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Nearer and nearer the _Independencia_ approached the gap in the
almost encircling walls of ice - a channel less than a quarter of a
mile in width, and flanked by lofty, overhanging precipices. It
seemed from a distance that the gap was even less than it actually
was, so high were the glacial cliffs on either hand.

Suddenly the cruiser struck; not violently, but sufficient to make
the fact known to all on board. Her forward part, drawing 7 ft. of
water more than her normal draught owing to the flooding of her fore
compartments, had struck a ridge of submerged ice.

This time there was hardly any panic amongst the polyglot crew. The
men were almost too apathetic to care for anything short of sudden,
real danger. The engines were reversed, and almost without an effort
the _Independencia_ glided stern foremost off the reef. Soundings
were taken, revealing a depth of only eight fathoms. Then the truth
became apparent.

The _Independencia_ was barely floating in a vast depression in the
ice-field. The Bergs were really part of one extensive sheet of ice,
twenty, thirty, or perhaps even more miles in length, and less than a
dozen feet under her keel was a bed of ice possibly a thousand feet
thick between her and the floor of the ocean.

It was indeed a strange freak of fortune that had guided the cruiser
betwixt those icy portals in the fog. Now came the question: Had the
bed of the glacial lagoon risen and decreased the depth, and did a
barrier of shallow water lie between her and the open sea?

Three times the cruiser essayed to pass the shoal, each time bumping
slightly. The fourth time, by keeping 300 yds. to starboard of the
point where the vessel had touched the first time, Cervillo contrived
to clear the danger, only to be confronted by another; for so close
was the _Independencia_ to the berg that one tremendous mass of ice
fell within a hundred yards of her starboard side.

It was touch and go. On the one hand the risk of grounding badly on
the shoal of ice, on the other the danger of being smashed by the
sudden fall of the overhanging face of the glistening mass of
congealed water. But Cervillo kept his head, and standing by the
quartermaster compelled him to steer as close to the cliffs as
possible, and after a quarter of an hour's suspense the
_Independencia_ gained the open sea.

The ship was in a bad state, for she was leaking badly, the inrush
being barely kept under control by the powerful centrifugal pumps.
She was down by the head; her fuel was running short, and the
provisions, except those stored aft, were sufficient only for another
ten days. No wonder, then, that the pirate captain was anxious to
recover the booty, and save himself as best he might.


[Illustration: AFTER A QUARTER OF AN HOUR'S SUSPENSE THE
"INDEPENDENCIA" GAINED THE OPEN SEA.
[_Page_ 210.
]


Not until the cruiser had left the ice-field a good twenty miles
astern did Juan Cervillo proceed to put into operation the plan that
Da Silva had suggested. The men detailed to form the firing-party
were ordered on the quarter-deck, but to the captain's surprise all
the seamen and many of the engine-room staff came tumbling aft, all
armed to the teeth.

"What is the meaning of this, men?" shouted Cervillo, as he faced the
mob of olive and black-featured seamen.

The question was almost unnecessary. He realised that it was a case
of mutiny.




CHAPTER XVIII

MUTINY AND A RUSE THAT FAILED


"WE wish to know why we are freezing to death in this fearful
climate, instead of capturing rich prizes, as we were led to believe,
and for which we signed on?" said the spokesman, a Greek who spoke
four Latin languages fluently.

"And if I refuse to give you the information?" asked Cervillo.

"We'll have the ordering of things in our own hands - - "

"And a fine mess you'll make of it," added the captain. He knew that
once he showed the white feather it would be all up with him. The
only way to treat a polyglot crowd was to put a bold face on the
matter, and let them see that the man whom they served was a worthy
leader of such a pack of ruffianly scoundrels. "All those men who
speak or understand Spanish will cross over to the starboard side. If
I don't treat you fairly then on my head be it."

Slowly, almost reluctantly, about forty of the men walked across to
the side indicated, their comrades regarding the act with suspicion
until they were assured by the Greek that their Iberian comrades were
"solid" in their determination to see the matter through.

"Now, lads," continued Cervillo, "you ask an explanation; I will give
it. It can be repeated to the others as soon as I have finished. When
I brought the ship north I did it with the best intentions, to lie
low until the strict watch maintained by those accursed English and
American cruisers was relaxed, and we could still further increase
our booty ere disbanding at Caracas or Monte Video. Unfortunately I
did not take into consideration the chances of meeting with ice at
this time of the year. We did so, with consequences extremely awkward
both to the ship and ourselves. We must get out of the difficulty
somehow; and the remedy I suggest is this: That we capture the first
vessel we meet that is large enough to take us all; remove the
treasure, and scuttle the _Independencia_. Then, without exciting
suspicion, we can go south once more, and land quietly on South
American soil. Your share of the booty will, I regret to say, fall
short of the sum anticipated had all gone well with us; but there
will be quite enough to keep you all in ease for the rest of your
lives. Those are my intentions, mainly for your benefit. If you can
suggest a better plan I am only too willing to lend my ear."

Cervillo paused. To his unbounded satisfaction he observed his bold
front was making a favourable impression upon the handful of men he
addressed. There was one exception amongst the Spanish-speaking
audience. That was the Greek spokesman. It was in his mind that the
mutiny should go its whole course; that Cervillo should be made
prisoner, and that he should be the new captain. But he had given his
fellow mutineers no plan of what he should do to save himself and
them from the hangman's rope, and on that point Cervillo scored.

A few exclamations of approval warmed the captain to his task, and in
an easy, confidential manner he continued.

"You are, I know, aware that there is a source of danger already in
the ship. I refer to that English dog and his comrades who have
contrived to seize the after part of the ship. I do not wish to make
a secret about it, but the greater portion of the treasure lies in
their hands. Yes, men, it is enough to make you have long faces; but
the worst is not yet told. They refuse to give up the gold. How can
we compel them to do so? If we use force they threaten to sink the
ship. As you know, we have only three boats left, and they have been
considerably damaged. This is the situation. More than that, I see
you men are standing before me armed, and with every appearance of
being mutineers. Is not that so?"

"We mean to have our rights," interrupted the Greek, surlily. "If we
don't look after ourselves, who else will?"

"I'm the person to do that," retorted Juan Cervillo, with a
fierceness that made the Greek - although he was standing twenty feet
from the pirate captain - recoil and seek refuge behind his comrades.
"And, what is more, I mean to get you all out of this business in the
best possible manner. Could you dislodge the Englishman and his
companions from the half-deck? I think not. I have a plan; but before
I divulge it I must have your promise of complete obedience. Now go
and explain to your comrades on the port side the state of affairs. I
will wait here and receive your answer."

Those of the crew who did not understand Spanish were regarding their
captain with hostile eyes until their fellows on the starboard side
raised their shouts of approbation. They could not understand the
sudden change of opinion; but very easily led, they soon agreed to
accept Cervillo's terms as explained by the Spanish-speaking portion
of the crew, who were, for the most part, capable of making
themselves understood by every member of the polyglot assembly. Only
the Greek held out, striving to influence his compatriots against the
captain's authority; but, failing miserably, he subsided, and tried
to retire into oblivion by diving into the crowd of reconciled
mutineers.

"Now," exclaimed Cervillo, after a while, "are you willing to submit
to my authority once again? For my part I will overlook this affair
knowing that you have erred in thinking that I had no desire to study
the interest of my crew."

"We are with you, señor capitan!" shouted the men.

"Excellent! Now this is my plan: Señor Da Silva will muster forty men
armed with rifles upon the quarter-deck. The rest of you will go
for'ard, and on the signal being given, commence to shout 'All hands
on deck!' and 'Everyone for himself - the ship's sinking!' Make as
much noise as you can. The prisoners will at once bolt from below,
and as soon as the last man is up through the hatchway Señor Da Silva
will give the word for them to be shot down. No one must be allowed
to escape below. We can then recover the gold, and on the first
available opportunity we will tranship the booty and ourselves to
another vessel. Have I made myself clear?"

The mutineers expressed themselves satisfied, and at once went
for'ard to carry out the proposed stratagem.

Meanwhile Fielding and his companions kept well on the alert,
maintaining regular watches, and leaving nothing to chance. Through
the ports they had witnessed the cruiser's mishaps in the submerged
bed of ice, and her perilous passage betwixt the horns of the berg.
They knew that the _Independencia_ was heading southwards, but for
what purpose they were in ignorance. Certain it was that for the time
being Cervillo's idea of sheltering on the east coast of Greenland
had been knocked on the head.

"They're pretty well at the end of their tether," remarked the sub.
"Something's gone wrong with the engines, I fancy; and I shouldn't be
a bit surprised if she's leaking badly. They've been pumping
continuously for the last few hours."

"There's one blessing, they won't be able to do any more damage to
shipping," added Cardyke. "But I can't say that I appreciate being
cooped up here. Couldn't we make a rush for it and drive them below?"

"Too early," objected his superior. "They must be lulled into a sense
of security first. No, Cardyke, we must sit tight and await our
opportunity. It's bound to come. You see, if we attempted to capture
the ship, and failed - we cannot rely upon success - our position might
be infinitely worse. We cannot come to much harm here. The gold acts
as an invisible breastplate to shield us all."

Just then there was a heavy crash somewhere amidships, followed by a
babel of yells that roused the sleeping watch from their berths.

"What's happening now?" asked Fielding. "Can you make out what they
are shouting about, Mr. Rutter?"

The American, who was a fairly good Spanish linguist, understood the
nature of the yells. For a few seconds he stood chewing the end of a
huge cigar.

"I guess they're celebrating someone's nameday," he remarked, calmly.
"Let 'em yell. Maybe they'll want their wasted breath before long."
Then, taking Fielding aside, he said, in an undertone, "They're
trying to lure us out, I reckon. Say the ship's sinking. Guess she's
been going down some these twenty-four hours past, and she hasn't
gone yet; so sit tight."

Thus, by the coolness of Hiram B. Rutter, the knavish plot of Da
Silva fizzled out like a damp squib. Finger on trigger the platoon
waited to mow down the hostages as they issued pell-mell through the
hatchway; but they waited in vain.

"Ten thousand fiends take them!" exclaimed the pirate captain in his
wrath when he saw that treachery failed to accomplish his ends.
"There must be a traitor amongst the crew."

Disgusted and foiled, Cervillo retired to his quarters, and spent the
rest of the day in sulky isolation. Meanwhile Da Silva, to whom the
care of the vessel had been entrusted, kept the cruiser pointing due
south at a modest ten knots. He, too, began to realise that, with her
diminished speed and rapidly burning oil supply, it was only a
question of hours before the _Independencia_ floated idly at the
mercy of wind and wave. With the exhaustion of the oil fuel the
auxiliary engines would be useless, and the centrifugal pumps would
be powerless to check the inrush of water. The pumps worked by manual
labour might keep the vessel afloat for twenty-four hours, but Da
Silva, who had been mate of a Levant trader, knew only too well how
quickly men will tire at the arduous task of manning the pumps.

Another day had almost passed. The sun was on the point of dipping
for a few short hours beneath the horizon when the look-out
announced, "Sail on the port quarter."

Cervillo and most of the officers made their way up to the bridge.
Glasses were brought to bear upon the distant vessel, whose topmasts
only were as yet visible from where the pirate captain stood. Was it
a British cruiser that by some unfortunate freak of circumstance had
penetrated the almost deserted northern ocean?

"What do you make of her?" shouted Cervillo to the man in the
fire-control platform, which, useless for its primary purpose, had
been used as a spacious and well-sheltered "crow's-nest."

"There are two vessels, señor capitan. One is in tow of the other."

"Are they cruisers?"

"I think not, señor capitan. One of them is square-rigged."

Unable to conceal his anxiety, Cervillo entered the narrow door in
the base of one of the tripods, and climbed inside the hollow mast
till he stood beside the look-out in the fire-control platform.

For quite a minute Cervillo kept the two vessels under observation,
then with a gesture of relief he returned the telescope to the
seaman. Regaining the bridge he gave orders for the helm to be
starboarded, so as to bring the _Independencia_ on a converging
course to that of the strange vessel and her tow.

This done he called Da Silva to his side.

"Now is our chance," he said, in an undertone. "Yonder ships are a
disabled whaler and a steam yacht. We must capture both, place the
crew of the yacht on board the whaler, and cut them adrift. Since
these obstinate dogs will not let us have the gold we must be content
with what is stored amidships."

"But we shall be very poorly off," objected the lieutenant.

"If we had to share with the whole of our crew," replied Juan
Cervillo. "Listen, Da Silva; we must find a means of getting the
booty that is still in our possession on board the yacht with all the
officers and some of the men who are Spaniards by birth. The rest
must shift for themselves."

Even Da Silva, hardened villain that he was, looked astounded at the
calculated heartlessness of his superior.

"But how?" he whispered.

Cervillo placed his finger on his lips.

"Leave that to me," he replied. "Only see that my orders are properly
carried out, and all will be plain sailing."

"Gaspar!" he shouted, addressing the man who had superseded the
English renegade as bo'sun. "Send up signals of distress!"




CHAPTER XIX

CERVILLO DESERTS HIS CREW


MIDSHIPMAN CARDYKE was restless under restraint, and during the long
periods of inaction was fond of looking out of the port and listening
to the swish of the waves against the ship's side. The noise soothed
him. To a youngster descended from a long line of naval men the sting
of the salt-laden breeze was an alluring quality that would attract
him throughout the whole of his career.

While at the open port he happened to look as far astern as the frame
of the port permitted. To his surprise he saw a column of smoke just
above the horizon.

It was a ship. He instantly awoke Fielding, who was having his "watch
below," and informed him of the momentous news. The sub. was out of
his bunk in a trice.

"You're right, Cardyke," he said, after a hasty glance in the
direction of the vessel. "It's a ship. But what is she - a cruiser?"

"She's heading this way, I think," observed the mid. "And what is
more, we are altering our course. See, the relative position of the
ship is more on the beam."

"Then it's not a cruiser, worse luck," muttered Fielding, "or the
pirate would attempt to sheer off. They're up to some fiendish
business, I'll wager. Don't say a word to any of the others just yet.
We'll keep on the look-out a little while longer."

The two young officers waited and watched till twilight gave place to
night. Presently Hiram B. Rutter strolled up to the open port.

"Having a breath of fresh air?" he inquired, affably.

"Ssh!" exclaimed Fielding, warningly. "There's a vessel over there.
You can just see her starboard and masthead lights."

"Strikes me forcibly there are two red lights," said the American.

"So there are. By Jove! The villains are sending up rockets."

High above the _Independencia_ the red glare of an exploded rocket
transformed the surface of the surrounding sea into a blaze of
dazzling light. Then, vanishing suddenly, the glare left the sub. and
his companions blinking in the darkness.

"I know what they are doing," exclaimed Cardyke, excitedly. "They're
sending up false signals of distress to lure yonder vessel within
their power."

"That's it," assented Fielding. "And now's your chance to make use of
your improvised flashing-lamp."

By this time the rest of the hostages were aware of the approach of
another vessel, and the ports were literally jammed with human heads.
But Mukyima was not content with watching. The active Jap crawled
through the narrow port, balanced himself on the sill, then with a
like motion drew himself up to the deck. Lying prone behind the
casing of a skylight he waited till another rocket had been fired,
then, mingling boldly with the pirate crew, made good use of his
eyes. Unobserved, he regained the half-deck and told General Oki of
what he had seen.

"Pirates get guns ready," explained Oki to Fielding. "Men are ready
to capture other ship."

Cardyke had not been idle. All the ports were screened with the
exception of one in which he set a lamp. Then using a heavy cabin
curtain as a screen, he proceeded to "call-up" the approaching
vessel.

"There's the acknowledgment," exclaimed Fielding, as a succession of
short, rapid flashes came from the Morse signalling-lamp on the
steamer's bridge.

"Stand off; you are - - " began the middy, using his improvised
shutter as quickly as he was able; but before he had flashed
half-a-dozen words a heavy tarpaulin was dropped over the port from
above, completely obscuring the light from seaward.

"Where's your knife?" asked the mid. "Lash it to the end of a pole or
something and jab a hole through the canvas."

Before the obstructing tarpaulin could be cut through, the
_Independencia's_ course was altered till she pointed bows on to the
oncoming yacht. Thus the ports on her quarters no longer commanded a
view of the strange vessel.

"They've done us," muttered Fielding.

"Perhaps the captain of the vessel will smell a rat, and sheer off,"
remarked Cardyke.

"I don't know about that. He may think we are only asking him to keep
off till daylight, or something of that sort. He would never ignore
signals of distress."

"Couldn't we make an attempt to rush the ship and drive those rascals
below?"

"I'm afraid not. They've secured the hatches. But we'll get all
hands to man the ports and fire their revolvers. That might make the
skipper of that packet keep out of danger."

Before the warning could be given a quick-firer was discharged from
the cruiser, and with a vicious spurt of flame a shell passed between
the steam yacht and the disabled whaler she had in tow, and Juan
Cervillo commanded the astonished captain of the steam yacht to
heave-to instantly.

The tricked vessel was the _Serena_, a 300-ton pleasure craft owned
by a wealthy Canadian named Rignold. She had fallen in with a whaler
_Hetty_ of Boston that had broken her shafting in a gale, and had
sustained considerable damage to her spars and rigging, and the owner
of the _Serena_ offered to tow the _Hetty_ into St. John's,
Newfoundland. The offer had been gratefully accepted; and now both
vessels were under the guns of the pirate cruiser _Independencia_.

Rignold and his captain, officers, and crew were completely
astounded. During their cruise in the Arctic they had had no
opportunities of receiving the general warning of the presence of the
formidable pirate in the North Atlantic. The _Serena's_ skipper, a
man of courage and resource, did not lose his head. Imagining that
the cruiser was a Government vessel of fishery protection duties, and
had compelled his vessel to heave-to for the purpose of making an
examination, he promptly ordered the engines to be reversed, at the
same time shouting to the _Hetty's_ mate to mind her helm. The
whaler, carrying considerable way, over-ran the yacht till brought up
by the hawser, eventually swinging round between the _Serena_ and her
captor.

"What ship that?" shouted Cervillo,

"Great snakes, that is not a British hail!" ejaculated the _Serena's_
captain; then in reply he bawled, "Steam yacht _Serena_, of Quebec,
with the whaler _Hetty_ in tow. Why are we ordered to heave-to?"

Before Cervillo could reply Fielding shouted in stentorian tones
through the port: -

"Clear off at full speed. This vessel is a pirate. Save yourself
while there's time."

Had he been given a free hand the yacht skipper would not have
hesitated to run the gauntlet of the cruiser's guns, trusting in the
darkness to avoid a shot that would send the vessel to the bottom.
But there were other considerations. Mr. Rignold, the owner, had a
large party of guests on bard, and on that account he was anxious not
to be under fire. Moreover, he was too staunch a man to abandon the
disabled whaler. He would stand by and take his chance with the
_Hetty_.

"You have to heave-to - that good enough?" bawled the Spanish captain.

"Ay, ay!" was the reply. "But you'll be real sorry for this piece of
work."

"We see later," chuckled Cervillo, for the double capture could not
have better served his purpose. "Keep where you are till day come. No
tricks, or I sink you."

Two hours later it was light enough to make out what the prizes were
like. The _Serena_ was a graceful-looking craft with a clipper stern
and long, tapering counter. She had two light masts and a single
funnel, and was one of many of a type of sea-going yachts that are to
be found in every port of the civilised world. The whaler was also of
a very ordinary though fast-disappearing type; bluff-bowed,
wall-sided, and broad-sterned, and rigged as a brigantine with heavy,
well-shrouded masts. Just before the mainmast was a small, black
funnel - the only visible sign of the vessel's now useless auxiliary
power.

Before taking possession of the two ships Juan Cervillo mustered his
men aft.

"You must know, my lads," he began, "what I propose to do. The
_Independencia_ is no longer serviceable; her days are nearly
finished. Yonder craft are the last prizes she will take. It only
remains for us to save ourselves, and as much of the booty as we
possibly can. The gold stowed away aft is, I am sorry to say, lost to
us. We can only take revenge upon those who have cheated us out of
our hard-earned riches. I therefore propose that we place the crew of
the yacht on board the whaler. If they manage to fetch port, well and
good, if not - that's not our concern. We will then tranship the
amount of treasure that is left to us, scuttle the _Independencia_,
and the English officer and his companions can keep guard over the
gold at the bottom of the sea. With a nice little yacht like the one
yonder we ought to steam southwards without exciting suspicion. Your
shares in the spoil will not be as much as we hoped for, but enough
to let you live a merry life for some time to come."

The pirates, although regretting the loss of the gold, were not sorry
to see the way clear to escape the perils that awaited them, and for
the next ten minutes the utmost activity prevailed. The three boats
were hauled out, and Da Silva proceeded to board the _Serena_. It was
significant that every man in the boats was a Spaniard, and that
nearly all the officers formed part of the boarding-party.

Unceremoniously Mr. Rignold, his guests, and the crew of the yacht


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