A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 29

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We were compelled to pass the night in the trees, the Tagals encamping less than a hundred feet away, and the night proving so light that escape was out of the question.

But at dawn our enemies departed, and then we lost no time in dropping to the ground and moving on, first, however, helping ourselves to all of the steaks we could conveniently carry.

Our course lay along the hills, and soon we crossed the canyon where Captain Kenny had played me such a dastardly trick. Here we paused for a dinner of the steaks, and I think I can truthfully say that never did a repast taste sweeter.

"I only hope I can square accounts with Captain Kenny some time," I said. "I shall never feel satisfied until I know he has received his deserts."

"Villains are not always brought to justice, Oliver," answered Dan. "But I haven't any doubt but that we will meet Captain Kenny some time or another, and if we do——" Dan finished by a determined shake of his head that meant a good deal.

We were now approaching those mountains which I mentioned in the earlier chapters of my tale, and, consequently, our progress was much slower.

"It's a good thing that it remains dry," said Dan, as we toiled up one hill and down another. "I don't want any thunderstorms."

"No, especially if the lightning is going to strike close by," I added. "I wish we were in sight of the sea."

"I think we'll reach it by to-morrow."

My chum's surmise was correct, for about noon of the day following we came out upon the shore of the China Sea, close to the point where I had been cast up in company with Watt Brown and several others.

"This looks a bit familiar," I cried, as I ran out on the sand.

"Hi! be careful," shouted Dan. "Do you want those Tagals to spot you?"

"Not much!" I returned, and scampered for shelter with equal alacrity. After that I proceeded with more caution.

It was determined to push on without delay to where the Dart had come ashore. This would bring us in the vicinity of the stranded craft about nightfall and enable us to take in the situation under cover of the darkness.

It was about four o'clock, and we reckoned that we must soon come in sight of the Dart, when Matt Gory suddenly pulled my arm.

"The Chinese junk!" he ejaculated. "She is heading in shore!"

"By Jove, Matt is right!" answered Dan. "What can this mean?"

"It means that they have spotted the Dart and are coming ashore to investigate," I replied. "I suppose they think they have discovered a rich haul."

"In that case we must get to the wreck first!" said Dan. "Come, let us leg it!"

And run we did, at the best speed at our command, and forgetting all about the possible proximity of the Tagals. Soon the Dart came into view, lying exactly as she had before, but now totally deserted excepting for a single figure that stood on the deck, armed with a gun and two pistols.

"Watt Brown!" I yelled, and Dan and Matt Gory also cried out.

At the sounds of our voices the second mate turned swiftly and fell back in amazement.

"Well! well!" he ejaculated, when he could speak. "I thought you fellows were all dead. Come on board and help me hold the fort."

"Hold the fort?" I asked. "Against whom?"

"Yonder Chinamen, Raymond. I've been watching 'em through a glass, and they are pirates, I'm dead sure on it!"

"We can't hold th' fort agin' a shipload of 'em," grumbled Matt Gory.

"I have a small cannon waiting for them," answered Watt Brown. "I am bound to hold the fort until the Concord comes back."

"The Concord!" I burst out. "Do you mean the gunboat of Dewey's fleet?"

"I do."

"And has she been here?" put in Dan, with equal interest.

"Yes, and she picked up nearly all of our old crew that were alive excepting Captain Kenny and Ah Sid, the cook. Tom Dawson was on her."

"Good fer Tom, I knew he would do somethin'!" cried the Irish sailor. "But how is it you are keeping the fort, as you call it?"

"I escaped from the Tagals and fell in with some of the owners of the Dart at Manila. They are down on Captain Kenny, and they were on the point of having him arrested for fraud when he got to Manila. They asked me to come back and claim the property, and the schooner is to be floated and turned over to the United States Government for coast service during this war. Now will all of you help me, or won't you?"

"Certainly we will!" cried Dan, and Matt Gory and I said the same.

There was no time to talk further, and we hastened to look about the Dart to learn how we were to defend the schooner from attack. The howitzer Watt Brown had mentioned was already loaded, and the second mate said he would attend to the piece himself if only we would look after the small-arms; said small-arms being eight muskets, all loaded, lying in a row by the rail, alongside of a biscuit box full of cartridges!

"Sure an ye are afther bein' a whole company of marines in wan!" observed Matt Gory, as he surveyed the preparations. "It puts me in mind o' the man as used to go around Irish fairs playing a dhrum, a fife, and fiddle, an' a hurdy-gurdy all in wan, wid the sweetest music——"

"They are coming, and we haven't a minute to lose," interrupted Dan, and took up two of the guns. "Keep out of sight, boys, or they may pick us off at long range!"

"I would like to have a look through your glasses," I said, and he readily handed them over. My eyes are good, and as I gazed at the junk I saw she had lowered all of her sails and was dropping a small boat into the sea.

"They are coming over here, for sure," I said.

"Let me take a look," said Dan, and took the glasses from my hands. "By Jove!" he gasped, a minute later.

"What is it, Dan?"

"There is a white man in that boat!"

"A white man, eh?" broke in Watt Brown. "Who can he be?"

"I can't make out yet."

"And how many yellow fellers?" asked Matt Gory.

"Six sailors and an officer."

"Eight, all told," mused the second mate. "Well, we ought to prove a match for 'em."

"We ought not to shed blood if it can be avoided," I said.

"True for you, Raymond; but you must remember that pirates are pirates the world over."

Slowly the small boat came closer. Watt Brown continued to watch it through the glass. Then of a sudden he gave a gasp.

"Captain Kenny!"

"What?" we ejaculated in chorus.

"The white man is Captain Kenny—and one of the men at the oars is Ah Sid!"

"What in the world are they doing among those pirates?" I asked.

"That remains to be seen. More than likely Captain Kenny has heard what the other owners of the Dart want to do, and he is going to turn the craft over to those Chinamen," answered the second mate.

"Has he a right to do that?"

"I don't think he has—and whether he has or not, I'm not going to let him do it," and Watt Brown shook his head determinedly. "He's a bad egg."

"He is that," I went on. "I want to bring him to justice myself. Why, he tried to take my life!"

"We'll hold the fort, as Brown says," put in Dan. "The question is, how are we going to do it?"

"I'll show you! " cried the second mate, and snatching up one of the muskets he shot it off in the air.

As the report rolled out to sea the rowers in the small boat dropped their blades, while Captain Kenny leaped to his feet. The former commander waved his hand, as Watt Brown came into view.

"Ahoy, there!" he cried, at the top of his lungs.

For reply the second mate seized a speaking trumpet with which he had supplied himself. "Keep off!" he yelled. "Keep off, or we'll blow you and your boat to kingdom come!"