A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 2

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CHAPTER II.


THE COLLISION IN THE HURRICANE.


"Now, what is he going to do?" I murmured turning to my companion.

"Something out of the ordinary, that's certain," answered Dan. "He has just enough in him to be thoroughly ugly."

"I don't believe he'll let this matter drop, storm or no storm."

"Not he, Oliver. I'm afraid we have got ourselves into a scrape. I wish we were in sight of Manila."

"So do I. But I haven't done anything wrong. Somebody ought to tell the man that he is drinking too much, Dan."

At that instant Dawson, the mate, came up. He had been standing behind the mainmast and had heard every word uttered. His face showed plainly that he was greatly troubled.

"This is too bad," he observed. "The cap'n bad enough, but you have made him wuss, ten times over, lads."

"He hasn't any right to drink, Dawson."

"We won't talk about thet—seein' as how he's in command and I'm only the fust mate. I'm sorry you quarreled, with the end o' the voyage almost in sight."

"What will he do?" put in Dan.

"I dunno. Drink more, I reckon, an' then come up twict as ugly."

"What about this storm that is coming up?" I questioned.

"I notified him of that half an hour ago."

"And he didn't pay any attention? It's a shame! I don't want to go to the bottom of the China Sea, whether the captain drinks or not."

"None o' us want to go to the bottom, lad. But then——" Tom Dawson ended with a shrug of his shoulders. He realized more than I did what a responsibility would rest upon him did he dare to issue orders contrary to Captain Kenny's wishes.

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and the day had been unusually oppressive, even for this latitude, which, as most of my readers must know, never boasts of cold weather, but can easily break the record for scorchers. During the morning, when the sun had shone, the seams of the deck had run with tar, and no one had exposed himself more than was absolutely necessary. But now the sun was hidden by clouds that kept growing darker and darker, and the wind was so strong it could not be otherwise than refreshing.

Captain Kenny had left positive orders that the main and mizzen courses be left as they were, fully set, and both sheets were straining and tugging as though ready to lift the two masts out of their resting places. The forecourse had been taken in, also the jib, but so far this had had no effect on the riding of the Dart, and she dipped her nose into every fourth or fifth wave that came along.

"If I was you I'd take in more sail," remarked Dan, after a pause. "Even if you don't lose a mast, you're running the risk of opening more than one seam. If we founder——"

He did not finish, for at that moment Captain Kenny's head reappeared above the combing of the companion way. He came staggering toward us with his right hand in his jacket pocket and a sickly grin on his unshaven face.

"Now we'll come to terms," he began, with a hiccough.

"Captain Kenny, how about that mainsail?" interrupted the mate. "The wind is freshening rapidly, sir."

"I'll take care o' the—hic—mainsail, when I'll through which these—hic—young rascals," was the answer. "Yarson! Carden!" he bawled out. "Come here, you're wanted."

At once two of the sailors, a Swede and an American, came aft and touched their forelocks.

"Do you know what I'm—hic—going to do?" went on the captain, closing one eye suggestively. "I'm going to place both of you under arrest until we arrive at Manila."

"Arrest!" cried Dan and I simultaneously.

"You shall not arrest me," I added, and my companion said something very similar.

"I said—hic—arrest, and I mean it. Throw up your hands, both of you."

"I refuse to obey the order."

"Do you know that I am the—hic—commander of this ship?"

"You are when you are sober," returned Dan.

"I am sober now—I never get—hic—drunk. I place you under arrest. Yarson, Carden, conduct the two passengers to the—hic—brig and lock 'em in."

"Keep your hands off!" I exclaimed. "Don't you dare to touch me!"

"And don't you dare to touch me," added Dan.

We had scarcely spoken than Captain Kenny withdrew his right hand from his pocket and showed us the muzzle of a revolver.

"You'll—hic—obey or take the consequences," he hiccoughed. "I'm a peaceful man until I'm aroused, and then——" Another hiccough ended the sentence.

I must say that I was both alarmed and disgusted, but my disgust was greater than my alarm, for I knew I had right on my side and was willing to wager that in his present condition Captain Kenny could not hit the broadside of a barn, excepting by accident.

The two sailors advanced, but they came on slowly, evidently having no relish for the job at hand. When the Swede attempted to take hold of me I flung him off.

"Stand back!" I said, and at the same time Dan motioned Garden to keep his distance.

"Are you going to do as I ordered?" fumed the captain.

"I vos reatty to opey orders, captain," said Yarson.

"So am I, cap'n, if you say it's all right," added Carden.

"It is all—hic—right. Arrest 'em—arrest 'em on the spot!" vociferated the skipper of the Dart.

"You keep your distance," I ordered. "If you don't it will be the worse for you."

"The first man who touches me will get knocked down," said Dan, and caught up a marline spike which hung by the mast.

"Captain, I think we really ought to look to those sails," pleaded Dawson, taking hold of his chief's arm. "It won't do to lose 'em, you know."

"Didn't I say I'd take care of 'em when I'm—hic—through with these fellows?" was the surly return. "Stand back, Dawson!" and now the captain rushed forward and leveled his pistol at my head. "You march to the brig, and be quick about it, or I'll——"

What Captain Kenny would have done, had I refused to march as ordered, I never learned, for while he was speaking Dan made a rush forward and caught the pistol from his hand and sent him flat on his back, in the bargain. Then my companion stepped to my side, and both of us backed up toward the companion way.

For fully a minute Captain Kenny lay where he had fallen, nobody caring to go to his assistance. Then he cried loudly to the sailors to help him get up, and they did so. In the meantime Tom Dawson stood by, scratching his head in perplexity.

"Captain, we must attend to the sails," he began, when there came a sudden puff of air, and the Dart seemed to fairly stand up on ends. I had to catch hold of the companion way rail to keep from falling, and Dan held on, too. Captain Kenny collapsed and went sliding into the mainmast, and then toward the lee rail.

"Save me!" he yelled, when he felt that he could not help himself. "Save me!" And Dawson and the American sailor immediately ran to his assistance.

It was all I could do now to save myself from being thrown down the companion way, and for the time being I lost interest in Captain Kenny. "This is awful!" I said to Dan. "I believe we are in for another hurricane."

"The fools ought to take in every rag of canvas," was the reply. "Tom Dawson hasn't any backbone, or he'd take matters in his own hands."

"Let us go below," I went on, as a wave swept the deck, drenching us both. "There is no use of remaining here."

Dan tumbled down the companion way and into the cabin, and I came after him, stumbling over an empty rum bottle which was rolling over the floor. From the cabin we went to our stateroom, to see that the port was tightly closed.

"I think I'll keep this pistol until we reach Manila," observed my companion. "You know I haven't any weapon of my own. I wish I had some extra cartridges."

"Perhaps the caliber of my pistol is the same as Captain Kenny's weapon," I suggested, and produced my little six-shooter. Both pistols used the same size of cartridge, and I divided a box of those articles between us, and shoved my share and my revolver in my pocket.

We now heard a hurried tramping on deck, and soon the creaking of blocks as the main and mizzen courses came down on the run. Soon every rag of canvas was furled, this being done by Dawson's directions, as I afterward learned. Captain Kenny having been knocked partly unconscious by his tumble upon the lee rail.

A half hour went by, a time that to Dan and I seemed an age. The Dart tumbled and tossed, and it was all we could do to keep from having our brains dashed out against the stateroom walls.

"We would have done much better had we taken a steamer to Manila," I remarked, when the hurricane seemed to be at its height. "If we get out of this storm we have still our row with the captain to be settled up."

"Never mind, Oliver, we ought to reach Manila in a couple of days. If the captain attempts to arrest us again, I'll give him warning that I'll have him up before the court at the first landing we make."

"He ought to have his vessel taken away from him. Do you suppose the owners would keep him in command if they knew of his habits?"

"As it happens he owns a one-fourth interest in the Dart, and his contract says he shall be skipper, so Dawson told me," answered Dan. "I'll wager Dawson will have a story to tell when he comes below. My, what a sea must be running!" And my companion swung forward and back with the motion of the schooner. "And see how dark it is getting!"

It was so gloomy we could scarcely see each other. It had now begun to lighten and thunder, while the rain came down in perfect sheets. We huddled together, as if feeling instinctively that something out of the ordinary was about to occur.

And it did occur a moment later. A clap of thunder had just rolled away when there came a cry from the deck, so appalling that it could be distinctly heard above the fury of the elements.

"Ship, ahoy! Don't run us down!"

The cry was followed by a tearing, grinding, sickening crash that I shall never forget. The crash threw me headlong and I lay at Dan's feet for several seconds, completely dazed.