Part 3 out of 4
"We'll get at the leak this afternoon, if it's possible," I said, and the
young girl went back to her stateroom.
It was with anything but rising spirits that Chips went at the leak. He
had a frame slung outboard some fifteen feet from the ship's side,
supported by guys from the mainmast and jury foremast. It was after eight
bells in the afternoon before this was finished, and then Sackett and he
went out on it to study the ship's bilge through the calm water. It was
almost flat calm, but the _Sovereign_ had steering way enough to turn her
side to the slanting sun, letting the light shine under her copper. She
was so deep, however, nothing could be made out on the smooth green
surface that showed like a started plank end. Only here and there a lump
or protuberance appeared, showing a bunch of marine growth, or a bent
edge of a plate where it had started to rip off. The water of the Indian
Ocean is always remarkably clear, and this day during the still weather
it was like liquid air. Objects were as distinctly visible three or four
fathoms below the surface as those at a corresponding distance on deck.
I joined Sackett and Chips on the frame, and studied the ship's bilge the
entire length of her waist. In about half an hour we shifted to starboard
and, by dint of handling the canvas, got her head around so that the sun
shone under this side. Nothing showed like a leak.
"If a man could dive under her a few times," said Sackett, "he might see,
with the light as good as it is now. What do you think, Mr. Rolling?"
"It would take a good swimmer to go clear under her broad beam," I
answered. "I don't believe there's any one aboard who could do it, even
with a line around him."
England, the stout sailor, was standing near the rail while I spoke.
"If ye don't mind, sir, I'll try me hand at it. Put a line about me body
to haul me in if a shark takes a notion to make a run fer me. Don't haul
unless ye have to, mind, or ye'll scrape the hide off me body."
"Go ahead at it," said Sackett.
The heavy man slipped off his jumper in a moment, and I noticed the huge
muscles of his chest and arms. He must have made a good prize fighter in
his day. Coming out on the frame, he had the line stopped around his
waist and then started at the fore rigging to go under the ship to the
Nearly all hands came to the rail to watch him, although the water was
knee deep on the deck at this point. He dived gracefully under the side,
and as the bubbles disappeared I could see him going like a fish beneath
the shimmering copper, which gave forth a greenish light in the sunshine.
The line was payed out fast, and in a few moments he arose to port none
the worse for the trip.
Nothing came of this, as he was too much taken up with the endeavor to go
clear to see anything. His next trip was a fathom or so further aft, and
this time he saw nothing save a very foul bottom. After taking a rest and
a nip of grog he started again, going more slowly as he gained
Six trips tired him greatly in spite of his strength, and he sat for some
minutes upon the frame before making his plunge. Then he stood up and
I could see him swimming down, down, down under the ship's bilge, growing
to a faint brownish yellow speck which wavered and shook with the
refraction of the disturbed surface. Then while I looked the line
slacked, and the brownish yellow object beneath wavered into a larger
size. Evidently he was coming up and had failed to make the five fathoms
necessary to go clear of the keel. I hauled in the line rapidly, for I
knew that he must be exhausted to give it up so soon. The wavering brown
spot grew quickly in size, and in a moment, outlined upon it, I made out
the figure of England straining away for the surface. I hauled
frantically to aid him, and the next moment he broke water and was landed
upon the frame, while the great brown object beneath rose right behind
him, and took the form of a tremendous hammer-headed shark. It came up in
an instant and broached clear of the water at least three feet, but
failed to reach the frame where Bull England clung panting and gasping
"I reckon I've had me dose this time," said he, between his gasps; "I
almost swam down the feller's throat. I ain't exactly skeered, but I'm
too tired to try agin this afternoon, so if any one wants me place on the
end o' this line, he can take it while I rests."
"Faith," said Chips, "if ye ain't skeered ye'll be so fast enough if ye
go in agin. Look at th' monster! Did ye iver see sech a head? Wan would
think he had sense enough not to be eatin' av a tough sailorman. Big
head, nothin' in it, as the sayin' is."
Andrews was standing near the rail and appeared much interested in the
diver's work. The fact that it had been interrupted angered him. His face
took on that hideous expression of ferocity I knew meant mischief, and a
string of the foulest oaths followed. He drew forth his pistol and raised
it slowly to a line with his eye on the shark's head, now just awash
under the frame a few feet distant.
The bullet struck it fair on the crown where it was fully three feet
across the eyes. It smashed through, and the huge fish sank slowly under
the force of the stroke.
Then it suddenly recovered itself and tore the water into foam,
lashing out with its tail and turning over and over, snapping with its
"It is an unnecessary cruelty, Mr. Andrews," said Sackett, loudly. "Put
that weapon up. It is no use to kill to satisfy a murderous heart. The
fish would leave us in a few moments if it were fed."
"Watch the Lord's anointed feed it then," snarled the ruffian, with a
fierce oath. "Say a pater for its soul, for it's on its way to hell."
With that he fired again as the fish broached clear, and I must say one
could hardly help admiring his shooting. The heavy bullet struck within
an inch of the first, although the mark was now several fathoms distant
and thrashing about at a great rate.
The shark whirled round and started off, leaving a trail of blood which
showed like a dark cloud in its wake. In a moment it had disappeared.
"Don't swear so hard, my dear Mr. Andrews," cried Mr. Bell, in his high,
piping voice. "You'll scare all the fish."
Andrews coolly broke his pistol at the breech and tossed out the empty
shells. Then he reloaded it and handed it to the smiling, rosy-cheeked
"You stand by and take care of things while I spell Bull England a bit,"
said he. "Journegan," he continued, calling to the English mate, "you
take the line for a while, and let that young fellow rest, while I try
her bilge aft."
He stripped off his shirt and stood in his trousers. When I saw him, I no
longer wondered why I had failed to overcome him in our first set-to. The
fellow was a perfect mass of muscle, and while I gazed at his strong
frame I wondered at the power in Trunnell's arms, which held us so tight
and saved me that first day on board.
He came out on the frame, and I made way for Journegan to take the line.
He took a turn, and over he went without delay.
After four or five attempts to get under the ship, he finally came to the
surface with news. He had been under her bilge, clear down to the keel on
a line with the main channels. Not being able to get further, and seeing
the dark shadow of the keel ahead, he made out to examine as far as he
could go. Close to her garboard strake on the starboard side he saw where
a large butt had started, owing probably to the bad loading of the ship.
This plank end starting outboard was evidently where the water came in.
Andrews came on deck after this, and all hands began overhauling gear to
get a mattress upon the hole. Lines were rove and passed under the ship's
bilge and keel. These were made fast on deck to the stump of the mizzen
mast, and their ends brought to the capstan through snatch blocks. Planks
were then strapped loosely on the lines and allowed to run along them
freely, being weighted sufficiently to cause them to sink. After they
were slung clear of the ship, they were held in position until a pad of
canvas and oakum was inserted between them and the side.
It was quite late in the evening before this was accomplished, and work
had to be stopped until daylight.
At the evening meal Andrews was more sulky than usual. It appeared that
now, since there was a chance of stopping the leak, we would all be
aboard the ship when she made port, for with the water out of her we
might easily make the Cape in a fortnight.
Sackett said grace as usual, standing up and bowing gravely over the
"What's the sense of asking the Lord to make us truly thankful for stuff
what ain't fit to eat anyway," growled Andrews, when he finished. "You
ain't got nothin' to be so blamed thankful for, captain. This grub'll
sure make some of the men sick before we're through. If I ain't mistaken,
some of them will be down with trouble before the leak is swabbed."
"I'll say what I think best, sir, at my table. If you don't like it, you
can eat with the men," answered Sackett.
"Oh, I never said nothin' to the contrary, did I?" asked the fellow.
"Well, pay a little more attention to your behavior, or I'll make a
passenger of you on board," said Sackett, who had lost patience.
"I never came here on those conditions, and I fail to accept them, my
Lord's anointed. I wasn't asked to come aboard here. Since I'm here, I'll
have my rights, and I don't call to mind the names of any one around
about this ship as will take it upon theirselves to start an argument to
the contrary. No, sir, I'll obey orders so long as they're sensible, but
don't try to run it on a man like me, Sackett. I ain't the sort of stuff
you're made to run against."
"Oh, Captain Andrews, you have such a dreadful way with you," piped Bell,
the third mate, in his high voice. "Don't you know you really frightened
me with such strong words."
Journegan laughed outright.
"If I have to put up with any more of your insolence, sir," said Sackett,
quietly, "I'll have you bound and put away until we are in port."
"Oh, please don't hurt me, captain," cried Andrews, with his ugly smile.
"I ain't going to do nothing mutinous."
"Well, stop talking to me, sir. Every word you say is mutinous. I'll have
silence at this table, sir, if I have to bind you up."
"Cruel, unchristian man!" cried Andrews. "Journegan, my boy, this shows
the uselessness of prayer. Here's a man praying one minute, and before
the Lord has time to answer him he's ready to commit murder. Sink me, if
ever I did see any use of praying one minute and doing things the next.
It's wrorse than my pore old father used to be. 'My son,' he'd say,
'shake out the bunt of yer breeches,' which I'd do. Yessir, sink me if I
didn't do it. 'Shake out the bunt of yer breeches and come here.' Then
he'd grab me and yank me acrost his knee. 'Lord guide a righteous hand,'
he'd say, and with that down would come that righteous hand like the roof
of a house where the bunt of my pants had been. 'Lord give me strength to
lead him into the straight and narrow path,' he'd whine; and sink me,
Journegan, if he wouldn't give me a twist that would slew my innerds
askew and send me flying acrost the room. Lead me into the straight and
narrow path? Man alive, he'd send me drifting along that path like a
bullet from a gun. What's the sense of it, hey?"
"There ain't none," said Journegan, snickering and rubbing his whiskers
in appreciation of his friend's wit.
"Mr. Journegan," said Sackett, "you go on deck, sir."
"What am I doing?" asked the fellow, with a smirk.
"You go on deck, sir, or I'll be forced to take some action in the matter
of discipline. Do you understand?" continued Sackett, now red in the face
Journegan rose leisurely from the table and went up the companion,
"And now, my young man," continued Sackett, addressing the third mate, "I
don't want to have to tie you up with your friend, but you are not one of
my crew, and I'll trouble you to keep still at my table. Mr. Andrews," he
went on, "you'll have no further authority aboard here, and the sooner
you get into the boat with the rest, the better it will be for you."
"That's where you make a mistake," said Andrews, coolly. "I'm second in
command here now, and I'll stay until the ship sinks or goes to port, in
spite of you or any one else, unless you care to give me credit for my
share of salvage as a volunteer to bring her in."
"You will go to your room and not take any further part in the management
of the vessel, I say," Captain Sackett ordered, "If you don't go freely,
I'll order my men to assist you."
"If there's any one who cares to take the responsibility, let him step
out and make known his name," said Andrews, in an even tone.
Sackett left the table and went on deck at once. I heard him calling for
Jenks, England, and the rest, and I started up the companion, thinking to
take a hand with Chips and Jim and our men. As I did so, Andrews cursed
me foully, and the third mate made a remark I failed to hear.
Meeting Chips and Johnson, I sent the latter for Jim and Hans. Phillippi
stood near the wheel, and I beckoned to him. When the six of us were
together, I told them in a few words that Sackett was going to tie
Andrews up for mutiny. They would stand by me and give him help if
We waited near the edge of the poop while Sackett told his men what he
wanted done with Andrews.
"Men," said he, "there's only one captain aboard here, and that is
myself. If you disobey me, it is mutiny, and you know the penalty."
"It ain't that we're scared of him," said England, "but he's a tough one
to take without no weapons."
"I don't ask you to run any risk," said Sackett. "I'll take him and give
him to you to tie up and keep until we're safe in port. You must do this
or you will be insubordinate."
"Sure," said Dog Daniels, "if you'll take the fellow, we'll guarantee to
keep him fast enough. Hey, Jenks, ain't that so?"
I thought I saw a suspicion of a smile play over the old sailor's
wrinkled face, and the seams of his leather-like jaws seemed to
"That's it," said Dalton. "You take him, and we'll take care of him until
you say let him loose."
Journegan was at the wheel with one of the men who had left with the old
sailor, Jenks. Sackett did not question him in regard to the matter of
Andrews, as he evidently thought he had already showed signs of mutiny.
"I'm sorry to have this trouble aboard, sir," said Sackett to me, as he
turned to go down the companion to the cabin. "You and your men can stand
aside while this matter is arranged satisfactorily. Afterward you will
have to take your man away with you when you can go."
"I'm very sorry the thing has occurred as it has, captain," I said.
"We'll stand by you, if you wish, and help you to carry out any orders."
"I don't think it will be necessary," answered Sackett. "However, if
anything disagreeable happens, I trust you will do what you may for the
welfare of my daughter, sir. You understand how much she is at the mercy
of these ruffians, should anything happen to me."
"I will pass my word, sir," I answered. "Your daughter shall come to no
harm while there are a few American sailors afloat to do anything. I do
warn you, though, to keep a lookout on that ruffian. He has tried to take
my life twice, and is under sentence for a murder. Don't let him get his
gun out at you, or there might be an accident."
"A nice fellow for your captain to send me," said Sackett. "It was no
fault of yours, my friend, so don't think I blame you," he added hastily.
He started toward the companionway, and had just reached it alone when
the grizzled head of Andrews appeared above the combings. The fellow
stood forth on deck and was followed by our third mate.
"Lay aft, here, England and Daniels," cried Sackett.
The men came slowly along the poop. Jenks and Dalton, followed by six
others of the _Sovereign's_ crew who had chosen to desert the ship,
walked aft to the quarter to see if there was anything for them to do.
Some of these men were true to their captain without doubt; but Jenks
placed himself in their front, and by the strange smile the old sailor
had, I knew he was looking for trouble.
Sackett went straight up to Andrews and stood before him, and for one
brief moment the tableau presented was dramatic enough to be impressed
forcibly upon my memory. It was sturdy, honest manhood against
lawlessness and mutiny. A brave, kind-hearted, religious man, alone,
against the worst human devil I have ever seen or heard of. He was,
indeed, a desperate ruffian, whose life was already forfeited, but
Sackett never flinched for a moment.
The dull night of the southern ocean was closing around the scene on the
_Sovereign's_ deck, making the faces of the men indistinct in the gloom.
The Englishmen stood a little apart from ours, but all looked at the
captain as he walked up to Andrews. England and Daniels stopped when they
were within a fathom of their skipper as though awaiting further orders
before proceeding with their unpleasant duty.
The mutineer turned slowly at Sackett's approach as though disdaining to
show haste in defence. Then, as the stout, bearded commander halted in
front of him, he raised his head and gave forth that snort of contempt
and annoyance which I knew to mean mischief.
"Captain Andrews," said Sackett, "you will turn over your weapons to me,
sir. I don't allow my officers to carry them aboard this ship. Afterward
I shall have to place you in arrest until you see fit to obey orders and
show proper discipline, sir."
"Now see here, my old fellow," said Andrews, "I don't want to hurt you,
but I've obeyed orders here and will obey them when they don't relate to
what I shall eat or say at the table. Don't try any of your infernal
monkey games on me, or you might get hurt."
"Will you hand over your weapon, sir?" said Sackett, advancing, and
standing close before him.
Andrews pulled out his long revolver and pointed it at the skipper's
head. Then he gave a snort of anger and glared savagely at the
Sackett turned to his men.
"Seize him, and disarm him," he ordered. But England and Daniels
stood motionless. Journegan stepped to one side to keep out of the
line of fire.
Sackett made a move forward, as if to seize the weapon. There was a sharp
explosion, and both men disappeared for an instant in the spurt of smoke.
Then I saw Sackett stagger sidelong across the deck with the roll of the
ship, and go down heavily upon the wheel gratings. He uttered no word. I
ran to his side, and saw the ashy hue coming upon his ruddy face, and
knew his time was short. I heard the uproar of voices that followed the
moment of silence after the shot, but took no heed. Placing my hand under
his head, I called for Jim to get some brandy from below. Then I bawled
for Chips and the rest to seize the murderer.
Sackett turned up his kind eyes to mine, and whispered: "I'll be dead in
a few minutes, Mr. Rolling. Do what you can for my men. I tried to do my
duty, sir, and I expect every honest man to do his. Save my--"
The light had gone out. He was limp and dead on the deck of the ship he
had tried so nobly to save. My hand was wet with blood, and as I withdrew
it, the wild abhorrence of the thing came upon me.
I stood up, and there, within ten feet of me, was that sneering ruffian
standing coolly, with his pistol in his hand.
It was such a cold-blooded, horrible thing, done without warning, that I
was speechless. Chips stood near my side, cursing softly, and looking
with fierce eyes at the assassin. Jim came up the companionway, but saw
that all was over. My three sailors were like statues, Phillippi
For nearly a minute after the thing happened I stood there gazing at
Andrews and the rest, paralyzed for action, but noting each and every
movement of the men as though some movement on their part would give me a
cue how to act.
All of a sudden the piping voice of our third mate rose in a laugh, while
he cried, "He's gone to heaven."
It was as though something gave away within me, and before I fairly knew
what I was doing, I was rushing upon Andrews to close.
I remember seeing a bright flash and feeling a heavy blow on my left
side. Then I found myself in the scuppers looking up at a struggle upon
the _Sovereign's_ quarter-deck.
At the signal of my rush for Andrews, Jim, who was somewhat expert at
tackling persons, dashed at him also from starboard. Chips instantly
followed on the other side, and then, our men seeing how things were to
go, closed from the rear. All six of us would have met at Andrews as a
converging point, had it not been for the scoundrel's pistol.
His first shot struck me fairly under the heart. It knocked me over, and
I rolled to port, deathly sick. Thinking for a moment I was killed, I
made no immediate effort to recover myself, but lay vomiting and
clutching my side. Then in a moment the weakness began to leave me, and I
was aware that I was clutching the heavy knife I carried in my breast
pocket. I drew it forth, and as I did so, something fell to the deck at
my side, and I saw it was a piece of lead. Then I saw that Andrews's
bullet had jammed itself into the joint of the hilt, smashing flat on the
steel and breaking up, part of it falling away as I drew it forth. The
knife had saved my life; for the shot had been true, and would have been
instantly fatal had it penetrated.
I started to my feet and saw Jim lying motionless just outside the
swaying crowd, which had now closed about the murderer. At that instant
Andrews fired again, and Hans, who had tried to use his knife, staggered
out of the group and fell dead. Three of the _Sovereign's_ own men who
had intended going back with us were now in the fracas also, and as I
started in two more joined.
I saw Phillippi's knife flash for an instant. Then came a fierce oath
from Andrews, followed by a snort of rage and pain. Another shot followed
instantly, and Phillippi was lying outside the swaying figures with a
bloody hole through his forehead.
The only thing I remember as I forced my way into the group and struck at
the scoundrel was that he had one more shot, and I wondered if he would
land it before we had him.
He warded off my knife-stroke by a desperate wrench, but the blade ripped
his right arm to the bone from shoulder to elbow, laming it absolutely.
Even as it was, he lowered his weapon and fired it instantly as it was
seized. An Englishman named Williams was struck through the body and
lived but a moment afterward. Chips now had the weapon by the barrel, and
just as I was about to drive my knife into the murderer over the shoulder
of Johnson, a heavy hand seized my collar and I was dragged back.
Wrenching myself around, I found that I was engaging the tall sailor,
Daniels, and as I did so, Journegan, England, Dalton, Jenks, and our
third officer fell upon the crowd which had borne Andrews to the deck.
All of the English sailors who had started to leave the _Sovereign_ were
now fighting with Chips, Johnson, and myself, making eight men as against
six. But the six were of the strongest and most determined rascals that
ever trod a ship's deck.
As every sailor carries a sheath-knife, the fight promised to be an
interesting one if the men of the _Sovereign's_ crew saw fit to fight it
out. England, however, who was stronger than any two of our men, did not
like going into the matter with the same spirit as Journegan, Daniels,
and Andrews. After he had received a severe cut and had cracked the
skull of the sailor who had given it by knocking him over the head with
an iron belaying-pin, he began to retreat along the deck. Chips had
planted his knife in Andrews's thigh, and had cut Dalton and Journegan
badly in the mix-up.
The Irishman was unharmed save for a few scratches, and being aided by
Johnson, he soon had the men backing away toward the break of the poop,
the third mate crying out shrilly to stop fighting. The queer young man
was defending Andrews mightily with a knife, and for this reason alone
the scoundrel managed to get to his feet and retreat with the rest,
backing away as they did to the mizzen and from there to the poop rail,
where they were brought to bay.
Daniels, however, fared worse. We had a struggle for some moments alone,
and just as my knife was in a good position a man struck him from behind,
throwing him off his guard and letting my blade penetrate his throat
until it protruded three inches beyond the back of his neck. Then the
fight was over.
Chips stopped at my side with Andrews's revolver in his hand.
"'Tis a pity we've no cartridges fer th' weepin," he panted;
"'twould save th' hangman a lot o' trouble. Now there'll be a
butcher's shop aboard."
"Come on," I said. "You get to starboard, and I'll take the port side.
We'll rush them and make a finish of it. Here, Frank," I called to a
sailor, "lend me your knife. Mine's no good for this work."
"My own is broken, sir," said he.
"Hold on," cried Journegan; "we're not making any fight."
I could see the five ruffians talking brokenly together while they
recovered their breath. Our third mate was holding forth in a piping
tone, but too low for me to hear the words.
"We don't want to press the outfly any further," said England. "We ain't
no pirates. All we did was to defend ourselves. One of your fellows cut
me arm open and I hit him over the head, not meanin' no more than to
knock him out for the time bein', as the sayin' is."
"Will you surrender and put down your knives?" I asked.
Andrews gave his fierce snort and was about to say something in reply,
but the third mate seized him and stopped him. The assassin was badly
wounded and swayed as he stood, but his spirit was not in the least
beaten. He had killed five men out of six shots from his pistol and would
have had me in the list but for the knife I placed in my breast as a
precaution at the warning from Chips on taking him aboard. His coolness
and steadiness were marvellous. Not a shot had he wasted, and if he had
been relieved a trifle sooner by his half-hearted followers, he would
have had the whole crowd of us at his mercy. No man could have faced a
pistol of that size in the hands of one so quick and steady.
There was no answer to my question, and I repeated it, Chips adding that
they would go free if they would give up the men who had done killing.
"Why o' course, we ain't no pirates," said Journegan.
"Well, chuck out your knives, or we'll be for closing with you," I cried.
"This thing is over, and one or the other will be in command."
"Why don't ye take the boat an' go clear? Dalton, here, will give ye the
provisions, an' you can get to the north'ard and make port. There ain't
no room for both of us aboard here now, even if we gave up, which we
ain't got no idea o' doin' unless you come out square an' fair."
"Yes," said Jenks, "you men don't want to make a Kilkenny cat go out of
this ship. Do the square an' fair thing, an' git out. You know, Tommy,"
he went on, addressing a sailor, "I don't want to hurt you; but you
know me. You boys can't make no show agin an old man-o'-war's man like
me, as has been up to his waist in blood many a time, an' never ware
the worse for it."
The sailor addressed spoke to me.
"Don't you think it a good way, sir? They are good for us if they try
hard, for England can whip any three of us, an' I, for one, don't want to
run against him if it can be helped. We have a boat."
"Nonsense," said Chips. "We must take 'em."
I thought a moment. There was a young girl below. Probably she was even
now frightened nearly to death. If anything did go wrong with us,--and it
certainly looked as if it would, when I sized up that crowd,--she would
be worse than dead. There were seven of us left against six, although
Andrews was too badly hurt to fear, but they were much better men
physically. After they had once started to do for us, they were not the
kind who would stick at anything. I was much exhausted, myself, and while
I thought the matter over, it seemed as though to go were the better way
out of the trouble.
Chips, however, insisted on closing with the men.
It took me some minutes to convince him that the young fellows with us
were not of the kind to depend on in such a fracas, and that he would be
in a bad way should he tackle England alone. Journegan, Jenks, and Dalton
were all powerful men, armed with sheath-knives sharper and better than
our own, for they had evidently prepared for just such an emergency.
"Let Dalton provision the whale-boat, and you men get out," said Mr. Bell
after I had finished whispering my views to Chips.
"Yes," said the steward; "you men stay where you are, and I'll put the
stuff aboard for you, and then you can get out."
"All right," I answered; "go ahead."
Some of us sat about the after-skylight, while Andrews and his gang
disposed themselves, as comfortably as they might, around the mizzen.
Dalton went down over the poop, and entered the cabin from forward, and
Chips, Johnson, and myself looked over our dead.
Jim lay where he fell. There was no sign of life, and Chips swore softly
at the villain's work, when we laid his head back upon the planks. Hans
breathed slightly, but he was going fast. We poured some spirits between
his lips, but he relaxed, and was lifeless in a few minutes. Phillippi
lay with his eyes staring up at the sky. His knife was still clutched in
his dark hand, and his teeth shone white beneath his black mustache. The
other sailor was dead, and while we looked for some sign of life, I heard
a smothered sob come from aft. We turned and saw a slender white form
bending over the body of Captain Sackett. The moon was rising in the
east, lighting the heavens and making a long silver wake over the calm
ocean. By its light I made out Miss Sackett, holding the head of her dead
father in her lap, and crying softly.
The moon rose higher, and Dalton came and went, carrying provisions
up from the cabin. These he lowered into our boat, which was hauled
alongside, Jenks taking a hand when necessary, although he never came
aft far enough to encounter any of our men. Andrews sat quietly on
the deck and had his cuts bound up and dressed, while Mr. Bell went
below to the medicine chest for whatever he wanted. We kept well
apart, each side feeling a distrust for the other, and neither caring
to provoke a conflict.
In about an hour Dalton announced the boat was ready.
"There's salt junk enough for all hands a week or two, and ship's bread
for a month. There's water in the breaker. You can go when you're ready,"
I went aft to Miss Sackett, where she had sat motionless for a long time
with her face buried in her hands, as if to shut out the cruel sight
"We will leave the ship in a few minutes," said I, taking her by the
hand, and trying to raise her gently to her feet. "You must try to bear
up to go with us. Try to walk evenly and quickly when the time comes, for
there may be a struggle yet."
She let fall her hands from her face, and I saw her eyes, dry and bright
in the moonlight.
"Can't you kill them?" she asked quietly. "Oh, if I were only a man!"
Then she drew herself up to her full height, and gazed hard at the group
of ruffians at the mizzen.
"I'll have to go below first, and get my things," she said. "I suppose
you know what is best, to go or stay?"
"Hurry," I said. "I will wait here at the companion."
She went below with a firm tread, and I heard her slam the door of her
stateroom. Andrews looked toward me and spoke.
"You can leave the girl aboard," said he. "You'll have enough in
"Chips," I called, "stand by for a rush. Don't let Dalton get forward
alive. Miss Sackett either goes with us, or we all stay here together and
fight it out."
Andrews, who had recovered somewhat, now staggered to his feet and drew
"Stand by and follow along the port rail," he said to Journegan and
England. "You two," addressing Bell and Jenks, "go to starboard."
Dalton, who was below and separated from his fellows, would be our
Jenks, however, remonstrated at the attack.
"Hold on," said he, and England stopped. "What's the use of crowding in
this thing like this? Some of us will get killed sure with seven fresh
men out for it, and what's the use? All for a gal. No, sir, says I,
don't go making a fool job of the thing. I ain't out for murder, not
fer no gal."
"You'll do as I say or get done," answered Andrews, with a fierce snort,
turning toward him.
Jenks backed toward us, and Bell tried to hold Andrews back. He partly
succeeded, but was close enough to the old man-o'-war's man to get a
slight cut from a blow meant for Andrews. Then England took a hand, and
with Journegan they held the assassin in check.
Jenks came toward us.
"I'll go with you fellows if you say so," said he, and he tossed his
knife over the rail to show that he meant no treachery.
"'Tis a little late ye are, but ye're welcome," said Chips, who had
advanced at my cry nearly to him. Frank, the young English sailor, and
Johnson were both close behind Chins, with the rest following. It looked
as if there would be a collision, after all.
"Take the girl and go," screamed Bell, almost fainting from the
"Yes, take her and be damned!" cried Journegan. "Only get off before it's
"Seems to me," said Chips, "we could do for them now wid no trouble.
Let's try 'em."
Johnson advanced at the word, but I called him back just as Chips was
making ready for a spring at England. The big prize fighter had made
ready for the Irishman, and for an instant it seemed that we would have
another ending of the affair.
"Come," I said to one of the young sailors who held back, "get aboard the
small boat," and the fellow, who was shrinking from the knives, took the
opportunity to get away. This made Chips hesitate, and in another moment
I had two more of the men going over the side.
Miss Sackett came on deck. Her face was ruddy even in the moonlight, but
she carried herself with a firm step to the mizzen channels.
"Stand by and hold her below there," I bawled, and a man received her
into the boat. Then I called to the rest of our fellows and threw a leg
over the rail to signify that we were going. They came along, Chips last,
with Johnson at his side. The carpenter was furious and wanted to fight
it out, and it would have taken very little to have set him upon them
alone. They, however, when Andrews had been overcome, were by no means
anxious to engage. This seemed strange to me, for they certainly were men
who feared nothing, and the sooner we were out of the way, the surer they
were of getting safe off with their necks. Just what made Bell so
determined to have us go was a puzzle to me. As Chips climbed over the
rail, England came to the side with Journegan. I expected some outburst,
and for an instant the carpenter was at a disadvantage. But they let him
go over without a hostile movement. He stood up in the bow while a man
"Ah, ye raskils, it's like runnin' away we are, but we ain't. It's but
lavin' to th' hangman what I'd do meself, curse ye."
The boat of the _Sovereign_ towing at the quarter came abreast us as we
dropped back. Chips still standing and glaring at the ship, with rage in
his voice and eyes.
He stooped down and lifted an oar as the small boat came alongside, and
with a half-suppressed yell smote her with all his strength upon the
gunwale. The oar crashed through nearly to the water line under the power
of the stroke.
"Blast ye," he cried, "ye'll niver leave that ship alive," and he smote
the boat again and again, crushing her down until she began to fill.
Johnson took a hand also in spite of England and Journegan hauling away
at the painter. Our men backed water so hard they held her back until the
boat was hopelessly stove and had settled to the thwarts. Then we let go
and drifted away, while the men aboard the _Sovereign_ hurled
belaying-pins and gratings at us.
"A pleasant voyage to you," came the soft notes of Mr. Bell's voice; and
then we rowed slowly away to the northward, leaving the _Sovereign_ a
dark, sunken grisly thing against the moonlit sky.
"Rig the mast and sail," I said. "It's no use getting tired before the
struggle comes. We're some six hundred miles out, and may not raise a
vessel for days."
The oars were taken in, and the tarpaulin which had done duty for a sail
was rigged. Under the pressure of the light air the whale-boat made
steering-way and a little more. The moon now made the night as light as
day, and although it was slightly chilly in this latitude, we suffered
little from the exposure, each settling himself into the most comfortable
position possible, and gazing back at the strange black outline of the
wrecked ship. Her sunken decks and patched-up jury rig with the trysail
set from the after-stay gave her an uncanny look, while her masts and
spars with the set canvas seemed as black as ink against the light sky
beyond. There she lay, a horrid, ghastly thing, wallowing along slowly
toward a port she would never reach.
While I looked at her, Miss Sackett burst into a hard laugh which jangled
hysterically. She had been silent since she had entered the boat, and
this sudden burst startled me. Her eyes were fixed upon the grim
derelict. They shone in the moonlight and she choked convulsively.
"Can I hand you some water, ma'm?" asked Jenks.
"What made you come with us, you rogue?" she asked, without
turning her head.
"I was with ye from the start, s'help me," said Jenks. "I only goes with
the other side when I feared they'd kill all hands."
"Well, it's a good thing for you, you contemptible rascal," she answered
in an even tone.
All of a sudden I noticed a flicker of light above the cabin of the
_Sovereign_. It died away for an instant and then flared again, Miss
Sackett laughed convulsively.
"Look," she said.
At that instant a red glare flashed up from the derelict. It shone on her
maintopsail and staysails and lit up the ocean around her.
"Faith, but she's afire," cried Chips. "Look at them."
I turned the boat's head around and ran her off before the wind, hauling
up again and standing for the wreck to get near her. Miss Sackett seized
my arm and held it fast.
"Don't go back for them!" she cried. "You shall not go back for them!"
"I haven't the least intention of going for them," I answered; "I only
wanted to get close enough to see what they'd do. Did you set her afire?"
I asked bluntly.
"Of course I did," said the girl, passionately. "Do you suppose I didn't
hear them telling you I should have to remain aboard? What else was there
left for me to do? Would you have me fall into their hands?"
"Lord save ye, but ye did the right thing," said Chips. Johnson echoed
"An' I knew ye ware up to somethin' of the kind when ye went below,"
said Jenks, "fer I smelled the smoke and thought to stop it, but there
ware too much risk as it was to add fire, so I had to step out o' the
crowd an' jine ye. I never did nothin' in the fracas, as ye know, except
In ten minutes we were close aboard the derelict, and her cabin was a
mass of flame. Figures of men showed against the light amidships, and I
finally made out all hands getting out a spar and barrels to make a raft.
The oil in the cargo, however, was too quick for them. It had become
ignited aft and had cut off all retreat by the stove-in boat. Several
explosions followed, and the flames roared high above the maintopsail.
Journegan, Andrews, and another man were seen making their way forward
across the sunken deck. The heat drove them to the topgallant forecastle
and in a few minutes we could see all standing there near the windlass.
The bitts sheltered them from the heat.
The oil in the ship was not submerged in the after part, owing to her
trimming by the head. It had been the last stuff put aboard and was well
up under her cabin deck. Even that which was awash caught after the fire
had started to heat things up well, and the entire after part of the
_Sovereign_ was a mass of flames. They gave forth a brilliant light,
glowing red and making the sky appear dark beyond. Great clouds of sparks
from the woodwork above soared into the heavens. The light must have been
visible for miles.
There was absolutely no escape for the men aboard now, except by getting
away on some float. Journegan, Dalton, and England were working hard at
something on the forecastle which appeared to be a raft. The one they had
started aft they had been forced to abandon after an explosion. The
carpenter's tools being below in the hold when the ship filled, they had
nothing but their knives and a small hatchet left to work with.
Suddenly Mr. Bell made us out in the darkness less than a quarter
of a mile distant. He screamed for us to come back and take him off
"Pay no attention to him," said Chips.
I hesitated, with the tiller in my hand. The end of those men seemed so
horrible that I forgot for the instant what they had done.
"You shall not go back for them while I'm aboard this boat," said Miss
Sackett, quietly, from her seat beside me, and she seized the tiller
firmly to luff the craft.
"I didn't intend to," I answered; "yet that man's cry had so much of the
woman in it that it was instinctive to turn."
"Instinctive or not, here we stay. He is the biggest devil of the lot,"
answered the girl. "There's some horrible game in getting us away. I'm
certain of it, but don't know what it can be. We'll find out when it's
"We might take them aboard one at a time and bind them," I suggested.
This was greeted with growlings from Chips and Johnson. Even Jenks
declared it would never do, and the other sailors made antagonistic
remarks. There was nothing to do but keep away and let them save
themselves as best they might.
We sailed slowly around the wreck, watching her burn. Hour after hour she
flamed and hissed, the heat being felt at a hundred fathoms distant. And
all the while, the sharp, piping voice of our third mate screamed shrilly
After midnight the _Sovereign_ had burned clear to the water line from
aft to amidships. Even her rails along the waist were burning fiercely
with the oil that had been thrown upon them by the explosions of the
heated barrels. And as she burned out her oil, she sank lower and lower
in the water until she gave forth huge clouds of steam and smoke instead
of flaring flames. In the early hours of the morning, we were still
within two hundred fathoms of her; and she showed nothing in the gray
light save the mainmast and the topgallant forecastle. Her canvas had
gone, and the bare black pole of her mast stuck out of the sea, which now
flowed deep around the foot of it. Upon the blackened forecastle head,
five human forms crouched behind the sheltering bulk of the windlass.
They were silent now and motionless. While I looked, one of them
staggered to his feet and stretched out his hands above his head, gazing
at the light in the east. It was Andrews. He raised his clenched fists
and shook them fiercely at us and at the gray sky above. Then over the
calm, silent ocean came the fierce, raving curses of the doomed villain.
A gentle air was stirring the swell in the east, which soon filled our
sail. We kept the boat's head away until she pointed in the direction of
the African cape. And so we sailed away, with the echoes of that
villain's voice ringing in our ears, calling forth fierce curses upon the
God he had denied.
I turned away from the horrible spectacle of that grisly hulk with its
human burden. As I did so, my eyes met those of Miss Sackett. She lowered
hers, took out her handkerchief and, bowing over, buried her face in it,
crying as though her heart would break.
"If you'll pass the pannikin, I'll take a drink, sir," said Jenks, after
the sun had risen and warmed the chilly air of the southern ocean.
I tossed the old man-o'-war's man the measure, and he proceeded to draw a
cupful from the water breaker, which was full and lay amidships.
"It's an uncommon quare taste the stuff has, sure enough," said he, after
he had laid aside his quid and drank a mouthful, "Try a bit, Tom," he
went on, and passed the pannikin to a sailor next him.
"You're always lookin' fer trouble, old man," said the sailor, draining
off the cupful.
"An' bloomin' well ready to get out of it by any way he can," added
another. "Fill her up agin an' let me have some. This sun is most hot, in
spite of the breeze. Blast me, Jenks, but you're a suspicious one. It's a
wonder you ever go to sleep."
The young sailor, Tom, put down the cup and watched Jenks draw it full
again. Then he grew pale.
"Hold on a bit with that water, you men. There's something wrong with
it," he said. He gulped and placed his hand over his abdomen, while a
spasm of pain passed over his features.
"My God!" he muttered, and doubled up. Then he vomited violently and his
I saw Chips turn white under his tan, and Johnson look with staring eyes
at the water breaker, as though it were a ghost.
"Knock in the head," I said, "and let's see what's inside of it."
Two men held the poor fellow gasping over the rail while his agony grew
worse. The rest crowded around aft as much as possible to see what
terrible fate was in store for us.
The breaker was upended in a moment. Jenks stove in the head with an oar
handle, and we peered inside.
The water was a clear crystal, like that in the _Sovereign's_ tanks. It
was not discolored in the least.
"Pass the bailer here," I said; "and then turn the barrel so we can get
the sunlight into it."
I bailed out a few quarts, looked at it carefully, tasted it slightly,
and then put it carefully back again. I noticed a strange acrid taste.
The barrel was turned toward the sun, and its light was allowed to shine
straight into its depths. I put my head down close to the surface and
peered hard at the bottom. Then I was aware of a whitish powder which
showed against the dark wood. Reaching down, some of this was brought up;
and then I recognized the same powder Captain Sackett had told me was
bichloride of mercury.
By this time Tom was in convulsions. He strained horribly, and we could
do nothing to relieve his agony. Brandy was given, but it did no good,
and finally he lost consciousness. Miss Sackett nursed him tenderly and
did all she could to make him comfortable, but it was no use.
The horror of the thing fairly took my senses for a moment. There we
were, miles away from land, without water. The villains had meant us to
tell no tales. All adrift in an open boat, with food and water poisoned,
we had a small chance indeed of ever telling the story of the
_Sovereign's_ loss. Vessels were not plentiful at the high latitude we
were in; and, as we were out of the trade, it was doubtful if we could
even get into the track of the regular Cape route inside a week, to say
nothing of being picked up. It seemed as though Andrews' villany would
finish us yet.
Far away on the southern horizon, the single mast stuck up above the blue
water like a black rod. I stood up and gazed at it. Chips appeared to
read my thoughts, for he spoke out:--
"'Tis no use now, sir; the tanks would be a couple o' fathoms deep, an'
we couldn't get at them. She won't float more'n a day or two, anyhow, wid
th' afterdeck an' cargo burnt free. She'll go under as soon as the oil's
washed out wid a sea, and that'll be th' last av a bad ship."
I saw that the carpenter was right. There was no water for either Andrews
or ourselves, and it would be foolish to go back to force the tank.
"Heave the stuff overboard," I said, and Johnson and Jenks raised the
barrel upon the rail. It poured out clear into the blue ocean, and showed
no sign of its deadly character.
"Break out that barrel of ship's bread," said Chips.
It was found to be moistened with water all through, and as even the
little poison I had drunk made me horribly nauseated, there was no
thought of tasting the stuff. Over the side it went, floating high in the
boat's wake. Then came the beef.
"Hold on with that," said Miss Sackett. "It isn't likely they'd poison
everything. I don't remember there being over several pounds of that
mercury in the medicine chest, and you know it won't dissolve readily in
water. They must have had something to dissolve it in first, and it would
have taken too long to fill everything full of the stuff."
"Who cares to taste the beef?" I asked.
"Give me a piece, sir," said Johnson.
He put it in his mouth and chewed slowly upon it at first, as though not
quite certain whether to swallow it or not. Finally he mustered courage
and made away with a portion of it, waiting some minutes to see if it
produced pain. It was apparently all right, and then he swallowed the
rest. We concluded to keep the beef and eat it as a last resort.
The breeze freshened in the southeast, and we ran along steadily. If it
held, we could make about a hundred miles a day, and raise the African
coast within a week. There was a chance, if we could stand the strain.
It was now the sixth day since we had left the _Pirate_, and we figured
that she must have rounded the Cape, and would now be standing along up
the South Atlantic with the steady southeast trade behind her. Other
ships would be in the latitude of Cape Town, and if we could make the
northing, we might raise one and be picked up. I pictured the horrors the
poor girl sitting beside me must endure if we were adrift for days in the
whale-boat. What she had already gone through was enough to shake the
nerves of the strongest woman, but here she sat, quietly looking at the
water, her eyes sometimes filled with tears, while not a word of
complaint escaped her lips.
Her example nerved me. I had passed the order to stop all talking except
when necessary, as it would only add to thirst. We ran along in silence.
We had no compass save the one hanging to my watch-chain, as big as my
thumb-nail, but I managed to make a pretty straight course for all that.
The wind freshened and was quite cool. The sunlight, sparkling over the
ocean, which now turned dark blue with a speck of white here and there to
windward, warmed us enough to keep off actual chill, but the men who had
taken off their coats to make a little more of a spread to the fair wind
soon requested permission to put them on again. Sitting absolutely quiet
as we were, the air was keener than if we were going about the sheltered
decks of a ship.
On we went, the swell rolling under us and giving us a twisting motion.
Sometimes we would be in a long hollow where the breeze would fail. Then,
as we rose sternwrard, the little sail would fill, and away we would go,
racing along the slanting crest of the long sea, the foam rushing from
the boat's sides with a hopeful, hissing sound, until the swell would
gain on us and go under, leaving the boat with her bow pointing up the
receding slope and her headway almost gone, to drop into the following
hollow and repeat the action.
The English sailor who had drank the water was now stone dead. Johnson
gave me a look, and I began a conversation with Miss Sackett, endeavoring
to engage her attention. A splash from forward made her look, and she saw
what had happened. Then she turned and, looking up at me, placed her soft
little hand on mine which lay upon the tiller.
"You are very good to me, Mr. Rolling, but I can stand suffering as well
as a man," she said. "I thank you just the same." Then her eyes filled
and she turned away her face. I found something to fix at the rudder
head, and when I was through she was looking over the blue water where
the lumpy trade clouds showed above the horizon's rim.
As the day wore on, the hunger of the men began to show itself. Jenks
kept his wrinkled, leather face to the northward, looking steadily for a
sail, but the other sailors glanced aft several times, and I noticed the
strange glare of the eye which tells of the hungry animal. Some of these
men had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours. One big, heavy-looking young
sailor glanced back several times from the clew of his eye at the girl
sitting aft. But I fixed my gaze upon him so steadily that he shifted his
seat and looked forward.
Late in the afternoon some of the men insisted on eating the beef, and it
was served to them. No ill effects followed, so all hands took their
ration. This satisfied them for the time being, but I knew the thirst
which must surely follow. I had been adrift in an open boat before in the
Pacific. There had been sixteen men at the start, and at the end of four
weeks of horror seven had been picked up to tell a tale which would make
the blood curdle. The memory of this made me sick with fear and anxiety.
Johnson felt so much better from his meal that he stood in the bow with
his little monkey-like figure braced against the mast, his legs on the
gunwales. He said jokingly that he'd raise a sail before eight bells in
the afternoon. Suddenly he cried out:--
"Sail dead ahead, sir!"
"'Tis no jokin' matter," growled Chips, angrily. "Shet yer head, ye
monkey, afore I heave ye over th' side."
Johnson turned fiercely upon him.
"Jokin', you lummax! Slant yer eye forrads, an' don't sit there a-lookin'
at yerself," he snarled.
"Steady, there!" I cried. "Where's the vessel?"
"Right ahead, sir, and standing down this ways, if I see straight."
I stood up on the stern locker and looked ahead. Sure enough, a white
speck showed on the northern horizon, but I couldn't see enough of the
craft's sails to tell which way she headed.
The men all wanted to stand at once, and it took some sharp talk to
get them under control; but the young girl at my side showed no signs
of excitement. I looked at her, and her gentle eyes looked straight
"I knew she would come," she said. "I've prayed all the morning."
In twenty minutes, spent anxiously watching her, the ship raised her
topsails slowly above the line of blue, and then we saw she really was
jammed on the wind and reaching along toward us rapidly.
"'Tis the _Pirit_, an' no mistake!" cried the carpenter. "Look at them
r'yals! No one but th' bit av a mate, Trunnell, iver mastheaded a yard
"The _Pirate_!" yelled Johnson, from forward.
And so, indeed, it really was.
I looked at her and then at the sweet face at my side. All the hard lines
of suffering and fright had left it. The eyes now had the same gentle,
trusting look of innocence I had seen the first morning we had taken off
the _Sovereign's_ crew. The reaction was too much for me. I was little
more than a boy in years, so I reached for the girl's hand and kissed it.
When I looked up I caught the clew of Jenks' eye, but the rest were
looking at the rapidly approaching ship.
When the _Pirate_ neared us, we could make out a man coming down the
ratlines from the foretop, showing that she had evidently sighted us even
before we had her. As she drew nearer still, we could see Trunnell
standing on the weather side of the poop, holding to a backstay and
gazing aloft at his canvas, evidently giving orders for the watch to bear
a hand and lay aft to the braces. He would lay his mainyards aback and
heave her to. Along the high topgallant rail could be seen faces, and on
the quarter-deck Mrs. Sackett stood with our friend Thompson, better
known in the Antipodes as Jackwell, the burglar. As I watched him
standing there pointing to us, I thought of poor Jim.
"Wheel down," I heard Trunnell bawl as the ship came within fifty fathom.
"Slack away that lee brace; steady your wheel."
Before the ship's headway had slackened we had out the oars and were
rowing for her. In a moment a sailor had flung us a line, and we were
towing along at the mizzen channels, with the men climbing aboard as fast
as they could.
Miss Sackett was passed over the rail, and her mother took her below. I
was the last one except Johnson to climb up. He stood at the bow ready to
hitch on the tackles. But other men took his place, and as I went over
the rail Thompson came and shook my hand warmly.
"Sink me, Mr. Rolling, but you've had a time of it, hey?" he said. "How
are the men on the _Sovereign_? We've been standing along north and south
for six days, expecting to pick you up, and here you are. It's all that
Trunnell's doings. I was for going ahead the day we missed you, but that
big-headed little rascal insisted on hunting for you after seeing you
leave the wreck. Where's Jim and Phillippi, and the rest?"
The sincerity of his welcome had taken me off my guard, and I found
myself standing there shaking his hand. Then I recovered myself.
"It's a pity Captain Thompson missed this ship the day she sailed," I
said quietly. "We were informed the night before that he'd be with us. It
might have saved the lives of some good men."
He let go my hand and smiled strangely at me, his hooked nose working,
and his eyes taking that hard glint I knew so well.
"So you were really waiting for a man you'd never seen, hey? Was that
the lay of it? And when I came aboard and said I was Thompson, you
gulped down the bait, hey, you bleeding fool. Who the dickens do you
think I am, anyhow?"
"I happen to know that you pass by the name of Jackwell," I said. "Here,
Chips," I called, but the carpenter was already at my side. "What name
did Jim give the captain, and what was his business?"
"'Tis no use av makin' any more av it, cap'n. We know all about ye. Th'
best thing ye can do is to step down from the quarter-deck."
"Trunnell," said Thompson, with his drawl, "what d'ye think of these men
coming back clean daft?"
The mate was close beside us, giving orders for the disposal of the small
boat, and he turned and clasped my hand for the first time.
"Mighty glad t' see ye both back. I suppose the rest are aboard the
_Sovereign_" said he, looking us over.
"And they come aboard with a tale that I'm some other man than Captain
Thompson; that I knew that he was coming, and got aboard before him and
went out in his place," said Jackwell. "Sink me, Trunnell, but I'm afeard
you'll have to put them in irons."
"That's quare enough," said the mate, with a smile. "Come below, Rolling,
and let's have yer yarn. You, too, Chips, ye'll need a nip of good stuff
as well. I'm sorry ye've turned up with a screw loose. All right, cap'n.
Square away when ye're ready. The boat's all right." And the little
bushy-headed fellow turned and led the way down over the poop, entering
the forward cabin, where the steward was waiting to tell us how glad he
was we had turned up, and also serve out good grog with a meal of
potatoes and canned fruit.
I was so tired and hungry from the exertions of the past
twenty-four hours that I went below without further protest, Chips
"I'se sho nuff glad to see yo' folks agin, Marse Rolling," said the
steward. "Take a little o' de stuff what warms an' inwigerates."
We fell to and ate heartily, and while we did so we told our story.
Trunnell sat, and every now and again scratched his bushy head with
excitement and interest while we told of the way Andrews had done. When
we told how Jim had come to be aboard the _Pirate_, he walked fore and
aft on the cabin deck, shaking his head from side to side, and muttering.
"Was Jim the only one who knew about the business?" he asked.
We told him he was, and that no one but Chips and myself had heard what
the detective had said.
Trunnell sat with his hands in his hair for the remainder of the time we
were filling ourselves. He said nothing further until Chips made some
remark about his taking the ship in. Then he arose and stood before us.
"It may be as ye say, Rolling. I'd hate to doubt your word, and don't,
in a way, so to speak. But discipline is discipline. You men know that.
Our captain comes aboard with a letter sayin' as he's the Thompson
what'll take the ship out. We has orders to that effect from the owners.
It ain't possible another man could have known o' the thing so quick,
and come aboard to take his place. Leastways, we hain't got no evidence
but the word of a sailor who's dead, to the contrary. It may be as ye
say, but we'll have to stick to this fellow until we take soundings.
When we gets in, then ye may tell yer tale an' find men to back it.
Don't say no more about it while we're out, for it won't do no good, an'
may get ye both in irons. 'Twas a devil ye had for a shipmate when
Andrews went with ye,--a terrible man, sure enough. I've insisted on
standing backwards an' forrads along the track for nearly a week in
hopes we'd pick ye up, an' I've nearly had trouble with the old man for
waiting so long. He's heard o' the fracas, an' will stand along to pick
up his third mate. I don't know as he'll care for Andrews, but he'll
take the girl-mate sure if he's afloat."
"There's no use av makin' any bones av the matther, Mr. Trunnell," said
Chips. "That third mate an' the murderin' devil ain't comin' aboard this
here ship. Ef they do, I'll kill them meself whin they comes over th'
side." And he arose, lugging out the revolver he had taken from the
ruffian at the close of the fight.
I stepped into my room and brought forth my own, handing Chips some
cartridges for his.
"I think the men will stand to us in the matter, Trunnell," I said.
The little mate looked sorrowfully at us both, and shook his great
"'Tain't no use o' makin' a fuss," he said at last. "Discipline is
discipline, an' you knows it. If the captain wants them fellows aboard,
aboard they comes, and no one here kin stop them. There's only one
captain to a ship. When his orders don't go, there's blood an' mutiny an'
piracy an' death aboard. Put up your guns. Don't let's say no more about
it till we raise them, for maybe they're gone under by this time. We
won't reach the wreck anyways afore night."
It happened as he said. When we went on deck, the _Pirate_ had swung her
yards and was standing along in the direction we had come. Thompson, or
rather Jackwell, walked fore and aft on the weather side of the poop, and
gazed at each turn at the horizon ahead. A lookout was posted in the
foretop, while the rest of the men lounged about the decks and discussed
the situation and the tragedy of the day before.
Chips was for open mutiny, and Johnson backed him. All our men were in
sympathy with us, and some were so outspoken that they could be counted
on if a fresh fracas occurred. The majority, however, were so well under
control that they appeared to be satisfied to obey orders under any
conditions. The Englishmen were neutral. All except Jenks were silent or
advised the recognition of the established authority, telling how we
could square matters afterward with our enemies.
This shows how a sailor is at the mercy of any one who has been
established in authority. If he resists in any manner, he is mutinous and
is liable to the severest penalties. Here we were with every prospect of
having Andrews and our third mate on board again, to go through some
other horror, unless we turned pirates and took the ship. This was a
risky thing to attempt, for if successful and there was any bloodshed, we
would certainly either swing or pass under a heavy sentence. That is, of
course, if we failed to prove that Thompson was the rascal Jim had told
us he was. On the other hand, if we failed, there was the absolute
certainty of being at the mercy of the rascal's cruelty, unless Trunnell
would be able to control them all.
The little mate was a strange character. He believed in obeying orders
under any conditions whatever, unless absolute proof could be had that
the one who gave the orders was unauthorized to do so. In spite of his
friendship for me, I knew full well that he would die rather than disobey
the captain, no matter what the order was, provided he considered it a
legitimate one. The fact that the men had committed horrible crimes did
not in any manner disinherit them from the ship in his opinion. They
should be dealt with afterward according to the law.
I took no part in an argument. Neither did Trunnell or the skipper. They
both seemed satisfied of their position and took no pains to talk to the
men as if they suspected a rising. I stood in the waist and remained
looking steadily at the horizon until the sun dipped, and there was every
prospect that night would come before we raised the black mast of the
wreck. My pistol was in my pocket ready for instant use, and I saw by the
bunch under Chips' coat that he was also ready. His small black mustache
was worked into points under the pressure of his nervous fingers, and he
sat on the hatch-combings apart from all save Johnson. The sailor walked
athwartships before him on the deck as if to get the stiffness out of his
little legs, which seemed now thinner than ever, as the setting sun shone
between them through the curious gap.
The upper limb of the red sun was just touching the line of water when
the man in the foretop hailed the deck.
"Wreck on weather bow, sir!" he bawled.
My heart gave a great jump and I looked at Chips. Johnson made a movement
with his hand as if holding a knife and went to the weather rail and
"Weather maintopsail brace!" came the call from Trunnell. The men came
tumbling aft and took their places.
"Lee braces, Mr. Rolling," he called again, and I crossed the deck,
knowing that he would jam her as high as he could to make as far to
windward as possible before darkness set in.
We braced her sharper, and she pointed a bit higher, but she could not
quite head up to the black stick that showed above the horizon. The wind,
however, was steady, and under her royals the _Pirate_ was about the
fastest and prettiest ship afloat. She heeled gently to the breeze and
went through it to the tune of seven knots, rolling the heft of the long
sea away from her clipper bows and tossing off the foam without a jar or
tremble. I looked hard at the distant speck which was now just visible
from the deck, and wondered how Andrews and his crew felt. I could see
nothing of the _Sovereign's_ hull, and hope rose within me. I found
myself saying over and over again to myself, "She's gone under, she's
gone under." Then just before it grew too dark to see any longer I went
aft and took up the glass. Through it the black forecastle of the wreck
showed above the sea.
It was quite dark before the _Pirate_ had come up with the wreck. The
skipper and Trunnell had gone below to their supper, and I had charge of
the deck, with orders to heave the ship into the wind when we came
abreast, and sing out for the mate to man the boat.
We were barely able to make within half a mile dead to leeward, but when
we did, I backed the main yards and clewed up the courses, taking in the
royals to keep from drifting off too fast in the gloom.
Trunnell came on deck and gave orders to get out the boat. She was soon
at the channels, jumping and thrashing in the sea, for the breeze was now
quite strong. The mate jumped into her with four men, and Thompson went
to the break of the poop and told me I could go below to supper. Chips
and the steward came aft, also, and we made out to eat a square meal in
silence, each making a sign to his neighbor toward the back of his belt.
While we ate, listening for the sound of oars that would tell of the
return of the boat, we could hear snatches of the sad talk of the
two women in the after-cabin, through the bulkhead. This did not
tend to raise our spirits, and we hurried through to be on deck when
Scarcely had we gained the main deck when we heard the regular sound of
the oars and oar-locks. Soon the dim shadow of the boat was seen heading
toward us, outlined against the light in the eastern sky where the moon
We took our places at the waist and awaited developments. Jackwell stood
directly above me, and I could see his face with its glinting eyes turned
toward me. His mustache was waxed into sharp points and curved upward,
while his protruding chin and beak-like nose appeared to draw even nearer
together. He was evidently quite well satisfied that he would be able to
take care of his passengers, for he said nothing to me to indicate that
he was disturbed by my proximity to the gangway.
I had decided to shoot Andrews the moment he came over the side, without
a word. This much I had confided to Chips and Johnson. They would stand
by me if there was a general attack, and we would make the best terms
The boat drew close aboard, and I could see the backs of the rowers swing
fore and aft to the stroke. Then she shot alongside and was fast to the
mizzen channels, and I stepped back ready for action. Jackwell noticed my
move and drew his pistol. I drew mine, and glancing around I saw that the
carpenter and Johnson were standing near, with their weapons at hand, and
half a dozen sailors with them. I would not be alone.
A form sprang over the side, and I raised my weapon almost before I knew
it. Then I recognized Trunnell.
"You can disarm that young fool, Trunnell," said Jackwell, putting away
his gun. "It's lucky for him you've come back without any one, or I'd
have shot him in half a second more."
The little mate came down the poop steps and went up to me.
"You better go below, Rolling," said he. "I didn't tell him," he added
under his breath, "that you had said you'd mutiny afore I left, or he
would probably have done for both you and Chips. He doesn't even know now
that Chips was with you, so get into your room and pipe down."
I was so dazed at Trunnell coming back alone I could hardly talk. I
looked again over the side to see if there was no mistake. All the men
were now aboard, and only the empty craft was there, dancing at the end
of her painter. Then I turned and followed the mate below, he stopping
just long enough to give orders to hoist in the boat and swing the yards.
Jackwell went to the wheel, and away the ship went to the westward,
leaving the shadowy thing there on the eastern horizon to mark the end of
a fine ship. I stopped a moment to look at the derelict, and the rising
moon cast a long line of silver light across the sea.
Out in that shining track, a dark stick rose from the water. That was the
last I saw of the _Sovereign_.
"Where were they?" I asked Trunnell, as we came into the cabin.
"Well," said the little mate, coolly, "since you've worked yourself up so
much over the matter, and as we're a-goin' along on our course agin, as I
suggested to the skipper afore we raised the wrack"--here he went to the
pantry and brought out a bottle, and held it out to me.
"No," I said; "I don't want anything to drink. Tell me what became of the
fellows on the wreck. It's my second watch, if I remember right, and I'll
be ready to turn out at eight bells."
"Well," said Trunnell, "where they is an' where they is not, stumps me.
Where a feller goes when he dies is mostly a matter o' guesswork, so I
don't know as I can say eggzackly jest where them fellers is at."
Here he took a long drink, and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. I
put my gun in my room, and sat down at the cabin table, where he held the
bottle as though undecided whether to take another drink or put it away
in the pantry. Rum appeared to be easy of access on the ship, and I knew
I could get it any time I wanted it.
"Well, ye see, the way of it ware like this," went on the mate. "I
didn't take no stock o' those fellers bein' aboard a ship what had been
afire, so when ye went into stays an' swore to do bloody murder an'
suddin death to them fellers, I didn't let on to the old man. What's the
use? says I. We ain't a-goin' to bring them back noways."
"Weren't they aboard?" I asked.
Trunnell gave me a long, keen look.
"Be ye tellin' o' this yarn, Rolling, or me?" he said.
I asked his pardon for interrupting.
"As I ware a-sayin' afore ye put in your oar, when I hears that ye both
had told the truth o' the matter o' the fight, it appeared to me that
them fellers couldn't be aboard that wrack. I told the old man so, but he
ware fer standin' along after them anyways. Then I ware clean decided
that the wrack had done fer them."
"Wasn't there a sign of them aboard?" I asked again.
"There's such a thing as bein' inquisitive," said Trunnell, looking at me
with his keen little eyes from under their shaggy brows. "Them men ain't
on that wrack--an' I told the skipper so, see?"
He pulled out his sheath-knife, went to the door of the cabin, and flung
it clear of the ship's side. Then he came back.
"There's some such thing as justice on ships, when the fellers go too
far; but discipline is discipline. The sooner ye get that through yer
head, the better. As fer them men with Andrews, they had give up any
right to live afore I got there. I told the old man that the chances were
agin their bein' found there. I comes back and reports that they ain't
there. That's all. Where they is I don't much keer. They is plenty o'
sharrucks in this here ocean, and some parts o' them is most likely
helpin' them. The rest is mostly in hell, I reckon, but as I says afore,
that is a matter o' mostly guesswork."
A dim idea of the horror he had gone through came upon me.
"Good God, Trunnell," I said, "did you do it alone?"
"Well, there ware only one strong one in the lot--but look here, young
man, if ye don't turn in pretty soon, ye'll be in trouble agin."
He poured himself out another drink, and put the bottle in the pantry.
Then he went on deck, and I turned in to think over the spectacle that
must have occurred aboard the blackened derelict. I could see Andrews's
hope and the third mate's joy at being rescued. I could even picture
them undergoing the wild joy I had just felt myself, when we had sighted
the _Pirate_. Then came that nameless something. Had the men seen it? A
rescuer coming aboard with a bloody knife in his belt, and the ship
standing away again on her course for the States on the other side of
There would be no explanations, and the blackened wreck, half sunken in
the swell, would tell no tales. Trunnell was really a strange character.
"Discipline is discipline," I seemed to hear him saying all my watch
below. His step sounded above my head as he walked fore and aft, during
his watch; and during the periods of fitful slumber I enjoyed before
eight bells struck, I fancied him a great giant whose feet struck with
a thunderous sound at every stride. I was almost startled when his
great bushy head was thrust into my room door, and he announced loudly
that it was the mid-watch, and that I would need a stout jacket to ward
off the cold.
For the next three days we went along merrily to the northward, the
beginning of the southeast trade behind us, and our skysails drawing full
overhead. On the third day Cape Agullas was sighted on our beam. Then,
away we went scudding across the South Atlantic Ocean for the equator.
Miss Sackett and her mother came on deck now and enjoyed the beautiful
weather. The sufferings they had both gone through had made a deep
impression upon them, and they were very quiet. The older woman would sit
for hours in a faded dress saved from the wreck of the _Sovereign_,
gazing sadly at the wake sparkling away in the sunshine astern. The
bright gleams seemed to light up the memories of her past, and sometimes
when I saw her she would have a tear trickling slowly down each cheek.
Men as good as Sackett were scarce on deep water.
But the daughter was different. She was sad enough, at times. Being
young, however, the loss of her father fell easier upon her. We often
found time to chat together during the day watches on deck, and she
showed a marked interest in the ship, and the people aboard, talking
cheerfully of the future and the probable ending of the voyage. Jenks
interested her and likewise Trunnell; but the sturdy mate paid little
attention to her, devoting all his time to the affairs of her mother.
Thompson, or Tackwell, still commanded the ship, and Chips and I agreed
there was no use in forcing matters with Trunnell against us. We would
bide our time and wait for him on making harbor. He was doing well enough
now, and since the women had come aboard he had been quieter in his cups,
staying below when not sober enough to talk pleasantly. His mustache he
curled with more care, and his dress was better than before, otherwise he
walked the deck with the same commanding air, and drawled out his orders
as usual. He was the most temperate at the very times when I expected him
to go off into one of his ugly sarcastic fits, and was evidently trying
to carry out the remainder of the voyage without any friction anywhere.
This made matters easy for the mates.
During this period of good weather the routine duties of the ship took
the place of the fierce excitement of the past. The bright sunshine
cheered us greatly, and the spirits of all on board rose accordingly. The
day watches were spent in healthy labor on the main deck, bending old
sails and sending below the new ones. A ship, unlike a human being,
always puts on her old and dirty clothes in fine weather, and bends her
new and strong ones for facing foul.
The poultry and pigs, which nearly all deep-water ships carry, were
turned loose to get exercise and air. The "doctor" worked up his
plum-duff on the main hatch in full view of hungry men, and tobacco was
in plenty for those who had money to pay for it, Trunnell giving fair
measure to all who ran bills on the slop chest.
The little shaggy-headed fellow interested me more than ever now, and he
was in evidence all day long. His hair and beard, which resembled the
mane of a lion, could be seen at all times, from the poop to the
topgallant forecastle, rising above the hatches or going down the
gangways, where he attended to everything in person. Since the night when
he came aboard with his bloody knife, I felt strangely toward him. He
never alluded to the affair again in any way whatever, but went at his
work in the same systematic and seaman-like manner that had, from the
first, marked him as a thorough sailor. He was always considerate to the
men under him, and many times when I expected an outburst of fierce
anger, such as nine out of ten deep-water mates would indulge in at a
stupid blunder of a lazy sailor, he simply gave the fellow a quiet
talking to and impressed him with the absolute necessity of care in his
work. We had plenty of men aboard, and the crew of the _Sovereign_ were
turned to each watch and made to do their share.
After a few days, Trunnell came to me and told me I might choose a third
mate for him out of the men who had been in the _Sovereign's_ crew. None
of the men of the _Pirate_ he said were up to a mate's berth, except
Johnson, and he, poor fellow, couldn't read or write. Jenks was too
slippery for me after his hand in the fracas, so I asked the steward to
pick me out a man from forward, thinking he would be able to note the
proper qualities better than myself, as he was thrown in closer contact
with the men. The steward, Gunning, was a mulatto, as I have said, and he
was of a sympathetic disposition. Among the men who had first come aboard
from the wreck was an old fellow of nondescript appearance who had very
thoughtfully seized several bottles of Captain Sackett's rum to have in
the small boat in case of sickness. This was made possible by the
flooding of the ship, which made it necessary for the men to live aft.
The old fellow had apparently enjoyed good health, and had saved a
couple of bottles which he offered to the steward as a bribe for a
recommendation. This kindness on the old man's part had appealed
directly to Gunning, and he had sent him aft to me as the very man I
wanted. He was very talkative and full of anecdotes, proving a most
"I ain't been out o' sight o' land before in my life," said he, in a fit
of confidence the first evening we divided watches, "but old Chris Kingle
believed everything I told him, and here I am, third mate of this hooker,
as sober as a judge, waitin' to get killed the first time I go aloft.
Bleed me, but I'm in a fix; but it's no worse than I expected, for
everything goes wrong nowadays."
"Well, what do you mean by coming aft here as mate when you know you
can't fill the bill?" I roared, made furious at his confession.
"Cap," said he, as calmly as if I hadn't spoken, "some men is born
great; some men tries to get great; and some men never has no show at
all, nohow. Take your chances, says I. Mebbe I'm born great, an' it
only needs a little opportunity to bring it out--like the measles.
Anyways, I never let an opportunity fer greatness come along without
laying fer it. I'm agin it now, an' if y' ever hear o' my bein' at sea
agin, just let me know."
"If you ever see the beach again, you'll have reason to thank me, and
I'll just tell you right now, you can make up your mind for double irons
until we get to Philadelphia," I shouted.
"Bleed me, cap, that's just about what I didn't think you'd do," the
lubber responded. "Give me a chance, 'n' if I'm no good as third mate,
I'll probably do as fourth. Try me. If I'm born great, I'll show up. If
I'm not, I can at least die great, or greater than I am. I've lived on
land all my life, but I know something about sailing. I'm fifty-two year
old come next fall, an' if I can't sail a ship after all I've seen o'
them, I'll be willing to live in irons or brass, or enny thing."
"You go below and tell Mr. Gunning to come here to me," I said, in no
pleasant tone, and as the fellow shuffled off to do as I said, his
bloated, red features told plainly what it had cost him to overcome
Gunning and get the steward into the state he must have been to recommend
such a fellow for an officer aboard ship.
When Gunning came aft, he was so ashamed of himself that I let him go,
and he picked a mate from one of the quartermasters of the watch, while I
turned the old fellow to as a landsman. This had no effect on his
loquacity, however, for he never lost an opportunity for telling a sad
yarn full of the woes of this life and the anticipated ones in the world
to come. He had drank much and thought little, except of his own sorrows
and ill luck, but as his yearnings for sympathy did no harm, he was
We were three months out before we struck into the rains to the southward
of the line, so there was an accumulation of dirty clothes aboard that
would have filled the heart of a laundress with joy--or horror.
The _Pirate_ was running close on her water, for the port tank had sprung
a leak, and there was no condenser aboard. The allowance had been set at
two quarts per day for each man. This was barely enough to satisfy
ordinary thirst and no more.
For the first day or two we made good headway into the squally belt. The
heavy, black, and dangerous-looking clouds would come along about every
half-hour, just fast enough to keep the men busy clewing down and
hoisting the lighter canvas nearly all day long, for some would have a
puff of wind ahead of them and some a puff behind, making it all
guesswork as to how hard it would strike.
After the second day we had the doldrums fair enough, and there we lay
with our courses clewed up and our t'gallantsails wearing out with the
continuous slatting, as the ship rolled lazily on the long, easy
equatorial sea. She was heading all around the compass, for there was
not enough air to give her steering way; so, after dinner, all hands
were allowed to turn out their outfits on the main deck for a grand
wash. When we were under one of those squall-clouds, the water would
fall so heavily that it would be ankle deep in the waist in spite of the
half-dozen five-inch scuppers spouting full streams out at both sides.
The waterfall was enough to take away the breath, standing in it, but
all hands turned out stripped to the waist. The scuppers were plugged,
and soon the waist of the ship, about forty feet wide and sixty long,
looked like a miniature lake with the after-hatch rising like a
snow-white island from the centre, and upon which a miniature surf broke
as the water swashed and swirled with each roll of the ship. Here were
hundreds of gallons of excellent water to wash in, and blankets,
jumpers, flannels, etc., were soon floating at will, while the men
seized whatever of their belongings they could lay hands on, and rubbed
piece after piece with soap. The large pieces, such as blankets, were
hauled into the shallows forward, where the ship's sheer made a gently
sloping beach. Then they were smeared with soap and laid just awash,
while the men would slide along them in their bare feet as though on
ice, squeezing out great quantities of dirty suds. Afterwards they would
be cast adrift in the deep water to rinse.
I came to the break of the poop and looked down upon the busy scene a few
feet beneath on the main deck. The water here was fully two feet deep in
the scuppers when the ship rolled to either side, and the men were almost
washed off their feet with its rush. Some of them had climbed upon the
island,--the main hatch,--where they sat and wrung the pieces of their
apparel dry. Among these washers was my old third mate, now transformed
into a somewhat shiftless sailor.
The old fellow's wardrobe was limited. It consisted of his natural
covering in the way of skin and hair, one shirt, and a pair of badly worn
dungaree trousers. The shirt he had worn during the entire cruise, and
perhaps some time before, and as it fitted him tightly, and as his
natural covering of hair on his chest was thick, it had gradually worked
its way through the cloth, curling sharply on the outside, making the
garment and himself as nearly one as possible. This had caused him no
little inconvenience in washing, and it was with great difficulty he had
removed the garment. He had spent half an hour rubbing it with a piece of
salt-water soap, rinsed it thoroughly, and had it spread out on the
hatch-combings. His work being finished, he sat near it, with his knees
drawn up to his breast, his hands locked around his shins, and his face
wearing an expression of deep and very sad thought.
Trunnell came out on the deck and had his things cast into the water with
the rest. Then he peeled off his shirt and stood forth naked to the
waist, a broad belt strapped tightly about him holding his trousers. His
muscles now showed out for the first time, and I stood gazing at the
enormous bunches on his back and shoulders. He was like some monstrous
giant cut off at the waist and stuck upon a pair of absurdly short legs,
which, however, were simply knots of muscle.
When he had finished his shirt, he turned over the rest of his belongings
to Johnson to wash for him. Then his gaze fell upon the unhappy-looking
old fellow on the hatch, who was holding his single shirt now in his
hands, waiting for it to dry sufficiently for him to wear it again. As
the rain fell in torrents every few minutes, this appeared an endless
task, and the old man grew more sorrowful.
"There ain't nothin' in this world fer me," said he, sadly, cc not even a
bloomin' shirt. Here I am shipwrecked and lost on a well-found ship, an'
sink me, I ain't even able to change me clothes, one piece at a time."
"Ye'll soon be ashore agin, old feller," said Trunnell, "an' then ye'll
have licker an' clothes in plenty."
"What's licker to me?" said the old man.
"Why, meat an' drink, when ye has to quit it off sudden like,"
"It's clothes I wants, not no rum. Can't ye see I'm nakid as Adam, except
fer this old rag? I wouldn't mind if I ware signed on regular like the
rest, 'cause I could take it out the slop chest in work. But here I is
without no regular work, no chanst to draw on the old man, an' next
month, most like, we'll be running up the latitoods inter frost. I'm in a
hard fix, shipmate, an' you kin see it."
Trunnell seemed to be thinking for several minutes. Then he spoke.
"There's lots o' bugs an' things forrads, ain't there?" said he.
"If by lots ye means millions, I reckon ye're talkin'," said the man.
"Well," said Trunnell, "I'll tell ye what I'll do. You get a sail needle
an' a line to it about half a fathom long, see?"
"Well, then ye go about between decks, an' in the alleyways, an' behind
the bunks, an' around the galley, an' earn yer own outfit with that
needle, see? When ye have a string o' bugs a-fillin' the string like
clear up to the needle's eye, ye bring them aft to me, an' I gives ye
credit fer them in clothes or grog, each string bein' worth a drink, an'
a hundred worth a shirt or pants. Do ye get on to the game?"
"I get on to it well enough," said the fellow, "but what I wants to know
is, whether ye'll take me whurd o' honner that I'll catch a string o'
bugs afore night, an' give me the rum now to stave off the chill."
"I will," said Trunnell.
The old man rose from the hatchway, and struggled hard to get into his
shirt. The garment had shrunk so, however, that the sleeves reached but
to his elbows and the tails to his waist band. He seized the open front
in his hand and looked solemnly at the mate with his sad eyes.
"Lead me to it! Lead me to it! For the Lord's sake, lead me to it!" he
And Trunnell went into the forward cabin with the apparition following
eagerly in his wake.
What a strange little giant he was, this mate! "Discipline is
discipline," he would say, and no man got anything for nothing
aboard his ship.
We crossed the line in 24 west longitude, running close to the St. Paul's
Rocks. These strange peaks to the southward of the equator caused some
interest aboard, rising as they do out of the middle of the ocean a mile
or more in depth.
The air was hot and muggy the day we crossed into the northern
hemisphere, and the light breeze died away again, leaving the ship with
her courses clewed up, rolling and wallowing uneasily in the swell.
Jackwell, as I must always call him now, spruced himself up better than
usual, and paid more attention to the ladies. He avoided me at every
opportunity; but as neither Chips nor myself ever alluded to the story
we had heard from Jim, his courage rose, and he became more familiar
with the men.
Up to this time, we had not sighted a single sail since the _Sovereign_;
but here on the line, where the fleets of the maritime world congregate
to pick up the north or southeast trades, we sighted many ships bound
both out and in.
One of these that happened near us was the _Shark_, whaling brig of three
hundred tons, commanded by Captain Henry,--a man who had sailed in
American ships engaged in the deep-water trade for years before he had
taken to whaling. This vessel signalled us; and when we had answered and
found out who our neighbor was, we were invited aboard.
Jackwell was willing to go with the ladies, as he thought it might prove
a diversion. There was no chance for a breeze, and the ships were within
half a mile of each other, with a smooth sea between. He insisted,
however, that I go along to command the boat.
Chips and I had from the first decided to try and get a peep at the
captain's trunk, and this might prove our chance. Gunning's tale of its
great weight gave rise to many high thoughts; and if it were gold, much
might be hoped for if we landed our man when we made port.
A few words with the carpenter was enough, and then I got the men at work
hoisting out the boat. I found time to try and persuade Trunnell to take
my place in the small craft, but he was firm. It would never do, he said,
to leave the ship without a high officer aboard. "There's no telling,
Rolling, just what might happen in this world while a feller is on the
deep sea. No, sir; go ahead and enjoy yourself. There's a-goin' to be
some line jokes, I reckon, aboard that brig. If the skipper ain't been
acrost before, he'll be liable to catch the fun as well as the rest, but
he don't know nothin' about sech things."
I was a little suspicious at Trunnell's determination to stay aboard,
especially when I found out he knew the captain of the whaler very well.
However, I had the small boat hoisted out and made ready for the
passengers. This time there was a compass and water breaker aboard, and a
foghorn in the stern sheets in case of need.
Mrs. Sackett was helped into the small craft, and her daughter followed,
both women looking brighter than at any time during the cruise. Mrs.
Sackett was not a bad-looking woman at any time, being of about the
medium height, with a smooth complexion, and her figure finely
proportioned. Her daughter seated herself beside her in the stern, and
Jackwell climbed over the rail.
He was dressed in a very fine suit of clothes, his shirt-front white,
and his waxed mustache curled fiercely. His glinting eyes had a
somewhat humorous expression, I thought, and he appeared very well
pleased with himself.
Trunnell came to the rail and leaned over. "Good luck to ye," he cried.
"We'll expect ye back to dinner."
"Keep an eye on my room, and don't let the steward disturb the charts on
my trunk until I come back. The last sight is worked out on the one lying
on the table," replied Jackwell.
Then the oars fell across, and we shot out over the smooth ocean to the
brig that rolled lazily half a mile distant.
The skipper appeared in a most humorous mood, which increased as did the
distance between the ships.
Me talked to Mrs. Sackett incessantly and actually had that lady laughing
happily at his remarks. Miss Sackett did not rise to his humor, however,
and her mother noticed it.
"Jennie, dear, why don't you laugh? Captain Thompson is so funny," she
"I will when he gets off a good joke, mother."
"Get off a good joke?" echoed the skipper. "Well, that's what I call
hard. A good joke? Why, my dear child, I've gotten off the joke of my
life to-day. Sink me, if I ain't played the best joke of the year, and on
Trunnell too, at that. A good joke? ha, ha, hah!" and he threw his head
back and laughed so loud and long that his mirth was infectious, and I
even found myself smiling at him.
"Tell us what it is," said Miss Jennie.
"Oh, ho, ho, tell you what it is," laughed Jackwell, and his nose worked
up and down so rapidly that I marvelled at it. His glinting eyes were
almost closed and his face was red with exertion. "And suppose I'd tell
you what it is, Miss Sackett? You wouldn't laugh. Not you. You couldn't
rise to the occasion like your mamma. No, sink me, if I told you what it
was, you wouldn't laugh; so you'll all have to wait till you get back
aboard to hear it. But it's a good one, no fear."
We were now almost alongside of the brig, and could see her captain at
the gangway, waiting to receive us. All along the rail strange faces
peeped over at us.
"Way enough," cried Jackwell, and the oars were shipped. The boat
swept alongside, and a ladder was lowered for us. I climbed out first
to be able to assist the ladies, and as I gained the deck I was
greeted by a strongly built, bearded man who looked at me keenly out
of clear blue eyes.
"I'm glad to see you, sir," said he, holding out his hand.
I shook hands and turned to help Mrs. Sackett over the rail. Then came
Miss Jennie, and last of all our captain.
Jackwell sprang up the ladder quickly, and stood in the gangway.
"How are you, sir, Captain Thomp--"
Captain Henry checked himself, looking at our skipper as though he had
seen a ghost.
But Jackwell had put up his hand, smiling pleasantly.
"Jack it is, old man. You haven't forgotten the time I picked you up on
the beach, have you?" he said, laughing. "Mrs. Sackett," he cried,
turning, "allow me to introduce my friend, Captain Henry. Miss Sackett,
also. Here's a skipper who hasn't forgotten the day I pulled him out of
the water on the coast of South Wales, where he was wrecked. Sink me, but
it's a blessing to see gratitude," he cried again, laughing heartily.
"Fancy one skipper pulling another out of the sea, hey? Can you do that?"
"Well, I want to know," replied Henry. "I never knew you was a--"
"You never knew what, old man? What is it ye never knew? Sink me, it
would fill every barrel you have below, hey? wouldn't it? What you never
knew, nor never will know, would fill your little ship so full she'd
sink, Henry, or I'm a soger. Ha, ha, hah! my boy; I don't mean to cast no
insinuations at you, but that's a fact, ain't it? But what the dickens
have you got going on aboard?"
He turned and gazed at the brig's main deck, where tubs of water and
soapsuds were being poured into the trying-out kettles built in the
"Why," said Henry, "since you are a sea-capting, you must know the lay of
it. Hain't you never crossed the line in a sailin' ship before?"
He had apparently recovered himself, and the surprise at meeting an old
acquaintance appeared to give him pleasure.
Taking Mrs. Sackett by the hand, he led her aft up the poop steps,
Jackwell following, keeping up a continual talk about whales and
whaling skippers. Jennie and I followed behind and examined the brig's
The first mate, a man of middle age, lean and gaunt, came forward and
introduced himself. He had sailed in every kind of ship, and was now
whaling, he declared, for the last time. As I had made several "last
voyages" myself, I knew that he meant simply to show involuntarily that
he was a confirmed sailor of the most pronounced sort.
He showed us the lines and irons, the cutting-in outfit, and the kettles
and furnace for boiling down the blubber. We followed him about, and I
expressed my thanks when we arrived at the poop again, where he left us.
Jennie was not interested, and the fact was not lost upon the old fellow,
who turned away to join his mates at the kettles.
"Do you know, Mr. Rolling, I don't care a rap for ships," said she. "They
don't interest me any more, and I don't think they are the place for
"It would be mighty lonesome for some men if they acted on that idea and
kept out of them," I answered.
We were all alone by the mizzen, the captains having gone below with Mrs.
Sackett to show her the interior of the ship.
The young girl looked up, and I fancied there was just a sparkle of
amusement in her eyes.
"Do you really think so?" she said. "Can't men find more useful
occupations than following the sea,--that is, those who are lonely?"
"Some men are fitted to do certain things in this world and unfitted for
others. It would be hard on those whose lines are laid out like that for