VENTURE OF THE "BERTHA" WHALER
"Mother's writing!" they exclaimed. "Dearest mother! She did suspect, then! Oh that mate!"
"Who are the traitors, Jackson?" asked Mr. Halbrake. "I must and shall know, if I ruin myself to find out."
"Then you'll never do that either way. They are cowed now, whoever they are. The game is up, and what I suspects I sha'n't tell. Let them be, sir."
"And who was so infamous as to desire to suggest our … disappearance?" asked the surgeon, savagely.
"Ah! there I can't help you. I don't know. That's a fact. Now, gentlemen, you're waited for. Come away! What about these two ' Guy Foxes ' here? what's to be done about them? Best take 'em and drop them somewhere."
No reply was made to this remark. The boys were thinking of their mother, and of the terrible crime into which their step-father had plunged: the death of the mate his accomplice, and the narrow escape they had had! The captain had already been sacrificed. Alas! no reparation could be made to him! The mate had paid the penalty of his ill-doings—by accident—by chance!
Who could say it was "by chance"? When the rifle was placed in the boat, he had joked about it, and it had caused his death! Was not then the finger of Providence evident? Otherwise, he might have escaped, till, even if he had been convicted in England, the disclosure of the plot would have been disastrous to the family at home. Yes, the best had happened! There is no "chance" in life.The surgeon and his party returned to the Bertha, leaving the derelict and her cargo to the sea to give up her dead. The mate's body was buried in the cold Antarctic Ocean, and the barque sailed for England. Jackson informed the lads of the manner in which Esau met his death. "He was in the 'crow's nest,'" said the sailor, "looking out; whether he expected to see you or not, we