A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 5

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CHAPTER V.


CAST ASHORE ON LUZON.


To Watt Brown's vigorous questioning Captain Kenny returned not a word. Either he was still unconscious or he had recovered and come to the conclusion that he had best remain quiet and answer nothing. The mate had caught the captain up, now he flung him down on the hard bottom of the boat as one unworthy of being touched. "I'll settle with him later," he muttered and shut his teeth hard, for the missing man had been one of his best friends.

"Hadn't we better stay around here until daylight and look for Garwell?" asked Sandram, the sailor who had used his fist so effectually upon Captain Kenny's skull.

"Yes," said the second mate. "Poor Garwell! He was a fine fellow."

"None better. Brown," put in Vincent, the second sailor. "Captain Kenny will have a score to settle when this ill-fated cruise comes to an end."

Slowly the remainder of the night dragged by. With the coming of daylight we gazed around eagerly for the body of Garwell and for the other small boats. Nothing came to light but the bluish-green and never-quiet sea, which rose and fell to the edge of the horizon.

"I want water," was Captain Kenny's demand, as he roused up while the scanty breakfast was being dealt out.

"Not a drop until you account for Garwell," returned Watt Brown.

"Account for Garwell? What do you mean?"

You know well enough. You heaved the poor man overboard."

"I did not," roared the captain, but his tell-tale face belied his words. "This is a put-up job against me. Give me the water."

A wordy war followed. Captain Kenny would confess nothing, but that he was guilty there could be no doubt. All that the second mate would allow him was one biscuit and half a cupful of the water, now so warm it was scarcely palatable. The captain continued to grumble, but it availed him nothing, and at last he had to stop, for all of us threatened to send him forth as food for the fishes.

The second day was coming to an end when far to the eastward we heard a curious booming sound, not unlike a cannonading at a distance.

"What is that?" I questioned.

"It's the surf, lad!" cried the second mate, "It's rolling up on a shore or over a hidden reef."

"I hope it's ashore. Any kind of land in preference to this never-ending sea," I said. "Can you see anything?"

I asked the latter question, for Watt Brown was already on his feet. Now Vincent followed, and both gazed eastward a long time.

"I think I see something," announced the second mate. "But it looks like smoke more than anything."

"It is smoke, blowing from off shore," put in Vincent. "We must be about ten miles from land."

This announcement filled us with hope, and all, even Captain Kenny, took their turns at the oars with renewed vigor. Inside of an hour the booming of the surf could be heard quite distinctly, while some of the smoke the others had noticed floated almost overhead.

"I see land!" was the second mate's welcome cry presently. "There is a long, low-lying shore and a mountain behind it. We must be at least a hundred miles north of Subig Bay."

We continued to pull until the land could be seen with ease. There was a wide stretch of sandy beach, backed up by tall rocks and a heavy tropical growth. In the distance the mountain loomed up, surrounded by a veil-like mist.

"To port!" cried Watt Brown. "The breakers are too heavy here!" And we moved up the coast for a quarter of a mile further. Here there was something of a bay and the breakers came to an end. Nearer and nearer we crept to land until the first row of stately palms could be seen with ease. The mate was on the watch, and finally ordered us to port again, and five minutes later, we shot past a tiny coral reef and into the bay mentioned. Here the boat ran up upon the sands, and, throwing down our oars, we all leaped out and hauled her up still further.

"Thank God we're safe!" murmured Watt Brown, and took off his cap reverently. I did the same, and offered up a silent prayer for my safe deliverance from the perils of the deep. The bay we had entered was pear-shaped and probably five hundred feet deep by a hundred and fifty feet wide. The sandy beach at either side was many yards wide, but at the inner end the rocks and trees overhung the water. From a tropical standpoint it was an ideal spot for a painter, and I could not help but take in its beauty, even at such a trying time as this. Captain Kenny, however, "stuck up his nose" at it.

"A regular jungle," he snorted. "We can't live here."

"Then you had better take to the water again," returned Watt Brown sharply. "You haven't got to stay with us, you know." And this again silenced the unreasonable man for the time being.

It was decided that Vincent should walk up the shore on the lookout for the other boats, while Sandram was to skirt the bay and try his luck in the opposite direction. In the meantime the captain, second mate, and myself were to do what we could toward building a fire and finding something to eat beside ship's biscuits.

"You go find something to eat," grumbled Captain Kenny to Watt Brown and me, and threw himself under the nearest tree to rest.

"All right, we'll go," answered the second mate. "But remember, Kenny, if you haven't got a good fire started for us when we come back, so we can cook whatever we find, you'll not partake of our supper." And with this pointed remark Brown withdrew and I followed.

"He's a beast," I said, when we were out of hearing. "I would rather have Ah Sid in the crowd."

Ah Sid had been the Dart's cook, a little dried-up Chinaman, but a fellow who had always tried to make himself agreeable.

"If he doesn't behave himself I'll bounce him out of camp," was the second mate's answer. "Remember, he is absolutely nothing to us, now we are on land."

"Where do you suppose we are?"

"Somewhere north of Subig Bay, or Port Subig, as the English call it. We were making for Point Capones when that dirty hurricane struck our ship and sent us into that Chinese junk. I think we must be somewhere in the neighborhood of Iba, a settlement something like a hundred miles northwest of Manila. But we may be still further away."

"And what of the natives around here?"

"They are treacherous people, so I've been told. The majority of them are Tagals, or Tagaloes, as the Spanish call 'em. You know all of these islands belong to Spain."

"Yes, I know that only too well, for the Spaniards at Manila have caused our business firm no end of trouble. They want to drive the Americans out, if they can."

"They would like to drive all foreigners out, so that they can have the wealth of the Philippines to themselves," went on the second mate, who was, as I soon discovered, a well-read man. "You see the islands pay an immense sum of money into Spain's treasury every year."

"But what of this rebellion here, that I heard of at Hong Kong?"

"Oh, the natives are continually fighting among themselves and against the Spanish tax-gatherers, who have their offices located everywhere. You see there is a terribly mixed population, of Tagals, Malays, Papuan negroes, Chinese, Japanese, and Caucasians, with half- and quarter-breeds without number. I understand the Spaniards can count over a hundred different kinds of natives alone, and in the islands over a hundred and fifty different languages and dialects are spoken. It's a great country. But, come, we must rouse up something to eat."

"I have my pistol and some cartridges," I said, and showed my weapon.

"Keep your ammunition until you actually need it, lad. We can knock over something alive, as the natives do, with clubs."

In such a tropical forest clubs were soon found, and, holding these ready for use, we tramped on, through thick, dank moss and under masses of trailing vines.

"There they go!" shouted Watt Brown suddenly, as a whir sounded out ahead. A dozen or more good-sized birds had arisen and his club brought down two. Then came another whir to our right, and I let fly and brought down a beautiful white pigeon that weighed all of two pounds. Another pigeon was wounded and I managed to catch it alive and wring its neck. With this haul we returned to the beach.

The second mate's warning had had its effect upon Captain Kenny, and a roaring blaze greeted us, which, in the gathering twilight looked quite homelike. The captain had also kicked up about a bucketful of shell-fish in the shallow water of the cove.

By the time the fish and other things were cooked, Vincent and Sandram came back, each having traveled a good mile out and return. Both brought back with them some nearly ripe plantains, commonly called bananas in America. All were hungry, and never did a meal taste better than did that to me, although I have dined at some of our leading hotels.

"I saw nothing but some driftwood," reported Sandram. "The wood looked as if it might have belonged to the Dart, but I couldn't get close enough to make sure, as it was out on a reef, among the breakers."

Vincent had seen nothing of boats or crews, but had made a most grewsome discovery.

"I thought at a distance they might be big cocoanuts, lying upon the sand," he said. "But when I came closer I discovered that they were the heads of seven negroes, all of whom had been buried in a circle in the sand up to their necks."

"Negroes' heads!" I ejaculated. "And were the poor fellows dead?"

"Yes, and had been for some time, for the birds had pecked out their eyes and carried off parts of their flesh."

"This is awful, Brown," I said. "Persons who would do that cannot be short of—of——"

"Cannibals, eh, lad?" returned the mate. "Well, some savages around here are cannibals yet, Spanish reports to the contrary notwithstanding. But I don't like that ring of heads. It is an old sign among the Malays, and signifies that one tribe of people have made war on another tribe."

"If that's the case, I hope they don't make war on us," put in Sandram.

"So do I," I added; and there the talk dropped, for at that moment a sight far out on the ocean thrilled us to the core.