The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 28
THE MATE SHOWS HIS HAND
Captain Blossom had taken the spyglass along, and as they drew closer to the wreck he gazed long and earnestly at the men walking the deck of the Golden Wave.
"They are my crew," he announced at last. "And they are in tatters."
"They must have had a hard time of it since you were cast ashore," said Dick.
"Unless I am mistaken, not a one of them is sober," went on the captain. "They are cutting up like a band of wild Indians."
Before long they were within hailing distance of those on the wreck. Then a voice from the rail hailed them.
"Ahoy!" answered the captain.
"What do you want?" demanded the sailor on the wreck. He could scarcely talk straight.
"We want to come on board."
"Sorry, cap'n, but I can't let you come aboard," answered the sailor, with something of a hiccough.
"Can't let me come aboard?" repeated the captain. "Why not?"
"Cause it's ag'in orders."
"Captain Lesher!" ejaculated Captain Blossom indignantly. "How long has he been a captain?"
"We made him cap'n yesterday."
"That's right," put in another sailor. "We 'lected him unan—nan—nan'mously; yes, sir, unan—nan—nan'mously."
"You are drunk, Bostwick."
"No, sir, aint drunk at all. Lesher, he's drunk but he's cap'n all the same."
"That's right," put in a third sailor. "Hurrah for Captain Lesher and the rum he let us have!"
"Got to keep off, I tell you," went on Bostwick. "If you don't, we have—er—we have strict orders to fire on you, yes, sir."
"To fire on us!" cried Dick. "Do you mean to say you would fire on us?"
"Now, see here, don't you put in your oar," said a fourth sailor. "You don't count with us. It's the cap'n that was we're talkin' to."
"I am captain still," said Captain Blossom firmly. "If you don't want to obey me, you must leave the ship."
"Aint going to leave no ship!" was the cry. "She belongs to us. You keep off!"
"Yes, yes, keep off!" added the others on the deck.
"The ship is mine," said the captain. "If you refuse to let me come on board——"
At that moment two other figures appeared on deck.
"Dan Baxter and Jack Lesher!" murmured Dick.
"Captain Blossom, you had better keep your distance," said Lesher in a voice that showed he was just getting over a spell of drunkenness.
"So you too refuse to let me come on board?"
"I do. The boys have made me their captain, and as such I am bound to look after their interests. I have told them what you proposed to do, and they don't intend to stand it."
"Didn't I tell you we'd get square?" put in Dan Baxter, his evil face glowing with triumph. "We have all that is on board, and we mean to keep everything."
"This is mutiny!" stormed Captain Blossom.
"Call it what you please," answered Lesher recklessly. "I reckon I and the boys know what we are doing!"
"That's right!" cried the half-drunken sailors. "Hurrah for Cap'n Lesher. He's a man after our own hearts!"
"Supposing I demand to be let on board?" went on Captain Blossom.
"Don't ye go, cap'n," whispered old Jerry. "They are in jest a fit mood to kill ye. The rum has put the Old Nick in 'em."
"You can't come on board, and that settles it," roared Jack Lesher, drawing a pistol. "Keep your distance."
"Yes, keep your distance," added Baxter, and also showed a firearm.
"This is a fine way to treat us, after what we did for you," said Dick. "But, wait, Baxter, the end is not yet."
"Bah! I am not afraid," said the bully. "These men are all my friends, and we know exactly what we are doing."
"Do you expect to remain on the wreck?" asked the captain, after a moment of silence.
"That is our business," answered Lesher.
"I think you will find that you are making a great mistake, men, to follow Lesher when you ought to follow me. I have always treated you fairly, and——"
"Hi! none of that!" roared the mate. "We won't listen to it."
"The men shall listen, if they will. I——"
"Say another word and I'll fire!" cried the mate, and pointed his pistol at Captain Blossom's head.
"Do—do you mean that?" asked the captain, an as steady a voice as he could command.
"Of course he means it," said Dan Baxter. "He isn't a fool. We are all going to stand by him, too," he added.
"That's right," came from part of the crew. Dick noticed that a few of the others looked doubtful.
"I mean it, and I want you to leave right now," stormed Jack Lesher. "I'll give you one minute in which to turn your boat around," and he pulled out his watch.
"Might as well go back," whispered old Jerry. "You can't reason with a lot of half-drunken men."
"Very well, we'll go back," said Captain Blossom loudly. "But, remember, you haven't seen the end of this affair."
"And remember another thing," added Dick, in an equally loud voice: "Don't any of you dare to come anywhere near our house. If you do, you'll be sorry for it."
Then the three turned the boat around and rowed slowly back whence they had come.
"The rascals!" muttered Captain Blossom, when they were out of hearing. "Lesher and Baxter have poisoned the minds of the crew against me, and have bought over the men with liquor."
"It's a mighty good thing ye put them stores in the cave," came from old Jerry. "If ye hadn't we'd be a-wantin' a good many things in a few days."
"That is true," answered Dick. "Dora told me they must have another barrel of flour by day after to-morrow."
"How many at the cave?"
"Well, it certainly was a good job done," said the captain. "But it makes me boil to think they want to keep me off my own ship. On the ocean that would be mutiny, and I could hang every mother's son of them from the yardarm for it."
"Lesher must have told 'em some putty strong stories," said old Jerry. "Otherwise the men wouldn't be so dead set ag'in ye, cap'n."
"No doubt he made out the strongest possible case."
"I wonder if they will stick to the wreck all the time," said Dick. "They'll find it mighty hot when the sun shines."
"Oh, they'll most likely take some of the things ashore, and set up a camp nearby, Rover."
"We'll have to watch them closely."
"I agree with you. Now we have two kinds of enemies—beasts and men," and the captain laughed bitterly.
The others were gathered on the shore awaiting their return, and they listened attentively to what was told them.
"Oh, Lesher wanted to be leader, you could see that right off," declared Tom. "And Bax ter will do anything to make it disagreeable for us boys," he continued.
"Well, there is one satisfaction," said Nellie. "We haven't Baxter with us."
"If only a ship would stop here and take us away!" sighed Dora. To her it seemed like an age since they had landed on the seven islands.
"After this we must keep a regular guard," announced Dick. "Unless we do that, somebody may play us foul when we least expect it."
Slowly the day wore away. By the aid of the spyglass they could see the sailors still on the deck of the wreck. Nobody appeared to go ashore.
That night it fell to Sam's lot to be on guard from nine to ten o'clock. The camp-fire was left burning brightly, and the youngest Rover sat near it on a log, a gun in his lap.
"No wild beast shall surprise me," he told himself, and kept his eyes on the jungle back of the house.
His time for guard duty had almost come to an end when a noise down on the beach attracted his attention. By the faint light he made out a raft, which had just come in, bearing the figures of two sailors.
"Stop!" he called out. "Do not come closer at your peril!"
"Don't shoot!" called back one of the sailors. "Don't shoot! We mean no harm."
Sam had backed up toward the house, and now he called to those within. He was soon joined by Captain Blossom, Dick, and several of the others.
"Who is it?" asked the captain, as he came forth, pistol in hand.
"Two of the sailors from the wreck, I think."
"Don't shoot us, captain," called one of the men. "We are unarmed and want to talk with you."
"They are Gibson and Marny," said Captain Blossom. "They were generally pretty good sort of fellows. I reckon we have nothing to fear from them."
"Are you alone?" called out Dick.
"Then come up to the fire. But mind, no treachery."
"We don't wonder at your being on guard," said the sailor named Gibson, a tall, thin Yankee. "The others treated you like so many dogs."
"We have deserted Lesher," put in Marny. "We came over here on the raft to see if you wouldn't take us in."
"Were you alone?" asked Captain Blossom.
"No, we had Hackenhaven with us. But he fell overboard just after we left the wreck, and the sharks caught him," answered Gibson, with a bitter shake of his face.
"What did Lesher say to your leaving?" asked Tom.
"He didn't know it until after we were a hundred yards or more from the wreck. You see, he and the others were drinking in the cabin, so we got away without much trouble," answered Marny. "They might have shot at us, but it was too dark for them. We had a hard pull to get over here, and when poor Hackenhaven was gobbled up both of us felt bad, I can tell you."
It was now seen that both sailors were almost exhausted, and Captain Blossom allowed them to rest, while Dick prepared a pot of coffee. While they were drinking, Gibson told them the particulars of how the mate had made himself leader of the sailors now left on the wreck.