A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 31

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CHAPTER XXXI.


THE WRECKING OF THE HOWITZER.


For fully five minutes the situation remained unchanged, and during that time we took the opportunity to reload the empty weapons and bring out several others that had been hidden in a secret closet of the cabin.

It must not be supposed that I had forgotten my money belt and the documents belonging to our firm. I had thought of them several times, but, as yet, had not dared to go below to see if they were safe.

Now, however, both Dan and I hurried to the stateroom which we had occupied. The door was closed, but not locked, and we entered, to find all pitch dark, the port-hole having become covered with mud.

Striking a match, we lit a lantern and proceeded to make an investigation. Trunks and lockers had been broken open, and clothing and other things lay around in confusion.

"Not a money belt in sight!" I groaned, after a search. "And the documents are gone, too!" "We haven't looked everywhere, yet," answered Dan. "Turn over the bed mattresses."

"How could they get into the beds?" I asked. "If those rascally Tagals——"

A shout from the deck interrupted me, and dropping everything I flew through the cabin and up the companion-way stairs, with Dan behind me.

"The second boat is coming on again! " announced Watt Brown. "Watch the woods, for there may be some understanding between the two attacking parties."

"Sure an' thim rascals are coming on, too!" burst in Matt Gory. "Down, all of yez!" and he dropped flat on the deck.

We did the same, and just then a volley of rifle shots rang out, and one of the bullets tore its way through the top of Dan's straw hat, while all came alarmingly close.

"On and at them!" shouted Captain Kenny, forgetful, no doubt, that the Celestials could not understand a word. And he led the way in a rush for the ship.

By this time the second small boat was less than two hundred feet off and coming forward with all the speed that the eight sturdy oarsmen could command. The officer in the bow was at the small cannon mentioned, and at what he deemed a favorable moment touched off the piece.

His aim was certainly a good one, for the ball hit the howitzer and sent it flying from its carriage and rolling over the deck to port. A portion of the block was splintered, and a bit of woodwork flew up and hit Watt Brown in the breast, inflicting an ugly and dangerous wound.

"Brown is killed!" burst out Dan in horror, and knelt down at his side.

"Never mind—m—e," came in a gasp from the second mate. "Repel boarders, or w—we are—lo—lost!" and then he fainted dead away.

He spoke the truth, for now the second boat was almost alongside, while Captain Kenny and his command were less than fifty feet away.

"Gory, cover the boat!" I yelled. "Dan, fire with me at the captain's crowd!" and I blazed away, and had the satisfaction of seeing another Celestial go down.

Dan followed my command and succeeded in hitting Captain Kenny in the leg. It was not a serious wound, but it made the rascal drop on his breast, uttering loud cries of pain and terror. "Don't hit me again! Don't!" he screamed, and crawled over the sands to where there was a rock, behind which he hid himself, muttering bitter imprecations at what he termed his hard luck.

The fall of their leader disconcerted the Chinamen, and again they halted. In the meantime Matt Gory had picked out the officer in the second boat and laid him low with a bullet through the chest.

"Hurrah fer Uncle Sam!" roared the Irish sailor enthusiastically. "Hurrah fer another Dewey victory!" and he discharged an additional musket and a second Celestial fell over among his companions.

But now the fighting became general and to go into all of the details would be impossible. I fired three shots and then saw three Chinamen coming up over the stern of the Dart, where those from shore and those from the second small boat had joined forces.

"They are coming aboard!" cried Dan. "Fire at, them! Give it to them hot!" and he blazed away, and one of the Celestials fell back among his friends.

But now five of the enemy came up, firing several rounds as they advanced, and the deck became filled with smoke. Soon it was a hand-to-hand encounter, and we found ourselves gradually forced back to the companion way.

"We can't stand up against 'em!" panted Matt Gory, as he shouldered up to me with the blood streaming from a cut in his cheek. "They are afther bein' too many for us, bad cess to 'em!"

"Let us take a final stand in the cabin," I answered. "Remember, possession is nine points of the law."

Matt Gory was willing and tumbled down the companion way, followed by Dan and myself. As we burst into the cabin we shut the door behind us and locked it.

The Celestials were now baffled for the moment and we heard them running around the deck, speculating upon what they had best do next. We used this time to barricade the door and to reload our pistols, our guns having been left behind us.

Soon came a hammering and a demand in Chinese, probably to open the door. For an answer, Matt Gory stepped close, and before we could stop him, fired a shot through a panel. A yell of pain followed, and we heard the staggering footsteps of the wounded man as he hurried on deck again.

"That was a bad move. Matt," I said. "They'll do something awful in revenge; you see if they don't!"

"I couldn't hilp it, the ould Nick take 'em!" was the reply. " If thim haythins oncet gain—— hark, phat's that!"

A loud booming of a big cannon over the waters had reached all of our ears. We listened intently and presently another report followed.

"It is a shot from a man-o'-war!" I burst out. "If it's an American ship we are saved!"

"Perhaps it is the Concord!" came from Dan. "Don't you remember what Watt Brown said?"

"Yes; but could she come in here?"

"There would be no need. She has that Chinese junk at her mercy."

"Sure an' if it's wan of our warships we must be afther flyin' a signal of distress!" exclaimed Matt Gory.

"That is true, Matt; but how can we do it?"

"Here is a flag," answered Dan, hauling it from the case in the closet. "If we can get that up——"

"Oi'll put it up!" cried the Irishman, who was too excited to even think of the danger. "Here goes!" and he hurried to a passageway leading through to the forecastle.

I could not resist the temptation to follow him, and Dan did the same. We entered the forecastle to find it as much disordered as our stateroom had been, for the Tagals had used it as a shelter during their brief stay on the Dart.

"Now to get up the mast unobserved!" whispered the Irish sailor, and moving cautiously out upon the forward deck, he started to carry out his design, the flag under his arm.

He had taken less than a dozen steps when there came a Chinese yell and the crack of a rifle, and poor Gory pitched headlong. A rush to the forecastle followed.

"Back, Dan, it's our only chance," I cried. "They won't grant us any mercy if they catch us!" and we flew back into the passageway and to the cabin, locking the second door and barricading it like the first.

The Chinamen followed us along the passage and we heard them pounding on the doors for several seconds. But then came a call from the deck and the dull booming of the cannon we had before heard.

"That shooting means something," said Dan. "Oh if only the Concord has arrived!"

"With Tom Dawson and the rest of our friends on board!" I added.

The rush of footsteps on the deck continued, and we heard several Celestials in earnest consultation.

"They are up to something," whispered Dan. "Poor Brown! I wonder if he and Matt Gory are dead?"

"Captain Kenny will have much to answer for," I answered. "He is responsible for the whole muss."

We waited for a few minutes more. Then came another rush of footsteps and we heard the Chinamen leaving the Dart by the side nearest to shore.

"They are going to take to the woods!" yelled Dan. "Hurrah! the battle is ours!" And he started to unlock the cabin door leading to the companion way.