Mother Carey's Chicken, by George Manville Fenn.
Yet once more George Manville Fenn's talent for writing books so packed with tensions, so full of dreadful situations, is presented to us.
Mark is the son of a sea-captain, who has always longed to follow his father to sea. The old captain tells him that life at sea is pretty boring, but eventually agrees to take both Mark and his mother on his next voyage. Of course this turns out to be full of perils and adventures.
Set in the Java Seas, we meet with pirates, sharks, serpents, volcanoes, unfriendly natives, adverse weather, geysers, fire at sea, and many other dire situations.
A very good read. NN
MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKEN, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
HOW MARK STRONG WANTED TO GO.
"Go with me, Mark? What for? To live hard, work hard, and run the risk every day of having to die hard. Get out! You're as bad as your mother."
"Not very bad, is it, James, to wish to share my husband's life and cares?"
Captain Strong put down his pipe, got up from his easy-chair, crossed to the other side of the fire, and laid his hand upon Mrs Strong's shoulder, while she turned her pleasant sweet womanly face upward and smiled in that of the fine, manly, handsome merchant captain, tanned and reddened by many a fight with the sea.
"No, my dear," he said softly; "but it's a man's duty to face danger, a woman's to keep the nest snug for him and the bairns. Why, Mary, you don't know what the perils of the sea are."
Mrs Strong shook her head slowly, and that shake, as interpreted by her eyes, meant a great deal.
"Ah! you may look," the captain said, "but you do not; and as for this cub—come here, you great, strong, impudent young ruffian!" he added; and as his son rose from his chair he took him by the shoulders, gave him a hearty shake, followed it up with a back-handed blow in the chest, and ended by gripping his right hand in a firm, manly clasp, his voice turning slightly husky as he continued:
"Mark, my lad, Heaven knows how often, when I'm far away at sea, I feel as if I'd give anything for a sight of your mother's face, ay, and a good look at yours, you ugly young imitation! How dare you try and grow up like me!"
Mrs Strong smiled.
"But it won't do, my lad. I'm earning the pennies in my ship, and you must go on with your studies, take care of your mother, and when I come back after my next voyage we'll have a talk about what you're to be. Let's see; how old are you?"
"Sixteen, and discontented! Why, Mark, do you know that you possess what hundreds of thousands of men most envy?"
"I do, father?"
"To be sure, sir; health, strength, all your faculties, and all the world before you."
"But I never see any of the world like you do," said Mark dolefully.
It was a broad, honest, hearty laugh, such as a sturdy Englishman who is in the habit of using his lungs indulges in; and as Mark Strong's brow wrinkled, and he felt irritated at being laughed at, his father thrust him back into his chair.
"I'm not laughing at you, my boy," he said; "but at your notion—the common one, that a sailor who goes all round the world is always seeing wonderful sights."
"Well, my dear," said Mrs Strong, taking her son's part, "you know you have seen strange things."
As she spoke her eyes ran over the decorations of their handsomely-furnished room in the old-fashioned house in old-fashioned Hackney, where there were traces of the captain's wanderings in the shape of stuffed birds of gorgeous plumage, shells of iridescent tints, masses of well-bleached corals, spears and carven clubs from New Zealand, feather ornaments from Polynesia, boomerangs and nulla-nullas from Australia, ostrich eggs from the Cape, ivory carvings from China, a hideous suit of black iron armour from Japan, and carpets and rugs from India and Persia to make snug the floor.
"Strange things, wife! Well, of course I have a few. A man can't be at sea thirty years without seeing something; but, generally speaking, a sailor's life is one of terrible monotony. He is a seaman, and he sees the sea day after day—day after day; rough seas and smooth seas, stormy seas and sunny seas; and enough to do to keep his ship afloat and away from rocks and lee shores. Here, what are you opening your eyes and mouth for in that way, Mark? Do you expect I'm going to tell you about the sea-serpent?"
"No, father," said the lad laughing. "It was because what you said was so interesting."
"Interesting! Nonsense! A sailor's is a wearisome life, full of dangers."
"But you see strange countries, father, and all their wonders."
"No, I do not, boy," said the captain half angrily, "A sailor sees nothing but his ship, and she's all anxiety to him from the time he goes aboard till he comes back. We see strange ports, and precious little in them. Why, Mark, if you were in some places on the other side of the world, you'd find everything so English that you would hardly believe you had left home. No, no, my lad. You be content to get on well with your studies, and some day we'll make a doctor or a lawyer of you. Soldier, if you like, but not a sailor."
"It's my turn to speak now," said Mrs Strong, smiling lovingly at her frank, manly-looking son. "No soldiering."
"I don't want to be a soldier, mother," said Mark gloomily. "I want to travel; and as I have kept to my books as father wished during his last two voyages, and won my certificates, he might give me the prize I worked for."
"Why, you ungrateful young dog," cried the captain, "haven't I given you a first-class watch?"
"Yes, father; but that isn't the prize I want. I say: do take me with you."
"Take you with me!" cried the captain with an impatient snort such as a sea-horse might give. "Here, mother, what have you been doing with this boy?"
"Doing everything I could to set him against the sea, my dear," said Mrs Strong sadly.
"And a nice mess you have made of it," growled the captain. "Pass my tobacco. Well, Mark, my lad; I want my spell ashore to be happy and restful, and when there's a rock ahead I must steer clear of it at once; so here goes, my lad, I may as well say it and have done with it. I know so much of the sea that I shall never consent to your being a sailor. Your mother is with me there. Eh, my dear?"
"Yes, James, thoroughly," said Mrs Strong.
"Now, my lad, you've got to make the best of it."
"But if you would take me for one voyage only, father, I wouldn't ask you to take me again."
"Won't trust you," said the captain. "Hallo, Bruff!" he continued, patting the rough head of a great retriever dog which had just come slouching into the room, carrying the said rough head hanging down as if it were too heavy for its body, an idea endorsed by its act of laying it upon the captain's knee. "Is it you who teaches your young master to be so obstinate?"
The dog uttered a low growl as if of protest.
"Perhaps you'd like me to take you for a voyage, old chap," continued the captain, pausing in his smoking to wipe the corners of the dog's eyes with its ears. "You'd look well sea-sick in a corner of the deck, or swung in a hammock."
Bruff showed the whites of his expressive eyes and uttered a dismal howl.
"Don't be afraid, old fellow," said the captain. "I sha'n't take you, nor your master neither, so you may both make the best of it."
"Don't say that, father," said Mark earnestly. "Take me this once. I do so want to see China!"
"Here, mother," said the captain laughing; "take Mark up stairs and show him your best tea-service, the one I brought home last year. Like to see Japan, too, my lad?"
Mark frowned and bent his head over his book, while Mrs Strong shook her head at her husband.
The captain rose once more, and laid his hand upon his son's shoulder.
"Come, come, my lad, don't fret over it," he said; "you have done well, and I should like to give you a treat, but I can't take you to Hong-Kong for many reasons. Your mother would not like it, I shouldn't like it, and it would do you no good."
"But, father—" began Mark.
"Hear me out, my lad," said the captain gravely. "I say I want to give you a treat, so I tell you what I will do. You and your mother shall come aboard as we're warping out of the dock, or at Gravesend if you like, and I'll take you down Channel with me. I've got to put in at Plymouth, and I'll drop you there, or at Penzance, whichever you like, and then you can come back to London by rail. Hallo, who's that?"
There was a ring at the old iron gate, and Mark rose and walked to the window.
"A sailor, father."
"Sailor!" said the captain, rising. "Oh, it's Billy Widgeon! Tell the girl to show him in."
Mark went out to speak to the servant, and the next minute the big front door-mat was having a hard time as the sailor stood rubbing away at his perfectly clean boots, and breathing hard with the exertion, staring furtively at Mark Strong the while.
HOW BILLY WIDGEON BROUGHT A LETTER.
The man who was working so hard at the mat was a sailor of apparently about five-and-thirty, carefully dressed in his shore-going suit of navy blue, and carrying a very tightly-done-up dandified umbrella, which looked as out of place in his hands as a parasol would daintily poised by a grenadier guard.
He was a strong squarely-built fellow, with crisp black hair and close beard, and if he had gone under a standard the height he would have reached would probably have been five feet, the result of this being that he had to look up at Mark Strong, who was about five feet six, and at the maid, who was only a couple of inches less.
"Want to see my father?" said Mark, as the man continued to stare and wipe his shoes.
"Ware sharks! Heave off, you ugly lubber! I say: will he bite?"
This was consequent upon a pattering of toe-nails upon the oil-cloth and the appearance of Bruff, the dog, who began to walk round the visitor and smell him.
"No, he won't bite friends," said Mark.
"Tip us your fin, then, messm't," said the sailor, holding out his hand.
"Give him your paw, Bruff," cried Mark; but the dog paid no heed, only continued to smell the visitor.
"Wheer's the skipper?" said the sailor then, hoarsely. "You his boy?"
"Yes," said Mark, gazing enviously at a man who was probably one of those about to sail with Captain Strong on his voyage to Singapore and China. "I say, don't wear out the door-mat."
"Eh? No, m'lad, I won't wear out the mat. You see we don't have no mats afloat. I say! my!"
The man bent down, as if seized with a cramping internal pain, and gave his right leg a slap with his horny paw, whose back was as hairy as that of a monkey.
"What's the matter?" said Mark.
"Matter! I was only larfin. My! you are like the skipper! Wheer is he?"
"This way," said Mark, leading him to the comfortable room, where, as soon as he entered and saw Mrs Strong, the man began ducking his head and kicking out one leg.
Mrs Strong nodded and smiled at the man, feeling a kindly leaning toward one of those who would be under her husband's orders for the next six months, and perhaps his guardians in some storm.
"I'll leave you now, dear," she said.
"Oh, you need not go!" said the captain; but Mrs Strong left the room.
"Shall I go, father?" asked Mark.
"No, my boy, no. Sit down. Well, Billy, what news?"
"None at all, sir, only we shall soon be full up; they've bent on a new mains'l and fores'l; we've been a-painting of her streak to-day, and she do look lovely, and no mistake. But here's a letter I was to give you, sir."
The man evidently had a letter somewhere, from the confident way in which he began to search for it, looking in his cap, then feeling about in his loose blue jumper, and ending with his trousers' pockets.
"Well," said Captain Strong sharply, "where's the letter?"
"Ah! wheer is it?" muttered the man, stroking himself down the sleeves, the chest, and the back. "I had that theer letter somewheres, but it seems to be gone."
"Did you leave it aboard?"
"No, sir, I didn't leave it aboard; I'm sure of that. It's somewheres about me."
"Hang it, man! have you felt in all your pockets?"
"Ain't got but two, sir, and I feeled in both o' them. Think o' that, now, arter Mr Gregory saying as I was to be werry careful o' that letter!"
"So careful that you've lost it," cried Captain Strong. "Bill Widgeon, you're about the biggest blockhead in the crew."
"Well, I dunno about that, sir; I may be a blockhead, but I arn't lost the letter."
"Where is it, then?" cried the captain angrily.
"That's just what I want to know, sir."
"Bah! it's lost."
"No, sir, it arn't lost; I were too careful for that, and—theer, I telled you so. I remember now. Mr Gregory says, says he, 'you, Billy Widgeon,' he says, 'you've got to take great care of that letter,' he says; and 'all right, sir,' I says, 'I just will,' and I put it wheer I thought it would be safest, and here it is."
As he spoke, grinning broadly the while, he slipped off one of his shoes, stooped and picked it up, and drew out the letter all warm and crinkled up with the pressure.
"It's all right, sir," he said, smoothing and patting the letter, and handing it to his captain, before balancing himself on one leg to replace his shoe.
"Why didn't you carry it in your pocket, man?" said the captain angrily, and he tore open the letter and began to read.
"I say, youngster," whispered the sailor, whom the dog was still slowly going round and smelling suspiciously, "will that there chap bite?"
"Bite! No," replied Mark. "Here, lie down, Bruff!"
The dog obeyed, laying his head upon his forepaws and blinking at the visitor, whom he watched intently as if he were in doubt about his character.
"Looks a nipper, he do, squire," said the sailor. "He could take hold pretty tight, eh?"
"Take hold and keep hold," said Mark, who could not help a feeling of envy creeping into his breast—envy of the easy-looking, active little man who was to be his father's companion over the seas to wonderland.
"He looks as if he would," said the sailor after a few moments' pause. "I say, youngster, I'd rayther be ins with him than outs."
"What! rather be friends than enemies?"
"That's it, youngster. I say, what are you going to be—first-mate, and skipper arter?"
"No," said Mark, speaking in the same low tone as his questioner; "I'm not going to be a sailor."
"It is not decided what I'm to be yet."
"Arn't it now? Why, if you'd come to sea along o' us what a lot I could ha' taught you surety. Why, I could ha' most made a man of you."
"Here, Widgeon," said the captain sharply, "take that back to Mr Gregory, and tell him I shall be aboard to-morrow."
"Right, sir," said the sailor, giving his head a duck and his right leg another kick out—courtesies called forth by the well-furnished room and the soft carpet, for on the bare deck of the ship he put off his manners with his shore-going clothes. "Day, sir. Day, youngster. Day, shipmet."
This last was intended for the dog; but, a few moments before, Bruff had slowly risen, crossed the room, and drawn the door open by inserting one paw in the crack, and then passed through.
"Why, he arn't there!" said Billy Widgeon after a glance round. "My sarvice to him all the same," he added, and went out.
The door had hardly closed when there was the sound of a rush, a roar, the fall of a chair, a crash of china, and a stentorian "Ahoy!"
"I shall have to kill that dog," cried the captain, as he and Mark rushed into the hall, where Bruff was barking and growling savagely.
"Down, Bruff!" shouted Mark, seizing the dog by the collar and enforcing his order by pressing his head down upon the oil-cloth, and setting one knee upon his side. "Why, where's—"
Mark did not finish, but burst into a roar of laughter, in which his father joined, as they both gazed up at the little sailor.
Explanation of the state of affairs was not needed, for matters spoke for themselves.
It was evident that Bruff had, for some reason, made a rush at Billy Widgeon, who had leaped upon a hall chair, from thence upon the table, upsetting the chair in his spring. From the table he had leaped to the top of a great cabinet, knocking down a handsome Indian jar, which was shattered to fragments on the oil-cloth; and from the cabinet springing to the balusters of the first-floor landing of the staircase.
There he hung, swinging by first one hand, then by the other, so as to get a good look down at his assailant, who was barking at him furiously as Mark rushed out; but Bruff had not the brains to see that if he rushed up stairs he could renew his attack.
"Got him safe?" said Billy Widgeon, as he swung by one hand as easily as would a monkey, and unconsciously imitating one of these active little creatures in the pose of his head.
"Yes; he sha'n't hurt you now," cried Mark.
"'Cause dogs' bites don't come in one's pay, eh, cap'n?"
"The dog's all right now, Widgeon," said the captain. "Here, Mark, shut him in the parlour."
"All right, father! but he won't stir now."
"Come down, my lad," said the captain. "You can climb over the balustrade."
"Bee-low!" cried the sailor in a gruff, sing-song tone, and loosening his hold he dropped lightly on to the oil-cloth within a couple of yards of the dog.
Bruff's head was pressed close down to the floor, but he showed his teeth and uttered a growl like a lilliputian peal of thunder.
"Quiet!" cried Mark, as Billy Widgeon struck an attitude with his fists doubled, ready for attack or defence.
"Lor', if you was aboard our ship, wouldn't I heave you overboard fust chance!" cried the sailor.
"What did you do to the dog?" said the captain angrily.
"I never did nothing at all, sir. I only wanted my umbrella as I stood up in the corner. Soon as I went to take it he come at me, and if I hadn't done Jacko and nipped up there he'd have had a piece out of my leg."
As he spoke he went to take the umbrella from the corner, when, looking upon the movement as an attempt to carry out a robbery, Bruff uttered another savage growl aid struggled to get free.
"All, would yer!" cried Billy Widgeon, snatching up his umbrella and holding it by the toe in cudgel-fashion. "Now, then, youngster, lot him go. Come on, you ugly big-headed lubber. I'm ready for you now."
As he spoke Billy Widgeon did Jacko, as he termed it, again, hopping about, flourishing his weapon, and giving it a bang down upon the floor after the fashion of a wild Irishman with his shillelagh.
It was a risky proceeding, for it infuriated the dog, who began to struggle fiercely, while Mark laughed so heartily that he could hardly retain his hold.
"That will do, Widgeon," said the captain, wiping his eyes. "Here, Mark, make that dog friends with him."
"Here, give me the umbrella," said the lad.
"Nay, if I do you'll let him go at me," said the sailor doubtingly.
"Nonsense, man! Give him the umbrella," cried the captain.
The sailor obeyed; and as Mark took it he held it down before the dog, and then returned it to its owner.
Bruff did not say "All right!" but he gave three pats on the oil-cloth with his long bushy tail, a sign that he accepted the position, and then he was allowed to get up.
"Who's afeard!" cried Billy Widgeon, looking from one to the other. "I say, I was too many for him, sir."
"Yes," said the captain; "and what about my Indian jar?"
"Ah! that was the dog's fault, cap'n," said the man earnestly.
"Dog's fault!" said Captain Strong. "You knocked it down and broke it, and I shall stop the cost out of your pay."
Billy Widgeon stood for a moment looking solemn. Then, as if he had suddenly been engaged as a dentist's specimen, he bared all his fine white teeth in the broadest of broad grins.
"Nay, skipper," he said, "you wouldn't do that. Me and my shipmets wouldn't want to make another v'yge with you if you was that sort o' capt'n. I'll buy you another one when we gets to Chany. Here's off!"
He nodded to all in turn, went out of the door, rattled his umbrella on the iron railings in front, making Bruff utter a low discontented growl, and then, as the door was closed, the growl became a deeply-drawn breath like a sigh, while putting his nose to the crack at the bottom, he stood with his ears twitching, giving forth a faint whine now and then, apparently not quite satisfied as to whether he had done his duty, and uneasy in his mind about that umbrella. "You will have to be careful with that dog, Mark," said the captain. "He must be tamed down, or we shall have worse mischief than a broken jar."
"He thought the man was stealing the umbrella," pleaded Mark on behalf of his favourite.
"Then he must be taught to think sensibly, my lad. Billy Widgeon's one of my best fore-mast men, and I can't afford to have my sailors used to feed your dog."
"You're joking, father."
"Ah! but that would be no joke," said the captain. "I should not approve of his devouring the lowest and most worthless class of tramp, or a savage; but when it comes to sailors—"
"What nonsense, father!" cried Mark.
"Why, Mark, my boy, what a good idea! I think I'll borrow that dog and take him to sea."
"Take him to sea, father?"
"Yes: he would be a treasure at clearing the deck of unwelcome visitors—Chinamen or Malays."
"Well, men who would be pirates if they dared: the low-class scoundrels who haunt some of the ports."
"All right, father! you shall have him," said Mark.
"Then I will, my boy," said the captain, looking at his son curiously, for he could not understand his willingness to part with his ugly favourite. "He shall be well treated so long as he behaves himself."
"But you can't take the dog without his master," said Mark, smiling.
"Oh, that's it! is it?" said the captain. "I thought there was something behind. Well, that was news for you," he continued.
"Yes, that Billy Widgeon brought. I was afraid that we should be crowded in the cabin and I was beginning to regret my promise to take you; but Mr Gregory writes me word that a gentleman and his wife and daughter who were coming with us as far as Singapore have backed out, to go by one of the fast mail-boats, so we shall have plenty of room."
"That's capital!" cried Mark. "Mr Gregory is the second-mate, isn't he?"
"First-mate now, my boy. He was second-mate, but my first-mate is now in command of another vessel, and I was afraid he would take all my old crew."
"But he does not, father, because that sailor said—"
"Yes; the crew stay with me to a man."
HOW FIRST-MATE GREGORY DID NOT LIKE DOGS.
"Hullo! whose dog's that?"
It was a hoarse gruff voice, which made Mark Strong turn sharply round just as he had crossed the gangway and stepped from the quay at the East India Dock on board the Black Petrel, or Mother Carey's Chicken, as the sailors often called her, a large ship conspicuous among the forest of masts rising from the basin.
The speaker was a tall angular-looking man with a pimply face and a red nose, at the top of which he seemed to be frowning angrily as if annoyed with the colour which he could not help. He had turned sharply round from where he was giving orders to some sailors who were busily lowering great bales and packages into the hold; and as Mark faced the tall thin man, whose hands were tucked deep down in the pockets of his pea-jacket, the lad thought he had never seen a more sour-looking personage in his life.
"Hullo, I say!" he cried again, "whose dog's that?"
"Then just take him ashore. I don't allow dogs on my deck. Here, I say, you sir," he roared, turning to where the men were making fast the hooks of a kind of derrick to a great package, protected by an open-work lattice of deal, "hadn't you better take that crate of pottery first, and put at the bottom, and then stow that portable steam-engine on the top."
The man addressed—a red-faced, good-humoured-looking sailor, whose bare arms formed a sort of picture-gallery of subjects tattooed in blue— rubbed his ear and stared.
"Why, the ironwork's heavy and might break the pottery," he said at last.
"Well, won't it break that light carriage, you double-distilled, round-headed wise man of the west, you! Put the heavy goods at the bottom and the light at the top."
"Ay, ay, sir!" shouted the man. "Bear a hand, lads. Now, then."
He unhooked the tackle and attached another great package, while the tall man turned again upon Mark.
"Did you hear what I said about that dog?"
"Yes, I heard," said Mark; "but he's coming part of the way."
"That he is not, my lad, so off you go!"
"Hullo, youngster!" said a cheery voice; and Mark turned sharply, to find the little squatty sailor before him, in tarry trousers and flannel shirt, bare-headed and heated with work.
"Hullo, Widgeon!" cried Mark.
"Hullo, shipmet!" cried the little sailor. "Now, then, just you mind, or—"
He did not finish, but made a peculiar gesture as if he were about to pitch the dog over the side.
"Here, show this young gentleman the way ashore," said the tall man. "Take the dog first."
"No, thankye," said the sailor grinning, "me and him's friends now, aren't we, shipmet? We won't begin by falling out again."
He stooped down and patted Bruff, who blinked up at him, and gave his bushy tail two wags, after which he walked slowly to the tall officer and began to smell his legs.
"Stop: don't do that!" cried Mark, as he saw the officer draw back as if to deliver a kick.
"Nay, don't you kick him, Mr Gregory, sir," said Widgeon. "If you do, he'll take hold; and I know this here sort, you can't get them off again without a knife."
"Are you Mr Gregory?" said Mark.
"Yes, sir, I am; and what then?" cried the mate angrily.
"My name is Strong, and I'm going with my father as far as Penzance."
"You may go with your father as far as Shanghai if you like, young man," said the mate angrily; "but I'm not going to have my deck turned into a kennel, so you'd better take your dog ashore."
Mark stood staring as the mate walked away to give some orders in an angry tone to another gang of sailors working aft. Then he shouted a command to some men busy in the rigging; while, when Mark turned his head, it was to find Billy Widgeon patting the dog, and smiling up at him.
"He's a bit waxy to-day. Just going outer dock into the river, and there's a lot o' work to be done."
"But I thought my father was captain of this ship?" said Mark.
"So he is, youngster, but old Greg does what he likes when the skipper aren't aboard. Oh, here is the skipper!"
"Ah! Mark, my lad, here you are then. So you've brought the dog?"
"Yes, father, and—"
"Where's Mr Gregory?"
"Over yonder, sir," said Billy Widgeon. "Pst!" he whispered to Mark, "say somewhat about the dog."
"Do you want him to stay then?" said Mark.
"Stop! Sartin I do. Why, theer'll be him and old Jack, and they'll have no end of a game aboard when theer's a calm. There, the skipper's gone to old Greg, and you aren't said a word."
"But I will," said Mark. "Who is Jack?"
"Who is Jack! Why, I thought every one knowed who Jack is. Our big monkey. He's tucked up somewhere 'cause it's cold. You wait till the sun's out."
"Well, Captain Strong, I object to dogs and cats on board ship."
"They are no worse than monkeys."
"A deal, sir, and I object to them."
"Nonsense, Gregory!" said Captain Strong persuasively. "The boy's only going as far as Penzance, and he loves his dog."
"Can't help that, sir. Dogs are no addition to a crew."
"Not a bit, Gregory. Neither are monkeys; but, to oblige me—"
"Oh very well, captain, if it's to oblige you, I have no more to say, and the dog can stop."
"Hear that, youngster?" said Billy.
It was plainly audible to half the deck; and as Mark nodded his head he fell a-wondering how it was that his father, who was captain, could allow his inferior officer to be so dictatorial and to bully every one about him.
"It's all right," said Billy Widgeon, with a confidential wink and a smile; "he's going to let him stop."
This was another puzzle for Mark, but he kept his thoughts to himself.
"Look here—where are you going to stow him?" continued the little sailor, speaking of the dog as if he were a box or bale.
"Keep him with me," replied the lad.
"But you'll want a place for him somewheres. You come along o' me and I'll find you one in the forksle."
After a momentary hesitation Mark accepted the offer, and the sailor pointed out a suitable corner, according to his ideas.
"He'll be pretty close to my berth, and I can give an eye to him."
The offer was friendly, and Bruff seemed disposed to accept the sailor's advances to some extent, suffering himself to be patted and his ears pulled; but when the friendliness took the form of a pull at his tail he began to make thunder somewhere in his chest, and turned so sharply round that by an involuntary action Billy. Widgeon popped his hands in his pockets.
All the same when Bruff was told to lie down in there he flatly refused, and followed his master aft once more, the little sailor having run before them in answer to the mate's shout; and Mark saw him directly afterward hauling away at a rope with some more so as to raise the main-yard, which was not quite to the mate's satisfaction.
"What a disagreeable brute!" thought Mark as the mate seemed to spend his time in shouting here, finding fault there, and everywhere making himself disagreeable, while the captain looked on once or twice and then got out of the way as fast as he could, and appeared to be generally of no account whatever.
HOW THERE WAS AN UNWELCOME PASSENGER.
"Here, Mark, my boy," said the captain; "come here and I'll show you your cabin."
The lad was standing watching half a dozen men who were reefing a square sail high up on the mainmast, and the process gave him a peculiar sensation of moisture in the hands and chill in the back, for the men were standing upon a rope looped beneath the yard, and apparently holding on by resting the top button of their trousers upon this horizontal spar, their hands being fully occupied with hauling in and folding up the new stiff canvas of the sail.
"I say, father," he said, "isn't that dangerous?"
"What, my lad?"
"The work those men are doing."
"What, up aloft? H'm, yes, no! They're so used to it that it has ceased to be dangerous, my boy. Use is second nature. It would be dangerous for you or me."
Mark followed, and the captain showed him his cabin.
"You're a lucky one," he said. "There's a place all to yourself. Are you going to stay aboard?"
"Yes, father. I've sent my bag, and mother is going to meet me here this evening."
"That's right. Now I must be off to see the owners. Keep out of the way as well as you can. I suppose you will find plenty to amuse yourself."
Mark said, "Oh, yes!" but he felt as if there was going to be very little that was amusing; and as he saw his father go toward the gangway and speak to the first-mate, who seemed to reply with a surly nod, the office of captain seemed of less account than ever.
The scene was not inspiriting. It was a dull, cold, cheerless afternoon in May; the deck was one chaos of bales, packages, and boxes. Ropes were lying about as if there was no such thing as order on board a ship. Forward there was a pile of rusty chain, and if the new-comer stirred a step he was sure to be in somebody's way; and when, in response to a hoarse "by yer leave," he moved somewhere else, it was to find himself in a worse position still.
Bruff quite shared his feelings, and showed it by shivering from time to time, and, after getting behind Mark, trying to drive his head between his master's legs, an attempt that was always met by a rebuff, for Mark had not yet gained his sea-legs and taken to walking with his feet very wide apart.
But all the same there was a deal to notice, and by degrees the lad grew interested as he wondered how it was possible for the yawning hatch in the middle of the deck to swallow up such an endless number of crates and boxes, bales and packages, of all kinds. While what seemed more astonishing was the fact, that as fast as the cargo disappeared more was brought aboard from the quay, where it was unloaded from vans and carts.
"Here, hi! young Strong!" cried the mate suddenly. "Come here."
Mark walked up to him hastily as he stood near the gangway, talking to a custom-house officer.
"Oh, there you are! Look here, which is it—wasp or bee!"
"Wasp or bee, sir—which?"
The customs-officer laughed, and Mark coloured up, but Mr Gregory stood with his red nose shining and his pimply face as hard and cold as a statue's.
"Which? Why, you—come aboard to idle or work?"
"I don't know, sir. Can I do anything?"
"How should I know? I should say not, by the look of you. Will you try?"
"Yes, sir. I should be glad to," cried Mark.
"Come, that's better. Take that piece of chalk, and tally."
"I—I don't know how."
"Bah! what do they teach boys at schools nowadays? Do you mean to tell me you can't make a mark and keep count of those barrels of beer they're going to bring on board?"
"Why, of course I can, sir."
"Then why did you say you couldn't?"
"You told me to tallow something, sir."
"I didn't! Here, catch hold of the chalk and make a mark there against every one that's rolled on board. Hallo, ugly! you're there then!" continued the mate, suppressing a smile and addressing Bruff, who gave him a sour look and went behind his master.
Mark took the chalk, and for the next half-hour he was busy checking the barrels. This done there was a succession of boxes to be accounted for in the same way, and after them a hundred sacks, the arrival of the latter putting the mate in a furious passion.
"For two straws I wouldn't have them aboard," he roared. "They were to have been delivered a week ago, and here are we kept waiting like this."
And still the vessel kept on swallowing up cargo, the riggers gave the finishing touches to the vessel's ropes and sails, and the confusion appeared to grow worse instead of better; but in spite of a low-spirited sensation, Mark was fain to confess to himself that he had been interested if not amused, when the least sailor-like man he had seen on board came from the cabin-door and spoke to the mate, who gave a slight nod, and the man went back.
The former individual then went to the big opening in the deck:
"Below! Morgan!" he shouted.
"Ahoy!" came from somewhere in the interior of the great vessel, and directly after a pleasant, manly, brown face appeared above the steps.
"Take charge; I'm going to have some tea."
"All right! Who's this?"
"Skipper's cub," said the first-mate shortly. "Here, boy, come along."
The new arrival gave him a friendly nod, and Mark's first sensation was that he would have preferred to stay with him, but the first-mate looked back, and he followed quickly into the cabin, where the sight of a comfortable meal, with clean cloth, and an appetising odour, changed the current of his thoughts.
"Engines that work want coal and water," said the mate gruffly. "We've been at work; let's coal. Sit down."
Mark obeyed, and Bruff crept under his seat.
"You've brought that dog with you, then?"
"He came, sir."
"Same thing. I hate dogs. Take off that cover."
Mark obeyed, and there was a steaming dish of fried steak and onions, looking tempting in the extreme.
"Now, then, will you carve or be old woman?"
"I—I'll carve," said Mark, for though he had a suspicion that to be old woman meant pouring out the tea, he was not sure.
"Go ahead, then, my lad. Plates hot?"
"That's your style. Don't be afraid of the onions. No ladies aboard."
Mark helped the steak, and the mate poured out the tea and hewed a couple of lumps off a cottage-loaf.
"There you are," he said; "and make much of it. No steaks and new bread at sea."
"But you've plenty of other things, sir."
"Humph, yes! We manage to live. More sugar?"
"No, sir, thanks."
"Help yourself, my lad. Rum un, aren't I?"
"You don't expect me to say what I think, do you?" said Mark smiling.
"One to you, boy," said the mate, nodding; and this time there was a vestige of a smile on his plain face. "Here, ugly, try that."
This was the outside of a big piece of gristly steak which the mate cut off, and held toward the dog, who approached slowly and as if in doubt, but ended by taking it.
"Yah! What are you sniffing at? Think there was mustard on it? Big friends, I suppose, you and him?"
"Yes, sir, we're capital friends."
"Humph! Better make friends with a good lad of your age. I hate dogs. What are you laughing at?"
"Eh? Oh! I see!" paid the mate grimly. "I do, though, all the same. Don't you believe it?"
"No," replied Mark smiling; "and Bruff does not believe it either."
For after the mate had given the dog a couple of pieces of steak, Bruff had stopped by him and laid the heavy head upon his knee to patiently wait for further consignments of cargo, which, however, did not come, for the chief officer was thoughtfully stirring his tea with his left hand, while his right, as he said he hated dogs, was involuntarily rubbing the rough jowl, the process being so satisfactory that Bruff half-closed his eyes.
"Humph! This seems a better dog than some," said the mate. "No business on board ship, though. I don't even like chickens; but we're obliged to put up with them. I'm always glad, though, when they're eaten. I once went a voyage with a cow on deck. They wanted the milk for an officer's lady and her children. That cow used to make me melancholy."
"Why, sir? Was she such a bad sailor?"
"No; she was always stretching out her neck to try and lick some green paint off one of the boats. Thought it was grass. Cows have no brains. Hallo! What is it, Billy?"
"Mr Morgan wants you, sir."
"What is it?"
"One on 'em, sir, right below."
"Bah!" ejaculated the mate. "Coming directly. Let him wait till I've finished my tea."
The sailor gave Mark a knowing look, and made a sign which the lad did not comprehend, as he disappeared through the door.
Mark would have given something to ask who "one on 'em" was, for the news seemed to have ruffled the mate terribly. A few minutes before he had been growing quite friendly; now he was as gruff as ever, finishing his steak viciously, and drinking his tea far hotter than was good for him.
"I'd like to trice them all up and give them the cat," he exclaimed suddenly, and with so much emphasis that at the last magic word Bruff suddenly sprang into action, cocked his ears and tail, uttered a fierce growling bark, and then looked excitedly from one to the other, his eyes plainly enough asking the question "Where?"
"Get out with you, ugly!" cried the mate. "I meant the cat with nine tails, not the cat with nine lives. Here, young Strong, whatever you do, never take to being mate in the merchant service."
He went out on deck, and Mark followed him, eager to see what was the matter; and as he passed out, it was to hear the second-mate say:
"I was coming after you; the poor wretch's groans are awful."
"Serve him right, the scoundrel! Government ought to interfere and put a stop to it."
"But, my dear Gregory, hadn't we better get the poor wretch out, and settle the government interference afterwards?"
"These men make me half mad," cried the first-mate. "Where do you suppose he is?"
"A long way down, I'm afraid."
"And we are behind with our lading. How can a man be such an idiot as to expose himself to such risks?" cried the first-mate.
"Sheer ignorance. If they thought they were likely to be crushed to death or suffocated, they would not do it."
"What is the matter?" asked Mark anxiously.
"Stowaway, my lad," said the second-mate. "Man hidden himself in the hold, and is frightened now the cargo has been packed over him."
A peculiar chill ran through Mark as he realised the horror of the man's position, perhaps below the huge bales and cases which he had seen lowered down into the hold, and so inclosed that it would be impossible to get to him before life was extinct.
HOW BRUFF SHOWED HE HAD A NOSE.
As Mark reached the great opening in the deck it was to find that the men who had been at work below were all clustered together listening and waiting for instructions from their officers.
"Hush! Don't speak!" cried the first-mate, bending over the opening. "Are you sure it isn't a cat?"
A low deep moaning sound that was smothered and strange came from below, and the mate gave a stamp with his foot on the deck.
"No mistake, Gregory," said the second-mate.
"Mistake! No. It's a man or a boy. He deserves to be left; he does, upon my honour."
"Yes, we all deserve more than we get," said the second-mate patiently. "Here, what do you make of it? The sound puzzles me, and I don't know where to begin."
The mate descended, the second-mate followed, and a big dark fellow with a silver whistle hanging from his neck was about to step down next, but he made way for Mark, who slipped down the steps, to the great dismay of Bruff, who sat on the top looking over the coamings, and whining in a low tone.
Mark found himself upon a lower deck, with a hole in it of similar dimensions to that through which he had passed. Mr Gregory was lowering himself down upon the cargo, the second-mate followed, and then gave orders for silence.
This stopped the buzzing conversation of the men, who all seemed to be scared, and now the moaning sound came from somewhere—a faint, dismal, despairing "Oh! Oh! Oh!" of some one in sore distress.
"Humph!" ejaculated the mate, "I suppose we must behave like Christians and get him out. But when I do! Here! Below there: where are you?"
No response; only the continuous moaning.
"Do you hear there? Answer—where are you?" shouted the second-mate with his mouth down to an opening in the great packages beneath their feet.
Still no reply but this dismal moaning "Oh!" a piteous appeal in its way, which made Mark shudder.
"I'll try again," said the first-mate. "Here, hi! Where are you?"
He paused, and they all listened. He shouted again and again, but with no result, and turning to the second-mate he said:
"The poor wretch is insensible, I'm afraid."
"Yes, he seems beyond answering. Where do you make him out to be?"
"That's what I can't make out," said the first-mate. "It's just as if he were practising ventriloquism. Sometimes it sounds to the right and sometimes to the left."
"Yes, that's how it strikes me," said the second-mate. "Listen, youngster. Here: silence there on deck!"
A pin fall might have been heard the next moment, and the silence was broken by the low piteous moan.
"It seems down here at one time, and then more forward there," said Mark.
"Yes, it does now," said the first-mate. "Here, Billy Widgeon, Small, you come and try."
The boatswain and the little sailor both lay down in different places on the cases and bales and listened, but only to rise up and declare that the sound came from quite a different direction.
"Hang it all!" cried the first-mate; "it isn't a question of amount of cargo to unstow, but of time before we get at the miserable wretch. Now, what right has a man to come and hide down here, and upset the whole cargo and crew!"
"My dear Gregory," cried the second-mate, "do let's begin somewhere."
"Yes, but where, my lad—where? Listen again. There, it's further in— ever so much."
"Sounds like it," assented the second-mate. "Here, stop your noise!"
This last was consequent upon a dismal howl uttered by Bruff, who felt himself aggrieved at being left alone.
"Here, here!" cried Mark excitedly, and, raising his hands, he took the dog as he was passed down by the sailors. "Stop a minute, Mr Gregory, my dog will smell him out."
"Bravo, boy!" cried the first-mate, as Bruff was set down, no light-weight, on the stowed-in cargo. "Good dog, then!"
"Hush!" cried Mark, whose heart was beating painfully.
"Silence there!" cried Mr Small.
"Now, Bruff, old boy, listen."
There was utter silence for quite a minute, and then, as the chill of dread deepened, and it seemed as if the hidden man had fainted, the moaning arose once more, but certainly more feebly.
Mark was kneeling and holding Bruff with a hand on each side of the collar, and as the piteous moan arose the dog uttered a sharp bark.
"Good dog, then! Find him, boy!" cried Mark; and as the moaning continued, the dog went scuffling and scratching over the cargo, snuffing here and there, and uttering a bark from time to time.
"No, no, not there," cried the second-mate.
"Let the dog be," said the first; and the result was that Bruff suddenly stopped a dozen yards away from them toward the forecastle, and began scratching and barking loudly.
"It can't be there," said Small, creeping over the packages till he was beside the dog, and then quieting him as he listened. "Yes; it is!" he cried. "You can hear him as plain as plain."
The first-mate came to his side, and confirmed the assertion; the second-mate endorsed his brother officer's opinion; and now began the terrible task of dragging out the closely fitted-in lading of the ship, so as to work right down to where the poor wretch had concealed himself. It seemed to Mark's uninitiated eyes to be a task which would take days, but the men set-to with willing hands under the first-mate's guidance, and package after package was hauled out by main force, and sent on to the deck above, till quite a cutting was formed through the cargo.
Every now and then the work was stopped for one of the officers to listen, and make sure that they were working in the right direction, and this precaution was not without its results in the saving of labour, for the faint moanings, more plainly heard now that a portion of the cargo was removed, seemed to be a little more to their right.
Mark Strong's first sensation, after the dog had thoroughly localised the place of the man's imprisonment, was a desire to go right away, to get off the ship and go ashore, where he could be beyond hearing of those terrible moans; but directly after he found himself thinking that it would be very cowardly, worse still that the chief mate and this Mr Morgan would look upon him as being girlish. The result was that he crept along over the top of the cargo on his hands and knees to just beyond the place where the men were working, and seating himself there, with Bruff between his legs, he watched the progress of the search.
It was a curious experience to a lad fresh from school, and the aspect of the place added to the horror of knowing that a fellow-creature was perhaps dying by inches beneath the sailors' feet. Where he sat the beams and planks of the lower deck were only about four feet above his head, and to right, left, and behind him all was thick darkness, faintly illumined by the yellow light of a couple of swinging lanthorns, which shed a curious ghastly halo all around; sixty feet away was the great hatch, down which came the light of day; and between this and where Mark sat, the dark figures of the busy sailors were constantly on the move in a way that looked weird in the extreme. Now, half of them were out of sight fastening the hooks and loops of the tackle to some bale; then there was a loud "yoho-ing," and, with creaking and rasping, the great package was dragged away into the patch of daylight, which it darkened for a few moments, and then disappeared to the deck.
For the first few minutes Mr Gregory—"Old Greg," as the sailors called him—stormed and raved about the labour and waste of time; but soon after he was at work as energetically as any man in the crew, and in the intervals of a great package being secured he kept coming to where Mark sat with his dog.
"Rough work this, my lad, isn't it?" he said every time, and as he spoke his hand went unconsciously to Bruff's head to rub and pat it.
Then he was off again, giving orders which package to take next, and securing the loops of the rope-tackle himself.
"Now, all together my lads," he shouted, and away went the load.
It was dreary work, and yet full of excitement, for the men toiled on with terrible energy, for there was the knowledge that though a great deal of cargo had been removed, the moans of the poor wretch were being heard less plainly.
It was Mr Morgan who now came to where Mark was seated, and he too began to pat and rub Bruff's head.
"No, my lad," he said, in answer to a question, "we can do no more than we are doing. If we got more hands at work they would be in each other's way."
He was panting with exertion as he spoke, and began to wipe his brow.
"It's a horrible set out. The man must have been mad to hide himself there."
"But you'll get him out?"
"Yes, we shall get him out," said the young officer; "but I'm growing sadly afraid that he'll die from sheer fright before we reach him."
"But you will keep on?"
"Keep on, my lad! Yes, if we have to empty the hold. Why, what sort of savages do you think us?"
He hurried away, and after a lapse Mr Gregory came.
"Help? no, my boy—poor old doggie then! Good old man!—no, you can't help. If I set you to hold a lanthorn, you'd be in somebody's way. We can't half of us work as it is, for want of room. It's a sad job."
As he spoke he kept on caressing Bruff, who rolled his stupid great head from side to side with evident enjoyment, while, in spite of the horror of what was going on, Mark could not help a feeling of satisfaction at the way in which his dog was growing in favour.
One hour—two hours—three hours must have gone by, and still the men toiled on at their fearfully difficult task, one which seemed to grow more solemn as they went on.
"Can't hear a sound, my lad," said the first-mate; "and I think we'll try the dog again. Come along, old chap."
Mark loosened his hold on the dog, and he followed the mate and was lifted down into the great cavernous hole the men had made, while a lanthorn was held so that they could watch his proceedings.
Bruff did not leave them long in doubt, but began snuffing at one side, close to the end, following it up by scratching and whining.
"That'll do," shouted the first-mate hoarsely. "Come, my lad. That's it. Good old dog, then!"
He lifted Bruff out and passed him up to Mark, who leaned over and listened as in the midst of a deep silence Mr Gregory slapped the side of a case.
"Now, then, where are you?" he shouted.
There was no reply; and he shouted again and again, but without effect.
"At it you go, my lads," he said, drawing in his breath with a hiss. "He must be in here; the dog says so."
"Ay, ay, sir!" rose in chorus, and the task was resumed with fresh energy, and but for the careful management of the two officers there must have been a fresh mishap, the sailors being rather reckless and ready to loosen packages whose removal would have caused the sides of the heaps to come crumbling down in a cargo avalanche, to cause disaster as well as delay.
Another hour had passed and Bruff had been had down four more times, always after his fashion to show where the man they sought must be, but still there was no result to their task, and Mark felt a blank sensation of despair troubling him, for he could see that the first-mate was beginning to lose faith in the dog's instinct, though there had for long enough past been nothing to prove that he was wrong, not so much as a sigh being heard.
"I think we'd better have the dog down again," said Mr Gregory at last, his voice sounding strange from deep among the cargo. "Stop a moment, my lads. Silence, and pass me a lanthorn."
At the sound of his voice Bruff uttered a whine, and Mark had to hold tight by his collar to keep him back.
Directly after, as the lad looked down he could see the mate tap once more upon a case in the curious-looking hollow.
"Now, then," he shouted, "where are you?"
There was a silence that was painful in its intensity, and then plainly heard came a faint groan.
"Hooray, my lads! he's here, and alive yet," cried the mate, and the men set up a hearty cheer. "Steady, steady! He's close here. Let's have out this case next."
"No, no," cried the second-mate; "I see."
"See what?" said Mr Gregory gruffly.
"Ease off that bale a little, and we can draw him out."
"Draw him out! How? Well, of all! Of course!"
A lanthorn was being held to the side beneath Mark, and, staring over, he, too, grasped the position, which was plain enough now to all.
The case which the mate proposed to remove was one of the great deal chests with the top angle cut right off and used to pack pianos, and in the triangular space nearly six feet long between the case and the chests around the unfortunate man had crept, taking it for granted that he would be able to creep out again forward or backward after the ship had sailed.
The easing away of one package was enough now, and as the light was held, the legs of the prisoner were seen, and he was carefully drawn out. A rope was placed round his chest, and he was hauled out of the great chasm and hoisted carefully on deck, followed by the whole crew of workers, who formed a circle about him, as the first-mate went down on one knee and trickled a little brandy between his teeth.
"Shall I send one of the lads for a doctor?" said Mr Morgan.
"Wait a minute," was the first-mate's answer. "He was not suffocating, as you can see. It was sheer fright, I think. He'll come round in a few minutes out here in the fresh air."
The second-mate held down the light, and as Mark, for whom room had been made, gazed down in the ghastly face of the shabby-looking man, Bruff pushed his head forward and sniffed at him.
"Yes, that's him, old fellow," said the mate patting his head. "You are a good dog, then."
Bruff whined, and just then the prostrate stowaway moved slightly.
"There, he's coming to; give him a little more brandy, Gregory," said the second-mate.
"Not a drop," cried the other fiercely. "Yes, he's coming round now. I think I'll finish off with the rope's end—a scoundrel!"
A minute before, in spite of his rough ways, Mark had begun to feel somewhat of a liking for the first-mate, especially as he had taken to the dog; but now all this was swept away.
"Oh, yes, he's coming to," said Mr Gregory, as the man's eyelids were seen to tremble in the light of the lanthorn, and then open widely in a vacant stare.
"Where—where am I?" he said in a hoarse whisper; and then he uttered a wild cry and started up in a sitting position, for Bruff had touched his cheek with his cold nose.
"Where are you! On the deck of the Black Petrel, my lad, and you're just going to have that dirty shirt stripped off your back, ready for a good rope's-ending."
"No, no! no, no!" cried the poor wretch, grovelling at the first-mate's feet, and looking up at him appealingly.
This was too much for Bruff, who set up a fierce bark, and seeing his new friend apparently attacked he would have seized the crouching man had not Mark dropped down and seized his collar.
"Not do it, eh! You scoundrel! what do you mean by this hiding down in that hold and giving us hours of work to get out your wretched carcass, eh?"
"Please, sir—forgive me, sir. Let me off this time, sir."
"Kick the poor wretch out of the ship and let him go," said the second-mate in a low voice.
"Let him go! Not I. I'm going to flog him and then hand him over to the police."
"Ay, ay," rose in chorus from the men, who, now that they had with all respect to humanity saved the interloper's life, were quite ready to see him punished for his wrong-doing, and the trouble and extra labour he had caused.
"There, you idle vagabond, you hear what the jury of your own countrymen say."
"Let me off this time, sir. I was nearly killed down there."
"Nearly killed, you scoundrel! Serve you right; trying to steal a passage and food from the owner of this ship. How dare you do it?"
"I—I wanted to go abroad so badly, sir," said the shivering wretch. "I'd no money, and no friends."
"I should think not indeed. Who'd make a friend, do you think, of you?"
"Nobody, sir. I did try lots of captains to take me as a sailor, but no one would."
"Why, of course they wouldn't, you scoundrel!" stormed the first-mate. "Can you reef and splice and take your turn at the wheel?"
"No, sir," whimpered the man.
"Can you go aloft without tumbling down and breaking somebody's head instead of your own idle neck? Could you lay out on the foretop yard?"
"No, sir, but—but I'd try, sir, I would indeed, if you'd let me."
"Let the poor wretch go, Gregory," whispered the second-mate.
"Sha'n't!" snapped the first-mate; and as he raged and stormed Mark felt more than ever that this was the real captain of the ship, and that his father must occupy a very secondary position.
"I would work so hard," said the poor fellow piteously. "I only want to get into another country and try again."
"At our owner's expense, eh? Do you think the crew here want you?"
"No, no," rose in chorus; and Mark's heart gave a leap of sympathy, and anger against the men.
"There, you hear, you idle, cheating vagabond. Where did you want to go?"
"Anywhere, sir, anywhere. Do let me go!"
"Yes, to the police station. You'll have to answer for all this."
Mark looked at the poor, wretched, piteous face, and then up at the mate, whose countenance was like cast-iron with the tip of his nose red-hot. He glanced at Mr Morgan, who was frowning and looked annoyed, but who smiled at Mark as their eyes met.
"Here, Billy Widgeon, fetch one of the dock police," cried the first-mate.
"Ay, ay, sir," cried the little sailor with alacrity; and he was in the act of starting, while the stowaway was once more appealing piteously and Mark was about to take his part, when a quiet firm voice said aloud:
"What's the matter?"
Mark's heart gave a bound, and for the moment he thought everything would be set right in a humane way. Then, as he heard the chief mate speak, he felt that it would be all wrong.
"What's the matter, Captain Strong!" thundered the officer. "Everything's the matter. Here we've to sail first tide to-morrow, and look at us. My cargo, that was all stowed, hauled all over the ship. We've been ever since four o'clock getting him out, and now it's nearly ten. And look at him—all hands unstowing cargo to get out a thing like that!"
"Where was he?" said the captain sternly.
"Where was he!" roared the mate, who looked as if one of his legs was quivering to kick the grovelling stowaway; "where wasn't he? Groaning all over the ship; and if it hadn't been for that dog—"
"Ah! the dog helped, did he?"
"Yes, sir; smelt him out buried down below a thousand tons—"
"More or less," said Mr Morgan laughing.
"Well, I didn't weigh or measure the cargo, did I, sir?" roared the first-mate. "Look at it, sir—look at it, captain. We shall be at work all night re-stowing it, and then sha'n't be done."
"He was right down there?"
"Yes, sir; and if we hadn't got to him he'd have been a dead man in a few hours; and a good job too, only see what a nuisance he would have been."
"How came you to do this, sir?" cried Captain Strong, turning to the man, who still crouched upon the deck.
"I wanted to get abroad, sir. Pray forgive me this time."
"You must have been mad," cried the captain. "Did you want to be buried alive?"
"No, sir. I didn't think you'd fill up above me, and I thought I could creep out by and by; but—but they stopped up both ends of the hole, and then—then they piled up the boxes over my head, and it got so hot, sir, that—that—I could hardly breathe, and—and—and, sir, I couldn't bear it, I was obliged to cry for help; but I wish I'd died in my hole."
"Poor wretch!" muttered the captain; but his son heard him and pressed nearer to his side, as he gazed at the stowaway, a man grown, but who was sobbing hysterically, and crying like a woman.
"Here, Widgeon, I told you to fetch one of the dock police," said the first-mate fiercely.
"Ay, ay, sir!" cried Billy Widgeon, and Mark's heart sank as he felt that his father was only secondary in power to the fierce red-nosed mate. But the next instant a thrill of satisfaction shot through him, for his father said in a calm, firm way:
"Ah, we'll soon set him right," said the mate; "a miserable, snivelling cur!"
There was a laugh among the crew, and at a word from the mate they would have been ready to pitch the miserable object overboard.
"What is your name?" said the captain.
"Jimpny, sir. David Jimpny."
"Pretty name for a Christian man," said the mate; and the crew all laughed.
"What have you been?" said the captain.
"Anything, sir. No trade. Been out o' work, sir, and half starved and faint."
"Out of work!" roared the mate. "Why, you wouldn't work if you had it."
"Wouldn't I! You give me the chance, sir."
"Chance!" retorted the mate scornfully.
"Perhaps the poor wretch has not had one," said the captain. "Look here, my man."
"I haven't, sir; I haven't had a chance. Pray, pray, give me one, sir. I'll—I'll do anything, sir. I'll be like a slave if you'll only let me try."
"We don't want slaves," said the captain sternly; "we want honest true men who will work. Small."
"Ay, ay, sir," said the boatswain.
"This man has been half starved; take him below and see to him, and see that he is well treated."
"Ay, ay, sir," cried the boatswain. "Now, my swab."
"That will do," said the captain coldly. "No words. Let's have deeds, my man."
The abject-looking wretch shrank away, and the first-mate gave an angry stamp upon the deck.
"Look here, Captain Strong," he began furiously.
"That will do, my dear Gregory," said the captain, clapping him on the shoulder. "I wish the man to stay."
Mark Strong felt his heart at rest, for, as he saw the effect of his father's words upon the chief mate, he knew once and for all who was the real captain of the ship.
HOW MARK STRONG MADE FRIENDS.
"Of course we shall not be able to sail at the time down," said the first-mate rather huffily.
"Of course we shall, Gregory," said the captain quietly. "Morgan, I'm sorry you've had such a job as this. Divide the men into two watches. I'll take the first with some extra hands. Gregory and I will get on as far as we can till you and your watch are roused up. You'll go at it fresher. Pick out the most tired men for turning-in."
"They're all tired alike," said the first-mate gruffly. The captain did not answer, but went aft with his son.
"Rather a queer experience for you, Mark," he said as they entered the cabin, to find that Mrs Strong was there, waiting eagerly to know what was wrong on board.
Her anxieties were soon set at rest, and after a little examination of the place, the steward pointing out which were the cabins of the passengers expected to come on board the next day, Mrs Strong settled herself calmly down beneath the lamp and took out her work.
"Why, mother," said Mark, "anyone would think you were at home."
"Well," she replied smiling, "is it not home where your father is."
The reply was unanswerable, and being too restless to stay below when all was so novel on deck, Mark soon after went to where, by the light of many lanterns, about a third of the crew, supplemented by a gang of men from the dock, were hard at work trying to restore order in the hold.
"Hallo, youngster!" said a sharp voice; "don't get in the way. Here, hallo, old what's-your-name! Come here."
Bruff gave his tail a wag, and butted the first-mate's leg, submitting afterwards to being patted in the most friendly manner.
"Good dog that, young Strong."
The mate did not wait to hear what was said in reply, but dived down into the hold, while Mark joined his father.
"This is trying to bring order out of chaos, Mark," he said good-humouredly; and then turned sharply to look at a strange, gaunt sailor who came up and touched his hat.
"Hallo! Who are you? Oh, I see; our stowaway friend!"
"Yes, sir. Can I help, sir?"
"Well, yes—no—you had better not try at present, my man. Get used to the deck first, and try and put some strength in your arms."
"Please, sir, I—"
"That will do," said the captain coldly. "Obey orders, and prove that you are worthy of what I have done, and what I am going to do. I don't like professions."
The captain walked away, and the stowaway stood looking after him, while Bruff walked up and smelled him suspiciously.
"Nobody don't seem to believe in me," said the man in a discontented tone of voice.
"Try and make them, then," said Mark, who felt repelled by the man's servile manner.
"That's just what I'm agoin' to do, sir," said the man, speaking with the most villainous of low London accents.
"What did you say was your name?"
"David, sir; David Jimpny. He won't bite, will he, sir?"
"No. Here, Bruff, leave that alone and come here."
Mark's declaration that the dog would not bite seemed to give the man very little confidence, and no wonder, for Bruff kept eyeing the stowaway suspiciously in a way which seemed to indicate that he was looking out for a fleshy place to seize, but to his disappointment found none, only good opportunities for a grip at a bone.
Just then Small the boatswain came up from the hold, nodded at Mark, and gave one of his thumbs a jerk.
"I showed you your berth, my lad, go and turn in."
The man went forward and disappeared below, while the big rough boatswain gave the captain's son another friendly nod.
"Got to be drilled," he said. "Rough stuff to work up into a sailor. Rather have you, squire."
"Oh! I should not make a good sailor," said Mark lingering.
"Not if I took you in hand, my lad? Why, I'd make a man of you in no time. Is the skipper going to hand you over to me?"
"No; I'm only going as far as Plymouth or Penzance for a trip."
"More's the pity, my lad. Think twiced of it, and don't you go wasting your time ashore when there's such a profession as the sea opening of its arms to you and a arstin of you to come. Look at your father: there's a man!"
"Is he a very fine sailor?"
"Is he a fine sailor!" said the boatswain staring. "What a question to ask! why, there aren't a better one nowhere. Think twiced on it, my lad, and come all the way."
"I wish I could," said the boy to himself as he went back to the cabin, to find his father already there; and half an hour later, after a little joking about trying to sleep on a shelf in a cupboard, Mark clumsily turned in, far too much excited by the events of the day to go to sleep, and gradually getting so uneasy in the cramped space in which he had to lie, that he came to the conclusion that it was of no use to try; and as he lay thinking that he might as well get up and go and watch the re-stowing of the cargo, he found himself down low in the darkness, occupying the long triangular place from which the stowaway had been dragged.
How hot and stifling it seemed, and yet how little he felt surprised at being there, even when a strange dread came over him and he struggled to escape, with the knowledge all the time that the sailors and dock labourers were piling and ramming in cases and barrels, bales and boxes, wedging him in so closely that he knew he should never get out. Every minute his position grew more hopeless and the desire to struggle less. Once or twice he did try, but his efforts were vain; and at last he lay panting and exhausted and staring at the black darkness which suddenly seemed to have grown grey.
Was he awake? Had he been to sleep? Where was he?
He realised it all like a flash. He was in that cramped berth in the little cabin; and though he had not felt the approach of sleep, he must have been fast for some hours and had an attack of nightmare, from which he had awakened flat upon his back.
Mark uttered a sigh of relief, changed his position, lay looking at the grey light of morning and listening to some faintly-heard sounds, and then made up his mind to get up and dress.
Almost as a matter of course the result was that he dropped off fast asleep, and lay till a pleasant familiar voice cried to him that breakfast was nearly ready.
Getting off the shelf was nearly as difficult as getting upon it, but Mark took his first lesson in a determined way, and entered the cabin well rested and hungry just as the captain made his appearance.
"Oh, father, I feel so ashamed!" cried Mark.
"Why, my lad?"
"Sleeping comfortably there while you've been up at work all night."
"Nothing of the kind, my boy. Mr Morgan relieved us at three, and I've had five hours' sleep since then. Here they come."
Mr Gregory and Mr Morgan entered the cabin directly, both looking as calm and comfortable as if nothing had disturbed them. After the first greetings the first-mate began to look round the cabin.
"What's wrong, Gregory?" said the captain.
"Wrong!" said the first-mate. "Nothing. I was only looking after that dog."
"Why, surely you don't want to send him ashore?"
"Ashore, nonsense! Very fine dog, sir. I should like to have him. Ah, there you are!"
For just then Bruff came slowly and sedately into the cabin from a walk round the deck, and going straight up to the mate, blinked at him, and gave his tail two wags before going under the table to lay his head in his master's lap.
"Well, Morgan, how are you getting on?" asked the captain.
"Splendidly, sir. Quite like home to have a lady pouring out the coffee."
"No, no; I mean with the cargo."
"Oh! I beg pardon, sir. All right. We're about where we were before the accident."
"Ah, I thought we should be able to sail to-day, Gregory!"
"Humph!" said the first-mate. "I'll trouble you for a little more of that fried ham, Captain Strong. Good ham, young Strong. I recommend it."
Mark was already paying attention to it, and, well rested as he was, thoroughly enjoyed his novel meal, and was soon after as eagerly feasting upon the various sights and sounds of the deck.
For the next four hours all was busy turmoil. Passengers were arriving with their luggage marked "For use in cabin," last packages of cargo were being received, a couple of van-loads of fresh vegetables were shot down upon the deck as if some one was about to start a green-grocer's shop on the other side of the world, and the state of confusion increased to such a degree that it seemed to Mark that order could never by any possibility reign again. Wheels squeaked as ropes ran through tackle, iron chains clanged; there was a continuous roaring of orders, here, there, and everywhere; and at last, when the time for going out of dock arrived, the deck was piled up in all directions with cargo and luggage, and every vacant place was occupied by passengers, their friends, dock people, and crew.
It seemed impossible for the tall three-masted ship to get out of that dock through the narrow gates ahead and into the crowded river; but, just about one o'clock, a man in blue came on board and took charge, began shouting orders to men on the quay, ropes were made fast here and there and hauled upon, and the great ship was in motion.
Before many minutes had elapsed she had glided majestically into a narrow canal with stone walls, and from the high stern deck Mark saw that a pair of great gates were closed behind them, as if the ship had been taken in a trap. But no sooner was this achieved than another pair of gates was opened before her bows, and the slow gliding motion was continued till, almost before he knew it, the Black Petrel East Indiaman, Captain Strong, outward-bound for Colombo, Singapore, and Hong-Kong, was out in the river without having crushed any other craft.
As she swung out there in the tide, a large unwieldy object which threatened to come in contact with one or other of the many ships and long black screws lying in the river, all of a sudden a little, panting, puffing steamer came alongside and, amidst more shouting, ropes were thrown and she was made fast, while another appeared off the Black Petrel's bows, where the same throwing of ropes took place, but this time for a stout hawser to be fastened to the rope which had come through the air in rings. Then the rope was hauled back, the stout hawser dragged aboard, a great loop at its end placed over a hook on the tug-boat, which went slowly ahead, the hawser tightened, slackened, and splashed in the water, tightened and slackened again and again, till the great steamer's inertia was overcome without the hawser being parted, and kept by the tug at the side from swinging here and there, the great ship went grandly down the Thames.
HOW MARK HAD A SURPRISE.
Blackwall and Woolwich, Gravesend, and the vessel moored for the night. There a few preliminaries were adjusted, and the next morning, with the deck not quite in such a state of confusion, the vessel began to drop down with the tide.
And now Mark woke to the fact that the captain was once more only a secondary personage on board, the pilot taking command, under whose guidance sails dropped down and the great ship gradually made her way in and out of the dangerous shoals and sand-banks, till, well out to sea on a fine calm day, the pilot-boat came alongside, and Captain Strong, as the pilot wished him a lucky voyage, again took command.
There had been so much going on in lashing spars in their places, getting down the last of the cargo, and securing the ship's boats, along with a hundred other matters connected with clearing the decks and making things ship-shape, that Mark saw little of his father and the officers, except at mealtimes; and hence he was thrown almost entirely in the company of his mother. There were the passengers, but they, for the most part, were somewhat distant and strange at first; but now, as the great ship began to go steadily down channel, before a pleasant south-easterly breeze, the decks were clear, ropes coiled down, hatches battened over, and there was a disposition among the strangers on board to become friendly.
They were not a very striking party whom Captain Strong had gathered round his table, but, as he told Mrs Strong, he had to make the best of them. There was a curiously dry-looking Scotch merchant on his way back to Hong-Kong. An Irish major, with his wife and daughter, bound for the same place. A quiet stout gentleman, supposed to be a doctor, and three young German agricultural students on their way to Singapore, from which place, after a short stay, they were going to Northern Queensland to introduce some new way of growing sugar.
But just as the passengers were growing social, and the panorama of Southern England was growing more and more beautiful, the weather began to change.
Its first vagary was in the shape of a fog while they were off the Dorsetshire coast, and with the fog there was its companion, a calm.
"One of a sailor's greatest troubles," Mr Morgan said to Mark as they were leaning over the taffrail watching the gulls, which seemed to come in and out of the mist.
"But capital for a passenger who only wants to make his trip as long as he can," said Mark laughingly.
"Ah! I forgot that you leave us at Plymouth," said the second-mate.
"Penzance," cried Mark.
"That depends on the weather, young man. If that happens to be bad you will be dropped at Plymouth, and I'm afraid we are going to have a change."
The second-mate was right, for before many hours had passed, and when Start and Prawle points had been pointed out as they loomed up out of the haze upon their right, the sea began to rise. That night the wind was increasing to a gale, and Mark was oblivious, like several of the passengers, of the grandeur of the waves; neither did he hear the shrieking of the wind through the rigging. What he did hear was the creaking and groaning of the timbers of the large ship as she rose and fell, and the heavy thud of some wave which smote her bows and came down like a cataract upon her deck.
"Come, Mark, Mark, my lad," the captain said, "you must hold up. You're as bad as your mother."
"Are we going to the bottom, father?" was all Mark could gasp out.
"No, my boy," said the captain, laughing, "I hope not. This is only what we sailors call a capful of wind."
Mrs Strong was too ill to leave her cabin, but the first-mate came to give the sea-sick lad a friendly grip of the hand, and pat poor Bruff's head as he sat looking extremely doleful, and seeming to wonder what it all meant Mr Morgan, too, made his appearance from time to time.
Then all seemed to be rising up and plunging down with the shrieking of wind, the beating of the waves, and darkness, and sickness, and misery.
Was it day or was it night? How long had he been ill? How long was all this going to last?
Once or twice Mark tried to crawl out of his berth, but he was too weak and ill to stir; besides which, the ship was tossing frightfully, and once when the captain came in it seemed to the lad that he looked careworn and anxious. But Mark was too ill to trouble himself about the storm or the ship, or what was to become of them, and he lay there perfectly prostrate.
The steward came from time to time anxious looking and pale, but Mark did not notice it. He for the most part refused the food that was brought to him, and lay back in a sort of stupor, till at last it seemed to him that the ship was not rocking about so violently.
Then came a time when the cabin seemed to grow light, and the steps of men sounded overhead as they were removing some kind of shutter.
Lastly he woke one morning with the sun shining, and his father, looking very haggard, sitting by his berth.
"Well, my lad," he said, "this has been a sorry holiday for you. Come, can't you hold up a bit? The steward's going to bring you some tea."
"I—can't touch anything, father; but has the storm gone?"
"Thank Heaven! yes, my lad. I never was in a worse!"
"But you said it was a capful of wind," said Mark faintly.
"Capful, my lad! it was a hurricane, and I'm afraid many a good ship has fared badly."
"But the Petrel's all right, father?"
"Are we—nearly at Plymouth?" was Mark's next question.
"At Plymouth. I think, as I'm so ill, I'd better not go any farther. How is mother?"
"Going to get up, my lad, and that's what you've got to do."
"I'll try, father. When shall I go ashore?"
"If you like, at Malta, for a few hours," said the captain drily; "not before."
"At Malta!" said Mark, raising himself upon one arm.
"Yes, at Malta. Do you know where we are?"
"Somewhere off the Devon coast, I suppose."
"You were, a week ago, my boy. There, get up and dress yourself; the sun shines and the sea's calm, and in a few hours I can show you the coast of Spain."
"But, father," cried Mark, upon whom this news seemed to have a magical effect, "aren't we going ashore at Penzance."
"Penzance, my boy! We had one of the narrowest of shaves of going on the Lizard Rocks, and were only too glad to get plenty of sea-room. Do you know we've been running for a week under storm topsails, and in as dangerous a storm as a ship could face?"
"I knew it had been very bad, father, but not like that. What are you going to do?"
"Make the best of things, sir. Look here, Mark, you wanted to come for a voyage with me."
"Well, I said I wouldn't take you."
"And now I'm obliged to: for I can't put back."
"Going to take me to China?" cried Mark.
"Yes, unless I put in at Lisbon, and send you home from there, and that's not worth while."
"What! are you so much better as that? Here, what are you going to do?"
"Get up directly, father, and see the coast of Spain."
HOW CAPTAIN JACK CAME ON DECK.
"Yes, my lad, you've had a narrow squeak for it," said the first-mate, shaking hands. "You're in for it now."
He patted Mark's shoulder as he stood gazing over the port bulwark at a dim blue line.
"I couldn't get to you more, Mark, my lad," said the second-mate, "but you'll be all right now. We've had a rough time."
"And to think of you coming all the way with us after all!" said the boatswain in a pleasant growl. "Here, I'm going to make a sailor o' you."
Mark was alone soon after, when Billy Widgeon came up smiling to say a few friendly words, and directly after a thin pale sailor came edging along the bulwarks to say feebly:
"I see you've been very bad too, sir. I thought once we should have been all drowned."
Mark had an instinctive dislike to this man, he could not tell why, and as he felt this he was at the same time angry with himself, for it seemed unjust.
The man noted it, and sighed as he went away, and even this sigh troubled its hearer, for he could not make out whether it was genuine or uttered to excite sympathy.
There was some excuse, for Mr David Jimpny's personal appearance was not much improved by the composite sailor suit he wore. His trousers were an old pair of the captain's, and his jacket had been routed out by the boatswain, both officers being about as opposite in physique to the stowaway as could well be imagined. In fact, as Mark Strong saw him going forward he could not help thinking that the poor fellow looked better in his shore-going rags.
Then his manner of coming on board had not been of a kind to produce a favourable impression.
"I can't help it," said Mark aloud. "I don't want to jump upon the poor fellow, but how can we take to him when even one's dog looks at him suspiciously."
"I shouldn't set up my dog as a model to go by if I were you," said a voice at his elbow; and turning suddenly, with his face flushing, Mark found that the second-mate was at his elbow.
"I didn't know that I was thinking aloud," said Mark.
"But you were, and very loudly. I don't wonder at your not liking that man: I don't. Perhaps he'll improve though. We will not judge him yet. So you're coming all the way with us?"
"I'm glad of it. Be a change for you, and for us too. This is rather different to what we've been having, eh?"
"Why, it's lovely!" cried Mark. "I didn't think the weather could be so beautiful at sea."
"Nor so stormy, eh?"
"I didn't notice much of the storm," said Mark. "I was too ill."
"Ah! it is bad that first attack of 'waves in motion,' as I call it. But that's all past, and we shall have fine weather, I daresay, all the rest of the voyage. One never gets much worse weather than we have near home."
"Was much damage done," asked Mark, "in the storm?"
"Nothing serious. We were just starting after all our faulty rigging had been replaced. If we had been coming home after a voyage it might have been different. One or two sails were blown to shreds, but the old ship behaved nobly."
"I wish I had not been so ill," said Mark thoughtfully.
"So do I, my lad; but why do you speak so?"
"Because I should have liked to be on deck."
"Ah! well, you need not regret your sickness, for you would not have been on deck. It was as much as we could do to hold our own and not get washed overboard. That's worth looking at."
He pointed, as he spoke, to a blue line of hills away to the east bathed in the brilliant sunshine, while the water between them and the shore seemed to be as blue, but of another shade.
"Spain!" said Mark. "How lovely!"
"Portugal, my lad. Yes, it's pretty enough, but I've often seen bits of the Welsh coast look far more lovely. Don't you run away with the idea that you are going to see more beautiful countries than your own."
"Oh, but, Mr Morgan, Spain, and Italy, and Egypt, and Ceylon, and Singapore, they are all more beautiful than England."
"They're different, my lad," said Morgan, laughing, "and they look new to you and fresh; but when the weather's fine, take my word for it there's no place like home."
"Oh, but I thought—"
"You were going to see Arabian Night's wonders, eh? Well, you will not, my lad. Of course there are parts of foreign countries that are glorious. I thought Sydney harbour a paradise when I first saw it; but then I had been four months at sea, and the weather horrible. Hallo! here's an old friend. He always disappears when the weather's bad, and buries himself somewhere. I think he gets down among the stores. Mind your dog!"
Mark caught Bruff by the collar, for he was moving slowly off to meet Billy Widgeon, who was coming along the deck in company with a large monkey of a dingy brownish-black. The sailor was holding it by one hand, and the animal was making a pretence of walking erect, but in a very awkward shuffling manner, while its quick eyes were watching the dog.
"I've brought the captain to see you, Mr Mark, sir," said Billy grinning. "He hasn't been well, and only come out of his berth this morning. Here, Jack, shake hands with the gent."
"Chick, chicker—chack, chack," cried the monkey; and turning sharply, he gave Billy's detaining hand a nip with his teeth, sharply enough to make the man utter an exclamation and let go, when the monkey leaped on to the bulwark, seized a rope, and went up it hand over hand in a quadrumanous manner to a height that he considered safe, and there held on and hung, looking down at the dog, chattering volubly the while.
"He don't like the looks on him, sir," said Billy grinning. "I told him he was a nipper. I say, look at 'em. Haw! haw!"
The scene was curious, for as soon as Bruff was set at liberty he stared up at the monkey and began walking round and round, while after carefully lifting its tail with one hand, as if in dread that it might be seized, an act which would have required a ten-feet jump, the monkey went on chattering loudly as if scolding the dog for being there.
"What would be the consequences if we fetched the monkey down?" said the second-mate, laughing and watching the two animals.
"Bruff would kill him," said Mark decidedly.
"He would have to catch him first, and the monkey is wonderfully strong. But we must have no fighting. Let's see if we can't make them friends. Can you manage your dog?"
"Oh, yes!" said Mark laughing. "I can make him do what I like. Here, Bruff."
The dog came to him sidewise, keeping an eye on the monkey; and as soon as Morgan saw that Bruff was held by the collar he turned to the monkey.
"Here, Jack, come down!"
The monkey paid no heed, but swung himself to and fro, straining out his neck to peep round the mate and get a look at the dog.
"Do you hear, sir! come down!" cried the mate.
He was now so near that he could reach within a yard of where the active animal hung, and it looked down in his face with a comical look, and began to chatter, as if remonstrating and calling his attention to the dog, which uttered a low growl.
"Quiet, Bruff!" cried Mark.
"If you don't come down, Jack, I'll heave you overboard."
There was another voluble burst of chattering, but the monkey did not stir.
"Shall I fetch him down, sir?" said Billy grinning.
"Yes, but don't scare him."
"I won't scare him, sir. Here, Jack, old man, come down."
The monkey turned sharply at the sound of his voice, and chattered at him.
"All right! I hears what you says," replied Billy solemnly; "but the young gent's got tight hold of the dog, and he won't hurt you. Down you comes!"
The situation was ludicrous in the extreme, for, as if the monkey understood every word, and was angrily protesting and pointing out the danger, he kept on chattering, and bobbed his head from side to side.
"Yes, that's all right enough," continued Billy, "but you're a coward, that's what you are. Down you come!"
Another fierce burst of chattering, and the rope shaken angrily.
"Well, I've asked you twice," cried Billy. "Here goes once more. Down you comes!"
If ever monkey said, "I won't," Jack did at that moment; but he changed his tone directly, for Billy ran to the bulwarks and began to unfasten the rope from the belaying-pin about which it was twisted, when, probably from a vivid recollection of having once been shaken off a rope, and apparently ignorant of the ease with which he could have escaped up into the rigging, the monkey began to slide down, uttering a low whining sound, and allowed the sailor to take him in his arms, but only to cling tightly to his neck.
"Ah, it's all werry fine for you to come a-cuddling up like that! You bit me just now."
The monkey moaned and whined piteously, and kept its eyes fixed upon the dog, who was watching him all the time.
"Ah, well: I forgives you!" said Billy. "Now, then, sir, what next?"
"Bring him to the dog."
"But he thinks the dog's going to eat him, sir."
"Then let's teach him better," said Mark. "Here, Bruff, make friends here."