Under Dewey at Manila/Chapter 7

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"So you want to ship on board of the Columbia, lad? Well, I don't know. I've never had quite such a young hand as you, and the trip to Hong Kong is a long one, and, at this time of the year, it may be mighty rough."

"I am willing to take what comes," answered Larry. "I think I am nearly as strong as the average man."

Larry and Captain Ponsberry were standing near the, companion way of the schooner. Luke Striker had just spoken to the captain of Larry's desire, and Hobson had put in a good word, and the skipper had called the youth from his labors.

"He works as good as any of us, cap'n," said Striker. "He's a likely lad, an'—excuse me for a-sayin' of it—but I don't think you can do better."

At this instant the Rev. Martin Wells joined the group, having come aboard to see that proper care was taken of a box of books he desired shipped.

"Captain Ponsberry, this young man would like to ship with you, and I promised to say a good word in his favor. If you—"

"No use to say more, parson," was the good-natured interruption. "All seem to be in favor of it, and the lad can go if he's set on it. But, Russell, remember what I told you about its being a rough trip, and remember, too, you ship as a regular foremast hand, working as they work and living as they live."

"I understand it all, sir," answered Larry, with a happy smile, which was increased when he beheld a good-natured twinkle in Captain Ponsberry's eye. He knew he was making no mistake, and that the captain would prove as good a man to sail under as there was to be found. "I'll do my level best, and you won't find me skulking when I'm wanted."

"If I do, I'll rope-end you," was the answer, but the threat only made Striker and Hobson laugh. "I never seen the old man with a rope-end yet," whispered the Yankee into Larry's ear.

So it was all settled, and that noon Larry signed articles to sail under Captain Ponsberry in an immediate trip to Hong Kong, China, and back, said round trip to last not longer than seven months, barring accident, the lad to receive twelve dollars per month and found.

"And now I'm booked to visit the heathen Chinee, after all," murmured the youth, as he turned away to continue his work on the cargo; but never for an instant did he dream of all that was to happen before his eyes beheld the coast of China.

Larry had told his newly made friends all about Kuola and Wakari, and they, especially Striker and Hobson, had promised to keep a weather eye open for the two rascals. "I'll pitch into 'em fust sight, douse my toplight if I don't," was the manner in which the Yankee expressed himself. "Ain't nothin' so healthy fur these furiners as to teach 'em a wholesome lesson."

But keeping a "weather eye open" was quite useless; not but that Kuola and Wakari would have been only too glad to visit harm upon Larry's head. The fact of the matter was, after beating a retreat upon the appearance of the Rev. Martin Wells, the two rascals had sought consolation in drink, with the result that both had swallowed more than was good for them, engaged in a free fight with others in the resort they visited, and Kuola was now laid up in bed with a broken head, while Wakari was in the local jail, serving out a sentence of sixty days.

Larry was looking out not merely for the natives. He had the Norwegian who had robbed him still in mind, and several idle hours in the evening were spent in trying to hunt this fellow down, but without result. He had told Striker, Hobson, and the others of the affair, and they were justly indignant.

"Such a fellow is no better nor them Kanakas," growled Luke Striker. "It's a pity they couldn't ship in some craft as was bound for Davy Jones' locker. Now the cap'n's took one furiner aboard as I don't like the looks of, but he's signed, an' that's an end on it, I reckon. Hobson, have you heard anything of this Oleson?"

"Tom Grandon said he wasn't coming aboard till the day we sailed," responded the English sailor. "No, I didn't like his looks either. Wish the captain had taken an Englishman or an American instead. I can't bear those Norwegians nor Poles nor Russians."

In another day the cargo was entirely removed, and then the Columbia lost no time in taking on her new load for Hong Kong,—a miscellaneous collection of articles, some of them rather heavy. This work was very laborious, and Larry and the other workers perspired freely under the tropical sun.

"Oh! but it's hot!" he said once, as he stopped to run the perspiration from his forehead with the side of his finger. "We don't catch anything like this in the States, at least not up North."

"This is nothing," answered Hobson. "Wait till we get down just to the north of the Philippine Islands, right in the China Sea; you'll find it hot enough to boil eggs in a dipper on deck, and you won't dare to go barefooted, for fear the hot tar will burn you up."

"I'll agree with Hobson on that," answered Luke Striker. "I once shipped to the Philippines, and we spent four weeks at Aparri, on the northeast coast of Luzon, the main island, and in Manila Bay, on the southwest coast, and, phew! but wasn't it a corker! We were in Manila Bay right in August, and a man didn't hardly dare to walk across the deck at midday for fear of getting sunstruck."

"If that's true, then I don't want much of Manila Bay," laughed Larry; and then they resumed their work with all the energy that was left in them, for Captain Ponsberry had promised them a holiday at his expense if they finished up one day before the time set for sailing.

On a Tuesday night the work came to an end, and hatches were closed with a will. The Columbia was to sail at nine o'clock Thursday morning, so the crew would have all day Wednesday to themselves. What to do was solved by Captain Ponsberry, who hired a big stage and took all hands down to the dazzling white beach at Waikiki, but a few miles outside of Honolulu. Here there is the best of surf bathing, just inside of the reefs, with all the proper accommodations, and there is likewise a beautiful park, where the society of the seaport city takes its afternoon drives. Larry enjoyed a dip in the surf very much, having Striker with him, and the bath gave both a tremendous appetite for the seashore dinner, which Captain Ponsberry kind-heartedly provided at the casino nearby.

"Good-by to Honolulu," cried Larry, as the party started on its return. "Take it all in all, it's a pretty place, and one might do much worse than to settle here for the remainder of one's life. It won't be a bad job done if the United States annexes the islands."

"Just what I say," said Tom Grandon, who sat beside the boy. "Folks talk about the place being half-civilized and all that sort of thing, but they seem to forget that it's more civilized than Texas and New Mexico were when we took hold of them, or Alaska."

That night was the first Larry spent on board of the Columbia, for he had removed his chest to the craft before starting on the day's outing. To be sure, the forecastle of the schooner was dark and dingy, as forecastles usually are, but the apartment was clean and in order, and did not smell half so strongly of tar and oakum, tobacco and bilge-water, as other places like it of which he knew. Moreover, his berth was near to the door, so he was likely to get the full benefit of all cool and fresh air which was stirring.

Hobson's berth was next to Larry's, with Luke Striker's just opposite. Then came the berths of Cal Vincent, Maurice Roddmann, and several other sailors, for the Columbia carried all the men she required. In the rear was the berth of the Norwegian, who was not to come on board until the last moment, on account of the sickness of one of his former messmates, so he had explained.

Thursday dawned clear and bright, with a stiff breeze blowing from just the quarter Captain Ponsberry wanted it. The Rev. Martin Wells and two other passengers came aboard directly after breakfast, a score of friends with them to see them off. Larry had already informed Captain Morgan of the change he had made and bidden his former sailing-master good-by, and there was no one else to see.

At nine o'clock sharp the lines were unloosed and Larry flew with the rest to set first one sail and then another. Everything was, of course, strange to the boy, for ships are not built alike, and he paid strict attention to business, feeling that the eyes of Captain Ponsberry and Tom Grandon must be on him. He heard Grandon speak to a newcomer, and knew it must be the belated Norwegian sailor, but did not just then catch sight of the man. If he had, there might have been a row then and there, and Larry's future adventures would have had a vastly different cast.

Only the jib and mainsail were set as the Columbia crept down through the coral channel leading from Honolulu harbor to the mighty ocean beyond. The lighthouse was soon passed, and then the schooner pointed almost westward, passing Barber's Point on her starboard, the last point of land to be sighted for many days to come. Once clear of the reefs, top and foresail went up, along with every other available stitch of canvas, and the Columbia bowled along gayly, sending the spray flying in every direction.

Previous to sailing, every rope and every inch of canvas had been thoroughly overhauled, while the Columbia had been cleaned as neat as "my lady's parlor," to use Hobson's words, so now there was little to do but to arrange matters in the forecastle, and once the Point had faded away in the blue-gray haze, Larry turned to what was to be his "house" during the voyage.

Yet even here there was very little to occupy his mind. He had arranged his berth the night before. He pulled out his chest, unlocked it, and began to sort over and shake out his clothing, hanging on a nearby hook those for which he might have an early call.

He was thus engaged when a shadow fell beside him, and a bulky form in the doorway shut out much of the light entering the forecastle. He looked up, expecting to see Striker or some one of the other sailors with whom he had become acquainted. But the newcomer was a stranger, a sour-looking, clean-shaven man of foreign birth.

"Ah!" came in a rough voice, and Larry leaped to his feet. Then, as the newcomer came closer, the boy recognized him, in spite of the fact that he had shaved off his beard. It was Olan Oleson, the man who had robbed him.