"Surely our dear step-father would not have put us in such a situation. He couldn't!"
"Perhaps he might have had reasons," whispered a strange voice.
The boys started and looked fearfully around. Who had spoken? They were alone with the sleeping man. What could he know, or how could he talk thus in his sleep, wounded as he was? Reginald looked at the invalid, and then whispered——
"The vessel is haunted! I wish we had never come on board. Let us tell Esau."
"No, certainly not," said Arthur. "He will only make things worse. Let us try to beat him at his own game!"
"Right!" whispered the strange voice. "Lie low!"
"That is mysterious," said Reginald, as he went quickly to the door and threw it open. There was no one near; the cabins were silent and darkened.
"Rum!" he remarked as he returned to the doctor's bunk. "Did you speak, doctor?"
"No," was the unexpected reply in a faint tone. "But I heard you and the strange voice. I suspect it was Jackson. He seems a good man."
The lads looked and nodded at each other, and the doctor proceeded in a whisper——
"Listen! That mate intended to seriously cripple me to-day, I'm certain, and to put the injury down to the 'larking on the Line!' Some one had guessed your stepfather's plans and warned the late captain. Now Esau thinks I am disabled. Jackson, I suspect, is on our side, and has given us a hint. See?"
"Then you think that Mr. Boscombe intended us to die!" exclaimed Reginald. "Is it possible? Oh no; he couldn't be so wicked!"
"The mate has some instructions, I believe," whispered Mr. Halbrake. "Be careful. I think we may trust