Percy F. (Percy Francis) Westerman.

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cleats that would, in the event of hitting them, cause painful
results, the two Scouts came to the closed companion hatch
communicating to the main cabin.

Through a chink in the teak door, Atherton saw that a light was
burning. The scuttles had been covered with a thick material in order
to screen the light within.

It was a remarkable sight that met the Scout's gaze. On the swinging
table was a quantity of silver plate. Sitting on one bunk was one of
the crew, who was apprehensively regarding his companion. Of the
latter Atherton now had no doubts. He was the same red-necked fellow
who had been one of the assailants of Sir Silas Gwinnear. There was
no mistaking the closely cropped iron-grey hair, the rounded though
massive shoulders and back, the long legs and all the other
characteristics the Scout had so carefully noticed. In his hands he
held a sporting rifle, which was pointed in the direction of his

"Ere, chuck it, Bill. Turn that blessed thing away," remonstrated the
seated man.

"'Tain't loaded, yer blinkin' juggins."

"That's wot yer says, Bill."

"'Struth: don't yer know as well as I does that there ain't a
blinkin' cartridge aboard. All the same it'll come in 'andy-like to
frighten them nippers if they comes a' nosin' abaht 'ere agen."

"They won't. I'll chaunce me arm on that, Bill."

"'Ow d'ye know that? Ain't they properly kippered that old fool
Tassh, till 'e ain't got no mind to call 'is own? If it weren't for
them blessed Scouts we'd a' hid all the blessed swag aboard afore
now. Tassh won't budge till nigh on one in the mornin', as yer
bloomin' well knows, the white-livered swob."

"'E was late last night. Arter three afore 'e gived the signal."

"Ef 'e's blinkin' well late to-night we'll go ashore and rout 'im out
of 'is blessed cave."

"Not this 'ere child, Bill. I ain't got no likin' to wormin' me way
through that 'ole between the two caves. I'll wait in the outer one
if yer likes."

"You'll blessed well do as I tells yer," retorted the latter man,
laying the gun down on the bunk. "Onderstand that. Well, 'ere goes.
I'll 'ave a look on deck, and see if anything's stirrin'. Douse that
glim for a minnit, while I opens the 'atch."

Atherton touched his companion's shoulder. Both lads rose to their
feet and began to make their way for'ard, Phillips treading on one
side of the deck and Atherton on the other, so as to prevent the
craft from heeling. Even the faintest heel would be noticeable to the
two men below, and their suspicions would be instantly aroused.

Phillips lowered himself noiselessly over the bows, but before
Atherton could clamber over the windlass that occupied a portion of
the foredeck, the noise of the hatch being slid back told him that
Bill was in the act of coming on deck.

There was no time to be lost. Atherton hurried to rejoin his comrade,
but his haste led to his undoing. His bare feet slipped on the wet
planks, and the next instant he was sprawling at full length upon the

"Throughout the rest of the afternoon the Wolves kept on the
watch." - _Page_ 217.



ATHERTON'S first impulse was to regain his feet and jump overboard.
By so doing he knew that he would run no personal risks, since Bill
and his companion in crime could not possibly capture him, even if
they went to the length of leaping into the sea dressed as they were,
in their clothes and sea-boots. But, on the other hand, the Scout
realised that, if discovered, the confederates of the rascally butler
would make haste and clear off in the yacht, and the whole chance of
capturing both the rogues and their booty would receive a serious set

With these thoughts flashing through his mind, Atherton pulled
several folds of the staysail over his recumbent form, as,
fortunately for him, the slothful crew had lowered the sail and had
neglected to stow or even secure it. His chief anxiety was that
Phillips, finding that his companion had not followed him, would
climb on board again, or, equally as bad, raise a premature alarm.

Second Phillips was made of the right stuff. Since Atherton had not
called for aid he felt convinced that his Leader was still keeping
Bill under observation. Holding on to the bob-stay, and keeping close
to the bows of the yacht, Phillips waited, chin deep in water, either
till the expected shout for assistance came or else till Atherton got
clear of the mysterious craft.

With many muttered curses the truculent Bill ascended the short
companion-ladder and gained the deck. Pulling back the hatch he
remained by the companion, his gaze directed towards the frowning
cliffs by the Tea Caves.

"Two more cursed hours!" muttered the man, loudly enough for the
Scout to overhear.

"Wot's 'e got to be afraid of I should like to know. Well, any'ow,
to-night'll see the last o' the swag safe aboard."

Atherton felt a quiver of excitement pass through his frame. If the
silver were to be recovered the opportunity was at hand. There was
little time to be lost. To send for the assistance of the local
police and the coastguards might result in the scoundrels "getting
the wind of it."

It must be the Scouts to whom the credit of recovering Sir Silas
Gwinnear's plate must fall.

The seaman was coming for'ard. From his place of concealment,
Atherton could hear his heavy footfall upon the yielding deck. Would
it be possible that the fellow had any suspicions that some one in
addition to his mate was on board?

In any case the Scout realised that he must evade capture. Nearer and
nearer came the man. Atherton prepared to spring from his
hiding-place arid leap into the sea, but to his great relief Bill
turned on his heel and retraced his footsteps.

"He's going to pace the deck for the next hour or so, I suppose,"
thought Atherton. "A nice pickle we are in: Phillips shivering in the
water and I doing ditto under a damp sail."

But Atherton was wrong in his surmise. The fellow took two or three
turns up and down the deck, gave another glance shorewards and then
whispered to his companion to "douse the glim again."

With the utmost satisfaction Atherton heard the seaman push back the
hatch. His heavy sea-boots grated on the brass stair-treads; and
then, with a vicious bang, the hatch was shut once more.

Rising from his place of concealment, Atherton lowered himself into
the water, and the two lads began their shoreward swim; at first in
silence, and then, as soon as a safe distance had been covered, they
conversed in low tones.

"We're in luck, Atherton."

"Yes, if things turn out all right. I wonder what Mr Buckley will

"No doubt he will order the boats to be manned, and we'll have to try
our chances with Bill and his pal. It's fortunate we know his gun
isn't loaded. Here, Phillips, are we heading the right way? I don't
see the place where we climbed down."

"The tide must be setting in by now," replied Phillips. "We're being
swept away to the west'ard. I vote we swim straight for shore and
then keep close to it until we come to the right spot. The tide won't
run so strong inshore."

"You lads have been a long time," remarked Mr Buckley, as the two
Scouts, tired with their exertions, scrambled on to the ledge where
the Scoutmaster had been anxiously awaiting their reappearance.

"It's all right, sir," exclaimed Atherton; "we've found out
something": and as briefly and explicitly as he could the Scout
related what had occurred on board the yacht.

"You're quite right, Atherton," said Mr Buckley, when the Leader had
finished his report. "Something must be done at once. It is now close
on twelve o'clock. You're both dressed? Good. Shin up the rope,
Phillips; it will take three of you to haul me up, I am afraid."

As soon as the Scoutmaster and the two Scouts had reached the summit
of the cliff, a hasty palaver was held and a rough plan of action
decided upon. Green was despatched to the camp to turn out the
"Wolves," who were to double to the place where the Scoutmaster
awaited them.

"That's good, Simpson," said Mr Buckley, as the patrol turned up in
fine fettle. "You left the Tenderfoots in camp? Hayes and Coventry,
take that flashing lamp and call up the coastguard at Refuge Point.
Tell them that there's a yacht lying off the Tea Caves, and that her
crew are going to remove the stolen silver. The rest of us had better
make tracks for the Tea Caves as soon as possible. Since Tassh is
concealed in the inner one - that is what you heard, I believe,
Atherton? - we ought to nab him as he squeezes through the narrow
passage between the two divisions. Now, Scouts, silence is essential
as soon as we gain the ledge."

One by one the "Wolves" descended by means of the rope; then the
Scoutmaster was lowered by the "Otters," who brought up the rear of
the expedition. Treading cautiously, the Scouts crept in single file
towards the rascally butler's lair.

Within the caves all was quiet. If Tassh lay concealed in the
innermost one he gave no sign of his presence. Apparently he had
learnt a certain amount of caution, for all tracks between the mouth
of the cave and the narrow "needle's-eye" communicating with the two
divisions were carefully obliterated.

Without a word being spoken the Scouts took up their allotted
positions: Simpson and the 1st and 2nd class Scouts of his patrol
stationed themselves on either side of the entrance to the inner
cave; Atherton and the available "Otters" hid in a deep recess just
inside the outer entrance; while Mr Buckley remained without in order
to keep the yacht under observation.

Slowly, in utter silence, the hours passed. Although the Scoutmaster
could not see the time by his watch, he felt fairly convinced that it
could not be much past midnight. To the waiting Scouts the period of
waiting seemed interminable.

At length the Scouts pricked up their ears. From the depths of the
inner cave came an uncanny sound. As Simpson afterwards described it,
it was like the armoured body of an enormous crab grating over the
rocks. This was followed by the deep breathing of a man who had been
put to great physical strain. Then came the stealthy footfalls of
some one walking over the dry sand that formed the floor of the cave.

Simpson and the "Wolves" were tingling with excitement.

It was Tassh.

The rascally butler began to crawl through the "needle's eye." Once or
twice he paused, as if scenting danger; then, drawing himself clear,
he regained his feet.

It was as much as the "Wolves" could do to restrain themselves from
falling upon and overpowering their quarry, since the man stood
almost within arm's length of Simpson on the one hand and Neale on
the other. But to do this would be acting prematurely. Unless
otherwise compelled to tackle their man, the Scouts were content to
let him alone until he had lured Bill and his companions ashore. So,
crouching behind the huge boulders that had at some time fallen from
the roof of the cave, the lads watched Tassh stealthily make his way
towards the entrance.

"I wonder if he'll spot Mr Buckley," thought Simpson. But the
Scoutmaster was too wary for that. He had clambered upon a narrow
ledge seven feet above the main path, whence he could command a view
of the cave and the sea as well as the misty starlight would permit.

"Oh, there you are, my fine fellow," muttered Mr Buckley, as Tassh,
looking anxiously along the main ledge that gave access to the caves,
emerged into the open, utterly ignorant of the fact that seven of the
"Otters" were within ten yards of him and that a few inches above his
head the Scoutmaster had him under observation.

Still Tassh hesitated. He even walked a few paces along the ledge,
and scanned the rugged cliffs above his head. At length, drawing a
portable electric lamp from his pocket, he flashed it twice in quick
succession in the direction of the yacht.

This signal was instantly replied to by the light of a match. The
Scoutmaster could see the gleam light up the features of the man
Bill. To guard against causing suspicion the fellow was pretending to
light a pipe, twice closing his fingers over the flickering match in
order to reassure the ex-butler that his message was understood.

Tassh waited no longer. He turned and literally sneaked back to his
den, none of the Scouts attempting to bar his passage.

Another ten minutes passed. There were no further signs of movement
on the yacht. The Scoutmaster began to wonder whether 'Tassh's signal
was intended to mean that he was suspicious about something, to defer
the visit of Bill and his companion in crime until another night.

"I wish they'd hurry up," soliloquised Mr Buckley. "I shouldn't
wonder if the coastguard boat doesn't turn up soon and nab them. It's
a pity. I wish I had told Hayes not to signal quite so soon. The
Scouts will only share the fruits of victory, I am afraid."

Just then came the sound of a splash in the water. The crew of the
yacht had dragged a collapsible boat from the cabin and had launched
it over the side.

The Scoutmaster waited till the boat was fairly close inshore, then,
having made certain that only one man was on board, he silently
slipped from his post of observation and rejoined Atherton and the
"Otters" in the recess by the mouth of the cave.

Grasping Atherton's hand the Scoutmaster, by means of a series of
long and short grips, spelled out a message in Morse.

"Man coming: tackle him on entering cave."

The Leader signified that the message was understood, and passed it
on to Phillips, who in turn communicated it to Green and Mayne.
Before the remaining "Otters" could be informed, the man from the
yacht was heard scaling the cliff between the water's edge and the

With a strange sensation in his throat, Atherton braced himself for
the onslaught. He could hear the partially suppressed breathing of
his companions and the rapidly approaching steps of Tassh's nocturnal
visitor. The patch of starlit sky at the mouth of the cave was
darkened by the hulking figure of Bill.

Unhesitatingly the fellow advanced into the cave, then drawing an
electric torch from his pocket he flashed it ahead to guide his
footsteps. The beam of light fell, not upon the sanded floor, but
upon the figure of the Scoutmaster standing full in his path.

With a muttered oath, Bill threw down the canvas bag, hurled his lamp
at Mr Buckley, and turned to seek safety in flight.

Up from their hiding-place the "Otters" ran as one man and threw
themselves upon the rogue. Bill's fist shot out straight at
Atherton's chin, but luckily for the Scout it was light enough for
him to see to parry the blow. Down went Bill, struggling and raving
like a madman, with his six youthful yet active assailants on to him
like a pack of bulldogs.

"Chuck it," growled Bill sullenly, as Atherton applied an arm-lock.
"Chuck it orl you'll break my bloomin' arm. I gives in."

Securely bound hand and foot the prisoner was carried out into the
open. The first phase of the capture of the robbers of Sir Silas
Gwinnear's silver was effected.

"Now, lads!" exclaimed Mr Buckley, "that's number one. 'Wolves'! Keep
watch over the inner cave; we'll rout out Mr Tassh later on. Everest
and Baker stand by the prisoner. The rest of the 'Otters' follow me.
We must board the yacht and capture the remaining member of the



"GIVE me a hand down here, Atherton," exclaimed Mr Buckley. "We can't
wait for a rope this time."

Without mishap the Scouts and the Scoutmaster descended the jagged
cliff by the same path that the luckless Bill had so lately ascended.

Hauled up on a shelving ledge and practically awash by the rising
tide, was the canvas boat. It seemed a flimsy craft to hold five
persons, but reassured by Mr Buckley's word the Scouts embarked.

There were but two oars, and these were short; the boat was deeply
laden, and progress was, in consequence, slow. Before they were
thirty yards from the cliff the Scouts heard the clanking of a
windlass. The sole occupant of the yacht, alarmed at the commotion
ashore, was weighing anchor.

"He means to start the motor and leave his comrades to their fate,"
exclaimed Mr Buckley. "Put your backs into it, lads."

Desperately the fellow worked the windlass, but unfortunately for him
there was good scope of chain out. Ere half of it was inboard, the
canvas boat swept under the yacht's counter and ranged up alongside
his starboard quarter.

"Surrender!" shouted the Scoutmaster.

The man's only reply was to drop the handle of the winch, snatch up
the gun from the deck and present it full at Mr Buckley's head.

"Won't do, my man," exclaimed the Scoutmaster affably. "We know there
isn't a single cartridge on board."

The rascal's jaw dropped with sheer amazement.

"I'll bash in the skull of the first chap who tries to get on deck,"
he replied, swinging the butt end of the weapon above his head.

"Hands up instantly, or I'll fire!" ordered Mr Buckley, sternly. The
pale light glinted on the bright barrel of a sinister-looking object
he held extended in his right hand. Somewhat to the Scoutmaster's
surprise the fellow immediately complied, holding his arms extended
to their fullest extent above his head to show that there was no
deception, while the gun clattered noisily upon the deck.

In a trice Atherton and Phillips were once more upon the yacht.
Without further resistance the fellow allowed them to secure him.

"Take him below," ordered Mr Buckley. "Phillips and Mayne will look
after him all right. Come on, you others, if you want to be in at the
capture of Mr Tassh."

Before pushing off, Mr Buckley called to Phillips to come out of the

"Here's my revolver," he said, in a voice loud enough for the
prisoner to overhear. "Put it in your pocket, and don't hesitate to
use it if the fellow gives trouble."

And to the surprise and amazement of the Scouts, the Scoutmaster held
up for inspection - not a dangerous weapon, but one of the brass
rowlocks of the canvas boat.

Phillips rejoined his companion in the task of guarding the prisoner.
They heard the sound of the oars growing fainter and fainter till all
was quiet.

"Look 'ere, you chaps," said the prisoner, breaking the silence, "I
ain't to blame for this 'ere business. 'Swelp me, it was orl Bill's

"The less you say about it the better," remarked Phillips.

"No 'tain't. I mean to turn King's evidence, so the sooner I get's it
off me chest the better, says I. Bill is that silly lubber Tassh's
brother-in-law, that's wot yer don't know, eh? Well, Bill 'ad 'is
knife inter old Gwinnear over the shippin' strike. I knows as 'ow
Bill 'ad a 'and in chuckin' the old josser inter the Thames: that's
gospel truth. An' then 'e cods old Tassh inter sneakin' the silver.
Told 'im 'e 'd 'ave 'arf the proceeds, and Bill and me 'ud share the
rest, and Tassh like a blinkin' fool believed 'im. 'Tis like
this - - "

"Yacht ahoy!" came a peremptory hail from without.

Phillips dashed up the companion-ladder, and gained the deck to find
a coastguard gig alongside.

"Hulloa, my lad!" exclaimed the petty officer in charge. "What's the
game? Having a joke with us, eh? Some of you Scouts signalled to us
that some of the thieves were on board with the stolen silver."

"One of them is," replied Phillips. "You're a little too late. He is
a prisoner; the other one is also captured. He's on shore, and if you
hurry up you may have a look in when our fellows collar Mr Tassh."

* * * *

Upon rejoining the "Wolves" the elated "Otters" found their comrades
keeping watch in front of the "needle's-eye." Until their
Scoutmaster's return Simpson would not allow his patrol to enter the
inner cave. Nevertheless there was now no need for absolute silence,
and the lads were able to converse and wile away the otherwise
tedious vigil; nor was there any necessity to do without artificial

"Now, Simpson," said Mr Buckley, "it's the 'Wolves'' turn. You've
plenty of candles?"

"Yes, sir."

"Carry on, then," said the Scoutmaster, dropping into a phrase
reminiscent of his former service in the Royal Navy.

The Leader of the "Wolves" was not a fellow to rush headlong into
danger. He knew that if Tassh had the courage and determination he
could hold the entrance to the inner cave with impunity.

Placing his hat on the end of a staff he thrust it through the narrow
opening. Nothing happened.

"The fellow's missed his opportunity," said Simpson to Neale in a low
tone. "So here goes."

Wriggling through the "needle's-eye," Simpson gained the spacious
vault. He waited, his staff held in readiness to defend himself from
attack, until Neale and Jock Fraser joined him.

Bill's electric torch now served a useful purpose, augmented by the
light of several candles. The rest of the "Wolves" were quickly on the
scene, and in quite a blaze of light the Scouts followed the trail
which in his flight the rascally butler had made no attempt to conceal.

"'Hands up instantly or I'll fire!' ordered Mr. Buckley
sternly." - _Page_ 237.

The tracks led straight to the place where Atherton had previously
found the burnt matches. But in place of the smooth sand there gaped
a deep hole, from which the rays of a lantern were visible.

"Come out, Tassh: the game's up," said Simpson. The only reply was a
hollow mocking laugh, so eerie that the lads scarce believed it came
from a human being. Then came the sound of metal being violently
thrown about, to the accompaniment of disjointed and incoherent
sentences that told their own tale.

"The fellow's quite mad; he's amusing himself with smashing the
silver," exclaimed Fraser. "We must stop him."

Dropping lightly through the hole, the Scout found himself in a small
cave, about twenty feet in length and half that distance in breadth.
Two candle lanterns - one hanging from a hook driven into the roof and
the other standing on the floor - gave sufficient light for Fraser to
see clearly what was going on.

Tassh, seated on the ground with his chin resting on his knee, was
amusing himself by throwing the valuable silver cups against the
farthermost wall, gibbering the while in maniacal delight.

With a bound the Scout stood over the luckless rascal and laid a
detaining hand on his shoulder. The man merely smiled and held up a
chased goblet as if he wished his captor to join in the game.

"He's as mad as a hatter," said Fraser to Simpson and Neale, who had
promptly followed into the thief's lair. "We'll have a job to get him
out of this."

"Come on, Tassh," said Simpson, quietly and firmly. "We've something
to show you. Come along."

The ex-butler turned his head and looked at the Scout in a dazed
manner; then, with a suddenness that almost took Simpson by surprise,
the madman jumped to his feet and flung himself tooth and nail upon
his captors.

In the struggle the lantern on the floor was overset. The candle in
the one hanging from the roof was almost burnt out. In semi-darkness,
deep in the farthermost recesses of the cave, the three lads
struggled with their prisoner, who seemed to possess the strength of
a gorilla.

Twice Simpson was hurled against the wall; Fraser, partly dazed by a
tremendous blow on the forehead, was hardly of use to his companions;
while Neale, his bare knees bleeding from the result of a series of
vicious kicks, was banging grimly and desperately round the madman's

The situation was indeed serious. The Scouts had bitten off more than
they could chew, yet not one of them raised a shout for help.

For the third time the Leader of the "Wolves" tackled the madman, but
ere he could obtain a hold his feet slipped on the smooth rock.
Tassh's fingers closed on Simpson's throat with a force that
threatened to choke the Scout into insensibility. Simultaneously, by
a back kick, the maniac sent Neale staggering, and well-nigh
breathless, upon the prostrate Fraser. A multitude of lights flashed
before Simpson's eyes . . . then his opponent's grip suddenly
relaxed, and Atherton's voice was heard exclaiming:

"It's all right, Simpson. Pull yourself together, man. I hope I
haven't killed the fellow."

Atherton had arrived in the nick of time. Something had prompted him
to follow Simpson's scanty patrol; he knew by the sounds from the
rogue's lair that a desperate struggle was taking place. He leapt
into the little cave and with his staff struck the violent madman a
stunning blow, causing Tassh to sink inertly to the ground.

As soon as Simpson and Fraser had sufficiently recovered, steps were
taken to get the insensible thief from his den. With a bowline round

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Online LibraryPercy F. (Percy Francis) WestermanThe Scouts of Seal Island → online text (page 11 of 12)