A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 7

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CHAPTER VII.


THE WRECK ON THE SHORE.


Tom Dawson's discovery filled us with amazement and satisfaction: amazement because all of us had thought that the schooner lay at the bottom of the China Sea and satisfaction for the reason that all thought we might now have a chance to obtain such of our belongings as still remained on board of the vessel.

"You are sure it is the Dart?" I queried, as the first mate took another long look.

"Sure, my lad; I know that craft among a thousand," was the answer.

"It's great news," put in Matt Gory. "Oi haven't much om board, but phat Oi have Oi want, especially that ould dudeen of mine which same Oi have smoked these fifteen years." Since landing he had bewailed the loss of his pipe a dozen times.

"If the Dart is up to the north of here, the party that went that way must have discovered her too," I said, as Tom Dawson descended the tree.

"That's likely, lad. Still, now we have located her, there is no use in staying here. We want our things, and I reckon the boat will furnish us with all we will need to eat until we get back to civilized parts again."

"We don't want to lose a minit," burst out Gory. "If we do, thim haythins livin' in these parts will be afther claimin' the wreck, an' thin they won't lit us touch a thing."

"Can they do that?" I asked of the first mate.

"They can if they have the power," was Dawson's answer. "In this part of our globe, might is right in nine cases out of ten. We'll hurry all we can, and move directly for the wreck instead of going down to the old camp."

Apparently this was good advice, but in the end it proved to be just the opposite. We found that getting down the hill was more difficult than getting up, and once I took a tumble that landed me directly in the midst of a clump of nasty thorns. Matt Gory came after me, and both of us were stuck and scratched in more places than I care to mention.

"Oi'm stabbed!" he moaned. "Hilp me out av here! Ouch, be the powers, did anywan iver see such a hole as this fer darnin' nadles, now?"

The first mate helped us both, and after that we proceeded with more caution. Halfway down the hill we came upon a beautiful spring of water which was almost as cold as ice, and here drank our fill.

I must confess that I was very anxious to get back to the Dart, for, as will be remembered, I had left my money belt with its precious contents behind. This belt I had secreted in a hollow between my state-room and that next to it, and I felt it would be safe so long as the elements did not utterly destroy the ship. Besides the belt with my gold, silver, and the Manila draft, I had left behind a large packet of business papers of great value to our house. If these were lost, I felt our firm would have more trouble than ever in the Philippines.

"It's queer the Dart didn't sink in the middle of the sea," I observed, as we hurried on through the forest skirting the shore. "How do you account for it?"

"Well, we had a light cargo, for one thing, and it was packed pretty tightly forward. Maybe some the boxes got jammed in the hole that was stove in her," answered Tom Dawson, and later on, this proved to be correct.

The sun was beating down fiercely and the moment we left the shade of the trees we felt its full force. But we had now but a short distance further to go, so we did not slacken our pace.

"Stop!" cried Tom Dawson suddenly, and held me back, while he motioned to Matt Gory to halt.

"What's up?" I whispered.

"A dozen natives are in possession of the Dart. I can see them running all over her!"

"That's too bad, so it is!" groaned the Irish sailor. "To think sech a noble vessel should become the prize av sech haythins!"

"Will she really be their prize?" I asked.

For reply the first mate shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know what the law is down here," he ventured.

"Perhaps you can buy them off for a trifle."

"Not much! There was a time when natives like these could be bought off for a string of beads, a roll of calico or a six-inch looking glass, but that time is past. They know the value of gold and silver, even if paper money is beyond them."

"What do you propose to do?"

"Oh, we'll go ahead and claim the ship. But I want to give you a bit of advice. Don't be rash, or it may cost you your life."

"Thrue fer you," put in Gory. "Them nagers aint to be thrusted, as I said before. Go slow, and be on your guard."

"I will be cautious," I answered, and as the memory of the circle of heads on the beach flashed across my mind I shuddered. Certainly these people, even if they did live but a few miles from the Spanish settlements, were far from civilized.

Looking to it that my pistol was ready for use, I followed Dawson out on the wide stretch of beach which separated us from the ill-fated vessel which we had left but a few days before. The Dart lay high out of the water, and a brief glance showed that she had lost none of her masts and but little of her rigging. "I'll wager that five hundred dollars will put her into as good a condition as ever," remarked Tom Dawson, and Matt Gory agreed with him.

As the first mate had said, there were a number of natives on the craft's deck, and now we noted another batch of the negroes on the shore.

"They are a hard looking-crowd," I whispered, as I gazed at them. They were all men, tall, slim, and wearing little but shirts and loincloths and head-coverings made of Manila straw. The crowd on the beach was chattering away at a lively rate, in a language none of us could understand, although I soon became convinced that it was not Spanish.

We had covered half the distance to the Dart, when one of the natives discovered us and pointed us out to his companions. At once the whole party ran forward and surrounded us, asking a dozen questions at once.

"Don't understand you," shouted Tom Dawson. "Don't you speak United States?"

"Don't you speak English?" I added.

The crowd stared at us and all shook their heads. It is doubtful if any of them had ever heard the English tongue before, for the majority of foreigners in the Philippines take up Spanish as the language of commerce when dealing with the natives.

"Here's a rum go!" whispered Dawson. Then a happy idea struck him and he pointed at Gory, me and himself, and then at the Dart.

Instead of nodding to show that they understood, the natives scowled at us. Then, while the others continued to surround us, one ran off to summon those on the ship's deck. Soon he returned with a fellow who was several inches taller than his companions and who showed by his bearing that he was some sort of a chief.

Again Dawson went through the pantomime previously described, and again the crowd scowled, the chief harder than any of his followers. At once, a light burst in upon me.

"I'll tell you what they are mad about," I explained to my companions. "They think we want to take possession of the Dart."

"Well, that's jest wot we do want," growled the first mate.

"Let us try to push our way to the ship," I went on, and endeavored to break away from the Tagals, for such the natives were.

What followed surprised me beyond measure. The chief rushed up, put out his foot, gave me a shove, and hurled me flat on the sand. Before I could arise he had motioned to another native, and this fellow promptly came and sat on my back, thus holding me down!

I might have stood such treatment, rather than risk bloodshed, but the attack was more than Matt Gory could stand. His hot Irish blood boiled instantly, and raising his club he hit the fellow on top of me a blow that all but knocked him senseless.

"Yez will sit on him, will yez?" he cried. "Take that, an' look out that yez don't git another that's worse, bedad!" and he stepped back and stood at bay.

A fierce, blood-curdling yell went up, and almost a score of war clubs and spears were brandished in the air.

"Now you've put your foot into it!" ejaculated Tom Dawson. "Come, let us retreat, before it is too late!"

By pure good luck, we tore ourselves free from the natives who sought to hold us back. Dawson was already running for the forest. Gory now followed, and I came behind. With another yell, twice as loud as before, the Tagals came after us, launching several spears as they did so.