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Title: Swept Out to Sea

Clint Webb Among the Whalers

Author: W. Bertram Foster

Release Date: December 2, 2007 [eBook #23674]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



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and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team



I Caught Sight of a Big Ship With a Wonderful Lot of Canvas Set
I Caught Sight of a Big Ship With a Wonderful Lot of Canvas Set
(Swept Out to Sea)(Chapter 28)

Swept Out to Sea


Clint Webb

Among the Whalers



Author of

The Frozen Ship; or, Clint Webb Among the Sealers. From

Sea to Sea; or, Clint Webb on the Windjammer.

The Ocean Express; or, Clint Webb

and the Sea Tramp



M. A. Donohue & Co.



I In Which My Cousin and I Have a Serious Falling Out 7
II In Which is Shown the Result of a Bad Beginning 15
III In Which I Am Anxious to Learn the Particulars of a Matter of Fourteen Years Standing 22
IV In Which Ham Mayberry Reveals His Suspicions 34
V In Which the Old Coachman Goes Somewhat Into Details 43
VI In Which is Related a Conversation With My Mother 49
VII In Which I Put Two and Two Together—and Sleep Aboard the Wavecrest 57
VIII In Which an Expected Comedy Proves to Be a Tragedy 65
IX In Which I See the Day Dawn Upon a Deserted Ocean 72
X In Which I Find a Most Remarkable Haven 82
XI In Which I Am a Terrified Witness of a Wonderful Phenomenon 92
XII In Which I Find Myself Bound For Southern Seas 107
XIII In Which Tom Anderly Relates a Story That Arouses My Interest 119
XIV In Which I Hear For the First Time the Whaler’s Battle-Cry 133
XV In Which We “Strike on” 142
XVI In Which There is Some Information and Much Excitement 150
XVII In Which I Come Very Near Going Out of the Story 159
XVIII In Which We Realize the “Grind” of the Whaleman’s Life 164
XIX In Which is Reported a Series of Misadventures 172
XX In Which our Chapter of Bad Luck is Continued 180
XXI In Which the Wavecrest Sets Sail Again 186
XXII In Which We Sail the Silver River and I See a Face I Know 193
XXIII In Which I Begin to Wonder “Is it Me, Or is it Not Me?” 198
XXIV In Which I Get Acquainted with Captain Adoniram Tugg 208
XXV In Which I Follow the Beckoning Finger of a Spectre 215
XXVI In Which the Sea Spell Goes Ashore on a Most Unfriendly Coast 222
XXVII In Which We Find the Natives More Unfriendly Than the Coast 232
XXVIII In Which are Related Several Disappointments 239
XXIX In Which I Am Not the Only Person Surprised 245
XXX In Which I At Last Set My Face Homeward with Determination 253

Swept Out to Sea
Clint Webb Among the Whalers


Chapter I

In Which My Cousin and I have a Serious Falling Out

The wind had died to just a breath, barely filling the canvas of the Wavecrest. We were slowly making the mouth of the inlet at Bolderhead after a day’s fishing. Occasionally as the fitful breeze swooped down the sloop made a pretty little run, then she’d sulk, with the sail flapping, till another puff came. I lay in the stern with my hand on the tiller, half asleep, while Paul Downes, my cousin, was stretched forward of the mast, wholly in dreamland. A little roll of the sloop as she tacked, almost threw him into the water and he awoke with a snarl and sat up.

“For goodness sake! aren’t we in yet?” he demanded, crossly. “What you been doing for the last hour Clint Webb? We’re 8no nearer the inlet now than we were then, I swear!”

That was a peculiarity about Paul. He was addicted to laying the faults of even inanimate objects to the charge of other people; and as for himself personally, he was never in the wrong! Now he felt that he must have somebody on whom to vent his vexation—and hunger; I was used to being that scapegoat, and it was seldom that I paid much attention to his snarling. On this particular occasion, I said, calmly:

“Now, Paul, you know very well that I hold no position with the Meteorological Bureau, and therefore you shouldn’t lay the sins of the weather to me.”

“Huh! ain’t you smart?” he grunted.

You see, Paul had awakened in rather a quarrelsome frame of mind while—well, I was hungry, too (it was long past our dinner hour) and so felt in a tantalizing mood. If we had not been at just these odds on this lovely September evening, the incidents which follow might never have occurred. Out of this foolish beginning of a quarrel came a chain of circumstances which entirely changed the current of my life. Had I held my tongue I would have been saved much sorrow and peril, and many, many regrets.

9“I’m smart—I admit it,” said I, cooly; “but I can’t govern the wind. We’ll get in by bedtime.”

“And nothing to eat aboard,” growled Paul.

“There’s the fish you caught,” said I, chuckling.

Paul had had abominable luck all day, the only thing he landed being what we Bolderhead boys called a “grunter”—a frog-mouthed fish of most unpleasant aspect and of absolutely no use as food. All it did when he shook it off his hook in disgust was to swell up like a toy balloon and emit an objective grunt whenever it was poked. Funny, but these “grunters” always reminded me of Paul.

Now, at my suggestion, my cousin broke into another tirade of abuse of the Wavecrest, and what he termed my carelessness. I didn’t care much what he said about me, and I suppose there was some reason for his criticism; I should not have gone outside the inlet without more than just a bite of luncheon in the cuddy. But when he referred to my bonnie sloop as “an old tub” and said it wasn’t rigged right and that I didn’t know how to sail her, then—well, I leave it to you if it wouldn’t have made you huffy? You 10know how it is yourself. Wait till the next fellow makes disparaging remarks about your bicycle, for instance or your motor cycle, or canoe, or what-not, and see how you feel!

“What’s the use of talking that way, Paul?” I demanded, interrupting him. “You know the Wavecrest is by far the lightest-footed craft of her class in Bolderhead Harbor.”

“No such thing!” he declared. “She’s a measly, good-for-nothing old tub.”

“All I’ve got to say is that you’re a bad judge of tubs,” said I.

“You’re a fool!” he exclaimed, and jumped up.

“Now, you know, Paul, if your opinion was of any consequence at all I should be angry,” I replied, still with exaggerated calmness.

“I’m going to take the skiff and row ashore,” said he. “You can bring your old tub in when you like.”

“Thank you; but I guess not! I’d gladly be relieved of your company; but I shall want to get ashore myself some time tonight,” I rejoined.

“I tell you I’m going ashore!” cried Paul, coming aft to where the painter was hitched.

“Get away!” I commanded, my own temper rising. “You’re not going to leave me 11without means of landing after we reach our buoy.”

“Oh, somebody will see you and take you off,” he said, selfishly.

“Maybe somebody will; then again, maybe they won’t.”

“I’ll come out for you after dinner,” he said, with a grin that I knew meant he had no such intention.

“Get away from that painter!” I commanded. “You forced your company on me today—I didn’t invite you to go fishing—”

“The sloop’s as much mine as yours,” he growled.

“I’d like to know how you figure that out?” returned I, in amazement.

“When your mother bought it she told father it was for us to use together; but of course you always ‘hog’ everything.”

Now I knew that my mother never would have said what he claimed; but I was angry with her for the moment because of her good natured invitation to Paul to use my personal property. The Wavecrest was my dearest possession. As the saying is, there was more salt water in my veins than blood; our folks had all been sailors—my father’s people, I mean—and I was enamored of the sea and sea-going.

12When mother built our summer cottage on the Neck I knew how ’twould be. I foresaw that her brother-in-law and his son (Aunt Alice was dead some years then) would live with us about half the time; but that mother should have said anything to give Paul ground for his statement, rasped me sorely.

“Let me tell you, Paul Downes,” said I, sharply, “that no person has any right in this boat but myself, unless I invite them; and I’ll inform you right now that this is the last trip you’ll ever take in her with my permission.”

“Is that so?” sneered Paul.

“That’s so—and you can make the best of it.”

“Well, who wants to go out in your old tub?” he burst forth. “Goodness knows, I don’t. But I’m going ashore right now and you can come in when you like.”

He started to untie the painter. Somehow his perversity made me furious.

“Drop it!” I repeated; “you’re not going to leave this sloop till I do—unless you swim ashore.”

“Well, you just try stopping me,” he snarled, his temper getting the better for the moment of his usual caution. Paul was a 13bigger and heavier, as well as an older fellow than I; but he had never dared try fisticuffs with me.

I sprang up and let the tiller bang. Luckily there was so little wind that the sloop took no harm. “Get away from there!” I cried.

“I tell you I am going ashore now.”

“You’re not.”

“I am; and it won’t be healthy for you to try to stop me, Clint Webb.”

I know very well that this is a bad way to begin my story; I expect you will be disgusted with me right at the start. But what am I to do? I have started out to narrate the incidents which occurred and the various changes that have come into my life since this very September evening; and truth compels me to begin with this quarrel. For from this time dated the purpose which inspired my future life.

So, I hope that the reader will bear with me, even though I introduce much the worse side of my character first. Facts are stubborn things, and I have in this introduction to set down some very stubborn and unpleasant facts.

I sprang up, as I say, and left the tiller, and as Paul seemed to have no intention of obeying 14me, I advanced upon him threateningly. We were both enraged.

“Take your hand off that rope,” said I, earnestly. “Get away! I mean it.”

His reply was a foul word. His eyes were blazing and he grew dark under his skin like his father, as his wrath rose. I had always believed that there was Indian blood in the veins of Mr. Chester Downes. I was so near Paul that I had to step back to gather force for a blow, and as I retreated he suddenly kicked me. It was a mean trick—a foul blow and worthy of Paul Downes. Had I not stepped back as I did he might have broken my shin bone, for he wore heavy boots. As it was, the toe of his boot caught me just below the knee-cap and I could not stifle a cry of pain.

However, the kick did not stop the blow I landed straight from the shoulder and it gave me some satisfaction, even at the time, to note that Paul’s howl of agony was much louder than mine as he picked himself up from the other end of the cockpit.

Chapter II

In Which Is Shown the Result of a Bad Beginning

Paul’s face was convulsed with passion, and when he was in a rage he lost all control to his tongue, using language that was simply frightful from a boy brought up in a decent home. And at this particular time he was so enraged that he forgot to be afraid! He rushed at me the instant he regained his feet, his arms beating the air like those of a windmill. He was a lubberly fellow at best and the sloop, with the tiller swinging as it listed, was kicking and jumping like a restive pony. I squared off at him in proper form, and when he came within reach I landed a second blow which likewise sent him to the deck.

I glanced hurriedly about. The Wavecrest was some distance from any of the other craft beating into the harbor. The sun had set long since and the moon, a great, round target of silver, was rising out of the sea, its 16light shimmering across the heaving liquid plain. A more peaceful scene one could scarcely imagine, and somehow it took the heat of passion out of me.

“Hold on, Paul! we mustn’t fight like this,” I said, as he rose again, the blood running from his nose and his cheek swollen as though he had a walnut in it.

“You’re goin’ to crawl now, are ye?” he yelled.

“It’s foolish and wicked for us to act like this,” said I, hastily. “What will your father and my mother say?”

“I don’t care what they say!” he shouted, wildly. “I’ll make you wish you’d never struck me, Clint Webb.”

He sprang aft again. I caught the glimmer of moonlight upon something he clutched in his hand. “What are you doing, Paul?” I cried.

But he plunged toward me, his dark features writhing in passion. At the moment Paul Downes was a murderer at heart; although I believed I could beat him in any fair fight, the weapon in his hand frightened me.

“Put it down, Paul! Put it down!” I begged of him. But he was on top of me in a 17breath and we rolled over and over in the sloop’s cockpit. Why it was that he did not seriously injure me, I cannot tell to this day! He struck at me viciously a dozen times; but by a miracle I escaped even a scratch.

Suddenly I caught his wrist, twisting it so that the open claspknife shot out of his hand. The relief I felt at this must have renewed my strength. In another instant I had rolled him over upon his face and knelt upon him so that he could not move. There was a piece of codline in my pocket and I had his wrists knotted behind him in short order—nor was I particular whether I hurt him, or not! Then I stood up and rolled him over with my foot.

“There!” I panted; “if ever a fellow deserved jailing, you’re that fellow, Paul Downes.”

“I’ll fix you for this! I’ll fix you for this!” he kept blubbering.

I was bruised and lame myself (especially where Paul had kicked me in the leg) and now I discovered that my right coatsleeve was slit from the shoulder to the wrist. I had just escaped suffering a dangerous wound.

“Aren’t you a pretty fellow?” I said, showing him this rent.

18“I wish I’d got you!” he snarled so viciously that I was really startled.

“You won’t feel that way when you cool down,” I said.

“I won’t cool down. I’ll get square with you for this if I wait ten years,” he declared.

“You’re for all the world like your father,” I said, hotly; “and he’s as revengeful a person as I ever saw.”

“Is that so?” retorted Paul. “Well, he isn’t like your father was—he had to commit suicide to get out of trouble——”

“What do you mean?” I cried, amazed.

But Paul bit his lip and fell silent. He nevertheless looked at me with so threatening a scowl that, had he not been tied hard and fast, I should have been on the lookout for another cowardly attack.

“What nonsense is that you said?” I repeated. “What do you know about my father?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” returned my cousin, sullenly.

I recovered myself then, believing he was only trying to fret me. “You needn’t talk nonsense,” I said. “If you mean to say that my father made way with himself, why you’re simply silly! Everybody knows that he was 19drowned while fishing, over there off White Rock.”

“So everybody knows it, hey?” he responded, with a most exasperating air of knowing something that I didn’t know. “All right. I’m glad that folks know so much. But let me tell you, Clint Webb, that you and your ma’d be paupers now if he hadn’t got drowned as he did. It was the only thing he could do.”

“You’d better drop it,” I advised him, scornfully. “You’d much better be thinking of what will happen to you because of this evening’s work. You can’t bother me by any such silly talk.”

“Oh, I can’t hey?” he snarled in a tone that, defenceless as he was, tempted me to kick him.

But just then the sail of the sloop began to fill. I ran to the tiller and brought her head around. A little breeze had sprung up and the Wavecrest was under good way again. In a few moments we passed the light at the entrance to the harbor, and tacked for our anchorage. My mother’s property did not include shore rights, so we had no private landing at which to tie the sloop, but moored her at a buoy in the quiet cove near the ferry dock.

20“What do you mean to do with me?” asked Paul, having been mighty quiet for the last few minutes.

“I’m going to march you up to the house and hand you over to your father. And if I have any influence with mother at all, both you and he will pack your dunnage and leave in the morning.”

He fell silent again until I had dropped the sail and picked up our float. When the Wavecrest was fast he asked more meekly:

“Aren’t you going to take this cord off my wrist?”

“No. You’re going up to the house in just that fix.”

“I won’t do it!” he cried with a sudden burst of rage.

“Then you’ll stay here while I go up and tell them where you are.”

He didn’t like that idea, either, and whined: “Don’t be so mean, Clint. I don’t want to go up to the house this way. What will folks think?”

“‘What will folks think?’” I repeated in amazement. “I s’pose that’s the first thing you’d worried about if you’d cut me with that knife.”

He said no more, but he gave me a threatening 21look which, had I been of a nervous temperament, might have kept me awake nights. When I drew the tender alongside he stepped in without further urging and sat down in the stern. I rowed ashore. Fortunately for the tender feelings of my cousin there wasn’t a soul in sight when we landed. I fastened the boat, and then, with the oars on my shoulder and the slack of the codline in my hand, start him up the shell road.

“Let me go, Clint,” he begged again.

“Not for Joe!”

“Then you’ll be sorry the longest day you live,” he cried, his ugly face suddenly convulsed.

And he was right; but I did not believe it at the time.

Chapter III

In Which I am Anxious to Learn the Particulars of a Matter of Fourteen Years Standing

My mother’s summer home was built upon the highest point of Bolderhead Neck and commanded a view of both the ocean and the inlet, or harbor, around which Old Bolderhead was built.

My mother’s early life had not been spent near the water; her people dwelt inland. My maternal grandfather owned half a township and was a very influential man. Naturally my mother had lived in affluence during her girlhood and it was considered by her friends a great mistake on her part when she married my father. He was a ship’s surgeon when they were married and his only income was derived from the practise of his profession. He established himself as a physician in Bolderhead after the wedding; they lived simply, and I was their only child.

Grandfather didn’t forgive mother for marrying a poor man. The old gentleman didn’t 23get along well with his relatives, anyway. He hadn’t liked the man his oldest daughter married, Mr. Chester Downes. When I grew old enough to understand the character of Mr. Downes I could not blame grandfather for his bad opinion of the man! Aunt Alice dying before grandfather, Mr. Downes could never hope to handle much of grandfather’s money. There was a sum set aside for Paul in grandfather’s will. And even that Mr. Downes could not touch; it was tied up until Paul was of age. After several large charities had been remembered in the will the residue of the property had come to my mother. As I understood it I was but two years old when grandfather died, and my own father was drowned three weeks after grandfather’s burial.

We had gone to live at once in mother’s old home; but she had a tender feeling for Bolderhead, and as I grew older and evinced such a love for the sea, she had built our summer home here.

Mother was one of those dependent, timid women, who seem unable to decide any matter for themselves. Not that she wasn’t the very best mother that ever lived! But she was easily influenced by other people. As I grew 24older and began to understand what went on more clearly, I knew that Chester Downes possessed a stronger influence over mother than was good for either her or me. He was her confidant in business matters, too.

Being brought up in the same inland town together, my cousin Paul and I naturally saw a good deal of each other. Frankly I saw altogether too much of him—and I told my mother so. But Mr. Downes was all the time coming to the house—especially to the Bolderhead cottage—and bringing Paul with him.

I felt that they were steadily and insidiously influencing mother against me. We were drifting apart. Mother had through them acquired the belief that I was a rude and untrustworthy fellow, and she feared my boatmen companions were weaning me from her. Whereas I kept away from the house because the Downeses were there. I couldn’t stand so much of them.

But on this evening I was determined that matters should come to a head. I saw my way clear, I believed, through Paul’s vicious attack upon me, to rid the house of the Downeses for good and all.

As we came up the hill I saw that my mother, and doubtless Mr. Downes, were 25in the drawing room. It was long past the dinner hour. I drove Paul up onto the veranda and towards a French window that opened into the illuminated room. He began to hang back again.

“S’pose there’s somebody there?” he said.

“That’ll be the worse for you,” I responded, callously. “Come on!”

I unlatched the window, held aside the draperies, and pushed him into the room before me. My mother and his father were the only persons present.

“Why, boys! how late you are,” said my pretty mother, looking up from the lacework in her lap. Her fingers were always busy. “Were you becalmed outside? You must be awfully hungry. Ring for James, Clinton, and he will fix you up something nice in the pantry.” Then she saw Paul’s bound wrists, his bruised face, and our disarranged clothing. “What is the matter?” she cried, starting to her feet.

Mr. Downes had observed us too, and he broke in with: “What is the meaning of this outrage, Clinton Webb? My son’s wrists lashed together! How dare you, sir?”

“I tied him up, Mr. Downes,” I explained before Paul could get in a word; “but I turn 26him over to your now, sir, and if you wish to release him you may.”

“Why—why—Whoever heard of such insolence?” sputtered Mr. Downes. “You see, Mary, what this young ruffian has done to poor Paul? Stand still, will you?” he added, jerking Paul around as he tried to untie the cod line. Paul began to snivel; I reckon his father pulled the line so tight that it cut into the flesh.

“See what he has done, Mary?” repeated my angry uncle, finally pulling out his pocketknife and cutting the cord. “Look at Paul’s face! What have I told you about that boy?” and he pointed a bony and accusing index finger at me.

“Clinton! Clinton!” cried mother. “What have you done?”

Her question cut me to the quick. It showed me how deeply she had been impressed by Mr. Downes’ calumnies. Her first thought was that I was at fault—that I had been the aggressor.

“You can see what I have done to him,” said I, a little sullenly, I fear. “We got into a row on the boat coming in, and that is how he came by his bruises. But I tied him up because I didn’t fancy being slit up like a codfish 27with this thing,” and I drew the claspknife—a regular sailor’s “gully”—from my coat pocket and tossed it, open, upon the table.

Mother screamed and shuddered, and sank back into her chair again.

“You needn’t be scared,” I said, more tenderly, crossing to her side and putting my arm across her shoulders. “I’m not hurt at all. He only slit my coat sleeve!”

Mr. Downes glanced from his son’s swollen and disfigured face to my flapping coatsleeve, and fear came into his own countenance. He knew something about the ungovernable rages into which Paul frequently flew. He was obliged to wet his lips with his tongue before he could speak:

“You will not believe this horrible, scandalous story, Mary! Why—why—The boy is beside himself!”

“I think Paul was,” I said, gravely. “We were both angry—I admit that. But I used nothing but my fists on him.”

“Paul! Why don’t you speak up and deny this charge?”

“I—I never struck him with the knife,” said my cousin, sullenly. “He—he tied my arms and then he—he slit the coat himself. I—I never touched him.”

28He lied so clumsily that even my innocent and horrified mother could not believe him. But Mr. Dowries tried to make out that he believed Paul.

“Listen to that, Mary!” he blustered. “Did you ever hear of such depravity—such viciousness? A plot to ruin my boy in your eyes—a cowardly plot!”

“It is no plot, Mr. Downes, and you know it,” I said. “But I am going to use the circumstance to a purpose which for some time I have longed to accomplish. You and Paul will leave my mother’s house—and leave it at once!”

“Clinton!” gasped mother, seizing my hand.

“There, Madam!” cried Mr. Downes, furiously. “He has just as good as admitted it is a conspiracy. Nefarious! He has invented this story——”

“Mr. Downes,” I interrupted, my anger rising, “you have done everything you could to prejudice mother against me. Is it any wonder that I desire to see the last of you and your precious son?”

“Clinton! Clinton! My dear son,” mother begged. “Don’t be so passionate.”

“I never was more calm in my life,” I responded, firmly. “But these two shall not 29stay in our house another night, mother.”

She burst into tears. Mr. Downes stepped nearer and his sneering look would have enraged me at another time. But I felt that I had the whip-hand and held myself in.

“Fortunately,” he said, “your will, young man, is not law here. It is not in your power to put us out of your mother’s home.”

“You are mistaken,” I replied, still quietly. “I have that power.”

“You are a minor, sir,” said Mr. Downes, loftily. “I brand your ridiculous story as false. It would be quite within your character to have cut your coat sleeve as Paul says. I will not even believe that that is his knife——”

He stretched out his hand to take it from the table but I was too quick for him. “No, you don’t!” I said. “That is too valuable a bit of evidence for you to get hold of. Even Paul will not deny owning the knife. I know where he bought it and I can find the man who engraved his initials on the blade.”

“Very well planned indeed,” sneered Mr. Downes, but I sternly interrupted:

“Mr. Downes, again I tell you that you must leave this house. You and Paul shall never again live under the same roof with me.”

“When I hear your mother say this——”

30“This is a matter which my mother will not have to decide,” I assured him, and without looking at her although I had returned to my place by her side.

“And why should we obey your behest, young man?”

“If you don’t leave I shall go out at once and swear out a warrant against Paul for assault with this knife. And I’ll have the warrant served, too.”

“Oh, Clinton!” sobbed my mother. “Don’t think of such a thing.”

“As sure as I live it shall be done, unless they go.”

“Think of the publicity!” said my mother, clinging to my hand.

“Yes,” I rejoined, bitterly. “And think what might have happened if he’d got me with that knife.”

“You—you——” gasped Mr. Downes. “You are your father right over again!”

“Thank you; I consider that a compliment.”

“You wouldn’t consider it such if you knew as much about him as I do,” he muttered.

“Now that will do!” I exclaimed, losing my self-control on the instant. “I’ve heard enough insinuations regarding father from Paul tonight. I won’t stand any more of that talk, I warn you both!”

31“Clinton!” murmured mother, with a very white face, while Downes turned upon his son in a sudden rage.

“What have you been saying—you fool?” he snarled. Paul was quite cowed before his sudden wrath.

“Paul may be diffident about saying,” I observed. “But I’ll tell you. He says my father committed suicide, and that if he hadn’t done so my mother and I would be paupers today.”

I never saw a man’s countenance express such changes of emotion within so short a time. From anger to fear—and back again—was such a swift transition that it startled me. I began from that moment to wonder very much what the mystery was which surrounded my father’s death fourteen years before!

But the next instant my attention was recalled to my mother. For a moment she sat motionless. Now she started up from her chair with a little cry.

“What is it, mother?” I cried, in alarm. Had I not caught her she would have fallen to the floor.

“Now, see what you have done!” snarled Mr. Downes. “You have over-excited her. Get out of the way, boy——”

32I gave him a look that halted him. Had he touched my mother then I would have been at his throat! Exerting all my strength I picked her up bodily and carried her to the nearest couch. The bell push was at hand and I rang for her maid. The woman responded immediately and James was right behind her in the hall.

“Attend to your mistress, Marie,” I said. “And James!”

“Yes, sir,” said the big butler, coming to the door.

“Order the carriage at once and see that Mr. Downes’ bags are brought down. They are leaving immediately.”

The butler’s face was perfectly impassive. Mr. Downes broke into a nasty laugh.

“James will do nothing of the sort,” he said. “I think too much of my sister to leave the house while she is so unwell. What do you think, Marie? Is it serious? Shall I telephone for Dr. Eldridge?”

“I do not know, Monsieur,” replied the French woman, anxiously. “She has been frightened—ees eet not?”

“This young reprobate would frighten anybody!” cried Mr. Downes, blusteringly.

“James,” I said again, “do as I have told 33you. Tell Ham to bring the carriage around inside of half an hour and to drive wherever Mr. Downes shall direct. The ferry is not running at this hour, or I would not trouble him.”

The butler glanced from my mother’s death-white face to Mr. Downes. He did not so much as favor me with a look, but with sphynx-like composure left the room. To tell the truth I hadn’t the least idea whether he would obey me, or Mr. Downes.

Chapter IV

In Which Ham Mayberry Reveals His Suspicions

Mr. Downes continued to bluster and Paul hung sullenly about the drawing room. I had got through with both of them, however. Whether the butler—and the other servants—backed me up, or not, I believed that I had the whip-hand.

Marie helped me bear my mother to her room. It troubled me greatly to see her pretty face so pale and deathlike, and her eyes closed. I hurried to the telephone and called up Dr. Eldridge, who was an old friend of our family as well as our physician. I felt better when I heard his voice over the wire and knew that he would soon be at the house.

Then I turned to get my hat and coat. I looked into the drawing room to give Mr. Downes one more chance. He had been talking to his son in a low voice, but with emphasis; and I could see by Paul’s countenance 35that the “calling down” he had received from his father was a serious one.

“I warn you for the last time, Mr. Downes, that I am going to Justice of the Peace Ringold just as soon as the doctor gets here to attend my mother,” I said.

“You don’t dare do any such thing, you young scoundrel!” roared Mr. Chester Downes, and he actually sprang across the room at me. He was a tall and bony man and I knew very well that I should fare ill in his hands. I dodged back, found the imperturbable James in my way and as I sidestepped him, too, Mr. Downes came face to face with the impassive butler in the doorway.

“Beg pardon, sir,” James said, quietly. “Hamilton has the horses harnessed and awaits your pleasure, sir.”

“You—you—” stammered Mr. Downes, evidently as much surprised that the butler had obeyed me as I could possibly be!

“The carriage is waiting, sir,” explained James, just as though the occasion was an ordinary one. “Shall I bring down your bags, sir?”

“No! I don’t want our bags brought down!” cried Mr. Downes. “This is an outrage. And let me tell you, you dunderhead,” 36he added to James, “this will cost you your position.”

The butler’s voice did not change in the least. “Shall I bring down your bags, sir?” he asked once more.

“Yes!” cried Mr. Downes, changing his mind very suddenly. “We will go up and pack them. But this is a sorry day for this house when we leave it in such a way,” he said, his threat hissing through his clenched teeth as his glowing eyes sought my face in the hall. “And it is a sorry day for you, you young villain! Remember this.”

“You threaten a good deal like your son, Mr. Downes,” I said, unable to resist a mild “gloat.” “But he couldn’t carry out his threat; I wonder if you will be better able to compass your revenge?”

He said nothing further, but dashed up stairs. Paul lagged behind him and James, without a word to me, and with the attitude and manner of the well-trained servant, followed sedately and stood outside of their rooms waiting for the bags.

I stepped out upon the side porch and saw Ham Mayberry, our coachman (he had driven my father in his little chaise the two years that he had practised in Bolderhead) sitting upon 37the box of the closed carriage. Of all the people who worked for mother about the Bolderhead cottage, I knew that Ham would take my part against the Downeses. Ham and I were old cronies.

And I believed that I could thank Ham for the butler’s espousal of my cause on this present occasion. Ham had a deal of influence with the other servants, having been with us before mother was willed the great Darringford property.

Ham turned his head when I called to him in a low voice.

“Watch what they do and where they go, Ham,” I told him. “I want to see you when you come back.”

“Aye, aye, sir!” he returned in his sailorlike way; for in Bolderhead if you ask your direction of a man on the street he’ll lay a course for you as though you were at sea. Ham Mayberry, like most of the other male inhabitants of the old town, had been a deep-sea sailor.

I heard the quick, angry step of Mr. Downes descending the stairs then, and I slipped out of the way. I didn’t want any more words with him, if I could help. They were leaving the house—and I meant it should be for good. That satisfied me.

38I heard Paul follow him out upon the porch, and then James came with the baggage. The carriage rolled briskly away just as Dr. Eldridge’s little electric wagon steamed up to the other door. The doctor—who was a plump, bald, pink-faced man—trotted up the steps and I let him into the house myself.

“Well, well, Clint Webb!” he demanded. “What have you been doing to that little mother of yours now?”

But he said it in a friendly way. Dr. Eldridge knew well enough that I never intended to cause mother a moment’s anxiety. And I believed that I could take him into my confidence—to an extent, at least. I did not tell him how Paul had tried to knife me in the Wavecrest; but I repeated what had really caused my mother’s becoming so suddenly ill.

“Ha!” he jerked out, as he got himself out of his tight, light overcoat and picked up his case again from the hall settee. “The least said about that time before her the better. Tut, tut! the least said the better.”

And so saying he marched up stairs to her room, leaving me more eager than ever to learn the particulars regarding my father’s death. Now, I had lived some sixteen years 39up to this very evening and had never heard anything but the simplest and plainest story of my father’s unfortunate death. But even the doctor spurred my awakened curiosity now.

What did it mean? I had been told by my mother, by Ham, and by other people as I grew up, that Dr. Webb had rowed out in a dory to fish off White Rock, a particularly good local fishing ground for blackfish. Some hours later a passing fishing party discovered the empty dory, bobbing up and down at the end of its kedge cable. The fishing lines were out. My father’s hat was in the boat, and his watch lay upon a seat as though he had taken it out and put it beside him so as not to forget when to row back to attend to his patients. It was a fine timepiece, had belonged to his father, and I wear it myself now on “state and date” occasions.

But the fishermen saw no other sign of the doctor. It was plain he had fallen overboard. With the current as it is about White Rock it was no wonder that the body was never recovered.

The story seemed plain enough. There was nothing that could be added to it. That there was any mystery about my father’s 40death I could not believe. And the suggestion that Paul Downes had made I utterly scoffed at!

Yet I wanted to see Ham Mayberry before I went to sleep that night.

Dr. Eldridge came down after a long time, and his pink, fat face was very serious. “How is she?” I asked him, eagerly.

“She’s all right—for the night,” he replied. But his gravity did not leave him—which was strange. The doctor was a most sanguine practitioner and usually brought a spirit of cheerfulness with him into any home where there was illness. “Clint,” he said, “you want to be careful of that little mother of yours.”

“My goodness, Doctor!” I exclaimed. “You don’t suppose that I had anything to do with this business tonight? That I brought it about?”

“If you have another row with your cousin—or words with his father—have it all outside the house. She is in a very nervous state. She must not be worried. Friction in the household is bad for her. And—well, I’ll drop in again and see her tomorrow.”

What he said frightened me. When he had gone I went up and tapped on the door. 41But Marie would not let me in the room.

“She is resting now, Master Clin-tone,” said the French woman, and then shut the door in my face.

I couldn’t have slept then had I gone to bed. Beside, I was determined to talk with Ham when he came back. I wandered down stairs again and James, the butler, beckoned me into the dining room. At one end of the table he had laid a cloth and he made me sit down and eat a very tasty supper that had been prepared for me in the kitchen. This was an attention I had not expected. It served to bolster up my belief that I had some influence in my mother’s house, after all!

By and by I heard Ham drive in and I went out to the stables. We kept no footman, Ham doing all the stablework. I helped him unharness Bob and Betty, while he told me where he had taken the Downeses. There was a small hotel in the old part of the town, and my uncle and Paul had gone there for the night.

“They’ll probably attack the fortifications on the morrow, Master Clint—or, them’s my prognostications,” remarked Ham, in conclusion.

42“Meaning they’ll come over here and try to see mother?” I asked.

“I reckon.”

“Then they’re not to be let in, Ham. I want them kept out. Dr. Eldridge says she should not be disturbed. I mean to see that his orders are obeyed.”

“And I’m glad to see ye take the bit in your teeth, sir,” exclaimed the coachman, with emphasis. “It’s time ye did so.”

“What do you mean, Ham?” I demanded, curiously.

The old man—he was past sixty, but hale and hearty still—came out of Bob’s stall and put his grizzled face close to mine while he stared into my eyes in the dim light of the stable lantern.

“List ye, Master Clint,” he said. “’Tis my suspicion that that same scaley Chester Downes has it in his mind to get rid of you—to put ye away from your mother altogether—to make her believe ye air a bad egg, in fact. ’Tis time he and that precious b’y of his was put off the place. Ye’ve done right this night, Clint Webb, if ye never done so before.”

Chapter V

In Which the Old Coachman Goes Somewhat Into Details

Ordinarily it might seem that a servant taking it upon himself to so plainly state his opinion of family matters, should be admonished. But Hamilton Mayberry was just as much my friend as he was our hired coachman. He had been my father’s friend. He had served in the same ship as my father long before he came ashore to drive horses for Dr. Webb. And I verily believe the old man loved me as though I were his own blood.

Anyhow, I was too excited and worried on this night to think of any class distinction. Beside, among Bolderhead people, the master was considered no better than the man—if both behaved themselves, were honest, and attended church on the Sabbath!

So I opened my heart to Ham as we sat with our backs against the grain-chest, and told him all that had occurred on the Wavecrest as she drifted into the harbor that evening, 44and what had followed when I brought Paul Downes home with his hands tied behind his back.

“But what is puzzling me, Ham,” I said, in conclusion, looking sideways into his shrewdly puckered face, “is what those Downes meant by hinting that there was something queer about father’s death.”

“Huh!” grunted Ham.

“What made that crazy Paul say he committed suicide, and that if he hadn’t we’d have been paupers?”

“Huh!” said Ham again.

“And why should such a foolish remark,” I added, “have frightened mother? For that is what brought about her fainting fit, I verily believe.”

“Huh!” said the coachman for a third time, and then I got mad.

“Stop that, Ham!” I cried. “Don’t you go about trying to mystify me. I want to know what they meant. I intend to find out what they meant. If you have any suspicion, tell it out.”

“Well, Master Clint,” he said gravely, “I don’t blame you for being angry.”

“Or being puzzled, either?” I put in.

“No, sir; nor for being puzzled. And I’m 45some puzzled myself. But I reckon Paul Downes was jest repeatin’ what he’d heard his father say.”

“That my poor father had to jump overboard from his dory, to save himself from trouble and mother and I from poverty? Why, it’s preposterous!” I cried.

“So it is, sir,” Ham assured me. “So it is. And nobody believes it—nobody that’s got anything inside their heads but sawdust.”

I started and grasped him by the arm. “Do you mean,” I said, “that there was any such story told when my father was lost at sea?”

“Well, sir, you know that an oak-ball will smoke when you bust it atwixt your fingers—but there ain’t no fire in it,” grunted Ham, philosophically. “Folk says that there can’t be smoke without some fire. The oak-ball disproves it. And it’s so with gossip. Gossip is the only thing that don’t really need a beginning. It’s hatched without the sign of an egg——”

“Oh, hang your platitudes, Ham!” I cried. “Do you mean that there ever was such a story circulated?”

“Well, sir——”

“There was!” I cried, horrified.

“It come about in this way,” began Ham, 46calmly and quietly. And his speaking so soon brought me to a calmer mind. “It was your grandfather’s will. I don’t wish to say aught against the dead, sir,” said Ham, “but if ever there was a cantankerous old curmudgeon on the face of this footstool, it was Simon Darringford! That was your grandfather.”

“I know,” said I, nodding. “He did not like my father.”

“He hated him. He made his will so that your mother, his only living child, should not enjoy the property as long as your father lived—nor you, either. That’s a fact, Master Clint. Ye see, he put the money jest beyond your mother’s reach, and beyond your reach. He done it very skillfully. He had the best attorneys in Massachusetts draw the will. The courts wouldn’t break it. You and your mother was doomed to poverty as long as your father lived.”

“But Ham!” I cried in amazement and pain, “couldn’t my father earn money enough to support us?”

“Not properly, sir,” said Ham, in a low voice. “Not as your mother had been used to living. Don’t forget that. The Doctor was as fine a man as ever stepped; but he wasn’t a money-maker. He knowed more 47than any ten doctors in this county—old Doc Eldridge is a fool to him. But your father was easy, and he served the poor for nothing. He had ten non-paying patients to one that paid. And he was heavily in debt, and his debts were pressing, when he—he died.”

“Ham!” I cried, leaping up again. “You—you believe there is some truth in the story Paul hinted at?”

“Naw, I don’t!” returned the coachman, promptly. “But I tell you that there was a chance for busy-bodies to put this and that together and make out a case of suicide. His death, my poor boy, did make you and your mother wealthy—which you’d never been, in all probability, as long as your poor father remained alive.”

I heard him with pain and with a deeper understanding of the reason for my mother’s seizure that evening. My blurting out the statement that Paul had uttered when he was angry had undoubtedly shocked my mother terribly. She had heard these whispers years before—when my father’s death was still an awful reality to her. What occurred in our drawing room that evening had brought that time of trial and sorrow back to her mind, and had resulted in the attack I have recounted. 48I understood it all then—or I thought I did—and I left Ham and finally sought my bed, determined more than ever to keep Chester Downes and his son out of the house and make it impossible in the future for them to cause any further trouble or misunderstanding between my mother and myself.

Chapter VI

In Which Is Related a Conversation With My Mother

Mother was better in the morning. I ascertained that fact from James, the butler. Marie, the Frenchwoman, seemed desirous of telling me nothing and—I thought—wished to keep me out of my mother’s room.

But I hung about the house all the morning and, after the doctor had come and gone (and this time, I was glad to see, with a more cheerful face) I insisted on pushing into the room and speaking to mother myself.

Marie tossed her head and shrugged her shoulders when I insisted. “La, la!” she exclaimed, in her French way, “boys are so troublesome. Yes!”

Had it been any other servant, I should have said something sharp to her, in my newly acquired confidence. But she was mother’s maid, and it was no business of mine if she was impertinent.

50“Well, mother,” I said, sitting down beside the bed and taking the hand she put out to me, “I hope you are better—the doctor says you are—and I hope you will forgive me for my part in the disgraceful scene we had down stairs last night. But I couldn’t stand those Downeses any more and that’s a fact!”

“Oh, Clinton! My dear boy! you are so impulsive and tempestuous,” she murmured.

“I’ll try to be as meek as Moses—a regular pussy cat around the house, hereafter,” I returned, cheerfully.

“You are just like your father,” she sighed.

“I’m proud to hear you say it,” I returned, promptly. “For all I have ever heard about my father—save the hints that those two scoundrels have dropped—makes me believe that father was a man worthy of copying in every particular.”

Mother squeezed my hand convulsively, exclaiming:

“Clinton! Clinton! You must not say such things.”

“Pray tell me why not, mother?” I demanded, but I spoke quietly. “I won’t say a word about Mr. Chester Downes and Paul, if it hurts your feelings for me to tell the truth about them. But I am bound to be 51angry if anybody maligns my father’s memory.”

“Oh, Chester would never do such a thing,” mother gasped.

“Then, where did Paul pick up that old scandal to throw at me?” I demanded.

“What old scandal do you mean, Clinton?” she asked, faintly.

“Are you sure you wish to talk about it now, mother?” I asked, for I was troubled by what the doctor had said the night before.

“Better now than at any other time,” she said, with some decision. “I suppose poor Paul heard some of the servants, or other people like that, repeating the story. Oh, Clinton! it almost broke my heart at the time. That anybody should think your father would contemplate taking his own life—it was awful. Of course, you do not remember.”

“Well—hardly!” I exclaimed. But I was troubled again by the manner in which she spoke of Paul Downes. Hanged if she wasn’t excusing my cousin!

“It was a very wretched time for me,” said my mother, weakly. “I really do not know what I would have done had it not been for Chester. He came immediately, and he took charge of everything. I can never forget his kindness.”

52A sudden thought struck me, and I could not help putting the suspicion to the test. “Mother,” I asked, “was father and Mr. Chester Downes very good friends?”

She looked startled again for an instant. I saw her smooth cheek flush and then turn pale again. My mother blushed as easily as any girl of fifteen.

“Why, Clinton, that is a strange question,” she said.

“Not very strange, mother, when you consider that I believe my father was a mighty good pattern for his son to copy. If father trusted Mr. Chester Downes, I could be almost tempted to believe that I had injured that gentleman in my thoughts.”

“You have, Clinton! you have!” she cried.

“I don’t doubt you believe so mother,” I said, quietly. “But how about father? What was his opinion of Aunt Alice’s husband?”

“Why—you see, Clinton,” she returned slowly and doubtfully, “Doctor Webb was not very well acquainted with Chester.”


“He never came much to our house while the doctor was alive.”

“And why not?” I asked.

“That—that would be hard to say,” she said; but she was so confused that I felt that 53my mother, who was the soul of truth, found it hard to answer my question honestly.

“Well, I should have been glad of my father’s opinion, at least,” I said. “As it is,” I added, “not having that to guide me, I must stick to my own.”

“But you have mine, Clinton!” she cried.

“Indeed, I have!” I returned, smiling, “and I’d take it upon almost any other subject you could name, Mumsie! But you are prejudiced in favor of Mr. Downes.”

“And you are prejudiced against him.”

“I am, indeed,” I admitted. “And am so prejudiced that I do not mean he shall ever interfere in my affairs again.”

“Oh, Clinton!” she cried, “I do not see how you can speak so to me.”

“Now, mother dear,” I said, “I do not mean to be unfilial to you, or ungrateful for your kindness. But Paul Downes tried to stab me last night——”

“Oh!” she cried, and shrank and trembled.

“I hate to annoy you by bringing up such things, but I must show you that they cannot hang around here any more,” I declared, firmly. “Paul hates me; his father has done his best to poison your mind against me. I have been in danger of my life, and in danger 54of losing your love and trust, through the Downeses——”

“No, no!” she said, to this last.

“I am afraid I am right,” I said. “I know that I have kept away from the house a good deal this summer. I couldn’t stay here and listen to that false man and be annoyed by that great, hulking boy of his. Now, let us be the good friends we always have been when the Downeses are at a distance.”

“Oh, Clinton! my dear boy! I only live for you!” she cried, and began to sob so that I felt condemned to insist. But the occasion was serious. I knew—as Ham had warned me—that Chester Downes was lingering near and would soon attempt to see my mother again.

“Then, let us be more to each other, mother,” I said, quietly.

“But I need your uncle to assist me,” she said. “He can manage my business much better than I possibly can——”

“What’s the matter with Mr. Hounsditch?” I demanded. “He was our lawyer and had been grandfather’s lawyer, too.”

“Mr. Hounsditch is an old man. He is behind the times. He cannot invest our money to such good advantage——”

55Who says so?” I asked, and she could not answer the pointed question without admitting what I had supposed—that Mr. Chester Downes put these opinions of the keen old lawyer into mother’s head.

“I don’t care much about the money, mother,” I said. “I suppose we have plenty anyway, and the real estate cannot be sold at all till I am of age. But what property does come to me when I’m twenty-one, I’d rather not have Mr. Chester Downes handle. I’d rather trust to Mr. Hounsditch and accept small interest.”

“Clinton! you are really ridiculous,” cried mother, reddening again.

“Well, that’s all right,” I returned, laughing. “But you’ll hear to me, mother, won’t you? You won’t bother about Chester Downes and Paul? Put it down that I am jealous of the influence they have over you, if you like. I don’t care. Just let’s you and I live together and be happy.”

“That’s all I live for—to make you happy, Clinton,” said my mother, still sobbing like a child who has been injured.

“Then this request I make will be the only thing I’ll ask you to do for me for a year, Mumsie!” I cried, calling her by the pet 56name I had used when I was a little fellow.

“Will it really make you so happy, my boy?” she asked, wistfully.

“Indeed it will,” I declared. “And now I’ve bothered you long enough. I’ll be around here if you want me. I shan’t go out on the water today, or until you feel quite yourself again.”

I went out of her room. Marie, the Frenchwoman, was just coming up the stairs. I saw her hide her hand with something in it under her apron. It was a square white object. I knew it was a letter. Mr. Chester Downes had been writing to my mother, and Marie was the go-between. She smiled, slyly, as she passed me and whisked into the room I had just left.

Chapter VII

In Which I Put Two and Two Together—and Sleep Aboard the Wavecrest

If for no other reason, that sly smile of my mother’s French maid would have kept me at home that day. I was still strolling about the place, just before luncheon, when I saw Mr. Chester Downes’ spare figure and his tall hat coming up the hill. I went down the path and met him at the steps which mounted the little terrace from the street to our lawn.

“Oh!” he ejaculated. “Are you here?”

“You are just in time to catch me as I was going out, Mr. Downes,” I said. “What have you to say to me, sir?”

“Nothing, young man—nothing,” he exclaimed.

“You certainly have not walked over here merely for the pleasure of looking at the house,” I said, smartly.

“I have come to see your mother, sir. And I propose to see her,” he said. “Last night I did not wish to make a disturbance while she 58was so ill. But I understand from Dr. Eldridge that she is much improved——”

“You are correct there, Mr. Downes,” I said. “And she will continue to improve I hope. But whether she is well or ill, you cannot see her.”

“Nonsense, boy! you are crazy. Do you know that I am a man, your uncle, and your mother’s business agent? Bold as you are, sir, you are a minor.”

“I never wanted to wish my life away before, sir,” I said, gravely. “But I do sincerely wish that I was of age, Mr. Downes. However, I believe I shall be able to hold my own with you, sir. At least, I shall try. And if this is to be your course I shall know what to do. Before you get into that house to trouble my mother again, I’ll place a guard around it.”

“You talk ridiculously. You cannot do such a thing.”

“No, perhaps not. And fortunately, I shan’t have to take such extreme measures. I have a better way of keeping you off the premises.”

“You would not dare do what you threatened last night, Clinton Webb,” he said, his voice shaking with anger.

59“You pass me and go up to that door, and see whether I dare or not,” I returned, my eyes flashing. “Paul tried to stab me. I’ll have him arrested if he is in Bolderhead still, and if he has run away I’ll find means of having him brought back here to stand trial.”

I was just as earnest as ever I was about anything in my life, and I guess Mr. Chester Downes realized it. He had gone away the night before in haste; but after thinking over the situation he believed that I could be browbeaten and my will set aside. He stared at me, with his dark, Indian-looking face reddening under the skin, and Paul had not looked at me more murderously the night before when we quarreled aboard the Wavecrest, than his father did now!

“Why, sir,” said Mr. Downes at last, “this is a most ridiculous thing for you to do. I can write to your mother—and I shall. She will demand that I attend her——”

“Until she does so, just take notice that you’re not to come here,” I interrupted. “That is, if you want Paul to stay out of jail.”

I turned on my heel then and walked back to the house, and he—after hesitating a half minute or so—turned likewise and stalked 60down the hill. I was pretty sure he would not come back—not in that tall hat, anyway—for before luncheon was over it had begun to rain and rained hard. There was a sharp wind from the northwest—nor’—nor’—west, to be exact—and everybody within a hundred miles of Cape Ann knows what that means. In all probability we were in for a long offshore gale.

So I risked going over the ferry that afternoon on an errand. I did not propose to get caught out on the Wavecrest again without provisions, and I purchased half a boat load of canned goods and the like, and a couple of cases of spring water. While I was hunting for a boat and a man to take my purchases aboard the sloop I ran against my cousin Paul.

He was not alone, and the instant I spied him with two hang-dog fellows, I knew he was—like the hen in the story—“laying for me!” Paul Downes knew half the riff-raff of Bolderhead which, like most small seaports, boasted more than a sufficient quantity of wharf-rats. Mr. Downes had been wont to expatiate to my mother on my taste for low company; but he must have had his own son in mind. Paul certainly picked sour fruit when he made friends along the water-front of Bolderhead!

61“That’s the feller,” snarled my cousin—I could read his lips, although the trio was across the narrow street as I went along the docks—and I knew very well that he was hatching something against me with his two friends.

But they were not likely to pitch upon me here in broad daylight, so I paid them little heed at the moment. I found old Crab Bolster and his skiff to lighter my cargo across the inlet, and when the boy came down from the store with the barrow, Crab and I loaded the provisions and spring water into his boat. Paul and his companions looked on, whispering together now and then, from a neighboring wharf.

I was not wholly a fool if I was so well satisfied with my own smartness. My success in settling Mr. Chester Downes had of course given me an inflated opinion of myself; but I knew better than to overlook the possibility of my cousin being able to do me some mean trick, especially with the help of the two fellows he was with.

When Crab Bolster and I set off in the skiff for the Wavecrest, I saw Paul and his friends make for the ferry, and while I helped pull the skiff in the drizzle of rain that swept 62across the harbor, I saw the three board the ferryboat and land at the dock on the Neck near which we lived.

I made Crab hustle the goods aboard and stowed all away in the cuddy before I let the boatman put me ashore. Paul and his friends were hanging about the landing.

“Keep your eye on my Wavecrest, will you, Lampton?” I said to the man who owned the landing, and kept boats for hire. “Remember, nobody’s to go aboard of the sloop without my special permission,” and I glanced pointedly at my cousin.

“I’ll see to that, sir,” said Lampton, who was my friend, I knew. “And in this weather, and with the wind the way she is, anybody would be crazy to want to take a boat out through the breach.”

I went back to the house in ample time for dinner, and Ham, who had been on the watch, reported that my uncle had not again tried to enter the house. But I was worried about Paul and his henchmen. I couldn’t rest in the house after dark. If they couldn’t get a boat on the Neck side of the harbor in which to go out to the Wavecrest, they might come across from the town side and do her some damage.

63Mother had come down to dinner and we had one of our old-fashioned, homey meals, followed by a pleasant hour in the drawing-room, where she played and sang for me. It was her pleasure that I should dress for dinner just as though company was to be present, and she trained me in the niceties of life, and in bits of etiquette, for which I have often, in later times, been very thankful. For although I found my amusement in rough adventure and my companionship for the most part among seamen and fishermen, it hurts no boy or man to be as well grounded in the tenets of polite society as in writing, reading, and arithmetic!

The subject that was uppermost in my mind—that hazy mystery surrounding my father’s death—did not come up between us on this evening. Nor did the unpleasant topic of the Downeses come to the fore. I am very, very glad to remember that my mother looked her prettiest, that she gave me the tenderest of kisses when she bade me goodnight early, and that we parted very lovingly.

I went up to my room, but only to put on a warmer suit—a fishing suit in fact. I shrugged myself into oilskin pants and jacket, too, in the back shed, and exchanged my cap 64for a sou’wester. Then I sallied forth through a pelting rain, with the gale whistling a sharp tune behind me, and descended the hill toward the point off which the Wavecrest was moored.

I had said nothing to anybody about my intention. I do not think that any of the servants saw me go. I left my home without any particular thought of the future, or any serious cogitation as to what would be the result of my act.

Merely, I had put two and two together in my mind—and I would sleep aboard the Wavecrest.

Chapter VIII

In Which An Expected Comedy Proves To Be a Tragedy

I knew well enough that my cousin, Paul Downes, was too thoroughly scared by my threat to have him arrested for assault, to openly make an attack upon either my boat or myself. But his money could bribe such fellows as I had seen him with that very day, to sink the Wavecrest, or even to assault me in the dark.

It would be a joke on Paul—so I thought—if he or his friends should sneak out to the sloop where she was moored, intending to do her some harm, and find me there all ready for such a visitation. I chuckled to myself while I wended my way to the shore, carrying a single oar with me, and unlocked the padlock of the chain which fastened my rowboat to the landing.

There was nobody about, and I pushed out and sculled over to the Wavecrest without being interfered with. Had I not known so 66well just where the sloop lay I declare I would have had trouble in finding her. It was the darkest kind of a night and it did blow great guns! The rain pelted as sharp as hail and before I got half way to the sloop I decided that I wasn’t showing very good sense, after all, in coming out here on such a night. I didn’t think Paul and his friends would venture forth in such a storm.

However, having once set out to do a thing I have usually run the full course. I am not sure that it is natural perseverance in my case, but fear that I am more often ashamed to be considered fickle. So I sculled on to the Wavecrest and prepared to go aboard.

But just here I bethought me that if my cousin should attempt to board the sloop he would be warned that I was aboard by the presence of the tender. Therefore I snubbed the nose of the rowboat up short to the float, and then, after getting into the bows of the Wavecrest I let go her cable and paid out several yards so that the float and the tender were both out of sight in the darkness.

I chuckled then, as I crept aft to the cockpit and unlocked the door of the little cabin. Once inside, out of the rain, I drew curtains before all the lights and then lit the lamp over 67the cabin table. There were four berths, two on each side, with lockers fore and aft. Altogether the cabin of the Wavecrest was cozy and not a bad place at all in which to spend a night.

It was still early in the evening. The tide had not long since turned and was running out, while the wind out of its present quarter was with the tide. Any craft could sail out of Bolderhead harbor this night with both gale and sea in its favor; but heaven help the vessel striving to beat into the inlet! The reefs and ledges along this coast are as dangerous as any down on the charts.

The Wavecrest pitched a good bit at the end of her cable. I made up my bed and arranged the lamp in its gimbals near the head of the berth, and so took off my outer clothing and lay down to read. I did not think that the lamplight could be seen from without, even if a boat came quite near me. Being so far in-shore I had lit no riding light. It was unnecessary at these moorings.

I did not read for long. Used to the swing of the sea as I had been for years the bucking of the Wavecrest as she tugged at her cable, put me to sleep before I had any idea that I was sleepy. And my lamp was left burning.

68I do not know how long I was unconscious—at least, I did not know at the moment of my awakening; but suddenly something bumped against the sloop’s counter. I thought when I opened my eyes:

“Here they are! Now for some fun.”

I supposed they would not have seen my light and I was going to put my head out of the cabin and scare them before they could do the Wavecrest any harm.

But as it proved, the bumping of the small boat against the sloop did not announce the arrival of the enemy. Almost instantly—I had not got into my trousers, indeed—there came a great hammering at the cabin door.

I did not speak, although at first I supposed the rascals were knocking to arouse me. Then it shot across my bewildered mind that somebody was nailing up the cabin door!

“Hello there! stop that!” I bawled, getting interested in the proceedings right away.

But there was no answer, unless certain whisperings that I could not understand could be considered as such. Several long nails—twenty-penny, I was sure—were driven home. Then there was a clattering of boots and the small boat bumped the sloop’s counter again.

They were getting into their own boat. 69They had left me in a nice fix—nailed up tightly in the cabin of my boat. I was mad ’way through; instead of playing any joke on Paul Downes and his friends, they had played me a most scurvy trick.

But it was only comedy as yet—comedy for them, at least. I was pretty sure that they had fixed me in the cabin, not only for the night, but until somebody passing in a boat would see me signalling from the tiny deadlights. And goodness only knew when the gale would subside enough to tempt any other boatman out upon the bay.

The sloop was still pitching at the end of her cable. I could feel the tug of the moorings as my enemies got into their boat. Then—in half a minute, perhaps—there was a startling change in the sloop’s action. She leaped like a horse struck with a whip and instantly began to roll and swing broadside to the gale.

I knew at once what had happened. The cable had parted; the Wavecrest was adrift!

The discovery alarmed me beyond all measure. I was panic-stricken—I admit it. And I earnestly believe that almost any other person who had a love of life within them would have felt the same.

70For to be adrift in Bolderhead Harbor on such a night, with the wind and tide urging one’s craft out toward the broad ocean, while one was nailed up in the cabin and unable to do a thing toward guiding the boat, was a situation to shake the courage of the bravest sailor who ever was afloat.

I believed I had nobody but myself to thank for the accident. In letting out the cable by which the sloop was moored, I had increased the strain upon it. I should have thrown out a stern anchor as well when I came aboard the Wavecrest to spend the night. The tug of wind and tide had been too much for the single cable.

And now my bonnie Wavecrest was swinging about, broadside to the sea, and likely to be rolled over completely in a moment. If she turned turtle, what would become of me? The air in the cabin was already foul. If she turned topsyturvy, and providing she was not cast upon the rocks and smashed, I would be in difficulty for fresh air in a very few hours.

These possibilities—and many others—passed through my mind in seconds of time. I had no idea that one’s brain could work so rapidly. A hundred possible happenings, arising from my situation, entered my mind in 71those first few moments while the Wavecrest was swinging about.

Fortunately, however, although she went far over on her beam ends, and I expected to hear the stick snap, she righted, headed with the tide, and began to hobble over the seas at a great rate. I had dressed completely ere this, and was trying my best to open the cabin door. If I could get to the centerboard and drop it, I believed the sloop would ride better and could be steered.

Those rascals had nailed the door securely, however. The slide in the deck above was fastened on the outside too. I was a prisoner in my own boat and she was being swept out to sea as fast as a northwest gale and a heavy tide could carry her.

Chapter IX

In Which I See the Day Dawn Upon a Deserted Ocean

I don’t claim to possess an atom more courage than the next fellow. I was heartily scared the instant I realized that the Wavecrest was adrift and I was fastened into her cabin. But I was not made helpless by my terror.

I tried my best to open that cabin door; but the big nails had been driven home. The ports were too small for my body to pass through, although I did open one and was tempted to shriek for help. But that would have been a ridiculous thing to do—and useless, as well. Had anybody heard and understood my need, I was beyond assistance from land, and there was nobody out in the harbor but myself, I felt sure.

The Wavecrest had got well out into the harbor now. She rolled very little and therefore I knew that, unguided as she was, her head was right and wind and tide were sweeping 73her on. She might be piled up on either shore at the mouth of the inlet; but from the start I believed she would be shot through the outlet of the harbor into the open sea.

In the cuddy up forward, with my provisions, there were a saw and hammer, and other tools. I could no more get at them than I could get out of the cabin. And although I might be able to do nothing to help myself or my boat if I was free from my prison, I would have felt a whole lot safer just then to have been upon her deck!

The door being nailed so fast, and the deck-hatch bolted tight, it was plain that I would have to smash something in order to get out of the cabin. Had I had anything to use as a battering ram, I would have begun on the door. But there seemed nothing to hand that would help me in that way. I examined the crack where the top of the door and the deck-hatch came together. Had I something to pry with I might tear the bolts holding the hatch out of the wood.

Such a thing as a bar was out of the question. But after a few minutes’ cogitation, I remembered that my bunks on either side of the cabin could be turned up against the bulkhead, and at each end of the bunks was a 74flat piece of steel fifteen or eighteen inches long which held the berth-bench when it was let down. Two screws at each end held these steel straps in place.

I had no screw driver; but I had the knife that I had taken away from my cousin when he attacked me the evening before. I thrust the point of its heavy blade into a crack and snapped the steel square off. It made a fairly usable screw-driver, and I quickly had one of the steel straps out of its fastenings.

The piece of steel was stiff and made as good a bar for prying as I could have found. With some difficulty I thrust one end up between the top of the cabin door and the edge of the hatch, close to one side. I slipped the closed knife up between the bar and the door for a block against which to prize, caught the end of the bar with both hands, and threw all my force against it. The hatch squeaked; there was a splintering sound of wood. I was badly marring the top of the door, but the bolt which held the hatch at that side was giving.

I repeated the process at the other side of the hatch, and gradually, by working first at one side, and then the other, I splintered the woodwork around the bolts, and bent the 75bolts themselves, so that the hatch began to shove back. As soon as possible I shoved it back far enough for my body to pass through the aperture.

The rain beat down upon my face as I worked my way out of the cabin in my oilskins; I left my hat behind. The Wavecrest was pitching and yawing pretty badly now and before I cast a single glance around I was sure that she was already going through the inlet.

Yes! there was the beacon at the extreme point of Bolderhead Neck—it was just abreast of me as I stood at last upon the sloop’s unsteady deck. I leaped down into the cockpit and quickly lowered the centerboard. Almost at once the Wavecrest began to ride more evenly. I could see little but the beacon, the night was so black; but I ran to the tiller and found that the sloop was under good steerage way and answered her helm nicely.

Like all sloops, the Wavecrest was very broad of beam for her depth of keel, and the standing-room, or cockpit, was roomy. She was well rigged, too, having a staysail and gafftopsail. Really, to sail her properly there should have been a crew of two aboard; but under the present circumstances I felt that 76one person aboard the Wavecrest was one too many! With a rising gale behind her the craft was being driven to sea at express speed, and it was utterly impossible to retard her course.

For an hour I sat there in the driving rain, hatless and shivering, hanging to the tiller and letting the sloop drive. Letting her drive! why, there wasn’t a thing I could do to change her course. She was rushing on through the foaming seas like a projectile shot from some huge gun, and every moment the howling wind seemed to increase!

The beacon on the Neck was behind me now. There was nothing ahead of the sloop’s fixed bowsprit. We were driving into a curtain of blackness that had been let down from the sky to the sea. It is seldom that there is not some little light playing over the surface of the water. This night a palpable cloud had settled upon the face of the waters and I could not even see the foam on the crests of the waves, save where they ran past the sloop’s freeboard.

I had left the broken slide open, however, and the rain was beating down into the cabin. This began to worry me and finally I lashed the tiller—fastening it in the bights of two 77ropes prepared for that purpose, and crept back into the cabin again. It was little use to remain outside, save that if the sloop was flung upon a rock, I might have a little better chance to escape.

At the speed she was traveling, however, I knew very well that we were already beyond the reefs and little islets that mask the entrance to Bolderhead Harbor. It was a veritable hurricane behind us. The wind was actually blowing so hard that the waves were scarcely of medium height. I had seen a mere afternoon squall kick up a heavier sea.

It was awkward getting in and out of the cabin by way of the hatch; but I did not take the time then to open the door. I fixed the hatch so that it would slide back and forth properly, however. Then I lit my spirit lamp and made some coffee. I was pretty well chilled through, for the rain and wind seemed to penetrate to the very marrow of my bones.

I was sure that this was the beginning of the equinoctial gale. It might be a week before the storm would break. And where would the Wavecrest be in a week’s time?

Not that I really believed the sloop would hold together, or still be on top of the sea, 78when this gale blew itself out. She was a mere speck on the agitated surface of the sea. My only hope then was that I might be rescued by some larger vessel—and how I should get from the Wavecrest craft to another was beyond the power of my imaginings.

I could not be content to remain below—nor was that unnatural. Aside from the fear I had of the sloop’s yawing and possibly turning turtle, and so imprisoning me in the cabin with no hope of escape therefrom, I felt that I should be more on the alert to seize any opportunity for escape were I at the tiller. So I carried a Mexican poncho which I wound to the stern, draped it about me over the oilskins, and with the sou’wester tied under my chin I could defy the rain, nor did the keen wind search my vitals.

But thus bundled up I would have stood little show had the sloop capsized. Afterward I realized that I might as well have remained in the cabin.

However, to sleep in either place, was impossible. Sometimes the rain beat down upon the decked over portion of the boat with the sound of a drumstick beaten upon taut calfskin. Again the wind blew in such sharp gusts that the rain seemed to be swept over 79the face of the sea and then, if I chanced to glance over my shoulder, the drops stung like hail.

Altogether I have never passed a more uncomfortable night—perhaps never one during which I was in greater peril. The wind was shifting bit by bit, too. My compass told me that the Wavecrest was now being driven straight out to sea, instead of running parallel with the Massachusetts coast as had been at first the fact.

How fast I was traveling I could not guess. There was a patent log aboard; but I did not rig it. Indeed, it was much safer to remain in the stern of the sloop than to move about at all. I knew we were traveling much faster than I had ever traveled by water before and I had something beside the speed of my involuntary voyage to think about.

It had not crossed my mind at the time, but when I had slipped out to the Wavecrest that evening, giving my mother and the servants the impression that I had gone to my room as usual, I had done a very foolish—if not wrong—thing. The sloop might not be the only craft in Bolderhead Harbor to break away from moorings and go on an involuntary cruise. Other wandering craft 80might not escape the rocks about the beach, as the Wavecrest had. It might be supposed that my sloop was among the wreckage that would be cast ashore along our rocky coast, and my absence might not be connected with the disappearance of the sloop.

My mother and friends would not suspect the reason or cause for my absence. If I had taken a soul into my confidence, in the morning my mother would be informed immediately of my accident. Perhaps, after all, it was not a bad thing that some uncertainty must of necessity attach itself to my disappearance.

For although I had every reason to believe that Paul Downes had either nailed me into the cabin, or caused me to be nailed in, well knowing that I had gone aboard the sloop to sleep, I was equally confident that he would not tell of what he had done, or allow his companions to tell of the trick, either.

These, and similar hazy thoughts regarding my condition, shuttled back and forth through my brain during the long and anxious hours of that never-to-be-forgotten night. Sometimes, I presume, I lost myself and slept for a few minutes; but the hours dragged on so dismally, and I was so uncomfortable and 81anxious, that I am sure I could not have slept much of the time. And it did seem as though the east would never lighten for dawn.

At last it came, however; and then I liked the prospect less than the no prospect of the black night! All that it revealed to my aching eyes was a vast, vast expanse of empty, heaving drab sea, across which the gale hurried sheets of cold and biting rain—not a sign of land behind me—not a sail against the equally drab horizon. My sloop, under her bare, writhing pole, was scudding across this deserted ocean with no haven in sight and I was without hope of rescue.

Chapter X

In Which I Find a Most Remarkable Haven

With the coming of daylight I would have tried to get some canvas on the Wavecrest—if only a rag of jib—had the gale not been so terrific. I doubted if, under a pocket-handkerchief of sail, I could have got her head around without swamping her.

And then, what better off would I have been? I could have made no progress beating against such a wind and it was better and safer to ride before it, no matter where I was blown. There was no land ahead of me save the shores of Spain—and Spain was a long way off.

At least, it was better to run while the sea remained in its present condition. As I have said, the waves were beaten flat by the savage wind. But, if there should come a lull in that, I knew well enough the sea would instantly leap into billows that would soon founder the little sloop if she could neither 83be got around to ride them, or could not keep ahead of them.

I lashed the tiller again—as I had twice during the night—and went below for coffee. I brought back some pilot crackers and a can of peaches that was among the stores I had bought in town the day before, and made a fairly satisfactory breakfast of the hard bread and fruit with a pint can of coffee. But I would not remain below any length of time now. It looked very much to me as though the clouds might break and the wind shift, or lull, at any moment.

Several hours passed, however, and my watch (which I had not forgotten to wind) told me that it was fast approaching noon before any change came. Then the shrieking gale dropped suddenly and the gusts of rain ceased.

I leaped up at once to unfurl the jib. With a little canvas on her I believed the sloop could be wore ’round and headed into the wind before the waves sprang up. Perhaps it would have been wiser to have given her a hand’s breath of the mainsail. However, before the bit of canvas bellied out and I had dashed back to the helm, the first wave broke over the stern of the sloop.

84It was a deluge! I was waist deep in the foaming flood; the cockpit was full; the sloop had already shipped about all the water that was good for her, and it was plain she was too water-logged to answer the helm promptly.

Up came a second wave. The lulling of the wind gave the waves a chance to gather force and height. This one curled fairly over my head and, looking up and over my shoulder at the great, green, foam-streaked wall of water, I thought my last minute above the surface had come!

It broke. I can remember nothing at all of the ensuing few moments. I only know that I was smothered, drowned, completely overwhelmed by the deluge of water that came inboard. The force of it burst open the slide of the hatch and barrels of water flooded into the cabin. The Wavecrest settled. If another wave as great had come inboard directly in the wake of this one, I am convinced that I would not be writing this record of my life.

As the wave passed on, the keen whistle of the gale returned. I leaped up and staggered forward. I knew that unless I could get way upon the sodden craft she would very quickly plunge beneath the surface. I shook out the 85staysail as well as the jib, but dared not spread too much canvas to the wind which seemed about to swoop down again. These sails filled and the Wavecrest showed her mettle, sodden as she was with the enormous amount of water that had come inboard.

There was a deal of water awash in the cockpit; therefore the shallow hold must have been full. And I knew there was plenty slopping about in the cabin, ruining everything. I rigged the little pump amidships and the pipe threw a full stream of bilge across the deck. And it wasn’t bilge long, but came clear. Inboard came another wave—but not a large one this time—and I pumped harder than ever.

The Wavecrest was lumbering on too slowly to escape the following waves. In her then condition it would have been folly to seek to head her about. She would have rolled helplessly in the trough of the sea as sure as I tried it. But if she was going to sail before this wind and sea she must sail faster.

The gale was steadily increasing again, but it did not blow as hard as it had during the night and early morning. I ventured a little more canvas and although the mast and rigging strained loudly, nothing got away. The 86speed of the sloop was increased, especially so as I kept at the pump and got the hold clear.

Although the hungry billows still followed the Wavecrest little water came inboard for a time save the spindrift whipped from the crests of the waves. But with a sea running so high there was danger of swamping every moment. I dared not leave the helm for long; to go below at all was out of the question. I went without food all that day, thankful that I had managed to make a fairly hearty breakfast.

And all the time the wind blew steadily, the sea strove mightily, and the sloop scudded before both like a whipped pup. I would not like to say how fast she traveled, for I do not know; I was only certain that even in a racing wind I had never sailed so fast before.

I had become wet through to the bone. Neither the poncho nor the oilskins could keep me dry when the sea had broken over the sloop. And the wind was keen and searched me through and through. My teeth were a-chatter, the cold pricked me like needles, and I was altogether very miserable indeed. Often had I been soaked to the skin while on a fishing venture; but there was the 87prospect of a hot drink and a warm fire ahead of me. There was nothing in the line of comfort before me now. The sea remained untenanted and the Wavecrest drove on as though she were enchanted.

Hour after hour dragged by. The sun did not appear; indeed, rain-gusts swept now and then across the sea. The waves were so steep that when the sloop plunged down the slope of one the rain swept on over my head and only rattled upon my sail. Ragged masses of cloud swept across the sky. In the distance it really seemed as though the waves leaped up and met these low-hung clouds.

And how I strained my eyes for some speck to give me hope of rescue!

From the summit of almost every wave I stood up and gazed about me—especially ahead. Behind were only the ravenous waves seeking to overtake and swamp me. Ahead I hoped to see the vapor of some steamer, or, at least, the bare poles of a sailing vessel that could rescue me from my perilous situation.

I dreaded another night. Indeed, I did not see how I could sail the Wavecrest until morning without either food or sleep. To lash the tiller and let the sloop drive on was too reckless a course to even contemplate.

88A man lost in a forest, or on a desert, may be lonely; but a voyager alone on the trackless and empty ocean is in far worse condition, believe me! Not only is he lost, but the elements themselves are continually buffeting him. In all this dreary day there was not a second in which my life was not threatened.

Finally when I knew there could not be many hours more of daylight, upon rising to the summit of a great billow, I beheld something riding the seas not far ahead. For some reason I had not seen the bulk of this strange apparition before and at first I was sure it was the turtle-turned hulk of a wreck.

But as the Wavecrest sped on, bringing me nearer and nearer to the object, I saw that I must be wrong. It was not shaped like a ship’s hull although it was black and clumsy enough. But immediately about it the waves seemed to be calm. At least no waves broke and foamed about the floating mass.

I watched the thing eagerly, although I could not hope for rescue under such a guise. It was not, I was almost instantly sure, a vessel of any kind; as the Wavecrest kept on her course, which brought me directly upon the object, I was not long at a loss to identify it.

89Although I had seldom been far out of sight of land myself, and had never seen any ocean creature bigger than a blackfish (not the tautog, but the pilot-whale) I had listened to the stories of old whalemen along the Bolderhead docks, and I was pretty sure that I had sighted one of those great mammals—a creature of the sea which is no more a fish than a horse or a cow is a fish, yet is the greatest wonder of marine life.

Beside, the peculiar condition of the sea immediately about the object revealed its identity. The whale was dead, I was sure. Otherwise it would not have been at the surface so long in such a gale. And being dead, and the seabirds and shark-fish having got at its carcass before the storm, there was good reason for the waves not breaking over it.

The dead whale lay in a slick, or “sleep,” as some old whalemen pronounce the word, and hope revived in my troubled mind the instant I realized what the object was, and its condition. The waves were following me as hungrily as ever; at any moment the sloop might be overwhelmed. But once let me get the Wavecrest in the lee of this dead whale, I could bid defiance to the storm. There I 90could outride the gale and, when it was fair again, set the sloop’s nose toward the distant mainland.

With rare good fortune the sloop needed little guidance to reach the dead whale. My original course had been aimed for the huge beast. As the Wavecrest gained upon it the monster was revealed, lying partly on its side, all of fifty feet from tail to nose. Of course there were no seabirds upon the carcass now, nor did I see the triangular fin of a shark anywhere about. They had ripped and torn at the carcass sufficiently, however, to release copiously the oil from the casing of blubber, or fat, with which the whale is entirely covered.

My Wavecrest bore down upon the becalmed circle and suddenly I found the waves heaving smoothly under the sloop instead of breaking all about her. I ran to the canvas and stowed it quickly, then brought the sloop around into the lee of the huge bulk of the whale. I had a broken-shanked harpoon and a boathook. I plunged these both into the carcass and then attached the Wavecrest, bows and stern, to these strange mooring-posts.

There she was, as safe as though we were in a landlocked harbor, rising and falling with 91a motion by no means unpleasant. The exuding oil made a charmed circle about the sloop, into which the agencies of the gale could not venture. The wind wailed as madly across the sea, and the sea itself, at a little distance, tumbled, and burst in a most chaotic manner; but here in the slick I lay at peace—and grateful indeed I was for this remarkable haven.

Chapter XI

In Which I Am a Terrified Witness of a Wonderful Phenomenon

Evening was dropping down and I was woefully hungry. Being sure that the Wavecrest was safely moored to the body of the dead leviathan, I set about correcting the need which preyed upon me. I was thankful, indeed, that I had stocked my larder so well on that last day at Bolderhead. There was plenty of water, too. I could ride out a week’s storm here beside the whale I was very sure, and then have plenty of provisions to serve me until I could beat back to the mainland.

I got out my lanterns, filled and trimmed them, and cutting steps in the side of the whale with the boat-hatchet, I mounted to the top of the great body and there stuck my oar upright in the blubber and hung a lantern to it. I was pretty sure that no vessel would pass that signal light without investigating, even in the gale.

93I made a very comfortable supper indeed. I managed now to force the cabin door and closed the sliding hatch. Then I warmed the cabin well with the spirit stove, stripped off my wet clothes, and got into dry garments. I went out on deck at nine o’clock, saw that my moorings were fast and the lanterns burning brightly, and then turned in. After the uncertainties of the day and the lack of sleep suffered the night before, I slept as soundly when I now turned in on one of the bunks as ever I did in my own bed at home!

At daybreak—another drab dawning of the new day—I was up and climbed the whale for the lantern. In its place I left attached to the upright oar a shirt to flutter in the wind for a signal. I hoped that any vessel passing near enough to see my signal would stop for me. But of one thing I was sure: If it chanced that a whaling ship came within sight of the dead leviathan my peril would soon be over. This huge beast had not been long dead and it would be all clear gain to any “blubber boiler” that chanced to pass that way.

Nor was the possibility of being rescued by a whaleship so slight as it would have been a few years before. There were for two decades, 94few whaling barks put forth from the New England ports; but of late years there is either a greater demand for whale-oil, or the cachelot (the sperm whale) is becoming more frequently seen both in northern and southern seas, and is being hunted both by steam vessels and by the old-time whaling ships.

I didn’t know where I was—that is, my position in the North Atlantic; but I believed that I had sailed so far and so fast in the sloop that I was about midway of the course of the British steam lines running ’twixt Halifax and the Bermudas. Those two ports are between seven and eight hundred miles apart, and I suspected I was nearer one or the other than I was to Boston! I knew I had done some tall sailing since being swept out of Bolderhead Harbor.

After having cooked and eaten a hearty breakfast, despite the blowing of the gale—for dirty weather prevailed and rain swept down in torrents every hour or two—I set about making such slight repairs as I could with the tools and materials I had at hand. And while thus engaged I made a discovery that—to say the least—startled me.

Dragging over the bows of the Wavecrest 95was the cable by which she had been moored in Bolderhead Harbor. I had never chanced to draw it aboard. Now I did so. It was only a bit, some three or four feet long. And instead of finding it frayed and broken by the strain of the sloop as she dragged at her old anchorage, I found that the hemp had been cut sharply across. Nothing less than a knife—and a sharp one—had severed that cable when it was taut!

The appearance of the bit of rope gave me such a jolt that I sat down and stared at it. I had been quite sure that Paul Downes and his friends knew I was aboard the Wavecrest when they nailed me into the cabin. But it really never crossed my mind that they had deliberately cut the sloop adrift. But here was evidence of the crime. There was no doubting it. I had been imprisoned on the Wavecrest and then the sloop was sent on a voyage which Paul and his friends must have realized could end in nothing less than death.

It was an awful thought. In sudden and uncontrollable anger my cousin had attempted to stab me when we had our unfortunate quarrel aboard the sloop; but this crime was far greater than his former attempt. He had deliberately planned my death.

96And if Ham Mayberry, or any of my other friends, took the pains to look at the Wavecrest’s mooring cable, they would know that the sloop had been cut adrift. The evidence lay in both pieces of the cable.

Perhaps, however, it would not be known—it might never be suspected, indeed—that I had been swept out to sea in the sloop. The mere fact that I had left my tender tied to the mooring buoy might not be understood. Beside, the tender might have been cut adrift, too. Or the gale might have done much havoc in Bolderhead Inlet. Other craft could easily have been strewn along the rocky shores, or carried—like the Wavecrest—out into the open sea.

The mystery of my disappearance might never be explained—until I returned home. And when would I get back? I did not like to think of this. I worried over the effect my disappearance would have upon my mother’s mind. And, while I was absent, Mr. Chester Downes would have full swing.

Worried as I was because of my situation, here in the seemingly empty Atlantic, my greatest anxiety was for my mother. More and more had I come to fear the evil machinations of Mr. Chester Downes. While I had 97been on hand to defend mother from her brother-in-law—and defend her from her own innocent belief in him, as well!—I was but mildly disturbed. If worse came to worse, I could always write to Lawyer Hounsditch whom I believed would never see my mother cheated.

But now—and God only knew for how long a time—it was beyond my power to do a single thing toward guarding my mother from Chester Downes. How I wish I had taken the old attorney of the Darringford Estate into my confidence before this time!

These were some of my sad thoughts following the discovery of the severed cable. I remained in a very, very low state of mind indeed during that forenoon. The gale did not abate; nothing but the boisterous sea and the overcast sky could I see about me. Not even a seabird came to the dead whale. I was alone—stark alone.

At mid-afternoon, however, I sighted something to the southward. I had climbed to the top of the whale for a better observation and against the horizon I beheld a long ribbon of smoke—just a faint streak against the lighter colored clouds. I knew that a steamer was there; but she was far, far away, and 98would never sight the whale, or my fluttering signal.

I thought of all manner of curious plans to attract attention to my plight from a long distance over the sea. Fire was my main thought. I knew that no vessel—scarcely a mail-carrying steamship—would pass a fire at sea without investigation. Had I been a modern Munchausen I might have found some way of drawing a wick through the whale and setting fire to its blubber!

As it was, had I been likely to run short of burning fluid I surely would have endeavored to “try out” some of the blubber. I knew that, before the day of mineral oil—kerosene—people used whale oil almost altogether for lamps. But I was fortunately well supplied with oil, water and food. I might ward off starvation for a month; but I was not at all sure that I wished to exist so long under the then prevailing conditions.

But life is very sweet to us, and I suppose I should have clung to the last shred of mine had Fate intended me to remain in this abandoned state so long. This day and another night passed. I went to bed and slept well. The whale’s carcass might roll over and crush my boat, or some other accident happen 99to the Wavecrest during my retirement. But I could do nothing to fend off Fate did I keep awake and had already made up my mind that I had little to fear.

As for the whale sinking again, that was impossible. It may have sunk after being killed; but putrefaction had set in within the carcass and the gases which had thereby formed would keep the whale afloat until the fish and seabirds had stripped its bones, in great part at least.

With the returning day the clouds broke. I had noted before arising that the gale was subsiding. The sun showed his face and I welcomed him enthusiastically. The sea did not subside however. I could not think of leaving my sure haven yet. It did not look exactly like settled weather but the sun shone warmly for part of that forenoon.

Before noon several screaming gulls had found the dead whale and were circling around it, gaining courage to attack. The presence of the sloop moored to it bothered them at first. But in a few hours there were other scavengers of the sea at hand which were afraid of nothing. I sighted the first ugly fin soon after eating my dinner. Then another, and another and another appeared, and soon 100the voracious sharks were tearing at the whale from beneath while the increasing number of seabirds were hovering and fighting above the carcass.

Both the finned and winged denizens of the sea became so fearless that I could have stroked the sides of the sharks with my hand or got upon the whale and knocked the birds over with a club. Blood as well as oil ran from the great carcass and the sea was soon streaked all around with foulness. A dreadful stench began to be apparent, too. The fetid gasses from the abdominal cavity of the dead creature were escaping.

But I could not afford to change my anchorage just for a bad smell! Anxious as I was to get home again, I dared not start for land yet awhile. I must wait for a fair wind and the promise of a spell of steady weather. I knew that by heading into the northwest I must reach the New England coast if I sailed far enough; but otherwise I was quite ignorant of my position. Having a nicely drawn chart in my chest did not help me in the least now, for I did not know my position and had no means of learning it had I been a navigator.

This day passed likewise and an uncertain, 101windy night was ushered in. I set my lantern again on the whale’s back, the birds having become less troublesome; but determined to keep watch for part of the night, at least. To this end I rolled myself in my blanket and lay down on the bench at the stern. The clouds still fled across the skies, harried by the wind; and the wind itself fluctuated, wheeling around to various points of the compass within a short hour.

I fell asleep occasionally and finally, before dawn, descended into a heavy slumber. I don’t know what awoke me. The wind was whining very strangely through the sloop’s standing rigging. My oar had tumbled down and oar and lantern were in the sea. The birds had all disappeared, nor were the fins of the sharks visible. Off to the south’ard was a strange, copper colored bank of cloud. The east was streaked lividly, for it was all but sunrise.

I rose and stretched, yawning loudly. I suddenly felt a prickling sensation all over me. I knew that the air must be strongly impregnated with electricity. Despite the whining of the wind here beside the dead whale there seemed to have fallen a calm.

102I scrambled up the side of the whale and turned to look northward. Glory! Within five miles was a bark, under full sail, coming down upon me—a vision of rescue that brought the stinging tear-drops to my eyes. I was saved.

I did not care for the oar and the lost lantern now. I stood there and waved the coat that I had dragged off at first sight of the vessel. I knew her company must see me. I was as positive of rescue as of anything in the world. The bark was flying before a stiff breeze, and it was head on to the whale. I could not be missed.

Although the on-coming ship sailed so proudly, however, the breeze that filled her canvas did not breathe upon my cheek. Nor was it the whining of that favoring wind I had heard since first opening my eyes. I swung about suddenly and looked to the south. Up from that direction rolled the copper colored cloud—and it seemed veritably to roll along the surface of the sea.

The sound came from this cloud. Before it the sea itself turned white. Far above, the upper reaches of the rolling mist seemed to writhe as though in travail of some great phenomenon. And it was so! Out of this 103mass of vapor I saw born within the hour the most remarkable of all sea-spells.

But at first my attention was divided between the tornado coming up from the south and the bark approaching from the north. Not at once did the favoring wind leave the craft. Where the dead whale lay seemed to be a belt of calm between the bark and the coming tornado. And this craft in which my hope was set was really a bark, by the way; I do not use the word poetically. Her fore and mainmasts were square rigged while her mizzen mast was rigged fore and aft like my little Wavecrest.

As I watched her I saw that her navigator had espied the coming tempest from the south and the crew began to swarm among the sails. She still came on at a spanking pace; but her canvas was reefed down rapidly until there was nothing left but the foretopsail, flying jib and the spanker. Soon these began to shake and then her fair wind left her entirely. She had reached the belt of calm in which the dead whale and my sloop still lay.

In my ears the savage voice from the cloud to the south’ard was now a roar. The remaining canvas on the bark was reefed down. She lay waiting for the tempest. I turned to descend 104from my rather slippery situation. I preferred to be in the sloop when the tempest struck us, for possibly I would be obliged to cast off from the dead mammal.

But before I could get off the whale the writhing cloud changed its appearance—and changed so rapidly that I was held spellbound. It was sweeping over the seas so close, it seemed that the topmasts of the bark could not have cleared it. Now whirling tongues of cloud shot downward while dozens of spiral columns of water leaped up to meet these gyrating tongues. Thus sucked up by the whirling cloud the waterspouts were formed, and dozens of them swept on across the sea beneath the hovering cloud.

As the cloud advanced the wind which accompanied it beat the waves flat. But they boiled about the waterspouts and the roaring sound increased rapidly. The heavens above and to the north and east grew dark. The rising sun seemed snuffed out. A vivid glare which was neither sunlight nor starlight accompanied the tempest as it swept on.

I trembled at the sight and as the seconds passed I grew more terrified—and for good reason. What would happen to me if any of those whirling columns of water and mist 105struck the dead whale? If they burst upon the drifting mammal where would I be? What would happen to the Wavecrest?

And then quite suddenly there came a change in the on-rushing tornado. Amid thunderous reports—like nothing so much as the explosions of great guns—the dozens of small spouts ran together, or were quenched as it might be, in one huge, whirling column of water which, swept on by the wind, charged down upon me as though aiming at my particular destruction.

I fell upon my knees and clung with both hands to the slot I had cut in the whale’s blubber in to which to thrust the oar. I dug my fingers into the greasy flesh and hung on for dear life. I actually expected that the whale—and of course my sloop—would be overwhelmed.

The waterspout, traveling with the speed of an express train, bore down upon me. With it came the wind, roaring deafeningly. I lost all other sound, with such enormous confusion the tornado swept upon me. The whale rolled as though it had come to sudden life again.

Over and over it canted. I know my sloop was lifted completely out of the sea. The 106waterspout whirled past—within three cable-lengths of the dead leviathan,—and the tempest shrieked after. The whale rolled back. I slid down the curve of the carcass and dropped into my plunging sloop. I feared to remain longer near the dead whale, but cast off both at bow and stern, and let the sea carry me some yards from the heaving, rolling carcass.

And then I could once more see the waterspout. It was still careening over the sea, its general direction being nor’west; but it whirled so that it was quite impossible to be sure of its exact direction.

However, of one thing I was confident. The sailing vessel which I had so joyfully discovered an hour ago, lay in the track of the waterspout. She lay still becalmed and if the spout threatened to board her, there would be no possible chance of the vessel’s escaping destruction.

Chapter XII

In Which I Find Myself Bound for Southern Seas

My little sloop pitched so abominably that I could not stand upright, but fell into her sternsheets and there clung to the tiller as she swept along in the wake of the tornado. The waves did not break about the Wavecrest, for she was still within the charmed circle of oily calmness supplied by the dead whale. At some distance, however, the waves were tossed about most tempestuously.

I could see the bark from bow to stern, for she lay broadside to me. When the draught from the south first struck her she went over slowly almost upon her beam-ends; but righted majestically and her helm being put over she slewed around so as to take the gale bow-on.

She mounted the first wave splendidly and I saw her crew gathered forward in her bows. They seemed to be at work on something and there was a vast amount of running back 108and forth upon her deck. Meanwhile the waterspout, whirling like a dervish, bore down upon the bark.

The great column of water passed between me and the bark, then swung around and rushed down upon the craft in a way to threaten its complete extinction. I expected nothing more than to see the bark borne down and sunk under the weight of the bursting waterspout.

But when it was still several cable-lengths from the bark I saw the group upon her forward deck separate, and a long cannon was revealed. Its muzzle was slewed a little over the port bow and the next instant it spoke. The explosion sharply echoed across the sea, audible to my ears despite the huge roaring of the waterspout.

The column of water, rushing down upon the bark, was cut in twain by the ball from the gun. The connection ’twixt the whirling cloud and the whirling water was actually severed by it. Had the spout swept aboard the bark the great ship would have scarcely escaped complete wreck. As it was, the revolving water poured down into the ocean with the noise of a cascade, beating the sea to foam for yards and yards around, but without 109doing the slightest damage either to the bark, or to my little sloop.

The tornado tore into the north, smaller spouts leaping up and twirling in their mad dance, but none forming the threatening aspect of that which the bark’s gun had burst. In half an hour the sun was out and I dared spread a whisp of sail and ran down to hail the bark.

I saw the crew crowding to the rail. There was a large number for even a sailing vessel of these times, and I more than half suspected the nature of her business before a rope ladder was let down to me and I scrambled up the tall side of the craft with the bight of my sloop’s painter over my shoulder and saw the “nests” of boats stowed amidships.

“I say, young fellow!” was the greeting I received from a smart looking youngster—not much older than myself—who welcomed me at the rail “is that your whale?”

“If ‘findings is keepings’ it is surely mine,” I said. “But I didn’t kill it, and now I’ve got a leg over your rail I’ll give you all my title and share in the beast.”

“Good luck, boys!” rumbled a bewhiskered old barnacle who stood behind the young 110officer of the bark, “We’ve struck ile before we’re a week out o’ Bedford.”

As I say, without these words I could have been sure that the bark was a whaler. She was the Scarboro Captain Hiram Rogers, and just beginning her voyage for the South Seas. The Greenland, or right whale, is no longer plentiful, but the cachelot and other species have become wonderfully common of late years. This fact has drawn capital to the business of whaling once more, and although steam has for the most part supplanted sails, and the gun and explosive bullet serve the office formerly held by the harpoon and the lance, more than a few of the old whale-fishing fleet have come into their own again.

For the Scarboro was built in the thirties of the last century; but so well did those old Yankee boat builders construct the barks meant for the fishing trade—for they were expected to stand many a tight squeeze in the ice as well as a possible head-on collision with a mad whale—that their length of life, and of usefulness, is phenomenal. At least, the Scarboro looked to be a most staunch and seaworthy craft.

The young fellow who had hailed me was Second Mate Gibson, nephew of the captain 111and, I very soon discovered, possessed of little more practical knowledge of sea-going and seamanship than myself. But he was a brisk, cheerful, educated fellow and being merely the captain’s lieutenant over the watch got along very well. He expected to study navigation with his uncle and be turned off a full-fledged mate, with a certificate, on his return from this whaling voyage.

However, these facts I learned later. Just now I was only anxious to know what was to be done with me, and if there was a likelihood of the captain of the Scarboro touching at any port from which I might make a quick passage home. This last was the uppermost thought in my mind when I followed Ben Gibson below to see the captain.

Captain Rogers was a lanky man with a sandy beard and a quiet blue eye. He did not look as though he ever had, or ever could, be hurried or disturbed. Had I been a Triton that had just come abroad I reckon he would have eyed me quite as calmly and listened as tranquilly to my story. But Gibson was so impatient (as I could easily see) that I made the story brief. He burst out with:

“Captain Rogers! aren’t we going to get that whale? She’s delivered into our hand, 112as ye might say. The men are eager for it, sir, but you haven’t given orders to change our course.”

“And I’m not likely to, Bennie,” returned his uncle.

“But it’s a waste of oil!” exclaimed the young fellow.

“And it would be a waste of time for us to stop for one miserable whale when we don’t expect to break out our boats until we’re well below the equator. We’d just make a mess of the old hooker and have to clean her up again.”

Gibson was disappointed, and would have urged his desire further, but Captain Rogers turned to me:

“If we meet a homeward bound sailing vessel in good weather I’ll put you aboard. Steamships won’t stop for you. If you want to join my crew—you’re a husky looking youngster—I’ll fit you out and lot you a greenhorn’s share. Best I can do for you. Is your sloop any good?”

“She’s not started a plank, sir,” I declared.

“Pass the word for the carpenter to take his gang and get the stick out of her, and hoist her aboard,” Captain Rogers said to Gibson. “Then take this lad to breakfast and see that he gets a good one.”

113He turned me off rather cavalierly I thought. Of course, my situation appealed more strongly to me than it was likely to appeal to anybody else. But Captain Rogers did not seem to consider my being carried away, willy-nilly, into the Southern Seas, and on a voyage likely to last anywhere from eighteen months to three years—for the Scarboro was just out of New Bedford, as has been stated—the captain did not seem to consider, I say, what my state of mind might be. Of course, I was thankful that I had been picked up; yet if the weather settled I might have safely made my way back home in the Wavecrest. And it was easy to see that the skipper of the Scarboro considered the sloop his property in return for taking me aboard.

The lanky captain of the whale ship was not a person to argue with. I knew it would be useless to bandy words with him. Even his nephew plainly showed that he considered it wise to drop the matter of the dead whale right there and then—before the captain at least. He grumbled a bit about the loss of this first chance for oil when we went to breakfast, however. Apropos of which, and while we discussed the good breakfast that was put 114before us, Ben Gibson repeated for my delectation the famous whaling story—a classic in its way—wherein the Yankee skipper and the Yankee mate differ as to the advisability of chasing a cachelot. Some version of this tale is known to every whaler and I preserve Ben’s story, as he told it, imitating the Down East twang as well as I may:

“Forty-two days aout, an’ not a drop o’ ile in the tanks. I went for’ard. The lookaout he hailed. ‘On deck, sir,’ says he, ‘thar she blaows.’

“I went aft. ‘Cap’n Symes,’ says I, ‘thar she blaows; shall I lower?’

“Cap’n Symes he gin a look to wind’ard. ‘Mr. Symes,’ says he, (’Twas cur’ous, his name was Cap’n Symes, an’ my name was Mister Symes, but we warn’t neither kith nor kin), ‘Mr. Symes,’ says he, ‘it’s a-bloawin’ right smart peart, an’ I don’t see fitten for to lower.’

“I went for’ard. The lookaout hailed again. ‘On deck, sir,’ says he, ‘thar she blaows an’ spouts.’

“I went aft. ‘Cap’n Symes,’ says I, ‘thar she blaows an’ spouts. Shall I lower?’

“Cap’n Symes he casts an eye aloft. ‘Mr. Symes,’ says he, ‘it’s a bloawin’ right smart peart, and I don’t see fitten for to lower.’

115“I went for’ard. The lookaout he hailed again. ‘On deck, sir,’ says he, ‘thar she blaows, an’ spouts, an’ breaches.’

“I went aft. ‘Cap’n Symes,’ says I, ‘thar she bloaws, an’ spouts, an’ breaches. Shall I lower?’

“Cap’n Symes he took a look at the clouds that was a-scuddin’ acrosst. ‘Mr. Symes,’ says he, ‘it’s a-bloawin’ right smart peart, an’ I don’t see fitten for to lower.’

“I went for’ard. The lookaout he hailed again. ‘On deck, sir,’ says he, ‘thar she blaows, an’ spouts, an’ breaches, an’ it’s a right smart sperm, too.’

“I went aft. ‘Cap’n Symes,’ says I, ‘thar she bloaws, an’ spouts, an’ breaches, an’ its a right smart sperm-whale, too. Shall I lower?’

“Cap’n Symes, he gin a last look at the weather. ‘Mr. Symes,’ says he, ‘it’s a-bloawin’ right smart peart, and I don’t see fitten for to lower, still—if you’re so gol-darned sot on lowerin’, you can lower and be hanged to you.’

“I went for’ard and sings aout for volunteers, an’ the boys jest tumbled over each other into the boat. We got the whale, and as I was a-swarmin’ over the side, thar stood Cap’n Symes with tears in his eyes.

116“‘Mr. Symes,’ says he, ‘forty years,’ says he, ‘I’ve sailed the seas,’ says he, ‘man an’ boy, man an’ boy, an’ in all that time I never see no mate to compare with you,’ says he. ‘Mr. Symes,’ says he, ‘you’re the Jim Dandyest mate as ever I sailed shipmates with,’ says he. ‘Mr. Symes,’ says he, ‘daown in my cabin in the starboard locker aft,’ says he, ‘you’ll find some prime Havana seegars, and the best o’ Lawrence’s aould Medford New England rum,’ says he. ‘That best o’ Lawrence’s aould Medford New England rum,’ says he, ‘an’ them prime Havana seegars,’ says he, ‘is yourn for the rest of the v’y’ge.’

“‘Cap’n Symes,’ says I, ‘you can take them prime Havana seegars an’ that best o’ Lawrence’s aould Medford New England rum,’ says I, ‘an’ stick ’em overboard as fur as I’m consarned. All I asks is common sea-vility; an’ that o’ the gol-darndest commonest kind!’”

Ben told me this story while he ate. He was the liveliest kind of a companion. I liked him immensely from the start, and the longer I knew him the better I liked him. This was his first deep sea voyage, but he had been looking forward to it ever since he was in petticoats—unlike myself, who had only 117longed for the sea but knew I probably would never be allowed to follow my bent.

Now, it seemed, Fate had flung me right into the life I had so longed for. Had it not been for mother and the fears I felt for her in the mesh of Chester Downes’ web, I should have welcomed this chance that had put me aboard the whaling bark Scarboro.

“And she’s a fine old craft,” declared the young second mate. “Maybe she’s a bit tender in her bends, but she’s sailed in every quarter of the globe and has brought home many a cargo of oil. We all own shares in her—in the bark herself, I mean—we Rogerses and Gibsons. I’ve a twentieth part myself in pickle against the time I’m twenty-one,” and he laughed, meaning that his guardian held that investment for him—and a very good slice of fortune his holdings in the old Scarboro proved to be, at the end of the voyage.

But now we were at the beginning of it—all the romance and adventure was ahead of us. Before noon I was not sorry to be aboard of the bigger craft and looked with equanimity upon my own bonny sloop stowed amidships. The wind had wheeled again and coming abaft, the bark shot on into the southward, 118trying to outrun the gale. Had I not been picked up as I was I might have been swamped in the Wavecrest.

For a week, or more, we ran steadily toward the tropics, and in all that time we passed—and that distantly—but two steam vessels and only one sailing craft. There was no chance for me to get home. I had to possess my soul with such patience as I could, while the old Scarboro bore me swiftly away toward the Southern Seas.

Chapter XIII

In Which Tom Anderly Relates A Story That Arouses My Interest

Captain Rogers was not a harsh man, but he was a stern disciplinarian. That he could not change the course of his ship to land me in some port, or to put me aboard a homeward bound vessel, is not to be wondered at. He had both his owners and his crew to think of. I was thankful, when I saw the week’s weather that followed my boarding the Scarboro, that I had been saved from further battling with the elements in the sloop.

Ben Gibson advised me to write fully of my situation and prospects and have the letter, or letters, ready to put aboard any mail-carrying ship we might meet. A steamship bound for the Cape of Good Hope, even, would get a letter to Bolderhead, via London, before I could get back myself from any South American port that the Scarboro might be obliged to touch at.

I knew, however, that the whaling bark 120was not likely to touch at any port unless she suffered seriously from the gales. Whaling skippers are not likely to trust their crews in port, for the possible three year term of shipment stretches out into an unendurable vista in the mind of the imprisoned sailor.

For that is what a sailor is—a prisoner. As the great Samuel Johnson declared, a sailor is worse off than a man in jail, for the sailor is not only a prisoner, but he is in danger all of the time! However, the prospect of the danger and hardship of the seafarer’s life had never troubled me. I must admit that I was delighted to turn to with the captain’s watch (that was Ben Gibson’s watch) and take up the duties of a foremast hand upon the Scarboro. I wrote the letters as I was advised. I wrote to my mother, of course, to Ham Mayberry, and last of all, and more particularly, to Lawyer Hounsditch.

To the latter gentleman I explained all I feared regarding Mr. Chester Downes and his machinations. To Ham I told the particulars of my having been swept out to sea and instructed him to find my mooring rope and save it, with its cut end for evidence; and if possible to learn who had helped Paul Downes, my cousin, cut me adrift and nail me in the 121cabin of the Wavecrest. To my mother I wrote cheerfully and asked her to have money sent me at Buenos Ayres, as that might be a port the Scarboro would touch at, or a port I could reach if I left the whaleship.

I cannot say that I was continually worried by my state aboard the whaler. What boy would not have delighted in being thus thrust into the midst of the very life and work he had so longed to follow? I could not but feel that it was meant for me to be a sailor, after all.

The Webbs had been seafaring folk, time out of mind. My father’s father had tried to keep his own son off the water by giving him a college education and making a doctor of him. But the moment my father was sure of his sheepskin, he had looked about for a chance to go as surgeon on a deep water ship, and had gone voyage after voyage until his marriage.

Inside of a fortnight Captain Rogers had complimented me on my work and manner, and Mr. Robbins, the mate, said I was worth my salt-horse and hardbread. Of course while on duty Ben Gibson, the young second mate, and I must of necessity hold to “quarterdeck etiquette;” he was “Mr. Gibson” 122and I was “Webb.” We were punctilious indeed about these niceties of address. Off duty, however, we were two boys together, and rather inclined to sky-lark.

The other close friend that I made aboard the Scarboro during the first few days of the voyage, was old Tom Anderly. He was the bewhiskered old barnacle who had welcomed the possibility of getting oil in the bark’s tanks from the dead whale, when I had first come aboard.

Anderly was a boat-steerer, an old sea dog who had sailed oft and again with the skipper, and who had lanced more whales than any other half dozen men aboard. Being in old Tom’s watch I grew soon familiar with him; and from the beginning I saw that the old seaman took more than a common interest in me.

The old man was full of stories of whale fishing and other experiences at sea. But it was not his fund of information, or his tales, that first of all interested me in Tom Anderly. I had told nobody—not even Ben Gibson—about the actual event of my being swept out to sea from Bolderhead, nor had I said a word about my father. The fact that he had been a sea-going physician would not help me 123hold my own with the crew of the Scarboro. At sea, according to the homely old saw, “every tub must stand on its own bottom.”

“So you come from Bolderhead, do you?” quoth Tom to me, one day when we were lounging together forward of the capstan, and he was mending his pipe.

“That’s where we live in the summer,” I admitted.

“Jest summer visitors, are ye?”

“Well, my mother has a house there.”

“Yes. Ye ain’t a native, though, eh?” and before I could reply to this, he continued: “I been studying about Bolderhead ever since you come aboard. There was something curious happened at Bolderhead—or just off the inlet—and it’s all come back to me now.”

“What was it?” I asked, idly.

“Well, it’s quite a yarn,” he said, wagging his head. “I was running in the old hooker, Sally Smith, from Portland to New York. She carted stone. There warn’t but five of us aboard, includin’ the cap’n and the cook. But our freight warn’t perishable,” and he chuckled, “so speed didn’t enter into our calculations. One day there come up a smother of fog as we was just off Bolderhead Neck. We’d run some in-shore. It fell a 124dead calm—one o’ them still, creepy times when you can hear sheep bells and dinner horns for miles and miles.

“Well, sir! we lay there in this smother of fog and all of a suddent we heard somebody hootin’. Cap he halloaed back. ‘Blow yer scare!’ sings out the same faint voice. ‘Keep it blowin’.’

“‘There’s somebody out yon tryin’ to make the Sally,’ says the Cap’n. I stepped on the tread of the siren and kept her blattin’ now and then and, after some minutes, we heard a splashin’ alongside and there was a man swimming in the sea.”

“He had swum out from shore?” I asked, just to keep the conversation going. I wasn’t really interested.

“No. His boat had begun leaking badly. It was too heavy to turn over, and before it sank he slipped into the sea and made for us. He had seen us before the fog shut down, and knew that we were becalmed. He’d just tied his shoes about his neck by the lacings and swum out with every rag of clothes on him—’cept his hat.”

“And why did he swim for your craft instead of to shore?”

“Said he was nearer the Sally when his 125boat took in so much water. And the tide was running out, no doubt. But it always did seem queer to me,” continued Tom.

“What was queer?” I asked the question without the slightest eagerness—indeed, I really was not interested much in what the old sailor was saying.

“Queer that such a smart-appearin’, intelligent gent should have got himself in such a fix.”

“As how?”

“To set sail in such a leaky old tub.”


“And then, when he found she was sinking under him not to make for the shore.”

“What became of him?” I asked.

“He went to New York with us. There he stepped ashore and I ain’t never seen him since—and only heard of him once, an’ that was ten years or so afterward——”

“Hullo!” I cried, suddenly waking up. “When did all this happen, Tom?”

“When did what happen?”

“This man swimming aboard your schooner?”

“Why, nigh as I can remember, it must be fourteen or fifteen years ago—come next spring. It was in April, after the weather 126was right smart warm. Otherwise he wouldn’t have swum so far, I bet ye!”

My voice, I knew, had suddenly become husky. I was startled, though I don’t know why I should have felt so strangely as I reviewed this tale he had told.

“What was his name, Tom?” I asked.

“The name of the feller I was tellin’ you of?”



“How d’you know it was?”

“Why, he said so!” exclaimed Tom. “A man ought to know his own name, oughtn’t he?”

“He should—yes.”


“But did he have any way of proving his name to be Carver?”

“Pshaw! the Cap’n never axed him to prove it. Why for should he lie about it? He worked his way to New York and all he got was his grub for it. I let him have an old pilot coat of mine, he having only a thin jacket on him. He agreed to pay me two dollars for it. And he was jest as honest as they make ’em.”

“He paid you?”

127“He sartinly did,” said old Tom, wagging his head. “A feller who would be as good as his word in that particular wouldn’t lie about his name, would he?”

“You said you heard from him ten years after?” I asked, without trying to answer Tom’s query.

“Well—yes—it was ten years. But I guess the letter had been lying there in the office of Radnor & Blunt—them’s the folks we dealt with on the Sally Smith—for a long time. I had left the Sally the year after and only just by chance went into the office when I was in New York. The chief clerk he passed me over a letter. In it was a two-dollar bill and a line saying it was for the coat.”

“And it had been there waiting for you for some time?”

“’Twas as yellow as saffron. They didn’t know where I lived when I was to home. And I had been ’round the world in the Scarboro, too.”

“And the letter was from Bolderhead?” I asked, slowly.

“No. That was the funny part of it,” said Tom.

I awoke again and once more felt a thrill of excitement in my veins. I watched the old fellow jealously.

128“Didn’t the man—this Carver—belong in Bolderhead?”

“So I supposed. But the letter come from foreign parts.”

“Where?” I asked.

“’Twas from Santiago, Chili.”

“Then he had not gone back to Bolderhead?” I stammered.

“Bless ye, lad! how do I know? I only know he sent the money from Chili. He was something of a mystery, that feller, I allow. Ever heard tell of him in Bolderhead? Are there any Carvers there?”

“It’s a mighty small town along the New England coast in which there are no Carvers,” I replied.

“Now, ain’t that a fact? They’re a spraddled out family, I do allow,” said Tom.

“What did this man look like?” I asked, and I was still eager—I could scarcely have told why.

There was an enlarged crayon picture of my father in my bedroom at home. When he died my mother only had a cheap little tintype of him. I don’t suppose the crayon portrait looked much like Dr. Webb. Certainly there was little in Tom Anderly’s description to connect the strange man rescued out of the 129sea with the portrait of my father. Yet the circumstances, the time of the happening, and the suspicions that had been roused in my mind by Paul Downes and his father, all dovetailed together and troubled me.

Even Ham Mayberry, who scoffed at the idea that my father had made way with himself, admitted that had Dr. Webb lived my mother and I could never have enjoyed Grandfather Darringford’s money. I could never believe that my father had been wicked enough to commit suicide. But, suppose he had merely slipped away from us—gone out of our lives entirely—with the intention of putting his wife and child in a prosperous position?

It was romantic, I suppose. To the perfectly sane and hard-headed such a suspicion would seem utterly ridiculous. But the longer I thought over Tom Anderly’s story—the more I allowed my imagination to roam—the more possible the idea seemed. Ham had said my father was not a money-making man. He was in financial difficulties, too. Grandfather had died and there was a heap of money just beyond my mother’s grasp. My father had become a stumbling-block in her path—in my path. He it was who kept us from enjoying wealth.

130The cruelty of my grandfather in arranging such a situation filled me with anger when I contemplated it. What could my father think but that, if he were out of the way, it would be far, far better for his wife and child?

I could not believe, for an instant, that Dr. Webb would have committed the crime of self-destruction. But in my then romantic state of mind, what more easily believed than that he had deliberately removed himself out of our lives—and in a way to make it appear that he was dead?

As we did, he knew we would at once enter into the enjoyment of the wealth left by old Mr. Darringford. There would be no material suffering caused by his dropping out of sight. I faced the matter with more coolness and a better understanding than most boys of my age possess, because of my knowing my mother’s nature so well. Take my own sudden disappearance, for instance. I knew well she would be quite overwhelmed at first; but if good Dr. Eldridge brought her out of it all right, and she had somebody to turn to and depend upon for comfort and encouragement, she would sustain my mysterious absence very well indeed.

And my father must have known her character 131much better than I did! Undoubtedly it had been very hard for mother to endure the cramped circumstances of those first two years of her married life. It must have been a great deal harder for Dr. Webb to bear it, knowing that she suffered for lack of the luxuries and ease to which she had been used.

I could imagine that the situation when my grandfather died and left his peculiar will, would have pretty near maddened Dr. Webb. It would not be strange if he contemplated self-destruction as a means of putting my mother and myself positively beyond the reach of poverty. He had rowed out to White Rock. He had left the old watch—I had the heirloom in my pocket now—for the boy who was yet to grow up and bear his name. The fog and the Sally Smith had appeared together and offered him means of escape.

It would be fifteen years the coming spring that my father had disappeared. Tom Anderly had hit the time near enough. Had there been any man named Carver who had suffered such an accident off Bolderhead Neck as the old seaman told of, I would have heard the particulars, knocking about among the Bolderhead docks as I had for years.

132The story seemed conclusive. I had never for a moment believed that my father had wickedly made way with himself. But that he was alive—that he had gone out into the world, possibly with the hope of finding a fortune and sometime coming back to mother and me with a pocketful of money—Yes! I could believe that, and I did believe it with all my heart!

Chapter XIV

In Which I Hear for the First Time the Whaler’s Battle-Cry

So impressed was I by the imaginings suggested by Tom Anderly’s story, that I opened my letter to old Ham Mayberry and asked him if he had ever heard of a man named Carver who had gone through the experiences Tom had related of the man who had swum to the Sally Smith from the direction of Bolderhead Neck?

It was the very next day, and a fortnight after I had boarded the whaling bark, that I got a chance to send off the letters. The wind lulled and we crossed the course of a steamship hailing from Baltimore and touching on the West Coast of Africa; Captain Rogers sent the letters aboard the steamship. There was no use in my trying to get passage on her, however; I would have gained nothing by such a move.

“Now your letters will be picked up by a London, or Lisbon-bound steamer and it 134won’t be two months before your folks will know all about you,” Ben Gibson said. “If you’d had to depend upon the post-box in the Straits of Magellan, for instance, it might be six months before Bolderhead folk would ever know what had become of you.”

I must confess that every day I was becoming more and more enamored of this life at sea. We had had little fair weather and were kept busy making sail and then reefing again, or repairing the small damages made by the gale. Captain Rogers was not the man to lay hove to in any fair breeze. We outran the bad weather before we crossed the line and then the lookout went to the masthead and from that time on, as long as I was with the Scarboro, the crowsnest was never empty by day.

For we had come into those regions of the South Atlantic where schools of the big mammals for which we hunted might be at any time come upon, especially at this season of the year. The gale having left us, the weather was charming. While winter was threatening New England we were in the latitude of perpetual summer, and as long as the trade wind blew we did not suffer from the heat.

135The Scarboro carried crew enough to put out six boats at a time and still leave a boatkeeper and cook aboard. As a usual thing, however, only four boats were expected to be out at once—the captain’s, Ben Gibson’s (with whom Tom Anderly went as boat-steerer and would really be in charge until Ben learned the ropes) the mate’s boat, and Bill Rudd, the carpenter’s, boat. The gun forward in the Scarboro’s bows, however, was there for a purpose, too, as I found out on the first day we sighted a whale.

The man in the crowsnest suddenly hailed the deck, when Mr. Gibson was in charge:

“On deck, sir!” he sang out, with such eagerness that the watch came instantly to attention.

“Well, sir?” cried Ben.

“Ah-h blows! Again, sir!”

“Pass the word for Cap’n Rogers, Webb,” the second mate said to me, and grabbing his glasses he started up the backstays to see the sight. Some of the hands sprang into the rigging, too, and soon the whaler’s battle-cry rang through the ship:

“Ah-h blows! And spouts!”

Captain Rogers was on deck in a moment. He ran up after Ben Gibson and took an 136earnest peek through the glasses himself. Then he dropped down to the quarter and said, but with satisfaction:

“Only one fish in sight. May be more ahead. Perhaps it’s a she with a calf and has got behind the school. We’ll see. Now, boys! tumble up and let’s get the rags on her.”

We went at the sails with a will and for the first time I saw every yard of canvas the Scarboro could set flung to the breeze. The old bark began to hustle. She was heavy and she could do no fancy sailing; but having the wind with her she rushed down upon the lone whale like a steamship. Soon we could see the undulating black hump of the whale from the deck.

We saw an occasional spurt of water, or mist, from its blow-holes. By and by it breached and was out of sight for a short time. When it came up again it was still tail-end to the Scarboro and not half a mile away. There was no other whale in sight; but this was a big fellow—a right whale, or baleener. After coming up it lay quietly on the water, or moving ahead very slowly.

The men were eager to get after it in the boats; but Captain Rogers knew a better way than that to attack a lone whale. We 137reefed down again and left little canvas exposed while the Scarboro kept on her tack under the momentum she had already gathered. The captain went forward where the gun had been made ready. He swung it about on its pivot and got the range of the whale.

At this small distance the huge mammal looked like a cigar-shaped piece of smooth, shiny slate-colored India-rubber—no longer black. Four or five feet of its diameter and forty feet or more of its length showed like a mound in the smooth water, and the body alternately rose and dipped as the whale swam slowly along. It was doubtless feeding on the tiny marine creatures which are the sole food of the right whale. It took great “gulps” of sea water into its cavernous mouth, water which it strained out through its curtain of baleen, swallowing only the tiny fish down a gullet so small that it would not admit a man’s fist.

The Scarboro was approaching it from behind and at an angle, so that its course and ours made the sides of a V. Captain Rogers followed the course of the whale alertly, swinging the muzzle of the cannon with skill. Most of the crew were grouped behind him in anxious expectancy.

138Suddenly I felt a touch upon my arm. It was Tom Anderly. He was pointing silently over the port bow. There, a couple of miles away, I judged, several columns of mist were spouting into the air. There was the school!

But I turned to view the nearby mammoth again just as the gun spoke. I saw a hideous, crimson zigzag gash on the broad side of the whale, I heard the rumbling roar of the time-bomb at the point of the harpoon exploding in the whale’s vitals.

Instantly the whole crew were in a pandemonium of excitement; but the captain’s shrill orders were obeyed like clockwork. I felt the blow of the great bark give a convulsive jerk. The whale had gone straight downward and the cable attached to the harpoon shot over the bow so fast that the eye could not follow its course. Where the hemp touched the rail a column of smoke arose. Two men sprang with buckets to dip up the sea-water and pour it upon the shrieking line. The windlass spun around like a boy’s top.

Coil after coil of the rope leaped into nothingness. Had there been a big express locomotive hitched to that line, and going at full speed, I do not think the line would have paid out any faster!

139At last the windlass ceased to spin. The whale had either touched bottom, or had descended as far as it could. We had already laid our mainsail aback and as the line lay slack upon the water, Captain Rogers motioned to the men at the windlass to wind in. It was like playing a fish at the end of a line and reel.

Those next few moments were breathless ones for all hands. Suddenly the sea parted right off the port bow, and not half a cable’s length ahead. Up, and up the gigantic creature rose—up, up, up till it towered fifteen feet above the Scarboro’s rail!

Then it turned a somersault, beating the sea to waves like the boiling of a cauldron. It rose again, churning the sea with its tail, and then raising the caudal fin for twenty feet, or more, and slapping it down upon the water with a shock like the report of a big gun—aye, like a thunder-clap!

Then the great beast whirled round and round—it seemed seeking for the thing that had so hurt it. We watched the struggle of the leviathan with pop-eyed expectation—especially the young second mate and myself, for we were the only real greenhorns aboard the Scarboro. The whale wrapped several 140lengths of the line about its body and then shot away into the southwest, away from the distant school. It swam so fast that it actually seemed to skip from wave to wave like a swallow.

When it reached the end of the slack there was a jerk that shook the bark from stem to stern. Then came the tug of war. There was no small whaleboat behind it, but a great, 195 ton bark, and this massive bulk the creature actually towed like a steam-tug towing a steamship.

The captain let more line out. Far out at the end of two miles of line the whale lashed about, and churned the sea, and blew blasts of vapor into the air. Then old Tom Anderly cried that it was spouting blood and we knew the end was near.

But the captain gave the whale half an hour in which to die before ordering the line wound inboard. The rest of the school had gone on steadily into the south and was still several miles away. We could not launch our boats for them, but gave our complete attention to the first kill.

As the whale felt the pull of the line it gave a single convulsive jump. But after waiting a moment or two, Captain Rogers 141commanded the windlass to be manned again. Slowly the line came in and, after a time, the huge, inert, flabby body floated, belly up, just off our bows.

The mate’s boat was lowered and a chain was passed around the whale’s body just forward of the tail. With this it was grappled to the Scarboro’s side. I could see a dozen quarreling porpoises eating the tongue of the monster that had been, two hours before, alive and, to these scavengers, invincible.

There was a broad smile on every man’s face, from Captain Rogers down the line. The first kill had been successful. Oil was in sight. But—as I soon found out—the real work of the voyage had begun as well.

Chapter XV

In Which We “Strike On”

Belly uppermost the huge whale (its actual length was seventy-three feet) was fastened “stem and stern” along the starboard side of the Scarboro. The first operation of butchering a whale—if it be a baleener—is to secure the whalebone. This is a difficult job as I very soon saw. The thick, hard, horny substance must be separated from the jaw; and it sometimes turns the edge of the axe like iron would.

When we had got the baleen inboard, however, the more disagreeable work of “flensing” began. A number of the men, with old Tom Anderly at their head, got upon the whale in spiked shoes and with blubber spades attacked the main carcass of the beast. The blubber was cut up into squares, weighing a ton or more each, the hook of the falls caught in one end, and then the blubber was “eased off” with the spades while those aboard hauled on the tackle, thus ripping the blubber from the layer of flesh beneath.

143In handling a small whale, Tom told me, they would thus rip the blubber off in long strips, rolling the carcass over and over in the bights of the holding chains. For this one whale Captain Rogers did not see fit to start the fire under the donkey-engine amid ships, by which the blubber could have been raised inboard much easier.

The try-out caldrons were heated, however, and the blubber as it came inboard—like “sides” from a great hog—was hacked into pieces of two or three pounds each and thrown into the pots. Soon the deck of the bark, from bow to stern, was slippery with spilled oil, or bits of blubber. A thick, greasy smoke rolled away from the ship. It’s flavor in the mouth was at first sickening. We got used to it.

“Hi, lad!” cried Tom Anderly, when I looked over the rail, “now you’ve got a taste of real whaler’s souse—everything you put in your potato-trap for the rest of the v’y’ge will be flavored with whale-oil.”

A whale will weigh about as many tons as it is feet long—in other words, this seventy-three foot whale weighed probably seventy ton and from the blubber we tried out thirty tons of oil—nearly half its weight in the tanks beside the baleen!

144We had been sailing in the wake of the big school of whales we had spied when we killed the baleener. We came up with them again at mid-afternoon, and found that they were sperms. That was why the Mysticete we had killed the day before did not start to drag the Scarboro toward the school. The baleeners and the Denticete (toothed whales) do not mix in company, and are, indeed, seldom found in the same seas. The baleeners are usually found toward the Arctic or Antarctic regions, while the sperms and their ilk hold to the warm seas.

Captain Rogers might have run down to the school of cachelots and gunned for one of the beasts; but then the others would have been frightened away. The bark lay to upon a perfectly calm sea, and at a distance of about two miles from the school, and four boats were manned and shot away from the ship. The whales seemed to be asleep, or lying sunning themselves, upon the surface of the sea.

I was in Ben Gibson’s boat, of which old Tom was steersman. He would handle the iron too, for as I have said, Ben was just as green in the actual practice of whalemanship as I was myself. We raced with the other 145boats for the nearest prize, which proved to be a husky bull, longer than the baleener we had killed.

I was bow oar, and I found that I could hold my own with the rest of the crew. Our stroke set a slapping pace and we bent to the work as though we were racing for the sport of it. Each crew desired to be first and have the credit of fleshing the iron in this monster. The water being so calm it proved to be a very pretty struggle. And all done so silently! The whale is sharp-eared and on a mill-pond sea like this, sounds carry far. We came up from behind the mammoth, and we were ahead of the other boats.

The captain, in the nearest boat, signaled us with his hand to strike on, while his boat rushed past for another of the sleeping monsters. Old Tom and the young second mate changed places swiftly and the old harpooner stood up poising the heavy iron and looking to see that the coils of the rope were free. With a nod Mr. Gibson ordered the oars brought inboard and he pulled in the long steering oar himself. The whaleboat shot close up to the whale’s side. The body loomed beside us like the rolling hull of an unballasted ship.

146With my face over my shoulder I watched old Tom poise the iron. When he swung it back the muscles of his shoulder and upper arm flexed like a pugilist’s! He was a fit subject for a statue at that instant. Then he flung body and weapon forward, the latter left his hand smoothly, and the sabre-sharp point sunk deep in the yielding blubber.

“Back all!” gasped Ben Gibson, scarcely above his breath, so excited was he.

But we had expected the order and were ready for it. The oars went in with unanimity and the boat shot back, for a whaleboat is as sharp at one end as it is at the other.

The whale made no flurry, however. It was as though he lay stunned for half a minute—perhaps longer. Then he made up his mind what to do, and he did it with a promptness and speed that was amazing.

Like a spurred horse the whale started ahead. I declare, it seemed as though half his length came out of the sea at the first jump. The line whizzed over the bow as though it were tackled to a fast express.

“Pull!” yelled Ben and we laid to the oars so that when the line ran out the shock would not be so great. When the first line was all out and Tom bent on another we were rushing through the water like mad. We passed 147the captain’s boat just after he had struck on himself and his kill had sounded.

“Go it, young man!” yelled Captain Rogers, standing up and waving his hat to his nephew, “you’re going out of town faster than you’ll come back.”

All we could do in that double-ended boat was to sit still and hold tight. I candidly believe that we traveled at a speed of a mile minute. I had once been aboard of a turbine launch, and the black water was thrown up on either side of that whaleboat in a wave just as it had flowed away from the nose of the launch!

This wave seemed to be three feet higher than the gunwale of the boat and as black as ebony. Even Tom Anderly cast a glance at the boat-hatchet as though he contemplated cutting the taut line. Our eyes were blinded by the wind which seemed to be blowing a hurricane. Actually there was scarcely a breath stirring over the surface of the placid ocean.

Our locomotive went directly through the school. Its mates rolled placidly and eyed us as we shot by with wicked glance. But none of them followed the boat which continued to tear through the water with undiminished speed.

148But after a time we found that we had company, and mighty unpleasant company, too. In the boiling wake of the whaleboat I could see a dozen triangular fins—the fins of the real tiger shark of the tropics. Not a nice spectacle to men in such a situation as ours. Secretly I was frightened, and I reckon even the oldest in the boat’s crew felt serious.

The mad whale was taking us farther and farther away from the bark and our friends. Indeed, the Scarboro was wiped out of sight, it seemed, within a very few minutes, and the other three boats were lost behind us, too.

The runaway, however, did not continue straight ahead. Its speed did not seem to slacken in the least; but soon it began to circle around, finding itself without its mates.

“If the old feller don’t put on brakes pretty soon the harpoon’ll git so hot it’ll melt the blubber and pull out,” chuckled the stroke-oar.

It was the first word spoken that showed relief. There was a perceptible slackening of our speed. And the whale was “going back to town,” as the captain had intimated.

“Get hold of that line, Webb, and stand ready to haul,” said Mr. Gibson to me, taking the heavy whalegun from its covered beckets, 149after changing places again with old Tom.

“Now for it!” muttered the boat-steerer, gripping the eighteen-foot oar and craning forward eagerly. He was just as excited as the rest of us. I hauled in on the line, standing firmly braced just behind the young second mate. The whale had actually come to a stop and did not sound. We drew closer and closer.

“Jest a leetle be-aft the for’ard fin, sir!” whispered old Tom, excitedly.

Gibson grunted some reply and raised the gun, taking careful aim at the mountain of flesh about which the water swirled. A second or two of breathless suspense followed as, oars in hand, we waited the report of the gun.

A sharp report made me jump. Then came the dull explosion of the bomb-lance somewhere in the vitals of the whale.

“Stern all! stern all!” shouted Mr. Gibson, this time finding his voice.

The wounded whale flung itself completely out of the water. For a moment we could see daylight underneath the huge bulk and as we backed water with all our strength it did seem as though that convulsed, eighty barrel sperm must fall upon the boat and overwhelm it!

Chapter XVI

In Which There Is Some Information and Much Excitement

The young second officer’s command needed no repetition. There was no temptation for us to linger under the monster. With a crash that seemed to make sea and air tremble, the great body struck the surface of the water.

The whaleboat dashed back just in time, and then rocked upon the waves as the dying whale rolled to and fro in his “flurry.” Then, with a great puff, the creature rolled partially on his side, and the ocean thereabout became tinged with the blood thrown out of its blow-hole.

“Killed with one lance! killed with one lance!” yelled Second Mate Gibson.

But then he gripped his dignity again and sat down, giving commands in his ordinary tone. Old Tom stood up to glance about the sea-scape: “And now where’s that thundering old hooker?” he demanded. “We’ll have a fine time pulling this baby to her.”

151But that is what we had to do. We had had our “fun;” now we settled down to doggedly pulling the heavy oars, being divided into two watches, and saw the light of the Scarboro’s trying-out works at midnight! The Captain and Mr. Rudd had both got small whales and one had been laid aboard each side of the bark. The crew were working like gnomes in a pantomime when we rowed sadly to the bark with our huge tow. How we worked! I never had been so tired in my life, and at the end of the second day when the oil from the three whales had been run into the tanks and the decks cleared up again, I could have fallen into my hammock and slept the clock around. But one never catches up one’s sleep on a successful whaler, and the Scarboro certainly was proving good her name as a “lucky” craft.

Between Tom Anderly and Ben Gibson I learned a lot about whaling statistics—famous voyages, wonderful accidents to whaling crews “lucky strikes,” and the like. And these facts, both curious and exciting, I stowed away in my mind for future reference. Despite the fact that steam vessels and the gun and explosive bullet have almost supplanted the old-fashioned manner of killing whales, the 152luck and pluck of half a century, or more, ago, counted for enough to offset these new methods.

The most extraordinary good-luck voyage ever made by an American whaler was that of the bark Envoy, belonging to the Brownells of New Bedford. She was built in 1826 and in the year 1847 she returned to her then home port in such a condition that the underwriters refused to insure her for another voyage. But Captain William C. Brownell and Captain W. T. Walker agreed to take a chance in the old hulk and she put to sea from New Bedford under Captain Walker on July 12, 1848. As fitted for sea the Envoy, for repairs, supplies and all, stood the two owners in the sum of $8,000, whereas a vessel that could be insured might have cost from $40,000 to $60,000.

She got around the Horn without falling apart and took on a cargo of oil at Wytootackie which her captain had previously purchased from a wrecked whaler and stored there. This oil she hobbled into Manila with and shipped it to London at a profit of $9,000. From Manila the Envoy went cruising in the North Pacific and in fifty-five days she took 2,800 barrels of whale-oil and 40,000 pounds of baleen. With this she returned to Manila 153and shipped the bone and 1,800 barrels of oil to London, the shipment yielding $37,500 net.

Again she went cruising and secured 2,500 barrels of oil and 35,000 pounds of bone, bringing both into San Francisco in 1851, where she disposed of the oil for $73,450 and shipped the bone to her home port where it brought $12,500. To complete the record of her good luck, San Francisco merchants offered $6,000 for the condemned old bark that had, in two years, or thereabout, brought to her owners and venturesome crew the sum of $138,450.

With the captain’s share as one-seventeenth of the “lay” the skipper of the Envoy must have made $8,000. “There were common sailors on that ship that turned up a thousand dollars in pocket when they were paid off,” said Ben Gibson, when we were discussing it. “The second mate, with his one-forty-fifth, cleaned up three thousand. Hope I’ll do half as well in the same length of time with the Scarboro.”

I learned that the largest catch brought into port by an American whaler, as the result of a single cruise, included 5,300 barrels of oil and 200 barrels of sperm, with 50,000 pounds of bone. It was taken in a voyage 154lasting only 28 months by the South America, of Providence, Captain R. N. Sowle. It sold for $89,000 in 1849, and the cost of ship and outfit was $40,000.

The Pioneer, of New London, Captain Ebenezer Morgan, holds the medal for the largest sum realized from a single voyage. She left her home port on June 4, 1864, for Davis Strait and returned a year and three months later with a cargo of 1,391 barrels of oil and 22,650 pounds of bone, which sold at war-time prices for $150,000. The outfitting of this craft cost $35,000.

“Those are all great tales,” quoth Tom Anderly, when we had marveled over these lucky voyages. “But how about the brig Emeline of New Bedford? She sailed on July 11, 1841 and in twenty-six months she returned home with how much ile d’you suppose?”

Ben and I gave it up. Some enormous sum, we supposed, was realized.

“Yah!” said Tom. “A fat lot. Twenty-six months and ten barrels of ile, and her skipper killed by a whale.”

“Oh, now that you’re on the hard luck tack,” quoth Ben, “there was the Junior, of New Bedford. I’ve heard my uncle tell of her. Out a year and two months and put 155back to port clean—and the crew plumb disgusted. Could you blame ’em?”

This conversation went on between our watches while the three sperm whales were being butchered. There was a peculiarity about these cachelots that I failed to mention. We butchered them in a different manner than we did the Greenland, or right, whale. The cachelot has no baleen but it furnishes spermaceti. A large, nearly triangular cavity in the right side of the head, called the “case” (sometimes spermaceti is called “case oil”) is lined with a beautiful, silver-like membrane, and covered by a thick layer of muscular fibres. This cavity contains a secretion of an oily fluid which, after the death of the animal, congeals into a granulated yellowish-hued substance. Our whale, the first of the school killed by the second mate’s boat—had in its case a tun, or ten barrels, of spermaceti!

While the trying-out operations were under way we lost, of course, that school of sperms; but we drifted some miles into the south, and as soon as Captain Rogers could get canvas on her, we made a splendid run for two days west of south and so caught up either with that same school, or with another herd of cachelots.

156I had thus far seen some of the sport, a good deal of the hard work, and some of the uncertainties of the whaleman’s life; now I came upon a streak of peril the remembrance of which is not likely to be sponged from my mind as long as I possess any memory at all.

It was at daybreak the lookout hailed the deck with “Ah-h blows! And spouts! All about us, sir!”

It was true. We had run into the midst of the school of whales. Captain Rogers being called by Mr. Robbins, took a look around the sea-line, cast a shrewd look at the heavens, went and squinted at the glass, and then ordered the canvas reefed down and all hands to breakfast. The prospect, of both weather and whales, was for a good kill.

The healthy rivalry between the boats was now manifest. Captain Rogers ordered all six out, leaving but two men aboard the bark. They could just manage to steer her under the riding sail. Our boat was off as soon as any and we pulled steadily for the whale we had chosen as our prize. We had brought in the biggest one before and we hoped to do as well on this occasion.

But we couldn’t pick the biggest this time, for as we shot through the rippling waves, 157aiming for a huge bull that rolled on the surface, up popped a young female, with a calf, right in our course.

“Look out for her!” quoth old Tom Anderly. “She’ll be ugly, sir—with that kid beside her. Better think twice of it, Mr. Gibson.”

“Think we’re going to have the other boats give us the yah-yah because we pass up a fifty-foot she whale, eh?” demanded the young second officer. “Just step forward here, old timer, and see if you can stick your fork into her.”

After all, the mate’s word was law even to the old boat-steerer. They quickly changed places and Tom took up the iron. The calf was playing on the far side of its mother, and so we could easily come up upon the nigh side without being observed.

In a few moments Tom had her pinned. Then there was the Old Harry to pay and no pitch hot, as the sailors say!

The other two whales I had seen killed merely thought of running away from the thing that had hurt them. But the one we now were fast in had her baby to care for. She set off running, but would not swim faster than the calf could travel. We did not put out the full length of one line.

158“Haul in! haul in!” cried Ben Gibson, excitedly. “I’ll get a lance in her.”

“You be careful, sir,” whispered old Tom, from the stern again, to which he had gone after throwing the iron. “There ain’t nothing wickeder than a she whale with a sucking calf, when she’s roused.”

We had drawn in rather close and could see that the calf was falling behind. The mother noticed it as well. She feared the thing that had stung her; but, mother-like, she clung to her little one. She swerved around and the line fell slack.

“Look out, now, sir!” cried Tom Anderly again. “She’s mad, and she’s scared, and she’s looking for us. If she once gits her tail under our bottom its good-bye Jo for all hands—and the water’s mighty wet today.”

Almost as he ceased speaking the wicked eye of the great creature blinked at the boat, and she came rushing down upon it. Tom threw himself upon the great steering oar, while Ben shouted:

“Pull! Pull, you lubbers! Do you want to be swamped by the critter?”

We bent our backs to the struggle and the whaleboat shot ahead; but the maddened cow-whale came on, as big as a brick warehouse, and bent on running us under!

Chapter XVII

In Which I Come Very Near Going Out of the Story

Our boat escaped the collision with the mad whale on her first attack. She rushed by us like a steamer, throwing up a wave from her jaws and just “humping herself.” Old Tom swerved us about swiftly in her wake and we came right upon the calf.

“By jinks! I’ll soak you one for luck, anyway!” ejaculated the angry second mate, and he up with his lance-gun and put a shot into the little fellow.

“Now, sir, we’ll have trouble with her,” grunted Tom, grimly.

“She’s coming back!” stroke oar shouted.

It seemed as though the whale knew her young had been killed. She whirled in the sea and rushed down upon the drifting calf, the blood from which tinged the sea for yards around its carcass. It was really pitiful to see her stop at it, and seemingly caress it, drawing it toward her with her huge fin that 160it might suckle. But we were alive to the chance of getting near enough to lance her, and under whispered instructions rowed in.

Mr. Gibson had risen and aimed the gun and was about to fire when the cow-whale seemed to suddenly understand her loss and her own danger. With a mighty flirt of her tail (which same came near to swamping our boat) she “sounded,” as it is called.

Her head went down and her great tail flirted in the air. Mr. Gibson went over backward, exploding the gun and sending the bomb-lance into the air. The whale was out of sight in a flash and the line began to run over the bow with a speed that made the woodwork smoke.

I bent on another line and then dipped up some water in the bailer to throw upon the smoking gunwale. It was at this moment that I came as close to death as ever whaleman experienced. A lurch of the boat canted me and I threw out my left hand to prevent myself from diving overboard.

It was a most unfortunate gesture. In some way that uncoiling line, which moved so fast one could scarcely follow it with the eye, wrapped about my arm below the elbow and—like a flash—I was jerked out of the 161boat and shot beneath the surface of the sea!

I would like to tell of this terrible incident as it seemed to my mates in the whaleboat; I presume they were aghast at my flight over the bow and disappearance. For a man to be carried overboard by the harpoon line, and entangled in that line, is not an unknown incident in the annals of whale-fishing. But only one person ever went through the experience and lived to tell of it before my time—or so I am informed. This was Captain Parker of the American whaler West Wind.

I don’t know how the matter seemed to Captain Parker; I can only relate my own sensations. And, believe me, they were queer enough. I shot down after the sounding whale with a rapidity that seemed to deprive me of the ordinary powers of thought or imagination. My only conscious idea was that I was a dead boy if I could not cut that line!

I was rushing down into the depths head-foremost—and with the swiftness, it seemed, of a reversed skyrocket! I thought my arm would be torn from its socket, so great was the resistance of the water. Fortunately I had been clothed in a thick jacket, and that jacket-sleeve saved my arm from being mutilated.

162I was traveling so fast behind the sounding whale that I could not move my right arm from my side. It seemed glued there, so closely was it pressed to my body by the force of the water. The pressure on my brain became frightful, too, and thunder roared in my ears—or, so it seemed.

For an instant I opened my eyes. It appeared that a stream of blasting flame passed before them. I was blinded.

But, providentially, I was composed. I knew what I was about—rather, what was happening to me—each moment. I struggled to reach the knife I wore at my belt; but every second I grew weaker. The compression around my chest was like that of a tightening band of iron.

Of course, only seconds elapsed; but it seemed a very, very long time. Would the whale ever reach the bottom? Would the line ever sag? Far gone as I was, my brain remained perfectly clear and I was ready to make use of the least fortunate incident in my favor.

Then it came—the slackening of the line. I drove forward with a mighty kick of my feet—a last gasp of strength. My fingers closed on the handle of the gully, I ripped it 163out of its sheath, and slashed the keen blade across the line.

I cut my wrist a bit in so doing. Luckily, I cut ahead of the arm entangled in the line; it was more by good luck than good management.

My remembrances after that are confused. I know I shot upward from the dreadful depths, the human body being so much more buoyant than the salt sea. I lost consciousness slowly. All I finally remember was an enlarging spot of light toward which I mounted but which seemed to be miles and miles away!

I was suffocating. A gurgling spasm seized upon me. Light, and sense, and all were quenched suddenly. Life was slipping from my grasp.

Chapter XVIII

In Which We Realize the “Grind” of the Whaleman’s Life

According to Ben Gibson, they immediately gave me up for dead. The chance that my arm had not been torn away from the shoulder was small, and once thus crippled they expected the spouting blood to attract the sharks, and then—good night!

But while I remained conscious I had not even thought of those monsters; nor do I believe that a single one of the beasts came near me while I followed the whale toward the bottom of the sea.

The men in my boat were helpless. They might not aid me in the least. Nor did they know when I severed the line and started for the surface again. The weight of the hemp kept it down, although it stopped running out. Fortunately it uncoiled from my arm, or I would have been held down there and drowned.

They stared in horror over the sides of the 165whaleboat, trying to distinguish any moving object in the depths, and as moment after moment passed they glanced at each other and shook their heads. I was lost. They had no hope of ever even seeing me again.

And then it was that the sharp eyes of the old boat-steerer descried my arm above the surface, not many yards away.

“There! look yon!” he yelled. “Pull, you lubbers!”

They shot the boat ahead and the old man seized me, plunging in his arm to the shoulder as I sank again. Ben had begun to strip off his clothing, bound to dive for me if the old man missed. But there was no need of that, and they hauled me over the side into the boat a deal more dead than alive.

Indeed, I fought when they brought me back to consciousness. It was awful suffering, that recovery—that return to the world which I had every reason to suppose I had said good-bye to. It was a good half hour before I began to realize where I was, and what was happening to me.

We could not go back to the ship, however. Whale fishing is a grim business. A struck whale has completely smashed a boat, leaving its crew struggling in the water, and the 166other boats have gone on after the monster and left their companions to paddle about on the wreckage as best they can until the leviathan is killed.

The other boats from the Scarboro were all busy and our boat was behind. We had lost our whale and the better part of two lines had gone with the iron. Before I could do more than lie on the bottom of the boat, under the men’s feet, and gasp, we were pulling after the wounded female again. She had come up for air and lay sullenly on the surface not half a mile away.

She was a Tartar; but old Tom got another iron in her, and later Ben Gibson killed her with two bomb-pointed lances. When the old bark came down upon us about night she was dead and we hauled her alongside—the first fish to be grappled to. But the other boats brought in three more. We were having great luck and for two more days worked like Trojans.

But the school of cachelots we had followed had disappeared then. The Scarboro sailed many a league farther south—and toward the Horn—before we raised a single whale. We were 40 degrees south then—below the de la Plata. I feared that the old bark would not 167put in at Buenos Ayres and there would be no chance of my returning home by steamship.

Not that I was yet tired of my work and the life we led. No, indeed. But I was anxious to hear from home, and I believed letters must be waiting me there at Buenos Ayres—and money, too.

No use to think of touching port, however, when the weather was so fine and whales were so infrequently met with. The whole crew had begun to get anxious. Mr. Robbins grumbled that he didn’t see the use of roaming about the South Atlantic, anyway. It was the Pacific that whales frequented.

“Why the last time I sailed in a windjammer,” declared the mate, “we were four weeks getting around the Horn from Santiago, and there wasn’t a day went over our heads that we didn’t see plenty of whales. The minute we got onto this side of Fuego we never saw a fin—and we ran to Bahia. Wouldn’t have known there ever was a whale in this darned old ocean.”

But the beginning of the cruise had been fortunate, and the whales had not entirely forsaken the Atlantic despite the grumbling of the crew. We killed two small humpedbacks 168within the week and then came upon sperms again. At daybreak the lookout hailed and the sea seemed fairly alive with them.

We tumbled out and, with only a pannikin of coffee in our stomachs, and a cold bite in our fists, made off in the boats for the royal game. Ben Gibson’s boat had a good tally so far and we were not going to let the others beat us much. We had our pick of half a dozen sperms and we took after a bull that seemed promising.

We struck on and the wounded whale ran a little way in fright, trying its best to shake out the harpoon. Finding this impossible, despite its porpoise-like gambols, the whale sounded; then occurred one of the strangest happenings that can be imagined. The bull went down, and we paid out a goodly portion of line. Finally the line stopped running, but the whale did not rise.

“What do you know about this, Tom?” demanded the young second mate. “That critter’s gone to sleep down there, hasn’t it?”

“It’ll be drowned!” exclaimed the old harpooner. “That’s what’ll happen to it.”

“Drowned!” cackled one of the crew. “What you givin’ us, old hardshell? Drown 169a whale, eh? That’s like the boy that pumped water on the frog to drown him.”

“You wait and see,” growled old Tom. “If that bull don’t come up pretty soon we’ll have a circus with it, now I tell ye!”

The whale gave no sign. We tried hauling on the line, and of course it wouldn’t budge.

“It’s sure got its feet stuck in the mud down there,” admitted the second mate, and he stood up and wigwagged frantically for the ship.

There were only four boats out and the captain himself chanced to be aboard. He knew old Tom would not give up anything easy, and so he brought the Scarboro into hailing distance and we told him what had happened. We had caught a Tartar; the whale wouldn’t come to the surface and we couldn’t let go without losing our line and iron. It was no use jerking on that line. One can’t play a whale like a rock bass!

We rowed to the ship and the line was carried aboard and tagged onto a winch. We got at it right then and, before long, up came the dead body of a whale. It was a good sized one—indeed, I thought at the start that it was bigger looking close beside the bark than it had seemed when we struck on.

170And pretty soon we found out the reason why it seemed different. We couldn’t find the harpoon Tom Anderly had thrown into it! The line was found jammed to the back of the whale’s mouth and wound round its body—whales will roll over and over when struck just as an old salmon will when hooked.

That whale was drowned. A whale isn’t a fish, anyway, and this one had been under water so long that it was too late, as Ben Gibson said, to bring forward any “first aid to the drowned” business!

What puzzled us all—from Captain Hi down to the cook’s cat—was what had become of the iron?

“And, by jingoes!” cried the second mate, “we ain’t got all our line back.”

This was plainly a fact. When the whale was grappled onto the bark’s side and the line unwound, we found that it still hung down into the sea and was quite taut.

“This blamed critter was anchored!” growled Tom Anderly. “And he dragged his anchor at that.”

“Get onto the winch, boys,” said Captain Rogers. “Let’s see what’s hung to it now.”

We wound in the line and up came the whale that we had actually struck! The 171harpoon still held in its body. Good reason why I had thought the first whale seemed different from the one we had chased.

Of course, this whale was drowned, too. When it sounded, the other whale must have crossed our line while feeding with open mouth. Feeling the strange sensation of the hemp in the back of its mouth, the creature had instinctively closed its jaws and, in the struggle, wound the line about its body and been drowned.

Of course, this had kept the first whale down until it had drowned and, marvelous to relate, we had got the both of them—and a tidy addition to our cargo they proceeded to make. The luck of the second mate’s boat became proverbial after that haul.

But despite our luck, the real grind of the whaleman’s life was taking hold of us now. It was work—hard, bone labor—if we “had luck,” and it was likewise work if we missed and rowed hour after hour after an elusive sperm or, at the end of the day, had to row empty handed back to the bark.

Ben Gibson loved money; but he admitted to me that a fifteen hundred dollar prize for the voyage would scarcely pay him for the work and grind of our daily life aboard the Scarboro.

Chapter XIX

In Which Is Reported a Series of Misadventures

It began much as other busy days had begun for us of the Scarboro, since we got upon the whaling grounds; the fires under the trying-out kettles were scarcely quenched when, just at daybreak, came the hail of the man in the crowsnest:

“On deck, sir! Ah-h blows!”

“Where away?” bawled Captain Rogers, who seemed tireless himself and expected every man and boy aboard to catch the inspiration of a sight that had now become terribly commonplace to us—a spouting cachelot.

“Two p’ints on yer weather bow, sir.”

The captain started up the rigging and in a moment the lookout repeated:

“Thar she blo-o-ows!”

“I see her!” bawled the captain. Then turning, his roar penetrated to the fo’castle: “All hands on deck! Tumble up here! Lively now! Sperm whale, ain’t she, John?”

173“Aye, sir, sir!” returned the lookout. “There she breaches!” as one of the creatures up-ended. A dozen had suddenly come into sight—appearing like imps in a pantomime—“from the vasty deep.”

As Captain Hi came down Mr. Robbins reached the quarter.

“Seems a powerful sight of whales, Mr. Robbins,” the old man said, passing the mate the glasses.

Mr. Robbins went up and took a good squint all around the horizon.

“Three hundred if there’s one, Cap’n!” he declared with reverent enthusiasm.

“Does seem so, doesn’t it?” admitted the captain.

The crew had tumbled up and were getting the boats ready. Only four were going out, but the skipper stayed us until we had had breakfast.

“We’re going into a man’s job this morning,” he grunted. “We want to be prepared for it.”

It might be that some of the boat crews wouldn’t be back at the ship for eighteen hours. It often happened, and pulling a heavy ash oar on an empty stomach is not an inspiring job.

Inside of five minutes after the first hail 174the whales spouting from one end of the skyline to the other. We had run into the biggest herd of sperms that the oldest whaleman on the Scarboro had ever seen. Maybe we didn’t feel excited! At such times as this one forgets the “grind.” There was both money and excitement ahead of us. We actually sloughed off the weariness we had felt after a steady twenty-four hours’ spell at the try-out kettles.

We lowered and spread out, fanwise, from the bark and made for the whales. No need of racing this morning. As Tom said, it looked as though a harpoon thrown into the air in almost any direction would hit a whale when it came down!

I was eager to throw an iron myself. I had the physique for it, being such a stocky fellow. And the hard life I had lived since being swept out to sea in my Wavecrest had agreed with me. My muscles were like wire cables, I was burned as black as a negro, and there was scarcely a man aboard the bark whom I could not have flung in a fair wrestle.

“Give Clint his chance, Tom,” said Mr. Gibson, as the boat-steerer came forward. “If he misses, you can throw a second iron.”

I was tickled enough at this. Old Tom had given me plenty of advice before about the 175handling of the harpoon, and I tried to remember all of his teaching as I released my bow oar and took up the first iron.

Perhaps it would be interesting to my readers if I told them something about this weapon of the whaleman. The bomb-lance and gun are all very well; but the harpoon is the real weapon on which the whaleman must depend. This iron must be right and the line attached to it must be right, or the best of harpooners will make a poor tally.

The whale line is a fine manila rope 1-1/2 inches thick. It is stretched and coiled with the greatest care into tubs, some holding two hundred fathoms, some a hundred fathoms. The harpoons are fixed to poles of rough, heavy wood, every care being taken to make them as strong as possible. And their weight necessitates a harpooner being chosen from among the biggest and strongest men in the ship.

The harpoon blade is made like an arrow, but with only one barb, which turns on a steel pivot. The point of the harpoon blade is ground as sharp as a razor on one side and blunt on the other. The shaft is about thirty inches long and made of the best soft iron so that it is practically impossible to break it. Three irons were always placed in our boat, 176fitted one above the other in the starboard bow. If the harpooner missed with one iron, or if there was time to fling a second, he could reach and get it handily.

In the old days the lances were slung in the port bow. It was with the lance the whale was actually killed. The harpoon only serves to make the boat fast to its prize. The lances were slender spears about four feet long with broad points. The old-time whalemen were rowed right up to the side of the ironed monster, after it had tired itself out fighting, and the officer in the bow had to churn the lance up and down in the great beast until the point reached a vital spot.

For this reason there were many more serious accidents in the old times than now. In each boat belonging to the Scarboro there was stowed a lance-gun in place of the lances. The bomb-lance is surer than the old-time lance, and keeps the boat and crew farther from the seat of peril.

I rose up as soon as we drove in near the big bull that we had been approaching. And it was a big fellow! I think it was as large a sperm as we had seen. Its upper jaw and head was covered with lumps and scars of old wounds. Along the flank was a half-healed, jagged gash, too.

177“That old boy’s collided with something,” grumbled Tom Anderly in my ear. “I believe he’s a rogue.”

I had heard of ancient, isolated he-elephants being called “rogue;” but I did not know before that whalemen believe that certain old bull whales are just as savage and revengeful as tigers. Indeed, among all wild creatures—either on land or in the sea—there seem to be ancient bulls that go off from their kind and sulk. They easily “run amuck”—perhaps are really insane. To attack them is far more perilous than to attack a herd of their normal fellows.

This old bull whale, however, had not deserted the society of his fellows; but he proved to be as ugly a customer as we could have found in all that school of three hundred or more sperms!

“He looks bad to me,” whispered Tom Anderly. “He’s a fighter. He’s probably smashed more boats in his time than the old hooker carries when she’s nested up full. Gosh! look at the warts on him.”

“And that gash in his side,” said Ben. “How do you suppose that happened?”

“Looks just like he’d rubbed against a copper keel,” declared the old man.

178I thought they were trying to scare me. But I learned later that it was not an uncommon thing for an old whale to use a ship’s keel to rub himself against—it scrapes off the barnacles!

I just gave old Tom a grim look, however, and seized the harpoon. We were creeping up on the bull and I intended to make a good cast. The creature was weaving slowly along and not paying any attention to our boat at all. My! he did look enormous. The nearer we came to him the more threatening was his appearance. He was more than a hundred feet long, I was sure. He would have weighed as much as twenty-five of the biggest elephants that ever showed in a menagerie.

I am free to confess I felt queer, as that slate-colored monster loomed up before our bow. With one flop of its tail it could smash the craft and give us all a ducking—perhaps kill half the crew. Many of the old whalers’ yarns I remembered as I poised that heavy shaft.

But then old Tom whispered: “Now!” I let go with all my might. The harpoon sunk into the huge bull until half its staff was hidden! I had made as pretty a cast as ever Tom Anderly could himself.

179“Back all!” shouted Gibson.

Our craft shot backward while the bull gave a startled plunge forward, and the line began to run out fast. In half a minute the beast sounded and we prepared for a long fight. But suddenly he was up again and shot two or three geysers of water into the air. He lay still and we began to take in the slack.

“Call this a fight?” muttered the second mate, with scorn.

I had slipped into my seat and the mate was changing with Tom again, bent upon using the gun for the finishing touches. Suddenly the old bull started. He did not come for the boat but headed directly for the bark, lying not more than half a mile away. He went so fast we could scarcely see the harpoon line. He made the sea about him boil, and the waves in his wake (for we were close up to him) almost swamped us.

“What’s he going to do?” screamed Gibson.

“Holy mackerel!” groaned the stroke oarsman. “He’s going to bunt the old hooker.”

“That’s what he’s up to,” agreed Tom Anderly; “he’s after revenge. And if he hits the Scarboro right, we’re likely to have a nice time rowing ashore, boys—you can take my word for that!”

Chapter XX

In Which Our Chapter of Bad Luck Is Continued

That old bull was sure a fighting whale. The annals of whaling do not lack records of such old rogues, as witness the sinking of the Kathleen, of New Bedford on the “12-40 ground” east of the Barbadoes in 1901. A bad whale can do a lot of damage besides smashing whaleboats. Thus far we had suffered no loss from the monsters which the Scarboro was hunting; but as this old bull shot like an arrow for the scarred side of the bark, which was hove to less than half a mile away, it did look as though she was due to get a bad bump.

We were on a short line, however, for the bull had not sounded deeply. Ben Gibson sprang up with the bomb gun and tried to put a lance in the beast at that distance. It only scratched him, I suppose, but it did seem to swerve him from his course.

Instead of striking the Scarboro, he ran past 181her stern and circled around her. We were snatched after the whale at racing speed and saw the fellows aboard hanging over the rail grinning at us—like spectators at a horse race.

“Them sculpins wouldn’t grin so broad if the critter had bumped the Scarboro,” declared Tom Anderly.

The beast lay quiet for a bit and we pulled up on him. Before Gibson could get him with the lance gun again, he sounded.

“Now, by gravy!” exclaimed old Tom, who had a wealth of expletives in him when he was excited, “look out for squalls.”

“He’s been squally enough already, hasn’t he?” demanded our young officer.

“You ain’t seen the end yet, sir,” returned the old man.

“Well, I bet I do see the end——”

He broke off with a sharp intake of breath. Then: “Stern all!” he ejaculated.

Up through the green sea came a huge shadow. We could not shoot the boat back in time to clear the monster. The whale had turned and shot up under the boat!

The boat jarred as the prolonged lower jaw of the bull whale struck her keel forward. There was a mighty rush of waters, like a cataract; the whaleboat was flung aside, and 182Ben Gibson shot over the bow and fell right into the open mouth of the whale!

I know I screamed something—I don’t know what I said. The boat was shooting back under the impetus of the oars, and we escaped overturning.

But I had seen Ben fall and saw him disappear into the cavern of the creature’s mouth. I saw, too, the jaws come together once, and I swear our second mate was in the bull’s mouth when it closed!

But the next moment the maw of the beast opened and in the swirl of foam and blood-streaked water I caught sight of the senseless Gibson.

“Pull!” I yelled.

And although I had no business to give a command, the men obeyed me and the boat shot forward again. I seized our second mate by his shirt collar. In a moment I had lifted him into the boat.

At the same moment Tom Anderly got forward, seized the gun which poor Gibson had dropped, and sent a bomb-lance into the whale at so short a distance that it seemed as though we might have touched him by putting out a hand.

But that fighting whale died hard. It 183leaped after the bomb exploded and again we were almost overturned.

“Cut loose! Let the beast go!” cried some of the men.

But Tom Anderly would not lift the boat hatchet. To cut a whale free, unless it becomes absolutely necessary, is “against the religion” of any old whaler. As for myself, I was bending over the injured second mate, trying to revive him.

Ben Gibson had been through a most awful experience. Old Cap’n Wood, of Nantucket, had been in the mouth of a whale, and lived to tell the story. I remembered of reading about his experience. But it was a most awful accident and I feared indeed that the young officer was dead.

Therefore I was not really cognizant of what was going on until half the crew of our boat began to shriek a multitude of commands and advice. Then I looked up and saw that the bull whale for a second time was charging the Scarboro.

It was plain the old fellow realized that the bark was his enemy. He paid no attention to the boat that was tearing through the sea behind him. And we was so near the bark now that nothing could be done to swerve the the fighting whale!

184Straight on dashed the big bull, at a speed that snubbed the whaleboat’s nose under water, for we were close up to the beast. Straight on, with tremendous headway and a fearful, gathering momentum, headed for the grimy, battle-scarred broadside of the old Scarboro. Those aboard of the bark could do nothing. She was still hove to. The fighting whale had missed her by a hand’s breadth once before, but this time he did not swerve.

“Cut loose, Tom!” I yelled, finally understanding—as did the other men with us—the menacing disaster. In a few seconds we would smash into the bark’s hull, whether the whale dived or not.

But the bull didn’t dive, and Tom swung the axe. His quick stroke severed the line and every man in our boat was awake to the impending catastrophe. Stroke sprang for the long steering oar. The rapid swing of it barely swerved the heavy boat out of the course of sure disaster.

On went the released whale. Plumb his head smashed against the hull of the big bark. The collision was a most awful shock. Consider a heavy train pushing a mogul locomotive down grade ahead of it, and the whole 185thing ramming another train—the result could have been no more awful.

The three-inch plank of which the vessel’s side was made splintered like the thinnest veneer. The ends of big timbers in her hull were ground to pulp and matchwood. With a terrific splash of his tail, the fighting whale rolled over, after rebounding from the bark, and lay, seemingly stunned!

The bark, driven over almost on her beam ends, righted slowly. We knew the whale must be as good as dead, but we had no thought for him then. The smashing of the Scarboro might mean torture and death to every man of her crew. We were out of the track of general steamship routes, and far, far from land. If the bark sank, we were done for!

Chapter XXI

In Which the Wavecrest Sets Sail Again

Nobody gave any further thought to the whale. My own eyes were set upon that yawning wound in the hull of the old Scarboro. After the shock of the collision the bark righted slowly, and when she did so the sea rushed into the hole in a most awful fashion.

We rowed rapidly toward the bark and made fast to the hoisting tackle. We had a sling let down for the second mate, who was still unconscious. Before we got him on the deck and got aboard ourselves, Captain Rogers had all hands remaining aboard at work to stop the dreadful leak.

Had all six of the boats been out at this time I fully believe the Scarboro would have gone to the bottom. Or, if there had been any sea to speak of, she would have gone down inside of two hours.

But being right on the job, as you might say, Captain Hi lost few seconds in the work of 187seeking to save the bark—and, incidentally, all hands. He did not even take the time to see how badly his nephew was hurt just then. As our crew came over the rail he set them to work, too.

“Take poor Ben below and let cookee do what he can for him,” he bawled to me. “I want you to deck here, Webb.”

There was a light breeze, and he had some canvas put on her and got the old bark hove over so that the hole the whale had smashed (it was right at the water-line) was where it could be got at. Of course, it was impossible at first to do anything from inside. There were two men on the pumps and they kept steadily at work, now I tell you.

Mr. Rudd, the carpenter, was not aboard; but Captain Webb did all that could be done at the moment. He put slings under the arms of two men and let them down the canted side of the craft, on either side of the great gap. Then canvas was let down—three thicknesses of heavy, new cloth—and this was laid over the hole after the splinters were cut away, and tacked to the hull, cleats being used to hold it in place all the way around.

Meanwhile the tar-buckets had been heated up, and those fellows gave the canvas and the 188hull all about it a good coating of tar. We ran several miles on this tack, and until the job was completed. Then, when the men and the tar-buckets were inboard again, the Scarboro was put over on the other tack and we beat back toward the whaleboats.

I can’t say that no water came in; but we could keep the water down by working steadily at the pumps; and before night we had the other boats aboard, and three whales—including the old bull that had done the damage—strung together nearby. We could do nothing toward cutting up and trying-out the whales until the bark was safe.

A sharp blow just then would have fixed us, and that’s a fact. Mr. Rudd and his helpers went below and broke out enough cargo to get at the hole stove in her side. Meanwhile we had to keep the pump brakes moving and the water that flowed from the pipes and out at the hawser-holes was as clear as the sea itself. The old bark had settled a good bit, and we were by no means out of danger.

Here we were, by the Captain’s reckoning, all of four hundred miles southwest of Cape St. Antonio, which is south of the huge mouth of the de la Plata. To set sail for the principal port of Argentina—or any other port—would 189not suit Captain Hiram Rogers a little bit. Nor am I at all sure that, crippled as she was, the bark could have got to land.

Mr. Rudd would be some days repairing the damage done by the fighting whale. And meanwhile, what was going to become of poor Ben Gibson?

For our cheerful, boyish second mate was badly hurt. Consider: the whale had actually shut his jaws on Ben, and that one crunch should, by good rights, have finished the young fellow.

But he was reserved for a better fate, it seemed. When the captain overhauled his nephew, he found that he had sustained, beside the scalp wound from which he bled so much, a broken arm, a lacerated leg above the knee, and several broken ribs. These ribs and possible internal injuries are what feazed Captain Hi. He was no mean “catch as catch can” surgeon; most whaling captains have had to tackle serious medical and surgical difficulties in their careers.

Ben, however, was the skipper’s own flesh and blood—his sister’s child. He couldn’t face that sister (she was a widow) if he brought Ben back to New Bedford a cripple for life. And the whale had certainly smashed him up badly.

190“Clint Webb,” he said to me, in a most serious tone, when he had made his examination of the poor fellow, “we are in a bad hole. It’ll take a week o’ fair weather for the carpenter to make us all tight again—and we ain’t even sure of the weather. Then, there’s the three whales alongside. We can’t throw them away. The crew would have cause to complain. But this boy ought to have doctor’s care.”

I agreed with him, but had nothing to offer.

“I couldn’t sail for the Plate now,” he ruminated, “if I wanted to. Repairs of the ship must come before repairs of the boy. Webb! it’s a good season, and the winds are fair. Would you make an attempt to get Ben to Buenos Ayres in that sloop of yours?”

“In a minute!” I declared, quickly, for the suggestion went hand in hand with the desire I had been milling in my mind for days.

“I’ll mark you a chart. You can’t miss of it. Anyhow, you’ll hit land if you keep on going. There are fine hospitals at Buenos Ayres. I’d feel more as though I’d done my duty by Ben if I got him there. I’ll find you a man to go along. Two of you can work that sloop prettily.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” I agreed.

191He bustled away and brought back old Tom Anderly. I couldn’t have wished for anybody else. In a quarter of an hour we had agreed on everything. Tom and Ben were to stick around Buenos Ayres until they heard from Captain Rogers, or the Scarboro put in for them. Of course, I would be free once I got to land, unless I wanted to stick the voyage out and claim my lay at the end. However, I was to have one hundred dollars in gold from the captain, and the sloop, whichever way I decided.

Captain Rogers had set Ben’s arm and dressed his other wounds. Ben was conscious, but in great pain from the broken ribs. He knew what we were going to attempt, and he was willing to trust himself to old Tom and me. And the next morning, as soon as it was light, the Wavecrest was slung over the side, her mast stepped, and the riggers got to work on her. By noon she was provisioned and everything was ready for our cruise.

Ben Gibson was let down into the cockpit of the Wavecrest on a mattress and was got comfortably into the cabin without any trouble. There was a steady breeze, but the sea was calm. The crew bade us godspeed and the skipper wrung my hand hard; but only said:

192“Do the best you can for him, Webb. I’m trustin’ to you and Tom to pull the lad through.”

We got the canvas up and sheered off from the Scarboro’s side. We could hear the muffled hammering of the carpenter and his mates inside her wounded hull. They were fighting to keep the old hooker above the seas. As we drifted away from the whaling bark I was not at all sure that we should ever see her above the seas again.

Our canvas filled and the sloop got a bone in her teeth and walked away with it just as prettily as ever she had sailed in Bolderhead Harbor.

“She’s a beauty boat, lad,” growled old Tom Anderly. “And she’s taking us out o’ range o’ them carcasses—Whew! they sartainly do begin to stink. I don’t begredge the boys their job of cutting them whales up when they git at it.”

We left the gulls and the sharks behind, with the bark and the rotting whales, and soon they were all far away—mere specks upon the horizon.

Chapter XXII

In Which We Sail the Silver River and I See a Face I Know

I had covered, perhaps, almost as much open sea when I was blown out of Bolderhead in the sloop, as now lay between the Scarboro and Cape St. Antonio. But, as you might say, I had taken that first trip blindly. This time I had my eyes open and all my wits about me—and I knew that we had taken a big contract. The Wavecrest was a mere cockle-shell in which to cross such a waste of open sea as that which lay between us and the mouth of Rio de la Plata.

But the Wavecrest was a seaworthy craft, and that indeed had been proved. She had been freshly caulked while she lay on the deck of the Scarboro, and her seams did not let in enough water to keep her sweet. She sailed well in either a light or heavy wind and I really had no fear that we should not make the great seaport of the Argentine Republic all in good time.

It was bad for poor Ben Gibson, however. The sun was hot and in the cabin the atmosphere was sometimes stifling. However, the captain had warned me to keep the fellow as quiet as possible and not to move him if it could be helped before we reached our destination.

194Old Tom sailed the sloop most of the time, and I gave my attention to the wounded youth. But we tried to keep something like watch and watch. We only slept by snatches, however, and never a cloud appeared in the sky as big as a man’s hand that we did not watch it cautiously. As for sail, or steam, we saw neither till we raised the cloudy headland that marked Cape St. Antonio on the skyline.

It was a pretty tame cruise to write about, for nothing really occurred. We were only on the watch for some untoward happening; that made it nerve wracking. But even when we sighted the spur of land which we knew marked the southern boundary of the de la Plata—the widest mouth of any river on the globe, for it is not masked by islands at all—we were not out of danger. The peril of gales still menaced us. We had many miles to sail yet before we reached Buenos Ayres.

Indeed, we got a stiff blow before sighting Point Piedras; but it favored us after all, and the Wavecrest ran before it at a spanking pace. We had sighted plenty of other craft now—both sail and steam. One great, red-funneled steamship came in behind us, and at first we thought it was making for Montevideo, which is on the northern side of the river; but finally old Tom made out the steamer and what she was.

“It’s one of the Bayne Line steamers from Boston,” he declared. “I know them red pipes. They touch at Para, Bahia, and other 195ports. She’s bound for Buenos Ayres now—no doubt of it.”

The little squall that had kicked up something of a sea had now passed. The great steamship overhauled us rapidly. I chanced to be at the helm and I kept my head over my shoulder a good deal of the time, watching the approach of the great, rusty-hulled craft. Somehow I felt as though I had some connection with the boat. A foolish feeling, perhaps; yet I could not shake it off.

The Wavecrest was bowling along nicely so I could give my attention to the big ship, which I soon made out to be the Peveril. Old Tom was right. She was one of the Bayne Line ships, coming from Boston—coming from home, as you might say! To tell the truth, I was a good bit home-sick.

I let my mind wander back to Bolderhead. Circumstances had made it possible for me to leave the Scarboro, and I was now nearing Buenos Ayres where I had written my mother to cable me money at the American consul’s bureau. I had got enough of whaling. Adventure and travel is all right; but I had had a taste of it, and found it to be merely an alias for hard work!

“It’s me for home on the first steamship going north,” I told myself, wisely. “I’ve had adventure enough to last me a while.”

I was sailing on the Silver River, as the exploring Spaniards had first called this noble stream, and there might be a lot of fun and hard work ahead of me if I remained with old 196Tom and Ben Gibson until they rejoined the Scarboro. But I wasn’t tied to them. I’d probably have plenty of money with which to pay my passage home; and just then I wanted to see my mother, and Ham Mayberry, and lots of other folk in Bolderhead, more than I wanted to be knocking about in strange quarters of the world.

I glanced around at the steamship again. She had almost caught up to us, for although the sloop had a fair wind, the Peveril was sailing three lengths to our one. On and on she came, the smoke pouring from her stacks. Her high, rusty side loomed up not more than a cable’s length away. I could see the passengers walking on her upper decks, and the officers on her bridge. Below, the ports were open, their steel shutters let down on their chains like drop-shelves.

Some of the crew were looking out idly upon the Wavecrest as the steamship slipped by. A cook in a white cap came to one port and threw some slop into the sea. As he emptied the bucket my eyes roved to the very next port aft. There somebody sat peeling vegetables. I could see the flash of the knife in the sunlight, and the long paring of potato peel curling off the knifeblade.

It was an idle glance I had turned upon the vegetable peeler. He was only a cook’s apprentice, or scullion. There was no reason why my gaze should have fastened upon him with interest. Yet my eyes lingered, and 197suddenly the fellow raised his head and his face was turned toward the open port.

The mental shock I experienced made me inattentive to my helm and the Wavecrest fell off. Old Tom sang out to know what I was about, and silently I brought the sloop’s nose back again. The steamship had slipped by us and the wake of her set the little craft to jumping.

My mind was in a fog. I steered mechanically. The face I had seen at the open port of the Peveril was still before me, as in a vision. I knew I had not been tricked by any hallucination. I had not even been thinking of the fellow at the time. And I was sure that the cook’s assistant aboard the Peveril had not seen and recognized me.

But I could not be mistaken in my identification of that face at the port. It was that of my cousin, Paul Downes—Paul Downes, here on the de la Plata, thousands of miles from home, and evidently working in the menial position of cook’s helper on the steamship, Peveril! Is it to be wondered that I was amazed?

Chapter XXIII

In Which I Begin to Wonder “Is It Me, or Is It Not Me?”

I had told nobody aboard the Scarboro the particulars of my home-life, or the incidents leading to my being swept out to sea in the Wavecrest. Had Ben Gibson been my mate in the crew instead of holding the position of second officer, undoubtedly he would have had my full confidence. As things stood, I had no desire to take either Ben or the old sailor into closer communion with my thoughts.

The great steamship passed us and swept up the Silver River, leaving the Wavecrest far behind. She would reach Buenos Ayres fully twenty-four hours before the sloop could make that port. But this delay did not trouble me at the time. I wanted to think the situation over, anyway.

At the start I was pretty sure that Paul Downes had not come down here on my account. He wasn’t looking for me. Nor did it seem that he had left home under very favorable circumstances. Otherwise he would not be peeling vegetables for the cook of the Peveril.

199After the first confusion passed from my mind I could pretty easily figure out the probable incidents that had brought my cousin down here. I knew about how long it had taken the steamship to voyage from her home port. Had my letters been delivered in Bolderhead within reasonable time, my mother and Ham, and the others must have been aware of the explanation of my absence a week or two previous to the sailing of the Peveril from Boston.

I had told Mr. Hounsditch, our lawyer, the whole truth about my sloop being swept away; I had likewise advised Ham Mayberry to gather what evidence he could against my cousin and those who had helped him commit the outrage that had placed me in such peril. It was a cinch that Paul had got wind of these discoveries, had been fearful of being arrested for his part in the crime, and had run away from home.

In doing so, too, it was evident that his father, Mr. Chester Downes, had not been a party to his escape. Paul had slipped away without his father’s help or knowledge of his going. Otherwise Paul would not have been in a moneyless state, and he must have been moneyless before he would have gone to work. Paul didn’t love work, I knew; and I could imagine that there was no fun connected with the job he seemed to have annexed aboard the Peveril.

I reckoned I should probably hear all about it when I went to the consul’s office at 200Buenos Ayres. Either my mother, or Ham, would write me the particulars of Paul’s running away from home. The Bayne Liner was no mailboat; I expected that my letters had been awaiting me for some time at the port; and the money could have been cabled nearly a month before this date.

Well, we got into Buenos Ayres in good season, and I noted where the Peveril was docked. We moored outside a raft of small sailing crafts and had the dickens of a time taking Ben Gibson ashore on his mattress. A couple of blacks helped us, and after sending in a telephone message to the hospital, a very modern and up-to-date motor ambulance came down and whisked us all off to that institution. I couldn’t speak Spanish, nor could Ben; but those medicos could talk English after a fashion, and soon Ben was fixed fine in a private room and the doctors declared he’d be fit as a fiddle in six weeks.

Then it was up to old Tom and me to find a place to camp. The sailor was for going back to the sloop where board and lodging wouldn’t cost us much; but I confess I was hungry for something more civilized. I wanted bed-sheets and ham and eggs for breakfast—or whatever the Buenos Ayres equivalent was for those viands!

We made some inquiries—of course along the water-front—and found a decent sailors’ boarding house kept by a withered old Mestizo woman (the Mestizoes are the native population of Argentina) who had some idea of 201cleanliness and could cook beans and fish in more ways than you could shake a stick at; only, as Tom objected very soon, all her culinary results tasted alike because of the pepper!

It was after breakfast the morning following our arrival that Tom uttered this criticism. We were on our way to the hospital. We found Ben feeling “bully” as he weakly told us, when we were allowed to go up to his private room. Captain Rogers had given him drafts on a local banker and he was fixed right at that hospital. The doctors had examined him again and pronounced him coming on fine. So, with my mind at rest about him, I tacked away for the little dobe building down toward the water-front which at that day flew the American flag from the staff upon its roof.

It was a busy place and most of the clerks I saw were Mestizoes, or Spaniards, or the several shades of color between the two races. Spanish seemed to be spoken for the most part; but finally a man came out of a rear office and asked me abruptly what I wanted.

“I’d like to see Mr. Hefferan,” I said.

“He’s busy. Can’t see him. What do you want?” snapped this man.

“I’m an American, and I’d like to see him,” I began, but the fellow, who had been looking me over pretty scornfully broke in:

“That’s impossible, I tell you. Tell me what you want? Had trouble with your captain? Overstayed your leave? Or have you just got out of jail?”

202Now, I hadn’t thought before this just how disreputable I looked. I was dressed in the slops I had got out of the Scarboro’s chest, was barefooted, and was burned almost as black as any negro—where the skin showed, at least. I couldn’t much blame this whippersnapper of a consul’s clerk for thinking me a tough subject.

“None of those things fit my case, Mister,” I said, mildly. “I know I don’t look handsome, but I’ve been on a whaling bark for several months and I haven’t had time yet to tog up.”

“A whaleship?” he asked. “An American whaleship?”

“Yes, sir,” said I.

“There is none in port.”

“No, sir. I have been with the Scarboro. I’m mighty sure she’s not in port.”

“The Scarboro?” he asked me with a sudden queer look coming into his face. “You’re one of the crew of the Scarboro?”

“Not exactly one of her crew. But she picked me up adrift and I have been with her until lately.”

“You come in here,” said the clerk, slowly, motioning me into the room behind him. And when we were in there he motioned me to a seat and sat down himself in front of me. “Let’s hear your yarn,” he said.

I thought it was rather strange he should be so interested, and likewise that he should stare at me so all the time I was talking. But I gave him a pretty good account of my adventures 203from the time I was blown out of Bolderhead Harbor, finishing with how I came to be at Buenos Ayres without the bark herself being within six or seven hundred miles of the port.

“So that’s your yarn, is it?” he asked me grimly, when I was done.

I stared at him in turn. To tell the truth, I was getting a little warm. His face showed nothing like good-humor and friendliness. I waited to see what it meant.

“So that’s your yarn?” he repeated. “I thought when I set eyes on you that you were a tricky fellow. But this caps all!” Why, he suddenly raised his voice and stood up, “what do you mean by coming here with such a yarn? I’ve a mind to clap you into jail!”

I stood up, too. I must confess that I felt a bit scared. It was a pretty hot day. I didn’t know but maybe the heat had overcome the fellow and he had gone crazy.

“How dare you come here with such a tale as this, you dirty beach-comber?” he demanded, shaking his fist in my face. “If Colonel Hefferan was here I don’t doubt he’d kick you out of the place. And you’d better go quick, as it is. Don’t you show your face here again——”

All the time he had been walking me backward to the door. I had been obliged to keep stepping to keep before him. But I backed up against the door and stopped. I was getting angry, and I thought I’d gone far enough.

“I don’t know what you’re driving at,” I 204said. “But one thing I do know. My name is Clinton Webb, I have every reason to believe that my mother has cabled me some money in Mr. Hefferan’s care, and I expect there are letters for me, too. I want the money and the letters——”

“Too late, you scoundrel!” he snarled at me, still shaking his fist. “Your game is played too late. Not that we would have believed a scoundrelly beach-comber like you——”

“You don’t believe what?” I shot in, raising my voice.

“I know you’re not Clinton Webb.”


“You’re too late,” he said, laughing nastily. “Mr. Webb came here yesterday. He identified himself to the satisfaction of Colonel Hefferan, and he got his money and letters. I don’t know who put you up to this trick, but you’re too late, I tell you!”

He managed to push me aside and now pulled open the door. He put a whistle to his lips and blew a shrill blast. Two barefooted, but very husky negroes came running in from the portico. I had noticed them lounging there when I entered.

He said something sharply to them in Spanish, and they grabbed me. My blood was boiling, and I believe if they had given me a moment’s warning I would have sailed into them. But they held me on either side, and a hundred and eighty pounds of negro on each arm was too much for me. They dragged me 205toward the main door of the building in a hurry.

“You get out of here!” cried the consul’s clerk behind me. “And don’t you dare come back. If you do you’ll go to the calaboose as sure as you’re a foot high!”

I found myself out upon the sun-broiled street, with the two grinning guards barring my return. It had never entered my mind before that Uncle Sam is sometimes served by an ignorant and pompous nincompoop!

But the satisfaction of making this discovery had a bitter taste. I did not know what to do. My mind was in a whirl. I had some few letters and papers in my pockets by which I had expected—after a time—to assure the consul of my identity. But it seemed that I wasn’t to be given a chance to explain who and what I was.

Somebody had been ahead of me. Some person unknown had represented me before the consul and had, it appeared, made good. My money and my letters had been turned over to this person——

“Paul Downes for a dollar bill!” I ejaculated. “It can’t be anybody else. Who else would know enough about me to represent himself as Clint Webb? He probably knew all about the money and letters. He got away from home broke, worked his passage out here got here only a few hours before I did, and he has beaten me to the consul. Whatever shall I do?”

It was not that I was entirely helpless, although 206I had only a dollar in my pocket. Captain Rogers was to pay me the hundred dollars he had promised me at the end of the whaling voyage, if I decided not to return to the Scarboro. Ben Gibson was sick in the hospital, and old Tom and I were both dependent upon him for our board money. I didn’t propose to be an object of charity. But I must confess that what I did mean to do had not as yet formed itself rationally in my mind when I got back to old Maria Debora’s.

Tom was out somewhere seeing the sights. He had not gone with me to the consul’s office. Supper time came before the old man showed up and I sat down among the first of the boarders. They were a cosmopolitan lot, rough seamen from several quarters of the globe. They spoke half a dozen different languages and dialects.

I sat with my back to the door, and was only aware of the entrance of another party of men by the noise and stir behind me.

“Will you pass down a dish of those beans mate?” I had just called above the hubbub, speaking to a man across the table.

Instantly somebody stepped quickly behind my chair. A hand came down heavily on my shoulder.

“By all the e-tar-nal snakes!” ejaculated a nasal voice. “I knew I couldn’t be mistaken about that back. But the voice convinced me. By the e-tar-nal snakes! Professor, how came you here?”

I turned slowly to see who had thus addressed 207me. It was a tall individual at my side—long legged, very lean, and when he laughed it sounded like a horse neighing. He was so very tall that I had not raised my eyes far enough to see his face before he spoke again.

“Professor! ye sartainly give me a start. By the e-tar-nal snakes! I could have taken my dying oath you wasn’t north o’ the cape o’ the Virgins. What you doin’ yere in Maria Debora’s?”

It began to be impressed on my mind with force that I was a good deal like the little old woman of the nursery rhyme. I wondered whether this was really me, or was it not me? My identity as Clinton Webb had been denied at the consul’s, and here a perfect stranger was calling me out of my name—and he seemed insistent upon it, too!

Chapter XXIV

In which I Get Acquainted With Captain Adoniram Tugg

The face I finally saw at the top of that beanpole figure was as long as the moral law. Such a lank, cadaverous visage I don’t think I had ever seen before. The man was a human lath.

And so bronzed and toughened was his hide that he looked to be made out of sole-leather. His mouth was a grim, post-box slit; his nose was a high beak with such a hump on it that I thought it had been broken; but his eyes were human—gray-blue, twinkling with innumerable humorous wrinkles at the outer corners.

“By the e-tar-nal snakes!” he ejaculated when I had tipped back my head so that he could really see my face. “You ain’t the Professor at all! Why, you’re a boy!”

“I am not your friend, the Professor,” I admitted.

“And the voice!” he muttered, staring down at me. “It’s his voice. I ain’t put in my winters with him this last dozen years and more to be mistook in his voice. Say, boy, who be you?”

“Clint Webb is my name,” I replied.

“Where do you hail from?”

209“Massachusetts. Late of the Scarboro whaling bark.”

“How old be you?”

“Going on seventeen.”

“Well,” he puffed, with a windy sigh, “you look behind enough like the Professor to be him. And your voice is jest like his—that I’ll swear to! You must be some related.”

“I don’t know that we’ve any scientists in the family,” I said, with a laugh. I rather liked the long-legged individual.

“Don’t know nobody named Vose?” he asked.

“No-o. Don’t think I do.”

He slumped down upon the bench beside me and helped himself to beans.

“By the e-tar-nal snakes!” he muttered. “It does completely flabergasticate me—I do assure you! I never saw two folks so near alike, back-to! You’d oughter see the Professor.”

“I would be only too happy,” I said, politely.

I was interested in my new acquaintance, but not particularly in his friend whom I appeared to favor. He told me in the course of the meal a good deal about himself; and it was interesting, his story.

He was called Captain Adoniram Tugg, a Connecticut Yankee, and skipper of a two-stick schooner called the Sea Spell. He followed an odd business. He was a wild animal trapper, and gathered Natural History specimens of many kinds for museums and menageries. He had just disposed of his last season’s 210catch, had shipped the last specimen northward by steamship, and was about to sail for the Straits of Magellan again, near which he had his headquarters.

“To tell you the truth, the Professor and me are partners. He’s an odd stick,” quoth Captain Tugg, after supper, as we sat on the broad step before Maria Debora’s door, and he smoked the native cheroots while I listened. “He ain’t been in a civilized town like this since I’ve knowed him. For a l’arned chap, and a New Englander, he seems to have lost all curiosity, and, I reckon, he’s got a grouch on the rest of mankind.”

“How long did you say you had known him?” I asked, idly.

“All of twelve year. He come to my camp one day. Just walked up to the door like he’d come here and knock. But I didn’t suppose there was another white man within five hundred miles—’nless he was aboard some craft beating through the straits.

“He was civil spoken enough; but he never would open up. Most fellows meeting that sort o’ way,” continued Captain Tugg, puffing reflectively, “would git chummy. The Professor’s never told me a thing about himself. As fur as I know he was born full growed, right there on the rocks where my shanty’s built, and ain’t got kith nor kin—fam’bly or enemy—just as lonely as Adam was in Eden before the trouble began!

“Yet,” said the captain, “to look at the Professor, you’d know there was never 211nothing crooked about his partner. And I have—but nothing about his past. Only I’m willing to put up real money that whatever happened to Professor Vose was something that was caused by no fault of his. He’s always been sad. Never heard him laugh. He’s the kindest man ye ever see, son. And if one o’ them Injun’s sick, or the like, he treats ’em like a sure-’nough hospital sawbones.

“Then he is a physician?” I asked suddenly.

“I reckon he’s most anything that a man kin l’arn out o’ books,” declared Captain Tugg. “He sent by me to Buenos Ayres here, first trip I made after we’d gone partners in the animal biz, for the greatest old outfit of drugs and the like you ever see. The natives come flockin’ to him for miles an’ miles. He’s one big medicine man, all right, all right!”

“And I look like him?” I queried.

“By the e-tar-nal snakes! you sartainly favor him, son,” declared the captain, enthusiastically. “Why! ye might be his son. Got the same features. The Professor keeps clean shaven. Hair like him, too, now I looks at ye. And your voice—Well! it does beat all how near like him you be. Sure you ain’t got no relative named Vose?”

“How do you know his name is Vose?” I asked, my voice trembling a little, for the old mystery of my father’s disappearance had swept in upon my soul again and I was shaken to the depths.

“Wal! I swear now! I never thought of 212that. I s’pose he might never have told me his real name,” said Tugg.

The whole story took hold of me as it had when Tom Anderly told me of the man that had been picked up by the coaster, Sally Smith, off Bolderhead Neck some fourteen or fifteen years before. Tom had said nothing about the man looking like me; but of course, Tom didn’t know the man long—only until the coaster reached New York City. And his name had been Carver—or so the Unknown had said. This Captain Tugg had been partners with the man he called the Professor for twelve years. Long enough to know his peculiarities and to recognize in my build, and in the tones of my voice, things that reminded him strongly of his partner.

And I had been told, often enough, that I had my father’s stature and his very tone of voice and manner of speaking!

But hold on! there was another way to make connection between the flying strands of this seemingly absurd story. I turned to Captain Tugg calmly.

“By the way, sir,” I said, “do you ever run around to Santiago?”

“Valparaiso, you mean, son?” he returned. “That’s the seaport.”

“I mean Santiago, Chili.”

“Why, pshaw! I have been to the capital once—three or four years ago.”

“What for, sir—if I’m not too curious? You see, I’ve a reason for asking,” I said.

“I reckon so,” he returned, eyeing me 213grimly. “And I’ve a reason for not telling you. Private business.”

“I don’t mean to be too ‘nosey,’” I returned. “But I’ll ask you another question. If it hasn’t anything to do with your private business, you’ll answer me?”

“Let drive,” he commanded, thoughtfully smoking.

“When you were in Santiago three or four years ago——”

“Come to think of it, it was five year back,” interrupted the captain.

“All right,” I said. “Did you at that time mail a letter for Professor Vose from that town?”

Captain Tugg smote his knee suddenly. “By the e-tar-nal snakes!” he ejaculated. “Now you remind me.”

“Did you?” I asked, eagerly.

“Only letter I ever knowed him to write. He gave it to me before I started in the Sea Spell. Yes, sir. I mailed it there, for it was among my papers, and I forgot it when we touched at Conception, and again when we put in at Valparaiso.”

“Was that letter addressed to Tom Anderly, at the office of Radnor & Blunt, in New York—a firm of shipping merchants?”

“You win!” ejaculated Captain Tugg. “I memorized that address. Have to admit I’ve always been cur’ous about the Professor. You know him?”

“No, sir,” I said. “But I believe there’s a man here in town who does. Or, at least 214knows something about him,” I added, as I remembered how very little Tom Anderly really knew about the man who had been picked up in the fog off Bolderhead Neck.

“I’d like to see that feller,” said Tugg.

“And I’d like mightily to see your Professor,” said I.

Tugg looked at me thoughtfully. “Got a job?” he asked.

“I’m not sure that I shall wait for the Scarboro,” I replied. “We come in with our second mate who was hurt by a whale. He’s in hospital. I have got about all the whaling I want, I believe.”

“I’ll give ye a job aboard the Sea Spell.”

“I’ll think of that,” said I, quickly.

“You’ll not think long, son,” drawled Captain Tugg, grimly. “We get away on the morning tide.”

The suggestion startled me. I felt a drawing toward Captain Adoniram Tugg and his schooner. Rather, I had a strong desire to see the man whom he called his partner—the man who had given his name as Carver on the Sally Smith, but was now known to Tugg as “Professor Vose.” I was in a fret of uncertainty.

Chapter XXV

In Which I Follow the Beckoning Finger of a Spectre

I shall never forget that evening as I sat beside Captain Adoniram Tugg on Maria Debora’s portico. From the street, which was well down toward the water-front, rose all manner of smells and noises; most of them were unpleasant. Sailors in foreign ports have to put up with a lot of discomfort and are thrown among the most objectionable people and endure more hardships of a different kind than are handed to them aboard ship—and that’s saying a good deal!

It was a warm night, too, and there were crowds on the street. A confusion of different dialects came up to me and it was only now and then that I heard an English word spoken. But these impressions came to me quite unconsciously at the time. I had a problem—and a hard one—to solve.

I had really not recovered from the shock I had received at the American consul’s. My money and letters were gone. Paul Downes had represented himself as me and had got away with the money with which I had expected to pay my passage home. But, of course, I really was not in great straights for means of getting back to Bolderhead.

216With the experience I had had upon the whaling bark, and with my physique, I knew very well that I could obtain a berth on either a sailing or a steam vessel bound for the northern ports. I could work my way home after a fashion. Besides, I could sell my sloop for almost enough money to pay for a first-class passage to Boston on a Bayne Liner.

To tell the truth, I was more troubled by the loss of my letters than I was by the loss of my money. I was anxious about my mother—anxious to know how she had endured the shock of my absence, what her present condition was, and all about affairs at home. Besides, there might have been private information in those letters that I wouldn’t want Paul Downes to learn.

My rascally cousin had certainly set out on a career worthy of a pirate! He had run away from home—and probably because he was afraid of punishment for his crimes—and here in Buenos Ayres, so far from Bolderhead, had begun a new career of wrong-doing.

“He certainly is a bad egg!” I thought.

But it wasn’t upon Paul Downes that my mind lingered long. My cousin had played me a scurvy trick; but I was not made helpless by it. I could get home after a fashion—if I wanted to. And that was my problem! Did I want to go home?

Until I had talked with this Captain Tugg I thought I had had my fill of adventure and sea-roving. But his story of the man who had been his partner for twelve years—the 217man who looked and spoke like me—had wheeled my mind square about! Instead of being headed north in my thoughts, I was at once headed south. I wanted to see this Professor Vose!

Yes. Spectre though the man was—will-o’-the-wisp as he seemed—I desired above all else to see and speak with this man whom Tom Anderly called “Carver” and Captain Tugg knew as “Professor Vose.” If my father, Dr. Webb, was alive he would be a man with a mysterious past! I wanted to come face to face with this man whom Tugg said was so much like me.

“Where are you going from here when your Sea Spell sails, Captain Tugg?” I asked the Yankee animal collector.

“Goin’ to make the Straits,” drawled he. “Goin’ right back to headquarters for a bit. Mebbe we’ll keep the old schooner in commission—I’m taking down light cargo for headquarters now. But I leave most of the actual snarin’ and trappin’ of the critters to the Injuns—and to the Professor. I got some black fellers down there that would take a prize in a circus sideshow themselves. One of ’em’s over seven foot tall. And strong as wolves,” declared Captain Tugg.

“If I went with you, what would you give me a month?”

“Sixteen dollars—in silver,” he said, promptly. “I see you’ve got eddication—you’d be handy. I could trust you with the schooner after a v’yge or two. I got a good 218navigator, Pedro, my mate; but he can’t talk or write English worth a cent.”

“But suppose I shouldn’t want to remain with you?” I suggested.

“You kin come back here, then. Plenty of steamers comin’ through the straits that touch at Buenos Ayres. My headquarters is at the head of navigable water about a hundred miles north of the Straits. An inlet and river makes in there. It’s a wild country, but I’ve made out to live thereabout for nigh onto fifteen year—and the Professor’s stood it for better than twelve. I can put you in the way of makin’ better money in time.”

But I was not listening to all he said. I suddenly put in:

“Your schooner is going right to your headquarters now?”

“Yes, sir!”

“And that is where this Professor stays?”

“When he ain’t up country trapping critters.”

If you have read thus far in my story you will have discovered one thing about me, if nothing else. I was impulsive—ridiculously impulsive. My bump of imagination was big, too. Otherwise the idea that my father was roaming about the world instead of being peacefully asleep somewhere at the bottom of the sea off Bolderhead, would never have gained such a strong hold upon me.

And my impulsiveness urged me to accept the story of this Professor Vose—as related by Captain Tugg—as something of vital importance 219to myself. Here I was at Buenos Ayres, not many weeks’ sail from the place where the mysterious Professor was to be found. On the other hand, it was plainly my duty to make for home by the quickest route possible.

Duty and inclination were at daggers’ drawn again. I told myself that as long as there was a possibility that the mysterious Professor might be my lost father, I should take up with this offer of Captain Tugg. I might never be able to find this man of mystery if I did not sail on the Sea Spell when she slipped away from Buenos Ayres.

“It’s my chance!” I thought. “I can go home if there proves to be nothing in the venture. Why! I might take a steamship right at the Straits for some United States port. It’s my chance! I’ll do it.”

And so—as I had many times before—I came to a reckless conclusion and went into a venture the end of which was mighty misty! I suddenly turned to the lathlike Yankee and told him that I would take up with his offer, and we shook hands upon the compact.

But once I had entered into the agreement I found I had a hundred things to do and little time to do it in. Old Tom Anderly had not come back to the boarding house and I could not wait for him to appear. Captain Tugg was already thinking of loafing along to the dock where his two-stick schooner was moored. I bundled up my dunnage and went with him.

“You’ll take second mate’s berth, son,” 220said the long-legged Yankee. “Not that you’re fit for it, and I’ll have to be on deck jest as much as ever; but I can’t put a white man for’ard with that bilin’ of off-scourin’s I’ve got for a crew. I can trust Pedro; but there isn’t another man of the crew that I’d trust as far as I could sling a barge-load o’ bricks!

“You’ve the makin’s of a smart sailor in you—I can see that,” pursued the Captain. “And you say you’ve begun studying navigation?”

“I picked up some aboard the Scarboro, listening to Captain Hi and Ben Gibson.”

“We’ll make a mate of you in a year or two,” said Captain Tugg, confidently.

But that speech shocked me. I had no intention of following the sea a year or two. I meant just then to sail down to this place Tugg told about and take a look at the Professor individual. That’s all I wanted. Then it would be “homeward bound” for me.

We reached the schooner and I found her a nice looking craft, bright and shining, with new sails bent on and a scraped and oiled deck and pretty sticks in her. She’s been rigged new throughout and looked more like a yacht than a coasting vessel knocking about the southern trades.

I had left a note at Maria Debora’s for old Tom, and another for him to give Ben Gibson. I had some things to buy, and several of them were by Captain Tugg’s advice. He advanced me money for my purchases, and 221they included a second-hand Winchester and a revolver.

“We’re going to a wild piece of airth, son,” said the animal trapper.

Then I saw the man (he was an American) with whom we had left my sloop. He agreed to look after her and keep her in repair for her use, so that matter was settled. And then I did something that my conscience told me I should have attended to the moment I arrived in Buenos Ayres. I took five dollars of the sum I had drawn ahead on my wages and sent a short cable to my mother. It told her nothing but the fact that I was alive and well.

But that night, before it came time for me to hustle on deck and help get the Sea Spell under way, I spent writing letters to Ham Mayberry and Mr. Hounsditch. I gave them both the particulars of my treatment at the consul’s office and my knowledge of Paul Downes’ presence at Buenos Ayres and the trick I believed he had played upon me. Of the venture I had now started upon in the Sea Spell I spoke only in a general way. But I promised them I would be back in Buenos Ayres, or on my way home, within a very few months.

These letters went off to the mail on the tug that towed the schooner out of the tangle of shipping. We made sail in half an hour and the Sea Spell made a good leg to windward, beginning her voyage into the south—a voyage on which I was following the beckoning finger of a spectre.

Chapter XXVI

In Which the Sea Spell Goes Ashore on a Most Unfriendly Coast

I learned a whole lot beside seamanship during those next few weeks as the schooner Sea Spell coasted Buenos Ayres Province and the vast Colonial Territory of Magellan. A stretch of nearly a thousand miles we had to sail to reach the Cape of the Virgins, behind which is the entrance to the Magellan Straits.

The coastwise trade between the ports below Buenos Ayres—Bahia Blanca, El Carmen on the Rio Negro, Port St. Antonio at at the head of the Gulf of St. Matias, San Josefpen, Por Malaspina, Santa Cruz, and clear around to the Pacific seaports of Chili—this coastwise trade, I say, is almost like the trade along our Atlantic seaboard. Inland, Tugg told me, there were vast pampasses empty of all but cattle and wild beasts and some tribes of wild men; but a strip of the seacoast south of the mouth of the Silver River is being rapidly developed.

There are great rivers emptying into the sea here,—the Cobu Leofu, Rio Negro, the Balchitas, the Chupat Desire and Rio Chico—all water-ways which are opening up the country. Argentina is as large as all Eastern and Central Europe together and is 223enormously rich in mineral and natural products.

This information was brought home to me as, day after day, and with favorable gales, the Sea Spell winged her way southward. She was a fairly fast sailing ship and Captain Adoniram Tugg evidently took pride in her. But her crew was all that he had given me reason to believe. A dirtier, more ungovernable gang of penny cut-throats I doubt never sailed on any honest ship!

I soon learned, beside all the above about Argentina’s coast trade, that Tugg kept his seamen at work through fear. He never changed his drawl in speaking; but when he gave an order there was a grimness about his mouth and a flash in his gray-blue eyes that gave one a cold, creepy feeling in the region of the spine. I don’t know that Captain Tugg went armed. But if an order had been neglected by any man aboard I had the feeling that a weapon would appear in the skipper’s hand and that the mutineer would have dropped in his tracks!

Pedro, the mate, was a snaky, dusky fellow, with huge rings of gold in his ears and a smile that showed altogether too many teeth to be pleasant—a regular alligator smile. As far as I could see, I would just as lief have Pedro’s ill feeling as his friendship. Yet Tugg trusted him implicitly. But I—I locked my stateroom door whenever I lay down to sleep; and I kept the Winchester and the Colts revolver loaded all the time. Perhaps I was foolish; but I felt that we were in a state of war.

224The routine duties of the schooner kept me at work, however, for I tried to earn my sixteen a month. Tugg was a good navigator himself. He handled his schooner like a professional yachtsman. Captain Rogers would have admired the man, for he was another skipper who did not believe in lying hove to no matter how hard the wind blew. There was a week at a stretch when I didn’t get thoroughly dry between watches. The Sea Spell just about flew over the water instead of through it!

But a calm fell thereafter and we lay for eighteen hours in the Bay of St. George, the sails hanging dead with not a breath of wind, and the sea like glass. We were within two rifle shots of the shore at one point. Behind this point of rocks was an inlet and the pool made good anchorage without doubt, for there were several sail there, and a jumble of huts on the shore.

We had seen whales for several days and once passed a whaleship at work trying out; but it was not the Scarboro. Now a great whale swam calmly past the Sea Spell, nosing in toward the land, probably following some school of tiny fish upon which he was feeding.

“Wisht I had a crew of bully boys to go after that critter,” sighed Captain Tugg, behind his long cheroot. “He’ll make more’n a bucket o’ ile, you bet!”

“You wouldn’t want to litter up your tidy schooner with grease, sir,” said I, in wonder.

“Mebbe not; mebbe not. But money’s 225good wherever you find it, and that critter is wuth two or three thousand dollars. By the e-tar-nal snakes!” he added, using his favorite expletive, “I’d love to stick an iron in that carcass.”

I knew that Adoniram Tugg had been almost everything in the line of sea-going and was not surprised to find that he had driven the iron into many a whale. We stood swapping experiences, idly watching the big whale. The creature sounded and remained down twenty or thirty minutes. When he came up he spouted three times in quick succession, and then lay basking on the surface.

“Looker there!” exclaimed Captain Tugg, suddenly. “By the e-tar-nal snakes! looker there!”

He was pointing at the whale. Up towards its head, on the port side, there appeared on the water a long tail, or fin, at right angles with the whale.

“What in tarnation d’ye s’pose that critter is?” demanded Captain Tugg.

The thing was all of four and twenty feet long, about two wide at the upper end, and tapering to eighteen inches. Almost at once the living club was elevated in the air and then was flung down across the whale’s back—just behind where the head was attached to its body—with a noise like a signal gun.

“Will ye looker that now!” bawled the Captain, in wonder.

Again and again the monstrous club rose and descended. The great whale leaped like 226a beaten horse under the rain of blows; but whichever way it turned, it could not shake off its assailant. The operator of that club seemed to have it under perfect control, and likewise had means of keeping up with the victim no matter in which direction, or how fast, the latter swam. The blows fell only a few seconds apart, and the whale finally sounded to escape them.

But when he came up again, there was the mysterious enemy, hanging to the whale like a bull dog, and the beating re-commenced. The sea about the hectored whale was tinged with blood. The creature’s back was lacerated frightfully and without any doubt whatsoever, it was being beaten to death by its antagonist.

Tugg grew greatly excited, and ordered a boat lowered. We took four sailors and left Pedro in command of the becalmed schooner, and rowed off towards the scene of the battle between the whale and the mysterious fish.

“It must be some kind of a huge ray,” I suggested. “That’s the tail that is being used like a club.”

“By the e-tar-nal snakes!” exploded Tugg, “it’s a different kind of a sea-bat from anything I ever seed or heard of. You take it from me, that’s a sea-sarpint, or wuss!”

The whale was evidently at its last gasp when we left the schooner. It soon rolled over on its side. The mysterious flail stopped beating the huge body and the water seemed churned excitedly at the nose of the leviathan.

227“The porpoises have got at it,” I suggested.

“Not much they ain’t,” returned Captain Tugg. “There ain’t no porpoises around today. Whatever the critter is that killed the whale, it’s at dinner now.”

And it was true. The mysterious denizen of the deep that had beaten the whale to death, ate out the huge mammal’s tongue and had sunk again into the sea before we rowed near enough to distinguish its shape or size. It had disappeared as mysteriously as it had risen and seemingly all it had killed the mammal for was to eat its tongue.

Captain Tugg’s eye glistened when he saw the proportions of that whale closer to. He stood up, looked long towards the inlet where there seemed to be some movement among the craft anchored there, and then ordered us to row in close to the whale’s tail.

He passed a hawser around the narrow part of the whale just forward of the tail and then ordered the men to pull for the schooner. It was a tug, now I tell you! but we got the whale to the Sea Spell after a while. I expected to see the spick and span schooner all messed up with try-out works, and grease, and smoke. It disgusted me that the Yankee skipper should be so sharp after the Almighty Dollar. But I didn’t yet know Captain Adoniram Tugg.

I saw that a number of craft had started out of the inlet—a much puffing steam tug ahead, drawing several smaller boats behind it. There was no wind at all, so the fleet 228approached slowly, and we had the whale tackled to the Sea Spell, fore and aft, before the tug was very near.

We made no immediate attempt to butcher the whale and I took pains to get some of its dimensions. It was eighty-two feet over all in length and nearly sixty feet around the biggest part of the body. The lower jaw was nineteen and one-half feet long and the tail, when it was expanded, measured twenty-three feet. I suppose, through the thickest part of the body it must have been as many feet as the expanded tail was wide; at least, so it appeared. These measurements will give the reader some idea of what these huge mammals look like. And Captain Tugg had not been far out of the way when he declared the whale to be worth two thousand dollars.

“What you got to run oil into, sir?” I asked, curiously.

“Wait a bit; wait a bit,” returned the Yankee, puffing on his cheroot. “Let’s see what these Yaller-skins have to offer. If we hadn’t tailed onto the whale as we did they’d had their hooks in it by this time.”

A few words in Spanish to Pedro had stirred up the mate and crew of the Sea Spell. They seemed wonderfully busy getting a lot of gear and litter upon deck. The uninitiated might have thought that we were getting ready to cut up the whale and boil down the blubber in the most approved style.

Finally a man aboard the tug hailed us. Captain Tugg answered in Spanish, and an 229excited conversation ensued—at least, excited upon the side of the man aboard the steam vessel and his compatriots. The skipper of the Sea Spell seemed particularly calm and unshaken. I could understand but little of the talk, although I had begun to pick up the bastard Spanish spoken along the coast. I knew the Yankee and the dagos were bargaining.

Finally Tugg sang out to Pedro to belay the work he and the crew were engaged in, and to lower a boat again. The captain was rowed to the tug and after some further conversation I saw certain moneys counted out and paid over to the master of the Sea Spell. He was then rowed back and when he was aboard he ordered the dead whale cast off.

“And git some of your watch down there, Pedro,” added Captain Tugg, “and swab the grease off her side. Ugh! There ain’t nothing nastier than a whale.”

“Yet you were going to cut her up?” I suggested, curiously.

He favored me with a wink. “Buncome, Bluff,” he murmured. “That little play-acting turned me two hundred dollars in gold. Our lying becalmed here wasn’t such a bad thing after all—and here comes the breeze. Jest like finding money in an old coat, Mr. Webb—that’s what that was.”

And so the shrewd old fellow turned everything to account. We got a breeze and were out of sight of the place before the small craft had got the big whale towed into the 230inlet—where they would beach it and cut it up. Captain Adoniram Tugg was two hundred dollars in pocket, and just because some mysterious sea-beast had seen fit to kill a whale for its tongue!

We had a fine breeze after the long calm, but nothing but fair weather until we rounded the Cape of the Virgins. There the broad entrance of the magnificent Straits of Magellan lay before the nose of the schooner. A little later we had furled all but the topsails and were sailing due north into an inlet masked by many dangerous looking reefs. The mate of the Sea Spell, Pedro, seemed to know the channel well, however, and although Adoniram Tugg remained on deck he did not seem to be worried at all about the schooner’s safety.

“We’ll drop anchor before morning,” he told me. “That is, if the wind holds in the same quarter. You’ll have a chance to see what sort of a good fellow the Professor is tomorrow.”

“What! are we so near your headquarters?”

“That’s the checker,” returned Tugg. “Just a short sail now.”

The inlet was never more than a mile wide; in places the rocks crowded in toward the channel until a strong man could have flung a stone from shore to shore. The waterway was really a series of quiet salt pools.

The shores were wild and rugged. I had never seen a more forbidding coast. When the night dropped down upon us—as it did 231suddenly, and a starless sky o’er-head—I wondered how Pedro could smell his way through. I heard Tugg roaring something in Spanish about “the beacon” and then a spark of fire flared out in the darkness far ahead. It looked like a stationary lamp and burned brightly. The captain came over to me, chuckling.

“That’s my partner’s light,” he said, with satisfaction. “He rigged that beacon, and it’s lit every night that the Sea Spell is on a cruise. Pedro can work the schooner up the inlet by that light without rubbing a hair.”

And so we sailed on, and on, without a thought of danger until, of a sudden, I felt the schooner jar throughout her whole length. Captain Tugg jumped and yelled to Pedro:

“What in tarnation you doin’, numbskull? Hi, one o’ you boys! git into the chains with the lead.”

But before the man could sound the Sea Spell grounded again, and this time she ran her keel upon a sand bank so solidly that she stopped dead, with the sails above cracking! There was a hullabaloo for a few minutes, now I tell you. Shouts, commands, the grinding of the schooner’s keel, the slatting of sails. The Sea Spell had driven so hard and fast upon the shoal that she canted neither to port, or starboard. And although the sea was still so that she would not be beaten by the waves, it looked much to me as though she were piled up on this unfriendly coast for good and all!

Chapter XXVII

In Which We Find the Natives More Unfriendly Than the Coast

The bright light ahead had disappeared. Tugg was berating Pedro for getting off his course and running the schooner aground. In a minute, however, another light flashed up nearby and I saw that a huge bonfire had been kindled on the shore not more than a cable’s length away.

“What in the e-tar-nal snakes is that?” bawled Captain Adoniram Tugg, seeing this fire. “That ain’t the Professor—not a bit of it.”

In a minute the flames rose so high that we could see figures moving in the light of them. And wild enough figures they were—half naked fellows, taller than ordinary men, and waving spears and clubs.

“I believe some of your Patagonian giants you have been telling me about have gone on the warpath, Captain,” I said.

“Not a bit of it! Not a bit of it,” he snarled. “They’re as tame as tiger-kittens.”

“Just the same I’m going to get my gun and pistol,” I declared, and I dove below.

When I came back to the deck two more fires were burning. The shore—which was a low bluff—was illuminated for some hundreds 233of yards. There was a gang of a hundred or more dancing savages about the fires. I was frightened; those savages were not “gentled” enough to suit me.

The captain and Pedro had evidently come to a decision. The fires revealing the coast as they did showed them where the mistake had been made. Tugg said:

“Can’t blame Pedro. That beacon lantern we saw had been shifted. I hope those wretches yonder haven’t got the Professor foul. But one thing is sure: They brought that big lantern clear across the inlet and set it up on the west shore. No wonder we ran aground. It was a pretty trick, I do allow.”

“And these are the natives you told me were perfectly harmless?”

“Not my boys,” said Tugg. “There are wild tribes about, as I told you. This bilin’ of trouble-makers are from up country. I’m dreadful afraid they’ve attacked the camp first and put the Professor and my boys out of the way. They must have been on the lookout for the Sea Spell. Had sentinels posted along shore. They want to loot her.”

“And it looks to me as though they’d do it,” I observed. “I never shot at a man, Captain; but I am going to begin shooting if those dancing dervishes start to come off to us in those big canoes I see there.”

“Don’t begin to shoot too quick, Mr. Webb,” said the Yankee skipper. “I reckon we’ll be able to handle them all right.”

“But your crew isn’t armed.”

234“You bet they ain’t. And me with more than two thousand in gold aboard?” he snorted. “By the e-tar-nal snakes! I guess they ain’t armed. I wouldn’t trust ’em with firearms.”

I began to feel pretty bad. I knew they were a murderous looking lot of fellows; but I didn’t suppose that Tugg traveled in such peril all the time. I was learning a whole lot for a boy of my age. To be adventuring about the world “on the loose” as old Tom Anderly called it, had seemed a mighty fine thing. But just at that moment, with the schooner shaking on the shoal, the fires flaring on the beach, and the savages dancing and yelling at us, I would have given a good deal to have been where I could call a policeman!

But Adoniram Tugg showed no particular fear. I was the only person who had a weapon on deck. The Yankee skipper did not even go down for his own gun that hung over his stateroom door. Instead, he turned to Pedro and gave a quick command.

The mate and two of the sailors dashed for the forward hatch and had it off in a minute. Tugg turned to me again, drawling just the same as usual:

“Keep a thing seven year, they say, and it’s bound to come handy, no matter what it is. I bought a miscellaneous lot o’ truck out o’ a seaside store thar in Buenos Ayres because there was a right good chronometer went with the lot. Ah! that’s the box, Pedro. Rip it open—but have a care. Don’t bring 235fire near it—hey! you there with the cigaroot! Throw it away. You want to blow yourself to everylastin’ bliss?”

“They’re manning those canoes, Captain!” I shouted, for my attention was pretty closely fixed upon the savages.

“Let ’em come!” he grunted. “We’ll fix ’em, Mr. Webb; we’ll fix ’em.”

There were four large canoes. I heard Tugg whispering to himself about them as he watched the half-naked paddlers urging them toward the schooner:

“Ugly mugs. From up river. Come three or four hundred miles in them canoes, mebbe. Wisht I knew what has happened the Professor. They sartainly have cleaned our headquarters, or they wouldn’t have displaced that beacon lantern.” Then he turned to urge Pedro. “Got that mess o’ stuff out o’ the box? That’s it. Now, Mr. Webb, never mind them guns o’ yourn. Put ’em down and bear a hand here.”

He was the skipper and I obeyed; but I hated to give up the rifle. It looked to me as though we were in for a hand-to-hand fight with the savages—and they really were giants. I had read of these Patagonians; but I had never more than half believed the stories they told about them. I could realize now that any fifty of them one might see in a crowd together would average—as the books said—six feet, four inches in height.

As I came forward he was rapidly distributing—he and Pedro—the articles which 236had been packed in the box. He gave half a dozen to each man of the crew. He likewise broke up lengths of slow-matches—that Chinese punk that is usually used when fireworks are set off. And it was fireworks he was giving me—half a dozen good-sized rockets!

“What shall we do with these?” I demanded. “Why, Captain Tugg! you don’t mean to illuminate the schooner? Those savages will pin us with their spears if we light up here.”

He spoke first to the crew, and they ran at once and crouched under the bulwarks on that side nearest the shore. The canoes were within a hundred yards.

“Quick!” he said to me. “Start the first rocket fuse. Lay it on the rail here, son, and aim it at them canoes. We’ll pepper them skunks—now, won’t we?”

All along the line of the rail I heard the fuses sputtering. Little sparks of blue and crimson flame shot into view. “Let ’em go!” bawled Adroniam Tugg.

The four canoes came fairly bounding over the water. I never knew that canoes could be paddled so rapidly. They were almost upon the schooner when the first rocket went off with a terrible sputter. It shot like a bird of fire right into the leading canoe, and then another, and another, shot off until the air between the schooner and the canoes seemed filled with shooting flames.

The savages’ yells changed monstrously 237quick. When the rockets began to blow up and sprinkle around balls of red and blue and green fire, the boats were emptied in a moment or two. Wildly shrieking, the naked savages sprang overboard and swam back toward land, while we along the rail of the Sea Spell sent broadside after broadside of rockets after them.

We saw them splash through the shoal water, gain the land, and disappear beyond the illumination of the fires before all our skyrockets were used up.

“Avast firin’!” roared Captain Tugg, and Pedro, the mate, repeated the order in Spanish. “Now out with a boat, Pedro, and save those canoes. They’ll come in handy for our use.”

No matter what the situation might be, the Yankee could not lose sight of the main chance. We gathered in those canoes and then awaited daylight before we made any further move. We found then that the savages had totally disappeared.

“We can warp her off and I doubt if she’s damaged at all,” declared Captain Tugg. “But I’m too worried about the Professor to begin that now. I’m going to leave Pedro here and we’ll take some of the boys and sail up to headquarters and see what’s happened there. You can bring your hardware, Mr. Webb. We may have need of it after all, for if they’ve troubled the Professor, I swanny I’ll shoot some of the long-legged rascals!”

What I had read of white men in wild 238countries had led me to believe that they usually shot the savages first and inquired into their intentions afterward. But Captain Tugg assured me that in the fifteen years he had been in this country he had never been obliged to more than string a few savages up by their thumbs and ropes-end them!

“They’ve been ugly at times—not my boys around here, but some of the far, up-country tribes—and I’ve been obliged to show them things. I’m kind of a wonder-worker, I be. Them scamps that waylaid us last night will scatter the news of that fireworks show throughout ten townships, and don’t you forgit it. Jest because Adoniram Tugg can show ’em something new ev’ry time is what’s kept his head on his shoulders for fifteen years.”

“Goodness! they’re not head-hunters?” said I.

“No. But they’d take a white man’s head and sell it to tribes farther north that do prize sech trophies. Oh, this ain’t no country for tenderfoots, son. There ain’t no tract in the back-end of India, or the middle of Africa, that’s as barbarous as a good wide streak of South America yet.”

And I could believe that later when, after sailing some miles up the inlet, we came to the burned ruins of a collection of huts and sheds. This was Tugg’s headquarters, and his partner, Professor Vose, the man I had come so far to see, was not there.

Chapter XXVIII

In Which are Related Several Disappointments

The attack on the encampment of the animal trappers had evidently been made several days before. The fire had devastated the place. All the animals in cages had been killed or released. And in the blackened ruins and about the clearing, on the rocks, there lay the bodies of more than a dozen Patagonians. Tugg showed real feeling when he saw these dead men.

“Poor boys!” he muttered, standing leaning on his rifle and gazing upon one fellow who was really a giant. “They was square, jest the same. Ye see, they fought for the Professor and the traps. But them scoundrels was too many for them.”

It was a dreadful sight. I do not want to write about it. Nor do I wish to give the particulars of our search of the neighborhood for some trace of the single white man who had been in the vicinity—the man whom Tugg called the Professor, but who was the Man of Mystery to me. We found a place where a huge fire had been built beneath the trees. There was a green liana hanging from a high limb and the end of the liana had been tied around the ankles of a man. The feet 240shod in American made boots were all of that victim of the savages’ cruelty which had not been burned to ashes.

“It’s a way they have,” whispered Tugg. “They start the poor feller swinging like a pendulum, and every time he swings through the flames he’s burned a little more—and a little more——”

I turned sick with the horror of it. There was nothing more to do. Tugg recognized his partner’s boots. The savages had made their raid, burned the camp, destroyed all they could, and done their best to wreck the Sea Spell. There must have been one traitor among Tugg’s men at the encampment or the savages would not have known of the schooner’s approach. At least, I shall always believe so.

But when the balance of his Patagonians came in from the swamp where they had hidden after the attack, the captain seemed to believe all their stories, took them back into his confidence, and at once set to work to repair the damage done by the up-river Indians.

I confess that I was desperately disappointed. And I felt depressed, too, over the death of the mysterious Professor Vose, or Carver, or whatever his name had been. I could not get rid of the thought that perhaps the man had been my father. But I should never know now, I told myself. Whether it were so, or not I need have no doubt regarding my poor father’s death. If he had not 241been drowned off Bolderhead Neck, and had been hidden away in this wilderness so many years, he had gone to his account now.

I was sorry I had come down here in the Sea Spell; but being here I had to somewhat wait upon Captain Tugg’s pleasure before I could get away. We warped the Sea Spell off the shoal and found her uninjured. She had scarcely started a plank. Then the animal trapper set us all to work rebuilding his camp, animal cages, and stockade. We were three solid months repairing the damage done by the savages; but then Tugg had a camp that would be impregnable to the wild men from up the river.

I had expressed to him at once my wish to return to the coast where I could get a chance to work my way north in some vessel. But it was three months before he could spare me a canoe crew to take me as far as Punta Arenas, on the Straits. From that point I would be able to board some vessel bound into the Atlantic, and if I could get back to Buenos Ayres I would be all right.

I had wasted nearly six months in following a will-o’-the-wisp. I might have been at home long ago, had I not come down here on the schooner. More than a year had passed since that September evening when my cousin, Paul Downes, and I had had our fateful quarrel on my bonnie sloop, the Wavecrest, as she beat slowly into the inlet at Bolderhead. I had roved far afield since that time, had seen strange lands, and strange peoples, 242and had endured hardship and hard work which—after all was said and done—hadn’t belonged to me.

Clint Webb need not be knocking about the world, looking for a chance to work his way home before the mast. As the canoe Tugg had lent me sailed south through the inlet, with Pedro and two gigantic Patagonians for crew, I milled these thoughts over in my mind, and determined that, once at home, I’d stick there. Not that I was tired of the sea, or afraid of work aboard ship; but I was deeply worried regarding my mother and what might be happening to her so far away.

Nothing but the desire to set eyes on the man that looked like me and talked like me had brought me ’way down here in Patagonia; I had never told Captain Tugg my real reason for shipping on the Sea Spell, not even when I bade him good-bye. The old fellow had seemed really sorry to have me go.

“If you git tired of civilization and want to come down this way again, son,” he told me, “you’ll be as welcome as can be. Just come here, walk in, hang up your hat, and you’ll find a job right at hand. I got a big order for ant-eaters, jaguar, tiger-cats, and the like, on hand and I’ll likely be here for a couple of years—off and on. Goin’ to be mighty lonesome, too, without the Professor,” he added, shaking his head, sorrowfully.

Tugg was a money-lover; but I know that he didn’t hold the loss of his animals and 243outfit as anything to be compared to the miserable end of his partner. I liked him for that.

I can’t say that I enjoyed that canoe trip to the Straits. We had a queer three-cornered sail that was rigged in some native way, and as the wind was free we traveled the hundred or so miles to the mouth of the inlet in good time. But I did not sleep much; Pedro and the giants might easily knock me on the head, take my few dollars and my gun and other traps, and drop me overboard. I couldn’t believe that they were to be trusted.

But nothing really happened until we were within a mile or so of the mouth of the long lagoon. I could see a bit of the strait and over the rocky headland appeared a banner of smoke. It was from the stack of a steamship bound east. I pointed it out to the mate of the Sea Spell and told him how anxious I was to reach that very craft. I had money enough left of my wages to pay my fare to Buenos Ayres at least—perhaps to Bahia; and surely the steamship would stop somewhere along the east coast.

Pedro jabbered to the Patagonians, and the wind having fallen light they got out the paddles and set to work. I showed them each a silver dollar and they went at it like college athletes. Such paddling I never saw before, and it seemed to me we shot out of the inlet about as fast as though we were ironed to a bull whale!

But we were too late. The steamship had 244a long sea-mile on us and she wasn’t stopping for a canoe. We should have to trim our sail again and make for the West and Punta Arenas. As we swung the canoe’s head around, however, I caught sight of a big ship, with a wonderful lot of canvas set, passing the steamship and heading our way. She sailed the straits like a huge bird, her white canvas bellying from the deck to the extreme points of her wand-like topmasts. She was a pretty sight.

I began to stare back at her more and more as she came up, hand over hand. I saw that she was a bark; then I saw that her crowsnest was occupied by a lookout. Only one manner of craft would have a man in the crowsnest on a clear day like this. She was a whaler.

I had no glass; but I fixed my gaze upon her black bows as they rose and fell as she came through the waves. My heart had begun to beat with excitement. There were the huge white letters as she paid off a bit and I could see part of her run and broadside. I couldn’t be mistaken, and suddenly I broke out with a loud cheer, for I could read the two painted lines:

New Bedford

Chapter XXIX

In Which I Am Not the Only Person Surprised

I yelled to Pedro and then sprang up, tied a handkerchief to an oar and waved it frantically. As the old bark swung down toward us I saw several figures spring into the lower rigging, and by and by their hands waved to me. I spoke again to the mate of the Sea Spell and he said he could bring the canoe in close to the bark if they would throw me a rope. I knew they had identified me, and I was glad to see Ben Gibson standing on the rail and yelling to me.

I gave each of the Patagonians a dollar and Pedro two, shook hands with them all, slung my rifle over my shoulder, hooked one arm through my dunnage-bag (which was fortunately waterproof) and stood ready to seize the rope which was flung me. The Patagonians brought the canoe right up to the looming side of the old bark, and as she dipped deep in the sea, I sprang up and “walked up” her side, clinging to the rope with both hands. So they got me inboard with merely a dash of saltwater to season my venture.

The canoe wore off sharply and I turned to wave good-bye to Pedro and the paddlers. 246Then a bunch of the old Scarboro’s fo’castle hands were about me. Tom Anderly pushed through the group and grabbed my hand.

“Here ye be, ye blamed young scamp!” he roared. “Leavin’ Mr. Gibson an’ me in the lurch in Buenos Ayres.”

“And ye missed some of the greatest whalin’ ye ever see,” burst in the stroke oar of our old boat. “We got smashed up complete once and lost boat and every bit of gear. Nobody bad hurt, however.”

Within the next few moments I heard a deal of news. How many whales the Scarboro had butchered since I had left for Buenos Ayres (and despite Mr. Bobbin’s croaking the old bark already had half a cargo in her tanks); how long it had taken Bill Rudd and his crew to patch up the hole the bull whale had smashed in the bark’s side; about the gale they had run into which had carried away some of the top gear and much canvas; and what the crew had done during the week or more they had been in port at Buenos Ayres.

Then Ben Gibson came off duty and called me aft. “Awful glad to see you, Webb,” he declared. “I’m fit as a fiddle now. Want you in my boat again. We took on a lout at Buenos Ayres, who’s had your berth; but he isn’t worth a hang in the boat. You’re going to finish out the cruise, aren’t you?”

“I don’t expect to, sir,” I returned. “I would have been home long ago if I had been wise. What I came down here for panned out nothing at all.”

247“Well, Captain Hi will be glad to have you finish out the cruise, I don’t doubt. You better go below and see him,” said the second mate.

Mr. Robbins shook hands with me before I went below and welcomed me aboard. “We’re going to make money in the old Scarboro this v’y’ge, Webb,” he said. “You’d better stick to the bark. Captain Hi is going to discharge ile here at Punta Arenas and go into the Pacific with clean tanks.”

And so the skipper told me when I descended to the tiny chart room. There would be a tramp freightship with a half cargo at Punta Arenas, he said, and it had empty tanks aboard. All that was needed was to pump the oil from the bark into the tramp’s tanks.

“And we’ve got a good bit of bone and spermaceti, too,” said Captain Rogers. “I consider you one of the crew still, Webb. Or, if you are so determined, you may pull out here and I will give you your hundred dollars as I promised.”

“I feel that I should go home. Captain,” I assured him. “As I told Ben in my note back there at Buenos Ayres, my money and letters were grabbed at the consulate by another fellow——”

“Yes,” interposed Captain Rogers, beginning to hunt in a drawer, “Ben told me about that. And I went up to the consulate and had a talk with Colonel Hefferan about it. The whole thing was a silly mistake on the 248part of a clerk of his—a mighty fresh clerk. He went off half-cocked and gave the money and letters over to that fellow without saying a word to the consul himself. And they put you out of the consulate, too, I understand?”

“They most certainly did,” I replied.

“If you go to Buenos Ayres, just step in there and make that cheap clerk beg your pardon. He’s ready to. And here,” said Captain Rogers, suddenly, turning toward me, “is something that belongs to you, I believe, Clint Webb.”

There were several letters which he placed in my hand. The top one was addressed in mother’s handwriting, and I seized it with a cry of delight.

“Know ’em, do you?” he said.

“This is from my mother—and this from Ham—and this one from our lawyer——”

“I reckoned they belonged to you. The crimp gave them to me with the rest of that fellow’s belongings, and I took the liberty of sorting out these and saving them for you.”

“They’ve been opened!” I cried.

“Of course. And why the fellow kept them I don’t see. They’re incriminating. But he was all in when the crimp brought him aboard——”

“Who is the fellow?” gasped I, in amazement.

“Says his name’s Bodfish—young lout! I took pity on him when I saw him in that crimp-shop. He had spent a pocketful of money, or had it stolen. I suppose he is the 249fellow that represented himself as you at the consulate,” said Captain Rogers.

“Paul Downes!”

“Like enough. Of course, I didn’t suppose Bodfish was his re’l name. But he was an American—and a boy. I couldn’t leave him to be put aboard some coaster where he’d be beaten to death. He hasn’t been much good, though, aboard this bark. But maybe by the time we see Bedford again he’ll be licked into some sort of shape. I put him in Ben’s watch, knowing that Robbins might be too ha’sh with him.”

But I was eager to read my mother’s letter—and the others. I asked the kind old captain’s permission, and dropped right down there and perused the several epistles which good fortune had at last brought to me. Oh, I was glad indeed that I had cabled mother from Buenas Ayres. And now I wished more than ever that I had gone home from there instead of shipping in the Sea Spell.

Mother had cabled me two hundred dollars. Paul had made way with it all, it seemed, and Captain Rogers had found him in the lowest kind of a sailor’s lodging house, helpless, in debt to the keeper of the place, and unable to get away.

But I was not interested in my cousin’s fate just then. I read mother’s long letter with a feeling that all was not as well at home as I could wish. She had been greatly shocked at my disappearance. At first they had 250thought I had run away. I could guess mighty easily who suggested that idea!

She did not write much of Mr. Chester Downes; but she did mention the fact that when she had returned to Darringford House Mr. Hounsditch had been very officious in attending upon her and in showing her that she was a good deal tied down by the provisions of grandfather’s will and that the lawyer was to advise her at every turn. Especially did she complain that Mr. Hounsditch had been officious since I was heard from.

The tone of her letter hurt me a little. There seemed to be some idea still in her mind that it was my reckless disposition more than the crime of another, that had set me adrift in the Wavecrest. She spoke of “Mr. Downes’ great trouble” and of “poor Paul” as though they were both to be pitied. Otherwise she did not touch on the topic of my having been cut adrift by my cousin, or his emissaries.

It was from Ham Mayberry’s letter I got the facts regarding my cousin and his father. Lampton, the man at the boathouse, and Ham himself had had their suspicions of what had become of me, and how the Wavecrest had been swept away in the storm, before my letters from the Scarboro were received. They had found the cut mooring cable.

Ham, too, had sounded the ne’er-do-wells who were my cousin’s companions, and after the house on the Neck was closed for the 251season, and the Downeses had departed with my mother for Darringford House, the old coachman had obtained a confession from the young scoundrels to the effect that they had helped Paul nail me into my cabin and had seen him cut the Wavecrest adrift.

At the time I was heard from, Ham put all the evidence into the hands of Mr. Hounsditch, and the old lawyer had gone to the Downeses and threatened procedure against Paul. Chester Downes had flown into a violent passion with his son and had actually driven him out of his house, and Paul had disappeared. Of course, Ham at the time of writing knew nothing of what had become of Paul. There was a paragraph at the end of Ham’s letter that was explanatory, too, and I repeat it here:

“I don’t know what you mean by your questions about Jim Carver—that was his name. He was one of the three Carver boys—Bill and Jonas were as straight as a chalk line; but Jim always was a little crooked. He worked for the fish firm of Pallin & Thorpe, and I remember that he disappeared with some of the cash from their safe about the time poor Dr. Webb was drowned. Do you mean to say you have run across Jim Carver on board that whaling bark? Folks hereabout thought Jim Carver was dead years ago.”

So that settled the mystery of the man I had come clear down here to the Straits of Magellan to find—the man whom Captain 252Adoniram Tugg knew as Professor Vose and who had met so terrible an end when the savages had destroyed Tugg’s headquarters. It did not need Lawyer Hounsditch’s letter to show me how unwise I had been in not making my way directly home from Buenos Ayres when I had had the chance.

The lawyer reminded me that my mother needed me. He did not say anything directly—for he was a sly old fellow—but he intimated plainly enough that he feared Mr. Chester Downes’ influence in our home. I was almost a man grown, he said, even if I was a minor. “Your place is by your mother’s side. The lust for roving was born in you, I suppose,” he wrote, “your father had it, too; but put Duty before Inclination, and come home at once.”

Had I received those three letters when I visited the consulate at Buenos Ayres, I would have found means of taking the first steamer north thereafter. Even the romantic idea I had of trying to find my father would not have set aside what I plainly knew to be my duty.

I was hurt that mother should so cling to Chester Downes as her friend after all that had happened; yet I could not blame her for what was a weakness, not a fault. She was the best and dearest little woman on earth! And she needed me at that very moment, perhaps. Nothing now, I determined, should keep me from taking passage for home at the very earliest opportunity.

Chapter XXX

In Which I at Last Set My Face Homeward with Determination

When I came up from the captain’s room I stepped out on deck face to face with my cousin, Paul Downes. He tried to sneak past me, but I seized him by the shoulder and jammed him up against the side of the house.

“You lemme go, Clint Webb!” he whined. “I don’t want nothing to do with you—now, I tell you!”

“I bet you don’t want anything to do with me,” I replied, eyeing him with some curiosity.

Paul looked as though he had had a hard time of it. He was dressed in the roughest sort of clothing, he had a bruised face (I fear Ben Gibson had punished him for disrespect, for Paul was just the sort of a fellow to try and take advantage of the second mate’s youth) and altogether he was a most disreputable and hang-dog looking creature.

“I’d never come aboard this old tub if I’d known what whaling was like,” whined Paul. “And now I want you to get this captain to let me off. You’re going home, they tell me.”

“I hope to get away about as soon as we arrive as Punta Arenas,” I declared.

254“Then I want you to get me away from this place, too. You’ll have money enough to pay both our fares home——”

“Well, I never heard of such cheek!” I interrupted.

“Now, you do as I say. Father will pay you back. I’ll make him,” said Paul, as though he thought the whole thing was cut and dried.

“Why, you shipped for the voyage, didn’t you?”

“Ye-es. They said something like that. But I didn’t mean it,” said my cousin.

“You’ll find that sea captains expect a man to abide by the ship’s papers. I don’t know as Captain Rogers loves you much, but maybe he’ll want to keep you just the same.”

“He ain’t trying to hold you,” snarled Paul.

“I never signed on,” I replied. “I haven’t been a real member of the crew at all. But you were very glad for Captain Rogers to take you out of the clutches of that crimp at Buenos Ayres. You won’t get away from the Scarboro so easy.”

“I ain’t going to stay,” he declared, bitterly. “I don’t like it. I want to go home.”

“The voyage will maybe teach you something, Paul,” I said, and I must confess I enjoyed his discomfiture.

“You better help me out o’ here,” he threatened. “You can do it.”

“If I could help you, I wouldn’t,” I declared, 255with some heat. “Think I’ve forgotten what you did to me at the consul’s office?”

He grinned a little; but he was angry, too. “You better help me to a passage home,” he growled.

“Not much!”

“You’ll wish you had,” he declared. “I’ll write your mother and tell her just how you’ve treated me. I’ve had a hard time——”

And he actually acted and spoke as though he considered himself ill-used! I never in my life saw such a fellow. Always blaming somebody else for the troubles he brought upon himself. I was soon tired of listening to him.

“Come! stow all that!” I advised him. “You’re a member of the Scarboro’s crew, and you joined of your own free will. The only reason I see for my trying to get you away from here is to have you arrested and punished for getting hold of my money at Buenos Ayres. I could put you in bad for that. You be thankful you are away down here on the Scarboro, instead of at Buenos Ayres.”

“So you won’t help me get away?” he snarled.

“No, sir!”

“All right. You wait. You’ll be sorry.”

“Now, don’t threaten me any more,” I returned. “I hope this voyage will do you some good. I think you’ll learn something before the Scarboro reaches New Bedford again. We’ll hope so, anyway.”

256He only snarled at me as I passed on. I had just as little to do with him as possible while I remained aboard the bark. We were at Punta Arenas in a few hours, and the very next morning the bark was warped in beside the tramp steamer and the oil in the whaler’s tanks was being pumped aboard the steamship. The men were given short shore leave; but Captain Rogers put Paul Downes in the care of Bill Rudd, the carpenter, and made him responsible for him.

“I ain’t got my money’s worth out o’ that greenhorn yet,” declared the skipper. “He ain’t earned yet what I had to pay for his board bill in Buenos Ayres. Don’t you let him get away, Rudd.”

I knew that my cousin would come to no harm with Captain Rogers. The cruise might be the means of making some sort of a man of him, at least. So I put Paul and his affairs right out of my mind.

There was a steamer touching at Buenos Ayres due through the straits in a couple of days, and I prepared to board her. Once in the big Argentine seaport I would take passage on a Bayne Liner for Boston. I was eager for the homeward journey now, although I felt that I never should be tired of the salt water. But, as Lawyer Hounsditch advised, I put Duty ahead of Inclination.

I bade my friends aboard the Scarboro good-bye and went ashore, spending the night before I was to sail for the north in a decent house near the landing. I knew my mother 257would be glad to see me and I had no fear but that, once beside her, I should find means of keeping Mr. Chester Downes at a distance. I had no reason to doubt the future, or what it might hold in store for me. That it did not prove wholly uneventful the reader may discover for himself in the second volume of this series, entitled: “The Frozen Ship; or, Clint Webb Among the Sealers.”

I was not thinking of either romance or adventure, however, when I began my homeward voyage. I expected it to be quite uneventful, and was only anxious to walk into Darringford House, surprise my little mother, and take her once again in my arms!




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