HotFreeBooks.com
Bunyip Land - A Story of Adventure in New Guinea
by George Manville Fenn
1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Bunyip Land; a Story of Adventure in New Guinea, by George Manville Fenn.

_____________

Joe Carstairs is a boy on a farm in Australia. His father is a keen naturalist who, some years before had set off for New Guinea in search of specimens, and never been heard of again. Joe is old enough to mount a search expedition, and takes with him a local doctor and an aboriginal worker on his farm. They find themselves joined by a stowaway, Jimmy, whose father is a squatter (farmer) nearby, together with his dog, Gyp.

This team sets off, arrive in New Guinea, hire some more porters, and travel guided by some sixth sense straight to where Mr Carstairs has been kept a prisoner, along with another Englishman, whose mind has gone, under the stress of his imprisonment.

There are the usual close shaves and tense moments, but finally they achieve their end, and return home triumphantly.

_____________

BUNYIP LAND; A STORY OF ADVENTURE IN NEW GUINEA, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

HOW I MADE MY PLANS AND THEY WERE ENDORSED.

"Now, Master Joseph, do adone now, do. I'm sure your poor dear eyes'll go afore you're forty, and think of that!"

"Bother!"

"What say, my dear?"

"Don't bother."

"You're always running your finger over that map thing, my dear. I can't abear to see it."

Nurse Brown looked over the top of her spectacles at me and shook her head, while I bent lower over the map.

Then the old lady sighed, and went on making cottage windows all over my worsted stockings, giving vent to comments all the time, for the old lady had been servant to my grandmother, and had followed her young mistress when she married, nursing me when I was born, and treating me as a baby ever since. In fact she had grown into an institution at home, moving when we moved, and doing pretty well as she liked in what she called "our house."

"Bang!"

"Bless the boy! don't bang the table like that," she cried. "How you made me jump!"

"It's of no use talking, nurse," I cried; "I mean to go."

"Go!" she said. "Go where?"

"Go and find my poor dear father," I cried. "Why, nurse, am I to sit down quietly at home here, when perhaps my poor father is waiting for me to come to his help?"

"Oh, hush! my dearie; don't talk like that I'm afraid he's dead and gone."

"He isn't, nurse," I cried fiercely. "He's a prisoner somewhere among those New Guinea savages, and I mean to find him and bring him back."

Nurse Brown thrust her needle into the big round ball of worsted, and held it up as if for me to see. Then she took off her glasses with the left hand in the stocking, and shaking her head she exclaimed:

"Oh, you bad boy; wasn't it enough for your father to go mad after his botaniky, and want to go collecting furren buttercups and daisies, to break your mother's heart, that you must ketch his complaint and want to go too?"

"My father isn't mad," I said.

"Your father was mad," retorted Nurse Brown, "and I was surprised at him. What did he ever get by going wandering about collecting his dry orchardses and rubbish, and sending of 'em to England?"

"Fame," I cried, "and honour."

"Fame and honour never bought potatoes," said nurse.

"Why, four different plants were named after him."

"Oh, stuff and rubbish, boy! What's the good of that when a man gets lost and starves to death in the furren wilds!"

"My father was too clever a man to get lost or to starve in the wilds," I said proudly. "The savages have made him a prisoner, and I'm going to find him and bring him back."

"Ah! you've gone wandering about with that dirty black till you've quite got into his ways."

"Jimmy isn't dirty," I said; "and he can't help being black any more than you can being white."

"I wonder at a well-brought-up young gent like you bemeaning yourself to associate with such a low creature, Master Joseph."

"Jimmy's a native gentleman, nurse," I said.

"Gentleman, indeed!" cried the old lady, "as goes about without a bit of decent clothes to his back."

"So did Adam, nursey," I said laughing.

"Master Joseph, I won't sit here and listen to you if you talk like that," cried the old lady; "a-comparing that black savage to Adam! You ought to be ashamed of yourself. It all comes of living in this horrible place. I wish we were back at Putney."

"Hang Putney!" I cried. "Putney, indeed! where you couldn't go half a yard off a road without trespassing. Oh, nurse, you can't understand it," I cried enthusiastically; "if you were to get up in the dark one morning and go with Jimmy—"

"Me go with Jimmy!" cried the old lady with a snort.

"And get right out towards the mountain and see the sunrise, and the parrots in flocks, and the fish glancing like arrows down the silver river—"

"There's just how your poor dear pa used to talk, and nearly broke your poor ma's heart."

"No, he didn't; he was too fond of her," I said; "only he felt it his duty to continue his researches, the same that brought him out here, and—oh, I shall find him and bring him back."

"Don't, don't, don't! there's a good boy; don't talk to me like that. You're sixteen now, and you ought to know better."

"I don't want to know any better than that, nurse. I know it's my duty to go, and I shall go."

"You'll kill your poor ma, sir."

"No, I sha'n't," I said. "She won't like my going at first, because it will seem lonely for her out here; but she'll be as pleased as can be afterwards. Look here: my mother—"

"Say ma, Master Joe, dear. Doey, please; it's so much more genteel."

"Stuff! it's Frenchy; mother's old English. Mother don't believe father's dead, does she?"

"Well, no, my dear; she's as obstinate as you are about that."

"And she's right. Why, he's only been away four years, and that isn't so very long in a country where you have to cut every step of the way."

"Cooey—cooey—woo—woo—woo—woo—why yup!"

"Cooey—cooey!" I echoed back, and nurse held he hands to her ears.

"Now don't you go to him, Master Joseph; now please don't," said the old lady.

"Mass Joe! hi Mass Joe! Jimmy fine wallaby. Tick fass in big hole big tree."

Just then my first-lieutenant and Nurse Brown's great object of dislike, Jimmy, thrust his shiny black face and curly head in at the door.

"Go away, sir," cried nurse.

"Heap fis—come kedge fis—million tousand all up a creek. Jimmy go way?"

He stood grinning and nodding, with his hands in the pocket holes of his only garment, a pair of trousers with legs cut off to about mid-thigh.

"If you don't take that nasty black fellow away, Master Joseph, I shall be obliged to complain to your poor ma," said nurse.

"Get out!" I said; "Jimmy won't hurt you; and though it don't show, he's as clean as a new pin."

"He isn't clean; he can't be, dear. How can any one be clean who don't wear clothes, Master Joseph? and look at his toes."

Nurse Brown always fell foul of Jimmy's toes. They fidgeted her, for they were never still. In fact Jimmy's toes, which had never probed the recesses of a pair of boots, were more like fingers and thumbs, and had a way of twiddling about when he was supposed to be standing still— stand perfectly still he never did—and these toes belonged to feet that in climbing he could use like hands. More than once I've seen him pick stones off the ground—just like a monkey, nurse said—or stand talking to any one and keep his attention while he helped himself to something he wanted with his feet.

"There, be off Jimmy," I said, for I wanted to stop indoors.

"Come kedge fis."

"No, not to-day."

"Hi—wup—wup—wup!"

Jimmy threw himself into an attitude, snatching a small hatchet from the waistband of his trousers, and made believe to climb a tree, chop a hole larger, and draw out an animal, which he seemed to be swinging round by its tail.

"No, not to-day, Jimmy," I cried.

"Sleep, sleep," said Jimmy, imitating a kangaroo by giving a couple of hops into the verandah, where he chose a sunny place, well haunted by flies, curled up, and went to sleep.

"Good morning!" cried a hearty voice, and I ran out to welcome our neighbour the doctor, whose horse's hoofs had not been heard, and who was now fastening the rein to the hook in one of the verandah posts.

"Well, Joe," he said as I shook hands and looked up admiringly in his bold well-bearded face.

"Well, doctor, I'm so glad you've come; walk in."

"Ah! nurse," he cried; "how well you look!"

"Yes, yes; but I am glad you're come," she said. "I want you to look at Master Joseph."

"I did look at him."

"Isn't he feverish or something, sir? He's that restless as never was."

"Sign he's growing," cried the doctor. "How's mamma?"

"Oh, she's pretty well," I said. "Gone to lie down."

"That's right," said the doctor. "I had to come and look at Bowman's broken arm, so I came on here to beg a bit of dinner."

"I'm so glad!" I said: for Jimmy, the half-wild black, was my only companion, there being no boys within miles of our run; "stop a week and have some fishing."

"And what's to become of my patients?"

"You haven't got any," I said. "You told me so last time."

"True, O King Joseph! I've come to the wrong place; you don't want many doctors in Australia. Why, nurse, how this fellow grows!"

"I wish he'd grow good," cried the old lady. "He's always doing something to worry away his poor ma's and my life."

"Why, what's the matter now, nurse?"

"Matter, sir! Why, he's took it into his head to go looking for his poor dear dead-and-gone pa. Do, do please tell him he mustn't think of such things."

"Why, Joe!" cried the doctor, turning sharply round to me, and ceasing to beat his high boots with his long-thonged whip.

"I don't care what anybody says," I cried, stamping my foot. "I've made up my mind, and mean to go to New Guinea to find my father."

"There, doctor, did you ever hear any one so wickedly obstinate before?" cried nurse. "Isn't it shocking? and his ma that delicate and worried living all alone, like, here out in these strange parts, and him as ought to be a comfort to her doing nothing but hanker after running away to find him as is dead and gone."

"He's not dead, nurse; he's only gone," I cried; "and I mean to find him, as sure as I live. There, that I will."

"There, doctor, did you ever hear such a boy?" cried nurse.

"Never," said the doctor. "Why, Joe, my boy," he cried as I stood shrinking from him, ready to defend myself from his remonstrances, "your ideas do you credit. I didn't think you had it in you."

"Then you don't think it is wrong of me, doctor?" I said, catching his hand.

"No, my boy, I do not," he said gravely; "but it is a task for strong and earnest men."

"But I am strong," I said; "and if I'm not a man I'm in real earnest."

"I can see that, my lad," said the doctor, with his brown forehead filling with thoughtful wrinkles; "but have you counted the cost?"

"Cost!" I said. "No. I should get a passage in a coaster and walk all the rest of the way."

"I mean cost of energy: the risks, the arduous labours?"

"Oh, yes," I said; "and I sha'n't mind. Father would have done the same if I was lost."

"Of course he would, my lad; but would you go alone?"

"Oh, no," I replied, "I should take a guide."

"Ah, yes; a good guide and companion."

"There, Master Joseph, you hear," said nurse. "Doctor Grant means that sarcastical."

"No, I do not, nurse," said the doctor quietly; "for I think it a very brave and noble resolve on the part of our young friend."

"Doctor!"

"It has troubled me this year past that no effort has been made to find the professor, who, I have no doubt, is somewhere in the interior of the island, and I have been for some time making plans to go after him myself."

Nurse Brown's jaw dropped, and she stared in speechless amazement.

"Hurray, doctor!" I cried.

"And I say hurray too, Joe," he cried. "I'll go with you, my lad, and we'll bring him back, with God's help, safe and sound."

The shout I gave woke Jimmy, who sprang to his feet, dragged a boomerang from his waistband, and dashed to the door to throw it at somebody, and then stopped.

"You'll break his mother's heart, doctor," sobbed nurse. "Oh! if she was to hear what you've said!"

"I did hear every word," said my mother, entering from the next room, and looking very white.

"There, there," cried nurse, "you wicked boy, see what you've done."

"Mother!" I cried, as I ran to her and caught her—poor, little, light, delicate thing that she was—in my arms.

"My boy!" she whispered back, as she clung to me.

"I must go. I will find him. I'm sure he is not dead."

"And so am I," she cried, with her eyes lighting up and a couple of red spots appearing in her cheeks. "I could not feel as I do if he were dead."

Here she broke down and began to sob, while I, with old nurse's eyes glaring at me, began to feel as if I had done some horribly wicked act, and that nothing was left for me to do but try to soothe her whose heart I seemed to have broken.

"Oh, mother! dear mother," I whispered, with my lips close to her little pink ear, "I don't want to give you pain, but I feel as if I must—I must go."

To my utter astonishment she laid her hands upon my temples, thrust me from her, and gazing passionately in my great sun-browned face she bent forward, kissed me, and said:

"Yes, yes. You've grown a great fellow now. Go? Yes, you must go. God will help you, and bring you both safely back."

"Aw—ugh! Aw—ugh! Aw—ugh!" came from the verandah, three hideous yells, indicative of the fact that Jimmy—the half-wild black who had attached himself to me ever since the day I had met him spear-armed, and bearing that as his only garment over the shoulder, and I shared with him the bread and mutton I had taken for my expedition—was in a state of the utmost grief. In fact, he had thrown himself down on the sand, and was wallowing and twisting himself about, beating up the dust with his boomerang, and generally exciting poor old nurse's disgust.

"Mother!" I cried; and making an effort she stood up erect and proud.

"Mr Grant," she exclaimed, "do you mean what you say?"

"Most decidedly, my dear madam," said the doctor. "I should be unworthy of the professor's friendship, and the charge he gave me to watch over you in his absence, if I did not go."

"But your practice?"

"What is that, trifling as it is, to going to the help of him who gave me his when I came out to the colony a poor and friendless man?"

"Thank you, doctor," she said, laying her hand in his.

"And I go the more willingly," he said smiling, "because I know it will be the best prescription for your case. It will bring you back your health."

"But, doctor—"

"Don't say another word," he cried. "Why, my dear Mrs Carstairs, it is five years since I have had anything even approaching a holiday. This will be a splendid opportunity; and I can take care of Joe here, and he can take care of me."

"That I will—if I can," I cried.

"I know you will, Joe," he said. "And we'll bring back the professor with all his collection of new plants for that London firm, on condition that something fresh with a big red and yellow blossom is named after me—lay the Scarlet Grantii, or the Yellow Unluckii in honour of my non-success."

"You're never going to let him start, Miss Eleanor?" cried nurse.

"Would you have me stand between my son and his duty, nurse?" cried my mother, flushing.

"Dearie me, no," sighed the old lady; "only it do seem such a wild-goose chase. There'll be no one to take care of us, and that dreadful black, Jimmy"—nurse always said his name with a sort of disrelish—"will be hanging about here all the time."

"Iss, dat's him, Jimmy, Jimmy, here Jimmy go. Hi—wup—wup—wup, Jimmy go too."

"Nonsense, Jimmy!" I said; "I'm going to New Guinea to seek my father."

"Iss. Hi—wup—wup—wup, Jimmy going to look for his fader."

"Why, you said he was dead," I cried.

"Iss, Jimmy fader dead, little pickaninny boy; Jimmy go look for him, find him dere."

"Be quiet," I said, for the black was indulging in a kind of war-dance; "you don't understand. I'm going across the sea to find my father."

"Dat him. Jimmy want go 'cross sea find him fader bad. Hi! want go there long time."

"Why, you never heard of the place before," I said.

"No, never heard him fore; want to go long time. Jimmy go too."

"Why, what for?" I said.

"Hunt wallaby—kedge fis—kill black fellow—take care Mass Joe—find um fader. Hi—wup—wup—wup!"

"He would be very useful to us, Joe," said the doctor.

"And I should like to take him," I said eagerly.

"Iss, Jimmy go," cried the black, who contrived, in spite of his bad management of our language, to understand nearly everything that was said, and who was keenly watching us all in turn.

"He would be just the fellow to take," said the doctor.

"Hi—wup—wup! Jimmy juss a fellow to take."

"Then he shall go," I said; and the black bounded nearly to the ceiling, making nurse utter a shriek, whereupon he thrust his boomerang into his waistband, and dragged a waddy from the back, where it had hung down like a stumpy tail, and showing his white teeth in a savage grin, he began to caper about as if preparing to attack the old lady, till I caught him by the arm, and he crouched at my feet like a dog.

"Come long," he said, pointing out at the sun, "walk five six hour—all black dark; go sleep a morning."

"All in good time, Jimmy," I said. "Go out and wait." The black ran out, and crouched down upon his heels in the verandah, evidently under the impression that we were about to start at once; but Europeans bound on an expedition want something besides a waddy, boomerang, and spear; and with nurse shaking her head mournfully the while, my mother, the doctor, and I held a council of war, which, after a time, was interrupted by a curious noise between a grunt and a groan, which proved to be from Jimmy's throat, for he was preparing himself for his journey by having a nap.



CHAPTER TWO.

HOW WE PREPARED TO START, AND STARTED.

You will have gathered from all this that my father had been missing for pretty well three years, and that he, a well-known botanist, had accepted a commission from a well-known florist in the neighbourhood of London to collect new plants for him, and in his quest he had made his last unfortunate trip—which had followed one to Carpentaria—to New Guinea.

We had heard from him twice, each time with a package of seeds and plants, which we had forwarded to London. Then there was an utter cessation of news; one year had become two—then three—and it would soon be four.

Quite a little fellow when he started, I had cried with disappointment at being left behind. Now I had grown into a big fellow for my age; I had dreamed incessantly of making the attempt to find my father, and now at last the time had come.

I believe I was quite as excited over the proposed journey as Jimmy, but I did not go about throwing a spear at gum-trees, neither did I climb the tallest eucalyptus to try if I could see New Guinea from the topmost branches. Moreover I did not show my delight on coming down, certain of having seen this promised land, by picking out a low horizontal branch and hanging from it by my toes.

All of these antics Jimmy did do, and many more, besides worrying me every half-hour with—

"Come long—time a go find him fader."

Of course now I know that it would have been impossible for me to have carried out my plans without the doctor, who was indefatigable, bringing to bear as he did the ripe experience of a man who had been all over the world pretty well before he came to Australia to make a practice; and every day I had from him some useful hint.

He was quite as eager as I, but he met all my impatient words with—

"Let's do everything necessary first, Joe. Recollect we are going to a far more savage land than this, and where we can renew nothing but our store of food. Don't let's fail through being too hasty. All in good time."

But the time did seem so long, for there was a great deal to do.

Jimmy—who by the way really bore some peculiar native name that sounded like Wulla Gurra—was fitted out with a serviceable sailor's suit, of which he was very proud, and never prouder than when he could see it to its best advantage.

This was in the wool barn, where, upon every opportunity, the black used to retreat to relieve himself of the unwonted garb, and hang it up against the shingle wall. Then he would show his teeth to the gums and squat down, embrace his knees, and gaze at the clothes.

When satisfied with the front he would rise deliberately, go to the wall, turn every article, and have a good look at the other side.

We ran some risks at this time, for our henchman was given his first lessons in the use of a rifle, and for a long time, no matter how the doctor tried, it seemed as if it was impossible for the black to hold the piece in any other direction than pointed straight at one of his friends. By slow degrees, though, he got over it, and wanted lessons in loading and firing more often than his master was prepared to give them.

Jimmy had heard the report of a gun hundreds of times, but his experience had never gone so far as holding the piece when it was fired; and when, after being carefully shown how to take aim, he was treated to a blank charge and pulled the trigger, the result was that I threw myself on the ground and shrieked with laughter, while the doctor seated himself upon a stump and held his sides, with the tears rolling down his cheeks.

For at the flash and report Jimmy uttered a yell, dropped the rifle, and turned and ran as hard as he could for the barn, never once looking behind him.

A couple of minutes were, however, sufficient to let his fear evaporate, and he came back waddy in fist, half shamefaced, half angry, and rubbing his right shoulder the while.

"Don't do dat," he cried fiercely. "Don't do dat. Play trick, Mass Joe. Play trick, Jimmy."

"I didn't," I cried, laughing. "Here; see me."

I took the rifle, put in a charge, and fired.

"There," I said, reloading. "Now, try again."

Jimmy had on only his curtailed trousers, into whose waistband he cautiously stuck the waddy, the knob at the end stopping it from falling through, and gingerly taking the rifle once more to show that he was not afraid, he held it loosely against his shoulder and fired again.

The gun kicked more than ever, for it was growing foul, and, uttering a yell, Jimmy dashed it down, snatched the waddy from his waistband, and began belabouring the butt of the piece before we could stop him, after which he stood sulkily rubbing his right shoulder, and scowling at the inanimate enemy that had given him a couple of blows.

One or two more experiments with the piece, however, taught the black its merits and demerits to such an extent that he was never so happy as when he was allowed to shoulder the formidable weapon, with which he would have liked to go and fight some native tribe; and his constant demand to me was for me to put in an extra charge so that he might have what he called "big-bang."

The doctor took care that we should both be well furnished with every necessary in arms, ammunition, and camp equipments, such as were light and would go into a small space. He got down from Sydney, too, a quantity of showy electro-gilt jewellery and fancy beads, with common knives, pistols, guns, and hatchets for presents, saying to me that a showy present would work our way better with a savage chief than a great deal of fighting, and he proved to be quite right in all he said.

Taken altogether we had an excellent outfit for the journey, my mother eagerly placing funds at the doctor's disposal. And then came the question of how we were to get to the great northern island, for as a rule facilities for touching there were not very great; but somehow this proved to be no difficulty, all that we undertook being easily mastered, every obstacle melting away at the first attack. In fact the journey to New Guinea was like a walk into a trap—wonderfully easy. The difficulty was how to get out again.

Perhaps had I known of the dangers we were to encounter I might have shrunk from the task—I say might, but I hope I should not. Still it was better that I was in ignorance when, with the doctor, I set about making inquiries at the harbour, and soon found a captain who was in the habit of trading to the island for shells and trepang, which he afterwards took on to Hongkong.

For a fairly liberal consideration he expressed himself willing to go out of his way and land us where we liked, but he shook his head all the same.

"You've cut out your work, youngster," he said; "and I doubt whether you're going to sew it together so as to make a job."

"I'm going to try, captain," I said.

"That's your style," he said heartily, as he gave me a slap on the shoulder. "That's the word that moves everything, my boy—that word 'try.' My brains and butter! what a lot 'try' has done, and will always keep doing. Lor', it's enough to make a man wish he was lost, and his son coming to look after him."

"Then you have a son, captain?" I said, looking at him wistfully.

"Me? Not a bit of it. My wife never had no little 'uns, for we always buys the boats, they arn't young ships. I married my schooner, my lad; she's my wife. But there, I'm talking away with a tongue like an old woman. Send your traps aboard whenever you like, and—there, I like you—you're a good lad, and I'll help you as much as ever I can. Shake hands."

It was like a fierce order, and he quite hurt me when we did shake hands, even the doctor saying it was like putting your fist in a screw-wrench.

Then we parted, the doctor and I to complete our preparations; the various things we meant to take were placed on board, and now at last the time had come when we must say Good-bye!

For the first time in my life I began to think very seriously of money matters. Up to this money had not been an object of much desire with me. A few shillings to send into Sydney for some special object now and then was all I had required; but now I had to think about my mother during my absence, and what she would do, and for the first time I learned that there was no need for anxiety on that score; that my father's private income was ample to place us beyond thought for the future. I found, too, that our nearest neighbour had undertaken to watch over my mother's safety, not that there was much occasion for watchfulness, the days gliding by at our place in the most perfect peace, but it was satisfactory to feel that there were friends near at hand.

I was for saying good-bye at the little farm, but my mother insisted upon accompanying us to Sydney, where I noticed that in spite of her weakness and delicate looks, she was full of energy and excitement, talking to me of my journey, begging me to be prudent and careful, and on no account to expose myself to danger.

"And tell your father how anxiously I am looking forward to his return," she said to me on the last evening together; words that seemed to give me confidence, for they showed me how thoroughly satisfied she was that we would bring my father back.

We were too busy making preparations to the very last for there to be much time for sadness, till the hour when the old skipper came, and was shown up to our room.

He came stamping and blundering up in a pair of heavy sea-boots, and began to salute me with a rough shout, when he caught sight of my pale delicate-looking mother, and his whole manner changed.

"Lor', I didn't know as there were a lady here," he said in a husky whisper, and snatching off his battered Panama hat, sticking out a leg behind, and making a bow like a school-boy. I beg your pardon for intruding like, mum, but I only come to say that the schooner's warped out, and that youngster here and Mr Grant must come aboard first thing in the morning.

He sat down after a good deal of persuasion, and partook of refreshment—liquid, and copiously. But when, on leaving, my mother followed him to the door, and I saw her try to make him a present, he shook his head sturdily.

"No, no," he growled; "I asked my price for the trip, and the doctor there paid me like a man. Don't you be afeared for young chap there while he's aboard my craft. While he's with me I'll look after him as if he was gold. I don't like boys as a rule, for they're a worrit and wants so much kicking before you can make 'em work, but I've kind of took to youngster there, and I'll see him through. Good night."

The captain went clumping down the stairs, and we could hear him clearing his throat very loudly down the street. Then the doctor, with great delicacy, rose and left us alone, and I tried to look cheerful as I sat for an hour with my mother before going to bed.

Did any of you who tried to look cheerful when you were going to leave home for the first time ever succeed, especially with those wistful, longing eyes watching you so earnestly all the time? I'm not ashamed to say that I did not, and that I almost repented of my decision, seeing as I did what pain I was causing.

But I knew directly after that it was pain mingled with pleasure, and that I was about to do my duty as a son.

Twice over, as I lay half sleeping, I fancied I saw, or really did see, somebody gliding away from my bedside, and then all at once I found that it was morning, and I got up, had a miserable breakfast, which seemed to choke me, and soon after—how I don't know, for it all seemed very dream-like—found myself on the wharf with my mother, waiting for the boat that was to take us three travellers to the ship.

Jimmy was there, looking rather uncomfortable in his sailor's suit, which was not constructed for the use of a man who always sat down upon his heels. The doctor was there, too, quiet and cheerful as could be, and I made an effort to swallow something that troubled me, and which I thought must be somehow connected with my breakfast. But it would not go down, and I could do nothing but gaze hard as through a mist at the little delicate woman who was holding so tightly to my hands. There was a dimness and an unreality about everything. Things seemed to be going on in a way I did not understand, and I quite started at last as somebody seemed to say, "Good-bye," and I found myself in the little boat and on the way to the schooner.

Then all in the same dim, misty way I found myself aboard, watching the wharf where my mother was standing with a lady friend, both waving their handkerchiefs. Then the wharf seemed to be slowly gliding away and getting more and more distant, and then mixed up with it all came the sound of the bluff captain's voice, shouting orders to the men, who were hurrying about the deck.

Suddenly I started, for the doctor had laid his hand upon my shoulder.

"We're off, Joe," he said heartily; "the campaign has begun. Now, then, how do you feel for your work?"

His words electrified me, and I exclaimed excitedly:

"Ready, doctor, ready. We'll find him and bring him back."



CHAPTER THREE.

HOW I MADE MY FIRST CHARGE WITH A LANCE.

We had not been a day at sea before our black follower was in trouble. As a matter of course the men began joking and teasing him about the awkward manner in which he wore his sailor's suit, asking him if it wouldn't be better to have a coat of white paint over him instead, as being cooler and less trouble, and the like.

All this Jimmy took with the greatest of equanimity, grasping the men's meaning very well, and very often throwing himself flat on the deck and squirming about, which was his way of showing his delight. But it was absolutely necessary that all this banter should come from the Englishmen. If one of the Malay sailors attempted such a familiarity, Jimmy was furious.

"Hi—wup—wup!" he exclaimed to me after one of these bouts; "dirty fellow, brown fellow no good. Not white fellow, not black fellow. Bad for nothing."

One afternoon the doctor and I were sitting forward watching the beautiful heaving waves, and talking over the plans we intended to follow when we landed, and we had agreed that a small party was far more likely to succeed than a large one, being more suitable for passing unnoticed through the country. We had just arrived at the point of determining that we would engage six natives at a friendly shore village to carry our baggage and act as guides, when the noise of some trouble aft arose, and we turned to see a Malay sailor lying upon the deck, and Jimmy showing his teeth fiercely, waddy in hand, after having given the man what he afterwards called "a topper on de headums."

We ran up, fearing more mischief, for Jimmy could fight fiercely when roused; and we were just in time, for as the doctor reached the Malay the man had scrambled up, drawn his knife, and rushed at the black. But before he could strike, the doctor showed me what wonderful strength of arm he possessed, by seizing the Malay by the waistband and arm and literally swinging him over the low bulwark into the sea.

"That will cool his passion," said the doctor, smiling. "I'm sorry I did it though, captain," he said the next minute; "these men are very revengeful."

"Too late to say that," cried the captain roughly. "Here, hi! man overboard! Never mind the boat: he swims like a fish."

This was plain enough, for the Malay was making his way swiftly through the water, and the captain ran aft with a coil of rope to throw to him from the stern.

I ran too, and could see that as the man struck the water in a peculiar fashion, he held his knife open in his hand, and was thinking whether he would use it when the captain threw the rope, the light rings uncoiling as they flew through the air and splashed the water.

"Here, look out!" cried the captain; but the man did not heed, but began to beat the water furiously, uttering a strange gasping cry.

"Look, doctor!" I cried, pointing, and leaning forward.

A low hiss escaped his lips as he, too, saw a dull, indistinct something rising through the transparent sea.

"Yah, hi! Bunyip debble fis!" shouted Jimmy excitedly. "Bite sailor, brown fellow. Hoo. Bite!"

The black gave a snap and a shake of the head, and then taking the long sharp knife the doctor had given him from his belt, he tore off his shirt and, it seemed to me, jumped out of his trousers. Then the sun seemed to flash from his shiny black skin for an instant, and he plunged into the sea.

The exciting incidents of that scene are as plain before me now I write as if they had taken place yesterday. I saw the body of the black strike up a foam of white water, and then glide down in a curve in the sunlit sea, plainly crossing the course of the great fish, which had altered its course on becoming aware of the second splash.

The Malay knew what he was doing, for ignoring the help of the rope he allowed himself to drift astern, seeing as he did that the shark's attention had been drawn to the black.

"He knows what he's about," said the captain. "If he laid hold of that there rope, and we tried to draw him aboard, that snipperjack would take him like a perch does a worm in the old ponds at home. Here, lower away that boat, and I'll go and get the whale lance."

Away went the skipper, while the men lowered the boat; and I was so intent upon the movements of the great fish that I started as the boat kissed the water with a splash.

The shark was about ten feet long and unusually thick; and as it kept just below the surface the doctor and I could watch its every movement, guided by the strange but slow wave of the long, curiously-lobed tail.

"Now, you brown fellow, you come on. Knife, knife!"

As Jimmy shouted out these words he raised himself in the water and curved over like a porpoise, diving right down, and at the same moment the shark gave a sweep with its tail, the combined disturbance making so great an eddy that it was impossible to see what took place beneath the surface. Then all at once there was a horrible discoloration in the sea, and I drew back, holding on by the bulwarks with both hands to keep myself from falling. For, as the water grew discoloured, so did the air seem to glow before my eyes. I was sick and dizzy; the deck seemed to rise in waves, and a curious kind of singing noise in my ears made everything sound distant and strange. There was a strange despairing feeling, too, in my heart, and my breath came thick and short, till I was brought partly to myself by hearing a voice shouting for a rope, and then the mist gradually cleared away, and I became aware of the fact that the boat was moving before me, and that the round, shiny black face of Jimmy was close at hand.

A few minutes later both Jimmy and the Malay were aboard, the former throwing himself flat on his back to rest, for he was panting heavily after his exertions.

"Big bunyip debble, Mass Joe," he sputtered; "swim more stronger Jimmy, but no got knife. Tick black fellow knife in um lot o' time. Tick it in him frontums, tick it in ums back ums tight, and make um dibe down and take Jimmy much long ways."

"Why didn't you leave go of the knife, my man?" said the doctor.

"Leave go dat big noo knife?" cried Jimmy sharply. "Let bunyip fis have dat noo knife?"

Jimmy did not finish, but shook his head from side to side, so that first one black ear went into the puddle of water on the deck, then the other, while his lips parted in a tremendously long grin, which seemed to say, "Black fellow knows better than to do such a stupid thing as that."

Then, as if made of india-rubber, Jimmy drew his heels in, gave a spring, and leaped to his feet, running to the side, and then throwing up his arms with delight.

"Dere um is, Mass Joe; turn up him under frontums like fis on hook an' line."

For there was the monster making an effort to keep in its normal position, as it swam slowly round and round, but always rolling back, and rising helplessly every time it tried to dive.

"Jimmy sorry for you," cried the black. "Plenty good to eat like much muttons. Go down boat bring him board."

"Well, I don't know about good meat, blackee, but we may as well have his head to boil out his jaws," said the captain, who was standing looking on, whale lance in hand.

"Go down and put him out of his misery, captain," I said, "and take me too."

"Oh! all right, my lad," he said, laughing. "You may do the job if you like."

"May I?"

"To be sure," he said; and I jumped down into the boat, after he had lowered himself, bear fashion, on to one of the thwarts.

"Here, send out one of the sailors," said the doctor. "I'll go too."

One of the men returned to the deck, looking rather glum, and the doctor took his place, while I sympathised with that sailor and wished that the doctor had not spoken, for I felt sure that he had come down into the boat to take care of me, and it made me feel young and childish.

But I did not show my annoyance, I am glad to say; and a minute later the men gave way, and the boat glided slowly towards where the shark had drifted—I all the while standing up in the bows, lance in hand, full of the desire to make use of it, and feeling a cruel, half savage sensation that it would be exceedingly pleasant to drive that lance right home.

"Now my water Saint George the Second," cried the doctor banteringly; "mind you slay the sea-dragon."

"Mind what you're after, youngster," said the captain. "Give it him close below the gills; a good dig and then draw back sharp."

"All right!" I cried back to the captain, for I was offended by the doctor's chaff; it made me feel small before the men. Then, recalling what I had read that a harpooner would do under such circumstances, I shouted: "Give way, boys!"

I'd have given something to have been back on board the schooner just then, for a roar of laughter greeted my command, and I felt that I was very young, and had made myself rather ridiculous, while to add to my discomfiture the men obeyed my order with such energy that the boat gave a jerk, and I was nearly sent back in a sitting position on the foremost man.

There was another laugh at this, and the doctor said drily:

"No, no, my lad; the lance is for the shark, not for us."

I recovered my balance without a word, and planting my feet firmly wide apart, remained silent and looking very red, while I held my weapon ready.

It was an old rusty affair, with a stiff pole about eight feet long, and was used by the captain for killing those curious creatures which no doubt gave rise to the idea of there being such things as tritons or mermen—I mean the manatees or dugongs that in those days used to swarm in the warmer waters of the Eastern Australian coast.

"Keep it up, my lads; pull!" said the captain, who had an oar over the stern to steer. "We must get back soon."

I thought this was because the shark, which had ceased to swim round and round, was now laboriously making its way with the current at the rate of pretty well two miles an hour; but as the captain spoke I could see that he was scanning the horizon, and I heard the doctor ask if anything was wrong.

"Looks dirty," he growled; and I remember wondering half-laughingly whether a good shower would not wash it clean, when the skipper went on: "Gets one o' them storms now and then 'bout here. Now, my lads; with a will!"

The water surged and rattled beneath my feet, and I was forgetting my annoyance and beginning to enjoy the excitement of my ride; and all the more that the shark had once more stopped in its steady flight, and was showing its white under parts some fifty yards away.

"Ready, my lad!" cried the captain. "I'll steer you close in. Give it him deep, and draw back sharp."

I nodded, and held the lance ready poised as we drew nearer and nearer, and I was ready with set teeth and every nerve tingling to deliver the thrust, when whish! splash! the brute gave its tail a tremendous lash, and darted away, swimming along with its back fin ploughing the water, and apparently as strong as ever.

"Only his flurry, my lad. Pull away, boys; we'll soon have him now."

The men rowed hard, and the boat danced over the swell, rising up one slope, gliding down another, or so it seemed to me.

"He'll turn up the white directly," cried the captain. "Take it coolly and you'll have him. I'll put you close alongside, and don't you miss."

"Not I, sir," I shouted without turning my head, for it seemed such a very easy task; and away we went once more, getting nearer and nearer, till the back fin went out of sight, came up again, went out of sight the other way, and then there was the shining white skin glistening in the sun.

There was another swirl and the shark made a fresh effort, but this time it was weaker and the boat gained upon it fast.

"Now, boys, pull hard, and when I say 'In oars,' stop, and we'll run close up without scaring the beggar. Pull—pull—pull—pull! Now! In oars!"

The men ceased rowing, the boat glided on from the impetus previously given, and I was just about to deliver a thrust when the wounded creature saw its enemy, and as if its strength had been renewed, went off again with a dart.

"Look at that," cried the captain. "Never mind, he's not going to get away. We'll have him yet."

"We seem to be getting a long way from the schooner," I heard the doctor say, and I turned round upon him quite angrily.

"Oh!" I cried, "don't stop. We nearly had him that time."

"Well, you shall have another try, my boy," said the captain. "Pull away."

We were going pretty fast all the time, and again and again we drew near, but always to be disappointed, and I stamped my foot with anger, as, every time, the brute darted off, leaving us easily behind.

"Better let me have the lance, Joe," said the doctor smiling.

"No, no," I cried. "I must have a try now."

"Let him be," growled the captain; "nobody couldn't have lanced him if he'd tried. Now look out, lad! Steady, boys! In oars! Let's go up more softly. That's the style. We shall have him this time. Now you have him, lad; give it him—deep."

All these words came in a low tone of voice as the boat glided nearer and nearer to where the shark was swimming slowly and wavering to and fro, and in my excitement I drew back, raising the lance high, and just as the monster was about to dash off in a fresh direction I threw myself forward, driving the point of the lance right into the soft flesh, forgetful of my instructions about a sharp thrust and return, for the keen lance point must have gone right through, and before I realised what was the matter I was snatched out of the boat; there was a splash, the noise of water thundering, a strangling sensation in my nostrils and throat, and I was being carried down with a fierce rush into the depths of the sea.



CHAPTER FOUR.

HOW I WAS NOT DROWNED, AND HOW WE CHASED THAT SCHOONER.

I don't remember much about that dive, except that the water made a great deal of noise in my ears, for the next thing that occurred seemed to be that I was lying on my back, with the back of my neck aching, while the doctor was pumping my arms up and down in a remarkably curious manner.

"What's the matter?" I said quickly; and then again in a sharp angry voice, "Be quiet, will you? Don't!"

"Are you better, young 'un?" said the captain, who seemed to be swollen and clumsy looking.

"Better? Here!" I cried as a flash of recollection came back, "where's the shark?"

"Floating alongside," said the doctor, wiping the great drops of perspiration from his forehead.

I pulled myself up and looked over the side, where the great fish was floating quite dead, with one of the sailors making fast a line round the thin part of the tail.

"Why, I know," I cried; "he dragged me down."

It was all plain enough now. The captain had fitted a lanyard to the shaft of the lance, so that it should not be lost, and I had got this twisted round one of my wrists in such a way that I was literally snatched out of the boat when it tightened; and I felt a strange kind of shudder run through me as the doctor went on to say softly:

"I had begun to give you up, Joe, my boy."

"Only the shark give it up as a bad job, my lad. That stroke of yours finished him, and he come up just in time for us to get you into the boat and pump the wind into you again—leastwise the doctor did."

"The best way to restore respiration, captain."

"When you've tried my plan first, my lad," replied the captain. "What is it drowns folks, eh? Why, water. Too much water, eh? Well, my plan is to hold up head down'ards and feet in the air till all the salt-water has runned out."

"The surest way to kill a half-drowned person, captain," said the doctor authoritatively.

"Mebbe it is, mebbe it isn't," said the captain surlily. "All I know is that I've brought lots back to life that way, and rolling 'em on barrels."

I shuddered and shivered, and the men laughed at my drenched aspect, a breach of good manners that the captain immediately resented.

"There, make fast that shark to the ring-bolt, and lay hold of your oars again. Pull away, there's a hurricane coming afore long."

As he spoke he looked long at a dull yellow haze that seemed to be creeping towards the sun.

"Had we not better let the fish go?" said the doctor anxiously.

"No, I want the oil," said the captain. "We've had trouble enough to get him, and I don't mean to throw him away. Now, my lads, pull."

The men tugged steadily at their oars, but the dead fish hung behind like a log, and our progress was very slow. Every now and then it gave a slight quiver, but that soon ceased, and it hung quite passively from the cord.

I was leaning over the stem, feeling rather dizzy and headachy when, all at once, the captain shouted to me to "cut shark adrift; we're making too little way. That schooner's too far-off for my liking." I drew my knife, and after hauling the fish as closely as I could to the side I divided the thin line, and as I did so the boat seemed to dart away from its burden.

It was none too soon, for the yellow haze seemed to be increasing rapidly, and the wind, which at one minute was oppressively calm, came the next in ominous hot puffs.

"Why, the schooner's sailing away from us," cried the captain suddenly. "Hang me if I don't believe that scoundrel of a Malay has got to the helm, and is taking her right away out of spite."

"Don't begin prophesying evil like that, captain," cried the doctor sharply. "Here, man, I can pull; let's take an oar apiece and help."

"I wasn't croaking," growled the captain; "but whether or no, that's good advice. No, no, youngster, you're not strong enough to pull."

"I can row," I said quickly; and the captain making no farther objection, we three pulled for the next half-hour, giving the men a good rest, when they took their turn, and we could see that while the haze seemed nearer the schooner was quite as far-off as ever. There was a curious coppery look, too, about the sun that made everything now look weird and unnatural, even to the doctor's face, which in addition looked serious to a degree I had never seen before.

"There'll be somebody pitched overboard—once I get back on deck, and no boat ready to pick him up. Here, what does he mean?"

He stood up in the boat waving his hat to those on board the little vessel; but no heed was paid, and the captain ground his teeth with rage.

"I'll let him have something for this," growled the captain. "There, pull away, men. What are you stopping for?"

The men tugged at their oars once more, after glancing uneasily at each other and then at the sky.

"If I don't give him—"

"Let's get on board first, captain," said the doctor, firmly.

"Ay, so we will," he growled. "The brown-skinned scoundrel!"

"That's land, isn't it, captain?" I said, pointing to a low line on our left.

"Ay, worse luck," he said.

"Worse luck, captain? Why, we could get ashore if we did not overtake the schooner."

"Get ashore! Who wants to get ashore, boy? That's where my schooner will be. He'll run her on the reefs, as sure as I'm longing for two-foot of rope's-end and a brown back afore me."

"A crown apiece for you, my lads, as soon as you get us aboard," cried the doctor, who had been looking uneasily at the men.

His words acted like magic, and the oars bent, while the water rattled and pattered under our bows.

"That's the sort o' fire to get up steam, doctor," said the captain; "but we shall never overtake my vessel, unless something happens. I'd no business to leave her, and bring away my men."

"I'm sorry, captain," I said deprecatingly. "It seems as if it were my fault."

"Not it," he said kindly. "It was my fault, lad—mine."

All this while the mist was steadily moving down upon us, and the captain was watching it with gloomy looks when his eyes were not fixed upon the schooner, which kept on gliding away. The doctor's face, too, wore a very serious look, which impressed me more perhaps than the threatenings of the storm. For, though I knew how terrible the hurricanes were at times, my experience had always been of them ashore, and I was profoundly ignorant of what a typhoon might be at sea.

"There," cried the captain at last, after a weary chase, "it's of no use, my lads, easy it is. I shall make for the land and try to get inside one of the reefs, doctor, before the storm bursts."

"The schooner is not sailing away now," I said eagerly.

"Not sailing, boy? Why she's slipping away from us like—No, no: you're right, lad, she's—Pull, my lads, pull; let's get aboard. That Malay scoundrel has run her on the reef."



CHAPTER FIVE.

HOW WE FOUND JACK PENNY.

The captain's ideas were not quite correct. Certainly the little trading vessel had been run upon one of the many reefs that spread in all directions along the dangerous coast; but it was not the Malay who was the guilty party.

As far as I was concerned it seemed to me a good job, for it brought the schooner to a stand-still, so that we could overtake it. No thought occurred to me that the rocks might have knocked a hole in her bottom, and that if a storm came on she would most likely go to pieces.

Very little was said now, for every one's attention was taken up by the threatened hurricane, and our efforts to reach the schooner before it should come on.

It was a long severe race, in which we all took a turn at the oars, literally rowing as it seemed to me for our lives. At times it was as if we must be overtaken by the fierce black clouds in the distance, beneath which there was a long misty white line. The sea-birds kept dashing by us, uttering wild cries, and there was overhead an intense silence, while in the distance we could hear a low dull murmuring roar, that told of the coming mischief.

Every now and then it seemed to me that we must be overtaken by the long surging line, that it was now plain to see was pursuing us, and I wondered whether we should be able to swim and save our lives when it came upon us with a hiss and a roar, such as I had often heard when on the beach.

"We shall never do it," said one of the men, who half-jumped from his seat the next moment as the captain leaned forward from where he was rowing and gave him a sound box on the ears.

"Pull, you cowardly humbug!" he cried. "Not do it? A set of furriners wouldn't do it; but we're Englishmen, and we're going to do it. If we don't, it won't be our fault. Pull!"

This trifling incident had its effect, for the men pulled harder than ever, exhausted though they were. It was a struggle for life now, and I knew it; but somehow I did not feel frightened in the least, but stunned and confused, and at the same time interested, as I saw the great line of haze and foam coming on. Then I was listening to the dull roar, which was rapidly increasing into what seemed a harsh yell louder than thunder.

"Pull, my lads!" shouted the captain, with his voice sounding strange and harsh in the awful silence around us, for, loud as was the roar of the storm, it seemed still afar off.

The men pulled, and then we relieved them again, with the great drops gathering on our faces in the intense heat; and my breath came thick and short, till I felt as it were a sense of burning in my chest. Then I grew half-blind with my eyes staring back at the wall of haze; and then, as I felt that I should die if I strained much longer at that oar, I heard the captain shout:

"In oars!" and I found that we were alongside the schooner, and close under her lee.

There was just time to get on board, and we were in the act of hauling up the boat, when, with an awful whistle and shriek, the storm was upon us, and we were all clinging for life to that which was nearest at hand.

Now, I daresay you would like me to give you a faithful account of my impressions of that storm, and those of one who went through it from the time that the hurricane struck us till it passed over, leaving the sky clear, the sun shining, and the sea heaving slowly and without a single crest.

I feel that I can do justice to the theme, so here is my faithful description of that storm.

A horrid wet, stifling, flogging row.

That's all I can recollect. That's all I'm sure that the doctor could recollect, or the captain or anybody else. We were just about drowned and stunned, and when we came to ourselves it was because the storm had passed over.

"What cheer, ho!" shouted the captain, and we poor flogged and drenched objects sat up and looked about us, to find that the waves had lifted the schooner off the rocks, and driven her a long way out of her course; that the sails that had been set were blown to ribbons; and finally that the schooner, with the last exception, was very little the worse for the adventure.

"She ain't made no water much," said the captain, after going below; "and—here, I say, where's that Malay scoundrel?"

"Down in the cabin—locked in," said an ill-used voice; and I rubbed the salt-water out of my eyes, and stared at the tall thin figure before me, leaning up against the bulwark as if his long thin legs were too weak to support his long body, though his head was so small that it could not have added very much weight.

"Why, hallo! Who the blue jingo are you?" roared the skipper.

The tall thin boy wrinkled up his forehead, and did not answer.

"Here, I say, where did you spring from?" roared the captain.

The tall thin boy took one hand out of his trousers' pocket with some difficulty, for it was so wet that it clung, and pointed down below.

The skipper scratched his head furiously, and stared again.

"Here, can't you speak, you long-legged thing?" he cried. "Who are you?"

"Why, it's Jack Penny!" I exclaimed.

"Jack who?" cried the captain.

"Jack Penny, sir. His father is a squatter about ten miles from our place."

"Well, but how came he—I mean that tall thin chap, not his father—to be squatting aboard my schooner?"

"Why, Jack," I said, "when did you come aboard?"

"Come aboard?" he said slowly, as if it took him some time to understand what I said. "Oh, the night before you did."

"But where have you been all the time?"

"Oh, down below there," said Jack slowly.

"But what did you come for?"

"Wanted to," he said coolly. "If I had said so, they wouldn't—you wouldn't have let me come."

"But why did you come, Jack?" I said.

"'Cause I wanted," he replied surlily. "Who are you that you're to have all the fun and me get none!"

"Fun!" I said.

"Yes, fun. Ain't you goin' to find your father?"

"Of course I am; but what's that got to do with fun?"

"Never you mind; I've come, and that's all about it," he said slowly; and thrusting his hands back into his trousers' pockets as fast as the wet clinging stuff would let him, he began to whistle.

"But it arn't all about it," cried the captain; "and so you'll find. You arn't paid no passage, and I arn't going to have no liberties took with my ship. Here, where's that Malay chap?"

"I told you where he was, didn't I?" snarled Jack Penny. "Are you deaf? In the cabin, locked in."

"What's he doing locked in my cabin?" roared the captain. "I say, are you skipper here, or am I? What's he doing in my cabin locked in?"

"Rubbing his sore head, I s'pose," drawled Jack Penny. "I hit him as hard as I could with one o' them fence rails."

"Fence rails!" cried the captain, who looked astounded at the big thin boy's coolness, and then glanced in the direction he pointed beneath the bulwarks. "Fence rails! What do you mean—one of them capstan bars?"

"I don't know what you call 'em," said Jack. "I give him a regular wunner on the head."

"What for, you dog?"

"Here, don't you call me a dog or there'll be a row," cried Jack, rising erect and standing rather shakily about five feet eleven, looking like a big boy stretched to the bursting point and then made fast. "He was going to kill the black fellow with his knife after knocking him down. I wasn't going to stand by and see him do that, was I?"

"Well, I s'pose not," said the captain, who looked puzzled. "Where is the black fellow? Here, where's Jimmy?"

"Down that square hole there, that wooden well-place," said Jack, pointing to the forecastle hatch. "He slipped down there when the yaller chap hit him."

"Look here—" said the captain as I made for the hatch to look after Jimmy. "But stop a minute, let's have the black up."

Two of the men went below and dragged up poor Jimmy, who was quite stunned, and bleeding freely from a wound on the head.

"Well, that's some proof of what you say, my fine fellow," continued the captain, as the doctor knelt down to examine poor Jimmy's head and I fetched some water to bathe his face. "What did you do next?"

"Next? Let me see," drawled Jack Penny; "what did I do next? Oh! I know. That chap was running away with the ship, and I took hold of that wheel thing and turned her round, so as to come back to you when you kept waving your cap."

"Hah! yes. Well, what then?"

"Oh, the thing wanted oiling or greasing; it wouldn't go properly. It got stuck fast, and the ship wouldn't move; and then the storm came. I wish you wouldn't bother so."

"Well, I am blessed," cried the captain staring. "I should have been proud to have been your father, my young hopeful. 'Pon my soul I should. You are a cool one, you are. You go and run the prettiest little schooner there is along the coast upon the rocks, and then you have the confounded impudence to look me in the face and tell me the rudder wants greasing and it stuck."

"So it did!" cried Jack Penny indignantly. "Think I don't know? I heard it squeak. You weren't on board. The ship wouldn't move afterwards."

"Here, I say; which are you?" cried the captain; "a rogue or a fool?"

"I d'know," said Jack coolly. "Father used to say I was a fool sometimes. P'r'aps I am. I say, though, if I were you I'd go and tie down that yaller Malay chap in the cabin. He's as vicious as an old man kangaroo in a water-hole."

"Your father's wrong, my fine fellow," said the captain with a grim smile; "you ar'n't a fool, for a fool couldn't give such good advice as that. Here, doctor, p'r'aps you'll lend me one of your shooting things. You can get into your cabin; I can't get into mine."

The doctor nodded, and in the excitement of the time we forgot all about our drenched clothes as he went down and returned directly with his revolver, and another for the captain's use.

"Thank'ye, doctor," said the captain grimly, cocking the piece. "I don't want to use it, and I daresay the sight of it will cool our yaller friend; but it's just as well to be prepared. What! are you coming too? Thought your trade was to mend holes and not make 'em."

"My trade is to save life, captain," said the doctor quietly. "Perhaps I shall be helping to save life by coming down with you."

"P'r'aps you will, doctor. Here, we don't want you two boys."

"We only want to come and see," I said in an ill-used tone; and before the doctor could speak the captain laughingly said, "Come on," and we followed them down below, the men bringing up the rear, armed with bars and hatchets.

The captain did not hesitate for a moment, but went straight down to the cabin door, turned the key, and threw it open, though all the while he knew that there was a man inside fiercer than some savage beast. But had he been a little more cautious it would have saved trouble, for the Malay had evidently been waiting as he heard steps, and as the door was opened he made a spring, dashed the doctor and captain aside, overset me, and, as the men gave way, reached the deck, where he ran right forward and then close up to the foremast, stood with his long knife or kris in his hand, rolling his opal eyeballs, and evidently prepared to strike at the first who approached.

"The dog! he has been at the spirits," growled the captain fiercely. "Confound him! I could shoot him where he stands as easy as could be; but I arn't like you, doctor, I don't like killing a man. Never did yet, and don't want to try."

"Don't fire at him," said the doctor excitedly; "a bullet might be fatal. Let us all rush at him and beat him down."

"That's all very fine, doctor," said the captain; "but if we do some one's sure to get an ugly dig or two from that skewer. Two or three of us p'r'aps. You want to get a few surgery jobs, but I'd rather you didn't."

All this while the Malay stood brandishing his kris and showing his teeth at us in a mocking smile, as if we were a set of the greatest cowards under the sun.

"Look here, Harriet," cried the captain; "you'd better give in; we're six to one, and must win. Give in, and you shall have fair play."

"Cowards! come on, cowards!" shouted the Malay fiercely, and he made a short rush from the mast, and two of the hatchet men retreated; but the Malay only laughed fiercely, and shrank back to get in shelter by the mast.

"We shall have to rush him or shoot him," said the captain, rubbing his nose with pistol barrel. "Now then, you dog; surrender!" he roared; and lowering the pistol he fired at the Malay's feet, the bullet splintering up the deck; but the fellow only laughed mockingly.

"We shall have to rush him," growled the captain; "unless you can give him a dose of stuff, doctor, to keep him quiet."

"Oh, yes; I can give him a dose that will quiet him for a couple of hours or so, but who's to make him take it?"

"When we treed the big old man kangaroo who ripped up Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus," drawled Jack Penny, who was looking on with his hands in his pockets, "I got up the tree and dropped a rope with a noose in it over his head. Seems to me that's what you ought to do now."

"Look'ye here," cried the captain, "don't you let your father call you fool again, youngster, because it's letting perhaps a respectable old man tell lies. Tell you what, if you'll shin up the shrouds, and drop a bit of a noose over his head while we keep him in play, I won't say another word about your coming on board without leave."

"Oh, all right! I don't mind trying to oblige you, but you must mind he don't cut it if I do."

"You leave that to me," cried the captain. "I'll see to that. There, take that thin coil there, hanging on a belaying-pin."

The tall thin fellow walked straight to the coil of thin rope, shook it out, and made a running noose at the end, and then, with an activity that surprised me, who began to feel jealous that this thin weak-looking fellow should have proved himself more clever and thoughtful than I was, he sprang into the shrouds, the Malay hardly noticing, evidently believing that the boy was going aloft to be safe. He looked up at him once, as Jack Penny settled himself at the masthead, but turned his attention fiercely towards us as the captain arranged his men as if for a rush, forming them into a semicircle.

"When I say ready," cried the captain, "all at him together."

The Malay heard all this, and his eyes flashed and his teeth glistened as he threw himself into an attitude ready to receive his foes, his body bent forward, his right and left arms close to his sides, and his whole frame well balanced on his legs.

"Ready?" cried the captain.

"All ready!" was the reply; and I was so intent upon the fierce lithe savage that I forgot all about Jack Penny till I heard the men answer.

There was the whizzing noise of a rope thrown swiftly, and in an instant a ring had passed over the Malay's body, which was snatched tight, pinioning his arms to his side, and Jack Penny came down with a rush on the other side of the fore-yard, drawing the savage a few feet from the deck, where he swung helplessly, and before he could recover himself he had been seized, disarmed, and was lying bound upon the deck.

"I didn't mean to come down so fast as that," drawled Jack, rubbing his back. "I've hurt myself a bit."

"Then we'll rub you," cried the captain joyously. "By George, my boy, you're a regular two yards of trump."

The excitement of the encounter with the Malay being over, there was time to see to poor Jimmy, who was found to be suffering from a very severe cut on the head, one of so serious a nature that for some time the poor fellow lay insensible; but the effect of bathing and bandaging his wound was to make him open his eyes at last, and stare round for some moments before he seemed to understand where he was. Then recollection came back, and he grinned at me and the doctor.

The next moment a grim look of rage came over his countenance, and springing up he rushed to where the Malay was lying upon the deck under the bulwarks, and gave him a furious kick.

"Bad brown fellow!" he shouted. "Good for nothing! Hi—wup—wup—wup!"

Every utterance of the word wup was accompanied by a kick, and the result was that the Malay sprang up, snatched his kris from where it had been thrown on the head of a cask, and striking right and left made his way aft, master of the deck once more.

"Well, that's nice," growled the captain.

"I thought them knots wouldn't hold," drawled Jack Penny. "He's been wriggling and twisting his arms and legs about ever since he lay there. I thought he'd get away."

"Then why didn't you say so, you great, long-jointed two-foot rule?" roared the captain. "Here, now then, all together. I'm skipper here. Rush him, my lads; never mind his skewer."

The captain's words seemed to electrify his little crew, and, I venture to say, his passengers as well. Every one seized some weapon, and, headed by the skipper, we charged down upon the savage as he stood brandishing his weapon.

He stood fast, watchful as a tiger, for some moments, and then made a dash at our extreme left, where Jack Penny and I were standing; and I have no doubt that he would have cut his way through to our cost, but for a quick motion of the captain, who struck out with his left hand, hitting the Malay full in the cheek.

The man made a convulsive spring, and fell back on the edge of the bulwarks, where he seemed to give a writhe, and then, before a hand could reach him, there was a loud splash, and he had disappeared in the sea.

We all rushed to the side, but the water was thick from the effects of the storm, and we could not for a few moments make out anything. Then all at once the swarthy, convulsed face of the man appeared above the wave, and he began to swim towards the side, yelling for help.

"Ah!" said the skipper, smiling, "that's about put him out. Nothing like cold water for squenching fire."

"Hi—wup! hi—wup!" shouted Jimmy, who forgot his wound, and danced up and down, holding on by the bulwarks, his shining black face looking exceedingly comic with a broad bandage of white linen across his brow. "Hi—wup! hi—wup!" he shouted; "bunyip debble shark coming—bite um legs."

"Help!" shrieked the Malay in piteous tones, as he swam on, clutching at the slippery sides of the schooner.

"Help!" growled the captain; "what for? Here, you, let me have that there kris. Hitch it on that cord."

As he spoke the captain threw down the thin line with which the Malay had been bound, the poor wretch snatching at it frantically; but as he did so it was pulled away from his despairing clutch.

"I could noose him," drawled Jack Penny coolly. "I've often caught father's rams like that."

"Yes, but your father's rams hadn't got knives," said the captain grimly.

"No, but they'd got horns," said Jack quietly. "Ain't going to drown him, are you?"

"Not I, boy; he'll drown himself if we leave him alone."

"I don't like to see fellows drown," said Jack; and he left the bulwarks and sat down on the hatchway edge. "Tell a fellow when it's all over, Joe Carstairs."

"Help, help!" came hoarsely from the poor wretch; and my hands grew wet inside, and a horrible sensation seemed to be attacking my chest, as I watched the struggles of the drowning man with starting eyes. For though he swam like a fish, the horror of his situation seemed to have unnerved him, and while he kept on swimming, it was with quick wearying effort, and he was sinking minute by minute lower in the water.

"For Heaven's sake, throw the poor wretch a rope, captain," said the doctor.

"What! to come aboard and knife some of us?" growled the captain. "Better let him drown. Plenty of better ones than him to be had for a pound a month."

"Oh, captain!" I cried indignantly, for my feelings were too much for me; and I seized a rope just as the Malay went down, after uttering a despairing shriek.

"Let that rope alone, boy," said the skipper with a grim smile. "There, he's come up again. Ketch hold!" he cried, and he threw his line so that the Malay could seize it, which he did, winding it round and round one arm, while the slowly-sailing schooner dragged him along through the sea. "I'm only giving him a reg'lar good squencher, doctor. I don't want him aboard with a spark left in him to break out again: we've had enough of that. Haul him aboard, lads, and shove him in the chain locker to get dry. We'll set him ashore first chance."

The Malay was hauled aboard with no very gentle hands by the white sailors, and as soon as he reached the deck he began crawling to the captain's feet, to which he clung, with gesture after gesture full of humility, as ha talked excitedly in a jargon of broken English and Malay.

"That's what I don't like in these fellows," said Jack Penny quietly; "they're either all bubble or else all squeak."

"Yes; he's about squenched now, squire," said the captain. "Here, shove him under hatches, and it's lucky for you I'm not in a hanging humour to-day. You'd better behave yourself, or you may be brought up again some day when I am."

As the captain spoke to the streaming, shivering wretch he made a noose in the rope he held, manipulating it as if he were really going to hang the abject creature, in whom the fire of rage had quite become extinct. Then the sailors took hold of him, and he uttered a despairing shriek; but he cooled down as he found that he was only to be made a prisoner, and was thrust below, with Jimmy dancing a war-dance round him as he went, the said dance consisting of bounds from the deck and wavings of his waddy about his head.

As the Malay was secured, Jack Penny rose from his seat and walked to the side of the vessel, to spit into the water with every sign of disgust upon his face.

"Yah!" he said; "I wouldn't squeak like that, not if they hung me."

"Well, let's see," cried the captain, catching him by the collar; "hanging is the punishment for stowaways, my fine fellow."

"Get out!" said Jack, giving himself a sort of squirm and shaking himself free. "You ain't going to scare me; and, besides, you know what you said. I say, though, when are we going to have something to eat?"

The captain stared at Jack's serious face for a few moments, and then he joined with the doctor and me in a hearty laugh.

"I don't well understand you yet, my fine fellow," he said; "perhaps I shall, though, afore I've done. Here, come down; you do look as if a little wholesome vittles would do you good. Are you hungry then?"

"Hungry!" said Jack, without a drawl, and he gave his teeth a gnash; "why, I ain't had nothing but some damper and a bottle o' water since I came on board."



CHAPTER SIX.

HOW JIMMY WAS FRIGHTENED BY THE BUNYIP.

"Oh, I don't know that I've got any more to say about it," said Jack Penny to me as we sat next day in the bows of the schooner, with our legs dangling over the side. "I heard all about your going, and there was nothing to do at home now, so I said to myself that I'd go, and here I am."

"Yes, here you are," I said; "but you don't mean to tell me that you intended to go up the country with us?"

"Yes, I do," he said.

"Nonsense, Jack! it is impossible!" I said warmly.

"I say!"

"Well?"

"New Guinea don't belong to you, does it?"

"Why, of course not."

"Oh, I thought p'r'aps you'd bought it."

"Don't talk nonsense, Jack."

"Don't you talk nonsense then, and don't you be so crusty. If I like to land in New Guinea, and take a walk through the country, it's as free for me as it is for you, isn't it?"

"Of course it is."

"Then just you hold your tongue, Mister Joe Carstairs; and if you don't like to walk along with me, why you can walk by yourself."

"And what provisions have you made for the journey?" I said.

"Oh, I'm all right, my lad!" he drawled. "Father lent me his revolver, and I've got my double gun, and two pound o' powder and a lot o' shot."

"Anything else?"

"Oh, I've got my knife, and a bit o' string, and two fishing-lines and a lot of hooks, and I brought my pipe and my Jew's-harp, and I think that's all."

"I'm glad you brought your Jew's-harp," I said ironically.

"So am I," he said drily. "Yah! I know: you're grinning at me, but a Jew's-harp ain't a bad thing when you're lonely like, all by yourself, keeping sheep and nobody to speak to for a week together but Gyp. I say, Joe, I brought Gyp," he added with a smile that made his face look quite pleasant.

"What! your dog?" I cried.

"Yes; he's all snug down below, and he hasn't made a sound. He don't like it, but if I tell him to do a thing he knows he's obliged to do it."

"I say, I wonder what the captain will say if he knows you've got a dog on board?"

"I sha'n't tell him, and if he don't find it out I shall pay him for Gyp's passage just the same as I shall pay him for mine. I've got lots of money, and I hid on board to save trouble. I ain't a cheat."

"No, I never thought you were, Jack," I said, for I had known him for some years, and once or twice I had been fishing with him, though we were never companions. "But it's all nonsense about your going with us. The doctor said this morning that the notion was absurd."

"Let him mind his salts-and-senna and jollop," said Jack sharply. "Who's he, I should like to know? I knowed your father as much as he did. He's given me many a sixpence for birds' eggs and beetles and snakes I've got for him. Soon as I heard you were going to find him, I says to father, 'I'm going too.'"

"And what did your father say?"

"Said I was a fool."

"Ah! of course," I exclaimed.

"No, it ain't 'ah, of course,' Mr Clever," he cried. "Father always says that to me whatever I do, but he's very fond of me all the same."

Just then the captain came forward with his glass under his arm, and his hands deep down in his pockets. He walked with his legs very wide apart, and stopped short before us, his straw hat tilted right over his nose, and see-sawing himself backwards and forwards on his toes and heels.

"You're a nice young man, arn't you now?" he said to Jack.

"No, I'm only a boy yet," said Jack quietly.

"Well, you're tall enough to be a man, anyhow. What's your height?"

"Five foot 'leven," said Jack.

"And how old are you?"

"Seventeen next 'vember," said Jack.

"Humph!" said the captain.

"Here, how much is it?" said Jack, thrusting his hand in his pocket. "I'll pay now and ha' done with it."

"Pay what?"

"My passage-money."

"Oh!" said the captain quietly, "I see. Well, I think we'd better settle that by-and-by when you bring in claim for salvage."

The captain pronounced it "sarvidge," and Jack stared.

"What savage?" he said. "Do you mean Joe Carstairs' black fellow?"

"Do I mean Joe Carstairs' grandmother, boy? I didn't say savage; I said salvage—saving of the ship from pirates."

"Oh, I see what you mean," replied Jack. "I sha'n't bring in any claim. I knew that Malay chap wasn't doing right, and stopped him, that's all."

"Well, we won't say any more about stowing away, then," said the captain. "Had plenty to eat this morning?"

"Oh yes, I'm better now," drawled Jack. "I was real bad yesterday, and never felt so hollow before."

The captain nodded and went back, while Jack turned to me, and nodding his head said slowly:

"I like the captain. Now let's go and see how your black fellow's head is."

Jimmy was lying under a bit of awning rigged up with a scrap of the storm-torn sail; and as soon as he saw us his white teeth flashed out in the light.

"Well, Jimmy, how are you?" I said, as Jack Penny stood bending down over him, and swaying gently to and fro as if he had hinges in his back.

"Jimmy better—much better. Got big fly in um head—big bunyip fly. All buzz—buzz—round and round—buzz in um head. Fedge doctor take um out."

"Here, doctor," I shouted; and he came up. "Jimmy has got a fly in his head."

"A bee in his bonnet, you mean," he said, bending down and laying his hand on the black's temples.

"Take um out," said Jimmy excitedly. "Buzz—buzz—bunyip fly."

"Yes, I'll take it out, Jimmy," said the doctor quietly; "but not to-day."

"When take um out?" cried the black eagerly; "buzz—buzz. Keep buzz."

"To-morrow or next day. Here, lie still, and I'll get your head ready for the operation."

The preparation consisted in applying a thick cloth soaked in spirits and water to the feverish head, the evaporation in the hot climate producing a delicious sense of coolness, which made Jimmy say softly:

"Fly gone—sleep now," and he closed his eyes, seeming to be asleep till the doctor had gone back to his seat on the deck, where he was studying a chart of the great island we were running for. But as soon as he was out of hearing Jimmy opened first one eye and then another. Then in a whisper, as he gently took up his waddy:

"No tell doctor; no tell captain fellow. Jimmy go knock brown fellow head flap to-night."

"What?" I cried.

"He no good brown fellow. Knock head off. Overboard: fis eat up."

"What does he say; he's going to knock that Malay chap's head off?" drawled Jack.

"Yes, Jimmy knock um head flap."

"You dare to touch him, Jimmy," I said, "and I'll send you back home."

"Jimmy not knock um head flap?" he said staring.

"No. You're not to touch him."

"Mass Joe gone mad. Brown fellow kill all a man. Jimmy kill um."

"You are not to touch him," I said. "And now go to sleep or I shall go and tell the captain."

Jimmy lifted up his head and looked at me. Then he banged it down upon his pillow, which was one of those gooseberry-shaped rope nets, stuffed full of oakum, and called a fender, while we went forward once more to talk to the doctor about his chart, for Jack Penny was comporting himself exactly as if he had become one of the party, though I had made up my mind that he was to go back with the captain when we were set ashore.

All the same, at Jack Penny's urgent request I joined him in the act of keeping the presence of the other passenger a secret—I mean Gyp the dog, to whom I was stealthily introduced by Jack, down in a very evil-smelling part of the hold, and for whom I saved scraps of meat and bits of fish from my dinner every day.

The introduction was as follows on the part of Jack:

"Gyp, old man, this is Joe Carstairs. Give him your paw."

It was very dark, but I was just able to make out a pair of fiery eyes, and an exceedingly shaggy curly head—I found afterwards that Gyp's papa had been an Irish water spaniel, and his mamma some large kind of hound; and Jack informed me that Gyp was a much bigger dog than his mamma—then a rough scratchy paw was dabbed on my hand, and directly after my fingers were wiped by a hot moist tongue. At the same time there was a whimpering noise, and though I did not know it then, I had made one of the ugliest but most faithful friends I ever had.

The days glided by, and we progressed very slowly, for the weather fell calm after the typhoon, and often for twenty-four hours together we did nothing but drift about with the current, the weather being so hot that we were glad to sit under the shade of a sail.

The doctor quite took to Jack Penny, saying that he was an oddity, but not a bad fellow. I began to like him better myself, though he did nothing to try and win my liking, being very quiet and distant with us both, and watching us suspiciously, as if he thought we were always making plots to get rid of him, and thwart his plans.

Gyp had remained undiscovered, the poor brute lying as quiet as a mouse, except when Jack Penny and I went down to feed him, when he expressed his emotion by rapping the planks hard with his tail.

At last the captain, who had been taking observations, tapped me on the shoulder one hot mid-day, and said:

"There, squire, we shall see the coast to-morrow before this time, and I hope the first thing you set eyes on will be your father, waving his old hat to us to take him off."

Just then Jimmy, whose wound had healed rapidly, and who had forgotten all about the big bunyip fly buzzing in his head, suddenly popped his face above the hatchway with his eyes starting, his hair looking more shaggy than usual, and his teeth chattering with horror.

He leaped up on the deck, and began striking it with the great knob at the end of his waddy, shouting out after every blow.

"Debble, debble—big bunyip debble. Jimmy, Jimmy see big bunyip down slow!"

"Here, youngster, fetch my revolver," shouted the captain to me. "Here, doctor, get out your gun, that Malay chap's loose again."

"A no—a no—a no," yelled Jimmy, banging at the deck. "Big bunyip—no brown fellow—big black bunyip debble, debble!"

"Get out, you black idiot; it's the Malay."

"A no—a no—a no; big black bunyip. 'Gin eat black fellow down slow."

To my astonishment, long quiet Jack Penny went up to Jimmy and gave him a tremendous kick, to which the black would have responded by a blow with his war-club had I not interposed.

"What did you kick him for, Jack?" I cried.

"A great scuffle-headed black fool! he'll let it out now about Gyp. Make him be quiet."

It was too late, for the captain and the doctor were at the hatchway, descending in spite of Jimmy's shouts and cries that the big bunyip—the great typical demon of the Australian aborigine—would eat them.

"Shoot um—shoot um—bing, bang!" whop went Jimmy's waddy on the deck; and in dread lest they should fire at the unfortunate dog in the dark, I went up and told the captain, the result being that Gyp was called up on deck, and the great beast nearly went mad with delight, racing about, fawning on his master and on me, and ending by crouching down at my feet with his tongue lolling out, panting and blinking his eyes, unaccustomed to the glare of daylight.

"You're in this game, then, eh, Master Carstairs?" said the captain.

"Well, yes, sir; Penny here took me into his confidence about having brought the dog, and of course I could not say a word."

"Humph! Nice game to have with me, 'pon my word. You're a pretty penny, you are, young man," he added, turning to Jack. "I ought to toss you—overboard."

"I'll pay for Gyp's passage," said Jack coolly. "I wish you wouldn't make such a fuss."

The captain muttered something about double-jointed yard measures, and went forward without another word, while Gyp selected a nice warm place on the deck, and lay down to bask on his side, but not until he had followed Jimmy up the port-side and back along the starboard, sniffing his black legs, while that worthy backed from him, holding his waddy ready to strike, coming to me afterwards with a look of contempt upon his noble savage brow, and with an extra twist to his broad nose, to say:

"Jimmy know all a time only big ugly dog. Not bunyip 'tall."



CHAPTER SEVEN.

HOW WE STOPPED THE BLACKBIRD CATCHERS.

The captain was right, for we made the south coast of New Guinea the very next morning, and as I caught sight of the land that I believed to be holding my father as in a prison, a strange mingling of pain and pleasure filled my breast I looked excitedly and long through the doctor's double glass, and he shook hands with me afterwards, as if he thoroughly appreciated my feelings in the matter.

It was a lovely morning, with a pleasant breeze blowing, and as we drew nearer we made out a vessel very similar in build to our own going in the same direction.

"Why, they are for the same port, I should think!"

"I don't know," said the skipper rather oddly. "We're for a little place I know, where the savages are pretty friendly, and I've been talking it over with the doctor as to its being a good starting-place for you, and he thinks it will be. There it lies," he said, pointing north-east. "We can soon make it now."

"Looks a nicer place than our land," said Jack Penny, as I stood with him gazing wonderingly at the forest and mountain scenery that hour by hour grew more clear. "I think I shall like Noo Guinea."

The day glided on with the look-out growing more and more interesting; and at last, when we were pretty near, we could see the other schooner had outsailed us, and was within a short distance of a scattered collection of huts; while a little crowd of the natives was on the sandy beach busily launching their canoes, in which they paddled out towards the other vessel.

"I don't like that," said the skipper suddenly, as he was using his glass. "That's bad for us."

"What is?" I said eagerly.

"That there schooner going before us. They're blackbird catchers, or I'm a Dutchman."

"Blackbird catchers?" I said. "Why, I thought there were no blackbirds out of Europe."

"Just hark at him," said the captain, turning to the doctor. "Blackbirds, boy, why, there's thousands; and it's them varmint who go in for the trade of catching 'em as makes the coast unsafe for honest men."

"What do you mean?" I cried, and I became aware of the fact that Jack Penny was bending over me like a bamboo.

"Mean, boy? just you take the doctor's little double-barrelled telescope and watch and see."

I took the glass and looked intently, watching through it the scene of the blacks paddling up to the schooner, and holding up what seemed to be fruit and birds for sale.

All at once I saw something fall into one of the canoes, which immediately sank, and eight of its occupants were left struggling in the water.

To my great relief I saw a small boat rowed round from the other side of the little vessel, evidently, as I thought, to go to the help of the poor creatures; but, to my horror, I saw that two men stood up in the boat, and, as it was rowed, they struck at the swimming men with heavy bars, and dragged them one by one into the boat.

I saw four saved like this, and then the boat was rowed rapidly in pursuit of the other four, who were swimming as hard as they could, as they tried to overtake the canoes, whose occupants were making for the shore.

The noise of the shouts reached our ears faintly, and I saw one of the men picked up by the last canoe, and the other three were literally hunted by the schooner's boat, diving like ducks and trying every feat they could think of to avoid capture; but oars beat hands in the water, and I saw two of the fugitives struck on the head by a fellow in the bows of the boat, and then they were dragged over the side.

There was one more savage in the water, and he swam rapidly and well, besides which, he had gained some distance during the time taken up in capturing his fellows. As he had changed his direction somewhat I had a better view of the chase, and I felt horrified to see how rapidly the boat gained upon him till it was so near that it could be only a matter of minutes before he would be worn out and treated in the same way as his unfortunate fellows.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse