Page:Yule Logs.djvu/88

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72
VENTURE OF THE "BERTHA" WHALER

needn't say. May-be he didn't want to! But when you fired the rifle first time, the bullet—aimed high, mind you—hit him full, and he fell dead in the barrel aloft. Awful sudden it was! Then Stevens told us to go for you; and I 'spect we'd a' done that anyway. I was lookin' out for ye myself! There was friends aboard."

"I hope not many of you were concerned with the mate, Jackson," asked the surgeon.

"Oh, well, some was. But no one is now. Of course, if any was really in it all, they'd give in, and tack off the shoal pretty quick! Esau was the prop, d'ye see! I was keepin' a look-out for you."

"Thank you, Jackson. I am sure we are greatly indebted to you; and when we reach England again you shall all receive your deserts in full."

This decision did not appear very promising to Jackson, who touched his cap and went forward amid his mates. But nothing untoward occurred during the passage home; there was nothing to complain of all the while.

The Bertha returned after a three months' struggle against tempests and opposing winds. The Fuegians died on the voyage home, but the barque, her crew, and passengers, reached Plymouth in safety, and anchored in the Cattwater.

Mr. Halbrake immediately went ashore with the Rushtons to telegraph the arrival and to report. When he returned to the Bertha, he learned that the crew, with the exception of Stevens, the two engineers, Jackson, and twelve hands, had taken French leave and decamped! This was an eloquent testimony to the intentions of Mr. Cordell and his associates.

So soon as Mr. Halbrake had placed the barque in the hands of his uncle's agent, he hastened to Mr. Boscombe's residence in the neighbourhood of Exmouth. There a sinister rumour met him. He learned from the