Hemstead, Trent, and Goddedaal were first disposed of, the last still
breathing as he went over the side; Wallen followed; and then Wicks,
steadied by the gin, went aloft with a boathook and succeeded in
dislodging Hardy. The Chinaman was their last task; he seemed to be
light-headed, talked aloud in his unknown language as they brought
him up, and it was only with the splash of his sinking body that the
gibberish ceased. Brown, by common consent, was left alone. Flesh and
blood could go no further.
All this time they had been drinking undiluted gin like water; three
bottles stood broached in different quarters; and none passed without
a gulp. Tommy collapsed against the mainmast; Wicks fell on his face
on the poop ladder and moved no more; Amalu had vanished unobserved.
Carthew was the last afoot: he stood swaying at the break of the poop,
and the lantern, which he still carried, swung with his movement. His
head hummed; it swarmed with broken thoughts; memory of that day's
abominations flared up and died down within him like the light of a lamp
in a strong draught. And then he had a drunkard's inspiration.
"There must be no more of this," he thought, and stumbled once more
The absence of Holdorsen's body brought him to a stand. He stood and
stared at the empty floor, and then remembered and smiled. From the
captain's room he took the open case with one dozen and three bottles of
gin, put the lantern inside, and walked precariously forth. Mac was once
more conscious, his eyes haggard, his face drawn with pain and flushed
with fever; and Carthew remembered he had never been seen to, had lain
there helpless, and was so to lie all night, injured, perhaps dying.
But it was now too late; reason had now fled from that silent ship. If
Carthew could get on deck again, it was as much as he could hope;
and casting on the unfortunate a glance of pity, the tragic drunkard
shouldered his way up the companion, dropped the case overboard, and
fell in the scuppers helpless.
CHAPTER XXV. A BAD BARGAIN.
With the first colour in the east, Carthew awoke and sat up. A while he
gazed at the scroll of the morning bank and the spars and hanging canvas
of the brig, like a man who wakes in a strange bed, with a child's
simplicity of wonder. He wondered above all what ailed him, what he had
lost, what disfavour had been done him, which he knew he should resent,
yet had forgotten. And then, like a river bursting through a dam, the
truth rolled on him its instantaneous volume: his memory teemed with
speech and pictures that he should never again forget; and he sprang to
his feet, stood a moment hand to brow, and began to walk violently
to and fro by the companion. As he walked, he wrung his hands.
"God - God - God," he kept saying, with no thought of prayer, uttering a
mere voice of agony.
The time may have been long or short, it was perhaps minutes, perhaps
only seconds, ere he awoke to find himself observed, and saw the captain
sitting up and watching him over the break of the poop, a strange
blindness as of fever in his eyes, a haggard knot of corrugations on his
brow. Cain saw himself in a mirror. For a flash they looked upon each
other, and then glanced guiltily aside; and Carthew fled from the eye of
his accomplice, and stood leaning on the taffrail.
An hour went by, while the day came brighter, and the sun rose and drank
up the clouds: an hour of silence in the ship, an hour of agony beyond
narration for the sufferers. Brown's gabbling prayers, the cries of the
sailors in the rigging, strains of the dead Hemstead's minstrelsy,
ran together in Carthew's mind, with sickening iteration. He neither
acquitted nor condemned himself: he did not think, he suffered. In
the bright water into which he stared, the pictures changed and were
repeated: the baresark rage of Goddedaal; the blood-red light of the
sunset into which they had run forth; the face of the babbling Chinaman
as they cast him over; the face of the captain, seen a moment since,
as he awoke from drunkenness into remorse. And time passed, and the sun
swam higher, and his torment was not abated.
Then were fulfilled many sayings, and the weakest of these condemned
brought relief and healing to the others. Amalu the drudge awoke (like
the rest) to sickness of body and distress of mind; but the habit of
obedience ruled in that simple spirit, and appalled to be so late,
he went direct into the galley, kindled the fire, and began to get
breakfast. At the rattle of dishes, the snapping of the fire, and the
thin smoke that went up straight into the air, the spell was lifted.
The condemned felt once more the good dry land of habit under foot; they
touched again the familiar guide-ropes of sanity; they were restored to
a sense of the blessed revolution and return of all things earthly. The
captain drew a bucket of water and began to bathe. Tommy sat up, watched
him awhile, and slowly followed his example; and Carthew, remembering
his last thoughts of the night before, hastened to the cabin.
Mac was awake; perhaps had not slept. Over his head Goddedaal's canary
twittered shrilly from its cage.
"How are you?" asked Carthew.
"Me arrum's broke," returned Mac; "but I can stand that. It's this place
I can't abide. I was coming on deck anyway."
"Stay where you are, though," said Carthew. "It's deadly hot above, and
there's no wind. I'll wash out this - - " and he paused, seeking a word
and not finding one for the grisly foulness of the cabin.
"Faith, I'll be obliged to ye, then," replied the Irishman. He spoke
mild and meek, like a sick child with its mother. There was now no
violence in the violent man; and as Carthew fetched a bucket and swab
and the steward's sponge, and began to cleanse the field of battle,
he alternately watched him or shut his eyes and sighed like a man near
fainting. "I have to ask all your pardons," he began again presently,
"and the more shame to me as I got ye into trouble and couldn't do
nothing when it came. Ye saved me life, sir; ye're a clane shot."
"For God's sake, don't talk of it!" cried Carthew. "It can't be talked
of; you don't know what it was. It was nothing down here; they fought.
On deck - O, my God!" And Carthew, with the bloody sponge pressed to his
face, struggled a moment with hysteria.
"Kape cool, Mr. Cart'ew. It's done now," said Mac; "and ye may bless God
ye're not in pain and helpless in the bargain."
There was no more said by one or other, and the cabin was pretty well
cleansed when a stroke on the ship's bell summoned Carthew to breakfast.
Tommy had been busy in the meanwhile; he had hauled the whaleboat close
aboard, and already lowered into it a small keg of beef that he found
ready broached beside the galley door; it was plain he had but the one
idea - to escape.
"We have a shipful of stores to draw upon," he said. "Well, what are
we staying for? Let's get off at once for Hawaii. I've begun preparing
"Mac has his arm broken," observed Carthew; "how would he stand the
"A broken arm?" repeated the captain. "That all? I'll set it after
breakfast. I thought he was dead like the rest. That madman hit out
like - - " and there, at the evocation of the battle, his voice ceased
and the talk died with it.
After breakfast, the three white men went down into the cabin.
"I've come to set your arm," said the captain.
"I beg your pardon, captain," replied Mac; "but the firrst thing ye got
to do is to get this ship to sea. We'll talk of me arrum after that."
"O, there's no such blooming hurry," returned Wicks.
"When the next ship sails in, ye'll tell me stories!" retorted Mac.
"But there's nothing so unlikely in the world," objected Carthew.
"Don't be deceivin' yourself," said Mac. "If ye want a ship, divil a
one'll look near ye in six year; but if ye don't, ye may take my word
for ut, we'll have a squadron layin' here."
"That's what I say," cried Tommy; "that's what I call sense! Let's stock
that whaleboat and be off."
"And what will Captain Wicks be thinking of the whaleboat?" asked the
"I don't think of it at all," said Wicks. "We've a smart-looking brig
under foot; that's all the whaleboat I want."
"Excuse me!" cried Tommy. "That's childish talk. You've got a brig, to
be sure, and what use is she? You daren't go anywhere in her. What port
are you to sail for?"
"For the port of Davy Jones's Locker, my son," replied the captain.
"This brig's going to be lost at sea. I'll tell you where, too, and
that's about forty miles to windward of Kauai. We're going to stay by
her till she's down; and once the masts are under, she's the Flying Scud
no more, and we never heard of such a brig; and it's the crew of the
schooner Currency Lass that comes ashore in the boat, and takes the
first chance to Sydney."
"Captain dear, that's the first Christian word I've heard of ut!" cried
Mac. "And now, just let me arrum be, jewel, and get the brig outside."
"I'm as anxious as yourself, Mac," returned Wicks; "but there's not wind
enough to swear by. So let's see your arm, and no more talk."
The arm was set and splinted; the body of Brown fetched from the
forepeak, where it lay still and cold, and committed to the waters of
the lagoon; and the washing of the cabin rudely finished. All these were
done ere midday; and it was past three when the first cat's-paw ruffled
the lagoon, and the wind came in a dry squall, which presently sobered
to a steady breeze.
The interval was passed by all in feverish impatience, and by one of
the party in secret and extreme concern of mind. Captain Wicks was a
fore-and-aft sailor; he could take a schooner through a Scotch reel,
felt her mouth and divined her temper like a rider with a horse; she,
on her side, recognising her master and following his wishes like a dog.
But by a not very unusual train of circumstance, the man's dexterity was
partial and circumscribed. On a schooner's deck he was Rembrandt or (at
the least) Mr. Whistler; on board a brig he was Pierre Grassou. Again
and again in the course of the morning, he had reasoned out his
policy and rehearsed his orders; and ever with the same depression and
weariness. It was guess-work; it was chance; the ship might behave as
he expected, and might not; suppose she failed him, he stood there
helpless, beggared of all the proved resources of experience. Had
not all hands been so weary, had he not feared to communicate his own
misgivings, he could have towed her out. But these reasons sufficed, and
the most he could do was to take all possible precautions. Accordingly
he had Carthew aft, explained what was to be done with anxious patience,
and visited along with him the various sheets and braces.
"I hope I'll remember," said Carthew. "It seems awfully muddled."
"It's the rottenest kind of rig," the captain admitted: "all blooming
pocket handkerchiefs! And not one sailor-man on deck! Ah, if she'd only
been a brigantine, now! But it's lucky the passage is so plain; there's
no manoeuvring to mention. We get under way before the wind, and run
right so till we begin to get foul of the island; then we haul our wind
and lie as near south-east as may be till we're on that line; 'bout ship
there and stand straight out on the port tack. Catch the idea?"
"Yes, I see the idea," replied Carthew, rather dismally, and the two
incompetents studied for a long time in silence the complicated gear
above their heads.
But the time came when these rehearsals must be put in practice. The
sails were lowered, and all hands heaved the anchor short. The whaleboat
was then cut adrift, the upper topsails and the spanker set, the yards
braced up, and the spanker sheet hauled out to starboard.
"Heave away on your anchor, Mr. Carthew."
"Anchor's gone, sir."
It was done, and the brig still hung enchanted. Wicks, his head full of
a schooner's mainsail, turned his mind to the spanker. First he hauled
in the sheet, and then he hauled it out, with no result.
"Brail the damned thing up!" he bawled at last, with a red face. "There
ain't no sense in it."
It was the last stroke of bewilderment for the poor captain, that he had
no sooner brailed up the spanker than the vessel came before the wind.
The laws of nature seemed to him to be suspended; he was like a man in
a world of pantomime tricks; the cause of any result, and the probable
result of any action, equally concealed from him. He was the more
careful not to shake the nerve of his amateur assistants. He stood
there with a face like a torch; but he gave his orders with aplomb; and
indeed, now the ship was under weigh, supposed his difficulties over.
The lower topsails and courses were then set, and the brig began to
walk the water like a thing of life, her forefoot discoursing music, the
birds flying and crying over her spars. Bit by bit the passage began to
open and the blue sea to show between the flanking breakers on the reef;
bit by bit, on the starboard bow, the low land of the islet began to
heave closer aboard. The yards were braced up, the spanker sheet hauled
aft again; the brig was close hauled, lay down to her work like a thing
in earnest, and had soon drawn near to the point of advantage, where she
might stay and lie out of the lagoon in a single tack.
Wicks took the wheel himself, swelling with success. He kept the brig
full to give her heels, and began to bark his orders: "Ready about.
Helm's a-lee. Tacks and sheets. Mainsail haul." And then the fatal
words: "That'll do your mainsail; jump forrard and haul round your
To stay a square-rigged ship is an affair of knowledge and swift sight;
and a man used to the succinct evolutions of a schooner will always tend
to be too hasty with a brig. It was so now. The order came too soon; the
topsails set flat aback; the ship was in irons. Even yet, had the helm
been reversed, they might have saved her. But to think of a stern-board
at all, far more to think of profiting by one, were foreign to the
schooner-sailor's mind. Wicks made haste instead to wear ship, a
manoeuvre for which room was wanting, and the Flying Scud took ground on
a bank of sand and coral about twenty minutes before five.
Wicks was no hand with a square-rigger, and he had shown it. But he
was a sailor and a born captain of men for all homely purposes, where
intellect is not required and an eye in a man's head and a heart under
his jacket will suffice. Before the others had time to understand the
misfortune, he was bawling fresh orders, and had the sails clewed up,
and took soundings round the ship.
"She lies lovely," he remarked, and ordered out a boat with the
"Here! steady!" cried Tommy. "You ain't going to turn us to, to warp her
"I am though," replied Wicks.
"I won't set a hand to such tomfoolery for one," replied Tommy. "I'm
dead beat." He went and sat down doggedly on the main hatch. "You got us
on; get us off again," he added.
Carthew and Wicks turned to each other.
"Perhaps you don't know how tired we are," said Carthew.
"The tide's flowing!" cried the captain. "You wouldn't have me miss a
"O, gammon! there's tides to-morrow!" retorted Tommy.
"And I'll tell you what," added Carthew, "the breeze is failing fast,
and the sun will soon be down. We may get into all kinds of fresh mess
in the dark and with nothing but light airs."
"I don't deny it," answered Wicks, and stood awhile as if in thought.
"But what I can't make out," he began again, with agitation, "what I
can't make out is what you're made of! To stay in this place is beyond
me. There's the bloody sun going down - and to stay here is beyond me!"
The others looked upon him with horrified surprise. This fall of their
chief pillar - this irrational passion in the practical man, suddenly
barred out of his true sphere, the sphere of action - shocked and daunted
them. But it gave to another and unseen hearer the chance for which he
had been waiting. Mac, on the striking of the brig, had crawled up the
companion, and he now showed himself and spoke up.
"Captain Wicks," said he, "it's me that brought this trouble on the lot
of ye. I'm sorry for ut, I ask all your pardons, and if there's any one
can say 'I forgive ye,' it'll make my soul the lighter."
Wicks stared upon the man in amaze; then his self-control returned to
him. "We're all in glass houses here," he said; "we ain't going to turn
to and throw stones. I forgive you, sure enough; and much good may it do
The others spoke to the same purpose.
"I thank ye for ut, and 'tis done like gentlemen," said Mac. "But
there's another thing I have upon my mind. I hope we're all Prodestan's
It appeared they were; it seemed a small thing for the Protestant
religion to rejoice in!
"Well, that's as it should be," continued Mac. "And why shouldn't we say
the Lord's Prayer? There can't be no hurt in ut."
He had the same quiet, pleading, childlike way with him as in the
morning; and the others accepted his proposal, and knelt down without a
"Knale if ye like!" said he. "I'll stand." And he covered his eyes.
So the prayer was said to the accompaniment of the surf and seabirds,
and all rose refreshed and felt lightened of a load. Up to then, they
had cherished their guilty memories in private, or only referred to
them in the heat of a moment and fallen immediately silent. Now they had
faced their remorse in company, and the worst seemed over. Nor was it
only that. But the petition "Forgive us our trespasses," falling in
so apposite after they had themselves forgiven the immediate author of
their miseries, sounded like an absolution.
Tea was taken on deck in the time of the sunset, and not long after the
five castaways - castaways once more - lay down to sleep.
Day dawned windless and hot. Their slumbers had been too profound to be
refreshing, and they woke listless, and sat up, and stared about them
with dull eyes. Only Wicks, smelling a hard day's work ahead, was more
alert. He went first to the well, sounded it once and then a second
time, and stood awhile with a grim look, so that all could see he was
dissatisfied. Then he shook himself, stripped to the buff, clambered on
the rail, drew himself up and raised his arms to plunge. The dive was
never taken. He stood instead transfixed, his eyes on the horizon.
"Hand up that glass," he said.
In a trice they were all swarming aloft, the nude captain leading with
On the northern horizon was a finger of grey smoke, straight in the
windless air like a point of admiration.
"What do you make it?" they asked of Wicks.
"She's truck down," he replied; "no telling yet. By the way the smoke
builds, she must be heading right here."
"What can she be?"
"She might be a China mail," returned Wicks, "and she might be a
blooming man-of-war, come to look for castaways. Here! This ain't the
time to stand staring. On deck, boys!"
He was the first on deck, as he had been the first aloft, handed down
the ensign, bent it again to the signal halliards, and ran it up union
"Now hear me," he said, jumping into his trousers, "and everything I say
you grip on to. If that's a man-of-war, she'll be in a tearing hurry;
all these ships are what don't do nothing and have their expenses paid.
That's our chance; for we'll go with them, and they won't take the time
to look twice or to ask a question. I'm Captain Trent; Carthew, you're
Goddedaal; Tommy, you're Hardy; Mac's Brown; Amalu - Hold hard! we can't
make a Chinaman of him! Ah Wing must have deserted; Amalu stowed away;
and I turned him to as cook, and was never at the bother to sign him.
Catch the idea? Say your names."
And that pale company recited their lesson earnestly.
"What were the names of the other two?" he asked. "Him Carthew shot in
the companion, and the one I caught in the jaw on the main top-gallant?"
"Holdorsen and Wallen," said some one.
"Well, they're drowned," continued Wicks; "drowned alongside trying to
lower a boat. We had a bit of a squall last night: that's how we
got ashore." He ran and squinted at the compass. "Squall out of
nor'-nor'-west-half-west; blew hard; every one in a mess, falls jammed,
and Holdorsen and Wallen spilt overboard. See? Clear your blooming
heads!" He was in his jacket now, and spoke with a feverish impatience
and contention that rang like anger.
"But is it safe?" asked Tommy.
"Safe?" bellowed the captain. "We're standing on the drop, you
moon-calf! If that ship's bound for China (which she don't look to be),
we're lost as soon as we arrive; if she's bound the other way, she comes
from China, don't she? Well, if there's a man on board of her that ever
clapped eyes on Trent or any blooming hand out of this brig, we'll all
be in irons in two hours. Safe! no, it ain't safe; it's a beggarly last
chance to shave the gallows, and that's what it is."
At this convincing picture, fear took hold on all.
"Hadn't we a hundred times better stay by the brig?" cried Carthew.
"They would give us a hand to float her off."
"You'll make me waste this holy day in chattering!" cried Wicks. "Look
here, when I sounded the well this morning, there was two foot of water
there against eight inches last night. What's wrong? I don't know; might
be nothing; might be the worst kind of smash. And then, there we are in
for a thousand miles in an open boat, if that's your taste!"
"But it may be nothing, and anyway their carpenters are bound to help us
repair her," argued Carthew.
"Moses Murphy!" cried the captain. "How did she strike? Bows on,
I believe. And she's down by the head now. If any carpenter comes
tinkering here, where'll he go first? Down in the forepeak, I suppose!
And then, how about all that blood among the chandlery? You would think
you were a lot of members of Parliament discussing Plimsoll; and you're
just a pack of murderers with the halter round your neck. Any other ass
got any time to waste? No? Thank God for that! Now, all hands! I'm going
below, and I leave you here on deck. You get the boat cover off that
boat; then you turn to and open the specie chest. There are five of us;
get five chests, and divide the specie equal among the five - put it
at the bottom - and go at it like tigers. Get blankets, or canvas, or
clothes, so it won't rattle. It'll make five pretty heavy chests, but we
can't help that. You, Carthew - dash me! - You, Mr. Goddedaal, come below.
We've our share before us."
And he cast another glance at the smoke, and hurried below with Carthew
at his heels.
The logs were found in the main cabin behind the canary's cage; two of
them, one kept by Trent, one by Goddedaal. Wicks looked first at one,
then at the other, and his lip stuck out.
"Can you forge hand of write?" he asked.
"No," said Carthew.
"There's luck for you - no more can I!" cried the captain. "Hullo! here's
worse yet, here's this Goddedaal up to date; he must have filled it in
before supper. See for yourself: 'Smoke observed. - Captain Kirkup and
five hands of the schooner Currency Lass.' Ah! this is better," he
added, turning to the other log. "The old man ain't written anything for
a clear fortnight. We'll dispose of your log altogether, Mr. Goddedaal,
and stick to the old man's - to mine, I mean; only I ain't going to write
it up, for reasons of my own. You are. You're going to sit down right
here and fill it in the way I tell you."
"How to explain the loss of mine?" asked Carthew.
"You never kept one," replied the captain. "Gross neglect of duty.
You'll catch it."
"And the change of writing?" resumed Carthew. "You began; why do you
stop and why do I come in? And you'll have to sign anyway."
"O! I've met with an accident and can't write," replied Wicks.
"An accident?" repeated Carthew. "It don't sound natural. What kind of
Wicks spread his hand face-up on the table, and drove a knife through
"That kind of an accident," said he. "There's a way to draw to windward
of most difficulties, if you've a head on your shoulders." He began
to bind up his hand with a handkerchief, glancing the while over
Goddedaal's log. "Hullo!" he said, "this'll never do for us - this is an
impossible kind of a yarn. Here, to begin with, is this Captain Trent
trying some fancy course, leastways he's a thousand miles to south'ard
of the great circle. And here, it seems, he was close up with this
island on the sixth, sails all these days, and is close up with it again
by daylight on the eleventh."
"Goddedaal said they had the deuce's luck," said Carthew.
"Well, it don't look like real life - that's all I can say," returned