Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/305

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
265
THE WAGER MAN-OF-WAR

Cheap showed one of his fitful flashes of resolution by sallying from his tent and knocking the insolent boatswain down with a loaded cane and putting a cocked pistol to his ear. This took the wind out of the sails of the other mutineers, and they tamely submitted to being stripped of their arms, which made them harmless for the moment. So bleak was the coast that the only food obtainable was shellfish, while from the wreck almost no stores were saved. The most urgent business was to knock huts together of the drift-wood and canvas, and effect some sort of organization. A fortnight passed before Captain Cheap had the provisions properly guarded and the rations dealt out in a systematic manner, while in the meantime the sailors were stealing the stuff right and left, and the battle was to the strongest.

It was ascertained that they were marooned on what appeared to be an island near the coast and about three hundred miles to the northward of the Strait of Magellan. Three canoes of Patagonian Indians happened to discover the camp, and they were friendly enough to barter for two dogs and three sheep, which were no more than a meal for the hungry crew of the Wager. The Indians vanished, and the agony of famine took hold of these miserable people. Instead of pluckily working together