Thursday, 20 May 2010

Bimshaw, The Pirate (part 4 of 6)



Bimshaw, The Pirate

By A. HYATT VERRILL

Illustrated by Walt Louderback

From The American Boy February 1919. Digitized by Doug Frizzle May 2010.

Part 4 of 6

Bimshaw's Earlier Adventures (Synopsis)

BIMSHAW, the pirate, did not take to that life from preference. Born a Barbados slave, although of British ancestry, he ran away from a cruel master and inadvertently boarded the pirate ship, Adventure. While he was concealed as a stowaway a fight with another ship occurred and Bimshaw, little realizing what he did, threw himself into the fight on the side with the pirates. Because of his courageous help the pirate captain offered him his choice of being set ashore at some port or of joining the crew—instead of forcing him to walk the plank. Fearing that he will be arrested as an escaped slave, he elects to join the pirate crew and sails with them for many years, becoming their captain after Hawkins has been killed in a fight. Sickening at last of the horrors of this life and long­ing for peace, he and the old mate, Grommet Legs, are persuaded to give up the sea through the influence of a young shipwrecked man, called Brand, whom they have rescued. They agree to change their names and go with Brand to his home town of Nevis, where he will introduce them as seamen and the only other survivors of the shipwreck. There Bimshaw and Grommet Legs, now known as Greaves and Benjamin settle down as planters and live peaceably and happily until one day a stranger sees them and identifies them as Bimshaw and his mate. Brand rushes to warn them that the King's troopers are on their way to arrest them.

CHAPTER X, CONTINUED

DUMBFOUNDED at the news Brand brought, we stood gaping, scarce knowing what to do. And as he related the facts of how the stranger had denounced us to the King's troopers, the face of him whom I had seen within the tavern came before me, and now I knew him for one whose life I'd spared upon a prize we'd taken off the Caymans years before.

This, then, was the reward I was to win for my humanity—to be decried a pirate and cast in prison, or mayhap to hang in chains—better for me had I, like Hawkins, put all to death who came athwart my course.

But 'twas no time for idle thoughts or bitter memories; were we to save ourselves from those who sought to take us, we must act at once. "An' how would ye ha' us flee?" I asked Brand, when he again urged us to escape. "An' we take to the bush we'll be hunted out like rabbits, and to take to boats is to put our­selves in their power. We ha' neither wings to fly nor fins to swim. Mayhap 'twas night we could win our way unseen to Montserrat or e'en Antigua, but even so, 'twould avail us naught—we would be known an' seized right soon."

"Nay, boy," exclaimed Ben, "I see naught to do, save light it out an' sell our lives as dearly as may be; 'tis better to die fightin' than rot i' prison or swing to gallows tree."

"Speak not thus," cried Brand; "to re­sist is hopeless. You are well liked and respected here. You have many friends, mayhap they'll not judge you on one man's word and I will do all that I may to have you pardoned if they do. I owe my life to you, Captain, and ‘twas I brought you here to this peril, an' it be possible I'll not let harm befall you now. But in the meantime, flee. Take to the mountain until the ship has sailed and excitement has passed off."

He was a true friend, a friend in time of need, and proud indeed was I to hear him speak thus, but too well we knew the short shrift that would be given us even 'twas but one man denounced us, and, moreover, the gold we brought would be remembered, and none save Brand would stand with us. 'Twas hang first and try after, when men were accused of piracy.

But even had we so minded 'twas too late to flee, for, even as Brand ceased, a cloud of dust upon the road marked ap­proaching horsemen, and the scarlet coats of the soldiers gleamed amid the trees.

AT SIGHT of the uniformed men and glittering arms my blood raced hot within me, my pirate's lust for battle swept all care away, and, shouting to Grommet Legs, I sprang into the house, banged-to the heavy shutters and seized my fowling piece and belted on my sword. Grommet Legs did the same, and Brand—brave hearted, noble lad he was—stood with us, a brace of pistols in his hand and, without question, without hesitation, prepared to set himself against the King's men, though by so doing he made himself an outlaw and a traitor.

Into the grounds swarmed the troopers, and, drawing forth a paper, the leader read in a loud voice the warrant charging that "one known by the name and title of Benjamin and one Greaves, planters," were accused of being pirates and enemies of His Majesty the King. Then, having read the parchment through, he called upon us to surrender. "Aye," I cried when he had done, "aye, Master Redcoat, surrender we will when our last shots be fired and our last blows struck, and ye may lay to that. Never yet ha' I lowered the Jolly Roger, be the odds what they may. An' I cannot show a pair o' clean heels I stop and fight."

"An' ye mind to ha' us, come and take us," shouted Grommet Legs, "an', mark me well, 'twill be no easy task. We be no soft-handed, sheep-brained planters, as ye'll find. By the bones o' Drake me ol' heart do fair ache for a merry fight an' the clash of steel an' smell o' powder. Come on an' board us; lads."

But the officer hesitated and then, catching sight of Brand, cried: "I call on ye, Mr. Brand, to come forth. Bide not with the King's enemies; those with whom ye mingle be murderers and pirates, yea; information has it that one be no less than Bimshaw himself."

"What or who they are troubles me not, Major Carter," replied the loyal lad. "These gentlemen are my friends, and to him who ye be pleased to call a pirate and a murderer I owe my life. Also 'twas through in­ducement of mine that they came hither, and did I de­sert them, 'twould be but to dishonor the name I bear. Faith, I owe more to him ye call Bimshaw than to any hireling of the King."

"Ye be speaking words o' high treason," cried Major Carter in a rage. "As an officer of His Majesty ‘tis my duty to take ye as well as your ruffianly friends."

"Then lose no time, but do your duty," taunted Brand.

"An' say your prayers," added the mate. "Methinks ye'll ha' scant time for a-doin' o' it an' ye foul our hawse."

"Gad! had I half your men, I'd drive ye yelpin like the curs ye be," I shouted. "Faith, ye ha' a score of sojers at your back an' ye stan' like a flock of chatterin' poppinjays wi' three men facin' ye."

Scarlet with rage, the major turned to his men, drew his sword and, followed by his troopers, dashed at us. Our fowling pieces roared, our pistols flashed. The major's sword fell clattering from his hand, and, clutching at his breast, he reeled and plunged headlong from the stairs, and with him went three of his men.

Though their leader had fallen the troopers stopped not, and, discharging their pieces at us, they rushed on the door. But stout hardwood shutters and strong walls protected us and the doorway was the only opening to our refuge, and 'twas easy to hold the portal 'gainst them all. Cutlasses in hand, Ben and I stood—one on either hand—slashing and cutting at those who strove to enter, while beyond stood Brand, firing his pistols whenever a soldier showed his head.

Then, suddenly, through the reek of powder smoke that filled the room, I scented the sharper smell of burn­ing wood, and, as I heard the crackle of flames above the din of fighting. I knew our enemies had fired the house. Rapidly the smoke grew denser; we were cough­ing, choking. Scarce could I see Brand through the thick cloud that filled the air, my eyes smarted with the reek and, half blinded, I struck wildly at those who filled the doorway.

'Twas madness to go on; we would be suffocated, helpless, burned alive if we remained, for already the floor was scorching hot, tongues of flame burst through cracks and crevices in the walls, and 'twas but the matter of moments ere the room would be a raging furnace. To dash forth and strive to break through our foes was to court death or capture, but 'twere better than being smoked and burnt like rats, and, swinging our weapons and shouting the pirate's yell, we sprang from the door upon our foes.

All about us swarmed the troopers; I cut, slashed and hacked, knowing I had no chance, knowing resistance was hopeless, and striving only to destroy as many, to do as much damage as possible, ere I myself should be cut down. So hard was I pressed about that I saw naught of what befell my comrades, but shouts and cries told me they still lived and were near at hand, and my heart misgave me as I thought of Brand, giving his young life, casting aside all his future, and battling 'gainst his countrymen, rather than desert those friends whom he had brought to their present plight.

And then a blast of fire blinded me, a red-hot band seemed drawn about my temples and all grew black.

MY EYES opened to look upon the rough stone walls of a small dark room. 'Twas frightful rank and ill-smelling, and, dazed as I was, I knew at once I was in a prison cell. My head throbbed and seemed on fire, and, placing my hand to my temple, I drew it forth, sticky with blood from a deep cut where the pistol ball had ploughed through my scalp. No bandage covered it, naught had been done to staunch the flow of blood; but that were nothing strange—a pirate had no claim to pity, and I was even worse, for I had fought and killed the King's troops sent to take me. Indeed, rather was I sore puzzled to know why I lived at all, and I wondered I had not been put to death where I had fallen in the fray. But no doubt, I thought, my captors preferred to save me till such time as they might make a spectacle of Bimshaw and vent their vengeance by the torture.

Then my thoughts went to Grommet Legs and Brand and I wondered how they had fared, if they were dead or had been seized and cast in prison also. Perchance, one or both were in the same cell with me, and, rising from the damp stone floor whereon I lay, I looked about. And, as I saw the man­ner of place in which I was, my heart felt faint and my stomach sickened, for now I knew the death my captors had in store for me.

The cell was circular, scarce six feet from side to side, and everywhere the walls rose bare and smooth and curving inwards, forming an arch so low I could not stand upright. No door nor window pierced the walls, but, in the center of the roof, there showed a round hole and this led upward, in a well-like shaft a score of feet in length, and, gazing up, I saw a tiny circle of the sky above. An awful death was before me—I was in an underground cell—a living grave where none could enter, none could leave—and here I had been cast down through the smooth-walled tunnel above to lie and rot till death or madness should end my sufferings.

Even as I stumbled, crouching about, my foot struck something on the floor, and with a start of horror I saw it was a human skull. Others had found that aw­ful hole their tomb before me, and, I doubted not, many another would come after, to stub their toes against my bones upon the floor.

Well, my misery would not be for long; hunger and thirst would soon end all, and, with parched dry throat, I flung myself onto the stones to await my end with as stout heart as I could muster.

LONG I LAY there, and then from the opening above I heard a grating sound, and, a moment later, a tiny wooden cask and a loaf of black and mouldy bread came dangling down at the end of a slender cord.

For a moment I hesitated; my captors minded to prolong my agonies, they had no desire I should die so easily as by thirst or hunger (I had vowed to touch not food or drink, but to cheat my jailers of their joy of hearing my ravings, when suffering had robbed me of my reason), but my cracked throat and throbbing head cried out for water. 'Twas more than human power could stand, and, forgetting all save the tortures of my thirst, I seized the cask and drained it of the stinking, rotten water that it held.

But the bread I would not touch—if I could not force myself to die of thirst I could yet deny myself food—and with a curse I left it, hanging to the cord. How long I lay there after that I know not, but by the blackness of the hole I knew that night had come, and I fell into a fitful sleep, to waken and find dull light within the cell, which told me it was once more day. Again the water and the bread came down, again I poured the green and slimy liquid down my fevered throat but still I left untouched the mouldy loaf.

Slowly the time dragged on and darkness came. No words can tell, no one can know, the awful tortures that I underwent as in that foul, corpse-laden air, I lay upon the soggy, slimy stones and waited for the agony of starvation to end the torture of my living death. To escape was impossible—even if, by superhuman efforts, I forced myself up the two-foot tunnel to the open air, I knew full well that guards would be without, and so smooth and well joined were the stones that even a lizard could scarce find foothold on them.

And ever as the hours wore on and weak and helpless I lay there, hoping for my end, I thought of Brand and cursed myself for bringing on him the fate I felt sure had overtaken him. Then my thoughts went back to the Donna Mercedes, and dully I wondered how she fared, and if she would feel a bit of pity did she know my plight, and then I smiled grimly, as in my fancy I saw how my good acts had led me to this fate, while, had I been but cruel and bloody as Hawkins, I yet might be sailing blue seas beneath the Jolly Roger.

But next moment I rose and swore a great oath to think that I had given heed to such unworthy thoughts, for in my heart I knew that all the years I'd spent at piracy were as naught compared to the few short months I'd lived in peace and honesty. That I'd rather die here with the memory of saving Brand and the Donna to cheer me than to fall to ball or cutlass with the blood of women and crime-tortured men upon my head.

Then, suddenly, all thoughts came to an end, for be­neath me I felt the solid rock rise, fall and quiver most sickeningly. I leaped to my feet in terror and, as I did so, I heard the walls about me crack and groan, pieces of masonry came rattling down the opening above, and a smell of brimstone filled my nostrils.

Many an earthquake had I felt before, for in the islands they are passing frequent, but here alone in my tomb beneath the earth, a sickening terror such as I had never known swept over me. Foolish it was, for well I might have known no earthquake could make my fate worse than it was, and no doubt I should have welcomed it as promising a more speedy and easier death. But such ideas came not into my head, and there I stood— a doomed prisoner within his cell — nigh mad with fright, the little wit I had, flown, and with bated breath waiting for what might happen next.

I HAD NOT LONG to wait; again the ground heaved, the walls groaned, I was thrown forward on my face; an awful grinding, rushing noise filled the cell, and, with a terrific roar, the wall was rent asunder and through it poured a cataract of water.

Instantly I was swept off the floor and my head was dashed and bumped against the roof of my prison as the swirling torrent carried me hither and thither in its grasp. I struggled to swim, to keep myself afloat, for now I had forgotten all save the desire to live, and then I felt myself forced into the narrow, well-like shaft, and my flesh seemed torn from me, as the uprising floor swept me up the tunnel. I was bruised, racked, choked, blinded; strange lights danced before my eyes; a million cataracts seemed roaring through my ears, and then I shot upward like a shuttlecock, air filled my nostrils and I found myself floating half dead upon the sea.

Near me drifted a piece of timber, and, dragging my­self upon it, I gazed in awestruck wonder at the scene. Upon the dark surface of the waves bobbed countless boards, parts of houses, pieces of furniture, trees and timbers, and, amid them, struggled scores of human beings. Screams of terror and cries of drowning people rent the night air, and mules, horses and cattle struggled among the mangled bodies that floated all about.

Then it dawned upon me what had happened. The town had sunk beneath the sea! Without warning the earthquake had buried it deep beneath the waves; houses, buildings, people, all had been destroyed, save those who now struggled to gain some floating bit of wreckage, and I—a prisoner, buried beneath the ground —by some wondrous miracle had been swept to freedom, carried bodily from my tomb, and saved by the very cataclysm which destroyed the town.

'Twas marvelous, incredible, unbelievable, and, filled with wonderful joy at being thus once more free and in the blessed air, I turned my face upward and poured forth my thanks to Him who had brought this miracle about. Many years had passed since I had given thought to heaven or Creator, and not since, as a mere boy, I had gone to old Christ Church with Squire Greaves had I spent breath in prayer; but now, as I thanked God for my salvation, I thought of Brand and Grommet Legs, and fervently I prayed that they too might be among the saved.

And, as I prayed, my prayer was answered, for, from the darkness near at hand, I heard cries in a voice I knew, and with all my poor weak strength I shouted in response. Nearer and clearer came the voice, and I caught a glimpse of a swimmer struggling feebly in the sea. Reaching forth I grasped him and from the waves drew Brand upon my bit of wreckage.

CHAPTER XI

"THANK GOD that you still live," exclaimed Brand, as I drew him, half drowned, upon the wreckage.

"Aye," I replied, "an' that ye be livin' also, lad. Ha' seen aught o' Grommet Legs?"

"Nay," he answered, "I know—" His words were cut in twain by a blinding flash of lightning, followed by a deluge of rain driven by a howling gale of wind. Naught could be seen save the hissing white crests of the seas bearing down upon us and, as our frail sup­port tossed and pitched, I was hard put to keep myself and Brand from being torn from the timbers to which we clung. Brand, exhausted by his long struggle in the water, was all but helpless, and only by holding fast to him, was I able to prevent him from being again cast into the raging sea.

That we were being driven rapidly away from land I knew, and our plight was perilous indeed, for the wreckage which had served us so well would soon be torn to pieces as the waves increased, and no swimmer, how­ever strong, could survive in the fury of the storm. Then, as I strove to pierce the darkness to windward, I saw a black object driving towards us, and the next instant I knew it for a drifting boat. But to me it was a menace rather than a hope, for, driven before the hurricane, it bore directly at us, and in a moment more would shatter our support and either hurl us into the water or crush us beneath its plunging keel. Already it was close upon us; I saw the bow lift on a huge wave that towered above our heads, it poised an instant in mid-air, the foam hissed about it and, with a warning cry to Brand, I clung to him with desperation, helpless to avert the calamity I saw so near.

But at that instant the wind caught the uplifted bow and swung it to one side, and, as the great wave lifted us and the boat sunk into the hollow, the craft slid alongside and grated against the timbers on which we lay. With all my strength I grasped its rail, scrambled over the side and, seizing Brand, dragged him into the boat. Our weight came near to capsizing the craft and water poured over her side, but her bilge rested against the wreckage and supported her somewhat and she righted buoyantly, and the next wave drove us forward and I saw our abandoned refuge disappear in the blackness astern.

Though we had gained the boat in safety and rode with greater com­fort than on the wreckage, yet our peril was as great as ever. No food, no water, did the boat contain; no sails, no oars, no rudder were there, and we were but helpless castaways driven onward at the mercy of wind and waves. Any moment we might drive upon a rock or reef and be again cast into the sea, and if we escaped this fate, starvation would be our portion. We were face to face with death and only by a mira­cle could we escape, and, having been saved from my cell by one miracle, I could scarce hope for another. Of thirst I had little fear, for 'twas pouring torrents and the boat was half filled with water, and, while it was much salt, yet, as I labored to empty it by baling with my shoes I realized that did the seas not break over us the water would soon become fresh and fit to drink. But while the rain which filled our boat might save us from the horrors of dying by thirst, yet naught would save us from hunger, and in my heart I hoped that we might be driven upon a rock and find a quicker, easier end rather than death from starvation.

BRAND had by now regained some of his strength and as, huddled in the bottom of the boat, we drifted onward through the night, he told me of what had taken place after I had been bowled over by the pistol ball that ploughed along my scalp.

"Nay," he said, in answer to my question as to Grommet Legs, "I know not what befell him. We fought back to back, but numbers at the end o'ercame us and, trussed like pigs for the slaughter, we were marched away amid the soldiers. Neither did I know what happened you until I saw you thrown into a cart amid the dead redcoats, and, from our guard, I heard you had been killed and were being taken to Jamestown that your body might be hung in chains as a warning. At the town Ben and I were parted, and whether he was cast into a dungeon like yourself or was hung at once I know not. As for myself I was thrown into the prison to await trial, for my uncle and my friends pled in my behalf and their influence pre­vented me from being sentenced out of hand like an alien or a common malefactor. Then, when the earth­quake came, the prison walls crumbled and in the rush of waters I was borne from my cell and found myself struggling in the sea, only to be saved by you, my friend. To you, Captain, I twice owe my life, but I grieve to think of Ben's fate. Perchance, like you, he was beneath the earth and was drowned like a rat, perchance he escaped as miraculously as yourself and reached the shore, or mayhap he was hung before the earthquake knocked the town to bits. Would that we might go to seek him."

"Aye," I answered, "gladly would I risk falling athwart the governor and his redcoats i' the chance o' saying Grommet Legs, but 'tis not to be thought on, lad. We ha' neither oars nor sail to win our way to Nevis, and there be little hope o' livin' long oursel's. Nay, Brand, we can but hope Ben died quick an' merciful like; 'twere scant kindness to hope he gained shore but to fall prisoner again." Thus talking on the events of the past we spent the long hours of the night until dawn came and the sun rose like a red hot round shot above the rim of ocean to the east. The wind had died out and the sea was falling, but no sign of land could we see and naught save the blue waves stretched away to the horizon on every side.

As the sun rose higher in the sky we suffered vastly from the heat and, to ease our burning heads and scorching bodies, we threw ourselves into the water in the bottom of the boat. Again and again I minded to cast myself into the sea and fore­stall the sufferings I felt sure would be ours, but I could not bring my­self to leave Brand alone to suffer, nor yet could I feel 'twas right to cause him to end his life thus. So the hours passed until at last the sun sank in the west and darkness fell with a measure of coolness and re­lief from our torture. Brand soon fell asleep, for he was pitifully weak, while I, tough old pirate that I was, dozed fitfully through the night. When day dawned I raised myself and with a sailor's instinct swept my eyes about the horizon. The next instant I shouted in joy and happi­ness, for scarce a league distant was a ship.

AROUSED BY MY CRY Brand sprung up and together we shouted and thrashed our arms about, and, tearing our rags from our bodies, waved them wildly in the air. A flat calm rested on the sea, which stretched smooth as oil with no ripple to mar its surface, and the ship's sails hung idly and in folds from the yards. She could not ap­proach us, nor could we make out-way towards her, and we were torn with fear lest those upon her decks should fail to see us, ere a breeze sprung up and carried us apart. But we had no cause to fear, for soon a boat was lowered over her side and came dancing towards us to the pull of six long, flashing oars. Then we knew we were saved, and exhausted and faint, we sank back into our boat to await our rescuers. Presently the boat swept alongside, and by its form and the grimy, greasy, dirty men at the oars, I knew that the ship from whence they came could be none other than a whaler.

Quickly we were helped over the side and soon we were being pulled rapidly to the brig. About her bulwarks clustered a motley, curious crowd, and along the black and grease-soaked decks we were led to the stern where the captain awaited us. He was a stout, short man, with close-cropped grizzled hair and bulging blue eyes, but with a kindly, weather-beaten face, and quickly he gave us food and drink and listened to our tale. To him we said that we we're planters from Nevis and we told him of the earthquake and destruction of the town, at which he was mightily surprised. He asked would we be set ashore at the nearest port; but we had no wish to return to the island and told him—as was the truth—that we had neither property nor friends now, and were well content to stop with him and bide his pleasure till such time as he might make port of his own mind. This relieved him not a little, for, truth to tell, he liked not over well to leave the hunt for whales to set two castaways ashore, and planned not to touch land for months to come.

Of our life aboard the whaler I need say but little, save that the mate being killed whilst battling with a whale, and the captain finding me a navigator put me in his place, and for long we cruised about search­ing out the monsters of the deep.

At last, having taken much oil and being in want of water and provisions, we headed for a port in the Bahamas and there fell in with another whaler at anchor in the same bay.

'Twas a lovely isle and gladly the men frolicked and skylarked on the beach until they minded me of past days when, as cap­tain of a pirate crew, I put into some safe lair, laden with booty, that the men might lark ashore. The other brig was close at hand and many a pleasant hour we spent, a-visiting back and forth and telling tales of the sea whilst eating and drinking. They were hard-working, honest and yet brave men, the whalers, and passed marvelously adventurous lives, and many a story they had to tell of wreck and storm and of bat­tles with giants of the deep. Aye, and of fights with fierce wild men and with can­nibals in strange, far distant lands. Also they told of seas filled with great mountains of ice, of lands in the far North covered o'er with snow and ice, where the sun shone throughout one half the year and was seen not for the other half, of marvelous fires in the sky they called the Northern Lights, and of folks who clad themselves in skins of beasts. All these were things of which I knew naught and ne'er had heard and I was filled with vast wonder and interest at their tales. But also they told of pirates and of freebooters as well, for though their grease-soaked hulls and barrels of ill-smell­ing oil tempted not the corsairs, and the whalers were free to go and come as they pleased, yet more than one pirate had they met, and much they'd heard from others. Tales they told of Hawkins and of Drake, of Morgan and of Montbars, aye, even of him they called Bimshaw, and I chuckled to think what surprise would be theirs did they but know that he who sat there listen­ing to their yarns was none other than the dreaded pirate himself.

Then, when our stop within the bay was almost o'er, by a turn of fate came that which changed my life and wiped out my past and but for which, had it not happened, I might have lived and died a whaler in­stead of a rich and respected planter here in this peaceful spot wherein I am setting down the story of my life.

IT WAS ON the sixth or seventh day of our stay, I mind not which, that in the offing we espied a sail, a goodly ship. At first we deemed her another whaler come to give her men shore leave, for the isle was a great resort for those who followed the whalers' calling. But soon we saw 'twas not so, for the stranger stood off and on as if knowing not whether to come into harbour or no, and soon she hoisted up a flag that showed she wanted help.

Hastily a boat was lowered and into it I clambered and with men at the oars pulled towards the strange ship to render aid.

Climbing up the side I sprang on deck, but ere I could utter a word a pistol was clapped to my head and a villain command­ed me to guide the vessel to anchorage be­side the whalers. My blood was hot and greatly was I minded to dash the weapon aside and spring upon the cur who dared to threaten me, but all about stood armed men and those below in my boat had no wea­pons and could aid me not. So, deeming craft and guile my best refuge, I held my tem­per in check and spake as one affrighted.

"Faith!" I cried. "Ye no need pistol me, sir. I be but an honest whaleman an' glad will we be to ha' your company within the harbour, but I fear ye carry too great draught to enter safe beyond the bar. Gladly will I pilot ye and place ye snug at anchor scarce two cables' length from my ship to starboard o' yonder point o' land."

"So be it," growled the other. "I knew not who ye might be an' took no chances. For aught I knew ye might 'a' been a bloody pirate. An' ye take us safe within no harm will come ye; we be but in want o' fresh water an' a few coconuts."

But though he spoke full fair, yet I doubt­ed much his words, for my quick eye had noted guns hid 'neath canvas fore and aft, and the men about the decks wore not the look of honest merchantmen. That 'twas no pirate ship I felt sure, for him who had threatened me was no captain and none could I see, who, to my eyes, appeared one used to command, and, as I steered the vessel up the fairway, I racked my brains to solve the puzzle. Then, chancing to glance through the cabin door, I saw a man in fetters within and from his dress and bearing I knew him for a ship's officer, and all at once it came upon me that mutiny had burst forth and he, who sat within the cabin was the only offi­cer left alive. But to betray my mind would be but to seal my doom, and whilst seemingly intent upon guiding the ship I made my plans to seize the mutineers and set the captive free.

To attempt aught single-handed and unarmed was, I knew, hopeless, and I bided my time, and having brought the ship safe to anchor beyond the spit of sand 'twixt her and the two brigs I prepared to depart and asked him who appeared to be in charge to visit and dine with us aboard the Nancy.

He was a rough, ill-spoken rascal, but the thought of good food and drink won him and right gladly he promised to come aboard within the hour.

Reaching the Nancy I related my tale to the whalers' captains and laid my plans before them. They were reckless dare-devils and the idea of a bit of adventure pleased them amazingly and right well they fell in with my plans to gain the ship and seize the mutineers. Then, all being arranged, we placed our best upon the table and awaited our guests with pistols hid beneath our coats.

(To be continued in the March number of The American Boy.)

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.