A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 6

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CHAPTER VI.


ADVENTURES IN THE FOREST.


The sight that met our gaze was a small boat dancing far out beyond the breakers. It contained three men, and as it came in closer, through the opening by which we had entered, we made out Tom Dawson, Ah Sid, the Chinese cook, and Matt Gory, an Irish sailor.

"It is Dawson's craft," murmured Watt Brown. "But it's only got three men aboard instead of five."

"Dan Holbrook is missing!" I gasped, and once again my heart sank like a lump of lead within my bosom.

"Boat ahoy!" yelled Vincent and the others, and the cry was speedily returned. Then Tom Dawson noted where we had run in, and ten minutes later beached his craft beside our own.

"Glad to see ye!" he cried, as he caught one after another by the hand. "I was afraid all of the other boats had gone to the bottom."

"The captain's boat went down," answered Watt Brown soberly. "We saved Captain Kenny, but could see nothing of the rest."

"And where is Dan Holbrook?" I put in impatiently.

"It's a sorry tale to tell, lad," answered the first mate of the ill-fated Dart.

"He was—was drowned?" I could scarcely speak the words.

"He was. You see it was this way. We were running along during the night and all hands were utterly worn out and half asleep. Suddenly a wave as big as a church bore down on us and nearly swamped our craft. I went overboard and so did Dan Holbrook and Casey. All of us went under, and when I came up and clambered aboard again, Holbrook and Casey were missing."

"Yis, poor Casey was missing God rist his sowl!" murmured Matt Gory, who was the missing man's cousin. He turned to me. "Was you an' Mister Holbrook related, me b'y?" he questioned tenderly.

"No, but—but Dan was almost like a brother," I answered, in a voice that choked me, and then I had to turn away to hide the tears that would come.

The only man who seemed to enjoy my sorrow was Captain Kenny, who leered at me in a manner that made me feel like leaping upon him and hurling him under my feet to be trampled upon. He was my enemy now, and I felt he would be my enemy as long as both of us lived.

The only grain of comfort that I could give myself was the fact that Tom Dawson's craft had struck the big wave not far from the coast line. It was barely possible that Dan had kept himself afloat until cast up on the beach, although, to be sure, this was far from likely.

The night was spent under the palm trees which lined the beach. As Vincent had made such a ghastly discovery, it was decided that all hands should take an hour at watching. I was awake from one o'clock to two on my own watch and also from five to six, when Captain Kenny stood guard, but nothing happened to disturb the improvised camp.

It was easy to obtain birds, and shell and other fish, and by eight o'clock an appetizing breakfast was in preparation. While eating we discussed our situation and decided to remain where we were for one day more, hoping to learn what had become of the fourth small boat and those who were still missing.

As I had had such luck in knocking over the two pigeons I was delegated to go out again to replenish our larder and was accompanied this time by Tom Dawson and Gory, the Irish sailor, who had visited the island of Luzon twice before. In the meantime the others made an even longer tour than before, up and down the shore.

"It's a great counthry, so it is," observed Matt Gory, as the three of us strode into the forest. "They have a mixed-up population, as you was sayin', and the foightin' is worse tin toimes over nor a Donnybrook Fair. Thim Spaniards be afther thinkin' they kin control the nagers an' other haythins, but they can't. They are a thavin', lyin' set, an' would be afther stabbin' yez in the back fer a tin-cint piece."

"But the Spaniards control Manila and the other large cities."

"So they do, me b'y. But that's not a drop in the bucket, so to spake, wid millions o' haythins living on a thousand or more islands, some of which have niver yit been visited by white men. It will take two or three cinturies to make these nagers half dasent, so it will!" And Matt Gory shook his head to show that he meant all that he said.

Our talking, and the fire on the beach, had evidently caused an alarm among the feathered denizens of the forest, for we had to walk a considerable distance before we roused up any game worth bringing down. All of us had provided ourselves with clubs and in about an hour we had secured eight birds and a small squirrel, which I had dislodged from a hollow tree quite by accident.

"There's a foin birrud!" cried Gory presently. "Hould back, both of yez, an' Oi'll bring him down!" And he crept off to our left.

He was gone fully three minutes, when we heard the crash of his club among some tree branches, followed by a yell of wonder and then a scream of fright. "He has stirred up the wrong hornet!" ejaculated Tom Dawson. "Come on!" And away he bounded, with I following.

When we reached the Irish sailor he was leaning against a tree, trying to knock from his shoulder a bat that we afterward found measured three feet from one wing tip to the other. The bat had clutched him firmly and was dealing blow after blow, first with one wing and then the other.

"Save me! Hilp! Save me!" gasped Gory, whose wind was almost gone, and now a blow on his forehead sent him to the foot of the tree.

Tom Dawson threw his club, but missed his mark. While he was running to secure his weapon once more, I leaped forward and hit the bat over the head. Instantly he came for me, and I received a crack on the cheek that left its mark for several hours. But now another blow from my club finished him, and away he sailed with a half-broken wing. I was afraid he would return, but he passed out of sight among the overhanging vines, not to come back.

"Be jabers, that was a birrud I didn't calculate on!" gasped Matt Gory when he could speak. "Phat was it—a floyin' windmill?"

"It was a bat, Gory," I answered. "A tropical bat—and a whopper."

"I want no more such birruds," was the Irishman's response. "Oi reckon Oi'll be more careful of phat Oi tackle in the future," and he was.

We walked on for half a mile further, for it was a clear day and we were not likely to miss our way. The undergrowth was thick and we moved with caution, not caring to rouse up some deadly reptile. On all sides were stately palm, mahogany, ebony, and other trees of a tropical nature, and everywhere hung the ponderous vines, some of them hundreds of feet long and as thick as a man's wrist.

"A snake!" yelled Tom Dawson, of a sudden, and we all fell back, while I drew my pistol, not satisfied to trust to a club in such an emergency. Matt Gory, who had no use for snakes, took to his heels, and that was the last we saw of him for fully a quarter of an hour.

Our alarm proved of short duration, for I soon saw what the supposed snake was: the bat we had previously wounded. It was more than half dead, and a single blow from Dawson's stick finished it, and then we yelled for Gory to return.

"The Philippine bats knock ours all to pieces," observed the first mate. "We had best take him along."

"For eating?" I queried.

"Perhaps——" Dawson paused. "You don't like the idea? Very well, let him go then," and he threw the creature into the brush. I have since heard that among certain of the natives these bats are considered a great delicacy.

We had begun to ascend a small hill located about a quarter of a mile in advance of the mountain I have mentioned several times. I now suggested that we push on to the top.

"We can get a good look around from there," I continued. "And it may be that we will see more than the parties that went up and down the shore."

"Sure an that's a good idee," said Matt Gory. "Let us go to the top by all means."

The first mate was willing. "If you don't find it a tougher climb than ye calculate on," he cautioned.

The first part of the journey was comparatively easy, but the nearer we got to the top of the hill the Steeper became the side, until we could only progress by pulling ourselves up on one vine after another. "Sure an if a feller had to do it, he could be afther makin' step-ladders of the voines," grinned Gory.

Noon found us at the topmost point, at a spot where a bit of table land was surrounded by a score of stately palms many yards in height. "We can't see much after all, not unless we climb a tree," I observed disappointedly. "And how we are going to get to the top of one of those palms is a conundrum to me."

"I'll show you a native trick," answered Tom Dawson, and cast around for a suitable vine. Soon one was found, and he cut off a piece several yards long. Throwing this around a tree trunk, he twisted the ends about his hands and then began to ascend by bracing his feet against the trunk one after another, at the same time leaning his weight back so that it was held by the vine, which was slipped up in company with each footstep.

"Yez ought to introduce that sthoyle in Americky, among the telephone linemen," observed Gory, with a twinkle in his eye. "Oi only trust the vine proves sthrong enough to hold yez until yez reach the top."

Gory's hope was fulfilled; indeed the bit of green would have held the weight of a dozen men, and once the branches of the palm were gained, the first mate of the Dart found it an easy matter to reach the crown of the tree. From this point a wide expanse of land and sea came into view, and he scrutinized every point of the compass with care.

"There is a native village to the northeast of here," he announced. "I can see forty or fifty bamboo huts and the smoke from several fires. There is a road running from the village to a river which winds in behind the mountain back of us."

"And what can you see down to the beach?" I called up.

"Nothing to the south of us." Tom Dawson turned to look up the coast. "By ginger!" we heard him exclaim, in a low voice.

"Phat now?" queried Matt Gory.

"I see—yes, it is—the wreck of the Dart, cast up high and dry on the shore!"