippling down in masses--"I warn you, that if you go to church with
that lady, who cannot know you as I do, I'll never forgive you, but have
such a revenge as shall make you rue the day that you were born."

"Silence, woman; I've borne enough!  Leave this house!"

"You thought because I was fatherless and motherless that I should be an
easy prey; but you were wrong, Captain Armstrong; you were wrong.  I am
a woman, but not the weak, helpless thing you believed."

"Leave my house!"

"When I have told you all I think and feel, James Armstrong."

"Leave my house, woman!"

"Do you think you can frighten me by your loud voice and threatening
looks?" said the girl, scornfully.

"Leave my house!" cried the Captain for the third time, furiously; and,
glancing through the window as he spoke, he changed colour at the sight
of a grey-haired gentleman approaching with a tall, graceful woman upon
his arm.

"Ah!" cried Mary Dell, as she read his excitement aright; "so that is
the woman!  Then I'll stop and meet her face to face, and tell her what
a contemptible creature she is going to wed."

"Curse you, leave this house!" cried the captain in a savage whisper;
and catching his visitor roughly by the shoulder, he tried to pull her
towards the door; but the girl resisted, and in the struggle a chair was
overturned with a crash, the door was flung open, and a bluff, manly
voice exclaimed--

"Why, hullo! what's the matter now?"

"What's that to you?" cried the captain, angrily, as he desisted from
his efforts, and the girl stood dishevelled and panting, her eyes
flashing vindictively, and a look of gratified malice crossing her face,
as she saw the confusion and annoyance displayed by her ex-lover.

"What is it to me?  Why, I thought there was trouble on, and I came to
help."

"To intrude when you were not wanted, you mean.  Now go," snarled the
captain.

"No, don't go," cried the girl, spitefully.  "I want you to protect me,
sir, from this man, this gentleman, who professed to love me, and who,
now that he is going to be married, treats me as you see."

"It's a lie, woman," cried the captain, who noted that the couple whose
coming had made him lower his voice had now passed after looking up at
the window, and who now turned again fiercely upon the woman.

"No, it isn't a lie, Jem," said the new-comer.  "I've seen you on the
beach with her many a time, and thought what a blackguard you were."

"Lieutenant Armstrong, I am your superior officer," cried the captain.
"How dare you speak to me like that!  Sir, you go into arrest, for this
speech."

"I was not addressing my superior officer," said the new-comer, flushing
slightly, "but my cousin Jem.  Put me in arrest, will you?  Very well,
my fine fellow; you're captain, I'm lieutenant, and I must obey; but if
you do, next time we're ashore I'll thrash you within an inch of your
life as sure as my name's Humphrey.  Hang it, I'll do it now!"

He took a quick step forward; but the captain darted behind the table,
and Mary caught the young man's arm.

"No, no, sir," she said in a deep voice; "don't get yourself into
trouble for me.  It's very true and gallant of you, sir, to take the
part of a poor girl; but I can fight my own battle against such a coward
as that.  Look at him, with his pale face and white lips, and tell me
how I could ever have loved such a creature."

"Woman--"

"Yes, woman now," cried the girl.  "A month ago no word was too sweet
and tender for me.  There, I'm going, James Armstrong, and I wish you
joy of your new wife--the pale, thin creature I saw go by; but don't
think you are done with me, or that this is to be forgotten.  As for
you, sir," she continued, holding out her hand, which her defender took,
and smiled down frankly in the handsome dark face before him?  "I
sha'n't forget this."

"No," said Captain Armstrong with a sneer.  "Lose one lover, pick up
another.  She's a nice girl, Humphrey, and it's your turn now."

Mary Dell did not loose the hand she had seized, but darted a bitterly
contemptuous look upon her late lover, which made him grind his teeth as
she turned from him again to the lieutenant.

"Was I not right, sir, to say he is a coward?  I am only a poor-class
girl, but I am a woman, and I can feel.  Thank you, sir; good-bye, and
if we never meet again, think that I shall always be grateful for what
you have said."

At that minute there were voices heard without and the captain started
and looked nervously at the door.

"I'm going, James Armstrong," said the girl; "and I might go like this;
but for my own sake, not for yours, I'll not."

She gave her head a sidewise jerk which brought her magnificent black
hair over her left shoulder, and then with a few rapid turns of her
hands she twisted it into a coil and secured it at the back of her head.

Then turning to go, Humphrey took a step after her; but she looked up at
him with a sharp, suspicious gaze.

"He told you to see me off the place?" she said quickly.

"No," cried Humphrey; "it was my own idea."

"Let me go alone," said the girl.  "I want to think there is someone
belonging to him who is not base.  Good-bye, sir!  Perhaps we may meet
again."

"Meet again!" snarled the captain as the girl passed through the
doorway.  "Yes, I'll warrant me you will, and console yourself with your
new lover, you jade."

"Look here, Jem," cried the lieutenant hotly; "officer or no officer,
recollect that we're alone now, and that you are insulting me as well as
that poor girl.  Now, then, you say another word like that, and hang me
if I don't nearly break your neck."

"You insolent--"

Captain Armstrong did not finish his sentence, for there was a something
in the frank, handsome, manly face of his cousin that meant mischief,
and he threw himself into a chair with an angry snarl, such as might be
given by a dog who wanted to attack but did not dare.



CHAPTER TWO.

AT THE COTTAGE.

"What's she a-doing of now?"

"Blubbering."

"Why, that's what you said yesterday.  She ar'n't been a-blubbering ever
since?"

"Yes, she have, Bart; and the day afore, and the day afore that.  She's
done nothing else."

"I hates to see a woman cry," said the first speaker in a low, surly
growl, as he wrinkled his forehead all over and seated himself on the
edge of a three-legged table in the low-ceiled cottage of old Dell, the
smuggler, a roughly-built place at the head of one of the lonely coves
on the South Devon coast.  The place was rough, for it had been built at
different times, of wreckwood which had come ashore; but the dwelling
was picturesque outside, and quaint, nautical, and deliriously clean
within, where Abel Dell, Mary's twin brother, a short, dark young
fellow, singularly like his sister, sat upon an old sea-chest forming a
netting-needle with a big clasp-knife, and his brow was also covered
with the lines of trouble.

He was a good-looking, sun-browned little fellow; and as he sat there in
his big fisher-boots thrust down nearly to the ankle, and a scarlet
worsted cap upon his black, crisp curls, his canvas petticoat and blue
shirt made him a study of which a modern artist would have been glad;
but I the early days of King George the First gentlemen of the palette
and brush did not set up white umbrellas in sheltered coves and turn the
inhabitants into models, so Abel Dell had not been transferred to
canvas, and went on carving his hardwood needle without looking up at
the man he called Bart.

There was not much lost, for Bartholomew Wrigley, at the age of thirty--
wrecker, smuggler, fisherman, sea-dog, anything by turn--was about as
ugly an athletic specimen of humanity as ever stepped.  Nature and his
ancestors had been very unkind to him in the way of features, and
accidents by flood and fight had marred what required no disfigurement,
a fall of a spar having knocked his nose sidewise and broken the bridge,
while a chop from a sword in a smuggling affray had given him a divided
upper lip.  In addition he always wore the appearance of being ashamed
of his height, and went about with a slouch that was by no means an
attraction to the fisher-girls of the place.

"Ay!  If the old man had been alive--"

"'Stead o' drowned off Plymouth Hoo," growled Bart.

"In the big storm," continued Abel, "Polly would have had to swab them
eyes of hern."

"Ay!  And if the old man had been alive, that snapper dandy captain,
with his boots and sword, would have had to sheer off, Abel, lad."

"'Stead o' coming jerry-sneaking about her when we was at sea, eh,
Bart?"

"Them's true words," growled the big, ugly fellow.

Then, after a pause--

"I hate to see a woman cry."

"So do I, mate.  Makes the place dull."

There was a pause, during which Abel carved away diligently, and Bart
watched him intently, with his hands deep in his pockets.

"It's all off, ar'n't it, mate?" said Bart at last.

"Ay, it's all off," said Abel; and there was another pause.

"Think there'd be any chance for a man now?"

Abel looked up at his visitor, who took off the rough, flat, fur cap he
wore, as if to show himself to better advantage; and after breathing on
one rough, gnarled hand, he drew it down over his hair, smoothing it
across his brow; but the result was not happy, and he seemed to feel it
as the wood-carver shook his head and went on with his work.

"S'pose not," said the looker-on with a sigh.  "You see, I'm such a
hugly one, Abel, lad."

"You are, Bart.  There's no denying of it, mate; you are."

"Ay!  A reg'lar right-down hugly one.  But I thought as p'r'aps now as
her heart were soft and sore, she might feel a little torst a man whose
heart also was very soft and sore."

"Try her, then, mate.  I'll go and tell her you're here."

"Nay, nay, don't do that, man," whispered the big fellow, hoarsely.  "I
durstent ask her again.  It'll have to come from her this time."

"Not it.  Ask her, Bart.  She likes you."

"Ay, she likes me, bless her, and she's allus got a kind word for a
fellow as wishes a'most as he was her dog."

"What's the good o' that, lad?  Better be her man."

"Ay, of course; but if you can't be her man, why not be her dog.  She
would pat your head and pull your ears; but I allus feels as she'll
never pat my head or pull my ears, Abel, lad; you see, I'm such a hugly
one.  Blubbering, eh?"

"Does nothing else.  She don't let me see it; but I know.  She don't
sleep of a night, and she looks wild and queer, as Sanderson's lass did
who drowned herself."

"Then he has behaved very bad to her, Abel?"

"Ay, lad.  I wish I had hold of him.  I'd like to break his neck."

Bart put on his cap quickly, glanced toward the inner room, where there
was a sound as of someone singing mournfully, and then in a quick, low
whisper--

"Why not, lad?" said he; "why not?"

"Break his neck, Bart?"

The big fellow nodded.

"Will you join in and risk it?"

"Won't I?"

"Then we will," said Abel.  "Curse him, he's most broke her heart."

"'Cause she loves him," growled Bart, thoughtfully.

"Yes, a silly soft thing.  She might have known."

"Then we mustn't break his neck, Abel, lad," said Bart shaking his head.
Then, as if a bright thought had suddenly flashed across his brain--

"Look here.  We'll wait for him, and then--I ar'n't afeard of his
sword--we'll make him marry her."

"You don't want him to marry her," said Abel, staring, and utilising the
time by stropping his knife on his boot.

"Nay, I can do what she wants, I will as long as I live."

"Ah! you always was fond of her, Bart," said Abel, slowly.

"Ay, I always was, and always shall be, my lad.  But look here,"
whispered Bart, leaning towards his companion; "if he says he won't
marry her--"

"Ah! suppose he says he won't!" said Abel to fill up a pause, for Bart
stood staring at him.

"If he says he won't, and goes and marries that fine madam--will you do
it?"

"I'll do anything you'll do, mate," said Abel in a low voice.

"Then we'll make him, my lad."

"Hist!" whispered Abel, as the inner door opened, and Mary entered the
room, looking haggard and wild, to gaze sharply from one to the other,
as if she suspected that they had been making her the subject of their
conversation.

"How do, Mary?" said Bart, in a consciously awkward fashion.

"Ah, Bart!" she said, coldly, as she gazed full in his eyes till he
dropped his own and moved toward the door.

"I'm just going to have a look at my boat, Abel, lad," he said.  "Coming
down the shore?"

Abel nodded, and Bart shuffled out of the doorway, uttering a sigh of
relief as soon as he was in the open air; and taking off his flat fur
cap, he wiped the drops of perspiration from his brow.

"She's too much for me, somehow," he muttered, as he sauntered down
towards the shore.  "I allus thought as being in love with a gell would
be very nice, but it ar'n't.  She's too much for me."

"What were you and Bart Wrigley talking about?" said Mary Dell, as soon
as she was alone with her brother.

"You," said Abel, going on scraping his netting-needle.

"What about me?"

"All sorts o' things."

"What do you mean?"

"What do I mean?  Why, you know.  About your being a fool--about the
fine captain and his new sweetheart.  Why, you might ha' knowed, Mary."

"Look here, Abel," cried Mary, catching him by the wrist, and dragging
at it so that he started to his feet and they stood face to face, the
stunted brother and the well-grown girl wonderfully equal in size, and
extremely alike in physique and air; "if you dare to talk to me again
like that, we shall quarrel."

"Well, let's quarrel, then."

"What?" cried Mary, staring, for this was a new phase in her brother's
character.

"I say, let's quarrel, then," cried Abel, folding his arms.  "Do you
think I've been blind?  Do you think I haven't seen what's been going
on, and how that man has served you?  Why, it has nearly broken poor old
Bart's heart."

"Abel!"

"I don't care, Polly, I will speak now.  You don't like Bart."

"I do.  He is a good true fellow as ever stepped, but--"

"Yes, I know.  It ar'n't nat'ral or you to like him as he likes you; but
you've been a fool, Polly, to listen to that fine jack-a-dandy; and--
curse him!  I'll half-kill him next time we meet!"

Mary tried to speak, but her emotion choked her.

"You--you don't know what you are saying," she panted at last.

"Perhaps not," he said, in a low, muttering way; "but I know what I'm
going to do!"

"Do!" she cried, recovering herself, and making an effort to regain her
old ascendency over her brother.  "I forbid you to do anything.  You
shall not interfere."

"Very well," said the young man, with a smile; and as his sister
persisted he seemed to be subdued.

"Nothing, I say.  Any quarrel I may have with Captain Armstrong is my
affair, and I can fight my own battle.  Do you hear?"

"Yes, I hear," said Abel, going toward the door.

"You understand!  I forbid it.  You shall not even speak to him."

"Yes, I understand," said Abel, tucking the netting-needle into his
pocket, and thrusting his knife into its sheath; and then, before Mary
could call up sufficient energy to speak again, the young man passed out
of the cottage and hurried after Bart.

Mary went to the little casement and stood gazing after him thoughtfully
for a few minutes, till he passed out of her sight among the rocks on
his way to where the boat lay.

"No," she said, softly; "he would not dare!"

Then turning and taking the seat her brother had vacated, a desolate
look of misery came over her handsome face, which drooped slowly into
her hands, and she sat there weeping silently as she thought of the
wedding that was to take place the next day.



CHAPTER THREE.

AT THE CHURCH DOOR.

Captain James Armstrong had a few more words with his cousin, Lieutenant
Humphrey, anent his marriage.

"Perhaps you would like me to marry that girl off the beach," he said,
"Mr Morality?"

"I don't profess to be a pattern of morality, cousin," replied the
lieutenant, shortly.

"And don't like pretty girls, of course," sneered the captain.  "Sailors
never do."

"I suppose I'm a man, Jem," said Humphrey, "and like pretty girls; but I
hope I should never be such a scoundrel as to make a girl miserable by
professing to care for her, and then throwing her away like a broken
toy."

"Scoundrel, eh?" said the captain, hotly.

"Yes.  Scoundrel--confounded scoundrel!" retorted the lieutenant.
"We're ashore now, and discipline's nowhere, my good cousin, so don't
ruffle up your hackles and set up your comb and pretend you are going to
peck, for you are as great a coward now, as you were when I was a little
schoolboy and you were the big tyrant and sneak."

"You shall pay for this, sir," cried the captain.

"Pish!  Now, my good cousin, you are not a fool.  You know I am not in
the least afraid of you."

"I'll make you some day," said the captain, bitterly.  "You shall smart
for all this."

"Not I.  It is you who will smart.  There, go and marry your rich wife,
and much happiness may you get out of the match!  I'm only troubled
about one thing, and that is whether it is not my duty to tell the
lady--poor creature!--what a blackguard she is going to wed."

Captain James Armstrong altered the sit of his cocked hat, brushed some
imaginary specks off his new uniform, and turned his back upon his
cousin, ignoring the extended hand.  But he did as he was told--he went
and was duly married, Lieutenant Humphrey being present and walking
close behind, to see just outside the church door the flashing eyes and
knitted brow of Mary Dell on one side; while beyond her, but unseen by
Humphrey, were her brother Abel, and Bart, who stood with folded arms
and a melodramatic scowl upon his ugly face.

"She's going to make a scene," thought Humphrey; and, pushing before the
bride and bridegroom, he interposed, from a feeling of loyalty to the
former, perhaps from a little of the same virtue toward a member of his
family.

Mary looked up at him, at first in surprise, and then she smiled
bitterly.

"Don't be alarmed, sir," she said coldly.  "I only came to see the
captain's wife."

"Poor lass!" muttered the lieutenant, as he saw Mary draw back among the
people gathered together.  "She seemed to read me like a book."

He caught one more sight of Mary Dell standing at a distance, holding
her brother's arm, as the captain entered the heavy, lumbering coach at
the church gate.  Then she disappeared, the crowd melted away, and the
bells rang a merry peal, the ringers' muscles having been loosened with
ale; and as the bride and bridegroom went off to the lady's home at an
old hall near Slapton Lea, Mary returned slowly to the cottage down in
the little cove, and Humphrey went to the wedding breakfast, and
afterwards to his ship.



CHAPTER FOUR.

A MONTH LATER.

About a month after the marriage Captain James Armstrong was returning
one night on horseback from Dartmouth to the home of his wife's family,
where he was sojourning prior to setting off upon a long voyage, it
having been decided that the young couple should not set up in
housekeeping till his return from sea, so that the lady might have some
companionship during his absence.

He had been to the principal inn to dine with some officers whose
vessels had just touched there from Falmouth, and Humphrey, who had been
present, had felt some doubt about letting him go home alone.

"You've had too much punch, Jem," he said.  "Sleep here to-night, and
don't let your young wife see you in that state."

"You're a fool," was the surly reply.

"You can get a good bed here, and ride home in the morning," said
Humphrey, quietly.  "You had better stay."

"Mind your own business, upstart," cried the captain; and ordering his
horse he mounted and set off with a lurch, first on one side, and then
on the other, each threatening to send him out of the saddle.

"He'll be all right, Armstrong," said a jovial-looking officer,
watching.  "Come, have another glass.  By the time he is at the top of
the long hill he will be sober as a judge."

"Perhaps so," said Humphrey aloud.  Then to himself, "I don't half like
it, though.  The road's bad, and I shouldn't care for anything to happen
to him, even if it is to make me heir to the estate.  I wish I had not
let him go."

He returned to the room where the officers had commenced a fresh bowl of
punch, for they had no longer journey before them than upstairs to their
rooms, and there were plenty of servants to see them safely into bed, as
was the custom in dealing with the topers of that day.

"I've done wrong," said Humphrey Armstrong, after partaking of one glass
of punch and smoking a single pipe of tobacco from a tiny bowl of Dutch
ware.  "He was not fit to go home alone."

He said this to himself as an officer was trolling forth an anacreontic
song.

"It's a long walk, but I shall not feel comfortable unless I see whether
he has got home safely; and it will clear away the fumes of the liquor.
Here goes."

He slipped out of the room, and, taking a stout stick which was the
companion of his hat, he started forth into the cool night air, and
walked sturdily away in the direction of his cousin's home.

About half an hour later the drowsy groom, who was sitting up for the
captain's return, rose with a sigh of satisfaction, for he heard the
clattering of hoofs in the stable-yard.

"At last!" he cried; and, taking a lighted lantern, he hurried out, to
stand in dismay staring at the empty saddle, which had been dragged
round under the horse's belly, and at the trembling animal, breathing
hard and shaking its head.

"Why, she's all of a muck," muttered the man; "and the captain ar'n't on
her.  He be fallen off, I'd zwear."

The man stood staring for a few minutes, while the horse pawed
impatiently, as if asking to be admitted to its stable.  Then he opened
the door, the weary beast went in, and the man stood staring with true
Devon stolidity before he bethought him of the necessity for removing
the saddle from its awkward position.

This seen to, it suddenly occurred to him that something ought to be
done about the captain, and he roused up the coachman to spread the
alarm in the house.

"Nay, we'll only scare the poor ladies to death," said the Jehu of the
establishment, grey hairs having brought him wisdom.  "Let's zee virst,
lad, if there be anything really bad.  If he be droonk and valled off,
he won't thank us for telling his wife.  Zaddle the dwo coach-horses,
Ridgard, and we'll ride to town and zee."

The horses were quickly saddled, and the two men-servants trotted along
the Dartmouth road till about half-way, where, in one of the gloomiest
parts, their horses began to snort and exhibit signs of fear, and as
they drew up a voice shouted--

"Here!  Who's that!  Help!"

"Why, it be Mr Humphrey," said the old coachman; and dismounting he
gave his rein to his companion, and ran forward.  "What be wrong, zir?"

"The captain.  Much hurt," was the reply.

"I thought zo, zir.  His horse comed home without him.  He's been
throwed--or pulled off," he added to himself.

"It's something worse, I'm afraid.  Here, help me, and let's get him
home."

The old coachman lent his aid, and with some difficulty the captain was
placed across one of the horses, the lieutenant mounting to hold him on
and support him, while the two servants followed slowly behind.

"Pulled off?" whispered the groom.

"Mebbe," said the old coachman; and then to himself, "Looks bad for Mr
Humphrey; and if he died, what should I zay to them as asked how I found
'em?"

The old man walked slowly on for half an hour before he answered his
mental question, and his answer was--

"They'd make me tell 'em the truth, and it might bring Mr Humphrey to
the gallows; and if it did, it would be all through me."



CHAPTER FIVE.

A KEEN ENCOUNTER.

The prognostications of his fellow-officer did not prove true, for
Captain Armstrong, instead of being sobered by the ride up the hill,
grew more drunken.  The fresh air blown straight from the ocean seemed
to dizzy his muddled brain, and when he rode down the hill he was more
drunken than ever, and rolled about in his saddle like his ship in a
storm.

This seemed to amuse the captain, and he talked and chuckled to himself,
sang snatches of songs, and woke the echoes of the little village street
at the top of the next hill, where the tall, square church tower stood
up wind-swept and dreary to show mariners the way to Dartmouth harbour.

Then came a long ride along a very shelf of a road, where it seemed as
if a false step on the part of his horse would send both rolling down
the declivity to the edge of the sheer rocks, where they would fall
headlong to the fine shingle below.

But drunken men seem favourites with their horses, for when Captain
Armstrong lurched to starboard his nag gave a hitch to keep him in the
saddle, and when he gave another lurch to larboard the horse was ready
for him again--all of which amused the captain more and more, and he
chuckled aloud, and sang, and swore at his cousin for a cold, fishy,
sneaking hound.

"He'd like to see me die, and get the estate," he said; "but I'll live
to a hundred, and leave half a score of boys to inherit, and he sha'n't
get a groat, a miserable, sanctified dog-fish.  Steady, mare, steady!
Bah, how thirsty I am!  Wish I'd had another drop."

He kicked his horse's ribs, and the docile creature broke into a gentle
amble, but only to be checked sharply.

"Wo-ho, mare!" cried the captain, shaking his head, for he was dizzy
now, and the dimly-seen trees sailed slowly round.  "Wind's changing,"
he said; "steady, old lass!  Walk."

The mare walked, and the captain grew more confused in his intellect;
while the night became darker, soft clouds rolling slowly over the
star-spangled sky.

The ride was certainly not sobering James Armstrong, and he knew it, for
he suddenly burst into a chuckling laugh.

"I know what she'll say," he said.  "Ladyship will ride the high horse.
Let her.  I can ride the high horse, too--steady, mare!  What's the
matter with you?"

He had been descending into a narrow pass where the road had been cut
down in the hill side, leaving a high, well-wooded bank on either hand,
and here it was far more dark than out in the open, and the mare, after
walking steadily on for some distance with her well-shod hoofs clinking
upon the loose stones, suddenly shied, stopped short, and snorted.

"What's the matter with you, stupid?  Can't you stand straight?" cried
the captain, striking the beast angrily with his heels.  "Go on."

The horse, however, backed and swerved from side to side, making as if
to turn sharply and gallop back to Dartmouth; but just at that moment
there was a rustling sound heard overhead, where the rough bushes
fringed the bank, and directly after a rush and the sound of someone
leaping down into the lane between the captain and the town.

This had the effect of startling the horse more and more, but instead of
making now for the way by which they had come, it willingly obeyed the
touch of the rider's spur, and continued its journey for half a dozen
yards.  Then it stopped short once again, for a dark figure leaped down
into the lane just in front, and the captain found himself hemmed in.

And now, for the first time; he began to feel sobered as he took in the
position.  He had been attacked by highwaymen without a doubt, and
unless he chose to do battle for his watch and money his only chance of
escape was to force his horse to mount the precipitous side of the lane.

Without a moment's hesitation he dragged at the off rein, drove the
spurs into the beast's flanks, and forced her to the leap; but it was
poorly responded to.  The half leap resulted in the mare gaining a
footing a few feet up, and then scrambling back into the lane as the
captain's two assailants closed in.

"Stand back, you scoundrels!" roared the captain.  "Curse you!  I'll
blow your brains out."

A mocking laugh was the response, and as he dragged at the holster a
smart blow from a cudgel fell upon his hand, making him utter a yell of
pain.  The next moment one of the men had leaped up behind him and
clasped his arms to his side, and in the struggle which ensued both came
down off the horse, which uttered a loud snort of fear and dashed off at
a gallop down the hill for home, while, nerved to action now by his
position and stung by the blows he had received from his assailant, the
captain wrested himself free and dragged his sword from its sheath.

He had hardly raised it in the air when a tremendous blow fell upon the
blade close to the hilt, the sword snapped in two, and the captain was
defenceless.

This mishap took all the spirit-born courage out of him, and he threw
down the broken weapon.

"I give in," he cried, backing away to the side of the lane and facing
the two dimly-seen figures in the darkness; "what do you want?"

One of the men burst into a hoarse laugh.

"I've hardly any money," cried the captain; "a guinea or two.  If I give
you that will you go?"

"Curse your money, you cowardly hound!" cried the second man.

"How dare you, dog!" cried the captain.  "Do you know who I am?"

"James Armstrong," said the same speaker.  "Now, lad, quick!"

"You shall--"

The captain's words turned into a yell of agony as he received a violent
blow from a stick across one arm, numbing it, and before its echo rose
from the steep slope of the hill a second and a third blow fell, which
were followed by a shower, the unfortunate man yelling, beseeching, and
shrieking with agony and fear.  He dropped upon his knees and begged
piteously for mercy; but his tormentors laughed, and seized the
opportunity he offered to apply their blows more satisfactorily.  Back,
arms, legs, all in turn, were belaboured as two men beat a carpet, till
the victim's cries grew hoarse, then faint, and finally ceased, and he
lay in the trampled road, crushed almost to a mummy, and unable to stir
hand or foot; and then, and then only, did his assailants cease.

"Ain't killed him, have we, Abel, lad?" said the bigger of the two men.

"Killed?  No.  We never touched his head.  It would take a deal to kill
a thing like him.  Captain!" he said, mockingly.  "What a cowardly whelp
to command men!"

"What shall we do now?" whispered the bigger man.

"Do!  I'm going to make my mark upon him, and then go home."

"Well, you have, lad."

"Ay, with a stick, but I'm going to do it with my knife;" and, as he
spoke, the lesser of the two men drew his knife from its dagger-like
sheath.

"No, no, don't do that.  Give him a good 'un on the head.  No knife."

"Yes, knife," said the lesser of the two.  "He's had no mercy, and I'll
have none.  He's stunned, and won't feel it."

"Don't do that, lad," whimpered the bigger man.

"Ay, but I will," said the other, hoarsely; and, dropping on his knees,
he seized the prostrate man by the ear, when the trembling wretch
uttered a shriek of agony, making his assailants start away.

"Did you do it, lad?"

"Yes; I done it.  I'm satisfied now.  Let's go."

"And leave him there?"

"Why not?  What mercy did he show?  He was only shamming.  Let him call
for help now till someone comes."

The bigger man uttered a grunt and followed his companion as he mounted
the steep side of the lane, while, faint, exhausted, and bleeding now,
Captain James Armstrong sank back and fainted away.



CHAPTER SIX.

BROUGHT TO BOOK.

"You dare not deny it," cried Mary Dell, furiously, as she stood in the
doorway of the cottage, facing her brother and Bart Wrigley, who
attempted to escape, but were prevented by her barring the way of exit.

Neither spoke, but they stood looking sullen and frowning like a couple
of detected schoolboys.

"No," she continued, "you dare not deny it.  You cowards--lying in wait
for an unarmed man!"

"Why, he'd got a sword and pistols," cried Bart.

"There!" shrieked Mary, triumphantly; "you have betrayed yourself, Bart.
Now perhaps my brave brother will confess that he lay in wait in the
dark for an unarmed man, and helped to beat him nearly to death."

"You're a nice fellow to trust, Bart," said Abel, looking at his
companion.  "Betrayed yourself directly."

"Couldn't help it," grumbled Bart.  "She's so sharp upon a man."

"You cowards!" cried Mary again.

"Well, I don't know about being cowards," said Abel, sullenly.  "He was
mounted and had his weapons, and we had only two sticks."

"Then you confess it was you?  Oh! what a villain to have for a
brother!"

"Here, don't go on like that," cried Abel.  "See how he has served you."

"What's that to you?" cried Mary, fiercely.  "If he jilted me and I
forgive him, how dare you interfere?"

"Phew!" whistled Bart to himself.  "What a way she has!"

"Why, any one would think you cared for him, Polly," said Abel, staring,
while Bart whistled softly again, and wiped the heavy dew from his
forehead.

"Care for him!--I hate him!" cried Mary, passionately: "but do you think
I wanted my own brother to go and take counsel with his big vagabond
companion--"

"Phew!" whistled Bart again, softly, as he perspired now profusely, and
wiped his forehead with his fur cap.

"And then go and beat one of the King's officers?  But you'll both
suffer for it.  The constables will be here for you, and you'll both be
punished."

"Not likely--eh, Bart?" said Abel, with a laugh.

"No, lad," growled that worthy.  "Too dark."

"Don't you be too sure," cried Mary.  "You cowards! and if he dies,"--
there was a hysterical spasm here--"if he dies, you'll both go to the
gibbet and swing in chains!"

Bart gave his whole body a writhe, as if he already felt the chains
about him as he was being made into a scare-scamp.

"Didn't hit hard enough, and never touched his head," he growled.

"And as for you," cried Mary, turning upon him sharply, "never you look
me in the face again.  You are worse than Abel; and I believe it was
your mad, insolent jealousy set you persuading my foolish brother to
help in this cowardly attack."

Bart tried to screw up his lips and whistle; but his jaw seemed to drop,
and he only stared and shuffled behind his companion in misfortune.

"Never mind what she says, Bart, lad," said the latter; "she'll thank us
some day for half-killing as big a scamp as ever stepped."

"Thank you!" cried Mary, with her eyes flashing and her handsome face
distorted, "I hope to see you both well punished, and--"

"Who's that coming?" said Abel, sharply, as steps were heard approaching
quickly.

As Mary turned round to look, Abel caught sight of something over her
shoulder in the evening light which made him catch his companion by the
arm.

"Quick, Bart, lad!" he whispered; "through her room and squeeze out of
the window.  The constables!"

He opened the door of his sister's little room, thrust his mate in,
followed, and shut and bolted the door; but as he turned then to the
window, a little strongly-made frame which had once done duty in a
vessel, Mary's voice was heard speaking loudly in conversation with the
new arrivals in the outer room.

"Out with you, quickly and quietly," whispered Abel.

"Right, lad," replied Bart; and unfastening and opening the little
window, he thrust his arms through and began to get out.

At that moment there was a loud knocking at the door.

"Open--in the king's name!"

"Open it yourself," muttered Abel, "when we're gone.  Quick, Bart, lad!"

This remark was addressed to the big fellow's hind quarters, which were
jerking and moving in a very peculiar way, and then Bart's voice was
heard, sounding muffled and angry, warning somebody to keep off.

"Curse it all! too late!" cried Abel, grinding his teeth.  "Here, Bart,
lad, get through."

"Can't, lad," growled his companion.  "I'm ketched just acrost the hips,
and can't move."

"Come back, then."

"That's what I'm a-trying to do, but this son of a sea-cook has got hold
of me."

"Open--in the King's name!" came from the outer room; and then, just as
Abel had seized an old sea-chest and was about to drag it before the
door, there was a tremendous kick, the bolt was driven off, the door
swung open, and the Dartmouth constable and a couple of men rushed
forwards, and, in spite of Abel's resistance, dragged him into the other
room.

"Now, Dell, my lad," said the head man, "I've got you at last."

"So it seems," said Abel, who stared hard at his sister as he spoke;
while she stood with her hands clasped before her and a peculiarly rigid
look on her face, staring wildly back.

"Smuggling and wrecking weren't enough for you, eh?"

"What do you want here?" said Abel, giving his sister a final scowl and
then facing the head constable.

"You, my lad--you," said that individual, with a grin.

"What for?"

"Attempted murder and robbery on the king's highway, my lad."

"It's a lie!  Who says so?" cried Abel, setting his teeth and fixing his
sister again with his dark eyes as she gave him an imploring look.

"Never mind who says so, my lad.  Information's laid all regular against
you and Master Bart Wrigley.  You're both captured neatly.  Here, how
long are you going to be bringing forward the other?" cried the
constable.

"We can't get him out," shouted a voice.  "He's stuck in the little
window."

"Pull him back, then, by his legs."

"Been trying ever so long," said another voice, "but he won't come."

"I'll soon see to that," said the constable, backing Abel into the
little bed-room which was darkened by Bart's body filling up the window.
"Here, lay hold of his legs, two of you, and give a good jerk."

Two men obeyed, but they did not give the jerk--Bart did that.  Drawing
in his legs like a grasshopper about to leap, he suddenly shot them out
straight, when, though they did not alter his position where he was
nipped in across the hips by the window-frame, they acted like catapults
upon the two constables, who were driven backwards, the one into a
chair, the other into a sitting position on the floor, to the great
delight of those who looked on.

"Four of you," said the head constable stolidly; "and hold on this
time."

The men obeyed, two going to each leg; and though Bart gave three or
four vigorous kicks, his captors were not dislodged.

"Now," said the head constable, as the kicking legs became quiescent,
"all together!"

There was a sharp jerk, and Bart's body was snatched out of the
imprisoning frame so suddenly that five men went down on the floor
together; while the first to rise was Bart, who kicked himself free,
made for the door in spite of a pistol levelled by the head constable,
and passed through.

"Come on, Abel!" he shouted as he went.

Abel made a dash to follow, but he only struck his face against the
muzzle of a pistol, and the head constable held on.

There was a rush after Bart, but it was needless, for the great stolid
fellow had seen the state of affairs, and come back.

"All right, Abel, lad," he growled; "I won't leave you in the lurch.
What's it mean--lock-up!"

"Yes, my lad; charge of attempted murder and robbery," said the head
constable.

"Took all the skin off my hips and ribs," growled Bart, rubbing himself
softly.

"You'll have plenty of time to get well before your trial," said the
constable, smiling.  "Are you ready!"

This last to Abel, who was gazing fiercely at his sister, who met his
angry eyes with an imploring look.

"And my own sister, too, Bart," he said, bitterly.  "We fought for her,
lad, and she gave information to the police."

"No, no, no, Abel!" cried Mary, running to him to fling her arms about
his neck; but he gave her a rough thrust which sent her staggering back,
and her countenance changed on the instant for her eyes flashed
vindictively, and she stood before him with folded arms.

"Prisoner confessed in the presence of you all that he committed the
act," said the constable; and his words were received with a mutter of
assent in chorus.

"Here, I'm ready," said Abel.  "Come along, mate."

"So'm I," growled Bart, laying a hand on Abel's shoulder.  "I wouldn't
ha' thought it on you, Mary, my lass," he said, and he gazed at her
sadly as he shook his head.

Mary made no reply, but stood with her arms folded across her breast and
her brow wrinkled while the party moved out of the cottage; but the next
instant the scene which followed made her rush outside and gaze wildly
with eyes dilated and breast heaving, and her hands now clasped as she
watched the chase.

For as the little party stood outside, Bart still with his hand upon his
companion's shoulder, Abel said quickly--

"The boat.  Run!"

Bart was, as a rule, rather slow of comprehension; but at that moment
the same idea was filling his mind.  That is to say, it was already
charged, and Abel's words were as so many sparks struck from steel to
fire that charge.  Consequently, as the young fellow struck the
constable to the left, Bart did the same to the right, and they dashed
off as one man towards where, just round the western point of rock which
helped to form the little bay, they knew that their boat was lying,
swinging with the tide to a grapnel lying on the sands.

As they dashed off, running swiftly over the hard sand, the head
constable raised his old brass-mounted pistol and fired, when the shot
might have been supposed to have struck Mary Dell, so sharp a start did
she give as she clapped one hand to her side, and then peered at the
rising smoke, and drew a long breath full of relief.

For, as the smoke rose, she could see the fugitives still running, and
that quite a cloud of sea-birds had risen from the mew-stone, a hundred
yards from shore, to fly circling round, screaming querulously, as they
slowly flapped their black-tipped wings.

"They'll escape--they'll escape!" cried Mary, clapping her hands
joyously.  "The coward, to fire!  And they're afraid to run hard and
catch them now they are out in the open.  Yes, they'll escape!" she
cried again, as she saw the distance increasing between pursuer and
pursued.  "They'll get to the boat; the sail's in, and there's a good
breeze.  Oh, if I were only with them!"

A sudden thought struck her, and she caught up a sun-bonnet from where
it lay on the open window-sill.

"I'll go," she thought.  "They'll sail west.  I could reach Mallow's
Cove across the fields, and signal to them.  They'd come in and pick me
up, and we could escape together far, far from here."

All this with her cheeks flushing, her handsome eyes sparkling, and her
breast rising and falling in the height of her emotion.

Then a change came over her.  Her eyes looked heavy; her forehead
wrinkled again.

"Escape!  Where?" she said, half aloud.  "I'd gladly go--away from all
this torture; but they think I betrayed them, and would not come in."

The elasticity was gone out of her step, as she slowly climbed the face
of the huge scarped rocks which towered above the cottage--a risky
ascent, but one to which she was, as it were, born; and, with her eyes
fixed upon the pursuers and the fugitives, she trusted to her hands and
feet to take her safely to the top, passing spot after spot where one
unused to climbing would have stopped and turned back, so giddy was the
ascent.  Higher and higher, past clinging ivy, fern, and clusters of
yellow ragwort, with patches of purple heath and golden gorse, till the
farther side of the rocky point was opened out, with the boat lying like
a speck afloat beyond the line of foam.

Mary paused there with her sun-bonnet in her hand to watch the result;
but there was no exultation in her eyes, only a look of stony
despondency, for from where she stood she could see now that the effort
of her brother and his companion was in vain.

They were still on ignorance as they ran on, for they were on the bay
side of the point yet, toiling over the loose sand and shingle, where
the washed up weed lay thick; but Mary had a bird's-eye view of what in
the clear south air seemed to be close at her feet, as close almost as
where the boat lay in shelter from the north and easterly wind.

The pursuers were now all together, and settled down to a steady trot,
which pace they increased as Bart and Abel reached the rocks, and,
instead of going right round, began to climb over some fifty yards from
where the water washed the point.

"We're too many for him this time, Bart, my lad," cried Abel.  "You
weren't hit, were you?"

"Hit?  No.  Shot never went within a mile o' me."

"Then why are you dowsing your jib like that?"

"I were a-thinking about she, mate," said Bart, in a low growl.

"Curse her for a woman all over!" said Abel.  "They take to a man, and
the more he ill-uses 'em, they fight for him the more."

"Ay, lad; but to think of her putting them on to us!  It don't seem like
she."

"Curse them!" cried Abel, as he reached the other side of the point, and
saw that which his sister had seen from the cliff behind the cottage.

"What for now?" said Bart, stolidly, as he reached his companion's side.
"Hum, that's it, is it?"

He looked round him for a fresh way of escape.

There was the sea, if they liked to leap in and swim; but they could be
easily overtaken.  The rocks above them were too overhanging to climb,
and there was no other way, unless they returned, and tried to rush
through their pursuers; for beyond the point the tide beat upon the
cliff.

"No good, Bart; we're trapped," said Abel, stolidly.  "I'll never
forgive her--never!"

"Yes, you will," said Bart, sitting down on a rock, and carefully taking
off his fur cap to wipe his heated brow.  "You will some day.  Why, I
could forgive her anything--I could.  She's a wonderful gell; but, I
say, my hips is werry sore."

He sat staring down at the boat beyond the point, the anchor having been
taken on board, and the oars being out to keep her off the rocks, as she
rose and fell with the coming tide.

"No!" said Abel, bitterly.  "I'll never forgive her--never!"

"Nay, lad, don't say that," said Bart, rubbing one side.  "Hey, lass!
There she is.  Top o' the cliff.  Look at her, mate."

"No," said Abel; "let her look--at her cowardly work."

"Now, then!" shouted the head constable, as he came panting up.  "Is it
surrender, or fight?"

For answer, Abel climbed slowly down to the sands, followed by Bart; and
the next minute they were surrounded, and stood with gyves upon their
wrists.

"Warm work," said the constable, cheerfully; "but we've got you safe
now."

"Ay, you've got us safe," growled Bart; "but it wouldn't ha' been easy
if Abel here had showed fight."

"Been no use," said the constable.  "I said to Billy Niggs here:
`Niggs,' I said, `them two'll make for their boat, and get away.'  `Ay,
zhure, that they 'ool,' he said.  Didn't you, Billy?"

"Ay, zhure, sir, that's just what I did say," cried a constable, with a
face like a fox-whelp cyder apple.

"So I sent on two men to be ready in the boat.  Come on, my lads."

The boat was pulled ashore.  The two constables in charge leaped out
with the grapnel, and dropped it on the sand; and then in silence the
party with their prisoners walked slowly back, and beneath the spot
where Mary stood like a figure carved out of the rock, far above their
heads, till they had gone out of sight, without once looking up or
making a sign.

Then the poor girl sank down in the rocky niche where she had climbed
first, and burst into an agonised fit of weeping.

"Father--mother--brother--all gone!  Lover false!  Alone--alone--alone!"
she sobbed.  "What have I done to deserve it all?  Nothing!" she cried,
fiercely, as she sprang to her feet and turned and shook her clenched
fists landward.  "Nothing but love a cold, cruel wretch.  Yes, love; and
now--oh, how I hate him--and all the world!"

She sank down again in the niche all of a heap, and sat there with the
sun slowly sinking lower, and the sea-birds wheeling round and round
above her head, and watching her with inquisitive eyes, as they each now
and then uttered a mournful wail, which sounded sympathetic though
probably it was the gullish expression of wonder whether the crouching
object was good to eat.

And there she sat, hour after hour, till it was quite dark, when she
began slowly to descend, asking herself what she should do to save her
brother and his friend, both under a misconception, but suffering for
her sake.

"And I stay here!" she said, passionately.  "Let them think what they
will, I'll try and save them, for they must be a prison now."

Mary was quite right; for as night fell Abel Dell and Bart his companion
were partaking of a very frugal meal, and made uncomfortable by the fact
that it was not good, and that they--men free to come and go on sea and
land--were now safely caged behind a massive iron grill.

"Well," said Bart at last, "I'm only sorry for one thing now."

"What's that--Mary being so base?"

"Nay, I'm sorry for that," replied Bart; "but what I meant was that I
didn't give the captain one hard un on the head."



CHAPTER SEVEN.

GATHERING CLOUDS.

In spite of the declaration made by Captain Armstrong that he had
identified his assailants by the heights, voices, and--dark as was the
night--their features, Abel refused to be convinced.  He had taken it
into his head that Mary had denounced them to her former lover, and at
each examination before the Old Devon magistrates he had sullenly turned
away from the poor girl, who sat gazing imploringly at the dock, and
hungering for a look in return.

The captain was not much hurt; that is to say, no bones were broken.
Pain he had suffered to a little extent, for there was an ugly slit in
one ear, but he was not in such a condition as to necessitate his
limping into court, supported by a couple of servants, and generally
"got up" to look like one who had been nearly beaten to death.

All this told against Abel and Bart, as well as the fact that the
captain was of good birth, and one who had lately formed an alliance
with a famous old county family.  In addition, the prisoners were known
to the bench.  Both Abel and Bart had been in trouble before, and black
marks were against them for wrecking and smuggling.  They were no worse
than their neighbours, but the law insists upon having scarecrows, and
the constables did not hesitate to make every effort to hang the son of
a notorious old wrecker and his boon companion.

There was not a dissentient voice.  Abel Dell and Bartholomew Wrigley
were both committed for trial; and Mary made quite a sensation by rising
in the court as the prisoners were about to be removed, and forcing her
way to where she could catch her brother's hand.

"Abe," she cried, passionately, "I didn't.  I didn't, indeed.  Say
good-bye."

He turned upon her fiercely, and snatched his hand away.

"Go to your captain," he said, savagely.  "I shall be out of the way
now."

An ordinary woman would have shrunk away sobbing; but as Mary was flung
off, she caught at Bart's wrist, and clung to that.

"Bart, I didn't!  I didn't!" she whispered, hoarsely.  "Tell him I
wouldn't--I couldn't do such a thing.  It isn't true!"

Bart's face puckered up, and he looked tenderly down in the agitated
face before him.

"Well, lass," he said, softly, "I believe--"

"That you turned against us!" interposed Abel, savagely, for his temper,
consequent upon the way matters had gone against him, was all on edge.
"Come on, Bart; she'll have her own way now."

A constable's hand was on each of their shoulders, and they were hurried
out of court, leaving Mary standing frowning alone, the observed of all.

Her handsome face flushed, and she drew herself up proudly, as she cast
a haughtily defiant look at all around, and was about to walk away when
her eyes lighted upon the captain, who was seated by the magisterial
bench, side by side with his richly-dressed lady.

There was a vindictive glare in Mary Dell's eyes as she encountered the
gaze of Mistress Armstrong, the lady looking upon her as a strange,
dangerous kind of creature.

"Why should she not suffer as I suffer?" thought Mary.  "Poor, weak,
dressed-up doll that she is!  I could sting her to the heart easy.  How
I hate her, for she has robbed me of a husband!"

But the next moment the lady withdrew her gaze with a shiver of dread
from the eyes which had seemed to scorch her; and Mary's now lit upon
those of Captain Armstrong, for he was watching her curiously, and with
re-awakened interest.

Mary's face changed again its expression, as light seemed to enter her
darkened soul.

"He used to love me a little.  He would not be so cruel as that.  I
offended him, because I was so hard and--cruel he called it.  He would
listen to me now.  I will, I will."

She gazed at him fixedly for a moment, and then hurried from the court.

"What a dreadful-looking woman, Jemmy!" whispered Mistress Armstrong.
"She quite made me shudder.  Will they hang her too?"

"No, no," he said, rising quickly and drawing a long breath.  Then,
recollecting himself, he sat down again as if in pain, and held out his
hand to his wife, who supported him to the carriage, into which he
ascended slowly.

"Sorry for you, Armstrong; deuced sorry, egad," said the senior
magistrate, coming up to the carriage door.  "Can't help feeling glad
too."

"Oh, Sir Timothy!" cried Mistress Armstrong, who was a seventeenth
cousin.

"But I am, my dear," said the old magistrate.  "Glad, because it will
rid us of a couple of dreadful rascals.  Trial comes on in three weeks.
I wouldn't get well too soon.  Judge Bentham will hang them as sure as
they're alive."

He nodded and walked off, with his cocked hat well balanced on his
periwig.  Then the heavy lumbering carriage drove out of the quaint old
town, with the big dumpling horses perspiring up the hills; while, as
soon as they were away from the houses, Mistress Armstrong leaned back
on the cushions with a sigh of relief.

"I do hope the judge will hang them," she said.  "A pair of wicked, bad,
cruel ruffians, to beat and half-kill my own dear darling Jemmy as they
did.  Oh, the cruel, cruel creatures!  I could hang them myself!  Does
it hurt you anywhere now, my own sweetest boy?" she added, softly, as
she passed her arm caressingly round her liege lord, who gave such a
savage start that she shrank into the other corner of the carriage, with
the tears starting to her eyes.

"Don't be such a confounded fool!" her "sweetest" Jemmy roared; and then
he sat back scowling, for she had interrupted a sort of day-dream in
which he was indulging respecting Mary Dell, whose eyes still seemed to
be fixed upon his; and as his wife's last words fell upon his ear they
came just as he was wondering whether, if they met again, Mary would, in
her unprotected state, prove more kind, and not so prudish as of yore.

The honeymoon had been over some time.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

MARY BEGINS TO PLAN.

Mary Dell was a girl of keen wits, but her education was of the
sea-shore.  Among her class people talked of the great folk, and men of
wealth and their power--and not without excuse--for in those days
bribery, corruption, and class clannishness often carried their way to
the overruling of justice--the blind; and in her ignorance she thought
that if she could win over Captain Armstrong to forgive her brother, the
prosecution would be at an end, and all would be well.

Consequently she determined to go up to the big house by Slapton Lea,
and beg Mistress Armstrong to intercede with her husband, and ask his
forgiveness; so one morning soon after the committal she set off, but
met the carriage with the young married couple inside--Mistress
Armstrong looking piqued and pale, and the captain as if nothing were
the matter.

The sight of the young wife side by side with the man who had professed
to love her was too much for Mary, and she turned off the road and
descended by the face of a dangerously steep cliff to the shingly shore;
where, as she tramped homeward, with her feet sinking deeply in the
small loose pebbles, her feeling of bitterness increased, and she felt
that it would be impossible to ask that weak, foolish-looking woman with
the doll's face to take her part.

No; she would go up to the house boldly and ask to see the captain
himself; and then, with the memory of his old love for her to help her
cause, he would listen to her prayer, and save her brother from the risk
he ran.

Then a mental cloud came over her, and she felt that she could not go up
to the big house.  It was not the captain's, it was _her_ mother's; and
it would be like going to ask a favour of her.  She could not do it; and
there was no need.

Captain Armstrong would come down to the shore any evening if she sent
him the old signal, a scrap of dry sea-weed wrapped in paper.  Scores of
times she had done this when Abel had gone to sea in his boat, with Bart
for companion; and Mary's cheeks flushed at the recollection of those
meetings.

Yes; she would send him the old signal by one of the fishermen's
children.

No; only if all other means failed.  He was better now, and would be
about.  She would watch for him, and, as she called it, meet him by
accident, and then plead her cause.

And so a week glided away, and there was only about one more before the
judge would arrive, and Abel and his companion be brought up in the
assize court.  Mary had haunted every road and lane leading toward the
big house, and had met the captain riding and walking, but always with
Mistress Armstrong, and she could not speak before her.

There was nothing for it but to take the bold step, and after long
hesitation that step was taken; the piece of sea-weed was wrapped up in
paper, entrusted to a little messenger, and that evening Mary Dell left
the cottage and walked round the western point towards Torcross, her
cheeks flushed, her eyes unusually bright, and her heart full of care.

She was not long in reaching the well-known spot--their old
trysting-place, where the coarse sand was white, and the rocks which
shut in the retired tiny cove rough with limpet, barnacle, and weed.

This was the first time she had been there since James Armstrong had
wearied of the prude, as he called her, and jilted her for his wealthy
wife; and now the question arose; Would he come?

The evening was glorious; but one thought filled Mary's breast--Abel
shut up behind the prison bars, still obdurate, and believing her false
to him, and his faithful friend.

The grey look on the face of the sea was reflected upon that of the
watcher; and as the sky grew dark, so grew Mary Dell's eyes, only that
there was a lurid light now and then glowing in their depths.

"He will not come," she said.  "He hates me now as I hate him, and--"

She stopped short, for her well-trained ear caught the sound of a pebble
falling as if from a height upon the strand below, and gazing fixedly
above the direction of the sound, she made out something dark moving
high up on the cliff track.

Mary's heart began to beat wildly, and she drew a long breath; but she
would not let hope carry her away for a few moments till she could be
certain, and then a faint cry of joy escaped her, but only to be
succeeded by a chilling sensation, as something seemed to ask her why he
had come.

"I'm late," cried a well-known voice directly after.  "Why, Mary, just
in the old spot.  It's like old times.  My darling!"  He tried to clasp
her in his arms, his manner displaying no trace of his injuries; but she
thrust him sharply away, half surprised and yet not surprised, for she
seemed now to read the man's character to the full.

"Captain Armstrong!" she cried, hoarsely.

"Why, my dear Mary, don't be so prudish.  You are not going to carry on
that old folly?"

"Captain Armstrong, don't mistake me."

"Mistake you!  No.  You are the dearest, loveliest woman I ever saw.
There, don't be huffed because I was so long.  I couldn't get away.  You
know--" and he again tried to seize her.

"Captain Armstrong--"

"Now, what nonsense!  You sent for me, and I have come."

"Yes.  I sent for you because there was no other way of speaking to you
alone."

"Quite right, my darling; and what could be better than here alone?
Mary, sweet, it will be dark directly."

"Sir, I sent for you here that I might beg of you to save my brother and
poor Bart."

"Curse your brother and Bart!" said the captain, angrily.  "It was not
their fault that they did not kill me.  They're better out of our way."

"Captain Armstrong--James--for our old love's sake will you save them?"

"No," he cried, savagely.  "Yes," he added, catching Mary's wrist; "not
for our old love's sake, but for our new love--the love that is to come.
Mary, I love you; I always did love you, and now I find I cannot live
without you."

"Captain Armstrong!"

"James--your lover.  Mary, you are everything to me.  Don't struggle.
How can you be so foolish?  There, yes, I will.  I'll do everything.
I'll refuse to appear against them if you wish me to.  I'll get them set
free; but you will not hold me off like this?"

"You will save my brother?"

"Yes."

"And his friend?"

"Yes."

"Then I will always be grateful to you, and pray for your happiness."

"And be mine, Mary, my love, my own?"

"You villain! you traitor!" hissed Mary, as, taking advantage of a
momentary forgetfulness, he clasped her in his arms and showered kisses
on her lips, her cheeks, her hair.

But Captain Armstrong had made a mistake.  It was like caressing a
Cornish wrestler.  There was a sharp struggle, during which he found
that Mary's thews and sinews were, softly rounded as she was, strong as
those of a man.  She had been accustomed to row a boat in a rough sea by
the hour together, and there was additional strength given to her arm by
the indignation that made her blood course hotly through her veins.

How dare he, a miserable traitor, insult her as he did?

The question made the girl's blood seem to boil; and ere he could place
another kiss upon her lips Mary had forgotten brother, friend, the trial
everything but the fact that James Armstrong, Mistress Armstrong's
husband, had clasped her in his arms; and in return she clasped him
tightly in hers.

They swayed here for a moment, then there, and the next the captain was
lifted completely from the shingle and literally jerked sideways, to
fall with a crash and strike his head against a piece of rock.  Then a
sickening sensation came over him and all seemed dark, while, when he
recovered a few minutes later, his head was bleeding and he was alone,
and afraid with his swimming head to clamber up the rough cliff path.

"The cursed jade!" he muttered, as he recovered after a time, and went
cautiously back after tying up his head, "I wish I could lay her
alongside her brother in the gaol."

"Yes; I'll save him," he said with a mocking laugh, as he reached the
top of the cliff and looked down at the faint light seen in the old
wrecker's cottage.  "I'll save him; and, in spite of all, it'll be a
strange thing if Mary Dell isn't lost.

"Curse her, how strong she is!" he said after a pause.

"What shall I say!  Humph! a slip on the path and a fall.  I'm weak yet
after the assault.  Some one will have to plaster her dearest Jemmy's
head--a sickly fool!"



CHAPTER NINE.

BEHIND PRISON BARS.

Mary Dell went again and again to the prison in the county town,
tramping till she was footsore; but she did not see Abel, for she had to
encounter double difficulties--to wit, the regulations of the
authorities, and her brother's refusal to see her.

At last, though, she compassed an interview with Bart Wrigley, and the
big fellow listened to her stolidly, as he enjoyed the sound of her
voice, sighing heavily from time to time.

"But even you seem at times, Bart, as if you did not believe a word I
say," she cried passionately.

"Who says I don't?" said Bart, in a low growl.  "You telled me you
didn't, my lass, and of course you didn't.  Why, I'd believe anything
you told me; but as for Abel, he's dead-set on it that you told the
captain, and there's no moving him."

"But tell him, Bart, tell him I was angry with him for what he did--"

"What _we_ did," said Bart, who was too loyal to shirk his share.

"Well, what you both did, Bart; but that I would sooner have died than
betray my own brother."

"Haw, haw!  That's a wunner," said Bart, with a hoarse laugh.  "That's
just what I did tell him."

"You did, Bart?"

"Ay, my lass, I did; but he--"

Bart stopped.

"Yes, Bart, what did he say?"

"Said I was a blind, thick-headed fool."

"Oh, Bart, Bart, Bart! you are the best, and truest friend we ever had."

"Say that again, lass, will you?" said the rough fellow.

Mary said it again with greater emphasis, and big Bart rubbed the corner
of one eye with the back of his hand.

"Tell him, dear Bart, that his sister was true to him all through, and
that he must believe me."

"Ay, lass, I'll tell him; but don't call me `dear Bart' again, 'cause I
can't bear it."

"But you are our friend, and have always been like a brother to us."

"Ay, lass, I tried to be, and I'll speak to him again.  Bah! you never
went again us.  You couldn't.  Your tongue thrashed us a bit, as you
allus did, but it was for our good.  And now, look here, my lass, when
we're gone--"

"When you're gone, Bart!" cried Mary, with her lip quivering.

"Ay, lass, when we're gone, for I daresay they'll hang us."

"Bart!"

"Oh, it won't hurt much.  Not worse than being drownded, and much
quicker."

"Oh, Bart, Bart!"

"Don't cry, my pretty one, only don't forget us.  You won't forget Abel,
of course; but--I never felt as if I could talk to you like this
before--don't forget as Bart Wrigley was werry fond on you, and that, if
he'd been a fine hansum chap, 'stead of such a rough un, with his
figure-head all set o' one side, he'd ha' stuck up and said as no one
else shouldn't have you."

"Oh, Bart, Bart!" sobbed Mary, piteously.

"Ay, lass, that he would; but he often says to himself, `It wouldn't be
kind to a girl like that to hang on to her.'  So, good-bye, my pretty
lady, and I'll tell Abel as he's the blind, thick-headed fool if he says
it was you as got us into this hole."

Bart had to wind up his unwontedly long speech very quickly, for a
couple of turnkeys had entered the stone-walled room, to conduct the big
fellow back to his cell, and show Mary to the outside of the prison.

"Good bye, dear Bart, dear old friend!"

"Good bye, my pretty lady!" cried the big fellow?  "You called me `dear
Bart' again."

"Yes, dear Bart, dear brother!" cried Mary, passionately, and, raising
his big hand to her lips, she kissed it.

"Bah!" growled Bart to himself, "let 'em hang me.  What do I care arter
that?  `Dear Bart--dear Bart!'  I wouldn't care a bit if I only knowed
what she'd do when we're gone."

Then the time glided on, and Mary heard from one and another the popular
belief that the authorities, rejoicing in having at last caught two
notorious smugglers and wreckers red-handed in a serious offence, were
determined to make an example by punishing them with the utmost rigour
of the law.

The poor girl in her loneliness had racked her brains for means of
helping her brother.  She had sold everything of value they possessed to
pay for legal assistance, and she had, with fertile imagination, plotted
means for helping Abel to escape; but even if her plans had been
possible, they had been crossed by her brother's obstinate disbelief in
her truth.  His last message was one which sent her to the cottage
flushed and angry, for it was a cruel repetition of his old accusation,
joined with a declaration that he disbelieved in her in other ways, and
that this had been done in collusion with Captain Armstrong to get him
and Bart out of her way.

"He'll be sorry some day," she said on the morning before the trial, as
she sat low of spirit and alone in the little cottage.

"Poor Abel! he's very bitter and cruel; poor--Yes, do you want me?"

"Genlum give me this to give you," said a boy.

Mary excitedly caught at the letter the boy handed to her, and opening
it with trembling hands, managed with no little difficulty to spell out
its contents.

They were very short and laboriously written in a large schoolboy-like
hand for her special benefit by one who knew her deficiencies of
education.

"It is not too late yet.  Abel will be tried to-morrow and condemned
unless a piece of sea-weed is received to-night."

"And I used to love him and believe in him!" she cried at last
passionately, as her hot indignation at last mastered her, and she tore
the letter in pieces with her teeth, spat the fragments upon the ground,
and stamped upon them with every mark of contempt and disgust.

Then a change came over her, and she sank sobbing upon a stool, to burst
forth into a piteous wail.

"Oh, Abel!--brother!--it is all my doing.  I have sent you to your
death!"



CHAPTER TEN.

A DARING TRICK.

The laws were tremendously stringent in those days when it was
considered much easier to bring an offender's bad career to an end than
to keep him at the nation's expense, and when the stealing of a sheep
was considered a crime to be punished with death, an attack upon the
sacred person of one of the king's officers by a couple of notorious
law-breakers was not likely to be looked upon leniently by a judge
well-known for stern sentences.

But a jury of Devon men was sitting upon the offence of Abel Dell and
Bart Wrigley, and feeling disposed to deal easily with a couple of young
fellows whose previous bad character was all in connection with
smuggling, a crime with the said jury of a very light dye, certainly not
black.  Abel and Bart escaped the rope, and were sentenced to
transportation to one of His Majesty's colonies in the West Indies,
there to do convict work in connection with plantations, or the making
of roads, as their taskmasters might think fit.

Time glided by, and Mary Dell found that her life at home had become
insupportable.

She was not long in finding that, now that she was left alone and
unprotected, she was not to be free from persecution.  Her contemptuous
rejection of Captain Armstrong's advances seemed to have the effect of
increasing his persecution; and one evening at the end of a couple of
months Mary Dell sat on one of the rocks outside the cottage door,
gazing out to sea, and watching the ships sail westward, as she wondered
whether those on board would ever see the brother who seemed to be all
that was left to her in this world.

That particular night the thought which had been hatching in her brain
ever since Abel had been sent away flew forth fully fledged and ready,
and she rose from where she had been sitting in the evening sunshine,
and walked into the cottage.

Mary Dell's proceedings would have excited a smile from an observer, but
the cottage stood alone.  She had heard that Captain Armstrong was from
home and not expected back for a week, and there was no fear of prying
eyes as the sturdy, well-built girl took down a looking-glass from where
it hung to a nail, and, placing it upon the table, propped it with an
old jar, and then seating herself before the glass, she folded her arms,
rested them upon the table, and sat for quite an hour gazing at herself
in the mirror.

Womanly vanity?  Not a scrap of it, but firm, intense purpose: deep
thought; calm, calculating observation before taking a step that was to
influence her life.

She rose after a time and walked into her brother Abel's bed-room, where
she stayed for some minutes, and then with a quick, resolute step she
re-entered the cottage kitchen, thrust the few embers together that
burned upon the hearth, took a pair of scissors from a box, and again
seated herself before the glass.

The sun was setting, and filled the slate-floored kitchen with light
which flashed back from the blurred looking-glass, and cast a curious
glare in the girl's stern countenance, with its heavy dark brows,
sun-browned ruddy cheeks, and gleaming eyes.

_Snip_!

The sharp scissors had passed through one lock of the massive black
tresses which she had shaken over her shoulders, and which then rippled
to the cottage floor.

_Snip_!

Another cut, and two locks had fallen.  Then rapidly _snip, snip,
snip_--a curious thick, sharp _snip_--and the great waves of glorious
hair kept falling as the bare, sun-burned, ruddy arm played here and
there, and the steel blades glittered and opened and closed, as if arm,
hand, and scissors formed the neck, head, and angry bill of some fierce
bird attacking that well-shaped head, and at every snap took off a thick
tress of hair.

It was not a long task, and when the hair had all fallen, to lie around,
one glorious ring of glossy black tresses, there were only a few snips
to give here and there to finish off notches and too long, untidy spots,
and then the girl rose, and with a cold, hard look upon her frowning
face she stooped, and stooped, and stooped, and at each rising cast a
great tress of hair to where the flames leaped, and seized it, torching
the locks, which writhed, and curled, and flared, and crackled as if
alive, while, as if to aid the idea that she was destroying something
living, a peculiarly pungent odour arose, as of burning flesh, and
filled the room.

An hour later, just as the red moon rose slowly above the surface of the
sea, a sturdy-looking young man, with a stout stick in one hand--the
very stick which had helped to belabour Captain Armstrong--and a bundle
tied up in a handkerchief beneath his arm, stepped out of the cottage,
changed the key from inside to outside, closed the old door, locked it,
dragged out the key, and with a sudden jerk sent it flying far out into
deep water beyond the rocks, where it fell with a dull _plash_! followed
by a peculiar hissing sound, as the waves at high water rushed back over
the fine shingle at the thrower's feet.

There was a sharp look round then; but no one was in sight; nothing to
be heard but the hissing waters, and the splashing, gasping, and
smacking sound, as the tide swayed in and out among the masses of stone.
Then the figure turned once more to the cottage, gazed at it fixedly
for a few moments, took a step or two away; but sprang back directly
with an exceeding bitter cry, and kissed the rough, unpainted woodwork
again and again with rapid action, and then dashed off to the foot of
the cliff, and climbed rapidly to the sheep-track--the faintly-seen path
that led towards Slapton Lea and the old hall, where the captain still
stayed with his young wife, and then joined the west road which led to
Plymouth town.

The risky part of the track was passed, and the open and down-like
pastures beyond the cliffs were reached; and here, with the moon
beginning to throw the shadow of the traveller far forward and in
weird-looking length, the original of that shadow strode on manfully for
another quarter of a mile, when all at once there was a stoppage, for
another figure was seen coming from the direction of Torcross, and the
moon shining full upon the face showed plainly who it was.

There was no question of identity, for that evening, after more than his
customary modicum of wine, Captain James Armstrong--whose journey had
been postponed--had snubbed his young wife cruelly, quarrelled with his
cousin Humphrey, who had been there to dine, and then left the house,
determined to go down to Mary Dell's solitary cottage.

"I'm a fool," he said; "I haven't been firm enough with the handsome
cat.  She scratched.  Well, cats have claws, and when I have taught her
how to purr nicely she'll keep them always sheathed.  I'll bring her to
her senses to-night, once and for all.

"Who the devil's this?" muttered the captain.  "Humph! sailor on the
tramp to Plymouth.  Well, he won't know me.  I won't turn back."

He strode on a dozen yards and then stopped short, as the figure before
him had stopped a few moments before; and then a change came over the
aspect of the captain.  His knees shook, his face turned wet, and his
throat grew dry.

It was horrible; but there could be no mistake.

"Abel Dell!" he cried, hoarsely, as he leaped at the idea that the
brother had returned in spirit, to save his sister from all harm.

"Out of my path!" rang forth in answer, the voice being loud, imperious,
and fierce; and then, in a tone of intense hatred and suppressed
passion, the one word--"Dog!"

As the last word rang out there was a whistling as of a stick passing
through the air, a tremendous thud, and the captain fell headlong upon
the rocky ground.

Then there was utter silence as the young sailor placed one foot upon
the prostrate man's chest, stamped upon it savagely, and strode on right
away over the wild country bordering the sea.

The figure loomed up once in the moonlight, as the captain rose slowly
upon one elbow, and gazed after it, to see that it seemed to be of
supernatural proportions, and then he sank back again with a groan.

"It's a spirit," he said, "come back to her;" and then the poltroon
fainted dead away.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

IN THE PLANTATION.

Someone singing a West Country ditty.

"_His sloe-black eyes_..."

A pause in the singing, and the striking of several blows with a rough
hoe, to the destruction of weeds in a coffee-plantation; while, as the
chops of the hoe struck the clods of earth, the fetters worn by the
striker gave forth faint clinks.

Then in a pleasant musical voice the singer went on with another line--

"_And his curly hair_..."

More chops with the hoe, and clinks of the fetters.

"_His pleasing voice_..."

A heavy thump with the back of the tool at an obstinate clod, which took
several more strokes before it crumbled up; and all the time the fetters
clinked and clanked loudly.  Then the singer went on with the sweet old
minor air with its childish words.

"_Did my heart ensnare_..."

_Chop! chop! clink! clink! clank_!

"_Genteel he was_..."

"But no rake like you."

"Oh, I say, Abel, mate; don't, lad, don't."

"Don't what?" said Abel Dell, resting upon his hoe, and looking up at
big Bart Wrigley, clothed like himself, armed with a hoe, and also
decorated with fetters, as he stood wiping the perspiration from his
forehead.

"Don't sing that there old song.  It do make me feel so unked."

"Unked, Bart!  Well, what if it does?  These are unked days."

"Ay; but each time you sings that I seem to see the rocks along by the
shore at home, with the ivy hanging down, and the sheep feeding, and the
sea rolling in, and the blue sky, with gulls a-flying; and it makes me
feel like a boy again, and, big as I am, as if I should cry."

"Always were like a big boy, Bart.  Hoe away, lad; the overseer's
looking."

Bart went on chopping weeds, diligently following his friend's example,
as a sour-looking, yellow-faced man came by, in company with a soldier
loosely shouldering his musket.  But they passed by without speaking,
and Abel continued--

"There's sea here, and blue sky and sunshine."

"Ay," said Bart; "there's sunshine hot enough to fry a mack'rel.  Place
is right enough if you was free; but it ar'n't home, Abel, it ar'n't
home."

"Home! no," said the young man, savagely.  "But we have no home.  She
spoiled that."

There was an interval of weed-chopping and clod-breaking, the young
men's chains clanking loudly as they worked now so energetically that
the overseer noted their proceedings, and pointed them out as examples
to an idle hand.

"Ah! you're a hard 'un, Abel," remarked Bart, after a time.

"Yes; and you're a soft 'un, Bart.  She could always turn you round her
little finger."

"Ay, bless her! and she didn't tell on us."

"Yes, she did," said Abel, sourly; and he turned his back upon his
companion, and toiled away to hide the working of his face.

The sun shone down as hotly as it can shine in the West Indies, and the
coarse shirts the young men wore showed patches of moisture where the
perspiration came through, but they worked on, for the labour deadened
the misery in their breasts.

And yet it was a very paradise, as far as nature was concerned.  Man had
spoiled it as far as he could, his cultivation being but a poor
recompense for turning so lovely a spot into a plantation, worked by
convicts--by men who fouled the ambient air each moment they opened
their lips; while from time to time the earth was stained with blood.

In the distance shone the sea, and between the plantation and the silver
coral sands lay patches of virgin forest, where the richest and most
luxuriant of tropic growth revelled in the heat and moisture, while in
the sunny patches brilliant flowers blossomed.  Then came wild tangle,
cane-brake, and in one place, where a creek indented the land,
weird-looking mangroves spread their leafage over their muddy scaffolds
of aerial roots.

"How long have we been here, mate?" said Bart, after a pause.

"Dunno," replied Abel, fiercely.

Here he began chopping more vigorously.

"How long will they keep us in this here place?" said Bart, after
another interval, and he looked from the beautiful shore at the bottom
of the slope on which they worked to the cluster of stone and wood-built
buildings, which formed the prison and the station farm, with factory
and mill, all worked by convict labour, while those in the neighbourhood
were managed by blacks.

Abel did not answer, only scowled fiercely; and Bart sighed, and
repeated his question.

"Till we die!" said Abel, savagely; "same as we've seen other fellows
die--of fever, and hard work, and the lash.  Curse the captain!
Curse--"

Bart clapped one hand over his companion's lips, and he held the other
behind his head, dropping his hoe to leave full liberty to act.

"I never quarrels with you, Abel, lad," he said, shortly; "but if you
says words again that poor gell, I'm going to fight--and that won't do.
Is it easy?"

Abel seemed disposed to struggle; but he gave in, nodded his head, and
Bart loosed him and picked up his hoe, just as the overseer, who had
come softly up behind, brought down the whip he carried with stinging
violence across the shoulders of first one and then the other.

The young men sprang round savagely; but there was a sentry close
behind, musket-armed and with bayonet fixed, and they knew that fifty
soldiers were within call, and that if they struck their task-master
down and made for the jungle they would be hunted out with dogs, be shot
down like wild beasts, or die of starvation, as other unfortunates had
died before them.

There was nothing for it but to resume their labour and hoe to the
clanking of their fetters, while, after a promise of what was to follow,
in the shape of tying up to the triangles, and the cat, if they
quarrelled again, the overseer went on to see to the others of his
flock.

"It's worse than a dog's life!" said Abel, bitterly.  "A dog does get
patted as well as kicked.  Bart, lad, I'm sorry I got you that lash."

"Nay, lad, never mind," said Bart.  "I'm sorry for you; but don't speak
hard things of Mary."

"I'll try not," said Abel, as he hoed away excitedly; "but I hope this
coffee we grow may poison those who drink it."

"What for?  They can't help it," said Bart, smiling.  "There, lad, take
it coolly.  Some day we may make a run for it."

"And be shot!" said Abel, bitterly.  "There, you're down to the end of
that row.  I'll go this way.  He's watching us."

Bart obeyed.  He was one who always did obey; and by degrees the young
men were working right away from each other, till they were a good two
hundred yards apart.

Abel was at the end of his row first, and he stopped and turned to begin
again and go down, so as to pass Bart at about the middle of the
clearing; but Bart had another minute's chopping to do before turning.

He was close up to a dense patch of forest--one wild tangle of cane and
creeper, which literally tied the tall trees together and made the
forest impassable--when the shrieking of a kind of jay, which had been
flitting about excitedly, stopped, and was followed by the melodious
whistle of a white bird and the twittering of quite a flock of little
fellows of a gorgeous scarlet-crimson.  Then the shrieking of several
parrots answering each other arose; while just above Bart's head, where
clusters of trumpet-shaped blossoms hung down from the edge of the
forest, scores of brilliantly-scaled humming-birds literally buzzed on
almost transparent wing, and then suspended themselves in mid-air as
they probed the nectaries of the flowers with their long bills.

"You're beauties, you are," said Bart, stopping to wipe his brow; "but
I'd give the hull lot on you for a sight of one good old sarcy sparrer
a-sitting on the cottage roof and saying _chisel chisel_.  Ah! shall us
ever see old Devonshire again?"

The parrots hung upside-down, and the tiny humming-birds flitted here
and there, displaying, from time to time, the brilliancy of their
scale-like feathers, and Bart glanced at his fellow-convict and was
about to work back, when there came a sound from out of the dark forest
which made him stare wildly, and then the sound arose again.

Bart changed colour, and did not stop to hoe, but walked rapidly across
to Abel.

"What's the matter?" said the latter.

"Dunno, lad," said the other, rubbing his brow with his arm; "but
there's something wrong."

"What is it?"

"That's what I dunno; but just now something said quite plain, `Bart!
Bart!'"

"Nonsense!  You were dreaming."

"Nay.  I was wide awake as I am now, and as I turned and stared it said
it again."

"It said it?"

"Well, she said it."

"Poll parrot," said Abel, gruffly.  "Go on with your work.  Here's the
overseer."

The young men worked away, and their supervisor passed them, and,
apparently satisfied, continued his journey round.

"May have been a poll parrot," said Bart.  "They do talk plain, Abel,
lad; but this sounded like something else."

"What else could it be?"

"Sounded like a ghost."

Abel burst into a hearty laugh--so hearty that Bart's face was slowly
overspread by a broad smile.

"Why, lud, that's better," he said, grimly.  "I ar'n't seen you do that
for months.  Work away."

The hint was given because of the overseer glancing in their direction,
and they now worked on together slowly, going down the row toward the
jungle, at which Bart kept on darting uneasy glances.

"Enough to make a man laugh to hear you talk of ghosts, Bart," said
Abel, after a time.

"What could it be, then?"

"Parrot some lady tamed," said Abel, shortly, as they worked on side by
side, "escaped to the woods again.  Some of these birds talk just like a
Christian."

"Ay," said Bart, after a few moments' quiet thought, "I've heared 'em,
lad; but there's no poll parrot out here as knows me."

"Knows you?"

"Well, didn't I tell you as it called to me `Bart!  Bart!'"

"Sounded like it," said Abel, laconically.  "What does he want?"

For just then the overseer shouted, and signed to the gang-men to come
to him.

"To begin another job--log-rolling, I think," growled Bart, shouldering
his hoe.

At that moment, as Abel followed his example, there came in a low, eager
tone of voice from out of the jungle, twenty yards away--

"Bart!--Abel!--Abel!"

"Don't look," whispered Abel, who reeled as if struck, and recovered
himself to catch his companion by the arm.  "All right!" he said aloud;
"we'll be here to-morrow.  We must go."



CHAPTER TWELVE.

IN DEADLY PERIL.

It was quite a week before the two young men were at work in the
plantation of young trees again, and during all that time they had
feverishly discussed the voice they had heard.  Every time they had
approached the borders of the plantation when it ran up to the virgin
forest they had been on the _qui vive_, expecting to hear their names
called again, but only to be disappointed; and, after due consideration,
Abel placed a right interpretation upon the reason.

"It was someone who got ashore from a boat," he said, "and managed to
crawl up there.  It's the only place where anyone could get up."

"Being nigh that creek, lad, where the crocodiles is," said Bart.  "Ay,
you're right.  Who could it be?"

"One of our old mates."

"Nay; no old mate would take all that trouble for us, lad.  It's someone
Mary's sent to bring us a letter and a bit of news."

It was at night in the prison lines that Bart said this, and then he
listened wonderingly in the dark, for he heard something like a sob from
close to his elbow.

"Abel, matey!" he whispered.

"Don't talk to me, old lad," came back hoarsely after a time.  And then,
after a long silence, "Yes, you're right.  Poor lass--poor lass!"

"Say that again, Abel; say that again," whispered Bart, excitedly.

"Poor lass!  I've been too hard on her.  She didn't get us took."

"Thank God!"

These were Bart's hoarsely whispered words, choked with emotion; and
directly after, as he lay there, Abel Dell felt a great, rough,
trembling hand pass across his face and search about him till it reached
his own, which it gripped and held with a strong, firm clasp, for there
was beneath Bart's rough, husk-like exterior a great deal of the true,
loyal, loving material of which English gentlemen are made; and when
towards morning those two prisoners fell asleep in their chains, hand
was still gripped in hand, while the dreams that brightened the
remaining hours of their rest from penal labour were very similar, being
of a rough home down beneath Devon's lovely cliffs, where the sea ran
sparkling over the clean-washed pebbles, and the handsome face of Mary
smiled upon each in turn.

"Abel, mate, I'm ready for anything now," said Bart, as they went that
morning to their work.  "Only say again as you forgive our lass."

"Bart, old lad," said Abel, hoarsely, "I've nought to forgive."

"Hah!" ejaculated Bart, and then he began to whistle softly as if in the
highest of spirits, and looked longingly in the direction of the jungle
beside the mud creek; but three days elapsed before they were set to hoe
among the coffee bushes again.

Bart let his chin go down upon his chest on the morning when the order
was given, and the overseer saw it and cracked his whip.

"You sulky ruffian!" he cried.  "None of your sour looks with me.  Get
on with you!"

He cracked his whip again, and Bart shuffled off, clinking his fetters
loudly.

"Do keep between us, Abel, lad," he whispered, "or I shall go off and
he'll see.  Oh, lor', how I do want to laugh!"

He restrained his mirth for a time, and they walked on to the end of the
plantation and began their task at the opposite end to where they had
left off, when the rate at which their hoes were plied was such that
they were not long before they began to near the dense jungle, beyond
which lay the mangrove swamp and the sea.

"I daren't hope, Bart," whispered Abel, so despondently that his
companion, in a wildly excited manner, laughed in his face.

"What a lad you are!" he cried.  "It's all right; he's waiting for us.
It's some, sailor chap from Dartmouth, whose ship's put in at Kingston
or Belize.  Cheer up, mate!"

But it was all a mockery; and when they approached the jungle at last,
hoeing more slowly for, much as they longed to go up at once, they knew
that any unusual movement on their part, might be interpreted by
watchful eyes into an attempt at escape, and bring down upon them a
shot.  Bart's voice trembled and sounded hoarsely as he said playfully--

"Now, Abel, my lad, I'm going to talk to that there poll parrot."

"Hush!" whispered Abel, agitatedly.  "Keep on quietly with your work
till we get close, and then call softly."

"Oh, it's all straight, lad," whispered back Bart, chopping away and
breaking clods, as his fetters clanked more loudly than ever.  "Now,
then, Polly!  Pretty Polly, are you there?"

"Yes, yes, Bart.  Abel, dear brother, at last, at last!" came from the
jungle.

"Mary--Polly, my girl!" cried Abel, hoarsely, as he threw down his hoe;
and he was running toward the jungle, where a crashing sound was heard,
when Bart flung his strong arms across his chest and dashed him to the
ground.

"Are you mad!" he cried.  "Mary, for God's sake keep back!"

The warning was needed, for from across the plantation the overseer and
a couple of soldiers came running, every movement on the part of the
prisoners being watched.

"Sham ill, lad; sham ill," whispered Bart, as a piteous sigh came from
the depths of the jungle.

"Now, then, you two.  Fighting again!" roared the overseer, as he came
panting up.

"Fighting, sir!" growled Bart; "rum fighting.  He nearly went down."

"He was trying to escape."

"Escape!" growled Bart.  "Look at him.  Sun's hot."

The overseer bent down over Abel, whose aspect helped the illusion, for
he looked ghastly from his emotion; and he had presence of mind enough
to open his eyes, look about, wildly from face to face, and then begin
to struggle up, with one hand to his head.

"Is it the fayver, sor?" said one of the soldiers.

"No.  Touch of the sun," said the overseer.  "They're always getting it.
There, you're all right, ar'n't you?"

"Yes, sir," said Abel, slowly, as he picked up his hoe.

"Sit down under the trees there for a few minutes," said the overseer.
"Lend him your water bottle, soldier.  And you stop with him till he's
hotter.  I'll come back soon."

This last was to Bart, playing, as it were, into the prisoners' hands,
for Bart took the water bottle; and as the overseer went off with his
guard, Abel was assisted to the edge of the jungle where a huge
cotton-tree threw its shade; and here Bart placed him on an old stump,
trembling the while, as he held the water to his companion's lips.

It was hard work to keep still while the others went out of hearing; but
at last it seemed safe, and Abel panted out--

"Mary, dear, are you there?"

"Yes, yes, Abel.  Oh, my dear brother, say one kind word to me!"

"Kind word?  Oh, my lass, my lass, say that you forgive me!"

"Forgive you?  Yes.  But quick, dear, before those men come back."

"Tell me, then," said Abel, speaking with his back to the jungle, and
his head bent down as if ill, while Bart leaned over him, trembling like
a leaf, "tell me how you came to be here."

"I came over in a ship to Kingston.  Then I went to New Orleans.  Then
to Honduras.  And it was only a fortnight ago that I found you."

"But how did you come here?"

"I've got a small boat, dear.  I asked and asked for months before I
could find out where you were.  I've been to other plantations, and
people have thought me mad; but one day I stumbled across the sailors of
a ship that comes here with stores from the station, and I heard them
say that there were a number of prisoners working at this place; and at
last, after waiting and watching for weeks and weeks, I caught sight of
you two, and then it was a month before I could speak to you as I did
the other day."

"And now you have come," said Abel, bitterly, "I can't even look at
you."

"But you will escape, dear," said Mary.

"Escape!" cried Abel, excitedly.

"Steady, lad, steady.  'Member you're ill," growled Bart, glancing
toward the nearest sentry, and then holding up the bottle as if to see
how much was within.

"Yes, escape," said Mary.  "I have the boat ready.  Can you come now?"

"Impossible!  We should be overtaken and shot before we had gone a
mile."

"But you must escape," said Mary.  "You must get down here by night."

"How?" said Bart, gruffly.

"You two must settle that," said Mary, quickly.  "I am only a woman; but
I have found means to get here with a boat, and I can come again and
again till you join me."

"Yes," said Abel, decidedly; "we will contrive that."

"But is it safe, lass, where you are?"

"What do you mean?"

"They telled us there was the crocodiles all along that creek, and
sharks out beyond, if we tried to run."

"Yes," said Mary, calmly, "there are plenty of these creatures about."

"Listen," said Abel, quickly, and speaking as decidedly now as his
sister.  "Can you get here night after night?"

"Yes," said Mary.  "I have been here every night since I spoke to you
last."

"Then keep on coming."

"Yes," said Mary; "I will till you escape."

"You have the boat?"

"Yes."

"And provisions?"

"Yes; a little."

"But how do you manage?"

"I am fishing if any one sees me; but it is very lonely here.  I see
nothing but the birds," she added to herself, "and sharks and
alligators;" and as she said this she smiled sadly.

"Be careful, then," said Abel.  "Bart, old lad, we will escape."

There was a loud expiration of the breath from the jungle, and Abel
continued--

"I must get up and go on work, or they will be back.  Mary, once more,
you have a boat?"

"Yes."

"And can come up here and wait?"

"Yes."

Quick, short, decided answers each time.

"Then be cautious.  Only come by night."

"I know.  Trust me.  I will not be seen.  I will do nothing rash.
To-night as soon as it grows dark, I shall be here expecting you, for I
shall not stir.  At daybreak I shall go, and come again at night."

"And mind the sentries."

"Trust me, Abel.  I shall not come now by day for six days.  If at the
end of six nights you have not been able to escape, I shall come for six
days by day, hoping that you may be more successful in the daylight; for
perhaps you will find that a bold dash will help you to get away."

"But the risk--the risk?" panted Abel--"the risk, girl, to you!"

"Abel, dear, I am here to risk everything.  I have risked everything to
join you."

"Yes," he said, hoarsely.  "But afterwards.  If we do escape?"

"Leave the plans to me," she said, with a little laugh.  "I have boat
and sail, and the world is very wide.  Only escape.  Take care; the men
are coming back."

Mary's voice ceased; and Abel took hold of Bart's arm, rose, raised his
hoe, and walked with him to where they had left off work, to begin again
slowly, the two men trembling with excitement now; for, as the overseer
neared them, a bird began flying to and fro over the edge of the jungle,
screaming wildly, evidently from the fact that somebody was hidden
there.

The excitement of the bird, whose nest was probably somewhere near, did
not, however, take the attention of the overseer, who came up, followed
by the Irish sentry, stared hard at Abel, gave a short nod as if
satisfied that one of his beasts of burden was not going to permanently
break down, and then, to the horror of the young men, took off his hat,
began fanning himself, and went and sat down in the very spot where Abel
had talked with his sister!

"Hot, Paddy, hot!" he said to the soldier.

"Dinny, sor, av you plaze.  Thrue for you, sor, and a taste of dhrink
would be very nice for ye; but I shouldn't sit there."

"Why not?" said the overseer.

"Because the place swarms with them ugly, four-futted, scaly divils.
I've gone the rounds here of a night, sor, and heard them snapping their
jaws and thumping the wet mud with their tails till I've shivered
again."

"Yes, there's plenty of them in the creek, Dinny."

"Plinty, sor, 's nothing to it.  There niver seems to have been a
blessed Saint Pathrick here to get rid of the varmin.  Why, I've seen
frogs here as big as turtles, and sarpints that would go round the Hill
of Howth."

"Well, look here, Dinny, cock your piece, and if you see anything stir,
let drive at it at once."

"Oi will, sor," said the soldier, obeying orders; and, taking a step or
two forward, he stood watchfully gazing into the dark jungle.

"Have you got your knife, Bart?" whispered Abel, whose face was of a
peculiar muddy hue.

Bart nodded as he chopped away.

"Shall we make a rush at them, and stun them with the hoes?"

Bart shook his head.

"Mary's too clever," he whispered back.  "She's well hidden, and will
not stir."

"If that Irish beast raises his musket I must go at him," whispered
Abel, who was trembling from head to foot.

"Hold up, man.  She heer'd every word, and won't stir."

"Silence, there.  No talking!" cried the overseer.

"Let the poor divils talk, sor," said the soldier.  "Faix, it's bad
enough to put chains on their legs; don't put anny on their tongues."

"If I get you down," thought Abel, "I won't kill you, for that."

"Against orders," said the overseer, good-humouredly.  "Well, can you
see anything stirring?"

"Not yet, sor; but I hope I shall.  Bedad, I'd be glad of a bit o'
sport, for it's dhry work always carrying a gun about widout having a
shot."

"Yes; but when you do get a shot, it's at big game, Dinny."

"Yis, sor, but then it's very seldom," said the sentry, with a roguish
twinkle of the eye.

"I can't bear this much longer, Bart," whispered Abel.  "When I say
_Now_! rush at them both with your hoe."

"Wait till he's going to shoot, then," growled Bart.

The overseer bent down, and, sheltering himself beneath the tree, placed
his hands out in the sunshine, one holding a roughly rolled cigar, the
other a burning-glass, with which he soon focussed the vivid white spot
of heat which made the end of the cigar begin to smoke, the tiny spark
being drawn into incandescence by application to the man's lips, while
the pleasant odour of the burning leaf arose.

"Sure, an' that's an illigant way of getting a light, sor," said the
sentry.

"Easy enough with such a hot sun," said the overseer, complacently.

"Hot sun, sor!  Sure I never carry my mushket here widout feeling as if
it will go off in my hands; the barl gets nearly red-hot!"

"Yah!  Don't point it this way," said the overseer, smoking away coolly.
"Well, can you see anything?"

"Divil a thing but that noisy little omadhaun of a bird.  Sure, she'd be
a purty thing to have in a cage."

Abel's face grew more ghastly as he gazed at Bart, who remained cool and
controlled him.

"Bart," whispered Abel, with the sweat rolling off his face in beads,
"what shall we do?"

"Wait," said the rough fellow shortly; and he hoed away, with his
fetters clinking, and his eyes taking in every movement of the two men;
while involuntarily Abel followed his action in every respect, as they
once more drew nearer to their task-master and his guard.

"There's a something yonder, sor," said the soldier at last.

"Alligator!" said the overseer, lazily; and Abel's heart rose so that he
seemed as if he could not breathe.

"I can't see what it is, sor; but it's a something, for the little
burrud kapes darting down at it and floying up again.  I belayve it is
one of they crockidills.  Shall I shute the divil?"

"How can you shoot it if you can't see it, you fool?" said the overseer.

"Sure, sor, they say that every bullet has its billet, and if I let the
little blue pill out of the mouth o' the mushket, faix, it's a strange
thing if it don't find its way into that ugly scaly baste."

The overseer took his cigar from his lips and laughed; but to the
intense relief of the young men, perhaps to the saving of his own life,
he shook his head.

"No, Dinny," he said, "it would alarm the station.  They'd think someone
was escaping.  Let it be."

Dinny sighed, the overseer smoked on, and the hot silence of the tropic
clearing was only broken by the screaming and chattering of the excited
bird, the hum of insects, and the clink-clink, thud-thud, of fetters and
hoe as the convicts toiled on in the glowing sun.

They kept as near as they dared to their task-master, and he smiled
superciliously as he put his own interpretation upon their acts.

"The artful scoundrels!" he said to himself; "they want me to believe
that they always work like this.  Well, it helps the plantation;" and he
smoked placidly on, little dreaming that every time Abel reversed his
hoe, so as to break a clod with the back, the young man glanced at him
and measured the distance between them, while he calculated how long to
hold the handle of the tool, and where would be the best place to strike
the enemy so as to disable him at once.

"You take the soldier, Bart," said Abel, softly.  "I'll manage the
overseer."

"Right, lad! but not without we're obliged."

"No.  Then, as soon as they're down, into the wood, find Mary, and make
for her boat."

The heat was intense, the shade beneath the great cotton-tree grateful,
and the aroma of the cigar so delicious that the overseer sank into a
drowsy reverie; while the soldier gave the two convicts a half-laughing
look and then turned to face the jungle, whose depths he pierced with
his eyes.

Bart drew a long breath and gazed toward the dark part of the jungle,
and there was an intense look of love and satisfaction in his eyes as he
tried to make out the place where Mary lay, as he believed, hidden.  The
sight of the sentry on the watch with his gun ready had ceased to
trouble him, for he had told himself that the clumsy fellow could not
hit a barn-door, let alone a smaller mark; while Abel seemed to be less
agitated, and to be resuming his normal state.

They were not twenty yards from the edge of the forest now, the sentry's
back was toward them, and the overseer was getting to the end of his
cigar, and watching the watcher with half-closed eyes, and an amused
smile upon his yellow countenance.

"Every bullet finds its billet," he muttered to himself; and, stretching
himself, he was in the act of rising, when the bird, which had been
silent, uttered a shrill, chattering cry, as if freshly disturbed, and
the soldier shouted excitedly--

"Theer, sor, I can see it.  A big one staling away among the threes.
For the sake of all the saints give the wurrud!"

"Fire, then!" cried the overseer; and the sentry raised his piece to the
"present."

Bart Wrigley had not been at sea from childhood without winning a
sailor's eyes.  Dark as the jungle was, and more distant as he stood, it
was not so black that he could not make out the object which had oaken
the sentry's notice, and at which he took aim.

One moment Bart raised his hoe to rush at the man; the next he had
brought it down heavily on Abel's boulders, sending him forward upon his
face, and uttering a cry of rage as he fell.

It was almost simultaneous.  The cry uttered by Abel Dell and the report
of the sentry's piece seemed to smite the air together; but Abel's cry
was first, and disarranged the soldier's aim, his bullet cutting the
leaves of the jungle far above the ground.

"Look at that now!" he cried, as he turned sharply to see Abel
struggling on the ground, with Bart holding him, and the overseer
drawing a pistol front his breast.

"Lie still!" whispered Bart.  "It was not at Mary."

Then aloud--

"Quick, here! water!  He's in a fit."

As Abel grasped his friend's thoughts he lay back, struggling faintly,
and then half-closed his eyes and was quite still.

"It's the sun, sir," said Bart, as the overseer thrust back his pistol
and came up.  "Hadn't we better get him back to the lines?"

"Yes," said the overseer.  "Poor devil!  No, no!  Back, back!" he
roared, signalling with his hands as a sergeant's guard came along at
the double.  "Nothing wrong.  Only a man sick, and Dinny Kelly here had
a shot at an alligator."

"An' I should have hit him, sor, if he hadn't shouted.  But think o'
that, now!  The sun lights gentleman's cigar one minute, and shtrikes a
man down the next.  But it's better than the yaller fayver, anyhow."

Five days had passed, and the prisoners were not sent again to the
clearing, while, in spite of every effort, they found that their chances
of eluding the guard set over them by night were small indeed.

Fettered by day, they were doubly chained by night.  The building where
they slept was strongly secured and guarded, and in spite of the newness
of the settlement it was well chosen for its purpose, and stronger even
than the prisoners thought.

"We shall never get away by night, Bart," said Abel, gloomily,
"unless--"

He stopped and gazed meaningly at his companion.

"The knife?" responded Bart.  "No, lad, we won't do that.  I shouldn't
like to go to Mary wet with blood."

Abel's countenance grew dark and deeply hard, for at that moment, in his
despair and disappointment, he felt ready to go to any extremity,
knowing, as he did, that his sister was waiting for him, holding out her
hands and saying, "Come!"

Only another day, and then she would give up expecting them by night,
and take to watching for them by day, when the attempt seemed hopeless.

And so it proved, for during the following week the prisoners were only
once in the coffee-plantation, and so strictly watched that they felt
that to attempt an evasion was only to bring destruction upon their
hopes, perhaps cause Mary's imprisonment for attempting to assist
prisoners to escape.

"It's of no use, Bart," said Abel at last, despondently.  "Poor girl!
Why did she come?"

"Help us away," said Bart, gruffly.

"Yes, but all in vain."

"Tchah!  Wait a bit."

"Do you think she will still come and wait?" said Abel, dolefully.

"Do I think th' sun 'll shine agen?" growled Bart.  "Here's a fellow!
Born same time as that there lass, lived with her all his days, and then
he knows so little about her that he says, `Will she come agen?'"

"Enough to tire her out."

"Tchah!" cried Bart again, "when you know she'll keep on coming till
she's an old grey-headed woman, or she gets us away."

Abel shook his head, for he was low-spirited and not convinced; but that
night his heart leaped, for as he lay half asleep, listening to the thin
buzzing hum of the mosquitoes which haunted the prisoners' quarters, and
the slow, regular pace of the sentry on guard outside, there was the
faint rattle of a chain, as if some prisoner had turned in his unquiet
rest, and then all was silent again, till he started, for a rough hand
was laid upon his mouth.

His first instinct was to seize the owner of that hand, to engage in a
struggle for his life; but a mouth was placed directly at his ear, and a
well-known voice whispered--

"Don't make a sound.  Tie these bits of rag about your irons so as they
don't rattle."

Abel caught at the pieces of cloth and canvas thrust into his hand, and,
sitting up in the darkness, he softly bound the links and rings of his
fetters together, hardly daring to breathe, and yet with his heart
beating tumultuously in his anxiety to know his companion's plans.

For an attempt it must be, Abel felt, though up to the time of their
going to rest after the day's work Bart had said nothing to him.  He
must have made a sudden discovery, and there was nothing for it but to
obey in every way and trust to what was to come.

Abel felt this as he rapidly knotted the rag round his chains, and as he
was tying the last knot he felt Bart's hand upon his shoulder, and his
lips at his ear.

"Quiet, and creep after me.  Keep touching my foot so's not to miss me
in the dark."

Abel's heart thumped against his ribs as he obeyed, taking Bart's hand
first in a firm grip, and then feeling a short iron bar thrust between
his fingers.

Then he became conscious from his companion's movements that he had gone
down upon his hands and knees, and was crawling toward the end of the
long, low, stone-walled building that served as a dormitory for the
white slaves whose task was to cultivate the rough plantation till they,
as a rule, lay down and died from fever or some of the ills that haunted
the tropic land.

Just then Bart stopped short, for there were steps outside, and a gleam
of light appeared beneath the heavy door.  Voices were heard, and the
rattle of a soldier's musket.

"Changing guard," said Abel to himself; and he found himself wondering
whether the sergeant and his men would enter the prison.

To add to the risk of discovery, there was a shuffling sound on the
left, and a clink of chains, as one man seemed to rise upon his elbow;
and his movement roused another, who also clinked his chains in the
darkness and growled out an imprecation.

All this time Bart remained absolutely motionless, and Abel listened
with the perspiration streaming from him in the intense heat.

Then there was a hoarsely uttered command; the light faded away, the
steps died out upon the ear; there was a clink or two of chains, and a
heavy sigh from some restless sleeper, and once more in the black
silence and stilling heat there was nothing to be heard but the loud
trumpeting buzz of the mosquitoes.

Softly, as some large cat, Bart resumed his crawling movement, after
thrusting back his leg and touching Abel on the chest with his bare foot
as a signal.

The building was quite a hundred feet long by about eighteen wide, a
mere gallery in shape, which had been lengthened from time to time as
the number of convicts increased, and the men had about two-thirds of
the distance to traverse before they could reach the end, and at their
excessively slow rate of progress the time seemed interminable before,
after several painful halts, caused by movements of their
fellow-prisoners and dread of discovery, the final halt was made.

"Now, then, what is it?" whispered Abel.

The answer he received was a hand laid across his mouth, and his heart
began to beat more wildly than ever, for Bart caught his hand, drew it
toward him, and as it was yielded, directed the fingers downward to the
stone level with the floor.

Abel's heart gave another bound, for that stone was loose, and as he was
pressed aside he heard a faint gritting, his companion's breath seemed
to come more thickly, as if from exertion, and for the next hour--an
hour that seemed like twelve--Abel lay, unable to help, but panting with
anxiety, as the gritting noise went on, and he could mentally see that
Bart was slowly drawing out rough pieces of badly-cemented stone--rough
fragments really of coral and limestone from the nearest reef, of which
the prison barrack was built.

Three times over Abel had tried to help, but the firm pressure of his
companion's hand forcing him back spoke volume, and he subsided into his
position in the utter darkness, listening with his pulses throbbing and
subsiding, as the gritting sound was made or the reverse.

At last, after what seemed an age, a faint breath of comparatively cool
air began to play upon his cheek, as Bart seemed to work steadily on.
That breath grew broader and fuller, and there was a soft odour of the
sea mingled with the damp coolness of a breeze which had passed over the
dewy ground before it began to set steadily in at the opening at which
Bart had so patiently worked, for that there was an opening was plain
enough now, as Abel exultantly felt.

In his inaction the torture of the dread was intense, and he lay
wondering whether, if they did get out, Mary would still be waiting,
expecting them, or their efforts prove to have been in vain.

At last, just when he felt as if he could bear it no longer, Bart's hand
gripped him by the shoulder, and pressed him tightly.  Then in the
darkness his hand was seized and guided where it hardly wanted guiding,
for the young man's imagination had painted all--to a rough opening
level with the floor, a hole little larger than might have been made for
fowls to pass in and out of a poultry-yard.

This done, Bart gave him a thrust which Abel interpreted to mean, "Go
on."

Abel responded with another, to indicate, "No; you go."

Bart gripped him savagely by the arm, and he yielded, crept slowly to
the hole, went down upon his breast, and softly thrust his head through
into the dank night air, to hear plainly the sighing and croaking of the
reptiles in the swamp, and see before him the sparkling scintillations
of the myriad fireflies darting from bush to bush.

He wormed himself on, and was about to draw forth one hand and arm, but
always moving as silently as some nocturnal beast of prey, when it
suddenly occurred to him that the glow of one of the fireflies was
unusually large; and before he had well grasped this idea there was the
regular tramp of feet, and he knew that it was the lantern of the guard
moving across to the prison barrack, and that they must come right past
where he lay.

He must creep back and wait; and as the steps steadily approached and
the tramp grew plainer he began to wriggle himself through, getting his
arm well in and his shoulders beginning to follow till only his head was
outside, and the dull light of the lantern seeming to show it plainly,
when to his horror he found that some portion of his garment had caught
upon a rough projection and he was fast.

He made a tremendous effort, but could not drag it free, for his arms
were pressed close to his sides and he was helpless.  If Bart had known
and passed a hand through, he might have freed him, but he could not
explain his position; and all the time the guard was coming nearer and
nearer, the lantern-light dancing upon the rough path, until it would be
hardly possible for the nearest soldier to pass him without stumbling
against his head.

Discovery, extra labour, the lash, more irons, and the chance of evasion
gone; all those displayed, as it were, before Abel Dell's gaze as he
thought of his sister waiting for them with that boat all plainly seen
by the gleaming light of that lantern as the soldiers came steadily on.

It was absolutely impossible that the sergeant and his four men, whom
the light had revealed quite plainly to Abel Dell, could pass him
without something unusual occurred.  The sergeant was carrying his
lantern swinging at arm's length, on his left side, and the bottom as he
passed would only be a few inches above the prisoner's head.

Abel knew all this as he pressed his teeth together to keep down the
agonising feeling of despair he felt already as the men came on in
regular pace, with the barrels of the muskets and their bayonets
gleaming, and he expected to hear an exclamation of astonishment with
the command "Halt!"--when something unusual did happen.

For all at once, just as the back of Abel's head must have loomed up
like a black stone close by the sergeant's path, and the rays of light
glistened on his short, crisp, black hair, there came a loud croaking
bellow from down in the swamp by the crook, and Dinny exclaimed aloud:

"Hark at that now!"

"Silence in the ranks!" cried the sergeant fiercely; and then, as if the
Irishman's words were contagious, he, turning his head as did his men
towards the spot whence the sound proceeded, exclaimed, "What was it?"

"One of them lovely crockidills, sergeant dear--the swate craytures,
with that plisant smile they have o' their own.  Hark at him again!"

The same croaking roar arose, but more distant, as if it were the
response to a challenge.

"Don't it carry you home again sergeant, dear?"

"Silence in the--How, Dinny?" said the sergeant, good-humouredly, for
the men were laughing.

"Why, my mother had a cow--a Kerry cow, the darlint--and Farmer Magee,
half a mile across the bog, had a bull, and you could hear him making
love to her at toimes just like that, and moighty plisant it was."

"And used he to come across the bog," said the sergeant, "to court her?"

"And did he come across the bog to court her!" said Dinny, with a
contemptuous tone in his voice.  "And could you go across the bog
courting if Farmer Magee had put a ring through your nose, and tied you
up to a post, sergeant dear?  Oh, no!  The farmer was moighty particular
about that bull's morals, and niver let him out of a night."

"Silence in the ranks!  'Tention!" said the serjeant.  "Half left!"

_Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp_, and the men passed round the end of the
building just as the alligator bellowed again.

Abel drew a long breath and rapidly drew himself through the hole--no
easy task and Bart began follow, but only to stick before he was
half-way through.

"I'm at it again," he whispered.  "Natur' made me crooked o' purpose to
go wrong at times like this."

Abel seized his hands, as he recalled the incident at the cottage.

"Now," he whispered, "both together--hard!"

Bart gave himself a wrench as his companion tugged tremendously, and the
resistance was overcome.

"Half my skin," growled Bart, as he struggled to his feet and stood by
his companion.  "Now, lad, this way."

"No, no; that's the way the soldiers have gone."

"It's the only way, lad.  The dogs are yonder, and we couldn't get over
the palisade.  Now!"

They crept on in silence, seeing from time to time glints of the
lantern, and in the midst of the still darkness matters seemed to be
going so easily for them that Abel's heart grew more regular in its
pulsation, and he was just asking himself why he had not had invention
enough to contrive this evasion, when a clear and familiar voice cried,
"Shtand!" and there was the click of a musket-lock.

What followed was almost momentary.

Bart struck aside the bayonet levelled at his breast, and leaped upon
the sentry before him, driving him backward and clapping his hand upon
his mouth as he knelt upon his chest; while, ably seconding him, his
companion wrested the musket from the man's hand, twisted the bayonet
from the end of the barrel, and, holding it daggerwise, pressed it
against the man's throat.

"Hold aside, Bart," whispered Abel, savagely.

"No, no," growled Bart.  "No blood, lad."

"'Tis for our lives and liberty!" whispered Abel, fiercely.

"Ay, but--" growled Bart.  "Lie still, will you!" he muttered, as
fiercely as his companion, for the sentry had given a violent heave and
wrested his mouth free.

"Sure, an' ye won't kill a poor boy that how, gintlemen," he whispered,
piteously.

"Another word, and it's your last!" hissed Abel.

"Sure, and I'll be as silent as Pater Mulloney's grave, sor," whispered
the sentry; "but it's a mother I have over in the owld country, and ye'd
break her heart if ye killed me."

"Hold your tongue!" whispered Bart.

"Sure, and I will, sor.  It's not meself as would stop a couple of
gintlemen from escaping.  There's the gate, gintlemen.  Ye've got my
mushket, and I can't stop you."

"Yes, come along," whispered Bart.

"What! and leave him to give the alarm?" said Abel.  "We're wasting
time, man.  'Tis his life or ours."

"Not at all, sor," whispered the sentry, pleadingly.  "I won't give the
alarm, on my hanner; and you can't kill a boy widout letting him just
say, `How d'ye do?' and `Which is the way yander?' to the praste."

"Shall we trust him?" said Bart, in a low growl.

"No!"

"Then take me wid ye, gintlemen.  Faix, ye might force me to go, for the
divil a bit do I want to shtay here."

"Look here," whispered Bart; "it's neck or nothing, my lad.  If you give
the alarm, it will be with that bayonet struck through you."

"And would a Kelly give the alarm, afther he said on his hanner?  Sure,
you might thrust me."

"Over with you, then, Bart," whispered Abel; "I'll stand over him here.
Take the gun."

Bart obeyed, and Abel stood with one hand upon the sentry's shoulder,
and the bayonet close to his throat.

"An' is that the way you thrust a gintleman?" said Dinny,
contemptuously, as Bart, with all a sailor's and rock-climber's
activity, drew himself up, and dropped from the top of the wall at the
side.

"Now, you over," whispered Abel.  "We shall take you with us till we're
safe; but so sure as you give warning of our escape, you lose your
life!"

"Ah! ye may thrust me," said the sentry, quickly.  "Is it over wid me?"

"Yes; quick!"

The man scaled the gate as easily as Bart had done before him, and then
Abel followed; but as he reached the top and shuffled sidewise to the
wall, which he bestrode, there was the sound of a shot, followed by
another, and another, and the fierce baying of dogs.

"Bedad, they've seen ye," said the sentry, as Abel dropped down.

"They've been in the barrack," whispered Bart.

"To be sure they have, sor; the sergeant was going round."

"Quick, take his hand!" said Bart.

"No!" whispered Abel, levelling the bayonet.

"No, no; for my mother's sake, sor!" cried the sentry, piteously.  "She
has only six of us, and I'm one."

"Put away that bagnet!" said Bart, hoarsely.  "Take his hand, and run!"

"That's it, sor, at the double," said the sentry, rising from his knees,
where he had flung himself.  "I'm wid ye to the end of the world.  It's
a place I know, and--"

"Silence!" hissed Abel, as there was the loud clanging of a bell with
the fierce yelping of dogs, and they dashed off, hand joined in hand,
for the coffee-plantation, away down by the cane-brake and the swamp.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE PURSUIT.

The hue and cry rose louder and louder as the fugitives ran laboriously
toward the jungle brake.  Lights could be seen; a signal-gun was fired,
and the little colony was up in arms, ready to hunt down the escaped
criminals, lest they should take to the forest, from whence, after a
time, they would issue forth as wild beasts.  But in the darkness of
that tropic night there would have been little danger of recapture but
for those sounds which told the evading men that their greatest enemies
were now afoot--those who could hunt them down without light or sight,
but would track them by scent with the greatest ease.

"Hark at that, now!" said the Irishman, as he ran on, step by step with
the escaping prisoners.  "D'ye hear the dogs giving tongue?  They
haven't got the scent right yet, me boys; but they'll have it soon.
G'long; ye don't half run."

He ceased speaking for a few moments, and then continued
apologetically--

"Faix, and it's meself forgot.  Ye've got the bilboes an, and they make
it bad running.  There, d'ye hear the dogs?  It's like having the hounds
back at home, before I 'listed for a soger, and got sent out here.  Run,
ye divils, run!  But, I say: if we're tuk, and it comes to a thrial--
court martial, ye know--be fair to a boy, now, won't ye?"

"What do you mean?" said Bart, gruffly.

"Remimber that it was you made me desart.  I couldn't help meself, could
I?"

Bart did not answer, but kept on with his steady, lumbering trot, which
was the more laborious to him from the shortness of his fetters making
it difficult to him to keep up with his companions.

"Bedad, they're well on the scent!" said the Irishman, gazing back as he
ran; "and it'll not be long before they're up with us.  What'll we do at
all?"

"Do?" said Bart, gruffly; "leave you to tell that cursed brute that we
sha'n't want his whip any more; for--"

"Hush!" cried Abel,

"Ay, I forgot," said Bart, nodding his head.

"We'll have to get up the trees before the dogs reach us, or it'll be
awkward for the whole three.  They'll forget to respect the king's
uniform in the dark.  It's no good, my lads; they'll take us, and ye've
had all your throuble for nothing.  Faix, and I'm sorry for ye, whativer
ye did, for it's a dog's life ye lead."

"Silence, man," whispered Abel.  "Do you want the dogs to be on us?"

"Divil a bit, sor; but they'll be down on us soon widout hearing us
talk.  Murther, but it's a powerful shensh of shmell they have.  How
they are coming on!"

It was quite true.  The dogs were after them with unerring scent, and
but for the fact that they were in leashes so that those who held them
back might be able to keep up, they would have soon overtaken the
fugitives.  They were at no great distance as it was, and their baying,
the encouraging shouts of their holders, and the sight of the lanterns
rising and falling in the darkness, helped the Irishman's words to send
despair into the fugitives' hearts.

"Sure, and we're in the coffee-tree gyarden!" said the sentry.  "Oi know
it by the little bits of bushes all in rows.  Thin the wood isn't far,
and we'll get up a tree before the bastes of dogs come up to us.  Hark
at the onnat'ral bastes; sure, it's supper they think they're going to
have.  Maybe they'd like to taste a Kelly."

"Now, Bart, lad, quick!  Shall we let him go?" cried Abel.

"And is it let me go?" said the sentry, excitedly.  "You'd niver be such
cowards.  Let the dogs have fair-play."

"Silence!" cried Abel, imperatively.

"Sure it's meself that's the most silent."

"Abel!--Bart!  This way!"

"To the left, lad," cried Bart, for they had now reached the edge of the
jungle; and just as despair was filling their breasts, for Mary made no
sign, her voice proved her fidelity by its being heard some distance to
their left.

"Thin it's all right," said Dinny, excitedly.  "Ye've got friends
waiting?"

"Silence, I say!" cried Abel.

"Sure, and I'll hold my pace, and good luck to ye, for I heard the boy's
spache, and maybe he has a boat waiting down by the wather."

"Will you be silent, man?" cried Abel, fiercely, as the baying of the
dogs increased.  "Bart, we must not go on, for it would be bringing the
dogs upon someone else."

"Not it," said Dinny; "ye've plenty of time yet, maybe.  Go along, me
boys, and bad luck to the dogs, for they'll be disappointed afther all!"

Abel gave a low, peculiar whistle like a sea-bird's cry, and it was
answered not twenty yards away.

"Here, quick!" came in the well-known voice; "I'm here.  Jump; never
mind the mud!"

They all jumped together, to find themselves in a miry place where Mary
was waiting.

"This way," she said.  "I can guide you direct to the boat.  Quick, or
the dogs will be upon us!"

"Well done, boy!" cried Dinny.  "That's good.  I knew there was a boat."

"And now," cried Abel, turning upon him, "off with that pouch and belt."

"Certainly, sor," replied Dinny, slipping off and handing his
cartridge-bag.

"Now, back to your friends, and tell them we're gone."

"My friends!" cried Dinny.  "Sure, there isn't a friend among them."

"Stop back, then, whoever they are."

"But the dogs, sor!"

"Curse the dogs.  Back, I say!"

"But, sor, they're the most savage of bastes.  They won't listen to anny
explanation, but pull a man down before he has time to say, Heaven
presarve us!"

"Silence, and go!"

"Nay, sor, ye'll tak' me wid ye now?  Quick! ye're losing time."

"Let him come, Abel," whispered Mary.

"That's well spoken, young sor.  And if we're to have whole shkins,
let's be getting on."

The advice was excellent, for the sounds of pursuit were close at hand,
and the dogs were baying as if they heard as well as scented their prey.

"All's ready," whispered Mary.  "I heard the shots, and knew you were
coming.  Abel, your hand.  Join hands all."

Abel caught at that of his sister, at the same time extending his own,
which was taken by Bart, and he in turn, almost involuntarily, held out
his to Dinny.

In this order they passed rapidly through the jungle, along a beaten
track formed by the animals which frequented the place, and one which
during her long, patient watches had become perfectly familiar to Mary
Dell, who threaded it with ease.

It was one wild excitement, for the dogs were now growing furious.  The
scent was hot for them, and ere the fleeing party had reached the creek
the fierce brutes had gained the edge of the jungle, through which they
dragged their keepers, who mingled words of encouragement with oaths and
curses as they were brought into contact with the tangled growth.

But all the same the hunt was hot, and in spite of Mary's foresight and
the manner in which she guided her friends, the dogs were nearly upon
them as the boat was reached.

"In first," whispered Abel; but Mary protested and would have hung back
had not Bart lifted her bodily in after wading into the mud, where he
stood and held the side of the frail canoe.

"Now, Abe," he whispered.

"I can hear them," shouted a voice.  "Loose the dogs.  Seize 'em, boys,
seize 'em!"

"Here, room for me?" whispered Dinny.

"No," cried Abel, fiercely.  "Keep back!"

"I'm coming wid you," cried Dinny.

Bart caught him by the shoulder.

"No, no, my lad, we're escaping; this is no place for you."

"Be my sowl, this isn't," said Dinny, shaking himself free, and seizing
the side of the boat he began to wade and thrust her from the shore.
"In with you too."

Bart said no more, but followed the Irishman's example, and together
they waded on into the muddy creek, only to get a few yards from the
shore, as with a furious rush the dogs crushed through the canes and
reeds, to stop, breast-deep, barking savagely.

"Purty creatures!" whispered Dinny.  "Sure, and we musn't get in yet,
or, if we do, it must be together.  Push her out."

"Halt, there!" cried a loud voice, suddenly.  "I have you.  Down, dogs!
Do you hear!  Halt!"

"Kape on," whispered Dinny.

"Make ready!" cried the same voice.  "Present!  Will you surrender?"

"Lie down, me darlins," whispered Dinny.  "Divil a bit can they see
where to shoot."

"Fire!" cried the same voice, and a dozen flashes of light blazed out of
the cane-brake.  There was a roar that seemed deafening, and the
darkness was once more opaque.

"Anybody hit?" whispered Dinny.  "Silence gives consint," he added to
himself.  "Push along, and as soon as it's deep enough we'll get in.
Ugh! bedad, it's up to me chin all at wanst," he muttered.  "Can you
give a boy a hand?"

A hand caught his wrist, and he was helped over the stern of the boat,
dripping and panting, as Bart scrambled in simultaneously, and though
the little vessel threatened to overset, it held firm.

Then another volley was fired, for the bullets to go bursting through
the canes, but over the fugitives' heads, and once more darkness reigned
over the hurried buzz of voices and the furious baying of the dogs.

Order after order came from the soft marshy land at the edge of the
creek, mingled with shouts at the dogs, which were now loose, and
barking and yelping as they ran here and there at the side of the water,
where their splashing could be heard by those in the boat, which was
being propelled slowly and cautiously by Mary, who knelt in the prow and
thrust a pole she carried down in the mud.

The baying of the dogs as they kept making rushes through the canes gave
the pursuers some clue as to where the fugitives would be; and from time
to time, after a command given to the escaping men to surrender, a
volley was fired, the bright flashes from the muskets cutting the
darkness, and showing where their danger lay.

It was slow work for both parties, the pursuers having to force their
way painfully through the tangled growth, while the heavily-laden boat
had to be propelled through what was in places little more than liquid
mud full of fibrous vegetation, and what had been but a light task to
Mary when she was alone, proved to be almost beyond her strength with so
heavy a load.

"Are you going right?" whispered Abel at last, for they were hardly
moving, and it seemed to him that they were running right in among the
growth that whispered and creaked against the boat.

"Yes; be patient," was the stern reply.

"I can see them.  They're wading yonder in the mud up to their waists."

"There they are," came from apparently close at hand, and the dogs burst
out more furiously than ever.  "Now, then, you scoundrels, we can see
you.  Give up."

"Faith, and it's a cat he is," whispered Dinny.  "What a foine senthry
he'd make for night duty!"

"Surrender!" shouted the same voice, "or we'll blow you out of the
water."

"The ugly, yellow-faced divil!" muttered Dinny.

"Now, then, come ashore, and I will not be so severe with you."

"Hark at that, now," whispered Dinny to Bart.  "It's a baby he thinks
ye, afther all."

"Curse them!  Fire then, sergeant," cried the overseer.  "No mercy now."

"Down, dogs!" roared the man again.  "Quick, there--fire!"

A rattling volley from close at hand rang out, and it was followed by
utter silence, as if those ashore were listening.

"Curse your stupid fellows, sergeant!  Why don't you make them fire
lower?"

"If they fired lower, we should have hit the dogs, sir."

"Hang the dogs!  I wanted you to hit the men.  Now, then, fire again."

There was the rattling noise of the ramrods in the barrels as the men
loaded, and once more silence.  The sinuous nature of the muddy creek
had brought the fugitives terribly near to the dense brake; but Mary's
pole remained perfectly motionless, and there was nothing to be done but
wait till the party moved on, when there would be a chance to get lower
down towards the open sea; while, after the next quarter of a mile, the
creek opened out into quite a little estuary dotted by sandbanks and
islets of bamboos and palms.

"Now I have them!" cried the overseer, suddenly.  "Bring a gun,
sergeant.  I can pick off that fellow easily."

"Faith, and what a foine liar he would make wid a little training,"
whispered Dinny.  "Why, I can't even see my hand before me face."

"Hush," whispered Bart, and then he half started up in the boat, for
there was a sudden splashing, a shout, and the piteous yelping and
baying of a dog, which was taken up in chorus by the others present.

Yelp--bark--howl, accompanied by the splashing and beating of water, and
rustling of reeds and canes, and then a choking, suffocating sound, as
of some animal being dragged under water, after which the dogs whined
and seemed to be scuffling away.

"What's the matter with the dogs?" said the overseer.

"One of those beasts of alligators dragged the poor brute down," said
the sergeant.  "It struck me with its tail."

There was a rushing, scuffling noise here, and the heavy trampling of
people among the tangled growth, growing more distant moment by moment,
in the midst of which Mary began to use her pole, and the boat glided on
through the thick, half-liquid mud.

"Sure, an' it's plisant," said Dinny, coolly; "the dogs on one side, and
the crockidills on the other.  It isn't at all a tempting spot for a
bathe; but I've got to have a dip as soon as we get out of this into the
sea."

"What for?" whispered Bart.

"Bekase I'm wet with fresh wather and mud, and I'm a man who likes a
little salt outside as well at in.  It kapes off the ugly fayvers of the
place.  Do you want me to catch a cowld?"

"Silence, there!" said Mary, gruffly, from her place in the prow; and
for quite an hour she toiled on through the intense darkness, guiding
the boat from the tangle of weedy growth and cane into winding
canal-like portions of the lagoon, where every now and then they
disturbed some great reptile, which plunged into deeper water with a
loud splash, or wallowed farther among the half-liquid mud.

The sounds ashore grew distant, the firing had ceased; and, feeling
safer, the little party began to converse in a low tone, all save Dinny,
whose deep, regular breathing told that he had fallen fast asleep in
happy carelessness of any risk that he might run.

"How came you out here?" said Bart from his seat, after another vain
effort to take Mary's place.

"Ship," she said laconically, and with a hoarse laugh.

"But who gave you a passage?" said Abel.

"Gave?  No one," she said, speaking in quite a rough tone of voice.
"How could I find friends who would give!  I worked my way out."

"Oh," said Bart; and he sat back, thinking and listening as the pole
kept falling in the water with a rhythmic splash, and the brother and
sister carried on a conversation in a low tone.

"I suppose we are safe now," said Mary.  "They never saw the boat, and
they would think you are hiding somewhere in the woods."

"Yes; and because they don't find us, they'll think the alligators have
pulled us down," replied Abel.  "Where are we going?"

"To get right down to the mouth of this creek, and round the shore.
There are plenty of hiding-places along the coast.  Inlets and islands,
with the trees growing to the edge of the sea."

"And what then?" said Abel.

"What then?" said Mary, in a half wondering tone.

"Yes; where shall we go?"

There was an interval of silence, during which the boat glided on in the
darkness, which seemed to be quite opaque.

"I had not thought of that," said Mary, in the same short, rough voice
which she seemed to have adopted.  "I only thought of finding you, Abel,
and when I had found you, of helping you to escape."

"She never thought of me," muttered Bart, with a sigh.

"Good girl," said Abel, tenderly.

"Hush!  Don't say that," she cried shortly.  "Who is this man with you?"
she whispered then.

"One of the sentries."

"Why did you bring him?"

"We were obliged to bring him, or--"

"Kill him?" said Mary, hoarsely, for her brother did not end his
sentence.

"Yes."

"You must set him ashore, of course."

"Yes, of course.  And then?"

"I don't know, Abel.  I wanted to help you to escape, and you have
escaped.  You must do the rest."

"You're a brave, true girl," said Abel, enthusiastically; but he was
again checked shortly.

"Don't say that," cried Mary, in an angry tone.

"What's she mean?" thought Bart; and he lay back wondering, while the
boat glided on, and there was a long pause, for Abel ceased speaking,
and when his deep breathing took Bart's attention and he leaned forward
and touched him there was no response.

"Why, he's fallen asleep, Mary!" said Bart, in a whisper.

"Hush, Bart don't call me that!" came from the prow.

"All right, my lass!" said the rough fellow.  "I'll do anything you
tells me."

"Then don't say `my lass' to me."

"I won't if you don't wish it," growled Bart.  "Here, let me pole her
along now."

"No; sit still.  Is that man asleep?"

"Yes; can't you hear?  He's fagged out like poor old Abel.  But let me
pole the boat."

"No; she'll drift now with the current and we shall be carried out to
sea.  If the people yonder saw us then they would not know who was in
the boat.  You have escaped, Bart?"

"Ay, we've escaped, my--"

"Hush, I say!" cried Mary, imperiously; and Bart, feeling puzzled,
rubbed one ear and sat gazing straight before him into the darkness
where he knew the girl to be, his imagination filing up the blanks, till
he seemed to see her standing up in the boat, with a red worsted cap
perched jauntily upon her raven-black hair, and a tight blue-knitted
jacket above her linsey-woolsey skirt, just as he had seen her hundreds
of times in her father's, and then in Abel's boat at home on the Devon
shore.

All at once Bart Wrigley opened his eyes and stared.  Had he been asleep
and dreamed that he and Abel had escaped, and then that he was in the
Dell's boat, with Mary poling it along?

What could it all mean?  He was in a boat, and behind him lay back the
soldier with his mouth open, sleeping heavily.  On his left was Abel
Dell, also sleeping as a man sleeps who is utterly exhausted by some
terrible exertion.  But that was not the Devon coast upon which the sun
was shedding its early morning rays.  Dense belts of mangrove did not
spread their muddy roots like intricate rustic scaffoldings on southern
English shores, and there were no clusters of alligators lying here and
there among the mud and ooze.

It was true enough.  They did escape in the night, and Mary had been
there ready to help them with a boat; but where was she now? and who was
this sturdy youth in loose petticoat-canvas trousers, and heavy
fisherman's boots?

Bart stared till his eyes showed a ring of white about their pupils, and
his mouth opened roundly in unison for a time.  Then eyes and mouth
closed tightly, and wrinkles appeared all over his face, as he softly
shook all over, and then, after glancing at Abel and the Irish soldier,
he uttered a low--

"Haw, haw!"

The figure in the boat swung round and faced him sharply, glancing at
the two sleeping men, and holding up a roughened brown hand to command
silence.

"All right," said Bart, half-choking with mirth; and then, "Oh, I say,
my lass, you do look rum in them big boots!"

"Silence, idiot!" she whispered, sharply.  "Do you want that strange man
to know?"

"Nay, not I," said Bart, shortly, as he too glanced at Dinny.  "But I
say, you do look rum."

"Bart," whispered Mary, fiercely, and her eyes flashed with indignant
anger, "is this a time to fool?"

"Nay, my lass, nay," he said, becoming sober on the instant, "But you do
look so rum.  I say, though," he cried, sharply, "what's gone of all
your beautiful long hair?"

"Fire," said Mary, coldly.

"Fire! what!--you've cut it off and burnt it?"  Mary nodded.

"Oh!" ejaculated Bart, and it sounded a groan.

"Could girl with long hair have worked her passage out here as a
sailor-boy, and have come into that cane-brake and saved you two?" said
Mary, sharply; and as Bart sat staring at her with dilated eyes once
more, she bent down after gazing at Dinny, still soundly sleeping, and
laid her hand with a firm grip on her brother's shoulder.

He started into wakefulness on the instant, and gazed without
recognition in the face leaning over him.

"Don't you know me, Abel?" said Mary, sadly.

"You, Mary?--dressed like this!"

He started up angrily, his face flushing as hers had flushed, and his
look darkened into a scowl.

"What else could I do?" she said, repeating her defence as she had
pleaded to Bart.  Then, as if her spirit rebelled against his anger, her
eyes flashed with indignation, and she exclaimed hoarsely, "Well, I have
saved you, and if you have done with me--there is the sea!"

"But you--dressed as a boy!" said Abel.

"Hush!  Do you want that man to know?" whispered Mary, hoarsely.  "My
brother was unjustly punished and sent out here to die in prison, while
I, a helpless girl, might have starved at home, or been hunted down by
that devil who called himself a man?  What could I do?"

"But you worked your passage out here as a sailor?" whispered Abel.

"Ay, and she could do it, too--as good a sailor as ever took in sail;
and, Mary, lass, I asks your pardon for laughing; and if I wasn't such a
big ugly chap, I could lie down there and cry."

He held out his great coarse hand, in which Mary placed hers to return
his honest clasp, and her eyes smiled for a moment into his, while Abel
sat frowning and biting his lips as he glanced at Dinny.

"I don't know what to do," he said, hesitatingly.  "It seems--"

"Heigh--ho--ho!  Oh, dear me!" cried Dinny, opening his eyes suddenly,
making Mary start and Abel mutter a curse.

There was only one of the two equal to the emergency, and that was Bart,
who gave his knee a sounding slap and cried aloud--

"Jack Dell, my lad, you've behaved like a trump, and got us away
splendid.  I on'y wish, Abel, I had such a brother.  Hallo, soger, where
shall we set you ashore?"

"Set me ashore?" said the Irishman, nodding at Mary; "what for?"

"What for?" cried Bart.  "To go back."

"I'm not going back," said the Irishman, laughing.  "Sure, I want a
change."

"Change!" cried Abel.  "You can't go with us."

"Sure, and you forced me to come, and ye wouldn't behave so dirthily as
to send me back?"

"But we're escaping," said Bart.

"Sure, and I'll escape too," said Dinny, smiling.  "It's moighty dull
work stopping there."

"But you're a soldier," said Abel.

"To be sure I am--a sowldier of fortune."

"You'll be a deserter if you stop with us," growled Bart.

"The divil a bit!  Ye made me a prishner, and I couldn't help meself."

"Why, I wanted you to go back last night!" growled Bart.

"To be ate up entoirely by the ugly bastes of dogs!  Thank ye kindly,
sor, I'd rather not."

Dinny looked at Mary and gave her a droll cock of the eye, which made
her frown and look uneasy.

"Sure, Misther Jack," he said, coolly, "don't you think they're a bit
hard on a boy?"

"Hard?" said Mary, shortly.

"Av coorse.  They knocked me down and took away me mushket and bagnet,
and there they are in the bottom of the boat.  Then they made me get
over the gate and eshcape wid 'em; and, now they're safe, they want to
put me ashore."

"We can't take you with us," said Abel, shortly.

"Aisy, now!  Think about it, sor.  Ye're going for a holiday, sure; and
under the circumstances I'd like one too.  There!  I see what ye're
a-thinking--that I'd bethray ye.  Sure, and I'm a Kelly, and ye never
knew a Kelly do a dirthy thrick to anyone.  Did I shout for help last
night when you towld me not?"

"You were afraid," growled Bart.

"Afraid!--me afraid!  Did ye ever hear of a Kelly who was afraid?  No,
sor; I said to meself, `The poor boys are making a run for it, and I'll
let them go.'  Sure, and I did, and here ye are."

"It would not be wise to go near the shore now," said Mary, in a whisper
to her brother.  "You have nothing to fear from him."

Abel glanced at the happy, contented face before him, and then turned to
Bart.

"What do you say?" he asked.

"There's no harm in him," said Bart, with a suspicious look at the
Irishman.

"Sure, an' ye'll find me very useful," said Dinny.  "I was at say before
I 'listed, so I can steer and haul a rope."

"Can you keep faith with those who trust you?" said Mary, quickly.

"An' is it a Kelly who can keep faith, me lad?  Sure, an' we're the
faithfullest people there is anny where.  And, bedad! but you're a
handsome boy, and have a way wid you as'll make some hearts ache before
ye've done."

Mary started, and turned of a deep dark red, which showed through her
sun-browned skin, as she flashed an angry look upon the speaker.

Dinny burst into a hearty laugh.

"Look at him," he said, "colouring up like a girl.  There, don't look at
me, boy, as if ye were going to bite.  I like to see it in a lad.  It
shows his heart's in the right place, and that he's honest and true.
There, take a grip o' me hand, for I like you as much for your handsome
face as for the way you've stood thrue to your brother and his mate.
And did ye come all the way from your own counthry to thry and save
them?"

Mary nodded.

"Did ye, now?  Then ye're a brave lad; and there ar'n't many men who
would have watched night after night in that ugly bit o' wood among the
shnakes and reptiles.  I wouldn't for the best brother I iver had, and
there's five of 'em, and all sisters."

Mary smilingly laid her hand on Dinny's, and gazed in the merry, frank
face before her.

"I'll trust you," she said.

"And ye sha'n't repent it, me lad, for you've done no harm, and were
niver a prishner.  And now, as we are talking, I'd like to know what yer
brother and number noinety-sivin did to be sint out of the counthry.  It
wasn't murther, or they'd have hung 'em.  Was it--helping yerselves?"

"My brother and his old friend Bart Wrigley were transported to the
plantations for beating and half-killing, they said, the scoundrel who
had insulted and ill-used his sister!" cried Mary, with flashing eyes
and flaming cheeks, as she stood up proudly in the boat, and looked from
one to the other.

"Wid a shtick?" said Dinny, rubbing his cheek as he peered eagerly into
Mary's face.

"Yes, with sticks."

"And was that all?"

"Yes."

"They transported thim two boys to this baste of a place, and put chains
on their legs, for giving a spalpeen like that a big bating wid a
shtick?"

"Yes," said Mary, smiling in the eager face before her; "that was the
reason."

"Holy Moses!" ejaculated Dinny.  "For just handling a shtick like that.
Think o' that, now!  Why, I sent Larry Higgins to the hospital for sivin
weeks wance for just such a thing.  An' it was a contimptibly thin
shkull he'd got, just like a bad egg, and it cracked directly I felt it
wid the shtick.  And what did you do?" he added sharply, as he turned to
Mary.  "Where was your shtick?"

"I struck him with my hand," said Mary, proudly.

"More sorrow to it that it hadn't a shtick in it at the time.  Sint ye
both out here for a thing like that!  Gintlemen, I'm proud of ye.  Why
didn't ye tell me before?"

He held out his hands to both, and, intruder as he was, it seemed
impossible to resist his frank, friendly way, and the escaped prisoners
shook hands with him again.

"And now what are ye going to do?" said Dinny, eagerly.

"We don't know yet," said Abel, rather distantly.

"That's jist me case," said Dinny.  "I'm tired of sogering and walking
up and down wid a mushket kaping guard over a lot of poor divils chained
like wild bastes.  I tuk the shilling bekase I'd been in a skrimmage,
and the bowld sergeant said there'd be plinty of foighting; and the
divil a bit there's been but setting us to shoot prishners, and I didn't
want that.  Now, ye'll tak me wid ye, only I must get rid o' these soger
clothes, and--look here, what are ye going to do wid thim chains?"

"Get rid of them," said Abel, "when we can find a file."

"I did not think of a file," said Mary, with a disappointed look.

"There's plinty of strange plants out in these parts," said Dinny,
laughing, "but I never see one that grew files.  Only there's more ways
of killing a cat than hanging him, as the praste said when he minded his
owld brogues wid a glue-pot.  Come here."

He took off his flannel jacket, folded it, and laid it in the bottom of
the boat, but looked up directly.

"Ye've got a bit o' sail," he said, "and there's a nice wind.  Where are
you going first?"

Mary looked at her brother, and Abel glanced at Bart.

"Ye haven't made up yer minds," said Dinny, "so look here.  About twenty
miles out yander to the west there's a bit of an island where the
overseer and two officers wint one day to shute wild pig and birds, and
I went wid 'em.  Why not go there till ye make up yer minds?  It's a
moighty purty place, and ye're not overlooked by the neighbours' cabins,
for there's nobody lives there at all, at all, and we can have it our
own way."

"Wild pig there?" said Abel, eagerly.

"Bedad, yis, sor; nice swate bacon running about on four legs all over
the place, and fruit on the trees, and fish in the say for the catching.
Oh, an' it's a moighty purty little estate!"

"And how could we find it?" cried Mary.

"By jist setting a sail, and kaping about four miles from the shore till
ye see it lying like a bit o' cloud off to the south.  Sure, and we
could hang our hammocks there before night, and the mushket here all
ready to shoot a pig."

"Yes," said Mary, in response to a glance from her brother.

"Then I'll hoist the sail," said Bart.

"Nay, let the boy do it," said Dinny, "and you come and sit down here.
I'll soon show you a thing as would make the sergeant stare."

Dinny drew a large knife from his pocket, and a flint and steel.  The
latter he returned, and, taking the flint, he laid his open knife on the
thwart of the boat, and with the flint jagged the edge of the blade all
along into a rough kind of saw.

"There!" he said; "that will do.  That iron's as soft as cheese."

This last was a slight Hibernian exaggeration; but as Mary hoisted sail,
and Abel put out an oar to steer, while the little vessel glided swiftly
over the sunlit sea, Dinny began to operate upon the ring round one of
Bart's ankles, sawing away steadily, and with such good effect that at
the end of an hour he had cut half through, when, by hammering the ring
together with the butt of the musket, the half-severed iron gave way,
and one leg was free.

"Look at that, now!" said Dinny, triumphantly, and with an air of
satisfaction that took away the last doubts of his companions.  "Now,
thin, up wid that other purty foot!" he cried; and, as the boat glided
rapidly toward the west, he sawed away again, with intervals of
re-jagging at the knife edge, and soon made a cut in the second ring.

"Keep her a little farther from the shore, Abel," said Mary, in a
warning tone, as the boat sped westward.

"Ye needn't mind," said Dinny, sawing away; "the inhabitants all along
here are a moighty dacent sort of folk, and won't tell where we're gone.
They're not handsome, and they've got into a bad habit o' wearing
little tails wid a moighty convanient crook in 'em to take howld of a
tree."

"Monkeys?" said Mary, eagerly.

"Yes, Masther Jack, monkeys; and then there's the shmiling crockidills,
and a few shnakes like ships' masts, and some shpotted cats.  There's
nobody else lives here for hundreds o' miles."

"Then you are safe, Abel," said Mary, with the tears standing in her
eyes.

"Yes, Ma--yes, Jack," cried Abel, checking himself; and then meaningly,
as he glanced at Bart, "you're a brother of whom a man may well be
proud."

"Ay," cried Bart, excitedly, "a brother of whom a man may well be
proud."

"Hurroo!" cried Dinny.  "Howlt still, my lad, and I'll soon be through."

And the boat sped onward toward the west.

The island was found just as the Irishman had foretold, and as evening
approached, without having even sighted a sail on their way, the little
boat began coasting along, its occupants eagerly scanning the low,
rock-reefed shore, above which waved a luxuriant tropic growth, but for
some time no landing-place was found, while, though the sea was calm,
there was a heavy swell to curl up and break upon the various reefs in a
way that would have swamped their craft had they attempted to land.

The last fetter had been laboriously sawn through, Dinny having
persisted in continuing the task, and he now sat resting and watching
the shore with a critical eye.

All at once, upon sailing round a jagged point to which they had to give
a wide berth on account of the fierce race which swept and eddied among
the rocks, a pleasantly-wooded little bay opened out before them with a
smooth sandy shore where the waves just creamed and glistened in the
sun.

"Look at that, now," said Dinny.  "That's where we landed; but I was
ashleep after pulling a long time at the oar, and I disremembered all
about where we went ashore."

"How beautiful!" said Jack, gazing thoughtfully at the glorious scene,
and asking herself whether that was to be her future home.

"An' d'yer caal that beautiful?" said Dinny, contemptuously.  "Young
man, did ye iver see Dublin Bay?"

"No," said Jack, smiling in the earnest face before him.

"Nor the Hill of Howth?"

Jack shook his head.

"Then don't call that beautiful again in me presence," said Dinny.

"Puts me in mind of Black Pool," said Bart, thoughtfully.

Further conversation was checked by the interest of landing, the boat
being run up on the shore and hidden among the rocks, not that it was
likely that it would be seen, but the position of the fugitives and the
dread of being retaken made them doubly cautious, Bart even going so far
as to obliterate their footprints on the sand.

"Now, then," said Dinny, "you've got the mushket and the bagnet, and
those two make one; but if I was you I'd cut down one of them bamboos
and shtick the bagnet an that, which would make two of it, and it would
be a mighty purty tool to kill a pig."

The hint was taken, Bart soon cutting down a long, straight lance shaft
and forcing it into the socket of the bayonet.

"Then next," said Dinny, "if I was captain I should say let's see about
something to ate."

"Hear that, Abel?" said Bart.

"Yes.  I was thinking of how we could get down some cocoa-nuts.  There
are plenty of bananas."

"Hapes," put in Dinny; "and there's a cabbage growing in the heart of
every one of thim bundles of leaves on the top of a shtick as they call
palms; but them's only vegetables, captain, dear, and me shtomach is
asking for mate."

"Can we easily shoot a pig--you say there are some," said Abel.

"And is it aisily shoot a pig?" said Dinny.  "Here, give me the
mushket."

He held out his hand for the piece, and Abel, who bore it, hesitated for
a moment or two, and glanced at Jack, who nodded shortly, and the loaded
weapon was passed to the Irishman.

"Ye doubted me," he said, laughing; "but niver mind, it's quite nat'ral.
Come along; I won't shoot anny of ye unless I'm very hungry and can't
get a pig."

He led the way through an opening in the rough el if, and they climbed
along a narrow ravine for some few hundred yards, the roar of the sea
being hushed and the overhanging trees which held on among the rifts of
the rocks shutting out the evening light, so that at times it was quite
dusk.  But the rocky barrier was soon passed, and an open natural park
spread before them, in a depression of which lay a little lake, whose
smooth grassy shores were literally ploughed in every direction with
shallow scorings of the soil.

"Look at that now," said Dinny in a whisper, as he pointed down at some
of the more recent turnings of the soft earth.  "The purty creatures
have all been as busy as Pat Mulcahy's pig which nobody could ring.
Whisht! lie down, ye divils," he whispered, setting the example, and
crouching behind a piece of rock.

The others hid at once, and a low grunting and squeaking which had
suddenly been heard in the distance increased loudly; and directly after
a herd of quite two hundred pigs came tearing down through a narrow
opening in the rocky jungle and made straight for the lake.

They were of all sizes, from little plump fellows, half the weight of
ordinary porkers, to their seniors--the largest of which was not more
than half the dimensions of an English pig.

They trotted down to the water side, where they drank and rolled and
wallowed at the edge for a few moments, and then came back in happy
unconsciousness of the fate which awaited one of their number, and
passing so near the hidden group that Dinny had an easy shot at a well
fed specimen which rolled over, the rest dashing on through the trees
squealing as if every one had been injured by the shot.

"We sha'n't starve here," said Dinny, with a grin of satisfaction, and
before many minutes had passed a fire was kindled in a sheltered nook,
where the flame was not likely to be seen from the sea, and as soon as
it was glowing, pieces of the pig, cut in a manner which would have
disgusted a butcher, were frizzling in the embers.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

"MASTER JACK."

They had been a month on the island, leading a dreamy kind of existence,
and had begun to sleep of a night deeply and well without starting up
half a dozen times bathed in sweat, and believing that the authorities
from Plantation Settlement were on their track and about to take them by
surprise.  The question had been debated over and over again--What were
they to do? but Dinny generally had the last word.

"Why, who wants to do anything?  Unless a man was in Ireland, where
could he be better than he is here, with iverything a man could wish for
but some more powder and a wife.  Eh!  Master Jack, ye handsome young
rascal, that's what ye're always thinking about."

"Jack" gave him an angry look, and coloured.

"Look at him!" cried Dinny.  "There's tell-tales.  Niver mind, lad, it's
human nature, and we're all full of it, and a good thing, too.  Now come
and get some cocoa-nuts, for the powder's growing very low and we shall
have to take to pig hunting instead of shooting when its done."

"Jack" hesitated, and then, as if suddenly making up his mind,
accompanied the Irishman to the nearest grove where the cocoa palms grew
close down to the sea.

Here Dinny rolled up the sleeves of his coarse and ragged shirt, and
climbed one tree as a lad does a pole; but the fruit when he reached it
was immature, and he threw only one of the great husks down.

"We don't want dhrink, but mate," said Dinny, selecting another tree,
and beginning to climb; but the day was hot, there was a languid feeling
induced by the moist atmosphere, and Dinny failed three times to reach
the glorious green crown of leaves where the nuts nestled, and slid down
again, sore in body and in temper.

"A failure, Dinny!" said Jack.

"Failure! yes.  Can't ye see it is?" said the Irishman sourly, as he
bent down and softly rubbed the inner sides of his knees.  "Here, I'm
not going to do all the climbing.  You have a turn."

"Jack" shook his head.

"No skulking!" cried Dinny; "fair-play's a jool, me lad, so up you go.
Ye're younger and cleverer wid yer arms and legs than I am.  Why, ye
ought to go up that tree like a monkey."

"Jack" shook his head and frowned.

"No," he said, "I'm no climber.  Let's go back."

"Widout a nut, and ready to be laughed at?  Not I, me lad.  Now, then, I
shall have to tak ye in hand and mak a man of ye.  Up wid ye."

He caught the youth by the arm, and drew him, half-resisting, toward the
tree.

"No, no, Dinny.  Nonsense!  I could not climb the tree."

"Bedad, an' ye've got to climb it!" cried Dinny.  "Now, thin, take howld
tightly, and up you go."

"Loose my arm," said Jack, speaking in a low voice, full of suppressed
anger.

"Divil a bit.  Ye've got to climb that three."

"Loose my arm, Dinny," said Jack again.

"Ye've got to climb that three, I tell ye, boy.  Now, thin, no skulking.
Up wid ye."

"Jack" hung back, with the colour deepening in his cheeks, and a dark
look in his eyes, which Dinny could not interpret and, half in anger at
the lad's opposition, half in playful determination, he grasped the
youth firmly, and forced him toward the tree.

In an instant Jack flung himself round, with his eyes flashing, and
before the Irishman could realise what was coming he went staggering
back from the fierce blow he received in his chest, caught his heels
against the husk of an overgrown nut, and came down heavily on the sand.

Dinny was an Irishman, and he had received a blow.

"Bad luck to ye, ye arbitrary young divil!" he cried, springing up.
"It's a big bating ye want, is it, to tache ye manners! thin ye shall
have it."

Jack trembled with indignation and excitement, but not with fear, for
his cheeks were scarlet instead of pale.  A blow had been struck, and he
knew that no Irishman would receive one without giving it back with
interest, and the only way out of the difficulty was to run, and he
scorned to do that.

Quick as lighting he snatched a knife from his pocket, threw open the
blade, and held it across his chest, half turning from his assailant,
but with the point so directed that, if Dinny had closed, it could only
have been at the expense of an ugly wound.

"Look at that now!" cried Dinny, pausing with hands raised to grip his
adversary; "and me widout a bit o' shtick in me fist.  Ye'd shting,
would ye, ye little varmint!  Put down yer knoife and fight like a man.
Bah!" he cried contemptuously, as his anger evaporated as rapidly as it
had flashed up, "ye're only a boy, and it's no dishgrace to have been
hit by one o' yer size.  I could nearly blow ye away.  There, put away
yer knoife and shake hands."

A hail from the cluster of trees which they made their camp, and Bart
and Abel came into sight.

Jack closed his knife with a sigh of relief, and dropped it into his
pocket.

"An' ye won't shake hands?" said Dinny, reproachfully.

"Yes, I will, Dinny," cried Jack, warmly, holding out his hand; "and I'm
sorry I struck you."

"That's handsome, me lad," cried the Irishman, gripping it tightly.
"I'm not sorry, for it don't hurt now, and I'm glad ye've got so much
fight in ye.  Ye're a brave lad, and there's Irish blood in ye
somewhere, though ye're ignorant of the fact.  Hallo, captain! what
ye're going to do?"

Abel strode up with Bart at his side, looking curiously from one to the
other.

"I want to have a talk with you two," said Abel, throwing himself on the
sand.  "Sit down."

"Did he see?" said Jack to himself, as he took his place a little on one
side.

"A talk, and widout a bit o' tobacky!" said Dinny, with a sigh.  "What
is it, captain, dear?"

"Bart and I have been thinking over our position here," said Abel, "and
we have determined to go."

"To go!" said Dinny.  "Why, where would ye foind a bether place?"

"That has to be seen," said Abel; "but we can't stay here, and we want
to know where the nearest port to which we could sail and then get ship
for home."

"Get ship for the prison, ye mane!" cried Dinny, indignantly.  "They'd
send the lot of us back, and in less than a month you and Bart there
would be hoeing among the bushes, young Jack here would be thried and
punished for helping ye to escape, and as for me--well," he added, with
a comical grin, "I don't, know what they'd do with me, but I'm sure they
wouldn't give me my promotion."

"But we shall starve if we stay here," said Abel, sternly.

"And is it shtarve wid you two such fishermen?  Get out wid ye!  Let's
build a hut before the rainy time comes, and settle down.  Here's as
foine an estate as a gentleman need wish to have; and some day wan of us
'll go for a holiday to Oireland or Shcotland, and persuade four
illigant ladies to come wid us and be married; and what more could a boy
wish for then, eh, Masther Jack?  What do you say, Bart?"

"That we must go," said Bart, gruffly.

"Let's think it over first," said Dinny.  "At all events ye can't go for
months to come; for ye'd be taken for eshcaped prisoners at wanst; so,
as we've got no vittles, let's tak the boat and go out and catch some
fish."

Abel frowned, and seemed disposed to continue the discussion; but
everyone else was silent, and he rose slowly, ready enough, from old
associations, to obey a command.  So the little party walked slowly down
toward where the boat lay hidden, ready to row it out to the edge of one
of the weed-hung reefs, where fish were plentiful; and in spite of the
roughness of their hooks and lines a pretty good dish could always be
secured.

They had reached the end of the ravine, where the trees and bushes grew
thickly, and Jack, who was first, was in the act of passing out on to
the sands of the little bay, when a great hand seized him by the
shoulder, and he was dragged back.

His hand went to his pocket again in the instinct of self-defence, for
it seemed to be a repetition of Dinny's attack; but, turning sharply, he
found that it was Bart who had dragged him back among the trees, and
stood pointing seaward, where the solution of their difficulty appeared
in, as it were, a warning to escape; for at about half a mile from the
shore a white-winged cutter was coming rapidly toward the little bay;
and as she careened over they could see that she was occupied by at
least a dozen men.

"Quick, the boat!" cried Abel, excitedly.

"Are ye mad!" cried Dinny.  "They could see us, and would be here before
we could got round the point."

"Right," growled Bart.

"It's the cutter from the settlement," said Dinny, watching the coming
vessel.  "She sails like the wind, and, bedad, it's wind they've got of
where we are, and they've come to fetch us.  Now, thin, boys, the divil
a bit will I go back, so who's for a foight?"

The sight of the cutter seemed to chase away all discontent with their
position, bringing up, as it did, the recollection on the part of one of
months of longing to give freedom to brother and friend; on the part of
the other three, of long periods of toilsome labour in chains, and of
wearisome keeping guard over the wretched convicts, sickening in the
tropic sun.  The island suddenly assumed the aspect of a paradise, from
which they were to be banished for ever; and stealing silently back to
their little camp, the fugitives hastily did what they could to destroy
traces of their presence, and then turned to Abel to ask what next.

"The woods," he said.  "We must hide while we can, and when they hunt us
to bay we must fight for it."

"No," said Jack, quickly.  "They will think we are in the woods, as
being the most likely place for us to hide.  We should be safer among
the rocks in the cliff side, and should be able to watch the cutter as
well."

"It's a born gin'ral ye are," said Dinny, enthusiastically.

"Right, Abel, lad; Jack's right," growled Bart; and Abel acceded with a
nod of his head.

"You are lightest," he said.  "Go first, Jack.  Steal down by the side
of the cliff, and get a good way round."

"No," said Jack, "there is neither time nor need.  We must stay where we
are, and wait and see which way they go.  It will be time then to
retreat."

"Hark at him!  Sure, and if I wasn't certain that there's Oirish blood
in his veins, I'd say his grandfather was the Juke o' Marlbrook."

"Right," growled Bart; and they drew back among the rocks and waited,
lying down so as to be well hidden, Jack climbing a little way up the
slope above them, and getting into a position which commanded the ravine
leading down to the bay.

They had not long to wait before voices were heard coming up from the
shore, and soon after the overseer made his appearance, in company with
a young officer, both carrying pieces over their shoulders, and followed
by half a dozen soldiers in their flannel undress.

They were chatting and smoking, and quite off their guard, taking
matters so leisurely that the watcher felt doubtful as to their
intentions, and lay trying to catch the bent of their conversation, as
they went on toward the interior of the little island, their voices
dying out in the distance, before he attempted to stir.

When he drew himself slowly back and crept through the bushes till he
rejoined his companions, every mouth parted to ask for news; and
anxiety, mingled with the stern determination painted in their faces,
told of the stubborn resistance that their pursuers might expect before
they had achieved their ends.

"They have gone right on into the woody part."

"Yes, the gin'ral's right," said Dinny.

"But I have my doubts of their intentions," said Jack.

"And so have I--big doubts," said Dinny; "so I won't thrust them."

"I don't think they've come in search of you," continued Jack.

"Not come in search of us?" said Abel, excitedly.

A shot rang out from the distance, followed immediately by another.

"That proves it," said Jack.  "It is a shooting party."

"Av course it is," cried Dinny, laughing.  "I could have told ye that,
only I didn't think of it.  It's the pigs they're after, and they're
making free wid our flocks and herds."

"What a relief!" said Abel, wiping the sweat from his brow.  "What shall
we do next?"

"Keep in hiding; but I'll climb up till I can see their cutter.  It may
be near our boat."

"A born gin'ral," said Dinny, giving his head a roll and gazing
approvingly at Jack.  "There'll be two or three left in charge of their
boat, and--what would you do next?"

Jack held up his hand, and softly retraced his course up the steep
slope; and they could trace him from time to time by the waving of the
leaves, but he went so cautiously that he was not seen once; and while
they kept their eyes fixed upon one spot the bushes and leaves were seen
to rustle softly some distance higher up.

Then they saw no more, but lay listening to the distant shouts and
firing which reached their ears again and again, till, to the surprise
of all three, Jack suddenly came upon them from behind.

"Well?" said Abel, eagerly.

Jack could not speak for a few moments, being breathless with exertion.

"Three men left with the cutter and they are ashore, lying upon the
sands."

"Abel," said Jack, after a long, thoughtful silence, "we shall never be
safe here with these people coming from time to time."

"No; that settles our plans.  We must take the boat and go."

"Why not take our enemy's vessel?  We could sail where we liked then."

"Didn't I say he was a born gin'ral?" cried Dinny, enthusiastically.

"Take their boat!" said Abel.

"They're three men, and we're three," said Bart, in a low growl.

"Four!" cried Dinny, excitedly.  "Ye never see how Masther Jack can
foight."

"Hush!" said the latter, sternly.  "The men are lying about half asleep.
If we waited, we might get on board, cut the anchor rope, and drift out
with the tide perhaps without rousing them."

"And if it came to the worst we could fight," said Abel.

"Are ye ready?" whispered Dinny.  "See that your piece is well primed.
My shtick's loaded, and I'm ready to fire it off."

"Hush!" said Jack, sternly.  "I will climb up to where I can watch the
men, and if they go to sleep I will wave a branch.  Then creep up to me,
and we may succeed without trouble."

The proposal was agreed to at once, and a long, tedious time of waiting
ensued, at the end of which Bart bared his arm.

"We're strong enough for 'em," he whispered.  "Let's go at once and
fight it out."

At that moment, high above their heads, a branch was seen waving just as
a shot rang out at no great distance, shouts were heard, and the
grunting of a herd of the wild pigs rose from the wooded part on their
left.

"Too late!" whispered Abel.

"Right!" growled Bart.

"Then we'll foight for it," whispered Dinny.  "Bedad, I believe they'll
run as soon as they find us here, and small blame to 'em."



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

ANOTHER ESCAPE.

The excitement seemed to bring Jack more and more to the front, and
those who followed read in his actions why it was that he had been
successful in freeing them from their pursuers at the time of the
escape.

For, active as a goat, he crept from rock to rock, lowering himself down
here, dropping there, and having from time to time to wait to give the
rest an opportunity for keeping up.  And all the while the parts of the
cliff side that were the most wooded, and which offered the best
shelter, were selected, and discovery by the sleeping men avoided.

It was an arduous task; but the guide was equal to the emergency, and
continuously and silently proceeding succeeded at length in dropping
down to the sandy shore about fifty yards from where the men lay
apparently asleep and sheltered by a huge mass of weed-grown stone,
while the cutter swung by its anchor a hundred yards further on beyond
the sailors, and she rose and fell easily as the slight tide ran softly
down.

Jack grasped the situation clearly, and felt how little time there was
to lose.  At any moment the heads of the hunting party might appear as
they came down the ravine to the bay, while, supposing these to be
really asleep, the first shout would bring them to their feet, and then
all chance of escape would be gone.

The men had laid down close up under the cliff so as to be sheltered
from the sun and from an instinctive desire to be beyond the reach of
any venturesome wave, so that to reach the cutter the fugitives would
have to pass her guardians between them and the sea.

This brought the escaping party nearer to the cutter, but placed them
full in the view of those who might be coming down the ravine at the
head of the bay, and also shut them off from shelter and concealment
should an emergency arise.

Jack had played so prominent a part hitherto that the eyes of all were
directed to him for further instructions, and for a moment he hesitated
and pointed to Abel.

"No," whispered the latter, "you have done so well; go on."

Jack hesitated for a moment or two more, and then said in a low voice--

"All follow quickly and go to the far side of the bay, seize the boat,
and we are safe."

"But there is no boat," said Bart.

Jack pointed to a mass of rock, some fifty yards away, where a few
inches of the stern of a boat were visible, but which had not been seen
by the others.

"Lead on," said Abel, abruptly; "and if the men wake up Bart and I will
tackle them while you and Dinny here get into the boat and row out.
We'll swim to you, and you can take us in."

"And d'ye think I'm going to run away like that?" whispered Dinny.
"I'll shtay."

"Dinny!" whispered Jack, fiercely.

"Ah, well, I forgot I was a soldier, my lad.  I'll obey orders."

Whereupon Abel examined the priming of his musket, and Bart tried the
bayonet at the end of the bamboo shaft to see if it was firm, while
Dinny whispered--

"Howld her tight to yer shoulther, lad, when ye fire, for she's a divil
to kick."

Jack gave a glance round once more, and then, holding up a hand to
command silence, he listened, but all was still save the lapping of the
waves as the tide retired and then returned.

His next proceeding was to steal out to where he could get a good look
at the three sailors left in charge.

One lay on his breast, with his arms folded and his brow resting upon
them.  The second lay upon his back, with his hands beneath him, and his
cap tilted over his eyes.  The third was upon his side with his back to
them, and all apparently fast asleep, for neither stirred.

Jack would have gladly waited till dark; but to have done this might
have meant losing their means of escape, for they were not certain that
the party would stay all night.

So, feeling this, and that their only chance lay in a bold attempt, he
glanced back once, and after seeing that his companions were quite ready
to follow, he stepped out quietly on to the yielding sand and made for
the spot where the small boat lay.

To reach this boat the party had to pass within some fifty feet or so of
the sleepers, and the crucial moments would be when they had passed
within ken of the man lying upon his side with his back to them.  Even
if the others were awake it would be possible to pass them unseen; but
it was otherwise with the third man, whose position would enable him to
see whoever crossed the sands of the little bay, while, for aught they
knew, he might be a faithful guardian, keeping strict watch over both
boat and cutter while his companions slept.

Jack walked softly on, the sand deadening his tread, so that he was soon
abreast of the guardians of the boat, and another five minutes would
suffice for him and his party to reach the boat and push her off, when,
armed as they were, they could have laughed at pursuit.

Another few yards and no one stirred.  Jack gazed over his left shoulder
at the dangerous reclining figure, but its position remain unchanged.

Another few yards, and still there was no sign, nor likely to be, for
there could be no doubt of the fact--the man was fast asleep, and the
agitation and anxiety of the fugitives was apparently wasted.

Jack glanced back to see that his companions were following in Indian
file, walking upon the tips of their feet, and casting glances from time
to time at the spot from which danger would arise.

Another dozen yards and the leader of the little party felt safe, when a
sharp report came from the ravine above, the shot echoing and
reverberating along the sides of the cliffs till it sounded like a peal
of thunder which drowned the shout that followed, a shout meant as a
warning to the guardians of the boat that their party was close at hand.

The man lying upon his side sprang to his feet, and the other two woke
up, to stare stupidly about them before they realised the state of
affairs, and that their companion had seized his musket, from where it
lay with those of his fellows against the foot of the cliff which
towered above their heads; for in accordance with their plans, Jack and
Dinny had run on and seized the boat, while Abel and Bart had faced
round with their weapons ready, retreating slowly toward the sea.

For a few moments no word was spoken, and then it was the first of the
three sailors who realised their position.

"It's cat or a bullet in us, mates," he cried, desperately.  "I says
bullet; so come on."

The other two were Englishmen like himself, and evidently entertained
their comrade's preference for a chance bullet or a stab to being tried
by court martial and sentenced to a flogging, so they also snatched up
their muskets and belts, hastily threw the latter over their shoulders,
and, taught by training, brought their pieces to bear, shouting to the
prisoners to surrender.

"Give up, you lubbers!" cried the first sailor.  "It's of no good."

For answer Abel glanced over his shoulder, and seeing that Jack and
Dinny had reached the boat, slowly continued the retreat.

"Will you surrender?" roared the sailor, as another shout came from the
ravine.

"Surrender yourselves," cried Bart, fiercely.  "Lay down them guns."

"Surrender, or we fire," cried the sailor again, as the two men slowly
backed toward the boat, watchful of a rush being made.

Bart uttered a low, defiant growl, and the bamboo he held quivered in
his knotted hands.

"All together, then, mates," shouted the sailor, "_fire_!"

Jack uttered a groan as he stood knee deep in water, running the boat as
near as it could be got to his friend, and a mist swam before his eyes.

_Click click click_!--and as many tiny showers of sparks were struck in
the pans of the pieces.

"Why, you stupid lubbers, you didn't load!" roared the sailor.  "Now,
then, ground arms--load!"

A shout of derision arose from Abel and Bart, and the former took up the
tone of menace now.

"Throw down your muskets, or I fire," he cried.

"P'raps you're not loaded neither, mate," cried the sailor, laughing.
"Now, lads.  Bagnets: charge."

His companions hesitated for a moment, and then, lowering their pieces,
they made a rush for those who barred their way to the boat.

_Bang_!

One sharp report.  The right-hand sailor span round, dropped his musket,
stooped down and seized his leg beneath the knee, and dropped into a
sitting position upon the sand.

"Hurt, mate?" cried the first sailor, halting.

"Leg," was the laconic reply.

"Never mind," cried the first sailor.  "Come, on, mate."

He lowered his piece again, and the two rushed upon Bart and Abel, as
brave as lions now in the excitement.

These two had taken advantage of the man being wounded to back rapidly
toward the boat, lying in the shallow water; but the sand was heavy, and
they had to face the enemy all the time.  For the latter came at them
with stubborn determination, reached them while they were a good twenty
yards from the water, and a fierce fight ensued.

It was as brief as it was hot and determined, for, after a few moments'
fencing, the second sailor delivered a deadly thrust, at Abel; while the
principal man, a sturdy, tall fellow, crossed weapons with Bart, whose
slight bamboo lance was a feeble defence against the bayonet at the end
of the musket.  Moreover, the fugitives were fighting with the
disadvantage of being seen now by the well-armed party returning from
the hunt.  These had received warning that something was wrong by
hearing the shots, and were now running rapidly down toward the sandy
shore.

"Now," said the second sailor, presenting his piece, which was opposed
to one minus the bayonet blade--"now I have you.  Surrender!"

For answer Abel stepped back, clubbed his weapon, swung it round, and
brought it down with such violence that the butt struck the other musket
full upon the stock, and dashed it from its holder's hand.

Before Abel could get another blow round, the man had dashed in, closed
with him, and, to Jack's agony, capture seemed certain.

Meantime the first sailor had made several fierce passes at Bart, who
was scratched once upon the wrist, and had drawn blood on the other
side, when his bamboo lance broke, and he seemed at the mercy of his
antagonist.

Heavy as he was, Bart was activity itself, and reversing the encounter
going on between the other two, he avoided a thrust by striking the
bayonet aside with his arm, and closed with his adversary.

The two locked together in a desperate struggle directly, for the sailor
abandoned his musket as soon as Bart was at close quarters, and gripped
him round the waist.

"I'll have you, anyhow," he panted, as he lifted Bart from the ground.

"Let go, or I'll crush in your ribs," growled Bart, savagely.

"Do it, mate," retorted the sailor, swinging Bart round, and trying to
throw him; but he might as well have tried to throw off his arms.  Then
by a desperate wrench Bart loosened the other's grip, so that he could
touch ground once more, and the struggle went on like some desperate
bout in wrestling.

These encounters were matters of a minute or so; but to Jack and Dinny,
standing knee deep in the water holding the boat ready for the escape,
and the oars where they could be seized in an instant, the minute seemed
an hour.  They would have gone to the help of their comrades, but it
seemed to them that they would be cutting off the means of escape; and
in addition, the various phases of the fight succeeded each other so
rapidly that there was hardly time to think.

"Give me that shtick," cried Dinny at last; and he snatched one from
where it lay upon the thwarts of the boat, just as Abel sent his
adversary down half-stunned and turned to help Bart.

"Quick, lad!  Hold still a moment!" cried Abel, as the overseer came
running down from the head of the bay, in company with the officer and
half a dozen men.

The words were wasted, for Bart and the first sailor were writhing and
twining on the sands like two wild beasts.  Bart strove hard to shake
himself free; but the effort was vain, for the sailor had fastened on
him like a bull-dog, and held on with a tenacity that could not be
mastered.

"It's of no use," panted Bart, as Dinny ran up.  For the enemy were not
two hundred yards away, and running fast.  "Escape, my lads!  Never mind
me!"

"Let me get one hit at him," cried Dinny.

"Ah, would you, Paddy!" roared the sailor, wresting Bart round as a
shield.  "I know you."

"Now, you!" cried Dinny to Abel.

But it was like striving to hit a twining serpent upon the head, and
strive how they would, Bart's friends could do nothing till the pair had
struggled together to the very edge of the water, and then went
splashing in.

"Get his head down, Bart, and he'll soon let go."

Easier said than done.  The sailor had his arms well about his
adversary, and Bart's effort was vain.

"Surrender, there!" shouted the overseer.  "Give up, or we'll fire!"

"Let go, or I'll smash you," growled Bart, as he caught sight of the
enemy coming on.

For answer the sailor clung the more tightly; and as Bart rose to his
knee after a fall, the water was now well up to their middles.

"Here, boat, Jack, lad!" cried Dinny.  "Now, captain, lay howlt!"

Abel grasped his meaning, and seized one side of the human knot,
composed of two bodies and the customary complement of arms and legs,
while Dinny caught the other, and together they trailed it through the
shallow water to meet the boat.

"Now, Master Jack," cried Dinny, "take a howlt!"

Jack seized Bart by the waist as the boat's gunwale touched him.  Abel
and Dinny lifted together, and the result was that a certain amount of
water went in over the side; but with it, heaving and struggling still,
the knotted together bodies of Bart and his adversary, to lie in the
bottom of the little craft, the sailor, fortunately for the escaping
party, undermost.

"Sit down and row!" roared Abel; but his order was needless, for Jack
had seated himself on the thwart, thrust out the oars at once, and began
to pull; while on opposite sides, Dinny and Abel ran the boat out till
they were breast-high in the water, when they gave it a final thrust and
began to climb in.

By this time they were thirty or forty yards from the dry sand, down
which the overseer and his party came running, and stopped at the edge.

"Halt!  Surrender!" roared the overseer, savagely.

There was no reply, but the oars were plied swiftly, and the boat glided
over the glassy swell.

"Fire!" roared the overseer, raising his piece; and a shower of buckshot
came whistling and pattering by them, several of the little bullets
striking the boat.

"Fire!" roared the overseer again.  "Curse you!  Why don't you fire!"

A scattered volley from half a dozen pieces answered his furious order,
and as the little party glanced back, it was to see that those on shore
were reloading rapidly, the peculiar noise made by the ramming down of
the wads being plainly heard, mingled with the thudding of the ramrods
as the charges were driven home.

No one spoke in the boat, but Abel and Dinny rapidly got oars over the
side and began to pull, the latter having the harder work from the
heaving bodies of the two combatants occupying the bottom of the boat, a
fact which necessitated his standing up; but all the same he helped the
boat vigorously along.

"Are ye going to lie down?" said Dinny, as he saw the enemy wade out as
far as they could and prepare to fire.

"No!" said Abel.  "You can."

"Divil a bit will I, if you don't," said Dinny, "and good luck to 'em!
They've only got big pellets for shooting the pigs, and they won't kill
except at close quarthers."

Another scattered volley rang echoing out, and thundered along the
cliffs, the smoke hiding the enemy from the gaze of those in the boat.

"Murther!" yelled Dinny, dropping his oar, but stooping to pick it up
again as he shook his hand.  "It's gone right through," he continued, as
he gazed at a bead of blood oozing from the back of his hand, and
another on the other side in the centre of his palm.  "I wish I knew the
divil who fired that.  It feels like one of the overseer's games."

"Anyone else hit?" said Abel.  "Jack!"

"It's nothing--a scratch," said Jack, rowing away with all his might, as
the blood began to trickle down from a scored place upon his forehead.
"Go on rowing."

"Bad luck to 'em!  There's so many shot in a charge; it gives 'em such a
chance," grumbled Dinny.  "But niver mind, Masther Jack.  It'll be a bit
of a shmart; but losing a dhrop o' blood won't hurt ye."

Jack nodded, and tugged away rapidly, reducing the distance between them
and the cutter; but they could not get farther from the firing party,
who kept up a furious fusillade as they followed along round the side of
the little bay, the pellets whistling by the fugitives, and more than
one finding a home.

"Faix, and ye've got the best place there, Bart, me lad," cried Dinny,
merrily.  "Shall I come and howlt him while you take a change?"

"Look here!" growled Bart, as another volley was fired at them, and the
shot came hurtling round; "it's no good now.  Are you going to give in?"

The sailor looked from one to the other as he lay, with his head in the
water at the bottom of the boat.

"Well, this here ar'nt cheerful," he said.

"You're beat.  Why don't you give in?"

"Is it weazand slitting?" he said.  "Snickersnee!"

"Get out!" cried Dinny.  "Did they cut mine?"

"Yours, you deserter!" said the sailor, contemptuously.

"As much a deserter as you are, Dick Dullock.  Sure, and they tuck me
prishner, wid a musket to me ear and a bagnet to my chist."

"You look like one," said the sailor, sourly.

"Will you surrender?" growled Bart.

"Yes.  Can't do no more, can I?  Only bear witness, all on you, as I did
my dooty.  Didn't I, youngster?"

"You fought like a brave man," said Jack, gravely; "but it is of no use
to struggle now, so give up."

"Ay, I'll give in," said the sailor; "but I'm a-going to lie here till
the firing's done.  I'll stand fire when there's fighting o' both sides;
but I'm a prisoner now, and out of it, so here I stays."

Bart rose from where he had been kneeling on the man's chest, and
straightened himself slowly, but only to start as a fresh volley was
fired and a pellet grazed his chin; but he only uttered a savage growl
like an angry beast, and made way for Dinny to sit down and row with all
his strength.

Suddenly a shout from the bay shore took the attention of those in the
boat, and the firing ceased.

"What's that mean?" cried Abel.

"They've found our boat," said Jack, excitedly.

It was true enough; and the fugitives redoubled their efforts to reach
the cutter, while the overseer continued the firing, so as to disable
some of the party before they could attain the shelter the vessel would
give.

Abel was hit twice, and Bart received another shot, but the distance was
great now, and the pellets too small to do serious mischief; but as they
rowed round behind the cutter, anxiously watching to see that no one was
aboard, its hull sheltering them from the firing, the noise and the buzz
of voices ashore drew their attention to the fact that the overseer, the
officer, and four more had entered the boat, which started with a cheer
from those left behind, and pulled rapidly in pursuit.

"Quick, Bart, run up the jib while I cut the rope."

"Nay, haul up to it, you and Dinny," cried Bart, as he ran forward.
"It's only a grapnel."

The firing recommenced now so viciously that every act on board the
cutter was performed with great risk, the overseer and the officer
taking it in turns to send a hail of buckshot at everyone who showed a
head above the low side of the vessel.

But in spite of this the party worked well, and the sailor having
surrendered, contented himself, as soon as he was aboard, by lying down
upon the deck and beginning to chew.

The grapnel was hauled in, the jib hoisted, and Jack stationed at the
tiller; but the sail slowly flapped to and fro, refusing to fill, and
the only way on the cutter was that given by the falling tide.

"She'll be aboard of us, Bart, long before we get out of the bay," said
Abel, with a groan of despair.

"Niver say die," cried Dinny, who had just given a turn to the painter
which held the cutter's boat.

"Are there any arms aboard?" growled Bart.  "Cuss it! look there!"

This last was consequent upon a shot ploughing a little channel along
his neck.  "D'yer hear what I say--you?" he said again to their
prisoner.  "Are there any arms aboard?"

"Yes, in the cabin--muskets," said the sailor; "but you leave 'em alone,
my lad.  This here as you've done's piracy, and if you kill anybody it's
murder."

"Then let 'em keep off," said Bart, with a fierce growl as he followed
Abel into the cabin, both reappearing again directly with muskets and
ammunition.

"I tell you it's piracy," said the sailor from where he lay.  "Isn't it,
Dennis Kelly?"

"Faix, I s'pose it is," said Dinny, smiling.  "There's so much in a
name."

"Here you, Dinny, get up a musket," cried Abel.  "You can shoot."

"Don't you, Dinny!" said the sailor.  "It's hanging business."

"But I'm a prishner," said Dinny, grinning, "and obliged."

"It'll be a hanging matter, Dinny," cried the sailor, as the Irishman
reappeared with a musket in his hand.

"It'll be a flogging sure if I'm took," said Dinny, "for they'll niver
belave I'm acting against my will.  Now, Captain Abel," he continued, as
he loaded his piece, and laid it so that he could command the boat,
"whin you ordher me to fire, why, av coorse I shall, but you must take
the credit of the shot."

"Keep off!" roared Abel, as the boat now neared them fast.  "You'll get
bullets instead of buckshot: you come nearer."

"Surrender, you piratical scoundrel!" roared the overseer.  "Put down
that musket.  Row hard, my lads!"

Whatever may have been the overseer's weakness, want of courage was not
one; and this he proved by discharging his piece, and standing up in the
boat to watch the effect.

The distance was short, but there was a faint puff of air now which
filled the sail, and there was a feeling of intense relief as the cutter
rapidly left the coming boat behind.

Jack's cheeks flushed, and his eyes sparkled as, with a touch of the
tiller, he seemed to send the cutter rushing through the water; while an
angry yell rose from behind as the boat dropped back.

But their despondency in the boat was only of a minute's duration, for
the wind dropped as suddenly as it had risen, the cutter ceased to glide
onward with the water rattling and splashing beneath her bows, the jib
shivered and hung motionless, and a cheer arose from the pursuers as the
firing recommenced.

"Be ready, Bart," said Abel, with a lurid look in his eyes, as he once
more levelled his piece.  "You, Dinny, are you going to help?"

"No," said the sailor.  "It's piracy and murder if you shoot them, Dinny
Kelly, and it's fair-play if they shoot you."

"Yis, it is awkward," said Dinny; "but Oi'm thinking I don't want to go
back and be on senthry again, and there, Oi'll make a compromise of it.
I won't shoot, but I'm mak' believe, and frecken 'em."

As he spoke he lay down on the deck and took aim at the occupants of the
coming boat, whose position was extremely perilous, while the sides of
the cutter sheltered those on board.

"Keep back!" roared Abel, as the boat neared them fast.  "We're loaded
with ball, not shot."

There was a momentary indecision on the part of the overseer, and it was
instantly communicated to the men, for they ceased to paddle, while the
two principals bent forward and spoke earnestly.

"No, they will not dare," said the overseer, loudly.  "Go on, my lads!
Surrender, you dogs, or you shall all be hung."

The boat was urged through the water again, and the overseer raised his
fowling-piece, took aim, and was about to fire, when the officer with
him laid his hand upon his arm.

"Wait," he said.  "Then both fire together, close in, and board."

"We'll do that afterwards," cried the overseer, discharging his piece
and rapidly reloading as the boat glided on till it was only about
twenty yards away, and, in spite of a fierce threat or two, the
repugnance to shed blood and the natural desire not to fight against the
law had kept Abel and Bart from returning the fire.

Their case seemed hopeless now, unless in the struggle to come they
repelled the boarders, for the wind which dotted the sea a hundred yards
away with ripples refused to kiss their sail, and in another minute the
overseer and his party would have been alongside, when, just as he
covered Jack's arm, which could be seen lying upon the tiller, and when
a shot at such short range would have been almost as bad as one from a
bullet, there was a puff of smoke, a sharp report, and the overseer
started up in the boat, dropped his fowling-piece, which fell into the
sea with a splash, and then, before the officer could save him, he
pitched head foremost over the side.

"Look at that now," said Dinny, who had risen into a sitting position on
the deck, with his musket across his lap.

"Yes; you've done it now, Dinny Kelly," said the sailor, gruffly.
"Desarted from the station, and shot the superintendent."

"Sorra a bit," said Dinny, as the wind suddenly struck the cutter, which
heeled over and began to forge rapidly through the water.  "Sorra a bit,
man.  It was this awkward baste of a mushket.  I just closed my finger
for a moment on the thrigger, and whoo! off she went, kicking up her
heels like a nigger's mule.  D'yer think the overseer's hurt?"

"I think you've killed him."

"Not I, bedad.  It was me mushket," said Dinny.  "Divil a bit will I
have any more to do wid it.  I'll have another with a thrigger which
isn't wake."

"You've saved us, Dinny," said Jack, excitedly, as the boat was being
left far behind.

"Not I, my lad.  Shure, it's between the wind and this worn-out old
mushket.  It's a baste of a thing.  Why, it moight have killed the poor
man.  I say, lad; d'yer think he's much hurt?"

"A broken arm, that's all, Dinny," said Jack, smiling.

"Ah, well!" said Dinny, reloading the piece; "that'll do him good, and
give the poor divils at the plantation a bit of a rest."

He paused in the act of reloading, drew the charge with a dry look upon
his countenance, and laid the musket down upon the deck.

"No, thank ye," he said, shaking his head at the piece.  "It's a
murdhering baste ye are, and ye'll be getting some poor fellow into
throuble wan of these days.  Don't you think so, Dick?"

The prisoner screwed up his countenance, and then relaxed it as he
looked hard at Dinny.

"Well, it's pretty nigh a hanging matter for you, Dinny," he said.

"What! for an accident, man?"

"Accident! you've gone and committed a rank act of piracy!  But, I say,
what'll they do with me?"

"Hang ye, I should say," replied Dinny, with a droll look in his eye.
"Hang ye as soon as they've got toime to think about ye; or no: maybe
they'll save themselves the throuble, and hand ye over to thim ruffians
there."

He pointed over the side, and the sailor gave a start and changed colour
as he caught sight of the back-fins of a couple of huge sharks gliding
along through the water a little way astern.

"Oh, they're a bad lot with their prisoners, Dick.  Look at me."

"But what are they going to do?" said the sailor, eagerly.  "They can't
put in anywhere, and as soon as this day's work's known, they'll have a
man-o'-war sent after 'em."

"Sorra a wan o' me knows," said Dinny; "but it's moighty plisant out
here.  I'm toired o' pipe-claying me belts and marching and being
senthry, and they may make me prishner as long as they like."

"You didn't half-kill one of them, and they don't bear malice against
you," said the sailor, thoughtfully.

"An' is it malice?  Why, didn't I thry to run wan of 'em through wid me
bagnet, and attimpt to shoot the other!  Malice!  I belave they liked
it, for we've been the best o' friends iver since.  Here, Bart, me lad;
Dick here wants to shake hands with yez."

"I don't," said the sailor, sternly; but as Bart came from where he had
been taking a pull at one of the ropes, smiling and open-handed, Dick's
face relaxed.

"That was a pretty good wrastle," said Bart, running his eye approvingly
over the physique of his late opponent, and gripping Dick's hand
heartily; "but I got the best of you."

Dick did not answer, but he returned the grip, and Bart went aft
directly to relieve Jack at the tiller, while the darkness came on
rapidly, and with it the breeze increased in force till the cutter
careened over and rapidly left the island behind.

"Well, Dennis Kelly," said the sailor, as they sat together on board
later, with the stars gathering overhead, and faint sounds wafted to
them from time to time as they glided rapidly along a few miles from
land, "you can only make one thing of it, my boy, and that's piracy; and
piracy's yard-arm, and a swing at the end of the rope."

"Ah! get along wid ye," said Dinny, contemptuously, "and don't call
things by bad names.  They're three very plisant fellows, and they've
borried the boat and taken us prishners to help them in the cruise; or,
if ye like it better, we're pressed men."

"But what are they going to do next?"

"Divil a bit do I know, and the divil a bit do I care.  I've no belts to
pipe-clay, and you've no deck to holy-stone.  What there is to ate they
share wid ye, and they take their turn at the watch.  Sure, it's a
gintleman's life, and what more would ye have?"

"But it's piracy--rank piracy!" said Dick, stubbornly; "and I want to
know what we're going to do next."

"Well, thin, I'll tell ye," said Dinny; "but it's a saycret, moind."

"Well, what?"

"It's a saycret, moind," said Dinny, "and ye won't tell?"

"Tell!  Who is there to tell here?"

"Nobody yet; but ye'll keep the saycret?"

"Yes," said Dick, earnestly.  "What are they going to do?"

"Didn't I say I'd tell ye," said Dinny, "as soon as I know?"

"Yah!" snarled Dick.

"Well," cried Dinny, "how can I tell ye till I know?  Why, it's my
belief, Dick, me lad, that they don't know themselves."

"Where do you mean to go, Abel?" said Jack at last.

"Go, my lass--my lad!" he said, correcting himself.  "Anywhere.  We
can't touch port, but we've got a tidy little vessel, not too big to
manage, and we must sail somewhere to be safe."

"Well, I don't care," came from forward, as Dick raised his voice in
stubborn reiteration with Dinny.  "I says it's piracy, and if they're
ketched, they'll all be hanged."

A dead silence fell upon the little group, and at last it was Bart who
spoke, as if to himself.

"If you helps yourself to a bit o' anything that comes ashore, they says
it's wrecking; and if you want a drop o' brandy or a bit o' lace from a
furrin boat, it's smuggling; and now, if a man wants to get away, and
fights for his liberty, he's a pirate."

"For seizing a vessel, Bart," said Jack.

"Yes, lad, I know.  Well, they may call me what they like.  Here we are,
and we've got to live."

"Where d'ye think they'll sail?" said Dick again, raising his voice, but
in ignorance that the words could reach the group by the tiller.

"Where shall we sail?" said Jack, who was steering.  "I don't know, for
all before us seems black; but I've saved my brother and his true old
friend, so let fate guide us: the world is very wide."

"Yes, Dinny, I don't mind for a change; but it's piracy, and I hope as
we sha'n't all be hung."

"The same to you," said Dinny, giving the sailor's shoulder a sounding
slap.

"Piracy!" said Jack, softly, as the boat glided on.  "Well, it was not
our choice, and, at all events, we're free."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

AFTER A LAPSE.

"Then we'll die for it, Bart," said Jack, fiercely.

"If so be as you says die for it now, or to-morrow, or next day, or next
week, die it is, my lad," said Bart, despondently; "but luck's agen us,
and we're beat.  Why not give up?"

"Give up?" cried Jack, whose appearance was somewhat altered by his two
years of hard sea-life in the tropics since the night when the cutter
sailed away into the darkness of what seemed to be their future.  "Give
up?"

"Yes; and back out of it all.  Why not take passage somewhere, not as
Jack, Commodore Junk's brother, but as bonny Mary Dell o' Devonshire,
going back home along o' Bart Wrigley, as is Bartholomew by rights?"

"Well?" said Jack, sternly.

"Don't look black at me, my lad.  I'm tired o' boarding ships and
sending people adrift."

"Growing afraid, Bart?"

"Yes, my lad; but not for Bart Wrigley.  For someone else."

"You are preaching to-night, Bart."

"Maybe, my lad, for it's solemn times; and something keeps a-saying to
me: `Don't run no more risks!  There's old Devon a-waiting for you, and
there's the old cottage and the bay, and you've got the money to buy a
decent lugger, and there's plenty o' fish in the sea.'"

"Go, on," said Jack, mockingly.

"Ay, lad, I will," said Bart.  "And you might settle down there, and
live happy with a man there to wait on you and be your sarvent--ay, your
dog if you liked; and some day, if you thought better of it, and was
ready to say, `Bart, my lad, you've been a true chap to me, and I know
as you've loved me ever since you was a boy, so now I'll be your wife,'
why, then--"

Bart stopped with his lips apart, gazing wonderingly at the angry
countenance before him.

"You madman!  What are you saying?" was hissed into his ears.  "Mary
Dell died when she left her home, driven away by man's tyranny--when she
sought out her brother and his friend, to find them working like slaves
in that plantation.  It was John Dell who became your companion: Mary
Dell's dead."

"No," said Bart, speaking softly and with a homely pathos, full of a
poetical sentiment that could not have been expected from his rough
exterior as he sat on the deck of a long, low, heavily-sparred schooner.
"No, my lad, Mary Dell isn't dead.  She's hidden here in my breast,
where I can look inwards and see the bonny lass with the dark eyes and
long black hair as I knowed I loved as soon as I knowed what love meant,
and as long as I've that lass will never die."

"Hush, Bart, old friend!" said Jack, softly.  "Let her live, then,
there; but to me she is dead, and I live to think of her persecutions,
and how for two years man has pursued us with his bitter hatred, and
hunted us down as if we were savage beasts."

"Ay," said Bart, softly; "but isn't it time to take the other road, and
get away?"

"No," said Jack, fiercely.  "Bart, old friend--you are my friend."

"Friend!" said Bart, in a reproachful tone.

"Yes.  I know you are; but once more, if you value my friendship, never
speak to me again as you have spoken now."

"You're captain, my lad.  I'll do what you like."

"I know you will.  Well, then, do you think I can forgive the treatment
we have received?  It has been a dog's life, I tell you--the life of a
savage dog."

"Ay, but we've bit pretty sharp sometimes," said Bart, smiling.  "See
how we've growed, too.  First it was the bit of a canoe thing as you
came in up the creek."

Jack nodded.

"Then we took the cutter."

"Yes, Bart."

"And with that cutter we took first one ship, and then with that
another, always masters, and getting, bit by bit, stout, staunch men."

"And savages," said Jack, bitterly.

"Well, yes, some on 'em is savage like, specially Mazzard."

"Black Mazzard is a ruffianly wretch!"

"True, lad; but we've gone on and got better and stronger, till we have
under our feet the swiftest schooner as swims the sea, and Commodore
Junk's name's known all along the coast."

"And hated, and a price set upon his head; and now that he is a prisoner
his people turn against him, and his most faithful follower wants to go
and leave him in the lurch."

"Nay, don't say that, my lad," cried Bart.  "We was overmatched, and he
was took."

"Yes, by his men's cowardice."

"Nay; you're cross, my lad," said Bart, unconsciously raising one arm
and drawing back the sleeve to readjust a bandage.  "Month to-night and
the deck was running into the scuppers with blood, half the lads was
killed, and t'other half all got a wound.  We was obliged to sheer off."

"Yes, you coward! you left your captain to his fate."

"But I saved the captain's--brother," said Bart, slowly, "or he'd have
been shut up in prison along with poor Abel now."

"Better so," said the other, fiercely; "and then there'd be an end of a
persecuted life."

"Better as it is," said Bart, quietly; "but I did save you."

"Bart, old lad, don't take any notice of what I say," whispered Jack.

"I don't, lad, when you're put out.  I never do."

"Don't speak to me like that.  It maddens me more."

"No, it don't, lad.  It's only me speaking, and you may hammer me with
words all night if it does you good.  I don't mind, I'm only Bart."

"My true old friend," whispered the other, quickly; "but it's time they
were back."

"Nay, not yet," said Bart, as the other stood gazing over the side of
the schooner toward where a long, low bank of mist seemed to shut out
everything beyond.

"They've been gone two hours, and it's now four bells."

"Ay, and it'll be six bells before they get back, and it's a long way to
row.  Do you mean to try it, then?"

"Try it?  Yes, if I die in the attempt.  Did I hesitate when you two
were on the plantation, and I was alone and--a boy?"

"Not you," said Bart.

"Then, do you think I shall hesitate now that I have a ship and
followers to back me up?"

Bart shook his head.

"Abel must be saved; and the men agree."

"Ay; they say they'll have the skipper out of the prison or they'll die
first."

"Brave fellows!" cried Jack, enthusiastically.

"But I don't see how a schooner's to attack forts and cannon and stone
walls.  My lad, it can't be done."

"It shall be done!" cried Jack.  "How's Dinny?"

"Bit weak still; but he says he can fight, and he shall go."

"Brave, true-hearted fellow!  And Dick?"

"Says he shall be well enough to go; but he won't--he's weak as a rat."

Jack drew a deep breath, and a fiercely vindictive look flashed from the
dark eyes which glared at Bart.

"They shall suffer for all this.  Abel will pay them their due."

"Ay," said Bart; and then to himself--"when he gets away."

"It was a cruel, cowardly fight--four to one."

"He would attack," said Bart, heavily.  "He'd had such luck that he
wouldn't believe he could be beat."

"He was right," said the other, fiercely.  "He is not beaten, for we
will fetch him out, and he shall pay them bitterly for all this."

The speaker strode forward, and went below into the cabin, while Bart
drew his breath hard as he rose from where he had been seated and
limped, slightly bending down once to press his leg where a severe
flesh-wound was received on the night of the engagement when Abel Dell--
whose name had begun to be well-known for freebooting enterprise as
Commodore Junk--had been taken prisoner.

Bart walked to the forecastle, where, on descending, he found Dinny and
Dick Dullock playing cards, the life they had led with their three
companions being one to which they had settled down without a hint of
change.

"Well!" asked Dinny, looking up from his dirty cards; "what does he
say?"

Dick the sailor gazed inquiringly at both in turn.

"Says he shall fetch the captain out."

Dinny whistled.

"And what does Black Mazzard say?" asked Dick.

"Don't know.  Hasn't been asked."

"Look here," said Dick, in a low voice.  "There's going to be trouble
over this.  Black Mazzard's captain now, he says, and he's got to be
asked.  He was down here swearing about that boat being sent off, and
he's been drunk and savage ever since."

"Hist!  What's that?" said Dinny, starting up, and then catching at
Bart's shoulder to save himself from falling.  "Head swims," he said,
apologetically.

"Ay, you're weak, lad," said Bart, helping him back to his seat.  "Why,
the boat's back!"

He hurried on deck, to find a boat alongside, out of which four men
climbed on deck, while Jack Dell, who had just heard the hail, came
hurrying up.

"Well?" he said.  "What news?"

The one spoken to turned away and did not answer.

"Do you hear?" cried Jack, catching him by the shoulder as a
heavy-looking man came on deck, lurched slightly, recovered himself, and
then walked fiercely and steadily up to the group.

"Bad news, captain," said another of the men, who had just come aboard.

"Bad--news?" said Jack, heavily.

"Bad news of the Commodore!" said the heavy-looking fellow, who was now
swaying himself to and fro, evidently drunk in body but sober in mind.

"Yes," said the man who had first spoken, "bad news."

"Tell me," cried Jack, hoarsely, as he pressed forward to gaze full in
the speaker's face, "what is it?  They have not sent him away?"

The man was silent; and as the rest of the crew, attracted by the return
of the boat, clustered round, Jack reeled.

"Stand by, my lad," whispered Bart at his ear.  "Don't forget."

The words seemed to give nerve to the sturdy, broad-shouldered young
man, who spoke hoarsely.

"Tried and condemned," he said, in a hoarse, strange voice.

"They've hung him--"

"What!"

"In chains on a gibbet."

A hoarse, guttural sound escaped from Jack's throat as he clung tightly
to Bart's arm.

"The gibbet's on the low point by the mangrove swamp," said the man.
"They've cut down two palms about a dozen feet and nailed another
across, and the captain's swinging there."

"A lie!" yelled Jack; "not my brother!"

There was a dead pause of utter silence for a few moments, and then the
man said slowly:

"Yes, we all saw it and made sure;" and a murmur of acquiescence arose
from his three companions, who had been in the boat in search of far
different information to that which they had brought.

"But not my brother?" groaned Jack.

"Yes," said the man.  "It was Commodore Junk."

As a dead silence once more fell upon the poop, the dark, heavy-looking
man stood swaying to and fro for a few minutes, gazing down at Jack, who
had dropped into a sitting position upon a water-keg, his arms resting
upon his knees, his hands hanging, and his head drooped; while Bart
stood by his shoulder with his face wrinkled and a pained expression
upon his brow, just illumined by the bright glint of the stars.

The heavy man nodded and seemed about to speak, but remained silent for
a time.  Then patting Jack on the shoulder:

"Brave lad!  Good captain!  For time of war!" he said.  "But never mind,
my lads.  We'll pay them for it, yet."

He lurched slightly and walked slowly toward the captain's cabin,
unnoticed by Jack and Bart; but Dinny's eyes were sharp enough to read
what all this meant, and he turned to his comrade Dick.

"Look at that, now!" he whispered.

"Ay, I was looking.  What does it mean?"

"Mane!" said Dinny, scornfully.  "It manes that Black Mazzard thinks
he's captain now."

"Then if the throat-cutting scoundrel is, I'm off first chance."

"An' I'm wid ye," said Dinny, earnestly.  "I'll go and lade a virtuous
life."

"And leave the skipper's brother and Bart?"

Dinny pulled off his cap and rubbed his head viciously.

"Now, why did ye want to go and say that?" he cried.  "Iverything was as
aisy as could be, and you go and upset it all."

"Poor Abel!" said Jack at last, softly.

"Ay, poor old Abel!" said Bart, with a groan.

"You here?" said Jack, starting up and catching the rough fellow by the
arm.

"Here?--ay!" growled Bart, slowly.  "Where did you think I was, lad?"

"I didn't think, Bart, or I shouldn't have said that," cried Jack,
earnestly.  "Where would you be but at my elbow if I was in trouble,
ready to be of help?"

"Ay, but there's no helping you here, lad," said Bart with a groan.

"No helping me!  But you can, Bart.  Do you wonder that I hate the
world?--that I see it all as one crowd of enemies fighting against me
and trying to crush me down?  Not help me!  Oh, but you shall!  My poor
brother!  They shall pay heavily for this!"

"What'll you do, lad?" said Bart, despondently.

"Do!" cried Jack, with a savage laugh--"do what poor Abel always hung
back from doing, and stopped Black Mazzard from many a time.  I don't
read my Bible now, Bart; but doesn't it say that there shall be blood
for blood; and my poor brother's cries aloud for vengeance, as they
shall see!"

"No, no, my lad," whispered Bart, hoarsely; "let it stop here.  It seems
to me as if something said: `This here's the end on it.  Now get her to
go back home.'"

"Home!" said Jack, with a fierce laugh.  "Where is home?"

"Yonder," said Bart, stolidly.

"No!  Here--at sea.  Bart, there is no other home for me; no other hope
but to have revenge!"

"Revenge, lad?"

"Ay, a bitter, cruel revenge.  I could have been different.  I was once
full of love and hope before I knew what the world was like, but that's
all past and dead--yes, dead; and the dead yonder is looking toward me
and asking me to remember what we have suffered."

"But think."

"Think, Bart?  I have thought till my brain has seemed to burn; and
everything points to revenge, and revenge I'll have!"

"It's the end of it all now," said Bart, solemnly.  "Let's go back."

"The way is open, Bart Wrigley.  I have no hold upon you, and I can work
alone.  Go!"

"You wouldn't talk like that," said Bart, huskily, "if you was cool."

"What do you mean, man?"

"'Bout me going," said Bart, in a low, husky voice.  "There's only one
way for me, and that's where you go, lad.  It allus has been, and it
allus will be till I'm took.  What are you going to do?"

The question was asked in a quick, decisive way, very different to the
despondent air that had pervaded his words before, and the manner was so
marked that Jack laid his hands on his companion's shoulders.

"It's my fate to be always saying bitter things to you, Bart, and
wounding you."

"Never mind about that," said Bart, huskily.  "Long as I'm the one as
you trusts, that's enough for me.  What are you going to do next?"

There was no answer for a few minutes, and then the words whispered were
very short and decisive.

"And let 'em think it's scared us, and we've gone right away?" said
Bart.

"Yes."

Bart gave a short, quick nod of the head, walked sharply to the
forecastle and yelled to the men to tumble up.  The result was that in a
very short time sail after sail was spread till a dusky cloud seemed to
hover over the deck of the schooner, which heeled over in the light
breeze and began skimming as lightly as a yacht eastward, as if to leave
the scene of the Commodore's execution far behind.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

THE GIBBET SPIT.

It had been a baking day in the town of Saint George, British Honduras,
and the only lively things about the place had been the lizards.  The
sky had seemed to be of burnished brass, and the sea of molten silver,
so dazzling that the eye was pained which fell upon its sheen.  The
natives were not troubled by the heat, for they sought out shady places,
and went to sleep, but the British occupants of the port kept about
their houses, and looked as if they wished they were dogs, and could
hang out their tongues and pant.

Saint George, always a dead-and-alive tropic town, now seemed to be the
dead alone; and as if to prove that it was so, the last inhabitant
seemed to have gone to the end of the spit by the marsh beyond the port,
where every one who landed or left could see, and there hung himself up
as a sign of the desolation and want of animation in the place.

For there, pendent from the palm-tree gibbet, alone in the most desolate
spot near the port, was the buccaneering captain, whose name had become
a by-word all along the coast, whose swift-sailing schooner had captured
vessels by the score, and robbed and burnt till Commodore Junk's was a
name to speak of with bated breath; and the captains of ships, whether
British or visitors from foreign lands, made cautious inquiries as to
whether he had been heard of in the neighbourhood before they ventured
to sea, and then generally found that they had been misled.  For that
swift schooner was pretty certain to appear right in their path, with
the result that their vessels would be boarded, the captain and crew
sent afloat in their boat not far from land, and the ship would be
plundered, and then scuttled after all that attracted the buccaneers had
been secured.

There had been rejoicings when the king's ship, sent over expressly to
put an end to piracy, found and had an engagement with the schooner--one
of so successful a nature that after the bloody fight was over, and the
furious attack by boarding baffled, three prisoners remained in the
hands of the naval captain, two of whom were wounded unto death, and the
other uninjured, and who proved to be the captain who had headed the
boarders.

Abel Dell's shrift had been a short one.  Fortune had been against him,
after a long career of success.  He saw his ship escape crippled, and he
ground his teeth as he called her occupants cowards for leaving him in
the lurch, being, of course, unaware that the retreat was due to his
lieutenant, Abram Mazzard, while when she returned through the
determined action of Jack, it came too late, for Abel Dell, otherwise
Commodore Junk, was acting as warning to pirates, his last voyage being
over.

The heat seemed to increase on that torrid day till nightfall, when
clouds gathered, and the flickering lightning flashed out and illumined
the long banks of vapour, displaying their fantastic shapes, to be
directly after reflected from the surface of the barely rippled sea.

"Hadn't we better give up for a bit?  Storm may pass before morning,"
whispered the thick-set figure standing close by the wheel.

"No, Bart; we must go to-night," was the reply.  "Is all ready?"

"Ay, ready enough; but I don't like the job."

"Give up, then, and let Dinny come."

"Did you ever know me give up?" growled Bart.

"'Tain't that: it's leaving the ship.  Black Mazzard ar'n't to be
trusted."

"What!  Pish! he dare do nothing."

"Not while you're here, my lad.  It's when you're gone that I feel
scared."

"You think--"

"I think he's trying to get the men over to his side, and some on 'em
hold with him."

Jack remained thoughtful for a few minutes.

"It is only lightning, Bart.  There'll be no storm.  We can get what we
want done in six hours at the longest, and he can do nothing in that
time--he will do nothing in that time if you put a couple of bottles of
rum within his reach."

Bart uttered a low, chuckling laugh.

"That's what I have done," he said.

"Then we're safe enough.  Where's Dinny?"

"Forward, along of Dick."

"Tell them to keep a sharp look-out while we're gone, and to be on the
watch for the boat."

Half an hour later, when the schooner was deemed to be near enough for
the purpose, an anchor was lowered down, to take fast hold directly in
the shallow bottom, a boat was lowered, into which Jack and Bart
stepped, the former shipping the little rudder, and Bart stepping a
short mast and hauling up a big sail, when the soft sea-breeze sent them
gliding swiftly along.

"He was asleep in the cabin," said Bart.  "Soon be yonder if it holds
like this.  Do you feel up to it, my lad, as if you could venter?"

"Yes," said Jack, sternly.

"But it's a wicked job, my lad, and more fit for men."

"I've thought all that out, Bart," was the reply.  "I know.  It is my
duty, and I shall do it.  Are the pistols loaded?"

"Trust me for that," growled Bart.  "They're loaded enough, and the
cutlashes has edges like razors.  So has my axe."

"Have you the tools?"

"Everything, my lad.  Trust me for that."

"I do trust you, Bart, always."

"And how are we to find our way back to the schooner in the dark?"

"We shall not find our way back in the dark, Bart, but sail right out
here as near as we can guess, and then lie-to till daybreak."

Bart kept his eyes fixed upon one particular light, and tried to
calculate their bearings from its relation to another behind; but all
the same, he felt in doubt, and shook his head again and again, when
some blinding flash of lightning gave him a momentary glance of the
shore.

But Jack did not hesitate for a moment, keeping the boat's head in one
direction with unerring instinct, till the waves were close upon their
left, and it seemed that in another minute they must be swamped.

Bart half rose, ready to swim for his life, as the boat leapt high, then
seemed to dive down headlong, rose again, dived, and then danced lightly
up and down for a few minutes before gliding slowly on again.

"Was that the bar?" he whispered eagerly.

"Yes.  It is rough at this time of the tide," was the answer, given in
the calmest manner, for Jack had not stirred.

Bart drew a breath full of relief.

"Be ready."

"Ready it is."

"Down sail."

The little yard struck, the sail collapsed, and, acting by the impetus
already given, the boat glided forward some distance and then grated
upon a bed of sand.

Bart shuddered slightly, but he was busy all the while arranging the
sail ready for rapid hoisting; and this done, he carried the grapnel out
some fifteen or twenty yards from the bows and fixed it cautiously in
the shore.--He was about to return when a hand was laid upon his
shoulder--a hand which seemed to come out of the black darkness.

Bart snatched a pistol from his belt, and put it back with a grunt.

"I didn't know it was you," he said, in a hoarse whisper.  "Lightning
seems to make it darker.  Where away?"

"Fifty yards south," said Jack, quietly.

"Then look here, my lad.  I don't want to disobey orders; but I'm a man
and you're only a--"

"Man," said Jack, quietly.

"Then you stop by the boat and--"

"Bart!"

"Nay, nay, let me speak, my lad.  Let me say all I want.  You can trust
me.  If Bart Wrigley says he'll do a thing for you, he'll do it if he's
got the strength and life in him.  So let me do this, while you wait for
me.  Come, now, you will!"

"No!  Come with me.  I must be there."

Bart drew in a deep breath, and muttered to himself as he listened to
the peculiarly changed voice in which his companion spoke.

"You're master," he said; "and I'm ready."

"Yes.  Take my hand, and speak lower.  There may be watchers about."

For answer Bart gripped his companion's hand, and together they walked
for some distance along the hard sand, where the spray from the rollers
swept up.  Then turning inland suddenly, they had taken about twenty
steps to the west when a vivid flash of lightning showed them that their
calculations had been exact, for there before them in all its horror,
and not a dozen yards away, stood the rough gibbet with the body of a
man pendent from the cross-beam, the ghastly object having stood out for
a moment like a huge cameo cut in bold relief upon some mass of marble
of a solid black.

"Abel!  Brother!" moaned Jack, running forward to sink kneeling in the
sand, and for a few moments, as Bart stood there in the black darkness
with his head instinctively uncovered, there arose from before him the
wild hysterical sobbings of a woman, at first in piteous appeal to the
dead, then in fierce denunciation of his murderers; but as the last cry
rang out there was a flickering in the sky, as if the _avant garde_ of
another vivid flash--the half-blinding sheet of flame which lit up the
gibbet once again; and it seemed strange to Bart that no woman was
there, only the figure of a short, well-built man, who stood looking
toward him, and said in a hoarse, firm voice--

"We are not likely to be interrupted; but to work, quick!"

"Right!" said Bart, hoarsely; and directly after, a rustling sound,
accompanied by a heavy breathing, was heard in the black darkness,
followed soon after by the clinking of iron against iron.

There was a faint flicker in the sky again, but no following flash, and
the darkness seemed to have grown more intense, as the panting of some
one engaged in a work requiring great exertion came from high up out of
the ebon darkness.

"The file, man, the file."

"Nay, I'll wrench it off," came from where the panting was heard.  Then
there was more grating of iron against iron, repeated again and again,
when, just as an impatient ejaculation was heard, there was a loud snap,
as if a link had been broken, a dull thud of a bar falling, and the
panting noise increased.

"Now, lad, quick!  Can you reach?  That's right.  Steady!  I can lower a
little more.  Easy.  A little more away.  You have all the weight now.
May I let go?"

"Yes."

There was the clank of a chain.  Then a heavy thud as if someone had
dropped to the ground, and then the chain clanked again.

"No, no; wait a moment, my lad.  Lower down.  That's it.  Let's leave
these cursed irons behind."

The rough grating of iron sounded again, the heavy panting was resumed,
and another sharp crack or two arose, followed by the fall of pieces on
the sand.

"That's it!" muttered Bart, as a dull clang arose from the earth.  "We
needn't have been afraid of any one watching here."

"I'll help."

"Nay; I want no help," panted Bart, as he seemed to be lifting some
weight.  "You lead on, my lad.  Pity we couldn't have landed here."

The reason was obvious; for seaward the waves could be heard rushing in
and out of a reef with many a strange whisper and gasping sound, giving
plain intimation that a boat would have been broken up by the heavy
waves.

"Shall I go first?"

"Ay; go first, lad.  Keep close to the water's edge; and you must kick
against the rope."

There proved to be no need to trust to this, for, as they reached the
water's edge, where the sand, instead of being ankle deep, was once more
smooth and hard, a phosphorescent gleam rose from the breaking waves,
and the wet shore glistened with tiny points of light, which were
eclipsed from time to time as the two dark, shadowy figures passed
slowly along, the first accommodating its pace to that of the
heavily-burdened second, till the first stopped short, close to where
the boat was moored.

It was plain to see, for the rope shone through the shallow water, as if
gilded with pale, lambent gold; while, when it was seized and drawn
rapidly, the boat came skimming in, driving from each side of its bows a
film as of liquid moonlight spread thinly over the water beyond, where
the waves broke upon the sand.

There was the sound of a voice as the figures waded in, one holding the
boat, and the other depositing his burden there.

"What's that?" whispered Bart.  "Did you speak?"

"No."

"Quick!  Get hold of the grapnel.  No.  On board, lad, quick!"

"Halt!  Who goes there?" cried a voice close by from where the darkness
was thickest.

For answer Bart cut the grapnel line, made sure that his companion was
in the boat, and then, exerting his great strength, he ran out with it
through the shallow water, just as there was a vivid flash of lightning,
revealing, about twenty yards away, a group of soldiers standing on the
rough shore, just beyond the reach of the tide.

"Halt!" was shouted again, followed by a warning.  And then followed a
series of rapid orders; four bright flashes darted from as many muskets,
and the bullets whistled overhead, the intense darkness which had
followed the lightning disturbing the soldiers' aim.

Orders to re-load were heard; but the boat was well afloat by now, and
Bart had crawled in, the tiller had been seized, and the sail was
rapidly hoisted, the wind caught it at once, and by the time another
flash of lightning enabled the patrol to make out where the boat lay, it
was a hundred yards from shore, and running rapidly along the coast.

A volley was fired as vainly as the first, and as the bullets splashed
up the water, Bart laughed.

"They may fire now," he said.  "We shall be a hundred yards farther
before they're ready again."

They sailed on into the darkness for quite two hours, during which the
lightning ceased, and the mutterings of the thunder were heard no more.
But though a careful look-out was kept--and Bart felt that they had
pretty well calculated the position of the schooner--they could not find
her, and the sail was lowered down.

"We've gone quite far enough," growled Bart.  "Where's that light that
Dinny was to show?"

There was no answer, and no light visible from where they lay for the
next three hours, waiting patiently till the first faint streak of dawn
should show them the waiting vessel, and their ghastly burden could be
carried aboard ready for a sailor's grave.

"It is a trick, Bart," said Jack at last, as he glanced at their freight
lying forward beneath a spare sail.

"Ay, I felt it, my lad," said Bart, frowning.  "I felt it last night.
Black Mazzard hain't the man to leave alone; and what's a couple o'
bottles o' rum to such as he?"

"The villain--the coward!" cried Jack, bitterly.  "At a time like this!"

"Ay, it's a bad time, my lad," said Bart, "but we've done our work, poor
chap; and the sea's the sea, whether it's off a boat or a schooner.  You
mean that, don't you, now?"

"No," said Jack, fiercely, as he pointed to the back-fins of a couple of
sharks.

"Ugh!" ejaculated Bart.  "What, then, my lad?"

"To find the schooner first, and if not, to make for one of the little
islands, where we'll land."

"Little more to the west, my lad," said Bart, after they had been
sailing in silence for some time.  "You'll land at the Sandy Key, won't
you?"

"Yes," said Jack, shortly, as he sat there with eyes fixed and frowning
brow.

"Poor old Abe!" said Bart to himself, as he gazed in turn at the ghastly
object in the bottom of the boat.  "One never used to think much of
dying in the old days; but if one did, it was of being drowned at sea,
washed ashore, and buried decently in the old church-yard atop of the
hill.  And now, old mate, after being a captain out here, we're a-going
to lie you over yonder in the warm, dry sand, where the sun always
shines and the cocoa-nuts grow; but you'll have no tombstone, lad, and
no words writ, only such as is writ in her heart, for she loved you,
Abe, old mate, more than she'll ever love me."

A sharp look-out was kept for the schooner; but though the horizon was
swept again and again, she was not in sight.

"It's one o' Black Mazzard's games, lad," Bart said at last, as a faint,
cloudy appearance was visible on their bow; "but we shall find him
yonder."

Jack bowed his head in acquiescence, and the boat skimmed rapidly on,
till the cloudy appearance began to take the form of a low island, from
whose sandy shore cocoa-nut palms waved their great pinnate leaves,
looking lace-like against the clear blue sky.

In a couple of hours they were close in, and the boat was run up in a
sandy cove sheltered by a point, with the result that, instead of the
tide setting in heavy rollers, there was just a soft curl over the
waves, and a sparkling foam to wash the fine pebble sand.

"No," said Bart, speaking as if in answer to his companion.

"Never mind," said Jack, quietly.  "We shall find the schooner
by-and-by.  Let's land."

Bart assisted to draw the boat well ashore, waiting till a good-sized
wave came, and then running the boat on its crest some yards farther up
the sand.

He looked up then at Jack, who nodded his head, and the canvas-draped
figure was lifted out and borne up to where the sand lay soft and thick,
as it had been drifted by the gales of the stormy season.

As Bart bent beneath his burden he nearly trod upon one of the great
land-crabs, with which the place seemed to swarm, the hideous creatures
scuffling awkwardly out of his way, snapping their claws menacingly, and
rolling their horrible eyes, which stood out on foot-stalks far from
their shelly orbits, and gave them a weird look as they seemed to be
inspecting the canvas-wrapped bag.

"Here?" said Bart, as they reached a smooth spot, where a clump of palms
made a slight shade.

"Yes," was the laconic reply.

"No tools," said Bart, half to himself; "but it don't matter, Abe, old
lad.  I can scratch a grave for you, and cut your name arter with my
knife on one o' them trees."

He laid his load tenderly down upon the sand, in the shadiest spot, and
then, stripping off his jacket and rolling up his sleeves over his
muscle-knotted arms, he began to scrape the sand away rapidly, and soon
made a long, narrow trench, though it was not easy work, for the soft,
fine, dry sand flowed slowly, as if it were a liquid, back into the
trench.

"That will do," said Jack, suddenly rising from where he had been
kneeling by Abel's side.

Bart ceased his task without another word, and at a sign from his
companion reverently went to the foot of the canvas-covered figure,
while Jack went to the head, and they lifted it into the shallow trench.

"And never said so much as a prayer over it!" muttered Bart to himself,
as he rapidly scooped back the sand with his hands, till the lower part
of his old mate's body was covered, leaving the head instinctively to
the last.

He was then about to heap the sand over gravewise, but Jack stopped him,
and, taking a piece of wreck wood, drew it along the place so as to
leave the sand level.

"What are you going to do?" he said, sternly, as Bart drew his knife.

"Cut a hay and a dee on that there tree," said the man, shortly.

"No."

"Not cut his letters there?" cried Bart, in a wondering tone.

"No, man, no.  Do you suppose I am going to leave him here?"

Bart closed his knife with a click, and screwed up his face.

"You're captain," he said, quietly; "what next?"

"Back to the boat."

Bart obeyed without another word, and as they walked down over the hot
sand, it was to pass several of the land-crabs, which rolled their eyes
and leered at them in a goblin way till the boat was launched, the sail
hoisted, and they coasted the side of the island to get round to its
back, and make sure that the schooner had not cast anchor off this--one
of the rendezvous for boats which had missed the schooner after being
sent away upon some expedition.

But their sail availed them nothing.  The schooner was not off the
island, and Bart looked at his companion for orders.

"It would take three days to reach the shelter," he said at last.

"With this wind--yes," replied Bart.  "No food, no water.  Shall us get
some nuts?"

There was no reply.  Jack sat with his arms resting upon his knees,
holding the tiller and gazing right before him, seeing nothing, but
trying to pierce the future.

"A-wondering what to do next," muttered Bart, watching his companion
furtively.  "If the poor thing could see the old cottage now, and the
bay, and a decent lugger lying off the point with her sails shivering,
would it still be no?"

"Still be no," he said to himself softly; "and yet I wouldn't ask to be
different to what I am."

"Mazzard has taken command, Bart," said Jack at last, "and we must make
a fresh start, my lad."

"Ay, ay, sir," cried Bart, sharply.

"We must get sufficient provisions somehow, and run across to the
shelter.  If the schooner is not there we must wait till she comes in."

"And you won't give up without a struggle?"

"Give up?"

"Hurrah!" cried Bart, joyously.  "Let's run up the Usa river to one of
the Indian places, and get some food and nuts, and then be off.  Hard
down!"

Instead of obeying and changing the boat's direction, Jack suddenly
pointed right away into the distance.

"What's that?"

Bart stood up and sheltered his eyes with his hand, so as to get a good
view of a triangular piece of sail glistening white in the sunshine, far
away, about the horizon line.

"There ain't another vessel with a raking sail like that!" he cried.  "I
shaped that sail.  Why, it is she!"

"Yes," said Jack, after a long look across the dazzling blue sea, "it's
the schooner, Bart; and she's coming here."

The boat danced over the sparkling waves, and three hours after she was
alongside the schooner, which was hove to--the wind being contrary--as
soon as the boat was descried by those on board.  Dinny was the foremost
in the group waiting to lower down the falls, and in a few minutes the
boat hung from the davits, and Jack gave a sharp look round as he
stepped upon the deck.

"Why was the schooner not waiting?"

"Faix, the captain gave orders for sail to be made," said Dinny, in a
meaning tone; "and away we wint."

"The captain!" said Jack, with a angry look in his eyes.  "Where is the
captain, then?"

"Sure," cried Dinny, as a murmur ran through the group gathered on the
deck; "sure, he's in his cabin, having a slape."

"It's all over, Bart, my lad," said Jack, bitterly.  "What will you do--
stop and serve under Captain Mazzard, or shall we go?"

"Do!" cried Bart, angrily, as he turned toward the men, who seemed to be
divided into two parties.  "Look here; I can't parley; but is it going
to be fair-play or no?"

"Yes!" rose with a shout; but it was met by a menacing growl; and one
man ran to the cabin, to return directly, half dragging, half leading
Mazzard, who stared round wildly in a drink-stupefied manner, and
faltered out, as if in answer to a question--

"No more, now!  Who's altered her course?"

There was a few moments' silence, during which the self-elected captain
stared about him, and tried to comprehend what was going on, for he had
just been roused suddenly from a rum-engendered sleep, and seemed like
one in a dream.

"What, isn't annybody going to spake?" cried Dinny; "thin I will.  Who
althered the ship's course!  Why, I did.  D'yer think I was going to
stand by and see a messmate left in the lurch?  Look here, my lads; I am
not going to make a spache, but the captain's dead, and you've got to
choose a new one."

"Hurrah for Dinny Kelly; he's the man!" shouted one of the sailors.

"If I didn't know ye can't help it, Sam Marlow, I'd say don't be a
fool!" cried Dinny, scornfully.  "Now, do I look like a captain!  Bad
luck to ye for an omadhaun.  I'm a foighting man, and not a sailor at
all; but ye've got to choose bechuckst two.  Who is it to be--Black
Mazzard there, or the old captain's brave little brother, Master Jack
here, the best sailor, steersman, and bravest little chap that ever
stepped on a plank?  What do you say, Dick?"

"Three cheers for Captain Jack!" cried Dick Dullock.

"Nay, nay, Commodore Junk!" cried Dinny; "that name's a power, me boys.
Now, then, who among ye says it isn't to be the captain's brother?"

"I do!" cried Mazzard, who was growing sobered by the excitement of the
scene.  "I do.  I'm captain of the schooner now; and if any man dares--"

He dragged a pistol from his belt and cocked it.

"Do you hear?" cried Mazzard again.  "I'm captain now, and if any man
dares to say I'm not, let him--Well, no, I won't give him time to say
his prayers!"

He stared round the ring of people, of which he now formed the centre,
the pistol barrel pointing all round, as if its holder were in search of
a mark.

Just then Bart stepped forward, but Jack drew him aside.

"No; let me speak," he said.

"Oh, it's you, is it, my whipper-snapper!" cried Mazzard, scornfully.
"There, we had enough of your little baby of a brother, and he's dead;
so now, if you want to keep your skin whole, go back to your place, and
if you behave yourself I'll make you my cabin-boy."

Jack continued to advance, looking round at the crew, who, some fifty
strong, had now hurried upon deck.

"D'yer hear?" roared Mazzard, who seemed brutally sober now.  "Go back,
or--"

He took aim at Jack with the pistol, and a murmur ran round the crew
once more--a murmur which was turned to a shout of applause, for, gazing
full at the drink inflamed countenance before him, Jack stepped right up
to Mazzard and seized the pistol, which exploded in the air.

The next moment it was wrenched out of the ruffian's hand, and sent
flying over the side, to fall with a splash in the sea.

"Look here, my lads," cried Jack, turning his back to Mazzard, and
ignoring the threatening gesture he made with a knife; "look here, my
lads; it is not for any man to say he will be your captain.  My brave
brother is dead--"

"God rest him!" cried Dinny.

"And it is for you to choose someone in his place.  Do you select Black
Mazzard?"

"No," roared Dinny, "the divil a bit!  Three cheers, me boys, for the
bowld little Commodore Junk!"

The crew burst into a roar, even those who had favoured Mazzard being
carried away.

"A lad who was niver afraid of anny man's pishtle," cried Dinny, leaping
on a cask and waving his cap.

"Hurrah!" shouted the men, enthusiastically.

"A lad who has only wan failing in him."

"Hurrah!" came in chorus, and a voice cried: "What's that, Dinny?"

"Faix, his mother made a mistake and let him be born out of Oireland."

There was another roar, and the crew pressed round Jack, whose face
flushed as he hold up his hand.

"Stop a minute, my lads!" he cried.  "Don't decide in haste, for I shall
be a hard officer."

"And a brave one," shouted Dinny.

"Hurrah!"

"Am I to understand," continued Jack, "that you select me for your
captain?"

"Yes, yes," came in a roar.

"Then I have a request to make," cried Jack; "and that is, that you
support and obey my first lieutenant."

"Hurrah for owld Bart Wrigley!" roared Dinny.

"No, no; stop!" cried Jack.  "I choose my own lieutenant.  Mazzard, will
you serve under me faithfully as a man?"

Black Mazzard stood scowling for a few moments, and then held out his
hand.

"I will," he said.  "There's no jealousy in me."

"Hurrah!" shouted the crew again; and directly after the new captain
gave orders for the schooner's head to be laid for Sandy Key, towards
which she was soon tacking to and fro.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

A HORRIBLE TASK.

Two days elapsed before the schooner was again well under the lee of
Sandy Key, and preparations were made to land as soon as it grew dusk.

It was a soft, calm evening, and the sea looked solemn and desolate as
the sun went down in a bank of clouds.  A good look-out had been kept,
but there was no sign of sail upon the wide spread sea, while the
solemnity of the hour seemed to have influenced the men, who had
gathered some inkling of their commander's intentions.

"Whisht!  Don't talk about it," said Dinny to one questioner.  "Sure,
it's a whim of the skipper's, and if he likes to take his brother and
bury him a bit more dacently at the shelter, who has a better right?"

"Are you going?"

"And is it me?  They wouldn't ask me."

Just at the same time a conversation was going on in the fore-part of
the vessel, where the captain had been standing for some time with Bart.

"Nay, nay, my lad," the latter whispered; "not this time."

"Have you got all ready?"

"Ay.  Just as you said."

"Then, an hour after sundown, we'll go."

Bart tightened up his lips and looked more obstinate than he had ever
before looked in his life.

"What is it?" said the captain, sharply.

"I was a-thinking," said Bart, shortly.

"Well--of what?"

"I was a-thinking that you've just been made captain, and that the
crew's with you, and that you're going to chuck it away."

"What do you mean, Bart?"

"I mean captain, as so sure as you give the lieutenant another chance
he'll take it, and the lads, like Dinny and Dick, mayn't have the chance
to get Mazzard drunk and come to your help."

"You do nothing but doubt your officer," said the captain, angrily.

"More do you," retorted Bart.

The captain started, and then turned angrily away; but Bart followed
him.

"You're skipper, and I'll do aught you like; but so sure as you leave
this here ship there'll be a row, and you won't be able to go again, for
you won't come back."

The captain took a turn up and down, and then stopped opposite Bart.

"I'll take your advice, Bart," he said, "though it goes very much
against the grain.  Take Dinny with you, and do this for me as if I were
helping you all the time."

"Ay; you may trust me."

"I do trust you, Bart, heartily.  Remember this: Abel and I were always
together as children and companions; to the last I loved my brother,
Bart."

Bart listened to the simply-uttered words, to which their tone and the
solemn time gave a peculiar pathos; and for a few moments there was
silence.

"I know," he said, softly.  "And in my rough way I loved Abel Dell as a
brother.  Don't you think because I say nought that I don't feel it."

"I know you too well, Bart.  Go and do this for me; I will stay aboard.
I'm captain now, since fate so wills it, and the men shall find that I
am their head."

"Hah!" ejaculated Bart, raising his hand, but dropping it again and
drawing back.  "That's how I like to hear you speak, captain.  Trust me,
it shall be done."

An hour later the men stood aloof as Bart and Dinny lowered a long deal
case into the boat and, as soon as the rope was cast off, hoisted the
little sail and ran for the sandy cove where the boat had landed before.

They were provided with a lantern, and this they kept shrouded in a
boat-cloak originally the property of the Spanish captain of a vessel
that had been taken.

The precaution was needless, for nothing was within sight; and they
landed and drew up the boat upon the sand, where the phosphorescent
water rippled softly, and then the long chest was lifted out, and Bart
bore it toward the cocoa-nut grove.

"Well," said Dinny, following close behind, "I did say that I wouldn't
do such work as this; but it's for the captain, and maybe some day I
shall be wanting such a job done for me."

Bart set down the case and Dinny the lantern beneath the cocoa-nut trees
close by the levelled patch of shore; and then, with the dull light
shining through the horn panes upon the sand, the two men stood in the
midst of the faint halo listening to the soft whispering of the tide
among the shingle, and the more distant boom of the surf.

"It's an unked job," said Bart at last.  "But, poor lad, it's the
skipper's wish.  A lovely spot for a man to be put to rest."

Dinny did not speak for a few moments.  Then with an effort--

"Let's get it done, me lad.  I niver belaved in annything worse than the
good people, and the phooka, and the banshee, of coorse; but it makes a
man's flesh seem to crape over his bones to come body-snatching, as ye
may call it, on a dark night like this."

They both stood hesitating and shrinking from their task for a few
minutes longer, and then Bart stooped down and began to sweep back the
sand.

"It's laid light over him, Dinny, my lad," he said.  "Just sweep it
away, and we can lift him into his coffin."

"But--"

"He's wrapped in a canvas for his winding sheet, lad.  Sweep away the
sand there from his feet."

Dinny bent down and was in the act of scooping away the dry sand when he
uttered a yell and darted away, followed by Bart, who was somewhat
unnerved by his weird task, and who did not recover himself till they
reached the boat.

"Here, what is it?" cried Bart, recovering himself, and grasping Dinny
by the arm, feeling indignant now at his own cowardice.  "Are you afraid
of a dead man?"

"No; but he isn't dead!" panted Dinny.

"What?"

"As soon as I touched him I felt him move!"

"Dinny, you're a fool!" cried Bart, in an exasperated tone of voice.  "I
wish he was alive, poor lad!"

"I tell you," cried Dinny, catching his arm, "he moved in his grave--I
felt it plain!"

"Come back!" said Bart, fiercely.

"Divil a bit!"

"Come back!"

"Divil a bit, I say!"

"You coward!" cried Bart.  "Am I to go and do it alone?"

"No, no, Bart, me lad, don't thry it.  There's something quare about the
owld business."

"Yes," said Bart, savagely.  "You turned coward and upset me.  I don't
know whether I'm most ashamed of you or of myself."

He walked straight back toward where the soft yellow light of the
lantern could be seen under the trees, leaving Dinny staring, trembling,
and scratching his head.

"He's gone and left me alone," muttered Dinny.  "Sure, and is it a Kelly
as is a coward?  If it was to face a man--or two men--or tin men--I'd do
it if I had me shtick.  But a dead body as begins to move in its grave
as soon as ye thry to lift it out, and says quite plain, wid a kick of
its legs, `Lave me alone, ye spalpeen!' why, it's too much for a boy."

"Are you coming, Dinny?" cried Bart, as he approached the lantern.

"Bedad, and he'll think me a coward if I don't go," said Dinny, panting.
"Sure, and what are ye thrimbling about?  D'ye call yourselves legs,
and go shakking undher a boy like that?  Faix, I'm ashamed of ye!  Go
along, do; and it isn't me that's freckened, but me legs!"

He mastered his dread and ran swiftly after Bart, who had once more
reached the sandy trench.

"I thought you'd come, Dinny," said Bart.  "You're not the lad to leave
a mate in the lurch."

"Thrue for ye, me boy; but are we to tak' him back in the boat?"

"Yes, it's the captain's orders."

"Howly Pater, but it's dreadful work!" said Dinny.

"Then let's get it done," said Bart, stolidly; and he drew off the lid
of the rough case.  "Come, lad, let's lift the poor fellow quickly into
his coffin and act like men."

"But didn't ye fale him move, Bart, lad?" whispered Dinny.

"No.  What foolery!" growled Bart.  "Fancy!"

"Divil a bit, sor!  I just touched him," whispered Dinny; "and he worked
his toes about, and thin give quite a kick."

"Bah!" ejaculated Bart.

"Bedad, but he did!" whispered Dinny.  "Wait a minute.  The poor boy
don't like it, perhaps.  If we only had Father McFadden here!"

"What are you going to do?"

"Shpake to him," said Dinny, trembling; "and the blessed saints stand
bechuckst me and harm!" he muttered, fervently.  "Abel, me lad--captin,
don't ye want to go?"

There was a dead silence.

"Shpake to us, me lad, and say _no_ if you don't; and we'll respect your
wishes."

The silence that followed Dinny's address to the dead was broken by an
impatient ejaculation from Bart.

"Come on!" he said.  "Do you take me for a fool?  Lift, man, or I'll do
it myself!"

Thus adjured, Dinny went once more to the foot of the shallow trench,
and stooped down.

"Now, then, together!" said Bart.  "The dead can't hurt the quick."

Dinny thrust his hands down in the sand on either side of the rolled-up
canvas, made as if to lift, and then, as his hands met, he uttered
another yell and fell upon his knees.

Bart started away as well, and stood in the dim light, trembling.

"There!  Didn't you fale him move?" whispered Dinny, who was shaking
violently.  "Captin darlin', we were only obeying ordhers.  Sure, and we
wouldn't disthurb ye for all the world if ye didn't want to come.  Don't
be angry wid us--it was ordhers, ye know; and av coorse ye know what
ordhers is."

"Did--did you feel it too, Dinny?" said Bart, hoarsely.

"Did I fale it!  Sure, and he worked his toes again, and then give a
bigger kick than ever!"

"Dinny," cried Bart, passionately, "the poor fellow has been buried
alive!"

"Buried aloive!" said Dinny.

"Yes; he has come to.  Quick, uncover him!"

"Buried aloive!  And it isn't a did man kicking again' being disthurbed
in his grave!" cried Dinny, changing his tone and springing up.  "Howly
Pater! why didn't ye say so before?  Here, have him out at wanst!--the
poor boy will be smothered wid the sand!  Quick, me boy! quick!"

He dashed at the trench again, and Bart seized the head, both lifting
together; and then, as the sand streamed away from the canvas cover in
which the remains of poor Abel had been wrapped, they both uttered a
hoarse cry of horror and stood holding up their ghastly burden as if in
a nightmare, terror paralysing them.  For they felt that the long
wrapper was alive; and from out of holes eaten in it, and dimly-seen in
the lantern's yellow light, dozens of the loathsome land-crabs scuffled
quickly out, to keep falling with a heavy pat upon the sand and crawl
away; while as their shells rattled and scratched and their claws
clinked together, the burden grew rapidly lighter, the movement
gradually ceased, and the two men stood at last, icily cold, but with
the sweat streaming from them, holding up the old sail containing
nothing but the skeleton of the poor fellow they sought.

"Oh, murther!" gasped Dinny at last.  "Bart, lad, think o' that!"

Bart uttered a sound that was more like a groan than an ejaculation; but
neither of them moved for some moments.

"What'll we do now?" said Dinny at last.

Bart did not speak, but he made a movement side wise, which his
companion unconsciously imitated, and together they reverently laid the
grisly remains in the case, which Bart covered, and then screwed down
the lid, for he had come prepared.

"What'll the captain say?" whispered Dinny, as he held the lantern up
for Bart to see the holes made ready for the screws.

Bart turned upon him fiercely.

"Don't say a word of it to him," he said harshly.  "Poor lad, it would
break his heart."

"Not tell him?"

"Dinny, lad, you'll keep your tongue about this night's work?"

"Not tell the boys?"

"Not tell a soul," said Bart.  "We're friends, and it's our secret, lad.
You'll hold your tongue?"

"Howlt my whisht?  Yes," said Dinny, "I will.  Bart, lad, d'ye feel
freckened now?"

"No."

"Nor I, nayther.  It was the thought that there was something else that
freckened me.  Phew, lad! it's very hot."

He wiped the great drops of sweat from his brow, and then, as Bart ended
his task--

"Ye were scared, though, Bart," he said.

"Yes, I never felt so scared in my life."

"I shake hands, thin, lad, on that.  Thin I needn't fale ashamed o'
running away.  Faix, but it's an ugly job!  Oh! the divils.  Sure, and
whin I die I won't be buried here."

Dinny's observations were cut short by Bart placing the lantern on the
deal case; and then together the two men bore their eerie load down to
the boat and laid it across the bows, the lantern being hidden once more
beneath the folds of the great cloak with which the rough coffin was
solemnly draped.

"You'll be silent, Dinny," said Bart.

"Niver fear, my lad," said the Irishman.

Then the boat was run out as far as they could wade, the sail hoisted,
and long before dawn they reached the schooner, over whose side hung a
signal light.

As they reached the vessel, the captain's face appeared in the glow shed
by the light.  The coffin was lifted on board, and then down into the
captain's cabin, after which the schooner's wide wings were spread, and
she was speeding on over the calm waters to the shelter, far away, that
formed the buccaneers' retreat and impregnable home, while Commodore
Junk went down to his cabin, to kneel by the coffin side, and pray for
strength to complete his vengeance against the world and those who had
robbed him of the only one he loved.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

THE PEST OF THE WEST.

The merchants of Bristol sent in a petition to His Majesty the King,
saying that the trade of the port was being ruined, that their ships
were taken, that the supplies of sugar and tobacco must run short, and
that, while the ladies would suffer as to their coffee, there would soon
be no snuff ground up for the titillation of the noses of the king's
liege subjects.

Always the same story--Commodore Junk, in command of a long, low,
fast-sailing schooner, was here, there, and everywhere.  This sugar and
coffee-laden ship was plundered and burnt off Kingston port, so near
that the glow of the fire was seen.  That brig, full of choice mahogany
logs, was taken near Belize.  A fine Bristol bark, just out of the great
port of South Carolina, full of the choicest tobacco-leaf, was taken the
next week.  And so on, and so on.  Ships from Caracas, from the Spanish,
French, and Dutch settlements, heavily-laden, or from England outward
bound, were seized.  All was fish that came to the pirate's net, and if
the vessels were foreign, so much the worse for them, the buccaneer
captain dealing out his favours with fairly balanced hand till the
shores of the great gulf and the islands that formed the eastern barrier
rang with the news of his deeds.

Government heard what was said, and replied that five years before they
had sent out a ship to capture Commodore Junk, that there was a severe
engagement, and the captain was taken and hung, and afterwards gibbeted
off the port where his deeds obtained most fame.

To which the Bristol merchants replied in a further petition that though
it was as the Government stated, Commodore Junk's body had been taken
down from the gibbet soon after it was hung up, that he had come to life
again, and that his deeds were now ten times worse than before.

Moreover, that somewhere or another on the western shores of the great
Mexican Gulf, he had a retreat where he lived in great luxury when
ashore; that maidens, wives, and widows had been captured and taken
there to live a life of terrible captivity; that many bloody deeds had
been done after desperate fighting, men being compelled to walk the
plank or sent adrift in small boats far from land; and that, though
spies had been sent out, no one had been able to discover the mysterious
retreat, even the Indians who had been bribed to go returning with their
heads minus their ears, or else with strange tales that the buccaneer
was under the protection of the great thunder gods, whose home was in
the burning mountains, and that it was useless to try to destroy him and
his crew.

Moreover, the men of Bristol said that it was a crying shame that their
ships and cargoes should not have adequate protection, seeing what a
deal they paid to the revenue for the goods they imported, and that one
of His Majesty's ships ought to be more than a match for all the thunder
gods in Central America, and His Majesty's petitioners would ever pray.

The king's minister of the time said that the men of Bristol were a set
of old women, and that it was all nonsense about Commodore Junk; and for
some months longer nothing was done.  Then came such an angry clamour
and such lengthy accounts of the crimes the buccaneer had committed that
the Government concluded that they must do something, and gave their
orders accordingly.

The result was that one day Captain Humphrey Armstrong walked along the
Mall in his big boots, which creaked loudly over the gravel.  The gold
lace on his uniform glittered in the sunshine; and as he wore his cocked
hat all on one side, and rested his left hand upon the hilt of his
sword, which hung awkwardly across him, mixed up with the broad skirts
of his coat, he looked as fine and gallant a specimen of humanity as was
to be found in the king's service.

The officers of the king's guards, horse and foot, stared at him, and
more than one pair of bright eyes rested with satisfaction on the
handsome, manly face, as the captain went along smiling with
satisfaction and apparently conceit.

It was with the former, not the latter, for the captain was on his way
to Saint James's Square, to keep an appointment at Lord Loganstone's,
and before long he was in earnest converse with Lady Jenny Wildersey,
his lordship's youngest daughter, one of the most fashionable beauties
of her day.

"Yes," said the captain, after nearly half an hour's preliminary
conversation.  "It is in the course of duty, and I must go."

"La!" said her ladyship, with a very sweet smile.  "But couldn't you
send someone else!"

"At the call of duty!" cried the captain.  "No.  Besides, you would not
wish me to stay under such circumstances as those."

"La!" said her ladyship, as, after a show of resistance, she surrendered
her lily-white hand, and suffered it to be kissed.

"And how long will it take you to capture this terrible buccaneer?"

"I shall be away for months," said the captain.

"La!" said the lady.

"But I shall fight like some knight-errant of old, and fly back."

"La!" said the lady.

"With the wings of my good ship," said the captain, "and hasten to lay
the trophies of my victory at my darling's feet."

"You will be sure to bring him?" said the lady.

"I hope he will fall in the fight," said the captain.

"Then you are going to fight?"

"Yes, I am going out in command of a splendid ship with a crew of brave
men, to attack and exterminate this horde of wasps, and I hope to do it
like a man."

"But will anybody bleed?"

"I fear so."

"La!  Will you be hurt?"

"I hope not.  But I must run the risk; and if I come back wounded, it
will be in your service, dearest, and then I shall claim my reward."

"No," said the lady, with one of her most winning looks.  "I don't
believe you.  Sailors are worse than soldiers, and you will fall in love
with one of the lovely Spanish ladies out there, and forget all about
poor little me."

"Forget you!" cried the captain, passionately; "never!  My love for you
grows stronger every day; and as to beauty, was there ever a woman so
beautiful as you?"

"La!"

Captain Humphrey was about to throw himself on his knees as well as his
big boots would allow; but just then the door opened, and fresh visitors
were announced, and though the topic of the captain's appointment to the
sloop of war _Queen Jane_, for the extermination of the West Indian
buccaneers, formed the staple of the conversation, he had to leave at
last with nothing warmer than a smile, but full of a great deal of hope.

For love had blinded the eyes of the stout captain lately introduced to
the fashionable beauty, and welcomed on account of the fact that he had
lately succeeded to the Devonshire estates of the Armstrongs, consequent
upon the death of his cousin James, who had been killed in a duel
arising out of some affair of gallantry, the husband of the lady in
question objecting to Captain James Armstrong's advances, and running
him through the body.

So, deeply in love with as pretty a bit of artificiality as ever
dressed, or rather believing himself deeply in love, Captain Humphrey
joined his well-found ship at Falmouth, sailed for the far west and the
land of the torrid sun; and the men of Bristol rubbed their hands,
thought of their freights, and sat down to their ledgers, while they
waited for the news of the hanging of Commodore Junk.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

THE PIRATE CHASE.

"It's like hunting a will-o'-the-wisp on Dartmoor," cried Captain
Humphrey, as he sat in one of his ship's boats, wiping the perspiration
from his sun-scorched face.  "One day I'm ready to swear it is all a
myth, the next that there are a dozen Commodore Junks."

For he had been out in the Mexican Gulf for six months, and was as far
off finishing his task as on the day when he had reached Kingston
harbour, and listened to the tales of the buccaneer's last deeds.

But it was no myth.  Put in where he would, it was to hear fresh news of
the pirates.  Now some unfortunate captain would arrive in a small boat,
with his crew, suffering from heat, thirst, and starvation.  Now the
half-burned hull of a goodly argosy would be encountered on the open
sea.  At another time news would come of a derelict that had been
scuttled but not sunk, and seen in such and such latitude.

Wherever he went Captain Humphrey was met with news, and at last with
reproaches and almost insult by the authorities at the various ports at
which he touched, for the way in which his task was being done.

For there was he with a small, swift-sailing ship, full of stout seamen,
bravely officered, well-armed, and with guns big enough to blow all the
schooners in the west to matchwood, while from the captain to the
smallest powder-monkey all were red-hot with desire to meet the
Commodore and give him a foe who knew how to fight.

Six months of following out clues, of going here and there where the
schooner had been seen, or where it was expected, but never even to see
the tail-end of that huge main-sail that caught the wind, laid the long
schooner over, and sent her rushing through the water in a way that made
all attempts at escape childish.  In gale or calm it was always the
same, and the masters of the many traders knew from experience that if
the buccaneer's schooner was in sight, they might as well heave-to as
try to fly, for their capture was certain.  Consequently, it was growing
fast into a rule that when the long schooner fired a shot, it was the
proper thing to lower sail or throw a vessel up in the wind, and wait,
so as not to irritate the enemy by trying to escape.

Messages travelled slowly in those days, but all the same Captain
Humphrey Armstrong had received a despatch hinting at a recall, and a
friendly letter telling him that if he did not soon have something to
show he would be superseded and in disgrace.

He was a rich man, and at the end of three months he did not scruple to
offer rewards for information; he doubled his offer to the man who would
bring him within reach of the Commodore's schooner; and beginning with
ten guineas, he went on increasing, as the time went on, till he reached
a hundred, and, at last, when six months had passed, it was known all
round the coast that Captain Armstrong would give a thousand guineas to
be brought alongside the schooner.

Captain Humphrey ground his teeth when he was alone in his cabin, and he
swore as a Devon captain could swear in those days; but it did no good,
and in spite of all his struggles, he could only look upon Commodore
Junk as a will-o'-the-wisp.

"What will Lady Jenny think?" he groaned.  "And I meant to do so much!"

At last what he dreaded arrived.  He sailed into port one day, to find
his recall; and he went back on board ship, ordered all sail to be made,
and, ignoring the order, determined to find the Commodore or die.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

THE BLACK SCHOONER.

Commodore Junk's schooner, with its enormous spars and sails, had been
lying-to off the harbour of Saint Geronimo one afternoon, where she had
taken in a good store of fresh fruit for her crew, while waiting the
return of one of her officers who had been overland to Belize to pick up
information that might be useful to the captain.

Bart Wrigley was silent that calm, still evening for a long time after
the captain had spoken, and then--

"It's a mistake, my dear lad," he said angrily.  "You do as you like,
and I'll follow you through with it, and so will the men; but I say it's
a mistake."

"And why!" asked the captain, coldly.  "Are you afraid to meet the
ship!"

"Nay, I don't know as I'm afraid," said Bart; "but where's the good?
She's twice stronger than we, and we shall get nothing but hard knocks."

"Do you think I should be so mad as to attack such a ship as that on
equal terms?"

"I dunno," growled Bart: "May be.  Where's the good of fighting her at
all?"

"Why do I pursue so many vessels, and take such revenge as I do!" said
the captain.  "Do you think I've forgotten mine and my brother's
wrongs!"

"No; you wouldn't forget them," said Bart, slowly; "but you're going to
run too much risk."

"Not too much to gain such sweet revenge, Bart," said the captain,
excitedly; and the dark eyes which gazed at the rough, Devon man seemed
to burn.  "Do you know who commands this ship that has been hunting us
these six mouths?"

"Yes; a brave officer in the king's service."

"A brave officer!" cried the captain, contemptuously.

"Well, that's what they say; and that he has sworn to die or take us."

"He--sworn!" cried the captain.  "A brave captain!  Did you and poor
Abel find him so brave when you met him that night on the road to
Slapton Lea?"

"What!" cried Bart.  "No; 'tisn't him!"

"That ship is commanded by Captain Armstrong," said the captain,
hoarsely; "by the man, Bart, who blasted my life; who sent my brother to
his death out here, for it was through him poor Abel died."

"No!  Never!" cried Bart, incredulously.

"It's true, Bart.  I have just learned that it is he by Dinny, who has
returned from Belize.  She is commanded by the man I once thought I
loved."

"But you don't love him now?"

"Love!  Bart Wrigley, can you believe in a person's nature being changed
by cruelty and wrong."

"No.  Not yours," growled Bart.

"Then you may believe it, Bart; and now the time has come, and I am
going to have my revenge.  Do you know what I am going to do?"

"You told me," said Bart, roughly.  "Fight."

"Yes; but so as to spare my men, and to spare myself.  Bart, I am going
to teach the king's grand officer what it is to trifle, and to treat
those he holds beneath him as if they were meant for his pleasure, and
made for that alone.  I am going to destroy the ship of this grand
officer, to scatter his men, and to take him prisoner if I can."

"No!" said Bart, hoarsely.  "Don't do that."

"Why!" cried the captain, mockingly.  "Are you afraid that I shall be
weak once more?  Don't be afraid, Bart.  Mary Dell is dead, and it is
the soul of her brother who moves this body, and he it is who will take
a bitter revenge upon Captain Armstrong for slaying Mary Dell; for in
spirit it is this he did."

"You won't kill him?" whispered Bart.

"Why not?  Was Mary Dell spared?  Was Abel, her brother, treated so
tenderly that I should hold my hand?"

"But--" began Bart.

"Leave that to me, Bart Wrigley.  Help me to get him into my power, and
then he shall learn a truth which will make the traitor--the coward--
wince.  Brave officer of his Majesty the King!  How brave you shall see.
Now, do you understand why I mean to fight?"

"Yes," said Bart, sadly; "I see.  But think twice, my lad."

"Bart!" cried the captain, passionately, "I've thought a hundred times;
and if I were ashore, and could go there--"

"I know," said Bart, gloomily.  "You'd come out more and more savage and
determined, as you always have been.  Think twice, my lad.  You're rich;
and you're safe.  Once more, why not throw it up now and let's go home.
I asks no more, captain.  I've lived long enough to know all that; but
come home now.  There's a life o' peace yonder, and you can take it now;
to-morrow it may be too late."

"Let it be so then, Bart."

"And you'll come home--to old Devon once again?"

"No!  I'm going to meet the captain face to face, Bart, and plant my
heel upon his neck."



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

NEWS AT LAST.

Humphrey Armstrong sat in his cabin listening to the whirr of a beetle
which had been attracted by the lights, and flown in through the open
window, to make a bass to the treble hum of the mosquitoes which haunted
the mouth of the river where the ship had anchored for the night.

The day had been intensely hot, and the cabin seemed ovenlike, as its
occupant sat listening to the insect hum; and then to the strange
croakings and rustling noises which came from the primeval forest on
either side.  Now and then a deep roar announced the presence of some
huge creature of the cat tribe prowling in search of prey, and this
would be followed by a distant answering call.

He walked to the window and looked out, to see the stars reflected in a
blurred manner in the rushing waters of the river; while on either side
he could see the bushes which fringed the muddy banks scintillating with
the lamps of the fireflies.  Now they died out, and there would be only
a faint twinkle here and there; then, as if something had disturbed or
agitated the wondrous insects, they would flash out into soft, lambent
sparks of light which played about and darted and circled, and then once
more died out, as if to give place to some other creature of their kind,
which flashed out so broad a light that the leaves of the trees around
could be plainly seen.

He had been away five days since the orders had come out for his return,
in the vain hope that perhaps now he might at last encounter the
buccaneer; but, so far, he had seen or heard nothing; and the pirate
captain might have dropped out of sight, or never existed, on the
evening when the captain searched creek after creek along the coast,
till nightfall, when, for safety's sake, he had anchored at the mouth of
the muddy stream.

He was lost in thought, and was puzzling out an answer to the question:
How was it that the buccaneer schooner contrived to avoid him?--when his
trained ears detected the sound of a paddle, and he gazed keenly over
the dark waters, wondering whether his watch on deck had heard it, and
how long they would be ere they challenged the approaching party in
their boat?

The question had hardly been mentally asked when he heard the challenge
from on deck, and the paddling ceased.  Then came a certain amount of
shouting, and a conversation, muffled by the distance, followed, and the
boat was allowed to approach.

A minute later the officer of the watch came down to announce the
arrival of a couple of Indians bearing news.

"It's the old story, sir, vamped up to get a bottle of rum; but I
thought I'd better report it to you.  Shall I kick them, and let them
go!"

"No," said the captain, shortly, for he was ready now to snatch at
straws.  "What does the man say?"

"There are two of them, sir; and they say the pirate vessel is to be
found a day's journey to the south, and that they have seen it lying at
anchor."

"Do they seem honest!"

"Honest as Indians, sir.  I think it's all made up."

"I'll come and see them."

The captain rose and went on deck, where he found a couple of soft,
brown, plump-looking Indians, with large, dreamy eyes and languid
manner, seated upon their heels near the gangway, where they could give
a glance from time to time at their canoe swinging by a frail-looking
bark rope.

The men did not stir as the captain came up, but crouched in their old
position, gazing up at him furtively.

"Now," he said, sharply, "where is this pirate ship?"

The men looked at him vacantly.

"Commodore Junk!" said Humphrey.

"El Commodore Yunk; yes.  Ship there."

One of the Indians had caught his meaning, and pointed southward.

"Have you seen the ship?"

The men nodded quickly and pointed again.

"Why have you come here to tell us?"

The Indian stared, then looked at his companion, with whom he rapidly
exchanged a few words, ending by turning back, holding out his hands,
and exclaiming--

"El Commodore Yunk.  Money.  Rum."

"There's a frankness about this fellow that makes me disposed to believe
him," said Humphrey, grimly, as he smiled at the officer.  "`Commodore
Yunk.  Money.  Rum.'  And the pointing seems to me as effective as the
longest speech.  Look here, can you understand?  Show us--"

"Show--show--way--El Commodore Yunk."

"Yes, that will do," said the captain.  "But mind this; if you play us
false--here, show him!"

"Show--El Commodore Yunk," cried the Indian, catching the last words.
"Money--powd--rum."

"You shall have plenty," said Humphrey; "but make him understand that if
he plays us false he shall be hung at the yard-arm."

The officer of the watch, quite a young man, seemed to enjoy his task;
for, catching up the signal halyards, he rapidly made a noose, threw it
over the Indian's head, and drew it tight.  Then, pointing upward, he
said slowly--

"If you cheat!"

"Hang um?" said the Indian, sharply.

"Yes.  We shall hang you if you don't show Commodore Junk."

"Show El Commodore Yunk," said the Indian, composedly.

"I think he understands us," said the officer of the watch.

"Very well, then," cried Humphrey.  "Let's start, then, at once.  Now,
then, south!" he cried to the man.

"South?" said the Indian.

"Yes, south!" cried the captain, pointing.  "Show us the way."

"Show.  El Commodore Yunk.  No."

He shook his head, and pointed around him, and then to the lanterns,
which shed a dim light over the scene.

"No.  Dark," he said.

"He means it is too dark to go," said the second officer.  "Look here,
old brownskin.  Light? sun?"

"Light--sun!" cried the Indian, eagerly, pointing to the east, and then
seizing the thin rope which had been twisted round his neck, he ran to
the gangway, slid down into his boat, made the cord fast, and came
scrambling up again to secure the signal-line.

This done, he said a few words to his companion, and, going to the side,
threw himself down under the bulwarks, and seemed to go to sleep at
once.

"Yes; that's plain enough," said Humphrey.  "He means to wait till
daylight.  Keep a strict watch.  We may have found the right man at
last."

He need have been under no anxiety as to the two informers, for they lay
motionless till daybreak, and then rose suddenly, looked sharply round,
and, going forward, pointed to the rope which moored them in mid-stream.

Half an hour later the sloop was gliding slowly out of the mouth of the
river; the lowered sails caught the cool, moist morning breeze, and, in
obedience to the Indian's directions which were embraced in the pointing
of a brown hand southward, the king's ship sailed steadily along the
coast a few miles from the shore, which, with its sandy beach
alternating with bold headlands that ran down from regularly-formed
volcanic-looking peaks, and creeks, and river estuaries, fringed with
palm and mud-loving growth, showed plenty of spots where a vessel might
find a hiding-place, and which it would have taken a fleet of boats to
adequately explore.

The Indian's conduct increased the confidence of Humphrey; and as the
day wore on the officers and crew, who had been for months chasing
myths, began to look forward hopefully to an encounter with the pirates,
and to believe that the preparations for action might not this time
prove to have been in vain.

It was within two hours of sundown, as the men were at their drowsiest
moment--many being fast asleep--when, as they were rounding a rocky
point feathered with glorious palms, beyond which the country ran up
toward the mountains in a glorious chaos of piled-up rock, deep ravine,
and fire-scathed chine, the principal Indian suddenly seized the
captain's arm and pointed straight before him to where, a couple of
miles away, and looking as if she had just glided out of some hidden
channel running into the land, there was a long, low, black-hulled
schooner, spreading an enormous amount of canvas for so small a vessel;
and as he saw the rake of the masts and the disproportioned size of her
spars, Humphrey Armstrong felt a thrill of exultation run through him
even as his whole crew was now galvanised into life, and he mentally
repeated the words of the Indian--

"El Commodore Yunk."

Yes; there could be no doubt of it.  The shape and size of the vessel
answered the description exactly, and no trader or pleasure vessel,
foreign or British, would sail with so dangerously an overweighting rig
as that.

"At last, then!" cried Humphrey, excitedly, as he stood gazing at the
long, suspicious-looking craft; and his heart beat heavily, his face
flushed, and the hands which held his glass trembled with eagerness.

The men made way to right and left as their captain strode aft and
exclaimed--

"Bring the poor fellows here.  They shall have their reward and go."

"Was it treachery, or fear of the enemy?"

Humphrey asked himself this question as a shout came from the steersman,
who, like the rest, had been gazing at the schooner, but who was the
first to see and draw attention to a canoe being paddled rapidly for the
shore.

No one had been attending to the two Indians, who had waited until the
attention of all was bent upon the buccaneer, and then silently slipped
over the side, glided down the rope, and cast off, to paddle shorewards.

There was good discipline on board ship even then, and at the call to
quarters every man fell into place.  The long gun was run in, loaded,
run out, and directly after there was a puff of smoke, a loud report
which went echoing among the mountains and through the densely-wooded
ravines, as a round shot skipped over the water right in front of the
schooner.

"Hurrah!" shouted the men, as they saw the long vessel alter her course
a little.

"She surrenders," said Humphrey to himself; and in the brief moments
that followed he saw himself returning to England in triumph, his task
done, and beautiful, fashionable Lady Jenny Wildersey welcoming him with
open arms.

It was a puff of fancy, dissipated like the puff of smoke which came
from the schooner's bows; while, in company with the report that rumbled
heavily away, came a round shot skipping over the calm surface of the
sea, not forward like the summons to heave-to of the king's ship, but
straight at her hull, and so well-aimed that it tore through the
starboard bulwark amidships and passed just in front of the mainmast,
which it almost grazed.

"The insolent!" exclaimed Humphrey, turning purple with rage.  "How dare
he!"

As he spoke he raised his spy-glass to his eye, for something could be
seen fluttering up the side of the great main-sail, and directly after a
large black flag was wafted out by the breeze in defiance of a
ship-of-war double the schooner's size, and heavily armed, as well as
manned by a picked and disciplined crew.

"Very good, Commodore!" cried Humphrey, with a smile.  "You can't escape
us now.  Gentlemen, the ball has opened.  Down with her spars, my lads.
Never mind her hull; we want that to take back to Falmouth, from whence
she shall sail next time with a different rig."

The men cheered and the firing commenced, when, to the annoyance of the
captain, the wind dropped entirely, a dead calm ensued; night was coming
on rapidly, as it descends in the tropic lands, and he had either to try
and silence the schooner at long range, or man the boats and take her by
boarding, a plan from which he shrank, knowing, as he did, that it could
only be successful at a terrible cost of life, and this he dreaded for
the sake of his men.

The sloop crept a little nearer in one of the puffs of wind that came
from time to time, and the firing went on, Humphrey and his officers
being astounded at the ability with which the schooner's guns were
served and the accuracy of their aim.

"No wonder that they've carried all before them among the merchantmen,"
muttered Humphrey, as a shot came crashing into them, and three men were
carried below disabled by splinters.

As he spoke he looked anxiously round, to make sure that the schooner
would not be able to pass them in the approaching darkness, and then,
feeling more and more that men who could serve their guns so well would
be terrible adversaries in a case of boarding, and determined to spare
his men till the schooner was disabled, he kept up the artillery duel
till the only guide for laying their guns was the flash of the enemy's
pieces when some shot was fired.

By this time the fire of the buccaneers had proved so effective that the
sloop's bulwarks were shattered and her decks were slippery with blood,
while her captain was fuming with rage at the unfortunate aim of his
men; for, though the schooner had evidently been hit again and again,
she seemed to have escaped the vital injury that a shot would have
produced in one of her spars.

All at once, just as the darkness had become complete, the firing of the
schooner ceased; and to have continued that on board of the sloop would
have been wasting shot.

"Man the launch and jolly-boat!" said the captain sharply, and their
crews waited with intense excitement the orders to go and board the
schooner, a faint groan of disappointment arising as the men heard the
instructions given to the two lieutenants to patrol on either side of
the sloop, and be ready to attack and board only if the buccaneer should
attempt to steal off in the darkness and escape.

The night wore on, with every one on the _qui vive_.  Two more boats
were ready waiting to push off and help in the attack on whichever side
the schooner should attempt to escape; while, in the event, of an
attack, the other patrolling boat was to come back to the sloop.

But hour after hour passed and no rushing of water was heard, no dip of
long sweep, or creak of the great oar in the rowlock was heard; neither
was a light seen; and the silence observed by the schooner was so
profound that Humphrey, as he paced the deck, felt certain at last that
she must have escaped; and, now that it was too late, he bitterly
repented not attempting to capture the dangerous foe by a bold attack.

"She's gone," he groaned, "and I've lost my chance!"

He paced the deck in bitter disappointment, as he felt that he had let a
prize slip through his fingers; and, as he waited, the night glided
slowly by, till, slowly and tardily, the first signs of day appeared,
and with a cry of joy Humphrey Armstrong ordered the signal of recall to
be run up, for there, just as she had been last seen when night fell,
lay the long, dark schooner, but without a man visible on board.

In a few minutes the two boats were alongside, and Humphrey gazed
longingly at the prize he felt ready to give half his life to reach.

What should he do?  Attempt to board her now that his four boats lay
armed and ready for the fray?

The temptation was too great, and the order was given: the four boats to
attack at once, the men receiving the command with a tremendous cheer,
and their oars took the water at once; while, compelled by his position
to remain on board, the captain feverishly watched the progress of his
boats in the growing light, and frowned and stamped the deck in his
anger as he saw the crews were exhausting themselves in a race to see
which should first reach the silent, forbidding looking schooner.

He shouted to them to keep together, but they were beyond the reach of
his voice, and matters seemed hopeless from the way in which they
struggled, when a combined attack was requisite for success.

Then all at once the launch remained steady, and the smaller boats went
off to right and left.  Another minute and all were advancing together,
so as to board in four different parts of the ship at once.

Humphrey Armstrong's eyes flashed, his lips parted, and his breast
heaved as he watched his men dash on with a faintly heard cheer; but
there was no response, not a moving figure could be seen on board the
schooner, and it was plain that she had been deserted during the night.

"Curse him for an eel!" cried the captain, fiercely, as he felt that he
was about to capture a vessel and leave her cunning commander to man
another, and carry on his marauding as of old; but he had hardly uttered
his angry denunciation when his four boats raced up to the schooner, and
in a moment she seemed alive with men.

Almost before the English captain could realise the fact, great pieces
of iron, probably the schooner's ballast, were thrown over into the
boats, two of which were crushed through like so much paper, and the men
as they sank left struggling in the water.

All that could be done was to rescue the drowning men; and as the two
remaining boats were being overladen, and then made a desperate attack
so as not to go back in disgrace, a furious fire of small-arms was
poured from every port hole and from the schooner's deck, till, unable
to penetrate the stout boarding-netting triced up all around the vessel,
cut at, shot at, and thrust back into their boats with boarding-pikes,
the sloop's two boats fell off, and began to slowly retrace their
course.

The moment the way was clear Humphrey, who was almost beside himself
with disappointment, begun pounding away at the buccaneer with his heavy
guns; but instead of exciting a response he found that sails were being
unfurled, and that, instead of the schooner being shut in, the bottom of
the bay formed a kind of strait, and she was not in a _cul de sac_.

"She'll escape us after all!" groaned Humphrey, as he ordered sail to be
made, and the sloop began to forge ahead, firing rapidly the while, as
the schooner began to leave her behind.

She was sailing right in, and before the sloop could follow there were
the two boats to be picked up.

This was done, the removal of the wounded being deferred till the
buccaneer was captured, and all the time a furious fire was kept up
without effect, for the schooner seemed to sail right inland, and
disappeared round a headland, the last they saw of the heavily-rigged
vessel being when she careened over at right angles to the sloop and her
shot-torn sails passed slowly behind the rocky bluff.

"Only into shelter!" cried Humphrey Armstrong, excitedly; and giving
rapid orders, fresh sail was made, and men placed in the chains with
leads to keep up communications as to the soundings, but always to
announce deep water, the land seeming to rise up sheer from an enormous
depth in the channel-like gulf they entered.

"She's gone right through, sir, and will get away on the other side."

The sloop sailed on, with the water deep as ever, and before long she
rounded the head, to find the narrow channel had opened out into a
beautiful lake-like bay with the dense primeval forest running right
down to its shores.

But the greatest beauty of the scene to Humphrey Armstrong was the sight
of the schooner lying right across his course a quarter of a mile away,
and ready to concentrate her fire and rake the sloop from stem to stern.

"Curse him! no wonder he has had so long a career!" said Humphrey,
stamping with rage as he watched the execution of his orders, and a
well-directed fire was once more made to answer that of the buccaneer.
"With such a ship, crew, and place of retreat, he might have gone on for
years."

The firing grew hotter than ever, and the schooner became enveloped in a
cloud of smoke which elicited a burst of cheers from the sloop.

"She's afire! she's afire!" roared the men.

Humphrey's triumph was now at hand.  The scourge of the western seas was
at his mercy, and shrinking from attempting to board so desperate an
adversary for the sake of his crew, he gave orders to lay the sloop
right alongside of the schooner, where he could cast grappling-irons,
and then pour his fire down upon her deck.

The orders were rapidly executed, and the sloop bore down right for the
smoke-enveloped schooner with little fear of being raked now, for the
pirates had ceased firing, and could be dimly-seen through the reek
hurrying to and fro.

"Shall we give her one more salvo, sir?" asked the first officer, coming
up to where Humphrey stood, trying to pierce the smoke with his glass.

"No, poor wretches! they're getting fire enough.  I hope she will not
blow up, for I'd give anything to take her home unhurt."

There was a perfect rush of flame and smoke now from the schooner, and
once more Humphrey's men cheered and shook hands together, even the
wounded in the excitement of their triumph taking up the cry, when, just
in the height of the excitement, and when the sloop was within a hundred
yards of the enemy, the men in the chains among the rest gazing hard at
the rising smoke, the war vessel careened over in answer to her helm in
the evolution which was to lay her side by side with the burning
schooner, and then there was a tremendous jerk which threw nearly every
one off his feet.

Then, shivering from head to heel, the sloop slowly surged back us if to
gather force like a wave, and in obedience to the pressure upon her
sails, struck again, literally leaping this time upon the keen-edged
barrier of rocks under whose invisible shelter the schooner lay; and
then, as a yell of horror rose from the men, the unfortunate ship
remained fixed, her masts, sail laden, went over the side with a hideous
crashing noise, and all was confusion, ruin, and despair.

The moments required to turn a stately, sail-crowded ship into a state
of chaos are very few, and to Humphrey Armstrong's agony, as well aided
by his officers, he was trying to do something to ameliorate
their position, he saw how thoroughly he had been led into a
cunningly-designed trap.  The schooner had been artfully manoeuvred to
place her behind the dangerous rocks, and, what was more, a glance at
her now showed her sailing away from a couple of boats moored beyond
them; and in each of which were barrels of burning pitch sending up
volumes of blackened smoke.

"A trap! a trap!" he cried, grinding his teeth.  "Let her be, my lads,"
he roared.  "Prepare for boarders!"

The men sprang to their pikes and swords, while a couple of guns were
freed from the wreck of cordage, and sail which the shock had brought
down.

These guns had hardly been trained to bear upon the schooner from the
deck of the helpless sloop when a deadly fire was opened by the former--
a fire of so furious a character that the confusion was increased, and
in spite of the efforts of captain and officers, the men shrank from
working at the guns.

What followed was one terrible scene of despairing men striving for
their lives against a foe of overpowering strength.  The fierce fire of
the schooner, as she came nearer and nearer, was feebly responded to,
and in a short time the deck streamed with blood, as the shot came
crashing through the bulwarks, sending showers of splinters to do deadly
work with the hail of grape.  There was no thought of capture now; no
need of bidding the men attack: following the example of their officers,
and one and all doggedly determined to sell their lives dearly, the men
dragged gun after gun round as those they worked were disabled, and sent
a shot in reply as often as they could.

With uniform torn and bedabbled with blood, face blackened with powder,
and the red light of battle in his eyes, Humphrey Armstrong saw plainly
enough that his case was hopeless, and that, with all her pomp of war
and pride of discipline and strength, his sloop was prostrate before the
buccaneer's snaky craft, and in his agony of spirit and rage he
determined to wait till the pirates boarded, as he could see they would
before long, and then blow up the magazine and send them to eternity in
their triumph over the British ship.

But it was to destroy his men as well, and he felt that this should be
the pirates' work when all was over.

"No," he muttered between his teeth, "it would be a coward's act, and
they shall die like men."

The schooner's sides were vomiting smoke and flame, and she was close
alongside now.  She had been so manoeuvred as to sail right round the
end of the reef, whose position seemed to be exactly known, so that from
firing upon the sloop's bows, and raking from stem to stern, the firing
had been continued as she passed along the larboard side round to the
poop, which had been raked in turn, and here it was evident that the
final attack was to be made.

It was not long in coming.  Hardly had Humphrey seen the enemy's
intentions and gathered his men together, than the schooner's side
ground up against the shattered stern of the sloop.  Heavy
grappling-irons were thrown on board, and with a furious yelling a horde
of blackened, savage-looking men poured on to the bloody splinter-strewn
deck, and coming comparatively fresh upon the sloop's exhausted crew,
bore down all opposition.  Men were driven below, cut down, stunned, and
driven to ask for quarter; and so furious was the onslaught that the
sloop's crew were divided into two half helpless bodies, one of which
threw down their arms, while the other, which included the captain and
officers, backed slowly toward the bows, halting at every spot where
they could make a stand, but forced to yield foot by foot, till their
fate, it was plain to all, was to surrender or be driven through the
shattered bulwarks into the sea.

It was a matter of minutes.  The fight was desperate, but useless--
Humphrey Armstrong and those around him seeming determined to sell their
lives dearly, for no quarter was asked.  They had given way step by step
till there was nothing behind them but the shattered bulwarks, and then
the sea, when, headed by their leader, the buccaneers made a desperate
rush; there was the clashing of sword and pike; and, as sailor and
officer fell, or were disarmed, Humphrey stepped in a half-congealed
pool of blood, slipped, and went heavily backwards, the buccaneer's
lieutenant leaping forward to brain him with a heavy axe.

There was a rush, a fierce shout, Black Mazzard was thrust aside, and
the Commodore sprang past him to plant his foot upon the fallen
officer's chest, while, the fight being over, the rest held their
hands--the conquerors and conquered--to see what would be the captain's
fate.

"Now, Captain Armstrong," cried the buccaneer leader, "beg for your
wretched life, you cowardly dog!"

"Coward!" roared Humphrey, raising himself slightly on one hand, as with
the other he swept the blood from his ensanguined face.  "You cursed
hound! you lie!"

The buccaneer shrank back as if from some blow; his foot was withdrawn
from the wounded officer's chest, he lowered the point of his sword, and
stood gazing at his prostrate enemy wildly.

"The captain shirks the job, lads," cried a coarse voice.  "Here, let me
come."

It was Black Mazzard who spoke, and, drunken with rum and the spirit of
the furious fight, he pressed forward, axe in hand.

Humphrey raised himself a little higher, with his white teeth bared in
fierce defiance as he prepared to meet the deathblow he saw about to
fall.

But at that moment the buccaneer caught his lieutenant's uplifted arm.

"Enough!" he cried, fiercely; "no more blood.  He is no coward.  Bart--
Dinny, take this gentleman ashore."

Humphrey Armstrong did not hear the words, for his defiant act exhausted
his failing strength, and he fell back insensible to all that happened
for many hours to come.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

CAPTAIN HUMPHREY COMES TO.

Captain Humphrey lay upon his back staring at his conscience.  He was
weak from loss of blood, weaker from fever; and he would have fared
better if he had had proper medical treatment instead of the rough but
kindly doctoring and nursing of Bart the surgeon, and Dinny the hospital
nurse.

This was after three weeks' doubtful journey, wherein Dinny said "the
obstinate divil had tried all he knew to die."  And it was so
ungrateful, Dinny said, after the captain had saved his life, and that
of all the prisoners who had not also been obstinate and died.

Humphrey's conscience was a great stone god full twelve feet high--an
object that looked like a mummy-case set on end, as far as shape was
concerned, but carved all over in the most wonderful way, the grotesque
and weird bas-reliefs almost destroying the face, hands, and feet of the
figure, flowing over them as they were, so that at first sight he looked
upon a great mass of sculpture, out of which by degrees the features
appeared.

The old artist who designed the idol had strange ideas of decorative
effect.  He had cut in the hard stone a fine contemplative face; but
over it he had placed a gigantic headdress, whereon were stony plumes of
feathers, wreaths, and strange symbols, while pendent in every possible
direction about the body were writhing creatures and snakes, with
variations of the human form, engaged in strange struggles, and amongst
them human heads turned into bosses or decorations of the giant robe.

Humphrey Armstrong came partly to himself to see the cold, implacable
face of this idol staring down at him from the gloom, ten feet from
where he lay; and it seemed to him, by slow degrees, that this was his
conscience sternly and silently upbraiding him for the loss of his ship
and the lives of his men, destroyed by his want of skill as a commander.

Day after day, through his semi-delirium, did that great idol torture
him, and seem, with its reproachful eyes, to burn into his brain.

Days passed, and by degrees he began to be aware that he was lying on a
bed of comfortable rugs and skins, stretched in a curious room, whose
walls were covered with hieroglyphics--thick, clumsy-looking
hieroglyphics--not like those of Egypt, but carved with a skill peculiar
to another race.  Here and there were medallions of heads of gods or
rulers of the land.  Flowers of a peculiar conventional type formed part
of the decorations or surrounded panels, in which were panthers,
alligators, or human figures.  In the centre of the wall to his right
was a recess in which, clearly cut and hardly touched by time, were the
figures of a king seated upon a leopard-supported throne--seated
cross-legged, as in the East, and in a wondrous costume--while another
figure presented to him what seemed to be the spoil of a number of dead
and living figures who were trampled under foot.

The room was evidently a palace chamber, or a portion of a temple of
great antiquity; and by degrees Humphrey realised that the ceiling was
not arched or supported by beams, but by the great stones of which it
was composed being piled one above the other, like a flight of steps,
from the walls on either side till they met in the middle.

The floor was of stone, and there was a large opening on his left,
facing the recess where the carving of the king ornamented the wall; and
this opening, once a window, looked out upon the forest, whose dull,
green, subdued twilight stole into the place.

It was a weird look-out--upon tree-trunks strangled by serpent-like
creepers, which seemed to be contending with them for the life-giving
light which filtered down from above through clouds of verdure; while
other trees and other serpent-like creepers seemed in friendly
co-operation to have joined hands against the walls of the building,
which they were striving to destroy.  Huge roots were thrust between the
joints of stones and shifted them out of place.  One liana waved a
trailing stem through the window-opening as if in triumph, and to call
attention to the feat of another creeper which had twisted itself
completely round a great block, lifted it from one side, and held it
suspended like a vegetable feat of strength.

For nature was asserting herself on every hand, the growth of the forest
penetrating the chamber like an invading army of leaves and stems, and
mingling with the works of man to their steady overthrow; while, facing
it all, stern, implacable, and calmly watching the progress of
destruction going on, stood the stone idol, the work of a race passed
from the face of the earth, and waiting, as it had waited for hundreds
of years, till the potent forest growth should lay it low!

For a time it was all a nightmare-like confusion to Humphrey; but with
returning strength came order in his intellect, and he questioned Bart,
who brought him food, and from time to time added carpets and various
little luxuries of cabin furniture, which seemed strangely incongruous
in that place.

"Who told you to bring those things here?" he said one day.

"Commodore Junk."

"Why?  Am I a prisoner?"

"Yes."

"Am I to be shot?"

"Don't know."

"Where am I?"

"Here."

"But what place is this?"

"Don't know."

"But--"

"Want any more wine or fruit?"

"No; I want my liberty."

"Belongs to the captain."

"Tell the captain I wish to see him."

Bart said no more, but took his departure.

The prisoner was more fortunate with Dinny, who could be communicative.

"That's it, captain, darlin'," he said one day.  "Don't ye fale like a
little boy again, and that I'm your mother washing your poor face!"

"Don't fool, my good fellow, but talk to me."

"Talk to you, is it?"

"Yes; you can talk to me."

"Talk to ye--can I talk to ye!  Hark at him, mate!" he cried, appealing
to the great idol.  "Why, I'm a divil at it."

"Well, then, tell me how I came here."

"Faix, didn't I carry ye on my back?"

"Yes, but after the fight?"

"Afther the foight--oh! is it afther the foight ye mane?  Sure, and it
was the skipper's ordhers, and I carried ye here, and Bart--you know the
tother one--he brought in the bed and the rugs and things to make ye
dacent.  It's a bit damp, and the threes have a bad habit of putting in
their noses like the pigs at home; but it's an illigant bed-room for a
gintleman afther all."

"It was the captain's orders, you say?"

"Sure, an' it was."

"And where are we?"

"Why, here we are."

"Yes, yes; but what place is this?"

"Sure, an' it's the skipper's palace."

"Commodore Junk's?"

"Yis."

"And what place is it--where are we?"

"Faix, and they say that sick payple is hard to deal wid.  It's what I'm
telling you sure.  It's the skipper's palace, and here it is."

"My good fellow, you told me all that; but I want to know whereabouts it
is."

"Oh-h!  Whereabouts it is, you mane!"

"Yes, yes."

"Why, right away in the woods."

"Far from the shore!"

"Ah, would ye!" cried Dinny, with a grin full of cunning.  "Ye'd be
getting all the information out of me, and then as soon as ye get well
be running away."

"Yes," said Humphrey, "If I can."

"Well, that's honest," cried Dinny.  "And it's meself would do it if I
got a chance."

"No," said Humphrey, sadly; "I could not do that and leave my men."

"Faix, and they'd leave ye if they got a chance, sor."

"How are they all!"

"Oh, they're getting right enough," said Dinny.  "Ye've been the worst
of 'em all yerself, and if ye don't make haste ye'll be last."

"But tell me, my lad, why am I kept in prison!"

"Tell ye why you're kept in prison?"

"Yes."

"An' ye want to know!  Well, divil a wan of us can tell, unless it's the
skipper's took a fancy to ye bekase ye're such a divil to fight, and he
wants ye to jyne the rigiment."

"Regiment!  Why, you've been a soldier!"

"And is it me a sodjer!  Why, ye'll be wanting to make out next that I
was a desarther when was only a prishner of war."  Humphrey sighed.

"Sure, and ye're wanting something, sor.  What'll I get ye!  The skipper
said ye were to have iverything you wanted."

"Then give me my liberty, my man, and let me go back to England--and
disgrace."

"Sure, and I wouldn't go back to England to get that, sor.  I'd sooner
shtop here.  The skipper's always telling Bart to look afther ye well."

"Why?" said Humphrey, sharply.

"Why?" said Dinny, scratching his head; "perhaps he wants to get ye in
good condition before ye're hung."

"Hung?"

"Yis, sor.  That's what Black Mazzard says."

"Is that the man who tried to cut me down with a boarding-axe?"

"That's the gintleman, sor; and now let me put ye tidy, and lay yer bed
shtraight.  Sure, and ye've got an illigant cabin here, as is good
enough for a juke.  Look at the ornaments on the walls."

"Are there any more places like this?"

"Anny more!  Sure, the wood's full of 'em."

"But about here?"

"About here!  Oh, this is only a little place.  Sure, we all live here
always when we ar'n't aboard the schooner."

"Ah, yes!  The schooner.  She was quite destroyed, was she not?"

"Divil a bit, sor.  Your boys didn't shoot straight enough.  The ship ye
came in was, afther we'd got all we wanted out of her.  She was burnt to
the wather's edge, and then she sank off the reef."

Humphrey groaned.

"Ye needn't do that, sor, for she was a very owld boat, and not safe for
a journey home.  Mak' yer mind aisy, and mak' this yer home.  There's
plinty of room for ye, and--whisht! here's the captain coming.  What'll
he be doing here?"

"The captain!" cried Humphrey.  "Then that man took my message."

"What message, sor?"

At that moment the steps which had been heard coming as it were down
some long stone corridor halted at the doorway of the prisoner's
chamber, someone drew aside a heavy rug, and the buccaneer, wearing a
broad-leafed hat which shaded his face, entered the place.

"You can go, Dinny."

"Yis, sor, I'm going," said Dinny, obsequiously; and, after a glance at
the prisoner, he hurriedly obeyed.

There was only a gloomy greenish twilight in the old chamber, such light
as there was striking in through the forest-shaded window, and with his
back to this, and retaining his hat, the captain seated himself upon a
rug covered chest.

"You sent for me," he said, in a deep, abrupt tone.

Humphrey looked at him intently, the dark eyes meeting his, and the
thick black brows contracted as the gaze was prolonged.

"You sent for me," he repeated, abruptly; "what more do you want?"

"I will tell you after a while," said Humphrey; "but first of all let me
thank you for the kind treatment I have received at your hands."

"You need not thank me," was the short reply.  "Better treatment than
you would have given me."

"Well, yes," said Humphrey.  "I am afraid it is."

"Your cousin would have hung me."

"My cousin!  What do you know of my cousin!"

"England is little.  Every Englishman of mark is known."

Humphrey looked at him curiously, and for the moment it seemed to him
that he had heard that voice before, but his memory did not help him.

"My cousin would have done his duty," he said, gravely.

"His duty!" cried the captain, bitterly.  "Your country has lost a
treasure in the death of that man, sir."

"Good heavens, man!  What do you know--"

"Enough, sir.  Let Captain James Armstrong rest.  The name is well
represented now by a gentleman, and it is to that fact that Captain
Humphrey owes his life."

The latter stared at the speaker wonderingly.

"Well, sir, why have you sent for me!"

"To thank you, Commodore Junk, and to ask you a question or two."

"Go on, sir.  Perhaps I shall not answer you."

"I will risk it," said Humphrey, watching him narrowly, "You spared my
life.  Why?"

"I told you."

"Then you will give me my liberty?"

"What for?--to go away and return with another and better-manned ship to
take us and serve the captain of the schooner as I have served you?"

"No.  I wish to return home."

"What for?"

"Surely you cannot expect me to wish to stay here!"

"Why do you wish to go home to meet disgrace?"

Humphrey started at having his own words repeated.

"To be tried by court martial for the loss of your ship!  Stay where you
are, sir, and grow strong and well."

"If I stay here, sir, when I have full liberty to go, shall I not be
playing the part of the coward you called me when I was beaten down?"

"You will not have full liberty to go, Captain Armstrong," said his
captor, quietly.  "You forget that you are a prisoner."

"You do not intend to kill me and my men?"

"We are not butchers, sir," was the cold reply.

"Then what is your object in detaining us.  Is it ransom?"

"Possibly."

"Name the sum, then, sir, and if it is in my power it shall be paid."

"It is too soon to talk of ransom, Captain Armstrong," said his visitor,
"you are weak and ill yet.  Be patient, and grow well and strong.  Some
day I will talk over this matter with you again.  But let me, before I
go, warn you to be careful not to attempt to escape, or to encourage
either of your men to make the attempt.  Even I could not save you then,
for the first man you met would shoot you down.  Besides that risk,
escape is impossible by land; and we shall take care that you do not get
away by sea.  Now, sir, have I listened to all you have to say?"

"One word, sir.  I am growing stronger every day.  Will you grant me
some freedom?"

"Captain Armstrong is a gentleman," said his visitor; "if he will give
his word that he will not attempt to escape, he shall be free to go
anywhere within the bounds of our little settlement."

Humphrey sat thinking, with his brow knit and his teeth compressed.

"No," he said; "that would be debarring myself from escaping."

"You could not escape."

"I should like to try," said Humphrey, smiling.

"It would be utter madness, sir.  Give me your word of honour that you
will not attempt to leave this old palace, and you shall come and go as
you please."

"No, sir, I will remain a prisoner with the chances open."

"As you will," said the buccaneer, coldly; and he rose and left the
chamber, looking thoughtful and absent, while Humphrey lay back on his
couch, gazing hard at the great stone idol, as if he expected to gain
information from its stern mysterious countenance.

"Where have I seen him before?" he said, thoughtfully; and after gazing
at the carven effigy for some time he closed his eyes and tried to
think, but their last meeting on the deck of the sloop was all that
would suggest itself, and he turned wearily upon his side.

"He seemed to have heard of our family, and his manner was strange; but
I can't think now," he said, "I am hot and weak, and this place seems to
stifle me."

Almost as he spoke he dropped asleep--the slumber of weakness and
exhaustion--to be plunged in a heavy stupor for hours, perfectly
unconscious of the fact that from time to time the great curtain was
drawn aside and a big head thrust into the dim chamber, the owner gazing
frowningly at the helpless prisoner, and then entering on tiptoe, to
cross to the window and cautiously look out before returning to the
couch, with the frown deepening as the man thought of how narrow the
step was which led from life to death.

He had advanced close to the couch with a savage gleam of hatred in his
eyes when Humphrey Armstrong moved uneasily, tossed his hands apart, and
then, as if warned instinctively of danger, he opened his eyes, sprang
up, and seized a piece of stone close by his side, the only weapon,
within grasp.

"Well," said Bart, without stirring, and with a grim look of contempt,
"heave it.  I don't mind."

"Oh, it's you!" said the prisoner, setting down the stone and letting
himself sink back.  "I was dreaming, I suppose, and thought there was
danger."

He laid his feverish cheek upon his hand, and seemed to fall asleep at
once, his eyes closing and his breath coming easily.

"Trusts me," muttered Bart.  "Poor lad! it ar'n't his fault.  Man can't
kill one as trusts him like that.  I shall have to fight for him, I
suppose.  Always my way--always my way."

He seated himself at the foot of the couch with his features distorted
as if by pain, and for hour after hour watched the sleeper, telling
himself that he could not do him harm, though all the time a jealous
hatred approaching fury was burning in his breast.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

THE PRISON LIFE.

"Not dying, Bart?"

"No, not exactly dying," said that worthy in a low growl; "but s'pose
you shoots at and wings a gull, picks it up, and takes it, and puts it
in a cage; the wound heals up, and the bird seems sound; but after a
time it don't peck, and don't preen its plumes, and if it don't beat
itself again' the bars o' the cage, it sits and looks at the sea."

"What do you mean?"

"What I says, captain; and, after a time, if you don't let it go, that
gull dies."

"Then you mean that Captain Armstrong is pining away?"

"That's it."

"Has he any suspicion of who we are?"

"Not a bit."

"And you think he's suffering for want of change?"

"Course I do.  Anyone would--shut up in that dark place."

"Has he complyned?"

"Not he.  Too brave a lad.  Why not give him and his lads a boat, and
let them go!"

"To come back with a strong force and destroy us."

"Ah, I never thought of that!  Make him swear he wouldn't.  He'd keep
his word."

"But his men would not, Bart.  No; he will have to stay."

"Let him loose, then, to run about the place.  He can't get away."

"I am afraid."

"What of?"

"Some trouble arising.  Mazzard does not like him."

"Ah!  I never thought o' that neither," returned Bart, gloomily.  "Black
Mazzard's always grumbling about his being kept."

The buccaneer took a turn or two up and down the quarters he occupied in
the vast range of buildings buried in the forest, a mile back from the
head of the harbour where his schooner lay; and Bart watched him
curiously till he stopped, with his face twitching, and the frown
deepening upon his brow.

"He will not give his word of honour not to attempt to escape, Bart,"
said the captain, pausing at last before his follower.

"'Tar'n't likely," said Bart.  "Who would?  He'd get away if he could."

"The prisoners cannot escape through the forest; there is no way but the
sea, and that must be properly watched.  Due notice must be given to all
that any attempt to escape will be followed by the punishment of death."

"I hear," said Bart.  "Am I to tell the captain that?"

"No.  He must know it; but I give him into your charge.  You must watch
over him, and protect him from himself and from anyone else."

"Black Mazzard!"

"From any one likely to do him harm," said the captain, sternly.  "You
understand?"

"Yes.  I'm going," replied Bart, in a low growl, as he gazed in his
leader's eyes; and then, with a curious, thoughtful look in his own, he
went out of the captain's quarters and in the direction of the prison of
the king's officer.

Bart had to go down the broad steps of an extensive, open amphitheatre,
whose stones were dislodged by the redundant growth of the forest; and,
after crossing the vast court-yard at the bottom, to mount the steps on
the other side toward where, dominating a broad terrace overshadowed by
trees, stood a small, square temple, over whose doorway was carved a
huge, demoniacal head, defaced by the action of time, but with the
features still clearly marked.

As Bart neared the building a figure appeared in the doorway for a
moment, and then passed out into the sunshine.

"Hullo, my lad!" it exclaimed.  "You there?"

Bart nodded.

"Been putting in the last six barr'ls of the sloop's powder, and some of
these days you'll see the sun'll set it all alight, and blow the whole
place to smithereens!  Where are ye going?"

"Yonder, to the prisoners."

"Poor divils!" said Dinny.  "Hadn't ye better kill the lot and put 'em
out of their misery?  They must be tired of it, and so am I.  Faix, and
it's a dirthy life for a man to lead!"

"Don't let the skipper hear you say that, my lad," growled Bart, "or it
may be awkward for you!"

"I'll let annybody hear me!" cried Dinny.  "Sure, an' it's the life of a
baste to lead, and a man like that Black Mazzard bullying and finding
fault.  I'd have sent one of the powdher-kegs at his head this morning
for the binifit of everybody here, only I might have blown myself up as
well."

"Has he been swearing at you again!"

"Swearing!  Bedad, Bart, he said things to me this morning as scorched
the leaves of the threes yonder.  If you go and look you can see 'em all
crickled up.  He can swear!"

Bart slouched away.

"It's a divil of a place!" muttered Dinny; "and it would make a
wondherful stone-quarry; but I'm getting sick of it, and feeling as if I
should like to desart.  Black Mazzard again!" he muttered, drawing in
his breath sharply.  "I wish his greatest inimy would break his neck!"

Dinny walked sharply away, for the lieutenant seemed to have been
gathering authority since the taking of the sloop, and lost no
opportunity of showing it to all the crew.

Meanwhile, Bart had continued his way between the two piles of ruins,
his path leading from the dazzling glow of the tropic sunshine into the
subdued green twilight of the forest.

Here, at the end of some fifty paces, he came to the external portion of
the building which formed Captain Humphrey's prison, and entering by a
fairly well-preserved doorway, he raised a curtain, half-way down a
corridor, passed through, and then came abreast of a recess, at the end
of which was another broad hanging, which he drew aside, and entered the
temple-chamber, where Humphrey lay sleeping on a couch.

As Bart approached he became aware of a faint rustling sound, as of
someone retreating from the window among the trees, and starting
forward, he looked out.  But all was still; not a long rope-like liana
quivering, no leaf crushed.

"Some monkey," muttered Bart, and turning back, he gazed down with a
heavy frown at the frank, handsome face of the young officer, till he
saw the features twitch, the eyes open and stare wonderingly into his;
and once more the prisoner, roused by the presence of another gazing
upon his sleeping face, suddenly sprang up.

"You here?"

"Yes, sir, I'm here," said Bart.

"What for?  Why?"

"Nothing much, sir; only to tell you that you can go."

"Go?" cried the captain, excitedly.

"Yes, sir.  Captain Junk's orders--where you like, so long as you don't
try to escape."

"But I must escape!" cried Humphrey, angrily.  "Tell the captain I will
not give my parole."

"He don't want it, sir.  You can go where you like, only if you try to
escape you will be shot."

Humphrey Armstrong rose from where he had been lying, and made as if to
go to the door, his face full of excitement, his eyes flashing, and his
hands all of a tremble.

"Go!" he said, sharply.  "Send that man who has acted as my servant."

"Servant!" muttered Bart, as he passed the curtain; "and him a prisoner!
Dinny called hisself his turnkey, but said as there was no door to
lock.  Here! hoi!  Dinny!"

"What do you want with him?" said a fierce voice; and he turned, to find
the lieutenant coming out of one of the ruined buildings.

"Prisoner wants him," said Bart, sturdily.  "Here, Dinny, Captain
Armstrong wants you."

"Ay, ay," cried Dinny, who seemed to divine that Mazzard was about to
stop him, and ran hastily on; while the lieutenant, who was half-drunk,
stood muttering, and then walked slowly away.

"Not so well, sor!"

"Wine--water!" panted Humphrey, hoarsely.  "I tried to walk to the door
and fell back here."

"Sure, an ye're out of practice, sir," said Dinny, hastening to hold a
vessel of water to the prisoner's lips.  "That's better.  Ye've tuk no
exercise since ye've been betther."

"Ah!" sighed Humphrey; "the deadly sickness has gone.  This place is so
lonely."

"Ay, 'tis, sor.  One always feels like an outside cock bird who wants a
mate."

"Sit down and talk to me."

"Sure an' I will, wid pleasure, sor," said Dinny, eagerly.  "There's so
few gintlemen to talk to here."

"Tell me about your commander."

"An' what'll I tell you about him?"

"What kind of a man is he?"

"Sure, and he's as handsome as such a little chap can be."

"Has he a wife here?"

"Woife, sor?  Not he!"

"A troop of mistresses, then, or a harem?"

"Divil a bit, sor.  He's riddy to shoot the boys whiniver they take a
new wife--Ingin or white.  I belave he hates the whole sex, and thinks
women is divils, sor.  Why, he hit Black Mazzard once, sor, for asking
him why he didn't choose a pretty gyurl, and not live like a monk."

"Is he brave?"

"Yes, sor; and I wouldn't anger him if I were you."

"Not I," said Humphrey.  "There, the sickness has passed off.  Now, help
me out into the sunshine."

"Help ye out?" said Dinny, looking puzzled.

"Yes; into the bright sunshine.  I seem to be decaying away here, man,
and the warm light will give me strength."

"Shure, an' if I do, Black Mazzard will pison me wid a pishtol-ball."

"I have the captain's consent," said Humphrey.

"Sure, and ye're not deludhering a boy, are ye, sor?" said Dinny.

"No, no, my man, it is right.  Help me; I did not know I was so weak."

"An' is it wake?" said Dinny, drawing the prisoner's arm well through
his own.  "Sure, and didn't I see gallons o' blood run out of ye?  Faix,
and there was quarts and quarts of it; and I belave ye'd have died if I
hadn't nursed ye so tenderly as I did."

"My good fellow, you've been like a good angel to me," said Humphrey,
feebly.  "Hah! how glorious!" he sighed, closing his eyes as they
stepped out of the long corridor into the opening cut through the
forest, and then between the two piles of ruins into the glorious tropic
sunshine.

"Will it be too warrum?" said Dinny.

"Warm!  No, man, my heart has been chilled with lying there in the
darkness.  Take me farther out into the bright light."

"Sure, and it's the sun bating ye down ye'll be havin'," said Dinny.
"Look at that, now!"

Dinny was gazing back at the pile of ancient buildings, and caught sight
of a face in the shadow.

"Yes, I am trying to look," said Humphrey, with a sigh; "but my eyes are
not used to the light."

"Sure, an' it's the captin, and he's kaping his oi on us," said Dinny to
himself.  "Well, all right, captain, darlin'!  I'm not going to run
away."

"What place is this?"

"Sure, an' it's meself don't know, sor.  Mebbe it's the palace that the
American good payple built for Christyphy Columbus.  Mebbe," continued
Dinny, "it's much owlder.  Sure, and it shutes the captin, and we all
live here whin we don't live somewhere else."

"Somewhere else?" said Humphrey, looking at Dinny wonderingly as he
grasped his arm and signed to him to wait and give him breath.

"Well, I mane at say, sor, doing a bit o' business amongst the ships.
Ah, look at her, thin, the darlin'!" he muttered, as a woman appeared
for a moment among the lianas, held up her hand quickly to Dinny, and
turned away.

"What woman was that!" said Humphrey, hastily.

"Woman, sor!"

"Yes; that woman who kissed her hand to you."

"An' did she kiss her hand to me, sor!"

"Yes, man, you must have seen."

"Sure, an' it must have been Misthress Greenheys, sor."

"Mistress Greenheys!"

"A widow lady, sor, whose husband had an accident one day wid his ship
and got killed."

"And you know her!"

"We've been getting a little friendly lately," said Dinny, demurely.
"There, sor, you're getting wake.  Sit down on that owld stone in the
shade.  Bedad, it isn't illigant, the cutting upon it, for it's like a
shkull, but it's moighty convanient under that three.  That's better;
and I'll go and ask Bart to bring ye a cigar."

"No, stop," said Humphrey.  "I want to talk to you, man.  That woman's
husband was murdered, then?"

"Murdered!  Faix, and that's thrue.  Sure, an' someone hit him a bit too
hard, sor, and he doied."

"Murdered by these buccaneers!" said Humphrey, excitedly, and he looked
wildly around him, when his eye lighted on the trim, picturesque figure
of the little woman, who was intently watching them, and he saw her
exchange a sign with his companion.

"The key of life--the great motive which moves the world," said Humphrey
to himself; and he turned suddenly on Dinny, who had his hand to his
mouth and looked sheepish.

"You love that woman," he said, sharply.

"Whisht, captin, dear!" said Dinny, softly; and then in a whisper, with
a roguish leer, "sure, it isn't me, sor; it's the darlin's took a bit of
a fancy to me."

"Yes, and you love her," said Humphrey.

"Och, what a way ye have of putting it, sor!  Sure, and the poor crittur
lost her husband, and she's been living here iver since, and she isn't
happy, and what could a boy do but thry to comfort her!"

"Are you going to marry her, Dinny?" said Humphrey, after a pause.

"Faix, an' I would if I had a chance, sor; but there's two obshticles in
the way, and one of 'em's Black Mazzard."

"Then, why not take her, Dinny!"

"Tak' her, sor?"

"Yes; from this wretched place.  Escape."

"Whisht!  Don't say that word aloud again, darlin', or maybe the
captin'll get to hear.  Sure, and I belave that the great big sthone
gods shticking up all over the place gets to hear what's said and
whishpers it again to the captin, who always knows everything that goes
on."

"Take her, and help me to escape," whispered Humphrey, earnestly.

"Whisht, man!  Howld your tongue.  Is it wanting to see me hanging on
one of the trees!  Eshcape?"

"Yes.  I am a rich man, and if you can get me away I'll reward you
handsomely."

"Hark at him!" said Dinny, scornfully.  "Why, I should have to give up
my share of what we've got shtored up here.  Why, sor, I daresay I'm a
richer man than yourself.  Eshcape! and after all I've shworn."

Dinny turned away and began cutting a stick.

"Tell me," said Humphrey, "are there many of my men here?"

"Jist twenty, sor."

"And how many are there of the pirates!"

Dinny laughed with his eyes half shut.

"Shure, sor, what d'ye tak' me for?  Ye don't think I'm going to tell ye
that!"

Humphrey sighed, and was silent for a time; but an intense desire to
know more about the place was burning within him, and he began to
question his companion again.

"Are the prisoners in one of these old temples!"

"Yes.  On the other side of the big pyrymid yonder, sor; but ye can't
get to them widout going a long way round."

"Are there many women here besides that Mistress Greenheys?"

"Sure, yis, there is a dozen of 'em, sor.  Not half enough, but just
enough to kape the min quarrelling; and there's been no end of bother
about the women being kept in the place."



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

PLANS OF ESCAPE.

Humphrey Armstrong was weaker from his wounds than he believed; but the
change from being shut up in the dim temple-chamber with the great stone
idol for company to the comparatively free open air of the forest
clearing rapidly restored the elasticity of his nature, and gave him
ample opportunities for studying the state of affairs.

He found that the buccaneers went out but seldom, and that when
expeditions were made they would be fairly divided.  At one time the
captain would be in command, at another the lieutenant, so that their
settlement was never left unprotected.

As far as he could judge, they were about a hundred in number, and great
dilapidated chambers in the range of temples and palaces formed
admirable barracks and means of defence, such as in time of need could
easily be held against attack.

But Humphrey's great idea was escape; and to accomplish this it seemed
to him that his first need was to open up communication with his men.

This he determined to accomplish, for with the liberty given it seemed
to be a very easy thing to walk to some heap of stones at the edge of
the forest and there seat himself till he was unobserved, when he could
quietly step into the dense thicket, and make his way to where his
followers were imprisoned.

He had not long to wait, for it seemed that, after being closely watched
for the first few days, the latitude allowed to him was greater.  He had
but to walk to the edge of the forest and wait, for the opportunity was
sure to come.

Easy as it appeared though in theory, it proved less so in performance,
and it was not till after several attempts that he felt one day sure of
success.

It was soon after mid-day, when the great amphitheatre and the
grotesquely ornamented ruins with their huge heads and shadowy trees
were baking in the sun.  The men who were often idling about had sought
places where they could indulge in their siesta, and a silence as of the
grave had fallen upon the place.

Humphrey Armstrong had walked to a pile of ruins beneath one of the
trees, and seated himself upon a huge stone sculptured round with
figures writhing in impossible attitudes, and one and all wearing highly
ornamental head-dresses of feathers.

He lay back there as if half drowsy with the heat, and with half-closed
eyes looked watchfully round to see whether he was observed.  But as far
as he could see the place was utterly deserted.  Bart, who was often
here and there giving a kind of supervision to the buccaneers'
settlement, and seeing that people from the barracks did not collect
near the captain's quarters, seemed to be absent.  Dinny, who had been
to him an hour before, had gone off on some duty with Dick Dullock, and
everything pointed to the fact that this was the opportunity so long
sought.

He hesitated no longer; but after casting another glance round at the
dark, shadowy nooks among the trees and ruins, all of which seemed
purply-black in contrast with the blazing glare of sunshine, he softly
slid himself back from the stone and dropped down among the undergrowth,
and raised his head to peer among the leaves.

He obtained a good view of the great amphitheatre and the surrounding
ruins, but all was still.  No one had seen him move, and not a leaf was
stirring.

Trifles seemed magnified at those moments into great matters, and with
his nerves strung up to the highest pitch of tension he started, for all
at once something moved away by the edge of the forest on his left.  But
it was only a great butterfly which fluttered over the baking stones,
above which the air seemed to quiver, and then, with its
brightly-painted wings casting a broad shadow, it crossed the ruined
amphitheatre and was gone.

Humphrey Armstrong crept from behind his resting-place right to the
shelter of the trees at the edge of the forest, and his spirits rose as
he found how easy an evasion seemed to be.  He had only to secure the
co-operation of half a dozen of his men, take advantage of the
listlessness of the buccaneers some such hot day as this, make their way
down to the shore, seize a boat, and then coast along till a settlement
was reached or a ship seen to take them aboard.

It was very simple, and it seemed easier and easier as he got farther
away from the ruins and his prison.  On his right the forest was dense,
but the buccaneers had cut down and burned numbers of trees so as to
keep them back from encroaching farther on the old buildings; and along
here among the mossy stumps Humphrey Armstrong crept.

But it was easy--nothing seemed more simple.  Already he saw himself
round on the other side of the ruins, holding communication with his
fellow-prisoners and making plans, when, to his great delight, he found
that he had hit upon what was evidently a way to the other side of the
ancient ruins; for he suddenly came upon a narrow passage through the
dense forest growth, literally a doorway cut in the tangle of creepers
and vines that were matted among the trees.  It must have been an
arduous task, but it had been thoroughly done--the vines having been
hewn through, or in places half divided and bent back, to go on
interlacing at the sides, with the result that a maze-like path ran in
and out among the trees.

The moment he was in this path the glare of the sunny day was exchanged
for a dim greenish-hued twilight, which darkened with every step he
took.  Overhead a pencil of sunshine could be seen from time to time,
but rarely, for the mighty forest trees interlaced their branches a
hundred and fifty feet above his head, and the air was heavy with the
moist odour of vegetable decay.

The forest path had evidently been rarely used of late, for the soft
earth showed no imprints, the tender sickly growth of these deep shades
had not been crushed; and as Humphrey realised these facts, he glanced
back, to see how easily his trail could be followed--each step he had
taken being either impressed in the vegetable soil or marked by the
crushing down of moss or herb.

The sight of this impelled him to additional effort, so that he might
gain some definite information about his people, and perhaps seek them
by night, when once he had found the means of communication.  In this
spirit he was hurrying on when he came suddenly, in one of the darkest
paths, upon a figure which barred his way, and it was with the addition
of a rage-wrung savage exclamation that he uttered his captor's name.

There was a dead silence in the dark forest as these two stood face to
face, buried, as it were, in a gloomy tunnel.  After Humphrey's
impatient ejaculation, drawn from him in his surprise, quite a minute
elapsed; and then, half-mockingly, came in a deep, low voice--

"Yes!  Commodore Junk!"

Humphrey stood glaring down at the obstacle in his path.  He was tall
and athletic, and, in spite of his weakness and the tales he had heard
of the other's powers, he felt that he could seize this man, hurl him
down, and plant his foot upon his chest; for the buccaneer captain was
without weapons, and stood looking up at him with one hand resting upon
his hips, the other raised to his beardless face, with a well-shaped,
small index finger slightly impressing his rounded cheek.

"Yes," he said again, mockingly, "Commodore Junk!  Well, Humphrey
Armstrong, what mad fit is this?"

"Mad fit!" cried Humphrey, quickly recovering himself.  "You allowed me
to be at liberty, and I am exploring the place."

The buccaneer looked in his eyes, with the mocking smile growing more
marked.

"Is this Captain Humphrey Armstrong, the brave commander sent to
exterminate me and mine, stooping to make a miserable excuse--to tell a
lie!"

"A lie!" cried Humphrey, fiercely, as he took a step in advance.

"Yes, a lie!" said the buccaneer, without moving a muscle.  "You were
trying to find some way by which you could escape."

"Well," cried Humphrey, passionately, "I am a prisoner.  I have refused
to give my parole; I was trying to find some way of escape."

"That is more like you," said the buccaneer, quietly.  "Why?  What do
you require?  Are you not well treated by my men?"

"You ask me why," cried Humphrey--"me, whom you have defeated--
disgraced, and whom you hold here a prisoner.  You ask me why!"

"Yes.  I whom you would have taken, and, if I had not died sword in
hand, have hung at your yard-arm, and then gibbeted at the nearest port
as a scarecrow."

He was silent, and the buccaneer went on--

"I have looked back, and I cannot see you placing a cabin at my
disposal, seeing me nursed back from the brink of death, treated as a
man would treat his wounded brother."

"No," cried Humphrey, quickly; "and why have you done all this when it
would have been kinder to have slain me on that wretched day?"

"Why have I done this!" said the buccaneer, with the colour deepening in
his swarthy face.  "Ah, why have I done this!  Perhaps," he continued
bitterly, "because I said to myself: `This is a brave, true, English
gentleman;' and I find instead a man who does not hesitate to lie to
screen his paltry effort to escape."

Humphrey made a menacing gesture; but the buccaneer did not stir.

"Look here, sir," he continued.  "I am in this place more powerful among
my people than the king you serve.  You smile; but you will find that it
is true."

"If I am not killed, sir, trying to make some effort to escape."

"Escape!" cried the buccaneer, with his face lighting up.  "Man, you
have been warned before that you cannot escape.  The forest beyond where
we stand is one dense thicket through which no man can pass unless he
cut his way inch by inch.  It is one vast solitude, standing as it has
stood since the world was made."

"Bah!" cried Humphrey, scornfully.  "A determined man could make his
way."

"How far!" cried the buccaneer.  "A mile--two miles--and then, what is
there?--starvation, fever, and death--lest in that vast wilderness.
Even the Indians cannot penetrate those woods and mountains.  Will you
not take my word!"

"Would you take mine," said Humphrey, scornfully, "if our places were
changed!  I shall escape."

The buccaneer smiled.

"You have an easy master, captain," he said, quietly; "but I would like
to see you wear your chains more easily.  Humphrey Armstrong, you cannot
escape.  There is only one way from this place, and that is by the sea,
and there is no need to guard that.  Look here," he cried, laying his
hand upon the prisoner's arm, "you have been planning this for days and
days.  You have lain out yonder upon that stone by the old palace,
calculating how you could creep away; and you found your opportunity
to-day, when you said to yourself, `These people are all asleep now, and
I will find my way round to where my men are prisoners.'"

As he spoke Humphrey changed colour and winced, for the buccaneer seemed
to have read his every thought.

"And then you came upon this path through the forest, and you felt that
this was the way to freedom."

"Are you a devil?" cried Humphrey, excitedly.

"Perhaps," was the mocking reply.  "Perhaps only the great butterfly you
watched before you started, as it lazily winged its way among the broken
stones."

Humphrey uttered an exclamation, and gazed wildly in the dark, mocking
eyes.

"Never mind what I am, captain, but pray understand this--you cannot
escape from here.  When you think you are most alone, there are eyes
upon you which see your every act, and your movements are all known."

"I will not believe it," cried Humphrey, angrily.

"Then disbelieve it; but it is true.  I tell you there is no escape,
man.  You may get away a few miles perhaps, but every step you take
bristles with the threatenings of death.  So be warned, and bear your
fate patiently.  Wait!  Grow strong once more."

"And then!" cried Humphrey, excitedly.  "What then?"

"Ah, yes," said the buccaneer, who assumed not to have heard his words,
"you are still weak.  That flush in your face is the flush of fever, and
you are low and excited."

"Dog!  You are mocking me!" cried Humphrey, furiously, for he felt the
truth of every word that had been said, and his impotence maddened him.

"Dog!" cried the buccaneer as furiously.

"Yes; wretched cut-throat--murderer," cried Humphrey--"miserable wretch,
whom I could strangle where you stand!"

The buccaneer turned of a sallow pallor, his brow knit, his eyes
flashed, and his chest heaved, as he stood glaring at Humphrey; but the
sudden storm of passion passed away, and with a smile of pity he said
softly--

"You call names like a petulant boy.  Come, I am not angry with you, let
us go back to your room.  The heat of this place is too much for you,
and to-morrow you will be down with fever."

"Humph!" ejaculated Humphrey, angrily.

"It is true," said the buccaneer.  "Come."

"There's something behind all this," cried the young man, excitedly.
"We are alone here.  I am the stronger; and, in spite of your boasting,
there is no one here to help.  You shall speak out, and tell me what
this means."

His gesture was threatening now; but the buccaneer did not stir.

"I am not alone," he said, quietly.  "I never am without someone to
protect me.  But there, you shall be answered.  Why have I had you
tended as I have?  Well, suppose I have said to myself, `Here is a brave
man who should be one of us.'"

"One of you!" cried Humphrey, with a scornful laugh.

"Suppose," continued the buccaneer, with his nether lip quivering
slightly, "I had said to myself, `You are alone here.  Your men obey
you, but you have no friends among them--no companions whom you can
trust.  Why not make this man your friend?'"

Humphrey smiled, and the buccaneer's lip twitched slightly as he
continued--

"You are fevered and disappointed now, and I shall not heed your words.
I tell you once for all that you must accept your fate here as others
have accepted theirs.  I need not tell you that for one to escape from
here would be to bring ruin upon all.  Hence every one is his brother's
guardian; and the Indians for hundreds of miles around, at first our
enemies till they felt my power, are now my faithful friends."

Humphrey laughed mockingly.

"You laugh, sir.  Well it is the laugh of ignorance, as you will find.
It is no idle boast when I say that I am king here over my people, and
the tribes to north and south."

"The Indians too?" said Humphrey.

"Yes, the Indians too, as you found to your cost."

"To my cost?"

"To your cost.  Your ship was in my way.  You troubled me; and your
people had to be removed.  Well, they were removed."

"The treacherous hounds!" cried Humphrey, grinding his teeth as he
recalled the action of the two Indians, and their escape.

"Treacherous!  No.  You would have employed men to betray me; it was but
fighting you with your own weapons, sir; and these you call treacherous
hounds were true, brave fellows who risked their lives to save me and
mine."

Humphrey was silent.

"Come, Captain Armstrong; you will suffer bitterly for this.  There are
chills and fevers in the depths of this forest which seize upon
strangers like you, especially upon those weakened by their wounds, and
I do not want to lose the officer and gentleman who is to be my friend
and help here, where I am, as it were, alone."

"Your friend and help!" said Humphrey, haughtily.  "I am your prisoner,
sir; but you forget to whom you are speaking.  How dare you ask me to
link my fate with that of your cut-throat band--to share with you a life
of plunder and disgrace, with the noose at the yard-arm of every ship in
His Majesty's Navy waiting to end your miserable career?  I tell you--I
tell you--"

He made a clutch at the nearest branch to save himself, for his head
swam, black spots veiled in mist and strangely blurred seemed to be
descending from above to form a blinding veil before his eyes.  He
recovered himself for a moment, long enough to resent the hand stretched
out to save him, and then all was blank, and with a hoarse sigh he would
have fallen heavily but for the strong arms that caught him, held him
firmly for a few moments, and then a faint catching sigh was heard in
the stillness of the forest, as Humphrey Armstrong was lowered slowly
upon the moss and a soft brown hand laid upon his forehead, as the
buccaneer bent down upon one knee by his side.

"Want me?" said a deep low voice; and the buccaneer started as if from a
dream, with his face hardening, and the wrinkles which had been smoothed
reappearing deeply in the broad forehead.

"You here, Bart?"

"Ay, I'm here."

"Watching me?"

"Ay, watching of you."

The buccaneer rose and gave the interloper an angry look.

"Well, why not!" said Bart.  "How did I know what he'd do?"

"And you've seen and heard all?"

"Everything," said Bart, coolly.

"When I told you to be within hearing only if I whistled or called."

"What's the use of that when a blow or a stab would stop them both?"

"Bart, I--"

"Go on, I don't mind," said Bart, quietly, "I want to live, and if you
was to come to harm that would be the end of me."

The buccaneer gave an impatient stamp, but Bart paid no heed.

"Give me a lift up and I'll carry him back," he said quietly.

All this was done, and Dinny summoned, so that when, an hour later,
Humphrey unclosed his eyes, it was with his head throbbing with fever, a
wild half-delirious dreaminess troubling his brain, and the great stone
image glaring down at him through the dim green twilight of the prison
room.

It was a bitter experience for the prisoner to find that he had
overrated his powers.  The effort, the excitement, and the malaria of
the forest prostrated him for a fortnight, and at the end of that time
he found that he was in no condition to make a further attempt at
securing the means of escape.

He lay in his gloomy chamber thinking over the buccaneer's insolent
proposal, and fully expected that he would resent the way in which it
had been received; but to his surprise he received the greatest of
attention, and wine, fruit, and various delicacies that had evidently
come from the stores of some well-found ship were placed before him to
tempt his appetite.

Dinny was his regular attendant, and always cheery and ready to help him
in every way; but no more was said for a time respecting an evasion,
though Humphrey was waiting his time; for after lying for hours, day
after day, debating his position, he came to the conclusion that if he
did escape it must be through this light-spirited Irishman.

His captor did not come to him as far as he knew; but he had a suspicion
that more than once the buccaneer had been watching from some point or
another unknown to him.  But one day a message was brought by Bart, who
entered the gloomy chamber and in his short, half-surly way thus
delivered himself--

"Orders from the skipper, sir."

"Orders from your captain!" said Humphrey, flushing.

"To say that he is waiting for your answer, sir."

"My answer, man?  I gave him my answer."

"And that he can wait any time; but a message from you that you want to
see him will bring him here."

"There is no other answer," said Humphrey, coldly.

"Better not say that," said Bart, after standing gazing at the prisoner
for some time.

"What do you mean?" cried Humphrey, haughtily.

"Don't know.  What am I to say to the captain?"

"I have told you.  There is no answer," said Humphrey, coldly, and he
turned away, but lay listening intently, for it struck him that he had
heard a rustle in the great stone corridor without, as if someone had
been listening; but the thick carpet-like curtain fell, and he heard no
more, only lay watching the faint rays of light which descended through
the dense foliage of the trees, as some breeze waved them softly, far on
high, and slightly relieved the prevailing gloom.

Bart's visit had started a current of thought which was once more
running strongly when Dinny entered with a basket of the delicious
little grapes which grew wild in the sunny open parts of the mountain
slopes.

"There, sor," he said, "and all me own picking, except about half of
them which Misthress Greenheys sint for ye.  Will ye take a few bunches
now?"

"Dinny," said Humphrey in a low earnest voice, "have you thought of what
I said to you?"

"Faix, and which? what is it ye mane, sor?"

"You know what I mean, man: about helping me to escape from here?"

"About helping ye to eshcape, sor?  Oh, it's that ye mane!"

"Yes, man; will you help me?"

"Will I help ye, sor?  D'ye see these threes outside the windy yonder,
which isn't a windy bekase it has no glass in it?"

"Yes, yes, I see," cried Humphrey with all a sick man's petulance.

"Well, they've got no fruit upon 'em, sor."

"No, of course not.  They are not of a fruit-bearing kind.  What of
that!"

"Faix, an' if I helped ye to eshcape, captain, darlin', sure and one of
'em would be having fruit hanging to it before the day was out, and a
moighty foine kind of pear it would be."



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

UNDER ANOTHER RULE.

"You're to keep to your prison till further orders," said Bart one day
as he entered the place.

"Who says so!" cried Humphrey, angrily.

"Lufftenant."

"What!  Mazzard?"

"Yes, sir.  His orders."

"Curse Lieutenant Mazzard!" cried Humphrey.  "Where is the captain!"

No answer.

"Is this so-called lieutenant master here!"

"Tries to be," grumbled Bart.

"The captain is away, then?"

"Orders are, not to answer questions," said Bart, abruptly; and he left
the chamber.

Humphrey was better.  The whims and caprices of a sick man were giving
way to the return of health, and with this he began to chafe angrily.

He laughed bitterly and seated himself by the window to gaze out at the
dim arcade of forest, and wait till such time as he felt disposed to go
out, and then have a good wander about the ruins, and perhaps go down
that path where he had been arrested by the appearance of the captain.

He had no hope of encountering any of his crew, for, from what he could
gather, fully half the survivors, sick of the prisoner's life, had
joined the buccaneer crew, while the rest had been taken to some place
farther along the coast--where, he could not gather from Dinny, who had
been letting his tongue run and then suddenly stopped short.  But all
the same he clung to the hope that in the captain's absence he might
discover something which would help him in his efforts to escape and
come back, if not as commander, at all events as guide to an expedition
that should root out this hornets'-nest.

Mid-day arrived, and he was looking forward to the coming of Dinny with
his meal, an important matter to a man with nothing to do, and only his
bitter thoughts for companions.  The Irishman lightened his weary hours
too, and every time he came the captive felt some little hope of winning
him over to help him to escape.

"Ah, Dinny, my lad!" he said as he heard a step, and the hanging curtain
was drawn aside, "what is it to-day?"

"Fish, eggs, and fruit," said Bart, gruffly.

"Oh! it's you!" said Humphrey, bitterly.  "Dinny away with that cursed
schooner!"

"Schooner's as fine a craft as ever sailed," growled Bart.  "Orders to
answer no questions."

"You need not answer, my good fellow," said the prisoner, haughtily.
"That scoundrel of a buccaneer is away--I know that, and Dinny is with
him, or you would not be doing this."

Bart's heavy face lightened as he saw the bitterness of the prisoner's
manner when he spoke of the captain; but it grew sombre directly after,
as if he resented it; and spreading the meal upon a broad stone, covered
with a white cloth--a stone in front of the great idol, and probably
once used for human sacrifice--he sullenly left the place.

The prisoner sat for a few minutes by the window wondering whether Lady
Jenny was thinking about him, and sighed as he told himself that she was
pining for him as he pined for her.  Then turning to the mid-day meal he
began with capital appetite, and not at all after the fashion of a man
in love, to discuss some very excellent fish, which was made more
enjoyable by a flask of fine wine.

"Yes," he said, half aloud, "I shall go just where I please."

He stopped and listened, for a voice certainly whispered from somewhere
close at hand the word "Kelly!"

"Yes! what is it?  Who called?" said the prisoner, aloud.

There was a momentary silence, and then a peculiar whispering voice
said--

"Don't be frightened."

"I'm not," said Humphrey, trying to make out whence the voice came, and
only able to surmise that it was from somewhere over the dark corner
where he slept.

"I want Dennis Kelly," said the voice.

"He's not here.  Away with the schooner," continued Humphrey.

"Oh!"

The ejaculation came like a moan of disappointment.

"Here, who are you?" cried Humphrey.

"No; he cannot be away, sir.  But hist! hush, for heaven's sake!  You
will be heard," said the voice.  "Speak low."

"Well, I'll speak in a whisper if you like," said Humphrey.  "But where
are you?"

"Up above your chamber," was the reply.  "There is a place where the
stones are broken away."

"Then I am watched," thought Humphrey, as the announcement recalled the
captain.

"Can you see me?" he asked.

"I cannot see you where you are now, but I could if you went and lay
down upon your couch."

"Then I'll go there," said Humphrey, crossing the great chamber to throw
himself on the blankets and skins.  "Now, then, what do you want with
Dinny?"

"I knew the captain had gone to sea," said the voice, evasively; "but I
did not know Kelly had been taken too.  He cannot be, without letting me
know."

"Can you come down and talk to me!"

"No; you are too well watched."

"Then how did you get here?"

"I crept through the forest and climbed up," was the reply.  "I can see
you now."

"But how did you know you could see me there?"

"I thought I could.  I was watching for someone a little while ago, and
saw the captain looking down through here."

"I thought as much," said Humphrey, half aloud; and he was about to
speak again when Bart entered suddenly, looked sharply round, and showed
the wisdom of his new visitor by going straight to the window and
looking out.

"Who were you talking to?" he said, gruffly, as he came back, still
looking suspiciously round.

"To myself," said Humphrey, quite truthfully, for his last remark had
been so addressed.

Bart uttered a grunt, and glanced at the dinner.

"Done?" he said.

"No.  Surely I may spend as long as I like over my meals here."

Bart nodded and went out, the heavy curtain falling behind him; while
Humphrey slowly rose and went back to the stone altar, where he filled a
silver cup from the flask and drank, and then began humming an air.
After this he walked to the curtain and peered cautiously through into
the dark corridor, to see the heavy figure of the buccaneer's henchman
go slowly along past the patches of dull green light streaming through
the openings which occurred some thirty feet apart.

"Gone!" said Humphrey, returning quickly.  "Are you there?"

"Yes.  I could hear everything."

"Listen!" said Humphrey, quickly.  "You are Mistress Greenheys?"

"Yes."

"And you love Dennis Kelly?"

There was silence.

"You need not fear me.  I know your history," continued Humphrey.  "You
are, like myself, a prisoner and in the power of that black-looking
lieutenant."

There was a piteous sigh here, and then came with a sob--

"I am a miserable slave, sir."

"Yes, yes, I know.  Then look here, can we not all escape together?"

"Escape, sir!  How?"

"Through Dinny's help."

"He would not give it, sir.  It would be impossible.  I--I--there!  I
will speak out, sir--I can bear this horrible life no longer!  I have
asked him to take me away."

"Well, will he not?"

"He is afraid, sir."

"And yet he loves you?"

"He says so."

"And you believe it, or you would not run risks by coming here?"

"Risks!" said the woman, with a sigh.  "If Mazzard knew I came here he
would kill me!"

"The wretch!" muttered Humphrey.  Then aloud, "Dinny must help us.
Woman, surely you can win him to our side!  You will try!"

"Try, sir!  I will do anything!"

"Work upon his feelings, and I will try and do the same."

"He fears the risk of the escape, and also what may happen to him when
he gets back to England.  He has been a buccaneer, and, he tells me, a
soldier.  He will be charged with desertion."

"I will answer for his safety," said Humphrey, hastily.  And then
running to the curtain he made sure that Bart was not listening.

"Be cautious," he said, as he went back and began to pace up and down,
with his eyes fixed upon the ground.  "Tell me, could we get a boat?"

"I don't know, sir; I think so.  Would it not be better to take to the
forest?"

"That we must consider.  First of all, Dinny must be won over."

"I will try."

"How could I communicate with you?"

"You could not, sir.  I came to-day to warn Dinny to be cautious, for
Mazzard suspects something.  He has gone to the men's place, or I could
not be here."

"But you can come sometimes and speak to me.  You will be able to know
whether anyone is here."

"If I can come, sir," said the woman; "but it is very difficult.  The
Commodore is always about; nothing escapes him."

"A scoundrel!"

"I don't think he is such a very bad man," said the woman.

"Indeed!  Ah, women always find an excuse for a good-looking scoundrel!"

"I don't think a man who is faithful to the woman he loved can be very
bad," said the voice, softly.

"Faithful! why, I suppose he has a dozen wives here?"

"He!  Oh, no!  I don't know, sir, exactly, but I have seen him go to the
old chamber in one of these ruinous places, and he goes there to pray by
the side of a coffin."

"What!" cried Humphrey.

"Yes, a coffin; and it contains the body of the woman he loved, or else
of his sister.  No one here knows but Dinny and Bart, and--"

"Hist!" whispered Humphrey, catching up a bunch of grapes and beginning
to eat them.

He had heard the distant step of his guardian, and then there was
silence, for Bart seemed to creep up and listen before entering, which
he did at last, to find the prisoner muttering to himself and eating the
grapes.

"Done?"

"Yes.  You can clear away."

Bart obeyed and turned to go, but as he reached the curtain--

"You have plenty of cigars?" he said.

"I?"

"Ah, well, I've got some there," growled Bart, and he handed the
prisoner half a dozen roughly-made rolls of the tobacco-leaf.  "Now, you
understand," he continued, as he made to go once more, "you're to keep
here till the skipper comes back."

"Are you afraid I shall escape?" said Humphrey, contemptuously.

"Not a bit, captain; but when one man's life depends on another's, it
makes him careful."

The curtain dropped behind him, and Humphrey stood listening and
thinking.

Bart's step could be faintly heard now, and, feeling safe, the prisoner
went back to his couch, and gazed up in the direction from whence the
voice had come.

"Are you still there?" he said, softly.

There was no reply; and a repetition of the question was followed by the
same silence.

"It's strange," he said, gazing up in the gloom overhead to where, in
the midst of a good deal of rough carving, there seemed to be a small
opening, though he could not be sure.  "Why should he come and watch me,
and take this interest in my well-being?  I am not like an ordinary
prisoner, and his friendly way, his submission to the rough contempt
with which I treated him--it's strange, very strange!  What can it
mean?"

He threw himself upon the couch, to lie for some time thinking and
trying to interpret the meaning; but all was black and confused as the
dark mass of carving from which the woman's voice had seemed to come;
and, giving it up at last, he rose, and without any hesitation walked
straight out through the opening, and made his way along the corridor to
where the sun blazed forth and made him stand and shade his eyes, as he
remained considering which way he should go.

The prisoner made a bold dash in a fresh direction, going straight
toward where he believed the men's quarters to be; and, as before, the
moment he had passed behind the ruins he found himself face to face with
a dense wall of verdure, so matted together that, save to a bird or a
small animal, farther progress was impossible.

Defeated here, he tried another and another place, till his perseverance
was rewarded by the finding of one of the dark, maze-like paths formed
by cutting away the smaller growth and zig-zagging through the trees.

Into this dark pathway he plunged, to find that at the end of five
minutes he had lost all idea, through its abrupt turns, of the direction
in which he was going; while before he had penetrated much farther the
pathway forked, and, unable to decide which would lead him in the
required direction, he took the path to the right.

It was plain enough that these green tunnels through the forest had been
cut by the buccaneers for purposes of defence in case of an enemy
carrying their outer works, so that he was in no way surprised to find
the path he had taken led right to a huge crumbling stone building,
whose mossy walls rose up among the trees sombre and forbidding, and
completely barring his way.

It was a spot where a few resolute men might keep quite an army at bay,
for the walls were of enormous extent, the windows mere stone lattices,
and the doorway in front so low that a stooping attitude was necessary
for him who would enter.  This was consequent upon the falling of stones
from above, and the blocking partially of the way.

There was a strange, mysterious aspect in the place, overgrown as it was
with the redundant growth, which fascinated the explorer, and feeling
impelled to go on he gave one glance sound, and was about to enter, when
out of the utter stillness he heard a low sound as if someone had been
watching him and given vent to a low exhalation of the breath.

Humphrey started and looked sharply round, unable to restrain a shudder:
but no one was visible, and he was about to go on, feeling ashamed of
his nervousness, when the sound was repeated, this time from above his
head; and glancing up, he leaped back, for twenty feet above his head in
the green gloom there was a curious, impish face gazing down at him; and
as he made out more and more of the object, it seemed as if some strange
goblin were suspended in mid-air and about to drop down upon his head.

"It's the darkness, I suppose," exclaimed Humphrey, angrily, as he
uttered a loud hiss, whose effect was to make the strange object give
itself a swing and reveal the fact that it was hanging by its tail alone
from the end of a rope-like vine which depended from the vast ceiling of
interlacing leaves.

With apparently not the slightest effort the goblin-like creature caught
a loop of the same vine, clung there for a moment to gaze back at the
intruder into this weird domain, displaying its curiously human
countenance, and then sped upwards, when there was a rush as of a wave
high above the visible portion of the interlacing boughs, and Humphrey
knew that he had startled quite a flock of the little forest imps, who
sped rapidly away.

"I must be very weak still," he muttered as he went now right up to the
entrance, and after peering cautiously in for a moment or two he
entered.

It was dim outside in the forest; here, after picking his way cautiously
for a stop or two, it was nearly black.  The place had probably been
fairly lit when it was first constructed, far back in the dim past
before the forest invaded the district and hid away these works of man;
but now the greatest caution was needed to avoid the fallen blocks of
masonry, and the explorer took step after step with the care of one who
dreaded some chasm in his way.

He stopped and listened, for suddenly from his left there was a faint
echoing splash so small and fine that it must have been caused by the
drip of a bead of water from the roof, but it had fallen deep down into
some dark hollow half filled with water, and a shiver ran through
Humphrey's frame as he thought of the consequences of a slip into such a
place, far from help, and doomed to struggle for a few minutes grasping
at the dripping stony walls, seeking a means of climbing out, and then
falling back into the darkness of the great unknown.

He felt as if he must turn back, but his eyes were now growing
accustomed to the obscurity, and he made out that just in front there
was, faintly marked out, the opening of a doorway leading into a chamber
into which some faint light penetrated.

Going cautiously forward, he entered, to find to his astonishment that
he was in a fair sized room whose stone walls were elaborately carved,
as were the dark recesses or niches all around, before each of which
sat, cross-legged, a well-carved image which seemed to be richly
ornamented in imitation of its old highly-decorated dress.  For a moment
in the obscurity it seemed as if he had penetrated into the abode of the
ancient people who had built the ruined city, and that here they were
seated around in solemn conclave to discuss some matter connected with
the long low form lying upon the skin spread floor, while to make the
scene the more incongruous, these strangely-carved figures were looking
down upon the object, which was carefully draped with a large Union
Jack.

Humphrey paused just inside the threshold and removed his cap, for Sarah
Greenheys' words recurred to him, and it seemed that he must have
strayed into one of the many old temples of the place which had been
turned by Commodore Junk into a mausoleum for the remains of the woman
he was said to have loved, the draped object being without doubt the
coffin which held her remains.

He stood gazing down at the coloured flag for a time; then with a glance
round at the olden idols or effigies of the departed great of the place,
and the dark niches at the mouths of which they sat, he went softly out,
glanced to his right, and saw an opening which evidently gave, upon the
chasm where he had heard the water drip, and stepped out once more into
the comparative daylight of the forest.

The place might be used as a retreat, he thought, but its present use
was plain enough, and he walked quickly back to where the path had
branched, and took the other fork.

This narrow tunnel through the forest suddenly debouched upon another
going across it at right, angles, and after a moment's hesitation the
prisoner turned to the left, and to his great delight found that he had
solved one of the topographical problems of the place, for this led
towards what was evidently the outer part of the buccaneers' settlement,
and of this he had proof by hearing the smothered sound of voices, which
became clear as he proceeded, and at last were plainly to be made out as
coming from a ruined building standing upon a terrace whose stones were
lifted in all directions by the growth around.

This place had been made open by the liberal use of the axe and fire,
half-burned trunks and charred roots of trees lying in all directions,
the consequence being that Humphrey had to stop short at the mouth of
the forest path unless he wanted to be seen.  For, to judge from the
eager talking, it was evident that a number of men were gathered in the
great building at whose doorless opening the back of one of the
buccaneers could be seen as he leaned against the stone, listening to
someone who, in a hoarse voice which the listener seemed to recognise,
was haranguing the rest.

Humphrey could not hear all that was said, but a word fell upon his ear
from time to time, and as he pieced these words together it seemed as if
the speaker were declaiming against tyranny and oppression, and calling
upon his hearers to help him to put an end to the state of affairs
existing.

Then came an excited outburst, as the speaker must have turned his face
toward the door, for these words came plainly:

"The end of it will be that they'll escape, and bring a man-of-war down
upon us, and all through his fooling."  A murmur arose.

"He's gone mad, I tell you all; and if you like to choose a captain for
yourselves, choose one, and I'll follow him like a man; but it's time
something was done if we want to live."  Another burst of murmurs rose
here.

"He's mad, I tell you, or he wouldn't keep him like that.  So what's it
to be, my lads, a new captain or the yard-arm?"



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

DINNY CONSENTS.

The time glided on, and Humphrey always knew when his captor was at sea,
for the severity of his imprisonment was then most felt.  The
lieutenant, Mazzard, was always left in charge of the place, but Bart
remained behind by the captain's orders, and at these times Humphrey was
sternly ordered to keep to his prison.

Dinny came and went, but, try him how he would, Humphrey could get
nothing from him for days and days.

The tide turned at last.

"Well, sor," said Dinny one morning, "I've been thinking it over a great
dale.  I don't like desarting the captain, who has been like a brother
to me; but there's Misthress Greenheys, and love's a wonderful excuse
for a manny things."

"Yes," said Humphrey, eagerly, "go on."

"Sure, sor, she's compelled to be married like to a man she hates, and
it hurts her falings as much as it does mine, and she wants me to get
her away and make a rale marriage of it, such as a respectable woman
likes; for ye see, all against her will, she's obliged to be Misthress
Mazzard now, and there hasn't been any praste."

"I understand," said Humphrey.  "The scoundrel!"

"Well, yes, sir, that's what he is; but by the same token I don't wonder
at it, for if a man stood bechuckst good and avil and Misthress
Greenheys was on the avil side, faix, he'd be sure to go toward the
avil--at laste, he would if he was an Oirishman."

"Then you will!"

"Yis, sor, for the lady's sake; but I shall have to give up my share of
the good things here, and behave very badly to the captain."

"My good fellow, I will provide you for life."

"That's moighty kind of you, sor, and I thank ye.  Yis, I'll do it, for,
ye see, though I don't want to behave badly to the captain, Black
Mazzard's too much for me; and besides, I kape thinking that if, some
day or another, I do mate wid an accident and get dancing on the
toight-rope, I sha'n't have a chance of wedding the widdy Greenheys, and
that would be a terrible disappointment to the poor darlin'."

"Yes, yes," cried Humphrey, impatiently.  "Then tell me.  You will help
me by getting a boat ready, and we can all go down together and put to
sea!"

"Hark at him!" said Dinny, with a laugh, after going to the great
curtain and peering into the corridor.  "Ye spake, sor, like a gintleman
coming out of his house and calling for a kyar.  Lave that all to me."

"I will, Dinny; but what do you propose doing, and when!"

"What do I propose doing, sor?  Oh! it's all settled.  The darlin' put
an idee in my head, and it's tuk root like a seed."

"Trust a woman for ingenuity!" cried Humphrey, speaking with the
authority of one who knew, though as to women's ways he was a child.

"Ah, an' she's a cliver one, sor!"

"Well, what is it, Dinny?" cried Humphrey, excitedly.

"Be aisy, sor, and lave it to us.  The darlin' has set her moind on
getting away from Black Mazzard, and she's too gintle a crature to go to
extremities and tuk his head off some night like the lady did in the
tint, or to handle a hammer and a nail and fix his head to the ground.
She don't like to be too hard upon him, sor, so she proposed a plan to
me, and it will be all right."

"But, Dinny--"

"Be aisy, sor, or ye'll spoil all.  Jist wait quite riddy, like, till
some avening I shall come to ye all in a hurry, hold up me little finger
to ye, which will mane come, and ye'll foind it all cut and dhried for
ye."

"But, my good fellow--"

"Faix, sor, don't go on like that before I've done.  I want to say that
ye must be at home here riddy.  If the skipper asks ye to dinner, don't
go; and if ye hear a big, powerful noise, don't git running out to see
what it is, but go on aisy like, saying to yerself, `Dinny's getting
riddy for me, and he may come at anny time.'"

"And are you going to keep me in the dark?"

"An' he calls it kaping him in the dark!  Ah, well, sor, I won't do
that!  I'll jist tell ye, thin.  Ye know the owld chapel place?"

"Chapel!"

"Well, church, thin, sor.  That's what they say it was.  The little wan
wid the stone picture of the owld gintleman sitting over the door."

"That square temple?"

"Yis, sor.  It's all the same.  The haythens who lived out here didn't
know any betther, and the prastes were a bad lot, so they used to
worship the owld gintleman, and give him a prisoner ivery now and then
cut up aloive."

"Nonsense!  How do you know that?"

"Faix, it's written on the stones so; and we found them althers wid
places for the blood to run, and knives made out of flint-glass.  It's
thrue enough."

"But what about the temple?"

"Sure, it is the divil's temple, sor," said Dinny, with a twinkle of the
eye; "and the skipper said it was just the place for it, so he fills it
full of our divil's dust."

"Money?"

"An' is it money?  That's all safe in another place, wid silver and
gowld bars from the mines, as we tuk in ships, and gowld cups, sor.
That's put away safe, for it's no use here, where there isn't a
whisky-shop to go and spend it.  No, sor; divil's dust, the black
gunpowther."

"Oh, the magazine!  Well, what of that?"

"Sure, sor, the darlin' put her pretty little lips close to my ear.
`Och, darlin', and loight of my ois,' I says.  `Sure, it's so dark in
the wood here that ye've made a mistake.  That's me ear, darlin', and
not me mouth.  Let me show ye'--"

"`No, Dinny,' she says, `I'm like being another man's wife now, and I
can foind me way to yer lips whether it's dark or light when it's proper
and dacent to do so, and we've been to church.'"

"Dinny, you'll drive me mad!" cried Humphrey, impatiently.

"An' is it dhrive ye mad, when I'm thrying to set ye right?  Then I'd
better not tell ye, sor."

"Yes, yes!  For goodness' sake, man, go on."

"Ah, well, thin, an' I will!  She jist puts her lips to my ear and she
says, `Dinny, if ye lay a thrain from the powdher-magazine'--think of
that now, the darlin'!--`lay a thrain,' she says, Dinny, `and put a
slow-match, same as ye have riddy for firing the big guns, and then be
sure,' she says, `and get out of the way'--as if I'd want to shtay, sor,
and be sent to hiven in a hurry--`thin,' she says, `the whole place will
be blown up, and iverybody will be running to see what's the matther and
put out the fire, and they'll be so busy wid that, they'll forget all
about the prishner, and we can go down to the say and get away.'"

"Yes," said Humphrey, thoughtfully.  "Is there much powder stored
there!"

"Yis, sor, a dale.  Ivery time a ship's been tuk all the powdher has
been brought ashore and put there.  It's a foin plan, sor, and all made
out of the darlin's own head."

"Yes, Dinny, we ought to get away then."

"Sure, an' we will, sor.  I'll have a boat wid plenty of wather and
sun-dhried mate in her, and some fruit and fishing-lines.  We shall do;
but the plan isn't perfect yet."

"Why?"

"Sure, an' there's no arrangement for getting Black Mazzard to come that
time to count over the powdher-barrels."

"What! and blow the scoundrel up!"

"Sure, sor, and it would be a kindness to him.  He's the wickedest divil
that ever breathed, and he gets worse ivery day, so wouldn't it be a
kindness to try and send him to heaven before he gets too bad to go!
But whist!  I've stopped too long, sor.  Ye understand?"

"Dinny, get me away from here, and you're a made man!"

"Faix, I dunno, sor.  Mebbe there'll be one lot'll want to shoot me for
a desarter--though I desarted by force--and another lot'll want to hang
me for a pirate.  I don't fale at all safe; but I know I shall be tuk
and done for some day if I shtop, and as the darlin' says she'll niver
make a mistake the right way wid her lips till I've taken her from Black
Mazzard, why, I'll do the thrick."

More days passed, and every stroll outside his prison had to be taken by
Humphrey with Bart as close to him as his shadow.

Dinny kept away again, and the plan to escape might as well have never
been uttered.

Bart always went well-armed with his prisoner, and seemed unusually
suspicious, as if fearing an attempt at escape.

Dinny's little widow came no more, and the hours grew so irksome with
the confinement consequent upon the captains absence that Humphrey
longed for his return.

He debated again and again all he had heard, and came to the conclusion
that if he said anything it must be to the captain himself.

One morning Bart's manner showed that something had occurred.  His sour
face wore a smile, and he was evidently greatly relieved of his
responsibility as he said to the prisoner:

"There, you can go out."

"Has the captain returned?"

Bart delivered himself of a short nod.

"Tell him I wish to see him.  Bid him come here."

"What! the skipper?  You mean, ask him if I may take you to him, and
he'll see you."

"I said, Tell your skipper to come here!" said Humphrey, drawing himself
up and speaking as if he were on the quarterdeck.  "Tell him I wish to
see him at once."

Bart drew a long breath, and wrinkled up his forehead so that it seemed
as if he had an enormous weight upon his head.  Then, smiling grimly, he
slowly left the place.

The buccaneer, who looked anxious and dispirited, was listening to some
complaint made by his lieutenant, and angry words were passing which
made Bart as he heard them hasten his steps, and look sharply from one
to the other as he entered.

Black Mazzard did what was a work of supererogation as he encountered
Bart's eye--he scowled, his face being villainous enough without.

"Well," he said aloud, "I've warned you!" and he strode out of the old
temple-chamber which formed the captain's quarters, his heavy boots
thrust down about his ankles sounding dull on the thick rugs spread over
the worn stones, and then clattering loudly as he stepped outside.

"You two been quarrelling?" said Bart, sharply.

"The dog's insolence is worse than ever!" cried the captain with
flashing eyes.  "Bart, I don't want to shed the blood of the man who has
been my officer, but--"

"Let someone else bleed him," growled Bart.  "Dick would; Dinny would
give anything to do it.  We're 'bout tired of him.  I should like the
job myself."

"Silence!" said the captain, sternly.  "No, speak: tell me, what has
been going on since I've been away?"

"Black Mazzard?"

The captain nodded.

"Half the time--well, no: say three-quarters--he's been drunk, t'other
quarter he's spent in the south ruins preaching to the men."

"Preaching?"

"Yes, with you for text.  Just in his old way; but I've been too busy
with the prisoner."

"Yes, and he?"

"It's him who is master here.  Here, get up!"  The buccaneer started,
threw back his head, and the dark eyes flashed as he exclaimed--

"What's this, sir?  Have you been taking a lesson from Mazzard?"

"I?  No; I'm only giving you your orders!"

"What orders?"

"Master Captain Humphrey Armstrong's.  You're to get up and go to him
directly.  He wants you!"

The buccaneer sprang to his feet.

"He wants me--he has sent for me?" he cried, eagerly.

"Ay!  You're to go to him.  He's master here!"

A dull lurid flush came over the captain's swarthy face as his eyes
encountered those of his henchman, and he frowned heavily.

"Of course you'll go!" said Bart, bitterly.  "I should give up
everything to him now, and let him do as he likes!"

"Bart!"

"Oh, all right!  Say what you like, I don't mind.  Only, if it's to be
so, let him hang me out of my misery, and have done with it."

The buccaneer turned upon him fiercely, and his lips parted to speak;
but as he saw the misery and despair in Bart's face his own softened.

"Is this my old friend and help speaking?" he said, softly.  "I did not
expect it, Bart, from you.  Why do you speak to me like this?"

"Because you are going wrong.  Because I can see how things are going to
be, and it's natural for me to speak.  Think I'm blind?"

"No, Bart, old friend.  I only think you exaggerate and form ideas that
are not true.  I know what you mean; but you forget that I am Commodore
Junk, and so I shall be to the end.  Now, tell me," he continued,
calmly; "this captain of the sloop asks to see me?"

"Orders you to come to him!"

"Well, he is accustomed to order, and illness has made him petulant.  I
will go."

"You'll go?"

"Yes.  Perhaps he has something to say in answer to an offer I made."

"An offer?"

"Yes, Bart, to join us, and be one of my lieutenants."

"Join us, and be your lufftenant?" cried Bart.

"Yes, and my friend.  I like him for the sake of his old generous ways,
and I like him for his present manliness."

"You--like him?"

"Yes.  It is not impossible, is it, that I should like to have a
friend?"

"Friend?"

"Yes!" said the captain, sternly; "another friend!  Don't stare, man,
and think of the past.  Mary Dell died, and lies yonder in the old
temple, covered by the Union Jack, and Abel Dell still lives--Commodore
Junk, seeking to take vengeance upon those who cut that young life
short."

"Look here!" said Bart, who gasped as he listened to his companion's
wild utterances; "are you going mad?"

"No, Bart, I am as sane as you."

"But you said--"

"What I chose to say, man.  Let me believe all that if I like.  Do you
suppose I do not want some shield against the stings of my own thoughts?
I choose to think all that, and it shall be so.  You shall think it
too.  I am Commodore Junk, and if I wish this man to be my friend, and
he consents, it shall be so!"

"And suppose some day natur says, `I'm stronger than you, and I'll have
my way,' what then?"

"I'll prove to nature, Bart, that she lies, for she shall not have her
way.  If at any time I feel myself the weaker, there are my pistols;
there is the sea; there is the great tank with its black waters deep
down below the temple."

"And you are going there--to him!"

"I am going there to him.  Can you not trust me, Bart?"

The poor fellow made a weary gesture with his hands, and then, as the
captain drew himself up, looking supremely handsome in his picturesque
garb, and with his face flushed and brightened eyes, Bart followed him
towards Humphrey's prison, walking at a distance, and with something of
the manner of a faithful watch-dog who had been beaten heavily, but who
had his duties to fulfil, and would do them till he died.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

ANOTHER DUEL.

"Is that his step?  No; its that miserable gaoler's," said Humphrey, as
he lay back on his soft skin-covered couch with his arms beneath his
head in a careless, indolent attitude.

Humphrey was beginning to feel the thrill of returning strength in his
veins, and it brought with it his old independence of spirit and the
memory that he had been trained to rule.  His little episode with Bart
that morning had roused him a little, and prepared him for his encounter
with the buccaneer captain, upon whom he felt he was about to confer a
favour.

A smile played about his lips as the step drew nearer, the difference
between it and that of Bart being more and more marked as he listened,
and then quite closed his eyes, while the heavy curtain was drawn aside,
and the buccaneer entered the chamber.  He took a step or two forward,
which placed him in front of the stone idol, and there he stood gazing
down at the handsome, manly figure of his prisoner, whose unstudied
attitude formed a picture in that weird, picturesque place, which made
the captain's breath come and go a little more quickly, and a faint
sensation of vertigo tempt him to turn and hurry away.

The sensation was momentary.  A frown puckered his brow, and he said
quietly--

"Asleep?"

"No," said Humphrey, opening his eyes slowly; "no, my good fellow.  I
was only thinking."

The buccaneer frowned a little more heavily as he listened to his
prisoner's cool, careless words, and felt the contemptuous tone in which
he was addressed.

"You sent for me," he said, harshly, and his voice sounded coarse and
rough.

"Well," said Humphrey, with insolent contempt, "how many ships have you
plundered--how many throats have you cut this voyage?"

The buccaneer's eyes seemed to flash as he took a step forward, and made
an angry gesture.  But he checked himself on the instant, and, with a
faint smile, replied--

"Captain Armstrong is disposed to be merry.  Why have you sent for me?"

"Merry!" said Humphrey, still ignoring the question; "one need be, shut
up in this tomb.  Well, you are back again?"

"Yes; I am back again," said the buccaneer, smoothing his brow, and
declining to be angry with his prisoner for his insulting way as he
still lay back on the couch.  "It is but the pecking of a prisoned
bird," he said to himself.

"And not been caught and hanged yet?  I was in hope that I had seen the
last of you."

"I have heard tell before of prisoners reviling their captors," said the
buccaneer, quietly.

"Revile!  Well, is it not your portion!"

"For treating you with the consideration due to a gentleman?" said the
buccaneer, whose features grew more calm and whose eyes brightened as if
from satisfaction at finding the prisoner so cool and daring, and in how
little account he was held.  "I have given orders that the prisoner
should be treated well.  Is there anything more I can do?"

The harsh grating voice had grown soft, deep, rich, and mellow, while
the dark, flashing eyes seemed to have become dreamy as they rested upon
the prisoner's handsome, defiant face.

"Yes," said Humphrey, bitterly; "give me my liberty."

The buccaneer shook his head.

"Curse you!  No; you profess to serve me--to treat me well--and you keep
me here barred up like some wild beast whom you have caged."

"Barred--caged!" said the buccaneer, raising his eyebrows.  "You have
freedom to wander where you will."

"Bah! freedom!" cried Humphrey, springing up.  "Curse you! why don't I
strangle you where you stand?"

At that moment there was a rustling among the leaves outside the window,
and Humphrey burst into a mocking laugh.

"How brave!" he cried.  "The buccaneer captain comes to see his unarmed
prisoner, and his guards wait outside the doorway, while another party
stop by the window, ready to spring in."

The buccaneer's face turned of a deep dull red--the glow of annoyance,
as he strode to the window and exclaimed fiercely--

"Why are you here?  Go!"

"But--"

"Go, Bart," said the buccaneer, more quietly.  "Captain Armstrong will
not injure me."

There was a heavy rustling sound among the leaves and the buccaneer made
as if to go to the great curtain; but he checked himself, turned, and
smiling sadly--

"Captain Armstrong will believe me when I tell him that there is no one
out there.  Come, sir, you have sent for me.  You have thought well upon
all I said.  All this has been so much angry petulance, and you are
ready to take me by the hand--to become my friend.  No, no; hear me.
You do not think of what your life here may be."

"That of a pirate--a murderer!" cried Humphrey, scornfully.

"No," said the buccaneer, flushing once more.  "I am rich.  All that can
be a something of the past.  This land is mine, and here we can raise up
a new nation, for my followers are devoted to me.  Come! are we to be
friends?"

"Friends!" cried Humphrey, scornfully--"a new nation--your people
devoted!--why man, I sent for you to warn you!"

"You--to warn me?"

"Yes.  One of your followers is plotting against you.  He has been
addressing your men; and if you don't take care, my good sir, you will
be elevated over your people in a way more lofty than pleasant to the
king of a new nation."

"I understand your sneers, sir," said the buccaneer, quietly; and there
was more sadness than anger in his tone.  "They are unworthy of the
brave man who has warned me of a coming danger, and they are from your
lips, sir, not from the heart of the brave adversary I have vowed to
make my friend."

Humphrey winced, for the calm reproachful tone roused him, and he stood
there frowning as the buccaneer went on.

"As to the plotting against me, I am always prepared for that.  A man in
my position makes many enemies.  Even you have yours."

"Yes--you," cried Humphrey.

"No; I am a friend.  There, I thank you for your warning.  It is a
proof, though you do not know it, that the gap between us grows less.
Some day, Captain Armstrong, you will take my hand.  We shall be
friends."

Humphrey remained silent as the buccaneer left the chamber, and, once
more alone, the prisoner asked himself if this was true--that he had
bidden farewell to civilisation for ever, and this was to be his home,
this strange compound of savage fierceness and gentle friendliness his
companion to the end?



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

THE ASSASSINS.

Humphrey Armstrong walked on blindly farther and farther into the
forest, for he was moved more deeply than ever he had been moved before.
The presence of this man was hateful to him, and yet he seemed to
possess an influence that was inexplicable; and his soft deep tones,
which alternated with his harsher utterances, rang in his ears now he
was away.

"Good heavens!" he cried at last, as he nearly struck against one of the
stone images which stood out almost as grey and green as the trees
around, "what an end to an officer's career--the lieutenant of a
wretched pirate king!  New nation!  Bah! what madness!"

"Captivity has unmanned me," he said to himself, as he sat down upon a
mossy fragment of stone in the silent forest path, and the utter silence
and calm seemed refreshing.

He sat thus for some time, with his head resting upon his hand, gazing
back along the narrow path, when, to his horror, just coming into view,
he saw the figure of the buccaneer approaching, with head bent and arms
crossed over his chest, evidently deep in thought.

Humphrey started up and backed away round a curve before turning, and
walked swiftly along the path, looking eagerly for a track by which he
could avoid another encounter, when for the first time he became aware
of the fact that he was in the way leading to the old temple which had
been formed into a mausoleum, and, unless he should be able to find
another path, bound for the ancient structure.

He almost ran along the meandering path, feeling annoyed with himself
the while, till the gloomy pile loomed before him, and he climbed up the
doorway and looked back.

All was silent and dim as he stooped and entered, stepping cautiously
on, and then, as soon as well sheltered, turning to gaze back and see if
the buccaneer came in sight.

The place struck chill and damp; there was a mysterious feeling of awe
to oppress him as he recalled the chamber behind him, or rather, as he
stood, upon his left; and its use, and the strange figures he had seen
seated about, all added to the sense of awe and mystery by which he was
surrounded; while the feeling of annoyance that he should have shrunk
from meeting this man increased.

Just then there was the faint drip of water as he had heard it before,
followed by the whispering echoes; and, moved by the desire to know how
near he was to what must be a deep well-like chasm, he stooped, felt
about him, and his hand encountered a good-sized fragment of the stone
carving which had mouldered and been thrust by the root of some growing
plant from the roof.

He did not pause to think, but threw it from him, to hear it strike
against stone.

It had evidently missed what he intended, and he had turned to gaze
again at the path, when he found that it had struck somewhere and
rebounded, to fall with a hideous hollow echoing plash far below.

Humphrey's brow grew damp as he listened to the strange whispers of the
water; and then he looked once more at the path, wondering whether the
horrible noise had been heard, for just then the buccaneer came into
sight and walked slowly toward the old temple.

But the echoes of that plash were too much shut up in the vast hollow
below, and the buccaneer, still with his arms folded and chin resting
upon his chest, walked on, evidently to enter the old building.

Humphrey hesitated for a moment, half intending to boldly meet his
captor; but he shrank from the encounter, and weakly backed away farther
into the darkness, till he was in the dim chamber where the coffin lay
draped as before, and the strange figures of the old idols sat around.

There was no time for further hesitation.  He must either boldly meet
the buccaneer or hide.

He chose the latter course, glancing round for a moment, and then
stepping cautiously into one of the recesses behind a sitting figure,
where he could stand in complete darkness and wait till the buccaneer
had gone.

The latter entered the next moment, and Humphrey felt half mad with
himself at his spy-like conduct, for as he saw dimly the figure enter,
he heard a low piteous moan, and saw him throw himself upon his knees
beside the draped coffin, his hands clasped, and his frame bending with
emotion, as in a broken voice he prayed aloud.

His words were incoherent, and but few of the utterances reached the
listening man's ears, as he bit his lips with anger, and then listened
with wonder at what seemed a strange revelation of character.

"Oh, give me strength!" he murmured.  "I swore revenge--on all--for the
wrongs for the death--loved--strength to fight down the weakness--to
be--self--for strength--for strength--to live--revenge--death."

The last word of these agonised utterances was still quivering upon the
air as if it had been torn from the speaker's breast, when the
dimly-seen doorway was suddenly darkened, and there was a quick
movement.

Humphrey Armstrong's position was one which enabled him, faint as was
the light, to see everything--the draped coffin, the kneeling figure
bent over it prostrate in agony of spirit, and a great crouching form
stealing softly behind as if gathering for a spring.

Was it Bart?  No; and the doorway was again darkened, and he saw that
two more men were there.

Friends?  Attendants?  No.  There was the dull gleam of steel uplifted
by the figure bending over the buccaneer.

Assassination without doubt.  The moment of peril had come, lightly as
it had been treated, and, stirred to the heart by the treachery and
horror of the deed intended, Humphrey sprang from his place of
concealment, struck the buccaneer's assailant full in the chest, and
they rolled out together on the temple floor.

"Quick, lads, help!" shouted the man whom Humphrey had seized, and his
companions rushed in, for a general melee to ensue at terrible
disadvantage, for the assailants were armed with knives, and those they
assailed defenceless as to weapons other than those nature had supplied.

Humphrey knew this to his cost in the quick struggle which ensued.  He
had writhed round as he struggled with the would-be murderer, and
contrived to get uppermost, when a keen sense of pain, as of a red-hot
wire passing through one of his arms, made him loosen his hold for a
moment, and the next he was dashed back.

He sprang up, though, to seize his assailant, stung by the pain into a
fit of savage rage, when, as he clasped an enemy, he found that it was
not his first antagonist, but a lesser man, with whom he closed fiercely
just as the fellow was striving to get out of the doorway--a purpose he
effected, dragging Humphrey with him.

The passage was darker than the inner temple, where hoarse panting and
the sounds of contention were still going on, oaths, curses, and
commands uttered in a savage voice to "Give it him now!"--"Now strike,
you fool!"--"Curse him, he's like an eel!"--and the like came confusedly
through the doorway, as, smarting with pain and grinding his teeth with
rage, Humphrey struggled on in the passage, savagely determined to
retain this one a prisoner, as he fought to get the mastery of the
knife.

How it all occurred was more than he could afterwards clearly arrange in
his own mind; what he could recall was that the pain weakened him, and
the man with whom he struggled wrenched his left arm free, snatched the
knife he held from his right hand, and would have plunged it into
Humphrey's breast had not the latter struck him a sharp blow upwards in
the face so vigorously, that the knife fell tinkling on the ground, and
the struggle was resumed upon more equal terms.

It was a matter of less than a minute, during which Humphrey in his rage
and pain fought less for life than to master his assailant and keep him
prisoner.  They had been down twice, tripping over the stone-strewn
pavement, and once Humphrey had been forced against the wall, but by a
sudden spring he had driven his opponent backwards, and they were
struggling in the middle of the opening, when a wild shriek rang out
from the inner temple--a cry which seemed to curdle the young officer's
blood--and this was followed by a rush of someone escaping.

His retreat was only witnessed by one, for the struggle was continued on
the floor.  The two adversaries, locked in a tight embrace, strove to
reach the feet, and, panting and weak, Humphrey had nearly succeeded in
so doing, when his foe forced him backwards, and he fell to cling to the
rugged stonework.

For as he was driven back the flooring seemed to crumble away beneath
his feet; there was a terrible jerk, and he found himself hanging by his
hands, his enemy clinging to him still, and the weight upon his muscles
seeming as if it would tear them apart.  In the hurry and excitement
Humphrey could hardly comprehend his position for the moment.  The next
he understood it too well, for the stone which had given way fell with a
hideous echoing noise, which came from a terrible distance below.

Almost in total darkness, his hands cramped into the interval between
two masses of broken stone which formed part of the _debris_ of the roof
above, hanging over a hideous gulf at the full stretch of his arms, and
with his adversary's hands fixed, talon-like, in garb and dress as he
strove to clamber up him to the floor above.

At every throe, as the man strove to grip Humphrey with his knees and
climb up, some fragment of stone rushed down, to fall far beneath,
splashing and echoing with a repetition of sounds that robbed him of
such strength as remained to him, and a dreamy sensation came on apace.

"It is the end," thought Humphrey, for his fingers felt as if they were
yielding, the chilling sensation of paralysis increased, and in another
minute he knew that he must fall, when the grip upon him increased, and
the man who clung uttered a hoarse yell for help.

"Quick, for God's sake!  Quick!" he shrieked.  "I'm letting go!"

But at that instant something dark seemed to come between him and the
gleaming wet stone away above him in the roof, and then there was quite
an avalanche of small stones gliding by.

It was the scoundrel's companion come at the call for help, thought
Humphrey; and he clung still in silence, wondering whether it was too
late as his strained eye-balls glared upward.

"Where are you?" came in a husky voice.

It was to save his life; but though Humphrey recognised the voice, he
could not speak, for his tongue and throat were dry.

"Are you here?  Hold on!" cried the voice again; and then there was the
sound of someone feeling about, but dislodging stones, which kept
rattling down and splashing below.

"Where are you!" cried the voice above Humphrey; but still he could not
reply.  His hands were giving way, and he felt that his whole energy
must be devoted to the one effort of clinging to the last ere he was
plunged down into that awful gulf.

But the man who clung to him heard the hoarsely-whispered question, and
broke out into a wild series of appeals for help--for mercy--for pity.

"For God's sake, captain!" he yelled, "save me--save me!  It was Black
Mazzard!  He made me come!  Do you hear!  Help!  I can't hold no longer!
I'm falling!  Help!  Curse you--help!"

As these cries thrilled him through and through, Humphrey was conscious
in the darkness that the hands he heard rustling above him and
dislodging stones, every fall of which brought forth a shriek from the
wretch below, suddenly touched his, and then, as if spasmodically,
leaped to his wrists, round which they fastened with a grip like steel.

To Humphrey Armstrong it was all now like one hideous nightmare, during
which he suffered, but could do nothing to free himself.  The wretch's
shrieks were growing fainter, and he clung in an inert way now, while
someone seemed to be muttering above--

"I can do nothing more--I can do nothing more!" but the grip about
Humphrey's wrists tightened, and two arms rested upon his hands and
seemed to press them closer to the stones to which they clung.

"Captain--captain!  Are you there?"

"Yes," came from close to Humphrey's face.

"Forgive me, skipper, and help me up!  I'll be faithful to you!  I'll
kill Black Mazzard!"

"I can do nothing," said the buccaneer, hoarsely.  "You are beyond my
reach."

"Then go and fetch the lads and a rope.  Don't let me fall into this
cursed, watery hell!"

"If I quit my hold here, man, you will both go down; unless help comes,
nothing can be done."

"Then, call help!  Call help now, captain, and I'll be your slave!
Curse him for leaving me here!  Where's Joe Thorpe?"

"He was killed by Mazzard with a blow meant for me," said the buccaneer,
slowly.

"Curse him!  Curse him!" shrieked the man.  "Oh, captain, save me, and
I'll kill him for you!  He wants to be skipper; and I'll kill him for
you if you'll only--Ah!"

He uttered a despairing shriek, for as he spoke a sharp tearing sound
was heard; the cloth he clung to gave way, and before he could get a
fresh hold he was hanging suspended by the half-torn-off garb.  He swung
to and fro as he uttered one cry, and then there was an awful silence,
followed by a plunge far below.

The water seemed to hiss and whisper and echo in all directions, and the
silence, for what seemed quite a long space, was awful.  It was,
however, but a few instants, and then there was a terrific splashing as
if a number of horrible creatures had rushed to prey upon the fallen
man, whose shrieks for help began once more.

Appeals, curses, yells, piteous wails, followed each other in rapid
succession as the water was beaten heavily.  Then the cries were
smothered, there was a gurgling sound, and the water whispered and
lapped and echoed as it seemed to play against the stony walls of the
place.

A few moments and the cries recommenced, and between every cry there was
the hoarse panting of a swimmer fighting hard for his life as he struck
out.

The buccaneer's eyes stared wildly down into the great cenote, or
water-tank, whose vast proportions were hidden in the gloom.  He could
see nothing; but his imagination supplied the vacancy, and pictured
before him the head and shoulders of his treacherous follower as he swam
along the sides of the great gulf, striving to find a place to climb up;
and this he did, for the hoarse panting and the cries ceased, and from
the dripping and splashing it was evident that he had found some
inequality in the wall, by means of which he climbed, with the water
streaming from him.

The task was laborious, but he drew himself up and up, climbing slowly,
and then he suddenly ceased, uttered a terrible cry, and once more there
was a splash, the lapping and whispering of the water, and silence.

He was at the surface again, swimming hard in the darkness and striving
once more to reach the place where he had climbed; but in the darkness
he swam in quite a different direction, and his hoarse panting rose
again, quick and agitated now, the strokes were taken more rapidly, and
like a rat drowning in a tub of water, the miserable wretch toiled on,
swimming more and more rapidly and clutching at the wall.

Once an inequality gave him a few moments' rest, and he clung
desperately, uttering the most harrowing cries, but only to fall back
with a heavy splash.  Then he was up once more fighting for life, and
the vast tank echoed with his gurgling appeals for help.

Again they were silenced, and the water whispered and lapped and echoed.

There was a splash, a hoarse gurgle, a beating of the water as a dog
beats it before it sinks.

Again silence and the whispering and lapping against the sides more
faint; then a gurgling sound, the water beat once or twice, a fainter
echo or two, and then what sounded like a sigh of relief, and a silence
that was indeed the silence of death.

Suddenly the silence in that darkness was broken, for a hoarse voice
said--

"Climb up!"

"Climb!" exclaimed Humphrey, who seemed to have recovered his voice,
while his frozen energies appeared to expand.

"Yes.  Climb.  I can hold you thus, but no more.  Try and obtain a
foothold."

Humphrey obeyed as one obeys who feels a stronger will acting upon him.

"Can you keep my hands fast?" he said.  "They are numbed."

"Yes.  You shall not slip now.  Climb!"

Humphrey obeyed, and placed his feet upon a projection; but it gave way,
and a great stone forced from the wall by his weight fell down with a
splash which roused the echoes once more.

Humphrey felt half-paralysed again; but the voice above was once more
raised.

"Now," it said, "there must be foothold in that spot where the stone
fell.  Try."

The young officer obeyed, and rousing himself for a supreme effort as
his last before complete inaction set in, he strove hard.  The hands
seemed like steel bands about his wrists, and his struggle sent the
blood coursing once more through his nerveless arms.  Then, with a
perfect avalanche of stones falling from the crumbling side, he strove
and strained, and, how he knew not, found foothold, drew himself up, and
half crawling, half dragged by the buccaneer as he backed up the slope,
reached the level part of the passage between the entrance and the
doorway of the inner temple, where he subsided on the stones, panting,
exhausted, and with an icy feeling running through his nerves.

"Commodore Junk," he whispered hoarsely as he lay in the semi-darkness,
"you have saved my life."

"As you saved mine."

Those two lay there in the gloomy passage listening to the solemn
whisperings and lappings of the water, which seemed to be continued for
an almost interminable time before they died out, and once more all was
silent.  But the expectancy remained.  It seemed to both that at any
moment the miserable would-be assassin might rise to the surface and
shriek for help, or that perhaps he was still above water, clinging to
the side of the cenote, paralysed with fear, and that as soon as he
recovered himself he would make the hideous gulf echo with his appeals.

By degrees, though, as the heavy laboured panting of their breasts
ceased, and their hearts ceased beating so tumultuously, a more
matter-of-fact way of looking at their position came over them.

"Try if you can walk now," said the buccaneer in a low voice.  "You will
be better in your own place."

"Yes--soon," replied Humphrey, abruptly; and once more there was
silence, a silence broken at last by the buccaneer.

"Captain Armstrong," he said softly, at last, "surely we can now be
friends!"

"Friends?  No!  Why can we?" cried Humphrey, angrily.

"Because I claim your life, the life that I saved, as mine--because I
owe you mine!"

"No, no!  I tell you it is impossible!  Enemies, sir, enemies to the
bitter end.  You forget why I came out here!"

"No," said the buccaneer, sadly.  "You came to take my life--to destroy
my people--but Fate said otherwise, and you became my prisoner--your
life forfeited to me!"

"A life you dare not take!" cried Humphrey, sternly.  "I am one of the
king's officers--your king's men."

"I have no king!"

"Nonsense, man!  You are a subject of His Majesty King George."

"No!" cried the buccaneer.  "When that monarch ceased to give his people
the protection they asked, and cruelly and unjustly banished them across
the seas for no greater crime than defending a sister's honour from a
villain, that king deserved no more obedience from those he wronged."

"The king--did this?" said Humphrey, wonderingly, as he gazed full in
the speaker's face, struggling the while to grasp the clues of something
misty in his mind--a something which he felt he ought to know, and which
escaped him all the while.

"The king!  Well, no; but his people whom he entrusts with the care of
his laws."

"Stop!" cried Humphrey, raising himself upon one arm and gazing eagerly
in the buccaneer's face; "a sister's honour--defended--punished--sent
away for that!  No; it is impossible!  Yes--ah!  I know you now!  Abel
Dell!"

The buccaneer shrank back, gazing at him wildly.

"That is what always seemed struggling in my brain," cried Humphrey,
excitedly.  "Of course, I know you now.  And you were sent over here--a
convict, and escaped."

The buccaneer hesitated for a few moments, with the deep colour going
and coming in his face.

"Yes," he said, at last.  "Abel Dell escaped from the dreary plantation
where he laboured."

"And his sister!"

"You remember her story!"

"Remember!  Yes," cried Humphrey.  "She disappeared from near Dartmouth
years ago."

"Yes."

"What became of her--poor girl?" said Humphrey, earnestly; and the
buccaneer's cheeks coloured as the words of pity fell.

"She joined her brother out here."

"But he was a convict."

"She helped him to escape."

"I see it all," cried Humphrey, eagerly; "and he became the pirate--and
you became the pirate--the buccaneer, Commodore Junk."

"Yes."

"Good heavens!" ejaculated Humphrey.  "And the sister--your sister, man
the handsome, dark girl whom my cousin--Oh, hang cousin James!  What a
scoundrel he could be!"

It was the sturdy, outspoken exclamation of an honest English gentleman,
and as the buccaneer heard it, Humphrey felt his hand seized in a firm
grip, to be held for a few moments and then dropped.

"But he's dead," continued Humphrey.  "Let him rest.  But tell me--the
sister--Oh!"

A long look of apology and pity followed the ejaculation, as Humphrey
recalled the scene in the temple, where the long coffin lay draped with
the Union Jack--the anguish of the figure on its knees, and the
passionate words of adjuration and prayer.  It was as if a veil which
hid his companion's character from him had been suddenly torn aside, and
a look of sympathy beamed from his eyes as he stretched out his hand in
a frank, manly fashion.

"I beg your pardon," he cried, softly.  "I did not know all this.  I am
sorry I have been so abrupt in what I said."

"I have nothing to forgive," said the buccaneer, warmly, and his swarthy
cheeks glowed as Humphrey gazed earnestly in his eyes.

"And for the sake of brave old Devon and home you spared my life and
treated me as you have?"

"Not for the sake of brave old Devon," said the buccaneer, gravely, "but
for your own.  Now, Captain Humphrey Armstrong, can we be friends?"

"Yes!" exclaimed Humphrey, eagerly, as he stretched out his hand.  "No!"
he cried, letting it fall.  "It is impossible, sir.  I have my duty to
do to my king and those I've left at home.  I am your prisoner; do with
me as you please, for, as a gentleman, I tell you that what you ask is
impossible.  We are enemies, and I must escape.  When I do escape my
task begins again--to root out your nest of hornets.  So for heaven's
sake, for the sake of what is past, the day I escape provide for your
own safety; for my duty I must do!"

"Then you refuse me your friendship?"

"Yes.  I am your enemy, sworn to do a certain duty; but I shall escape
when the time has come, I can say no more."



CHAPTER THIRTY.

DINNY'S HISTORY.

"No, sor," said Dinny, one morning, "the captain thought that as two of
'em had got their doses there ought to be no more killing.  Faix, he
behaved like a lion when he came up that day.  There was Black Mazzard
and five-and-twenty more of 'em as had been over-persuaded by him, all
shut up with plenty of firearms in the powder magazine.  `Don't go nigh
'em--it's madness,' says the captain; but he goes into his place and
comes out again with a couple of pishtles shtuck in his belt, and his
best sword on--the one wid an edge as you could show to your beard and
it would all come off at wanst, knowing as it was no use to make a
foight of it again' such a blade, as a strong beard will against a bad
rashier.  And then he sings out: `Now, my lads, who's for me?'"

"And they all rushed to his aid!" said Humphrey.

"Well, you see, sor," said Dinny, "it wasn't quite a rush.  Lads don't
go rushing into a powdher-magazine when there's an ugly black divil
aside as swears if annybody comes anigh, he'll blow the whole place up
into smithereens."

"They never let him go alone?" cried Humphrey.

"Well, no, sor," said Dinny; "it wasn't exackly alone, bekase old Bart
run up, and then two more walked up, and another one wint up to him in a
slow crawl that made me want to take him by the scruff o' the neck and
the sate of his breeches, and pitch him down into that great hole
yander, where that blagguard was drowned.  `Oh, ye cowardly cur!'  I
says to him, quite red-hot like, sor--`Oh, ye cowardly cur!  I says, you
as was always boasting and bragging about and playing at Hector an'
Archillus, and bouncing as if ye were a big ancient foighting man, and
ye goo crawling up to yer captain that way!'  And then he whispers to me
confidential-like, he does: `Och, Dinny, owld lad!' he says, `it isn't
the foighting I mind; but I'm thinking of my poor mother,' he says.
`Ah, get out, ye coward!'  I says; `ye're thinking of yerself.'  `Divil
a bit!' he says; `it's the powdher I'm thinking of.  I'd foight anny
man, or anny two men in the camp; but I can't fale to care about an
encounter wid tin tons o' divil's dust!'  Oh, I did give it him, sor!"

"You had better have gone yourself than stood preaching to another,"
said Humphrey, indignantly.

"That's jist what I said to meself, sor," cried Dinny; "but the baste
wouldn't listen.  `Och!' he says, `what would my mother's falings be if
she was to hear that instead of dying properly of a broken head she
heard that I was blown all into smithereens, widout a dacent-sized pace
left for the praste to say a blessing over?'  `Ah, Dinny Kelly!'  I
says, `that's a mane dirthy excuse, because ye're afraid; for the divil
a bit wid your mother care what became of such an ill-looking, black
buccaneer of a blagguard as ye are!'"

"Why, you're talking about yourself!" cried Humphrey.

"For sartin, sir.  Sure, there isn't another boy in the whole crew that
I dare to spake to in such an onrespectful way."

"Why, Dinny, man, you did go?"

"Yes, sor, I wint, but in a way that I'm quite ashamed of.  I didn't
think I was such a coward.  But there!  I niver turned back from a
shtick in me loife, and I faced the powdher afther all; but oh, it's
ashamed of meself intirely I am!  A Kelly wouldn't have felt like that
if it hadn't been for the climate.  It's the hot weather takes it out of
ye, sor.  Why I felt over that job as a man couldn't fale in me own
counthry."

"Well, go on."

"That's what I did, sor.  I stuck close to the captain's tail as he wint
sthraight up to the door--ye know the door, sor, where the owld
gintleman's sitting over the porch, looking down at ye wid a plisant
smile of his own."

"Yes, yes, I know.  Go on."

"Well, sor, I did go on; and there stood Black Mazzard wid the two
biggest pishtols we have on the primises, wan in each hand and the other
shtuck in his belt.  `Kim another shtep,' he says, `and I'll blow the
place about your heads!'  Och, and I looked up thin to ask a blessing on
meself before I wint up in such a hurry that I hadn't time to confess;
and bedad there was the owld gintleman expanding his mouth into the
widest grin I iver saw in me life!"

"And the Commodore, what did he do?" cried Humphrey, impatiently.

"What did he do?"

"Yes--draw his men off?"

"Faix, he drew Black Mazzard's blood off, for he wint shtraight at him,
knocking one pishtol up in the air wid his hand as he did so.  I niver
saw annything so nate in me life, sor.  I told ye he'd got his best
sword on--the sharp one."

"Yes, yes!"

"Well, sor, he seemed just to lift it up and howld it forninst him, as
I'm howlding this knife--so; and it wint right through Black Mazzard;
just bechuckst his shoulder and his neck; and as he pulls it out he
takes him by the collar and drags him down upon his knees.

"`Come out, ye mad-brained idiots!' he shouts at the lads inside--`come
out, or I'll fire the powdher meself!'

"Bedad, sor, ye might have heard a pin dhrop if there'd bin wan there,
but there wasn't; and we heard Black Mazzard's pishtol dhrop instead--
the big one being on the pavemint, where it went off bang and shot a
corner off a big shtone.  But nobody came from inside the magazine, and
the owld gintleman grinned more and more, and seemed to rowl his oies;
and I belave he wanted to hear the owld place go up.  And there you
could hear thim inside buzzing about like my mother's bees in the sthraw
hive, when ye give it a larrup on the top wid a shtick."

Dinny gave his head a nod, and went on.  "That roused up the Captain,
and he roars out--`Here, Dinny--Dick--Bart,' he says, `go in and fetch
out these idiots.'  And I shpat in me fist, and ran in wid the other
two.  `Now, Dinny, my lad,' I says to meself, `if ye're blown up it'll
be bad for ye, but ye'll be blown up towards heaven, and that's a dale
better than being blown down.'  And avore I knew where I was, I was
right in among the lads, about foive-and-twenty of them; and then talk
about a foight, sor!  Ah, musha, it was awful!"

"Did they make such a desperate defence!"

"Deshperate, sor!  Oh, that don't describe it!  Bedad, I nivver saw
anything like it in me loife!"

"Were there many killed?  Were you wounded!"

"Killed!  Wounded!  Did ye iver see a flock o' sheep when a big dog goes
at 'em, sor?"

"Often, in Devon."

"Ah, then it's the same as it would be in Oireland.  Bedad, sor, the
name of the captain, and seeing Black Mazzard tuk, was enough.  They all
walked out and pitched their swords and pishtols down, in a hape before
the shkipper and then stands in a row like sodgers; sure and it's meself
that had some of the drilling of them.

"`Come here, Bart,' says the shkipper then; and as Bart goes up, the
captain gives Black Mazzard a shove like and throws him down.  `Here,'
he says, `put your foot on this dog's throat.'  Bart had it there before
ye knew where ye were, and thin if the skipper didn't go right up to the
row of min and walks slowly along 'em, looking 'em wan by wan in the
face wid his dark oi, sor.  And he made 'em turn white and shiver, he
did, sor, till he'd looked 'em all down, and then he shteps out, little
shtiff fellow as he is, and he says:

"`You fools, to be led away by a thing like that!  How shall I punish
'em, Dinny?' he says, turning to me.

"`Sure, captain,' I says, `they are all shtanding nate and handy, and if
ye give me word, I'll shtand at wan ind and send a bullet through the
lot, and there'll be no waste.'

"`Pah!' he says, `I don't make war on the lads who've fought by my side.
Go back to your quarthers,' he says, `and if ye turn again me once more
I'll give ye such a punishment as ye disarve.  You shall have your
Captain Mazzard.'

"`D'ye hear that, ye divils?'  I says, for I couldn't stop meself, sor;
and they give three cheers for the captain and wint off to quarthers;
and that was all."

"But Mazzard--what of him!"

"Oh, he's putt away in as nice and plisant a place as a gintleman could
wish to have, sor.  It's cool, and undherground, and the only way to it
is down through a hole in a stone like Father O'Grady's well, and Bart
fades him wid food at the ind of a long shtick.  He's safe enough now.
But sure and the best thing for everyone would be for him to doi by
accident through Bart forgetting to take him his mate."

"Starve him to death?" cried Humphrey.

"Faix, no, not a bit of it, sor.  He's a bad one anny way, and if he
died like a sparrow in a cage, sure it would be a blessing for all of
us."

"And the widow Greenheys, Dinny!"

"Whisht! be aisy, sor, wid a lady's name."

"Dinny," cried Humphrey sternly, "how long are you going to play fast
and loose with me!"

"`An' is it me ye mane?'  Sure I couldn't do it, sor."

"Dinny, now is the time to escape, now that Mistress Greenheys is safe
from the persecution of that scoundrel."

"Oh, whisht, sor! whisht!  Sure and I've grown shtrong again, and ye
want to timpt me from the ways of vartue."

"Nonsense, man!  Your plan--the explosion!"

"Oh, faix!  It was only me fun.  I couldn't do such a thing."

"Do you want that man to escape or be set free, and lay claim again to
that poor little woman?"

"Oh, the poor little crathur! no."

"Then help me to escape."

"Sure and ye're good friends wid the shkipper and don't want to go,
sor."

"I must and will escape, Dinny, and you shall help me for Mistress
Greenheys' sake."

"Ah, and it's touching me on me soft place ye are," said Dinny
pitifully.

"For her sake, I tell you, and you shall be happy with her at home."

"Sure an' I haven't got an `at home,'" said Dinny.

"Then, as I promised you, I'll make you one.  Come, save her from that
scoundrel."

"Faix, an' he is a blagguard anny way."

"Who is?" said a deep voice.

"Yerself for wan," said Dinny.  "Sure, and Black Mazzard another; and
I'm telling the captain here that he needn't grumble and call himself a
prishner, for he's rowling in comfort; while as to Black Mazzard, ah, he
should see his cell!"

Bart scowled and stopped till Dinny had finished and gone, leaving the
prisoner alone with his thoughts, which were of liberty.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

THE PLAN OF ESCAPE.

Humphrey Armstrong sat gazing through the opening of his prison at the
dark forest vistas and dreamed of England and its verdant fields and
gold-cupped meadows.

The whole business connected with the Dells came back to him, and with
it the figure of the handsome rustic fisher-girl standing as it were
vividly before him, and with her his cousin, the cause of all the
suffering.

"How strange it is," he thought again, "that I should be brought into
contact with her brother like this!  Poor fellow! more sinned against
than sinning; and as for her--"

"Poor girl!"

There was a slight sound as of someone breathing hard, and the buccaneer
stood before him.

He smiled gravely, and held out his hand; but Humphrey did not take it,
and they remained gazing at each other for some few minutes in silence.

"Have you thought better of my proposals, Captain Armstrong?" said the
buccaneer at last.  "Are we to be friends?"

"It is impossible, sir," replied Humphrey, quietly.  "After what has
passed I grieve to have to reject your advances; but you must see that
it can never be."

"I can wait," said the buccaneer, patiently.  "The time will come."

Humphrey shook his head.

"Is there anything you want?"

"Yes," said Humphrey, sharply.  "Liberty."

"Take it.  It is in my hand."

"Liberty chained to you, sir!  No.  There, place me under no further
obligations, sir.  I will not fight against you; but pray understand
that what you ask can never be."

"I can wait," said the buccaneer again, quietly, as he let his eyes rest
for a few moments upon his prisoner's face, and then left the room.

Humphrey sprang up impatiently, and was about to pace the chamber like a
wild beast in a cage when he heard voices in the corridor, and directly
after Dinny entered.  The man looked troubled and stood listening, then
he stole to the curtain and went down the corridor, to stay away for
quite a quarter of an hour before he returned.

"He's gone, sor, safe enough.  Faix, captain, dear, I fale as if I ought
to be hung."

"Hung, Dinny?"

"Yis, sor, for threachery to as good a friend as I iver had."

"What do you mean, Dinny?" cried Humphrey, eagerly.

"Mane, sor!  Why, that all the grate min in the world, from Caesar down
to Pater Donovan, have had their wake side.  I've got mine, and I'm a
fallen man."

"Speak out plainly," cried Humphrey, flushing.

"That's just what I'm doing, sor," said Dinny, with a soft smile.  "It's
Nature, sor.  She was bad enough, and thin you helped her.  Oh, there's
no foighting agen it!  It used to be so in Oireland.  She says to the
little birds in the spring--choose your partners, darlin's, she says,
and they chose 'em; and she said the same to human man, and he chooses
his."

"Oh, Dinny, if you hadn't quite such a long tongue!" cried Humphrey.

"Faix, it's a regular sarpint, sor, for length, and just as desaving;
but as I was saying, what Nature says in owld Oireland in the spring she
says out here in this baste of a counthry where there's nayther spring,
summer, autumn, nor winther--nothing but a sort of moshposh of sunshine
and howling thunderstorms."

"And--"

"Yis, sor, that's I'm a fallen man."

"And will you really help me to escape!"

"Whisht, sor!  What are ye thinking about?  Spaking aloud in a counthry
where the parrots can talk like Christians and the threes is full of
ugly little chaps, who sit and watch ye and say nothing, but howld
toight wid their tails, and thin go and whishper their saycrets to one
another, and look as knowing as Barny Higgins's pig."

"Dinny, will you speak sensibly?"

"Sinsibly!  Why, what d'ye call this?  Ar'n't I tellin' ye that it's
been too much for me wid Black Mazzard shut up in his cage and the purty
widow free to do as she plases; and sure and she plases me, sor, and I'm
a fallen man."

"You'll help me?"

"Yis, sor, if ye'll go down on your bended knees and take an oath."

"Oath!  What oath?"

"Niver to bethray or take part in annything agen Commodore Junk, the
thruest, bravest boy that iver stepped."

"You are right, Dinny.  He is a brave man, and I swear that I will not
betray or attack him, come what may.  Get me my liberty and the liberty
of my men, and I'll be content.  Stop!  I cannot go so far as that;
there are my men.  I swear that I will not attack your captain without
giving him due notice, that he may escape; but this nest of hornets must
be burned out, and my men freed."

"Ah, well, we won't haggle about thrifles, sor.  Swear this, sor:--Ye'll
behave to the captain like a gintleman."

"I'll swear I will."

"Bedad, then, I'm wid ye; and there's one more favour I'll be asking ye,
sor."

"What is it!"

"Whin we get safe home ye'll come and give Misthress Greenheys away."

"Yes, yes, Dinny.  And now, tell me, what will you do?"

"Sure an' there's no betther way than I said before.  I'll have an oi on
a boat, and see that there's some wather and bishkits and a gun in her;
and thin, sor, I'll set light to the magazine, for it'll be a rale
plisure to blow up that owld gintleman as is always leering and grinning
at me as much as to say, `Och, Dinny, ye divil, I know all about the
widdy, and first time ye go to see her I'll tell Black Mazzard, and
then, 'ware, hawk!'"

"But when shall you do this?"

"First toime it seems aisy, sor."

"In the night?"

"Av coorse, sor."

"And how shall I know?"

"Hark at that, now!  Faix, ar'n't I telling ye, sor, that I'll blow up
the magazine!  Sure an' ye don't pay so much attention to it when ye go
to shleep that ye won't hear that?"

"Of course I shall hear it," said Humphrey, excitedly.

"Thin, that's the signal, sor; and when it goes fizz, lie riddy and wait
till I kim to ye, and thin good bye to the rover's loife, and Black
Mazzard will see the darlin' no more.  Whisht!"



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

THE EXPLOSION.

A fortnight passed, during which the buccaneer visited his prisoner
twice, as if to give him an opportunity to speak, but each time in
company with Bart.

Both were very quiet and stern, and but few words were said.  Everything
was done to make the prisoner's condition more endurable, but the
attentions now were irksome; and though Humphrey Armstrong lay listening
for footsteps with the greatest anxiety, those which came down the
corridor were not those he wished to hear.

At last, in the continuous absence of Dinny, he began to dread that the
last conversation had been heard, and after fighting down the desire for
a fortnight, he determined to risk exciting suspicion and ask Bart what
had become of the Irishman.

Bart entered the place soon after he had come to the determination,
bringing an Indian basket of fruit--the pleasant little grapes that grew
wild in the sunny parts, and the succulent banana.  These he placed upon
the stone table in company with a bunch of flowers, where they looked
like some offering made to the idol upon whose altar they had been
placed.

Humphrey hesitated with the words upon his lips, and checked himself.
If Dinny had been overheard and were imprisoned or watched, what good
would he do?  Better wait and bear the suspense.

"Your gift?" he said, aloud, taking up the flowers and smelling them,
for the soft delicate blooms of the forest orchids suggested a room in
Saint James's Square and a daintily-dressed lady who was bemoaning his
absence.

"Mine?  No.  The captain picked them himself," said Bart, bitterly.

Humphrey laid them down and took up one of the long, yellow-skinned
fruits, Bart watching his action, regarding the fruit with jealous eyes.

Humphrey turned sharply round to hide his face from his jailer, for he
had changed colour.  A spasm shot through him, and for the moment he
felt as if he must betray himself, for as he turned over the banana in
his fingers, they touched a roughening of the under part, and the next
instant he saw that the fruit he held had been partly cut away with the
point of a knife, so that a figure had been carved in the soft rind, and
this could only have been the work of one hand, and intended as a signal
to him that he was not forgotten.  For the figure cut in the rind was
that of a shamrock--a trefoil with its stalk.

He hastily tore off the rind in tiny strips and ate the fruit, but the
soft, creamy pulp seemed like ashes, and his throat was dry, as he
completely destroyed all trace of the cutting on the rind and threw it
aside.

Noting that Bart was watching him narrowly, he hurriedly picked up one
of the little bunches of grapes and began eating them as if suffering
from thirst.  Then forcing himself to appear calm he lay down upon the
couch till Bart had finished his customary attentions and gone.

Night at last--a moonless night--that would have been dusk on the open
shore, but there in the forest beneath the interlacing trees it was
absolutely black; and after watching at his window for hours, with every
sense upon the strain, he reluctantly came to the conclusion that no
attempt would be made, Dinny either not being prepared--though his
signal seemed to be to indicate readiness for the night though suitable
for concealment, being too obscure for his purpose.

"One of them might have managed to come and give me a word," he said,
fretfully, as at last, weary of watching the scintillations of the
fireflies in a distant opening, he threw himself upon his couch to try
and sleep, feeling that he would be wakeful all night, when all at once,
just as he felt most troubled, his eyes closed, and he was deep in a
dreamless sleep, lost to everything but the terrific roar which suddenly
burst forth, following a vivid flash as of lightning, and as, confused
and half-stunned, Humphrey started up, all idea of the proposed escape
seemed to have passed away, and he sat watching for the next flash,
listening for the next peal, thinking that this was a most terrific
storm.

No flash--no peal--but a confused buzz of voices and the distant
pattering of feet, while a dense, dank odour of exploded gunpowder
penetrated the forest, and entered the window close to which the
prisoner sat.

"Dinny--the escape!" he cried, excitedly, as he sprang from his bed, for
now a flash did come with almost blinding force; but it was a mental
flash, which left him quivering with excitement, as he sprang to the
curtained corridor and listened there.

A step!--Dinny's!  Yes, he knew it well!  It was coming along the great
stone passage!

"Quick! we shall easily get away, for they'll all crowd about the
captain, asking him what to do."

Dinny led on rapidly till they reached the turning in the direction of
the old temple which contained the cenote.  Here they struck off to the
left, and found, as they cleared the narrow forest path, that the odour
of the exploded gunpowder was almost overpowering.

Not a hundred yards away voices were heard speaking rapidly, and
directly after they were silent, and the captain's words rang out
plainly as he gave orders to his people, though their import was not
clear from the distance where the fugitives crept along by the edge of
the ruins.

"Are you sure you are right?" whispered Humphrey.

"Roight, sor; I niver was more so.  Whisht!  Are ye there?"

"Yes, yes," came from down by the side of a great wall.  "Oh, Dinny, I
was afraid you were killed!"

"Kilt!  Nay, my darling, there's a dale o' loife in me yet.  Tak' howlt
o' me hand, one on each side, and walk quick and shteady, and I'll have
ye down by the say shore, where the boat is waiting, before ye know
where ye are."

They started off at a sharp walk, pausing at times to listen to the
jargon of excited voices behind, but rapidly advancing, on the whole,
toward their goal.

"Do--do you think we can escape?" said the woman, panting with fear.

"An' is it eshcape, whin the boat's waiting, and everything riddy?" said
Dinny scornfully.  "Dyer hear her, sor?  What a woman it is!"

The woman sighed as if not hopeful, and Dinny added an encouraging word:

"Sure an' the captain says he'll tak' care of us, darlin', and avore
long we'll be sailing away over the salt say.  It's a white sail I've
got in the boat, and--"

"Hist, Dinny, you're talking too loudly, my man!" whispered Humphrey.

"Bedad and I am, sor.  It's that owld sarpint of a tongue o' mine.  Bad
luck to it for being given me wrong.  Faix and it belonged to some woman
by rights."

They pressed on, and at the end of what seemed to be an interminably
long time, Humphrey whispered:

"Are we near the sea?"

"Close to it now, sor.  If it was Oireland ye'd hear the bating of the
waves upon the shore; but they're too hot and wake in this counthry to
do more than give a bit of a lap on the sands."

Another weary length of time passed, and still the sea-shore was not
reached, but they were evidently near now, for the dull murmur of the
billows in the sheltered gulf was plainly to be heard; and Mistress
Greenheys, who, in spite of her bravery and decision, had begun to utter
a low hysterical sob from time to time and hang more heavily upon her
companions' arms, took courage at the thought of the safety the sea
offered, and pressed sturdily forward for another few hundred yards and
then stopped short.

"What is it, darlin'?" whispered Dinny.

"Voices!" she replied softly.

"Yes; our own," said Dinny.  "There can't be anny others here."

"Hist!" ejaculated Humphrey.  "Is there any other way down to the
beach?"

"Divil a bit, sor, that we could foind, and the boat's yander, close
inshore."

He took a step or two in advance, and listened.

"I am sure I heard whispering," said Humphrey; but all was still now,
and feeling satisfied at last that it was the murmur of the waves, they
crept on in utter silence, and were about to leave the shelter of the
path by which they had come and make for the open sand when Dinny
checked his companions, and they all stood listening, for a voice that
was familiar said:

"The skipper's full of fancies.  He hasn't been right since this captain
was made prisoner, and he has been worse since the other prisoners
escaped."

"Other prisoners!  What prisoners?" thought Humphrey.

"You hold your tongue!" growled the familiar voice of Bart.  "Do you
want to scare them off?"

"Scare whom off?"

"Those who try to escape.  Silence!"

Mistress Greenheys reeled up against Humphrey and would have fallen but
for his strong arm which encircled her, lifted her from the ground and
held her firmly as he stepped softly back, followed by Dinny, who did
not speak till they had reached the shelter of some trees.

"Look at that, now!" he whispered out of the black darkness.  "Have ye
got the darling safe?"

"Yes, safe enough; but what does this mean?"

"Mane, sor?  Sure and it's Bart yander wid two min."

"Take us down to the sea by some other path."

"Shure an' don't I tell ye there is no other path, sor.  It's the only
way.  Murther, look at that!"

For at that moment a light flashed out and shimmered on the sea, sank,
rose, and became brilliant, shining forth so that they could see that
the three men down upon the shore had lit a pile of some inflammable
material, beyond which, floating easily upon the surface of the sea and
apparently close inshore, was a boat--the boat that was to bear them
safely away.

They were sheltered by the trees, and besides, too far off to be seen by
the men, whose acts, however, were plain enough to them, as one of them
was seen to wade out to the boat, get hold of her mooring rope, and drag
her ashore.

"The murtherin' villains!" muttered Dinny.  "They're takkin' out the
shtores.  Look at that now!  There's the barl o' wather and the bishkit,
and now there's the sail.  What'll I do intoirely?  My heart's bruk wid
'em."

"Hush, my lad!  You'll be heard," whispered Humphrey.  "Is there no
other boat we can get?"

"Divil a wan, sor, and if we shtay here we shall be tuk.  What'll we do
now?"

"Make a bold fight for it, and take them by surprise."

"Wid a woman as wan of our min, sor!  Sure an' it would be a mad thrick.
Wan of us would be sure to go down, you or me, even if we bate the
divils.  Look at 'em, the fire's going down, and they're coming back!"

Humphrey gave an angry stamp, for in her agony of dread Mistress
Greenheys gave herself a wrest from his arm, and hurried back.

"What's that?" whispered Dinny.

"Mistress Greenheys."

"What? gone back, sor?  Whisht! darlin'.  Stop!"

If the woman heard his words they only added to her alarm, for she
hurried on, apparently as well acquainted with the way back as Dinny,
who immediately started in pursuit.

"What are you going to do?" whispered Humphrey.

"Do, sor!  Go afther her."

"No, no; we must escape now we've got so far."

"Shure an' we will, sor; but to go forward's to go into prishn for you
and to be dancing on nothing for me.  Come on, sor.  Let's catch up to
me poor freckened darlin', and then tak' to the woods."

They hurried back in pursuit of their companion, but fear had made her
fleet of foot, and in spite of their efforts they did not overtake her.

"She'll have gone back to her quarthers," said Dinny dismally.  "Shall
we go back to ours?"

"No!" cried Humphrey imperiously.  "Good heavens, man! our absence has
been found out before now.  Let's take to the woods or hide in one of
the ruins till we can get away."

"Shure an' ye're roight, sor.  They've been afther ye, av coorse, and
I've been missed and can't show meself now widout being thrated as a
thraitor.  Will ye thrust to me, and I'll find a place!"

"Trust you? yes," said Humphrey; "but what do you propose doing?"

"Doing, sor?  Hoiding till we can find a chansh of getting away."

"Where will you hide?"

"Ye said ye'd thrust me, sor," whispered Dinny.  "Come on."



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

ON THE QUI VIVE.

The buccaneer had sought the ruined temple that evening in lowness of
spirit and utter despondency.  The old daring spirit seemed to be
departing, and supremacy over the men passing rapidly away, and he knew
how they talked among themselves, consequent upon Mazzard's teaching, of
the growing weakness of their commander.

"And they're right," he said, bitterly.  "I am losing power and
strength, and growing more and more into the pitiful, weak creature they
say.  And yet how I have tried!"

He sprang to his feet, for at that moment there was the reflection of a
flash which lit up the interior of the old temple, showing the weird
figures sitting round as if watching him in his despondent mood.

It was but momentary, and then came a crash as if heaven and earth had
come together, followed by a long, muttering roar as the thunder of the
explosion died away.

The minute before the buccaneer had been inert, despondent and hopeless.
The knowledge of what must have taken place brought back his flagging
energies, and with a great dread seeming to compress his heart that evil
might have befallen his prisoner, he tore out of the dark temple, and as
fast as the gloom of the winding path would allow him toward the old
amphitheatre.

Haste and the excitement made his breathing laboured as he strove to get
on more rapidly, but only to be kept back by the maze-like paths, where
he passed Humphrey and Dinny, and, gaining the open ground, dashed on to
where his men were gathered.

"Bart! quick!" he cried, as soon as he was convinced that no harm could
have befallen his prisoner.  "Take men, and down the path to the shore.
There will be an attempt to escape in the confusion, and they'll make
for the sea."

Bart grasped the urgency of the case, called two men, and set off at a
run, while Dinny was next summoned.

"Hah!" ejaculated the captain, drawing his breath between his teeth; "a
traitor in the camp!"

He called for lights, and went straight to the corridor, entered and
walked down it to the chamber, tenanted now by the grim idol alone, and
stood for a few moments looking round.

"Well," he muttered, "he will learn the truth of what I said.  The
firing of the powder must have been planned."

He went back to where his men were waiting outside and walked through to
the terrace above the old amphitheatre, to find that the magazine was
completely swept away; but the darkness hid the shattered stones lying
in all directions and the trees blasted and whitened and stripped of
leaf and bark.

"My prisoner has escaped," he said aloud.  "I think with the man who was
his attendant, the Irishman, Dennis Kelly.  Capture both; but no
violence to either, on your lives."

There was a low murmur either of assent or objection, and he was turning
away when Dick, the sailor, came up.

"Gone!" he said, laconically.

"Mazzard?  Gone!" cried the buccaneer, excitedly.

"Yes; and the man who was on guard lying dead, crushed with a stone."

"From the explosion?" cried the buccaneer.

"From Black Mazzard's hands," replied Dick, stolidly.

"Well," said the captain, drawing in his breath hard as he thought of
the possibility of the escaped prisoners coming in contact, "there will
be two to capture when the day breaks.  No one can get away."

In an hour a messenger came from the sea in the shape of Bart, and he
made his way to the captain's side.

"Well?"

"You were right; they intended the sea;" and he explained about the
boat.

"And yet you have come away?"

"Two men are watching," said Bart, stolidly.

"Bah! you must be mad."

"And two planks are rifted out of the boat.  It will take a carpenter to
make her float."

"Bart, forgive me."

"Forgive you!  Ah, yes!  I forgive."

"I have need of all your aid.  Captain Armstrong has escaped."

"Not far."

"No; but there is worse news.  Mazzard has brained his keeper, and is at
liberty."

"Hah!" ejaculated Bart.

"And those two may meet."

"Always of him," muttered Bart, sadly.  "Well, skipper, what is it to be
now, when he is captured?"

"Death."

"To Captain Armstrong?"

"Man, are you mad?  Let Mazzard be taken, and that Irishman, too."

"And--"

"Silence, man!  Let them be taken.  I rule here."

Bart drew a long breath.

"Nothing can be done till daylight, except wait."



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

THE SAFEST PLACE.

"No, no, man; make for the forest," whispered Humphrey, just at
daybreak, as Dinny began to take advantage of the coming light to seek a
safe place of concealment.

"What for, sor?  To get buried in threes that don't so much as grow a
cabbage, where there's no wather and no company but monkeys and the
shpotted tigers.  Lave it to me, sor, and I'll tak' ye to a place where
ye can lay shnug in hiding, and where maybe I can get spache of the
darling as the bastes freckened away."

"Where shall you go, then?  Why not to that old temple where Mazzard
made his attempt to kill the captain?"

"There, sor!  Why, the captain would find us directly.  You lave it to
me."

Humphrey would have taken to the forest without hesitation, but,
worn-out and suffering keenly from disappointment, he was in no humour
to oppose, and, signifying his willingness, he followed the Irishman by
devious ways in and out of the ruins for some time, till Dinny crouched
down, and motioned to Humphrey to do the same.

The place was such a chaos, and so changed by the terrific force of the
explosion that Humphrey had felt as if he were journeying along quite a
new portion of the forest outskirts, till, as he obeyed his companion
and they crouched down among some dense herbage, he stared with
astonishment at the sight before him, a couple of hundred yards away.

For there, beyond one of the piles of crumbling ruins, was a perfectly
familiar pathway, out of which he saw step into the broad sunshine the
picturesque figure of the buccaneer captain, who strode toward a group
of waiting men.

A discussion seemed to take place, there were some sharp orders, and
then the whole party disappeared.

"Why, Dinny, man, are you mad?" whispered Humphrey.  "I trusted to you
to take me to some place of hiding, and you've brought me right into the
lion's den."

"Well, sor, and a moighty purty place too, so long as the lion's not at
home.  Sure and ye just saw him go out."

"But, Dinny--"

"Whisht!  Don't spake so loud, sor.  Sure, now, if a cannon-ball made a
hole in the side of a ship, isn't that the safest place to put your head
so as not to be hurt.  They niver hit the same place twice."

"Then your hiding-place is my old lodging--my prison?"

"Av coorse it is!  The skipper has been there to mak' sure that ye
really are gone; and now he knows, he'll say to himself that this is the
last place ye'd go and hide in; and troth, he's quite roight, isn't he?"

Humphrey hesitated for a few moments, and then, feeling how true the
man's words were, he gave way.

"Sure, sor, and it's all roight," whispered Dinny.  "Aren't I thrying to
keep my head out of a noose, and d'ye think I'd be for coming here if it
wasn't the safest place.  Come along; sure, it is a lion's den, as ye
call it, and the best spot I know."

He whispered to Humphrey to follow cautiously, and crept on all-fours
among the dense growth, and in and out among the loose stones at the
very edge of the forest, till the tunnel-like pathway was reached in
safety, when, after crawling a few yards out of the blinding sunshine
into the shadowy gloom, Dinny rose to his feet.

"There, sor," he said, "we can walk like Christians, now, and not like
animal bastes.  There isn't a sound."

As he spoke, there was a peculiar cry, and a gorgeously-plumaged bird
flitted into sight, and perched on a piece of stone in the sunny opening
of the tunnel, where its scarlet breast and dazzling golden-green
plumage glittered in the sun.

"Sure and ye're a purty fowl, and I'm much obliged to ye for the
information," said Dinny, as the bird erected its brilliant crest,
stared wildly, and then flew off with its long green tail-feathers
streaming out behind.  "He says there's nobody about, sor, or he
wouldn't be here.  Come along."

It seemed like a dream to Humphrey after his sleepless night, to find
himself once more in the gloomy corridor with the faint light streaming
in at the side-openings, instead of in a boat, dancing over the blue
waters and leaving the buccaneer's nest behind.  But it was the bare
reality, as Dinny went forward, drew the great curtain aside, and he
passed in and on from behind the great idol to throw himself, worn-out
and exhausted, upon his couch of skins.

"Sure and I wouldn't trate it like that, sor," cried Dinny, cheerfully.
"We have eshcaped, sor, though we haven't got away, and been obliged to
come back again."

"Don't talk folly, man."

"An' is it folly ye call it!  Sure an' we have eshcaped, or else why are
they all in purshuit of us?  We've got away, and they fale it, and all
that's happened is that we did rache the boat, but had to come back here
for a rest till we were riddy to go on.  Sure, sor, ye're hungry.  Ate
some of the tortillas and drink some of the wine, and thin, if ye won't
think it presumption, I'll say--afther you."

"Eat and drink, man.  You must be faint.  I have no appetite."

"Ah!" ejaculated Dinny, after a pause of about a quarter of an hour,
which he had bravely employed, "there's nothing like food and dhrink, if
it's only potaties and butthermilk.  Sure I'm ready for annything now,
and so will ye be, sor, as soon as the wine begins to work."

"Dinny, I'm ready for anything, now; but we cannot stay here."

"Git up, sor, if ye wouldn't moind," said Dinny.

Humphrey obeyed dejectedly as the man advanced.

"Sure, sor, and it's a wondherful owld place this, and there must have
been some strange games carried on.  Now, sor, in all the months ye've
been here, did ye iver look under the bed?"

"Under the bed, man?" cried Humphrey.  "Why, it is a huge block of
stone."

"Is it, now, sor?  Sure and didn't I help fit up the place for ye when
ye first came, an' by the captain's orders?  Sure and I know all about
it.  `Dinny, me boy,' me mother used to say to me, `ye haven't got a
watch and ye've got no money, but ye may have both some day, so beware
of thayves and robbers; and whiniver ye go to slape in a sthrange place,
be sure ye look under the bed.'  An' yer mother niver gave you that
advice, sor?"

He walked to the couch and threw up the skins which covered it,
revealing what seemed to be a low, square bench of stone, whose top was
one enormous slab.

"Now, sor," said Dinny, "would ye moind thrying to lift that?"

Humphrey stepped quickly to his side, bent down, seized the projecting
slab, tried to raise it, and then straightened himself and shook his
head.

"A dozen men could not raise it, Dinny," he said.

"No, sor, but a Kelly can.  Look here."

He bent down, placed his shoulder to one corner, gave a thrust, and the
whole top glided round as if on a pivot, and revealed an opening dimly
lit apparently from below.

"There, sor," he said, "I dishcovered that by accident when I was here
alone wan day.  I pushed a big stone against that corner and it gave
way, and when I pushed the whole place opened, and down there's as good
a hiding-place as a man need have."

"Dinny," cried Humphrey, excitedly, "and doesn't the captain know of
this?"

"Sure and I think the last man who knew of it died before the flood,
sor, and it hasn't been opened since."

"And these rough stairs--where do they lead?"

"Down into the cabin, sor, where there's a little door out into the
forest.  Sure and the artful baste who made it little thought he was
going to find us as purty a hiding-place as was ever made.  There it is,
sor, all ready for us if we hear annyone coming.  If we do, down we go
and twirl the lid of the pot back over our heads, and then we can either
go or shtay."

"Can you move the cover when you are down?"

"Aisily, sor.  I've thried it.  Now, then, what do ye say to that?"

Humphrey's answer was to hold out his hand and wring that of his
companion.

There was an ample supply of food in the place for a week, and water and
wine.  Dinny's ideas respecting their safety seemed to be quite correct,
for though voices were heard at a distance, no one approached the place.
They had the hidden subterranean tomb-like chamber into which they
could retreat; and on the second night, while Dinny was watching and
Humphrey, utterly worn-out, was sleeping feverishly and trying to forget
the troubles and disappointments of his failure, there was a faint
rustling noise heard, and directly after his name was whispered softly
from above.

"Murther!" cried Dinny, unable to contain himself as he sprang up.

His exclamation and the noise he made brought Humphrey from his couch,
alert, and ready for any struggle.

"What is it?" he said.

"Sure, sor, something freckened me.  A mouse, I think."

"Dinny!" came in a reproachful voice from above.

"Mistress Greenheys!" cried Humphrey.  "You there?"

"Yes.  I cam' to try and learn tidings of you.  I did not know you were
both prisoners."

"Sure an' we're not, darlin'," said Dinny.  "We only tuk refuge here, so
as to be near you.  An' where have you been?"

"I crept back to my place," said the woman, "and reached it without
having been missed."

"Then ye're quite free to come and go?"

"Yes--quite."

"_Erin-go-bragh_!" cried Dinny, excitedly.  "Then what ye've got to do,
darling, is to go back and come again as soon as ye can wid something to
ate, for we shall soon be starved."

"Yes, Dinny; I'll come again to-night."

"There's a darlin' for ye, sor.  But tell us.  What are they doing?"

"Searching for you far and wide; and the captain is furious.  He says he
will have you found."

"And ye've been quite well, darlin'?"

"Yes, Dinny.  No, Dinny.  I've been fretting to death to know what had
become of you."

"Sure and I've been quite right, only I wanted to know about you.
Nobody's middled wid ye, then?"

"No, Dinny--not yet."

"Arrah, shpake out now, and say what ye mane wid your `not yet,'" cried
Dinny, angrily.

"Black Mazzard."

"Well, he's shut up."

"He escaped the same time that you did."

"Eshcaped!  Holy Moses!"

"That wretch free!" cried Humphrey.

"Yes, sir."

"Where is he?"

"No one knows, sir; but they have parties out searching for him and for
you."

"Oh! murther! murther!" groaned Dinny.  "My heart's bruk entirely.
What'll I do at all?  Shtop, darlin'; ye must come here."

"Stop here, Dinny!  Oh, no, I couldn't!" said the woman, piteously.

"Sure no, and ye couldn't," said Dinny.  "It wouldn't be dacent,
darlin', for ye've got a characther to lose.  Captain, dear, what'll I
do?"

"We must wait, Dinny, and try to-night if we cannot find a boat."

"And lave that poor darlin' to be freckened to death by that great black
baste?  Oh, captain, dear, I'll have to go wid her and purtect her; and
if I'm hung for it, why, I can't help it.  I should have behaved like a
man."

"Wait, Dinny," said the woman, cheerily.  "You keep in hiding for a day
or two, dear.  If Black Mazzard does come and try to get me away, I can
but die."

"Sure, an' what good'll that do me?" cried Dinny.  "D'ye want to make me
a widow, too!"

"Hush!  You're talking too loudly," whispered the woman.  "Good-bye!
Next time I come I'll bring food.  Perhaps good news."

"No, no; don't go yet, darlin'," cried Dinny.  "She's gone.  Oh,
murther, sor!  What'll I do!  Can't ye put me out of me misery at
wanst?"

Dinny calmed down at last, and Humphrey resumed his place upon the
couch, which was arranged so that at any moment they might secure their
retreat.  But the night had not passed before the faithful little woman
was back again with such provisions as she could bring and lower down to
them, for she would not hear of Dinny coming out, threatening to keep
away if he ran any risk.

This went on for two nights, during which time they had no alarm.  Not a
soul beside approached the place; and the same report was brought them
that their hiding-place baffled all, but the captain was fiercely
determined that the prisoners should be found.

"Then why not try to escape inland, Dinny!" said Humphrey, at last.
"Surely, it cannot be impossible."

"Haven't we all thried it again and again wid the captain, sor!" said
Dinny, in remonstrance.  "He sot us all to work, so as to make sure that
we couldn't be attacked from the land; and ye can't get in a mile
annywhere, for thick forest worked together like a powerful big hurdle
that's all solid, and beyant that's mountains--and burning mountains--
and the divil knows what!  Sure, and ye can't get that way at all widout
an army of wood-cutters, and a life a hundred years long!"

A week went by, food was wanting, the prisoners were in despair, and
they had both crept out again and again to the end of the corridor and
listened to try and make out something; but all outside was solemnly
still, and the place might have been once more the abode of death, had
not a couple of sentries always been visible keeping watch, so that it
was impossible to stir.

"I can't shtand this anny longer, sor," said Dinny one evening.  "I'm
going to see if I can't find her, sor.  I must have news of the darlin',
or I shall die!"

"It's madness, Dinny!" said Humphrey, excitedly.

"Sure, and I know it is, sor.  I am mad."

"But you will injure her and yourself too."

"I can't help it, sor.  I've a faling upon me that Black Mazzard has got
her again, and I'm going to fetch her away."

"You are going to your death; and it will be through me, man!"

"Make your moind aisy, sor, about that.  It would be all the same if ye
were not here.  Sure, and I'd be a poor sort of a boy if I towld a woman
I loved her, and thin, when the darlin' was in difficulties, jist sat
down quietly here, and left her in the lurch."

"She would not have you stir, Dinny, if she knew."

"What of that, sor!  Let 'em hang me if they catch me; and if they do,
sor, Oi'll doie like a Kelly.  And not a word will I shpake of where ye
are; and I wish ye safe away to your swateheart--for ye've got wan, I'm
thinking, or ye wouldn't be so aiger to get away."

"Well, promise me this, Dinny--you'll wait a few hours and see if we
have news."

"Faix, and for your sake, sor, I'll do that same," said Dinny.

He went to the window-opening and leaned there, listening; while
Humphrey seated himself upon the edge of the couch to watch the opening
above his head, in the expectancy that Mistress Greenheys might arrive
and put an end to the terrible suspense as to her silence.

The still, sultry heat was terrible, not a leaf moved outside, and the
darkness came on more obscure than usual; for as Humphrey looked out of
the window from time to time, to gaze along the forest arcade, there was
not a firefly visible, and the heavy, oppressive state of the air seamed
to announce a coming storm.

Dinny's figure had long been invisible, but he made his presence known
by crooning over snatches of the most depressing minor-keyed Irish
melody he could recall; but after a time that ceased, and the silence
grew heavy as the heat.

"How long have I been asleep?" he muttered, starting up and listening.
"Dinny!"

No answer.

"Dinny!  Hist!  Are you asleep?"

He dare call no louder, but rose from the couch.

"Dennis Kelly, the traitor, has gone, Humphrey Armstrong!" cried a
hoarse voice, and he felt himself driven back into the great tomb-like
place.

"Commodore Junk!" cried Humphrey in his surprise.

"Yes, Commodore Junk.  Hah!  I have you.  My prisoner once again."

"Your prisoner!  No, not if I die for it!" cried Humphrey, passionately;
and he struggled to free himself from the tightening grasp.

"I tell you it is madness.  You have proved it yourself, and, weary with
your folly, you have returned."

"Returned!" cried Humphrey, fiercely; "yes, but only to be free."

The captain tried to utter some angry appeal, but a fierce struggle had
commenced, and the great stony place seemed to be full of whispers, of
hoarse sighs, the catching of breath, harsh expirations as the
contending pair swayed here and there--the captain, lithe and active as
a panther, baffling again and again Humphrey's superior weight and
strength.  Twice over the latter tripped and nearly fell, but he
recovered himself and struggled on, seeking to wind his arms round the
buccaneer and lift and throw him with a west country wrestling trick.
But try how he would, his adversary seemed to twist like an eel and
recover himself, till suddenly, as they swayed here and there, with the
thick rugs kicked on one side, there was a low, jangling noise as a
sword escaped from its scabbard and fell upon the stony floor.

It was a trifling incident, but it attracted the buccaneer's attention
for a moment--just long enough to put him off his guard--the result
being that he was thrown heavily, Humphrey planting his knee upon his
breast, and as he thrust out a hand it encountered the fallen sword,
which he snatched up with a shout of triumph, shortened in his hand, and
held to the buccaneer's throat.

"Now," he cried, fiercely, "I have the upper-hand, my lad.  You are my
prisoner.  Make but one sound, and it is your last."

The buccaneer uttered a low moan, and snatched at the blade, but the
intervening hand was thrust away, and the point pressed upon the heaving
flesh.

"Do you give in?"

"No!" cried the buccaneer, fiercely.  "Strike, Humphrey Armstrong;
strike, and end my miserable life!  Then go and say, I have slain the
woman who loved me with all her heart!"

"What!" cried Humphrey, starting back, as the sword fell from his
nerveless hand, and a flash, as of a revelation, enlightened him as to
the meaning of much that had before seemed strange.

"Well, why do you not strike?  Did I not speak plainly?  I am Mary
Dell!"



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

A FRESH ALARM.

"Yes; who called?" cried Humphrey, starting up.

"Hist!  Be careful.  It is me."

Humphrey sprang front his couch, and was about to speak, when the
curtain was thrown roughly aside, and Bart entered quickly.

"What's the matter!" he said, roughly.

"Matter!" said Humphrey.  "I--I--must have been dreaming."

Bart looked at him sourly, and then gave a suspicious look round.

"What time is it?" said Humphrey, hastily.

"Time!  What do we know about time here?  'Bout four bells."

Humphrey gazed excitedly at the dimly-seen figure, visible by a faint
light which streamed in beside the curtain, and then as the curtain fell
he advanced slowly till he could peer through and see that Bart had gone
right to the far end of the corridor, where he had a lantern set in a
stone recess, beside which he ensconced himself, and played sentry once
again.

"Escape is impossible unless I choose the gates of death," muttered
Humphrey, as he stole back cautiously, and then in a low voice said--

"Hist!  Did anyone call?"

"Yes.  Is it safe to whisper?" came from above.

"Mistress Greenheys!" cried Humphrey, joyfully.  "Speak low, don't
whisper; it penetrates too far.  How I have longed to hear from you!"

"Oh, sir, pray, pray, save him!"

"Dinny!" said Humphrey, starting.

"Yes.  He is to be killed, and it was for your sake he ran that risk.
Pray, try and save him."

"What can I do?"

"Implore the captain.  He may listen to you.  I cannot bear it, sir; it
makes me feel half mad!"

"Have you seen him?"

"Seen him?  No, sir.  He's kept closely shut up in one of the stone
chambers by the captain's quarters, and two men watch him night and
day."

"As I am watched," said Humphrey, bitterly.

"Yes, sir; but you have not been untrue to your captain.  You are not
sentenced to death, and every man eager to see you hung.  My poor
Dennis!  It is my fault, too.  Why did we ever meet?"

Humphrey was silent.

"You will see the captain, sir, and ask him to spare his life?"

Humphrey ground his teeth.  To ask Dinny's life was to ask a favour of
Mary Dell, and to place himself under greater obligations still.

"That is not all the trouble," said the woman, who was evidently sobbing
bitterly.  "That wretch Mazzard is still at liberty."

"Not escaped?" cried Humphrey.

"Not escaped!--not taken!" said the woman.  "He is in hiding about the
place, and I have seen him."

She seemed to shudder, and her sobs grew more frequent.

"He has not dared to come to you?"

"No, sir; but he came near enough to speak to and threaten me.  He will
come some night and drag me away, and it would be better to die.  Ah!"

She uttered a low cry; and as Humphrey listened he heard low, quick
talking, a faint rustling overhead, and then the sound of the voices
died away.

"Discovered!" said Humphrey, bitterly.  "Fate is working against me now.
Better, as she said, to die."

A quarter of an hour's silence ensued, and conscious that at any moment
he might be watched, as far as the deep gloom would allow, Humphrey
seated himself upon the edge of the old stone altar, and folded his
arms, to see what would be the next buffet of fate he was to bear.

He had not long to wait.

There was the sound of a challenge at the end of the corridor, and a
quick reply, followed by an angry muttering, and Humphrey laughed
mockingly.

"Master and dog!" he said, bitterly.  "Mistress and dog, I ought to
say."

He drew himself up, for he heard a well-known step coming quickly along
the passage.  The curtain was snatched aside, and the buccaneer took a
dozen strides into the place and stopped, looking round.

"Where are you?" cried the buccaneer, in a harsh, imperious voice, deep
almost as that of a man.

There was no reply.

"Where are you, I say?" was repeated imperiously.  "Are you ashamed to
speak?"

"No!  What do you want?"

The buccaneer started in surprise, and faced round.

"Are you there?  Coward!  Traitor!  This explains all.  This is the
meaning of the haughty contempt--the miserable coldness.  And for a
woman like that--the mistress of the vilest slave among the men.
Humphrey Armstrong--you, the brave officer, to stoop to this!  Shame
upon you!  Shame!"

"Woman, are you mad!"

"Yes!  Mad!" cried the buccaneer, fiercely.  "I scorn myself for my
weak, pitiful fancy for so despicable a creature as you.  So this is the
brave captain, holding nightly meetings with a woman like that!"

"As I would with anyone who could help me to escape from this vile
bondage," said Humphrey.

"Vile!  Who has made it vile?"

"You," said Humphrey, sternly; "and as if I were not degraded low enough
by your base passion and declaration, you come here in the night to
insult me by such an insinuation as that."

There was utter silence for a few moments, and then a quick step
forward; and before Humphrey Armstrong could realise the fact, Mary Dell
had cast herself down, thrown her arms around him, and laid her cheek
against his feet.

"Trample on me and crush me, or kill me," she moaned.  "I _am_, mad.  I
did not think it.  Humphrey, have pity on me.  You do not knew."

He trembled as she spoke, and clenched his fists tightly; but making an
effort over himself, he said coldly--

"You have imprisoned the woman's lover, and she says he is to die.  She
came there, as she has come many times before, to plan escape with me
and the man I persuaded to be the partner of my flight.  For this he is
to die."

"It is the men's will," groaned the prostrate woman.

"She has been praying to me to save her lover.  I felt I could not ask
you; but I do ask.  Spare the poor fellow's life, and set him free."

"Do you wish it?"

"Yes."

"He shall be set free.  You see, I can be merciful, while you alone are
stern and cold.  How long am I to suffer this?"

"How long will you keep me here a prisoner?"

"How long will you keep yourself a prisoner, you should say.  It is for
you to be master here; for me to be your slave.  How can I humble
myself--degrade myself--more?"

Humphrey drew his breath in an angry, impatient hiss.

"For Heaven's sake, rise!" he cried.  "You lower yourself.  You humble
me.  Come: let us talk sensibly.  I do not want to be hard upon you.  I
will not say bitter things.  Give me your hand."

He took the hand nearest to him as he bent down, and raised the
prostrate woman.

"Be seated," he said, gravely.  "Let me talk to you as I would to some
one who can listen in an unprejudiced spirit."

There was no reply.

"In your character of the captain of these buccaneers you asked me, an
English officer, to be your friend and companion--to share with you this
command.  Is that all?"

Still no reply.

"Let us tear away the veil," he continued; "for surely I am no egotist
when I say to you that from the beginning it was more than this."

"No; I did not know then.  I thought that you might be my friend; that I
should keep up this disguise until the end," was faltered piteously.

"Impossible!" cried Humphrey, sternly.  "Let me be plain with you.  Let
me tell you that I have sat here alone thinking, reading your character,
pitying you for all that is past."

"Pity!" came in a deep, low voice.

"Yes," he said, gently, "pity.  Let me try, too, and be grateful.  For
you spared my life at first; you saved it afterwards."

"Go on.  You torture me."

"I must torture you, for I have words to speak that must be uttered."

He paused for a few moments; and then went on, speaking now quickly and
agitatedly, as if the words he uttered gave him pain at the same time
that they inflicted it upon another.

"When I was chosen to command this expedition, against one who had made
the name of Commodore Junk a terror all round the gulf and amid the
isles, I knew not what my fate might be.  There were disease and death
to combat, and I might never return."

He paused again.  Then more hurriedly--

"There was one to whom--"

"Stop!" came in a quick, angry voice.  "I know what you would say; but
you do not love another.  It is not true."

Humphrey Armstrong paused again, and then in a low, husky voice--

"I bade farewell to one whom I hoped on my return to make my wife.  It
pains me to say these words, but you force them from me."

"Have I not degraded myself enough?  Have I not suffered till I am
nearly mad that you tell me this?" came in piteous tones.

"Was I to blame!"

"You?  No.  It was our fate.  What a triumph was mine, to find that I,
the master who had lived so long with my secret known but to poor Bart,
was now beaten, humbled--to find that day by day I was less powerful of
will--that my men were beginning to lose confidence in me, and were
ready to listen to the plots and plans of one whom I had spared, for him
to become a more deadly enemy day by day.  Humphrey Armstrong, have you
no return to offer me for all I have suffered--all I have lost?  Tell me
this is false.  You do not--you cannot--love this woman."

He was silent.

"Is she so beautiful?  Is she so true?  Will she give you wealth and
power?  Would she lay down her life for you?  Would she degrade herself
for you as I have done, and kneel before you, saying, `Have pity on me--
I love you'?"

"Hush, woman!" cried Humphrey, hoarsely; "and for pity's sake--the pity
of which you speak--let us part and meet no more.  I cannot, I will not
listen to your words.  Give me my liberty, and let me go."

"To denounce me and mine?"

"Am I such a coward, such a wretch, that I should do this?" he cried,
passionately.

"Then stay.  Listen: I will give you love such as woman never gave man
before.  I loved your cousin as a weak, foolish girl loves the first man
who whispers compliments and sings her praises.  It is to her all new
and strange, the realisation of something of which she had dreamed.  But
as the veil fell from my eyes, and I saw how cowardly and base he was,
that love withered away, and I thought that love was dead.  But when you
came my heart leaped, and I trembled and wondered.  I shrank from you,
telling myself that it was a momentary fancy; and I lied, for it was the
first strong love of a lonely woman, thirsting for the sympathy of one
who could love her in return."

"Oh! hush--hush!" cried Humphrey.  "I have told you that it can never
be."

"And she will never love you as I would--as I do," came in a low,
imploring whisper.

"Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!" cried Humphrey.

"Even if it were not so I could not--No, I will not speak.  I only say,
for pity's sake let us part."

He paused, for there was no reply.

"You do not answer," he said, gently.  "Think of what I say.  I cannot
give you love.  I should be unworthy of yours if I could.  My friendship
I can give, and it shall be devoted to saving you from this life."

Still no reply; and the silence and darkness seemed deeper than before.

"You do not take my hand!" he said, bitterly.  "You do not listen to my
words!  Come, for heaven's sake be just to me.  Say that I have spoken
well."

Still no reply, and he listened as he leaned forward; but there was
nothing to be heard but the beating of his own heart.

He leaned forward with outstretched hand, and bending down it touched
the cold stone of the altar.

He swept his hand to left and right, listening intently; but there was
no sound.

"Why do you not speak?" he said, sternly, as he realised the folly of
his first surmise.

His words seemed to murmur in the roof and die away, but there was no
reply.

He took a few steps in different directions, suddenly and quickly,
listening intently the while, feeling certain that he would hear her try
to avoid him; but all was silent, and at last he made for the entrance,
drew aside the curtain, and stood listening there.

Feeling sure that his visitor could not have gone that way he turned
back, and with outstretched hands paced the great chamber to and fro
till at each crossing he touched the stone wall.

Satisfied at length that he was alone, and that the great stone which
formed his couch had not been moved, he went once more to the great
curtain, pulled it aside, and passed through so as to go along the
corridor, for now that his visitor had left him the desire to speak
again came strongly.

Half-way down the passage he suddenly became aware of an advancing
light, and directly after he saw that it was gleaming from the brown
face of Bart.

"Hallo!  What now?" he growled.  "Where are you going?"

"The captain!  Did you meet the captain?" said Humphrey hastily.

"Meet him!  No.  He came to me and sent me back," said Bart, grimly.

"Where is he, then?"

"At his quarters, of course."

Humphrey Armstrong turned upon his heel frowning, as he felt that a
great deal of what he had been saying must have been addressed to
vacancy.

He did not turn his head as he paced the corridor, but he was aware that
he was followed by Bart, whose lantern shed its faint yellow gleam upon
the great curtain till he had passed through, and all was in darkness as
he crossed the great chamber and threw himself upon the couch.  But the
place was feebly illuminated directly after, as Bart drew the drapery
aside and peered in, holding the lantern well above his head to satisfy
himself that his prisoner was there.

Then he drew back, the great curtain fell into its place, and Humphrey's
jailer went slowly to his niche, where he set down his light, seated
himself, and with arms folded and chin resting upon his breast, moodily
brooded over the position.

"A curse!" he muttered more than once--"a curse!  If he were dead there
would be peace once more, for she would forget him."

"Suppose," he thought, after a while--"suppose he was to be gone next
time she came.  Well, he might have escaped, and after a time she'd be
at rest.  It would be so easy, and it would be for her.  And yet he's so
brave and so handsome, such a man for her!  Better see her happy and
kill myself.  Not that I need!" he said, bitterly; "for she said she'd
do that if aught happened to him."

"It's hard work," he muttered, after a while, "seeing the woman you love
care for some one else, and him lying there, and as good us asking you
to put him out of the way."

Bart's head sank lower as he crouched there, struggling with the great
temptation of his life, till at last he slowly rose, and, shading the
lantern within his breast, stepped cautiously toward the curtain which
draped the door.  Stretching out his hand, he was in the act of drawing
it softly aside when there was a firm clutch at his shoulder, and a low
voice whispered in his ear--

"What are you going to do?"

Bart drew back, let fall the certain, and faced his leader.

"Nothing!" he said, abruptly.

"You villain!" whispered the buccaneer.  "I read murder in your eye!"

"I'm tired of it," growled Bart.  "I give it up.  I know what I am.  I
hopes for nothing; but when I see you go mad for one who hates you, and
who will bring ruin on us all, as well as make you unhappy, it makes me
mad too.  He's an enemy, and I could kill anybody as gives you pain!"

"As I could, and would, slay you if you hurt a hair of the head of the
man I love!"

"The man you love!" muttered Bart, bitterly.  "Time back it was the
other Captain Armstrong.  Now it's him.  Anybody but a poor fellow like
me!"

"You have told me again and again you were content to be my friend.  Go
back to the quarters, and I'll watch myself.  I have no one here I can
trust!"

Bart's face worked as they slowly returned along the corridor, and rage
and pain were marked in turn upon his features.

As they reached the place where he set down his lantern, he stood in a
bent attitude, as if pondering upon the words which had been said.

"Why are you waiting?" said the captain, imperiously.

"Them words o' yours," said Bart.  "You said you could kill me."

"As I would have done," was the fierce reply, "if harm had befallen
him!"

"Better it had!" said Bart, bitterly.  "Better it had, and you'd killed
me.  Saved you from pain, and me from a life of misery.  Am I to go?"

"Yes," said the captain, less firmly, as the man's tones betrayed the
agony of his spirit.  "Go; I have no one now whom I can trust!"

"Don't say that to me," said the poor fellow, hoarsely, as he fell upon
his knees and clasped his hands.  "Kill me if you like, captain, but
don't doubt me.  All these years I've done nothing but try and serve you
faithful and well."

"And you would have slain the man I love!"

"Something tempted me, and it said that it was for your good, and when
it was like that I felt I could do anything."

"You would have betrayed me!"

"I would have killed him as give you pain, him who has changed you, and
broken you down to what you are.  I knew as I now know, that it's ruin
to you!"

"Silence, man, and go!"

"What has he done for you!" cried Bart.  "Nought but give you hard
words, and curse you ever since he has been here, and yet you go on
loving him!"

"What have I ever done for you, Bart, but give you hard words and cold
looks, and yet you have gone on loving me!"

"True," said Bart, hoarsely; "and so I shall till I die!"

"And so shall I, Bart, till I die!"

"Don't talk like that," he groaned.  "It's better to live and suffer
than to talk of death.  I give in--once more I give in!"

"Then go; I will watch!"

"No, captain; don't send me away!  Trust me this once.  I am faithful to
you!"

"Ay; but not to him."

There was a pause, and Bart seemed to be struggling hard with himself,
till he had won some terrible victory.

"Tell me," he said at last, "tell me to swear.  I'll be as true to him
as I've been to you, and I'll swear it.  I'll die for him, if you say I
am!"

"Then swear, Bart.  Swear that I may depend on you as I would on myself!
That, for my sake, you will defend him from all evil, come when it
may!"

"Because you love him?" said Bart, slowly.

"Because I love him, man!"

There was a painful silence for a few minutes, and then, as he knelt
there, on the time-worn stones, the simple-hearted single-natured man
said, in a low husky voice--

"I swear it: so help me God!"

Bart rose slowly, with his breath coming and going as if after some
terrible struggle, and, as he stood there trembling, he felt his hand
seized and held tightly between two warm, moist palms.

He let it rest there for a few moments, and then snatched it away.

"What are you going to do?" whispered the buccaneer.

"Obey orders," said Bart relapsing, as it were, to his former manner.

"No; stay.  I have only you to trust."

"And you'll leave me now along of him?"

"Without a feeling of dread, Bart; because the temptation would come in
vain."

"Are we all mad!" said Bart, softly, as he stood listening to the
retiring footsteps; and then he sank down upon the stones, with his back
to the wall, and the light shining upon his rugged head.



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

ONE PRISONER FREE.

"Dinny!  You here!"

"Yes, sor--it's me."

"But at liberty?"

"Yes, sor; and I'm to attend on ye as I did avore."

"But--"

"Oh, it's all right, sor!  The captain's a bit busy, and I'm not to be
hung at present.  I'm to be kept till there's a big holiday, and be
strung up then.  It's the fashion out in this part of the counthry."

"My poor fellow," cried Humphrey, "I am glad to see you safe again!"

"Safe, sir! and d'ye call it safe, whin the first time, perhaps, as the
skipper gets in a passion I shall be hung up in all me youth and beauty,
like one o' the big drooping flowers on a tree!"

"Nonsense, man!"

"Oh, it's sinse, sor; and I shall droop, too, wid all my moight!"

"No, no," said Humphrey, as he pondered upon the past, and saw in
Dinny's reprieve a desire to gratify him.  "No, my lad.  I appealed to
the captain to spare your life, and this is the result."

"Did ye, now, sor!  Sure, an' I thought that the pretty little darlin'
had been down on her knees to him; and, knowing what a timpting little
beauty she is, it made me shiver till I began to consider what sort of a
man the captain is, and how, when the boys have been capturing the
women, and sharing 'em out all round, the skipper niver wance took a
fancy to a single sowl.  Faix, and he's always seemed to take to you,
sor, more than to annyone else.  Some men's of a marrying sort, and some
ar'n't.  The skipper's one of the ar'n'ts."

Humphrey looked at the man curiously, but it was evident that he had no
hidden meaning.

"Sure, sor," continued Dinny, "when I think about you two, it has always
seemed to me as if the captain wanted to be David to your Jonathan, only
the other way on, for the skipper isn't a bit like King David."

"Have you suffered much!"

"Suffered, sor!"

"I mean in prison."

"Divil a bit, sor!  I've lived like a foighting-cock.  They always fade
a man up well in this part of the counthry before they finish him off."

"You may make your mind easy, Dinny," said Humphrey, thoughtfully; "the
captain will not take your life unless he takes mine too."

"An' is it mak me moind aisy, sor, when I can't get spache of the
darlin', and that Black Mazzard in hiding somewhere and freckening the
poor sowl to death!"

"Surely, there is nothing to fear from him now?"

"Faix, and I don't know that same.  I shall always be freckened about
him till a dacent praste has tied us two together toightly, and then I
sha'n't be happy till I know that Black Mazzard's nailed up bechuckst
four boards; and if I've annything to do wid it they shall be as thick
as trees and nailed wid screws."

"He has made his escape somewhere?"

"Not he, sor; and I don't like the look o' things.  I've been too much
shut up to see annything, being more like a cockroach in a whishky
bottle and the cork tied down than annything else.  But I'm skeart,
captain darlin'; and if annything happens--whisht! have ye kept my
saycret?"

He put his lips close to the prisoner's ears, and whispered as he gave a
knowing look at the couch.

"It is a secret still, Dinny."

"Good luck to ye, sor!  Thin, if annything happens, just you go there
and lie shnug till I come to ye; and if ye'll tak' my advice ye'll keep
on putting a dhrop o' wine in the cellar and shtoring up a bit o' food;
and if it isn't wanted, why ye're no worse off."

"Explain yourself, my lad," said the prisoner, for the lively chatter of
the Irishman relieved the tedium of his confinement.

"Hist!"

"Murther!" ejaculated Dinny, as a faint signal came from overhead.
"Sure an' I was niver cut out for a prophet afther all."

"Dinny!--Captain Armstrong!" came from above.

"Good luck to ye, darlin'! kape on shpaking," whispered Dinny,
excitedly.  "It does me good to hear ye; but niver mind the captain,
darlin'.  Shpake to me."

"I came here--at great risk," came down, as if the speaker was panting
heavily.  "There's something wrong--I want to put you on your guard.
Tell the captain.  Quick!  I dare not stay."

"But, darlin', what's wrong?  Whisht! shpake out, and let's hear ye.
Look at that, now!  Why, she's gone!"

For there was a faint rustling overhead, and then all was silence once
again.

"Sure, sor, would ye look at me," cried Dinny, with a most perplexed
expression of countenance, "and tell me if I'm awake or it's only a
dhrame."

"Dinny," said Humphrey, "she would not have come in such haste if there
had not been good cause.  Go and warn the captain.  Quick!"

The day passed without news, and, weary with his tedious pacing of his
great cell, Humphrey Armstrong threw himself upon his couch, where he
lay, with the great solemn face of the old stone idol seeming to loom
down mysteriously from above.

It was not until the next morning that he saw Dinny again.  The night
had passed quietly, and the day found Humphrey still watching.  He,
however, dropped into a pleasant slumber as the sun rose, in which sleep
he was still plunged when Dinny came.

"Jist nawthing at all, sor," he said.  "The darlin' must have got a
craze in her head, for when I told the captain he trated me wid scorn,
and Bart asked me if I was playing the fool."

"Then there is no danger!"

"Divil a bit, sor, that I can think out," said Dinny.

"But Mistress Greenheys."

"What about her, sor?"

"What did she say?"

"Sure an' you heard it all, sor.  I couldn't repate it now if I thried."

"But you have seen her since?"

"Sin her!  Bedad I'd only like to--if it was only to shpake wan word to
her wid me oi.  No, sor, I can't get spache of her."

"But is all quiet in the place?"

"An' is it quiet?  Why, a tomb in Aygypt is a lively place to it.  The
schooner's getting rotting for want o' work, and the men do nothing but
dhrink and shlape, and the captain's shut up all alone whin he isn't
down in the forest saying his prayers."

"Is it the calm that comes before the storm, Dinny?" said Humphrey.

"Sure an' I don't know, sor; but I'll kape watch if I can, and give ye
word if there's annything wrong; but me poor head's in a mix, and since
I've been out of prishn I seem to see nothing but Black Mazzard
shwarming all over the place and takkin' me darling away.  Did ye
intersade wid the captain, sor?"

"Dinny, I have not seen him again," said Humphrey, frowning.

"Not seen him, sor!  Why, he has been here half a dozen toimes."

"Been here?  No."

"Sure and I saw him wid me own ois, sor.  Twice he came to the windy
there and four toimes along by the big passage.  Sure I thought ye'd
been colloguing."

"I was not aware of it," said Humphrey, calmly; but his words did not
express the feelings that were raging within his breast, and as soon as
he was alone he tried to analyse them.

He must flee.  He could do nothing else, and growing momentarily more
excited, he tried to force himself to act and think.

The old temple.  He would flee there for the present, he said.  It would
remove him from Mary's pursuit, for she would never dream of his seeking
refuge there, and from that place he might perhaps be able to open up
communication with Dinny.

He had no weapon, so he caught up a large table-knife and stuck it in
his waistband.  It was not much, but something, and at that moment he
recalled Mary Dell's history--how she had told him that they had begun
with a canoe; through that captured a larger boat; that larger boat had
enabled them to take a vessel; and so on till the swift schooner had
been obtained.

In the same way that knife should grow into a sword, he said to himself;
and then he felt a sensation of half-blind rage at himself for making
the comparison.

"What is this hateful unsexed creature to me!" he said, angrily, as he
stood thinking as to his next step.

Food!  He must have food.  In his excitement and the fury of the haste
that was upon him, the trouble of taking it angered him; but he knew
that he must have it, and gathering together what he could, he paused
once more to think and listen.

All was silent, and the drawing aside of the great curtain proved that
Bart was not on guard, for there was no dull, yellow gleam of his
lantern at the end of the corridor, and once more it came over the
prisoner as a feeling of wonder that he should not again and again have
taken such steps as these.  Almost unguarded, his prison doors and
windows always open, and freedom given him to wander about the ruins,
and yet like a pinioned bird he had stayed.

"They know that the sea before, the forest and mountain behind, are
stronger than bolt and bar," something seemed to whisper to him as he
stood hesitating.

"But not to a determined man, ready to do or die!" he cried, as if
forced to answer aloud; and he set his teeth as he still hesitated and
paused before hurrying out of the great dark place.

He stopped.  What would she do when she found that he had gone?  What
would she say of the man whom, with all her faults, she evidently dearly
loved, and would sacrifice all to win?

Humphrey Armstrong stamped fiercely upon the old stone flooring, making
the vaulted roof echo as he thrust his fingers into his ears in a
child-like attempt to shut out and deafen himself to the silent
whisperings which assailed him.

He gave one glance round, trying to penetrate the darkness, and
hesitated no longer, but strode away, passing out of the long corridor
out among the ruins, and, well accustomed to the place now, making
straight for the pathway which, at its division, turned toward the old
temple.

All was still; but it seemed lighter away to his left than he could
quite account for, and he was starting again when a distant shout as of
many voices came through the silence of the night and died away.

"Carousing," he muttered, and he hesitated again.

If the men were carousing the watch kept would be less strict, and there
might be some chance of obtaining a boat.

"To start alone on a cruise," he said, half aloud.  "What madness!"
Then passionately: "It all seems madness, and I can do nothing but drift
with fate."

Fighting down the strange hesitancy which kept assailing in various
forms, especially now in that of conjuring up difficulties in the way of
escape, he plunged sturdily into the forest path, and, as fast as the
darkness allowed, went on straight for the old temple, a grim place of
refuge, with its ghastly relics; of Abel Dell lying, as it were, in
state; and the horrible, haunting recollections of the huge cavernous
cenote where the would-be assassin had met his fate, and the other had
been consigned as to his tomb.

It was painful work.  Every now and then some thorny creeper of rapid
growth hung across and tore his skin; at some sudden turn he came in
contact with tree-trunk or mouldering stone; but the greater the
difficulties in the darkness, the greater the rest seemed to Humphrey
Armstrong's brain, and he kept on till a sudden turn brought him close
to the fork, where one path went winding to the left toward the men's
and the captain's quarters, the other to the temple.

As he approached he became conscious of a rustling sound, as of a wild
creature passing through the forest, and he snatched his knife from his
waist, ready to strike for life if attacked; but, firmly convinced that
there were no denizens of the wild there but such as were more likely to
avoid him, he kept on again, to reach the dividing path just as he
became aware that it was no creature passing through the wilderness of
trees, but someone, like himself, hurrying along the track from the
men's quarters so rapidly, that they came in contact, and a hand seized
him by the throat, and the point of some weapon seemed to be pressed
against his breast, as a voice exclaimed in a hoarse whisper--

"Make the slightest sound and it is your last."

And as these words seemed to be hissed into his face, a shout arose from
some distance along the path, and the tramping of feet and rustling of
branches intimated that people were rapidly coming in pursuit.

"You!" exclaimed Humphrey, hoarsely, as he stood with hand uplifted to
strike, but suspended in the act as if every muscle had suddenly become
stone.

"Humphrey Armstrong!"

The hand that had grasped his throat dropped nerveless, and the weapon
fell from his breast as the shouting of men increased.

"Well," said Humphrey, bitterly, as if he were forcing himself to say
words that he did not mean, "why do you not strike?  I was escaping.
Call up your gang of cut-throats and end it all."

"Hush!  For Heaven's sake, hush!  You will be heard."

"Well," said Humphrey, aloud, and as if in defiance; but a warm soft
hand was placed over his lips, and its owner whispered--

"You were trying to escape, or did you know?"

"Know!" said Humphrey, involuntarily speaking lower.  "Know what?  I was
escaping."

"To the old temple!  No, no, they are going there."

"Your hounds!"

"Silence, man, for your life!" was whispered close to his ear, and the
hand once more sought his lips.

"Come on, my lads!" came out of the darkness ahead.  "I know where to
find him, snivelling yonder among the old images.  Come on!"

There was a shout, and it seemed as if the leader of a body of men,
beneath whose feet the rotten branches that bestrewed the path crackled,
had suddenly halted for his companions to close up before saying a few
final words of encouragement.

"Now then," the voice said in thick, husky tones, "stand by me, my lads.
He's gone on there, and there's no getting back.  One good, bold blow
and we'll scotch him like a snake.  Then fair share and share alike of
all there is hidden away, and start straight.  He's no good now, and the
others'll join in when he's gone.  Ready?"

"Ay, ay!" came in hoarse, drunken tones; and as Humphrey felt himself
pressed back into the pathway by which he had come, there was a
staggering of feet, and a dull trampling, as about a dozen men passed
on, leaving behind them the thick reek of hot, spirit-laden breath.

"Now!" as the steps passed on.  "Now," was whispered in Humphrey's ear;
"this way."

"Ah!" arose in a fierce growl, as some one of the party who had not gone
on with the rest made a dash at and seized the buccaneer captain.
"Prisoner!  Who is it?  Here, hi mates, I've--"

He said no more.  Without pause or thought why he did this--why he
sought to save his companion--Humphrey Armstrong made a spring in the
direction of the voice, his hands came in contact with a coarse bull
throat, and its owner was driven backwards, to fall with his head
striking a projecting piece of stone, dragging the buccaneer in the
fall.

The man was stunned, and lay perfectly inert as Humphrey and his
companion struggled to their feet, panting with exertion, and listening
for the return of the party who had gone on.

But they had not heard the noise of the struggle, the maze-like turnings
of the path had shut it out, and their voices came now muffled and soft,
as if from a distance.

Then Humphrey felt his hand gripped firmly.

"This way."

"What!  Are you going to take me back to prison?" said Humphrey
mockingly.

"Do you wish to go straight to death?"

"I am going straight to liberty!" cried Humphrey.

"This way, then," whispered his companion; and without a word Humphrey
allowed himself to be led back along the dark arcade, listening to the
heavy panting of his guide, who seemed to be breathing heavily, and as
if in pain.

For some time no word was spoken.  Then, as he became aware of his
companion's purpose, Humphrey stopped short.

"You are leading me back to that cursed prison," he said fiercely.
"Loose my hand."

"I am leading you to the only place where you will be safe," was
whispered back.  "Have I not suffered enough, man?  Do you think I wish
to die with the knowledge that, these dogs will seize and rend you in
their drunken frenzy?"

"Rend me!"

"Yes.  They have risen.  That wretch, whom I have spared so long in my
weak folly, is at their head.  Humphrey Armstrong, believe me, I am
trying to save your life!"

"Then why not make for the shore?  A boat!  Give me a boat and let me
go!"

"Half the men who were faithful to me are dead, treacherously burned to
death in their quarters.  I cannot explain; but the doorway was blocked
by those fiends.  The landing-place is guarded by a portion of his
bloodthirsty gang.  To go to the shore is to seek your death.  Will you
not trust me now?"

"It is to keep me here!" he cried fiercely.

"To keep you here when I would gladly say go!  Trust me.  Give me time
to think.  I was coming to save you when we met.  Will you not believe?"

"Yes!" cried Humphrey, hoarsely.  "I will trust you!"

"Hah!"

That was all.  His hand was gripped more tightly; and, as he yielded it
to his companion, he felt himself led with unerring decision in and out
among the mouldering ruins of the edge of the clearing to the side of
the old amphitheatre, a faint metallic clink from time to time
indicating that a sword was being struck upon the stones to make sure of
the way.

"You are going back there?" said Humphrey.

"Yes," came back hoarsely.  "Do not speak.  We may be heard."

Humphrey was conscious that his guide had led him to the old altar and
sunk upon it with a moan; but she still tightly clung to his hand.

There they remained in silence as if listening for pursuit; and the
deep, hoarse breathing of both sounded painfully loud in the utter
darkness.

Humphrey essayed to speak again and again, but he felt that he could not
trust himself to utter words.

It was his companion who broke the painful silence as she still clung to
his hand.

"I ought to have acted sooner," she said bitterly.  "I might have known
it would come to this; but in my cruel selfishness I could not speak--I
could not let you go.  Do not blame me--do not reproach me.  It was my
madness; and now the punishment has come."

"I do not understand you," he said huskily.

"You do," she said gently.  "But it is no time to think of this.
Listen!  These men will search every spot to find and slay me--and you;
but you shall escape.  Now, listen?  Below this old place there is a
rock chamber, known only to me and Bart--who lies wounded yonder and
helpless; but he will not betray the secret, even if he thinks that you
are there.  You will go to the end of your couch, press heavily with
your shoulder against the corner, forcing it in this direction, and then
the great stone will move upon a pivot.  There is a way down--"

"You need not tell me," said Humphrey at this point.  "I know."

"Thank Heaven!" she ejaculated.  "Keep in hiding there till the wretches
are off their guard; and then cautiously make your way by night down to
the landing-place, and by some means seize a boat.  There will be no
guard kept when I am gone."

"And my people--my poor fellows?"

"Gone," she said quietly.  "They seized a boat and escaped long ago.
All has been confusion here since--since I have been mad," she added
piteously.

"Escaped!"

"Yes; and you will escape.  And in the future, when you are away--and
happy--don't curse me--think of me as a poor lost woman, driven by
fate--to what I am--but who saw and loved you, Humphrey Armstrong, as
woman has seldom loved before."

"Oh, hush!" he said huskily.  "For Heaven's sake don't speak like that!"

"No," she said gently, after listening for a few moments; but all was
still.  "I will not speak.  It is nearly over now.  You will forgive
me?"

"Forgive you--yes!"

She uttered a low sigh, full of thankfulness, as she still clung to his
hand.

"It is enough," she said.  "Now, go!  You know the way.  Be cautious, be
patient, and bide your time; and then Heaven speed you safely home!--He
has forgiven me," she sighed to herself, and the pressure upon his hand
seemed to increase.

"Well," she said after a few moments' pause, "why do you stay?"

Her voice startled him in its intensity, for it seemed to echo through
the place; and his hand had, as it had been for many minutes past,
grasped hers with crushing force as the tide rose to its fullest height
and bore him on.

"And you!" he said.  "What will you do?"

"I!" she said with a faint laugh; "I shall wait here until they come."

"Wait here!" cried Humphrey.  "They will kill you!"

"Yes," she said softly.

"Then why not share my flight?  Come with me now while there is time.  I
will protect you and take you where you will.  I cannot leave you like
this!"

"Not leave me?" she said with a sob.

"No.  Do you think me such a cur that I could leave you to the mercy of
these wretches?"

"It is too late," she said.  "Go!"

"Go?"

"Yer, while there is time."

"But you can hide as well as I!" he cried excitedly.  "Come!"

"It is too late," she said, and he felt her hand tremble in his grasp.

"And leave you?" he cried.  "I would sooner die!"

"Then you do love me?" she cried wildly, as she half rose from the
altar, but sank back.

"Love you!" he cried passionately.  "I have fought with it, I have
battled with it till I have been nearly mad!  Love you, Mary, my brave,
true heroine!  I love you with all my heart!"

She uttered a wild cry of joy as he threw himself upon his knees and
clasped her to his heart, his face buried in her breast and her two arms
clung tightly round his neck, as she uttered a low moan of mingled joy
and pain.

"Love you!" he whispered, as he raised his face, and his lips sought
hers; "my darling! words will not tell my love!  Come, what is the world
to us?  You are my world, my own, my love!  Come!"

She clung to him passionately for a few moments.

"At last!" she said softly, as if to herself; "the love of one true
noble man!  Ah!"

A low deep sigh escaped her, and then, as if roused to a sense of her
position, she thrust him back and listened.

"Hark!" she said, as a low shout arose.  "They are coming back--they
will be here soon!  Quick! lose no time!  You must escape!"

"And you?" he said, wildly.

She took his hand and laid it slowly upon her bosom, to press it there,
so that he could fool the heavy dull throb of her heart.

For a moment even then he did not realise what she meant.  Then, with a
wild cry he leaped to his feet, for his hand was wet with the warm blood
which welled from a terrible wound.

"You are hurt?" he cried.

"To the death, Humphrey.  Oh, my love, my love!  Take me in your arms
once more and hold me to your heart.  Tell me that you will remember me,
and then lay me here, upon this old stone, with your kiss wet upon my
lips.  Death will be easy then!"

"Death easy!  I leave you!  If you must die it shall be together!" he
panted, as he once more enfolded her in his arms.

"This is madness," she whispered, as she struggled feebly in his
embrace.  "Go, for pity's sake--go!"

"My place is here!" he said in a low fierce voice, as he took up the
sword she had let fall upon the pavement.  "We shall not die alone.
Whose cowardly hand inflicted that wound?"

"You need not ask," she said feebly.  "He missed before--the blow was
true this time."

"The fiend!  The devil!" groaned Humphrey, as the sword quivered in his
grasp.  "Well, we shall want a slave to open the gates of death.  His
shall be the task!"

She clung to him with failing strength, and drew herself up by him till
she could once more rest upon his breast, with her arms tightly clasped
about his neck.

"You told me at last you loved me," she panted.  "You said the words I
have so hungered to hear--words I thought that I should have died and
never heard pass your lips.  Now that I know it, and that it is true, do
not embitter my last moments by showing me that I have tried in vain."

"I could not live without you now!" he cried passionately, as he held
her to him more tightly still.

"They are coming.  It is too late for me.  Let me die in peace, knowing
that you are saved."

He raised her in his arms and bore her to the great stone, and, as he
laid her gently down, the noise of the coming gang could be heard.

There was not a moment to lose, and any slip in his instructions would
have resulted in destruction; but as he pressed against the stone it
easily revolved, and he stooped once more and raised the fainting woman
in his arms, to bear her down into the tomb-like structure and place her
at the foot of the broad stone stairs which led into the vault.

As he loosened her arms from about his neck and passed quickly up again,
there were heavy steps in the long corridor, and lights flashed through
the openings of the great curtain.  So close were the men that Humphrey
saw their faces as he stood on the upper step, and dragged at the slab
by two great hollows underneath, made, apparently, by the olden masons
for the mover's hands.

For the moment Humphrey, as he bent down there beneath the place on
which he had so often slept or lain to think, felt certain that he must
have been seen; but the muffled voices came close up, the steps trampled
here and there, sounding dull and hollow, and there was no seizing of
the great stone, no smiting upon its sides.

He held his breath as he stood bending down and listening for some
indication of danger; but it seemed as if the men had coursed all over
the place, searching in all directions, and were about to go, when, all
at once, there was a shout close to the place where he had raised Mary
from the altar.

The shout was followed by a muffled sound of many voices, and he
listened, wondering what it meant.  Some discovery had evidently been
made, but what?

He shuddered, and a chill of horror shot through him, for he knew
directly after.

It was blood.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

IN THE VAULT.

With the deathly silence which ensued as the heavy echoing steps of the
searchers passed away, the men being completely at fault as to why
certain drops of blood should be lying near the couch, Humphrey
descended the steps once more.

"They are gone," he whispered, but there was no reply; and, feeling
softly about, his hand came in contact with Mary's arm, to find that she
lay back in a corner of the vault, with a kerchief pressed tightly
against her breast.

He hastily bandaged the wound, firmly binding the handkerchief which she
held there with his own and the broad scarf he wore, and, after placing
her in a more comfortable position, began to search in the darkness for
the food and water which were there.

The water was soon found--a deep, cool cistern in the middle of the
floor.

The food lay close at hand, and with it one of the silver cups he had
had in use above.  With this he bore some of the cool refreshing liquid
to the wounded woman, holding some to her lips and bathing her brow,
till she uttered a sigh and returned to consciousness, her first act
being to stretch out her hand and lay it upon Humphrey's shoulder to
draw him nearer to her.

"Don't leave me!" she said feebly.  "It is very dark!"

"But we are safe," he whispered.  "They are gone."

"Yes," she sighed; "I heard them.  How long is it to day?"

"It cannot be long now," he said, as he took her hand.

She sighed as she felt the unwonted tenderness and rested her head
against his shoulder.

"No," she said, softly, "it cannot be long now.  It will come too soon!"

There was so much meaning in her voice that he felt a cold chill, as if
the hand of death had passed between to separate these two so strangely
brought together.

"Are you in pain!" he said.

"Pain!  No.  Happy--so happy!" she whispered.  "For you do love me!"

"Love you!" he cried.

"And she--at home?"

"That was not love," he said, wildly.  "But now tell me about this
place--shall we see the day when it comes?"

"You will," she said, softly.  "I shall--perhaps."

"Perhaps!  No, you shall!" he whispered, as he pressed his arm gently
around her, forgetting everything now of the past, save that this woman
loved him, and that there was a future before them of hope and joy.
"Tell me what I can do--to help you."

"Hold me like that," she whispered, with a sigh of content.  "It is
better so.  It could never have been--only my wild dream--a woman's
thirst for the love of one in whom she could believe.  A woman's love!"

Little more than an hour could have passed, during which Humphrey had
twice heard sounds of voices, and once a heavy step overhead--this last
making him steal his right hand softly toward the sword that lay by his
side--when a faint light seemed to gleam on the surface of the water in
the centre of the vault; and soon after he found that this served to
shed a softened dawn through the place--a dawn which grow stronger, but
was never more than a subdued twilight.  It was enough, though, to show
him the proportions of the place, its quaint carving, and the fact that
beside the long shaft which opened out far above his head there was what
seemed to be a stone grille, beyond which was the tangled growth of the
forest, much of which, in root and long, prickly shoot, penetrated
nearly to where they sat.

As the light grew stronger he saw that his companion seemed to have lost
the old masculine look given by her attire; for coat and vest had been
cast aside, and the loose shirt, open at the neck, had more the aspect
of a robe.  Her dark hair curled closely about her temples; and as
Humphrey Armstrong gazed down at the face, with its parted lips and long
lashes lying upon the creamy dark cheeks, his heart throbbed, for he
felt that he had won the love of as handsome a woman as any upon whom
his eyes had ever lit.

He forgot the wound, the bandaging kerchief seeming in the semi-darkness
like some scarf; and as he sat and gazed he bent down lower and softly
touched the moist forehead with his lips.

Mary awoke up with a frightened start and gazed at him wildly, but as
consciousness came her look softened and she nestled to him.

"I did not mean to wake you," he said.

She started again and looked at him wildly, as if she fancied she had
detected a chilliness in his manner; but his eyes undeceived her, and as
he raised her hand to his lips, she let it rest there for a few moments,
and then stole it round his neck.

"Tell me," he said gently, "your wound?"

She shook her head softly.

"No," she whispered; "let it rest.  Talk of yourself.  You will wait
here two days, and then steal out at night and make your way down to the
shore.  You know the way!"

"If I do not you will guide me," he said.

She looked at him keenly to see if he meant what he said, and then,
reading the sincerity of his words in his frank eyes, she shook her head
again.

"No," she whispered.  "You asked me of my wound.  It is home.  Humphrey
Armstrong, this is to be my tomb!"

"What!" he cried.  "Oh, no! no! no!  You must live to bless me with your
love!"

"Live to disgrace you with my love!"

"Mary!"

There was such a depth of love, such intensity in the tone in which he
uttered her name, that she moaned aloud.

"Ah, you are in pain!" he cried.

"In pain for you," she whispered, "for you suffer for my sake.  Hist!
Do you hear?"

She clung to him tightly.

"No," he said, "there is nothing."

"Yes," she said, softly.  "Steps.  I can hear them--they are coming
back."

He listened once more, but his ears were wanting in the preternatural
keenness brought on by his companion's exalted nerves.  He heard nothing
for a few moments, and then with a start he seized the sword, for steps
were faintly heard now to grow plainer and plainer till they were close
overhead.

Mary signed to him to listen; and at that moment the stone slab moved
gently a few inches, for someone had seated himself upon the edge, and
the buzz of talking was heard.

"Now, my lad," cried a hoarse, drink-engendered voice, which came
plainly to where they crouched, "you know all about it, and I'm captain
now.  Where's that prisoner?"

"Sure, and how could I know anny way, Black Mazzard?"

"Captain Mazzard!" roared the first speaker.

"Oh!  Murther!  Put them pishtols away, and I'll call ye captain, or
adhmiral if ye like!"

"No fooling!  Where is that prisoner?"

"Which one, sor?"

"No fooling, Paddy!  Captain Armstrong?"

"Faix, an' he must have run away, skeart loike, whin he heerd you were
coming."

"You know where he is?"

"Faix, and that's thrue," said Dinny.

"Where is he, then?  Tell me the truth, and I'll let you live this time.
Tell me a lie, and I'll hang you."

"Och, don't, captain!  Ye'd waken yer crew horribly if ye were to hang
me."

"I'll hang you, as sure as you stand there, if you don't confess."

"Murther!  Don't, now, captain, for I shouldn't die dacently if ye did
hang me.  It isn't a way I've been accustomed to.  Ah, moind!  That
pishtol might go off."

"It will go off if you don't speak.  He's hidden somewhere here, and you
know where.  Speak out!"

"Shpake out!  And is it shpake out?" said Dinny, slowly as with advanced
blade Humphrey stood ready to plunge it into the breast of the first man
who attempted to descend.  "Oh, well, I'll shpake out then."

"The traitor!" mattered Humphrey.  "False to one, false to all."

"Where is he, then?" roared Mazzard.

"Faix, he's in his skin, captain."

"You dog!" roared Mazzard.  And there was the report of a pistol,
followed by a wild shriek.

"Don't--don't kill!" cried a piteous woman's voice.  "Don't kill him!"

"Not kill him!" snarled Mazzard.

"No--no!  Spare him, and I'll tell you."

"Bedad, an' if ye do, I'll niver forgive ye," cried Dinny, fiercely.
"Ye don't know nawthing.  He's eshcaped."

"Where is he!" roared Mazzard.  "Speak out, woman, or I'll blow his head
off!"

Humphrey sprang up a couple of steps to defend Dinny; but Mary Dell lay
there, and to show himself was to betray her--the woman whom he knew he
passionately loved.  Of himself he thought nothing.

But the task of betrayal to save her lover was spared to Mistress
Greenheys, for, as Black Mazzard stood with one hand on Dinny's
shoulder, and his second pistol pointed close to his ear, so that his
second shot should not fail, one of his men exclaimed aloud--

"Why, he's there!  Look at the blood!"

Mazzard turned and glanced down at the floor upon which he stood, then
at the stained stone which formed the cover of the vault.  He uttered a
harsh laugh, for the stone had been slightly moved.

"Here, half a dozen of you!" he roared.  "Lay hold!"

His men seized the stone; and after one or two trials to raise it up, it
was thrust sideways, and the hiding-place revealed.

With a yell of savage delight Black Mazzard began to descend, followed
by his crew.  There was the clash of swords, two men fell, wallowing in
their blood, and then Humphrey drew back into the corner before Mary
Dell, determined to defend her to the last.

Two more men went down; and there was a brief pause, followed by a
savage rush and a _melee_, in which Humphrey's sword snapped off at the
hilt, and the next minute he was above in the great chamber, pinioned
between two of Mazzard's men; and Mary Dell was borne up to lie at her
conqueror's feet.

"You savage!" roared Humphrey, as he sank panting on a stone.

"Savage!" retorted Mazzard, with a brutal grin.  "Stand up, you dog!"

"Stand yourself--in the presence of your king's officer!" shouted
Humphrey in his rage.

"King!" cried Mazzard, mockingly.  "I'm king here.  Now then, you!" he
cried to his men, who enjoyed seeing him bearded.  "Quick!--two ropes!"

He turned sharply upon his men, who hurried off to obey the command.

Humphrey gazed at Mazzard aghast.  The threat implied in the order
seemed too horrible to be believed, and for the moment he looked round
in doubt.

But Mazzard was in power; and in a few minutes the ropes were
forthcoming.

Humphrey glanced from the men who approached and then at Mary Dell, with
the intention of proclaiming her sex; but a horrible feeling of dread
thrilled through him at the thought of making such a revelation to the
monsters who had gained the upper-hand, and, gathering himself up, he
waited his time, and then wrested himself free, sending the men who held
him right and left, and leaped to where--unable to stand upright--his
fellow prisoner was held.

Before they could recover from their surprise he had torn a sword from
one of them, and, whirling it round his head, he drove them back, and
clasping Mary Dell's waist, stood with flashing eyes, ready for the
first who would attack.

"Is there no man here who will help?" he shouted.

"Bedad there is!" cried Dinny, leaping upon the nearest, and in a moment
tearing his weapon from his hand.  "If I die for it, captain, it shall
be like a man."

Black Mazzard stood for a moment aghast at the daring displayed.  Then a
grim look of savagery crossed his evil countenance, and he drew his
sword.

"Now, my lads," he said, fiercely, "it's three ropes we want, I see.
Come on."

He made a rush forward, followed by his men; but at this moment a
solitary shot flashed from the folds of the curtain, and as the report
reverberated through the great stone chamber, Black Mazzard span round
as if upon a pivot, and fell with a heavy thud upon the floor.

His men paused in their onslaught, appalled by the suddenness of their
leader's fall; but as they saw Bart come forward, piece in hand, their
hesitation turned to rage, and they advanced once more to the attack.

"Good-bye!" whispered Humphrey, bending for a moment over Mary, who
clung to him, her eyes fixed on his with a longing, despairing gaze, and
then, as he thrust her back, the attack began.

The odds were about eight to one, and the issue could not for a moment
be in doubt; but hardly had sword met sword, and blow been exchanged,
when a ringing cheer arose, and with a rush a couple of dozen well-armed
sailors dashed in by corridor and window, and the tables were completely
turned.

There was a rush made for the door, but those who tried in that
direction were driven back; while half a dozen who backed into a corner
of the great chamber, as if desperately determined to sell their lives
dearly, were boldly attacked and beaten down, the whole party being
reduced from the savage band of followers of the dead ruffian at their
feet to a herd of helpless prisoners, abject to a degree.

Humphrey saw nothing of this, only that they were saved; for, dropping
his sword, he sank on his knees by the side of her who lay back with her
eyes fixed upon him, full of a longing, imploring look, whose import he
read too well.

He bent down closely to her to take her hand in his, and started to find
that it was cold; but there was vitality in it enough for the fingers to
close upon his hand tightly, while the lips he kissed moved slightly,
and he heard as faintly as if just breathed--

"It is better so."

"No, no!" he panted.  "We are saved!  Mary--dearest--"

He said no more, for the longing look in those eyes seemed intensified,
and the pupils dilated slowly to remain fixed and stern.

It was the buccaneer's last look on earth.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

LAST WORDS.

The officer who led the strong boat's crew to the rescue, guided by some
of Captain Armstrong's men who had escaped weeks before and after
terrible privations at last found help, drew back and signed to his
followers.

It was enough.  Hats were doffed, and a strange silence reigned in the
gloomy chamber as Humphrey knelt there holding the dead hand in his till
he was touched upon the shoulder, and looking up slowly, half-stunned by
the event, it was to meet the pale, drawn face of Bart.

"Do they know, captain?" he whispered, meaningly.

For a few moments Humphrey did not realise the import of his question,
till he turned and gazed down once more upon the stern, handsome face
fixing rigidly in death.

"No," he said quickly, as he drew a handkerchief from his breast and
softly spread it over the face of the dead.  "It is our secret--ours
alone."

"Hah!" sighed Bart, and he drew back for a moment, and then gave
Humphrey an imploring look before advancing once more, going down upon
his knee, and taking and kissing the cold hand lying across the
motionless breast.

"Captain Humphrey Armstrong, I think!" said the officer of the rescue
party.

"Yes," said Humphrey, in a dreamy way.

"We were just in time, it seems."

"Yes," said Humphrey, with a dazed look.

"I'm glad you are safe, sir; and this is--"

He had not finished his sentence when one of Black Mazzard's men yelled
out--

"The Commodore--our captain--sir!"

"Once," said Humphrey, roused by the ruffian's words, and gazing sharply
round; "but one who spared my life, sir, and with this poor fellow here
defended me from that dead scoundrel and his gang!"

As he spoke he spurned the body of Black Mazzard, who had hardly stirred
since he received Bart's bullet.

"I am at your service, Captain Armstrong," said the officer, "and will
take my instructions from you."

"For the wretches taken in arms, sir, I have nothing to say; but for
this poor wounded fellow I ask proper help and protection.  I will be
answerable for him."

Bart looked at him quickly and reeled slightly as he limped to his side.

"Thank ye, captain," he said.  "I ought to hate you, but she loved you,
and that's enough for me.  If I don't see you again, sir--God bless you
and good-bye!"

"But we shall see each other again, Bart, and I hope--here, quick!" he
cried, "help here; the poor fellow is fainting from loss of blood!"

Bart was borne off to be tended by the surgeon, and Humphrey Armstrong
stood gazing down at the motionless form at his feet.

He did not speak for some minutes, and all around respected his sorrow
by standing aloof; but he turned at last to the officer--

"I ask honourable burial, sir, for the dead--dead to save my life."

The officer bowed gravely, and then turned away to give a few short,
sharp orders to his men, who signed to their prisoners.

These were rapidly marched down to the boats, two and two, till it came
to the turn of Dinny, who stood with Mrs Greenheys clinging to him,
trembling with dread.

"Now, my fine fellow," said the warrant officer who had the prisoners in
charge; "this way."

"Sure, and ye'll let me have a wurrud wid the captain first?"

"No nonsense.  Come along!"

"Sure, an' he'd like to shpake to me wan wurrud," said Dinny.  "Wouldn't
ye, sor!"

Humphrey, who was standing with his arms folded, wrapped in thought,
looked up sharply on hearing the familiar tones of the Irishman's voice.

"There, what did I tell ye, sor?" he cried.  "Sure, an' I'm not a
buccaneer by trade--only a prishner."

Humphrey strode up, for Mrs Greenheys had run to him with clasped
hands.

"I'd take it kindly of ye, sor, if ye'd explain me position to these
gintlemen--that I'm not an inimy, but a friend."

"Yes," said Humphrey, turning to the officer in command; "a very good
friend to me, sir, and one who would be glad to serve the king."

"Or anny wan else who behave dacently to him."

"Let him tend his companion," said Humphrey.  "He is a good nurse for a
wounded man."

Mistress Greenheys caught Humphrey's hand and kissed it.

"But she would have betrayed us," he said to himself, as he looked down
into the little woman's tearful face; "still, it was for the sake of the
man she loved."

That night, covered with the English flag, which she had so often
defied, the so-called Commodore Junk was borne to the resting-place
selected by Humphrey Armstrong.

It was a solemn scene as the roughly-made bier was borne by
lantern-light through the dark arcade of the forest, and the sailors
looked up wonderingly at the strange aspect of the mouldering old pile.

But their wonder increased as they entered the gloomy temple, and the
yellow light of their lanterns fell upon the flag-draped coffin in the
centre, and the weird-looking figures seated round.

Side by side with the remains of her brother, Mary Dell was laid and
then draped with the same flag, spread by Humphrey Armstrong's hands,
the picture exciting the wonder of the officer in command, to whom it
all seemed mysterious and strange.  Greater wonder than all, though, was
that Humphrey Armstrong, lately a prisoner of the famous buccaneer who
had been laid to rest, should display such deep emotion as he slowly
left the spot.

As he stepped outside volleys were fired by the men, and as the reports
of the pieces rumbled through the antique building, and echoed in the
cavernous cenote, the reverberation loosened some portion of the roof
over the vast reservoir; an avalanche of stone falling with a
reverberating hollow splash, and a great bird flew out and disappeared
in the darkness overhead.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Three days later, laden with the valuable plunder amassed by the
buccaneers, and a vast amount consigned to the flames in pursuance of
the orders to thoroughly destroy the hornets'-nest, the rescue ship set
sail, in company with the buccaneer's fast schooner, the prize Humphrey
Armstrong once longed to take into Dartmouth Harbour.  But the sight of
the warship's consort only gave him pain now as he lay in his berth or
reclined helplessly on deck, suffering from the serious fever which
supervened.

"It's a curious whim," said the captain of the ship to his lieutenant.
"One would have thought he'd rather have had a couple of decent sailors
to tend him, and not those two fellows, who must have been regular
pirates in their time."

But it was so.  Humphrey Armstrong was not content without Bart or Dinny
at his side all through his severe illness, which lasted till they were
nearing home.

During the voyage he learned by degrees the whole history of the escape
of the relics of his crew, consequent upon the division in the camp and
the chaotic state of discipline which obtained among the buccaneers
during the latter days.  He heard more, too, of their struggles to reach
a port, and of the rescue which had been planned and successfully
carried out.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

One evening as Humphrey Armstrong sat on deck wondering to himself that
he could be so changed as to look with distaste upon the western shores
of England, gilded by the evening sun, he became conscious of another
presence close behind, and looking sharply round it was to see the
haggard, worn face of Bart as he stood there, bent and terribly changed
by mental suffering, and his wounds.

As he saw Humphrey Armstrong gaze wonderingly at him he raised one hand
and pointed to the dimly-seen cliff line, ruddy in the western glow.

"Home, sir," he cried, hoarsely.

"Yes, Bart, home," said Humphrey, gloomily.  "What are you going to do!"

"You know best, sir.  Prison, or the rope!"

Humphrey started sadly, and held out his hand, which the rough fellow,
after a momentary hesitation, took.

"Bart, my lad," said Humphrey, "why not take the old cottage and settle
down to your former life!  I should like it if you'd do this thing.
Will you!"

"Will I!" said the poor fellow in suffocating tones.  "God bless you,
sir!  You've made me happier than I ever hoped to be again."

"Take it or buy it, Bart, as soon as you reach home.  I wish it done,
only it is to be kept unchanged, as we two keep her secret."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

A fortnight had passed, during which period Humphrey Armstrong had kept
himself quite in seclusion, when in obedience to a stern resolve he
journeyed slowly up to town.

He had good excuse for his dilatory ways, being still far from strong;
but now he was bound on the task of performing what he told himself was
his duty--that of going straight to Lady Jenny Wildersey, confessing
every thing in an open, manly way, and begging her to set him free from
the engagement he had made.

"I could not marry such a woman now," he said to himself again and
again; "she would drive me mad!"

It was a hard struggle, but he was determined to carry it through, and
one morning he crossed the Park and the Mall, and made his way straight
into Saint James's Square.

Everything looked the same, except himself, for he was bronzed and worn,
and his countenance displayed a scar.  But he was as brightly dressed as
on the day he called to say fare well, for he had had to attend at the
admiral's to give an account of his proceedings, and had found, to his
surprise, that not only was the loss of his ship condoned by the
complete rooting out of the buccaneers, but he had been promoted, and
was shortly to engage in another expedition, this time to the East.

Saint James's Square looked just as of old, and the same servant opened
to his hasty knock and met him with a smile.

He had come without sending notice, and he had made no inquiry since his
landing, telling himself that it was better so; and now, strung up for
his painful task, he strode into the great marble-paved hall.

"Ask Lady Jenny if she will see me--a private interview," he said to the
ponderous old butler who came forward as the footman closed the door.

"Lady Jenny, sir?  The countess is at the lakes with his lordship."

"The countess!  I said Lady Jenny."

"Yes, sir," said the old butler with a smile.  "We always speak of her
young ladyship now as the countess."

"The countess!  Why, you don't mean--"

"Yes, sir; she was married to the Earl of Winterleyton a year ago, sir.
His lordship's town house is a hundred and ten Queen Square, and
Hallybury, Bassenthwaite, sir."

"Oh!" said Humphrey, calmly; "I have been to the West Indies, and had
not heard the news."

He nodded good-humouredly to the old butler, and went off across the
square.

"Now, it's my belief," said the old butler, "that he's another on 'em as
her young ladyship was always a-leading on!"

"Thank Heaven!" said Humphrey, with a sigh of relief; and he went and
behaved like an Englishman, for he walked straight to his club, ordered
his dinner, and for the first time for months thoroughly enjoyed it;
while as he sat afterwards over the remains of his bottle of fine old
Carbonell port--a wine that was likely to restore some of the lost blood
to his veins--he filled his glass slowly, thought of his next
expedition, and that it with its earnest work would be the best remedy
for a mind diseased, and made up his mind that if he could persuade him
to leave his newly-made wife he would have Dinny for one of his men.

"And old Bart, too, if he will serve," he said half aloud.  Then two or
three times over, as a pretty, powdered-and-painted image, all silk and
gewgaws and flowers, filled his imagination, "What a release!  Thank
Heaven!"

At last there was but one glass left in the bottle, and raising the
handled basket in which it reclined, he carefully poured it out, and
held it up, seeming to see in the candle-lit, ruby rays a torrid land, a
sun-browned face, and two dark, imploring eyes gazing into his till they
grew dewy, and all around him seemed to be blurred and dim.  He was
almost alone in the great club-room, for the various diners had risen
and gone, and for the time being the long, gloomy place seemed to be the
old prison chamber, with its stone altar and great carven idol gazing
stolidly down upon him as he said softly:

"Mary Dell!  True woman!  I shall never love again!"

He drained the glass to the memory of Commodore Junk, and, stubborn
Englishman to the last, he kept his word.

THE END.





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