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A Complete Novelette

by Frederick William Wallace
Author of "In the Bank Fog," "Winter Fishing " etc.


IT IS with some little trepidation that I start in spinning this yarn, because I have an instinctive feeling that it will be ridiculed and curt y dismissed as being what old sailors would call "a twister." When a man has been kicked out of a Consul's office and designated as a "crazy shellback;" when he has been laughed at and called ugly names; when his most solemn oath has been the subject for incredulous jeers and his character as a sober citizen is doubted, he naturally becomes apprehensive in opening up afresh an affair which he has tried hard to forget.

My position at the present time is such that my connection with the affair would not redound to my credit, and I have no desire to lose caste by coming out under my own name and relating the circumstances as they actually happened. One man believes me, and it is with reluctance that I concede to his request and give to the world a secret which has rankled in my mind for many, many years. A sensitiveness to the shafts of ridicule has always been the weak point in my armor, but by employing fictitious names of persons and vessels concerned, I shield myself from being made a target for personal remarks of a derisive and satirical nature.

Somewhere or other I read of a man who related the story of his life to a party of friends. He was a jolly sort of fellow and his story was a heartrending one, but on its conclusion the audience were convulsed in laughter and refused to believe that his tale was true. I regard myself in the same light, and being an old sailor, my narrative, like that of the humorist, will probably be taken with a grain of salt. Go ahead, dear reader, and take it whatever way you like. I know it is real enough to me.

I was born and brought up in a little coast town in the Pine Tree State, and, like a good many Down-East youngsters, I broke away for sea at an early age. After two or three years' hard grinding in the mill of 'foremast experience I came out "ground and bolted," but my parents having died while I was learning to hand, reef and steer, I was left to work out my own traverse in life. After a bitter time in some hard craft, I gained a master's certificate in Liverpool. And when the Civil War broke out, I shipped as second mate aboard cotton ships running the blockade into Wilmington and Charleston. Though a Northerner in sympathy and by birth, I, with many others, was captured by a Federal cruiser and promptly "jugged." After two months' confinement, I escaped and lived very precariously for a lengthy period, and in November, 1866, was in New York—stranded.

The period of depression after the war had set in and business was bad in the United States then. Everybody was retrenching; money was scarce and employment was scarcer. The Alabama and Confederate privateers had practically destroyed the American merchant marine and, with the stagnation in shipping which prevailed, starving sailormen loafed around the waterfront, sleeping in warehouses and living on the bounty of more fortunate shellbacks aboard the vessels. Every boarding-house on South and Water Streets was crammed with seafarers ready to sign away their liberty for a year without remuneration as long as they could till a gnawing stomach.

Among this crowd of destitutes, I was one of the fortunate ones, having been taken in by Dennis Sullivan after spending a week or two "living in the street and boarding in the market." Sullivan, familiarly known to sailormen as "Hash" Sullivan, ran a boarding-house on Oliver Street, and a worse "sailor-robber" never drew breath. He was Irish and a "plug-ugly" for looks, and his cognomen came from the form of diet which was the pièce de resistance at his establishment.

WHEN I blew into Hash Sullivan's my whole worldly possessions consisted of my clothes and a sheath-knife. The clothes, for convenience and decency's sake, I carried on my back; they consisted of an old felt "bucko" hat, a woolen shirt, a pair of tar-stained dungaree pants, and a pair of "slipshods"—sea-boots with the uppers cut off. Socks I didn't have. The knife and sheath were supported around my waist by a strap which originally formed part of a horse's harness, but when Sullivan saw it, he promptly took it away from me, saying:

"Young fellow, I wouldn't wear that belt. There is nawthin' looks so well on a sailor as a good smart rope-yarn."

So my clothes and knife were afterwards held together and supported by a piece of marline, and my belt went to fit out some ether poor devil outward bound.

I lived a good three or four weeks at Sullivan's, and during the whole of that time I scoured the docks looking for a ship. Masters and mates I interviewed by the score. Some civilly declined my services, while others, tired of being importuned by the hosts of desperate sailormen thronging the wharves, kicked me off their decks with curses and bitter oaths. It was a miserable rime; cold receptions and cold weather for a half-dad man, and I think if I had remained ashore any longer than I did, I would have thrown myself off the dock and ended my misery.

I considered myself unusually fortunate when the master of all English ship bound for Australia came along to the boardinghouse and picked me out to make tip his crew. Though 1 was a qualified navigator and holding a "lime-juice" ticket for competency as master mariner, 1 was only too glad to stick my fist on the articles of the ship Magician as an able seamen at twenty-five dollars a month and two months' advance. My fifty dollars was to be paid after the ship had sailed, and Mr. Sullivan took the note "in payment for board, lodging and outfit," giving me a dollar to "blow" myself with before I went aboard.

The dollar provided a few schooners of beer for my less fortunate companions at the boarding-house, and with a dirty canvas bag containing my outfit—a sackful of straw known as a "donkey's breakfast," shirt and pants made of "dog's wool and oakum," a nondescript blanket and a pair of second-hand sea-boots—I, with the others, was escorted aboard the ship by Sullivan's roughneck runners and taken in hand by the mate.

A towboat hauled us down the harbor and into the Bay. We were turned to rigging out the jibboom, setting up the headgear, and straightening out the rigger's snarls. Two days later, we hauled out to the Scotland Lightship and made sail, and if ever a crew of shellbacks chantyed up topsail halyards lustily, it was the Magician's crowd.

I was something of a chantyman myself, and I felt so good at smelling salt water again and feeling a ship's deck under my feet that I sang and chorused for the sheer joy of being outward bound. By the aid of muscles and "Whisky Johnny," "We're All Bound to Go!" "Blow the Man Down," and "Santa Anna Won the Day," we mast-headed the yards and sheeted home until we had all the muslin flying and braces strung, and the big Australiaman was punching along with the lee froth bubbling in the scuppers and licking over the topgallant rail.


WHEN a man has been "on the beach" for a long spell, he appreciates being at sea again. New York and starvation seemed like a bad dream, and I was looking forward to a good time on the Magician. Her skipper seemed a very fine sort of man, and the mates were as good as sailors will allow mates to be. The grub was "lime-juicer style"—not much of a variety, but it was of good quality and the bread barge was always filled without question. Plenty of biscuit meant plenty of those favorite sea dishes, cracker hash and dandyfunk.

The voyage also would be a lengthy one—New York to Melbourne, via the Cape, and Melbourne to England by way of the Horn—and though I was serving in a subordinate capacity, yet I was glad to do it and happy in the thought that I had shelter and food for a year at least.

With a roaring westerly blowing over the quarter, we stood away to the east'ard on the old deepwaterman's track to pick up the northeast trades for a shoot across the Line, and I can remember, after my trick at the wheel, how delighted I was with the ship's running qualities and the easy manner in which she steered. This is quite an important thing on an Australian voyage, where over four thousand miles of easting is run with square yards and a heavy sea. Sailors have no use for a vessel that is likely to prove a "terror" when running the easting down.

We dropped the land astern that morning. During the day the wind held strong and we sailed "at the rate of knots" with a mainskysail set. Towards nightfall the wind hauled southerly with fog. When I came on watch at four next morning, the ship was pitching and rolling in a lumpish sea, while fog shrouded everything. The wind was coming away squally, and when our starbowlines mustered aft, the second mate passed the word, "In royals and flying jib!"

We manned the royal gear and clewed up the sails, and while some of the watch went aloft to furl, I and two others went for'ard on the fo'c's'le head to tackle the flying jib. The fog was very thick—so thick that it was impossible to see the flying jibboom from the cathead. I can remember, after we had slacked away on the halyards and manned the downhaul, the second mate coming for'ard and singing out to the three of us:

"Come aft here, some of you, when you git that jib down. Git the horn for'ard— it's giftin' thicker'n pea soup."

I gave my two mates a nudge.

Run along," I said. "I can muzzle that pocket handkerchief all right."

And while they made their way aft, I clambered over the bows and out to where the flying jib was bellying and slatting around in the breeze.

We carried one of those old-fashioned sky-raking bowsprits protruding very far out over the water, and by the time I reached the flying jibboom footropes, the vessel was blotted out in the thickness of the vapor, while the horn came through the veil in a pitifully feeble drone. As I listened to the roar of the bow wave beneath and the scarce-heard wail of the horn, and saw the dim halo of our lights, I thought it would be just the kind of morning for a bad collision. The notion made me shiver and look around apprehensively, but the slatting jib gave me little time for thoughts of that nature. Clambering up the stay I was busily engaged in stamping the hanks down with my sea-booted feet.

Humming a little song to myself, I was passing the stops, when the wail of a foghorn came to my ears. I listened intently, thinking at first that it was our own. As I paused in my work, with nerves astrain. a wall of misty whiteness came sweeping out of the murk on our starboard. While I yelled in excited fright, the luminous bulk took the shape of the headsails and double topsails of a large ship crossing our bows!

THINGS happened with frightful suddenness. While I hung to the rolled-up canvas of the flying jib with skin tingling and hair raised in alarm, the other vessel stormed past and I thought she was going clear until I saw myself looking down over her deck and felt the tip of the boom strike the stranger's mizzen rigging. As soon as I felt the shock. I jumped and landed with a thump into the bottom of a quarter-boat outslung on davits, and while I was picking myself up there was a crash, a volley of shouts and curses, and then both vessels must have gone clear.

My legs seemed paralyzed, and I fancied for a moment that I had broken my back when I struck the thwarts of the boat. But in a few seconds the numbness departed, and I became conscious of a hoarse voice shouting:

"Fetch a lantern here, some o' you! That blasted Dutchman has stove th' whole quarter in—Th' bloody bumpkin's gone. Braces adrift. Look alive!"

A lantern was brought, casting a halo of yellow in the mist, and a voice came booming:

"How's that boat? Is she stove? Thought I hard somethin' failin' into it. Look, an' see."

Now I was fully conscious of everything that was happening below me, but I made no attempt to rise out of the boat. I don't know why. Probably I had not recovered from the shock. Anyway, I lay across the thwart until a man's head appeared over the gunwale and I was revealed in the light of the lantern he held.

"Sink me!" he shouted. "Here's a man a lyin' in here——"

"Is he dead?" boomed the commanding voice below.

"Are ye dead, shipmate?" questioned the man in all seriousness, flashing the lamp over me.

"No," I managed to answer. "Just shook up a bit, that's all. I'll tumble out if you'll give me a hand."

And I crawled painfully over the gunwale and, stepping down on deck, found myself in the midst of a mob of men. One of them, a great, black-bearded fellow, grasped the lantern and held it up in front of my face.

"Waal, an' where did you spring from?" he asked harshly.

"Fell off the jibboom of that other vessel," I replied.

"Oh, ye did. did ye?"

The man's tone was vindictive and nasty.

"Where in the blazes were yer eyes? Couldn't ye hear us? What vessel was that anyway? One o' yer Cape Horners out t' trim th' Flyin' Cloud, eh?"

"No, sir," I answered respectfully. "She was an English ship—the Magician bound from New York to Melbourne——"

"Huh! Bloody lime juicer! Might ha' known it. Starvation an' ease, an' watch on deck snoozin' in th' lee o' somethin' 'stead o' keepin' a good lookout."

Grumbling to himself he laid the lantern on deck.

"An' who told ye t' come aboard here?" he continued. "What d'ye think we're goin' t' do with ye?"

"I'll turn to," I answered.

"Ye'll turn to, will ye?" he snapped. "An' what d'ye think we're runnin'—a blasted sailor's home for every calashee scrub that flops aboard? This is a whaler, not a packet ship. Have you ever gone whalin'?"

I replied in the negative. A whaler! A dirty, oily "spouter," outward bound, most likely, on one of their two and three year voyages! Whaleships! A merchant sailor's horror. He watched me with his savage eyes glinting in the light of the lamp.

"Kin ye swim?" he inquired threateningly.

"Yes, sir," I replied, wondering at the man's peculiar aggressiveness.

"Waal, I cal'late ye'd better start in an' do it," he growled menacingly. "Over th' rail ye go now, or I'll help ye."

"What?" I cried in horrified consternation. "Good Heavens, sir, you don't mean that!"

There was no mistaking his words when he advanced toward me with his shoulders hunched and arms outstretched. The men who had been working at the port braces knocked off to look on. As the great brute advanced, I whipped out my knife.

"Sheer off!" I snarled. "I don't know whether you're joking or not, but, by th' hook block, I'll give you a fight if you're looking for one."

He stopped short on seeing the knife in my hand.

"Trundle that out of his fist!" he cried to the assembled men. "Give him a toss. We don't want him aboard here."

A rough-looking fellow picked a capstan bar out of the rack and came towards me with the weapon upraised for a blow. I backed to the taffrail with my left arm over my head and the knife grasped tightly in my right fist; with wits working and eyes roaming for a chance of escape from the murderous intent of the whaler's crew.

It was unheard of; a ghastly nightmare, and momentarily I expected to awake and find it all a bad dream. I can remember the savage faces illuminated in the foggy glare from the lantern, and in their countenances not a revelation of pity or horror was shown. The black-bearded man was staring at me with a sinister, wolfish look in his eyes, and the man advancing with the bar seemed to be imbued with a certain joy of combat, a lustful, brutal expression in his face and figure which made me make up my mind to rush in and drive my knife into his heart.

THEN, of a sudden, the man paused and lowered his weapon.

"Why, sink me! I believe it's Jack Dixon, what was second mate o' th' Bahama Belle——"

"Eh?" snapped the man of the beard.

On the mention of my old blockade runner's name, I recognized the man who had identified me as Joe Smith, one of her crew who had escaped prison some time before I did and, clutching at a straw, I lowered my knife.

"Aye, right you are, Joe," I said. "And I'm thinking this is a poor reception for an old shipmate."

Joe turned and spoke to the other. "He's all right, Cap'en. He's an old shipmate o' mine—second mate o' th' Bahama Belle runnin' th' Yankee lines between New Providence an' Charleston. Good fellow——"

The Whaler Captain made a gesture.

"Come here, you! Put up your dirk. We were only jokin'."

Thinking it was a particularly callous and bloody-minded joke, I slipped the knife into the sheath and stepped gingerly forward.

"Kin ye navigate?"

"Yes, sir," I replied.

The skipper turned to Joe.

"Kin he?"

"Oh, yes, sir," replied the man. "He's a navigator all right."

"I hold a British Board of Trade certificate of competency as master," I volunteered.

"Then, by Judas, you're th' man we want!" cried the whaling skipper, bringing his heavy hand down on my shoulder. "Lord Harry! But I thought ye were nawthin' more nor less than some poor devil of a foremast hand! An' ye kin navigate, eh? Take sextant sights by th' sun, eh?"

"Yes, sir, and by the moon and stars as well."

I hastened to add my accomplishments:

"Time sights, double altitudes and lunars for chronometer ratings—I've had practise with them all, and if you have instruments——"

"We have them," he interrupted. "Come down below, sir."

And he led the way into the cabin.


WHEN I was precipitated upon the whaling vessel in the manner described, I calculated that we were to the south'ard of Nantucket Shoals. The whaler had fitted out in New Bedford and had stood to the south'ard for an offing after clearing Buzzard's Bay. Coming about, she was running to the east'ard when she crossed the Magician's bows and narrowly escaped being cut in half. So the black-bearded man told me as he lit the cabin lamp, and I knew then that I was on an outward bound "spouter."

"I'm th' master o' this vessel," he said, as he motioned me to be seated on the cushioned transom. "My name's Silvera —Captain Rodriquez Silvera, an' this vessel's the whalin' bark Arcturus, bound on a southern sperm-whale cruise. I'm no navigator, 'cept by dead reckonin', an' my first officer, who was supposed to do th' navigatin', has gone an' died on me. Came aboard in Noo Bedford full as a tick, took to his bunk, an' croaked this mornin'. You'll come in nice an' handy to take his place, an' I reckon you won't kick, eh?"

"I won't kick, Captain."

"Not even for a long whalin' cruise?"

"No, sir," I replied, "but I'm no whaleman——"

"Ye don't need t' be," he answered. "All as we'll ask ye t' do 'ull be t' navigate th' vessel t' where we want her t' go. Ye don't have nawthin' t' do with th' whalin' part of it. Navigate an' that's all. I'll give ye fifty dollars a month, an' ye kin live aft here.

"Ye kin take that gaudy first mate's room an' his gear as soon as we git him cleared out— Wait a minute. I'll have him cleared out now so's ye kin take aholt an' start right in."

He arose and clambered up the companionway steps, and I could hear him calling to the watch on deck. When he came below again, four ragged-looking, unkempt ruffians followed him.

"Git that still outa his bunk an' heave him over th' rail——"

"Sew him up, sir?" inquired one of the men.

"Heave him over, I said," snapped Captain Silvera sharply. "I've got no canvas to waste on that beach-comber. Ye kin lash somethin' to his heels as a sinker— No, blast him, jest shove him over as he is. Go ahead, now!"

And while I remained seated, mute with surprise and shocked at such callous words, the men entered the mate's room and unceremoniously lugged the dead body of a man out of the berth and up on deck. I could hear their feet shuttling along the planks overhead; heard the barking, "One! Two! Three! An' heave!" as they swung their burden, and then the sullen splash as the body struck the water. Captain Silvera's harsh voice roused me from the terror of my thoughts at this unfeeling piece of desecration.

"Your room's ready for ye, Mister Dixon, but afore ye turn in. I'd like ye t' fix up our course. I want t' shape for th' Western Islands. Here's th' chart, dividers, rulers an' pencil."

I gave him the course in a few seconds, and he shouted it up the open companionway to the deck officer.

THUS, within twenty-four hours I was metamorphosed from Jack Dixon, A. B., on the merchant ship Magician to Mister Dixon, navigating officer on the whaling bark Arcturus. I had changed my flag from the "blood and guts" of old England to the stars and stripes of the United States.

I had twice been in danger of losing my life—I had no doubt whatever that Captain Silvera would have given me a swim had not Joe Smith recognized me and mentioned the fact that I was a navigator—and here I was, logged for a lengthy voyage, with exceedingly doubtful company, a brute of a Portuguese Yankee for skipper, and in a trade which I, as a merchant sailor, detested with the hereditary hatred of the bluewater shellback. However, I was in no position to choose. I had benefited by the change which luck had hove me into, but a nameless dread gripped my heart whenever I thought of the incident of the early morning. and I shivered involuntarily as I stepped into the berth assigned to me.

Scratching a match, I found the bulkhead lamp and lit it, and by its feeble light I saw that the room was of the ordinary type, with bunk and drawers underneath, a washstand with a tumbler and water-bottle rack over it, a small table and a clothes locker. At the foot of the bunk was a bookshelf equipped with a brine-stained "Navigator." by Nathaniel Bowditch, a book of azimuth tables, "Nautical Almanac," directories and "Sailing Directions"; and a few shallow novels of the type affected by some officers completed the library- The bedclothes in the bunk were dirty and disarranged, and I had another shock when I saw that the pillow was stained with blood.

"Lord Harry!" I muttered apprehensively. "What kind of a packet have I blown aboard of?"

Silvera opened the door at this juncture. He must have noticed me staring at the bloody pillow.

"I'll get th' stooard t' clear that dunnage away an' put fresh clothes in that bunk," he said as he entered. "You're wonderin' whar that mess came from, eh?"

And as I nodded dumbly he laughed.

"That come from his head. He was drunk when he come aboard in Noo Bedford an' fell down th' cabin gangway an' stove his thick skull. I cal'late that's what finished him."

Then, with an assumption of heartiness, he slapped me on the back.

"You don't want t' mind our little joke this mornin', Dixon. We whalers are rough an' ready but we don't mean no harm. Marchant ways ain't whaleship ways. Thar' ain't no brass an' gold lace aboard these craft, but you'll find things'll be all right ef ye do yer duty. Now I reckon ye'll find Lamson's rig-out 'ull about fit ye, so jest take 'em an' use 'em.

"Thar's a good kumometer here—a noo one showin? Greenwich mean time an' rated one second slow daily. I've kep' it wound up while that joker was lyin' on his beam ends. I've got a sex'ant in my berth which I'll hand ye later. Git them limejuicer's dungarees off ye an' come t' breakfast. It'll be ready in a few minutes."

Feeling a little more composed mentally, I changed my tarry rags for more respectable apparel, and sat down to breakfast with the queerest company of human beings it was ever my lot to be shipmates with. Two of the men were yellow-skinned Portuguese half-breeds from the Azores, named Fernandez and Francisco; the other two were Polynesians—one being, without doubt, the ugliest and most ferocious looking character I had ever seen. His cheeks were tattooed in bluish concentric rings while his huge white teeth were filed into saw-like points. When he smiled, the aspect of his countenance was frightful and repellent. All four were clad in colored flannel shirts, and they ate like wolves, boiled beef and coffee disappearing down their capacious mouths like coal into a furnace.

Having spent a good deal of time in the Southern States, I could be excused for wondering why four "blacks" were allowed to eat aft in the cabin. The skipper must have sensed my mental astonishment.

"Let me make ye acquainted with th' second an' fourth mates." Fernandez and Francisco nodded. "The other gents are Hilo Peter an' Tahiti Jack—our harpooneers."

The Polynesians grinned acknowledgment, Tahiti Jack looking a veritable ogre with his disfigured cheeks and serrated teeth.

I have seen some hard cases in my day, but that whaler's crew impressed me as being the most cut-throat looking crowd I ever clapped eyes on. Not a man but what had a scar or disfigurement of some sort on his person; all had a lurching hard-bitten appearance, while the language they used was vile enough for an Atlantic packet ship's fo'c's'le.

THE vessel seemed to me to be rather an unusual craft for the whaling business, by recollection of sundry Nantucketers and Vineyard Haven "spouters" I had seen at sea being vastly different from the Arcturas in almost every way. The orthodox South-Seaman was a square-sterned, apple-bowed type of windjammer; clumsy looking, with wretchedly cut sails, bowsprit steeved up like a mast, a housed-in poop, and no sail above topgallants.

The Arcturus had clipper lines and all the appearance of a clipper; her yards were very square, her masts lofty and with a rake aft, and the length of mast above her main royal induced me to believe that she once crossed a sky sail yard. She was a clipper to sail as well. Silvera afterwards told me that she had beeen built for the "live ebony" trade—otherwise slaving—but when she had been put out of that business he and a few others had bought her and fitted her out for whaling.

Something of her appearance was spoiled by the ungainly whaleboat davits—three to starboard and one to port. Two spare boats lay bottom-up on the gallows aft, and amidships were placed the brick tryworks, with a huge pile of kindling-wood stacked around them. On top of the for'ard house was a great tarpaulined box which, I deduced was a water tank.

I counted thirty men in our crew. They seem to have been composed of every nationality under the sun—Americans, Portuguese, Scotch, English, Polynesians, Scandinavians, and negroes; a rough-and-tough looking crowd, but all expert whalemen, filling the positions of harpooners, boat steerers, coopers, blacksmiths and seamen. So much for the Arcturus and her company.


WE PICKED up the northeast trades after sighting Gran Canaria, and in sunshine, under blue skies and over bluer water, we ambled lazily on our aimless course. At night we hove to in order to cover the whaling grounds in daylight.

Silvera remained as agreeable as ever, but the man seemed to be utterly heartless, though I can not say he was severe in handling the crew; in fact he permitted liberties which would not have been tolerated for an instant upon merchant ships. He was pleasant to talk to and a good conversationalist, but I cannot remember in any of his discourses with me a single sentence which revealed a trace of sympathetic utterance.

He was an atheist and a man who scorned emotion of any sort, and from the amount of knowledge he seemed to possess regarding the Congo and Bonny Rivers. Benin and the Dahomey coast, I surmised that he had been a slaver captain or officer at some time in his life. Men who can calmly "jettison" their living cargo into a shark-infested sea when pursued by a cruiser, have casehardened their hearts against any appeal to feeling and compassion.

Looking over the notes from which I am compiling this narrative, I find but a daily sequence of entries for the next two weeks:

"Fine weather. Wind N. E., fresh. Vessel under all plain sail running to s'thard. People employed on gear. No fish sighted. Lat. by obs.—— Long.—— Log.—— Bar.——. So ends this day."

At night we brought to the wind.

According to my instructions from Silvera, we gave the Cape Verde Islands a wide berth and stood well over to the eastward of the thirtieth meridian.

"A good whalin' ground," explained the skipper. "Then we'll go to the Brazil bank."

But luck seemed to have deserted us on reaching our objective point, and though the mast lookouts were manned all day, not a single hail of "There she blows!" was sounded.

As we were right in the track of the homeward-bound ships from Australia and the Cape bound for the British Channel, as well as the outward ships from American ports, we saw many of them at a distance. With the desire for sighting and hailing passing vessels which is imbued in all deepwater sailormen, Silvera would always evince an interest in the Cape Homers flying past and endeavor to speak them. As homeward-bound deepwater clippers are in a hurry to get to port, none of them thought of backing the maintopsail to "gam" with a dirty "spouter."

"Too good a breeze hereabouts for those fellows. Captain," I remarked one day, after a big clipper with stuns'l out had ignored our signal. "We'll have to get down in the Variables for speaking ships. Up in the Trades they're all for cracking on."

"Aye, I reckon so," he answered. "I want t' git some stuff for th' medicine chest an' a little lime-juice. Don't want no scurvy t' break out now th' fresh meat an' vegetables are done."

THUS passed the lazy days. Tacking to windward for a day; lying to at nights, and running down the wind at times, we literally became an ocean loafer. Whales were conspicuous by their absence and I would have welcomed the sight of one as eagerly as the oldest whaleman aboard. I was becoming heartily tired of this dolce far niente, with nothing to do but squint at the sun and wind up a chronometer. There were no books aboard, save what I found in my own room, and to while away the time I read the trashy novels from cover to cover and even perused the dry Sailing Directories and the "Nautical Almanac."

I had thought of taking Silvera in hand and teaching him the use of sextant and chronometer, but on second thought I decided that the less he knew about navigation the better for me. That he knew nothing about the science was correct, as I was not long in finding out. Though it struck me as being rather an unusual thing for the master of a deep-sea vessel to be ignorant of navigation, yet it was by no means uncommon in certain trades. In the Pacific, I had known island trading vessels in command of masters who were not qualified as navigators, while many sealers have two captains—one as sailing master and the other a practical sealer and ice expert.

The skipper s penchant for chasing vessels was encouraged by me, as I hoped to beg some reading matter from the first craft that would wait for a boat from us. So, when I came on deck one morning and found us storming after a big full-rigged ship whose upper canvas was just lifting above the horizon to the eastward, I was as eager as any one aboard to overhaul her. With royals mastheaded we brought the big ship broad on the bow before noon, and though she had lower and topmast stuns'ls out, we were overhauling her hand over fist.

"Have a squint at her," said Silvera, handing me the glass. "What d'ye think she is?"

"English ship," I answered, as soon as I looked at her. "Australiaman or a tea packet from China. She's a big lump of a vessel, but I think we could sail rings 'round her——"

"Waal, we'll have a closer look at her an' see ef we kin induce her stubborn limejuice skipper to back his maintops'll for a spell. We'll go below an' have dinner now."

I had never known Silvera to be so pleasant before. He joked with the officers and Kanakas, and laughed heartily over my remark that "the homeward-bounders would think that the Flying Dutchman had shifted his cruising ground by the way we were chasing them all."

It was a pointless joke, but it evidently tickled his fancy immensely.

"Ha! Ha! Ha! Flyin' Dutchman!" he guffawed. "Great—simply great, Dixon. We'll crack a bottle over that, by Godfrey! Stoo'ard! Fetch a bottle of rura here."

The liquor was brought. I filled my glass and drank to his good health. He had scarce put his lips to the tumbler before Francisco sung out down the companionway:

"Better come on deck, Cap'cn. Hagen is took bad with his stomach again——"

Silvera rose from his seat angrily.

"Cuss Hagen," he growled. "Why don't he die or git well—"

As he stepped up the companion he turned and spoke to me.

"You'll excuse me a minute, Dixon. Hagen is delirious again, I cal'late. Punish th' bottle. I'll be back in a minute."

The rum was particularly good, and I must have punished the bottle, although I have no recollection of drinking more than two three-finger nips. I remember the others getting up from the table and going on deck; then a feeling of intense drowsiness took possession of me and I staggered over to the transom and went to sleep.


"HEY, thar! Rouse an'shine!"

I was shaken violently, and opened by eyes to find Captain Silvera leaning over me with his hand on my shoulder. There was a smile on his face.

"Waal, sink me!" he rumbled. "Ef you ain't th' primest hand for knockin' out a long calk, I don't know who is. Lord Harry, man, ye've been on yer beam ends for 'most two watches——"

"Funny thing," I muttered drowsily.

"What's funny?"

"My sleepin' like this. I'm no Seven Sleeper. Must have been that rum——"

"You jest bet it was," replied Silvera with a laugh. "Cripes, man, ye sat down an' finished th' whole bottle."

"The whole bottle? Why I only remember taking two nips——"

"Infernal big nips, Dixon. Reg'lar second mate's four-finger whacks, they must ha' bin. Come, turn out an' have some supper."

With all the feelings of a man recovering from a drinking bout, I rolled off the transom and soused my aching head in a basin of cold water. Then I staggered over to the table and sat down to the supper the steward had laid out for me. The skipper was in his room, but came out and helped himself to a slice of cold beef and a biscuit.

Did you get anything from that lime-juicer we were chasing?" I inquired sleepily.

Beggar refused t' heave to," replied Silvera. "Her skipper told me t' go to thunder. Wasn t supplyin' Yankee spouters with medicines an' stores every time they hailed for them. Mean sorter swab he was, kac* th' Hugh on him jest th' same."

"How's that?"

Swiped two of his men away from him."

"What?" I ejaculated in surprise. "Swiped two of his men? How?"

"They jumped overboard when we ranged to wind'ard of him, an' before old bully th' Britisher c'd git a boat off th' chocks, I lowered an' scoffed them in front o' his eyes. He howled an' jumped 'round like a sperm bull in a flurry."

"Whatever made two members of a homeward-bounder's crew jump for a Yankee whaler?" I questioned doubtingly.

"They were in trouble with the after guard. Some fracas, I reckon, which they stood a chanst o' being jailed for in England. It's a great joke on Mr. Johnny Bull. Now, sir, when you've finished, I d like ye t' shape a course for t' keep in th' track o' them Cape Horners. I must git medicines an' limejuice. Hagen is pretty sick an' some o' th' crowd for'ard are showin' signs o' scurvy."

I pushed my cup away from me and looked at him in some surprise.

"Why," I replied wonderingly, "we're right in the sailing track now. All the homeward-bound craft from the south'ard plan to cross the Line in twenty-three West or thereabouts. But what d'ye want to speak north-bound vessels for? Why don't you hail the outward-bounders?

"Why don't ye make for the Cape Verde Islands? You can get all the fresh vegetables, oranges, limes and fresh truck you want there, and it's only a couple of day's sail to the east'ard."

And I glanced at him with a vague distrust in my mind.

Silvera laughed.

"My dear Dixon, it's easy seen that you've never been skipper of a whalin' craft. As a marchant sailor it'll seem queer to you, but it's or'nary enough to us spouter men. We never git nawthin' from the outward-bounders. They have th' best part of their v'y'ge afore them an' consequently they keep a tight fist on their anti-scorbutics 'cause they never know how long they're agoin't' be box-haulin' about in the Variables north an' south o' th' Line. Th' homeward craft have a port 'most over their bows when they get north o' twelve latitude an' ef they've got potatoes, limejuice, an' sich truck aboard, they'll give it freely 'cause they're 'most home. Y' see?"

"But why don't you make the Islands and do away with this chasing for to beg stores?"

"Now, thar's another thing 'bout whalers ye don't know, Dixon. I dursen't make a landfall in a place like Cape Verde, or some o' my bullies 'ull skip out. Some o' them are sick o' th' v'y'ge already, an' ef they thought St. Vincent was anywheres near, them Portygees aboard here 'ud swim ashore even ef we lay ten mile off. Now d'ye understand?"

I nodded, and with his plausible explanations my doubts fled.

"Well, Captain, just keep her about as we are and you'll raise all the Cape Horn fleet, besides the River Platers and the Indiamen."

NEXT morning I noticed the two strangers loafing around the fo'c's'le door with others of our crew. It was evident that they had fallen among friends by the manner in which the others hung around listening to every word they were saying. However, I did not pay much attention to them, though I could hardly credit any sailor leaping overboard from a homeward-bound Britisher and taking a chance of being picked up in a shark-infested sea by an American whaling bark. The fellows looked tough enough to have done anything up to murder, and there was a possibility that they had done as Captain Silvera had said.

During the day we raised the royals of a large American ship and we bore away until we had him close aboard. Silvera looked at the vessel through his binoculars for a long time and afterward I saw him conversing with one of the new additions to our crew. When he came aft he ordered the helmsman to come up and we braced the yards and swung away without speaking, merely dipping the ensign.

"What's the matter with him?" I inquired, pointing to the other ship.

"No good," answered the skipper. "That's th' Lillian Cullen. Master's an old shipmate o' mine an' I wouldn't ask him for a rope-yarn. He's a swab."

And he walked away.

"Humph," I said to myself. "You're infernally particular. Whalers' ways ain't merchant ways, that's a certainty. First vessel I was ever on that could afford to loaf around and pick and choose the craft she'll speak for a bit of stores."

Early next morning, another English ship was sighted and given chase to, and again our skipper declined to speak her after he had overhauled the vessel. When I asked him his reasons he lost his temper and told me to mind my own business. I did so, and retired to my bunk to think out a true bill for all these peculiar happenings.

As it was very hot below decks, I opened the small square port in the cabin trunk to let some air into my room, and while I laid ruminating and reflecting over the events of the previous weeks I overheard the skipper talking with one of the deserters from the English ship. The conversation was disjointed, but I listened in astonishment to the words.

"Ye say John was shippin' in Melb'u'n... th' next ship what had anythin'?"

The stranger answered:

"Aye... fortnight or so... pot o' stuff cornin' down country... big Bendigo strike... Ballarat..."

"Any difficulty... signin' on?"

"None... eighty vessels when I left... crews cut an' run for diggin's. Skipper's payin' eight pounds a month for A. B.'s... easy."

"What... ship's name?"

"Yankee built clipper... three skys'lyarder... Britisher... named Sea... big ship... loaded..."

Then I heard my name mentioned by the stranger.

"Aye... curious beggar... Dixon... navigator... fell off jibboom, ye say?"

Silvera's growling voice replied and I strained my ears.

"Yes... hard job... hocused him... bottle... rum... knows nawthin'."

And they moved away.

"Hocused? Bottle of rum?" I muttered. "Humph! That's why I slept so hard. There's something mighty fishy aboard this packet." And I set my wits to work.

Why should I have been drugged? What happened to make Silvera remove me from the scene for a space? How comes he to be so familiar with a runaway sailor from an English ship? What had he to do with "John" who was "shipping in Melbourne?" What had the Yankee-built clipper Sea-Something-or-Other to do with a whaling bark or Silvera himself? Why should I be the subject of discussion between my skipper and a runaway stranger?

I asked myself these questions a hundred times and failed to find a possible solution. Ali morning I remained in my berth turning the problems over in my mind until my brain boiled, and when I went on deck to take a moon sight, I made a resolution to keep my weather eye lifting for squalls.


FOR several days the skipper never spoke to me. Then all at once he became affable and friendly, even making me a present of some of his favorite cigars. I felt he had something up his sleeve and I kept on my guard for new developments. We had been yarning away for a while when he inquired suddenly—

"Are you religious?"

"Religious?" I reiterated. "Well, that's a hard question to answer. I've got as much religion as most sailormen have a chance to get, but I'm no devil-dodger by any manner of means. I've lived pretty square though, and done my best for a shipmate——"


He interrupted with a grunt and continued pacing the quarter.

"Did you ever kill a man?" was his next query.

"No," I replied decisively, "and I hope I never will."

"Ever been in th' live ebony trade? Ever been privateerin'?"

"No, sir," I answered. "But I've been blockade running."

He seemed to think very little of that and resumed his pacing.

"Looky here," he continued, pausing in his three steps and a turn. "Ef you got a chanst to make a pile of dollars easily would you be particular as to how ye got it? Especially ef nobody 'ud ever know or find out? A pile of dollars, mind—a fortune enough to low ye to retire an' live at ease for th' rest of yer days. Eh?"

That altogether depends, Captain. I'm open to grab all I can get, but I'd like to know how it's to be done first."

Say piracy—lootin' vessels," returned he, staring into my face with a steady gaze.

"Piracy?" I gasped. "Lord, man, but that s a terrible thing, and means the gallows if caught. Besides, it means murder——"

A fearful thought flashed into my mind, and he must have noticed the terror in my eyes.

"Pah, man!" he said with a half laugh. "You must think I'm a second Cap'en Kidd. I don't mean this throat-cuttin' business: black flag, walkin' planks an' that sorter guff. I hev a little bit o' a scheme for borryin' stores from them passin' vessels an' sellin' them down south in th' Falklands. Ye see, while we're cruisin' on these grounds we kin be askin' passin' vessels for barrels o' flour, pork, beef an' sichlike——"

He paused with a sheepish smile on his face, while I almost burst out laughing. What a mean, cadging schemer he was! And this was his piracy? Holy sailor! I had met stingy skippers in my day, but this whaleman had them all hull down. So this was his little game! This explained his chasing of ships! Begging for stores to sell on his own account!

"You can count me in, Captain." I answered heartily. "I don't mind if that's the game——"

"Sure! That's what I was a drivin'at, but I didn't know how ye'd look at the idea."

"Caramba! I don't care a hang. My conscience don't bother me on that score. We'll hail every ship in sight, and take all we can get."

He laughed pleasantly and walked away for'ard.

"What a game!" I ruminated, but as I turned his conversation over in my mind I began to think I was more of a fool than he was. What pile of dollars was to be made out of a few barrels of stores? Why should he ask me if I'd ever killed a man? I was beginning to get horribly tangled up in my thoughts, and as I was not particularly quick-witted, I judged I had better go below and in the privacy of my berth overhaul my experiences from the hour I was thrown aboard the Arcturus.

I went over events from the time I was threatened with a long swim, and then came the memory of the bottle of rum; chasing the English ship and the two supposed strangers who came aboard mysteriously while I laid in a drugged slumber; the disjointed conversation I had overheard, and now this farcical conversation with its preposterous and picayune suggestion. Silvera to make a "fortune" by such a petty scheme! Pah! It was unheard of!

WHILE I scratched my thick downeast head in perplexity, a hail from aloft came to my ears.

"Vessel down to loo'ard, sir!"

I rolled out and pulled on my boots.

"Must go and see Silvera cadging his stores," I muttered.

When I went on deck it was to see him and one of the deserters aloft in the hoops on the fore and main scanning the upper sails of a ship which gleamed like tiny pearls above the blue of the sea line. When he came down, he gave me a knowing wink and passed the usual order to bear down.

"We'll borry somethin' from this packet, I hope," he said softly. "Big ship—three skys'l-yarder."

I remained on deck for over an hour, until the other vessel hove her hull up above the horizon. She was a big ship, deep-laden, and carrying double topsails, single topgallants, royals, and skysails on each mast. There was a fresh breeze blowing and with all our own kites set and drawing, our little clipper bark sped rapidly through the water in the direction of the stranger.

It was about four in the afternoon when I went below to get a drink from the rack in the saloon. The skipper met me as I stepped down the ladder.

"Where are ye goin'?" he inquired.

"Just to get a drink of water," I replied.

"Oh," he muttered, and he stepped on deck as I went over to the table.

The steward was coming out of my room just as I lifted the water bottle from the rack and found it empty. He looked across at me quickly.

"Water, sir? You'll find some fresh from the tank in your room, sir. I'll fill that one in a minute."

He reached over for the bottle and I handed it to him.

Entering my room I closed the door.

"Now," I said to myself, "here's where I get my bearings. Steward is a liar, for he filled my water bottle this morning before I turned out."

I reached for the article and was just in time to see the last grains of a whitish powder effervescing into nothingness in the bottom.

"Just what I expected," thought I. "The rum bottle won't work twice, but the water bottle will. Humph!"

With a plan of action mapped out, I poured the water out into a tumbler and thence into the wash bucket. Then I threw myself down on my bunk and awaited developments.

I must have been lying some twenty minutes when I heard stealthy footsteps approach my door and some one tapped lightly.

"Mr. Dixon!"

It was the steward's voice. I shut my eyes and snored.

"Mr. Dixon!" came the voice again, and the door was quietly opened and "the man entered the room. I had my back turned to him, but I could almost ^sense everything he did, even to picking up the tumbler and examining it. After bending over me he left the room and closed the door.

"So much for him," I murmured when he had departed. Glancing out of the square port above my bunk 1 could see the big skysail-yarder coming up to leeward. Fearing lest I should be seen staring through the small window I half drew the curtain and lay down again.

Once more heavy footsteps approached my door and a voice boomed.

"Dixon! Dixon!"

It was Silvera, but I made no answer. Then he looked in on me and I heard him say to the steward who was in the cabin:

"He's out of th' way for a long spell ef he drank a tumbler o' that water. Look in on him now an' again."

And the door was closed quietly.

THERE was a great deal of tramping overhead. I felt that all hands were out and preparing for something by the scurrying of booted feet which resounded on the deck above me. Silvera was at the poop rail, singing out orders.

"Check in weather braces! Square the yards... Git your engine set up, Cameron... Whalin' gear out o' boats... Stand by."

I glanced through my port, but could see nothing but a portion of the quarter rail and the empty sunlit sea.

"Now, Fernandez!" came the skipper's strident voice. "Got that Brazilian ens n bent? Ease down yer helm.... Slack away weather, haul taut lee braces...... Haul up on yer mains'l.... Haul up yer fores'l.... Smartly, men!"

"Hauling by the wind," I murmured.

As the bark heeled over with the pressure, I took another look through my port and saw the strange ship close aboard. She was a big two-thousand-tonner at least, with built lowermasts and long spars.

"American built ship loaded with Australian wool for England," was my mental comment. What a magnificent picture she made with her snowy cotton duck canvas full and drawing, and her long black hull slipping through the blue water with a line of foam streaming aft from her beautiful clipper bow!

I could make out the officer walking the weather side of her long quarter; see the passengers she carried standing upon the coach-house staring at us; see, too, the crew's heads peering over the rail for'ard and a man in a red shirt sitting astride of the martingale stays under the bowsprit—evidently spearing dolphin, for he had a four-pronged grain in his hand. My attention was suddenly arrested by the actions of this fellow when he commenced waving his neckerchief in a peculiar manner. A voice sounded close above me.

"There's John, Cap'en. D'ye see him hangm' to th' martingale an' wavin'——"

Startled, I glanced at the clipper's name board on the quarter rail and read, Sea King.

"Sea King... Three skys'l-yarder... Melbourne... John?" I muttered, and I felt that something was going to happen which would materially clear the fogginess of my mind and elucidate the mystery of the whaling bark Arcturus and her peculiar skipper.


"WHAT ship is that?" came a faint hail from the clipper ship.

"Brazilian trainin' frigate Arcturus!" thundered Silvera.

"Brazilian frigate be blowed!" came from the other, and the voice continued:

"Sheer off now! D'ye want to run us down?"

The Sea King's lower sails were ashiver, owing to our stopping up the wind. As we were jammed up to windward, we could not bear away without coming down on the other ship, and I could hear the officers on the Australiaman cursing at us as they put their helm up to get clear of us.

"You confounded Yankee spouter!" bawled a little red-faced man shaking his fist at us. What, in blazes d'ye mean?"

I could hear Silvera laughing.

"Slap it into him, Cameron!" he cried. "Wheelhouse, mind!"

Bang! There came a detonation which caused the Arcturus to shake in every plank, and as I stared in consternation through the port, I saw the Sea King's wheelhouse literally swept from the deck in a crumple of splinters—wheel-gear, helmsman and the wooden house knocked clean over the lee quarter. Fascinated by the suddenness and horror of the action, I kept my gaze fixed on the now' unmanageable clipper; heard the shouts of fear and rage which came from her people, and saw the panic-stricken crew running about on her decks. An officer ran to her break rail shouting:

"Haul aft your weather head sheets! Slack away lee braces——"

"Sweep th' quarter, Cameron!" roared Silvera excitedly. "Don't give 'em a chance to wear ship or they'll run away from us——"

Bang! Another explosion, and a -wild yell from our crew as the shot smashed across the cabin trunk, tearing skylights, companionway, and chart-house into a shower of splinters and clearing the poop of all firing creatures.

"Give 'em another, Cameron. Bring that mainm'st down ef you can. Look out for John."

John—the man in the red shirt—was still astride the martingale and safe enough if he stayed where he was.

Before the third shot was fired, I heard footsteps approaching my room, and I had just time to fall back on my blankets and commence snoring when some one looked in on me. The gun spoke again, but I controlled my nerves so that I made no movement.

"Dead to th' world," muttered the intruder, and the door was closed quietly. When I stared through the port once more, it was to see the clipper ship lazily drifting to leeward with yards aback and sails slatting. The third shot had torn a great gap in the bulwarks amidships, but the mainmast was still standing.

"Lower away yer boats!" commanded Silvera sharply, "Fernandez! Take charge and work down to loo'ard an' pick us up when we're ready."

I shall quote from my log as to what happened next, as I consider it requires no elaboration:

Four boats lowered. Six men in each. All armed with cutlases and firearms. Captain Silvera in leading boat. Two boats ranged to starboard and two to port of Sea King. Crew made fast to main chains and scrambled aboard, leaving one man in boat.

Whalemen went aft in company with man in red shirt. A show of resistance was made by Sea King's officers. Some shots fired and ship's people driven forward and locked in fo'c's'le.

Numerous boxes were fetched out of cabin and lowered carefully into boats. .All boats returned within half an hour to our vessel. Man in red shirt coming off with Silvera.

Time, 6 p. m., January 21, 1867. Latitude, 14° 10' North. Longitude 31° 6' West. 780 miles east of Cape Verde.

IT WAS piracy—nothing more and nothing less. Horrified by the events I had witnessed, I laid back on my pillow, while the crew hoisted their boats and booty aboard. A number of men came down into the cabin and I was conscious that Silvera was among them. Snatches of their conversation fell upon my ears. Our villainous Portuguese Yankee skipper was giving orders.

"Yes! stow th' stuff in th' lazareet.... No! he's sure for another six hours yet.... Won't know anything. Easy now. Heavy, eh?... A great haul...."

"Holy sailor. Cap, but I was afraid ye'd never show up," an unfamiliar voice was saying. "I've hardly slept a wink sence we crossed th' Line. You picked up Billy all right.... Good haul. Waal, I cal'late that'll finish us now, an' I'm cussed glad. What's yer plans for that joker t' windward? Soon be dark.... Better hurry."

The shuffling feet left the cabin and there was a scurrying about on deck. The Sea King was lying on our starboard side and I was unable to see her from my window. "All right, Cameron," sung out the skipper. "Plant one amidships. Look sharp or it'll be dark."

The boom of the gun came to my ears, and I realized what the fiends were doing. They were sinking their victim!

I saw through everything now. As I lay with the clammy sweat breaking out on my face, the mysterious actions of the past two months unfolded themselves before my mental vision, and the scales fell from my eyes. Nineteenth-century pirates masquerading in the guise of whalers! It seemed impossible and improbable, but what else would account for the events and things 1 had seen and heard? The patrolling of the sailing tracks; the chasing of many ships upon trivial pretenses; the nature of our crew, and the skipper's peculiar conversations. Two vessels had been looted—I had no doubt whatever that the ship we chased when I was drugged had been despatched in a manner similar to the Sea King—and upon both ships were confederates who in some mysterious manner had means of communicating with Silvera.

How was it all arranged? Both ships were Australiamen homeward bound. The conversation of Silvera and the stranger came to mind:

"Bendigo," "Ballarat," "pot o' stuff coming' down country," he had said.

What stuff? It was as plain as a deadeye to me now. Bendigo and Ballarat, the new Victoria goldfields where everybody was flocking to. The "stuff," gold!

Bang! The gun spoke again, and changed the tenor of my thoughts. What would happen to me? It was a disturbiig question, and I realized my helplessness. Could Silvera do without my services? I couldn't answer. It was a deuce of a position for a man to be in, but after a vast amount of brain-racking, I concluded that the less I pretended to know about what had happened the better for me. If Silvera thought that I suspected his game, I had absolutely no doubt but what I would be given a toss to the sharks. Men of Silvera's type had no compunctions. I knew that already.

My action after this may seem strange, but you must remember the state of mind I was in. I had been an eyewitness of an act of piracy on the high seas. I was among a crowd of suspicious cutthroats who wished me to know' nothing; a ship and her human freight was being sunk alongside, and I was supposed to be oblivious to it all in a drugged slumber. To calm my nerves and add realism to my feigned sleep, I poured out a small drink from the water bottle and tossed it off. Within a minute I could feel the drug working its soporific influence. I had a faint recollection of hearing the boom of the gun again, and then I lost consciousness.


I AWOKE naturally and saw that it was daylight. The steward was setting the breakfast on the cabin table, and feeling as if I had passed a nightmarish sleep, I turned out, washed and went on deck. The steward looked sharply at me as I passed, but his "Good morning, sir!" was as civil as usual.

The skipper was pacing the trunk deck when I came up the companion, and he hailed me with a laugh.

"By th' great horse-block!" he cried. "Have ye really woke up? Caramba! I thought ye were in a trance by th' way ye snored. Th' second mate said he c'd hear ve up on deck here. Cripes, man, but you're a heavy sleeper."

I gave a sickly grin, and he stepped towards me.

"Run up ag'in' another hard case yesterday," he said softly. "That skys'l-yarder was another screw. Said he wanted me t' pay for all th' stuff I got, so I swung off. My scheme's no good, Dixon, so we'll get down to huntin' whale again. When ye've fixed up th' reck'nin' I'll ask ye t' drive her south. Thar ain't no fish hereabouts, so we'll make th' Pacific an' try th' Line grounds thar. South we go, an' ho, for th' stormy Horn!"

I placed our position and give the course for the Line. The bark had been lying to the wind all night with fore and main royals and topgallantsails furled, and when I gave Silvera the course, he sung out to the watch loafing for'ard:

"Swing th' mainyard! Make sail!"

To the second mate pacing to leeward he said:

"Get the muslin on her, Mr. Fernandez. We've a long stretch to make an' we don't want to be all year makin' it. Rouse out yer stu'n's'l gear. Get th' booms out an* set lower an' topm'st stu'n's'ls to port. Clew up th' maintack an' sheet everything well down. This little barky isgoin't' sail now!" Among the men hurrying around to execute the orders I noticed the fellow in the red shirt: and helping to break out the booms and stu'n's'lyards lashed on top of the for'ard house was Hagen, the sick man, looking as fit as he ever was. Yet Silvera had said he was delirious and dying!

DURING the weeks which passed on our run to the south'ard, the skipper treated me with every courtesy, and I guarded my emotions so well that he never suspected for a moment that I was aware of the crimes which he and his crew had committed. Indeed, things were so monotonous and usual, that I began to doubt myself; the whole affair seemed but a vivid dream.

Though I hunted around for proofs to substantiate my suspicions, yet absolutely nothing could I find. No trace was there of any gun aboard, nor did I ever run across any weapons other than a shotgun in Silvera's room. I knew that the officers had revolvers—most officers have—but rifles, cutlases, cannon and shells were conspicuous by their absence.

As I was not an officer of the ship I had no right to go prying around the vessel, but on the occasional strolls I made to the fo'c's'le head I found nothing to characterize the Arcturus as being anything but what she was—a whaling bark bound on her lawful occasions with a perfect right to cruise wherever she listed in pursuit of the cetaceans. I might have got substantial proof if I could examine the lazaretto, yet I knew that any attempt on my part would mean sudden death. I did not try.

We passed the East Falklands after a fine run down, and we crossed Burdwood's Bank to edge up to the stormy comer of the southern world. The weather was fine for the high latitudes—fresh sou'westerly wind and a smooth sea—and with royals furled we swashed on our lonely way. I had been asleep all afternoon on the third day after passing the Falklands, and in my stocking feet I ascended the companion for a breath of fresh air. The night was black dark. Filling my pipe in the gangway, I stepped on deck intending to ask the watch officer for a match. As I passed along the lee alley towards the break rail, I heard my name mentioned by some one over to windward, and stopped to listen.

With the sough of the wind and the wash from our passage through the water, the conversationalists were obliged to speak loudly, and being to leeward I caught the words distinctly.

"Get him out o' th' way after we make the Island.... We don't want him after that.... Need good navigator to pick it up.... Afterwards I can take her to 'Frisco.... Think Dixon knows anything?"

It was Slocum's voice—he of the red shirt—and he was talking to Silvera.

"Nawthin'... Doped out both times.... Albemarle... Sea King. Get him to fetch us to Hiva Nuku.... Jake Thompson'll have his schooner there an' we'll ship th' stuff.... Give his a toss to th' sharks...."

FEARFUL of being discovered, I crept away with the hair of my head tingling. So that was the lay! I was to be used for my navigating abilities in picking up some Pacific Island rendezvous and then cast adrift like a worn-out swab. Red Shirt would navigate the bark to San Francisco—any one who could steer and keep track of a log could do that; but picking up some isolated Pacific atoll required more accurate knowledge.

Slipping quietly into my room, I lit my pipe and turned into my bunk to think things out. A number of schemes came to my mind, but I dismissed them all as improbable and impossible. I had no friends among the crew whom I could rely upon. All were deep in the scheme and none would act against Silvera. Joe Smith, my former shipmate of the blockade days, had never spoken a word to me since the eventful night I fell aboard the bark, and I knew I could expect nothing from him.

Escape was impossible. If I attempted to swim to a passing ship I would be shot or quickly recaptured, and the chances of swimming in the icy seas of the Southern Ocean were not feasible. I couldn't launch a boat without some one seeing or hearing me. I had to dismiss that. I had no weapons other than a sheath-knife, and even if I had a revolver, what could I do with it? Shoot Silvera and a few others, maybe, but it would not be long before I would be killed myself. No, I had to admit that my chances were mighty slim.

I reached down a chart of Cape Horn and the Straits of Magellan and studied it for a moment, and I remembered how, that very morning I had to explain to Silvera the great easterly variation which prevailed in the vicinity. He had questioned me with regard to the amount of westing in the course I had given him; in his ignorance he had reckoned when steering south, the course should necessarily be south, variation, deviation and other errors of the compass being a mystery to him.

It was the easterly variation which gave me the idea. Desperate and all as it was, I decided that it was the only thing I could do. If I were destined to die, then I would take good care that others went with me. Briefly, I determined that I would put the Arcturus ashore on one or other of the dangerous rocks which fringed the Horn!

I lay awake the best part of the night, smoking and thinking. At daylight I slipped into my pocket a steel watch chain I had found in the desk and went on deck. Francisco, the watch officer, was lolling over the break rail for'ard, and a stupid Chileno was at the wheel. Going over to the compass I told him to steer by the weather leach of the mainto'gallan's'l for a minute. Standing in front of him, I took off the binnacle hood, noted the point at the lubber mark on the compass, and after slipping the steel chain under the right side of the card I placed the cover on again.

"All right," I growled to the helmsman. "Keep her as she was."

And I left him pulling the spokes over to head up on the vast amount of westing I had introduced into the compass.

"Now!" I muttered. "I'll play a little game of my own, Captain Silvera, and we'll see who wins out—you or me. If I can't pile you up inside of twenty-four hours then I'm a Dutchman."

At noon I got a sight, and fixed our position as some eighty miles northwest of Staten Island. There was a fresh breeze blowing and we "were logging seven to eight knots with a southerly wind. We were sailing close-hauled, heading about W. S. W. by correct compass course, but in reality the bark was actually making that course, as my steel chain more than compensated for the easterly variation.

"Now, sir," I said to the skipper, after I had shown him our position on the chart, "we'll be opening out the Horn by daylight and we're feeling the set of the South Drift now. Crack on and make the most of this breeze. We've plenty of sea room to clear Cape St. John and we want to make all the westing we can while the wind holds."

He nodded curtly. When he went on deck, I heard him singing out for the fore and main royals, topmast staysails and gaff-topsail to be set.

"Now," said I to myself, "slam away, you bloody-minded pirate! Four bells in the first watch'll have us trying to push Staten Island out of the water and a grand Ice shore the cliffs will make with this souther blowing. There are no lights in this part of the world and there's sure to be fog inshore, and it's a safe bet that no lookout will ever report land until the breakers are heard."

THE afternoon seemed interminably long, and as it was Summertime down south, the night came tardily over the waste of rolling gray sea and grayer sky. I paced the quarter, smoking, until nine o'clock. Looking over the log slate in the chart-house, I made a mental calculation of our position as being about fifteen miles off the land. The breeze still held strong and the vessel was storming steadily on the course I had laid for her. Within two hours she would strike.

I glanced around the ship, heard the growling talk of the watch mustered aft in the lee of the half deck, smoking and yarning; heard a ribald chorus come from the fo'c's'le, and saw Fernandez steadily pacing the weather alley. Silvera was below asleep. The harpooners were playing cards in the half deck. A shivering negro tugged with mittened hands at the spokes of the wheel. All were oblivious to impending disaster. But they deserved the fate I had in store for them, and when I felt my nerve wavering, I thought of the murdered crews of the Albemarle and Sea King. Aye! I could save my sympathy.

I went below and locked myself in my room. Sitting on the transom I made a mental overhaul of my life, and, finding the slate fairly clean, waited calmly for the crash which meant the end.


THE reader of this narrative will probably think I was extremely phlegmatic in my desperate actions. I was. Life held very little for me then. I had no home and no relations, no friends except an odd shipmate here and there. I held a master's certificate, but hard times and hard experiences had practically killed all my ambition, and I hated the life I was living; hated the sea; hated everything. Existence for me had by now developed into a mere prolongation of life by eating and drinking. Scheming and planning had jaded my brain, and I was quite prepared to die if I could be sure of blotting out the horde of scoundrels I was shipmates with. God would give me credit for that, I was sure.

Therefore it was with an easy conscience that I waited for the inevitable, and without any nervousness I turned into my bunk. When the bark struck, I would remain where I was. Just as easy to die below decks as to be engulfed and tossed about in the open.

I must have fallen into an apathetic doze, for when I awoke it was to hear Fernandez scream inarticulate words down the companionway. The quietness of the night was broken by a sonorous booming. When a medley of shouts and running feet sounded overhead, I knew' we were in the breakers. I felt the bark staggering and lurching, heard the steward open his door and clatter up the ladder, and Silvera roaring and swearing.

Some one shrieked, "Hard down! Hard down!" and then came a frightful shock.

I was hurled bodily to the floor. I made no attempt to rise, but lay where I fell, listening to the thunder of the waves breaching over the vessel and the hoarse shouts of the panic-stricken crew. The bark was lifting and pounding with dreadful concussions upon the rock or ledge, and amidst the din of falling spars, rending woodwork and crashing seas, the voice of Silvera could be heard directing the launching of a boat with frightful oaths.

All hands seemed to have swarmed aft on to the poop. I could hear the stamping and shuffling of their booted feet on the deck above me; their yells and curses, and the boom and crash of the boarding breakers. Then I remember Slocum bawling something about "dead wall of rock ahead" and "drop off jibboom." There was more stamping of the booted feet, and some one clattered down the companion ladder.

"Dixon, you swine! Ahoy, Dixon! Where are you, you dog! Bum my soul, but I'll cut yer heart out!" and a string of vile oaths.

It was Silvera. I made no answer. He groped about in the darkness until he came to my door. He tried the handle. Finding it locked, he roared:

"Open th' door, you ——— ———! You've spiked me, but by ——— I'll spike you! Open!"

Receiving no answer, he hammered on the panels with his fists, snarling like a dog and swearing dreadfully. The vessel shuddered to the shocks of the waves breaking over her. Then came a resounding crash on the deck above, with a splintering and tearing of woodwork; and a roaring welter of sea came like a cataract into the cabin. The water was spurting into my room through the cracks in the door. I expected that the end was coming. Silvera was still in the cabin, but he had desisted from his endeavor to force an entrance to my room. I expect he thought I was dead.

THE water was swashing over my body with every pound of the vessel, when she suddenly canted to starboard and I was thrown violently against the bulkhead. As my room was to port the water drained out, and I found myself lying on the wet planking and still very much alive. Instead of wishing to die, a desire to live was beginning to take possession of me, and I rose to my feet.

The vessel was not pounding now, and though she trembled to the shocks of the seas which broke over her hull, yet it seemed to me she was far from breaking up. The massive oak beams and stanchions in my berth were still holding in spite of the awful hammering the bark had undergone, and I noticed that the oak hanging-knees had not started, nor had the planking opened up. I could not see through the port, owing to the fact that the deadlights had been shipped over them when we passed the Rio Plata in readiness for the stormy weather of the Horn.

The shocks were perceptibly lessening, and as I puzzled myself for an explanation, I remembered the tide.

"Why, to be sure, the tide is falling, and we must have canted over with our decks toward the shore." Thus thinking, I struck a match and lit a candle.

Quietly unlocking my door I peered out. The lee side of the cabin was swashing with water and littered with the debris of table and seats. A great gap where the skylight had been yawned overhead, and across the square of gray daylight which showed came streams of chilly spray. The candle was blown out, but there was enough light to discern things by. As I glanced around the flooded apartment I could see no sign of Silvera.

"Must have gone on deck," I murmured, and scrambling across the sloping floor I crawled up the companionway and looked around on the ruin I had wrought. It was blowing very hard and the spindrift from the welter of white-water we were lying in was flying athwart the air. Ahead towered a great wall of cliff which loomed hazily in the half light of the semi-antarctic morning and which was blotted from sight intermittently by veils of rainy mist.

The vessel was lying over on her starboard bilge with her bottom facing seaward. All the masts had gone by the board and could be seen in a tangled raffle of spars, canvas and cordage, swashing among the rocks at the foot of the cliffs. The for'ard house was still standing, and I made out something which had been a mystery to me. The tank which had once reposed on top of the house had disappeared, and in its stead I saw the shining barrel of a cannon known as a Parrott rifle-gun!

AS MY eyes got used to the gloom, I saw that we were lying in a slight indentation in the cliff wall—a sort of cove or fiord with a litter of broken rocks and boulders rising in a steep pile to the apex of a triangle formed by two unbroken walls of stone. By crawling for'ard and clambering out on the bowsprit, it would be possible to drop on to dry land. And with the craving for life still strong within me. I jumped below to ransack the pantry for food and water. The storeroom lay to starboard, and to reach it I had to wade waist deep in chilly water.

Entering, I stuffed my pockets and the inside of my shirt with biscuits and some dried apples. There was no water in the place, and trusting to find some when I reached the shore, I crawled along the weather rail to the fo'c's'le head and out on the bowsprit. The headstays were dangling down from the spar, and I was soon slipping and sprawling around on the weed and kelp covered rocks.

Before I gained high-water mark, I was destined to stumble over three almost unrecognizable bodies, but the sight excited no qualms of conscience. They deserved their fate, and though I had the blood of some thirty-three men on my head, I felt that I had become but an instrument of vengeance in the hands of a just Deity.

Heedless of the cold, I scrambled up the slippery boulders to the apex of the cleft. It was with some satisfaction that I noted that the cliffs were not so inaccessible as they appeared from seaward. There were numerous ledges and cracks which would not make climbing difficult to a sailorman used to scaling giddy heights.

I was tightening my belt and buttoning up my coat in preparation to make the ascent, when I heard the rattle of boulders behind me, and I wheeled around in time to see Silvera in the act of hurling a mighty rock in my direction. With a smothered oath, he hove the stone, and I leaped aside in time to escape being dashed to the ground.

I HAD no weapons, and I was no match for Silvera in strength. But I could see by the terrible look in his eyes that he meant to kill me, and so, as he rushed toward me with his great hands outstretched to grasp my throat, I picked up a small stone and struck him square in the face with it. He stopped and clapped his hands to his mouth. While I backed away, he grabbed another piece of jagged rock and advanced with the blood streaming from his nose and his tangled beard streaked white with crusted salt.

"I'll fix you, my bully!" he roared. "You think you've finished my hash——"

I leaped behind a huge sea-bleached stone just as he hurled his missile, and while he stooped to pick up another, I pelted him with all my strength with another small piece of rock. It struck him on the cheek, cutting it to the bone, and while I grabbed two more, he drove a chunk smack into my ribs with terrific force. I gasped and hurled both my missiles at him. One missed, but the other bowled him over. Following up my advantage, I grasped a large stone and launched it at his head. It struck him square in the middle of the back as he rolled over, and he collapsed with a growl of rage.

Several times he attempted to rise to his feet, but somehow or other he was powerless. While I waited with another stone poised to brain him with as soon as he gained his knees, he gave an agonized cry, more like that of a wild beast than of a human being, and shrieked:

"Kill me! Kill me! My back is broken!"

And as I watched him groveling on the pebbles and clawing out with his hands in a vain effort to rise, I saw that this evidently was the case. My missile had caught him in the small of the back just as he was jumping to his feet, and the blow had broken his spine.

I stepped up to him, still holding on to my stone. He snarled at me like a trapped wolf. His face dripped blood, and with his matted hair, tangled beard, and the eyes literally ablaze with hate and savage defiance, he made a frightful picture as he lay on the gravel with his fingers tearing into the pebbles in his helpless rage.

"CAPTAIN SILVERA!" I said calmly. "You and I are quits now. You've got to make your peace with God for the lives you have sent into eternity for greed of gold. You're a dying man!"

"Dyin' be cussed!" he shrieked. "Ob, blast you, Dixon! It's you that has done all this! It's you that piled th' vessel up——"

"Yes," I answered. "I piled her up and I did it purposely——"

"You did?"

He snapped the question out doubtfully.

"Aye, I did. I fixed your compass; told you to crack on, and there's the result."

And I pointed to the hulk lying a cable's length below in the spume and froth of the breakers.

"What-made you do that?" he said after a pause, a little more calmly. "I always treated you well."

"Yes," I replied, "and I was to navigate the bark to Hiva Nuku and then you'd toss me to the sharks. It was my skill as a navigator which saved me, that's all. You'd have hove me over the side off Nantucket Shoals if Joe Smith hadn't told you I had been an officer. I owe you nothing."

He remained quiet for a spell and the savage light died out of his eyes.

"What do you know?" he inquired at length.

"I know that you and your crew were nothing more than pirates pretending to be whalers," I answered. "I know that you looted and sunk two ships, murdering their crews. I wasn't drugged the time the Sea King was looted. I did not drink the water until after the crime was committed."

He nodded.

"D'ye think I'll die?"

"You'll die ultimately," I replied without emotion. "We may both die, but you'll die first. A broken back won't kill you right away, but starvation will get you very soon."

And as I shot a glance behind me, I saw the tide was on the turn.

"I'll have to leave you," I said. "Will I haul you up the beach?"

"No!" he growled. "Let me be."

"Will you have a biscuit?"

"No! Save it for yourself; you'll need it soon enough."

I was about to say good-by to him when he spoke.

"Wait a spell, Dixon. I'm goin' t' slip my shackle soon, but I might as well give you a true bill. Stand by for a minute or so, an' I'll get all hands into the tar-pot. Will ye hear me?"

I nodded and sat down on a boulder alongside him. It was raining and bitterly cold. The wind was howling in the fissures; slaty storm-racked sky. gray sea, and gray cliffs fringed with roaring breakers made up a melancholy vista of desolation and misery. Add to the picture of dreary land and sea the battered hulk in the surf, the scattered bodies, the two living creatures— one helpless and doomed already and the other with but a doubtful span of life before him—and the weird and mournful squawk of the penguins in the fissures, and you have an idea of the depressive background in which I listened to Silvera's confession.


"IF YOU get clear, Dixon, I'll have you make a report on what I m goin' to say. Go to th' nearest Yankee Consul an' tell him th' whole yam. I'll bet it'll raise his hair some. Now if you'll listen I'll spin you th' story.

"I've been most kinds of a sailor in my day—privateerin', slavin', an' running' th' slave embargo. Then I went my last two or three voyages whalin' as boat-steerer an' harpooneer. In '61, me and our cooper, a man called Jake Thompson, jumped the ship in New Zealand an' sundowned it for the Otago gold diggin's. We struck it rich, sold out for fifty thousand dollars apiece, and went to San Francisco with our pile.

"Thompson started a kind of tradin' venture among the Islands and I came East an' did some gun-runnin' in a schooner 'round th' Gulf ports. I lost a good deal o' my dollars at that game an' lost th' schooner as well, so I went West again and found Thompson in 'Frisco doin' a roarin' business with his tradin' company. Then I broached my scheme to him.

"They were makin' big strikes in th' Bendigo an' Ballarat gold fields of Australia, an' miners were cornin' over to 'Frisco with stories of th' gold that was bein' shipped out o' th' country in th' clippers 'round th' Horn. This give me an idea, an' I reckoned if a man had a fast sailin' packet an' a crew he could rely on there wouldn't be much difficulty in piratin' a few o' them gold ships.

"We talked th' thing over an' we decided that th' best kind o' craft to use for th* business would be a whaler. Whaleships have a kind o' rovin' commission; they kin go anywhere an' cruise aroun' without causin' suspicion. Ye kin cam* a pile o' boats an' keep steady masthead lookouts, an' your papers allow you to enter any port.

"Havin' both been whalemen, we decided that a whaler would be th' best kind o' craft to use. A schooner would be too small an' liable to be overhauled by th' first gunboat what seen her cruisin' around, an' a marchant vessel would be more suspicious than anythin', so th' whaler was tu' best lay.

"NOW, as it wasn't any easy job pickin' out th' craft what carried th' dust, we had t' figure out some plan for knowin' likely vessels, us I didn't calculate on stoppin' an' overhaulin' every Australiaman we met. You must remember that every ship we stopped would have to be got rid of, or they'd be for reportin' our actions to th' first cruiser they met, an' we'd be done for. So, rememberin' this, we picked up four likely fellows an' let them into our plans, and we fixed things up in this way.

"I was to go East an' buy an' fit out a likely craft for a whalin' voyage. Thompson supplied th' rhino for th' scheme. Th' four men who were in th' game with us were to make for Melbun an' hang aroun' there until they heard of a ship leavin' for England with a consignment o' gold, an' they were to sign on as foremast hands aboard of her. We reckoned that two packets with a bunch o' homeward-bound miners an' their dust would about do us. Th' two men who signed on in each ship were to get into each watch, port an' starboard, so s to be able to keep an eye open for us all th' time.

"Sailormen were scarce enough in Melbun with th' crews cuttin' stick for th' diggin's, an' we knew they'd have no trouble in shippin' themselves. We were to be cruisin' about in th' homeward track jest west o' th' Cape Verde Islands, an' they'd arrange to signal us in some way or other. We fixed things pretty well an' there wasn't so much chance o' mistakes as you'd maybe think.

"I came East by the Overland Trail, an' picked up the Arcturus in Savannah very cheap, an' scrapin' up a crew I had her brought to Noo Bedford an' altered for whalin'. Then I got a Parrott rifie-gun an' fixed boards over it to make it look like a tank or bosun's locker——"

"How did you allay suspicions around New Bedford when you fetched that gun aboard?"

"No suspicions at all. A lot o' whaleships carried cannon for protection against pirates in the Eastern channels an' nobody thought anythin' about it. I sounded my crowd what I had scraped together an' made sure they'd be ready for anythin'.

"Then I picked up a feller named Lamson for first mate an' navigator. I was no navigator myself, an' for th' business we needed a good man. This Lamson was a clever joker, but when I broached my plans, he tried to escape while we were anchored out in th' Bay, an' I brained him with a handspike——"

"I thought you said he was drunk and fell down the companionway?"

"Aye, I told you that; but I told you a lot o' things. No, he wasn't drunk, but I hit him too hard an' he croaked. I had to get away to sea after that, as th' feller belonged to Noo Bedford an' I was afraid some of his friends might be cornin' out to visit him afore we sailed. I got outside an' cmised around intendin' for to send a boat in to shore next momin' to get hold of another mate, an' while I was standin' off an on, your ship most cut us down an' you fell aboard. Lucky for both of us. You were jest th man I needed; ef you weren't, 1 d have had you over th' side long afore now. I reckon you know th' rest o' th' yarn pretty well——"

"Tell me!" I interrupted. "What were you going to do if the vessels had Dassed you in the night?"

He smiled contemptuously.

I arranged for that. All th' time we were on th' cruisin' ground I had a red an' white lantern hangin' under th' bowsprit, an' every vessel we saw, we gave chase to. We only saw two craft at night, anyhow."

I nodded.

"Finish your story."

"WAAL, there ain't much more. We picked up the Albemarle an' got th' signal from our fellows aboard. Then I hocused you out o' the way, an' looted her, an' sent her to th' bottom. We got 'most two hundred an' fifty thousand pounds o' dust an' raw gold out o' her. You knew nawthin' about that.

"Then we picked up the other fellow on th' Sea King—his partner was killed off the Horn—an' you say you saw that bit o' work. We got a big pile out o' her—'most as much as the other. That's about all, I reckon, 'cept that we were to he in to Hiva Nuku until a schooner arrived an' took th' stuff to 'Frisco. We were to follow later an' divide up on th' spoil——"

"The crew as well?"

He gave a wry smile.

"Some o' them only. I would lose a few between the Islands an' th' Golden Gate. Sickness, y'know, forces me to give up th' v'y'ge."

I looked down on him with abhorrence.

"You're a pretty dirty scoundrel," I said. "But I thank the Lord I've fetched you and your gang up all standing. I've been a fool, but I wasn't so foolish as you thought I was, and two can play at a game of bluff. However, it's all finished now and I wish you no harm. Pray, if you know how, for I've got to be moving."

He laughed harshly.

"Pray? Huh! I'm no crawler! If there's such a place as hell, then I'm bound for it, an' there'll be plenty to hail me when I get there, but we'll all go th' same road. Remember Jake Thompson. San Francisco. Ef you get clear, go to a Consul an' swear to what I've told you. I want him to swing. Will you do what I say?"

"If I get clear, I will!"

I was rising to move away, when he cried appealingly:

"Say, Dixon, I'm a goner, I know, but don't leave me to starve. I'll jest ask you one thing an' I hope ye'll do it. Knock my brains out an' put me out o' misery——"

"No, no, no!" I cried, shuddering with the hideousness of the suggestion.

"Then strangle me! Kill me in some way! God, man, don't leave me here to perish alone!"

Sick with cold and the horror of the things I had seen and heard, I staggered up against the rock wall with his entreaties ringing in my ears.

"Come on, Dixon, like a good fellow! Fix me somehow, but don't leave me, for God's sake. Heave me in th' surf! Drownin's easy."

I steeled my nerves and rushed toward him.

"God forgive me!" I murmured, and I dragged and lugged him down to the edge of the advancing breakers.

"Out to th' ledge there an' topple me in!" he commanded.

Obeying his commands, I pulled him over the kelp-covered rocks to the edge of the ledge. Then for a moment my resolution wavered.

"Over with me, man!" he roared. "Over with me! It will be a mercy!"

I stood back in terror.

"I can't! I can't!" I wailed.

His hands clawed at the weeds and he dragged himself to the brink.

"So long!" he shouted, and as I stared at him in paralyzed fright, he rolled into the churning sea.


HOW I scaled the cliffs I do not know, but when I came to my natural mind again I was stumbling through the tussock grass and causing an uproar among the penguins, boobies, and other sea fowl nesting in the coarse vegetation. I wandered around for many hours until I stumbled upon a rude hut constructed out of wreckage and sail cloth. Here I lived for days, subsisting upon raw eggs and the biscuits I had brought with me, until I was picked up by a small Falkland Islands schooner beach-combing around the coast for wreckage.

I told them of the wrecked whaler, but nothing of the gold in her lazaretto nor the circumstances which led to my being cast ashore on Staten Land. They cruised in the direction of the place where she was lying, but not a vestige of her fabric remained, though pieces of her hull and spars were seen in the clefts and ledges.

After being landed at Port Stanley I made my way over to Montevideo and reported the affair to the United States Consul. That gentleman promptly had me arrested and confined as a lunatic. I was released and went to Buenos Ayres, and the Consuls, both British and American, listened to my tale with incredulous wonder, and quickly had me thrown out into the street. Not a soul would believe me, and the newspapers published an account of a crazy sailor whose mind had been upset by reading of the disappearance of two homeward-bound Australian clippers.

Eventually I joined a ship bound for 'Frisco. Upon arrival I saw the authorities and told them of the connection of one Jake Thompson with the affair. Thompson's trading company had gone out of business a few months before and Thompson himself was no longer in the city. I was laughed at and discredited wherever I went; the affair was a standing joke in the newspapers for many weeks. They willingly believed that I was one of the Arcturus's crew. They believed the peculiar manner in which I had come to be aboard of her. But the rest of my tale was put down to a disorder of the brain induced by the hardships I had undergone.

Rebuffed, laughed at, and jeered on every hand, I soon came to the conclusion that the less I said about the events the better for me and my future prospects. I left the city and went inland gold prospecting, with a determination never to go seafaring again. I kept my word, and the foregoing account, written some forty years after the affair happened, is the only statement I have made since I shook the dust of 'Frisco from my feet.

I am a very old man now, but the Lord has kept my memory green, and though I often desire to forget, nevertheless the horror of those far-off days is still in my mind.