Page:The Days Work (1899).djvu/175

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP SEA

must smile and take what is in store. But the skipper reflected, as a launch put out from the man-of-war, that he had been bombarded on the high seas, with the British flag—several of them—picturesquely disposed above him, and tried to find comfort from the thought.

"Where," said the stolid naval lieutenant hoisting himself aboard, "where are those dam' pearls?"

They were there beyond evasion. No affidavit could do away with the fearful smell of decayed oysters, the diving-dresses, and the shell-littered hatches. They were there to the value of seventy thousand pounds, more or less; and every pound poached.

The man-of-war was annoyed; for she had used up many tons of coal, she had strained her tubes, and, worse than all, her officers and crew had been hurried. Every one on the Haliotis was arrested and rearrested several times, as each officer came aboard; then they were told by what they esteemed to be the equivalent of a midshipman that they were to consider themselves prisoners, and finally were put under arrest.

"It 's not the least good," said the skipper, suavely.

"You 'd much better send us a tow—"

"Be still—you are arrest!" was the reply.

"Where the devil do you expect we are going to escape to? We 're helpless. You 've got to tow us into somewhere, and explain why you fired on us. Mr. Wardrop, we 're helpless, are n't we?"

"Ruined from end to end," said the man of machinery. "If she rolls, the forward cylinder will come down and go through her bottom. Both columns are

[163]