WOLVES OF THE SEA
Being a Tale of the Colonies From the Manuscript of One Geoffry
Carlyle, Seaman, Narrating Certain Strange Adventures Which Befell Him
Aboard the Pirate Craft "Namur"
BY RANDALL PARRISH
Author of "When Wilderness Was King," "The Last Voyage of the Donna
Isabel" "Beyond the Frontier" "Contraband" etc.
Frontispiece By FRANK E. SCHOONOVER
Anson Carlyle, aged twenty-three, the ninth in descent from Captain
Geoffry Carlyle, of Glasgow, Scotland, was among the heroic Canadian
dead at Vimy Ridge. Unmarried, and the last of his line, what few
treasures he possessed fell into alien hands. Among these was a
manuscript, apparently written in the year 1687, and which, through
nine generations, had been carefully preserved, yet never made public.
The paper was yellowed and discolored by years, occasionally a page
was missing, and the writing itself had become almost indecipherable.
Much indeed had to be traced by use of a microscope. The writer was
evidently a man of some education, and clear thought, but exceedingly
diffuse, in accordance with the style of his time, and possessing
small conception of literary form. In editing this manuscript for
modern readers I have therefore been compelled to practically rewrite
it entirely, retaining merely the essential facts, with an occasional
descriptive passage, although I have conscientiously followed the
original development of the tale. In this reconstruction much
quaintness of language, as well as appeal to probability, may have
been lost, and for this my only excuse is the necessity of thus making
the story readable. I have no doubt as to its essential truth, nor do
I question the purpose which dominated this rover of the sea in his
effort to record the adventures of his younger life. As a picture of
those days of blood and courage, as well as a story of love and
devotion, I deem it worthy preservation, regretting only the
impossibility of now presenting it in print exactly as written by
I Sent into Servitude
II The Prison Ship
III Dorothy Fairfax
IV The Shores of Virginia
V The Waters of the Chesapeake
VI Fairfax Speaks with Me
VII The Lieutenant Unmasked
VIII A Victory, and a Defeat
IX A Swim to the Namur
X On the Deck of the Namur
XI The Return of the Boat
XII A Friend in the Forecastle
XIII I Accept a Proposal
XIV I Warn Dorothy
XV The Cabin of the Namur
XVI In Dorothy's Stateroom
XVII A Murder on Board
XVIII A New Conspiracy
XIX Laying the Trap
XX The Deck Is Ours
XXI In Full Possession
XXII The Crew Decides
XXIII The Prisoners Escape
XXIV In Clasp of the Sea
XXV The Open Boat
XXVI A Floating Coffin
XXVII On Board the Slaver
XXVIII A New Plan of Escape
XXIX A Struggle in the Dark
XXX Opening the Treasure Chest
XXXI The Boat Attack
XXXII The Last of the Namur
XXXIII Before the Governor
WOLVES OF THE SEA
SENT INTO SERVITUDE
Knowing this to be a narrative of unusual adventure, and one which may
never even be read until long after I have departed from this world,
when it will be difficult to convince readers that such times as are
herein depicted could ever have been reality, I shall endeavor to
narrate each incident in the simplest manner possible. My only purpose
is truth, and my only witness history. Yet, even now lately as this
all happened it is more like the recollections of a dream, dimly
remembered at awakening, and, perchance, might remain so, but for the
scars upon my body, and the constant memory of a woman's face. These
alone combine to bring back in vividness those days that were—days of
youth and daring, of desperate, lawless war, of wide ocean peril, and
the outstretched hands of love. So that here, where I am writing it
all down, here amid quietness and peace, and forgetful of the past, I
wander again along a deserted shore, and sail among those isles of a
southern sea, the home for many a century of crime and unspeakable
cruelty. I will recall the truth, and can do no more.
I can recall that far-away dawn now as the opening portals of a
beautiful morning, although at the time my thought was so closely
centered upon other things, the deep blue of the sky, and the
glimmering gold of the sun scarcely left an impression on my mind. It
was still early morning when we were brought out under heavy guard,
and marched somberly forth through the opened gates of the gaol. There
had been rain during the night, and the cobble-stones of the village
street were dark with moisture, slipping under our hob-nailed shoes as
we stumbled along down the sharp incline leading to the wharf. Ahead
we could perceive a forest of masts, and what seemed like a vast crowd
of waiting people. Only the murmur of voices greeting us as we
emerged, told that this gathering was not a hostile one, and this
truth was emphasized to our minds by the efforts of the guard to
hasten our passage. That we had been sentenced to exile, to prolonged
servitude in some foreign land, was all that any of us knew—to what
special section of the world fate had allotted us remained unknown.
In spite of curses, and an occasional blow, we advanced slowly,
marching four abreast, with feet dragging heavily, the chains binding
us together clanking dismally with each step, and an armed guard
between each file. Experiences have been many since then, yet I
recall, as though it were but yesterday, the faces of those who walked
in line with me. I was at the right end of my file, and at my shoulder
was a boy from Morrownest, a slim, white-faced lad, his weak chin
trembling from fear, and his eyes staring about so pleadingly I spoke
a word of courage to him, whispering in his ear, lest the guard behind
might strike. He glanced aside at me, but with no response in the
depths of his eyes, in which I could perceive only a dumb anguish of
despair. Beyond him marched Grover, one time butcher at Harwich, a
stocky, big-fisted fellow, with a ghastly sword wound, yet red and
unhealed on his face, extending from hair to chin, his little pig eyes
glinting ugly, and his lips cursing. The man beyond was a soldier, a
straight, athletic fellow, with crinkly black beard, who kept his eyes
front, paying no heed to the cries. The guard pressed the people back
as we shuffled along, but there was no way of keeping them still. I
heard cries of encouragement, shouts of recognition, sobs of pity, and
occasionally a roar of anger as we passed.
"Good lads! God be with yer!"
"Thet one thar is sore hurted—it's a damn shame."
"Thar's Teddy—poor laddie! Luck go with yer, Teddy."
"Ter hell with Black Jeffries, say I!"
"Hush, mon, er ye'll be next ter go—no, I don't know who sed it."
"See thet little chap, Joe; lots ther lad bed ter do with the war."
"They all look mighty peaked—poor devils, four months in gaol."
"Stand back there now. Stand back!"
The guards prodded them savagely with the butts of their musketoons,
thus making scant room for us to shuffle through, out upon the far end
of the wharf, where we were finally halted abreast of a lumping brig,
apparently nearly ready for sea. There were more than forty of us as I
counted the fellows, and we were rounded up at the extremity of the
wharf in the full blaze of the sun, with a line of guards stretched
across to hold back the crowd until preparations had been completed to
admit us aboard. As those in front flung themselves down on the
planks, I got view of the brig's gangway, along which men were still
busily hauling belated boxes and barrels, and beyond these gained
glimpse of the hooker's name—ROMPING BETSY OF PLYMOUTH. A moment
later a sailor passed along the edge of the dock, dragging a coil of
rope after him, and must have answered some hail on his way, for
instantly a whisper passed swiftly from man to man.
"It's Virginia, mate; we're bound fer Virginia."
The ugly little pig eyes of the butcher met mine.
"Virginia, hey?" he grunted. "Ye're a sailorman, ain't ye, mate? Well,
then, whar is this yere Virginia?"
The boy was looking at me also questioningly, the terror in his face
by no means lessened at the sound of this strange word.
"Yes, sir, please; where is it, sir?"
I patted him on the shoulder, as others near by leaned forward to
catch my answer.
"That's all right, mates," I returned cheerfully. "It's across the
blue water, of course, but better than the Indies. We'll fall into the
hands of Englishmen out there, and they'll be decent to us."
"But whar is the bloomin' hole?"
"In America. That is where all the tobacco comes from; likely that
will be our job—raising tobacco."
"Have ever yer bin thar?"
"Ay, twice—and to a land beyond they call Maryland. Tis a country
not so unlike England."
"Good luck that then; tell us about it, matie."
I endeavored to do so, dwelling upon what I remembered of the
settlements, and the habits of the people, but saying little of the
great wilderness of the interior, or how I had seen slaves toiling in
the fields. The group of men within range of my voice leaned forward
in breathless attention, one now and then asking a question, their
chains rattling with each movement of a body. The deep interest shown
in their faces caused me unconsciously to elevate, my voice, and I had
spoken but a moment or two before a hard hand gripped my shoulder.
"Yer better stow that, my man," growled someone above me, and I looked
up into the stern eyes of the captain of the guard "or it may be the
'cat' for ye. Yer heard the orders."
"Yes, sir; I was only answering questions."
"Questions! What the hell difference does it make to this scum whar
they go? Do yer talkin' aboard, not here. So ye've been ter the
Virginia plantation, hev ye?"
"As a sailor?"
"In command of vessels."
His eyes softened slightly, and a different tone seemed to creep into
"Then ye must be Master Carlyle, I take it. I heerd tell about ye at
the trial, but supposed ye ter be an older man."
"I am twenty-six."
"Ye don't look even thet. It's my notion ye got an overly hard dose
this time. The Judge was in ill humor thet day. Still thet's not fer
me ter talk about. It's best fer both of us ter hold our tongues. Ay,
they're ready fer ye now. Fall in there—all of yer. Step along, yer
damn rebel scum."
We passed aboard over the narrow gang-plank, four abreast, dragging
our feet, and were halted on the forward deck, while artificers
removed our chains. As these were knocked off, the released prisoners
disappeared one by one down the forward hatch, into the space between
the decks which had been roughly fitted up for their confinement
during the long voyage. As my position was in one of the last files, I
had ample time in which to gaze about, and take note of my
surroundings. Except for the presence of the prisoners the deck
presented no unusual scene. The Romping Betsy was a large,
full-rigged brig, not overly clean, and had evidently been in
commission for some time. Not heavily loaded she rode high, and was a
broad-nosed vessel, with comfortable beam. I knew her at once as a
slow sailor, and bound to develop a decidedly disagreeable roll in any
considerable sea. She was heavily sparred, and to my eye her canvas
appeared unduly weather-beaten and rotten. Indeed there was
unnecessary clutter aloft, and an amount of litter about the deck
which evidenced lack of seamanship; nor did the general appearance of
such stray members of the crew as met my notice add appreciably to my
confidence in the voyage.
I stared aft at the poop deck, seeking to gain glimpse of the skipper,
but was unable to determine his presence among the others. There were
a number of persons gathered along the low rail, attracted by the
unusual spectacle, and curiously watching us being herded aboard, and
dispatched below, but, to judge from their appearance, these were
probably all passengers—some of them adventurers seeking the new land
on their first voyage, although among them I saw others, easily
recognized as Virginians on their way home. Among these I picked out a
planter or two, prosperous and noisy, men who had just disposed of
their tobacco crop, well satisfied with the returns; some artisans
sailing on contract, and a naval officer in uniform. Then my eyes
encountered a strange group foregathered beside the lee rail.
There were four in the little party, but one of these was a negress,
red-turbaned, and black as the ace of spades, a servant evidently,
standing in silence behind the others. Another was clearly enough a
Colonial proprietor, a heavily built man of middle age, purple faced,
and wearing the broad hat with uplifted brim characteristic of
Virginians. I passed these by with a glance, my attention
concentrating upon the other two—a middle-aged young man, and a young
woman standing side by side. The former was a dashing looking blade,
of not more than forty, attired in blue, slashed coat, ornamented with
gilt buttons, and bedecked at collar and cuffs with a profusion of
lace. A saffron colored waist-coat failed to conceal his richly
beruffled shirt, and the hilt of a rapier was rather prominently
displayed. Such dandies were frequently enough seen, but it was this
man's face which made marked contrast with his gay attire. He was
dark, and hook-nosed, apparently of foreign birth, with black
moustache tightly clipped, so as to reveal the thin firmness of his
lips, and even at that distance I could perceive the lines of a scar
across his chin. Altogether there was an audacity to his face, a
daring, convincing me he was no mere lady's knight, but one to whom
fighting was a trade. He was pointing us out to his companion,
apparently joking over our appearance, in an endeavor to amuse.
Seemingly she gave small heed to his words, for although her eyes
followed where he pointed, they never once lighted with a smile, nor
did I see her answer his sallies. She was scarcely more than a girl,
dressed very simply in some clinging dark stuff, with a loose gray
cloak draping her shoulders, and a small, neat bonnet of straw perched
upon a mass of coiled hair. The face beneath was sweetly piquant, with
dark eyes, and rounded cheeks flushed with health. She stood, both
hands clasping the rail, watching us intently. I somehow felt as
though her eyes were upon me, and within their depths, even at that
distance, I seemed to read a message of sympathy and kindness. The one
lasting impression her face left on my memory was that of innocent
girlhood, dignified by a womanly tenderness.
What were those two to each other? I could not guess, for they seemed
from two utterly different worlds. Not brother and sister surely; and
not lovers. The last was unthinkable. Perhaps mere chance
acquaintances, who had drifted together since coming aboard. It seems
strange that at such a moment my attention should have thus centered
on these two, yet I think now that either one would have awakened my
interest wherever we had met. Instinctively I disliked the man, aware
of an instant antagonism, realizing that he was evil; while his
companion came to me as revealment of all that was true and worthy,
in a degree I had never known before. I could not banish either from
my mind. For months I had been in prison, expecting a death sentence,
much of the time passed in solitary confinement, and now, with that
cloud lifted, I had come forth into a fresh existence only to be
confronted by this man and woman, representing exact opposites. Their
peculiarities took immediate possession of a mind entirely unoccupied,
nor did I make any effort to banish them from my thought. From the
instant I looked upon these two I felt convinced that, through some
strange vagary of fate, we were destined to know more of each other;
that our life lines were ordained to touch, and become entangled,
somewhere in that mystery of the Western World to which I had been
condemned. I cannot analyze this conception, but merely record its
presence; the thought took firm possession of me. Under the
circumstances I was too far away to overhear conversation. The
shuffling of feet, the rattling of chains, the harsh voices of the
guard, made it impossible to distinguish any words passing between the
two. I could only watch them, quickly assured that I had likewise
attracted the girl's attention, and that her gaze occasionally sought
mine. Then the guards came to me, and, with my limbs freed of fetters,
I was passed down the steep ladder into the semi-darkness between
decks, where we were to be confined. The haunting memory of her face
accompanied me below, already so clearly defined as to be
It proved a dismal, crowded hole in which we were quartered like so
many cattle, it being merely a small space forward, hastily boxed off
by rough lumber, the sides and ends built up into tiers of bunks, the
only ventilation and light furnished by the open hatch above. The
place was clean enough, being newly fitted for the purpose, but was
totally devoid of furnishings, the only concession to comfort visible
was a handful of fresh straw in each bunk. The men, herded and driven
down the ladder, were crowded into the central space, the majority
still on their feet, but a few squatting dejectedly on the deck. In
the dim twilight of that bare interior their faces scarcely appeared
natural, and they conversed in undertones. Most of the fellows were
sober and silent, not a bad lot to my judgment, with only here and
there a countenance exhibiting viciousness, or a tongue given to
ribaldry. I could remember seeing but few of them before, yet as I
observed them more closely now, realized that these were not criminals
being punished for crime, but men caught, as I had been, and condemned
without fair trial, through the lies of paid informers. I could even
read in their actions and words the simple stories of their former
lives—the farm laborer, the sailor, the store-keeper, now all on one
common level of misfortune and misery—condemned alike to exile, to
servitude in a strange land, beyond seas.
The ticket given me called by number for a certain berth, and I sought
until I found this, throwing within the small bundle I bore, and then
finding a chance to sit down on the deck beneath. The last of the
bunch of prisoners dribbled down the ladder, each in turn noisily
greeted by those already huddled below. I began to recognize the
increasing foulness of air, and to distinguish words of conversation
from the groups about me. There was but little profanity but some
rough horse-play, and a marked effort to pretend indifference. I could
make out gray-beards and mere boys mingling together, and occasionally
a man in some semblance of uniform. A few bore wounds, and the clothes
of several were in rags; all alike exhibited marks of suffering and
hardship. The butcher from Harwich, and the white-faced lad who had
marched beside me down the wharf, were not to be seen from where I
sat, although beyond doubt they were somewhere in the crowd. The hatch
was not lowered, and gazing up through the square opening, I obtained
glimpse of two soldiers on guard, the sunlight glinting on their guns.
Almost immediately there was the sound of tramping feet on the deck
above, and the creaking of blocks. Then a sudden movement of the hull
told all we were under way. This was recognized by a roar of voices.
THE PRISON SHIP
The greater portion of that voyage I would blot entirely from memory
if possible. I cannot hope to describe it in any detail—-the foul
smells, the discomfort, the ceaseless horror of food, the close
companionship of men turned into mere animals by suffering and
distress, the wearisome days, the black, sleepless nights, the
poisonous air, and the brutality of guards. I can never forget these
things, for they have scarred my soul, yet surely I need not dwell
upon them now, except as they may bear some direct reference to this
tale I seek to tell. As such those weeks cannot be wholly ignored, for
they form a part of the events to follow—events which might not be
clearly understood without their proper picturing.
We were fifty-three days at sea, driven once so far to the southward
by a severe storm, which struck us the second day out, as to sight the
north coast of Africa before we were able to resume our westward
course. To those of us who were tightly shut into those miserable
quarters below these facts came only as floating rumors, yet the
intense suffering involved was all real enough. For forty-two hours we
were battened down in darkness, flung desperately about by every mad
plunge of the vessel, stifled by poisoned air and noxious odors, and
all that time without a particle of food. If I suffered less than
some others it was simply because I was more accustomed to the sea. I
was not nauseated by the motion, nor unduly frightened by the wild
pitching of the brig. Lying quietly in my berth, braced to prevent
being thrown out, amid a darkness so intense as to seem a weight,
every sound from the deck above, every lift of the vessel, brought to
my mind a sea message, convincing me of two things—that the Romping
Betsy was a staunch craft, and well handled. Terrific as the gale
became I only grew more confident that she would safely weather it.
Yet God knows it was horrible enough even to lie there and listen, to
feel the hurling plunges downward, the dizzy upsweeping of the hull;
to hear the cries, groans and prayers of frightened men, unseen and
helpless in the darkness, the creaking timbers, the resounding blows
of the waves against the sides, the horrid retching of the sick, the
snarling, angry voices as the struggling mass was flung back and
forth, the curses hurled madly into the darkness. They were no longer
men, but infuriated brutes, so steeped in agony and fear as to have
lost all human instincts. They snarled and snapped like so many
beasts, their voices unrecognizable, the stronger treading the weaker
to the deck. I could not see, I could only hear, yet I lay there,
staring blindly about, conscious of every horror, and so weak and
unnerved as to tremble like a child.
Yet the complete knowledge of what had actually occurred in that
frightful hole was only revealed when the violence of the storm
finally ceased, and the guards above again lifted the hatch. The gray
light of dawn faintly illumined the inferno below, and the sweet
breath of morning air swept down among us. Then I saw the haggard,
uplifted faces, the arms tossed aloft, and heard the wild yell as the
stronger charged forward struggling for the foot of the ladder. The
place was a foul, reeking shambles, so filthy as to be positively
sickening, with motionless bodies stretched here and there along the
deck. Sailors and guards fought their way down among us, driving back
the unarmed wretches who sought to oppose their progress, while others
bore to the deck above those who were too helpless to rise. There were
five dead among them, and twice as many more who had lost
consciousness. These were all removed first and then, feeling helpless
to resist the rush, the others were permitted to clamber up the
ladder. Surging out upon the deck, we were hurdled against the lee
rail, menaced by leveled guns, and thus finally fed, while the filthy
quarters below were hastily cleansed.
It was a dark, lowering morning, the desolate sea still threateningly
rough, the heavy clouds hanging low. The Romping Betsy was hove to,
under bare poles, a bit of the jib alone showing, with decks and spars
exhibiting evidence of the terrific struggle to keep afloat. I never
witnessed wilder pitching on any vessel, but the fresh air brought new
life to the wretches about me, and a species of cheerfulness was
quickly manifested. Bad as the food was we ate it gladly, nor did the
memory of the dead, already laid out on the main deck, long depress
us. Why should we mourn for them? We scarcely knew any among them by
name, and, facing the uncertainty of our own fate, each man secretly
felt that these had possibly found the easier way. Our own misery was
now greater than theirs. So we hung on to whatever would help us to
keep erect, and ate the food given us like famished animals. Rough and
threatening as the surroundings still were, I was seaman enough to
realize that the backbone of the storm had broken, and so rejoiced
when the skipper ordered sail set. In a few moments the brig was once
again headed on a westerly course, and riding the heavy seas much more
We were permitted to remain on deck scarcely more than an hour, and
during that time only a very few passengers made their appearance aft.
Although watching eagerly I perceived no flutter of a skirt in the
wind, but the Spanish looking man emerged from below, and clung to the
rail for several minutes before we were ordered from deck. He spoke
with the Captain, pointing and gesticulating, and the few detached
words blown to me on the wind were sufficient to convince me that the
fellow knew ships and the sea. I had thought him a mere dandy, but now
saw in him harder stuff, even getting close enough to learn that he
had visited America before, and possessed knowledge of its shores and
currents. Ay, and he spoke English well, with never pause for a word,
even to terms of seamanship a bit obscure.
The next few days, while uneventful, sufficed to make our discipline
complete, obedience being roughly enforced by blows and oaths. At
first a spirit of resistance flamed high, but the truly desperate
among us were few, and without leadership, while the majority were
already thoroughly cowed by months of imprisonment. Left to
themselves the more reckless and criminal were soon obliged to yield
to force, so that nothing more serious resulted than loud talk and
threats. The hatch above remained open, but carefully guarded night
and day, while we were permitted on deck for air and exercise only in
squads of ten, two hours out of every twenty-four. This alone served
to break the dread monotony of the voyage, for while we almost
constantly encountered baffling head winds, no other storm of any
magnitude obstructed our passage. The brig carried heavy canvas, and
the skipper loaded her with all she could bear, but at that she was a
slow sailor, dipping so deeply in a seaway as to ship considerable
water even in quiet weather. From our exercise on deck we generally
returned below drenched to the skin, but glad to even pay that price
for two hours of fresh air, and an opportunity to gaze about at sea
and sky. There was little else to witness, for in all the long voyage
we encountered but one vessel in that desolate ocean, a French armed
corvette, fairly bristling with guns, which ran in close enough to
hail us, but seemed satisfied to permit us to pass unvisited. I clung
to the rail and watched its white sails disappear until they resembled
the wings of gulls, feeling more than ever conscious of our
helplessness. There were few among the prisoners I had any desire to
companion with—only two, as I recall now—a law clerk from Sussex, a
rather bright young fellow, but full of strange notions, and an older
man, who had seen service in Flanders. We messed together, and pledged
mutual friendship in the new land, a pledge not destined to be
fulfilled, as I never again saw nor heard of the former after we went
ashore, and the last glimpse I had of the older man was as he was
being loaded into a cart bound for some interior plantation. God grant
they both lived, and became again free men.
How those sodden hours and days dragged! How long were those black
nights, in which I lay sleepless, listening to indescribable noises,
and breathing the rank, poisonous air. The short time passed on deck
was my only solace, and yet even there I found little to interest,
except a continuous new hope. We were herded well forward, a rope
dividing us from the main deck, which space the passengers aft used as
a promenade. Here, between the foremast and the cabin, someone was
strolling idly about most of the time, or lounging along the rail out
of the sun. In time I came to recognize them all by sight, and
learned, in one way or another, something of their characteristics,
and purpose in taking this voyage. They were not an unusual lot, the
majority planters from the Colonies homeward bound, with occasionally
a new emigrant about to try for fortune beyond seas, together with one
or two naval officers. There were only three women aboard, a fat
dowager, the young lady I had noticed at embarkation, and her colored
maid. Many of the days were pleasant, with quiet sea and bright
sunshine, and the younger woman must have passed hours on deck during
so long and tedious a voyage. Yet it chanced I saw almost nothing of
her. I heard her presence on board discussed several times by others
of our company, but it somehow chanced that during my time in the open
she was usually below. Indeed I gained but one glimpse of the lady in
the first two weeks at sea, and then only as we were being ordered
down to our quarters for the night. Just as I was approaching the
hatch to descend, she appeared from within the cabin, accompanied by
the middle-aged planter, and the two advanced toward the rail. The
younger gallant, who was standing there alone, saw them the moment
they emerged, and hastened forward, bowing low, hat in hand. She
barely recognized him, her gaze traveling beyond the fellow toward the
disappearing line of prisoners. It was an evening promising storm,
with some motion to the sea, and a heavy bank of clouds visible off
the port quarter, brightened by flashes of zigzag lightning. The brig
rolled dizzily, so the cavalier sought to steady her steps, but she
only laughed at the effort, waving him aside, as she moved easily
forward. Once with hand on the rail, she ignored his presence
entirely, looking first at the threatening cloud, and then permitting
her gaze to rest once more upon the line of men descending through the
It had become my turn to go down, yet in that instant our eyes met
fairly, and I instantly knew she saw and recognized me. For a single
second our glances clung, as though some mysterious influence held us
to each other—then the angry guard struck me with the stock of his
"What er ye standin' thar fer?" he demanded savagely. "Go on
I saw her clasping fingers convulsively grip the rail, and, even at
that distance, marked a sudden flame of color in her cheeks. That was
all her message to me, yet quite enough. Although we had never spoken,
although our names were yet unknown, I was no criminal to her mind,
no unrecognized prisoner beneath contempt, but a human being in whom
she already felt a personal interest, and to whom she extended thought
and sympathy. The blow of the gun-stock bruised my back, yet it was
with a smile and a light heart that I descended the ladder, deeply
conscious of a friend on board—one totally unable to serve me,
perhaps, yet nevertheless a friend. Even in our isolation, guarded in
those narrow quarters, much of the ship gossip managed in some way to
reach our ears. How it drifted in was often a mystery, yet there was
little going on aboard we failed to hear. Much of it came to us
through those detailed to serve food, while guards and sailors were
not always averse to being talked with. We always knew the ship's
course, and I managed to keep in my mind a very dear idea of how the
voyage progressed. Not a great deal of this gossip, however, related
to the passengers aft, who kept rather exclusively to themselves, nor
did I feel inclined to question those who might have the information.
I had no wish to reveal my interest to others, and so continued
entirely ignorant of the identity of the young woman. She remained in
my memory, in my thoughts nameless, a dream rather than a reality. I
did learn quite by accident that the gay gallant was a wealthy
Spaniard, supposedly of high birth, by name Sanchez, and at one time
in the naval service, and likewise ascertained that the rotund
planter, so evidently in the party, was a certain Roger Fairfax, of
Saint Mary's in Maryland, homeward bound after a successful sale of
his tobacco crop in London. It was during his visit to the great city
that he had met Sanchez, and his praise of the Colonies had induced
the latter to essay a voyage in his company to America. But strange
enough no one so much as mentioned the girl in connection with either
Thus it was that the Romping Betsy drove steadily on her way into
the west, either battered by storm, or idly drifting in calm, while
life on board became a tiresome routine. The dullness and ill
treatment led to trouble below, to dissatisfaction and angry outbreaks
of temper. The prisoners grew quarrelsome among themselves, and
mutinous toward their guards. I took no part in these affairs, which
at one time became serious. Two men were shot dead, and twice
afterwards bodies were carried up the ladder at dawn, and silently
consigned to the sea. No doubt these tales, more or less exaggerated,
traveled aft, and reached the eager ears of the passengers. They began
to fear us, and consequently I noticed when on deck the promenade once
so popular during the earlier days of the voyage, was almost totally
deserted during our hours of recreation. So, with mutiny forward, and
fear aft, the lumbering old brig, full of tragedy and hopeless hearts,
ploughed steadily onward toward the sunset.
We were not far from two hundred miles east of the Capes, or at least
so one of the mates told me, gruffly answering a question, and it was
already growing twilight, the sun having disappeared a half hour
before. There was but little air stirring, barely enough to keep the
sails taut, while the swell of the sea was sufficient to be
uncomfortable, making walking on the deck a task. We were wallowing
along amid a waste of waters, the white-crested waves extending in
every direction to the far horizons, which were already purpling with
the approach of night. I had been closely confined to my bunk for two
days with illness, but now, somewhat stronger, had been ordered on
deck by the surgeon. The last batch of prisoners, after their short
hour of recreation, had been returned to the quarters below, but I was
permitted to remain alone undisturbed. I sat there quietly, perched on
a coil of rope, with head just high enough to permit an unobstructed
view over the side.
The deck aft was almost deserted, the passengers being at supper in
the cabin. I could glimpse them through the unshaded windows, seated
about a long table, while occasionally the sound of their voices
reached me through the open companion-way. The mate was alone on the
poop, tramping steadily back and forth, his glance wandering from the
sea alongside to the flapping canvas above, but remained silent, as
the brig was on her course. Once he clambered down the side ladder,
and walked forward, shouting out some order to a group of sailors
under the lee of the forecastle. It was on his return that I ventured
to question him, and was gruffly answered. Something I said however,
gave him knowledge that I was a seaman, and he paused a moment more
civilly before resuming his watch, even pointing out what resembled
the gleam of a distant sail far away on our starboard quarter. This
was such a dim speck against the darkening horizon that I stood up to
see better, shadowing my eyes, and forgetful of all else in aroused
interest. Undoubtedly it was a sail, although appearing no larger than
a gull's wing, and my imagination took me in spirit across the leagues
of water. I was still standing there absorbed, unaware even that the
mate had departed, when a voice, soft-spoken and feminine, broke the
"May I speak with you?"
I turned instantly, so thoroughly surprised, my voice faltered as I
gazed into the upturned face of the questioner. She stood directly
beside me, with only the rope barrier stretched between us, her head
uncovered, the contour of her face softened by the twilight. Instantly
my cap was off, and I was bowing courteously.
"Most certainly," with a quick side glance toward the guard, "but I am
"Of course I know that," in smiling confidence. "Only you see I am
rather a privileged character on board. No one expects me to obey
rules. Still that does not apply to you, does it?" hesitating
slightly. "Perhaps you may be punished if you talk with me—is that
what you meant?"
"I am more than willing to assume the risk. Punishment is no new
experience to me; besides just now I am on sick leave, and privileged.
That accounts for my being still on deck."
"And I chanced to find you here alone. You have been ill?"
"Not seriously, but confined to the berth for a couple of days. And
now the doctor prescribes fresh air. This meeting with you, I imagine,
may prove even of greater benefit than that."
"With me? Oh, you mean as a relief from loneliness."
"Partly—yes. The voyage has certainly proven lonely enough. I have
made few friends forward, and am even bold enough to say that I have
longed for a word with you ever since I first saw you aboard."
"Why especially with me?"
"Rather a hard question to answer at the very beginning," I smiled
back at her. "Yet not so difficult as the one I shall ask you. Except
for a fat matron, and a colored maid, you chance to be the only woman
on board. Can you consider it unnatural that I should feel an
interest? On the other hand I am only one of fifty prisoners, scarcely
cleaner or more reputable looking than any of my mates. Yet surely you
have not sought speech with these others?"
"Then why especially with me?" Even in the growing dusk I could mark
a red flush mount into the clear cheeks at this insistent question,
and for an instant her eyes wavered. But she possessed the courage of
pride, and her hesitancy was short.
"You imagine I cannot answer; indeed that I have no worthy reason,"
she exclaimed. "Oh, but I have; I know who you are; my uncle pointed
you out to me."
"Your uncle—the planter in the gray coat?"
"Yes; I am traveling home with him to Maryland. I am Dorothy Fairfax."
"But even with that explanation I scarcely understand," I insisted
rather stubbornly. "You say he pointed me out to you. Really I was not
aware that I was a distinguished character of any kind. How did he
happen to know me?"
"Because he was present at your trial before Lord Jeffries. He merely
chanced to be there when you were first brought up, but became
interested in the case, and so returned to hear you sentenced. You are
Geoffry Carlyle, in command of the ship that brought Monmouth to
England. I heard it all."
"All? What else, pray?"
Her eyes opened widely in sudden surprise and she clasped and
unclasped her hands nervously.
"Do you really not know? Have you never been told what happened?"
"Only that I was roughly forbidden to speak, called every foul name
the learned Judge could think of, and then sentenced to twenty years
penal servitude beyond seas," I answered soberly. "Following that I
was dragged from the dock, and flung into a cell. Was there anything
"Why you should have known. Lord Jeffries sentenced you to death; the
decree was signed, to be executed immediately. Then influence was
brought to bear—some nobleman in Northumberland made direct appeal to
the King. That was what angered Jeffries so."
"An appeal! For me? Good God! not Bucclough—was it he, the Duke?"
"Yes; it was whispered about that the King was in his debt—some word
of honor, and dare not refuse. The word of mercy came just in time,
ordering Jeffries to commute your sentence. At first he swore he'd
hang you, King or no King, but his nerve failed. My uncle said he
roared like a bull. This Bucclough; is he not your friend?"
I hesitated for an instant of indecision, looking into her face, but
the truth would not be denied.
"Scarcely that," I said soberly. "Nor can I solve entirely his
purpose. He is my brother, and I am the next in line. We are not even
on speaking terms; yet he is childless, and may feel some measure of
dislike to have the family end in a hangman's knot. I can think of no
other reason for his interference. I knew nothing of his action."
"I am glad it became my privilege to tell you. Besides, Captain
Carlyle," simply, "it may also help you to understand my interest. If
you are of the Carlyles of Bucclough, how happened it that you went to
"Largely necessity, and to some extent no doubt sheer love of
adventure. I was a younger son, with very little income. There were
then two lives between me and the estate, and the old Duke, my
father, treated me like a servant. I always loved the sea, and at
fourteen—to get me out of his sight, I think largely—was apprenticed
to the navy, but lost my grade in the service by a mere boyish prank.
His influence then would have saved me, but he refused to even read my
letter of explanation. I dare not return home in such disgrace, and
consequently drifted into the merchant service. It is a story quickly
"Yet not so quickly lived."
"No, it meant many hard years, on all the oceans of the world. This is
the first message reaching me from the old home."
"I have seen that home," she said quietly, "and shall never forget the
impression it made on me. A beautiful place. I was there on a coaching
party, the first summer I was in England. I was a mere girl then, and
everything seemed wonderful. I have been away from Maryland now for
"Of course; nothing else would satisfy father. Maryland is only a
Colony, you know."
"Yes, I understand. A great many over there send back their sons and
daughters to be educated. Your home is at Saint Mary's?"
"Lower down the Potomac. Have you ever been there?"
"Twice; once as mate, and the last time as master of a ship. My latest
voyage in these waters was made nearly two years ago."
She was silent for several moments, her face turned away from me, her
eyes gazing out across the waste of waters which were already growing
dark. Her clear-cut profile against the yellow light of the cabin
windows appeared most attractive.
"It is not so strange then, is it, that I should have felt interested
in you?" she asked suddenly, as though justifying herself. "When Uncle
Roger first told me who you were, and then explained what had occurred
at your trial, naturally you became to me something entirely different
from the others."
"Certainly I am not inclined to condemn."
"I never once thought of speaking to you—truly I did not," she went
on simply. "But when I saw you sitting here all alone, the impulse
came suddenly to tell you how sorry I was. You see," and she paused
doubtfully, "girls brought up in the Colonies, as I have been,
are—are not quite so careful about whom they talk with as in
England—you know what I mean; we always have indentured servants, and
become accustomed to them. It—it is quite different out there."
I laughed, thinking only to relieve her embarrassment.
"Believe me, Miss Dorothy, there is no thought in my mind that you
have done wrong," I insisted swiftly. "That would be very ungrateful,
for you have brought me new heart and hope."
"Then I am not sorry. Were you actually with Monmouth?"
"In sympathy, yes; but I had no hand in the actual fighting. I was not
even ashore until it was all over with. Still I shall pay my share of
"And you know what that means, do you not? What will happen when we
"Perfectly; I have no illusions. I have seen just such ships as this
come in. We are to be advertised, and sold to the highest bidder. A
week from now I shall probably be out in the tobacco fields, under the
whip of an overseer, who will call me Jeff. All I can hope for is a
kind-hearted master, and an early opportunity to escape."
"Oh, no!" and in her eagerness her hands actually clasped mine, where
they clung to the rope between us. "It is not going to be quite so bad
as that. That is what I wanted to tell you. That is what gave me
boldness to come across here to you tonight. It has all been
"Yes—everything. You are not going to be sold on the block with those
others. Uncle Roger has already contracted with the Captain for your
services. You are going north with us to Maryland."
I stared through the dusk into her animated face, scarcely
"Do you not understand, yet?" she asked. "The Captain of this brig is
the agent; he represents the government, and is obliged to find places
for the prisoners."
"Yes; I know that. We are billed like so much livestock; he must
account for every head."
"Well, Uncle Roger went to him yesterday, and made a bid for you.
Finally they came to terms. That is one reason why you are left alone
here on deck tonight. The officers are no longer responsible for
you—you are already indentured."
I drew a deep breath, and in the sudden impulse of relief which swept
over me, my own fingers closed tightly about her hands.
"You tell me I am to accompany your party up the Chesapeake?"
"I owe this to you; I am sure I must owe this to you—tell me?"
Her eyes drooped, and in the dim light I could mark the heaving of her
bosom, as she caught her breath.
"Only—only the suggestion," she managed to say in a whisper. "He—he
was glad of that. You see I—I knew he needed someone to take charge
of his sloop, and—and so I brought you to his mind. We—we both
thought you would be just the one, and—and he went right away to see
the Captain. So please don't thank me."
"I shall never cease to thank you," I returned warmly, conscious
suddenly that I was holding her hands, and as instantly releasing
them. "Why, do you begin to understand what this actually means to me?
It means the retention of manhood, of self-respect. It will save me
the degradation which I dreaded most of all—the toiling in the fields
beside negro slaves, and the sting of the lash. Ay, it means even
I hesitated, instantly realizing that I must not utter those impetuous
words leaping to my lips.
"More!" she exclaimed. "What more?"
"This," I went on, my thought shifting into a new channel. "A longer
servitude. Up to this moment my one dream has been to escape, but I
must give that up now. You have placed me under obligations to serve."
"You mean you feel personally bound?" "Yes; not quite so much to
your uncle, perhaps, as to yourself. But between us this has become a
debt of honor."
"But wait," she said earnestly "for I had even thought of that. I was
sure you would feel that way—any gentleman would. Still there is a
way out. You were sentenced as an indentured servant."
"I suppose so."
"It is true; you were so entered on the books of this ship. Uncle
Roger had to be sure of all this before he paid his money, and I saw
the entry myself. It read: 'Geoffry Carlyle, Master Mariner,
indentured to the Colonies for the term of twenty years, unless sooner
released; crime high treason.' Surely you must know the meaning of
"Servitude for twenty years."
"'Unless sooner released.'"
"That means pardoned; there is no hope of that."
"Perhaps not, but that is not all it means. Any indentured man, under
our Maryland laws, can buy his freedom, after serving a certain
proportion of his sentence. I think it is true in any of the Colonies.
Did you not know that?"
I did know it, yet somehow had never connected the fact before
directly with my own case. I had been sentenced to twenty
years—twenty years of a living death—and that alone remained
impressed on my mind. I could still see Black Jeffries sitting on the
bench, glaring down at me in unconcealed anger, his eyes blazing with
the fury of impotent hate, as he roared, that, by decree of the King,
my sentence to be hung was commuted to twenty years of penal
servitude beyond seas. It had never even seemed an act of mercy to me.
But now it did, as the full truth suddenly came home, that I could buy
my freedom. God! what a relief; I stood up straight once more in the
stature of a man. I hardly know what wild words I might have spoken
had the opportunity been mine; but at that instant the figure of a man
crossed the deck toward us, emerging from the open cabin door. Against
the gleam of yellow light I recognized the trim form advancing, and as
instantly stepped back into shadow. My quick movement caused her to
turn, and face him.
"What!" he exclaimed, and evidently surprised at his discovery. "It is
indeed Mistress Dorothy—out here alone? 'Twas my thought you were
safely in your cabin long since. But—prithee—I mistake; you are not
He paused, slightly irresolute, staring forward beyond her at my
dimmer outline, quite uncertain who I might be, yet already
"I was preparing to go in," she answered, ignoring his latter words.
"The night already looks stormy."
"But your friend?"
The tone in which he spoke was insistent, almost insolent in its
demand, and she hesitated no longer in meeting the challenge.
"Your pardon, I am sure—Lieutenant Sanchez, this gentleman is Captain
He stood there stiff and straight against the background of light, one
hand in affected carelessness caressing the end of a waxed moustache.
His face was in shadow, yet I was quite aware of the flash of his
"Ah, indeed—some passenger I have not chanced to observe before?"
"A prisoner," she returned distinctly. "You may perhaps remember my
uncle pointed him out to us when he first came aboard."
"And you have been out here alone, talking with the fellow?"
"Why, the man is a felon, convicted of crime, sentenced to
"It is not necessary that we discuss this, sir," she interposed,
rather proudly, "as my personal conduct is not a matter for your
criticism. I shall retire now. No; thank you, you need not come."
He stopped still, staring blankly after her as she vanished; then
wheeled about to vent his anger on me.
"Carlyle, hey!" he exclaimed sneeringly. "A familiar sound that name
in my ears. One of the brood out of Bucclough?"
"A cadet of that line," I managed to admit, wonderingly. "You know of
"Quite as much as I care to," his tone ugly and insulting. Then an
idea suddenly occurred to his mind. "Saint Guise, but that would even
up the score nicely. You are, as I understand it, sent to Virginia for
"For how long a term?"
"The sentence was twenty years."
"Hela! and you go to the highest bidder. I'll do it, fellow! To
actually own a Carlyle of Bucclough will be a sweet revenge."
"You mean," I asked, dimly grasping his purpose, "that you propose
buying me when we reach shore?"
"Why not? A most excellent plan; and I owe it all to a brat I met in
London. Egad! it will be some joke to tell when next I visit England.
'Twill count for more than were I to tweak the Duke's nose."
I stopped his laughter, smiling myself grimly in the darkness.
"A very noble plan for revenge," I admitted, enjoying the swift
check-mating of his game. "And one which I am not likely to forget.
Unfortunately you come too late. It happens, Senor, that I am already
safely indentured to Roger Fairfax."
"To Fairfax? She told you that?"
"Who told me can make no difference. At least I am out of your hands."
I turned away, but he called angrily after me:
"Do not feel so sure of that, Carlyle! I am in the game yet."
I made no answer, already despising the fellow so thoroughly as to
ignore his threat. He still stood there, a mere shadow, as I
disappeared down the ladder, and I could imagine the expression on his
THE SHORES OF VIRGINIA
I rested quietly in my berth for a long time, staring blankly up at
the dark deck above, unable to sleep, and endeavoring to figure out
the true meaning of all these occurrences. It began to rain, torrents
sweeping the planks overhead, while vivid flashes of lightning
illumined the open hatch, before it could be hastily closed, revealing
the squalidness of the interior in which we were quartered. Then
someone, growling and stumbling through the darkness, lit a slush
lantern, dangling from a blackened beam, its faint flicker barely
discernible. The hole became foul and sickening, men tossing and
groaning in their uneasy sleep, or prowling about seeking some measure
of comfort. There was no severe wind accompanying the storm, and the
flurry of rain soon swept by, leaving an ugly swell behind, but
enabling the guard to again uplift the hatches.
Immersed as I was in thought, all this left but small impress on me. I
felt that I could understand the interest exhibited by Dorothy
Fairfax, and, greatly as I already admired her, I was not egotist
enough to even imagine that her effort to serve me had basis in any
personal attraction. My connection with Bucclough, coupled with her
uncle's report of my conviction, had very naturally aroused the girl's
sympathy in my behalf. She felt a desire to lighten my sorrows as
much as possible, and, under the existing circumstances, had found it
comparatively easy to persuade the good-natured planter to acquiesce
in her suggestion. In all probability he really had need of my
services, and was therefore glad enough of this opportunity to secure
them. This part of the affair I could dismiss without giving anyone
undue credit, although I deeply appreciated the kindness of heart
which had led her to interpose, and which later led her to tell me so
quickly what had occurred. Her purpose, however, was fairly clear.
But what about Lieutenant Sanchez? Why was this unknown Spaniard
already so openly my enemy? There was no doubting his position, and
there surely must be some reason for it outside of anything which had
occurred on board the Romping Betsy. His words had given me some
inkling of the cause—a past quarrel with the Duke of Bucclough, in
England, in which he must have been worsted, and which had left in his
mind a lurking desire for revenge. He dreamed of striking his enemy
through me, because of relationship, a cowardly blow. Yet this, by
itself alone, was scarcely a reason why he should have thus sought me
out for a victim. No sane man would deliberately visit the sins of my
brother on me. Nor had this been deliberate; it was the mere outburst
of sudden passion, arising through my intercourse with the young
woman. Otherwise it might never have occurred to him. So there was
seemingly but one answer—Sanchez used this merely as an excuse for
the concealment of his real object. What could that object be? Could
it be Dorothy Fairfax? I was a long while in actually convincing
myself of this probability, and yet no other satisfactory explanation
offered itself. She had exhibited an interest in me from the very
first, and he had endeavored to win her attention elsewhere. Even that
day when we first came aboard in chains, he had plainly evinced this
desire, and, since then, the girl had never appeared on deck, without
his immediately seeking her company. I felt finally that I had the
clue—jealousy, the mad, unreasoning jealousy of his race. He fiercely
resented her slightest interest in anyone—even a prisoner—as against
his own attractions. He was incapable of appreciating friendly
sympathy, and already held me a dangerous rival. Then, possibly, it
had not been a mere idle desire to visit the Colonies, which had
originally led to his prompt acceptance of Roger Fairfax's invitation
to make one of their party; the real attraction was the charms of
Dorothy—her girlish beauty, coupled, no doubt, with her father's
wealth. The fellow was in love, impetuously in love, resenting blindly
the slightest advance of any other.
The thought rather pleased me, largely because of its absurdity. It
was, in my case at least, so utterly false, and unjustifiable. To the
ordinary mind, indeed, any such connection would be practically
unthinkable. Even had I been wild enough to dream of such a thing, the
gulf existing between myself and Dorothy Fairfax was far too deep and
wide ever to be spanned. I had before me twenty years of servitude,
and an unknown future; nor could I even conceive the possibility of
any such thought ever entering her mind. The very opposite was what
gave her courage to serve me. I had no false conception as to this;
no vagrant thought that her interest in me was any more than a
passing fancy, born of sympathy, and a desire to aid. Nevertheless, as
she had thus already served me, I now owed her service in return, and
here was the first call. If conditions made it possible it was my
plain duty to place myself between these two. I felt no hatred toward
the man, no desire to do him a personal injury; but I did dislike and
distrust him. This feeling was instinctive, and without the slightest
reference to his seeking intimacy with the girl. From the first moment
I had looked upon his face there had been antagonism between us, a
feeling of enmity. Whether this arose from his appearance, or actions,
I could not determine—but the fellow was not my kind.
In the intensity of my feelings I must have unconsciously spoken
aloud, for a shaggy head suddenly popped out from the berth beneath
where I lay, and an interested voice asked solicitously:
"Hy, thar; whut's up, mate? Sick agin?"
"No," I answered, grinning rather guiltily, "just thinking, and
letting loose a bit. Did I disturb you?"
"Well, I reckon I wa'n't exactly asleep," he acknowledged, without
withdrawing his head. "Ye wus mutterin' 'way thar an' not disturbin'
me none, till ye got ter talkin' 'bout sum feller called Sanchez. Then
I sorter got a bit interested. I know'd thet cuss onct," and he spat,
as though to thus better express his feelings. "The damned ornary
I laughed, my whole mental mood changed by this remark.
"It is not very likely we have the same party in mind, Haley. You see
Sanchez is a decidedly common name among Spaniards. I've known two or
three of that name myself. You were not referring to anyone on board,
"I sure hope not," he scratched his head, staring up at me through the
dim light, wakefulness encouraging him to talk. "They tell me ye are a
sea-farin' man. Well, I wus a Deal fisher, but hev made a half dozen
deep-sea v'y'ges. Thet's how I hed the damn luck ter meet up with this
Sanchez I was a speakin' 'bout. He's the only one ever I know'd. I met
up with him off the isle o' Cuba. Likely 'nough ye know the devil I
The question served to center my memory suddenly on a dim remembrance
of the past.
"No, unless you refer to 'Black Sanchez.' I 've heard of him; were you
ever in his hands?"
"Wus I!" he laughed grimly. "I hed eight months of it, mate, and a
greater demon never sailed. The things I saw done ye 'd never believe
no human bein' could do. If ever thar wus two people in one skin, sir,
it's thet Black Sanchez. When he's playin' off fer good he's as soft
an' sweet as a dandy in Picadilly, an' when he's real he's like a
devil in hell."
"Was you a prisoner—or did you sail under him?"
"Both, fer the matter o' thet. He give me the choice ter serve, er
walk the plank. I wus eighteen, an' hed an ol' mother at Deal."
"I see; but later you got away?"
"Ay, I did thet," chuckling over the recollection. "But I hed ter wait
eight months fer the luck. Hev ye ever been sea-farin' down in them
waters, off the West Indies?"
"Well, they're all studded over with little islands—cays, they call
'em down thare; an' it's in among them thet the buccaneers hide away,
an' sorter rest up after a cruise. Thar's a lot o' 'em too; whole
villages hid away on some o' them cays, with women an' children—every
color ye ever saw. Sanchez he made his headquarters on a cay called
Porto Grande. He hed three ships, an' maybe a hundred an' fifty men
'bout the time I got away. The last I saw o' him wus at sea. He'd
overhauled an English ship, an' sunk her; an' then the next mornin' we
took a Dutch bark in ballast. She wus such a trig sailor Sanchez
decided to keep her afloat, an' sent a prize crew aboard ter sail her
inter Porto Grande. I wus one o' the fellers picked fer thet job, an'
we wus told off under a nigger mate, named LaGrasse—he wus a French
nigger from Martinique, and a big devil—an' our orders wus ter meet
Sanchez three days later. His vessel wus a three-masted schooner, the
fastest thing ever I saw afloat, called the Vengeance, an' by that
time she wus chock up with loot. Still at that she could sail 'bout
three feet to our one. Afore night come we wus out o' sight astern.
Thar wus eight o' us in the crew, beside the nigger, an' we had twelve
Dutchmen under hatches below. I sorter looked 'round, an' sized up
four o' that crew ter be good honest sailormen, who'd been shanghied
same as I wus. So, long about midnight, I 'd got ter talk with all
these fellers, an' when LaGrasse went down below ter take a snooze in
the cabin, we hoisted them Dutchmen on deck, flung a couple o'
hell-hounds overboard, an' just naturally took control. The mate wus
a dead nigger afore he ever knew whut wus up. When daylight come we
wus streakin' it eastward by compass, an' every damn sail set. Thet
wus the easiest part of it. Them Dutchmen could n't talk nuthin' but
their own lingo; an' thar wa'n't a navigator aboard, fer Sanchez hed
kept all the offercers with him, an' the end wus about a week later,
when we piled up against an island off the African coast, an' only one
boat load of us got ashore. Thet's whut I know about Sanchez."
"I had a shipmate once," I observed, interested in his story, "who
claimed to have seen the fellow; he described him as being a very
large man, with intensely black hawklike eyes, and a heavy black beard
almost hiding his face."
"Maybe he looked like that when he saw him, but he ain't no bigger man
than I am; he won't weigh as much by fifteen pound. Fact is he mighty
seldom looks the same, fer thet's part o' his game. Them whiskers is
false, an' so is the saller look to his face. I 've seen him in all
sorts o' disguises. It's only his eyes he can't hide, an' thar's been
times when I thought they wus the ugliest eyes ever I saw. He's sure
an ornary devil, an' when he gits mad, I'd rather be afront of a
tiger. Besides fightin's his trade, an' no weaklin' ain't goin' ter
control the sort o' chaps he's got ter handle. Most of 'em would
murder him in a minute if they dared. Oh, he's bad all right, but yer
wouldn't exactly think so, just ter look at him, I've run up agin a
lot o' different men in my time, thet I 'd naturally sheer off from a
blame sight quicker than I would from him."
"You mean that when he is not in disguise he does not appear
dangerous. What then does he really look like?"
Haley spat again onto the deck, and scratched his shock of hair as
though thus to stimulate his memory.
"Oh, a sorter swash-bucklin' Spanish don—the kind whut likes ter
dress up, an' play the dandy. He's got a pink an' white complexion,
the Castilian kind yer know, an' wears a little moustache, waxed up at
the ends. He's about two inches taller than I am, with no extra flesh,
but with a hell of a grip in his hands. As I said afore, if it wa'n't
fer his eyes nobody'd ever look at him twice. All his devilishness
shows thar, an' I've seen 'em laugh like he didn't have a care on
"How old a man is he?"
"How old is the devil? I heard he wus about forty-five; I reckon he
must be thet, but he don't look older than thirty. He ain't the kind
yer can guess at."
We talked together for quite a while longer, our conversation
gradually drifting to the recounting of various sea adventures, and my
thoughts did not again recur to Sanchez until after I rested back once
more in my berth, endeavoring to fall asleep. Haley must have dropped
off immediately, for I could distinguish his heavy breathing among the
others; but my mind continued to wander, until it conjured up once
again this West India pirate. His name, and the story of his exploits,
had been familiar to me ever since I first went to sea. While only one
among many operating in those haunted waters, his resourcefulness,
daring and cruelty had won him an infamous reputation, a name of
horror. In those days, when the curse of piracy made the sea a
terror, no ordinary man could ever have succeeded in attaining such
supremacy in crime. No doubt much that had been reported was either
false, or exaggerated, yet there flashed across my memory numberless
tales of rapine, outrage and cold-blooded cruelty in which this demon
of the sea had figured, causing me to shudder at the recollection. To
my mind he had long been a fiend incarnate, his name a horror on the
lips. Black Sanchez—and Haley pictured him as a dandified, ordinary
appearing individual, with white and red complexion, a small
moustache, and flashing dark eyes—a mere Spanish gallant, without
special distinction. Why, that description, strangely enough, fitted
almost exactly this fellow on board, this other Sanchez. I leaned over
the edge of my bunk, and looked down on Haley, half resolved to ask if
he had ever noticed this lieutenant, but the man was already sound
asleep. The suspicion which had crept into my mind was so absurd, so
unspeakably silly and impossible, that I laughed at myself, and
dismissed the crazy thought. What, that fellow Black Sanchez! Bah, no!
He had been at sea, of course; there was no denying that fact, for he
knew ships, and spoke the lingo of blue water; but the very idea that
that blood-stained buccaneer, whose hated name was on the lips of
every sea-faring man of Britain, would ever dare openly to visit
England, and then sail under his own name on board an English vessel
for Virginia, was too preposterous for consideration. Why, it would be
sheer madness. The knowledge that such a possibility ever had flashed
into my mind became amusing, and chuckling over it, I finally fell
It was noon, the sky overcast, the wind blowing strong from the
southeast, when the Virginia coast was first sighted from our
mast-head. An hour later it became plainly visible from the deck
below, and the prisoners were routed out from their quarters, and the
shackles, removed from limbs when we first arrived on board, were
again riveted in place, binding them together in fours, preparatory to
landing. I, with one or two others, already disposed of, and in
control of masters, were spared this indignity, and permitted to move
about as we pleased within the narrow deck space reserved for our use.
The last meal was served in the open, the men squatting on the deck
planks, endeavoring to jest among themselves, and assuming a
cheerfulness they were very far from feeling. The long hardships of
the voyage had left indelible marks on the majority, and they were by
now a woe-begone, miserable lot, who had largely abandoned themselves
The Monmouth campaign had been brief, but no less disastrous to the
men engaged in it. Those who survived the one battle, wounded and
fugitive, had been hunted down remorselessly like so many wild beasts.
Escape from the pursuit of soldiers was almost impossible, and they
had been brutally beaten and bruised by infuriated captors; and then,
uncared for, nor shown the slightest mercy, had been thrust into
loathsome gaols to helplessly await trial, and a certain conviction.
No pen could adequately describe the suffering and horror of those
months of waiting, while the unfortunate victims lived in crowded,
dirty cells, subjected to every conceivable indignity and insult from
brutal guards, half starved, and breathing foul, fetid air—the breath
of sickness, the stench of unclean wounds. Dragged forth at last, one
by one, into a court organized for condemnation, presided over by a
foul-mouthed brute, whose every word was insult, denied all
opportunity for defense, they had later been shackled together as
felons, and driven aboard ship like so many head of cattle. Herded
below deck, tossed about for weeks on a stormy sea, uncared for, and
half starved, scarcely realizing their destination, or knowing their
fate, seeing their dead dragged out from their midst with each dawn,
and flung carelessly overboard, cursed at and struck by their guards,
they now dragged their aching bodies about in half dead despair, the
chains clanking to every movement of the limbs, their dull, lackluster
eyes scarcely discerning the darkening line of coast toward which the
Romping Betsy steered.
With what depth of pity I looked at them, my glance gladly straying
from their downcast faces toward the group of passengers gathered
eagerly along the poop rail to welcome joyfully the approach of land.
These were all animation, excitement, talking eagerly to each other,
and pointing out familiar headlands as they emerged through the thin
mists. Their thoughts were all centered on home, or the promises of
this new land they were approaching, and so deeply interested that
scarcely an eye turned toward those miserable wretches grouped on the
forward deck, being borne into slavery and disgrace. It was a contrast
between hope and despair. As these passengers moved restlessly back
and forth, from rail to rail, I easily recognized among them every
face grown familiar to me during the course of the voyage, excepting
the two I most eagerly sought; and became convinced that neither Roger
Fairfax nor his niece had yet come upon deck. Sanchez was there,
however, standing alone and silent, seldom lifting his eyes to the
changing view ahead, but apparently buried in his own thoughts. Once
our glances accidentally met, and I could but observe the sudden
change in the man's expression—a change sinister and full of threat.
Whatever the original cause might be, his personal feeling toward me
was undoubtedly bitter and unforgiving, and he possessed no wish to
disguise it. The new life in the new world had already brought me both
friend and enemy before I had as yet touched foot on land.
THE WATERS OF THE CHESAPEAKE
The brig, with all sails set, and favored by a strong wind, drew
rapidly in toward the point of landing. The great majority of the
prisoners remained on deck, chained together and helpless, yet
surrounded by armed guards, while the few who had already been
purchased by passengers, humbly followed their new masters ashore the
moment the gang-plank touched the soil of Virginia. There were five of
us altogether thus favored, but I was the only one owing allegiance to
Roger Fairfax. The rude landing wharf along which we lay was already
densely crowded with men, their appearance and dress largely
proclaiming them to be planters from the interior, either gathered to
inspect the consignment of prisoners, or eager to purchase at low
prices the stores hidden away in the vessel's hold. Some among the
concourse, however, were undoubtedly present to welcome friends and
relatives among the passengers. Altogether it was a bustling scene,
full of change and color, the air noisy with shouting voices, the line
of wharves filled with a number of vessels, either newly arrived, or
preparing to depart. Servants both white and colored were busily at
work, under the command of overseers, loading and unloading cargoes,
while the high bank beyond was crowded with vehicles of various kinds.
News of the arrival of the Romping Betsy had evidently spread
widely, together with the rumor that she brought a number of prisoners
to be auctioned off. It was a good-natured, restless crowd, especially
anxious for any news from abroad, and eager to benefit from the sale.
The majority of the men I judged to be landowners, hearty, wholesome
looking fellows, whose lives were passed out-of-doors, dressed in
their best in honor of the occasion. The prevailing fashion was a
broad-leafed, felt hat with one side looped up to the crown by a
brilliant metal button, a velvet coat with long, voluminous skirts,
wide sleeves, metallic buttons as large as a Spanish dollar, short
breeches, and long stockings with gold or silver knee and shoe
buckles. Many wore swords, while those who did not bore about with
them enormous gold or silver-headed canes. The smoking of pipes was
common, and thoughtless profanity was to be heard on all sides as an
ordinary part of speech. It was with no small difficulty we succeeded
in forcing our way through this jostling throng until we attained to
an open space ashore.
I followed closely behind the three composing our party, Roger
Fairfax, and Sanchez, with the laughing girl between them for
protection, pressing a passage forward. Even had I not been laden with
packages my general appearance and dress would doubtless have
proclaimed my position, and aroused passing interest. I heard voices
calling attention to me, while curious eyes stared into my face.
Fairfax was evidently well known to a number present, for he was being
greeted on all sides with hearty hand-shakes, and words of welcome.
"Ah, back again, Roger; and what fortune in London?" "A fair price
for the crop?"
"Is the lad trailing behind ye one o' Monmouth's men?"
"Any news, friend, in Parliament? What is the latest on the tax?"
"And pray who is this damsel, Roger; not Hugh Fairfax's girl? Ay,
quite the woman now."
"Your men? They're over there, across the road. Of course I know; did
I not come from the dock with them?"
There were two of them, both negroes, but one, addressed by Fairfax as
Sam, was much the lighter in color, and far more intelligent of face.
A few words of instruction dispatched these back to the Romping
Betsy for the luggage yet remaining on board, while our own party
continued to advance along the water front toward where Sam had
designated the Fairfax boat would be found awaiting us, fully prepared
to depart up the Chesapeake. When finally attained this vessel proved
to be a goodly sized sloop, of a type familiar to those waters,
containing a comfortable small cabin forward, a staunch, broad-beamed
craft, but with lines indicating sailing qualities, while requiring
only a small crew. Several similar vessels—doubtless owned and
operated by planters residing along the shore of the Bay—were
anchored in the basin, or fastened at the dock, but the Adele had
been warped in against the bank, which at this point was high enough
to enable us easily to step aboard over the low rail. A dingy looking
white man, quite evidently from his appearance an indentured servant,
was in charge, He greeted us rather surlily, staring at me with
almost open hostility, yet responded swiftly enough to Fairfax's
"Here, Carr, stow these packages away. Yes, you better help with them,
Carlyle. The other bags will be along directly—Sam and John have gone
after them. Put these forward, under cover. Has everything been seen
to, so we can start at once?"
"Ay, ay, sorr," was the gruff response, in a strong Irish brogue.
"Lord knows we've hid toime enough, fer we've bin waitin' here fer yer
a wake, er more. It's a month since the lether came."
"We have had a slow voyage, Carr. So all I ordered is aboard?"
"She's full oop ter the hatches; bedad I hope thar ain't no more."
"Good; we ought to get as far as Travers' by dark then. Hurry along,
and stow that stuff away; here come the others now."
The three found comfortable seats along the opposite rail, and sat
there watching us hastily bring aboard the various articles which the
two negroes, assisted by a boy and a cart, had transported from the
brig. I worked along with the others, under the orders of Sam, who
seemed to be in charge, already feeling somewhat deeply the
humiliation of my position, but nevertheless realizing the necessity
of prompt obedience. The knowledge that I was now a slave, on a level
with these others, compelled to perform menial labor under the very
eyes of Dorothy Fairfax and that sneering Spaniard, cut my pride to
the quick. In my trips back and forth I kept my eyes averted, never
once venturing to glance toward them, until this work had been
accomplished. But when we stood idle, while Sam went aft for
instructions, I had recovered sufficient nerve to turn my eyes in that
direction, only to observe that the young woman sat with head turned
away, gazing out over the rail at the shore, her chin cupped in her
hands, her thoughts apparently far away. Strange as it may seem her
obvious indifference hurt me oddly, my only comprehension being that
she did not in the least care; that in fact she had already entirely
dismissed me from her mind. This supposition, whether true or false,
instantly hardened me to my fate, and I stared at Sanchez, meeting his
eyes fairly, at once angered by the sneer on his lips and the open
insult of his manner. He turned toward her, fingering a cheroot, and
said something; but, though she answered, her head remained
motionless, her eyes searching the shore indifferently. A figure or
two appeared along the summit of the bank, voices calling to Fairfax,
who stood up as he replied, ending the conversation with a wave of the
hand to Sam, who had taken position at the wheel. The latter began
shouting orders in a shrill voice. Carr cast off, and, with the negro
and myself at the halliards, the mainsail rose to the caps, while we
began gliding out from the shore into the deeper water. By the time we
had hoisted the jib, and made all secure, we were out far enough to
feel the full force of the stiff breeze, the Adele careening until
her rail was awash, the white canvas soaring above us against the
misty blue of the sky.
There was little to be done after the ropes had been coiled away, and
we were fairly out into the broader reaches of the Bay. The wind held
steady, requiring no shifting of canvas, so Sam, having dispatched the
negro below to prepare lunch, and stationed Carr forward as lookout,
called me aft to the wheel. He was a rather pleasant-faced fellow,
yellow as saffron, with rings in his ears, and a wide mouth
"Massa Fairfax he say you real sailorman," he began, looking me over
carefully, with a nod of his head toward the group at the rail. "Dat
"Yes; I have been a number of years at sea."
"Dat what he say; dat he done bought yer fer dat reason mostly. Ah
reckon den ye kin steer dis boat?"
"I certainly can."
"So? Den Ah's sure goin' fer ter let yer try right now. Yer take hol',
while Ah stand by a bit."
I took his place, grasping the spokes firmly, and he stood aside,
watching every movement closely, as I held the speeding sloop steadily
up to the wind, the spray pouring in over the dipping rail forward.
The grin on his lips broadened.
"What is the course?" I asked curiously.
"'Cross ter dat point yonder—see, whar de lone tree stan's; we done
'round dat 'bout tree hunder' yards out, an' then go straight 'way
"You use no chart?"
He burst into a guffaw, as though the question was a rare joke.
"No, sah; I nebber done saw one."
"But surely you must steer by compass?"
"Dar is a little one somewhar on board, and Ah done ain't seed it fer
mor 'n a yare, Ah reckon. 'Tain't no use enyhow. Whut we steer by is
landmarks. Ah sure does know de Chesapeake. Yer ever bin up de Bay?"
"Yes, twice, but out in the deep water. I suppose you hug along the
west shore. How is the sloop—pretty heavily loaded?"
He nodded, still grinning cheerfully over the ease with which I
manipulated the wheel.
"Chuck full ter de water line; we've done been shovin' things inter
dat hold fer a week past, but she's sure a good sailor. Whut wus it
Massa Roger say yer name wus?"
"So he did; don't ever recollect hearin' dat name afore. Ye's one of
dem rebels ober in England?"
"I got mixed up in the affair."
"An' whut dey done give yer?"
"My sentence, you mean—twenty years."
"Lordy! dat's sure tough. Well, I reckon yer done know yer job all
right, so I'll just leave yer here awhile, an' go forrard an' git a
snack. Ain't eat nuthin' fer quite a spell. Ah'll be back afore yer
'round de point yonder."
I was alone at the wheel, the sloop in my control, and somehow as I
stood there, grasping those spokes, the swift boat leaping forward
through the water, leaning recklessly over before the force of the
wind, the numbing sense of helpless servitude left me in a new return
of manhood and responsibility. It was a scene of exhilaration, the
sun, still partially obscured by misty clouds already well down in the
western sky, with the tossing waves of the Bay foam-crested. The
distant headlands appeared spectral and gray through the vapor, while
the waters beyond took on the tint of purple shadows. The Adele
responded to the helm gallantly, the spreading canvas above standing
out like a board, a broad wake of white foam spreading far astern. Not
another sail appeared across that troubled surface of waters, not even
a fisherman's boat, the only other vessel visible along our course
being a dim outline close in against that far-away headland toward
which I had been instructed to steer. I stared at this indistinct
object, at first believing it a wreck, but finally distinguishing the
bare masts of a medium-sized bark, evidently riding at anchor only a
few hundred yards off shore.
Satisfied as to this, my glance shifted to our own decks, feeling a
seaman's admiration for the cleanliness of the little vessel, and the
shipshape condition of everything aboard. The decks had more the
appearance of a pleasure yacht, than that of a cargo carrier, although
the broad beam, and commodious hatches bespoke ample storage room
below. Apparently all this hold space had been reserved for the
transportation of goods, the passenger quarters being forward, with
the cook's galley at the foot of the mast. Where the crew slept I was
unable to discern, but they were few in number, and as Sam had
disappeared up a short ladder, and then across the roof of the cabin,
it was highly probable there would be a compact forecastle nestled
between the bows. The blacker negro was busily engaged in the galley,
his figure occasionally visible at the open door, and a column of
black smoke poured out through the tin funnel. The deck planks were
scrubbed white, and the hand-rails had been polished until they
The three passengers still remained seated together, the men
conversing, and occasionally pointing forth at some object across the
water, but, while I watched the little group, the girl made no
movement, nor attempt at speech. None of them even so much as glanced
toward me, and I felt that, already, I had been dismissed from their
thought, had been relegated to my proper position, had sunken to my
future place as a mere servant. Finally Mistress Dorothy arose to her
feet, and, with a brief word of explanation to her uncle, started
forward in the direction of the cabin. A sudden leap of the boat
caused her to clutch the rail, and instantly Sanchez was at her side,
proffering assistance. They crossed the dancing deck together, his
hand upon her arm, and paused for a moment at the door to exchange a
few sentences. When the Spaniard came back he pointed out to Fairfax
the position of the still distant bark, which however was by this time
plainly revealed off our port quarter. The planter stood up in order
to see better, and then the two crossed the deck to a position only a
few yards from where I stood at the wheel, and remained there, staring
out across the intervening water.
"Surely a strange place in which to anchor, Lieutenant," said Fairfax
at last, breaking the silence, his hand shading his eyes. "Bark
rigged, and very heavily sparred. Seems to be all right. What do you
make of the vessel?"
The Spaniard twisted his moustache, but exhibited little interest,
although his gaze was upon the craft.
"Decidedly Dutch I should say," he answered slowly, "to judge from
the shape of her lines, and the size of her spars. The beggars seem
quite at home there, with all their washing out. Not a usual
"No, nor a particularly safe one. There are some very heavy seas off
that point at times, and there is no plantation near by. Travers'
place is beyond the bend. We'll put up with him tonight; he owns that
land yonder, but his wharf is several miles up the coast. Damn me,
Sanchez, I believe I 'll hail the fellow, and find out what he is
doing in there."
Sanchez nodded, carelessly striking flint and steel in an effort to
relight a cheroot, and Fairfax turned his head toward me.
"Oh, is that you, Carlyle? Where is Sam?"
"Gone forward, sir, half an hour ago. He decided I was safe."
The planter laughed, with a side glance toward Sanchez, who gave no
sign that he overhead.
"No doubt he was right. Port your helm a little, and run down as close
as seems safe to that fellow out yonder, until I hail him."
"Very well, sir."
We came about slowly, tossed a bit by the heavy swell, the ponderous
boom swinging, and permitting the loosened canvas to flap against the
ropes, until the sloop finally steadied onto the new tack. The
distance to be covered was not great, and in less than ten minutes, we
were drawing in toward the high stern of the anchored vessel. She was
larger than I had thought, a lumping craft for those days, bark
rigged, with lower spars the heaviest I had ever seen. No evidence of
life appeared on board, although everything looked shipshape alow and
aloft, and a rather extensive wash flapped in the wind forward,
bespeaking a generous crew. There was no flag at the mizzen to signify
nationality, yet there was a peculiar touch to the rig which confirmed
in my mind the truth of Sanchez's guess that she was originally Dutch.
A moment later this supposition was confirmed as my eyes made out the
name painted across the stern—NAMUR OF ROTTERDAM.
Fairfax leaned far out across the rail, as we swept in closer, his
eyes searching the stranger's side for some evidence of human presence
aboard, but the Spaniard exhibited no particular interest in the
proceedings, standing motionless, the smoke of the cheroot blown idly
from his mouth, The fellow's face was turned from me, yet I could not
help note the insolence of his attitude, in spite of my occupation at
the wheel. A hundred feet distant, I held the dancing sloop to mere
steerage-way, while Fairfax hailed in a voice which went roaring
across the water like a gun.
"Ahoy, the bark!"
A red-faced man with a black beard thrust his head up above the after
rail, and answered, using English, yet with a faint accent which was
not Dutch. What he looked like below the shoulders could not be
"Veil, vat's vanted? Vos anyding wrong?"
"No, not aboard here," returned Fairfax, a bit puzzled at the reply,
"We ran down to see if you were in any trouble. This is a strange
place to anchor. What are you—Dutch?"
The fellow waved his hands in a gesture indicating disgust. "Dat's
eet. Ve're out ov Rotterdam—you see ze name ov ze sheep. But ve not
sail frum thar dis time—no. Ve cum here from ze Barbadoes," he
explained brokenly "wiz cane-sugar, an' hides. Ve vait here for our
"But why anchor in a place like this? Why not go on up to the wharfs?"
"Vye not? For ziz—I no trust my crew ashore. Zay Vest Indy niggers,
an' vud run avay ven ze chance cum. I know vat zay do."
In spite of my efforts the two vessels were drifting rapidly apart,
and this last explanation came to us over the water in a faint thread
of sound barely discernible. I asked if I should tack back, but
Fairfax shook his head, and in a moment more we were beyond reach of
the voice. Dorothy appeared at the door of the cabin and stood there,
gazing in surprise at the bark, while the moment he caught sight of
her Sanchez went hastily forward, removing his hat with so peculiar a
flourish as he approached as to cause me to notice the gesture.
Fairfax remained beside the rail, staring out across the widening
water, clearly dissatisfied, but finally waved his hand in a command
to me to resume our course. Shortly after he crossed the deck to the
wheel, and stood there beside me, still watchful of the dwindling
vessel already far astern.
"What do you make of her, Carlyle?" he asked finally, turning slightly
to glance at my face. "I believe that fellow lied."
"So do I, sir," I answered promptly. "Whatever else he may be, he's
no peaceful Dutch trader. The bark is Dutch built all right, and no
doubt once sailed out of Rotterdam; but that fellow got his accent
from South Europe."
"Damn me, that's just what I thought."
"Nor is that all, sir. If he was loaded with cane-sugar and hides for
market, he wouldn't be nearly so high out of water. That bark was in
ballast, or I miss my guess. Besides, if he was a trader, where was
his crew? There wasn't a single head popped over the rail while we
were alongside; and that isn't natural. Even a West India nigger has
curiosity. I tell you the men on board that hooker had orders to keep
Fairfax stroked his chin, his eyes shifting from the distant vessel to
Dorothy and Sanchez who were now making their way slowly aft, the
latter grasping the girl's arm, and smirking as he talked rapidly.
"By God! but I believe you are right," he admitted frankly, "although
it had not occurred to me before. There is something wrong there. I'll
tell Travers, and have him send a runner overland to give warning
FAIRFAX SPEAKS WITH ME
Sanchez drew a chair into the slight shade cast by the mainsail, and
induced his reluctant companion to sit down. He remained bending over
her, with his back turned toward us chattering away, although she only
answered in monosyllables, seldom glancing up into his face. With
hands gripping the spokes of the wheel, and my attention concentrated
on the course ahead, I could yet notice how closely Fairfax was
observing the two, with no pleasant expression in his eyes, and,
forgetful that I was merely a servant, I ventured a question.
"You have known Senor Sanchez for some time, sir?"
He started in surprise, yet answered as though the unexpected query
had been merely an echo of his own thoughts.
"No," he admitted frankly. "Indeed I hardly know how it happened that
I invited him to join our party. It seemed natural enough then, but
lately I confess to having taken a dislike to the fellow, and have
begun to imagine that he even pushed his way on me. But," he stopped,
suddenly realizing what he was saying, "why do you ask?"
I was not wholly prepared to say, yet as instantly comprehended the
prompt necessity of advancing some reasonable explanation. There came
to me swiftly, from the sharpness of his question, the paralyzing
knowledge that I was a servant addressing my master.
"Of course it is no business of mine," I confessed, rather lamely,
"who your guests are. I'm sorry I spoke."
"It is altogether too late to say that," he insisted. "Some thought
prompted the inquiry. Go on. See here, Carlyle, you are no nigger or
white thief. I know the difference, and recognize that you are
gentleman born. Because I've bought your services for a term of years,
is no reason why you cannot talk to me like a man. Do you know
anything about this Spaniard?"
"Not very much, sir. He has seen fit to threaten me, on account of
some row he has had with a brother of mine in England."
"In England! The Duke of Bucclough?"
"Yes. I haven't the slightest knowledge of what it was all about, but
evidently our Spanish friend got the worst of it. He planned to buy me
in at the sale; but, fortunately for me, you gained possession ahead
"Do you mean to say that he told you all this?"
"It came out in a moment of anger."
Fairfax looked at me incredulously.
"See here, Carlyle," he exclaimed bluntly, "I am not questioning your
word, but it is a bit difficult for me to understand why a guest of
mine should indulge in angry controversy with a government prisoner,
sent overseas for sale as an indentured servant. There must have been
some unusual cause. Haven't I a right to know what that cause was,
without using my authority to compel an answer?"
I hesitated, but only for a moment. He undoubtedly was entitled to
know, and besides there was nothing involved I needed to conceal.
"It is my impression, sir, that Mistress Dorothy was the unconscious
cause. She chanced to discover me alone on deck the night before we
landed, and hastened to tell me of your purchase. It was merely an act
of kindness, as we had never spoken together before. We were still
talking across the rope, when Sanchez came out of the cabin, and
joined us. I imagine he may not have liked the interest both you and
the young lady had shown in me since we came aboard. Anyway when he
found us there, he was not in good humor. Mistress Dorothy resented
his language, treated him coldly, and finally departed, leaving him
decidedly angry. He merely vented his spite on me."
"But he said nothing about himself—his motives?"
"Not a word, sir; yet it is plain to be seen that he is deeply
interested in your niece."
Fairfax frowned, ignoring the remark.
"But do you know the man—who he is?"
I shook my head, the memory of Haley flashing into my mind, but as
instantly dismissed as worthless. Fairfax would only laugh at such a
vague suspicion. Yet why should the planter ask me such a question?
Could it be that the Spaniard was equally unknown to himself?
"But if he has quarreled with your brother," he insisted, unsatisfied
"you perhaps know something?"
"I have not seen my brother in years. I doubt if I would know him if
we met face to face. As to this man, my knowledge of him is only what
little I have seen and heard on board the Romping Betsy," I answered
soberly. "I confess a prejudice; that I am unable to judge him
fairly. In the first place I do not like his race, nor his kind; but I
did suppose, of course, that, as he was your guest, you considered him
a man worthy your hospitality."
Fairfax's face reddened, and he must have felt the sting of these
words, uttered as they were by the lips of his bondman. I thought he
would turn abruptly away, leaving them unanswered, but he was too much
of a gentleman.
"Carlyle," he said brusquely, "you have touched the exact point—I do
not know. I thought I did, of course, but what has occurred on the
voyage over has led me to doubt. I met Sanchez at the Colonial Club in
London. He was introduced to me by Lord Sandhurst as a wealthy young
Spaniard, traveling for pleasure. It was understood that he brought
letters of introduction to a number of high personages. He knew London
well, enjoyed a wide circle of acquaintances, and we became rather
intimate. I found him companionable and deeply interested in America,
which he said he had never visited. Finally I invited him to accompany
me as a guest on my return."
"No, not at once; he doubted if he could break off certain business
engagements in England. Then, at a reception, he chanced to meet my
niece, and, a little later, decided to undertake the voyage. I am
inclined to believe she was the determining factor."
"Very likely," I admitted, deciding now to learn all possible details.
"However, that is not to be wondered at. Mistress Dorothy is an
exceedingly attractive young woman."
The look he gave me was far from pleasant.
"But she is not a girl for any swash-buckling Spaniard to carry off as
prize," he burst out hotly. "God's mercy! Her father would never
forgive me if that happened."
"Never fear," I said dryly, "it is not going to happen."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because I have seen them together, and am not entirely blind, Watch
them now—she scarcely responds to his words."
His eyes rested for a moment on the two, but he only shook his head
"No one knows what is in the heart of a woman, Carlyle. Sanchez is
fairly young, handsome in a way, and adventurous. Just the sort to
attract a young girl, and he possesses an easy tongue. More than that,
I have lost faith in him. He is not a gentleman."
"You surely must have reason for those words, sir," I exclaimed in
surprise. "He has revealed to you his true nature during the voyage?"
"Unconsciously—yes. We have had no exchange of words, no controversy.
He is even unaware that I have observed these things. Some were of
very small moment, perhaps unworthy of being repeated, although they
served to increase my doubt as to the man's character. But two
instances remain indelibly stamped on my mind. The first occurred when
we were only three days at sea. It was at night, and the two of us
chanced to be alone, on deck. I was reclining in the shadow of the
flag locker, in no mood for conversation, and he was unaware of my
presence as he tramped nervously back and forth. Suddenly he stopped,
and reached over into the quarter-boat, and when he stood up again he
had the Captain's pet cat in his hands. Before I dreamed of such a
thing he had hurled that helpless creature into the water astern."
"Good God! an act of wanton cruelty."
"The deliberate deed of a fiend; of one who seeks pleasure in
"And the other incident? Was that of the same nature?"
"It was not an incident, but a revelation. The fellow is not only,
beneath his pretense of gentleness, a fiend at heart, but he is also a
consummate liar. He led me to believe in London—indeed he told me so
directly—that he was totally unacquainted with America. It is not
true. He knows this entire coast even better than I do. He forgot
himself twice in conversation with me, and he was incautious enough to
speak freely with Captain Harnes. The Captain told me later."
"This begins to sound serious, sir," I said, as he ceased speaking.
"Do you suspect him of any particular purpose in this deceit?"
"Not at present; I can only wait, and learn. As a Spanish naval
officer he may have obtained some knowledge of this coast—but why he
should have deliberately denied the possession of such information is
unexplainable at present. I shall watch him closely, and have told you
these facts merely to put you on guard. I know you to be a gentleman,
Carlyle, even though you are temporarily a servant, and I feel
convinced I can trust in your discretion."
"You certainly can, sir. I appreciate your confidence in me." "Then
keep your eyes and ears open; that's all. Dorothy is calling, and
yonder comes Sam."
We had yet a full hour of daylight, during which little occurred of
special interest. Sam took the wheel, while I ate supper, sitting with
Carr on the deck behind the galley. Fairfax and his guests, were
served at a table within the small cabin, and we had a glimpse of
them, and their surroundings, the table prettily decorated with snowy
linen, and burnished silver, while John, in a white jacket, waited
upon them obsequiously, lingering behind his master's chair. The
Lieutenant seemed in excellent humor, laughing often, and talking
incessantly, although it occurred to me the man received scant
encouragement from the others. After taking back to the galley my
emptied pewter dish, and not being recalled aft to the wheel, I was
glad to hang idly over the rail, watching the shore line slip past,
and permit my thoughts to drift back to my conversation with Fairfax.
Carr soon joined me, rather anxious to continue our talk, and ask
questions, but not finding me particularly responsive, finally
departed forward, leaving me alone.
The sun by this time was rapidly sinking below the fringe of tall
trees on the main-land, but the fresh breeze held favorably, and the
little Adele was making most excellent progress, the water being
much smoother since we had rounded the point. We were already beyond
view of the anchored bark. All about was a scene of loneliness,
whether the searching eyes sought the near-by shore, apparently a
stretch of uninhabited wilderness, densely forested, or the broad
extent of the Bay, across which no white gleam of sail was visible.
All alike was deserted, and becoming gloomy in the closing down of
night. Dorothy remained hidden in the cabin, until about the time of
our approach to the rude landing at Travers' plantation. Whether this
isolation arose from an effort to make herself more presentable, or a
desire to avoid further contact with the Spaniard, was a question.
When she finally emerged at Roger Fairfax's call, and crossed the deck
to where the men were, there was no alteration in her dress, but by
that time I was busily engaged with Carr in reefing the mainsail, and
she passed me by without so much as a glance of recognition. Meanwhile
Fairfax and Sanchez paced restlessly back and forth, conversing
earnestly as they smoked, only occasionally pausing to contemplate the
shore past which we were gliding in silence, the only sound the ripple
of water at our stem.
Where I leaned alone against the rail, my eyes followed the Spaniard
in doubt and questioning, nor could I entirely banish from mind
Haley's description of that buccaneer, bearing a similar name, under
whom he had been compelled to serve through scenes of crime. Yet, in
spite of my unconscious desire to connect these two together, I found
it simply impossible to associate this rather soft-spoken, effeminate
dandy with that bloody villain, many of whose deeds were so familiar
to me. The distinction was too apparent. Beyond all doubt this fellow
concealed beneath his smiles a nature entirely different from the one
he now so carefully exhibited. He could hate fiercely, and nourish
revenge, and he was capable of mean, cowardly cruelty. His threat
toward me, as well as that strange incident Fairfax had observed on
the deck of the Romping Betsy, evidenced all this clearly, yet such
things rather proved the man a revengeful coward instead of a
desperate adventurer. Black Sanchez, according to all accounts, was a
devil incarnate, and no such popinjay as this maker of love, could
ever be changed into a terror of the sea. He was not of that stern
stuff. That it was perfectly easy for him to lie—even natural—was no
surprise to me. This seemed to accord with his other characteristics;
nor was it altogether strange that he should be fairly familiar with
these waters. If, as he claimed, he had once been connected with the
Spanish navy, which quite likely was true, even if he had never
visited this coast in person, he might have had access to their charts
and maps. It was well known that early Spanish navigators had explored
every inch of this coast line, and that their tracings, hastily as
they had been made, were the most correct in existence. His memory of
these might yet retain sufficient details through which he could
pretend to a knowledge much greater than he really possessed.
No, I would dismiss that thought permanently from my mind, as being
quite impossible. I felt that I had learned to judge men; that my long
years at sea, both before the mast, and in supreme command, had
developed this faculty so as to be depended upon. I believed that I
knew the class to which Lieutenant Sanchez belonged—he was a low-born
coward, dangerous only through treachery, wearing a mask of bravado,
capable enough of any crime or cruelty, but devoid of boldness in plan
or execution; a fellow I would kick with pleasure, but against whom I
should never expect to be obliged to draw a sword. He was a snake,
who could never be made into a lion—a character to despise, not fear.
And so I dismissed him, feeling no longer any serious sense of danger
in his presence, yet fully determined to watch closely his future
movements in accordance with my promise.
It was already quite dusk when we finally drew in beside Travers'
wharf, and made fast. Our approach had been noted, and Travers
himself—a white-haired, white-bearded man, yet still hearty and
vigorous, attired in white duck—was on the end of the dock to greet
us, together with numerous servants of every shade of color, who
immediately busied themselves toting luggage up the steep path leading
toward the house, dimly visible in the distance, standing conspicuous
amid a grove of trees on the summit, of the bank. The others followed,
four fellows lugging with difficulty an iron-bound chest, the two
older men engaged in earnest conversation, thus leaving Sanchez
apparently well satisfied with the opportunity alone to assist the
girl. Except to render the sloop completely secure for the night,
there remained little work for us to perform on board. Sam found an
ample supply of tobacco and pipes, and the four of us passed the early
evening undisturbed smoking and talking together. The fellows were not
uninteresting as I came to know them better, and Carr, who I learned
had been transported three years before for robbery, having at one
time been a soldier, was prolific of reminiscences, which he related
with true Irish wit. Sam contented himself with asking me numerous
questions relative to the Duke of Monmouth, whose effort to attain the
throne interested him greatly, and I very gladly gave him all the
information I possessed. So the time passed quickly, and it must have
been nearly midnight before we brought out blankets from the
forecastle, and lay down in any spot we chose on deck.
It was a fair, calm night, but moonless, with but little wind
stirring, and a slight haze in the air, obscuring the vision. The
windows of the great house above, which earlier in the evening had
blazed with lights, were now darkened, and the distant sounds of
voices and laughter had entirely ceased. The only noise discernible as
I lay quiet was the soft lapping of waves against the side of the
sloop or about the piling supporting the wharf to which we were
moored. The others must have fallen asleep immediately, but my own
mind remained far too active to enable me to lose consciousness. At
last, despairing of slumber, and perchance urged by some indistinct
premonition of danger, I sat up once more and gazed about. The three
men were lying not far apart, close in to the galley wall, merely
dark, shapeless shadows, barely to be distinguished in the gloom. With
no longer any fear of disturbing them, I arose to my feet, and
stepping carefully past their recumbent forms, moved silently aft
toward the more open space near the wheel. I had been standing there
hardly a minute, staring blankly out into the misty dimness of the
Bay, when my startled eyes caught glimpse of a speck of white emerging
from the black shadows—the spectral glimmer of a small sail. I was
scarcely convinced I had seen it, yet as swiftly crouched lower,
hiding myself behind the protection of the rail, instantly alert to
learn the meaning of this strange apparition. An instant told me this
was no deceit. The strange craft swept past, so far out that those on
board no doubt believed themselves beyond sight from the shore,
heading apparently for a point of land, which I vaguely remembered as
jutting out to the northward. Even my eyes, accustomed to the
darkness, and strained to the utmost, could detect scarcely more than
the faintest shadow gliding silently by, yet sufficient to recognize
the outlines of a small keel boat, propelled by a single lug sail, and
even imagined I could discern the stooped figure of a man at the helm.
THE LIEUTENANT UNMASKED
I had in truth hardly more than grasped the reality of the boat's
presence—it seemed so spectral a thing amid the mists of the
night—when it had vanished utterly once more behind the curtain of
darkness. There was no sound to convince me my eyes had not deceived;
that I had actually perceived a boat, flying before the wind, under
complete control, and headed to the northward. No echo of a voice came
across the water, no slight flap of sail, no distant creak of pulley,
or groaning of rope—merely that fleeting vision, seemingly a phantom
of imagination, a vision born from sea and cloud. Yet I knew I was not
deceived. Where the craft could be bound; for what secret purpose it
was afloat; who were aboard, were but so many unanswerable questions
arising in my mind. I stared vainly into the darkness, puzzled and
uncertain, impressed alone by the one controlling thought, that some
mysterious object, some hidden purpose alone could account for that
swift, silent passage. Where could they have come from, unless from
that strange Dutch bark riding at anchor off the point below? The
passing craft had impressed me as a ship's boat, and no craft of
fishermen; and if it really came from the Namur of Rotterdam, had it
been sent in answer to some signal by Sanchez? I could think of
nothing else. They must have chosen this late hour purposely; they
had doubtless endeavored to slip past us unobserved, seeking some more
desolate spot on the coast where they might land unseen. Possibly,
deceived by the night, the helmsman had approached closer to the wharf
than he had intended; yet, nevertheless, if he held to his present
course, he must surely touch shore not more than five hundred yards
distant. In all probability that was his purpose.
I stood up, tempted at first to arouse Sam, but deciding almost as
quickly that at present this was unnecessary. I had no wish to be the
occasion for laughter; it would be better first to ascertain who these
parties were, rather than create an unwarranted alarm. The reasonable
probability was they composed merely a party of innocent fishermen,
returning home after a day of sport—plantation servants possibly, who
having stolen away unobserved, were now endeavoring to beach their
stolen boat, and reach quarters without being seen. This theory
appeared far more reasonable than the other, and, if it proved true,
to arouse the sleepers on deck, would only result in making me a butt
for ridicule. It appeared safe enough for me to adventure alone, and I
was at least determined to assure myself as to the identity of these
strangers. If they had actually landed it would require only a few
moments to ascertain the truth, and I could accomplish this fully as
well by myself, as though accompanied by others—indeed with less
danger of discovery. I quietly lowered my body over the rail, and
found footing on the wharf.
My knowledge of the path to be pursued was extremely vague, for our
arrival had been in the dusk of the evening, so that any observation
of the shore lines had been quite casual. I merely remembered that the
bluff rose rather steeply from the water's edge, the path leading
upward toward the house crowning the summit, turning and twisting in
order to render the climb easier, and finally vanishing entirely as it
approached the crest. Beside this, leading downward straight to the
shore end of the wharf, was the broad slide, along which the bales and
hogsheads of tobacco were sent hurtling on their way to market. My
impression remained that the strip of beach was decidedly narrow, and
generally bordered by a rather thick growth of dwarfed shrub. The
point of land beyond clung dimly in my memory as sparsely wooded,
tapering at its outer extremity into a sand bar against which the
restless waves of the Bay broke in lines of foam. The only feasible
method of approach to the spot I now sought would be by following this
narrow strip of beach, yet this might be attempted safely, as my
movements would be concealed by the darker background of the high
bluff at the left.
In spite of the unfamiliarity of this passage, I succeeded in making
excellent progress, advancing silently along the soft sand, assured I
was safe from observation by reason of the intense darkness. The waves
lapping the beach helped muffle my footsteps, but no other sound
reached my ears, nor could my eyes perceive the slightest movement
along the water surface within reach of vision. The distance proved
somewhat greater than anticipated, because of the deep curve in the
shore, and I had nearly reached the conclusion that the boat must have
rounded the point and gone on, when suddenly I was brought to a halt
by a voice speaking in Spanish—one of those harsh, croaking voices,
never to be reduced to a whisper. Imperfect as was my knowledge of the
tongue, I yet managed a fair understanding of what was being said.
"Not the spot, Manuel? Of course it is; do you not suppose I know? The
cursed fog made me run in close ashore to where I could see the sloop,
so as not to mistake. This is the place, and now there is nothing to
do but wait. The Senor—he will be here presently."
"Ay, unless you misread the signal," a somewhat more discreet, but
piping voice replied doubtfully. "I saw nothing of all you tell
"Because you knew no meaning, nor read the instructions," a touch of
anger in the tone. "I tell you it was all written out in that letter
brought to me from England on the Wasp. They were his last orders,
and it was because of them that we anchored off the point yonder, and
explored this coast. You saw the Senor touch the handkerchief to his
"As he went forward alone—yes, surely."
"It was that motion which bade us come here, Manuel. Once for each
cursed plantation along this west coast from the point. He touched the
cloth to his cheek but the once, and this is the first. I watched for
the sign with care for he is not one with whom to make a mistake."
"Dios de Dios! Do I not know, Estada? Have I not a scar here which
"True, enough; and have I not received also my lesson—eight hours
staked face upward in the sun. So 'tis my very life wagered on this
being the place named. Besides 'tis proven by the sloop lying there
by the wharf."
"Where then is the Captain?" perversely unsatisfied.
"At the house yonder on the hill—where else? He knew how it would be,
for this is not his first visit to the Bay. 'Twas because of his
knowledge he could plan in England. Tis the custom of these planters
to stop by night along the way, and go ashore; not to camp, but as
guests of some friend. Only beforehand it was not possible for him to
know which plantation would be the one chosen. That was what he must
signal. You see it now?"
"Clearly, Estada; he is the same wary fox as of old."
"Never do they catch him napping," proudly. "Santa Maria! have I not
seen it tried often in ten years?"
"About his plan here? He wrote you his purpose?"
"Not so much as a word; merely the order what to do. Dios! he tells
nothing, for he trusts no man. A good thing that. Yet I have my own
"And what is that?"
The other hesitated, as though endeavoring to rearrange the idea in
his own mind, and possibly doubtful of how much to confide to his
companion. When he finally replied his words came forth so swiftly I
could scarcely grasp their meaning with my slight knowledge of the
"'Tis no more than that I make a guess, friend, yet I have been with
the Captain for ten years now, and know his way. This planter Fairfax
is rich. The letter says nothing of that—no, not a word; but I made
inquiries ashore. There is no one more wealthy in these Colonies, and
he returns now from London, after the sale of his tobacco crop. No
doubt he sold for his neighbors also. 'Tis the way they do, form a
combine, and send an agent to England to get the best price. He will
surely bear back with him a great sum. This the Senor knows; nor is it
the first time he has done the trick, Manuel. Santa Maria! 'tis the
easiest one of all. Then there is the girl."
"The one who was aboard the sloop?"
"Of course. I knew nothing of her, but I have keen eyes, and I have
been long with the Senor. Marked you not how he approached her? No sea
rover ever had greater desire for women, or won them easier. 'Tis a
bright eye and red lip that wins him from all else. Even to me this
one looked a rare beauty; yet am I sorry he found her, for it may
delay the task here."
"Why must you fear that?"
"Bah! but you are stupid. Who will take by force what may be won by a
few soft words?" He paused suddenly, evidently struck by a new
thought. "Yet I think, Manuel, the Captain may have failed in this
case. I watched their greeting, and her's was not that of love. If
this be true, we strike at once, while it is safe."
"Here, you mean—tonight?"
"And why not here, and tonight? Is there a better spot or time? With
another night the sloop will be far up the Bay, while now from where
we are anchored, we could be beyond the Capes by daybreak, with the
broad ocean before us. We are five—six with the Senor—and our ship
lies but a short league away, ready for sea. There are only four men
on the sloop, with some servants above—spiritless fellows. Why else
should he have signaled our coming, unless there was work to do? That
will be the plan, to my notion—the money and the girl in one swoop;
then a quick sail to the southward. Pist! 'tis boys' play."
The other seemed to lick his lips, as though the picture thus drawn
greatly pleased him.
"Gracioso Dios! I hope 'tis so. It has been dull enough here this
month past. I am for blue water, and an English ship to sack."
"Or, better yet, a week at Porto Grande—hey, Manuel? The girls are
not so bad, with clink of gold in the pocket after a cruise. Wait,
though—there is someone coming down."
I crouched backward into the bushes, and, a moment later, the newcomer
moved past me scarcely a yard distant, along the narrow strip of sand.
He appeared no more than a black shadow, wrapped in a loose cloak,
thus rendered so shapeless as to be scarcely recognizable. Directly
opposite my covert he paused peering forward in uncertainty.
"Estada." He spoke the name cautiously, and in doubt.
"Ay, Captain," and another figure, also shapeless, and ill-defined,
emerged noiselessly from the gloom. "We await you."
"Good," the tone one of relief. "I rather questioned if you caught my
signal. I was watched, and obliged to exercise care. How many have you
"Four, Senor, with Manuel Estevan."
"Quite sufficient; and how about the others?"
"All safely aboard, Senor; asleep in their bunks by now, but ready.
Francois LeVere has charge of the deck watch."
"Ah! how happens it the quadroon is with you? A good choice, yet that
must mean the Vengeance is still at Porto Grande. For what reason?"
"Because of greater injuries than we supposed, Captain. There were two
shots in her below the water line, and to get at them we were obliged
to beach her. LeVere came with us, expecting this job would be done
before now, for by this time the schooner should be in water again,
her sides scraped clean of barnacles, fit for any cruise. We have been
waiting for you along this coast for several weeks."
"Yes, I know. The boat we intended to take met with an accident, while
the one we did take proved the slowest tub that ever sailed. How is it
here? Are there suspicions?"
"None, Senor. We have cruised outside most of the time. Only once were
we hailed; while Manuel, with a boat crew, was ashore for nearly a
week, picking up such news as he might. There is no warship in these
"So I discovered on landing; indeed I was told as much in England.
However your disguise is perfect."
"There is no mistaking where the Namur came from, Senor; she's
Holland from keel to topmast, but the best sailing Dutchman I ever
saw. You said you were being watched on the sloop. Are you known?"
The other uttered an oath snarling through his teeth.
"'Tis nothing," he explained contemptuously. "No more than the bite of
a harmless snake in the grass. A dog of a servant who came over with
us—one of Monmouth's brood. He has no knowledge of who I am, nor
suspicion of my purpose. It is not that, yet the fellow watches me
like a hawk. We had some words aboard and there is hate between us"
"If he was indentured, how came he on the sloop?"
"Fairfax bought him. The fellow won the interest of the girl coming
over, and she interceded in his behalf. It was my plan to get him into
my own hands. I'd have taught him a lesson, but the papers were signed
before we landed. Yet the lad is not through with me; I do not let go
in a hurry."
"May I ask you your plans, Senor?"
"Yes, I am here to explain. Are we out of ear-shot?"
"None can hear us. Manuel has gone back to the boat."
"Then listen. This planter, Fairfax, has returned from England with a
large sum. It is in gold and notes. I have been unable to learn the
exact amount, but it represents the proceeds in cash of the tobacco
crop of himself, and a number of his neighbors. They pooled, and made
him their agent. Without doubt, from all I could ascertain, it will be
upward of fifty thousand pounds—not a bad bit of pocket money. This
still remains in his possession, but a part will be dispersed
tomorrow; so if we hope to gain the whole, we must do so now."
"Fifty thousand pounds, you say? Gracioso Dios! a sum worth fighting
"Ay; we've done some hard fighting for less. It is here under our very
hands, and there could be no better place than this in which to take
it. Everything is ready, and there is not the slightest suspicion of
danger—not even a guard set over the treasure. I assured myself of
this before coming down."
"Then it is at the house?"
"In an iron-bound chest, carried up from the sloop, and placed in the
room assigned to Fairfax for the night. He considers it perfectly safe
under his bed. But before we attempt reaching this, we must attend to
those men left below on the boat. They are the only dangerous ones,
for there are none of the fighting sort up above. Only two servants
sleep in the main house, the cook, and a maid, both women. The others
are in the slave quarters, a half mile away. Fairfax is vigorous, and
will put up a fight, if he has any chance. He must be taken care of,
before he does have any. Travers is an old man, to be knocked out with
a blow. All we have to fear are those fellows on the sloop, and they
will have to be attended to quietly, without any alarm reaching the
house. I am going to leave that job to you—it's not your first."
"The old sea orders, Captain?"
"Ay, that will be quicker, and surer," The voice hardened in gust of
sudden ferocity. "But, mark you, with one exception—the Englishman is
not to be killed, if he can be taken alive. I would deal with him."
"How are we to recognize him from the others?"
"Pish! a blind man would know—he is the only one of that blood on
board, taller, and heavier of build, with blond hair. A mistake, and
you pay for it. Besides him there are two negroes, and an Irish fool.
It matters not what happens to them; a knife to the heart is the more
silent; but I would have this Geoffry Carlyle left alive to face me.
You will do well to remember."
"I will pass the word to the men."
"See that you do. Then after that," Sanchez went on deliberately, as
though murder was of small account, "you will follow me up the bluff.
Who are the others with you?"
"Carl Anderson, Pedro Mendez, and Cochose."
"Well chosen; Mendez is the least valuable, and we will leave him with
the prisoner at the boat. The big negro, Cochose, together with
Manuel, can attend to Travers, and the two negresses—they sleep
below. That will leave you and the Swede to get the chest. No
firearms, if they can be avoided."
"You are certain of the way, Senor—in the dark?"
"I have been over the house, and drawn a rude diagram. You can look it
over in the cabin of the sloop, after affairs have been attended to
there. The stairs lead up from the front hall. I will go with you to
the door of Fairfax's room."
Estada hesitated, as though afraid to further question his chief, yet
finally, in spite of this fear, the query broke from his lips.
"And you, Senor—the girl?"
"What know you of any girl?"
"That there was one on the deck of the sloop—an English beauty. It
was when you turned to greet her that you gave me the signal. I merely
thought that perhaps—"
"Then stop thinking," burst forth Sanchez enraged. "Thinking has
nothing to do with your work. If there is a girl, I attend to her. Let
that suffice. Dios! am I chief here, or are you? You have my orders,
now obey them, and hold your tongue. Bring the men up here."
Without a word, evidently glad to escape thus easily, Estada vanished
into the gloom, leaving behind only the vague figure of Sanchez pacing
the sands, his lips muttering curses. I dared not move, scarcely
indeed to breathe, so closely did he skirt my covert. To venture forth
would mean certain discovery; nor could I hope to steal away through
the bushes, where any twig might snap beneath my foot. What could I
do? How could I bring warning to those sleeping victims? This
heartless discussion of robbery and murder left me cold with horror,
yet helpless to lift a hand. I had no thought of myself, of my
possible fate when once delivered into the hands of this monster, this
arch villain, but all my agony of mind centered on the imminent danger
confronting Dorothy Fairfax, and those unsuspecting men. All my
preconceived impressions of Sanchez had vanished; he was no longer in
my imagination a weakling, a boastful, cowardly bravado, a love-sick
fool; but a leader of desperate men, a villain of the deepest dye—the
dreaded pirate, Black Sanchez, whose deeds of crime were without
number, and whose name was infamous. Confronted by Fairfax's
ill-guarded gold, maddened by the girl's contemptuous indifference, no
deed of violence and blood was too revolting for him to commit. What
he could not win by words, he would seize by force and make his own.
As coolly as another might sell a bolt of cloth, he would plan murder
and rape, and then smilingly watch the execution. And I—what could I
The little band of men emerged from the concealment of the fog
noiselessly, and gathered into a group about the figure of Sanchez,
where he stood motionless awaiting them. I could distinguish no faces,
scarcely indeed the outlines of their separate forms in the gloom, but
one was an unusually big fellow, far taller and heavier than his
companions. When he spoke he possessed a negro's voice, and I
recognized him at once for Cochose. The Captain swept his impatient
eyes about the circle.
"Lads," he said, incisively, a sharper note of leadership in the tone
"it has been a bit quiet for you lately; but now I am back again, and
we'll try our luck at sea once more. There must be many a laden ship
waiting for us. Does that sound good?"
There was a savage growl of response, a sudden leaning forward of dark
"I thought it would. We'll begin on a job tonight. There are fifty
thousand pounds for us in that house yonder, and I waive my share.
Estada will explain to you the work I want done; see that you do it
quietly and well. By daylight we shall be on blue water, with our
course set for Porto Grande. How is it, bullies, do you sniff the salt
"Ay, ay, Captain."
"And see the pretty girls waiting—and hear the chink of gold?"
"Then do not fail me tonight—and remember, it is to be the knife.
"I have forgotten one thing—scuttle the sloop before joining me. 'Tis
better to make all safe; and now, strong arms, and good luck. Go to
your task, and if one fails me, it will mean the lash at the
They moved off one by one, Estada leading, along the narrow strip of
sand, five of them, on their mission of murder. The leader remained
alone, his back toward where I crouched, his eyes following their
vanishing figures, until the night had swallowed them.
A VICTORY, AND A DEFEAT
I arose silently to my feet, conscious of possessing no weapon, yet
fully aware that all hope of thwarting this villainy lay in immediate
action. But I must await the right moment. Even with the advantage of
surprise, there would inevitably be the noise of struggle. I had in
the past despised Sanchez, but I had never yet tested him as a
fighting man, and, indeed, no longer considered the fellow to be a
mean antagonist. Remembering who he was, I now realized fully the
desperate nature of my attempt, the need of quick, remorseless action.
Nevertheless I dared not attack until assured that those men he had
just dispatched were safely beyond ear-shot. I could hear or see
nothing of them; they had vanished utterly, and the soft sand returned
no echo of their footsteps. Time alone gave me judgment as to the
distance they would travel. If I yielded too much of this, they might
attain the sloop before I could sound an alarm; while if I moved too
quickly the noise would bring them back to the rescue. The moments
were agony, as I bent tensely forward, poised for a leap. God! I could
wait no longer!
Sanchez had turned slightly, apparently immersed in thought, and stood
with his face toward the Bay. Even in that darkness his position was
that of a man intently listening for the slightest sound to reach him
out of the black night. I ventured a cautious step forward, and stood
on the open sand, scarcely a yard to his rear, every nerve throbbing,
my lips still silently counting the seconds. I could not, I dared not
wait longer. Some vague sense of my presence must have influenced the
man, for he swung suddenly about, uttering a stifled cry of startled
surprise, as we met face to face. For an instant we were locked so
closely within each other's desperate grip, his head bent beneath my
arm, with my fingers clutching at his throat to block any call for
help, that he possessed no knowledge of his assailant's identity. But
the man was like a tiger, possessed of immense strength encased in a
wiry frame. The surprise of attack was to my advantage, yet almost
before I realized what was being done, he had rallied, broken my first
hold, and his eyes were glaring straight into mine. Then he knew me,
signaling his discovery with an oath, his free hand instantly grasping
at the knife concealed beneath his loose cloak. Even as he jerked it
forth, I crushed his wrist within my fingers, forcing his fore-arm
back. Breast to breast we wrestled for mastery, every muscle strained,
our feet firm planted on the sand. There was no outcry, no noise,
except that of our heavy breathing, and trampling feet. Personal
hatred had ascendancy in both our hearts—I doubt if he ever thought
of aught else but the desire to kill me there with his own hands. Only
once did he even utter a word, hissing out the sentence as though it
were a poison:
"To hell with you, you sneaking English cur!"
"Then I travel that road not alone," I muttered back. "There will be
one less of the devil's brood afloat."
What followed has to me no clearness, no consistency. I remember, yet
it is as though memory played me a thousand tricks. Never have I
fought more wickedly, nor with deeper realization that I needed every
ounce of strength, and every trick of wit and skill. I had not before
dreamed he was such a man; but now I knew the fellow possessed greater
knowledge of the game than I, and a quicker movement; I alone excelled
in weight of body, and coolness of brain. His efforts were those of an
infuriated animal, his uncontrolled outburst of hatred rendering him
utterly reckless of results in his struggle to overcome me at any
cost. It was this blind blood-lust which gave me victory. I know not
clearly how it was done; my only memory being his frantic efforts to
drive home the knife point, and mine to defeat the thrust. Twice he
pricked me deep enough to draw blood, before I succeeded in twisting
backward the arm with which he held the blade. It was a sailor's trick
of last resort, heartlessly cruel in its agony, but I felt then no
call to mercy. He met the game too late, falling half back upon one
knee, hoping thus to foil my purpose, yet my greater weight saved me.
There was the sharp crack of a bone, as his useless fingers let the
knife drop, a snarled curse of pain, and then, with the rage of a mad
dog, Sanchez struck his teeth deep into my cheek. The sharp pang of
pain drove me to frenzy, and for the first time I lost all control, my
one free hand seeking to reach the lost knife. With a thrill of
exultation I gripped it, driving instantly the keen blade to its hilt
into the man's side. He made no cry, no struggle—the set teeth
unlocked, and he fell limply back on the sand, his head lapped by the
I remained poised above him, spent and breathless from struggle,
scarcely conscious even as to what had occurred so swiftly, the
dripping knife in my hand, blood streaming down my cheek, and still
infuriated by blind passion. The fellow lay motionless, his face
upturned to the sky, but invisible except in dim outline. It did not
seem possible he could actually be dead; I had struck blindly, with no
knowledge as to where the keen blade had penetrated—a mere desperate
lunge. I rested my ear over his heart, detecting no murmur of
response; touched the veins of his wrist, but found there no answering
throb of life. Still dazed and uncertain, I arose staggering to my
feet, conscious at last that the man must actually be dead, yet, for
the moment, so surprised by the discovery as to scarcely realize its
significance. Not that I regretted the act, not that I experienced the
slightest remorse, yet, for an instant, the shock seemed to leave me
nerveless and unstrung. Only a moment since I was engaged in desperate
struggle, and now I could only stare down at the dark lines of that
motionless body outstretched upon the sand.
Then I remembered those others—the unconscious sleepers on the deck
of the sloop; those blood-stained villains creeping toward them
through the black shadows of the night. The memory was like a dash of
water in the face. With the death-dealing knife still gripped in my
hand, I raced forward along the narrow strip of sand, reckless of what
I might encounter, eager only to arrive in time to give utterance to a
shout of warning. I could not have covered more than half the
distance when the first sound of attack reached me—far-off, gurgling
cry of agony, which pierced the darkness like the scream of a dying
soul. The heart leaped into my throat, yet I ran on, unhalted, unseen,
until the planks of the wharf were beneath my feet, the low side of
the sloop looming black before me. There was confusion aboard, the
sounds of struggle, mingled with curses and blows. With one upward
swing of my body I was safely aboard, knife still in hand, peering
eagerly forward. Through the gloom concealing the deck, I could
perceive only dim figures, a riot of men, battling furiously hand to
hand, yet out of the ruck loomed through the darkness in larger
outline than the others—-Cochose, the negro. I leaped at the fellow,
and struck with the keen knife, missing the heart, but plunging the
blade deep into the flesh of the shoulder. The next instant I was in a
bear's grip, the very breath crushed out of me, yet, by some chance,
my one arm remained free, and I drove the sharp steel into him twice
before he forced the weapon from my fingers. Through a wrestler's
trick, although my wrist was as numb as if dead from his fierce grip,
I thrust an elbow beneath the brute's chin, and thus forced his head
back, until the neck cracked.
This respite served merely for the moment, yet sufficiently long to
win me a firm foot-hold on deck, and a breath of night air. He was too
strong, too immense of stature. Apparently unweakened by his wounds,
the giant negro, thoroughly aroused, exerted his mighty muscles, and,
despite my utmost effort at resistance, thrust me back against the
stern rail, where the weight of his body pinned me helplessly. With a
roar of rage he drove his huge fist into my face, but happily was too
close to give much force to the blow. My own hands, gripping the
neck-band of his coarse shirt, twisted it tight about the great
throat, until, in desperation, panting for breath, the huge brute
actually lifted me in his arms, and hurled me backward, headlong over
the rail. I struck something as I fell, yet rebounding from this,
splashed into the deep water, and went down so nearly unconscious as
to make not even the slightest struggle. I had no strength left in me,
no desire to save myself, and I sank like a stone. And yet I came up
once more to the surface, arising by sheer chance, directly beneath
the small dory—which my body must have struck as I fell—towing by a
painter astern of the sloop, and fortunately retained sense enough to
cling desperately to this first thing my hands touched, and thus
This occurred through complete exhaustion, rather than the exercising
of any judgment, for, had it not been for this providential support, I
would surely have drowned without a struggle. Every breath I drew was
in pain; I felt as though my ribs had been crushed in, while I had
lost sufficient blood to leave me as weak as a babe. I simply clung
there desperately, hopelessly, yet the salt water soon served to
revive me physically, and even my brain began to arouse from its daze
to a faint realization of the conditions. The small dory to which I
clung, caught in some mysterious current, floated at the very
extremity of its slender towline, and in consequence the sloop
appeared little more than a mere smudge, when my eyes endeavored to
discover its outlines. Evidently the bloody work had been completed,
for now all was silent on board. I could not even detect the sound of
a footstep on the deck. Then, clear enough to be distinctly heard
across the narrow strip of water, came the voice of Estada, in a gruff
"So you are hiding here, Cochose? What are you looking for in the
"What? Why that damned Englishman." The response was a savage growl,
intensified by husky dialect. "Mon Dieu! He fought me like a mad rat."
"The Englishman, you say? He was here then? It was he you battled
with? What became of the fellow?"
"He went down there, Senor. The dog stabbed me three times. It was
either he or I to go."
"You mean you threw him overboard?"
"Ay, with his ribs crushed in, and not a breath left in his damned
body. He's never come up even—I've watched, and there has not been so
much as a ripple where he sank."
The two must have hung in silence over the rail staring down. I dared
not advance my head to look, nor even move a muscle of my body in the
water, but both were still standing there when Estada finally gave
utterance to an oath.
"How know you it was the man?"
"Who else could it have been? You have the others."
"Ay, true enough; yet it will go hard with you, Cochose, when the
Captain learns of this—he would have the fellow alive."
"As well attempt to take a tiger with bare hands—see, the blood yet
runs; a single inch to the left, and it would be I fed to the fishes.
Pah! what is the difference, Senor, so the man dies?"
"Right enough, no doubt; anyway it is not I who must face Sanchez, and
it is too late now to change fate. Let's to the rest of our task. You
can still do your part?"
The giant negro growled.
"Ay; I have been worse hurt, yet a bit of cloth would help me."
"Let Carl see to that, while I gain glimpse at this map of the house
up yonder. Come forward with me to the cabin, till I light a candle.
How came you aft here?"
"Because that fellow leaped the rail from the wharf. I saw him, and we
met at the wheel."
"From the wharf, you say? He was not aboard then? Santa Maria! I know
not what that may mean. Yet what difference, so he be dead. Anderson,
Mendez, throw that carrion overboard—no, bullies, never mind; let
them lie where they are, and sink an auger in the sloop's bottom. That
will settle the whole matter. What is that out yonder, Cochose?"
"A small boat, Senor—a dory, I make it."
"Cut the rope, and send it adrift. Now come along with me."
The darker loom of the sloop vanished slowly, as the slight current
sweeping about the end of the wharf drifted the released boat to which
I clung outward into the Bay. The faint echo of a voice floated to my
ears across the widening expanse of water, and then all was silent as
the night closed in darkly between. There was scarcely a ripple to
the sea, and yet I felt that the boat was steadily drifting out into
deeper water. I was still strangely weak, barely able to retain my
grasp, with a peculiar dullness in my head, which made me fearful that
at any moment I might let go. I was not even conscious of thinking, or
capable of conceiving clearly my situation, yet I must have realized
vaguely the immediate necessity of action, for finally I mustered
every ounce of remaining energy in one supreme effort, and succeeded
in dragging my body up out of water over the boat's stern, sinking
helplessly forward into the bottom. The moment this was accomplished
every sense deserted me, and I lay there motionless, totally
I shall never know how long I remained thus, the little dory in which
I lay rocked aimlessly about by the waves, and constantly drifting in
the grasp of unseen currents farther and farther out into the Bay. The
blackness of the night swallowed us, as tossed by wind and sea, we
were borne on through the waste unguided. Yet this time could not have
been great. As though awakening from sleep a faint consciousness
returned, causing me to lift my head, and stare hopelessly about into
the curtain of mist overhanging the water. At first, with nothing
surrounding to awaken memory into action, only that dull vista of sea
and sky, my mind refused to respond to any impression; then the sharp
pain of my wounds, accented by the sting of salt water, brought me
swift realization of where I was, and the circumstances bringing me
there. My wet clothing had partially dried on my body as I lay there
motionless in the bottom of the boat, and now, with every movement,
chafed the raw spots, rendering the slightest motion a physical
agony. I had evidently lost considerable blood, yet this had already
ceased to flow, and a very slight examination served to convince me
that the knife slashes were none of them serious. Beyond these
punctures of the flesh, while I ached from head to foot, my other
injuries were merely bruises to add to my discomfort—the result of
blows dealt me by Sanchez and Cochose, aggravated by the bearlike hug
of the giant negro. Indeed, I awoke to the discovery that I was far
from being a dead man; and, inspired by this knowledge, the various
incidents of the night flashed swiftly back into my mind. How long had
I been lying there unconscious, adrift in the open boat? How far had
we floated from land? Where were we now, and in the meantime what had
These were questions impossible to answer. I could not even attempt
their solution. No gleam of light appeared in any direction; no sound
echoed across the dark waste of water. Far above, barely visible
through a floating veil of haze, I was able to detect the faint gleam
of stars, and was sailor enough to determine through their guidance
some certainty as to the points of compass; yet possessed no means by
which to ascertain the time of night, or the position of the boat.
With this handicap it was clearly impossible for me to attempt any
return to the wharf through the impenetrable black curtain which shut
me in. What then could I do? What might I still hope to accomplish? At
first thought the case appeared hopeless. Those fellows had swept the
sloop clean, and had doubtless long ago scuttled it. This ruthless
deed once accomplished, their orders were to raid the house on the
bluff. But would they go on with their bloody work? They would
suddenly find themselves leaderless, unguided. Would that suffice to
stop them? The vivid memory came to me anew of that arch villain,
Sanchez, lying where I had left him, his head resting in the
surf—dead. Would the discovery of his body halt his followers, and
send them rushing back to their boat, eager only to get safely away?
This did not seem likely. Estada knew of my boarding the sloop from
the wharf, and would at once connect the fact of my being ashore with
the killing of Sanchez. This would satisfy him there was no further
danger. Besides, these were not men to be easily frightened at sight
of a dead body, even that of their own captain. They might hesitate,
discuss, but they would never flee in panic. Surely not with that
ruffian Estada yet alive to lead them, and the knowledge that fifty
thousand pounds was yonder in that unguarded house, with no one to
protect the treasure but two old men asleep, and the women. The
women!—Dorothy! What would become of her? Into whose hands would she
fall in that foul division of spoils? Estada's? Good God—yes! And I,
afloat and helpless in this boat, what could I do?
A SWIM TO THE NAMUR
All was black, hopeless; with head buried in my hands I sat on a
thwart, dazed and stupefied, seemingly even unable to think clearly.
Before me, pleading, expressive of agonized despair, arose the sweet
face of Dorothy Fairfax. Nothing else counted with me at that moment
but her safety—the protecting her from the touch of that
blood-stained brute. Yet how, and through what means, could such
rescue be accomplished? No doubt by this time all was over—the dead
body of Sanchez discovered, the projected attack on the house carried
out, the two old men left behind, either dead or severely wounded, and
the girl borne off a helpless prisoner, together with the treasure of
fifty thousand pounds. Even if I knew where the drifting boat had
taken me, which way to turn to once again attain the wharf, the
probability remained that I should arrive altogether too late to be of
slightest service—the dastardly deed had already been accomplished.
Ay, but this I knew; there was only one place to which the villains
might flee with their booty—the Namur of Rotterdam. Only on those
decks, and well at sea, would they be safe, or able to enjoy their
spoils. The thought came to me in sudden revelation—why not? Was not
here a chance even yet to foil them? With Sanchez dead, no man aboard
that pirate craft would recognize me. I felt assured of this. I had
fought the giant negro in the dark; he could not, during that fierce
encounter, have distinguished my features any more clearly than I had
his own. There was no one else to fear. Although I had been stationed
at the wheel of the sloop as we swept past the Namur while at anchor
the day before, yet Estada, watching anxiously for the secret signal
of his chief, would never have accorded me so much as a glance. His
interest was concentrated elsewhere, and, in all probability, he could
not swear whether I was black or white. If others of that devilish
crew had been secretly watching our deck it was with no thought of me;
and not one of them would retain any memory of my appearance. If only
I might once succeed in getting safely aboard, slightly disguised
perhaps, and mingle unnoticed among the crew, the chances were not bad
for me to pass undetected. No doubt they were a heterogeneous bunch,
drawn from every breed and race, and in no small force either, for
their trade was not so much seamanship as rapine and fighting. Such
ships carried large crews, and were constantly changing in personnel.
A strange face appearing among them need not arouse undue suspicion.
From what Estada had reported to Sanchez, I knew boats had been sent
ashore on this coast. What more likely then than that some new recruit
had returned to the bark, attracted by a sailor's tale? Who would know
how the stranger came among them, or question his presence, unless
suspicion became aroused? Even if questioned, a good story, easily
told, might win the trick. Before daylight came, and already well at
sea beyond pursuit, inconspicuous among the others, accepted as mate
by the men, unrecognized even by the officers, there was scarcely a
probability that anyone aboard would note, or question my presence.
And I felt convinced I could locate the Namur. Ay, even in that
darkness I could find the bark, if the vessel yet swung at her former
anchorage. The task would not even be a difficult one. The stars gave
me the compass points, and I recalled with some clearness the general
trend of the coast line as we came up. But could I hope to attain the
ship in advance of the returning party of raiders? To succeed in my
object this must be done, because the moment these reached the deck
the bark would hastily depart for the open sea. And if I was to
accomplish this end it must be attempted at once. The call to action,
the possibility of thus being of service to Dorothy, seemed instantly
to awaken all my dormant energies; the painful chafing of my wounds
was forgotten, while new strength returned miraculously to my bruised
body. God helping me, I would try! My brain throbbed with fresh
resolution—the call to action.
There were oars in the boat. I had noticed these dumbly before, but
now I drew them eagerly forth from the bottom, and quickly fitted them
into the oarlocks. They were stout, ashen blades, unusually large for
the craft in which they had been stowed, yet workable. The boat itself
was a mere shell, scarcely capable of sustaining safely more than
three persons, but with lines of speed, its sharp prow cutting the
water like a knife blade. I shipped the useless rudder inboard, and
chose my course from the stars. The north star was completely obscured
by thick clouds, but the great dipper gave me my bearings with
sufficient accuracy. To attain again to the west coast not far from
where the great point projected outward into the Bay, and behind which
the bark swung at anchor, required, according to my understanding of
our present position, that I head the boat toward the southwest. I
bent earnestly to the oars, and the speed of the craft was most
encouraging, especially as my strength and energy seemed to increase
with each stroke. My mind brightened also quite perceptibly, as the
violent exercise sent the blood coursing anew through my veins. Before
I realized the change I had become thoroughly convinced that the
course I had chosen was the wisest one possible.
It was wild, and desperate, to be sure. I was not blind to its danger,
and yet nothing else offered any solution. The only probable chance
now for me to prove of direct service to the captive girl lay in being
near her while she remained with these men. If, by any good fortune,
she had thus far succeeded in escaping from Estada and his gang of
ruffians, I would learn this fact more surely aboard the Namur than
in any other way; and, once assured as to this, could certainly find
some means of early escape from the ship. While, if she was captured
and taken aboard, as was most probable, for me to be left behind on
shore would mean her total abandonment. Better any risk of discovery
than that. To be sure I had no plan of action devised, no conception
of how a rescue could be effected. Yet such an opportunity might
develop, and my one hope lay in being prepared, and ready. With the
death of Sanchez, his second in command would undoubtedly succeed
him; but would that be Estada, or would it be this other, the mulatto,
Francois LeVere? More likely the former, for while buccaneers had
operated under colored chiefs, a crew of white men would naturally
prefer to be led by one of their own color. Indeed it was even
possible that a controversy might arise, and a divided authority
result. Discipline among such as these depended entirely on strength
and ferocity. The most daring and resourceful became the chosen
leaders, whose only test was success. Perhaps, in the turmoil, and
uncertainty, arising from a knowledge of Sanchez's death, and the
jealousy thus aroused between those who would succeed him in command,
I might discover the very opportunity I sought. These were some of the
thoughts which animated me, and gave new strength to my arms, as I
sent the dory flying through the water.
My boat, unguided, had drifted considerably farther out into the Bay
than I had supposed, and it required a good half hour of steady toil
at the oars before I sighted ahead of me the darker outlines of the
shore. Nothing had crossed our path, and no unusual sound had reached
my ears along the black water. If the Namur's boat had already
returned to the bark, its passage must have been made during the
period of my unconsciousness, and this seemed to me utterly
impossible. The course I had followed thus far took me directly across
the water which they would be compelled to traverse, and they could
not have passed unnoticed. No, they were surely yet in the
neighborhood of Travers' plantation. The men engaged in that night's
bloody business, would have been compelled to carry it out under many
obstacles; they would be delayed by consternation at the discovery of
their dead leader lying on the sand, and by their lack of knowledge
regarding the interior of the house on the summit of the bluff. Quite
likely also this lack of a guide would result in an alarm, and
consequent struggle, perhaps even in the serious injury of some among
them before they secured possession of the money, and the girl. In any
case it must have resulted in delay. Convinced of this, and confident
that I was already well in advance of them, I drew in as closely as I
dared to the dim outline of shore, and studied it carefully, in an
endeavor to learn my exact position.
Although the sloop in its voyage up the Bay had never been out of
sight of this coast, had indeed skirted it closely all the way, yet my
memory of its more prominent landmarks was extremely vague. I had made
no effort to impress them on my mind. Therefore at first I could
identify nothing, but finally, out of the grotesque, shifting shadows,
dimly appearing against the slightly lighter sky beyond, there
suddenly arose, clearly defined, the gaunt limbs of a dead tree,
bearing a faint resemblance to a gigantic cross. I recalled that Sam
had chanced to point this out to me on our upward voyage, and this
glimpse obtained of it again now told me exactly where I had made
shore. This peculiar mark was at the extremity of the first headland
lying north of the point itself, and consequently a straight course
across the Bay, would land me within five hundred yards of where the
Namur had last been seen at anchor.
To a degree my immediate plan of action had been definitely mapped
out within my own mind while toiling at the oars. At least I had
arrived at certain conclusions. The one immediate object before me was
to attain the bark in advance of Estada. I now was convinced that thus
far I was safely ahead. The night wind was light, and baffling, not
greatly affecting my own progress, but of a nature to retard
considerably the sail-boat, and compel a series of wide tacks, so as
to enable those on board to round the point. All this distance I could
avoid by beaching my dory, and striking out on foot directly across
the narrow neck of land. The Namur, unless her position had been
changed since darkness set in, was not so far out from shore as to
make swimming to her a dangerous feat; and I could approach and board
her with far less chance of discovery in that manner, than by the use
of a boat. The watch on deck would undoubtedly be a vigilant one, yet
no eye could detect through that darkness—unless by sheer accident—a
submerged swimmer, cautiously advancing with silent strokes. The
greater danger would come after I had attained the deck, wet to the
The sharp bow of the dory ran up on the soft sand of the beach, and I
stepped ashore, hauling the light boat after me beyond the reach of
the waves. The night remained calm and still, although the scudding
clouds were thickening overhead, until scarcely a single star remained
visible. The sea behind me was overhung by a black curtain, yet, by
bending low, I could look along the surface for some distance where
the heaving water reflected from wave to wave what little light there
was. The beach was a narrow one, and only a few feet away the neck of
land became elevated into a leveled crest, thickly covered with
trees, their upper branches dimly visible from where I stood. Judging
from the trend of the coast, it would be necessary for me to strike
directly across to the opposite shore, but in this journey special
caution was not required. There would be no one in the midst of this
desolate region to interfere with my progress, or be alarmed by any
noise I might make. Close to shore as the Namur lay, no ordinary
sound from the land could be heard aboard, even in the silence of
night, nor was it likely the crew would be watchful in that direction.
Unquestionably the entire attention of the deck watch at this hour
would be concentrated on the expected return of their expedition
around the distant point—seeking the glimpse of a white sail above
the black water.
To the best of my recollection the bark floated with bow pointing
toward the open sea. The sweep of the current about the point was
inshore, making the drift of the vessel strong against the anchor
hawser. This would naturally bring her with broadside to the eastward,
from which direction the absent boat must return. If this proved
correct then, in all probability, the deck watch would largely be
gathered on that side, even the attention of the officer more or less
drawn in that direction. No doubt they had orders to be ready for
instant departure the moment the approaching boat was sighted, and the
lookout for it would be keen. It was, as I stood there, revolving
these matters in my mind, with eyes endeavoring to pierce the
surrounding darkness, and ears strained to detect the slightest sound,
that there came to me the first real consciousness of the reckless
nature of this adventure upon which I had so lightly embarked. Surely
it was but the dream of a crazed man, foredoomed to failure. As I
faced then the probabilities, there scarcely seemed one chance in a
hundred that any such scheme as I proposed would succeed. And yet I
must admit there was the one chance; and in no other action could I
perceive even that much encouragement. If Dorothy Fairfax was already
in the hands of these men, then my only opportunity for serving her
lay in my being close at hand. No alternative presented itself; no
other effort could be effective. It was already too late to attempt
the organization of a rescue party; there was no warship on the coast,
and the authorities of the Colony possessed no vessel fitted for
pursuit. Long before daylight came, or I might hope to spread an alarm
abroad, the Namur would be safely at sea. No, the only choice left
was for me either to accompany the girl, or else abandon her entirely
to her captors. I must either face the possibility of discovery and
capture, which as surely meant torture and death, or otherwise play
the coward, and remain impotently behind. There was no safe course to
pursue. I believed that I could play my part among the crew, once
securely established among them; that I could succeed in escaping
recognition even on the part of Cochose. If this was true, then, to a
stout heart and ready hand, a way might open even aboard the bark to
protect her from the final closing of the devil's jaws. I had nothing
to risk but my life, and it had never been my nature to count odds. I
would act as the heart bade, and so I drove the temptation to falter
away, and strode on up the bank into the black shadow of the trees.
I found extremely hard walking as I advanced through tangled
underbrush, over unlevel ground, the night so dark in those shadows I
could but barely perceive the outlines of a hand held before the eyes.
Fortunately the distance was even shorter than I had anticipated, but,
when I finally emerged upon the opposite beach, it was at once quite
evident that the sea beating upon the sand was decidedly heavier than
higher up the Bay, the white line of breakers showing conspicuously
even in the night, while their continuous roar sounded loud through
the silence. It was not until after I had advanced cautiously into the
water, and then stooped low to thus gain clearer vision along the
surface, that I succeeded in locating the vessel sought. Even then the
Namur appeared only as a mere shadow, without so much as a light
showing aboard, yet apparently anchored in the same position as when
we had swept past the previous afternoon. The slightly brighter sky
above served to reveal the tracery of bare poles, while the hull was
no more than a blot in the gloom, utterly shapeless, and appearing to
be much farther away than it was in reality. Indeed, as the sky
gradually darkened the entire vision vanished, as though it had been
one of those strange mirages I had seen in the African deserts. Yet I
knew with certainty the ship was there, had sufficient time in which
to mark its position accurately, and rejoiced at the increase of
darkness to conceal my approach. Guided by this memory I waded
straight out through the lines of surf, until all excepting the head
became completely submerged. If I was to reach the bark at all, this
was the one opportunity.
I stood there, resisting the undertow tugging at my limbs, and barely
able to retain my footing, intent upon my purpose. Full strength had
come back to my muscles, and my head was again clear. The imminent
sense of danger seemed to bring me a feeling of happiness, of new
confidence in myself. The die was cast, and whatever the result, I was
going ahead to accomplish all that was humanly possible. From now on
there was to be no doubting, no turning back. A voice, high-pitched,
echoed to me across the water, reaching my ears a mere thread of
sound, the words indistinguishable. It must have been an order, for, a
moment later, I distinguished the clank of capstan bars, as though men
of the crew were engaged in warping the vessel off shore for greater
safety. The movement was too deliberate and noiseless to mean the
lifting of the anchor, nor was it accompanied by any flapping of sail,
or shifting of yards to denote departure. Nevertheless even this
movement decided me to delay my attempt no longer, and, with strong,
silent strokes I swam forward, directly breasting the force of the
incoming sea, yet making fair progress. Some unconsidered current must
have swept me to the right, for, when the outlines of the bark again
became dimly visible through the night, I found myself well to
starboard of the vessel, and quite likely would have passed it by
altogether, but for the sudden rattle of a block aloft, causing me to
glance in that direction. As my eyes explored the darkness, yet
uncertain that I really beheld the Namur, a light flared for a brief
instant, and I had glimpse of a face illumined by the yellow glare, as
the single spark of flame ignited a cigarette. It was all over with
so swiftly, swallowed up in that blackness, as to seem a vision of
imagination. Yet I knew it to be real. Stroking well under water, and
with only my eyes exposed above the surface, I changed my course to
the left, and slowly and cautiously drew in toward the starboard bow.
A few moments later, unperceived from above, and protected from
observation by the bulge of the overhang, and density of shadow, my
hands clung to the anchor hawser, my mind busy in devising some means
for attaining the deck.
ON THE DECK OF THE NAMUR
It was here that fortune favored me, strengthening my decision, and
yielding a fresh courage to persevere. The pounding of the seas
against the bow rendered other sounds, for the moment, unnoticeable,
while the current swept so strongly against my submerged body as to
compel me to cling tightly to the swaying rope to prevent being
overcome. Close as I was the bark appeared scarcely more than a dense
shadow swaying above me, without special form, and unrevealed by the
slightest gleam of light, merely a vast bulk, towering between sea and
sky. Forking out, however, directly over where I clung desperately to
the wet hawser, my eyes were able to trace the bow-sprit, a massive
bit of timber, with ropes faintly traced against the sky, the rather
loosely furled jib flapping ragged edges in the gusts of wind.
Suddenly, as I stared upward, I became aware that two men were working
their way out along the foot-ropes, and, as they reached a point
almost directly over my head, became busily engaged in tightening the
gaskets to better secure the loosening sail. The foot of one slipped,
and he hung dangling, giving vent to a stiff English oath before he
succeeded in hauling himself back to safety, The other indulged in a
chuckling laugh, yet was careful not to speak loudly.
"Had one drink too many, Tom?" he asked. "That will pay yer fer
finishin' the bottle, an' never givin' me another sup."
The other growled, evidently not in any too good humor after his
"You, hell! Yer bed the fu'st ov it. Thar's no sorter luck yer don't
git yer fair share of, Bill Haines—trust yer fer thet. What I ain't
got straight yet, is whar thet stuff cum from so easy. Thet wus the
Haines laughed again, working carelessly. As the men advanced along
the spar I could distinguish their forms more clearly.
"That wus part o' the luck, Tom," he acknowledged, his accent that of
a cockney. "Did yer git eyes on thet new feller Manuel Estevan brought
back with him in the boat?"
"The one you and Jose carried aboard?"
"He's the lad. Thar wa'n't nuthin' the matter with the cove, 'cept he
wus dead drunk, an' he hed a bottle o' rum stowed away in every
pocket. But Manuel, he never knew thet. It wus just 'bout dark when he
cum staggerin' down ter the boat. We wus waitin' on the beach fer
Estevan, an' three fellers he hed taken along with him inter town, ter
cum back—the nigger, Jose, an' me—when this yere chap hove
'longside. He never hailed us, ner nuthin'; just clim over inter the
boat, an' lay down. 'Whar ye aimin' ter go, friend?' ses I, but by
then the cove wus dead asleep. I shook him, an' kicked him, but it
wa'n't no use; so we just left him lie thar fer Manuel ter say whut
wus ter be done with him. Only Jose he went thru his pockets, an'
found three bottles o' rum. We took a few drinks, an' hid whut wus
left in the boat locker."
"So that's how yer got it! Who wus the party?"
"Thet's mor'n I'll ever tell yer. I never got no sight o' him, 'cept
in the dark. 'Bout all I know is he wus white, an' likely a sailor,
judgin' frum the feel o' his hands. Maybe he thought that wus his boat
he'd stumbled inter—thar wus quite a few 'long the beach. Enyhow,
when Manuel got back, he just took a look at him in the dark, an' then
told us to haul the lad forrard out o' the way, an' fetch him along.
So we pulled out with the feller cuddled up in the bow. He was drunk
"I never seed nuthin' more of him after he was hauled aboard,"
commented Tom, as the other ceased speaking. "Whut become o' the lad?"
"Him? Oh, Jose an' me carried him inter the for'cassel, an' shoved him
inter a berth ter sleep off his liquor. Thet wus the last I ever see,
er hear o' him fer 'bout six hours. I'd fergot all 'bout the
feller—er wud have, if it hadn't been fer the rum. Manuel went off in
the long-boat with Estada, an' when my watch went below, I stowed
myself away back o' the bow gun fer a few drinks. I hadn't been thar
mor'n ten minutes, when this yere feller must a woke up in the
for'cassel sum crazy. He cum a chargin' out on deck, whoopin' like an
Indian, wavin' a knife in his hand, intendin' fer ter raise hell. I
cudn't see then who the lad wus, but it must o' been him, fer when I
went down later he wusn't whar we'd put him. Well, it happened thet
the fu'st feller he run up against wus LeVere, who wus cumin' forrard
fer sumthin', an' fer about a minute thar was one hell ov a fight.
Maybe LeVere didn't know et onct just whut hed happened, but he wusn't
almighty long finding out his job, an' the way he started in fer ter
man-handle the cuss, wus worth seein'. It was so damn dark thar by the
foremast I couldn't tell whut did happen, but it wus fists mostly,
till the mate drove the poor devil, cussin' like mad, over agin the
rail, an' then heaved him out inter the water 'longside. I heerd the
feller splash when he struck, but he never let out no yell."
"What did LeVere do?"
"Him? Hell, he didn't do nuthin'. Just stared down over the rail a
bit, an' then cum back, rubbin' his hands. Never even asked who the
feller wus. Thar ain't nuthin' kin skeer that black brute."
"By God—no! He ain't got no human in him. It's hell when English
sailormen has got ter take orders frum a damned nigger, an' be knocked
'round if they don't jump when he barks. He's goin' ter get a knife in
his ribs sum day."
"Maybe he is; but yer better hold yer tongue, Tom. Sanchez don't stand
fer thet talk, an' he's back o' LeVere. Let's go in; them gaskets will
hold all right now—cum 'long."
The two vaguely distinguishable figures disappeared, clambering
awkwardly over the rail, and as instantly vanishing into the blackness
of the bark's deck. An unsecured bit of canvas continued to flap
noisily above me, and the constant surge of water pounded against the
bow, but I could perceive now clearly the character I was destined to
assume when once safely aboard the Namur. Such an assumption would
involve but slight danger of discovery. It was as though a miracle had
opened the way, revealed to me by the unconscious lips of these two
half-drunken, gossiping sailors. The story told fitted my necessities
exactly. Had I planned the circumstances myself, nothing could have
been better prearranged. No one on board had seen the missing man by
daylight; if an impression of his features remained in any individual
mind, it must be extremely vague, and valueless. Bill's conviction
that the man was English, and probably a sailor, was the most
definite, and he had had greater opportunity closely to observe the
stranger than anyone else. LeVere had obtained no more than a glimpse
of his opponent, during their struggle in the dark, and while fighting
for his life. Surely it would be easy enough to obscure any faint
impression thus acquired. And the fellow had been heartlessly flung
overboard; was believed to have sunk without a struggle, too drunk to
save himself; was scarcely given another thought. Yet no one knew
positively that this was so, because no one cared. The death of the
lad had simply been taken for granted, when LeVere failed to see his
body rise again to the surface. Yet it was quite within the realm of
possibility for the fellow to come up once more in that darkness,
beyond LeVere's range of vision, and even to have remained afloat,
buoyed up by clinging to the anchor hawser, until strong enough to
return on board. At least there was no one aboard the Namur able to
deny that this had been done.
Satisfied by this reasoning of being able to pass myself off as the
dead man, with small danger of detection, and likewise assured—so
far at least as eyes and ears testified—that none of the crew were
grouped on the forecastle, to be attracted by my movements, I began,
slowly and cautiously, to drag myself up the taut hawser, hoping thus
to attain a position from which to gain hand-hold on the rail, and
thus attain the deck unseen. While my explanation might suffice, I
greatly preferred having to present it only as a last resort. I would
much rather slip quietly aboard, and mingle unnoticed with the crew
for the next few hours, than be haled at once before LeVere, and
endure his scrutiny and possible violence. The fellow was evidently a
brute, and a hard master. Seemingly I had chosen a fortunate moment
for my effort; no one heeded the little noise I made, and, when I
finally topped the rail, and was able to look inboard, it was to
discover a deserted fore deck, with the watch all engaged at some task
amidships. There was no gleam of light, but I could hear the patter of
feet, and imagined seeing dim moving figures. A rather high-pitched
voice was giving orders, and enough of his words reached me to
convince that other men were aloft on the main yard. Believing my best
policy would be to join those busied on deck, just as though I
belonged among them, I crept down the forecastle ladder, and worked my
way aft beneath the black shadow of the port rail, until able thus to
drift unnoticed into a group tailing on to a mainsail halliard. The
fellow next to me, without releasing his grip, turned his head and
stared, but without discerning my features.
"Whar the hell did yer cum' frum?" he growled, and I as instantly
recognized Bill Haines. "Been sojerin', have yer? Well, now, damn yer
eyes! lay too an' pull."
Before I could attempt an answer, a tall figure loomed up before us,
the same high-pitched voice I had noticed previously calling out
"There, that's enough, men! Now make fast. We can head the old girl
out from here in a jiffy, if it really begins to blow. Jose, you stand
by at the wheel, in case you're needed; some of the rest ship the
capstan bars, and remain near for a call."
Discipline on board must have been somewhat lax, or else Haines held
some minor official position which gave him unusual privilege, for,
while the others instantly separated to carry out these orders, he
remained motionless, confronting the man I supposed to be the mulatto,
LeVere. My own position was such I could not press past the two
without attracting attention.
"What are ye swingin' the yards fer, enyhow?" asked the sailor
insolently. "Just fer exercise?"
The other, who already had started to turn away, stopped, and took a
step backward toward his questioner.
"Because I am a sailor, Haines," he replied angrily. "Anyhow it is
none of your business; I was left in command here. Those clouds don't
look good to me; there is going to be a blow before morning."
"Then it's yer intention ter work out'er this yere berth?"
"It's my intention to be ready, if it becomes necessary. There is no
regular officer left aboard, but, just the same, I am not going to let
this bark pile up on those rocks yonder. We'll hang on here for
another half hour, maybe, and then, if the long-boat don't show up,
we'll work further off shore until daylight. That's sensible, isn't
Haines growled something, inaudible to me, but evidently accepted as
an assent, and LeVere, still in no good humor from the questioning,
wheeled sharply about to go forward. This movement placed him face to
face with me.
"What are you loafing here for?" he burst forth, no doubt glad to thus
vent his anger on someone. "Who the hell are you?"
"Joe Gates, sir," I answered quickly, mouthing the first name which
came to my lips.
"Gates—Joe Gates?" peering savagely into my face, but unable to
distinguish the features. "I never heard of anybody on board by that
name. Who is the fellow, Haines?"
The Englishman gripped me by the sleeve to whirl me about, but as his
fingers touched the soaked cloth of my jacket, he burst forth with an
"By God! but he's wet enough to be the same lad you chucked overboard
an hour ago. Damn me, I believe he is. Say, mate, are you the gay buck
we hauled aboard drunk, and dumped inter the for'cassel?"
"I dunno, sir," I answered dumbly, believing it best not to remember
too much. "I couldn't even tell yer whut ship this is, ner how I
signed on. Last I seem ter remember I wus ashore frum the schooner
Caroline; but this yere is a bark."
Haines laughed, already convinced of my identity, and considering it a
"Well, my buck, I'll tell yer whar yer are, an' likewise how yer got
yere," he chuckled. "I wus one of a party frum this hooker ashore
'bout dusk, when yer hove in sight 'bout as drunk as a sailorman kin
get. Fact is yer wus so soused yer stumbled inter the wrong boat, and
went ter sleep. We're allers ready fer ter take on a new hand er two,
so we just let yer lie thar, an' brought yer aboard. 'Bout an hour ago
yer must a had a touch o' tremens, fer, all at onct yer cum chargin'
out on deck, an' tried ter knife LeVere, an' he flung yer overboard.
We sorter figured thet yer went down, an' never cum up agin."
LeVere broke in with a savage snarl.
"What's all that? Do you mean, Haines, that this is the same damned
scamp who tried to stick me?"
"No doubt of it. But he never knew what he was dloin'—he wus crazy as
a loon. There's nuthin' fer yer ter fuss over now. Tell us about it,
Gates—the bath must have sobered yer up?"
I watched LeVere, but he remained motionless, a mere shadow.
"I suppose it must have been thet, sir," I confessed respectfully, "if
things happened as you say they did. I haven't any memory o' tryin'
ter slash nobody. Leastwise I seemed ter know whut I wus about when I
cum up. I don't remember how I got ther; furst I knew I wus slushin'
'round in the water, a tryin' ter keep afloat. It wus so blame dark I
cudn't see nuthin', but sumhow I got grip on a hawser, an' hung on
till I got back 'nough strength ter clime on board. I knew this wa'n't
my ship, so I just lay quiet awhile, figurin' out whar I wus."
"Yer English?" "Born in Bristol, sir, but I wus workin' on the
Caroline—she's a Colony schooner, in the fish trade."
"At sea since I wus twelve. What's this yere bark—Dutch, ain't she?"
"Once upon a time; just now we are flying whatever flag cumes handy.
We ain't got no prejudice in flags."
"Is thet a gun forrard, covered with taupalin?"
"Yes, an' yer might find another aft, if yer looked fer it. Mor'n
thet, we know how ter use 'em. Now see here, Gates; thar's no reason
why we should beat about the bush—fact is we're sea rovers."
"Sea rovers—pirates, sir?"
"Bah! what's a name! We take what we want; it's our trade, that's all.
No worse than many another. The question is, are yer goin' ter take a
chance 'long with us? It's the only life, lad—plenty of fun, the best
of liquor and pretty girls, with a share in all the swag."
"What is the name of this bark?"
"The Namur—sailed out o' Rotterdam till we took her."
"Whut wus yer in when ye took her?"
"The Vengeance, a three-masted schooner, the fastest thing afloat.
She's south in West India waters."
"Who's the captain?"
"Gawd! Sanchez—not—not 'Black Sanchez?'"
"That's him; so yer've heerd o' 'Black Sanchez?' Well, we're sailin'
'long with him, all right, mate, an' yer ought ter know whut thet
means fer a good man."
I hesitated, yet only long enough to leave the impression I sought to
make on them both.
"Likely thar ain't no sailor but whut has heerd o' him," I said
slowly. "Enyhow, I sure have. I can't say thet I have any special
hankerin' after bein' a pirate, an' I never aimed ter be one; but,
seem' as how I am yere on this bark, an' can't easy get away, it don't
look like thar wus much choice, does it?"
LeVere appeared amused in his way, which was not a pleasant one.
"Oh, yes, friend, there is choice enough. Bill, here, had exactly the
same choice when he first came—hey, Bill? Remember how you signed on,
after we took you off the Albatross? This is how it stands,
Gates—either go forrard quietly yerself, er the both of us will kick
you there. We never give an order twice on the Namur. That will be
enough talk. If you do your work, all right; and if you don't, then
look out, my man—there will be plenty of hell waiting for you. Go on,
It was a curt dismissal, coupled with a plain threat, easy to
understand. I obeyed the order gladly enough, slinking away into the
black shadows forward, realizing my good fortune, and seeking some
spot where I could be alone. The result was all that I could have
hoped for; my position on board was assured; my story had been
accepted without awakening the slightest suspicion; and it was
perfectly clear that no one on board the Namur possessed the
slightest memory of the personal appearance of the poor fellow who had
been thrown overboard, and drowned. Even Haines believed me to be the
man. Of course I should be watched to some extent for a few days, my
willingness to serve noted, and my ability as a seaman put to the
test; but in this I had nothing to fear. I could play the assumed
character with little danger of any mishap. The only remaining peril
of discovery would come with the return of the absent boat, and the
necessity of my encountering the giant negro. Yet I was convinced even
this would not prove serious. If Cochose had glimpsed my features at
all during the course of our desperate struggle on the deck of the
sloop, the impression made on his mind must have been merely
momentary; and, besides, he would never once conceive it possible that
the same man could have reached the bark ahead of his return. Even if
such a suspicion dawned, I was now in a position to positively
establish my arrival aboard the Namur early the evening previous,
and before their expedition had departed.
I felt so safe, and so content with my success thus far, as to already
believe thoroughly in the final result of my mission. This confidence
developed almost into sheer recklessness. There were some difficulties
ahead, to be sure. I remained sane enough to recognize these, yet I
had already conquered easily, what at first had appeared
insurmountable, and, in consequence of this good luck, these others
yet to be met, seemed far less serious. The same happy fortune which
had opened the way for me to board the Namur must also intervene to
aid me in solving future problems. Mine was the philosophy of a
sailor, to whom peril was but a part of life. All I seemed to require
now was a sufficiency of courage and faith—the opportunity would be
given. In this spirit of aroused hope, I continued to stare out into
the black night, watchfully, the shrouded deck behind me silent, and
seemingly deserted, except for the steady tramp from rail to rail of
LeVere, keeping his lonely watch aft. The crew had disappeared, lying
down no doubt in corners out of the wind. And this wind was certainly
rising, already attaining a force to be reckoned with, for the boom of
waves hurled against the bows of the laboring bark, was steadily
becoming more noticeable, while overhead the ropes sang dismally. I
wondered that LeVere hung on so long in his perilous position,
although, in spite of the increased strain, the anchor still clung
firmly. Quite probably he had received stern orders not to shift from
his present position until the boat returned, yet surely his judgment
as a competent seaman, left in command, must make him aware of the
threatening danger. He would never wreck his vessel merely because he
had been instructed to remain at that particular spot. It seemed to me
that no hawser ever made could long withstand the terrific strain of
our tugging, as the struggling bark rose and fell in the grip of the
sea. To him must have come the same conviction, for suddenly his
high-pitched voice sang out from the poop:
"Stand by, forrard, to lower the starboard anchor; move lively, men.
Everything ready, Haines?"
"All clear, sir. Come on the jump, bullies!"
"Then let go smartly. Watch that you don't get the line fouled. Aloft
there! Anything in sight, Cavere?"
From high up on the fore-top yard, the answer, blown by the wind, came
down in broken English:
"Non, M'sieur; I see nottings."
"Well, don't go to sleep; keep both eyes open!"
I had already joined the watch forward, aware only of the numerous
dim, and shapeless figures about me, busily employed in straightening
out the kinks in the heavy cable. The number of men on deck was
evidence of a large crew, there being many more than were necessary
for the work to be done. Most of them appeared to be able seamen, and
Haines drove them mercilessly, cursing them for lubbers, and twice
kicking viciously at a stooping form. There was no talking, only the
growl of an occasional oath, the slapping of the hawser on deck, and
the sharp orders of Haines. Then the great rope began to slip swiftly
through the hawse hole, and we heard the sharp splash as the iron
flukes struck the water, and sank. Almost at that same instant the
voice of Cavere rang out from the mast-head:
"A sail, M'sieur—a sail!"
"Off ze port quarter. I make eet to be ze leetle boat—she just round
THE RETURN OF THE BOAT
Receiving no other orders, the moment all was secure, the crew eager
to welcome back the boat party, and learn the news, hurried over to
the port rail. Beyond doubt most of those aboard realized that this
had been an expedition of some importance, the culmination of their
long wait on the coast, part of some scheme of their chief, in the
spoils of which they expected to share. It was for this end they had
been inactive for weeks, hiding and skulking along shore; now they
hoped to reap their reward in gold and silver, and then be permitted
to return to the wilder, more adventurous life they loved on the high
seas. Moreover this boat approaching through the darkness was bringing
back their leader, and however else they might feel toward him, the
reckless daring, and audacious resourcefulness of Sanchez meant
success. These fellows, the scum of the seven seas, whom he had
gathered about him, might hate and fear, yet were glad to follow. They
had learned on many a bloody deck the merit of their chief, and in
their way were loyal to him.
I was made to comprehend all this by the low, muttered utterances of
those crowding near me, spoken in nearly every language of the world.
Much I could not even translate, yet enough reached my ears to
convince me of the temper of the crew—their feverish eagerness to be
again at sea, under command of a captain whom they both hated and
feared, yet whom they would follow to the very gates of hell. Even as
they cursed him with hot oaths, in memory of some act of discipline,
there came into their voices a tinge of admiration, which furnished me
an accurate etching of the man. They knew him, these hell-hounds of
the sea, and from out their mouths I knew him also for what he was—a
cruel, cold-blooded monster, yet a genius in crime, and a natural
leader of such men as these. Black Sanchez! All the unspeakable
horror which in the past had clung to that name came back again to
haunt me; I seemed to hear once more the tales of men who had escaped
from his grip alive; to see again the scenes they had witnessed. It
could not seem possible that I was actually upon one of his ships, in
the very midst of his wild crew. I listened to their comments, their
expectations, with swiftly beating heart. I alone knew what that boat
was bringing. And when it arrived, and they knew also, what would
these sea wolves say? What would they do? What would be the result
when the dead body of their leader came up over the rail?
For a few moments we could perceive nothing through the black night.
The clouds were rolling low, thickened by vapor, and the increasing
wind had already beaten the waves into crests of foam. We could hear
them crash against the stout sides of the bark, which leaped to their
impetus, yet was held in helpless captivity by the two anchors. The
deck under foot tossed dizzily, the bare masts swaying above, while
our ears could distinguish the sullen roar of breakers tumbling up on
the sand just astern. Overhead ropes rattled noisily, the sound
mingling with the flapping ends of loosened sails beating against the
yards. LeVere shouted an order, and a sudden flare was lighted
amidships, the circle of flame illumining a part of the deck, and
spreading out over the wild expanse of water. The seaman holding the
blazing torch aloft, and thrusting it forth across the rail, took on
the appearance of a black statue, as motionless as though carved from
ebony, while in the gleam the various groups of men became visible,
lined up along the port bulwarks, all staring in the one direction,
eagerly seeking a first glimpse of the approaching craft.
Scarcely had a minute elapsed before it came sweeping into the radius
of light—at first a dim, spectral shadow, scarcely to be recognized;
then, almost as suddenly, revealed in all its details—a boat of size,
flying toward us under a lug sail, standing out hard as a board,
keeling well over, and topping the sea swells like a bird on wing.
'Twas a beautiful sight as the craft came sweeping on before the full
weight of the wind, out from that background of gloom into the yellow
glare of the torch, circling widely so as to more safely approach the
bark's quarter. LeVere called for men to stand by, the fellows rushing
past me to their stations, but, in the fascination of the moment, I
failed to move. I could do nothing but stare out across the
intervening water, with eyes fastened on that swiftly approaching
boat. I must see. I must know the message it brought; what story it
held of the tragedy. At first I could only barely distinguish the
figures of those aboard, yet these gradually assumed recognizable
form, and finally the faces also became dimly visible. Manuel held the
tiller, with Estada seated beside him, leaning forward, and
gesticulating with one hand, as he directed the course. I had never
seen these two, yet I knew them beyond a doubt. Mendez and Anderson
(at least I supposed these to be the two) were poised at the sail
halliards, ready to let the straining sheet down at a run, while
Cochose crouched low in the bow, his black hand uplifted, gripping a
coil of rope. Their faces were all turned forward, lighted by the
flare from our deck, and I felt a shudder of fear run over me—no
expression on any countenance spoke of defeat; even the ugly features
of the negro beamed with delight.
But was that all? Was that all? Surely not, yet the boat had to leap
forward, and then turn broadside too, as it swept aft toward the main
chains, before I succeeded in seeing what remained partially concealed
between the thwarts in its bottom. Forward of the single mast was
stowed the chest, which Travers' slaves had borne with such care up
the bluff; while in the open space between the helmsman and the two
sailors were stretched two motionless bodies. LeVere, gripping a
stay-rope, and leaning well out, hailed in Spanish.
"Ahoy, the boat—there is not too much sea? You can make it?"
"Ay!" came back Estada's voice, swept aside by the wind, yet still
audible. "Stand by to fend us off. Call all hands, and break anchor as
soon as we are aboard."
"Very well, sir. Where is Captain Sanchez?"
Estada pointed downward in swift, expressive gesture.
"Here at my feet—badly hurt, but will recover. Send two men down to
help when we make fast. Now, Cochose—let go of your rope; watch out
I stood, gripping hard at the rail, and staring down at the scene
below, as the men in the boat made fast. I felt paralyzed, and
helpless, unable to move. I had no business to remain there; every
prospect of security depended on my joining the crew, but it was not
in my power to desert my position. I could hear the hurrying feet of
the watch tramping across the deck in response to LeVere's orders; the
heavy pounding of a marling-spike on the forecastle hatch, as Haines
called for all hands. I was aware that men were already mounting the
ratlines, and laying out on the upper yards to make sail, while the
capstan bars began rattling. Yet only one thought gripped me—Sanchez
was not dead! I had believed he was; I had staked all on his death as
a certainty. But instead, the man was lying there in the boat,
helpless at present, sorely wounded perhaps, yet still alive. Estada
even said he would surely recover. And that other body? That of
Dorothy Fairfax, without doubt, yet certainly not lifeless. Those
fellows would surely never bring back to the Namur the useless, dead
form of one of their victims. That was unthinkable, impossible. If
their prisoner was the girl—and who else could it be?—she remained
alive, helplessly bound to prevent either struggle, or outcry, and
destined to a fate far worse than death.
This revelation struck me like a blow. I had anticipated the possible
capture of the young woman, but not the return of Sanchez. His living
overthrew all my plans. There was no hope in the narrow confines of
the ship for me to remain long out of his sight, once he became able
again to reach the deck. And he would instantly recognize me in any
guise. Every hope of rescue had vanished, every faith that I could be
of aid. My own life hung in the balance—nay, rather, my doom was
already sealed. There, seemingly was but one chance for escape
left—that was to drop silently overboard, amid the confusion of
getting under way, and make the desperate attempt to reach shore
unseen before the crew could lift anchor, and set sail. This
possibility came to me, yet I continued to cling there, dazed and
helpless, staring dully down, lacking both physical and mental energy
to put the wild scheme into execution. God, no! that would be the
craven act of a coward. Better far to stay, and kill, or even be
killed, than to be forever cursed by my own conscience. The fellow
might die; some fatal accident befall the Namur; why a hundred
things might occur before Sanchez was capable of resuming command, or
could attempt any serious injury to Dorothy.
The fellows sent down from the main chains to the boat brought the
injured Captain up first. This required the services of three men, his
body hanging limp between them, his upturned face showing ghastly in
the flaming of the torch thrust out over the rail. To every appearance
it was apparently a corpse they handled, except for their tenderness,
and a single groan to which the white lips gave utterance, when one of
the bearers slipped, wrenching the wounded body with a sharp pang of
pain. Once safely on deck, the three bore him across to the after
cabin, in which a swinging lantern had been lighted, and was by then
burning brightly, and disappeared down the steps. My eyes followed
every movement, as I forgot for the instant the boat and its occupants
still tossing alongside on the waters below. As I turned back,
awakened by some cry, I saw that Estada had already swung himself up
into the chains, while Anderson and Mendez were lifting the girl to
her feet, and rather roughly urging her forward. Her hands and limbs
had been set free, but she swayed back and forth in the grasp of the
two men, as though unable to support herself alone, her face upturned
into the flare of light, as she gazed in terror at the black side of
the bark towering above. Her eyes reflected all the unutterable horror
which for the moment dominated her mind, while her loosened hair,
disarranged by struggle, only served to intensify the pallor of her
face. Yet in spite of this evident despair, there was still strength
and defiance in the firm closing of her lips, and her efforts to stand
alone, uncontaminated by the touch of the sailors' hands.
"Hustle her along lively, boys," shouted back Estada coarsely. "If she
won't move, give her a shove. Then tie her up again, and take the turn
of a rope 'round her. What do you think this is—a queen's reception?
Move lively, Senorita," in mock sarcasm.
Her gaze settled on him, where he hung far out, grasping a backstay,
watching the movements below, and her slender form straightened as by
the acquisition of new strength.
"If these creatures will take their hands off me," she said, using
their tongue without a tremor in the clear voice. "I can easily go up
alone. What is it you are so afraid of—a woman?"
The expression of Estada's face promised an outburst of profanity,
but, instead of giving it utterance, he lifted his cap in a sudden
pretense at gallantry.
"Your pardon, Senorita," he said in a tone of humble mockery. "If you
have come to your senses at last, it is well. No one can be happier
than I. Leave her alone, men. Now, my beauty, I am taking you at your
own word—a step, and then the protection of my hand. We welcome you,
as a guest aboard."
A moment and she had attained the deck. Where she stood I could no
longer see her face, yet she remained there silent and motionless,
rather stiffly erect as she faced him. Frightened, and helpless as she
was, yet her very posture seemed to express the detestation she felt
for the man. But Estada, apparently pleased with his performance thus
far, chose to continue playing the fool.
"Thanks, Senorita—thanks," he began softly, and again bowing before
her, cap in hand. "We greet you with due honor aboard the Namur—"
"Enough of that, you coward, you murderer," she broke in coldly. "Do
not touch nor speak to me."
She turned her back on him, thus coming face to face with LeVere, who
stood enjoying the scene, a wide grin on his dark face, revealing a
row of white teeth under a jet-black moustache.
"You, sir—you are an officer?"
"I have charge of the deck."
"Then where am I to go?"
The mulatto, surprised by the sudden question, glanced inquiringly
toward Estada, who had already completely lost his sense of humor.
"Go!" the latter growled. "Where is she to go? Why send the wench
below. I'll see to her later, and teach her who is the master here.
She will not queen it long on these decks, I warrant you. Off with her
now, but be back quickly." He leaned out over the rail, sending his
gruff voice below. "Send up that chest, you men—careful now not to
let it drop overboard. Yes, that's better. Hook on the boat, Manuel,
and let her drag; we must get out of here in a hurry. All ready,
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Then sheet home; how is it forrard?"
"Both anchors apeak, sir."
"Smartly done—hard down with your helm there! That's it; now let her
play off slowly."
He must have caught sight of me through the gloom, for he strode
furiously forward, giving utterance to a bristling Spanish oath. All
the savage brutality of his nature had been brought to the surface by
Dorothy's stinging words, and he sought now some fit opportunity to
give it vent. Before I could move, he had gripped me by the collar,
and swung me about, so that the light streaming out from the cabin
fell directly on my face.
"What the devil are you doing, loafing aft here?" he demanded roughly,
staring into my eyes. "Didn't you hear the orders, you damned shirker?
I've seen you hanging about for ten minutes, never lifting a hand. Who
the hell are you anyhow—the captain?"
"Joe Gates, sir."
"Gates—another damned Englishman! How did you ever get aboard here?"
It was the returning LeVere who made explanation before I could reply.
"Manuel brought him on board last night. Picked him up drunk ashore."
Estada's ugly eyes roved from face to face, as though he failed to
"Well, does he imagine he is going to be a passenger? Why hasn't he
been taught his place before this? It's about time, LeVere, for this
drunken sailor to be given a lesson to last him for awhile; and, by
God, if you won't do it, I will. Step over here, Gates."
I took the necessary step forward, and faced him, expecting the rabid
tongue lashing, which I rather felt I deserved.
"Now, my man, do you know what this bark is?"
"I think so, sir—Mister LeVere explained that to me."
"Oh, he did? Well, he must have failed to make clear the fact that we
enforce discipline aboard. The next time you neglect to jump at an
order, you are going to taste the cat. You understand me? You speak
"Yes, sir; I lived two years in Cuba."
"I see; well now, do you happen to have any idea who I am?"
"No, sir—only that you are one of the officers."
"Then I will enforce the information on your mind so that you are not
liable to forget; also the fact that hereafter you are to jump when I
speak. I am the first officer, and in command at present. Pedro Estada
is my name. Now, you damned English whelp, remember that!"
Before I even suspected what was coming, his unexpected action as
swift as the leap of a poised tiger, he struck me fairly between the
eyes with the butt of a pistol, and I went down sprawling onto the
deck. For a moment I seemed, in spite of the viciousness of the blow,
to retain a spark of consciousness, for I knew he kicked me savagely
with his heavy sea boots; I felt the pain, and even heard the words,
and curses, accompanying each brutal stroke.
"You drunken dog! You whelp of a sea wolf! You English cur! Take
that—damn you! And that! You'll not forget me for awhile, That's
it—squirm, I like to see it. When you wake up again, you'll remember
Pedro Estada, How did that feel, you grunting pig? Here, LeVere,
Manuel, throw this sot into the forecastle. Curse you, here is one
more to jog your memory."
The heavy, iron-shod boot landed full in my face, and every sensation
left me as I sank limply back, bloody and unconscious.
A FRIEND IN THE FORECASTLE
I slowly and regretfully opened my eyes, aroused perhaps by a
trampling of feet on the deck above, to find myself lying in an upper
bunk of the forecastle. I was partially covered by a ragged blanket,
but for a few moments remained unable to comprehend the situation. Yet
the vivid memory soon returned, stimulated no doubt by the continuous
aching of my body where Estada had so brutally kicked me with his
heavy boots. The first recollection of that assault brought with it a
dull anger, strangely commingled with a thought of Dorothy Fairfax,
and a sense of my own duty. The heavy rolling of the bark clearly
evidenced that we were already at sea, and bucking against a high
wind. Occasionally a monster wave broke over the cats-head, and struck
thunderingly on the deck above me, the whole vessel trembling to the
shock. Oilskins hung to the deck beams, swung here and there at
strange angles, while the single slush lantern dangled back and forth
like the pendulum of a clock.
It was a dark, dismal, smelly interior, amply large enough, but ill
ventilated, and inexpressibly dirty. Every stench under heaven seemed
to assail my nostrils, so compounded together, as to be separately
indistinguishable, although that of stale bilge water strongly
predominated. The only semblance of fresh air found entrance through
the small, square scuttle hole, attainable by means of a short ladder,
and staring up at this, I was able to perceive the light of day,
although so little penetrated below, the swaying slush light alone
served to illumine the place, and render its horrors visible. It was
day then, and we were well out at sea. I must have been lying
unconscious for several hours. In all probability, finding it
impossible to arouse me, the brutes had finally left me alone, to
either recover, or die, as fate willed. I rested back, feeling of the
numerous bruises on my body, and touching gingerly the dried blood
caked on my face. No very serious damage seemed to have been done, for
I could move without great pain, although every muscle and tendon
appeared to be strained and lacerated. My head had cleared also from
its earlier sensation of dullness, the brain actively taking up its
work. Clinching my teeth to keep back a groan, I succeeded in sitting
upright, my head touching the upper deck, as I undertook to survey my
surroundings. They were gloomy and dismal enough. The forecastle, in
true Dutch style, had been built directly into the bows, so that the
bunks, arranged three tiers high, formed a complete half circle. The
single lantern, flickering and flaring as it swung constantly to the
sharp pitching of the vessel, cast grotesque shadows, and failed
entirely to penetrate the corners. The deck below me was littered with
chests, sea boots, and odds and ends of clothing, while farther aft
considerable water had found entrance through the scuttle hole, and
was slushing back and forth as the bark rolled. About half the bunks
seemed to be occupied, the figures of the sleeping men barely
discernible, although their heavy breathing evidenced their presence,
and added to the babel of sound. Every bolt and beam creaked and
groaned in the ceaseless struggle with the sea.
The bunk in which I had awakened was situated almost at the apex of
the half circle, so that I had a clear view of the wider open space.
Those beneath me contained no occupants, nor, at first, could I
distinguish any in the tier directly opposite. Evidently the watch off
duty preferred to seek their rest as far away as possible from those
waves pounding against the bow. However, as I sat there, staring about
at this scene, and uncertain as to what my next move should be, there
was a stir within the upper berth on my own level, and a moment later,
an uplifted face appeared suddenly in the yellow flare of light. It
was manifestly an English face at first glance, rosy of cheek, with
chestnut beard, and light, tousled hair. A pair of humorous, gray eyes
surveyed me silently, and then, apparently satisfied by the scrutiny,
the owner sat up in the bunk, revealing powerful shoulders, and a
round, bull neck.
"Ahoy, mate," he said pleasantly, endeavoring to speak low, the effort
resembling the growl of a bear. "How do you feel—pretty sore?"
"Ache from head to foot," I answered, immediately feeling his
friendliness. "But no harm done."
"I saw part of it. The damn black brute kicked savagely enough, but at
that you're lucky; it's the Spanish style to use a knife. I've seen
that cock slash a man into ribbons for nothing at all—just to show he
was bad. Haines tells me your name is Gates, and that you are
"That's right; I shipped first out of Bristol."
"So did I, mate—twenty years ago though, and I never went back since.
My name is Tom Watkins. Let's shake; there is quite a sprinkling of us
Britishers aboard, and we ought to hang together."
He put out a big, hairy fist, and I gripped it heartily, decidedly
liking the man as his eyes frankly met mine. He appeared honest and
square, a fine type of the English seaman.
"Tom Watkins, you said. May I ask if you were out on the bow-sprit
along with Haines last night?"
"Just afore the long-boat come in? Yes, we were there."
"Well, I was down below, hanging to the cable, and overheard you two
talking together. Somehow, Watkins, you do not seem to me to fit in
exactly with this gang of pirates; you don't look to be that sort. How
long have you been with them?"
He glanced about warily, lowering his voice until it became a hoarse
"Three years, mate, and most of that time has been hell. I haven't
even been ashore, but once, and that was on an island. These fellows
don't put any trust in my kind, nor give them any chance to cut and
run. Once in awhile a lad does get away, but most of them are caught;
and those that are sure get their punishment. They never try it again.
I've seen them staked out on the sand, and left to die; that ain't no
nice thing to remember."
"But how did you come into it?" "Like most of the rest. I was second
mate of the Ranger, a Glasgow brig. We loaded with sugar at
Martinique, for London. These fellows overhauled us at daybreak about
a hundred miles off the east end of Cuba. They had a swift schooner,
and five guns, one a Long Tom. All we had to fight them with was about
fifteen men, and two brass carronades. Our skipper was Scotch, and he
put up some fight, but it wasn't any use. There was only three of us
left alive when the pirates came aboard. One of these died two days
later, and another was washed overboard and drowned down in the Gulf.
I am all that is left of the Ranger."
"You saved your life by taking on?"
"Sanchez had the two of us, who were able to stand, back in his cabin.
He put it to us straight. He said it was up to us whether we signed
up, or walked the plank; and he didn't appear to care a damn which we
chose. The cold-blooded devil meant it too, for he was raging mad at
getting only five hundred pounds off the brig. Well, Jack and I looked
at each other—and then we signed."
"And you say others of this crew have been obtained in the same
manner?" I questioned, deeply interested, and perceiving in this a ray
"Not exactly—no, I wouldn't precisely say that. It's true, perhaps,
that most of the Britishers were forced to join in about the same way
I was, and there may be a Scandinavian, or two, with a few Dutch, to
be counted in that list; but the most of these cusses are pirates from
choice. It's their trade, and they like it. Sanchez only aims to keep
hold of a few good men, because he has got to have sailors; but most
of his crew are nothing but plain cut-throats."
"Where does he find them?"
"Where? Why the West Indies are full of such devils; been breeding
them down there for two hundred years—-Indians and half-breeds,
niggers, Creoles, Portuguese, Spanish, and every damned mongrel you
ever heard of. Sanchez himself is half French. The hell-hound who
kicked you is a Portugee, and LeVere is more nigger than anything
else. I'll bet there is a hundred rats on board this Namur right now
who'd cut your throat for a sovereign, and never so much as think of
"A hundred? Is there that many aboard?"
"A hundred an' thirty all told. Most o' 'em bunk amidships. They're
not sailormen, but just cut-throats, an' sea wolves. Yer ought ter see
'em swarm out on deck, like hungry rats, when thar's a fight comin'.
It's all they're good fer."
"Watkins," I said soberly, after a pause during which he spat on the
dirty deck to thus better express his feelings "do you mean to say
that in three years you've had no chance to escape? No opportunity to
"Not a chance, mate; no more will you. The only place I've put foot
ashore has been Porto Grande, where we run in to refit. That's a worse
hell than the ship itself."
"But Haines goes ashore; he was with Manuel's boat yesterday."
The big fellow laughed grimly.
"Bill rather likes the job, an' they know it. He's a boatswain, an'
gets a big share of the swag. He's the only Britisher aboard who
wouldn't cut and run in a minute; besides he's got a girl at Porto
"And that fellow Anderson who was with Estada?"
"The lowest kind of a Swede cur—he'll do more dirt than a Portugee. I
know what yer thinkin' 'bout. I had them notions too when I fu'st come
aboard—gettin' all the decent sort tergether, and takin' the vessel.
'Twon't work; thar ain't 'nough who wud risk it, and if thar wus, yer
couldn't get 'em tergether. Sanchez is too damn smart fer thet. Every
damn rat is a spy. I ain't hed no such talk as this afore in six
months, Gates; the last time cost me twenty lashes at the mast-butt."
"Is there any chance of our being overheard now?"
"No; these near bunks are all empty, an' the damn noise drowns our
voices. What'd yer have in your mind, mate?"
"Only this, Watkins. I've got to do something, and believe I can trust
you. You are a square English seaman, probably the only one aboard I
can repose confidence in. I don't blame you for sticking, for I
suppose likely I'd do the same if I was in your case. But I
ain't—it's not my life I'm thinking about, but that of a woman."
He stared at me across the narrow space separating our bunks, the
shadows from the swinging lantern giving his features a strange
"A woman! Hell, lad; not the one brought aboard last night?"
"Exactly; now listen—I'm going to tell you my story, and ask your
help. Do you know what Estada went after in the long-boat?"
"Well, there's been plenty o' talk. The cook brought us some stories
he heard aft, an' we knew we wus driftin' along the coast, waitin' fer
Sanchez ter cum back. I suppose he'd got onto some English gold—in
that chest they slung aboard, wasn't it?"
"Yes; that was the main object. My name is not Gates, at all, and I am
not the man Mendez brought aboard drunk, and who was thrown over the
rail by LeVere. That fellow was drowned."
"Well, by God!"
"I am Geoffry Carlyle, an English skipper. There has been a revolution
in England, in which I became involved. When the attempt failed, I was
taken prisoner and deported to America for twenty years servitude. I
came over with a bunch of others on the same ship with Sanchez."
"The Romping Betsy?"
"Yes. There was a rich planter, and his niece also aboard. He was
coming home with a chest of money—fifty thousand pounds—realized
from a big sale of tobacco in London, and the young woman was
returning from attending school in England. Sanchez was aboard to gain
possession of both."
Watkins nodded, too deeply interested in the narrative to interrupt.
"He pretended to be of the Spanish nobility, an ex-naval officer, and
tried all the way over to make love to this Dorothy Fairfax. He got
along all right with the uncle, and was invited to visit him, but the
girl was not so easy. He must have had it all planned out how he was
to get the gold, Fairfax carried—that was what the Namur was
waiting for—and when he found that the young woman could not be won
by fair means, he decided to take her by force."
"It's not the first time for the black-hearted devil. But how did you
happen to come along?"
"Fairfax bought me to run his sloop. Perhaps it was the girl who won
him over. Anyhow this arrangement angered Sanchez, and we had words.
You know the rest, or, at least, the main facts. Sanchez and the boat
crew held rendezvous at the first landing up the Bay. It was
prearranged, but it was my fortune to meet the Captain alone on shore
in the dark, where we fought."
"It was you then who drove the knife in? God!" excitedly, "but I would
give ten years for such a chance. Ay, and, they say, you came within
an eighth of an inch of sending him to hell."
"I knew not where I struck; 'twas a death struggle in the dark. I
thought him dead when I left him, and ran to warn the others. But for
this I was too late. The moment I set foot on the sloop's deck it was
to close in battle with the big negro."
"Cochose? He saw you then?"
"No, only as a shape. He can have no better memory of me, than I of
him. We fought as demons, until his giant strength forced me over the
rail. He has no knowledge that I ever rose again."
"Oblivion; nothing. Only what I saw in the return of the boat tells me
what followed. I came back to consciousness in a small dory, afloat on
the Bay, with but one thought in my mind—to save the girl. How? It
was too late to return, even had I known the way; but I could come
here, to this ship. So here I came."
"But how, in advance of those in the long-boat?"
"By cutting across the point; the coast to the north is a wide circle.
Besides the discovery of Sanchez sorely wounded left the others
without a leader. Fairfax and his niece together with the treasure,
were in Travers' house, at top of the bluff. They had to carry out an
attack there, which probably meant more fighting. What really happened
there, of course, I do not know."
"It can be easily imagined," said Watkins soberly. "Estada has no
mercy; he is a born devil. I have seen him kill just for the pleasure
of it. With Sanchez to avenge he would be an unleashed demon. But it
is not the fate of those men to consider now; it is what will befall
this girl prisoner. You have no plan?"
"None; to become a member of the crew was my only thought. But I must
act, if at all, before the Captain recovers. He would recognize me at
sight. You will aid, advise me?"
The sailor sat silent; the former expression of humor in his face
"That is easier to ask, than answer, mate," he admitted finally. "I am
an English seaman, and will do my duty, but, so far as I can see,
there is no plan we can make. It is God who will save the girl, if she
is to be saved. He may use us to that end, but it is wholly beyond our
power to accomplish it alone. The only thing I can do is to sound out
the men aboard, and learn just what we can expect of them if any
opportunity to act comes. There are not more than a dozen at most to
be relied upon."
"And my part?"
"Do nothing at present. Play your part, and keep quiet. If you can let
her know of your presence aboard without discovery it might be
best—for if she saw you suddenly, unprepared, she might say or do
something to betray you. There are other reasons why it may be best
for her to know she is not entirely deserted."
He leaned over, motioning me toward him, until his lips were at my
"It may not prove as hopeless as it appears now," he whispered
confidentially. "I helped carry Sanchez to his stateroom, and washed
and dressed his wound. There is no surgeon aboard, but I have some
skill in such matters. He has a bad cut, and is very weak from loss of
blood. The question of our success hinges on Pedro Estada."
"What he will do, you mean?"
"Yes; this is a chance which I happen to know he has long been waiting
for. The only question is, has he the nerve to act. I doubt if he has
alone, but LeVere is with him, and that half-breed would cut the
throat of his best friend. You understand?—the death of Sanchez would
make Estada chief. The two men hate each other—why not? There was a
plan before which failed; this time it may not fail."
"But," I interposed, "in that case what would the crew do?"
"Accept Estada, no doubt; at least the cut-throats would be with him,
for he is of their sort. All they care for is blood and booty. But
Sanchez's death would save you from discovery, and," his voice still
lower, so that I barely distinguished the words, "in the confusion
aboard, if we were ready, the Namur might be so disabled as to
compel them to run her ashore for repairs. That would give you a
chance. If once we reach Porto Grande there is no hope."
A marling-spike pounded on the scuttle, and Haines' voice roared down.
"Port watch! Hustle out bullies!"
I ACCEPT A PROPOSAL
I went on deck with the watch, and mingled with them forward. No one
in authority took any particular notice of me, and I was permitted to
take hold with the others at the various tasks. A Portuguese boatswain
asked me who I was, and later reported my presence to LeVere, who had
charge of the deck, but the only result was my being set at polishing
the gun mounted on the forecastle. The mulatto did not come forward,
and I rejoiced at having my status aboard so easily settled, and being
permitted to remain in the same watch with Watkins.
It was a dull gray morning, the gloominess of the overhanging clouds
reflected in the water. Men on lookout were stationed in the fore-top
and on the heads, yet the sharpest eyes could scarcely see beyond a
half mile in any direction. The sea came at us in great ocean swells,
but the stout bark fought a passage through them, shivering with each
blow, yet driven forward on her course by half-reefed sails, standing
hard as boards in the sweep of the steady gale. Two men struggled at
the wheel, and there were times when LeVere paused in his promenade
from rail to rail to give them a helping hand. His anxiety was
evidenced by his hailing the mast-head every few moments, only to
receive each time the same response. The mist failed to lift, but
seemed to shut us in more closely with every hour, the wind growing
continually more boisterous, but LeVere held on grimly. I was kept at
the guns during the entire time of our watch. Besides the Long Tom
forward, a vicious piece, two swivel guns were on each side,
completely concealed by the thick bulwarks, and to be fired through
ports, so ingeniously closed as to be imperceptible a few yards away.
All these pieces of ordnance were kept covered by tarpaulin so that at
a little distance the Namur of Rotterdam appeared like a peaceful
There was a brass carronade at the stern in plain view, and so mounted
as to be swung inboard in case of necessity. Its ugly muzzle could
thus rake the deck fore and aft, but the presence of such a piece
would create no suspicion in those days when every ship was armed for
defense, and consequently no effort was made for its concealment. I
was busily at work on this bit of ordnance, when Estada came on deck
for a moment. After staring aloft, and about the horizon into the
impenetrable mist, he joined LeVere at the port rail in a short
earnest conversation. As the two worthies parted the fellow chanced to
observe me. I caught the quick look of recognition in his eyes, but
bent to my work as though indifferent to his presence, yet failed to
"You must be a pretty tough bird, Gates," he said roughly, "or I would
have killed you last night—I had the mind too."
Something about his voice and manner led me to feel that, in spite of
his roughness, he was not in bad humor.
"That would have been a mistake, sir," I answered, straightening up,
rag in hand, "for it would have cost you a good seaman."
"Hoila! they are easily picked up; one, more or less, counts for
little in these seas."
He looked at me searchingly, for the first time perhaps, actually
noting my features. In spite of my dirty, disheveled appearance and
the bruises disfiguring my face, this scrutiny must have aroused his
"Why do you say that, my man?" he questioned sharply. "You were before
the mast and drifted aboard here because you were drunk—isn't that
"Partially, yes. It was drink that put me before the mast." I
explained, rejoicing in his mood, and suddenly hoping such a statement
might help my status aboard. "Three years ago I was skipper on my own
vessel. It was Rum ruined me."
"Saint Christopher! Do you mean to say you can read charts, and take
I smiled, encouraged by his surprise, and the change in his tone.
"Yes, sir; I saw ten years' service as mate."
"What was your last ship?"
"The Bombay Castle, London to Hong Kong; I wrecked her off Cape
Mendez in a fog. I was drunk below, and it cost me my ticket."
"You know West Indian waters?"
"Slightly; I made two voyages to Panama, and one to Havana."
"And speak Spanish?"
"A little bit, sir, as you see; I learn languages easily."
He stared straight into my face, but, without uttering another word,
turned on his heel and went below. Whether, or not, I had made an
impression on the fellow I did not know. His face was a mask perfectly
concealing his thought. That he had appeared interested enough to
question me had in it a measure of encouragement. He would surely
remember, and sometime he might have occasion to make use of me. At
least I would no longer remain in his mind as a mere foremast hand to
be kicked about, and spoken to like a dog. I went back to my polishing
of brass in a more cheerful mood—perhaps this would prove the first
step leading to my greater future liberty on the Namur. I had
finished my labor on the carronade, and was fastening down securely
the tarpaulin, when a thin, stoop-shouldered fellow, with a hang-dog
face crept up the ladder to the poop, and shuffled over to where
LeVere was gazing out over the rail, oblivious to his approach.
"Mister LeVere, sir," he spoke apologetically, his voice no more than
a wisp of sound.
The mulatto wheeled about startled.
"Oh, it's you! Well, what is it, Gunsaules?"
"Senor Estada, sir; he wishes to see a sailor named Gates in the
"Who? Gates? Oh, yes, the new man." He swept his eyes about, until he
saw me. "Gates is your name, isn't it?"
"Follow the steward below; Senor Estada wishes to see you—go just as
"Very good, sir—is this the steward?"
The fellow led the way, amusing me by the peculiar manner in which
his long legs clung to the ladder, and then wobbled about on the
rolling deck until he attained the protection of the companion-way. A
half dozen broad, uncarpeted steps led down into the after cabin,
which was plain and practically without furniture, except for a bare
table suspended from the upper beams and a few chairs securely resting
in chocks. The deck was bare, but had been thoroughly scrubbed, the
water not entirely dried, and forward there was a rack of small arms,
the polished steel shining in the gray light of the transom overhead.
The Dutch character of the bark was very apparent here, in the
excessively heavy deck beams, and the general gloom of the interior,
finished off in dark wood and ornamented with carved paneling. Filled
with wonderment as to why I had been sent for, I halted at the foot of
the steps gazing about the dreary interior, surprised at its positive
dinginess. There were evidently six staterooms opening on the main
cabin, and these must be little more than boxes to judge from the
breadth of the vessel. What was farther aft I could not determine
because of a lack of light, but as no stern ports were visible, it was
to be assumed that this gave space for two more larger staterooms
directly astern—occupied probably by the Captain and his first
officer. There was no one in the main cabin, although a cat lay asleep
on one of the chairs, and after a moment's hesitancy, I followed the
beckoning steward, who rapped with his knuckles on one of the side
doors. Estada's voice answered.
"Who is it?"
"Gunsaules, Senor; I have with me the sailor." "Open the door, and
let him in; I would see him here. Come inside, Gates." His eyes
surveyed us both in the narrow opening. "That will be all Juan; no one
is to be admitted until I tell you—and, 'twill be well for you to
remain by the stairs on guard, you understand?"
"Another thing," sternly, "don't let me catch you listening outside
the door; if I do God have mercy on you."
I stepped inside, doubtful enough of what all this might mean, yet
quite prepared to accept of any chance it might offer. Gunsaules
closed the door softly, but I had already visioned the apartment in
all its details. It was small, and nearly square, a swinging lantern
in the center, a single bunk on one side, and a small table on the
other, screwed to the wall, and covered with charts and various
papers. A few books were upon a shelf above this, and a sea chest was
shoved under the bunk. Some oilskins, together with a suit of clothes
dangled from wooden pins, while the only other furniture consisted of
a straight-backed chair, and a four-legged stool. The round port stood
partly open, and through it I could see the gray expanse of water.
All these I perceived at a glance, but the instant the door closed
behind me my entire attention concentrated on Estada. He sat upright
in the chair gazing straight at me, his own face clearly revealed in
the light from the open port. It seemed to me I was looking at the man
for the first time, and it was not a pleasant picture. His face was
swarthy, long and thin, with hard, set lips under a long, intensely
black moustache, his cheeks strangely crisscrossed by lines. The nose
was large, distinctively Roman, yielding him a hawklike appearance,
but it was his eyes which fascinated me. They were dark, and deeply
set, absolute wells of cruelty. I had never before seen such eyes in
the face of a human being; they were beastly, devilish; I could feel
my blood chill as I looked into their depths, yet I held myself erect,
and waited for the man to speak. It seemed a long delay, yet doubtless
was scarcely more than a moment. Then his lips curled in what was
meant to be a smile, and he waved his hand.
"Sit down on the stool, Gates. Have you any knowledge of Portuguese?"
"None whatever, sir."
"Nor do I English; so we shall have to rely on the language of Spain."
"I am hardly expert in that" I explained. "But if you do not talk too
fast, I can manage fairly well."
"I shall speak simply. Wait a moment."
He arose, stepped quietly to the door, and glanced out, returning
"I don't trust that damned steward," he said, "nor, as a matter of
fact, anyone else wholly." He paused, and stared at me; then added:
"I've never had any faith in your race, Gates, but am inclined to use
"I do not know any special reason why you should sir."
"No more do I. Every Englishman I ever knew was a liar, and a sneaking
poltroon. I was brought up to hate the race, and always have. I can't
say that I like you any better than the others. By God! I don't, for
the matter of that. But just now you can be useful to me if you are
of that mind. This is a business proposition, and it makes no odds if
we hate each other, so the end is gained. How does that sound?"
I shifted my position so as to gain a clearer view of his face. I was
still wholly at sea as to what the fellow was driving at—yet,
evidently enough he was in earnest. It was my part to find out.
"Not altogether bad," I admitted. "I have been in some games of chance
"I thought as much," eagerly, "and money has the same chink however it
be earned. You could use some?"
"If I had any to use; after a sailor has been drunk there is not apt
to be much left in his pockets."
He reached across into the upper bunk, and brought forth a bottle and
glass, placing these upon the table at his elbow.
"Have a drink first," he said, pouring it out. "It will stiffen your
"Thanks, no, Senor. I have nerve enough and once I start that sort of
thing there is no stopping. Take it yourself and then tell me what is
in the wind."
"I will, Gates," affecting cordiality, although I somehow felt that my
refusal to imbibe had aroused a faint suspicion in his mind. "But I
would rather you would show yourself a good fellow. I like to see a
man take his liquor and hold it."
He sat down the emptied glass, and straightened back in the chair, his
eyes searching as ever.
"The fact is," he began doubtfully, "what you just said to me on deck
chanced to be of interest. You were not boasting?"
"I answered your questions truthfully, if that is what you mean."
"You are a navigator?"
"I was in command of ships for four years, Senor; naturally I know
"Do you mind if I test you?"
"Not in the least; although it will have to be in English; as I do not
know the Spanish sea terms."
"Let that go then; I will soon learn if you have lied, and that will
be a sorry day for you. I'll tell you, Gates, how matters stand
aboard, and why I have need of your skill. Then you may take your
choice—the forecastle, or the cabin?"
"You invite me aft, Senor?"
"I give you a chance to move your dunnage, if you will do my work," he
explained seriously. "Listen now. Sanchez has been badly hurt. It may
be weeks before he leaves his cabin, if, indeed, he ever does. That
leaves me in command with but one officer, the mulatto, LeVere. This
might answer to take us safely to Porto Grande, as we could stand
watch and watch, but Francois is no sailor. It was his part on board
to train and lead the fighting men—he cannot navigate. Saint
Christopher! I fear to leave him alone in charge of the deck while I
snatch an hour's sleep."
"I see," I admitted. "And yourself, Senor? You are a seaman?"
He hated to confess, yet my eyes were honest, and met his squarely.
"Enough to get along, but not quite sure as to my figures. I have
taken no sights, except as we came north, on this trip. 'Tis for this
reason I need you—but you will play me no smart English trick, my
man, or I'll have you by the heels at once. I know enough to verify
"I thought of no trick, Estada." I said coldly, now satisfied as to
his purpose, and confident of my own power. "English, or otherwise. It
is well we understand each other. You would have me as navigator, very
well—at what terms?"
His eyes seemed to narrow, and become darker.
"With rating as first officer, and your fair proportion of all
"You mean then to continue the course? To attack vessels on the high
"Why not?" sneeringly. "Are you too white-livered for that sort of
job? If so, then you are no man for me. It is a long voyage to Porto
Grande, and no reason why we should hurry home; the welcome there will
be better if we bring chests of gold aboard. Ay, and the thought will
put hope into the hearts of the crew; they are restless now from long
"But Captain Sanchez? You have no surgeon I am told. Will he not
suffer from neglect of his wound?"
"Suffer? No more than under a leech ashore. All that can be done, has
been. There are men aboard able to treat any ordinary wound. His was a
clean knife thrust, which has been washed, treated with lotion, and
bound up. No leech could do more."
"And my quarters—will they be aft?"
"You will have your choice of those at port. Come now—have you an
"I would be a fool not to have," heartily. "I am your man Estada."
I WARN DOROTHY
The Portuguese, evidently well pleased at my prompt acceptance of his
proposal, talked on for some time, explaining to me something of the
situation aboard the Namur, and pointing out what he believed to be
our position on the chart. I asked a few questions, although I paid
but little attention to what he said, my mind being busied with
searching out his real purpose. No doubt the situation was very nearly
as he described it to be—LeVere was no navigator, and Estada himself
only an indifferent one. Yet at that the course to the West Indies was
not a long one, and, if the Portuguese had been able to bring the bark
from there to the Chesapeake, the return voyage should not terrify him
greatly. No, that was not the object; he was planning to keep at sea,
to waylay and attack merchant ships, and then, after a successful
cruise, arrive at Porto Grande, laden with spoils, and hailed as a
great leader. His plan was to dispose of Sanchez—even to permit the
Spaniard to die of his wounds; possibly even to hasten and assure that
death by some secret resort to violence. No doubt LeVere was also
concerned in the conspiracy, and would profit by it, and possibly
these two were likewise assured of the cooperation of the more
reckless spirits among the crew. I remembered what Watkins had
whispered to me forward—his suspicions of them both. He had been
right; already the fuse was being laid, and, very fortunately, I
happened to be chosen to help touch it off. The chance I had sought
blindly, was being plainly revealed.
It was evident enough, however, that Estada had no intention of
trusting me immediately with his real motives. His confidence was
limited, and his instructions related altogether to mere matters of
ship routine. I asked a few questions, and twice he lied coolly, but I
dared not mention the girl in any way, for fear that even a casual
reference to her presence on board, might arouse his suspicions of my
interest. We were at sea, and my presence aft gave me opportunity to
observe all that was going on in the cabin. I could await
developments. But I was becoming wearied by the man.
"I understand perfectly, Senor," I broke in at last impatiently. "You
will have to take for granted that I can enforce sea discipline, and
navigate your boat to whatever part of the ocean you desire to sail.
All I need is your orders. This, I take it, is all you require of me?"
"Yes; I plan, you execute."
"Very good; now about myself," and I arose to my feet, determined to
close the interview. "I would study these charts, and figure out our
probable position by dead reckoning—there is little chance of having
glimpse of the sun today; the fog out there grows heavier. You say I
may choose any stateroom on the port side?"
"They are all unoccupied, except one, used by the steward as a
I opened the door, and stepped out into the main cabin, the roll of
charts under my arm. The place was deserted, and, with a glance
about, met Estada's eyes observing me closely. He didn't wait for me
to question him.
"Captain Sanchez's stateroom is aft," he said, with a wave of the
"The entire width of the bark?"
"No, there are two rooms."
"He is left alone?"
"Jose is with him—a negro, with a knack at nursing."
"Who else is quartered aft here?"
He ignored the one thing I most desired to learn, but I did not press
it, believing I knew the answer already.
"LeVere has this middle stateroom, and Mendez the one forward."
"What rank has Mendez?"
"Third officer, and carpenter. Just at present with LeVere required on
deck, he has charge of the men below."
"The crew, you mean?"
"Not the working crew; they are quartered in the forecastle, and are
largely English and Swede. But we have to carry extra men, who bunk
amidships—hell-hounds to fight; damn mongrels of course."
"You keep them below, all through the voyage?"
"They are allowed on deck amidships when we are at sea, but are not
encouraged to mingle with the sailors. We're over a powder magazine
all the time, Gates—any spark might set it off."
I opened one of the doors opposite, and glanced within. The interior
differed but little from that of the stateroom occupied by Estada,
except it was minus the table. No doubt they were all practically
"This will do very well," I said, quietly. "Now how about clothes?
These I wear look rather rough for the new job."
"I'll send you the steward; he'll fix you out from the slop-chest.
We're always well supplied."
I was glad to see him go and closed the door on him with a sigh of
relief. His eyes seemed to exercise a peculiar influence over me, a
snakelike charm, against which I had to constantly battle. I threw the
bundle of charts into the upper bunk, and unscrewed the glass of the
port to gain a view without, and a breath of fresh air. There was
nothing to see but a small vista of gray sea, blending into the gray
mist, and the waves on this side ran so high I was compelled to close
the port to keep out the spray. I sat down on the stool, staring about
the compartment, realizing suddenly how well fortune had served my
cause—the chance to impersonate the drunken sailor; the meeting with
Watkins, my chance words to Estada on deck, and now this translation
from forecastle to cabin. It had all occurred so quickly, almost
without effort on my part, I could do little but wonder what strange
occurrence would be next. What, indeed, was there for me to do except
to await developments? Only one thing occurred to me—I must discover
some means immediately of communicating with Dorothy Fairfax.
The importance of this could not be overestimated. With myself
quartered aft, and eating in the cabin, we were bound to meet sooner
or later; and the girl must previously be warned of my presence
aboard, or in her first surprise at the recognition, I should be
instantly betrayed. Nothing would escape Estada, and the slightest
evidence that we two had formerly met, would awaken his suspicion. My
only hope of success lay in my ability to increase his faith in my
pledges. The necessity of having a competent navigator aft alone
accounted for my promotion. The Portuguese neither liked nor trusted
me; he hated and despised my race; he would have me watched, and would
carefully check over my figures. I should be compelled to serve him
faithfully and without arousing the slightest question in his mind, in
order to establish myself in his esteem, or gain any real freedom
aboard. Yet, if I was to serve the girl, there must be, first of all,
intelligent cooperation between us. She must not only know of my
presence on the Namur, but also the purpose actuating me. I had
reached this conclusion, when a light hesitating knock sounded on the
"Who is there?"
"The steward, Senor, with your clothes?"
"Bring them in."
Gunsaules entered, the garments over his arm, and shuffled in his
peculiar gliding manner across to the bunk where he laid out the
pieces carefully one by one, evidently proud of his selection.
"Quite a beautiful piece of goods, Senor," he ventured, speaking so
softly I could barely distinguish the words above the crash of the
waves on the ship's side. "And most excellently tailored. I do not
remember whether these came out of the Adair or La Rosalie—the
French ship most likely, for as you see, Senor, there is quite the
Parisian cut to this coat. I mark these things for I was once
apprenticed to a tailor in Madrid."
He stood fondling the garment lovingly, the expression of his face so
solemnly interested, I had difficulty in suppressing a laugh.
"Some change in your trade, Gunsaules. Did you take this one up from
choice? You do not look to me like a fighting man."
He glanced apprehensively at the open door, speaking even lower than
before, if possible.
"No more am I, Senor. The blood make me faint. I go hungry in Santo
Domingo—God forgive me for ever going there!—and, to keep from
starving I took this job."
"With Sanchez, or before the bark was captured?"
"Before, Senor. The captain's name was Schmitt. Not since have I been
ashore, but they spare me because I was Spanish."
I would have asked the fellow more, perhaps even have tested him in
his loyalty to his new masters; but I felt this was neither place nor
time. Estada might return, and besides the man was evidently a
poor-spirited creature, little apt to be of service even if he so
"The clothes seem to be all right, Steward," I said rather briskly,
"and I judge will fit. Now hunt me up first of all something to shave
with, then some tobacco and a pipe and—yes, wait a second; writing
"And, by the way, there are two staterooms astern. Who occupies the
one to starboard—Senor Estada?"
"No Senor; it is the young lady."
"Oh, the one brought aboard last night. Have you seen her?" "Si,
Senor; she is English, and good to look at, but she sit and stare out
the stern port. She will not speak or eat. I take in her breakfast,
but she touch not a morsel. So I tell Senor Estada, and he say, 'then
bring her out to dinner with me; I'll make the hussy eat, if I have to
choke it down her dainty throat,'"
"Good; I'll have a look at her myself then. Now hurry up those things,
Steward, and remember what I sent you after."
He brought the shaving set, and writing materials first, explaining
that he would have to go down into the lazaret, and break open some
packages for the tobacco and pipe. The moment the fellow disappeared I
grasped the opportunity. Where Estada had gone, whether back into his
stateroom, or on deck, I had no means of knowing. In fact this could
make little difference, for it was not likely he would leave me alone
for any great length of time. It must already be approaching the end
of LeVere's watch, and I would certainly be called upon to relieve
him. And, following my turn on deck would be dinner in the cabin, and
the probable encounter with Dorothy. This clearly meant that I must
communicate with the girl immediately, or not at all. I dashed off a
note hurriedly—a brief line merely stating my presence on board, and
begging her not to exhibit surprise at meeting me. I had no time in
which to explain, or make clear the situation. With this folded and
concealed in my hand, I silently pushed open the door, and took a
hasty glance about the cabin.
It was unoccupied, yet I must move with caution. It was possible for
one on deck to look down through the skylight, and even if Estada was
not in his own room, the nurse assigned to Sanchez might be awake and
appear at any moment. The risk was not small, yet must be taken, and I
crept swiftly forward following the circle of the staterooms, until I
came to the closed door of the one I sought aft. I bent here an
instant, listening for some sound from within, but heard none. I dared
not remain, or even venture to test the lock. Gunsaules had said this
was her place of confinement, and there was seemingly no reason why
she should have been given a guard. Beyond doubt the girl was within
and alone, and I must trust her quick intelligence to respond to my
written message. I thrust it through the narrow opening above the
sill, and the moment it disappeared within, stole swiftly back to my
own room. The action had not been seen, and yet I had scarcely a
moment to spare. Before I could lather my face, standing before a
small cracked mirror, bracing myself to the roll of the bark, the
steward returned, bearing in his hands tobacco and pipe.
Estada, however, remained away longer than I had anticipated he would,
and I was fully dressed and comfortably smoking before he came down
from the deck and crossed the cabin to my partially open door.
"The starboard watch has been called," he said, "and you are to take
charge of the deck, relieving LeVere. I waited to explain the
situation to the men before you appeared. I suppose you are ready?"
"Ay, ay, Senor," knocking the ashes out of my pipe, and rising. He
eyed my clothes disapprovingly.
"Rather a fancy rig, Gates, for a first officer on duty." "Some
style I admit, Senor, but they were all the steward offered me."
"You'll have to carry a hard fist, my man, to back up that costume
aboard the Namur," he said coldly. "Those black devils are apt to
mistake you for a plaything."
"Let them test it once; they will soon find I have the hard fist. I've
tamed wild crews before today and it might as well be first as last. I
suppose half measures do not go with these lads."
"Santa Maria—-no! It is kill, or be killed, in our trade, and they
will try out your metal. Come on now."
I followed him up the stairs to the deck. His words had in no way
alarmed me, but served rather to harden my resolve. I looked for
trouble, and was inclined to welcome it, anxious indeed to prove to
Estada my ability to handle men. Nothing else would so quickly appeal
to him, or serve so rapidly to establish me in his esteem; and to win
his confidence was my chief concern. Nothing occurred, however, to
cause any breach of authority. A few fellows were lounging amidships
and stared idly at us as we mounted to the poop deck. These were of
the fighting contingent I supposed, and the real members of the crew
were forward. LeVere was still on duty, and came forward and shook
hands at my appearance.
"Rather glad I didn't drown you," he said, intending to be pleasant.
"But hope you'll not run amuck in the after cabin."
"I shall try not too, unless I have cause," I answered, looking him
square in the eyes, and determining to make my position clear at once.
"Senor Estada tells me I am to relieve you. What is the course?"
"Sou'west, by half sou'."
"We might be carrying more canvas."
"There is nothing to hurry about, and the fog is thick."
"That will probably lift within an hour. Do you know your position?"
"Only in a general way. We have held an east by south course since
leaving the Capes, until an hour ago, making about ten knots."
"Very well, I will figure it out as best I can, and mark it on the
chart. There is nothing further to report?"
"No Senor; all has been as it is now."
He glanced toward Estada, not greatly pleased I presume with my
brusqueness, yet finding nothing in either words or manner from which
to evoke a quarrel. The latter had overheard our conversation, but he
stood now with back toward us looking out on the sea off the port
quarter. His silent indifference caused LeVere to shrug his shoulders,
and disappear down the ladder on his way below. I turned my face to
the man at the wheel—it was the giant negro—Cochose.
THE CABIN OF THE NAMUR
Both huge black hands grasped the spokes, and it was evident that it
required all his giant strength to control the bucking wheel. He was
an ugly-looking brute, the lower portion of his face apelike, and the
wool growing so low as to leave him scarcely an inch of forehead. His
eyes lifted an instant from the binnacle card to glance at me
curiously. They exhibited no flash of recognition. With sudden relief,
and a determination to thoroughly assure myself, I stepped forward and
"Little heavy for one man, isn't it?"
"Oh, Ah don't mind, boss," his thick lips grinning. "Ah's bin alone
worse tricks den dis."
"You seem to be holding the course, all right—sou'west, by sou',
Senor LeVere says."
"What is your name?"
"Cochose, Senor; Ah's a French nigger."
"Very good, Cochose; my name is Gates, and I am the new first officer.
If you need any help, let me know."
He nodded, still grinning, to let me realize he understood, and I
stepped aside, confident that the fellow retained no recollection of
my features. The relief of this knowledge was considerable, and I
gazed over the bark forward with a new feeling of security. Thus far
I had successfully passed the test, and been accepted by all on board.
The only remaining danger of recognition lay in the early recovery of
Sanchez, and, as I glanced aside at Estada the conviction became fixed
in my mind that such recovery was doubtful. I felt that I had already
penetrated the cowardly plan of the Portuguese, but felt no
inclination to interpose. Indeed I had more occasion to dread the
return of Sanchez to command than did Estada himself. With me life was
at stake; while with him it was but the goal of ambition and power.
Brutal and evil minded as Estada undoubtedly was, I had taken his
measure, and felt confident of being able to outwit him; but Sanchez
would prove a different problem, for he possessed brains and cool,
resourceful courage. Of the two he was far more to be feared.
For half an hour Estada hung about aft, apparently paying no attention
to me, and yet watching my movements closely. There was little to be
done, but I thought it best to keep the watch reasonably busy, so they
might thus learn that I knew my work. They proved prompt and capable
enough, although I was eyed with some curiosity when I went forward,
and, no doubt was very thoroughly discussed behind my back. The idlers
amidships were a totally different class—a mongrel scum, profanely
chatting in Spanish, or swaggering about the deck, their very looks a
challenge. However they kept out of my way, and I found no occasion to
interfere with their diversions. After Estada left the deck the
majority amused themselves gambling, and as I had received no orders
to interfere, I permitted the games to proceed. Mendez interfered
only once on occasion of a brief fight. My only instructions from the
Portuguese on his going below was to call him at once if a sail was
sighted. Apparently he was satisfied of my ability to command the
No occasion to call him arose during my watch. The mist of fog slowly
rose, and drifted away, leaving a wide view of ocean, but revealed no
glimpse of any other craft. The white-crested waves gleamed in the
sun, as we plowed bravely through them, and the wind steadily
decreased in violence. I had the crew shake out reefs in jib and
foresail, and was surprised myself at the sailing qualities of the
bark. In spite of breadth of beam, and heavy top-hamper, she possessed
speed and ease of control, and must have been a pretty sight, as we
bowled along through that deserted sea. Before my watch was up I could
see Gunsaules through the skylight busily preparing the table in the
cabin below. It was still daylight, but with a purple gleam across the
waters, when LeVere arrived on deck for my relief. We were talking
together abaft the wheel when Estada appeared in the companion-way.
"Every promise of a clear night," he said, glancing about at the
horizon. "Better change the course two points east LeVere; we are
lying in too close to the coast for our purpose. The table call will
come very shortly, Senor Gates."
I washed up hastily in my stateroom, and came out into the cabin
perplexed as to what might occur within the next few moments. Yet
whatever the result, there was no avoiding it. Would the girl be
called to join us, as the Portuguese had threatened? Had she received
my note of warning? And if so, would she have the strength to play her
part so as to avoid suspicion? Those keen searching eyes of Estada's
would note every movement, observe every fleeting expression. He had
no present doubt of me, only the caution natural to one leading his
life of danger. He believed my story, and nothing thus far had arisen
to bring him the slightest doubt. To his mind I was a reckless
adventurer, ruined by drink, a drifting derelict, so glad to be picked
up, and given rank, as to be forever grateful and loyal to the one
aiding me. While his instinct made him distrust an Englishman, he
already had some measure of faith in me personally, yet this
confidence was still so light as to be completely shattered by the
slightest mishap. My every move must be one of extreme caution.
He and Estevan were awaiting me, the latter all rigged out, and with
smooth black hair oiled and plastered down upon his forehead. I never
beheld a more disagreeable face, or one which so thoroughly revealed
the nature of a man. As I touched his hand, at Estada's brief
introduction, it was as if I fingered a snake, and expected to be
greeted with a kiss. Gunsaules hovered about an open door leading
forward, and the table had been set for four. As I knew LeVere had
eaten alone, before coming to my relief, the only conclusion was that
the Portuguese intended that we be joined by the prisoner. Indeed he
gave me little time for doubt.
"This is your chair, Gates, and you will find we live well aboard the
Namur—wine, women and song—hey, Manuel! Why not, when all are at
command? Steward, you told the lady what my orders were?"
"Then bid her join us."
We stood in silence, as Gunsaules crossed the deck, and inserted a key
in the afterstateroom door. Manuel was grinning in full enjoyment, but
the expression on the face of Estada was that of grim cruelty.
Evidently he expected a scene, an outburst of resentment, pleading and
tears, and was ready enough to exercise his authority. Perhaps he
meant all this as a lesson to me; perhaps it was no more than a
natural exhibition of his nature. Yet his purpose to conquer was
clearly depicted in his features—-this woman would be made to obey,
or else ruthlessly crushed. I felt my hands grip like iron on my chair
back and my teeth clinch in restraint. God, but I would have liked to
grip the fellow where he stood—all the bottled-up hatred in my soul
struggling for action. Yet that would only mean the death of all hope,
and I turned my eyes away from him, and stared with the others at the
opening door. I failed to catch the words Gunsaules uttered, but they
were instantly responded to. Out into the full light of the cabin the
woman came, and halted, barely a step in advance of the steward, her
head uplifted proudly, her eyes on us. Never before had I realized her
beauty, her personality, as I did then. The glow of the light was upon
her face, and there was color in her cheeks, and a strange appealing
look in her eyes. Her posture was not that of defiance, nor of
surrender; she stood as a woman defending her right to respect,
sustained by a wonderful courage. I caught her glance, but there was
no recognition in it; not by the flicker of an eyelid did she betray
surprise, and yet in some mysterious manner a flash of intelligence
passed between us. It was all instantaneous for her gaze seemed to
concentrate on Estada as though she knew him as leader.
"You sent for me? For what?" she asked, her Spanish clear and well
"To join us at meal," he answered unmoved. "It is better than to
"Better! You must have a strange opinion of me to believe I would sit
with murderers and thieves."
"Harsh words, Senorita," and Estada grinned grimly. "Yet I expected
them. There are many trades in the world by which men are robbed. We
only work at the one we like best; nor will I discuss that with you.
However, Senorita, I can say that we have taken no lives in this last
"No lives!" in sudden, incredulous surprise. "You mean my uncle
"If you refer to Fairfax—the one in whose room the chest was hidden,
I can reply truthfully that he lives. One of my men struck him down,
but it was not a death blow. If that be the reason of your disdain,
there is no cause. This chair is held for you."
"But why was I brought away a prisoner? To be a plaything? A sport for
"That was but the orders of our chief; we await his recovery to learn
"Sanchez! was he your chief? A pirate?"
"A buccaneer; we prey on the enemies of Spain," he explained,
apparently believing his own words. "It is war with us, without regard
to treaties. We rob only that we may carry on the war. They have
robbed us, and now it has become our turn. It was at Captain Sanchez's
orders we waited the arrival of your vessel from England. It seems he
met you on the voyage."
"He loved you; he would, no doubt, have dealt with you honorably: I
have reason to believe that to be his purpose now. To this end you
gave him no encouragement—is not this true?"
"I—I did not like him."
"Yet it was his will that you should. Nothing will change his purpose.
He is that kind, and he has the power. He determined that if you would
not come to him by choice, you should be made to by force. You are
here now by his orders and will remain until you consent to his
purpose—all that remains for you to decide is whether you choose to
be prisoner, or guest aboard."
Her questioning, perplexed eyes turned from face to face, as though
she could not grasp fully the purpose of what was said.
"He—he is still alive—this Captain Sanchez?"
"Yes, with a chance to survive."
"And if he lives I am to be at his disposal?"
"He is the chief here; his will is law aboard."
"And if he should die?"
Estada shrugged his shoulders indifferently.
Her lips tightened as though to hold back a cry while one hand pressed
to the open door steadied her. The cheeks were no longer flushed, and
there was a look in the searching eyes I did not like to see. It was
a moment before she could control her voice.
"I have heard them call you Estada," she said finally, determined to
learn the whole truth. "Of what rank in this company are you?"
"I am Pedro Estada, formerly the first officer, now, by occasion of
Captain Sanchez's wound, in full command. These are two of my
officers—Senor Gates, one of your own countrymen, and Manuel
"You are pirates?"
He laughed unpleasantly, as though the word had an ugly sound even to
"Rather call us sea rovers, Senorita. It better expresses our trade.
Enough to admit that we serve under no flag, and confess no master.
And now, that I have answered your questions, what is it to be between
us—peace or war?"
Her eyes drooped, and I could distinctly note the trembling of her
slender figure. When she slowly raised her glance once more it rested
on my face as though seeking approval, guidance.
"If there be only the one choice," she said quietly. "I accept peace.
I cannot live locked in that room alone, haunted by my thoughts and
memories. If I pledge you my word, Senor, am I to enjoy the freedom of
this cabin and the deck?"
Estada looked at us, a shade of doubt in his eyes. I made no sign, but
"Why not?" he asked in his harsh croak of a voice. "So long as we be
at sea? What harm can the girl do?"
"Perhaps none; I will take a half chance, at least. You shall have
the freedom of the cabin. So long as you keep your word, while as to
the deck we will consider that later. Prove you mean what you say by
joining us here."
My recollection of that meal is not of words, but of faces. I do not
even clearly recall what it was we talked about, although it included
a variety of topics, limited somewhat by lack of knowledge on the part
of Estada and Manuel. The former attempted conversation, but soon gave
up the effort in despair. His eyes, however, sought constantly the
girl's face and to my consternation exhibited an interest in her
personality which promised trouble. I know not whether she noticed
this awakening admiration, but she certainly played her part with
quiet modesty, speaking just enough to entertain, and hiding the deep
anxiety against which she struggled. I believe that even the
Portuguese reached the conclusion that she was not altogether
regretful for this adventure and that it was safe for him to relax
some degree of vigilance. His manner became more gracious and, long
before the meal ended, his language had a tendency to compliment and
flatter. I contented myself with occasional sentences. The young woman
sat directly across from me, our words overheard by all, and as I knew
both men possessed some slight knowledge of English, I dare not
venture beyond commonplace conversation in that tongue. With quick wit
she took her cue from me, so that nothing passed between us, either by
word of mouth or glance of eye, to arouse suspicions.
Believing the feeling of confidence would be increased by such action,
I was first to leave the table, and it being my watch below,
immediately retired to my room, noisily closing the door after me, yet
refraining from letting the latch catch, thus enjoying a slight
opening through which to both see and hear. Manuel did not linger
long, making some excuse to go forward, but Estada remained for some
time, endeavoring to entertain. She laughed at his efforts and
appeared interested in encouraging him, so that he kept his spirit of
good humor even amid these difficulties. His egotism made a fool of
the man, yet even he finally became discouraged of making her
comprehend his meaning, and lapsed into a silence which gave her an
excuse to retire. This was accomplished so graciously as to leave no
sting, the fellow actually accompanying her to the door of her
stateroom, bowing his compliments as she disappeared within. The fool
actually believed he had made a conquest and preened himself like a
"You need not lock the Senorita in her room or guard her in any way
hereafter. She is permitted to come and go as she pleases aboard."
"You have served the Captain and Jose? Yes—did the wounded man eat at
"A little soup, Senor; he would taste nothing else."
Estada entered his own stateroom, leaving the door ajar. When he came
out he had exchanged his coat for a rough jacket. Thus attired for a
turn on deck, he disappeared through the companion.
IN DOROTHY'S STATEROOM
I stood crouched, with eye at the crack watchful of every movement in
the lighted cabin, my own decision made. I must see and talk with
Dorothy. We must understand each other, and the earlier we could thus
begin working together in unison, the better. Gunsaules bore a tray of
dishes from the Captain's room and then, after carefully wiping up the
main table, and sliding it up out of the way on its stantions, placed
a bottle of brandy and some glasses on a swinging shelf. Apparently
satisfied that his work there was completed he turned down the light,
and departed along the passage leading amidships. A moment later I
heard the sound of dishes grinding together preparatory to being
washed. No better opportunity for action was likely to occur, although
the situation was not without peril. Jose might emerge at any instant
from Sanchez's cabin, while I had no reason to be assured that Estada
would remain long on deck. Even if he did, any movement below could be
observed through the overhead glass. Indeed it might be with this
purpose in view that he had gone outside. However I felt compelled to
accept the chance. The light was so dim that I believed I could steal
cautiously along in the deeper shadows without attracting attention
from the deck, even if someone stood there on watch.
I moved noiselessly leaving my own door slightly ajar, and crept
along close to the side walls until I attained my destination.
Nothing occurred causing me to fear my movements were detected. To
have knocked at the closed door however softly might be overheard, so
knowing it to be unlocked I merely lifted the latch noiselessly, and
slipped quickly within. There was no light, except a glimmer of stars
through a large after port, but against this faint radiance she stood
vaguely revealed. Evidently the girl had been standing there, gazing
out at the waters, and had turned swiftly about at my entrance,
aroused by some slight sound. Her first thought must have been Estada,
for there was a startled note of fear in her challenge.
"Who are you? Why do you come here?"
"Speak low," I cautioned. "You must know my voice."
"Yes, but do not use that name—all hope depends on my remaining
unknown. You welcome me?"
She came straight forward through the dim star-shine, a spectral
figure, with both hands outstretched.
"Welcome!" her tone that of intense sincerity. "Your presence gives me
all the strength I have. But for you I should throw myself through
that port into the sea. But I know not how you came here—tell me, you
are not really one of these wretches?"
"No; you must believe that first of all, and trust me."
"I do—but—but tell me all you can."
"Is there a divan here, or anywhere we can sit down together? I can
see nothing in this darkness."
"Yes, hold my hand while I guide you; we can sit here." It was a
couch of some kind against the outer wall. She did not release her
grasp, seemingly gaining courage from this physical contact, and my
fingers closed warmly over her own.
"Now please," breathlessly, "how is it possible you are aboard this
I told her the strange story, as swiftly and simply as possible,
speaking scarcely above a whisper, feeling as I progressed that I
related a dream rather than a series of facts. It seemed to me she
could scarcely be expected to believe the truth of what I said, and
yet she did, almost unquestioningly, the clasp of her fingers
perceptibly tightening as I proceeded. The soft light from the open
port touched her face slightly, enough to reveal its outline and she
sat so close beside me, her eyes uplifted to mine, that I could feel
her breath upon my cheek.
"Why, if—-if you had not told me this yourself I could hardly believe
such a tale," she exclaimed. "Yet it must be true, miraculous as it
seems. But what is to be the ending? Have you any plan of escape?"
"Hardly a plan. I have had no opportunity even to learn the true
nature of the crew. Watkins is an honest sailor, and he has told me of
others on whom I could rely. There are those aboard—but I do not know
how many—who would mutiny if they had a leader, and a reasonable
chance of success. I must reach these and learn who they are.
Fortunately the voyage promises to be long enough to enable me to plan
"You have discussed the voyage with this man—Estada?" "He told me
what he had decided upon; not to return to their rendezvous until
after they had captured some prizes, and could go with gold chinking
in their pockets."
"They have gold already—the chest taken from my uncle."
"That only serves to make such as these more greedy."
"Where is their rendezvous?"
"An island in the West Indies, probably not on the chart. They call it
"And they will sweep the ocean between here and there, seeking
victims? Unarmed merchantmen to rob and sink? And you—you will be
compelled to take part in such scenes, such acts of pillage and
perhaps murder. Is this true?"
"I presume I must seem to be one of them to avoid suspicion. There is
some hope in my mind that we may chance to run into an English or
French warship. Quite a few must be cruising in these waters. But
these are only contingencies; they may happen and they may not. How we
are to act under such conditions will have to be decided later. Now we
must be content to seek release through our own efforts. Have you any
She was silent for a long moment, during which she withdrew her hand,
pressing it over her eyes as though thus to better concentrate her
"There is conspiracy on board already," she said finally "that you may
not know about."
"You mean to depose Sanchez?" I questioned in surprise.
"Yes; you had suspicioned it? They thought me unconscious in the
boat, and talked among themselves—the two at the stern, Estada and
that beast, Manuel. I did not understand all they said, only a word or
two, but I do not think they intend the Captain shall recover."
"You think it best that he should?"
"Oh, I do not know; there is no best that I can see. Yet I would have
more faith in being spared disgrace if at the mercy of Sanchez, than
his lieutenant. Both may be equally guilty, equally desperate, but
they are not the same men."
"True, but I know not which is to be most feared."
"I may be wrong," she insisted, "for I judge as a woman, yet I would
feel safer with Sanchez. He cares not much for me, perhaps, yet enough
so that I possess some power over him. The other does not—he merely
desires with the passions of a brute. No appeal would reach him; he
would laugh at tears and find pleasure in suffering. I do not quite
believe this of Sanchez."
"Perhaps not—-the other may be the greater beast."
"I know he is; the proof is in those horrid eyes. What is the man? Of
"Portuguese, I am told, but likely a half-breed."
"Ugh! it makes me shudder to even look at him; and yet you would have
me appear friendly?"
"We cannot permit him to feel that either of us are enemies. He is the
power aboard; our lives, everything are in his hands. If he means to
be rid of Sanchez, the man is doomed, for he will find a way to
accomplish his purpose at whatever cost; murder means nothing to these
"Of course you are right," she acknowledged. "Our case is so
desperate we must resort to any weapons. You believe it will serve
the possibility of escape if I permit this monster to imagine that I
have some interest in him?"
"To do so might delay the explosion," I replied gravely, "and just now
any delay is welcome. I know how such an effort will try you, but the
end may be well worth the sacrifice. I doubt if even Estada will
resort to force on board; indeed force will be the very last card he
will care to play in your case. He is a brute, and capable of any
crime, yet at heart a coward. There is reason why he will fear to
assault you. You are English and all the practical seamen on board are
from northern Europe—English and Scandinavian. These men are not
pirates from choice—they are prisoners who have taken on to save
their own lives. With his bullies and cut-throats amidships he can
compel them to work, but he dare not go too far. Once these fellows
unite in mutiny they could take the ship. An assault on you would be
"It is these men you count on?"
"Yes; but for me to gain their confidence and leadership will require
time. I must reach them all secretly and alone. Not more than half are
in my watch, and Watkins must approach the others. A plan for
concerted action will have to be arranged, and every precaution taken.
The slightest slip would mean failure, and merciless punishment. Even
if I succeed in gathering together all these better elements on board,
we shall yet be outnumbered two to one, perhaps more, and our only
hope rests in surprise. At best the situation is absolutely
desperate—but I see no other solution."
"And my service is deceit—the acting of a part to blind the eyes of
"I sincerely believe your greater chance of security lies in this
course. The fellow is a supreme egotist; opposition will anger him,
while flattery will make him subservient. You have the wit and
discretion to hold him within certain limits. It is a dangerous game,
I admit, and a disagreeable one, but the case requires desperate
She lifted her eyes, searching my face through the dim light.
"Geoffry Carlyle," she said, at last, a tremor in the low voice,
"there is no sacrifice I would not make to preserve my honor. I hate
this man; I dread his touch; I shrink from contact with him, as I
would from a snake, but I am not going to refuse to do my part. If you
say this is right, and justified, I will consent."
"I believe it is."
"And you will not lose faith in me?" she questioned earnestly. "It
will not lower your belief in my womanhood?"
"Nothing could do that. Mistress Dorothy, I want you to realize the
depth of my interest and respect. Your friendliness has meant much to
me, and I would never urge you to lower your ideals. But we must face
this situation as it is. You cannot cling now to the standards of
London, or even Maryland. We are on the ocean, upon a pirate ship,
surrounded by men utterly devoid of all restraint—hell-hounds of the
sea, who live by murder and pillage. We possess but two weapons of
defense—deceit, or force. A resort to the latter is at present
impossible. I cannot conceive that you are lowering yourself in any
way by using the power you possess to escape violence—"
"The power I possess?"
"Yes—beauty and wit. These are your weapons, and most effective ones.
You can play with Estada and defeat him—temporarily at least. I
confess there is danger in such a game—he is a wild beast, and his
evil nature may overcome his discretion. You are armed?"
"No; I have never felt the need."
"Then take this," and I thrust a pistol into her hands. "I took it
from the rack in the cabin, and can get another. It is charged; keep
it hidden about your person, but use it only when all else fails. Do
you see this necessity now from my standpoint?"
"Yes," hesitatingly, "all that you say is true, but—but the thought
frightens me; it—it is like creeping into a lion's cage having only a
fan with which to defend myself."
I smiled at her conceit.
"A fan rightly used is no insignificant weapon. In the hands of a
woman it has won many a victory. I have faith in your wielding it to
the best effect—the lasting discomfiture of Senor Estada."
"You laugh," indignantly, "believing me a coquette—a girl to play
"No; that misconstrues my thought. I believe you a true woman, yet
possessing the natural instincts of your sex, and able to use your
weapons efficiently. There is no evil in that, no reproach. I would
not have you otherwise, and we must not misunderstand each other. You
retain faith in me?"
"And pledge yourself to your part, leaving me to attend to mine?"
Her two hands clasped my fingers, her eyes uplifted.
"Geoffry Carlyle, I have always believed in you, and now, after the
sacrifice you have made to serve me, I can refuse you nothing you ask.
I will endeavor to accomplish all you require of me. God knows how I
hate the task; but—but I will do my best. Only—only," her voice
sank, "if—if the monster cannot be held, I will kill him."
"I hope you do."
"I shall! If the beast lays hands on me he—he pays the price. I could
not do otherwise. Geoffry Carlyle—I am a Fairfax."
Satisfied with my mission, and confident nothing more need be said, I
arose to my feet.
"Then we can do nothing further, until I learn the disposition of the
crew," I said quietly. "Estada is not likely to resort to extreme
measures at present. He has two objects before him—-to permit Sanchez
to die of his wounds, if that is at all probable; and to win the men
by some successful capture. These fellows only retain command by
success. The taking of a rich ship will make Estada a hero, while a
defeat would mean his overthrow, and the ascendancy of someone else.
There is no other test of a robber chief. Estada knows this, and will
not dare act until he has put clinking coin in the pockets of his men.
That is why I believe you are comparatively safe now—his own
position of command is in the balance."
"I am glad you explained that to me, The knowledge will give me more
"Do not rely too much on his control of himself. There is no trust to
be put in such a man. I must go now, and endeavor to reach my quarters
"I will see you again?"
"Perhaps not here; it is too dangerous, but I will find means to
communicate with you. Possibly the steward can be trusted as a
messenger; I will talk with him and make sure. Meanwhile we must not
appear interested in each other. Good-bye."
We stood with hands clasped in the darkness. I thought she was going
to speak again, but the words failed to come. Then suddenly, silently,
the door opened a mere crack, letting in a gleam of yellow light from
the main cabin, while the crouching figure of a man, like a gliding
shadow slipped through the aperture, closing the door behind him as
softly as he had opened it. I heard her catch her breath, and felt her
hands grasp my sleeve, but I never stirred. The fellow had neither
seen nor heard us, and I stared into the black curtain, endeavoring to
locate him by some sound of movement.
Who could he be? What might be the purpose of his entrance? But one
answer occurred to me—Pedro Estada, driven by unbridled passions to
attack the girl. Mad as such an act would be, yet no other explanation
seemed possible. I thrust her behind me, and took a step forward, with
body poised for action. I was unarmed, but cared little for that in
the swift desire felt to come to hand grips with the brute. I could
hear him now, slowly and cautiously feeling his way toward us through
A MURDER ON BOARD
The fellow made scarcely a sound as he advanced, yet, as I waited
breathlessly, I felt assured of his stealthy approach. To be certain
of free space I extended one hand and my fingers came into unexpected
contact with the back of a chair. Without moving my body I grasped
this welcome weapon of defense and swung it above my head. Whoever the
invader creeping upon us might prove to be, he was certainly an enemy,
actuated by some foul purpose, and, no doubt armed. To strike him down
as quickly and silently as possible was therefore the plain duty of
the moment. I had no other thought.
The slowness with which he groped his way forward indicated
unfamiliarity with the apartment, although his direct advance
proclaimed some special purpose. Clearly he had no fear of attack,
believing no one more formidable than a girl was there to oppose him.
The darkness, perhaps, and silence, convinced the fellow that she had
already retired. He would have his grip on her, before she could even
dream of his presence. Then there would be no scream, no alarm. I
could determine almost his exact position as his advancing foot felt
cautiously along the deck, seeking to avoid striking any obstacle in
the darkness. He came forward inch by inch, and I had the sensation of
awaiting the spring of some creeping animal, about to leap upon me.
With tense muscles, the heavy chair poised for a blow, I measured the
distance as indicated by faint, shuffling sounds, perceptible only
because of the profound stillness.
I could not see, but I knew; I felt his presence; in imagination I
pictured him, with arms outstretched, barely beyond my reach,
deliberately advancing one foot for yet another step forward. With all
my force I struck! Blindly as it had been delivered, the blow hit
fair; there was a thud, an inarticulate groan, and the fall of a body
onto the floor—beyond that nothing. I waited breathlessly, the chair
back gripped in my hands, anxiously listening for the slightest
movement. There was none to be distinguished; not so much as the
quiver of a muscle. I felt Dorothy touch my shoulder, and caught the
sound of her voice, trembling at my ear.
"What it is? What did you do?"
"I struck him with a chair; he lies there on the deck. Wait where you
are until I learn what has happened."
I bent over and touched him, dropping to my knees, every nerve
tingling as my hands felt of the recumbent body. The fellow lay in a
heap, his flesh warm, but with no perceptible heart-beat, no semblance
of breathing. My fingers sought his face, and I could scarcely
suppress a cry of surprise—he was not Estada. Who then was he? What
could have been his purpose in thus invading this stateroom? All I
could grasp was the fact that the fellow was not the Portuguese—he
possessed a smooth face, long hair, and was a much smaller man. It
must have become overcast without, for the star-gleam was no longer
visible through the after port, and yet a faint light entered,
sufficient for my purpose. I dragged the body that way, dropping it
where the slight illumination fell directly on the upturned face. The
features revealed were unfamiliar—those unquestionably of a
half-breed Indian. Dorothy crossed to my side, her foot striking a
knife, which came glimmering into the narrow range of light. She
stared in horror at the ugly weapon, and then at the ghastly
"Who is he? Do you know?"
"One I have never seen before; he must belong to the gang
She shuddered, her voice trembling.
"He came to murder! See his knife lies there. Why should he have
sought to kill me?"
"It is all mystery," I admitted, "and too deep for me. Perhaps it was
a mistake, or the fellow thought you had jewels. Anyway he will never
try that trick again—see, my blow crushed his skull."
"He is actually dead?"
"Beyond doubt. The chair was a heavy one, and I struck with all my
strength. What shall be done with the body? It cannot be left lying
exposed here; no one would believe you killed him, and my presence
must not be suspected."
"Could it," she suggested, "be dropped astern through the port?"
"Ay, that might be done; it was dull of me not to think of that. Yet
we must not risk a splash to be overheard on deck. Is there a rope of
any kind to be had?"
"Only this curtain cord; it is not large, but strong." "That ought
to do, if long enough; there must be a twenty-foot drop to the water.
Yes, splice the two together; let me have them."
She shrank back from touching the inanimate figure, her face very pale
in the dim light, yet it required the combined efforts of both to
force the stiffening body through the port hole, and then lower it
slowly to the surging water below. The cord cut our hands cruelly, but
it held, and the dead man sank beneath the surface, and was swept
swiftly astern, into the black depths. We could distinguish footsteps
on the deck above, but these were regular and undisturbed—the slow
promenade from rail to rail of the officer on watch. Clearly nothing
had been heard, or seen, to awaken suspicion. I turned back, as the
released body vanished, to look into her face, which was scarcely
"If you should be questioned tomorrow you had best know nothing," I
said gravely. "I do not think you will be, for surely such an attack
can be no plan of Estada's. It could gain him no advantage. The fellow
was pillaging on his own account; if he is missed it will be supposed
he fell overboard, and no one will greatly care."
"You will be able to learn? I—I shall feel better if I know the
"Possibly; however it will be safer for me not to ask questions. I am
not myself in too good repute aboard. You are not afraid to remain
"No; I am not greatly frightened but shall try and bar the door with a
chair. I have no key."
"Then I'll leave you; half of my watch below must be gone by now.
I'll take the fellow's knife along, as it must not be found here."
We parted with a clasp of hands, as I opened the stateroom door, and
slipped out into the cabin. To my surprise the light over the table
had been extinguished, rendering the cabin so black I held to actually
feel my way forward. This struck me as very strange, particularly as I
recalled clearly that a stream of light had flashed into the after
stateroom with the entrance of the prowler. The lantern must have been
put out since then by some confederate. Gunsaules would be soundly
asleep long ago, and the light was supposed to burn until morning.
However there was no noise, other than the creaking and groaning of
the ship's timbers, mingled with the steady tread of LeVere on the
upper deck. So, after a moment of hesitation, I found my way across to
my own stateroom and pressed open the door.
A misty light came in through the port, sufficient to show me all was
exactly as I had left it, and I flung off my jacket preparatory to
lying down for a short rest before being recalled for the watch on
deck. The hilt of the knife in my belt attracted my attention, and I
drew it forth, curious to learn if it bore any mark of ownership.
Whether it did, or not, I shall never know, as my eyes were instantly
attracted to a dark stain on both hilt and blade. I held it to the
light—it was the stain of blood, and my hands were also reddened by
it. In that first instant of horror, I hurled the weapon out through
the open port into the sea. Blood! human blood, without doubt! There
had been murder committed on board, and the fellow I had struck down
was seeking refuge, endeavoring to find concealment following his
crime. Ay, but what about the light in the cabin? It had been
extinguished after the fleeing fugitive had entered Dorothy's
stateroom. Did this mean that the slayer had an accomplice? If so,
then the killing was not the result of a mere personal quarrel
amidships, or in the forecastle; but the result of some conspiracy. I
thought of Sanchez, and of Estada's plan to obtain control of the
ship. Could this be its culmination? And was the Spaniard already
lying dead in his cabin? This was the only solution of the mystery
which seemed probable, and yet this did not wholly satisfy my mind.
Not that I questioned the fiendishness of Estada, or his
coconspirator, Manuel, or their unwillingness to commit such a crime,
but it seemed so unnecessarily brutal. Why should they stab a man
already so severely wounded as to be threatened with death? he was
helpless, and in their power; neglect, or at most a simple reopening
of his wounds, would be sufficient for their purpose. To attack him
anew would only mean exposure, and perhaps awaken the enmity of the
Nothing came of my thought—only confusion; nor did I dare investigate
for fear of becoming more deeply involved in the tragedy. There had
been no alarm; everything aboard was going on as usual; I could hear
LeVere tramping the deck, and occasionally catch the echo of his
voice, as he hailed the main-top, or gave some order to the men
forward. No, there was nothing to be done; my safety, and the safety
of the girl depended on our apparent ignorance of what had occurred.
We must have no part in it, no knowledge or suspicion. There was
nothing to do but wait the revelation of the morning. Convincing
myself of this, I washed the blood stains from my hands, and lay down
in the bunk, fully dressed to await my call. Evidently the wind had
decreased, as the Namur pitched but little in the sea, and I could
hear the scuffling of feet indicating a new spread of canvas above.
The night air, blowing in through my open port became so chill that I
covered myself with a blanket. The vessel creaked and groaned in every
joint, some of the sounds actually startling me with their resemblance
to cries of human agony. I tossed about, occasionally sitting upright
to peer around in the darkness, my body bathed in cold perspiration,
yet must have dropped finally off into an uneasy sleep. A sharp
rapping of knuckles on the door awoke me with a start.
"Starboard watch, Senor."
"Will be on deck at once."
"Ay, ay, Senor."
I drew on a heavy pea jacket of leather, fastening it securely at the
throat, and donned a wool cap. The lantern in the cabin had been
relighted, and was burning brightly, and my anxious glance about the
interior revealed nothing out of place. The only door open led to the
steward's storeroom. Feeling it best to be prepared for any
eventuality, I selected a pistol from the rack, saw to its loading,
and slipped the weapon into my pocket. Except for one man busily
engaged coiling a rope, the main deck was deserted, and I climbed the
short ladder to the poop, meeting LeVere as I straightened up. The sea
was a gentle swell, the sky clear above, but with a mass of dark
clouds off the port quarter. A glance aloft revealed a full spread of
canvas. The air contained a nip of frost.
"All set, I see, LeVere?"
"Si, Senor, and at that we barely move. The bark needs a gale o' wind
to make any headway."
"You have no fear of the storm yonder?"
He glanced aside at the mass of cloud.
"No, Senor. It hung just there an hour past—not come here, but creep
"Still to the sou' o' east, Senor." He bent down to glance at the card
and I saw his dark face in the gleam of the binnacle light. He was not
bad looking, but for the continuous gleam of prominent teeth. He
"Who put out the cabin light, Senor?"
"I am sure I don't know; was it out?"
"Yes, Senor. I never knew that to happen before."
"An accident, no doubt. The steward probably left some near-by port
open, and a gust of wind did the business. That's nothing to worry
He shook his head as though far from satisfied by my theory, but went
below without attempting to reply. I watched him through the skylight,
but he merely gulped down a glass of liquor, and entered his
My watch was uneventful. The fellow at the wheel was unfamiliar to me,
and rather surly in his answers, to the few questions I put to him. As
he could speak nothing but Spanish I soon left him alone, and fell to
pacing the deck, immersed in my own thoughts. These were far from
pleasant ones, as I reviewed again the strange situation in which I
found myself. Circumstances had played me a sorry trick. Without
plan, almost without effort, I had drifted into a position of utmost
delicacy. Any accident or mistake might lead to disastrous results.
Not only my own life, but the life of the young woman below, could be
endangered by a single careless word, or act. The whole affair seemed
more a nightmare than a reality. I was actually serving as first
officer on a pirate ship in search of vessels to rob on the high seas,
commanding a crew of West Indian cut-throats—the very scum of hell,
and under the order of a Portuguese devil, whose ambition coolly
plotted murder. I was sailing under the black flag, to be hung if
captured, compelled to act out the masquerade, a satellite of the most
infamous villain who ever sacked a merchantman. Why, the very name of
Sanchez had been horror to me in the past—yet here I actually was in
charge of the deck of his death ship, searching for new victims, and
only hoping that the arch villain might live to overthrow the even
fouler demon who would succeed him if he died. Already I knew murder
had been done; that the coming morning would reveal some hideous
tragedy, on which, perhaps my fate would depend. Somewhere below in
the dark lay a dead man, his sightless eyes staring upward. The curse
of crime was upon the vessel, and this, possibly, was only the
beginning, whose end could not be foreseen. And for what was I there?
The answer was not upon my lips, but in my heart—Dorothy Fairfax. I
bowed my head on the rail, and stared out over the dark water, but I
saw only her face. No, I would not turn back; would not fail her. Let
the end be death, and disgrace, I meant to fight grimly on until that
end came. In that hour I knew she was more to me than life, or even
honor. Far more than mere duty bound me; I was prisoner to love.
The dawn came cold and gray, but with clearing skies. The force of the
wind increased, becoming unsteady, and causing a choppy sea, so that I
felt impelled to lower the topsails and take a reef in the larger
canvas. Nothing was reported in sight, but to reassure myself, I
climbed into the main crosstrees, and swept the horizon with a glass.
Not so much as a speck rewarded my efforts, and I descended the
ratlines, shouting to the boatswain to call the port watch. Watkins
came aft to the wheel, and I sent the fellow thus relieved down into
the cabin to rout out LeVere. The two returned to deck together, the
negro glancing about curiously without mounting the ladder.
"You call Senor Estada yet?" he questioned.
"No; I had no orders to do so."
"He tol' me call him at daylight. Here you, Amada; go wake up the
The seaman disappeared grumbling, while LeVere crossed the poop deck,
and stood beside me looking out across the expanse of sea.
"No sail—hey? We hav' bad luck—too far north."
"And west; we are out of the sea lanes; but if it keeps bright I'll
take an observation at noon."
Amada emerged from the companion, and stared up at us, shading his
mouth with one hand as he spoke.
"He answer nothing, Senor LeVere."
"You rapped on the door?"
"Si, Senor; I strike with my fist, and my boot, but he never wake
"Was the door locked?"
"I know not, Senor; I not try open it."
LeVere gave utterance to an oath.
"The pig-headed swine," he said fiercely. "I suppose I'll have to go
Our eyes met, and something seemed to bid me accompany him.
"We'll go down together, Senor," I said quietly. "Estada must be sick;
I could hear the rumpus Amada kicked up even on deck here. No man
could sleep through that racket."
A NEW CONSPIRACY
The interior of the cabin appeared more desolate than ever in the gray
light of dawn. The swinging light yet burned, but was now useless, all
the dismal horrors of the place revealed by the slowly increasing
gleam of day stealing down from above. Gunsaules had not appeared, and
LeVere's stateroom door remained ajar, giving glimpse of the
disarranged bunk within. The other doors were tightly closed. LeVere
rather held back, not noticeably so, perhaps, yet enough to give me
the lead, and, with one swift glance about, I led the way directly to
Something sinister had occurred during the dark hours of the night. Of
that I was convinced, and I believed we were now about to lift the
veil hiding the tragedy. My heart pounded like a hammer as I rapped on
the wooden panels and waited some response from within. There was no
answer, no sound of movement, and I rapped again more loudly, my
questioning eyes seeking LeVere's face. He was listening as intently
as myself, his eyes expressing anxiety. If I had felt some suspicion
of the man before, this lack of faith vanished—-he certainly was
concerned in no plot involving the life of the Portuguese.
"There is something wrong, Senor," he whispered, "for he was ever a
"Then we will find out what it is."
The door was unlocked, the latch yielding instantly to the hand, and I
stepped within. A glance told everything. The port was closed, but
through the thick glass sufficient light found entrance to reveal the
interior. The chair before the table was overturned, and there were
papers scattered about the deck. Estada lay in his bunk, with one leg
dangling outside, and his head crooked against the side wall. His very
posture was that of sudden death, even had it not been pictured by the
ghastly face, peculiarly hideous in the gray light which stared at us,
and the dark pool of blood underneath. I heard an exclamation from
LeVere, and stood for an instant utterly unable to move. The only
sound audible was the steady drip of blood. I knew already what I
should find, yet finally forced myself forward—he was stone dead,
pierced with three knife thrusts. I stood up and faced the mulatto,
whose countenance was fairly green with horror.
"What do you know about this, Senor LeVere?" I asked sternly. "The man
has been murdered, knifed. Who did it—and why?"
He could scarcely answer, gripping at the table for support, and never
removing his gaze from the face of the dead man. Yet I believed his
words; was convinced this was not the terror of guilt.
"My God! I cannot tell; I have never dreamed of this—that is true,
"Had the man enemies. Anyone you would suspect?"
"Enemies? Ay, plenty of them; we all have. We expect that in our
trade. This ship is full of devils ready enough to do such a job; but
I could not name the one who did do it. I know of no cause. I have
"I believe you, LeVere," I said, when his voice ceased, yet unwilling
even then to trust him fully. "All that rules here is strength. Murder
is but a weapon, and hate struck this blow."
"What can we do, Senor?"
"Do! we must talk that over first. Open the port there and let in some
fresh air. That is better; but we cannot think, looking at that
ghastly face, and hearing the blood drip onto the deck. We'll leave
him here and talk over the affair in the cabin."
"But the men will think it strange," he protested, "if I do not return
to the deck; some may know what lies here."
"We cannot help that, LeVere. We cannot meet this thing until we are
prepared; until we talk it over, and decide what to do. It is not the
men on deck, the watch, I fear, but those fellows amidships—they are
the ones to be afraid of; is that not so?"
"Then come; there is more danger in hasty action than anything else."
I shut the door behind us, and turned the key. It was a relief to get
outside, even into that dismal cabin, beyond view of Estada's dead
face. The vessel rolled considerably, and LeVere, who had evidently
lost his nerve, sank into a chair as though no strength remained in
"You fear an uprising, a mutiny?" I questioned, "when this is
"What will prevent?" he asked. "The Captain cannot stir; the mate
dead; the men already crazed because we take no prizes. They will
murder us also, and take control."
"Who will? Those devils amidships?"
"Ay; they care only to fight for gold—it is their trade."
"And who leads them? Who would they make captain?"
"Manuel Estevan," he whispered, "he would be the one."
"I thought as much. Then it is Manuel Estevan we must secure
first—before they know. 'Tis my thought he is at the bottom of it
all, and our hope lies in our early discovery. If we can act before he
does, we may thwart his plan. Listen, LeVere; I will speak low for
that forward stateroom is his. He has not supposed we would discover
the murder so quickly, for he knew nothing of Estada's request that he
be called at daylight—is this true?"
"Si, Senor; it was his last order when he went below."
"Good; then we must organize before he can act. We have that one
chance left. Whatever his men may know of what has occurred they will
make no move until they get his orders. We must stop the possibility
of his issuing any. Without a leader, the advantage is ours."
"You mean to kill him?"
"Only as a last resort. I am no murderer, although there is enough at
stake here to make me willing to take life. There is no good feeling
between those quartered amidships, and the crew?"
"No, Senor; it is hate generally, although they are not all alike. The
real sailors are mostly captured men; they serve to save their lives,
and only for these others on board could not be held long. We do not
arm them or use them to board prizes. It's those devils amidships who
loot; that is all their work to fight and guard these others.
Naturally there's no love lost between them. Your plan, Senor, is to
set the one against the other?"
"Yes, if possible; I know no other way. These sailor men are of all
races. Can they be trusted?"
He sat bending forward, his hands on his knees, his dark face far from
pleasant. I had every reason to know the fellow to be criminal,
desperate, guilty of everything in the calendar, and yet I must place
confidence in him. Only as we worked together now was there any
prospect of success.
"Some might be; it is hard to tell how many. It is not the race which
counts so much, Senor. There are those among them who would not care
to return to honesty."
"And you, LeVere?"
He spread his hands, and shrugged his shoulders.
"There is no hope of me; I was born to the free life."
"What then is it with you?"
"Hate, Senor—revenge," and his teeth gleamed savagely. "I would spit
on this Manuel who seeks to be chief. I can never be—-no; I am of
black skin, with negro blood in my veins, and white men would never
have it so. But I can hate, Senor. That is why I am with you now, if
the devil so will. Your plan might work—tell me more of it."
"It is simple enough, LeVere, and came to me but now as I looked upon
Estada lying there dead. Treachery killed him, and that treachery must
have purpose behind it. You believe this to be the ambition of Manuel
Estevan to become chief, and that in this he is backed by those
buccaneers amidships whom he commands. But to accomplish this end
there must soon be other murders aboard—the Captain Sanchez, and
possibly our own as well, although 'tis likely he may offer us life to
join him. But I doubt if the fellow be ready yet to throw off the mask
and openly declare himself. He will claim the murder of Estada to be
the act of some fiendish member of the crew, and wait until things
aboard ripen to his purpose. He is not likely to dream that we suspect
him. This gives us our chance—we can act before he does."
"But if the men are with him?"
"What are the odds, say you—thirty to a hundred? Ay, but surprise
will overcome that. My plan is this; first, for you and I to secure
Manuel, as quietly as possible, but at whatever cost. Surely that can
be done. With him in our hands, or dead, the buccaneers have no
leader. What then? There are men in the crew on deck and in the
forecastle to be trusted—Watkins is one, and he will know others, a
dozen, no doubt. They will be enough. We will whisper the truth to
these, and have them ready for a signal. The forward door from
amidships is closed by iron bars—is it not?"
"Si, Senor," his eyes again sparkling with interest. "The men
quarreled, and there was fighting."
"Then there is no escape in that direction and it can be no great
task to close any passage leading aft. Lower the deck hatch, and we
have those devils below caged like so many rats. There need be no
fighting; starvation will bring them to terms."
"But, Senor, you forget—your dozen men cannot guard the buccaneers
below, and also manage the bark at sea. The crew are not all
lambs—many will sympathize with those thus locked beneath deck.
Cochose is bad, and a friend of Manuel. He will fight, and there are
others to back him."
"I know that, LeVere. The whole plan is desperate, but there is no
other possible. Here is my scheme. There is a gun rack in the cabin,
containing enough weapons to arm the dozen men we can trust. The
others have nothing but their sheath knives. The buccaneers can be
secured below, before these other lads ever realize what is
happening—many will be asleep in the forecastle. As soon as we have
control of the ship we'll round them up forward. They won't dare face
the guns. I'll give them their choice, and, as for Cochose, I've taken
his measure once already, and am ready to try it again."
"And what will you tell them, Senor?"
I caught my breath, conscious of his meaning. My secret hope could not
be revealed to this fellow. However hate and ambition might sway him,
and however personal fear might influence him, at the moment, his
purpose and mine were entirely different. Piracy was his life; he knew
and cared for nothing else. In innate savagery he was not better than
any of the others, and must be dealt with accordingly. Just now I must
have him on my side, and conditions had delivered him into my hands.
But I could only hope to retain him through self interest. The mulatto
had little faith in me; I was a stranger, an Englishman, unknown and
untried. Naturally we were enemies. He would make use of me for the
present if he could, and as smilingly knife me tomorrow if it served
his turn. I felt confident of that, and in consequence the answer came
quickly to my lips.
"The whole truth, Senor LeVere—that Manuel conspired to seize the
bark through a mutiny of the buccaneers; that these were to be turned
loose with license to kill anyone on board who opposed them; that
their real purpose was to divide among themselves all the treasure
below; then wreck the vessel, and escape with it. That to this end
Estada had already been foully murdered and that they also intended to
take the lives of the other officers so as to be free to do as they
pleased. I shall explain that we discovered this conspiracy just in
time to save them from butchery, and that they must stand by us, or
else submit to those hell-hounds. I'll put it strong."
"And after that, Senor?"
"Why Porto Grande, of course," I admitted heartily. "It is not a long
voyage, and if we bring the boat in safely the treasure is ours. The
men will understand what that means—a handful of gold for each of
them and a run ashore. Why, LeVere, they will make more apiece than by
looting a half dozen ships, and with no fighting. It will be a fortune
for you and me."
His somber eyes lighted up, startled by this new idea, and he sprang
to his feet, swaying before me to the pitch of the deck.
"You mean that, Senor! We divide what is below, and sail for Porto
Grande? I hear you right? You not mean surrender? You stay pirate?"
I laughed, my nerves tingling to the success of my ruse—he had taken
the tempting bait like a hungry fish.
"Why of course; so that was the trouble. Hell! man, I am not such a
fool as to throw away this chance. I came aboard here without a
dollar, drunk, a sailor before the mast. Look at me now—-shoved into
a job as first officer, with my full share of all we can lay hands on.
Do you suppose I'm going back to the forecastle, and a bit of silver?
Not me! I'm for all I can get, and with no care how I get it. This is
our chance, LeVere. If we put the Namur into Porto Grande, with
Sanchez on board and alive, and those hell-hounds locked below, we'll
get anything we ask for. We'll be the cocks of the walk. If he
shouldn't live through, why then we'll have a ship, and can run the
game alone. Either way, if we win, the prize is ours—and, by God! if
we stick together we win."
My apparent enthusiasm caught the fellow. I could read the working of
his mind in his face. This was a new view of the situation, a new
vision. It appealed to him from every standpoint—it promised wealth,
power, the total defeat of Estevan; everything he most desired. And as
I pictured it, the result seemed easy of attainment. His eyes gleamed
"You think Senor Sanchez live?"
"What difference? If he lives he owes his life to us. If he dies the
bark is in our hands, and the treasure. The thing to consider now is
how to get control. Once we have won, we care nothing if he live or
die. Come, we have wasted time enough in talk; it is action that
counts—what say you? Are we together in this?"
He thrust out a lean, yellow hand, and I gripped it firmly.
"Si, Senor; you speak right. To do this we must act. I am with you."
"You pledge your word, Francois?"
"I pledge it, Senor."
"Good! and you have mine. Now to the work—first Manuel Estevan, and
then the men on deck. 'Tis his stateroom yonder."
LAYING THE TRAP
Our first job was executed much more easily than I had anticipated. We
caught Manuel sound asleep, and LeVere had sinewy hands at his throat
before the fellow could grasp a weapon, or even clearly comprehend the
nature of the attack. The narrowness of the stateroom prevented my
taking much part in the affair, but the mulatto needed no help, as he
dragged the cursing Spaniard from his bunk to the deck and throttled
him savagely. Indeed he would have killed the fellow had I not
interfered and twisted his hands loose, leaving Estevan barely
conscious. A blanket ripped into strips served to bind him securely
enough for the present, but I thought it best to lock the door, and
keep the key in my own pocket. LeVere would have knifed him even as he
lay there helpless, but for my threat and insistence. Once back in the
cabin my eyes distinguished the frightened face of the steward peering
forth at us from out the dark of the passage leading forward.
"Come here, Gunsaules," I said sternly. "Step lively, lad; there's
nothing for you to fear."
"Yes, Senor—yes," and; he crept forth from his partial cover,
glancing fearfully from face to face as he advanced.
"Senor Estada has been killed during the night, and we have just
captured his murderer," I explained hastily. "There is reason to
believe this act was part of a conspiracy to seize the ship."
"By Senor Manuel?" his eyes staring at me from out a white face.
"Yes, in connection with those fellows amidships. Does that passage
lead to their quarters?"
"It did once, Senor, but now there is a closed door. The Captain
Sanchez had it so arranged to prevent the men from coming aft."
"What kind of a door?"
"Of oak, studded with iron, not only locked, but barred on this side."
"You have no key?"
"No, Senor; there are but two—one for the Captain and the other for
him who commands the buccaneers."
I stood there a moment silent, considering this information, and
rapidly arranging in mind our future operations. The only way the
mutineers could reach the cabin then would be from the deck,
descending through the companion. So long as they remained unaware of
the capture of Manuel there was little danger of their taking such
action. My faith in Gunsaules was not great, yet the probability was
that he would remain loyal to whichever party held the upper hand.
That was ever the way with these men.
"Very well, steward," I said. "You go on about your work as though
nothing had happened. If any word of this affair gets to the crew, or
to those fellows forward, I'll hold you responsible. Understand
"You are not to leave this cabin without my permission, nor speak to
The mulatto faced me respectfully enough, and I had a feeling he would
obey orders, largely because he dare not rebel.
"They will be wondering why you are not on deck. It will be better for
you to take charge of the watch at once, and keep the men busy.
Relieve Watkins at the wheel and send the man down to me. He can
choose the fellows who will stick better than you could, and then can
circulate among them without arousing suspicion. Send him down at once
He disappeared through the companion, while Gunsaules vanished within
the storeroom, where I could hear him rummaging noisily about. I sat
down to wait the appearance of Watkins, satisfied that matters were
already safely in my control. That the English sailor would cooperate,
I had no doubt, and as to LeVere, he had already gone too far to
openly play the traitor. It was full daylight now, and evidently a
bright morning, although the swell of the sea remained heavy, and I
judged there must be a strong wind. Watkins, muffled to the ears in a
heavy jacket, and with cap pulled down so I could scarcely see his
face, shuffled down the steps. He whipped off the cap and stood
"The officer of the deck sent me here, sir."
"I asked for you; did LeVere tell you why?"
"No sir; only that I was to come at once and quietly." I put my hand
on his shoulder. "Tom," I said soberly, but so low I felt sure even
Gunsaules would not overhear, "we are in the same boat, and understand
each other. The chance has come for both of us, if we play the cards
right. Listen while I tell you the situation, and what I plan doing."
I told it briefly, wasting no words, yet relating every fact, even
including my visit and conversation with Dorothy, and the throwing of
the body through the after port. He listened eagerly, but without
interruption until the end.
"What do you make of it?" I asked, irritated by his silence.
"About what you do, sir. I knew there was something of the kind going
on—some of the men forward are in on it. You've got the ring-leader."
"Manuel, you mean. Who did he count on for help in the forecastle?"
"Cochose, and a handful of others, niggers and Spaniards, mostly. They
even tried out one or two white men. That's how I heard of it, through
Jack Jones, but they never told him enough to make the plan clear.
However, with what you've just said I've got a pretty fair
understanding. They meant to pull the affair off either today or
tonight. What sorter lookin' chap was the fellow you knocked out,
"I scarcely saw his face—a half-breed I should say; rather short, but
stout, with long hair."
"Jose; he is the one Manuel would choose for such a job. But why he
got into the girl's room is more than I know. However, if he is dead,
and Manuel a prisoner, it gives us a fair chance, sir. It leaves
those fellows amidships without a leader. A dozen good men on deck
might do the business."
"But are there a dozen aboard to be trusted?"
He hesitated, running the names over in his mind, evidently weighing
each one carefully.
"Well, yes sir. I rather think there are," he said finally. "It won't
do for to make any mistake here, but I'm pretty sure of these fellows.
I'd say that in both watches there's maybe fourteen to be relied on.
There's one or two others in the starboard watch who are likely enough
all right, but I don't get to see them alone much."
"Who do you pick out?"
"In my watch there's Jones, Harwood and Simms, either English or
Welsh. They're all right. Then there's a nigger named Sam; Schmitt, a
Dutchman, with his partner, whose name I don't know, and two
Frenchies, Ravel and Pierre. That makes eight, nine counting myself.
Then in the starboard watch I'd pick out Jim Carter and Joe Cole, two
Swedes, Carlson and Ole Hallin, and another nigger. Then there are a
couple of Finns who ought to be with us, but I can't talk their lingo.
That would give us sixteen out of thirty, and it's quite likely some
of the others would take a hand with us, if they thought it was safe.
I have'nt any use though, sir, for Francois LeVere. There ain't a
worse scamp aboard."
"I know that," I admitted, "but he had to be used. It was through him
that Estada's murder was discovered. But he is safe enough for the
present, for he made the attack on Manuel, and so will not dare go
back on us. His life is in the balance. But wait, Tom; don't breathe
in his ear our real purpose; I've convinced him that we mean to keep
in the trade, dividing the treasure aboard, and sailing the bark to
"Oh, so that's the game? And what is my part now?"
"This is my watch below, and it will be best for me to keep off the
deck until all is prepared. Besides I am afraid to leave the cabin
unguarded. There is no knowing what Gunsaules might do. You sound
these men and get them together; wake up the ones in the starboard
watch you feel sure are all right, and have them slip quietly on deck.
LeVere will understand what you are up to, and will make no objection.
As soon as you have everything ready, let me know."
"We are none of us armed, sir."
"That is what I was coming to. When you are sure of your men, and have
them on deck, I'll get LeVere to send them all aft on some pretext or
other. I'll think up a way to do this without creating any suspicion.
Then we'll get these arms in the rack here, and be ready for
business—the rest will be done in a hurry. You have it all clear?"
"Then I'll wait here for your report."
At the very best Watkins could scarcely perform the task assigned him
in less than an hour. No doubt there were those on his list whom he
would have to approach with great caution, while there was always
danger that some word might be dropped to awaken suspicion. The
success or failure of our effort depended entirely upon taking these
fellows by complete surprise. If it came to an open fight our cause
was hopeless, for that would mean fourteen or fifteen men unarmed,
pitted against over a hundred, thoroughly equipped and trained
fighters. To be sure these were at present, without a leader, yet
their force alone was sufficient to overcome us, and some one among
them would doubtless assume leadership in an emergency. Only by
confining them below, with hatches battened down, and a carronade
trained upon them, would we be safe.
I sat where I could watch the stairs, and the entire forward part of
the cabin. Gunsaules lowered the table, and began preparing the
morning meal. He glanced at me each time he passed, but ventured on no
questioning, although it was quite evident the fellow was nearly
bursting from curiosity. I lit my pipe, endeavoring to appear entirely
at ease, as I turned over and over again in mind every detail of the
contemplated action. With each review the result seemed more certainly
assured, and my courage revived. Except for some accident, or act of
treachery, I could perceive no reason why my plan should not work
perfectly. It was evident that LeVere was endeavoring to keep the
watch on deck busy. I could hear his voice frequently, calling out
orders and occasionally singling out some man for a special task. A
slushing of water proved that the deck amidships was being washed
down, and twice, at least, men were sent aloft to make some change in
the spread of canvas.
I stepped across into my stateroom to gain a glimpse out through the
port. Narrow as the vista was it yet revealed a beautiful sea view,
the waves running high, but in long billows, with bright sunshine
glowing along their crests, the hollows a deep purple. Above the sky
was a pale blue, with scarcely a fleeting cloud visible, and the bark
was sailing free, laying well over to the fresh breeze, evidently
carrying all the spread of canvas possible. As I returned to the
cabin, Gunsaules awaited me to announce breakfast.
"It is six-thirty, Senor. Those were my orders."
"Very well; I suppose Estada and Manuel usually eat first?"
"That leaves me alone; suppose you rap on the lady's door yonder, and
ask if she will join me. Say your message is from Senor Gates."
She came forth immediately fully dressed, but bearing herself with
reserve. On my part I made no effort at greeting, not certain as to
what eyes might be observing us through the deck light above, or, for
the matter of that, unwilling to face the curiosity of the watchful
"I had you called," I explained, "because of a disinclination to eat
entirely alone. You were evidently awake?"
"Yes; I have not undressed. I felt no desire to sleep, although, no
doubt I dozed. The call to breakfast was quite welcome."
She seated herself opposite me, and we spoke of the weather while
Gunsaules served with some skill. He was still hovering about, but my
anxiety to enjoy a word with her alone caused me to send him on a task
"Has Captain Sanchez been attended to yet?" I asked sharply. "No;
then see to him at once. I have reason to believe he is alone this
morning, and will need you. Yes, we can get along very nicely."
We waited until he disappeared within the after stateroom, bearing a
tray; then her eyes suddenly lifted to mine, filled with questioning.
"Tell me what has happened?" She breathed eagerly. "I heard the noise
of a struggle out here, and voices conversing. Why are you alone?"
I leaned over to speak in as low a tone as possible.
"I can only explain very briefly. The man who came into your room last
night had just murdered Estada. LeVere and I found the mate's body at
daylight. His killing was part of a plot by Manuel, and the buccaneers
quartered amidships, to seize the bark. We have Manuel already
prisoner and are preparing to gain possession of the boat ourselves."
"Who are planning? You have found friends on board?"
"I have made LeVere believe his only safety lies in assisting me. I
told you about Watkins and the other men forward. He has picked out a
dozen, or so, in whom he has confidence, English sailors mostly and is
sounding them out. I expect him back with a report at any minute."
"And then what?" her excitement visible in her eyes. "What can a dozen
"Our main weapon is surprise of course. By acting quickly we can gain
control of the deck. If Watkins' estimate is correct, nine out of the
port watch now on duty will be with us. If he can add to these five or
six from the starboard watch below this will make a total, not
counting LeVere and myself, of fifteen. There would be only five left
to oppose us on deck and probably two of these would be on watch
aloft. Once we gain control of the deck we can lock the others below,
and negotiate with them at our leisure. The plan looks to me quite
She sat silently gazing at me across the table, seemingly failing to
quite comprehend, her parted lips trembling to an unasked question.
Before she could frame this in words, the door to the companion
opened, and Watkins descended the stairs. At sight of her he whipped
off his cap, and stood motionless, fumbling it awkwardly in his hands.
"You may speak freely," I said. "This is the young lady I told you
about, and of course she is with us. Only talk low, as the steward is
in the stateroom yonder."
"Yes sir," using a hoarse whisper, and fastening his gaze on me. "It's
all right, sir."
"They are with us! How many?"
"Eight sure from my watch, sir. Harwood is in the fore-top and
couldn't be seen, but I'll answer for his bein' all right. There was
only four I could get word to in the forcastle, but there's others
there who'll give us help soon as they know what's goin' on."
"That makes twelve of the men, fifteen of us altogether. Are the four
from the starboard watch on deck?"
He nodded, clutching and unclutching his hands nervously, scarcely
able to restrain himself.
THE DECK IS OURS
I had the next step carefully outlined in my own mind, and yet I
hesitated a moment, glancing into the two faces before me, with a
sudden realization of what the contemplated action would mean to all
of us, if by any chance it should fail of success. Our lives certainly
hung in the balance, for these fiends would show no mercy, if once
they gained power to strike back. Yet how could we fail? Only through
treachery, or some unforseen accident. And, moreover, it was too late
for retreat. The one chance, desperate as it appeared, must be taken.
I managed to speak cheerfully, putting a ring of confidence into my
"Then the sooner we act the better. Watkins have LeVere order these
men aft. Let him say that Senor Estada wishes them to break out some
stores in the lazaret. That will create no suspicion. They need be
here only long enough for us to distribute these arms among them, and
for me to speak a word of instruction to them. Are you ready?"
"Ay, ay, sir."
As he vanished, I turned to the girl, who had arisen to her feet, one
hand grasping the edge of the table to balance herself against the
pitching of the deck.
"It is a desperate chance, is it not?" She questioned anxiously.
"Yes," I admitted. "Fifteen of us against a hundred and fifteen, but
worth taking and such an opportunity may never occur again. I believe
the plan will work; its greatest weakness is, I do not know the men on
whom I must rely. If there should be a traitor among them we are done
for. I mean to work so fast no one man will be able to spread the
"But have I no part? Is there no way in which I can help?"
"You have your pistol?"
"Then remain here. I shall have to go on deck with the men, and will
not dare leave them a moment until the ship is absolutely secure.
Manuel is locked in that stateroom, but must not be communicated with
by anyone. I hardly believe Gunsaules will attempt anything, but it is
not safe to trust him alone. It will be your part to see that the
fellow neither enters that passage leading amidships, nor approaches
this door. Keep him in sight. You can do this?"
"Of course I can."
"Then you will do most valuable service, and save us a man. Wait here
now until I see how securely this passage forward is closed."
It was as described to me—a heavy oaken door, nail studded, not only
locked, but held firmly in place by a stout iron bar. There was not
the faintest possibility of any entrance aft, except through
assistance from this side. As I returned to the cabin, Gunsaules came
out of the Captain's room and crossed the deck. At sight of me he
stopped instantly, holding his tray in front of him.
"Gunsaules," I said, wasting no words, "you are to remain in this
cabin until I give the word. The lady here has a pistol, and orders to
shoot if you attempt to either enter this passage, or approach the
door of Manuel's stateroom."
"Yes, Senor," his face like chalk, and his eyes rolling.
"How did you find Sanchez?"
"Sitting up in his bunk, Senor, and able to eat."
"Does he know what is occurring on board?"
"No, Senor. He questioned me, but I only told him everything was all
right, so far."
In my heart I believed the fellow deliberately lied, but there was no
opportunity to question him further, for at that moment the door of
the companion opened and a miscellaneous group of men thronged down
the stairs. They were a rough hairy lot, here and there a sturdy
English countenance meeting my gaze, but the faces were largely
foreign, with those of two negroes conspicuous. I felt my heart beat
furiously at sight of such poor material, and yet many a ship's crew
appeared worse. The fellows grouped themselves awkwardly behind
"Twelve here, sir; I couldn't get Harwood down from the fore-top."
"And there are others below who will join us?"
"Yes sir; six more I count on."
"Which means lads, that with Harwood, Senor LeVere, and myself, we'll
total twenty-one in this shindy. Now I'll tell you what is up. Watkins
gave you some of it no doubt, but a word from me will make it clearer.
I'm no pirate; I'm an English sailor, shanghied on board. Estada
named me first officer because I understand navigation."
I stopped speaking, staring at one of the faces before me; all at once
it appeared familiar.
"What is your name, my man?"
"Jim Carter, sir."
"You were in the crew of the Sinbad, three years ago?"
"I was that, Mister Carlyle," he answered grinning. "I know'd you the
minute I cum down yere."
"Then that is all I need say on that line. Here's one of your mates,
lads, who will vouch for me. Now, as I've been told, you are all of
you in the same boat—you are prisoners on board, cowed by those
mongrel devils amidships. Do you understand what I say?"
"If ye'd put it in Spanish, sir," said Carter respectfully, "an' talk
kinder slow, they'd most ov 'em catch the meanin'. That's 'bout all
the lingo we've heard lately."
"Very well; now listen closely, all of you. Luck has given us a chance
to make a break, and get away. Captain Sanchez is wounded and
helpless. Pedro Estada is dead, and I've got Manuel locked in that
stateroom. His cut-throats are all below, and now all we've got to do
is clap on the hatch and keep them there."
"What 'bout the nigger on watch?" broke in Jones hoarsely. "I'd like
ter crook him, by God."
"He's with us so far. I'll answer for him. Now, what I want to know is
are you fellows with me?"
Watkins answered up promptly; then Carter; the others joining in with
less heartiness, the different accents revealing their nationalities.
I knew sailors well enough to feel assured they would follow their
leaders once the game started.
"That's good enough; now we've got to hit hard and quick, lads. There
are six men on deck who are not with us. Watkins will take care of
them with those fellows I don't assign to other work. Jones, you and
Carter make straight for the forecastle and don't let anyone come up
the scuttle. One of you had better drop down below, and prevent any of
those lads from unbarring the door leading amidships. Who is the best
for that job?"
"Let Carlson do it. He belongs to the starboard watch."
"All right—Carlson it is then. You Frenchmen, and the two negroes,
your part will be to ship the main hatch. Do a quick job, and clamp it
down tight. Do you all understand just what you are to do?"
The responses satisfied me.
"I'll come down to you, Carlson, as soon as we have the deck. It ought
not to take more than five minutes to handle those lads, and slew
around a carronade. Now don't be afraid to hit hard. Watkins, you and
Carter hand out the cutlasses from the rack; you boys will handle
those better than firearms. Good; now are you all ready?"
There was a low murmur of voices, the faces watching me showing their
increasing excitement and eagerness. Our little talk had served to
arouse their confidence in my leadership, and with gleaming weapons in
their hands they became self-reliant volunteers. Once turned loose my
greatest difficulty might be to restrain them, rather than urge them
on. Revenge for past wrongs was in each heart, and they welcomed a
chance to strike and kill.
I whispered a parting word of admonition into the ear of Dorothy,
receiving in return a glance from her eyes, which gave a new throb to
my heart; then straightened up, and pistol in hand, pushed my way
through the throng of sailors to the foot of the stairs.
"Follow me, lads," I said quietly, "and every man do the particular
thing assigned him. Don't pay any attention to your mates—do your
part, and then wait for orders. Come on now."
We emerged through the companion, and I stepped aside as the others
rushed by. There was no shout, no cheer, the fellows seeming to
realize the desperate nature of their work, and the importance of
surprise. They were outnumbered five to one, and their only hope of
success lay in rendering their opponents helpless before they could
rally to a defense. All the pent-up hate of years was in their hearts,
blazed madly in their eyes; they were tigers leaping at the throat of
their prey, yet sane enough to comprehend even in their blood-rage
that they must act together. It was over so quickly I scarcely saw it
all; my memory now is of a clear sky, a deck almost deserted, its
brass work glowing in the sun, the white sails above bellowing out to
the pressure of a strong wind, and the blue sea, crested with white,
stretching about us in desolate grandeur. LeVere stared down over the
poop rail, behind him the motionless figure of the wheelsman, his
hands gripping the spokes, while across the open deck the speeding
mutineers leaped to their several posts, with bare cutlasses shining
in the sun. And they did their work. My eyes swept from group to
group—the four toiling at the cover of the main hatch; the fellows
racing toward the forecastle; and Watkins' squad driving straight into
the grouped watch beyond the foremast. It was smartly done; Watkins
had taken no cutlass, but went in with both fists, asking no
questions, but battering right and left, his men surging after, with
steel blades flaming in the sunlight. The astounded watch, cursing and
fighting grimly, held for a moment, and then went staggering back
against the port rail, unable to stem the rush, and roaring for mercy.
I had view of Carlson dropping recklessly down the forecastle scuttle,
and then sprang forward myself to give a hand to the four wrestling
with the main hatch. Together we dragged it into position, forcing
relentlessly back as we did so, a dozen struggling figures frantically
endeavoring to reach the deck. Shots were fired, the bullets whistling
through the opening, the flare lighting up the black depths below,
revealing vaguely a mass of frantic men staring up, and cursing us
fiercely in a dozen languages; but, in spite of them, we clamped the
hatch down tight, and locked it securely into place with an iron bar.
Even through this cover the sound of smothered yells reached our ears,
mingled with blows of gun-butts, as the fellows vainly endeavored to
break out from their prison. The negro Sam grinned from ear to ear,
executing a jig, as he flashed his cutlass above his head.
"Stay here, all four of you," I commanded sharply. "This job is well
done. Now let me see about the others."
Watkins needed no help; he had his party rounded up, and in complete
control, the fellows begging for mercy, as they crouched before the
cutlasses of their assailants. To my orders they were driven into the
cook's galley and a guard stationed at the door. Then I turned to the
more serious work confronting me in the forecastle. What lay before me
in facing the members of the starboard watch it was impossible to
conceive, but they had to be sorted out, and it was my task. We must
have men enough to sail the bark, and if I was to command them, I must
first of all prove my courage and enforce authority. The whole success
of our effort depended on this.
"What's going on below?" I asked.
"Cursin' mostly," answered Carter, peering down through a slight
uptilting of the scuttle. "They don't just know what's happening yet,
but the big nigger seems ter be raisin' hell. Carlson is a holdin' him
back with his cutlass."
"Open up and let me down."
I fell, rather than clambered along the rungs of the ladder, coming to
my feet on deck in the midst of a group of angry men, who had Carlson
pinned against the bulkhead. The light was so poor I could scarcely
see their faces; a babel of voices greeted me, and more than one hand
gripped me fiercely as the excited owner yelped a demand to know what
in hell we were up to. I roughly cleared a space, aided by Carlson's
cutlass, and fronted them defiantly. Towering above them all, his
black apelike face, distorted with rage, I distinguished the giant
Cochose, his immense hands grasping a wooden bar ripped from a bunk.
Plainly enough he was the leader, the one man whose ascendency I must
crush, and I meant to do it, then and there. This was no job I could
turn over to others; if I was to rule, this black brute must be
conquered at the very start, conquered by my own hands, and in the
presence of his mates. Here, in this black forecastle, we must fight
it out, breast to breast, as savagely as beasts of the jungle, to the
bitter end. I made the resolve, with teeth clenched, and every muscle
throbbing with eagerness.
"Stand back there lads," I said sternly, my eyes searching their
faces, and with pistol poised threateningly. "Give us room. I'll
explain all that has happened presently, but first I am going to lick
that black brute within an inch of his life. Step out of there,
He came grinning widely, balancing the heavy club in his hands.
"You mean me, sah? You all think yer kin lick me?"
"Yes, I think so; I'll try it anyway. Here Carlson, take this pistol
and sheath knife. If anyone interferes shoot him. All I ask is fair
play. Drop that club, Cochose, and throw away your knife. You and I
will fight this out with bare hands."
His dull brain worked slowly, and he stared at me, his eyes ugly, his
grin becoming savage with a display of teeth. His silence and lack of
response, awoke a growl from the impatient circle of men behind. One
fellow kicked the club out of his hand contemptuously, and another
plucked the knife from his belt.
"You big skulker," the latter said, with an oath of derision, "go on,
and fight! What in hell are you afraid of?"
"What for Ah fight this white man? Ah don't even know who he is."
"Then I'll tell you. Estada is dead; Manuel is a prisoner. I'm in
command of this bark, and I am going to give you a lesson for the
benefit of the crew. You are a big, boasting cur! I heard what you
said when I came down, and now I'll make you prove it. You other
fellows stand back—I'll make this beast fight."
I took two steps forward, my advance so swift and unexpected, the big
negro had not even time in which to throw up an arm in defense. With
open hand I struck him squarely across the face, an insulting,
IN FULL POSSESSION
A roar of delight mingled with the negro's snarl of rage at this
action. For an instant the fellow appeared too completely surprised
for movement, although an angry oath burst from his lips, and the grin
of derision faded from his face. I knew sailors, and felt that these
men would not differ greatly from the occupants of other forecastles
on the seven seas. They would welcome a fight like this and their
immediate sympathy would be with me for starting it. More than that,
this black bully, ruling over them by brute force, could be no
favorite. They might fear him, but with that fear would be mingled
hate, and a delight in his downfall.
The respite was short, yet in that instant, although I cannot recall
removing watchful eyes from the negro's face, I received an impression
of my surroundings never to be erased from memory. The grim picture
arises before me now, distinct in every detail, the gloomy interior,
the deck, foul, littered with sea boots, and discarded clothing, and
the great beams overhead blackened by smoke. The rays of the swinging
slush lantern barely illuminated the central space, the rows of bunks
beyond remaining mere shadows, yet this dim, yellowish light, fell
full upon the excited, half circle of men who were roaring about the
negro, and had already pressed him forward until he stood confronting
me, his grin of derision changed into a scowl of hate. They were a
rough, wild lot, bearded and uncombed, ranging in color from the
intense black of Central Africa to the blond of Scandinavia, half
naked some, their voices mingling in a dozen tongues, their eyes
gleaming with savagery. They impressed me as animals of the jungle,
thirsting for blood, and I knew the man who came victorious from this
struggle would be their leader. The thought stiffened my muscles, and
strengthened my determination to win.
I know not whether Cochose lunged forward of his own volition, or was
pressed on from behind, yet suddenly he was within reach of me, and
the battle was on. It was short and fierce, his object evidently being
to crush me in his giant grip, mine to oppose science to strength, and
avoid his bear-hug. We swayed back and forth to the sharp pitching of
the ship, barely able to keep our feet, sparring for some advantage.
Once he would have had me, but for a lunge of the vessel which sent
him sprawling on hands and knees; yet, before I could recover, the man
was up again, furious with anger. This time, he sprang straight at me,
uttering a growl of rage, determined to smash me to the deck by the
very power of his onslaught. But I side-stepped him, getting in two
swift blows, which rocked his head, and tore open one cheek, from
which blood trickled. Yet he kept his feet, blindly gripping for me,
driven almost crazy by the pain of my last blow, and the jeers of his
I evaded his clutch by leaping aside, but the space was far too small
to permit these tactics to carry long, and finally he had me. Yet,
even as he seemingly crushed the very breath out of me, his giant
strength met with a resistance which increased his fury. Already the
fellow had lost his head, but I fought coolly, putting my skill
against brute force, every wrestler's trick I knew flashing into my
brain. Breathless, my flesh scraped and bruised, I wriggled partly
free, and tripped him, his great body striking the deck with a thud. I
fell with him, dragged down by his desperate grip, but was first upon
my feet, saluted by a roar of delight from the lips of those crowding
about us. As he staggered up also, cursing fiercely, his lips drawn
back in a snarl, his brutal face, that of a wild animal, I struck him
again, a blow which would have ended the game, had not my foot slipped
on the reeling deck. As it was it drove him to his knees, groggy, and
with one eye half closed, yet with strength enough left to regain his
feet as soon as I. This time he charged me like a wild bull, froth
whitening his lips, scarcely appearing human in the yellow light. In
mad rage he forgot all caution, all pretense at defense, his one
thought to reach me with his hands, and throttle me into lifeless
pulp. Here was where skill and coolness won. I fought him back,
driving blow on blow through his guard, sidestepping his mad rushes,
landing again and again on his body. Twice I got in over his heart,
and at last, found the chance I sought, and sent a right jab straight
to the chin. All the force of one hundred and eighty pounds was behind
the clinched fist, and the negro went down as though floored by a
poleaxe. Once weakly he endeavored to rise, but this time I used my
left, and he never stirred again, lying there with no sign of life
except the quivering of the huge body. Assured that he was down and
out, I stood above him, gazing into the ring of excited faces.
"That's one attended to," I said shortly. "Now is there any more of
you who would like to fight this out?"
There was no answer although the ring widened under the threat of my
eyes, and I met sullen faces here and there. I was in no mood to take
"Carlson," I said, glancing back at him. "You know all these men?"
"Pick out those you can trust, and have them stand over there to the
right. Call them out by name; be lively now."
They stepped forth eagerly enough, and ranged themselves before the
bunks, the faces mostly those of northern Europe, although a negro or
two was among them. As the Swede ceased calling, six or seven yet
remained clustered in front of me, a motley lot, one of them an
Indian, the others mostly half-breeds. I glanced from face to face
"How about it, you?" I asked. "Are there any more of you fellows who
take a chance with us? This is my last offer?"
"What's the game?" asked a sullen voice in English, and a bearded
fellow burned black, pushed his way to the front. I had not noted his
presence before, but instantly recognized his character.
"Are you English?"
"No; I used ter be Scotch; now I'm damned if I know what I am. One
flag is as good as another ter me—only I want to know what sorter
game I'm playin' in. Who the hell are yer? An' whar'd yer cum frum?"
"I am an English seaman," I answered shortly, "and how I came aboard
makes no difference. Right now I am the only navigator on the
"What's happened ter Estada?"
"He's dead—knifed last night by one of the buccaneers. Manuel Estevan
had a hand in the business, and he's safely locked in a stateroom aft.
Captain Sanchez is wounded and helpless, and those cut-throats
amidships are battened down below hatches. LeVere and I are the
officers left, and we control the deck. We had to fight it out, or
likely it would be our turn next."
"Yer mean those fellers were aimin' ter take the ship?"
"Exactly that; now where are you lads? With Manuel and his bunch of
pirates? Or with us?"
"What er yer going ter do with us, an' this ship? That's the fu'st
I had not decided that even in my own mind, but the answer came
promptly enough, as my eyes swept the faces fronting me.
"What's your name?"
"Well, MacClintock. I am going to leave that to the crew. As soon as
we have all secure, I'll have every man on deck, and then we'll talk
it over. That's fair enough isn't it?"
"It looks fair. Come on, mates; I'm fer the Englishman."
Only one followed him, however, a sheep-faced boy; the others remained
sullen, and defiant. Likely enough they failed to understand what had
been said, but I had no further time to waste in explanations. I
glanced up at Carter's face framed in the scuttle hole.
"Your guard there?"
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Pass these men up and take them forward with the others. Turn them
over to Watkins. Then come back here, and report to me."
"Ay, ay, sir."
They went up the ladder one by one, and disappeared onto the deck
above, the majority cheerful enough, although a few of the faces were
scowling darkly as they passed me. Carlson and I watched the others,
the Swede still retaining his pistol in hand, until Carter stuck his
head once again through the opening.
"All safe, sir—they was like lambs."
"Very well; stand by to help. Now you lads, lift this black brute and
shove him up to where they can get hold above. Step lively unless you
want trouble. Show them the way Carlson."
It was some heavy job, but they finally hoisted the unconscious form
up the ladder and forced it through the hole onto the deck. At my
stern command the others also crawled forth into the sunlight, where
Carlson and I followed them, leaving the forecastle deserted. I felt
that I must dispose of these fellows before attempting anything else,
and scarcely took time to glance about. They were huddled in a little
bunch around the outstretched body of Cochose, helpless from lack of
"Pick up the negro; yes, you fellows. Now aft with him—all of you."
We halted at the main hatch, and I had the cover slipped to one side,
the armed sailors gathering close about the edge, as I peered down. It
was a scene of pandemonium, revealed in the yellow flame of slush
lanterns, a group of white faces showing clearly, as the prisoners
below struggled forward, gesticulating and shouting. The glow of light
glistened on a variety of weapons, but I dare not send men below, into
the midst of those shrieking devils to disarm them. Nor was I greatly
afraid of the result at present. They must still be in total ignorance
of what had occurred on board, and why the hatch had been fastened
down. Indeed this was plainly evidenced by their cries and threats.
They were leaderless, confused, unable to determine what to attempt.
While they remained in that condition they could not greatly endanger
my plan. Later, with a body of armed seamen behind me, I would compel
the surrender of weapons, but now I must hold them as they were,
quarreling among themselves, and take time to strengthen my authority
on deck. With this in mind, ignoring their mad roaring, and the threat
of leveled guns, I stared down at the infuriated faces, until the
clamor ceased sufficiently to let my voice be heard. I used Spanish,
my lack of facility in that tongue rendering my speech slow. The
instant silence proved my words understood.
"What are you men trying to do, frighten me? You might as well stop
that. This opening is lined with guns, and if one of you fire a shot
we'll pour lead into you. More than that; if you attempt to climb out,
you'll meet a hot reception. There is a brass carronade trained on
the hatch to sweep you to kingdom come. So listen!"
Several voices shouted up inquiries, but one, shrill and insistent,
rose clearly above the others.
"What's happening? What yer going to do with us?"
I thought I located the questioner among the jumbled mass below, and
with my eyes on him, answered for all his mates.
"We are in control of the ship," I called back, "and mean to keep it.
The old officers are either dead or prisoners. What we do with you
will depend on your actions, but we're ready to kill if necessary. If
you keep quiet down there, and obey orders, you'll be fed, and treated
decently enough. Pass up your arms."
There was no movement, only a glare of hostile eyes, an
indistinguishable growl of voices.
"Kneel down, lads and cover those fellows," I ordered sternly drawing
my own pistol. "Now you below there, this is my last word. I'll count
ten, and you'll either pass up those weapons or we'll pour our fire
into you. If your miserable lives are worth anything to you, the
quicker you move the better. Take aim, boys."
There was a moment of deathly silence, except for my counting and the
heavy breathing of the trapped prisoners. One man uttered a curse, and
the jam of figures at the foot of the ladder endeavored to work back
out of range, yet, before I had spoken the word eight, guns were held
aloft, and poked up within reach, and at this sign of surrender even
the most desperate lost heart and joined the more cowardly. It was a
strange collection of weapons stacked on the deck—guns, cutlasses,
knives and pistols of every description, relics of many a foray, some
apparently very old. Probably all had not been delivered, yet there
was such a pile, I felt no further fear of the few pieces remaining
hidden. It was not my intention that the villains should have the
slightest chance to use the weapons, so when the stream finally
ceased, I asked no questions, although I gave no orders to the guard
to withdraw. I had the fellows cowed, and meant to keep them so.
"That's all, is it? Very well—now you men at the foot of the ladder
take care of this big nigger we're sending down; no, he is not dead,
only stunned. Let him have a bucket of water, and he'll be all right.
Now stand aside while a few of your friends join you; they'll tell you
what's up. Make room there?"
We passed the forecastle scum down one after the other, and as the
last of these merged into the scarcely distinguishable mass below, I
gave vent to a sigh of relief, and straightened up, with pistol still
grasped in my hand. They were now bunched together, all of them, and
confined where they would prove the least possible danger. Desperate
and reckless as many of them were, we had them now safely in our own
hands—disarmed and imprisoned within narrow limits. To be sure they
might wreck the bark by fire, or otherwise, but that would only peril
their own lives, and, no matter how willing some might be to accept
this hazard of fortune, there would be more to oppose the
proposition—forcibly, if necessary. For them to escape the only means
was through treachery, and against that possibility I must guard. I
knew little of the men who had responded to my call, and chosen me as
leader. Some among them I could trust, but others were merely with me
while I retained power—would desert at the first doubt. I must rely
on the judgment of Watkins as to whom among them I could safely depend
upon, and suspicion and watch the rest. It was no pleasant position,
yet success thus far had come so easily the knowledge was no
"When we goin' ter be fed?" yelled a voice from below.
"Presently," I answered. "As soon as the cook has it ready. Shove the
hatch cover back into place, lads—yes it will be safer fastened down;
they'll get air enough through treachery, and against that possibility
I must caged."
Satisfied that every precaution had been taken, and ignoring the
indignant roar of voices which greeted this order, I watched the men
shift the heavy hatch cover into place, and then permitted my eyes to
survey the deck, as I hastily considered our next action.
THE CREW DECIDES
Except that many of the men remained armed there was no suggestion of
violence visible, no reminder of the fact that we were mutineers. But
for the gleaming carronade trained on the main hatch, and the small
group of gunners clustered about it, the scene was peaceable enough,
resembling the deck of some merchant ship. The bark held steadily to
her course, with practically every inch of canvas set, the wind
steady, and only a single hand at the wheel. LeVere stood motionless
at the poop rail, staring down, as though scarcely realizing what had
transpired on board, and some way his very attitude and expression of
face aroused within me a doubt of the man, a determination to put him
to the test. Evidently he had held aloof and cautiously refrained from
taking even the slightest part in our activities. The men themselves
were mostly forward, grouped together and still excitedly discussing
the situation. That all among them were not satisfied was indicated by
their gestures, and the fact that Watkins, and others of the more
loyal, were passing from group to group combating their arguments.
Plainly enough I must have a heart-to-heart talk with the fellows,
outlining a plan of escape, and leaving them to imagine their choice
in the matter would be followed. But, in the meanwhile action of some
sort would be most apt to overcome their dissatisfaction and prevent
The sky overhead was a pale blue, the sun shining, but as through a
slight haze, while a heavy cloud of vapor obscured the western
horizon. Although this promised fog rather than storm, yet the sea had
a heavy swell and I accepted this threat of a change in weather to
employ the men in reducing sail. It pleased me to note how swiftly
they responded to the sound of my voice.
"Stand by to reef topsails," I shouted. "We're all one watch now. Go
at it lively, lads, and when the job is over we'll eat, and decide
together what's our next move. Two of you will be enough to guard the
hatch and you Carter, go into the cabin and relieve the girl there.
Keep your eyes open. I'll be down presently. Aloft with you and see
how quick a job you can make of it."
Watkins led the way up the main-mast ratlines, and Cole was first into
the fore shrouds, the others following eagerly. I watched them lay out
on the yards and was heartened to hear the fellows sing as they
worked, the canvas melting away as if by magic. Only three men
remained in sight on the main deck, the two guarding the closed hatch,
and one watching the open scuttle leading into the deserted
forecastle. Back and forth in the galley the cook and his assistant
passed the open door and Carter had disappeared through the companion.
I climbed the ladder to where LeVere stood on the poop, but carefully
ignored his presence, my gaze on the scene aloft. Twice I gave orders,
changing the steering direction slightly, and commanding the lower
sails reefed. The mulatto scowling, joined me at the rail.
"Main-top there!" I called sharply. "Anything to report?"
"No, sir; all haze off the port quarter, and nothing showing to
"Keep a lookout; let the others lay down."
LeVere fronted me.
"What's all this about?" he asked. "That's no storm cloud yonder."
"There is always danger in fog," I answered coldly, "and besides there
is no use carrying on until we know where we are bound. My purpose is
to keep the men busy, and then talk the situation over with them. Have
you any criticism of this plan, Senor LeVere?"
He hesitated, but his eyes were narrowed, and ugly.
"You'll do as you please, but you told me we sailed for Porto Grande.
Was that a lie?"
"Not necessarily," and I smiled grimly. "Although I should not have
hesitated to tell one under the circumstances. I mean to leave that
decision to the men themselves. It is their lives that are in danger."
"That damn scum! half of them are English and French. All they want is
to get away; they will never go back to Porto Grande without you make
"How make them?"
"By false observations; there is no navigator forward. It is a trick
easy enough to play with a little nerve. I would never have taken part
in this mutiny if I had supposed you meant to play into the hands of
"It is very little part you took Senor LeVere, judging from what I
saw. You seemed quite content to stand aft here and look on. However
you are in it just as deeply as I am, and are going to play the game
out with me to the end. Do you understand that?"
"What you mean, Senor—play it out?"
"Go on with the rest of us; take your chance with the men and do your
duty. I am captain here, and I know how to handle insubordination. The
first sign of treachery on your part, will send you below with those
others. I don't trust you, and all I want is an excuse to put you out
of the way—so be careful what you do."
I turned and walked away from him toward the forward rail. The men
were still aloft but coming in from off the yards. Below me in the
door of the companion, stood Dorothy, her eyes peering curiously about
the deserted deck. She glanced up, and saw me, the whole expression of
her face changing.
"May I come up there?" she asked.
"Certainly; let me help you. Stand here beside me, and you can see all
that is being done. That's all, lads; breakfast is ready; lay down all
except the lookout."
We watched while they streamed down the ratlines and gathered forward
of the galley, squatting in groups on the deck. To all appearances the
fellows had not a care in the world, or any thought of the stirring
scenes just passed through. The girl's hand touched my sleeve, and I
turned and looked into her face.
"A happy-go-lucky lot," I said pleasantly. "Real sailormen. As long as
they are fed and housed why worry about tomorrow. I'll put this job up
to them presently."
"The sailor who came into the cabin told me about your fight with the
negro; you were not hurt?"
"Oh, I did not escape entirely free, but received no serious injury.
It is not to be thought about now, with all the work ahead."
"The ship is safely in your hands?"
"I can hardly affirm that, Miss Dorothy. The vessel is in our control,
and the worst of the gang secured below. I have confidence in the
loyalty of only a very few of these fellows, and the others will have
to be watched day and night as long as we remain afloat. Those are
desperate men locked below, and are bound to make some effort to free
themselves. If there is any treachery on deck it may lead to their
"You were talking with Senor LeVere; I overheard a word or two. He is
not with you willingly?"
"No," and I swept the deck seeking him, fearful what I said might be
overheard. "I distrust him more than any of the others. Those men
forward are seamen, and will abide by their mates. Moreover they are
accustomed to taking orders, and doing what they are told. I believe I
can handle them, with what help I have. But the mulatto is different.
He belongs with the worst element on board, and only joined us from
fear of being killed just as Estada was. He has no heart in this job,
and would accept any chance to square himself with those cut-throats
below. I'll have trouble with him before we are done, but prefer to
catch the man red-handed."
"But what do you mean to do next?" she asked anxiously. "There cannot
be a moment of safety with those horrible creatures aboard."
"True; yet with the material I am dealing with, I dare not venture
too far. Probably in that bunch forward there are men guilty of every
crime in the calendar; as depraved as any we have below. They have
joined us for various reasons, but would desert and become ugly in an
instant, if they suspected we might turn them over to the authorities.
There is only one safe course for me to pursue under these conditions;
let them decide by vote what should be done."
"What do you imagine such a vote will show?"
"That the vessel be beached on some remote coast, all the spoils
aboard divided, and then the crew permitted to go where they please.
There will be some who may prefer continuing the cruise before
destroying the bark, but I believe there are enough fairly honest
fellows among them eager to escape this sort of life, to control."
"But the wretches below? Surely you would not leave them to drown?"
"No; they would have to be released with the others, after the
division had been made."
"That would leave us at their mercy?"
"Yes," I whispered, "if we waited until that time. I do not propose
taking any such chance. Here is my plan, and it seems the only
feasible one left us. We are helpless if these men revolt, and they
certainly will unless given their own way. I have no doubt but what
their decision will be practically as I have outlined. Very well, I
will acquiesce in it cheerfully enough to arouse no suspicion. I am
the only navigator on board; the only one with any knowledge even of
where we are. Not even LeVere could check up on me. The night the
vessel is to be beached Watkins and Carter, with one or two they
select, will get off in a small boat, carefully provisioned, and thus
make our own landing. We'll not worry about what fate awaits the
Her eyes sought mine anxiously, full of questioning.
"You are confident of being able to accomplish this without
"Yes; we can choose the right moment. With not men enough on deck to
prevent our lowering a boat, and a dark night, the escape will not
prove difficult. No one aboard except myself will know where we are."
"Have you considered Captain Sanchez?"
"Why no," in surprise, "he is helpless below, badly wounded."
"Not so badly as you suppose," she said swiftly. "He is able to be up
and about his stateroom. I heard him moving, and I believe the steward
has told him what has occurred on board, and endeavored to bear a
message from him to those men amidships."
"You believe this? What did you do?"
"I held my pistol to his head and locked him in the pantry. He is
there now, with the sailor you sent on guard. That is what I came on
deck to tell you."
"But Sanchez! You saw nothing of him?"
"No; but there was certainly movement in his room after the man
Gunsaules came out. I went over to the door and listened, but there
was no way for me to lock him in. Surely it must have been him moving,
as he was alone there."
I stood silent, my eyes first on the forward deck, and then sweeping
about the horizon. The view by then was very narrow, the gathering
clouds of mist so dense as to obscure everything, leaving a mere gray
trail of sea revealed, scarcely a hundred yards in extent in any
direction. I hardly perceived even this as my thought centered on this
new peril. Yet why should I hold it a peril? The ending of it was in
my hands, I need not await action, or permit him opportunity. The
warning had come in ample time. Sanchez was still in my power,
separated from his followers, incapable of doing us any serious harm.
All that was needed for me to do was to keep him in close confinement.
We were surely not far from the coast; twenty-four hours, perhaps
twelve, would suffice, to make our escape from this cursed ship
possible. I must get an observation so as to know our exact position;
after that the course would be figured definitely, and I would then
know the time required. My eyes again sought her face.
"He is a danger, of course, but not a serious one," I said
confidently. "It is safe enough to leave him undisturbed at present
with Cole on guard. The first thing I need do is to satisfy those men.
I'll attend to that now, and then see to the proper securing of
"Shall I remain here?"
"You told the man Cole what you heard?"
"Yes, I explained everything to him before I came on deck."
"Then you are not needed in the cabin. He is a reliable man. Remain
here with LeVere while I go forward, and watch that he does not
attempt to go below."
The fellows had not finished mess, but I felt the danger of further
delay, and talked to them as they sat on deck, explaining briefly the
entire situation, and the causes leading up to the mutiny. I dealt
with the matter in plain terms, making no apparent effort to influence
them, yet forcibly compelling each individual to realize what would be
the result of our recapture. They listened earnestly, asking an
occasional question, and passing comments back and forth freely among
I shall never forget that scene, the decks already wet with fog, which
swirled about us in an impenetrable cloud of vapor, utterly blotting
out the sea, and even rendering our faces strange and indistinct. The
foremast disappeared at the lower fore-yard, while aft of the cook's
galley the bark was entirely invisible. We rolled heavily in the swell
of the heaving water, barely retaining steerage-way, the closely
reefed sails aloft flapping against the masts, the straining deck
beams creaking noisily to every roll of the vessel. The sailors stared
up at me, rough dressed and hairy, yet not a bad-looking lot as
sailors go, but with here and there a face to be distrusted. I sent
Watkins to the cabin for a roll of charts, and spreading these out,
endeavored as well as I could, to make clear our probable position and
the nearest point of land. This was largely guesswork, but I
approximated distances and made the situation fairly clear. When I had
completed the explanation, and stood before them awaiting decision, it
was Haines who acted as their spokesman.
"This yere is Cape Howarth?" he asked, a grimy thumb on the point
indicated. "An' yer say it's 'bout a hundred and fifty miles west?"
"Yes, about that."
"An' thar's no settlement?"
"Some colonists fifty miles north is all." "That's 'bout right." He
turned to the others. "Say mates, this is how I figure. We can't go on
no long cruise with all those bloody rats in the hold. They're bound
ter find some way out if we give 'em time 'nough. Fer as I'm
concerned, I'm fer dividin' up whut we've got, and ter hell with
piratin'. What 'er yer say, mates? Shall we run the ol' hooker ashore,
an' leave her thar, while we tramp the coast? We're just a
"What 'bout them fellers down below?"
"Ter hell with 'em! Let 'em take keer o' 'emselves. Thet's the way
they'd treat us."
"He's bloody well right, mates," said a loud voice heartily. "There's
plenty o' swag aboard ter give us all a fist full. I'm fer a division,
an gettin' out with our lives—what say yer?"
There was a chorus of approval sufficient in volume to satisfy me, and
I accepted this as a decision.
"All right, lads," I said briefly. "In my judgment your choice is a
wise one. I'll have an observation as soon as the fog clears and we'll
head in for the Cape."
"When do we divide the swag?"
"Fifty miles off the coast. That's fair enough, isn't it? And my share
goes to you."
There was a straggling cheer, but I broke it up with a sharp order.
"Now stand by for work, all of you. Watkins and Carter I want you
THE PRISONERS ESCAPE
The two men followed me silently as far as the companion, where we
paused a moment staring blindly about us into the fog. Even the guard
at the main hatch was invisible.
"This can scarcely last long," I remarked, "but there may be a storm
"I don't think so, sir," one of the men answered civilly. "I've run in
to these yere mists afore 'long this coast; it's liable ter be all
clear 'fore the sun goes down."
"Well we'll make the ship safe first Carter, you are an able seaman?"
"Guard this after deck until Watkins and I come back. Under no
circumstances permit LeVere to enter the cabin. You understand?"
He grinned appreciatively.
"That nigger ain't likely ter get by me, sir; I'd just like for ter
take one whack at him."
"Don't be rough, if you can help it. As far as I know now he is with
us, and ranks second officer. My only orders are—see that he remains
on deck while we are below."
"Ay, ay, sir; he'll stay thar." With the door closed, we were
plunged into a darkness which rendered the interior invisible. I
wondered dimly why the man on guard had not lighted the swinging
lantern but before I could call out to the fellow, Watkins whispered.
"What's up? Anything wrong in here?"
"Not that I know of, but the young lady reported Sanchez moving about
in his stateroom and I think it safer to see to him at once."
"It's blacker than hell down thar."
"Yes; I don't understand it—wait here a minute until I strike a
I stumbled over something on the deck, as I groped forward, but with
mind centered on the one object, did not pause until I had located the
lantern. It blazed up brightly enough, its yellow flame illuminating
the cabin, and the first thing I saw was the outstretched figure of
the sailor almost between my feet. I sprang back, giving utterance to
a cry, which brought Watkins to me, and the two of us stared at the
grewsome object and then about into the wavering shadows. There was
nothing to see but the dead man, lying on his face motionless, blood
still oozing from an ugly knife wound in his back. We needed to ask no
questions, imagine nothing—the overturned chair, the stricken sailor
told the whole story. He had been treacherously stuck from behind, the
blade driven home by a strong hand, and was dead before he fell to the
deck. It had been silent, vengeful murder, and the assassin had left
no trace. Who could it have been? Not Gunsaules surely—the steward
lacked both nerve and strength for such a deed. Then there was but one
to suspect—Silva Sanchez! I stood there dumb, gazing at the dead
man, realizing all this dimly, yet conscious only of thankfulness that
the victim had not been Dorothy Fairfax.
"He's dead, sir," growled Watkins, turning the fellow over with his
foot, until the ghastly face stared up at the deck beams overhead.
"Stabbed to the heart frum behind. Look a yere—that wus sum slash.
Who, the hell do yer suppose did it?"
"That is ours to find out. The deed has just been done, for blood is
still flowing. Let him alone Watkins and come with me—the murderer
can't be far off."
I flung open the pantry door, but one glance inside told me that
Gunsaules had vanished. On the deck lay the strands of rope with which
he had been secured—-they had been severed by a sharp knife, the ends
discolored with blood stains. I held these out to Watkins.
"Cut since the murder," I said harshly, "and by the same knife."
"Who was in here, sir."
"The steward, Gunsaules. He didn't do the job, but I believe I know
who did. We'll try the port stateroom aft. Stand by; there's likely to
be two of them."
The door was unlocked and opened noiselessly, but I took no chances,
thinking this possibly a ruse. Gloomy as the interior appeared in the
weird light with banks of fog driving against the ports, a single
swift glance convinced me it was deserted. There was no place for a
man to hide, yet I could not convince myself of its emptiness until I
peered into the disarranged bunk, and surveyed every shadowed corner.
Watkins watched me curiously, turning his head occasionally to stare
out into the lighted cabin behind. The situation baffled me
completely—that Sanchez had done the deed, informed by the steward of
what was occurring on board and rendered desperate by that report, was
clear enough in my mind; but what had become of the man? He could not
have escaped overboard, as the ports were screwed down, and his
appearance on the open deck above would have surely been observed. His
place of concealment must remain aft in the cabin, and if so, he must
be discovered by immediate search. I ordered Watkins to take the
lantern from the rack and follow me from stateroom to stateroom. We
began with Dorothy's, finding none of them locked until we came to
where Manuel was held prisoner. All were empty and in disorder, while
bending my ear to the locked door, I could distinguish the heavy
breathing of its inmate, the fellow was evidently sound asleep.
"What do you make of it, Tom?" I asked, facing him in the dim halo of
"Well, sir," scratching his head with his disengaged hand, "Thar ain't
but two more places ter look—the cuss is either in the lazaret, er'
else hidin' in the passage forward; more likely the last."
"Why not the lazaret?"
"Cause thar wouldn't be no object fer him to go thar. He dudn't get
out agin with the kiver shut down. The thing he'd most likely try fer
wud be ter release them lads amidships—that'd give him a gang o'
bullies ter fight with. My idea is, sir, he thought he'd have time ter
git the bulkhead door open, before anybody cum below—he an' the
steward, who'd know what the tools wus. That wus the scheme, only we
busted in too quick. That whar they both are—skulkin' back in them
He fitted the smoking lantern back onto the shelf to have his hands
free for action, and drew a cutlass out of the arm rack, running one
leatherly thumb along the blade to test its sharpness. His eyes sought
"Probably your guess is the right one," I said soberly. "We'll give it
a trial, and should need no help to handle the two of them."
The deck under our feet was fairly steady, the vessel having barely
steerage-way, rolling slightly to the heave of the sea. No sound
readied us from above, and the silence of the cabin was profound.
Indeed the stillness irritated me with its mystery, rendered me
reckless to penetrate its meaning. Murder had been committed for a
purpose—it was the first step in an effort to retake the ship. If we
were to retain our advantage there was no time to be lost; we were
pitted now against Silva Sanchez, and he was a leader not to be
despised or temporized with; no cowardly, brainless fool.
The passage leading forward was wide enough to permit of our advancing
together and for a few steps the light dribbled in past us, quite
sufficient for guidance, although our shadows were somewhat confusing.
There were closed doors on either side, evidently locked, as they
refused to yield to the hand. I took these to be storerooms, possibly
containing spoils of the voyage, but gave them little other thought,
my whole interest centered on the intense blackness ahead. I had been
down this tunnel once before, and knew the bulkhead was not far away,
but the few steps necessary plunged us into profound blackness,
through which we advanced cautiously with outstretched hands. No
slightest sound warned of danger and I was already convinced in my own
mind that the refugees were not hiding there, when it happened. Within
an instant we were fighting for our lives, fronted not by two men, but
by a score, who flung themselves cursing upon us. Their very numbers
and the narrowness of the passage was our only salvation. At first our
resistance was blind enough, guided only by the senses of touch and
sound. We could see nothing of our antagonists, although their fierce
rush hurled us backward. I fired into the mass, as Watkins slashed
madly with his cutlass, both managing in some way to keep our feet.
Hands gripped for us, a bedlam of oaths splitting the air; yet, even
in that moment of pandemonium, I was quick to realize the fellows were
weaponless, seeking only to reach and crush us with bare hands. The
same discovery must have come to the mind of the sailor, for he yelled
it out defiantly, every stroke of his blade drawing blood. I joined
him, striking with the butt of the pistol, feeling within me the
strength of ten men, yet the very weight of them thrust us
remorselessly back. We killed and wounded, the curses of hate changed
into sharp cries of agony, but those behind pressed the advance
forward, and we were inevitably swept back into the light of the cabin
Then I saw faces, hideous in the glare, demonical in their expression
of hatred—a mass of them, unrecognizable, largely of a wild,
half-Indian type, with here and there a bearded white. Nor were they
all bare-handed; in many a grip flashed a knife, and directly fronting
me, with a meat cleaver uplifted to strike, Sanchez yelled his orders.
Ignoring all others I leaped straight at him, crying to Watkins as I
"Back lad; dash out that light; I'll hold these devils here a minute!"
I did—-God knows how! It was like no fighting ever I had done before,
a mad, furious mélée, amid which I lost all consciousness of action,
all guidance of thought, struggling as a wild brute, with all the
reckless strength of insanity. It is a dim, vague recollection; I am
sure I felled Sanchez with one blow of my pistol-butt, stretching him
apparently lifeless at my feet; in some way that deadly cleaver came
into my hands and I trod on his body, swinging the sharp blade with
all my might into those scowling faces. They gave sullenly backward;
they had to, yelping and snarling like a pack of wolves, hacking at me
with their short knives. I was cut again and again, but scarcely knew
it. I stood on quivering flesh, driving my weapon from right to left,
crazed with blood, and seeking only to kill. I saw faces crushed in,
arms severed, men reeling before me in terror, the sudden spurting of
blood from ghastly wounds. Oaths mingled with cries of agony and
shouts of hate. Then in an instant the light was dashed out and all
It was as though my brain snapped back into ascendency. I was no
longer a raging fury, mad with the desire to kill, but cool-headed,
planning escape. Before a hand could reach me in restraint, I sprang
backward and ran. In the darkness of the cabin I collided with the
table, and fell sprawling over a stool. The noise guided pursuit, yet,
wedged together as those fellows still were in the narrow passage,
fighting each other in the black gloom, gave me every advantage and so
unhalted, I stumbled up the stairs leading to the companion. The vague
glimmer of daylight showing through the glass, revealed the presence
of Watkins. I heard him dash the door wide open, call to those on
deck, and then saw him wheel about to again confront the devils
plunging blindly forward toward us through the dark cabin. We could
hold them here for a time at least, yet I had the sense to know that
this check would prove only temporary. They outnumbered us ten to one,
and would arm themselves from the rack. Yet the greater danger lay in
the loyalty of my own men. A dozen of us might hold these stairs
against assault, but treachery would leave us helpless. And the very
thickness of the fog without invited to treachery. If one among them,
and there were many capable of such an act, should steal below
forward, and force open the door from the forecastle, we would be
crushed between two waves of men, and left utterly helpless. I saw the
whole situation vividly, and as quickly chose the only course to
pursue, the one hope remaining.
"Here lads," I called sharply back over my shoulder, "five or six of
you are enough to hold back this scum. Watkins!"
"Bend down here—now listen. Get the boats ready—two will be
enough—and be lively about it. We'll hold these fellows until you
report. You know the lads to be trusted. Put two of them at the
forecastle scuttle, and then rout everybody out from below. Who is
"Name yerselves, bunkies—I can't see yer."
"That's enough; you lads remain here with me. Have Harwood watch
LeVere, while the rest of you get out the boats."
"How many, sir?"
"The two quarter-boats will hold us all. Knock out the plugs in the
"Ay, ay, sir."
"See that Miss Fairfax is placed safely in the after-boat, and then
stand by. Send me word the moment all is ready. That's all—we're
going to be busy here presently."
I had glimpse of the thick fog without as he pushed through the door,
and of a scarcely distinguishable group of men on the deck. Those
about me could only be located by their restless movements. I stepped
down one stair conscious of increasing movement below, the meat
cleaver still gripped in my hands.
"Any of you armed with cutlasses?"
"Oui, M'Sieur, Ravel DeLasser."
"Stand here, to right of me, now another at my left. Who are you?"
"Jim Carter, sir."
"Good; now strike hard, lads, and you others be ready."
"What's up, sir?" asked a gruff voice. "Has they busted out from
"That's what's happened. The cabin is full of 'em, and it is your life
and mine in the balance. If we can get away in this fog they'll never
find us, but we've got to hold them here until the boats are ready."
"Is it Sanchez?"
"It was Sanchez, but I killed him. That is where we've still got them
huskies, without a leader."
"But they've got arms."
"Only hand weapons," broke in Carter contemptuously. "We're as good as
they are—thar ain't no powder."
"Sure of that?"
"Course I am. I cleaned up that rack two days ago. There's ball in the
bandoliers, but no powder. I wus goin' ter break open a cask, but
Estada put me at another job."
"Then that leaves us on even footing, lads, we ought to be equal to
them with the cold steel—can any of you see below?"
IN CLASP OF THE SEA
The sound of voices, of moving bodies and bits of furniture overturned
were plainly discernible, but the darkness was far too dense below to
permit the eye perceiving what was taking place. Yet I could picture
the scene, the leaderless mob surging blindly forward, each man vocal
in his own tongue, swaying with rage, many smarting with wounds,
uncertain where we had disappeared, yet all alike crazed with a desire
to attain the open deck. The rattle of steel, the curses, told me some
among them had reached the arm rack, and seized whatever weapons they
found there. In their struggle the rack was overturned, and suddenly,
amid the din, a shrill, penetrating voice yelled something in Spanish,
which seemed to hush the clamor. There followed a shuffling of feet,
and the crash of wood as though the butt of a gun had splintered a
door panel. Then the same voice again pierced the babel. My mind
gripped the meaning of it all; they had found a leader; they had
released Manuel Estevan. Now the real fight was on!
We stooped low, to escape as much as possible from the dim revealing
light streaming through the glass at our backs, and waited, staring
into the black depths of the cabin, and listening for every sound. The
release of Manuel, the very knowledge of his presence had changed the
mob into dangerous fighters. The roar of voices died away with the
noise of confusion. I could hear the fellow question those about him,
seeking to learn the situation, but the delay was short, and no
inkling of his quickly conceived plan of attack was revealed. Yet he
saw us and understood; his eyes, long trained to darkness, must have
already marked our dim outlines, for his first order evidenced his
"Who have cutlasses? So many! a dozen form with me. Now bullies, they
are on the stairs there, and that is the only way to the deck. We'll
show those damned traitors what fighting means. Now then—-to hell
We met them, point to point, our advantage the narrow staircase and
the higher position; theirs the faint glimmer of light at our backs.
The first rush was reckless and deadly, the infuriated devils not yet
realizing what they faced, but counting on force of numbers to crush
our defense. Manuel led them yelling encouragement, and sweeping his
cutlass, gripped with both hands, in desperate effort to break
through. DeLasser caught its point with his blade while my cleaver
missing him with its sharp edge, nevertheless dealt the fellow a blow
which hurled him back into the arms of the man behind. I saw nothing
else in detail, the faint light barely revealing indistinct figures
and gleam of steel. It was a pandemonium of blows and yells, strange
faces appearing and disappearing, as men leaped desperately at us up
the steps, and we beat them remorselessly back. I saw nothing more of
Manuel in the fray, but his shrill voice urged on his followers. It
was strike and parry, cut and thrust. Twice I kicked my legs free
from hands that gripped me, and DeLasser fell, a pike thrust through
him. Who took his place I never knew, but a stout fighter the lad was,
wielding his cutlass viciously, so that we held them, with dead men
littering every step to the cabin deck.
But they were of a breed trained to such fighting, and the lash of
Manuel's tongue drove them into mad recklessness. And there seemed no
end of them, sweeping up out of those black shadows, with bearded or
lean brown savage faces, charging over the dead bodies, hacking and
gouging in vain effort to break through. I struck until my arms ached,
until my head reeled, scarcely conscious of physical action, yet aware
of Manners shouts.
"Now you hell-hounds—now! once more, and you have them. Santa Maria!
you've got to go through, bullies—-there is no other way to the deck.
Think of the yellow boys below; they are all yours if you strike hard
enough. Rush 'em! That's the way! Here you—go in outside the rail!
Broth of hell! Now you have him, Pedro!"
For an instant I believed it true; I saw Jim Carter seized and hurled
sideways, his cutlass clashing as it fell, while a dozen hands dragged
him headlong into the ruck beneath. But it was only an instant. Before
the charging devils could pass me, a huge figure filled the vacant
space, and the butt of a gun crashed into the mass. It was the
Dutchman, Schmitt, fighting like a demon, his strength that of an ox.
They gave way in terror before him, and we went down battering our
way, until the stairs were clear to the deck, except for the dead
under foot. When we stopped, not a fighting man was left within the
sweep of our arms. They had scurried back into the darkness like so
many rats, and we could only stare about blindly, cursing them, as we
endeavored to recover breath. Schmitt roared like a wild bull, and
would have rushed on, but for my grip on his shirt.
"Get back, men!" I ordered sharply. "There may be fifty of them
yonder. Our only chance is the stairs. Do as I say, Schmitt, or fight
me. Back now!"
We flung the bodies on one side, and formed again from rail to rail.
Below us there was noise enough, a babel of angry voices, but no
movement of assault. I could see nothing, although the uproar
evidenced a large number of men jammed together in that blackness
beneath. What they would do next was answered by a blaze of light,
revealing the silhouette of a man, engaged in touching flame to a
torch of hemp. It flung forth a dull yellow glare, and revealed a
scene of unimaginable horror. Our assailants were massed half way
back, so blended together I could not judge their number, many between
us and the light with faces darkened by shadow. Between us, even ten
feet from the stairs, the deck was littered with bodies, ghastly faces
staring up, with black stains of blood everywhere. It was Manuel's
hand which had kindled the light, and the first croak of his voice
told his purpose.
"Now you sculking cowards," he yelled pointing forward, "do you see
what you are fighting? There are only five men between you and the
deck. To hell with 'em! Come on! I'll show you the way!"
He leaped forward; but it was his last step. With one swing of my arm
I sent the cleaver hurtling through the air. I know not how it struck
him, but he went down, his last word a shriek, his arms flung out in
vain effort to ward off the blow. Schmitt roared out a Dutch oath, and
before I knew fully what had happened, his gun, sent whirling above
me, had crashed into the uplifted torch. Again it was black, hideous
night, through which the eye could perceive nothing. Even the noise
ceased, but a hand gripped my shoulder.
"Who are you?"
"Nigger Sam, sah. Mistah Watkins sez it's all done fixed."
"Where is he?"
"Here," answered Watkins himself in a hoarse whisper. "The boats are
"Yes, sir. The one forward has pushed off loaded. The after-boat is
alongside. There is such a hell of a fog, sir, yer can't see two
fathoms from the ship."
"All the better for us; is the girl in the boat?"
"Safe, sir; but LeVere ain't."
"What do you mean? That he has got away? I ordered you to have Harwood
"Yes, sir; but the mate slipped out o' sight in the fog. He's somewhar
aboard, but we ain't been able ter put hands on him nowhar yet."
"Never mind him; the fellow can do no harm now. Move back slowly lads.
Schmitt and I will be the last ones out. Pick up that cutlass,
Schmitt. We must act before those devils down there wake up again."
We closed the companion door as silently as possible and for the
moment there was no sound from within to show that our cautious
withdrawal had been observed. I stared about, but was able to perceive
little beyond the small group awaiting my orders. The fog clung thick
and heavy on all sides, the lungs breathed it in, and the deck
underfoot was as wet as though from heavy rain. Moisture dripped from
yards and canvas, and it was impossible for the eye to penetrate to
either rail. Fortunately there was no weight of sea running, and the
bark swung gently, still retaining steerage-way, but with not wind
enough aloft to flap the sails. The silence and gloom was most
"Is there a hand at the wheel, Watkins?"
"No sir; it's lashed."
"And the quarter-boat?"
"There, sir, below the mizzen-chains."
"Then there is nothing more to keep us aboard lads. Stow yourselves
away and hang on; I'll wait here until you are all over."
They faded away into the mist, dim spectral figures, and I remained
alone, listening anxiously for some hostile sound from below. Had I
chosen the right course? I was not altogether sure, yet we had gone
too far now to decide on any other. Perhaps if I had called on those
men up on deck, who had loaded guns, we might have forced the escaped
prisoners back into their place of confinement, and thus kept control
of the vessel. Yet at that it would only mean a few hours more on
board amid constant danger of revolt. It might have enabled us to
salvage the gold hidden below, but I was not greatly concerned for
this, as my one and only purpose was the preservation of Dorothy. The
men might prove ugly when they awoke to the loss, but I had little
fear of them, once we were at sea in the small boats, and their lives
depended on my seamanship. Unless a storm arose our lives were in no
great peril, although I would have preferred being closer to the coast
before casting adrift. I wondered what could be the meaning of that
silence below. True the fellows were leaderless and defeated, yet they
were desperate spirits, and fully aware that they must attain the open
deck in order to recapture the vessel. They would not remain quiet
long, and once discovering our retirement, would swarm up the stairs
animated with fresh courage. Satisfied that the lads were safely over
the rail and the decks clear, I turned toward the ship's side. As I
did so a yell reached my ears from the blackness below—the hounds had
I ran through the fog in the direction the others had disappeared, and
had taken scarcely three steps when I collided against the form of a
man, whose presence was not even noticed until we came together. Yet
he must have been there expectant and ready, for a quick knife thrust
slashed the front of my jacket, bringing a spurt of blood as the blade
was jerked back. It was a well-aimed blow at the heart, missing its
mark only because of my outstretched arms, and the rapidity of my
advance. Even as my fingers gripped the uplifted wrist, 'ere he could
strike the second time, I knew my antagonist. I knew also this was a
fight to the death, a sharp remorseless struggle to be terminated
before that unguarded crew below could attain the deck. It was
LeVere's life or mine, and in the balance the fate of those others in
the waiting boat alongside. The knowledge gave me the strength and
ferocity of a tiger; all the hate and distrust I felt for the man came
uppermost. In that moment of rage I did not so much care what happened
to me, if I was only privileged to kill him. I ripped the knife from
his fingers, and we closed with bare hands; our muscles cracking to
the strain, his voice uttering one croaking cry for help as I bore in
on his windpipe. He was a snake, a cat, slipping out of my grip as by
some magic, turning and twisting like an eel, yet unable to wholly
escape, or overcome, my strength and skill. At last I had him prone
against the rail, the weight of us both so hard upon it, the stout
wood cracked, and we both went over, grappling together until we
splashed into the water below. The shock, the frantic effort to save
myself, must have loosened my hold, for, as I fought a way back to the
surface, I was alone, lost in the veil of mist.
Blinded by fog, the water dripping from my hair, weakened by struggle
and loss of blood, my mad rage against LeVere for the moment obscured
all else in my mind. What had become of the fellow? Had he gone down
like a stone? Or was he somewhere behind this curtain of fog? A splash
to the right led me to take a dozen strokes hastily, but to no
purpose. The sound was not repeated and I no longer retained any sense
of direction to guide me. The sea was a steady swell, lifting my body
on the crest of a wave, to submerge it an instant later in the deep
hollow. I could feel the motion, but scarcely perceived it otherwise,
as the thick gray mist obscured everything three feet away. It
deadened and confused sound also. Again and again I felt I located
the near presence of the Namur, the sound of feet on deck, the shout
of a voice, the flapping of canvas against the yards; but as I
desperately turned that way, the noise ceased, or else apparently
changed into another point of compass. Once a cry reached me,
thrilling with despair, although I could not catch the words, and
again came to me plainly enough the clank of an oar in its rowlock. I
struck out madly for the point from whence it came, only to find the
same rolling water, and obscuring fog. My strength began to fail, hope
left me as I sank deeper and deeper into the remorseless grip of the
sea. There was nothing left to fight for, to struggle after; the fog
about me became red and purple before my straining eyes, and then
slowly grew black; my muscles refused to respond to my will; I no
longer swam, but floated so low in water the crest of the waves swept
over my face. I no longer cared, gripped by a strange, almost
delicious languor. I was not afraid; my lips uttered no cry, no
prayer—I drifted out into total unconsciousness and went down.
THE OPEN BOAT
I came back to a consciousness of pain and illness, unable at once to
realize where I was, or feel any true sense of personality. I seemed
to be floating through the air, aware dimly of suffering, but
helplessly in the grasp of some power beyond all struggling against.
Then slowly I comprehended that I rested in a boat, tossed about by a
fairly heavy sea; that it was night and there were stars visible in
the sky overhead. I stared at these, vacant of thought, wondering at
their gleam, when a figure seemed to lean over me, and I caught the
outline of a face, gazing eagerly down into my own. Instantly memory
came back in a flash—this was not death, but life; I was in a boat
with her, I could not move my hands, and my voice was but a hoarse
"Yes—yes," swiftly. "It is all right, but you must lie still.
Watkins, Captain Carlyle is conscious. What shall I do?"
He must have been behind us at the steering oar, for his gruff, kindly
voice sounded very close.
"Yer might lift him up, miss," he said soberly. "He'll breathe better.
How's that, Captain?"
"Much easier," I managed to breathe. "I guess I am all right now. You
fished me out?"
"Sam did. He got a boat hook in your collar. We cast off when yer
went overboard, and cruised about in the fog hunting fer yer. Who was
it yer was fightin' with, sir?"
"That's what I told the lads. He's a goner, I reckon?"
"I never saw him after we sank. Are all the men here?"
"All but those in the forward boat, sir. They got away furst, an' we
ain't had no sight ov 'em since. Maybe we will when it gets daylight."
"Who had charge?"
"Harwood, sir; he's the best man o' ther lot, an' a good sailor, I
give him a compass, an' told him ter steer west. Wus thet right?"
"All I could have told him," I admitted, lifting myself on one elbow
to look about. "I haven't had an observation, and it is all guesswork.
I know the American coast lies in that direction, but that is about
all. I couldn't tell if it be a hundred, or a hundred and fifty miles
away. So the fog has lifted without a storm?"
"Yes, sir, but left an ugly sea. There has been plenty o' wind
somewhere, but we seem to be out of it. Must a bin midnight when the
"Is it as late as that? I must have been in bad shape when you pulled
"We thought you was gone, sir. You was bleedin' some too, but only
from flesh wounds. The young lady she just wouldn't let yer die. She
worked over yer for two or three hours, sir, afore I hed any hope."
Her eyes were downcast and her face turned away, but I reached out my
hand and clasped her fingers. They remained quietly in my grasp, but
neither of us spoke. The boat lay before me a black shadow under the
stars, flung up on the crests of the waves and darting down into the
hollows. It required all of Watkins' skill to keep it upright, the
flying spray constantly dashing against our faces. The men were but
dimly revealed, sitting with heads lowered beneath the slight
protection afforded by the lug sail, although one was upon his knees,
throwing out the water which dashed in over the front rail. He was
succeeding so poorly I called to another to help him, and the two fell
to the job with new vigor. I could not distinguish the faces of the
fellows, but counted nine altogether in the boat, and felt assured the
huge bulk at the foot of the mast was the Dutchman Schmitt. Beyond
these dim outlines there was nothing for the eye to rest upon, only a
few yards of black sea in every direction, rendered visible by the
reflected star-shine and the dull glow of crested waves. It was
dismal, awe inspiring, and I felt that I must speak to break the
dreadful silence. My eyes sought the averted face beside me, and for a
moment in peculiar hesitancy, observed the silhouette of cheek and
form. She rested against the gunwale, her eyes on the dark vista of
sea, her chin cupped in her hand. The mystery of the night and ocean
was in her motionless posture. Only as her hand gently pressed mine
did I gain courage, with a knowledge that she recognized and welcomed
"Watkins says I owe my life to you," I said, so low the words were
scarcely audible above the dash of water alongside. "It will make that
life more valuable than ever before."
She turned her head, and I felt her eyes searching the dim outline of
my face questioningly.
"Of course I did everything I knew," she replied. "Why should I not?
You are here, Captain Carlyle, for my sake; I owe you service."
"And must I be content merely with that thought?" I urged, far from
pleased. "This would mean that your only interest in me arises from
"And friendship," her voice as confidential as my own. "There is no
reason why you should doubt that surely."
"It would be easier for me to understand, but for the memory of what I
am—a bond slave."
"You mean the fact that you were sold to my uncle remains a barrier
"To my mind, yes. I hope you forget, but I cannot. If I return to
Virginia, it is to servitude for a term of years. I am exiled from my
own country by law, and thus prevented from following a career on the
sea. I belong to Roger Fairfax, or, if he be dead, to his heirs, and
even this privilege of being the property of a gentleman is mine
through your intercession. I know your sympathy, your eagerness to
help—but that is not all of friendship."
"Your meaning is that true friendship has as a basis equality?"
"Does it not? Can real friendship exist otherwise?"
"No," she acknowledged gravely. "And the fact that such friendship
does exist between us evidences my faith in you. I have never felt
this social distinction, Captain Carlyle, have given it no thought.
This may seem strange to you, yet is most natural. You bear an
honorable name, and belong to a family of gentlemen. You held a
position of command, won by your own efforts. You bore the part of a
man in a revolution; if guilty of any crime, it was a political one,
in no way sullying your honor. I have every reason to believe you were
falsely accused and convicted. Consequently that conviction does not
exist between us; you are not my uncle's servant, but my friend—you
understand me now?"
"I have trained myself so long to another viewpoint, Mistress
Dorothy," I admitted, still speaking doubtfully, although impressed by
her earnestness, "I know not how to accept this statement. I have not
once ventured to address you, except as a servant."
"I know that, and have regretted it," she interrupted. "But not until
now have I been able to correct your impression."
"And you would actually have me speak with you as of your own class—a
free man, worthy to claim your friendship in life?"
"Yes," frankly, her face uplifted. "Why should it be otherwise? It has
been our fortune to meet under strange conditions, Captain
Carlyle—conditions testing us, and revealing the very depths of our
natures. Concealment and disguise is no longer necessary between us.
You have served me unselfishly, plunging headlong into danger for my
sake. I shudder at the thought of where I would be now, but for your
effort to save me. No man could have done more, or proved himself more
staunch and true. We are in danger yet, adrift here in the heart of
this desolate sea, but such peril is nothing compared with what I
have escaped. I am glad, sincerely glad; I have prayed God in
thankfulness, I feel that your skill and courage will bring us safely
to land. I am no longer afraid, for I have learned to trust you."
"In all ways?"
"Yes; as gentleman as truly as sailor. You possess my entire
Cordial and earnest as these words were, they failed to yield me
sufficient courage to voice the eager impulse of my heart. There was a
restraint, some memory of the past, perhaps, which fettered the
tongue. Yet I struggled to give my desire utterance.
"But do you understand fully?" I questioned anxiously. "All I have
done for you would have been done for any other woman under the same
conditions of danger. I claim no reward for that—a plain duty."
"I am sure that is true."
"It is true, and yet different. Such service to another would have
been a duty, and no more. But to be with you, aiding and protecting,
has been a delight, a joy. I have served Dorothy Fairfax for her own
sake—not as I would any other."
"Did you not suppose I knew?"
Her glance flashed into mine through the star-gleam, with a sudden
message of revealment.
"You knew—that—that it was you personally I served?"
"Of course I knew. A woman is never unaware of such things. Nor is
there reason now—here in this boat, with you as my only
protector—why I should pretend otherwise. Neither of us know what the
end may be; we may sink in these waters, or be cast ashore on a
desolate coast to perish miserably, and it is no moment for
concealment. Now, if ever, I must tell you the truth. I know you care
for me, and have cared since first we met. An interest no less fateful
has led me to seek your acquaintance, and give you my aid. Surely it
is not unmaidenly for me to confess this when we face the chance of
"But," I stammered, "I can scarcely believe you realize your words.
I—I love you Dorothy."
"And is it not also possible for me to love?"
"Possible—yes! But why should you? Forgive me, but I cannot drive
away memory of the gulf between us. I would not dare speak such words
of my own volition, they seem almost insult. You are rich, with
position and friends of influence, while I at best am but a merchant
skipper, in truth a bond servant, penniless and disgraced. In the eyes
of the world I am not fit to touch the hem of your garment."
"Is it the eyes of the world, or my eyes into which you look?"
"Yours! I am selfish enough, I fear, to find my happiness there—but
it is not right, not just."
"Can you not permit me to be the judge as to that?" she asked
seriously. "I know your story, and have seen you in stress and storm.
Am I one, think you, to love any man for wealth or position. If I
possess these things they are to share, not to hoard. It is because I
have given you my full trust and confidence I can say these words."
"You—you mean, you love me?"
Her eyes fell from my face and her head was turned away, but there
was no falter in her voice.
"I love you—are you sorry?"
"Sorry! I am mad with the joy of it; yet stricken dumb. Dorothy!
Dorothy Fairfax, I have never even dared dream of such a message from
your lips. Dear, dear girl, do you forget who I am? What my future
"I forget nothing," she said, almost proudly. "It is because I know
what you are that my heart responds. Nor is your future so clouded.
You are today a free man if we escape these perils, for whether Roger
Fairfax be alive, or dead, he will never seek you again to hold in
servitude. If alive he will join his efforts with mine to obtain a
pardon because of these services, and we have influence in England.
Yet, should such effort fail, you are a sailor, and the seas of the
world are free. It is not necessary that your vessel fly the English
"You give me hope—a wonderful hope."
"And courage," her hands firmly clasping mine. "Courage to fight on in
faith. I would have that my gift to you, Geoffry. We are in peril
still, great peril, but you will face it beside me, knowing that
whether we live or die we are together. I am not afraid anymore."
She was like a child; I could feel her body relax in my arms as though
relieved of its tension. I know I answered her, whispering into her
ear words of love, and confidence, scarcely knowing myself what I said
in that moment of unrestraint. I felt her eyes on my face and knew her
lips were parted in a smile of content, yet doubt if they answered me.
She seemed to yield unconsciously, her head upon my shoulder, her face
upturned to the stars, while slowly all the intense fatigue of the
day and night stupified mind and body. Almost before I realized her
weariness, the eyes were closed and she was sleeping in my arms.
I held her closely, so awakened by what had passed between us, as to
feel no desire to sleep myself. Dorothy Fairfax loved me. I could
scarcely grasp the thought. I had dreamed of love, but only to repress
the imagination as impossible. Yet now, voluntarily from her own lips,
it had proven true. With eyes uplifted to the stars I swore fidelity,
pledging solemnly all my years to her service; nor could I drive my
thought away from the dear girl, sleeping so confidently upon my
shoulder. Then slowly there came back memory of where we were, of what
grave peril surrounded us, of my own responsibility. My eyes sought to
pierce the gloom of the night, only to gain glimpses of black water
heaving and tumbling on every side, the boat flung high on a whitened
crest, and then hurled into the hollow beneath, as though it was a
mere chip in the grasp of the sea. The skill of Watkins alone kept us
afloat, and even his iron muscles must be strained to the limit.
Forward the boat was a mere smudge, the men curled up asleep and no
longer visible. All that stood out with any distinctness of outline
was the lug sail, stiff as a board. I endeavored to turn my head,
without disturbing the slumbering girl, to gain view of the steersman.
"How is she making it, Watkins?"
"A little stiff, sir, but she's a staunch boat. The sea's likely to go
down after sunup."
"Well, you've had long enough trick—call one of the men aft. I'm not
strong enough yet for that job."
"No, sir," and I caught the echo of a chuckle, "and yer have yer arms
full. I kin hold on yere till daylight; 'twon't be long now."
"Make one of them help; who is the best man?"
"Schmitt for this sorter job."
I called him, and growling to himself at being awakened, the Dutchman
crept past cautiously and wedged himself in beside Watkins. There was
a few words of controversy between the two men, but in the end Schmitt
held the steering oar and a few minutes later Watkins had slipped down
into the boat's bottom and was sound asleep. And so the gray dawn
A FLOATING COFFIN
The laboring boat rested so low in the water it was only as we were
thrown upward on the crest of a wave that I could gain any view about
through the pallid light of the dawn. At such brief instants my eyes
swept the far horizon, to discern nothing except the desolate, endless
expanse of sea. A more dismal, gloomy view surely never unrolled
itself before the eye of man. Everywhere the gray monotony of rolling
waves, slowly stretching out into greater distance as the light
strengthened, yet bringing into view no other object. It was all a
desolate, restless waste in the midst of which we tossed, while above
hung masses of dark clouds obscuring the sky. We were but a hurtling
speck between the gray above and the gray below. How tiny the boat
looked as my glance ranged forward with this memory of our
surroundings still fresh in mind. The crest of the surges swept to the
edge of the gunwale, sending the spray flying inboard. Occasionally
drops stung my cheek and all the thwarts forward were wet with
drizzle. The negro, Sam, alone was awake, baling steadily, his face
turned aft, although scarcely glancing up from his labor. He looked
tired and worn, a strange green tinge to his black face, as the dim
light struck it. The others were curled up in the bottom of the craft,
soaked with spray, yet sleeping soundly. The wind had lost its
steadiness, coming now in gusts that flapped the sail loudly against
the mast, but failed to awaken the slumberers. Depressed by the sight,
my eyes sought the face of the girl whose head yet rested against my
She lay there with tightly closed eyes, the long lashes outlined
against her cheek, breathing softly. Between lips slightly parted her
white teeth gleamed as she smiled from pleasant dreams. It was a
beautiful face into which I looked, the cheeks faintly tinted, the
chin firm, the rounded throat white as snow—the face of a pure, true
woman, yet retaining its appearance of girlish freshness. Whatever of
hardship and sorrow the past days had brought her, had been erased by
sleep, and she lay then utterly forgetful of danger and distress. And
she loved me—loved in spite of all dividing us—and in her rare
courage had told me so. The memory thrilled my blood, and I felt my
arm close more tightly about her, as I gazed eagerly down into the
unconscious features. She was actually mine—mine; not even death
could rob me of the treasure of her heart, while life offered me every
reward. No doubt assailed me; I believed each whispered word from her
lips, and the day dawned about us with rare hope. Not now would I
yield to despair, or question the future.
Some sudden plunge of the boat caused the girl to open her eyes, and
gaze half frightened up into my face. Then she smiled in swift
"Is it you, Geoffry? We are still alone at sea?"
"Yes, the night is ending; you have slept well."
She drew herself away from me gently, sat up and glanced about. "How
tired you must be. I have been very selfish. There is nothing in
"And the men are still asleep. Who are they?"
I named them as best I could, pointing out each in turn.
"Are they reliable—safe?" she asked. "You know them?"
"Not well, but they were selected by Watkins, as among the best on
board the Namur. No doubt they will behave themselves."
"But they are pirates; they cannot be trusted."
"These fellows were not aboard the Namur from choice, but seamen
captured on merchant ships and compelled to serve to preserve their
lives. They are as eager to escape as we. Anyway I shall see to it
that they do their duty. Sam!"
The negro looked up quickly.
"Call the others. Who knows where the food is stored?"
Watkins spoke up behind us.
"It's stored forward, sir, an' all safe; the water casks are lashed
"I'll see what we've got and serve out."
I crept forward cautiously, because of the erratic leaping of the
craft, the men yielding me room to pass, and soon had Sam busily
engaged in passing out the various articles for inspection. Only
essentials had been chosen, yet the supply seemed ample for the
distance I believed we would have to cover before attaining land. But
the nature of that unknown coast was so doubtful I determined to deal
out the provisions sparingly, saving every crumb possible. The men
grumbled at the smallness of the ration, yet munched away contentedly
enough, once convinced that we all shared alike. Watkins relieved the
Dutchman at the steering oar, and I rejoined Dorothy. The silence was
finally broken by one of the men forward asking a question.
"Could you tell us about where we are, sir?"
"Only as a guess," I answered frankly, my eyes traveling over the sea
vista, "but will do the best I can. I have had no observation since we
left the Capes, but Estada had his chart pricked up to the time he was
killed, showing the course of the Namur. We were then about a
hundred miles off shore and the same distance south. We have been
sailing to the north of west since taking to the boat. That is the
best course possible with this wind."
"Then a couple days should bring land, sir?"
"Ay, if figures are correct and this wind holds. But these are stormy
waters, and we go by dead reckoning."
"That's near enough," he said stubbornly. "Even if you was astray
fifty miles would make little difference. There's land to west of us,
and plenty ter eat aboard till we get there—so why not eat it?"
I glanced about into the faces of the others forward, but received
little encouragement—evidently the fellow was spokesman for his
mates. The time had arrived for me to exhibit my authority, but before
I could choose words, Watkins gave indignant utterance to a reply.
"Yer hed yer fair share with the rest ov us, didn't yer, Simms?" "O'
course I did; but damn it, I'm hungrier then I wus afore—whut the
hell's the use?"
"Let me tell you," I broke in, determined on my course. "It is not
just the boat trip to be considered, although that may prove serious
enough before we get ashore. If I am any judge we are going to have
some weather in the next twenty-four hours, and may have to run before
it to keep afloat. That's one point to think over. Another is that
coast line west of us doesn't contain a dozen white settlements
between the Capes and Florida, and you are just as liable to be hungry
on land as sea. You've eaten as much as I have."
"Maybe I have, but by God, there is food enough there to last us a
"And it may have to do so. Now Simms, listen to what I say, and you
others also. I am not going to repeat this. We're the same as
ship-wrecked men, and I am in command of this boat. Whatever I say
goes, and I've handled worse fellows than you are many a time. Grumble
all you please; I don't mind that, but if you try mutiny, or fail to
jump at my orders, I'll show you some sea discipline you will not
forget very soon. You are with me, Watkins?"
"You bet I am, sir," heartily.
The Dutchman already half asleep, lifted his head.
"Mine Gott, I cud eat a whale," he growled rather discontentedly, "but
what der difference say I do—dat wus best, ach."
Simms made no answer, sitting sullenly at the foot of the mast. I
waited, thinking some other might venture a word, but evidently they
had enough, and I was willing to let the affair rest. They had been
shown that I meant to enforce discipline, and nothing remained but for
me to carry out my threat if occasion arose. Meanwhile the least
friction aboard, the better.
"All right, lads," I said cheerfully. "Now we understand each other
and can get at work. We'll divide into watches first of all—two men
aft here, and one at the bow. Watkins and I will take it watch and
watch, but there is enough right now for all hands to turn to and make
the craft shipshape. Two of you bail out that water till she's dry,
and the others get out that extra sail forward and rig up a jib.
She'll ride easier and make better progress with more canvas showing.
How does she head, Watkins?"
"Nor'west, by west, sir."
"You can give two points more west, with the jib drawing—the sea is
not quite so heavy?"
"Ay, ay, sir—she's riding fairly free, an' the wind is shifting
nor'east. Thar won't be no storm terday."
The men worked cheerfully enough, finding sufficient to do to keep
them busy for half an hour, and thus Dorothy and I watched them,
whispering occasionally to each other, and commenting on the varied
appearance of the fellows. They were rather an interesting lot in
their way, the types familiar to me, but strange to her
experience—sea scum, irresponsible, reckless, to be ruled by iron
hand, yet honest enough according to their standards. The faces were
coarse and dissipated, and many a half-smothered oath floated back to
our ears, but I saw in them nothing to fear, or cause uneasiness. The
sun had dissipated the clouds, while the swell of the sea had
sufficiently subsided to permit of a wide view in every direction. The
vista only served to increase our sense of loneliness and peril. We
were a tiny chip tossed on the immensity of the waters, stretching
away to the distant horizons. It was a vast scene of desolation,
without another object to break its grim monotony—just those endless
surges of gray-green water brightened by the touch of the sun. Again
and again I swept my eyes about the circle in a vain effort to
perceive something of hope; it was useless—we were alone on the
I know not what we talked about during those hours; of all we had
passed through together, no doubt; of our chances of escape and our
dreams of the future. Her bravery and confidence increased my own
courage. Knowing as I did the uncertainty of our position, I needed
her blind faith to keep me hopeful. The men gradually knocked off
work, and lay down, and finally I also yielded to her pleadings and
fell into a sound sleep.
It seemed as though I scarcely lost consciousness, yet I must have
slept for an hour or more, my head pillowed on her lap. What aroused
me I could not determine, but Schmitt was again at the steering
paddle, and both he and Dorothy were staring across me out over the
port quarter, as though at some vision in the distance, sufficiently
strange to enchain their entire attention.
"What is it?" I asked eagerly, but before the words were entirely
uttered, a hoarse voice forward bawled out excitedly.
"There you see it; straight out agin that cloud edge. By God, it's a
"Ay," boomed another, "a headin' straight cross our course astern."
I sat up, ignoring all else, thoroughly awake from excitement, gazing
under hollowed hands in the direction the men pointed. For an instant
I distinguished nothing but sea and sky, with patches of white cloud
speckling the horizon. My heart sank with the belief that one of these
had been mistaken for the sheen of a distant sail. Then as our boat
was suddenly flung higher on the crest of a great wave, my straining
eyes caught the unmistakable glimmer of canvas, could even detect its
outline plainly delineated against the blue background. I reached my
feet, clinging to the mast to keep erect and, as the boat was again
flung upward, gained clearly the glimpse I sought.
"Ay, you're right, lads!" I exclaimed. "It's a schooner, headed to
clear us by a hundred fathoms. Port your helm Schmitt—hard down man.
Watch out the boom don't hit you, Miss Fairfax. Now, Sam, off with
that red shirt; tie it on the boat hook, and let fly. They can't help
seeing us if there is any watch on deck."
We swept about in a wide circle, shipping some water as we dipped
gunwale under, but came safely out from the smother, headed straight
across the bows of the oncoming vessel. All eyes stared out
watchfully, Sam's shirt flapping above us, and both Watkins and
Schmitt straining their muscles to hold the plunging quarter-boat
against the force of the wind. A man forward on his knees growled out
"What the hell's the matter aboard there?" he yelled. "Did yer ever
see a boat yaw like that, afore? Damn me, if I believe they got a
hand at the wheel."
The same thought had leaped into my mind. The schooner was headed to
pass us on the port quarter, yet yawing so crazily at times as to make
me fearful of being run down. I could perceive no sign of life aboard,
no signal that we had been seen. Indeed from where we crouched in the
boat all we could see now was the bow with the jib and foresail. Not a
head peered at us over the rail; in silent mystery it seemed to fly
straight at us like a great bird, sweeping through water and sky. The
sight angered me.
"Stand by, all hands," I cried desperately. "We'll board whether they
want us or not. Slip across, Miss Fairfax, out of the way. Now,
Watkins, run us in under those fore-chains; easy man, don't let her
strike us. Lay hold quick lads and hang on for your lives. Give me
that end of rope—ready now, all of you; I'll make the leap. Now
It was five feet, and up, my purchase the tossing boat, but I made it,
one hand desperately gripping a shroud, until I gained balance and was
flung inboard by a sharp plunge of the vessel. My head was at a level
with the rail, yet I saw nothing, my whole effort being to make fast
before the grip of the men should be torn loose. This done I glanced
back into the upturned faces below.
"Hand in slowly lads; yes, let go, the rope will hold, and the boat
ride safely enough. Let a couple of men come up till we see what's
wrong with the hooker—the rest of you trail on."
"Am I to remain here, Mr. Carlyle?" "Yes for a few moments; there is
no danger. You stay also, Watkins; let Schmitt and Sam come with me."
I helped them clamber up and then lifted my body onto the rail, from
which position I had a clear view of the forward deck. It was
unexpressibly dirty, yet otherwise shipshape enough, ropes coiled and
the forward hatch tightly closed. Nothing human greeted me, and
conscious of a strange feeling of horror, I slipped over onto the
deck. The next moment the negro and Dutchman joined me, the former
staring about wildly, the whites of his eyes revealing his terror.
"My Gawd, sah," he ejaculated. "Ah done know dis boat—it's shore de
Santa Marie. "Ah's cooked in dat galley. What's done happened ter
"You know the schooner? Are you sure, Sam? What was she—a pirate?"
"No, sah; a slaver, sah," he sniffed the air. "Ah kin smell dem
niggers right now, sah. Ah, suah reckon dars a bunch o' ded ones under
dem hatches right dis minute—you white men smell dat odor?"
"I certainly smell something unpleasant enough. This is the Santa
Marie; the name is on the stern of that boat yonder. When did you
serve aboard here?"
"Three years back, sah, frum Habana to der African coast; Ah didn't
want no more dat sorter sailorin'."
"But what could have happened? The boats are all in place, but no
crew, I never saw anything like it at sea."
Schmitt's hand fell heavily on my sleeve and I glanced aside into his
"Der's a feller on ther gratin' amidships, Captain," he said pointing
aft. "But I just bet I know vat wus der trouble."
"Cholera," he whispered, "ve haf boarded a death ship."
ON BOARD THE SLAVER
The terror of the two men as this thought dawned upon them in all its
horror was apparent enough, and, in truth, I shared with them a vivid
sense of our desperate situation. Nothing, not even fire was more to
be dreaded than a visitation of this awful nature on shipboard. I had
heard tales to chill the blood, of whole ships' crews stricken and
dying like flies. Yet I dare not hesitate, or permit those under my
command to flee in terror. Charnal ship though this might be, the
danger to us was not so great, if we only remained in the open air,
and used proper precaution in putting the dead overboard. We were in
health, well nourished, and our stay aboard would be a short one. Even
if the schooner was a floating sepulcher, it was safer by far than the
cockleshell towing alongside.
"Let's find out the truth first, men," I said quietly. "Stay here if
you want to while I go aft; only hold your tongues. There is no use
giving up until we know what the danger is. Will you come with me, or
remain where you are?"
The two exchanged glances, and then their eyes ranged along the
unoccupied deck. I confess it was eery enough—the silence, the
desolate vista, the wind-filled sails above, the schooner flying
through the water as though guided by spectral hands, and that single
motionless figure crouched on the grating amidships. It made my own
nerves throb, and caused me to clinch my teeth, Sam turned his head,
his frightened eyes seeking the scuttle leading into the forecastle.
He was more frightened to remain where he was, than accompany me, but
when he endeavored to say so, his lips refused to utter any sound. The
terror in his eyes caused me to laugh, and my own courage came back
with a rush.
"Afraid of dead men, are you? Then we'll face them together, my lads,
and have it over with. Come on, now, both of you. Buckle up; there is
nothing to fear, if you do what I tell you—this isn't the first
cholera ship I've been aboard."
It was no pleasant job confronting us, although we had less dead men
to handle than I anticipated. Indeed we found only five bodies on
board, and as the slaver must have originally carried a large crew, it
was evident the survivors had thrown overboard the corpses of those
who succumbed first, until they also became too weak to perform such
service. There were only two on deck, the fellow crouched on the
grating, a giant, coal black negro, and a gray-bearded white man, his
face pitted with smallpox, lying beside the wheel. Before he fell to
the deck, he had lashed the spokes and still gripped the end of the
rope in his dead hand. Determined on what was to be done, I wasted no
time with either body. The two sailors hung back, so terrorized at the
mere thought of touching these victims of plague, I steeled myself to
the job and handled them alone, dragging the inert bodies across the
deck, and by the exercise of all my strength launching them over the
low rail into the sea. It was indeed a relief to know the deck was
clear, and I ordered Schmitt to cut the lashings and take charge of
the wheel. Sam was shaking like a leaf, his face absolutely green.
"What—-what dey die of, sah—cholera?" he asked faintly.
"No doubt of it; but they are safely over the side now. There is
nothing to be frightened about."
"But s'pose we gits it, sah; s'pose we gits it?"
"There is no reason why we should," I contended, speaking loud and
confident, so both could hear. "We are all in good health and in the
open air. See here, you men, stop acting like fools. We will take a
look below, and then have the others on board."
"But Ah's suah feared, sah."
"At what? You are in no more danger than I am. See here, Sam, and you
too, Schmitt, I am in love with that girl in the boat. Do you suppose
I would ever have her come on this deck, if I believed she might
contract cholera? You do as I say, and you are perfectly safe. Now
Schmitt remain at the wheel, and you Sam come with me. There will be a
dead nigger aboard unless you jump when I speak."
He trotted close at my heels as I flung open the door leading into the
cabin. The air seemed fresh enough and I noted two of the ports wide
open. A tall smooth-shaven man, with an ugly scar down one cheek, lay
outstretched on a divan at the foot of the after mast, his very
posture proclaiming him dead. His face was the color of parchment,
wrinkled with age, but I knew him at once as Spanish. A uniform cap
lay beside him, and I stopped just long enough to scan his features.
"Here, Sam, do you know this fellow."
The negro crept up behind me reluctantly enough, and stared at the
upturned face over my shoulder.
"My Gaud, sah, he wus de ol' Captain."
"The one you served under? What was his name?"
"Paradilla, sah; damn his soul!"
"A slaver, I suppose; well, he's run his last cargo of niggers. Let's
look into the rooms."
They were empty, all in disorder, but unoccupied. In what was
evidently the Captain's room I discovered a pricked chart and a
log-book, with no entry in it for three days. Without waiting to
examine these I stowed them away in my pocket and returned to
Paradilla, relieved to learn our labor aft was so light, and eager to
have it over with. Some physical persuasion was necessary to compel
Sam to assist me, but finally he took hold, and between us we forced
the stiffened form of the Captain through the open after port, and
heard it splash into the sea astern. Then I closed the cabin door, and
led the way forward.
To my great relief the hold was empty, although the smell arising
through the partially opened hatch was stifling, the reminder of a
cargo lately discharged. There were two dead seamen in the forecastle,
both swarthy fellows, with long Indian hair. I never saw a dirtier
hole, the filth overpowering, and once satisfied that both men were
beyond help, I was content to lower the scuttle and leave them there.
God! it was a relief to return once more to the open deck and breathe
in the fresh air. Schmitt was holding the schooner close up in the
wind, which, however, was barely heavy enough to keep the sails full.
Yet at that the sharp-nosed craft was making the best of it, leaving a
long wake astern, the waves cresting within a few feet of her rail as
she swept gloriously forward. I leaned over, and hailed the boat,
"Come aboard, Watkins," I called sharply. "Pass the lady up first, and
turn the boat adrift."
"What is she, sir?"
"An abandoned slaver. I'll tell you the story later. Come aboard."
"Ay, ay, sir."
I caught Dorothy's hands and aided her over the rail, the schooner
rode steady and she stood still grasping me, her eager eyes on the
deck aft. Then they sought my face questioningly, the seamen beginning
to gather between us and the rail.
"Why was the vessel abandoned?" she asked. "What has happened? Do you
"Yes; the story is plain enough," I explained, deeming it best to tell
the whole truth. "This is a slaver, the Santa Marie, plying between
Cuba and the African coast. Sam, the negro who came aboard with me,
served as cook on board for one voyage. I do not know why they should
be in these waters—driven north by a storm likely—but cholera was
the trouble. The crew are all overboard, or dead."
"Overboard, or dead? You found them dead—the slaves also?"
"No; there were no slaves; the hold was clear. We found a few dead
men, the last of the crew to survive. One man was lying beside the
wheel; he had lashed it to its course before he died; and the Captain
was in the cabin."
"And he was dead?"
"Yes, a tall, lean Spaniard; Sam said his name was Paradilla. We found
five altogether, and flung their bodies over the side except two
sailors in the forecastle."
Her eyes evidenced her horror, her lips barely able to speak.
"They—they died of cholera? All of them? There was no one left alive
"Not even a dog. It was a tragedy of the sea, of which we will never
know all the truth. I have the log here in my pocket all written out
until three days ago—perhaps that was when the Captain died. But can
you imagine anything more grim, more horrible, than this schooner,
with all sails set, standing on her course with a dead man at the
"And—and other dead men in cabin and forecastle!" her voice broke and
her hands covered her eyes. "O Geoffry, must we stay aboard? The
thought is terrible; besides, you said it was cholera."
"There is nothing we need fear," I insisted firmly, clasping the
upraised hands and meeting her eyes frankly, "and I rely upon you to
help me control the men. They are sailors filled with superstition,
and will look to us for leadership. Please do not fail me. You have
already passed through too much to be frightened at a shadow. This is
a staunch vessel, provisioned and fit for any sea. We are far safer
here than in the boat; it is as if God had sent us deliverance."
"Yet we face disease—cholera?" "I do not hold that a peril—not to
us, if we use precautions. That is an ever-present sea danger, and I
have read every book treating of the disease. So long as we are well
fed and keep in the fresh air, we are not liable to suffer. The dead
are overboard and every hatch closed. I will have the deck scoured
from end to end. The bedding we need, and the food, is being brought
up from the boat; we shall come in contact with nothing to spread the
disease. You must meet this emergency just as bravely as you have the
others; you will, will you not?"
Her eyes met mine smilingly, resolute.
"If you say so—yes. How can I help you?"
"Tell the men just what I have told you," I said gravely. "They will
pay more heed to what you say, and will be ashamed to show less
courage than you. Do you agree?"
We turned and faced them together, as they formed a little group
against the rail. Their dunnage, together with a few boxes of
provisions, and a couple of water casks, lay scattered about the deck,
and now, their immediate task done, the fellows were sullenly staring
around. Hallin was first to speak.
"Vot vas eet you say 'bout dis sheep? Eet haf cholera—hey?"
Dorothy took a step forward, and confronted them, her cheeks flushed.
"You are sailors," she said, speaking swiftly, "and ought not to be
afraid if a girl isn't. It is true this vessel was ravaged by cholera,
and the crew died; but the bodies have been flung overboard—Captain
Carlyle risked his life to do that, before he asked us aboard. Now
there is no danger, so long as we remain on deck. I have no fear."
The Swede shook his head, grumbling something, but before the revolt
could spread, Watkins broke in.
"An' that's right, miss. I wus on the Bombay Castle when she took
cholera, an' we hed twenty-one days of it beatin' agin head winds off
the Cape. We lost sixteen o' the crew, but not a man among us who
stayed on deck got sick. Anyhow these blokes are goin' ter try their
luck aboard yere, er else swim fer it."
He grinned cheerfully letting slip the end of the painter, the
released quarter-boat gliding gently away astern, the width of water
constantly increasing, the light craft wallowing in the waves.
"Now bullies, jump fer it if yer want ter go. Why don't yer try it
Ole? You are so keen about getting away, you ought not to mind a
little water. So ye prefer to stay along with the rest of us. All
right then, my hearties, let's hunt up something to work with and
scrub this deck. That's the way to clean out cholera."
He led the way and they followed him, grumbling and cursing, but
obedient. I added a word of encouragement, and in a few minutes the
whole gang was busily engaged in clearing up the mess forward, making
use of whatever came to hand, their first fears evidently forgotten in
action. Watkins kept after them like a slave driver.
"That's the style; throw all the litter overboard. Bend your back,
Pierre; now Ole, take hold here. What the hell are you men loafing
for? Now, heave altogether."
I glanced astern, catching a fleeting glimpse beneath the main boom,
of the disappearing quarter-boat, bobbing up and down in the
distance; then my eyes sought the face of the girl. She met my gaze
with a smile.
"They are all right now, are they not?" she asked.
"Yes, as long as they can be kept busy, and I will see to that. Let's
go aft, and get out of this mess. I want to plan our voyage."
It was not difficult finding plenty for the lads to do, making the
neglected schooner shipshape, and adjusting the spread of canvas aloft
to the new course I decided upon. Fortunately we had men enough to
manipulate the sails, real seamen, able to work swiftly. Sam started a
fire in the galley, and prepared a hot meal, singing as he worked, and
before noon I had as cheerful a ship's crew forward as any man could
possibly ask for. The weather kept pleasant, but with a heavy wind
blowing, compelling us to take a reef in the canvas, but the schooner
was an excellent sea boat, and all alike felt the exhilaration of
rapid progress. Dorothy and I glanced over the log, but gained little
information. The vessel had been driven into the northwest by a
succession of storms, and lack of provisions had weakened the crew,
cholera broke out among them the third day at sea, the first victim
being the cabin steward. With no medicine chest aboard and everything
below foul, the disease spread rapidly. Within twenty-four hours
sixteen bodies were thrown overboard and, in their terror, the
remainder of the crew mutinied, and refused to work ship. Both mates
died, and finally only three men were left alive—a negro known as
Juan; the quarter-master, Gabriel Lossier, and the Captain, who was
already lying sick and helpless in the cabin. That was the last entry
As the sun reached the meridian I ventured again into the cabin, and
returned with the necessary instruments to determine our position.
With these and the pricked chart, I managed fairly well in determining
our location, and choosing the most direct course toward the coast.
Dorothy watched closely, and when I looked up from the paper, the men
were gathered about the open door of the galley, equally interested. I
ordered Watkins to send them all aft, and, as they ranged up across
the narrow deck, I spread out the chart before them, and explained, as
best I could, our situation, and what I proposed doing. I doubt if
many were able to comprehend, yet some grasped my meaning, bending
over the map and asking questions, pointing to this and that mark with
stubby forefingers. From their muttered remarks I judged their only
anxiety was to get ashore as early as possible, out of this death
ship. Convinced this was also my object, they ventured forward
cheerfully, as I rolled up the chart, and placed it in the flag
One of the Frenchmen relieved Schmitt at the wheel, and, a little
later, Sam served Dorothy and I on deck. The food was appetizing and
well cooked, and we lingered over it for some time, while Watkins
busied the men forward.
A NEW PLAN OF ESCAPE
Nothing occurred during the afternoon to disturb the routine work
aboard, or to cause me any uneasiness. The swift slaver made excellent
progress in spite of light winds, and proved easy to handle. Watkins
found enough to occupy the crew on deck and aloft, and they seemed
contented, although I noticed the fellows gathered together in groups
whenever idle, and discussed the situation earnestly. While they might
not be entirely satisfied, and, no doubt, some fear lingered in their
minds, the fellows lacked leadership for any revolt, and would remain
quiet for the present at least. I made one more trip into the desolate
cabin, returning with pipes and tobacco, which I took forward and
distributed, an ample supply for all the crew. As the men smoked,
Watkins and I leaned over the rail, and discussed the situation.
Sunset brought clouds, and, by the time it was really dark, the entire
sky was overcast, but the sea remained comparatively calm, and the
wind steady. I judged we were making in the neighborhood of nine
knots, and carefully pricked my chart to assure myself of our
position. Even at that I was not entirely satisfied, although I kept
this lack of faith hidden from the others. Dorothy, however, who kept
close beside me much of the time, must have sensed my doubt to some
extent, for once she questioned me curiously.
"Are you not sure of your figures?" she asked, glancing from the chart
into my face. "That is three times you have measured the distance."
"It is not the figures; it is the accuracy of the chart," I explained.
"It is not new, for the schooner evidently seldom made this coast, and
it was probably only by chance that they had such a map aboard. Even
the best of the charts, are not absolutely correct, and this one may
be entirely wrong. I shall rely more on keeping a careful watch
tonight than on the map; you see this cape? For all I know it may jut
out fifty miles east of where it appears to be and we might run into
shoal water at any minute."
She wrinkled her brows over the lines on the map, and then stared out
across the darkening sea, without speaking.
It was a pleasant night in spite of the darkness, the air soft, and
refreshing. We divided the men into watches, Watkins selecting the
more capable for lookouts. I explained to these the danger, and posted
them on the forecastle heads, ready to respond instantly to any call.
I could see the glow of their pipes for some time, but finally these
went out, one by one, and the growl of voices ceased. The schooner was
in darkness, except for a faint reflection from the binnacle light
aft, revealing the dim figure of the helmsman. Overhead the canvas
disappeared into the gloom of the sky.
The locker was filled with flags, representing almost every nation on
earth. Evidently the Santa Marie was willing to fly any colors,
which would insure safety, or allay suspicion in her nefarious trade.
I dragged these out, and spread them on the deck abaft the cabin, thus
forming a very comfortable bed, and at last induced the girl to lie
down, wrapping her in a blanket. But, although she reclined there, and
rested, she was in no mood for sleep, and, whenever my restless
wandering brought me near I was made aware of her wakefulness. Finally
I found a seat beside her on a coil of rope, and we fell into
conversation, which must have lasted for an hour or more.
I shall never forget that dark ship's deck, with no sound breaking the
silence except the soft swirl of water alongside, the occasional flap
of canvas aloft, and the creak of the wheel. Dorothy was but a
shrouded figure, as she sat wrapped in her blanket, and the only other
object visible was the dim outline of the helmsman. We seemed to be
completely shut in between sea and sky, lost and forgotten. Yet the
memory of the tragedy this vessel had witnessed remained with me—the
helpless slaves who had suffered and died between decks; the dead
sailors in the forecastle, their ghastly faces staring up at the beams
above, and the horrible figure of Paradilla outstretched on the cabin
divan. I was a sailor and could not feel that any good fortune would
come to us from such a death ship. The memory brought to me a
depression hard to throw off; yet, for her sake I pretended a
cheerfulness I was far from feeling, and our conversation drifted idly
into many channels.
This was the first opportunity we had enjoyed to actually talk with
each other alone, and gradually our thoughts veered from the
happenings of the strange voyage, and our present predicament, to
those personal matters in which we were peculiarly interested. I know
not how it occurred, for what had passed between us in the open boat
seemed more like a dream than a reality, yet my hand found her own
beneath the blanket, and I dared to whisper the words my lips could no
"Dorothy," I said humbly, "you were frightened last night. I cannot
hold you to what you said to me then."
"You mean you do not wish to? But I was not frightened."
"They were honest words? You have not regretted them since?"
"No, Geoffry. Perhaps they were not maidenly, yet were they honest;
why should I not have told you the truth? I have long known my own
heart, and yours, as well."
"And you still repeat what you said then?"
"Perhaps I do not remember all I said."
"I can never forget—you said, 'I love you.'"
She drew a quick breath, and for an instant remained silent; then her
"Yes, I can repeat that—I love you."
"Those are dear, dear words; but I ought not to listen to them, or
believe. I am not free to ask a pledge of you, or to beg you to trust
me in marriage."
"Is not that rather for me to decide?" she questioned archly. "I give
you my faith, Geoffry, and surely no girl ever had more reason to know
the heart of a man than I. You have risked all to serve me, and I
would be ungrateful indeed were I insensible of the sacrifice. Yet do
not think that is all—gratitude for what you have done. I did not
need that to teach me your nature. I make a confession now. You
remember the night I met you on deck, when you were a prisoner, and
told you that you had become the property of Roger Fairfax?"
"I could never forget."
"Nor I. I loved you then, although I scarcely acknowledged the truth
even to myself. I went back to my berth to lie awake, and think until
morning. A new world had come to me, and when the dawn broke, I knew
what it all meant—that my heart was yours. I cared nothing because
you were a prisoner, a bound slave under sentence. We are all alike,
we Fairfax's; we choose for ourselves, and laugh at the world. That is
my answer, Geoffry Carlyle; I give you love for love."
"'Tis a strange place for such a pledge, with only hope before us."
"A fit place to my mind in memory of our life together thus far, for
all the way it has been stress and danger. And what more can we ask
"I would ask an opportunity denied me—to stand once more in honor
among men. I would not be shamed before Dorothy Fairfax."
"Nor need you be," she exclaimed impetuously, her hands pressing mine.
"You wrong yourself, even as you have been wronged. You have already
done that which shall win you freedom, if it be properly presented to
those in power. I mean that it shall be, once I am safely back in
Virginia. Tell me, what are your plans with—with this schooner?"
"To beach it somewhere along shore, and leave it there a wreck, while
"I suspected as much—yet, is that the best way?"
"The only way which has occurred to me. The men insist on it with good
reason. They have been pirates, and might be hung if caught."
"And yet to my mind," she insisted earnestly, "that choice is most
dangerous. I am a girl, but if I commanded here, do you know what I
"I shall be glad to hear."
"I would sail this vessel straight to the Chesapeake, and surrender it
to the authorities. The men have nothing to fear with me aboard, and
ready to testify in their behalf. The Governor will accept my word
without a question. These men are not pirates, but honest seamen
compelled to serve in order to save their lives; they mutinied and
captured the bark, but were later overcome, and compelled to take the
boats. The same plea can be made for you, Geoffry, only you were there
in an effort to save me. It is a service which ought to win you
"But if it does not?"
"I pledge you my word it shall. If the Governor fail me, I will bear
my story to the feet of the King. I am a Fairfax, and we have friends
in England, strong, powerful friends. They will listen, and aid me."
"I am convinced," I admitted, after a pause, "that this course is the
wiser one, but fear the opposition of the men. They will never go
"There is an argument which will overcome their fear."
"You mean force?" "No; although I doubt not that might suffice. I
mean cupidity. Each sailor, aboard has an interest in the salvage of
this vessel under the English law. You tell me the schooner was a
slaver, driven out to sea by storm immediately after discharging a
cargo of slaves. There must be gold aboard—perhaps treasure also, for
I cannot think a slaver above piracy if chance arose. Let the crew
dream that dream, and you will need no whip to drive them into an
"Full pardon, and possibly wealth with it," I laughed. "A beautiful
scheme, Dorothy, yet it might work. Still, if I know sailormen, they
would doubt the truth, if it came direct from me, for I am not really
one of them."
"But Watkins is, and he has intelligence. Explain it all to him; tell
him who I am, the influence I can wield in the Colony, and then let
him whisper the news to the others. Will you not do this—for my
"Yes," I answered, "I believe you have found the right course. If you
will promise to lie down, and sleep, I will talk with Watkins now."
"I promise. But are you not going to rest?"
"Very little tonight. I may catch some catnaps before morning, but
most of the time shall be prowling about deck. You see I have no
officers to rely upon. But don't worry about me—this sort of life is
not new. Good night, dear girl."
She extended her arms, and drew me down until our lips met.
"You are actually afraid of me still," she said wonderingly, "why
should you be?"
"I cannot tell; I have never known what it was before. Somehow
Dorothy, you have always seemed so far away from me, I have never
been able to forget. But now the touch of your lips has——"
"Broken down the last barrier?"
"Are you sure? Would you not feel still less doubt if you kissed me
I held her closely, gazing down into the dimly revealed outline of her
face, and this time felt myself the master.
"Now I am sure, sweetheart," I whispered, the note of joy ringing in
the words, "that I have won the most precious gift in the world; yet
your safety, and those of all on board is in my hands tonight. I must
not forget that. I am going now to find Watkins, and you have promised
to lie down and sleep."
"To lie down," she corrected, "but whether to sleep, I cannot tell."
I left her there, lying hidden and shapeless on the deck beneath the
cover of the blanket, her head pillowed on the flags, and groped my
own way forward, pausing a moment to gaze into the binnacle, and
exchange a word with the man at the wheel. I found Watkins awake,
seated on the forecastle steps, where I joined him, lighting my own
pipe for companionship, our conversation gradually drifting toward the
point I came to make. He listened gravely to what I had to say, with
little comment, and was evidently weighing every argument in his mind.
"I've bin in Virginia, and Maryland, sir," he said at last seriously,
"and if the young woman is a Fairfax, she'll likely have influence
enough ter do just whut she says. They ain't over-kind ter pirates in
them provinces o' late, I've bin told—but the savin' o' her life wud
make a heap o' difference with the Governor. Yer know she's a
"Absolutely. I told you the story that night in the forecastle, and I
take more risk than any of you in giving myself up. I was bound in
servitude to her uncle, Roger Fairfax, and am therefore a runaway
"Well," he agreed, "I'll talk it over with the lads. It's a good
story, an' I'd be ready ter take chances, but I ain't so sure, sir, on
makin' 'em feel the same way. All most of 'em think about is ter
escape bein' hanged. If they wus only sure thar wus treasure aboard,
like you suspicion there may be, I guess most of 'em would face hell
ter git their hands on a share of it."
"Then why not search, and see?"
He shook his head obstinately, and his face, showing in the dull glow
of the pipe, proved that he, sturdy, intelligent seaman as he was,
shared to no small extent the fears of the others.
"Not me, sir; I don't prowl around in no cholera ship, loaded with
dead men—not if I never git rich."
"Then I will," and I got to my feet in sudden determination. "You keep
the deck while I go below. Have you seen a lantern on board anywhere?"
"Ay, sir, there's one hangin' in the cook's galley. I hope yer don't
think I'm a damn coward, Mr. Carlyle?"
"Oh, no, Tom. I know how you feel exactly; we're both of us sailors.
But you see I've got to make this crew take the Santa Marie into the
Chesapeake, and it's an easier job if I can find gold aboard."
"Yer've got to, sir?"
"Yes, I've given my promise to the girl. Light the lantern, and bring
it here. Then we'll go aft together; if there is any specie hidden
aboard this hooker, it will be either in the cabin, or lazaret. And,
whether there is, or not, my man, the Santa Marie turns north
tomorrow, if I have to fight every sea wolf on board single-handed."
A STRUGGLE IN THE DARK
He came back with it swinging in his hand a mere tin box, containing a
candle, the dim flame visible through numerous punctures. It promised
poor guidance enough, yet emitted sufficient light to show the way
around in that darkness below. So as not to arouse suspicion, I
wrapped the thing in a blanket, and, with Watkins beside me, started
aft. Dorothy must have been asleep already, for there was no sign of
movement as we passed where she was lying. Neither of us spoke until
my hand was on the companion door ready to slide it open.
"I'll not be long below," I said soberly. "And meanwhile you keep a
sharp watch on deck. Better go forward and see that your lookout men
are awake, and then come back here. Likely I'll have a story to tell
you by that time. The wind seems lessening."
"Yes, sir; shall we shake out a reef in the foresail?"
"Not yet, Watkins. Wait until I learn what secret is below. An hour
will make little difference."
With the lantern held before me, its faint light barely piercing the
intense darkness, I stood on the first step leading down into the
cabin, and slid the door back into place behind me. I had no sense of
fear, yet felt a nervous tension to which I was scarcely accustomed.
For the instant I hesitated to descend into the gloom of that
interior. The constant nerve strain under which I had labored for days
and nights, made me shrink from groping blindly forward, searching for
the unknown. The very darkness seemed haunted, and I could not drive
from my memory the figure of that dead Captain, whose life had ended
there. It even seemed to me I could smell foulness in the air; that I
was breathing in cholera. Yet I drove this terror from me with a
laugh, remembering the open ports through which the fresh wind was
blowing; and cursing myself for a fool, began the descent, guided by
the flickering rays of light.
I was conscious of a quickening pulse, as I peered about me in the
gloom, every article of furniture assuming grotesque form. The
rustling of a bit of cloth over one of the open ports caused me to
face about suddenly, while every creak of the vessel seemed the echo
of a human voice. A blanket in the form of a roll lay on the divan
where I had found Captain Paradilla, and for a moment, as I stared at
it, dimly visible in a ray of light, I imagined this was his
motionless figure. Indeed, I was so strung up, it required all my
reserve of courage to persevere, and traverse the black deck. My mind
was fixed on a great chest in the Captain's stateroom, which, finding
locked, I had not disturbed on my former visit. But first I explored
the steward's pantry, in search of knife or hatchet. I found the
latter, and, with it tucked into my belt, felt my way aft. It may have
required five minutes to pry open the chest, and the reward was
scarcely worth the effort. The upper tray contained nothing but
clothing, and beneath this were books, and nautical instruments, with
a bag of specie tucked into one corner, together with a small packet
of letters. I opened the sack, finding therein a strange collection of
coins, mostly Spanish, estimating the total roughly at possibly five
hundred English pounds. Either this was Paradilla's private purse, or
money kept on hand to meet the expenses of the voyage. I searched the
room thoroughly, discovering nothing, finally concluding that if there
was treasure on board, it must be concealed elsewhere. I did find,
however, that which strengthened my suspicion, for, in rummaging
hastily through a drawer of the rude desk, I came upon a bill of sale
for a thousand slaves, dated two weeks before, but unsigned, although
the parties mentioned within the document were Paradilla and a
merchant of Habana, named Carlos Martinos. This would evidence the
sale for cash of the late cargo of the Santa Marie—a goodly
sum—but, whether the amount had been left ashore remained undecided.
Only a careful search of the vessel could determine this.
However, this discovery nerved me to press forward with my
exploration. All fear and dread had left me, and I went at the task
coolly enough, and with a clear purpose. There remained aft two places
unvisited—the lazaret and the port stateroom, which I had not
previously entered, because of a locked door. I determined on breaking
in here first, suspecting its use as a storeroom. There was no key in
the lock, and the stout door resisted my efforts. Placing the lantern
on the deck I succeeded finally in inserting the blade of the hatchet
so as to gain a purchase sufficient to release the latch. As the door
yielded, the hinges creaking dismally, a sharp cry, human in its
agony, assailed me from within. It came forth so suddenly, and with so
wild an accent, I stepped blindly backward in fright, my foot
overturning the lantern, which, with a single flicker of candle went
out. In that last gleam I saw a form—either of man, or boy—a dim,
grotesque outline, fronting me. Then, in the darkness gleamed two
green, menacing eyes, growing steadily larger, nearer, as I stared at
them in horror. I could not move; I seemed paralyzed; I doubt if I
even breathed in that first moment of overwhelming terror. Another
cry, like that of a mad person, struck my ears, and I knew the thing
was coming toward me. There was no other sound, no footstep on the
deck; I merely felt the approach, realizing the increasing glare of
those horrible eyes. They seemed to fascinate, to hold me immovable,
the blood chilled in my veins. Was it man or beast? Devil from hell,
or some crazed human against whom I must battle for life? The green
eyes glared into my face; I could even feel the hot breath of the
monster. I lifted my hand toward him, and touched—hair!
Even as the creature's grip caught me, ripping through jacket sleeve
to the flesh, I knew what my antagonist was—a giant African ape.
Horrible as the reality was, I was no longer paralyzed with fear,
helpless before the unknown. This was something real, something to
grasp, and struggle against, a beast with which to pit strength and
skill. The sting of the claws maddened me, brought me instantly to
life, and I drove my hatchet straight between those two gleaming eyes.
I know not how it struck, but the brute staggered back dragging me
with him in the clutch of his claws. His human-like cry of pain ended
in a brutal snarl, but, brief as the respite proved, it gave me grip
on his under jaw, and an opportunity to drive my weapon twice more
against the hairy face. The pain served only to madden the beast, and,
before I could wrench free, he had me clutched in an iron grip, my
jacket torn into shreds. His jaws snapped at my face, but I had such
purchase as to prevent their touching me, and mindless of the claws
tearing at my flesh, I forced the animal's head back until the neck
cracked, and the lips gave vent to a wild scream of agony. I dared not
let go; dared not relax for an instant the exercise of every ounce of
strength. I felt as though the life was being squeezed out of me by
the grasp of those hairy arms; yet the very vice in which I was held
yielded me leverage. The hatchet dropped to the deck, and both hands
found lodgment under the jaw, the muscles of my arms strained to the
utmost, as I forced back that horrid head. Little by little it gave
way, the suffering brute whining in agony, until, the pain becoming
unendurable, the clinging arms, suddenly released their hold, letting
me drop heavily to the deck.
By some good fortune I fell upon the discarded hatchet, and stumbled
to my feet once more, gripping the weapon again in my fingers. I stood
trembling, breathing hard, my flesh burning, peering about. The
darkness revealed nothing, yet I knew I had been dragged within the
stateroom, from which there was no escape, as I had lost all sense of
direction. For an instant I could not even locate the brute. With an
intense desire to escape, to place the door safely between me and my
antagonist, I felt blindly about in the black void. Silently as I
endeavored to move, I must have been overheard by the beast, for
suddenly his jaws snapped savagely, and I saw once again the baneful
glow of those horrible eyes. I knew enough of wild life to realize
that now the ape feared me, and that my safer course was to attack.
Acting on this impulse, determined to have an end, before he could
grip me once more in those awful arms, and crush me into
unconsciousness, I sprang straight toward him, sending the sharp blade
of the hatchet crashing against the skull. The aim was good, the
stroke a death blow, yet the monster got me with one jaw, and we fell
to the deck together, he savagely clawing me in his death agony. Then
the hairy figure quivered, and lay motionless. With barely strength
enough for the task, I released the stiffening grip, and crept aside,
rising to my knees, only to immediately pitch forward unconscious. It
seemed to me as I went down that I heard voices, saw lights flashing
in the outer cabin, but all these merged instantly into blackness.
When I came back once more to life I knew immediately I was upon the
schooner's deck, breathing the fresh night air. I could see the
outline of the helmsman in the little circle of binnacle light, a ray
of which extended far enough to assure me of the presence of Dorothy.
I watched her for some time, my mind slowly clearing to the situation,
and, it was not until I spoke, that she became aware I had recovered
"Yes, yes," she bent lower eagerly. "Oh, I am so glad to hear you
speak. Watkins said you were not seriously hurt, but your clothes were
torn into shreds, and you bled terribly."
"It was not a nightmare then; I really fought that beast?"
"Yes; but it is too horrible to think about—I—I shall never blot out
"You saw what occurred yourself?" I questioned in astonishment. "You
actually came below? Then I did hear voices, and see a light, before
my senses left me?"
"Yes; Watkins heard the noise of struggle, the cries of the brute, and
woke me. At first he was afraid to go into the cabin, but I made him,
rather than let me go alone. The only light we had was a torch, made
from a rope end. We got there just as you fell. I saw you staggering
on your knees, and that beast outstretched on deck, a great gash in
its skull. Watkins says it was a chimpanzee."
"It was a huge ape of some kind, crazed with hunger no doubt." I sat
up, aware of the smart of my wounds, but already convinced they were
not deep or dangerous. "You did not look about? You took no note of
what was in the room?"
"No," puzzled at my sudden interest. "I had no thought of anything but
you. At first I believed you dead, until I felt the beat of your
pulse. The light revealed little, until Watkins found the overturned
lantern, and relit the candle."
"But I saw not even that much; the fight was in pitch darkness, yet I
struck against things not furniture—what were they?"
"Oh, you mean that! I think it must have been a storeroom of some
kind, for there were casks and boxes piled up, and a strange
iron-bound chest was against one wall. I sat on it, and held the
lantern while Watkins saw to your wounds. Then we carried you up
"That is the answer I sought. Yes, you must let me get up, dear. Oh, I
can stand alone; a little weak from loss of blood yet, but none the
worse off. Where is Watkins?"
"He went forward. Do you need him?"
"Perhaps it can wait until daylight. You know what I ventured below
"To learn if there was treasure hidden aboard; you hoped such a
discovery would induce the men to sail this schooner to the
"Yes, and now I believe there is—hidden away in the locked room and
guarded by that ape. In all probability no one but Paradilla knew the
creature was on board, and he could have had no better guardian. No
sailor would ever face the brute."
We may have talked there for an hour, Watkins joining us finally, and
listening to my story. My wounds, while painful enough, were all of
the flesh, and the flow of blood being easily staunched, my strength
returned quickly. To my surprise the hour was but little after
midnight, and I had so far recovered when the watch was changed, as to
insist on Watkins going forward, leaving me in charge of the deck. I
felt no desire for sleep, and so he finally yielded to my orders, and
curled up in a blanket in the lee of the galley. The girl was harder
to manage, yet, when I left her alone, she lay down on her bed of
flags. Twice later she lifted her head, and spoke as I passed, but at
last remained motionless, while I carefully covered her with an extra
The time did not seem long to me as I paced the deserted deck aft, or
went forward occasionally to assure myself that the lookouts on the
forecastle were alert. There was nothing to see or do, the sea and sky
both so black as to be indistinguishable, and the breeze barely heavy
enough to distend the canvas, giving the schooner a speed not to
exceed six knots, I suspicioned a storm in the hatching, but nothing
evidenced its near approach. However my thoughts busied me, and
vanished all drowsiness. I believed I had won a way to freedom—to a
government pardon. The good fortune which had befallen me in the
salvage of this vessel, as well as our success against the pirates of
the Namur, could scarcely be ignored by the authorities of Virginia,
while the rescue of Dorothy Fairfax, and her pleading in our behalf,
would commend us to mercy, and reward from the very highest officials.
The money, the treasure, I personally thought nothing about, willing
enough that it should go to others; but I was ambitious to regain my
honor among men, my place of respectability in the world, for the one
vital purpose which now dominated my mind—that I might claim Dorothy
Fairfax with clean hands. My love, and the confession of her own, had
brought to me a new vista, a fresh hope. It seemed to me already her
faith had inspired me with new power—power to transform dream into
I stood above her motionless figure as she lay asleep, and solemnly
took a resolve. At whatever cost to myself, or others, the Santa
Marie should sail in between the Capes to the waters of the
Chesapeake. Be the result reward or punishment, liberty or freedom,
the chance must be accepted, for her sake, as well as my own.
OPENING THE TREASURE CHEST
The dawn came slowly, and with but little increase of light. The
breeze had almost entirely died away, leaving the canvas aloft
motionless, the schooner barely moving through a slightly heaving sea,
in the midst of a dull-gray mist. It was a dismal outlook, the decks
wet, the sails dripping moisture, and nothing to look about upon but
wreaths of fog. Even as the sun rose, its rays failed to penetrate
this cloud bank, or yield slightest color to the scene. It was all
gray, gloomy, mysterious—a narrow stretch of water, disappearing so
suddenly the eye could not determine ocean from sky. The upper masts
vanished into the vapor, and, from where I stood aft, I could but
dimly perceive the open deck amidships. The light yet burning in the
binnacle was hazy and dull.
There was to my mind a threat in the weather, expressed in the silence
overhead, as well as in the sullen swell underfoot. We could not be
far from the coast—a coast line of which I knew next to nothing—and,
at any instant, the blinding fog encircling us might be swept aside by
some sudden atmospheric change, catching us aback, and leaving us
helpless upon the waters. Again and again I had witnessed storms burst
from just such conditions, and we were far too short-handed to take
any unnecessary risk. I talked with Harwood at the wheel, and waited,
occasionally walking over to the rail, and peering out into the mist
uneasily. It seemed to me the heave of water beneath our keel grew
heavier, the fog more dense, the mystery more profound. Safety was
better than progress, particularly as there was no real object any
longer in our clinging to a westerly course. The sensible thing was to
lay too until the enveloping fog blew away, explore that room below,
and explain my plans to the men.
This determined upon I called all hands, and with Watkins in command
forward, preceded to strip the vessel of canvas, leaving exposed only
a jib sheet, with closely reefed foresail, barely enough to give the
wheelsman control. This required some time and compelled me to lay
hold with the others, and, when the last gasket had been secured, and
the men aloft returned to the deck, Sam had the galley fire burning,
and breakfast nearly ready. The lads, saturated with moisture, and in
anything but good humor, were soon restored to cheerfulness, and I
left them, sitting about on deck and returned aft, where Dorothy,
aroused by the noise, stood, well wrapped up, near the rail.
Sleep had refreshed her greatly, her eyes welcoming me, a red flush on
"Have you been up all night?"
"Yes, but I would hardly know it—a sleepless night means nothing to a
"But it was so selfish of me to sleep all those hours."
"I had you to think about; all we have said to each other, and our
"What are they? You have determined?"
"To do as you suggested. It is the braver, and, I believe, the better
way. The difficulty is going to lie in convincing the crew of their
safety. I shall explore below before having a talk with them."
"In hope of discovering treasure to be divided?"
"Yes, that will have greater weight with those fellows than any
argument, or promise. Here comes Sam with our breakfast; we will eat
here from the flag locker."
The negro served us with some skill, and, discovering we were hungry,
both did full justice to the well-cooked fare. The denseness of the
fog hid the men from us, but we could hear their voices, and
occasionally a burst of laughter. We were talking quietly together,
and had nearly finished, when Watkins emerged through the mist, and
"You did not like the look o' things, sir?" he asked, staring out into
the smother astern.
"I've seen storms born from such fogs," I answered, "and know nothing
of this coast."
"You think then it's not far away—out yonder?"
"It is all a guess; we made good progress most of the night, and I
have no confidence in the chart. There are headlands hereabout, and we
might be within hail of one at this minute. It is safer to lie quiet
until the mist lifts. By the way, Watkins—"
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Miss Fairfax tells me that was a storeroom in which I fought the ape
"It was, sir." "And she reports having seen a chest, iron-bound,
among the other stuff. Did you notice it?"
He walked across to the rail, spat overboard, and came back, politely
wiping his lips on his sleeve.
"Yes, sir, I did; it was stored ter starboard, an ol'fashioned sea
chest, padlocked, an' looked like a relic, but a damned strong box.
You think maybe there's gold in it?"
"Likely enough. I found about five hundred pounds in the Captain's
room; but there must be more aboard, unless it was left behind in
Cuba. My idea is that was why the monkey was locked up in there—to
guard the treasure. Does that sound reasonable?"
He scratched his head, his eyes wandering from her face to mine.
"Yes, sir, it does. I've heard o' such things afore. A chimpanzee is
better'n a big dog on such a job; thar ain't no sailor who would
tackle the beast."
"That was my way of looking at it. So while we are lying here, and the
lads are in good humor—hear that laugh—I am going to find out what's
in the chest. After I know, I'll talk to the men. Do you agree?"
He nodded, but without speaking.
"Are you willing to go below with me?"
"I ain't overly anxious 'bout it, Mister Carlyle," he replied gruffly,
plucking awkwardly at the peak of his cap. "I'm a seaman, sir, an'
know my duty, an' so I'll go 'long if yer wus ter order me to. Yer
know that; but I ain't fergot yet this yere is a cholera ship, an'
it's goin' ter be as black as night down thar in thet cabin—"
"Don't urge him Geoffry," the girl interrupted, her hand on my
sleeve. "Leave him here on deck, I am not in the least afraid, and
all you need is someone to hold the light. Please let me do that."
I looked down into her eyes, and smiled.
"Suppose we should encounter another ape?"
"Then I would want to be with you," she responded quickly. "You are
going to consent?"
"I suppose I am, although if there was the slightest danger my answer
would be otherwise. Keep the men busy, Watkins, while we are
gone—don't give them time to ask questions. You brought the lantern
"Yes, sir; it's over there against the grating."
"Very well; we'll light up in the companion, so the flame will not be
seen by the crew. Coming, Dorothy?"
She accompanied me cheerfully, but her hand grasped mine as we groped
our way down the stairs into the dark cabin. A faint glimmer of gray
daylight filtered through the glass from above, and found entrance at
the open ports, but the place was nevertheless gloomy enough, and we
needed what little help the candle afforded to find our way about. The
memories haunted us both, and hurried us to our special mission. The
door of the storeroom stood wide open, but the after ports were
closed, the air within heated and foul. Dorothy held the lantern, her
hands trembling slightly, as I stepped across and unscrewed both
ports. The moist fog blew in upon me but was welcome, although I
stared forth into a bank of impenetrable mist.
The dead ape lay just as he had fallen, with his hideous face
upturned, and a great gash in the head. The hatchet with which I had
dealt the blow, rested on the deck, disfigured with blood. The
hugeness of the creature, its repulsive aspect in death, with savage
teeth gleaming in the rays of the lantern, and long, hairy arms
outspread, gave me such a shock, I felt my limbs tremble. For a moment
I could not remove my eyes from the spectacle, or regain control of my
nerves. Then I some way saw the horror, reflected in her face, and
realized the requirements of leadership.
"He was certainly a big brute," I said quietly, "and it was a lucky
stroke which finished him. Now to complete our work in here and get
I picked up the hatchet, and my glance sought the whereabouts of the
chest. The light was confusing, and she stepped forward, throwing the
dim yellow flame directly upon the object.
"This is what I saw—see; does it look like a treasure chest to you?"
"If it be not, I never saw one—and a hundred years old, if it is a
day. What a story of the sea it might tell if it had a tongue. There
is no way to find its secrets but to break it open. Place the lantern
on this cask of wine; now, if I can gain purchase with the blade, it
will be easily accomplished."
It proved harder than I had believed, the staple of the lock clinging
to the hard teak wood of which the chest was made. I must have been
ten minutes at it, compelled to use a wooden bar as lever, before it
yielded, groaning as it finally released its grip, like a soul in
agony. I felt the girl clutch me in terror at the sound, her
frightened eyes searching the shadows, but I was interested by then to
learn what was within, and gave all my effort to lifting the lid.
This was heavy, as though weighted with lead, but as I finally forced
it backward, a hinge snapped, and permitted it to drop crashing to the
deck. For an instant I could see nothing within—no more indeed than
some dimly revealed outline, the nature of which could not be
determined. Yet, somehow, it gave me an impression, horrible,
grotesque, of a human form. I gripped the side of the chest afraid to
"Lift up the lantern—Dorothy, please. No, higher than that. What in
God's name? Why, it is the corpse of a woman!"
I heard her cry out, and barely caught the lantern as it fell from her
hand. The hatchet struck the deck with a sharp clang, and I felt the
frightened clasp of the girl's fingers on my sleeve. Yet I scarcely
realized these things, my entire attention focussed on what was now
revealed writhin the chest. At first I doubted the evidence of my own
eyes, snatching the bit of flaring candle from its tin socket, and
holding it where the full glare of light fell across the grewsome
object. Ay, it was a woman, with lower limbs doubled back from lack of
space, but otherwise lying as though she slept, so perfect in
preservation her cheeks appeared flushed with health, her lips half
smiling. It was a face of real beauty—an English face, although her
eyes and hair were dark, and her mantilla, and long earrings were
unquestionably Spanish. A string of pearls encircled her throat, and
there were numerous rings upon her fingers. The very contrast added
immeasurably to the horror.
"She is alive! Surely she is alive?" the words were sobbed into my
ear, trembling from Dorothy's lips, as though she could barely utter
them. I stared into her face, the sight of her terror, arousing me
"Alive! No, that is impossible!" and conquering a repugnance, such as
I had never before experienced, I touched the figure with my hand,
"The flesh is like stone," I said, "thus held lifelike by some magic
of the Indies. I have heard of such skill but never before realized
its perfection. Good God! she actually seems to breathe. What can it
all mean? Who could the woman be? And why should her body be thus
carried about at sea. Is it love, or hate?"
"Not love, Geoffry. Love would never do this thing. It is hate, the
gloating of revenge; there can be no other answer—this is the end of
"The truth of which will never be known."
"Are you sure? Is there nothing hidden with her in there to tell who
she was, or how she died?"
There was nothing, not a scrap of paper, not even the semblance of a
wound exposed. The smile on those parted lips had become one of
mockery; I could bear the sight no longer, and rose to my feet,
clasping Dorothy close to me, as she still gazed down in fascination
at the ghastly sight.
"We will never know. The man who could tell is dead."
"Who else could it be? This was his schooner, and here he alone could
hide such a secret. There is nothing more we can learn, and the horror
unnerves me. Hold the light, dear, while I replace the lid of the
It required my utmost effort to accomplish this, yet I succeeded in
sliding the heavy covering back inch by inch, until it fell finally
into place. I was glad to have the thing hidden, to escape the stare
of those fixed eyes, the death smile of those red lips. It was no
longer a reality, but a dream of delirium; I dare not think, or
speculate—my only desire being to get away, to get Dorothy away. My
eyes swept about through the confusing shadows, half expecting to be
confronted by other ghosts of the past, but all they encountered were
the indistinct outlines of casks and boxes, and the hideous hairy
figure of the ape, outstretched upon the deck. The candle fluttered in
the girl's shaking hand, the yellow glare forming weird reflections,
ugly shapes along the wall. God! what if it should go out, leaving us
lost and groping about in this chamber of horrors? In absolute terror
I drew her with me to the open door—then stopped, paralyzed; the half
revealed figure of a man appeared on the cabin stairs.
"Stop! who are you?"
"Watkins, sir. I came below to call you. There's sumthin' bloomin' odd
takin' place out there in the fog, Captain Carlyle. We want yer on
deck, sir, right away."
THE BOAT ATTACK
He waited for us just without the companion, but my eyes caught
nothing unusual as I emerged into the daylight. I could barely see
amidships, but thus far the deck was clear, and on either side hung
the impenetrable bank of cloud, leaving sea and sky invisible. Simmes
was at the wheel, with no other member of the crew in sight.
"What is it, Watkins? Where are the men?"
"Forrard, sir, a hangin' over the starboard rail. Thar's somethin'
cursedly strange a happenin' in that damn fog. Harwood was the first
ter hear the clatter ov en oar slippin' in a rowlock. I thought the
feller wus crazy, till I heerd sumthin' also, an' then, sir, while we
wus still a listenin' we both caught sound ov a Spanish oath, spoke as
plain as if the buck was aboard."
"You saw nothing?"
"Not so much as a shadder, sir."
"A lost boat, likely—ship-wrecked sailors adrift in the fog; perhaps
our other quarter-boat. No one hailed them?"
"No, sir; I told the men ter keep still till I called you. It might be
a cuttin'-out party; this ain't no coast fer any honest sailors ter be
huggin' up to, an' I didn't like that feller talkin' Spanish."
"But if their purpose is to take us by surprise," I said, "they'd be
more cautious about it."
"Maybe they didn't know how near they was. 'Tain't likely they kin see
us much better 'n we kin see them. The sea's got an ugly swell to it,
an' the feller likely cussed afore he thought. Enyhow it wa' n't my
place ter hail 'em."
"All right; where are they?"
"Straight off the starboard quarter, sir."
The crew were all gathered there, staring out into the mist,
whispering to each other. Even they were indistinct, their faces
unrecognizable, until I pressed my way in among them. I brought up
"Hear anything more?"
"Not yet, sir," peering about to make sure of who spoke, "but there's
a boat out yonder; I'll swear to that."
"How far away when you heard them?"
"Not mor'n fifty fathoms, an' maybe not that—the voice sounded
We may have been clinging there, a minute or two, breathlessly
listening, our hands tensely gripping the rail. My coming had silenced
the others, and we waited motionless, the stillness so intense I could
hear the lapping of waves against the side, and the slight creak of a
rope aloft. Then a voice spoke directly in front of me out from the
dense fog, a peculiar, penetrating voice, carrying farther than the
owner probably thought, and distinctly audible.
"Try the port oar, Pedro; we must have missed the damn ship."
I straightened up as though struck, my eyes seeking those of Harwood,
who stared back at me, his mouth wide open in astonishment.
"You heard that?" I whispered. "Do you know who spoke?"
"By God, do I? Dead, or alive, sir, it was Manuel Estevan."
"Ay; no other, and alive enough no doubt. Lads, come close to me, and
listen—they must not hear us out there. By some devil's trick the
Namur has followed our course, or else yonder are a part of his crew
cast away. They clearly know of us—perhaps had a glimpse through some
rift in the cloud—and are seeking to board with a boat party. 'Tis
not likely those devils know who we are; probably take us for a
merchant ship becalmed in the fog, and liable to become an easy prey,
if they can only slip up on us unseen. How are you, bullies? Ready to
battle your old mates?"
"Those were no mates o' ours, sir," said Watkins indignantly. "They
are half-breed mongrels, and no sailors; Estevan is a hell-hound, an'
so far as my voice goes, I'd rather die on this deck than ever agin be
a bloody pirate. Is that the right word, lads?"
The others grumbled assent, but their muttered words had in them a
ring of sincerity, and their faces exhibited no cowardice. Harwood
alone asked a question.
"I'm fer fightin', sir," he said grimly, "but what'll we use? Them
lads ain't comin' aboard bare-handed, but damn if I've seed a weapon
on this hooker."
"Dar's three knives, an' a meat cleaver in der galley, sah," chimed in
"We'll do well enough; some of you have your sheath knives yet, and
the rest can use belaying pins, and capstan bars. The point is to not
let them get aboard, and, if there is only one boat, we will be pretty
even-handed. Pick up what you can, and man this rail—quietly now,
hearties, and keep your eyes open."
It proved a longer wait than I expected. The fog gave us no glimpse of
the surrounding water, and not another sound enabled us to locate the
approaching boat. I felt convinced we had not been overheard, as no
one had spoken above a whisper, and the men aboard had been noiseless
in their movements about deck, I had compelled Dorothy to remain on
the port side of the cabin, removed from all danger, and the only
upright figure in sight was the man at the wheel. The rest of us
crouched along the starboard rail, peering out into the mist, and
listening for the slightest sound. They were a motley crew, armed with
every conceivable sort of knife or war club, but sturdy fellows, ready
and willing enough to give a good account of themselves. Watkins was
forward, swallowed up in the smother of mist, but Schmitt held a place
next me, a huge, ungainly figure in the dull light. So still it was I
began to doubt having heard the voice at all—could it have been
imagination? But no; that was impossible, for the sound had reached
all of us alike. Somewhere out yonder, that boat was creeping along
silently, seeking blindly through the fog to reach our side
unobserved—those Wolves of the Sea had the scent.
I do not know how long the suspense lasted, but, I have never felt a
greater strain on my nerves. Every deeper shadow increased the
tension, imagination playing strange tricks, as I stared fixedly into
the void, and trembled at the slightest sound. Once I was sure I heard
the splash of an oar, but no one on deck spoke, and I remained silent.
The faint creaking of a rope aloft caused my heart to thump, and when
a loosened edge of canvas slapped the mast in a sudden breath of air,
it sounded to me like a burst of thunder. Where were the fellows? Had
they abandoned their search, confused by the fog; or were they still
stealthily seeking to locate our position? Could there be more than
one boat, and if not what force of men might such a boat contain?
These questions never left me, and were alike unanswerable. Unable to
withstand inaction any longer I arose to my feet, thinking to pass
down the line with a word of encouragement to each man. A glance
upward told me the heavy mist was passing, driven away by a light
breeze from the south. Through the thick curtain which still clung to
the deck, I could perceive the upper spars, already tipped with
sunlight, and edges of reefed canvas flapping in the wind. The
schooner felt the impulse, the bow swinging sharply to port, and I
turned and took a few steps aft, thinking to gauge our progress by the
wake astern. I was abaft the cabin on the port side when Dorothy
called my name—a sudden accent of terror in her voice.
The alarm was sounded none too soon. Either fortune, or skill had
served those demons well. Gliding silently through the obscuring
cloud, hanging in dense folds of vapor to the water surface, propelled
and guided by a single oar, used cautiously as a paddle, they had
succeeded in circling the stern of the Santa Marie, unseen and
unheard by anyone aboard. Not even the girl, unconscious of the
possibility of approaching danger from that quarter, her attention
diverted elsewhere, had her slightest suspicion aroused as they glided
noiselessly alongside, and made fast beneath the protection of the
after-chains. One by one, moving like snakes, the devils passed
inboard to where they could survey the seemingly deserted deck. Some
slight noise awoke her to their presence, yet, even as she shrieked
the sudden alarm, a hand was at her throat, and she was struggling
desperately in the merciless grip of a half-naked Indian.
Yet at that they were too late, the advantage of surprise had failed
them. A half dozen had reached the deck, leaping from the rail, the
others below clambering after their leaders, when with a rush, we met
them. It was a fierce, mad fight, fist and club pitted against knife
and cutlass, but the defenders knowing well the odds against them,
angered by the plight of the girl, realizing that death would be the
reward of defeat, struck like demons incarnate, crushing their
astounded antagonists back against the bulwark. I doubt if the
struggle lasted two minutes, and my memory of the scene is but a
series of flashes. I heard the blows, the oaths, the cries of pain,
the dull thud of wood against bone, the sharp clang of steel in
contact, the shuffling of feet on the deck, the splash of bodies
hurled overboard. These sounds mingle in my mind with the flash of
weapons, the glare of infuriated eyes, the dark, savage faces. Yet it
was all confusion, uproar, mingling of bodies, and hoarse shouts. Each
man fought for himself, in his own way. I thought only of her, and
leaped straight for her assailant with bare hands, smashing
recklessly through the hasty guard of his cutlass, ignorant that he
had even struck me, and gripped the copper devil by hair and throat. I
knew she fell to the deck, beneath our feet, but I had my work cut out
for me. He was a hell-hound, slippery as an eel in his half nakedness,
strong as an ox, and fighting like a fiend. But for that first lucky
grip I doubt my killing him, yet I had him foul, my grip unbreakable,
as I jerked and forced his neck back against the rail, until it
cracked, the swarthy body sliding inert to the deck. Whirling to
assist the others, assured of the fellow's helplessness, I found no
need. Except for bodies here and there the deck was clear, men were
struggling in the chains; two below in the boat were endeavoring to
cast off, and Schmitt, with Estevan helpless in his arms, staggered to
the side, and flung the shrieking Spanish cur overboard out into the
dark water. I heard the splash as he fell, the single cry his lips
gave, but he never again appeared above the surface. Above the bedlam
Watkins roared out an order.
"That's it, bullies! that's it! Now let her drop! We'll send them to
hell where they belong. Good shot; she landed!"
It was the hank of a spare anchor, balanced for an instant on the
rail, then sent crashing down through the frail bottom of the boat
beneath. The wreck drifted away into the fog, the two miserable
occupants clinging desperately to the gunwales. I lifted Dorothy to
her feet, and she clung to me unsteadily, her face yet white.
"Is it all over? Have they been driven off?"
"Yes, there is nothing more to fear from them. Were you injured?"
"Not—not seriously; he hurt me terribly, but made no attempt to use
his cutlass. I—I guess I was more frightened than anything else.
Is—is the man dead?"
"If not, he might as well be," I answered, glancing at the body; but
not caring to explain. "It was no time for mercy when I got to him.
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Have you figured up results?"
"Not fully, sir; two of our men are cut rather badly, and Cole hasn't
come too yet from a smart rap on the head."
"None got away?"
He grinned cheerfully.
"Not 'less they swum; thar's six dead ones aboard. Four took ter the
water, mostly because they hed too. The only livin' one o' the bunch
is thet nigger 'longside the wheel, an' nuthin' but a thick skull
"Then there were eleven in the party. What do you suppose has become
of the others aboard the Namur?"
He shook his head, puzzled by the question.
"I dunno, sir; they might be a waitin' out there in the fog. Perhaps
the nigger cud tell you."
I crossed over to where the fellow sat on a grating, his head in his
hands, the girl still clinging to my sleeve, as though fearful of
being left alone. The man was a repulsive brute, his face stained with
blood, dripping from a cut across his low forehead. He looked up
sullenly at our approach, but made no effort to rise.
"What's your name, my man?" I asked in Spanish.
"Jose Mendez, Senor." "You were aboard the Namur?"
He growled out an answer which I interpreted to signify assent, but
Watkins lost his temper.
"Look yere, you black villain," he roared, driving the lesson home
with his boot "don't be a playin' possum yer. Stand up an' answer
Mister Carlyle, or yer'll git a worse clip than I give yer afore. Whar
is the bloody bark?"
"Pounding her heart out on the rocks yonder," he said more civilly,
"unless she's slid off, an' gone down."
"Hell, I ain't sure—what's west frum here?"
"Off our port quarter."
"Then that's 'bout where she is—maybe a mile, er so."
"What about the crew?"
"They got away in the boats, an' likely mostly are ashore. We were in
the last boat launched, an' headed out so far ter get 'round a ledge
o' rocks, we got lost in the fog. Then the mist sorter opened, an'
give us a glimpse o' yer topsails. Manuel was for boarding you right
away, and the rest of us talked it over, and thought it would be all
right. We didn't expect no fight, once we got aboard."
"Expected to find something easy, of course? Perhaps it would have
been if you fellows in the boat had held your tongues. By any chance,
do you know now who we are?"
He rolled his eyes toward Watkins, and then at Schmitt engaged in some
job across the deck.
"Those two used to be on the Namur," he said, his tone again
sullen. "Are you the fellers who locked us in between decks?"
"We are the ones, Jose. You were up against fighting men when you came
in over our rail. What is it you see out there, Harwood?"
The seaman, who was standing with hollowed hands shading his eyes,
staring forth into the swirling drapery of fog, turned at my call, and
"There's a bark aground yonder, sir; and by God, it looks like the
Even as I crossed the deck to his side, eagerly searching the
direction indicated, the wreaths of obscuring mist seemed to divide,
as though swept apart by some mighty hand, and there in the full glow
of the sun, a picture in a frame, lay the wrecked vessel. Others saw
it as I did, and a chorus of voices gave vent to recognition.
"Damned if it ain't the old hooker!"
"She got what was coming to her all right, mates."
"Maybe that ain't hell, bullies! And she's lousy with treasure!"
"Come here, Sam! That's the last of the Namur."
THE LAST OF THE NAMUR
Even from where we were, looking across that stretch of water, yet
obscured by floating patches of mist, the vessel was plainly a total
wreck, rapidly pounding to death on a sharp ledge of rock. Both masts
were down, and, lifted as the bow was, it was easy to perceive the
deck was in splinters, where falling spars and topmasts had crashed
their way through. She must have struck the ledge at good speed, and
with all sail set, for the canvas was overside, with much of the
top-hamper, a horrible mess, tossed about in the breakers, broken ends
of spars viciously pounding against the ship's side. The bows had
caught, seemingly jammed in between rocks, the stern sunk deep, with
cabin port holes barely above reach of the waves. It seemed probable
that any minute the whole helpless mass might slide backward into the
water, and be swept away. Not a living thing appeared on board, and,
as the fog slowly drifted away, my eyes could discern no sign of any
boat, no evidence of the crew, along the wide sweep of water. Little,
by little, as the vista widened, and we still remained, watching the
miserable wreck as though fascinated, we were able to distinguish the
dark line of coast to the westward, and to determine that the
unfortunate Namur had struck at the extremity of a headland, whose
rocky front had pushed its way far out to sea. A voice not far
distant aroused me.
"What was it you said Jack 'bout treasure on the old hooker? Hell, if
it's there, why not get it afore it's too late?"
"It's thar, all right, Ole," and I knew the speaker to be Haines.
"Ain't it, Mr. Carlyle?"
"Yes, lads, there must be money on board, unless those fellows took it
with them in the boats. I know of fifty thousand pounds stolen in
Virginia, and no doubt there is more than that."
"Perhaps they took the swag along with 'em, sir."
"That wouldn't be the way I'd figure it," broke in Watkins. "That
nigger says the boat what attacked us was the last one ter git away,
an' thar wa'n't no chest in her." If Manuel didn't stay aboard long
'nough ter git his fingers outer thet gold, none ov the others did.
They wus so damned anxious to save their lives, they never thought ov
nuthin' else, sir."
"But maybe they'll think about that later, an' cum back," insisted
Haines, pressing forward. "Ain't that right, sir?"
"Right enough; only they will not have much time to think it over,
from the look of things out there," I answered. "The bark is liable to
slide off that rock any minute, and go down like a stone. What do you
say, bullies? Here is a risky job, but a pocket full of gold pieces,
if we can get aboard and safely off again, Who'll go across with me?"
There was a babel of voices, the men crowding about me, all else
forgotten as the lust of greed gripped their imaginations.
"Stand back, lads! I cannot use all of you. Four will be enough. I
choose Haines, Harwood, Ole Hallin and Pierre. Lower that starboard
quarter-boat you four, and see to the plugs and oars. No Watkins, I
want you to remain in charge here. There is plenty to do; get those
bodies overboard first, and clean up this litter; then shake out the
reef in the foresail, and stand by—there is wind coming from that
cloud yonder, and no time to waste. You'll not lose anything of what
we bring back; it'll be share and share alike, so fall too, hearties."
"Shall we lower away, sir?"
"Ay, if all is fast I'll be with you in a minute; get aboard, Ole, and
ward her off with a boat hook; easy now, till she takes water."
I paused an instant to speak to Dorothy, seated on the flag locker,
explaining to her swiftly my object in exploring the wreck, and
pledging myself not to be reckless in attempting to board. I read fear
in her eyes, yet she said nothing to dissuade me, and our hands
clasped, as I led her to the side, where she could look down at the
cockleshell tossing below.
"It will mean much if we can recover this pirate hoard," I whispered,
"freedom, and a full pardon, I hope."
"Yes, I know, Geoffry; but do not venture too much. You are more to me
than all the gold in the world."
"I shall not forget, sweetheart. The sky and sea are almost clear now,
and you can watch us from here. In a short time we shall be safely
I slipped down a rope, and dropped into the boat, taking my place
with a steering oar at the stern, and we shot away through the green
water. The men yet lined the rail watching us enviously, although
Watkins' voice began roaring out orders. Dorothy wraved her hand,
which I acknowledged by lifting my cap. The schooner, with her sharp
cutwater and graceful proportions made so fair a sea picture, outlined
against the blue haze, I found it difficult to remove my gaze, but
finally my thought concentrated on the work ahead, and I turned to
urge the oarsmen to a quicker stroke.
The distance was greater than I had supposed it to be from the deck of
the Santa Marie, nor did the dark cloud slowly poking up above the
sea to the southeast ease my anxiety to get this task over with,
before a storm broke. The Namur proved to be a more complete wreck
than our distant view had revealed, and lying in a more precarious
position. While the sea was not high, or dangerous, beyond the
headland, the charging billows there broke in foam and were already
playing havoc with the stranded vessel, smashing great spars,
entangled amid canvas and cordage, about so as to render our approach
extremely perilous. We were some time seeking a place where we might
make fast, but finally nosed our way in behind the shelter of a huge
boom, held steady by a splinter of rock, until Harwood got the hank of
his boat hook in the after-chains, and hung on. It was no pleasant job
getting aboard, but ordering Haines to accompany me, and the others to
lie by in the lee of the boom, I made use of a dangling backstay, and
thus hauled myself up to a reasonably secure footing. The fellow
joined me breathless, and together we perched on the rail to gain
view of the deck.
It was a distressing, hopeless sight, the vessel rising before us like
the roof of a house, the deck planks stove in, a horrible jumble of
running rigging, booms and spars, blocking the way forward. Aft it was
clearer, the top-hamper of the after mast having fallen overboard,
smashing a small boat as it fell, but leaving the deck space free.
There were three bodies tangled in the wreckage within our sight,
crushed out of all human resemblance, and the face of a negro, caught
beneath the ruins of the galley, seemed to grin back at me in death.
Every timber groaned as the waves struck, and rocked the sodden mass,
and I had no doubt but that the vessel had already broken in two. I
heard Haines utter an oath.
"By God, sir, did you ever see the like! She can't hang on here."
"Not, long surely," I admitted. "A bit more sea, and she breaks into
kindling wood. If there is any salvage aboard, my man, it will be done
in the next twenty minutes."
"There is no hope o' gittin' forrard, sir—look at that damn litter,
an'—an' them dead men."
"It isn't forward we need to go, Haines; it's aft into the cabin, and
that seems a clear enough passage—only the water down there may be
too deep. Let's make a try of it."
He was evidently reluctant, but sailor enough to follow as I lowered
myself to the deck, clinging hard to keep my footing on the wet
incline. A light spar had lodged here, and by making this a species of
bridge, we crept as far as the companion, the door of which was open,
and gained view of the scene below. The light was sufficient to reveal
most of the interior. From the confusion, and dampness the entire
cabin had evidently been deluged with water, but this had largely
drained away, leaving a mass of wreckage behind, and a foot or two
still slushing about the doors of the after staterooms. It was a
dismal hole in the dim light, more like a cave than the former
habitation of men, but presented no obstacle to our entrance, and I
led the way down the stairs, gripping the rail to keep from falling.
Haines swore as he followed, and his continual growling got upon my
"Stop that infernal noise!" I ordered, shortly, looking him savagely
in the face. "I've had enough of it. You were wild to come on this
job; now do your work like a man. Try that room door over there; slide
down, you fool, the water isn't deep. Wait a minute; now give me a
"Is the gold in here, sir?" he asked with interest.
"More than likely; this was the Captain's room. See if it was left
The door gave, but it required our combined efforts to press it open
against the volume of water, slushing about within. While the stern
port was yet slightly above the sea level, the crest of breaking waves
obscured the glass, leaving the interior darker than the outer cabin.
For a moment my eyes could scarcely recognize the various objects, as
I clung to the frame of the door, and stared blindly about in the
gloom. Then slowly they assumed shape and substance. Screwed to the
deck the furniture retained its place, but everything else was jammed
in a mass of wreckage, or else floating about in a foot of water,
deepening toward the stern. There were two chests in the room, one of
which I instantly recognized as that of Roger Fairfax. The sight of
this made me oblivious to all else, urged on as I was, by a desire to
escape from the doomed wreck as soon as possible.
"There's the chest we want Haines," I cried, pointing it out. "Have
the lads back the boat up to this port; then come down, and help me
He did not answer, or move; and I whirled about angrily.
"What is the matter with you? Did you hear what I said?"
"Yes, sir," his voice trembling, "but—but isn't that a man over
there—in the bunk? Good God, sir; look at him!"
The white, ghastly face stared at us, looking like nothing human in
that awful twilight. I actually thought it a ghost, until with
desperate effort, the man lifted himself, clinging with gaunt fingers
to the edge of the bunk. Then I knew.
"Sanchez! You! those damn cowards left you here to die!"
"No one came for me," he answered, choking so the words were scarcely
intelligible. "Is that what has happened; the bark is wrecked; the
"Yes, they took to the boats—Manuel with them."
"Manuel!" his enunciation clearer from passion, "the sneaking cur. But
I cannot see your face; who are you, and what brought you here?"
"I'll tell you frankly, Captain Sanchez," and I stepped closer. "We
risked coming aboard to save that chest—Roger Fairfax's
chest—before it went down. This vessel has its back broken, and may
slide off into deep water at any minute. We must get you out of here
"Get me out!" he laughed hideously. "You pretend to place my safety
ahead of that treasure. To hell with your help. I want none of it. I
am a dead man now, and the easiest way to end all, will be to go down
with the ship—'twill be a fit coffin for Black Sanchez. By God! I
know you now—Geoffry Carlyle?"
"Yes, but an enemy no longer."
"That is for me to say. I hate your race, your breed, your cursed
English strain. The very sound of your name drives me mad. I accept no
rescue from you! Damn you, take your gold and go."
"But why?" I insisted, shocked at the man's violence. "I have done you
no ill. Is it because I interfered between you and Dorothy Fairfax?"
He laughed again, the sound so insane Haines gripped my sleeve in
"That chit! bah, what do I care for her but as a plaything. No, my
hate runs deeper than that. How came you here—in the boat stolen from
"No Captain Sanchez. The day after we left the ship, we boarded a
schooner found adrift, the crew stricken with cholera, with not a man
left alive on deck, or below. She lies yonder now."
"A schooner! What name?"
"The Santa Marie—a slaver."
"Merciful God!" and his eyes fairly blazed into mine, as he suddenly
forced his body upward in the bunk. "The Santa Marie adrift! the
crew dead from cholera? And the Captain—Paradilla, Francis
Paradilla——what of him?"
"He lay alone on a divan in the cabin—dead also."
He tried to speak, but failed, his fingers clawing at his throat. When
he finally gained utterance once more, it was but a whisper.
"Tell me," he begged, "there was no woman with him?"
I stared back into the wild insanity of his eyes, trying to test my
words, suddenly aware that we were upon the edge of tragedy, perhaps
uncovering the hidden secret of this man's life.
"There was no woman," I said gravely, "on deck or in the cabin."
"What mean you by saying that? There was one on board! Don't lie to
me! In an hour I am dead—but first tell me the truth. Does the woman
"No, she died before. We found her body in a chest, preserved by some
devilish Indian art, richly dressed, and decked with jewels."
"I judged her so, but with dark hair and eyes. You knew her?"
"In the name of all the fiends, yes. And I know her end. He killed
her—Paradilla killed her—because she was as false to him as she had
been to me. Hell! but it is strange you should be the one to find
her—to bring me this tale, Geoffry Carlyle!"
"Why? What is it to me?"
"Because she is of your line—do you know her now?" "No; nor believe
"Then I will make you; 'tis naught to me anymore; for I am dead within
the hour. You go back to England, and tell him; tell the Duke of
Bucclough how his precious sister died."
"His sister! Good God, you cannot mean that woman was Lady Sara
"Who should know better than I?" sneeringly. "Once I was called in
England, Sir John Collinswood."
He sank back, exhausted, struggling for breath, but with eyes glowing
hatred. I knew it all now, the dimly remembered story coming vividly
back to memory. Here then was the ending of the one black stain on the
family honor of our race. On this strange coast, three thousand miles
from its beginning, the final curtain was being rung down, the drama
finished. The story had come to me in whispers from others, never even
spoken about by those of our race—a wild, headstrong girl, a secret
marriage, a duel in the park, her brother desperately wounded, and
then the disappearance of the pair. Ten days later it was known that
Sir John Collinswood had defaulted in a large sum—but, from that
hour, England knew him no more. As though the sea had swallowed them
both, man and woman disappeared, leaving no trace behind.
The face I gazed dumbly into was drawn, and white with pain, yet the
thin lips grinned back at me in savage derision.
"You remember, I see," he snarled. "Then to hell with you out of here,
Geoffry Carlyle. Leave me to die in peace. The gold is there; take
it, and my curse upon it. Hurry now—do you hear the bark grate on the
rocks; it's near the end."
BEFORE THE GOVERNOR
The sound startled me; I imagined I heard the keel slipping, yet
before we had reached the door opening on deck, the slight movement
ceased. My hand gripped the frightened Haines.
"Tell them in the boat to do as I said; then come back here."
"My God, sir, she's a goin' down."
"Not for some minutes yet. There are thousands of pounds in that
chest; you've risked life for less many a time. Jump, my man!"
The boat lay in close, bobbing up and down dangerously, yet held
firmly beneath the opened port. Pierre warped her in with a rope's
end, leaving the other two free to receive the box, as we cautiously
passed it out within grasp of their hands. It was heavy enough to tax
the strength of two men to handle it, but of a size and shape
permitting its passage. Sanchez had raised himself again, and clung
there to the edge of the bunk watching us. Even in the darkness caused
by the chest obscuring the port, I felt the insane glare of his eyes
fastened upon me. Once he attempted to speak, but his voice failed
"Now let down easy, lads," I called. "No, place it amidships; get it
even, or you go over. Wrap your line about the thwart, Pierre, and
take a hand. Ay! that's better. Watch out now; we'll drop this
end—Lord, but I thought it was gone! Fix it to ride steady, and stand
by—we'll pass a wounded man out to you!"
I stepped across to Sanchez, slushing through the water, and barely
able to keep my feet. No matter who the brute was, he could not be
left there to die like a rat alone. Willingly, or not, the fellow must
be removed before the bark went down. He saw me coming, and drew back,
his ghastly face like a mask.
"No, you don't—damn you, Carlyle!" he snapped angrily. "Keep your
hands off me. So you want me to die with my neck in a noose, do you?
Well, you'll never see that sight. I was born a gentleman, and, by
God! I'll die like one—and go down with my ship. Get out of here
now—both of you! You won't? Hell's fire, but you will, or else die
here with me! I'll give you a minute to make your choice."
He left no doubt as to his meaning, his purpose. From somewhere
beneath the blanket, the long, black muzzle of a pistol looked
straight into my eyes. The hand holding it was firm, the face fronting
me savagely sardonic.
"I'd like to kill you, Carlyle," he hissed hatefully. "By God, I don't
know why I shouldn't, the devils in hell would laugh if I did—so
don't tempt me too far. Get out of here, damn you! Every time I look
at you I see her face. If you take a step nearer, I pull the
I heard Haines scrambling back up the sharp incline of deck, and
realized the utter uselessness of attempting to remain. Any instant
might be our last; the man crazed, and probably dying, would kill me
gladly. He had chosen his fate—what was it to me? I turned, and
worked my way upward to the companion steps, half expecting every
instant to be struck by a bullet from behind. At the door I paused to
glance below; through the semi-darkness I could see his eyes glaring
at me like those of a wild beast.
"You refuse still to let me aid you, Sanchez?"
"To hell with you! Leave me alone!"
It was a hard pull back to the Santa Marie, for the sea had grown
noticeably heavier, while the weight of the chest sank the boat so
deeply in the water, as to retard progress and keep one man bailing.
The cloud in the southwest had already assumed threatening
proportions, and I urged the oarsmen to greater exertions, anxious to
get aboard before the coming storm broke. It was hard to keep my gaze
from the doomed Namur, but I could detect no change in her position,
as we drew in toward the waiting schooner. Harwood alone questioned
me, and I told him briefly what had occurred within the cabin, and his
comment seemed to voice the sentiment of the others.
"He made a bloomin' good choice, sir. That's how the ol' devil ought
ter die—the same way he's sent many another. It beats hangin' at
Dorothy greeted me first, and we stood close together at the rail, as
the men hoisted the chest on deck, and then fastened the tackle to the
boat She said nothing, asked nothing, but her hands clung to my arm,
and whenever I turned toward her, our eyes met. I did not find the
courage to tell her then what we had found aboard the Namur,
although I could not prevent my own eyes from wandering constantly
toward the doomed vessel. The rising sea was slapping the submerged
stern with increasing violence, the salt spray rising in clouds over
the after rail. Watkins approached us, coming from among the group of
"There's a smart bit of wind in those clouds, sir," he said
respectfully, "an' I don't like the look o' the coast ter leeward.
Shall we trim sail?"
"Not quite yet, Watkins. It will be some time before the gale strikes
here. The bark is going down, presently."
"Yes, sir; but the men better stand by." He glanced from my face to
that of the girl, lowering his voice. "Harwood tells me Sanchez was
aboard, sir, and refused to leave?"
"Very true; but he was dying; no doubt is dead by now. There was
nothing to be done for him."
"I should say not, Mr. Carlyle. I wouldn't lift a finger ter save him
There was a sudden cry forward, and a voice shouted.
"There she goes, buckies! That damn Dutchman's done with. That's the
last o' the Namur!"
I turned swiftly, my hand grasping her fingers as they clung to the
rail. With a rasping sound, clearly distinguished across the
intervening water, as though every timber cried out in agony to the
strain, the battered hulk slid downward, the deck breaking amidships
as the stern splashed into the depths; then that also toppled over,
leaving nothing above water except the blunt end of a broken
bow-sprit, and a tangle of wreckage, tossed about on the crest of the
waves. I watched breathlessly, unable to utter a sound; I could only
think of that stricken man in the cabin, those wild eyes which had
threatened me. He was gone now—gone! Watkins spoke.
"It's all over, sir."
"Yes, there is nothing to keep us here any longer," I answered still
dazed, but realizing I must arouse myself. "Shake out the reef in your
mainsail, and we'll get out to sea. Who is at the wheel?"
"Schmitt, sir—what is the course, Captain Carlyle?"
"Nor'west, by nor', and hold on as long as you can."
"Ay, ay, sir; nor'west by nor' she is."
I yet held Dorothy's hand tightly clasped in my own, and the depths of
her uplifted eyes questioned me.
"We will go aft, dear, and I will tell you the whole story," I said
gently, "for now we are homeward bound."
* * * * *
I write these few closing lines a year later, in the cabin of the
Ocean Spray, a three master, full to the hatches with a cargo of
tobacco, bound for London, and a market. Dorothy is on deck, eagerly
watching for the first glimpse of the chalk cliffs of old England. I
must join her presently, yet linger below to add these final
There is, after all, little which needs to be said. The voyage of the
Santa Marie north proved uneventful, and, after that first night of
storm, the weather held pleasant, and the sea fairly smooth. I had
some trouble with the men, but nothing serious, as Watkins and Harwood
held as I did, and the pledge of Dorothy's influence brought courage.
I refused to open the chest, believing our safety, and chance of
pardon, would depend largely on our handing this over in good faith to
the authorities. Watkins and I guarded it night and day, until the
schooner rounded the Cape and came into the Chesapeake. No attempt was
made to find quarters below, the entire crew sleeping on deck, Dorothy
comfortable on the flag locker.
It was scarcely sunrise, on the fifth day, when we dropped anchor
against the current of the James, our sails furled, and the red
English colors flying from the peak. Two hours later the entire
company were in the presence of the Governor, where I told my story,
gravely listened to, supplemented by the earnest plea of the young
woman. I shall never forget that scene, or how breathlessly we awaited
the decision of the great man, who so closely watched our faces. They
were surely a strange, rough group as they stood thus, hats in hand,
waiting to learn their fate, shaggy-haired, unshaven, largely scum of
the sea, never before in such presence, shuffling uneasily before his
glance, feeling to the full the peril of their position. Their eyes
turned to me questioningly.
Opposite us, behind a long table, sat the Governor, dignified,
austere, his hair powdered, and face smoothly shaven; while on either
side of him were those of his council, many of the faces stern and
unforgiving. But for their gracious reception of Dorothy, and their
careful attention to her words, I should have lost heart. They
questioned me shrewdly, although the Governor spoke but seldom, and
then in a kindly tone of sympathy and understanding. One by one the
men were called forward, each in turn compelled to tell briefly the
story of his life; and when all was done the eyes of the Governor
sought those of his council.
"You have all alike heard the tale, gentlemen," he said. "Nothing
like it hath ever before been brought before this Colony. Would you
leave decision to me?"
There was a murmur of assent, as though they were thus gladly relieved
of responsibility in so serious a matter. The Governor smiled, his
kindly eyes surveying us once more; then, with extended hand he bade
Dorothy be seated.
"The story is seemingly an honest one," he said slowly, "and these
seamen have done a great service to the Colony. They deserve reward
rather than punishment. The fair lady who pleads for them is known to
us all, and to even question her word is impossible. Unfortunately I
have not the power of pardon in cases of piracy, nor authority to free
bond slaves, without the approval of the home government; yet will
exercise in this case whatsoever of power I possess. For gallant
services rendered to the Colony, and unselfish devotion to Mistress
Dorothy Fairfax, I release Geoffry Carlyle from servitude, pending
advices from England; I also grant parole to these seamen, on
condition they remain within our jurisdiction until this judgment can
be confirmed, and full pardons issued. Is this judgment satisfactory,
The members of the council bowed gravely, without speaking.
"The chest of treasure recovered from the sunken pirate ship," he went
on soberly, "will remain unopened until final decision is made. As I
understand, Master Carlyle, no one among you has yet seen its
contents, or estimated its value?"
"No, your excellency. Beyond doubt it contains the gold stolen from
Roger Fairfax; and possibly the result of other robberies at sea.
"The law of England is that a certain percentage of such recovered
treasure belongs to the crown, the remainder, its true ownership
undetermined, to be fairly divided among those recovering it."
"Yet," spoke up Dorothy quickly, "it must surely be possible to waive
all claim in such cases?"
"Certainly; as private property it can be disposed of in any way
desired. Was that your thought?"
"A Fairfax always pays his debt," she said proudly, "and this is
There was a moment's silence as though each one present hesitated to
speak. She had risen, and yet stood, but with eyes lowered to the
floor. Then they were lifted, and met mine, in all frank honesty.
"There is another debt I owe," she said clearly, "and would pay, your
"What is that, fair mistress?"
She crossed to me, her hand upon my arm.
"To become the wife of Geoffry Carlyle."