Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Black Buccaneer
Author: Meader, Stephen W. (Stephen Warren), 1892-1977
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 "The Black Buccaneer" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: "If a man starts to haul on that line, I'll shoot him
dead!" [See page 62.]]


                           THE BLACK BUCCANEER

                                   BY

                            STEPHEN W. MEADER

                       ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE AUTHOR


                                NEW YORK

                       HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY


                           COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
                    HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY, INC.

                       Twelfth printing, May, 1940


                 PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
              BY QUINN & BODEN COMPANY, INC., RAHWAY, N. J.



FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS


"If a man starts to haul on that line, I'll shoot him
dead!"                   _Frontispiece_

                                                  FACING
                                                    PAGE

"Ho, ho, young woodcock, and how do ye like the
company of Stede Bonnet's rovers?"                    23

"Don't say a word--sh!--easy there--are you
awake?"                                              143

A sudden red glare on the walls of the chasm         223

Job had bracketed his target                         247



THE BLACK BUCCANEER



CHAPTER I


On the morning of the 15th of July, 1718, anyone who had been standing
on the low rocks of the Penobscot bay shore might have seen a large,
clumsy boat of hewn planking making its way out against the tide that
set strongly up into the river mouth. She was loaded deep with a
shifting, noisy cargo that lifted white noses and huddled broad, woolly
backs--in fact, nothing less extraordinary than fifteen fat Southdown
sheep and a sober-faced collie-dog. The crew of this remarkable craft
consisted of a sinewy, bearded man of forty-five who minded sheet and
tiller in the stern, and a boy of fourteen, tall and broad for his age,
who was constantly employed in soothing and restraining the bleating
flock.

No one was present to witness the spectacle because, in those remote
days, there were scarcely a thousand white men on the whole coast of
Maine from Kittery to Louisberg, while at this season of the year the
Indians were following the migrating game along the northern rivers. The
nearest settlement was a tiny log hamlet, ten miles up the bay, which
the two voyagers had left that morning.

The boy's keen face, under its shock of sandy hair, was turned toward
the sea and the dim outline of land that smudged the southern horizon.

"Father," he suddenly asked, "how big is the Island?"

"You'll see soon enough, Jeremy. Stop your questioning," answered the
man. "We'll be there before night and I'll leave you with the sheep.
You'll be lonesome, too, if I mistake not."

[Illustration: Jeremy]

"Huh!" snorted Jeremy to himself.

Indeed it was not very likely that this lad, raised on the wildest of
frontiers, would mind the prospect of a night alone on an island ten
miles out at sea. He had seen Indian raids before he was old enough to
know what frightened him; had tried his best with his fists to save his
mother in the Amesbury massacre, six years before; and in a little
settlement on the Saco River, when he was twelve, he had done a man's
work at the blockhouse loophole, loading nearly as fast and firing as
true as any woodsman in the company. Danger and strife had given the
lad an alert self-confidence far beyond his years.

Amos Swan, his father, was one of those iron spirits that fought out the
struggle with the New England wilderness in the early days. He had
followed the advancing line of colonization into the Northeast, hewing
his way with the other pioneers. What he sought was a place to raise
sheep. Instead of increasing, however, his flock had dwindled--wolves
here--lynxes there--dogs in the larger settlements. After the last
onslaught he had determined to move with his possessions and his two
boys--Tom, nineteen years old, and the smaller Jeremy--to an island too
remote for the attacks of any wild animal.

So he had set out in a canoe, chosen his place of habitation and built a
temporary shelter on it for family and flock, while at home the boys,
with the help of a few settlers, had laid the keel and fashioned the
hull of a rude but seaworthy boat, such as the coast fishermen used.

Preparations had been completed the evening before, and now, while Tom
cared for half the flock on the mainland, the father and younger son
were convoying the first load to their new home.

In the day when these events took place, the hundreds of rocky bits of
land that line the Maine coast stood out against the gray sea as bleak
and desolate as at the world's beginning. Some were merely huge
up-ended rocks that rose sheer out of the Atlantic a hundred feet high,
and on whose tops the sea-birds nested by the million. The larger ones,
however, had, through countless ages, accumulated a layer of earth that
covered their gaunt sides except where an occasional naked rib of gray
granite was thrust out. Sparse grass struggled with the junipers for a
foothold along the slopes, and low black firs, whose seed had been
wind-blown or bird-carried from the mainland, climbed the rugged crest
of each island. Few men visited them, and almost none inhabited them.
Since the first long Norse galley swung by to the tune of the singing
rowers, the number of passing ships had increased and their character
had changed, but the isles were rarely touched at except by mishap--a
shipwreck--or a crew in need of water. The Indians, too, left the outer
ones alone, for there was no game to be killed there and the fishing was
no better than in the sheltered inlets.

It was to one of the larger of these islands, twenty miles south of the
Penobscot Settlement and a little to the southwest of Mount Desert, that
a still-favoring wind brought the cumbersome craft near mid-afternoon.
In a long bay that cut deep into the landward shore Amos Swan had found
a pebbly beach a score of yards in length, where a boat could be run in
at any tide. As it was just past the flood, the man and boy had little
difficulty in beaching their vessel far up toward high water-mark. Next,
one by one, the frightened sheep were hoisted over the gunwale into the
shallow water. The old ram, chosen for the first to disembark, quickly
waded out upon dry land, and the others followed as fast as they were
freed, while the collie barked at their heels. The lightened boat was
run higher up the beach, and the man and boy carried load after load of
tools, equipment and provisions up the slope to the small log shack,
some two hundred yards away.

Jeremy's father helped him drive the sheep into a rude fenced pen beside
the hut, then hurried back to launch his boat and make the return trip.
As he started to climb in, he patted the boy's shoulder. "Good-by, lad,"
said he gently. "Take care of the sheep. Eat your supper and go to bed.
I'll be back before this time tomorrow."

"Aye, Father," answered Jeremy. He tried to look cheerful and
unconcerned, but as the sail filled and the boat drew out of the cove he
had to swallow hard to keep up appearances. For some reason he could not
explain, he felt homesick. Only old Jock, the collie, who shouldered up
to him and gave his hand a companionable lick, kept the boy from
shedding a few unmanly tears.



CHAPTER II


The shelter that Amos Swan had built stood on a small bare knoll, at an
elevation of fifty or sixty feet above the sea. Behind it and sheltering
it from easterly and southerly winds rose the island in sharp and rugged
ridges to a high hilltop perhaps a mile away. Between lay ascending
stretches of dark fir woods, rough outcroppings of stone and patches of
hardy grass and bushes. The crown of the hill was a bare granite ledge,
as round and nearly as smooth as an inverted bowl.

Jeremy, scrambling through the last bit of clinging undergrowth in the
late afternoon, came up against the steep side of this rocky summit and
paused for breath. He had left Jock with the sheep, which comfortably
chewed the cud in their pen, and, slipping a sort pistol, heavy and
brass-mounted, into his belt, had started to explore a bit.

He must have worked halfway round the granite hillock before he found a
place that offered foothold for a climb. A crevice in the side of the
rock in which small stones had become wedged gave him the chance he
wanted, and it took him only a minute to reach the rounded surface near
the top. The ledge on which he found himself was reasonably flat, nearly
circular, and perhaps twenty yards across.

[Illustration]

Its height above the sea must have been several hundred feet, for in the
clear light Jeremy could see not only the whole outline of the island
but most of the bay as well, and far to the west the blue masses of the
Camden Mountains. He was surprised at the size of the new domain spread
out at his feet. The island seemed to be about seven miles in length by
five at its widest part. Two deep bays cut into its otherwise rounded
outline. It was near the shore of the northern one that the hut and
sheep-pen were built. Southwesterly from the hill and farther away,
Jeremy could see the head of the second and larger inlet. Between the
bays the distance could hardly have been more than two miles, but a high
ridge, the backbone of the island, which ran westward from the hilltop,
divided them by its rugged barrier.

Jeremy looked away up the bay where he could still see the speck of
white sail that showed his father hurrying landward on a long tack with
the west wind abeam. The boy's loneliness was gone. He felt himself the
lord of a great maritime province, which, from his high watchtower, he
seemed to hold in undisputed sovereignty.

Beneath him and off to the southward lay a little island or two, and
then the cold blue of the Atlantic stretching away and away to the
world's rim.

Even as he glowed with this feeling of dominion, he suddenly became
aware of a gray spot to the southwest, a tiny spot that nevertheless
interrupted his musing. It was a ship, apparently of good size, bound up
the coast, and bowling smartly nearer before the breeze. The boy's dream
of empire was shattered. He was no longer alone in his universe.

The sun was setting, and he turned with a yawn to descend. Ships were
interesting, but just now he was hungry. At the edge of the crevice he
looked back once more, and was surprised to see a second sail behind the
first--a smaller vessel, it seemed, but shortening the distance between
them rapidly. He was surprised and somewhat disgusted that so much
traffic should pass the doors of this kingdom which he had thought to be
at the world's end. So he clambered down the cliff and made his way
homeward, this time following the summit of the ridge till he came
opposite the northern inlet.



CHAPTER III


It was growing dark already in the dense fir growth that covered the
hillside, and when Jeremy suddenly stepped upon the moss at the brink of
a deep spring, he had to catch a branch to keep from falling in. There
was an opening in the trees above and enough light came through for him
to see the white sand bubbling at the bottom.

At one edge the water lapped softly over the moss and trickled down the
northern slope of the hill in a little rivulet, which had in the course
of time shaped itself a deep, well-defined bed a yard or two across.
Following this, the boy soon came out upon the grassy slope beside the
sheep-pen. He looked in at the placid flock, brought a bucket of water
from the little stream, and, not caring to light a lantern, ate his
supper of bread and cheese outside the hut on the slope facing the bay.
The night settled chill but without fog. The boy wrapped his heavy
homespun cloak round him, snuggled close to Jock's hairy side, and in
his lonesomeness fell back on counting the stars as they came out. First
the great yellow planet in the west, then, high overhead, the sparkling
white of what, had he known it, was Vega; and in a moment a dozen
others were in view before he could number them--Regulus, Altair, Spica,
and, low in the south, the angry fire of Antares.

For him they were unnamed, save for the peculiarities he discovered in
each. In common with most boys he could trace the dipper and find the
North Star, but he regrouped most of the constellations to suit himself,
and was able to see the outline of a wolf or the head of an Indian that
covered half the sky whenever he chose. He wondered what had become of
Orion, whose brilliant galaxy of stars appeals to every boy's fancy. It
had vanished since the spring. In it he had always recognized the form
of a brig he had seen hove-to in Portsmouth Harbor--high poop,
skyward-sticking bowsprit and ominous, even row of gun-ports where she
carried her carronades--three on a side. How those black cannon-mouths
had gaped at the small boy on the dock! He wondered--

"Boom...!" came a hollow sound that seemed to hang like mist in a long
echo over the island. Before Jeremy could jump to his feet he heard the
rumbling report a second time. He was all alert now, and thought
rapidly. Those sounds--there came another even as he stood there--must
be cannon-shots--nothing less. The ships he had seen from the hilltop
were men-of-war, then. Could the French have sent a fleet? He did not
know of any recent fighting. What could it mean?

Deep night had settled over the island, and the fir-woods looked very
black and uninviting to Jeremy when he started up the hill once more.

As their shadow engulfed him, he was tempted to turn back--how he was to
wish he had done so in the days that followed--but the hardy strain of
adventure in his spirit kept his jaw set and his legs working steadily
forward into the pitch-black undergrowth. Once or twice he stumbled over
fallen logs or tripped in the rocks, but he held on upward till the
trees thinned and he felt that the looming shape of the ledge was just
in front. His heart seemed to beat almost as loudly as the cannonade
while he felt his way up the broken stones.

Panting with excitement, he struggled to the top and threw himself
forward to the southern edge.

A dull-gray, quiet sea met the dim line of the sky in the south. Halfway
between land and horizon, perhaps a league distant, Jeremy saw two vague
splotches of darkness. Then a sudden flame shot out from the smaller
one, on the right. Seconds elapsed before his waiting ear heard the
booming roar of the report. He looked for the bigger ship to answer in
kind, but the next flash came from the right as before. This time he
saw a bright sheet of fire go up from the vessel on the left,
illuminating her spars and topsails. The sound of the cannon was drowned
in an instant by a terrific explosion. Jeremy trembled on his rock. The
ships were in darkness for a moment after that first great flare, and
then, before another shot could be fired, little tongues of flame began
to spread along the hull and rigging of the larger craft. Little by
little the fire gained headway till the whole upper works were a single
great torch. By its light the victorious vessel was plainly visible. She
was a schooner-rigged sloop-of-war, of eighty or ninety tons' burden,
tall-masted and with a great sweep of mainsail. Below her deck the
muzzles of brass guns gleamed in the black ports. As the blazing ship
drifted helplessly off to the east, the sloop came about, and, to
Jeremy's amazement, made straight for the southern bay of the island. He
lay as if glued to his rock, watching the stranger hold her course up
the inlet and come head to wind within a dozen boat-lengths of the
shore.



CHAPTER IV


One of the first things a backwoods boy learns is that it pays to mind
your own business, _after_ you know what the other fellow is going to
do. Jeremy had been threshing his brain for a solution to the scene he
had just witnessed. Whether the crew of the strange sloop, just then
effecting a landing in small boats, were friends or enemies it was
impossible to guess. Jeremy feared for the sheep. Fresh meat would be
welcome to any average ship's crew, and the lad had no doubt that they
would use no scruple in dealing with a youngster of his age. He must
know who they were and whether they intended crossing the island. There
was no feeling of mere adventure in his heart now. It was purely sense
of duty that drove his trembling legs down the hillside. He shivered
miserably in the night air and felt for his pistol-butt, which gave him
scant comfort.

[Illustration]

The ridge, which has already been described, bore in a southerly
direction from the base of the ledge, and sloped steeply to the head of
the southern inlet. High above the arm of the bay, where the sloop was
now moored, and scarcely a quarter of a mile from the shore, the ridge
projected in a rough granite crag like a bent knee. Jeremy had a very
fair plan of all this in his mind, for his trained woodsman's eye had
that afternoon noted every landmark and photographed it. He followed
this mental map as he stumbled through the trees. It seemed a long time,
perhaps twenty or thirty minutes, before he came out, stifling the sound
of his gasping breath, and crouched for a minute on the bare stone to
get his wind. Then he crawled forward along the rough cliff top, feeling
his way with his hands. Soon he heard a distant shout. A faint glow of
light shone over the edge of the crag. As he drew near, he saw, on the
beach below, a great fire of driftwood and some score or more of men
gathered in the circle of light. The distance was too great for him to
tell much about their faces, but Jeremy was sure that no English or
Colonial sloop-of-war would be manned by such a motley company. Their
clothes varied from the sea-boots and sailor's jerkin of the average
mariner to slashed leather breeches of antique cut and red cloth skirts
reaching from the girdle to the knees. Some of the group wore
three-cornered hats, others seamen's caps of rough wool, and here and
there a face grimaced from beneath a twisted rag rakishly askew.
Everywhere about them the fire gleamed on small-arms of one kind or
another. Nearly every man carried a wicked-looking hanger at his side
and most had one or two pistols tucked into waistband or holster.

This desperate gang was in a constant commotion. Even as Jeremy watched,
a half dozen men were rolling a barrel up the beach. Wild howls greeted
its appearance and as it was hustled into the circle of bright light,
those who had been dancing, quarreling and throwing dice on the other
side of the fire fell over each other to join the mob that surrounded
it. The leaping flames threw a weird, uncertain brilliance upon the
scene that made Jeremy blink his eyes to be sure that it was real. With
every moment he had become more certain what manner of men these were.

His lips moved to shape a single terrible word--"Pirates!"

The buccaneers were much talked of in those days, and though the New
England ports were less troubled, because better guarded, than those
farther south, there had been many sea-rovers hanged in Boston within
Jeremy's memory.

As if to clinch the argument a dozen of the ruffians swung their
cannikins of rum in the air and began to shout a song at the top of
their lungs. All the words that reached Jeremy were oaths except one
phrase at the end of the refrain, repeated so often that he began to
make out the sense of it. "Walk the bloody beggars all below!" it seemed
to be--or "overboard"--he could not tell which. Either seemed bad enough
to the boy just then and he turned to crawl homeward, with a sick
feeling at the pit of his stomach.

His way led straight back across the ridge to the spring and thence down
to the shelter on the north shore. He made the best speed he was able
through the woods until he reached the height of land near the middle of
the island. He had crashed along caring only to reach the sheep-pen and
home, but as he stood for a moment to get his breath and his bearings,
the westerly breeze brought him a sound of voices on the ridge close by.
He prayed fervently that the wind which had warned him had served also
to carry away the sound of his progress. Cowering against a tree, he
stood perfectly still while the voices--there seemed to be two--came
nearer and nearer. One was a very deep, rough bass that laughed hoarsely
between speeches. The other voice was of a totally different sort, with
a cool, even tone, and a rather precise way of clipping the words.

"See here, David," Jeremy understood the latter to say, "It's for you to
remember those bearings, not me. You're the sailor here. Give them again
now!"

"Huh!" grunted Big Voice, "two hunder' an' ten north to a sharp rock;
three-score an' five northeast by east to an oak tree in a gully; two
an' thirty north to a fir tree blazed on the south; five north _an'_
there you are!" He ended in a chuckle as if pleased by the accuracy of
his figures.

"Ay, well enough," the other responded, "but it must be wrong, for
here's the blazed tree and no spring by it."

Close below, Jeremy saw their lantern flash and a moment later the two
men were in full view striding among the trees. As he had almost
expected from their voices, one was a tremendous, bearded fellow in
sea-boots and jerkin and with a villainous turban over one eye, while
his companion was a lean, smooth-shaven man, dressed in a fine buff
coat, well-fitting breeches and hose, and shoes with gleaming buckles.

They must have passed within ten feet of the terrified Jeremy while the
tossing lantern, swung from the hairy fist of the man called David,
shone all too distinctly upon the boy's huddled shape. When they were
gone by he allowed himself a sigh of relief, and shifted his weight from
one foot to the other. A twig broke loudly and both men stopped and
listened. "'Twas nought!" growled David. The other man paid no attention
to him other than to say, "Hold you the lantern here!" and advanced
straight toward Jeremy's tree. The boy froze against it, immovable, but
it was of no avail.

"Aha," said the lean man, quietly, and gripped the lad's arm with his
hand. As he dragged him into the light, his companion came up, staring
with astonishment. A moment he was speechless, then began ripping out
oath after oath under his breath. "How," he asked at length, "did the
blarsted whelp come here?" The smaller man, who had been looking keenly
into Jeremy's face, suddenly addressed him: "Here you, speak up! Do you
live here?" he cried. "Ay," said the boy, beginning to get a grip on his
thoughts.

"How long has there been a settlement here? There was none last Autumn,"
continued the well-dressed man. Jeremy had recovered his wits and
reasoned quickly. He had little chance of escape for the present, while
he must at all costs keep the sheep safe. So he lied manfully, praying
the while to be forgiven.

"'Tis a new colony," he mumbled, "a great new colony from Boston town.
There be three ships of forty guns each in the north harbor, and they be
watching for pirates in these parts," he finished.

"Boy!" growled the bearded man, seizing Jeremy's wrist and twisting it
horribly. "Boy! Are you telling the truth?" With face white and set and
knees trembling from the pain, the lad nodded and kept his voice steady
as he groaned an "Ay!"

The two men looked at each other, scowling. The giant broke silence.
"We'd best haul out now, Cap'n," he said.

"And so I believe," the other replied, "But the water-casks are empty.
Here!" as he turned to Jeremy, "show us the spring." It was not far away
and the boy found it without trouble.

"Now, Dave Herriot," said the Captain, "stay you here with the light,
that we may return hither the easier. Boy, come with me. Make no fuss,
either, or 'twill be the worse for you." And so saying he walked quickly
back toward the southern shore, holding the stumbling Jeremy's wrist in
a grip of iron.

Crashing down the hill through the brush, the lad had scant time or will
for observing things about him, but as they crossed a gully he saw, or
fancied he saw, on the knee-shaped crag above, the slouched figure of a
buccaneer silhouetted against the sky. It was not the bearded giant
called Herriot, but another, Jeremy was sure. He had no time for
conjectures, for they plunged into the thicket and birch limbs whipped
him across the face.



CHAPTER V


The events of that night made a terribly clear impression on the mind of
the young New Englander. Years afterward he would wake with a shiver,
imagining that the relentless hand of the pirate captain was again
dragging him toward an unknown fate. It must have been the darkness and
the sudden unexpectedness of it all that frightened him, for as soon as
they came down the rocks into the flaring firelight he was able to
control himself once more. The wild carouse was still in progress among
the crew. Fierce faces, with unkempt beards and cruel lips, leered redly
from above hairy, naked chests. Eyes, lit from within by liquor and from
without by the dancing flames, gleamed below black brows. Many of the
men wore earrings and metal bands about the knots of their pig-tails,
while silver pistol-butts flashed everywhere.

As the Captain strode into the center of this group, the swinging chorus
fell away to a single drunken voice which kept on uncertainly from
behind the rum-barrel.

"Silence!" said the Captain sharply. The voice dwindled and ceased. All
was quiet about the fire. "Men," went on Jeremy's captor, "clear heads,
all, for this is no time for drinking. We have found this boy upon the
hill, who tells of a fleet of armed ships not above a league from here.
We must set sail within an hour and be out of reach before dawn. Every
man now take a water-keg and follow me. You, Job Howland, keep the boy
and the watch here on the beach."

Fresh commotion broke out as he finished. "Ay, ay, Captain Bonnet!" came
in a broken chorus, as the crew, partially sobered by the words, hurried
to the long-boat, where a line of small kegs lay in the sand. A moment
later they were gone, plowing up the hillside. Jeremy stood where he had
been left. A tall, slack-jointed pirate in the most picturesque attire
strolled over to the boy's side and looked him up and down with a
roguish grin. Under his cloak Jeremy had on fringed leather breeches and
tunic such as most of the northern colonists wore. The pirate, seeing
the rough moccasins and deerskin trousers, burst into a roar. "Ho, ho,
young woodcock, and how do ye like the company of Major Stede Bonnet's
rovers?"

[Illustration: "Ho, ho, young woodcock, and how do ye like the company
of Stede Bonnet's rovers?"]

The lad said nothing, shut his jaw hard and looked the big buccaneer
squarely in the face. There was no fear in his expression. The man
nodded and chuckled approvingly. "That's pluck, boy, that's pluck," said
he. "We'll clip the young cock's shank-feathers, and maybe make a
pirate of him yet." He stooped over to feel the buckskin fringe on
Jeremy's leg. The boy's hand went into his shirt like a flash. He had
pulled out the pistol and cocked it, when he felt both legs snatched
from under him.

His head hit the ground hard and he lay dazed for a second or two. When
he regained his senses, Job Howland stood astride of him coolly tucking
the pistol into his own waist-band. "Ay," said Job, "ye'll be a fine
buccaneer, only ye should have struck with the butt. I heard the click."
The pirate seemed to hold no grudge for what had occurred and sat down
beside Jeremy in a friendly fashion.

"Free tradin' ain't what it was," he confided. "When Billy Kidd cleared
for the southern seas twenty years agone, they say he had papers from
the king himself, and no man-of-war dared come anigh him." He swore
gently and reminiscently as he went on to detail the recent severities
of the Massachusetts government and the insecurity of buccaneers about
the Virginia capes. "They do say, tho', as Cap'n Edward Teach, that they
call Blackbeard, is plumb thick with all the magistrates and planters in
Carolina, an' sails the seas as safe as if he had a fleet of twenty
ships," said Job. "We sailed along with him for a spell last year, but
him an' the old man couldn't make shift to agree. Ye see this
Blackbeard is so used to havin' his own way he wanted to run Stede
Bonnet, too. That made Stede boilin', but we was undermanned just then
and had to bide our time to cut loose.

"Cap'n Bonnet, ye see, is short on seamanship but long in his sword arm.
Don't ye never anger him. He's terrible to watch when he's raised. Dave
Herriot sails the ship mostly, but when we sight a big merchantman with
maybe a long nine or two aboard, then's when Stede Bonnet comes on deck.
That Frenchman we sunk tonight, blast her bloody spars"--here the lank
pirate interrupted himself to curse his luck, and continued--"probably
loaded with sugar and Jamaica rum from Martinique and headed up for the
French provinces. Well, we'll never know--that's sure!" He paused, bit
off the end of a rope of black tobacco and meditatively surveyed the
boy. "I'm from New England myself," said he after a time. "Sailed honest
out of Providence Port when I was a bit bigger nor you. Then when I was
growed and an able seaman on a Virginia bark in the African trade, along
comes Cap'n Ben Hornygold, the great rover of those days and picks us
up. Twelve of the likeliest he takes on his ship, the rest he maroons
somewhere south of the Cubas, and sends our bark into Charles Town under
a prize crew. So I took to buccaneering, and I must own I've always
found it a fine occupation--not to say that it's made me rich--maybe it
might if I'd kept all my sharin's."

[Illustration: Job Howland]

This life-history, delivered almost in one breath, had caused Howland an
immense amount of trouble with his quid of tobacco, which nearly choked
him as he finished. Except for the sound of his vast expectorations, the
pair on the beach were quiet for what seemed to Jeremy a long while.
Then on the rocks above was heard the clatter of shoes and the bumping
of kegs. Job rose, grasping the hand of his charge, and they went to
meet the returning sailors.

To the young woodsman, utterly unused to the ways of the sea, the next
half-hour was a bewildering mêlée of hurrying, sweating toil, with
low-spoken orders and half-caught oaths and the glimmer of a dying fire
over all the scene. He was rowed to the sloop with the first boatload
and there Job Howland set him to work passing water-kegs into the hold.
He had had no rest in over twenty hours and his whole body ached as the
last barrel bumped through the hatch. All the crew were aboard and a
knot of swaying bodies turned the windlass to the rhythm of a muttered
chanty. The chain creaked and rattled over the bits till the dripping
anchor came out of water and was swung inboard. The mainsail and
foresail went up with a bang, as a dozen stalwart pirates manned the
halyards.

Dave Herriot stood at the helm, abaft the cabin companion, and his bull
voice roared the orders as he swung her head over and the breeze
steadied in the tall sails.

"Look alive there, mates!" he bellowed. "Stand by now to set the main
jib!" Like most of the pirate sloops-of-war, Stede Bonnet's _Revenge_
was schooner-rigged. She carried fore and main top-sails of the old,
square style, and her long main boom and immense spread of jib gave her
a tremendous sail area for her tonnage. The breeze had held steadily
since sundown and was, if anything, rising a little. Short seas slapped
and gurgled at the forefoot with a pleasant sound. Jeremy, desperately
tired, had dropped by the mast, scarcely caring what happened to him.
The sloop slid out past the dark headlands, and heeled to leeward with a
satisfied grunt of her cordage that came gently to the boy's ears. His
head sank to the deck and he slept dreamlessly.



CHAPTER VI


A rough hand shook him awake. He was lying in a dingy bunk somewhere in
the gloom of the cramped forecastle. "Come, young'un," growled a voice,
strange to Jeremy, "you've slept the clock around! Cap'n wants you aft."

The lad ached in all his bones as he rolled over toward the light. As he
came to a sitting position on the edge of the bunk, he gave a start, for
the face scowling down at him looked utterly fiendish to his sleepy
eyes. Its ugliness fairly shocked him awake. The man had a grim, bristly
jaw and a twisted mouth. His eyes were small and cruel, so light in
color that they looked unspeakably cold. The livid gray line of a
sword-cut ran from his left eyebrow to his right cheek, and his nose was
crushed inward where the scar crossed its bridge, giving him more the
look of an animal than of a man. A greasy red cloth bound his head and
produced a final touch of barbarity. To the half-dazed Jeremy there
seemed something strangely familiar about his pose, but as he still
stared he was jerked to his feet by the collar. "Don't stand there, you
lubber!" shouted the man with the broken nose. "Get aft, an' lively!" A
hard shove sent the boy spinning to the foot of the ladder. He climbed
dizzily and stumbled on deck, looking about him, uncertain where to go.
It must have been past noon, for the sun was on the starboard bow.

The _Revenge_ was close-hauled and running southwest on a fresh west
wind. Dave Herriot leaned against the weather rail, a short clay pipe in
one fist and his bushy brown beard in the other. At the wheel was a
swarthy man with earrings, who looked like a Portuguese or a Spaniard.
Glancing over his shoulder, Jeremy saw most of the crew lolled about
forward of the fo'c's'le hatch. Herriot looked up and called him gruffly
but not unkindly, the boy thought. He advanced close to the
sailing-master, staggering a little on the uneven footing.

"Now look sharp, lad," said the pirate in a stern voice, "and mind what
I tell 'ee. There's nought to fear aboard this sloop for them as does
what they're told. We run square an' fair, an' while Major Stede Bonnet
and David Herriot gives the orders, no man'll harm ye. _But_"--and a
hard look came into the tanned face--"if there's any runnin' for shore
'twixt now and come time to _set_ ye there, or if ever ye takes it in
yer head to disobey orders, we'll keel-haul ye straight and think no
more about it. You're big and strong, an' may make a foremast hand. For
the first on it, until ye get your sea legs, ye can be a sort o' cabin
boy. Cap'n wants ye below now. Quick!"

Jeremy scrambled down the companionway indicated by a gesture of
Herriot's pipe. There was a door on each side and one at the end of the
small passage. He advanced and knocked at this last one, and was told,
in the Captain's clear voice, to open.

Major Bonnet sat at a good mahogany table in the middle of the cabin.
Behind him were a bunk, two chairs and a rack of small arms, containing
half a dozen guns, four brace of pistols, and several swords. He had
been reading a book, evidently one of the score or more which stood in a
case on the right. Jeremy gasped, for he had never seen so many books in
all his life. As the Captain looked up, a stern frown came over his
face, never a particularly merry one. The boy, ignorant as he was of
pirates, could not help feeling that this man's quietly gentle
appearance fitted but ill with the blood-thirsty reputation he bore. His
clothes were of good quality and cut, his grayish hair neatly tied
behind with a black bow and worn unpowdered. His clean-shaven face was
long and austere--like a Boston preacher's, thought Jeremy--and although
the forehead above the intelligent eyes was high and broad, there was a
strange lack of humor in its vertical wrinkles.

"Well, my lad," said the cool voice at last, "you're aboard the
_Revenge_ and a long way from your settlement, so you might as well make
the best of it. How long you _stay_ aboard depends on your behavior. We
might put into the Chesapeake, and if there are no cutters about, I'd
consider setting you ashore. But if you like the sea and take to it,
there's room for a hand in the fo'c's'le. Then again, if you try any
tricks, you'll leave us--feet first, over the rail." He leaned forward
and hissed slightly as he pronounced the last words. Something in the
eyes under his knotted gray brows struck deeper terror into the boy's
heart than either Herriot's threat or the cruel face of the man with the
broken nose. For that instant Bonnet seemed deadly as a snake.

[Illustration: Stede Bonnet]

Jeremy was much relieved when he was bidden to go. The sailing-master
stood by the companionway as he ascended. "You'll bunk for'ard," he
remarked curtly. "Go up with the crew now." The boy slipped into the
crowd that lay around the windlass as unobstrusively as he could. A
thick-set, bearded man with a great hairy chest, bare to the yellow sash
at his waist, was speaking. "Ay," he said, "a hundred Indians was dead
in the town before ever we landed. They didn't know where to run except
into the huts, an' those our round-shot plowed through like so much
grass--which was what they was, mostly. Then old Johnny Buck piped the
longboat overside and on shore we went, firin' all the time. Cap'n Vane
himself, with a dirk in his teeth and sword an' pistol out, goes
swearin' up the roadway an' we behind him, our feet stickin' in blood. A
few come out shootin' their little arrers at us, but we herded 'em an'
drove 'em, yellin' all the time. At close quarters their knives was no
match for cutlasses. So we went slashin' through the town, burnin' 'em
out an' stickin' 'em when they ran. Our sword arms was red to shoulder
that day, but we was like men far gone in rum an' never stayed while an
Indian held up head. Then we dropped and slept where we fell, across a
corp', like as not, clean tuckered, every man of us. Come mornin', the
sight and smell of the place made us sober enough and not a man in the
crew wanted to go further into the island. There was no gold in the
town, neither. All we got was a few hogs and sheep. We left the same
day, for it come on hot an' we had no way to clean up the mess. That
island must ha' been a nuisance to the whole Caribbean for weeks."

Job Howland nodded and spat as the story ended. "Ye're right, George
Dunkin," he said. "That was a day's work. Vane's a hard man, I'm told,
an' that crew in the _Chance_ was one of his worst." He was interrupted
by a villainous old sea-dog with a sparse fringe of white beard, who
sprawled by the hatchway. He cleared his throat hoarsely and spoke with
a deep wheeze between sentences.

"All that was nowt to our fight off Panama in the spring of 'eighty," he
growled. "We weren't slaughterin' Indians, but Spaniards that could
fight, an' did. What's more, they were three good barks and nigh three
hundred men to our sixty-eight men paddlin' in canoes. Ah, that was a
day's work, if you will! I saw Peter Harris, as brave a commander as
ever flew the black whiff, shot through both legs, but he was a-swingin'
his cutlass and tryin' to climb the Spaniard's side with the rest when
our canoe boarded. Through most of that battle we was standin' in
bottoms leakin' full of bullet holes, a-firin' into the Biscayner's
gun-ports, an' cheerin' the bloody lungs out of us! When we got aboard,
their hold was full of dead men an' their scuppers washin' red. They
asked no quarter an' on we went, up an' down decks, give an' take. At
the last, six men o' them surrendered. The rest--eighty from the one
ship--we fed to the sharks before we could swab decks next day. Eh, but
that was a v'yage, an' it cost the seas more good buccaneers than ever
was hanged. Harris an' Sawkins an' half o' their best men we left on the
Isthmus. But out of one galleon we took fifty thousand pieces-of-eight,
besides silver bars in cord piles. Think o' that, lads!"

A fair, stocky, young deserter from a British man-of-war--his forearm
bore the tattooed service anchor--broke in, his eyes gleaming greedily
at the thought of the treasure.

"That was in New Panama," he cried. "Do you mind old Ben Gasket we took
off Silver Key last summer! Eighty years old he was, and marooned there
for half his life. He was with Morgan at the great sack of Old Panama
before most on us was born. An' Old Ben, he said there was nigh two
hundred horse-loads o' gold an' pearls, rubies, emeralds and diamonds
took out o' that there town, an' it a-burnin' still, after they'd been
there a month. Talk o' wealth!"

The man with the broken nose raised himself from his place by the
capstan and stretched his hairy arms with an evil, leering yawn. Every
eye turned to him and there was silence on the deck as he began to
speak.

"Dollars--louis d'ors--doubloons?" said he. "There was one man got 'em.
Solomon Brig got 'em. All the rest was babes to him--babes an' beggars.
Billy Kidd was thought a great devil in his day, but when he met Brig's
six-gun sloop off Malabar, he turned tail, him an' his two great
galleons, an' ran in under the forts. Even then we'd ha' had him out an'
fought him, only that the old man had an Indian princess aboard he was
takin' in to Calicut for ransom. That was where Sol Brig got his broad
gold--kidnappin'. Twenty times we worked it--a dash in an' a fight out,
quick an' bloody--then to sea in the old red sloop, all her sails fair
pullin' the sticks out of her, an' maybe a man-o'-war blazin' away at
our quarter. Weeks after, we'd slip into some port bold as brass an'
there, sure enough, Brig would set the prisoner ashore an' load maybe a
hundred weight of little canvas bags or a stack of pig-silver half a
man's height. The very name of him made him safe. I'd take oath he could
have stole the Lord Mayor o' London and then put in for his ransom at
Execution Dock.

"We got good lays, us before the mast, but there never was a fair
sharin' aboard that ship. One night I crawled aft an' looked in the
stern-port. 'Twas just after we'd got our lays for kidnappin' the
Governor o' Santiago--a rich town as you know. In the cabin sat ol'
Brig, a bare cutlass acrost his lap, countin' piles o' moidores that
filled the whole table. When a rope creaked the old fox saw me an' let
drive with his hanger. Where I was I couldn't dodge quick, an' the
blade took me here, acrost the face. Why he never knifed me, after, I
don't know."

The scarred man stopped with the same abruptness that had marked his
beginning. His fierce, light eyes, like those of a sea-hawk, swept
slowly around the audience and lit on Jeremy. He reached forward,
clutched the boy's shirt, and with an ugly laugh jerked him to his feet.
"'Twas havin' boys aboard as killed Sol Brig," he rasped.

[Illustration: Pharaoh Daggs]

"They hear too much! Look at this young lubber"--giving him a
shake--"pale as a mouldy biscuit! No use aboard here an' poverty-poor in
the bargain! Why Stede don't walk him over the side, I don't see. Here,
get out, you swab!" and he emphasized the name with a stiff cuff on the
ear. Job Howland interposed his long Yankee body. His lean face bent
with a scowl to the level of the other's eyes. "Pharaoh Daggs," he
drawled evenly, "next time you touch that lad, there'll be steel between
your short ribs. Remember!"

He turned to Jeremy who, poor boy, was utterly and forlornly seasick.
"Here, young 'un," he said kindly, "--the _lee_ rail!"



CHAPTER VII


Bright summer weather hovered over the Atlantic as the _Revenge_
ploughed smartly southward. Jeremy grew more accustomed to his new
manner of life from day to day and as he found his sea-legs he began to
take a great pleasure in the free, salt wind that sang in the rigging,
the blue sparkle of the swells, and the circling whiteness of the
offshore gulls. He was left much to himself, for the Captain demanded
his services only at meal times and to set his cabin in order in the
morning. In the long intervals the boy sat, inconspicuous in a corner of
the fore-deck, watching the gayly dressed ruffians of the crew, as they
threw dice or quarrelled noisily over their winnings. He was assigned to
no watch, but usually went below at the same time as Job Howland, thus
keeping out of the way of Daggs, the man with the broken nose. As
Howland was in the port watch, on deck from sunset to midnight, Jeremy
often took comfort in the sight of his loved stars wheeling westward
through the taut shrouds. He would stand there with a lump in his throat
as he thought of his father's anguish on returning to the island to
find the sheep uncared for and the young shepherd vanished. In a region
desolate as that, he knew that there was but one conclusion for them to
reach. Still, they might find the ashes of the pirate fire and keep up a
hope that he yet lived.

But the boy could not be unhappy for long. He would find his way home
soon, and he fairly shivered with delight as he planned the grand
reunion that would take place when he should return. Perhaps he even
imagined himself marching up to the door in sailor's blue cloth with a
seaman's cloak and cocked hat, pistol and cutlass in his belt and a
hundred gold guineas in his poke. Not for worlds would he have turned
pirate, but the romance of the sea had touched him and he could not help
a flight of fancy now and then.

Sometimes in the long hours of the watch, Job would give him lessons in
seamanship--teach him the names of ropes and spars and show how each was
used. The boy's greatest delight was to steer the ship when Job took his
trick at the helm. This was no small task for a boy even as strong as
Jeremy. The sloop, like all of her day, had no wheel but was fitted with
a massive hand tiller, a great curved beam of wood that kicked amazingly
when it was free of its lashings. Of course, no grown man could have
held it in a seaway, but during the calm summer nights Jeremy learned
to humor the craft along, her mainsail just drawing in the gentle land
breeze, and her head held steadily south, a point west.

One night--it was perhaps a week after Jeremy's capture, and they had
been sighting low bits of land on both bows all day--Dave Herriot came
on deck about the middle of the watch and told Curley, the Jamaican
second mate, he might go below. He set Job to take soundings and,
himself taking the tiller, swung her over to port with the wind abeam.
Jeremy went to the bows where he could see the white line of shore
ahead. They drew in, steering by Job's soundings, and by the time the
watch changed were ready to cast anchor in a small sandy bay. Herriot
came forward, scowling darkly under his bushy eyebrows, and rumbling an
occasional oath to himself. The sloop, her anchor down and sails furled,
swung idly on the tide. The men were clearly mystified as the
sailing-master started to give orders. "George Dunkin," he said, "take
ten men of the starboard watch, and go ashore to forage. There be farms
near here and any pigs or fowls you may come across will be welcome.
You, Bill Livers," addressing the ship's painter, "take a lantern and
your paint-pot and come aft with me. All the rest stay on deck and keep
a double lookout, alow an' aloft!" The forage party slipped quietly off
toward the beach in one of the boats. The remainder of the crew looked
blankly after the retreating Bill Livers.

"Hm," murmured Job, "has Stede Bonnet gone _clean_ crazy?"--and as
Herriot let the painter down over the bulwark at the stern--"Ay, he's
goin' to change her name, by the great Bull Whale!"

An hour before dawn the crew of the long-boat returned, grumbling and
empty-handed. Herriot appeared preoccupied with some weightier matter
and scarcely deigned to notice their failure by swearing. There was no
singing as the anchor was raised. A sort of gloom hung over the whole
ship. As she stole out to sea again, the men, one by one, went aft and
leaned outboard, peering down at the broad, squat stern. Jeremy did
likewise and beheld in new white letters on the black of the hull, the
words _Royal James._ Next day in the fo'c's'le council he learned why
the renaming of the _Revenge_ had cast a pall of apprehension over the
crew. There were low-muttered tales of disaster--of storm, shipwreck,
and fire, and that dread of all sailors--the unknown fate of ships that
never come back to port. Apparently the rule was unfailing. Sooner or
later the ship that had been given a new name would come to grief and
her crew with her. Pharaoh Daggs cast an eye of hatred at Jeremy and
growled that "one Jonah was enough to have abroad, without clean
drownin' all the luck this way," while the crew looked black and shifted
uneasily in their places.

The bay where they had anchored overnight must have been somewhere on
the eastern end of Long Island, a favorite landing place for pirates at
that time. All day they cruised along the hilly southern shore. The men
seemed unable to cast off the gloom that had settled upon them. Stede
Bonnet sat in his cabin, never once coming on deck, and drinking hard, a
thing unusual for him. Jeremy, who saw more of him than any of the
foremast hands, realized from his gray, set face that the man was under
a terrible strain of some sort. He told Job what he had seen and the
tall New Englander looked very thoughtful. He took the boy aside.
"There'll be mutiny in this crew before another night," he whispered.
"They'll never stand for what he's done. If it comes to handspikes, you
and I'd best watch our chance to clear out. Pharaoh Daggs don't love us
a mite."

But the mutiny was destined not to occur. An hour before noon next day
the lookout, constantly stationed in the bows, gave a loud "Sail ho!"
and as Dave Herriot re-echoed the shout, all hands tumbled on deck with
a rush.



CHAPTER VIII


As the pirate sloop raced southward under full sail, the form of the
other ship became steadily plainer. She was a brig, high-pooped, and
tall-masted, and apparently deeply laden. Major Bonnet, who had come up
at the first warning, seemed his old cool self as he conned the enemy
through a spyglass. Jeremy had been detailed as a sort of errand boy,
and as he stood at the Captain's side he heard him speaking to Herriot.

"She's British, right enough," he was saying. "I can make out her flag;
but how many guns, 'tis harder to tell. She sees us now, I think, for
they seem to be shaking out a topsail.... Ah, now I can see the sun
shine on her broadside--two ... three ... five in the lower port tier,
and three more above--sixteen in all. 'Twill be a fight, it seems!"

Aboard the _Royal James_ the men were slaving like ants, preparing for
the battle. Every man knew his duties. The gunners and swabbers were
putting their cannon in fettle below decks. Others were rolling out
round-shot from the hold and storing powder in iron-cased lockers behind
the guns. Great tubs of sea water were placed conveniently in the
'tween-decks and blankets were put to soak for use in case of fire.
Buckets of vinegar water for swabbing the guns were laid handy. In the
galley the cook made hot grog. Cutlasses were looked after, pistols
cleaned and loaded and muskets set out for close firing. Jeremy was sent
hither and thither on every imaginable mission, a tremendous excitement
running in his veins.

The sloop gained rapidly on her prey, hauling over to windward as she
sailed, and when the two ships were almost within cannon range, Stede
Bonnet with his own hand bent the "Jolly Roger" to the lanyard and sent
the great black flag with its skull and crossbones to fly from the
masthead. The grog was served out. No man would have believed that the
roaring, rollicking gang of cutthroats who tossed off their liquor in
cheers and ribald laughter was identical with the grumbling, sour-faced
crew of twenty hours before. As they finished, something came skipping
over the water astern and the first echoing report followed close. The
cannonade was on.

A loud yell of defiance swept the length of the _Royal James_ as the men
went to their posts. The gun decks ran along both sides of the sloop a
few feet above the water line. They were like alleyways beneath the main
deck, barely wide enough to admit the passage of a man or a keg of
powder behind the gun-carriages. These latter were not fixed to the
planking as afterward became the fashion, but ran on trucks and were
kept in their places by rope tackles. In action, the recoil had to be
taken up by men who held the ends of these ropes, rove through pulleys
in the vessel's side. Despite their efforts the gun would sometimes leap
back against the bulkhead hard enough to shatter it. As the charge for
each reloading had to be carried sometimes half the length of the ship
by hand, it is easy to see that the men who served the guns needed some
strength and agility in getting past the jumping carriages.

Jeremy was sent below to help the gunners, as the shot from the
merchantman continued to scream by. Job Howland was a gunner on the port
side and the boy naturally lent his services to the one man aboard that
he could call his friend. There was much bustle in the alley behind the
closed ports but surprisingly little confusion was apparent. The
discipline seemed better than at any time since the boy had been brought
aboard the black sloop.

Job was ramming the wad home on the charge of powder in his bow gun. The
other four guns in the port deck were being loaded at the same time,
three men tending each one.

"Here, lad," sang out Job, as he put the single iron shot in at the
muzzle, "take one o' the wet blankets out o' yon tub an' stand by to
fight sparks." Jeremy did as he was bid, then got out of the way as the
ports were flung open and the guns run forward, with their evil bronze
noses thrust out into the sunlight.

The sloop, running swiftly with the wind abeam, had now drawn abreast of
her unwieldy adversary. The merchant captain, apparently, finding
himself out-speeded and being unable to spare his gun crews to trim
sails, had put the head of his ship into the wind, where she stood, with
canvas flapping, her bows offering a steady mark to the pirate.

"Ready a port broadside!" came Bonnet's ringing order, and then--"Fire!"
Job Howland's blazing match went to the touch-hole at the word and his
six-pounder, roaring merrily, jumped back two good feet against the
straining ropes of the tackle. Instantly the next gun spoke and the next
and so on, all five in a space of a bare ten seconds. Had they been
fired simultaneously they might have shaken the ship to pieces. Jeremy
was half-deafened, and his whole body was jarred. Thick black smoke hung
in the alleyway, for the ports had been closed in order to reload in
greater safety. The boy felt the deck heel to starboard under him and
thought at first that a shot had caught them under the waterline, but
when he was sent above to find out whether the broadside had taken
effect, he found that the sloop had come about and was already driving
north still to windward of the enemy. Bonnet was giving his gunners more
time to load by running back and forth and using his batteries
alternately. Herriot had the tiller and in response to Jeremy's question
he pointed to the fluttering rags of the brig's foresail and the smoke
that issued from a splintered hole under her bow chains.

Below in the gun deck the buccaneers, sweating by their pieces, heard
the news with cheers. The sloop shook to the jarring report of the
starboard battery a moment later, and hardly had it ceased when she came
about on the other tack. "Hurrah," cried Job's mates, "we'll show him
this time! Wind an' water--wind an' water!"

The open traps showed the green seas swirling past close below, and off
across the swells the tall side of the merchantman swaying in the trough
of the waves. "Ready!" came the order and every gunner jumped to the
breach, match in hand. Before the command came to fire there was a crash
of splintering wood and a long, intermittent roar came over the water.
The brig had taken advantage of her falling off the wind to deliver a
broadside in her own turn. Stede Bonnet's voice, cool as ever, gave the
order and four guns answered the brig's discharge. The crew of the
middle cannon lay on the deck in a pitiable state, two killed outright
and the gunner bleeding from a great splinter wound in the head. A shot
had entered to one side of the port, tearing the planking to bits and
after striking down the two gun-servers, had passed into the fo'c's'le.
Jeremy jumped forward with his blanket in time to stamp out a blaze
where the firing-match had been dropped, and with the help of one of the
pirates dragged the wounded man to his berth. Almost every shot of the
last volley had done damage aboard the brig. Her freeboard, twice as
high as that of the sloop, had offered a target which for expert gunners
was hard to miss. Jagged openings showed all along her side, and as she
rose on a swell, Job shouted, "See there! She's leakin' now. 'Twas my
last shot did that--right on her waterline!"

"All hands on deck to board her!" came a shout, almost at the same
instant. Jeremy hurrying up with the rest found the sloop bearing down
straight before the wind, and only a dozen boat's lengths from the
enemy.

A wild whoop went up among the pirates. Every man had seized on a musket
and was crouching behind the rail. Bonnet alone stood on the open deck,
his buff coat blowing open and his hand resting lightly on his sword. An
occasional cannon shot screamed overhead or splashed away astern.
Apparently the brig's batteries were too greatly damaged and her crew
too badly shot up to offer an effective bombardment. She was drifting
helplessly under tattered ribbons of canvas and the _Royal James_, whose
sails had suffered far less, bore down upon her opponent with the swoop
of a hawk.

As she drew close aboard a scattered fusillade of small arms broke out
from the brig's poop, wounding one man, a Portuguese, but for the most
part striking harmlessly against the bulwark. The buccaneers held their
fire till they were scarce a boat's length distant. Then at the order
they swept the ship with a withering musket volley. The brig was down by
the head and lay almost bow on so that her deck was exposed to Bonnet's
marksmen. Herriot brought his sloop about like a flash and almost before
Jeremy realized what was toward, the ships had bumped together side by
side, and the howling mob of pirates was swarming over the enemy's rail.
Job Howland and another man took great boat-hooks, with which they
grappled the brig's ports and kept the two vessels from drifting apart.
Jeremy was alone upon the sloop's deck. He put the thickness of the mast
between him and the hail of bullets and peered fearfully out at the
terrible scene above.

[Illustration: Dave Herriot]

The crew of the brig had been too much disorganized to repel the
boarders as well as they might, and the entire horde of wild barbarians
had scrambled to her deck, where a perfect inferno now held sway. The
air seemed full of flying cutlasses that produced an incessant hiss and
clangor. Pistols banged deafeningly at close quarters and there was the
constant undertone of groans, cries and bellowed oaths. Above the din
came the terrible, clear voice of Stede Bonnet, urging on his seadogs.
He had become a different man from the moment his foot touched the
merchantman's deck. From the cool commander he had changed to a devil
incarnate, with face distorted, eyes aflame, and a sword that hacked and
stabbed with the swift ferocity of lightning. Jeremy saw him, fighting
single-handed with three men. His long sword played in and out, to the
right and to the left with a turn and a flash, then, whirling swiftly,
pinned a man who had run up behind. Bonnet's feet moved quickly,
shifting ground as stealthily as a cat's and in a second he had leaped
to a safer position with his back to the after-house. Two of his
opponents were down, and the third fighting wearily and without
confidence, when a huge, flaxen-haired man burst from the hatch to the
deck and swung his broad cutlass to such effect that the battling groups
in his path gave way to either side. The burly form of Dave Herriot
opposed the new enemy and as the two giants squared off, sword ringing
on sword, more than one wounded sailor raised himself to a better
position, grinning with the Anglo-Saxon's unquenchable love of a fair
fight. Herriot was no mean swordsman of the rough and ready seaman's
type and had a great physique as well, but his previous labors--he had
been the first man on board and had already accounted for a fair share
of the defenders--had rendered him slow and arm-weary. The ready
parrying, blade to blade, ceased suddenly as his foot slipped backward
in a pool of blood. The blond seaman seized his advantage and swung a
slicing blow that glanced off Herriot's forehead, and felled the huge
buccaneer to the deck where he lay stunned, the quick red staining his
head-cloth. As the blond-haired man stepped forward to finish the
business, a long, keen, straight blade interposed, caught his cutlass in
an upward parry and at the same time pinked him painfully in the arm.

Jumping back the seaman found himself faced by the pitiless eyes of
Stede Bonnet, who had killed his last opponent and run in to save his
mate's life. That quick, darting sword baffled the sailor. Swing and
hack as he might, his blows were caught in midair and fell away
harmless, while always the relentless point drove him back and back.
Forced to the rail, he stood his ground desperately, pale and glistening
with the sweat of a man in the fear of death. Then his sword flew up,
the pirate captain stabbed him through the throat and with a dying gasp
the limp body fell backward into the sea.

Meanwhile the pirates had steadily gained ground in the hand to hand
struggle and now a bare half-dozen brave fellows held on, fighting
singly or in pairs, back to back. The brig's captain, wounded in several
places and seeing his crew in a fair way to be annihilated, flung up a
tired arm and cried for quarter. Almost at once the fighting ceased and
half the combatants, utterly exhausted, sank down among their dead and
wounded fellows. The deck was a long shambles, red from the bits to the
poop.

While the hands of the prisoners were being bound, Bonnet and all of his
men not otherwise employed hurried below to search for loot. The man who
had held the boat-hook astern left this task and greedily clambered up
the brig's side lest he should miss his chance at the booty. Job alone
stuck to his post, and motioned Jeremy to stay where he was. Cheers and
yells of joy rang from the after-hold of the merchantman where the
pirates had evidently discovered the ship's store of wine.

After a few moments Pharaoh Daggs thrust his scarred face out of the
companion, and with a fierce roar of laughter waved a black bottle above
his head. The others followed, drinking and babbling curses, and last of
all Stede Bonnet, pale, dishevelled, mad with blood and liquor, stood
bareheaded by the hatch. He raised his hand in a gesture of silence and
all the hubbub ceased. "We have beaten them!" he cried between twitching
lips. "I Captain Thomas, the chiefest of all the pirates, and my
bully-boys of the _Royal James_! We'll show 'em all! We'll show 'em all!
Blackbeard and all the rest! He, he, he!" and his voice trailed off in
crazy laughter. The men of the crew stood about him on the brig's deck
dumbfounded by his words. Jeremy could hardly breathe in his surprise.
Suddenly he gave a start and would have cried out but that Job Howland's
hand closed his mouth. A swiftly widening lane of water separated the
sloop from her late enemy.



CHAPTER IX


As she cleared the side of the waterlogged merchantman, the _Royal
James_ began to move. Her sails which had been left flapping during the
close fighting, now filled with a bang and she went away smartly on the
starboard tack. Job had dragged Jeremy aft and the two were huddled at
the tiller, partially screened by the mainsail, when a howl of
consternation broke out aboard the brig. Few if any of the firearms were
still loaded, or they might have been shot to death, out of hand. As it
was, the sloop had drawn away to a distance of nearly a quarter of a
mile before any effort was made to stop her.

Then a single cannon roared and a round shot whizzed by along the tops
of the waves. When the next report came, Jeremy could see the splash
fall far astern. They were out of range.

The two runaways now felt comparatively safe. It was certain that the
brig was too badly damaged to give chase even if she could keep afloat.
Jeremy felt a momentary pang at the thought of leaving even that
graceless crowd in such jeopardy, but he remembered that they had the
brig's boats in which to leave the hulk, and his own present danger
soon gave him enough to occupy him.

Job lashed the tiller and going to the lanyard at the mainmast, hauled
down the black flag. Then they both set to work cleaning up the deck.
The three dead men were given sea burial--slipped overboard without
other ceremony than the short prayer for each which Jeremy repeated. The
gunner who lay in agony in his berth had his wound bound up and was
given a sip of brandy. Then the lank New Englander went below to get a
meal, while Jeremy sluiced the gun decks with sea water.

Night was falling when Job reappeared on deck with biscuit and beans and
some preserves out of the Captain's locker. There was little appetite in
Jeremy after what he had witnessed that day, but his tall friend ate his
supper with a relish and seemed quite elated at the prospect of the
voyage to shore. He filled a clay pipe after the meal and smoked
meditatively awhile, then addressed the boy with a queer hesitancy.

"Sonny," he began, "since we picked you up, I've been thinkin' every
day, more an' more, what I'd give to be back at your age with another
chance. Piratin' seemed a fine upstandin' trade to me when I
begun,--independent an' adventurous too, it seemed. But it's not so
fine--not so fine!" He paused. "One or two or maybe five years o' rough
livin' an' rougher fightin', a powerful waste o' money in drink an'
such, an' in the end--a dog's death by shootin' or starvation, or the
chains on Execution Dock." Another pause followed and then, turning
suddenly to Jeremy--"Lad, I can get a Governor's pardon ashore, but
'twould mean nought to me if my old days came back to trouble me. You're
young an' you're honest an' what's more you believe in God. Do you
figger a man can square himself after livin' like I've lived?" The boy
looked into the pirate's homely, anxious face. He felt that he would
always trust Job Howland. "Ay," he answered straightforwardly, and put
out his hand. The man gripped it with a sort of fierce eagerness that
was good to see and smiled the smile of a man at peace with himself.
Then he solemnly drew out his clasp-knife and pricked a small cross in
the skin of his forearm. "That," said he, "is for a sign that once I get
out o' this here pickle I'll never pirate nor free-trade no more."

The wind sank to a mere breath as the darkness gathered and Jeremy stood
the first watch while his tired friend settled into a deep sleep that
lasted till he was wakened a little after midnight. Then the boy took
his turn at sleeping.

When the morning light shone into his eyes he woke to find Job pacing
the deck and casting troubled looks at the sky. The wind was dead and
only an occasional whiff of light air moved the idly swinging canvas. A
tiny swell rocked the sloop as gently as a cradle.

"Well, my boy, we won't get far toward shore at this gait," said Job
cheerfully as Jeremy came up. "Except for maybe three hours sailin' last
night, we've made no progress at all. I've got some porridge cooked
below. You bring it on deck an' we'll have a snack."

The meal finished, they turned to the rather trying task of waiting for
a breeze. About noon Job climbed to the masthead for a reconnaissance
and on coming down reported a sail to the east, but no sign of any wind.
The sky was dull and overcast so that Job made no effort to determine
their bearings. They figured that they had drifted a dozen or more
sea-miles to the west since the battle, and were lying somewhere off the
little port of New York.

The day passed, Job amusing Jeremy with tales of his adventures and old
sea-yarns and soon night had overtaken them again. This time the boy had
the first nap. He was roused to take his watch when Job saw by the stars
that it was eight bells, and, still yawning with sleep, the lad went to
stand by the rail. Everything was quiet on the sea, and even the swell
had died out, leaving a perfect calm. There was no moon. The boy's head
sank on his breast and softly he slid to the deck. Drowsiness had
overcome him so gently that he slept before he knew he was sleepy.



CHAPTER X


Jeremy's first waking sensation was the sound of a hoarse confused shout
and the rattle of oars being shipped. He struggled to his feet, staring
into the dark astern. Almost at the same instant there came a series of
bumps along the sloop's side, and as the boy rushed to the hatch to call
his ally, he heard feet pounding the deck. "Job!" he cried, "Job!" and
then a heavy hand smote him on the mouth and he lost consciousness for a
time.

The period during which he stood awake and terrified had been so brief
and so fraught with terror that it never seemed real to the lad in
memory. There was something of the awful hopelessness of nightmare about
it. Always afterward he had difficulty in convincing himself that he had
not slept steadily from the time he drowsed on watch to the minute when
he opened his eyes to the light of morning and felt his aching head
throb against the hard deck.

As he lay staring at the sky, a footstep approached and some one stood
over him. He turned his eyes painfully to look and beheld the dark,
bearded visage of George Dunkin, the bo's'n, who scowled angrily and
kicked him in the ribs with a heavy toe. "Get up, ye young lubber!"
roared the man and swore fiercely as the boy, unable to move, still lay
upon his back. A moment later the bo's'n went away. To Jeremy's numb
consciousness came the realization that the pirates had caught them
again.

The words of the Captain on his first day aboard came back to the lad
and made him shudder. There had been stories current among the men that
gave a glimpse of how Stede Bonnet dealt with those who were
treacherous. Which of a dozen awful deaths was in store for him? Ah, if
only they would spare the torture, he thought that he could die bravely,
a worthy scion of dauntless stock. He thought of Job who must have been
seized in his bunk below. The poor fellow was to have short happiness in
his changed way of life, it seemed.

Jeremy tried to steel his nerves against the test he was sure must
follow soon. Instead of going to pieces in terror, he succeeded in
forcing himself to the attitude of a young stoic. He had done nothing of
which he was ashamed, and he felt that if he was called to face a just
God in the next twenty-four hours, he would be able to hold his head up
like a man.

Time passed, and he heard a heavy tramp coming along the deck. He was
hoisted roughly by hands under his arm-pits and placed upon his feet,
though he was still too weak to stand without support. A dozen faces
surrounded him, glaring angrily. Out of a sort of mist that partly
obscured his vision came the terrible leer of the man with the broken
nose. The twisted mouth opened and the man spoke with a deliberate
ugliness. The very absence of oaths seemed to make his slow speech more
deadly.

"Ah, ye misbegotten young fool," he said, "so there ye stand, scared
like the cowardly spawn ye are. We took ye, and kept ye, and fed ye.
What's more, we was friends to ye, eh mates? An' how do ye treat yer
friends? Leave 'em to starve or drown on a sinkin' ship! Sneak off like
a dog an' a son of a cowardly dog!" Jeremy went white with anger. "An'
now"--Daggs' voice broke in a sudden snarl--"an' now, we'll show ye how
we treat such curs aboard a ten-gun buccaneer! Stand by, mates, to
keel-haul him!"

At this moment a second party of pirates poured swearing out of the
fo'c's'le hatch, dragging Job Howland in their midst. He was stripped to
his shirt and under-breeches and had apparently received a few bruises
in the tussle below. Jeremy's spirits were momentarily revived by seeing
that some of the buccaneers had suffered like inconveniences, while the
young ex-man-o'-war's-man was gingerly feeling of a shapeless blob that
had been his nose. Dave Herriot, his head tied up in a bandage, was
superintending the preparations for punishment. "Let's have the boy
first," he shouted.

Aboard a square-rigger, keel-hauling was practiced from the main
yardarm. The victim was dragged completely under the ship's bottom,
scraping over the jagged barnacles, and drawn up on the other side, more
often dead than living. As the sloop had only fore and aft sails, they
had merely run a rope under the bottom, bringing both ends together
amidships. They now dragged the boy forward, still in a half-fainting
condition and made fast his feet in a loop in one end of the rope, then,
stretching his arms along the deck in the other direction, bound his
wrists in a similar way. He was practically made a part of the ring of
hemp that circled the ship's middle.

Without further ceremony other than a parting kick or two, the crew took
their places at the rope, ready to pull the lad to destruction. He set
his teeth and a wordless prayer went up from his heart.

The wrench of the rope at his ankles never came. As he lay with his eyes
closed, a high-pitched voice broke the quiet. "If a man starts to haul
on that line, I'll shoot him dead!" Jeremy turned his head and looked.
There stood Stede Bonnet, his face ashen gray and trembling, but with a
venomous fire in his sunken eyes. He held a pistol in each hand and two
more were thrust into his waist-band. Not a man stirred in the crew.

"That boy," went on the clear voice, "had no hand in the business, and
well you know it. It is for me to give out punishments while I am
Captain of this sloop, and by God I shall be Captain during my life.
Pharaoh Daggs, step forward and unloose the rope!" The man with the
broken nose fixed his light eyes on the Captain's for a full five
seconds. Bonnet's pistol muzzle was as steady as a rock. Then the
sailor's eyes shifted and he obeyed with a sullen reluctance. Jeremy,
liberated, climbed to his knees and stood up swaying. Just then there
was a rush of feet behind. He turned in time to see Job Howland vanish
head foremost over the rail in a long clean dive. The astonished crew
ran cursing to the side and stared after him, but no faintest trace of
the man appeared. At dawn a breeze had sprung up and now the little
waves chopped along below the ports with a sound like a mocking chuckle.
They had robbed the buccaneers of their cruel sport.

Mutiny might have broken out then and there, but Stede Bonnet, cool as
ever, stood amidships with his arms crossed and a calm-looking pistol in
each fist. "Herriot," he remarked evenly, "better set the men to
cleaning decks and repairing damage. We'll start down the Jersey coast
at once."

Jeremy got to his bunk as best he might and slept for the greater part
of twenty-four hours. When he awoke, the crew had just finished
breakfast and were sitting, every man by himself, counting out gold
pieces. Bonnet had divided the booty found on the brig and in their
greedy satisfaction the pirates were, for the time at least, utterly
oblivious to former discontent. When he got up and went to the galley
for breakfast, Jeremy was ignored by his fellows or treated as if
nothing had occurred. Indeed, there had been little real ground for
wishing to punish the boy aside from the ugly temper occasioned by
having to row a night and a day in open boats. Only Pharaoh Daggs bore
real malice toward Jeremy and his feelings were for the most part
concealed under a mask of contemptuous indifference.

As the day progressed the lad found that matters had resumed their
accustomed course and that he was in no immediate danger. He missed his
brave friend and co-partner as bitterly as if he had been a brother, but
partially consoled himself with the thought that Job's act in jumping
overboard had probably spared him the awful torture of the keel or some
worse death. The Captain would never have defended the runaway sailor as
he had done Jeremy, the boy was certain.

All day the sloop made her way south at a brisk rate, occasionally
sighting low, white beaches to starboard. Sometime in the first
dog-watch her boom went over and she ran her slim nose in past Cape May,
heading up the Delaware with the hurrying tide, while the brig's
long-boat, towing behind, swung into her wake astern.



CHAPTER XI


When the gang of buccaneers had tumbled down the hatch after Jeremy's
cry of warning, Job Howland, barely awake, had leaped to the narrow
angle that made the forward end of the fo'c's'le, seizing a pistol as he
went. Intrenching himself behind a chest, with the bulkhead behind him
and on both sides, he had kept the maddened crew at bay for several
moments. The pistol, covering the only path of attack, made them wary of
approaching too close. When, finally, a half-dozen jumped forward at
once, he pulled the trigger only to find that the weapon had not been
loaded. In desperation he grasped the muzzle in his hand and struck out
fiercely with the heavy butt, beating off his assailants time after
time. This was well enough at first, but the buccaneers, who cared much
less for a broken crown than for a bullet wound, pressed in closer and
closer, striking with fists and marline-spikes. It was soon over. They
jammed him so far into the corner than his tireless arm no longer had
free play, and then bore him down under sheer weight of numbers. When he
ceased to struggle they seized him fast and carried him to the deck.

Job was out of breath and much bruised but had suffered no lasting hurt.
He saw Jeremy led forward, heard the men's cries and realized that the
torture was in store for them both.

Unbound, but helpless to interfere, he saw the boy stretched on the deck
and the rope attached to his arms and legs. He suffered greater agony
than did Jeremy as the crew made ready to begin their awful work, for he
had seen keelhauling before. And then suddenly Stede Bonnet was standing
by the companion and the ringing shout that saved the boy's life struck
on Job's ears. He could hardly keep from cheering the Captain then and
there, but relief at Jeremy's delivery brought with it a return of his
quick wits. He himself was in as great danger as ever.

He was facing aft, and his eye, roving the deck for a means of escape,
lit on the brig's boat, which the pirates had tied astern after
reboarding the sloop. She was trailing at the end of a painter, her bows
rising and falling on the choppy waves. He waited only long enough to
see that the Captain succeeded in freeing Jeremy, then drew a great
breath and plunged over the side. Swimming under water, he watched for
the towed longboat to come by overhead, and as her dark bulk passed, he
caught her keel with a strong grip of his fingers, worked his way back
and came up gasping, his hands holding to the rudder ring in her stern.

The hot, still days had warmed the surface of the sea to a temperature
far above the normal, or he must certainly have become exhausted in a
short time. As it was, he clung to his ring till near noon, when,
cautiously peering above the gunwale, he saw the sloop's deck empty save
for a steersman, half asleep in the hot sun by the tiller. With a great
wrench of his arms the ex-buccaneer lifted himself over the stern and
slipped as quietly as he was able into the boat's bottom. There he lay
breathless, listening for sounds of alarm aboard the sloop. None came
and after a few moments he wriggled forward and made himself snug under
the bow-thwart. The boat carried a water-beaker and a can of biscuit for
emergency use. After refreshing himself with these and drying out his
thin clothing in the sun, he retreated under the shade of the thwart and
slept the sleep of utter fatigue.

Late the next day he took a brief observation of the horizon. There was
sandy shore to the east and from what he knew of the coast and the
ship's course he judged they must be nearing the entrance to Delaware
Bay. His long rest had restored to him most of his vigor and although he
was sore in many places, he felt perfectly ready to try an escape as
soon as the sloop should approach the land and offer him an
opportunity.

As the night went on the _Royal James_ made good speed up the Bay aided
by a strong tide. A little while before light she came close enough to
the west shore for Job to see the outlines of trees on a bluff. He
figured the distance to be not above a mile at most. There was some
question in his mind whether he should cut the painter and use the boat
in getting away or swim for it. He decided that it would be better for
him in most ways if the pirates still supposed him dead. So, quietly as
an otter, he slipped over the gunwale, paddled away from the boat's side
and set out for the land, ploughing through the water with a long
overarm stroke.

Job had a hard fight with the turning tide before the trees loomed above
his head and his feet scraped gravel under the bank. When at last he
crept gasping out upon dry ground, it was miles to the southward of his
first destination. Dawn had come and the early light silvered the
rippling cross-swells and glinted on the white wings of the gulls. The
big mariner shook the water from his sides like a spaniel, stretched
both long arms to the warm sky, laughed as he thought of his escape and
turning his gaunt face to the northward set out swiftly along the
tree-clad bluffs.



CHAPTER XII


Meanwhile the _Royal James_ was far up inside the Capes, sailing
demurely along, the ports of her gun deck closed and the British colors
fluttering from her top. Jeremy watched the shores they passed with deep
interest. He wondered if there would be a chance for him to get away
when they came to anchor. There was nothing but hardship in his lot
aboard the sloop, now that Job was gone. He was unnoticed for the most
part by the men of the crew, and when any of them spoke to him it was
with a cuff or a curse. As for Captain Bonnet, he had relapsed into one
of his black moods. Nothing brought him on deck or made him speak except
to give Herriot monosyllabic commands.

Late the following day, after a slow progress along the Delaware shore,
the sloop hove to in a wide roadstead and the anchor was run out. The
steeples and shipping of a little town were visible by the water side,
but no one put off to meet them. To the surprise of all, Bonnet himself
came on deck, wearing a good coat and fresh ruffles and with his hair
powdered. He ordered the gig lowered, then looked about the assembled
crew and addressed them good-humoredly enough. "Now, my lads," said he,
"I'm going ashore with a picked boat's crew to get what news there is
about. You that go with me remember that you are of the _Royal James_,
honest merchant coaster, and that I am Captain Thomas, likewise honest
navigator. We'll separate into every tavern and ship-chandler's place
along the wharves, pick up the names of all ships that are soon to sail,
and their cargoes, and meet at the gig at eight bells. Herriot and you
men aboard here, keep a strict watch. Daggs, I leave the boy in your
charge. Don't let him out of your sight."

At the last words Jeremy's heart sank to his boots. He knew how futile
would be any attempt to escape under the cold hawk-eyes of the man with
the broken nose. As the gig put off from the sloop's side, the boy
leaned dejectedly against the rail. Pharaoh Daggs slouched up to him.
"Ah there, young 'un," said he with cynical jocularity, "just thinkin'
o' leavin' us, were ye, when the old man took the gimp out o' ye?" The
bantering note vanished from the man's voice. "I'ld like to break yer
neck, ye young whelp, but I won't--not just yet!" He seemed to be
licking his ugly chops at the thought of a future occasion when he might
allow himself this luxury. Then he went on, half to himself it seemed.
"Hm, Bonnet's a queer 'un! Never _can_ tell what he'll do. Them eight
men aboard that brig, now--never was a rougher piece o' piracy since
Morgan's day than his makin' those beggars walk the plank. Stood there
an' roared an' laughed, he did, an' pricked 'em behind till they tipped
the board. An' then to stop us from drownin' a blasted little rat that'd
tried to kill us all! Oh, he's bad, is Stede--bad!" Jeremy gave a start
as this soliloquy progressed. He had wondered once or twice what had
become of the prisoners taken aboard the brig. That attempted escape of
Job's had cost dear in human life it seemed. And his own deliverance had
been the mere whim of a mad-man! He shuddered and thanked God fervently
for the fortune that had so far attended him.

There was a pause while the buccaneer seemed to regard him with a sort
of crafty hesitancy. At length he spoke.

"See here, boy," he said, his voice sinking to a hoarse whisper, "how
long had you been livin' on that there island?"

Jeremy looked up wonderingly. "Not long," he answered, "only a day or
two, really."

"And you--nor none of yer folks--never went nosin' 'round there to find
nothin', did yer? Tell me the truth, now!" Daggs leaned closer, a
murderous intensity in his face.

"No," said Jeremy, squirming as the man's fingers gripped his shoulder.

The pirate gave him another long, piercing look from his terrible eyes,
then released him and went forward, where he stood staring off toward
the shore.

In his wretched loneliness the boy sank down by the rail, his heart
heavier than it had ever been in his whole life. It might have been a
relief to him to cry. A great lump was in his throat indeed and his eyes
smarted, but he had considered himself too old for tears almost since he
could walk, and now with the realization that he was near shedding them,
he forced his shoulders back, shut his square jaw and resolved that he
would be a man, come what might. Darkness settled over the river mouth.
The form of Pharaoh Daggs in black silhouette against the gray of the
sky sent a shudder through Jeremy. He recalled with startling
distinctness the solitary man he had seen on the island the night of his
capture. The two figures were identical. Pondering, the boy fell asleep.

It was some four hours later that he woke to the sound of hurrying oars
close aboard. A subdued shout came across the water. The voice was Stede
Bonnet's. "Stand by to take us on!" he cried. A moment later the gig
shot into sight, her crew rowing like mad. They pulled in their oars,
swept up alongside the black sloop, and were caught and pulled aboard by
ready hands. "Cut the cable!" cried the Captain as soon as he reached
the deck. The gig was swung up, the cable chopped in two and the
mainsail spread, and in an incredibly short time the _Royal James_ was
bowling along down the roadstead. Hardly had she gotten under way when
two long-boats appeared astern and amid shouts and orders to surrender
from their crews, a scattered fusillade of bullets came aboard. No one
on the sloop was hit, and as the sails began to draw properly the pirate
craft soon left her pursuers far to the rear.

Jeremy, never one to watch others work, had lent a hand wherever he was
best able, during the rush of the escape. When the sloop was well out of
range and the excitement had subsided, he turned for the first time to
look at a small group that had been talking amidships. Two of the
figures were very well known to him--Bonnet and Herriot. The light of a
lantern, which the latter held, fell upon the face of a boy no older
than Jeremy, dressed in the finest clothes the young New Englander had
ever seen.

The lad's face was dark and resolute, his hair black, smoothly brushed
back and tied behind with a small ribbon. His blue coat was of velvet,
neatly cut. Below his long flowered waistcoat were displayed buff velvet
breeches and silk stockings of the same color. His shoes were of fine
leather and buckled with silver.

In response to the oaths and rough questions of the two pirates, the lad
seemed to have little to say. When he spoke it was with a scornful ring
in his voice. The first words Jeremy heard him say were: "You'll
understand it soon, I fancy. We are well enough known along the bay and
my father, as I have said, is a friend of the Governor's. There'll be
ten ships after you before morning." Herriot put back his head and
roared with laughter. "Hear the young braggart!" he shouted. "Ten ships
for such a milk-fed baby as he is!"

"Well, my lad," said the Captain, "you'll be treated well enough while
we wait for the money to be paid. Here, Jeremy!" As the young
backwoodsman came up, Bonnet continued, "Two boys aboard is bad
business, for you're sure to be scheming to get away. However, it can't
be helped, just yet, and mind what I say,--there'll be a bullet ready
for the first one that tries it. Now get below, the pair of you."

Glad as he was to have a companion of his own age aboard, Jeremy,
boylike, was too shy to say anything to the new arrival that night, and
indeed the other boy seemed to class him with the rest of the pirates
and to feel some repugnance at his company. So the two unfortunate
youngsters slept fitfully, side by side, until broad daylight next
morning.



CHAPTER XIII


The "salt horse" which was served out for breakfast aboard the _Royal
James_ made scant appeal to the Delaware boy's appetite. He hardly
touched the portion which Jeremy offered him and kept up his pose of
proud aloofness all the morning. It is scarcely a matter for wonder that
he did not at once make friends with Jeremy. The latter's buckskin
breeches and moccasins had been taken from him when he came aboard and
he was now clad in his old leather tunic, a pair of seaman's trousers,
which bagged nearly to his ankles, wrinkled, garterless wool socks and
an old pair of buckled shoes, stuffed with rags to make them fit. His
hair, never very manageable, had received little attention during the
voyage and now was as wild and rough as that of a savage. It would have
required a long second glance for one to see the fine qualities of grit
and self-reliance in the boy's keen face.

The sloop was making great speed down the middle channel of the Bay, her
canvas straining in a fine west breeze, and her deck canted far to
leeward. No boy could long withstand the pleasure of sailing on such a
day, and before noon the young stranger had given in to a consuming
desire to know the names of things. Jeremy now had the whole ship by
heart and was filled with joy at the opportunity of talking about her to
one more ignorant than himself. Of course, he was as proud of the _Royal
James_ as if he owned her. How he glowed over his account of the battle
with the brig! Nothing on the coast could outsail the sloop, he was
sure. Indeed, it was with some regret that he admitted a hope of her
being overtaken by the Delaware boy's friends, and he was divided
between pride and despair as the day went on and no sail appeared to the
north. By noon his new acquaintance was ravenously hungry, as was to be
expected, and over their pannikins of soup the last reserve between them
went by the board.

[Illustration: Bob]

"Are you his son?" asked the dark-haired lad, nodding toward Herriot.
Jeremy laughed and described his adventure from the beginning while the
other marveled open-mouthed. "Are they holding you for ransom, too?"
asked he, as the story ended. "No," replied Jeremy, "I reckon they knew
as soon as they saw me that there wasn't much money to be gotten in my
case. As I figure it, they didn't dare leave me on the island for fear
I'ld have those three ships-of-war after them." Both boys laughed as
they thought of the head-long flight of Stede Bonnet's company from a
garrison of fifteen sheep.

"Well," said the Delaware boy, still chuckling, "you know most of my
story already. My father is Clarke Curtis of New Castle. My own name is
Bob. Father owns some ships in the East India trade and has a plantation
up on the Brandywine creek. Last night I was at our warehouse by the
wharves. Father was inside talking to one of his captains who had just
come to port. I wanted to see the ship--she's a full-rigger, three or
four times as big as this, and fast too for her burden. Well, I went
down on the dock where she was moored. There was nobody around and no
lights and she stood up above the wharf-side all dark and big--her
mainmast is as high as our church steeple, you know--and I was just
looking up at her and wondering where the watchman was, when four men
came along down the wharf. I thought perhaps 'twas Father and some of
his men. When they were quite close that biggest one, Herriot, stepped
up to me and before I could shout he put his hand over my mouth and held
me. They gagged me fast and then one of them gave a whistle, long and
low. Pretty soon a boat came up to the dock and they grabbed me and put
me in, spite of all I could do. They paddled along to another wharf and
took aboard some more men and then started to row out as fast as they
could. I guess those boats that came after us were from Father's ship.
He must have missed me right away. So now old Bonnet or Thomas or
whatever his name is thinks he's going to get a fat sum out of me.
That's all of my story, so far. But there'll be another chapter yet!"
Jeremy, for both their sakes, sincerely hoped that there might.

At sunset of that day the _Royal James_ cleared Cape Henlopen and held
her course for the open sea, while behind her in the gathering dusk the
coast grew hazy--faded out--was gone. The two boys, sitting late into
the first watch, shivered with that fine ecstasy of adventure that can
come only in the shadowy mystery of star-lit decks and the long,
whispering ripple of a following sea.

Jeremy, who twenty-four hours before had thought of the ship as a place
of utter desolation, would not now have changed places with any boy
alive. He knew, perhaps for the first time, the fulness of joy that
comes into life with human companionship. That night two lads at least
had golden dreams of a youthful kind. Ducats and doubloons, princesses
and plum-cake, swords awave and cannon blazing, great galleons with
crimson sails--no wonder that they were smiling in their sleep when
George Dunkin held a lantern over the bunk at the change of the watch.



CHAPTER XIV


The day came in dark with fog, which changed a little after noon to
driving scud. The wind had gone around to the northeast and freshened
steadily, driving the waves in from the sea in steep gray hills, quite
different from anything Jeremy had before experienced. The sloop, under
three reefs and a storm jib, began to make rough weather of it,
staggering up and down the long slopes in an aimless, dizzy fashion that
made Jeremy and Bob very unhappy. The poor young New Englander had to
perform his regular tasks no matter how he felt within, but once the
work was done he stumbled forward miserably and lay upon his bunk. Bob
was too wretched to talk all day, and for the time at least cared very
little whether he was rescued or keel-hauled.

Near nightfall Jeremy went aft to serve the Captain's supper, and as he
returned along the reeling wet deck in the gathering dark, he stopped a
moment to look off to windward. The racing white tops of the waves
gleamed momentarily and vanished. He was appalled at their height. While
the little vessel surged along in the trough, great slopes of foam and
black water rose on either beam, up and up like tossing hillsides. Then
would come the staggering climb to the summit, and for a dizzy second
the terrified lad, clinging to a shroud, could look for miles across the
shifting valleys. Before he could catch his breath, the sloop pitched
down the next declivity in a long, sickening sag, and rocked for a brief
instant at the foot, her masts swaying in a great arc half across the
sky. Then she began to ascend. Shivering and wide-eyed, the boy crept to
his bunk, where he fell asleep at last to the sound of screaming wind
and lashing water.

At dawn and all next day the gale swept down from the northeast
unabated. The fo'c's'le was thick with tobacco smoke and the wet reek of
the crew, for only the steersman and the lookout would stay on deck.
Bob, somewhat recovered from his seasickness, lay wide-eyed in his bunk
and heard such tales of plunder and savagery on the high seas as made
his blood run cold. When Jeremy came dripping down the ladder, early
that afternoon, he found the Delaware lad staring at Pharaoh Daggs with
a look of positive terror. The buccaneer's evil face was lit up by the
rays of the smoky lantern, hung from a hook in one of the deck beams. He
sat on the edge of the fo'c's'le table, his heavy shoulders hunched and
a long clay pipe in his teeth. "That night," he was saying, "four on us
went an' cut Sol Brig down from where they'd hanged him. We got away,
down to the sloop an' out to sea with him. I didn't have no cause to
love the old devil, but I'd ha' hated to have a ghost like his after me,
so I lent a hand. We wrapped him up decent an' gave him sea-burial from
his own deck, as he'd paced for thirty year. An' _then_," he said with a
snarl and half-turning to face Jeremy, "we got them two boys on deck!
Both of 'em said 'twas the other as told, so we treated 'em fair an'
alike. We stripped 'em an' laid in deep with the cat till there wasn't
no white skin left above the waist. Then we sluiced 'em with sea water.
When they could feel pain again, we stretched 'em with rope an' windlass
till one died. T'other was a red-headed, tough young devil, an' took
such a deal of it that we had to brain him with a handspike at the
last."

Even the crew were silenced for a little by this recital. Jeremy and Bob
shivered in their places, hardly daring to breathe. Then a Portuguese
spoke from the corner, his greedy little black eyes glittering in his
swarthy face.

"Where wass da Cap'n's money--da gold 'e 'ada-not divide', eh?"

Daggs gave a little start and leaned forward scowling. "Who said he had
any?" he asked savagely. "Sol Brig kept himself to himself. He never
told secrets to any man aboard!" Then he turned and with a black frown
at the two boys, climbed through the hatch into the howling smother
outside.

Jeremy, always alert, saw one or two glances exchanged among the pirates
before the interminable foul stream of fo'c's'le talk resumed its
course, but apparently the incident of the scarred man's abrupt
departure was soon forgotten.

As the storm continued, Bonnet and Herriot gave up their attempts to
sail the _Royal James_ and contented themselves with keeping her afloat.
The gale was driving them southward at a good rate and they were not
ungrateful as they reflected that it must have effectually put a stop to
all pursuit. Toward night the wind went down a trifle, though the seas
still ran in veritable mountain ranges. The dawn of the following day
showed a clear sky to the north, and every prospect of fair weather.
Before breakfast all hands were set to shaking out reefs and trimming
sails, a task which the tossing of the sloop made unusually difficult.
New halyards had to be fitted in some places. Otherwise the vessel
herself had suffered but little. The brig's boat, towed astern all
through the flight down the bay, had been swamped and cut loose on the
first day of storm. However, as the _Royal James_ had two boats of her
own lashed on deck, this was not considered a real loss.

When the sun was high enough, Herriot took his bearings, and gave the
helmsman orders to keep her headed west, a point north. The sloop made a
long beat of it to starboard, thrashing up all night and most of the
following day, before she sighted the Virginia Capes. Slipping through
under cover of darkness, Bonnet resumed his rôle of sober merchantman
and sailed the _James_ up the Chesapeake under the British flag, with a
fine air of honesty.

Jeremy and Bob regained their spirits as the low shores unrolled ahead
and passed astern, with an occasional glimpse of a plantation house or a
village at the water's edge. As every fresh estuary and arm of the bay
opened on the bow, the lads hoped and expected that the sloop would
enter. Bob thought the chances for escape or rescue would be much
increased if they came to anchor in some harbor. Jeremy remembered the
Captain's half-promise to free him when they reached the Chesapeake, and
although he would have been loth to part from his new friend, he felt
that he might render him better service ashore than in his company
aboard the pirate.

It was two full days before the order was finally given to anchor. They
had put into the mouth of a wide inlet far up on the Eastern shore, and
Bonnet had her brought into the wind at a good distance from either
side. The banks were high and wooded, and as far as the boys could see
there was no sign of habitation anywhere about. Their minds were both
busy planning some way of getting to land when Dave Herriot came up
behind them and put a huge hand into the collar of each. "Come along
below, lads," he said gruffly. They went, completely mystified, until
the big sailing-master thrust them before him into the port gun deck.
Then Jeremy understood. The old-fashioned arrangement of iron bars
called the "bilboes" was fastened to the bulkhead at the bow end of the
alleyway. It had two or three sets of iron shackles chained to it and
into the smallest pair of these, meant for the wrists of a grown victim,
he locked an ankle of each of the boys.

"Ye'll stay _there_ a while, till we sail again," Herriot remarked as he
departed. The lads stared at each other, too glum to speak. Bob was pale
with rage at what he considered a dishonor, while the Yankee boy's heart
was heavy as he thought of the opportunities for flight he had let slip
on the voyage up the bay. Within half an hour after the anchor was
dropped the young prisoners heard the creak of the davit blocks, and a
moment later the splash of a boat taking water close to the nearest
gun-port. Jeremy stretched as far as his chain would allow, and through
a crevice saw four men start to row toward shore. There was some coarse
jesting and laughter on deck, then one of the crew sent a "Fare ye well,
Bill!" after the departing gig. The hail was answered by the voice of
the Jamaican, Curley. Half an hour later the boat returned, carrying
only three. Jeremy, straining at his tether, made out that Curley was
not one of them. He sat down, thoughtful. "Well, Bob," he said at last,
"whether it's about your ransom I can't say, but Bill Curley's been sent
ashore on some errand or other--and to be gone a while, too, I figure."

They could do little but wait for developments. It was something of a
surprise to both when Bonnet's voice was heard on the deck above, soon
after, ordering the capstan manned. The anchor creaked up and to the
rattle of blocks the sail was hoisted. They felt the sloop get under way
once more. When one of the foremast hands brought them some biscuit and
pork for supper, he told them it was Herriot's orders that they be left
in irons for the present at least, and added, in response to Jeremy's
query, that they were headed south under full canvas. The boys' thoughts
were very bitter as they tried to make themselves comfortable on the
bare planking. Fortunately, at their age it requires more than a hard
bed to banish rest, and before the ship had made three sea-miles, care
and bodily misery alike were forgotten in the heavy slumber of fatigue.



CHAPTER XV


Job Howland's long legs, clad as they were in nothing more cumbersome
than a pair of under-breeches, made light work of hills and ravines as
he held his way steadily up the Delaware shore. Like most of the sailors
of that day, he had gone barefoot aboard ship since the beginning of the
warm weather and his soles were so calloused that he hardly felt the
need of shoes.

At a shack on a little cove, just before midday, he found several
fishermen, to whom he applied for clothing. They had pity on his plight,
fitted him out with a shirt, serviceable breeches and rough boots, and
gave him, as well, as much biscuit and dried fish as he wished to carry.
Thus reinforced he continued to put the leagues behind him till night,
when he slept under a convenient jack-pine. Early next morning he pushed
on and came without further adventure to the little port of New Castle,
just as the sun was setting.

Job had been in the town before and now went straight to the Red Hawk
Tavern, a small place on the water-front that catered chiefly to
seafaring men. The tavern-keeper, a brawny Swede, to whose blue eyes
half the seamen that plied along the coast were familiar, held out a
big hand to him as he entered. He had known the tall mariner when he had
been on the Virginia bark before Hornygold had captured it and had had
no news of him since. Job told him his whole story over a hot meal in
the back room, and it is merely indicative of the public mind of that
day that the big Swede had not the slightest compunction in sympathizing
with him. Indeed, in most dockside resorts it was a common thing for
pirates and honest seamen to fraternize with perfect goodwill. The
innkeeper offered him a bed for the night, and next morning directed him
to the governor's house.

Delaware, a far smaller and less developed colony than her neighbors,
Pennsylvania and Maryland, had, nevertheless, her own government,
located at New Castle. The brick house of the King's appointee was on
the High Street--the most imposing building in the town, excepting the
two churches. Job knocked at the door and was admitted by a colored
servant in livery, who gave him a chair in the wide hall and asked him
to wait there.

As the long Yankee fidgeted uncomfortably on the edge of his seat, he
heard voices raised in a room opposite, the door of which was closed.
Some one, apparently growing angry, was saying:

"Good Gad, man, are we to sit idle and let these ruffianly thieves make
off with our money--children--wives! One good man-o'-war could teach the
scamps such a lesson as would scare half of 'em off the seas! Why, if
I'd had even a good culverin aboard the _Indian Queen_ last night, I'd
have chased the beggars clear to Africa, an need were. Governor, you
_must_ see this as we see it!"

There was a reply in a lower tone and a moment later the door opened for
two gentlemen to come out. One was thin and pale and seemed a suave,
cool fellow, Job thought. He was elegantly dressed in gray. His
companion, larger and more strongly built, seemed to have become very
red in the face from suppressed emotion. His linen ruffles were awry and
his fists clenched as he emerged. Without looking at Job, he jammed his
cocked hat upon his head and strode out.

The man in gray turned to the waiting seaman and beckoned him into the
room just vacated. Job, as cool and self-possessed as if he were loading
his six-pounder under fire, told the story of his experiences aboard the
pirate sloop, finishing with an account of the attempted flight with
Jeremy, their recapture and his escape. The Governor listened gravely,
starting once when the mariner named Captain Bonnet. At the end he
nodded. "You shall have the pardon as ruled by the Crown," he said. "But
there is another side to this affair. You say you slept at the Red
Hawk. Was there no talk there of a boy stolen from the wharves late in
the evening?" Job replied that he had gone to bed early and had
breakfasted and left without hearing any gossip.

"From what you say," went on the Governor, "I should be ready to swear
that the Captain Thomas, who proclaimed himself by that name in a tavern
last night and later made off with the son of Clark Curtis, was the same
man as your Stede Bonnet." Job hastened to relate the incident of the
buccaneer's crazed speech from the brig's deck. He asked how the
kidnapper had been described. The features tallied almost exactly with
those of Stede Bonnet. In addition, the schooner, as half a dozen men
would swear, had been painted black.

Thus satisfied that Bob Curtis was aboard the _Royal James_, the
Governor wrote a formal pardon, stating that "Job Howland, late a
pirate, having duly sworn his allegiance to his Majesty the King, and
repented of all unlawful acts committed by him aforetime," was
henceforward granted full release from the penalty of his crimes and was
to be held an honest man during his good behavior. Then he took the
seaman with him and passed quickly down to one of the larger warehouses
by the dockside.

Standing in the doorway were the red-faced gentleman whom Job had seen
that morning and a large man in sea boots, easily recognized as a ship's
officer. To the rather cool greeting of the former the Governor returned
a cheerful nod as they came up. "Look here now, Curtis," he said, "I
can't spare those cannon, and that's flat, but to show that I mean well
by you, I've brought a man whom you may find of some use. Tell him
your story, Howland."

The tale was repeated, to the intense interest of its two new hearers.
"By Gad," cried Mr. Curtis, slapping his thigh, as the seaman finished,
"that's a clue worth having! We know who the scoundrel is, at least,
and, of course, he'll be sure to head for Carolina. Bonnet couldn't keep
away from that coast for more than six months if his life depended upon
it. Howland, if you care to ship again, I'll make you gun-pointer aboard
the _Indian Queen_ here. You say you want nothing better than to get a
crack at the pirate. We'll make what preparations we can and get off at
once. This young friend of yours--about Bob's age he must be--well, I'm
glad my boy's got company! Let's get to work aboard here now."

Job fell to with a good will helping the _Indian Queen's_ crew get her
ready for an encounter with the pirates. She carried only two light
serpentine cannon of an ancient make, far below the standard necessary
to combat a well-armed schooner like the _Royal James_. There were no
other ships in the harbor carrying guns, however, and it was over the
matter of procuring an armament that Curtis had had words with the
Governor. There were six good culverins mounted in the fort below the
town. The planter had wished to borrow them to fit out his vessel,
urging that it was a matter of concern to the whole colony. To this the
Governor replied that with the port stripped of defences it would be
possible for a pirate fleet to enter and plunder without difficulty,
while Curtis's ship was careering over the seven seas on a wild-goose
chase. Naturally the personal element in the affair blinded Curtis to
the truth in this argument. However, with the advent of Job Howland and
the news he bore, all differences were forgotten. The planter and
ship-owner now needed thorough, rather than hurried, preparation. He
sent his overseer on horseback to Philadelphia to arrange for the
purchase of guns, and put all the available carpenters and shipwrights
to work on the _Queen_, strengthening the improvised gun decks and
cutting the rows of ports.

The northeast gale that sprang up next day put a temporary stop to these
activities and gave Job an opportunity to get himself some decent
clothes and hobnob a while with his friend the Swede. The whole
waterfront was agog with the news of the kidnapping, and everywhere the
tall New Englander went he was surrounded by a knot of questioning
seamen. Several coasting-skippers, whose vessels lay ready-loaded at the
wharves, decided to put off sailing until some news should indicate that
the Bay was clear.

When the storm had blown itself out the artisans again set to work on
the big East Indiaman. Job, who had learned the science of gunnery under
good masters, supervised the placing of every porthole with reference to
ease and safety in firing as well as to the effectiveness of a
broadside. He had a section of the deck forward of the capstan
reinforced stoutly to bear the weight of a bow-chaser, on which he
placed some dependence in case of a running fight.

It was about six days later, in the first week of August, when two men
came into New Castle from different directions, one on horseback, the
other on foot. The first of these was Curtis's overseer, returned from
the larger colony up the Bay, and bringing the good news that a score of
cannon were lying on the dock at the foot of Market Street, in
Philadelphia, ready to be shipped aboard the _Queen_ as soon as she was
put in shape.

The other was a sour-looking man of middle height, lean and darkly
sallow, dressed in good sea clothes somewhat worn. He slipped through
the trees into a lane that led toward the wharves. Coming unobtrusively
into the Red Hawk Tavern at a little after 7 o'clock in the evening, he
asked for a pint of rum, paid for it, and began to talk politely to the
Swede. Job was eating his supper in one corner. He started when the man
entered, but made no exclamation, and shading his face from the light,
continued to watch him narrowly. It was his old shipmate, Bill Curley,
the Jamaican. The pirate finished his rum and giving the barkeep a civil
"Good-night," passed out into the ill-lighted street. When he was gone
Job rose and stepped to the bar. "Quick, Nels," he whispered, "what did
he ask you? He's one of Bonnet's crew!" The Swede replied that he had
inquired the way to Clarke Curtis's house. Job was armed with a good
pistol. He made sure it was primed and then set out up the street,
keeping a careful lookout.

Soon he detected the figure of the Jamaican in the gloom ahead, and
followed it, keeping out of earshot. The man went straight up High
Street to the town residence of the planter. There were tall shrubs in
the yard and he waited behind one of these, apparently reconnoitering.
Then he stooped, took off his shoes, and carrying them in one hand,
advanced and pinned a piece of paper to the door. Turning, he made his
way back to the gate and once on the soft earth of the road, started to
run in the direction from which he had come. This brought him, in fifty
yards, face to face with a pistol muzzle, the butt of which was held by
his old friend, Job Howland. He stopped in his tracks and at the big
Yankee's command held both arms above his head. Job jammed the nose of
his weapon against Curley's breastbone and searched him without a word.
Having removed a long dirk and a pistol from the Jamaican's waistband,
he ordered him to face about and walk back to the planter's house. When
they arrived there, Job took down the paper from the door and knocked
loudly. A negro boy, scared almost into fits at the sight of the drawn
pistol, led the way into his master's room.

Curtis rose with an ejaculation of surprise and heard Job's brief
account of the events leading to Curley's capture. Then he took the
paper and read it, alternately frowning and exclaiming. As he finished,
he passed it to the New Englander. It was a letter neatly drawn up and
written in Stede Bonnet's even, refined hand.


                                       Aboard Sloop _Royal James,_ now
                                       in an Inlet near the Head of the
                                       Chesapeake Bay.

     To Mr. Clarke Curtis. Esq.
        of New Castle, in the Delaware Colony.

     Sir:

     Having now aboard us and in safe custody your son Robert Curtis, we
     offer you the following terms for his release and safe return to
     you. Namely, to wit:

     First, that you shall make no attempt to attack us in an armed
     vessel, or otherwise to employ force upon us.

     Second, that you shall send a single man, carrying or otherwise
     bringing, provided he is alone, a sum in gold amounting to 5,000
     pounds sterling.


     Third, that this man shall be on the sandbars at the entrance to
     the Cape Fear River in Carolina at noon on the 10th day of
     September in this year of grace 1718, ready to deliver the sum
     before-mentioned and to take in charge the boy, also
     before-mentioned.

     Failing the accomplishment of any or all of these terms the boy
     will be immediately put to death without stay or pity.

     Expecting you to act with discretion and for the welfare of your
     son,

                      Ever your humble servant,

                                       Captain Thomas.
                                       (Ship _Royal James_)


"Well," remarked Job as he finished, "we know where they'll be on
September the 10th, at all events. As for our friend here, we can safely
turn him over to the constable, I reckon. Here, Curley--march!" And he
ushered the Jamaican out as they had entered. The gaol was only a few
doors down a cross street, and Job had soon delivered his prisoner into
capable hands. Then he returned to Curtis's house.

The shipowner was pacing up and down his library, where the paper lay
half-crumpled on the floor. He looked up as Job entered and his brow was
wrinkled deep with lines of worry.

"Gad!" he exclaimed, "this is awful! Must we actually give up trying to
punish the dog? Why, he has us at his mercy, it seems. The money I can
raise, I believe, and it's not the thought of losing it that cuts me.
It's letting that gallows-hound go unscathed. And if anything should
slip in the plans--good God, it's too terrible to think of!"

He dropped into an armchair, his head resting in his hands. Job
understood something of the father's anguish and refrained from any
comment. Standing by the broad oak mantelpiece, he mused over the
chances of the boy's escape alive. Knowing Bonnet's eccentricities, he
would have been the last to urge an armed attack in defiance of the
terms in the letter. He had not the slightest doubt that the Captain,
half-insane as he was, would be capable of even more dastardly crimes
than the one he now threatened. Gradually an idea took form in the
ex-pirate's brain. It was a bold one and needed to be executed boldly if
at all. When the grief-stricken gentleman raised his head, Job turned
and faced him. "Mr. Curtis," he said, "there's one thing to be done, as
far's I can see, and I believe it's for me to do it. I've told you about
Jeremy Swan, the boy we took aboard up north along. I think most as much
o' getting him out o' this scrape as you do o' savin' your lad. Now
here's my scheme. I know that coast around Cape Fear like I know the
black schooner's deck. I'll get down there about the first o' September,
an' I reckon they'll be there near the same time. I'll sneak up as close
as I can in a small boat, then crawl acrost the bars till I'm near their
moorin', an' swim out after dark, so I can look over the lay o' things
aboard. It's just possible that I can get a word to one o' the boys and
maybe take 'em off without bein' caught. You can be lyin' to, somewhere
out o' sight, and' if we get clean away, we'll take the _Queen_ around
an' blow Bonnet out o' water. That's the best I can offer, but if it
works it'll do the job up brown."

Curtis had listened earnestly, amazed at the daring of the man's
suggestion. He reached out a broad hand and took Job's hairy fist in a
grip that expressed the depth of his feelings. His eyes were blinking
and he could not trust his voice, but the long Yankee knew that the risk
he had offered to undertake was appreciated. They talked far into the
night, planning the details of the attempt and discussing measures to be
employed should it fail. They still had the best part of a month in
which to work.

It was Job's suggestion that they should interest the governments of
North and South Carolina to help in destroying Bonnet's craft. The
pirate's port of departure had been Charles Town and he was to be
fought in waters adjacent to both the colonies. It seemed not
unreasonable to hope that there was aid to be obtained there. Next day
they asked the Governor's sanction to this proposal, and were so far
rewarded that in less than another twenty-four hours a messenger had
been dispatched to Wilmington and Charles Town bearing letters under the
colony seal.



CHAPTER XVI


The _Royal James_ hurried down the Chesapeake for a day and a night
before Captain Bonnet gave orders to free the young prisoners below in
the bilboes. Jeremy and Bob came on deck stiff and weary from their
cramped quarters and very far from happy in their minds. Rescue seemed
farther away than ever, and though they had laid many plans for an
escape by swimming, the sight of the great stretch of water off either
beam--the shore was frequently a dozen miles away--quenched their hopes
in this direction.

The crew seemed quite elated over something, and talked and joked
incessantly about the prospect of action in the near future. Bonnet was
merrier than Jeremy had ever seen him, came often on deck and even mixed
a little in the conversation of the foremast hands. On the night that
they cleared the Capes he served out double noggins of rum to all the
men aboard. There was a good deal of prodigality in the way it was
poured out and a fine scene of carousal ensued, lasting until after the
watch changed at midnight. It was the first time either of the boys had
heard the smashing chorus of "Fifteen Men" sung by the whole fo'c's'le.
Of course, the words had often been hummed by one or two of the pirates,
but it took the hot cheer of the grog to open most of their throats. At
the final "Yo, ho, ho!" every cannikin crashed on the deal table and the
lantern heaved to and fro overhead as if a gale were blowing outside.
There followed the howling refrain that Jeremy had heard on the beach of
the island a month before--"An' we'll walk the bloody beggars all below,
all below--an' we'll walk the bloody beggars all below!"

The sentiment seemed too true to be picturesque after what had happened
aboard the brig. The fierce-faced buccaneers, with their red, drunken
eyes, strained forward, every man, and yelled like demons under the
swaying lantern. Close behind and above were the smoky beams and
planking, black with dancing shadows. Yet wild and exciting as it all
was, Jeremy felt sickened. There was no illusion, no play-acting about
it for him. He had seen the awful reality--the murder and the
madness--and he had no admiration left for the jolly buccaneer of story.

On the following morning, and for two days thereafter, the schooner
cruised slowly along a level sea under shortened sail. A double lookout
was kept constantly on duty and as they bore up to the northward, Jeremy
saw that they must be watching for south-bound shipping out of the
Delaware. Bonnet was evidently gambling on the chance that Bob's friends
had given up the idea of pursuit.

Then one hot mid-afternoon the two boys were startled from their places
in the shade of the after-companion by a quick shout from the man at the
masthead. They followed the direction of his pointing arm with their
eyes and as the schooner heaved slowly on a gentle swell, they caught a
glimpse of a low, broad sail on the port bow. The men were all on deck
ready to trim the sails for greater speed, but Herriot, after consulting
with the Captain, ordered the gunners and gun-servers below to prepare
ordnance. Bob and Jeremy were under a tremendous strain of excitement.
The stranger ship might be one of the New Castle fleet which Bob firmly
believed to be searching the seas to recapture him from Bonnet. Should
it prove to be so, their lives were in worse danger than ever, for
neither of the boys doubted that the erratic Captain would kill them at
once if the fight went against him.

However, their minds were soon set at rest on this score. As the pirate
drew up closer and closer, the details of the other ship became visible
to those on deck. She also was schooner-rigged, a trifle larger than the
_Royal James_, but without the latter's height of mast. Her low
free-board indicated that she was heavily cargoed. No gunports could be
seen along her sides.

Bonnet now ordered an extra jib to be broken out, and had the sloop
brought around on the port tack so that her course, instead of running
opposite to the stranger's, would obliquely cross it. The wind, what
little there was, came from the West.

As soon as the other ship perceived this change in direction, she veered
off her course closer to the wind, and almost immediately the boys could
see the white flutter of some extra canvas being spread at her bows. As
this new piece filled out, it proved to be a great balloon jib, which
increased her sail area by nearly half. Her head came off the wind again
and she went bowing along over the swells to the southward faster than
one would have imagined possible. Bonnet had figured on crossing her at
close range, but as she swept onward he realized that he would go by too
far astern to hail her if he kept his present direction. Herriot himself
took the tiller. As quickly as he could, without loss of headway, he
eased the _Royal James_ over till she was running nearly parallel with
the fleeing ship. His orders came quick and fast, while the men trimmed
the main and fore sheets to the last hair's breadth of perfection. It
was to be a race, and a hard one.

For nearly half an hour the sloops ran along almost neck and neck and
perhaps half a mile apart. The pirates dared not risk pointing closer to
the wind in order to get into cannon range. They would have lost so much
speed that it would have developed into a stern chase--useless since
they possessed only broadside batteries. The best they could do was to
hold their position, hoping for luck in the wind.

Bonnet scowled awhile at the British Jack that still flew from the
_James's_ top, then went below and brought up the black pirate flag. The
buccaneers, now all assembled on deck, gave it a cheerful howl of
greeting as it fluttered up to the main truck. "Now we'll catch 'em,
lads!" roared Herriot, and they answered him with a second cheer.

For once, however, the Jolly Roger seemed to bring bad fortune instead
of good. The wind had hardly swept it easily to leeward once when it
fell back against the shrouds, hardly stirring. The pirate sloop's deck
righted slowly and her limp sails drooped from the gaffs. A sudden flaw
in the breeze had settled about her, without interrupting her rival's
progress in the least. A glum despair came over the crew. They lolled,
for the most part silent or grumbling curses, against the rails, with
here and there one trying to whistle up a wind. The other sloop rapidly
drew away to the south.

Bonnet had been talking to Herriot with quick gestures and pointings.
Now he walked forward swiftly and the men got to their feet with a jump.
"We'll board the prize yet," said the Captain short and sharp. "Now look
alive--every one of you!" He ordered one squad of men to the hold for
spars, another for rope, a third for a spare mainjib. Meanwhile he set
two men to making a sort of stirrup out of blocks of wood. This was
fastened to the deck far up in the bows. When the spars came up he had
one of them rigged with a tackle running to the foremast, and set its
foot in the wooden contrivance just finished. It swung out forward like
a great jibboom. The crew saw what was in the Captain's mind and gave a
ringing yell of joy. A score of willing hands made fast the stays to
windward and others spread the spare sail from the upper end of the
spar. As the last rope was bent, a strong draught of air came over the
water. The canvas shook, then filled, and as the fresh breeze steadied
in her sails the sloop heeled far to port. She moved faster and faster,
while the white water surged away under her lee. This was sailing worth
while! The returning wind had come in much stronger than before the
flaw, and was now almost worthy of at least one reef under ordinary
conditions. With her extra canvas, the _James_ was canted over
perilously. Her lee scuppers were often awash and a good deal of water
was coming into the port gundeck.

But to the delight of all on board, including the boys, who could hardly
be blamed for relishing the excitement, Bonnet refused to take in an
inch of sail. Instead, he ordered every available man to the weather
rail. The dead weight of thirty seamen all leaning half-way over the
side served to keep the light craft ballasted for the time being. Bob
and Jeremy clung to the rail amidships and vied with each other in
stretching out over the boiling seas that raced below.

The fleeing ship, which had gained four or five miles during the lull,
was now in plain view again, nearly straight ahead. Her deep lading was
telling against her now. The handicap of sail area being overcome, the
black pirate's shallow draft and long lines gave her the advantage.
Every buccaneer in the crew was howling with excitement as the race went
on. The long main boom of the _Royal James_ skipped through the spray
and her mainsail was wet to the second line of reef points, but Herriot
held her square on the course and Bonnet smiled grimly ahead, with a
look that meant he would run her under before he would shorten sail.
Hand over hand they overhauled their rival, until once more the tiny
figures of men were visible over her rail. A little knot of them were
gathered aft, busy at something. Bonnet seized his glass and scrutinized
them intently. Then he yelled to Herriot to ease the sloop off to port.
"They've got a gun astern there!" he shouted. "They'll try our range in
a minute." Hardly had he spoken when a spout of foam went up from the
sea far to starboard, followed almost instantly by the dull sound of an
explosion. By the time the gunners on the ship had loaded their piece
again the _James_ had come over to their port quarter and they had to
shift the cannon's position. The shot went close overhead, cutting a
corner from the black flag of the pirate. Bonnet swore beneath his
breath, then ordered the cannoneers below to their batteries. They went
on the run. Jeremy and Bob stayed above watching the operations on the
enemy's deck. The two sloops were less than three hundred yards apart
and the _James_ had drawn nearly abeam when a third shot came from her
rival's deck gun. This time it crashed into the pirate's hull far up by
the bits. Bonnet was by the fore hatch, sword in hand, as was his custom
during an action. Looking coolly at the splintered bulwark forward, then
back at the enemy, he gave the sharp "Ready a starboard broadside!" to
the waiting gunners. He allowed them time to have their matches alight,
then "Fire!" rang his clear voice. The deck leaped under the boys' feet.
The long, thunderous bellow of the battery jarred out over the sea. Even
as they looked the enemy's maingaff, shot away at the jaws, dangled
loose from the peak halyards, and her broad sail crumpled, puffing out
awkwardly in the breeze.

At the same time a wide rent in her side above the waterline gaped black
as she topped a wave. The gunners' cheer as they saw their handiwork
rose to a deafening yell, taken up by all hands, when, a moment later,
the British colors came fluttering down aboard the other ship.

Herriot ordered the improvised spinnaker and the flying-jib taken in,
then brought the buccaneer sloop around and came up beside the newly
captured prize. All the pirates were behind the bulwarks with muskets
loaded, prepared for any treachery that might be intended. However, as
they ranged alongside, the hostile crew lined up on their deck, sullen
but unarmed, and the Captain, a big, gray-bearded man, held up a piece
of white cloth in token of surrender. Bonnet hailed him, asking his
name.

"Captain Peter Manewaring of the sloop _Francis,_ Philadelphia for
Charles Town," answered the coasting skipper.

"And I am Captain Thomas, in command of the sloop _Royal James,_" Bonnet
gave him in return. "You will set your men to carrying over into my ship
all the powder you have aboard. As soon as we are fast alongside I shall
be pleased to entertain you in the cabin."

The sails were run down on both sloops and their hulls were quickly
lashed together with ropes. Herriot superintended the operation of
transferring a half-dozen kegs of powder, some casks of wine and the
best food in the coaster's larder to the hold of the black schooner. The
cargo of the _Francis_ was a varied one, but not by any means a poor
prize. She carried some grain in bags forward, a great number of bolts
of cloth, chiefly woollens, and other things of divers sorts, including
some fine mahogany chairs and tables newly brought from England. The
wine was merely incidental, but proved very acceptable to the
ever-thirsty buccaneers.

That night, with the nine men of the _Francis's_ crew lying in irons on
the ballast, they drank deep to their victory, and once more Jeremy and
Bob fell asleep to the rough half-harmony of their bellowings.



CHAPTER XVII


A stiff easterly breeze whitened the gray seas next morning. It was
cloudy and seemed to be getting ready for a blow. The pirate and her
prize had drifted all night, bound together, and as day broke a tipsy
lookout spied land to the westward. Herriot came on deck hastily at the
call and himself went to the rail to heave the lead. The soundings
showed a bare four fathoms of water. Bonnet was summoned and the crew,
hardly recovered from their orgy, staggered about the deck preparing to
get under way again. Seven men, under Dunkin, were told off to man the
_Francis._ A dozen others were needed to plug her shot-holes before she
was really seaworthy. This task being finally accomplished, the ropes
were taken off, the sails run up and the two sloops, closehauled to
starboard, set about beating off shore.

It was a terrible day for Jeremy and Bob. In the crew there was the
regular fighting, swearing and vomiting that always followed a night of
carousal. The fact that they were short-handed made the work harder and
the grumbling louder than ever. The bow of the _Royal James_ was partly
shot away above the bits, and there was a full day's work for every hand
that could be spared rigging canvas over the gap to prevent its taking
in water in case of a storm. Meanwhile the fo'c's'le was in as filthy a
state as could well be imagined. Herriot thrust his head down the hatch
once during the morning and as he caught the sickening stench of the
place he called the two boys, who had been up forward helping the
patching.

"Here, young 'uns, get below and clean up," he ordered sharply, and
handed each lad a bucket and a deck-brush. They filled the buckets and
went below reluctantly. At first it was impossible for them to stay
under hatches for more than five minutes at a time, so they took turns
in running up for air and a fresh supply of water. Gradually the
flooding they gave the place told in its atmosphere, and by noon they
had put it into decent shape again. Hardly had Jeremy come on deck,
weary and sickened with this task, when Captain Bonnet called to him
from the companion. He made his way aft and entered the cabin. Bonnet
had just resumed his place at the broad table. Opposite him and facing
Jeremy was the big slouched figure of Captain Manewaring. "Bring the
wine, Jeremy," said the buccaneer quietly, and without turning. He was
looking with steady eyes at his guest. Jeremy went back along the
passage to the wine-locker under the companion stairs and took from it
two bottles of Madeira. As he was closing the cupboard door, Bonnet's
voice cut the air like a knife. The two words he spoke were not loud,
but pronounced with a terrible distinctness. "You lie!" was what he
said.

Jeremy shivered and waited, listening. There was no reply loud enough
for him to hear through the closed door of the cabin. After a moment he
tiptoed back and before turning the knob listened again. Nothing but
silence. He opened the door with a pounding heart and stepped into the
room.

The two men sat motionless in their places. Bonnet held a cocked pistol
in his right hand, its point covering the other man's head. On the table
before Manewaring was a second pistol. His face was drawn and gray and a
fine sweat stood upon his forehead. Jeremy shrank against the wall,
hardly breathing, his two bottles clutched idiotically, one in each
hand. The tense seconds ticked on by the cabin clock.

"Come--quick!" said the pirate, with a gesture toward the other pistol.
Manewaring's hand appeared over the edge of the table and gave a
trembling jerk toward the pistol-butt. Then it fell back into his lap.
He gasped. A drop of sweat ran down his temple into his gray beard.
Again the only sounds were the tick of the cabin clock, the wash of the
seas outside and the hoarse breathing of the cornered man. At length he
moved with a sort of shudder, whispered the name of his Maker and seized
the butt of the pistol desperately.

Bonnet had raised his weapon, pointing to the ceiling. "I shall count
three, then fire," said he in the same even voice.

"One----" But before he spoke again his opponent had jerked his muzzle
down and fired. Bonnet must have seen the flash of the intention in his
eyes, for he threw himself to the left at that instant, and the shot
went crashing through a panel of the door. With the deliberate sureness
of Fate the pirate took aim at his adversary, who whimpered and
grovelled behind the table. Then he shot him. Jeremy's knees went limp,
but he saved himself from falling and managed to set the bottles on the
table.

Behind him as he staggered out, Stede Bonnet poured himself a glass of
wine and drank it with a steady hand. The boy met a crowd of men at the
head of the companion, but was too shaken to tell them what had
happened. Herriot, going below, heard the details of the duel from the
Captain's own lips. Under the sailing-master's orders the body of the
dead man was carried out on deck, sewed into a piece of sailcloth and
heaved over the rail without more ado. Jeremy made his way to his bunk
and told Bob the story between chattering teeth.

There was silence on the ship that afternoon. Bonnet's action had
sobered his rough company to the point where they ceased quarreling and
talked in undertones, gathering in little knots about the slanted deck
when not at work. The two boys were glad enough to be out of the way.
Jeremy, tired and discouraged, sat on the bunk's edge, his shoulders
hunched and his eyes on the floor. His young companion, who had more
cause for hope, watched him with sympathetic eyes. He could see that the
New England boy was too dejected even to try to plan their escape--the
usual occupation of their hours together. Finally he reached over, a bit
shyly, and gave him a friendly pat on the back.

"Brace up, Jeremy," he said. "You're clean tuckered out, but a rest and
a nap'll help. Here, cover yourself up and I'll do your work tonight.
Maybe I'll have a scheme thought up to tell you in the morning."

Jeremy cared little whether he slept or woke, for the events of the past
days, coupled with the disappointment of not being set ashore as he had
hoped, had brought even his determined courage to a low ebb. He was on
the verge of a fever, and Bob's prescription of rest and sleep was what
he most needed. Made snug at the back side of the berth, where little
or no light came, he fell into a fitful slumber. Bob took a last look to
see that his friend was comfortable and went on deck.

Pharaoh Daggs had taken a great deal of liquor the night before, as was
his wont when grog was being passed. The rum he consumed seemed to
affect him very little. No one ever heard him sing, though his cruel
face, with its awful, livid scar, would lean forward and sway to and fro
with the rhythm of the choruses. He could walk a reeling deck or climb a
slack shroud as well, to all appearances, when he had taken a gallon as
most men when they were sober. From Newfoundland to Trinidad he was
known among the pirates as a man whose head would stand drink like a
sheet-iron bucket. This reputation was made possible by the fact that he
was no talker at any time, and when in liquor clamped his jaws like a
sprung trap. Whatever effect the alcohol may have had upon his mind was
not apparent because no thoughts passed his lips. The rum did go to his
head, however. The instinctive effort of will that kept his legs steady
and his mouth shut had no root in thought. Behind the veil of those
light eyes, the brain of Pharaoh Daggs, drunk, was like a seething pit,
one black fuddle of ugliness. To compensate for the apparent lack of
effect of liquor upon him, the inward disturbance usually lasted long
after the more tipsy seamen had slept around to clear heads.

Today he lolled with his sneering face toward the weather beam, a figure
upon whose privacy no one would care to trespass. The sound of the shots
and the tale of the duel had neither one awakened in him any apparent
interest. Through the long afternoon till nearly five o'clock he
slouched by the fo'c's'le. Then with a leisurely stretch he walked to
the hatch, and peered down it. Wheeling about he scanned the deck
craftily, looking at all the men in turn, before he descended the
ladder.

In the half-light below he paused again, and seemed to send his piercing
glance into every bunk, from the forward to the after bulkhead. Finally,
satisfied that no one else was in the fo'c's'le, he went to his own
sleeping place, on the port side, and kneeling beside the berth hauled a
heavy sea-chest from beneath it.

Jeremy's light sleep was broken by a scraping sound close by. He opened
his eyes without moving, and from where he lay could see a man busy at
something opposite him. As the figure turned and straightened, he knew
it for the man with the broken nose. The boy was instantly on the alert,
for he had every reason to distrust Daggs. Without making a sound he
worked nearer to the edge of the bunk and pulled the cover up to hide
all but his eyes. The pirate hauled his chest out farther into the
middle of the floor, where more light fell.

[Illustration]

Then he knelt before it and unlocked it with a key which he took from
about his neck. Jeremy almost expected to see a heap of gold coin as the
lid was raised. He was disappointed. A garment of dark cloth, probably a
cloak, and some dirty linen were all that came to view. The buccaneer
lifted out a number of articles of seaman's gear and laid them beside
him. After them came a leather pouch, quite heavy, Jeremy thought. The
man raised it carefully and weighed it in his hand. It must have been
his portion of the spoils taken on the voyage. However, this was not
what he was after, it seemed, for a moment later it was laid on the
floor beside the other things. Next he removed two pistols and a second
pouch of the sort used for powder and shot. There was a long interval as
he rummaged in the bottom of the box, under other contents which Jeremy
could not see. At last the pirate stood up, holding a rolled paper tied
with string. Another long moment he peered about him and listened. When
he had reassured himself, he untied the string and opened the paper, a
square document, perhaps a foot each way. It was discolored and worn at
the edges, apparently quite old. What was inscribed on it Jeremy could
not see, stare as he might. Daggs examined it a moment, then knelt,
preoccupied, and spread it upon the floor. With one finger he traced a
line along it, zigzagging from one side diagonally to the foot, his lips
moving silently meanwhile. Then his other hand hovered above the
document for a time before he planted his thumb squarely upon a spot
near the top.

Jeremy's thoughts kept time with his racing heart. He watched every
motion of the buccaneer with a fierce intentness that missed no detail.
Daggs had been quiet for a full two minutes, a crafty gloating smile
playing over his thin lips. Now once more he touched a place upon the
sheet before him. "Right there, she'll be," he muttered. Then, after
slowly rolling up the paper, he replaced it and locked the box. The eyes
of the boy in the bunk gleamed excitedly, for he was sure now of the
nature of the document. Beyond any reasonable doubt, it was a chart.
"Solomon Brig's treasure!" he whispered to himself as the tall figure of
the man with the broken nose clambered upward through the hatch.



CHAPTER XVIII


Jeremy realized that his life would be in danger if Daggs saw him coming
on deck after what had just happened. He lay still, therefore, in spite
of his desire to tell Bob what he had seen. The rest of the afternoon
his imagination painted pictures of ironbound chests half-buried in the
yellow beach sand of some lonely island far down in the tropics; gloomy
caves beneath mysteriously waving palm trees--caves whose black depths
shot forth a ruddy gleam of gold coin, when a chance ray of light came
through the shade; of shattered hulks that lay ten fathoms down in the
clear green water of some still lagoon, where pure white coral beds gave
back the sleeping sunshine, and fishes of all bright colors he had ever
seen or dreamed about swam through the ancient ports to stare
goggle-eyed at heaps of glistening gems.

At last he must have slept, for Bob's voice in his ear brought him back
to the dingy fo'c's'le of the _Royal James_ with a start. The lantern
was lit and most of the port watch were snoring heavily in their bunks
after a hard day's work. Bob took off his shoes and trousers and climbed
into the narrow berth beside his friend, who was now wide awake.
"Listen, Bob," whispered the New England boy as soon as they were
settled, "do you remember the things Daggs has said, off and on, about
old Sol Brig--how there was always a lot of gold that the men before the
mast never saw and how he must have saved it till he was the richest of
all the pirates? Well, who would know what became of that money, if
anybody did? Daggs, of course, the only man that's left of Brig's crew!
I think Daggs knows, and what's more, I believe I saw the very chart
that shows where it is." He went on to tell all he had seen that
afternoon. Bob was as excited as he when he had finished. "We must try
to get hold of that map or else get a sight of it!" he exclaimed. Jeremy
was doubtful of the possibility of this. "You see," he said, "the key is
on a string 'round his neck. The only way would be to break the chest
open. It's big and heavy and we should raise the whole ship with the
racket. Then, besides, I don't like to steal the thing, even though he
is a pirate." Bob also felt that it would hardly be honest to break into
a man's box, no matter what his character might be. "If we should just
happen to see the chart, though," he finally explained, "why, we have
just as much right to hunt for the treasure as he has, or any one else."
Jeremy agreed to this solution of a knotty problem of honor and both
boys decided that for the present they had no course in the matter but
to wait for some accident to put the paper in their way. However, not to
let any opportunities slip, they resolved to watch Pharaoh Daggs
constantly while he was awake, in the hope of getting a second glimpse
of the treasured document.

Jeremy had regained both strength and spirits when he tumbled out next
morning. The pall of uneasiness which had hung over the ship all the day
before had lifted and the men, sobered once more, went about their
business as usual. The boys set themselves to the task of watching with
much zeal. It was not so difficult as might be expected. They had always
been aware of the presence of the man with the broken nose whenever he
was on deck. His sinister eye was too unpleasant to meet without a
shiver. Likewise they felt an instinctive relief when he went out of
sight. For this reason it was no great matter for either lad that
happened to be present to note the fact of the pirate's going below.
Whenever he left the deck for anything he was shadowed by Bob or Jeremy
as the case might be. For nearly three days the mysterious chest
remained untouched. Of that the boys were sure.

The threatened storm that had roughened the sea on the day when Captain
Manewaring met his sudden end seemed to have spent itself in racing
clouds and gusts of wind. Fair weather followed and for forty-eight
hours the _James_ and her prize stood off the coast, heading up to the
northeastward with the wind on the port quarter.

Bonnet had remained below, haggard and brooding, suffering from one of
the spells of reaction that commonly followed his misdeeds. By night of
the second day he cast off his gloom and came on deck, the old reckless
light in his eye.

"Here, Herriot," he called, as he appeared, "we've got a rich prize in
our fist and a richer one coming. Let's be gay dogs all tonight. Give
the hands extra grog and I'll see you in the cabin over a square bottle
when the watch is changed."

Before the mast the news was hailed with delighted cheering. A keg of
rum was rolled out of the hold and set on the fo'c's'le table. Hardly
had darkness settled before half the men aboard were drunk and the
cannikins came back to the spigot in an unending procession. There was
too much liquor available for the usual choruses to be sung. Most of the
pirates swilled it like pigs and stopped for nothing till they could
move no longer, but lay helpless where they happened to fall. Only a
bare three men stayed sober enough to sail the ship. Jeremy thanked his
stars for fair weather when he thought of the case they might have been
in had the orgy occurred in a night of storm.

Next day a few of the crew woke at breakfast time. The rest snored out
their drunken sleep below. Daggs came on deck as usual, to the outward
eye quite his careless, ugly self. His two young enemies watched him
closely, for they suspected that the drink he had taken had helped to
Jeremy's previous discovery. As the hours went by, one after another of
the buccaneers woke and dragged himself on deck to growl the discomfort
out of him. By mid-afternoon Jeremy, going below, found all the bunks
empty. He slipped behind a chest far up in the dark bow angle and waited
for a signal from Bob. The boys had seen the man with the broken nose
watching the decks uneasily for hours and suspected that he meant to go
below as soon as the fo'c's'le was empty.

Jeremy must have been in his hiding place close to half an hour before
he heard Bob's sharply whistled tune close outside in the gun deck. He
ducked lower behind his box and presently heard steps descending the
ladder. A guarded observation taken from a dark corner close to the
floor disclosed the slouching form of Daggs standing by the table.

The buccaneer took a long time for his cautious survey of the fo'c's'le.
Standing perfectly still he turned his body from the hips and gave the
place a silent scrutiny before he set to work. He proceeded just as he
had done before and quickly had the chest open and its contents spread
upon the planking. He had just unrolled the chart when a shout from the
hatch made him leap to his feet. "Sail ho!" was being passed from mouth
to mouth above, and already there were men on the ladder. In a fever of
haste, Daggs half-pushed, half-threw the chest under his bunk and shoved
the loose clothes and small arms after it. The paper he still held in
his hand. After a second of indecision, while he looked over his
shoulder at the descending crowd of seamen, he thrust it in on top of
the box and stood erect, flushed and swaying. The hands were preoccupied
and none seemed to notice his act. There was a general scurrying of
sailors to get out their cutlasses and pistols, and in the confusion
Jeremy found an easy opportunity to crawl out of the hiding place and
busy himself like the rest.

Going on deck a minute later, he found Bob and whispered a brief account
of what he had seen. For the present there was much to be done on deck.
They ran hither and thither at Herriot's commands, giving a hand at a
rope or fetching something mislaid in the cabin. The _James_ was under
all her canvas and in hot pursuit of a large sloop, visible some three
miles to leeward. The fleeing ship was driving straight to sea before
the strong west breeze, her sails spread on both sides like the broad,
stubby wings of a white owl. Bonnet had his jury spar swung to
starboard from the foremast foot and bent the big jib to balance his
main and foresail. Bowing her head deep into every trough as the waves
swept by, the black sloop ran after her prey at dizzy speed. The crew
gathered along the wet bows, silent, intent on the game in hand. They
were drawing up perceptibly from moment to moment. At last they were
within half a mile--five hundred yards--close astern. Aboard the enemy
they could see a small knot of men huddled aft, working desperately at
the breach of a swivel-cannon. Bonnet ordered Herriot to stand off to
starboard for a broadside. But as the _James_ swerved outward, a flare
of fire and a loud report went up from her opponent's after part. For a
moment it seemed that her cannon had been discharged at the pirate, but
as they waited for the splash of the shot, a thick smoke grew in a cloud
over the enemy's deck. The gun or a keg of powder had exploded. As soon
as the buccaneers perceived it, they bellowed hoarse hurrahs and
prepared to board. The gunners swarmed up from the port gun deck at the
order and all lined up along the rail howling defiance at the
merchantman. Jeremy saw that all were on deck and touched Bob's arm.

They made their way quietly below, and the New Englander went to Daggs'
berth. From beneath it protruded the corner of the piece of paper. Both
boys knelt eagerly over it as Jeremy pulled it into the light.

It was, as they had expected, a chart. The drawing was crudely done in
ink, applied it seemed with a stick, or possibly with a very badly
fashioned quill-pen. There was very little writing upon it, and this of
the raggedest sort. To their intense disappointment it bore no name to
tell where in the seven seas it might be. That the chart was of some
coast was certain. A deep, irregular bay occupied the central part of
the sheet. Two long promontories jutting from east and west nearly
closed the seaward or southern end. The single word "Watter" was written
beside a dot high up on the paper and a little northeast of the bay. An
anchor, roughly drawn near the northern shore and a small cross between
two parallel lines a short distance inland, completed the information
given, except for a crossed arrow and letters indicating the cardinal
points of the compass.

[Illustration]

It required no great time for the two lads to examine every line and
mark. They looked up and faced each other disappointed. Jeremy voiced
the thought which both had. "How are we to know where the thing is?" he
asked. Bob shook his head and looked glum. Then he seized the paper
feverishly and turned it over. Its soiled yellow back gave no clue. Not
even the latitude and longitude were printed. "Well," said Jeremy,
finally, "one thing we can do, and that's remember exactly how it
looks." He measured the length of the bay with the middle joint of his
forefinger. "Three--four--and a bit over," he counted. "Anchorage in
that round cove to the northwest." Then, measuring again, "And the cross
is two finger-joints northwest of the anchorage. What those lines each
side of it are I don't know, but I'll remember them. And that dot marked
"Watter" is one and a half northeast of the mitten-shaped cove. There--I
guess we've got it all by heart now." He had just finished speaking and
both of them were still looking intently at the map when a fresh
outburst of cheers and the beginning of a sharp musketry fire were heard
above. Jeremy replaced the paper where he had found it and they hurried
up to look out of the hatchway.

The two ships were now only half a cable's length apart, running side by
side. Few shots were being returned by the merchantman and all her crew
were keeping out of sight behind the solid rail.

"All hands to board her," Bonnet sang out and answering her tiller the
_Royal James_ swung over till the two sloops' sides met with a jar. They
were fast in an instant and a score of whooping buccaneers swept over
the rail. From a place of vantage the boys watched the short, bloody
conflict that followed. It seemed that several of the enemy's crew, few
as they were at the beginning, had been killed by the explosion of the
gun. Only a half-dozen rose to meet the pirate onslaught. Not one asked
for mercy, even after Herriot had shot down the captain, and the tide of
sea-rovers rushed at and over the little handful of defenders in an
overwhelming flood. There was no need of the plank this time. Every man
fell fighting and died sword in hand. To the two young prisoners,
already sickened with the sight of blood, this wholesale murder of a
band of gallant seamen came as a revolting climax. They stared at each
other, white-faced as they thought of the fate that threatened them and
all honest men who fell into such ruthless hands. It was Bob's first
sight of a hand-to-hand sea-battle, and as the last merchant sailor went
down under the howling pack he fainted and tumbled into Jeremy's arms.
When he came to his senses again the Yankee boy had propped him up
behind the companion and was rubbing him vigorously. "I know how you
feel," he said in answer to Bob's stammered apology. "It's all right and
you've no call to be ashamed. I came near it myself." The Delaware lad,
who had been almost as distressed at being guilty of swooning as at the
pillage of the merchant sloop, felt a vast relief when he heard Jeremy's
words, and quickly got upon his feet once more.

The pirates had cleared the enemy's deck of bodies and blood and now
were taking an inventory of the sloop's cargo, if the shouts that came
from her hold meant anything. She was a little larger than the _James_
in length and beam, but had carried no armament other than the now
damaged stern-chaser. The white letters at her stern declared her the
_Fortune_ of New Castle. From what Captain Bonnet said to his
sailing-master as they returned over the rail, Jeremy gathered that she
had been in light cargo and was not as rich a prize as the _Francis_.

The latter ship had now come up and was standing off and on waiting for
orders. Bonnet had lost two men killed and several hurt in the fight, so
that the crew of the _Royal James_, without the prize crew on board the
_Francis_, now numbered scarce a dozen able-bodied men. The question of
manning the newly captured sloop was finally settled by transferring to
her George Dunkin and his seven seamen. Bonnet freed the men of the
_Francis_ who had been in chains, and set them to work their own ship
under command of Herriot and another pirate. He undertook to sail the
_James_ himself, for by this time he was really an able skipper, despite
the fact that he had taken to the sea so late in life. As the crew of
the _Francis_ lined up before going aboard, the notorious buccaneer
faced them with a cold glitter in his eyes. For a while he kept them
wriggling under his piercing scrutiny. Then he spoke, his voice even and
dangerous.

"You will be under Mr. Herriot's orders. I think you are wise enough not
to try to mutiny with him. But if you should undertake it, remember that
no sooner does your sloop draw away to over one mile's distance than I
will come after you and blow you out of water without parley. There are
just enough sails left aboard your ship to keep headway in a light
breeze. Over with you now!"

As darkness deepened the three sloops set out westward under shortened
canvas, keeping so close that the steersmen hailed each other
frequently through the night. Bob and Jeremy went to their bunks gloomy
and subdued. But Jeremy's sorrows were lightened by the feeling that
sometime, somewhere, he would find a use for the chart, the outline of
which he had firmly fixed in his memory that afternoon. And wondering
how, he fell asleep.



CHAPTER XIX


The fair weather held and for several days the little fleet cruised west
by south, then southerly when they had picked up the Virginia Capes. The
pirate crew, in spite of their impatience to divide the cumbersome booty
they had helped to win, kept in a fairly good temper. Hopes were high
and quarrels were quickly put aside with a "Take it easy, boys--wait
till the sharin's over." Bob and Jeremy got off with a minimum of hard
words and might have considered their lot almost agreeable but for one
incident. The whippings which were a regular part of boys' lives aboard
ship in those days, had always been administered by George Dunkin. As
bo's'n, it was not only his right but his duty to lay in with a rope's
end occasionally. He was one of the fairest men in Bonnet's company and
Jeremy had never felt any great injustice in the treatment Dunkin had
accorded him. Since his lieutenancy aboard the prize-sloop, however, the
bo's'n had necessarily ceased to be the executive of punishment, and
when Monday, recognized on all the seas as whipping day, came around,
there was a very secret hope in Jeremy's heart that the office would be
forgotten. As for Bob, he had so far escaped the lash, it being
understood that he was not an ordinary ship's boy. As the day wore on,
the Yankee lad remained as inconspicuous as possible, and began to think
that he was safe. About mid-afternoon, however, a gang of buccaneers,
working at the rent in the bows which still gave trouble, shouted for a
bucket of drinking water. Bob had been snoozing in the shade of the
sail, and when he was roused at last, took his own time in carrying out
the order. When he appeared finally, there was a good deal of swearing
in the air. Daggs reached out and jerked the boy into the center of the
group, his light eyes agleam under scowling brows. "See here, you little
runt," he hissed, "don't think because the Cap'n's savin' you to kill
later, that you're the bloomin' mate of this ship! Come here to the
capstan, now!" Before Bob was aware of what they meant to do, the angry
sailors had slung him over a capstan bar and tied his hands and feet to
a ring in the deck. After the clothes had been pulled off his back,
there was an interval while the pirates quarrelled over who should do
the whipping. Daggs demanded the right and finally prevailed by
threatening the instant disemboweling of his rivals. Bob was trembling
and white, not from fear but because of the indignity of the punishment.
The scarred executioner spat on his hands, took the heavy rope and
squared his feet. "Shiver away, you cowardly pup," said he, grinning at
one side of his twisted mouth. Then with a vicious whirl of his arm he
brought the hard hemp down on the boy's naked shoulders--once, twice,
three times--the lad lost count. At last he nearly lost consciousness
under the torturing fire of the blows. When the buccaneer ceased for
lack of breath his victim hung limp and twitching over the wooden bar.
Long welts that were beginning to drip red crossed and recrossed his
back. "Now, where's that other whelp?" panted Daggs. Somebody went below
and dragged Jeremy to light. The boy was brought up to the crowd at the
capstan. He took one look at Bob's pitiful, set stare and the red drops
on the deck, then turned blazing to face the man with the broken nose.

"You great coward!" he cried. The man was staggered for an instant. Then
his rage boiled up and the tanned skin of his neck turned the color of
old mahogany. "I'll kill the boy," he whispered hoarsely and drew back
his heavy rope for a swing at Jeremy's head.

"Daggs"--a voice cut the air from close by his side. "Daggs, who made
you bo's'n of this sloop?"

The man whirled and nearly fell over, for Stede Bonnet was at his elbow.
"One more thing of this kind aboard, and I'll maroon you," said the
Captain sharply, and added, "Gray, put this man in irons and see that
he gets only bread and water for five days!" Then he turned on his heel
and went back to the cabin. So once more Jeremy's life was saved by the
Captain's whim. He half carried, half supported his chum to their bunk
and after rubbing his back with grease, begged from the galley, nursed
him the rest of the day. By the following afternoon the Delaware lad had
recovered his spirits and although he was still too sore and stiff to go
on deck, had no trouble in eating the food Jeremy brought him. The
absence of Daggs made life assume a happier outlook and it was not long
before the boy was as right as ever.

August was nearly past. To the boys, who knew little of the geography of
the coast and nothing of Bonnet's plans, it was something of a surprise
when the man at the tiller of the _James_, which was in the lead, swung
her head over to landward one morning. Low shores, with a white line of
sand beneath the vivid dark green of trees, ran along the western
horizon. As the sloop ran in, the boys expected to see the broad opening
of some bay but there was still no visible variation of the coast line.
No town was to be seen, nor even a single hut, when they were close in.
The trees were live-oaks, Bob said, though Jeremy had never seen one to
know it before.

The _Royal James_ and her consorts held a slow course along the shore
for several hours. The strip of sand was gradually widening and in
places stretched inland for a mile in dunes and hillocks, traversed by
little tidewater creeks. At last there showed a narrow inlet between two
dunes, and Bonnet, who had now taken the helm, headed the sloop
cautiously for this opening. One of the men constantly heaved the lead
and cried the soundings as the ship progressed. The pirate chief kept to
the left of the channel and finally passed through into a wide lagoon,
with a scant fathom to spare at the shallowest place. The _Fortune_
entered without difficulty, but the deeply-laden _Francis_ grounded
midway in and had to wait several hours for the tide to float her.

Listening to the talk of the crew, Bob heard them say they had come into
the mouth of the Cape Fear River in Carolina. From what he knew of the
nearby coast he believed that it was a very wild region, almost
unsettled, and that there would be slight chance of getting to safety,
even if they were able to effect an escape. This fear seemed justified
later in the day, when Bonnet said to one of his men that there was no
need of shackling the boys as had been done in the Chesapeake. Turning
so that they could hear, he added, "Too many Indians in these woods for
the lads to try to leave the ship." Jeremy, who had seen enough of both
pirates and Indians to last him a lifetime, remarked to his friend that
personally he would risk his neck with one as soon as the other, but Bob
had heard terrible stories of the red men's cruelty and did not agree
with him. "We'd best stay aboard and wait for a better chance," he
argued.

All three of the sloops were leaky and needed a thorough overhauling in
various ways. As soon as the _Francis_ was off the bar, therefore, they
proceeded up the estuary for a distance of nearly two miles and secured
their vessels in shallow water, where they could be careened at low
tide.

Next morning and for many hot days thereafter the pirates and their
prisoners toiled hard at the refitting of the ships. Lumber was not easy
to come by in that desolate region and when they had used up all their
spare planking, Bonnet took the _Royal James_ out over the bar to hunt
for the wherewithal to do his patching. After a cruise of a day and a
night to the southward they sighted a small fishing shallop which they
quickly overtook, and captured without a fight. The two men in the
shallop jumped overboard and swam ashore when they saw the black flag,
and Bonnet was too much occupied in getting the prize back to the
river-mouth to give chase. It was an unfortunate thing for him that he
did not do so, but of that presently. The shallop was run into the
river-mouth and broken up the next day. With the fresh supply of lumber
thus secured, the work of repair went forward undelayed, and within a
few weeks the sloops were almost ready for sea again.



CHAPTER XX


It had been about the beginning of September when the pirate fleet had
sighted the live oaks on the bars of the Cape Fear River. To Bob and
Jeremy those first days were uneventful but hardly pleasant. Through the
long still afternoons a pitiless sun blazed into every corner of the
deck. Wide flats and hot-looking white dunes stretched away on either
hand. Only the line of woods half a mile distant offered a suggestion of
green coolness. When the sun had set the fo'c's'le held the heat like a
baker's oven. One long, tossing night of it sufficed for the two boys,
and after that they sought a corner of the deck away from the snoring
seamen and lying down on the bare planks, contrived to sleep in
reasonable comfort.

The days were spent in hard work for the most part. A good deal of
washing and cleaning had to be done aboard all three vessels, and as
labor requiring no special skill, it fell frequently to the lot of
Jeremy and Bob. It was small matter to them whether they toiled or were
idle, for the blistering sun allowed no respite and it seemed preferable
to sweat over something useful than over nothing at all.

On the third day after the return of the _James_ from her foraging trip,
Jeremy, who had been scraping and tarring ropes for hours on end,
straightened his back with a discontented grunt and looked away to the
edge of the woods, his eyebrows puckered in a frown. "Bob," he said in a
voice too low for any of their shipmates to hear, "Bob, I'm going to run
away if something doesn't happen soon."

"You'll be shot, like as not," answered the Delaware boy.

"Well, shot let it be," he replied doggedly. "If I'm to stay aboard here
all my life, I'd _rather_ be shot. It looks like the best chance we've
had, right now. Will you come tonight?"

Bob thought for a moment. "I'm not afraid of their catching us," he
finally said. "It's the Indians, after we're into the woods. You say you
know the Indians and trust them as long as they are treated right. That
may be true of the ones you've known, but these Tuscaroras are
different. They don't talk the same language, and those words you
learned would mayhap go for curses down here. I don't think we ought to
try it."

Jeremy admitted that his previous acquaintance stood for nothing, but
argued, from the fact that Bonnet had been trying to frighten them, that
he had probably exaggerated the danger. Finally, not wishing to leave
his friend if he could help it, he agreed to abandon the plan for the
present.

They worked at the rope-tarring till suppertime, then rose wearily,
stretching, and went for their salt-horse and biscuit. When the coarse
rations were eaten, it was nearly sunset. Jeremy watched the sluggish
water glide by below the canted rail, till at last small quivering blurs
of light, the reflections of stars, began to gleam in the ripples. A
faint breeze, sprung up with the coming of night, blew across the
sweltering lagoon. Bob, tired out, fell asleep, his head pillowed on the
deck. The pirates, some below in the bunks, some stretched on the
planking, lay like dead men. After the hard labor of the day even the
regular watch slumbered undisturbed. Jeremy's thoughts went drifting off
into half-dreams as the soft black water lulled him with its unending
whisper. His head nodded. He raised it, striving, he knew not why, to
keep awake. The gentle water-sounds crept in again, soothing his drowsy
ears. He was close to sleep--so close that another moment would have
taken him across the border. But in that little time the sharp double
cry of a heron, flying high over the lagoon, cut the night air and
startled the boy broad awake.

As he stared off over the dim whiteness of the bars, his senses astretch
for a repetition of that weird call, there was a faint splashing in the
water close to the sloop. One of the starpools was blotted out in
blackness at the instant he turned to look over the rail. The boy's
heart seemed to be beating against the roof of his mouth. Thoughts of
alligators crossed his mind, for he had heard of them from the pirates
who had plied in southern waters. As quietly as he could, he moved to
the rail and stood staring over, his eyes bulging into the dark and his
breath coming short and fast. For perhaps a minute there was no sight
nor sound but the lapping water of the lagoon. Then he became aware of a
whiteness drifting close, and heard a familiar voice whispering his
name. "Jeremy--Jeremy--it's Job!" said the white blotch. It bumped
softly along the side, and at last the boy could see the homely features
of his old friend, pale through the gloom. There was a loose rope-end
dragging over the side, and Job's hand feeling along the woodwork came
in contact with it.

"Better not try to come aboard," whispered Jeremy. "They're all on deck
here. Can you take us off?"

There was silence for an instant as Job felt for a hold in one of the
gun ports. Then he raised himself till his head was level with the deck.

"Is the other lad there?" he asked.

"Ay," replied Jeremy. "He's here but he will have to be wakened."

[Illustration: "Don't say a word--sh!--easy there--are you awake?"]

"Go to him and take his hand. Begin squeezing soft-like, and press
harder till he opens his eyes. Don't startle him," was Job's admonition.

The boy did as he was bid. A gentle grip on the Delaware lad's palm
brought him to his senses. Jeremy was whispering in a cool, steady
undertone, "Bob, that's the lad--wake up, Bob--don't say a
word--sh!--easy there--are you awake?" When he was rewarded by a nod of
comprehension, he told his comrade of Job's presence and the chance they
had to escape. Bob understood in a moment. They returned to the rail and
first one, then the other let himself quietly down, holding to the rope.
Jeremy slipped into the water last.

Luckily they could both swim, though the sloop was so near the beach
that swimming was hardly necessary. The tall ex-pirate crawled out upon
the sand in the lead and they followed him quickly over a dune and
across another creek. They were now far enough away for their flight to
be unheard and Job began to run, the boys close behind him. They made a
good mile to the south before he allowed his panting runaways to stop
for breath. There in the reeds beside a narrow estuary, they came upon a
small dinghy, pulled up. The seaman ran the boat into the water, bundled
the boys into the bottom astern, and was quickly pulling down stream
along the sharp windings of the creek.

When they had put three miles of sand and water behind them, Job rested
on his oars to catch his breath. His voice came through the hot dark,
pantingly. "Lucky you stood up an' came to the rail the way you did,
lad," he said. "I didn't know just how I was to reach you. When you came
to the side I could see it was a boy, an' knew things was all right.
Well--we'd best be gettin' on--no tellin' how soon they may find you're
gone." Once more the big Yankee bowed his back to the task in hand and a
silence fell, broken only by the faint sound of the muffled oars and the
swirl of water along the sides. Not even the thrill of the escape could
keep the two tired boys awake, and it was nearly an hour later that they
were roused by voices calling at no great distance. A tall black mass on
which showed a single moving light rose out of the gloom ahead. The hail
was repeated. "Oh, there, Job Howland--boat ahoy! What luck?" "All's
well," replied Job, and ran in under the ship's counter. A line was let
down and as soon as the skiff was made fast Bob and Jeremy and their
deliverer scrambled up to the open port.

There was shouting and a moving to and fro of lanterns, as they were
ushered into the cabin, and suddenly a tall man, half-clad, burst
through the door at the farther end. He had the tattered form of Bob
Curtis in his arms in an instant, and great boy though he was, the
Delaware lad hugged his father ecstatically and wept.

Job and Jeremy, pleased as they were to see this reunion, were hardly
comfortable in its presence and made a vain attempt to withdraw
gracefully. The merchant was after them before they could reach the
door. "Here, Howland," he cried, holding to Bob with one hand and
seizing the ex-pirate's arm with the other. "Don't you try to leave yet.
Gad, man, this is the happiest hour I've had in years. I owe you so much
that it can't be put in figures. And this tall lad is Jeremy that you've
told me of. Look at the sunburn on the pair of 'em--pretty desperate
characters to have aboard, I'm afraid!"

His roar of laughter was joined by the other three, as he showed the way
to a couple of roomy berths, built in at the end of the cabin. The two
boys were left, after a final boisterous "Good-night," and proceeded to
make themselves snug between the linen sheets. Jeremy had never slept in
such luxury in his whole life, and moved gingerly for fear of hurting
something. At last their exhilaration subsided enough for the rescued
lads to go to sleep once more. Jeremy's last thought was a half-mournful
one as he wondered how long it must be before he, too, could throw
himself against the broad homespun wall of his father's breast.



CHAPTER XXI


When they woke it was to the regular heave and lurch of a sailing vessel
in motion, and Jeremy, looking out the port, beheld the crisp, sparkling
blue of open sea.

There were two suits of every-day clothes upon the cabin bench and into
these the boys climbed, impatient to get out on deck. The ship was the
big merchantman, _Indian Queen_, though Bob, used as he was to her
appearance, would hardly have known her in her new guise. Long lines of
black cannon grimly faced the open ports along either side. The rail had
been built up solidly to a height of about six feet, so that the main
deck was now a typical gun deck, open overhead. Her regular crew of
seasoned mariners was augmented by as many more longshoremen, all good
men, picked for their courage and hand-to-hand fighting ability.

Job, who acted as second mate and was in full charge of the gun crews,
took the boys proudly from one big carronade to another, explaining each
improvement which his experience or ingenuity had devised. His chief
pride was the long nine-pounder in the bows. She was a swivel gun set on
bearings so finely adjusted and well-greased that one man could aim
her. Job patted her shiny brass rump lovingly as he looked across the
blue swells ahead. He could hardly wait for the hour when he should set
a match to her breach.

Clarke Curtis joined the group a few minutes later, and they went
together to the main cabin. Bob's father, Mr. Ghent, the Captain, and
Job Howland settled themselves comfortably over long pipes and glasses
of port, and prepared to hear the boys' story. Jeremy, bashful in such
fine company, was persuaded to recount his adventures from the time Job
had gone over the side till the kidnapped Delaware boy had come aboard.
Then Bob took up the tale and told with much spirit of the storm, the
trip up the Chesapeake and the subsequent pursuit of the _Francis_ off
the Capes. From this point on the two lads told the story together,
eagerly interrupting each other to put in some incident forgotten for
the moment. When they came to the discovery of Pharaoh Daggs' chart, Job
sat up with a jerk. "I always thought he knew!" he exclaimed. "Jeremy,
lad, could ye draw me a picture of what 'twas like?" The boy readily
consented, and given a piece of paper, proceeded to set down, from his
memory of the outline and from the general measurements he had taken, a
very fair copy of the original. The ex-buccaneer leaned over him as he
drew, and shook his head doubtfully as the work went on. "No," he said
when the boy had finished, "I can't recall such a bay just this minute.
An' as there was nothin' on it to tell where it might be, I don't know
as there's anything for us to do. Like as not it's on some little island
as isn't set down, so 'twould be scant use to look over the ship's
charts. Still, I'll try it." A half-day of poring over the maps produced
no result. There were bays large and small that resembled the one Jeremy
had drawn, but none closely enough to warrant the belief that it was the
same. "Well," remarked Job as he put away the charts, "Daggs'll never
live to reach his bay. He'll swing on Charles Town Dock, an' I mistake
not." But in that saying at least the ex-pirate proved himself no
prophet.

The light wind held and the _Indian Queen_ made reasonable speed down
the coast for nearly two days. Then, after drifting under short sail all
night, she made in with the dawn, past the small island which nearly a
century and a half later was to be the scene of a great war's beginning,
crept up against the tide till noon and anchored off the thriving port
of Charles Town. Mr. Curtis and Job went ashore in the cutter, as soon
as all was snug aboard. On landing they went directly to the Governor's
house.

Governor Johnson was at home and gladly welcomed the Delaware merchant,
who was an old acquaintance of his. When they had been shown into a
large room where the official business of the colony was transacted, Mr.
Curtis proceeded at once to the point of his visit. He learned that the
messenger from Delaware had arrived and his plea for aid had been duly
considered. Johnson was troubled at having no better answer for his
friend, but said that the treasury of the southern colony had not yet
recovered from the strain put upon it four years before at the time of
the Indian massacres. He believed that he had no right at this time to
spend the public funds in fitting out a fleet, unless it was to avenge
an injury done some member of the colony. His honest distress at being
unable to assist was so obvious that neither the merchant nor his chief
gunner felt like urging their claim for help.

Mr. Curtis told of the rescue of the two boys, much to the discomfort of
the blushing Job, and they rose to take their departure, feeling no ill
will toward the Governor for his inability to help them. As they started
to go out of the room, a loud insistent knock was heard. "Come in," said
Johnson, and immediately the door was opened to admit a short,
well-built gentleman, very much flushed as to the face, and whose eyes
fairly shot forth sparks. He was followed by two other men, dressed in
rough clothes that seemed to have seen recent hard usage. The leader
advanced with rapid steps. "Look'e here, Governor," he said, "those
confounded pirates are at us again. Here's two of my men----"

"Gently, Colonel Rhett," interrupted the Governor, his eyes twinkling.
"Allow me to introduce Mr. Clarke Curtis of Delaware and his friend, Mr.
Howland. I believe your business and theirs will fall very easily into
one track. Pray be seated, gentlemen."

The Colonel shot a keen glance at these new acquaintances and, when the
four had taken chairs around the table, began again more calmly to tell
his story. A fishing smack, one of a half-dozen open boats belonging to
him, had been cruising along the coast to the eastward the week before,
and when about forty miles west of Cape Fear had sighted a large black
sloop under great spread of sail, bearing down upon her. The two men in
the shallop put about and made for shore as fast as they could, using
oars and canvas alike, but when they were still half a mile out they saw
that the pursuing ship flew a black pirate flag. When, a few moments
after, a round shot came dangerously close to their stern, they leaped
over the side without more ado and succeeded in swimming ashore, glad to
come out of the adventure with whole skins. After a perilous journey of
many leagues overland, they had just arrived in Charles Town and
reported the affair to Rhett, their employer. "So you see," said the
Colonel in conclusion, "we're in for another siege of the kind we had
with _Blackbeard_ unless we take some quick action on this."

Johnson sat thoughtful for a moment. "Let me put the matter up to you
exactly as it now stands," he finally said. "There is a little money in
the treasury. But to buy and fit out properly three ships would drain us
almost as dry as we were in 1715. Would you have me do that, Rhett?" The
Colonel shook his head. "No," he replied, "you must not." Then after
looking at the floor for a moment he stood up with quick decision. "See
here," he said, "we can get enough volunteers to do this whole business
or my name's not William Rhett." Mr. Curtis thrust out a big hand. "My
ship _Indian Queen_, twenty-one guns, is in the harbor, ready for sea.
She's at your service," he smiled. The Colonel gripped his hand
delightedly. "Done," he cried, "and now let's see what other commanders
we can recruit. Will you give me a commission, Governor?" And receiving
an affirmative reply, he led the way down to the docks.

Colonel Rhett was a well-known figure in Charles Town. He owned a large
plantation a few miles inland, and conducted a fish warehouse as well.
Among tobacco growers, townsmen and sea-captains alike he was widely
acquainted and respected as much as any man in the colony. His courage
and skill as a soldier were proverbial, for he had been a leader in the
suppression of the Indian uprising. Certainly no man in the Carolinas
was better fitted for the task which he had in hand. For two days he and
his friends from the _Queen_ fairly lived on the wharves, and before
sunset of the second he had secured the services of two sloops, the
_Henry_, Captain John Masters, and the _Sea Nymph_, Captain Fayrer Hall.
Neither ship was equipped for fighting, but by using cannon from the
town defences and borrowing some half-dozen pieces from the
heavily-armed _Indian Queen_, a complement of eight guns for each sloop
was made up.

On September 15th the three ships, in war trim and carrying in their
combined crews nearly 200 men, crossed the Charles Town bar. Just before
they sailed news had come in that the notorious pirate, Charles Vane,
had passed to the south with a prize, and Rhett's first course was laid
along the coast in that direction. Two or three days of search in the
creeks and inlets failed to reveal any sign of the buccaneer, however,
and much to the relief of the impatient Mr. Curtis, they put about for
Cape Fear on the eighteenth. The progress of the fleet up the coast was
slow. Constant rumors of pirates were received, and every hiding place
on the shore was examined as they went along.

Bob and Jeremy, wild with suppressed excitement, could hardly brook this
delay, for, as they warned the officers of the expedition repeatedly,
there was every reason to expect that Bonnet would leave the river soon,
if he had not gone already. For this reason the _Indian Queen_ went on
in advance of the others and patrolled the waters off the headland for
four days, until Rhett should come up.

On the evening of the twenty-sixth he made his appearance and as there
was still light they decided to enter the river-mouth. The tide was just
past flood. Rhett's flagship, the _Henry_, nosed in first over the bar
and was followed by the _Sea Nymph._ The great, deep-draughted _Queen_
advanced to within a few lengths of the entrance, but the soundings
showed that even there she had only a fathom or two to spare, and would
certainly come to grief if she adventured further. As it was, even the
lighter sloops ran aground fifteen minutes later and were not launched
again till nearly dawn. Captain Ghent had anchored the big ship as close
in as he dared and she sat bow-on to the channel-mouth. Her two consorts
were in plain sight a few hundred yards inside. Rhett came back during
the night in a small boat and held a council of war with Curtis, Ghent
and Job Howland. He reported that a party of pirates in longboats had
come down river during the evening to reconnoitre, but had beat a
retreat as soon as they had seen the _Henry's_ guns.

It was decided about half the crew of the _Queen_ should be added to the
force of men on the two sloops, while the big vessel herself was forced
to be content with standing guard off the entrance. This was a bitter
blow not only to Mr. Curtis, but to Job and the boys, who had looked
forward to the battle with zest.

Bob and Jeremy had been ordered to bed about midnight, but they rose
before light, in their excitement, and sunrise found them in the bows
with Job, watching the long point of sand behind which they knew the
pirates lay. Preparations had been made aboard the _Henry_ and _Sea
Nymph_ for an immediate advance up the river. Hardly had the first slant
beams of sunlight struck upon Rhett's deck before the crew were lustily
pulling at the main halyards and winding in the anchor chain.

But even before the two Carolina sloops were under way there was an
excited chorus of "Here he comes!" and above the dune at the bend of the
river, appeared the headsails of the _Royal James_. Bonnet had weighed
his chances and decided for a running fight. The pirate ship cleared the
point, nearly a mile away, and came flying down, every inch of canvas
drawing in the stiff offshore breeze. It seemed for a moment as if she
might get safely past the Carolinians and out to sea, with the _Queen_
as her only antagonist. Probably Bonnet had counted on the
unexpectedness of his maneuver to accomplish this result. But if so, he
had left out of his reckoning the character of William Rhett. That
gentleman hesitated not an instant, but headed upstream directly toward
the enemy. Fortunately, he had two good skippers in Masters and Hall,
for the good Colonel himself knew little of sailing. Thanks to these
lieutenants, the two attacking sloops were let off the wind at exactly
the right time, and filled away down the river close together off the
pirate's starboard bow. Bonnet raced up abeam, firing broadsides as fast
as his men could load, and his cannonade was answered in kind from the
_Henry_. She and the _Sea Nymph_ began to veer over to port, forcing the
black sloop closer and closer to shore, but the buccaneer Captain
refused to take in an inch of sail. His course was all but justified.
The speedy craft which he commanded gained on her foes hand over hand
till, when only a few hundred yards from the narrow mouth of the
estuary, she led them both by her own length.

From the deck of the _Queen_ Jeremy and Bob could pick out the big form
of Herriot at the tiller. Just as the _Royal James_ passed into the
lead, they saw him swing mightily on the long steering-beam while at the
same instant the main sheet was hauled in. It was prettily done. The
pirate went hard over to starboard, kicking up a wave of spray as she
slewed. She sprang away from under the bows of the _Henry_ with only
inches to spare, for the bowsprit of Rhett's sloop tore the edge of her
mainsail in passing. The fierce cheer that rose from the deck of the
black buccaneer was drowned in a jarring crash. She had eluded her foe
only to run, ten seconds later, upon a submerged sand bar. It was now
the Carolinians' turn to cheer, though it soon appeared that they might
better have saved their breath for other purposes. The _Henry_, unable
to check her speed, ran straight ahead, and hardly a minute after her
enemy's mishap was hard aground twenty yards away. Both sloops lay
careened to starboard, so that the whole deck of the _Henry_ offered a
fair target for Bonnet's musketry, while the _Royal James's_ port side
was thrown up, a stout defence against the small-arm fire of Rhett's
men. Owing to the slant of their decks it was impossible to train the
cannon of either ship.

The _Sea Nymph_, meanwhile, in an effort to cut off the course of the
pirate, had put over straight for the channel mouth, and before she
could come about her bows also were fast in the sand, and she lay stern
toward the other two, but out of musket-shot, unable to take a hand in
the hot fight that followed. Had either the _Henry's_ crew or the
buccaneers been able to send a proper broadside from their position, it
seems that they must surely have blown their foe out of water, though we
need, of course, to make allowance for the comparative feebleness of
their ordnance in contrast to that of the present day.

The stranding of the three vessels had occupied so short a time that the
little group of witnesses high up in the bow of the _Indian Queen_ had
not yet exchanged a word. Clinging to the rail, open-mouthed, they had
seen the pirate make her bold dash across the bows of her pursuers, only
to strike the bar in her instant of triumph, then following with the
quickness of events in a dream, the grounding first of the _Henry_,
afterwards of the _Nymph_.

Nor was there an appreciable pause in the spectacle, for the pirates,
who had been shooting steadily during the race down river, wasted no
time in trying to get off the bar, but raked their nearby adversaries'
deck with a withering fire. Rhett's crew tumbled into the scuppers,
where they were under the partial cover of the bulwark, but many were
killed, even before they could reach this shelter, and living and dead
rolled down together, as in a ghastly comedy.



CHAPTER XXII


The boys, intent upon this awful scene, turned as a shout from Job
Howland swelled above the uproar. The big gunner was at the breach of
his swivel-gun, ramrod in hand. The little group scattered to one side
or the other, leaving an open space at the bow rail. At the same moment
Job put in his powder, a heavy charge, ramming it home quickly, but with
all care. On top of the wadding went the round-shot, which was in its
turn hammered down under the powerful strokes of the ramrod. Maneuvering
the well-balanced breech with both hands, the tall Yankee trained his
cannon upon the pirate sloop; allowed for distance, raising the muzzle
an inch or more; nosed the wind and glanced at the foremast pennons;
then swung his piece a fraction of an inch to windward.

At last with a shout of "'Ware fire!" he sprang back and laid his match
to the touch-hole. There was a spurt of flame as the long nine roared
above the staccato bark of the musketry. Then they saw a section of the
pirate's upper rail leap clear of her deck and fall overside. "Too
high," said Job shortly, though Ghent and Curtis had cheered at the
shot, for the distance was a good half-mile. Job worked feverishly at
his reloading, helped by others of the _Queen's_ gun crews. Again the
charge was a stout one, but this time the gunner laid his muzzle
pointblank at the top of the rail, allowing only for wind. Once more he
fired. Just short of the _Royal James_ went up a little tower of spray.
Job said not a word, but set his great angular jaws and went about his
work with all the speed he had.

"Look," said Jeremy to Bob, in a sudden burst of understanding, "the
tide's rising. See how it runs in past our bows. In another five minutes
one of those boats will be afloat. Watch how the _James_ rocks up and
down already! If she gets off first, it'll go hard with Rhett, for
Bonnet'll let off a broadside as soon as his guns are level. That's why
Job's trying so hard to put a hole in her."

Almost as he spoke the report of the third shot rolled out. The
buccaneer sloop jumped sharply, like a spurred horse. In her side, just
at the water line, a black streak had suddenly appeared. The waves of
the incoming tide no longer swayed her buoyantly, for she wallowed on
the bar like a log. The effect of the shot, though it could be seen from
the _Sea Nymph_, where it was greeted with cheers, was still unknown
aboard the _Henry_. In the wash of water as the tide rolled in, Rhett's
sloop stood almost on an even keel. The remnant of his crew appeared to
have taken heart, for a brisk fire now answered that of the buccaneers.
Suddenly a triumphant shouting began aboard the stranded flagship, soon
answered in increasing volume from her two consorts. The _Henry_ was
moving slowly off the bar.

On the black sloop there was a silence as of death. Stede Bonnet, late
gentleman of the island of Barbadoes, honorably discharged as major from
the army of his Majesty, since turned sea-rover for no apparent cause,
and now one of the most notorious plunderers of the coast, faced his
last fight. Outnumbered nearly ten to one, his ship a stranded hulk, his
cannon useless, surely he read his doom. His men read it and turned
sullenly to haul down the tattered rag of black that still hung from the
masthead. But a last blaze of the old mad courage flared up in the
Captain, as he faced them, dishevelled and bloody, from behind cocked
pistols. Above the tumult of the fusillade his voice, usually so clear,
rose hoarse with anger. "I'll scatter the deck with the brains of any
man who will not fight to the end!" he cried.

For a second the issue was in doubt. In another instant the iron spell
he held over his men must have won them back. Herriot was already
running to his side. But before he reached his chief a louder cheer from
the attacking sloops made him turn. The black "Roger" fluttered
downward to the deck.

One of the captive sailors from the _Francis_, fearing to be taken for a
pirate if it came to deck-fighting, had crept up behind the mast and cut
the flag halyards. The men's hearts fell with the falling ensign and
they stood irresolute while the _Henry_ went up alongside. There was now
water enough for her to come close aboard and when she stood at a boat's
length distant, Colonel Rhett appeared at the rail. He pointed to the
muzzles of four loaded cannon aboard his sloop and told Bonnet that he
would proceed to blow him into the air if he did not surrender in one
minute's time. There was little parley. The pirate captain's flare of
resistance had burned out and pale and strangely shaken he handed over
his sword and submitted to the disarming of his men.

It was now well along in the morning. The prisoners whom Rhett had taken
were rowed out in small boats across the bar and put aboard the _Indian
Queen_. One by one they were hauled over the side and placed below in
chains. Job, Jeremy and Bob stood at a little distance and counted those
who had been captured. Now and then they were greeted by an ugly look
and a curse as some old shipmate recognized them. Last of all, Major
Bonnet passed, haggard and unkempt, his head bowed in shame.

"Thirty-five in all," finished Job. "Guess our old and handsome friend,
Pharaoh Daggs must have got his gruel in that fight. Well, if ever man
deserved to die a violent death, it's him. I'd like to make sure,
though. Want to go over to the _James_ with me?" Both boys welcomed the
opportunity and as the longboat was just then starting back, they were
soon aboard the battered pirate, so recently their home. Three or four
dead men lay on the canted deck, for no effort had been made as yet to
clean the ship. Bob and Jeremy had no stomach for looking at the corpses
of their erstwhile companions and turned rather to explore the cabin and
fo'c's'le, leaving Job to hunt for the body of their old enemy.

In the long bunkroom some water had entered with the rising tide and
they found the lower side a miniature lake. In the semi-darkness,
seamen's chests floated past like houses in a flood. One of the big
boxes was open, half its contents trailing after it. Something familiar
about the brass-bound cover and the blue cloth that hung over the side
made Jeremy start. "Daggs' chest!" he exclaimed and reached forward,
pulling it up on the dry planking. The two boys delved into the damp
rubbish it held. There were a few clothes, a rusty pistol, an able
seaman's certificate crumpled and torn almost beyond recognition. The
sack of money and the chart were gone. After searching in dark corners
of the fo'c's'le and fishing in the pool of leakage without discovering
what they sought, the boys returned to the box. "Odd," said Jeremy at
length. "Every other chest is locked fast. Why should he have opened
his?" This seemed unanswerable. They returned to the deck, to find Job
peering into the green water overside. "The body's not here," said the
big seaman, "unless he fell over the rail or was thrown over. I'm
looking to see if it's down there." The sand shone clean and white
through the shallow water on every side. No trace of the buccaneer was
to be seen. Jeremy told of finding the open chest. "Hm," mused Job,
"looks like he'd got away, though he may be dead; I'd like to know for
sure. Still," he added, his face clearing, "chances are we'll never see
nor hear of him again." And putting the man with the broken nose out of
their thoughts, they rejoined their friends on the big merchantman.

Just before nightfall the Carolina sloops, which had made an expedition
up the river, returned with Bonnet's two prizes in tow. They had been
abandoned in the effort to escape, and Rhett had launched them without
difficulty. A great sound of hammering filled the air above the desert
lagoon for two days. The old _Revenge_, now so rechristened since she
had fallen into honest hands, had to be floated, for there was still
service in her shattered black hull. A hundred men toiled on and around
her, and in a remarkably short time a jury patch was made in her gaping
side and her hold pumped dry. Then crews were picked to man the three
captured sloops, and the flotilla was ready to return triumphant. On the
morning when they stood out to sea, the twelve men of Rhett's party who
had been killed in action were buried with military honors, saluted by
the cannon of the fleet.

A voyage of three days, unmarred by any accident, brought the victorious
squadron into Charles Town harbor. Joy knew no bounds among the
merchants and seamen along the docks. Indeed, the rejoicing spread
through the town to the tune of church bells and the whole colony was
soon made aware of Rhett's victory.

When the buccaneers had been taken ashore under a heavy guard and locked
up in the public watchhouse, Mr. Curtis and Bob, with Job and Jeremy,
went ashore to stretch their legs. It was a fine, fall day, warm as
midsummer to Jeremy's way of thinking. The docks were fascinatingly full
of merchandise. Great hogsheads of molasses and rum from Jamaica, set
ashore from newly arrived ships, shouldered for room with baled cotton
and boxes of tobacco ready to be loaded. There was a smell of spices and
hot tar where the sun beat down on the white decks and tall spars of
the shipping. Negroes, hitherto almost unknown to the Yankee boy,
handled bales and barrels on the wharves, their gleaming black bodies
naked to the waist.

Planters from the fertile country behind the town rode in with their
attendant black boys, and gathered at the coffee-houses on King Charles
Street. It was to one of these, the "Scarlet Fish," that the bluff
Delaware man took his protégés for dinner.

The place was resplendent with polished deal and shining pewter.
Curtains of brightly colored stuff hung at the high square windows, and
on the side where the sun entered, pots of flowers stood in the broad
window-shelves. There were gay groups of men at the tables, and talk of
the pirates was going everywhere over the Madeira and chocolate. It
seemed the news of Job's gunnery had been spread by Rhett's men, for
some of the diners recognized and pointed to him. A pretty barmaid, with
dimples in her elbows, curtsied low as she set down his cup. "Oh, yes,
Captain Howland!" she answered as he gave his order, blushed a deep pink
and ran to the kitchen. Whereupon Job, quite overcome, vowed that the
ladies of Carolina were the fairest in the world, and Mr. Curtis roared
heartily, saying that "Captain Howland" it should be, and that before
many months, if he knew a good seadog.

As they sat and sipped their coffee after a meal that reflected glory
upon the cook of the "Scarlet Fish," Colonel Rhett came in and made his
way to their table through a hurly-burly of back-slappings and "Bravos."
As soon as he was able to sit down in peace, he drew Mr. Curtis a little
aside to talk in private. The two boys were content to watch the
changing scene and listen to the hearty badinage of the fashionable
young blades about the tables. It was, you must remember, Jeremy's first
experience of luxury, unless the good, clean quarters and wholesome
meals aboard the _Queen_ could be so called. He had never read any book
except the Bible, had never seen more than a half-dozen pictures in his
life. From these and from the conversation of backwoodsmen and, more
recently, of pirates, he had been forced to form all his conceptions of
the world outside of his own experience. It is a tribute to his clean
traditions and sturdy self-reliance that he sat unabashed, pleased with
the color, the gayety, the richness, but able still to distinguish the
fine things from the sham, the honest things from those which only
appeared honest--to feel a thrill of pride in his father's hard,
rough-hewn life and his own.

Colonel Rhett's conference with Mr. Curtis being over, the score was
paid and the party took their triumphal way to the door, Job turning his
sunburned face once or twice to glance regretfully after the dimpled
barmaid.

That afternoon they were taken to the Governor's house, where Job and
each of the boys told the story of their experiences in Bonnet's
company. These stories were sworn to as affidavits and kept for use in
the coming trial of the pirate crew. It was a special dispensation of
the Governor's which allowed them to give their evidence in this form
instead of waiting in Charles Town for the court to sit, and needless to
say they were heartily glad of it. The formalities over, Governor
Johnson led the party into the adjoining room. He motioned them to sit
down and faced them with a smile. "Now, my lads," said he, "the spoil
taken on the _Royal James_ has been divided, and though, as you may
guess, it had to go a long way, there's a share left for each of you."
Jeremy and Bob stared at each other and at their friends. The benign
smiles of Mr. Curtis, Colonel Rhett and Job showed that they had known
beforehand of this surprise. The Governor was holding out a small
leather sack in each hand. "Here, catch," he laughed, and the two
astonished lads automatically did as they were bid. In each purse there
was something over twenty guineas in gold. Before they had found words
to thank the Governor he laughed again merrily. "Never mind a speech of
acceptance," said he. "Colonel Rhett, here, has something else for you."

"Yes," replied the Colonel. "You see, there was a deal of junk in the
Captain's cabin that comes to me as Admiral of the expedition. I'd be
much pleased if you two lads would each pick out anything that pleases
you, as a personal gift from myself and Stede Bonnet." As he spoke, he
took the cloth cover from a table which stood at one side. On it the
boys saw a shining array of small arms, some glass and silver decanters
and a pile of books. The Colonel motioned Bob forward. "Here you are,
lad, take your choice," he said. Bob stepped to the table and glanced
over the weapons eagerly. He finally selected a silver-mounted pistol
with the great pirate's name engraved on the butt, and went with pride
to show it to his father.

It was Jeremy's turn. He had no hesitation. From the moment he had heard
the offer his shining eyes had been fastened upon one object, and now he
went straight to the table and picked up the biggest and thickest of the
heap of books, a great leather-bound volume--Bunyan's "Pilgrim's
Progress." It is not the least inexplicable fact in the career of the
terrible Stede Bonnet that he was a constant reader of such books as
this and the "Paradise Lost" of Milton. Bunyan's great allegory had
come at last into a place where it could do more good than in the cabin
bookshelf of a ten-gun buccaneer. Jeremy, poor lad, uneducated save for
the rude lessons of his father and the training of the open, had longed
for books ever since he could remember. He had affected a gruff scorn
when Bob had spoken from his well-schooled knowledge, but inwardly it
had been his sole ground for jealousy of the Delaware boy. That
ponderous leather book was read many times and thoroughly in after
years, and it became the foundation of such a library as was not often
met with in the colonies. Job gave the lad an understanding smile and a
pat on the back, for Jeremy had told him of his passion for an
education.

The four grown men drank each other's health and separated with many
hearty handclasps. An hour later the _Queen's_ anchor was up and she was
moving out to sea upon the tide, cheered vigorously from the docks and
saluted by every vessel she passed. The warm September dusk settled over
the ocean. A soft land breeze rustled in the shrouds, and the great
sails filled with a gentle flapping. Slowly the tall ship bowed herself
to the northeast and settled away on her course contentedly, while the
water ran with a smooth murmur beneath her forefoot. Jeremy, lying
wide-eyed in his bunk, where a single star shone through the open port,
thought it the sweetest sound he had ever heard. He was homeward bound
at last.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXIII


There were brave days aboard the _Queen_ as she voyaged up the
coast--days of sun and light winds when the boys sat lazily in the blue
shadow of the sails, looking off through half-closed eyes toward the
faint line of shore that appeared and disappeared to leeward; or
listened to Job's long tales of adventure up and down the high seas; or
fished with hand-lines over the taffrail, happy if they pulled up even a
goggle-eyed flounder. Twice they ran into fog, and on those days, when
the wet dripped dismally off the shrouds and the watch on deck sang
mournful airs in the gray gloom, the two lads settled into big chairs in
the cabin, beneath a mighty brass oil-lamp, and while Bob sat bemused
over Captain Dampier's Voyages, Jeremy fought Apollyon with that good
knight Christian, in "Pilgrim's Progress." But best of all were the days
of howling fair weather, when sky and sea were deep blue and the wind
boomed over out of the west, and the scattered flecks of white cloud
raced with the flying spray below. Then all hands would stand by to
slack a sheet here or reef a sail there, and Ghent, who was a bold
sailor, would take the kicking tiller with Job's help, and keep the big
ship on her course, the last possible foot of canvas straining at the
yardarms. High along the weather rail, with the wind screaming in their
ears or down in the lee scuppers where the white-shot green passed close
below with a roar and a rush, the boys would cling, yelling aloud their
exultation. It was more than the risk, more than the dizzy movement that
made them happy. With every hour of that strong wind they were ten knots
farther north.

So they sailed; and one morning when the mist cleared, Mr. Curtis led
both boys to the port rail to show them where the green head of Cape
Henlopen stood, abeam. There was moisture in the corners of his eyes as
he pointed to it. "Thank God, Bob, my lad, you're here to see the
Delaware again!" he said huskily.

Up the blue bay they cruised in the fine October weather and came in due
time--a very long time it seemed to some aboard--to the roadstead
opposite New Castle port. There was a boat over almost before the anchor
was dropped and a picked crew rowed the Curtises, Job and Jeremy ashore
as fast as they dared without breaking oars. They drew up across the
swirling tidewater to the foot of a long pier. It was black with people
who cheered continually, and somewhere above the town a cannon was fired
in salute, but all Bob saw was a slender figure in white at the
pier-edge and all he heard was a woman's happy crying. A message to his
mother telling of his safety had been sent from Charles Town three weeks
before, and there she was to welcome him. There was a ladder further in
along the pier, but before they reached it some one had thrown a rope
and Bob swarmed up hand over hand. Jeremy, stricken with a sudden
shyness, watched the happy, tearful scene that followed from the boat
below.

Women had had small part in his own life. Since his mother's death he
had known a few in the frontier settlements, and they had been good to
him in a friendly way, but this ecstatic mother-love was new and it made
him feel awkward and lonely.

It seemed that all Delaware colony must be at the waterfront. Every soul
in the little town and men from miles around had turned out to welcome
the returning vessel, for the news of Bonnet's defeat had been brought
in, days before, by a Carolina coaster. There was bunting over doorways
and cheering in the streets as the Governor's coach with the party of
honor drove up the main thoroughfare to the Curtis house.

When they were within and the laughing crowds had dispersed, Bob's
mother came to Jeremy, put her hands on his shoulders and looked long
into his face. She was a frail slip of a woman, dark like her son, with
a sensitive mouth and big, black eyes full of courage. Jeremy flushed a
slow scarlet under her gaze, but his eyes never flinched as he returned
it.

"A fine boy," she said, at length, "and my own boy's good friend!" Then
she smiled tenderly and kissed him on the forehead. Jeremy was then and
there won over. All women were angels of light to him from that moment.

That night, alone in the white wilderness of his first four-poster, the
poor New England boy missed his mother very hard, more perhaps than he
had ever missed her before. He fell asleep on a pillow that was wet in
spots--and he was not ashamed.

In the days that followed nothing in Delaware Colony was too good for
the young heroes. Jeremy could never understand just _why_ they were
heroes, but was forced to give up trying to explain the matter to an
admiring populace. As for Bob, he gleefully accepted all the glory that
was offered and at last persuaded Jeremy to take the affair as
philosophically as himself. They were in a fair way to be spoiled, but
fortunately there was enough sense of humor between them to bring them
off safe from the head-patting gentlemen and tearfully rapturous ladies
who gathered at the brick house of afternoons.

Perhaps the thing that really saved them from the effects of too much
petting was the trip up the Brandywine to the Curtis plantation. It was
a fine ride of thirty miles and the trail led through woods just turning
red and yellow with the autumn frosts. Jeremy, though he had been on a
horse only half a dozen times in his life, was a natural athlete and
without fear. He was quick to learn and imitated Bob's erect carriage
and easy seat so well that long before they had reached their journey's
end he backed his tall roan like an old-timer. With Job it was a
different matter. He was all sailor, and though the times demanded that
every man who travelled cross-country must do it in the saddle, the lank
New Englander would have ridden a gale any day in preference to a steed.
Even Jeremy could afford to laugh at the sorry figure his big friend
made.

The trail they followed was no more than a rough cutting, eight or ten
feet wide, running through the forest. Here and there paths branched off
to right or left and up one of these Bob turned at noon. It led them
over a wooded hill, then down a long slope into the valley of a stream.
"John Cantwell's plantation. We'll stop here for a bite to eat,"
explained the boy. By the water side, in a wide clearing, was a group of
log huts and farther along, a square house built of rough gray stone.

They rode up to the wide door which looked down upon the river. In
answer to Bob's hail a colored boy in a red jacket ran out to take the
horses' heads and four black and white fox terriers tore round the
corner barking a chorus of welcome. Bob jumped down with a laughing, "Ah
there, Rufus!" to the horse-boy, and proceeded to roll the excited
little dogs on their backs. As Jeremy and Job dismounted, a big man in
sober gray came to the doorway. His strong, kindly face broke into a
smile as he caught sight of his visitors. "Well, Bob, I'm mightily glad
to see thee back, lad! We got news from the town only yesterday." He
strode down the steps and took the boy's hand in a hearty grip, then
greeted the others, as Bob introduced them. Jeremy marvelled much at the
cut of the man's coat, which was without a collar, and at his continual
use of the plain _thee_ and _thy_. But there was a direct simplicity
about all his ways, and a gentleness in his eyes that won the boy to him
instantly.

One moment only he wandered at John Cantwell. In the next he had
forgotten everything about him and stood open-mouthed, gazing at the
square doorway. In the sun-lit frame of it had appeared a little girl of
twelve. She was dressed demurely in gray, set off with a bit of white
kerchief. Her long skirt hid her toes and her hands were folded most
properly. But above this sober stalk bloomed the fairest face that
Jeremy had ever seen. She had merry hazel eyes, a straight little nose
and a firm little chin. Her plain bonnet had fallen back from her head
and the brown curls that strayed recklessly about her cheeks seemed to
catch all the sunbeams in Delaware.

For a very little time she stood, and then the pursed red mouth could be
controlled no longer. She opened it in a whoop of joy and catching up
her skirts ran to smother Bob in a great hug. Next moment Jeremy, still
in a daze, was bowing over her hand, as he had learned to do at New
Castle. She dropped him a little curtsey and turned to meet Job.

Betty Cantwell and her father were Quakers from the Penn Colony to the
north, Bob had time to tell Jeremy as they entered. That accounted for
the staid simplicity of their dress and their quaint form of speech--the
plain language, as it was called. Jeremy had heard of the Quakers,
though in New England they were much persecuted for their beliefs by the
Puritans. Here, apparently, people not only allowed them to live, but
liked and honored them as well. He prayed fervently that Betty might
never chance to visit Boston town. Yet already he half hoped that she
would. Of course, he would have grown bigger by then, and would carry a
sword and how he would prick the thin legs of the first grim deacon who
dared so much as to speak to her! These imaginings were put to rout at
the dining-room door by the delicious savor of roast turkey. One of the
black farmhands had shot the great bird the day before, and the three
travellers had arrived just at the fortunate moment when it was to be
carved.

It was a dinner never to be forgotten. The twenty miles they had ridden
through the crisp air would have given them an appetite, even had they
not been normally good trenchermen, and there were fine white potatoes
and yams that accompanied the turkey, not to mention some jelly which
Betty admitted having made herself, "with cook's help." Bob joyfully
attacked his heaped-up plate and ate with relish every minute that he
was not talking. Jeremy could say not a word, for opposite him was Betty
and in her presence he felt very large and awkward. His hands troubled
him. Indeed, had it been a possibility, he would have eaten his turkey
without raising them above the table edge. As it was, he felt himself
blush every time a vast red fist came in evidence. Yet he succeeded in
making a good meal and would not have been elsewhere for all Solomon
Brig's gold. Perhaps Job, who was neither talkative nor under the spell
of a lady's eyes, wielded the best knife and fork of the three.

Dinner over, and Bob's story finished, they were taken to see the stable
and the broad tilled fields by the river bank, where corn stood shocked
among the stubble. Afternoon came and soon it was time for them to
start. There were laughing farewells and a promise that they would stop
on the return trip, and before Jeremy could come back to earth the gloom
of the forest shut in above their heads once more. They put the horses
to a canter as soon as the ridge was cleared, for there were still ten
miles to go and the light was waning. Jeremy was very much at home in
the woods, but the chill, sombre depths that appeared and reappeared on
either hand seemed to warn him to be prepared. He reached to the
saddlebow, undid the flap of the pistol holster, and made sure that his
weapon was loaded, then put it back, reassured. The footing was bad, and
they had to go more slowly for a while. Then Bob, in the lead, came to a
more open space where light and ground alike favored better speed. He
spurred his horse to a gallop and had turned to call to the others, when
suddenly the animal he rode gave a snort of fear and stopped with braced
forefeet. Bob, caught off his guard, went over the horse's head with a
lurch and fell sprawling on the ground in front. Then he gave a scream,
for not two feet away he saw the short, cruel head of a coiled
rattlesnake.

Jeremy, riding close behind, pulled up beside the other horse and threw
himself off. Even as he touched the ground a sharp whirr met his ear
and he saw the fat, still body and vibrating tail of the snake. He
wrenched the pistol from the holster, took the quickest aim of his life
and pulled the trigger. After the shot apparently nothing had changed.
The whirr of the rattle went on for a second or two, then gradually
subsided. Bob lay white-faced, and still as death. Jeremy drew a step
closer and then gave a choked cry of relief. The snake's smooth,
diamond-marked body remained coiled for the spring. Its lithe forepart
was thrust forward from the top coil and the venemous, blunt head--but
the head was no more. Jeremy's ball had taken it short off.

Bob was unhurt, but badly shaken and frightened, and they followed the
trail slowly through the dusk. Then just as the shadows that obscured
their way were turning to the deep dark of night a small light became
visible straight ahead. They pushed on and soon were luxuriously
stretched before a log fire in the Curtis plantation house, while Mrs.
Robbins, the overseer's wife, poured them a cup of hot tea.

When bedtime came, Bob came over to Jeremy and gave him a long grip of
the hand, but said never a word. There was no need of words, for the New
England boy knew that his chum would never be quite happy till he could
repay his act in kind. Yet he could not tell Bob that the shooting of a
snake was but a small return for the gift of a vision of one of heaven's
angels. Each felt himself the other's debtor as they got into the great
feather bed side by side.



CHAPTER XXIV


Two boys turned loose on a present-day farm can find enough interesting
things to do to fill a book much larger than this. For me to go into the
details of that week's visit to Avon Dale would preclude any possible
chance of your hearing the end of this story. And there are still many
things that need telling.

But though no great or grave adventure befell the two boys while they
stayed at the plantation, you may imagine the days they spent together.
Back of the farm buildings lay the fields, all up and down the river
bank for miles. And back of the fields, crowding close to the edge of
the plowed ground, the big trees of an age-old forest rose. The great
wild woods ran straight back from the plantation for five hundred miles,
broken only by rivers and the steep slopes of the Alleghanies, as yet
hardly heard of by white men. Giant oaks, ashes and tulip trees mingled
with the pine and hemlock growth. The hillsides where the sun shone
through were thick with rhododendron and laurel. And all through this
sylvan paradise the upper branches and the underbrush teemed with wild
life. Squirrels, partridges and occasional turkeys offered frequent
marks for the long muzzle-loading rifles, while a thousand little song
birds flitted constantly through the leaves. Jeremy had never seen such
hunting in his colder northern country. The game was bigger and more
dangerous in New England, but never had he found it so plentiful. As the
boys were both good marksmen, a great rivalry sprang up between them.
They scorned any but the hardest shots--the bright eye of a squirrel
above a hickory limb fifty yards off or the downy form of a wood pigeon
preening in a tree top. Though a good deal of powder and lead was spent
in the process, they were shooting like old leather-stocking hunters by
the end of the week.

The last two days had to be spent indoors, for a heavy autumn rain that
came one night held over persistently and drenched the valley with a
sullen, steady pour. Little muddy rivulets swept down across the fields
and joined the already swollen current of the Brandywine. On the morning
when they started back, the river was running high and fast and yellow
along the low banks, but a bright sun shone, and a fresh breeze out of
the west promised fair weather.

The horses were left at the plantation. They took their guns and a day's
provisions and carried a long, narrow-beamed canoe down to the shore. It
was a dugout, quite unlike the graceful birch affairs that Jeremy had
seen among the Penobscots, but serviceable and seaworthy enough.

Job, happy to be on the water once more, took the stern paddle, Bob
knelt in the bow, and Jeremy squatted amidships with the blankets and
guns. With a cry of farewell to the kindly folk on the bank, they shoved
out and shot away down the swift river.

It was exciting work. The stream had overflowed its banks for many yards
and the brown water swirled in eddies among the trees. To keep the canoe
in the main channel required judgment and good steering. Job proved
equal to the occasion and though with their paddling the swiftness of
the current gave the craft a speed of over ten miles an hour, he brought
her down without mishap into a wide-spreading cove. They rested,
drifting slowly across the slack water. "This can't be far from
Cantwell's," Bob was saying, when Jeremy gave a startled exclamation,
and pointed toward the shore, some fifty yards away. A little girl in a
gray frock stood on the bank, her arms full of golden rod and asters.
She had not seen the canoe, for she was looking behind her up the bank.
At that instant there was a crashing in the brush and a big buck deer
stepped out upon the shore, tossing his gleaming antlers to which a few
shreds of summer "velvet" still clung. He was not twenty feet from the
girl, who faced him, perfectly still, the flowers dropping one by one
from her apron.

It was the rutting season and the buck was in a fighting mood. But he
was puzzled by this small motionless antagonist. He hesitated a bare
second before launching his wicked charge. Then as he bellowed his
defiance there came a loud report. The buck's haunches wavered, then
straightened with a jerk, as he made a great leap up the bank and fell
dead. From Jeremy's long-barrelled gun a wisp of smoke floated away.
Betty Cantwell sat down very suddenly and seemed about to cry, but as
the canoe shot up to the shore she was smiling once more. They took her
aboard and started down stream again. A few hundred yards brought them
to the edge of the Cantwell clearing, where Bob hailed the negroes
working in the field and gave them orders for bringing down the dead
buck.

At the landing John Cantwell was waiting in some anxiety, for the sound
of Jeremy's shot had reached him at the house. Bob told the story,
somewhat to Jeremy's embarrassment, for nothing was spared in the
telling. The Quaker thanked him with great earnestness and reproved his
daughter gently for straying beyond the plantation.

After another of those famous dinners Job and the boys returned to their
craft, for there were many miles to make before night. As Jeremy took
up the bow paddle he waved to Betty on the bank, and thrilled with
happiness at the shy smile she gave him. Once again they were in the
current, shooting downstream toward tidewater.

It was mid-afternoon when they crossed the Brandywine bar and paddled
past the docks of Wilmington. Outside in the Delaware there was a choppy
sea that made their progress slower, and the sun had set when the slim
little craft ran in for the beach above New Castle. The voyagers
shouldered their packs and made their way up the High Street to the
brick house.

When the greetings were over and the boys were changing their clothes
before coming down for supper, Clarke Curtis entered their room. "Lads,"
he said, "I'd advise you to go early to bed tonight. You'll need a long
rest, for in the morning you start overland for New York." At Bob's
exclamation of surprise he went on to explain that the _Indian Queen_
had weighed anchor two days before for that port, and as there was no
other ship leaving the Delaware soon, he wished the boys to board her at
New York for the voyage to New England. Both youngsters were overjoyed
at the prospect of an early start. Bob, who had been promised that he
could accompany his chum, was hilarious over the news, while Jeremy was
too happy to speak.

Later, as they were packing their belongings for the trip, Job Howland
came in. He, too, looked excited. "Jeremy, boy," he said, "I'd have
liked to go north with you, but something else has come my way. Mr.
Curtis bought a new schooner, the _Tiger_, last week, and she's being
fitted out now for a coast trader. He offered me the chance to command
her!"

"Three cheers!" shouted Bob. "Then New Castle will be your home port,
and I'll see you after every voyage!"

The three comrades chatted of their prospects a while and shortly went
to bed.



CHAPTER XXV


The boys and their luggage were on their way to Wilmington in the family
chaise before dawn, and it was scarce seven o'clock when they bade
farewell to the old colored serving-man and clambered aboard the
four-horse coach that connected in Philadelphia with the mail coach for
New York.

The coaches of that day were cumbersome affairs, huge of wheel, and with
ridiculously small bodies slung on wide strips of bull's hide which
served for springs. The driver's box was high above the forward running
gear. There were as yet no "seats on top," such as were developed in the
later days of fast stage-coach service.

In one of these rumbling, swaying conveyances the boys rode the thirty
miles to Philadelphia, crossing the Schuylkill at Gray's Ferry about
noon. They had barely time for a bite of lunch in the White Horse Tavern
before the horn was blown outside and they hurried to take their places
in the north-bound coach. Along the cobbled streets of the bustling,
red-brick town they rumbled for a few moments, then out upon the smooth
dirt surface of the York Road, where the four good horses were put to a
gallop.

The Delaware, opposite Trenton, was reached by six o'clock, and there
the half-dozen passengers left the coach and were carried across on a
little ferry boat, rowed by an old man and his two sons. They spent the
night at an Inn and next morning early boarded another coach bound
northeast over the sparsely settled hills of New Jersey. The road was
narrow and bad in places, slackening their speed. Twice the horses were
changed, in little hamlets along the way. In the late afternoon they
crossed the marshy flats beyond Newark and just after dusk emerged on
the Jersey side of the Hudson. A few lights glimmered from the low
Manhattan shore. The quaint Dutch-English village which was destined to
grow in two hundred years to be the greatest city in the world, lay
quiet in the gathering dark.

The ferry was just pulling out from shore, but at the sound of the coach
horn it swung back into its slip and waited for the passengers to board.

A gruff Hollander by the name of Peter Houter was the ferryman. He stood
at the clumsy steering-beam, while four stout rowers manned the oars of
his wide, flat-bottomed craft. Approaching the steersman, Bob asked
where in the town he would be likely to find the Captain of a
merchantman then taking cargo in the port. The Dutchman named two
taverns at which visiting seafaring men could commonly be found. One was
the "Three Whales" and the other the "Bull and Fish."

Landing on the Manhattan shore, the boys shouldered their luggage and
trudged by ill-lighted lanes across the island to the East River. As
they advanced along the dock-side, Jeremy distinguished among the
low-roofed houses a small inn before which a great sign swung in the
wind. By the light which flickered through the windows they could make
out three dark monsters painted upon the board, a white tree apparently
growing from the head of each. "The Three Whales," laughed Jeremy, "and
every one a-blowing! Let's go in!"

It was an ill-smelling and dingy room that they entered. A score of men
in rough sailor clothes lounged at the tables or lolled at the bar. Two
pierced tin lanterns shed a faint smoky light over the scene. Bob waited
by their baggage at the door, while Jeremy made his way from one group
to another, inquiring for Captain Ghent of the _Indian Queen_. Several
of the mariners nodded at mention of the ship, but none could give him
word of the skipper's whereabouts.

As he was turning to go out he noticed a man drinking alone at a table
in the darkest corner. His eyes were fixed moodily on his glass and he
did not look up. Jeremy shivered, took a step nearer, and almost cried
out, for he had caught a glimpse of a livid, diagonal scar cutting
across the nose from eyebrow to chin. It was such a scar as could belong
to only one man on earth. Jeremy retreated to a darker part of the room
and watched till the man lifted his head. It was Pharaoh Daggs and none
other.

A moment later the boy had hurried to Bob outside and told him his news.
"If we can find Ghent," said Bob, "he will be able to summon soldiers
and have him placed under arrest."

They hastened along the river front for a hundred yards or more and came
to the "Bull and Fish." A man in a blue cloth coat was standing by the
door, looking up and down the street. He gave a hail of greeting as they
came up. It was Captain Ghent.

"I was just going down to the "Three Whales" thinking you might have
stopped there," he said. Bob told him their news and the skipper's face
grew grave. "Better leave the bags here for the present," he suggested
and then, after a moment's quiet talk with the landlord, he led the way
toward the other tavern. On the way he stopped a red-jacketed soldier
who was patrolling the dock. After a word or two had been exchanged the
soldier fell in beside them, and just as they reached the inn door two
more hurried up.

"Come in with me, Jeremy, and point out the man," said Captain Ghent.

The lad's heart beat like a triphammer as he entered the tavern once
more. A silence fell on the room when the three soldiers were observed.
Jeremy crossed toward the dark corner. The table was empty. He looked
quickly about at the faces of the drinkers, but Daggs was not there.
"He's gone," he said in a disappointed voice.

The innkeeper came forward, wiping his hands on his apron. "That fellow
with the scar?" he said. "He went out of here some five minutes ago."

"Which way?" asked Ghent. But no one in the room could say.

They passed out again, and Ghent smiled reassuringly at the boys.
"Well," he said, "like as not he'll never cross our path again, so it's
only one rogue the more unhung."

Jeremy failed to find much comfort in this philosophy, but said no more,
and soon found himself snugly on board the big merchantman, where his
bunk and Bob's were already made up and awaiting them.

It was good to hear the creak of timbers and feel the rocking of the
tide once more. Jeremy lay long awake that night thinking of many
things. At last he was on the final lap of his journey. The _Indian
Queen's_ cargo would be stowed within a day or two and she would start
with him toward home. He thought with a quiver of happiness of the
reunion with his father. Had he quite given up hope for his boy? Jeremy
had heard of such a shock of joy being fatal. He must be careful.

He thought of the evil face of the broken-nosed buccaneer. What was
Daggs doing in New York? Just then there was a faint sound as of
creaking cordage from beyond the side. Jeremy's bunk was near the open
port and by leaning over a little he could see the river. Barely a
boat's length away, in the dark, a tall-masted, schooner-rigged craft
was slipping past on the outgoing tide, with not so much as a
harbor-light showing.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXVI


It was on the second morning after the boys had reached New York that
the _Indian Queen_ went down the harbor, her canvas drawing merrily in
the spanking breeze of dawn. The intervening day had been spent at the
dock-side, where wide-breeched Dutch longshoremen were stoutly hustling
bales and boxes of merchandise into the hold. Jeremy had watched the
passers along the river front narrowly, though he could not help having
a feeling that Pharaoh Daggs was gone. The fancy would not leave his
mind that there was some connection between the vanished pirate and the
dark vessel he had seen stealing out on the night tide.

A strong southwest wind followed them all day as the _Queen_ ran past
the low Long Island shore, and that night, though Captain Ghent gave
orders to shorten sail, the ship still plunged ahead with unchecked
speed. They cleared the Nantucket shoals next day and saw all through
the afternoon the sun glint on the lonely white dunes of Cape Cod.

Two more bright days of breeze succeeded and they were working up
outside the fringe of islands, large and small, that dot the coast of
Maine.

Jeremy was too excited even to eat. He stayed constantly by the man at
the helm and was often joined there by Bob and the Captain, as they drew
nearer to the Penobscot Bay coast. In the morning they dropped anchor in
fifteen fathoms, to leeward of a good-sized fir-clad island. Jeremy had
a dim recollection of having seen it from the round-topped peak above
his father's shack. His heart beat high at the thought that tomorrow
might bring them to the place they sought, and it was many hours before
he went to sleep.

At last the morning came, cloudless and bright, with a little south
breeze stirring. Before the sun was fairly clear of the sea, the anchor
had been catted, and the _Queen_ was moving gracefully northeastward
under snowy topsails.

They cleared a wide channel between two islands and Jeremy, forward with
the lookout, gave a mighty shout that brought his chum to his side on
the run. There to the east, across a dozen miles of silver-shimmering
sea, loomed a gray peak, round and smooth as an inverted bowl. "It's the
island!" cried Jeremy, and Captain Ghent, turning to the mate, gave a
joyful order to get more sail on the ship.

About the middle of the forenoon the _Queen_ came into the wind and her
anchor went down with a roar and a splash, not three cables' lengths
from the spot in the northern bay where Jeremy and his father had first
landed their flock of sheep. On the gray slope above the shore the boys
could see the low, black cabin, silent and apparently tenantless. Behind
it was the stout stockade of the sheep-pen, also deserted, and above,
the thin grass and gray, grim ledges climbed toward the wooded crest of
the hill.

Jeremy's face fell. "They must have gone," he said. But Bob, standing by
the rail as they waited for the jollyboat to be lowered, pointed
excitedly toward the rocky westward shoulder of the island. "Look
there!" he cried. Three or four white dots were moving slowly along the
face of the hill.

"Sheep!" said Jeremy, taking heart. "They'd not have left the
sheep--unless----"

But the boat was ready, below the side, and the Captain and the two boys
tumbled quickly in. Five minutes later the four stout rowers sent the
bow far up the sand with a final heave on the oars. They jumped out and
hastened up the hill. There was still no sign of life about the cabin,
but as they drew near a sudden sharp racket startled them, and around
the corner of the sheep-pen tore a big collie dog, barking excitedly. He
hesitated a bare instant, then jumped straight at Jeremy with a whine of
frantic welcome.

"Jock, lad!" cried the boy, joyfully burying his face in the sable ruff
of the dog's neck. In response to his voice, the door of the cabin was
thrown open and a tall youth of nineteen stepped out, hesitating as he
saw the group below. Jeremy shook off the collie and ran forward. "Don't
you know me, Tom?" he laughed. "I'm your brother--back from the
pirates!"

The amazed look on the other's face slowly gave place to one of
half-incredulous joy as he gripped the youngster's shoulders and looked
long into his eyes.

"Know ye!" he said at length with a break in his voice. "Certain I know
ye, though ye've grown half a foot it seems! But wait, we must tell
father. He's in bed, hurt."

Tom turned to the door again. "Here, father," he called breathlessly.
"Here's Jeremy, home safe and sound!" He seized his brother's hand and
led him into the cabin. In the half-darkness at the back of the room the
lad saw a rough bed, and above the homespun blankets Amos Swan's bearded
face. He sprang toward him and flung himself down by the bunk, his head
against his father's breast. He felt strong, well-remembered fingers
that trembled a little as they gripped his arm. There was no word said.



CHAPTER XXVII


It was the savory smell of cooking hominy and the sizzle of broiling
fish that woke Jeremy next morning. He drew a breath of pure ecstasy,
rolled over and began pummelling the inert form of Bob, who had shared
his blanket on an improvised bed in the cabin. The Delaware boy opened
an eye, closed it again with carefully assumed drowsiness, and the next
instant leaped like a joyful wildcat on his tormentor. There was a
beautiful tussle that was only broken off by Tom's announcement of
breakfast.

Opposite the stone fireplace was a table of hewn planks at which Bob,
with Jeremy, Tom and their father, were soon seated. The latter had
bruised his knee several days before, but was now sufficiently recovered
to walk about with the aid of a stick.

"Father," said Jeremy between mouthfuls, "I want to see that cove again,
where the pirates landed. If we may take the fowling-piece, Bob and I'll
go across the island, after we've bade good-by to Captain Ghent."

"Ay, lad," Amos Swan replied, "you'll find the cove just as they left
it. An I mistake not, the place where their fire was is still black
upon the beach, and the rum-barrels are lying up among the driftwood.
'Twas there we found them--on the second day. Ah, Jeremy, lad--little we
thought then we'd see you back safe and strong, and that so soon!"

The white frost of the November morning was still gleaming on the grass
when the two boys went out. Against the cloudless sky the spires of the
dark fir trees were cut in clean silhouette. From the _Indian Queen_,
lying off shore, came the creak of blocks and sheaves as the yards were
trimmed, and soon, her anchor catted home, she filled gracefully away to
the northward, while the Captain waved a cheery farewell from the poop.
He was bound up the coast for Halifax, and was to pick Bob up on his
return voyage, a month later.

When they had watched the ship's white sails disappear behind the
eastern headland, the boys started up the hill behind the cabin. They
carried a lunch of bread and dried fish in a leather pouch and across
Jeremy's shoulder was one of his father's guns. Bob was armed with the
silver-mounted pistol from Stede Bonnet's arsenal.

It was a glorious morning for a trip of exploration and the hearts of
both lads were high as they clambered out on the warm bare rock that
crowned the island.

"Isn't it just as fine as I told you?" Jeremy cried. "Look--those blue
mountains yonder must be twenty leagues away. And you can hardly count
the islands in this great bay! Off there to the south is where I saw the
_Revenge_ for the first time--just a speck on the sea, she was!"

Bob, who had never seen the view from a really high hill before, stood
open-mouthed as he looked about him. Suddenly he grasped Jeremy's arm.

"See!" he exclaimed, "down there--isn't that smoke?" He was pointing
toward the low, swampy region in the southwestern part of the island.
Jeremy watched intently, but there was nothing to disturb the morning
calm of sky and shore.

"That's queer," Bob said at last, with a puzzled look. "I could take an
oath I saw just the faintest wisp of smoke over there. But I must have
been mistaken."

"Well," laughed Jeremy, "we'll soon make sure, for that's not far from
where we're going."

They scrambled down, and following the ridge, turned south toward the
lower bay at about the point where Jeremy had been discovered by Dave
Herriot and the pirate Captain.

Dodging through the tangle of undergrowth and driftwood, they soon
emerged on the loose sand above the beach. As Amos Swan had said, the
rains had not yet washed away the black embers of the great bonfire, and
near by lay a barrel with staves caved in. Looking at the scene, Jeremy
almost fancied he could hear again the wild chorus of that drunken crew,
most of whom had now gone to their last accounting.

"What say we walk down the shore a way?" suggested Bob. "There might be
a duck or two in that reedy cove below here." And Jeremy, glad to quit
the place, led off briskly westward along the sand.

Soon they came to the entrance of a narrow, winding tide-creek that ran
back till it was hidden from sight in the tall reeds. Just as they
reached the place, a large flock of sandpeeps flew over with soft
whistling, and lighting on the beach, scurried along in a dense company,
offering an easy target. Bob, who was carrying the gun, brought it
quickly to his shoulder and was about to fire when Jeremy stopped him
with a low "S-s-s-s-t!"

Bob turned, following the direction of Jeremy's outstretched arm, and
for a second both boys stood as if petrified, gazing up the tide-creek
toward the interior of the island. About a quarter of a mile away, above
the reeds, which grew in rank profusion to a man's height or higher,
they saw a pair of slender masts, canted far over.

"A ship!" whispered Bob. "Deserted, though, most likely."

"No," Jeremy answered, "I don't think it. Her cordage would have slacked
off more and she wouldn't look so trim. Bob, wasn't it near here you saw
that smoke?"

"Jiminy!" said Bob, "so it was! Right over in the marsh, close to those
spars. It's some vessel that's put in here to careen. Wonder where her
crew can be?"

"That's what looks so queer to me," the other boy replied. "They're
keeping out of sight mighty careful. Men from any honest ship would have
been all over the island the first day ashore. I don't like the look of
it. Let's get back and tell father. Maybe we can find out who it is,
afterwards."

Bob argued at first for an immediate reconnaissance, but when Jeremy
pointed out the fact that if the strangers were undesirable they would
surely have a guard hidden in the reeds up the creek, he accepted the
more discreet plan.

They made their way quietly, but with as much haste as possible back
along the shore, past the remnant of the fire, and up the hill into the
thick woods.

Just as they crossed the ridge and began to see the glint of the
northern inlet through the trees, Jeremy paused with a sudden
exclamation.

"Here's the spring," he said, "and look at the sign above it. I never
saw that before, for it was dark when I was up here. I almost fell in."

The spring itself was nearly invisible to one coming from this
direction, but stuck in the fork of a tree, beside it, was a weathered
old piece of ship's planking on which had been rudely cut the single
word WATTER.

"Some Captain who used to fill his casks here must have put it up so
that the spring would be easier to find," Bob suggested. But Jeremy,
striding ahead, was thinking hard and did not answer.

Amos Swan heard their news with a grave face. No ship but the _Queen_
had touched at the island for several months to his knowledge, he said.
He agreed with the boys that the secrecy of the thing looked suspicious.
When Tom came in for the noon meal, his father told him of the discovery
and they both decided to bring the sheep in at once, and make
preparations for possible trouble.

Tom, armed, and accompanied by the boys, set out soon after dinner for
the western end of the island, two miles from the shack. It was there
that the flock was accustomed to graze, shepherded by the wise dog,
Jock. Their way led along the rocky northern slope, where the sheep had
already worn well-defined paths among the scrubby grass and juniper
patches, then up across a steep knoll and through a belt of fir and
hemlock. When at length they came out from among the trees, the pasture
lay before them. There in a hollow a hundred yards away the flock was
huddled. Jock became aware of their approach at that instant and lifted
his head in a short, choking bark. He started toward them, but before he
had taken a dozen steps they could see that he was limping painfully.
Running forward, Jeremy knelt beside the big collie, then turned with a
movement of sudden dismay and called to his comrades. He had seen the
broad splotch of vivid red stained the dog's white breast. Examination
showed a deep clean cut in the fur of the neck, from which the blood
still flowed sluggishly. But in spite of his weakness and the pain he
evidently suffered, Jock could hardly wait to lead his masters back to
the flock. Hurrying on with him they crossed a little rise of ground and
came upon the sheep which were crowded close to one another, panting in
abject terror.

[Illustration: Jock]

"Twenty-six--twenty-eight--yes, twenty-eight and that's all!" Tom said.
"There are two of them missing!"

Jock had limped on some twenty yards further and now stood beside a
juniper bush, shivering with eagerness.

Following him thither, the boys found him sniffing at a blood-soaked
patch of grass. The ground for several feet around was cut up as if in
some sort of struggle. A few shreds of bloody wool, caught in the
junipers, told their own story.

A man--probably several men--had been on the spot not two hours before
and had killed two of the sheep. They had not succeeded in this without
a fight, in which the gallant old dog had been stabbed with a seaman's
dirk or some other sharp weapon.

Bob, scouting onward a short distance, found the deep boot-tracks of two
men in a wet place between some rocks. They were headed
south-eastward--straight toward the reedy swamp where the boys had seen
the top-masts of the strange vessel! The crew--whoever they might
be--had decided to leave no further doubt of their intentions. They had
opened hostilities and to them had fallen first blood.

With serious faces and guns held ready for an attack the three lads
turned toward home, driving the scared flock before them. Old Jock,
stiff and limping from his wound, brought up the rear. They reached the
inlet at last, but it was sunset when the last sheep was inside the
stockade and the cabin door was barred.

That night the wind changed, and the cold gray blanket of a Penobscot
Bay fog shut down over the island.



CHAPTER XXVIII


The fog held for two days. On the third morning Jeremy, on his knees by
the hearth fire, was squinting down the bright barrel of a flintlock. He
had been quiet for a long time. Bob felt the tenseness of the situation
himself, but he could not understand the other's absolute silence. He
scowled as he sat on the floor, and savagely drove a long-bladed
hunting-knife into the cracks between the hewn planks. At length a low
whistle from Jeremy caused him to pause and look up quickly.

"What is it?" he asked.

A look of excitement was growing in Jeremy's face.

"Say, Bob!" he exclaimed, after a second or two. "I've just remembered
something that I've been trying to bring to mind ever since we crossed
the island. You know the sign we saw up by the spring? Well, somewhere,
once before, I knew I'd seen the word 'Watter' spelled that way. So have
you--do you remember?"

Bob shook his head slowly. Then a look of comprehending wonder came into
his eyes. "Yes," he cried. "It was on that old chart in Pharaoh Daggs'
chest!"

"Right," said Jeremy. "And now that I think about it, I believe this is
the very island! Let's see--the bay was shaped this way----" He had
seized a charred stick from the hearth and was drawing on the floor.

"Two narrow points, with quite a stretch of water inside--a rounded cove
up here, and a mitten-shaped cove over here. And the anchor was
drawn--wait a minute--right here. Why, Bob, look here! That's the same
rounded cove with the beach where the sloop anchored that night they got
me!"

Bob could hardly contain himself. "I remember!" he said. "And the dot,
with the word 'Watter' was one and a half finger-joints northeast of the
bay. Let's see, the bay itself was about four joints long, wasn't it? Or
a little over? Anyhow, that would put the spring about--here."

"Allowing for our not being able to remember exactly the shape of the
bay," Jeremy put in, "that's just where the spring should be. Bob, this
is the island! And now that cross-mark between the two straight
lines--two finger-joints northwest of the anchorage-cove, it was. That's
just about here." He marked the spot on the floor with his stick.

"Now we've got it all down. And if that cross-mark shows where the
treasure is----" Jeremy paused and looked at Bob, his eyes shining.

"Where would that be--up on the hill somewhere?" asked Bob breathlessly.

"About three-quarters of a mile south of the spring--right on the
ridge," Jeremy answered.

"When shall we start?" Bob asked, his voice husky with excitement.

"Wait a bit," counselled Jeremy. "We daren't tell father or Tom, for
they'd think it just a wild-goose chase, and we'd have to promise not to
leave the cabin. You know it _is_ an improbable sort of yarn. Besides,
we'd better go careful. Do you know who I think is at the head of that
crew, over in the creek?"

"Who?" whispered Bob.

Jeremy's face was pale as he leaned close.

"Pharaoh Daggs!" He said the name beneath his breath, almost as if he
feared that the man with the broken nose might hear him. And now for the
first time he told Bob of the schooner that had slipped past in the dark
that night in the East River.

"You're right, Jeremy," Bob agreed. "He'd lose no time getting up here
if he could find a craft to carry him. You don't suppose they've found
Brig's treasure yet, do you?" he added in dismay.

"They can't have reached here more than a day before us," Jeremy
replied. "And if they haven't it already aboard, they won't be able to
do anything while this fog holds. If it should lift tomorrow, we'll
have a chance to scout around up there. But don't say a word to father."

That night the boys slept little, for both were in a fever of
expectation. They were disappointed in the morning to see the solid wall
of fog still surrounding the cabin. But Jeremy, sniffing the air like
the true woodsman that he was, announced that there would be a change of
weather before night, and set about rubbing the barrel of the flintlock
till it gleamed. The day dragged slowly by. At last, about three in the
afternoon, a slight wind from the northeast sprang up, and the wreaths
of vapor began to drift away seaward.

Luckily for the boys' plans, both Tom and his father were inside the
sheep-stockade when Bob took the pistols, powder and shot down from the
wall, and with Jeremy went quietly forth.

Before the mist had wholly cleared, they were well into the woods,
climbing toward the summit of the ridge. Each kept a careful watch
about, for they feared the possibility that a guard might have been set
to observe movements at the cabin.

They reached the top without incident, however, and turned westward
along the watershed. They were increasingly careful now, for if the
pirates were dependent on the spring for their water, some of them might
pass close by at any moment. Bob, who was almost as expert a hunter as
Jeremy, followed noiselessly in the track of the New England boy, moving
like a shadow from tree to tree.

So they progressed for fifteen minutes or more. Then Jeremy paused and
beckoned to Bob, whispering that they should separate a short distance
so as to cover a wider territory in their search. They went on, Bob on
the north slope, Jeremy on the south, moving cautiously and examining
every rock and tree for some blaze that might indicate the whereabouts
of the treasure.

More minutes passed. The sun was already low, and Jeremy began to think
about turning toward home. Just then he came to the brink of a narrow
chasm in the ledge. Hardly more than a cleft it was, three or four feet
wide at its widest part, and extending deep down between the walls of
rock. He was about to jump over and proceed when his eye caught a
momentary gleam in the obscurity at the bottom of the crevice. He peered
downward for a second, then stood erect, waving to Bob with both arms.

The other boy caught his signal and came rapidly through the trees to
the spot, hurrying faster as he saw the excitement in Jeremy's face.

"What--what have you found?" he gasped under his breath.

Jeremy was already wriggling his way down between the smooth rock walls,
bracing himself with back and knees. Within a few seconds he had
reached the bottom, some ten feet below. It was a sloping, uneven floor
of earth, lighted dimly from above and from the south, where the ledge
shelved off down the hillside. The dirt was black and damp, undisturbed
for years save by the feeble pushing of some pale, seedling plant.
Jeremy groped aimlessly at first, then, as his eyes became accustomed to
the half-light, peered closely into the crevices along either side.

Bob leaned over the edge, pointing. "Back and to the left!" he
whispered. Jeremy turned as directed, felt along the earth and finally
clutched at something that seemed to glitter with a yellow light. He
turned his face upward and Bob read utter disappointment in his eyes.

The gleaming something which he held aloft was nothing but a bit of
discolored mica that had reflected the faint light.

Bob almost groaned aloud as he looked at it. Then he took off his belt
and passed an end of it down for Jeremy to climb up by. The latter took
hold half-heartedly, and was commencing the ascent when his moccasined
foot slipped on a low, arching hump in the damp earth. He went down on
one knee and as it struck the ground there was a faint hollow thud.
Astonished, the boy remained in a kneeling posture and felt about
beneath him with his hands.

"What is it?" whispered Bob.

Jeremy stood erect again. "Some kind of old, slippery wet wood," he
answered. "It feels like--like a barrel!"

"I'm coming down!" said the Delaware boy, and casting a cautious look
around, he descended into the depths of the crevice.

With their hands and hunting-knives both boys went to work feverishly to
unearth the wooden object. A few moments of breathless labor laid bare
the side and part of one end of a heavily-built, oaken keg.

"Now maybe we can lift it out," said Jeremy, and taking a strong grip of
the edge, they heaved mightily together. It stirred a bare fraction of
an inch in its bed. "Again!" panted Jeremy, and they made another
desperate try. It was of no avail. The keg seemed to weigh hundreds of
pounds.

Mopping his forehead with his sleeve, Bob stood up and looked his
companion in the face. "Well," he grinned, "the heavier the better!"
"Right!" Jeremy agreed. "But how'll we get it home? We don't dare chop
it open--too much noise--or set fire to it, for they'd see the smoke.
Besides it's too damp to burn. Here--I'll see what's in it, yet!"

He crouched at the end of the barrel, whetted his hunting-knife on his
palm a few times, and began to cut swiftly at a crack between two
staves. Gradually the blade worked into the wood, opening a long narrow
slot as Jeremy whittled away first at one side, then at the other. From
time to time either he or Bob would stoop, trembling with excitement to
peer through the crack, but it was pitch-dark inside the barrel.

Jeremy kept at his task without rest, and as his knife had more play,
the shavings he cut from the sides of the opening grew thicker and
thicker. First he, then Bob, would try, every few seconds, to thrust a
fist through the widening hole.

At length Bob's hand, which was a trifle smaller than Jeremy's, squeezed
through. There was a breathless instant, while he groped within the keg,
and then, with a struggle he pulled his hand forth. In his fingers he
clutched a broad yellow disc.

"Gold!"

They gasped the word together.

Bob's face was awe-struck. "It's full of 'em--full of pieces like this,"
he whispered, "right up to within four inches of the top!"

They bent over the huge gold coin. The queer characters of the
inscription, cut in deep relief, were strange to both boys. Jeremy had
seen Spanish doubloons and the great double _moidores_ of Portugal, but
never such a piece as this. It was nearly two inches across and thick
and heavy in proportion.

One after another Bob drew out dozens of the shining coins, and they
filled their pockets with them till they felt weighted down. At length
Jeremy, looking up, was startled to see that the sun had set and
darkness was rapidly settling over the island. They threw dirt over the
barrel, then with all possible speed clambered forth, and taking up
their guns, made their way home as quietly as they had come.



CHAPTER XXIX


"No, lad, the risk is too great. Ye'd be in worse plight than before, if
they caught ye, and with a score of the ruffians searching the island
over, ye'd run too long a chance. Better be satisfied with what's here,
and stay where we can at least defend ourselves."

Amos Swan was speaking. On the deal table before him, a heap of great
goldpieces gleamed in the firelight while seated around the board were
his two sons and Bob.

It was Tom who answered. "True enough, father," he said, "and yet this
gold is ours. We own the island by the Governor's grant. If we sit idle
the pirates will surely find the treasure and make off with it. But if
we go up there at night, as Jeremy suggests, the risk we run will be
smaller, and every time we make the trip we'll add a thousand guineas to
that pile there. Think of it, father."

The elder man frowned thoughtfully. "Well," he said at length, "if you
go with them, Tom, and you go carefully, at night, we'll chance it, once
at least. Not tonight, though. It's late now and you all need sleep.
I'll take the first watch."

At about ten o'clock of the evening following, Jeremy, Bob and Tom stole
out and up the hill in the darkness. They were well-armed but carried no
lantern, the boys being confident of their ability to find the cleft in
the ledge without a light. A half hour's walking brought them near the
spot, and Jeremy, who had almost an Indian's memory for the "lay of the
ground," soon led the way to the edge of the chasm. Dim starlight shone
through the gap in the trees above the ledge, but there was only
darkness below in the pit. One by one they felt their way down and at
last all three stood on the damp earth at the bottom. "Here's the
barrel--just as we left it. They haven't been here yet!" Jeremy
whispered.

Working as quickly and as quietly as he could, Bob reached into the
opening in the keg and pulled out the gold, piece by piece, while the
others, taking the coins from his fingers, filled their pockets, and the
leather pouches they had brought.

It was breathlessly exciting work, for all three were aware of the
danger that they ran. When finally they crawled forth, laden like
sumpter-mules, the perspiration was thick on Jeremy's forehead. Knowing
the character of Pharaoh Daggs so well, he realized, better probably
than either of his companions, what fate they might expect if they were
discovered. So far, apparently, the pirates had not thought of setting a
night guard on the ridge. If they continued to neglect this precaution
and failed to find the treasure themselves, three more trips would----

His calculations were interrupted by the sudden snapping of a twig. He
stopped, instantly on the alert. Behind him Tom and Bob had also paused.
Neither of them had caused the sound. It had seemed to come from the
thick bush down hill to the right. For an endlessly long half-minute the
three held their breath, listening. Then once more something crackled,
farther away this time, and in a more southwesterly direction.

Man or animal, whatever it was that made the sounds, was moving rapidly
away from them.

Jeremy hunched the straps of his heavy pouch higher up on his shoulder
and led on again, faster than before, and hurrying forward in Indian
file, they reached the cabin without further adventure.

All through the next day they stood watch and watch at the shack, ready
for the attack which they expected to develop sooner or later. But still
it appeared that the pirates preferred to keep out of sight. The boys
had told Amos Swan of the noises they had heard the previous night and
he had listened with a grave countenance. It could hardly have been
other than one of the pirates, he thought, for he was quite certain that
except for a few rabbits, there were no wild animals upon the island.
"Still," he said, "if you were moving quietly, there's small reason to
believe the man knew you were near. If he did know and made such a noise
as that, he must have been a mighty poor woodsman!"

The boys, anxious that nothing should prevent another trip to the
treasure-keg, accepted this logic without demur.

The following night Amos Swan decided to go with the boys himself,
leaving Tom on guard at the cabin. As before, they armed themselves with
guns, pistols and hunting-knives and ascended the hillside in the inky
dark. There were no stars in sight and a faint breeze that came and went
among the trees foreboded rain. This prospect of impending bad weather
made itself felt in the spirits of the three treasure-hunters. Jeremy,
accustomed as he was to the woods, drew a breath of apprehension and
looked scowlingly aloft as he heard the dismal wind in the hemlock tops.
Ugh! He shook himself nervously and plunged forward along the hillcrest.
A few moments later they were gathered about the barrel at the bottom of
the cleft.

It was even darker than they had found it on their previous visit.
Jeremy and his father had to grope in the pitchy blackness for the coins
that Bob held out to them. Their pockets were about half-full when there
came a whispered exclamation from the Delaware boy.

"There's some sort of box in here, buried in the gold!" he said. "It's
too big to pull out through the hole. Where's your dirk, Jeremy?"

The latter knelt astride the keg, and working in the dark, began to
enlarge the opening with the blade of his hunting-knife. After a few
minutes he thrust his hand in and felt the box. It was apparently of
wood, covered with leather and studded over with scores of nails. Its
top was only seven or eight inches wide by less than a foot long,
however, and in thickness it seemed scarcely a hand's breadth.

Big cold drops of rain were beginning to fall as Jeremy resumed his
cutting. He made the opening longer as well as wider, and at last was
able by hard tugging to get the box through. He thrust it into his pouch
and they recommenced the filling of their pockets with goldpieces.

Before a dozen coins had been removed a sudden red glare on the walls of
the chasm caused the three to leap to their feet. At the same instant
the rain increased to a downpour, and they looked up to see a pine-knot
torch in the opening above them splutter and go out. The wet darkness
came down blacker than before.

But in that second of illumination they had seen framed in the torchlit
cleft a pair of gleaming light eyes and a cruelly snarling mouth set in
a face made horrible by the livid scar that ran from chin to eyebrow
across its broken nose.

Jeremy clutched at Bob and his father. "This way!" he gasped through the
hissing rain, and plunged along the black chasm toward the southern end,
where it debouched upon the hillside. They clambered over some boulders
and emerged in the undergrowth, a score of yards from the point where
the barrel had been found.

"Come on," whispered Jeremy hoarsely, and started eastward along the
slope. Burdened as they were, they ran through the woods at desperate
speed, the noise of their going drowned by the descending flood.

In the haste of flight it was impossible to keep together. When Jeremy
had put close to half a mile between himself and the chasm, he paused
panting and listened for the others, but apparently they were not near.
He decided to cut across the ridge, and started up the hill, when he
heard a crash in the brush just above him. "Father?" he called under his
breath. To his dismay he was answered by a startled oath, and the next
moment he saw a tall figure coming at him swinging a cutlass. The pirate
was a bare ten feet away. Jeremy aimed his pistol and pulled the
trigger, but only a dull click responded. The priming was wet.

[Illustration: A sudden red glare on the walls of the chasm.]

At that instant the cutlass passed his head with an ugly sound and
Jeremy, desperate, flung his pistol straight at the pirate's face. As it
left his hand he heard it strike. Then as the man went down with a
groan, he doubled in his tracks like a hare, and ran back, heading up
across the hill.

It was not till he was over the ridge and well down the slope toward
home that he dropped to a walk. His breath was coming in gasps that hurt
him like a knife between his ribs, and his legs were so weak he could
hardly depend on them. He had run nearly two miles, up hill and down, in
heavy clothes drenched with rain, and carrying a dozen pounds of gold
besides the flintlock fowling-piece which he still clutched in his left
hand. Somewhere behind him he had dropped the box, found amid the
treasure, but he was far too tired to look for it. More dead than alive
he crawled, at last, up to the door of the cabin and staggered in when
Tom opened to his knock.

While he gasped out his story, the older brother looked more closely to
the barring of the window-shutters and put fresh powder in the
priming-pans of the guns.

Ten minutes after Jeremy, his father appeared, wet to the skin and with
a grim look around his bearded jaws. He, too, was spent with running,
but he would have gone out again at once when he heard that Bob was
still missing if the boys had not dissuaded him. Jeremy was sure that
if Bob had escaped he would soon reach the cabin, for he had the lay of
the island well in mind now.

And so, while Tom kept watch, they lay down with their clothes on before
the fire.



CHAPTER XXX


The gray November morning dawned damp and cold. In the sheer exhaustion
that followed on their adventure of the night before, Jeremy and his
father slept heavily till close to nine o'clock, when Tom wakened them.
His face was haggard with watching, and he looked so worried that they
had no need to ask him if Bob had come in.

It was a gloomy party that sat down to the morning meal. The youngest
could eat nothing for thinking of his chum's fate. While his father
still spoke hopefully of the possibility that the boy might have found a
hiding place which he dared not leave, Jeremy could only remember the
frightful, scarred visage of Pharaoh Daggs looming in the torchlight. He
knew that Bob would find little mercy behind that cruel face, and he
could not throw off the conviction that the lad had fallen into the
clutches of the pirates.

All day, standing at the loopholes, they waited for some sign either of
Bob's return, or, what seemed more probable, an attack by the buccaneer
crew. But as the hours passed no moving form broke the dark line of
trees above them on the slope.

At length the dusk fell, and they gave up hope of seeing the boy again,
though on the other score their vigilance was redoubled. The night went
by, however, as quietly as though the island were deserted.

It was about two hours after sunrise that Jeremy stole out to give
fodder to the sheep, penned in the stockade ever since the first alarm.
He had been gone a bare two minutes when he rushed back into the cabin.

"Look father," he cried. "In the bay--there's a sloop coming in to
anchor!"

Amos Swan went to a northern loophole, and peered forth. "What is she?
Can ye make her out? Seems to fly the British Jack all right," he said.
Following the two boys, he hurried outside. Jeremy had run down the hill
to the beach where he stood, gazing intently at the craft, and shading
his eyes with his hand. After a moment he turned excitedly. "Father," he
shouted, "it's the _Tiger!_ I saw her only once, but I'd not forget
those fine lines of her. Look--there's Job, himself, getting into the
cutter!"

A big man in a blue cloak had just stepped into the stern sheets of the
boat, and seeing the figures on the shore, he now waved a hand in their
direction.

Sure enough, in three minutes Captain Job Howland jumped out upon the
sand and with a roar of greeting caught Jeremy's hand in his big fist.
"Well, lad," he laughed, "ye look glad to see us. Didn't know we was
headed up this way, did ye? But here we be! Soon as the sloop was ready
Mr. Curtis had a light cargo for Boston town, and he told me to coast up
here on the same trip. He wants Bob home again. Why--what ails ye, boy?"

They were climbing the path toward the shack, when Job noticed the
downcast look on Jeremy's face, and interrupted himself.

In a few words the boy told what had happened during the brief week they
had been on the island.

"By the Great Bull Whale!" muttered the ex-buccaneer in astonishment.
"Sol Brig's treasure, sure enough! And that devil, Daggs--see here, if
Bob's alive, we've got to get him out of that!" He swung about and
hailed the boat's crew, all six of whom had remained on the beach.

"Adams, and you, Mason, pull back to the sloop and bring off all the men
in the port watch, with their cutlasses and small-arms. The rest of you
come up here."

As soon as Job had shaken hands with Jeremy's father and brother, they
entered the cabin.

"Now, Jeremy," said the skipper, "you say this craft is careened on the
other side of the island, close to the place where Stede Bonnet landed
us that time? How many men have they?"

"We don't know," the boy replied. "But I don't think Daggs had time to
gather a big crew, and what's more, he'd figure the fewer the better
when it came to splitting up the gold. I doubt if there's above fifteen
men--maybe only fourteen now." He grinned as he thought of the big
pirate who had attacked him in the woods.

"Good," said Job. "We'll have sixteen besides you, Mr. Swan, and your
two boys. An even twenty, counting myself. If we can't put that crowd
under hatches, I'm no sailorman."

The crew of the _Tiger_, bristling with arms and eager for action, now
came up. Without wasting time Job told them what was afoot and they
moved forward up the hill.

Once among the trees the attacking party spread out in irregular
fan-formation, with Tom and Jeremy scouting a little in advance. The
stillness of the woods was almost oppressive as they went forward. All
the men seemed to feel it and proceeded with more and more caution. Used
to the hurly-burly of sea-fighting, they did not relish this silent
approach against an unseen enemy.

Clearing the ridge they came down at length to the edge of the beach,
close to the old pirate anchorage, and Jeremy led the way along through
the bushes toward the mouth of the reedy inlet. Working carefully down
the shore to the place whence Bob and he had sighted the spars of the
buccaneer, he climbed above the reeds and peered up the creek. To his
surprise the masts had disappeared.

"She's gone!" he gasped.

Job and Tom looked in turn. Certain it was that no vessel lay in the
creek!

"Perhaps they sighted the _Tiger_," suggested Jeremy. "If so, they can't
have gotten far. They've likely taken the rest of the gold. And Bob must
be aboard, too, if he's still alive."

As they turned to go back, one of the sailors who had walked down to the
reeds at the edge of the creek, hurried up with a dark object in his
fist. He held it out as he drew near and they saw that it was a pistol,
covered with a mass of black mud, Jeremy saw a gleam of metal through
the sticky lump, and quickly scraping away the mud from the mounting he
disclosed a silver plate which bore the still terrible name "Stede
Bonnet." The boy gave a cry of pleasure as he saw it, and thrust the
weapon quickly into Job's hands.

"Look!" he exclaimed. "It's Bob's pistol. And there's only one way it
could have gotten where it was. He must have thrown it from the sloop's
deck as they went past, thinking we'd find it. See here! They can't be
gone more than a few hours, for there's not a bit of rust on the iron
parts. Maybe we could catch them, Job, if we hurry!"

Job turned to his men and called, "What say you, lads--shall we give
them a chase?"

A chorus of vociferous "Ay, Ay's" was the answer.

"Here we go, then!" he shouted, and led the way back up the hill at a
trot.

As they reached the ridge, Jeremy cut over to the left a little through
the trees, so that his course lay past the treasure cleft. When he
reached it he found just what he had expected--the shattered staves of
the barrel lying open on the ledge, and several rough excavations in the
dirt at the bottom of the chasm, where the buccaneers had searched
greedily for more gold. The charred remnants of a bonfire, a few yards
further down the cleft, showed that they had worked partly at night.

Leaving the ledge, the boy was hurrying back to join the main party when
he came out upon an elevated space, clear of trees, from which one could
command a view of the sea to the west and south. Involuntarily he
paused, and shading his eyes with his hand, swept the horizon slowly.
Then he gave a start, for straight away to the westward, in a gap
between two islands, was a white speck of sail.

"Job!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. "Job!"

The big skipper was only a short distance away, and he came through the
trees at a run followed by most of his men, in answer to Jeremy's hail.
No words were necessary. The boy's pointing finger led their eyes
instantly to the far-off ship. Job took a quick look at the sun and the
distant islands, to fix his bearings, then set out for the northern
inlet again, even faster than before.

As they came running down the slope toward the cabin, Amos Swan emerged,
gun in hand, evidently believing that they were in full rout before the
enemy.

"They've left the island," panted Jeremy, as he reached the door. "We
saw their sail--we're going to chase them! We're sure, now, that Bob's
aboard!"

His father looked relieved.

"Go--you and Tom!" he said. "I'll stay and mind the island."

Job, with a dozen of his men, was starting in the cutter, and had
already hailed the _Tiger_ to order the other boat sent ashore. Tom and
Jeremy hurried into the cabin, and stuffing some clothes into Jeremy's
sea-chest along with a brace of good pistols and a cutlass apiece, were
soon ready to embark.



CHAPTER XXXI


There was a bustle of action aboard the sloop when the boys swarmed up
her side. One chanty was being sung up forward, where half a dozen
sturdy seamen were heaving at the capstan bars, and another was going
amidships as the throat of the long main gaff went to the top. Captain
Job stood on the afterdeck, constantly shouting new orders. His big
voice made itself heard above the singing, the groan of tackle-blocks
and the crash of the canvas, flapping in the northwest wind.

It was a clear, sunny day, with a bite of approaching winter in the air,
and the boys were glad to button their jackets tight and move into the
lee of the after-house.

"Here, lads," Job cried, "there's work for you, too. Take a run below,
Jeremy, and bring up an armload of cutlasses. See if any of those
muskets need cleaning, Tom."

Jeremy scurried down the companion ladder, and forward along the
starboard gun deck to the rack of small arms near the fo'c's'le hatch.
Jeremy was pleased to see that the sloop carried a full complement of
ten broadside guns, beside a long brass cannon in the bows. In fact,
she was armed like a regular man-o'-war. The tubs were filled and neat
little piles of round-shot and cannister stood beside each gun. The
_Tiger_, he thought, was likely to give a good account of herself if she
could come to grips with the buccaneers.

Stepping on deck once more, his arms piled with hangers, Jeremy found
that the sloop had already cleared the bay on her starboard tack and was
just coming about to make a long reach of it to port. The pirate sail
was no longer in sight in the west, but as several islands filled the
horizon in that direction, it seemed likely that she had passed beyond
them.

Jeremy approached the Captain. "How far ahead do you think they are?" he
asked.

"When we sighted 'em, they were about four sea-miles to the westward,"
answered Job. "If they're making ordinary sailing, they've gained close
to three more, since then. But if they're carrying much canvas it may be
more. We shan't come near them before dark, at any rate."

He cast an eye aloft as he spoke, and Jeremy's gaze followed. The
_Tiger_ was carrying topsails and both jibs, with a single reef in her
fore and main sails. She was scudding along at a great rate with the
whitecaps racing by, close below the lee gunports. Jeremy whistled with
delight. He had seen Stede Bonnet crowd canvas once or twice, but never
in so good a cause.

The wind held from the northwest, gaining in strength rather than
decreasing, and the sloop, heeled far to port, sped along close-hauled
on a west-sou'west course.

After three-quarters of an hour of this kind of sailing they were close
to the group of islands, and sighting a passage to the northward, swung
over on the other tack. A rough beat to starboard brought them into the
gap. Though they crossed a grim, black shoal at the narrowest part, Job
did not shorten sail, but steered straight on as fast as the wind would
take him. And at length they came clear of the headland and saw a great
stretch of open sea to the southwestward with a faint, white dot of sail
at its farthest edge.

At the sight a hearty cheer went up from the seamen, clustered along the
port rail. A lean, wind-browned man with keen black eyes came aft to the
tiller where Jeremy and Tom stood with the Captain. It was Isaiah
Hawkes, Job's first mate, himself a Maine coast man. "It's all clear
sailin' ahead, sir," he said. "No more reefs or islands 'twixt this an'
Cape Cod, if they follow the course they're on."

The _Tiger_ hung with fluttering canvas in the wind's eye for a second
or two, then settled away on the port tack with a bang of her main
boom.

"Here, Isaiah, take the tiller," said Job, at length. "Hold her as she
is--two points to windward of the other sloop. You'll want to set an
extra lookout tonight," he continued. "We shan't be able to keep 'em in
sight at this distance, if they've sighted us, which most likely they
have. I'm going up to have a look at 'Long Poll' now."

Accompanied by the two boys, he made his way along the steeply canted
deck of the plunging schooner to the breach of the swivel-gun at the
bow.

"Ever seen this gal afore, Jeremy?" asked Job, shouting to make himself
heard above the hiss and thunder of the water under the forefoot. "She's
the old gun we had aboard the _Queen_. Stede Bonnet never had a piece
like this. Cast in Bristol, she was, in '94. There's the letters that
tells it." And he patted the bright breach lovingly, sighting along the
brazen barrel, and swinging the nose from right to left till he brought
the gun to bear squarely on the white speck that was the pirate sloop,
still hull-down in the sea ahead. "Come morning, Polly, my gal," he
chuckled, "we'll let you talk to 'em."

As he spoke, the fiery disk of the sun was slipping into the ocean
across the starboard bow. With sunset the breeze lightened perceptibly,
and Job ordered the reefs shaken out of the fore and mainsails and an
extra jib set. Then he and the boys, who, although they had quarters
aft, had been assigned to the port watch, went below and turned in.



CHAPTER XXXII


Jeremy, stumbling on deck at eight bells, pulled his seaman's greatcoat
up about his ears, for the breeze came cold. He worked his way forward
along the high weather rail and took up his lookout station on the
starboard bow.

Overhead the midnight sky burned bright with stars that seemed to
flicker like candle-flames in the wind. A half-grown moon rode down the
west and threw a faint radiance across the heaving seas. It was blowing
harder now. The wind boomed loud in the taut stays and the rising waves
broke smashingly over the bow at times, forcing the foremast hands to
cling like monkeys to the rail and rigging.

Captain Job, with Tom to help him, stood grimly at the thrashing tiller
and drove the sloop southwestward at a terrific gait. The sails had been
single-reefed again during the mate's watch, but with the wind still
freshening the staunch little craft was carrying an enormous amount of
canvas. Job Howland was a sailor of the breed that was to reach its
climax a hundred years later in the captains of the great Yankee
clippers--men who broke sailing records and captured the world's trade
because they dared to walk their tall ships, full-canvassed, past the
heavy foreign merchantmen that rolled under triple reefs in half a gale
of wind.

One by one the hours of the watch went by. Jeremy, drenched and
shivering, but thrilling to the excitement of the chase, stuck to his
post at the rail beside the long bow gun. His eyes were fixed constantly
on the sea ahead and abeam, while his thoughts, racing on, followed the
pirate schooner close.

How was Bob to be gotten off alive, he wondered, for he had come to
believe that his chum was aboard the fleeing craft. If it came to a
running fight, their cannonade might sink her, in which case the boy
would be drowned along with his captors. And there were other things
that could happen. Jeremy groaned aloud as he thought of the fate that
Pharaoh Daggs had once so nearly meted out to him. He felt again the
bite of the hemp at his wrists, and saw that pitiless gleam in the
strange light eyes of the pirate. Would Daggs try to settle his long
score against the boys by some unheard-of brutality?

A sudden hail cut in upon his thoughts. "Sail ho!" the lookout on the
other side had cried.

"Where away?" came Job's deep shout.

"Three points on the port bow," answered the seaman, "an' not above a
league off!"

Jeremy, straining his eyes into the night, made out the dim patch of
sail ahead.

"How's she headed?" called the Captain again. "Is she still on her port
tack, or running before the wind?"

"Still beating up to the west!" the sailor replied.

"Good," cried Job. "They think they can outsail us. Keep her in sight
and sing out if you see her fall off the wind!"

Half an hour later the watch was changed and Jeremy scrambled into his
warm bunk for a few hours more sleep.

It was broad daylight when he and Tom reached the deck once more and
went eagerly forward to join the little knot of seamen in the bows. All
eyes were turned toward the horizon, ahead, where the sails of the
fleeing schooner loomed gray in the morning haze.

The wind which had shifted a little to the north was still blowing
stiffly, heeling both sloops over at a sharp angle. The _Tiger_ had
gained somewhat during the morning watch, but the pirates had now
evidently become desperate and put on all the sail their craft would
carry, so that the two vessels sped on, league after league, without
apparent change of position.

Job, who had now taken the tiller again, called to Jeremy after a while.
"Here, lad," he said, when the boy reached the poop, "lend me a hand
with this kicker."

Jeremy laid hold with a will, and found that it took almost all his
strength, along with that of the powerful Captain, to hold the schooner
on her course. At times, when a big beam sea caught her, she would yaw
fearfully, falling off several points, and could only be brought back to
windward by jamming the thrashing rudder hard over.

"We lose headway when she does that, don't we, Job?" panted the boy
after one such effort. "And I reckon we couldn't lash the beam fast to
keep her this way, could we? No, I see, it has to be free so as to move
all the time. Still----"

As he staggered to and fro at the end of the tiller, the boy thought
rapidly. Finally he recommenced: "Job--this may sound foolish to
you--but why couldn't we lash her on both sides, and yet give her
play--look--this way! Rig a little pulley here and one here----" He
indicated places on the deck, close to the rail on either quarter. "Then
reeve a line from the tiller-end through each one, and bring it back
with three or four turns around a windlass drum, a little way for'ard,
there. Then you could keep hold of the arms of the windlass, and only
let the tiller move as much as you needed to, either way----"

"By the Great Bull Whale," Job laughed, as he grasped the boy's plan, "I
wonder if that wouldn't work! Jeremy, boy, we'll find out, anyhow.
Braisted!" he called to the ship's carpenter, "up with some lumber and a
good stout line and a pair of spare blocks if you've got them. Lively,
now!"

In a jiffy the carpenter had tumbled the tackle out on the deck, and
under the direction of Job, began to rig it according to Jeremy's
scheme. It was a matter of a few moments only, once he caught the idea.
When at length the final stout knot had been tied, Job, still keeping
his mighty clutch on the tiller beam, motioned to Jeremy to take hold of
the windlass. The boy jumped forward eagerly and seized two of the rude
spokes that radiated horizontally from the hub. The position was an
awkward one, but with a slight pull he found that he could swing the
windlass rapidly in either direction.

"Avast there--avast!" came Job's bass bellow, and looking over his
shoulder, Jeremy saw the big skipper flung from side to side in spite of
himself as the windlass was turned. The seamen who had gathered to watch
were roaring with laughter, and Job himself was chuckling as he let go
the tiller and hurried to Jeremy's side. Taking a grip on the spokes, he
spun them back and forth once or twice, to feel how the vessel answered
her helm under this new contraption, and in a moment had it working
handsomely. He was using the first ship's steering-wheel.

The sloop, which had yawed and lost some headway during this interlude,
now struck her stride again, and drove along with her nose held steady,
a full half-point closer to the wind than had been possible before. Job
perceived this and loosed one hand long enough to strike Jeremy a mighty
blow on the back.

"She works, boy!" he cried. "And at this gait we'll catch them before
noon!"

Indeed, the crew had already noticed the difference in their sailing,
and were lining the bows, waving their caps in the air and yelling with
excitement as they watched the distance between the two craft slowly
shorten.

An hour passed, and the gunners were sent below to make ready their
pieces, for the lead of the pirate sloop had been cut to a bare mile.

Job had turned the wheel over to Hawkes, and now, with three picked men
to help him, was ramming home a heavy charge of powder in the long
"nine." On top of it he drove down the round-shot, then bent above the
swivel-breach, swinging it back and forth as he brought the cannon's
muzzle to bear on the topsails of the pirate schooner, whose black hull
was now plainly visible. He sniffed the wind and measured the distance
with his eye. When his calculations were complete he turned and held up
his hand in signal to the helmsman. As the swivel allowed movement only
from side to side, he must depend on the cant of the deck for his
elevation. Holding the long gunner's match lighted in his hand, he
waited for the exact second when the schooner's bow was lifted on a wave
and swinging in the right direction, then touched the powder train.
There was a hiss and flare, and at the end of a second or two a terrific
roar as the charge was fired. The smoke was blown clear almost
instantly, and every one leaned forward, watching the sea ahead with
tense eagerness. At length a column of white spray lifted, a scant
hundred yards astern of the other sloop. The crew cheered, for it was a
splendid shot at that distance and in a seaway. The sky was thickening
to windward, and it grew harder momentarily to see objects at a
distance. Job was already at work, superintending the swabbing-out of
the gun and reloading with his own hands. There was a long moment while
he waited for a favorable chance, then "Long Poll" shook the deck once
more with the crash of her discharge. This time the shot fell just ahead
and to windward of the enemy--so close that the spray blew back into the
rigging.

Job had bracketed his target, but the mist-clouds that were sweeping
past rendered his task a difficult one. Grimly but with swift certainty
of movement he went about his preparations for a third attempt.

Suddenly there was a shout from Jeremy, who had climbed into the
forestays for a better view. "Look there!" he cried. "They're lowering a
boat. There's something white in it, like a flag of truce!"

In the lee of the pirate vessel a small boat could be seen tossing
crazily in the heavy seas. Job, who had called for his spyglass, looked
long and earnestly at the tiny craft.

"There's but one man in it," he announced at length, "and he's showing a
bit of something white, as Jeremy says. Here, lad, you've the best eyes
on the sloop, see if you can make out more."

The boy focussed the glass on the little boat, which was now drifting
rapidly to the southeast, already nearly opposite their bows. The figure
in it stood up, waving frantic arms to one side and the other.

"It's Bob!" Jeremy almost screamed. "That's a signal we used to have
when we were hunting. It means 'Come here!'"

He had hardly finished speaking when--"Port your helm!" roared Job. "All
hands stand by to slack the fore and main sheets!"

[Illustration: Job had bracketed his target.]

The _Tiger_ fell off the wind with a lurch and spun away to leeward,
bowing into the running seas.

Five minutes later they hauled Bob, drenched and dripping, to the deck.



CHAPTER XXXIII


The boy was pale and haggard and so weak he could hardly stand alone,
but he looked about him with an eager grin as Tom and Jeremy helped him
toward the companion.

"Why," he gasped, "here's old Job! What's he doing up here!" as the
latter strode aft to seize his hand.

"Ay, lad," laughed the big mariner, a mighty relief showing in his face,
"we're all your friends aboard here. But how came those devils to let
you off so easy? We figured we'd have to fight to get you, and mighty
lucky to do it at that!"

The schooner had come into the wind again and was heading westward in
pursuit of the pirate, now hidden in the murk ahead. Bob was helped to
the cabin and propped up in a bunk while his friends hastened to get
some dry clothes on him. A pull of brandy stopped his shivering.

"I thought none of you would ever see me alive," he said soberly. "But,
Job, before I tell you all about it, are you sure you've lost sight of
Daggs' sloop? They were worried about your shooting, and figured the
only chance they had was to set me adrift and then get away in the
dirty weather, while you were fishing me out. They'd never have given me
up if that second shot hadn't mighty near gone through and through the
old _Revenge_."

"The _Revenge_!" said Job. "I thought I knew the cut of that big
mainsail, and she was painted black, too! Well, their trick succeeded.
Just this minute we'd have no more chance of finding 'em than a needle
in a haystack. But it may clear again before night, and then we'll see!
Go ahead now and spin your yarn, my lad!"

And Bob, swigging hot tea and munching a biscuit, began once more to
tell his story.

"After we separated, and started to run, up on the hill that night," he
said, "I seemed to lose all my sense of direction for a while. I was
scared for one thing, I'll freely admit. When I saw Daggs' face in the
torchlight leaning over us, there by the treasure barrel, it frightened
me pretty nearly out of my senses. So I started to run, without an idea
of where I was going, and by the time I got my wits back, I couldn't
tell just where I was, in the rain and the dark. I seemed to be right on
top of the ridge, but I had zig-zagged several times, I remembered, and
when I tried to figure which side of the hill I should go down, I
couldn't for the life of me decide. Finally I said to myself, 'Here,
don't be a fool! Which way was the wind blowing when we set out from the
shack? Aha, it was north,' says I. 'Very well, then, this must be the
way to the cabin--straight into the wind,' And down the hill I started,
bearing over to my right, so as to come out just above the sheep-pen."

"But--" interrupted Jeremy, "when that storm came up the wind backed
clear round into the south--"

"I know it now," Bob answered, "but I didn't then. I kept right on,
tickled that I was out of it so well, and wondering where the rest of
you had gotten to. Pretty soon I came to some low land that I didn't
remember, but I saw a light off ahead and to my right, and decided that
was the cabin. I blundered along through the trees till I was quite
close, and then I discovered that the light came from a bonfire. I
stopped for a second, puzzled, for I was sure I must be near the cabin.
I wondered if the pirates had captured it. I stole up still closer and
watched the light and presently a buccaneer walked in front of it.

"That was enough for me. I turned and started to run. And at about the
third step I fell plump into the arms of a pirate. You see I had walked
straight toward their part of the island by making that silly mistake.

"This fellow got a grip on my collar, and I couldn't break loose, though
I'll warrant his shins are tender yet, where I kicked him. He hauled me
down to the fire, and he and three others who were there looked me
over. The one that had caught me was a big mulatto--as ugly-looking a
customer as I ever saw. And the others were no lambs. I'll tell you, my
hearties, Daggs has gathered up a pretty lot of rascals in this crew.
Not one of 'em but looks as if he'd knife you for a copper farthing!

"These four by the fire wasted no time, but went through my pockets in a
hurry. They took my pistol and were quarreling about dividing the
goldpieces I had, when the rest of the crowd began to appear. They were
all wet, and in a bad temper for a dozen other reasons. Plenty of curses
came my way, but no one laid a hand on me, for they had a mighty fear of
Pharaoh Daggs. When he finally came, he swore at them till they slunk
around like whipped curs.

"He was in an ugly mood that night. Seemingly he was disappointed in the
amount of treasure they had found. Besides that, they had come on one of
their best men with his head beaten in, and you and your father had
gotten clean away. Things looked black enough for me, I can tell you.

"Daggs and the mulatto, who is his mate, started in to question me,
after they had grumbled awhile. They knew already how many of you there
were at the cabin, but they asked about your guns and supplies. Of
course, I didn't make the stronghold any weaker in the telling. When
they had all the information they thought they could get out of me,
they held a sort of council. Some wanted to go right over before light
and attack the cabin. Others were for broaching a barrel of rum first,
and making thorough preparations. Finally Daggs decided to put it off
until they could get some pitch and dry grass ready, so as to set fire
to the roof.

"It was nearly daylight by this time, and they started back through the
reeds toward their sloop, leading me along with them. We travelled half
a mile or so, down a crooked black trail only wide enough for one man at
a time, and ankle deep in the mud of the swamp. When we reached the
schooner they stuck a pair of handcuffs on me and put me down on the
ballast. In spite of the filth and the cold I was so dog-tired that I
tumbled on the nearest pile of old chains and went to sleep.

"I woke up late in the afternoon, and I don't think I was ever so stiff
and uncomfortable and hungry in my life. I made my way over to the hatch
and found I could reach the combing with my hands, so I pulled myself
up, after a mighty hard tussle. Try it some time with your hands tied!

"Most of the pirates were forward in their bunks, but one who was
keeping watch on deck took pity on me and gave me a couple of biscuits
and a swig of water. He was more or less talkative, besides, and from
him I learned that Daggs planned to start about midnight for your side
of the island, carrying buckets of pitch and tinder, so as to roast you
out.

"As you may imagine, this kind of talk nearly turned me sick with fear,
and right in the midst of it Pharaoh Daggs came on deck.

"He had that empty sort of glare in his eyes that we used to see
sometimes when he was drunk. Of course, he walked straight and even, but
as he came over toward us, with his teeth showing and his eyes fixed on
a point just above the pirate's shoulder, I almost yelled 'Look out!' If
I had, it might have cost me my life right there. He walked along, light
on his toes like a cat, till he stood two feet from us. Then, so fast I
hardly knew what happened, he hit the other man on the chin with his
fist. That was all. The man dropped with his head back against the rail.
And Daggs went off, chuckling to himself but not making any noise. I
don't think he saw me at all, for his attack was more like the work of a
mad dog than of a man.

"I crept away and got below decks as fast as might be, and there I
stayed hidden till after dark, when some of the buccaneers rousted me
out. A keg of rum had been opened in the waist, and the liquor was going
freely. Most of the crew were already drunk, but they had the sense to
chain me by one leg to the foremast, and then made me run back and
forth between them and the barrel. I was only too glad. No cannikin was
skimped while I was at the spigot. I looked around and remembered some
of the wild nights we had seen on the old _Revenge_. And then for the
first time I realized that the deck I stood on was the same! They'd
gotten hold of the old black sloop when she was auctioned at Charles
Town, patched up her bottom and here she was--buccaneering once more!
Where the gang of cut-throats aboard her were gathered, I don't know,
but they put Stede Bonnet's famous crew to shame.

"Pharaoh Daggs was somewhere ashore with two of the crew till nearly
midnight. When he returned, the rest were lying like pigs about the
deck. He had sobered slightly--enough to remember the night's
undertaking--but it was useless to think of rousing those sots to any
sort of endeavor. He kicked one or two of them savagely with his heavy
boot, too, but it got hardly more than a grunt from them.

"He stood there cursing for a minute, then came over and looked at the
shackle that held me to the foremast-foot, and shook it to make sure it
was solid before he went below. He had something done up in a cloth that
he held mighty tenderly, and he seemed in a better humor.

"I curled up on the deck and by wrapping myself in a greatcoat which I
found beside one of the drunken pirates, succeeded in keeping reasonably
warm.

"When morning came Daggs and his mulatto mate managed to wake most of
the men and forced them to get out and forage for wood and water, while
they themselves crossed the ridge to reconnoitre. I think it was about
two hours after sunrise when those of us who stayed aboard the sloop saw
figures running down the hill. The buccaneers got out boarding-pikes and
picked up cutlasses, but in a moment Daggs reached the side, out of
breath with his haste.

"'There's a ten-gun schooner in the northern cove!' he cried. 'They're
landing a boat now. We haven't any time to lose--the tide's past full
already! Cut those moorings!'

"The hemp lines were slashed through with cutlasses and the men, with
one accord, jumped to the push-holes. The sloop was on an even keel and
just off the bottom. A few strong shoves started her down the creek.

"My hopes of escaping began to go down, for there I was, still chained
to the fore-stick like a cow put out to grass. I looked around me in
desperation, for I wanted to leave you some sign at least of my
whereabouts. Then my eye fell on a little heap of small arms that had
been thrown down near the forehatch. The pistols were useless to me, as
I had no powder, but among them I saw the bright silver mountings of my
own--the one that used to be Stede Bonnet's.

"We were drawing near the creek mouth, and those of the crew who were
not at the poles were busy unfurling the sails. I picked the pistol up
unobserved and waited till we were just hauling clear of the creek. Then
I threw it overside and saw it strike in the mud. Did you find it?"

"Yes," said Jeremy. "That's how we knew for certain that you'd been
captured."

"Well," the Delaware boy went on, "there's not much more to tell. The
pirates made all sail to the southwest, but after we cleared the
islands, there you were, roaring along in our wake. Daggs thought that
the _Revenge_ was a faster sailer than your craft, but he found he
couldn't keep her as close to the wind on this tack. I don't think he
wants to fight if he can help it, but he was getting desperate this
afternoon before the weather began to thicken up. I heard him tell the
mate he'd rather come to broadside grips than risk having you drop a
shot through the black sloop's bottom with that bowchaser. Then the mist
started to come over, and I guess Daggs saw his chance right away. He
called the crew aft and told them what he was going to do, and a moment
later I found myself being lowered in a boat into that wicked sea. I
thought they were trying to drown me out of hand, till they gave me a
piece of white cloth to wave. Then I got an inkling of their idea.

"Sure enough, no sooner was I fairly adrift than I saw you put over in
my direction, and thinking Jeremy might be aboard, I gave him our old
signal. It worked, and here I am safe enough. But meanwhile those devils
have got off into the mist, and it'll be hard to follow them."

Job sat thoughtful, pulling at his pipe. He seemed to be cogitating some
of the points in Bob's narrative, and the others kept silent, unwilling
to interrupt him. At length he blew a great cloud of blue smoke toward
the deck-beams above and turning to the boy, asked, "Did Daggs or any of
the rest ever speak of the place where they were going?"

"They never talked about it openly," Bob replied, "but from words
dropped now and then by the mulatto mate I figured they were heading
down for the Spanish Islands. I don't think they intend putting in
anywhere first, unless they land for water in one of those out of the
way inlets along the Jersey coast."

Job nodded. "That's about as I thought," he answered. "So we'll hold on
this tack till nightfall--we're just off the Kennebec, now--and then
we'll run sou'-sou'east before the wind, to clear Cape Cod. Daggs--if he
figgers as I would in his place--won't start to leeward right away, for
he'd rather have us in front of him than behind. And unless I'm much
mistaken he's in too much of a hurry to waste time in doubling back up
the coast. All right Bob, lad, you'll be wanting sleep now, so we'll
leave you. On deck with you, boys!"

And tucking the blankets about the drowsy youngster in the bunk, Job led
the way to the companion.



CHAPTER XXXIV


The mist was sweeping past in swirls and streaks, and though the wind
had abated somewhat, the _Tiger_ still ploughed along into the obscurity
at a fair rate of speed. Jeremy stayed forward with the lookout, peering
constantly into the gloom ahead, and half expecting to see the ghostlike
sails of the _Revenge_ whenever for a moment a gray aisle opened in the
mist. But there were only the grim, uneasy seas and the shifting fog.

Before darkness fell Job shortened sail, for he did not wish to get too
far ahead of the enemy. And about the end of the second dog watch he
gave the order to slack sheets and fall away for the southward run.

The wind turned bitterly cold in the night, and when the watch was
changed Tom and Jeremy staggered below, glad to escape from the stinging
snow that filled the air.

But with that snow-flurry the weather cleared. The sun rose to a day of
bright blue water and sharp wind, and hardly had its first level rays
shot across the ocean floor when the watch below was tumbled out by a
chorus of shouts from the deck.

Jeremy, as he burst upward through the hatchway, cast an eager eye to
either beam, then uttered a whoop of joy, as he caught the gleam of
white canvas over the bows. There, straight ahead and barely a league
distant, raced the _Revenge_ and her pirate crew.

Captain Job reached the deck only a couple of jumps behind the boys, and
an instant later his deep voice boomed the order to shake out all reefs
and set the top-sails.

Bob, who had slept the clock around and eaten a hearty breakfast, soon
appeared at Jeremy's side, looking fit for any adventure. With Tom they
went up into the bows and were shortly joined there by others of the
crew, all intent on the chase.

The swells as they surged by from stern to bow seemed to move more and
more sluggishly. Beneath a press of sail that would have made most
skippers fearful of running her under, Job was driving the _Tiger_ along
at a terrific pace. Now once more Jeremy's steering-wheel was proving
its worth. Job at the helm could hold the plunging schooner on her
course with far less danger of being swung over into the trough than
would have been the case with the old hand tiller.

But in spite of the schooner's headlong speed, the distance between her
and her quarry seemed to lessen scarcely at all. The old _Revenge_ with
her tall sticks and great spread of canvas was flying down before the
wind with all the speed that had made her name a byword, and the man
with the broken nose was evidently willing to take as many chances as
his pursuers.

All morning the chase went on. At noon, when the winter sun flashed on
the high white dunes of Cape Cod, to starboard, the _Tiger_ seemed to
have gained a little. Job, leaving the wheel for a bit, came forward and
measured the distance with his eye. He shook his head. "Two miles," he
said. "At this rate we can't get within range before dark." And he went
back to his steering.

But for once he was mistaken. For an hour or more the buccaneers had
been hauling over little by little toward the coast, possibly with the
idea of running in and escaping overland as soon as night should fall.
Now the lookout in the foretop of the _Tigers_ gave a cheer.

"They've caught a flaw in the wind!" he shouted. "Watch us come up!"

Sure enough the _Revenge_ had sailed into an area of light air to
leeward of the Cape, and the boys could see that their own sloop, which
still had the wind, was hauling up hand over hand on her adversary.

"By the Great Bull Whale!" roared Job, leaping forward along the deck,
"now's our chance! Hold her as she is, Hawkes, while I load the long
gun."

The big gunner-captain worked rapidly as always, but before he had done
ramming down the round-shot, the pirate schooner was within range for a
long-distance try. She lay off the _Tiger's_ starboard bow, almost
broadside on, but still too far away to use her own guns.

Job aimed with his usual care, but when at length he put a match to the
powder, the shot flew harmlessly through the pirate's rigging, striking
the sea beyond. Almost at the same moment the wind drew strongly in the
sails of the _Revenge_ once more, and she began plunging southward at a
breakneck pace.

Job ran aft for a word with the mate, who had the wheel, then returned
and again loaded the bowchaser, this time with chainshot and an extra
heavy charge of powder to carry it. When he had finished he stood by the
breach in grim silence, watching the chase.

It soon became apparent that though the _Tiger_ could gain little on her
rival in actual headway, she was gradually pulling over closer to the
quarter of the _Revenge_. Hawkes, who was an excellent seaman, humored
the craft to starboard, bit by bit, without sacrificing her forward
speed.

At the end of twenty minutes Job gave a satisfied grunt, maneuvered the
cannon back and forth on its swivel base once or twice, and fired.
Above the roar of the discharge the boys heard the screech of the
whirling chainshot, and then in the _Revenge's_ mainsail appeared a
great gaping rent, through the tattered edges of which the wind passed
unhindered. There was a howl of joy from the crew, and without waiting
for an order, they tumbled pell-mell down the hatches to man the
broadside cannon in the waist.

Job stayed on deck, watching the enemy through his spy-glass.
Handicapped by her torn mainsail, the _Revenge_ was already falling
abeam. When they had hauled up to within five or six hundred yards of
her, Job called the men of the port watch on deck to shorten sail. This
done, and the two sloops holding on southward at about an even gait, the
Captain took a turn below, where he looked at each of the guns, gave a
few sharp orders and ran back to his station on the after deck.

"All ready, Hawkes," he called, "bring us up to within a hundred and
fifty fathoms of her!"

The mate spun the wheel to starboard, and the schooner, answering, drew
nearer to the enemy.

"Close enough--port your helm," cried Job.

But even as the _Tiger_ swung into position for a broadside, there came
the roar of the pirate's guns, and a shot crashed through the forestays,
while others, falling short, threw spray along the deck.

"All right below," shouted Captain Job, steady as a church. "Ready a
starboard broadside!" And at his sharp "Fire!" the five cannon spoke in
quick succession. The deck rocked beneath Jeremy's feet, where he stood
by the companion, ready to carry Job's orders below.

As the dense smoke was swept away forward on the wind, they could see
the _Revenge_, her rigging still further damaged by the volley, going
about on the starboard tack, and making straight for the shore.

"Put your helm hard down and bring her to the wind!" roared Job, at the
same time jumping toward the mainsheet.

The schooner swung to starboard, heeling sharply as she caught the wind
abeam, and was in hot pursuit of her enemy before a full minute had
passed.



CHAPTER XXXV


Little by little the _Tiger_ pulled up to windward of the buccaneer and
the men below in the gun deck could be heard cheering as their advance
brought the black sloop more and more nearly opposite the yawning mouths
of the _Tiger's_ port carronades.

The shore was now less than half a mile distant. Though making all
possible speed, the pirate schooner seemed to rise on the waves with a
more sluggish heave than before. Job, watching her through the spyglass,
turned to Isaiah Hawkes.

"Don't she look sort o' soggy to you?" he asked. "I can't quite make out
whether that's a hole in her planking or--by the Great Hook Block! See
there, now, when she lifts! One of our shots landed smack on her
waterline. No wonder they're trying to beach her!"

A moment later the _Tiger_ had hauled fairly abreast and the two
schooners plunged along a bare hundred yards apart. Not a head showed
above the high weather bulwark of the _Revenge_. Only the muzzles of her
guns peered grimly from their ports in her black side. There was
something sinister about this apparently deserted ship, lurching
drunkenly shoreward, with her torn sails and broken rigging flapping in
the breeze, and the pirate flag flying at her peak.

Job made a megaphone of his hands and raised his voice in a hail.

"Ahoy, _Revenge_!" he boomed. "Will you surrender peacefully, and haul
down that flag?"

There was silence for a full ten seconds. Then a musket cracked and a
bullet imbedded itself in the mainmast by Job's head.

"All right, boys," he said, without moving, "let 'em have it! Ready,
port battery? Fire!" Jeremy and Bob, clinging side by side to the
hatch-combing, felt the planking quiver under them at the series of
mighty discharges, and saw the pirate schooner check and stagger like an
animal that has received its death wound.

Only one of her guns was able to reply, the round-shot screaming high and
wide. But on she went, and the steep beach below the dunes was very
close now.

Captain Job stood by the hatchway. "All hands up, ready to board her,"
he ordered, and the crew, swarming on deck, ran to their places by the
longboat amidships.

The _Tiger_ was now in very shallow water, but Job waited till he saw
the other craft strike. Then, "Bring her head to the wind, Hawkes!" he
cried, "And over with the boat, lads! Lively now, or they'll get
ashore!"

Hardly was the order given when the boat shot into the water. During the
scramble of the seamen for places on her thwarts, Jeremy and Bob jumped
down and crouched in the bows, unseen by any but those nearest them. Ten
seconds after she hit the waves the boat was filled from gunwale to
gunwale with sailors, armed to the teeth with pistols, cutlasses and
boarding-pikes. Job, last to leave the deck, spoke a word to Hawkes, who
remained in command, and jumped into the sternsheets.

"Now, give way!" he roared.

The eight stout oars lashed through the water and the boat sped
shoreward like an arrow. Up in the bows the two boys clutched their
weapons and waited. Neither one would have admitted that he was scared,
though they were both shivering with something more than the cold.
Besides his precious pistol, Bob was gripping the hilt of a
murderous-looking hanger, which he had picked up from the pile on deck
in passing. Jeremy had been able to secure no weapon but a short pike
with a heavy ashen staff and a knife-like blade at the upper end. They
peered over the bows in silence. The longboat was close to the
_Revenge's_ quarter now, but there was no sign of the pirates along her
rail.

"Suppose they've got ashore?" asked Bob. "I don't see--"

"Down heads all!"

It was Job's voice, and the boys together with many of the seamen ducked
instinctively at the words. As they did so there came a crash of
musketry, followed by intermittent shots, and splinters flew from the
gunwale of the boat. Jeremy heard a gasping cry behind him and a young
sailor toppled backward from the thwart. He fell between the boys, and
as they raised him in their arms he died.

Another seaman had been killed and three more wounded by the pirate
volley, which had been fired from a distance of barely a dozen yards.
Seeing the effect of their fusillade, the buccaneers rose cheering and
yelling from behind the bulwarks of the sloop in the evident belief that
they had succeeded in demoralizing the attacking force. But the speed of
the boat had hardly been checked. In another instant the rowers shipped
their oars and the gunwale scraped along the free-board of the schooner.

"A guinea to the first man up!" cried Job, himself reaching up with
powerful fingers for a grip by which to climb.

There were no rope-ends hanging, and as the _Revenge_ in her stranded
position lay much higher forward than aft, the boys, standing in the
bows, found themselves faced by smooth planking too high to scale.

Jeremy started back over the thwarts, but heard Bob calling to him and
turned.

"Here's a place to board!" the Delaware boy was saying, and pointed
toward the forward gun-port which stood open just beyond and above the
bow of the longboat. In a twinkling Bob had straddled through the hole,
with Jeremy close after him. It was dark in the 'tween-decks and the two
boys made their way forward on tiptoe, waiting breathlessly for the
attack they felt sure would come. But apparently all the buccaneers were
busy above in the fierce fight that they could hear raging along the
rail. They moved on, undeterred, till they reached the foot of the
fo'c's'le ladder, where Jeremy feeling along the bulkhead, uttered an
exclamation.

"This is their gun-rack," he said. "And here's a musket all loaded and
primed! I'll take it along!"

The hatch cover had been drawn to, but Bob, trying it from beneath,
decided it was not fastened. Both boys tugged at it and succeeded in
sliding it back an inch or two, where it stuck.

The hubbub on deck was now terrific. They could hear, above the general
outcry, an occasional sharply gasped command in Job's voice, or a
snarling oath from one of the buccaneers, but for the most part it was a
bedlam of unintelligible shouts with a constant undertone of ringing
steel and the thud of shifting feet. Most of the firearms, apparently,
had been discharged, and in the mêlée no one had time to reload.

Bob, straining desperately at the hatch-cover, spied Jeremy's
pike-shaft, and thrusting it through the narrow opening, pried with all
his strength. The hatch squeaked open reluctantly and the boys squirmed
through on to the deck.

They gasped at the sight which met their eyes as they emerged. Both of
them had confidently expected to find the pirates already beaten, and
fighting with their backs to the wall. But such was far from being the
case.

On the deck amidships lay two men from the _Tiger_, sorely wounded,
while Job and two others stood at bay above them, swinging cutlasses
mightily, and beating off, time after time, the attacks of a dozen
fierce pirate hanger-men. A number of buccaneers had fallen but all who
were unwounded were raging like a pack of dogs about the figures of Job
and his two supporters.

"They can't get up!" cried Bob, "The men can't climb the side! Here,
help me bring that rope!" It was a matter of seconds only before the
boys had dashed across the deck and thrown a rope's end to the men below
in the longboat. Then Jeremy turned and ran toward the waist. Another
man was down now. Job and a single comrade were fighting back to back,
parrying with red blades the blows of half a score of the enemy. Jeremy
saw a gleam of yellow teeth between wicked lips, and a flash of light
eyes in the thick of the assault. Then for a moment he had a glimpse of
the whole face of Pharaoh Daggs, scarred and distorted with frightful
passion--a cruel wolf's face--and even as he looked, the dripping
sword-blade of the man with the broken nose plunged between the ribs of
Job's last henchman. The wounded seaman staggered, leaning his weight
against his captain, but still kept his guard up, defending himself
feebly. Job hooked his left arm about the poor lad's body and backed
with his burden toward the mainmast, slashing fiercely around him with
his tireless right arm the while. When they reached the mast, Job leaned
his comrade against it, set his own back to the wood, and battled on.

But now a cheer resounded, and the buccaneers, turning their heads,
found themselves face to face with the rush of half a dozen men from the
_Tiger_, while more could be seen swarming over the rail.

The knot of pirates broke to meet the attack, but some of them stayed.
Daggs and three others, including the huge mulatto mate, closed in on
Job, cutting at him savagely. The wounded sailor had fainted and slipped
to the deck. Jeremy saw the saddle-colored mate step swiftly to one
side, then come up from behind the mast, drawing a long dirk from his
sash as he neared Job's back. He had lifted the knife and was stepping
in for a blow, when Jeremy pulled the trigger of his musket. There must
have been an extra heavy charge of powder in the gun, for its recoil
threw the boy flat on the deck, and before he could regain his feet he
saw a man close above him and caught the flash of a hanger in the air.
Desperately Jeremy rolled out of the way, and none too soon, for the
blade cut past his head with a nasty _swish_. He scrambled up and caught
a boarding-pike from the deck as he did so. The pirate followed, hacking
at him with his cutlass, and for seconds that seemed like hours the boy
fought for his life, parrying one stroke after another, till the pike
shaft was broken by the blows, and he was left weaponless. As he ducked
and turned in despair, a man from the _Tiger_ ran in and caught the
buccaneer on his flank, finishing him in short order.

The deck was now full of struggling groups, for though a score of the
longboat's crew had climbed aboard, the pirates were putting up a fierce
resistance. Jeremy, panting from his encounter, cast about for a weapon
and soon found a cutlass, with which he armed himself. He turned toward
the mainmast foot once more, and to his joy discovered that his shot had
taken effect. The mulatto had disappeared under the trampling mass of
fighting men, and Job's tall figure still towered by the mast. It took
the lad only a second, however, to realize that his Captain's plight was
serious. The big Yankee was fighting wearily with a broken cutlass, and
his face was gray beneath the red stream of blood that ran from a wound
above his eye. Jeremy plunged into the ruck of the battle, careless now
of danger. A sort of berserk rage possessed him at the sight of that
wound. He hewed his way frantically toward the mast, and suddenly found
Bob there beside him, cutting and lunging like a demon. He gasped out a
cheer. But even as it left his throat, the Captain's arm flew up
convulsively, then dropped out of sight in the mob.

"Job's down!" cried Bob wildly, but the New England boy's only reply was
a half-choked sob.

Now the tables were turned of a sudden, for three stout sea-dogs from
the _Tiger_, finishing their first opponents, dashed into the fray with
a yell, and Daggs, hewing his way to the mast, turned to face the new
attack with only two men left on foot to back him.

The fight was short and fierce. First one, then the other of the
buccaneers went down before the furious assault of Job's seamen. At
length only the pirate chief was left to battle on, terrible and
silent, his face set in a ghastly grin, like the visage of a lone wolf
fighting his last fight.

But the odds were too great. The men of the _Tiger_ pressed in
relentlessly till at last a dozen sword-points found their mark at once.
And so died Pharaoh Daggs, violently, as he had lived.



CHAPTER XXXVI


It was Jeremy who, five minutes later, held Job's head on his knees,
while the weary, bleeding sailors stood silently by with their hats off.

The bo's'n, a grizzled veteran of many sea-fights, was kneeling beside
his Captain with an ear to his side. There was hope in the man's face
when at length he looked up.

"He's breathin' yet," was his verdict, "breathin', but not much more.
There's half a score of cuts in him, different places. Here, lads, rig a
stretcher, an' let's get him back to the ship."

When the unconscious body of their big friend had been placed gently in
the boat, Bob and Jeremy turned to each other with sober faces.

"It was a costly sort of victory," said Bob. "This deck's not a pretty
sight, and there's nothing much we can do to help. Let's have a look at
the cabin."

They went below and forced open the door of the after compartment, which
had once housed the great Stede Bonnet. Instead of its old immaculate
and almost scholarly appearance, the place now had an air of desolation.
It reeked of filth, stale tobacco-smoke, and the spilled lees of
liquor. In the clutter on the cabin table lay two bulging sacks and a
small box.

"Well," said Bob, as he felt the weight of one of the bags, "here's the
rest of Brig's gold!"

But Jeremy's attention was occupied. He had picked up the box from the
table and was examining it curiously.

"See here, Bob," he cried, "this is the little chest I was carrying the
night we ran through the woods. I dropped it when that pirate tackled
me. What do you suppose is in it?"

The box was leather-covered and heavily studded with nails. Jeremy tried
the small padlock and found it rusty and weak. A hard pull on the staple
and it came away in his hand. He threw open the cover and the two boys
stood back, gasping with astonishment.

There on the lining of soft buckskin lay twelve great emeralds, gleaming
with a clear green light even in that dark place. They were perfectly
matched and as large as the end of a man's thumb, each cut in a square
pattern after the oldtime fashion. Such stones they were as could have
come only from the coffers of an oriental king--the ransom, perhaps, of
a prince of the blood, or of the favorite wife of some Maharajah, seized
in one of Solomon Brig's daredevil raids.

Bob found breath at last.

"It's a fortune!" he cried. "They're worth more than all the gold
together! And they're yours, Jeremy--yours by right of discovery twice
over. You're rich--you and your father and Tom! Think of it! You can buy
a whole fleet of big ships like the _Indian Queen_, and become a great
merchant. You and I'll be partners when we're grown up!" Jubilant, he
picked up one of the sacks of gold and made his way to the deck,
followed by the half-dazed Jeremy, who carried the rest of the treasure.

The sun was close to setting when the _Tiger's_ boat made its last trip
to the pirate sloop. This time its errand was a sad one. Silently the
crew passed long, limp bundles across the rail, rowed with them to the
beach, and clambered up the desolate dunes with picks and shovels in
their hands. There, where the wind moaned in the beach-plum thickets and
the white gulls wheeled and screamed, they dug a long grave and laid the
dead to rest, pirates and honest men together under the wintry sky.

The boat returned and was hoisted aboard. Just as the mainsail had been
run up and the schooner was filling away for her northward beat, a
single shout from the crosstrees caused every man to turn his gaze
shoreward into the gathering dark. A faint glow seemed to hang in the
air above the pirate sloop. A little snaky flame wriggled its way along
a piece of sagging cordage, licked at the edges of a torn sail, and
flared outward in a burst of red fire. A moment later, and the whole
schooner was ablaze, from waterline to masthead. Jeremy, watching,
fascinated, from the _Tiger's_ rail, thought of the night when he had
first seen that black hull, and of the burning brig that had lit up the
sky as the pirate sloop now illumined it. Her fate was the same that she
had meted out to many a good ship.

They were rapidly drawing away, now. The great glare of the burning
schooner faded out as the flame devoured her fabric. The foremast
toppled and fell in a shower of sparks. The mainmast followed. Only a
feeble light flickered along the edges of the low-lying hulk. The faint
gleam of it was visible, astern, for some time before it was swallowed
by the dark sea.

The _Revenge_ was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is the end of my story.

Of the voyage to Boston town; of how Job was nursed back to health by
Phineas Whipple, the best surgeon in all the colonies; of the glorious
reunion when Amos Swan and Clarke Curtis rejoined their sons; of the
many pleasant things that Bob and Jeremy found to do together, after the
Swans had come to live in Philadelphia--of all these things there is
not space enough in this book for me to tell.

Jeremy Swan grew up to be one of the great Americans of his day: a man
strong, wise and independent. And although he became rich and highly
honored, he never lost the simplicity of his ways.

Sometimes when he was a hale old man of seventy, he would take his
grandson, who was named Job Cantwell Swan, on his knee, and tell him
stories. But the story that young Job loved best to hear and that old
Jeremy loved best to tell was about a boy in deerskin breeches, and the
wild days and nights he saw aboard the Black Buccaneer.


                               THE END.



Transcriber's Notes

Page 43, 2nd paragraph - changed "broad-side" to "broadside" to match
other instances

Page 63, next to last line - added opening quote before "Herriot"

Page 73, first line - corrected typo "priate" to "pirate"

Page 88, 3rd paragraph - corrected typo "fidgetted" to "fidgeted"

Page 91, 1st paragraph, next to last sentence - changed "a a man" to "a
man"

Page 102, second paragraph, 6th line - corrected typo "showly" to
"slowly"

Page 120, line 21 - added missing end quote at the end after "pirate."

Page 164, 2nd paragraph, line 8 - added opening quote to "Daggs' chest!"

Page 189, line 4 - corrected typo "somethinig" to "something"

Page 196, last line - removed second "and"

Page 231, 5th line from bottom - corrected typo "neck" to "deck"

Page 268, 6th paragraph - changed "round-shot" to "roundshot" to match
other instances

Page 273, 2nd paragraph, line 2 - corrected typo "thmselves" to
"themselves"





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Black Buccaneer" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home