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Title: Yule Logs - Longmans' Christmas Annual for 1898
Author: Various
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 "Yule Logs - Longmans' Christmas Annual for 1898" ***

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



  YULE LOGS

  [Illustration]

  BEING LONGMANS'
  XMAS ANNUAL FOR
  1898 EDITED BY
  G. A. HENTY.



  YULE LOGS



  [Illustration: "An Indian sprang up behind him."
                                                _Page 279_.]



  _Longmans' Christmas Annual for 1898_

  YULE LOGS

  Edited by

  G. A. Henty

  With Sixty-one Illustrations

  [Illustration]

  Longmans, Green, and Co.

  39 Paternoster Row, London
  New York and Bombay
  1898

  _All rights reserved_



  Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
  At the Ballantyne Press



CONTENTS


                                                                      PAGE

  A FIGHTING MERMAID. By KIRK MUNROE                                     1

       _Illustrated by_ FRED. T. JANE.


  THE VENTURE OF THE "BERTHA" WHALER. By HENRY FRITH                    39

       _Illustrated by_ W. H. OVEREND.


  A FRENCHMAN'S GRATITUDE. By Lieut.-Col. PERCY-GROVES                  74

       _Illustrated by_ J. FINNEMORE.


  THE BADGE OF THE FOURTH FOOT. By ROBERT LEIGHTON                     115

       _Illustrated by_ J. AYTON SYMINGTON.


  A DANGEROUS GAME. By G. MANVILLE FENN                                155

       _Illustrated by_ C. J. STANILAND.


  BY DEFAULT OF THE ENGINEER. By FRANKLIN FOX                          203

       _Illustrated by_ GORDON BROWNE.


  THE KING OF SPAIN'S WILL. By JOHN BLOUNDELLE-BURTON                  236

       _Illustrated by_ ENOCH WARD.


  A NEW ENGLAND RAID. By E. F. POLLARD                                 271

       _Illustrated by_ GORDON BROWNE.


  SIR RICHARD'S SQUIRES. By CHARLES W. WHISTLER                        310

       _Illustrated by_ R. WHEELWRIGHT.


  THE SLAVER'S REVENGE. By HARRY COLLINGWOOD                           344

       _Illustrated by_ TREVOR HADDON.


  ON A MEXICAN RANCHE. By G. A. HENTY                                  383

       _Illustrated by_ H. BIRD.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  "An Indian sprang up behind him"                          _Frontispiece_
                                                                      PAGE
  "The strange tow, slowly making its way up the harbour"               13

  "She hovered like a gigantic fish"                                    17

  "Then two dripping figures scrambled aboard"                          29

  "The explosion, close under their bows, of a giant fire-cracker"      31

  "The _Alfonso XIX._ lay in a glow of diffused light that seemed to
       come from beneath her very keel"                                 33

  "Threw the whole harbour into an uproar of terror"                    35

  "The captain, overbalanced, dropped overboard, and disappeared
       in the raging sea"                                               43

  "Hullo, my young spitfire! so you want a lesson, do you?"             47

  "What are those black things, Mr. Stevens?"                           54

  "In the dim light two curious objects appeared"                       63

  "The end appeared near"                                               69

  "I immediately ran forward to the scene of action"                    77

  "Our gunners hammered away at Rosetta"                                85

  "Very cautiously we made our way down the sand-hills"                 91

  "As the fog cleared off, there appeared before us the Turkish army"   97

  "Our standing ranks gave them a rattling volley"                     105

  "I dropped senseless to the ground"                                  111

  "Suddenly a fluttering book flew past his curly head"                117

  "Turned up a rusty old claymore"                                     124

  "Alan refused to accept this offer of friendship"                    135

  "Colin handed him the lantern"                                       146

  "Neil? my brother Neil?"                                             151

  "Whisked himself round and held his tar-kettle and brush out like
       a pair of balances"                                             160

  "Rev'nue cutter," said Hezz shortly                                  166

  "A vigorous cut divided the fishing-line"                            171

  "A signal! came the next moment in answer"                           181

  "For there below him, lit up by a few lanterns, he could make out
       the hull of a great lugger"                                     186

  "Oh," he cried, "there you are, sir!"                                193

  "Master Lahnce, lad!" cried the old man, making a grab at the
       boy's hand                                                      201

  "A quiet smoke"                                                      205

  "This is a pleasant prospect"                                        209

  "Caught a firm grip of her dress"                                    214

  "Uttering a wild yell, rushed off towards the nearest hut"           228

  "Mr. Urquhart tried the effect of the nine-pounders"                 233

  "Ran his finger along a map of France"                               242

  "We are soldiers, not----"                                           251

  "Not so fast, mademoiselle, not so fast. What are you doing here?"   254

  The Rescue                                                           265

  "A friendship that eventually ripened--"                             269

  "I was afraid, and hid myself in the long rushes"                    273

  "Quiet! Josiah Blackstone"                                           287

  "Be on your guard"                                                   295

  "With a shout of triumph she leaped into the water"                  303

  "He fell forward dead in the black swamp"                            307

  "He came heavily to the roadside grass, where he lay stunned"        311

  "Sir Richard sat in his great chair on the daïs"                     315

  "I know where I am not wanted, at least"                             323

  "She seemed to care little"                                          327

  "The next thing I knew was that my good steed was down on his
       nose among the stones"                                          336

  "We were met by a ragamuffin crowd of swarthy, black-haired,
       fierce-eyed ruffians"                                           349

  "A gang of some fifty negroes appeared"                              367

  "Borne aloft on a sort of rude throne supported upon the shoulders
       of eight stalwart negroes"                                      371

  "She waved her hand above her head by way of farewell"               375

  "Before he could pull the trigger I had struck up the weapon"        380

  "Horses, when required, could be lassoed"                            385

  "Was often away on horseback with her dogs"                          389

  "The great assemblage of all the cattle, known as the round up"      403

  "Shot an unusually fine mountain lion"                               411

  "I struck Violetta sharply and she galloped off like an arrow"       418

  "A loud shout burst from the bushes as he issued out"                423



A FIGHTING MERMAID

BY KIRK MUNROE

     _Author of "The White Conquerors," "At War with Pontiac," "Through
     Swamp and Glade," "With Crockett and Bowie," &c. &c._


CHAPTER I

It was a grand success. Every one said so; and moreover, every one who
witnessed the experiment predicted that the _Mermaid_ would
revolutionize naval warfare as completely as did the world-famous
_Monitor_. Professor Rivers, who had devoted the best years of his life
to perfecting his wonderful invention, struggling bravely on through
innumerable disappointments and failures, undaunted by the sneers of
those who scoffed, or the significant pity of his friends, was so
overcome by his signal triumph that he fled from the congratulations of
those who sought to do him honour, leaving to his young assistants the
responsibility of restoring the marvellous craft to her berth in the
great ship-house that had witnessed her construction.

These assistants were two lads, eighteen and nineteen years of age, who
were not only the Professor's most promising pupils, but his firm
friends and ardent admirers. The younger, Carlos West Moranza, was the
only son of a Cuban sugar-planter, and an American mother who had died
while he was still too young to remember her. From earliest childhood he
had exhibited so great a taste for machinery that, when he was sixteen,
his father had sent him to the United States to be educated as a
mechanical engineer in one of the best technical schools of that
country.

There his dearest chum was his class-mate, Carl Baldwin, son of the
famous American shipbuilder, John Baldwin, and heir to the latter's vast
fortune. The elder Baldwin had founded the school in which his own son
was now being educated, and placed at its head his life-long friend,
Professor Alpheus Rivers, who, upon his patron's death, had also become
Carl's sole guardian.

In appearance and disposition young Baldwin was the exact opposite of
Carlos Moranza, and it was this as well as the similarity of their names
that had first attracted the lads to each other. While the young Cuban
was a handsome fellow, slight of figure, with a clear olive complexion,
impulsive and rash almost to recklessness, the other was a typical
Anglo-Saxon American, big, fair, and blue-eyed, rugged in feature, and
slow to act, but clinging with bulldog tenacity to any idea or plan that
met with his favour. He invariably addressed his chum as "West," while
the latter generally called him "Carol."

The Rivers submarine boat, finally christened _Mermaid_, had been
evolved during long years in the great Baldwin shipyard located on the
Delaware, less than a mile distant from the Baldwin technical school,
and during his lifetime John Baldwin had taken a deep interest in its
construction. Thus Carl had been familiar with its every detail from the
time that he could remember anything, and had grown up with an abiding
faith in its possibilities. That his chum was also enthusiastic
concerning it constituted one of the strongest bonds of sympathy between
them. Now that its complete success had been demonstrated by four hours
of trial, during most of which time it had been manoeuvred under water
with a party of six distinguished engineers on board, Carl's elation was
only little less than that of the inventor, whose very life was bound up
in it. Like him, however, the lad was slow to express his deepest
feelings; but the enthusiasm of the day found ample vent through the
young Cuban, who had been permitted to share in the glorious result, and
who poured forth his exultation in a torrent of words as the two lads
left the shipyard and wended their way homeward.

"It is the crowning triumph of the century, my Carol, and will make
immortal the name of our honoured instructor. To have lived until this
day and to be allowed a share in such glory is a vast privilege. Of war,
what a revolution will be made! Oh, if my poor country possessed but one
of these marvels, how quickly would she be free! To destroy the ships of
Spain and open to the world every Cuban port! What an achievement! what
honour! Carol, why may it not be done? Why may we not take this
_Mermaid_, and with her liberate Cuba from her centuries of slavery?"

"Because," answered Carl Baldwin slowly, "she is not ours to take, and
even if she were, we would not be allowed to use her in any such
fashion. The Government would not permit us."

"But if she were ours. If the Professor would consent to allow us to
attempt the experiment. If we could escape the vigilance of the American
cruisers, and manage to convey our marvel of marvels to the scene of
action, would you not join in the enterprise, my Carol? Would you not
aid in striking the blow for freedom?"

"It would certainly be most interesting to test the little craft in
actual service," replied the young American cautiously.

"Interesting, say you? It is of vital importance. What she has done is
nothing. Who knows what she may accomplish? When will there come another
such chance for trying her in warfare? Where in the world is there a
prize to be gained equal in value to that of a free Cuba? That my father
has sacrificed all but life itself for her is my proudest boast; that I
may soon fight by his side, my fondest hope. Oh, if you cold-blooded
Americans could but witness the cruelty, the oppression, the despair,
the horror of it all. But, if I cannot win over my dearest friend among
them, how may I hope to persuade others? Ah, Dios! it is hard, it is
bitter, it is pitiful, that but for want of a single helping hand all
should be lost."

At this point the young Cuban's feelings so overpowered him that words
failed to express them, and as Carl Baldwin's policy was to remain
silent during these outbursts, the lads reached the school building in
which they lodged without further conversation.

Since Carlos Moranza had left home, the affairs of his native land had
come to a sorry pass. The struggle for freedom had begun. Spanish armies
devastated the fair island, killing its inhabitants, laying waste their
fields, and destroying their homes, while Spanish war-ships patrolled
its coasts to cut off all outside aid from the insurgents.

The latter, devoid of nearly everything necessary for carrying on a war,
save a desperate determination to resist to the death, occupied the
interior of the island, where they found impregnable strongholds amid
its rugged mountains and dense forests. The sympathies of the American
people were with them, and expeditions for their relief were constantly
fitting out in the southern ports of the United States. Many of these
failed to reach their destination, since international law compelled the
Government to prevent them from sailing, if possible. Thus, in addition
to the Spanish fleet patrolling the Cuban coasts, the southern waters of
the United States were guarded by an equally numerous fleet of American
men-of-war and vessels of its revenue marine.

From the very outset of the war Don Cæsar Moranza, after placing his
only daughter, Catina, who was two years younger than Carlos, in what he
conceived to be a safe retreat, had linked his fortunes with those who
fought for liberty. He had quickly risen to the command of a Cuban
army, and, as General Moranza, the dashing cavalry leader, proved such a
terror to the Spaniards, that to capture him became an important object
of their campaigns.

With all the impetuosity of his nature Carlos longed to take part in the
glorious struggle, and, in every letter that he found means of
transmitting to his father, pleaded to be allowed to join him. Thus far
his petitions had been denied on the ground that he would still have
ample opportunity for fighting after he had become a skilled engineer.
In the meantime he could do much for the cause where he was, and must
remember that to perfect himself in his chosen profession would be of
greater value to Cuba than the winning of a battle. This stimulant was
what made young Moranza one of the most brilliant scholars in the
Baldwin Polytechnic; for he felt that every problem solved was a blow
struck for his country. At the time of the _Mermaid's_ successful trial
trip, in which the young Cuban had been allowed to participate as a
distinguished reward of merit, he had received no word from his father
or sister for many weeks, and so was filled with anxiety concerning
them.

As the lads reached the school they separated, Carlos proceeding
directly to his room, and the other going in search of Professor Rivers
to report the safe housing of the _Mermaid_. The Professor was so buried
in thought that for a few moments he apparently took no notice of Carl's
entrance. Suddenly, lifting his head and looking squarely at the lad, he
exclaimed--

"Yes, yes, my boy, all is well so far as we have gone, but what will she
do in actual service? How will she behave in face of an enemy? Is she
capable of single-handed and successful attack against a fleet? Until
these questions are answered how may I know whether my lifework is a
success or a failure? To solve them I would willingly engage a navy in
single combat; but where may I find one willing to accept my
challenge?"

"Why not in Cuba, sir?" suggested Carl with a sudden inspiration.

"Cuba! Cuba!" repeated the Professor slowly, as though bewildered by the
idea thus presented, and then he plunged once more into abstracted
thought.

After waiting a few moments longer, and seeing that his guardian was
disinclined for further conversation just then, Carl Baldwin departed to
tell his friend of the seed he had planted. To his dismay he found
Carlos standing as though petrified, and staring with bloodshot eyes at
a telegram evidently just received.

"What is it, West? What has happened?" inquired young Baldwin anxiously.

"Read that," replied the other huskily.

With this he extended the message, which was signed by the president of
the Cuban Junta or War Committee, whose headquarters were in New York
City.

"General Moranza captured by treachery and shot by order of Weyler. His
daughter seized, imprisoned, and held for transportation to a penal
colony. May God help you in this hour of your affliction!"

"For my father's death I grieve not," cried the young Cuban. "He died
for the cause he loved, and may be avenged. But for my sister, my own
little Catina, in prison, at the mercy of those brutes, and consigned to
the living death of a convict! How may I bear it? What can I do? Tell
me, my friend, for I am going mad."

"No," cried Carl Baldwin, "you shall not go mad, nor even yield to
despair, for we will yet save her. The Professor shall go with us, and
we will take the _Mermaid_. Even now he is inclined to consider some
such undertaking. And when he reads this message he will be as ready to
set forth as you or I. Oh yes, my dear fellow, we can rescue her and we
will. Instead of going to a penal colony, she shall come to this
country, and be as free as you are at this moment."

As he spoke the young American seized his friend's hand, and the latter
looking into the brave blue eyes, now blazing with excitement, believed
that Catina would be saved.


CHAPTER II

The submarine boat _Mermaid_ was a cigar-shaped shell of aluminium
bronze, extremely light and strong, about forty feet in length and eight
in greatest diameter. On its upper side was a small railed platform or
deck, from the centre of which rose a low turret provided with four
bull's-eyes, from which an observer might glance out ahead, astern, or
on either side. Another bull's-eye was fitted into the hinged and
water-tight cap that closed the turret when the boat was submerged.

The interior of the boat was divided into three compartments. Of these,
the one farthest forward was fitted with an air-lock, through which a
person wearing a diver's suit might leave the vessel while she was under
water and return to her at will. This hold was also pierced for a
bull's-eye through which could be made to shine an electric search light
of intense power.

The central compartment was the living and operating room. It also
contained a dynamo, an air compressor, and a small condenser, by means
of which sea-water could be made drinkable. In the after compartment was
located a compact but powerful gasoline engine. This furnished the
motive power for running on the surface, and also stored electricity by
which the screw could be turned when surface air was no longer
available. Beneath the floor of the central compartment was a tank for
water ballast, which could be filled or emptied at will of the operator.
In all parts of the boat were hundreds of tubes, wires, cocks, valves,
and other devices of amazing ingenuity for ensuring the safety of her
crew and the discomfiture of an enemy.

She was indeed, as Carlos Moranza had said, one of the crowning
scientific marvels of the century. On the day succeeding that of her
trial trip, the young Cuban was full of hope and courage, for Professor
Rivers had been won to his cause by the enticing prospect of achieving
the rescue of a young girl from a dreadful fate, and at the same time
testing under most trying conditions the powers of his beloved boat. He
had only stipulated that she should not be used for the destruction of
either life or property.

Thus it happened that in less than a week one of the most powerful tugs
on the Delaware cleared for Havana. She had in tow a great dumping scow,
such as is used in New York harbour for conveying the city garbage far
out to sea. This scow was built with a long central pocket, the bottom
of which was longitudinally divided into two parts. Each of these was
hung on massive hinges, and could be made to drop or open outward, thus
allowing the contents of the pocket to fall into the sea. Then, by means
of a donkey-engine, the great valves could be drawn up and closed as
before.

The question of how to get the _Mermaid_ to Havana had proved most
puzzling. She was too small to undertake such a voyage by herself, and
had she been shipped on the deck of another vessel, her every movement
would have been watched and heralded, while the success of the proposed
expedition depended upon its secrecy. Thus, at the very outset, the
would-be rescuers seemed to be confronted by an insurmountable
difficulty. Then Carl Baldwin had thought of the sea-going dumping
scows, several of which had been built in his father's shipyard, where
one recently completed even now awaited a purchaser.

"Why couldn't we take the _Mermaid_ to Cuba in it?" he suggested, after
several other plans had been dismissed as impracticable.

"The very thing," cried Carlos Moranza. "In that way we could carry her
right into Havana harbour, and there offer the scow for sale to the
Spaniards as a blind. It is a noble idea, my Carol, and will prove our
salvation."

"It might be done," said the Professor thoughtfully. "Let us go and take
some measurements."

This they did, and found that the pocket of the dumping scow was amply
large to hold the _Mermaid_, at the same time allowing her free egress
and exit. It would even float her when closed and half filled with
water. Only a few alterations that readily suggested themselves to the
Professor were needed to exactly suit the great craft to their purpose.

While he took charge of these, and Carlos took a trip to New York for
consultation with the President of the Cuban Junta, Carl Baldwin
arranged for the charter of the finest sea-going tug on the Delaware,
and through her captain for the purchase of the dumping-scow.

The Professor had long since placed the practical direction of his
school in the hands of able assistants, so that he was free to leave it
at a moment's notice for any length of time. Thus, when he announced
that he was about to devote a few weeks to the testing of his pet
invention, and should need the assistance of his two ranking pupils,
their departure was effected without arousing undue curiosity.

The clearing of the tug, with its novel tow, for Havana, was, however,
quite another thing; and, from the moment their destination was
announced, both craft were watched by Government officials and Spanish
spies to see that no contraband cargo was taken aboard. Of course
nothing of the kind was found; but this did not prevent a revenue cutter
from escorting the tow down the river and across Delaware Bay until it
was clear of the breakwater and well out at sea. Finally, the cutter
turned back; but even then her commander continued to watch the tow
through a glass.

"In spite of their seeming innocence, I regard that as one of the most
suspicious departures ever made from the Delaware," he remarked to a
lieutenant who stood beside him. "The pretence of trying to sell that
scow in Havana is only the baldest kind of a bluff. Any fool knows that
those blooming Spaniards aren't going to put themselves to either the
expense or trouble of carrying garbage out to sea so long as they can
dump it in their harbours. Hello! What's that? Look quick and tell me if
you don't see something between us and them."

Through the glass thrust into his hand, the lieutenant took a long and
comprehensive survey of the intervening waters.

"No, sir, I don't see anything," he reported at length.

"Neither do I now," said the other after another look. "I would have
sworn, though, that I saw something like a raft moving towards that
scow."

The commander had indeed caught a glimpse of the _Mermaid_ rising to the
surface to get her bearings, but she had instantly dived, nor did she
again visit the surface until safely within the shadow of the great
scow.

She had run down the river the night before, and had lain behind the
breakwater with only a small portion of her turret above the surface,
until the tow, with its accompanying cutter, had passed out to sea. Then
she followed, with her eyes just awash, and dove deep beneath the
revenue vessel when it turned back. Upon next coming to the surface, she
had been allowed to rise a little too far, and so was very nearly
discovered.

"It was a close shave," admitted Carl Baldwin, after the _Mermaid_ was
safely ensconced within the closed pocket of the great scow; "but a safe
miss is as good as a thousand miles, and now we are all right till we
get to Havana."

"Don't you be too sure of that," admonished the captain of the tug
gruffly. "There's many a cruiser between here and there, and every one
of 'em is sartin to board us."

So it proved. At Charleston, where the tug put in for coal, leaving her
tow in the lower bay, the scow was boarded by revenue officers, who did
not leave her until she was again at sea; and all the while the poor
little _Mermaid_ was dodging about under water, only coming up now and
then for a breath and a quick glance at her surroundings, like a hunted
sea-fowl.

Off the mouth of the St. John's River, the tow was hove-to by a blank
shot from a Government cruiser, and again was the _Mermaid_ forced to
seek safety at the bottom of the sea. This time she avenged herself by
rising directly beneath the cruiser, and demonstrating to the
Professor's entire satisfaction how easily he could if he chose place
and fire a torpedo that would blow her from the water.

It had been decided to touch at Key West, the most southerly extremity
of Florida, as well as of the United States, and only eighty-five miles
across the Gulf Stream from Havana, and finally, after many narrow
escapes from discovery, our adventurers reached the port of that quaint
island-city in safety.

Here they found several American men-of-war, a small fleet of
torpedo-boats, four revenue cutters, and a Spanish cruiser, to all of
whom the strange tow, slowly making its way up the harbour, seemed an
object of especial interest. Their fame had preceded them; every one
knew that they were bound for Havana, and that they had been objects of
suspicion all the way down the coast. So, before they came to anchor,
they were boarded by United States officers, and a guard was placed on
both tug and scow, with orders to allow no communication between them
and the shore, except under strict surveillance.

In the meantime, the little _Mermaid_ had sunk quietly out of sight,
nor did she again rise to the surface until safely beneath a wharf
covered with freight sheds, that extended out to deep water. Here,
hidden in deepest shadow, she lay unobserved until nightfall, when our
lads found no difficulty in gaining the streets of the town, leaving the
Professor in charge of his beloved boat.

As Carlos Moranza had visited Key West before, he led the way without
hesitation amid throngs of promenaders, among whom white was the rarest
colour to be seen. Coal-black negroes from Jamaica, sallow-complexioned
Spaniards, swarthy Cubans, mulattoes, quadroons, octoroons, and Creoles,
with faces tinted in every shade of brown or yellow, jostled each other
on the side-walks, all talking, singing, or laughing, with eager
gesticulations. Electric lights gleamed among the softly nestling leaves
of tall cocoa-palms. Open carriages, bearing cigarette-smoking men in
white linen, gaudily-clad negresses, or languid Cuban women, whose only
sign of animation lay in their flashing eyes, rattled over the white
pavements, while, above all, innumerable flags, displaying the blue and
white stripes, the crimson field and single white star of Cuba Libre,
fluttered in the faint night breeze.

The entire city, which is wholly Cuban in sympathy, as well as
two-thirds so in population, was rejoicing over the news just received
of an insurgent victory. The exulting throngs were most dense about the
building occupied by an agent of the Cuban Junta, on a balcony of which
the glad tidings were being read aloud from a paper just snatched off
the press, while a guard stationed at the main entrance forbade
admission, except to such persons as were of well-attested patriotism.

"Halt! You may not pass!" cried one of these, as our lads, having forced
their way through the crowd, sought to enter.

For answer Carlos Moranza spoke a few words in so low a tone that only
he might hear them.

[Illustration: "The strange tow, slowly making its way up the
harbour."]

Instantly the man stood aside, touched his cap respectfully, and
motioned them to enter.

As they did so, a third person attempted to pass the guard in their
company, but was seized on the threshold.

"Is this hombre of your party, señor?" asked the guard.

"Certainly not," replied Carlos. "I never saw him before."

So the intruder, who was evidently of Spanish blood, was ignominiously
thrust back, and as he slunk away he muttered words that boded no good
to Carlos Moranza, in case they should again meet.

In the meantime the young Cuban, accompanied by Carl Baldwin, made his
way to the balcony where the agent of the Junta had just finished
reading of Garcia's victory. As Carlos touched him on the shoulder he
turned quickly and frowned at sight of a stranger. Again the lad
whispered his magic formula, and in another moment the agent was
embracing him with the fervour of a life-long friendship. Then he led
his guests to a private room, where for half-an-hour he engaged Carlos
in earnest conversation, of which young Baldwin could only understand an
occasional word.

When our lads finally left the building and regained the street, the
latter asked curiously, "What was it all about, old man?"

"He said," replied Carlos, "that the Spanish cruiser now in port is here
for the express purpose of escorting us to Havana, and that, as soon as
we are outside Key West harbour, she will place a guard on both tug and
scow."

"Hm!" remarked Carl Baldwin reflectively; "we can't allow that."

"I should say not," agreed Carlos Moranza; "only I'd like to know how we
are to prevent it."

"Just you leave it to me, and I'll show you the trick," rejoined the
young American.


CHAPTER III

So intent were the lads upon their conversation, that they mistook
another freight shed for the one beneath which the _Mermaid_ was hidden,
and walked a few paces beside it before discovering their error. When
they did so, they at once began to retrace their steps, and in turning a
corner of the building came plump upon a cloaked figure evidently on
their trail.

"Hello! what do you mean, sir, by following us?" cried Carl Baldwin,
seizing the stranger's arm as he spoke.

With a muttered oath the man wrenched himself free and darted away, but
not before the gleam of a street light had revealed his features to
Carlos Moranza.

"The very fellow who tried to force his way into the quarters of the
Junta!" he exclaimed, "and more than likely a Spanish spy. It is a
narrow escape, my Carol, for if our blunder had not forced us to turn
back, he must have discovered the _Mermaid_. In that case we should
indeed have met with trouble."

"Let us hasten, then, before he returns."

"I don't believe he will dare do that. He is too badly scared."

But the spy did return, and, crouching in deepest shadow, became
convinced that those whose business he was so anxious to discover had
passed beneath the wharf. As he dared not attempt to follow them through
the impenetrable gloom into which they had disappeared, he sought a
hiding-place, and from it watched with infinite patience for them to
again come forth.

They had, in the meantime, safely regained the snug living-room of the
_Mermaid_, and reported all that had happened, to the Professor. Then
Carl Baldwin unfolded his scheme for delaying the Spanish cruiser in
port until after their departure.

As a result, the submarine boat was allowed to drift down the harbour
with the ebbing tide, until she came abreast the great black hull of a
man-of-war. Then she imperceptibly sank beneath the surface.

[Illustration: "She hovered like a gigantic fish."]

The watch officer of the Spanish cruiser, leaning on her after-rail and
gazing musingly down into the dark waters sweeping seaward, speculated
idly concerning the stream of phosphorescent light tailing out from
under her counter, but thought of it only as a natural phenomenon. Had
he known that it was caused by the motion of the _Mermaid's_ propeller
necessary to hold her in position against the stream while she hovered
like a gigantic fish directly above the screw of his ship, how easily
could he have won the promotion for which he longed. But he suspected
nothing; and as Carl Baldwin, working from the diving chamber of the
submarine craft, had succeeded in fastening one end of a short length of
stout wire rope to the propeller blade, and shackling the other to a
ring-bolt in the massive rudder, the officer turned with a sigh and
walked away.

On the following morning the Spanish spy, weary and cramped with his
long vigil, was amazed to see an utter stranger emerge cautiously from
beneath the wharf he had been watching, and walk quickly away. For a
moment the spy was undecided as to whether he should follow this person
or seek to discover where he had come from. Then choosing the former
course, he followed Professor Rivers at a respectful distance, until he
had the vast satisfaction of seeing him meet, near the custom-house, the
captain of the tug that was avowedly bound for Havana.

There was a connection then between those who hid beneath the wharf and
the suspected tow anchored in the harbour. Undoubtedly a store of
contraband goods was concealed under the wharf, and an effort would be
made to convey them on board the tug before she sailed. What a reward
was in prospect for him could he but discover it!

A little later the spy, with two companions, all armed, occupied a skiff
that made its way cautiously through the dark spaces beneath the wharf
he had watched so long. Suddenly between them and the outer daylight two
men appeared one after the other. Both slid down one of the piles
supporting the pier and dropped into the water, or at least the exulting
spy thought they did so as he hastily urged his boat in that direction.

To his amazement and disgust, when he reached the spot where they had
disappeared, he could discover no trace of them. Neither was there a
boat or a hiding-place into which they could have gone. The man was
furious at being thus baffled, and uttered many a fierce Spanish oath.
Finally, convinced that further search in that direction was fruitless,
he pulled out into the harbour to watch the mysterious tow that still
lay at anchor. As he drew near to it he saw its captain come off from
shore alone. Then the guard from one of the revenue cutters was
withdrawn, anchors were lifted, and the tow began to move slowly down
the channel. It was certain that no one save the captain had gone
aboard, nor had any cargo been taken in except a few tons of carefully
examined coal.

Never in his life had the spy been so puzzled and disappointed; but it
was a slight consolation to know that Spain's vigilant cruiser would
accompany the _Gringos_ to Havana. Even now was the black-hulled warship
preparing to follow the departing tow. As the massive anchor broke away
from the bottom, her great screw began to churn the water, and she
slowly forged ahead. Suddenly her screw ceased to act, she took a sheer
in the wrong direction, there was a vast amount of confusion on her
decks, and in another minute she was fast aground on a bank of the
narrow channel. Every eye in Key West harbour was fixed upon her, and
before any one again thought of the departing tow, it had gained the
high seas, and was beyond the jurisdiction of either Spain or "Uncle
Sam." A little later, with the saucy _Mermaid_ safely hidden in the
ample receptacle of the great dumping scow, the tow had vanished in the
direction of Havana.

That night the spy boarded a swift passenger steamer bound for the same
port, which at sunrise of the following morning passed beneath the
frowning walls of Moro Castle in company with the tow he had come to
watch.

The _Mermaid_ retained her berth even after a pilot had boarded the tug,
and her crew looked eagerly upon the wonderfully beautiful scene
unfolding before them as they passed through a narrow entrance into the
broad, landlocked harbour of Havana.

Carl Baldwin, to whom everything was excitingly novel, viewed with
delight the grim Moro with its tall lighthouse tower, the white Cabanas
fortress, the tinted, flat-roofed buildings of the city across the
placid basin, the quaint cathedral spires, and the thousand other
curious features of Spain's chief stronghold in the New World.

Carlos Moranza, filled with conflicting emotions at again approaching
his native land under such strange conditions, gazed in silence, but as
though hoping with the very intensity of his vision to pierce the
crowding walls and discover the prison of his beloved sister.

Professor Rivers had eyes only for the warships, of which the harbour
held half-a-dozen, as he speculated upon the ease with which his little
_Mermaid_ could humble their pride and render them powerless.

At this very moment the Spanish spy was regarding, and triumphantly
recognising, all three of the Americans through a glass levelled at them
from the deck of the steamer on which he was a passenger. Thus it
happened that, as the captain of the tug was preparing to go ashore and
make formal entry at the custom-house, after having successfully passed
examination by both health officers and port authorities, two barges
filled with soldiers dashed out from the mole and headed directly
towards the new arrivals. One of these took possession of the tug, while
the other, in which sat the exulting spy, ranged alongside the dumping
scow.

For nearly an hour the soldiers searched every compartment and corner of
the two vessels, even overhauling the coal in the tug's bunkers. When
there was no longer an unexplored crevice, even the spy was forced to
confess that there was no person aboard unaccounted for in the tug's
papers, and that he must have laboured under a delusion as to what he
had seen. He was bewildered, mortified, and angry, and was rendered
furious by the ridicule heaped upon him by the officer to whom he was
obliged to report his failure to discover anything that would justify a
seizure of the tug.

This craft the Spaniards would have been glad to possess, but when its
captain went ashore and announced his desire to dispose of the dumping
scow, the authorities only laughed at him, and referred him to General
Weyler, who happened at that time to be absent with an expedition to the
interior. This was gratifying information, as it afforded an excuse for
remaining in Havana harbour until he should return.

In the meantime the _Mermaid_, having sunk out of sight on the approach
of danger, had found safe refuge under the stern of a Spanish man-of-war
that was moored close at hand. Here she received a supply of fresh air
through a flexible tube, one end of which was supported on the surface
of the water by a small float. During the time that her occupants were
thus compelled to remain in hiding, they amused themselves by so wedging
the rudder of the warship as to render it immovable.

With the earliest twilight of that evening they returned to the tug and
held a short consultation with her captain, who had used his eyes to
such good purpose while on shore that he was enabled to direct them to a
place from which he believed they could gain the city streets. This was
most important, for though in the darkness they might have landed
anywhere along the quay, they would still have been shut off from the
streets by a tall and stout iron fence, the gates of which were always
guarded, and at sunset locked for the night. This is in accordance with
a regulation that not only forbids any vessel to enter or leave the port
of Havana between sunset and sunrise, but also prohibits all
communication between the city and its harbour during the night.

The place indicated by the captain was a dock in which lay a number of
fishing craft, and the entrance to which was closed by iron gates. As it
was not likely that these extended very far below the surface, it was
possible that the _Mermaid_ might pass beneath them. This proved to be
the case; for when, after a long search and several narrow escapes from
discovery, the dock was reached, the _Mermaid_ managed to squeeze under
the barrier, and when she next rose to the surface she was inside the
city lines. Here she remained with her deck just awash, and in charge of
the Professor, while the two lads, filled with hopeful excitement, set
forth in search of information that should guide their future action.


CHAPTER IV

The part of the city in which our lads found themselves was dark and
deserted, save for an occasional soldier pacing a lonely beat and a few
slouching figures that seemed trying to avoid observation. At the
suggestion of Carlos they kept the middle of the ill-paved streets, for
in Havana no one uses the narrow side-walks at night. To do so would be
to invite a knife-thrust from the first dark _pasadizo_. Even in the
more open spaces that they sought, each lad kept a hand in the pocket
containing his revolver, and they took care not to allow any person to
approach them closely from behind.

At length they came to a region of plazas and lighted thoroughfares, in
which they encountered ever-increasing numbers of beggars and soldiers.
The former were pitiable objects, horribly emaciated by the starvation
which Spain was deliberately inflicting on her rebellious subjects,
while most of the soldiers were mere boys, ill-fed, poorly clad, and
wasted by sickness, but well armed and insolent to all save their own
officers. These latter, who swaggered by in noisy, cigarette-smoking
groups, seemed the only well-fed persons in the city, as well as the
only ones who still found life worth the living. They stared impudently
at our lads, and more than one, recognising Carl Baldwin as an American,
treated him to insulting epithets, most of which he fortunately failed
to understand.

Not knowing whom they might question, or even address with safety, the
young adventurers finally turned into the brilliantly-lighted café of
the Pasaje, where they hoped to gain some guiding clew from chance bits
of conversation. The place was so crowded that for several minutes they
failed to find vacant seats at any of the little tables scattered about
the floor. At length they secured two that had just been vacated, and
slipped into them. Two other seats at the same table were occupied by a
supercilious-looking Spanish officer and a fashionably-attired civilian.
The former, with an expression of deepest hatred cast toward Carl
Baldwin, slowly rose, reversed his chair with a loud scraping on the
marble pavement that attracted general attention, and reseated himself
with his back turned squarely toward the young American. The latter had
suspected the nature of the insulting epithets applied to him in the
streets, but had been unable to reply to them on account of his limited
knowledge of Spanish. With enforced silence his anger had smouldered
until now, when it broke into a sudden fierce heat. Acting upon the
impulse of the moment, he lifted his own chair, planted it in front of
the Spaniard, deliberately reoccupied it, and stared his enemy full in
the face, but without uttering a word.

As Carlos Moranza realised his companion's intention, he started towards
him, but was detained by the fourth man who had been seated at the
table, and who whispered hurriedly--

"Fly for your life, amigo, while there is yet time. For a Moranza to be
arrested in Havana means sure and speedy death."

"But I cannot leave my friend," gasped the young Cuban, bewildered at
being thus promptly recognised where he believed himself to be unknown.

"He will only suffer imprisonment. They dare not kill him. His
Government is too powerful."

For a moment Carlos Moranza hesitated. Then his resolution was taken.

"I cannot desert him," he cried; and, gaining the place where Carl
Baldwin sat, he grasped his arm with the intention of dragging him from
the café. At this, the officer, who had cowered irresolute beneath his
adversary's unflinching gaze, clapped a hand to his sword and attempted
to rise. In an instant the young American had thrust him back with such
force that the frail chair crashed beneath him, and the uniform of Spain
was rolled ignominiously in the dust.

Then, without regarding the man further, or noticing the other inmates
of the café, who were thronging towards them, Carl turned to his friend,
saying--

"I don't think I like this place, West. Isn't there some other in which
we might be just as happy?"

"Yes, yes, come quick," replied Carlos, starting towards the street as
he spoke; but it was too late, for at that moment a file of soldiers
appeared in the doorway. They were led by the Spanish spy who had
followed our friends from Key West, and who had been sitting in the Café
Pasaje brooding over the futility of his attempts to apprehend them when
the two lads unsuspectingly entered it.

"There they are! Seize them!" he now cried exultingly, and the obedient
soldiers rushed forward.

With all the latent fury of his nature aroused and blazing from his blue
eyes, the young Anglo-Saxon American fought single-handed the minions of
Spain. Two of them fell like logs beneath crashing blows from his fists.
Two more were hurled breathless to right and left. The others hesitated,
and even shrunk before him as with a cry of "Come on, West!" he dashed
toward the doorway. At that moment some one flung a chair before him. He
tripped over it, staggered wildly, and then measured his length on the
pavement with half-a-dozen Spanish soldiers on his back.

When next he was allowed to regain his feet, he was helplessly bound and
being marched away to prison, together with Carlos Moranza, who was in
the same unhappy plight. Even then the spirit of the young American was
unsubdued; and, in defiance of his enemies, he raised a cry on gaining
the street that he felt certain was as good Spanish as it was English.

"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" he shouted, with all the breath left in him.

"Silencio, Gringo!" growled the nearest soldier, at the same time
striking his prisoner full in the mouth with the flat of his hand.

For a wonder, Carl Baldwin retained sufficient wisdom to accept the blow
without a word, though, had he known the full value of his outcry, he
might have been tempted to repeat it.

A crowd had already gathered in front of the café, and from it instantly
arose answering shouts, in tones indicating both derision and amazement,
of "El gallo! El canto del gallo!"

Carlos Moranza wondered how his friend had obtained a knowledge of the
Junta's defiant password for the current month, since even to him it had
only been revealed under promise of a strict secrecy that he had not
broken. He had used it but once, and then the whispered "Canto del
gallo" had instantly admitted him to the presence of the Junta's agent
in Key West. No matter, though, how Carl had discovered it, he was
justified in using it under the circumstances, for it might raise
friends to their assistance, if, indeed, there were any within hearing
who understood its hidden meaning. Thus thinking, the young Cuban also
uplifted his voice in a ringing "Canto del gallo."

At sound of this second note of defiance, the Spanish spy, with a
malediction upon the _gallipollo_, sprang towards the lad, but, ere he
could strike a blow, some one in the crowd hurled a paving-stone that
stretched him senseless on the ground. As though this were a signal,
the mob, led by a tall man in the dress of a _carbonero_ or
charcoal-burner, rushed upon the slender file of soldiers, and swept it
irresistibly before them.

A few moments of pandemonium--shots, yells, screams of pain, cries of
exultation, a crash of flying missiles, the ominous clatter of a cavalry
patrol galloping down the street, and then all was over. The mob melted
away like a puff of smoke, leaving only a few innocent and inoffensive
citizens to be cut down by the sabres of the troopers. The prisoners who
had caused the outbreak had also disappeared, and when the Spanish spy,
slowly regaining his senses, became aware of this fact, he gnashed his
teeth with rage.

Our lads were in the meantime dragged at top speed through a labyrinth
of narrow streets and dark alleys, until, breathless and bewildered,
they finally found themselves in a dimly-lighted room, surrounded by a
group of those who had effected their release. One of these severed the
cords binding their arms with two blows of a dirk-like machete, and said
in reassuring tones--

"Fear nothing, señors; you are with friends, sworn to aid all who suffer
in the cause of Cuba. Tell us, then, who you are, whence you come, and
how it happens that you possess the most secret password of the Junta."

"I," replied the young Cuban boldly, for to him alone of the two was
this address intelligible, "am Carlos Moranza, son of----"

Here the lad was interrupted by a great cry from one of his auditors,
and in another instant he was folded in a close embrace by the
_carbonero_ who had led the mob to the rescue.

"Carlos, my son! my own brave boy! do you not know your father?" cried
the man, half-sobbing, half-laughing in the excitement of his discovery.

"Father! my father! can it be?" screamed Carlos, staring wildly at the
man. "It is indeed his voice; but without hearing it I should never have
known him. But, father, they told me you were shot, and I have mourned
you as dead."

"I was indeed captured and condemned to be shot, but managed to escape,"
replied General Moranza. "And I should have joined you in the land of
freedom ere this, but for Catina."

"What of her?" inquired the young Cuban eagerly. "Is she still alive and
well? I heard that she was a prisoner, condemned to Africa, and am here
to effect her release, if it be not too late."

"The child is indeed an inmate of the vile _Jacoba_, and sentenced to
transportation in a ship that will sail on the morrow," replied the
General. "This I learned but an hour since from Don Estevan."

"Now I know," interrupted Carlos. "It was also he who gave me warning in
the café."

"'Twas to meet him, who is a true friend of the cause," continued the
other, "that I lingered near the Pasaje, and so was on hand to rescue
from Weyler's clutches those who appealed for aid with the password of
the Junta."

"Yes," laughed Carlos, "the 'Canto del gallo' of my friend, who yet
declares that he knew nothing of its secret value, did us a fine
service; but of Catina, my father, what more have you to tell?"

"Nothing, my son; all efforts to rescue her have been made in vain, and
on the morrow the little one will sail away for ever. I have lacked two
things--a demonstration of sufficient magnitude to attract attention
from the prisons, and the means of conveying her from the island
undiscovered. But alas----"

"Both of them I can supply," cried Carlos eagerly. "Such a demonstration
may be contrived as will cause every Spaniard in Havana to tremble in
his shoes and call on the saints for protection. As for a conveyance,
it is already at hand. Furthermore, the transport ship can certainly be
prevented from sailing on the morrow, and shall be."

"What then, my Carlos? Have the United States espoused our cause and
sent a fleet to our aid?"

"Not so, father, only two of her brave citizens, of whom this, my
dearest friend, is one, have come with me; but we have brought that
which may accomplish all that I claim and more. Do not question me as to
its nature, for I am bound to present secrecy. Only be prepared for our
demonstration which will be made to-morrow night; effect the release of
the little one from _La Jacoba_, bring her to the dock of the fishmarket
on the exact stroke of midnight, and her safety together with thy own
shall be assured."

After another hour spent in joyful congratulations, explanations, and a
perfecting of details for the proposed rescue, our lads took their
departure, and cautiously returned to the place where Professor Rivers
anxiously awaited them.


CHAPTER V

Although amid the excitements of the night Carl and Carlos had not
realised the flight of time, the hours of waiting passed by their
companion in anxious suspense on board the _Mermaid_ had seemed
interminable. He had not dared desert his boat for a minute, nor would
it have been safe to move from the precise position in which the lads
had left her. So he could only watch from the turret of his submerged
craft, with every sense keenly alert for the return of his young
friends. After a while he seemed to hear guarded footsteps and
whispering voices close at hand, though unable to see the figures to
which they belonged. The impulse to turn on a search light and thus
discover the nature of his surroundings became so strong that at length
he disconnected the wires in order to remove the temptation.

He had hardly done this and resumed his position in the turret, when
there came a shout, a shot, and a rush of feet. Then a cry in English
of--

"Show a light, Professor; a light--quick!"

[Illustration: "Then two dripping figures scrambled aboard."]

The startled man struck a match and held it aloft, where it was
instantly extinguished by a little puff of wind. But its purpose was
served, for even as it expired two dark forms leaped into the black
water that closed above them. At the same moment half-a-dozen shots rang
out spitefully, and one of them, evidently attracted by the Professor's
light, glanced from the _Mermaid's_ iron turret. Then two dripping
figures scrambled aboard, the turret hatch was closed, and, with her
crew safely reunited, the marvellous craft sank beneath the surface,
without leaving a trace to be discovered by the flashing lanterns that,
a few minutes later, were exploring every inch of the dock in which she
had lain.

The lads had made a second narrow escape, and that they had made it at
all was not due to any lack of precaution on the part of the Spanish
spy, who, fully convinced that they were in some way connected with the
mysterious tow in the harbour, had taken every means to intercept them
in case they should attempt to regain it from the water-front of the
city.

Daylight was tinting the eastern sky when the _Mermaid_ again cautiously
showed her eyes above the surface in close proximity to her tow, and, in
obedience to a safety signal from the captain of the tug, who had long
been watching for her, quickly regained her old position within the
capacious pocket of the dumping scow. In the meantime the lads had
recounted their adventures and told of their joyful meeting with General
Moranza, together with what Carlos had promised should be done on the
following night.

To all of this the Professor gladly agreed; for would it not afford him
the longed-for opportunity of testing the powers of his beloved boat to
the utmost? Thus, even before regaining her berth in the scow, the
_Mermaid_ paid a submarine visit to the Spanish transport that was to
have borne many a heart-broken exile away from Cuba that day, and so
tampered with propeller and steering-gear that her date of sailing was
certain to be indefinitely postponed. A few hours later our adventurers
watched with intense interest the consternation and bewilderment
manifest on board the transport, and, when it became evident that she
could not be moved, began to make active preparations for the coming
night.

On the part of the Professor these consisted in mixing certain chemicals
that required the utmost delicacy and skill in handling. Carl Baldwin
devoted himself to so arranging a number of giant dynamite crackers,
that they might be ignited under water and made to explode on reaching
the surface, while Carlos spent his time in carrying out a design that
he had borne in mind ever since the planning of their expedition. It was
the preparing for service of two Cuban flags. One was a transparency
fitted with electric wires and made fast to a float that would support
it on the surface of the water. This was intended only for night use,
while the other, which was of silk with a slender staff of steel, was
designed to attract attention by daylight.

[Illustration: "The explosion, close under their bows, of a giant
fire-cracker."]

Shortly before sunset, with everything in readiness for her great
venture, the _Mermaid_ forsook her snug berth and began to move across
the harbour, with the eyes of her turret just awash and the flag of free
Cuba fluttering bravely a foot above the surface of the water. It did
not attract attention until it passed slowly within a hundred yards of
the Spanish battle-ship _Alfonso XIX._, when a clamour of voices from
her decks announced its discovery. A few minutes later a boat, manned
by Spanish bluejackets and commanded by a dapper lieutenant, dashed
forth in pursuit of the hated emblem. It was easily overtaken and the
officer stretched forth a hand to seize it. As he touched its steel
staff he received an electric shock that caused him to utter a scream of
terror and fall like one paralysed in the bottom of his boat. With this
the little flag, proudly displaying its broad stripes of white and blue
and a single white star in a crimson field, danced away over the placid
waters towards another great ship flying the red and yellow ensign of
Spain. Again was the bait taken, and a second boat was sent in pursuit.
This time not only was the man who attempted to seize the Cuban emblem
numbed as though by a stroke of lightning, but the boat's crew was
thrown into a state of wildest panic by the explosion, close under their
bows, of a giant fire-cracker.

"Isn't it great fun?" cried Carl Baldwin, who was in charge of the
diving-room, the ventilation, and the explosives.

"It is bewildering," answered the Professor, without taking his eyes
from the pressure-gauge that indicated their exact distance below the
surface. "At this moment we three are demonstrating the worthlessness,
as fighting machines, of the world's navies. From this time on, the
nations of the earth will be compelled by fear to live at peace with
each other."

"I wish we could sink just one Spanish ship," said Carlos Moranza from
the engine-room.

"Of course we could do it," replied Professor Rivers. "In fact, we could
within one hour's time destroy every warship in this harbour, but it
would be a wicked and cowardly act. No, no, my boy, we will not harm a
single human being in this glorious experiment. At the same time I am
perfectly willing to inspire them with a wholesome fear."

"Just scare 'em stiff," laughed Carl Baldwin.

By the time darkness had settled over the scene the entire Spanish fleet
was fully aroused. News of the mysterious happenings in the harbour had
even spread to all parts of the city, and General Moranza realised that
his powerful friends were already at work.

[Illustration: "The _Alfonso XIX._ lay in a glow of diffused light that
seemed to come from beneath her very keel."]

Some two hours later, while the officers and crew of the _Alfonso XIX._
were still discussing with bated breath the recent supernatural
appearance of the Cuban emblem, they were startled by again seeing it
floating on the surface but a short distance from them. This time,
instead of being a simple silken flag, it was outlined in flames of red
white and blue. There was a confused shouting of orders, and then the
rattling fire of a machine-gun began to tear through the water just
beyond the blazing emblem. With the first sound of firing it vanished,
but a minute later the _Alfonso XIX._ lay in a glow of diffused light
that seemed to come from beneath her very keel. And so it did, for that
was the point from which the _Mermaid_ was just then operating her 4000
candle-power search-light.

As the Spaniards waited in breathless terror for what should happen
next, and fully expecting to be hurled into eternity by some tremendous
explosion, a dense volume of sickening smoke rose slowly from the water
on both sides of the ship, until she was completely enveloped in its
suffocating folds. In a vain effort to escape this terror against which
they could not fight, the Spaniards slipped their moorings with the idea
of steaming out to sea, but, to their dismay, the great screw, that
should have driven them through the water at a speed of twenty miles an
hour, refused to move, and the vast bulk of the _Alfonso XIX._ only
drifted helplessly.

Now the fiery emblem of free Cuba was again seen moving swiftly from
point to point, fired at by ship after ship, disappearing with each shot
only to flash out again a moment later in some unexpected quarter. Its
erratic course was marked by eddying clouds of pungent smoke, bursts of
flame, and loud explosions that threw the whole harbour into an uproar
of terror. The panic-stricken ships of Spain dropped their moorings and
made desperate efforts to escape from the enemy that they could neither
see nor fight, but which seemed to hold them at its mercy. Some of them
could not move, others could not be steered, and all drifted helplessly,
colliding with one another, running aground, blinding each other with
flashing search-lights that incessantly swept the black waters in
every direction, and filled with terrified men who implored the saints
to save them.

[Illustration: "Threw the whole harbour into an uproar of terror."]

Nor was the alarm confined to these, but it spread to the city, where in
every quarter church-bells rang madly, drums sounded their quick call to
arms, trumpets blared, masses of people poured through every avenue
leading to the water-front, and Havana was dominated by such a reign of
terror as its history had never known. While the confusion was at its
height, a heavy firing from the south announced an insurgent attack,
and, with the general call for troops that followed, even the military
guards of the prisons were temporarily pressed into service.

At five minutes before midnight, as marked by Carlos Moranza's watch,
the cause of all this turmoil slipped unnoticed into the dock of the
fishmarket, and lay motionless with only her low turret rising above the
surface. At exactly midnight the young Cuban closed his watch with a
snap, and listened eagerly to a rapidly approaching rattle of wheels.
Then a carriage dashed through the crowds lining the water-front, and
staring like so many bewildered moths at the flashing search-lights of
the warships. As it drew up sharply at the head of the dock, a man in
the uniform of a Spanish general leaped from it, and was quickly
followed by a slender youth, apparently a mere boy, also in uniform.

At this moment the whole scene was suddenly illumined by a glare of
light that seemed to come from the very waters of the dock, and a great
cry rose from the spectators as they fell back in affright. Only two men
dared press forward--the Spanish general and his aide. These stood for a
moment on the very edge of the stone coping. Then the lad seemed to slip
down into the water. As he disappeared, the general, waving his plumed
chapeau high above his head, uttered a loud cry of "_Viva Cuba libre_!"
and sprang after his companion.

Half-an-hour later the little _Mermaid_ was slipping swiftly but unseen
beneath the very walls of Moro Castle and out of Havana harbour. In her
tiny cabin, Catina Moranza, weak with reaction from the terrible strain
of the past few days, lay sobbing in her brother's arms, and striving to
tell of her blessed deliverance from the horrors of _La Jacoba_. At the
same time General Moranza stood beside Professor Rivers and watched with
wondering admiration his conning of the most powerful battle-ship the
world had ever known.

Two miles out at sea they found their tug, that, with its tow, had taken
advantage of the dire confusion in Havana harbour to leave it unnoticed.
Here the _Mermaid_ took the last dive of her eventful cruise, and in
another minute was once more safely ensconced within the dumping scow.

Ten days later the clumsy tow, with the real object of its long voyage
still unsuspected, moved slowly up the Delaware River, and came to
anchor off the Baldwin shipyard.

In answer to the chaff of such acquaintances as rallied him on the folly
of trying to sell a dumping scow to the Spaniards of Havana, the captain
of the tug was wont to say, "Yes, it is true I failed to sell the scow,
but I made five thousand dollars out of the trip all the same."

Professor Rivers is equally satisfied with the success of his venture,
and so of course is Carlos Moranza. As for Carl Baldwin, he made the
home voyage in a state of delightful bewilderment.

"Why didn't you tell me, West, that your sister, instead of being a mere
child, as I was led to suppose, was the very loveliest and most
beautiful girl in the world?" he asked of his friend after his
introduction to Catina.

"Because," answered Carlos Moranza, who had heretofore only seen the
young lady in question through the eyes of a brother, "I didn't know she
was."



THE VENTURE OF THE "BERTHA" WHALER

_A STORY OF THE ANTARCTIC_

BY HENRY FRITH

     _Author of "The Search for the 'Talisman,'" "Jack o' Lanthorn,"
     "The Opal Mountain," &c, &c._


I

"Pax!" cried Arthur Rushton, as he and his brother Reginald struggled
amicably on the sofa in the vessel's berth.

"All right!" assented the elder, a fine lad of sixteen. "How are you
feeling this morning, Arthur? Better?"

"Rather! I feel like Samson already," replied the somewhat
delicate-looking boy. "I am ready for several Philistines this morning,
and mean to ask the steward-fellow for a couple of asses' jaw-bones for
dumb-bell practice!"

"Better keep them shut, and not exercise them so much," said Reginald
politely. "No, no!" he cried, as Arthur made an attempt to assault him.
"It's pax now; and, besides, I want to finish dressing."

The threatened contest was thus averted, and, after some light chaff had
been exchanged, the lads resumed their conversation.

"I wonder how things are at home," mused Arthur. "The dear mother was
very unwilling to let us go, though the step-pater did not seem to care!
Poor, dear mother! I think she spoke to the captain about us, Reggie."

"I am sure she induced Mr. Halbrake to come with us instead of the other
man from the firm. Halbrake, being a doctor (surgeon, I mean), is in the
right place, particularly as the captain is a bit 'touchy' and
obstinate. The mate is simply a beast."

"Yes; he and the master had a nice row over that paper which was found
in the chart-room, or in the cabin above. The old skipper declared it
was a warning. Didn't he get riled, too? and he nearly blew himself up
as well as the mate."

"Next time he'll have a fit. It strikes me the mate aggravates him
purposely. The captain can't stand any kind of interference. Well, I'm
going on deck. Hurry up now," said Reginald.

This conversation took place in the lads' berth on board the _Bertha_, a
sturdy barque in which they were voyaging. She was fitted as a "whaler,"
and belonged to the firm of Boscombe & Halbrake--chiefly Boscombe. The
senior partner was the step-father of the Rushtons, for their mother, a
rich widow, had married Mr. Boscombe, a gentleman whom the lads most
cordially disliked. Shortly after the marriage he, at first gently, and
later very firmly, had suggested a voyage for Arthur, who seemed
delicate. Then he decided upon sending the _Bertha_ to seal in the
Antarctic, and to search for a missing vessel, the _Gladiator_. When
this was arranged, Reginald volunteered to accompany his brother. Mr.
Boscombe made no objection. Mr. Halbrake, a young surgeon, usually
called "Doctor," also embarked under the old and experienced master,
Blake, an eccentric, touchy man, obstinate to a degree, and always
easily "drawn" when his attainments were questioned. He and his mate,
Esau Cordell, were always at loggerheads. It seemed, as Reginald
Rushton had said, that Esau had aggravated the old man on purpose.

Several days had already passed since the _Bertha_ quitted Plymouth. She
had plunged and rolled in Biscay's Bay, and flung waves over her head
aft to the waist. The lads and the Doctor lay close, sometimes venturing
on deck, but more frequently keeping below till the weather moderated.
The auxiliary screw was now hushed, and the barque plunged on under sail
with a fine breeze on the quarter. On the day on which our tale opens,
Reginald again went on deck, and the master asked him and Arthur to
breakfast with him in his own cabin.

"Glad to see you up again," said the captain. "Began to think you
intended to stay below until we reached the tropics. Got your sea-legs,
eh? and a good appetite, I hope?"

The boys replied cheerfully in the affirmative, and the meal proceeded
until, about ten minutes later, Mr. Cordell intruded his red head into
the cabin and said--

"Excuse me, sir, but the weather is looking ugly. I think you had better
shorten sail."

"I shall shorten sail when I please," replied the master. "You may take
a reef in your jaw-tackle, Mr. Cordell, meantime."

"Best get up steam," continued the mate, without taking any notice of
the suggestion.

"Get out, sir," roared the captain. "I am master of this ship! Say, what
do you know of the paper about traitors aboard? Mind your own business,
sir. I'll mind mine."

"There are obstinate old fools aboard, I suspect," muttered the mate.
"The ship will be struck by a squall presently. You had better shorten
sail, as I tell you."

"I shall not. Go forward, or I'll put you in irons. What impudence!"
puffed the captain as the mate disappeared. "He thinks he commands the
ship. Hum!" he muttered after a pause, during which he had consulted
the barometer, "it's falling fast, but _he_ doesn't know the ropes,"
continued the obstinate skipper. "Now, lads, fire away; there's no
trouble; eat hearty."

"We have finished, thank you, captain. The sky is getting very dark,
sir."

"Eh! eh! a bit dusky. Seems the sea is rising; wind's changing too; must
go and look at it," said the old fellow, as he sauntered out of the
cabin. But hardly had he emerged on deck when the mate's voice rung out
loudly--

"All hands take in sail; look alive there!"

The master swore, and rushed out to confront his deputy.

"Let her go as she is, Jackson," he cried to the steersman. "Go below
forward," he shouted to the mate furiously. "I shall have you in limbo.
Stevens" (he hailed the second mate), "stand by the watch and reduce
sail. Heavens! here's the squall ahead! Let the sheets fly--smart. Up
with the helm--hard up! Haul up the mainsail, down flying jib there!"

The men, fortunately, were prepared, and the mate, ignoring the threat
of arrest, assisted, gave orders, and generally behaved well. The
barque, taken aback, plunged, shook herself, and then fell off,
careening to the blast, almost dipping her yard-arms into the sea. The
captain raved; the mate shouted; the men laboured; and when the barque
was brought before the gale under a furled topsail and furled foresail,
the angry captain called the mate, and standing in the waist, addressed
him as follows:--

"You are a mutineer, sir; you shall leave this ship. I will put into
port as soon as possible and try you. Go below, sir!"

"You'll do nothing of the kind," retorted the mate; "perhaps I can break
you. You had better knock under."

"Mutiny, by heavens! Mr. Stevens, send the watch aft to seize this
fellow."

The captain seized the mate as he spoke. The latter resisted. A struggle
ensued, in the quick course of which the older man was pinned against
the bulwarks, while the vessel rolled deeply. A tremendous wave washed
into the waist furiously, and then, no one knew how, the captain,
overbalanced, dropped overboard, and disappeared in the raging sea. The
mate had hardly saved himself, as the wave, which had nearly swamped the
_Bertha_, rushed in cascades along the decks, and finally escaped
impetuously by the scuppers.

[Illustration: "The captain, overbalanced, dropped overboard, and
disappeared in the raging sea."]

"Man overboard!" was the cry, as the mate fell back on the deck. "Down
helm; make ready the quarter boat!"

In a moment all was confusion. The hands were almost paralysed by the
occurrence. Mr. Halbrake, who had been below with the two youthful
passengers, came hurriedly upon deck, and for a moment the _Bertha_ was
left to herself. She plunged and rolled deeply; the waves dashed wildly
over her, as the high cross seas invaded the decks fore and aft. For
half a minute she appeared settling down, but her stability asserted
itself, and she rolled back again, when the men steadied her by the helm
on her course.

All thought of saving the unfortunate master was by this time abandoned;
he must have sunk immediately. The men went about their avocations in
silence. The doctor assisted the mate, who had fallen and cut his head
rather badly, and interrogated him closely.

But Mr. Halbrake found himself powerless in the matter of discipline.
Though so closely connected with one of the owners, he found he had no
authority. The mate had had his orders from Mr. Boscombe apparently, and
the three passengers were impotent in the matter. They subsequently
discussed the case, for the surgeon had had his suspicions ever since
the mysterious paper had been found in the captain's room, but the
author of it, and the accomplice who placed it there, were unknown. The
mate himself had been as furious as the captain on the subject, possibly
for different reasons, but the ill-feeling then engendered had caused
the tragedy which all hands regretted.

       *       *       *       *       *

The mate took command of the barque with the tacit approval of all,
though evidently against the wishes of some on board. The squall abated
almost as suddenly as it had arisen. Steam was raised, and the _Bertha_
then resumed her course in a calmer sea. The lads took the opportunity
to examine the ship, and inspected the oil-tanks, the harpoon-chests,
the store-cabins, and penetrated to the forecastle. They made friends
with the men, and learned many things about sealing and whaling. They
were much surprised at the strength of the ship--her strong hull, thick
bulwarks, and clamped bows; the arm-chest and the stores, ammunition,
food, were also inspected, and sampled later.

The voyage proceeded without any marked incidents. Then another, and yet
another, storm attacked them. The _Bertha_ put into no port; she
proceeded southward with ever-varying weather, and novel experiences for
her passengers. So the parallels were traversed to the Trades, and the
Line was approached.


II

Day after day passed. The last storm from the north-west had at length
subsided. The weather was becoming very warm; the sailors donned straw
hats, or other light head-gear, and thin garments. The decks were
scorching. The wind fell entirely; and one day late in October, when in
a sailing barque people would have been whistling for wind, the _Bertha_
fell in with the north-east Trades, sail-shifting ceased, and the engine
was at rest.

All this time there was much dissatisfaction in the minds of the three
passengers. Esau Cordell's manner was not in his favour. The boys
disliked him heartily, and even the young surgeon was prejudiced against
the new commander. The three friends kept together, and frequently
compared notes on their experiences and feelings.

"I cannot understand why your step-father sent you fellows aboard this
ship," remarked the doctor. They were lying on the hot deck, beneath the
shade of the quarter boat suspended in-board. "Why couldn't he have sent
Arthur to the Mediterranean if he is delicate, though I don't admit
that?"

"For money reasons," replied Reginald. "The 'boss' is as stingy as a
tom-cat, and he gets the jaunt _gratis_."

"Stingy! I believe you," said Arthur. "He declares he is as poor as a
church-mouse; and mice would be poor indeed if they depended upon his
offertory."

"Ah, then perhaps he had some other motive," murmured the doctor.
"However," he continued aloud, "you will both go home well and fit.
Reggie may still go to Cambridge, and you, Arthur, may go as you please;
perhaps try the Bar, as you have private means."

"We shall see," said Arthur quietly. "But I say, doctor, somehow I can't
forget that letter about the 'traitors on board.' What was it all about,
I wonder? The poor old captain was enraged, but he had something to go
upon, I think."

"What became of the paper?" asked Reginald. "Has the mate got it?"

"Don't know. I suspect it has been picked up somewhere," replied the
doctor. "There is nothing suspicious now, at any rate."

"Isn't there?" said Arthur, nodding significantly at the last speaker.
"The mate came into our berth last night very quietly, and when he saw I
was awake, he mumbled something and went out."

"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Reginald. "I thought we had fastened the
door."

"Perhaps you heard some one in the passage close by," said Mr. Halbrake,
"or perhaps you dreamt it all."

"No, I saw the man plainly in the dim light--it must have been early in
the morning, I expect--and that _beast_ Esau----"

"Meaning me, young sir? Go on! Don't mind my feelings," continued the
mate sarcastically; "I am only a beast, you know!"

The three chums were perfectly dumfounded, the man had come upon them so
silently and so cautiously. What had he heard?

"We are sorry that you happened to hear my young friend's opinion,"
said Mr. Halbrake after a pause. "He seems, however, to have some
objection to you. Of course I do not understand it, but----"

"But _I_ understand that the accredited surgeon of this vessel, and a
partner, I believe, of the owners, is inciting my passengers to insult
the commander. The late skipper found out what that meant when he
attacked me, and if you and these cubs are not careful, you may all find
yourselves in limbo."

[Illustration: "Hullo, my young spitfire! so you want a lesson, do
you?"]

"Cubs!" exclaimed Reginald. "What do you mean by such insolence? You are
a mean cad! I think you drove the old captain overboard."

"Hullo, hullo, my young spitfire! so you want a lesson, do you? Well,
then, take my advice; hold your tongue in future, else both of you will
be put in irons below. I'll have no mutiny here; and you, doctor, had
best just keep yourself to yourself, else you will find things _raspy_
for _you_!"

With this hint, and a significant nod to the three seated in the shade
of the boat, the commander walked away. His advent had struck the party
dumb; his departure had a similar effect upon them.

At length, after a cautious look around, Reginald remarked--

"He must have been listening. After all, he took the matter fairly well.
To be called a beast, and to be spoken of as a possible murderer, is a
fair test of temper."

"So is 'cubs,'" said Arthur. "And he _is_ a beast, anyway! I would like
to find that paper; then we should know what to believe."

"I am afraid he will find means to 'pay us out,'" said the surgeon,
reflectively. "Let us keep quiet. Perhaps we have been too hard on him,
though I cannot understand what object he had in setting the captain
against him. That he did so is evident."

"What object had our 'dear papa' in sending Arthur in this ship? Yet he
did, knowing I would go also. You yourself were surprised, doctor. Could
it be a planned thing, do you think?"

"Oh, impossible!" exclaimed the surgeon, rising from the desk. "We must
be careful, that's all."

The lads acted on this advice. Nothing occurred to alarm them. The
_Bertha_ approached the Line, and one day, after the heart-breaking
"Doldrums" had been passed under steam, the Equinoctial was reached
about the end of October.

"One must draw the line somewhere, I suppose," remarked Arthur to
Jackson; "here it is! Can you _see_ it?" he asked, with a great
assumption of innocence.

"Certainly," replied the man, calmly, "it's just ahead. If you ascend to
the cross-trees, you may see it dipping like a gold and silver rope in
the waves. Take the glass and have a squint."

"Thanks!" replied Arthur, somewhat abashed; "I'll see presently." He was
uncertain what pranks might be played upon him when high jinks were the
rule of the road at sea near the Line; so he waited the approach of
Neptune patiently.

The sea-king came over the bows in due course, accompanied by his spouse
and secretary; he was attended by a number of "policemen" and followers,
who seized and questioned the intended victims. These were shaved with a
hoop, compelled to swallow grease pills, and then soused in the
water-sail, while queerly-dressed animals, seals, and such like assisted
in the ducking.

The "doctor" did not escape, and, owing to what some people thought was
no accident, the young man having been roughly shaved, soused, and
jumped upon in the bath, was hunted down the companion-way. Here he came
into violent collision with the commander, who was at that moment
ascending. The surgeon was thrown down backwards and rendered insensible
by the fall.

Mr. Halbrake was carried below, attended by his young friends and the
mate. The festivity of the occasion was not greatly interrupted, but
Arthur sat with Reginald in the doctor's berth, conversing in whispers,
and with grave faces.

"Artie," said the latter, "we are getting into a fix! It seems to me
that we _are_ doomed somehow. The _Bertha_ is under a ban!"

"I'm afraid there _is_ something bad here, Reggie. Cordell is at the
bottom of it. I wish he was at the bottom of the sea."

"Yes, he seems inclined to remove us one by one. Whose turn next, I
wonder!"

"Do you think that he is a pirate?" exclaimed Arthur. "Surely our _dear
step-father_ would not have put us in such a situation. He couldn't!"

"Perhaps he might have had reasons," whispered a strange voice.

The boys started and looked fearfully around. Who had spoken? They were
alone with the sleeping man. What could he know, or how could he talk
thus in his sleep, wounded as he was? Reginald looked at the invalid,
and then whispered--

"The vessel is haunted! I wish we had never come on board. Let us tell
Esau."

"No, certainly not," said Arthur. "He will only make things worse. Let
us try to beat him at his own game!"

"Right!" whispered the strange voice. "Lie low!"

"That is mysterious," said Reginald, as he went quickly to the door and
threw it open. There was no one near; the cabins were silent and
darkened.

"Rum!" he remarked as he returned to the doctor's bunk. "Did you speak,
doctor?"

"No," was the unexpected reply in a faint tone. "But I heard you and the
strange voice. I suspect it was Jackson. He seems a good man."

The lads looked and nodded at each other, and the doctor proceeded in a
whisper--

"Listen! That mate intended to seriously cripple me to-day, I'm certain,
and to put the injury down to the 'larking on the Line!' Some one had
guessed your step-father's plans and warned the late captain. Now Esau
thinks I am disabled. Jackson, I suspect, is on our side, and has given
us a hint. See?"

"Then you think that Mr. Boscombe _intended_ us to die!" exclaimed
Reginald. "Is it possible? Oh no; he _couldn't_ be so wicked!"

"The mate has _some_ instructions, I believe," whispered Mr. Halbrake.
"Be careful. I think we may trust Jackson, and the engineers are
honest. Keep quiet now till I am well again, and wait with your eyes
wide open. Later on we shall certainly see something!"

The surgeon then lay silent. During the night the lads sat up with him,
watching in turn. Esau came down to make inquiry, and Jackson also
looked in. The Rushtons attended to their friend under his own
directions, and decided to "play possum" until they fell in with a ship
or landed somewhere. In this way three weeks passed, and southern climes
were reached.

By that time the doctor had perfectly recovered. He assisted in the
fishing for the albatross with a hook and bait, and finally secured one
of these fine birds by these means. He and all the rest on board enjoyed
the novel sights of whales and porpoises, the various birds, and the
unusual appearances of the southern climate. A gale drove the _Bertha_
past the Falklands, greatly to the disgust of many on board who had
anticipated a run ashore; and then, when the weather moderated, the
passengers came on deck again muffled up to meet the Antarctic cold.
Christmas was already looming on the horizon of the almanac, and
festivity was indulged in in anticipation. The doctor stuffed birds
(mollymauks and Cape pigeons); Reginald and Arthur fished, shot, and
thoroughly enjoyed the voyage, while still on their guard respecting the
commander. In fact, to all appearance, the ill-feeling which had arisen
on board had by this time passed away.

One afternoon the thermometer fell decidedly, and a report of ice was
promulgated. The air became _very_ chilly, and bergs were anticipated.
Ice for Christmas!

"What a lark!" cried Arthur. "This will be fun! May we land upon an
iceberg?"

The commander, who was searching the ocean through his glass, looked
steadily and with much interest at the lad. He did not reply at once,
but resumed his survey.

"Can we, Mr. Cordell?" asked Arthur again.

"Perhaps," was the reply. "Would you both like it?"

"Rather! eh, Reggie! Wouldn't it be splendid to land on a _real
iceberg_?"

"There are no sham ones here," said Mr. Cordell. "None 'made in
Germany'! We shall find you one, I daresay," he concluded as he walked
across to port.

"You shouldn't run risks, gentlemen," remarked Jackson, who was again at
the wheel. "If ye get on, ye may never get off!"

The speaker never looked at the lads; he kept his eyes upon the ocean
far ahead, and seemed as if he had been talking to himself in a low
tone.

"Look," he cried suddenly, "there's a Christmas-box for you! That's a
berg! See, yonder, to starboard bow."

"That!" exclaimed Reginald. "Why, it's _flat_, not pointed, as we have
seen in pictures!"

"They is always flat in the Antarctic," replied the sailor. "They are
square-looking, not peaky, down here."

By this time the hands had assembled forward to see the first berg of
summer in the Antarctic. As the _Bertha_ approached the drifting mass,
it seemed to emerge from the light mist as a plateau of ice, at least a
mile long and quite two hundred and fifty feet high; its breadth could
not be at once estimated, but it seemed square. The summit was white and
sparkling with snow, which was reflected sharply by the sunbeams, even
painfully. The sides of the berg were caverned like cliffs; blue, and
even green in places, against which the waves dashed with great force,
leaping high up the ice, half way, at times, to the summit. The sea was
roaring in the ice-caves, and presented a most magnificent appearance as
it retreated, foaming and angry, only to attack the white walls anew.

It _was_ magnificent! Splendid! Glorious! All the spectators were silent
as the _Bertha_ approached the berg.

[Illustration: "What are those black things, Mr. Stevens?"]


III

Even Arthur Rushton was silent. His idea of a "lark" appeared entirely
out of place _vis-à-vis_ with the berg.

The _Bertha_ was sailing with a south-east wind, but the berg appeared
to be drifting towards the barque. At one time some fears were
entertained that the vessel would collide with the mass, but the berg
passed on with merely a cold recognition of the stranger. The mist
seemed increasing, the weather colder, the sea lumpy, as the island of
ice passed by in dignified silence.

A man was sent up to the "crow's-nest," a barrel which had been hoisted
up to the main-topmast, to scan the horizon for seals, whalers, and any
floes. The look-out was seated in the cask upon a board fixed within it,
and he entered it by a trap-door (cut in the bottom of the barrel) from
the rigging. When the apparatus had been tested, Arthur, of course, was
anxious to ascend and see what he could.

"May we go up?" asked Reginald of the second mate.

"Aye," replied Stevens. "I'll see you safe up. Take care, youngster; the
ship's rollin' a tidy bit up there!"

The lads had ascended the rigging before, and with a little assistance
one managed to enter the crow's-nest. Arthur went first, as he had
suggested the expedition.

"This is splendid," exclaimed the lad. "There are several bergs, and
lumps of ice in the sea like little islands. What are those black
things, Mr. Stevens?"

He indicated some distant objects which seemed to be floating between
the barque and the ice-floe.

"Whales," replied Stevens. "Not _right_ whales, though. Those are
'finners,' as we call them."

"_Wrong_ whales, I suppose! Are 'finners,' then, 'sinners,'" asked
Arthur in his most innocent tone.

"Not particularly, so far as I know," replied the mate, laughing, "but
they are no use to whalers, and so we only catch '_right_ whales,' d'ye
see?"

"Then, is that a _spout_?" asked the lad, as a thin and steam-like
vapour arose from the neighbourhood of the whales.

"Yes, that's a spout," was the reply, as the misty vapour vanished. "It
looks different in books, don't it?"

"It does," said Arthur. "I think I'll go down now. The rolling is rather
trying. Besides, Reginald is waiting."

"And Tom is expecting you to pay your 'footing,'" said the mate Stevens.
"Got to fork out, sir, please."

So Arthur "forked out" as desired, and descended with a light head and a
lighter pocket to warn his brother. Reginald, however, ascended boldly,
and entered the barrel, which the top-man had vacated.

Reginald looked around him, and could hardly realise the position. The
cold and mist he did not mind; the solitude appeared fearful! There he
was, swaying about high above the deck, feeling as if he must fall into
the sea when the barque rolled, or upon one of the tiny creatures which,
foreshortened below him, moved on the deck. It was a giddy perch!

He looked away over the sea, in which the ice masses, in detachments or
skirmishing order, were keeping the advance line of the distant, unknown
shore. Farther away the ice-clad ocean was rocking undulating in the
swell, which was confined by the "pack." The white reflection troubled
the lad, the desolation appeared complete; and shutting his ears to
exclude the sounds of the slapping ropes, the noise of the sails, the
cries of men and birds, Reginald could almost believe that all the
prospect was unreal, as in a dream--that he would awake again in his
bunk below and recover his senses! Then he took his fingers from his
ears. Even then he fancied the whole incident was unreal, even as he
turned to speak to the sailor beside him.

But the look-out man--always on the look-out for "footing"--assured him
that all was true and distinct and real. When he had carefully pocketed
the "tip," he permitted himself a long look across the ice, muttering
something, looking and again muttering.

"Ship ahoy!" he cried suddenly, hailing the deck.

"Where away!" came the response.

"Broad on the starboard beam: lying low on the ice, under the lee of a
berg. Looks dismantled."

"Can you make it out?" asked Arthur, when his brother had found him on
deck some minutes later.

"No; not likely from here. We are heading for it now, and expect we
shall pick her up. Did you like the 'crow's nest'?"

"Not much," replied Arthur. "I didn't like playing 'Cherub aloft.' Felt
as if I _had_ a _body_, and that my wings were making my head giddy!"

"I say, Artie," suggested Reginald, "when we reach the vessel yonder
shall we go aboard?"

"Rather!" was the reply. "Listen! what does Esau say? _Derelict?_--that
means stranded or abandoned, doesn't it?"

"Chucked up, I think. But the _beast_ won't let us go, never fear! We
and the doctor are his pet foes."

"We can try, any way. Come and see Mr. Halbrake."

The surgeon was in his cabin reading and smoking. He heard the report,
and guessed the anxiety of the boys. They were most desirous to go.

"Wait until we hear the order to lower the boat," he said after a while.
"Then wrap up well, and let us all go and ask the commander. Be ready,
mind!"

The lads went out, dressed and made all necessary preparations for the
trip, then they came into the doctor's berth again and waited, chatting
at intervals, and proposing all kinds of future expeditions.

At last the anticipated order came. The three friends went on deck, and
beheld four men with Jackson ready to embark in one of the boats.

"Let us go too, please, Mr. Cordell," cried Arthur. "We want to see the
stranded ship. Please let us all go."

"Oh, you all wish to go, do you? Well, perhaps it will be all the
better! Go then. Look sharp, now."

None of the three noticed the tone of Cordell's reply, nor the sneer
which had accompanied the permission, nor the savage light in the eyes
of the commander-mate. But Jackson intervened when Mr. Cordell had
spoken to him.

"Haven't you got any grub?" he asked. "Best get a snack, as in case
we're delayed you won't be hungry or thirsty. Where's the guns, sir?"

"They are there," replied the chief. "Mind that rifle; put it down
there! I have no fancy to be shot like a jackdaw. There's some tins for
you, and a keg. You may make grog if you like. Now, steady! Lower away!"

The boat, well supplied by the steward, and armed, pushed off, and under
the influence of the four men rushed through the chopping sea. The eyes
of the passengers were fixed upon the derelict, the eyes of the
cockswain were fixed on both alternately, with suspicious glances at the
lads. But Jackson made no remark. He was thinking of the message which
Esau had given him, and it puzzled him; but he held his course. The man
in the "crow's-nest" gave him the direction; the barque was kept
alongside the floe, clear of the bergs, too, which, agitated by currents
of their fellows' making, often swerved out of their course, and
compelled the _Bertha_ to "yaw," or to come up in the wind, to avoid a
collision.

The men rowed well, and the hull of the stranded vessel became more
distinct through the gathering mist. The _Bertha_ kept a signal flying
at the fore, but the bunting was already indistinct; and though Arthur
and others noticed the gradual disappearance of the barque, no one
remarked upon the fact. The men knew their bearings and felt no alarm.

"There she is," cried some one. "My stars!" exclaimed the cockswain,
"she is a derelict for sure, and one of our whalers like. Give way,
lads!"

Bumping, straining, and with many a shock, the boat was impelled in the
direction of the derelict, which the occupants of the pinnace succeeded
in reaching safely. She was half afloat, under the lee of the berg, upon
a long mass of ice attached to the cliffs in front of her. Her stern was
free, released by the breaking floe.

She was a barque, but smaller than the _Bertha_, and covered by snow and
frost above the water-line, below with barnacles. Truly a derelict
vessel; no living thing, save a few birds, was near her until the
"_Bertha_" approached.

"It jolly well strikes me," remarked Jackson, "that this is the missing
_Gladiator_, which I am told our old skipper expected to fall in with.
Poor chaps! They have all died, I expect, unless mayhap they took boat
and escaped. I suppose you gents won't want to go aboard?"

"Certainly we do," said Arthur. "That is why we came. Of course we shall
go; shan't we, doctor?"

"I should like to look round her," answered the doctor. "What do you
think, Jackson?"

"Well, sir, there's no harm, as far as I knows. But I think _I_
wouldn't, somehow!"

"Why?" asked Reginald. "What's the matter?"

"There ain't nothin' the matter," replied the cockswain, looking at the
men. "Still, if you're determined, and as I have orders not to stay by
the wreck, suppose I report, and come back for you later? There's grub
and guns, a rifle, and plenty of daylight for weeks yet, so----"

"All right!" cried Arthur; "hand us up."

The three adventurers climbed up the side of the vessel, and then the
beef in tins, the keg, the guns, rifle, and ammunition followed.

"I suppose it _is_ all right?" asked the doctor, as the men prepared to
go back. "You _will_ return?"

"Oh, we'll come back," laughed the stroke oarsman, an ugly-looking
customer. "_You're_ all right!"

"I'd rather you'd pull in with us," said Jackson, "I would indeed. I
can't wait. Here take this, sir."

"Nonsense!" cried Arthur. "This is real right down Robinson Crusoe
business! Don't hurry back. Ta, ta! What did he give you, doctor?"

The cockswain waved his hand in farewell. The men gave way, and the boat
quickly left the derelict and gradually was hidden in the still
gathering mist, for the breeze was "northing."

Mr. Halbrake made no answer to Arthur's question. He was watching the
boat. Then perceiving that the man had handed him some tobacco, he put
it in his pocket, having already sufficient for present use. The lads
had meantime left him, and he went aft to join them, but he suddenly
became conscious of the insecurity of their position--and future!

What if this was a planned trick? Had the commander taken this
opportunity to rid himself of the passengers? Jackson could not say much
before the men, but, as the doctor now recalled with a fast-beating
heart, he had given them broad hints--suggested food; the guns had been
the commander's idea. What for? Why had he given them fire-arms?

With a mind far from easy, Mr. Halbrake rejoined the lads, who were
about to descend into the cabin, or "saloon" as they pleased to call it.
It was at best a wretched place to sleep in, but, under the
circumstances, almost repulsive to the surgeon.

Arthur was in high spirits when he descended. Reginald liked the
adventure also. The long-promised "lark" had appeared, had descended on
the snow-clad berg, and had taken up its abode upon the derelict for the
time being! Therefore the lads were delighted, and skipped down
cheerfully. But when they had penetrated into the so-called cabin they
paused and listened.

"Didn't you hear a noise, doctor?" asked Reggie.

"No; what kind of noise?" said Halbrake, coming up.

"I think I heard a grunt, or something like it," said Arthur, "a yawn,
or like that."

"Perhaps some men are in the bunks there," suggested Reginald.

"Oh, no! the place seems to me too bad. Let us return; the look of the
place is enough for me. We need not search far; the cabin would be quite
unbearable in a warmer climate."

"I think I saw something," said Reginald. "Look! what are those? Cubs!
Run, Arthur; get the guns. Here come the animals. Run, doctor!"

In the dim light two curious objects appeared, and though Halbrake did
not think any bears could be there, he retreated on deck before the two
animals, which walked upright and had come to meet him. They seemed to
be a pair of fine bear-cubs, ragged and dirty. As the animals advanced
up the ladder, the adventurers all retreated astern to pick up the guns.
But the creatures took no notice of them, and in their turn retreated
forward into the forecastle.

"Let's shoot them," suggested Reginald.

"Wait a while," said Mr. Halbrake. "I do not think they are bears at
all. Suppose you and I go forward, Reginald, and investigate the matter.
Arthur can remain here on watch, and if anything alarm him, he can fire
his gun. That will suit you, Arthur; you will then be 'monarch of all
you survey.'"

"Very well; only look slippy, please, because I am not up to a big
bear-fight. However, I do not see anything very alarming. Make haste and
settle the business, because I am getting hungry."

The doctor and Reginald loaded their guns carefully, and went forward.
They disappeared down the fore-hatch. Arthur walked the after-deck and
went to peep down the cabin-stairs; he even inspected the main hatch,
and wondered what was within amidships. The vessel was deserted,
apparently, by every one except the two bears, which walked on their
hind-legs, and did not speak, as they would have done, he concluded, had
they been "only foreigners," not beasts.

Arthur listened for the discharge of the guns, but no sound reached him.
The fog had increased, and more icebergs appeared, very close too. They
were, in his opinion, closing in towards the derelict, and they might
crush it. The north-west wind was rising, and in that case snow and mist
were sure to envelop the ocean; and on the whole he decided that
Crusoe-life, unless upon a fine and well-supplied island, with
complaisant animals for companions, and plenty of shooting and books,
was a mistake.

The doctor and his companion had disappeared, and at length Arthur
became restless. He called out, then listened, but no reply came to him.
He did not wish to fire his gun unless on an emergency, but he felt
anxious, and the more so as the fog was encroaching; the bergs looked
more terrible, the silence became more distressing. He would have
welcomed a bear cub as a relief, but the stern cold silence of Nature
and the awful solitude of the derelict preyed upon his nerves.

At length, unable to sustain the strain any longer, Arthur lifted up his
voice and sent a _coo-ee_ through the fog which must have alarmed and
distressed the "King" penguins--birds which take a good deal of alarming
too. But even that only aroused in echo a chilling reply from the
sheltering berg in front.

[Illustration: "In the dim light two curious objects appeared."]

His late companions made no response at all, and Arthur Rushton made up
his mind to desert his post to seek them.


IV

The idea of playing "Crusoe" did not then appeal forcibly to the lad,
but just when he was thinking very seriously about himself and his
companions, he caught sight of them on the forecastle. They were
accompanied by the two small "bears" which had attacked them previously.
Arthur shouted with joy when he perceived them.

"Oh, I am so glad to see you," he exclaimed. "I thought you were dead!
How did you tame those animals? What queer beasts!"

"They are not beasts; they are men--savages if you like, but no beasts,"
replied the surgeon.

"I don't like them at all," replied Arthur. "But what are they then?"

"Fuegians. They have come from Tierra del Fuego. There is a Norwegian in
the forecastle very ill! He has been wrecked on the voyage round the
Horn, and it seems he and his friends picked these fellows up. The
Norwegians boarded the derelict weeks ago."

"Well, supposing they did, how did they get into the _Gladiator_?" asked
Arthur.

"That is what we have been learning. Their ship was disabled, and
drifted in this direction before a nor'-wester. It was entirely wrecked
on these islands, but fortunately the crew sighted the derelict. They
boarded her, starved here, and died here, all but this Northman and his
two companions. A terrible fate!"

"Perhaps we had better examine the vessel farther," suggested Reginald.
"There may be some other unfortunate fellows on board. Let us go."

This suggestion was acted upon, but not until the doctor's advice as
regarded a meal had been taken. "We shall require some food," he said;
"so let us brace ourselves up before we encounter what may prove
unpleasant incidents."

So the tinned beef, biscuits, and the grog were partly disposed of, the
savages also assisting in the feast. Then the exploration began. It was
not altogether pleasant to begin with, and amidships and 'tween-decks
the revelations were extremely nasty. The dead, frozen bodies, the
aspects of the remains of the seals, the blubber, and the congealed
blood, were too horrible, and combined to cause the adventurers to beat
a hasty retreat. They all shuddered at the future prospect. If fate had
an intention of keeping them on the derelict, the result would be fatal
to them.

Fortunately they came upon a store of food in the captain's cabin, and
thus were at ease for the present. Even if they were compelled to remain
a few days longer, they need not be hungry. Then, not till then, came
the idea of their situation and prospects. The mist had increased, and
even Arthur began to tire of Crusoe experiences in the derelict.

"I wonder where we are," said Reginald, after a long, silent survey of
the surroundings.

"Never mind where we are," replied Arthur snappishly; "let us get out of
it, wherever it is. What do you think, Mr. Halbrake?"

"Well, suppose you and Reginald take the guns and try and shoot some
penguins yonder. Meantime I will find fuel, and light a fire in the
galley; so, even supposing the boat cannot reach us this evening, we
shall be comfortable."

"Jolly!" was the reply, as the lads accoutred themselves for the
expedition on the snow. They descended carefully, and passed over the
ice to the deep snowy surface beyond it, sinking deeply at each step,
and leaving a trail unmistakable.

The adventurers advanced cautiously, and perceived that the derelict had
been driven upon the ice forward, while the stern still floated.
However, she appeared firm; and, after staring at the great massive berg
so close to them, so beautiful in its purity, so terrible in its
calmness even in inaction, the lads advanced from the starboard side of
the vessel, towards some seals, near which many penguins were resting
themselves. Some of the latter actually leaped out of the "ice pools"
upon the snowfield as the lads proceeded.

"Let's get close and blaze away," said Reginald. "Those birds will make
soup, the doctor said."

"Look at those seals! they appear quite tame. That one," indicating a
great, white-faced animal, "winked at me, Reggie; he really did. Now,
look out!"

The lads had approached the penguins, and fired together. A brace fell,
and the remainder of the birds scurried away, flapping, and pushing
themselves along the snow like queer animated canoes. They made a
curious "quacking" noise as they paddled away like aldermanic waiters,
in black coats and white waistcoats, seen through the small end of an
opera-glass. Their movements were very funny, and the lads laughed
heartily at the evolutions of the penguins.

Several birds were secured, amongst them being a few "Cape pigeons,"
which, as Arthur remarked, had no "good hope" of returning thither. He
would have been severely snubbed by his brother for this remark had not
Reginald's attention been directed to the derelict, which appeared to be
moving!

"Hullo!" he exclaimed; "the vessel is off the ice. Hurry up, Arthur,
else we shall be left behind. Lucky we didn't go far!"

This was alarming news. The lads plunged into the snow deep in their
tracks; the penguins danced and signalled with their flippers, as if in
sympathy, or pleasure, at the occurrence. The lads sank deeply in the
white carpet, shouting at times to the doctor. The stillness of the air
enabled him to hear their cries, and by them he was made aware of the
state of the case, which he had hitherto not suspected. But he had
evidently gained the confidence of the two "Bears," for they plunged,
waded, or swam to the assistance of the lads, and rescued them,
dripping, freezing, numbed, from the grasp of the ice-king; they were
all assisted on board the derelict by the surgeon.

He had lighted a fire; and when the half-frozen and wholly saturated
lads and the "Bears" had been rescued, the former were put into bunks in
the cabin and fed with hot broth. The savages did not mind the wetting;
they dried by the fire, and were also fed. But when, late next day, the
lads dressed, their clothes were ruined. They looked as if they had
purchased the wardrobe of a "scarecrow" from a rag-and-bone merchant who
had become insolvent.

The sun was setting in the southward as they came up. One can hardly say
"setting," though, because it only dipped into the horizon a little way,
and came up again on the rim of the ice-field. The silence was peculiar,
the air sparkling and bracing, by no means _very_ cold. The sea, where
visible, was like a mirror; the mist had receded to the north, the south
was clear. The floes were intersected by canals of sea-water, and the
distant ice-fields looked like a series of snow-clad water-meadows in
which the channels had been half frozen. Farther away the "canals"
closed up, and apparently composed a level ice-continent to the
sky-line. The effect was beautiful, charming, and altogether delightful;
the colours of sky, ice, and water being immensely varied and most
artistically combined on Nature's pallet.

       *       *       *       *       *

The derelict drifted and the sick men died. The weather became
uncertain, alternating mist and thin snow with gales and fierce winds,
which caused the adventurers much alarm. The tossings and the crashes
and bumpings of the ice caused the little barque to leak seriously, and
to threaten dissolution. The end appeared near, and even the stolid
"Bears" seemed upset; but release came to them all at last.

"A ship! The barque! There, lying beside that sheltering berg.
Shout--fire guns--yell loud!"

[Illustration: "The end appeared near."]

Reginald had spied the vessel lying snugly under the lee of the berg,
and the three friends at once proceeded to shout and fire shots as
suggested. Five days had been passed by the party in the derelict, and
the adventurers were satisfied with the experience.

After some delay, and while they were speculating upon whether the mate
had heard the shots, a boat was lowered from the _Bertha_ and put out
for the derelict. But the channels were so winding that it was quite an
hour before the boat reached the sinking ship, and fears of ultimate
rescue were expressed by the lads.

Jackson was steering the boat, which came alongside. He climbed up, and
stood staring at the whole party in silence, his eyes passing from one
to another in turn.

"Well, I _am_ busted!" he exclaimed at last. "Who expected to see you
and them funny devils? Good job the mate's shot. Who did it, eh?"

"Shot!" exclaimed the three friends. "What do you mean?"

"Why, this. One of your bullets came along and hit him full in the
chest. It settled him, you may depend. 'Spect you ain't so sorry, eh?"

"I really do not understand you," said the surgeon. "Did you not expect
to see us again? Do you mean _that we were sent away to die_?"

"Well, sir, not you especial. But, sir, I could tell you a secret," he
added, as his ruddy face became redder than his hearers', which were
already well "burnt" by the snow and wind. "Have you been smoking
tobacco?"

"Yes," replied the surgeon. "But what has that to do with the question?"

"Have you smoked what I gave you? No! Then look at the paper. There it
is!"

Mr. Halbrake unrolled the stained wrapper which enclosed the "twist,"
and discovered a written communication--"_To the Captain!_" He read as
follows:--

"_There are traitors on board, captain! Oh, be careful of my boys. I
cannot tell you anything. I know nothing, but I fear the worst. Be on
your guard. May God keep you! I pray for my sons and you!_"

"What's this," gasped Halbrake. "The disputed letter! The warning! Look
here, boys!"

"Mother's writing!" they exclaimed. "Dearest mother! She _did_ suspect,
then! Oh that mate!"

"Who are the traitors, Jackson?" asked Mr. Halbrake. "I must and shall
know, if I ruin myself to find out."

"Then you'll never do that either way. They are cowed now, whoever they
are. The game is up, and what I suspects I sha'n't tell. Let them be,
sir."

"And who was so infamous as to desire--to suggest our ...
disappearance?" asked the surgeon, savagely.

"Ah! there I can't help you. I don't know. That's a fact. Now,
gentlemen, you're waited for. Come away! What about these two 'Guy
Foxes' here? what's to be done about them? Best take 'em and drop them
somewhere."

No reply was made to this remark. The boys were thinking of their
mother, and of the terrible crime into which their step-father had
plunged: the death of the mate his accomplice, and the narrow escape
they had had! The captain had already been sacrificed. Alas! no
reparation could be made to him! The mate had paid the penalty of his
ill-doings--by accident--by chance!

Who could say it was "by chance"? When the rifle was placed in the boat,
he had joked about it, and it had caused his death! Was not then the
finger of Providence evident? Otherwise, he might have escaped, till,
even if he had been convicted in England, the disclosure of the plot
would have been disastrous to the family at home. Yes, the best had
happened! There is no "chance" in life.

The surgeon and his party returned to the _Bertha_, leaving the derelict
and her cargo to the sea to give up her dead. The mate's body was buried
in the cold Antarctic Ocean, and the barque sailed for England. Jackson
informed the lads of the manner in which Esau met his death. "He was in
the 'crow's nest,'" said the sailor, "looking out; whether he expected
to see you or not, we needn't say. May-be he didn't want to! But when
you fired the rifle first time, the bullet--aimed high, mind you--hit
him full, and he fell dead in the barrel aloft. Awful sudden it was!
Then Stevens told us to go for you; and I 'spect we'd a' done that
anyway. I was lookin' out for ye myself! There was friends aboard."

"I hope not many of you were concerned with the mate, Jackson," asked
the surgeon.

"Oh, well, some was. But no one is now. Of course, if any was really in
it all, they'd give in, and tack off the shoal pretty quick! Esau was
the prop, d'ye see! I was keepin' a look-out for you."

"Thank you, Jackson. I am sure we are greatly indebted to you; and when
we reach England again you shall all receive your deserts in full."

This decision did not appear very promising to Jackson, who touched his
cap and went forward amid his mates. But nothing untoward occurred
during the passage home; there was nothing to complain of all the while.

The _Bertha_ returned after a three months' struggle against tempests
and opposing winds. The Fuegians died on the voyage home, but the
barque, her crew, and passengers, reached Plymouth in safety, and
anchored in the Cattwater.

Mr. Halbrake immediately went ashore with the Rushtons to telegraph the
arrival and to report. When he returned to the _Bertha_, he learned that
the crew, with the exception of Stevens, the two engineers, Jackson, and
twelve hands, had taken French leave and decamped! This was an eloquent
testimony to the intentions of Mr. Cordell and his associates.

So soon as Mr. Halbrake had placed the barque in the hands of his
uncle's agent, he hastened to Mr. Boscombe's residence in the
neighbourhood of Exmouth. There a sinister rumour met him. He learned
from the hotel manager in the town that the young gentlemen had
unexpectedly returned from abroad; that Mr. Boscombe had suddenly left
home on important business the next day, and was reported dead!

This rumour was based upon the testimony of an old fisherman, whose boat
had been hired that night by a gentleman whose appearance tallied with
that of Mr. Boscombe.

When Mr. Halbrake learned this, he returned to Plymouth and wrote to
Reginald, who replied that his step-father had certainly left home,
after a most unpleasant discussion; that he himself, his mother, and
Arthur intended to sell the house and leave the neighbourhood, because
no doubt of his step-father's fate remained. The boat Mr. Boscombe had
hired had been found by a crew of "lobstermen," empty, on the morning
after his departure, out at sea.

This was the last link in the terrible chain of crime which the
insatiable love of money engendered in the merchant's soul. Let us close
the sad chapter here.

       *       *       *       *       *

Reginald, Arthur, and their loving mother came up to London, where in
due time the young men appeared. Reginald went into the Church, Arthur
became a barrister, and Mr. Halbrake still practises his profession.
Indeed, it is from him that the writer of this tale obtained the
information which has resulted in this narrative of the "Venture of the
_Bertha_," which so nearly ended in the deaths of the young men
themselves.



"A FRENCHMAN'S GRATITUDE;"

_OR, THE DISASTER OF EL HAMET_

BY LIEUT.-COL. PERCY GROVES, ROYAL GUERNSEY ARTILLERY (LATE 27TH
INNISKILLINGS)

     _Author of "From Cadet to Captain," "Reefer and Rifleman," "A
     Soldier Born," "On Service," "With the Green Jackets," "Scotland
     for Ever," &c. &c._


CHAPTER I

     A BIRTHDAY PRESENT--OFF TO THE WARS--AN ADVENTURE AT MESSINA

"Tom, my dear boy," said my father, Colonel Sir John Cotton, K.B., as he
entered the breakfast room on the morning of the 18th September 1806, "I
wish you many happy returns of to-day. There's a present which will give
you genuine pleasure," he went on, handing me a formidable-looking
letter; "it is your appointment to an ensigncy in my old regiment, the
gallant 35th."

I had that day attained my seventeenth year, and was at home on a short
_exeat_ from Eton; but now Eton would know me no more--at least, not as
a fifth-form boy--for had I not suddenly blossomed into a subaltern in
his Majesty's service? It was a proud moment, and I cannot recall any
event in my life that has caused me greater satisfaction.

I received the congratulations of my parents and sisters--I had no
brother--with becoming modesty; but the congratulations of the ladies
were turned into lamentations when Sir John informed us that I was to
embark, to join headquarters in Sicily, in a fortnight's time.

"John!" exclaimed my mother, the tears welling up into her eyes, "are we
really to lose the dear boy so soon?"

"What a shame!" chorused my three sisters.

"Nonsense! Tom has not entered the army to dangle about drawing-rooms
and exhibit himself in a red coat to all the young ladies of his
acquaintance," retorted my father. "The 35th lost a good many men at
Maida--egad! I wish I had been there--and a draft is going out to fill
up the gaps. Tom will sail with the draft, which is under command of our
friend Charles Holroyd, who--Halloa! where has Kate gone?" For my eldest
sister had hurriedly left the room.

"How thoughtless of you, John!" said my mother reproachfully.

"Yes, father," chimed in Miss Laura; "have you forgotten that Kate and
Captain Holroyd are engaged?"

"And she had no idea that he was going abroad again so soon," added
Annie; "he only came home early in August!"

"Tut! tut! I am always putting my foot in it," exclaimed Sir John,
looking very guilty. "Poor Katie! she will lose her lover and her
brother at the same time."

This unfortunate remark called forth a flood of tears from the ladies,
and muttering something about being "a blundering old idiot," my father
beat a hasty retreat.

Captain Charles Holroyd--the mention of whose name caused our family
circle to break up "i' the most admir'd disorder"--had served in the
35th with my father, with whom he was a great favourite. Holroyd now
commanded the light company of the 35th, and was home on sick leave, in
consequence of a wound received at the battle of Maida. He had not long
been engaged to my sister, who, until Sir John spoke, knew nothing of
his approaching departure. _Hinc illæ lachrymæ_!

The next two weeks were busy ones--uniforms and necessaries had to be
ordered, farewell visits to relatives and friends paid, &c.--and they
passed all too quickly. It was a wrench to leave the dear ones at home,
and both Charles Holroyd and I were in very subdued spirits when we
jumped into the post-chaise which was to take us to Gravesend, there to
embark on board the _Lord Bacon_, a battered, wall-sided old collier,
whose owners found it more profitable to carry troops to the
Mediterranean than coals from Newcastle.

Adverse winds kept us bobbing about in the Downs for several days. Then
we met with heavy weather in the Bay of Biscay. Thus it was not until
the middle of November that we disembarked at Messina, where the
headquarters and flank companies of the 35th were stationed. I received
a cordial welcome from my brother officers, and quickly became quite at
home amongst them. They all appeared pleased to have the son of their
old colonel in the regiment.

At the request of Charles Holroyd, I was posted to the light company; a
great honour for a newly-fledged ensign, though one I owed rather to
Holroyd's influence, and the respect felt for my father, than to my own
merits.

The adjutant and drill-sergeant soon initiated me into the mysteries of
drill, guards, &c., and at the end of six weeks I was reported fit for
duty.

I have no intention of giving any account of my life during the time I
remained at Messina, but will pass at once to an adventure which befell
me a few weeks before the departure of the regiment from Sicily.

At that time there were in Messina several French officers on parole;
amongst them a certain Lieutenant Eugene de Vignes. De Vignes was a
gentlemanly, well-bred man of six or seven and twenty, and as he spoke
a little English, and seemed to wish to be friendly, Holroyd and I
struck up an acquaintance with him. He used to ride and walk with us,
and often passed an evening at our quarters; when he would relate his
experiences of service, under "_Le Petit Caporal_," in Italy and Egypt.
After a while we began to see less of De Vignes, and his evening visits
almost entirely ceased; though, when we did meet, he was as pleasant and
companionable as ever. One night, towards the end of January 1807, I was
returning to my quarters, after visiting a brother subaltern at the
other side of the town. Part of my way lay along a lonely road, skirting
the garden walls of a convent, in which many young Sicilian ladies of
noble family were domiciled. I had nearly reached the end of this wall,
when I heard a shrill scream, followed by angry shouts and other sounds
of strife. I immediately ran forward to the scene of action, and, though
it was very dark, could just discern four men assailing a fifth, who,
with his back to the wall, was making a stout defence. Naturally I
espoused the weaker cause, and in another minute three of the cowardly
assailants had fled, while the fourth lay on the ground with a
sword-thrust through his body.

[Illustration: "I immediately ran forward to the scene of action."]

"A thousand thanks, m'sieur!" exclaimed the man to whom I had rendered
such timely aid; "you have saved my life! That charge of yours was
splendid! it----"

"De Vignes!" I cried, recognising his voice.

"Ha! it is you, then, _mon ami_," he said, wiping the blade of his
sword. "I shall never forget this service. Are you alone?"

"Yes. Why did the ruffians attack you?"

"Hope of plunder, I suppose," replied De Vignes, shrugging his
shoulders. And stooping down he proceeded to examine his fallen foe.

"Have you killed him?" I asked.

"He still breathes, and might be saved if we could get assistance."

"I am afraid there will be trouble over this business," I remarked,
wishing that my friend had not been quite so handy with his sword.

"Bah! these little affairs are common enough in Sicily," De Vignes
rejoined. "However, we may as well try to save his life. Will you go for
help? There is a house some fifty yards down the road, and I shall want
water, rags for bandages, and a little cognac or other spirit."

"Suppose the other ruffians return?" I objected.

"They will not return," he answered impatiently. "Come, _mon ami_! be
quick, I pray you, or this unhappy wretch will bleed to death." Thus
exhorted, I started off down the road; but not a sign of any sort of
habitation could I discover.

I retraced my steps, and on reaching the spot where the encounter took
place, found, to my astonishment, that both De Vignes and the wounded
robber had disappeared--not a trace of them was to be seen! I waited
about a few minutes, and then hastened to my quarters.

Charles Holroyd had not gone to bed when I returned, and to him I
related my adventure.

"It is a queer business," he remarked; "seems to me that our French
friend sent you on a fool's errand, with the express intention of
getting rid of you."

"I believe he did," I answered. "Shall I make an official report of the
affair?"

"We will see what the colonel says, Tom," was his reply.

On the following morning there was a terrible hue and cry, for the
daughter of Prince T---- was missing from the convent, and one of his
Highness's servants had been found dead in a ditch hard by the convent
walls, with a sword-thrust through his heart.

"There can be no doubt the young woman has gone off with De Vignes,"
said my captain when we heard the news. "They were probably watched and
surprised by the prince's servants. You say you heard a woman scream?"

"I am certain of that."

"Just so," continued Holroyd; "I see the whole thing! She got away, and
her lover covered her retreat; then you came to the rescue, and his
assailants having fled, De Vignes wanted to rejoin the girl without your
knowledge; so he sent you off on pretence of seeking aid for the wounded
man, and, as soon as he had got rid of you, bolted himself. Tom, we will
hold our tongues about this affair."

That Holroyd was right in his conjectures was pretty evident, for we
saw no more of Eugene de Vignes in Messina; though we were destined to
meet him again elsewhere.


CHAPTER II

     DEPARTURE FROM MESSINA--LANDING IN EGYPT--FIRST SUCCESSES--REVERSE
     AT ROSETTA--OCCUPATION OF EL HAMET--SIEGE OF ROSETTA COMMENCED

      "'I thought I heard the general say,
      Strike your tents at break of day;
      Strike your tents and march away,
      March, march away!'"

sang, or rather shouted, Lieutenant Patrick Cantillon of the light
company, as he burst into our quarters one hot afternoon, a few weeks
subsequent to my adventure on the convent road.

"Tom, ye lazy divil! is it sleepin' ye are?" And he caught me a whack on
the shoulder that nearly knocked me out of my chair.

"Don't make such a confounded row, Paddy!" I exclaimed irritably; for I
had been indulging in a _siesta_, and this "rude awakening" startled me
not a little. "Why the deuce can't you come in quietly?"

"Come in quietly, bedad!--hark to him!" cried my brother sub, capering
round the room. "Sure, man, am I not ready to jump out of me skin!"

"Then I wish you'd jump out of it somewhere else," I retorted. "What's
the matter with you?"

"Listen while I tell ye, alannah," said Paddy, coming to an anchor on my
camp-bed. "May-be ye know that some six years ago we kicked the French
out of Egypt, and put the Turks in possession of Alexandria and other
towns on the Egyptian coast. Now Boney has humbugged the Sultan to enter
into an alliance with France; so our Government--more power to its
elbow!--has decided to send an expedition to turn the Turks out of the
very places we turned them into; in short, we're goin' to punish the
haythins for havin' the impudence to hobnob and make friends with the
French."

"And are we to join this expedition, Paddy?" I asked.

"We are, me son," was the reply.

Paddy Cantillon's news proved to be true. Orders had already been issued
for an expedition to be fitted out in Sicily, for the purpose of making
a descent on the coast of Egypt, and occupying Alexandria and Rosetta,
and the same evening it was officially notified that the 35th would be
one of the regiments employed on this service.

The expedition sailed from Sicily on the 6th March. The military force
was under Major-General Mackenzie Fraser, and consisted of the 20th
Light Dragoons,[1] a detachment of artillery, the 31st, 35th, 78th, and
De Rolle's regiments, and the Chasseurs Britanniques.[2] We encountered
very bad weather shortly after putting to sea; nineteen sail parted
company on the night of the 7th, and it was not until the 15th that we
sighted the Arabs' Tower.

    [1] The 20th Light Dragoons--raised as the Jamaica Light Horse
    in 1791, styled the 20th Light Dragoons in 1794, and disbanded
    in 1817.

    [2] De Rolle's Regiment and the Chasseurs Britanniques--foreign
    corps in British pay. Both were disbanded or absorbed in 1814-15.

Before allowing the transports to approach within sight of the coast,
our commodore (Captain Hallowell of the _Apollo_, 74) ran in-shore to
obtain some information. Major Misset, the British resident at
Alexandria, advised an immediate landing, assuring the commodore that
the inhabitants were favourably disposed towards us, and inimical to the
French; accordingly the transports were signalled to stand close in, as
soon as the squadron anchored in the western harbour. A summons to
surrender was then sent to the Turkish governor, which he promptly
declined.

The weather was still very heavy, and a nasty sea was running;
nevertheless our leaders decided to land an advanced party at once. This
party, which included the light company of the 35th, numbered a thousand
men, under command of Colonel John Oswald of the 35th.

We effected a landing without serious opposition, and next morning
carried the western lines and forts, driving out the Turks and taking
several guns. Meanwhile the castle of Aboukir having surrendered, the
remainder of the transports stood in and anchored in the bay. Seeing
that we meant business, the Governor of Alexandria capitulated on the
21st March, and we took possession of the city, harbour, and fortresses.

Thus far success had attended our arms; but we were now to meet with the
first of those reverses which culminated in the disaster of El Hamet.

Our naval force having been augmented by the arrival of Sir John
Duckworth's squadron from the Dardanelles, it was decided to attack
Rosetta. On the 26th March, Major-General Wauchope, with the 31st and
Chasseurs Britanniques, marched against Rosetta, and occupied the
heights of Abourmandour, which command that town. Rosetta is situated
some five miles from a branch of the Nile, in a beautiful district
covered with date, pomegranate, banana, and other trees. The town is
surrounded by a low wall, and its streets are very narrow--in fact, mere
lanes and alleys.

On the 28th, Wauchope entered Rosetta at the head of the 31st Regiment.
Not a soul was astir, not a sound was heard, as our troops wended their
way through the streets towards the market-place in the centre of the
town; but they had barely got half-way when the death-like silence was
broken by a furious fusillade. From the windows and roof of every house
a deadly fire was poured upon them. Cooped up in the narrow streets,
unable to return the hidden enemy's fire, our gallant fellows fell
fast. Wauchope was shot dead, his second-in-command seriously wounded,
and in a short time nearly three hundred officers and men were placed
_hors de combat_. There was no alternative but a retreat, and so the
remnants of Wauchope's force returned to Alexandria.

Though not a little disconcerted by this serious and unexpected reverse,
Fraser determined to make another attempt on Rosetta; indeed the
reduction of that town was necessary to the safe possession of
Alexandria, now threatened with famine.

The execution of this second attack was entrusted to Brigadier-General
the Hon. William Stewart, with a force consisting of detachments of the
20th Light Dragoons and Royal Artillery, the 35th, 78th Highlanders, De
Rolle's Regiment, and two hundred sailors from the fleet.

We quitted Alexandria, in the highest spirits, on the 5th April, and
advanced towards Rosetta by way of the village and lake of Edko, where a
depôt was established. Before advancing to Abourmandour, Stewart
considered it advisable to drive the enemy away from El Hamet--a village
up the Nile, some two leagues above Rosetta--and take possession of the
place, in order to secure his rear, and an uninterrupted communication
with the depôt on Lake Edko. This service was successfully accomplished
on the 6th, and El Hamet was occupied by a strong detachment of De
Rolle's, under Major Vogelsang.

On the following day the heights and fort of Abourmandour were
reoccupied without opposition. A summons to surrender being
contemptuously ignored by the Turkish commandant of Rosetta (who had
been reinforced by a corps of Albanians), Stewart advanced to the
sand-hills encircling the town, which he at once proceeded to invest.

From the great extent of Rosetta, our brigadier saw it would be
impossible, with the slender force at his disposal, to invest more than
half of the place; so he took up a line from the Nile to the front of
the Alexandrian gate, thence retiring towards the plain, where he posted
his light dragoons. Rosetta being thus only partially invested, its
garrison had a free communication across the Nile to the Delta.

At this time Stewart confidently expected to be reinforced by the
Mamelukes, from Upper Egypt, who were known to be inimical to the
French, and at loggerheads with Mohammed Ali, but day after day passed
without any appearance of these redoubtable warriors. The siege,
however, was carried on with great vigour; our gunners hammered away at
Rosetta, without doing any great harm to the Turks (whose numbers daily
increased), while we of the infantry were constantly employed on piquet
and other harassing duties. Our piquets and advanced posts were several
times attacked, and on the 19th April a company of De Rolle's was
surrounded and cut to pieces by the Turkish horsemen.


CHAPTER III

     EL HAMET--AN UNWELCOME DUTY--CHARLES HOLROYD SPEAKS HIS MIND--THE
     BEGINNING OF THE END

Before continuing my narrative, I will briefly state the position of El
Hamet. From Lake Edko to the Nile is an isthmus about two and a half
miles in extent, varying according to the depth of water in the lake.
The remains of a deep dry canal with high banks extend from the river
nearly two-thirds across the isthmus, the banks commanding the plain on
either side; and on the south side of the canal, about half-way across
the isthmus, is the village of El Hamet. On the banks of the Nile and at
El Hamet are the only regular passes through the banks of the canal.
News of the disaster to the company of De Rolle's Regiment reached
General Stewart early on the 20th April, and he immediately despatched a
force, under Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Macleod (commanding the 2nd
Battalion 78th[1]), to reinforce Vogelsang. Macleod's force was composed
of a piquet of the 20th Light Dragoons, two guns, two companies of the
35th, and five of the 78th.

    [1] This 2nd Battalion of the 78th (Ross-shire Buffs)
    Highlanders was raised in 1804. Patrick Macleod was its first
    commanding officer. The battalion distinguished itself at the
    battle of Maida, and subsequently in the Netherlands. It was
    reduced in 1816-17.

[Illustration: "Our gunners hammered away at Rosetta."]

On the afternoon of the 20th April our company was on duty in one of the
batteries. Charles Holroyd, Paddy Cantillon, and I were with the
company, none of us feeling particularly amiable. Our artillery had been
blazing away all day at Rosetta, while we had little or nothing to do
except to listen to the eternal "bang, bang" of the guns; a sort of
music that gets monotonous, especially when one wishes to indulge in
"forty winks."

"I'm sick of this business!" exclaimed Paddy, as we sat with our backs
against the parapet. "Sorra a bit of divarsion do I see in squattin' on
me hams in a damp ditch!"

"Take things as they come, Paddy," rejoined Holroyd, who was discussing
a piece of salt junk and a ship's biscuit. "Now, I should much prefer to
dine off a spatchcock or a devilled kidney, but as I can't get such
luxuries, I--Halloa, Harris! what ill wind blows you here?"

"An order for you, Holroyd," replied Harris, our worthy adjutant, who
came hurrying up at this moment. "The light company has been detailed as
an escort for an ammunition column about to start for El Hamet, and the
general desires you to deliver this despatch to Colonel Macleod."

"But we're on piquet, my dear fellow," expostulated Holroyd, not
relishing the idea of a long tramp across the desert. "Besides, it is
not our turn, you know; we only returned from escort duty last night.
Where is James's company?"

"Turning out to relieve you; he'll be here in five minutes," was the
reply.

"Then why not send him to El Hamet?" asked Holroyd.

"Because the general's orders are for the light company to go," answered
the adjutant; "so I have no choice in the matter."

"Very considerate of the general," growled my captain; "however, 'needs
must, when a certain old gentleman drives'!"

Guided by the adjutant, we marched to the spot where the ammunition
column was awaiting us, and in half-an-hour we were on our way across
the desert to El Hamet.

Every march comes to an end, and it was with a deep sigh of relief that
we at length reached El Hamet. Holroyd at once went off to report his
arrival and deliver the despatch to Colonel Macleod, while we waited his
return, fondly hoping that we should be dismissed to a well-earned rest.
We were, however, doomed to disappointment.

Our captain soon rejoined us, and I knew at once, by the expression of
his face, that he was thoroughly put out.

"Light company," said he, in short, sharp tones, "there'll be no rest
for any of us to-night. Colonel Macleod has desired me to take up a
position among the sand-hills in front of El Hamet, and remain there
until further orders. You can fall out for a few minutes, and make the
best meal you can on what you've got in your haversacks. A ration of
cooked beef, biscuit, and rum will be issued to each man shortly after
daybreak."

"Faith, this is a pleasant state of affairs!" grumbled Cantillon, as we
moved away from the company.

"Does Colonel Macleod expect an attack before daybreak?" I asked.

"I suppose he does," Holroyd replied, "for he said a great deal about
the necessity for vigilance; though he neither gave me any idea from
what quarter danger is to be chiefly apprehended, nor of his plans in
the event of a sudden attack in overwhelming force. I feel sure," he
went on, "that Colonel Macleod is wrong in posting us so far in advance
of El Hamet, as it will be impossible to keep up communication, except
by occasional patrols; thus the company will stand a serious risk of
being cut off, and the village, which, I understand, we are supposed to
protect, will be placed in jeopardy."

Rather surprised at these critical remarks, I ventured to remind my
captain that Generals Fraser and Stewart thought very highly of Colonel
Macleod, and that the 78th Highlanders swore by him.

"True, Tom," rejoined Holroyd. "Macleod's character as a regimental
commander most deservedly stands high, and a braver man there is not in
the British army; nevertheless, judging by what I have heard and
observed, I don't think he is the right sort of officer to hold a
separate command at an important post. He lacks firmness and promptness
of decision, and should an emergency arise, I much doubt if he will be
properly prepared to meet it. Anyhow, I intend to use my own judgment in
taking up the position assigned to us, and instead of moving the whole
company up to the sand-hills, I shall leave Cantillon, with the left
subdivision, half-way between them and the village. We shall then have a
support to fall back on if hard pressed."

"What of the Mamelukes?--have they turned up?" asked Paddy.

"Not that I know of," was the reply. "The ammunition we escorted is
intended for them; but my own impression is that Mohammed Ali will make
up his differences with their beys, and if we see them at all it will
be as enemies, not allies. Let us rejoin the men; it is time we were
moving."

Leaving Cantillon, with half the company, under a clump of date-trees,
Holroyd led the way to the sand-hills, where he posted our men to the
best advantage--a sergeant, corporal, and four files being stationed as
an outpost on a slight eminence a little to our right front. Having
taken up our position, we anxiously waited events, keeping a very sharp
look-out.


CHAPTER IV

     AN ALARM--NOT FRIENDS, BUT FOES--AN UNHEEDED REPORT--AN ANXIOUS
     NIGHT

Shortly after midnight the corporal hurried in from the outpost to
report that a _djerm_ (large boat), crowded with men, had been observed
dropping down the river.

"Did you see this _djerm_ yourself, Corporal Jones?" asked Holroyd,
jumping to his feet.

"Plain as I sees your honour," was the corporal's reply. "We all see it,
sir; for the moon's so bright that it's just as clear as day. Sergeant
Finnigan says as how he thinks it's them Mammyluks as there's been such
talk about."

"The deuce he does!" exclaimed Holroyd. "Whereabouts is this _djerm_? On
our side of the river?"

"Yes, your honour; 'twas nigh that chapel-looking place on the river
bank."

"Chapel-looking place! You mean the mosque, I suppose," said Holroyd,
smiling. "Come, Tom, we'll go and see for ourselves. Take charge until I
return, Sergeant Bullen, and be well on the alert."

We hastened to the outpost, where we found Sergeant Finnigan with his
men ready for any emergency. Close to the river bank, within four
hundred paces of the outpost, stood a small mosque, its slender
crescent-crowned minaret shooting up gracefully from amid the dark
foliage by which it was surrounded.

[Illustration: "Very cautiously we made our way down the sand-hills."]

"There's a jham yonder, sorr," said Sergeant Finnigan, a fine old
fellow, who had put Charlie Holroyd through his facings when he first
joined the 35th, and had been my father's orderly in days of yore. "A
jham, your honour, full of Mammyluks, I'm afther thinkin'."

"I don't see her, Finnigan," rejoined Holroyd, looking in the direction
pointed out. "Where is she?"

"The clump of trees hides her, sorr," answered the sergeant; "but she's
there shure enough. Does your honour think they're the Mammyluks?"

"We'll hope so, Finnigan, but I have my doubts," said Holroyd. "Tom," he
added, after a moment's hesitation, "let you and I creep down nearer the
river, and have a look at this mysterious craft. We must discover
whether she's a friend or foe."

Very cautiously we made our way down the sand-hills, moving directly
towards the mosque for the first hundred yards, then edging away to the
left until we had a full view of the river.

This is what we saw. Just below the mosque were some fishermen's huts,
and a small wooden pier, or wharf, projecting into the Nile. Within a
couple of oars' length of the wharf lay, not _one_, but _two_ large
_djerms_, both filled with armed men. By the bright light of the moon we
could discern them as clearly as in daytime.

My companion had with him a small field-glass, through which he
carefully examined the _djerms_--or rather their occupants.

"Well, are they the Mamelukes?" I whispered impatiently.

"Egad! they're not," was the reply. "They are Albanians, without doubt,
and therefore enemies. Look for yourself, and you will see their kilts,
or petticoats."

I took the glass, and saw at once that Holroyd was right; there was no
mistaking the Albanian costume.

"There are between two and three hundred of them," said Holroyd, as I
returned the telescope. "I must report this at once, Tom."

We hurried back to the piquet, and Corporal Jones was sent off to warn
Colonel Macleod of the proximity of a large body of the enemy; while
another man took a message to Cantillon to advance nearer to the
sand-hills, and be on the _qui vive_ in case of a sudden attack.

"Not that I think they'll trouble us yet awhile," observed Holroyd; "so,
with the exception of advancing our support, I shall keep to our present
position until I receive further orders."

Corporal Jones made good use of his legs, for scarcely half-an-hour
elapsed before he returned to the outpost.

"Please, your honour," said he, saluting his captain, "the answer is
'All right.'"

"All right!" exclaimed Holroyd, his face darkening; "is that all Colonel
Macleod said to you?"

"That is all, sir," was the reply. "I gave the colonel your message,
just as your honour gave it to me, neither more nor less. 'Tell Capt'n
Holroyd it's all right,' says he. I saluted, and waited a moment,
thinkin' as how he'd say something more, or may-be ask me some
questions; but the colonel just waves me away, and says, 'D'ye hear me,
corp'ril?--tell your orficer it's all right.' So I comes back as quick
as I could, sir."

Holroyd and I stared at one another in astonishment. That Corporal Jones
had delivered the report and brought back the reply correctly we did not
for a moment doubt; for Jones was a steady, intelligent man, and
thoroughly trustworthy, or he would not have been a light company
corporal.

"What shall you do, Charlie?" I asked in an undertone. "There must be
some mistake."

"A very serious mistake, I should say," he rejoined. Then turning to the
corporal, he inquired if Colonel Macleod was in the village.

"No, sir," answered Jones; "the colonel's over yonder--away to our right
rear. There's a young orficer with a few men of Rolle's in the village,"
he added.

Holroyd thought for a few minutes, and then taking me aside, said, "I
must let them know in El Hamet the state of affairs, so that they may be
prepared in the event of a sudden attack. Do you, Tom, hurry back to the
village and warn the senior officer. Tell him that the enemy evidently
mean mischief, and that I advise him to look out for squalls. On your
way you can inform Cantillon of the situation, and say that he must be
ready to support us the moment he hears a shot fired."

I started off on my errand, and warned both Paddy Cantillon and the
officer at El Hamet--a young ensign of De Rolle's, Schmidt by name--that
they must be prepared for any emergency. On regaining the piquet, I
found that several more _djerms_ had dropped down the Nile, and were
lying off the little wharf. Holroyd had therefore sent a written report
to Colonel Macleod, calling his attention to the gravity of the
situation and requesting instructions.

Corporal Jones was again the messenger, and his face was a study when he
returned, and reported that the only answer vouchsafed by the colonel
was "Very well."

"You told him that I awaited instructions?" said Holroyd, looking very
incensed.

"I did, sir; but the colonel only said 'Very well'; not another word,
good, bad, or indifferent, your honour."

"Tom, this is too grave a contingency to be trifled with," said my
captain, taking me aside; "and as Macleod has sent me no orders, I must
act on my own responsibility. I fear that our force is so scattered that
it would be a dangerous matter to bring it together again; knowing this,
Macleod is probably unwilling to try the experiment, and so has
contented himself with sending a report to General Stewart of the
enemy's proximity. But," he continued, "I am not going to run the risk
of being cut off in such an exposed position as this, and therefore I
shall warn the officer at El Hamet to put the village into as good a
state of defence as time will allow, and we will cover him while so
employed. We shall then have something like a post to fall back on, if
driven in; for we ought to be able to make a very fair fight of it in
the village. Give me a leaf out of your note-book, Tom--I suppose that
young fellow understands English?"

"He speaks it fairly well," I answered, handing him a pencil and a piece
of paper.

Holroyd wrote his note and despatched it to the village; then we once
more took our station with the advanced outpost, in order to observe
the first hostile movement that might be made. Towards morning a thick
fog came on, completely hiding the mosque and river from our view;
indeed we could not see anything fifty yards before us, and had to trust
entirely to our ears.

I need hardly add that not one of us closed his eyes that night.


CHAPTER V

     AN UNDESERVED REPROOF--COLONEL MACLEOD CONVINCED--THE ATTACK--EL
     HAMET EVACUATED

The night passed without any attack being attempted; though once,
towards daybreak, we fancied that we heard the sound of marching men
approaching our post from the direction of the mosque, but the sound--if
it existed save in our heated imaginations--died away, and all again was
silent as the grave.

Towards seven o'clock in the morning--the river fog being then as dense
as ever--Colonel Macleod, accompanied by a staff officer and an orderly
dragoon, visited the piquet. The colonel looked pale and weary, as well
he might, and his face wore a peculiar irritable expression; in fact, he
had the appearance of a man worn out with anxiety and fatigue.

"You sent me two reports during the night, Captain Holroyd," he began,
in querulous tones, barely acknowledging our salute; "pray what do they
mean, sir?"

"Mean, colonel!" exclaimed Holroyd, his face flushing with anger.
"Exactly what they stated--namely, that since midnight the enemy have
been gathering in considerable force within gunshot of this spot. When I
sent you my second report, sir--a written report--no less than fifteen
large _djerms_, crowded with men, were moored in the river yonder. The
thick fog now hides them from your view, but there they were, and there,
I doubt not, they are at this moment."

"I don't think so," retorted Colonel Macleod; "were the enemy so close
at hand, in such numbers, we should at least _hear_ them. Now, sir,
since the fog came on, have you heard any sound that would indicate the
proximity of a large body of troops?"

"I cannot say that I have, sir," Holroyd admitted; "though we
fancied----"

"Fancied!" interrupted Colonel Macleod. "Just so! It is my firm belief
that your own fancies have deceived you, and I must beg that, when on
outpost duty, you will take the trouble to make yourself better
acquainted with what is near you, and not send in reports of an enemy's
advance until you are absolutely certain there is really an enemy within
a couple of miles. In this case you have evidently mistaken a few
fishermen's boats for a hostile flotilla.

"I had intended to relieve you," continued Macleod; "but now--" He
stopped short, and uttered an exclamation of astonishment, for at that
moment a strange though perfectly natural thing happened.

The morning sun--as if anxious to prove the truth of Charles Holroyd's
statements, and confound the incredulous Highlander--suddenly appeared
struggling through the mist, and rapidly dispelling it. Away rolled the
fog, disclosing to our gaze a group of horsemen; conspicuous among whom
was a little man, pointing with a javelin to the right of our position.

Then arose upon the morning air a confused noise--beating of drums and
clashing of cymbals--and as the fog cleared off, there appeared before
us the Turkish army, numbering at least 6000 combatants, of whom perhaps
one-third were horsemen.

As soon as he recovered from his amazement, Colonel Macleod, like the
true Highland gentleman he was, turned to my companion, and extending
his hand, said--

"Captain Holroyd, I have done you an injustice! Allow me to recall the
remarks I made just now, and to offer an apology to you and the light
company of the 35th."

"Say no more, sir, I beg you," rejoined Holroyd, warmly shaking the
colonel's hand. "Your remarks are already forgotten."

[Illustration: "As the fog cleared off, there appeared before us the
Turkish army."]

We afterwards were thankful that we had not parted with the gallant
Macleod in anger; for, alas! destiny had willed that ere another sun
rose he should be

                                     a thing
    O'er which the raven flaps his funeral wing."

That my account of what followed may be better understood, I will here
state the order in which Colonel Macleod's force was disposed.

The range of low sand-hills stretching from Lake Edko to the Nile--a
distance of at least two miles--was everywhere accessible to infantry;
but, owing to the steepness of the slope and inequality of the surface,
cavalry could only operate against us at two points--namely, along a
road passing through El Hamet, and by fording the lake a few hundred
yards beyond the southern extremity of the ridge, where the water was
extremely shallow. Now, as Macleod's rear was covered by the dry,
steep-banked canal, and the road through El Hamet commanded by two
six-pounders, his position might have been accounted an excellent one
had it been properly manned (two thousand British troops, with a fair
proportion of artillery and an ample supply of ammunition, could have
held it till doomsday against ten times their number of Turks); but
unfortunately Macleod's entire force did not muster eight hundred men,
and he had only four six-pounder field-pieces. This slender corps had to
occupy and defend the entire line of sand-hills from one extremity to
the other, and it was distributed along that line as follows:--

The force was divided into three bodies: one, numbering some three
hundred men, being posted beside the river; a second, of about the same
strength, in the centre of the position; while the third, of which we
formed part, had to defend El Hamet, watch the road passing through the
village, and support the two guns enfilading that road. Thus there was
an interval of about three-quarters of a mile between the several
divisions; and in order that communications might be kept up, each
division had to throw out, right and left, small detachments, which took
post, here and there, along the ridge.

It is plain that a position thus held was practically at the mercy of a
greatly superior enemy; a couple of hundred resolute men would have been
sufficient to break through the scattered line at any point, save at the
principal defences, and a breach in the line at any point must
necessarily render the whole untenable. That the position must be forced
if a determined and well-sustained attack were made, was almost a
foregone conclusion; but I do not think any one anticipated the terrible
disaster which befell us on that fatal day.

To return to my narrative.

We stood for some minutes gazing at the Turkish force. Their infantry
was drawn up in detached bodies, each under its own banner; the
horsemen, in a solid mass, formed a second line.

"Look, sir," suddenly exclaimed the staff officer; "their cavalry has
separated!"

"I see, Vincent," rejoined Macleod. "The column moving off is evidently
ordered to cross the lake and turn our flank."

"While those who remain will no doubt support the infantry in an attack
on the village," observed Holroyd. "Shall I defend El Hamet, colonel?"

"Yes," cried Macleod, vaulting into his saddle; "to the last man!" and
putting spurs to his charger, he galloped to the rear.

Having re-formed the company, we marched back to El Hamet at a quick
step, and on the way were joined by two or three small parties which had
been ordered to retire from the sand-hills. On reaching the village, we
found that the officer and men of De Rolle's Regiment had made good use
of their time: the houses had been loop-holed, windows and doors
barricaded; in short, El Hamet was in a fairly defensible state.

"Come, we shall be able to hold out a long time!" exclaimed Holroyd
cheerfully. Then pointing to a building of considerable size and height,
he said, "Take the right section, Tom, and occupy the roof of that
house. Let the men make a parapet of their knapsacks, and open fire the
moment the enemy are within range. Don't throw a shot away, my lads."

I hastened to obey this order, and followed by Sergeant Finnigan and the
right section, ascended to the flat roof of the house. The men took off
their packs, and placed them against the low parapet, so as to afford
extra protection. From this elevated position we could see the Turkish
horsemen as they advanced towards the village, brandishing their
javelins and scimitars, and uttering loud cries of defiance.

"They're about within range, Misther Cotton," presently observed
Sergeant Finnigan. "Won't your honour open fire?" And I was about to
answer in the affirmative when I heard Holroyd calling to me.

"Tom!" he shouted, "we're to evacuate El Hamet. The guns are limbered
up, so come down at once."

There was nothing for it but to obey; so we quitted the roof, and joined
our comrades, who, with the detachment of De Rolle's, were forming up in
the narrow street, where the two six-pounders were waiting to start. We
soon cleared the village, and went away at a long trot, into the heart
of the sandy plain.

"Who ordered the evacuation?" I asked, as I found myself alongside of my
captain.

"Macleod," was the reply; "and I fear he has made a fatal mistake. But
the pace is too good for talking, Tom. We shall want all our breath
before we've done."


CHAPTER VI

     THE RETREAT--AT BAY

Hardly were we clear of the village when the Turkish horsemen came
sweeping down into the plain, howling ferociously as they galloped here
and there. From time to time they made demonstrations of an immediate
attack, whereupon Holroyd would call a halt, and order the guns to
unlimber; but the moment the enemy saw the six-pounders at "action
rear," he retired out of range. Then the gunners limbered up, and we
resumed our march. This happened, I think, three or four times.

We had not got very far into the plain when we were joined by a
detachment of De Rolle's Regiment, under Major Vogelsang. The major, who
as senior officer assumed command, told us that Macleod had ordered him
to retire from his position, leaving a strong piquet to cover his
retreat, and move obliquely across the plain until he fell in with us.
We were then to join forces and wait for further orders.

"Colonel Macleod has ridden off to withdraw the remainder of the force,"
explained Vogelsang, in his broken English. "The colonel's intention is
to concentrate his force and stand on the defensive until Stewart comes
to our aid; but I fear the detachments are so scattered that they will
be cut off in detail."

"I agree with you, major," said Holroyd. "However, we must await
Macleod's arrival, and if attacked, make the best defence we can."

We then formed square with Vogelsang's men, the two field-pieces being
placed in the centre, and calmly awaited the arrival of Macleod with the
other divisions, or the onslaught of the enemy, whichever should come
first. Our combined force numbered about two hundred and fifty bayonets,
besides officers and artillerymen.

Although the enemy kept up his threatening attitude, we were not
seriously attacked; but it was evident, from the sound of heavy firing
on both our flanks, that Macleod, and Vogelsang's party which he had
left to cover his retreat, were having a very warm time of it. We became
terribly anxious about them, and would have given worlds to know how
they fared. Unfortunately we could only hear, not see the fighting; for
the country around us was like a sandy sea, broken up, so to speak, into
waves, or undulating mounds, not one of which was so sufficiently
elevated as to afford a commanding view from its summit over the rest.

In a short time the firing in the direction of the spot where we knew
Vogelsang's covering party was battling against terrible odds, began to
slacken, then it suddenly ceased. We looked at one another in horror,
for no one could doubt that our gallant comrades of De Rolle's must have
been overwhelmed.

"My poor fellows!" groaned Major Vogelsang, the tears streaming down his
rugged cheeks; "they must have perished to a man. Would that the
Highland colonel had permitted me to remain with them!"

Our attention was now attracted by a triumphant shout, and another body
of the enemy appeared in sight, racing to join their comrades, "as if
Ould Nick were at their heels," as Paddy Cantillon observed.

"Steady, flankers of the 35th!" cried Holroyd; "it's our turn now! Meet
them firmly, and, if needs must, let us die like British soldiers for
the honour of the old regiment!"

"Faith, an' we're ready to do that, your honour!" answered Sergeant
Finnigan. "Shure, divil a one of thim howlin' haythins shall--" The
gallant old fellow never finished the sentence, for at that moment a
score of the bolder horsemen charged up to within pistol-shot of the
square, and discharged their carbines at us.

They, I have no doubt, fired at random, but chance shots often do most
harm--one "bullet found its billet," and lodged in the brain of poor
Michael Finnigan.

A cry of rage burst from our men, for the sergeant was a general
favourite in the light company, and several of the younger hands
returned the fire without orders, emptying half-a-dozen saddles, and
sending the bold Turks scampering back.

"Steady, light company!" cried Holroyd angrily. "What are those men
thinking about? Our chance is a poor one if you're going to lose your
heads like this! Reload, lads, and don't fire again without orders."

"Good, Captain Holroyd!" said Major Vogelsang. "Steadiness is
everything! Ha! they are advancing again--down the front ranks!"
Instantly the order was obeyed: down on the knee dropped the front
ranks; while the rear ranks came to the "recover," and stood as
motionless as if on an inspection parade.

We now beheld three separate columns of horsemen, each equal, in point
of numbers, to our little force, moving rapidly towards us, one column
leading, the others in rear. As they drew nearer, the rear columns edged
off to their right and left, sweeping round so as to threaten the right
and left faces of our square.

Major Vogelsang now ordered the artillery to unlimber, and bring their
two guns into action, right and left; the centre sections of the right
and left faces being warned to fall back, so as to leave an opening for
the guns, as soon as the word was given.

On came the enemy until they were within about three hundred yards of
the square, when all three columns drew rein, as if to breathe their
horses.

"Now is your time, lieutenant!" said Vogelsang to the artillery officer.
"Fall back the centre sections!"

Quick as lightning our gunners ran up and laid their pieces. "Fire!"
shouted their officer, and plump went the six-pound shells into the
columns on our right and left, bursting well in the centre, and killing
or disabling several men and horses.

We gave a ringing cheer as the gunners coolly sponged out and reloaded
the guns, for our foes were thrown into great confusion, and we all
thought they would beat a precipitate retreat.

"The guns are loaded, sir," said the artillery subaltern; "shall I give
them another dose before they're out of range?"

But the words had hardly been spoken, when the Turkish horsemen wheeled
round and charged down upon us, with shrill cries of "_La la ha il
Allah! Vras! Vras!_"[1]

  [1] "There is no god but God! Kill! Kill!"

Again the six-pounders were fired; then the centre sections closed up,
and the moment the Turks got within musket-range, our standing ranks
gave them a rattling volley, which knocked over several of them,
including one of their boldest leaders. This warm reception damped their
ardour, and once more they retired in confusion.

We young hands thought the day was our own, and rent the air with
cheers; some of the men even sprang forward as if to start in pursuit of
the retreating horsemen; but the stern voice of the veteran major
quickly recalled us to our senses.

Vogelsang now ordered the gunners to load, "to the muzzle," with grape
and canister, and the infantry to drop a running ball into their
muskets. "We will give them a still warmer welcome, my children!" he
exclaimed, with a laugh like the croak of a raven; "but you must be
steady, and not break your ranks."

Once again the turbaned warriors advanced to the attack, yelling like a
pack of fiends. A well-directed volley of double-shotted musketry
greeted them, yet they paused not in their wild career. Then the
six-pounders opened on the columns attacking our right and left faces,
and their salutation no mortal Turk could have withstood. The havoc
produced as the grape and canister tore through the serried ranks was
fearful, and with a cry of dismay the assailants of the right and left
sides of our square galloped off _ventre à terre_.

The third body of the enemy, however, undismayed by the repulse of their
comrades, held on their course, and charged right up to the rear face of
the square, where we were posted; almost up to our bayonets' points
they rode, and discharged their pistols, and launched their javelins
at us, killing and wounding several of our men. For a moment I feared
the square would be broken; but our rear rank had reloaded, and a second
volley sent the enemy to the right-about. Then we glanced around, and
saw that seven or eight of our men had been killed or wounded.

[Illustration: "Our standing ranks gave them a rattling volley."]


CHAPTER VII

     DEATH OF COLONEL MACLEOD--APPEARANCE OF THE MAMELUKES--THE LAST
     STAND--WOUNDED AND A PRISONER--A FRIEND IN NEED--"ALL'S WELL THAT
     ENDS WELL"

While watching the movements and repelling the attacks of the Turkish
horsemen, we had, I fear, given little thought to Macleod's division;
but now we had a moment's breathing time, we remembered our comrades,
and became doubly anxious as to their fate. Heavy firing was still to be
heard to the right, and as we strained our ears it became evident that
the sound was drawing nearer.

"Be the powers! they're fighting their way towards us," exclaimed
Cantillon.

"There's no doubt of it," said Holroyd, after listening intently for a
moment.

"I wish we could get a look at them," Major Vogelsang added.

"See yonder mound, major?" said Paddy; "'tis a thrifle higher than the
rest. I'm the tallest man among ye, and maybe, if ye'll let me slip out,
I could get a peep at them. Sorra a bit of danger, major dear. I'll take
Corporal Jones with me;" and without waiting for permission, he called
to the corporal to follow him, and slipped out of the square.

The mound was less than a hundred yards distant. On reaching the
summit, Cantillon sprang on the corporal's shoulders--Jones was a very
powerful, athletic man--and stood upright. From this coign of vantage he
gazed intently in the direction of the firing; while we watched him
anxiously, fearing lest he should be shot by some lurking foe.

Presently Cantillon gave a shout, and jumping down, ran back at full
speed, followed by Corporal Jones.

"They're close at hand," he cried as he came up to the square, "fighting
like divils. We must go to their assistance, major, and join forces, if
possible."

"Are they broken?" asked Vogelsang.

"Divil a bit, sir," was the reply; "but they're attacked on all sides by
ten times their number, and the haythins who have been hammering at us
are now having----"

"That's enough," interrupted the major; "it is plain there is no time to
lose. Put the wounded on the limbers and waggons, and we will move at
once."

We hastened to carry out the major's orders; but closer and closer drew
the tide of battle, and ere we could put the square in motion, Macleod's
little band of heroes appeared in sight. Alas! a fatal change had
occurred. The division was no longer in solid order, as when seen by
Cantillon, but broken up into small parties and groups, each fighting
desperately against overwhelming numbers of Turkish cavalry and Albanian
infantry.

To rush to their rescue was our first impulse; but Vogelsang restrained
us, pointing out that we could not possibly render our brave comrades
any effectual aid, and that once we broke our formation we should
infallibly be cut to pieces. We did what little lay in our power, firing
at the enemy whenever we could do so without injury to our own people;
and a section of our company sallying out, at a critical moment, under
Holroyd and Cantillon, succeeded in bringing Captain Mackay and a few of
the 78th into the square.

With the exception of this slender party, Macleod's division was
destroyed, not a man escaping. The gallant Macleod fell, as became him,
claymore in hand, in the midst of his Highlanders, who, with the
devotion of clansmen for their chief, threw themselves in the way of
certain destruction in their vain attempts to save him.

While this terrible scene was taking place we were not molested by the
enemy; but, the other divisions destroyed, they now combined their
forces against us. The Albanian infantry commenced the attack by lining
the sand ridges and pouring a furious fusillade upon the square, the
horsemen keeping out of range, ready to sweep down upon us when the
right moment arrived. The Albanians were expert marksmen, and their fire
proved very disastrous to us. Vogelsang, Holroyd, and Cantillon were
amongst the first wounded, the latter severely, and many of our men fell
to rise no more. We replied with the six-pounders, as well as with
musketry; but the Albanians being scattered and well covered, our fire
was not very effective. To add to our misfortunes, the sun was now
beating down upon us with full force, and we had little water to quench
our burning thirst; officers and men were pretty nigh worn out, and we
all felt that, unless General Stewart came to our aid, the end must come
quickly.

At length, when more than one-third of our number were killed or
wounded, there was a cessation of the firing, followed by great
commotion amongst the enemy's cavalry. We jumped to the conclusion that,
at last, Stewart must have arrived, and our drooping spirits revived.
Alas! we were speedily undeceived; for as the smoke cleared away, there
appeared in sight a large body of Arab horsemen, advancing in loose, but
not disorderly array. That the new-comers were foes, not friends, we
could not doubt, for as they advanced across the plain the Turkish host
welcomed them with a mighty shout and waving of flags.

Though faint from loss of blood, Major Vogelsang still retained
command, and he now mounted a limber-box and examined the advancing
troops through his glass.

"They are the Mamelukes!" he exclaimed, "and Mohammed Ali himself is at
their head. My men, we have now nothing to do but to sell our lives
dearly."

"Possibly they have come to our aid," I suggested, hoping against hope.
"Are you sure the Vizier is with them?"

Vogelsang shook his head sadly, and replied that he recognised Mohammed
Ali, having seen him before; his presence with the Mamelukes was
sufficient to prove that they had come, not as allies, but as our most
formidable enemies.

We rapidly made preparations for the struggle before us. The wounded--at
least those who were totally disabled from taking part in the
defence--were placed in a trench hastily made in the sand; the
six-pounders were loaded with grape and with musket-balls to the very
muzzle; and each soldier dropped over his cartridge, not only a running
ball, but three or four slugs.

The attack was not long delayed, and opened with a renewal of the
musketry fire by the Albanians. This lasted for the best part of an
hour, and wrought us great mischief. Suddenly it ceased, and the
Albanians leisurely retired. Then, with lightning speed, the Mamelukes
bore down on our sadly-diminished square.

"Keep steady, men," cried Vogelsang, "and reserve your fire until your
foes are within forty yards. Then give them a volley, and load again."

The Mamelukes came on in somewhat loose order, their line extending to,
perhaps, twice the width of the square. We let them approach to within
thirty yards; then both guns and muskets opened on them with terrible
effect. The charge was arrested; and before they could retire out of
range, we gave them a second volley only less destructive than the
first. Then they galloped away in confusion. Before we had time to
congratulate ourselves, the Albanians again came to the front, and
annoyed us with their fire.

After a while the Mamelukes made a second attempt to break our square,
only to retire discomfited. Three times did our slender band repulse
these magnificent horsemen, inflicting heavy punishment on each
occasion; but after each repulse the Albanians renewed their galling
fire, doing us, in proportion, more harm than we did to the Mamelukes.

[Illustration: "I dropped senseless to the ground."]

After the third attack, and while the Albanians were firing at us, the
artillery officer reported that only one charge per gun was left.

"We must break up a cask of small-arm ammunition, and make the best use
we can of that," replied Major Vogelsang. "You, sir," he added, turning
to me, "take a couple of men, and collect the rounds from the
cartouch-boxes of the slain."

I was about to execute this gruesome order, when a bullet, glancing from
one of the guns, struck me on the head, and I dropped senseless to the
ground.

       *       *       *       *       *

When consciousness returned I found myself lying in the arms of Corporal
Jones, who was bathing my head with muddy water. All sound of strife had
ceased, and our men were sitting or standing around, disarmed. Several
Mamelukes were stalking about with a triumphant air, and in the distance
was assembled the Vizier's army. I asked the corporal what had happened.

"We're prisoners, Mr. Cotton, the few of us that's left," he replied.
"We hadn't a blessed cartridge left, when a Turkish officer came up with
a flag of truce, and told the captain as how our lives should be spared
if we surrendered."

"Do you mean Captain Holroyd?"

"Yes, sir. The furrin major was knocked over just after you was, and,
though badly hurt, our captain took command. There he is yonder, talking
to the officer to whom we surrendered. The rum thing is," continued
Corporal Jones, "that the Turkish orficer ain't a Turk at all, but a
Frenchman. D'you remember, sir, the French leftenant as used to come so
often to your quarters when we lay at Messina?"

"Not M'sieur de Vignes?" I exclaimed.

"That's the name, sir. Well, he's the orficer I'm tellin' you about--and
here he comes!"

I looked up and saw a Mameluke approaching, whose rich attire bespoke
him an officer of rank. Leaning on his arm was Charlie Holroyd, his head
and shoulder bandaged.

"Tom," said Holroyd, in a faint voice, "here is an old friend--one who
has indeed proved a friend in need. It is to M'sieur de Vignes we owe
our lives."

"_Pouf_!" cried the Mameluke, whom I at once recognised as my former
acquaintance; "I have but repaid the debt I owed you, _mon ami_. When
last we met I played you a scurvy trick, and happy am I to be able to
make some reparation." And with that he embraced me, much to the horror
of Corporal Jones.

Holroyd then told me how, struck with admiration at our heroic defence,
M. Drovetti, the French consul-general at Cairo (who had accompanied the
Turkish army), had induced the Vizier to offer us quarter. De Vignes was
selected to bear the flag of truce, and recognising Holroyd, persuaded
him to surrender. In spite of our surrender, the Mamelukes, furious at
the losses they had sustained, attempted to massacre the survivors of
our force, and were only prevented by the exertions of Eugene de Vignes,
who saved our lives at the risk of his own. As it was, several of our
wounded were butchered; amongst others, poor Paddy Cantillon.

Naturally I was curious to learn how the French lieutenant had been
transformed into an officer of Mamelukes, and that evening I asked him
to tell me his story.

"_Mais certainement, mon cher_," he replied. "At Messina I met, and fell
in love with, the lady who is now my wife. Her father, Prince T----,
objecting to my attentions, sent his daughter to the convent. By bribing
one of the lay-sisters, I obtained an interview, and persuaded Beatrice
to elope with me. To return to France would have been difficult, if not
impossible, so I determined to fly to Egypt, where my mother's brother,
M'sieur Drovetti, was consul-general. I hired a small coasting-vessel,
and made all arrangements for our flight. On the appointed night I
repaired to the convent. With the assistance of the lay-sister, Beatrice
effected her escape from the building, and joined me outside the walls.
But somehow her father had got wind of the affair--I believe the
lay-sister betrayed us--and while making off, we were attacked by four
of his servants. I had just time to tell Beatrice to fly up the road,
conceal herself, and await events, whilst I covered her retreat. Happily
my assailants--probably acting on their master's orders--were so intent
upon killing me, that they did not attempt to follow her. You, _mon
ami_, came to my aid, and the fellows ran off, leaving one of their
number with my sword through his heart. To get rid of you, I pretended
the rascal was only wounded, and sent you off for assistance. The moment
you had gone, I picked the dead body up, carried it a few yards, and
threw it in a ditch. Then I rejoined Beatrice, and we hastened to the
boat which was awaiting us. In the end we got safely to Cairo, and were
married by my good uncle's chaplain. Through my uncle's influence, I was
appointed an officer in the Vizier's service, and am now in high favour.
_Voila tout_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

My story is finished. We were carried prisoners to Cairo, but, thanks to
the influence of M. Drovetti, were allowed to take up our quarters with
Eugene de Vignes and his charming wife; thus escaping the hardships and
indignities which, as we afterwards learned, many of our
fellow-prisoners suffered.

In due course we were exchanged, and rejoined our regiment. Many years
have passed since then. My brother-in-law, Charles Holroyd, is a general
and a K.C.B.; I have long ago left the army, and settled down to a
country life; but we still retain a vivid recollection of the "Disaster
of El Hamet," and tell our children the story of "a Frenchman's
Gratitude."



THE BADGE OF THE FOURTH FOOT

BY ROBERT LEIGHTON


I

"What a night! What a wild, wild night!"

Old Donald Leslie lifted his grizzled head, closed his book on his
gnarled forefinger, and listened to the low deep soughing of the wind.
As he spoke, a gust of smoke blew out into the room from the wide throat
of the chimney; the flames of the burning logs on the open hearth leapt
and crackled anew; the lights of the hanging cruse lamps flickered, and
the grimy arras hangings over the doors and windows swung heavily to and
fro and swelled out like the sails of a ship.

"Ay; it's from the north," muttered Elspeth Macdonald, as she crossed to
one of the deep embayed windows and drew aside the curtain to peer out
into the night. "It will be bringing snow with it. The clouds were
banked up like great mountains in the north when I looked out in the
forenoon, and the shepherd was telling me that he saw a white bonnet on
Ben Bhuidhe as he came west over Culloden braes yestreen."

"Listen!" cried young Colin Leslie, releasing the cat from his knee and
rising to his feet. "Did you not hear something, grandfather?"

"Well did I hear something," returned the old man. "I've heard it these
two hours past. It's the wind howling in the vent."

"Nay, but it wasna the wind," pursued the boy. "It was----"

"Just hold your tongue, laddie, and let me get reading my book,"
interrupted the grandfather petulantly. "You're aye putting in your
word. A body can do no reading with such chatter for ever dinging in his
ears."

"There it is again!" cried Colin, not heeding the old man's complaint.
"It was some one hammering at the castle door."

"Hoots, bairn. Who would be out travelling and knocking at folk's doors
on a night like this?"

Colin approached the hearth and leaned his arm against the cheek of the
chimney, staring into the glowing fire.

"It was some one on horseback," said he; "I heard the horse's hoofs on
the stones just before you said 'What a night it is!'"

Sir Donald Leslie continued reading under the dim light of the lamp that
hung above his head. Presently Elspeth Macdonald left the room on
tiptoe, closing the door behind her. Colin applied himself to casting a
new log upon the fire. Regardless of his grandfather, he began to
whistle the lightsome air of a certain Jacobite song. Soon his whistling
changed into the song itself and he chanted, half under his breath, the
words--

    "Oh, Charlie is my darling,
      My darling, my darling,
    Charlie is my darling,
      The young Chevalier."

Suddenly a fluttering book flew past his curly head.

"How dare you? How dare you sing that accursed Jacobite song in my
hearing?" cried his grandfather, red with rage. "Have I not told you a
hundred times that I'll have none of your rebel rantings in my house?"

"I meant no harm, grandfather," said Colin, picking up the book and
placing it on the corner of the table near the old man's elbow, "I was
not thinking of the meaning of the words."

[Illustration: "Suddenly a fluttering book flew past his curly head."]

"May-be not, may-be not," returned Sir Donald, as he idly took up his
book. Then, calming himself, he added more softly, shaking his head the
while: "Colin, you are just the very reflection of my brother Neil. My
father had exactly the same trouble with him in the Forty-Five that I
have with you in these more peaceful days. You try to persuade me that
you have no real sympathy with the wild adventurer you were now singing
about. But I'll be bound that if there were another rising (which
Heaven forfend!) you'd on with the kilt and be off with another Stuart,
just as Neil Leslie went off with the young Pretender--luckless loon
that he was. But I'll not have it, look you. I'll have none of your
Jacobite thoughts here; no, not even so much as the whistling of their
inflammatory tunes!"

Colin raised his eyes and glanced furtively at the old claymore that was
suspended over the door, crossed by a rusty Lochaber axe. One might have
seen by the sudden gleam in his blue eyes that the lad had some
lingering sympathy with the romantic adventurer of whose lost cause his
grandfather had spoken so contemptuously.

"One rebel in the family has been quite enough, and more than enough,"
went on Sir Donald. "But for Neil Leslie we might now be living in
comfort and luxury instead of in poverty. We now feed upon porridge and
oaten bannocks instead of good wholesome beef and venison; we drink weak
milk instead of wine. Our dwelling is a poor broken-down ruin instead
of, as it once was, a lordly castle fit for a king. Look at our lands;
they are wide, but they bear no harvest, for we cannot afford to
cultivate them. Our stables are empty; our flocks have been reduced to a
few skinny sheep that find no food upon the barren ground. Even the
grouse and the plovers have deserted us. And it is all the work of Neil
Leslie. My very blood simmers when I think of him, the rebel rascal! the
scoundrel! the thief!"

"Thief?" echoed Colin quickly. "Thief, grandfather?"

"Ay, thief," growled the old man in an angrier tone. "He robbed his own
father--_my_ father. All the hard-earned and hard-saved money that my
father had put aside for his descendants--for me as his eldest son, and
for you in your turn, although that was long, long before you were
born--was stolen by Neil Leslie, and by him appropriated to the
accursed cause of the man whom he called his prince. Prince? A prince of
rascals, a prince of gallows-birds; that is what I call the frog-eating
reprobate that presumed to lay claim to the British throne. What did he
do--this Charles Edward Stuart? He filled the silly heads of our men and
women with his romantic tomfoolery; he turned all Scotland topsy-turvy
and left it a miserable wreck of its former and better self----Don't
look like that at me, Colin. I'm telling you nothing but the simple
truth. And when you are a little older and get the hayseed out of your
hair, you will know the wisdom of being loyal to your rightful king.
There, I've lost my place in the book, now. Let me see; what page was I
at?"

The door opened while the old man peevishly turned over the pages, and
Elspeth Macdonald entered. There was an expression of anxious concern in
her wrinkled face. She approached the master of Castle Leslie and
mysteriously whispered into his ear.

Sir Donald gripped the wooden arm of his high-backed chair.

"Ossington?" he said questioningly, repeating the name that the
housekeeper had announced. "Colonel Ossington? I know no such name. Who
can the man be, think you, Elspeth?"

Elspeth shook her head.

"That's mair than I can tell," said she. "He just asked for the master
as he stamped his snowy boots on the step. Then he took off his cloak
and handed it to Geordie, as bold as you please, and bade me give you
his name--Colonel Ossington."

"Has he left his horse standing there?" questioned Sir Donald.

Elspeth crossed her hands in front of her, and holding up her head in
high dignity, answered--"No. The beast has been taken round to the
stables."

"H'm," muttered Sir Donald. "He evidently intends to stay the night,
then. Well, it matters little who he may be. We couldna send a body away
from the very door on a night of storm like this, even if he were but a
mere gaberlunzie. Let him come ben here. And see that some supper is
sent in. Wait," he added, as Elspeth was moving away; "see that Andrew
gets some food for the horse. There should be a handful of oats left in
the corners of the bags up in the old loft; and if not, he'll may-be
find some dry hay in the byre."

"Toots!" objected Elspeth, as she swept towards the door, "there's no
need to fash yourself about the horse. Andrew will see to the beast.
Trust him to that."

Young Colin Leslie stood before the fire with his face fronting to the
room. His grandfather's knotted fingers nervously turned the faded brown
leaves of his book, while the wind groaned in the chimney and the fitful
flames of the fire cast strange moving shadows about the gloomy room.

The man who presently entered crossed the oaken floor with a somewhat
halting gait. His spurs jangled at each step. His clean-shaven face was
thin and pinched, but ruddy in contrast with his silvery hair. As he
approached into the light of the fire, Colin noticed that his active
grey eyes were conspicuously clear and bright beneath his furrowed brow.
He wore a snuff-coloured riding-coat, with breeches of the same colour,
and long military boots. A diamond glistened amid the pure whiteness of
his lace-edged cravat.

Sir Donald Leslie rose from his chair and advanced a step to meet him.
The two men bowed to each other as strangers.

"You are welcome, sir," said Sir Donald, standing upright with his right
hand on the tall back of his chair. "Pray take this seat near the fire.
The night is cold, and it may be you have travelled far."

The soldier bent his head courteously.

"Not farther than Inverness," was his response. He spoke in a distinctly
English tone of voice, which Sir Donald at once detected.

"You are from the South?" he questioned. And then, before the stranger
had time to answer, he added, "Colonel Ottington, I think my housekeeper
told me, is your name?"

"Ossington," corrected the stranger, seating himself and holding his
long, delicate hands in front of the fire. "Colonel Ossington, late of
the King's 17th Light Dragoons. I am newly returned from Canada." He
glanced at his host as he spoke, and after a slight pause continued,
wrinkling his face into a half smile, "You do not appear to know me,
sir? Am I not addressing Mr. Alan Leslie--Alan Leslie, once of the 20th
Foot?"

There was a moment or two of silence, broken only by the deep-throated
growling of the wind in the chimney-vent. Colin Leslie, who had retired
to a shadowed corner of the ingle-nook, looked at his grandfather,
wondering at his hesitation.

"My name is Donald Leslie," came at last the gloomy reply. "I am a
brother of Alan Leslie, and the eldest son of Sir John Leslie, who died
fifty years ago--fifty years almost to the very day."

Colonel Ossington meditatively nodded his head.

"That would be in the year of Culloden, I think," said he. "He was for
the young----" He checked himself.

"No," broke in Sir Donald vehemently. "He was certainly not for the
young Pretender."

The colonel raised his eyebrows in apparent surprise, dropped his open
hands upon his knees, and slowly rose to his feet.

"I had almost expected to hear you say the young Chevalier," he said,
with a fuller frankness than he had hitherto shown. "I had understood
that your brother Alan was the only member of your family who was not
heart and soul for the Stuarts."

"On the contrary," corrected Sir Donald, "I and my brother Alan and our
father were always staunch for King George. Ah," he added, seeing the
door open, "here is some supper. I am afraid it will prove a poor meal;
but pray make yourself free with such as there is. Pardon me if I leave
you for a little while. My grandson Colin, here, will entertain you in
the meantime." He poured a few drops of whisky into a glass, and dealt
similarly but more generously with a glass which he passed to his guest.
"To the King!" he said, moistening his lips.

"To the King!" responded Colonel Ossington, bowing politely to Sir
Donald as he left the room.

The supper which had been set before the stranger was, as his host had
expressed it, but a poor meal; but Colonel Ossington partook of it with
as much enjoyment as if it had been a banquet. Presently Colin Leslie
emerged from his corner by the ingle and slowly approached the table,
standing opposite to the colonel as he ate. The boy's fingers played
idly with the ragged fringe of the table-cloth; but now and again he
stole a furtive glance at the silver-haired officer at the other side.
Once or twice he attempted to speak, but his shyness overcame him. It
was not often that he encountered a stranger such as the man before him.
At last he mustered courage enough to say--

"Are you a soldier--a real soldier?"

The colonel smiled at him. "Yes," said he, "I am a soldier. Is that
something strange to you?"

"We don't see many soldiers in these parts," said the boy. "There are
some at Inverness, of course, and at Fort George, but I've never been to
either of those places. Once when I went to Edinburgh with my father, I
saw some soldiers at the Castle. But I never spoke to one before."

"Is your father at home--here in Castle Leslie?" asked Colonel
Ossington.

"No," answered Colin; "he's dead. So is my mother. Grandfather and I are
quite alone in the world." He hesitated, almost ashamed of having said
so much. Presently he looked up once more and added, "Where is your red
coat and your sword? I thought soldiers always wore red coats and
swords."

"Mine are at home in England," explained the soldier. "I don't wear them
now. I have not worn them at all since I came back from America. I am
too old."

Colin reflected for some moments, leaning his elbows on the table and
his chin in his supporting hands.

"Did you ever kill a man?" he asked abruptly.

"Yes; many men. That is what soldiers are meant to do. But one doesn't
like to think of them as men. Somehow it seems different when one calls
them simply the enemy."

"Then you've been in a real battle?"

The soldier nodded.

"That must have been very exciting," remarked Colin, with boyish
enthusiasm. "I should like to be in a real battle--that is, if it were
against Frenchmen, or Spaniards, or blackamoors, or people of that sort.
I don't think I'd like it so much if they were Britons."

"I suppose not," agreed Colonel Ossington, with a sigh. "Somehow it does
seem to make a difference."

"Once," went on Colin, growing more communicative now that he had
discovered a soldier to be very little different in human nature from
any other man--"once, there was a battle near here--near this castle, I
mean--over on Culloden Moor, where our sheep pastures are. And last
spring, when Peter Reid of the Mains of Kilravock was ploughing, he
turned up a rusty old claymore. He gave it to me, and I polished it.
There it is, hanging up with that Lochaber axe upon the wall."

[Illustration: "Turned up a rusty old claymore."]

Colonel Ossington moved his chair to look round at the old sword. His
glance travelled to other parts of the dimly lighted room, surveying the
few family portraits in their tarnished frames, the dusty antlered heads
of stags, the old Highland targets, crossbows, and battle-axes that
decorated the dark oak panels of the walls.

"There used to be a rack of muskets in that farther corner," he
remarked. "And where is the portrait of the beautiful Lady
Leslie--Bonnie Belinda, they called her--that used to hang up there
above that carved settle?"

"Oh, that has been put away," explained Colin, "because--because Lady
Belinda was a Jacobite, you know. But how did you know that the picture
and the guns and things were ever there? You have never been in this
room before, have you?"

The colonel raised his glass to his lips. "Yes," he said.

"When?" demanded Colin.

"Oh, when I was a youth, a little older than you are now. It must be
fifty years ago."

At this moment Sir Donald Leslie re-entered the room.

"Grandfather!" cried Colin, "Colonel Ossington has been here before! He
was here fifty years ago."

Sir Donald turned sharply to his guest.

"Is this true?" he asked.

"Quite true," responded the old campaigner. "I was here in the year
1746. You, I think, were at that time abroad."

"Yes," acquiesced Sir Donald. "I was in Leyden. I am sorry you did not
inform me at once that this was not your first visit. I should have
given you a warmer welcome if I had known. As it is, I have treated you
as a stranger, and have not even offered you my hand."

"It is hardly too late to repair the omission," said Colonel Ossington,
and he thrust forth his hand, which his host grasped.

"Ossington?" muttered Sir Donald, trying to recall the name. "Ossington?
Dear me, I'm afraid I must seem very stupid. But for the life of me I
cannot remember to have heard of you. If I may be so inquisitive, what
was the occasion of your former visit, colonel?"

"I will tell you," returned the soldier frankly. "Indeed, my present
appearance here is wholly on account of what occurred at that long
distant time." He put his hand to his breast pocket. "May I smoke?" he
asked.

"Certainly," said Sir Donald. "I am afraid, however, that I cannot offer
you any tobacco. We can ill afford such a luxury in these hard times."

"Thank you. I have some very fine American tobacco with me," rejoined
the colonel. "Ah, I forgot," he added. "I find I have left it in my
saddle-bag."

"Colin will fetch it," urged Sir Donald, anticipating the promised
pleasure of renewing a habit which economy alone had compelled him to
abandon.

"Oh, don't trouble," said his guest, "I will go myself. I think I
remember where the stable is situated. Although perhaps the lad might,
after all, accompany me."

Colin was already at the door, prepared for the guest. He conducted the
colonel out into the hall, where they got their hats and a lantern, and
then through the house and out by one of the back doors, and into the
spacious, wind-swept garden, along by a high blank wall and across to
the stable. By the aid of Colin's lamp, the colonel soon found his
tobacco and, giving a caressing pat to his horse's flanks, he followed
the boy back into the garden.

A wild gust of wind met them as they came out from the stable door,
extinguishing their light. The snow had ceased to fall, and the sky was
clear, saving only for a few fleecy white clouds that drifted southward
across the moon. The ruined and ivy-covered walls of the older parts of
the castle stood out black against the steel-blue brightness of the sky.
An owl flew with silent wings from out the ruins and disappeared among
the tall bare trees that creaked and groaned in the wind at the rear of
the keep.

Colin walked in advance over the crisp white snow. Suddenly he drew
back with a half-smothered cry, gripped his companion's arm, and pointed
with agitated finger into the dark shadows of the ruined walls.

"Look!" he ejaculated, trembling in every limb. "Do you see it? Do you
see it? See! there it goes--there, in at the old postern gate! Come!
come quickly back to the house. I'm afraid!"

Colonel Ossington held the lad's arm, supporting him.

"Afraid of what, boy?" he demanded. "There is nothing."

"Did you not see it?" gasped Colin, in a mysterious, scarcely audible
whisper. "It went in at the postern, there."

"I saw nothing to alarm you to this degree, my boy," returned the
soldier. "What was it? Tell me what it was!"

Colin's fingers crept down the colonel's right arm until they grasped
his hand. The lad had implored his companion to return with him to the
house, but he himself now stood still as if rooted to the spot.

"What was it?" repeated Colonel Ossington.

Colin answered in the same low, mysterious whisper. "It was the
ghost--the ghost of Neil Leslie. It is often seen here. Elspeth has seen
it. So has grandfather. I have seen it before, too; but never so plainly
as now. It glided along there by the wall, with its plaid wrapped round
it. I saw the yellow stone glistening in the hilt of its dirk. Its sword
flashed in the moonlight. When it got to the gate it stopped a moment
and put out its hand, holding something--something that looked like a
little bag. It turned its face this way and then disappeared."

"Come," said the colonel, putting his arm about the lad and drawing him
onward towards the house. "Your imagination has been playing you some
trick. It was the moonlight and the moving bushes, perhaps. You will
forget all about it when we get indoors."

As they passed by the postern gate, Colin craned round and peered
within. Seeing nothing but black darkness, he heaved a deep sigh of
relief and walked boldly on, saying nothing until he had closed and
barred the door behind him. Then, touching Colonel Ossington's arm, he
said calmly--

"Please say nothing to grandfather about Neil's ghost, Colonel
Ossington. It would only disturb him."


II

Sir Donald Leslie was engaged in preparing a bowl of hot whisky toddy,
when his grandson and his guest rejoined him. He did not observe Colin's
blanched face and wild, staring eyes. The boy strode to the fireplace
and flung himself into his favourite seat in the corner, staring into
the glowing red mass upon the hearth.

When the two men had filled and lighted their pipes, and were
comfortably seated before the fire, each with a steaming glass of toddy
within reach of him, Colonel Ossington abruptly resumed the conversation
at the point where it had been broken off some fifteen minutes earlier.

"My present appearance here," he said, crossing his legs, "is connected
with certain mysterious events which occurred at the time of my first
visit to Castle Leslie on the fifteenth day of April 1746--that is to
say, on the eve of the battle of Culloden." He paused an instant as if
to arrange his thoughts. Then, leaning forward and fixing his keen grey
eyes upon his host, he said in a tone of sharp inquiry: "Will you tell
me what became of your brother, Neil Leslie?"

Sir Donald received the question with a lowering of the brows.

"Ah," said he, as he pressed his finger into the bowl of his
tobacco-pipe, "I had guessed that it was of him you came to speak. I
had even gone so far as to expect that you were about to pester me by
telling me you had met him out there in America. I don't want to know
anything concerning him, Colonel Ossington. He disgraced and ruined his
family, and whether he be dead, as I hope, or alive, as I sometimes
fear, he is no more to me than the most utter stranger."

"If I had met him in America," observed Colonel Ossington, "I should
have no need to ask you what had become of him. I know nothing of
him--nothing of what happened to him subsequent to the evening before
Culloden fight."

"I assume that you were yourself in that fight," remarked Sir Donald.

"Yes," returned the colonel, "I was then a young ensign. I served under
Major James Wolfe in repelling the first attack of the Highlanders."

"Ah," mused Sir Donald; "then you would not come into conflict with Neil
Leslie. He, I believe, remained studiously in the rear."

"Pardon me," corrected the colonel, "he was not on the field."

A blank yet somewhat haughty stare was the response to this unexpected
contradiction. Sir Donald was evidently perplexed.

"I do not go so far as to declare that he was actually in the fight,"
said he. "But that he was somewhere on the fringe of the battle I am
well assured. After the fight he fled with the defeated Highlanders,
first to the Western Islands, and afterwards to France. Such at least is
what my father believed concerning him--not that he went out of his way
to make inquiries. You may be sure that he was in nowise anxious for the
graceless scoundrel's safety. Indeed, if the truth must needs be told,
Sir John was rejoiced to be rid of Neil at any cost."

"Rejoiced to be rid of him?" echoed the colonel, in surprise. "I do not
understand. Neil Leslie was his father's especial favourite. And very
naturally so, as it seems to me, since they both were Jacobites."

Sir Donald laid his pipe upon the table.

"Jacobites?" he repeated, in a tone half of surprise and half of
disbelief. "Who were Jacobites?"

"Why, Sir John Leslie and his son Neil."

"No, no," returned Sir Donald emphatically. "You mistake the facts,
colonel; you are dreaming. My brother Neil was a Jacobite, curse him.
But my father, I thank Heaven, was as firmly for the House of Hanover as
you or I."

"If either of us is dreaming," declared the soldier, "I am afraid it is
yourself, Sir Donald. Surely you do not pretend that you never knew your
father to be a bitter enemy of King George! Surely you, his own son,
cannot be ignorant of the fact that for months--ay, for years--before
Culloden, Sir John Leslie was secretly one of the most active friends
and personal supporters of the young Pretender?"

Sir Donald had risen to his feet, and now he strode thoughtfully to the
end of the room and back.

"If you are speaking the truth, I have been ignorant indeed," he said,
with a frown. He turned and continued moodily to pace the room. To and
fro he strode with his twitching hands linked together behind his back.
Colonel Ossington quietly puffed at his pipe, while young Colin Leslie,
in his seat at the ingle, leaned forward staring at the two men in fixed
attention. No word was spoken for many minutes, and all was silent
saving only for the wild, boisterous rumbling of the wind in the
chimney, and the regular shuffling tramp of Sir Donald Leslie's
slippered feet upon the bare oak floor. Presently this latter sound
ceased, and Sir Donald stood still, ruminating.

"I cannot believe it," he said at length, confronting Colonel
Ossington. "On what grounds do you base your conviction?"

"On the surest of all grounds," returned the soldier, "his own
admission, and also my certain knowledge that when Charles Edward Stuart
and his army of Highlanders were encamped on the moor near here, Sir
John Leslie supplied them not only with the food which they so sorely
needed, but also with money, with arms, and with ammunition."

A fierce light leapt into the old man's eyes.

"It is false!" he cried, in a quivering voice; "it is false!" He stamped
his foot. "I do not doubt that you yourself believe what you are saying.
Some knave or liar must have deceived you. But, all the same, it is not
true. My father was as fervent a Hanoverian as I was and still am. It
was Neil alone who was the skulking Jacobite. Ay, and to him I owe it
that I am now so poor that I cannot even offer a chance visitor the
hospitality that is his due. Had my father been in sound health at the
time of the Rebellion, he would have joined the King's troops and fought
as boldly as did my dear brother Alan, who fell fighting bravely and
loyally for King George on Culloden Moor."

"In that last particular you are again strangely in error," interrupted
Colonel Ossington. "Alan Leslie took no part whatsoever in the battle of
Culloden. I, who was his comrade and friend, can testify also that he
did not die a soldier's death--at least not upon the field."

"What!" cried the astonished Sir Donald. "Are you certain of this?"

"I am," reiterated the colonel, "absolutely certain."

"Then where in Heaven's name was he?"

"Here--in this house," returned Ossington, knocking the ash out of his
pipe and slowly reopening his tobacco-bag. "It was of him more
particularly that I came here to speak with you. I wanted to learn
something of his fate, whatever it may have been. But it seems you know
as little of it as I do myself. We were companions in arms, he and I. It
was while I was stationed in Edinburgh that he joined Major James
Wolfe's battalion of the Fourth Foot. I was then a young ensign. Alan
and I were quartered together, and we soon became fast friends. We sat
at the same mess-table, we shared the same bottle of wine, we smoked the
same pipe. When it was a question of fighting, as at Prestonpans, we
fought side by side."

Sir Donald filled his guest's glass anew. Colin Leslie continued
silently to listen, believing that the old soldier was now coming to
something more definite.

"In the spring of '46, you remember," went on the colonel, "the Duke of
Cumberland's forces marched northward to Aberdeen, in search of the
rebels. From Aberdeen we advanced to the town of Nairn, and while there
we heard that the Pretender was concentrating his army of Highlanders at
a spot not many miles away from our encampment. Alan Leslie and I were
sent out to reconnoitre. We made our way westward and discovered the
enemy on Culloden Moor. Believing that we might learn something further
as to their intentions, Alan induced me to accompany him to Castle
Leslie, in the hope of hearing news from the lad's father, who was
supposed, although erroneously, to be friendly to the King. We arrived
here at dusk and were admitted into this same room."

The colonel's eyes wandered about the apartment as if in the endeavour
to picture it as it had been at that earlier time.

"For some two hours," he continued, "we were left here alone. During
that interval of waiting, Alan told me the romantic story of Bonnie
Belinda, the story being suggested by her portrait, which hung over
yonder above the settle."

Sir Donald nodded and glanced across at the vacant place on the panelled
wall.

"But at last," went on the speaker, "Sir John Leslie entered, with his
plaid about his shoulders, as if he had newly returned from a journey.
He regarded his soldier son with stony indifference."

"'Well?' he demanded; 'what do you want here?'

"'I have come, sir,' stammered Alan, surprised at this cold welcome. 'I
have come----'

"His father bent forward with his hand resting on the table at his side,
and almost touching Alan's regimental cap with its bright brass badge.

"'You have come as a spy!' he cried bitterly, following up the
accusation with a volley of virulent taunts. 'You ingrate!' he cried;
'you weak-kneed renegade! Where is your patriotism? How dare you come
here, wearing the uniform of the hateful foreign usurper whom you
serve?'"

"He said _that_?" questioned Sir Donald agitatedly. "He--my father--said
that?"

Colonel Ossington took up the fire-tongs and caught at a fragment of
burning wood with which to light his pipe.

"Those were his own words," said he; "and they were not less surprising
to me than they were to Alan Leslie. I do not exactly remember what Alan
said in retaliation, but he taunted his father with being a Jacobite,
and, as he said, 'the follower of an upstart Pretender'; and at these
words Sir John drew himself proudly together and stood at his full
height, which I am sure must have been a good six feet. 'I will not have
His Royal Highness so named in my presence,' he declared with a frown,
and pointing to the door in all the dignity of his old age, he added:
'You are no son of mine, and I do not wish ever to see you again.'

"But even as he spoke, the door was opened from without, and a tall,
singularly noble-looking young man entered with the majestic stride of a
monarch. He was followed by a yet younger man. At sight of our red coats
both new-comers started back in amazement. Before either could speak,
however, Sir John had hurried the elder of them out of the room. The
younger man, whom I rightly guessed to be Neil Leslie, stepped back and,
looking into Alan's face, smiled in recognition, and held out his hand.
Alan refused to accept this offer of friendship."

"Ay, and quite right," interposed Sir Donald.

Colonel Ossington did not heed the interruption, but proceeded with his
narrative.

"As the two brothers stood there, facing each other," he said, "I
thought them the two handsomest youths I had ever beheld. Alan, with his
smart military bearing, his finely featured face and his glistening dark
eyes; Neil, somewhat taller, although younger, with fairer hair and more
lithe figure, dressed in the picturesque Highland costume, with his dark
tartan kilt and his long flowing plaid, that was caught at the shoulder
by a large silver brooch, set with a sparkling yellow stone."

On hearing this description of his great-uncle, young Colin Leslie moved
from his seat at the fire to a vacant chair opposite to Colonel
Ossington. It was evident that Neil was in his eyes a hero.

"Alan, I say, refused to accept his brother's proffered friendship. 'Who
was the young man that came to the door with you just now?' he demanded.
And Neil answered proudly, as he turned to leave the room: 'It was the
prince whom I have the honour to serve--Prince Charles Edward Stuart.'"

"And he was once here--here in this very room?" murmured Colin, with
reverent enthusiasm. In his boyish imagination the room had been
sanctified by the presence of the romantic adventurer.

[Illustration: "Alan refused to accept this offer of friendship."]

"Continue," urged Sir Donald, with a black cloud in his face. "What
happened next?"

"When Neil had gone out of the room," said the old campaigner, "Alan
gave a mocking laugh. 'What do you think of them, Jack?' said he. 'It
seems to me we've dropped into a hornet's nest. It will be war to the
knife with my father and me after this. Which reminds me,' he added,
crossing the room to the wall opposite the window there, 'this pretty
dirk is mine. I may as well take possession of it.' And he took down a
long-bladed, jewel-hafted dagger that was hung there under the picture
of Bonnie Belinda. 'Wait outside for me, Jack,' said he; 'wait at the
stable door. There's something else I want to do before we go back to
Nairn.' So I went out and waited at the stable. I waited for fully an
hour. When Alan joined me at last, he was a different man. He was
strangely agitated--almost mad with passion and fierce vindictive rage
against his father.

"'Look here, Jack,' said he, 'you'd better ride back to Nairn at
once--without me. I shall come on later--perhaps not until to-morrow
morning. Ride back as quickly as you can, and see the Duke of
Cumberland. If you can't see him, go to Major Wolfe. Tell him--tell
either of them--that the rebel army is only some four thousand strong,
but that the Pretender has determined to attack the King's troops
to-morrow. I have just heard this by accident. The three of
them--Charles Stuart, my father, and that young scamp Neil--have been
closeted together. But I overheard them talking and unfolding their
plans. There was only a thin curtain between us, and I heard every word.
I heard my father saying that he had a store of arms and ammunition here
in the castle for the use of the Highlanders. Two hundred muskets and as
many swords, as well as ten thousand pounds in gold. These he offered to
Stuart, bidding him send for them at eleven o'clock to-night. The arms
and the money are to be delivered to the messengers by my brother Neil
at the postern gate in the castle garden. They _will_ be delivered,
Jack, if--if I don't prevent it, as I mean to do.'"

Colonel Ossington paused in his narrative. His gaze was fixed upon the
earnestly attentive eyes and the white face of Colin Leslie. The boy
seemed mentally to be associating this fact of the delivery of arms at
the postern gate with the recently seen apparition of Neil Leslie. As
for Sir Donald, he had now ceased to doubt Colonel Ossington's
affirmations, and was as deeply interested in the narrative as was his
grandson, although the sympathies of the two were directly at variance.

"Ten thousand pounds in gold!" ejaculated Sir Donald in astonishment.
"Where on earth did it all come from?"

"I do not know," returned Ossington. "Probably it represented the
contributions of the wealthy Jacobites of the immediate neighbourhood."

"And did the Highlanders get those guns and things in time to use them
in the next day's battle?" Colin ventured to ask. He breathed a sigh of
disappointment when Colonel Ossington answered, with more conviction
than the mere words implied--

"I believe not. Alan Leslie remained behind with the purpose of
frustrating their delivery."

"Ay, and did frustrate it, I'll be bound," interposed the grandfather.
"Alan was brave, he was strong and determined. He would stick at
nothing! When did you next see him, colonel?"

"I never saw him again," replied Ossington. "Since that night when I
left him his fate has been to me a complete mystery. On the next day, at
Nairn, when the muster-roll was called, he was absent. We advanced to
Culloden, and the battle was fought--if battle it may be called which
was a mere rout. But Alan Leslie was nowhere on the field. When the
Highlanders had retreated, vanquished, and the Duke of Cumberland was
pursuing his too terrible vengeance upon the innocent and the guilty
alike, I searched among the wounded and the dead for my missing comrade,
but nowhere could I find him. Afterwards, I came here. Your castle had
been attacked and partly demolished by Hawley's dragoons. Sir John
Leslie, I heard, had gone the night before with Charles Stuart to the
house of Lord Lovat, to be present at a council of war. He afterwards
escaped with the fugitives--probably in company with his son Neil."

"Ay!" added Sir Donald; "and Neil, I'll be bound, did not neglect to
carry off the gold with him, and use it for his own selfish purposes;
for the Pretender never got the money. I'm thankful for that at least.
That he should have it were worse even than that Neil should squander
it." The old man began again to stride to and fro across the floor.
"Neil was a villain!" he cried; "an ingrain villain and scoundrel. He
ought to have been hanged with the rest of them! I could almost be
content at the loss of the family fortunes if I might only know that the
rascal had died an outlaw's death on the gallows. It was doubtless he
who prevented Alan from getting back to his regiment that night."

Colonel Ossington meditated a few moments in silence.

"Yes," he said at length, "no doubt you are right. But in what way did
he prevent him, Sir Donald? That is what I want most particularly to
know."

"To my mind there is but one answer to that question," returned Sir
Donald decisively. "My brother Alan was not in the battle, you say. If
he had been alive I am certain he would not have shirked his duty. But I
believe he was not alive, colonel; I believe that he was murdered, and
murdered by his own brother, Neil Leslie. That also would tally with the
fact that since that fatal night, Neil has never dared to show himself
at his home."

Colin Leslie here ventured to break in with a remark.

"You have no right to say such a thing, grandfather," he said
emphatically. "Why should Neil ever think of murdering Alan? He had
nothing to fear from him."

"You know nothing about the matter, boy," growled Sir Donald. "It is no
business of an ignorant lad to discuss such a thing as this with his
elders."

But Colonel Ossington did not so despise the boy's opinions.

"By the way, Master Colin," said he, "your ghost of this evening should
have some bearing on this mystery. Did you not say that the apparition
was dressed in the Highland kilt?"

"Ghost!" echoed Sir Donald in astonishment. "What ghost? What
apparition?"

"The ghost that I saw to-night when I went out with Colonel Ossington to
the stables," returned Colin; "the ghost of Neil Leslie. It went in at
the postern gate; the gate where the arms and the money were to have
been delivered."

"Ah!" the old man drew his breath in sharply, "I have heard of that
ghost before. Old Elspeth has seen it. Once, also," he hesitated,
listening to the angry blast of the wind; "once, also, on a wild,
blustering night just such as this, I saw it myself. That was many years
ago; but, I remember, it was at that same place--near the postern gate.
Probably the rascal's guilty conscience troubles him, even in his
grave--if, indeed, he be in his grave."

There was a long pause, during which the wind howled even more piteously
than before. Colonel Ossington emptied his glass and set it down with
deliberate slowness upon the table at his elbow.

"I am persuaded that there was some foul play on that night," said he,
in a low, clear voice. "But of course there can now be no proof. How
could there be, after all these years?" He leaned forward with his open
hands clasping his knees, and with his eyes fixed upon the fire. Then he
went on, as if speaking to himself: "Some years ago, just after the
taking of Quebec, I chanced to make the acquaintance of an aged
Highlander, who had a bullet in his chest and was dying in the hospital.
I learned that the man's name was David Duncan. We got talking of the
Jacobite rebellion, and I discovered that he had been present at
Culloden. Further conversation elicited the information that this same
old Highlander had been one of the Pretender's messengers sent to Castle
Leslie to convey the arms and money to the rebel encampment. Duncan and
his companions waited that night near the postern gate. They were at
their post at eleven. They waited until three o'clock. But no one ever
came to them and the arms were never delivered. While they waited,
Duncan heard a strange, weird cry, like a cry for help. Whence it came
he could not tell; neither did he know whether it was the cry of a man
or of a woman. Human it certainly was. It seemed, he said, to come out
of the ground at his feet. It was then midnight."

The old clock in the outer hall struck eleven. Sir Donald Leslie signed
to Colin, indicating that it was high time the boy was in bed. Colin
bade the two men good-night, but still lingered in the room for a few
moments, hoping to hear more of this family mystery.

"I infer from what you have said," remarked Colonel Ossington,
addressing his host, "that you have no knowledge of the secret place in
which the military stores and the gold of which we have been speaking
were hidden?"

"There is no such secret place in all the castle," returned Sir Donald.
"Of that I am quite certain. Whether the rebels received the stores or
not, the things were assuredly removed long before I returned to
Scotland."

These were the last arguments that Colin Leslie heard before he retired
to bed. As he lay wakeful on his pillow, he reflected upon the story
that had been revealed to him. The men had come to the conclusion that
Neil Leslie, the Jacobite, had murdered his own brother. "Could this
really be so?" thought Colin. The boy wondered where and in what exact
circumstances the tragedy had taken place. He wondered in which room the
guns and swords and all those thousands of golden guineas had been
hidden. Colonel Ossington had suggested a secret chamber as the probable
receptacle; but Colin knew every nook and cranny about the building, and
he was forced to acknowledge to himself that his grandfather's words
were true when he said, "There is no such secret place in all the
castle."


III

But on the following morning, when Colin accompanied Colonel Ossington
in a walk round the garden, a new light seemed to come to him.

They were passing the little postern of which so much had been said--the
postern through which, as the boy declared, he had himself seen the
apparition of Neil Leslie disappear on the previous night. Here Colin
now stood. He stamped his feet upon the ground.

"Listen!" he said. "Do you hear anything?" He stamped once again. "I've
often thought, as I have passed this spot, that the ground seems to give
back a hollow sound."

"And if it does, what of it?" asked Colonel Ossington.

"Well," said Colin, with a curious lift of his eyebrows, "I was thinking
that it is just possible there may be some cave, or passage, or cellar
under here; and that perhaps it was down there that the guns and things
you were telling us of last night were stored."

"You may be right," smiled the colonel, "but I don't see that it
matters very much now. It's so long ago, you know."

"Yes," went on Colin, "but I should like to find out, all the same. I
have often thought of it before--of the underground passage, I mean.
Most castles in Scotland have underground passages somewhere, and Castle
Leslie can scarcely be an exception. At one time I thought I had found a
way into this one." He pointed up to the top of the ivy-covered wall.
"You see the place where that buttress ends?" he asked. The colonel
nodded. "Well, last spring a jenny wren built her nest up there. I
wanted to get it. I climbed up from the inside of the ruin, and crept
along the top of the wall. I had got as far as where the nest was when,
leaning over to reach it, I felt one of the big stones give way beneath
me. I held on by the ivy; but the loosened stone fell with a crash to
the ground. I didn't look where it fell. I was only thinking of how I
should get down with the nest. But a day or two afterwards I was coming
through the place that used to be the guard-room in the old days, before
Hawley's dragoons burnt this part of the castle down, and I saw the
stone lying there. It wasn't smashed; but it had smashed the flagstone
that it had fallen upon. Some parts of the flagstone had dropped
through, right down into a sort of black well. I did not try to open the
well; although I should have done if any other boys had been here to
help me. But this morning I thought of it again in connection with your
story--"

"I understand," interrupted the colonel. "You think it may have been
down there that old Sir John Leslie hid the arms for the rebels, eh?
Well, let me see this fancied entrance to the subterranean passage.
Where is it?"

"It's through here," said Colin. And he led his companion through the
postern gate into a large roofless room.

In one of the corners there was a heap of garden refuse, covered by a
thin layer of melting snow. Colin took an old spade and industriously
cleared the rubbish away. Presently he revealed a large cracked
flagstone. He went down on his knees and busily endeavoured to dislodge
one of the broken fragments. He scraped and tore and pulled at it to no
purpose. Then he stood up and stamped upon it. The rattling of loose
earth underneath encouraged him to continue.

"Can you find such a thing as a pickaxe?" questioned Colonel Ossington.

Colin shook his head, but ran, nevertheless, in search of some such
instrument, returning some minutes afterwards with a heavy
sledge-hammer. With this he opened an assault upon the flagstone, and
soon succeeded in loosening one small fragment. A small brown rat darted
out from the excavation and scampered across the uneven floor.

"Wait!" cried the colonel; "lend me the hammer. Let us try first to
remove this smaller stone, then we can better get at the larger one."

He took the sledge-hammer, raised it over his shoulder, and brought it
down with a well-directed blow upon the smaller stone, splitting it. A
second blow broke it into splinters. These he removed. Beneath them he
discovered the end of a rusty bar of iron that was shot like a bolt
through an iron ring. The bar seemed to extend under the larger
flagstone, supporting it through its centre of gravity. For many minutes
he hammered at the rusty iron, and with each blow the flagstone trembled
on its axle and a shower of loosened stones and gravel fell into the
depths below. With each development the old soldier's energy increased,
while Colin looked on absorbed in boyish expectation.

At last the corroded bar broke. The flagstone collapsed and slipped a
few inches into the void, where it was arrested by some obstacle. Its
removal revealed an irregular opening, some two feet in diameter.

"You were right, boy," remarked the colonel; "there is indeed a secret
chamber here, and this is, or once was, its entrance. See! the flagstone
has formed a sort of trap-door. It may have been opened by a spring set
under the smaller stone at the side. Look down there; you can see the
edge of one of the stone stairs."

"Can we get down?" asked Colin.

"It is possible, I think," returned the old soldier. "But we should
require a lighted lantern. Could you fetch one?"

Colin ran off. He was absent some ten minutes. During that interval
Colonel Ossington contrived so to force back the broken flagstone that
it left an opening sufficiently wide to admit his body. He went upon his
knees and thrust his feet into the cavity, descending step by step until
his eyes were on a level with the paved floor. There he waited, resting
with his hands on the second step. The fingers of his right hand touched
something that was softer than the cold stone. He gripped it and drew it
forth into the fuller light. It was a fragment of mouldy cloth or felt.
Attached to it was a disc of tarnished metal upon which the figure "4"
was embossed.

"God!" he exclaimed, "it's the badge of the Fourth Foot."

He tore off the badge and thrust it into his pocket. At this moment
Colin Leslie appeared with the lighted lantern, and accompanied by his
grandfather.

"I am glad you have come too, Sir Donald," said the colonel somewhat
absently.

"What boy's adventure are you contriving now, colonel?" demanded Sir
Donald. "One would think that you had gone back to your childhood."

"Not quite so far back as that," returned the old soldier grimly, "but
my mind has indeed gone back to my young manhood. Give me the light,
Colin," he added, turning to the lad. "I had better, perhaps, go down in
advance."

[Illustration: "Colin handed him the lantern."]

Colin handed him the lantern and stood at the top of the steps watching
him slowly and cautiously descend. The light flickered upon the damp
moss-grown stones of the walls that formed the sides of the narrow
stairway. It went down and down, growing gradually dimmer and dimmer,
until at last it died away. The old grandfather and Colin waited,
listening. They faintly heard the tread of the colonel's spurred boots
echoing hollowly in the darkness. Once they heard him cough, and then
all was silent. The minutes slowly passed. Sir Donald grew a trifle
nervous, his nervousness being indicated by the impatient tapping of his
foot.

"Listen!" cried Colin. "I heard something fall--something that rattled."
He knelt down and peered into the opening. "I hear him walking," he
whispered. "He's coming nearer now. Now he has stopped. Now he is coming
on again. He's on the stairs. He's carrying something that knocks
against each step. I can see the reflection of the light now. And now
here's the lantern." The boy drew back. "Mind your head, colonel, or
you'll knock it," he cried.

Colonel Ossington did not require the caution. Bending his head, he
crept upward, holding the lantern in his extended hand. Presently his
face appeared in the aperture. It was ghastly white, and his eyes stared
wildly. He drew a deep breath of the fresher air.

"You had better come down," he said, glancing up at Sir Donald Leslie;
and drawing his left hand upward, he cast an old and rusty broadsword at
the old man's feet. Sir Donald glanced at the weapon and kicked it
aside.

"Come!" reiterated the colonel in a voice of authority, and the
grandfather slowly obeyed. Colin followed him down the steps, although
he was aware that he had not been included in the command. Perhaps he
would have been wiser to remain where he was, but his boyish curiosity
and love of adventure overcame his caution. Step by step they descended
into the gloom. The air about them was damp and cold and stifling. The
walls dripped with moisture. The stone stairs were slimy. Darkness
hemmed them in, saving only for a fitful glimmer of the lantern light
that was below them.

"Three steps more, Sir Donald," said the colonel, standing aside on the
firm floor of what appeared to be an arched vault. He held the light
aloft. "Now, follow me closely," he added; "the passage turns sharply to
the left. Be careful of the corner. I knocked my elbow against it just
now. Is that the boy behind you?"

"Yes."

"He ought not to have come. Never mind now; let him follow close at your
heels. Now halt and look down upon the floor while I hold the light."

The colonel held out his free hand and gripped the older man's arm,
directing his gaze into a narrow archway.

"Those are the muskets," he said. "There are two hundred there. I have
counted them."

Colin crept up to his grandfather's side, holding him by the skirts of
his coat. Looking into the archway he saw the neatly stacked-up guns,
with their rusty barrels and locks and rotting stocks.

The colonel drew his companions onward some three or four steps.

"And here are the claymores," said he. "You see the rebels did not get
them, after all."

"No, Alan was true," murmured Sir Donald. "I felt sure he would
frustrate their delivery. But--" He gripped the soldier's arm and asked
in a suppressed but eagerly acquisitive tone: "But where was the gold,
colonel? Did Neil take it all--every guinea of it?"

The colonel held his lantern full in front of Sir Donald's face, which
he regarded with an expression of undisguised contempt.

"The gold," he answered, "was stored in the next vault. And," he added
loftily, as he signed to Sir Donald to go past him, "I think you will
find it all there still."

"The light! the light!" demanded Sir Donald. "Hold it nearer, that I may
see."

By the help of the lantern he made his way a few steps farther into the
chamber. The yellow rays of light were cast into the low vault. On the
floor of hewn rock were many little canvas bags, that were so rotten and
mouldy that their sides had fallen away under the pressure of the golden
guineas that they had contained. The gold glistened in the lantern
light. With greedy outstretched hands, and with eyes staring wide with
covetousness, Sir Donald leapt at the treasure. He plunged his fingers
into the midst of the coins, lifting his filled hands, and letting the
gold fall from them in a jingling shower.

"Wonderful!" he cried. "Ah! now I am rich--rich--rich!" He glanced
behind him with shrinking, miserly fear. "It's mine--all mine!" he
frenziedly exclaimed, and proceeded eagerly to fill his pockets.

Colonel Ossington lightly touched him on the shoulder.

"Remember, my friend, that the money is Jacobite money," said he. "It
was meant for the Pretender, you know."

Sir Donald's coat-pockets were already full to overflowing.

"Meant for the Pretender?" he repeated. "Ah, but look! look!" he added,
holding up one of the coins to the light, "every one of them bears the
head of the King! No; do not go yet! Let me have the lantern."

"The money will not run away," remarked Colonel Ossington, passing on
with the lantern. "You have found it, and may return when you will. And
now, since we have solved the material part of the mystery, let us go
further that you may understand its more human side."

He led the way, with Colin at his side, and the grandfather was perforce
obliged to follow.

"There is something here that you must see," said the colonel, as,
having turned a sharp angle in the passage, he stood still, with his
hat under his arm and holding the light in front of him so that its rays
shot along the slimy floor. Wondering, Sir Donald and his grandson bent
forward, searching into the gloom. Colin drew back as his eyes rested
for a moment on something white. But he advanced again and timidly
looked once more. His trembling finger pointed down upon the floor at
the gaunt, fleshless face and the tall form of a man that was partly
hidden under mouldy folds of a Highland plaid and kilt. At the left
shoulder there was a tarnished silver brooch, set in the centre with a
dim yellow stone. The man lay flat on his back. His sword was in its
scabbard at his side; the blanched bones of his right hand still held
the remains of one of the canvas money-bags. The gold guineas lay in a
little pile beneath the long fingers.

"He was carrying that bag of gold to give to the Prince's messenger,"
cried the boy Colin, aghast. "It is Neil--Neil Leslie!"

"Yes," nodded Colonel Ossington. "And he must have been met just here by
his murderer."

"_Neil_?" echoed Sir Donald, reeling back; "my brother Neil? Then he did
not escape to France? And he has been dead all this time!" The old man
shuddered. "Murdered, did you say? But who could have murdered him down
here? Perhaps he died naturally. Perhaps he could not find his way out
up those stairs and through the stone trap-door!"

"The trap-door could certainly be opened only from the outside,"
remarked the colonel. "This place was evidently built as a dungeon--a
prison from which it was not meant that any one should escape. But," he
added solemnly, "Neil Leslie was not a prisoner. He probably left the
door open, not expecting to be interrupted by the villain who drove that
dagger into his honest heart. Do you see the dagger, Donald Leslie?" He
pointed to the dead man's breast, and brought the lantern nearer until
its gleam fell upon the jewelled hilt of a Highland dirk. "You should
recognise the weapon--as I do. It used to hang under the painted
portrait of the Lady Belinda. It is the same weapon that Alan Leslie
carried away with him on the eve of Culloden fight."

[Illustration: "Neil? my brother Neil?"]

"I do not believe it!" cried Sir Donald excitedly. "My brother Alan
never was down here. He did not know of the existence of such a place,
any more than I did until this hour. For all that you say I do not
believe but that my brother Alan died like a brave man on Culloden Moor,
fighting, I thank God, for the King!"

Colonel Ossington silently shook his head and turned away, carrying the
lantern with him to the foot of the stairs by which the three had
entered the dungeon. Here he stood, holding the lantern so that its
light shone only directly in front of him. He confronted Sir Donald and
Colin, the while he put his hand into his breast pocket, and drew
something forth which he held out for the old man's inspection.

"I found this on one of the upper stairs when I first entered," he said,
holding the thing under the light. "It came off a soldier's regimental
cap. It is the badge of the Fourth Foot. The man who wore it and who
left it lying up there was a man whom I once called my friend; but whom
I now know to have been a dishonourable spy, an unscrupulous traitor, an
assassin and a fratricide. When Neil Leslie came down here faithfully to
fulfil his father's instructions, he was dogged and followed by his
brother. It was Alan Leslie who murdered him."

"Then where is Alan now?" interrupted Sir Donald. "Why did he never come
home?"

"Because," answered the colonel, "when he came down here to kill his
brother, he made the mistake of closing the trap-door behind him. He
could not open it, he could not escape. He was imprisoned here with his
dead victim. He may have starved; he may have been suffocated by the
smoke from the burning building above him that night when Hawley's
dragoons set fire to the castle. However it was, he never left this
place." The colonel moved aside, allowing the light to shine upon the
dull red, mildewed cloth of a soldier's coat that covered the crouching
figure of a man long dead. "That is what remains of Alan Leslie," he
added grimly. He handed the lantern to Colin, bidding the lad hold it
aloft. He knelt down. "When a soldier disgraces his regiment," he
continued, "we usually remove the facings from his uniform. This man was
not worthy to wear the uniform of so honoured a regiment as the Fourth
Foot."

"I think," remarked Colin, "that, rebel though he was, Neil Leslie was
by far the better man."

"I am sure of it, my boy," returned Colonel Ossington.



A DANGEROUS GAME

BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN

     _Author of "Frank and Saxon," &c. &c._


CHAPTER I

"Oh, bother the old books!"

And as if to bother them, though more likely to break their backs, Lance
Penwith closed two with a sharp clap, rose from his seat at the table,
and then, holding one flat in each hand, he walked round behind his
cousin, who was bent over another, with his elbows on the study-table, a
finger in each ear, and his eyes shut as if to keep in the passage he
was committing to memory. But the next moment he had started up, hurting
his knees, and stood glaring angrily at Lance, who was roaring with
laughter.

For the hearty-looking sunburned boy had passed behind his
fellow-student's chair with the intention of putting his books on one of
the shelves, but seeing his opportunity, a grin of enjoyment lit up his
face, and taking a step back, he stood just at his cousin's back, and
brought the two books he carried together, cymbal fashion, but with all
his might, and so close to the reader's head that the air was stirred
and the sharp crack made him spring up in alarm.

"What did you do that for?"

"To wake you up, Alfy. There, put 'em away now, and let's go down to the
cliff."

"And leave my lessons half done?--Don't you do that again. You won't be
happy till I've given you a sound thrashing."

"Shouldn't be happy then," said Lance, with a laugh; "and besides, you
couldn't do it, Alfy, my lad, without I lay down to let you."

"What! I couldn't?"

"Not you. Haven't got strength enough. Jolly old molly-coddle, why don't
you come out and bathe and climb and fish?"

"And hang about the dirty old pilchard houses and among the drying hake,
and mix with the rough old smugglers and wreckers."

"How do you know they're smugglers and wreckers?"

"Everybody says they are, and uncle would be terribly angry if I told
him all I know about your goings on."

"Tell him, then: I don't care. Father doesn't want me to spend all my
time with my nose in a book, my eyes shut, and my ears corked up with
fingers."

"Uncle wants you to know what Mr. Grimston teaches us."

"Course he does. Well, I know my bits."

"You don't: you can't. You haven't been at work an hour."

"Yes, I have; we sat down at ten, and it's a quarter past eleven, and I
know everything by heart. Now, then, you listen."

"Go on, then," cried the other.

"Not likely. I've done. Come on and let's do something. The rain's all
gone off and it's lovely out."

"There, I knew you didn't," cried the other. "You can't have learned it
all. And look here, if you do that again I shall certainly report it to
uncle."

"Very well, report away, sneaky. Now then, will you come? We'll get Old
Poltree's boat and make Hezz come and row."

The student reseated himself, frowning, and bent over his book again.

"Look here," cried his cousin, "I'll give you one more chance. Will you
come?"

No answer.

"One more chance. Will you come?"

"Will you leave off interrupting me?" cried the other furiously.

"Certainly, sir. Very sorry, sir. Hope you will enjoy yourself, sir.
Poor old Alf! He'll want specs soon."

Then pretending great alarm, the speaker darted out into the hall, and
thrust his head through a door on the right, which he half opened, and
stood looking in at a slightly grey-haired lady who was bending over her
work.

"Going out, mother," he said.

The lady looked up and smiled pleasantly.

"Don't be late for dinner, my dear. Two o'clock punctually, mind."

"Oh, I shall be back," said the boy, laughing.

"And don't do anything risky by the cliff."

"Oh no, I'll mind."

The boy closed the door and crossed the hall, just as a shadow darkened
the porch, and a tall, bluff-looking man entered.

"Hullo, you, sir!" he cried; "how is it you are not at your
studies?--Going out?"

"Yes, father; down to the shore a bit. Done lessons."

"Why don't you take your cousin with you?"

"Won't come, father. I did try."

It was only about half a mile to the cliff, where a few fishermen's
cottages stood on shelves of the mighty granite walls which looked as if
they had been built up of blocks by the old Cornish ogres, weeded out by
the celebrated Jack the Giant-killer; and here Lance made his way to
where in front of one long whitewashed granite cot, perched a hundred
feet above the shore, there was a long protecting rail formed of old
spars planted close to the edge of the cliff, just where a tiny river
discharged itself into the sea. This opened sufficiently to form a
little harbour for half-a-dozen fishing luggers, the rocks running out
sufficiently to act as a breakwater and keep off the huge billows which
at times came rolling in from the south-west, so that on one side of the
cliffs lay piled up a slope of wave-washed and rounded boulders, many as
big as great Cheshire cheeses, while on the other, where the luggers
lay, there were pebbles and sand.

Upon this rail four men were leaning with folded arms, apparently doing
nothing but stare out at the bright, clear sea; but every eye was keenly
on the look-out for one of those dark-cloud, shadow-like appearances on
the surface which to them meant money and provisions.

But there was no sign of fish breaking the surface of the water, and as
Lance approached he had a good view of four immense pairs of very thick
flannel trousers, whose bottoms were tucked into as many huge boots,
which, instead of being drawn well up their owners' thighs, hung in
folds about their ankles, and glittered in the sunshine, where they were
well specked with bright fish scales.

Higher up Lance looked upon four pairs of very short braces, hitched
over big bone buttons, and holding the aforesaid trousers close up under
their wearers' armpits. The rest of the costume consisted of caps,
home-made, and of fur formerly worn by unfortunate seals which had come
too near a boat instead of seeking safety in one of the wave-washed
caves round the point.

"Hi! Old Poltree!" shouted Lance, as he drew near, "where's Hezz?"

The broadest man present raised his head a little, screwed it round, and
unfolding his arms, set one at liberty to give three thrusts downward of
a hand which was of the same colour as all that could be seen of a very
hairy face--mahogany.

"Thankye," shouted Lance, turning off to the left, and the big man
folded his arms again and looked seaward, the others not having stirred.

Lance's turn to the left led him to a steep descent all zigzag--a way to
the shore that a stranger would have attacked like a bear and gone down
backwards; but Lance was no stranger, and the precipitous nature of the
way did not deter him, for he descended in a series of jumps from stone
to stone, till he finished with a drop of about ten or a dozen feet into
a bed of sand lying at the mouth of a wave-scooped hollow, from which
came strange moans and squeaks, the latter painfully shrill, the former
deepening at times into a roar.

The said stranger would have imagined that a person had fallen from the
cliff and was lying somewhere below, badly broken and wanting help; but
there was nothing the matter. It was only Hezz, or more commonly
"Hezzerer," in three syllables, and he had been busy at work putting a
patch on the bottom of a clumsy upturned boat which, as he put it,
"lived in the cave," and he was now daubing his new patch with hot tar
from a little three-legged iron kettle held in his left hand.

But this does not account for the groans and squeaks.

These were produced from the youth's throat. In fact, Hezz was singing
over his work, though it did not sound very musical at the time, for
something was broken; but it was only Hezz's voice, and it was only the
previous night that Old Poltree, his father, had said to Billy Poltree,
another of the big fisherman's offspring, "Yo' never know wheer to have
him now, my son: one minute he's hoarse as squire's Devon bull, and next
he's letting go like the pig at feeding time."

At the sound of the dull thuds made by Lance's feet in the sand, Hezz
Poltree whisked himself round and held his tar-kettle and brush out
like a pair of balances to make him turn, and showed a good-looking
young mahogany face--that is to say, it was paler than his father's, and
not so ruddy and polished.

"Hullo, Master--Lance," he said, widening his mouth and showing his
white teeth, joining in the laughter as the visitor threw himself down
on the sand and roared.

[Illustration: "Whisked himself round and held his tar-kettle and brush
out like a pair of balances."]

"I can't help it, Master--Lance."

"Try again," cried the new-comer, wiping the tears from his eyes.

"I do try," growled the boy, beginning once more in a deep bass, and
then ending in a treble squeak. "There's somethin' got loose in my
voice. 'Tarn't my fault. S'pose it's a sort o' cold."

"Never mind, gruff un. But I didn't know the boat was being mended. I
wanted to go out fishing, and the pitch isn't dry."

"That don't matter," growled Hezz, setting down his kettle and brush,
and catching up a couple of handfuls of dry sand, which he dashed over
the shiny tar. "Come on."

Lance came on in the way of helping to turn the clumsy boat over on its
keel; then it was spun round so as to present its bows to the sea; a
block was placed underneath, another a little way off, and the two boys
skilfully ran it down the steep sandy slope till it was half afloat,
when they left it while they went back to the natural boat-house for the
oars, hitcher, and tackle.

"Got any bait?" said Lance.

"Heaps," came in a growl. Then in a squeak--"Thought you'd come down, so
I got some wums--lugs and rags, and there's four broken pilchards in the
maund, and a couple o' dozen sand-eels in the coorge out yonder by the
buoy."

"Are there any bass off the point?"

"Few. Billy saw some playing there 'smorning, but p'raps they won't
take."

"Never mind; let's try," said Lance eagerly. "Look sharp; I must be back
in time for dinner."

"Lots o' time," growled Hezz, as he loaded himself up with the big
basket, into which he had tumbled the coarse brown lines and receptacles
of bait, including a scaly piece of board with four damaged pilchards
laid upon it and a sharp knife stuck in the middle. "You carry the oars
and boat-hook," came in a squeak.

They hurried down to the boat, and were brought back to the knowledge
that four pairs of eyes were watching them from a hundred feet overhead,
by Old Poltree roaring out as if addressing some one a mile at sea--

"You stopped that gashly leak proper, my son?"

"Iss, father," cried Hezz, in a shrill squeak, as he dumped down his
load.

Lance thrust in the oars and hitcher and sprang in, after giving the
boat a thrust; and as a little wave came in and floated her, Hezz ran
her out a bit farther and sprang in too, thrust an oar over the stern,
and sculled the craft out, fish-tail fashion, to where a black keg did
duty for a buoy. Here he kept the boat's head while Lance leaned over
the side to unhitch a piece of line and draw a spindle-shaped wicker
basket along the side to the stern, where he made it fast to a ring
bolt, the movement sending a score or so of eely-looking silvery fish
gliding over one another and flashing by the thin osiers of which the
basket was formed.

Then each seized an oar and pulled right away to get round the rocky
buttress which was continued outward in a few detached rocks, that stood
up boldly, to grow smaller farther out, and farther, till only showing
as submerged reefs over which the sea just creamed and foamed.

It was out here that the tide ran swiftly, a favourite spot for the bass
to play, and as they approached the familiar spot Lance handed his oar
to his sturdy companion, while he took one of the lines, laid the hook
and lead ready, and then drew the coorge in, opened a wicker trap-door
in the top, inserted his hand, closed the lid again, and with deft
fingers hooked the silvery writhing fish, popped it overboard, and let
the line run out with the tide, while Hezz kept the boat carefully, as
nearly as he could, in one place.

"There they are, Master Lance," he cried. "Be on the look-out; they'll
take that bait pretty sharp perhaps."

The lad was quite right, for hardly five minutes had elapsed before
there was a snatch at the line, and something was hooked.

"Got him!" cried Lance, whose face was glowing with excitement. "Oh, why
didn't Alfy come? I say, Hezz, he's a whopper. He does pull. Shall I let
him run?"

"Gahn! no. Haul him in fast as you can, 'fore he gets off."

The tackle was coarse and strong, and there was no scientific playing
attempted. It was plain, straightforward pully-hauly work, and in a very
short time the transparent water astern seemed to be cut into flashing
streaks by something silvery which was drawn in hand over hand, till,
just as Lance was leaning over to get his fingers close to the end of
the snood where the hook was tied, the water was splashed up into his
face, and he sat up with a cry of disappointment, seeing only a streak
of silver flashing in the sunshine, for the fish had gone.

"Never mind: bait again," squeaked Hezz.

"Bait again," cried Lance, imitating him. "What! with that hook? Look at
it. Nearly straightened out. I wish you wouldn't have such nasty
soft-roed things. Why, that was a fifteen pounder."

"Take another hook, Master Lance. Look sharp; look at 'em playing."

Lance put on a fresh hook, baited again, and sent the sand-eel gliding
off along the rushing tide, which played among the rocks like a
mill-stream, and waited excitedly for another snatch, but waited in
vain.

"Don't pull," he said at last; "let the boat run out a bit."

Hezz obeyed, cleverly managing so that the boat glided slowly after the
bait in the direction of the broken water where the shoal of bass could
be seen feeding; but they got no nearer, for so sure as the boat went
farther from land, so did the fish, and in spite of fresh and tempting
baits being tried there was no seizure made.

"That there one as got away has told all the others to look out," said
Hezz, with a chuckle. "You won't get another bite."

"Stuff and nonsense! Just as if fish could talk! Let's go out farther."

The boat glided on, with the current growing less swift, and at last
Lance drew in his line, sat down, and between them they rowed slowly in
against the sharp current.

"It's no good now," said Hezz. "Let's go along yonder by the mouth of
the caves, and try for a pollack among the rocks. If we don't get one we
may ketch a rock-fish or two."

"Or a conger in one of the deep holes."

"Nay, you won't ketch none o' them till it's getting dark."

"Dark enough in the holes," said Lance.

"Very well; you try."

So the boat was rowed out of the sharp current, and then away towards
the west under the cliffs, and about a hundred yards from the shore,
where the tide ran slowly. Here Lance gave up his oar and began to fish
again, trying first one and then another kind of bait, but with no
greater result than catching a grey gurnard--"tub" Hezz called it--and
soon after a couple of gaily-coloured wrasse, not worth having.

"Oh, this is miserable work!" cried the boy, drawing in his line and
covering a large hook with half a pilchard. "Pull a little farther
along, and I'll throw out in that dark quiet part. There'll be a conger
there, I know."

Hezz uttered a croak, and his eyes said plainly, "No conger there"; but
he rowed to the spot, which was where a rock rose up out of the water
like a little island, on which a dusky cormorant which had been fishing
sat drying its wet wings, paying no heed to the approaching boat till it
was some twenty yards away, when the bird took flight and went off close
to the surface.

"Now put her just in yonder," said Lance, "and be as gentle as you can,
so as to keep her there without splashing."

Hezz obeyed cleverly enough; and his companion, after seeing that the
line lay in rings free from obstruction, sent the heavy sinker and bait
right away to where the water looked blackest, making Hezz chuckle
loudly.

[Illustration: "Rev'nue cutter," said Hezz shortly.]

"What are you laughing at?"

"You: telling me to be so quiet, and sending the lead in with a splash
like that."

"Don't matter; it's only at the top. The fish deep down won't notice it.
Look! it is deep too," for the line went on running out as the lead
descended, and Lance seated himself to wait, with a self-satisfied look
upon his countenance.

"I like fishing in the still water," he said. "You see if I don't soon
get hold of something big."

"P'raps," said Hezz; "but I never caught anything here."

"Ah, you don't know everything. I say, what's that vessel out yonder?"

"_Chasse-marée_," said Hezz, shading his eyes to look at the long
three-masted lugger with a display of interest.

"No, no; the one with all the white sails set."

"Rev'nue cutter," said Hezz shortly; and proof of his words was given
the next minute, for there was a white puff of smoke seen to dart out
from her bows, and a dull thud echoed from the cliff.

"Why, she's after that long lugger. She's a smuggler," cried Lance
excitedly. "Is there going to be a fight?"

"Na-a-a-a-y!" growled Hezz. "She's only fishing."

"How do you know? She's a smuggler, and there'll be a fight. Let's row
out and see."

But in obedience to the summons the long low vessel glided slowly round
till her brown sails began to shiver and flap, and as the boys watched
they saw the cutter run pretty close up, and a small boat was lowered
and rowed across.

"They're French, and cowards," cried Lance, who was deeply interested.
"They've surrendered without striking a blow."

"Arn't got nothing to strike blows with," croaked Hezz sulkily. "Didn't
I tell you she was a fishing-boat?"

"Oh, yes; but I know what fishing-boats catch sometimes, Master Hezz,"
said Lance, laughing, his companion looking at him curiously the
while--"brandy snappers, 'bacco biters, and lace-fins, Hezz. But they're
French cowards, or they'd have made a run of it. I say, they'll make her
a prize, and take her into port. Where will they take her--Plymouth or
Falmouth?"

"Nowheres. They'll let her go."

The lads sat watching till all at once in the distance they saw the
little boat row back, and the sails of the _chasse-marée_ began to fill.

"Who's right now?" said Hezz, laughing.

"I am. They've put a prize crew on board."

"What! out of that little boat?" squeaked Hezz. "That they haven't.
There was five in her when she put put off, and there's five in her
now."

"You can't see at this distance."

"Can't I? That I can, quite plain."

"That's upset all my fishing," said Lance, "and it's getting on for
dinner-time. Oh, what bad luck I do have!"

"You ketch lots sometimes, and you did nearly get a fine bass to-day.
That was a good twelve-pounder."

"Twelve? Fifteen," said Lance, preparing to haul in his line.

"P'raps," said Hezz. "Going to try any more?"

"No; I mustn't be late for----Oh, look here! I've got one on."

For the line was tight, and as Lance began to haul, it was against a
heavy persistent drag.

"Lead caught in the rocks," croaked Hezz contemptuously.

"Oh, is it! Look here! It's coming up."

"Weed, then," squeaked Hezz.

"'Tisn't," cried Lance; "I know by the heavy, steady pull. It's a big
conger."

"No congers there."

"How do you know?"

"And if there were they wouldn't bite at this time of day."

"You mind your own business," cried Lance excitedly. "It's a thumping
big one, and he isn't awake yet to his being hooked. He's coming, and
he'll begin to make a rush directly to get in his hole. You begin
rowing, and get him right out away from the rocks."

Hezz did as he was told, but only made two or three strokes and then
stopped, for his companion had to give line.

"Slower," said Lance, panting, as he held on again. "Wait till he makes
a rush. I say, did you bring the big gaff hook?"

"No; but that line'll hold any conger you can catch, and I've got the
little chopper in the locker when he comes on board. But that isn't a
conger."

"'Tis, I tell you. I can feel him trying to get back.--What is it,
then?"

"Weed," croaked Hezz in his deep bass.

"You're a weed! It's a big conger, and he has got his tail round a rock
or in a hole."

"Let him go, then."

"What? Why he'd shuffle back into his hole, and I should lose him. Wait
till he gets a bit tired and gives way a bit."

"Let go, and if it's a conger he'll slack the line and come swimming up
to see what's the matter. But you've only hooked a weed."

"Ha! ha!" laughed Lance. "You're a clever one, Hezz. Look, he's coming
up quite steady;" and the boy drew in a couple of yards of line.

"It arn't a conger, or he'd begin to cut about now and shake his head to
get riddy of the hook."

"Then it's some other big fish. Think it's a shark."

"No. What would a shark be doing there?"

"I dunno; but he's coming up. I say, put down the oars."

Hezz nodded, laid in his oars, and stood close behind his companion,
gradually growing as excited for a minute or so, and then grinning.

"It arn't no fish," he said.

"It is, I tell you," cried Lance, as he kept up a steady haul, the boat
having yielded till it was exactly over the line.

"I never see a fish take it so quiet as that," continued Hezz.

"It's only till he sees us, and then he'll make a desperate rush to get
away."

"I'll be ready for him," said Hezz, laughing softly, as he gently rested
the handle of the boat-hook on the side, thrusting it out towards the
tightened line, which still came slowly in, though the strain threatened
to make it part. "Hope it will be good to eat, Master Lance."

"I know what it is," cried the boy, in a low hoarse voice. "It's one of
those great cuttles, the same as were washed on shore after last year's
storm. It will come up all of a lump, with its feelers and suckers
twisted round the line."

A sudden change came over Hezz. Instead of grinning, his face turned
preternaturally solemn, and taking his right hand from the boat-hook he
thrust it into his pocket, drew out a big jack-knife, to open it by
seizing the blade in his teeth.

"That's right," whispered Lance, husky now with the excitement; "but
don't use the knife if you can get a good hold with the hook. Look,
look, here it comes! Oh, it is a monster!"

[Illustration: "A vigorous cut divided the fishing-line."]

The boy had been steadily hauling till he had brought his capture nearly
to the surface, and he now caught sight of what seemed to be its curved
and rounded body.

"Now, Hezz--quick! down with the hook. Get a good hold at once. Snatch,
lad, snatch!"

But at the crucial moment, when the dark back of the monster slowly
rolled up to the surface, Hezz dropped the boat-hook, leaned over the
side, hindering his companion's view, and plunged his knife-armed hand
down under water.

The next moment there was a slight jar which ran from Lance's fingers
right up his arms, the tension ceased, and a yard or two of the stout
fishing-line flew up in the holder's face.

For, as if to save his companion from some danger, Hezz had reached down
as low as he could, and with a vigorous cut divided the fishing-line, so
that the dark round body sank down again like a shadow, leaving the two
lads gazing fiercely at each other.

"Oh, I say!" cried Lance. "Only to think of that! Why, Hezz, it's----"

"Never you mind what it is," said the boy roughly.

"And you knew it was, then?"

"Swears I didn't," said the boy fiercely. "Think I should have let you
fish there if I had knowed?"

"Why, there must have been a whole string of 'em tied together on a line
and sunk there."

"You don't know nothing of the sort," growled Hezz. "You didn't see."

"I saw one; and another coming like a shadow."

"No, you didn't."

"Yes, I did--brandy kegs--smuggled. Here, I'll hail the cutter."

"No, you don't," said Hezz fiercely; and as he stood with the knife in
his hand he looked threatening. "They couldn't hear you if you did."

"Then I'll make signals."

"No, you won't. I shan't let you, and you wouldn't be such a sneak,
Master Lance."

"It isn't the act of a sneak."

"Yes, it is. Your cousin would, but you wouldn't get poor men into
trouble."

That hit hard, and Lance hesitated.

"Why, it must be your father's and your brother's doing. And just under
our noses too! Oh, what a disgraceful shame! There, Hezz, I've done with
you."

"I didn't know about it, Master Lance."

"You must have known."

"Wish I may die if I did. There!"

"Take the oars, Hezz," said Lance coldly.

"But, Master Lance----?"

"Take the oars," said Lance sternly. "I want to go home."

"To tell Squire Penwith what you've seen? O Master Lance! you don't know
what you're going to do."

"No," said Lance sternly, as the lad took the oars and began to row
back, "I don't."

"You make me feel as if I'd sooner kill you than you should do this. It
means having my poor father took up and sent out of the country, and
p'raps he didn't know the kegs was hid like that."

"Go on rowing, I tell you," cried Lance sharply, "make haste. Pull! do
you hear? Pull!"

Hezz uttered a low sound something like a gulp, and dragged away at the
oars with all his might till he ran the boat on to the sands, where
Lance was perfectly aware, though he would not look up, that the four
big fishermen were still leaning over the rail and looking out to sea,
and he expected to hear a cheery question as to sport as he hurried up
over the sands and began to climb the zigzag.

But no hail came, for the men's eyes were bent upon the revenue cutter,
a mile away, watching every movement of that and the _chasse-marée_.

At least so thought Lance Penwith as he hurried home, pondering upon his
cousin's words, and asking himself whether he was not doing wrong by
associating with these fisher-folk on the cliff.

"I must tell father," he said to himself. "I ought to tell him," he
said; and then he began thinking of what it meant, the severe punishment
of pretty well every man in the cluster of cottages, some being sent to
prison, the younger men to serve in King George's men-of-war; and ever
since he could remember, they had all been to him the kindest friends.


CHAPTER II

"I can't help it," said Lance to himself, after a weary sleepless night;
"I don't feel as if I could go and tell tales. I'm not sure; and if I
was wrong, and these men were punished for what they did not do, I
should never be happy again."

Lance had made up his mind that he would have no more to do with the
people down by the cliff, for he felt now that they were not honest. But
there was a bitter feeling of disappointment in coming to this resolve;
for it had been so pleasant to get away from the refinements of home
with its choice cookery, plate, glass, and fine linen, to the boisterous
welcome he always had at Old Poltree's neat cottage. How delicious the
baked hake was, and how luscious the conger pie!--though they were as
nothing to the split and grilled fish he caught himself; and Hezz's
mother was always ready to cook for the two boys.

And now it was all over; but still he might go and climb to the steep
edge, from whence he could look down on the whitewashed cottages, the
busy harbour, and the boats.

This he did, and grew quite excited as he saw that the revenue cutter
was lying off the point, a couple of miles out, as if watching the
place.

"Poor old Hezz!" he said to himself bitterly, "I hope they will not take
him."

Then incongruously enough he smiled as he thought of the boy's breaking
voice.

They'd laugh at him if they heard him croak and squeak as he does now,
and perhaps let him off because he's only a boy. But it would be
horrible for the other men.

"Why, father's a magistrate too," said the lad suddenly, "and he'd be
with the others who punished them for smuggling if it was found out. Oh,
I can't go and tell what I know! It would be horrid."

Lance lay there upon the warm cliff for some time thinking, and then he
started and looked down, wondering at what was to him quite a marvel.
For there, moving slowly, about a hundred feet below him, was his
cousin, threading his way amongst the masses of granite tangled with
brambles, in a part where there was no path, nothing more than a faint
track or two made by the grazing sheep, and it seemed unaccountable.

"What's he doing there?" muttered Lance. "He must be looking for me.
Well, let him look. I don't want him. If I shout to him he'll only come
and begin to preach at me in his pompous way. When I'm in a good temper
it only makes me laugh; but I'm in a bad temper now, and if he begins I
shall feel as if I must punch his head."

So Lance lay and watched, making unpleasant remarks the while, all of a
derisive nature. He watched till Alfred had disappeared beyond the chaos
of rocks which had fallen from above, and at last he strolled back home,
forgetting all about his cousin till he took his place at the
luncheon-table, and felt surprised to see him there, looking quite cool
and as if he had passed the morning reading in the shade.

There was another surprise for Lance before he left the table, the
squire letting fall the announcement that Captain Barry was going to
dine there at six o'clock that evening.

"So you boys will have to put on your best manners."

"Who's Captain Barry, father?"

"To speak correctly, he is Lieutenant Barry, my boy, and is in command
of the revenue cutter lying on and off. They are giving us all a good
hunt up, for he tells me that there has been a great deal of smuggling
carried on along this coast; but I told him the only smuggling about
here is the smuggling of fish."

Lance felt that the tips of his ears turned hot, and thought that they
must be red. He knew that this was the opportunity for telling all he
had found out, but somehow the words would not come.

The officer was rowed ashore from the cutter that evening, and the
squire had walked down to the tiny harbour, with the two boys, to meet
him, and find him a frank, pleasant, middle-aged man, who, for some
reason, had never been promoted.

He shook hands, and Lance turned scarlet, and then glanced shoreward, to
see that Hezz was busy turning the clumsy boat half inside the cavern,
and that the big trousers and boots were up on the shelf, while the men
inside them seemed to be gazing out to sea in search of a coming shoal.

The officer was very pleasant and frank during his stay. He chatted with
the boys and asked them if they would like to go to sea; but somehow he
found Lance dull and glum, and the boy's father bantered him that night
after the visitor had gone back to the cutter.


CHAPTER III

A week had glided by, and fishing was in full progress below the cliff.
Hezz and his people had enclosed a small shoal of mackerel in their
seine, and at another time Lance would have been in the thick of the
business, revelling in seeing the line of corks drawn in closer and
closer till the shoal was dashing about seeking for a way of escape,
before the tuck net was brought to bear, and the arrowy wave and
ripple-marked fish were ladled out in baskets.

Lance had watched the movements of the cutter anxiously while she stayed
off the point; but one fine day she had glided away west with all sail
set to the light breeze, and the boy breathed more freely.

Then the days passed and nothing seemed to happen, except that when
Lance went along the high cliffs, climbing from place to place till he
settled himself down in some snug rift where he could scan the sea and
note what was going on in the cove below, to see if there was any sign
of smuggling, he found that his cousin came cautiously along no less
than three times, and the boy laughed to himself from his hiding-place.

"He's watching me to see if I go down and join Hezz. How can any one be
such a sneak?"

Lance often mused after this fashion as the days slipped by; but he kept
away from the people down by the cliff, in spite of a wistful look or
two he caught from Hezz, who came up to the house several times to sell
fish.

"No," Lance said firmly, "I haven't told tales; but I won't have
anything to do with smugglers."

One fine afternoon soon after dinner Lance saw his cousin go into the
study and take down a book, rest his head on his hands, and begin to
read.

Lance had followed him to propose that they should go inland and have a
ramble in the woods, but his cousin's action checked him.

"It's of no use," he said; "he wouldn't come."

So the lad went off till he reached one of his favourite look-outs, just
by a rift overgrown with brambles, where, when the tide was up, the
whispering and washing of water could be heard, showing that one of the
many caverns and cracks along the bold coast ran in a great way.

"Wish I knew which of them belonged to this," he had more than once
said; and upon this particular occasion as he seated himself he began
listening to the strange whispering sounds.

"I meant to have tried to find this out," he said, "along with Hezz.
Why, I did say something about it once, and he only laughed and said it
was a land-spring. Well, I can't get the boat now."

Somehow the place had a strange fascination for him that day, and after
looking about a bit he picked up a piece of mossy granite as big as his
head and pitched it among the bramble growth and ferns just where the
whispering washing sound could be faintly heard.

To his surprise there was the fluttering of wings, and a jackdaw flew
out and away.

"Nest there," he muttered; but his thoughts were divided by hearing the
stone he had pitched down strike heavily, sending up a hollow sound; and
directly after it struck again more loudly, and all was still.

He was in the act of rising to examine the spot, but he sank down
directly, ducking his head behind a great tuft of ragwort.

"Well, he is a sneak," he muttered.

He sat close, and Alfred passed about twenty yards below, going on
cautiously away to the right, and passing out of sight.

Lance sighed, rose, and looked away to the west; but there was no sign
of his cousin, so he walked back home.

The night came on soft and calm, and after sitting reading a bit, and
going over some translation ready for the vicar next day, Lance looked
up, to see that he was alone, so putting away his books he strolled out
on to the big sloping lawn to where he could see the sea; but it looked
quite dark and forbidding, and the stars were half hidden by a haze.
Still it was very pleasant out there, and after a time he turned to look
back at the house with its light or two in the windows of the
ground-floor, while everything else looked black, till all at once a
little window high up in the centre gable of the old Elizabethan place
shone out brightly with a keen steady bluish light which lasted while he
could have counted twenty, and then all was blacker than ever.

"Why, it's a firework," said Lance to himself. "It must be Alf."

He had hardly thought this when the light shone out again, burned
brightly for a time, and once more went out, leaving the boy wondering,
till it once again blazed out sharply, and left all blacker than ever.

Lance's mind was just as black and dark, for he could make nothing of
it. Alfred was not likely to be letting off fireworks. What could it
mean?

Coming to the conclusion that his cousin had been amusing himself in
some way or another connected with chemistry, he stood thinking for a
minute and then went in, to find the object of his thoughts sitting by
his aunt's side talking quietly, while the squire seemed engrossed in a
book.

"Well, perhaps you had better," said Mrs. Penwith. "There's nothing like
bed for a bad sick headache."

The boy sighed, said good-night, and went up to his room.

"He had too long a walk to-day," said Mrs. Penwith, "and the sun upset
him. By the way, Lance, your cousin complains about your being given to
avoiding him. Do, pray, put aside all sulkiness and be more brotherly."

"Why, it is Alf, mother, who never will come out with me."

"There, there, say no more about it," said Mrs. Penwith gently. "You
know I wish you to be brotherly, so do try."

Lance felt too much aggrieved to say anything, and sat in moody silence
till it was bed-time, when he said "good-night" and went to his own
room, thinking the while about those lights.

There he lay, thinking and listening for above an hour, during which he
heard the various sounds in the house of the servants shutting up and
going to bed, and soon after his father and mother's room door closed,
and he settled down to go to sleep.

He might as well have settled down to keep awake, for he turned and
twisted, and got out of bed to drink water, and got in again. Then he
turned the pillow and tried that. Next he threw off the quilt because he
was too hot. And so on, and so on, till he sat up to try and face the
question which haunted his brain: What did those lights in the little
upper window mean?

"It's of no use," said the boy at last. "I shall never go to sleep till
I know." He sprang out of bed and dressed himself, and then stood
thinking. Did he dare go up in the dark to that little room in the roof
and see whether he could find out anything?

Yes; and while the exaltation of brain was upon him, he softly opened
his door, went out into the broad passage, and along it to the end where
the little oak staircase led up to the three attic-like places in the
three gables, rooms that were only used for lumber and stores.

The boy's heart beat heavily as he went up in his stockings, and twice
over when a board cracked he was ready to rush back to his room; but
he forced himself into going on, and stood at last at the centre door of
the three, feeling that if he hesitated now he should never do it.

[Illustration: "A signal! came the next moment in answer."]

So pushing the door it yielded, and he nearly darted back, for there was
a peculiar sulphury smell in the dark room.

But Lance had made fireworks in his time, especially blue lights, and
the smell was just the same as that, and he no longer felt scared, for
the thought flashed across his brain that some one had burned some
pieces of blue light there, and if such were the case there would be
something on the window-sill on which they had been burned.

He stepped boldly in, and there, sure enough, he found what he
expected--a little piece of sheet-iron about half the size of a slate.

But what for?

_A signal_! came the next moment in answer; and wildly excited now, he
stepped back across the room, descended the stairs and went to the door
of his cousin's chamber, tried the door softly, found it yield, and
entered.

The bed was empty, and quite cold.


CHAPTER IV

A few moments elapsed, and then it was Lance who had turned quite cold.
For his brain was wonderfully active now, as he seemed to grasp as facts
that his cousin had not been watching him on the cliff, but had found
out something about the smugglers and was watching them. Then, too, he
recalled how friendly he had been with the captain of the revenue
cutter, and how they had talked together.

This, then, was the meaning of the signal: Alf had found out
something--of course; a long low _chasse-marée_ had been lying off that
day, he recalled, and the signal lights had been meant for the cutter,
which must have crept in at dusk, and for aught he knew the King's men
might be landing, in answer to the signals, to catch the fishermen and
smugglers in the very act of landing a cargo.

Right or wrong, Lance paused to think no more. It was a time to act and
try and warn his old friends. How could Alf be such a sneak?

Quickly and silently he stepped out and back to his own room, put on his
boots, opened the window and lowered himself down the heavy trellis,
reached the lawn, and ran to get to the zigzag and reach Old Poltree's
cottage on the ledge.

"I'll tell Hezz," he said to himself--"just say the King's men are out,
and then get back."

It is easier to make plans than to carry them out.

When Lance reached the long whitewashed cottage, meaning to knock till
Hezz came to his window, he was caught by a strong hand, wrenched round,
and a hoarse voice said in a whisper--

"Who's this?"

"I--Lance, Mother Poltree. I came to tell you I'm afraid the King's men
are coming to-night."

"Whish!" she said, as she clapped another great hand over his mouth.
"Who told tales--you?"

"No, no, I wouldn't."

"Whish! they're coming," she cried, as she stood listening. "They came
after you."

"I--I didn't know," whispered Lance, as he made out steps descending the
zigzag, showing that he was only just in time, for whoever it was had
been close behind.

"This way," said the old woman sternly, and all thought of retreat was
cut off, for she held the boy's arm firmly and hurried him to the end of
the cottage and across the patch of garden.

[Illustration: "For there below him, lit up by a few lanterns, he could
make out the hull of a great lugger."]

The way was new to Lance, and thoroughly excited now, he allowed the
sturdy old woman to half guide, half thrust him along, till the way was
so narrow along the steep cliff slope that at her bidding he went on
first, with the consequence that more than once he lost his footing, and
would have fallen from the narrow track but for the help he received.

At one time they were ascending as if to climb to the cliff top, then
down, and up again, till at the end of a few hundred yards a rift was
reached, down which the old woman hurried the lad, uttering a peculiar
hissing sound the while, which quite changed the aspect of the scene
which had unfolded itself to Lance's astonished gaze. For there below
him, lit up by a few lanterns, he could make out the hull of a great
lugger, lying in the jaws of the rift down which they were hurrying,
while men were wading waist-deep to and fro--those going out to the
lugger's side empty-handed, these coming bearing bales and kegs, which
they carried to a low rocky archway, so low that it must have been
covered when the tide was up, while now they stooped and passed in their
loads to other hands, which seized them and bore them away.

At the warning hiss uttered by the old fisherwoman the work ceased, and
as a man, evidently the captain, swung himself down into the water, Old
Poltree, his sons, and another man crept out from beneath the rugged
archway.

Few words were spoken. The captain of the lugger gave an order or two,
splashed through the water with his men, and climbed on board, where the
lanterns were extinguished, hitchers and sweeps thrust forth on either
side, and the English fishermen waded out to put their shoulders to the
stern of the boat and help to thrust her out into the open water.

Their help did not last, for the water deepened rapidly and the great
lugger was well on the move, and unless the boats of the revenue cutter
were waiting for them her safety was assured. The danger was from the
shore for those who had been breaking the laws.

"This your doing, young gen'leman?" growled Old Poltree fiercely,
approaching Lance.

"No!" cried the boy eagerly.

"Nay, no lies, my lad. The French skipper saw three lights, and he
thought it was our doing. You did it to bring 'em on."

"Indeed, no!" cried Lance. "I saw them too, and as soon as I guessed
what it meant I ran down to warn you; didn't I, Mother Poltree?"

"Iss, my son.--You're wrong, old man, it was t'other youngster. I told
you he was after no good."

"Then it warn't you, Master Lance?" squeaked a voice. "Hooroar!"

"You hold your row, Hezzerer," growled his father; and then quickly,
"Look, they've found the way down. Someun's showing 'em with a light."

His gruff voice was evidently heard, for from where the dull yellow
light of a horn lantern shone at the top of the gash in the massive
cliff a stern voice shouted--

"Surrender, in the King's name, or we fire."

"Fire away, then," muttered Old Poltree. "Tide'll be up soon. In with
you, my lads. In with you, missus, for you can't get back now."

"Come along, Master Lance," whispered Hezz, who had crept close to his
old companion.

"No, no!" cried Lance, aghast. "I'm not coming with you; I must go
back."

"Nay, my son; you can't now," growled Old Poltree. "In with you;" and he
dragged the boy down into the water and gave him a thrust, while as
Lance indignantly raised his head again to rush back, he saw by the
light of a single lantern held by one of the men that he was in a
spacious water-floored cavern which evidently extended for some
distance; but what interested him most in his awkward position was the
sight of the big old man on one side of the exit, his eldest son on the
other, each armed with a piece of broken oar, ready to defend the
natural door against all comers.

"Right away with that light," growled the old man, and its bearer
splashed through the water farther and farther away.

"Come on, Master Lance," whispered Hezz, catching him by the arm.

"Let go," cried the boy angrily. "I will not be taken with you."

"Nay, you shan't be, young Master Lance," whispered the old woman. "My
Hezz'll show you the way out, while my old man keeps the sailors back
till the tide's up and they can't get in."

"Yes, that's right, Master Lance," whispered Hezz, and the boy
unwillingly followed the lantern-bearer till at the end of a hundred
yards the water had ceased and they were walking over the dry rocky
bottom of the rapidly-contracting cave, where Lance noticed that a heap
of casks and bales had been hurriedly piled up.

And now from behind him there came the shouts of men and the noise of
heavy blows and splashing; but neither of those with him seemed in the
least disturbed, Hezz even chuckling and saying--

"It's all right, old mother; father won't let no one pass. I say, we
shall have to haul you up."

"'Fraid so, my son," said the old woman. "I'm too heavy to clamber now."

A wild feeling of excitement pervaded Lance all this time, mingled with
indignation at what he mentally called his cousin's treachery. But he
felt better at the thought that he was to escape, for the idea of being
captured with the smugglers was horrible.

And now his attention was taken up by the movements of Hezz, who, while
the man held the lantern up, took a coil of rope from where it rested on
a big stone, thrust his head and one arm through it, and began to climb
up a rugged narrow crack at the end of the cavern--climbing as if he had
been up there before, and soon disappearing from their view.

But they could hear him plainly enough, his boots grating on the rock,
and his heavy breathing coming whispering down for some minutes before
all was still, but only for the silence to be broken by a curious
rustling sound, and Lance caught sight of the rope uncoiling as it fell.

"Up with you," said the man with the lantern, and Old Poltree's second
son seized the rope, and by its help climbed up in much less time than
his brother; while Lance longed for his turn to come that he might hurry
away, but felt an unwillingness to go before the woman with them was
saved.

"Come on," was whispered, and the other man gave the lantern to Mother
Poltree, while the shouting and splashing at the cavern entrance grew
fainter.

In a very short time there was another summons from above, but at this
moment they were joined by big Billy Poltree.

"All right, mother," he said. "Mouth's pretty well covered. I'll go
next, so as to help pull you up. They can't get in now."

The man seized the rope, and as he disappeared in the dark crack Lance
thought of the consequences if the King's men came now and seized them,
so that he started round guiltily when he heard a sound behind him; but
it was only the old fisherman.

"Hullo, young squire," he said; "not gone? Well, I'll go next, and then
I can help with you both."

With a display of agility that was wonderful in so old and heavy a man,
he directly after seized the rope and climbed up, leaving Lance with
the old woman, who stood silently holding the lantern and gazing back.

"Tide's right over the mouth now," she said.

"Is it?" replied Lance; and anxiously, "Pray tell them all, Mother
Poltree, that I didn't betray them. I wouldn't do such a thing."

"Needn't tell 'em, my son," said the old woman. "No one would believe it
of you. But it's a bad job for us if they catch my folk. It means
sending 'em across the seas. Now, then, up with you, quick; and then
I'll dowse the light."

"No, you first," said Lance.

"Nay, my son, you. Don't waste time. They ought to be making for the
moors by now."

Lance seized the rope and climbed actively, finding plenty of foothold,
and soon after reaching the open air in the spot which he felt sure was
where he had heard the splashing and thrown down the stone.

"Now quick, boys," whispered Old Poltree. "She's got the rope fast round
her I can feel. Haul steady; give her time; and then we must make for
the hills. They won't hurt the women."

"Quick! this way; I can hear them," cried a familiar voice out of the
darkness, and from two ways there was a rush of footsteps and a
scrambling sound.

Lance made a dart to dash away, but some one flung his arms about him,
lifted him from the ground, and rolled with him over and over amongst
the furze and brambles.

"Keep still," whispered a voice in his ear; and he lay quiet, for it was
Hezz listening to the sounds of struggling and pursuit till they died
away, and then he rose.

"Don't say naught to me, Master Lance--I'm too bad; but you keep close
to me and I'll show you how to get back to the big house without the
King's men ketching of you. Quick! here's one of 'em."

This on hearing a hoarse panting, but a voice whispered--

"Hezz!"

"You, mother! Got up?"

"Yes, my son, with all the skin off my hands. Have they got away?"

"I think so, mother. What are you going to do?"

"Get home to tell the girls. And you?"

"See Master Lance safe, and then get hid somewheres till they're all
gone. I shall be all right, and they won't hurt you. Come on, Master
Lance."

No more was said, Lance having his work to do in climbing after his
companion, who led him by what by daylight he would have considered to
be an impossible path; but it ended at the stone wall which bordered the
cliff part of the home grounds, and when he began to thank his companion
he was gone, only a faint rustling as of a rabbit telling of which way.

Ten minutes later Lance had climbed back to his bedroom window, closed
it, and after regaining his breath he stole out into the passage to make
his way to his cousin's room.

But all was silent there. Alf had not returned.

Lance crept back to his own bedroom, undressed, and lay down to listen
for his cousin's return, undecided as to what he should do.

Nature decided it for him, sending him off fast asleep, wearied out by
his exertions; but before dawn his door was opened and a light step
crossed the floor and paused by his bedside, a low ejaculation as of
astonishment being heard, and then the steps were directed to the door,
which was softly closed.


CHAPTER V

Lance made his appearance at breakfast the next morning rather late, and
as he entered the room, wondering whether his father knew of the events
of the night, he saw at a glance that everything had come out, for the
squire was speaking angrily to Alfred, who stood before him with his
face cut and scratched, and a great piece of sticking-plaister across
one hand.

[Illustration: "Oh," he cried, "there you are, sir!"]

"You may have considered it your duty, sir, still I think it was very
dishonourable of Captain Barry to make use of you as his spy without a
word to me; but of course he would know that I should not countenance
such a thing. It is quite time you went away from home, sir; so prepare
yourself, and you will go to one of the big grammar schools as soon as
you can make arrangements. That will do, sir: I do not want to hear
another word. I am a magistrate, and I want to uphold the law, but all
this business seems to me cowardly and bad.--Oh," he cried, "there you
are, sir!"

"Yes, father," said Lance, drawing a deep breath.

"You know, I suppose, that the King's men have found a nest of smugglers
here, under my very nose?"

"Yes, father."

"And you were in bed all night, of course?"

"No, father. I found out by accident that Alf was going to betray them."

"Betray, eh? And pray how?"

"He burnt blue lights at the top window as a signal to bring the French
lugger ashore."

"Indeed! Worse and worse," cried the squire angrily. "And you, sir--pray
what did you do?"

"Went and told Old Poltree and his lads to look out."

"You did, eh?"

"Yes, father."

"And pray why?"

"Because, father," said the boy boldly, "I thought it was such a shame."

"You hear this, my dear?" said the squire, turning to Mrs. Penwith.

"Yes, love," said that lady, looking at her son with tearful eyes.

"And I am a magistrate, and my son behaves like this! 'Pon my word, this
is supporting the law with a vengeance. But here's breakfast. I'll think
about it, and see what I ought to do."

But the squire was so taken up with a visit from the commander of the
cutter, which had made its appearance off the point that morning, and
going down and seeing the clearing out of the cave, in which there was a
grand haul for the sailors, that he apparently forgot to speak to his
son. He had no prisoners brought before him, for the smugglers had all
escaped; and when Mrs. Penwith told him with a troubled face that their
two boys had met at the bottom of the garden, quarrelled, and fought
terribly, he only said--

"Which whipped?"

"Lance, my dear. Alfred is terribly knocked about."

"Oh," said the squire, and that was all.

       *       *       *       *       *

A month passed away before Hezz was seen back at the cottage, and oddly
enough that was the very day on which Alfred said good-bye to the place
and was driven off with his box, his cousin going with him to the cross
roads six miles away, where he was to meet the Plymouth waggon; and it
was on Lance's return that he strolled to the cliff to look down at the
cottage, and saw Hezz below on the sands once more tarring his boat.


CHAPTER VI

The cliff and the little harbour beneath looked as beautiful as ever;
but there was an element of sadness about the place whenever Lance went
down to see Hezz, for he was pretty sure to encounter one or other of
the sad-faced women busy in some way or another.

There was no playtime for Hezz, whose big, open, boyish face had grown
old and anxious-looking; but he always had a smile and a look of welcome
for Lance whenever he went down, and rushed off to get the boat ready
for a fishing trip somewhere or another.

But these were not pleasure excursions, for as soon as the boat was
pushed off the two lads tugged at the oars or set the sail to run off to
some well-known fishing ground, where they worked away in a grim earnest
way to get together a good maund of fish, a part of which was always
sold up at the "big house," and at a good price too.

As for the women, they worked hard in their patches of garden, or went
out in couples to bait and lay the lobster pots, or set the trammel
nets, sometimes successfully, more often to come back empty; but somehow
they managed to live and toil on patiently with a kind of hopeful
feeling that one day things would mend.

"Ever see any of the French smugglers now, Hezz?" said Lance to him one
day.

The boy's eyes flashed, and he knit his brows.

"No," he said, in a deep growl, for there had been no squeak in his
voice since the night of the fight; the last boyish sound broke right
away in that struggle, and he seemed to have suddenly developed into a
man. "No," he said, "nor don't want to. If it hadn't been for them the
old man and Billy and t'others would ha' been at home, 'stead o'
wandering the wide world over."

"Have you any idea where they are, Hezz?"

The lad looked at him fiercely.

"Want to get 'em took?" he growled.

"Of course," said Lance, smiling. "Just the sort of thing I should do."

"Well, I didn't know," said Hezz.

"Yes, you did," cried Lance. "Want me to kick you for telling a lie?"

"Well, you're a young gent, and young gents do such things. Look at your
cousin."

"Now, just you apologise for what you said, or I'll pitch into you,
Hezz," cried Lance. "Now then: is that the sort of thing I should do if
I knew where the old man and the rest were?"

"No," said Hezz, grinning, "not you."

"Then just you apologise at once."

"Beg your pardon, grant your grace, wish I may die if I do so any more.
That do?"

"Yes, that'll do. Now tell me where they are, just to show me you do
trust me."

"Tell you in a minute, Master Lance," cried the lad earnestly, "but I
don't know a bit. We did hear from a Falmouth boat as some un' had sin
'em up Middlesbro' way after the herrin'; but that's all, and p'raps
they're all drownded. I say, I'll tell you something, though. What d'yer
think my old woman said about your mother?"

"I don't know. What did she say?"

"Said she was just a hangel, and she didn't know what she should ha'
done all through the stormy time if it hadn't been for her."

"Oh, bother! I didn't want to hear about that," said Lance hurriedly.

"But you ought to hear, and so I telled you. I say, what's gone of your
cousin?"

"Never you mind. What is it to you?" said Lance roughly. "You don't want
to see him again."

"Nay, I don't want to see him, Master Lance, 'cause I might feel tempted
like; and I don't want to run again' him, it might make me feel mad."

"Ah, well, you won't feel mad, Hezz, for he is never likely to come back
here again. He's at a big school place, and going to college soon."

"Well, I'm glad he isn't likely to come; not as I should fly out at him,
but Billy's wife right down hates him, and there's the other women do
too, for getting their lads sent away. You see they've the little uns to
keep; and Billy's wife says to me, on'y las' Sunday as we come back
along the cliffs from church with the little gal, 'Hezz,' she says, and
she burst out crying, 'it's like being a lone widow with her man drowned
in a storm, and it's cruel, cruel hard to bear.'"

"And what did you say, Hezz?"

"Nothin', Master Lance. Couldn't say nothing. Made me feel choky and as
if my voice was goin' to break agen; so I give her luttle gal a
pigaback home, and that seemed to do Billy's wife good. Hah, I should
like to see our old man home agen, for it's hard work to comfort mother
sometimes when I come back without my fish, and she shakes her head at
me and says, 'Ah, if your father had been here!'"

"Poor old lady!" said Lance.

"You see, it's when she's hungry, Master Lance. She don't mean it,
'cause she knows well enough there was times and times when the old man
come back with an empty maund; but then you see she'd got him, and now
it's no fish and no him nayther.--No, I won't, Master Lance. I didn't
say all that for you to be givin' me money agen."

"Well, I know that, stupid. It's my money, and I shall spend it how I
like. It isn't to buy anything for you, but for you to give to the old
woman."

"Nay, I won't take it. If you want to give it her, give it yourself. I
arn't a beggar.--Yes, I am, Master Lance--about the hungriest beggar I
ever see."

"You take that half-crown and give it to Mother Poltree, or I'll never
speak to you again."

"No, I won't. You give it her."

"I can't, Hezz; she makes so much fuss about it, and kisses me, and then
cries. Seems to do more harm than good."

"I won't take it," growled Hezz, "but you may shove the gashly thing in
my pocket if you like.--Thankye for her, Master Lance; it arn't for me.
And look here, mind, I've got it all chalked down in strokes behind my
bedroom door, and me and Billy and the old man'll pay it all back agen
some day."

"All right, Hezz," said Lance merrily. "You shall; so it's all so much
saved up, and when you do pay it we'll buy a new boat, regular
clinker-built, copper-fastened, and sail and mast."

"That we will, Master Lance," cried the lad eagerly. "One as can sail
too, so's we can hold a rope astern and offer to give t'others a tow. I
say, think the old man will ever come back?"

"I hope so, Hezz."

"Ay, that's what I do--hopes. Sent over the sea, I s'pose, if they did."

"Oh, don't talk about it, Hezz!" cried Lance bitterly. "Why didn't they
be content with getting a living with the fish?"

Hezz made no reply, but trudged off to the long whitewashed cottage on
the cliff, where as Lance watched he saw Mother Poltree come out and
Hezz hand her the big silver coin with King George's head on one side.

The result was that the brawny old woman threw her apron over her face,
tore it down again and looked down below, caught sight of the giver, and
began to descend.

But Lance was too quick for her: he took flight and ran below the cliff,
scrambling over the rocks, for it was low tide, and had a toilsome climb
up a dangerous part so as to get back home.


CHAPTER VII

It was one bright spring morning after getting well on with his Latin
reading with the vicar, that Lance thought he would go down to the cliff
and see what luck Hezz had had with the trammel overnight.

Suddenly he stopped short and stood staring down at the cliff shelf,
hardly believing it was true, for there below him in a row stood four
great pairs of stiff flannel trousers in four pairs of heavy fisherman's
boots, just as if the men's wives had put them out in the sunshine
against the old wooden rail to sweeten and dry out some of the damp
salt, in case their wearers should come back.

But Lance Penwith had lived there too long to be deceived by such a
sight as that, and uttering a cry of amazement he began trying to break
his neck by a heavy fall before he arrived safely on the broad shelf, to
yell out, "Ship ahoy!"

Then, and then only, did the biggest and broadest pair of trousers begin
to move, and a great shaggy head turned to show a dark mahogany face
fringed with stiff white hair.

"Come back!" shouted Lance; "and you too, Billy; and you two."

"Master Lahnce, lad!" cried the old man, making a grab at the boy's hand
with one of his huge paws, clapping the other upon it, and working it up
and down slowly as he said, "The old 'ooman's told me all about it, and
I says, humble and thankful like, God bless yer!"

"And so says all on us," chorused his companions.

"That's right, my sons; that's right," growled the old man.

"But you've come back," cried Lance, trying in vain to free his hand,
for the others wanted to shake it, and Billy Poltree had to be content
with the left, while the other men ornamented the boy with fleshly
epaulettes in the shape of a hand apiece on the shoulders.

"Ay, my lad, we've come back," said Old Poltree solemnly, "for it's
weary months and months as we four has been in desert lands up the
eastern parts and up the norrard coasties; but it's allus been with a
long look-out for the native land as we felt as we must see once more
afore we died. We bore it all as long as we could, and then we said we'd
get home and see our wives and bairns, and then they might take us and
send us away across the main, for it arn't been living, has it, my
sons?"

There was a tremendous _No!_ and plenty of answering of eagerly put
questions before Lance could get away and run panting up to where the
squire and his mother were sitting at home.

"They've come back--they've come back!" he shouted, and then he stood as
if struck dumb at the thought of what he had done--raced off to tell the
only magistrate for miles round that the fugitive smugglers had returned
as if to give themselves up.

[Illustration: "Master Lahnce, lad!" cried the old man, making a grab at
the boy's hand.]

A few questions followed, and Mrs. Penwith sat gazing anxiously from
husband to son and back again, for the same thought occurred to her as
had flashed upon her boy--"What will he say?" But it was something quite
different from anything they expected.

"Come back, Lance? Yes, you've come back, and the dinner is getting
cold. Come along."

Lance stared.

But his father said something more before they left the table.

"So those smuggling rascals have come back? Well, I always expected they
would. A nice long lesson they've had. Well, knowing what I do, I shall
not take any steps unless I am obliged by pressure from Falmouth. Then,
of course, I must. They are your friends, Lance, not mine; and I suppose
they have quite given up smuggling."

"Yes, father," cried the boy; "Old Poltree told me, with tears in his
eyes, that if he had known what was to come of it he would never have
touched keg or bale. They'll never smuggle again."

"Let them prove it while they have a chance, my boy; it may tell in
their favour when they are arrested and sent for trial."

"But this is a very out-of-the-way place," he said afterwards to Mrs.
Penwith, "and I don't think any one will trouble them, for the matter is
almost forgotten now."

"But ought you to----"

"Where's that boy?" said the squire, frowning.

Lance had rushed off again to tell his friends on the cliff how his
father had taken their return.



"BY DEFAULT OF THE ENGINEER"

BY FRANKLIN FOX

LATE CAPTAIN P. & O. CO. SERVICE

     _Author of "Conqueror Compass," "Frank Allreddy's Fortune," &c. &c._


I

"Ye'll hae the gudeness, Mr. Williams, to be vary parteecular in having
the coals trimmed in the bunkers. I've nae been doon in yon bunkers
mysel', and I hae nae time at this moment to gang there; but I mind
hearin' tell that there's something peculiar about the construction of
them, so I'll thank ye to gie your attention to the matter, as I maun
gang awa' to the office the noo."

Mr. Williams, the second engineer, gave a rather gruff and surly
response to the order of his chief, who immediately afterwards turned
away and went on shore.

I, who was the third officer of the _Serampore_, upon the main-deck of
which vessel the above colloquy took place, was standing in the main
hatchway attending to the stowage of the cargo, and took but little heed
of the circumstance at the time, though events which took place
subsequently brought it to my mind.

Owing to some derangement of the Company's lines of service in the Red
Sea, it had been necessary to bring forward for immediate duty the old
_Serampore_, a side-wheeler, which, in consequence of the recent
introduction of screw-steamers into our fleet, was beginning to be
classed amongst the obsolete ones. Orders had been given by the agent
at Bombay, where the ship was lying, to have the vessel got ready for
sea at once and despatched to Aden and Suez, where her services were
required to take the place of another ship in the regular line of
Eastern communication.

The captain, officers, and engineers had all been hurriedly selected
from other vessels and appointed to this ship, the second engineer
having been the only officer in charge while she was laid up. He had
expected, with much confidence, that he would have been made chief
engineer in the event of the ship being wanted again, and, no doubt,
felt a considerable soreness at a chief engineer from another ship being
put over his head.

At this moment the chief officer called out to me--

"Have you got much more room there, Hardy? There are two more boat-loads
of stuff coming alongside now."

"Yes, plenty of room, sir," replied I, and was soon busily engaged in
superintending the safe stowage of boxes of tea, cases of indigo, and
the other articles that composed our cargo. On the upper deck there was
a constant stream of coolies shooting the baskets of coal down into the
bunkers on both sides of the deck, through the small round holes which
had been made for that purpose, and which were fitted with iron plates
for covers let in flush with the deck, when closed.

From the fact that such a ship as the old paddle-steamer _Serampore_ was
still available for service, it will be readily understood that the
incidents I am about to relate did not happen yesterday. In fact it was
before the days when the Suez Canal was opened; and consequently, when
it was known in Bombay that an extra P. & O. ship was put upon the
berth, several officers and others who had come from up country, and
were waiting for the regular mail to start to England, seized this
opportunity, with the idea of getting a few more days in Egypt than they
would otherwise have been able to secure.

In due time the _Serampore_ was coaled and her cargo all in, so she
slipped her moorings at Masagon and took up her berth off the Apollo
Bunder, where her passengers were to join her. As it was in the end of
the month of July, we anticipated meeting the south-west monsoon in its
greatest force, and had prepared for this by sending down all the
_Serampore's_ upper spars, lowering the topmasts half-way down the lower
masts, the backstays being "snaked" across and across the fore and main
rigging on both sides, while the fore and main yards only were kept up
aloft, and the trysail gaffs, with their respective sails.

[Illustration: "A quiet smoke."]

The _Serampore_, as it was the fashion with steam-ships of that period,
had a goodly show of top hamper when she was all a-taunto, and stripped
in the manner which I have just described, she appeared, in my eyes, to
present a melancholy aspect, something like a skinned rabbit. But as I
had only recently been enjoying sea life as a midshipman in a large
sailing-ship, that fact may excuse the comparison in which I indulged as
to her appearance.

We were to sail next morning at nine o'clock, and the evening was passed
by the chief and second officers and myself in a quiet smoke and a chat
about things in general.

"What's the new skipper like, Mr. Urquhart?" said the second officer;
"do you know anything of him?"

"Oh yes," replied the chief officer, "I think he's a very nice fellow."

"What's his name, sir?" said I.

"Skeed," replied the chief officer. "He was in the Navy once. I believe
his nickname there was 'Donkey Skeed.'"

"'Donkey' Skeed?" said I, laughing; "what, on account of anything in his
appearance?"

"Oh no; not on account of his ears," replied the chief, "but on account
of his obstinacy. When he once gets an idea in his head, nothing in the
world will ever knock it out of him."

"Where did you hear all this?" said the second mate.

"Oh, I remember hearing about him at home from a naval man I knew who
was messmate with him on the West Coast."

"Well," said the second officer, "there isn't much to be obstinate about
at present, except fighting the south-west monsoon."

"Exactly," replied Urquhart; "and from what he said to me to-day that's
just the very thing he's got in his head. He's got a new idea, he says,
which he is going to try."

"What is it?" said the second officer and I simultaneously.

"Well, he thinks that, instead of steering a direct course for Aden
right in the teeth of the monsoon, it would be better policy to edge
away across the Arabian Sea on a nor'-west course, making the monsoon a
leading wind, because he declares it his opinion that on the Arabian
coast the monsoon will be either much lighter or have drawn more to the
southward."

"What did you say to that?"

"Oh, I said I thought it might be so, but that we should have to
traverse considerably more distance; to which he replied that the speed
at which the ship would travel under the improved conditions of weather
would make up for that."

"I'm not at all sure about it," said the second officer.

"Nor I," said Mr. Urquhart. "But I believe he's going to try it this
voyage anyhow. Good-night, you fellows; I'm going to turn in."

Early next morning several bunder-boats came alongside. The bunder-boats
of Bombay, I may mention, are the most convenient water-carriages
possible, and very suitable for the wet and blowy weather prevailing in
the monsoon. They are large, roomy boats, with a covered-in cabin in the
after-part, capable of holding four or five people comfortably. They are
rigged with two short masts and a _patémar_, or lateen sail, and carry a
strong crew. The first passengers to appear were two ladies, two
children, and an ayah. These proved to be Mrs. Woodruff, her sister Miss
Reed, and her two children, the lady having been ordered home from
Allahabad, where her husband's regiment was stationed, on account of her
health. A captain and subaltern of the same regiment, invalided; then
two officers, Captains Thompson and Shaw, from Poonah, with their wives,
going home on furlough; a professor from the university, named Spiller;
and two more ladies, wives of civil servants, made up the number. While
the fourth officer was busy looking after the baggage, and before he
had well got it out of the gangway, the quartermaster of the watch
called out--

"Look out, sir; captain's coming alongside."

"Shove that bunder-boat off, out of the way! Clear the gangway there!"
and in another minute the _Serampore's_ white gig flashed up alongside,
and Captain Skeed sprang up the accommodation ladder.

All of us on deck saluted him, and turning hastily to the chief officer,
he asked--

"Have you ordered steam, Mr. Urquhart, for nine o'clock?"

"Yes, sir."

"The ship appears to be down by the stern. Isn't she, Mr. Urquhart?"

"I believe she is, sir, a little. The carpenter hasn't given me the
draught this morning."

"She appeared to me, as I pulled off in my gig, to be eight or nine
inches at least, if not more."

"I thought she would do better in monsoon weather a little by the stern,
but I'd no idea she was as much as that, and there's nothing in the
cargo stowage that I'm aware of to account for it," said the chief
officer.

"Well, I don't know that it matters very much," rejoined the captain;
"at all events, we can't alter it now. See everything ready for slipping
from the buoy at nine o'clock. Now we'll have breakfast," added he, as
eight bells struck. "Has the purser come off with the ship's papers
yet?"

"Not yet, sir; but he's been gone some time. I expect he'll be here
every minute," replied Mr. Urquhart, as they entered the saloon
together.

At the appointed hour the _Serampore_ slipped from her buoy, and
steaming away through the shipping at anchor, soon passed the light
vessel, and leaving Colaba lighthouse on her quarter, began to breast
the heavy seas and face the rain and spray that the fierce monsoon
blast drove against her. In half-an-hour's time nothing was visible but
the white-capped waves pounding against her bows, dimly seen at times
through the thick driving rain that enveloped her, as it were, in a
dreary and isolated world of her own.

[Illustration: "This is a pleasant prospect."]

"This is a pleasant prospect," thought I to myself, as I buttoned up my
oilskins and ascended the bridge ladder to relieve Mr. Urquhart at eight
o'clock.

"Keep her west-sou'-west," said that officer, "and call the captain if
there is any change."

"All right, sir," said I. "What's she going?"

"Five and a half," replied the chief officer; "twelve revolutions. Keep
a good look-out for ships, Mr. Hardy."

"Ay, ay, sir," said I. "There's one comfort, that we can't change to
much worse weather than we've got."

"No," said he with a laugh, as the _Serampore_ buried her broad bows
right up to the heel of her bowsprit, over an extra heavy sea.

The chief officer and his satellite, the fourth, who kept watch with
him, after divesting themselves of their oilskins, betook themselves to
the comfortable and well-lighted saloon, where such of the ladies and
gentlemen as had not succumbed to the influences of the weather and the
diving of the ship, were endeavouring to get up a show of sociability;
though not even Miss Reed, who had struck me at dinner as being a
lively, agreeable, and pretty person, had courage enough to attempt a
performance on the piano.

"I wonder how many days we're in for of this," thought I to myself, as I
paced the bridge, the pitching of the vessel jerking me against the rail
at every other step. "Let me see--it's about 1700 miles to Aden, I
think. At the rate we're going, we shall have nearly a fortnight of
this. It's enough to make one savage;" and to relieve my feelings, I
immediately yelled out to the two look-out men who were on the
forecastle (Lascars, of course)--

"_Koop dek agle_" ("Good look out forward").

"_Acha, sahib_" ("Very well, sir"), came back like a shot from the men
on duty, who were getting soused every now and then by the seas that
broke over the bows.

The night was dark as well as thick. The wind howled shrilly through the
_Serampore's_ rigging, giving me a melancholy accompaniment to my march
backwards and forwards across the bridge platform. I kept a bright
look-out for any ships that might be about, as we were just now in the
track of vessels bound up to Kurrachee or the Persian Gulf, and I knew
that there would be scanty time to do anything to avoid a collision
should we chance to meet one. Nothing, however, happened to disturb the
dull monotony of what sailors would describe as a regular pile-driving
business.

At eight bells (midnight) I was glad to deliver up my charge to Mr.
Sinclair, the second officer, and betake myself to my comfortable cabin
and repose, which not even the staggering and pitching of the
_Serampore_, nor the dash of the spray and rain against my cabin, which
was on deck, could disturb.

The next day the weather seemed to be, if possible, worse than it was
when we started. The seas were heavier and more irregular, and the wind
seemed to blow even harder than it had done. During my forenoon watch
the log only showed five knots an hour, and the sky was so thick with
rain and mist that we got no sights. Some of the passengers made their
appearance on deck, and tried to take constitutionals, pacing fore and
aft the raised quarter-deck, but soon gave the attempt up as hopeless,
and went below to amuse themselves with books or chess, cards or
conversation.

My night watch was only a repetition of previous experience, and I fear
it would tire my readers if I favoured them with a longer description of
the wind, the sea, and the weather. It is necessary to make a voyage in
the south-west monsoon before any one can quite realise what it means.
The best description of it I can give in a few words is, a lengthened
duration of a south-west gale in the English Channel, with thick weather
and a temperature of about seventy-five or eighty degrees.

On the fourth day out, I was keeping the forenoon watch as usual, and
had left the bridge for a moment or two to compare the standard with the
binnacle compasses, and as I passed the saloon companion, which had a
hood over it facing aft, I saw Miss Reed with one of her sister's little
girls standing at the top of the ladder. Of course I lifted my cap and
wished her good-morning.

"Do you think we shall have any better weather soon, Mr. Hardy?" she
asked. "I've been watching those great seas shoot up under the stern of
the ship, and they do look so cruel and savage that it positively
frightens one."

"I'm afraid there's not much chance of any real improvement till we get
to Aden," said I; "but there's nothing that you need be frightened
about, for the old ship is as sound as a bell, and is fighting her way
on as well as we could expect under the circumstances."

"My sister's a very poor sailor," said she, "and I don't believe she'd
have come if she had thought it was going to be anything like this."

I had taken a step aft towards the binnacle, remembering that I was in
charge of the deck, and that talking to passengers on duty was not
exactly in harmony with the Company's regulations, when the _Serampore_,
after making a moderate dive, encountered an unusually heavy sea, which
threw her nose up into the air, as it were, and Miss Reed, having for
the moment relaxed her hold upon the companion-rail, was, with the
child, shot out upon the deck as if she had been flung by a gigantic
catapult. The child was rolling towards the rail, where there was only a
slight netting, which, if it parted, as being old it very likely might
with her weight, would leave nothing between her and the raging sea
beneath, when I made a desperate bound forward and caught a firm grip of
her dress. At the same time swinging myself round, I was able with my
left arm to arrest the headlong rush of Miss Reed against the corner of
the skylight, towards which she was helplessly thrown. But the impetus
with which she was flung was so great that I could only save myself from
falling by pressing my back against the skylight.

[Illustration: "Caught a firm grip of her dress."]

In a minute she recovered herself, and seizing the child in her arms,
she gave me a grateful look, and murmuring her thanks, allowed me to
hand her down the companion.

I had scarcely done this when Captain Skeed popped his head out of his
cabin door.

"Send for the chief officer and chief engineer, if you please, Mr.
Hardy."

"Ay, ay, sir. Quartermaster, tell Mr. Urquhart and Mr. Stewart that they
are wanted by the captain."

In a few minutes both those officers were closeted with Captain Skeed.

As I resumed my walk on the bridge, I confess I felt some curiosity to
know what the subject of the colloquy going on in the captain's cabin
might be, for I was sure that something or other of importance must be
under discussion. I had not long to wait for one result, at all events,
of the deliberations. Directly we made it twelve o'clock, and the second
officer had handed in to the captain the ship's position by dead
reckoning, for we had seen neither sun, moon, nor stars since we left
Bombay, I received orders to alter the course.

"Keep her away to west-north-west, Mr. Hardy," shouted the captain from
the quarter-deck; "and set the fore and aft sails with a single reef in
them."

"Port four points, quartermaster," said I; "keep her west-north-west.
_Serang, sub adimee seeah carro seede mar_" ("Boatswain, pipe all hands
make sail").

In a few minutes the trysails were opened out, the reef points tied, and
the sails set, together with the fore topmast staysail. The monsoon was
blowing from about south-west by south, so that with the sheets hauled
flat aft they were just clean full, the luffs only lifting a little as
the ship dived over the heavy seas. The alteration in the course brought
the sea much broader on the _Serampore's_ bow, some of the waves, in
fact, coming nearer her beam than her bow, but the canvas steadied her
greatly. She only shipped half the quantity of water that she had been
doing, and although her progress was not greatly accelerated, she went
along much more steadily and comfortably than she had done hitherto. As
soon as the sails were set and the men piped to dinner, Sinclair came up
on the bridge to relieve me.

"What was the council of war about? Did Urquhart tell you?" asked I.

"Oh yes," replied Sinclair; "the captain's determined to try his plan of
making the Arabian coast where the wind will help him, and then steaming
up along the land to Aden. From what Urquhart said, he wanted to be sure
about the coals, as we shall have a considerably longer distance to
cover by the new route."

"I hope he hasn't made a mistake," said I; and leaving Mr. Sinclair in
charge, I went off to work up the day's reckoning and have my lunch.

For the next five or six days the _Serampore_ was kept on the same
course with the same canvas set; and it certainly appeared that the
captain's theory was an accurate one, for as we approached the coast of
Arabia the monsoon blew rather less fiercely, and favoured our progress
a little more, so that the _Serampore_ had been making six and six and a
half knots by the log, instead of five and five and a half as she had
been making before the course was altered.

On the forenoon of the tenth day from our leaving Bombay the weather
cleared up a little just before noon, as it frequently does, and gazing
intently ahead, I fancied that I could see through the haze of rain that
still remained, a darker appearance ahead than there would be with mere
mist. At this moment the captain came up on the bridge. I pointed this
out to him at once, exclaiming--

"That looks remarkably like the land to me, sir."

"So it does, Mr. Hardy," said the captain. "Unless I'm very much out in
my reckoning, we ought to make Gebel Camar, or the Mountains of the
Moon, as they are called, very soon, and probably what you see is really
the land."

At this moment Mr. Stewart, the chief engineer, came up the bridge
ladder in an excited and hasty manner. A glance at his face told me,
before he opened his lips, that something was wrong.

"Captain Skeed, I've just made the discovery that the large pockets in
both the foremost bunkers are empty, and we haena got more than a few
hours' steaming in the ship."

"Good heavens! Why you told me the other day that we had eight or ten
days' full steaming in the ship."

"I know I did, sir, but I reckoned upon fifty tons in the twa pockets.
It appears now that that fellow Williams, who, I may say, has behaved
more like a deevil than a mon all the voyage, never fashed himsel' to
see the coals trimmed into the pockets, as I gave him orders to do in
Bombay."

"What does he say about it?" said the captain.

"He actually tells me that it was no his business, and I ought to hae
seen to it mysel'."

"I never heard of pockets in bunkers before," said the captain.

"Nor anybody else," said Mr. Stewart. "They're just bunkers within the
bunkers. Ye can't get to them frae the deck, and to fill 'em with coal
it has to be passed in by the trimmers through a hole that's cut in the
bulkhead."

"Confound such contrivances!" exclaimed the captain, stamping his foot
on the bridge. "Well, Mr. Stewart, we must make a sailing-ship of her,
that's all. There's the land, and we shall have to keep clear of it
under canvas. How long will it take you to disconnect?"

"I dinna ken, sir, that ye can disconnect the paddle-wheels at all; and
anyhow, if it's possible to do it, the gear will be set as fast as a
rock, for I doubt if they've been disconnected since she was built."

"If you can't disconnect, then, can you take the floats off?"

"There's muckle sea on for a job o' that sort; but maybe by lifting the
paddle-flaps at the top we could take the upper ones off."

"Then keep enough steam so as to move the wheels as required, and set
all your engineers to work to unscrew the bolts and take the floats
off."

"Vera weel, sir," said the engineer, and in a few minutes the four
engineers and the boiler maker with all the firemen mounted the
paddle-boxes with spanners and hammers, and set to work unscrewing the
nuts and removing the floats as fast as they could, the engines in the
meantime having been stopped.

The chief officer was then summoned by the captain to commence
immediately re-rigging the ship. As the top-masts had to be swayed up
and fidded, topsail-yards crossed, and top-gallant mast sent up, besides
all the sails being bent to the yards, every soul of the ship's company
was fully occupied for the rest of the day.

During all this time the _Serampore_ was gradually drifting towards the
land, which became more distinct as we approached it.

By sunset the engineers had succeeded in getting off all the floats, the
engines having been turned gently to move the wheels as required, and
the sailor part of the ship's company had got matters so far advanced
that we were able to set reefed topsails and courses upon the ship. The
captain then summoned all of us officers to his cabin.

I could see that he had not even yet recovered from the exasperation
caused him by what had taken place.

"I have sent for you all," he said, "to ask your opinions on the
situation. It's no use to attempt to work the ship to Aden under canvas.
I propose, therefore, to heave-to till daylight, and then run into one
of the bays on the coast to leeward of us. I see there is one marked on
the chart between Seger and Kalfat, near the town of Doan, and if I can
make that without running up against any rocks I shall anchor the ship
there. Has any one anything better to propose?"

We all said no, and the council broke up.

In accordance with the decision arrived at, the _Serampore_ was hove-to
for the night. At daylight next morning all sail was made on her, and
with wind abaft the beam she ran in for the spot which Captain Skeed had
indicated as suitable for his purpose.

The coast stood out barren and rocky, but there was a break in it
visible right ahead. With the lead going, and a sharp look-out for
rocks, we sailed into a small bight or bay under the lee of Seger Point,
and let go her anchor in thirteen fathoms. As the cable was veered out
she swung round head to wind and sea with her stern inland; but as she
tautened her cable a crash sounded from aft, and we felt her stern bump
upon a sunken rock.

"My God!" exclaimed Captain Skeed, "the ship is lost," and he fell upon
the deck insensible. We carried him into his cabin, and the doctor was
immediately summoned, but all his efforts to restore animation were
unavailing. Captain Skeed was dead.


II

Although the position taken up by the _Serampore_ was somewhat sheltered
from the force of the monsoon by a projecting point of land, still there
was a heavy swell in the little bight or bay where she was, which broke
upon the rocky and barren shores around her with an incessant roar and
clouds of spray. The swell lifted her stern again and again, causing her
to strike heavily as each succeeding wave swept under her. At last with
a final heavy bumping crash which carried away her after spars, she
settled down upon the rocks, which were afterwards found to be the end
of a reef stretching out from the land, partially visible above water at
certain times of the tide.

The sudden and untimely death of Captain Skeed spread a feeling of
consternation and horror through the ship, and aggravated the anxiety
which the passengers felt at their situation.

Mr. Urquhart, of course, had to take the direction of affairs, and when
he met the passengers at dinner he had a difficult task before him.

The ship appeared to be now fixed firmly upon the rocks at her stern,
and her anchor kept her from moving in any direction. The water could be
heard rushing in through the damaged plates at the stern, and in order
to prevent her sinking altogether when the water filled her forward, Mr.
Urquhart caused the after part of the ship to be blocked up with an old
sail against the leaky places, and spare iron plates and boards wedged
against it to keep the water back.

Mr. Urquhart had not been in the saloon a minute before he was assailed
with questions.

"Can you tell us whereabouts we are, Mr. Urquhart? What part of the
coast are we upon?" asked Professor Spiller.

"The ship is about one hundred and fifty miles south of the Kuria-Muria
Islands in one direction, and between four and five hundred in the other
from Aden."

"What in the name of Heaven did the captain anchor here for?" asked
Captain Shaw.

"His idea was, that lying here in smoother water, he might be able to
remove the ironwork of the paddle-wheels, which would render the ship
unmanageable under canvas, and then he intended, I believe, either to
sail her back to Bombay, or to wait until the monsoon broke, and try to
reach Aden."

"Poor fellow, poor Captain Skeed, I'm sure he would have done the best
thing possible," exclaimed Mrs. Woodruff.

"No doubt he was a good officer," said the professor. "But what's to be
done now?"

"Of course," said Mr. Urquhart, "that plan is knocked on the head now.
The ship is, to all intents and purposes, a wreck."

"What chance is there of our being seen and picked up?" asked the
professor.

"Not a very encouraging one, I am afraid; there is no regular trade
along this coast," replied Mr. Urquhart.

"But vessels pass this way occasionally, don't they?" said Captain Shaw.

"Sometimes country vessels, as they are called--ships that go trading
about to all sorts of coast ports, in the employ of native
merchants--may pass this way, bound to or from the Persian Gulf, but I
can't say I know anything at all about them."

"And how about the natives?" said the professor; "are they likely to be
friendly or hostile to us, do you suppose?"

"There, again, I am sorry I can give you no information; but I shall
make it my business to see that we are prepared to give them as warm a
reception as we can, should they attempt to molest us."

"And what is your idea that we should do eventually?" asked Captain
Thompson.

"I'm afraid that we can do nothing at all at present. Fortunately we
have plenty of provisions and water to last for a considerable time, and
all the boats are in good condition, if the weather would permit us to
make use of them. We can only prepare ourselves to resist any attack
that the natives, should they be hostile, may make upon us, and keep a
good look-out for any vessel that may be passing. If any of you,
gentlemen, can suggest anything, else, I shall be quite pleased to adopt
it."

The next day Captain Skeed's body was taken on shore to be buried. Mr.
Urquhart had caused a grave to be dug in the sand, near a remarkable
mass of rock about some five hundred yards from the beach. Several of
the passengers, and all the ship's company, attended the funeral, all
the ship's boats being lowered when the time came; and after the funeral
service had been read by the purser, a heap of stones of all sizes,
collected by the crew, was piled upon the grave.

I cast my eyes around me as I watched this melancholy performance, but I
could see nothing in the distance in the shape of a living creature. It
was all a trackless waste of sand and rocks.

After we returned on board, Mr. Urquhart sent for the chief engineer,
and told him to bring Mr. Williams, the second engineer, on the
quarter-deck. When he appeared, Mr. Urquhart said--

"It was Captain Skeed's intention to have disrated you from your
position as second engineer, in consequence of your gross neglect in
omitting to see the ship's bunkers properly filled with coal, and for
your insubordinate conduct to the chief engineer."

"It was just as much Mr. Stewart's business to see to the coaling as
mine," replied Williams.

"Silence if you please, sir. Under the present circumstances I do not
propose to carry out the intention of the late captain; but I must tell
you that entries relating to your conduct have been made in the official
log-book of this ship, and that any further steps in the matter will be
left to the decision of the managing directors of the Company when we
are able to get away from this place. I hope, if you have an
opportunity, you will endeavour to redeem your past misconduct, which
has entailed such terrible consequences upon the _Serampore_, and
everybody on board of her."

Mr. Williams made no reply, but turned and went below. After he had
gone, Mr. Stewart remarked--

"He's nae such a bad chiel, I'm thinking, at bottom, but he was mad
because he didna get the berth himsel'."

After these occurrences the days began to pass by with a dreary
monotony. Every morning when I got up, it was with the expectation that
something or other would happen soon, and every night when I turned in,
it was with the same uneasy feeling of anticipation or dread hanging
about me. Mr. Urquhart ordered the watches to be kept regularly, as if
we were at sea, and during the day a look-out man was kept at the
mast-head to watch for a passing sail. The mizzen-mast, with most of its
gear, and the main-top mast had been carried away by the successive
shocks of the ship bumping on the rocks, but everything stood forward.

The second officer was ordered to get up and examine what quantity of
powder and ammunition there was in the ship. We had a stand containing a
dozen muskets and also a few cutlasses, together with a dozen
boarding-pikes. These were all the small-arms belonging to the ship, and
there were two nine-pounder guns for signalling purposes mounted on the
quarter-deck.

"Don't you think," said I, "'twould be a good plan to have some
cartridges made, in case of anything happening?"

"Happy thought, Hardy," said Sinclair. "We'll get the powder up on the
saloon table, and perhaps the ladies will help us. Hold on a bit, how
about the bullets?"

"Ah, lucky thing you thought of that. We must get old Stewart to put his
men on to cast some for us, if we can find any lead."

I ran off immediately to hunt up the carpenter, who fortunately found a
big roll of lead in the bottom of his storeroom, which was soon in the
course of being transformed into bullets by some of the firemen.

I remembered also that a couple of kegs of powder for our agent at Aden
had been shipped with the cargo, and these were soon got out and the
contents utilised for large and small cartridges. After all this had
been done, time hung heavy on our hands. Nobody seemed to be in good
spirits enough to start any amusement, and a week of the most depressing
inaction passed away. All this time not the vestige of a native had been
seen anywhere in the vicinity of the ship.

The military men on board seemed to feel the situation almost
unbearable.

"I'll tell you what it is," said Rivers, the subaltern of Colonel
Woodruff's corps, to the other military passengers one morning, "I can't
stand this sort of thing any longer. Let's make up a party and try and
ascend that mountain there."

"I don't mind," said Captain Thompson.

"We might find something to shoot," said Captain Shaw. "We've all got
our rifles with us, haven't we?"

"Yes," said Thompson; "or we might get shot at instead of shooting
something."

"What are you talking of doing?" asked the professor, coming up at this
moment.

"Oh! we're thinking of doing a kind of picnic up the mountain yonder.
Will you join us, professor? You might be able to enrich science with
specimens of the flora and fauna of this howling wilderness," said
Rivers.

"I doubt if there's any great surprise for science hidden about here;
but I shall be very pleased to join the party. When is it to be?" said
the professor.

"Oh! shall we start to-morrow?"

"Yes, let it be to-morrow. What do you say, Thompson?" said Shaw.

"Agreed!" cried the rest.

"Very well, then," said Rivers. "You fellows get your rifles all ready,
and revolvers if you've got any, and I'll go and interview the purser
for a hamper of prog. And look here, Thompson, just ask Urquhart to let
young Hardy come with us, and half-a-dozen Lascars."

"To carry the game, eh, Rivers?"

"Just so; we may find them useful."

"Don't you want some of the ladies to go too?" asked Shaw.

"I've no objection, I'm sure," said Thompson.

"I think you'd better leave the women out of it," said Captain Staveley;
"I shouldn't like to have the responsibility on my mind if anything did
happen, you know, and I fancy we're going to make rather a leap in the
dark."

"All right," rejoined Rivers. "Then we'll start at daylight to-morrow.
What do you say, you chaps?"

Everybody agreed to this proposal; and I shortly had a message telling
me that the chief wanted me.

"There's a sporting party going out to-morrow, Hardy. You take six hands
with you, armed with cutlasses, and go with the party. You must use your
own discretion and act according to circumstances."

Next morning we all set off at the appointed hour, having been landed on
some rocks at a little distance from the ship. The Lascars appeared to
enjoy the chance of stretching their legs, and followed in the steps of
the party led by Mr. Rivers, chattering like schoolboys out for a
holiday.

"We'll make for that spur that sticks out seawards half-way up the
mountain," said Rivers. "I've got a compass on my watch-chain, and it
bears just a little to the west of south from us, so we shall know the
opposite bearing will take us back to the ship."

"That's a very sensible precaution of yours," said the professor. "How
many miles do you reckon we are from the foot of the mountain?"

"Five or six miles," was the reply.

"Come on then, step out; we shall have the sun directly, and climbing
will be no joke then," said Shaw.

So we all trudged along at a round pace. I had taken the precaution to
bring a revolver with me that Mr. Urquhart lent me, and a fowling-piece
and a pocketful of cartridges of my own.

After we had tramped along for about an hour over the sandy plain, and
lost sight of the ship, which was hidden by projecting rocks, we reached
the foot of the mountain, and found a sort of track which led us into a
narrow gorge overhung by rocks on each side. We penetrated through this
for about a quarter of a mile. At the end of it there were two tracks
visible, one leading up the side of the mountain, and the other,
branching to the left, seemed to lead to habitations of some kind, for
the road was a beaten track, and the professor declared that he could
see smoke in the air at a distance.

"Here's a parting of the ways," said Rivers. "Shall we start to ascend
the mountain? Shall we follow the road, which may lead us to some
habitations? or shall we sit down and have our tiffin?"

Rivers' proposals being put to the vote, that for tiffin was carried
unanimously; so finding the softest stones for seats, we very soon
disposed of the provender in our hamper, the Lascars refreshing
themselves in their own fashion.

"Now, I think," said Rivers, "as we haven't met with anything of
interest during our walk, we'd better go and see if there really is a
village there, and what it's like."

[Illustration: "Uttering a wild yell, rushed off towards the nearest
hut."]

Accordingly we set off upon the track leading to the left, and after a
quarter of an hour's walk, turning an abrupt corner formed by a huge
boulder, we came upon a number of huts clustered together. There were
some palm-trees growing in the midst. No doubt this was one of the oases
that are said to be dotted about the country. We had not made many more
steps in the direction of the village, when a wild-looking figure, half
naked, his long reddish-coloured hair standing upright on his head,
darted out from behind a boulder ahead of us, and uttering a wild yell,
rushed off towards the nearest hut.

"Gentlemen, let me advise all of you to look to your arms, and see they
are ready for use," said Rivers, "for we shall soon know now whether we
have fallen amongst friends or foes."

We all halted for a moment and examined our rifles and guns, and I
called to the Lascars to keep close to us and be prepared to use their
cutlasses at a moment's notice. A few more steps brought us amongst the
huts of the village, from which men, women, and children stared at us
with looks of wonder. The fellow who had first descried us still ran on
ahead, and we followed him until we were in the centre of what appeared
to be a considerably large settlement. He had never ceased uttering his
hideous yell as he went along, and on entering an open square, which had
a hut bigger than the rest on one side of it, probably the abode of the
chief, a crowd of at least fifty natives, similar in appearance to the
one we had first seen, but all armed with spears and matchlocks of a
very ancient construction, leapt as it were from the ground, and stood
in a compact body before us in front of the large hut.

As we neared them some handled their spears and some their matchlocks,
and I thought that the critical moment had come when we should have to
fight for our lives.

"Halt," said Rivers to our party. "Form double line," and the twelve of
us drew ourselves up.

"Now, professor, you speak Arabic, don't you? Try them with a little
soft sawder first, will you. We don't want to fight unless we're
obliged. There isn't much to be gained by it."

The professor immediately stepped three paces in front, and calling out,
"Salaam, Aleikum," addressed a sentence in Arabic to the group.

The only answer to this was a wild yell and a chatter of gibberish.

"What was it you said?" asked Rivers.

"We are friends, and want to see the chief," answered the professor.
"But I can't understand a word of their talk. I fancy these people of
the Seger region have a distinct dialect of their own."

"Try 'em in English," said Thompson. "Where's your chief, you silly
beggars, you?"

The only response to this was another wild yell and another shower of
gibberish, accompanied by a flourish of the spears.

At this instant a noise was heard from the hut in the rear of the rows
of natives drawn up in front, and the line opened in the middle, when a
tall grey-bearded Arab, with a long camel-hair burnoose over his
shoulders, and a polished wooden spear in his hand, stepped forward a
few paces.

The professor immediately addressed him with the ordinary Eastern
salutation, of which the chief took but little notice, making a remark
which the professor understood to mean that our presence was not
welcome. Unwilling to leave matters in this unsatisfactory position, the
professor harangued the chief in Arabic, uttering the most friendly
sentiments, and expressing a desire to purchase dates or any commodities
that his highness the sheik might have to dispose of.

I was unable to gather whether the sheik understood this speech or no. I
am disposed to think that he did; but the only answer he vouchsafed to
it was to extend his spear in the direction whence we had come, and to
utter three words in such an unmistakable tone of wrath and contempt
that we all understood it to mean, as the professor afterwards said it
did, "Infidel dogs, begone!"

After this there was nothing for it but to retreat in as good order as
possible. Rivers gave the word to march, telling us to look behind us at
every other step. Before we had taken three steps the sheik uttered a
loud command, and the natives vanished from the square in the same rapid
manner in which they had presented themselves.

As we passed by their huts we were greeted with shrill cries of derision
by the women and children standing in the entrances.

From a hasty glance I threw at them the women appeared not by any means
bad-looking, but very similar in character to those you may see in the
native town at Aden, light copper colour, with a profusion of dark hair
and large dark eyes.

As we entered the narrow defile or gorge by which we had reached the
village, Rivers, who was bringing up the rear, called out to us, "Look
out now, and be steady. If they're going to molest us it will be here."

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when the hideous yells, now
familiar to us, arose on either side.

"Halt!" said Rivers. "Form two lines back to back facing the sides of
the gorge. Make ready, they'll be on us in a minute," and as he spoke,
about fifty of them on each side dashed towards us. When they were
within five yards of us, Rivers gave the word to fire, and down went
four or five of the leading savages on each side. This gave them a
momentary check, and Rivers instantly called out, "Give 'em your second
barrels, sharp."

This we did promptly, and the natives stopped and seemed as if about to
fly, for our volley had done great execution.

"Now, then," said Rivers, "run for it before they recover themselves,
but keep together."

As we started to run the natives hurled a shower of spears at us. One
grazed Rivers' arm, making the blood come; another pierced the Lascar by
my side to the heart, and the poor fellow fell dead; another went
through the professor's _solar topee_, causing him to utter exclamations
of rage and despair. But we pushed on as hard as we could go for the
ship. The natives, we could see, hung behind us in a cloud, their
numbers appearing to have been considerably augmented; they, however,
took care to keep out of the range of our guns.

In an hour's time we regained the deck of the _Serampore_, the natives
still following in the distance.

I rushed up to Mr. Urquhart, and in a few words explained to him what
had occurred, whereupon he instantly ordered all hands to be called, and
got our two nine-pounders aft loaded, and pointed towards the shore
opposite the stern of the ship. The ladies behaved with wonderful
coolness and courage when they heard that an attack might be expected
from the natives, and offered their services as nurses or in any other
way in which they might be useful.

In the meantime a great crowd of natives were assembling on the shore
opposite the ship, at which their leaders were pointing and uttering
wild cries of defiance. Their only means of approach was either by
swimming, or by the irregular causeway that the rocks of the reef
provided, and that would not admit of a large number walking abreast.
After a brief pause, however, they made a forward movement, and with
loud cries dashed, some through the water and some on the reef, with the
evident idea of boarding the ship. Those who had matchlocks fired them
off at us, but without doing any damage. Every man in the ship for whom
there was a musket, or who possessed a rifle or gun of any description,
was employed under the second officer in picking off the men on the reef
or those in the water. But as fast as they dropped off the rocks they
were replaced by others, and the numbers on shore seemed to be augmented
from time to time by men coming in various directions from one knew not
where.

[Illustration: "Mr. Urquhart tried the effect of the nine-pounders."]

After a time Mr. Urquhart tried the effect of the nine-pounders, which
did great execution amongst the crowd; but he was obliged to be very
careful, on account of the limited number of shot he had, and the not
very large supply of powder. The shot we supplemented with small canvas
bags of old nails and iron bolts, which made a very good substitute for
grape-shot. The fight lasted under these conditions till sunset, not one
of the natives having got nearer the ship than to touch her on the
outside. The attack then ceased for a time, and we had leisure to
refresh ourselves.

When I took my watch I could hear the sound of the multitude on shore,
who would no doubt recommence the attack in the morning. The night was
calm and still, for the monsoon had broken, and now only blew at
intervals in moderate breezes.

I had an opportunity of exchanging a few words with Miss Reed when she
came up on deck for a few moments.

"I hope you are not hurt, Mr. Hardy," she said.

"Not at all," said I. "I trust you'll keep your spirits up. I've no
doubt we shall settle these fellows in the morning."

"I hope you will; and oh how I pray for a ship to come and take us away
from this terrible spot!"

"Perhaps we shall see one sooner than you expect; but keep your courage
up, dear Miss Reed, all will be well."

At early daylight, as the enemy was all massed together, Mr. Urquhart
loaded both the nine-pounders to the muzzle with his own particular
grape, and pointing them carefully into the midst of the crowd, where
the leaders were to be seen, discharged both simultaneously with
terrible effect, many natives being killed.

At this moment the look-out at the mast-head shouted out at the top of
his voice, "Sail O! a ship in sight near the land."

"Take one of the cutters, Mr. Hardy, and pull out to that vessel. Take a
flag with you to wave in the boat. Tell them our condition, and beg them
to assist us and take the people off the ship."

With what eager delight and anxiety I proceeded to obey this order the
reader can well imagine. As the weather was fine, and nearly calm, I
succeeded, after a long pull, in getting alongside the vessel. She
proved to be a "country" trader on a voyage from Bombay to Zanzibar,
whence she was now on her way to Bassora. She was called the _Cowasjee
Family_, and commanded by a smart young officer named Wilkinson, who
willingly proffered every assistance that might be required. He brought
his ship in as close to the _Serampore_ as he could, and the natives
having been demoralised by our fire, we proceeded to embark the
passengers and crew of the _Serampore_ on board his ship. He told us
that it was quite a chance he was in that locality, but he had been set
out of his course by a strong current. Every effort that Captain
Wilkinson could make for the comfort of our passengers and crew was
made, and in due time we all safely landed at Bassora. Luckily a steamer
was starting the next day for Kurrachee and Bombay, in which we all took
passage, and where we safely ended our eventful voyage.

It may be of interest to some of my readers to know that since I got my
command Miss Reed has changed her name for mine, and that we are very
happy.

There was a court of inquiry held at Bombay to ascertain the cause of
the loss of the _Serampore_, and the finding of the court was that
Captain Skeed and his officers were exonerated from all blame, the ship
having been lost "by default of the engineer."



THE KING OF SPAIN'S WILL

BY JOHN BLOUNDELLE-BURTON


CHAPTER I

I can tell you there was a pretty bustle around Paris that night when
the news came of the downfall of the old Fox--the fox being none other
than Cardinal Alberoni, who had just been turned out of Spain for his
intrigues, King Philip V. having had enough of him. Not that the man,
who had been a gardener's son, and a sort of buffoon once to the Duke of
Parma, was so wondrous old, since in this year of grace 1719 he was but
fifty-five. Only, when a man is a scheming knave, who has passed his
full prime, and is also a fox--why, one generally calls him an old one.

Now, the news of Alberoni's disgrace at Madrid came first to us at
Versailles, just about four of the afternoon, what time we of the Grey
Musketeers were going off duty, our place till midnight being taken by
those of the cavalry regiment of Vermandois, which had arrived a week
ago from Blois--came at the hands of the Comte St. Denis de Pile, who
had been sent off post-haste to Paris with the information, and also
with another piece of intelligence, at which, I protest, not one of us
could help laughing, serious enough though the thing was. This news
being none other than that the crafty old Italian, who was on his way to
Marseilles, there to embark with all his wealth for his native land, had
absolutely carried off in his possession the will of the late King of
Spain, Charles II., in which he bequeathed his throne to the very man
who now sat upon it.

"And," exclaimed St. Denis de Pile, as he drank down a flask of Florence
wine which we produced for him in the guard-room, "I'll be sworn that he
means to send that will to the Emperor of Austria, who, if he is not a
fool, will at once destroy it. And then, poof! poof! poof!" and the
Count blew out his moustache in front of his lip, "what becomes of all
that we fought for in the War of the Succession? _Tête de mon chien!_ it
will have to begin all over again. Your countrymen, my boy," and he
slapped me affectionately on the shoulder, for we had met often enough
before, "your countrymen, the English, will want another war, King
George may be willing enough to oblige them, and the Treaty of Utrecht
may as well be used to light a fire."

Now here was what some of my countrymen call a pretty kettle of fish.
Peace was expected to be proclaimed in Europe at this moment, since the
war of the Pyrenees was over. France and England were sworn allies and
bosom friends, otherwise be sure that I, an Englishman, young and
enthusiastic, would not have been holding the commission of a cornet in
the Musketeers, and serving the Regent, or, rather, the boy king for
whom he ruled. And all in a moment it was just as likely as not that
that war might break out again through the craftiness of the Cardinal,
who, since he had fallen, evidently did not mean to do so without
pulling others down with him. For Austria had never willingly resigned
her claims on the throne of Spain, remembering that the old French King
had once formally waived all the claims of his own family to it, Will or
no Will, and had then instantly asserted them on the death of Charles;
while for my country--well! we English are not over fond of retreating
from anything we have undertaken, though, for widely-known
considerations not necessary to set down here, we had at last agreed to
that peace of Utrecht, our having thoroughly beaten the French by sea
and land before we did so, being, perhaps, the reason why we at last
came in.

"What's to be done?" said old D'Hautefeuille now, who was in command of
the Grey Musketeers at this time.

"What? What? _Le Debonnaire_ is at the Palais Royal--he must know the
news at once. De Pile, you must ride on to Paris."

"_Fichtre_ for Paris!" exclaimed the Count. "I am battered enough
already with my long ride. Think on't--from Madrid! Through storms and
burning suns, over mountains and through plains, over two hundred
leagues and across half a score of horses' backs. Also, observe--the
letter is inscribed to the Regent's Grace at Versailles. I have done my
duty----"

"But----"

"No 'buts,' D'Hautefeuille. My work is done. Let the King's lieutenant
of Versailles, who commands in his and the Regent's absence, take charge
of the paper. For me a bottle and a meal, also a bed."

"Then take it to the lieutenant," said fiery D'Hautefeuille; "hand it to
him yourself, and bid him find a courier to Paris. _Peste_! you, a royal
messenger who can ride from Madrid here, and yet cannot finish the
journey to Paris! Bah! go and get your bottle and your bed--and much
good may they do you."

Whereon the old fellow turned grumpily away, bidding some of the younger
ones amongst us not to be loitering about the galleries endeavouring to
catch the eyes of the maids of honour, but, instead, to get off to our
quarters and be ready to relieve the officers of the Vermandois regiment
at midnight.

Yet, one amongst us, at least, was not to hear the chimes of midnight
summoning us to the night guard, that one being myself, as you shall
see. Nay, not one hour later was to ring out from the palace clock ere,
as luck would have it, I was called forth from my own quarters--or
rather from the little salon of Alison de Prie (who was a maid of
honour, and who had invited me in to partake of a _pâté de bécasse_
which her father had sent her from his property near Tours) by an order
to attend on D'Hautefeuille in his quarters.

Whereon I proceeded thither and found him in a very bad temper--a thing
he suffered much from lately, since he also suffered from a gout that
teased him terribly. Then, immediately, he burst out on my putting in an
appearance.

"Now, Adrian Trent, it is your month of special service, is it not?"

"It is, monsieur," I answered, wondering what was coming next.

"So! very well. Here then is something for you to do--that is, if the
turning of my officers into couriers and post-boys and lackeys
constitutes 'special service.' However, three creatures have to obey
orders in this world, soldiers, wives, and dogs, therefore I--and
you--must do so. Here, take this," and he tossed to me across his table
a mighty great letter on which was a formidable red seal--"have your
horse saddled and be off with you to Paris. Give it into the Regent's
hand. It is the account of Alberoni's disgrace which that _fainéant_ De
Pile could bring all this way, but no farther. Away with you! The King's
lieutenant seems to think that De Pile is discharged of his duty here.
Away with you! What are you stopping for? You know the road to Paris, I
suppose? You ought to. It's hard enough to keep you boys out of it if I
give you an afternoon's leave. Be off!"

So off I went, and five minutes afterwards my best grey, La Rose, was
saddled, and I was riding swiftly towards where the Regent was at the
present moment.

Now, who'd have thought when I went clattering through Sèvres and Issy,
on that fine winter afternoon, in all the bravery of my full
costume--which was the handsomest of any regiment in France, not even
excepting our comrades of the Black Musketeers--who'd have thought, I
say, that I was really taking the first steps of a long, toilsome
journey, which, ere it was ended, was to bring me pretty near to danger
and death? However, no need to anticipate, since those who read will
see.

An hour later I was in Paris, and then, even as I went swiftly along
amidst the crowds that were in the streets, especially in those streets
round about the Palais Royal, I found that one thing was very certain,
namely, that though I might be now carrying on De Pile's message from
the Court of Spain to the Court of France, the purport of it was already
known. Near the Palais Royal were numerous groups gathered, who cheered
occasionally for France and England, which did me good to hear; then for
Spain and France, which did not move me so much; while, at the same
time, I distinctly heard Alberoni's name mentioned, with, attached to
it, expressions and epithets that were anything but flattering. Also, as
I made for the entrance opposite the Louvre, people called attention to
me, saying, "_Voila le beau Mousquetaire--chut_! doubtless he rides from
Versailles. Brings confirmation of the old trickster's downfall. _Ho! le
beau Mousquetaire_." While a strident-voiced buffoon cried out to me,
asking if all my gold galloon and feathers and lace did not sometimes
get spoilt by the damp of the wintry weather, and another desired to
know if my sweetheart did not adore me in my regimental fallals?

However, La Rose made her way through them all, shaking her bridle-chain
angrily if any got before her, breathing out great gusts from her fiery
nostrils, and casting now and again the wicked white of her eye around;
she was a beauty who loved not to be pestered or interfered with. And at
last I was off her back, at the door near the Regent's apartments on the
south side, and asking for the officer of the guard; and half-an-hour
later I was in the presence of the Regent himself, who sat writing in a
little room about big enough to make a cage for a bird. Yet, in spite of
the way in which his Highness spent his evenings and nights, and also of
his supper parties and other dissipations, he did as much work in that
little cabinet as any other twelve men in France.

Because he was a very perfect gentleman--no matter what his faults were
(he answered for them to his Maker but a little while after I met
him)--he treated me exactly as though I were his equal, and bade me be
seated while he read the letter calmly; then, looking up at me, he
said--

"I knew something of this before. Even my beloved Parisians know of
it--how _they_ have learnt it Heaven alone can say. Still it is known.
Alberoni was to leave Madrid in forty-eight hours from the time of
receiving notice. But----"

Here he paused, and seemed to be reflecting deeply. Then he said aloud,
though more to himself than to me, "I wonder if he _has_ got the will?"

It not being my place to speak, I said nothing, waiting to receive
orders from him. And a moment later he again addressed me.

"You _mousquetaires_ have always the best of horses and are proud of
them. I know; I know. I have seen you riding races against each other at
Versailles and Marly. And, for endurance, they will carry you far, both
well and swiftly, in spite of your weight and trappings. Is it not so?"

"It is so, monseigneur," I answered, somewhat wonderingly, and not quite
understanding what way this talk tended.

"How fast can you go? Say--a picked number of you--ten--twenty--go for
two days?"

"A long way, monseigneur. Perhaps, allowing for rest for the animals,
nearer forty than thirty leagues."

"So! Nearer forty than thirty leagues. 'Tis well."

Here he rose from his chair (I, of course, rising also), turned himself
round, and gazed at a map of France hanging on the wall; ran, too, his
finger along it from the Pyrenees in the direction of Marseilles, while,
as he did so, he muttered continually, yet loud enough to be quite
audible to me--

[Illustration: "Ran his finger along a map of France."]

"He would cross there--there, surely. Fifteen days to quit Spain, two to
quit Madrid--seventeen altogether. From the fifth. The fifth! This is
the twelfth. Ten days still."

Then he continued to run his finger along the coast line of the
Mediterranean until it rested on Marseilles, at which he stood gazing
for some time. But now he said nothing aloud for me to listen to, though
it was evident enough that he was considering deeply; but at last he
spoke again.

"His Eminence must be met and escorted--yes, escorted--that is
it--escorted in safety through the land. Ay, in safety and safely. He
must not be molested nor--" while, though he turned his face away to
gaze at the map again, I would have been sworn that I heard him
mutter--"allowed to depart quite yet." Then he suddenly said, "Do you
know the house of the Chevalier de Marcieu? It is in the Rue des Mauvais
Garçons."

"I know the street, monseigneur. I can find the house."

"Good! Therefore proceed there at once--the number is three--you are
mounted, of course? Give my orders to him that he is to come here
instantly; then return and I will give you some instructions for your
commander."

Whereon I bowed respectfully as I went to the door, the Regent smiling
pleasantly upon me. Yet, ere I left him, he said another word, asked a
question.

"You _mousquetaires gris_ have not had much exercise lately at
Versailles, I think. Have you?"

"No, monseigneur, not our troop at least. The men have been but recently
remounted."

"So. Very well. You shall have some exercise now. 'Twill do you good.
You shall have a change of billet for a little while. In any case,
Versailles is too luxurious a place for soldiers. Now, away with you to
Marcieu's house and bid him come here. Return also yourself. Forget not
that."


CHAPTER II

A GIRL CALLED DAMARIS

A week later, or, to be exact, six days, and the troop of Grey
Musketeers, commanded by Captain the Vicomte de Pontgibaud--which was
the one in which I rode as cornet--was making its way pleasantly enough
along the great southern road that runs down from Paris to Toulouse.
Indeed, we were very near that city now, and expected to be in it by the
time that the wintry evening had fallen. In it, and safely housed for
the night, not forgetting that the suppers of Southern France are most
excellent and comforting meals, and that the Lunel and Roussillon are
equally suited to the palate of a soldier, even though that soldier be
but twenty years old; as I was in those days, now, alas! long since
vanished.

But, ere I go on with what I have to tell, perhaps you would care to
hear in a few words how I, Adrian Trent, an Englishman, am riding as
_cornette_ or _porte drapeau_ in a _corps d'élite_ of our old hereditary
enemies, the French. Well, this is how it was. The Trents have ever been
Royalists, by which I mean that they and I, and all of our thinking,
were followers of the House of Stuart. Now, you who read this may be one
of those--or your father may have been one of those--who invited the
Elector of Hanover to come over and ascend the English throne, or you
may be what my family and I are at the present moment, Jacobites. Never
mind for that, however. You can keep your principles and we will keep
ours, and need not quarrel about them. Suffice it, therefore, if I say
that _our_ principles have led us to quit England and to take up our
abode in France. And if ever King James III. sits on--However, no matter
for that either; it concerns not this narrative.

My father was attached to the court of this King, who was just then in
temporary residence in Rome--though, also, he sojourned some time in
Spain--but, ere he followed his sovereign's errant fortunes, he obtained
for me my guidon in the Musketeers, which service is most agreeable to
me, who, from a boy, had sworn that I would be a soldier or nothing;
while, since I cannot be an English one, I must, perforce, be in the
service of France. And, as I trust that never more will France and
England be flying at each other's throats, I do hope that I may long
wear the uniform of the regiment. If not--But of that, too, we will not
speak.

To get on with what I have to tell, we rode into Toulouse just as the
winter day was coming to an end, and a brave show we made, I can assure
you, as we drew up in the great courtyard of the old "Taverne du Midi,"
a place that had been the leading hostelry ever since the dark ages. For
in that tavern, pilgrims, knights on their road to Rome and even the
Holy Land, men of different armies, wandering minstrels and troubadours,
had all been accustomed to repose; even beggars and monks (who paid for
nothing) could be here accommodated, if they chose to lie down in the
straw amongst the horses and sing a good song in return for their
supper.

And I do protest that, on this cold December night, when the icicles
were hanging a foot long from the eaves, and bitter blasts were blowing
all around the city--the north-east winds coming from away over the
Lower Alps of Savoy--you might have thought that you were back again in
those days, if you looked around the great _salle-à-manger_ of the
tavern. For in that vast room was gathered together a company which
comprised as many different kinds of people as any company could have
consisted of when met together in it in bygone ages. First, there was
the nobleman who, because he was one, had had erected round his corner a
great screen of arras by his domestics; such things being always carried
in France by persons of much distinction, since they could neither
endure to be seen by the commoner orders, nor, if they had private
rooms, could they endure to look upon the bare whitewashed walls of the
rooms, wherefore the arras was in that case hung on those walls. This
great man we did not set eyes on, he being enshrouded in his haughty
seclusion, but there was plenty else to be observed. Even now, in these
modern days of which I write, there were monks, travellers, a fantoccini
troupe, some other soldiers besides ourselves, they being of the
regiment of Perche, the intendant of the solitary lord, and ourselves.
Our troopers alone numbered twenty, they having a table to themselves;
while we, the officers, viz., the captain (De Pontgibaud), the
lieutenant (whose name was Camier), and I (the cornet), had also a table
to ourselves.

Yet, too, there was one other, and, if only from her quaint garb, a very
conspicuous person. This was a girl--and a mighty well-favoured girl
too--dark, with her hair tucked up all about her head; with superb full
eyes, and with a colour rich and brilliant as that of the Provence rose.
She made good use of those eyes, I can tell you, and seemed nothing loth
to let them encounter the glance of every one else in the room. For the
rest, she was a sort of wandering singer and juggler, clad in a short
spangled robe, carrying a _tambour de basque_ in her hand, while by her
side hung a coarse canvas bag, in which, as we soon saw, she had about a
dozen of conjuring balls.

"Who is that?" asked De Pontgibaud of the server, as he came near our
table bearing in his hand a succulent _ragôut_, which was one of our
courses--"who and what? A traveller, or a girl belonging to Toulouse?"

"Oh!" said the man, with the true southern shrug of his shoulders,
"that!--_elle_! She is a wandering singer, a girl called Damaris. On her
road farther south. Pray Heaven she steals nothing. She is as like to if
she has the chance. A purse or even a spoon, I'll wager. If I were the
master she should not be here. Yet, she amuses the company. Sings love
ballads and such things, and juggles with those balls. Ha! giglot," he
exclaimed, seeing the girl jump off the table she had been sitting on,
talking to a bagman, and come towards us, "away. The gentlemen of the
_mousquetaires_ require not your company."

"Ay, but they do though," the girl called Damaris said, as she drew
close to where we sat. "Soldiers like amusement, and I can amuse them.
Pretty gentlemen," she went on, "would you like a love song made in
Touraine, or to see a trick or two? Or I have a snake in a box that can
do quaint things. Shall I go fetch it--it will dance if I pipe----"

"To confusion with your snake!" exclaimed the waiting man, "we want no
snakes here. Snakes, indeed----!"

"Well, then, a love song. This pretty boy," and here she was forward
enough to fix her eyes most boldly on me, "looks as if he would like a
love song. How blue his eyes are!"

Alas! they are somewhat dim and old now, but then, because I was young
and foolish, and because my eyes _were_ blue, I felt flattered at this
wandering creature's remark. However, without waiting for an answer, she
went on.

"Come, we will have a trick first. Now," she said, pulling out three of
the balls from her bag, "you hold that ball, _mon enfant_--thus," and
she put one red one--the only red one--into my hand. "You have it?"

"Yes," I said, "I have it;" and, because it was as big as a good-sized
apple, I closed my two hands over it.

"You are sure?"

"Certain."

"Show it then." Whereon I opened my hands again, and, lo! it was a gilt
ball and not a red one that was in them.

"Show that trick to me," said a voice at my back, even as De Pontgibaud
and Camier burst out a-laughing, and so, too, did some of the people in
the great hall who were supping, while I felt like a fool. "Show that
trick to me." And, looking round, I saw that it was the Chevalier de
Marcieu who had spoken; the man to whom the Regent had sent me, and who
had ridden from Paris with us as a sort of civilian director, or guide;
the man from whom we were to take our orders when acting as guard to
Alberoni when he passed this way, presuming that we had the good
fortune to encounter his Eminence; he who was to be responsible for the
safety of the Cardinal.

Now, he knew well enough that we of the _mousquetaires gris_ did not
like him, that we regarded him as a spy--which, in truth, he was, more
or less--and that his company was not absolutely welcome to us.
Wherefore, all along the road from Paris he had kept himself very much
apart from us, not taking his meals at our table--where he was not
wanted!--and riding ever behind the troop, saying very little except
when necessary. But now he had evidently left the table at which he ate
alone and had come over to ours, drawn there, perhaps, by a desire to
witness the girl's performances.

"No," she said, "I shall not show it to you. I do not do the same trick
twice. But, if you choose, I will fetch my little snake. Perhaps that
would amuse _you_."

"I wish to see that trick with the red ball," said De Marcieu quietly,
taking no notice whatever of her emphasis on the word "you." "Show it to
me."

For answer, however, she dropped the balls into the bag, and, drawing up
a vacant chair which stood against our table--she was a free and easy
young woman, this!--said she was tired, and should do no more tricks
that night. Also, she asked for some of our Roussillon as a payment for
what she had done. Whereupon Camier poured her out a gobletful and
passed it over to her, which, with a pretty little bow and grimace, she
took, drinking our healths saucily a moment later.

Meanwhile I was eyeing this stroller and thinking that she was a vastly
well-favoured one in spite of her brown skin, which, both on face and
hands, was a strange colour, it not being altogether that wholesome,
healthy brown which the winds and sun bring to those who are always in
the open, but, instead, a sort of muddy colour, so that I thought,
perhaps, she did not use to wash overmuch--which, maybe, was like
enough. Also, I wondered at the shapeliness of her fingers and hands,
the former being delicate and tapering, and the nails particularly well
kept. Likewise, I observed something else that I thought strange. Her
robe--for such it was--consisted of a coarse, russet-coloured Nîmes
serge, such as the poor ever wear in France, having in it several tears
and jags that had been mended roughly, yet, all the same, it looked new
and fresh--too new, indeed, to have been thus torn and frayed. Then,
also, I noticed that at her neck, just above the collar of her dress,
there peeped out a piece of lace of the finest quality, lace as good as
that of my steinkirk or the ruffles of a dandy's frills. And all this
set me a-musing, I know not why.

Meanwhile Marcieu was persistent about that red ball, asking her again
and again to try the trick on him, and protesting in a kind of rude
good-humour that she did not dare to let him inspect the ball, since she
feared he would discover some cunning artifice in it which would show
how she made it change from red to gilt.

"Bah!" she replied, "I can do it with anything else. Here, I will show
you the trick with other balls." Whereon, as she spoke, she drew out two
of the gilt ones and said, "Now, hold out your hands and observe. See,
this one has a scratch on it; that one has none. Put the second in your
hand and I will transfer the other in its place."

"Nay," said the chevalier; "you shall do it with the red or not at all."

"I will conjure no more," she said pettishly. Then she snatched up the
goblet of wine, drank it down at a gulp, and went off out of the room,
saying--

"Good-night, _mousquetaires_. Good-night, Blue Eyes," and, I protest,
blew me a kiss with the tips of her fingers. The sauciness of these
mountebanks is often beyond belief.

The chevalier took the vacant chair she had quitted, though no one
invited him to do so, his company not being desired by any of us, and
Pontgibaud, calling for a deck of cards, challenged Camier to a game of
piquet. As for me, I sat with my elbows on the table watching them play,
though at the same time my eye occasionally fell on the spy, and I
wondered what he was musing upon so deeply. But, presently, he called
the drawer over to him and gave an order for some drink to be brought
(since none of us had passed him over the flask, we aristocratic
_mousquetaires_ not deeming a _mouchard_ fit bottle-companion for us),
and when it came he turned his back to the table at which we sat, and
asked the man a question in a low voice; though not so low a one but
that I caught what he said, and the reply too.

"Where is that vagrant disposed of?" he asked. "With those other
vagabonds, I suppose," letting his eye fall on the members of the
fantoccini troupe, "or in one of the stables."

"Nay, nay," the server said, "she is not here, but at the 'Red Glove' in
the next street. She told me to-night that that was her headquarters
until she had visited every inn and tavern in Toulouse and earned some
money. Then she will go on to Narbonne."

"So! The 'Red Glove.' A poor inn that, is it not?"

Whereon the man said it was good enough for a wandering ballad-singer
anyhow, and went off swiftly to attend to another order at the end of
the room, while Marcieu sat there sipping his drink, but now and again
casting his eye also over some tablets which he had drawn out of his
pocket.

But at this time nine o'clock boomed forth from the tower of the
cathedral hard by, which we had noticed as we rode in, and Pontgibaud
gave the troopers their orders to betake themselves to their beds; also
one to me to go to the stables and see that all the horses were
carefully bestowed for the night, since, though the troop-sergeant had
made his report that such was the case, he required confirmation of it.
Wherefore I went to the end of the room, and, taking my long grey
_houppelande_, or horseman's cloak (which we _mousquetaires_, because we
always had the best of everything, wore trimmed with costly grey fur), I
donned it, and was about to go forth to the stables when I heard
Pontgibaud's voice raised somewhat angrily as he spoke to the chevalier.

[Illustration: "We are soldiers, not----"]

"_Fichtre_ for such an arrest!" I heard him say, while the few strangers
who had not gone to their beds--as most had done by now--cast their eyes
in the direction where he and Marcieu were. "Not I! Body of my father!
what do you take my gentlemen of the _mousquetaires_ to be? Exempts!
police! Bah! Go to La Poste. Get one of their fellows to do it. We are
soldiers, not----"

"I have the Regent's orders," Le Marcieu replied quietly, "to arrest him
or any one else I see fit. And, Monsieur le Vicomte, it is to assist me
that your 'gentlemen of the _mousquetaires_' are here in Toulouse--have
ridden with me from Paris. I must press it upon you to do as I desire."

Now, I could not wait any longer, since I had my orders from Pontgibaud
to repair to the stables and see that the chargers were comfortable for
the night, and as, also, I saw a glance shoot out of his eye over the
other's head which seemed to bid me go on with my duty. Upon which I
went out to the yard, noticing that the snow was falling heavily, and
that it was like to be a hard winter night--went out accompanied by a
stableman carrying a lantern.

"Give it me," I said, taking the lamp from him, "I will go the round
myself. Also the key, so that I can lock the door when I have made
inspection."

"Nay, monsieur," he answered, "the door cannot be locked. The inn is
full; other travellers' horses are in the stable; they may be required
at daybreak."

"Very well," I replied, "in that case one of our men must be roused and
put as guard over the animals; they are too valuable to be left alone in
an open stable," and, as I spoke, I thought particularly of my beautiful
La Rose, for whom I had paid a hundred pistoles a year ago. Then I gave
the fellow a silver piece and bade him go get a drink to warm himself
with on this winter night, and entered the stable.

The whinny which La Rose gave as I went in showed me where all our
horses were bestowed, and I proceeded down to the end of the stable,
observing when I got there that they were all well housed for the night,
and their straw clean and fresh; while, as the glimmer of the lamp
proclaimed, they had been properly groomed and attended to. Everything
was very well. Wherefore, giving my own mare the piece of sugar I had
brought for her, I made for the door again, observing that Le Marcieu's
red roan, a wiry but serviceable beast, was in a stall nearer to the
entrance.

[Illustration: "Not so fast, mademoiselle, not so fast. What are you
doing here?"]

Then suddenly, as I raised the lantern to give a second glance at it, to
my astonishment I saw the singing-girl, Damaris, dart out swiftly from
near that stall and endeavour to push by me and escape through the door;
which, however, I easily prevented her from doing, since I seized her at
once by the arm and held her, while I exclaimed, "Not so fast,
mademoiselle, not so fast. What are you doing here?--you, who are at the
'Red Glove' and have no business whatever in these stables."


CHAPTER III

"WHEN THE STEED HAS FLOWN"

At first she struggled a little, then all of a sudden she took a
different tack, and exclaimed, "How dare you touch me, fellow. You--a
common _mousquetaire_--to lay your hands on me! You! you! Let
go--or----"

However, I had let go of her by now through astonishment at her
impertinence. A common _mousquetaire_, indeed!--a common
_mousquetaire_!--when, in all our regiment, there was scarce a trooper
riding who was not of gentle blood--to say nothing of the officers.

"I may be 'a common _mousquetaire_,'" I replied, as calmly as I could,
"yet, all the same, commit no rudeness to a wandering ballad-singer whom
I find in the stable where our horses are; and----"

"Why!" she exclaimed, with a look (I could see it by the rays of the
lantern) that was, I'll be sworn, as much a pretence as her words--"why!
'tis Blue Eyes. Forgive me; I thought it was one of your men--I--I--did
not know you in your great furred cloak. It becomes you vastly well,
Blue Eyes," and the hussy smiled up approvingly at me.

"Does it?" I said. "No doubt. Yet, nevertheless, I want an explanation
of what you are doing in these stables at night, in the dark, when you
are housed at the 'Red Glove';" and I spoke all the more firmly because
I felt certain that she had not taken me for one of the troopers at all.

"Imbecile!" she exclaimed petulantly, and for all the world as if she
was speaking to an inferior. "Imbecile! Idiot! Since you know I am at
the 'Red Glove,' don't you know too that they have no stabling for us
who put up there, and that the travellers' cattle are installed here?
Oh, Blue Eyes, you are only a simple boy!"

"No, I don't know it!" I exclaimed, a little dashed at this
intelligence; "but, pardon me, I would not be ill mannered--only--do
ladies of your calling travel on horseback? I thought you wandered on
foot from town to town giving your entertainments."

"I do not travel on horseback, but on muleback. There are such things as
four-footed mules as well as two-footed ones, Blue Eyes. I assure you
there are. And here is mine; look at it. Isn't it a sorry beast to be in
company with the noble steeds of the aristocratic _mousquetaires_?"

"Oh, it's 'aristocratic' now, is it?" I thought to myself, "not 'common'
_mousquetaires_," running my eye over the mule she pointed out, even as
I held the lantern on high. Only, as I did so, I saw it was not a sorry
beast at all; instead, a wiry, clean-limbed Pyrenean mule, whose
hind-legs looked as though they could spring forward mighty fast if
wanted; in truth, an animal that looked as if it could show its heels
to many of its nobler kin, namely horses. But, also, I observed that its
saddle was on, and that the halter was not fastened to the rack.

"Well, you see?" she said, looking at me with her mocking smile, and
showing all her pretty white teeth as she did so. "You see? Now, Blue
Eyes, let me go. I am tired and sleepy, and I want to go to bed."

This being sufficient explanation of her presence in the stables, there
was no further reason why I should detain her and I said she might go,
while, even as I spoke, I fastened up the halter for her. After which we
went out into the yard, where we bade each other a sort of good-night, I
doing so a little crossly since I was still sore at her banter, and she,
on her part, speaking in still her mocking, gibing manner.

"And where do you go to," she asked, "after this? Eh, Blue Eyes? I
should like to see you some day again, you know. I like you, Blue Eyes,"
and as she spoke I wondered what impish kind of thought was now in her
mind, for she was standing close to me, and seemed to be emphasising her
remarks about her liking for me by clutching tight my _houppelande_ in
her hand.

"That," I said, "is, if you will excuse me, our affair. Good-night; I
hope you will sleep well at the 'Red Glove.'" Then, because I did not
want to part in anger from the volatile creature, and because I was a
soldier to whom such licence is permissible, I said, "Adieu,
sweetheart."

"Sweetheart!" she exclaimed, turning round on me. "Sweetheart! You dare
to speak to me thus--you--you--you base--" But, just as suddenly as she
had flown out at me like a spitfire, she changed again, saying,
"_Peste_! I forget--I am only a poor wandering vagrant. I did not mean
that. I--I am sorry." And, as she vanished round the corner of the yard
into the street, I heard her laugh and say softly, though loud enough,
"Good-night, Blue Eyes; adieu--_sweetheart_;" and again she laughed as
she disappeared.

Now, all this had taken some little time, as you may well suppose, so
that the great clock of the Cathedral of St. Etienne was striking ten as
I re-entered the inn and went on to the large guests'-room, or _salle_.
It was empty at this time of all the sojourners in the house, except the
captain, Pontgibaud, who was sitting in front of the huge fire, into
which he stared meditatively while he drank some wine from a glass at
his elbow.

"All well with the horses?" he asked, as I went up to him. "I thought
you were never coming back." Then, without waiting for any explanation
from me as to my absence, he said, "We go towards the Pyrenees, by Foix,
to-morrow, thereby to intercept Alberoni if we can. That fellow, that
_mouchard_, Marcieu, says he is due to cross into France from Aragon.
Meanwhile--" but there he paused, saying no more. Instead, he gazed into
the embers of the fire; then suddenly, a moment or so after, spoke
again. "Adrian," he said, "it is fitting I should tell you what Marcieu
knows, or rather suspects, from information he has received from Dubois,
who himself has received it from Madrid. Camier has been informed; so
must you be."

"What is it now?" I asked, my anxiety aroused.

"This. Alberoni, as Marcieu says, has all the old Spanish aristocracy on
his side, simply because the King, Philippe, is a Frenchman. They are
helping him--especially the ladies. Now, it is thought one of them has
carried off the will of the late King Charles, and not Alberoni
himself."

"Who is she?"

"He, Marcieu, will not tell, though he knows her rank and title. But--"
and now Pontgibaud looked round the room, which was, as I have said,
quite empty but for us, then lowered his voice ere he replied--"but--he
is going to arrest that girl called Damaris to-morrow morning," and as
he spoke he delivered himself of a grave, solemn wink.

"Is he?" I said; "is he?" and then fell a-musing. For this opened my
eyes to much--opened them, too, in a moment. Now, I understood her
indignation at a _mousquetaire_ seizing hold of her, a high-born damsel,
probably of some old Castile or Aragon family, instead of a wandering
stroller as we had thought her to be--understood, too, why I had seen
that piece of rich lace peeping out at her throat; why her dress of
Nîmes serge, which was a new one, was artfully torn and frayed. Also I
understood, or thought I did, the strange colour of her face and hands,
which were, I now made no manner of doubt, dyed or stained to appear
dirty and weatherbeaten, and why the saddle was on her mule's back and
the halter loose from the rack;--understood, I felt sure, all about it.
Then, just as I was going to tell Pontgibaud this, we both started to
our feet. For, outside, where the stables were, we heard a horse's hoofs
strike smartly on the cobble-stones of the yard; we heard the animal
break into a trot the moment it was in the street outside.

"Some one has stolen a horse from those stables," cried Pontgibaud,
springing towards the door and rushing down the passage; "pray Heaven
'tis not one of our chargers."

To which I answered calmly, "I think not. There are other animals there
than ours, horses and _mules_ belonging to people staying at other inns.
It is a traveller setting forth before the city gates are closed at
midnight."

And, even as I spoke, I could not help laughing in my captain's face, as
well as at the look upon it.


CHAPTER IV

ANA, PRINCESA DE CARBAJAL

We were riding through one of the innumerable valleys which are formed
by the spurs of the Pyrenees running almost from where the Pic du Midi
rises up to the city of Toulouse; a valley which was bordered on either
side by shelving hills that were covered with woods nearly up to their
summits. And now we were looking forward eagerly to meeting his
Eminence, the Cardinal Alberoni, of whose arrival in this neighbourhood
we had received certain intelligence from more than one of the
innumerable spies whom both the Regent and Cardinal Dubois maintained
ever in this region--a region dividing Spain from France.

As for Marcieu, who, as usual, rode behind the troop, he had been in
such a towering rage ever since the morning of our departure from
Toulouse, and had used such violent language, that I for one had been
obliged to tell him to keep a civil tongue in his head, while
Pontgibaud, who was an aristocrat to the tips of his fingers as well as
captain of a troop of _mousquetaires_, told him he must be more
respectful in his language or altogether silent. For, as naturally you
have understood, it was the girl who was pleased to call herself
Damaris, and to assume the disguise of a wandering juggler and singer,
who had ridden off that night on her mule, and was, no doubt, far enough
away from us in the morning.

And she had got the late King of Spain's will in her pocket! of that
Marcieu swore there could be no doubt--the will which, in truth, was the
principal thing that brought the nations to agreeing that the Duke of
Anjou should sit as King Philippe V. on the throne of Spain--the will
which, if it once fell into the hands of Austria, would instantly
_disappear_ for ever and set all Europe alight with the flames of war
again. She had got it, and when Alberoni was searched it would not be
found. Perhaps, after all, it was not strange that Marcieu's expressions
were writ in a good round hand. He had missed the chance of his life!

"I know her," he stormed in the morning, when he found how abortive his
attempts to arrest her had proved, "I know her. Dubois sent me
intelligence of everything. She is the Princesa Ana de Carbajal, of an
ancient and illustrious Catalonian house, a house faithful to all the
interests of Austria before the days of Charles V. and of Philip. May
the pest seize her! She came ahead of Alberoni disguised thus, and never
thought she would encounter us. And I do believe she has the will in
that accursed red ball. Such things have been used as hiding-places
before. Even Alberoni once used his crook as a receptacle wherein to
hide a slip of paper. And the late King's last will in favour of
Philippe was itself but a slip of paper, signed when he was close to
death." Then, again, he used strong language.

However, she was gone, and, on the frail chance of his being misinformed
after all, and because he also had orders to meet Alberoni in any
circumstances, and to escort him to the Mediterranean coast without
allowing him to hold converse with any one, we set off to find him. For
Dubois' spies had met us and said that Alberoni was on his way, that he
was close at hand.

So we rode along, nearing rapidly the pass into Spain by which he was
coming, and expecting every moment to meet the Cardinal's coach attended
by all his servants and following. But suddenly, while we marched, there
happened something which put all thoughts of the Cardinal and his
devoted friend, the Princess Ana, out of our heads--something
terrible--awful--to behold.

A house, an inn, on fire, blazing fiercely, as we could see, even as we
all struck spurs into our horses and galloped swiftly towards it--a
house from the upper windows of which we could observe the faces of
people looking. The _upper_ windows, because all the lower part was in
flames, and because they who were inside had all retreated up and up and
up. Only, what could that avail them! Soon the house, the top
floor--there were two above the ground--must fall in and--then!
Yes--then!

We reached that burning _auberge_--'twas terrible, ghastly, to see the
flames bursting forth from it in the broad daylight and looking white in
the glare of the warm southern sun, although 'twas winter--reached it,
wondering what we could do to save those who were perishing; to save the
screaming mother with her babe clasped to her breast, the white-faced
man who called on God through the open window he was at to spare him and
his, or, if not him, then his wife and child.

What could we do--what? Bid them leap down to us, fling themselves upon
us--yes, at least we might do that. One thing at least we could
undoubtedly do--bid them throw down the babe into our arms. And this was
done. The troopers sat close upon their horses, their arms extended; a
moment later the little thing was safe in the great strong arms of the
men, and being caressed and folded to the breast of our great brawny
sergeant. Then, even as I witnessed this, even, too, as I (dismounted
now) hurried round with some _mousquetaires_ to discover if, in God's
mercy, there was any ladder behind in the outhouse or garden whereby the
upper part might be reached, I myself almost screamed with horror; for,
at that moment, on to the roof there had sprung a woman shrieking; a
woman down whose back fell coils of long black hair; a woman, handsome,
beautiful, even in her agony and fear; a woman who was the girl called
Damaris.

"Damaris!" I called out, "Damaris!" for by that name I had come to
think of her, had known her for a short hour or so, "Damaris! be calm,
do nothing rash. We will save you; the walls will not fall in yet. Be
cool." But in answer to my words she could do nothing but wring her
hands and shriek.

"I cannot die like this--not like this. Oh, Blue Eyes, save me! Save me!
Save me! You called me your sweetheart. Save me!"

Then, at that moment, I heard a calm, icy voice beside me say--it was
the voice of Marcieu--"Does your highness intend to restore the late
King of Spain's will? Answer that, or I swear, since I command here,
that you shall not be saved."

In a moment I had sprung at him, would have pulled him off his horse,
have struck him in the mouth, have killed him for his brutality, but
that Camier and two of the troopers held me back, and, even as they did
so, I heard the girl's voice ring out, "Yes! yes! yes! 'tis here;"
while, as she spoke, she put her hand in the bag by her side, drew out
the red ball, and flung it down from the roof to where we all were.

But by now, Heaven in its mercy be praised! some of the others had found
a ladder and brought it round, and were placing it against the walls.
Only, it was too short! God help her! it but reached to the sill of the
top-floor window.

And now I was distraught, was mad with grief and horror, when again that
cold-blooded creature, Marcieu, spoke, saying, "What matter? can she not
descend from the roof to the room that window is in?" and at the same
moment Pontgibaud called out to her to do that very thing, which she, at
once understanding, prepared to accomplish.

Meanwhile, some of the men, who were all now dismounted, had sprung to
the ladder, eager to save, first the girl, I think, then next the woman
of the house, and then the man. But I ordered them back. I alone would
save her, I said, I alone. Princess or stroller, noble or crafty
adherent of a wronged monarchy, whichever she might be, I had taken a
liking to this girl; she had called on me to save her, and I would do
it. Wherefore, up the ladder I went as quickly as the weight of my great
riding boots and trappings would permit me, while all the time the
flames were shooting out from the lower windows--up, until I stood at
the top one and received her in my arms, telling the woman and the man
they should be saved immediately, which they were, the troopers fetching
down the woman, and the man following directly after by himself; yet
none too soon either, for, even as he came down, the flames had set the
lower part of the ladder afire, so that it fell down and he got singed
as he came to earth. But, nevertheless, all were now saved; and Damaris
stood trembling by my side, and pouring out her thanks to, and blessings
upon, me.

"I--I--did not mean what I said," stammered Marcieu. "I meant you should
be saved. But I meant also to have that will, and I have got it." While,
as his eye roved around us, he saw the disgust written upon all our
faces, on the faces alike of officers and men.

"You have got it," she answered contemptuously. "You have! Much good may
it do you, animal!" and again I saw the beautiful white teeth gleam
between her lips.

"But why here, Dama-Señorita?" I whispered; "why here? You came the
wrong way if you wished to escape with the precious document."

She gave me somewhat of a nervous, tremulous smile, and was about to
answer me, and give me some explanation, when, lo! there came an
interruption to all our talk. The long-expected Cardinal was
approaching. Alberoni had crossed the Pyrenees.

But in what a way to come! We could scarcely believe our eyes. There
was no coach, nor heavily-laden mules to bear him and his followers and
belongings. He was on foot; so, too, were his attendants. He, a
cardinal; the arbiter of Spain, while ostensibly only the political
agent of the Duke of Parma; a prince of the Church; a man who had
intrigued for, and almost secured, one of the greatest prizes of that
Church, the primacy of the land from which he had now been expelled--on
foot! so that, if he had not had on his head his cardinal's hat--which
he doubtless wore in his arrogance--none would have deemed him the great
man he was, even in his downfall. All doffed their own hats as he came
near us, Marcieu doing so as respectfully as any, while, as we removed
ours, I saw him steal a glance at her whom we had known as Damaris. Such
a glance, such a sly, cunning one! Then, as she sprang forward to take
his hand, meaning, I think, to kiss it, he prevented her from doing so
by, instead, raising that hand above her head and muttering, as I
supposed, a blessing. But now, even as he looked somewhat wonderingly at
the still burning house, he turned to Marcieu and said--

[Illustration: The Rescue.]

"You are the man, I imagine, and those your troopers, whom Philippe the
Regent has sent to intercept me. Ha! you are surprised that I know
this," he went on, seeing the start that Marcieu gave when he heard
those words. "Are you not? If you should ever know Alberoni better, you
will learn that he is a match for most court spies in Europe."

Now the chevalier did seem so utterly taken aback at this (which caused
Pontgibaud to give me a quaint look of satisfaction out of the tail of
his eye--for every one of us hated that man mortally) that he could do
nothing but bow, uttering no sound. Whereon the Cardinal proceeded:

"Well! What do you expect to do with me? Your comrades of Spain--the
knaves and brigands whom the King sent after me from Madrid--have
pillaged me of all. Some day I will pay his Majesty for the outrage--let
him beware lest I place Austria back upon his throne. 'Twas a beggarly
trick!--to take my carriages and mules, my jewels and wealth--even the
will of the late King, which was most lawfully and rightfully in my
possession."

"What!" broke from several of our lips, "what!" while from Marcieu's
white and trembling ones came the words, "The late King's will! It is
impossible. This girl--this lady--has handed it to me!"

For a moment the Cardinal's sly glance rested on the Princess, then on
Marcieu, and then--then--he actually laughed, not loud, but long.

"Monsieur," he said at last, "you are a poor spy--easily to be tricked.
You will never make a living at the calling. The will that lady gave you
was a duplicate, a copy. It was meant that you should have _that_--that
it should fall into your stupid hands. And, had I not been robbed on the
other side of the mountains, you would not have seen me here."

"It is so," the Princess said, striding up to where the chevalier stood;
"it is so. You spy! you spy! you _mouchard_! if that worthless piece of
paper in the red ball had been the real will, I would have perished in
the burning house before letting it fall into your hands." Then, sinking
her voice still lower, though not so low but that some of us could hear
what she said, she went on: "Have a care for your future. The followers
of Austria have still some power left, even at the Court of France. Your
threat to let me burn on the roof was _not_ unmeant. It will be
remembered."

And now there is no more to tell, except that the Princess knew that
Marcieu meant to take the real will from the Cardinal if he met him, and
so it had been arranged that, through her, the paper which he would
suppose was that real will was to fall into his hands, and Alberoni
would thus have been enabled to retain the original and escape with it
out of France. She had preceded us to the foot of the mountains from
Toulouse, meaning, when we came up, to let Marcieu obtain the red ball
and thus be hoodwinked; and the accident of the fire at the inn only
anticipated what she intended doing. The unexpected following of, and
attack upon, the Cardinal, ere he quitted Spain and descended the
Pyrenees into France, had, however, spoilt all their plans.

[Illustration: "A friendship that eventually ripened--"]

       *       *       *       *       *

Here I should attempt that which most writers of narratives are in the
habit of performing, namely, conclude by telling you what was the end of
Ana de Carbajal's adventure, of how she won and broke hearts and
eventually made a brilliant match. That is what Monsieur Marivaux or the
fair Scuderi would have done, as well as some of the writers in my own
native land. But I refrain, because this strange meeting between me and
the beautiful and adventurous Spanish lady was but the commencement of a
long friendship that eventually ripened--However, no matter. Some day,
when my hand is not weary and the spirit is upon me, I intend to write
down more of the history of the high-bred young aristocrat who first
appeared before me as a wandering stroller, and passed for "a girl
called Damaris."



A NEW ENGLAND RAID

BY E. F. POLLARD

     _Author of "Roger the Ranger," &c._


The first glow of morning was creeping over the land as an Indian
emerged from the forest. He ran swiftly, with that easy swing of the
body and lightness of foot for which his race is remarkable. Leaping a
wooden fence, he paused and stood, for the space of a second, looking up
at a large square house, plain and unornamented, such as the early
settlers in New England were wont to build for themselves.

The inhabitants were still buried in sleep, and the Indian's approach
had been so noiseless that it had failed even to rouse the watch-dog.
Taking a handful of gravel he threw it with unerring aim at a window on
the second floor. An instant afterwards the lattice was opened and a
young man's head thrust out, a voice asking, "What's up, Will?"

The Indian made a peculiar sign, which might easily be interpreted into
"Come down."

"All right," said Josiah Blackstone, and disappeared.

Then Josh, as he was familiarly called, came down the broad staircase,
removed noiselessly the bars and bolts which secured the front door, and
slipped out into the porch, against the great oak post of which the
Indian was leaning. A huge mastiff came bounding round from the back of
the house with an ominous growl, but he evidently recognised the Indian,
for he ran up to him wagging his tail and fawning upon him with
unmistakable signs of pleasure.

"What has brought you, Will? I thought you were off fishing in the Great
Lakes," said Josiah. Then eyeing him carefully, he added, "You look as
if you had travelled far and fast."

"So Will has," answered the Indian in English. "Will Narburton ran a day
and a night to bring news, bad news."

"Sorry to hear it," said Josh. "Is Philip up to mischief?"

The Indian made a sign of assent.

"Tobias, the Sachem of Nipmuck's son, and two others, have slain John
Susaman, the missionary," he said.

"Killed gentle John!" exclaimed Josh--"are you sure, Will?"

"My own eyes saw it," said the Indian. "They waylaid John, knocked him
on the head, and thrust him dead into the pond near Middleborough. I was
on the other side and watched the Sachem's son, Tobias, and the two
others, do the deed. Knowing they do not love the men of my tribe, I was
afraid, and hid myself in the long rushes. They struck John from behind,
so that he did not see. He never moved again. Then they put him into the
hole. I waited till the wicked ones were on their way back to tell the
Sachem the evil work was finished, then I ran all day and all night to
warn you. King Philip is angry; he has sworn he will drive the white man
out of the hunting grounds."

"I know it," answered Josh. "I fear this means war."

"As the arrow flies through the air swiftly and slays, so the Indian
will drop down into your midst, and the scalps of the white men will be
his reward," said Will Narburton.

"Hush!" said Josh, "I hear my mother's step on the stairs; she must not
be alarmed."

The Indian raised his head and whispered: "No tell missis, she woman,
she frightened; tell master."

[Illustration: "I was afraid, and hid myself in the long rushes."]

He had hardly given utterance to this sentiment when a tall comely
woman, in the close cap, plain black gown, and white bibbed apron of the
New England matron, came out into the porch, and seeing Will Narburton,
smiled a welcome.

"I wondered who you might be entertaining at this early hour, Josh," she
said, laying her hand on her son's arm. "Has Will come to tempt you to
go fishing or hunting with him?"

"No, mother; but he has brought some important news, which I must
communicate to my father. Will you see that Narburton has food and
drink, for he has travelled a long distance to do us service?"

"Gladly," answered Mrs. Blackstone. "Go ye round to the kitchen, Will;
if Mary be not there, I will open to you and see to your needs myself.
Your father will be down directly, Josh," she added, addressing her son,
and then she hastened away intent upon her household duties.

The Blackstones had been amongst the first settlers on the borders of
Connecticut. By the banks of the river Seek-ouk they had built a house
and named it "Study Hill"; they had also planted orchards, and the
fruitful land rewarded their labour with rich harvests. It was but a few
weeks since the grandsire had been laid to rest among his apple-trees,
and his son, Nathan Blackstone, now reigned in his stead. Josh was the
only surviving son of this third generation; he dwelt at home, and was
his father's right hand. Nathan was an elder of the Church and a civil
magistrate, revered by the settlers, and scarcely less so by the
Indians, to whom he had always been well inclined; declaring the safety
of the English lay in a just recognition of the natural rights of the
natives, and attaching much blame to those who would have had the red
man rooted out as being of the accursed race of Ham. Nevertheless he
deemed it necessary they should be watched, feeling by no means assured
that they were other than the children of the devil, more especially as
the effects of Christianity and civilisation on the Indian were far from
conducive to virtue.

The Puritan fathers were remarkably unsuccessful in their efforts to
propagate Christianity, may-be because of the harshness of their
doctrines; but it is a fact that after fifty years' labour amongst the
thousands of natives in New England, less than 1500 Indians were
converted. These were known as the "Praying Indians," and their position
was far from enviable, they being despised by their own people, and not
wholly trusted by the colonists themselves. Will Narburton and the
murdered John Susaman belonged to this class--indeed the latter was
employed as a missionary, and was much esteemed by the Brethren; his
death, therefore, was an event not likely to be passed over.

Hearing his father's step coming down the stairs, Josh turned and
greeted him, and the two went out together, pacing side by side along
the garden-walk in front of the house, as was their wont when they had
any matter under discussion. They resembled each other greatly, being of
the same height, broad-shouldered, and powerful of limb; their features
were strongly marked; their complexions ruddy, deep-set grey eyes and
dark-brown hair; Nathan's, however, was cropped short, after the fashion
of the Puritan fathers, but Josh wore his somewhat longer; also Nathan
was clean shaven, but his son had both beard and moustache.

They were fine, well-built men, with honest, open countenances,
God-fearing and true-hearted, ready to do their duty alike to God and
man.

As Nathan listened to the news Will Narburton had brought, his face grew
serious.

"I foresee trouble," he said. "John Susaman has warned the men of Boston
for some time past that the Sachem of the Wampanoags was disaffected,
and they paid no heed to his words; I fear it is now too late. We have
been at peace with the Indians for many years; but if war were to break
out now, it would be far worse than in the early days, because the red
man has possessed himself of firearms in addition to his own weapons. It
is a serious matter."

"It were well that the news should be carried to Boston without delay,"
said Josh. "If you be willing, father, I will ride in at once and take
Will with me, he being an eye-witness to the deed."

"Certainly, I think it desirable," said Nathan; "but you must go well
armed, for there is no saying what the Indians may be up to, now they
are roused. They are as likely as not to waylay you, if they suspect you
to be carrying news of their misdoing to Boston."

And so accompanied by Will Narburton, both mounted on good horses, Josh
left his peaceful home, never doubting but that he should return thither
within a few days and find it even as he had left it. He wore the New
England Ranger's dress, namely, a deep ash-coloured hunting shirt,
leggings and moccasins; he was armed with a rifle-barrelled gun, a small
axe, and a long knife, which served for all purposes in the woods; a
broad-brimmed hat completed this somewhat sombre attire, which
nevertheless became him well, at least so his mother and Rena, his young
sister, thought as they watched him ride away. Josh and his companion
reached the city without hindrance, and on Will's testimony the three
murderers were arrested within a week. They were tried before a mixed
jury of Indians and English, and Tobias was hanged. Now the Sachem of
Mipmuck and King Philip, or Metacomet, as the men of his own tribe
called him, Sachem of the Wampanoags, were allies, and they were
therefore united in their anger against the settlers. So it came to pass
on a certain day King Philip summoned to his camp at Mount Hope the
chiefs, not only of his own tribe, but of all those with whom he was on
friendly terms, to consult whether it was to be war or peace with the
white man.

The Sachem sat in his chair of state (a common wooden chair with a straw
bottom), surrounded by his counsellors and captains in full battle
array, with their war paints and feathers, their tomahawks in their
belts, their bows and arrows slung across their naked shoulders.
Standing before the King was a woman. The skins of beasts of prey hung
from her shoulders and were girded round her waist, strings of beads
encircled her neck, her long black hair hung loosely to her waist, and
on her head was a high crown made of the plumage of all manner of birds.
Her attitude was majestic, as with outstretched arm, tears streaming
from her eyes, she addressed the assembly.

"O brother of my murdered husband! I bring you three hundred warriors,
to war against the white man, who slew my beloved, not on the
battlefield as a warrior should depart, but by treachery. Long years
have I waited to avenge him, but now surely the time has come. The white
men are driving us from our hunting-fields; they destroy our forests, so
that the wild beasts forsake their lairs, and soon we shall lack food
for our children. Let us unite and drive them across the sea from whence
they came! I am but a woman, made to carry burdens and to bear sons; but
my husband has been slain, and the son I bore him died on my bosom.
Shall I not avenge them? Is the time not come?"

Thus spake the squaw, Sachem Weetamoo, the widow of King Philip's
brother Alexander, who, being accused of plotting against the English,
had been taken as a prisoner to Plymouth, where he died, his people said
of poison, but in truth of a fever brought on by anger and vexation at
his position.

This had happened upwards of fifteen years ago, but the widowed squaw,
Sachem, had never ceased wailing, and importuning Philip to avenge her
husband, and now, hearing that he had been called to account for the
murder of the missionary, she hastened down with three hundred warriors
from the fort on the Pocasset shore, where she dwelt, and urged him,
with all the passion of a woman's deadly hatred, to take up arms and
drive the white man out of the land.

She had chosen her time well, for but a few days previously Philip had
been summoned to Boston and compelled to promise that he would deliver
up all English arms in the possession of his tribe, and both he and his
chief men were angered, so that Weetamoo's arguments, and the presence
of the armed warriors she had brought with her, fired them, and they
shouted that she spoke with wisdom.

Philip assented, and straightway swift messengers were sent forth with
the wampum belt from village to village, from tribe to tribe, and
Weetamoo went to her wigwam triumphant. Before the people of New England
had time to realise the fact, the flames of burning homesteads, the
flight of terrified women and children, spread terror far and wide.

But even then the elders, the men of Boston and New Plymouth, made an
effort to maintain peace, promising to all Indians who would lay down
their arms, life and liberty. Further, they decided to send a deputation
to Philip with offers of conciliation.

It was a dangerous mission, and there was some hesitation in asking any
one to undertake it; but the matter was settled when Josh Blackstone
came forward and proposed being the bearer thereof. He and his father
were on friendly terms with the Indians, especially with Philip; Josh
had often been a guest at Mount Hope for weeks together during the
hunting season. He declared he had no fear; he would go alone to Philip.
His assurance had the effect of encouraging others, and six young men
offered to accompany him.

"That is too many; it looks distrustful," he said, and chose three, with
whom he set forth at once, sending Will back to Study Hill, with a
letter to his father, telling the errand upon which he was bound, and
assuring him he anticipated no danger. Nathan was not quite so well
satisfied, but he refrained from saying aught which might alarm his wife
and Rena.

"The lad is doing his duty; it will be well whatever betides him," he
said, and he went about his farm cheerfully, encouraging his
neighbours, and taking all due precaution against the enemy.

The country over which Josh and his companions had to travel to Mount
Hope was so well known to the former that he was able to lessen the
distance by short cuts across country. For the most part it was thickly
wooded, but sometimes they had to skirt vast tracts of swampy land
overgrown with reeds, bulrushes, and long grass. Josh knew that such
places were usually resorted to by Indians when they wished to waylay
their enemies; he therefore kept a sharp look-out.

Within a few miles of the Mount they came upon a great lake. On one side
was an almost impenetrable forest, and on the other an immense swamp.

Unfortunately it was evening, and as there was no path they dismounted
and were leading their horses, when suddenly a wild unearthly yell rose
on the still air, and a horde of Indians came scrambling up the banks of
the lake; in a second they were upon the English.

"Run!" shouted Josh to his companions, "it's your only chance." He,
slipping his horse's bridle, placed himself with his back to a tree and
fired into the enemy, to keep them, if only for a few minutes, at bay.
He knew from the first that resistance was hopeless. The savages
literally swarmed upon them. He saw two of his three men fall, their
skulls cloven; then an Indian, taller than his fellows, with bigger
feathers on his head, felled him to the ground. He did not even then
lose consciousness, expecting to feel the sharp scalp-knife do its cruel
work, when, to his surprise, he was dragged by the hair of his head out
of the fray, hoisted on to one of the horses, an Indian sprang up behind
him uttering a loud whoop, and they were scouring through the forest out
into the open plain. The natural instinct of self-preservation made Josh
cling desperately to the horse's mane, as the animal, terrified by the
Indian's savage yells, leaped through the thick undergrowth, waded
across streams, then bounding over a high barrier, was drawn suddenly
up, almost on to his haunches, and so stopped short. Josh would have
been done to death, scalped then and there, but for his captor, to whom,
according to the laws of war, he belonged solely. The natives leaped and
yelled around them as the chief flung himself to the ground, spoke a few
words to them which elicited shouts of delight, and strode away. Amidst
loud jeering and yells, to say nothing of two or three heavy blows, Josh
was overthrown, his limbs bound with strong reeds, and in this helpless
condition he was dragged some distance and thrust into an empty hut. He
lay for a time insensible from the ill-usage and blows he had received;
but gradually he recovered consciousness, and the horror of his position
rushed upon him. He knew that, as a prisoner, he would be subject to
frightful tortures before he was even allowed to die--surely it was a
refinement of cruelty to have spared his life!

As the cold dews of night crept on, strong man as he was, he shivered,
and the smarting of his wounds, the soreness of his bruises, became
almost intolerable. It was many hours also since he had tasted food.
That did not trouble him; as a hunter he was accustomed to long fasts.
But his thirst was growing more and more intense, his lips were parched,
his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth. To add to his misery, as he
lay on the damp ground, he could see the fires of his enemies, and hear
their unearthly deafening yells, as they feasted and made merry. Once,
nay, twice, he tried to break his bonds; but it was useless, they were
too tightly woven. Probably from sheer exhaustion he dropped asleep.
Surely he was dreaming, for he felt a hand laid upon him and heard a
voice whisper, "Fear not, but drink;" then his head was raised, a gourd
put to his lips; he drank eagerly a long draught of pure water, and sank
back refreshed.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I am Thusick, King Philip's daughter," answered the same voice. "I do
not hate the white men; they are wise and brave, have taught us many
things; therefore I have brought you water, knowing that the fever must
be on you."

Thusick's voice was gentle, and the hand she laid on his head was
wondrous cool and soft, so that a wave of renewed hope and vigour came
to Josh, and he said eagerly--

"It is good of you to bring me water, but it were kinder still to
unloose my bonds and help me to escape."

It was night, so he could not see how pitiful the dark eyes grew.

"It were useless," she said, "the camp is too well guarded; you could
not escape. My father has saved your life; he does not will that you
should die, because you were his friend. If you have courage you may
live. To-morrow at dawn your bonds will be cut, and you will be brought
forth to run the gantlet. If you are swift of foot, and are not beaten
down, but reach the King and touch his knees, they will spare you. Three
separate times must you run that race, and afterwards you will be
adopted by our people, in place of the Black Hawk, whom your men slew
to-day; you will take a wife from amongst us, and it will be well with
you."

Josh did not, even under present circumstances, see it in the same light
as Thusick, but he was young, and the mere chance of life was welcome.
He was in no mood to trouble about the future; the present hour was too
fraught with anxiety. He knew from hearsay what was meant by the cruel
ordeal of the gantlet, and how not one man in ten came forth from it
alive, and overpowered as he was with a sense of physical weakness, his
heart sank within him.

"This girl has brought me water; surely she could also bring me food to
strengthen me," he thought, so he spoke out.

"I shall never run to-morrow, for I have had no food, and I shall
faint."

"I have brought food," she answered, "also wherewith to dress your
wounds and make you strong."

Cautiously she raised a corner of the matting which hung over the
entrance of the hut, so that a glimmer of light from the now dying fires
crept in. Then she fed him with meat, and afterwards she bathed his
head, and stripping his shirt as best she could, washed his wounds. When
all was finished, she put a nut into his mouth, saying--

"It is bitter to the taste, but it is sweet, for it will give you
strength; let it lie all night in your mouth, and to-morrow you will run
swiftly. Our warriors eat thereof when they go on the war trail, and
they are strong. Now, farewell!"

Through the dimness he saw the tall, lithe figure glide out and
disappear into the night. Then a sort of lethargy stole over him; his
eyelids closed and he slept.

A prolonged whoop, and Josh awoke with a start. The sun was creeping
into the hut, and he knew it was morning. If he had needed any reminder
of what lay before him, it was there unmistakably, in the presence of
half-a-dozen red men, who stood talking and gesticulating, whilst one of
their number cut the thongs which bound him, and by a sign bade him
rise. He obeyed, and instantly heavy hands were laid upon him, his
clothes were torn off his back, and he stood stark naked in their midst.

A momentary feeling of the utter hopelessness of his position swept over
him; as he looked at the savages, armed with tomahawks and
scalping-knives, he felt that his chances of life were indeed small.

"Have good courage, be swift of foot, and it will be well with you;"
Thusick, the King's daughter, had so spoken, and he believed her;
moreover, he was conscious that the fatigue of the previous day had
passed away. His limbs felt light and strong. He tossed back his head
defiantly, and a flash of determination lighted up his blue eyes.

"I'll not give in without a good try," he thought, remembering those at
home--"father, mother, Rena!"

A push from behind sent him out of the hut into the broad sunlight of a
July morning. Amidst hundreds of dark skins he stood forth in his naked
whiteness alone, a target for all eyes. Shrieks, yells, whoops, greeted
his appearance from the vast crowd gathered to witness the torture of
the white man.

He might well be excused if the horror of the situation caused his cheek
to pale and a tremor to run through his whole body.

"Drink, drink quickly!" and a gourd was thrust into his hand.
Instinctively, without hesitation, he put it to his lips and drained the
contents, then threw it on the ground. The action was so rapid that it
passed unperceived, but the effect of the liquor was almost magical. It
was like an electric shock coursing through his veins. The mist which
had obscured his vision was cleared away; he saw the road stretched out
before him along which he was to run, savages on either side waving
thongs and sticks wherewith to scourge him, and at the farther end,
surrounded by his chiefs, King Philip, with feathered crests and beaded
trappings. The rising of the King to his feet was the token that the
ordeal was to begin.

Strange as it may seem, all sense of fear had left Josh; he was quite
calm now. Setting his teeth tight, he gathered himself together, and
with one foot forward, awaited the signal.

"Others have done it, so, please God, will I," he murmured. A clash! a
wild shout rang out through the summer air, and he was driven forward.
Over the ground he flew, with the steady pluck of a practised runner,
his nerves wrought to their highest tension, heedless alike of the
blows which hailed upon him, of the thongs which tore his flesh. Faster,
ever faster, on he went, blood pouring down his body until the white
skin was red and mauled. As he neared the goal the yells of rage grew
louder, the onslaught fiercer, but he never wavered, though his breath
came short and hard; verily, they were beating it out of him.

A blow struck him high up on the neck; he staggered, but the yells of
delight which greeted this sign of failing strength so maddened him,
that with a supreme effort he leaped forward, threw out his arms, and
caught at something which stayed his course. A rushing sound as of the
incoming tide surged round him, died out, and stillness as of death
crept over him as he slipped unconscious to the ground.

That last spurt saved Josh Blackstone's life. His outstretched arms had
clasped neither pillar nor post, but King Philip's knees! and
straightway Thusick sprang forward and pleaded that the white man should
be delivered to her, that she might heal him, and so he would once again
afford them sport. Her words were greeted with shouts of approval, for
he had done bravely. Usually victims failed to traverse half the
appointed space before they succumbed, but he had fallen at the goal and
was still living! So Thusick's prayer was granted, and he was delivered
into her hands.

Hardly had the judgment been passed when a messenger arrived bringing
news to Philip that the Boston men were sending troops against him, and
that it were well for him to hasten and destroy the nearest villages and
homesteads before they came up to give him battle. Philip needed no
urging; in an incredibly short time the camp of Mount Hope was left to
the old men, women, and children, and before the mid-day sun was high in
the heavens the last plumed savage had disappeared. Strange stillness
reigned where, but a short time before, shouts and yells had filled the
air. On the outskirts of the camp, close to the wooden palisades, was a
solitary wigwam; thither, by Thusick's orders, the unconscious Josh was
carried, and laid on a bed of fresh rushes.

Indian women had much knowledge of medicinal herbs and plants, and
Thusick was skilled even more than others. Quickly she washed his wounds
in fresh water, covered his body with unguents and newly-plucked leaves,
so that when he recovered consciousness and opened his eyes it was to a
sense of comparative comfort. He tried to raise himself, but Thusick
bade him lie still.

"Philip is gone," she said; "have no fear, the chiefs are with him."

"Gone to kill my people, and I am helpless! Let me go too," he said, and
again he strove to rise; but the movement caused his wounds to break out
bleeding afresh, and in utter despair he threw himself back on his couch
of reeds, and broke out into bitter weeping, the outburst of mental
agony long restrained, and great physical pain.

"Father! mother! Rena! they will be done to death!" he cried, "and I
cannot strike a blow to save them."

"The days are long," said the Indian girl; "by night the great pain will
have passed away, and, brave man, you can go. If you have courage and
can walk till dawn, you will come to an Indian village, friends of your
people; they will save you."

"Is it true? Shall I be able to do this?" he asked wearily, feeling so
helpless.

"Yes, if you are strong," said the girl. "Now sleep, for sleep gives
strength." She handed him a gourd, saying, "Drink!"

Suddenly a great passion took possession of Josh, a feeling of deadly
hatred until now unknown to him. All the suffering, all the indignity he
had undergone, seemed to madden him.

"Why do you try to save my life," he said, "when I hate your people,
and if I live will slay them? I will never rest day or night till I have
overcome your father and exterminated his warriors. I will not take life
at your hands and give you death."

Thusick shook her head; her unreasoning mind could not follow him. She
was but a savage, guided by instinct. She gave no name to her actions.
Mercy and love were unknown in her vocabulary. Out of her own gentle
nature she did the deeds of mercy.

"Drink," she repeated in answer to his angry words, and sullenly he
obeyed. "Now sleep, Thusick will watch," and sitting down beside him
with a bunch of gorgeous feathers in her hand, she waved them over him
to keep the noxious flies and insects from settling on his wounds.

When again he awoke it was night, and Thusick was standing beside him.

"It is time you went forth," she said, holding out her hand to help him
to rise. He was astonished to feel no pain, and that his limbs obeyed
his will so that he was able to stand erect.

"Clothe yourself and come forth," said Thusick; "fear not, the old men
and women are sleeping; they will not hear," and she went to the door of
the wigwam.

By the light of an oil lamp Josh saw a portion of his own clothing lying
in a heap within his reach. He noticed also that a gun and a hatchet
were placed beside them, food and drink were on the ground. He did not
know that throughout that long day, whilst he slept, the Indian woman
had so tended him, that, not only the pain of his wounds had ceased, but
they were fast healing. A few seconds later, he stood at the entrance of
the wigwam by Thusick's side. She raised her hand, pointed to the west,
and speaking in a low voice, said--

"The summer nights are short; before dawn you will reach the Mohawks'
village." Josh looked down at her, and even in that supreme moment,
when his soul was still bitter within him, he remembered what he owed
her, and speaking gently, said--

[Illustration: "Quiet! Josiah Blackstone."]

"Your men I will not spare, I will slay them; but for your sake,
Thusick, I will protect every woman of your race, so help me God!"

"It is well," she answered; "now depart."

He obeyed, and Thusick watched him until he had disappeared down the
side of the Mount; then she returned to her own wigwam, with a dull
pain at her heart.

As Josh reached the bottom of the hill, he heard a horse neigh, and at
the same moment a hand was laid upon his shoulder.

"Caught again," he thought, instinctively making a supreme effort to
escape from his invisible foe, but the grip was of iron, and he knew at
once who it was that held him down, when a voice said, speaking in
English, but with a soft Indian intonation--

"Quiet! Josiah Blackstone, do you think, if I had not willed it, you
would be alive now? Twice I have saved your life, and now a third time,
because we have been friends and you have smoked the calumet in my
wigwam; but from henceforth we are as strangers. I know you no more." As
he spoke he loosed his hold, and Josh, turning, saw the gigantic form of
the Sachem King Philip, with the crested plume on his head, looming
forth, a huge shadow in the darkness.

"You have saved me from death, but you have subjected me to indignities
worse than death," said Josh; "nevertheless I thank you, for surely you
meant well."

"If I had not carried you off they would have killed you as they did
your companions," said Philip, "and a prisoner's fate is torture and
death; only to the few is it granted to run the gantlet and to live. I
gave you a chance, you have won, and I let you go forth free. Would your
people have done as much for me? Have you not driven us out of our own
lands, where our fathers hunted? When the white men first trod our
shores we bade them welcome, offering, in exchange for a few cartloads
of cloths, trinkets, and guns, to share the land with them and dwell
together in peace. We were foolish, not knowing that where the white man
sets his foot he must be sole master. You clear our forests, you build
houses, you make towns, and we are driven farther and farther into
wilds, and our familiar hunting-grounds know us no more. We have
suffered much, and so we have risen, and will burn your houses and your
towns, and send you back from whence you came. I will show your people
that the red man can fight for his own and conquer."

"Fight you may, but you will not conquer," said Josh. "I do not say you
are wrong, Philip; if I were in your stead I should doubtless feel as
you do. But the time is past for you to drive us out; we have made this
land our own, rightly or wrongly, and we shall keep it. Be wise while it
is yet time; do not light a torch which will set your forests on fire
and destroy your people."

"It is too late; I am bound," answered the King. "Farewell, Josiah
Blackstone. There is your horse, ride quickly south, and warn your
people; avoid the great forest." And having so spoken, the huge form
leaped up the Mount, bounding from hillock to hillock, and so
disappeared.

"A child of nature, a man with a big heart, worthy to be a king. I am
sorry to lose him for my friend!" sighed Josh. Then mounting his horse,
he rode in the direction Philip had indicated. As Thusick had said, the
summer nights were short, but the day had not yet dawned when Josh
perceived flames and smoke rising in various directions. The settlements
and homesteads were far apart, there were few roads, and communication
was difficult. Checking his horse, Josh looked around, and was startled
by the lurid redness of the sky, and by every other sign of a vast
conflagration near at hand.

"I must be approaching Brookfield," he thought; "I have ridden farther
west than I imagined."

Suddenly the flames shot up, shrieks of agony filled the air, and by the
fierce light he saw a crowd of men, women, and children coming in the
direction of the forest. He remembered Philip's words, and knew the
danger lay there. Riding quickly forward he placed himself in front of
them, shouting, "Back! back! for God's sake, keep out of the forest!"

At the same moment a gust of wind dispersed the smoke, and showed him a
few hundred yards distant a house, which, owing to its isolated
position, away from the burning town, was untouched by fire.

"Follow me," he cried, and dashed towards it.

His sudden appearance, his assurance of voice and manner, had the
desired effect; the fugitives crowded round him, some even clinging to
his stirrups. All vaguely in their terror wondered from whence he had
sprung. "Surely he must have been sent to save them from the heathen."
So he drew them on until they reached the house, entered the courtyard,
and some one closed the gates, thus ensuring safety for a short time at
least.

The day was just dawning, but it was hardly perceptible because of the
fierce light from the burning town, which reddened land and sky with a
deeper glow than the rising sun. Coming ever nearer and nearer they
heard the yells of the savages, and the children clung in terror to
their mothers, who, in their anguish, called upon the men to save them.

"Quick to the house and barricade doors and windows," said Josh.

"You are driving us into a trap; we shall be either murdered or burnt
alive," cried a farmer.

"You will at least have a chance of defending yourselves," answered
Josh; "in the forest you would have been slaughtered. I do not say we
shall escape now, but at least we can fight and die like men."

"He's right," said James Carter, the owner of the house. "My father
built the homestead; it is strong and well seasoned. Comrades, if we
must die, we will sell our lives dearly. Quick, do as the young man bids
you," and throwing open the doors, he hurried the women and children
within.

Josh still sat on his horse looking round, considering rapidly the
possibility of holding the place against such terrible odds. The
physical and mental sufferings through which he had passed had told upon
him in no ordinary degree: his face was drawn and perfectly colourless,
his eyes were sunk deep in his head, and his lips cracked with a
consuming fever; from a bright, happy-looking man, he had grown stern
and forbidding. Truly the iron had entered into his soul.

"I must find some place for my horse; I cannot let him loose, we may
need him. Do you know where I can put him with any degree of safety?" he
asked a young man of about his own age who for the last few minutes had
been watching him attentively.

"If you will dismount, I will stow him away," was the quiet answer.

Josh made an effort to throw himself off, but as he reached the ground
he staggered and almost fell.

"Are you hurt?" asked Stephen Carter, eyeing him curiously.

"Only stiff," answered Josh with an effort, pulling himself together.
"We must hurry up. Do you hear? The Indians are close at hand."

"This way then," said the young man, preceding him to an inner
courtyard, where there was a shed. "He will be all right here."

"Are you acquainted with this house?" asked Josh.

"I ought to be; it is my father's," was the short answer. "I am Stephen
Carter."

"That is well; then you have a right to command. Will you see that the
doors and windows are closed? All the men who have arms must guard the
entrances. Those who have none, with the women, must draw water from the
wells and fill every bucket and utensil, for the Indians will try to
burn us out; it is their way."

He had hardly finished speaking, when the frantic yells of the savages,
the shots pouring in on all sides, told only too plainly that the siege
had already begun.

"Young man, whoever you may be," said the farmer, who had at first
protested, "you brought us into this trap, and you must get us out."

"I'll do the best I can for you," answered Josh, and he went off one
way, Stephen Carter another, to organise the defence.

They were indeed in a desperate strait; to enter the house and massacre
every white man, woman, and child, was the determined object of the
besiegers, and they left no device untried to accomplish this.

"The devils! I told you they'd fire us," said Josh to Stephen, as
looking through a chink he saw the Indians piling wood and other
combustible materials up against the walls of the house.

"Quick, make a chain and give them a shower-bath," he shouted.

He was obeyed with right good-will, and the flames were extinguished.

Then firebrands, fastened on long poles, were hoisted against the
cornices and projections, in the hope of setting them on fire. Then
arrows wound round with burning rags filled with sulphur were shot down
on to the roof; whilst the savages swarmed on to the window-sills and
balconies, trying to find some unguarded place; but they were thrust
back, more often shot down, and falling on those below, created great
confusion.

The first terror over, the besieged entered heart and soul into the
spirit of the defence, and at every turn, by every device and cunning,
baffled the Indians. Josh was indefatigable, Stephen following close on
his heels, for his daring, unceasing energy excited the latter's
admiration and fascinated him. He was seen to tear the firebrands from
the poles and dash them amongst the enemy, then mounting on the roof he
hurled the sulphured arrows back to whence they came; and his example
being quickly followed by others, no wonder if the savages lost heart,
so that when at last Josh and Stephen, with a dozen other men, dashed
into their midst, an almost hand-to-hand fight ensued, and they
gradually gave way and fled to the shelter of the forest, leaving many
dead and wounded behind them on the ground. Then the besieged had a
short respite, and were able to take counsel together. Men pressed
forward to shake Josh by the hand, forgetting he was a stranger. His
white set face now begrimed with smoke was ghastly to behold. Stephen
brought him food. "You are doing the work of half-a-dozen men," he said;
"your strength will fail you if you do not eat." Silently Josh
acquiesced, thanking him.

A man came up to him.

"Have you heard that Colonel Willard of Boston has been despatched
westward?" he asked.

"No; how should I?" said Josh. "If that is a fact, and our plight were
made known to him, he might come to our rescue."

"It _is_ a fact; he was sent to punish Philip for the murder of the
deputation," said the man.

Josiah started. "All were not murdered," he said, "for I, Josiah
Blackstone, am here amongst you. I was taken prisoner, carried to Mount
Hope, and--" he paused--"with Philip's aid I escaped." He would not tell
of the torture he had undergone; but continued, without noticing the
astonishment his words occasioned, "If Colonel Willard is anywhere
within reach we must get at him."

"Impossible, the Indians are all around; if we attempt to move they will
start up again."

Josh made no answer. The subject was discussed generally, and
unanimously decided to be impracticable; any man leaving the house would
be seen and murdered. There was nothing to do but to wait, on the chance
that a fugitive from Brookfield would carry the news to the colonel.

Night fell, and still the savages remained quiet. Stephen was on guard
at the back of the house when Josh appeared leading his horse.

"Surely you are not going to do it?" he said.

"I am going to try," answered Josh grimly. "I guess about where I can
catch Willard. It will be sharp work; but if I succeed by to-morrow at
this time he may have given those red devils a lesson which they will
not forget in a hurry. I am afraid they will wake up and worry you
to-morrow; be on your guard, and do your uttermost to hold out till
evening. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Stephen. "It is awfully plucky of you. I hope you will
get through; it is our only chance. But you hardly look fit for such a
ride."

"I am tougher than you think," said Josh; "most men would look worse
than I do if they had gone through what I have done," and he held out
his hand.

Stephen wrung it, saying, "I'll unbar the back gate for you, it opens on
to the water-meadows; the ground is soft, so that the horse's hoofs will
not be heard if you walk him, and I believe the savages are on the other
side in the forest. It is less than half a mile to the river, and a mile
farther up it is so shallow that you can easily ford it; on the other
side you will be comparatively safe."

"Thanks," said Josiah. "The night's dark; that is in my favour," and he
disappeared.

Throughout that night and the following morning the Indians remained
quiet; but soon after noon they emerged from the forest, dragging and
pushing forward a sort of cart of enormous dimensions mounted on
rudely-constructed wheels. Bundles of hay, flax, and hemp, besides other
combustible materials, were piled in it to a great height. They brought
the thing within a short distance of the house, screening themselves
behind it from the shots which the besieged fired down upon them. Then
a party of Indians with long poles came running, shouting, and yelling
triumphantly out of the forest; evidently they felt sure now of victory.

[Illustration: "Be on your guard."]

The besieged watched these preparations with painful anxiety, not daring
to give expression to their fears.

Suddenly a cloud of smoke arose, tongues of fire leaped up, and the
Indians, using long poles, began pushing the cumbersome vehicle nearer
to the house. Then indeed the English knew they were lost. The men
turned pale and looked aghast at the awful sight, and the women in their
terror cried aloud to God to help them. Their doom was sealed; either
they must perish in the flames, or rushing out, be murdered by the
savages. Slowly but surely the horrible machine came on, long tongues of
fire already licked the front of the house, and the small amount of
water the besieged were able to throw upon that great mass of
combustible substance was of no avail; besides, the heat would not allow
of their opening the windows or ascending to the roof.

"Let us out, let us out!" shrieked the terror-stricken women.

"Nothing but the bursting of the clouds from heaven can save us,"
exclaimed Stephen in despair.

At that moment, above the cries of the women and children and the yells
of the savages, there was heard a distant rumbling.

"What is it? what new horror is coming upon us?" cried several voices at
once. Again it came rolling nearer and nearer, and some one said, "It is
thunder!" Then an aged woman, raising her wrinkled hands, cried with a
loud voice, "The Lord is with us; who shall be against us?"

But the rain, the blessed rain from heaven, would it fall and extinguish
the flames, which kept rising higher and higher? The trees of the forest
waved, bowing before the coming storm; the wind rose, and the house
rocked under the fury of the elements; and the women, falling on their
knees, prayed, "Good Lord, deliver us!" and the men, uncovering their
heads, prayed also. They were powerless; God alone could save them!

If the rain held off only a little longer, it would be too late! Already
a buttress had caught fire, and at the risk of their lives the two
Carters, father and son, with the aid of several other men, hewed at it
to separate it from the main building. Suddenly a flash of lightning, so
lurid that the whole heavens were illumined, followed by a crash of
thunder, rolling as it seemed in the nethermost parts of the earth and
in the heavens above, struck English and Indians alike with terror. The
latter, throwing themselves with their faces on the earth, lay as if
stunned. And then the clouds burst, a sheet of water poured down, a
perfect deluge! In the space of a few minutes the land was submerged,
the fire was extinguished, and the burning mass reduced to smoking
embers.

The besieged knew that for the present they were saved, and the Indians
knew they were conquered by the "Great Unseen," and so, rising half
drowned, they fled to the forest. As suddenly as the storm had risen so
suddenly did it abate.

Then another sound reached the ears of the besieged, the tramping of
horses' hoofs coming at full speed through the deserted village, and a
troop of some fifty or sixty horsemen pursued the Indians, shooting and
hewing them down. Many were slain, and those who escaped dispersed.
Before sunset all fear was over for that brave little garrison, the
house-doors were thrown open, and they came forth to welcome their
rescuers.

"Josiah Blackstone? where is Blackstone? We owe our lives to him," said
James Carter.

"Ay, verily we do!" shouted a chorus of voices.

"You say truly," responded Colonel Willard. "When he arrived at my camp
this morning both he and his horse were dead beat; he could not have
ridden back with me. There comes a time when even the strongest man has
to give in, and Josh Blackstone had reached that stage. Do you know
where he came from?"

"From Mount Hope; he was made prisoner by Philip, and escaped," said
Stephen Carter.

"After running the gantlet, and coming out of it alive, which not one
man in fifty succeeds in doing," said the colonel; "and it seems to me
he has been on the go ever since. No marvel if he dropped from his horse
in a dead faint after he had delivered your message. He's a Spartan! A
cheer for brave Josh Blackstone!"

And the cheer went up right gladly, whilst the women brushed the tears
from their eyes, and the men muttered in their beards, "He's a brave
lad! a right brave lad!"

       *       *       *       *       *

All through that winter and the following spring and summer the war
raged; a reign of terror spread over the land.

When Josiah Blackstone reached his home he found the house burnt to the
ground, the trees in the orchard felled, only the trodden-down grave of
his grandsire left to mark where his inheritance had been.

Father, mother, Rena, were no more! He stood desolate and alone. His
father, he was told, had defended himself bravely; more than one Indian
had fallen by his hand; but at last overpowered by numbers, he had been
slain. Of his mother and Rena's fate he failed to learn anything; they
had disappeared. One thing he discovered, namely, that it was not the
Wampanoags, Philip's tribe of Indians, who had wrought this destruction,
but the squaw Sachem Weetamoo's, and Josh there and then made up his
mind that he would follow her up and discover the fate of his mother and
sister. The Plymouth Colony had put the conduct of all military affairs
into the hands of Colonel Church, a friend of the Blackstones, and
straightway Josh offered him his services, which were readily accepted,
and he was enrolled in the corps, and rapidly rose to the rank of
captain. The knowledge of Indian warfare he had gained from his friend
was only equalled by Colonel Church himself, and these two men, working
together, became an absolute terror to the Indians, for they not only
fought them with their own weapons of cunning and ruse, but with the
superior arms of the trained soldier.

Gradually but surely the red men felt the weight of the white man's arm;
they lost many of their best chiefs and warriors; they could no longer
undertake large expeditions, but were reduced to a sort of predatory
warfare. Twice in the course of a few weeks Philip was nearly captured;
he fled, escaping in disguise, no one knew whither. But even then he
would not yield. One of his chiefs venturing to propose that peace
should be asked for, Philip ordered him at once to be put to death.

The sorely-tried population of New England would gladly have made peace.
The strain of never-ceasing anxiety had whitened the heads of men still
in their prime, and young men had even grown to look old. They could
bear to die and suffer themselves, if need be; but their hearts ached
for the women and children, above all for those who were missing and
whose fates were dark mysteries.

"It will never end until that she-devil Weetamoo and her tool Philip are
taken or killed, Josh," said Colonel Church, as they paced together in
front of their tent, they having during the last few days pitched their
camp near Tiverton in the North.

"If you can devise any plan by which this can be accomplished, I am
ready," said Josh. "As far as it has been consistent with my duty, I
have avoided Philip. I have told you how he saved my life. But for this
squaw Sachem I have no such feeling, and I believe she is at the bottom
of all this mischief."

Even as he spoke, an Indian came out from amongst a clump of trees and
stood before them.

Always on his guard against treachery, Josh raised his musket.

"Stand!" he shouted.

"No fear; I have come to speak with you and tell you what you desire to
know," said the Indian, halting at a safe distance.

"Who are you?" asked the colonel.

"I am the brother of the chief whom Philip slew because he spake of
peace. I have lost two sons in the war; I have but one left, and he is a
babe. I also would dwell at peace, so have I come to you that you may
slay the squaw Sachem Weetamoo. She has but a few men left of her three
hundred warriors, and when she is conquered I will lead you to Philip's
hiding-place."

"How are we to know that you are true, and will not rather lead us unto
our death?" said Colonel Church.

"My squaw and my babe are here with me," and he pointed to the clump of
trees; "take them and slay them if I lie."

"Let it be so," said Church, with a glance at Josh; "fetch them."

The Indian disappeared.

"He's true; I know the man," said Josh.

Leading a fine boy of five, and followed by a squaw, the savage
reappeared.

"It is well," said Church; "let them remain yonder. Now, what have you
to tell us? We will reward you, and your wife and child shall be cared
for; therefore speak without fear."

"The Sachem Weetamoo is camped on the banks of the Matipoisett; her
warriors are dead; she has but a score of men left. I will lead you to
her this night."

"Let me go with him, colonel," said Josh eagerly. "This woman laid my
home waste, slew my father, and has, may-be, kept my mother and sister
in captivity; it is but right that I should capture her. Above all
things, I would not run the risk of her being killed, I must question
her."

"I am quite willing you should go; I am expecting reinforcements, and
cannot move forward myself. Take twenty men, and let the Indian guide
you," said the colonel.

In the briefest possible space of time, Josh was on his way with a small
but well-armed force, for they reasoned the Indian might be numerically
mistaken, and Weetamoo be stronger than he represented. The Indian led
them along roads known only to native hunters, creeping through the
forest stealthily as the tiger ready to pounce upon his prey; then they
worked their way up towards the far-away river, where Weetamoo had taken
refuge. The day was dawning when they came in sight of her camp, the
outlines of the tents just visible through the river mist resting in
white clouds over the marshy land. Quickly, noiselessly, with practised
skill, Josh disposed his men along the river front and round the camp,
in such a manner as to render escape almost impossible. The orders were,
_not_ to kill the savages, but to make them prisoners. This order
applied more especially to the squaw Sachem; she of all others was to be
taken alive. Then headed by Josh, a rush was made into the midst of the
camp.

Aroused from their slumbers, wholly unprepared and unarmed, this last
remnant of the three hundred warriors made but a faint resistance, and
finding they could save their lives by yielding, they did so. At the
first alarm a woman crept out of her tent through the long rushes.
Quickly as a serpent she glided down towards the river. "Cowards!" she
had hissed when she saw her people yield, and yet in her heart she knew
they could not well do otherwise. Favoured by the mist, she had evaded
the guard, reached the water's edge, when suddenly she lifted her head
and looked back. Josh, feeling sure she would make for the river, was
close at hand, and saw the passionate face and angry eyes flash out upon
him. He sprang forward; but before he could reach her, with a shout of
triumph she leaped into the water and was swimming rapidly down with the
current. To throw himself in after her was the work of a second. He saw
her disappear, thought she was lost, when lo! she rose again far ahead
of him. She had but dived, swimming under the water to scare him.
Throwing out all his strength, he was gaining upon her, when to his
horror he became aware they were approaching some rapids, where the
river fell from a great height into a lake. The noise was terrific. He
slackened speed, shouted to her, but either she did not or would not
hear. She must have known full well the fate which awaited her; but on
she went, swept forward by the strong current, down over the brink into
the dark lake below, and the rushing of the waters was the dirge of
Weetamoo. It was with much difficulty that Josh succeeded in reaching
the bank and walking back to the camp. His men were for giving him up as
lost, especially when the Indians told them how and where that river
ended; his reappearance was therefore greeted with enthusiastic cheers,
though the general disappointment at the escape of the squaw Sachem was
great.

It had been agreed between Josh and Colonel Church that the latter
should advance as soon as he had received the expected reinforcements,
and that together they should go on to where the Indian stated Philip
had taken refuge, namely, on a bit of upland at the south end of the
swamp at the foot of Mount Hope. The day following the capture of
Weetamoo's camp Church arrived, but without the promised reinforcements;
they had been delayed.

"I decided to come on all the same," said the colonel; "for if we are to
take him at all, it must be done quickly, or he will get wind of our
movements and escape us."

"You are right," replied Josh; "we must just do the best we can."

The following day they moved forward, and by night were within a
short distance of the swamp. Josh, knowing the ground, went on in front
with about twenty men, and stationed them, as far as their numbers would
permit, at every outlet; then guided by the Indian, he and Church, with
a mere handful of soldiers, crept up the hillside. The Indians were
sleeping. They were roused by the firing of a shot; instantly all was
confusion. Philip sprang to his feet, seized his gun, and rushed
straight down the hillside towards the swamp, to the very spot where the
Indian who had betrayed him stood, with an Englishman on guard. They
both saw him and fired simultaneously. The Englishman missed the mark,
but the Indian's bullet entered Philip's heart. He fell forward dead in
the black swamp.

[Illustration: "With a shout of triumph she leaped into the water."]

"I am glad I did not do it," said Josh, as he stood with Colonel Church
looking down on the dead body of the King.

"And yet," said Church, "through him your house has been made desolate."

"That is our view of the war," answered Josh; "in his eyes we are the
intruders. He but fought for what he considered to be his own, and where
he could be generous he was. He did not slay my father; it was Weetamoo.
I have no personal grudge against Philip; he was my friend. To such a
nature as his our yoke was insupportable. It is well his spirit is set
free; he could not have brooked captivity." And with a last look at the
dead warrior Josh turned away.

So ended this great struggle, known as "King Philip's War." The white
man had conquered; the Indian power throughout southern New England was
broken; whole tribes and families of Indians had been destroyed; the
remnants fled farther west into the unexplored wilds, whither the white
man's foot had not yet strayed. The settlers gazed sadly around upon the
ruins of their towns and homesteads; but they were brave men and women,
and looked the future steadily in the face. They had fought and bled for
this New England, even as they would have done for the "old countrie,"
and they loved it all the better for the sacrifices they had made.

So Josiah Blackstone stood beside old William Blackstone's grave and
thought. He was alone. "Should he build a new house, where the old one
had stood? Should he replant the orchard with trees, in the hope of
seeing them blossom and bear fruit?" It seemed dreary work; but a voice
whispered that such as he, with youth and health and strength, were the
marrow of the land, to build up and make strong with Christian faith
what the heathen had overthrown; and taking up a pickaxe he struck it
into the ground, saying in his heart: "So help me, God! I will rebuild
my father's house; it is my duty." He set to work and laboured
diligently, and a fair new house arose, and young saplings were planted
where the old trees had been hewn down; and still men said, "Josiah
Blackstone is a sad man!" and truly by day and by night he mourned. "If
only my mother, and Rena, my little sister, had been spared to me!" but
he could hear nothing of them, and they were to him as dead.

Friends counselled him to take a wife, and he pondered thereon; but no
maiden pleased him, and he waited.

The weeks and months passed by, the harvest was gathered in, and it was
very plenteous; and when the labourers had gone to their homes, Josh sat
smoking in the porch of the new house, because it seemed less lonesome
than in the empty rooms; and as he sat the sound of wheels fell on his
ear, but he paid no heed thereto, until they stopped at his gate. Then
looking up, he saw a covered cart. Out of it sprang a girl, tall and
slim; then another. And last of all an older woman laid her hands on
those young shoulders; but Josh, pushing them on one side, took her in
his arms, crying, "Mother! my mother!" and he carried her over the _new_
threshold to the living-room and placed her by the hearth; and she
kissed him weeping, with her arms about his neck, and Rena did likewise.
But the maiden stood apart gazing wistfully, and Josh saw that it was
Thusick, King Philip's daughter! A moment he hesitated; seeing which,
his mother arose, and taking Thusick's hand, said: "She is my daughter;
but for her we had all perished. Now she has no home among her people,
for they are all dead; she must dwell amongst us, our God must be her
God, our people her people. Shall it not be so, my son?"

[Illustration: "He fell forward dead in the black swamp."]

"It shall," answered Josh, "she is welcome. Philip was my friend, and
she is a king's daughter."

And Thusick dwelt with them and was as one of them. When the orchard was
white with apple-blossom, Love passed that way, and under the eaves of
the _new_ homestead was whispered an _old, old story_!



SIR RICHARD'S SQUIRES

BY C. W. WHISTLER


Just one month after I became squire to Sir Richard de Courci, then of
the Castle of Stoke Courci, that lies between Quantock Hills and the sea
in our fair Somerset, I met Alan de Govet, about whom my story mostly
is.

We had been to Taunton, and were riding homewards across the hills, and
valley and river lay straight before us--as fair a view as any in all
England is that rich country between Mendips and Quantocks--yet I
suppose that Sir Richard thought of it hardly at all, for he, as Queen
Matilda's steward, was deep in all the new plans that were to set our
exiled queen on her father's throne, and he rode thoughtfully after
meeting De Mohun of Dunster that day.

But when we saw a gay little party of men in hunting dress, with hawks
and hounds, come up the deep narrow lane to meet us, he roused, and
turning to the twenty well-armed men behind us, asked who these were who
came now.

None of them knew: but as they came nearer, I saw that the handsome
young leader of the party wore the badge of the De Govets--a family from
Yeovil, and well-known and loyal followers of King Stephen.

"Why, then," said my knight, "if this is young De Govet, I must have a
word or two with him. Bar the road while we speak."

The men grinned, and closed up so that the lane was full. There was
little love lost, since Matilda's failure of two years ago, between the
parties of King and Queen.

[Illustration: "He came heavily to the roadside grass, where he lay
stunned."]

When we met, therefore, the hunting party must needs rein up, for they
could not pass us.

"Pardon me, sir knight, but you bar the road," said the leader, raising
his cap courteously.

"Only for the pleasure of speech with you," said my knight, saluting in
turn. "I am De Courci, and I believe that I speak to Alan de Govet?"

The young man's face darkened as he answered, "Let me go my way, Sir
Richard. I have nought to say to disloyal men."

"There are two sides to every question, young sir," the knight answered.
"And since I am a Queen's man, and the De Govets are King's men, we have
different views of what loyalty is. However, just now Stephen is king."

"Well, what would you with me?"

"Some time since I had a fair offer to make to your noble
father--touching yourself--that is, if you are Alan de Govet. I have as
yet had no answer."

The young man's face flushed angrily.

"Stand aside, sir," he said. "This is discourteous."

"Not if you are the man I take you for. Which, by the way, you have not
owned as yet."

"I will own nothing, if thus asked," was the answer, and the stranger
turned to his men.

But they had gone hastily at the first word about the rival claims of
King and Queen, knowing what mostly came of such arguments nowadays.

Seeing which, he turned his horse leisurely, and without sign of fear,
to follow them, and Sir Richard laughed, and rode alongside him, laying
his hand on the horse's bridle.

"Stay--I must ask you to come to Stoke Courci with me, as your men have
left you," he said.

In a moment the young man's sword was out, and at the same instant he
seemed to rise from his saddle, lose his balance, and fall away from Sir
Richard. His blow was wasted on air, as he came heavily to the roadside
grass, where he lay stunned.

"Bring him home carefully," said Sir Richard to his men. "If he is Alan
de Govet, we must have had him as a hostage sooner or later. If he is
not--well, a De Courci can but apologise."

So we rode on, and I asked Sir Richard, wondering, why so good a rider
fell, as did this young man.

"'Tis an old trick," the knight said; "you do but get your foot under
his and lift him at the right moment. But I would not advise you to try
it with one heavier than yourself."

Now when we reached the castle, our prisoner was brought in after us,
seemingly not much the worse for his fall, and the Lady Sybilla, Sir
Richard's ward, and mistress of the castle since his wife died, asked me
who he might be. And when I told her that he was thought to be Alan de
Govet, but that he would not own his name, she flushed a little, and
said no more. Next day I had reason to think that she had heard of him
before this. Very fair was this young lady, and heiress of many broad
acres. She seemed much older than myself, but a boy of sixteen will
think anything over twenty a great age.

After breakfast on the next day I fed the hawks, and then came back into
the great hall to see if my knight had any commands for me. There I
found some sort of council on hand, and, from all appearances, no very
peaceful one. Jehan of Stowey, the head man-at-arms, and one of his men
guarded the two doors, and our chaplain, Father Gregorius, sat by the
hearth, smiling uneasily. Sir Richard sat in his great chair on the
daïs, facing his prisoner, and by his side was the Lady Sybilla, who was
plainly in a towering rage, for her eyes flashed, and her little hand
was clenched as if she was holding herself in check. And when I looked
at De Govet, I saw that he was as angry as the lady. As for Sir Richard,
he seemed to be enjoying what was going on immensely, watching his
prisoner with something of admiration for his fearlessness. Well built
and square he was, though not so big as our knight, who was almost a
giant, as the De Courcis often are, and he looked like a warrior, even
in his hunting gear, which was stained with red Quantock mud from his
fall when he was taken.

[Illustration: "Sir Richard sat in his great chair on the daïs."]

Sir Richard took up the matter where he had broken it off when I
entered.

"'Tis a mercy, Alan, that De Mohun of Dunster did not get hold of you.
For that humour of yours of last night, when you would not own your
name, would surely have landed you in the sachentege he keeps in his
castle wherewith to wring answers from the silent. I would fain fit a
more pleasant yoke to your neck," he said in a meditative way, watching
De Govet's face amusedly.

Now of all the tortures that a Norman can invent, that of the sachentege
is the worst; for the engine is made of a great beam of wood, fastened
round the man's neck with a rough iron collar. As the beam is too heavy
for one man to lift, and too long to be set on end, it is apt to wring
confession of anything needed from him who is set therein after a time.
Therefore I was surprised to hear the Lady Sybilla say suddenly--

"Borrow De Mohun's sachentege, I pray you."

"Fie, daughter," said Gregorius, shaking his head, but half smiling at
the girl's anger. "It were a shame to set so gallant a youth in such
bondage."

"Set me in the hateful thing rather," she said. "It were better than to
marry me to this man of Stephen's, who would not own whatever name he
has--being doubtless ashamed thereof."

At that De Govet started, and his face grew crimson. But Sybilla went
on, growing more angry still.

"When Queen Maud comes I will go to her. She will see that I----"

"Hold," said Sir Richard suddenly; "enough of this. Go to your bower,
girl, until you can be more patient with your guardian."

"Willingly," she said, with a proud toss of her head, and she swept out
of the hall without a glance at us, and her waiting-woman followed her.

Then there was silence, and the knight and his captive looked at one
another until a faint smile crossed De Govet's face. The chaplain looked
anxious and disturbed, and it flashed of a sudden across my mind that if
Queen Matilda was indeed coming to England shortly, it was the last
thing that a King's man should have heard as yet.

Sir Richard tried to laugh, but it was uneasy.

"When do King Stephen and Maud his Queen come this way?" he asked Alan
de Govet.

"When does Maud the Empress cross from Normandy?" retorted Alan.

Then both laughed. They understood one another by this time.

"Well," said Sir Richard, "shut up you must be, Alan, for a time at
least. But if you will take my advice you will do as I wish you, and so
find freedom and fortune as well."

"This is a pretty plan," said Alan. "Having caught a loyal King's man,
you must needs marry him to your ward, you being Matilda's steward,
whereby you save her fortunes when your new plots fail."

"Or yours when they succeed," answered Sir Richard. "Truly this is a
pretty plan, as you say, and I am a benefactor to you both. Moreover, I
think that you might seek further and fare worse."

"What is the benefit to yourself?" said Alan scornfully.

"Being a De Courci, I look for none, except may-be that to have a damsel
in my charge hampers me somewhat; also, it is my duty to provide for her
welfare as best I can. This is no new plan of mine, Alan. De Mohun or I
were to take you sooner or later as a hostage, to ensure that your good
father will bide quietly when there is a little fighting on hand
presently. I have only caught you by chance rather sooner than I hoped."

"Well," said Alan, "the lady seems to think ill of your plans for her
welfare."

"That is because her advice was not asked," laughed Sir Richard. "Now,
what say you?"

"It is plain that I have heard too much to be let loose," said Alan,
"and I will not be married against my will. Wherefore you have me in
your own power."

"The choice is between the bonds of matrimony and the small dungeon I
have here, unless you prefer to be sent to Dunster, where De Mohun will
take good care of you. I think the first choice is best."

"What sort of dungeon have you here?" asked Alan coolly on this. "I have
no mind for Dunster."

"Let him see it," said Sir Richard to Jehan, and Alan turned on his heel
and followed the man-at-arms from the hall without a word.

"One would have thought that the looks of the Lady Sybilla would have
needed no comparison with those of any dungeon," said our knight with a
great laugh, when he had disappeared. "But it is a good youth, and I am
glad that De Mohun got him not, else he would have been in the rack by
this time. But we may not let him go, now that yon headstrong girl has
let out what she has."

Presently Jehan brought Alan back. The former was grinning, but the
latter was cool as ever. His gay cordovan boots were wet and muddy, as
if he had been over the ankles in water.

"'Tis a good dungeon," he said, "and no chance of escape therefrom. I
have no mind to dwell in it, therefore I will offer ransom for myself."

Sir Richard shook his head.

"I took you, Master de Govet, for weightier reasons than those of gain."

"That is to your credit," answered Alan. "It is discourteous to take an
unarmed man by force, save for weighty reasons. Then I will pledge my
word of honour not to escape if allowed reasonable liberty."

"Ho!" said Sir Richard, "is there no word about the Lady Sybilla?"

"We will not discuss that point further," said Alan loftily. "I do but
seek to evade the dungeon."

"It seems that you know your mind, young man," Sir Richard said, "and I
am willing to meet you as far as I may. If I take your word, you must
promise also to hold no communication with the King's party."

"I will consider myself in the dungeon for that matter. They will not
miss my help."

"I am not so sure," said the knight thoughtfully. "If you are my guest
you may hear and see much that they would be glad to learn."

"Turn me out, then," said Alan promptly. "I know nothing as yet."

Again Sir Richard shook his head and laughed.

"I must keep my hostage, for I am not alone in this matter, and have to
answer to others. Now, do I have your word not to escape, and to be
silent?"

Alan stepped forward and held out his hand.

"The word of a De Govet," he said.

Now from that time forward Alan took his captivity in good part, sending
by a chapman some message to his father which Sir Richard approved, and
which satisfied those at home, for shortly after they sent him all that
a guest could need, even to his helm and mail and charger. I do not know
what his people thought of his being a guest with so noted a Queen's man
as our knight, but at that time the great plans were secret, and none
seemed to have any suspicion of them beyond the circle of the leaders of
Matilda's party.

I soon learnt, having often to ride with messages to one leader or
another, what these plans were, and I can put them into few words. Earl
Robert of Gloucester, our Queen's half-brother, was to rise at the head
of all the nobles in the west, while King Malcolm of Scotland, her
uncle, was to invade England from across the Border. Two years ago he
had done the same, but failed for want of well-planned assistance, so
that King Stephen was able to make terms with him. This had seemed the
death-blow to Matilda's hopes at the time, but now things would surely
go better. Stephen would be taken between two fires, and then the Queen
would come from Normandy, and all would end in her favour.

So the great plotting went on, and meanwhile Alan de Govet and I grew to
be great friends, for he was a good warrior, and took pains to teach me
many things. Which pleased Sir Richard well, so that he seemed to forget
that Alan was his captive, treating him always as a welcome guest.

The only person in all the castle, and village also, who did not like
Alan was the Lady Sybilla, and she made no secret of her dislike. I
thought it good of Alan to take the trouble to please her that he did,
for we must needs see much of her. However, she was always most pleasant
to me, and I liked to serve her in any way that I could. Father
Gregorius was another friend of mine, and I learnt many things that a
squire should know from him. He, too, liked Alan, and would often pass a
sly jest on him about his choice between the dungeon and the lady's
hand, at first. But as time went on Alan seemed to grow tired of the old
jest, and waxed angry when it came. So Gregorius forgot it.

It was in April, towards the end, that I came to Stoke Courci, and from
that time forward messengers came and went in much secrecy. Once Earl
Robert came for a day from Dunster, with De Mohun; and once we rode to
Wells to meet Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, the Justiciar, from whose help
the Queen hoped much.

Now, in the beginning of July, I had been out with Sir Richard, and did
not go into the castle when I had led the horses round to the stables,
but sought Alan in the tiltyard, some one telling me that he had gone in
that direction. And there I saw a thing that puzzled me, for it was
unlike what one might have expected.

Two people walked under the trees on the far side of the tilting-ground,
and they were the Lady Sybilla and Alan himself in deep converse. Alan
seemed to be speaking a great deal and getting short answers; which was
not surprising, as the lady was always proud and disdainful with him, so
that Alan always seemed discomfited when she appeared. Just at this
time, however, he did not seem so.

They did not see that I came, at first; and before they heeded me, I
heard a few words.

"I will have nought to say to a man who is ashamed to own his own name,"
quoth Lady Sybilla.

"It was not shame, but policy," answered Alan.

"Ay--to escape from me."

Alan was silent for a moment, and then said--

"I have learnt to prize what once I had no thought of."

Then Sybilla saw me, and flushed.

"Ay--your name, you mean," she said to Alan, whose face was away from
me. "Go to--win your name back by some deeds of arms, and then you may
be worth speaking with."

With that she passed him and came towards me, beginning to hum some old
tune or other lightly. As for Alan, he bided where she left him, not
caring to follow.

"Come away," she said to me; "your comrade is in an evil temper."

"That is the first time I have seen him so," answered I; "needs must
that I stay to cheer him; for I am not the cause of his ill-humour," and
I laughed.

"Well then, go your way for an unmannerly squire," she retorted, turning
away towards the castle.

"Nay, but, lady--" I began. But she went on quickly, with one last
remark flung over her shoulder, as it were--

"I know where I am not wanted, at least."

"Now," thought I, "it is plain where the ill-temper lies." So I went to
Alan, and asked what was amiss.

"Well," said he--for though he was five years or more older than I, we
were close friends by this time--"maybe I am a fool to think twice of
the matter; but, on my word, friend Ralph, one would think that I was in
love."

I laughed heartily.

"Did you tell her so?" I asked.

"She has set me a task which, as a good squire, I am bound to undertake,
whatever I may have said; and what chance a prisoner like myself has to
do it, I cannot see."

"Winning a name to wit. I heard that much," I said. "But that we have
often talked of. It does not need the words of a sharp-tongued damsel to
set your thoughts in that direction."

"Your Saxon wits need sharpening with Norman whetstone," he answered
gravely. "Know you not that the word of a fair lady has double weight in
the matter of winning renown? So that one must straightway seek for what
one might else have left to chance and good fortune."

"My Saxon mother-wit would tell me that all depends on who the lady who
speaks the word may be," I answered, being used to a gentle jest of this
sort from Alan, and by no means minding it, since I had well beaten him
about the Norman pate with our good old Saxon quarter-staff--the one
weapon whose use he disdained until I persuaded him to a bout with me.
After which he learned to use it, because he said that it belonged to
good forestry.

"Above wit comes the law of chivalry," he said then. "It matters not if
the lady is queen or beggar-maid, so that her words be a spur to great
deeds and knightly."

[Illustration: "I know where I am not wanted, at least."]

Now, when Alan began in this strain he was apt to wax high-flown,
causing Sir Richard to laugh at him at times. So I said--

"This sounds well. But there is nought for you to undertake, that I can
see."

After that we sat and looked out to the long line of the blue Quantocks
and spoke of foreign wars. But the time for brave deeds was nearer than
we thought, for that night came a messenger with stirring news, and
after speaking with him Sir Richard sent for us two.

"Alan," he said, "I have strange news for you, and I do not know how you
will take what I have to tell you. Nor do I rightly know what to do with
you now. The other leaders of our cause will not suffer me to let you go
free, as I would willingly, because they do your father the honour of
thinking that his hand must be held. As for myself, I have forgotten
that you are aught but a guest, and you please me."

Alan smiled, and made a little bow at that, but said nothing.

"Now I must go northwards," said the knight; "and at once. Ralph must
see to my arms, and he will go with me, all the better squire for your
companionship. There is a campaign on hand, as you may guess."

"Northward," said Alan thoughtfully. "Are the Scots on foot across the
Border?"

"Ay; that they are."

"Why, then, let me go with you and help fight them, Sir Richard. That is
England's quarrel--whether king or queen has right to the throne."

Sir Richard smiled grimly.

"Mostly that is so. But now Malcolm comes again as ally of his niece,
and with his help we mean to set her on the throne. I fear you will not
fight on my side."

"I cannot," answered Alan. "I had hoped this was but some new Border
raid or public quarrel."

He was silent for a while as my knight told me what I had to prepare for
the journey. But presently he spoke again--

"Let me go with you, Sir Richard," he said. "You are most generous in
your own wish to let me go free, and it is possible that in the far
north, where there will be none to hinder you, you will let me join in
one battle for my own king. I would return to you either in victory or
defeat, if not slain. And if slain, any further trouble in keeping me is
over."

"This is a strange request," said Sir Richard, watching Alan's eager
face. "You must be tired of our little castle."

But I thought I knew why Alan was so ready to go north for a mere chance
of fighting.

"Alan has a mind to do some mighty deeds or other," I said. "We spoke
thereof this afternoon."

"When I came here I denied my name, as it were," said Alan quickly,
preferring not to be questioned perhaps, "and I must needs win it back.
Let me prove that I am not to be ashamed thereof."

"Nay, Alan. You withheld your name somewhat foolishly, may-be; but you
denied it not. None can blame you," said Sir Richard kindly.

"Nevertheless it has been said that I must win it back, and, I pray you,
let me have this chance."

"Ralph," said Sir Richard sternly, "is this your foolishness?"

"Not mine," I answered. "'Tis but a poor jest of the Lady Sybilla's."

The knight looked at Alan and began to smile. Alan grew red and then
angry, and Sir Richard laughed.

"So!" he said. "If that is the lady's word, there is no help for it. But
I knew not that you had used your leisure so well."

Now why Alan had not a word to say for himself at this I could not
tell, but so it was. At last, after shifting from one foot to the other
uneasily, he ceased his pretence at anger, and said--

"I am asking much, Sir Richard. But may it be so?"

"Come north at least, and we will see about the rest. If you fight for
Stephen, however, you and I may be running tilt against one another
unawares in some melee."

"You have unhorsed me once, Sir Richard," said Alan, in high glee, "and
out of your way would I keep. Now, I do not know how to thank you."

"Why," said Sir Richard, "I am wont to need two squires, and have but
one. If you are not too proud, journey as my second, and if aught is
wanting in your gear I will supply it."

"It is honour for any squire to serve the De Courci," said Alan. "Your
squire I will be in all good faith, until I must needs ask you to let me
have one fight for whom I will."

I was glad enough that Alan was to go with us, as may be supposed, and
gaily went to work to set my lord's armour in order, while Jehan of
Stowey saw to mine. And presently, while I sat alone in the armoury
singing as I polished the heavy, flat-topped, war helm, the Lady Sybilla
came in, and sitting in the window-seat, began to talk with me about our
journey.

By-and-by I told her that Alan de Govet was to go with us at his own
request, and that because of her words this afternoon. She seemed to
care little, for she looked out of the window and spoke of somewhat that
she saw thence in the meadows by the stream.

Yet presently she said--

"So this Alan must needs blame me for making him eager to run into
danger?"

"Your words, he says, are weighty, as being those of a lady. But I do
not think that he blames you at all, Lady Sybilla."

[Illustration: "She seemed to care little."]

"Well," she said, rising up suddenly, "as he must charge my words with
his going, give him that to remind him that they are weighty."

She threw me a blue silken scarf she had worn all day and went out of
the armoury, and I saw her no more. I was glad that she seemed at least
to be inclined to make amends for her haughtiness and ill-considered
words.

Presently I gave the scarf, with the message, to Alan, and he seemed
pleased with both, asking me for more of the sayings of the haughty
damsel, which amused me.

"Verily, Alan, I believe that you spoke truth just now when you said you
were in love," I said, laughing.

"Nay; but I hardly said so much," he answered. "Well, it is war first,
and anything else afterwards, just now."

Nevertheless, when we rode away next morning, with forty well-armed and
mounted men-at-arms and a little train of pack-horses after us, Alan had
the blue scarf round his sword arm, and his eyes were over his shoulder
so long as we could see Sybilla standing on the drawbridge watching us
go. May-be he had had another word or two with her, but I thought it
foolish to pay so much heed to the gibes of a damsel, however fair.

Now I am going to say nothing about our long, pleasant journey
northward, with the camping in forest or among hospitable farm folk, or,
later, on wild moorland, for if I began I should not know how to leave
out all the things that were new and strange to me.

But presently, when we were in Lancashire, we came to the tracts of
desolation left by the Scots two years since, and a sort of dread grew
up in my heart of men who could thus mar our fair land. Yet they were to
help to set our Queen on her throne again, and those who had sent for
them were wiser than I.

We went into no great towns, for Sir Richard did not wish men to inquire
too closely into his journey and its object. But as we drew near
Lancaster we learned that the gathering of the Scots to invade England
was well known, and already word had gone round to the sheriff from
Archbishop Thurstan of York to bid them gather their men to him.

Then Sir Richard thought it time to give Alan his freedom, as he had
half promised, for he himself must needs cross the Border to speak with
the King of Scots. And it so happened that near the old town he fell in
with a knight, whom Sir Richard knew to be a Queen's man, riding towards
Lancaster with twenty men at his heels.

"Ho! De Courci, what brings you so far north?"

"The same errand that brings you out, most likely," our knight answered.
"We will go further north yet in company, as I hope."

The knight stared for a moment, and then a grim look crossed his face,
which was scarred here and there.

"If you mean to march with Thurstan, well and good--but if you are going
to join the Scots, as is likely, you and I shall be on opposite sides
for once," he said bluntly.

"How is this?--where is your loyalty?"

"Loyalty, forsooth!" the knight answered. "My first loyalty is to
England--and I care not who sent for the Scots. We of the north will
give life to keep them back." So these two talked, angrily at times. But
at last the strange knight said--

"I tell you, De Courci, that if you of the west and south knew what
Malcolm's host is like as well as we northerners, you would give your
right hand sooner than bring them to England. Go and see them, and then
mind my words."

So the talk ceased. But presently Sir Richard told Alan that if he
would, he might ride in company with this knight, who would give him a
worthy place as his squire, and with whom he might remain until we
returned after the campaign.

"I can say to De Mohun and Earl Robert that I have left you with this
Sir John, and they will be content. May-be we shall meet again shortly,
and then pass me by, I pray you, for the sake of comradeship, and--of
that blue favour--however hot the battle may be."

So Sir Richard jested, but we were sorry to part from Alan, and he from
us, when we left him with his new friend in Lancaster. I think that his
soreness on being a captive had long passed, for now he could only thank
our knight for his many kindnesses.

We crossed the Border, and made for the gathering place of the Scots.
And when I saw them I knew that the northern knight spoke the truth, and
that the worst thing for our Queen would be that she should have the
blame of bringing this wild crowd of savage Galloway Picts and Highland
Gaels into England.

And our knight knew it also. He gave his message to Malcolm, as in duty
bound, and then would bide with the Scots no longer. Truly there were a
few good Lowland and Norman knights with the King and his son, Prince
Henry, but not enough to keep that untrained force in any sort of
control.

"Sir John of Swaledale is right," Sir Richard said to me as we saw the
wild clansmen gathered round their fires on the open hillside. "I am
going to Archbishop Thurstan that I may do what I can to help to repair
the wrong to England that we have done in calling in Malcolm again. You
and Alan will fight for England side by side after all."

That was most welcome news for me, and for all our western men. I do not
know how Sir Richard made excuse for returning to England, but none
hindered our going, and we were welcomed at Durham by the knights who
were gathered there, King's men and Queen's alike having foregone their
quarrel at the bidding of the wise archbishop, whose words I heard read
in the open market-place.

Then the Scots began to come on very swiftly, and at last we fell back
from Durham to the place where our chiefs, the Earl of Albemarle, and
Walter de Espée, chose to check their advance, at Northallerton in
Yorkshire, where they had made some weak entrenchments on a gentle
hillside that commanded the road from the north.

There was Alan, and one need not say how he rejoiced to see us, and take
his place as Sir Richard's squire again.

"After all," our knight said, "I and my two squires will fight on the
same side for one cause. And I think that Sybilla will be pleased to
hear from us how her champion bore himself."

"I said nought of pleasing the Lady Sybilla," said Alan gruffly.

"Why--no more you did! Yet I thought that something of the kind brought
you north," laughed our knight.

Then Alan tried to excuse his little discourtesy, and the more he did so
the more we laughed, until he must laugh with us.

Now the reports of the vast numbers of the Scots would have left little
heart in our men, if it had not been for the wise words and devices of
Bishop Ralph of the Isles, who was here in the sick archbishop's place.
He had a great mast stayed up in a waggon that stood in the midst of
camp, the top of which was surmounted by a flashing silver pyx that held
the consecrated wafer, and under that floated the banners of the patron
saints of York and Beverley, Durham and Ripon, that this northern host
might see the tokens of all they held holiest and dearest, and fight
manfully to uphold them. Then he was wont to stand in the waggon and
speak to us, promising help spiritual to those who fought for their land
and homes, and bidding us have no fear of a host whose very greatness
would hinder it, for want of discipline and order, either in victory or
defeat.

So all were cheered, and though there is nothing at which men wonder
more than at the swiftness of the advance of the Scots, we were ready
for them before they came. Yet, but for Alan, it is certain that our
army would have been surprised, and may-be cut to pieces, before any
battle array could have been drawn up.

As the Scots came, they burnt and plundered on all sides, and at last
our outposts could see the light of burning farms on the skyline, and we
knew they were very near. Next night none were to be seen, and it seemed
as if the Scots had halted and drawn together on finding that we were
ready. Then the day following broke darkly and grey, with a dense fog
everywhere that seemed to make it impossible that an army could move
through it. Yet every horseman who could be spared was sent to patrol
the hills to our northward, and Alan and I rode out together to our
appointed stations with the rest, in the early morning.

We crossed valley and stream by tracks we knew well by this time, and as
it happened, went further that day than any other, for one could see
nothing but a few yards of stony track before one, and the cries of the
curlews sounded wild round us, like the whistle of men to one another in
the fog.

"What water is that I hear?" I said presently. There was a sound of a
heavy rushing, but I knew of no brook here that would make that sound.

"It is more like the sound of a great flock of sheep," answered Alan,
"but we have driven every one for miles."

Then our horses pricked their ears, and stared into the mist to our
right front in a way that told us that other horses were near.

Alan held up his hand, "I hear voices!" he said. We listened, and
presently I knew that what we heard was the thunder of the feet of a
vast host of men, and now and then a voice came faintly, though whence
we knew not, for nothing confuses sound so much as fog.

"The Scots!" said Alan, turning to me with his eyes shining under his
helm.

"It is not possible," I said; "how could they find their way through
this mist?"

"Any shepherd they have caught could guide them. Anyhow, we must see if
I am right."

"Let us ride back to camp and give the alarm," I said.

"And be laughed at--for every one would say as you, that it is not
possible. And all believe that the foe has halted. Bide here while I
ride on, and if I shout 'De Courci!' ride back for your life and give
the alarm."

"Faith," said I, "where you go, I go. If we cannot see them, neither can
they see us. We may get near enough to hear what tongue they speak, and
that is all we need."

"Come then," said Alan.

So we rode, as the keener senses of our horses bade us, down the hill
towards our right more or less. We had to leave the pathway, but in
returning we could not miss it if we breasted the hill anywhere, for it
ran all along its crest. At the foot of the long hill we stayed again
and listened, and now the sound of the marching host was deadened,
because they were yet beyond some rising land.

What happened next was sudden, and took us unawares, for all the warning
we had was a little crackle of deerskin-shod feet, and the snorting and
restlessness of our horses.

Out of the mist seemed to grow half-a-dozen men silently and swiftly,
and for a moment I sat and stared at them in amazement. They were the
wild scouts of the enemy, the tartan-clad Pictish men of Galloway,
belted with long claymores, shield on back, and spear or pole-axe in
hand.

They halted suddenly, each where he stood and as he stood, staring at
us, startled may-be as we were. Then one whistled shrilly, and cried in
an eager voice, "Claymore!" and their weapons clashed as they went on
guard and made for us in silence.

The whistle rang clear and echoed back, and then came a long roar of
voices, and the sound of marching swelled up for a moment and then
ceased altogether. The host had halted at the first sign of the enemy.

One minds all these things when in peril, and even as I noted this, Alan
leant forward and snatched at my horse's bridle, swinging him round.

"Back!" he said. "What, are you dreaming? We have seen enough."

But a Scot was hanging on the other rein also, and only the plunging of
the horse saved me from a blow from his long-handled axe.

"Be off, Alan," I cried; "I am hindered." And I drew sword and cut at
the man who held me back, only wasting a good blow on his hide target.

But he left the horse's head and I turned him, to find that the wild
figures were swarming round us, and that Alan was wheeling his great
charger in a circle that no Scot dared enter.

"Uphill," he cried, seeing that I was free.

Then we spurred the horses and charged side by side, and they yelled and
fell back before us. They feared the horses, and were unused to fighting
with mounted men, and we won through them easily and galloped on up the
hill.

Nevertheless the men of the heather were not to be shaken off so easily,
but ran and leapt on either side of us, and as they ran, I saw one or
two who had unslung bows, and were waiting, arrow on string, for a
chance shot at us.

We began to distance them very soon, and at last only two grey
figures strained to keep pace with us, and then an arrow rattled on
Alan's mail, shot from not more than five paces' range.

[Illustration: "The next thing I knew was that my good steed was down on
his nose among the stones."]

"A weak bow enough," said Alan.

But if the Scottish bow was weak against mail, it could harm a horse,
for the next thing that I knew was that my good steed was down on his
nose among the stones, and I was lying half stunned before him, while
those two wild Galloway kernes shouted and rushed at me.

Alan had shot on ahead as I fell, but in a moment he was round and back,
saving me from the dirk of one man who was almost on me, with a quick
lance-thrust. The other man, who was not so near, fled as he came, and
we were alone. Alan dismounted and came to my help.

"Are you hurt?" he said, lifting me.

"Not much,--but the horse--how about him?" I asked.

"Not much either--for he has gone."

And indeed he had picked himself up and fled into the mist towards the
foe.

"Mount behind me," said Alan, helping me up. Then I groaned and reeled
against him. My ankle was sorely bruised by a rock on which it had been
dashed in my fall, and at that time I thought it was broken, for I could
not stand.

"Hold up, and I will help you mount," said Alan. And then the Galloway
men swarmed out of the fog again, cautiously at first. Some waft of wind
had thinned the hanging clouds for a moment, and Alan saw them sooner
than before.

"Leave me--warn the camp," I said.

"The honour of a De Govet----"

And that was the last I heard of what Alan was about to say, for with
the first step towards the saddle I fainted.

When I came to, with the cold air rushing on me, the first thing I saw
was Alan's steadfast face above me, stern set and anxious, but
unfaltering in gaze forward, and under me bounded the free stride of his
great charger as though the double burden was nothing. Alan's left arm
was round me, and I was across his saddle, while he was mounted behind
it. He had no helm, and a stream of blood was across his face, and an
arrow, caught by the point in the rings of his mail, rattled from his
breast. His lance was gone, and his red sword hung by the sling from his
wrist as he managed the bridle.

I stirred, and a smile came on his grim face.

"Art thyself again?" he said. "We are close on the camp."

Then he lifted his voice and shouted--I had a dim remembrance then that
that shout had rung in my ears just as I came round--the old war-cry of
his forebears at Hastings--and our knight's name.

"Dex aïe--De Courci--ho!"

And a murmur and then a shouting rose as our men heard and understood,
and a dozen knights spurred forward to meet us and brought us in,
scattering to take the news to the leaders as we passed the line of
entrenchments, so that our tidings went before us.

Alan took me to our tents, and there was Sir Richard waiting, as he
buckled on his sword. With him were two or three more knights, who gazed
constantly at the mist as if trying to pierce it. The men were getting
to their appointed posts as the alarm spread, with a quietness that told
of anything but panic.

"Ho, Alan, you have been in close action," our knight said anxiously.
"Are you or Ralph hurt?"

"A brush with some wild Galloway kernes, nought more," Alan answered,
lowering me carefully into the strong grasp of Jehan of Stowey. "Have a
care of the hurt foot, Jehan. That is all that is amiss, Sir Richard."

But I could not have Alan's doings set aside, and I told Sir Richard
plainly how he had rescued me from the swarm of wild men who followed
us.

Then came one whom I knew well by sight, our leader, the Earl of
Albemarle, eager to hear from the mouth of Alan himself what he had
learnt of the Scots.

And even as Alan told him, the mist began to lift under a breeze that
sprang up. The white hanging cloud-wreaths fled up the hillsides whence
we had ridden, and left them clear and bright--and already on the nearer
rises the Galloway scouts were posted, and our pickets were coming in at
full speed.

Then the Earl grasped Alan's hand and said--

"No time for more now--but you have saved a panic, and what comes
therefrom. I will see you hereafter, if we both outlive this day; and if
I fall and you do not, I will have left orders concerning you with
others."

Then, as he saw the great waggon with its wondrous banner being drawn to
the centre of our line, followed by Bishop Ralph and his clergy in their
robes, he said--

"To your posts, knights--it will not be long that we have to wait now."

He rode away, and the men cheered him as he passed along the front of
the line.

Then a squire said to Alan ruefully--

"I would I had as fair a tale to tell my lady as have you. She of the
blue favour has whereof to be proud in her champion."

For there is little jealousy among the honest northern knighthood.

Then I saw that Sybilla's blue kerchief was round Alan's sword hilt,
stained and rent, and Sir Richard caught my eye, and we both smiled.
Alan made no answer, as the squire rode away after his lord.

Jehan brought Alan a new helm, and he and our knight went to their
places in haste.

"Follow if you can sit a horse," Sir Richard said to me kindly.

And it is not to be supposed, that with Jehan's help in getting into the
saddle, I would be anything but able to do so. One is not so dependent
on stirrups as one is apt to think sometimes.

Now so many have written about the Battle of the Standard that I will
not tell it again. It was all confused to me, and I could see but little
of all that went on from where I was, just behind our knight, in the
close ranks of the horsemen who were massed before the standard itself,
where Bishop Ralph and his clergy remained unmoved, though the arrows
rattled round them at times. It had been wonderful to see the whole army
kneel as the good bishop blessed and shrived us all, and wonderful,
also, to hear the "Amen" that rolled like low thunder down our ranks.

After that we bore for two long hours the shock of the wild clansmen,
whose chief had sworn to go as far through our ranks that day as any of
the mailed Lowland knights who despised his tartan. I think he kept his
oath, for our footmen were borne back at first, and for a while things
looked black for us.

Then the bowmen of the north shook themselves free from the confusion,
and got to work, and the terrible rain of the long arrows drove back the
Scots, whose rallying cry of "Albyn--Albyn!" failed them at last, and
then our charge broke them and ended the day.

As we swept forward I saw a group of mail-clad knights round one whose
helm was circled with gold, and I knew from the heather-topped spear
that was his standard, that Prince Henry was before us. And I saw him
turn to fly.

Presently, as we rode back, the Earl beckoned to Sir Richard.

"I would fain knight that brave squire of yours, De Courci, but----" he
said, and stopped short.

"I know your difficulty, Lord Earl," our knight said, with a grim smile.
"I am too well-known a Queen's man, and you must answer to Stephen for
what honour you bestow. However, Alan de Govet is as good a king's man
as yourself----"

They rode apart, and how much more Sir Richard told the Earl I cannot
say, but they were merry over whatever it was. And the end of it all was
in the solemn knighting of my comrade, together with some half-dozen
others, before all the host, and at the foot of the great standard; of
which I was as proud as if the golden spurs had been put on my own
heels. The Earl spoke kindly to me also, telling me that I had yet a
deed or two to do before I was old enough to win the same honour, so
that I was well content.

The army began to break up in a few days, when all fear of rallying by
the Scots was over, and then Sir Richard spoke to Alan of what was to
come next.

"I took Alan the simple squire," he said, "and here is Sir Alan de
Govet, my friend and good comrade. Wherefore old promises may be
foregone, and I will only ask one thing instead, and that is that you
will bide with the Earl, who will see to your advancement; for I must at
least keep you away from De Mohun and the rest, else they will blame
me."

Alan grew grave for a moment, and I saw his eyes go to where his sword
hung on the tent-pole. Sir Richard saw that also, so he went on--

"I will tell your father what honour you have found here, and Ralph will
tell--other folk at Stoke Courci. Have no fear that there will be
trouble because you have not returned."

Alan smiled then.

"It was a good day when you took me, my knight," he said. "If only I may
be counted as your friend when the troubles are over, I am well
content."

"Ay, there will always be welcome for you with us."

So we parted, heavily enough, not knowing when we should meet again.
There was trouble over all the land as we rode westwards; yet Stoke
Courci was safe and quiet, because it was held by a lady only.

And when Sybilla, standing by the drawbridge, saw us come home, her
bright face changed as she missed Alan from among us. Presently I told
her all that he had done, but she was too wilful to seem glad that he
was honoured.

"Well, there is some good in him, after all," she said, and so left me.
Unless it was that she repented her old injustice to Alan, I could not
tell why she had been weeping when I met her an hour or two later.

We might not stay long at Stoke Courci, for there was fighting over all
the land. And at last, far away under Lincoln walls, where I won my
spurs at the taking prisoner of King Stephen, I met Alan face to face in
thickest fight; whereat we laughed and saluted, and passed to either
side. I heard Sir Richard hail him also. There were many such meetings
in those days.

Presently I saw Alan again--brought in as a prisoner taken with the
King, downcast and almost despairing, for all his cause seemed lost.
Then Sir Richard made himself surety for his safe keeping, and he was
content to promise to bear arms against our Queen no more.

"Now, I must bestow you somewhere," said our knight. "And we have, as
you know, a good dungeon at Stoke Courci. There was also a fair
alternative to the said dungeon, if you have not forgotten."

Alan laughed a little then.

"I am a ruined man, Sir Richard, now, and can surely make choice no
longer."

"Why, Alan, should I have spoken of it had I not meant to tell you that
you may yet choose?"

One might see from Alan's face what he thought, but he said, looking at
me--

"I am not so sure that I should be welcome at Stoke Courci."

"Come and see," quoth I, having reason to believe that he would be more
than welcome, as one might say.

So we rode homewards together, and Sir Richard's plans fell out as he
had wished, and that with no unwillingness on either side.

But, as every one knows, we had not done with King Stephen yet, and
there were many years of trouble to come after he escaped. Presently he
gained the day, and then it seemed likely that my knight and I might
lose our lands. But, for the sake of the Battle of the Standard, we were
passed over; and now, with the coming to the throne of King Henry, we
are high in favour, with broad lands here in Somerset for me, and lands
and castles here and in Kent for the De Courci who had served the Queen
so well through good and ill.



THE SLAVER'S REVENGE

BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD

     _Author of "The Log of a Privateersman," &c. &c._


CHAPTER I

THE BEGINNING OF THE ADVENTURE

You ask me to relate to you the most terrible adventure I ever
experienced? Well, my whole life, from the time when, as a lad of
fifteen, I first took to the sea, has been one of adventure, and I have
passed through several rather thrilling experiences, so that it is not
quite so easy a matter as you may imagine for me to say, off hand and at
a moment's notice, which was the most terrible of them all. But, as you
seem anxious for a yarn, I will tell you of an adventure that befell me
shortly after I received my first command.

I was serving on the West Coast at the time, and, when this yarn begins,
held the position of third lieutenant on board the _Narcissus_, a
corvette belonging to the slave squadron. It was in the year 1826, just
two years after slave-trading had been declared to be _piracy_ in the
eye of the law, and its perpetrators subject to the punishment of death
if caught in the act. Popular feeling at home was very strong upon the
subject; the sympathy of the nation had been powerfully aroused by the
stories which from time to time found their way into the papers of the
sufferings inflicted upon the blacks in the process of converting them
into slaves; strenuous orders had been sent out to us to be unsparing
in our efforts to suppress the infamous traffic; and we were all as keen
as hounds in our endeavours to run down and bring to book the rascals
who openly laughed at and defied us.

My adventure may be said to have commenced with a slice of luck that
befell us in this wise. We were cruising at the time in the
neighbourhood of Cape Lopez, standing close-hauled to the northward
under easy canvas, when, about three bells in the afternoon watch, the
look-out aloft reported a sail broad on our starboard bow. We could see
nothing of her from the deck, so I took my glass and went up on to the
fore top-gallant-yard, from which position I made out the craft to be a
smallish schooner, with stumpy but very raking spars upon which was
spread an enormous show of canvas. My first look at her satisfied me
that she was a slaver; and the fact that she was steering to the
westward under every thread that she could show to the hot, languid
breeze, was proof enough that she had a cargo of slaves under her
hatches. Of course I lost no time in reporting my convictions to the
skipper, and in another instant all was bustle and activity on board the
corvette as we crowded sail in chase.

As the afternoon wore on, the wind fell light; but so well was the
corvette handled that when at length the sun went down in a clear sky,
giving promise of a breathless night, we had the satisfaction of seeing
that the slaver was helplessly becalmed, as was our own case soon
afterwards.

Some time before this, however, I had observed Captain Pascoe and our
first luff in close confabulation; and shortly after the golden orb of
the sun had disappeared beneath the horizon the former beckoned to me
and said--

"Mr. Farmer, I believe we are about to have a fine, calm night; I have
therefore determined to send the boats away to capture that schooner;
and I intend to put the expedition under the command of Mr.
Richardson"--the first lieutenant--"with you to second him. Have the
goodness, therefore, to proceed at once with the necessary preparations,
as the boats will shove off the moment that it is sufficiently dark to
conceal your movements. I have no doubt the fellow will expect you, but
it is hardly worth while to tell him plainly what our intentions are."

Our preparations were soon made and I then dived below, snatched a hasty
substitute for dinner, in the shape of some cold meat and pickles, and
was all ready, with my sword belted to my side, and a brace of
freshly-loaded pistols stuck in my belt, in time for the skipper's
inspection of our little party prior to shoving off.

Captain Pascoe waited patiently until the darkness had closed down upon
us sufficiently to completely hide the chase from even his penetrating
gaze, and then he gave the word to shove off; whereupon away we went,
with muffled oars, and the boat binnacles so carefully shrouded that we
felt perfectly secure against our presence being betrayed by any stray
glimmer of light emanating from them. The master had taken the bearings
of the schooner with the utmost nicety just before she disappeared in
the darkness, and he gave us the course which we were to steer.

Our expedition consisted of the first cutter and the gig, under Mr.
Richardson, and the second cutter and the jolly-boat, under my command;
the whole mustering forty-eight hands, all told, including two
venturesome mids who, preferring the excitement of a scrimmage to the
more solid delights of dinner, had begged permission to be placed in
charge of the gig and jolly-boat respectively.

We had been pulling about half-an-hour when the dull muffled roll of
sweeps became audible, and upon listening intently we discovered that
the schooner was sweeping away in a southerly direction, or at right
angles to the course which we were steering. We therefore shifted our
helm to cut her off.

The men now bent to their oars with a will, keeping up a steady but
fairly fast pace for an hour, by which time we were able not only to
distinctly hear the roll and splash of the sweeps, but also to see the
schooner as a small, vague, indefinite shadow of deeper blackness
against the dark background of the overcast sky. The rascals had taken
in every thread of canvas, so that it was only her hull we saw; but
having once sighted this, we never again allowed our glances to stray
from it.

We had arrived within about a quarter of a mile of our quarry, and were
congratulating ourselves upon having so far escaped detection, when a
voice from the shadow hailed us in Spanish, demanding who we were and
what we wanted.

"Oars!" murmured the first luff, in tones of deep but suppressed
excitement; "do not answer! not a sound, for your lives!"

About half a minute of intense anxiety now ensued, when the hail was
repeated; and immediately afterwards the ghastly blue-white radiance of
a portfire lit up the scene, distinctly revealing the hull, spars, and
rigging of the schooner, with the figure of the man who held the
firework standing by the fore rigging, one hand grasping a backstay, and
the other holding the portfire high above his head, with sparks shooting
and dropping into the water alongside, and the white smoke curling
lazily upward between the naked masts.

"Boats ahoy!" hailed the voice again, "if you do not instantly sheer off
I will open fire upon you! Do you hear?"

"What does the fellow say, Farmer?" demanded Richardson; "you understand
that lingo, don't you?"

I translated; whereupon he murmured--

"Oh yes, my hearty, we hear well enough; but we shall just have to take
our chance. Give way, men, with a will! At them before they have time to
recover from their surprise! You will board on the port side, if you
please, Mr. Farmer."

"Ay, ay, sir!" answered I. "Bend your backs, my lads, and let's get
alongside! Marines, stand by to return their fire if they open upon us!"

I was in hopes that, having recognised our strength, they would see the
folly of resisting us; but they did not; on the contrary, they gave us a
broadside of four guns--six-pounders they sounded like--and at the same
time opened upon us a confused fire of musketry. One of the men in my
boat gave a gasping groan as he dropped his oar and reeled off his
thwart into the bottom of the boat; but we had no time to attend to him
just then, for in another minute we were alongside, and I sprang over
the low bulwarks of the schooner, closely followed by the men of my own
division, as Richardson, with his two boats, swept under the stern to
board on the starboard side.

We were met by a ragamuffin crowd of swarthy, black-haired, fierce-eyed
ruffians, rendered visible by the light of a second portfire which a
burly negro held aloft, who greeted us with a lively popping of pistols,
followed by a great brandishing of cutlasses and knives. But our fellows
meant making short work of the job, and laid about them with such energy
and good-will that the Spaniards almost instantly gave way before us,
only to find themselves attacked in the rear by the first luff and his
party. This was altogether too much for them: they flung down their
weapons and bolted incontinently for the fore-scuttle, down which they
tumbled helter-skelter, one on the top of another; and almost before we
were able to realise our success we were in possession of the schooner.

[Illustration: "We were met by a ragamuffin crowd of swarthy,
black-haired, fierce-eyed ruffians."]


CHAPTER II

THE CAPTURE OF THE "ST. IAGO DE CUBA"

Our prize turned out to be the _Don Cristoval_--a craft notorious alike
for her astounding sailing powers, for the insolent daring of her
commander, and for the success with which she had hitherto eluded all
our efforts to overhaul her. Her capture, therefore, was quite a feather
in our caps, altogether apart from the fact that two hundred and
forty-four negroes were stowed under her hatches, for whom we should in
due course receive head-money. Brief as the struggle for her possession
had been, it had not been altogether bloodless; for when we came to
investigate, it was discovered that we had three men wounded, while, on
the side of the slavers, their loss amounted to two killed and seven
wounded, one of them being their skipper, the infamous Captain Lenoir--a
Frenchman--whose skull I had cloven upon the instant of boarding, and
who was found to be so desperately hurt that there appeared but little
prospect of his surviving to take his trial.

Having secured our prisoners, and made the wounded as comfortable as
possible, we made the pre-arranged signal of success by hoisting three
lanterns, one over the other, at the mainmast-head; after which we got
the canvas set, and then disposed ourselves to wait as patiently as
might be for a breeze to spring up and enable us to close with the
corvette. Meanwhile, having nothing better to do, we released the cook
and bade him go to work to cook the best dinner--or supper--for us that
the resources of the ship would permit.

It was not until some time after midnight that a soft, warm air came
stealing out to us from off the land; and then we obtained an insight
into the marvellous sailing powers of our prize that was a revelation
to us. With a breeze so light that it had not strength to keep the
mainsheet taut, the little witch sneaked along through the water at a
good four and a half knots, with scarcely a ripple under her sharp bows
to indicate that she was moving! We closed with the _Narcissus_ about an
hour later, when Mr. Richardson went on board--taking the wounded with
him--to report, and to receive the skipper's instructions in reference
to the prize. Shortly afterwards a boat came alongside with a request
that I would proceed on board the corvette, leaving the prize in charge
of one of the midshipmen. This I did, and, upon my arrival, discovered
that our good-natured "first" had spoken so highly of my conduct that I
was appointed prize-master, with instructions to select a crew of ten
men, to return to the schooner with all speed, and to make the best of
my way to Sierra Leone, there to await the arrival of the _Narcissus_.
These orders I carefully carried out, arriving in the roadstead two days
later, and exactly thirty hours in advance of the corvette.

The _Don Cristoval_ having been captured with negroes actually on board,
the Mixed Commission promptly condemned her, while her crew were
committed for trial; and upon the day following her condemnation I
learned that the schooner had been purchased into the service for use
against some of her equally notorious sisters. There was one craft in
particular--a barque named the _Josefa_--that we were especially anxious
to lay hands upon, as hitherto she--or rather, her skipper--had simply
laughed at and defied us; but now, with the _Don Cristoval_ in our
possession, it was confidently believed that we should at length succeed
in capturing the too-successful barque, and bringing her insolent
commander and crew to justice.

To capture such a craft would be fame indeed, and would almost certainly
mean promotion as well--imagine, therefore, if you can, the delight with
which I shortly afterwards received the intelligence that, through our
skipper's representations, _I_ had been appointed to the command of the
_Don Cristoval_!

So rapidly did I push forward our preparations that on the eighth day
after our arrival we sailed again, my instructions being to thoroughly
beat up every known spot frequented by slavers, and especially to keep a
sharp look-out for the _Josefa_.

"From information received" I had been enabled to accurately fix the
date of the barque's last visit to the coast, from which I had no
difficulty in calculating pretty closely when she might be expected in
those waters again; and finding that I had plenty of time, I determined
to stand to the southward and take a look in at the Congo, gradually
working my way northward again from there.

We made rather a long passage of it, taking things very quietly, in the
hope that we might encounter some slave craft either making or running
off the coast, in which case I hoped that ignorance of the fact that the
_Don Cristoval_ had fallen into our hands might enable us to make one or
two very easy captures. But no such luck befell us, and it was not until
we arrived at Banana--a small trading settlement at the mouth of the
Congo--that we sighted a craft of any kind. There, however, anchored off
French Point, at the mouth of Banana Creek, we came upon quite a little
fleet, numbering eight sail in all, three of which were undoubtedly
honest traders, beamy, round-bowed, motherly-looking craft, the best of
which might possibly be capable of going seven--or maybe eight--knots
with a gale of wind over her quarter; while the remaining
five--consisting of a slashing brig, two smart brigantines, and two as
wicked-looking schooners as I ever set eyes on--were as undoubtedly
slavers. But in hoping, as I did, that I should catch some of these
gentry napping, I was reckoning without my host; whether news of the
capture of the _Don Cristoval_ had already got wind and been spread
along the coast, or whether there was something in the set of the
schooner's canvas or our method of handling her that aroused their
suspicions, I could not tell, but certain it is that when I boarded them
their skippers one and all produced papers which certified to their
absolute honesty, while they were virtuously indignant at the doubts
which led me to intimate that I must nevertheless take the liberty of
overhauling their holds. Of course no opposition was raised--they were
fully aware that anything of that kind would have been worse than
useless--but many a scowling look did I intercept, and many a muttered
execration reached my ear as I proceeded with my search. Needless to say
that my labour was all in vain; the rascals had been too smart for me; I
found neither irons, nor farina, nor any excess of water-casks on board
any of them to give colour to the suspicion that they were otherwise
than honest; but all the same I was perfectly well aware that there was
neither palm-oil nor ivory in anything like sufficient quantity in
Banana to account for the presence of so many craft off its wharves. And
upon my hinting as much to one of the traders ashore, he frankly
admitted that such was the case, but he explained that large quantities
of both were on their way down to the coast, and might be expected to
arrive at any moment. I remained at anchor there for the next three
days, prowling about on shore--taking the precaution to always go well
armed--and exploring in a boat the intricate network of creeks in the
neighbourhood, but I made no discoveries; and the only incident worthy
of note that occurred during this period was the sudden sailing of one
of the schooners within three hours of our arrival.

On the evening of the third day I weighed and stood out to sea under a
press of canvas, hauling up to the northward as soon as I had cleared
the mouth of the river, carrying on until dark, in the hope of
impressing those who I knew were watching me, with the belief that I
had somehow obtained important intelligence upon which I was acting. But
as soon as the night had closed down upon us sufficiently to conceal our
movements, I wore round and stood to the southward again, finally
anchoring in seventy fathoms of water at a distance of some twenty-two
miles north-west of Padron Point. Having done this, I ordered the royal,
top-gallant, and topsail yards to be sent down, and the fore-topmast to
be housed, after which there was nothing for us to do but to possess our
souls in patience and wait for some of the slavers to come out and fall
into our clutches, as I felt confident they would in the course of a day
or two, provided that in the meantime no inward-bound craft hove in
sight to tempt us from our watching-place, or to slip past us and give
the alarm. And I had every justification for this feeling of confidence,
for two nights later, as I was in the very act of going below to turn in
after chatting with the youngster who acted as my "first," and who was
in charge of the deck, the look-out aloft hailed--

"On deck, there!"

"Hillo!" I responded; "do you see anything?"

"Well, I ain't _quite_ certain yet, sir, but for the last ten minutes
I've been thinkin' that there's a small spot of darkness showin' out
again' the sky right ahead, and I thought I'd better let you know, sir,"
was the answer.

"Quite right, my lad," I responded. "Keep your eye on it, and I will
send up the night-glass to you by way of the signal halliards."

"Ay, ay, sir," the fellow answered; and in another half-minute the glass
was bent on and making its way aloft to the gingerly swaying away of the
quartermaster, while a faint murmur of eager anticipation came floating
aft from the forecastle upon the heavy, damp night breeze, which was
blowing off the land.

For several long minutes after the instrument had reached its
destination we were kept upon the tenterhooks of suspense; but at
length another hail, in low, cautious tones, came down from the
mast-head--

"On deck, there! there's _something_ coming out of the river, sir! No
mistake about it _this_ time, because her canvas has just shut out a
star that's risin'. And she's comin' along fast, too, sir; I can make
her out quite distinct with the naked heye."

"Capital!" I exclaimed; "that is good news indeed! Can you make out how
she is heading?"

"Well, only in a general sort of way, sir," was the reply. "She's
steerin' this way, o' course, but she's edgin' away to the nor'ard too.
I reckon that if we stays where we are now, she'll pass us about a
matter of three or four mile to the nor'ard."

"Very well," I responded. "Keep your eye upon her; do not lose sight of
her for an instant. Now, Mr. Adams," I continued to the midshipman in
charge of the deck, "have all hands called, if you please, and let some
of them man the capstan and get the anchor to the bows, while the rest
get the fore-topmast on end and the yards across. And, remember, they
will have to see with their _hands_, for no lights whatever must be
shown. With only ordinary care we ought to nab that fellow easily."

And we did, regulating our movements so accurately that, although we
were soon afterwards discovered, we contrived to get alongside her
within an hour, ranging up on her weather quarter and hailing her to
heave-to, which she did without attempting any resistance; and a few
minutes later we found ourselves masters of the _St. Iago de Cuba_--the
brig I had boarded in the river--with three hundred and eighty-four
slaves in her hold! I could spare but a very small prize crew to take
her into Sierra Leone, I therefore took the precaution to put the whole
of her people in irons; having done which, I sent her away in charge of
my senior mid and ten men, giving him instructions to carry on day and
night until his arrival. This done, we parted company, and I returned
to my former lurking-place off the mouth of the Congo, where I was next
day fortunate enough to capture a fine brigantine with three hundred and
twelve slaves under hatches.


CHAPTER III

"CAPITAN ST. CROIX"

The prize crew necessary to man this second capture left me so very
short-handed that, after due consideration, I decided to escort her to
Sierra Leone in the schooner, which would enable me to get my men back
quickly, and would at the same time afford me an opportunity to
replenish my stores and water. This I accordingly did, arriving only a
few hours later than the _St. Iago de Cuba_. I soon had reason, however,
to regret the decision at which I had arrived, for several unexpected
difficulties arose over the adjudication of my prizes, involving so
serious a delay that when at length we got to sea again I was tormented
with anxiety lest the _Josefa_ should have arrived upon the coast,
shipped another cargo of slaves, and slipped off again ere I could
obtain news of her. I had been given to understand, however, that,
although somewhat erratic in her movements, she chiefly frequented the
Congo; I determined, therefore, to make the best of my way back to that
river in the first place, trusting to chance for information as to her
whereabouts upon my arrival.

I was not destined, however, to wait so long, for while slipping across
the Gulf of Guinea, in the latitude of the island of St. Thomas, we
sighted a small felucca, to which we at once gave chase. This craft,
however, instead of attempting to avoid us, promptly bore up and came
running down to meet us. She ran down across our stern, and, in
response to my hail, rounded to on our lee quarter, lowered her single
lateen sail, and launched a boat from her gangway, in which her skipper,
with two hands as boat's crew, presently pulled alongside us. The man--a
bare-footed, decidedly unclean, and rather disreputable-looking
Frenchman, attired in a suit of once white nankin, topped by a
broad-brimmed straw hat--appeared to be labouring under much
ill-repressed excitement as he climbed our low side and stepped in on
deck, casting quick, anxious glances about him as he did so. When,
however, his gaze encountered me--I was wearing my uniform cap at the
moment--his anxiety appeared to subside to a considerable extent, and he
at once doffed his hat as he made me a sweeping bow, exclaiming at the
same time--

"Bon jour, monsieur! Have I ze honour to address an officer of Grand
Bretagne?"

"Yes, sir, you have, if you choose to put the matter that way," I
replied. "This vessel is his Britannic Majesty's schooner _Curlew_, late
the _Don Cristoval_; and my name is Farmer. Am I correct in supposing
that you have boarded me because you stand in need of assistance?"

"Ah, oui, monsieur, it is so," was the reply, given with much
gesticulation. "I have been hoping to fall in wiz a Breetish man-o'-war
evaire since I have sailed from ze Congo; it is two day since.
Saire"--here the fellow's excitement began to grow upon him again--"I
desire revenge! I have been rob, saire, by one rascal pirate who come
alongside my leetle sheep, as I sail out of ze Congo; he board me,
saire, with un bateau full of men, arm to ze teeth, as you Angleesh say,
and he take from me all my cargo of ivory and caoutchouc, leaving me wiz
only my leetle eighty barrel of palm-oil. Saire, I am ruin unless you
will get back my ivory and caoutchouc for me!"

"I shall be very pleased to do my best for you, certainly, if you can
put me on the track of the pirates who robbed you," answered I. "Where
did they go after they had cleared you out?"

"Saire," answered the Frenchman eagerly, "dhey did sail right into ze
Congo river, where dhey are doubtless now shipping a cargo of esclaves.
I know ze sheep well, for I have often see her when I have been waiting
for my ivory to come down."

"Oh!" exclaimed I interestedly, "so she is a slaver as well as a pirate,
is she?"

"Yais, yais, pirate and slavaire both, monsieur," answered the
Frenchman. "She is a large--what you call, eh?--un--un-_barque_--oui,
monsieur, a barque call ze _Josefa_, commande par un coquin----"

"The _Josefa_?" interrupted I. "Are you quite sure of what you say,
monsieur?"

"Oui, oui, monsieur," answered the fellow, "I am quite certaine; I have
made no mistake; I know ze barque well as I know my own poor leetle
_Muette_. I am not likely to make ze mistake when they have rob me of
all my ivory and caoutchouc!"

"Very well, sir," responded I; "I will make a bargain with you. Guide us
to where you suppose the _Josefa_ to be; and should I find her with your
assistance, I promise you that you shall have all the ivory and
caoutchouc that we may find on board her."

The man clasped his hands rapturously. "Bon, mon cher monsieur; bon!" he
exclaimed. "It is ze bargain; it is agreed!"

"Then that is all right," I remarked. "And now, monsieur, having made
our bargain, I shall be very pleased if you will do me the honour to
remain on board and dine with me; we can then talk over matters a little
more in detail, and you can explain to me where the _Josefa_ is to be
found."

The Frenchman--who, by the way, now introduced himself to me as "Capitan
St. Croix"--at once accepted my invitation; having done which, he sent
his boat back to the felucca, with instructions to his mate to make sail
and keep close in our wake, whereupon we filled upon the schooner and
resumed our course to the southward.

By the time that dinner was served in our hot, stuffy little cabin that
evening, I had succeeded in extracting from M. St. Croix the information
that the _Josefa_ would be found concealed in a certain creek of the
Congo, which had been so thoroughly fortified as to be practically
impregnable. This was bad news; moreover, I found it a little difficult
to clearly follow some of St. Croix' descriptions; but by the time that
he left me that night to return to his felucca, I had learned enough to
clearly understand that I must depend upon stratagem rather than force
for success.

All this threw me into a perfect fever of impatience to get back to the
river, which was not lessened when I discovered that the wretched little
felucca seemed incapable of doing anything better than five knots under
the most favourable conditions that we were likely to meet with on our
voyage. I stood it for twenty-four hours, during which we in the
schooner jogged along under nothing but a double-reefed mainsail, fore
staysail, and jib, in order that we might not run away from our
slow-moving consort; and then my impatience so far mastered me that I
proposed to St. Croix that he should take up his quarters aboard the
_Curlew_--as we had renamed the _Don Cristoval_--and leave the felucca
to follow at her leisure. For two whole days the Frenchman obdurately
rejected my proposal; but on the third my perseverance triumphed, and
late in the afternoon we parted company with the _Muette_, having St.
Croix on board the schooner, and with him one of his Krumen--who, he
assured me, knew every creek on the river, from Shark Point up to
Boma--and a small canoe, which I understood him to say would be an
absolute necessity if we wished for success in our hazardous attempt.

We arrived off the mouth of the river on the following evening, about
half-an-hour before sunset, and, nothing being in sight, at once stood
in to make the entrance. The sky was overcast, and the night promised to
be dark; but this was all in our favour, since the darkness would help
to conceal our presence, while the mouth of the river being free from
dangers, we could easily feel our way in with the lead.

Fortunately for my impatience, a fresh breeze happened to be blowing
from the westward; we therefore crowded sail upon the schooner, and,
despite the strong current, fetched up abreast of Shark Point about
three bells in the first watch, when we rounded to and came to a single
anchor in three fathoms in Diego Bay, just inside the river's mouth.

In accordance with the plans which I had already made, it now became
necessary for me to leave the schooner, and to accompany St. Croix on a
reconnoitring expedition which I was given to understand would occupy
the whole of the next day, and, including the time necessary to return
to the schooner, a good part of the succeeding night. I had not made up
my mind to this very decisive step without due consideration, for I
fully recognised the exceedingly perilous character of the adventure;
but I felt convinced, from all St. Croix had told me, that my only hope
of success lay in taking the _Josefa_ and the slave factory by
surprise--so preventing the possibility of the slaves being driven off
to a place of safe hiding at the first alarm--and, to accomplish this
surprise successfully, it was absolutely necessary that I should make
myself fully acquainted, by personal observation, with every feature of
the position. Attiring myself, therefore, in an old suit of slops, I
embarked, with St. Croix and his Kruman, in the small canoe, leaving
the schooner in charge of young Adams; when, under the impulse of a
small sail, we shoved off and sped rapidly in the darkness up the river.


CHAPTER IV

TRAPPED!

The Kruman who acted as pilot undoubtedly appeared--as St. Croix had
asserted--to know the river thoroughly, for dark as the night was, he
evinced no sign whatever of doubt or hesitation. Perched up in the stern
of the canoe--which he steered with a short paddle laid out over the
quarter--he sat silent and motionless as a bronze image, holding the
boat's head straight for some unseen point, and never swerving a
hair's-breadth from his course until, at the expiration of about two
hours, we suddenly found ourselves entering a tolerably wide creek, only
distinguishable as such by the deeper and more palpable darkness that
enveloped us as the canoe slid in between its bush-lined banks. We were
a taciturn trio, St. Croix having scarcely uttered a word since we
shoved off from the schooner; while as for me, my thoughts were too full
of the adventure before me to leave me much inclination for speech.

We navigated this winding creek for about three quarters of an hour,
passing several branches on our way, and then, as the Kruman brought the
canoe noiselessly alongside a low, gravelly bank, St. Croix leaned
forward, and, laying his hand upon mine, remarked in a whisper--

"We land here, mon ami; the remainder of our journey we must perform on
our feet if we desire not our throats to be cut. Tread cautiously, for
ze bush it is full of snakes!"

That was a pleasant little item of news, truly, to be told on a dark
night while feeling one's way along a bush path so narrow and so
overgrown that the darkness was absolutely a thing _to be felt_! But it
was a part of the adventure, so I murmured an acknowledgment of the
caution and stepped over the gunwale of the canoe on to the bank, the
gravel of which crunched under my feet with alarming loudness in the
oppressive silence of the hot, damp night. As I did so, St. Croix said
something to the Kruman in a language which I did not understand, and
the next instant I received a crashing blow on the head from some hard,
heavy instrument, a thousand stars danced before my eyes as I reeled
forward under the impact of the stroke, and then I knew no more.

When I recovered consciousness, the first thing of which I became aware
was that I was suffering from a splitting headache; the next, that I was
again afloat, for I could hear the soft gurgle of water close to my ear
on either side; and the next, that it was still as dark as ever. I was
occupying a very cramped and uncomfortable position, lying on my right
side, or shoulder, rather, with my hands behind me, and my legs doubled
up so that my heels seemed to be tucked into the small of my back; but,
upon attempting to move, I made the unwelcome discovery that I was
lashed hard and fast, hands and heels together. Then, before my
bemuddled brain had time to do more than suggest an inquiry as to what
had happened, I heard St. Croix' voice.

Thereupon I spoke. "Are you there, St. Croix?" I inquired.

"Ay, I _am_ here!" he answered, in a tone curiously suggestive of
exultation.

"What has happened?" I next demanded.

"Happened?" he reiterated. "Why, you have simply fallen into ze
tr-r-r-ap zat I set for you, scélérat, and are now in my power!"

"Your power?" I repeated. "I don't understand. Pray explain yourself.
But, first of all, if you are free yourself, just cast off these
lashings of mine, will you? They hurt most abominably!"

"Ha! ha! zhey hurt, do zhey?" he retorted. "Bon! so much ze better-r-r;
I am glad! Listen, mon bon capitan! I am not Jules St. Croix at all; I
am Jules Lenoir, ze elder brother of ze man you killed vhen you capture
ze _Don Cristoval_, and I am also ze capitan of ze _Josefa_! Vhen I hear
zhat my brother vhas kill, I svear zhat I vill have my revanche; and
vhen ve hear zhat you have capture ze _St. Iago_ and ze _Mercedes_" (the
brigantine) "it vhas agree zhat you make yourself too troublesome, and
zhat you must be remove out of our way. So I plan vone leetle plan, and
go to sea in ze _Muette_ to look for you; and behold! here you are!"

"So!" ejaculated I; "I begin to understand. And, now that you have me,
pray what are you going to do with me? Murder me?"

"Non! non!" answered my captor, "I vill not stain my hands vith your
dirty blood; I vill make a present of you to my good friend King Plenty.
He vill know vhat to do vith you!"

King Plenty! I had heard of him as a most ferocious savage inhabiting a
spot on one of the creeks on the southern bank of the river, a potentate
who, thanks to his dealings with the slavers, had accumulated a vast
store of wealth in the shape of rum, muskets, and ammunition, and who,
with the aid of the two latter, had become quite a power among his
neighbour kings. Naturally, therefore, the objects of his deepest and
most concentrated hatred were those pestilent white men who were making
such strenuous efforts to suppress the slave-trade; and it was rumoured
that when, at rare intervals, one of these hated beings had the
misfortune to fall into his hands, the event was celebrated by a
festivity the principal feature of which consisted in putting the
captive to death with every refinement of torture that the savage
imagination could devise. And this was the individual into whose power
I was to be delivered, bound hand and foot!

And this--a cruel, lingering death at the stake, most probably--was to
be the end of all the high hopes and aspirations with which I had
entered upon this disastrous adventure! What a fool I had been to allow
myself to be so easily trapped, I reflected; and yet when I recalled all
that had passed between this villain Lenoir and myself, I could remember
no single word or look in the least calculated to arouse my suspicion;
the whole plot had been woven with such diabolical skill, the story told
had been so cunningly plausible, that, as it seemed to me, no man
anxious to do his duty could fail to have been caught by it. Well, I
could at least die game; I would not disgrace myself and my cloth by
showing fear or pleading for mercy; and, having come to this resolution,
I turned a deaf ear to all the revilings, the sneers, and the brutal
jocosities to which Lenoir treated me. Then, just as day was breaking, I
suddenly became aware of a group of tall trees towering overhead, and
the next instant the canoe gently grounded on a sandy beach. Lenoir at
once sprang to his feet and shouted something in a language that I did
not understand; and presently a great crowd of jabbering savages came
swarming round the canoe, and I was lifted out and carried off to a
palm-leaf hut, upon the floor of which I was unceremoniously flung. But
in the short interval of my transit from the canoe to the hut I managed
to catch a fleeting glimpse of a broad creek, with the _Josefa_ and a
schooner at anchor on its placid bosom, a native town of probably a
hundred and fifty huts, and two immense barracoons standing under the
shadow of a clump of enormously tall trees. Lenoir quickly followed me
into the hut, to examine my lashings, turning me over unceremoniously
with his foot to do so; when, having satisfied himself that I was
absolutely secure, he walked out again without uttering a word.

I was now left undisturbed for about a couple of hours, during which I
strove my utmost to loosen my lashings; but I might as well have striven
to fly, I was bound with new ratline, and it had been drawn so tight and
knotted so securely that I was as helpless as though chained.

All this while I was conscious of the sounds of many feet passing to and
fro outside the hut, and of a perfect babel of jabbering, excited
tongues; and at length a couple of natives entered the hut and by
significant gestures indicated that I was to rise and follow them. But,
bound as I was, the thing was impossible; so after prodding me
ineffectually several times with their spears they cut my feet loose,
and, seizing me by the arms, half led, half dragged me from the hut.

Once in the open air, I was immediately surrounded by a crowd of
laughing, shouting, gesticulating savages, who seemed to be vastly
entertained by my helpless appearance--for my limbs had become so
completely benumbed by the tightness of my bonds that I had no feeling
or strength in them. Thus surrounded, I was dragged for about a quarter
of mile to a great open space in the centre of the town, and there
securely bound to the trunk of an immense tree, the scorched, blackened,
and leafless branches of which told me only too well to what fiendish
purpose it was from time to time put. And here for the remainder of that
terrible day I was kept bare-headed, exposed to the full blaze of the
relentless sun, without either food or drink, while the natives swarmed
round me, discussing with great delight and animation what from their
looks and gestures I divined to be the subject of my approaching
torments.

What my sufferings, mental and physical, were during those few brief
hours, language has no words to express; but you may guess something
of what it was when I tell you that at last I actually _longed_ for
death to come to my relief, although I was well aware that the death for
which I longed was to be one of fiery torment!

[Illustration: "A gang of some fifty negroes appeared."]

At length, when the sun had declined to within about two hours of his
setting, a gang of some fifty negroes appeared, each bearing either a
heavy log or a large bundle of brushwood upon his shoulder, which they
forthwith began to arrange in a wide circle round the tree to which I
was bound. These fellows were speedily followed by others similarly
burdened, so that within half-an-hour I was hemmed in by a compact wall
of logs and brushwood standing about breast-high. I needed no
explanation of these sinister preparations; but, that I might be left in
no possible doubt, Lenoir made his appearance outside the barrier, over
which he shouted the intelligence that some time that night it would be
fired, and, when well ablaze, would be gradually pushed forward, so that
I might be slowly roasted to death!

The heat that afternoon was positively frightful, for the wind died away
to a breathless calm, and while the savages were building my funeral
pyre, I noticed the upper edge of a great bank of purple-grey cloud
soaring gradually into the western heavens, and spreading as it soared,
the sure precursor of one of those terrific thunder-storms to which the
Congo district is subject at certain periods of the year; so that, as I
reflected dismally, I was likely to go to my fiery doom in a
sufficiently picturesque and dramatic manner. When the sun at length
plunged behind this livid curtain, the latter had spread in a crescent
shape until a full quarter of the firmament was obscured, and I observed
that it was rising and spreading with great rapidity.

The darkness gathered early that night, and as it did so the savages
provided themselves with torches, gathering in such vast numbers round
the circle of combustibles that hemmed me in that it soon became almost
as light as day again, although not so light but that I could detect
through the yellow, smoky glare the flickering lightnings wherewith the
coming storm heralded its approach.

By-and-by the slow, measured beat of a tom-tom became audible through
the noisy chattering of the vast crowd that had gathered about me, and
immediately the excited jabbering subsided into an almost breathless
silence. Then another tom-tom joined in, and another, and another, until
there must have been a full dozen of them going, the beating becoming
momentarily more rapid, until my throbbing brain fairly reeled with the
giddy sounds, above which the low, sullen rumble of distant thunder now
made itself heard. Presently I became aware, by the increasing loudness
of the savage music, that the tom-tom beaters were approaching, and two
or three minutes later they wheeled into the open space in front of me,
and squatted down upon their haunches, with their tom-toms--now being
most furiously beaten--between their knees. They were followed by about
a hundred men fully armed with spear and shield, in the midst of which,
borne aloft on a sort of rude throne supported upon the shoulders of
eight stalwart negroes, sat an enormously fat man, black as ebony, naked
save for a leopard skin apron about his loins, armed with some
half-dozen long, broad-bladed, cruel-looking spears. This potentate,
whom I rightly surmised to be King Plenty, halted his bearers square in
front of me, scrutinised me curiously, and with a savage leer of delight
upon his bloated features, for fully ten minutes. Then he made a sign by
raising his right hand in the air, and on the instant some thirty or
forty savages sprang forward with a shout and thrust their blazing
torches into the heart of the combustibles by which I was surrounded.

"Thank God," thought I, "it will soon be over now!" and I only regretted
that there was no wind to blow the smoke my way and suffocate me out of
my misery. But the air was breathless, and the brown wreaths of pungent
smoke went curling straight upward to the black heavens in an unbroken
circle.

Meanwhile the storm was gathering apace; the lightning was rapidly
becoming more vivid and frequent; the thunder louder, deeper, and nearer
every moment; and I remember wondering whether the fire, when fully
ignited, would have power enough to withstand the pelting torrents of
rain that would by-and-by come, and whether I should be still alive to
feel its refreshing coolness.

[Illustration: "Borne aloft on a sort of rude throne supported upon the
shoulders of eight stalwart negroes."]

But, rapidly as grew the storm, the fire grew more rapidly--for the
savages had been careful to collect only thoroughly dry wood--and within
ten minutes of its ignition the zone of flame which encircled me had
become a roaring furnace, giving out an amount of heat that was already
scarcely endurable, while fresh supplies of wood were being thrown upon
the blazing pile, and the savages were pushing it slowly inward toward
me with long poles.

Another ten minutes and I could tell by the smell that my clothing was
scorching on my body, while the skin of my face and hands began to
blister here and there under the influence of the fierce heat that now
played upon me, and the air that I breathed burnt my nostrils like
flame. The tom-toms were still being furiously beaten, the lightning was
flashing and quivering continuously athwart the black heavens, and the
thunder was booming overhead like the salvoes of artillery from hostile
fleets in close action, but I was only dimly conscious of it all. I had
attention for but one thing--the fierce, intolerable heat that played
about me, searing my eyeballs, and leaping toward me in long, crackling
tongues of roaring flame that momentarily threatened to envelop me as a
garment.

I was tottering upon the very verge of insensibility--or was it
death?--when I was aroused by the splashing of a few heavy drops of
delicious coolness upon my upturned, blistering face; another breathless
moment, during which a terrific flash of sun-bright lightning clove the
darkness and dimmed even the fierce light of the flames that encompassed
me, and down came the rain in true tropical style, a perfect cascade of
sweet, tepid water that in an instant drenched me to the skin, and
revived me as though the shower had been the very elixir of life. I
opened my mouth and allowed the blessed drops to fall upon my cracked
lips and parched tongue; and so great was the refreshment of them that I
actually forgot the fire that roared and crackled and hissed about me!
In a moment I found myself enveloped in a dense cloud of steam, through
which the leaping flames flickered and dwindled, growing less and less,
until, almost before I had time to realise what was happening, the fire
was extinguished, and I found myself plunged in darkness and silence,
save for the frequent glare of the lightning, and the almost continuous
crash of the thunder. The storm having extinguished the fire, the
natives had beaten a hasty retreat to their huts, leaving me to the
tender mercies of the elements. A few minutes later, however--by which
time the storm was raging furiously, thunder and lightning, wind and
rain, seeming to be striving together in one tremendous effort of
destruction--Lenoir, wet to the skin, and with the rain literally
streaming off him, suddenly appeared beside me, and in another moment I
felt him trying my lashings. Apparently they were secure enough to
satisfy him, for presently he came round in front of me, and, watching
me by the continuous flickering glare of the lightning, remarked--

"So ho, mon ami, how do you like dis after your roasting? Quite cool and
refreshing, eh? Ah, but perhaps it is _too_ cool! Veil, nevaire mind,
mon cher, it vill not last long; ze sun vill rise again to-morrow and
warm you, and to-morrow night ze good King Plenty he vill light anoder
fire for you! You vill not mind staying here all night, eh? No, of
course not. But I--I am afraid of ze fevaire, so I vill go aboard, dry
myself, and turn in; because, you see, dere is a big cargo of esclaves
coming down for me to-morrow, and aftaire I have shipped dem I vill only
stay to see ze last of you, and den I vill be off. Bon soir, mon cher! A
pleasant night and happy dreams I vish you!"

And, so saying, he bowed ironically, and disappeared in the darkness.

I was, however, not destined to endure the sufferings to which this
scoundrel so exultingly looked forward; for scarcely had he disappeared
when I became aware of the presence of another visitor. I suddenly felt
that some one was manipulating the lashings that Lenoir had so
carefully scrutinised a few minutes previously, and presently, to my
inexpressible surprise and delight, I discovered that I was free. At the
same moment a small, soft hand grasped mine, and gently drew me round to
the other side of the tree, where I found myself confronted by a young
native girl, who promptly intimated the necessity for caution by placing
her finger on her lips. We waited where we were for a few seconds, until
an unusually vivid flash of lightning rendered the whole scene as bright
as day, and then, in the opaque darkness that followed, I felt myself
being led swiftly out of the circle of half-burnt logs into the
concealing shadows of a dense clump of bush that grew at no great
distance. Here we paused again for a few brief seconds, taking advantage
of the short and uncertain intervals of darkness that followed the
lightning flashes to flit from clump to clump of bush, until in a few
minutes we found ourselves deep in the heart of the bush, secure from
discovery by prying eyes, and moving rapidly along a bush path that I
presently discovered was winding round toward the river. Ten minutes
later we emerged upon a small strip of sandy beach occupying the angle
of a bend of the creek, about a hundred yards or so above the spot where
I must have been landed, for _below_ me I just caught sight indistinctly
of the _Josefa_ and the schooner, riding dark and silent on the
rain-lashed bosom of the creek. There were a dozen or more canoes, of
different sizes, drawn up on this strip of beach, and, selecting the
smallest of them, my companion slid it gently into the water. Then
motioning me to enter, she placed a paddle in my hand, pointed _up_ the
creek, and with a vigorous push sent the canoe surging a dozen yards
toward mid-channel, motioning me to paddle hard. I lost no time in
obeying her behest, paddling first on one side and then on the other,
and managing the canoe with little or no difficulty. As soon as my
deliverer saw that I was all right, she waved her hand above her head
by way of farewell, and at once disappeared into the bush again.

[Illustration: "She waved her hand above her head by way of farewell."]

I was by this time chilled to the marrow with the drenching to which I
had been exposed, and so stiff from being tightly lashed for so many
hours that I could scarcely move, while I was still dazed at my sudden
and unexpected deliverance from a cruel death; nevertheless I had sense
enough to understand that my situation was still one of the utmost
peril, out of which I must extricate myself without loss of time, so I
paddled away with all the vigour I could muster, and presently had the
satisfaction of shutting in the _Josefa_ and her consort round the bend
of the creek, without the occurrence of anything to indicate that my
escape had been discovered. The exertion of paddling soon restored my
circulation, and I made fairly rapid way down the creek, observing, by
the glare of the lightning, that the waterway broadened rapidly as I
went. I kept on thus for about twenty minutes, and then, to my great
joy, discovered that I was nearing some very considerable expanse of
water, which a few minutes of further paddling convinced me must be
nothing less than the main stream of the Congo, into which I presently
shot. But at the junction of the creek with the main stream I sheered
the canoe in alongside the bank, and, holding on by the branches of an
overhanging bush, securely lashed my pocket-handkerchief to a bough in
such a manner that it could readily be seen at some considerable
distance. Then I shoved off again and turned the canoe's head down
stream.

The wind was blowing more than half a gale by this time, but it was
fortunately from the southward, so that by hugging the southern bank
pretty closely I was fairly well sheltered; and fortunate was it for me
that it was so, for at the distance of a quarter of a mile from the bank
the whole surface of the river was a boiling caldron of breaking seas,
that would have swamped the canoe in five minutes. I managed fairly
well, however, venturing as far out as I dared, so as to secure the
utmost benefit possible from the strong downward current; and so well
did this befriend me that in little more than an hour and a half I
sighted the _Curlew_ riding at anchor where I had left her; and in
another ten minutes I once more stood on her deck, free and _safe_!

Late as was the hour, I found everybody wide awake and on the look-out
aboard the schooner, with young Adams, clad from head to heel in
oilskins, anxiously pacing the deck--for, although I was by no means
overdue, he informed me that he was already growing extremely anxious as
to my safety--and it was pleasant, indeed, to observe the air of relief
that seemed to pervade the ship upon the discovery that I had returned
safe, and apparently not much the worse for wear. I quickly told my
story, and, ere I had well finished it, all hands were on deck, and,
without waiting for orders, were busying themselves in getting the
schooner under way; and from a few muttered remarks that I overheard I
gathered that the men had made up their minds to visit with dire
retribution the treachery that had involved me in such deadly peril and
suffering. Adams--spirited lad that he was--implored me to go below and
turn in, pledging himself faithfully that not one of the slavers should
escape him; but, of course, that was not to be thought of for a moment,
so I contented myself with a change of clothing and a fairly hearty meal
off the viands that the steward had immediately produced, and then
returned on deck to take charge.

By the time that I was once more in the open air the schooner was under
way and foaming up the river under all the canvas she dared show to the
piping breeze. The rain had ceased, the storm had swept across the river
and was now flashing and muttering intermittently some seven or eight
miles away, and a few stars were peeping out here and there overhead
and to the southward. It took the schooner but half-an-hour to traverse,
against the current, the distance that I had taken three times as long
to cover in the canoe, and I had not been on deck many minutes when a
hail came from the forecastle of--

"There's somethin' white flutterin' from a bough in-shore there on our
starboard bow! Is that your handkercher, sir?"

"Likely enough," I answered, peering over the rail at the dark shadow to
windward. "Can you see anything like the opening of a creek near it?"

"Yes, sir," came the answer; "there's a blackness just to the east'ard
of it that looks like a break in the bushes."

"Then that will be it," I remarked to young Adams. "Ay, I can see the
handkerchief now--there it is! Clew up and furl your topsail, Mr. Adams,
and settle away the peak and throat of your boom foresail. Ready about!"

The men sprang to their stations; the topsail and foresail were taken
in; the schooner was hove round on the port tack, and two or three
minutes later we were gliding up the creek under mainsail and jib, with
the wind scuffling wildly overhead among the bush and trees that
bordered the creek on either hand. Once fairly within the creek, I
ordered the remainder of our canvas to be taken in, feeling assured that
the schooner would hold her way long enough to carry us alongside the
_Josefa_; and, this done, the men, with drawn cutlasses, stood by to
heave the grappling-irons and board, my hope being that I should take
both craft by surprise. But as we rounded the bend in the creek which
brought us within sight of our quarry, a low hum and clamour of voices
became audible, and a glare of torches shone through the bushes from the
shore; moreover, the creek was full of canoes paddling excitedly hither
and thither. Unless I was greatly mistaken, my escape had been
discovered, and the savages were all out in pursuit of me.

[Illustration: "Before he could pull the trigger I had struck up the
weapon."]

A great shout went up from the occupants of the canoes as the schooner
glided round the bend, and there was an instant and general retreat
toward the shore. There was also a sudden shouting and confusion aboard
the barque and the schooner; but before anything could be done we were
alongside and fast to the _Josefa_, with our lads pouring over her rail
after me. The first individual I encountered was Lenoir, who was raving
at his crew like a madman in an unavailing effort to rally them. Upon
seeing me he snatched a pistol from his belt and levelled it at my head,
but before he could pull the trigger I had struck up the weapon, and the
next instant he crashed to the deck, struck senseless by a blow fair
between the eyes which I let him have with all the energy and good-will
of which I was capable. That settled the matter so far as the _Josefa_
was concerned, for her crew, taken by surprise, could do nothing against
our people, they simply retreated to their forecastle and were there
promptly battened down. Nor did the schooner fare any better, for
although her people cut her cables and tried to get the canvas on her,
young Adams--who with a few men remained by my orders on board the
_Curlew_ to take care of her--at once opened fire with his larboard
broadside with such effect that her people were compelled to run her
ashore to save her from sinking under them. They made good their escape
into the forest, but we set fire to the schooner and burned her to the
water's edge. As for King Plenty and his people, they evacuated their
town at the first sound of the firing; but as soon as I had secured the
_Josefa's_ people I landed with a party of bluejackets, and we burned
the slave barracoons and the King's "palace"--a collection of some
thirty huts surrounded by a strong palisade. I felt sorely tempted to
destroy the entire town, but refrained for the sake of the girl who had
taken compassion upon my helplessness and set me free.

Five days later we arrived at Sierra Leone with the _Josefa_ in company,
and in due course the latter was condemned and her crew committed for
trial. But I knew nothing of it, having succumbed to a sharp attack of
fever within a few hours of clearing the Congo; and when I regained my
senses it was to find myself in hospital, weak as a new-born babe, but
high in favour with everybody for what they were pleased to term my
"dashing exploit," and with my commission as commander in my pocket.
Lenoir and nine of his companions were subsequently hanged for piracy
and murder upon the high seas upon evidence of the most convincing
character.



ON A MEXICAN RANCHE

BY G. A. HENTY


There were few wider estates in Texas than that of Don Garcia Novales.
It lay on the western frontier, and indeed nearly half of it lay on the
Mexican side of the frontier line. Thousands of horses and tens of
thousands of cattle ranged over its broad expanse. It is true that, with
few exceptions, the whole of these animals were almost, if not quite
wild. That was indeed rather an advantage, as they gave but little
trouble to their owners till the time came when they were wanted for the
market. Ten years before they were almost valueless, for there were no
purchasers; but with the severance of Texas from Mexico a great change
had taken place. American enterprise was changing the whole state of
things. Capitalists were taking up great tracts of hitherto almost
useless land, purchasing the titles for a trifle from the Mexican
owners, and stocking them with cattle which they purchased from great
ranches like that of Don Garcia Novales.

Speculators bought herds to drive east into the border States, breaking
them up and disposing of them by scores or hundreds to settlers there.
The animals, therefore, which had hitherto been so valueless that they
had scarcely been reckoned as one of the sources of income of their
owner, now became an important item in his possessions. Don Garcia
himself would gladly have dispensed with the addition. Like most of his
countrymen, he hated the men who had disturbed the sleepy tranquillity
of life in Texas. His income from his tobacco plantations, his mines in
Mexico, the hides, and his cotton-fields, was larger than sufficed for
his needs. His table was supplied from the estates. Horses, when
required, could be lassoed, brought in, and broken in in any numbers.
Indian corn, rice, sugar, the chief items of food of the slaves, were
all raised on the estates, while meat was forthcoming to any amount.
Save for dresses and jewels for his daughter, and a few imported
luxuries, such as wine, the calls upon his purse were insignificant.

The changes, then, that went on were a source of almost unmixed
annoyance: there were complaints from his herdsmen, of cattle being
driven off by parties of reckless whites; disputes arose with the
cowboys of an American company which had purchased a large tract of land
to the north, and more than one fray had taken place between his peons
and their men, owing to the cattle of one or other party straying beyond
their limits and getting mixed with those of their neighbour. He had, so
far refused to resort to the method adopted by many other Mexican
proprietors, of engaging several white overlookers and cowboys. These
were paid but a small salary, but were given a fixed proportion--a third
or a fourth--of the increase of the herds they looked after. It was
therefore to their interest to guard them closely, and to protect them
both from cattle-stealers and from the cowboys of other ranches. It was
found that much trouble was saved by this method, and quarrels avoided
with their unwelcome neighbours, while the profits were larger than
those made when matters were looked after by the indolent natives. Don
Garcia had for some time refused to adopt this method; but he hated
trouble, and there were such constant complaints of theft from his herds
that he began to feel that it would be necessary to adopt the practice,
at any rate on the northern part of his estates. He had now, with his
daughter, been paying a visit to a friend whose estate lay eighty miles
to the south. The trip had its business side. Don Ramon de Vaga had a
son, and the two fathers had agreed that an alliance between their
houses would be a desirable matter.

[Illustration: "Horses, when required, could be lassoed."]

Some months before, Don Ramon and his son Don Pedro had paid a visit to
the ranche of Don Garcia, but the result had not been altogether
satisfactory. Pedro, a hot-headed young fellow who had never been
thwarted in a single wish, had indeed been greatly struck with Isabella
Novales. But the young señora had by no means been favourably impressed
with him; his temper was an ungovernable one, and the violence with
which on two or three occasions he treated his grooms for some trifling
act of disobedience or forgetfulness, had excited her indignation and
disgust. In her home, slaves were kindly treated; her father was of easy
temper; he was proud of his race, which was of the purest Spanish,
without the admixture of a single drop of Indian blood, and very proud
of his daughter. He would have resented any slight upon the part of his
equals; but so that everything went on with its usual regularity at the
hacienda, he was content, and left its entire management to his
major-domo, Sancho Valdez, in whom he had implicit confidence.

The return visit was intended to undo the bad effect of the first. Don
Ramon had assured his friend that he had spoken very strongly to his
son, and pointed out to him that unless he put some restraint on
himself, there was no probability that the match on which he had already
set his mind would come off. Their visit, however, had not been
altogether a success. Don Pedro had been most attentive to Isabella, and
had studiously kept his temper in check; but the girl saw plainly enough
that the slaves were all in the greatest fear of him, and that they
shrunk as if expecting a blow when he addressed them.

"It is no use, father," she said one day before the termination of the
visit, when she was alone with Don Garcia, "for you to promise my hand
to Don Pedro; nothing could induce me to marry him. I would rather a
thousand times enter a convent, though I have always thought that
anything would be better than a life between four walls, brought up as I
have been, to mount my horse and gallop across the country as I choose;
but even that would be preferable to a life with Don Pedro. He is
handsome and can be agreeable, but he is a tyrant among his own people,
and I should be most wretched; and I am convinced that the idea had
better be altogether abandoned."

Isabella was now between fourteen and fifteen, an age at which girls are
not unfrequently married in Mexico, where they reach maturity some years
younger than among Northern people. She was strikingly pretty, even for
one of her race and age, and bade fair to be a beautiful woman in
another year or two. She had lost her mother when she was but a year
old, and had been the constant companion of her father from the time
when she had learnt to sit on a quiet pony. By the time she was ten she
could ride any broken horse on the estate, and was absolutely fearless
in the saddle. Thus, while her figure retained the grace so general
among the women of her race, her life in the open air had given it a
firmness and vigour rare among them. She was a good shot with the rifle,
and was often away on horseback with her dogs from early morning until
dusk, when she would return with her game slung from the saddle behind
her.

Her position as the young mistress of the hacienda, within whose wide
limits she reigned as a little queen, and her close intercourse with her
father, had given her a certain decision and firmness in strong contrast
to the languor and love of careless ease of Mexican girls. She was
acquainted with every man on the estate, and was so thoroughly
acquainted with its working, that her father frequently consulted her as
to any changes he proposed making in the arrangements; and when she
affirmed, with even more than her usual decision, that nothing could
induce her to marry Don Pedro de Vaga, her father acquiesced in her
decision, saying--

[Illustration: "Was often away on horseback with her dogs."]

"Well, Isabella, if that is so, there is an end of the matter. I own
that I am not myself altogether pleased with the young man. When I gave
my word to his father that he should marry you, it was some years ago,
and it appeared a very suitable match in all respects; but I guarded
myself by saying that 'while I agree most heartily, Don Ramon, to your
proposal, and will do all in my power to bring the match about, I say
fairly that I have made up my mind that when the child comes to an age
to know her own mind, I shall in no way force her inclination. My
estates now are larger than one man can well manage, and it is not to
increase them that I would marry my daughter to your son, but because
you and I are old friends, and that I would gladly see our families
united by a closer bond; therefore, while I will in every way further
your son's suit, I will put no force upon her should she in time, though
I have little fear of such a thing happening, feel repugnance to the
match.'"

"Thank you, father. I am sorry indeed that in this case I cannot do as
you would wish me, but Don Pedro is absolutely hateful to me; he is a
tyrant, and I would rather pass my life as the poorest peon on the
estate than trust myself to him. I believe him to be capable of
anything, and the very thought of a life spent with him frightens me."

"Well, we will say no more about it, dear. I have already told Don Ramon
that I feared it could never be, but I am sorry to say that my old
friend would not take the refusal as final, and insisted that it was but
a girlish freak on your part, and that in time you would come to look at
matters more sensibly."

"Well, father, he will get the same answer whenever he comes, and the
more seldom he comes the better I shall be pleased; but if he came once
a month until I am a hundred, his answer would be always the same."

"At any rate, Isabel, we must receive him hospitably when he comes. I
could not all at once explain the full extent of your dislike of the
match to Don Ramon, and though I said that I did not think that you
would alter your mind, I told him that at any rate his son would be
welcome when he came, and if as time went on you should look more
favourably on his suit, that matters could go on as we proposed. An
abrupt statement of your views would have led to an estrangement between
the families, which would be very painful to me, and I should be sorry
indeed to have a quarrel with my old friend. In time I will write to him
and tell him that your resolve is immovable."

Don Garcia and his daughter started on their return journey in the
family carriage drawn by six mules. Isabella's maid sat on the box with
the driver, and four well-armed servants rode beside it. On the second
day of the journey, as they were passing through a wood in a narrow
valley, a shot was fired, and one of the servants fell from his horse;
it was followed by a scattered discharge, and six men sprang out from
the trees. Another of the servants was shot, the other two were pulled
from their horses, while a man climbing on to the box with a pistol in
his hand compelled the driver to alight and lie down in the road. The
Spaniard and his daughter were then ordered to alight. As the former's
pistols were unloaded, he was forced to obey, and was in the act of
handing Isabella out when the sound of a horse's tread at full gallop
was heard, and a moment later a young man dashed up. He was armed with a
revolver, at that time a novel weapon; the pistol cracked twice, and two
of the Mexicans fell, both shot through the head. Their companions with
loud imprecations rushed at him, discharging their pistols and drawing
their knives. He shifted the revolver to his left hand, and two more of
the Mexicans fell, while the others with a shout of terror plunged into
the wood.

"You had better loose your servants, señor," the young man said quietly.
"I don't think the fellows will return; but it is as well to be prepared
for them, and just at present I am not up to further fighting."

The Don at once released the two servants, and angrily commanded the
maid, who had been screaming loudly from the moment the first shot was
fired, to be silent; gave the coachman a kick and told him to rise, and
then turned to thank their rescuer. He had dismounted and was leaning
against his horse, and Isabella was eagerly inquiring as to his injury.

"Do not alarm yourself, señora," he replied, "it is of no consequence.
My right arm is broken by a pistol bullet, and I have got another
somewhere near my hip, I think; but do not trouble about me. I know
some people a few miles away, and shall manage to get there somehow."

"I cannot think of such a thing, señor," Don Garcia said; "you have most
nobly saved us from a great peril, and I cannot dream of leaving you
here. You take your place in the carriage again, Isabella. I will see to
this gentleman's wounds; I have had some experience that way, as you
know."

The arm was broken a short distance above the elbow. By Don Garcia's
direction the coachman cut a strip of bark a foot long from a tree some
four inches in diameter. The wound was first carefully bandaged, and
then laid in the case of bark, which was tightly wound round it; a
similar piece of bark was used as a sling to the forearm. To the other
wound, which was an inch or two in front of the hip, nothing could be
done save applying a bandage to stop the bleeding, which was, however,
but slight.

"Now, señor," he said, "you must let us place you in my coach. I am Don
Garcia de Novales; my hacienda is three days' journey, but by pressing
the mules we will get there by to-morrow night, then you will have every
care and attention, and I will send off one of my servants to-morrow
morning, so that he may get a surgeon there by the time we arrive. The
journey is a long one, but I think that you will do well to come with
us; you certainly cannot sit your horse, and can hardly be so well
attended to in any place about here."

The young man murmured something about not liking to give trouble, but
he was too faint to offer anything like a vigorous protest. Isabella was
called out of the carriage, two pieces of wood were laid between the
seats, and on these one of the cushions was placed, so that he could
rest, and indeed lie down, for the carriage was a large one. While the
Spaniard had been dressing the wound, the two servants had dug a shallow
grave by the roadside, and in this they placed the bodies of their dead
comrades and covered them with earth. They now assisted Don Garcia and
the coachman to lift the young man into the coach, where he was laid in
a reclining position, with blankets and rugs under his head and
shoulders. The Spaniard took his place beside him, and Isabella occupied
the remaining seat. The servants then mounted.

"We shall not stop where we intended," Don Garcia said to the coachman,
"we must get home to-morrow evening. We had best stop for the night at
San Lorenzo, we can find accommodation at the priest's there. Be careful
how you drive; you must go fast, but avoid all stones and rough places."

The young man who had so opportunely come to their rescue was apparently
scarce twenty years old, and though bronzed to a deep brown by the sun,
his hair showed that his complexion was naturally fair. He was attired
in a coloured flannel shirt, Mexican trousers with fringed sides, and
high riding-boots. On his head he wore one of the thick stiff hats with
wide brim, encircled with a scarlet and gold cord, in use alike by the
cowboys and Mexican vaqueros. Isabella filled a cup with water and
acidulated juice of fruit from a bottle hanging from the roof of the
carriage, and handed it to her father, who held it to the young man's
lips. He drank it eagerly.

"I am ashamed to be of so much trouble," he said faintly.

"Why should you be ashamed?" Don Garcia asked heartily; "you have
rendered us an invaluable service. Doubtless they would have put us to a
very heavy ransom, if worse had not befallen us. You are an American, I
presume?"

"No, I am English, señor; my name is Harry Denham; but I have been
knocking about this country for the last five years, sometimes working
on a ranche, sometimes hunting. I have been staying for the last few
days with a vaquero and his family. I was just starting north to look
for work, as I could hear of none here, and as I came down upon the road
I saw your coach ahead of me. I was a quarter of a mile behind when I
heard some shots fired, and thinking that I might be of some use, I rode
on at full speed, and of course did what I could."

He was speaking very faintly now, and Don Garcia said, "We will talk it
all over later on; at present it would be best if you could doze off to
sleep."

Harry Denham, although still little more than a lad, had led a life of
adventure for the past five years. He was but fourteen when his father,
a consulting physician, died suddenly. Harry had been a year at Rugby,
and would have returned to school in the course of a few days, when his
father's death deranged everything. His mother had died some years
before, and his brother Tom, who had now been a year at Cambridge, was
his only near relative. The day after the funeral Tom returned from a
visit to the office of his father's trustee, with whom he had had a long
talk.

"What day do you think I had better go down to school, Tom?"

"Well, Harry, I am sorry to say that I think there is very little chance
of your going back at all, or of my returning to Cambridge."

Harry opened his eyes in surprise--"Why not?"

"Well, because as far as I can see at present we are in a hole
altogether. Mr. Ellerman has been telling me that, so far as he knows,
there is really no property whatever. You see father had for years very
uphill work. When ten years ago he moved into Harley Street, and set up
as a consulting physician, he thought that, having made his mark as one
of the staff of Guy's, and having a good private connection, he could
soon obtain a practice. However, for the first three or four years it
came in but slowly. Of course his expenses were heavy with this house
and his carriage and all that sort of thing, and he had to borrow
money. Things got better, and gradually he paid, I believe, most of this
loan off. Still, he saw his way and was able to send me to Harrow. Then,
of course, you have been for the last four years at an expensive school,
preparing for Rugby, and everything was going on well till eighteen
months ago he fell ill, as you know, and had to go away to the south of
France for four months. That, of course, meant not only a heavy expense,
but the loss of practice.

"He told me something about it before I went up last year, and, of
course, I said at once that I would give up going to the 'Varsity, and
would go in for the army or anything else he liked. I said that I would
enlist for a year or two, and then, if things went on all right, he
could buy me a commission--anyhow I did not want to be an expense to
him; but he said, 'There is no occasion for that, Tom, things will soon
improve again; I have no doubt that in a few months I shall be straight
again.' Well, he was right, as far as the practice was concerned. I
spoke to him about it when I came down last, and he said that he was now
doing better again, and that there was no occasion for him to make any
alteration in his plans for me or for you, and that in the course of a
few months he expected that he should be a free man again, and could
calculate upon making a clear £2000 a year.

"Well, you see, Harry, he did not have more than two months, and the
result is that I was not surprised to-day, on talking the matter over
with Mr. Ellerman, to hear that, although the loan he had obtained on
his furniture is partly paid off, there is practically nothing left but
the balance of what the furniture and the horses and carriage will
fetch. Of course there are bills to be paid, and one thing and another,
and I fancy that a couple of hundred pounds is about all that we shall
have between us. The question is, What is to be done? It has not come
quite as a surprise to me. For the last year, you see, I have known
that everything depended on his health, and though I never thought of
this, I did think that he might be obliged, as he was before, to give up
practice again and go away to a warm climate, and I made up my mind that
if he did so I would go out to America and rough it there.

"I spoke to Mr. Ellerman about it to-day--he was father's solicitor as
well as trustee, you know--and he says that he thinks that it is about
the best thing that I could do, and that a client of his has a large
ranche down in Texas, and that he is sure that if he speaks to him about
it he will give me an introduction to his agent, and that he will put me
on to some work. That is all straightforward enough. The question is,
What is to be done with you?"

"Why cannot you take me out with you, Tom? I could do something, you
know--I don't know what, but I suppose a boy is worth something out
there, just as he is here; at any rate, I might earn my food, and not be
much bother to you. Even if there were money to keep me at school, I
would a thousand times rather do that than be here all by myself.
Besides, I could not go to a good school, and I should hate to go to
some beastly little place after being at Rugby. Besides, what could I do
when I left school?--get a place in an office? I would a thousand times
rather go out with you if you will take me."

"Well, you are a little beggar for that sort of thing, Harry," his
brother said, looking at him as if estimating his strength.

"I am not little at all for my age, Tom; and I could thrash any fellow
in my form at Rugby, anyhow."

"Well, I must think it over," Tom said. "Of course I should like to have
you with me; as you say, you might be able to earn your grub, and anyhow
that cannot cost much out there, and I dare say there will be something
left after paying our passage out; but it will be rough work for you,
you know--precious hard work."

"Well, it will be much pleasanter work, at any rate, Tom, than grinding
away at Greek and algebra."

Tom did think it over, and the result was that after a consultation with
Mr. Ellerman he told Harry that he would take him with him. Their
trustee had fallen in with the idea at once. He was a man with a large
family of his own, and the problem what to do with Harry had been on his
mind ever since his client's death, and this solution of the difficulty
was very welcome to him. Two months later Tom and his brother arrived at
the ranche in Texas. Tom was at once attached to one of the parties of
cowboys, and Harry was kept at the home station, and was to make himself
generally useful in aiding the men in looking after the horses and herds
maintained there.

It was not long before he learnt to sit the most vicious _broncho_, and
to throw a lasso fairly; then he was sent out as boy with one of the
outfits. Here his duties were to look after the bunches of cowboy
horses. He was earning wages now, whereas at the home station he had
only got his grub; and when not engaged with the horses, he practised
continually with his revolver--the greatest ambition of all the boys out
on the plains being to become first-rate pistol shots.

Six months later he received the sudden news that his brother Tom had
been shot by one of the other cowboys in his outfit, a man who was
notorious as one of the best shots there, and who in a quarrel had shot
Tom down before the latter could even lay his hand on his pistol. This
was a terrible blow to Harry, who had only seen his brother a few times
since they came out, and who had hoped ere long that he should be posted
to the same outfit with him. He learned that the deed had aroused such
indignation among the other cowboys that Jake Swindon had been obliged
to leave the ranche.

Had the occurrence been altogether opposed to the rules governing the
conduct of the cowboys in such matters, he would have been shot down at
once; but there had been a serious quarrel, and according to their
notions Tom should have been ready to draw when his companion did so;
still, it was felt that as dealing with a young hand who had never been
engaged in such an affair before, Jake had not given him a fair chance.

Tom's belongings were handed over to Harry. For the next three years
Harry practised assiduously with his revolver, and at the end of that
time was acknowledged as being the best shot in his outfit. He was now
regarded as no longer a boy, but took his place as a cowboy; he was now
nineteen, and the life he had led had hardened and strengthened him
exceedingly; he stood five feet ten, he was lithe and sinewy, and the
muscles of his arms and shoulders stood up in cords through his clear
skin.

It now came to his knowledge that Jake was at work in an adjoining
ranche, and taking two of his comrades with him, he rode over there. As
usual, they were at once, on their arrival, invited to sit down and join
the others at supper.

"I cannot do that," Harry said, "until I have settled accounts with one
Jake Swindon."

A figure sprang at once to his feet with his hand behind him, but
already Harry's pistol was levelled at his head.

"Hands up," he shouted. "Now," he went on, "I am not going to murder you
in cold blood, as you murdered my brother, Tom Denham; I am going to
give you a fair chance--more than a skunk like you deserves. Now, Dick,
do you take thirty paces; we will be placed that distance apart, with
our backs to each other, and when the word is given we will shoot as we
like. That is fair, isn't it, boys?"

There was a murmur of assent.

"Very well. Now my two mates will walk with that fellow to his mark, I
would not trust him not to shoot directly my back is turned. Two of you
can walk with me if you like; but as I have not shot him now when I
could do so face to face, I am not likely to do so when his back is
turned. Now I want two others of you to stand close to us, pistol in
hand, till the word is given, and if either of us moves before that,
shoot him down. I want a third to give the signal; when you say one, the
men standing by will draw back, and the two with pistols will level them
at us; at the word three we turn round and can fire as we like. No one
can say that I have not given this fellow a fair chance."

"No; that is fair enough," the other cowboys agreed, all greatly
interested in this arrangement for a duel of a kind quite unknown to
them, as in cowboy disputes the custom is for each to draw at once and
fire as quickly as he can. Jake was led off, livid with rage. As a
matter of formality, two of Jake's companions walked with Harry to the
firing point, and two others drawing their colts, placed themselves a
couple of yards from the combatants. There was a dead stillness for a
moment, and then a voice asked, "Are you ready? One," and the four men
standing by the combatants stepped back; "Two," and then after a pause,
"Three."

As if moved by a spring, Harry and his opponent faced round. Both were
confident in their skill, and neither held their fire a moment. Two
shots rang out as one. Harry felt as if a hot iron had passed along his
cheek. Jake's passion at being thus bearded by a mere lad had slightly
unsteadied his hand, while Harry's arm was as steady as if carved in
marble. Jake fell back with a bullet in the centre of his forehead. Even
among the man's comrades there was no feeling of regret at his death; he
was disliked and feared among them; he had in the course of his career
killed a dozen men, and the retribution that had fallen upon him was
felt to be richly deserved.

A week later Harry rode in to headquarters, and told the manager that he
had better send another man out to take his place, for that he wanted a
change for a bit, and intended to go shooting. He drew the hundred
pounds remaining after paying their expenses out, and which Tom had
deposited in the manager's care, and paying for the horse that he had
ridden in, which was the best of those he had used at his work, he rode
to the nearest town, some sixty miles away, bought a rifle and a large
store of ammunition, some tea, sugar, and flour, and started out again
for the plains. Here for six months he hunted game, taking the skins in
for sale occasionally to the towns, paying his expenses and enjoying the
life. Then he rode down south in search of employment on one of the
Mexican ranches, but failing to find anything to suit him, was returning
north when he came upon the band engaged in the attack on Don Garcia's
carriage.

It was a month before Harry Denham was convalescent. The surgeon had
fortunately found and extracted the ball from his hip on the day
following his arrival at the hacienda; but he had for several days lain
between life and death. Then youth and a constitution hardened by hard
exercise, and the life he had been leading, triumphed, and he slowly
recovered. Don Garcia had been unremitting in his attention to him;
Isabella had visited his sick-room several times each day, and had seen
to his comforts. When he began to recover, the father and daughter
talked over what should be done for him.

Many times indeed they had discussed how they could best recognise the
service that he had done for them. After hearing from him his story they
felt that he would strongly resent the offer of any pecuniary payment.
But one day when he had been saying that he liked the life he had been
leading, and that although without capital it could not be said to be a
paying one, it seemed to him that there was a fascination about the
constant adventure and excitement, the life in the open air, and the
hard exercise, that as soon as he got well enough to take part in it
again, he should look for a fresh berth, Don Garcia said to his
daughter, "Do you know, last night a scheme occurred to me by which he
will better his fortunes without hurting his feelings."

"What is that, father?" she asked eagerly.

"You know that we have been having constant bothers with the new people
of the north, and several of our vaqueros have been killed, and I can
obtain no redress, for the white cowboys all declare that the vaqueros
are the aggressors. This young fellow is accustomed to the work, and I
don't think that I could do better than place him in charge of the
northern herds, paying him by commission on their increase, giving him
say a third. The thing would be mutually advantageous to us. I should
let him choose his own hands, and he could either take vaqueros or
American cowboys, and I should get rid of a great deal of trouble, while
he, in a few years, would have a good chance of making a fortune. I
believe there are some 20,000 head of cattle up there, for the most part
cows, and the increase, if they were well managed, should be 15,000 a
year. Perhaps the best way would be to give him half, and let him pay
his own hands."

Isabella's face showed that she heartily approved of the plan, and the
next day, when Harry was called into the veranda, Don Garcia proposed it
to him. "It will be a mutual accommodation to us, Señor Denham," he
said, after unfolding the plan. "I have had continual trouble there for
the last three years, and it has lately been getting intolerable. The
Americans care nothing for our vaqueros; but if we work cattle on their
system with white men or with a mixture of whites and vaqueros, we
should have no more trouble. What do you say?"

"I can only say that I gratefully accept your offer, señor; it is a
magnificent chance for me, far better than anything that I have ever
dreamt of. I know that herds are often worked on shares, but not a herd
so large as yours. I accept your offer gratefully."

"Well, you must make haste and get strong again, so as to take charge
before I have any fresh troubles. Here comes my daughter, she will be
pleased to hear that the matter is arranged."

A month later Harry Denham entered upon his duties as overseer of the
northern herds. He had already sent a message to some of the best men on
the ranche on which he had worked, and they had at once thrown up their
berths and joined him. He had also six vaqueros chosen from those
working on the estates; these he had only selected after he had gained
strength enough to ride out with the herds, and had seen them at work. A
negro cook completed the outfit. Don Garcia had advanced him a sum of
money for the payment and keep of the men, until the sales of animals
should commence. One of the cowboys who had before been boss of an
outfit was appointed as head of the party. Harry himself had to look
after the general supervision and provisioning; for although able to sit
on a horse, he was unfit for the hard work of a cowboy's life, and in
order to avoid the heat of the plain he erected a hut for himself among
the hills some five miles from the headquarters of the outfit.

Here he would be able to do a little hunting and shooting, so as to vary
the diet of the camp, while he was conveniently situated, riding over to
the hacienda seven miles away to procure supplies. Six months passed;
everything had gone well; the work of branding the calves was over, and
had passed off without trouble. He had found that it was impossible to
prevent the cattle at times from wandering from the limits of the estate
or to restrain others from entering it; he had therefore, with Don
Garcia's approval, adopted the system in use at the American ranches, by
which the cattle were by no means confined to a certain tract of
land, but wandered indiscriminately, sometimes mixing with other herds,
and being separated only once in six months, on the occasion of the
great assemblage of all the cattle, known as the round up.

[Illustration: "The great assemblage of all the cattle, known as the
round up."]

At the hacienda Denham was received most cordially by Don Garcia, who
always insisted on his coming in and smoking a cigar with him, and who,
after the usual report as to the state of the herd, asked many questions
as to his own country. Isabella was generally present, or if out of the
room when he first came, was sure to appear, shortly followed by a
servant with a jug of cooling drink, which she would herself pour out
and place before her father and Harry. Six months after he had commenced
his duties as overseer, Don Garcia said to him, "I told you the errand
from which we were returning when you rescued us from those brigands."

"Yes, señor, it was the question of the marriage of the señoretta."

"That affair is quite over now; the young man wrote very handsomely,
saying that he would do everything in his power to curb his hasty
temper, assuring her that he loved her passionately. I was touched by
his letter, which my daughter showed me, and by one which I myself
received from his father, and was in favour of giving the young man a
chance; but as my daughter is even more determined than before to have
nothing to say to him, I fear that it will cause a quarrel between the
two families."

"I should say that that was of very slight consequence compared with the
happiness of your daughter, señor. In our country a father may object to
his daughter marrying a person of whom he does not approve, and may
even, according to law, prevent her doing so before she comes of age;
but he would never dream of compelling her to marry a man to whom she
objected--he would have no shadow of right to do so."

"With us matters are settled by the parents, Don Henry," the Spaniard
said gravely, "and I think it is far better so in most cases; but having
lost my wife many years ago, and Isabella being my only child, I have
been too indulgent, and let her have too completely her own way, and I
certainly could not bring myself to offer her the alternative of taking
the veil or marrying the man I choose for her."

"But I understand, señor, that although you at first thought of this Don
Pedro as your son-in-law, you yourself, on closer acquaintance with him,
felt that he would not make the Señoretta Isabella happy."

"Yes, that is so; but I think that I was a little hasty and harsh; his
letter is a charming one."

Harry Denham remained silent.

"No one could have written better," the Don went on, and there was an
interrogation in his tone.

"I do not know Don Pedro, señor. As for writing a charming letter, it
seems to me that any one could do that. I cannot help thinking that the
señoretta, who is good and kind to every one, would not have taken such
a strong objection to him without there being some good reason for so
doing."

"It is a caprice on her part," the Don said irritably; "he has good
manners, he is handsome, rich, and of a family equal to her own. He is
passionate, I admit, and I do not like his ways with his slaves and
peons, but, after all, I suppose there is no one perfect."

"I should think, señor," Harry said quietly, "that your daughter, who
loves you dearly, as all can see, would not have opposed your wishes
upon a mere caprice; a man who is harsh to his servants, or even to a
horse or a dog, would be likely to be harsh to his wife."

"Well, at any rate, it is settled," the Spaniard said, lighting a fresh
cigar with short irritable puffs; "I have this morning sent off a letter
of regret to my friend, saying that my daughter's inclinations remain
unchanged, and that, as her happiness is my first consideration, it is
impossible that the proposed match can take place. Now, I suppose, I
shall have trouble. It is too annoying, coming just when I have got rid
of the troubles with the Americans. Somehow one never seems to have
peace."

Looking round the luxuriously furnished room, and thinking of the wide
possessions and easy life that he led, Harry had difficulty in
repressing a smile at the querulous tone of the complaint. The
conversation was in Spanish, which Denham had learned to speak fluently
during his five years' residence on the plain, where, among his
companions, were generally a proportion of Mexicans.

The next evening, as he was sitting with his men after his supper was
over and their pipes lighted, he said, "By the way, do any of you know
anything about a young Mexican named Pedro de Vaga? His father's
hacienda is some eighty miles to the south."

"I know the place," one of the men said: "it is a big estate, not so
large as this in point of size, but better land, and he owns a good many
more slaves than Don Garcia does. I was working down near there two
years ago, and I heard a good many stories of this Don Pedro. The old
man, they say, is a kind master; but the young one is a tyrant, and his
people are looking forward with dread to the time when he will be boss
of the estate. Fortunately for them he is not very much there, being
fond of going to the big towns, where he gambles, they say, heavily. I
have heard that when he comes into them it will require a large slice of
the estates to pay off the money-lenders, though his father has paid
large sums for him over and over again. I heard that he was at New
Orleans three years ago, and was lucky in getting off on board a ship
before he was arrested; so that it must have been something pretty bad,
as they are not squeamish at New Orleans."

"He is a very bad man," one of the vaqueros, who spoke a little English,
put in. "I worked on the estate four years back, and he was the worst
sort of a fellow. He has had a slave flogged to death more than once. A
man pretty nearly put an end to him; he struck him one day in a fit of
passion, and Lobe pulled out his knife and laid his shoulder open with
the first blow, and would have killed him with the next had he not
pulled out his pistol and shot him dead. It was a pity that Lobe bungled
the first stroke. There was a rumour some months ago that our señorita
was going to marry him; he and his father came over here, and Don Garcia
took her down there. _Caramba_! I would have put my knife between his
ribs, if I swung for it afterwards, rather than see a pretty young lady
sacrificed to him."

"Right you are, Nunez," the cowboy who had first spoken said; "you may
count me in; the señorita is a daisy, you bet, and if there is any talk
of this marriage, I am with you in anything you may do to stop it."

Donna Isabella was indeed immensely popular among the men, and on the
occasion of a round up, or of any assemblage of the herds, she would be
sure to be there, with her attendant behind her, watching the
proceedings with the greatest interest, and flushing with excitement
over any deed of daring horsemanship. She had several times been out to
the northern camp since it had been formed, and would stand by her
horse, by the circle round the fire, asking questions as to the work,
and chatting brightly with the men, all whom she knew by name, and
before she rode away would be sure to produce from a basket a bottle or
two of pulque, a quantity of fruit, or some other luxury.

"I am glad to tell you, Don Henry," the Mexican said one day a month
after his conversation with Harry Denham, "that the matter I spoke to
you of has passed off without trouble. I received an answer shortly
afterwards from Don Ramon, saying that he deeply regretted my
daughter's decision, but that, as I was unwilling to use my authority as
her father, he could but acquiesce in it. Three days ago I received a
manly letter from his son, saying that deeply as he regretted the
destruction of his fondest hopes, he trusted that the circumstance would
not lead to any breach in the friendship between the two families, and
he hoped to be allowed to pay me a visit in order to assure me of his
undiminished regard. Nothing could be more excellent than the tone of
his letter, and of course I have answered it in the same spirit."

Harry Denham made no remark, but when alone that evening in the hut he
thought deeply over it. The style of letter was in such entire
contradiction to what he had heard of Don Pedro's character, that it
filled him with distrust. The man was probably fond of Donna Isabella;
that he could easily understand; but he doubtless had reckoned upon the
dowry he would receive with her to repair his own fortune, and perhaps
to silence pressing creditors, until at the death of Don Garcia he would
come into a noble inheritance. It was therefore certain that his
decisive rejection would not only humiliate him, but rouse him to fury.
This letter, then, could only be a cloak to hide his real sentiments,
and his proposed visit certainly foreboded no good to Isabella.

Harry Denham was perfectly conscious that he loved the Spanish girl. Her
kindness to him when ill, her bright companionship during his
convalescence, and the frank welcome that she gave him whenever he went
to the hacienda, completely won his heart. He did not for a moment dream
that anything could come of it. She and her father were grateful to him
for the service that he had rendered them. They were good enough to
treat him as a friend rather than as an inferior, and the position that
they had given him was a substantial proof of their gratitude; but that
he, her father's overseer, could aspire to the hand of one of the
richest heiresses in Texas, was simply absurd.

That, however, need not prevent his doing what he could to shield her
from being molested or annoyed by this Don Pedro, who was, by all
accounts, in every respect unworthy of her. There was no saying what
such a fellow might do. Her fortune was evidently of the most importance
to him, and heiresses had been carried off in Texas and Mexico as well
as elsewhere. One day a month later he shot an unusually fine mountain
lion in a ravine a mile from his hut, and having carefully skinned the
animal, he had it prepared by the wife of one of the vaqueros, who was
famous for her skill in such matters, and then took it over on his next
visit to the hacienda as a present to Isabella. The girl was in the
garden as he rode up, and was delighted with the skin.

"It is one of the finest that I have ever seen," she said, "and there is
not a single scratch on it. Most of the skins are disfigured by the
wounds the animals give each other in their fights."

"I fancy he must have been a young one," Harry said, "though so
immensely large."

"I do not even see a bullet mark."

"No, it does not show. I came upon it suddenly, and had just time to
drop my rifle in my hand and fire, as it was about to spring. The ball
struck it just in the centre of its throat, so that when the skin was
divided the cut passed through the bullet hole."

As they were speaking there was a step behind them, and turning, Harry
Denham saw a remarkably handsome man who had just come out of the house
unnoticed. He was regarding him with an evil look, but the expression
vanished at once, as Isabella also turned, and he said courteously, "I
have come, señora, on the part of my father, who is somewhat indisposed,
or he would have accompanied me to pay my respects to Don Garcia and
yourself."

"You are welcome, Don Pedro," the girl said coldly; "my father will
always be glad to see the son of his old friend, Don Ramon de Vaga. This
is Don Henry Denham, the gentleman who saved my father and myself when
attacked by brigands on return from your father's. Don Henry, this is
Don Pedro de Vaga."

[Illustration: "Shot an unusually fine mountain lion."]

It seemed for a moment that the Spaniard was going to speak, but he
pressed his lips together and made the slightest inclination of his head
in reply to the equally distant salutation of Harry.

"Let us go into the house," the girl said. "You will come in, of course,
Señor Denham, and show my father the beautiful skin that you have
brought me."

"Thank you, señora, but I have to ride out to the camp at once; there
are several matters I have to attend to at once." So saying, he sprang
on to his horse and lifted his solbero and rode off.

Don Pedro did not speak as he re-entered the house with Isabella. He
knew that if he did so, he should ruin any chance that he might have of
winning her by fair means. A feeling of passionate jealousy had seized
him as he saw the girl standing by the side of this stranger and heard
her chatting pleasantly with him, and the changed manner and tone as she
had addressed him added to his anger. By the time that they entered the
room where Don Garcia was sitting, he had mastered himself.

"Look at this lovely lion's skin that Don Henry has brought me," she
said, going over to her father and showing him the skin, that she had
got over her arm.

"Yes, it is a beautiful skin," he said, examining it closely; "there is
not a blemish in it. He shot it himself, I suppose?"

"Yes, in that ravine that runs from the valley half a mile from this
house. Fortunately the shot struck it in the centre of the throat, and
so you see it did not hurt the skin."

"Who is this gentleman?" Don Pedro asked quietly of the haciendorer. "My
father heard from you on your return that you had got into some trouble
with some rough men, and that there was a skirmish between them and some
young fellow--I think you said an English cowboy--who intervened in the
matter."

"I did not put it at all in that way, Don Pedro, nor was the affair so
trifling as you represent. Two of my servants were killed, and the other
two bound. I myself had alighted from the coach, and was handing my
daughter out under the pistols of these five ruffians, when this
gentleman arrived. He shot four of them, and himself received wounds
that for some time seemed likely to be fatal. I may at that time have
written of him as a cowboy; but I had not at that time learned, as I
have since done, that he is a gentleman of an honourable family in
England. He is now overseer of the northern herds on my estates, and in
addition to my gratitude for the immense service he rendered us, I have
the fullest confidence in him, and esteem for his character."

"Oh, he is an overseer, is he? I thought his attire would hardly be in
accordance with the title of Don, by which the señora introduced him. I
suppose you have other evidence besides his word as to his family. I
believe most of these cowboys claim to be members of noble families."

Don Garcia was about to reply when Isabella broke in passionately: "You
are insulting the man who saved my father and myself from the greatest
peril, and whom I introduced to you as my friend, Don Pedro. We have the
best evidence that he is a gentleman--that of his own manners and
conduct, sir--who might be imitated in both these respects with
advantage by men who do not hesitate to boast of the purest Spanish
blood."

"Silence, Isabella," her father said sternly; "I am here, and able to
defend my absent friend. I should have thought, Don Pedro, that
professing, as you do, a regard for our family, you would have shared to
some extent our gratitude towards a young man who had done us such
signal service, instead of sneering at him. With your feeling towards
him, however, I have nothing to do; but I expect, at any rate, that
courtesy will be shown in my house to any guest I and my daughter choose
to invite here."

Don Pedro bowed in silence, and then the Spaniard went on more
cordially: "Do not let us make too much of this, Don Pedro. Of course,
you were not fully aware of our obligation to this gentleman, or you
would not have spoken as you did. Let us forget the matter altogether,"
and he at once began to talk upon another subject.

Three days later Don Pedro left, after a stormy interview with Isabella.

"I see that it is of no use remaining longer," he said. "I came here in
hopes that, in spite of your prejudice against me, I might still succeed
in winning your love. I see now that it is useless, and can understand
the real reason of your refusal of it. I am not blind; and when I heard
you speaking to that young Englishman as you had never spoken to me, I
comprehended the whole matter."

The girl flushed angrily.

"You insult me," she said. "I am not one of your slaves, Don Pedro; and
my father will not forgive any one, whosoever he may be, who insults his
preserver. As to your insinuation, it is contemptible. You know full
well I informed my father, after your first visit here, that nothing
would induce me to marry you, and I would rather enter a convent than do
so. My visit to your house confirmed me in that determination; but at
that time I had never even seen this Englishman. Your insinuation proves
to me how rightly I judged your character. I would rather marry the
lowest peon on my father's estate than you. You are here on false
pretences, sir. You declared in your letter to my father that you
acquiesced in his and my decision, and that you wished to come only as a
friend; it seems now that this was false."

"It was false, señora, and I intend to make you my wife. You may be
cruel, you may be unjust, you may even love another, but that will not
turn me from my purpose. Mine you shall be, by all the saints;" and,
without waiting to hear the indignant reply, he left the room.

"I am going, Don Garcia," he said abruptly, as he met the latter coming
from the stables. "My love is stronger than my power of repressing it. I
had hoped that I had to some extent conquered it, but I cannot do so,
and it may be, Don Garcia, that you may some day be sorry that you did
not give my suit the support that my father and I hoped and expected. I
understand now the reason of my refusal. There is another more fortunate
than I am, and you may some day bitterly regret that your kindness of
heart led you to open your doors to an adventurer;" and without waiting
he hurried forward to the stable, called for his horse, and ordered the
three men who had accompanied him to saddle at once and follow him, and
then rode furiously away. He drew rein after riding a mile, and waited
until his followers came up. He called one of them up to him, and with
him went slowly on, the other two falling behind.

"You have followed the orders I gave you the first day we came here,
Juan?"

"I have, sir; I have found out all about him: he does not live with the
others at the camp, but has a small hut in a lonely valley some miles
from here; he shoots and hunts early in the morning, and then generally
he breakfasts, and afterwards rides over to the camp."

"That is excellent. I want you to stay behind here, Juan, and put a stop
to his riding--you understand. You will be well paid for the business."

The man nodded. "I will do it, señor. It is rather risky, for they say
that he is a first-rate shot."

"Well, then, you must manage so that he doesn't get a shot at you, Juan.
He is alone in the hut?"

"Yes, except that he has a dog Don Garcia gave him, a fierce beast that
would let no one into the hut without awakening its master. It cannot be
done that way. When he is away I must hide in the bushes near his hut,
and shoot him as he returns."

"Well, don't blunder over the business, Juan. If you are doubtful about
yourself, hire a man or two to help you, there is never any difficulty
in picking up a man for that sort of work."

"I can put my hand on the men. My brother was one of those who made the
attack on Don Garcia and his daughter, and this Englishman shot him,
therefore I should be ready to do the job without being paid for it,
though I don't say it is not sweeter to get both gold and revenge at
one stroke. I know where the two men who got away are, and they will be
glad to join me; they are but two days' ride away, but I suppose a few
hours earlier or later would make no difference to you. It is on the
road back to the hacienda."

"That will do very well. Mind you do not bring my name into the matter
with them; simply say you want to revenge your brother's death."

"I understand, señor," and Juan dropped back to his comrades. Before the
end of the day, however, Don Pedro had formed another plan, which he
communicated to Juan that evening.

"You understand," he said, "you will get those two men you spoke about,
and half-a-dozen others; I shall get eight or ten of our own men, say
twenty in all--that will be enough. My business must be settled first;
after we have gone, you and the other two can carry out this affair with
that accursed Englishman. There will be no risk in it, for when I have
once got the girl, Don Garcia will be glad enough to hush up the
affair."

Three weeks afterwards Harry Denham was preparing his breakfast, which
consisted of slices of venison that he had shot an hour before, when the
dog suddenly pricked up its ears with a low warning growl.

"What is it, Don? Is some one coming? Yes, you are right," he went on,
after stopping to listen for a moment, "I can hear horses' hoofs." He
went to the door, and opening it, looked out; then he gave a sudden
exclamation, ran in and seized his rifle, and then ran out again. At a
distance of a hundred yards Isabella Novales was riding at full gallop,
while half that distance behind were some twenty horsemen, evidently in
hot pursuit of her.

"Go in, Don," he said sternly as the dog was about to leap forward; "go
in and lie down."

[Illustration: "I struck Violetta sharply and she galloped off like an
arrow."]

The girl drew up her horse suddenly as she reached the hut, and leaped
off.

"Lead the horse in, señora," Harry exclaimed, as levelling his rifle he
fired, and one of the horsemen fell from his saddle, while a yell of
rage broke from the others. There was not a moment to be lost, and
running in he closed the door and fastened the stout bar across it; then
catching up a double-barrelled gun, he thrust it through the window and
discharged both barrels into the crowd as they rode up. Two more men
fell. The rest dismounted, and flung themselves against the door, but
three shots of a revolver through a small sliding panel caused them to
draw back, and a moment later, in spite of the angry shouts of one of
their number, they ran off with their horses, and taking refuge in the
bushes, opened a straggling fire on the hut.

"What does it all mean, señora?" Harry asked, turning to the girl, who
had without a moment's hesitation seized the rifle he had dropt, and
began to load it from a powder-horn hanging from a peg in the wall.

"I don't know," she said. "I was out for a ride this morning, when a
number of mounted men suddenly dashed out from a clump of trees, and I
saw another party ride out of some bushes farther on, evidently
intending to cut me off. From the glimpse I had of them it seemed to me
that their faces were all blackened. I turned my horse to ride back, but
some more men had posted themselves there. I struck Violetta sharply and
she galloped off like an arrow. I had to pass close to one of the party,
and I was afraid they might lasso me. One man did take up his lariat as
he galloped, but another shouted, 'No, ride her down,' and I shot by
them, though they were within a few yards of me.

"I thought of the camp, but I knew that at this hour most of the men
would be out with the herds. Then I thought of your hut. I knew it was
up this valley, though I had never been here. I was sure that if you
were in you would protect me; if you were not, I should have ridden on.
They must be brigands who intended to carry me off to get a ransom for
me; but it seemed to me when that man shouted to the others not to lasso
me, that I knew his voice, and I feel almost sure it was Don Pedro. He
said when he went away he would marry me some day, and I cannot help
thinking that perhaps he has made up his mind to carry me off. What is
to be done, señor? I would kill myself rather than fall into his hands.
Why should he want to marry a girl who hates him?"

"Because, as I hear, he wants money, señora. I hear that he has very
heavy debts, and has already gambled away much of the estate that will
come to him at his father's death. Now, señora, I must send a few shots
back in answer to their fire, or they will be making another rush, and
the door was never made to stand a serious assault. I only hope that if
Don Pedro is there he will let me get a shot at him."

He took out some moss that had been thrust into several chinks in the
wall, and fired several shots into the bush. A loud yell told that at
least one had taken effect.

"That will do for the present," he said; "now let us think over what had
best be done. I fear there is little chance of this firing being heard;
the herd is eight or ten miles away. Your horse is fast, and you might
possibly get there before you were overtaken; but some of these men will
be well mounted, and it would be a risk. They have stopped firing, but
are certainly round the hut, and might lasso you before you had gone
twenty yards. If I had my horse here I could have ridden with you, and
could have beaten off any well-mounted men who might come up; but he was
grazing a hundred yards away when I came in, and there is no getting at
him. I see nothing to do but to wait and see what they intend to do
next. If they were only brigands they might give it up; but if your
suspicions are correct, and they have Don Pedro with them, I fear there
is no chance of that. I know a cave, four miles away, that I could hold
against them for any time, while this hut is not meant to stand a siege,
but there is no getting there."

"What are you growling at, Don? Do you hear some one creeping up there?"

A moment later there were three crashes as a heap of faggots were thrown
down against the end of the hut. He sprang towards that direction,
pushed the moss from a loop-hole, and thrusting his rifle out, shot a
man who was approaching with a blazing brand.

"Too late," he exclaimed bitterly a minute afterwards, "it has fired the
dry grass; the wind is towards us, and those faggots will be kindled,
and the flames will light the dry shingles."

"I will go out and surrender," Isabella said suddenly; "you shall not
throw away your life, Don Henry."

"Your surrender would not save my life, señora, even if I were to
venture to make the sacrifice. I have killed five or six of them, and
you may be sure that they would not spare me."

"Then let us both get on to my horse and try to escape; she is very
fast."

"We should be overtaken before we had gone half a mile, even if we had a
fair start. She is a pretty thing, but light, and would soon tire under
the double weight. Let me think for a minute;" he closed his eyes and
stood in thought.

Already the pungent odour of the smoke filled the room, and there was a
cracking noise, increasing in volume every moment, that told the faggots
had caught fire. Suddenly he looked up.

"I have it, señora, if you will not mind doing it."

"I will do anything you tell me to do," she said quietly.

"The horse is getting restive; I will hold him as you go to the other
end of the room and take off your dress, and wrap in it the pillow and
blankets as quickly as you can. As soon as you have done so, I will
mount your horse, open the door, and ride out with the dummy in front of
me. Seeing your dress, they will naturally suppose that it is you, and
will all dash off in pursuit of me. I shall make for the cave I spoke
of. They are principally below us, and would cut me off from making
either for the hacienda or the camp. The moment they are fairly after
me, do you make your way off on foot. If you can catch my horse, you
might get me help from the camp."

"You will be throwing away your life, señor."

"Not at all. I am a heavy weight for your mare, but I think she will
carry me as far as the cave, and they will not like to fire lest they
might, as they would suppose, hurt you. At any rate it is a chance for
us both, and I see no other. Pray do not lose a moment."

"I will do it," she said.

The hut was full of blinding smoke, the dog barked and howled, and the
mare struggled so violently that he had the greatest difficulty in
pacifying her. When at last he did so, she was trembling from head to
foot. It was not two minutes before Isabella stood beside him and thrust
the bundle into his arms.

"I have pulled the blankets up above the dress," she said, "and pinned
my riding-hat on the top. Quick, it is stifling here." Then she
passionately threw her arms around his neck. "The Holy Virgin shield
you!" she exclaimed. "I love you, Harry, I love you. I have brought this
upon you, and if you die I will remain a widow all my life for your
sake."

"God bless you, Isabella," he said hoarsely.

Isabella took down the bar and unlocked the door. The mare for a moment
refused to move. He leaned forward on her neck and struck the spurs into
her, and she flew like an arrow through the door, at which the dog had
already rushed out with a joyous bark. Harry Denham had slung his
double-barrelled gun across his shoulder. In one hand he held his
revolver, which he had recharged after using it; in the other the reins,
and pressed the dummy figure against him. A loud shout burst from the
bushes as he issued out.

[Illustration: "A loud shout burst from the bushes as he issued out."]

"Don't fire, on your lives, don't fire," a man shouted; "you might hit
the lady."

A dozen horsemen sprung out, but most of them were just below the hut,
being sure that when the defenders sallied out they would make that way.
There were but three that barred the way up the valley. Harry rode right
at them. One made a grasp at his rein, but the revolver cracked out and
he pitched head foremost out of the saddle. When he was past them,
turning round he fired again, and one dropped the reins with an oath as
the ball struck him in the shoulder. The other reined in his horse until
joined by his comrades from below.

"Steady, steady, keep together," their leader shouted. "We must have
them; the mare will soon tire."

To their surprise, although they were riding their hardest, the mare for
three miles maintained the lead of some seventy yards that she had
gained.

"_Caramba_!" the leader of the pursuers muttered, "she must be the
devil; no horse her size could carry double weight so far without
failing." But although far less heavily loaded than her pursuers
imagined, Harry's weight was telling, and he could feel that the mare
was beginning to flag. He cheered her on with hand and voice, abstaining
from using the spur, for the gallant little horse was doing her best. He
would not look round, for that would have encouraged his pursuers, and
they might press their horses to make a rush; but listening intently, he
was sure that they were gaining somewhat upon him, and he was confirmed
in his belief by a shout of triumph behind. The cave, however, was now
but a short distance away. The valley had narrowed to a ravine, occupied
in the rainy season by a torrent. The pursuers, confident that the end
was not far off, and that the mare would ere long founder, had not
pressed their horses, and as they could no longer ride more than two
abreast, they had fallen somewhat farther back.

Those in front gave a yell of exultation as they saw the mare suddenly
stop and the rider leap from its back, but were astonished when they saw
him go to the horse's head and apparently lead it into the solid rock,
followed by the dog, which had kept close to its heels. They rode
cautiously now, not knowing what to expect, and checked their horses,
when they saw an opening no more than a yard wide in the face of the
rock, and realised that the fugitives had taken refuge within it.
Volleys of execrations poured from the leader of the band. He at once
ordered the men to dismount, which they did willingly enough, but they
refused to attempt to enter the cleft.

"It would be certain death," one of them said; "he has got a
double-barrelled gun and that pistol, and he can shoot us down the
moment we appear before the hole."

The fact was so evident that the leader, although half mad with passion,
saw that it was useless to urge them to the attack at present.

"Well, we must think of some plan," he said. "There is no hurry, they
cannot escape us; we are in the heart of the hills, and no one dreams of
what has taken place. We burnt them out of their last place, and if we
can find no other way, we can starve them out of this. They can eat the
horse, but they can't go very long without water. You may as well get
some food out of your sacks and make a meal while we think the matter
over."

The men obeyed sullenly. They had entered on the affair solely for the
money they were to receive for it, and it had turned out most
disastrous: there were twenty of them to begin with, while there were
now but thirteen--six had been killed and one wounded. They were,
however, somewhat cheered when their leader told them that their
comrades' shares would be divided among them, and that each would
therefore get half as much again as he had expected.

"I will double that," he said, "if you will attack the place."

But there was no response. Presently one of them went up to the leader,
who was sitting apart.

"Why not try fire again, señor; we could not burn them out, but we might
smoke them out."

"That is a good idea, Juan. Directly the men have finished eating, do
you go down with four of them and cut faggots and bring them up; there
are plenty of bushes half a mile lower down. Put plenty of green wood
in it; it is smoke we want and not fire. They will come out quickly
enough as soon as we light them; but if they don't, we must pull the
faggots away and drag her out--she would be of no use dead."

Five men went off, the others taking their post, pistol in hand, near
the mouth of the cave, should the fugitives try to escape. The men had
taken their horses with them to bring up the faggots, and half-an-hour
later the sound of horses' hoofs was heard coming fast up the ravine.

"They have been wonderfully quick about it," Juan said to the leader
uneasily.

"They have; they may have found bushes enough on the lower side of the
ravine without going right down to the bottom."

"I did not notice any, señor--and listen, it seems to me that noise is
more than five horses would make."

"So it is. Stand to your horses, men."

A moment later the head of the party came in sight. There was a shout in
English of "Come along, lads, here are the skunks." For a moment the men
could not believe their eyes, for by the side of a cowboy rode a female
figure. She was in her white petticoats, and had on a scarlet shirt,
strapped at the waist by a belt; her head was bare, and though nearly a
hundred yards away, Don Pedro recognised at once Isabella Novales. A
terrible oath broke from his lips.

"Forward, men," he shouted, "ride for your lives; we have been duped,
and the girl has brought these cowboys upon us."

At the head of his men Don Pedro dashed up the ravine, but as he passed
the opening to the cave, a flash of fire spurted out and struck him on
the side of the head with a full charge of heavy shot, and he fell dead
from his horse. The man Juan, who followed him, met with the same fate;
but the others dashed past, and a minute later eight cowboys galloped in
pursuit. Isabella Novales drew her horse aside to let them pass, and
then sprang to the ground. Her fears of Henry's safety had been allayed.
She learned from one of the five men whom they had seized just as they
began to cut brushwood, that he had gained the cave, and that, not
daring to attack it, his foes were about to smoke him out. The news had
gained him his life. The cowboys were afraid to fire lest the sound
should reach the ears of the brigands, but they had without a moment's
loss of time strung the other four up by their lariats to a tree growing
close to the spot where they had been captured.

"Are you safe, my beloved?" she said, as she threw herself into Harry's
arms with the passionate abandon of her race.

"Quite safe," he replied; "you have saved me, Isabella. I was close to
the mouth of the cave and could hear them talking, and I knew that
unless help came in time it was all over. Your mare carried me
splendidly; but another half-mile and they would have had me. I and my
gun made up nearly twice the weight she is accustomed to carry. And you,
how did you manage? I see that you went to the camp."

"I threw myself down close to the door for a moment to get fresh air,
then I ran out. At first I thought of making for the hacienda, but it
was two miles farther; they would be too long in getting ready. I
luckily came upon your horse, mounted it, and galloped to your camp.
When I rode in, the men had just finished their breakfast, and had
already mounted; another two minutes and they would have gone. I told my
story. One of them ran into the tent and brought me a shirt and a belt,
which I was very glad to put on, though till then I had never thought
for a moment about being so undressed before a number of men. We
galloped as if we had been racing. We passed the hut, or what was the
hut, for there was nothing of it but a smoking beam or two. Just above
that we passed a dead man lying on the ground, and the cowboy who was
riding next to me said, 'Cheer up, señora, that is Harry Denham's
handiwork; he has ridden through them here.'

"Is not that," she broke off, as she looked at the two dead men lying
close to her, "Don Pedro? it looks to me like his figure."

Harry went and turned the bodies over.

"You are right," he said, "it is he; Don Pedro will never trouble you
again. Now let us mount and go slowly down; the others will overtake us
presently. I doubt whether they will overtake the brigands. They have
ridden nine miles at full speed, and the other horses have had more than
one hour's rest."

They mounted, and rode down the ravine, the dog trotting behind them.

"I can hardly believe that I have not dreamt what you said in the hut,
dearest."

She coloured brightly.

"You knew it before, and I knew what you thought." Then she added shyly,
"I shall tell my father directly we get in."

"I am afraid that he will never consent," Harry said gravely.

"He loves me," she said confidently; "I am his only child, and he will
do as I wish him. You are a gentleman by birth, Harry--what can he want
more? If you were as rich as I am, what good would it be?"

Harry shook his head.

"That is true enough, Isabella; but fathers do not see things in that
light. However, I will ride with you home, and leave you to tell your
story. If he says no, as I fear he will, I must leave here; I cannot
remain as his overseer after this."

"If you were as faint-hearted in fighting as you are in love," the girl
said with a bright smile, "you would never have won me. I do believe you
would never have spoken had not I spoken first."

"I am sure I never should," he replied. "I have known for months that I
loved you. It would not have been right that I, one of your father's
overseers, should ever speak of my love to his daughter."

The cowboys came up presently and crowded round Harry Denham, shaking
hands with him warmly.

"We wiped out five of the skunks," one of them said, "but the others
were too well mounted for us. If we had had time to choose our horses,
not one of them would have got away."

"It does not matter," Harry said; "the man who was the author of all
this has fallen. The rest were only hired brigands, and they have paid
heavily for it."

"Are you coming to the camp, Harry?"

"Not at present, I must conduct the señora home; but I may be out this
evening."

The men exchanged a significant glance, and when the way separated at
the charred remains of the hut, one said, "We shall not see much more of
Denham at the camp. I don't know what the Don will say about it, but
there is no mistake about the señora. Poor little thing, how white she
was when she rode up! She looks all right again now, and has got plenty
of colour in her cheeks; but she was as pale as death then. She didn't
say much, but there was no question where her heart was."

When Harry Denham left Isabella, he promised her that he would return in
two hours and wait at the gate until she came to him. She was there
before him, and he saw at once that she had judged her father better
than he had.

"Come in, Harry," she said, "my father is expecting you."

Don Garcia came out to meet them as they approached the house.

"Don Harry, you have saved her life, at the risk of your own, twice," he
said, "and you have fairly won her; I give her to you willingly. It
would have been a blow to my pride, had you not been a man of good
family, but I could not have said no to her even then. As it is, there
is nothing I can wish for better. Money she has no need for; but she has
need of an honest gentleman as her protector, and such she has found in
you."

Three months later they were married. Till Don Garcia's death ten years
later, they lived with him always at the hacienda. After that Harry
Denham took his wife to Europe for six months, and then returned to
Texas, into which a flood of immigration was pouring. There he still
lives, one of the richest and most popular land-owners in the State.


THE END


  Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
  Edinburgh & London.


       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Notes:


The text contains some inconsistent hyphenation (i.e. "firearm" vs.
"fire-arm"; "warship" vs. "war-ship"); these have been retained, as they
may reflect the preferences of different authors within the collection.
Additionally, archaic spellings (i.e. "sticking-plaister") have been
retained.

Page x, added missing period after "Mr" ("Mr. Urquhart tried the effect
of the nine-pounders")

Page 2, changed oe ligature to "oe" for Latin-1 compatibility; the
HTML edition retains the ligature ("... it had been manoeuvred under
water...")

Page 20, changed "possesion" to "possession" ("One of these took
possession of the tug, while the other, in which sat the exulting spy,
ranged alongside the dumping scow.")

Page 49, added missing period and changed "Who's" to "Whose" ("Yes, he
seems inclined to remove us one by one. Whose turn next, I wonder!")

Page 59, changed "Berthas" to "Bertha" ("Truly a derelict vessel; no
living thing, save a few birds, was near her until the "_Bertha_"
approached.")

Page 104, added missing close quote ("_La la ha il Allah! Vras! Vras!_")

Page 112, changed "aint" to "ain't" ("... the Turkish orficer ain't a
Turk at all, but a Frenchman.")

Page 121, removed duplicate "before" ("And then, before the stranger had
time to answer, he added...")

Page 124, added missing close quote (after "There it is, hanging up with
that Lochaber axe upon the wall.")

Page 135, added missing close quote ("Alan refused to accept this offer
of friendship.")

Page 139, added missing close quote ("... in company with his son Neil.")

Page 147, changed "Bendding" to "Bending" ("Bending his head, he crept
upward, holding the lantern in his extended hand.")

Page 157, changed single quote to double quote at end of sentence ("Will
you leave off interrupting me?")

Page 161, added missing open quote ("Come on.")

Page 175, removed extraneous quote at start of paragraph ("They'd laugh
at him if they heard...")

Page 183, changed "himsel" to "himself" ("... he forced himself into
going on...")

Page 272, removed extraneous quote at end of paragraph ("As the arrow
flies through the air swiftly and slays, so the Indian will drop down
into your midst, and the scalps of the white men will be his reward,"
said Will Narburton.)

Page 352, changed "Josepha" to "Josefa" ("There was one craft in
particular--a barque named the _Josefa_--that we were especially anxious
to lay hands upon...")

Page 364, changed "you they" to "you? They" ("... cast off these lashings
of mine, will you? They hurt most abominably!")

Page 422, added missing close quote ("... might get me help from the
camp.")





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