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Tessa - 1901
by Louis Becke
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TESSA

By Louis Becke

Unwin Brothers 1901



CHAPTER I

A small, squat and dirty-looking trading steamer, with the name Motutapu painted in yellow letters on her bows and stern, lay at anchor off the native village of Utiroa on Drummond's Island in the Equatorial Pacific. She was about 800 tons burden, and her stained and rusty sides made her appear as if she had been out of port for two years instead of scarcely four months.

At this present moment four of her five boats were alongside, each one piled high over the gunwales with bags of copra, which the steam winch was hoisting in as quickly as possible, for night was drawing on and Captain Louis Hendry, who was then ashore, had given orders to the mate, a burly Yorkshireman named Oliver, to be ready to heave up at six o'clock.

The day had been intensely hot and windless, the sea lay sweltering, leaden-hued and misty, and the smoke from the native houses in Utiroa village hung low down amid the groves of coco-palms which encompassed it on three sides.

On the after-deck of the steamer, under the awning, a man was lying on a bed of mats, with a water-bottle and a plate of bananas beside him. Seated cross-legged beside him was a native boy, about fifteen years of age, who kept fanning his master's face, and driving away the pestering flies. It was easy to see that the man was suffering from fever. His deeply-bronzed cheeks had yellowed and were thin and hollow, and his eyes dull and apathetic. He looked like a man of fifty, though he was in reality not more than thirty-two. Every now and then he drank, then lay back again with a groan of pain. Piled up on the skylight was a heap of rugs and blankets, for use when the violent chilling attack of ague would follow on the burning, bone-racking heat of fever.

Presently the mate, accompanied by the chief engineer, came aft. Both men were very hot and very dirty, and their faces were streaming with perspiration. They sat down on deck-chairs beside the sick man, called to the steward for a bottle of beer, and asked him how he felt.

Carr made a sudden effort and sat up.

"D—— bad, Oliver! I have about six hundred and forty-nine pains all over me, and no two of them in the same place. I've swilled enough water to float a battleship; and, look here! you must give me some beer: a bottle—two bottles—a gallon—a cask! Beer I will have if I perish like a beast in the field. I can't drink water like that-it's as hot as ——-"

Morrison, the Scotch engineer, smiled. "Don't swear, Carr. Ye shall have just one long drink of beer. 'Twill do ye no great harm on such a roasting day as this."

The steward brought two bottles of lager beer, and Carr eagerly extended his thin, brown hand for the creamy, tempting liquid poured out for him by the mate. He drank it off and then laid down again.

"When are we getting out of this beastly hole, Oliver?" he asked.

"To night, I expect-that is, if the skipper comes aboard fairly sober. He doesn't often get too much grog aboard, but this island is one of the places where he is bound to get loaded up. The two traders ashore are countrymen of his, I believe, though they call themselves Britishers."

Carr nodded. "Dutchmen of some kind, eh?"

"Yes, like himself. He's a Dane, though if you told him so he'd get nasty over it."

"He's a nasty brute, anyway," said Carr wearily. "I don't like that shifty eye of his. And I think he's a bit of a sneak."

"You needn't think it; you can be sure of it. I'll prove it to you in a minute," said the mate. "Both he and that fat beast of a supercargo are a pair of sneaks, and they hate you like poison. What have you done to offend them?"

"Nothing that I know of. But I have always suspected that neither of them are too fond of me. Hendry I consider a low-lived scoundrel. I met his wife and daughters in Sydney a year ago—went to his house with him. They think he's a perfect saint, and at the time I thought so too, considering he's been in the island trade for ten years. But I know what he is pretty well by now. He's not fit to be married to a decent white woman and have children."

The mate assented. "You're right, Carr. He's a double-faced swab, and a thundering hypocrite as well. There's only one good point about him—he's a rattling good sailor man. As for Sam Chard, he's simply a drunken bully. I shall be glad to be quit of this hooker. I'm not a paragon of virtue, but this ship is a bit too rocky for me. Now I will show you what I meant just now when I said I'll prove that both Hendry and Chard are sneaks, and have their knives into you."

He disappeared below for a few seconds, and then returned carrying a letter-book.

"Now, Carr, my boy," he said, seating himself beside the sick trader again, "just cock your ears and listen. This is our esteemed supercargo's letter-book. I had to go into his cabin yesterday to look for the list of ship's stores, and I saw this letter-book lying on his table, opened at this particular page. I caught your name, and took the liberty of reading the letter. It is addressed to the owners in Sydney, and is dated May 5, 1889."

"That was two days after you and the skipper and Chard had the row about those flash Samoan girls coming aboard at Vavau," put in Morrison, "and he and Chard started to knock the hands about."

"I remember," said Carr, as a grim smile flitted across his yellow face; "go on, Oliver."

The mate began:—

"'SS. Motutapu. Niafu Harbour, "'Vavau, Tonga Islands, "'May 5, 1889.

"'Dear Sirs,—As the barque Metaris leaves to-day for Sydney, I take the opportunity of writing you to report progress of cruise of the Motutapu up to date.'"

Then followed an account of the various trading operations in which the steamer had been engaged from the time she left Sydney up to her arrival at the Friendly Islands. Then—

"'In pursuance of your instructions, we called at Kabaira Bay, New Britain, to remove Mr. Harvey Carr from there to a more healthy location. We found Mr. Carr's station in a satisfactory state, and his accounts were correct. But both Captain Hendry and myself are of the opinion that Mr. Carr was on altogether too friendly terms with the manager of the German firm at Blanche Bay, and we believe that your firm's interest has greatly suffered thereby. He certainly was ill, but we do not think his illness has been caused by fever, of which we could see no traces, but by his availing himself of the too lavish hospitality of the manager of the German firm. He had also, I learnt, become very thick with the Wesleyan missionaries at Port Hunter, and seems to have been continually visiting them under the pretext of getting medical attendance from the Rev. Dr. Bowen, who, as you are well aware, is a determined opponent of your firm in New Britain, and has made several adverse reports upon our manner of trading with the natives to the commander of H.M. ships.'"

"What do you think of that?" inquired the engineer wrathfully, striking his clenched hand upon his knee; "and the fellow is a Scotsman, too."

Carr laughed. "Don't get angry, Morrison. He's one of the wrong sort of Scotsmen. Give me some beer. I'm a drunken beast, aren't I? Go on, Oliver."

"'In fact Mr. Carr seems to have thoroughly ingratiated himself with the missionaries as well as with the Germans, and I think it is my duty to mention this to you at the earliest opportunity. I proposed to him that he should take charge of one of your stations in the New Hebrides, but he declined to remain in Melanesia, alleging that he is suffering from fever, and insisting on being given a station in the Caroline Islands. I pointed out to him that it would be to the firm's advantage for him to remain in the vicinity of New Britain, whereupon he was grossly insulting, and said that the firm could go to hell, that he studied his own health as much as anything. Furthermore, he made the direct statement that he was not anxious to continue in the service of a firm that resorted to shady and illegal practices, such as sly grog-selling, and other blackguardly things. These words he uttered to myself and Captain Hendry. On Sunday last, the 3rd inst., myself and the captain had occasion to exercise our authority over our native crew, who were making a noise on deck. Mr. Carr—who was violently excited from the effects of liquor—at once interfered and took the part of the crew, who not only threatened both myself and Captain Hendry with personal violence, but committed an assault on us. I consider that the firm will be wise to terminate their connection with Mr. Carr. His presence on board is a continual source of trouble, and I shall be glad to have authority from you to dismiss him. Captain Hendry bears me out in these statements, and herewith attaches his signature to mine.

"'I am, dear Sir,

"'Yours very obediently,

"'Samuel Chard, supercargo.

"'Louis Hendry, master. "'Messrs. Hillingdon & McFreeland, "'Sydney.'"

"What do you think of that, Carr?" "It doesn't astonish me, Oliver, for Chard, with all his seeming bonhomie, is as big a black-guard as Hendry. And there is a certain amount of truth in his letter—I did say that the firm of Hillingdon and McFreeland were guilty of shady and illegal practices, and that the High Commissioner in Fiji would bring them up with a round turn some day. But, as you know, all the rest is false—downright lies."

The mate slapped him on the shoulder. "Lies! Of course they are! Now just listen to what I have written in my own private log."

He stepped along to the deck-house, entered his cabin, and came back with the private log aforesaid.

"Here, listen to this:—

"'Vavau, Tonga Islands, May 3, 1889.—This evening Captain Hendry and Mr. Chard, the supercargo, came on board at six o'clock, accompanied by several white men and a number of loose Samoan women. They were all more or less under the influence of drink. As is usual, our native crew were seated on the fore-hatch, holding their evening service, when Mr. Chard went for'ard, and with considerable foul language desired them to stop their damned psalm-singing. He then offered them two bottles of Hollands gin. The native seamen refused to accept the liquor, whereupon Mr. Chard struck one of them and knocked him down. Then Captain Hendry, who was much the worse for drink, came for'ard, and calling on me to follow and assist him, attacked the crew, who were very- excited (but offered no violence), with an iron belaying- pin. He stunned three of them before the second mate, the chief engineer, and myself could restrain him, and he threatened to shoot what he called "the ringleaders of a mutiny." He had a revolver belted round his waist. The native crew then came aft and made a complaint to. Mr. Harvey Carr, the trader, who was lying ill with fever in his berth. He came on deck, and speaking in Samoan to the crew and to the women who had been brought on board by Captain Hendry and the supercargo, urged the women to go on shore, as it was Sunday. This they at once did, and getting into a canoe, paddled away. Thereupon Captain Hendry, Mr. Sam Chard, and the white traders became very insulting to Mr. Carr, who, although he was so ill, kept his temper, until Mr. Chard called him a "missionary crawler." This expression made Mr. Carr lose control of himself, and he used very strong language to Captain Hendry and the supercargo upon the gross impropriety of their conduct. He certainly used expressions that he should not have employed, but under the circumstances, and bearing in mind the fact that the native crew were ready for mutiny, and that mutiny was only averted by Mr. Carr's influence over the native crew, I and my fellow officers, whose names are attached, desire to record the facts of the case.

"'Then Captain Hendry and Mr. Sam Chard used very foul language to Mr. Carr, who again lost his temper and called the former a damned stock-fish eating Dutchman, who had no right to sail under British colours as an Englishman, and ought to be kicked off the deck of a British ship. He (Mr. Carr) then, being greatly excited, added that Captain Hendry, being a married man with a large family, was little better than a brute beast in his mode of life, else he would not have brought half a dozen native harlots on board—women whose very presence insulted even his native crew. Mr. Chard then advanced towards Mr. Carr in a threatening manner, whereupon the whole native crew, headed by a white stoker named Cleaver, rushed the after-deck, seized Captain Hendry and Mr. Chard, and threw them below into the saloon.

"'Mr. Carr then addressed the crew in their own several languages, and explained to them the danger of laying hands upon the captain or an officer of the ship; also he explained to them his own position as a passenger. They listened to him quietly, and promised to follow his directions. At six o'clock Captain Hendry and Mr. Sam Chard came on deck, and in my presence and in that of the second officer and Felix Latour, the steward, apologised to Mr. Carr. Mr. Carr, who was very exhausted with fever, shook hands with them both, and the matter has ended. I have briefly entered these occurrences in the ship's log, which Captain Hendry refuses to sign. But this statement of mine is signed as follows:—

"'James Oliver, Chief Officer.

"'Jos. Atkins, Second Officer.

"'Felix Latour, Steward.

"'Tom Cleaver, Fireman."

The trader held out his hand, "Thank you, Oliver. But I'm afraid that the firm of Hillingdon and McFreeland will be glad to get rid of a man like me. I'm not the sort of trader they want. I took service with them under the impression that they were straight people. They are not—they are simply unmitigated sweeps. Hillingdon, with his solemn, stone-jug-like face, I know to be a most infernal rogue. He fakes the firm's accounts to the detriment of the London people who are paying the piper, and who are really the firm. As for Sam Chard and this measly, sneaking, Danish skipper, they are merely minor thieves. But I didn't do so badly with them, did I, Oliver?"

The mate laughed loudly. "No, indeed. You settled them that time. But you must be careful. Hendry especially is a dangerous man. I believe that he wouldn't stick at murder if it could be done without any fear of detection. And he hates you like poison. Chard, too, is a scoundrel, but wouldn't do anything worse than he has done, which is bad enough, for the fat blackguard always keeps up the appearance of a jolly, good-natured fellow. But be careful of Hendry. Don't lean on the rail on a dark night when he's on deck. He'd give you a hoist overboard in a second if you gave him a chance and no one was about."

"I'll watch him, Oliver. And when I get better, I'll take it out of him. But I'm not going to let him and Chard drive me out of the ship. I am under a two years' engagement to this rascally firm, and have only three more months to put in. I'll settle in the Carolines, and start trading there on my own account. I'm sick of this filthy old tub."

"So is Morrison, and so am I," said the mate, as he rose to go for'ard again. "Hallo, here is the skipper coming at last."

A quarter of an hour later the captain's boat, came alongside, and Hendry and his supercargo came aft under the awning, and with much solicitude asked Carr how he was feeling. He replied civilly to their inquiries, but excused himself when Chard asked him to have a small bottle of lager. They were accompanied by two respectable-looking white men, who were resident traders on Drummond's Island.

"I have some news for you, Mr. Carr," said the supercargo genially; "there's an old friend of yours here, a trader named Remington."

Carr raised himself with an expression of pleasure lighting up in his worn, thin face. "Old Jack Remington! Where is he? I shall be glad to see him again."

"He'll be aboard here in another hour. He has a station at the north end of the island. The moment we mentioned your name he said he would come and see you. His daughter is going on to the Carolines with us, and he has just now gone off to his station to bring her on board, as the captain wants to get away at daylight in the morning." Then with a pleasant nod he moved his chair some little distance away, and began talking business with the two traders.

Carr, lying on his side with half-closed eyes, apparently was trying to sleep, in reality he was studying the supercargo's face. It was a handsome, "taking" sort of face, rather full and a bit coarse perhaps, deeply browned by tropic suns, and lit up by a pair of jet black eyes, which, when the possessor was in a good temper and laughed, seemed to dance in unison. Yet they were eyes that in a moment could narrow and show an ugly gleam, that boded ill for the object of their owner's resentment. His curly hair and beard were jet black also, save here and there where they were streaked with grey, and his figure, stout, but close and well-knit together, showed him to be a man of great strength and activity.

From the face of the supercargo Carr let his glance light upon the figure of Captain Louis Hendry, who was standing at the break of the poop talking to the chief mate. He was a small, slightly-built man of about fifty years of age, with regular features, and wore a flowing grey beard trimmed to a point. His eyes were those of the true Scandinavian, a bright steely blue, though at the present moment the whites were bloodshot and angry-looking. As he talked he kept stroking his beard, and directing sullen glances at the crew, who were still working hard at hoisting in the bags of copra. It was not a pleasant face to look at—a sullen ill-humour seemed to glower forth from under the bushy grey eyebrows, and vie with a nervous, sneaking apprehensiveness, as if he every moment feared to be struck from behind. That he was a bit of a dandy was very evident, for although his navy serge coat and cap were soiled and dirty, they were both heavily trimmed with gold lace—a most unusual adornment for the master of an island trading steamer. Like his supercargo, he carried a revolver at his side, and at this Carr looked with a contemptuous smile, for neither of the two traders, who actually lived on the island, thought it necessary to carry arms, though the natives of Taputeauea, as Drummond's Island was called, had a bad reputation.

An hour after sunset, and whilst supper was proceeding in the saloon, a smart whaleboat, manned by a crew of half-naked natives of Pleasant Island, came alongside, and an old white-haired man of past sixty stepped on deck. He was accompanied by a fair-skinned, dark-haired girl of about twenty. The boatswain conducted them aft to where Carr, now shaking with a violent attack of ague, was lying.

"My dear boy," cried the old man, kneeling beside the trader, and looking into his face with intense sympathy. "I am so glad to meet you again, though sorry to see you so ill."

Carr, with chattering teeth, held out an icy-cold hand.

"How are you, Remington? And you, Tessa? I'll be all right in another ten minutes, and then we can talk."

Tessa Remington slipped down on the deck into a sitting posture beside him, and placed her soft, warm hand on his forehead.

"Don't talk any more just now, Mr. Carr. There, let me tuck you in properly," and she wrapped the rugs more closely around him. "I know exactly what to do, don't I, father?"



CHAPTER II

From his boyhood Harvey Carr had been a wanderer among the islands of the Southern Seas. Before he was sixteen his father, who was owner and master of a Hobart Town whaleship, had perished at sea in one of the ship's boats after the loss of his vessel upon an uncharted reef in the South Pacific. And though another sixteen years had almost passed since that dreadful time of agony and hunger, and thirst and madness, when men looked at each other with a horrid meaning in their wolfish eyes, the boy had never forgotten his dying father's words, spoken to the lad when the grey shadow of the end had deepened upon the old seaman's rugged face—

"I'm done for, Harvey. Try to keep up the men's courage. Rain will fall before morning. I know it is coming, though I shall never feel it. Stick to your two little sisters, boy; you must be their mainstay when I am gone. Lead a clean life, Harvey. You can do it if you think of your dead mother and of me.... And tell the men to stick steady to an east-southeast course. They'll feel fresh and strong when the rain comes. Drop me over the side the moment I'm gone, lad, won't you? Don't let any one of them touch me. Goodbye, my son."

Those awful days of horror had helped to strengthen Harvey Carr's natural resolution and steadfastness of purpose in life. When the famished and hideous-looking survivors of the crew of the City of Hope were picked up two days later the orphaned sailor lad made a vow to devote himself to his sisters and "live clean." And he had kept his vow, though for many years he had lived as trader, mate, or supercargo, among people and in places where loose living was customary with white men, and where any departure from the general practice was looked upon with either contemptuous pity or open scorn. Yet no one, not even the roughest and most dissolute beachcomber in the two Pacifics, would have dared to "chaff" Harvey Carr upon his eccentricity, for he had an unpleasant manner when aroused which meant danger to the man who was so wanting in judgment. Yet some men had "chaffed" him, and found out to their cost that they had picked upon the wrong sort of man; for if he was slow with his tongue he was quick with his hands, and knew how to use them in a manner which had given intense pleasure to numerous gentry who, in South Sea ports, delight to witness a "mill" in default of being able to take part in it themselves.

And so the years had slipped by with Harvey Carr, wandering from one island to another either as trader or seaman. Of such money as he made he sent the greater portion to his sisters in the Colonies, retaining only enough for himself to enable him to live decently. He was not an ascetic, he drank fairly with his rough companions, gambled occasionally in a moderate manner with them, swore when the exigences of seafaring life demanded it, but no one had ever heard his name coupled with that of a woman, white or brown, though he was essentially a favourite with the latter; for at the end of fifteen years' experience in the South Seas, from Easter Island to the far Bonins, he was one of the few white men who thoroughly understood the character and disposition of the various peoples among whom he had lived. Had he been a man of education his knowledge of native languages, thought and mode of life generally, might have brought him some money, fame, and distinction in the world beyond, but he took no thought of such things; for to him the world beyond was an unknown quantity, only associated in his mind with his sisters, who had sometimes talked to him of their hopes and aspirations. They would, when he had made plenty of money, go to England, to France, to Italy. They would, with him, see the quaint old church on the sands of Devon where their mother, and her mother too, had been christened so long, long ago. And Harvey had only shaken his head and smiled. They, he said, might go, but he had no care for such things; and he would work hard and make money for them until they married and wanted him no longer.

And then after a brief stay in the quiet little Australian country town where his sisters lived, he would again sail out to seek the ever-fleeting City of Fortune that has always tempted men like him into the South Seas, never to return to the world of civilisation, but with an intense, eager desire to leave it again as quickly as possible. To him the daily round of conventional existence, the visitings, the theatres, the church-goings, the talkings with well-dressed and highly cultured men and women, whose thoughts and life seemed to him to be deadly dull and uninteresting when contrasted with his own exciting life in the South Seas, palled upon and bored him to the verge of desperation. From his boyhood—from the time of his father's death he had moved among rough men—men who held their lives cheaply, but whose adventurous natures were akin to his own; men "who never had 'listed," but who traded and sailed, and fought and died from bullet, or club, or deadly fever in the murderous Solomons or New Hebrides; men whose pioneering instinct and unrecorded daring has done so much for their country's flag and their country's prestige, but whose very names are forgotten by the time the quick-growing creeper and vine of the hot tropic jungle has hidden their graves from even the keen eye of the savage aboriginal. Go through a file of Australian newspapers from the year 1806 to the year 1900 and you will see how unknown Englishmen have died, and are dying, in those wild islands, and how as they die, by club, or spear, or bullet, or fever, how easily the young hot blood of other men of English race impels them to step into the vacant places. And it is well that it is so the wild wide world over, else would Britain be, not the mistress of the seas, but only a sharer of its sovereignty with France and Germany.

*****

About five years previous to his entering the service of Hillingdon and McFreeland, Carr had been mate of a trading vessel whose cruising-grounds were that vast chain of islands known as the Caroline Group, in the North-West Pacific, and there he had made the acquaintance of old John Remington and his family, an acquaintance that in the course of two or three years had deepened into a sincere friendship. The old trader was a man of means, and owned, in addition to his numerous trading stations throughout the North Pacific, a very smart schooner, of which eventually Carr took command, and sailed her for him for a couple of years. Then Remington, who, old as he was, was of an eager, adventurous disposition, decided to seek new fields for his enterprise among the low-lying equatorial islands to the south, and Carr and he parted, the former resuming his wanderings among the wild and murderous peoples of New Britain and the Solomon Archipelago. Since then they had never met, though the young man had heard that Remington, accompanied by one or more of his children, had opened up a trading business in the Gilbert Islands.

Exhausted with the violence of the fit of ague, Carr had dropped off into a broken slumber, from which he did not awaken till eight bells were struck, and the steward came to ask him to try and eat a little. Chard, Hendry and the two traders were below in the saloon, drinking, smoking, and talking business; Remington and his daughter, who had declined to join them at supper, were still on deck waiting for Carr to awaken; Malua, Carr's native servant, still sat beside his master, from whom he was never long absent, and from the main deck came the murmur of voices from the native crew, who were lying on their mats enjoying the cool breath of the evening land breeze.

The moment the young trader opened his eyes Tessa's father came over to him and they began to talk.

"I was delighted beyond words to learn you were on board, Harvey," said the old man. "I didn't care about the idea of letting Tess go away under the care of strangers; but now I shall know that she will be well looked after, and that she will be in Ponape in less than a month."

Carr heard him in silence, then he said frankly, "And I shall be delighted too; but, at the same time, I wish she were leaving you by any other ship than this. Cannot you keep her with you until one of the German ships come along? Is it necessary she must go home by this steamer?"

"Time is everything, Harvey. Her mother is ill, and wrote to me a few months ago, begging me, if I could not return myself, to at least try and send Tess home. The two other girls are married, as you know, and my two boys are both away—one is second mate on the Jacinta, of New Bedford, and the other is in California. And I can't leave Drummond's Island for another four months or so. I have made a good business here and throughout the group, and to leave it now to the care of any one else would mean a heavy loss to me. Then, you see, this steamer will land Tess at home in less than a month. If she waits for one of the German ships to call she may have to wait three or four months. And her mother wants her badly."

Again Carr was silent. He knew that Mrs. Remington had always been more or less of an invalid for many years. She was a Portuguese of Macao, and though her three daughters and two sons were strong and robust, she had always struck him as being of a delicate physique—the very antithesis of her husband, whose fame as an athlete was known from one end of the Pacific to the other. Presently Carr sat up.

"Do you mind going away, Tessa, for a few minutes?" he said. "I want to talk to your father on some business matters."

A vivid flush spread over Tessa's pale cheeks. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Harvey."

She rose and walked aft to where the mate was standing, and began to talk to him, her heart beating double quick time the while, for she had never forgotten Harvey Carr, though he had never spoken a word of love to her in the olden days when she was a girl of sixteen, and he was the master of her father's schooner.

And now, and now, she thought, they would be together for nearly a month. And what were the "business matters," she wondered, about which he wanted to speak to her father. Perhaps he was coming to them again! How hollow-cheeked, yellow, and dreadful he looked, except for his eyes, which were always kind and soft! She was nineteen, and was no longer the child she was three years ago, when, with her gun on her shoulder, she used to accompany Harvey Carr and her brothers out pigeon-shooting in the dark, silent mountain forest of Ponape. And then, too, she knew she was beautiful; not so beautiful, perhaps, as her two sisters, Carmela and Librada, whom she had heard Harvey say were the handsomest girls he had ever seen. But yet—and again a pleasant flush tinged her pale cheeks—he had always liked to talk to her most, although she was only a girl of sixteen, just returned from school in California.

She sighed softly to herself, and then looking up suddenly saw the kindly-faced mate regarding her with a smile in his honest grey eyes, for she was answering his questions at random, and he guessed that her thoughts were with the sick trader.

As soon as she was out of hearing Carr spoke hurriedly, for he every moment expected to see either Chard or the captain appear on deck.

"Jack," he said, speaking in the familiar manner borne out of their past comradeship, "you know that I would do anything for you, don't you? But while I shall take good care of Tessa, I would rather she was going back home to Ponape by any other ship than the Motutapu."

"What is wrong with the ship, Harvey?"

"Nothing. But the captain and supercargo are a pair of unmitigated scoundrels. I have seen a good deal of them since I came on board at New Britain, and I hate the idea of Tessa even having to sit at the same table with them. If I were free of this cursed fever, I wouldn't mind a bit, for I could protect her. But I'm no better than a helpless cripple most of the time, and one or the other, or both, of these fellows are bound to insult her, especially if they begin drinking."

Old Remington put his hand on Carr's shoulder. "You're a good boy, Harvey, and I know what you say of Chard at least, is true But have no fear for Tessa. She can take good care of herself at any time, and I have no fear for her. Just let me call her for a moment."

"Tessa," he called, "come here." Then speaking in Portuguese, he added, "Show Harvey what you have in the bosom of your dress."

The girl smiled a little wonderingly, and then putting her hand in the bosom of her yellow silk blouse, drew out a small Smith and Wesson revolver.

"Don't worry about Tessa, Harvey," added her father; "she has not travelled around the Pacific with me for nothing, and if either that rat-faced Danish skipper or the fat supercargo meddles with her, she will do what I would do. So have no fear. And she is as anxious as I am myself to get home to her mother."

Harvey was satisfied. "Perhaps I am doing these two fellows an injustice, Jack. When a man has fever he always takes a black view of everything. And then I should remember that Malua here, and the mate, and nearly all the crew, will see that Tessa is not interfered with. I am sorry, however, that I shall not be with Tessa all the way to Ponape—I am going ashore at the Mortlocks. There is a good opening there——"

"Don't be in too much of a hurry, Harvey. Now, listen to me. Go on to Ponape. Leave this employ, and come in with me again."

Harvey promised to think it over during the next few days; but the old man could see, to his regret, that the Mortlocks group of islands possessed a strong fascination for his young friend.

Remington remained on board for the night; and then at daylight he bade Tessa and Harvey farewell and went ashore, and half an hour later the steamer had left the island, and was heading north-west for the Carolines.



CHAPTER III

Five days out from Drummond's Island Carr had so much improved in health that he was able to take his seat at the saloon table for breakfast, much to the annoyance of Chard, who had been making the best of his time in trying to produce a favourable impression upon Tessa Remington. He pretended, however, to be delighted to see the trader mending so rapidly, and was most effusive in his congratulations; and Hendry, of course, followed suit. Harvey responded civilly enough, while Tessa, who had learned from the chief mate of the treacherous part they were playing towards her friend, could not repress a scornful curl of her lip as she listened to Chard's jocular admonition to Harvey, "to hurry up and put on some flesh, if only for the reputation of the cook of the Motutapu."

Immediately after breakfast Carr went on deck again, and began to pace to and fro, enjoying the bright tropic sunshine and the cool breath of the trade wind. In a few minutes Tessa, accompanied by her native woman servant, appeared, followed by Chard and Captain Hendry.

"Won't you come on the bridge, Miss Remington?" said Chard, "I'll take a chair up for you."

"No, thank you," she replied, "I would rather sit here under the awning."

The supercargo and Hendry went up on the bridge together, where they could talk freely. The man at the wheel was a thick-set, rather stupid-looking native from Niue (Savage Island), who took no notice of their remarks, or at least appeared not to do so. But Huka was not such a fool as he looked.

"You'll stand little chance with her," said Hendry presently, in his usual low but sneering tones as he tugged viciously at his beard.

The supercargo's black eyes contracted, "Wait and see, before you talk. I tell you that I mean to make that girl marry me."

"Marry you!"

"Yes, marry me. The old man will leave her pretty well everything he has, and he has a lot. I've been making inquiries, and am quite satisfied."

"How are you going to do it?"

"Don't know just yet. Must think it out. But I never yet knew the woman whom I could not work my own way with—by fair means or foul, as the penny novelists say."

"It strikes me that she likes that damned fellow. Look round presently and see for yourself. She's reading to him."

"Bah! That's nothing. He used to sail one of the old man's schooners, and of course they have a good deal to talk about. I'll settle him as far as she is concerned. Wait till I get a chance to talk to her a bit," and taking off his cap the supercargo passed his brawny hand through his curly hair with a smile of satisfaction. "She'll be tired of talking to him before the day is out."

"Where is he going to land? Has he told you?"

"Yes. He wants to be put ashore at the Mortlocks Islands. We have no trader there, and he has lived there before."

"I'd like to see him go over the side in some new canvas, with a couple of fire bars slung to his heels," snarled Hendry viciously.

"So would I," said Chard meditatively.

At four bells the wheel was relieved, and Huka the Niue native trotted off, and immediately sent a message to Carr's servant Malua to come for'ard. The boy did as requested, and remained away for about ten minutes. When he returned he seated himself as usual near his master. Hendry was in his cabin on deck, Chard was below in the trade room, and only Tessa, Harvey, and himself were on the after-deck.

"Master," he said in Fijian, to Harvey, "listen to what Huka, the man of Niue, has told me. The captain and the supercargo have been talking about thee and the lady." Then he repeated all that which Huka had heard.

"The infernal scoundrels!" Harvey could not help exclaiming. "But they won't get rid of me as easily as they think."

"What is it, Harvey?" asked Tessa, anxiously bending forward to him.

The trader thought a moment or two before speaking. Then he decided to tell her what he had just heard.

She laughed contemptuously. "His wife! His wife!" she repeated scornfully. "If he knew what my father knows of him, and how I hate and despise him, he would not have said that. Does he think that because my mother was a Portuguese, I am no better than some native slave girl whom he could buy from her master?"

Harvey smiled gravely as he looked into her flashing eyes, and saw her clench her hands angrily. Then he said—

"He is a dangerous man though, Tessa. And now listen to me. When I came on board this steamer I intended to land at the Mortlocks Islands. But I think now that I will go on to Ponape."

"Do not change your plans, Harvey, on my account. I am not afraid of this man. He dare not insult me, for fear my father would hear of it."

"I know him too well, Tessa. He and the skipper are, I fear, a pair of cunning, treacherous villains. And so I am going on to Ponape. And I will stay there until your father returns. I daresay," he added with a smile, "that he will give me a berth as a trader somewhere."

A sudden joy illumined the girl's face. "I am so glad, Harvey. And mother, too, will be overjoyed to see you again; father has never ceased to talk about you since you left him. Oh, Harvey, we shall have all the old, old delightful days over again. But," she added artlessly, "there will be but you and I now to go fishing and shooting together. Carmela and her husband are living in the Ladrones, and Librada and her husband, though they are still on Ponape, are ten miles away from mother and I. Then Jack is in California, and Ned is away on a whaling cruise."

A quick emotion stirred his bosom as he looked into her now joyous face. "I don't think you and I can go out shooting and fishing together, Tessa, as we did in what you call 'the old, old days.'"

"Can't we, Harvey?" she asked wonderingly.

He shook his head, and then mused.

"Tessa, I wish you could meet my sisters."

She clasped her hands together. "Ah, so do I, Harvey. I should love to meet them. Do you think they would like me?"

"I am sure they would."

They were silent for a while, the girl with her head bent and her long lashes hiding her eyes from him as she sat in the deck-chair, and he thinking of what his sisters would really say if he wrote and told them that he thought he had at last found a woman he would wish to make his wife.

"Tessa."

"Yes, Harvey."

She did not look at him, only bent her head still lower.

"Tessa!"

"Yes, Harvey."

Her hands were trembling, and her courage was gone, for there was something in his voice that filled her with delight.

"Tessa," he said, speaking softly, as he drew nearer to her, and tried to make her look at him; "do you know that you are a very beautiful woman?"

"I am glad you think so, Harvey," she whispered. "You used to tell father that Carmela and Librada were the most beautiful women you had ever seen."

"So they were. But you are quite as beautiful. And, Tessa——"

"Yes, Harvey"—this in the faintest whisper.

"Could you care for me at all, Tessa? I do not mean as a friend. I am only a poor trader, but if I thought you could love-me, I——"

She took a quick glance around the deck, and bent towards him. "I have always loved you, Harvey; always, always." Then she pressed her lips to his, and in another moment was gone.

*****

Harvey, with a sense of elation in his heart, walked for'ard to where Morrison was standing in the waist.

"Why, man, ye look as if ye could take the best man aboard on for four rounds," said the engineer, with a smile.

"I do feel pretty fit, Morrison," laughed the trader; "have you anything to drink in your cabin?"

"Some real Loch Dhu, not made in Sydney. Man, your eye is as bright as a boy's."

*****

Just before eight bells were struck Chard came on deck. He was carefully dressed in shining, well-starched white duck, and his dark, coarsely-handsome face was aglow with satisfaction; he meant to "rub it in" to Carr, and was only awaiting till Tessa Remington and Captain Hendry were present to hear him do it. He knew she would be on deck in a minute or so, and Hendry he could see was sitting at his cabin table with his chart before him. Harvey was strolling about on the main deck, smoking his first pipe for many weeks.

Presently Tessa appeared with her woman attendant. She, too, had dressed in white, and for the time had discarded the wide Panama hat she usually wore. Her face was radiant with happiness as she took the deck-chair which Chard brought, and disposed herself comfortably, book in hand. She had seen Harvey on the main deck, and knew she would at least have him with her for a few minutes before dinner.

Hendry stepped out from his cabin.

"Ha, Miss Remington. You give an atmosphere of coolness to the whole ship. Mr. Chard, big as he is, is only a minor reflection of your dazzling whiteness."

"Thank you, Captain Hendry. I am quite sure that my father will be astonished to learn that I have been paid so many compliments on board the Motutapu. Had he known that you and Mr. Chard were such flatterers he would not have let me come away."

Neither Chard nor Hendry could detect the ring of mockery in her tones. They drew their chairs up near to that in which she was sitting and lit their cigars, and she, impatient for Harvey, talked and laughed with them, and wished them far away. Less than two hours before she had felt an intense hatred of them, now she had but a quiet contempt for both the handsome, "good-natured" supercargo and his sneaking, grey-bearded jackal.

Eight bells struck, and presently Carr ascended the poop deck, took in the little group on the starboard side of the skylight, and went over to his own lounge, beside which his watchful servant was seated. He knew that Tessa would be alone in a few minutes, and he was quite satisfied to wait till Chard and the Dane left her free.

He lay back in the lounge, and lazily conversed with Malua. Then Chard, who had been watching him keenly, rose from his seat.

"Pray excuse me for a few minutes, Miss Remington. Even your charming society must not make me forget business."

He spoke so loudly that Carr could not fail to hear him, but he was quite prepared, and indeed had been on the alert.

Chard walked up to within a few feet of the trader.

"I want you to come below, Mr. Carr, and pick out your trade goods for the Mortlocks."

Harvey leant back in his lounge. "I don't think I shall require any goods for the Mortlocks Islands, Mr. Chard."

"What do you mean?" and Chard's face flushed with anger.

"I mean exactly what I say," replied Carr nonchalantly. "I say that I shall not want any trade goods for the Mortlocks Islands. I have decided not to take another station from the firm of Hillingdon and McFreeland. I have had enough of them—and enough of you."

Chard took a threatening step towards him.

"Stand back, Mr. Chard. I am not a man to be threatened."

Something in his eyes warned the supercargo, whose temper, however, was rapidly taking possession of him.

"Very well, Mr. Carr," he said sneeringly; "do I understand you to say that you refuse to continue your engagement with our firm?"

"I do refuse."

"Then, by God, I'll dump you ashore at the first island we sight. The firm will be glad to be rid of you."

"I don't doubt the latter part of your assertion; but their satisfaction will be nothing to equal mine," he said with cutting irony. "But you'll not 'dump' me ashore anywhere. I am going to land at Ponape, and nowhere else."

Again Chard took a step nearer, his face purpling with rage; and then, as Hendry came to his side with scowling eyes, Tessa quickly slipped past them, and stood near her lover.

"You'll land at Ponape, will you?" sneered the supercargo, "It's lucky for you we are not in port now, for I'd kick you ashore right-away."

The insult had the desired effect, for, weak as he was, Harvey sprang forward and struck Chard full upon the mouth, but almost at the same moment the captain, who had quietly possessed himself of a brass belaying-pin, dealt him a blow on the back of the neck which felled him to the deck, and then bending on one knee, he would have repeated the blow on Harvey's upturned face, when Tessa sprang at him like a tigress, and struck him again and again on the temple with her revolver. He fell back, bleeding and half stunned.

"You cowards—you pair of miserable curs!" she cried to Chard, who was standing with his handkerchief to his lips, glaring savagely at the prostrate figure of Harvey. "Stand back," and she covered him with her weapon, as he made a step towards her, "stand back, or I will shoot you dead." Then as the second mate, Huka, and another native appeared on the poop, she sank on her knees beside Harvey, and called for water.

Hendry, whose face was streaming with blood, though he was but little hurt, rose to his feet and addressed the second mate.

"Mr. Atkins, put that man in irons," and he pointed to Harvey, who was now sitting up, with Tessa holding a glass of water to his lips.

The second mate eyed his captain sullenly. "He is scarcely conscious yet, sir."

"Do you refuse to obey me? Quick, answer me. Where is the mate? Mr. Chard, I call on you to support my authority."

Harvey looked at the second mate, whose features were working curiously. He rose and pressed Tessa's hand.

"You must obey him, Atkins," he said. "If you don't he'll break you. He's a spiteful hound."

Atkins, with a sorrowful face, went to his cabin and returned with a pair of handcuffs, just as the chief officer appeared. As he stepped on the poop he was followed by half-a-dozen of the native crew, who advanced towards Hendry and the supercargo with threatening glances.

"Go for'ard, you swine!" shouted Chard, who saw that they meant a rescue. He darted into Hendry's cabin, and reappeared with the captain's revolvers, one of which he handed to him.

Harvey looked contemptuously at the supercargo, then turning to the natives he spoke to them in Samoan, and earnestly besought them to go for'ard, telling them of the penalties they would suffer if they disputed the captain's authority. They obeyed him with reluctance, and left the poop. Then he held out his hands to the second mate, who snapped the handcuffs on his wrists.

"Take him to the for'ard deck-house," snarled Hendry viciously.

"I protest against this, sir," said Oliver respectfully. "I beg of you to beware of what you are doing."

Hendry gave him a furious glance, but his rage choked his utterance.

Tessa Remington followed the prisoner to the break of the poop and whispered to him ere he descended the ladder. He nodded and smiled. Then she turned and faced Chard and the captain.

"Perhaps you would like to put me in irons too, gentlemen," she said mockingly. "I am not very strong, though stronger than Mr. Carr has been for many months."

The captain eyed her with sudden malevolence; Chard, bully as he was, with a secret admiration as she stood before them, still holding her revolver in her hand. She faced them in an attitude of defiance for a second or two, and then with a scornful laugh swept by them and went below to her cabin.



CHAPTER IV

At six o'clock that evening the Motutapu was plunging into a heavy head sea, for the wind had suddenly hauled round to the northeast and raised a mountainous swell. Chard and his jackal were seated in the latter's cabin on deck. A half-emptied bottle of brandy was on the table, and both men's faces were flushed with drink, for this was the second bottle since noon. Hendry did not present a pleasant appearance, for Tessa's pistol had cut deeply into his thin, tough face, which was liberally adorned with strips of plaster. The liquor he had taken had also turned his naturally red face into a purple hue, and his steely blue eyes seemed to have dilated to twice their size, as he listened with venomous interest to Chard. "Now, look here, Louis," said the latter, "both you and I want to get even with him, don't we?"

It was only when the supercargo was planning some especial piece of villainy that he addressed his confrere by his Christian name. Secretly he despised him as a "damned Dutchman," to his face he flattered him; for he was a useful and willing tool, and during the three or four years they had sailed together had materially assisted the "good-natured, jovial" supercargo in his course of steady peculation. Yet neither trusted the other.

"You bet I do," replied Hendry; "but I'd like to get even with that spiteful little half-bred Portuguese devil——"

"Steady, Louis, steady," said Chard, with a half-drunken leer; "you must remember that she is to be Mrs. Samuel Chard."

"Don't think you have the ghost of a chance, as I said before. She's in love with that fellow."

"Then she must get out of love with him. I tell you, Louis"—here he struck his fist on the table—"that I mean to make her marry me. And she'll be glad to marry me before we get to Ponape. And if you stick to me and help to pull me through, it's a hundred quid for you."

"How are you going to do it?" and the captain bent forward his foxy face and grinned in anticipation.

"Same old way as with that Raratongan girl last year. She'll go to sleep after supper, and I can open any door in the saloon, as you know, don't you, old man?" and he laughed coarsely. "Dear, dear, what times we have had together, Louis, my esteemed churchwarden of Darling Point, Sydney!"

The Dane tugged at his beard, and then poured out some brandy for himself and his fellow scoundrel. "We have, we have, Sam," he said, uneasily. "But what about the native woman who sleeps with her?"

"The native woman, when she awakes, my Christian friend, will find herself in the trade-room in the company of Mr. Tim Donnelly, one of the firemen. And Mr. Tim Donnelly, to whom I have given two sovereigns, will bear me out, if necessary, that 'the woman tempted him, and he did fall.' Also he will be prepared to swear that this native woman, Maoni, told him that her mistress expected a visit from Mr. Chard, and had asked her to be out of the way."

"Well, after that."

"After that, my dear Christian friend, with the rudely executed diagrams in sticking-plaster on the facial cuticle, my pious churchwarden with the large family of interesting girls—after that, Miss Tessa Remington will be glad to marry Mr. Samuel Chard, inasmuch as when she awakes it will be under the same improper conditions as those of the dissolute Tim Donnelly and the flighty Miss Maoni; for the beauteous Tessa will be fortuitously discovered by Captain Louis Hendry and several other persons on board, in such circumstances that an immediate marriage of the indiscreet lovers by one of the American missionaries at Ponape will present the only solution of what would otherwise be a 'terrible scandal.'"

"And what will you do with this fellow Carr?"

"Chuck him ashore at the Mortlocks," replied Chard with an oath; "we'll be there in a couple of days, and I'll kick him over the side if he turns rusty. Hillingdon doesn't like him, so we are quite safe."

"When is the love-making to come off?" asked Hendry, with a fiend-like grin.

"As soon as we are clear of Carr—or sooner; to-night maybe. We must log it that he was continually trying to cause the native crew to mutiny, and that for the safety of the ship we got rid of him. Hillingdon will back us up."

*****

Tessa did not appear at supper. She kept to her cabin with Maoni, her dear Maoni, who, though but little older than herself, was as a mother to her; for the native girl had been brought up with her and her sisters from their infancy. And as Tessa lay back with her dark head pillowed against the bosom of the native girl, and sobbed as she thought of her lover lying in the deck-house with the handcuffs on his wrists, Maoni pressed her lips to those of her mistress.

"Lie there, little one, lay thy head on my bosom," she said; "'tis a bad day for thee, but yet all will be well soon. These sailor men with the brown skins will not let thy lover be hurt. That much do I know already. Speak but one word, and the captain and the big fat man with the black eyes will be dead men."

Tessa smiled through her tears. "Nay, Maoni, that must not be; I desire no man's death. But yet if he be not set free to-morrow trouble will come of it, for he hath done nothing wrong; and the brown men, as thou sayest, have a strong friendship for him."

"He shall be set free to-morrow," said Maoni, with quiet emphasis. "The brown sailor men have talked together over this thing, and they say that they are ready at thy word to make captive the captain, the big fat man, and all those white men who tend the great fires in the belly of the ship."

Tessa knew that the half-dozen of white firemen and stokers were on bad terms with the native crew. They were a ruffianly, drunken set of scoundrels, and their leader, a powerfully built man named Donnelly, had grossly insulted both the first and second mates. He was an especial protege of the supercargo, who, as well as the captain, secretly encouraged him and his fellows to annoy and exasperate the two officers and the chief engineer.

They remained in their cabin talking together in low tones and without a light till they heard eight bells strike; and ten minutes afterwards, just as they were going on deck, some one tapped at the cabin door.

"It is me, Miss Remington," said the voice of Oliver; "please let me come in for a moment. Be quick, please, as I don't want the captain to know I am here."

Tessa at once opened the door. "Come in Mr. Oliver. But we have no light."

"Never mind that, miss," he said in a low voice, carefully closing the door and then bolting it, "I cannot stay long. I came to warn you that there is likely to be trouble tonight about Mr. Carr, and you had better not come on deck. Keep to your cabin, and don't open your door to any one except myself, the second mate, or the steward. The native crew are in a dangerous state of excitement, and I am sure they will attempt to liberate Mr. Carr before morning. Both the captain and Chard are more than half-drunk; and the chief engineer tells me that for some reason they have given liquor to the firemen and stokers, who have set him at defiance. I fear, I fear greatly, miss, that some calamity may occur on board this ship to-night. Therefore I beg of you to keep to your cabin."

"Thank you very much, Mr. Oliver. We certainly did intend to go on deck and remain some hours, but shall not do so now. But tell me, please, have you seen Mr. Carr? Is he well?"

"Quite well. I saw him a few minutes ago, and he bade me tell you to have no fear for him. I am now again going to Captain Hendry to ask him, for his own and the ship's safety, to set Mr. Carr free. If he refuses I cannot say what will happen."

Tessa put her little hand upon the mate's huge, rough paw, and looked into his honest, troubled eyes through the darkness.

"It is good of you," she whispered. "Oh, do try, Mr. Oliver, try your best to make the captain set him at liberty."

"Indeed I will, miss," replied the mate earnestly, as he pressed her hand, and went softly out into the main cabin. He stood by the table for a minute or two, thinking with wrinkled brow of the best way to approach the captain and bring him to reason. Presently he sat down, took his pipe from his pocket, filled it, and began to smoke.

A heavy step sounded on the companion steps, and Chard descended somewhat unsteadily, and calling for the second steward—who was in the pantry—to come to him, brushed past the chief officer, and went into his own cabin.

The second steward—a dirty, evil-faced little cockney named Jessop, whom Oliver and his fellow officers particularly abhorred—at once followed the supercargo in to his cabin, which was immediately closed. In less than five minutes it opened again, and Jessop came out and returned to the pantry, and presently Oliver heard the rattle of cups and saucers as the man made preparations for the coffee which was always served to Hendry, Chard, Carr, and Tessa and her attendant, and the officer on watch at nine o'clock every evening.

"Would you like a cup of coffee, sir, as you have not turned in?"

It was Jessop who was speaking, and Oliver looked up in some wonder, for the man knew that he disliked him, and indeed he (Oliver) had once smartly cuffed him for creating a disturbance for'ard with the native crew.

Most fortunately for himself, Oliver did not want any coffee, so merely giving the man a gruff "No, thank you," he rose and went on deck.

The moment he was out of the cabin Chard appeared, and looked inquiringly at the second steward.

"'E won't 'ave any, blarst him!" said the man, speaking in a whisper, for Latour, the chief steward, was in his cabin, which was abreast the trade-room.

Chard uttered a curse. "Never mind him, then. Sling it out of the port or you'll be giving it to me instead perhaps. Are the other two cups ready?"

The man nodded. "All ready, but it's a bit early yet."

"That doesn't matter. Pour it out and take it to them—the sooner the better."

Chard, whose dark face was deeply flushed, sat down at the table, lit a cigar, and watched his villainous accomplice place the two cups of coffee with some biscuits on a tray, take it to Miss Remington's door and knock.

"Coffee, ma'am."

"Thank you, steward," he heard Tessa's soft voice reply as Maoni opened the door and took the tray from Jessop.

The supercargo rose from his seat with a smile of satisfaction. The crime he meditated seemed no crime to his base and vicious heart. He merely regarded it as a clever trick; dangerous perhaps, but not dangerous to him; for deeply steeped as he was in numerous villainies he had never yet been called to account for any one of his misdeeds, and long immunity had rendered him utterly hardened and callous to any sentiment of pity or remorse.

He went on deck and walked leisurely for'ard till he came abreast of the funnel. A big swarthy-faced man who was standing near the ash-hoist was awaiting him.

"Are you sober enough, Tim, not to make any mistakes?" asked Chard, leaning forward and looking eagerly into the man's face.

"Just as sober as you are," was the reply, given with insolent familiarity. "I've kept my head pretty clear, as clear as yours and the skipper's, anyway."

The two conversed for a few minutes, and then separated, the supercargo going up on the bridge to join his jackal. Half-way up the ladder he heard the sound of angry voices. Hendry was quarrelling with his chief officer.

"Go and keep your watch below," said the captain furiously, his bloodshot eyes glaring fiercely upon the mate. "I tell you that I'll keep the beggar in irons till he rots in them, or until Mr. Chard kicks him ashore."

"Very well, sir," said Oliver quietly, placing his hand on the bridge rail to steady himself, for the Motutapu was now plunging and labouring in the heavy head sea, and Hendry was staggering about all over the bridge—"very well. But I call on Mr. Atkins here to witness that I now tell you that you are putting the ship into great danger."

"Say another word to me, and by God I'll put you with your friend Carr to keep him company!" shouted Hendry, who had now completely lost control of himself.

Oliver smiled contemptuously, but made no answer. He at once descended the bridge, and in the starboard alleyway met the chief engineer.

"This is a nice state of affairs, Oliver. Those blackguards of mine are half-drunk, and unless I get some assistance from the captain I can't keep up steam. They won't work and are saucy as well."

The mate shook his head. "You'll get no help from the captain. He and I have just had a flare-up. He's half-drunk himself, and threatened to put me in irons. And none of the native crew will go into the stokehole, that's certain."

"Well then, something serious will happen. I can keep her going at four or five knots for another hour or so, and that is all I can do. The second engineer and myself are dead-beat. She'll broach-to presently, and then you will see a pretty mess."

"I can't help it, Morrison," said the mate gloomily, as he went to his cabin.

Up on the bridge Hendry and Chard were talking and looking out ahead. The second mate, a young, muscular man, was standing by the wheel, and giving a word of warning now and then to the native helmsman, who was Huka. Although it was not blowing hard the sea had increased greatly, and every now and then the steamer would make a plunge into a mighty valley of darkness, and only struggle up out of it with difficulty. Careful steering was a necessity, for the ship was not steaming more than four knots, and the least inattention might result in serious consequences.

"Look out for'ard!" Atkins shouted, as he saw a particularly loose, knobby sea rise suddenly up over the starboard bow. His warning was just given in time, for in another moment down dropped the black mass of water on the well deck with a thundering crash, burying the steamer completely from the bridge to foc'scle head. She rose slowly, very slowly.

Hendry lurched up towards the helmsman.

"You damned, red-hided kanaka! Couldn't you see that coming?" and he struck the man a violent blow on the mouth. In an instant Huka let go the wheel, swung himself over the rail on to the deck, and ran for'ard. Atkins looked at his captain with suppressed rage as he seized the wheel, and then began to watch for the next sea.

Five minutes passed, and then a dozen dark figures made a sudden rush towards the deckhouse in which Carr lay in irons. Then came the sound of smashing blows as the door was burst open with an axe, and in a few seconds Carr was brought out upon the main deck and quickly freed from his irons by Malua, to whom a duplicate key had been given by the second mate.

At first Chard and Hendry scarcely comprehended what had happened, so sudden was the onslaught, but when they saw Carr standing free on the main hatch they both made a rush aft towards Hendry's deck cabin. This they gained without opposition, and seizing two loaded Winchesters which lay in the captain's berth they darted out again, and began firing into the group of excited native seamen ten paces away. Three men at once dropped, either killed or wounded; but the rest, nothing daunted at this, made a rush towards the two men, knives in hand, bore them down to the deck by sheer weight, and in a few seconds would have ended their lives had not Carr, Oliver, and Latour the steward flung themselves into the fray.

"For God's sake, stop!" cried Oliver, "the ship is on fire!"

And then seizing Hendry by the throat, he lifted him to his feet, and shook him as a terrier shakes a rat. "You damned, drunken villain! You are not in a fit state to take charge. Lie there, you brute, and let better men try to save the ship."

He swung Hendry's slight figure to and fro, and then sent him reeling, to fall like a log on the deck.

"Men," he cried, "we are in great danger, the trade-room is on fire! Atkins, for God's sake try to keep us head to wind. Mr. Carr, you and some of the hands see to the boats. There are over fifty cases of powder in the for'ard end of the trade-room, and we can't shift them; but only the after part is burning so far. Steward, see to Miss Remington. Her cabin is locked, and I cannot make her hear. She and her maid must be awakened at once. Pass the word to Mr. Morrison to get the fire hose aft. Some of you cut a hole here in the deck on the port side, just abreast of that bollard. Smart's the word and quick's the action, or we shall all be blown to hell in ten minutes if we can't flood the trade-room."

He stopped to give a brief scrutiny to the prone figure of Mr. Samuel Chard, who had been struck a smashing blow on the head from the butt of his own Winchester, which Huka had wrested from him.

"Put this beast into one of the boats, Mr. Carr. We must not leave the blackguard here, as he is not dead, and we can't save the ship, I fear. Now then, hurry along that hose."



CHAPTER V

Whilst the chief mate, aided by the now willing crew, ran aft the hose and set to work to flood the trade-room, Latour the steward, a smart little Frenchman, taking a man with him, jumped below and knocked loudly at the door of Tessa's cabin, which was the foremost but one of five on the starboard side, the intervening one separating it from the trade-room. There was no answer to his repeated cries and knocking. Then he and the native sailor each tried to force the door, but it defied their efforts, and then, as they paused for a moment, they heard the crackling sound of fire within a few feet of them.

The native seaman, a big, square-shouldered Manhikian, looked around the main cabin for a second; then he darted into the second mate's cabin, and returned with a carpenter's broad axe. One smashing blow with the back of the tool started the lock, and a second sent the door flying open.

The lamp was burning brightly, but both Tessa and Maoni were sunk in a heavy slumber, and although Latour called loudly to them to arise, they made no answer, though Tessa tried to sit up, and her lips moved as she muttered incoherently, only to fall back again with closed eyelids.

There was no time to lose. Latour lifted Tessa out of her berth, and followed by the native, who carried Maoni, they hurried up the companion-way, and laid the two girls down upon the quarter-deck, where Malua took charge of them.

For nearly ten minutes the mate and crew worked hard to subdue the fire, and all might have gone well had there been a sufficient head of steam to keep the ship head to wind and the donkey-engine going, but at the first alarm the drunken, cowardly firemen had refused duty and tried to rush one of the boats, and amidst the curses and blows which Carr and Atkins were showering upon them another mighty sea tumbled aboard for'ard, and the Motutapu was half-smothered again.

Morrison crawled up exhaustedly on the deck from the engine-room.

"It's a case as far as steaming goes, Mr. Atkins. I'm done up. Send some one down into the stokehole for Mr. Studdert. He dropped a minute ago. But if you'll give me a couple of your men I can keep the engines going."

"It's no use, Morrison. None of my men would go into the stokehole to work, but they'll bring Mr. Studdert up quick enough. The ship is doomed, so don't bother. We'll have to take to the boats."

The Motutapu was indeed doomed, for, despite the frantic efforts of Oliver and the native crew, the fire had gained complete possession of the saloon, though every opening on deck had been battened down and all cabin ports had been closed. Most fortunately, however, the fore part of the trade-room, where the powder was stowed, had been thoroughly saturated, and both Oliver and Atkins felt assured that no danger need be apprehended from that source.

In a few minutes the engines ceased to work, but the donkey-engine on deck, with its furnace filled with cotton waste soaked in kerosene, kept the hose going, and sent a steady stream of water through the hole cut in the after-deck. Meanwhile Harvey and the second mate, aided by the energetic little French steward, had made good progress with the boats, all three of which were ready for lowering, and contained some provisions and water. Such fore and aft canvas as the steamer carried was set, so as to keep her to the wind as much as possible, and help to steady her. Then, seeing that the flames were bursting through the sides of the saloon skylight, and that the ship would scarcely answer her helm under such miserable canvas, Oliver abandoned all hope of saving her.

"All ready, sir?" replied Atkins.

And then before they could be stopped the firemen made a rush for the best boat of the three, a fine new whaler, hanging in davits just abaft the bridge. Four of them jumped into her, the remaining two cast off the falls, and began to lower away hastily.

"You cowardly dogs!" shouted the second mate, rushing up to the nearest man, tearing the after-fall out of his hands, and making it fast again round the cleet, and then springing at the other man, who paused irresolutely, intimidated by Atkin's threatening visage. But though he paused but momentarily, it was fatal, for the instant the mate's back was turned the first man, with an oath of drunken defiance, cast off the fall and let it go with a run, just as the Motutapu was heaved up by a lofty sea, and rolled heavily to port.

A cry of terror burst from the four doomed men in the boat, as they fell headlong into the sea, and she hung by the for'ard fall, straight up and down.

"Let them drown!" roared Atkins to some native seamen who sprang to his assistance, "overboard two or three of you, and save the boat. She'll be smashed to matchwood in a minute, the after-fall has unshipped;" then whipping a knife from the belt of one of them he severed the remaining fall, and saw the boat plunge down sternwards and outwards from the side just in time; another half-minute and she would have disappeared under the steamer's bottom to be hopelessly stove in. And with cries of encouragement to each other, four natives leapt over the side, swam after her, clambered in and then shouted that they were all right, and would come alongside and stand by, for although the oars and other fittings had been lost, there were half a dozen canoe paddles lashed under the thwarts, and these were quickly brought into use.

All this happened in a few minutes, and as Atkins ran to assist Harvey with the two quarter boats which had been lowered, and were now standing by alongside, there came a sudden crashing of glass, as the flames in the saloon burst through the sides of the skylight, and drove every one to the main deck.

"That settles the matter," said Oliver quietly to Harvey, as a sudden gust of flame leapt from the lee side of the skylight, and caught the fore and aft mainsail, which was quickly destroyed; then the steamer at once fell off, and the flames began to travel for'ard.

With all possible speed, but without excitement, Tessa and Maoni, who were still under the influence of the drugged coffee, and unable to stand, or even utter a word, were placed in the first boat, of which Atkins took charge for the time, with four natives as a crew. The second quarter boat, in which Hendry and Chard had been placed, then came alongside, and the two surviving firemen, now thoroughly cowed and trembling, and terrified into a mechanical sobriety, were brought to the gangway and told to jump.

"Jump, you rotten beggars, jump," said Morrison; "over you go into the water if you want to save your useless lives. The men in the boat will pick you up. We are not going to risk bringing her alongside for the sake of swine like you. Over you go," and then seizing one of them by the collar of his shirt and the belt, he sent him flying over the side, the other man jumping over to avoid rougher treatment from the native seamen, who were disgusted at their cowardice. Then Morrison, Studdert, and three natives followed, and the boat pulled away clear of the ship, and stood by.

"Pull up, boys!" cried Oliver to the men in the third boat—the one which the firemen had rushed. Then turning to Latour, who was standing near him with a sack half full of heavy articles—firearms, ammunition, the ship's books, etc.—he bade him go first.

Disdaining to wait for the boat to come alongside the little Frenchman sprang over the side and swam to the boat; then the bag—its contents too precious to be wetted—was adroitly lowered and caught by one of the hands. Jessop, the second steward, whose limbs were shaking with terror, was told to jump, but pleaded that he could not swim.

"You miserable hound!" cried Oliver fiercely, and he raised his hand to strike him; then a scornful pity took the place of anger, and he ordered the boat to come alongside so that he could get in.

"Now's your chance, you dirty little cur," he said, as the boat's bow came within a foot of the steamer's side.

The fear-stricken man jumped, fell short, and in an instant disappeared under the ship, as she rolled suddenly to starboard. When he came to the surface again it was at the stern, with several broken ribs, he having struck against the propeller. He was, however, soon rescued and placed in safety, and then but three natives and Harvey and Oliver remained on board. The natives went first, the white men quickly followed, and clambered into the boat, which at once joined the two others, and then all three lay to, and their occupants watched the Motutapu drifting before the wind, with the red flames enveloping her from stern to stem.

*****

Ordering the other boats to remain close to him until further orders, but to steer W. by N. if anything should part them from him during the night, Oliver and Harvey, as they watched the burning steamer lighting up the heaving sea for miles around, discussed their future plans, and quickly resolved upon a certain course of action to be followed in the morning.

Towards midnight the wind died away entirely, and an hour later the heavy, lumpy sea changed into a long, sweeping swell. A mile to leeward the Motutafu still blazed fiercely, and sent up vast volumes of smoke and flame from her forehold, where some hundreds of cases of kerosene were stowed.

The three boats were pretty close together, and Harvey, exhausted by the events of the day, and knowing that Tessa was safe with the second mate, was just dozing off into a "monkey's sleep" when he was awakened by a hail from Atkins.

"What's the matter, Atkins?" cried Oliver.

"We're all right, sir; but Miss Remington has just come to, and is asking for Mr. Carr, so I said I'd hail you just to show her that he is with you. Better let me come alongside."

Oliver looked at Harvey with something like a smile in his eyes.

"All right, Atkins," he replied, and then to Harvey, "Here, wake up young-fellow-my-lad, and get into the other boat with your sweetheart. I don't want you here. What's the use of you if you haven't even a bit of tobacco to give me?"

The second mate's boat drew alongside, and in another minute Harvey was seated in the stern sheets with Tessa's cheek against his own, and her arms round his neck.

"Any of you fellows got any tobacco, and a pipe to spare?" said the prosaic Oliver. "If you haven't, sheer off."

"Lashings of everything," said Atkins.

"Here you are: two pipes, matches, bottle of Jimmy Hennessy, and some water and biscuits. What more can you want? Who wouldn't sell a farm and go to sea?"



CHAPTER VI

At sunrise the three boats were all within a half-mile of each other, floating upon a smooth sea of the deepest blue. Overhead the vault of heaven was unflecked by a single cloud, though far away on the eastern sea-rim a faintly curling bank gave promise of a breeze before the sun rose much higher.

At a signal from Oliver the second mate pulled up, and he, Harvey, and the chief mate again held a brief consultation. Then Harvey went back to Oliver, and both boats came together, rowing in company alongside that of the captain's, no one speaking, and all feeling that sense of something impending, born of a sudden silence.

The captain's boat was steered by Huka, the Savage Islander; Hendry himself was sitting beside Chard in the stern sheets, Morrison and Studdert amidships amidst the native crew, whose faces were sullen and lowering, for in the bottom of the boat one of their number, who had been shot in the stomach by either the captain or Chard, was dying.

Hendry's always forbidding face was even more lowering than usual as his eyes turned upon the chief officer. Chard, whose head was bound up in a bloodstained handkerchief, smiled in his frank, jovial manner as he rose, lifted his cap to Tessa, and nodded pleasantly to Oliver and Harvey.

"What are your orders, sir?" asked the chief mate addressing the captain.

Hendry gave him a look of murderous hatred, and his utterance almost choked him as he replied—

"I shall give my orders presently. But where are the other firemen—five of them are missing."

"Six of them rushed this boat," answered the mate quietly; "two of them—those scoundrels there," and he pointed to the two in Hendry's boat, "let the after fall go by the run, and drowned the others."

"I hold you responsible for the death of those men," said Hendry vindictively.

"Very well, sir," answered the mate, "but this is not the time nor place to talk about it."

"No," broke in Atkins fiercely; "no more is it the time or place to charge you, Captain Hendry, and you, Mr. Chard, with the murder of the two native seamen whose bodies we saw lying on the main hatch."

Hendry's face paled, and even Chard, self-possessed as he always was, caught his breath.

"We fired on those men to suppress a mutiny——" began Hendry, when Oliver stopped him with an oath.

"What are your orders, I ask you for the second time?" and from the natives there came a hissing sound, expressive of their hatred.

Chard muttered under his breath, "Be careful, Louis, be careful."

Suddenly the second steward raised himself from the bottom of Oliver's boat, where he had been lying, groaning in agony, and pointed a shaking finger at Chard.

"That's the man who caused it all," he half sobbed, half screamed. "'E told me to let Tim Donnelly go into the trade-room, and it was Donnelly who upset the lamp and set the ship afire. 'E sent Donnelly to 'ell, and 'e's sending me there, too, curse 'im! But I'm goin' to make a clean breast of it all, I am, so help me Gawd. 'E made me give the young lady and the girl the drugged coffee, 'e did, curse 'im! I'll put you away before I die, you——"

He sank back with a moan of agony and bloodstained lips as Chard, with clenched hands and set teeth, glared at him savagely.

A dead silence ensued as Harvey picked up a loaded Winchester, and covered the supercargo.

"You infernal scoundrel!" he said, "it is hard for me to resist sending a bullet through you. But I hope to see you hanged for murder."

"You'll answer to me for this——" began Chard, when Oliver again interrupted.

"This is no time for quarrelling. Once more, Captain Hendry—what are your orders?"

Hendry consulted with Chard in low tones, then desired first of all that the wounded native should be taken into Oliver's boat.

The mate obeyed under protest. "I already have a badly injured man in my boat, sir; and that native cannot possibly live many hours longer."

Hendry made no answer, but gave the officer one of his shifty, sullen glances as the dying man was lifted out and put into Oliver's boat. Then he asked Oliver if the ship's papers, chronometer, charts, and his (Hendry's) nautical instruments had been saved.

"Here they are," and all that he had asked for was passed over to him by Harvey.

"Did you save any firearms?" was Hendry's next question.

"Yes," replied Harvey; "two Winchesters, a Snider carbine, and all the cartridges we could find in your cabin."

"Give them to me, then," said Hendry.

Harvey passed them over to the captain, together with some hundreds of cartridges tied up in a handkerchief. Hendry and Chard took them with ill-concealed satisfaction, little knowing that Harvey had carefully hidden away the remainder of the firearms in Atkins's boat, and therefore did not much mind obeying Hendry's demand.

When Hendry next spoke he did so in a sullenly, authoritative manner.

"Miss Remington, you and your servant must come into my boat. Mr. Morrison, you and the second engineer can take their places in the mate's boat."

The two engineers at once, at a meaning glance from Oliver, stepped out of the captain's boat, and took their seats in that of the mate. Neither Tessa nor Maoni moved.

"Make haste, please, Miss Remington," said Hendry, not looking at her as he spoke, but straight before him.

"I prefer to remain in Mr. Atkins's boat," replied Tessa decisively.

"And I tell you that you must come with me," said the captain, with subdued fury. "Mr. Atkins has no compass, and I am responsible for your safety."

"Thank you, Captain Hendry," was the mocking reply, "I relieve you of all responsibility for my safety. And I absolutely refuse to leave Mr. Atkins, except to go with Mr. Oliver."

For a moment Hendry was unable to speak through passion, for he had determined that Tessa should come with them. Then he addressed the second mate. "Mr. Atkins, I order you to come alongside and put Miss Remington and that native girl into my boat."

"You can go to hell, you Dutch hog!" was the laconic rejoinder from Atkins, as he leant upon his steer-oar and surveyed the captain and Chard with an air of studied insolence. "I'll take no orders from a swab like you. If Miss Remington wants to stay in my boat she shall stay." Then turning to Tessa he said so loudly that both Chard and captain could hear, "Never fear, miss; compass or no compass, you are safer with us than with those two." And as Tessa looked up into his face and smiled her thanks to the sturdy young officer, Chard ground his teeth with rage, though he tried to look unconcerned and indifferent.

"It's no use, Louis," he muttered, "we can do nothing now; time enough later on. Give your orders, and don't look so infernally white about the gills."

The taunt went home, and Hendry pulled himself together. The violence with which he had been thrown down upon the deck the previous evening by the angered mate, and his present passion combined had certainly, as Chard said, made him look white about the gills.

"Very well, Miss Remington," he said, "if you refuse to come with me I cannot help it. Mr. Oliver, is your boat compass all right?"

"Yes," was the curt answer.

"Then our course is north-north-west for Ponape. You, Mr. Atkins, as you have no compass, had better keep close to me, as if we get a squally night with heavy rain, which is very likely, we may lose sight of each other. You, Mr. Oliver, can use your own judgment. We are now five hundred miles from Ponape." Then, true seaman as he was, for all his villainy, he ascertained what provisions were in Atkins's boat, told him to put half into Oliver's, and also overhauled what was in his own. There was an ample supply for two or three weeks, and of water there were two breakers, one in his own the other in the second mate's boat. That which had been in the mate's boat had been lost when she was rushed by the firemen, and had hung stern down by the for'ard fall.

"I'll see that Mr. Oliver's boat has all the water she wants to-day," said Atkins. "She won't want any to-night. We'll get more than we shall like. It'll rain like forty thousand cats."

Hendry nodded a sullen assent to this, and turned to take the steer-oar from Huka, who, with the other native seamen, had been listening to the discussion between the captain and his officers.

Huka gave up the oar, and then telling the other natives in their own tongue to follow him, quietly slipped overboard, and swam towards the second mate's boat. They leapt after him instantly.

Hendry whipped up one of the Winchesters, and was about to stand up and fire at the swimming men when Chard tore the carbine from his grasp.

"Let them go, you blarsted fool! Let them go! It will be all the better for us," he said with savage earnestness, but speaking low so that the two firemen could not overhear him; "we can send the whole lot of them to hell together before we get to Ponape. Sit down, you blithering Dutch idiot, and let them go! They are playing into our hands," and then he whispered something in the captain's ears.

Hendry looked into the supercargo's face with half-terrified, half-savage eyes.

"I'm with you, Sam. Better that than be hanged for shooting a couple of niggers."

"Just so, Louis. Now make a protest to Oliver and Atkins, and ask them to send those three natives back. They won't do it, of course, but be quick about it. Say that you have only the two firemen and myself—who are not seamen—to help you to take the boat to Ponape."

Hendry took his cue quickly enough, and hailed the two other boats.

"Mr. Oliver, and you, Mr. Atkins. My crew have deserted me. I do not want to resort to force to make them return, but call upon you to come alongside, and put those three men back into my boat."

Oliver made no answer for the moment. He, Harvey, Atkins, and Huka talked earnestly together for a few minutes, and then the mate stood up and spoke.

"The native crew refuse to obey your orders Captain Hendry. They accuse you and Mr. Chard of murdering three of their shipmates. And I, and every one in these two boats, know that you and Mr. Chard did murder them, and I'm not going to make these three men return to you. You have a good boat, with mast, mainsail and jib, and more provisions than either the second mate or myself. We have, in this boat of mine, only six canoe paddles and no sail; the second mate has oars, but no sail. You could reach Ponape long before we do if you want to leave us in the lurch."

"And we'll be damned glad to be quit of your company," shouted Atkins. "Hoist your sail, you goat-faced, sneaking Schneider, and get along! When we are ashore at Ponape I'll take it out of you captain, and Mr. Carr will settle up differences with you Mr. Chard—you black-faced scoundrel! And, please God, you'll both swing in Fiji after we have done with you."

Hendry made no answer to the second mate's remarks, which were accompanied by a considerable number of oaths and much vigorous blasphemy; for the honest-hearted Atkins detested both his captain and the supercargo most fervently, as a pair of thoroughpaced villains.

But for very particular reasons Captain Hendry and Mr. Samuel Chard did not wish to part company with the other two boats, and therefore Atkins's gibes and threats were passed over in silence, and Oliver acceded to Hendry's request to let him tow his boat, as with the gentle breeze, and with the six canoe paddles helping her along, the two could travel quite as fast as the second mate with his six oars.

And so with a glorious sky of blue above, and over a now smooth and placid sea, just beginning to ripple under the breath of a gentle breeze, the boat voyage began.



CHAPTER VII

All that day the three boats made excellent progress, for though the wind was but light, the sea was very smooth, and a strong northerly current helped them materially.

As night approached heavy white clouds appeared on the eastern horizon—the precursors of a series of heavy rain squalls, which in those latitudes, and at that season of the year—November to March—are met with almost nightly, especially in the vicinity of the low-lying islands of the Marshall and Caroline Groups.

Then, as the sun set, the plan of murder that was in the hearts of the captain and supercargo began to work. During the day they had been unable to converse freely, for fear of being overheard by the two firemen, but now the time had come for them to act.

In all the boats' lockers Harvey and Latour had placed a two gallon wicker-covered jar of rum, and presently Hendry hailed Oliver, whose boat was still towing astern. It was the first time that he had taken any notice of the occupants of the other boats since the morning.

"You can give your men some grog if you like, Mr. Oliver," he said, "and you might as well hail the second mate, and tell him to do the same. I shall have to cast you off presently, as the first rain squall will be down on us, and each boat will have to take care of herself. We are bound to part company until the morning, but I rely on you and the second mate to keep head to wind during the squalls, and stick to the course I have given you between times."

"Very well, sir."

Chard took out the rum and filled a half-pint pannikin to the brim.

"Here you are, boys," said he pleasantly to the two firemen, who looked gloatingly at the liquor; "this will warm you up for the drenching you will get presently."

The unsuspecting, unfortunate men drank it off eagerly without troubling to add water, and then Chard, who feared that Hendry sober would be too great a coward for the murderous work that was to follow, poured out a stiff dose into another pannikin, and passed it to him. Then he took some himself.

"Pass along that pannikin, boys," he said; "you might as well have a skinful while you are about it."

The men obeyed the treacherous scoundrel with alacrity. Like their shipmates who had perished the previous night, they were thoroughly intemperate men, and were only too delighted to be able to get drunk so quickly.

Filling their pannikin, which held a pint, to the brim, Chard poured half of it into his own empty tin, and then passed them both to the men. They sat down together on the bottom boards amidships, and then raised the pannikins.

"Here's good luck to you, Mr. Chard, and you, skipper."

"Good luck, men," replied Hendry, watching them keenly as they swallowed mouthful after mouthful of the fiery stuff, which from its strength was known to the crew of the Motutapu as "hell boiled down to a small half-pint."

Ten minutes passed, and then as the darkness encompassed the three boats, a sudden puff of wind came from the eastward. Hendry hailed the mate.

"Here's a squall coming, Mr. Oliver; haul in your painter."

He cast off the tow line, and Chard lowered the mainsail and jib, the two firemen taking not the slightest notice as they continued to swallow the rum.

In another five minutes the white wall of the hissing rain squall was upon them, and everything was hidden from view. Hendry swung his boat's head round, and let her drive before it. The other boats, he knew, would keep head on to the squall, and in half an hour he would be a couple of miles away from them.

The captain's boat drove steadily before the rushing wind, and the stinging, torrential rain soon covered the bottom boards with half a foot of water. Chard took the bailer, and began to bail out, taking no heed of the firemen, who were lying in the water in a drunken stupor, overcome by the rum.

At last the rain ceased, and the sky cleared as if by magic, though but few stars were visible. Chard went on bailing steadily. Presently he rose, came aft, took a seat beside Hendry and looked stealthily into his face.

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