Page:Yule Logs.djvu/86

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70
VENTURE OF THE "BERTHA" WHALER

upon whether the mate had heard the shots, a boat was lowered from the Bertha and put out for the derelict. But the channels were so winding that it was quite an hour before the boat reached the sinking ship, and fears of ultimate rescue were expressed by the lads.

Jackson was steering the boat, which came alongside. He climbed up, and stood staring at the whole party in silence, his eyes passing from one to another in turn.

"Well, I am busted!" he exclaimed at last. "Who expected to see you and them funny devils? Good job the mate's shot. Who did it, eh?"

"Shot!" exclaimed the three friends. "What do you mean?"

"Why, this. One of your bullets came along and hit him full in the chest. It settled him, you may depend. 'Spect you ain't so sorry, eh?"

"I really do not understand you," said the surgeon. "Did you not expect to see us again? Do you mean that we were sent away to die?"

"Well, sir, not you especial. But, sir, I could tell you a secret," he added, as his ruddy face became redder than his hearers', which were already well "burnt" by the snow and wind. "Have you been smoking tobacco?"

"Yes," replied the surgeon. " But what has that to do with the question?"

"Have you smoked what I gave you? No! Then look at the paper. There it is!"

Mr. Halbrake unrolled the stained wrapper which enclosed the "twist," and discovered a written communication—"To the Captain!" He read as follows:—

"There are traitors on board, captain! Oh, be careful of my boys. I cannot tell you anything. I know nothing, but I fear the worst. Be on your guard. May God keep you! I pray for my sons and you!"

"What's this," gasped Halbrake. "The disputed letter! The warning! Look here, boys!"